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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Billions & Trillions plus One

I’ve come across the number, Seven Trillion, in several unrelated areas recently. It’s been used to guestimate the number of stars in the universe, the number of cells in the human body and the number of species that might eventually and conceivably be ‘discovered’ on this planet.  Seven Trillion. What a curious number to land on…in the land of infinite numbers, I mean.

I’m not suggesting that anything conspiratorial or sinister or coincidental is afoot with the use of the same number. It’s just funny in a “makes you wanna go ‘uumm'” sort of way.

It’s a big number. It’s bigger than I can imagine or wrap my head around. It’s big in the same manner that a billion times a second is fast. Only bigger.

My mind is humbled and quieted when faced with the true scale of such numbers. There are lots of other numbers to gawk at…grains of sand in the world, snowflakes in a blizzard, water molecules in a single drop of water…but, there is a particular number that seems to mesmerize and stick to us the most.

One.

We totally get hung up on the number One.

Like it’s not enough. Like it doesn’t matter. Like if we aren’t THE one, then we’re NO one.

Before I get further along, though, imagine a star being a star and complaining that it was only one of seven trillion, so that being a star couldn’t really be that special. And imagine further that it was our sun, (that same source of light, warmth and energy that has fueled our very existence) feeling useless and insignificant…one in seven trillion, and wondering, what’s the point? A despondent star waiting to implode.

We have no scale for such imaginings. For us to try picture the whole of the planet earth as a living organism is like a single red blood cell imagining a person. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t true. It’s simply that we can’t imagine it.

And for us, as individuals, to be simply a part of, one amongst other ones, rather than the head of, the most important aspect of, the indispensable element of…is too deflating to our sense of self to accept. And so we suffer.

When I say, ‘to simply be a part of’, I am not saying to blend in, to go along or to be homogenous. I am saying that as we discover, develop and grow into ourselves, we do so most effectively and beneficially through seeking to connect genuinely with others and not by separating ourselves from them.

Our need to be ourselves isn’t what causes our misery. Our need to stand above, to be more special, to be more of anything rather than to be honestly the One who we are is what causes suffering.

Being honest and true to ourselves is joyful. Doing our best is not about comparing ourselves. It is about honoring ourselves. My best today has nothing to do with what I may have been able to do in the past…or even yesterday.

And it certainly has nothing to do with what anyone else is doing.

 

 

Panning for gold

Screened sieves or pans with small holes in their bottoms are still used to this day by seekers of gold in streams all over the world. Amateurs, hobbyists, day trippers and bona fide believers all dipping, sifting and hoping to find a nugget (or multiples thereof) washed down from somewhere upstream and, to their point of view, just waiting to be found.

“Eureka!!!” That’s the traditional shout of the panner for gold upon the discovery of such, although I’ve been told it’s not in much use any longer. There are too many claim jumpers around, too many other people who will rush over to work that spot for the savvy prospector to risk uttering a sound. Rather a shame, I’d say, not being able to shout excitedly after bending over for so long.

In the course of my life I have participated in the start up of several businesses that involved partners. From the very first get together it often felt like everyone was panning their stream of thoughts looking for that million dollar idea. I knew people who spent days, months and then years examining every idea they could dredge up and evaluating its merit solely on its ability to produce gold. If an idea wasn’t a money maker, then they had no use for it. These were not particularly happy people. They were, however, endlessly busy. They would brag to one another about how little sleep they were getting. I was not happy either. But I took comfort in knowing that many other people were driving themselves even harder than I was and coming up just as empty. Meager comfort. Mean spirited and small. But I took it anyways.

I had to leave that life. Panning for gold left me spiritually bankrupt.

It was and is a soul killer.

This is now my daily reminder:

When I equate my self worth to my net worth, I have lost my way.

I hope my hard learned lesson is of some use to you too.

 

 

The Relevance of Truth

If the truth is timeless (and it is) then I suggest it’s hanging around somewhere in plain sight, like it always has, just waiting for us to trip over it.

Before our current information age, many believed that there were ancient texts that held our truths and that these ancient texts were the domain and dominion of the ‘keepers of the wisdom’. You know, those scholars and believers who had access to these writings by virtue of rank, wealth, title or theft. These texts and these individuals were considered as ‘authorities’ on various subjects. Knowledge was indeed power, even in the Middle Ages. They kept their cards close to their vests and guarded both access and interpretation diligently.

The printing press began the dissemination of information and the internet is currently its culmination. More people than ever have direct access to rare and treasured books, practices and ideas. Yet more people than ever seem to be struggling to make sense out of their lives or to discover their path to fulfillment and happiness.

We really do seem to have access to all of the ideas we’d ever need. They have been put into and passed down to us through fables, songs, poetry, novels, folklore, sacred texts,  proverbs from the Far East and (need I add?) bumper stickers. Some of these ideas have been codified into religions and other institutions craving certainty and structure. Regardless of where we search for it, however, we must acknowledge the abundance of wisdom that’s available to most of us.

So, I must conclude that it’s not the lack of ideas or insights from those who have come before that has many of us so lost, despondent, lethargic, confused, unfulfilled and unhappy.

It is that these insights, these wisdoms, must somehow become relevant to us in our own day to day lives before we can tap into and experience their meaning and draw from the strength of that truth. Wisdom is not found in the abstract but in the concrete choices and actions that manifests a truth.

Wisdom is not to be found in a book but in the moment of courage to act upon what we know to be true. We grow whenever we do that. We grow in wisdom and strength.

Somehow, we’ve forgotten that by and large. We behave foolishly instead.

Without action, all wisdom is theoretical. It might look good on paper and sound good to the ear. But until we act upon it, it isn’t real.

It isn’t relevant.

 

 

Life was never meant to be ‘Safe’

I’ve had many conversations over the years (some quite recently, hence this blog) with parents whose major concern in life was with keeping their children (or child) safe. It’s an issue that is confronting every parent daily and that can transform simple decisions into debilitating quandaries.

As a parent of three, I am no idle spectator in this emotional arena.

These conversations, along with my own personal soul searching, have lead me to conclude and to admit that complete safety is impossible and that even relative safety is more of an act of trust than of an assurance of well being.

This is no easy thing to admit. And this is what leads so many of us to become stuck in fear and anxiety.

Life is simply a risky enterprise. That’s the truth of the matter.

Even if we had unlimited financial resources, the attempt on our part to eliminate all possible opportunities for injury or illness to our children would, in and of itself, be injurious and harmful to their natural and healthy development. Being overly protective does as much damage as does being reckless or negligent.

It is glaringly apparent from our own childhood experiences that we, as human beings, were designed to bump, bruise, bounce and break ourselves quite a bit. And we survived, grew and learned from those experiences…just as our children will. They deserve the chances to fall, to scrape, to cry and to get up and get at it again.

Life in a bubble, life without risks, is like a Nascar race run entirely under the yellow caution flag…staying in line…going in circles…not really a race…not really a life….

Now I know that Nascar, or any sport for that matter, cannot be a perfect analogy, but our craving for ‘safety’ is in contradiction to and defies our own experience; namely, that we feel most alive when the outcome is uncertain, when we have to take a chance, when we push ourselves beyond our comfort and convenience zones.

Sure, we will fail. Sure, we will fall. What we do then is what matters most.

The risks we take may be physical, emotional or intellectual, but we reveal ourselves to ourselves in those types of decision making moments when the outcome is far from certain. In those moments we are unthinkingly and profoundly aware of the raw possibilities that life presents us with.

I could or would no more wish to deprive my children of these experiences under the banner of keeping them safe than I could or would wish to undo my own missteps and batterings that I have experienced along my way.

It’s just life.

 

The Purpose of Awareness

It has been brought to my attention that there may be some misunderstandings or misperceptions surrounding the subject of self-awareness, if and when the subject might come up. There are some that, without much investigation, have assumed that self-awareness is a New Agey, trendy, West Coast fad sort of thing. There are others who may associate self-awareness with self-indulgence or self-absorption. Indeed, these people may have encountered individuals that were actually practicing the latter two (indulgence and absorption) while professing to be developing the former (actual awareness). This is not unlike when we meet certain religious types that are practicing intolerance and condemnation while professing their charity and love towards all.

It kind of leaves us wondering in a less than positive way.

Every single day, each and every one of us are making lots and lots of choices. There are so many choices involved in each day that we actually form routines or habits around the ones that we have decided to no longer pay attention to, that are trivial or insignificant (in our opinion). Personal habits in hygiene, dressing, how we like our tea/coffee, what route we take to work, and so on and so on. We do these all without noticing.

When I speak of becoming self-aware, I am guiding people first into and with the practice of noticing themselves. The purpose of noticing is to bring our choices into the light of our consciousness. This is the essence of self-awareness.

The purpose of self-awareness is to increase the likelihood that our choices will not be in conflict with what we know to be true…true about ourselves in the present moment and true to the lessons that we have learned from life thus far. This is alignment. When we are not at odds within ourselves, we feel better. We have more energy. We feel healthier and truly we are. Because we are less and less at crossed purposes with ourselves, we are much less stressed or worried. Medically speaking alone, this is much healthier for us.

During this alignment process, there is a certain clarity that develops. We see more and more how the various elements of our life are interconnected. Those aspects of ourselves that used to seem to be disparate or disassociated or compartmentalized, gradually and gently become integrated. We grow and begin to have integrity.

These items, alignment, clarity and integrity, are not accent pieces that we are dressing our personality with so that we can ‘look’ better. These attributes are the benefits of pursuing self-awareness that are actually stripping away the layers of stylish or popular or merely familiar behaviors that we have draped across our real selves…layers that have been weighing us down, layers that have been suffocating us, layers that we didn’t even realize we were wearing.

Self-awareness is liberating. It is not, however, a casual stroll through the candy land of wishful thinking and fancy self projections. It involves the compassionate and yet consistent focus on the nitty gritty, nuts and bolts, aspects of what we are actually saying, doing and feeling in the real world. The more we are willing to make this effort, the more we will find ourselves choosing to be accountable and responsible…to our own self.

This is what is so liberating. We are no longer living up to someone else’s opinion of us.

We will take ownership of our choices. We will live owning ourselves.

 

 

Center of the Universe

Without going into great detail, I’d like to begin with a reminder: For a very long time, the earth was considered to be the center of the universe. Everything, including the sun, revolved around the earth… (except those things that seemed stationary or fixed, the most distant specks of light. These were thought to comprise a ceiling of sorts around the universe). How quaint.

Depending on who wants to pick a fight with me, I’ll just say that in 1543 (Western culture time) a guy named Copernicus wrote his book proposing a heliocentric (sun at the center) view of things. Reportedly, he died on the same day that he held its printed copy for the first time. Make of that what you will.

In the absence of social media, it took nearly 70 years for the theological and psychological implications of his theory to reach full controversial levels. The excrement and the fan, while they were slow to hit, created quite the storm which involved the full weight of the Catholic Church (in particular) on one hand and Galileo (as notable figurehead) along with the fledgling scientific community on the other.

Looking back at it all with the luxury of 400 or so years, it’s not hard to understand how this all played out rather necessarily and somewhat naturally. As advanced they considered themselves back then, and they did, I have little doubt we will also be looked upon 400 years from hence as being rather youngish and ill informed.

Remember how it was when we were infants? Life did indeed begin with us (as far as we were concerned) and everything did revolve around us. We were the center of our own universe. If something wasn’t directly in front of us, it didn’t exist. If something wasn’t directly affecting us, it didn’t mean anything to us. We were raw stimulus and response, sensation and reaction. We were also quite demanding, made frequent messes of everything and often had to be restrained to prevent us from hurting ourselves. As my mother used to say, ‘If you hadn’t have been so adorable at times, you never would have made it past three.’ (she had nine children by the way, telling us each the same thing)

Necessarily and naturally, we must each individually develop and outgrow our self-centeredness. Otherwise we will always be demanding, always be making messes out of things and not always have someone around to prevent us from hurting ourselves.

I am speaking from personal experience.

There was a period in my life during which I was the king in the kingdom of me. Nothing mattered unless and until it directly related to me. The sun rose and set as I wanted by the simple drawing of the windows curtains. I did what I wanted when I wanted and how I wanted to.

What I believed was that I was being true to me.

What I discovered was that I was being trapped by me.

Being the center of my universe nearly killed me.

Being centered in the universe is what has brought me back into life.