What’s Your Story?

what-do-i-believeRegardless of where we live on this earth, we are born into some society or culture and, through family and the institutions of authority of that society, we’re told by those who are already here how this world works and how we should behave in it. I refer to such systems of thought as “Stories of Life”, or “Stories”. It is from these various sources that we derive our individual and mass beliefs. But each of those institutions – religion, science, academia, government, medicine, media, etc. – has a different set of beliefs, laws, or tenets that represents its particular Story of Life. While they all have many similarities and congruencies, they all have differences, too, some slight and some not so slight. And each person arrives in adulthood with a personal set of beliefs that is an amalgamation of the beliefs offered by the various groups of human beings she or he has been closest to while moving through the developmental stages of life. Obviously, these cultural, political and religious influences are very specific to the geographic locations we live upon during our developmental years.

A belief begins within us as a thought that we hold onto and think upon in some depth. The more we think that thought and agree with it, the more firmly it becomes ingrained within us. A belief is, then, a thought that we keep thinking and agreeing with until it becomes part of the system of beliefs that is our personal definition of reality, i.e., our Story.

One vitally important aspect to understand about our beliefs is how hidden they can be to our conscious awareness. Most of us don’t realize that, in the earliest years of life, human beings are biologically constructed to be extremely programmable. Between the ages of two and six years old, our brains are in a low, theta (4-8 Hz) brainwave state; the same suggestible, programmable state of brain activity that characterizes hypnosis. As stem cell biologist Bruce Lipton explains in his book Spontaneous Evolution:

spontaneous-evolutionA child’s perceptions of the world are directly downloaded into the subconscious during this time, without discrimination and without filters of the analytical self-conscious mind, which doesn’t fully exist. Consequently, our fundamental perceptions about life and our role in it are learned without our having the capacity to choose or reject those beliefs. We were simply programmed…. We download our perceptions and beliefs about life years before we acquire the ability for critical thinking.  (pp. 31-39)  (bold emphases are mine)

Thus the things we are repeatedly told during our earliest years of life – about who we are, the conditions of life and the rules to live by – are firmly imprinted into our subconscious minds as beliefs. Because of this unconscious programming during childhood, by the time we become adults, there are powerful subconscious belief programs that run below our ego-level awareness which were installed within us before we had the capacity to examine them in any conscious way. And there they remain, as programmed, until and unless we change them later in life.

What this means is that for most of us our beliefs are, to a large degree, not intentionally chosen by us. Instead, we’ve been very effectively conditioned in the earliest stages of life to adopt the beliefs of others. Even though we consider ourselves to be autonomous, free-thinking and free-choosing adults, we’re actually using a set of beliefs to guide us through life which we haven’t deliberately chosen for ourselves. In short, the vast majority of us are creating and moving through our lives according to a societally-programmed Story, rather than one we’ve decided upon for ourselves. Because of this, most of us aren’t actually familiar with much of the thinking that drives our own behaviors.

In addition, we aren’t taught how extremely important our set of beliefs, i.e., the Story we tell ourselves, is to the quality of life we will have as adults. For the decisions we make, the path we choose in life, the way we treat ourselves and others, all are molded or guided by this personal conception of reality – which consists of a great deal that we haven’t deliberately chosen for ourselves! This includes all of the thinking that makes us get upset in any way, that drives us to laugh at some things and not bat an eye at others, that makes us dismiss certain things as preposterous and accept others without question. The fact is that all of our reactions and behaviors are based in our beliefs about life and the outer world, about people, and especially about ourselves. Stated more succinctly, nothing has more impact upon who we are and how our lives turn out than our beliefs, not even genetics, for Bruce Lipton also explains, in his book The Biology of Belief, how changing our beliefs actually changes our DNA.

Given all of this, it would make sense for us to be very familiar with our beliefs and to make sure that we actually do believe them. However, very few of us have done this. Arriving in adulthood with the Story we’ve been conditioned by family and society to believe, relatively few of us then exercise our ability to think for ourselves and critically examine the beliefs that have been placed within us by those familial and societal influences. We operate on autopilot, without any real awareness of being driven by many thoughts and ideas that, if we were to honestly examine them, we would discover that we don’t actually agree with them.

In this way we are, in effect, sleep-walking through life, not fully conscious of what we’re thinking and doing. And unless something occurs in life to deeply shake and wake us from our semi-conscious state into a more fully self-aware one, we move through life being driven by thoughts and feelings within us that we aren’t fully in touch with, and in many cases don’t even know are driving us. This is then faithfully reflected by the events in our lives and the decisions we make that we equally don’t comprehend. And we find ourselves repeatedly reaching painful points in life where we ask ourselves, “Why did I do (or say) that?” In a very real sense, we don’t know who we are.

Again, this conditioning occurs through the influence of those closest to us as we progress through the stages of life; first via family, then religion, education, media, etc., etc.. Most of us actually do deliberately examine and decide upon some of our beliefs about life and what is true and possible. However, for most of us this amounts to but a small subset of our Programmed Story, leaving the rest of it to continuously run in our subconscious minds, patterning our lives.

i-believe-in-____If you’re now thinking something like, “That’s not me. I’ve thought about things a lot, too, and I’m well acquainted with my beliefs”, let me point out that this is a well-documented method of closing yourself off to allowing even mere consideration of new ideas. If you can suspend that impulse to dismiss what I’m saying here, you may discover surprising and helpful things about yourself. Many of the beliefs we hold that have the most impact upon the character and quality of our lives are precisely those that we aren’t consciously aware of, and it takes some effort to pull them out of our subconscious so that we can examine them. If you ever find yourself wondering why you do or say the things you do – and that includes just about all of us! – then perhaps you aren’t as familiar with the beliefs of your Story as you thought.

As implied above, a good way to become more consciously aware of your own personal Story is to train yourself to take notice whenever you do or say something that you later regret, or are perplexed by. You must train yourself to first catch yourself in the behavior, and then check within as to what thoughts were behind it. You have to sleuth them out by having a self-dialogue in which you become your own counselor by asking yourself why you said or did that thing, and then allowing the answer to arise within you.

If you do this seriously you will often be surprised, even shocked, at the answers that come out of you and how revealing and helpful they can be. Once you give voice to the parts of you that are holding those hidden thoughts, you will likely discover unresolved feelings and issues within yourself that haven’t been fully recognized or dealt with. Then you have the opportunity to resolve them so that they no longer drive your behaviors. It’s a process, but one that can be very illuminating and therapeutic.

There have been countless times doing this when I have been very surprised by something that came out of my own mouth, yet at the same time knew that it was true. I have often likened it to the way stirring up a pot pulls things up from its bottom. Once you begin giving voice to your thoughts it causes a flow to happen that pulls up from within yourself thoughts that you had never given yourself permission or the opportunity to speak out loud. Revealing them is always helpful, for you are learning about yourself and what “makes you tick”, and you can make positive adjustments that then improve your life.

So I challenge you to ask yourself, “What’s my Story? How well do I actually know what beliefs it includes? How well do I know myself – really?”

America On Edge

us-them(This is a somewhat long post, but I believe it to be too important a topic to cut it short so that it is Blog Post politically correct.)

Most of us are aware that, more than anything else, religion has been used throughout human history to divide people into factions and as the pretext for inciting people to fight wars. The majority of us also feel that, knowing this, we of today’s sophisticated, science-based western societies no longer fall prey to any such crude manipulations. Most people in the U.S. today have been conditioned to believe that religious manipulations of this type are now occurring only outside of our Western societies, and in the form of “Islamic fundamentalism”. They are mistaken.

The freedom to believe and follow any form of religion one prefers was a primary reason for Europeans coming to and settling this continent, and it is one of the basic principles upon which the Unites States was established. But over the past two or three decades the Christian religion in the U.S. has become increasingly fundamentalist and intolerant of the freedom of non-Christians to believe and worship as they choose, to the point that today it is beyond merely disturbing – it threatens the foundations upon which this country was founded and could be used to subvert our freedoms.

Driving on Route 13 through the Eastern Shore of Virginia recently, I saw a sign that said, “If you are not with Jesus, you are against him”. Christianity is so named because it supposedly is based upon the teachings of Jesus – the Christ. But the basic teachings attributed to Jesus – love and compassion for all – are completely opposite to the message of that sign! If he were to see it, Jesus probably would tear that sign down with the same anger with which he is reported to have upset the money lenders’ tables! Yet here his name was being used in our country to preach fear of others, to separate us into factions – us and them, and if you aren’t with “us”, then you’re one of “them”. We heard George Bush use the exact same phrasing some years ago when he was trying to convince people to support his plans to invade Iraq. And even though many of us knew that it would be a terrible decision, the tactic worked. Bush got his war.

I also recently watched the beginning of a NASCAR race for the first time in my life and was shocked to discover that the race began with a Christian prayer that spoke of “Jesus Christ our  savior”. Our Constitution guarantees us freedom of religious expression, but it also expressly prohibits “establishment of religion” by our government. While NASCAR isn’t a governmental body, their races are public events that people of all faiths can and do attend. And persons of other religious faiths, such as Jews or Buddhists, or even Atheists, should all be able to attend such public events without being subjected to overtly Christian prayers and the accompanying pressure to participate in them.

When a prayer is conducted discreetly, in self-contained groups, it remains simply a prayer, performed as part of private religious practice. But a prayer that is conducted over a public address system is not a simple prayer, meant only for those who desire to participate in it as part of their private religious practice. When broadcast throughout a public facility, a prayer is transformed into a coercive call to publicly practice a specific religion, in that moment. The prayer becomes in that moment a tool that serves, whether intended or not, to separate all in attendance into two groups; those who participate in the religious practice of the prayer and those who don’t. And those who don’t participate are thereby made identifiable to everyone who does and potentially vulnerable to ostracism and attacks, verbal and otherwise.

Many would contend that what I am saying here is an exaggeration and that people don’t have to participate if they don’t want to. But this is a head-in-the-sand attitude that misses the point. Freedoms are seldom taken from us outright, in one fell swoop. They are usually eroded via a series of seemingly innocuous changes such as this which lead us step-wise to a place that we never would choose to be if we were to ask ourselves at the outset if that’s where we want to end up. Like the sign that wants to force us into being either with Jesus or against him, with nothing in between, prayers that are broadcast throughout public facilities are yet another means of dividing groups of people into “us” and “them”, into those who are “with us” or “against us”.

NASCAR isn’t a church, and for it to align itself with one specific religion over all others is a discriminatory and dangerous practice that should not be allowed – especially in today’s world that is so emotionally charged relative to religion. While we might initially think that getting government involved here is a reach, we must keep in mind that those Christians who insist that it’s harmless for Christian prayers to be broadcast over public address systems would themselves not tolerate AT ALL the reading, over the public address system, of a prayer from the Koran, or even the Tao Te Ching! There isn’t a shadow of doubt that those Christians would insist that our government stop such open alignment of a public facility with any other religion. There is no way that would be allowed to stand.

To that point, we have seen a constant parade of state laws enacted over recent years designed to prevent any infringement whatsoever upon the rights, or even the beliefs, of Christians. One notable example is that Christians have been protected from merely having to sell wedding cakes to gay people. What do you think Christians would say if a Muslim-owned facility that held public events attended by large numbers of people, say an amusement park, was to broadcast Muslim prayers throughout the park? They would be outraged and would force its cessation! It is equally outrageous for non-Christians to be subjected to the same thing at NASCAR races, and their freedom from it should be protected just as vigorously.

These developments are very ominous. We have in the United States today a society that has been dominated for many years now by an extreme and pervasive fear and uncertainty about our future and security, much of which has been centered around the false “boogey-man” of the “terrorist” which was created years before 9/11. Sure terrorists exist, but they are nowhere near the all-pervasive and powerful threat that we have been brainwashed into believing they are. And since 9/11, that event itself has been used constantly to amp up the fear even more and to enact laws that take away our freedoms in the name of “protecting” us. This kind of fear mongering, combined with a severely depressed economy and secret passing of laws to monitor the populace and reduce our freedoms of assembly and expression, creates a situation ripe for some charismatic person to maneuver into a position of authority and take over through martial law while convincing the population (who have been numbed into complacency by TV, consumerism, sports, an acquiescent media, etc.) that this is being done to protect us from the exaggerated threat.

The “threat” starts when some ethnic or other group of people, such as non-Christians, are labeled as “other” than us and out to do us harm. We have already passed that point, as evidenced by the rampant fear in our country of “radical Islamic” terrorists. The fear of “other” is then expanded to include additional groups that may somehow be seen as potentially threatening, such as immigrants in general. Considering that we are seeing that now, too, we aren’t far from the next, much more dangerous step in the process.

This is when anyone who speaks out against the radical policies being enacted to supposedly protect us from the “other” people, anyone who begins to question whether the crazy new laws really do protect us or if they go too far, are then jailed or otherwise silenced. Those who have bought into the fear-mongering then begin to do the work of policing the rest of us by ostracizing us, such as could be done as just described at NASCAR races and through the use of slogans such as, “If you aren’t with us you are against us!” They ridicule those who don’t go along with the changes and attack any who dare to defend themselves. The sheep begin policing each other and doing the work for the wolves in power, identifying the “non-believers” and deterring any dissent from the party line.

Far from an exaggeration of the situation, this is the exact manner in which Adolf Hitler was able to take over Weimar Germany. He used the same type of incendiary, religious language to incite people into viewing themselves as superior over others. In his speech in Munich on April 12, 1922 he said, “My feelings as a Christian point me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter…. I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice. As a Christian I have a duty to my own people”.

The extremist, far right Republican party we have today is dominated by the most fanatical and violent of Christians here, and has given Fundamentalist Christianity far too much power in the government and control of our country. As Mathew Fox explains in his book The Hidden Spirituality of Men, this is a dangerous development: (I know this is a somewhat lengthy quote, but it is too important and apropos to edit it here)

“In many ways, in the United States today, the unholy alliance between right-wing political ideologies and right-wing Christian movements goes beyond confusion and creates a situation that is reminiscent of when Hitler came to power in Nazi Germany with the explicit blessing of the so-called German Christian Church, whose pro-Nazi sympathies were surprisingly uncriticized by many at the time. Dr. James Luther Adams, a former ethics professor at Harvard Divinity School, fled Germany in 1936 after being interrogated by the Gestapo for having supported the Confessing Church. Twenty-five years ago, when Pat Robertson and other radio hosts and televangelists began talking about a new political religion to create a global, Christian empire, Adams warned of the coming rise of American fascism and religion’s role in that rise.

The founder of The Promise Keepers, a modern-day Christian Men’s Movement, is Dr. Tony Evans, a Dallas minister. He gathers thousands of men at a time, usually in football stadiums, and preaches about creating a Christian state in America governed by biblical concepts and that ‘dominion’ has been given to the ‘elect’ to rule the Earth and America in particular. This society would, among other things, prescribe the death penalty for adultery, witchcraft, blasphemy, and homosexuality. And biblical law would replace our secular legal code.

Dominionism found a home not only with The Promise Keepers but with influential political figures who were close to Tony Evans, such as George Bush, Tom Delay, Pat Robertson, and Zell Miller. God chooses such people, Evans tells us, to battle the forces of evil embedded in ‘secular humanism’ and to create a Christian and God-fearing nation. As Pat Robertson has put it, ‘Our aim is to gain dominion over society.’ The movement aims to appeal to the lower middle class and to people feeling the economic squeeze. Chris Hedges, a former student of Dr. Adams and a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist writes: ‘This image of Christ as warrior is appealing to many in the movement. The loss of manufacturing jobs, lack of affordable health care, negligible opportunities for education and poor job security has left many millions of Americans locked out. This ideology is attractive because it offers them hope of power and revenge. It sanctifies their rage and stokes the paranoia about the outside world.’ Hitler too built his movement on the backs of an angry, disenfranchised working class.

Dr. Adams, who lived through Hitler’s fascism, did not use the word lightly when he sensed its rise in contemporary America. ‘The Nazis,’ he said, ‘found a mask for fascism in the pages of the Bible.’ He recognized a kind of deja-vu in the emergence of the right-wing in America.’ The speeches of Hitler were thoroughly laced with religious language and imagery.”   (bold emphasis mine)

People have been sounding this alarm for some time now. Anyone who has studied how Hitler used the same fear tactics that I have briefly described here, along with religion, to take control of post WWI Germany and do what he did can see very ominous similarities with that history and what is occurring in the United States now.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines fascism as:  “A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, a capitalist economy subject to stringent governmental controls, violent suppression of the opposition, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism”. With the exception of being run by a dictator, the U.S. today meets these criteria.

trump-fascismChris Hedges’ words in the quote above apply directly to Donald Trump, whose policies “sanctify and capitalize upon the rage” of our increasingly disenfranchised population and “stoke their paranoia about the outside world”. Whether he is consciously intending it or not, the policies Trump appears to be pursuing would, if fully enacted, take us further in the direction of fascism. Although the man doesn’t possess the eloquence and charisma often associated with a dictator personality, if the broader population beyond the far right, fear-consumed minority doesn’t rouse from its static complacency to become politically active then that becomes a distinct possibility for us. Because our country right now is poised for it, and it’s already apparent that Trump will take as much power as he is allowed to assume. In addition, he is aligning with the Christian Fundamentalists among us.

The stated goal of Christian “Dominionism” to have the United States become a country where our secular laws are replaced by biblical law, is exactly the same as that of the Islamic Fundamentalists we have all been conditioned to fear. Islamic and Christian Religious Fundamentalists both want to make their religion be the law of the land. Such notions are completely subversive of the Constitution of the United States. And, of the two, the religious fundamentalism that most threatens this country is right here within it. The combination of this Christian fundamentalism with the totalitarian laws that were put in place after 9/11 and a fearful, angry and disenfranchised population that is becoming increasingly intolerant and racist, has us poised for disaster. It’s a very dangerous path we have been walking, and it’s time we step off of it.

The most basic teachings attributed to Jesus are in fact at the core of all religions – to love one another and treat each other as we would want to be treated ourselves. The only thing that will put this country on a more positive course is for those of us who want freedom for all and who try to live by that foundational principle, no matter what our religion, to get involved in our own governance. We are the true silent majority. But remaining politically silent, inert and immobile except for casting our votes in presidential elections every four years (maybe) will only ensure that the angry, fearful and belligerent among us chart our course. We all must stand – truly stand –  for freedom of expression, and freedom from oppression, for all people, of any and all religions, by making our voices frequently and loudly heard, too.

It’s time for us all to stop idling through life telling ourselves that there’s nothing the individual can do or that it will all take care of itself. If we want things to change, then “we the people” must take responsibility, for our personal lives and our own governance. We have to get involved and do the work of informing ourselves about what is happening in our country and the world by seeking out alternative sources of news and information. The Internet has become the place to do that. Mainstream media has at this point long been used to keep us distracted, uninformed and misinformed. It does not deliver any news to us about the important things happening in our world – in fact, it intentionally hides this from us. The little it does say about items of import is pure propaganda, meaning there is a corporate, war-based agenda behind it.

I have often heard people say that there is so much frivolous, faked and false information on the Internet that you simply can’t trust any of it. This is far more true about mainstream media than it is about the Internet! What’s more, it is a total cop-out to use that as an excuse to dismiss everything available through the Internet. It’s a lazy justification for being unwilling to do the work of sifting through the crap to get to the gold. We all know B.S. when we hear it from people we personally talk to. And that same B.S. meter can be used to judge alternative media sources. We simply have to learn to apply the same skill in seeking out reliable sources of news and information on the Internet, i.e., to teach ourselves to know B.S. when we hear it there, too!

If “we the people” are too distracted, tired, uninterested, scared, bored or whatever else we may claim as our excuse for not knowing what the hell is going on around us, then “we the people” have no right to complain or whine about the fact that our government “of the people” is no longer “by the people, for the people”. It can’t be “by the people, for the people” if “the people” don’t pay attention and make their voices heard. From the time this country was founded up until the advent of the television, Americans actively kept themselves very apprised of what was happening in government and politics. Every adult was paying attention to and participating in the discussion about the nation’s governance. It’s time for us to make it so again.

If we want to know what that looks like today, it has shown itself beautifully in the Standing Rock protests. Those people aren’t buying the mainstream media reports of “studies” showing how safe pipelines are. They did their homework and informed themselves of the real risks. They are very aware of what is at stake and are letting their opinions be heard – loudly and unwaveringly. They’ve taken a stand, even though it isn’t easy for them. What are you willing to stand for?

Bad Rap For Judgment

judgmentThe word “judgement” has gotten a bad rap in our society in recent years. In today’s hyper-sensitive, politically correct atmosphere, we constantly hear people saying that “it’s wrong to judge others”. At best, this notion is simply an over-reaction to certain situations; a trendy, broad brush rule of thumb that is appropriate only in some instances and certainly not all. At worst, it is evidence of subconscious unwillingness to take responsibility for our own feelings.

To begin with, if we’re truthful about it, making judgments is an essential tool for learning about life. It’s a survival skill and, as such, it is indispensable. We are constantly making judgments about whether something feels good to us, whether something fits with our sense of right and wrong, whether certain behaviors are things we want to try to emulate, etc.. Making such value judgments is an important part of sifting through the contrast, i.e., the duality of the experience of life. For example, all of us have run into people whom we judge to be untrustworthy, for any number of reasons, and this is a valid self-preservational form of judgment. We also make positive judgments about people, such as when we decide that we want to be around someone more, perhaps even marry them. As we interact with people, we appraise how we feel about our interactions with them… which is the same as saying we evaluate them… which are simply other ways of saying we make judgments about them.

Furthermore, it’s part of our human nature to do this, and we can’t stop ourselves from doing it, even if we try. As we move through life, we very naturally react or respond to everything we experience, including our interactions with other human beings. These natural responses include feelings that arise within us about our experiences. And it’s impossible for us not to formulate opinions, i.e., judgments, based upon those feelings.

Since making judgments is something we naturally do and can’t stop doing, and it’s actually a survival skill that we need, how did it come about that people would suggest that this is something we shouldn’t be doing? Where might this idea have come from? As with the laws we pass, “rules of thumb” such as this one always arise from observed human interactions which have been deemed undesirable, or wrong – which, ironically, is itself a form of judgment! This particular rule probably came about in response to two different things.

The first is when people attach negative judgments to the person instead of the person’s actions. Instead of judging the actions to be wrong, they make the person wrong. What many don’t grasp is that when we do that, we’re making the person wrong for who she or he is. Implying that there is something fundamentally wrong with another not only makes the person feel dreadful about themselves, it accomplishes nothing that will change things for the better – because who can change what they fundamentally are? We can change behaviors – but we can’t change our basic natures.

The fact that our society conditions us to judge people for who they are and not make the distinctions between behaviors and persons, by calling people names or labelling them, exacerbates this problem and perpetuates it. But in doing this to another, all that we are certain to accomplish is to make the person feel shame and guilt about themselves. It will alienate the person from you to some degree, instead of engendering any positive improvement within them. People intuitively know this and then decide that it’s wrong to make any judgments at all, instead of doing the more specific work of being certain that they’re judging behaviors and not persons.

Secondly, the saying that we shouldn’t judge others also derives from the common wisdom that it’s impossible to know what’s going on inside of another that may be motivating them to do or say what they do. We all have very unique perspectives due to having lived our own perfectly individual set of life experiences. No one else can see the situation, whatever it is, from our own unique perspective, and it’s the same for us all. Since we can’t possibly know what others have experienced or what they are thinking or feeling, we’re in no position to judge their behaviors. We hear this wisdom in popular idioms such as “Who are we to judge anyone?” and “Let God be the judge.” So this is another genesis of the generalized rule that we shouldn’t judge others.

Certainly, these two scenarios should be taken into account regarding our judgments. But they tell us that care needs to be taken in how we judge our experiences with other people, not that all judgment is “bad” and should be avoided. They are recognitions of the fact that we should look upon others with compassion for them, and with a sense of humility within ourselves. Instead of “throwing the baby out with the bath water” by proclaiming that we should stop making judgments completely, it would better serve us all to simply become more aware and compassionate in how we formulate our judgments.

Perhaps even more importantly, the truth is that when an interaction with another generates a negative feeling within us, that negative feeling is based more upon our own thoughts and beliefs about the event than it is about whatever the other has done or said. And these are often heavily influenced by our assumptions about what the other was thinking or intending. The same applies to the positive feelings we experience. Either way, it is we who make the meanings we attach to our experiences, not anyone else, and we do so based upon our assumptions and our personal definitions of what is “right” or “proper”. So we need to be aware of what is going on inside of ourselves and be prepared to take responsibility for our own part in the feelings we experience. They are our feelings, generated within ourselves alone. And we need to own them, take responsibility for them, and stop trying to blame them on anyone, or anything, else.

judgment-scalesGiven that our feelings are ours alone, we are best served when we acknowledge them and heed what they are telling us by making adjustments accordingly. Based upon what we legitimately feel, we might reject the actions of another, yet have compassion for the person, forgive her/him and keep him/her in our life at the same level of closeness. Or we might choose to keep interacting with the person but distance ourselves from her/him a bit. Lastly, if someone’s actions or words are egregious enough, we might judge them to be so serious that we never want to put ourselves in the position to have something like that come our way again, so we completely remove the person from our lives. Whatever response we choose, we are making very natural and valid judgments. And those judgments will serve us well as we move forward in life – provided we are taking responsibility for our own feelings. Making such judgments is a legitimate part of the human experience, and we shouldn’t try to stop doing it.

Another valid form of judgment is when we evaluate the behavior of others for our own personal learning. In other words, we judge whether observed actions or words would be appropriate for ourselves were we in the same situation as the one we are viewing. For example, all of us have at times thought, “I would never do that to someone, and I would never want anyone to do it to me!” Conversely, we often see people who behave in admirable ways that we set as examples for ourselves to emulate. Our observations generate feelings within us, from which we then formulate judgments that serve us. Witnessing and responding to the actions of others, we avoid judging the person yet still decide/judge how we ourselves want to respond or behave in certain types of situations. In this way we learn through making judgments, and define for ourselves the kind of person we prefer to be.

As we move through life, it’s impossible for us to keep ourselves from evaluating or judging the actions and words of those around us. However, it is possible for us to be compassionate and mindful enough to refrain from attaching our judgments to the people we observe, i.e., we should never judge the person wrong for who he or she is. This is where the saying “Don’t judge others!” came from. We should never judge people in that specific way, since we can’t possibly know what they are thinking or feeling. Other than that, though, it’s not only acceptable to make judgments, it’s necessary, unavoidable and helpful – but only if we take responsibility for our own feelings as we do. Making judgments is an important survival mechanism through which we learn about people, including ourselves. And the more self-aware we are, and the more we “own” our part in our our interactions with others, the more we will learn and mature.

Lesson Of A Loved One’s Passing

tears-on-mans-faceI was in a good mood as that day started out. It was July 11th, and I was finally able to really use my left arm after shoulder surgery in April. I had just finished doing physical therapy that morning when my phone rang. I saw my sister Sandy’s phone number and answered, but was surprised to hear my brother-in-law’s voice:

Your sister’s dead!

WHAT?!

Carolyn died somehow at home just a while ago. We’re on our way there now.

Me too!

I grabbed my keys and was out the door instantly. All the way there I kept screaming out loud. “NO! NO! What the Hell? NO!” I was the first of our family to get to Carolyn’s house eight miles away. There were police cars and ambulances in the street with their lights flashing, and police officers grouped at the side of the house. As I walked around the house toward them, I saw my sister Carolyn’s body lying next to the bush she had been trimming with hedge clippers. She had electrocuted herself doing yardwork.

That is how quickly it can happen that your loved ones are gone.

Carolyn was the first of my siblings to pass away. Her death has given me a gift in the form of a lesson about how to conduct myself in relation the those whom I love who are still with me here in this physical life. And I want to share this insight because I feel it may help us all in our relationships with those we love.

Shortly after Carolyn’s body was taken away in the coroner’s ambulance that day, I knelt upon the spot where she had died, and I felt her presence still there. The following day, I was again at her house, finishing up the yardwork she had been doing, trying to keep myself distracted from my grief. While doing this work, I unmistakably felt her spiritual energy there again and clearly heard her say to me, with her characteristic sense of humor, “So NOW you come over and do this work for me?!

In the weeks and months immediately after her passing, Carolyn continued to come to me at times. And often when I felt her presence, I heard that same sense of humor again, but with an additional love-centered message; “Now you are all expressing your love for me – after I’m gone! I want all of you to know that I do feel it and appreciate it. And I love you, too! But I also want you to please learn to express the love you feel for each other  –  now, before the next one of you dies!”

love-nowThis is a sentiment that we all feel in the immediate aftermath of a loved one’s passing. But it usually fades with time. I’ve experienced the loss of my grandparents and parents, as well as quite a few other family members and a few friends. So I am very familiar with this process. But it has been different for me this time. Having my sister express this message to me herself after her transition has added to it a new dimension and given it deeper meaning. And these have catalyzed me to be extremely observant of my own inner responses as well as the words of others who felt her loss.

I noticed that, after I was beyond the initial shock of losing her, the very first response I had to her passing was to think only of positive things about her. My sister, Carolyn, had a mercurial personality and didn’t shy away from confrontation. In fact she was known for initiating it. But in the aftermath of her passing I didn’t think of those aspects of her. The thoughts that came to me naturally were only of the things I love and will dearly miss about who she was (and still is). And since then, it is only such positive traits that present themselves to my mind when I think about her.

Like all of us, Carolyn had some characteristics that frustrated, disappointed, and even angered those of us who loved her. And I certainly had some memorable disagreements with her myself, as did most of us in our family. But in the time since her passing, those are not the things that have come naturally into my mind. What comes most easily to me when I think of her is her vibrant personality and joy for life, her wonderful sense of humor, her astounding memory of jokes and her delight in telling them, and her perpetually evident desire to make the rest of us happy. And even when stories of her more challenging traits do arise, they have a very different feel to me now. No matter what, I always remember her in the light of my love for her.

The same seems to go for the rest of my family. Something seems to have shifted in how we see her and everything about her. What we naturally think and feel about her now seldom includes the negative stories; it is the positive things about her that arise effortlessly from within us, not the negative ones. And even those, when they do come up, are told with a whole new lightness that wasn’t there before.

In our family gatherings since her passing, there has occasionally been a few retellings of some of her more colorful behaviors that challenged the patience of those of us who experienced them. However, such stories of her negative traits are now recalled without the extreme emotional charge they had previously generated, even in the retelling of them. The negative tone of them is still slightly there, but so diminished as to be negligible.

In addition, whenever one of us does revisit a negative story about her, it feels to me like some effort is required to go there. Like the telling of those things requires us to go against the natural flow of something palpable. I believe that “something” is our love for her which, now that we are allowing it to predominate, moves us to recall only the good things we truly feel about her and know her to be. Herein lies the lesson.

What all of this says to me is that our natural way of viewing one another is with love and appreciation, which we immediately revert to when a loved one passes out of our life. To love one another is our default state of being, the place we naturally settle to when all outside forces are removed. When we are in the midst of our interactions with each other, we tend to forget this and notice far too often only the things about our loved ones that we are dissatisfied with. But when those dear ones are suddenly gone, our judgments immediately fall away and we return to our innate and effortless state of only loving them.

Since it is our default to focus upon positive thoughts of those we love, as demonstrated each time another loved one dies and we stop overriding our natural tendency to love, we should live that way toward each other now, in the present. This is the lesson Carolyn would have us learn from her passing – to focus upon the positive things about each other, to the exclusion of the negative things as much as possible – to NOT wait until our loved ones physically pass away, before we treat them with the love we naturally feel for them.

Don’t wait until after another loved one dies to start focusing upon the things you cherish about the people you love. Express to them now the love you feel for them … before another is suddenly gone and you can celebrate your love for her or him only with those who remain living with you afterwards, regretting that you hadn’t let her or him know – directly from you – just how much you loved him/her.

One (Big) Reason Love Relationships Fail

safe-and-lovedHuman beings are very social creatures who have a basic need to feel a sense of belonging within a group or tribe. In a healthy societal unit, children grow up feeling loved and accepted as who they are by both the immediate family as well as the tribal unit as a whole. The tribe understands that the new child arrives with innate talents and abilities that will enhance the lives of all within the tribe. Accordingly, children are accepted as they are and encouraged to express and develop their unique skills and ways of being. This allowing of the developing person to be him-or-herself is a form of love that ensures the young person grows up with self-confidence and a strong sense of belonging. Feeling this love and acceptance from many then allows the person to move through life and personal relationships as a healthy human being secure in who s/he is.

It is very obvious that this is mostly not happening in today’s world. There has been a breakdown of the family unit, with dysfunction largely the norm within the immediate family in the early years of development and continuing into adult life. Parents work long hours and then leave the workplace to transport children from one activity to the next, fitting in a quick meal on the go. Then they all come home afterwards, do some homework, watch a little television and then go to bed. Many of us come and go from our homes day in and day out for years on end without really knowing who lives in the homes around us. We’re taught to be independent and have grown up living basically separate lives and believing that it is up to us to make it on our own, without any group support to help us survive. Family members often live in different parts of the world. It’s an extremely disjointed way of life that provides no real sense of belonging within a bonded group that loves and supports us as we are.

At the same time we are, from the time we’re very small, repeatedly told romantic stories about finding our “one true love” who will “make us whole”. The fairy tales that teach children of princesses finding their “Prince Charmings” and vice versa are fed to children in endless variations through books, movies, TV shows, video games and on and on. Indoctrination into this fairy tale mythology continues into adulthood via the same media channels that are endemic throughout popular culture. Our absorption of these romantic fairy tales through story after story very powerfully teaches us that there is one person out there for us who will make us feel complete, and that we will clearly know it when we find him or her. This conditions us to have unrealistic expectations that our love relationships will provide for us a feeling of love and acceptance and security within the world, which in turn places upon our beloved one the equally unrealistic responsibility for “making us happy”. Consequently, we keep entering our personal romantic relationships believing or hoping that they will “complete” us and make us feel secure in the world. And we are repeatedly disappointed, even devastated sometimes, when they are not.

What we fail to understand is that the love we feel and receive from one human being, no matter how true and good, cannot satisfy the basic human need to feel that we belong to a group, or tribe, which is still within us waiting to be fulfilled. It is a need to feel loved and accepted as we are within a community, and it is as basic to our healthy survival as the need for food, water and shelter. Because this need doesn’t go away, it drives us to try to fulfill it in whatever ways we can. This is an unconscious process, and it most often is what moves us to join groups of various kinds. We affiliate ourselves with religions, charitable causes, our jobs/professions, sports teams, and other such groups, and then we assimilate them as part of our identities. We adopt them as part of how we define who we are so that we can feel some sense of group, or tribal, belonging… “I am a (fill in the blank)“.

Yet our attachments to these kinds of groups rarely fill the need, or stop the drive within us to fill it, because they are usually lacking its most essential ingredient – love. A true tribe loves it members and not only accepts, but also wants, them as they are, without condition, and without insisting that they conform to norms. It is this type of unconditional love from a group that is missing for most of us today, for it is rare that any of these types of groups accepts members without conditions for their acceptance. There are rules to be followed, i.e., conditions for membership, that derive from the definition of the group. And if we don’t follow the rules, then the group rejects us. Directly or indirectly, we are forced out of the group. Membership within such groups, therefore, leaves us still wanting and needing a sense of being unconditionally accepted, i.e., loved, on a larger scale than one person can satisfy.

And the truth is that without this we don’t really know who we are. Many of us today are aware that no one can “complete” us but ourselves. This must come from within. But when we’re raised from childhood and move into adult life never feeling that sense of unconditional acceptance and belonging within a family or other tribal community, many of us never develop the self-love needed to feel whole and complete.

So these two things – our lack of a sense of love and acceptance within a tribe, which makes us feel secure in who we are and allows us to love ourselves, and our indoctrination into the myth that our relationship with our romantic partner will complete us – collapse together, thus dooming our love relationships to failure because of these absolutely impossible expectations. We enter romantic relationships with another who loves and accepts us with the expectation that the love from her or him will make us feel secure in life: “Ahhh! I’ve finally found my one and only true love! I’m truly loved and accepted for who I am!” But we’ve now attached our sense of self-worth, which is key to our very survival, to the relationship, so that when the relationship later fails, we’re left ungrounded and feeling very insecure. And in extreme cases this is so terrifying that one or both of the two are driven to act out in extreme ways that leave everyone wondering what happened and asking, “How could someone who loves another so much do something like that to them?”

But remember, the very powerful forces that drive us to do these things are not conscious to us. They are basic, primal and very powerful human survival needs that remain below the level of our conscious awareness and, therefore, they can move us to do things without our even being aware of them. When we are being driven by these archetypal forces we are as amazed as everyone else at our own behaviors! We see it all the time when the one who acts out is as devastated by their own behavior as is the other, and yet it still can spiral downward a very long way from there. Lives can be shattered by this, on many levels, though seldom is it realized what has actually been at the bottom of it.

We are social creatures who are not healthy living in isolation, whether isolated alone or as a couple. We all need loving, social connection with other human beings, and in our world today we must begin to recognize and honor this basic human need by reaching out to others – for our own well-being, for theirs, for our world. If we never feel secure in who we are as a human being, then no one person can give that to us. While knowing our own self-worth is ultimately an inner journey, we still are social creatures, and even the most self-loving human being cannot survive completely alone. Even those who successfully live in remote wilderness are able to do so only because they feel themselves to be a part of the natural setting. They feel a sense of belonging and acceptance there, and if they didn’t they wouldn’t be able to stay and survive where they are.

In our world today, particularly in the United States, we highly value the ability to survive alone, whether in the wild or in society, and we attach a romantic, individualistic strength to the notion of the lone wolf. However, like humans, wolves are very social animals, and a lone wolf cannot survive long all by itself – it cannot. Wolves hunt in packs, and a lone wolf will not survive long because it can’t by itself run down game like a wolf pack does. Human beings need a pack to survive as well. The wolf pack also values every individual wolf, and love is generously expressed by and to all within the pack. We humans also need to feel this kind of love and acceptance within a pack/family/tribe if we are to be healthy, secure and happy in this world. If we have that, then we feel secure here and are already whole and complete when we meet another with whom we want to mate. We are in a position to share our life path and our love with another human whom we feel is a match to us – without putting an unrealistic and impossible expectation upon that other to “complete” us. And being able to love one another without such unrealistic conditions, our relationships will have much higher chances for lasting a lifetime.

No one else can make us happy, it is an inside job. That is true. But it is equally true that we are social animals that require social love and acceptance in order for us to feel safe and secure and confident in the living of our lives. Today’s modern society seldom satisfies this basic need for us, so we are forced to create it for ourselves by reaching out to and accepting each other as we are and celebrating the unique talents and skills we each have. Cultivating this group love and acceptance could significantly change our lives and our world for the better, for the more we all learn to accept each other as we are, the stronger we all become.

In this broader love lies a promise for much happier relationships, and lives, for us all. The larger the group we feel accepted within as individuals, the more confident and safe we feel in being and expressing who we really are. The safer we feel about being who we really are, the healthier and more confident we will be in our relationships with others…  and the more confident we feel in letting our true selves fly. I want to fly. Don’t you?

Our Collective Trumpet Call

woman-frustrated

I was happy that Donald Trump was elected, but not because I like him or believe he personally will do anything, in any sense, to “make America great again”. There is nothing about him, personally, that I like, or that I think is good for America. His faults have been listed thoroughly by others elsewhere, and I agree with most of that. However, from the higher, longer perspective of where this country and humanity as a whole are going, the fact that he won this presidential election is a very positive thing. In order to see the positive ramifications of this election, though, one must focus on the larger story that is unfolding on our stage and not upon the individual who is playing this one role in that story. It isn’t him, but rather what his election represents in this larger story that bodes well for us all.

In a nutshell, Trump himself isn’t the change we need – but he kicked open the door through which that change will come. And, for that, we all should be thankful. More to the point, the primary and extremely powerful thing this man has done for us is to prove that an outsider can be elected to the highest office in the land. In doing this he has accomplished something no one before him was able to do – which is to break the stranglehold the super-rich have had on our political system for a very long time.

Those who have done even the least bit of self-education about the history of money and banking in the United States know that the moneyed elite, the 1% as they are called today, have been pre-selecting our political candidates, from both parties, since our country’s inception. Indeed, it was this rich echelon of our population, which has always existed, that created this system to begin with – to serve their purposes.

Our two-party political system in its present form was designed to keep the broad population of voters engaged and distracted with issues that have no financial impact upon the so-called moneyed elite’s ever-expanding corporate business interests, while those supposed elite use their unlimited wealth to ensure policy decisions, legislation and judicial rulings that directly serve those business interests. The two parties publicly take opposite sides of currently-hot social issues and loudly debate them, while they all quietly and secretly vote as their common benefactors direct them to, which is always to place our labor and resources – and our government and military – at their disposal for their corporate use. The super-rich buy off individual candidates by paying for their political campaigns and making them wealthy for life. In exchange for this those candidates, once elected, keep the populace preoccupied with colorful debates on social issues, always vote in support of the corporations and banks, and publicly pretend that our political system and government isn’t so thoroughly rigged. Of course, after these politicians are bought off they remain forever controlled by the corporate elite through fear of their personal sex scandals and other corrupt behaviors being exposed by the corporate-controlled media.

But now someone other than the 1%’s pre-selected candidates has demonstrated that it is indeed possible to be elected to high office without being under their control. They didn’t want Trump to be president because he isn’t under their control, and they have no idea what he will do. He is already demonstrating that very well, for example by thumbing his nose at intelligence agency claims that Russia was trying to influence our election through electronic hacking. That is perhaps The Trumpet’s most powerful, and frightening, attribute – his unpredictability and the disruption this will surely cause to business-as-usual. Make no mistake, Trump will wreak some havoc. And no one, not even Trump himself, truly knows the whole of when or where this mayhem will appear or what it will look like. And that’s the scary part – to both the corporations and we the people.

But, in truth, this is precisely what we the people voted for. It wasn’t Donald Trump the man that people wanted, it was the radical change that he is certain to usher in. Everyone is clearly tired of the same B.S. that we have been force-fed for so long. Even though The Trumpet did seemingly everything in his power to alienate most women in the country, they didn’t vote for Hillary in the numbers this would seem to have suggested… because it was clear to many that she was one of the pre-selected candidates. Hillary as president would have completely been business-as-usual, i.e., no change at all. She was not a game-changer. Trump is.

Long term, the most important outward change our election of Trump will precipitate is that the two-party system will now be challenged by many more candidates not under corporate control. This is HUGE! Third party candidates now know that it’s possible to become elected without corporate backing. Mounting a campaign and winning election will still require stupid amounts of money. But now there will be new coalitions of private money to support candidates – outside of the small number of people at the top of the multinational corporations who’ve been sitting on each other’s boards and preselecting our candidates, thus controlling our government. The election of Donald Trump is the harbinger of good changes in our political system and our government to come down the road.

Now to what most people are so afraid of. Looking at this from another higher perspective angle, our presidential election is always a direct reflection of who we are as a people. The population as a whole reflects our personal traits as individuals, and clearly we are conflicted, flawed and fed up – even angry. Worse than that, too many of us are racist, intolerant of others who are different, and fearful. This election, and Trump himself, are both exposing to us these types of things about ourselves that we prefer to keep in shadow. But through his presidency we will now be forced to face them and deal with them, both individually and as a people.

Confronting the things we don’t like about ourselves is always painful and highly disruptive. And our collective fear tells us that these things are coming our way in the very near future. A Trump presidency is certain to lance that boil. It will be a reality TV spectacle – like having Jerry Springer as president and our country as his stage, exposing all our worst traits to the world, and to ourselves. The nastiness of the election was only a prelude. With The Trumpet as our president we will continue to be provoked into fighting each other on stage, before the world. The election was a pilot for the show, and now we will see the series we have approved. And the series is likely to be uglier than the pilot episode. But in forcing us to face ourselves this way, the agonizing spectacle will jolt us out of our somnambulant state, our passivity.

On an individual basis, most of us refuse to face our shadows until we’re forced to do so through the exigency of some event that happens “to” us,  seemingly beyond our personal control. We don’t consciously ask for such things to happen. However, upon reflection after their occurrence we usually find that we subconsciously said or did things to bring the catalyzing event about. Although we weren’t fully aware of why we did what we did, we had our part in making those things happen. The American electorate just went through a similar process in this election. The number of Trump’s core, angry, ultra-right supporters weren’t enough to put him into office. It was all those invisible others of us who were simply fed up with business-as-usual who put him there. Thus, as a whole we elected him subconsciously, based more on feeling than thought; because some part of us just couldn’t vote for more of the same, even if it meant creating total chaos in our lives.

The worst aspects of who we are as individuals reveal themselves in those times when ugly behaviors burst out of us and create chaos in our lives. Afterward we’re forced to do damage control and bring forth our more honorable and loving selves. Like our own personal episodes of poor behavior, many of the things Trump is likely to do will evoke from us as a people the ugliest aspects of who we are, wreaking major havoc in the process, in ways we can at this point only imagine. In response, we’ll be forced to act from our higher selves to preserve our integrity as a good people. In doing so we’ll learn more about who we are and what we really want. And it will be up to us to create that, which will often mean standing against things Trump tries to do. Thus, we will discover our own power, because we’ll be forced to finally claim it.

Our country is and always has been a reflection of us as individual people. As individuals, we see ourselves either as creators of our own destinies or as victims of powerful forces over which we have no control. Too many in this country have for too long viewed themselves as victims. When we see ourselves this way, it’s easy for those who would love to control us to step in and do so, and so they have. I believe that our election of Donald Trump signals that we no longer want to think of ourselves as victims, as powerless. This is only the beginning of what is likely to be a lengthy, frightening and messy process. But we have decided that it will be worth the work.

The change we have voted for is now in front of us, and it will be a long, difficult stretch of road. At times Trump will make some difficult choices for us that we initially resist but that turn out good in the long run. Most often, though, he will force us to stand for the things that are important to us when he tries to destroy them. But we must keep our eye on the long game.

An analogy will help here. We allowed contractors (the 1%) to build us a house (our government) that we have discovered is so structurally unsound that to continue living in it as it is will endanger our entire family. Major demolition is required. However, there are valuables inside the house that we want to preserve before demolition begins. We just hired the demolition expert (Trump), and he is about to begin demolition with our valuables still inside. To protect those valuables, which are the things that are most important to us, we now will be forced to argue and fight with this contractor, who doesn’t see their value.

There’s no alternative but to go through this – we have already made the decision, and the die is cast. We are about to be forced to get off our asses and do some hard work. But the destination beyond that struggle is promising indeed, and that is why we made this choice.

Science & Religion Double-Bind

Just to let you know up front:

This is my introductory post, so it’s a bit lengthy.    I promise they won’t all be!

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NOTE:   I use capitalized versions of the words Science, Religion and Truth to denote their most general, global meanings as distinguished from any smaller versions of them. Similarly, “Story of Life” refers to a general existential belief system as whole.

When seeking to understand the universe and our place in it, nearly all human beings will look to Science and/or Religion to come up with their answers. Taken in whole, in part, or in combination, these are the two Stories of Life we are given by our western societies today from which we must try to make sense of everything we observe and experience living within this world. They also are the two Stories humanity has been using to try to build a stable and peaceful world. It has now become woefully evident that they aren’t adequate to the task – by far.

Guided by the Stories of Life that Religion and Science have provided us these past centuries, humanity rushed headlong to the edge of a very frightening cliff of possible self-destruction, through a number of possible means, which is where we now reside. We live in a state of perpetual war, with nuclear weapons poised and ready. The world’s economy has been exposed as a global Ponzi scheme that is collapsing in front of us. And our ecosystems are in serious decline. Moved by a subconscious restlessness with this situation, increasing numbers of us are beginning to seek a New Story.

Although Religion has, for most of our written history, been the predominant source of Truth, over the past century people have increasingly become less devoted to, or affiliated with, any specific religious doctrine. Even though today there are still far more people who say they belong to some organized religion than there are those who say they do not, overall, Religion has steadily been losing followers for decades:

When it comes to religion, the USA is now land of the freelancers…. The new American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) finds that, despite growth and immigration that has added nearly 50 million adults to the U.S. population, almost all religious denominations have lost ground since the first ARIS survey in 1990…. So many Americans claim no religion at all (15%, up from 8% in 1990), that this category now outranks every other major U.S. religious group except Catholics and Baptists. In a nation that has long been mostly Christian, “the challenge to Christianity … does not come from other religions but from a rejection of all forms of organized religion,” the report concludes. “More than ever before, people are just making up their own stories of who they are. They say, ‘I’m everything. I’m nothing. I believe in myself,’ ” says Barry Kosmin, survey co-author.      (Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA Today, March 2009)

This trend of people moving away from Religion has largely been fueled by the amazing progress of our scientific explorations of the physical world. Its rapidly advancing discoveries over the past 150 years have created a very strong trend, especially in Western societies, toward Science as the most trusted authority for Truth. Indeed, Science is now seriously challenging Religion for that prime position.

Still, as explained above, much of what humanity has built, following Science in the way we have to where it has led us, is clearly not sustainable and in fact is collapsing all around us. Indeed, it is Science that gave us the atomic bomb and nuclear waste, and it is the application of the discoveries of Science that has resulted in the rabid consumption of the earth’s natural resources and concomitant destruction of our ecosystems. Regardless of how much new gadgetry and other means of distraction that it continually puts before us, our pursuit of Science has failed to address its own inherent dangers. Thus we can’t escape, nor completely quell, the always-present sense of danger that has taken root within us due to living on that cliff of impending self-destruction. It’s a low-grade fear that is always there within us, like the Orc drums beating and echoing throughout the Mines of Moria in Tolkien’s  Lord of The Ring trilogy… “Doom! Doom! Doom!”

And Religion, with its fundamental intolerance of those who believe differently, is exacerbating the situation rather than helping, as evidenced by the current rise of Religious Fundamentalism, Islamic in the Mid-East and Christian in the U.S.. Christian  fundamentalism has now firmly taken root within the U.S. in counter position to the Islamic fundamentalists of the Mid-East, providing the war mongers of the world a convenient potential spark for ignition of the next world war. The result is that there is a palpable, global unease about what lies ahead for us all.

So, while the competition between the two major influences upon belief systems remains, the amount of trust humans have in both Religion and Science nevertheless is declining. People are questioning and losing faith in both of them. Many have come to feel that neither Science nor Religion are able to correct the imbalances of the world we live in, nor to help them understand it or navigate their lives effectively within it. As a result they are, in a very natural way, formulating their own individual belief systems. More and more people are quietly moving away from institutionalized knowledge systems and toward some personalized set of beliefs.

The increasing apprehension about what has been wrought upon our planet isn’t the only reason for the growing number of people who are developing their own personal belief systems. There is another, more primal reason for this shift. We humans have always felt a connection to something bigger than ourselves and a powerful desire to understand who we are and how we got here. This has undeniably been a part of the human experience since the dawn of mankind, and in fact it is this very thing that gave rise to all forms of religion… ALL of them. Even though Science would have us believe that this sense of the numinous and of connection with something larger than ourselves is nothing more than the left-over vestiges of our primitive past, the vast majority of us can’t accept that. This is because our innate sense of connection to something more has always been and still is part of the very fiber of our being. It is somehow the essence of who we are and, as such, it isn’t something we can simply dismiss as primitive wishful thinking, as Science would have us do.

The overwhelming importance of religion both in general world history and in the history of the average world individual is of course very clear from any objective standpoint, even though a scientific view of man often seems embarrassed at acknowledging this most obvious fact. For in spite of all that rationalist materialist science has implied since the Scientific Revolution, mankind as a whole has not, does not, and perhaps cannot relinquish fascination with some human type of relationship to a greater and wholly other, some mysterium tremendum with powers and intelligences beyond all left hemispheric categories, something necessarily indefinite and unclear, to be approached and felt in awe and wonder and almost speechless worship, rather than in clear conception, something that… communicates in truths of feeling, rather than in what can be verbalized by the left hemisphere. (Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness In The Breakdown of The Bicameral Mind, p. 318)

The rise of Science, while amazing and impressing us with its technological achievements, has had no capacity to satisfy the basic human longing for connection with this “other”, as Jaynes aptly calls it. With its insistence that our feelings and very consciousness and sense of who we are all amount to nothing more than the products of electrochemical processes in our brains, Science leaves this innate part of us doubting it. No matter how authoritatively Science states its claims and regardless of how detailed its explanations are, there are always things that remain beyond its ability to explain, not the least of which is this innate sense within us that there is something more to ourselves and this world than physicality, and even more to physicality itself, than we will ever be able to learn. In addition to the important things about life that Science ignores and/or can’t explain, the never-ending process of new scientific “truths” replacing older “truths” itself makes the Story told us by Science seem inherently, and irreconcilably, incomplete. Since what Science holds before us as truth today is likely to be overturned by Science itself in the future, how “true” is it today?

But if we turn from Science back to Religion hoping for a more satisfying Story of Life, we are left feeling equally bereft. Even though religions do teach about a connection with this “other” that we so much need to understand, they also include many fantastic and outdated notions that the modern human simply cannot align with. The concepts of a heaven (in the sky?) and a hell (in the center of the earth?), of a male God who sits on a throne in heaven, that all human beings are born sinful but some groups are chosen by God over all others, that virgins are waiting in heaven for the martyred suicide bombers, that primitive people who have never heard of Jesus Christ will suffer eternal damnation for not accepting him as their savior, or that the earth is just a few thousand years old… all of these things and innumerable more like them are simply not tenable or believable to a great deal of the people of today’s modern world. Of course, when so many of Religion’s tenets are so indefensible, it calls into question all the rest of them. And because Religion is still trying to convince people of the truth of such implausible things, it makes itself increasingly less relevant to life today and keeps losing followers, as the ARIS study discussed above indicates.

Following our two institutions of Science and Religion in search for answers to our most important questions, we now find ourselves in a kind of box canyon of seemingly irreconcilable conceptions of who we are and what this world is. As just described, it seems we must choose between two bleak, conflicting messages that together create a sort of double-bind dilemma in which choosing either one forces us into inner conflict with something we innately feel within us. The vast majority of the human beings on this planet are struggling to reconcile this confusing Catch-22, and their lives reflect that struggle in the crime, divorce rates, drug addictions and countless other sad and painful manifestations of the human experience seen the world over.

In terms of joy for life and hope for the future, humanity today exists in a desert that saps their strength and spirit. They remain constantly parched and thirsty for sustenance and succor, yet willing to trust neither Science nor Religion enough to take shelter under their tents and drink the water they offer.

Relying as we have upon our institutions of Science and Religion to tell us what the Truth is about our world and who we are within it, we have become split in two: Are we merely an animal and our consciousness only the result of electro-chemical activity of the brain that didn’t exist before we were born, and never will again once we die? Or are we beings created by a harsh God who controls our lives from some realm beyond our physical world and punishes us in some afterlife if we are “bad” and rewards us if we are “good” in this life?

We have been limited to these two desperate choices for a very long time, and it has created a mounting pressure that, like plate tectonics, must at some point cause movement. I believe that humanity has now reached that point. It is time for us to write a New Story about ourselves and this universe. The tension created by this set of circumstances is felt individually and is causing people to make changes within themselves in attempt to relieve the inner conflicts they feel. Individuals are being moved from within, and humanity is thus beginning to awaken. Something deep inside many of us tells us that our only options for a Truth, a Story, we can truly believe and live by should not be between the lesser of two depressing and nonsensical choices. We will seek it, and we will find it.

This is exactly what has driven me all of my life, because there is a part of me that has always felt that there must be a choice that is better. As far back as I can remember, I have always felt a certainty that, however we and this universe came into being, it could not be nonsensical. I see this double-bind as a double negative, which is always in effect a positive:  It would make no sense for this world, and our place in it, to make no sense… in other words, the world must make sense! Thus, there must be a Story that makes sense of this universe and our role in it. I have found my way to such a Story, and I will be sharing it with you through this Blog.