Saturday, July 30, 2011

I don't actually like some of my Facebook friends.

It's perhaps a shocking admission, to which one would think a rational person might respond "well just un-friend them, silly".  That would be easy enough, yes, but I ask myself a couple of questions; how did they get there in the first place and what is their value to me now anyway?

I've been on FB and in the world of social networking for long enough now (anyone need an invite to Google+ yet btw?) to be pretty across the cycle of friend and follow-culling.  I've had a couple of discreet culls myself.  i'm probably a cullee of others' trimming too. Now it's not as if I'm one of those types (very often they were early adopters) who make it a mission to 'friend' as many people as possible or who sends a friend request to anyone who looks remotely interesting from a comment on an existing friend's fact I think I might only have sent half a dozen or so friend requests in my life.  I have at present (hang on, I'll just check) 85 'friends' at present on Facebook, and maybe a dozen other pages that pop up in my feed because I 'liked' them.  I am just reaching my comfortable management limit now, and may cull again very shortly.

How many of them (you) really are friends though? I couldn't say, because the definition of friendship is such a nebulous concept.  Plus, there's ebb and flow, as with offline life.  Some old pre-FB friendships with those now on my FB list are having quite a renaissance and renewal, and prior acquaintances are becoming rather close to my heart.  Some friends are drifting away in some sense.  I do not cling these days.  But I'd say that half or more of my friend list are those I'd never met nor spoken to even online, random pop-ups from the worlds of tubefeeding, blenderized diets, from my blogs, and via other FB friends.  Some of them become what you'd call actual friends, and some even very very close friends.  And as I said at the outset, some I actually don't like much at all.

Not liking a FB friend is different from, say, disagreeing with their politics or worldview.  I love some of my friends who have quite diametrically opposed views and beliefs and we get on famously.  We may argue and become heated at times and some of these friendships have even provoked harsh words and unwarranted lapses of demeanour on both sides, but have survived to live on, as in the offline world.  No, those I don't like much tend to be those that.....just grate on my sensibilities somehow.  And yet when I think of doing a cull, it is this class of friend that niggles, that I hesitate to cull, and for a few of what I think to be very good reasons, which I'll come to shortly.

In thinking about this apparent fondness for experiencing annoyance - pain really, as it's the opposite of pleasure - I've had to really drill deeply into myself, and look hard at my choices.  After all, doesn't your choice in people, the energies you invite into your life, affect the very quality and essence of your life?  Of course it does.  Every form of spiritual guidance and teaching - and all that life-coaching stuff -  from the modern era at least speaks of surrounding yourself with only positive influences, of avoiding 'negative' people and energies, lest you become more that way inclined yourself, or 'dragged down' by that sort of energy field. Am I unconsciously sabotaging my own growth and development somehow by identifying with these prickly people?  I have to admit that in the past, many choices I made in relationships were founded in supporting retrograde habits of mind, sub-optimal ways of living and experiencing the world.  Not quite in a 'misery loves company' sort of way, but as we all do - we search out those that are a bit like ourselves, and we do this warts and all.  We attract to us and are in turn attracted to those who reflect our 'negative' (deliberately apostrophised) traits, be they over-thinking, over-drinking, under-caring, over-eating,.......whatever they may be.  Those needy of being victims find oppressors likewise.  I found one or two of those in my life and gladly have learned the lessons they brought to bear.  The only oppressor I experience now is my physicality, and that's only when I let my mind run away with things.

But back to those good reasons: firstly, diversity in life is generally a good thing.  I rely a fair bit on my various 'people feeds', the channels of FB, twitter, email, various groups and networks for much of my information and as a wide finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist.  And quite a few of those more annoying people still cough up the odd gem.  Indeed, therein lies the heart of a conundrum; if we were to only surround ourselves with like-minded people, and rely on their input for our view of the world, we'd live in a very narrow world indeed. As with those whose religion or philosophy or politics I disagree with or jar against, the contrasting links and status updates challenge me in my views.  They act as a spur to my development, and also as a check of my own values and morals.  In short, they make me question my assumptions and outlook.  It's the same reason I read news from either side of the political divide.  Wisdom comes often from unexpected quarters, even from those you don't like so much.

Then there's the humility aspect.  It's human to be social, and whether we like it, accept it, or not, we spend a great deal of unconscious effort ranking each other in terms of worthiness.  We are designed to do this evolutionarily, to be able to know at a glance who the alphas are, who are good mating prospects, who the up-and-coming threats will be....the pecking order.  It's part of survival, and one that has become far more a part of our lives today than ever before, given the increasing inequalities of society.  That in itself is the subject of a whole other exploration.  But it's true, admit it - you look down in at least some way on those with whom you disagree.  You have to, because you think you're right and they're wrong.  Fluff it all you like with notions of valuing their opinion, respecting the views of others, understanding that everyone is entitled to their own worldview (and I subscribe to all these thoughts), you still think of yourself as having the superior opinion.  Applied to those you dislike for any other sort of reason the judgement just changes flavour, not meaning.  Their 'way' is inferior (even if you acknowledge their superior 'social' status) to yours.  You like your way better.  And in the offline world you must rub up against these people all the time (unless you're a recluse or hermit) and it helps keep us real.  Keeps us humble.  It keeps us in touch with the very real fact that they think the same thing about us and that half of our mental energy is uselessly wasted on managing our sense of projected identity to maintain our sense of status quo, as reflected by others.  For when I honestly engage with those I don't like so much, especially since it would be so very very easy to just un-friend, block, ignore, move on........I am making a conscious decision to accept, to tolerate, to be inclusive.  To go beyond my petty judgement and be genuinely compassionate.  Effectively, to acknowledge my own fallibility, fragility of character, vulnerability.  It keeps my humility levels appropriate.

Then there's faith.  This comes back to the question of how I got such annoying 'friends' intruding on my wall in the first place.  To be clear, I DO try to be quite conscious about who and what I allow into my life, but to be balanced you can't have rules.  Life isn't like that and rules just mean making choices based on some need to satisfy a rigid intellectual framework: typically the result of a set of 'shoulds' you learned somewhere to help you in your never-ending quest for social status.  No, in that way there is no room for random.  For Divinity - God, if you like.  So I go by gut, almost always, and yes; I have deleted friend requests, quite a lot actually, and often for no special reason.  It's sort of a form of faith I guess, that I trust myself to be 'in the moment' enough to allow what Divinity has lined up for my interest, edification and growth.  Yes, I believe there is some interplay between ourselves and The Silence Between All Things that creates our experience of the world, and that we do it most fully when we are out of our minds.  As in, not acting from our heads alone.

Is there fear of offence if I un-friend?  No. Would there be grief in un-friending someone that rubs me up the wrong way?  Yes.  There is always grief at loss, even if it is a loss we will, for everything we invite into our lives - consciously or otherwise - defines us somehow, and thus a loss of that is a loss of something of us.  But I'm getting really well practiced at losing things; a progressive degenerative illness is wonderful teaching in that way.

At the bottom of it all though, I suppose, is love.  Even those whom I have let go, unfriended, seen the back of - and those I have yet to cull, for surely I shall again some day soon - I have love for.  Even the REALLY annoying ones whose every status update and link makes me think "wtf is this doing in my life again??"....They're there for me to love them, in one way or another.  So that I may learn love, and learn life, better.

So here's to all you guys that I don't like that much.  Cheers, and thanks for being here, for now, at least.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

So what are you wearing....on your feet?

Notwithstanding that my wife has most elegant and attractive feet, I am no foot fetishist.  I have enjoyed however a longstanding love for good footwear.

It probably dates back to around 1985, when I got my first job.  For some reason that I cannot now access it was important to me to earn an honest buck as early in life as possible, and as the then-legal age to start employment was 15, I managed to wrangle a job on Thursday nights and Saturdays selling shoes at a chain store in a local shopping mall, Fays shoes.  I really enjoyed it.  My colleagues were all young women, but older than I, and I stayed right up until I left the state at the end of my schooling.  I snared some extra hours during school holidays too and had thus a little entree into what a full time job would feel like.  During that time I went through around 4 or 5 managers and discovered that I was a fairly natural salesman, regularly outselling my cohorts and eventually being offered a place at their Management School.  Of course, I was destined to follow my family interstate ("we all go, or we don't go")....what if's, eh?

A great deal of my pay went on shoes.  Styles were changing every bit as rapidly then as they do now, and this was a relatively new phenomenon for men's footwear.  I think at one point in my life I may have owned in excess of 25 or 30 pairs of shoes.  I realise that this is nothing for many women these days. Funny things happened to my brain.  Whenever I met someone new, or saw someone interesting, I would very quickly (after the evolutionarily-determined triangular face/body scan) turn my gaze to their footwear, assess their shoe size - I got very good at that - and layer my take on their shoes very heavily into my judgements and assumptions about their likely persona.  I definitely enjoyed the easy intimacy of assisting attractive female types with trying on new shoes, and learned a great deal about the selling power of a good professional flirt.  Flattery very often leads to matching handbags and possibly also a new pair of 'everyday' daywear shoes to upgrade the still lovely but very last-season shoes madam has come in with today.

Yes, I got a staff discount.  But mine was a suburban run-of-the-mill chain store, albeit quite a good one, and soon as my fashion sense developed and warped through various phases I discovered the delights of the inner city boutiques.  Despite their near-ubiquity at the time, and at various times since, I have never owned a pair of Doc Martens.  I was heavily invested in various styles of winklepickers and when my school shoes wore out before the last year of school I responsibly announced to my mother that she need not shell out good money for a new pair; I would just wear my 'pickers to school.  after all, they were just black dress shoes, yes?  This was the first and perhaps only time I have ever been a fashion leader.  Stovepipe school trouser legs followed.  But I was the only one who rode to school on a Vespa.

Espadrilles, desert boots, brothel creepers, brogues, motorbike boots, elastic-siders, loafers....just about any style, you name it, I've had some.  But life changes, doesn't it?  Over timr, shoes wore out, I got sick of them, and the foot wardrobe ratonalised.  I was moving house with great frequency and this makes for good impetus to cull.  In the space of a year, I went from virtual centipede down to a few 'bare necessities'.  But I always had an eye for quality, even when very impoverished.

But footwear is more than just fashion or practicality.  Shoes are our connection with the earth in more than just a literal sense.  There's something very special about shoes.  And I have never really lost that looking-at-people's-shoes thing.  You really can tell a great deal about someone through their shoes, even moreso than their other clothes.

I remember fondly once, window-shopping ostensible in an upmarket section of Claremont, dressed in my typical Freo bohemian hippy garb, and seeing a particularly lovely pair of tan Italian leather walking shoes.  This is back in probably 1990, and I'm on the dole, with sporadic off-the-books income from gigs etc, and they were I remember something like $150.00.  Not a lot at all now for quality but a fortune then.  I did so love them.  They were up to that point the highest-quality shoes I'd ever owned and the feel was.....just different.

My life has been punctuated with short periods of relative liquidity, and this is when I have purchased nice things.  Like just before I was set to travel overseas I decided that a quality pair of RM Williams boots were in order.  My Guitar offsider Tim had something to do with this too - he got some also.  Boots are [practical onstage, as when you sit cross-legged as a flamenco guitarist does, your trouser leg rides up.  Those boots - black RM Williams elastic-sided 'Craftsman' series boots, very expensive, but an Australian icon (and as gifted to POTUS Obama from habitual wearer then-PM Kevin Rudd), walked the streets of cities on several continents, climbed pyramids in Mexico, mountains in California, fled from security guards in Chapultepec, kept time on stage in front of thousands of people all over, went out somewhere every day and went through countless new heels and soles.  They became my first real everyday, go-to shoe for all seasons and purposes.  Eventually, I had to get some repairs done, 10 years on or so.  New elastic, and some restitching of the sole.  And this buggered them.  Their previous perfect fit was narrowed by the restitching, and of course our feet change with time and age.  I wore them less and less.  But I kept them.  I couldn't part with them.  Until only a few months ago, I finally let go. They went to a charity shop here in my home town.  I'll probably see them down town again one day.  I hope they made someone's day.

Even before I first moved to the country - even before they became famous and fashion-forward courtesy of Stomp! the tap-dancing group at the Sydney Olympic ceremony - I had a pair of Blundstone workboots.  Also elastic-sided, but where the RM Williams were really hybrid horseriding boots, the Blundies were out-and-out workboots.  They came in one colour at first.  Blundy colour, a sort of oxblood mahogany.  Now they've added black, and countless imitators have cropped up - even outdone them, and since the early or  mid 1990s I have always had a pair of these sort of boots.  They last in the garden and as uncared-for kick-around boots for years until suddenly one day you realise they really are stuffed.  Cheap too.  But eventually....yes, mine died but something else happened - I couldn't reach down to pull them on any more.  That was a sad day, when I finally admitted that it was just too much struggle.  And they never got replaced.

But a good boot is a different animal from a shoe.  There's something about a well-crafted boot that makes you feel different.  It makes you walk differently, and it's not all due to the fact that boots do tend to have slightly higher heels than shoes.  The energy of 'boot' is distinct.  It makes you place your feet on the earth with more.....I don't know, consciousness or something.  I've had love affairs with some of my favourite shoes over time, but none had ever lived up to my RMs or the procession of Blundys and their ilk.  The RMs were like a long term friend or lover, where the workboots were like workmates who come and go.  You get close, and rely on each other, but you know there's going to be an end.  The RMs were lamented.

We don't get a good selection of Western boots here in Oz.  There just isn't the market, as no-one wears them as everyday shoes like some in parts of the US and the wider Americas do.  But I've often trawled online and drooled at some of the fabulous creations on offer - for rather large prices too.  Still, It's not like I'm in the market for a pair of $500+ dress boots.  Meeta has a Western dress thing too.

There's a whole mystique and legendary halo around Western-style boots isn't there?  You know, that the boots are your best friend, reliable partners, all that.  I get it.  I remember in Mexico a brand of cigarettes called 'Boots' with a picture of a rumpled, old-looking pair of boots on it and some blurb about your Boots being your companion, you best friend, all that romantic bullshit.  They were pretty meek ciggies though, from memory.  I preferred the more bloodthirsty dark tobacco Aztecas.  Actual good boots were everywhere in Mexico, but I just didn't have the taste (or desire to lug the weight in my backpack) then.

Under our Xmas tree last year was a very large box with my name on it.  My birthday is very near Xmas so I get Xmas/birthday presents sometimes and this was one of them.  Meeta had done her research and done something I'd never have done for myself.  Bought me some cowboy boots.

(ignore that dark toe bit - it's just a shadow)

I was amazed.  They're not dressy, or gaudy, but dead-set practical.  They're Roper boots made by Ariat in the US and are basically your working cowboy's boot for those who send as much time on foot as in the saddle.  The whole ergonomic high-tech durable cushioned sole, thick, heavy but soft oiled leather, and comfortable from the get-go.  Once we got the sizing issue right (the reason I'd never buy shoes online, having been a shoe salesman and knowing all about so-called 'sizes') they have become my new best friends.  My every-purpose shoe.  You can wear them with everything bar business/formal clothes and if I ever need to wear that stuff again then - I saved a pair of shoes for that.  My only 'just in case' pair now.  Already they've done the heavy jobs in the garden, and strolled peacefully down by the river bank.  They make me walk differently, in a way that I really needed to learn at this time.

I am grateful for many little, simple things in my life.  After my long journey with shoes, I am the most grateful to have this one great pair of boots.  I understand no the real sentiment behind the old cowboy saying of wanting to 'die with your boots on'.  I get that.  For me it means to die in a state of conscious connectedness with the earth beneath, ans standing tall to connect with what Is above.

Thanks boots.

I like what my footwear says about me now.  I feel settled again with it.  Sometimes I even forget to take them off when I come home.

Aahh. :-)


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How I Solved The Debt Crisis And Made Friends With All Americans.

Well, I might not be quite as great as the headline suggests but to me the problem is very clear, and when you get clarity on what the problem actually is, then solutions follow quite closely behind.

In one sense the problem is that a crazy person from Iowa, serving the State Of Minnesota in the US Congress, is far more dangerous to me personally here in my small town in rural Western Australia than any one of the plethora of terrorist or militant 'evils' the media is so full of 24/7 these days; holding hostage, as she effectively does, any prospect of reconciliation with rationality between the parties and houses that govern the US.  But that's really my problem, and is more of a symptom than the real issue anyway.  Deleting Bachmann would not delete the Tea Party or cleanse the collective mind of far-Right politics in the US of the "NO revenue raises" mindset currently seemingly scribed in a stone not of This World, impervious to reason and shielded in layers of irrational, fear-based propagandism.  No, that's not the problem.

The problem is that this massive debt exists, and - given the assumption that the world continues to uphold the collective illusion of money and a global economy - that the US has really no time left before the consequences of owning an unpayable debt cause the sky to fall not just for the US, but in unpredictable ways right around the world.  Such is the power of this mass delusion we call the economy.

The cause of the debt is really plain to see.  Scrape away all the foofaraw that various sides have thrown about in their attempts to cut spending here and tax the rich there - they don't really point to the heart of the issue.  The debt has been largely financing two things - a pair of ridiculously expensive and unproductive wars and public health costs that have spiralled out of control.  Alright, we need to drill just a little deeper.  Let's start with war.

I've riffed on this theme and variations before, but to summarise, the problem is not that the US went to war per se, it's that it ignored the cardinal rules of being a warmongering power - that war is diplomacy by 'other means' and that you quite simply have to get value for money.  And the US certainly has not.  I think this is largely due to a fundamental disconnect not just in the G.W. Bush administration which kicked the whole catastrophe into gear but in the nomos of the American public psyche.  Dubya's excesses were really just a fetid suppuration, an outward manifestation of the illness that seems to eventually afflict all such empires;  incongruity of word and deed.    In simple terms, the belief has developed that you can export democracy.  That niceness can be imposed.  And that by so doing people will be beholden to you and cause you to be showered with gratitude and gold.  But this is just plain wrong.  Societies evolve, and adapt, according to responses to changing stimuli in the environment, this is basic Ecology 101, and anyone who thinks it doesn't apply to us humans needs to look at the evidence again.  Once the idea got around that democracy, or 'American values' as it's sometimes called, were just the ticket for the poor, the oppressed......everyone, in fact, then 'freeing' various peoples became a PC thing to do.  The Right Thing.  Even more worthy when a foreign power could be said to be in some ways 'against' you and also an oppressor of its people.

Wrong.  War is done to advance your aims and there are some fundamental principles to doing it successfully.  None of which have been applied in Iraq or Afghanistan (or indeed anywhere the US military has set its sights since WW2).  War goes like this: decide what the objectives are.  They must be material, tangible, explicable.  Ideas cannot be outcomes, nor can behaviours.  Thus, outcomes might be for example 'control and occupy the land' or 'entirely disarm the enemy' or preferably, 'complete subjugation' as that is the only way to be really sure.  You can't just occupy a place and have the locals be all loving, unless you then piss off immediately and leave everyone substantially better off and able to fend for themselves.  And there's never been a cost-effective way to do that.  Ever.  In all of history.  Ever.

So let's look at how this part of the problem might have been averted.  (insert wibbly lines here to denote travelling back in time).  OK.  Around the turn of the millennium the Powers That Be in the US want to get some better strategic hegemony in the Middle East.  They look for an excuse....WRONG. This is where you have to step up and be honest.  Either be a player or don't.  As soon as you fudge the issue with all this UN stuff, this 'peace' and 'democracy' and 'freedom' stuff then you are going to do war very badly.  It is extremely expensive for example to avoid civilian casualties.  Ask any successful tinpot dictator how they do it.  War is dead easy.  But you have to have the balls to be honest and say "we are going to invade Iraq because it serves American interests to do so".  End of resoning.  Do it, and do it hard.  Once you're in, and occupying, quash any local insurgency with ruthless force, at the same time as making Iraq a far better place to live in than it was before you got there.  The Romans knew this.  10 years and they're yours.  But you have to occupy it as an overlord, overtly, and with might.  No pretty peace-and-love-and-freedom-for-all frills.  No pretending that the Iraqis have equal rights.  They don't, because you have all the guns.

This is the way it has always been, and frankly, when war is done honestly in this way, there tends to be far less killing, and far better outcomes for everyone involved.  Nowhere near as good a set of outcomes as if war had never occurred of course.  Which is the heart of my point.

The US ought never to have gotten itself militarily involved there, because society was evolving very nicely into a good and caring place to be.  Much of it still is.  But now the evolutionary pressures on those who would use love, who would be compassionate, who can tolerate difference, who use violence only as a true last resort against an actual invader, and not as 'diplomacy by other means'.  Which brings me to healthcare.

Why, for goodness' sake, do prescription drugs cost between 4 and 20 times as much in the US than in Australia, as sold by the very same companies?  And this is absent any benefits schemes, I'm talking about the pharmaceutical company's take.  They sell here in Oz, so they clearly make a profit.  Why does healthcare cost on average come to over three times the cost in the US compared to Australia, with far worse average health outcomes - and yet there is this stubborn belief in many quarters that the US has the best healthcare in the world? And just by the way, the Australian system, despite all its relative greatness, is itself fraught with inequities, inadequacies, fraud, folly and foible.  Which just makes the picture worse.

Again, it's this incongruity between word and deed.  The US does not really know which way it's going to go with this, and as long as there are those powerful voices, and a gullible and willing choir to praise them, chorusing that 'the market is the best and most efficient way to deliver services' and all the almost-meaningless 'small government' chanting mantras are continually trotted out as some kind of God-given prescription for societal health despite all evidence to the contrary, whilst there exists an actual government-funded set of programs that work by paying insurers and for-profit corporations on behalf of consumers, then...........there's a fundamental disconnect there.

The heart of the disconnect is this notion that private enterprise is always better than government at doing things.  It is certainly true that in competitive games, like wealth creation, that businesses often come out on top, due to their not also having to run a country.  Interestingly though, successful businesses get larger and more successful by aping what governments do - controlling the space in which they operate and limiting the influence of others. But in any case provision of healthcare and competitive behaviour are not ideas I think work well together to create great health outcomes.

You could point to any other of several things that have caused this great debt; from the decreasing revenue side as the rich have a lower tax rate than ever before (which is supposed to be a stimulus to job growth, isn't it?) to all manner of government spending and bureaucracy that has accreted like coral over the years, but at rock bottom these two things - the wars and the healthcare issue - are at once the big-ticket items and iconic of the social and zeitgeistian ills that have brought it all to a head.

Looking then at the causes, what are the cures?  Well, you get congruent.  Go one way or another.  Go to war properly as an aggressive empire builder prepared to be honest that war kills and you're prepared to disadvantage others in order to further your own aims, or stay the hell out of other people's countries.  And with healthcare either buy properly into the capitalist ideology that people need to be free from government intervention and allow the cull of the poor and less-competitive members from society as they fail to get healthcare and die of otherwise preventable or curable causes, or - nationalise healthcare properly, eliminating the insurance cartels (they can stay as providers of nice extras like we do here, and they still thrive) and placing a cap on the costs that government will pay for given services and goods whilst taxing the wealthier at a higher rate than the poor to cover this.  This makes for a hybrid user pays/redistributive system.  Modern evidence demonstrates clearly that more egalitarian societies have better health outcomes anyway.  Modern evidence shows clearly that failing to adequately tax the very wealthy leads exactly to the sort of situations we have where corporations drive the agendas behind war and healthcare and lead nations into disaster.

Or at least, this is what I think.

How to get there from here?  Balls, at this point.  Perhaps Obama is doing just this, being prepared to play chicken and not swerve, to make the country take a bitter pill (and give the rest of us a belting while he's at it) for the long term gain.  But it's got to be more fundamental a shift than that.  Studies show that Americans think society has become more atomized, less caring, that they feel more cut off from community and friendship and family circles, that people are less caring - except for themselves.  Get a focus group together and people are amazed at how much they all want the same things in life, the same feelings, the same connectedness.  It's just that they don't trust others to be wanting that, or being that.  Consumer life will do that to you.  It will make you competitive.  It will make you fearful of anothers' competitive advantage, be that an illegal immigrant taking work Americans are too proud to do anyway or the belief that a rogue state really is trying to destroy you and you have to take them out first.  It makes you believe that you'd probably better stick with might, rather than go with trust and love.

I'm seeing some change though.  Aren't you?  Now, my American friends, if only you can get the government to listen, without blaming them or getting all dissy on 'Washington' or the Reps or the Dems......just get them to listen to what you want them to do.  And listen to the humility and softness that is growing in the hearts of each of you as your nation finally outgrows it adolescence, as it leaves its need to be The Greatest behind, as it enters a phase of maturity, of all feel it, I know.  Trust.

Never mind God Bless America.  You bless it.  Go on.  Please.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Prayers - Fair?

"The road to Lourdes is littered with crutches.....yet not a single wooden leg".
 - unknown.

Do you pray?  Or meditate, creatively visualize, that sort of thing?  I mean the sort of thing where you ask for help, or change, or support, or some......thing to come into your life or the life of another.  I don't...or do I?........Well, I guess, sort of.  It's tricky, but we'll come back to that.  I've changed my ways and means a lot over the few short years I've been around, and have gone through many times of not doing anything at all spiritual in conscious intent.  I've asked myself a lot of questions along the way and still ponder the mysteries of the ineffable nexus between the world as lived through the usual human senses and.....everything else.  There are questions I want to raise with you, too.

As a small child my bedtime ritual was the usual toilet, brush teeth, pyjamas on.....and then last thing before getting in to bed I'd kneel by the bedside and say a prayer.  I'd invoke God and ask for protection during sleep, and offer prayers for my parents and sister, and so on.  After all, I was brought up as a churchgoing Catholic.  Of course if there was some special thing that needed  extra prayers, I might be prompted to add them in - to pray for a sick grandparent or somesuch would be an example - and I remember at a very early age being aware of the plight of the hungry people in the world, and I might pray for them too.  I don't know when it occurred, or exactly how much of this is from my unconscious re-writing of memories (as we do) but I have a really strong recollection of praying for the whole world, and visualizing as if from orbital space my prayerful intention encompassing the globe in a sort of wash of light.  Being then a child, I never really questioned the whys and wherefores of such a visualization, but I did really like that part of the prayer the best, maybe just because it lay at the end of what was really just another pre-bedtime chore for the most part as time went on, but I did have a sense that not to do it would be somehow unfair.  After all, I'm supposedly getting some deal done with God; why should my family be singled out for special attention when other people need it too?  I mean, how dare I tell Him what's important?  That humility was a virtue was not something I ever remember being taught specifically, but it was a strong if subtle lesson nonetheless, especially from my father.

I have friends of many faiths, no faith, syncretic personal faiths.....allsorts really.  Being a Westerner there are naturally lots of Christians, and they're a really mixed mob in themselves.  And the notion of prayer is especially important to many; I see requests for prayers multiple times a day on my Facebook feed, and even more close to home I have many people offer their prayers for me and my family, sometimes as a matter of course, but moreso because of my situation, I guess.  It's a lovely thing.

Some of those who offer prayers also offer a little of their spiritual worldview.  I suspect sometimes their version of faith demands a little proselytizing.  Once upon a time I would have bridled a little, being one of those Catholic children that quite early on saw The Bible Thing as manmade myth and emotional sustenance for a flock of subscribers, and as foundation and buttress for maintaining organisations amongst the people.  You know, a bit like Santa.  Now however, although I cannot really be called  Christian except insofar as I take those alleged lessons of Jesus to heart and practice them in my life on my own recognisance, I am accepting and perfectly comfortable with the knowledge that we all have different paths to where we're going, and that for some people a learned dogma and the wearing of a set of beliefs passed from another can be a valuable thing indeed.  A way of spiritual growth even.  I'm also now aware that these genuinely-felt prayers are more than some empty delusional ritual or social bonding tool.  Of course, they can be those things too, but I'm looking here at the real things beneath, behind, between the words and gestures.  Outside the structure of religion.

The question at the heart of it is this - do intercessionary prayers, and their analogs in other traditions, actually do anything?  Do they affect the intended 'recipient's' life and reality?  Well, quantum physics seems to allow the possibility, but I'm not going to go down the science route on this one today.  And if they do, this raises a problematic issue and a further question - are we being unfair when we call for some divine intercession on behalf of some specific individual or circumstance?  Isn't this then a case of 'opportunity cost' whereby someone else doesn't get a prayer said for them?  Who are we to judge who is worthier than another, or worthy at all?  WWJD etc? Or does this just not matter, because God does as God will regardless, heedless of our petty egotism, and we should accept that our even thinking to pray for that person was all part of God's Plan anyway (thus seemingly negating free agency and leaning towards a predeterminatory view of the universe)?

Big questions.  To which of course I have no answers that would stand up to everyone's personal truth tests.

There doesn't need to be a theology with a divine overseeing being to have a faith or 'way' that includes intercessionary practice. Shamanism, so-called 'spiritual healing', all manner of New Age memes and brands like The Secret and their various cosmologies and worldviews all have as part of their core some way wherein a practitioner or believer can access a reality beyond the 3D we spend most of our consciousness in and bring the energies of that other - or extra - reality to bear in our everyday lives.  Just like praying to a God (or performing some other religious obeisance) would mean to do.

For an intercessionary prayer to 'work', though, what is required, and how can we judge its efficacy anyway?  More big questions.  Time to speak more personally, then.

Energy flows where attention of course attention also goes where energy flows.

As always, I'm not making any special claims on truth or correctness or anything of the sort, and you must weigh my opinions in the light of your own experience and reality.  But this axiom is one that is too frequently observable and demonstrable to ignore for me, and forms a real underpinning of my worldview.  Let's take as read that I do acknowledge the reality of things beyond our immediate observable universe though, that there is more to existence than we see/hear/touch etc. I refer to it by many names.  My current favourite is the Silence Between All Things. This also nicely encapsulates the way that this 'other' exists contemporaneously with the everyday 3D world, permeating and nestling within and without, and as such is not really an 'other' at all, just an extension of the One Thing that is All.  You get my drift.

This axiom has meaning when it comes to directive prayer and spiritual intent, but would be played out very differently in a worldview with a God figure or 'other' from a worldview with an all-is-one (all is God) frame.  Let's look at the latter first.  (Full disclosure: I have myself worked in the realm of 'spiritual healing' for want of a less loaded descriptor, so am speaking from my direct experience also). If I make a healing directive of meditation, or 'pray' for the healing of another person, or their situation, then I would be bringing to bear energies or forces that are inherent in all things - The Force, if you will.  I am not seeking an external agency to perform some action.  Further to this, as one delves more deeply into this sort of thing, one very quickly realises that to judge at all is simple defeating of the purpose.  To a priori decide to 'send light to the heart chakra' because this person is in emotional distress or something similar is nothing short of me overlaying my intellect (my ego) on the situation.  It says that I believe I know what a good outcome for this person would be.  Yet all spiritual teaching, all religion, and my personal experience also speaks loudly that we are simply to small/disconnected/mortally bound to be judges.  That our minds give us opinions more often than not, rather than any actual Inspired insight into what needs to happen.  On the other hand, I can decide to sit back and watch what happens when I think of a particular person and their wellbeing.  That gets interesting, and the better I am able to stay an observer, the more I see what a theist might call God's work in action.  This is why I stopped working in the field.  Because of my realisation that my 'work' is not required.

Because the very act of choosing to consciously 'watch' or 'witness' when something crosses my path in life - when someone asks for help, or I simply see something that speaks of imbalance or what I think of as 'needing cleaning' then the attention is already there on it.  The energy is already going there.  Because it happened, if my first notion was one of healing intent, then I trust that healing is directed there anyway.  This is my closest pass with blind faith, but it's based on my observation over and over that what I 'do' actually works.  Not for any particular outcome, but it improves my experience of the person or situation involved, and after all - this is really all I can influence in life, yes?  As they say in many disciplines, as soon as you ask, it is done.  I'm just not asking God, is all, I'm simply remembering to do what I believe at heart our way of evolution and spiritual life requires - honest witnessing.  It's why I pray for things to be as they are, and choose to see things as well as my messy mind permits, in each moment.

In fact, in Spiritualist circles, they speak of a phenomenon called 'magnetic healing'; similar things are spoken of in Reiki and many other dogmas and disciplines.  It's where the healer uses their own personal energy - that which is sustaining and fuelling their own body and mind - to effect the being and systems of another.  It can happen, I can vouch for having done and seen exactly that.  There are those who work in the healing arts who often speak of being 'drained' after a session.  This is typically because they have transferred of their own sustaining energy.  There is a certain type of person in the world who lives to receive this stuff too, they act in essence as vampires.  You see them a lot in the social media; always wanting the energy of others.  As soon as they are met with the Universal energy though, they can react very very strongly, and sometimes quite negatively by resisting or running away.  Never mind them.  We are not concerned with that here.  What I'm saying, in essence, is that the God-Is-In-Everything-Therefore-Everything-Including-You Is-God worldview tends inexorably towards a non-intercessionary sort of prayerfulness.  One that does not presume to think that person X "needs to know God", or "needs more energy in their base chakra" or that "more people donate to the Japan Earthquake appeal" or anything of the sort.  Tends, I said.  That part is important.

So on to a theistic, God-Is-Other worldview.  This is the one I was brought up with initially, that child who prayed to God to keep me safe at night, to look after my family, to feed the hungry.  This sort of practice can be a really valuable path of learning what constitutes good and useful values and morals, as it externalizes our thoughts and judgements of what is right and good in order to offer them to God (or whatever).  We are able to consciously self-examine.  In this sort of intercessionary prayerfulness we assume that the 'work' is done by another agency, a God or Divine Being.  And that they listen to us.  Of course it also implies the corollary, that if we did NOT pray to them on this issue, they may well not intercede.  It actually implies a lack of faith that the God in question always does what is right and good anyway, and that the deity involved requires certain actions from us in order to fulfil their part of some deal.  I find this a fearful attitude.  We can extrapolate easily that since we do not (in this worldview) trust that what is good and right will always happen without our asking consciously of God, then we are living in a punitive situation.  We must do certain stuff in order not to piss off God.  Let me put it another way: If God is in charge, knows all, and means well, then why would we bother to ask for prayers for person "x" if we didn't trust that God is on the case anyway?  For there are people who firmly believe that the more people that pray for an outcome, or for healing, or some less-specified thing but a thing nonetheless, the more likely it is to occur.  This part I actually tend to agree with. The second part of the axiom above shows us that when a whole bunch of energy gets put into something, people's attention are naturally drawn there. I think the probability of world peace is greatly enhanced by increasing the numbers of people praying for it to happen.  But this is a function of the axiom we started with, not the intercession of a deity counting heads and deciding when we've done a good enough job of appealing to some script of theirs.

There's a Christian thing about us humans not being worthy to judge - to cast the first stone, or to presume to be able to know God's ways.  et requesting an intercession is exactly that - a presumption that we know what is required.  Perhaps it is part of God's plan for a person NOT to get better.  And of course, there are limits anyway aren't there?  As evinced by all those wooden legs one does not find on the road to Lourdes, etcetera.

However, the tenets and structures and dogmas of religion and theistic practices are a wonderful legacy we have for learning from.  It has been said that prediction is faith in the past.  And that those who do not learn the lessons of the past are doomed to repeat it.  I have no quarrel with any religious thought or practice that seeks to help the practitioner learn and grow in spirit, and there is a path in most all varieties of dogmatic legacy to do that, it seems to me.

What I've learned on my journey about prayer is that it's vital for my peace of being and growth.  My practice of prayerfulness, with gratitude to all creation, and seeking ever-closer connection with the Silence Between All Things while I am still here, alive, and in seeking to witness what healing there is taking place in the world makes me feel closer to what a theist must call God.  I am SO not enlightened, but I am feeling like I'm on a good groove for me.  The path has pain, and doubt, and challenge, but also peace and joy and love.  I hope yours does too.

So let's pray, together, for nothing in particular, yes?
EDIT: For those who still wish to contribute meaningfully and materially, 
the link is still open here:

Thank you.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Non, je ne regrette rien"

Friend and allround good person edwarddebozo yesterday brought up, in the manner of a furball (given the licking and cleaning we have been doing on making amends and apologies this last few days) the subject of regret. He says "When someone tells me they've done nothing they regret, I feel on the one hand 'good for you' and the other 'utter bullshit, that's not possible.' "

Me too; for regret is a big thing in life.  If it weren't we wouldn't spend so much time in defiance or defence of it.  The title of this post, also the title of perhaps the most famous song of the late Edith Piaf, translates as "No, I am sorry for nothing".  The song speaks though of a day where Love Was King, but now is gone, of seizing a precious moment - not of there being a whole life in which nothing regrettable has been done or felt.  Edith for sure had a very hard life with much sadness and tragedy, but I cannot speak for her on the subject of her regrets - if any.

"Regrets, I've had a few, but then again, too few to mention" 
(sing it as Gary Oldman doing Sid Vicious, loudly).

It's a fashionable sentiment, to have no regrets.  I guess it's akin to that self-reflective moment wherein one imagines being interviewed at or near the end of one's long and fruitful, probably tumultuous and adventurous life and says "no, thinking back, I don't think I'd change a thing".  In that moment, we'd be in touch with a feeling deep down that we had the experiences we needed to have, felt the pain necessary for growth on our journey, and so on; that the things we once may have regretted we were now at peace with.  Or perhaps right now we'd think differently, and say "well, there are a few things........."  We may have some regrets.

I'd say much of the no-regrets attitude these days comes from a hardness of attitude, a fuck-you approach to a callous, unjust and uncaring life (in the eyes of the beholder), a feeling that it's you against the world, rather than you as a part of it.  And thus, a stubborn denial of something very real and deep in all of us (even the pathologically determined psychopaths, I believe), which is a longing for harmonious connectedness - with others, with nature, with The Force, with God - whatever gives reflected meaning to you.  Sure, if you cling hard enough to a nihilistic worldview and a sense of separateness of self then your mind can justify any course of action; just like Sid, whose famous punk motto was "Undermine their pompous authority, reject their moral standards, make anarchy and disorder your trademarks. Cause as much chaos and disruption as possible but don't let them take you ALIVE!".  Then again he also said "I've only ever been in love with a beer bottle and a mirror" Still, deep in the chaos-inspiring urges of anarchist punk I detect a longing for connectedness.  It's just a rejection of the suffocating pressures of overt conformity at heart, a struggle to free the self, to - to what exactly?  To some sort of purity, where there are no regrets.

But what is regret, exactly?  Usually we mean a feeling of sadness or shame for something we have said or done.  It is common to hear of people regretting things they have NOT done also.  But then the chief of the Defence Force can "regret the tragic loss of life of soldier (or civilian) X", which is a sort of regret at arms'-length (ooh, that's a nasty pun, sorry).  We can also regret things that have happened to us, no?

I want to explore this latter sense of regret further - this feeling of regret about something that was experienced more by you than done by you.  The sensation can often be exactly the same, can't it?  I'm thinking for example of a time you might have been hurt physically through no apparent fault of your own, and there's that feeling.....why should regret well up?  Sure, there may be anger, pain naturally, but there's usually a tinge of resentment at......something, of regret that you found yourself there at that time.  It's exactly the same feeling as when you know you did something silly yourself that led to harm; where you regret ever buying those ridiculously high heels/jumped on the kids' skateboard/tried to fit the car in that ridiculously tight parking spot etc.  Deep inside, I believe, there is an understanding of our connectedness to the Flow, of this being our optimal state, and that when an accident happens that we have that feeling of resentment and regret about - we were not doing right by ourselves; we were stuck outside our Flow.  We know that on some level we actually have responsibility for what happens to us.

You might think I'm about to launch into the one-eyed "there are no victims, there are only volunteers" New Age perversion of reality.  Well, I'm not.  This is more subtle and nuanced, and as always - please do not just believe anything I say.  I just wish to provoke thought and insight that you might get for yourself.  If I could utter one 'never' it would be 'never take anything anyone says as truth just because it's been said'.  This includes me, of course.  My truth is harder to articulate than is possible anyway - it's why I keep trying, and why I also keep quiet so much more these days.  But I do know that I get what I need - lumps and bumps and all - and that my responsibility is to look after ALL of it.  In each moment.  It's nice, when you get used to it, no longer ever feeling like a victim, btw.

Regret is a reminder that we need to heal something in ourselves, at its essence, isn't it?  Whether we need to forgive ourselves through making an amendment to how we carry our past and the way our memories feel to us, or whether we needed the Zen slap wake-up call of a pine cone falling on our head as we stubbornly live outside the present, missing life as it goes by, that feeling of regret just means Stop For A Second There Pardner.  Back up, breathe a moment, and have an honest open look at what's going on inside.

Regrets?  I've had a few.  And probably more, much more than I could mention.  But then I've determined that part of my life's path is to clean up after myself energetically, emotionally, to heal and transmute those things which I once regretted.  I'm trying to think of things now as examples and the good news is that I'm having trouble doing so, but I know there will be plenty tucked away in there to pop up as I'm ready for them.  It's just I'm in a fairly good space presently, so non, je ne regrette rien.

And that's real too.  Allowing yourself to live with that no-regrets clear and clean feeling, not feeling as if you have to chase down your bad stuff and flush it out, not dwelling on the Original Sin or unconscious evil we do to ourselves and our means that really, There Are No Regrets.  I think that's what the anarchist punks crave, or craved, once upon a time.  That state of being so present that everything you do or say or experience is in that Flow that is Yours, where the past is not welling up needing you to behave according to its dictates all the time.  Where the baggage does not need addressing, even though it may still be back there somewhere.  "Who gives a fuck?" as Sid said.  He said that a lot.

Apocryphally, Sid just might have died with no regrets.  We know certainly that he died from an overdose of heroin after a dinner gathering with family (his mum anyway), his new girlfriend and friends.  He'd been recently through detox and was more or less 'clean'.  But a few days after his cremation his mother found an alleged suicide note in his jacket pocket.  It read:

We had a death pact, and I had to keep my part of the bargain.  Please bury me next to my baby (referring to his late, former long-term girlfriend Nancy) in my leather jacket, jeans, and motorcycle boots.  Goodbye.

So we will never know; we can only take charge of ourselves.  Regrets left sitting there are like nagging voices, lead weights, doors shut tight against change.  If there are things you regret, please don't be afraid to look at them.  To let them go, even - and perhaps especially - if they are regrets of things not done.  If you can do those things, that's marvellous, but if you can't, then there's never going to be a better time to drop the burden of pain in carrying the regret all this way and having it drag you down into your future.

So yeah, I'm still with edwarddebozo.  You can look at it both ways, this assertion of non-regret.  We can live right now, sans regrette, knowing that should some regrettable thing pop up we can deal with it then, and well, or we can go forward bullshitting ourselves that "no, fuck that, I refuse to be sorry, I refuse to regret."  I know which I'd rather.  I don't want to be a fighter any more.  Perhaps I will die with no regrets - I certainly hope so, as I try and live without them. :-)

Edith Piaf.

Monday, July 11, 2011


"To forgive but not forget sounds a lot like not forgiving to me" 
- (I've forgotten who said this)

In my last post I spoke of the impossibility of making amends for doing harm or causing hurt.  It might be worth just thinking back though to the last time someone apologised when you were hurt by something that person said or did - intentionally or otherwise.  I'm willing to bet (and I'm a notoriously skeptical gambler) that across all the people reading this and asking themselves how they felt at that time, that there was a fair variety of response.  Many I suspect will have felt grateful for the acknowledgement.  Perhaps some people had a sense of balance being restored, and healing happening.  Some conversely may have felt newly angered as memories of the original hurt came back.  Some may have even felt victorious and superior.

But none of these depended very much on the fact or manner of the apology per se, rather they depended on the internal process of response to that apology.  What we feel, our response, is ours, and is determined by a combination of all the lessons we have learned and absorbed - our conditioning if you like - and decisions made in that moment, and is not really reliant on the domain of the apologiser.

Same with any communication really.  If you say hurtful things to me and I get hurt well then that might be fairly predictable as an outcome but still, it's really because I have been conditioned to respond that way (it's an evolutionary need to train our young to have negative responses so they can act appropriately in a crisis) and further that I didn't manage to step back fast enough into my more detached consciousness and realise that these things being said are far more reflective of the person speaking than I.

So I'm not saying that apologies are in any way a bad thing, or that we might not need them for a smoothly functioning society.  What I am saying is that the power resides always with the respondent.  The apologiser cannot enforce a forgiveness, nor can they make us be healed.  We must allow that to happen in ourselves, and if we have decided that an apology, or justice, or some form of action from another is necessary for our healing to occur then we're in a pretty disempowered place at that moment, aren't we?  Making amends can be a part of our process of healing certainly, but requiring amends of others is, well, unfair.  It assumes they have to be as conscious or aware or present as we are, and really, who are we to impose that on another?

Making an amendment to how we remember a hurt; running that memory so that perhaps the colours are a bit brighter in replay, or there is a happy tune playing in the background, or even just simply speeding up the film of a long and depressing memory can be perfect ways of being true - letting what happened always have happened - but changing how we emotionally respond to it should we be triggered to replay the memory.  Healing the feeling.

So in a very real, personal sense, there are no apologies necessary.

But I'm sorry if I misled.  ;-)


Sunday, July 10, 2011


What do we really mean when we speak of 'making amends'?  Usually it's a matter of doing something that outwardly 'makes up for' something we did that we regret, or which caused harm or offence.  It's an action - usually words alone are not enough to make amends, or we'd call it an apology.  Newspapers make amends by publishing apologies and retractions, for example - they have to make the words be a real and tangible thing.

And yet, such an effort is always doomed to futility.  What we did is something that we always will have done.  Further, the concept of making amends implies that we infringed on someone's rights, we somehow invaded their reality and imposed something deleterious from our own upon it, and in a grand irony we want to salve that invasion by invading it again, but with better intentions.  The affront; that is, the designed imposition of our will onto the offended party's world, is the same in that it disempowers equally.  The flavour of the intention matters not.

Of course, there are plenty who would disagree and we live in a legal system where the demanding of amends from another is key in the delivery of what we describe - almost desperately, hopefully - to ourselves as justice.

But I can no more heal the wound I made on another than they can heal my wounds.  What happened will always have happened, and extractions of amends, compensation (whether in the form of gestures or material things like money), retribution (the infliction of a punishment to reflect the suffering felt by the offended one) or whatever you can think of to 'balance' the scales of justice does not and can not undo hurts felt or damages done.  Ask any plaintiff in any court, and really listen to their responses.  They may be vindicated, they may be elated, enriched, feel a sense of reclaimed power, but.....have they been healed?

I'm going to suggest that when we look at healing of things that have happened to us, those things it seems others have done to us intentionally or otherwise, that the notion of amends is essentially anathema.  There is no help or growth to be found there.

I'm thinking all this now I suppose because I've spent a bit of time present wandering backwards over my own past, and looking at the ways I hurt others - intentionally and otherwise.  As happens when one focuses on a thing, something interesting popped up.  A contact from the past whom I'd not heard from in over a decade, and who had been hurt very badly by actions I took.

Of course, I am sorry that things went that way, and in this case I did not intend any harm, but I'd set up a situation where hurt was always going to happen through my simply not being honest with my own self; in my feelings and behaviours I was not being genuine.  I've noticed in life that this always leads to me getting hurt, and usually others do too.  This person had some kind things to say about my current situation, and that they had only a little bitterness left from that time, so that their memories of me were mainly of the warm and happy variety.  Naturally, I was saddened that they were still in some pain, but really......what can I now do?  The best I can do is acknowledge that this thing in my life still has a residue of stuff to clean up, else it would not have popped up its head this way again.  In other words, all I can do is take responsibility for my experience, and that *does* include my experience of this person still being hurt.

It would just be callous to shrug and say "not my problem any more, I have forgiven myself and so really it's up to them how to feel" or some such other fashionable statement because that would be to ignore another person's genuinely felt pain.  And I don't feel that that's right.  They deserve compassion just as much as I or anyone else, without the judgement.

What can I do?  There is one thing. By taking responsibility for my experience of the moment in which I read those words speaking of their hurt, and remembering my past actions, and choosing in that very moment to feel, to heal, and to release in myself the pain brought anew by going there again, I allow whatever healing I can to occur. That is all.  I cannot heal another by my force of will, or my desire that it be so.  Nor do I believe in any sort of interventional prayerful thing, where I'd ask Divinity to heal this pain in another.  That would be me judging again, wouldn't it?  Who am I to say their pain is not something that they need anyway?

But I can always ask Divinity to do whatever is best for me, and everyone concerned, and let go of any idea I might have that I could ever know what's right and good and goes with the Plan of the day.  So I do, all the time.

I do it with my past, when I remember, because I now know I cannot make any more amends than I have already tried to make - instead, I can make amendments.

An amendment is where you look at something rooted in the past, realise it no longer helps you on your journey, and change it.  An example would be the US Constitutional Amendments (which then become the effective current Constitution); another example would be changing the way I feel when I look back at the time where this person was hurt so badly.  Because this then becomes what I offer back in the Now, to the universe, as what is important about the issue - it cleans the slate.  What happened will always have happened, but when I realised I still felt sorry, and thus had work to do, I did it in that moment and found what I needed to find.  Freedom at last from carrying that niggling blemish that was always there whenever that person passed through my mind, or when a similar situation in the world reminded me.

I can't control how that might affect their reality.  But I do think that setting free the pain, offering it back up, making the amendment in my past, can't do harm.  And may, just may, have good consequences for others too, down the track a ways.

Not that I'd know.

So I guess I'm preaching here, aren't I?  Whatever you do, don't take my word for anything.  Please check with yourself whether this is real.  I'm just saying that my lesson is "maketh not ye amends, for lo, they are utterly bullshit for achieving the only Real thing which is healing.  Instead, yea, maketh thee amendments to how thou feelest in thineheart when thou rememberest hurts and injuries thou hast given, and received.  Seeketh not ye Justice After The Fact, for this is but an illusion.  Seeketh always Justice In Action, and then ye stands half a chance of doing it right" :-)

Friday, July 1, 2011

None so blind as those who will not see......but why?

It wouldn't be a controversial assertion to say that we are seeing a dumbing-down of the level of debate and discourse right across the mainstream of the Western world.  Would it?

Reading comprehension is seemingly deliberately poorly practiced by those who need to protect their worldview from evidence and fact to the contrary: They simply misread such a statement in a way that further entrenches their original belief.  Actually, we are all guilty of this from time to time; it has been called the Backfire Effect.

An objective observer would be confused by the majority of sane, rational folk who allegedly participate in a representative democracy like the US, UK or Australia (to name a few) yet who blithely allow our elected representatives to blatantly lie, obfuscate, misrepresent and dissemble as if it was what we wanted them to do all along.

Why is it that we are so seemingly averse to actual rational discussion, to a clear-headed look at the facts of our existence, to the opportunity to learn, be educated and maybe change our minds from time to time - at least in the cultural mainstream?  It's a wilful blindness, this societal disease, and it's corrosive not just to the individual, but to the soul and heart of the fabric of our togetherness.  It is anti-truth, therefore anti-life.

My thought is that it's actually a perverse self-protective mechanism.  Simply put, that the truths of our planetary and species reality are simply too raw to be easily borne.  That were we to open our hearts en masse and as a group actually experience the vulnerability and pain that we - as a species and a brother/sisterhood - are actually within the midst of, the shock would be too great, and the actions we would have to take as responsible, sane people would be too hard to bear.  That I think is our fear.

Even the revolutionaries among us, the agitators for a great awakening, sort of cadge and hedge our emotional bets sometimes.  We need those politicians and pundits to opine dogmatically and with scant regard for the base realities to better affirm our own flawed-in-the-detail beliefs and worldviews, and besides; we too fear the shock of everyone suddenly feeling the cry of our brethren humans and mother planet.

So we sabotage the very thing that got us in this mess, ironically - our vast untrammelled intellect, which we have wielded this last many centuries with scarce material regard for matters of our spiritual and emotional wellbeing, for our actual species-identity.  Thus have we created the monster we now face.  Perhaps we punish ourselves by deliberately dumbing down our level of discourse, we slap the face of the thing inside us that has given us such troubles.  We now finally face a greater enemy withing than that of the 'self' that each of us faces on our journey: This time it's the enemy of us.  To overcome it, we are trying to hide from its power to move us, we struggle in vain to become desensitized to the plight of that majority whose lives are still connected to an actual struggle for survival.

We coddled, spoon-fed Westerners are becoming blinded precisely because we cannot stand the brightness of the flame we have created that is burning at the core of our collective soul.

But I have a suggestion.  A simple one, that doesn't require any great wrenching shift or soul-baring agony.  One that is just a little cultural thing, a return to one simple virtue that is slipping away from the most affluent  planetary citizens (not that the ones so affected consider themselves as affluent, despite their decadence).  And that is a pride in being properly educated.  In reading comprehension, most particularly.

For poor reading comprehension skills - which require elementary logic and critical thinking - are the prime mechanism we use and unconsciously enable in others as well as ourselves to carry on this farce we call discussion and communication in the Global Public Sphere.  We make ridiculous assumptions about others' positions, we argue from received 'wisdom' and dogma without being willing to support our assertions with evidence and we accept from others as fact those things that 'feel right'; which in other words support our own beliefs, and do not challenge them.  As I have said, it is corrosive to the heart, because it pushes away the thing the heart craves - exposure to true life, reality, the place where love is.  For there also is grief and pain.  Cowards, sometimes, we are.

But back to the reading.  Recently someone said of the former murder and crime capitol of the world, Medellin, Colombia, that the problem of entrenchment was due to two factors - ignorance and guns.  Then the city got a new governing body who did one main thing - they started spending 40% of the city's budget on education.  Real education, where children (and adults) are taught the skills of learning, taught how to think, and where there was an emphasis put also on the artistic and expressive ways of thinking.  Value was put squarely back on being a participant citizen via a path driven by peoples' personal quests for self-realisation, not by some ideology of the state or the market.  People were given every opportunity to thrive as people, on their own, through education.  And there are now no more 'no-go' areas of Medellin, and a pride of place (and enviably low murder and crime rate) prevails, just 10 years later.

Because when you have pride in yourself as a learned person, one who can frame and explain a logical position, who can hold two ideas simultaneously in your head, and who can allow the existence of questions that have no answers - the world of feeling and spirit - then you have an awakened people who are no longer content to allow their polity to devolve into dissemblance and disingenuity for the personal agendas of the privileged few.

It's just about using our brains and the learnings we have made to empower ourselves again with a seeking mindset.  To use our intellects again for what they are good at - solving and pondering.  That way I believe we can feel string enough to face these awkward and painful truths, to discover that together we are happier anyway, and that as a species we can easily overcome the problems we have created.  To bring back good heart.

So please, teach your kids and talk with your fellow humans using your brain.  Not just the words of some nameless person who said something once that sounded about right as though they were fact.  It's really simple if you remember a basic thing like this:
A square is a rectangle.  But a rectangle is not necessarily a square.

So the next time you hear someone talking of a system of economics that taxes those with higher incomes at a higher rate than those with lower incomes and through the agency of using these taxes for the benefit of all - thus redistributing wealth - describe such a system as communist or anti-capitalist you can see straight away where the bullshit disconnect is.  And then maybe you can feel what is right for you in that moment too.

This was my thought for today.