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 religion and politics is built on the currency of abstraction floating on faith. The battles to control the abstract narrative by manipulating the winds of faith is the the culture war so many of us get caught in the crossfire of. Our invisible friends ride the thermals of faith and give birth to divisive behaviors that have emerged from our thoughts. Along with thought stopping prisons made of abstraction we also use words as the source to freedom and greater depth. We use them 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, because they are the currency of what we value and because of this 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.

How Microbes Affect Our Personality

This video explores some of the ways microbes like bacteria and fungi affect the way we behave. It challenges the assumption that we are alone at the top of the food chain making choices and taking actions because our intelligence gives us this power.

Action and Reaction

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Cultivating a life of intention is not an easy task. Some challenges are more difficult than others, but if our opportunity to act is unrealized or uncultivated to make the most of what we have, we go where the currents of unintention take us.

How Experience Affects Social Development

How we develop our sense of “self” and “other” is a prime factor in whether or not we can function effectively in an adult social environment. This video looks at the role our sense of “self and other” in how we experience life, culture and what it means to our future. It also throws in a little science and a couple-few speculations… just for spice. Enjoy!

Living an Intentional Life

This video is an blatant attempt to be slightly entertaining as well as informative on the topic of living an intentional life.

Exploring the Treasures Within

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When we consider the journey from infancy to whatever equilibrium our mature state of being finds, we must pay due respect to community. The availability of nourishing physical and social resources in the environment we develop in profoundly affects us. Environment is the crucible in which the elements of our identity form. While none of us walk alone, along with communal influence and dependency there is something very personal that must take place in the progression from what we were to what we become; that is if we are to transcend environmental influences to exercise intentional choice.

Our mature state of being can exist well beneath the threshold of our full potential. We can leave opportunities unrealized for many different reasons. One way is to acquiesce to the cultural imposition of self from the outside in – to never discover our inner self. In this case we can certainly ride the cultural currents from cradle to grave. In order to become a voice in the choir of influences that form our state of being, we must take an active role in our own development.

There is an element of yearning to connect with our self that is part of our nature. Adolescent angst with all its furious trying on of various hats and acts of subversive rebellion is really the birth pangs of individual identity. This critical period can be the birthplace of our personal role in our lives, but without the oxygen that flows from gasping breaths, we can become stillborn. If for any reason we suffer an environmental challenge we can fail to become viable. Like any birth, the umbilical cord wrapped around our adolescent neck will suffocate us. If we don’t use this tumultuous time to cultivate a relationship with ourselves, our sense of self can degrade into the darkness of apathy or habituate a hopeless surrender to external influences – we can become spectators in our own lives rather than shapers of it.

Some of us move from one to another social group to another during adolescence and simple reestablish conformity to that group as a means of deceiving ourselves that we actually formed an identity. These and other types of surrender to avoid the courage and determination it takes to actually forge an individual identity comes with a bitter side dish of frustration and isolation since we become a food source for social parasites who drain our native state of being to serve as an extension of themselves. This wasted potential is also a heartache to those who recognize we all lose when one of our own drowns in suffocating mediocrity for whatever reason.

To discover who we are and perhaps, over time, to maximize the nourishing yield from our personal fields is not a passive activity. We must work hard to get to know who we are with any depth. In addition, self-knowledge is a first and necessary step to cultivate intentional choice, but it is by no means the only step. We must personally sort through the values installed on the winds of cultural traditions and local environment and find those that we ourselves might embrace as noble and desirable to be in order to establish real choice. We must also take that information derived from serious exploration as use it as the seed that must be cultivated to maturity over the discipline of time in order to move from mere knowing to the full flower of being.

The process of participation in our own lives also requires a firm understanding of both the context of community and self in relationship to community. We cannot quiet the fires of self-discovery with the cold water of social rejections by those who desperately want to hide their own forays into suffocating conformity. Neither can we use community as the source of our pleasure without returning something of equal or greater value back to that community without becoming an agent of poverty.

Forming a relationship with our self and the active cultivation of our being is a difficult journey. It requires the full plate of persistent discipline spiced with unapologetic honesty. It requires a cultivated capacity for inward reflection and a practice of using this as the driver for our outward expression. This is the only way to move toward being a creature of choice. The alternative is to be a reflection of environmental chance, never present, asleep for the whole journey.