A Matter of Control

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The idea that we influence others by trying to install our point of view about what they should do has not worked very well for us as a human race so far. Occasionally we have been able to force compliance, but sustained behaviors come from commitment, not compliance. Perhaps we should consider the idea that this energy we spend attempting to edit the behaviors of our peers would be better spent editing our own.

The Language of Life Part 4 of 5

This is part 4 of 5 on a series called: “The Language of Life”.

These are thoughts on how reality and more specifically biology communicates and how this communication relates to everything from our personal lives to what we face on the global stage.

What Biology Says about Relevance

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For any species to continue it must maintain the capacity to adapt to the environment in a sustainable way as well as pass on the ability to sense and negotiate the environment to their offspring. Adaptability takes many forms, but one common thread that runs through the entire body of life is the need to live within ones environmental means – to establish and maintain equilibrium or endure the consequences of disequilibrium.

If a species exploits an environment beyond the environment’s capacity to replenish, it leads to the demise of that same species. While an immediate increase in population might come as a result of some quantum leap in the capacity of a species to exploit the environment to draw nourishment, if that new capacity exceeds the carrying capacity of the environment to renew itself, the stage is set for a population crash, even though that crash may be displaced in time.

Another illustration of the need for equilibrium communicated through biology is the need to provide and receive nourishment in order to continue. Each organ in a biological body scheme must continuously adapt to provide nourishing value to the community of organs as it also draws nourishment from that same community. Because environments change, the need to be flexible is also important. Vestigial organs are those that fade from relevance and eventually existence because they no longer provide anything of nourishing value in the context of the body’s community of organs.

Each species of life is an organ in the larger body of life. The same principle that applies to organs in the body, applies to a species in the context of the body of life. Humanity must recognize and behave as if our place at nature’s table is provisional on our role as cultivators of nourishing value in the context of the body of life. Being aware of this role is not sufficient, nothing short of performing this role will sustain our place in the body of life.

This fact of life is stated plainly through the structure of biology.

The Language of Life Part 3 of 5

Part 3 of 5 on a series called “The Language of Life”. This series explores reality, and more specifically biology, as an engine of communication. Based on the communication made through the cosmos, it explores what it says about who we are, how we can understand and apply this information to find fulfillment and where we might be going in the future.

What Biology Says about Investment

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Not all truth is painless… We have only so much energy to cultivate whatever we’re going to do in life.

We can focus on what can be done, but some of us focus on what we want to do. If what we what to do, no matter how noble or worthy, is not what can be done, we must abandon it or we will end up doing nothing. A fertile climate of soil, seeds and patience can yield an abundant harvest. An infertile climate will never yield, no matter how hard we work. To spend our life trying to cultivate a barren field trades the meaning and life we could have cultivated for whisps of meaningless dust.

The Language of Life Part 2 of 5

Part 2 of 5 on a series called “The Language of Life”. This series explores reality, and more specifically biology, as an engine of communication. Based on the communication made through the cosmos, it explores what it says about who we are, how we can understand and apply this information to find fulfillment and where we might be going in the future.

Our Invisible Friends

imaginary-friend We have to be very careful about the invisible friends we make. The invisible friends, made with words and ideas, stitched together with faith. These abstract concepts that live inside us and yet are, by nature, separate from objective reality because they are only real by virtue of our belief in them. Depending on their nature, they can guide us to cultivate a nourishing relationship climate and elevate us to the pinnacle of ecstasy, or drain us of all vitality and leave us gasping for life. We make them coherent and breathe life into them through our individual collective belief.

The ideas that become real when we respond to our belief in them would die without that breath of life we breathe into them. They ride the thermals of our faith and we put them in castles made of stories. We allow them to govern us as monarchs that must be trusted feared and worshiped to wield the power they do over our lives. Once believed, these abstractions form a lens that bends what we see into their image. A mixed lens of fact and fancy shapes the currents that steer our experience of life.

Abstractions are neither good nor evil, they simply are what they are; the verbal currency we use to give form and substance to our values, whatever those values may be. Hate is one of the fruits of abstraction. Belief in hate can lead us to exact the violent worst from ourselves and spread it like a virus, to beget more hate. The idea that humanity can be carved up with abstractions used as justification to artificially divide the “worthy” and the “unworthy” when the real truth is closer to poverty spawned by apathy dressed in self-righteous abstractions.

Much of what we call religion and politics is built on the currency of abstraction floating on faith. The battles to control the abstract narrative by manipulating the cultural winds of faith can ensnare us in the crossfire of heated poverty inducing battles that are founded on faith and made real by our actions. These invisible friends that ride the thermals of faith and give birth to behaviors can be the source of freedom or enslavement.

Some ideas can combine to become thought stopping prisons made with bricks of abstraction, others can be the source to freedom and greater depth perception. They can help us to know our nature and navigate more effectively through these murky waters of reality. We can use our invisible friends to form nourishing social bonds, bring vitality to community, protect us, and help us weather the storms and cope with terrible circumstances that might have otherwise been unbearable. They can enable us to embrace beauty, truth and many other heights and forms of intimacy and ecstasy.

Let’s choose our words wisely with an eye toward how they collectively serve to bring about constructive and nourishing behaviors that help us grow and realize our full potential. Our words,  combined with our faith in them, are the currency that powers what we do to and for each other. They powerfully shape the nature of the waters in which we all swim.

The Language of Life Part 1 of 5

Part 1 of 5 on a series called “The Language of Life”. This series explores reality, and more specifically biology, as an engine of communication. Based on the communication made through the cosmos, it explores what it says about who we are, how we can understand and apply this information to find fulfillment and where we might be going in the future.

The Roots of an Intentional Life

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When we consider the wiggle room we have at our disposal to shape our experience of life we can easily get lost in our own little words. If we do not evaluate the real situation and employ our full capacity to influence our lives, then the possibilities may go uncultivated. Like a fallow field, what could have been possible in our lives might remain unrealized because we never cultivated our choice from thought to reality. This article explores a few ideas on how we can exercise influence in our lives.

It’s possible for us to have partially or completely broken relationship with our self. Self-awareness depends on understanding our nature and some of us never get past the words we use to describe ourselves to look at the reality of what we express through our behaviors. The truth about who we are is revealed through our behaviors. Our words may or may not be accurately descriptive of the values we express through behavior.

It is quite possible to be highly knowledgeable at the same time unaware of some or all of the communication we make through our behaviors. A father might say “My family is the most important thing to me”. He might passionately believe that statement is accurate. He might also spend most of his time working for material possessions beyond his family’s needs, and spend most of his time with friends and hobbies while ignoring the relationship needs of his family. Another person may not recognize the way they conduct their spending, the way they talk, or any other number of behaviors communicate value.

The bottom line is our real values are communicated through our behaviors. An accurate view of self-awareness can only be drawn from an unvarnished assessment of  our behaviors, not our ideals or what we would like to think. Without behaviors as the standard, our lens of self-awareness is broken.

The various tools at our disposal for perception are limited. We must make inferences about the world from a fairly small sample of reality. This can make it difficult to see ourselves and easy to be short sighted when it comes to understanding who we are. A serious gage of what our behaviors say about how we value ourselves and others is the first step toward making real choices about cultivating an intentional life.

We all know that whatever already has happened again and again in our lives is more likely to happen again unless we apply a sufficient discipline to override the pull of our habits on our lives. In addition to assessing the nature of our values through our current behaviors we also need to look at how deeply rooted those behaviors are so we can make a proper choice about what it will take to shift them if we decide to. One way to take the wind out of our sails is to start blowing in every direction. Working on too many fronts can derail any meaningful change. If we want to make numerous changes we must prioritize and recognize the level of persistence and energy we will need to employ to make the changes.

To reach the fullness of our potential we must use intentional choices that express our chosen values at every level. We cannot assume that this is taking place automatically just because we desire it to be so. This is not easy, but it is worthwhile if we want a life of choice. The alternative is to ride the currents of happenstance and culture wherever they take us.

Developing strength of intention and the persistence to overcome behavioral momentum is a must in order to experience something different than what we have now. To understand why the emphasis here is so heavily on the need for self-discipline we can look around: It is not hard to see that even modest measures of self-mastery are extremely rare. The difference between those of us that go in intentional directions and those that do not is how accurate our awareness is combined with a realistic application of our capacity for persistent resolve.

Building Community

Ceazer Shallah is part of a growing number of people in the Philadelphia area and beyond who are turning a passion for community into practical and transformative action. In this interview Ceazer talks about the “House of Initiative”, an organization dedicated to empowering Communities through education & positive interactions. He also talks about the challenges related to building community in a stressed social climate. It’s people like Ceazer who are changing the world one relationship at a time.