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A is for the Artificiality that Makes Men Mean

In the ABCs of Love, A stands for Authenticity. In the ABCs of Hate and Fear, A stands for Artificiality. Each alternative emotional ecosystem – love or hate/fear – offers its basic ABCs. When boys are raised to be authentic and true to themselves with the freedom to be gentle, creative and caring, they become nurturing, appreciative and affectionate men because their loving qualities are rooted in their nature as children of Divine Love and spring up naturally to be explored, expressed and experienced without inhibitions.

But, when a boy grows up in an artificially superficial, image-conscious, media-hyped modern society – a world in which being authentic, trusting and honest is too emotionally risky to endure – the boy becomes a man who has learned to defend against being hurt and to protect his heart from being shared “too” openly. Open, tender-heartedness is not allowed in modern society without great penalties of guilt, shame and pain, especially among male members of society. Tender-heartedness is ridiculed as unmanly, an offense to a masculinity that is supposed to conform to social norms to earn social approval. To introduce the A of Artificiality into men, is to turn “men” into “mean.”

One way to look at this transformation of gentle, tenderhearted boys into mean men is to realize that the modern world forces them to choose to be either outright bullies to some degree or another or scared men who won’t stand up for what they believe in because they are intimidated by bullies. It takes courage to be a genuinely caring and nurturing man who is both not a bully and not scared into silence and inaction by bullies. Men who live like bullies or who allow bullies to run society are mean towards themselves and others. In their divine core, all men have what it takes to join together to create a society far different from what modern society has become. We can set aside our personally customized version of meanness and rise up together as mean-free men of honorable valor and highest value.

Me + n (for “nurturing”) stands for men who live true to their divine nature as children of an infinitely loving Divine Parent. It’s true that at some point in our development, we become aware that we are an individual “me.” “Oh, look at me, can you see me?” Experts in human development identify the emergence of our individuality in games like “peek-a-boo” or watching and reacting to ourselves and others in a mirror. In both games and other life lessons (such as being weaned from breast and/or bottle to feed ourselves), we learn to tell the difference between ourselves and others. We no longer see ourselves as being entirely incorporated within an undivided whole. We begin to learn that we are separate from the others around us and are then expected to learn how to live in awareness of this separation. For most of us in modern society, we learn to some degree to be scared by separateness because it seems as if we no longer can trust the “others” from whom we feel separate to treat us gently, affirm our value and meet our needs. Separation anxieties seep into our hearts and take up permanent residence as agents of the fear of being alone combined with the fear of not being left alone instead of bullied.

Have you ever struggled with the fear of being alone while also realizing that you don’t want to be hurt anymore by someone you allow to be close to you? Can we trust anyone to be close to us to prevent our being alone without having to allow that person to somehow be mean to us and make us pay a price for not being alone? That’s a key issue in modern society and has been a key issue in human society for a long, long time. How long? For as long as men have been taught to be aggressive with their greater physical strength in order to protect more vulnerable members of society (typically women and children) from harm inflicted by other aggressors – both human and non-human. So long as we expect stronger men to take up the role of protectors from aggressors, we distort their perspective on life and teach them that we expect them to learn to be mean, not merely nurturing.

The A that stands for “aggression” is an artificial quality for humans of any gender. When we expect males to adopt aggression as a lifelong quality we expect them to internalize that “a” and add it into the formula to become “me + a + n = mean.” The quality of aggression interferes in the development of nurturing qualities when boys and young men instead engage in male roles by adopting stereotypical aggressive solutions to social problems. (Expressions of aggression can be mental instead of physical in boys and young men who have exceptionally quick minds and discover that they can outthink others to have their way even when they don’t have stronger bodies. Sometimes such boys and young men turn their aggression inward upon themselves and act out in self-harming ways rather than harm others. In that case, they are punishing themselves for not living according to society’s masculine norms. Believing oneself to be an utter failure in the eyes of those who matter most can lead to self-abuse – including abusive use of drugs, alcohol, sex, food and other pain-numbing distractions – and ultimately suicide.)

We are unreasonable to complain when men we’ve expected to develop aggressive qualities to protect us from other aggressive people continue to be aggressive when they leave the social roles we trained them to fulfill as aggressive men and try to move into other social roles. For example, we train some of our young men to be aggressive members of our military at the time of young adulthood when it would be natural for them to learn instead to be nurturing partners within intimate relationships. We cannot next expect these young men to become gentle, nurturing spouses and parents without supporting their letting go of the habits of aggressive problem-solving required in military action and their learning replacement habits of nurturing problem-solving required of competent caregivers. When we welcome these young military-oriented men to become police officers and structure and equip our law enforcement system like a branch of the military we are hardly fair to these men.

In fact, we are entirely unreasoning and unreasonable. We surround them with all of the signs, symbols and symptoms of still being in the military and expected to be at war with an enemy and then burden them with a contrasting set of expectations brewed largely of force-based responses to threats while laced with inadequate training in alternative responses. This is especially unreasonable when we expect our our militarily trained young adults (both men and women) to use violence to defeat enemies who hide among civilian populations and then ask them to return to our civilian population and not continue to sort automatically between friend and foe on whatever terms they learned in the military. We are now the civilian population among which hide those (also here out of uniform) from whom we hope the police will protect us.

(A similar line of reasoning applies to young men whom we encourage to be trained in aggressive sports for our entertainment, as if they are modern gladiators fighting to the “win/death” in our technologically enhanced and broadcast coliseums. Pay-for-violence media abound as avenues for boys and young men to achieve fame and fortune, the ultimate in social approval! Yet, somehow magically we expect them to be model intimate partners off their fields of battle. We pay them handsomely for their on-target violence and then fault them for targeting others with it.)

Men who faithfully learn to be mean in order to survive in life-threatening (and pride-gaining) circumstances will not suddenly stop being oriented to meanness when they are no longer immersed in those circumstances. A change in outer circumstances is not alone adequate to cause a change in inner orientation. Habits of aggressive emotional, mental and social reactions take time and practice to learn. They also take time and practice to unlearn. It matters little whether those habits were learned in a highly competitive family, school, sports, street life, military or other intensely performance-oriented setting in which a male’s identity is equated with success as an aggressor. Once such habits are taken to heart, men who are trained in this manner need generous and gracious help and abundant opportunities to release their mean habits and acquire new ones that are nurturing.

The A in mean men is not a permanent quality. Beneath it are the natural, lifelong and life-sustaining qualities of affection, appreciation, affirmation, acceptance and assertiveness. In short, other A-list qualities are far more natural to male members of society than aggression ever is. Aggression is artificial, not at all natural to men. Let’s no longer ask men to be unnaturally aggressive and instead encourage and allow them to be comfortable with being assertive and other A-list qualities. Let’s affirm men as expresses of God’s affection and appreciation and stop insisting that they be expressions of God’s anger.

Anger is not even an A-list quality of God. If we are willing to listen to Jesus who said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father,” we’ll realize that God is not angry with us and we need not be angry with or aggressive towards ourselves or each other. We are not sinners in the hands of an angry God or in the hands of anyone else who feels angry. We are innocent children of God whom an artificially oriented modern society born of centuries of mistaken ideas has wronged by insisting that we feel guilty and ashamed of ourselves for our best qualities. In God’s eyes, we have nothing to be guilty or ashamed of. We have made the mistake of believing those who do not speak for God’s heart and do not know God’s true mind towards us.

Jesus spoke and speaks for God. Other kind, gentle, nurturing and courageous males and females who are wholeheartedly committed to the welfare of all humanity have pointed us towards the authentic nature of God too. Those who have known God intimately have gently tried to redirect our attention to the qualities of God too often overlooked when we feel afraid and want God to protect us from harm. We expect God to use force and be aggressive on our behalf as we expect larger-bodied humans to do. In that manner, we have tried to reduce God to the limitations of physically expressed humans. God is bigger and more powerful than that even while remaining totally nurturing, accepting, affirming and actively in favor of each of us.

© Art Nicol 2015

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Social Justice Impact of Idealizing the Nuclear Family

Many conservatives among Christians, including those grouped as fundamentalists but also many members of mainline churches, idealize the family structure of a married man and woman together with their one or more biological children as the optimum goal for families. This idealized configuration is called the “nuclear family.”  Some flexibility is allowed for adding non-biological children and perhaps even an occasional step-parent into the mix.  Typically little or no flexibility is allowed for parenting by same-sex couples or for recognition of single-parent families as potentially healthy models for raising children. As is typical of moralistically oriented believers in God, the top-down thought-structure of this ideal renders anything less than its attainment a failure to comply with God’s only ordained family lifestyle.  Those who fail to engage in child-rearing as continuously married, opposite-sex parents are second class citizens who deserve to be burdened by guilt and shame for their failure to “do family” God’s way.  Conformity to the “model” nuclear family many conservatives claim as their narrow definition of family is frequently at the heart of what conservative advocates mean by “family values.”

In the days when wealth was deemed proof of one’s worthiness in the eyes of God, poverty was a sign of sinfulness and disfavor with God – or at least a sign of second class citizenship and loss of voice and influence in the Church.  In modern times, participation in a man-woman nuclear family is similarly argued to be necessary to prove one’s worthiness in the eyes of God and to qualify to be empowered within the Church while participation in any other style of family is deemed a sign of disfavor with God, mostly likely associated with sin.  In Jesus’ days on earth, legalistic religious folks asked him if a man were blind on account of his sins or the sins of his parents on the assumption that sin had to be somewhere in the family tree to cause his blindness.  Today, legalistic believers now seem to ask if a child’s participation in a family structure other than a man-woman nuclear family is due to the child’s sins or the sins of the child’s parents.  The assumptions inherent in this question overshadow the child with dark implications of unworthiness and disfavor before God – either directly or by parental association.  Although the child has no choice in structuring the family in which he or she is raised, legalistic folks place false burdens of guilt and shame on the child on account of the family’s structure.  Where poverty once condemned children regardless of the fact that they did not determine their economic status today both poverty and family structure often cause a child to suffer from self-doubt and loss of social status regardless of the child’s lack of power to control either social factor.

Children raised in poverty and/or within non-nuclear family structures have an empowering opportunity just as the blind man had.  They can turn to Jesus to gain freedom from any blinding pain and distress caused by their society’s misrepresentations of God’s standards.  They can regain clarity of sight by learning to allow God’s grace to be proven to be sufficient just as the blind man proved it in Jesus’ day by accepting sight at Jesus’ hand.  So long as believers in Jesus continue to adhere to their myopic prejudice that gives higher social approval and value to families structured as a married pair of opposite-sex adults plus child(ren) they will remain at odds with God’s position on this matter and continue to mislead many others to believe as they do.  God’s position is based on grace, not upon any moralistic rules or rigid definitions about family structure.  If believers want to reflect God’s position on this issue and “do justice” towards children raised in non-nuclear families, we must “love mercy” beyond the law and “walk humbly with God” as if God knows better what our position on this issue – and our response towards members of these families – should be.   We distort and impair social justice so long as we allow any position other than God’s gracious one to prevail within the body of believers upon whom Jesus calls to comfort, heal and bless the children who come unto him.  We are precisely the ones Jesus expects to set the children free rather than burden their innocence with false guilt and shame on account of matters beyond their control.

James 1:27 reports that the “[r]eligion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  At the outset of the industrial age, as family units moved from rural settings, where extended families were normal, to take up residence in urban settings, many family units rapidly trimmed down to parents and children as older adults failed to survive the transition.  To make ends meet the parents in many families worked long and exhausting hours, sometimes even dying in their attempts to provide for their children. Children were also put to work.  This two-tiered, struggling family unit became the new ideal due to economic realities as interpreted by adults who proudly strove for independent self-reliance in cities where they often did not know who else to trust.  Success was defined as having struggled to achieve financial stability sufficient to support a nuclear family while not allowing anyone to play you for a fool.  The stresses of the identity crisis of the industrial age coupled with the assumption that independence was the touchstone of maturity as an adult drove a wedge between adult generations.  A similar wedge-mentality now justifies a belief among many youth and young adults that older adults are too “out of touch” with modern advancements to have much of practical value to offer to the young.  What some conservative Christians lament as the “breakdown of the nuclear family” began as a breakdown of the extended family and advanced into a breakdown throughout all strata of society.  Over the course of several generations, the cohesive village so needed by children vanished into a pile of disintegrated lives.

At the dawn of the industrial age it was deemed necessary to set aside the traditions of extended-family, village-like societies and adopt the nuclear family as a new-era practicality.  The tyranny of the old had to be thrown off just as the tyranny of King George had been thrown off.  Pioneers moving into the industrial age to settle it with a new population capable of surviving there had to leave old ways behind and fend for themselves in self-reliance as they fashioned a new set of values and priorities suited to the industrial age.  By institutionalizing the nuclear family as ideal, subsequent generations of settlers in the industrial age have kept pace with the demands of change that became even more accelerated under the influence of increasingly expanding technology.* Today the accelerating pace of this technological revolution is driving wedges between thinner and more fragile layers of society and splintering the whole into wafer-thin shards.

Along with the wafering of society came a decline in parental energy, focus and attention directed towards child-rearing.  When parents allowed conformist pressures of the marketplace economy to shape them into income-earners and product-consumers, the quality of life for all family members declined as media-driven standards of comfort and convenience became new social norms. The absence of extended family structures and “villages” to offer children alternative havens of physical safety, emotional comfort and exposure to elders’ wisdom has been an unrecognized source of harm one might call “passive neglect” of the best interests of the children.  Yet this neglect is hard to spot when it is the normal condition under which children grow up.  What is missing and forgotten for generations becomes invisible.  This invisibility is a form of blindness that Jesus would help us to overcome if we ask him to.  He will restore the sight of those who want to see what’s best for children.

On account of social wafering, emotional as well as social orphans and widows abound in modern society in various disguises.  Yet many who call themselves Christians fail to look after them in their distress and instead look down upon them to add to their distress.  Such so-called followers of Jesus fail to follow his example when to follow would conflict with their desire to ascend into and conform to the conveniences and cordiality of modern society’s more privileged ranks. Even the modestly privileged focus on advancing up the social ranks rather than follow Jesus into fields that are white with the harvest.  Of course, those who conform to the world rather than be transformed are reluctant to classify their conformity to convenient social norms as “being polluted by the world,” but that’s precisely what it is.  To focus on building, maintaining and providing for a nuclear family to be proud of on society’s terms too often leaves the orphans and widows unlooked after in their distress, feeling ashamed as second class citizens in both the world and within the body of believers.  Prideful glorification of the nuclear family and of so-called family values that idealize a narrowly defined family structure shortchanges Jesus’ ministry to all whom society (including many Christians) presumes to be unworthy of God’s grace and favor.

Social justice is the core of God’s outreach on Earth.  God would use believers in Jesus as restorers of justice – as ones who give sight to those who are blinded by the guilt and shame that society shifts to them to excuse its neglect.  There is no excuse for conforming to the values of the modern industrial-technological era in place of the values, priorities and perspective Jesus modeled while on Earth and calls us to honor even now.  Perhaps for a person who never heard of Jesus or, having heard, chose to ignore what he or she heard, there may be the excuse of ignorance.  But for those who claim to know and honor Jesus there is no excuse.  It is not enough to rely upon the grace of God and assume that Jesus will once again pray “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”  It is time to stop relying upon God’s future forgiveness.  It is time instead to repent of our mistaken preference for worshipping socially approved pride in place of spiritually disciplined humility, accept forgiveness now and rise up to serve as the Father would have us serve.  As Jonah demonstrated, the forgiven make powerful messengers of God’s grace and forgiveness.

As he promised, Jesus has sent us the Spirit who leads us into all truth. The Holy Spirit exists.  Its holy function is to comfort us in our afflictions and lead us beyond them in service to others to whom God assigns us.  The afflictions of pride are multiple.  The afflictions of pride associated with idealizing the nuclear family are not our only afflictions but we need to be set them aside and overcome them for the sake of the orphans and widows who remain in distress until the people who call themselves followers of Jesus come to their aid. In God’s eyes, the race, religion, creed, ethnicity, economic class, educational status, gender or sexual orientation and historical background of the orphan or widow do not matter. How they may have become orphaned or widowed does not matter.  Jesus calls us to care for them in their distress until their distress is fully relieved and their vision of God as their loving Divine Parent is restored.  Jesus calls us not only to pray for them but to be his means for answering those prayers as we welcome them into his Kingdom.

If we have any style of family we take delight in, Jesus does not object so long our delight remains laced with gratitude to God and does not turn into pride and cause us to fail to invite others to participate within those experiences that delight us.  If our families are valuable to us and to God, sharing them with others who lack such family delights will relieve them of their lack-based distress and loneliness as social outcasts who are all too well-acquainted with grief.  To invite orphans and widows to be included in our family delights and to welcome all who co-create delightful families by any structure pleases the Divine Parent of us all. It matters not to God whether our family structure is traditionally rural, industrial or post-industrial or innovatively adaptive to prevailing social conditions.  It’s time to focus on pleasing the Head of the Family instead of making elaborate plans to please ourselves while we forget the orphans and widows routinely left out of our self-indulgent plans.  It’s time to suspend our habits of judging those who live within non-nuclear, non-traditional family structures, especially if they are reaching out to orphans and widows in distress more effectively than we are.  Until we’ve learned to reach out at least as effectively we may need to admit how much we have to learn from those we’d previously looked down upon and failed to welcome with humbly open arms and hearts.

* The potentially toxic bloom of technological algae has been labeled “high technology” but it remains to be seen by what measure it is deemed “high.” Perhaps the high is false.  If “high” refers primarily to the capacity of such technologies to produce higher outputs per units of input by humans at faster and faster rates in order to generate greater financial profits with declining payrolls and other benefits to human resources, it may not, in the long run, be directing humanity towards anything higher.  It may promote the worship of mammon.  As a reflection of the worship of the false idol of maximized profits, “high tech” may be leading humanity towards adopting lower and lower standards of character and conduct as “normal” while humans fail to learn to make wise decisions in nano-seconds.  Wisdom may take longer to process and adopt – perhaps the length of time that councils of elders used to take before deciding the fate of their communities.  Data-crunching computers may not be capable of discerning wisdom at any speed.  Like the Corvair, computers may turn out to be unsafe at any speed unless their friendly users are intentionally setting adequate time aside to commune with God at the speed of Stillness.  Stillness may be the escape velocity humans need to attain in order to escape the downward pull of ego’s brazenly self-congratulatory gravity.  Otherwise we risk remaining trapped in orbit around the ego while spinning evermore chaotically and oblivious to the more expansive and enriching possibilities that await us if we were to travel serenely inward to know ourselves as one with God and not as a separated, self-reliant, lonely egos at all.

© Art Nicol 2015

The Value of a Multidisciplinary Perspective on Homosexuality

I start by offering a simple idea: The perspective of the Divine Source of All Life has greater validity and value than the human perspective of any one individual or group of human beings.  As a corollary to that idea I suggest that the more a person or group of people investigates the truth about life through the eyes of multiple perspectives, the closer to God’s vision of life that individual or group may come.  Life is God’s domain of expertise. How God looks at Life matters most.  Human experts have been investigating life with the aid of multiple disciplines or fields of expertise for centuries.  Each of these fields may serve as a lens through which to focus on the whole of life with increasing clarity, peripheral vision and depth of field as if coming to see Life as God sees It. Multiple human perspectives sharing the common unifying goal of discovering the whole truth about Life approach seeing Life from God’s point of view.  All we need to do is learn to integrate all of our investigative perspectives into a unified vision.

As we have been investigating Life perhaps, over time, we have gained ever expanding insights and understandings concerning the Divine Expertise, which we might call a realm of “Knowledge, Understanding and Wisdom.” If this is so, we must also acknowledge that we continue to investigate a Mystery of the Invisible Not Yet Come Fully into View.  As Ralph W. Sockman said, “The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder.” As we humans explore an expanding island of Divine Knowing, our exploration exposes us to an expanding shoreline of wonder about the not-yet-known Ocean that is God.  The shoreline of wonder is the paradoxical meeting place of God and humanity along which we may walk alongside God in contemplation to know all we need to know but still not be equal to God.  In fact, it may be kind of God to reveal knowledge gradually instead of all at once.  Instant revelation of All might be mind-blowing.

A common saying is that “A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.”  That saying typically comes into play when a person who has grasped a bit of knowledge assumes that his or her tidbit is all there is to know or the main thing to know about the subject matter and then runs ahead to claim expertise and takes action based on that claim.  It is like a child’s discovering a sea shell and instantly claiming to know all that oceanographers might know about the ocean.  Problems thereafter tend to arise from that person’s lack of understanding about the broader context of his or her bit of knowledge and a shortcoming in wisdom as to what to do with his or her discovery of it.  First discoveries may be exciting but they do not tell the full story.  Sometimes problems arise from a lack of humility and a fear-based need to assert certainty because the presence of an unanswered question causes too much anxiety and insecurity.  Such is the effect of the unknown Mystery of Life upon people who are afraid and allow their fears to dominate their thinking. Yet fears need not run roughshod over reason for those who have faith in God’s power to lead us into all truth step by step if we are willing to follow courageously and compassionately with open hearts and minds.

To illustrate the value of looking at any topic from more than one perspective or field of expertise, let me address the controversy over what use humans might best make of passages of Scripture from any Sacred Text in addressing social issues.  Let me bring this illustration into sharper focus by making it more concrete: What use might humans best make of the passages of Scripture from any Sacred Text that address how to relate to fellow humans who are not (or may be suspected to be not) purely heterosexual?  Please note that I’m not phrasing this issue as “The Gay Issue.”  Why not? Because studies of human sexuality reveal that human sexuality is diversely arrayed along a continuum of sexual orientations from exclusively heterosexual to exclusively homosexual and that even the idea of identifying a permanent place along the continuum may be misleading because human sexuality may be fluid and not fixed.  This point itself illustrates the value of incorporating multiple disciplines or fields of expertise into the mix so that one does not inadvertently adopt a mistaken assumption into how one phrases an issue under consideration.  There’s more to the story than a simplistic dualism between two opposite polarized sexual orientations. That is, it’s not “Gay vs. Straight.”

I will assume for the moment that most people believe that the majority of human beings are purely heterosexual and that a small minority have some lesser or greater degree of homosexual interests, desire or tendencies.  Does that possibility automatically translate into permission for the majority to impose itself on a minority and demand conformity? In a democracy in which those with the most votes win, there’s a temptation to arrive at such a conclusion.  But that tendency again illustrates the value of a multidisciplinary approach to an issue. The expertise called “political science” suggests that it may be desirable and helpful to weigh the votes of informed voters differently from uninformed ones and give greater value to the votes of those who have gained some measure of expertise about a topic.  Of course, that’s not how US politics works currently, but the possibility does exist that uninformed opinions/votes might be mistakenly allowed to cancel out informed opinions/votes to arrive at an outcome that is based more on unrepented ignorance than on comprehensively integrated knowledge acquired from a variety of fields of knowledge after diligent study, consultation with higher authorities and practice in the fields.  (It is far more likely that ignorance is instantaneous than that knowledge is.)  So far, to some extent under some circumstances, we have allowed politics to weigh the voices of people who feel strongly about an issue over the voices of those who do not feel as strongly.  For example, vocal protestors and special interest advocates influence US politics beyond the one-person, one-vote level by expressing their emotionally charged opinions and gaining the attention of the public through mass media.  How much the measure of expertise matters remains to be seen.

A field of expertise called “Law” offers several vantage points from which to view the issue of how passages of Sacred Text might best be used to address issues related to non-heterosexuality.  Let me cite three points of law in this context.  First, there is the point of law that controls introduction of testimony in a trial in regard to opinions in contrast to facts.  Witnesses who observe and recall facts are typically allowed to testify to what they recall observing, with the accuracy of their observations, recollections and reports tested by probing questions from different parties who have an interest in the outcome of the trial.  What the law calls “lay witnesses” may testify about their opportunity to observe, recall and report facts (with whatever degree of bias they may have) but not necessarily about their opinions concerning the meaning of such facts.  Opinions that interpret facts are, in the Law’s way of looking at the process, the exclusive domain of witnesses with expertise relevant to fields of knowledge and understanding that will assist the “Trier of Fact” (the judge in bench trials or the jury in jury trials) in weighing, interpreting and understanding the basic facts laid out by lay witnesses. A purported expert witness’ expertise must be established or conceded before he or she may express an opinion weighted as an “expert opinion.”  On rare occasions, a lay witness may testify to an opinion but generally only about matters of common knowledge, not about matters related to fields of expertise.

After evidence is introduced by all legally authorized parties, it is the responsibility of the “Trier of Fact” to sort out any conflicting testimony and decide what really happened and what to conclude about it.  As a second legal principle, the law imposes upon the “Trier of Fact” the duty to apply one of a range of standards for weighing the evidence, running from “more probably true than not true” in most civil cases to “true beyond a reasonable doubt” in criminal cases in which a person is subject to penalties for failing to conform to society’s rules.  These standards are called “standards or burdens of proof.”  The judge or jury is not permitted to simply run off in the direction of his, her or their biases and preferences to arrive willy-nilly at whatever result most suits them or corresponds with their mood at the moment.  The law makes them responsible for adhering to objective principles and a process of reasoning to arrive at an objective outcome or “verdict” after weighing the evidence according to the burden of proof required by the Law.

A third legal principle relevant to the topic of what might best be done with passages of Sacred Text that seem to speak to the issue of nonheterosexual orientations and activities is the principle of “Standing.” Before a person or entity of any kind is lawfully authorized to participate in a legal hearing and influence its outcome, in the eyes of the Law that person or entity must have “standing” to be in court in the first place.  What does “standing” mean?  It means essentially that the person or entity must have enough of a personal stake in the issues in question and the possible outcomes that the person or entity will vigorously represent that person’s or entity’s position as if it matters crucially to that person or entity’s welfare. For example, in a child custody case, the Law confers standing upon the parents and occasionally upon other close relatives such as grandparents and siblings.  For the most part, the Law wants to hear from those who parented the children as to how the parents believe that the case should be decided and why.  If the Law considers a child to be mature enough, the Law is also interested in knowing what the child believes is best.  Framing the issue as the “best interests” of the child or children, the Law takes the position that neighbors, distant relatives and certainly strangers – no matter how strongly opinionated they may be – have no standing to intervene and muddy the waters. Government authorities charged by the Law with the welfare of children may also have standing on behalf of society in general.  Those without standing may often be permitted to observe the legal process but not to have opportunities to voice or advocate for their positions.

Let’s apply those three legal principles of 1) lay vs expert opinion, 2) standard or burden of proof and 3) standing to the issue of how a person may best use passages of Sacred Text in sorting out how to treat those who are not strictly heterosexual.  But before we do, let’s consider one piece of input from another field of expertise called “psychology.”  That input is called the “Dunning-Kruger” effect. To more completely understanding this input, the reader may want to visit http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolved-primate/201006/when-ignorance-begets-confidence-the-classic-dunning-kruger-effect or otherwise Google this topic and study it.  At bottom line, this input summarizes the observation of expert researchers in the field of psychology concerning why “a little knowledge may be a dangerous thing.” The upshot is that people who do not investigate a topic thoroughly, in depth and breadth of context, often wind up forming positions that are unsound, even based largely on untested and unexposed ignorance, and yet those people feel extremely confident about the validity of their positions.  The title of the cited article summarizes this phenomenon as “When ignorance begets confidence.”

The point of my article about how best to use Sacred Texts is to provide reasons to step back from the brink of ignorance about how to best use passages of a Sacred Text that may address how to relate to nonheterosexual folks and double check first whether it’s even appropriate to apply those passages at all or under what standard of proof to apply them. A rush to apply these passages indiscriminately may be a form of “rush to judgment” motivated more by personal prejudices and fears than by reasoned consideration of facts and applicable expertise. The Law would question whether a person with strong prejudices and an inclination to rush to judgment is eligible to sit as a judge or member of a jury in deciding the case at hand. It is possible that, due to predispositions, preconceived ideas or prejudices, a person might need to recuse himself or herself from participating in rendering a verdict.

When one recognizes that the application of passages of Sacred Text purported to address homosexuality may have a severe impact upon a person’s life, the burden of proof needs to be high before a verdict is reached.  I suggest that before a person can be judged unfit to participate in God’s kingdom or even within society at large, it is necessary to prove that outcome beyond a reasonable doubt because the penalty sought is equivalent to the death penalty.  To condemn a person to social exile or, worse yet, to eternal damnation in hell, is a severe penalty requiring the highest standard of proof.  In addition, as our societal laws require, the evidence permitted to be introduced and weighed must be strictly scrutinized to avoid allowing non-experts to voice opinions in fields of study or disciplines in which they are unqualified. It is not merely by a vote of an ill-informed majority that such things would be decided justly.  To do so would be to believe that God has delegated the responsibility for doing justice in  such matters to poorly qualified jurists.

In regard to the issue of standing in this debate over how to apply passages of Sacred Text to issues relating to lack of pure heterosexuality, I wonder who has standing to sue and participate in the suit.  If the debate where a child custody battle, then the parents and child would have the greatest claim to standing or a vested interest in the outcome entitling him, her or them to participate.  Under the principle of “standing,” I suggest that it may be wise to step back to ask the fundamental question “Who is the parent of each of us?”  If we believe in a Divine Creator of All Life by any name, then we must proceed with caution in addressing the issue of standing.  At the least, we must concede that The Supreme Parent has standing in regard to this issue.  Who else has standing besides the child?  Are not the rest of us mere bystanders in the battle over who has the divine right of custody of each of us?  Or might our proper sacred role be to encourage everyone to believe that The Supreme Parent is parent of each and every one of us without exception and that we might all best trust that Parent to decide who belongs in heaven and who belongs in hell, whether we mean hell on earth or hell in the hereafter?

As a follower of Jesus, I must concede that Jesus has standing to intervene in every case and to serve as Judge as well.  I must concede that Jesus lives now as much as in any other time or he was not raised from the dead to live forever.  If that is true, then Jesus is present even now to intervene in this debate and decide it for us.  During his tenure on earth in a body, when did Jesus use passages of Sacred Text to ban socially weak people from heaven?  Did he not reserve his harsh use of sacred passages to upbraid authority figures whom he accused of oppressing, exploiting and neglecting the weak?  Did he not use passages of Scripture to comfort and heal those – weak or strong – who placed their faith in his authority?  Would not his use of passages of Sacred Text remain the same today?  Would not he expect, even require, that his followers make no different use of the Scriptures than he did?

In conclusion, I’ll go so far as to assert the possibility that this controversy has been decided long ago by Jesus’ declaration of the ultimate standard of judgment in Matthew 25: 31-46 concerning our treatment of “the least of these.” For myself, I prefer to submit to Jesus’ authority as judge without a jury and to trust in his judgment at a trial before the bench – at the Throne of Grace upon which his followers assert that he sits at the right hand of the Divine Parent of us all.  Which passages of Holy Scripture authorize any follower of Jesus to disclaim his authority to be Lord and his provision of the Holy Spirit to speak for him without need of human intervention?  If a little knowledge is in fact a dangerous thing, then surely it would be even more dangerous if — in our unrepented ignorance — we were to join the mob who called out for Jesus’ crucifixion because we knew not what we did.  Today we have every reason and opportunity to know what we are doing.  We cannot so readily be excused for burying our heads in the sands of ignorance as we walk along the shore with God.  It is our responsibility to learn what our experts already know and stop isolating ourselves from one another in ignorance and fear.  Jesus’ call for us to join in oneness with each other and with the Father as he did and does is ever before us.  Let us dare to walk along the shoreline of wonder as we wander out under the Bethlehem star that leads us always to the Christ child within each of us.  When we see one set of footprints in the sand, let us know then that Jesus carried us into the ocean beyond our ignorance and fears to baptize us anew in the fount of knowledge and wisdom that is the ocean’s realm.  Let us discover over and over again that we – humanity together all in one and one for all – are both the Island and the Ocean.

© Art Nicol 2014

Invitation to Help Draft a Declaration of Interdependence

If you’re inclined to help draft a Declaration of Independence, please look over the following proposed text and share your comments and suggestions with me.  Let’s celebrate our independent individuality by joining together in a community based on an interdependence that honors and preserves us all!

THE DECLARATION OF INTERDEPENDENCE

All who have affixed their names to this declaration are determined to cooperate together to create new systems of shared power and authority within enterprises, organizations and communities of all natures and purposes so as to honor the dignity and authenticity of all people.  We believe, and by this document declare, that:

¨       Every person is created equally deserving of evermore enriched freedom, joy and personal growth and with an innate passion to bring forth gifts that will create beauty, justice and well-being for all;

¨       Personal growth has the potential to continuously develop as we intentionally expand our individual and collective capacity to share the experience known as “unconditional love” as it naturally flows within bonds of love and tap into our inner reservoirs of synergy to share all we are in service to us all;

¨       Love is a natural energy indigenous to people of every gender, age, race, creed, path of life and lifestyle and fuels our commitment to the purpose of promoting the welfare of all humanity as one united life form;

¨       Steadfast, mutually faithful cooperation among us in the expression of common ideals and values in pursuit of common goals that serve the best interests of all People and Nature will free us to develop and maintain natural bonds of love as the soil in which a sustainable world is rooted and from which it draws nurture and strength as we serve as stewards of all forms of Life on this Planet;

¨       Our naturally evolving relationships will allow each of us to become freer to identify, express and enjoy our unique authenticity as gifted, responsible participants in the enterprises, organizations and communities within which we voluntarily choose to belong and serve and allow our passions to empower us for good;

¨       The resulting mutually helpful and supportive relationships formed by our commitment to our cooperative principles and practices will generate lasting benefits for the sake of ourselves, our loved ones, our communities and all Humanity and other Realms of Life within which we are an integral element by allowing each of us to exercise our gifts as optimal contributors to the collective welfare of All.

Our shared ideals and values, expressed in many ways throughout the ages in diverse cultures, religions and societies are summarized as:

¨       Each of us will continuously treat all others as we want to be treated (Golden Rule; love of neighbor);

¨       Each of us will continuously cultivate empathy, compassion and service towards all others (Tutu’s ubuntu);

¨       Each of us will continuously examine ourselves for shortcomings and opportunities to improve in character, humility, authenticity and self-expression so as to be the change in the world we want to see (Gandhi) and live lives worth living (Socrates);

¨       Each of us will continuously cultivate a relationship with the Source of Divine Love by whatever name we call It and by whatever path we cultivate it so as to rediscover and express the identity/nature in which we are created, not any lesser identity/nature into which social norms may seek to define and confine us.

Our common goal is that the best interests of all Life in every generation now on the Planet and yet to arrive will be served to the fullest extent as we conform ourselves to the highest ethical and spiritual standards known to us.  We acknowledge that this process is both creative and transformative and believe that it holds the greatest promise for healing the world through unity of purpose and oneness of mind, will and spirit.  We are determined to be true to ourselves, invest all we are and do all we can to achieve this goal by a means that is totally and radically consistent with it in belief that the means employed must express the ends desired.

To the end that our commitment and resulting thoughts, words and deeds will create the healthy, productive world of relationships we want to enjoy, we are intentionally cultivating within ourselves these character traits:

  • Trust
  • Honesty
  • Tolerance
  • Gentleness
  • Joy
  • Defenselessness
  • Generosity
  • Patience
  • Faithfulness
  • Open-mindedness
  • Forgiveness
  • Gratitude

We also pledge to communicate within all our relationships, in so far as peace permits, by the triad of healthy principles of “Trust, feel and talk about things that matter” and, when necessary, to remain gracefully silent to preserve peace with dignity and await a later opportunity to express ourselves. As we cultivate these character traits and build our relationships on the basis of graciously shared hearts, trust and power, we will release creativity to bring forth new ideas and new ways of approaching challenges that will prove viable in the long run as we welcome them nonjudgmentally and collaborate together in their exploration and implementation step by step. We believe that our personal investment in wholeness and integrity as the natural condition of every individual will bring forth a new era of peace and goodwill among all peoples of the earth. To that end we declare ourselves to be committed to cultivating wholeness and integrity in ourselves as the means by which to cultivate it person-by-person throughout the world as humanity’s oneness is revealed.

End of proposed text.  Any feedback to contribute?

Copyright Art Nicol 2014

Knowing What to Do in Times of Change

Modern society is passing through a chaotic transition. Old ways are no longer producing desired results and new ways are not yet in place to serve as new routines and traditions.  We are trapped in a chrysalis of change, no longer the caterpillar we once were and not yet the butterfly we will become once we are successful in completing our struggle to transform and emerge — paradoxically restored to vitality as ourselves and yet no longer ourselves as we once were. The times they are a’changing, as Bob Dylan wrote some years ago: 

The Times They Are A’Changin’
By Bob Dylan 
Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.
Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’.
Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.

 

What approach  is most helpful during times such as these? It’s most helpful to learn to listen closely to wisdom and to increase our capacity to hear and to heed what wisdom is saying. Wisdom is not swept away by rising riptides of change because wisdom is rooted in ancient truths that stand up well even to the severest tests of time.  Wisdom may be time-worn but the wear and tear it’s endured only makes it all the more valuable like well-polished jade in a setting of gold.

In times of tumultuous change when former traditions cease to serve well as guides, you can easily lose your bearings as you discover how unprepared you are to navigate through turbulent waters.  The more you’ve previously lived a sheltered life, the more shocked and afraid you may be as you are exposed to the turbulence today’s changes entail.  Even if you’ve been exposed and vulnerable to hard times before, it can still upset you to face them again, especially on the intense, society-wide scale we are now enduring.  Feeling ill-prepared for life as you are forced to face it is unnerving. Discouragement and despair may come knocking and perhaps even take up residence for a while.  Being thrown off balance by turbulence is natural.  It’s not necessary to fault yourself for how you react to unpleasant conditions.  It’s more helpful to have confidence that you can find your way through the turbulence to better opportunities beyond it.  And you surely can if you apply yourself to learning all you need to learn to achieve that goal.  One thing that may seem puzzling is that you are better prepared to succeed than you yet know.  Part of what you’ll learn if you apply yourself with focused attention is how to recognize your hidden qualities that make you more prepared than you realize. 

As Dylan points out, you can hardly tell at the beginning how things are going to turn out.  But wisdom knows how to guide you through winds of change and clouds of doubt to an outcome you’ll welcome along a journey you’ll enjoy as an adventure.  And you can know what wisdom knows if you’re willing to listen closely to its cues and allow them to guide you forward through the confusion and chaos of storm-tossed times.  We are surely going through stormy times as modern society wrestles with the unforeseen consequences of its past decisions and tries to find its answers within the very patterns of thought that caused its current problems. There are many wise sayings that describe society’s current dilemma.  Among them are two attributed to Albert Einstein:

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
“The solution cannot be found at the same level of mind at which the problem was created.”

These quotes suggest that we’ll only drive ourselves more and more insane if we continue to try to address society’s currently deepening problems from the same perspective or traditional thinking from which we created the problems. It simply does not help to dwell upon them as if they are both worrisome and hopelessly unsolvable.  We dig our hole deeper by worrying our way around in it in circles.  We’ll only worry ourselves into self-sabotage through this limited approach. Wisdom knows that we are capable of a much less limited and immensely more promising one.

The dilemmas facing society signal that we’ve reached the limits of the way of thinking in which we’ve mainly been indulging for many centuries. With rare exceptions like Einstein, most people have simply failed to master the art of thinking for themselves and instead allowed others to tell them what to do.  We’ve become so accustomed to looking to others outside of us to do all the thinking that we don’t know how to think for ourselves and may only panic when expected to do so.  As we learned how to be accepted and belong within our society, we entrusted the responsibility for thinking to those to whom we looked as our teachers/trainers – authority figures whom we believed to be in charge of our society for us.  What we don’t realize is that those to whom we looked to tell us what to do are not running society “for us” in the sense of “for our benefit.”  They are running it for other purposes that are not necessarily beneficial to us in the long run – and many times not even beneficial to us in the short run.  In fact, one of the signals that we are in trouble is the reduced “duration of benefit” we’ve received on account of our letting others do all the real thinking for us while our minds are pre-occupied with trivial pursuits. 

Allow me to expand upon the example of shrinking “duration of benefit” to explain what I mean.  “Duration of benefit” refers to the time elapsed between purchase and disposal of a product or service.  As this period of time becomes shorter, the lack of correspondence between the cost of our investment in the purchase and the value we receive from our investment becomes increasingly obvious.  Examples that are hitting home include the decreased time during which material goods remain useful to us – before we either pay dearly for their repair or upgrade or replace them entirely.  Equipment once classified as “durable goods” has become progressively less durable and now approaches the status of disposable.  For example, common household items like clothes washers, driers, dishwashers and refrigerators have proliferated in options and styles that only make it more likely that one of their complex features will fail and cause a repair bill that rivals the cost of replacing the equipment. Due to equipments’ increasing complexity, reliance upon electronic controls and rapid turnover in models composed of parts not used in previous models, home repairs have become less adequate as a solution.  Artificial complexity and shifting models has put the handyman-homemaker out of business and required homeowners to seriously consider throwing away equipment that in earlier days would have A) lasted longer in the first place and B) been repairable by the homemaker. Similar rise in complexity and decline in useful lifespan have afflicted automobiles and other formerly durable goods. 

The arrival of computers and accessories like monitors, printers, scanners, modems, routers and methods of interconnection has added a new category of consumer goods subject to change-induced obsolescence that the common user rarely has the know-how or access to repair parts to address when something breaks down.  In addition, “new and improved” models rush to market before many owners of previous models have learned how to use all of the features of their existing equipment.  New software requiring larger memories and storage capacities as well as upgraded monitors and modems drive older equipment out of use before they are actually failing as products.  Expanding demands of Internet web sites expect visitors to connect through equipment with the latest features and capacities. New methods of interconnection challenge users to keep abreast of the latest developments. The whole interlocking world of computers, software, accessories and their uses has expanded at a rate that is incredibly profitable to those who provide the equipment, software and related services but leave most users at the mercy of market-driven motives to render existing investments inadequate to perform and require consumers to spend more money to remain current with the latest state of affairs.  Whom is this reduced duration of benefits serving?

It’s as if the universe of computer technology has replicated the cosmos as a system of infinite possibilities that is expanding at the speed of light and far outdistancing the finite resources of many explorers of that universe. Many explorers resort to debt to keep up. In fact, all too often “duration of debt” now exceeds “duration of benefits.” Another example of this phenomenon is the proliferation of ever-upgraded cell phones and accessories that render the previous models old news within as short a time as six months.  Related to this example is the spectacular meteor shower of accessories and apps to use with cell phones. Keeping track of the inane number of such cell-phone-related features and their various uses occupies the minds of many users as a distraction from more significant alternative uses of their minds. Functioning in a similar manner to interfere with slower paced contemplation is time spent reviewing and commenting upon Youtube and Facebook postings and watching engrossing movies, TV reruns and entertainment programs ranging from supposed “reality shows” and talent contests to hit fiction shows of all kinds. Add sports broadcasts and commentaries plus endless newscasts, pundits and, heaven forbid, bloggers commenting upon life from every possible angle and who’s got to time to think for oneself?

Those with the youthful curiosity to master new skills and the desire to prove their competence ride the leading edge of trends in the age of high tech electronics and information overload.  These trends now wash across society like a multi-wave tsunami to sweep all previous technology into the trash bin long before many older users have discovered how to use their features and reap their benefits.  Although it is developmentally appropriate for youth and young adults to be curious and to exercise their minds to learn new competencies that prove their worth to themselves and others, to place a significant market that affects society at many levels into the control of young adults who are also discouraged from asking why they are doing what they are doing is another outcome of insanity’s reign in our society. Society is not well-served by intentionally occupying young minds with electronically hyped and accelerated trivial pursuits with the effect of diverting their attention from the core issues with which our society struggles.  We need the minds and hearts of youth and young adults focused more intentionally on social issues if ever we are to resolve them successfully.  We cannot address and resolve significant societal issues without the full engagement of youth and young adults. Their participation is essential to our success! It is their future and the future of those who follow close behind them that is at stake and must now be clarified and implemented in a manner meaningful to them. It is vital to the health and welfare of all of us that young minds not remain hooked on fascinating electronic stimulation that draw them to focus on trivia and away from focusing on what is truly significant to their futures.

I mean no offense to youth and young adults when I question whether it is wise to turn over our society’s major techno-trends to their controlling passion for mastering new technology and exploring new territory of experiences as their natural appetites and passions operate in their legitimate quest for a vision of a life worth living. I mean only to caution us all that wisdom percolates into our hearts and minds through experiences which take place at slower paces, occur over longer periods of time and require more intense and deeper personal engagement with other people than most fast paced endeavors promoted by the technology market cultivate. Many youth and young adults have such lire-enriching experiences.  We need to help them to tap into the empowering wisdom of their library of experiences that are stored deep beneath trivial pursuits.

Modern society does not encourage youth and young adults to identify, appreciate and process such slower paced, in-depth experiences but rather leads youth and young adults in circles in the shallows chasing meaningless superficial changes that matter little or nothing in the long run.  I really do mean no offense to youth and young adults. In fact, I devote my life to helping to correct the way society is misleading youth and young adults to ignore they capacity to think for themselves and listen to and be led by wisdom from an early age. I have met youth and young adults who have proven to me that they do sometimes listen to themselves in this manner and experiment with thinking for themselves.  I’ve also learned that it is precisely when they do listen to their deepest inner guidance and think for themselves that they are most likely to come into conflict with modern society’s shallow values and priorities and be labeled “rebellious,” “uncooperative” or “misfits.”  We need to encourage rather than discourage such independent, “rebellious” thinking that resists cooperating with the norms of modern society and instead develops creatively activated “misfits” better suited to leading the new society that is arriving in our midst than to remaining loyal to the old society that is fading from our midst. It would be wise for all of us to switch our loyalties from the fading society to the emerging new one.

Youth and young adults have an inborn capacity to listen to and reap the benefits of wisdom as guidance for their lives.  However, modern society teaches us all to ignore our in-born, wisdom-oriented capacity and instead to listen elsewhere for guidance.  Based on our past social training, too often we listen to the fading society’s standards and expectations instead of to the emerging society’s standards and expectations.  As children we are naturally inclined to listen to our parents, teachers and other older adults for guidance. But as the guidance from those adults proves less and less useful (largely because it’s not all that helpful to resolving the issues we face during times of transition), youth and young adults understandably turn away from that source of guidance and seek for guidance among other voices available to them.  Many of these alternative voices are found among media of various kinds.  Others are the voices of admittedly well-meaning but similarly misled peers. In a society where everyone is taught to have an opinion no matter how little investigation and analysis may go into forming it, media personalities and peers can sound as if their voices are authoritative when in fact they are voices of ignorance and arrogance. Most media and peer voices do not yet convey the wisdom and understanding needed to provide truly helpful guidance for life, especially guidance for navigating turbulent times such as we face now. In effect, by teaching us to orient our listening outward into the turbulence rather than inward into the deep inner calm at the core of our beings, social norms and traditions have cut us adrift from and now block our awareness of the wisdom and understanding we would otherwise naturally access within ourselves. Our submission to social pressures to think, act and live as social-approval seekers sabotages our ability to enjoy higher quality lives and robs us of the inheritance we would otherwise naturally receive from Divine Love’s Presence within the calm at the core of our beings.

Bob Dylan was a voice to which many of his generation listened and through which many found comfort. He voiced the thoughts and feelings of many in his generation.  Lyricists and spoken-word artists today frequently voice the thoughts and feelings of their generation too. Many are their cries for greater understanding and wisdom.  Fewer are the voices by which understanding and wisdom come forth in response.  I hope that my voice will provide some of the understanding and wisdom that youth and young adults hunger to discover is present in the world on their behalf, at their service.

Knowing what to do in changing times is a mystery worth addressing. It is a valid question to ask “How do I know what to do when traditional answers no longer point the way forward?”  My response to this question is simple: Learn again to trust yourself to know deep inside what is best for you.  Take the time necessary now to stop, look and listen inwardly.  Your native-born, inwardly tapped guidance will encourage you to be true to yourself because that is best for you – in times of turbulence as well as times of calm. That is why I focus so much of this web site on helping visitors to regain confidence in their authentic nature. To do so, one must abandon every attempt to fabricate an artificial or false identity because pretending to be someone you are not gives too much value and power to what other people think of you.  False identities emphasize image-making (social approval and reputation) and pleasing others by words and actions that are not true to your own heart.  You access both your short-term happiness and your long-term joy and success when you stop pretending and instead live true to yourself under all circumstances. When you master the art of remaining true to yourself during turbulent times, you emerge from these times as a master surfer emerges from waves that tumble others off their boards. Once you master the art of authenticity amid challenging waves of change, you can rest in calmer waters with ease and grace.

Being true to your own heart is key.  To trust yourself to know deep inside what is best for you is the same as trusting yourself to love and care for yourself even when it seems at the moment that no one else agrees with you.  Your heart is the “deep inside” where I encourage you to learn to listen.  Listen to your heart and heed its guidance and you’ll learn to hear the wisdom that it shares with you from the divine realm of inner peace with which it is in touch.  The “heart” of which I speak is not the physical organ. It is the core of your being associated with the fourth and central chakra (energy center) where your spirit listens to your emotions.  It is your sensitive, intuitive nature.  It is what some call our “feminine side” mainly because men are taught to not be in touch with and express their emotions openly and caringly. The attributes of humanity that society associates with being in touch with and expressing one’s emotions openly and caringly are stereotypically considered “not masculine” and therefore by default “feminine.” In addition, masculinity is associated with the male body’s procreative capacity to thrust and penetrate and not with the female body’s procreative capacity to open and receive. When we see ourselves as merely bodies, we remain blind to our more expansively authentic nature and fail to grasp the far broader picture of who we really are as spiritual beings engaged in a human experience through our bodies.  As whole, authentic human beings, we are not merely bodies but also spirits, wills, minds and emotions expressed within relationships.

There is a myth afoot in modern society that the aggression associated with masculinity equates to being strong and powerful and that the gentleness associated with femininity equates to being weak and helpless. This myth is so pervasive and persuasive in modern society that women who seek equality with men tend to think that becoming more like stereotypical males brings them greater power.  This tendency to equate stereotypical masculinity with power is based on the false notion that power equals aggression and violence.  It escapes our notice that aggressive behaviors are symptoms of internalized insecurities that aggressors fail to honestly admit and prefer to cover up. Aggressors use aggressive words and behaviors to distract the rest of us from noticing and addressing underlying emotional issues and discourage us from calling their bluffs.  Aggressive men and women are not displaying their power. They are in fact displaying their buried feelings of insecurity, inadequacy and resentment as they use intimidation to silence, confuse and dominate others by shifting their negative emotional energy onto those they seek to control. These negative, crippling emotions are not the energies of a truly powerful, self-confident person of either gender.  Gentleness, tolerance, defenselessness and patience are signs of true power in both genders.

Our gender-neutral capacity for tuning into inner guidance and flowing with its nuanced leadings grows as we nurture our wholeness and learn again to be aware of the full spectrum of our emotions and become comfortable expressing our colorful emotions’ full range.  Our wholeness unfolds like a satellite dish to capture more and more of the signals that wisdom sends to us constantly as guidance.  As we learn to unfold our sensitive antennae and tune ourselves to wisdom’s broadcasts, we’ll find the guidance we seek.  Wisdom wants to give us our heart’s desires.  Our hearts are listening for what wisdom says is ours to do and ours to enjoy.  The harmony between our hearts and wisdom is akin to cooperation between an orchestra and its conductor. The music of our heart is unique to each of us as individuals and yet also plays in harmony with the chorus of life within which we are all valued participants. Our confidence to participate in this chorus grows as we become increasingly aware of our creative capacities and interests that blossom as our wholeness comes online through mutually interactive encouragement within the communities that we serve and benefit.

Wi-Fi is an apt analogy for the capacity of human wholeness to empower each of us to thrive as happy, productive contributors to the welfare of various groups and communities to which we belong.  We are naturally equipped to pick up energy signals wirelessly and to translate them into guidance received in the form of intuition, hunches, gut reactions, day dreaming, sleep time dreams, creative endeavors and selective listening to others.  A writer may receive wisdom as he or she listens within and records to share with others what he or she allows to flow from within while also listening to messages in the environment that resonate with and lift up his or her spirit, heart and mind.  A poet or lyricist may do the same. Composers, painters, dancers, actors, sculptors, ceramicists and other artists and creative thinkers may likewise share with others what they are discovering deep within themselves – especially when encouraged by others through social connections to dig deeper and share abundantly.

As Einstein and others demonstrated, scientific discoveries surface to be shared in a similar manner.  The creative process is natural to all of us because we are created by a Creator who shares the power and dynamics of Creativity with us. The quality of human life as shared within a society or any smaller group of people is determined by the process of inner listening and outward expression. In fact, all relationships are always shaped and energized with meaning and significance based on the voices to which we listen inside. To the extent that we listen to internalized voices of former external authority figures who in turn conformed to former external authority figures generation after generation we participate in a chain of conformity and replicate the past, imitate rather than create, conform rather than transform and cause our destiny to come forth as a repeat of our history.  To the extent that we question and, as wisdom guides, set aside such internalized voices of others who bought into the artificiality of modern society and listen instead to the gentle voice of Wisdom whispering within our hearts, we contribute to the creation of a wiser alternative society on terms of love and truth in which authenticity is honored amid ever strengthening bonds of trust.

Within such a trust-bonded society, we will appreciate and respect rather than judge and condemn each other. We will cooperate with one another to bring peace to troubled waters and dispel clouds of doubt as refreshing breezes of clarity appear in their place. Beyond modern society’s chaotic transition, we are sailing together through storm-tossed seas towards a more highly evolved expression of humanity than our human memories can tell of. It is recorded in our imagination as visions of the brighter, gentler and more promising future our hearts have long desired to share.  Into open hearts wisdom freely flows. Let us open our hearts together and, with persistent playfulness and ceaseless celebration, grow forward into this vision of a better world to come and wholeheartedly welcome our transformed selves as manifestations of that better world.

© Art Nicol 2013