Well, on the surface, that is an easy question to answer. We all talk. And talk, and talk. Sometimes, we actually have conversations, and other times, whatever we say falls on deaf ears. On a deeper level, what results from being unheard or misunderstood are feelings of devaluation, our self-esteem and confidence fall, we lose trust, and while we're licking our wounds, we are also then guilty of not listening.
A good conversation with listening is priceless. Heard, you feel valued, empowered, confident, and able to see new possibilities and potential. How far does the imagination have to stretch to envision a life where you listen and are listened to?
Listening is a skill. It is something that can be learned. And, as you go around listening to others, they start listening back. It spreads! You'll also find you do a good bit of the "do" list and not so much of the "don't" list already. A little bit of focus and monitoring and listening will become natural.
Blocks to Listening (Don't)
First is a list of 12 blocks to listening. Try to honestly think about these to see which ones you've used before. They are pretty natural to fall into, and just a little awareness goes a long way in keeping them in check. (I've done a bit of mind reading and placating myself.)
Comparing - While the person is speaking, you're trying to figure out which of you is better, has more or does less in any way imaginable.
Mind Reading - Assuming you already know what the person is going to say while ignoring him/her and without bothering to ask questions to confirm your belief.
Rehearsing - No way to hear when you are practicing your next lines in your head.
Filtering - The only thing you're going to hear is what you want to hear, nothing else.
Judging - You've already determined that the person speaking has no value for you, so you don't bother to pay attention to what he/she says.
Dreaming - Something half heard sends you off into your own little world to think about a similar aspect in your own life.
Identifying - As someone shares an experience, you relate it back to your own life.
Advising - Before someone can explain, you are offering advice. You completely miss the point, the feelings and the scope, and leave the person feeling misunderstood.
Sparring - You listen, but only for something to disagree with, argue over or debate.
Being Right - You will rationalize, make excuses, shout or accuse the speaker of anything you can think of just to avoid being wrong.
Derailing - Bored or uncomfortable about what is said, you change the subject.
Placating - No matter what is said, you agree. You listen just enough to catch the places where you can agree.
Effective Listening (Do)
Now, here is a short list of tips to effective or empathic listening. You probably already do a lot of these, especially when the person and the conversation are particularly interesting to you. See if you can 'catch' yourself using any of these. Then, see if you can use them at will.
Acknowledge the speaker by being attentive, genuinely interested, alert and positive. Be in the moment and focused.
Show you are listening with "uh-huh", nod your head, lean forward in a relaxed way, make frequent eye contact, and invite more to explore with open-ended questions.
Be a sounding board and a mirror by restating what is said in your own words. Let the speaker dominate the conversation.
Reflect back what you understand and how you think the speaker feels. Listen for the person's positive intention or "hope" to respond to and support.
Later, I found the turkey wishbone in what was left. Tim grabbed onto one arm of the small bone, I hung onto the other. We both closed our eyes to make our wishes, and Tim pulled. He pulled hard. We both looked at the pieces left in our hands, and both were of equal length! The top had broken off both halves and went flying (I found the tip today, which reminded me to write about it) somewhere. Both of us, eyes wide, looked at each other and said, "Uh oh!"
I wonder what it means? Do you know?
We do not teach;
We share the knowledge.
These are the words that shaped my teaching style as an instructor, and I even called the site I made for my students "Share the Knowledge". In that context, I felt the name was appropriate and that what was there was accepted as knowledge.
But, for this blog, it just felt too ...stodgy... if that's the right word. What is knowledge for me may not be for you, and it sure got to feeling like a slammed door more than anything else. That slammed door kept you and I farther apart than I wanted. Besides, it was downright conceited!
As obvious as it was to me that the old name had to go, it took quite a bit of mulling to come up with a name that truly captured the who-what-where-when-how of writing for a presumably public audience. I figure that if you are witness to my life lessons, then they are real, which is why I created this blog. What I learn is then written in stone, so to speak, and openly worn on my shirt sleeve. That will keep me honest! Oh, I came up with some doozies for names: GistJoist, SpringStream, KindSense and Odd Street, to list just a few. These weird (brain farts) names are cool in their own way, but just not quite the "it" I was looking for.
This morning, before taking more than a few sips out of my first cup of coffee of the day, it hit me. Bumpy Path! Oh yes, this is it. This is the one. What a relief! It sure does seem to fit a lot better. What I hope is that you can read this blog and maybe save yourself from going over some of the same bumps that I did. Nothing more, nothing less.
What's in a name? All of it. Out with the old, in with the new...
What do you think?
I remember reading that somewhere and thinking that it couldn't be possible since a second is such a very small chunk of time. There's no doubt that my initial reaction missed the point entirely. Perhaps this is an abstract, not a logical concept; and one of the reasons it is so difficult to grasp is that we are so programmed to be linear thinkers. Perhaps we no longer perceive the power of thought because we are unable to grasp the moments we are not thinking. It's like appreciating the good times because you've experienced the not so good times. But, it's another piece of the puzzle of balance and it's important to grasp the concept of "in the moment".
You will find a mountain of information about "in the moment". Being in the moment, living in the moment, lost in the moment… Google the term "in the moment" and you will get more hits than you'd ever be able to sift through in a lifetime, from Oprah and Dr. Phil to meditation and Zen. You'll find "in the moment" in relaxation techniques, counseling skills, becoming peaceful, becoming centered and empathically listening, to name just a few.
In this moment, in this instant, your past is behind you and set in stone. In front of you is your future, filled with possibilities and potential, and very much unknown. You could spend this moment wishing you could take back hurtful words, undo what can't be undone, take advantage of a missed opportunity, actually say something to your high school crush, etc. You could spend this moment worrying about what will happen or won't happen, bills to be paid, things to be done, places to go, people to see, etc.
Or, you could grasp the moment and experience the here and now. Instead of looking back on a faint memory of what you missed, you can stop bemoaning the past and worrying about the future. You can experience and live the beauty, the awareness, the peace, the goodness, and the wonder of nature. You find that you are content, energized and excited. You experience joy. Oh yes, it's risky. You have to let go and reach out and explore.
The good news is that you've probably already experienced living in the moment! Have you ever been driving down the road and suddenly snapped to and realized you had no idea how you got there? In that moment you snapped to awareness, startled into the moment, you had no choice but to look around and be right where you were to figure out just where, exactly, that was. It's like being yanked out of your life and set back in it again and it takes everything you've got to get your bearings.
There are other ways that you can hook onto this thing of living in the moment. Once you identify the moments, it becomes easier and easier to enjoy more and more. Here's a few that grab me every time:
Watch a child at play. Totally in the moment, the child will go down and climb up the slide over and over until something else catches the attention, and then it's the swing or the monkey bars or the sand box. This continues until Mother Nature calls with hunger or thirst pains. The child is just as happy to be in the moment with you or other children of any age too.
Watch animals. Though the animal knows when it's time to eat and where the food dish is, and has a pretty good idea that you'll be leaving based on what shoes you have on, the rest of the time, its doing exactly what nature intended: being in the moment. A cat will stalk a bird with great patience until the bird flies away or something else catches its eye. A dog will plop down and go into an immediate deep sleep then jump to full awareness if he hears a car door slam. A horse will fall asleep standing up with both eyes open and both ears going like radar, and deeply sigh with contentment as he is being brushed.
Listen to music. I mean really good music. The kind of music that you crank up way loud and gives you no choice but to sing and dance along. This kind of music gives you the feeling that it will never end, you hope it never ends, and when it does end, it leaves you peaceful and full.
Get outside. Enjoy nature. All of it. Watch a sunrise and a sunset. Go out in the middle of the night and look up at the stars. Sit in the grass and feel the sun, the breeze, smell the scents on the air, feel the blades of grass. Watch the grass grow.
Be creative. Lose yourself doing. Work in your garden, do a watercolor painting, build a birdhouse or a house, rearrange your living room, wash and wax the car… Just do.
Ah, now this is living!
(The other day, at the same time that the sun was setting behind me, in front of me was this incredible moonrise. Once I pried my chin off my chest, I snapped this photo with my cell phone. Surprisingly, it caught the colors true. It was one of those moments for me.)
How many times have you heard that one? Actually, the question should be, "how many times have you spilled milk?" Perhaps you felt a twinge of guilt and glanced sheepishly around to see if anyone saw. It may have taken a bit to go from feeling to thinking to grab a paper towel or two to wipe up the spill.
Let me paint a picture here so that we can eavesdrop on "self talk" to trace that process a little more.
Imagine a woman who just spent hours doing what women do to get ready for a fancy, important party, and she looks good. She decides that, since she has a few minutes to spare, she can quickly whip up a special frosting for the cake she baked to bring instead of using the stuff in a can. She starts rummaging through her cupboards and soon discovers that there is no can of frosting, but all the dry ingredients for her special frosting is there. All that's needed is a half cup of milk. She opens the refrigerator door and sees that there is less than a half inch of milk left in the plastic gallon milk jug, just enough. She grabs it, flings around in haste, the milk jug snags the closing refrigerator door and falls to the floor. The top pops off, the jug bounces up in a somersault, and what's left of the milk goes everywhere, including on shoes, dress, hair....
Oh no oh no oh NO! She is frozen in place, eyes wide in disbelief and one hand over her mouth. The seconds tick, tick and then yes, a tear wells up.
Shit! This is not happening! She draws in a deep breath, her eyes narrow and her hands are clenched fists against her thighs. She stomps a foot once, then again and again.
My cake! My dress, my shoes, my hair! The foot that was stomping now serves a good kick to the offending refrigerator door. The pain is immediate, and this time, what's in her mind is said out loud:
"Dammit!" She hops on one foot over to a kitchen chair to melt into it, elbos on knees, head in hands.
Thirty minutes later, ten fashionably late minutes past on time, we see our girl arrive at the party looking good (though slightly limping) and toting a fully frosted cake.
Feeling to thinking. How did she do it?
(The judge ruled, among other things, that the group brainwashes members.) Says Sweden, "For the first time we had a judge, and not just rumors, stating that the group was dangerous." (Since 1995, the Church of Scientology has not enjoyed the legal protections accorded to religions in Germany, after a judge ruled that it was not a religion but a group "masquerading as a religion in order to make a profit.")
Perhaps I should look into filing suit against the Church of Scientology after all.
It seems I spend a ridiculous amount of time playing Bejeweled. If there's a trick to that game, I'll be danged if I can find it. I don't even know if it's possible to win the game. And, it's also pretty mindless. While playing it, my mind just flows. Sometimes these flows are productive and creative. Sometimes they are just flights of fancy. Sometimes I can catch the productive, creative flow before I start playing that game, do some research and solidify my idea. Sometimes, the research itself sets off a flight of fancy.
The latter is a good description of my flight today. I had a good thought ruminating that I wanted to develop; something light and positive. So, I fired up Wikipedia and typed in the term I use to describe the concept, and came up blank. I tried one of the related, suggested terms, and stumbled onto an entry I was interested in that was also a source of a quote I knew of and hoped to find in the entry so I could document it. No, it wasn't a quote related to the idea I set out to research today. But, in this entry, there are references to a few things in Tibetan Buddhism and the Ancient Wisdom, so I followed those links to those entries.
Long story short, what I landed on in the end was a very long entry on L. Ron Hubbard. It is bizarre to find a link from Buddhism to Hubbard, who claimed to be the current incarnation of the Maitreya! I read through the Wikipedia entry and found no reference to that claim, a relief. Interest didn't wane though: My father was in the process of reading his book, "Dianetics", when he suddenly died of atherosclerosis, something that if diagnosed a by-pass would have cured. Reading through the entry was no less fantastic than reading that Mr. Hubbard thought he looked like the Maitreya so therefore must be his incarnation. (Do you see a resemblance?) I came away thinking that the man must've never slept in order to fail so miserably at so many things while succeeding at just as many others. It appears that his self-help theory of purging painful memories that he called "Dianetics" was lucrative enough for him to invest more time and energy than was his usual, so he built a business around it. It failed eventually as well, and he lost the copyright on the term "Dianetics" when his corporation declared bankruptcy. He then came up with Scientology because he felt the fastest way to become really rich was to invent a religion! His "Dianetics" book is now referred to as "Book One", and putting a volcano on the cover was his idea that the imagery would induce purchase in an inevitable, irresistible way, bringing more people and their money into his Church of Scientology. To me and my racing mind, this stuff is so "out there" that I began to think that if my father was buying into his theory, then he might have believed in the theory's claim that purging memories led to physical healing and didn't go to the doctor when he was feeling poorly.
"Whoa," I yelled to myself. My father wasn't gullible, only read half the book, nor would it be possible to prove even if he did delay seeking medical attention. "Hmm," I thought, "what an interesting way to meet Tom Cruise" if I went ahead and sued Scientology for my father's untimely death. What a hoot! I once went to a Star Trek convention and met the actor that played Chekhov in the original series. Even with my whopping 5'3 stature, I looked down to meet his eyes. For the life of me, I find it difficult to relate shortness with stardom. What if ol' Tom is that short too?
So then I think to myself, "If you can't say something good, then don't say anything at all." Oops. OK, then, "If you can't find something good to say, maybe there's something good to say about some part of it." I've got it! Here it is: I'll never know if Tom Cruise is short or not! Whew, I feel better now.
Now, back to my game...
(My father died November 11, 1989. I love him and miss him - still. He'd get a chuckle out of reading this.)
When I want something to read purely for enjoyment, I will most likely choose a Stephen King book. I own them all, and have read most of them several times, and there are a few I'll read about once a year. I enjoy the way he brings his characters to life by giving you what the character is thinking. In a way, you could say you know a Stephen King imaginary character better than you know any real person because you are witness to their thought processes. The plots stretch the mettle of the characters, and their thinking. Most of the time, I am disappointed by movies of Stephen King novels since the visual lends itself far more to the story than characterizations. But, I was not disappointed by The Mist. Not at all.
There are several premises in this movie that go along with what I've been talking about here. In one chunk of entertainment, you are given quite a bit to evaluate of yourself - without the crisis to test just how well you really know yourself.
Fear of the unknown. This is within us all to one degree or another, and not unusual by any means. But, what if what is unknown is within yourself as much as it is in the mist?
Paranoia. This tends to crop up more in those who focus all their energies on their idealized self rather than their real self. Their self-demands are often unrealistic and unattainable, and the thoughts behind them go something like, "I should be the most intelligent", "I should succeed" and "I should be even better because of the color of my skin." Anything, no matter how innocent or minor, can register as a threat, insult or degradation to that person.
Out of touch with reality vs broken reality. Any person involved in a combat situation, a natural disaster, or the victim of a rape or mugging will know this struggle first hand. How you stack up to yourself here goes hand in hand with....
Sheep or shepherd. Fear is a powerful thing. It can keep you alive. But, you are lost if you let fear rule. It eliminates reason, and lays you open to become the sheep of a charismatic maniac or, if you're lucky, you are led to safety by a true leader. This also goes hand in hand with...
Religion vs faith. Those charismatic maniacs are fundamentalist zealots with an idealized self more incredible, more fantastic, more unrealistic than any of Stephen King's "monsters".
Rock and a hard space. I talked about this in my Balance post. There are various levels of these kinds of decisions throughout the movie, and if you put yourself in the characters' shoes, would you choose the same way?
There is more, much more, in Stephen King's The Mist. This is a good place to start. Once you see the movie, come back here and share your thoughts.
Yesterday, while sitting at a stoplight, I glance over to my right. There is a doctor's office there with a parking lot in front. I see a man and woman with a small, blond haired little girl walking between them. Suddenly, the woman lunges at the little girl and grabs her hand. The man grabs the other hand, lifts the girl off her feet, and using a motion like sending a bowling ball down a lane, swats the little girl's butt. The girl's body arches, her feet land back on the ground, and both the woman and man let go of her hands to continue walking toward their car. I am in the middle lane, blocked in with cars all around me.
This little drama played out in less than three seconds, yet my mind was furiously attempting to assess the situation and plan a course of action. As a parent, I know the incredible feeling of panic as my little child threatens to dart off into the middle of a busy parking lot. That did not happen with this little girl who obediently walked between the woman and man in an empty parking lot. I saw no infraction of any sort, but still tried to find a reason to warrant such a swat. Maybe the little girl was a terror in the doctor's office. Considering the girl was not in school, she was probably 4 or 5 years old and I find it questionable that delayed punishment would be effective. Consider also that a swat delivered so spontaneously may just well be the preferred method of discipline, which I find questionable as well.
So far, I see the girl getting a swat, become frustrated that my path to the girl is blocked, and I look for intent and a possible pattern. Looking hard at the man and woman again, the woman is getting into the driver's seat of the car, and the man is putting the little girl in the back seat. The girl had not changed her demeanor. She walked between the two as though the swat was just a hitch in her stride. She raised her arms up to be picked up and put in the car with no hesitation. There was no sign that she was upset or crying. Though far from happy about it, I concluded that the girl was OK and in no immediate danger. The light turns green and I drive off stewing in thoughts of yanking that woman's hand and giving that man a good swat on the butt. I repeated again, 'the girl is safe' and with a heavy sigh, went on to think about something else as I continued down the road.
There is nothing that sets me off more than abuse of a child or animal. The fury and anger are incredible. And, once I start to feel that heat, I kick into what I call my "mode". My mind goes blank and focused to a pinpoint, scanning and assessing like an ultra-fast computer. Some sort of switch is flipped on. This switch is immediate in a crisis situation, an ability I came to consciously realize I had while doing preventive casework. My emotions are there, but my thinking is in control. I am able to act on what I'm feeling instead of reacting.
The honesty comes to play when thinking has evaluated the situation logically, which soothes the emotions. It reveals the reality over and above the discomfort of the emotions. It takes the energy away from the idealized shoulds and coulds and subjectivity. The honesty prevents taking the easy way out by escaping or ignoring or indignant self-righteousness. This same honesty is not only a fundamental key to effective assessment of crises, but of self evaluation as well.
Find your switch and pick up those reins. Your driver's seat is waiting.
(Photo courtesy of the Princess's Carriage.)
Sometimes the questions give yes or no as choices, or sometimes there are multiple choices, but none of the options given are palatable. What I would do in a situation like that is get out of the raft and into the water myself. I can hang onto the side of it without pulling it under. But, that is never an option, nor is it ever an option to let someone else in that raft be faced with the tough decisions!
I'm not quite sure exactly what these types of questions tell about a person. The instinct and will to survive is a strong one, along with a multitude of other facets of a personality that can come out. Perhaps that is something each person has to decide for themselves. It's not an easy task. If I choose to live, then I am a selfish S.O.B. If I choose to get out of the raft myself, then I'm suicidal. Maybe I'm pregnant, or slated to testify against a big, bad criminal. Or maybe I want fame and martyrdom, even if I'm not able to enjoy it posthumously. Now that I think about it, I haven't gotten in a boat since faced with this damnable question!
Honesty may be a little easier to think about now. If you drop a glass on the floor, do you say, "Wow, that thing just jumped right out of my hand!", or do you say, "I am clumsy and dropped the glass. Where's the broom?" Your assignment, Jim, should you choose to accept it, is to evaluate yourself for yourself...
It is not possible to be honest with others until you are honest with yourself. I know, I know; that's what your mother always said.
I've thrown it out there that today's life is pushing us further and further away from our natural tendency to be a social animal. Social constructs have chiseled away social aspects. Would it be safe to say that the ways of passing along morals, values, faith, beliefs have also been eroded?
The Old Wives Tales and other such folksy sayings (and fables and myths and even nursery rhymes) are nonsensical and illogical if you do not think critically. In order to think about them, not only do you have to imagine and project the possible outcomes, you have to separate your thinking from your feeling.
And, that is the balance. That is the power. That is direction. Think consciously.
And, just who were these Old Wives anyway? You mean to tell me that what happens when you get married is you become old right away? That made some sense; it certainly explained my crabby mother, and come to think of it, she didn't look much different than the Wicked Old Witch from the West, who must also be an Old Wife. OK, so my mother was a Wicked Old Witch Wife, and I promptly ran behind the dining room door and hid when I heard her coming.
And then I kept hearing, "oh, that's just an Old Wives tale" along with those cute sayings like, "be careful what you wish for or you just might get it." Well, isn't that the point of wishing for something? Oh, I wished hard that my mother would never discover my hiding place behind that dining room door, especially when she had a comb in her hand or when my baby brother was crying. For some reason, when he cried, I got spanked.
"Don't get mad, get even" popped into my head when I started to mull over ways to help someone who is fearful of having an issue with anger. What? Advise someone to take revenge and make sure it's good? Where is the Old Wife that came up with that one?
It's not too difficult to see that, even though I've been adult about four times longer than I was a concrete thinking little child, those young years still have an impact! Just in case you have a bit of this trap in you, I'm not married, so I'm not an Old Wife, and you can believe me when I advise you to be very careful of the things you say to your young child! Stuff like this can make a person absolutely certain to be stuck between a rock and a hard place...
Reading some of Zen Habits made me realize the difficulty I was having with this blog. I love to opine 'til the cows come home, but what good is it without purpose? I stopped trying to save the world a long time ago. It was not something little ol' me could actually do. Not all at once, at least. So, I Pay it Forward. That is the purpose of this blog: To share my views and opinions as a way of offering a different way of perceiving and understanding. Like Leo, I also have to say that I am not the most qualified. I'm just willing to share.
Leo mentioned something about the general aversion to organized religion, that he feels the church, any church, is a social gathering place that gives people the opportunity to be kind. As the opposite, he points out that we are all anonymous to each other as we all have to drive our car to get anywhere. Yes, we are more and more isolated every day, not only from each other, but from ourselves.
And yes, I am one of those with an aversion to organized religion, and my 'why' is probably pretty close to everyone's 'why' with the same aversion. Perhaps the balance has been tipped toward a complete destruction of the institution of organized religion. But, faith, beliefs, spirituality, ethics, morals, and values are being destroyed along with the institution of organized religion! Historically, is there anything to look back on to give us an idea what happens when so many no longer have religion? I can remember nothing like a time when people no longer searched for meaning, for purpose, for something more than the way life appeared to be. Add to this hollow existence the destruction of the social gathering place and yet another rung of Maslow's Hierarchy of Need is taken out of the natural, necessary quest for growth, individuation and actualization.
The concept of Zen, the emphasis on the "direct individual experience of one's own true nature", just may be the way to put the human back into humanity. What has been lost can be found and strengthened by meditating on 'true nature', and how that is spiritual, ethical, and moral. Define your own religion. In all of the earth's religions, there is a common truth:
From good comes good; from evil comes evil.
I ran into a very cool blog called The Ethical Blog Project. It just may prove to be an interesting interpretation of current events in that it is done by a collective think tank.
I saw in one place, I flew by it in passing, that Timothy Berners-Lee had a hand in the creation of Facebook. He is, as you know, the creator of the World Wide Web and has been playing a large roll in its continued development all along. In his thinking, it is a "semantic web" in that all information is linked in one way or another to all the other information. In his model, there is a definite line between content and presentation, which explains a lot about the way Facebook looks. That separation allows for easier cataloging and searching of the content.
But, isn't that going just a little bit too far? Isn't there anything to be said about decent presentation? Hey, a picture is worth a thousand words! For the life of me, I can't think of what to put on my Facebook page. My name and photo are there, along with this blog. That's it! It is just so harsh looking. I'm screaming for self expression when I have nothing to say!
Needless to say, this fever haze is warping everything. I might as well enjoy it while it lasts...
There is an article written by a professor that discusses the mistranslation of the Bible and says,
Indeed, "kill" in English is an all-encompassing verb that covers the taking of life in all forms and for all classes of victims. That kind of generalization is expressed in Hebrew through the verb "harag." However, the verb that appears in the Torah's prohibition is a completely different one, " ratsah" which, it would seem, should be rendered "murder." This root refers only to criminal acts of killing. (http://www.ucalgary.ca/~elsegal/Shokel/001102_ThouShaltNotMurder.html)
Raised as a Roman Catholic (that summarily dismissed it from as early back as I remember), the roots of my own misquote of the 6th Commandment is understandable. That is at the root of all organized religions: The followers must accept unconditionally what they are told and take it to represent meaning for themselves. Psychologists would call this an external locus of control. Sooner or later, some little tidbit like this will surface that threatens the stability of the bases for morality and values, i.e., cognitive dissonance. There are many other 'mistranslations' of the original text of the Bible, so it is no surprise that there is yet another.
Myself, I have to say that it is against my morals and values to take a life unnecessarily. This puts me in the very uncomfortable and very immoral position of judge. I can and will only judge for myself, my own actions; not another's. This is 'co-measurement'. I choose to live morally and aware. This includes not standing in judgement of others. Therefore, I lean toward "thou shalt not kill" more so than "thou shalt not murder".
There are many other facets to this discussion that I won't go into now.
Experiencing this case of "the creeps" reminded me of the first time I saw our current president on TV. I had that same reaction! The next election can't come soon enough for me. The primaries are ramping up, and I am happy to say that I have not had "the creeps" while watching any of the candidates on TV.
The next election can't come soon enough for me - and for the rest of the country! The drop in the value of the dollar in the world economy is a slap-in-the-face indication of the prophesied downfall of US hegemony that directly effects the way of life for the general populace. Look at the price of crude; it will go over $100 per barrel soon if it hasn't already. The poo rolls downhill from there.
This current president was elected on the premise that people believed he was the type of person you could belly up to a bar with, and he does what he says. Sorry, bellying up to a bar is not a trait that I consider a quality a president should have! I would rather someone far more serious and dedicated than a barfly. It would also help if he were able to speak in complete sentences before I'd determine he does what he says. I won't mention the fact that he was not elected by popular vote, or how he has not been brought up on charges of lying to the country about why we are in Iraq. I guess it's not as important as sex.
On the ballot this time around is the first female presidential candidate. She is very intelligent, knowledgeable, capable, with a good set of cajones. As president, she would show the world that the US is not ready to roll over and play dead. But, as my friend reminded me, she is married to the president that engaged in illicit sex and lied about it. Instead of leaving him, which my friend believes she should have done, she stayed married. My friend believes that this is sending a message to women that they should put up with the treatment their husbands dish out, no matter how wrong it may be, and she does not want her daughters to grow up with that kind of message. I can't say that I share her opinion, but I can't ignore it either.
It's time for a major change. It's time for everyone to wake up and take part in this. It's time to take the time to get educated about the issues and decide where to stand on them. This country is in one hell of a mess.
From the tiniest particle to the vastness of the Universe, everything in existence has potential.
Polarize an inert atom and it attracts or repels others to combine into something more than what it was. What the combination creates is something new, something based on the potentiality of the first polarized atom. It them continues to attract and repel so that it becomes many forms along its growth path. Potential is almost infinite; it can become anything. It can become alive. It is life. The beauty of it all is that, even if the final life form dies, it is never completely dead - that original polarized atom is still going strong, still attracting and repelling, still creating.
The potential is almost infinite; and therefore is almost random. It is the nature of the mundane, and perhaps the basis of natural law that governs the mundane.
"For every action, there is an equal, opposite reaction."
This is the natural law that makes absolute the freedom of choice and will. Jump ahead, if you will, to the Earth and all the life forms that together, create a necessary co-existence. It is a closed system in that everything depends on everything to be. It is life; it is alive.
Let's say one branch of this tree of life decides to grow beyond the ability of the trunk to support it, the whole tree lists to one side, the trunk and the roots strain, effecting the ability of the tree to route nutrients to all parts. Sooner or later, the tree has no choice but to allow that overzealous branch to rest on the ground where it begins to rot and break off, releasing the weight pulling the whole tree out of the balance that nature intended. The disintegrating branch then becomes nutrients that feeds the tree, helping it to regain balance and strength and vigor.
The Earth is that tree; humanity is that overzealous branch. The Earth can bend and give only so much before it has no choice but to give in to preserve the whole that is life.
A friend's daughter is a knock-out at 14 years old; popular in school, athletic, smart, and nice. She's also the kind of kid that will bring home stray dogs and cats, and loves the ugliest ones the most. Needless to say and true to form, she was attracted to a "problem child" of a boy in school, a parent's worst nightmare. But this nightmare goes above and beyond the typical of too long hair, pierced body parts, tattoos, low grades, etc.
Mom and Dad's introduction to this boy is in the parking lot of a local Wal-Mart where he just happened to be. Mom makes the mistake of pointing out how all guys seem to fall over themselves to stare at her daughter, and the boy immediately puffs up and goes into a tirade: "Anyone looks at her while I'm here will get the sh*t beat out of 'em. Give me a gun and I'll blow the fothermucker's away..." The language worsened the more he wound himself up.
The warning flags have already flown in earnest, but Mom and Dad decided to let the boy visit at their farm. The boy decides to entertain Dad by explaining how he wants to start a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan because, he adamantly says, all "niggers" should die. He'll shoot them or hang them or slice them up. Any potential this boy had dried up in that instant in Dad's mind, and his foot comes down. His daughter is not allowed to have anything to do with this boy ever again. Dad only sees a racist, homicidal maniac, someone far from worthy of his daughter's attentions.
One of daughter's good friends is a black girl that happens to live next door to the problem child of a boy. The two girls are spending the night at grandma's house, and the boy shows up on a dirt bike to rev and rev and spin donuts in the church parking lot across the street in the middle of the night. He calls girlfriend's cell phone and swears at her and threatens her to put daughter on the phone right now. Boy is gone when Mom and Dad arrive, and they use girlfriend's phone to call the boy. "You want some of me fothermucker?" he says to Dad, "Bring it on! I'll take you, I ain't afraid of you, I've beat up adults before, fothermucker, and I'll take you on right now..."
Next day, problem child's mother calls Mom and launches into the same tirade of abusive language and threats. "You messin' with my boy? I'll take care of you, b*tch." Mom tells her to call her back when she isn't drunk, and she says, "Drunk? I ain't drunk! I'm a squaw. You hear me, I'm squaw!"
Next morning, Mom and Dad find their mailbox destroyed. The evidence found suggests that the mother drove her problem child over to commit his act of vandalism. They notify the Sheriff's Department and head to the school to talk to them about making sure their kids are safe. Turns out there's a long history of problems with this boy and his mother, the boy's father is in prison, and the mother has also threatened to beat up everyone at the school too, especially since the boy now is in an alternative school setting. The apple don't fall from the tree.
The last few days have been quiet, and Mom and Dad and daughter and family are hoping that they've seen the end of the ridiculous drama - so they can sleep again.
A thought has been tumbling around in my mind about how well we can pinpoint a 'why' someone does what he or she does, and then presume we can predict behavior. Hindsight is 20/20.
It's a bit of faulty logic, and we are raised to think that, if we can just get an answer, the question to ask is "Why?" Well, the common answer to that question may be, "Because I said so." "Why did you do that?" "I don't know." The answer to a 'why' question is not a reason, it is an excuse. A more logical approach would be to ask a 'what' question: "What were you thinking when you did..." "What happened that caused you to...?" "What is going on?"
Test it on yourself and see what you come up with. Ask yourself, "Why am I feeling ______ right now?"
Then, ask yourself, "What is the reason I'm feeling _________ right now?"
The answer to 'why' question will probably be something like, "Because I got a big check in the mail" or "The sun is shining" or "Because my boss patted my back today."
The answer to the 'what' question will probably be something like, "I feel ______because I..." or "I succeeded today when I..." or "I really like the way the sun feels so warm."
Do you see the difference? Answers to the 'why' questions result in answers that take the focus away from the person and lands the fault onto external circumstances, effectively sidetracking any responsibility whatsoever on how that person is feeling. Answers to the 'what' questions take full responsibility for feelings, owns them completely, and is a more accurate representation of that person's internal cause or truth.
When I am asked, "Why did you...", the most common answer I give is, "The devil made me do it!" Isn't that what you wanted to hear?
I've never known someone who was considered "rich". I knew this one man who called himself a Tennessee hillbilly that came close; he grossed a million dollars a year on his truck stop roadhouse he owned, and because he had a pretty expensive wife who wouldn't divorce him, he and his mistress lived pretty simply. I suppose he became a master at hiding his 'riches'. This man was one of those types that were nasty beyond belief - unless you stood up to him and refused to take his crap. If you earned his respect, he was the most wonderful person, genuinely so, and you had a true friend. Sadly, he was killed when a tire blew on the dump truck he was driving, it rolled and cut him in half at the same time the planes were flying into the World Trade Center on 9/11. For the sake of this discussion, I've known other men who were caught up in their power trips that acted like asses too, until you stood up to them and subsequently earned their respect. If you don't earn their respect, they just escalate their crappy behavior and mistreatment of you until you find a way to escape them.
Let's just say that these jackasses are the 10% of the population that has 90% of the wealth, and let's just say that it's the same in every country on Earth. For the sake of argument. The politicians are just the idiot puppets that think they can bask in the wake of that "power" by sucking up to them. 10% of the population seems like a pretty easy number to deal with, doesn't it? They need to be stood up to and knocked off their high horses, wouldn't you say?
I think of the US military and their families and how tough it is on them during deployments. Then, I think of all the day-to-day families, the 90% of the population in Iraq who are trying to live day-to-day in insane conditions because of the idiot antics the 10% and politicians are pulling. We can't blame the Iraqi populace any more than we can blame the US soldiers for what is actually going on in Iraq.
What I propose as a solution to the whole damned mess is to ship that 10% of the population that holds 90% of the wealth along with their puppy-dog politicians off to some place isolated to pull their power plays on each other, duke it out on their own, and leave the rest of us alone! Shoot, they have the money to erect a habitable dome on the moon and get there, and that sounds like a plan to me.
Then the rest of us can live.
Now, which presidential candidate would support this idea?
This evening, I witnessed yet another sunset that took my breath away. It was alive, in motion, changing constantly to give endless beauty and awe. In those moments, no thoughts, worries, muses, distractions existed. Looking up into the vast panorama that is the evening sky brought me to realize not only wonder, but the knowledge that, yes indeed, all is one.
That beautiful sunset was shared with every living thing under it. The 'picture' itself may be different from various vantage points, though I imagine that any vision was as beautiful as the one I witnessed. I became one with all, and I was not alone. Looking up into the sky does that.
As incomprehensible as infinity is, it is uniting. The beauty of a sunset is a signal that infinity is just beyond, giving our senses a way to perceive what lies beyond the limitations of our senses and comprehension; beyond the mundane.
What part of that is hard to understand? That statement, that command, is included in every single religion on Earth! Are human beings so stupid that they have to be told this one, simple, black/white thing over and over?
When I taught a college Psychology course, I used an exercise that started with me whispering something in one student's ear, that student would whisper to the next one and so on until the last student. I'd ask that last student to repeat out loud what was whispered to him/her and look at student #1's face to witness the incredulity. It was always worth a good laugh because what came out the end was nowhere near the way it started. This goes along with the proven fact that two people standing next to each other witnessing the same event will report two very different things.
I suppose I just supplied a logical excuse for the media's slant on today's current events, the Iraq war in particular. The 'news' I get is filtered through many lenses.
I currently work to support families of deployed soldiers. Talking with wives and mothers and fathers of soldiers in Iraq, I hear what their soldiers tell them about what is going on in Iraq. One mother tells me that her son said that the Iraqi people are very kind, giving, welcoming, trustworthy people, and if we weren't over there fighting the insurgents creating hell there, the fight would come to US soil. More than a few family members have told me just about the same.
My point is that what I see on TV news, no matter what news channel, doesn't come close to what soldiers tell their families, who then tell me, is going on. What is on TV does not tell me what soldiers experience daily, or what life is like for the people who call Iraq home. Why not? I plead with the soldiers' families I talk with to stay away from watching the news. Listen to your soldier who is telling you that what is on the news is nothing like what is happening in Iraq.
What irks me the most about this whole thing is the media's obsession with the political discourse about the war in Iraq, which is even farther from what soldiers say is reality. Hence, I call them billybumblers - both the politicians and the media. I don't know if there is such a thing as a billybumbler or if it's just Stephen King's imagined creature in his Dark Tower series, but hey, the shoe fits. What? Do the politicians get their 'facts' from the media? Look at how many lives their decisions are impacting!
Repeat after me: What is on the news is nothing like what is really happening.
If you look at it in terms of instincts being unconscious and the consciousness providing the will to control or overcome the inborn instincts, then it's logical to say that animals have moments of consciousness. In terms of psychological development, I guess that's as good as any 'line' to define the differences - whether something is able to overcome instinctual tendencies. Jung says that instincts need to have all things just right in order for the instinct to function, like how it is impossible for some animals to breed in captivity - the natural environment is gone, so the instinct to reproduce is squashed, it doesn't work. We tap in to our unconscious where those instincts are by dreaming and daydreaming and through fantasy. What happens in our conscious he calls 'directed thinking' (the more developed thinking is, the less there is the ability to tap into the unconscious contents), but we came on that slowly, and he uses mythology as proof of that. As a species, we are different in our instictual purpose from animals, but some animals are not that far developmentally from us. The training we do with horses (or any other animal) itself is enough to develop 'thinking' since what we are training them to do is go against their instincts.
Survival is an instinct and probably in every living thing. That instinct alone would be enough to say that all animals sense their pending death. I'd even go so far to say that humans are the best at ignoring or denying their death, which may also be a way that instinct to survive pushes them through a dangerous situation. Look at the Holocaust. Most of the world denied that Hitler was killing millions in gas chambers because it was such a horrendous thought, and that denial let him free to do his killing for a few years. I've read several books on it by survivors, and one thing they all do is deny that they would have to walk into one of those chambers. Those that survived did so because they believed that unbelievable situation would end. They held onto this hope even though every day they saw thousands walk into those doors and never come back out again. Is it really just thinking that happens, or can animals somehow know that their mates are gone for good? If animals penned outside a slaughter house hear the screams and smell the blood, can they deny what is going on in there? Animals don't have the ability to think of ways to make themselves valuable to their captors enough to keep them out of that slaughter house as some of the Jews did, nor do they have the ability to deny that impending death. I would have to say the existence of the instinct to survive is solid proof of awareness of pending death.
The differentiation between human and animals is not the human characteristics given to animals that causes slaughter to be an issue. What is inherent in every living thing is the instinct to survive. Jung believed in the "collective unconscious" that every living thing shares, and what "directed thinking" has taken us farther and farther away from. We, as humans, as people, have developed to the point where we have become much less since we are unable to tap into a great part of what we are. It is at the root of why humanity has become more and more inhumane.
It is not the giving of human qualities to animals or the emotional attachment to our pets or even our wish to use the horse as a symbol of our American history that is at issue here. It is more the overpopulation of the planet, the waste of the natural resources that is at the heart of even considering another food source to feed the Earth's hungry people. Perhaps it is a turning point for mankind. Perhaps this issue of horse slaughter is just another reason to examine our "directed thinking" and take seriously the responsibility it implies. WE have changed the environment, so WE have to devise ways that allow natural, instinctual tendencies to function. If we do not, the end result will be extinction for all we call life.
Today's headlines: "Shaken Sadam is sentenced to hang", "California schools to fingerprint students", "Top court to hear major abortion test cases", "Marine species collapse by 2048". Yesterday, I read one article that said that our current population growth rate would need a whole other planet to sustain it by 2050. Hence, my title for today's blog. It's a 'call to action' plea to you, to everyone, to stop and take a look at what is going on right now in Our World.
I don't care about the color of your skin, where you were born on this Earth, or what religion or political party you ascribe to. We are all one: We all have red blood, eat, drink, sleep, reproduce, eliminate waste and breathe oxygen. At the most basic level, we all need food, shelter and clothing to survive and a majority of us spend the majority of our time and energy filling these basic needs.
Stay in the drill down mode with me here, and look at what is going on. Let's keep at this until we reach the fundamentals of our reality. I'm going to throw out a few thoughts and hope it inspires you to consider how you think and feel about it all.
First, examine the concept of the sanctity of life. We are at war, presumably to protect the right to life and the right to choose, right? Sadam is sentenced to death for killing. Abortion is again in the headlines mired in the right to life vs the right to choose issues. The surface of the planet is mostly water and we are now looking at killing everything that lives in water in another 45 years. And yet another freedom is whittled away by fingerprinting children, moving right along with current plans of the government to ID and track every single animal raised for food production.
I'm going to state this bluntly: One of the primary things that seperate humans from the rest of the life on this planet is the fundamental right to CHOOSE. Freedom of choice is a fundamental right that forces responsibility. As a human being, you must take responsibilty for your life - every action, every thought, every feeling. Yes, it is a fundamental right to LIVE, as it is for the birds, bees, blades of grass, trees, fish....., but each person is reponsible for deciding, for choosing, to respect the fundamental right of everyone and everything to live. YOU must choose to define what freedom/choice is and then live, think and feel accordingly. You see, you cannot have freedom without choice - they are one and the same, black/white, yin/yang, etc; one can't exist without the other.
Sadam chose to commit heinous crimes. But, does taking away his right to live reverse those crimes or even come close to paying for them? Two wrongs make a right? Is it ever right for one person to choose for another as in the case of abortion? Again, two wrongs make a right? Take over from here and apply this to our other freedoms as in the case of fingerprinting and depleting the Earth's resouces to extinction. You are responsible for that.
YOU are RESPONSIBLE.
Feeling For Horses
Thanks to the Internet, there is an extreme amount of information available to research on how to care for and train horses. There is so much information that it takes just as much of a talent to discriminate between valid and invalid as it does to actually ride a horse. (Some will say it is impossible to learn from reading the things that are important to safely handling a horse. Well, if that were true, why is so much written about it?) The current trend is "Natural Horsemanship" with many variations on the same theme of a more humane and friendly approach to establishing a communication between two very different species of animal, horse and human. It is not "new" in the sense that Natural Horsemanship has always existed as long as humans have interacted with the horse. It is only "new" to those who have never viewed their interactions with a horse as anything more than a object/manipulator relationship. Perhaps that superficial, shallow approach to horses is a symptom of a stagnant growth and evolution of the personality, and since the horse/human relationship is no longer driven by need, it is much more apparent in this "new" era of horsemanship.
There is more information available about people than there is about horses. The upside to this statement-of-the-obvious is that if you are reading this, you have direct experience with being a person! That direct experience tells you immediately that everyone is an individual with a different set of experiences and therefore a different interpretation of those experiences than anyone that might have shared those experiences with you. A 'soft' science, there are libraries filled with an infinite number of Psych theories to explain those different interpretations of experiences. The only way to survive the glut of information is to sift through whatever you can get your hands on and relate. In other words, if it rings true to you, then it is true. Through understanding ourselves as people, Psychology can shine a light on why some people insist that a horse is an inanimate object to be taken off the shelf and used without any more thought than if a horse were, say, a radio.
As an extreme example, Psychology has given us the profile of a psychopathic personality. The first clue to this type of personality disorder is a cruelty to animals in childhood. Often, this person is very intelligent and capable of fully functioning in day to day life. Signs of objectivism do not become apparent until interpersonal relationships are attempted. Described as a lack of conscience, everything within this person's life is nothing more than an object to be manipulated in order to satisfy selfish needs. To muddy the picture, most psychopaths go through life unnoticed. It is a matter of degree, and none will go to a therapist with complaints of unsatisfied needs. Most will decide it is not in their best interest to do anything that would threaten their ability to satisfy needs, so they do not commit acts that lead to arrest and incarceration. Some theorize that psychopathic tendencies are due to a perceived childhood trauma that diverts energy into sustaining a false reality instead of true growth of the personality while others theorize there is some sort of short in the brain. Either way, this personality disorder does not respond to treatment of any sort. The horse, just as another human being, is just a means to an end to the psychopathic personality.
Psychology also gives us developmental theories that describe 'normal' development of the personality. One theory is "Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs", the full theory can be found at the link above. Visualize a pyramid, wide at the bottom, cut into 5 levels, signifying the amount of energy needed to satisfy needs on each level and only able to adress the needs on the next higher level after the needs have been met. On the first level is Physiological Needs such as food, clothing and water. The next level is Safety and Security, which deals more with fears and anxieties. Next is Love and Belonging followed by the Esteem level. The highest, smallest part of the pyramid is Self-Actualization. The majority of needs at each level must be met in order to expend energy on higher level needs, though this is not absolute.
Self-Actualization may be the key to understanding the attraction to horses, especially since there is no longer the need to use horses for transportation and plowing fields. The needs of a person expending energy on this level seem to more clearly lend itself to this theory. A person expending energy on Self-Actualization seeks:
Truth, rather than dishonesty.
Goodness, rather than evil.
Beauty, not ugliness or vulgarity.
Unity, wholeness, and transcendence of opposites, not arbitrariness or forced choices.
Aliveness, not deadness or the mechanization of life.
Uniqueness, not bland uniformity.
Perfection and necessity, not sloppiness, inconsistency, or accident.
Completion, rather than incompleteness.
Justice and order, not injustice and lawlessness.
Simplicity, not unnecessary complexity.
Richness, not environmental impoverishment.
Effortlessness, not strain.
Playfulness, not grim, humorless, drudgery.
Self-sufficiency, not dependency.
Meaningfulness, rather than senselessness.
Within our relationship with our horses, these are a reality - for those of us who strive for a relationship with our horse. A life with horses gives us actualization!
Obviously, this is not a full exploration of the differences between those who seek a partnership with their horse vs those who approach their horse as an object. Think about it for awhile and see what parts of it ring true for you.
In one ear and out the other.
With about fifty years under my belt, that's about the way it seems. Someone once told me that I've forgotten more than most people know. Actually, it was that I've forgotten more songs than most people know. Either way, the shoe fits. I've forgotten a lot. It's sort of frightening to read something I wrote, find it impressive, yet not have half a memory of having wrote it. Maybe the knowledge is only 'in there' until I write it, and then it's gone.
My life is far from typical. It's also not interesting enough to write about. My brain tends to go, go, go and go some more, so that might prove to be a little more interesting. I share my thoughts with the grand idea that you might find it worth the time to share yours. Is it "knowledge"? Maybe yes, maybe no. Is it worth sharing? Yes, by all means.
What I'll start with are a few essays I wrote awhile ago. We'll go from there...
What's in A Bumpy Path?
Well, there's lots! A Bumpy Path began in July, 2007, and though it had a slow start, it began to grow and grow not long after. The post entries are easy to find here, either by month, or by topic category.
Posts by Month
Posts by Topic
What you will find here are articles to help you and I realize the potential we have to live a good life.
I started this blog in the summer of 2007 as a way to document the steps of my own path to finding honest and true meaning in my life. I read constantly, so I dug out all my psychology books to mine for ideas and insight. From all this reading, I compiled a list of things that, in order to live a good life, we need to:
- Become open and less defensive.
- Live each moment fully, becoming more aware.
- Trust ourselves more.
- Realize our freedom of choice.
- Be creative and constructive.
- Be reliable and responsible.
- Intensely live a full life of joy and pain, love and heartbreak, fear and courage.
- Stretch and grow, fulfilling our potential.
The essays will be broken down into general topic categories, with links in the sidebar for each. Along with 'Get to Know Yourself' articles (freedom of choice, being in the moment), I include topics about Life Issues (listening skills and depression), Opinions about current events (recession, UFOs and Iraq), General Comments, Photography, and Horses (my moments with Odin). All articles, in one way or another, relate to living a rich, full life.
I have a Master's Degree with emphases in Education, Counseling Psychology and Social Work. I am a writer, college instructor, counselor, advisor, musician, Web site designer and horseman. I enjoy a quiet life of living in a remote area in north-central Arkansas.
So, let me know what you think. All comments are welcome here! I will respond as soon and as much as possible. Send me an email!
Thanks for reading!
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