If not now, when? (Zen proverb)

Survivalists have a 100% failure rate.

As such, the term itself, ‘survivalist’, is completely misleading.

The very best that they could claim to be are prolongists. Their goal is to be among the last humans standing after whatever calamity they’ve imagined…and they imagine lots of them. If they live one more day, one more month, one more year than most, they will have won in their mind’s eye. Then they die too. Some strategy.

In the meanwhile, pre-calamity, they live in constant wariness, in perpetual preparation for newly developing threats, focused into a fictional future and overlooking whatever goodness is surrounding them today. Like a said, some strategy.

When I pointed this out to a friend who was considering adopting an ‘end of days’ attitude towards the current situation in the world, I was given the hairy eye ball. Apparently, I am unaware of the headlong plunge we have taken into the abyss. There are an estimated 3.7 million “preppers” in the US today (an alternate top 1% to the economic elite). They hold their own rallies and conventions. They are deadly serious.

They put their money where their fear is. The food, guns/ammunition, clothing and sheltering expenses that are needed to support this ‘life’ style choice run into the billions of dollars collectively. It’s a thriving segment of the economy with many enterprising individuals and large corporations catering to every whim and nuance.

Perhaps I am missing something.

Perhaps.

But I don’t seriously believe that.

There have been people predicting the ‘end of the world’ for as long as there’s been a language and a world to deal with. Yet, the world is still here.

What I do believe is that we are continually plunging into the unknown and the unknowable. This is an element of our human condition. This has been true for every person and civilization that has come before us. There are no crystal balls, no way of knowing for certain…but listening to the voices that are spouting fear does have a way of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more we look at the world through fear colored glasses, the more fear we see.

Every single day and every single situation involves and creates something we have never encountered before, specifically, this moment. And while certain situations or persons may seem similar to something or someone from the past, no two situations or persons will be identical…not even the same two people in the same situation will have the same conversation…moods change, perspectives shift, behaviors modify. It is a fact of life.

We are forging a new national character in response to our changing conditions. The  immediacy of the information available to us through our current technologies is no longer allowing us to pretend, to hide or to delay facing these conditions. We are being bombarded and shocked regularly into reevaluating our attitudes and responses towards one another.

This isn’t about blaming someone else or ‘the system’.

This is about taking responsibility and choosing how we will participate in changing those things that we now see have been broken for so long.

If we rise to this challenge, we will thrive.

If we retreat from it, what good would it do to survive a tad longer?

 

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Enough to Share

The historical and personal perspectives that I’ve offered up in some of my recent blogs were based in a simple, living truth: That the purpose of awareness is not to rise above nor to retreat from our humanity and the events of the world, but to embrace them more honestly and to engage them more compassionately and effectively.

We are in this together, this experience of being human…as members of a family…as part of a community…as citizens of a nation…as members of a living global entity.

To wish this weren’t so…to bemoan and lament our social natures, our fundamental connectedness…is emotionally immature and intellectually delusional.

As children, we were all introduced to the experience and the necessity of sharing…whether it was at the dinner table, the playground, the sandbox or the schoolyard. We were asked, guided and, in some cases, simply told to be fair and to share whatever it was we were attempting to horde or keep for ourselves.

Here’s the truth: For most of us, the act of sharing didn’t hurt us. We didn’t starve, it didn’t make us feel weak or soft and it didn’t ruin whatever fun we were having. In fact, most of us felt better when we shared. Our enjoyment was increased by the interaction with others. We were no longer alone and, hence, we felt less lonely. Sharing with others added value to the experience of the moment. We actually felt more capable and confident in ourselves and better about ourselves when we were sharing.

Most of us.

There were some young souls, when asked to share, who reacted by pouting, protesting and perhaps running off to their room (or elsewhere). Their response was more than a reluctance. It was a refusal.

No one has ever been admired or respected for that refusal.

Not as a child and not as an adult.

When we witness the refusal to share, as one parent to another, we offer our condolences for such behavior. We sympathize with the other parent(s). Life is going to be more difficult and less enjoyable for all of them until and unless sharing becomes possible.

As one adult to another, when we witness someone’s refusal to share, we offer our baffled looks and our pity. The person who is refusing to share is never the happy person in the group.

Never.

They may have all their ‘stuff’ (whatever it is…things, money, time, talent) but they live in fear protecting it and, even surrounded by a posse of peeps, they live lonely. We have seen this play out time and time again. We know its true. This is not our being envious of their ‘things’. We’re sad for what they are missing…the best part…the joy of sharing, of connecting, of cooperating as equals.

Our interdependencies are not the evidence of our weaknesses. We have always been stronger, fuller, better together than we ever could be by ourselves. Self-sufficiency is a neurosis because it is impossible. No person is an island nor would any healthy person try to be.

Relying upon one another is one of our strengths.

When we pull together, when we act cooperatively and pool our abilities, we are capable of much more goodness than when it is we sit apart and pout.

I believe in the goodness of us.

I would ask you to consider sharing in that belief.

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The Beast of Fear

I made mention in a recent blog (“Mottos”) that I sensed that, as Americans, our trust in our systems, politics and institutions has been eroded to the point of being broken. I ended the blog by expressing that I ached for us because there is the temptation now to not want to trust in one another, to no longer make room for our differences and to pull apart rather than to pull together.

This is one of the corrosive effects of fear. Once any one of us puts on the goggles of fear, everything and everyone is distorted, colored and tainted. We will perceive that there are monsters under every bed and around every corner. We will be susceptible to being whipped into a frenzy by persons fanning these flames while claiming to want to put them out. We will be tempted to grab our pitchforks and torches to chase and kill the beasts.

But what if the beast is in us? The beast of FEAR?

Has not human history shown us that time and time again?

After our demonizing, after our scourging and scorching, after all the lives altered, ruined or taken in our fevered efforts to make ourselves feel ‘safe’, every mob, every revolution, every society that blazed down that path has had to look back with regret and remorse at the random and senseless destruction that took place. The madness of fear is always clear in hindsight.

And no one was made safer. But some were made wealthier.

And there were still more beasts to chase….according to the people who chase beasts for a living.

Our challenge, more than ever before, is to not repeat those mistakes. We cannot expect to make true progress towards peace through violence and destruction. That is the lesson. That is the truth. We are all collaterally damaged by violence. We are all diminished by fear based blaming and labeling.

The social inequities and institutional inadequacies that have been exposed, and will continue to be exposed, have been festering for quite some time. Perhaps we were naïve. Perhaps we turned a blind eye. Perhaps we thought it was someone else’s problem in some other part of the country or world. Perhaps we thought we couldn’t make a big difference so why try to make a difference at all?

We’re living in the results of these approaches. They don’t work either.

We must ask ourselves if there are not better choices than only the two that are habitually offered, those being between violence or apathy…destruction or complacency?

Our country was based upon resolve, participation and cooperation. We knew that there were decisions to be made and actions that needed to be taken. We knew we couldn’t pass the responsibility for these things on to someone else or to wait for some better time. We knew, too, that we couldn’t do it unless we united, found our common ground and trusted in what we would try to do together.

For all of us, equally.

That’s what we declared as the purpose for our independence…

Implementing this ideal has been a slow, pain filled, educational experience which we are not done with nor will we ever be done with. Democracy is a work in progress not a finished accomplishment. Solutions change because conditions change.

The ideals, however, OUR PRINCIPLES, are what inform and guide our direction.

Resolve, participation and cooperation are what move us forward united.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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More Gene Stuff…

The Darwinian approach to business, politics and life is encapsulated in the often heard phrase: “Survival of the fittest”. I don’t fault Darwin. There’s no way he could have foreseen how his theory would be misconstrued and abused in the world of human affairs. The same could be written about Oliver Stone’s 1987 movie, Wall Street, which has its deeply flawed character, Gordon Gekko, pronounce flatly that: “Greed is good”. How was Oliver to know that there were many wealthy people and people in the financial sectors that completely agreed with that statement and celebrated its being spoken aloud for them?

The only people extolling the ‘virtues’ of the aggressor, the go-getter, the ‘winning is the only thing’ individual, the ‘eat or be eaten’ mentality that fabricated its justification from Darwin’s natural order of things, are the people who are frantically practicing those supposed ‘virtues’ in their lives. I say ‘frantically’ because, to be honest, that’s the only sincere way to practice this way of life.

To everyone else living on the outside of that mentality, outside that mosh pit of seething and insatiable wanting for more of everything, that approach to life isn’t very appealing.

So what if we have been getting it backwards? What if the ‘leaders’ of any given organization aren’t necessarily the most capable, intelligent, creative or caring people but only those people who are compelled and obsessed with being ‘in charge’?

To be sure, these individuals are more single-minded than most. Many of them proclaim proudly that they ‘live for’ the good of their particular organization. We’ve heard that claim from them so often and in so many variations that we assume it’s part of what makes up a leader. It never occurred to us that these individuals might be suffering from a genetic deficiency…a color blindness of emotion, an inability to feel their own pain as they sacrifice more and more of the people they should value to their obsession to have more, to be more, to be the ‘leader’.

Most of us simply wouldn’t sacrifice everything and all else for the sake of an enterprise or organization. It doesn’t feel right. We were never told to trust that feeling though. We felt that there was something that was lacking in us, not something that was right in us.

Historically, the rest of us have simply presumed, or been coerced into thinking, that these individuals were supposed to be the ‘leaders’ simply because they were running like crazy to be out in front as they climbed to the top.

At every level, leaders of anything are all vying for a larger portion of something. They are dispositionally greedy. It’s part of their job description: advance and defend the interest of whatever they’re ‘in charge’ of.

As a result, where they have consistently been leading us to is the only place or world they know….a place of constant promotion of themselves and their cause, of regional or national claims of superiority, to places of suspicion, fear, collusion and competition and, eventually, to covert or open conflicts.

At the level of nationhood, every leader seems to adopt the same stance towards every other leader. Namely, they all secretly believe in their hearts that if another nation had half a chance, they would try to take them over, conquer them, steal their resources, enslave them in some form or fashion, destroy/corrupt/ruin their culture and ways of living.

But what if this perspective was not about ‘leadership’ but about their disease, their genetic deficiency? What if we have been mistaken? What if…?

What if the meek were truly supposed to inherit the earth…the meek…the personality types that quietly place their faith in cooperation and not competition…that have and keep an open mind and who don’t take offense at someone else’s idea…that toil collaboratively and shy away from the limelight…that are genuinely humble as they realize that we all were and are still in this lifeboat called earth together…that it is far more important for us to pay attention to how we are treating one another than it is to focus on what we think we are accomplishing….that respecting our differences while recognizing our equality is to truly love our neighbor as ourselves…

The meek…they’re not weak nor timid…they’re simply portrayed that way by those driven with ego based ambition.

Yeah, the meek, the solid individual who steadfastly does their best and doesn’t look around to see if anyone’s noticing. That kind of meek.

There’s nothing necessarily flashy about being human…but there is a real tenderness, beauty and love available to those who look for it and practice those behaviors that nurture and encourage one another. That kind of meek.

Which, of course, stands in stark contrast with those who practice withholding support from those they don’t like and bowling over anyone they perceive might be standing in their way. That kind of ‘leader’.

 

 

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Naturally, Right from the Start

Take a moment and answer this question:

How often do we want to ‘know'(or be reassured) that we’re going to be ‘good’ at doing something BEFORE we’ll ever try that something for the first time?

….to be told that we could bowl a strike before we ever released our first ball?…or be assured that we would be a good dancer before we even placed a foot onto the floor?…or that we would be a fine cook before we dared to put on an apron?…or that we would be a proper lover before we ever stepped into our first kiss?

It’s not at all unusual.

Whether it’s because of some childhood experience during which we suffered a degree of embarrassment, ridicule and other forms of criticism while we attempted something new or we merely witnessed someone else’s being made fun of, we have all learned to hesitate. This is not about our physical safety but about playing it safe emotionally, being guarded about our ‘self image’, even before we had such a thing.

In truth, many of us when we were younger wished we would discover some hidden talent that would enable us to be a ‘natural’ at something…anything really…anything that we could be remarkably good at from the very first time…because then there would be no risk, no fear of failure, no being ordinary.

More than a few were strongly encouraged to build careers and a life around something that they were ‘good at’ without anyone (even themselves) actually asking if they enjoyed doing what they were ‘good at’. But that’s a whole other blog to come.

This blog would like to remind all of us that no one has ever done their best at anything the first time they tried it. Even if we were ‘good at’ it naturally right from the start, we still all learned and improved as we continued. We developed. Everything we ever try only gets better if we continue to practice…provided we are open to feedback and guidance. On our own and by ourselves, we will be hampered and limited by the singularity of our perspective.

Now, I realize that this may seem like a blinding flash of illumination for the obvious, but it is something we so frequently and easily forget. We often stand paralyzed at the doorstep of trying something new in our lives only because we have forgotten that everything always and only gets better after our first try.

 

 

The Genesis of Corruption

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking News

In physics, it’s believed that energy or mass can neither be created nor destroyed.  (Necessarily, this begs the question of where then did all energy or mass come from originally, but what the heck. Let’s just work with what we’ve got.)

I believe the same thing can be said about truth, that is to say, that it can neither be created nor destroyed. The truth simply is what it is. That’s one of the main reasons that we’re so attracted to the truth…one of its primary appeals…what we love about it, in fact. The truth lasts. It will always come out. Our love of the truth will frequently put us in the hot seat but it will also set us free. Free to make a courageous choice. Free to contribute to what will endure in us.

Lies fall apart. Inevitably. What is false will crumble, sometimes quickly…sometimes slowly, but crumble it will. What’s left is the truth.

Lies take a great deal of energy to maintain. Once we’ve lied, we must be quite careful, almost vigilant, as to how we act and what we say when we are anywhere near the subject of our lie. Our tone of voice, our facial expressions will betray us just as quickly as a slip of the tongue. We become improvisational actors around our lie, compounding its complexity in our efforts to keep it propped up. We usually put on quite a show. And it’s exhausting.

The truth, however, stands for itself. Once we have spoken honestly as to how we felt or how something appeared to us or what something meant to us or what we did, we are free to leave it alone. It will never change. We spoke our truth. We are free to keep moving about our day, our life.

This is not to say that our truth will be well received, especially by those who aren’t seeking it. The truth requires courage…both in its speaking and in its hearing. It is, however, the only way to build anything (a relationship, a business, a government) that will be healthy and that will last.

So, here’s the kicker; it’s not that we don’t know this.

This is not breaking news. What is breaking news, literally today’s breaking news, is the leak of 2.6 terabytes of data from the firm Mossack Fonseca. These documents are reported to pull back the curtains on the shady and possibly illegal practices of various wealthy and powerful people across continents. Lots of truth.

It has taken courage to bring this into the public domain. Reputations and lives may be at risk.

Will we, the readers and listeners of this truth, have the courage to hear it? Will we have the courage to not turn away and pretend that this is simply some isolated incident or some sensationalizing journalism?

We were all raised with the metaphor and the understanding about the ‘tip of the iceberg’, how the main bulk of the problem still lies beneath whatever we struck that happened to be on the surface. That is the truth.

This is not a call to arms. This is a call to awareness. This is an attempt to speak to the truth amongst ourselves and to encourage one another to not be afraid. Only when we honestly look at the problem will the solution have a chance to emerge. It’s not in or from just one of us. It’s with and from all of us.

We know we’ve been silent for too long.