Tag Archives: inspiration

A Life Well Lived

The measure of a life well lived is arguably one that was at least aimed at rendering something constructive in the wake of the numerous sacrifices that the larger community of life has had to make for us to have lived at all. This delivery of something more than what is taken from the community that we collectively depend on to nourish us is the very essence of “bearing fruit”. This lesson is well crafted and clearly communicated through the structure of nature in so many ways – that we can count the seeds in an apple, but not the apples in a seed, as long as those seeds are cultivated in a nourishing environment to their mature potential. Fruit, in many forms, including social, can pay endless dividends that are greater than the sacrificial investment that must be made to bring them to fruition. Recognizing, and tending to these opportunities is the essence of life.

Some few of us humans get recognized as monuments of constructive contribution (whether deserved or not). Still others of us are also well known, but for another reason; because we have left a notorious wave of destruction in our wake. The overwhelming majority of us also get to express significance, either fruitful or notorious, in another way – not as individuals, but by way of participating in something greater than ourselves – by being part of some collective effort that either strengthens our chances to remain coherent and to thrive as a community going forward, or that threatens that hedge against chaos we must maintain so that we do not get swallowed by the antagonists that would destroy the ordered economy of relationships that renders integrity that we all depend on.

The significance of what we do in these larger bodies of influence, and the fruit they bear upon maturity, is not necessarily understood by those of us that participate in them as individuals. We may be completely oblivious to the significance and power of our contributions, constructive or destructive, yet we still play our roles. We can be an example of one of these collective efforts that has the capacity to pay constructive dividends, if we passionately search out and cultivate that opportunity over time. We can also be thankful for thousands and millions who have played roles in making our potential future little more fruitful by way of discovering and cultivating these opportunities.

Our preparedness, and in some cases, our willingness to bravely face and adapt to the challenges the environment places upon us as a species will determine whether or not it will endure, or sink beneath the threshold required by nature to maintain our integrity over time. Part of nature’s inherent demand is that we we find and cultivate the routines that produce the fruit that nourishes us. Part of facing this challenge is a willingness to face the unknown – to be explorers, and make this effort part of what drives our flexibility to turn the formerly unknown to an advantage, rather than continue to fear and avoid it until it devours us in our ignorance. It is this blend of flexibility and rigidity that we are best prepared to endure the waves of chaos that would otherwise erode our integrity.

We owe a committed debt of gratitude to those of us who make the sacrificial effort to illuminate the darkness and make it part of where we can dwell – those willing to search for and cultivate these undiscovered fruits. This ode to the many unsung heroes among us that are the lifeblood of our strength and vitality may not be praised in song often enough, but they nonetheless deserving of our thanks. Thank you to all you who are out there doing things to give back to this community we share and depend on for life.


The Role of Trust In Relationships

The Role of Trust In Relationships:

The greater the trust, the more fragile it is to acts of betrayal.

It is impossible to construct a completely accurate spectrum of trust for a number of reasons. Firstly; evaluating trust accurately does not lend itself to being pinpointed on a spectral line. Any real world relationships are part of a relational system that has a number of types of relationships going on at once. It is possible to have ambivalent, self reinforcing and self canceling factors working at once in a given relational climate. This can be further complicated by the fact that there are senders and receivers in any communication and a certain inefficiency in the transfer of information occurs within system. There is also the potential for a difference between the perception and the reality. Couple this with the fact that a confused climate is a fertile ground for misplaced trust, either toward too much, or too little, and we can see some of the difficulties in formulating a completely accurate model.

The bottom line is, trust is a complicated relational climate that would take quite a bit more effort to unpack with clarity than can be tackled in a brief outline of the spectrum of trust being targeted here. This outline attempts to propose a simple and useful lens for understanding trust in general, and how various levels of trust impact social relationship structures like personal relationships, families, organizations and so on.

There is no doubt trust plays a crucial role in relationships. If we examine the foundation of trust relationships in a social context, they range from a dominance based, forced compliance model at the low end of the spectrum – where people do things because they trust some consequence will happen or they are overwhelmed by force – to a shared identity, committed trust based model where activities are centered on actively filling each other’s needs and defending the integrity of the community – where the separate participants in the relationship form a singular body out of unified purpose. Social relationships that last and those that generate the most value in terms of emergent novel properties, are built on trust relationships at the higher end of this spectrum.

The currency of trust defines the nature of a relationship system. Antagonistic trusts, at the low end of spectrum, generate stress, demand higher energy toward fight or flight mechanisms, and are the source of instability which can lead to a cascade of failures in the integrity of the relationship body. Relationships at the higher end of the spectrum, toward a shared identity committed trust environment, generate a climate built on filling each other’s needs and the defense of the integrity of the system in the form of an immune system. A high trust environment does not have to apply energy toward suspicion, regulation, aggression and the antagonistic feedback that arises from aggression – all of which compromise the strength of integrity in a low trust environment. Each entity within a shared identity, committed trust environment is inclined to fill the needs of the community, as well as being open to receive the benefits from the community.

This model uses four levels of trust to present a picture of the lowest to the highest forms. They are as follows:

  • Forced Compliance Based Trust
  • Cost/Benefit Based Trust
  • Mutual Advantage Based Trust
  • Shared Identity Commitment Based Trust

Forced Compliance Based Trust: This is the lowest level of trust, built on the expectation that a credible threat of force is needed to motivate actions. Social structures are established “as if” the underlying expectation is that all social behaviors are motivated the same way physical behaviors are – i.e. that a sufficient force must be applied to motivate all actions. The idea runs on the premise that no behaviors are motivated out of a social commitment, only compliance built on sheer force or fear.

Forced compliance trust environments have a “physics” only view of reality. It is true that squinting our eyes and wishing a 25 kg rock will be lifted by virtue of wishful thinking is not an effective strategy. Something above 25 kg of force is needed to lift the rock. We can reasonably expect the law of gravity to be fairly and evenly enforced if we jump, swing a pendulum, etc., so acting according to these expectations in physical reality is reasonable. In social settings, a forced compliance based trust treats people as if they operate solely on the same principle as physical objects. The underlying assumption of the necessity for forced compliance is present, so social structures are set up to motivate by force (either real or perceived) in order to get things done.

For instance; punishment mechanisms might be used as a motivation to perform work. Throughout history, slave economies are built on this coercive model. Money can also serve as a form of forced compliance, when necessary resources are controlled (by force) and money is demanded as a means to gain access to those basic needs. Whenever people comply out of the expectation of negative consequence, then forced compliance based trust is at work.

In social terms, forced compliance structures woven into the fabric of social systems has the net effect of giving rise to linear hierarchical pecking orders. A social position spectrum emerges that ranges from top exploiter to bottom exploited, as well as all the gradients in between. Social structures built on forced compliance breed the need for increasing energy devoted to force because of a push-back effect from the bottom exploited class. The more elements of forced compliance present in a social system, the more forced compliance is needed to maintain the stability of that system. Eventually this expanding demand for energy devoted to compliance can consume the available energy needed to maintain the integrity of the social system, first to the point where it inhibits further growth and then to the threshold where it destabilizes the social structure. Cycles of revolution echo repeatedly in the feedback loop generated by a forced compliance atmosphere. This is where oppressor and oppressed repeatedly change roles over time.

The gravitation toward roles along the exploiter – exploited spectrum results from the influence of the unspoken communication that telegraphs through the forced compliance social structure. It communicates about the expected social roles in a society context coupled with how we humans have a tendency to behave according to perceived expectations. The Stanford Prison experiments are one example of how humans shape themselves according to expectations. This is where people off the street dressed as prisoner or guard began acting out their roles so heavily that the experiment had to be stopped. The fundamental structure a social system is built on has a powerful influence on shaping the behaviors that emerge from the structure.

Cost/Benefit Based Trust: This is a relationship dynamic based in projections and promises along with perhaps some facts such as reputation. It is a decision to engage in relationship based on a cost/benefit analysis, weighing the potential benefit of creating and sustaining the relationship against the projected cost. Generally, both parties are looking for some gain which the proposed partnership could yield, but deterrence, or force, is still a factor. If at any time if the cost is perceived as outweighing the benefit, the relationship is terminated. In this case, the party that perceives the harm must also be willing to follow through on severing ties, otherwise the relationship shifts from trust to abuse. Engaging in a optional business relationship is an example of Cost/Benefit trust. A partnership forged on mutual needs like the that found in danger situations, mountain climbing or certain critical business partnerships are based on cost/benefit trust. Depending on how the relationship progresses, cost/benefit trust relationships can be fertile soil for higher trust relationships to grow from.

Mutual Advantage Based Trust: This can emerge out of cost/benefit based trust once enough information from experience emerges. Predictability comes from a relationship over time. If this is perceived as an advantage, mutual advantage based trust emerges. Control in the form of threats of deterrence diminish as more authentic trust bond forms and strengthens. Less energy is applied to verification and more is applied to accelerating the potential that comes from sharing each other’s strengths. Mutual advantage based trust is the range within the spectrum of trust relationships where the relational emphasis can shift from compliance to commitment. All parties can begin to apply their full energies towards taking advantage of each others strengths. This is where the full potential of emergent value can arise. Emergent values are those where the outcome is more than the sum of its parts.

Shared Identity Commitment Based Trust: This happens when the relationship is fully committed – where both or (all) parties seek to understand and fully endorse one another – when each party willingly commits to act as an agent for the other’s interests in a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship. No one has to ask, no one has to threaten, no one has to hope or worry about the commitment, each party in the relationship inquires about the others needs and responds by actively seeking to meet them. The relationship is no longer based on threats or promises, it is based on a fully realized intimacy. The once separate parties become one body. If one part is hurt, the whole body feels the pain. There are no secrets in this climate. They are no longer necessary as a means of protection. Intimate trust has not dissolved the differences, but it has dissolved the boundaries between the parties, which now assume a common identity. In the case of personal relationships, co-habitation, communal sharing of properties and resources, and the like cultivate a strength through community. In the case of business, co-location, joint development of products and services, shared vision, values, goals and the like are all possible in this high trust climate. Compliance based behaviors and the need for policing, deterrence and the like disappear as full commitment defines the relationship climate.

In Summary:

The lowest form of trust is Forced Compliance Based Trust. Behaviors are motivated by the fear or expectation of punishment for non compliance. Next up is relationships based on Cost/Benefit Based Trust. These use a cost-benefit analysis with a deterrence (force) factor, where the relationship will break down if the benefit is not realized. Next is relationships based on Mutual Advantage Based Trust. These emerge from a Cost/Benefit Based Trust relationship once enough positive information from experience emerges. In a developing system the recognition of mutual advantage is where the relational emphasis shifts from compliance behaviors to commitment. All parties in the system begin to apply energies toward taking advantage of each others strengths, and the emergent strengths that occur as a result of the relationships also begin to develop. Finally; relationships based on Shared Identity Commitment Based Trust happen once the relationships are fully committed – where all parties act as agents for the other’s interests. When no one has to ask, and each party is actively interested in identifying and meeting the needs of the community.

Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase “The medium is the message” as a way of describing that the structure a medium is based on embeds itself in the messages that are able to be carried by that medium. A symbiotic relationship between the medium and what it is capable of communicating influences how the messages are perceived in the context of that medium. Social structures are mediums of communication. A forced compliance model, in social terms, breeds more conflict because it expects it. Suspicious minds breed suspicious activity so to speak. Conversely, high trust social models, that also attend appropriately to the necessities of defense, set the expectation for mutually nourishing community strengthening behaviors as the predominant form of behavior. The structure on which a social system is formed sets the tone for what kind of behaviors emerge from this system, and this is true across the entire spectrum of trusts.

What are your relationships based on? Do you think you have a realistic view of the trust you should place in yourself and others? Are you authentic? How does integrity play out in a relationship field where there are well skilled posers? What do you think we can do to effectively cultivate the climate of trust in which we live and on which our experience of life is founded? What impact do you think this would this have on our world?

Earth is Our Tribe


We are social creatures far more than we are rational ones. The same way raindrops form on the backbone of a particle of dust, our abstract identities are an interpretive dance of interconnected values based on the particulate backbone of imperfect perception faculties coupled with what is communicated through our environment and the established cultural ideas we nurse from in youth. As social creatures, we’re wired to sacrifice accuracy on the altar of belonging. This isn’t because we’re more inclined to intentionally lie in order to belong to a group. Lies are a semi-irrelevant extension of our social nature. Our perception is geared to see what we need to see to cement the social bonds we depend on to live.

We ride aloft on the thermals of our innate social hungers, interpreting imperfect sensory data through a distorted cultural lens that was forged by environmental factors largely beyond the reach of our time, place and capability to influence. Once established, this lens becomes much more an inward projection of installed prejudices than an accurate interpreter of outward events. This is why what looks like common sense to one group looks completely insane to another. Our connection to ideas is an emotional one founded on the intimacy driven by the dependency of social hunger, it is not a rational one based on objective evidence.

We build our identity from the ideological breast milk of the culture we’re baptized in from youth. This ideological perspective is largely constructed at critical periods in development – prior to developing the potential to critically question the premises on which these perspectives stand, much less the discipline to do so. Along with an installed perspective forged on social dependency and how ideas serve as social glue, we also develop an ideological immune system to protect that same identity because, in so doing, we protect what it is we conceive of as our self. In aligning this ideological profile with how it serves to bind us to a group, we become an integrated part of a larger tribal body and thus historically more resilient, adaptable, and by extension, able to survive. An examination of accuracy is not as important as an evolutionary axiom of utility. It is what is useful and arguably essential to belong that trumps accuracy.

Allegiance to local sports teams is one of the recent manifestations of tribal instinct, as is allegiance to organizations, scientific and religious ideologies as well as abstract notions like property and nationalism. So powerful is this social currency that an abstract idea can form the basis of membrane to distinguish an in-group and out-group so powerful that people will fight and die over it. This tribal social attribute has served us well in a world where we needed to navigate some almost impossible adversity over the years. At times, without these kinds of uncompromising bonds to our local tribe we would have literally died off. Social currency is the coin of the realm that outwardly symbolizes the innate values that have been structured into our human cognitive frame over the years by nature to increase our potential to endure.

Along with every advantage conferred by some innovative structure born out of nature comes a potential downside. Our emotional-social attachments to abstractions along with our social hungers can become manipulated such that they are cemented to destructive things by the same engine that once drove our survival. Our innate traits can and have been exploited in some cases to drive emotional attachments to such things as corporate brands and causes which are in opposition to our best interests. People now routinely back causes that are destructive to our individual and collective well being because of ignorance, accidental appropriation and the deliberate and artful massaging of these natural social traits to serve narrow agendas.

The wealth of any local tribe has always come from it’s capacity to cultivate its people such that they lived within their means and continually cemented the bonds of unity and awareness of that which sustained their future. Each member carried the torch for and passed it to the next generation. Finding a harmonious equilibrium with the environment while cultivating and maximizing the fruits that nourish the community is the foundation of wealth. While desperate times have called for desperate measures, from the larger perspective, tribal wealth is a byproduct of how much the members of the community give to the community, not from how much power and resource they extract from it. A vested interest in the entire social and environmental ecosystem, including each other, is the life blood of the tribe.

Over time the sharing of resources and ideas is what led to our current capacity to no longer be bound as tightly to the whims of nature’s irregular bounty. We have the capacity to steer with far more intention and have far more impact through technology, but that does not mean that we have always chosen to steer wisely. Technology has provided the capacity to greatly enrich our lives, but only if it is appropriately applied. Our technological sword comes with two edges. We now have the capacity to greatly improve our lives, but we also have the capacity to destroy our future on the altar of now. Because of overpowering tools, we are faced with the new proposition of needing to apply our capacities judiciously and from a global community perspective to ensure our survival. We cannot afford to leverage our capacities capriciously without risking the destruction of the very channels that we depend on to nourish us.

Our local success now depends on the success of the many interconnected entities that collectively form our global body. We are no longer capable of operating as separate entities – different bodies. Each of us is a vital organ in the collective body. Together we are a singular whole. To strangle one part of the body for the sake of another is not only not effective, but can only be justified on a foundation of ignorant or wanton destructiveness. It is now a matter of self interest and sustainability to have, and actively cultivate, a stake in each others success and to cultivate the environmental channels that nourish us. Each of us is individually limited to the confines of that which we collectively decide we are. A world where we nourish each others potential, instead of exploit each others weaknesses, is a world that maximizes its capacity to unlock the fruit it has to offer itself. To strengthen our voice to its full potential we must strengthen each other. To effectively raise the experience of life we have as individuals, we need to recognize how contingent each of our success is on the success of the entire tribe.

A strategy that serves well in one context can be disastrous in another. We once lived in a world where local tribal unity was essential for survival -a world where we could leverage every tool at our disposal without concern for the backlash. The environment was the primary influence that shaped our ideologies and culture. If we didn’t listen to and change with the message delivered to us through the environment, we dissolved back to the soil from which we came and no longer have a voice. We now live in a world where technology has erased the need to bend to as many aspects of the environment. Along with this capacity we have effectively eliminated the protective membrane of local geography. We now all swim in the same pond and it’s a whole lot smaller than it used to be. What we do affects us all, and to survive and thrive, we need to shift our tribal perspective from the narrow set of ideological anomalies that are metaphoric echoes of a local people’s relationship to local environments over time to see the entire earth as our tribe.


The Wisdom of the Tree


A tree simultaneously stretches itself downward into the soil to draw the water and nutrients as it stretches up and outward toward the sky to capture the glow of sunlight and drink from the atmospheric delights that waft past its swaying branches. In so doing, the tree stitches the elements at its disposal together and if they are sufficient, it uses them as a vehicle to propel itself toward its full potential. A tree breaks the prior symmetries of certain structures, not for the sake of destruction, but to reassemble them into its own likeness – in its own form.

At its crest, the wave of self assembled organization that is the tree matures to relate with other trees and the creatures that call it home, and to cast its offspring to the wind in the hopes of making even more like itself. Like the tree, we need draw from places of nourishment to realize our potential. Like the tree, if we do not stretch ourselves to reach those nourishing places, we are destined live beneath the threshold of our full potential.

We have some measure of choice in where we stretch ourselves. Let’s make sure these places we cultivate our own assemblies are also those that nourish our potential – that contribute substance and strength to the canopy we all live beneath – this community of life we both live in and depend on.


The Key to an Intentional Life


There is a fungus that infects ants and manipulates their thought and behavior patterns.1 Infected ants are rewired by the fungus to change their basic behavioral nature. The rewiring shifts the ants behavior from a role that supports the sustainability of the ant community they depend on for life to instead devote their lives to ideas planted in their head by the fungus. They are now compelled to go on a journey into the forest in search of a place that best serves the purposes of the fungus.

The fungus overlord that has taken over the life of the ant drives them to find a spot suited perfectly to itself under a leaf at an appropriate level off the forest floor. The ant is then driven to attach itself to a major vein on the underside of that leaf where it starves and dies as it is slowly devoured by the fungus it served and sacrificed its life for. The fungus then pops a fruiting body out of the ants dead skull to litter the forest floor with more spores to spread itself to other ants.

The notions that we encounter in our lives that inform us who we are can be a powerful current that steers us much like the fungus steers the life of the ant. Some of these notions come from the inside – who we are without outside influences – what we might aspire or want to be. Some are from the outside – roles that others have planted into us by virtue of whatever prejudicial arrows they happen to carry in their behavioral quiver. Can we forge an intentional live in the midst of currents such as these? It can be difficult. Like the fungus, ideas installed from the outside in can seem like they are our own. Some of us hold ideas about money or other cultural institutions that we will sacrifice our lives for – not because we believe in them, but because we have been infected by them.

One of the necessary ingredients to forge an intentional life is a healthy bit of skepticism about the ideas we hold as our own. These things we think about our self – who we are – may be installed from the outside in, not born from the inside out. Sifting through the pile can be a difficult task. We develop momentum in terms of identity. What we become accustomed to thinking about ourselves becomes harder to see from a different perspective. The longer we hold on to ideas and behave as if these notions are our own, the more we see them as who we are.

Searching oneself honestly and then choosing to be aligned with being the person we choose to be, rather than quietly accepting the roles cast on us by social pressures can be quite a challenge. But it is a necessary one if we don’t want to to be driven to go where the cultural winds take us and end up under whatever leaf it decides is our fate. There is a Lebanese proverb that says; “The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.” Each of us must decide if we’re going to be part of the caravan that moves on – making things happen, of one of the dogs that barks out commentary about those happenings.


Ophiocordyceps unilateralis


The True Foundation Of Wealth


At a fundamental level, the strength of social systems is built on built on individuals collectively acting in the interest of what nourishes and strengthens the entire community. This doesn’t mean self denial. To the contrary, it is critically important for each of us to be open to receive the things we need to stay strong, but this strength must be converted to something that enhances the entire community in order to produce real value. A mutual stake in each other’s success that extends outward to protect the sustainable flow of essential nourishment is the foundation of a solid community.

Collectively, we wield the power that crafts the idea of what is acceptable and what is not in our community. When we behave toward each other as if we all matter – when this is expressed through behaviors that demonstrate that we care for our streets and homes – when we educate by example and take an active stake in our community – these kinds of things are as contagious as a street full of security bars and trash is to generate the idea of what is acceptable and what is not. Leadership always flows from the bottom up. Community minded people at the bottom is what makes community minded action a priority at the top of any social order.

Generally speaking, there are those that lead and those that follow, but each of us, no matter what our station in life has the power to participate in cultivating the common wealth that flows from community. Sometimes this is as simple as holding a door, smiling, bringing a meal to a sick friend or picking up some trash, or painting a bench. For a business owner it might mean doing responsible things to make the lives of all the workers and the community better in tangible ways. Whatever we have to contribute to the community is ultimately sets the level for what that community is capable of doing. When a mutual stake in each other’s success erodes, so does the community’s capacity to carry the weight of it’s inhabitants. It’s as simple as that – and as complex.

Some of us erroneously think our wealth comes from competition. While competition is necessary to engage at times, cooperation is primary driver of wealth. Our value is rooted in  how much we collectively translate  what the community has to offer us as an investment that returns even more value back to that same community. This is the seed of real wealth.

Please share your thoughts on building community.


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.


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.

Exploring the Treasures Within


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.


Discipline is The Power of Intention


It’s not easy to break free of the gravitational pull of our developmental environment, but  for some of us it is a necessity because the alternative is to become both guardian and cultivator of poverty.