The podcast that was postponed from last Saturday has been rescheduled for this upcoming Saturday, July 4, 2016, at noon.
Unscripted and unrehearsed…just like real life. Hope you can listen in.
The podcast that was postponed from last Saturday has been rescheduled for this upcoming Saturday, July 4, 2016, at noon.
Unscripted and unrehearsed…just like real life. Hope you can listen in.
“We were not born critical of existing society. There was a moment in our lives (or a month, or a year) when certain facts appeared before us, startled us, and then caused us to question beliefs that were strongly fixed in our consciousness – embedded there by years of family prejudices, orthodox schooling, imbibing of newspapers, radio, and television. This would seem to lead to a simple conclusion: that we all have an enormous responsibility to bring to the attention of others information they do not have, which has the potential of causing them to rethink long-held ideas.” Howard Zinn, 2005
Income inequality, the gap between the 99 percenters and the 1 percent, has reached historic proportions in this country and in others. I was around when Ronald Reagan and his band of merry Republicans popularized and promoted “trickle-down economics” as a sure fired way to help the middle class and the poor. They’re aim was to pour gasoline on the fire of economic inequality while convincing us that their intention was to put it out.
I, for one, didn’t know that the phrase, ‘trickle down’, was coined by the American wit Will Rogers who, when satirizing President Herbert Hoover’s economic recovery plan, made the remark that the “money was all appropriated for the top in the hopes it would trickle down to the needy.” His remark was intended as a joke and everyone understood that. It was an insightful and obvious poke.
It took a Hollywood actor to sell it to the American public as a sound economic policy. At the heart of that snake oil pitch was the idea that any economic benefit targeted for the wealthy–investors, entrepreneurs, big business and banks–would inevitably and necessarily ‘trickle down’ to the less wealthy members of society in the form of creating jobs. The theory was that the tax revenues and spending that would be generated by those jobs would drive the general economy’s growth and more than make up for the tax breaks that the wealthy had received. It was a two part plan, however. First, the 1 percent needed to get their relief up front. Then, the theory proposed, there would be an outburst of new businesses that would benefit the 99 percenters.
The 1 percent in America enthusiastically supported any politician at any level of government who would endorse and promote this theory. Purse strings were loosened and campaigns were well funded for those who would hitch their horses to this wagon. We still suffer from that loosening today.
But the general public bought it. The idea was simple enough to understand. In a way, it seemed like it might be a fair way to share.
Long ago, the cartoon character, Wimpy, from the ‘Popeye the Sailor’ series would always declare, “I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today”. What could go wrong with that?
Decades of financial data since the Reagan era have completely debunked the notion of there ever having been a “trickle down”. The 1 percent basically said, “thank you very much” and found ways to keep their windfall for themselves. If crumbs fell off their table of abundance or some manner of profit managed to spill over, it was the result of sloppiness and not a sense of fairness.
To be sure, the 1 percent were quick to find ways to clean all of that up.
And the disparity between them and the 99 percenters continues to grow even faster.
What could go wrong with that?
The current and continuing research suggests that our individual genetic composition plays a role, not only in our proclivity towards various diseases, but also in our actual behavioral choices. Violence, depression, sexual expression and a person’s sense of geographical direction (or lack thereof) are only a few of the behaviors that have been linked to a person’s genetic makeup. These links are not guarantees but statistical probabilities. There will always the internal and the external factors which blend to produce a unique individual. (The black and white argument between nature vs. nurture has widely been debunked).
I’ve been wondering lately if there isn’t a genetic deficiency in some people that creates an uncontrollable and irresistible impulse to ‘take charge’ of whatever situation they’re in?
Allow me to explain.
It’s been my experience that most people are naturally inclined to give other people some space, room to breathe, in which to learn from missteps and mistakes. It may seem somewhat passive but it is actually caring at a deeper level…caring about the good of the person more than about the achievement of a given result. There may be inefficiencies and delays along the way but healthy relationships only develop through respect and trust. I suggest that this gene might be called the ’empathy’ gene or the ‘good Samaritan’ gene.
There are some, however, who have little interest in the interests of others and of their well being. They perceive inefficiencies and mistakes as weakness rather than an essential element of the human process. And while most people will be glad to help someone who is struggling or, at least, take a half-step back to allow the person to learn for themselves what’s not working well, those who lack the ’empathy’ gene feel compelled to step in, to ‘take charge’, to admonish and correct, to dismiss and disrespect the less than perfect person in front of them.
This genetic deficiency manifests itself with clear and identifiable ‘symptoms’ in a percentage of the population. There is a predisposition to find fault and lay blame. There is an irresistible impulse to step in and to correct whatever it is that they perceive is going wrong. And then, with certitude, bluster and righteousness, they demand to be heard, to take over and to lead the way.
Most of us, out of decency and respect, will extend some latitude in their direction with the hope that they might self-correct soon enough. Everyone is entitled to make mistakes and most of us do truly want to learn from our missteps how to do better the next time.
This is not true for those who lack the ’empathy’ gene. The patience that they’re extended is perceived as permission. The silence of others is interpreted as agreement.
Most people wait and are silent in the face of the ‘take charge’ person because of a profound belief that another person couldn’t possibly be that misguided and not see it for themselves. Because they have the ’empathy’ gene, there is no point of reference in most of us for that sort of distortion and disregard. Much like the sugar effects in the diabetic who is insulin deficient, or the effects of alcohol in the genetically inclined alcoholic, or the impact of peanut butter upon those with that genetically based allergy, those who do have the ’empathy’ gene find it nearly impossible to understand what life would feel like without it.
Conversely, the people who lack this gene cannot imagine people who aren’t interested in running things. There presumption is that everyone feels the way that they do, that everyone wants to be ‘in charge’ and that they just happen to be better at it than everyone else in the room.
In their own minds, they are, in Darwinian fashion, the ‘winners’, the apex individuals, the leaders of whatever organization to which they belong. (Coathangers of America, anyone?)
No matter what the costs in terms of their health and peace of mind (what’s that you say?), their relationships with family and friends (or lack of), the stress, the loneliness of constantly competing for everything and with everyone, the emptiness of arrogance, the endless battle to ‘stay on top’ and the constant sense of impending doom…they are compelled to be in an arena in which they are eventually faced with only people like themselves.
Consider this for a bit, if you so care to.
There’s more on this to come in my next blog.
I once spent the better portion of a day in the internet (and yes, I meant ‘in’ and not ‘on’)investigating what I thought was a simple enough word: attitude.
As I discovered while clicking link after link, the word comes layered in nuance, analysis and multiple, unrelated applications. Who knew?
Here are some of the uses of the word, attitude:
Now please understand, I had started this whole internet searchy thing based solely on a comment my teenage daughter had made at breakfast. She was talking about one of her classes and casually remarked that she didn’t like one particular teacher because that teacher had a ‘bad attitude’ (her voice inflected on these two words to communicate her point) towards the class.
I had wanted to ask her straight away what she meant by that phrase because it struck me as curious, her being 17 years old and all that (no offense 17 year olds), but I decided to do a quick brush up on the word first.
…and there went my morning…link after link…mesmerized by the Pandora’s box I had opened.
I never did ask my daughter what she’d meant that morning.
After everything I’d read, I thought it might seem like a trick question.
I did, however, cop an attitude towards the internet for a while.
I’ve met many people who harbor fantasies about starting their lives over by simply walking away from the one they presently have. Their current version of themselves is either too messed up, too convoluted, too difficult or too boring to work through or to bear any longer. So they want out. They want to escape. Bye-bye you losers. See ya. When, with patience and kindness, I point out to them that they had a big part in constructing the life that they want to escape from and that, perhaps, the only thing they really know how to build themselves are prisons, they usually pause. It’s then that they either say ‘see ya’ to me or the real process of personal growth begins.
Then, too, I’ve met more than a few who believe that an internal transformation should be much like any other extreme makeover that they’ve viewed with regards to wardrobe, hair style and face paint (make up). They are searching for some service or some one to swoop in and recreate them internally, Version 2.0, while they sit back and semi-watch. After all, they’re paying for this to ‘happen’. Patience and kindness help me to bring them to the truth…which is that they can hire a personal trainer but they still have to lift weights, exert themselves and do the exercises if they want the results. Again, it’s either ‘see ya’ or the real growth can begin.
Realty trumps fantasy every time.
“Immediately” and “all at once” are holdovers from the magical thinking days of our childhood and from the fairy tales we were raised with.
I like to tell people that the growth they’ll experience takes place “suddenly, over a period of time”.
Awakening and awareness are processes.
Before we can even connect the dots to ‘see’ an over arching pattern, we have to be guided to where the dots might be and what they might actually look like.
This is not our culture’s strong suit.
As Americans, escapism and exploitation is in our blood. Our ancestors were mainly people looking to get away from oppression (or their past) or were people looking for new opportunities to ‘get ahead’. They left everything behind due to desperation or greed. It wasn’t particularly noble but it did require a certain kind of courage and determination.
Even in the ‘New World’, when places got crowded or conditions got tough, people simply pushed out West. We considered this our right and our national destiny. This was America, Version 1.0.
(Please forgive me if I don’t address the Native indigenous populations that were so brutally displaced and abused during this stage. We still can’t seem to reconcile our ideals as a nation with our actions as a people).
Soon enough, we ran out of land that wasn’t a steal. But the twin driving principles of ‘get me outta here’ and ‘how can I get mine in this land of opportunity’ had been firmly established in the national psyche. America, Version 1.0, has since been focused on other forms of escape (alcohol, sex, drugs, gadgets) and all manner of exploitation (charge whatever the market will bear and do whatever you can get away with are two of the fundamentals of capitalism).
But America, Version 1.0, is proving to be unsustainable. The evidence is overwhelming, much like the evidence of climate change, but the denial is fierce.
We need an America, Version 2.0.
It will take courage and determination to forge and fashion.
Fortunately, those are also in our bloodlines.
I last wrote briefly from a parent’s perspective on graduation…
Never one to leave much alone, here’s a few thoughts about the ceremony itself…what it looks like…what’s really going on…
First of all, the robes never change. There’s never this year’s model. It’s all oddly Medieval. The caps, the sashes, the variously colored braids (all indicative of the discipline or field of study and the degree(s) of advancement) are fashion proof. Buy one and wear it for life. Practical pomposity.
What does provide these learned folks an opportunity for flair is their choice of footwear. Consistently and appropriately the footwear of quite a few professors seem to be making a statement. The boots, sandals and sneakers evidenced on many completely belie the gravitas of the robes draped above them. They’re an unmistakable counterpoint, none too subtle and quite often comical. Bravo to the young at heart!
The students themselves are another group of eagers who have made it to this academic finish line.
It happens. It’s supposed to happen. Every year, in fact. And so every year, the current batch of departing students put on their rented or disposable robes and mimic or mirror the guardians of the institution. The pomp and flourish of the circumstance seems grand but, in a way, it’s a bit of a cover up, a misdirecting of our attention.
They call it a commencement ceremony.
But the truth is that it is a dispersal event. This is a dismissal moment. The last class bell.
Underneath the smiles, there is a real sadness in the graduates. It masks itself as nervous excitement and giddy exuberance. But every student is aware that they are seeing most of the faces around them for the last time.
They may have shared a dorm room, a lab experiment, a class or two or three, an extracurricular activity or just a good time at a sporting event or concert…but now it’s finished.
Each of them is wondering: Who among all of these people will remain in meaningful contact in the years to come? Or even in casual contact via social media? Who will be my real friends and not simply the friends of proximity?
No one is absolutely certain.
That’s what brings on the sadness.
Was any of this real? Did any of our late night conversations, our escapades and near misses, our falling over laughter, our heart break tears, our struggles-failings-triumphs… Did any of it really matter? Did it make a difference?
Or were these four years just about this degree, this diploma, this required stepping stone on the path to a career?
Angst filled questions to be sure. Unanswerable for the moment. Unspoken for the most part.
I would so like to help them to understand that the diploma was the incidental aspect of these four years. That might be too much of a stretch though.
I would like to reassure every student that it was all of those interactions and experiences they shared with others that were what mattered and are what truly matters still.
The book learning will quickly be but a blur. The memory of those whose lives touched yours while yours touched theirs will be with you for a long, long time.
That’s what’s real.
Tis the season of academic transitions, otherwise known as ‘graduation’. It happens every year but for the parents of the graduates, it’s more like having a birthday on February 29th, a leap year sort of thing, slowing down the marking of time to once every four years. The time passes in two segments. Four years of high school and, if possible or desired, four years of undergraduate studies at college.
Two of mine are transitioning this month. One from high school and one from college. The one from high school is all eager and can hardly wait for the summer to pass so that she can be off and ‘on her own’. The one from college is feeling a tad intimidated and uncertain as to what the upcoming few years may hold. The contrast between them is rather stark, quite appropriate and, at times, humorous. Listening to the 22 year old veteran trying to advise the 17 year old rookie is to witness compassionate pointlessness. The 22 year old has already forgotten that 17 year olds are absolutely sure that they know it all.
From my perspective all along, the genuine development during these years has had little to do with the academics. Grades are not the indicator of progress, success or of well being. We all know that within a course of study, there are numerous ways to score well and learn nothing. There are also lots of experiences beyond the classroom that can be damaging or detrimental to their physical or emotional health.
So, for what it’s worth, my indicator of their healthy development has been to observe their responses to pressure and stress. Whether it has involved a coach, a teacher, a peer or a general situation that they found themselves in, I’ve paid attention and listened carefully as they recounted their stories to me (or to each other) as to how they reacted or handled the pressures and stressors they were feeling.
It has enabled me to be subtly but proactively useful. As a parent, that as good as it gets.
You see, I remembered how, when I was younger, I never knew a middle way with pressure or stress. I either gave in easily and completely, which never felt honest, or I wouldn’t budge an inch, which felt equally off the mark. It took me a while to learn how to be centered, to be true to myself and honest with my thoughts and feelings.
I’ve tried to pass that along to many people, including my children.
To their credit and not mine, they seem to have gravitated towards centeredness and away from the extremes.
As a parent, from my perspective, this is as good as I ever dreamed it could be.
I am not so much proud of them as I am overwhelmed with gratitude.
It’s a feeling I’m sharing with many other parents these days.
Whether you’ve had some remodeling work done in your own home or have watched one of the many home remodeling shows on the television, it’s likely you’ve had the opportunity to witness an architect or an interior designer walk into a home and “see” how the walls could be moved and the space rearranged.
The first few times I saw someone doing this, I found it fascinating. I had always looked at walls as walls…as simply something to deal with, as something permanent and just the way the house was built. I understand now that the space is permanent and the walls are all moveable, even weight bearing walls.
In a world that encourages us to compartmentalize the various aspects and functions of ourselves, we all put up a lot of walls as we were first building our understandings of ourselves. The placement of these walls were either taken from someone else’s blueprints (plans) or represented our beginner’s ideas of how we thought things should look.
Here are some examples of the usual places we put up dividing walls: between thoughts and feelings; between wants and needs; between spirituality and rationality; between the abstract and the concrete; between the possible and the impossible; between pain and pleasure; between good and bad and, of course, between right and wrong. There are plenty of other partitions or dividers we constructed along our way, but I only wanted to give you the idea of what I’m referring to.
We believe that these walls are necessary and permanent. We believe that we have put them up exactly where they belong. This may have been true at the time we put them up. They may have served a good purpose during our development…when we were younger and less experienced with ourselves. Yet, for many of us, these walls have now boxed us in, blocked our vision and restricted our maturation.
These walls are arbitrary. These walls are moveable. These walls are removable.
Sure, we’ll need a bit of help. We’ll need ideas and suggestions from those who have some experience. That’s no different than when we’re dealing with physical walls. We get help. We follow some suggestions.
In the general awareness arena, the ideas of connection and flow have been rediscovered.
There is a blossoming realization that all growth involves change and that change isn’t a rejection of the past but an expansion upon what has come before with fuller perspectives, fresh lines of sight and an openness that is both natural and healthy.
Yet, some will consider change and growth as somehow being disloyal to what they had been handed down or taking the risk that the whole house might come crashing down.
If all you’re working with is your own ideas and a sledge hammer, that might be possible.
But when you’re open to asking for and using the help that’s available, moving or removing those interior walls that interfere and block ourselves from connecting with ourselves (and others) is neither dangerous nor daunting.
It’s actually freeing and fun.
The words corrupt and corruption have been more liberally used in social media and news reports in recent months. At least it seems that way to me. Events in Brazil, the Panama Papers and the political processes in numerous countries, including America, have stripped away the thin but glitzy façade that those with money or power have any genuine interest in the general welfare of the countries they live in or the citizens they serve.
It involves corporations, individuals and governments. And it’s everywhere.
There’s no sense in pretending that it’s not.
And there’s no easy fix.
We didn’t get into this deplorable state of affairs in a single generation and it will require a new level of awareness and accountability over time to root out the rottenness. It has gone deep.
It’s not regime change that I’m talking about.
The established systems themselves (corporate, financial, institutional, governmental) are now sufficiently perverted that whomever is the nominal face in charge has already been vetted as suitable to continue the maintenance of the status quo. Any real challenger to any given system has been eliminated or neutralized many layers and levels ago. Quietly, easily, effectively.
The people who act with integrity, who care about the truth and who are trying to make a difference are extremely easy to spot. They stand out. They are easy marks because they are trusting. They are easy marks because they genuinely care about other people more than they care about themselves. It’s not that they are unsure in themselves but they take into account the implications and impact their choices will have on the lives of those they love. It is a such a weighty and genuine concern that many a good person lapses into silence in the face of an injustice to another or the misrepresentation of the truth.
The genesis of corruption is in this silence.
There are far more people of integrity and courage in this world than there are those who choose to live in deceit and cowardice. It’s simply that the deceitful and the cowardly have learned to blend in, to not stand out or to brazenly acknowledge what their goals and motivations are. They play it smart.
I believe that it is time for people with integrity to also be smart. I believe that it is time for people to risk exposing into the public domain whatever truth (not a theory, not a hunch) but the truth for which they have some proof, they have discovered and to release that proof in such a way as to not draw any attention to themselves or want any credit for what they did. The truth is out there. (no reference to the X files intended) There are good people who know the truth and do not know what to do with it. Be smart.
What good people want is to be able to shed the light of truth onto the shadowy world of corruption without being punished for it…and without needing to make a profit from it.
In this time of global interconnectedness, when the silent majority understands that remaining silent is to be complicit in our collective demise, we need to find our voices.
We need to be smart.
We need to remember that the truth will set us free.
The speaker himself kept referring to how his life (and ours too) was far more fluid than he’d initially thought. Whether you considered your rhythms cyclical like seasons (blossoming, producing, declining and reviewing) or more like chapters or stages, our lives were subject to changing conditions that were both unpredictable and uncontrollable. This was one of his primary points, that we each were able to and were responsible for creating a path for ourselves that was fulfilling.
I went to sit in the audience not because he was expressing new or foreign concepts but to witness this aspect of his journey up close, first hand and to gather a sense of how he was being received from the people surrounding him.
He used to be a preacher. It was his calling from early on. He studied, started his ministry, was effective and, by most standards, popularly successful. In that phase or stage of his life, he focused on making the stories or journeys found in the Old and New testament relevant to his congregation. While he was doing that, he also continued to grow in his own awareness of his relationship with and his perception of the message.
Two things happened as he did: 1)His congregation grew so large as to overwhelm his physical ability to minister as personally as he so desperately wanted to and 2) he grew so far spiritually in his understanding of the ultimate message that some in his congregation balked. They wouldn’t follow. The two occurred in proximity and in parallel; he was burning out and people in the congregation (most? some?) were concluding that he had gone too far and had strayed from the truth. Understandably, there was a parting of the ways. It wasn’t especially amicable but it was necessary…if he were to be true to himself.
That was courage.
For him, as he expressed it, it felt like desperation.
It’s funny how that is.
Whenever we find ourselves at that moment of choice when we don’t know what the final outcome might be or what the endgame is but what we do know is that doing nothing or staying where we are would be unbearable, we’ll step out and try something different or new. From the outside, our action has all the indications of courage. Within ourselves, we’re desperate but willing.
These moments, and they occur everyday, do not involve living up to an outside duty or code of honor or someone else’s expectations. These are the moments wherein we step up and step out because we have chosen to be true to ourselves.
I’ve come to understand these moments as grace.
They involve me but they always feels like they’re more than only me. The situation and my life won’t unfold the same way without my participation but making honest, awakening choices and taking action doesn’t involve taking control or knowing the results. There is indeed a fluidity and a flexibility that feels spiritually athletic, graceful…somewhat effortless and still quite focused.
The speaker once a preacher talked about creating a space within ourselves and with one another that would allow and support these moments to be recognized, appreciated and gently explored.
He acknowledged the need for such spaces, the need for connection (he termed it solidarity) and that his intention with these small venue talks was to do his part. He couldn’t say where it would all lead, but he was enthusiastic about the possibilities ahead.
We share that in common.