Tag Archives: relationships

What If We’re All to Blame?

The blame game is sheerest nonsense since most of us adults who are participants in the US economy and have the right to vote both with our money and our polling place opportunities share the blame for the deplorable state of the world.  If you’re as convinced as I am that the blame game takes us nowhere closer to understanding how the US has fallen to the low we’ve reached, perhaps you’ll consider with me this solution:  Let’s treat the situation as if we’re all to blame and take up responsibility for our part in generating this deplorable condition and for our part in co-creating the true alternative.  The false alternative, of course, remains to deny that the US society is in deplorable condition and keep right on going down the drain with our eyes closed.  If we try that approach, we won’t need to worry about being blamed for sticking our heads in the sand because we’ll have already stuck them somewhere darker to prepare for our future drainhood.

For myself, my children, my grandchildren and others about whom I care, I prefer not to go blindly down the drain without doing my best to head back up towards the rim of the basin and perhaps even climb out of the tub, sink or toilet bowl we’re in.  I believe we’re flushing our future down the drain no matter what downward spiral we say we’re stuck in.  I want to be honest enough to see that pattern at work as we whirl around in our confusion pointing fingers at each other while trying to transfer blame to someone else.  We’re acting like terrified children on a merry-go-round screaming at each other to make it stop so we can get off and blaming the person on the other side of the merry-go-round for making it go around faster and faster.  Just because we keep seeing the same people on the other side of the merry-go-round does not mean that they are more to blame than we are for the ride we’re all taking.  We’re all being taken for a ride.  (That last sentence uses a verb in the passive voice that does not disclose who’s doing the taking.)

Perhaps you find spinning in circles amusing.  I don’t.  After a while it makes me sick to my stomach.  So, I decided to listen to my gut and search for a way off the merry-go-round.  I found it.  I’ve found that the process of getting off made me feel confused and disoriented at first because while standing on solid ground beyond the merry-go-round my head was still spinning as if I were still on board.  It took a while to adjust to standing on stable ground rather than spinning around.  At first I was still dizzy, even more aware of my dizziness than before. In the process of regaining my balance, I learned that I had adjusted to the spinning as best I could and now needed to re-adjust to non-spinning stability again.  In time, I did.  Now my stomach has settled and my mind is at ease.  Now I can heed my gut intuition as well as reason with my mind as a unified field of feeling and thinking my way forward through life with wisdom as my guide.  I enjoy using this new orientation to guide me forward beyond the merry-go-round into more promising, stable territory.

To stay off the merry-go-round in all of its forms and formats in the world, I had to shed the part of me that is tempted to ride along and play the game of spinning tales and using circular justifications and excuses for my decisions and actions.  I had to stop pointing my finger “over there” and claiming that the “other guy or gal or they” made me do it.  I even had to stop claiming that God or the Devil made me do it.  I had to take full responsibility for “doing it,” whatever “it” was from time to time.  “Yes, I did it and I accept full responsibility for doing it.”  Tough sledding sometimes.

It was not easy to offend the popular opinions of powerful people and go against the flow of social conformity to act according to my heart’s intuition and my mind’s reason as best I could.  It has not been easy to make mistakes and take responsibility for them so as to learn all I could from them rather than close myself off from these ofttimes painful learning opportunities.  It has been no easier to make right decisions, be roundly condemned for them by others and still take responsibility for them as if they might, perchance, have been right or at least closer to the target than I’d been before.  Whether I decided or acted “right” or “wrong” in the eyes of others depended on the views of those who judged my decisions and actions according to their own preferences, prejudices and power to control what I did.  The characterization of my decisions and actions as “right” or “wrong” did not depend on their objective nature but on the subjective viewpoint of those who judged.  Some judges even relished the chance to punish others so much that they would leap at the opportunity to wield power over me, even arbitrarily, just to feel powerful.  I’ve offended a lot of viewpoints as I did my best to swim upstream as a nonconformist against the current of conformity that’s relentlessly sweeping us all down the drain.

What part of me is tempted to go along with the crowd and not offend the status quo of the drain-heading flow?  It’s the part of me that’s susceptible to being influenced by social approval, an experience I admit I crave.  I much prefer to be approved of than disapproved of.  The part of me addicted to social approval is the same part of me that is susceptible to other forms of addiction or dependency under the influence of any of my natural appetites.  It’s my ego.  Based on any appetite, my ego may turn me back drainward at the least little excuse if I let it.  The patterns of my life are aligned with drainward compliance because I was taught all my life to be a “good little boy.”  Translations for that phrase for me turned out to be “conformist,” “people-pleaser” and “conflict avoider.”  To fail to conform to the expectations of others, displease someone important or stir up controversy was “bad” and was punished by social disapproval.  I had to learn to stand up in the harshest streams of social disapproval and nevertheless face away from the drain and do my best to swim away.  Sometimes, the best I could do was root myself in place and resist the drainward flow, like the post of a pier resists the flow of the tide swirling by it.  The tide of social opinion blames me for resisting its flow.  Yet the truth is that all I am doing is standing my ground and refusing to go along with the riptide of popular social viewpoints or the egotistical preferences of authority figures supported by those who blindly follow them as frightened, compulsive people-pleasers, as once was I.

It’s not been easy to learn to stand up for myself after spending my first decades learning to go with the flow and not assert any viewpoint not pre-ordained to win me social approval or at least avoid social disapproval.  I had learned to be silent when the risk of disapproval presented itself.  In fact, I had learned to take no risks and hide myself from the mainstream of the drainward flow.  For some time, I clung to the rim of the basin and held on for dear life.  Eventually I let go of the rim and allowed myself to be swept totally down the drain while being characterized as totally disapproved of.  There turned out to be no greater freedom from fear of lost approval than to lose it all, drown in disapproval and resurface somewhere down the drain where the flow is freer of the ego’s judgmental attitudes and assumptions.

Freedom turned out for me to be downstream, drainward and then out the drain into natural channels into which artificial drains arbitrarily dump their social outcasts.  There are unflattering terms to use as labels for such outcasts.  I became identified with them and their social exile.  And I found myself in good company.  What do I mean “good” in this sense?  I mean spiritually free to rise up to become new lives without blaming anyone for our circumstances but ourselves.

Yes, I’m to blame for my going down the drain and being flushed out of the pools of social approval amid which I once swam.  I think it helped me to slip readily down the drain that I never swelled with pride when I swam in such pools because secretly I knew in my heart that I did not belong there.  Not swelled by pride, I did not clog the drain and readily slipped through.  I did not belong in the pools, especially in the sense that no one owned me as their belonging.  I was not bought and paid for and required to do my owner’s bidding no matter how degrading it might be, like some slave or prostitute or junior partner in a firm.  I always had the option of dropping out and not participating in the pool.  And I found that the option to drop out could also transform into the option to rise out.

Both dropping out and rising out diverge from conformity to social norms.  To the extent that modern society embraces the norm of citizenry enslavement within the economy, I became abnormal to find freedom from our social institutions of slavery. To the extent that modern society imposes the norm of poor physical, emotional and mental health and loveless relationships upon its citizenry, I became abnormal to discover how to be progressively healthier to the point of wholeness and how to experience divinely defined love.  I highly recommend exploring and engaging in such social abnormalities!

Yes, I’m to blame for what has happened in my life and for the decisions and actions that flowed from my life.  I still am.  By accepting the “blame,” I accepted and still accept full responsibility. And I discovered that with great responsibility comes great power.  The converse of the Spiderman Principle is true!  My life has proved it to my own satisfaction.  If you don’t like being blamed for other people’s decisions and actions, try taking full responsibility for putting yourself in the position to be blamed and then consider exiting that position for higher ground.  In the long run, drainward is not really as fun and rewarding at it looks.  No addiction or dependency is. Just when you fear most falling ignominiously into utter failure in the pursuit of your highest ideals and most heartfelt dreams, let go, sink to the bottom and swim out the drain to freedom beyond the pools of social approval within which you fear being judged and condemned.  Down there in the dark you may be surprised to find your way to the higher, more lighthearted ground you’re looking for.

© Art Nicol 2016

The Highest Privileged Class

I was born with matching skin into a white, middle class family with adequate resources to provide its seven children with shelter, nutrition, clothing, healthcare and the rest of the necessities of life on modest terms.  The instability of my family’s home as we moved around to follow my father’s advancing career opportunities did not deprive us of the education that later opened doors to college options if we wanted them.  Our home routines emphasized education because both of my parents were college-educated, as were my grandparents before them.  Education was not our pathway out of any ghetto.  It offered continued upward mobility as measured by social status, finances and clout.

We never lived in a ghetto although we also never lived in prosperous conditions until my youngest siblings entered school full-time so that my mother could go to work as an elementary school art teacher and add a second income to the family’s resources.  Out of the house at that point, I still could come home to visit the increasingly comfortable, middle class household my younger siblings enjoyed.  As part of a childhood tradition of passing along hand-me-downs, I started each school year wearing shirts that my older brother outgrew plus two new shirts I was permitted to select for myself.  Also handed down to me each school year from generation to generation were the more fundamental traditions of parental stability and educational opportunities that opened doors not as readily opened to others even of my race who may have lacked such multi-generational support for their natural developmental progress.

Experiences I had as a volunteer while in college and later experiences I had as an adult opened my eyes to the more limited opportunities of children of other races, economic classes and little or no empowering traditions of parental stability and education. Especially limited were opportunities available to those born into poorer families or not supported by two educated parents who negotiated their way through life as a couple rather than allow their marriage to flounder in the seas of an angry divorce.  My experiences with dysfunctional family dynamics were mild compared with those of many who struggle to grow up in this “land of opportunity.”  I was not only living in the “land of doors that opened” more readily to people of my gender and race.  I was also living in that land while being prepared by my family to advance through those doors as a welcomed arrival within whom those on the inside of such fields of opportunity felt comfortable.  In short, I was well trained to conform, keep my alternative thoughts to myself and appear to bow to authority.

At first, I did not realize but gradually became aware that my social training as a child groomed me to be a member of the privileged class that measures its privileges by money, social approval and power to take dominion of whatever territory appeals to its members. I was an unwitting heir apparent within the gender, race and class who had arrived on this continent centuries earlier to claim it for themselves regardless of any pre-existing occupants and explore and exploit its resources as if they were entitled to use any and all of them to feather their own nests without regard to the impact of their greedy exploitation upon anyone else or the future of the continent.  Those were hand-me-down attitudes of entitlement that eventually I found did not fit me like a shirt I wanted to wear.  The fabric of those traditions chaffed my soul and burdened my heart.  The shirts others offered to me as hand-me-downs when I was an adult were too small for me and not my style.

The privileged class in which I found myself entitled to membership was this continent’s original entitlement class.  Its traditions were rooted in assumptions of entitlement.  The more socially aggressive among the first arrivals either served as agents of the aristocracies of Europe or claimed to seek their own fortune independent of the dominion of such aristocracies in order to establish an alternate aristocracy.  Wars were fought for independence from European aristocracies and for rights of ownership of people and things not previously subjected to ownership while continental-style aristocracies emerged upon this continent within the new culture. The culture turned out to be not new but instead a rehash of the old culture relabeled and sometimes disguised behind a thin veneer of democratic principles and necessarily therefore covert in its nature.  The Europeans on the continent of North America claimed it for themselves as minor bullies when they overthrew the dominion of foreign bullies posing as European monarchs and then proceeded to bully each other into accommodating each of them.

For reasons of my own, I had no natural inclination to be a crown prince rubbing shoulders with the aristocratic bullies I found within the privileged class of white, educated, upwardly mobile, financially promising males into which I was so readily welcome as if I were one of them.  Within that class I was a misfit.  Eventually I failed to adequately disguise my misfit orientation and found myself less and less welcome.  My skin color, education and other matching criteria could not save me.  I became an anathema to those who preferred to exploit their privileges and climb higher over the backs of others. For many years I was confused about where I belonged socially.  If not these, then who were my people?

As my mind gained clarity about who my people are, I became aware that there is class of “highest privilege” to which all of us have the power to belong and within which all are welcome.  This is the class beyond subclasses defined on ego’s terms as superior or inferior to one another depending upon the criteria selected in each cyclical assessment.  Beyond the ego’s constant campaign to separate humanity into variously appealing, variously socially approved and variously designated subcategories, there is a united, all-inclusive class with access to the most rewarding experience available to humankind.  Its access to this rewarding experience is only exclusive to the extent that the class is all-inclusive.

One has to join this uppermost class voluntarily to encounter the experience of this highest possible reward but anyone and everyone can join.  No one is excluded who volunteers to join and does the one thing necessary to be included with full membership privileges.  That one thing is to shed his or her ego and step beyond the ego’s divisive, inherently conflict-perpetuating perspective to see the world through an ego-free lens as a universally unified and symbiotic experience for all forms of life.

Humility is the process needed to shed the ego.  Any who will humble himself or herself, give up his or her illusory and meaningless privileges as an ego and seek his or her true identity beyond the ego is welcome to join in the experience of unconditional love that flows freely and abundantly within this class.  It is a highest class act and attitude to join.  Humility is not a step down into the basement of life, as some mistake it to be.  In fact it is the stairway to heaven on Earth.   Pride and prejudice do not cause a person to ascend but rather to descend in privileges as measured by a person’s decreasing or increasing quality of experiences of love.

At love’s heights it is authenticity, integrity and humility that matter most — for all of every age, gender, gender orientation, sexual orientation, social status, marital status, financial status, race, nationality and creed.  Love is truly all we need and ego has no capacity to deliver it.  Just as no electrical energy passes through plastic or rubber, no energy of love transmits through the artificial identity we call the ego.  Ego insulates us from love.  Let’s let go of ego to know that love abounds infinitely and eternally for all of us.

© Art Nicol 2016

Arbitrary Power Expresses Maximum Powerlessness

News media reports the arbitrary use of power against innocent targets with increasing frequency. Why? Why do we hear of and see so many senseless expressions of power used to harm the least reasonable targets?  Because such expressions of power are symptomatic of an underlying social condition of perceived powerlessness.  Individuals who used to comfort themselves by associating in their minds with being part of a powerful group, team or nation no longer find comfort there because those opportunities for vicarious “power by association” are disappearing.  Traditions of parasitically drawing a sense of power by belonging to an unassailable, always winning group are crumbling.  In the absence of traditional temporary relief from secret (often unconscious) feelings of personal powerlessness and resulting frustrations about lack of control over one’s own destiny, individuals who are vulnerable to such feelings of powerlessness for whatever reason are popping to the surface with their frustrations in both planned and spontaneous acts of reactionary violence.

The USA population includes many frustrated people who no longer believe that they have power to influence the course of their lives and cause any improvement in their lives or the lives of others they care about.  The mythical American Dream of pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps and single-handedly achieving success on some terms valued by the achiever is a bubble that has burst.  Like the housing bubble, .com bubble and so many other illusions of permanent prosperity based on constant growth, the American Dream of continuously improving prosperity based on continuous expansion of the economy and of dominance by the USA empire around the world has burst.  We’d like to pretend to blame that bubble’s bursting in air on current leaders or even upon past leaders and comfort ourselves with renewed bombs bursting in air, but that’s another illusion.  The truth is that illusions are illusions and don’t last forever.

If an individual feels powerless, one way of compensating for his or her sense of powerlessness is to find convenient targets of sufficient weakness to inflict harm and pain upon in some way dramatically obvious that the “power to cause pain” flows from the individual according to his or her arbitrary willfulness.  “See how powerful I am?” is the message.  If the individual feels frustrated about not having his or her way in other areas of life, at least in this one area he or she is can assert unchallengeable dominance.  The more arbitrary the expression of power in relationship to any true justification for that expression of power, the more powerful the person feels temporarily.  It’s like a “fix” for that person.  Arbitrary use of power is addictive, a drug upon which the powerless person depends for relief.  Plus the more publicly the person gets away with his or her abuse of power, the more thrilling the expression of power becomes.  Targeting senseless victims for abuse becomes not only an addictive habit but a destructively meaningless hobby, sadistically amusing to the person who expresses power in this manner.  “Getting away with it” adds to the thrill of arbitrary power.  “Getting away with it in the open with no one being able to stop me” is the greatest thrill of all.  “Recruiting others to protect me while I am openly abusing power by harming innocent victims” also adds to the person’s false sense of power.

The emotional and mental inner workings of people who senselessly use power to harm or cause pain to others is not as much of a mystery to humans as we’d like to claim.  Most if not all of us have had occasion to be at least tempted to engage in such power dynamics as a way of compensating for the frustrations of our lives.  “Kicking the dog” in private is a minor expression of power for this purpose.  Punishing weak members of society for their acting out their own frustrations in public upon arbitrary victims is another expression of this power.

We much prefer to accuse others of doing what we’d likely do ourselves when the shoe is on the other foot and then inflict pain upon them as if to flagellate ourselves vicariously for participating in such a weakness.  The temptation is strong to point the finger at others and declare ourselves free of any related habits and hobbies.  It would be better for all of us if we’d spend at least as much time pointing the finger towards ourselves and confessing our own misunderstanding about power and how power to cause pain and harm to others is never a true expression of power.  It’s a game our egos play to express how undeserving of love we secretly believe we are and to convince us how much we are powerless to do anything about improving the condition of the society in which we live.  The ego lies.  True power is the power to help another person recover from having been the victim of arbitrary power or any other form of pain and find his or her path to freedom from otherwise, in turning the table, becoming an abuser of power too.  We must get up from that table and take no side of it. Instead we need to fashion campfires and other circles of reconciliation around which to gather as one village.  If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes this kind of transformed village to raise us all up to envision and share true power from another perspective.

If our nation is ever to stop abusing its power by subjecting weaker nations to pain and harm, we as individual citizens of our nation must undertake personally to adopt a different understanding of power and participate with wisdom in the alternative vision of power as a capacity to heal rather than to harm.

© Art Nicol 2016

Let’s Not Yet Dismiss Jesus As Impotent and Irrelevant

In the United States, we are surrounded by massive evidence proving beyond all reasonable doubt that Jesus is condemned to impotence and irrelevance within a nation that claims to adhere to consumerism-gutted Christian celebrations such as Easter and Christmas and accounts for large, if dwindling, attendance at churches who give lip service to Jesus as the divine entity they honor.  The overwhelming majority of jurors gathering at such places of worship have declared Jesus to be irrelevant as well as impotent within their lifestyles.  They prefer to substitute a watered down, plastic, artificially distanced version of Jesus in place of his living vitality at work within their hearts and minds.  They prefer to hold Jesus in a social chokehold, silence his voice and condemn him to a life sentence of imprisonment within their egos as they bar the door against wholehearted surrender to his call upon their lives.

Every foreperson of every jury handpicked by the prosecution in favor of violent reactions to other people’s violence has declared the verdict:  Jesus is “Guilty as charged” and condemned to oblivion!  Jesus has been on trial across our nation for generations and is now presumed to be guilty of irrelevance and impotence until proven innocent, of which proof there scarce is hope. The only evidence he ever sought to leave on Earth was the evidence provided through the lives of wholehearted followers in his footsteps.  Today few followers are willing to seek the faded signs of his divergent path among the crowded ways along which as lemmings we scramble towards the cliffs over which others have flung themselves. Thus the evidence he seeks to reveal is faint because we are faint-hearted.

The prevailing presumption in favor of Jesus’ impotence and irrelevance is the predictable outcome of our devoting the resources of our legal systems throughout our lands to exacting retribution for every perceived wrong committed by one person against another through all forms of legal process, both criminal and civil.  In the face of Jesus’ model of forgiveness, despite claiming to be a Christian nation, not one state within our Federal system offers its citizens the opportunity to experiment with non-retributive responses to wrongdoing across the board as a systematic norm.  Occasional programs of restorative justice and mediation notwithstanding, the social norm of a retribution-purposed legal system offers little room for Jesus’ voice.  His has once again become a voice crying in the wilderness.  This time that wilderness is our nation of violence and knee-jerk tendencies to use the law to augment personal anger into a national tragedy and twist all legal proceedings into venues for personal revenge.

In Romans 12:2, followers of Jesus are (note: “are” not “were”) admonished, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  In willful disregard of this admonition, the vast majority of those who claim to honor Jesus prefer to react to wrongs with the same patterns of thoughts, words and actions as the mainstream society around them.  Patterns socially engrained in our thinking since infancy are not readily uprooted.  Like dandelions casually yanked up by their tops, they spring back from deeply buried roots. They are tenacious weeds eradicated only by persistent application of the Holy Spirit as the universal herbicide for the mistake of putting our minds “upon the things of man instead of upon the things of God.”

Based on worldly patterns, we allow the early stage of grief commonly recognized to be “anger” to motivate our actions in response to wrongs we perceive to have been done to us and to others towards whom we feel protective.  Anger is the mainstream, deeply rooted pattern of motivation behind both criminal and civil “remedies.”  Although called “remedies” as if they offer some form of healing, they are not remedies but reminders of the vicious outcomes of cycles of violence perpetuated by anger.  They are institutionalized, socially conformist forms of revenge not anything close to what Jesus presented as the model response to wrongs of criminal or civil nature.

As an innocent human being, Jesus was subjected to harsh treatment as if he were a criminal.  Amidst that cruelty, as he hung at the behest of religious leaders of his era on a form of torturous death popular among the politically powerful, he hung there between two others condemned to the same cruelly prolonged death for their petty crimes.  There Jesus continued to minister mercy, acknowledging the humility of one of his cross-hung compatriots by welcoming him as a guest of Jesus in paradise.  Throughout his ministry on Earth, Jesus encountered, healed and welcomed many whom the mainstream, religiously self-justifying, status-quo-reserving law-abiders called “sinners” and would have stoned to death or banished from their “good company.”  He dared then to say (and would say again today howsoever unpopular it might make him), “And neither do I condemn you” to the woman caught in adultery (having no opportunity to say the same to her male collaborator in adultery since no one sought to stone him at the moment of the story preserved in the Bible).

On another occasion, Jesus taught that the person who visited an inmate in prison was counted among those who had ministered unto him.  It is doubtful that he had in mind that such a visitor would go to the prison to chastise and condemn the inmate as if he or she were chastising and condemning Jesus.  More likely, Jesus expected the visitor to show mercy upon the inmate and share kindness and other acts of mercy with the inmate as Jesus would have done.  He would have visited the inmate as an expression of God’s unconditional love.  How do we view and treat those we incarcerate or others whom we relegate to the margins of society as undesirables? How rigid is our caste system?  To what extent do we dare violate it?

In modern society (one that ironically we claim to be a civil one), we function like a gang of mobsters. We who claim privilege status within the “gang” we call society do not directly sully our hands in the dirty work of harming others.  We hire agents to do the dirty work, just as any seasoned gang leader does.  We hire prosecutors with orientations as bullies who lust for power and hunger to exercise dominion over others to accuse and condemn members of our society as scapegoats to contrast to the heroes we hold up as paragons of virtue.  Sometimes we are so disappointed with our heroes that we topple them off the media-elevated pedestals upon which we had previously installed them and cast them down as scapegoats of the most useful kind.  The media profits from both these false elevations to and the subsequent sensationalized falls from social grace.  In contrast, regardless of the judgment of people in dispensing social grace for temporary, shallow, self-serving reasons, God’s divine grace remains relentlessly extended to us all — howsoever others may judge and condemn us.  Such is an example of the pattern of the world as we put our minds not upon the way of Jesus as an exemplar of God’s way but upon some alternative our egos in our fear prefer.

Followers of the ways of the world who conform mindlessly to its patterns are not following the one who walked the Earth as Jesus, suffered upon the cross of social condemnation to demonstrate his divinity and would even today lead us all to co-create heaven here and now upon this Earth if only we would follow him in all our thoughts, words and deeds.  To do so, as Paul wisely and insightfully observed, we could not allow our minds to remain imprisoned within the patterns of worldly thought of our current, ego-confined, adolescent society but would instead intentionally and relentlessly allow our minds to be renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit until our every thought, word and deed revealed the perfect will of God as mature children of God according to our true identity.

As one who had throughout his life on Earth grown in “wisdom and stature in the eyes of man [and woman] and God,” Jesus’ life revealed the will of God in his thinking, speaking and acting.  We are called to do likewise to overcome our identity crisis and refuse to linger any longer in it.  To fulfill our high calling as inheritors of the Kingdom of Love, we must divest our energies from the false calling of condemning others and re-invest these God-given energies with steadfast, uncompromising devotion of our hearts, minds, bodies and souls to ministering to the “least of these” as if each and every one of them is Jesus – without even one exception our egos would prefer to make because we are afraid to appear foolish in the eyes of those who conform to the patterns of the world.  Whom would Jesus reject from his ministry?  Which social leper do we condemn as if he would?

One pattern most fondly adhered to by the world who condemns Jesus to impotence and irrelevancy is the pattern of carving out exceptions to the lifestyle principles he both espoused and modeled.  If you claim to believe in Jesus, follow him as he has called you to do, not compromisingly or lukewarmly – at risk of being spit out of his mouth – but instead radically, wholeheartedly and passionately as if Jesus is not only your savior but your Lord as well.  Allow fear to carve out no exceptions to his mercy and grace lest you discover that the exception you carve out also encompasses you.  Seek full release from the pain you struggle to deny you feel as you fail to live according to your true identity as a child of God. It is that pain that causes you to believe you are being punished and sustains the guilt you feel.  That pain is not punishment.  It is merely the natural result of not allowing yourself to expand beyond your ego’s concerns and undertake your own growth in stature and wisdom.  It is the pain an eagle’s developing chick feels while confined within its egg.  Struggle to peck your way free of the ego’s imprisoning shell.  In the pattern of your creation, you are like Jesus, destined to grow relentlessly in your unique expression of God’s grace.  It is painful to allow your socially reinforced fears to stunt your growth and confine yourself within your ego as if it were your identity.  The ego is a false identity.  You are a good egg but more than an ego.  Accept your true identity as a sibling of Jesus within God’s family and let go of the pain of denying that identity.  Through letting go of your ego, you will discover the freedom from painful guilt and shame your heart desires.

No longer be careless about your heart’s desire to do the right thing even when it is socially unpopular to do so.  Instead care less about the opinions of those still entrapped in the judgmental attitudes of their egos and care more about the judgment of Jesus upon your life.  Seek his mercy as you extend yours.  Let divine love be perfected within you as it was perfect in Jesus so that love casts out all fears that might otherwise falsely convince you that some exceptions to the universal extension of unconditional love to all have merit.  Argue with if you must (as most of us do!) but eventually do not defy your Friend and Master.  Surrender to his loving, merciful wisdom so as to come to know your true, forgiven, grace-empowered nature as God’s child ever as much as Jesus knew and knows his own.  That is what it means to belong to him.  It is the path to service by which you come to know the fullest joy life offers.  It is the pathway to relief from grief that otherwise lingers when it need no longer linger.

To whose pattern do we conform?  Whose view of us matters most to us?  To whose image and likeness do we seek to conform so as to beam the radiance of God’s grace across the heartscape of our nation’s ills and bring forth relational healing instead of condemnation?  We have a choice between the pattern of the fear-filled, fear-controlled ego or the pattern of the love-embodying, love-surrendered follower of Jesus. Let go of ego’s reign and embrace the reign of love offered to you unconditionally by God through Jesus.

In that manner, let your heart not be troubled, nor let it be afraid that upon your death bed you’ll find yourself alone, while drowning in regrets and awash with grief you could have faced and overcome so many years earlier.  Why let the anger of grief rob you of years of peace, hope and joy that await you here on earth as a gift?  Accept the gift.  Linger no longer in the darkness of your prolonged grievances. Instead allow the light of love to shine forth from within you as you know in your heart you can and desire.

The impotence and irrelevancy you choose to assign to Jesus is actually a false belief in your own impotence and irrelevancy.  Neither you nor Jesus is impotent or irrelevant when you team up to respond with grace, mercy and love by faith in the Divine Parent whom Jesus called “Abba.”  The time of the grace of our Father/Mother God/Goddess is upon us.  Accept and embrace who you are and cease to hide isolated in the shadows as if you are impotent and irrelevant to making a difference in how others experience their lives.  Join love’s revolution as a welcome member of the team who wholeheartedly, without reservation embrace Jesus as our wayshower.  And find yourself welcomed home as you welcome others as your sisters and your brothers.

© Art Nicol 2016

The Infinitesimal Unnoticed God

Why do participants in technology-enraptured cultures so easily overlook and ignore God?  Where technology captures the imagination it enslaves hearts and minds and makes the idea of God seem unimaginably tiny, unappealing and, frankly, irrelevant.  Why bother searching to detect God’s messages among all the chatter when the search seems as likely to succeed as our search for messages from extraterrestrial beings?

By comparison to technologically enhanced messages, what is God doing to show off a Divine Presence? Could it be the nature of holiness to be readily unnoticed precisely because it conducts no mass media or marketing campaigns on its behalf and seeks not fame or fortune – of which it has neither need nor desire?  Might the Ultimate Divine be so focused on serving humanity behind the scenes and beneath the radar in uttermost humility that we discount this Presence as a candidate for Godhood?  Might our own individual yearning and striving for self-sufficiency, independence and an ever so modest bit of limelight hoodwink us into believing that we achieved all our goals on our own and received no aid from any significant source the recognition of which might rob us of our self-satisfaction and claim to accolades? Might we identify with sports teams, political parties, schools, religions and other groups to hitch a ride on their claims to fame and reap vicarious benefits from mere association with our chosen group’s success?  Might even our “good works” be tainted by our desire to feel better about ourselves personally and receive pats on the back if not Nobel Prizes and other variously valued awards for charity? Might pride’s declaration “This I did all by myself” (or only with the help of colleagues to whom I can point my finger with pride) be utter foolishness every time it’s uttered?

God has no need of self-promotion or self-aggrandizement – or of praise and admiration from the crowds who, for example, once welcomed Jesus as their Messiah and not long afterwards cried out “Crucify him, crucify him.”  God knows the fickleness of public opinion and does not hunger to impress!  The ways of modern versions of success through exploitation, expansionism and claims to “specialness” are not the ways of God.  Every person who claims a worldly achievement admired by his or her peers and wider audiences without acknowledging the absolute necessity of God’s role in it conspires to disclaim God’s nature as a devoted nurturer and devotee of humanity.  Many co-conspirators are ganging up to prove not that God is dead but instead irrelevant, impotent and uncaring. Who needs God when we have unlimited technology by which to achieve greatness, notoriety and popularity?  Who needs God when we can without Divine Aid capture and enslave minds, hearts and wills of most if not all members of mass-media-dominated societies awash with participants who prefer to follow the crowd and be told what to think, feel, wear, eat, do, etc. than to create a worthwhile life based on ideas received from the Divine Beyond?  Isn’t listening to God too much bother compared with the ease of listening to the media?

Propaganda’s capacity to use technology to endlessly repeat lies glorifying self-sufficiency is enough to convince most people that lies are truth as if repetition is proof itself and truth has no existence apart from what people can be convinced to believe.  The simplicity and perseverance of truth offers no novelty, complexity or glamour to enhance its marketability or entertainment value.  God is simply not fun enough!  Most people are not interested in puzzling through the mysteries and paradoxes of Eternal Truth.  Like God, such truth is infinitesimal and readily goes unnoticed.  It fills all the spaces between media-trumpeted events and entertainment like dark matter fills the “voids” between the stars and planets.  It is not visible to human minds that know not how to sense its Presence.  Yet it is there waiting to be sensed.

To switch metaphors, a murky slurry of lies covers the natural landscape of truth beneath multiple coats of lacquer – each glossier, smoother and more opaque than the last.  In the process of sealing life within this lacquer of lies, we have painted ourselves into a corner and framed God outside of the picture.  God has been framed as the cause of evil and therefore tainted with impurity and unworthy of our honor and worship.  Hence we witness the decline of modern society as we divorce ourselves from God by declaring our independence and self-sufficiency instead of intentionally nurturing our interdependence with God’s help in the context of Divine grace.   We foolishly and arrogantly declare that we have no need of dependence upon God. Our individual and collectives egos will not allow us to consider such a possibility.  Since this option threatens the very foundation of the ego’s dominion in our lives, it is understandable that our egos resist our considering it.

How well are radical independence from God and denial of Eternal Truth working for humanity?  Is the propaganda serving us?  Might God yet be serving us better despite our efforts to resist Divine Aid?  What might happen if we were to stop resisting and begin instead to cooperate with God?

Look around at what mass media (perhaps more aptly labeled “mess media”) deems worthy to report and promote and you will see all the evidence you need to demonstrate the utter failure of radical independence from God’s nature and nurture.  Utter failure calls for utter rejection of the nonsense of independence outside of the moderating context and influence of grace-infused interdependence.  Whatever level of independence we may find helpful must bow to our innate need for interdependence as a species or we will soon be rendered extinct by our own hand.  Having experimented with radical independence, taken self-sufficiency to its extreme and beheld the costs, we must now turn as radically to interdependence and persevere in our steadfast commitment to that alternative way by which life may be shared with all of us as brothers and sisters within the human family.

God need not remain unnoticed, unappreciated and dishonored.  We can choose to notice, appreciate and honor God by choosing to notice, appreciate and honor each other as children of God created in our Diving Parent’s image and likeness.  How I notice, appreciate and honor you equates to how I notice, appreciate and honor God just as surely as how you notice, appreciate and honor my earthly children equates to how you notice, appreciate and honor me.  We are all one.  To notice, appreciate and honor any is to notice, appreciate and honor all and the Source of All.  By such noticing, appreciating and honoring we will discover that God has been noticing, appreciating and honoring us all along, waiting always patiently for us to return the favor.

God waits to serve us as gratefully receptive Divine Dependents of a Divinely Dependable Parent.  Accepting such divine service does not offend the value of our well-reasoned, self-disciplined individuality but merely cautions against taking independence so far to fracture our relationships with one another.  Stretching and growing us together but not stressing and blowing us apart.  The reliability of God’s power and willingness to aid us in our pursuit of harmonious oneness is not infinitesimal.  It is instead unfathomable.  To notice, appreciate and honor it is not to claim to fully understand, manipulate or control.  We must trust God to be God even while God remains a mystery beyond our understanding, manipulation and control.  Let us join our hearts together to call upon such a Power to come to our aid in this hour of our greatest need.  That hour is upon us here and now.  Through our foolishness we have brought this hour upon us.  By divine grace and wisdom our Sacred Parent will lead us through and beyond it to a brighter hour that is truly ours to share for as long as we forsake foolishness and embrace the wisdom of God’s way.

© Art Nicol 2016

Let’s Dismantle Our Egos to Accept an End to Violence

If we continue to think only within the ego’s thought system we are lost in a world of violence and illusions about the cause of violence. As each anger-triggering interpersonal issue arises (whether it be private or political, local, national or global), we will inspect, dissect, analyze, categorize, theorize, shelve, institutionalize, aggrandize or minimize the issue and thereby perpetuate violence.  In short, we will perform an autopsy on each issue and then then enshrine it and our findings in a mausoleum without changing anything because we will not see the issue as a living opportunity to learn something new that points us towards a better future but as a dead thing of the past we must find a way to normalize or pretend to get rid of.  The ego plays such games with our minds for the purpose of steering us away from the truth that awaits within each issue that causes us to feel anger in some range from irritation to outrage.

The ego feeds and thrives upon anger. Conflict is the ego’s birthing ground, nursery and most developed expression.  It does not want us to find an alternative way to think about life because it fears that we’ll discover that it is the cause of violence and totally disinterested in ending violence.  Yet, within every issue that might arouse our anger to any degree lies a message of peace.  That message is “It need not be this way.”  Violence and anger are not necessary when issues are seen from the perspective of divine love – not the ego’s pseudo-love but love defined without regard to ego’s preservation.  All we need to do is to learn to walk with humility in God’s shoes (free of pride and shame as well as guilt and blame) and see life from Eternity’s perspective.  Then we’ll relax into accepting peace of mind, hope of heart and joy of spirit – what’s sometimes called “joie de vivre.”

The joy of life!  Where has it gone missing?  Why is it so elusive and once encountered so likely to slip away again?  The ego’s hold on our minds is the reason.  We cannot continue to indulge our egos and continue to think mistakenly that ego is a trustworthy guide to any answers worth discovering.  The answers exist but they exist beyond ego’s grasp.  We can begin to recognize them amid ego’s final gasp. Our minds’ capacity to encounter “Ah, ha” moments is evidence of our ability to think beyond ego’s limitations and grasp insights and understandings that elude ego.  We can gasp “Eureka!” at our ability to receive the truth that sets us free of ego.  We cannot grasp this truth and hold onto it too tightly any more than we can grasp a butterfly and squeeze it tightly without robbing it of life.  To become aware of the gentle touch of truth’s butterflies upon our minds, we must first open our hearts to let them land there, where our minds may be trained to notice their arrival.  We cannot inspect, dissect, analyze, etc. the butterflies truth sends to our hearts.  We can only receive, appreciate and marvel at their graceful, simple elegance and accept them as gifts from Divine Eternity.

Gifts from Divine Eternity are our natural inheritance.  As children of God, every one of us is poised to receive our inheritance.  We need not wait for God to die to inherit from our Creator.  All gifts from the Creative Realm are ours here and now – while we and God yet fully live.  The ego would have us believe that we have somehow murdered God or at least so offended Him/Her that any possibility of our having a favorable relationship with God/Goddess is dead.  To believe in God’s uninterruptedly abounding grace towards humanity in general and towards ourselves in particular seems impossible but it is only impossible to the ego that seeks to keep us in the dark, unaware of and inaccessible to our Divine Nature.

The ego cannot participate in divine grace because it disappears in the presence of such grace.  It’s not that the ego is “bad” or “not good enough” to participate in divine grace.  It’s merely that the ego’s way of thinking and feeling about life lacks the capacity to participate in grace because the ego’s way of thinking arose when we believed grace to be absent from our lives, when we believed we needed to protect ourselves from pain because there seemed no other way.  Grace and its progeny forgiveness, mercy, love, compassion, healing, reconciliation and other gentle-natured qualities of human beings exceed the ego’s realm of thought.  They manifest from our hearts, the realm of empathy and wisdom that ego knows not of.  In the presence of grace, the ego’s purpose vanishes and it crumbles into dust for lack of purpose.

The ego teaches us to deny our hearts.  Yet our hearts continue to desire more than the ego’s limited perspective on life can ever offer.  Our internal conflict between, on the one hand, striving to find satisfaction through our constant efforts to win approval through our performances in social roles and, on the other hand, simply desiring the free gift of satisfaction demonstrates that our hearts are aware that the ego does not serve us well.  We cannot win divine approval that brings us abiding deepest satisfaction because what is given freely cannot be won by effort or performance.  Abiding deepest satisfaction is an unearnable gift from our Creator to each of us without exception as His/Her eternally beloved child.

Instead of striving and struggling with egoic effort to prove we are worthy of love and all of life’s best, we can simply accept what our hearts most desire.  We can accept as divine fact that we are already loved and permanently poised to receive life’s best as freely given gifts.  How do we engage in such a radical shift in perspective?  We can begin by accepting the gift of our innate capacity to shift from reverse to neutral before we engage any forward gear.  We can reverse the devotion of our minds to ego’s way and restfully receive awareness of the alternate way and discover our natural affinity for it.  There is only one alternative way that truly exceeds ego’s grasp.  It is the way of divine love.  Ego honors fear.  The alternate way honors divine love and allows it to gradually dissipate all fears at a pace we can regulate according to our heart’s desire.  A text entitled A Course Of Love will tell you more about this way.  Visit http://acourseoflove.com/ to explore and engage in love’s more promising possibilities yourself.

You are poised to dive into love’s sea of serenity within you.  You are poised but like most people hesitate.  Diving into the unknown both intrigues and frightens you.  The ego would have you remain afraid to take the dive.  It would have you believe that taking the dive means forfeiting your opportunity to win the fight and exposes you to ridicule as an incompetent competitor.  The Divine Source of Love seeks not competitors but collaborators who will build the new world according to Love’s Master Plan.  Might you want to be one of the building blocks of such love – even when in the eyes of some others you may appear to be a loser rather than a winner in the ego’s endless rounds of competition?  If you have grown weary of the ego’s invitation to yet another round of competition for social approval and the supposed “perks” of ego, choose to let go of both ego’s perks and irks. Instead, let love be you and bond you to the Divine Source and others as Divine Grace is freely manifest within and through you.

© Art Nicol 2016

Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs

(Dialogue is a precious, fruitful process for wisdom-mining.  Please let others know what you sense in your heart about what I write here and elsewhere — and about what others write too.  Dialogue is wisdom-minding as much as wisdom-mining.  It is the way we mine our hearts for wisdom and remind our minds of wisdom’s value as an eternally available natural resource.  Unlike fossil fuels, wisdom is a living, replenishable and timeless resource to fuel our mental engines.)

Spokespersons for the LGBTQ community seem to be in an uproar about a piece of legislation recently signed into law in Tennessee protecting therapists who refuse to treat LGBTQ clients because providing such treatment conflicts with the therapist’s “sincerely held religious beliefs.”  I believe this law is worthy of note on account of its legal as well as community health and social justice implications but not for the reasons offered by those who oppose the law on the grounds of separation of “church and hate.”  (The eloquent article from which I extract that quote can be found at http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2016/4/21/tennessee-needs-lesson-separation-church-and-hate.)

I look at this piece of legislation as merely the first step towards protecting clients who are members of the LGBTQ community, allies of this community or members of any other frequently stigmatized community and its allies.  I propose that Tennessee and all other states pass laws that require psychotherapists of all stripes to file an annual disclosure form with the state’s professional licensing agency disclosing all forms of biases, prejudices and phobias by which the therapist is beset.  The comparable situation for a massage therapist who has an active case of tuberculosis would be to require that the massage therapist openly disclose his or her active disease so that clients who prefer not to become infected by TB might find someone else to provide massages during the masseur’s infectious period.

Closeted bigots (homophobics and others) who become licensed psychotherapists do great damage to those who open their hearts and minds to them because the therapist’s fears transmit to the client as surely as TB bacteria transmit through the air in closed spaces when the carrier of TB is in close proximity to the potential recipient of the bacteria.  Fear is an infectious emotional energy that radiates from each of us as surely as the air we breathe exits from our lungs when we breathe out.  Just as surely, the energy of fear transmitted by another person in close proximity to us contaminates our own energy field as if we’ve breathed it in.  Clients who trust a therapist of any kind to be a source of health and well-being rather than a transmitter of pollutants can be protected by mandatory disclosure of emotional infections of which a therapist is a carrier.

To go a step further, it may be even more protective of the public’s welfare to require that all therapists undergo annual emissions tests to determine the nature of the emotional pollutants they are transmitting into the energy field into which their clients enter during therapy sessions.  We require mandatory emissions tests for automobiles.  Why allow therapists to escape this responsibility when their noxious emotional fumes’ effects are comparably toxic and harmful?

If a therapist sincerely holds religious beliefs that prevent him or her from seeing a client accurately, let’s get those beliefs publicized as broadly as necessary to alert existing and potential clients to the therapist’s fear-distorted perspective.  Perhaps we should establish a public registry of offenders who sincerely hold both professional licenses as well as fear-based beliefs that they reinforce and justify by citation to religious texts.  If a therapist is afraid that God will condemn him or her to hell for treating a client of a particular protected class with respect, honor and dignity as a highly valued person, let’s have that fact known and do indeed protect that client and his or her whole class from that therapist.  Let’s no longer allow therapists to creep around in the dark lying and lurking in wait to spring themselves upon unsuspecting innocent clients.  Enough of this heretofore unacknowledged lying and lurking in secret!  Ambush-by-therapist should be outlawed!  Let’s have the lying out in the open and the lurking publicly disclosed.  Would that not reduce the incidence of private indecency to which unsuspecting clients would be otherwise exposed?

Of course, we should also allow provision of mercy for those therapists who later repent and remove them from the registry upon adequate proof of their sincerely held repentance.  We must allow no law establishing mandatory reporting or setting up an offenders’ registry to become itself an instrument of injustice. The unforgiving nature of the Internet’s memory and the implications of an unpurgeable public record are additional concerns we may also want to wrestle with.  Surely we do not believe, “Once a bigot, always a bigot!” With adequate help even the foulest of spiritual offenders may be redeemed and provide helpful public service.  Does not the life of the apostle known as Paul prove that point?

Dear Reader, what do you think about mandatory reporting of this nature and the utility of a public registry for spiritual offenders who prefer to retain their fear-based judgmental attitudes on the pretense that their attitudes are ordained of God?

© Art Nicol 2016

You Were Born to Have an Impact

Saying that you “were born” implies that you originate from a source that gave birth to you.  A source gave birth to you.  In a materialistic, scientific worldview, the idea of “birth” focuses on the origin of the physical body and traces your body’s origin back to your parents and then backward genetically through a timeline of gene pools that contributed to your body’s genetic makeup.  Then, according to science, the genes of your body – as influenced by your environment and your interactions with your environment –  determine the development of your body.  If all you are is a body, then that’s the whole story – cellular growth determined by genetic makeup and the influences of your environment as you experience being exposed to your environment, including the things you eat, the activities you undertake and the locations where you choose to be active.  If all you are is a body, then having “an impact” is limited to your body’s presence, consumption of resources and production of output, if any, beyond waste products.  That’s a pretty dismal view of a person’s life, value and impact.

However, it’s possible that you are not merely a body.  It’s possible that your body’s brain does not entirely explain the mental activities you experience during your lifetime.  It’s possible that you develop mentally on account of factors beyond the genetic makeup of your body and your interactions with your environment.  Although your mental development may be heavily influenced by genetic makeup and environment, you may not be merely a product of your environment.  You may have options beyond being a mere “product” rolling along a socially oriented assembly line to your final destination as a socially acceptable (popular and praised) or unacceptable (cast out and shamed) by-product of your social interactions. What if you do have options?  What if there is more to the story than genetic makeup and social environment that helps your mind understand who you are?  What if fully and completely answering the question “Who am I?” requires you to see yourself as more than a structurally arranged, unique set of cells engineered by genes and adapting to its environment?

Of course, you do not have to entertain possibilities beyond genes and environment in consider your nature and nurture.  That is your choice.  In fact, having that choice illustrates an aspect of you that cannot readily be explained by genes and environment. That aspect is your capacity to make choices.  If you fully honor your capacity to make choices – your willpower – then you begin to experience yourself as much more than a by-product of genetically coded cells interacting with their environment.  In fact, because our exercise of willpower opens doors to infinite possibilities, recognizing willpower as a valued dimension of human life invites us to see a greatly expanded meaning of “having an impact.”  The greatest impact may be revealed in a lifetime of choices made that defy options and opportunities offered in our normal social environment because we reach for more creative options and opportunities that our mind allows us to imagine.  I suggest that it is within the exercise of our imaginations as the source of our options that we will find the fuller meaning of being “born” and “having impact.”

My own life journey has taught me that my choices bring consequences.  One of the most promising consequences proved to be that one choice may lead me to awareness of other options and opportunities I did not previously know existed.  For example, making the choice to step beyond my comfort zone as a fence-sitter and avoider of conflict and controversy eventually led me step by step to encounter a progression of uncomfortable but educational environments in which my range of options and opportunities was more expansive, diverse and enriching than the range previously known to me.  Had I remained too scared to explore this progression of uncomfortable but educational life experiences I would have remained ignorant of the greater possibilities of life and not encountered the Ultimate Source of Life personally.  No matter how admirable my intentions might have been in investing myself strictly within my previous comfort zone, my growth as a person would have been stunted and I would have remained a fence-sitter, people-pleaser and conflict/controversy-avoider. And I would have remained a perfectionist out of fear of being criticized for mistakes that inevitably come with exploring wider environments where unimagined often unforeseen challenges and lessons remain to be encountered and mastered by faith.

More importantly, had I not grown more understanding and insightful and progressively wiser throughout the course of my journey, I would have continued to unwittingly inflict harm on others through my ignorance and well-intended foolishness. I would have misled many others into believing that what I said was true was true instead of encouraging them to risk taking their own journey of discovery as I had and learn what is true for themselves from the same Source. Having mistakenly crucified others on the cross of my own ignorance, I would have had to continue to cry out “God forgive me for I know not what I do.”  Instead, having taken the risk of venturing beyond my comfort zones into zones of progressively less comfort, I have learned who I am, who the Source of Life from Whom I was born is and of the reality of my and all of humanity’s solidarity and oneness with the Source.  As a result, I have learned to seek and receive the Source’s guidance as to what I do and how I do it in regard to every living being I encounter.  Having learned the art of humility and surrendered my life to serving the Source, I am now more apt to actually cause the good I intend than ever I was before because I have learned to be the Source’s instrument for extending Source-defined, Source-provided good to others.  I have learned to no longer rely upon my own ideas about what is “good” or trust in my own best intentions.  Instead, I’ve learned to trust that the Source knows best — even when my own more limited mind still puzzles over how the Source’s ideas work.  I do not pretend that the providence of miracles is mine to rule.  In short, I’ve learned to no longer lean upon my own understanding.

It is true that I was born to have an impact. It is also true that my most helpful impact would have been stillborn had I allowed myself to remain trapped in the belief that I am essentially a body composed of cells engineered by genes and developed, molded and trained like some form of artificial intelligence through interactions with my environment.  As tempting as it may be to conform one’s thinking to the popular ideas of one’s society, I encourage others to take the risk of deviating from those normative ideas and daring to encounter criticism as many bold explorers and thinkers have endured. Why? Because it is true that love endures all things — even the criticism of those not yet inclined to overcome their own fears and ignorance. The best way to prove that you are born as a being of love to share love with increasingly expansive impact is to discover that all you are is love no matter in what environment, subculture or social setting you may find yourself immersed and engaged from stage to stage along your journey — no matter how harsh the criticism may be.

Just as there is no limit to the capacity of the Source of Love to love there is no limit to your capacity to love because you were born with an enduring connection to your Source and can tap into infinite love flowing from your Source by exercise of your willpower.  The willpower of the Source chose to give you the experience of being born with this enduring, unbreakable connection because the Source created you to be just like your Source, a spitting image of your Source but not a splitting image of It.  Never are you split or separated from your Source. Never are you born to cause or perpetuate splits or separations to occur between you and your Source, you and anyone else or anyone and his or her Source.  The Source of Life and Love for each of us is the same Source.  We are all one with that Source – our Source, not yours, mine, his, hers or theirs but ours.

You were born to have an impact, too.  No matter what distinctive details may emerge in your manifestation of love as you come into awareness of the Source of Love in your mind and heart, you are here to have an impact comparable to and compatible with mine.  We are all here to help bind up heartache and other wounds and to heal relationships wherever we may travel. Whether our model of healing is Jesus who was born to have an impact that included healing broken hearts and restoring relationship between humanity and our Source or some other healing entity, our mission and purpose remain in line with the Source’s vision for all humanity to see ourselves as one loving community overflowing with love because we are connected to an infinite flow of love.

On March 4, 1865, following a great conflict that he was not able to avoid and ceasing to attempt to be a fence-sitter or people-pleasing politician, Abraham Lincoln said it this way:

“With malice towards none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Towards this endlessly unfolding destiny I encourage all of us to strive together by faith in the Source who is ever faithful.  Therein awaits the impact for which we were born — each individually and all collectively.

© Art Nicol 2016

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

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