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Honoring the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

At this time in January, there’s a focus on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.  Much is said and written about honoring the man for the ideas for which he stood and put his life at risk.  Much is made of the “legacy” he left us.  However, little is said about his legacy not being self-activating.  If there’s a reason for the continuation of the issues to which MLK Jr. devoted his life it lies in his legacy not being self-activating.  If there’s a reason for the tenacity of these issues it lies in the fact that MLK Jr. focused not exclusively upon symptoms but also upon root causes.  If we are to enjoy the benefits of expanding success in the field of social justice, we must join him in his focus upon root cause.

If we are to be beneficiaries of MLK Jr.’s generosity, we cannot look upon his legacy with passivity nor ignore root causes while legislating against symptoms we seek to address by merely banishing them from view.  We cannot honor him merely with words, especially not words voiced only once a year, but not even words voiced throughout the year in the form of legislation and regulations, policies and principles.  More than words are needed to receive the legacy MLK Jr. left us.  More than legislation is required to carry it forward to give birth to its promise and nurture it to maturity.

To reap the generosity MLK Jr. had in mind when he devoted his life to leading us together into doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with God, we too must walk in whatever way God shows us to walk today to address at their root causes the issues that continue to need addressing.  Opportunities to do so abound.  That we might not be gifted as an orator does not excuse us from finding our own gifts and devoting them to service to address the issues MLK Jr. addressed.  If we truly want to fully honor him, we must ensure that he did not die in vain.  To do so, we must look deep into the heart of the messages he left us and find concrete ways to address at their root cause the issues he identified.  MLK Jr. espoused grand ideas that inspired his followers to act upon them.  We can likewise give life to those ideas through our own actions as we invest our gifts in the same field of social justice in which MLK Jr. invested his.

When MLK Jr. was assassinated, his field of ministry was expanding.  He saw the need to include the needs of all people in the implementation of justice and mercy throughout the nation and beyond it.  Our vision of the possibilities of service must likewise be expansive and yet can be as localized as MLK Jr.’s actions often were.  Although his thinking was expanding globally, his actions usually focused locally.  Where and when he was is where and when he took his stand.  Where and when we are is where and when we can likewise take our stands for justice, mercy and equality under God’s dominion. He endeavored to see issues from God’s heavenly and eternal perspective and yet take action from within humankind’s experiences in the here and now.  He sought to elevate service by people towards other people as sacred acts of justice, mercy and love.  He saw within the specific and concrete actions taken by people the redeeming brilliance of abstract ideals that God has espoused for millennia.

One example of this interplay between the concrete and the abstract, between the specific and the general, between the fully human and the fully divine, will illustrate my point about how we may yet more comprehensively honor MLK Jr.’s legacy by investing our lives fully and meaningfully in the here and now.  Of the many visionary ideas MLK Jr. left us to consider was one captured in his declaration, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”  (I Have a Dream Speech, August 28, 1963.)  If we examine this abstract idea with clear minds and hearts, we will see how to implement it in concrete, specific ways.

As a side note, it’s interesting that discussions about the meaning of this ideal tend to focus upon the nature, origin and dynamics of racial discrimination.  Yet, today in the US we face continued if not increased racial discrimination, often more covertly practiced than before but not diminished. All of the discussions about it have produced discouragingly little lasting fruit.  This failure to bear abundant fruit has even soured some people on the idea of civil rights, as if it’s not ever going to be possible to adequately dispel racial discrimination and disharmony in our nation.  I offer up here the idea that the goal of reducing racial discrimination and disharmony to the point of dispelling both entirely (or at least to socially negligible proportion) remains viable if and only if we address the root cause of discrimination and disharmony, not only such as are based on color of skin but also such as are based on any other superficial factor inherent in the human race.

I propose that to honor MLK Jr.’s legacy fully will result in reducing discrimination and disharmony across the board for all excuses any person gives for discriminating unjustly or promoting disharmony unproductively.  Root cause!  MLK Jr. identified the root cause of racial discrimination (and, I propose, all forms of invidious discrimination) in his declaration about his hoped-for future for his children. But we have studiously avoided focusing on what he said in this regard because we are uncomfortable with the idea of addressing the root cause.  To remain comfortable within our familiar territory, we have learned to tolerate the continuation of discrimination in an array of forms and turn a blind eye to it rather than address it.

Admittedly it is challenging to address the root cause of discrimination because doing so requires that every one of us take stock of an aspect of ourselves we have little skill at (or stomach) for evaluating and addressing.  However, if we are to fully honor the legacy MLK Jr. died to leave to us, we will take stock of “the content of [our] character” and engage in upgrading our character’s content and nature until we’ve purged ourselves of all character weaknesses and cease to perceive, think, feel, decide and act under the influence of our former weaknesses.  Building strong, resourceful and responsible characters requires effort, self-discipline and determination to succeed at any cost.  It’s much easier to intellectually debate the nature, origins and dynamics of racial discrimination for centuries than to devote the next decades to gut-wrenching, heart-rending character-building, with its requirements for humility, honesty and vulnerability and its ongoing need for self-monitoring and self-discipline.

We have the capacity for humility, honesty and vulnerability as well as self-monitoring and self-discipline.  But these are not traits of humanity that insist upon their existence in the modern era within which survival and advancement according to modern criteria are based on an opposite set of values, priorities, attitudes and skill set.  To build characters worthy of honoring, we must resolve not to conform to the ways of modern culture and instead sink the roots of our lives resolutely in the soil of deeper concerns, values and priorities than those to which our modern culture subscribes — and develop attitudes and skills not promoted by our culture as survival skills.  We must cease to be dedicated to the preservation of the status quo – because the status quo is betraying our character and revealing us to be weak in our resolves about doing better.

The opposite of sound character is hypocrisy.  Models of social success based on hypocrisy abound around us.  Models of sound character valued at any cost are not necessarily non-existent but they are largely buried in fiction and considered fanciful and impractical or are buried beneath the hype by which hypocrisy is sensationalized and promoted as the more reliable route to fame and fortune.  Messages about the value of sound character are lost amid the media’s glamorizing of hypocrites who sell their souls to gain the world’s acclaim, show off their wealth and regale in their social status. The media amplifies self-promoting blowhards and windbags while largely overlooking their alternatives of sounder character.  There is no silence of the hams nor inclination of the media to refuse to serve them up to the public as a constant diet.  And the eagerness of the public to feed their minds according to the media’s dietary plan reflects a lack of sound character among the fragile public whose hearts fix upon false idols that glitter and may even be gold but are never God.

When we have created public as well as private programs to promote sound character among ourselves and our children and immersed ourselves within them with utmost determination until we emerge transformed by a renewal of our hearts and minds, we will continue to suffer from racial discrimination and disharmony and all other forms of injustice.  Should we insist that others engage in character-transforming programs for as long as it takes to emerge transformed?  No, because going against a person’s free will is not likely to bring about deep and lasting change within that person.  Yet, we can develop such programs, ourselves voluntarily participate in them and simultaneously offer them to all who are willing to explore them.  If we do so, the fruits of such participation will be self-evident and the role models who emerge from these programs will cause skeptics to pay attention and bid them drift ever closer to participating themselves.

One day all hypocrisy (and its close cousins dishonesty and violence) will disappear from our national character because we have resolutely weeded it out from our individual characters one opportunity, one issue and one person at a time until the pattern of generalized character sustainability takes hold.  Just as a field of weeds springs from individual weed seeds so, too, does a field of honor, integrity, health, peace and goodwill among all peoples spring from individual seeds who decide to become one with and to express that crop throughout all relationships in their lives.  The miracle of such a social justice transformation beckons us to heed the vision Martin Luther King Jr. once held out to us.  He holds it out to us even now as we re-read his words and take them into our hearts at the depth from which they emerged from his.

© Art Nicol 2017

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R.I.P. – God is the Lap of Luxury

How much better off everyone would be if we were each to accept the gift of intimacy that God offers all of us!  This gift is a crown of purest golden love bejeweled with many precious gems of wisdom.  It adorns both our minds and our hearts to interconnect us within ourselves and with each other wholeheartedly in peace, hope and joy.  As children of the Reigning Monarch who Creates Universes, while we accept this royal gift as our natural inheritance, we need not die to receive it.  Not does it do anyone good to try to kill God to usurp the throne of grace and take it from Him/Her.  We need only be willing to thrive beyond our wildest hopes and dreams, coming fully alive to R.I.P. with God while yet experiencing and expressing life through our bodies and for all Eternity beyond such physical limitations once our bodies cease to function. No one will succeed to God’s throne and replace Him/Her.  Yet everyone can succeed in joining God within the realm of grace set before us as a gift for everyone to share.

No amount of wealth can supply the luxury that personal intimacy or oneness with God supplies.  That’s the irony that those who seek worldly wealth fail to admit is true. Whether you seek it for yourself or envy it when others have it, worldly wealth in any form – money, power, social status or any other – at best covers up the insecurities that come naturally from worrying about how God looks at one’s life.  At worst the endless cycles of pursuit, envy and worry associated with making worldly wealth one’s primary life-goal and measure of success aggravate the internal turmoil one experiences when an intimate relationship with God seems not available to be enjoyed at our leisure.

The gift of intimacy with God is available to everyone freely — without cost of any kind.  Most people find that reality too unbelievable to grasp or act upon.  We are raised to believe that everything costs something and that nothing worth having is free.  And it’s often true that possessing something to the exclusion of others comes with its costs.  Carving out a piece of the pie for ourselves to enjoy as our personal dominion costs whatever we have to trade or give up to carve, possess and retain it.  So, how could a personal, intimate relationship with God not also cost whatever we have to trade or give up to enjoy it?  The best bargains in life still have trade-offs and costs, so we believe.  We believe it until we experience life differently from the way we’ve been taught to expect life to be.  Only by strange experiences beyond our expectations and immediate comprehension can we learn that our expectations have been holding us back from the best life and God have to offer.

Many people postpone resolving their issues with God until as late in life as they can.  They assume that resolving their issues with God early will deprive them of the pleasures and other satisfying qualities of life they crave.  They crave to carve a huge slice of the pie, perhaps a larger slice than anyone else has ever carved or perhaps a modest slice compared with others.  Craving to carve consumes most of us to one degree or another.  We measure our success and happiness by the slice of life we can call “ours.”  We may even prefer to call it “mine” if we have no one with whom to share it whom we trust enough to share it without taking it from us.

The key to revisiting our beliefs about carving and the necessity of constantly craving more rests in realizing that we are making assumptions about life that are not necessarily true.  For example, we are assuming that sharing will result in loss because others will take advantage of our generous nature and run off with the wealth we crave to call our own and keep control over.  But, suppose that the type of wealth that truly allows us to R.I.P. with God cannot be taken from us nor ever run out no matter how widely or wildly we share it?

Suppose that intimacy with God is available to me without making it less available to you or to anyone else?  Does it not make sense that an eternal, infinite God is expansive enough to share the Divine Heart of Love with you, me and everyone without anyone having less than anyone could possibly crave?  How huge a slice of God might you want to taste in order to prove to yourself that God is huge enough to satisfy you while satisfying everyone else too?

Think of it this way:  How much water do you imagine dipping out of the Pacific Ocean to have all the water you’d ever need or want?  Assuming you did not want to claim a monopoly on the ocean and sell it to others for your own personal profit, how much of the ocean’s water do you actually need or want to possess at any one time?  Do you imagine having to hoard your desired portion and keep it safe from others or do you realize that there’s no lack of water in the ocean that requires you to hoard it?  Any water you dip out and use will find its way back into the ocean through the Earth’s never-ending hydrological cycles.  It will return to the ocean for you or anyone else to dip out again later if you want or need it.  The same is true about God’s love and all other aspects of Divine Nature.  The supply of God is more than oceanic.  And the replenishing cycle of Divine Love is more reliable than our planet’s hydrological system.  God is not finite as the Pacific Ocean is.  God is infinite.  God is a reliable resource to draw upon for all of our life.  Why not rest in peace with God now instead of postponing your rest while you spend decades of your life scrambling after slices of pie in various forms that matter so little in eternity – and are defined only in illusory terms anyway?

When I say “in eternity,” I mean “in your heart.”  Your heart is inseparably linked with God for all time and beyond time.  When you learned according to the ego’s rules to deny your emotions and numb or harden your heart to the world around you, your motive was to protect yourself from pain.  Despite this worthy motive, an unforeseen side effect took place: you taught yourself to forget your naturally restorative intimacy with God within your heart.  You do not need protection when the powerful energy of divine restoration is available to you.  Divine intimacy and all it offers are still there in your heart, waiting for you to resume any time you decide to seek God’s presence within you.  God is waiting patiently for your return home to your heart’s dominion.  God is waiting for you to make room in your awareness for what has been missing from your awareness – your heart and all that your heart deeply desires.

Do you suffer a loss when you resume awareness of your heart?  Not in truth. But for a time it may seem like you’ve lost the protective schemes you set up to protect yourself from awareness of your heartaches and your heart’s not-yet-met desires.  In returning to intimacy with God by turning inward within your heart to connect again with God where God waits, you are making the choice to unlearn all the lessons of ego-protection that you so diligently learned under the ego-mind’s dominion of fear.  The ego even convinced you to fear God and expect only punishment and pain from God on account of shutting Him/Her off from your awareness and from your life.  You control the tap for shutting off or turning on your God-intimacy-awareness.  The free will that God created you to enjoy remains yours.  For a time you’ve been exercising your free will to ignore God’s call to return to intimacy with Him/Her.  And yet in so doing you’ve ironically lost your sense of freedom.  Why?  Because we can enjoy being truly free only if we enjoy our freedom within our intimacy with God and make our intimacy with God a primary focus of our attention and our commitment within our free life.

Is it time to reconsider where you’ve allowed the primary focus of your attention and commitment to aim?  Are you willing this season to begin an experiment in R.I.P. with God before you are on your death bed?  I encourage you to run the experiment throughout 2017 to see what difference it makes in your peaceful enjoyment of life.  Wisdom can be yours to exercise and invest as you choose.  All you need do is stop (meditate), look within (contemplate) and listen to (commune with) your heart.  Your heart is well-stocked with wisdom to guide you on your adventure in intimacy with God.  Within that divine intimacy awaits all the love you’ve ever craved to experience and share.  There’s no end to the wealth that is the most precious in the universe.  It is yours, mine, his, hers, ours and theirs merely for the allowing and receiving.

Let’s all rest in love’s lap of divine luxury this season and for the rest of our lives – here on Earth and afterwards.  Prove to yourself that there is life after death of your body by experiencing it fully while yet experiencing your body too.  Fully physical, fully divine!

© Art Nicol 2016

How Does Faith Provide Relief Beyond Life’s Pressure Cooker?

When you feel like your life has become an emotional pressure cooker, my services as a Faith Consultant and Coach may help you not only find relief but also make great progress in personal growth.  The pressure cooker generated by acute pain and confusion piled atop chronic stress can become an incredibly productive opportunity for personal growth.  All that is required is a large dose of devotion to your own best interests mixed well within a solution of helpful resources developed as your personal health tonic.  The healthy energy boost you both need and desire becomes available to you as you seek it intentionally, with renewed faith in your personal value and capacity to overcome pain, confusion and stress to rise again on even better terms than you’ve encountered in the past.  In short, as some would put it, miracles of personal benefit to you are waiting around the corner for you if you’ll move forward by faith in their presence even before you see, hear, smell, taste or feel them. It may sound too cliché, but here’s the silver lining in life’s storm clouds that threaten to overwhelm you with grief.

Miracles of relief and personal growth are not at first physical.  They begin to form by faith in energy realms beyond the physical dimension – realms invisible to our physical senses but accessible by faith.  Perhaps even as you read this article, an inner sense within the core of your being is resonating, tingling with that “knowing” bell that rings when you encounter Truth.  Because the Miracle Provider has faith in you, the miracles you need are already simmering on the Divine Stove even before you may decide to have faith in yourself and the Source of Miracles.  As your faith grows, it encounters the faithfulness of others and of the One from Whom all Faith flows and the reconnected world of faith opens doors for you through which miracles enter your life to comfort, heal and bless.

Stress and tension are normal features of healthy life.  For example, the tension between a relatively drier atmosphere and a relatively wetter inside of a plant draws moisture from the plant into the atmosphere in an attempt to arrive at an equal distribution of moisture inside and outside of the plant.  Because a plant is designed to release moisture from its leaves through transpiration, the attempt to equalize humidity levels occurs at leaves.  Moisture leaves at the leaves!  This departure of moisture increases the tension inside of the plant between moisture levels lower down the plant’s channels and at the leaves where moisture is escaping.  By a natural process, moisture is then moved gradually along the plant’s inner channels towards the leaves from the roots.  If moisture is available in the soil around the roots, it is draw into the plant’s inner channels through the roots and moves towards the leaves where it eventually exits. As moisture moves along the plant’s channels, it carries nutrients from the soil throughout the plant and carries the products of photosynthesis and other chemical reactions throughout the plant as well.  In this manner, the stress of differing tensions helps the plant maintain health and is not destructive to the plant’s health.

In similar ways, tension can play helpful roles in human life.  For example, if our mind encounters a problem that we don’t know how to solve, the problem’s existence creates a tension within us that we can feel as a desire to know the solution to the problem.  If the problem has little value to us, the tension is relatively slight, perhaps even nonexistent.  We encounter a lot of problems throughout our lives that have little or no value to us and cause little or no tension or hunger to solve them.  However, when we value a solution to a problem greatly, we invest a lot of emotions in “not knowing” the answer.  The tension resulting from “not knowing” rises as our emotional investment in solving the problem rises.  Being exposed for a long time to emotionally troubling unsolved problems generates chronic stress, an abiding sense of being stressed out under intense tension with little hope of relief.  Sometimes we adjust to chronic stress by ignoring it and doing our best to survive without knowing the solution we’d prefer to know.  Sometimes a newly arriving problem reminds us that we’d still like to solve the “big one” that has long caused us chronic stress and, although supposedly ignored, left us feeling vaguely tense in our bodies, minds and hearts.

Fear of the unknown is a fear common to all humans.  It is a fear that causes tension and stress until we learn to be comfortable in the presence of mysteries we’ve not yet learned to solve.  Fear of the unknown can be coupled with fear of change (and perhaps accompanying fears of loss of control and powerlessness), the combination of which causes us to feel paralyzed or mired in stagnation, discontent with the status quo but unable to move forward in any direction to find and implement the change we’d prefer.  Or that same combination can cause us to become overactive, chasing our tails in search of a solution not to be found in our nose-to-tail closed circle of futility.

Fear-inducing dilemmas appear like unsolvable puzzles to our minds.  We feel caught on the horns of a dilemma without relief from the painful confusion it causes.  It can even feel like a form of torture because we’d much prefer relief from the pain and confusion and don’t know how to find it.  Because we’ve learned to take pride in our competence-driven achievements, we feel ashamed at having too little competence to solve The Problem.  We may even feel like extreme failures or losers for becoming skewered on the horns of such dilemmas in the first place, as if no winner ever faced them without overcoming them on his or her own.

The truth is that dilemmas arise periodically in everyone’s life because they are a natural consequence of growing on account of one’s experiences.  Every person who has ever discovered increasingly rewarding and enriching ways to live life has faced challenging dilemmas and resolved them satisfactorily according to his or her own values and priorities.  One key factor in finding such resolutions seems like a paradox: that is, that the door through which one must pass to find life’s deepest satisfactions is opened by a mechanism called “interdependence” or “collaboration.”  The door remains closed so long as we continue to resort only to self-reliance or independence as individuals and refuse to trust anyone to assist us in opening the door.

As we stand before such a door in the middle of a tension-filled, dilemma-plagued phase of our life, we can knock and probe for access points on our own without success in opening the door – no matter how great our individual competences and achievements may be in other realms of life.  It may seem like magic but it’s really a matter of faith.  So long as we stand in front of such a door demanding “I want inside!  Open up for me!” we will be frustrated by the unresponsive silence.  Only when we revise our declaration to say “We want inside!  Open up for us!” will we hear a reply and find our way into the sanctuary beyond the door.  The door to relief from painful confusion opens to “us,” not merely to “me” or “you.”  It swings open on multiple hinges, not just on one.

Discovering this truth about multi-hinged doors and their use is one of the primary personal benefits of enduring life’s pressure cooker of faith.  The pressure cooker insists that we discover it.  The truth that brings relief is “None of us is alone.”  Through long training in the ways and myths of self-reliance and independence-at-all-costs, we’ve been misled into believing that we are alone in the world.  We may come logically to believe that we were born into the world alone, leave the world alone at the death of the body and have to endure life in between birth and death largely alone too.  That’s simply not true.  We can try to survive according to that belief for a long time.  We may even reach our death bed still believing it.  But it’s not true.

If we feel alone, it’s merely because we’ve bought into and not yet re-examined the common social training that assumes such a belief to be true.  That an untruth is assumed to be true by many people does not make it true.  Truth remains truth whether none, few or many believe it.  Believing that we are alone in the face of fearful dilemmas and belief-disrupting problems creates massive stress and tension.  The first step in relieving this harmfully stressful tension is to discover that you are not alone in facing anything in life.  In fact, you have people ready, willing and able to stand with you as assets and resources to help you, even if you’ve not yet met them.  And beyond people in whom you can place trust to help you, there’s a Higher Power waiting for you to invest your faith so that this Higher Power can be helpful too. You don’t have to start out believing in such a Higher Power to benefit from my coaching.  This Higher Power believes in you and that’s enough at the beginning if you allow it to be.

Once you recognize that you are under excess pressure and don’t know where to turn for relief, your next step is to seek help until you find competent people you trust, in whom you can place your faith so that your faith in yourself is renewed.  It is not an accident that many of the people in whom you discover you can place your faith most securely have already been through tension-filled, heart-rending problems and dilemmas of their own.  Such experiences prepared them well to be here for you with the greatest power to help you restore faith in yourself and in humankind.  They are also likely to have discovered a renewed or new faith in a divine power greater than ourselves who favors and aids us.  They will help you make the same discovery if and when you decide you want to make it.

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