Tag Archives: health

The Rush of Insanity and Its Telltale Signs

If one is wondering how to make sense out of the patterns of violence, vengeance, venality and vanity vibrating across our planet, it will help to spot the nature of the addictive personality in operation beneath all of these patterns.  The addictive personality comes in a wide assortment of flavors, colors and disguises but is rooted in the same soil of insanity.  If it were unmasked one would see that the addictive personality always pursues self-aggrandizement and social approval from at least some group meaningful to that personality (if it cannot win approval from all people).  To the addictive personality, the rush of winning social approval overrides all other considerations, even if the social approval may be short-lived and come at a great cost.  It does not weigh costs and believes that the opportunity to win more social approval will arise should previously won social approval fade.  The addictive personality, aka Ego, moves from one rush-promising opportunity to the next without looking to either side for perspective beyond the single-minded goal of immediate gratification of its craving for the rush.

In addition to its purpose of rush-production, the addictive personality can be spotted as it outs itself in the progressive nature of its increasingly manic pursuit of the rush.  Whatever rush first hooked it into the pursuit of that species of rush, the addictive personality will not be satisfied for long by the current level of rush it experiences.  It will become dissatisfied with the current level of rush and crave more and more rush.  Whether the rush or “high” comes from an externally acquired chemical like cocaine, heroin, meth or some other legal or illegal drug or comes from an internally acquired chemical such as adrenalin, endorphins or other bodily produced high or power trip, the addiction is chemical as well as mental, emotional, social and behavioral.  It’s a package deal.  And the package of rush-production must expand to meet the addictive personality’s demand for increasingly more intense gratification.

If you’ll examine the behaviors and statements of celebrities, drug addicts, power-wielders, law-breakers, risk-takers and others whose behaviors and attitudes you have difficulty comprehending, you’ll see a pattern that helps you see what’s going on. Watch for telltale signs of failure to appreciate the consequences of words and deeds beyond their capacity to draw the instant gratification of social approval (better yet, admiration and hero-worship) from some group — however large or small.  Watch for failure to connect the dots and display the capacity for reasoned consideration of facts, contested or otherwise.  Watch for reactions rather than responses to stimuli that the addictive personality has learned will generate a rush for which he or she has acquired a taste.  Watch for signs that the person displaying addictive qualities is personally out of control while demanding that others be controlled by external means such as force or threat of force.  Watch for signs that the person is actually confessing indirectly how much he or she hopes that someone will control him or her by external means and prevent the further progression of his or her addiction and the adverse consequences he or she sees rushing towards him or her.  The addictive personality is afraid and yet cannot admit how afraid he or she has become under the influence of the addiction within which he or she is enslaved.

Don’t assume that every addictive personality has the same acquired tastes or means and manner of enslavement.  The stimuli and means of acquiring a rush may vary on the surface while beneath the surface at the root of causation it’s the same root cause: namely, fears that have grown beyond the scope of all reason and now dominate the person’s decision-making process.  Such fears are common to us all.  The fear may be of looking foolish in the eyes of others, of losing face or social status, of failure to achieve an outcome especially desired by the person or of the unknown or strange in life.  Because the addictive personality has lost the ability to be honest about his or her emotions, he or she has also lost connection with his or her own heartfelt capacity for empathy and marches relentlessly onward towards the brink of self-destruction and destruction of others.  He or she no longer is free to see and admit to the fears that drive him or her.  He or she no longer trusts that others with whom he or she fails to see eye to eye can be reasoned with and included in the realm of trustworthy associates.  He does not trust anyone to accept the confusion that has overtaken him or her and help resolve the inner turmoil that besets him or her.  If he or she still has intimate life companions, they are likely to feel powerless to help.  He or she is more concerned about maintaining an image of success than about the reality of self-exposure as a loser of his or her grip on sanity.  Even while poised on the brink of ruin, he or she will claim the opposite is true.

Trust has broken down and the world as seen by the addictive personality is a shattered mirror reflecting back in fragments the confusion inherent in the addiction to which the person has succumbed.  Most often he or she has succumbed to some type of addiction (or dependency including codependency) unwittingly but nevertheless relentlessly one step at a time until the slippery slope of addiction/dependency has taken over and substituted itself for the person’s power of well-reasoned choices.  The addictive personality no longer even trusts himself or herself because he or she can no longer hold himself or herself accountable for being honest and is willing to use any means, no matter how dishonest, to gain the next rush to which he or she is addicted.  He or she will steal from a beloved grandmother to gain the money needed to buy the next fix or steal from the fans to gain the necessary votes to win the next election or draw the attention he or she craves.  Negative attention has become more desirable than loss of all attention and disappearance into anonymity.  It’s all the same pattern.  People who are trusting and vulnerable are considered the easiest victims to manipulate.  The addictive personality truly believes that he or she can fool all of the people all of the time.

Is he or she right?  Can he or she fool us all?  It’s really up to you whether or not he or she is right.  What you are willing to see at work beneath surface depends on your willingness to be open-minded as well as open-hearted and see with your inner vision – a vision some call intuition and others call wisdom.  If you will admit that you may be afraid of being played for a fool, then the wisdom of your honesty about that fear may release you to see more clearly whether or not the other person is actually trying to do so.

The surest way to prevent yourself from being played for a fool is to search out from within your own life the patterns of an addictive personality and do all you need to do to prevent yourself from remaining enslaved to them.  Until we examine ourselves for such patterns and admit our vulnerability to falling into them, we are all enslaved to the Matrix of such patterns and doomed to repeat them until we value freedom from them more than we value the comforts and conveniences of remaining addicted to them.

© Art Nicol 2015

The Silent Harm of Believing Ourselves Merely to Be Bodies

Since the onset of the scientific era, literate humans have, over the centuries, come to view ourselves as merely bodies occupying space on the Earth as it travels through what we call “outer space.” We’ve amassed a vast body of published ideas shared widely among those who learn to read.  These ideas contain biases and assumptions we rarely question but instead allow to point us ever outward in a relentless exploration of expansively more outer space.  Which ideas are published and made available to the public is, for the most part, determined by a publication industry that has adopted the same biases and assumptions, resulting in the continuing promotion of biased reporting of ideas, not the diet of vigorously robust, broad-ranging ideas upon which the human mind may feed to thrive and grow stronger.  As a result, our minds are starving for more nourishment than typical publications provide.

Our mental diet is anemic, lacking in vital nutrients necessary to sustain humanity’s existence. Why?  Because we are not merely bodies but have unquestioningly adopted the assumption that we are.  This silent assumption neglects the features of humanity that are not physical and promotes violence towards our physical health as well.  We are neglecting our wholeness because of our assumptions in favor of the false primacy of our physicality.  We still have time to free ourselves of this deadly trend and reverse the harm it has caused.  In challenging the assumption that we are merely bodies we will discover the healing and restoration of wholeness that we need and so desperately desire.  We can remain literate without remaining ignorant of the more holistic truths that will set us free from violence and its harm.

As a consequence of the assumptions upon which our current focus of literacy is based, we’ve become convinced that the ultimate truths most essential for understanding life await to be discovered “out there” by someone bold enough to go “there” personally or by some form of technology. In the process we’ve become enamored with technology and our ever increasing capacity to see and explore beyond the Earth as well as into features of Earth both at macro- and micro-physical dimensions.  We spend billions of dollars based on the biases and assumptions unquestioned within our materialistic, scientific viewpoint on life.  Sciences tend to examine the outer, physical world in greater and greater scope and detail without questioning whether we may be overlooking other areas of inquiry vital to our understanding of life.

In relatively recent times, scientific investigations have turned to seeking greater understanding of our minds. Our minds are not assumed to be “out there” beyond us but instead to be somehow “in here,” within of us.  Some investigate the mind as an individual phenomenon inherent in each person.  Some investigate the individual mind as having a capacity to connect with other individual minds so as, perhaps, to form a collective, single mind of all humanity. Where might individual minds and a collective mind exist, if they exist? “Out there” or “in here?” The investigation of the mind’s nature includes studies of the physical organ, the brain, that we associate with our mind.  But many investigators do not assume that the mind is limited to the brain.  How the brain relates to the phenomenon we call “mind” remains a mystery we continue to explore.  But at least the study of the mind has caused scientific investigative methods to no longer be applied only to exploring “out there.”  Now, we use scientific methods to explore the possibility of a realm of experience “in here.”

The expansion of science into exploring the possibilities of “in here” has brought science and mysticism into closer communication and proximity. It might challenge scientists to call science “scienticism” in parallel with mysticism to demote it from the sacred pedestal upon which we’ve set science for centuries. Might it be possible that scientific methods are no more and no less reliable a means for discovering truth than mystic methods?  Might the assumption that mystic methods are inherently unreliable be a product of the biases and assumptions that arose during the dawn of science in medieval times and now be in need of re-examination? Do we really want biases inherent in science since its birth to rule our world today? Might scienticism be the way of the left brain (analysis) while mysticism be the way of the right brain (intuition)?  Might we more completely understand life if we were to honor both as avenues of discovery and blend their inputs into an integrated whole?

The birth of science coincided with the onset of published ideas during a period of human history when we assumed many things that we’ve since proven to be incorrect. For example, we no longer believe the Earth to be flat nor the center of the Universe.  We have recognized the role of previously undetected “invisible” micro-organisms in the transmission of diseases, the digestion of nutrients and the recycling of debris.  Simultaneously our means of publication have evolved as have the scope of ideas included within the “sciences.”  Yet have we failed to examine the possibility that becoming capable of reading published science-biased ideas and incorporating them into our daily thinking may blind us to other avenues of exploration and to truths not discoverable through science?  Might it reflect an unhelpful bias to characterize all “nonscientific” methods and ideas as “superstitions?’  What if the past centuries of examining all things physical and material in greater detail and scope has drawn us unwittingly away from other means of investigating truths that are not limited to the physical world “out there” and more likely to discover important features of the nonphysical world “in here?”

My proposition is that we’ve become blind to the value of what might be called “nonscientific” methods of inquiry that are of great value to humanity’s understanding of life and promise to reveal truths essential to the long-term welfare of humanity. Do we really need to wait for scientists to conduct research based on research methods biased by centuries of unexamined assumptions about the material nature of life?  Suppose we stopped assuming that we are merely bodies and bundles of atoms structured together to create the physical systems of which our bodies are composed. Suppose we attribute to life other qualities than physical and material, qualities that must be sensed by means not currently developed by any form of science?  Might we not make more rapid advances in understanding essential truths about life that would save humanity from extinction and save Earth as a habitat fit for life in all forms? Suppose humanity is a habitat for divinity that we’ve allowed ourselves to appreciate too little because of the assumption that we are merely bodies.

I offer these alternative propositions because I believe that we need to consider them for the sake of our children’s future. I ask questions and offer alternative ideas on behalf of the minority of humans who currently do experience ourselves as more than mere bodies. There is a minority who truly experience themselves as forms of energy not adequately explained alone on physical terms now or likely to ever be adequately explained according to the biases and assumptions now limiting scientific inquiries.  Will the majority continue to disregard the input of this minority at the expense of humanity’s welfare?  Might those who have become enamored with science because they know how to read and consider themselves to be well-educated be willing to set aside the biases and assumptions of their social orientation and listen with more open minds to input from what is typically characterized as “unscientific” methods of inquiry?

Among those who experience themselves as more than merely bodies are intelligent men and women of integrity who earnestly desire to share what they sense about life for the benefit of the collective entity we call “humanity.”  We are individuals who care about the welfare of the whole of the human race and every individual in it.  That’s a mystic’s orientation.  It is not a sexual or gender orientation. It is not an orientation defined on the assumption that sex-linked or gender-linked features of our bodies or social orientations are the defining features of life.

Mystics do not define ourselves by our bodies. We define ourselves by our inner experiences and yet concern ourselves with the whole race who are largely focused on their outer experiences.  Mystics don’t generally need to be funded for our research or inquiries into the inner experiences “in here.”  We simply set aside time and opportunities to go inward to seek answers to questions that concern us, often questions of universal concern to all human beings.  Ours is a method of inquiry all members of the human race can master without needing to first acquire extensive formal education or even needing to learn to read published ideas.  It’s entirely feasible to learn to sense ideas “published” within our hearts and minds as if they are broadcast from a Divine Source for the universal benefit of all humankind.

Mystics have learned to tune into transmissions broadcast as energy in the inner realm of human experience by tuning out the alternative messages so abundantly transmitted by technological means “out there.”  Do we listen inwardly or outwardly? It would be wise to master the discipline of listening in both directions without blinders imposed unwittingly by unexamined biases and assumptions carried over from medieval times when mystics were purged, driven into exile and burned at stakes because their orientation offended the politically powerful who were then fighting for dominion in an increasingly materialistic world.  The fight to build political empires across the face of the physical Earth and beyond need not doom us to extinction.  We can stop competing against each other for dominion and learn to share the Earth as divine beings experiencing ourselves as bodies as for the purpose of building our character and exploring how to share life on Earth as life is shared in Heaven.

© Art Nicol 2015

 

Wholeness as the Pivot Point of Change

Let me keep this simple. Unless a person who seeks to be the change in the world he or she wants to see (pursuant to Gandhi’s admonition) slips out of and beyond his or her ego, he or she will fail to participate in a true change. The ego is a master of disguises. To change from one ego-disguise to another is no change. For the world to outgrow violence as a norm and instead enter into a phase devoted to healing the wounds of past violence as a new norm, individually and collectively we all must become humble, ego-free healers.

Beyond the phase of healing awaits the phase in which no harm is ever done that requires healing. To reach that harmless phase, we must undo the harm that our harming stage has done.  To pivot away from ego requires what we pivot out of the ego’s closed system of thinking to enter into the only true alternative — open-mindedness to all creative possibilities.  Wholeness offers us the pivot point around which to turn all of the ego’s ways of thinking on their heads and emerge beyond ego as if we’ve entered into and passed beyond the worm hole into a whole new universe of grand options that set us free to be more than ego wants or believes we can be.  Freedom frightens the ego.  Freedom wisely lived requires no ego and thus no longer lets fear of change hold us back. Only then can we become the change in the world our hearts desire but our egos fear.

Phase 2 is upon us. We either elect to participate in Phase 2 as one of the healers of the harm done in Phase 1 or we remain a participant in Phase 1. Any attempt to remain loyal to the ego while claiming to do no harm is the cover-up of codependency and enabling that the ego employs to perpetuate its reign of terror. “Oh,” you may say, “but I’m a helpful person who never harms anyone.” Perhaps you truly are. Perhaps you truly intend to be but do not yet realize how your best intentions remain unfulfilled.  It is more likely than not that you are allowing your ego to fool yourself into believing you are doing no harm while it’s not true. Do I sound too harsh and unkind to you? Please forgive me if I seem that way.  In actuality, all I’m inviting you to do is move beyond the mistakes I made as a co-dependent enabler who failed to realize that my ego was still in charge of my heart and mind and running me in circles like a fool.

Despite the fact that I once desperately wanted to never be a fool, I was one. It was much more obvious to others than it was to myself, but that’s how the ego operates. It makes you look like a fool to others so that they in their own ego-oriented foolishness can comment upon, judge and find fault with your foolishness rather than see and address their own. It serves the ego’s purpose to make each of us look like a fool to others of us.  It serve the ego’s goal of perpetuating itself to generate controversy among us and set us to judging one another instead of seeing the ego at work behind the scenes. The ego achieves this ego-perpetuating status quo by convincing each of us to adopt one of its contrasting sets of values as “ours” and set ourselves apart from “others” by virtue of our chosen set of values. Sets of values that contrast with one another establish the basis for on-going, continuous conflicts, discussions to resolve conflicts and all out battles when discussions fail to resolve them. The ego does not want our conflicts resolved. So, my ego will do everything it can to justify my claiming the superiority of my set of values over contrasting sets of value and my unwillingness to see things through the eyes of others whose sets of values differ from mine.

Sets of values may in fact differ for a variety of reasons. But if the reason is not focused with clarity upon the role of ego in perpetuating conflicts and correspondingly upon the means by which we may rise beyond ego, then the sets of values conflict only in relatively superficial ways. Superficial differences among sets of values have historically been sufficient to justify all levels of conflict, including wars. That one group may raise three fingers while pronouncing a blessing while another group raises two fingers is nonsensically superficial. Other superficial differences that have seemingly justified violence by one group upon another may not be as obviously superficial and foolish, but they are. People who allow their egos to be in charge of their decisions resort to a wide variety of excuses for identifying other people as enemies upon whom the infliction of violence is seen as fully justified, even reasonable.

Wholeness is the alternative to the ego. That is why wholeness is the necessary, pivotal component of any path by which a person who seeks to be the change in the world he or she wants to see achieves that goal rather than remains trapped within the ego’s conflict-perpetuating worldwide status quo. A person must be willing to become aware of his or her wholeness and devoted to its nurture and perpetuation in order to stop participating in the perpetuation of ego-generated harm. Wholeness is health. Devotion to the nurture and perpetuation of wholeness in ourselves and others is healing. Without wholeness neither health (Phase 3) as a goal nor healing (Phase 2) as an interim path to that goal is possible. Why? Because the ego will successfully resist healing and health and preserve the status quo of ill-health and harmfulness in order to preserve itself as essential to the person’s sense of personal safety and personal identity.

We who have been raised in an ego-oriented society to believe ego to be our identity are like fish who have been swimming in water without being aware of the water. The only reason I become aware of the water is there came to be a time in my life when I felt like a fish out of water. Amid the discomfort of flopping around and suffocating on the shore, I awoke to the realization that my ego was not my true identity. On that shore, my ego died and yet I, the true me, was still alive. In that phase of my life, I suffered an acute identity crisis. If my ego is not I, then who am I? I spent several years on a quest for the answer to this amazing question I’d previously failed to ask. Who am I?

Early in my quest for answers to this pressing question, I was introduced to a work called A Course In Miracles. I devoted myself to studying this course with more diligence than I’d ever studied before. I had been a fairly good student of other areas of study in my past. This area of study motivated me like none had previously motivated me. In the past I studied other subjects to please others, not expose myself to the shame of public failure and achieve academic expectations and benchmarks set by others. In studying A Course In Miracles, I studied and applied what I learned for reasons far more personal to me, from motivations that arose from within me, as if Life itself called me to succeed. Through this process I awakened to and gradually accepted my true identity and discovered many answers as well as many continuingly unanswered questions. I learned to live by faith in the presence of the Mystery of the Divine, including of my own identity within the Divine.

Above and beyond all else that has motivated me have been the experiences of peace, hope, joy and love that my ego never allowed me to encounter and enjoy. On account of those experiences alone, and not for any argumentative reasons, do I now encourage you to enter upon your own quest for your identity beyond the ego and the path that will take you through Phase 2 into Phase 3 as you emerge to yourself and others as a whole person rather than remain disguised behind the masks and entrapped behind the walls of your false identity of ego. If you feel so called, come forth to join me and others in the realm beyond ego of which Rumi wrote when he penned,

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.”

Let me here share a snapshot of my own version of that truth in the form of an illustration I invite you to contemplate for its value to you as your inner voice of Spirit counsels you to do.  More about this topic is available by clicking on the Heartbook tab on the menu.

Wholeness Archtype with text 2015

For more encouragement from Rumi as a source of inspiration and wisdom, visit http://launchyourgenius.com/2014/08/04/rumi/.

For more encouragement to understand how to use your own path of faith to grow beyond the ego’s confining definition of your past, present and future, make it a point to enter into your own personal quest for answers to the pressing question “Who am I?”  Our human race will not develop beyond its current adolescent stage until each of us asks this riddle of the Universe and learns to listen to the answer we receive within our hearts and minds.  I would be honored to encourage you to find deepest satisfaction in your quest.

© Art Nicol 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Will – What Is It, How Does It Work?

Free will has challenged human beings since the beginning of time. In fact, mystics say that we used free will to create the illusion of time in the first place. What is free will? How does it work? These are two questions vital to the welfare of humankind in an age when power expressed as force is running amok around the globe destroying much of life. Is such violent disregard for life an exercise of our individual and collective free will?

To keep it simple, let’s consider “free will” to be one of the features of humans that distinguishes us from other life forms. A sign of this distinction is that we function with a consciousness of time. No other life form has perfected the art of “telling time” as we have. Agates, asteroids, asters, apples, anthrax, amoebas, anemones, anacondas, aardvarks, antelopes and apes do not schedule their lives by the clock even though some do order their activities based on the effect of the sun as the earth rotates. They live in relationship to such conditions naturally without concern for predicting them or controlling them. They’ve found no need or ability to invent sun dials and other handier timepieces until they arrive at a precision pegged on the periodic motion of atoms. We have chosen to do so as no mineral, plant or animal has. Our power to make such choices and carry them out can be called “free will.”

Free will is a power. We sometimes call it “willpower.” We can choose intentionally to fix our wills upon a goal with such determination and discipline that it appears we’ve lost our freedom to choose otherwise. Yet, the truth is that we remain free to choose to focus our determination and capacity for discipline differently if we conclude that the first exercise of our focus and capacity is not achieving the goal we seek and decide to take another approach. “Deciding” is an aspect of our free will. All we need to do to “free” it again is to realize what we’ve focused it on one goal and can nevertheless, despite every argument to the contrary, change our focus if we want to.

Yes, if we “want” to. The exercise of our free will is heavily influenced if not totally dictated by what we “want” to happen or “want” to be true. That’s why it’s important to be aware of what we truly are “wanting” in order to be truly free to exercise our will. Most of us do not remain fully or even partially aware of what we “want” and allow our buried desires to take control of our wills and establish our life’s direction and destiny – even our demise. Beneath the destructive forces now at work around the globe is a desire to do or die. We are choosing death over life, more freely than we realize. We may have become unaware of the origin of our choice to “do or die” but we’ve made it. It remains there for us to choose differently if we want to choose differently. Do you “want” to choose to violate the norms of our violence-prone society and create for yourself and others who choose with you a society based on peace and love instead? You can if you truly want to.

Our “wanting” is the same as our “heart’s desires.” What are your heart’s desires? If what’s happening in your life is not in line with your deepest heart’s desires, why not? What other desires or “wants” have taken over your will to make it seem less than free? Why might you have unwittingly joined in the collective decision to “do or die” instead of to “do and live?” Why might you be willing to throw out the baby of life with the bathwater in order to achieve a death that vindicates your belief, opinion or perspective about anything? About what topic would you prefer to die instead of admit you might be mistaken and could, if you wanted to, change your mind?

I’ve asked key questions. Now, I want (yes, want and as an exercise of my free will) to share with you a perspective that has helped me decide to participate in the peace-and-love-prone alternative to a violence-and-hate-prone society. What I learned that helped me to change my mind arises from our understanding of the process of grieving. I learned that many of our decisions are influenced by our emotions and that we think we “want” what we’re in the mood for. I learned by experience that it’s not always wise and healthy to opt for what I’m in the mood for. Moods offer poor guidance for free will.

Grief is a process. The process of grief takes us stage by stage from the pain of being hurt in some manner to the release of that pain and a life beyond that pain. How these stages may progress in your life may differ from the pattern in my life. But, let’s consider how universal it is that grief begins with anger and resolves itself in peace if we allow all of our stages of grieving to function fully. The grieving process starts with the emotion of anger and winds up at the emotion of peace if we let it arrive there and don’t insist on remaining angry or sad (depressed) along the way. Our heart’s desires are influenced by the emotional state we are in. I suggest that being in an early stage of grief allows anger to dominate our “wants” and our wills and sets the stage for revenge-stoked violence to be our choice. That’s why I have learned the wisdom of not making important choices when I am in a HALT mode: Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. When in these mood-modes, it’s wise to wait and allow the mood to pass before exercising my will. Otherwise my will is not as “free” as I would want it to be. (Yes, I do “want” to learn to exercise “free” will, not some form of imprisoned or compromised will.)

I invite you to observe reports of violence for a while and to notice how many acts of violence occur under the influence of anger and/or fear. How many occur while the person who acts violently is still heavily influenced by the motive of revenge? Anger is an emotion that barely hints at the level of pain that a person is carrying around inside from encounters with pain from the past. Unhealed emotional pain is the same as unresolved grief. The “desire” to have revenge or “settle the score” is a symptom of unhealed, internalized pain, even when it may be called “justice.” As the saying goes, “an eye for an eye makes us all blind.” We are in grave danger of being blinded by the violence awash in the world and unable to see our way clear of it. But there is an alternative to blind rage and anger-clouded vision. We can see our way clear if we’ll take the time to grieve, resolve the painful issues of our past and present lives and then move forward together in peace. We can build lasting peace, not merely intermittent truces, through such patient processing of our collective and individual griefs.

Are you willing to step back from the frenetic pace of your life and grieve sufficiently so that your heart’s burdens of pain are resolved and you rise up with fresh energy to help build peace on earth among all peoples of good will? Good will is free will. All human beings are good people at heart. In the depth of our hearts we can find the common ground upon which to build lasting peace. We can find by faith that this common ground is there because the Creator of us all put it there. But to see and stand together upon such holy common ground we must be willing to be determined to acquire, honor and relentlessly use the habits of grieving needed to keep our visions clear and our minds focused on peace instead of focused on justifying anger.

We can “do” peace and live together in it. We need not allow hidden griefs and motives of revenge to dominate and imprison our hearts and minds – or our wills – as if we have no other choice. We do have another choice, a healthier and more promising one. I hope what I’ve written here helps us to see it and to make it. We can choose unifying humility in preference to divisive pride and shame. We need not proudly fight to our deaths over things that matter little in comparison to love’s simpler, more highly valued features and benefits over which no one needs to fight because they are universally available for free. We need not shame, blame or guilt-trip ourselves or others for our decisions or theirs. We can seek to understand by compassion’s perspective “There but by the grace of God go I.”

Many people who advocate on behalf of violence as a solution to human conflicts and confrontations (including to protect innocent defenseless people or in self-defense) have endured trauma in their past, sometimes trauma too severe to imagine if one has not been exposed to it personally. What I write here in no way denies or minimizes the pain that traumatized people have endured or continue to carry as ongoing suffering. I know that I’ve been fortunate to experience only moderate levels of emotional pain. I do not know by personal experience the fuller intensity of pain and suffering. Yet, I continue to advocate on behalf of grieving as the way to heal even the most severe pain and to relieve suffering that otherwise occurs when ungrieved emotional pain is allowed to take root unaddressed, often unnoticed as an underlying theme so prevalent as to be taken for granted as one of life’s unavoidable and permanent conditions.

Ungrieved pain is generating havoc around the world, nearby in our own homes and neighborhoods and far away in the homes and neighborhoods of other members of the human race. My heart’s desire is to help stop this havoc and chaotic, misplaced reliance on inflicting more pain as a response to pain. It’s time to see through the clouds of pain and dust storms of suffering that anyone who acts out violently, even with the full sanction of his or her social institutions, is acting out of unresolved pain. Our social institutions that rely upon punishment to control other people’s actions or impose guilt and shame as a “consequence” of violating those institutions’ rules, roles and rituals are contributing to the overarching pattern of violence that threatens to end the human race. While it is true that we must not deny or minimize pain, we must also not justify inflicting it is as if it is an essential part of the solution. It is a symptom of the problem of emotional unhealthiness we must all address more effectively together. Inflicting more pain and suffering in response to existing pain and suffering is totally counterproductive.

It is my intention to encourage us all to address this unhealthy condition in societies around the world by promoting the mastery of the grief-relief process in place of the grief-infliction process. Too many of our rules, roles and rituals perpetuate grief and pass it along generation to generation, person to person, group to group and humanity to our ecosystem (animals, plants and minerals). Let’s us experiment together instead with the process of relief and see the miracles that peace beyond anger and depression will bring.

Longer explanations of free will have been written by many superb thinkers. If you want to read examples of such works, check out Rollo May’s books entitled Love and Will and Freedom and Destiny. You’ll find great value in focusing your mind on these books and others like them. To do so would be an exercise of your own free will in a nonviolent way. My shorter discussion of free will is not alone sufficient to bring it all home to your heart. If it gets the ball rolling, please keep this ball of healing energy flowing freely within your life as you cultivate your own motivation for learning more about the process of relief called “grieving.” There is no more promising way to exercise your free will than to learn that it’s simply not true that “Big boys don’t cry” or that tears are a sign of weakness. Emotionally unhealthy boys, girls, men and women don’t cry. Ones with tender hearts, reasoning minds and good wills do. Please don’t be ashamed to be one of us.

© Art Nicol 2015

 

Which Arms Race Do You Choose to Enter?

Once again it is evident that those who profit from manufacturing and marketing military weapons continue to engage in propaganda urging US taxpayers to foot the bill for their luxury lifestyles. (Those who pay directly or indirectly for governments around the world are also roped in by this global propaganda machine underwritten by multinational corporations who are more loyal to fattening their own bank accounts and indulging in conspicuous consumption as global playboys and playgirls than they are to any nation or peoples beyond their immediate families.) The main theme of such propaganda is the “arms race.” According this propaganda, we are always at the mercy of hostile nations and unruly hostile non-nations acting on their own. Threats from all sides seem to justify arming ourselves to the teeth. Add to that the seeming threats from within our own borders attributed to criminals, terrorists and general crazies and we have the makings an endless arms race from which no one escapes but a few definitely profit. It’s a bonus to the profit-makers that many US citizens have decided that the only adequate response to this growing perception of apparent hostility from others outside and inside our borders is to arm themselves with weapons supplied by the same arms industry. Ah, the profitability of fear!

Are you and I powerless in the face of this arms race that sucks resources from our pockets as relentlessly as lampreys suck life from lake trout and leeches suck blood from any animal to which they can attach themselves? Are we at the mercy of these profit-making vampires who own and operate major media sources so as to keep their propaganda ever before us? Do we have no choice but to be taken in by the propaganda and participate as unsuspecting or suspicious but compliant dupes and funders of the excesses of those who profit from this arms race?

Not necessarily. First we can decide to disregard the propaganda that tells us that the world is entirely hostile towards the US and that we have no choice but to arm ourselves with a succession of soon-to-be-obsolete weapons in an endless race towards the wars we cannot avoid. The inevitability of war is assumed by the propaganda and the only issue presented is how well prepared will we be to win that war. Few of us want to go down in defeat. So, if one assumes that war is inevitable, most of us will join the cry for increased preparedness at any cost. Yet, we don’t have to believe that assumption or buy into the propaganda. We can choose to participate in an alternative arms race instead.

What might that alternative arms race look like? It would look like neighbors opening their arms to each other and reaching around the globe to welcome strangers as neighbors in our global village. We can ignore the doomsayers and act as if we have a better future based on peace and good will shared by good-natured, reasoning people who populate the globe with values and priorities akin to our own. We can assume not hostility but instead common ground in our shared hearts’ desires to raise children in healthy conditions and share life with loved ones in stability and harmony without fear of losses inflicted by hostile forces prepared only to spread violence like an epidemic throughout the human race.

We could engage in a race into each other’s arms if only we trusted each other more than feared each other. Are we willing to take that risk? Might we set aside our xenophobia and reach out to each other as if we might find friends instead of enemies? What do we have to lose? The military version of the arms race dooms all of us. All we have to lose by taking the risk of embracing each other as neighbors instead of as hostile strangers is doom. Might it make sense to you and I to forsake doom in exchange for embracing peace and the freedom to share the globe with good will?

How will we ever find the courage to take such a risk in the face of pressures to believe the propaganda and stand apart in fear? I suggest our courage will come from our faith that there’s a power greater than the arms merchants and their minions, a Power that will aid our alternative arms race. If we race into the arms of the Creator who loves us, we will discover divinely inspired courage within our hearts and God’s corresponding wisdom to make our dreams of peace on earth among people of good will a reality even in the face of contrary arguments proposed by distributors of death. All we need to do is to decide to be customers of the Distributor of Life who charges us nothing for receiving all we can open ourselves to receive of life. It costs us nothing but our egos to open our hearts and minds to the Source of Life and receive in abundance all that the Source generously offers to share with us. Is humility too great a price for peace on earth?

I hope that anyone who prefers life over death and love over fear will consider joining me in the alternative arms race into the loving arms of God and the people who say “Amen” to God in whatever language they choose to say it. God is great in any language spoken around the world by people of all faiths in a God who wills that the human race enjoy being surrounded and filled with love and allowed to live into the fullness of time as Eternity’s children.

© Art Nicol 2015

 

Intellectualism: Its Harmful Nature and Its Cure

During one of her talks, Esther Hicks presented her Inner Voice as saying, “Your Inner Being likes to skip and laugh and think about things; your Inner Being likes to offer compliments and feel appreciation and contemplate something that is not fully understood and then feel the understanding come forth.  Your Inner Being is just like your frisky two-year old who is eager for life experience.  To meet up with your Inner Being just be more like that now.”  That quote shares one angle on how to avoid the pitfalls of intellectualism.  For a corresponding observation we need only turn to Aldous Huxley who said, “The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.”

Intellectualism is the practice or habit of using the mind to conceive of ideas that are heartless and cruel in their impact on others, consider them viable options and logically explain why they are most effective.  It’s the byproduct of a mind trapped in ego.  The ego requires that we deny our emotions and become progressively insensitive to own heartfelt emotions and the hearts and emotions of others.  When we cultivate our egos as our false identities, we must tune out our natural capacity for empathy to avoid being overwhelmed by the obvious messages of pain that ego causes us and others to endure as if suffering is inevitable.  Intellectualism assumes that suffering is inevitable and that the primary purpose of human life is to decrease the pain and suffering we encounter no matter what the cost of our decisions may be in pain and suffering that others endure.  To avoid pain and suffering, a person guided by ego can decide to climb over others on the way to the top because the top looks freer of pain or insulate oneself from others because separating from others looks like a way to protect from pain or at least from awareness of other people’s suffering.  Ironically, the ego’s tactics end up isolating us from one another, increasing our agonizing loneliness and leaving us feeling confused, betrayed and powerless.  In teaching us to be emotionally uninvolved with ourselves and others, the ego teaches us to avoid forming bonds of love, be alone and accept loneliness as our inevitable lot in life. It’s not our only option.  We can choose to reverse the ego’s trapping logic and let the truth in our hearts set us free.

The quotes by Hicks and Huxley emphasize the value of retaining our wholeheartedly childlike (but not childish) nature as we develop into maturity.  They underscore the truth that healthy maturity is not discovered in denying our childlike qualities but in extending ourselves beyond childhood into adulthood while retaining the best qualities of childhood.  Children are naturally curious, playful, care-free, sensitive, compassionate, innocently trusting and open to love’s natural flow.  Adults who abandon those traits in order to survive in the adult world impoverish themselves and help to fabricate an artificial adult world that inflicts pain and suffering on children and others as if to punish them for being childlike.  Such emotionally impoverished adults adopt intellectualism’s emotionless logic in some form to “explain” or “justify” their repeated decisions to abandon their own “inner child” in favor of neglecting and abusing it as they neglect and abuse themselves and others in order to prevail as an adult in competition for ego-valued rewards.   What’s really being “explained” and “justified” is the ego’s preservation of itself.  When one mistakes one’s identity for being an ego, one can only logically fight to preserve that false identity, remain trapped within its blindly clawing attempts to survive and intellectually excuse and rationalize its fight for survival as “survival of the fittest.”  In truth, no ego is fit because no ego can experience and share love.  Ego is the antithesis of our capacity to experience and share love.

Moralists try to counteract the “evils” of ego’s intellectualism by arguing for ethics and laws that control everyone’s actions by confining our permissible actions within limits that supposedly minimize the harm of pursuing ego-valued rewards.  Moralists argue in favor of drawing lines and enforcing them through systems of reward and punishment primarily because moralists are themselves limited by their cognitive development to thinking in terms of reward and punishment as the top level of adult maturity.  They conceive of “adults” as those qualified by age, longevity of service or elegantly and subtly manipulative (or mere brute) force to administer the systems of reward and punishment.  It’s understandable that those whose thinking is not yet developed beyond the reward-punishment duality will think in those terms and not realize that there is a more highly evolved alternative.  But it is not necessary that a whole society be run into the ground by the limited capacity of moralists to think simply because, in their fear of the unknown and uncontrolled aspects of society’s emerging diversity, they demand conformity, are persuasive and present their arguments forcefully by invoking religious texts to back them up.

Since moralists wrote most of the religious texts, of course these texts back them up.  Their argument that God totally agrees with them amounts to their citing dead authors’ claims to speak for a living God.  A living God does not need dead or living authors to speak for the Divine Truth that God shares with every one of us within our hearts.  If only we would learn to listen and receive what God shares in our hearts we’d know.  Hick’s quote makes that point by noting how our understanding will grow into increasing clarity through our life experiences not through memorizing or quoting dead or living authors.  As a living author, I encourage you to be frisky, take risks and encounter God and Divine love within your experiences, even those experiences that others may counsel you not to have.  Surely wisdom does seek to guide you but the fears of others are not necessarily the Voice of Wisdom.  It’s your responsibility to listen and decide for yourself what Wisdom is saying to you. Don’t take my word for it.  If you prefer to jump through other people’s hoops and submit yourself to their authority, by all means do so.  Perhaps in this stage of your life that’s what’s best for you.  I did that for many years in my life.  Fortunately, I was blessed to have teachers, mentors and other authority figures worthy of my attention and cooperation until I ran out of them and had to learn to listen to God as my eternal and internal Authority Figure.  God, as it turns out, is the only infallible source of Wisdom and Guidance.   Stop, look within and listen.  God is speaking to you in your heart even now, as you read this sentence . . .

It is one of the natural results of moralism for moralists to gain control of social institutions and use traditions to climb higher within those institutions so as to gain the power to write and enforce the rules as if they should apply to everyone.  Moralists are accomplished social climbers – and conformist and apologists for rigorously enforced conformity.  By imposing external rules on us all, they would make clones of us as if manufacturing Model-T Fords to roll off a single, rigidly controlled factory line.  (Witness the super-conformist Common Core Curriculum generated by intellectualism in service to a conformist society’s demands for more clones to fit into predetermined slots in a modern mechanistic economy – whether capitalistic, socialistic, communistic or otherwise defined by values that are materialistic.)  In fact, metaphors idealizing the mechanistic, replicative processes of the industrial age have heavily influenced the power of conformists to insist that theirs is the only way that works.  They can mask all of their inner conflicts and struggles behind their egos’ facades and pretend to qualify to be in charge of our materialistic, factory-like consumerist society.  When one of their club members reveals a moral lapse, the moralists gasp in surprise and oust the offender as their way of purifying their club and retaining claim to power over others.  Few among the intimidated masses notice or dare to point out that the emperor has no clothes on – in fact, that none of the emperor’s counselors and hangers-on are clothed with true authority to govern.

As the tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes reveals, it takes a child to notice and speak the truth about the nakedness of those whose actions are motivated by their desire to have power over others that they acquire through competition.  The capacity to see with one’s heart and have the courage to speak up is a childlike trait that conflicts with survival in the adult world as a seeker of ego-valued rewards of competition.  The truth offends the ego and those who subscribe to the ego’s way of adulthood.  Most children learn to keep their thoughts to themselves for fear of losing rewards and reaping punishment.  Fear censors and silences the truth that we’d otherwise naturally observe and talk about if we were feeling safe to risk sharing what’s on our hearts and minds.  Intellectuals masquerading as moralists want us to feel unsafe so that we rely upon them to protect us from making mistakes and taking risks that might result in adverse consequences imposed by them.  Their logic is circular but fear often keeps us from noticing.  Bullies cow the rest of us into submission unless we simply don’t value what the herd heard and instead listen inwardly to our own Inner Voice.  The Inner Voice of our Inner Being or Inner Child conveys the wisdom of the ages to each of us but most of us have tuned it out.  No one warns us that tuning out our hearts and learning to be progressively less sensitive, less empathetic, less compassionate and less altruistic carries a price – a high price.  That price is the loss of the most rewarding qualities of life that wisdom would preserve, uppermost of which is Divine Love.

If you want to investigate the possibility of regaining your capacity to see life through the heart and eyes of a child and experience and share divine love, I highly recommend reading It Will Never Happen to Me by Claudia Black.  Read the second edition.  She applies her principles to all of us in that edition after describing them as applicable to survivors of alcoholic families in her first edition.  She espouses a simple solution to the dilemma imposed upon our minds by ego’s roles, rules and rituals.  She encourages us to risk violating the ego’s rules and learn again to trust, feel and talk about things that matter.  If you’ve appreciated reading this article you’ll likely find great value in reading Ms. Black’s book, not because she necessarily has all the answers but because she knows the truth about how each of us can regain our natural access to answers supplied to us in our hearts by the unconditionally loving Divine Being who leaves no one out of His/Her family.  We are all – every single one of us – a child of God favored by God, unforgotten and unforsaken by God.  Whether you prefer to refer to the Divine Being by God, Goddess or any other term, Divine Love awaits you as an experience as you turn inward to allow your heart to awaken and blossom under the influence of the energy of the Lovelight within you.  Perhaps it’s time for you to be under its influence instead of under the influence of any alternative mood-altering substance, experience or intoxication.   Try being high on Love.  You’ll enjoy discovering and returning to that high as the healthy alternative to all others.  It’s the only true cure for intellectualism.

As innocent children know it so can you.  Learn to let go of ego’s teachings about guilt and shame as if those painful features of your experiences are permanent.  They need not be permanent.  Suffering is perpetuated by the belief that pride is the antidote and cure for shame and blame directed at another is the antidote and cure for guilt.  Such nonsense only perpetuates suffering by recycling it.  Forgiveness lets it go and releases you from the cycle of suffering.  Only you can choose to forgive.  And no one else can prevent you from forgiving if you desire to follow your heart and be free of all the past that the ego says you’ll never be free of.  You may feel afraid of stepping beyond your ego. That’s understandable and only need be shared to be overcome.  By sharing your fears you’ll find within you the courage to overcome them.  By sharing your heart with others you can trust and talking about all that matters most to you, the True You will come forth from behind the ego’s shadow and discover that like the moon’s shadow the ego’s shadow only temporarily blocked the Lovelight of the Divine Son or Daughter you are.  Once you’ve tasted the Lovelight you’ll never really want to retreat into your ego for long again.

To quote another source of wise spiritual guidance on this topic, let me set out the text of Matthew 18:1-4: “At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'” (English Standard Version.)  To turn from the heartlessness of being an intellectualizing adult and once again embrace the endearing qualities of childhood allows us to resume our natural relationship with the Creator of Heaven, who is our Father.  As beloved dear ones of the Creator we know the qualities of heavenly love are ours to cherish and honor within our hearts and share with one another as sisters and brothers in One United Divine Family.  Intellectualism is one path by which we forget who we are and blindly stumble into treating each other as if we do not all belong within our Father’s family household.  By the power of paradox that defies our human capacity for reasoning, every one of us is greatest in the greatest kingdom.  No superlative outshines our Father’s love for each of us who stops thinking of himself or herself as an ego and instead humbly accepts his or her nature as a Divine Child. Within God’s family of sibling rivalry there is no need or cause because each is greatest.

© Art Nicol 2015

 

 

Higher Technology Cannot Insure the Integrity that Higher Wisdom Offers

In the modern view, the best way to address every problem is through a new or upgraded product.  This is the default reaction of a materialistic society governed by profits instead of by prophets.  By referring to prophets I do not advocate for a religiously oriented, legalistic society.  I’m in favor of an open, faith-based society that also tolerates those whose faith in a higher power has been so shaken as to cast the possibility of such a faith out of their lives entirely.  We who continue to cling to our faith in a higher power have our reasons for living that way. Those who reject faith in a higher power have their reasons for living that way too.  Let us celebrate our capacity to reason and even share our reasons openly.  And let us embrace the integrity that may yet arise from such open-minded sharing instead of embracing the idea that every problem requires the introduction of a new or higher level of product or technology.  If our society’s violence is rooted in dishonesty (lack of integrity, hypocrisy, whatever label), as I believe it is, then no amount of new technology will restore us to the integrity we need to resolve all problems without violence and instill peace and healing throughout our land.  Video-graphing violence will not prevent it.  Blaming others for it will not diminish it.  We must admit our responsibility for promoting it as a symptom of our collective lack of integrity.

I am inspired to address this topic by recent proposals that more cameras be trained on police officers as they perform their duties so that we can hold them accountable for their actions in case their actions fall short of integrity when they face violence. Surely those who make profits from the sale, installation and maintenance of video equipment will be glad to have their businesses prosper under such proposals.  Police officers who already operate with integrity will adjust to having their actions video-recorded.  Police officers who already operate without integrity will also adjust – by developing ways to manipulate the records made by audio and visual recordings and to avoid their completeness by turning them off when it’s convenient for them to fail to make a record. If wardrobe malfunctions can occur, so can equipment malfunctions of other kinds by accident, neglect or intention. Nixon is not the only public servant who showed all of us how to manipulate the record. Technology is not infallible.  Humans can brazenly manipulate it to create whatever outcome they prefer. If they have something to hide, it will remain hidden at all costs.

Accountability for being men and women of integrity applies to all of us.  Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream was not of a nation that prospered because of how our profits rose but of a nation that prospered because of how our integrity rose.  He dreamed of the day when we would judge ourselves not “by the color of [our] skins but by the content of [our] characters.” When our characters are filled with the content of integrity we will all be free at last.  Integrity matters.  Authenticity and Integrity Matter – AIM must become our highest purpose and ideal. No recordings audio and visual will insure our achievement of that goal.  If we want to achieve it, we must allow not profits but prophets like MLK Jr. to guide us.

We live in an age awash with profit-making enterprises and especially devoid of prophet-honoring ones. We teach our young people to pursue careers that are profitable without teaching them to do so with enduring, unshakeable commitment to integrity.  We teach our young people a compromised, lukewarm approach to life because that’s how we live.  We’ve settled for mediocrity as the lowest common denominator by which to add up the fractions of our disintegrating society.  We find common ground all too often in reassuring ourselves that everyone lacks integrity and no one stands up for being a whole person instead of a fraction.  We will continue to fall into the void where fractured souls lacking in integrity huddle together in the dark until we decide to honor our shared need to be here as musketeers, standing one for all and all for one – each as a life worth living and as a person worth standing alongside of with gratitude.

Who will insure that our police officers are armed with integrity and not merely armed with the latest weapons and video-recording equipment?  Who will stand alongside officers who dare to live as men and women of integrity amid the physically dangerous and emotionally harsh environments where we expect them to pursue their careers without sacrificing their health and well-being?  Who will make it possible for us to entrust our communities’ welfare to men and women who bring to the challenges of law enforcement and protection of all citizens the integrity we need them to embody?  We need officers to be protected by bullet proof vests but not by case-hardened hearts and coldly manipulative minds.  If we entrust deadly weapons into the hands of those whose hearts and minds are not empowered by integrity to guide them in their use of their weapons, we will suffer the consequences we now witness – and more severe ones yet to follow.  Violence will continue to escalate until we cultivate the courageous integrity needed to de-escalate it.

We must prepare officers to respond with integrity even in the midst of emotionally stressful conditions that threaten to escape their control and make them feel inadequate, foolish and at risk of harm.  We must invest in their adequately empowering training and back them with adequately encouraging emotional support or they will not believe they matter to us enough to serve and protect us as we expect them to.  We cannot lay upon them our most challenging emotional burdens while providing them with only limited emotional resources.  And we must take care not to assume that a man or woman experienced in the use of weaponry under conditions of war is necessarily well-prepared to wield weapons in times of relative peace.  The heart-rending hardship of war-torn battlefields does not necessarily translate well into the leadership needed on our embattled streets.  Battlefield reflexes do not necessarily translate into responsible actions when confrontations take place between officers and citizens.  We must be careful not to reap at home the violence we’ve exported abroad.  Men and women who have served abroad may well be the best prepared to serve at home once we have honored them enough to help them heal and be restored beyond the emotional wounds of overseas service.  To help them to heal reflects our commitment to peace at home and abroad. To fail to help them heal reflects our callous disregard of heroes we put up on pedestals while we pretend they have no sensitive human emotions worthy of our notice and compassion.

If we are to expect integrity and self-control from our men and women who are armed with weapons of warfare and charged with protecting those of us who are not so armed, we must stand with them with the same integrity we expect of them.  We cannot expect of them what we do not expect of ourselves in less stressful situations. Loss of control under the duress of intense fear is a common threat we all face. If we cannot live as men and women of integrity while we enjoy the protection that police officers afford us, how can we expect our protectors to live up to higher standards while they are directly exposed to harm?  Our protective heroes need our wholehearted support every day of their lives. Token praise at award ceremonies and eulogies at funerals are not all our protectors deserve.

If we are to invest resources in the lives and welfare of our police officers, let us invest wisely in their integrity and help them to feel our support for their health and welfare throughout every fiber of their being.  Let us reassure them that we don’t take them for granted while sending them out onto our violent streets by day and night as we go about our routines as if we’re entitled to be safe but not responsible for their safety too. Let’s help our officers face the dangers of our out-of-control society by taking risks ourselves.  Let’s risk stepping into the flow of violence and pluck from its flow those young people whom we see to be at risk of being confronted by police officers.

Let’s reduce the stress on officers who police our streets by tackling the cause of violence at its root. Let’s be men and women of courage and integrity who show young people who doubt that anyone cares about them how wrong they are.  Or we risk confirming that the abandoned, rejected and neglected youth of modern times are right about the rest of us. As we witness solitary young men being confronted by police officers, might we ask ourselves why those young men are so alone and lack the high quality companionship that might well make all the difference in their lives?  Do we have the integrity to do the right thing and care enough to be in their corner with them to help them know that they are not alone uncared for?

Why are we first meeting young men at risk of confrontations with police officers when they star in YouTube videos?  Why did we not meet them earlier and let them know that they could star in our lives in more productive ways?  How might it make a difference for us who are protected to let our protectors and the young men from whom we feel the need to be protected know that we care about every one of them and leave none out of our protected circles of protective care? Might our own intentionally cultivated greater integrity overflow to lift us all to higher ground together?  A rising tide of integrity might float the boat we share and free us from the storm-tossed reefs of violence upon which our Ship of State is floundering.  Before we abandon ship let us consider how we might voluntarily contribute integrity to seal the hull and add ballast to keep us upright.

© Art Nicol 2015

 

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