Tag Archives: freedom

The Illusion of “Us” and “Them”

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When we focus our mind’s eye on what we’ve come to know as our self, we typically see a division between a misty constellation of biology, ideas and emotions that we embrace as our personal identity, and the rest of the outside world. This permeable and tenuous separation between our notion of “self” and “other” can quickly dissolve in an ideological solution of greater perspective. If we look through a different lens such as family, community, nation or species, our identity shifts from an isolated individual self, to part of a larger community. This membrane of identity can expand all the way up to include the recognition that we are an inseparable part of everything. The big Truth is; everything in the cosmos is inseparably related to everything else – a singular interdependent body of relationships – evolving over time – on a collective journey.

When we realize that changing the abstract membrane we use to examine subsystems in the context of the whole cosmos, we see that this also changes our perspective. With this in mind, we can see that understanding the relationship between the level of abstraction we use as a lens, and what it reveals, is the key to deepen of vision of the interdependent nature of community threaded throughout the cosmos. For instance; when we look at the earth level, we can see that we all swim in the same pond – a singular web of life in an earthen womb, dependent on nourishment from outside sources like the sun and other forces that umbilically nourish the earth with what we need to nourish and sustain our biological framework. We see that this womb model visible in earth as a whole is also expressed through our species and our individual biology – each ensconced in the other in successive interdependent layers. When we shift the layer of abstraction in our lens back up to the cosmos again, we see that everything is an expression of itself – that biology is an expression of the nature of the cosmos. The fact is; it could not be otherwise.

It is for this reason that cultivating community through the expression of nourishing values in the context of the web of life we are both part of is the way we can cultivate a more fulfilled state of being. Expressing nourishing values in the context of community is the nature of our being. The organs in our body must nourish each other to maintain integrity and flourish. Harmony and/or disharmony with this native expression made through our biological system is a measure of our biological integrity. Our experience of life depends on harmony and/or disharmony with the communication made through our biology, this biology is a reflection of nature and a statement of who we are.

This same model of a seed within a seed applies to humans as a species – we are an organ in a larger body of life. The more we nourish the food web, the more nourishment is available throughout and the closer we can come to the realization of our full potential. This model also applies to personal relationships, business, institutions, governments and our collective relationship with the environment. This community aspect of relationships in our collective body is frequently lost in the heat of a moment, or in the apathy that rises from our ignorance of the fact that we exist in the context of a shared body of life. To diminish each other or any portion of this body, is to diminish our self.

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The Community Principle

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“The Community Principle” is based on the premise that biology is a language that communicates a strong need and preference for multidirectional cooperative relationships to thrive and realize its full potential. The realization of our fullest potential depends on how much our environment and our personal commitments cultivate nourishing community.

The community principle applies to all human social relationships. The more our personal, business, institutional, environmental and governmental systems are aligned around this principle the more we contribute to the realization of our fullest potential. Commitment to community from the bottom up is the key. Top-down approaches burn up too much energy on compliance. We are at our best when we cultivate a commitment to community in everything we do.

The Power of What We Value

Values

The more we harness our capacity to choose what we value the more we develop the capacity to make a difference in our own lives and the lives of those we touch.

Information Is Not Education

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Creative imagination is the mature form of a fully developed curiosity. Boredom is a symptom of a mind suffering from a disease called asphyxiated curiosity. Boredom is when a person is unable to use the power of creative imagination to explore the existing world or make up whole new ones on the fly. Creative imagination is the mature form of a fully developed curiosity, but sadly many are starved of their full potential by the terrible scourge of asphyxiated curiosity. They are trapped in a world where they must wait for stimulation to come to them – a world where they cannot create – this leaves them dependent and vulnerable to control by predators that will exploit this weakness to serve themselves.

One of the leading causes of the disease today happens when children become trapped in rooms for years on end by authoritarian sanitized information dispensers where they are cruelly force fed information made useless because it is out of context. It answers no asked questions. To further the asphyxiation process along, they are then measured on how much of this disjointed information they retain.

Those who obey the authorities and allow themselves to be drowned in information without any context to measure its value or interconnectedness are rewarded with meaningless praise. Those that rebel are considered “problem” children of one variety or another and are sometimes drugged into submission or otherwise bound. This forced form of infection with asphyxiated curiosity disease is called acquired asphyxiated curiosity. (AAC) It is also known as informational waterboarding. It is particularly effective on young developing minds because it chokes curiosity out before it has developed enough strength to defend itself with creative imagination and critical thinking capacities. A fully developed curiosity has a natural immunity against things like informational waterboarding because the mind does not accept information at face value based on authority and cannot pay attention to irrelevant authoritarian droning without also spotting that it is a cleverly disguised wrapper over a steaming wad of feces.

The only known antidote to a mind suffering with acquired asphyxiated curiosity is a lengthy, labor intensive treatment. The treatment involves a simultaneous remedial cultivation of curiosity with appropriate doses of knowledge to satisfy the corresponding thirst for knowledge. Minds in an acquired asphyxiated curiosity state are comatose and unaware that this is their state. They often confuse their own ignorance with certainty and are therefore resistant to treatment because of their failure to recognize their own impoverished state. They do not know what is out of the darkness because they cannot conceive of the light.

Prevention of chronic asphyxiated curiosity is of course far less labor intensive than dealing with full blown cases. Prevention starts with a basic recognition that information is not education. Cultivating curiosity means valuing the capacity to question, not the capacity to remember information. It should be recognized that some forms of information are mere droplets of distraction which can incubate, perpetuate and/or be a contributory cause to the disease itself. Some forms of information are capable of making susceptible individuals less able to think or develop thinking skills, but in this case it does make them more able to be used as a tool such as part of a machine such as being an unwitting soldier unit in self-perpetuating army of human drones. Please help prevent asphyxiated curiosity disease. Cultivate curiosity.

A Note from Our Future’s Past

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From wherever we are in life, if we project our self forward into the future to the end of our life with as much imaginary vision as we can muster… if then from that imaginary perch, we look back and reflect on what happened and begin to divide what really mattered from what didn’t matter much at all, we then have the proper perspective for what to focus on as move forward toward that day when this vision becomes an inevitable reality – that is, if our life is not cut short. There are no guarantees.

If we apply serious thought to this we will probably find that we don’t value or even remember much of the many extra hours we traded for dollars so we could afford fancier clothes, a gadget, or a needlessly trumped up car that carts us in higher style – or any other glitzy trap that tricked us into hugely investing in walking a trail mind numbing chores in exchange for a few fleeting moments of exhilaration.

We will remember and value the friends, family and the experiences we shared – the laughter, the tears, the triumphs and the failures, and we will ambivalently cherish and mourn the time we had with those who we have loved and lost. Everything will have happened in the blink of an eye from that future’s past. We will not hold any value for what we now know was wasted energy spent trying to fit in to groups that didn’t accept us as we are, but demanded that we fit the mold they prescribed for us. We will have long since learned the painful lesson that not everyone that wants us to come to their party wants us there as a guest; that sometimes it is to parasitically feed on our flesh. We will have shed that charade that drained us with bait of promises that never bore fruit.

Form our future’s past we will remember the lives we touched, and those that touched us and we might wonder why we were ever so scared to be our self in front of others – because it was the only thing we were better at than anyone else on Earth. We will measure what we value from that future place, not in terms of stuff, but of the bonds of intimacy between those we care about and those that care about us, and we will realize that everything else we ever did would have been better spent in service of cultivating that community which we now value the most – and we will realize that the degree to which our lives were not centered on these values with all the practical strength we could summon is the degree to which that life was a slave of our own ignorance of our self – that in those cases we did not own our own life  – at the same time we will realize that we had the key to release our self from that prison all along. Perhaps we will remember that time – long ago, when we watched the wizard of Oz, and a wry smile will subtly stretch across our weathered and wiser cheeks.

A Different View of Reality

Reality

Photo credit: nualabugeye

The fact that nothing unreal exists lays at the foundation of a realistic view of reality. Although we can dream up castles of verbal abstraction that aggressively step beyond the bounds of reality, every expression we actually translate into a real event is inseparably bound to the possibilities and limitations afforded to us by reality – plus and minus nothing. The fact that boundaries exist at all tells us the only way we can navigate effectively is to understand the possibilities and limitations of reality with clear vision. It can be a tricky business to recognize, much less utilize all the possibilities in the engine by which we move through this cosmic stew. Multiple layers of influence interplay to produce a delicate symphony of behaviors that constitute a system. Systems are the linguistic expression of reality. When wishful thinking, false assumptions or ignorance govern our perspective, it comes with a side dish of ineffective navigation – a prison without walls that traps us in an unsatisfactory state of poverty. To explore reality on reality’s terms, we must leverage clear vision to develop a better understanding of ourselves and to use this understanding as the map with which we can navigate to a more satisfied state of being.

If we look at the spectrum of philosophies that craft the current assortment of lenses humanity navigates reality with we see that they range from partially open to virtually shut. Some of us see a deep and narrow perspective. Others see a wide and shallow one. In order to craft a lens that renders a true picture we must use extreme caution not to be too liberal or sparing, neither can we allow obstructions to transform clarity to chaos. The lens that is best suited to the task of seeing reality in its true form is reality itself. Because of this we must unflinchingly question the foundations of every assumption we hold without respect to tradition, authority or personal experience in order to have our best shot at a clear image.

With all of this it is clear that something fundamental is missing from our typical view. While most recognize that reality is a statement of possibilities and limitations, the key point often missed in this is that reality is a statement. Reality communicates. To understand reality’s voice we need look no further than the relationship processes through which it expresses itself; systems. The language of reality not only speaks to us about the possibilities and limitations with respect to who we are and what fulfills us, but we are part of the conversation. Here is one example:

As biological creatures we are inseparably dependent on a delicate balance of very specific relationships both within our numerous biological systems and between those systems and the external environment. Both our internal and external relationships must be tuned to nourish the various biological processes toward a narrow range of conditions in order to be satisfied.  Imbalance in the relationships we depend on to be fully nourished can damage or destroy the system. A wide variety of internal elements such as light, space-time, atoms and molecules, cells, and organs as well as external elements are involved in the process. We ride on the wave of a complex community of specific cooperative interdependent relationships. How well or poorly we cultivate this communal environment on which our biology depends defines what we experience as life.

One of the clarion calls speaking through the fabric of biology is that of community. Each of the various elements of relationship we depend on in our overall biological system requires a particular set of relationships with the local environment in which it resides – a community. A brain cell cannot continue to function as a brain cell if it is outside the communal womb of other brain cells. This same context of relational dependence on community exists at all levels of biology. For instance, as human beings we depend on specific kinds of social contact in order to realize our most nourished and satisfied state of being. It is only when we are connected to the whole context of nourishing cooperative relationships that we are then able to effectively navigate to our most satisfied state of being.

When we explore the fantastic spectacle of relational communication pouring out of reality we soon see that the primary means of expression is through systems. Galaxies and stars all the way to atoms and sub atomic particles are elements of relational systems. Biology, ecosystems and social relationships of all kinds are also examples of systems. Whether these systems maintain integrity or disintegrate depends on the tapestry of relationships within them. The same way our individual cells must operate in the context of their place in order to contribute to the community as a whole, each of us must find our place in the community of the larger body of life. This is the cornerstone to finding ourselves, and our fullest measure of fulfillment.

The Seeds of Violence Grow in the Soil of Apathy

0115ApathyThe World Health Organization defines violence as “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.”

As a culture we tend to focus on visible expressions of violence, especially if they’re close geographically or close in terms of being relatable to our personal lives. We think out loud how terrible it is, perhaps grieve for the affected people and wonder how an individual or group could be so twisted that they spatter our world with such destruction. Wars, terrorist activities and shootings are noticed while the root causes from which these acts grow often go unnoticed.

According to “The Hunger Project”[1] malnutrition contributes to more than a third of child deaths every year. If we’re honest with ourselves the fact that 2.6 million deaths per year happen isn’t because we don’t have enough food. It isn’t because we lack the means to distribute the food. It’s because our energies are pointed elsewhere. Our inaction toward real needs is the reason underneath the destructive outcome. In this respect, inaction is the vehicle of violence.

When needs are not met, destruction results. Of course hunger is not the only cause of wounds, destruction and the poverty of unrealized potential. When we fail to recognize that investing in each of us to the develop a full range of contributory talent,s we rob ourselves of both our current and our future. As humans, we have physical needs as well as an array of social needs. When these needs are unmet the result is destruction which takes many forms. Destruction resulting from social hunger can take the form of ill health and death or other forms such as social violence. If we don’t recognize that failing to meet our nutritional needs in all areas, including social, we will never truly address the real issue. We will simply rearrange our focus from one symptom to the next as the cause continues to elude us.

Arun Gandhi who spent his life on concepts of nonviolence said two things that apply here to understanding the contribution of inaction toward violence. He said; “We often don’t acknowledge our violence because we are ignorant about it” and “it is passive violence that fuels the fire of physical violence”. We can look at a relatively mild example of violence such as graffiti to examine how this process works. Youth starving for significance and constructive social connections will express themselves with wall art that could be considered a violation of the public or private property of others. Alienation, a lack of purpose and the expressions of the lack of the worth of human life gets telegraphed as a clear message by what we pay attention to, and also by what we do not pay attention to. Taking it further, predatory gangs and the violence associated with it stems from not having a constructive means of expressing and experiencing communal belonging. In other words; violence in communities is often the outward symptom of an unmet social hunger.

It should come as no surprise that starvation compels creatures act in some way to satisfy that hunger, in extreme cases desperate acts can become the norm. If there is no means to satisfy the hunger constructively, or if the pathway to satisfy it is not understood, violent behaviors result. Whether that expression is a body in the process of violently consuming itself, or maladaptive social expressions, the core is still destruction born of unmet hunger. If we are not attentive to satisfying our real needs we will continue to see expressions of destructive behaviors. While some issues can fall outside our capacity to control and the illustrations here represent only part of a larger picture, there is certainly room for improvement if we recognize that the seeds of violence grow in the soil of apathy.

http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2015-11-13-brain-structure-may-be-root-apathy-1

Apathy toward Injustice

Anne stopped short of swinging a last uncalculated blow. She wasn’t quite sure what stayed her hand from the final punctuation of what started in her mind as righteous retribution for an unforgivable act. Enveloped in blind emotion and flailing arms, the torrent lasted for what seemed like hours but was actually a few short moments. When it was over she took a few deep breaths and stared blankly at the quivering hunk of child at her feet – her flesh and blood – though in that moment it was neither child, nor her flesh and blood. It didn’t have a name – it was inanimate – a blank canvas on which to paint her rage. A rage born of the poison vapors of broken trusts and betrayals on which her vision of reality was formed – so many years prior… A rage that surfaced as an absurd attempt to once again purge the memories far too painful to taste again – a rage she desperately wanted to crush in her more reasoned moments but had no concept of how to harness much less subdue. At the same time she embraced the passionate futility of reliving the very angst she was trying to forget, she passed the same toxins to her child through the social umbilical cord that once fed her now wounded and misshapen psyche.

So many places in the world are known concentrations of injustices like the one just described. Some are far more subtle forms of rape and dehumanization, but none the less destructive and none the less able to ripple through our collective body of life. It is not a casual undertaking to recognize the full extent of the happenings that cultivate and perpetuate our collective self-inflicted wounds and starvation.

One of the ideas we must grasp if we are to actually remedy the vicious cycle is that blame is an unreal ghost that – if anything – runs through us and not to us – we far more often become toxic expressions toward life because we are carried on the currents of our toxic local culture and not because we were ever in a place to knowingly and willingly make choices. While this fact doesn’t eliminate the need to subdue destructive elements within our midst, it does reveal that a crime and punishment mentality perpetuates destructive behavior and is useless as healing and nourishment agents which are required to address the real wounds and starvation that drive such misery. This idea is not easy to hold on to when some injustice comes our way, especially when it happens to the likes of an innocent child, but the depth perception and constancy of purpose required to actually move humanity toward a better state of being must have this deeper field of view.

While apathy toward injustice is violence disguised as sleep, responding to injustice with further injustice makes us our own enemy, and that is the greatest injustice of all.

The Power of Abstract Ideas

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No one ever actually drank water. Water is not a real substance. It is a word – a symbol that represents a real substance. (H2O) The same way a map is not the actual territory, nor is it the journey, verbal language is built on abstract representations – symbols that are removed from the actual objects they represent.[1] The words we use to understand ourselves are a kind of economy built on abstract meaning.[2] Each word has a meaning value and collectively words can work together to establish more meaning. While abstractions are symbols that are removed from the objects they represent, this doesn’t mean they have no power to affect our lives.

Abstractions are quite powerful depending on the meaning we assign to them. Some of the things we believe as true are based primarily on a complex structure of meanings that are partially or totally removed from objective reality. For instance; money isn’t money unless we culturally agree to the many abstract notions that make it money. Money is not real because of the physical structure of money. If we made exact replicas of money it would not be considered “real” money, it would be considered counterfeit. Money is “legitimized” as real by beliefs in meaning such as the authority of the issuer of the currency, which is also an abstract notion. Even records of money are also considered money built on mere numbers stored electronically for instance. In order to influence our lives, we must believe in the legitimacy of the abstractions that constitute the value of money. The point is that money (as it exists today) is money only because we agree to call it money and establish a set of standards to legitimize it as money.[3]

Shared meaning within a culture can have a powerful effect on what we experience as life. Think about it; if an economy collapses the same amount of resources exist both before and after the collapse, only the abstract meaning we assign to relationships has changed. By this same principle, we can be deceived into self-destructive acts by the meaning we assign our words. Some of us may allow others to define our value in ways that are destructive to our own state of being. When we examine this economy of meaning closely we see that we are governed by an authority that has only the power that we give to it – even though it can appear that it has authority of its own accord, it is actually us who are the source of that authority.We are the meaning.

We have far more power to define ourselves than we sometimes give ourselves credit for or exercise because we are lost in meanings installed from the outside which can only survive if we give them power. Understanding this fact and learning how to master our own economy of meaning is the real power of abstraction.


[1] Except for perhaps the word “word”

[2] For more information on this, look up the term “semantics”

[3] For more information on this type of cultural phenomena look up the terms John Searle and “collective intentionality”.

Breaking Destructive Behavior Patterns

When we are under pressure, research shows that we tend to move toward our familiar environment.[1] We associate what is familiar with what is safe. We are compelled to run to this familiar place in a stressful situation. Some of us have familiar places that are filled with relational poisons. As a consequence, we can become trapped in a vicious circle of stress followed by a stress inducing familiar place. Still others may have stumbling blocks that emerge because of a particular familiar place that is not applicable as a safe zone to every situation. Eating may be a familiar zone. It can conjure up images of comfort, safety and nourishment. This is not a problem unless an extended period of stress arises, which can lead to eating more. This can be followed by the stress of gaining weight which can lead to a spiral of increasing obesity.

This notion of how familiar places effects behavior also gives us a deeper view into why social relationships that fall on hard times can be so difficult to emerge from. Feelings of raw emotion can lead to behaviors that are not aligned around dealing with real issues, but simply flights to the familiar. The things we do to run for safety can sometimes contribute to relational stress or trigger a spiral of the relationship to the breaking point. Familiarity can be a comforting friend, but it can also be a vicious feedback mechanism that leaves us trapped in a prison. Our familiar environments must be handled with care, especially in times of stress.

With this “familiar” lens we can begin to see why some of us are launched out into the world with the deck stacked so heavily against us. Families that have relational climates characterized by getting from each other, rather than reciprocal giving, poison the ability of children to form bonds of trust and nourishing relationships. This kind of toxic developmental womb often produces one of two personalities; “the enabler” who thinks that everyone’s pain and misery, even if self-made or inflated beyond reason, is their personal responsibility, or “the narcissist” who has great expectations for everyone else coupled with unquenchable wants. Neither of these extremes is a recipe for developing intimate fulfilling relationships. As a consequence, both the enabler and the narcissist are in a perpetual state of frustrated hunger for authentic relationships. This hunger drives up the stress, which throws them into the familiar – which is toxic, which is stressful – again a vicious circle.

One of the most important aspects of dealing constructively with stress is to first decide on what our response is. This sounds simple, but choosing a response to stress, rather than letting the automatic mechanisms take over is not an easy proposition. Cultivating a discipline in the midst of the strong currents of habit can be a real challenge, but it is a necessary cost to move toward an intentional state of being, rather than one that is buffeted by the winds of happenstance.

How do you think we can address the toxic bonds formed by flights to the familiar from a broader cultural perspective?


[1] “Pressure and Perverse Flights to Familiarity” by Ab Litt, Taly Reich, Senia Maymin and Baba Shiv