Monday, April 29, 2013

Does Meaning Really Matter?


At one point in my life, I desperately searched for meaning in my life and in all life. I felt that everything had a purpose or some destiny. Now I do not so much look for meaning as I do connection because through connection my life has purpose. I realize that I am not an island; my actions influence other people like their actions influence me. I also believe in Jung’s collective unconscious (Myers, 2010); that on some level, we all tap into, maintain, and add  new information to this collective which influences the individual at all junctures. This is like the Hermetic philosophy that the one is the all and the all is the one (The Three Initiates, 1908); each individual is part of the whole and influences the whole while the whole is part of each individual and influences the individual. The more I realize the connection I have with the life cycle the more meaning my life has. With meaning comes peace and tranquility in knowing that all is appropriate and cycles. Opportunities are not missed but will come up again when the individual is ready to receive the opportunity. One is hungry and sleepy at certain times. One has schedules that he or she adheres to. In essence, all of life is a cycle (1908) and the more I see my position in the various cycles the more connected I feel and the more meaning I perceive because life is not chaotic but masterfully orchestrated.

Ultimately, I feel that when people search for meaning they are really searching for connection. This is not to say the meaning is not important. This search is so important that I believe it drives most people’s daily interactions and sways or polarizes one to either a spiritual or scientific pursuit; as I have suggested before, I believe the science and spirituality are two sides of the same coin or opposite ends of the same spectrum. I believe that everything exists in a circular, cyclical format and this spectrum is no different. Therefore, as one approaches spirituality they are moving away from science; however there is an apex where one becomes so spiritual that they reach a critical point and then start to enjoy more scientific pursuits thus moving away from spirituality. In essence, because they are both part of the same cyclical spectrum there is never a complete absence of one from the other; they intermingle and dance and sometimes one is more dominant than the other. This example embodies the law of polarity as described in the Kyballion (The Three Initiates, 1908).

People all have different definitions for meaning. Some believe that meaning defines and pigeonholes a topic. Some believe it means they have a purpose or a driving passion. Some define it as value or the belief that everything must have an associated value. Whereas I look at meaning as pointless. To say that something has meaning indicates that one has an understanding of something that he or she pursues; the fact of the matter is, however, that these perspectives these are beyond our current comprehension and as such meaning does not fit within these confines. It assumes one has arrived at a destination and no more searching is needed on the subject. It abdicates further growth and development and speeds one up toward the inevitability of death by removing one from the cycle of life. Therefore, to search for meaning is pointless because it does not provide the impetus for continued development and searching.

Finding a meaning is an endpoint and derails one from the journey of searching. For example, suppose there was a male researcher whose entire life purpose was to find a cure to cancer. He spent many long hours holed up in a research lab, taking case studies of cancer victims and survivors, and reading all the new advances in the field. He developed many methods of making life more comfortable, extending people’s life, or enhancing the quality of life; however, no cure was ever found. On this individual’s deathbed, he felt remorseful and felt like a failure. The people, however, did not see it this way. This individual was celebrated for his accomplishments and additions to the field. Later, someone else took up his work, continued it, and was able to find an elusive cure; she could not have done this without the previous individual’s contributions. When she was asked what part of the previous researcher’s work was the most helpful to her, she stated it was the man’s failures because those helped keep her focused on the right path and away from exploring avenues that would prove fruitless. To the individual who defined his life on the meaning of curing cancer thought he was a failure. To the many people whose life he made more comfortable and to the future people who received a cure based on this man’s research, the man’s life was a success; the work created connections even if the man’s original meaning or purpose was not reached in his lifetime. If one just focuses on meaning rather than on the journey of growth and development, then that individual’s life will culminate in unhappiness.

For these reasons, I do not believe that meaning serves as a bridge between scientific and spiritual pursuits. While I appreciate Dr. Sharpe’s work on attempting to bridge science and spirituality, I do not think that his emphasis on finding meaning is the answer. Meaning is too fixed and un-malleable; it cannot adapt to changes in direction because it has already decided the direction. I do not think that something that only focuses on the finite and defined potentials can ever serve in a capacity as to define a journey when the destination is not fixed but changes fluidly.  

On a side note, finding meaning to give something a value or pigeonhole it into a specific framework is similar to the notion of labeling. Psychology has recently discovered that labels can inflict far more psychological damage than the psychological problem that one is diagnosed with (Comer, 2005). This is because the diagnosis, or label, carries a specific set of expected behaviors and inherent biases. In other words, people expect the patient to act a specific way (2005) and they will therefore interpret any and all actions within a schema of that label as justifications of the diagnosis whether the individual’s actions fit or not. In addition, the patient who received the diagnosis will adjust their behavior (2005) to fit the expected behaviors. Several studies have confirmed that people will adopt a disease simply due to the power of suggestion. This is also testament to the power of the placebo (Stangor, 2011) Researchers studying a new drug and engaging in drug trials to test the efficacy of the drug always create a control group that is given a placebo because the placebo effect (2011), or power of suggestion is well known. If the experimental group, the one receiving the drug or treatment, does not fare much better than the control group, then the efficacy of the drug is not much better than how well one recovers due to the power of suggestion. In essence, I am suggesting that by giving these things meaning, that it gives the thing a life of its own; however, the meaning is finite and carries a set of behavioral expectations, therefore it is not adaptable to new circumstances.

References


Myers, D. (2010). Exploring psychology in modules (8th ed.). New York, NY: Worth.

Stangor, C. (2011). Research methods for the behavioral sciences (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

The Three Initiates. (1908). The Kybalion: A study of of the Hermetic philosophy of Ancient Egypt and Greece  (Kindle ed.). Retrieved from www.amazon.com

 

 

 

God is What I Can Understand and More than I Can Imagine

In a discussion about atheism recently, a friend told me that atheists were closer to God than those who touted utter devotion to a belief in God; particularly those Christians view atheism as evil and will therefore condemn that individual. When my friend stated this, I was surprised and asked for clarification to which he replied, “An atheist is searching and looking for the meaning in all existence. In addition, God is constantly on their mind as they make feeble attempts to denounce God. Most of them will not admit that the idea of God is paramount to their existence and if they were truly in a situation without God, then they would feel uncomfortable to say the least. The atheist may denounce God, but in reality he or she is simply trying to understand God. The Christian, on the other hand, is not trying to understand God and just accepts God for what some preacher told him or her to believe. You were an atheist once until you realized that Christians did not have a monopoly on God and that God was whatever you felt most supported you on your journey. To a Christian God is static and unchangeable and definitely does not conform to what is best for the individual. Therefore, the atheist is closer to God because he or she almost always changes his or her belief when he or she comes to the realization that God is not static nor necessarily of the Christian depiction; at least that has been my observation.”
 
When I first read Sharpe’s (2005) conclusions about God not being a human-like entity, I was a bit taken aback until I remembered this conversation with my friend. For me, God is personal and human-like; I cannot imagine what an amorphous God is. A human-like companion is what my brain can comprehend. Regardless of that, I do accept that this is simply my brain’s way of connecting with the divine and does not represent the reality; I realize that God is far more than my human conception can conceptualize. I also realize that there is more to the universe than the mere human, and therefore, if God encompasses the whole of the universe then God can adopt the form of whatever creation was created or all of them at once.
 
When I really cogitate on it, Sharpe’s definition is not different from another source I have been recently exploring regarding God. His statement aligns with how the Kybalian defines God as the All is of the All and is therefore unknowable to the human mind. Moreover, the All is not reducible to human likeness. 
 
And still more presumptuous are those who attempt to ascribe to THE ALL the personality, qualities, properties, characteristics and attributes of themselves, ascribing to THE ALL the human emotions, feelings, and characteristics, even down to the pettiest qualities of mankind, such as jealousy, susceptibility to flattery and praise, desire for offerings and worship, and all the other survivals from the days for the childhood of the race. (The Three Initiates, p.56).
 
This reduction does not make sense and fails to account for the idea that both the Kybalian and Sharpe espouse that the whole is greater than the sum  of its parts; therefore, why would it possess the limitations of the human mind. Like I said, I understand the need to make the All or whole personal; but I also understand the limitations of my own mind and my inability to comprehend the vastness of creation.
                                   
While I knew that most spirituality did not embrace the wholeness of God and instead choose to compartmentalize, dichotomize, and segregate God as if they had complete understanding, I never gave much thought to the idea of subjective science (Sharpe, 2005). I understood that people often have two different perceptions about an event or happening or that they often interpret something as simple as a word in a different way than the speaker intended. Science had this impenetrable, impervious bubble stating that it was observations based in fact. I never put my observations of humans alongside the observations of science to understand just how fallible it is. It is subjective and entirely based on one’s opinion in his or her current state of mind and affairs; someone from different circumstances will probably interpret the results in a different way. The way I live my life and how I have made many decisions that run counter to scientific opinion, I would think I would have realized the subjectivity of science; I suppose I just needed to hear it differently. I agree with Sharp’s assertion; I guess that had just never given words to my gut feeling.
 
As far as secular society believing in Sharpe’s conclusions; I do not think the majority of people are there yet. I say yet, because they are traveling in that direction; away from the limitation and mystery of mystic beliefs and toward an understanding of scientific understanding of the universe. It will take people awhile to admit, however, that just because someone has credentials does not make that individual the absolute, end-all authority on a subject. However, our society only seems to want to believe credentials and therefore they are not engaging in critical thinking because they are often blinded by those credentials. For example, as an individual I feel I have a fair amount of knowledge from my experiences that I could share with others; however, I also realize that my words and my experience will not mean anything unless I have credentials to back me up. In other words, I realize that if I want to teach on subjects like parenting, education, or whatever, then I had better have a doctorate to include in my name.  When people can admit that credentials do not automatically make someone an authority and they realize that two people can have different views regardless of their education, then people will accept that science is subjective; on that day, then the world will be closer to using science to explain creation and using creation to explain science.
 
Dr. Sharpe’s views do bridge the gap between science and religion because it removes the parts of each that muddy the equation. The gap will never be bridged as long as individuals cling to unnecessary drivel or fluff and fail to understand the meat of their stance. The gap will never be bridged as long as people believe that they are right to the exclusion of everyone else. No idea is perfect and when people realize the fallibility of the human mind, then I think we will be closer to getting along. To get along, however, means that we must be willing to drop those parts of our beliefs that do not serve to create bridge but rather serve to continue dissonance.     
 
Resources
 
Sharpe, K. J., & Bryant, R. I. (2005). Has science displaced the soul? Debating love and happiness. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
 
The Three Initiates (1908). The Kybalion: A study of the Hermetic Philosophy of Ancient Egypt and Greece [Kindle edition]. Retrieved from Amazon.com.
 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Spectrums are Circluar Cycles

For this paper, I was supposed to determine whether I believed that science and spirituality are destined to always remain separate, or if there will ever be a point of convergence.

Many want to believe that the pursuits of science and spirituality are divergent; heading in opposite directions. However, divergence indicates that at one point the paths were together but they branched apart; this also implies that the two are still linked together by some point of commonality. This monoism point of view does not represent the views that humanity has about the separate distinctness of these two fields of thought; a rather dualism perspective. An example more fitting toward this dichotomous view is that of parallel paths on each side of a canyon: the individuals on each path can see one another, but there is no point of commonality nor is there any way to transverse the expanse of the canyon divide. However, this also brings up a paradox, are these two ideas parallel and seeming to discuss the same things in a different way? The members on each side do not see it that way and believe that one is right while the other is wrong (Sharpe & Bryant, 2005); the religionists believe that creation is the only possible answer while the scientists believe that evolution is the only possible answer. Some attempt to build bridges to connect these two ideas (Sharpe & Bryant, 2005). However, these individuals are under the illusion that both are separate and distinct entities and that a bridge is merely a connection but does not change the intrinsic, individualistic nature of either.

A better approach to bridging the divide is to not merely build bridges but to create a point of path convergence where the two become one by weaving together the seemingly disparate pieces; this is what philosopher Phillip Hefner (Sharpe & Bryant, 2005) discussed. A monism point of view suggests that there is one underlying unification or emergence point; that the subjects are essentially the same at their core.

I believe it is human nature to want to dissect and classify things in to distinct, definite categories; people do not seem to like fading edges where the distinction between where one ends and the other begins is not readily apparent. The whole argument between creationists and evolutionists or religionists and scientists is this essence at its apex; separate, distinct, definite, and not intertwined. I do not believe this is a healthy state of existence; if one’s sole purpose in life is to distinguish the self then that individual is setting the stage for a lonely existence. In addition, I believe instance on separate and distinct fails to look at the threads that unite or the inherent commonalities. I do not believe in opposites because this indicates distinctness; rather I believe in polarity. I believe that the things people often consider opposites such as (The Three Initiates, 1908) night and day, hot and cold, good and bad, white and black, etc. are in reality ends of a spectrum  because there is no such thing as the complete presence or lack (1908) of any of those states of existence.

For example, is there a point at which something is defined as hot or cold? No, the perspective is relative. To a snowflake, 35 degrees is hot because it melts the snowflake; however, to a flower, 35 degrees is cold because the flower has either died or is hibernating (annual or perennial) during the time when the temperature is 35 degrees. It is all a matter of perspective. Take good and bad as another example. To the individual who is just learning a new skill, say knitting, a good piece of work is what one finally completes although to the advanced knitting practitioner, a newbie’s knitting leaves something to be desired; in other words, it is bad. All opposites are relative and depend entirely on the point of view of the thing making the judgment.

This relative nature and the absence of finite and distinct points of one or the other, indicates that opposites merely fade into one another; often there is a point of ambiguity or ambivalence (The Three Initiates, 1908) where one is not sure where one ends and the other begins. For this reason, I suggest that opposites are merely points on the same spectrum. This spectrum, however, is not linear, and is, in fact, circular; one moves from one to the other and back again. This is similar to how a pendulum swings (1908) from one side to the other and back again. This perspective gives a good example of how a spectrum might appear linear; as one moves closer to one point they move away from the other, but there is always a point of return to the opposite thing and away from the original point of approach. Think of the earth as it rotates for an image of a circular point of existence. As the earth rotates, it moves from daytime to nighttime and then starts over in a never-ending cycle.

I believe that science and religion, while often seen as opposites, are merely a spectrum; in other words, they are polarized and one in the same. In suggesting this, I am saying that it is possible for these two to combine in a monism point of view; for their paths to converge once again. I believe that as one becomes more spiritual that there is a point where the mind turns to scientific understanding; likewise, as one moves toward the scientific part, there will come a critical point where one’s mind turns to spiritual matters. I am not sure if the current state of affairs will ever allow people to come to this understanding that the disparate parts are essentially one in the same. If people like Hefner continue to espouse upon the similarities and people wake up and realize that they cannot necessarily ignore the very real reality of scientific discovery or spiritual experience, then there will come a point where there is a loving “conflagration” (Sharpe & Bryant, 2005, p. 69) or point of convergence. As long as people continue to believe that everything is separate, distinct, and unique then there will always be dualism.

Resources

BELIEVE (1980). Monism. Retrieved from http://www.mb-soft.com/believe/txn/monism.htm.

Sharpe, K. J., & Bryant, R. I. (2005). Has science displaced the soul? Debating love and happiness. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

The Three Initiates (1908). The Kybalion: A study of the Hermetic Philosophy of Ancient Egypt and Greece [Kindle edition]. Retrieved from Amazon.com.

 

A Vehicle for Love

While cogitating on how society would react if love were empirically proven to a constitute pure chemical phenomenon, I realized an important link between spirituality and science in regard to love. I wrote this response many times in my attempt to show this bridge using several personal life events that I felt showed this connection.  While I saw the connection, I was unable elucidate what I saw; in other words nothing would come out right. Then I realized I was trying to make it more complicated than it needed to be. I remembered two events with dogs that were counter to normal love bonds, and therefore provided me the basis for concluding that the key toward understanding love, lies in examining those things that should defy the logic of love. I realized that just because I understand the vehicle love takes in my body, it does not mean that love does not exist and, in fact, since I was created, my creator imbued me with this chemical process to allow me to manifest what my spirit felt.  

Before I relate my idea of this connection, I wish to relate two stories that showed how love occurs against the logical odds. When I was 24, my skeleton closet of un-dealt with emotions exploded and manifested as a month-long headache that preempted the loss of my sight; a condition that was not resolved for another two months. There was no medical cause for this problem and I later concluded that it was psychosomatic, meaning that my psychological state of health caused me to manifest this problem in my body (Myers, 2010) as perhaps some form of defense mechanism. During this time, a little dog, part chihuahua and part dachshund, entered into my life. I am not a fan of dogs and find them rather unappealing. In addition, I am very allergic to animals, so I try to avoid them. For some reason, I did not avoid this dog and felt a strange attraction to her; I loved, held, played, and spent time with her despite my protesting allergies, which by the way, were not as bad as usual. It soon became apparent, that this dog and I were meant for each other. She was with me while I endured test after test to find the source of my problem. I would bury my face in her fur and cry my frustrations; she just laid there as my support, my pillow. Then she died. I was heart-broken. Suddenly my anxiety grew and with that my asthma flared up. Within a week of her death, I had such a serious attack that I went to the emergency room. Once there, I received the standard nebulizer (atomized bronchodilator medicine breathed in) treatment; this time it was different, though, and a steroid that I have been given in the past in pill form was added in liquid form to the nebulizer medicine cup. Within an hour of the treatment, I suspected that my sight was improving; by the next morning, there was a definite improvement.

A little dog came into my life when I suddenly released a torrent of emotional skeletons that resulted in a psychosomatic reaction from my body. She stayed with me during the extensive tests and allowed me to find release. She left me and this caused me such tremendous pain that I was no longer able to deal with the stress of my condition and I had an asthma attack which sent me to the emergency room where I received a treatment that restored my eyesight; a treatment I would never have received otherwise. Why did I love this dog despite my allergies and dislike for dogs? How was she able to comfort me when nothing else could? And how did she bypass my innate dislike and spark my love?

A few months later, I had another encounter with a dog and again it sparked love whereas I have never since felt liking for a dog. We discovered a mother dog, a large German Sheppard like dog, and her litter of 10 large pups under a shed on my neighbor’s property. My neighbor had caged the mother dog, called animal control, and was attempting to withdraw the pups; however, the pups were nearly inaccessible. My neighbor remarked that the mother dog was ugly and mean because she growled and nipped at her hand. When I went to see her, I thought she was the most beautiful dog I had ever seen; there was something in her eyes and the way she looked at me that caused an instant attraction to the dog. I could hear the pups yipping for her return, but since she was trapped, she was highly agitated. I approached her cautiously because of her agitation and my neighbor’s report about the dog’s meanness; however, there was no need for my caution because she readily accepted me. I asked her for her permission to get her pups to which she seemed to acquiesce and used her nose to point the way. I am normally concerned about dirt, bugs, spiders, and webs, but for some reason I did not even notice any of that in my attempt to free the pups. What drove this? Why did I not react to the things I would normally react in disgust to? Why did I find myself attracted to another dog when I did not like dogs? Why did I think she was beautiful when she was obviously a mutt and by most people’s standards ugly?

I am a student of psychology and whole heartedly agree with the scientific understanding of chemical process of feeling love. Hormones are part of all signals (Garrett, 2011) sent through our bodies from the physical perceptions of pain, hunger, thirst, satiety, and tiredness to the emotional perceptions of comfort, security, fear, anger, and love. In addition, hormones regulate all physical functions in the body such as digestion, healing, and sleep. Without hormones our body would not function (2011). Hormones do not act alone, however; they are chemical messengers (2011) signaled by the brain and act with neurons to help communicate a message. Science’s understanding of neurotransmitters, neurotransmission, hormone communication, and brain patterns is still in a state of infancy; the human brain is highly complicated and not easy to study (2011). I believe this is why science cannot recognize (Sharpe & Bryant, 2005) the validity of religion and vise versa.

My view on this complicated biological signaling is that it is merely a vehicle; a signal going from one spot to another is like a traveling vehicle. It is part of being human and part of what makes the brain and body so complex and so simply beautiful. Unlike many people, I do not take this understanding of chemical transmission as detracting from the spiritual nature of love (Sharpe & Bryant, 2005) or any emotion or biological process; in fact, I think it strengthens the justifications of the presence of a creator or a spiritual experience. I believe that just because the vehicle has been discovered (2005) it does not detract in any way from the spiritual experience of love. If humans could be reduced to simple on/off firing of chemicals to explain everyday experience, then how is it that some things spark the signal while others do not? Look at my experiences with the two dogs. I do not like dogs; I am allergic to them and find them generally objectionable. In addition, I am afraid of spiders and bugs and aversive to dirt and webs. And yet, I found a dog that I loved and who comforted me in a difficult time in my life and I found a dog beautiful and spent my effort to save her pups despite the obvious filth I crawled through. I think that for me to transcend my strong emotions against these situations, that something else must have sparked my chemical process that caused me to feel love.

I do not believe that science’s finding of the chemical vehicle should offend those who believe love is a spiritual event. To think it offensive is similar to taking offence to the idea that a car runs on gasoline. So what if the vehicle for love has been found? I think this could strengthen people’s faith if they get over the mystical idea that things just happen or that the methods of God are unexplainable and realize that there is an explanation for everything. Just because a method of God has been explained does not mean the thing does not exist. Love is not any less just because its chemical vehicle was found; there is still something needed to spark that love because love does not just happen. If I were to ask a question that would be it. What is it that sparks the chemical reaction that causes one to feel love? Why is it in some cases people feel love when other times they do not?

Resources

Garrett, B. (2011). Brain and Behavior: An Introduction to Biological Psychology (3rd ed.). Los Angeles: Sage.

Myers, D.G. (2010). Exploring psychology in modules (8th ed.). New York: Worth Publishing.  

Sharpe, K. J., & Bryant, R. I. (2005). Has science displaced the soul? Debating love and happiness. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Happiness and The Power of Thoughts


This paper was the first one I wrote in my recent class Science and Spirituality. Herein, I was asked to discuss what love or happiness meant me and how I applied the concept(s) in my life. I never just answer a question; instead I draw upon and integrate many concepts to choreograph a dance of exquisite interrelatedness that usually adjuncts some important concept that occupies my cogitations.

In mid-December of 2012, I was conversing with friend when she asked me where my husband was.  I told her that he was across the state visiting his brother. My friend asked me why and if something was wrong because we do not travel to that side of the state in the winter unless we absolutely need to. In a rather emotionless voice, I stated that my husband and his mother were visiting his brother because the brother has terminal cancer. My friend’s mouth dropped open and in a shaky voice asked me, “is your husband upset or sad for his brother? Are you upset?” I said no, my husband was not upset or sad because his brother made his choice and I agreed with my husband. In an incredulous voice, she demanded to know why we were not sad and what I meant by choice.  I am offering this example in an attempt to explain my philosophy on happiness that I arrived at through both science and spirituality but not religion.

I never realized, until I had the above conversation, how intermeshed people’s ideas of happiness and personal culpability are with social ideology and religious customs. I believe that people are responsible for their happiness. I believe that happiness derives from what people choose to do with the circumstances in their lives. Circumstances, events, and knowledge are neutral; the individual gives meaning and that meaning determines one’s happiness. An individual is chronically unhappy when  they are fatalists and subscribe to a victim mentality believing that all things are external to the self. I think individuals will only discover happiness when they take responsibility for creating their lives and their circumstances and realize the benefit or learning experience in all circumstances or events . I also believe happiness occurs when people cease to judge and polarize events between good and bad.

Social ideology, at least American customs, are heavily influenced (Sharpe & Bryant, 2005) by early Christian philosophers such as Aquinas and Augustine. From my observations of people, I see a theme emerge that seems to parallel the Christian Bible. Many members of society believe that events happen on a polarized scale of good versus evil or bad. In addition, according to a self-serving bias, the negative events are always done to the individual as an indiscriminate and  pathologically negative force that derives pleasure from the individual’s suffering, while positive events always occur due to the individual’s merit or achievement. Another way of stating this dichotomy is that the individual feels entitled to good things as if they were rewards for righteous living but feels undeserving of the bad things as if he or she were unjustly punished. 

In my conversation with my friend who demanded an explanation of why I said choice, I stated that I do not believe cancer is an evil, indiscriminate killer; I believe that people create cancer in their bodies. I continued with the idea that people either choose to live a life of love, acceptance, and happiness or they choose a life of hatred, cynicism, and anger. In essence, I am suggesting that an individual’s mental happiness, or lack thereof, can alter the chemical structures of the body, including the DNA. Thus one’s happiness can  be a detriment or catalyst for diseases of the body such as cancer which occurs through a multiplication the cells; and since DNA is located in the cells, I believe the DNA was first altered. She argued that people do not choose their DNA to which I replied, “correct, but they can choose to alter it.”

Many researchers believe that 50-80% (Sharpe & Bryant, 2005) of one’s inherited genes account for his or her level of happiness in life with one’s circumstances determining the other portion. One’s immediate circumstances may temporarily inflate or deflate one’s happiness, but, in the long run, the individual will maintain a set level of happiness (2005). Genetics can account for one’s level of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine (2005) as well as how information is processed in the brain; i.e. what portion of the brain does the processing. This seems to back up my friend’s argument of fatalism or genetic destiny, however, further explanation through the combined fields of biology and psychology, a field known as biopsychology, I can back up most of my argument.

For example, one’s level of neurotransmitters are not fixed and neither are portions of the brain where information is processed (Garrett, 2011). Through neurogenesis, or the ability of the neurons, or neural cells that communicate information, the brain can change (2011) where and how information is processed. This often occurs in response to some trauma. This process of rebuilding and rewiring can and does happen in adults (2011); however, it is faster and more efficient in children. In adults, neurogenesis most often happens in response to learning (2011); in other words, the biology of the brain will change to accommodate new information because new information often requires a new skill set. This lends credence to statement that practice makes perfect. Neurogenesis does happen and the brain can change how processing and functioning occur. In addition, certain traumas or diseases can alter (2011) the levels of neurotransmitters; however, basic psychology explains how forms of thought patterning can effect this process. 

According to psychology, the brain processes information through schemas. A schema is a mental shortcut or flowchart of sorts to make rapid judgments (Myers, 2010) on incoming information. Think of it as in if-then statement, “if a then go to b, but if not a then go to c” sort of thing. Various forms of psychological therapy can alter (2010)  these schemas and rewire the decision-making process and thus alter the behavior. One example of a therapy that can do this is cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) which causes individuals to question their thoughts (2010) on a subject which effectively rewrites their schemas and thus alters their behavior. Since behavior is biologically based in neurotransmitter reactions and specific locations in the brain (Garrett, 2011), I believe that altering behavior also alters the biology of the brain and changes how information related to that behavior is physically processed. I believe that changing one’s schemas is a form of learning. Therefore, one’s thoughts will affect the biology of the brain through neurogenesis and neurotransmitter release; thus changing those thoughts will change one’s biology and alter neurotransmitter release.    

A this point, science can no longer support my argument and I turn to my spirituality. I define spirituality and religion as different because I believe religion denotes that one follows specific dogmas, doctrines, methods, customs, ideologies, etc. in an attempt to aggrandize, idolize, or elevate a God-like entity or creator above the self. A spiritual person flows with life and changes as he or she needs to; he or she is not bound by dogma or customs, but rather experiences affinity with a greater power through expressions of self-mastery rather than self-subservience. I am not bound to any specific subset of religion, therefore, I am free to pick and choose what I believe to be the choice morsels in each belief and make them into one philosophy that serves me and my spiritual growth. Many yoga masters have proven that in altered states of consciousness, that they can change body functioning such as slowing breathing and heart rate to imperceptible levels. Many New Age philosophies discuss the power of thought to change one’s life and physical circumstances. Even some Christians believe that fervent prayer and belief can alter the physical condition of the body by bringing someone back to life or eliminating a disease. Because I believe in the power of the self through acceptance of responsibility, I accept a New Age adaptation of this idea that fervent belief can change circumstances through the assistance of the divine. New Agers believe that each individual is a part of the divine or God, therefore, they work in harmony with God and the God-self to affect change. Another form of evidence is a cross between New Age and science by author Masaru Emoto (2001), in his book The Hidden Messages in Water. He produces evidence that positive or negative thoughts (2001) directed at a container of water will affect the crystal structure of the water when it freezes. The crystals of the water that received positive thoughts were larger and stronger while the crystals of the recipients of negative thought patters were weak and ill-formed (2001). I could list many more examples, because I have studied many, which have contributed to my belief that I can change my biology, but this is sufficient.

Therefore, based on biopsychology, psychology, and my spiritual beliefs taken from many sources, I have formulated the opinion that the individual human creates his or her physical circumstances. Science and religion do agree that happiness is a state of mind; however, they disagree as to its source. I posit that there is even a difference between spirituality and religion as to the source of happiness. Science suggests that happiness is merely a response of neurotransmitters, genetics, and biological processing that causes happiness or a lack thereof. Religions suggest that happiness is a response to living a higher purpose in subservience to other people or to God; but the self-awareness takes away from happiness. My spirituality suggests that happiness is a result of my actions and my beliefs and whether I choose to be encumbered with dogma or embrace my divinity and partner with the greater divine so that I may affect the physical condition of my body. According to my belief, then cancer is something the individual causes. In the case of my brother-in-law, he is a very angry and cynical individual. To him happiness is in the pursuit of material  wealth and scientific reasoning; but, not all scientific reasoning is valid and he eschews many findings to the realms of pseudoscience. He has no love and acceptance for other individuals unless he feels they follow his intellectual beliefs. He is not open to alternatives and is very set in his ways.

To this my friend argued, “fine, I can see that he might be an angry individual, but what about a child or a happy person? How do you explain their cancers if you posit that it is the happiness of the individual?” I told her that we humans are not privy to the spiritual journey and decisions of the individual. Even if he or she says that they want to live, they may have come into this world deciding to take on that role of cancer to assist others in their development or to learn a spiritual lesson that he or she felt was needed; but they may not be consciously aware of their own spiritual planning. The realms of the spirit are not up for consideration by the mortal mind. Needless to say, she did not agree with me and promptly told me that I was a narcissistic, egoistic, uncaring, pagan and heathen because I did not give this dying individual the courtesy to feel sorry for him or put aside my petty beliefs to make his last hours on this earth happier.

I found this individual’s beliefs about self-responsibility to be misplaced and thus I felt a bit sad for her. I realize that many of her beliefs derive from what society and the media has told her. She believes, for example, that happiness comes from physical beauty, material wealth, fashionable clothing and accessories, and social status.  Furthermore, she defines happiness as the influx of income and medical insurance; when she recently lost her job, she lost her status, insurance, income, and ability to afford her lavish lifestyle. She recently turned 30 and began to realize that there is more to life and happiness than the pursuit of material wealth and physical beauty; however, she still has a long road to traverse. She is not happy right now and life is giving her a chance to determine the true meaning of happiness. Will she discover that happiness comes from within or will she continue this path of believing that happiness is only found in the external circumstances and fortunes from a whimsical divine being? As of this writing, I believe my theory about abdication of self-responsibility as a harbinger of disease in the body to apply to someone outside of myself; she is manifesting disease in her body and lives in utter fear of her own mortality. She does not want to change and believes that she is right while everyone else is wrong. That is not a path to happiness.  

Reference

Emoto, M. (2001). The hidden messages in water. New York, NY: Atria Books.  

Garrett, B. (2011). Brain and behavior: An introduction to Biological Psychology (3rd ed.). Los Angeles: Sage.

Myers, D.G. (2010). Exploring psychology in modules (8th ed.). New York: Worth Publishing.

Sharpe, K. J., & Bryant, R. I. (2005). Has science displaced the soul? Debating love and happiness. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Pondering my Contribution to the World

A few months ago, I took a philosophy class entitled Science and Religion. We read the book Has Science Displaced the Soul: Debating Love and Happiness (Sharpe & Bryant, 2005). This book represented a final lecture of sorts for the author Sharpe, because shortly after its publication, he died of terminal cancer. As a final reflection in the class, we were asked to envision what our final lecture would look like and ponder the contribution we would like to leave with the world once we were gone. A few months ago, I wrote a post entitled Insight into Growth where I discussed my insight about my future with psychology and how I had to let go of my personal drama and find a new source for sustainability. With this reflection, I was able to take this concept a step further. Also related to this insight was my increased understanding of how forest gardening and psudosciences connect the two diametrically opposed concepts that I explained in my post A Philosophical Discussion on Weed Aversion, Psychology, Religion, and Science. Also related was my increased understanding and accetance of my forest garden, it purposes in my life, and where I want to go with it; I discussed this in the post partially titled Winter Musings. This post also discussed the gift my brother in law left me when he ridiculed my garden. Basically, I have been building a greater understanding of myself and I felt this class paper contributed to that self-knowledge, so I decided to add it to this blog.

This class [Science and Spirituality] helped me to resolve some cognitive dissonances I possessed that were blocking me from my goal of truly helping people. This was more of a process of repairing some schemas rather than absorbing factual knowledge; therefore what I learned was perhaps not what this class intended to convey. In this class I learned how to distinguish the arguments of science and spirituality, how to affirm that all life is connected by having greater insight into a previous insight about my practice of psychology, and to find some final pieces to an identity I have worked to create for quite some time. These three things will contribute greatly to my further development and ultimately be a part of my final lecture that culminates my life work.

Before taking this class, I suspected that there was a connection between science and spirituality and I thought the debates were pointless; however, I never paid much attention to the debates. In my mind, there was no distinction; now I better comprehend the distinctions, the players in the camps, the ideological stances of each, and the desire to remain disconnected and unique. Teasing apart the multivariate constituents of an issue is always necessary to find any solution.

This led me to clarify my feeling that that all life is connected and yet distinct; as such, it is the responsibility for the human to repair and build more connections. A few months prior to this class, I had a foundation-shaking realization about my future with psychology; I realized that I would never assist people by continuing the path I was on. I realized I had to change my source of motivation from understanding my personal drama and attempting to apply this to my understanding of humanity to embracing the awesome expanse of human individuality and how that uniqueness can contribute to the whole. In addition, I realized I needed to stop shouldering the burden of people’s pain and I should provide them the tools to confront their pain, heal, and create a new life direction. Realizing the distinctness the people adamantly embrace by understanding the staunch ideological stances of the religionist and the scientists, I see that people are unconsciously cutting the threads of connection and feel they should be islands of self-promotion. People may want this, but this desire portends great pain for both humanity and our home, planet earth. I feel it is my duty to help heal these wounds of separation but I cannot do so without understanding the uniqueness of each individual and helping them to see their place in the whole.

Finally, I found some pieces that I was missing from my identity. For me, this was a final piece in the puzzle of my spiritual identity; it allowed me to completely free myself from the guilt that somehow I was incorrect for not being a Christian. This realization will also help me to be more effective in helping other people disentangle their identities from the menagerie of socially acceptable ideologies. The more I can realize the distinctions between ideas and tease apart their contributions rather than looking at a jumbled mess, then I am better equipped to assist other people find their unique contribution to the interdependent whole.

I suspect that people engage in faux displays of love and happiness because of these ideological, unconscious prisons, which obscure the meaning of true love and happiness; in essence, people do not know there is anything better. However, if people actively remove those barriers it is like lifting a veil and, for the first time, they will be able to experience the ultimate manifestation of the experience of what God and the brain create. It is realizing that the two are distinct, but ultimately creating connection between the two realms, such that the individual receives guidance from both and unites them in the heart.

These three, when taken together, represent what I wish for my life work to contribute to humanity. I wish to discern the sides in an argument and recognize the uniqueness of each, I wish to recognize the connection between each, and I wish to help people forge a new identity Basically, I see the world as stuck in a quicksand of ideology and custom; people are literally holding themselves prisoner through unconscious cognitions. My life work is to first learn about them: how these prisons are built, how to deconstruct them, and how to reconstruct a new existence from the pieces. Then it will be helping people through that process.

In my final lecture, I would like to say I succeeded at creating a system for people to escape their unconscious prisons and experience true love and happiness. I would discuss the three-part system. I would admonish the attendees to always discern and clarity their own unconscious processing before attempting to help other people. In essence, I would remind them to take care of their baggage rather than being a hypocrite; thus, they practice what they facilitate. Finally, I would pass the baton to future generations to pick up where I left off; helping them to understand the importance of continuing.

 

Reference

Sharpe, K. J. & Bryant, R. I. (2005). Has science displaced the soul? Debating love and happiness. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

 

 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Forest Garden: Winter 2013 Musings, Reflections, Intuition, and Goals


In February of 2012, I wanted to take a permaculture design course (PDC). There was one near my home that was affordable; however, at the last minute, despite finagling and scraping on my part to go, I had a very uncertain feeling. By this point, I was learning to pay attention to my uneasy feelings as a sign that something was not right for me. I listened and did not go. I am not sure why I had this feeling, however, I started paying more attention to the permaculture world as a result of not going, and I did discover some things that were disquieting.
Two months later, I had a chance to visit the farm of the PDC teacher; he needed help planting because he was behind in the growing season due to the demands of the PDC. I volunteered to assist him and was invited to come join him and others in a large-scale project. I was excited; this was a dream come true to finally see permaculture in action. If we got along then I would be accepted as a summer intern. He seemed to be an authority and a leader in the permaculture industry; this time would be fun. Unfortunately, it was not fun. I got to see a side of permaculture that I did not think existed; a side that shows its exclusionary, exclusive nature.

Needless to say, I realized that my exploration of permaculture had to be an internal journey where I learned to recognize and listen to my intuition rather than relying on some authority to show me the correct way. Do not get me wrong, I still want to take a PDC; however, I will do so to expand my knowledge not to fix my desire to dabble. I realized there was nothing wrong with me and my method. I desired to help the world; the world needed many different solutions because of the diversity of people on this planet. I realized that these authorities tried to pander a one-size-fits-all solution by putting everything into a neat, tidy, pigeonholed box. I still want to see how someone actually does forest gardening according to observation, planning, and proper plant placement; however, I only want to see what else is possible. I love my little forest garden and how we evolve together.

Today was a wonderfully warm, sunny winter day. I had not visited my little forest garden in a month or so; but I went today. Our winters are weird here; we are often in the lower 30’s in the day and overcast; but we have very little to no snow. Around mid-December we did have a few inches that stuck around for a few days; that was nice. But alas, it melted :( and we were back to gloomy days with no snow to look at. This winter has been milder than previous winters. My comfrey plants were green until December, and one plant still has a small portion of one leaf that is green. My strawberry plants are still green. Parts of the chicory and marigold plants are still green too. Of course, the grasses are still green in places; but they usually are. The odd thing is that there is some new growth: grasses and I believe some of my wildflower seeds are sprouting. For some reason, the huggle trenches are covered in green grass. I wonder if that area is warmer. I did hear somewhere that decomposition does happen in the winter and if that is the case then that explains the warmth. I suppose I could get scientific and measure the soil temp, but that will probably never happen.

Perhaps the thing I missed the most was the wonderful, peaceful, and focused feeling I have in my garden. The time I spent back there today helped jumpstart my creative visioning of the space; that part was dormant for the winter. This spring, I want to build a playhouse for my daughter. Last year I was concerned about the height of the branches of the purple plum tree that is over her play area. I have not taken a good look at the branches since before the leaves fell off, but today I did. Without the leaves I was able to distinguish the branch patterns and I realized some limbs I could easily remove that would open up the vertical height without sacrificing the coverage of the tree canopy; providing I ask the tree for permission first. I also evaluated the areas I still want to dig hugle-trenches in. Finally, I took a good look at the grasses and weeds that are sprouting and we came to a new understanding.

Last spring, between the time when I did not go to the PDC and when I visited the farm, I had gone to visit my family out of town. I was gone three weeks and when I got back, my garden had turned to a jungle of 18” tall plants. I gave them a haircut, but I did not remove them; I wanted to retain them for soil stability. I did not know what they were. This year, I will not be so hasty to cut them; I will identify them first because obviously they are pioneer plants. This year they are already sprouting and it seems there are even more than there was last year. I also did the same with the grasses; I cut them but left them.

When people saw my garden they thought I was crazy for all the weeds I left growing. I told them the weeds provided many functions. For one, the weeds shaded smaller plants that took longer to get going because the weeds were the first to sprout up. For two, they stabilized the soil and their shade cooled the soil. For three, many of them were dynamic accumulators and provided nutrients to the soil once they were cut down. Remember, my forest garden is on an abandoned organic garden plot that was plowed each year. The soil was loose, dusty, and I am sure it lacked nutrients.  This year, I am determined to identify each and every one of the volunteer herbaceous-layer plants and determine their function.

One area I was always hesitant about were the grasses. I had read many sources that said how bad grasses were because their shallow roots competed with trees. I tried a sheet mulch to get rid of them, but they were persistent. Finally, I gave in because they did help stabilize the damaged soil. This year, I want to get more cover crops going so I can use them as green manure. I also want to plant perennial covers of clover. I hope my comfrey grows big this year. This will be their second growing season; they were still small at the end of 2012 growing season but they were strong and resilient. I also want to plant some daffodil, onion, and garlic bulbs around the trees. I want all these plants to eventually crowd out the grasses. I am not going to pull up the grasses because of the important function they serve, but I want to plant other plants to take their place who can perhaps do a more complete job such as providing nutrients as well as soil stabilization and cooling. This is just my intuition that I do not want to wage war on nature. I know that many “know” permaculture, I might seem incredibly naive, lazy, and whimsical.

I wish to embark on a slight tangent at this moment. This last month my brother in law passed away from cancer. I have my own thoughts on cancer, death, life purpose, and the psychology of physical health, but this post is not the place to go into those philosophies. My brother in law was perhaps one of the most outspoken people about the untidiness and ugliness of my garden. He even went so far as to call all my work fruitless because I was following a pseudo-science. This statement deeply hurt me because he was insulting my baby, my garden, my partner. I do not believe death is meaningless, and despite our differences, I felt his passing gave me a gift. With his passing, this conversation about a pseudo-science came roaring back; emotions, physiological reactions, and everything else involved in that moment. I saw myself standing there and suddenly I was bigger and determined.  I saw myself continuing my forest garden, the learning, and the work. I saw what seemed like a future vision of my garden and my impact on the world by helping the method spread. His gift was to rile me up just enough that I would accept the challenge to educate people that permaculture and forest gardening were real and would help solve world hunger and lack. Thank you, my brother in law, for your amazing gift; you have reignited my courage in myself and this practice. I felt like I was faltering, stumbling, and starting to doubt if there was a point to my dabbling. Because of your wonderful display of doubt and insult, you have contributed to the healing of humanity and its apparent lack. Your love will ensure that more people will also feel the love. Thank you.

I will leave now, with a final thought about trusting myself. Last spring, my new apple tree, a three variety grafted one from Costco, blossomed. One of the branch’s blossoms turned to apples. The spindly, pencil-thick branch sported six baby apples. I was told by several people that I needed to remove those apples because they would break the branch. My husband was the only voice of dissent; he told me to leave them be. He said the tree had its own wisdom and he learned that from watching me follow my intuition in this garden. He said that the tree, in its wisdom, would decide if the apples were too much and it would drop its fruit. I was hesitant because six apples on such a small branch would be a lot of weight; but I let them be. I eagerly watched in trepid anticipation through the summer as the apples got bigger and bigger; the tree only dropped one apple. My husband and I observed a walnut tree branch that was growing into our part of the garden. We knew it was reaching for the peace of our place and wanted to be a part of it. He noted the wooden stilt supports on the branch and how they fooled the tree into thinking it was stronger than it was. We were also given the gift of witnessing a fruit laden branch break despite its wooden supports. It had over extended itself. The apple did not have supports and yet it was not showing any signs of distress. In the late summer, the apples were ready to pick because they slipped off of the tree with a slight twist of our hand. The apples ranged from 1” to 2” in diameter; they were small and not very tasty, but the point for this tree was not to produce tasty fruit but to prove that it could support fruit. I am very thankful for the chance to witness this display of plant wisdom and for my husband convincing me to listen to myself rather than the naysayers.



  

 

Forest Garden Year 3 (2012): Huggle-Trenches

Among my goals for the 2012 growing season, I wanted to put in some sort of water catchment. I love the idea of swales, but I was unable to find a resource on exactly how to do it; or at least none I could decipher.  A problem with swales, however, is I am not sure you can apply them to an existing garden without tearing it all up and starting over. My garden was done mostly on intuition and I did not spend time observing the land or researching proper plants and placement. Nonetheless, I am hesitant to dig up these plants because they are a part of me and we are evolving together. Another problem I heard is that swales are better suited to areas that do not have winter; I am not sure exactly where I heard this, but I believe it was from Paul Wheaton talking to either Geoff Lawton or Sepp Holtzer.

I decided I liked the idea of hugglekultur. However, I still had the same problem of it is best suited to a new landscape or gouged out area rather than an existing one. Another problem I have is I had a limited amount of sticks, no large tree trunks, and no extra soil. My dilemma then was how to apply huglekultur to an existing landscape using only sticks and without the assistance of extra soil. I wanted my trees to benefit from the huglekulture too. With these constraints, I came up with the idea of making a hugle-trench and digging it outside the drip line of my baby trees so that the roots can grow into the moistness.

I dug my trenches about 12" deep and averaging about 18" wide; some were narrower and some were wider depending upon the area I was digging. Below is one trench I dug.


 I filled these with sticks, some pencil thin, but most around 1-2" thick. In the trench I dug along the fence for wildflowers, I put in some branches about 6" thick. I also had a limited amount of 4" logs that I interspersed among my trenches. I did encounter some roots from some near-by, existing trees; I cut these roots and since they were mostly small, I do not think that will do any damage to the full-grown existing trees. Below is a trench with some sticks.


When the trenches had a good amount of sicks, I covered the sticks with the dirt, tamped the dirt by walking over it several times, and then thoroughly watered them. Below is a covered and watered-down trench.

 
 

The picture below is an updated graph of my garden space. My measurements were more accurate on this picture than the one before; on the first one I did alot of guess work assuming my space was square :/.  On this graph I show a rough estimate of the current crown of my trees; the first one showed what I expected their coverage to look like a few years from now. The brown areas show the trenches I dug. The pink dashes are stepping stones that line the edges of my beds, as shown above, or simply stones to walk on within beds. 

  

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Insight into Growth

At a certain point, growth cannot continue unless something changes. Growth is energy and unless energy is exchanged, it cannot change. A decline in something is a change of energy; however, that energy is no longer facilitating the desired direction because it is moving on to something else. I realized with my psychology studies that I need to change something to continue. If I continue on my same path then my knowledge will not grow and I will stagnate; worse, I will never be able to help people with my knowledge. The change that must occur is the application of my knowledge and the source that drives its initiation.

Currently my knowledge is driven or sparked by my personal drama, my baggage, my pain, my disorder, my dissonance, my separation; in other words, the things about myself that I feel have somehow damaged, insecure, or limited me. I need a new source to continue. If I continue to wallow in self-pity then my knowledge will cessate or plateau at some point and I will never successfully apply this to anyone; to do so would assume that everyone is like me. If I continue to wallow in self-pity then I will fail to appreciate the awesome expanse of human individuality. If I continue on this path then my efforts are for not. I can only learn so much about myself and examine my motivations so many times and from so many different angles; at a certain point, there is nothing new to discover/recover. What then? What is the purpose of my pursuit of knowledge of human cognition and interaction if I never take the leap toward understanding the awesome expanse of human individuality?

Over the past two weeks or so I watched the entire series of Full Metal Alchemist and Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood. Both drew me in, both caused me many hours of serious cogitation, both caused me feelings of expanded self, both caused self-awareness, both caused contemplation on the purpose of life, and both caused me to question my motivations. Basically, both caused a considerable earthquake that cracked my foundation. The first series caused cracks but the second series lead to fissures in my subconscious; I will never be the same.

My insight came from observing the maturation of the main character Edward Elric. I noticed that while he always had a crabby disposition, he went from being relatively happy to very angry as the show progressed. At the same time, he also grew considerably in his abilities and understanding of life. I wondered how an individual could attain such a high level of understanding and yet grow more bitter and angry. At the end of Brotherhood, Edward decided to give up his alchemic ability to bring back his brother from the other side. At this point, he was happy, secure, confident, and assured of his decision to become a regular human.

I wonder, is it possible to give up such an important part of oneself and still find happiness? Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. He did not give up his ability but he gave up his catalyst for that ability. If he found a new catalyst, a catalyst of love, then he would regain his ability and it would be much stronger. His catalyst was drama: pain, isolation, separation, “oughts”, “shoulds”, and all the other things he had to make right. He felt compelled to protect the weak and fight against injustice and for that he grew angrier and angrier; he lost his joy, and became encumbered in cynicism. In a strange dichotomy, he was helping people but he became more burdened than ever.

This revelation did not bode well for me; after all my purpose is to help people reach their potential by helping them to remove their psychological barriers that block success. If I continue on my path of exploring psychology from the catalyst of my own drama then I too may lose my joy. I also feel I may never properly help people. How could I help people if it meant that I would grow bitter and loose my love of life and my innocence?

I realize that help should not be about burden but about equal exchange where quality matters. If I give help with expectation of righting some wrong or fighting someone’s battle or acting as a protector then my intentions are to shoulder the burden and burden is exactly what I will get in return. Esther and Jerry Hicks in their Sara books bring up a concept they call the chain of pain. We can never participate in making the world a better place if we contribute to the chain of pain; if we assume to be a champion for someone weaker by inflicting pain on the bullying party. Pain begets pain; pain will not beget freedom. That is not equivalent exchange.

However, if I can help people to gain more and more mastery over their lives and have more control over their situation then I am not asking to shoulder burden; I am asking them to stand on their own two feet. In essence, I would say, “Here are some resources you need but you must make them work”. Jesus said that you can give a man a fish and feed him for one day or you can teach him to fish and feed him for a lifetime. This is entirely dependent upon the individual’s desire to help himself. Neither of us are helped when I shoulder the burden. I am taking away their life lessons and in return putting them in a state of dependence. I am acting like I can control their lives.

I theorize that helpful behavior is directly dependent on my state of mind and belief about my purpose and my self-worth. If I feel I am worth something then I will not shoulder the burden. If I love myself, then I live in love, accept that everything happens for a reason, and know that knowledge and evetns are neutral. Events are also neutral; we give them meaning. If I am open to the synchronicity of events, then I realize that everything that happens occurs because I asked for the next leap of understanding. That is equivalent exchange. Quality matters and it is not dependent upon delusions of righteousness but on what was actually given in the first place. In return, because this is an exchange, we are both satisfied and each of us has made significant steps toward righting our own malfunction.

The primary principle in permaculture is the concept of stacking functions. Everything has more than one purpose; nothing is isolated to one solitary purpose. Everything is interdependent and functions as a whole; however, without each piece, the system is fragmented and the whole will not live up to its potential. Even the individual pieces will not live up to their potential if they do not have their needs met by interdependent association. Help is given when it is needed and out of love rather than obligation and thus everyone thrives toward potential. Equivalent exchange stacks functions because it has multiple inputs. All events have a purpose and that purpose is what the individual needs to function at potential or fix the critical errors that are leading to loss of potential. Everything happens for a reason and nothing has only one reason.

For example, someone I know lost her cat. She is upset and heartbroken. On my path I am learning what it means to live in reality but still recognize where other’s are on their journey and not impose my beliefs or suggestions on their current state of affairs. It is not right of me to assume that I know what is best for someone else. I feel this individual needs to let go and I have felt for some time that she would lose her cat because she clung to him so desperately; the cat was the epitome of everything she ever lost and she expected that he would make things right. This individual does not want to deal with her pain and chooses to drown it in substances or hide it in object displacement. I know she needs to deal with her pain. Unfortunately, as part of my growth and disentangling myself from my enabling of this situation, I became crass and unfeeling toward her; I did not want to be a part of her drama and I made sure I confronted her with her drama. In her pain today, I rubbed salt on her wounds and I heartlessly told her that everything happens for a reason and she needed to face those reasons. One purpose for this loss was to help me understand that I cannot assume to tell others how they should conduct their affairs. I need to let go and let her evolve of her own volition rather than assuming that I know how her life should play out. I am a mere outsider; I am not privy to her personal torment therefore I cannot assume to know how to fix it. Only she can fix her life; but she has to want to. Nagging will not help. I am thankful that this individual had this painful experience and was willing to share some of the reason for it happening. Now this was one reason this event happened; however, there are many more and most of them are for her. It is not up to me to decide what the meaning of this event is for her. The functions are stacked; there are many reasons this event happened and one of those reasons was to help me reevaluate my need to facilitate someone else’s life.

As a human, I am one. My efforts are the result of one. However, I am a part of the whole. I have my purpose and in fulfilling my purpose, I allow others to do their job as well. If I am broken then others will not function. My existence affects others but I am still just a part of a bigger whole; the wholeness of humanity. Humanity is broken and the machine of our collective potential is laboring and exhausted because the life giving flow of human potential critically damaged in many places as many humans have chosen to shut off their flow and interaction. I am one but I can affect the many. Long ago, I read the words of Jesus that I can do all this and more and I accepted it; I accepted that I was capable of much more than I give myself credit for. The bible also states that where two or more join their abilities are exponentially increases; no longer is it a matter of addition but it becomes multiplication. When I am a one with others, I am more powerful. I am a part of humanity and it is my duty to do my job the best I can. When I properly function then others around me will have an easier time repairing themselves because I am fixing my malfunctions so they no longer have to compensate; I am reducing their burden so they are freer to focus on their own development if they so choose.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Siblings But Strangers



Yesterday afternoon I finished this drawing; I have no idea where the inspiration came from but I felt almost compelled to complete it once I finally started. I entitled this picture Siblings but Strangers to bring awareness that we all come from the same source but through our petty infighting have managed to draw the lines of distinction with such definition that we no longer relate to someone who is "different" or "one of them". I detect six distinct components in this picture that I feel may represent six major religions or schools of thought; three major and three subtler. As for the three major schools of thought: The Yin-Yang represents the Eastern Philosophy; the wooden eight sided star is a Celtic Druid symbol but I felt compelled to change its orientation; and the dream catcher represents the Native American beliefs. The first subtle symbol is the orientation of the star with the dream catcher in the middle; it almost seems like a Coptic Cross. The second symbol is the necklace attached to the dream catcher; I feel this may represent materialism which appears at odds with spirituality. While less defined as a school of thought, another symbol is the shadow; there are those who believe that our shadow selves are important to know and embrace. I see the undercurrents of similarities that abundantly dance through them all; subtle hues that are overpowered by the weightier colors of definition.

The rest of the picture contains many more symbols which are not necessarily indicative of philosophical beliefs but are representations of my personal feelings. A friend of mine noticed how everything appears to be moving toward the center as if it were a vortex; I wanted to the star/dream catcher combination to appear as if it were glowing which does give the impression of movement. I choose red for the dreamcatcher and necklace because red represents the lifeblood. The orange in the star was meant to represent soil; I originally wanted to show the life cycle of the dandelion flower but images did not want to manifest. The Druid stars I have seen were all metallic, but I felt mine should be wood; perhaps due to the inherent life-quality in wood and its ability to re-sprout. I wanted all of the rainbow colors represented. The sky became both blue and purple; perhaps to represent both air and water. The green represents the earth but the shadow appears as if the earth is providing a reflection like a pool of water. The yellow in the middle of the dreamcatcher represents the sun and the element of fire. Other than the Yin-Yang the dreamcatcher necklace also contains five other charms. The triangle at the top represents journey and direction, the square represents the definition of the body, the spiral represents the mind with encompassing knowledge and wisdom, the heart represents the force of love, and the squiggle represents the caprice of joy or spiritual living. Two observations I have about how the pictured played out are the date I signed and the coloration of the star. The date: I feel 8 represents infinity because it is the infinity sign when laying on its side and 2012 is the year when the world will change and life as we know it will take on a new direction. Life exists infinitely but changes will occur that will encourage sibling recognition. The coloration of the star and its dirt also seems dual natured: on the left it seems older and more established while on the right it seems newer and fresher. It took me about 2 weeks to complete this picture and I am right handed so I draw from left to right, but I do not know if these two things could account for this old/new transition effect. 
 
I wanted to include a picture of this piece before its completion. My friend felt it, in its incomplete state, was a great symbol. Cogitating on this, I remembered a passage I read in Jean Auel's Children of the Earth series. The main character Ayla noted that several cave paintings were incomplete and almost appeared as if the form, usually an animal, was moving out of the spirit world because part of it was faint and indistinct. I wonder if this incomplete picture represents the movement from the spirit world in to this world of definition.