Category Archives: God

Alienation, Deindividuation, and Disillusionment: Differences and Development

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You may believe many things separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom, and while there are no doubt good arguments that can be presented in opposition – the reality is that only self-awareness distinguishes our behaviors from animals. This is no groundbreaking notion, but self-awareness opens the dark door to comparison, critique, and yes, higher consciousness. It is at the center of our higher consciousness that our ability to critique helps us realize we are distinct entities of an environment, that we are unique contradictions who need love, yet desire to stand apart.

Animals are not self-expressive. Aside from a muted “meow”, or high-pitched “hiss”, my cat cannot laugh, nor express himself through art, nor can he cry. As much as I may want to believe he has feelings, simply put, animals respond to instinctive drives, but lack self-expression. Perhaps this can be better illustrated the next time you and your cat are near a mirror. Place the mirror before it and it will behave as if its reflection is another cat altogether. It will sniff the image and look behind the mirror as if it realizes the barrier between itself and the “other” cat. At any rate, it’s worth a laugh or two. 🙊

While most of us grasp we are individually unique, some people have a difficult time indeed accepting this and blending in with others. This feeling of being out of place, is called alienation.

Instilling in one’s children a strong sense of self should be high priority for parents. This strengthens who they are, their unique qualities, and makes them less susceptible to pressures.

When one feels alienated, it can largely be traced back to a lack of confidence, an extreme introspection, or hyper-awareness.  The feeling of alienation can lead to, among other things, depression, isolation, and a debilitating preoccupation with conformity.(1) A most common disguise from such discombobulation is to dull the senses with alcohol or other psychoactive substances. This is the slippery slope: when one believes one can and needs to detach from oneself, whether by drug or psychological trick, bad things happen.

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The process and state of losing one’s sense of individuality is termed, deindividuation. It is likened to a person “in a crowd of surging mob violence, and being swept up by the chaos” also participates in the mob behavior. It’s as if being deep in a crowd, that anonymity protects the individual from responsibility of action and consequences of choice (2).

Typical, hard-working people looted businesses in the L.A. riot of 1992. Swept up by the pandemonium, everyday people grabbed electronics, food, and clothes, rationalizing the items would have likely been lost to other looters anyway. This concept, deindividuation, is not lost on history nor contemporary civilization. To promote deindividuation, governments issue uniforms to its soldiers. The sense of anonymity and conformity of purpose is symbolized through the uniform. Deindividuating shields the mind, the conscience, from whatever actions may arise. After all, military service implies fighting; and when nations fight other nations, death emerges from the smoke.

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Disillusionment is the realization that something, some belief, was not as great as it initially appeared to us. Disillusionment is an awakening of sorts, a dispelling of illusions. It is during this process that we must remain grounded, that we have strong enough “selves” to push beyond our previous blindness. Where we don’t have strength, avoid the urge to hide in the shadows or in the anonymity of a crowd. Reach out your hand instead, express yourself by seeking help from others.

Throughout our lives, we should hope to continue to unravel the beautiful mysteries of life. No matter the cost, no matter the consequences,  we must learn to prefer truth and openness wherever possible. Though we should not don the banner of crusade, the most good comes from welcoming others, celebrating their uniqueness, and removing barriers to the gathering of truth. Using our self-awareness in a telescopic manner, as opposed to a microscopic view will allow you to better understand your purpose.

What do these ideas mean to you? What are your opinions?

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1) Ankony, Robert C., “The Impact of Perceived Alienation on Police Officers’ Sense of Mastery and Subsequent Motivation for Proactive Enforcement”, Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management, vol. 22, no. 2 (1999): 120–32. 

2) Reber, Arthur, and Emily Reber. (2001). Dictionary of Psychology, 3rd Ed. N.Y.: Penguin.

Images: public domain customizations

IF YOU COULD, WOULD YOU LIVE FOREVER?

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THE LARGEST RELIGION IN EXISTENCE is Christianity, pushing 2-billion plus adherents.[1] It’s followers represent dozens of sects and denominations that actually disagree on more ideas than most care to keep track of. In a broad sense Christians share a few core beliefs, particularly that Yashua – a peasant Jew from Nazareth – was sent as Son of God to enlist believers in him and to atone for a sin that God’s first man was talked into.[2] It’s in belief of Yashua (Jesus is what the Romans called him) that humanity gains eternal life. Yashua died on a cross and raised himself from the dead after three days.

So much can be added to that short summary of what the core elements of Christianity are, so many arguments could be had, too. Christianity is a theologically complex religion and is somewhat irreconcilable with itself as well as historical knowledge. Equally complex and irreconcilable are the 27 holy books making up the New Testament.

As a simple exercise, ask yourself a few fundamental questions – that implicate a variety of religions aside from Christianity. Why is eternal life an idea that is offered in exchange for adhering or believing? What is so fascinating about eternal life that roughly half of the world, mostly industrialized areas, find such an exchange fruitful? What exactly are some of the implications of becoming immortal ? Would eternal life be a suitable situation for you? Have you thought about it?

Personally, despite my own beliefs, I would psychologically and spiritually grow weary of eternal existence. I can confidently state that without having any concept or taste of any afterlife. Let’s say I died tomorrow, came into some phantasmal form. I could imagine initially being sad, then being amused for awhile. Going everywhere I’ve never visited, learning things I hadn’t previously had the time for. Yet, as years would pass, I would witness the loss of other loved ones – some of whom might not be so lucky as to obtain immortality. I would be helpless as I watched my people deteriorate, become sick, or grow old and struggle.

There I would be, eternally struggling with such loss, never needing sleep, never resting, only suffering for millennia.

Well, I don’t want eternal life, I wouldn’t want that for you either. After all, to compartmentalize loss, to bury emotion, to replace grief with eternal life, is tantamount to adopting sociopathy. A sociopath lacks a conscience, is distant from humanity; I wouldn’t want to turn into that, to grow cold as the universe, as it, too, finally freezes all light from existence. That sounds so lonely, living forever in a cold expanse.

As with many firsts, a first kiss, the first bite of an ice cream sundae, a first soda or any other possible vice, eternal life will – much like those – appear awesome and grand initially; however, as we experience more and more of something it will either kill us or grow less tasteful and unsatisfying.

But, then again, what do I know, right? Actually, what is known is that we have around five or so decades together – if we’re fortunate. We have now , the present, to do kind acts, to cry together, to laugh, to share memories at gatherings and share moments of accomplishment. We have now.
As for me, when all this is gone, when precious light fades from the back of my eyelids, I want to go in peace, I want to rest well knowing that I will leave this world to you in slightly better condition than when I found it.

Notes
1. Goldwag, Arthur. (2007). ‘Isms and ‘Ologies: The 453 Basic Tenets You’ve only Pretended to Understand. Madison Park Press. New York

2. THE BOOK OF GENESIS, Old Testament

Image: public domain customization

LETTING GO: A RECIPE FOR THE FUTURE

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During the course of each of our lives we hear many things that cause us to listen. Some of these things are helpful, some disastrous, and between all that is conflicting advice. Take for instance, the concept of forgiveness. I have always been told by my elders to forgive people for their wrongs and accidental slights – no matter what these were. Few people have gone so far as to advise that, in addition to forgiveness, “to pray for them”, or “forgive, but don’t forget”. I’m sure I’m not alone in this confusing matter, so I’m going to briefly share what I think about it.

Forgiveness, at its very core, harbors the assumption that people will cross you, people will do you wrong, hurt you, use you, amongst all other manner of negative things. This means that forgiveness exists because people are capable of harm – directly or indirectly, and sometimes both ways.

Secondly, forgiveness assumes a therapeutic role – in that there is marginal benefit for victims and a vague notion that is to befall those unforgiving people. Resentment, negative expectations, deteriorated social relationships, spiritual stress, ailments, and sometimes deep-seated cultural morés, such as distrust in the “white-man” – or some such things – can be traced to unforgiveness.

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So, here I am, discussing forgiveness – an idea that most of my loved ones proclaim I should adopt, yet, they have such difficulty themselves with forgiveness. (This is not to say they are sociopaths.)

Perhaps the world I want to see doesn’t have forgiveness at all; a world where there are no people whose words trespass against anyone, and that acts are no longer harmful; eliminating all of those things that typically trigger the need for gifting or asking forgiveness. Of course, that’s not a reality; however, just as forgiveness does, we can also act upon our world in ways to preempt forgiveness: we can work to eliminate forgiveness. This idea may seem, at first glance, tricky, for us Indigenous people, having carried so much pain about the world in which our ancestors lived, a world near universally lost. But, if we can change our approach to how we are affected by others, we would do some real good for our next generation – freeing them from the weight of all that could have been.

😉

IN SERVICE OF PEOPLE, NOT GOD

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After this century began, I had the pleasure of reading an anthology of short-stories, stories that implicated the human role in the larger scheme of existence. Is human life an absurd situation, or is there any inherent purpose in life, at all? For a guy who, at the time, didn’t have any formal college education, the old dusty book posited interesting questions about how people behave in ways so that life has meaning. That struck me as very interesting! The book, published in 1963, is called The Existential Imagination.[1] Many copies of the book are still available via Amazon.com and for as little as a penny (shipping and handling, is extra).[2] Need I mention, I’ve owned three copies over the years?

There are many good stories in the book regarding issues unique to the human condition. I don’t necessarily have any favorite story because they are all good for very different reasons. I would like to share the plot from one of the stories, here, and hopefully it allows you to ponder about any philosophical or theological implications thereafter. Hopefully, you are curious enough to go buy a copy, then read the rest of the book yourself.

The story that I mean to share is called Saint Emmanuel The Good, Martyr. It is the longest story of the anthology at around 35-pages. It’s written in the form of a fictional memoir, a letter found by the true author. The letter is an account of an Italian woman, Angelita, who takes the reader through her life, beginning as a young girl who entered convent school – at her brothers bidding. She spends five years there – until at age 15 – before returning to her village, Valverde de Lucerna. There she introduces us to the true protagonist in her memoir: Don Manuel, the priest in her beloved village.

The Don is described as a healer, a saint, who chopped wood for the poor, the protector, and nourishment to the village. He is kind to all – favoring “the most unfortunate…especially those who rebelled” (102).
One of my favorite quotes came from this story. It’s great advice even if stemming from a work of fiction. It reads:

“We should concern ourselves less with what people are trying to tell us than with what they tell us without trying” – Don Manuel

Angelita, also wrote about a time when a man in the village sent his boy out into the woods in a heavy rainstorm to fetch a loosed calf. The Don, saw the boy wandering near the trees, so he went out in the heavy rain to inquire why the boy was out at such a dangerous time. The boy explained, his father sent him out for a lost calf, whereafter listening, the Don sends the boy home. He explained he would locate the calf and bring it home for him. Upon returning to the boys home (with the calf) the father went out to meet the Don, who was soaking wet. The man, Angelita wrote, was thoroughly ashamed of himself.

The story builds to denouement once Angelita’s brother, Lazarus, returns home from America. Lazarus was not Catholic, and further did not believe in God. However, Don Manuel and Lazarus spend so much time together that after Angelita’s mom died, Lazarus chose to take communion, thereby converting to Catholicism. The village rejoices, and because, Don Manuel, had yet again, performed a miracle!

Later in the evening, Angelita finds herself alone with her brother, to whom she asks, “What things did Don Manuel state to you, that caused this conversion?” She hugs him. Lazarus finally replied that he only did so for the people, not because he himself believed, nor to seek eternal life. The Don implored him to take up religious life so to set a good example for the people, by taking part in religious community life. But Lazarus explains solemnly, that he also asked the Don, why he seemed to ask that he live a lie, adding, “Do you, believe, Don Manuel?” The Don, looking out over the lake, silently wept. After a few moments, the Don said:

“The truth, Lazarus, is perhaps something so unbearable, so terrible, so deadly, that simple people could not live with it,” and, “I am put here to give life… to make [people] happy, to make them dream they are immortal – and not to destroy them. The important
thing is that they live sanely, in accord with eachother…with my truth they could not live at all…”, “…let them live…”, “with the illusion that all this has a purpose”
(120).

So, there were tough questions, indeed, utilizing deep human conflict, one that many people have grappled with over the millennia. I, too, have often looked to the stars, asked my elders, and sought the answer to the very questions this story outlines, namely, Is there a God, and what does that mean for us? If there is no God, what then? Is life a pointless marathon unto death? Maybe it’s not so bad that we are left to answer this question alone? The greater point is that it’s a wonderful journey trying to figure it out for yourself. As I believe Don Manuel would say: At times, you might feel sad, or liberated when pondering the meaning of existing only a short while. Life may seem very lonely in that view. Whatever answers you come to, I’m sure you will be fine when choosing to live for others; according to one priest, it is exactly the same as living for God.

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Notes:
1.Karl, Frederick R., and Leo Hamalian, eds. (1963). “The Existential Imagination.” First Premier Books/Fawcett. NY

2.https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B000GRFJYO/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?qid=1465370579&sr=8-1&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_FMwebp_QL65&keywords=the+existential+imagination

3. Images, public domain, customizations

CONSTRUCTS of REALITY

CONSTRUCTS of REALITY

IN LIFE THERE ARE MANY EVENTS that force us to redefine our reality. Think back to that childhood moment when you realized that Disneyland was in California, and that California was over a thousand miles away, or that Santa Claus did not exist! What was to be done with that “new” information? How are white lies incorporated into our morality – especially the one about an elderly do-gooder, dressed in red, who sneaks into our houses to leave gifts and eat our cookies? What is realized when we come to understand mom and dad aren’t going to pack away the family for a week of fun in California when simply getting to school some days remains a challenge?

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Aside from these seemingly trivial matters, I’m sure we have all had thoughts along these lines, shared the developmental milestones that opened our consciousness to a society filled with grey areas and the realization that the “real world” is sneakier than we imagined. Obtaining what we want in life – for many of us – begins exactly with a strangely dressed bearded fellow purportedly steering a reindeer sleigh – and evolves into truth: success takes time, patience, hard work, which includes a lot of planning – not simply socially accepted behaviors as  reinforced through economic coercion and wrapped gifts. Additionally, these consciousness milestones allow us to question deep-seated cultural and family practices such as bases for religious ceremonies and customs, and a belief in a single immortal being whether called God, Jesus, Great Spirit, Allah, or Yahweh.

With religious ideas, it can become less clear with age just how to maintain these conflicting precepts, especially in our busy lives. Also, the more intelligent we Earthlings become, the less we can honestly conceptualize any divine place. For instance, we now know with complete certainty that “heaven” is not a place behind the clouds, and the “underworld” is neither a place below the Earth’s crust, yet these facts still have the strength to tug at our sense of place and at our family or cultural loyalties – more so than when we discovered it was our lactose intolerant dad who would drink the milk we set out for the burglar we called Santa; and that mom and dad were, in fact, collectively, Santa !

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It’s true, no matter the constructs of our beliefs (or disbeliefs) – these ideas are our own. So long as these ideas do not advocate hatred or violence we do ourselves and our communities a service by welcoming diverse views of the world. After all, we can never honestly know how difficult it is (or has been) for those who maintain or adopt ideas we know to be false. Fresh ideas push evolution in consciousness – as our loss of Santa and the knowledge we would never reach Disneyland did. We are a better people without the illusions, and a more empowered people knowing we can influence the mindset of future generations. What do you think? What do you believe?

FEBRUARY MAN

February Man

A MERE FIFTY-SEVEN YEARS AFTER The Emancipation Proclamation, humanity was granted the timely presence of a great man. This man’s words are archived for us in the many beautiful poems and ideas he left regarding the dual-consciousness that some African-Americans felt during his time: on the one hand, learning to assimilate into white society, and on the other, struggling to maintain cultural autonomy. Even without knowing who this man was, a poem such as, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”, waves that dual-consciousness a generation removed from bondage.(1) This poem – if one can see past its vivid sadness – hides evidence of an energy that would aid the birth and rise of the Harlem Renaissance.

Langston Hughes wrote that poem as a teenager in 1920, where he sat as a passenger on a train that took him directly over the vast Mississippi River. Langston was on his way to meet his estranged father, who lived far to the southwest, in Mexico City.(2)

ca. 1925

ca. 1925

About his poem, Langston stated the river made him feel a connection to history, pre-January 1st, 1863(3). That he recalled reading President Lincoln’s biography, about the horrors of bartering over and selling humans, in places near the Mississippi: the same water that nourished the cotton fields, once smothered his people. Feeling this, he wrote, “I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the human blood in my veins…I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.”

There are parallels today which beckon the spirit of Langston Hughes – a disunity of culture which cannot be broadly articulated. Yet, this is a great month, a great opportunity to spy the past, realizing that everyday can be a Mississippi River – an image that stirs our core energy and compels us to bring about our vision of who we want to be, perhaps 57-years from now. We all carry that energy, but like Langston we have to have the courage, the will to express it – even when things are dark and out of reach…

We all have those days, mornings when the sunrise seems more of a weapon of torture than a symbol of a new day, of new beginnings. When I get down, or when I’m lonely, when darkness calls for friendship, I find myself sitting on the front porch steps listening to Langston’s mama talk to him, encouraging him. Langston archived this image in one of his most famous poems. He wrote it for you:

“..Boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps.
Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now — For I’se still.
goin, honey.
I’se still climbin’, And life for me.
ain’t been no crystal stair. “
(4)

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Notes:
1. Langston Hughes, 1920, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”
2. Langston was of mixed race, picture Terrence Howard after three or four strong cups of coffee.
3. Official signing of the Emancipation Proclamation
4. Excerpt from, “Mother to Son”, from Hughes, Langston. “(James) Langston Hughes.” Gale Database Contemporary Authors (2003): Web. November 13, 2010
Photo: Langston Hughes, circa 1925,public domain

Our Social Imperative

Our Social Imperative

I WAS NOT ALIVE DURING THE SIXTIES; a turbulent time for the minority of America. The seeds of social equality in America were sewn over a hundred years earlier, and it was during the middle of the 20th-Century when we began to harvest fruits of our sacrifices, when our solidarity began to be felt by justices of The United States Supreme Court (Brown v. Board of Education, 1954; Gomillion v. Lightfoot, 1960; Boynton v. Virginia, 1960), and in the actions of leadership (Civil Rights Act of 1964).

This period began with such great potential.

Again, I wasn’t alive then, but I have immersed myself in the light of that period: I’ve read Malcolm X’s biography, read Doctor King’s letters from his days as a political prisoner, and watched documentaries of gunfire, riots, and bigotry mar this otherwise great period. I am a fragment of that generation, a generation that came out of the ashes, tears, and triumphs of the civil rights era. I am proud of that fact.

So you might understand it was no accident that I cried during Obama’s initial inauguration. Inside, my soul sang loudly that old Sam Cooke tune about being born by the river… but I was crying happy tears. I felt energized, that finally, as a minority, I witnessed the energy behind grand historic progress, that I had a small taste of that harvest that Doctor King dreamt about. I am proud of that, also.

image: allposters.com

image: allposters.com

I believe, as a nation, we need more moments like that. Moments that prove we are at our best when we work together and acknowledge that personal progress is in fact, correlated to the progress of our neighbors.

As cultural beings, we set aside special days and months to remind us that true success, our true strength is inextricably bound to how well we treat and celebrate others. Nearly every American holiday, does not exist for us to celebrate individuals, they aren’t there to remind us of the fleeting benefits of individual success. Nearly every holiday exists to remind us of the importance of loving other people and celebrating the bonds of our shared humanity. Most major religious tenets or ethics are based on the same idea: celebration of caring for other people.

It remains my hope, that as we journey through 2016, anticipating another grand inauguration, that when we are able, we give a helping hand to people who need it; that along our way, we donate a talent or skill we may possess to make someone’s life easier – if only for a few moments a week. In celebration of this special month stop by and check on your parents and grandparents; promote the value of what it means to have been a part of their lives. We can never forget how far we’ve come. Participate in your community, be nice to people, and you will enjoy a great, productive year.

References
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Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Ks. 347 U. S 483 (1954)
Boynton v. Virginia, 364 U.S. 454 (1960) Racial segregation in all public transportation illegal under the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887.
Civil Rights Act of 1964
Gomillion v. Lightfoot, 364 U.S. 339 (1960) Electoral districts drawn to disenfranchise blacks violated the Equal Protection Clause

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT and the BROAD IMPEDIMENTS to CORRECTIONS

THE PENALTY OF DEATH

Modern forms of execution consist of firing squad, hanging, and the electric chair, with the most current method being lethal injections. Do we absolutely need such a punishment? In what ways is it needed? Before the questions are answered personally, let me explore some of the history of the utilization of the death penalty.
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THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA was the first state to utilize lethal injection, a procedure which began in 1977. Oklahoma is the same state set to tragically put to death Richard Glossip, this Wednesday (he was granted two-week stay 5-hrs before today’s execution: 9/16/15). Currently, the federal government – including 31 other states permits judges and juries to kill people, specifically, people convicted of murder (Ross, 2015).

Early American executions were routinely accomplished on lesser criminals: people such as robbers, or for rape convictions, and more aptly for treasonous acts. Though this is no longer done, except for treason, the manner in which industrialized societies have elected to killed people did not always appear as seemingly clean, quiet, and distant from the public as a lethal injection.

Background

The Romans publicly crucified criminals, most notably, Jesus of Nazareth. Before criminals were crucified – in ancient Rome, the condemned persons were sometimes given a drink mix of wine and myrrh – a mild narcotic concoction called galla. When condemned did not partake of anesthesia, as Jesus did not, the tortuous activities could be a most gruesome spectacle. Even crucifying ancient humans, occurring in the thousands, did not deter crime.

Crucifixion means a victim is nailed to two sections of crossed-wood beams. Nails seven-and-a-half-inches long, we’re used to hold a sagging body of a full grown adult. Once the person was nailed to the cross it was positioned upright, for all to see – including carrion eaters. Neither blood loss nor shock was the primary cause of death for those who were crucified; it was a helpless suffocation. The two rebels who were crucified next to Jesus, had their legs broken in order to expedite their deaths, so their feet could less be used to prop their damaged bodies up (Cawthorne, 2006).

The Romans also practiced beheading, but this was typically done to Roman citizens considered military deviants – and an honorable death, likely too quick for Roman tastes. The rare instances of Christians being beheaded publicly occurred at the behest of Emperor Caligula (ibid, 34).

While contemporary America does not engage in the type of spectacle as ancient Romans did, the implications of state-sanctioned death penalty now, reflect a spiteful and conflicted people.
2,000-years removed from Rome, philosophies have not really changed. Marked consternation and the power of everyday distractions among America’s voters deters coalition and activism. Until a sizable majority refuses to enforce this penalty, we, to some degree resemble ancient Rome, and our rationalizations of deterrence, punishment, and humiliation remain pitifully in place. These arguments are ineffective. Voters have all the power to act.

The death penalty is a remnant of sins against a God, remnant of a theocracy; thus, a peculiar ideal under an American system advocating and otherwise practicing separation of church and state. The death penalty – as used against treason – during times of war through early history held a rational argument for its temporary use. This is because the future of budding democracy – as in colonial America – sovereignty and existence hung in the balance. A single spy, or traitor could crumble the gains and sacrifices of millions. The death penalty, as used during the infancy of pre-industrial civilization had a practical and philosophical argument of a specific deterrence: true “national security” interest.

America

“… nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted” -Amendment 8, U. S. Constitution.

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The men who ratified the United States Constitution through the late 18th-Century, after years of war, incorporated the heart of our civil liberties, a special section called the Bill of Rights – the first of the ten amendments in our Constitution. 200-years later, in Furman v. Georgia (1972), the Supreme Court struck down the death penalty as was then utilized in Furman’s case was unconstitutionally cruel and arbitrary – contravening the 8th amendment protections. America enjoyed four brief years’ freedom from state-sanctioned killing.

A few years after Furman, 1976, the court revisited the death penalty – again through the State of Georgia. The majority held that the “arbitrary and capricious” elements within the procedure used in Furman’s case, had been remedied, and once again, America began tragically murdering its citizens. Justices Brennan and Marshall, however, believed “capital punishment…inconsistent with contemporary values… ” (Smith, 2009).
This writer wants to believe that.
We are no longer a budding tract of colonies, teetering on extinction.

Moral Perspectives

“To understand criminal justice, it is necessary to understand crime. Most policymaking in criminal justice is based on criminological theory, whether the people making those policies know it or not. In fact, most of the failed policies (what doesn’t work) in criminal justice are due to misinterpretation, partial implementation, or ignorance of criminological theory. Much time and money could be saved if only policymakers had a thorough understanding of criminological theory” –T. O’Connor, in Crime Theories

One of the oft-touted rationalizations for use of the death penalty today, is retribution, which means, in short, that punishments for crime “…must match the gravity of the offense” (Barlow, 1996), and that criminals must be punished. The idea of An eye for an eye, life for a life, a poetic maxim, came down to us through religious ordinances from the Code of Hammurabi. Religious ideology still influences our politics despite rhetoric. In America, most assume we are not forced to believe this way, and in fact, have some sort of say so built-in to our representative form of government, to determine which punishments fit which crimes. Is this true? When has the death penalty (human life) been a relevant enough topic in your life that you interacted with your representatives about it? A majority, while strong in number, does not equate to being more correct than any minority view. And a silent majority is immorally incorrect.

Deterrence

Punishment must, as a utilitarian belief, serve to prevent the majority from suffering crime. In order for deterrence to be effective, so it goes, punishment must particularly be shameful enough, and in some way, debilitating – whether by restricting personal freedoms or through the application of unappealing economic sanctions in order for a malefactor learn her lesson. If we do not attempt to deter crime, we are in a sense accomplices after-the-fact, we are unjust. In a less dramatic fashion, we unapologetically acquiesce to the idea that we value nothing, outside of perhaps anarchy. We cannot let crime go unpunished. Yet, we can be totally and irreversibly smarter!

Punishment

Torture is illegal , deportation cannot be applied to natural-born citizens, suicide cannot be forced, nor can allegiance to a god or goddess be thrust upon us; however, citizens can yet be killed in some states – as a punishment.
In this writer’s naive opinion, it seems that the death penalty needs to be abolished. There is a tragic, though steady rate of murder that exists in society, and this cannot be remedied by further killing. The idea of deterrence is supposed to work as it does in firefighting, analogous to what is called a firebreak. A firebreak is a line that is burned at some safe distance between the firewall and path of destruction, so that there is nothing to burn or fuel the fire once it reaches this point. That is a figurative use of deterrence, which actually works. For prevention works best. The death penalty will never work. The death penalty has never worked. Social attention to others, and creating “firebreaks” will aid us just the same.

Rehabilitation

While seemingly cliché, contemporary punishment does not possess the aspect of reparation of the offenders as may be assumed. People who can get released, do so without skills and precious time out of the workforce.

Budgetary excuses aside, the persistent reliance on sensationalist broadcasting has provoked mass fear of a plague of violent crime – which has interestingly gone down across the past handful of decades. Unfortunately, as have rehabilitative efforts.
It’s drug offenders who create most of the “violent crime”, drug offenders have to protect territory, collect debt, fend off robbery, require countless conspiracies just to get to the point to sell, and are the most resistant to new behavior, primarily because money they make from drugs far exceeds any legitimate venture. Thus, how can one repair a value? So, recidivism is high…

• Corrections simply do not pay sufficiently to attract urban elite professionals to work – often in the middle of nowhere. This barrier is built in to the system.

• Local politics ensure that political reps are “hard on crime” such that a single 600+ bed facility can basically subsidize the local economy surrounding the prison. Why rehabilitate that?

• Additionally, programming cannot be implemented because staff-to-prisoner ratios prohibit it, and staff do not have the education for the most part. So, what’s left is an extremely bored criminal left to his own devices and, again in Oklahoma, there were 6-men recently killed across a 3-month span. Death should not be included in any sentences. Doing nothing for them shouldn’t be either.

• Rehabilitation cannot occur in corrections industries programs where prisoners work for pennies supposedly to develop skills for a workforce that largely doesn’t exist – America is a service economy. Additionally, the industries located at medium security facilities use prisoner labor from prisoners who have more than 20-years to complete on their sentences, which means any skills they develop will be useless at age of release and likely obselete. Punishment needs to include all these factors, when it does not have legitimate ends, prisons become arbitrary and capricious and cruel.

Conclusion

Crime is a failure as much as the death penalty is. We must try to first determine criminogenic needs of offenders, so as to cure the ailment(s), the suffering, addressing criminogenic needs during/before punishment. Most all murderers feel guilt from taking another person’s life. And sometimes one becomes a murderer by accident, where the heightened risk of death is imminent, but not obvious such as in a car crash while drunk, or in a felony murder, such as in a botched bank robbery or accident where the victim falls and breaks a neck. Sometimes punishment is, in fact necessary, but the emotion needs to be separated from its application.

The handling of murderers as deviant should not, in my opinion, be the immediate province of the judicial branch of government. The proper form in which murder (and sex crime) should be treated or handled should fall to the psychological or medico-psychiatric community, then judicial. Here again, we will never eradicate murder this way, or even deter murder, as murder is primarily spontaneous. Using this rationale; however, the idea is to study the perpetrators of the crime, repair problems, and allow treatment of the human to prevail, using results to assist countless others. After all, most murderous and all violent crimes (notwithstanding extremely rare serial-murderers/habitual sex-offenders) will never recidivate again – even without such treatment. And, yes, some may not be reached, but this we will know and we can prepare for long-term treatment. Housing mentally-ill with neuro-typical prisoners does create more negative issues and abuses. So this extreme minority cannot be stored in a prison (not simply because most $13-per hour corrections guards lack formal training in how to manage these individuals, but for safety of all stakeholders).

We must consider the idea that by killing citizens, we are throwing away our responsibility to them. In a way, we are trying to ignore the applications of our technological progresses. The M’Naughten Rule which states that an insane person is one that does not know right from wrong, acknowledges that we cannot kill certain individuals because they are incapable of responsible action. If genetic predisposition, is not factored for violence, then what remains are treatable social conditions. Philosopher Colin Wilson, stated that the complexities of civilization led man to develop the independent left brain so that criminality became possible…that violence is a reflection of social tension: “Anyone who has any dealing with criminals, any a policeman, lawyer, psychiatrist will verify that far from being happier than the rest of us, most of them seem to be plagued by a permanent dissatisfaction” (Wilson, 2005: 603).

• Science and research in the socio-medical fields and related social sciences should play a much more integral role in the spectrum of criminal justice, not just in law enforcement, nor in simply determining competence;

• The criminal justice system is in fact too large and cumbersome, organized in such a way as to stifle progressive activities in treatment; offenders should be incarcerated together based on similar offense type, not mixed together; this practice will aid programming needs and affect prisoner sub-cultures by diminishing criminal osmosis and prison politics; Staff within pristine can become specialized to coordinate their education/training to specific populations.

• Psychiatric patients of any kind should never become part of a general population mix. They cannot be held to typical standards. They are easily ignored by directional staff, and taken advantage of by certain opportunistic criminal elements. Yet this is practiced.

• Prosecutorial discretion (as regards plea bargaining) as opposed to sentencing guidelines is a systemic power barrier for egalitarian forms of punishment and access to treatment within reasonable time; Sentencing indeterminately, across the board would work best, placing release powers within institutional committees, those closest to offenders.

• Electing global-thinking officials is also problematic, as perceived peer/public scrutiny interferes with job stability and a career in politics; change will take decades in southern, conservative legislatures.

• The historical utilization of the death penalty is insufficient to perpetuate it; No good is accomplished for anyone in these situations.

• The private, for-profit corporations impede these ends of justice. They are an extremely large and sophisticated lobby. Prisoners are worth roughly $65-per day (far exceeds the cage value of any livestock). What’s $65 x 365? No farmer gets that for any animal.

• Secondary victims can also be asked to assist in playing a pivotal role in treatment. This participation helps the majority of victims, reconcile and adjust.
We should live by positive examples and not submit to the reciprocal killing of our citizens. Regressing toward the perpetrators actions is not the way to deter crime. If we continue to perpetuate the idea that emotional responses should precede a death, we are not at all providing moral foundations. And we condone murder by committing it as a society. We have to take an evolved approach, being more involved with our government, being involved with the criminal, even though she has committed one of the most heinous acts known to us.

The many questions that arise when debating the use of the death penalty will remain with us – and we must always debate themes of civilization, so as to progress considerate of technology or any newer and effective approaches. Relying upon a process that does not work is madness, and is akin to planning to ride a bicycle into space. As Americans we need to give up our bicycle and concentrate on constructing a more conscientious approach to punishment: value of all human life. We must understand that a person in our species who kills another is in need of some assistance, she is hurt, she is suffering, and she needs help. To deny interventions to people, our species, is tantamount to yelling to God that God is imperfect, which is ultimately false. If your ears are closed, read the following words: fix the real problems.

😦
References

Barlow, Hugh. Introduction to Criminology, 7th ed. Harper NYC. 1996.

Blacks Law Dictionary, 8th ed. M’Naughten Rule.Thompson. St. Paul. 2011.

Cawthorne, Nigel. Public Executions: Ancient Rome to the Present Day. Arcturus. London (2006).

Furman v. Georgia 408 U. S. 238 (1972).

O’Connor, T. (03/26/04). In Crime Theories, MegaLinks in Criminal Justice. Retrieved from http://faculty.ncwc.edu/toconnor/111/111lect03.htm on January 9, 2006.

Ross, Phil. The US: Which States Still Practice Capital Punishment And What Methods They Use. IBTimes 1/15 /2015 http://www.ibtimes.com/death-penalty-us-which-states-still-practice-capital-punishment-what-methods-they-use-1785124

Smith, Christopher. Criminal Procedure. Wadsworth: CA (2006).

Wilson, Colin. A Criminal History of Mankind. Mercury Books. London: 2005.

United States Constitution, Amendment 8

Images:public domain customizations

REDISCOVERING BELIEF

REDISCOVERING BELIEF

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In ancient Rome, there were only two men in all of pre-Christiandom who were ever thought to be the “Son of God”, thought of as divine beings. One was the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus (Julius Caesar’s adopted son, Octavian ), the other – to no ones surprise – was Jesus of Nazareth. Ideas regarding exaltation (of men to divine status) developed across centuries, through help from a miraculous thing called: belief. For Caesar Augustus, he became the “Son of God” after Julius Cesar bequeathed this status to him – an adopted son, at that. For Jesus of Nazareth, this title occurs through writings of what are now called The Synoptic Gospels. Synoptic, means similar, or synonymous. The Synoptic Gospels include Mark, Mathew, and Luke. (It is only in the book, The Gospel of John where Jesus becomes exalted to God-equivalent status, beyond being the Son of God). Jesus, himself, was also, interestingly an adopted son (Ehrman 233).
Jesus believed himself to be the prophesied Messiah, the King of the Jews. In Roman-ruled Palestine, only Caesar could appoint a king, only Caesar was divine, thus, Jesus was killed for his beliefs.

As a result of legend, and the lives of both of these men, we are living in a world that is exactly the result of our belief in them. Think back into history of all the wonderful things that have resulted from Jesus alone: The Reformation, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment Period, the United States itself, was pieced together via belief in God. The world – as we know it – would not exist, if not for belief.
Beliefs are powerful!
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Beliefs Determine Vision

Beliefs Determine Vision


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So, contemporarily, is there anything fantastic and great about what YOU believe in? Do you have beliefs that shake the world? If so, what are they?

I, for one, tend to be optimistic when it comes to the future, and hold the belief that working involves movement toward some betterment, however incremental, else why waste time ritualistically toiling away on something, if no belief supported the action? That would be very robot-like!

It is belief that is compelling you forward

It is belief that is compelling you forward

Personally, I don’t have any Earth-shattering beliefs, but I can list 5-beliefs that have never failed me.

1) I believe people are inherently
sensitive to others needs;

2) Everyone has different needs and
levels of needs, and their behaviors
are affected accordingly (e.g. a
hungry person is going to be
occupied by a search for food);

3) Self-love allows evolution of
love for others;

4) It pays to be teachable, period.

5) An education is worth your time, and
also of benefit to those around you.

You see!? There is absolutely not a single belief that I listed that can be viewed as Earth-changing as any of your beliefs in Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, if you believe in Jesus, you can very well lay claim to being ahead in the game.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s in our contemporary world, drowning in all of our distractions and responsibilities, where we are susceptible to forgetting who we are – and sometimes, what we stand for. (Have you ever gotten unreasonably angry with someone only to realize something else was actually bothering you?) EXACTLY!

It will never hurt you to take a few minutes every few months to rediscover your core beliefs. From your self-rediscovery you will learn that, no matter what happens to you – negative or positive – how you carry yourself, your behavior, your response to adversity will alter your world. Your beliefs are Earth-changing.
(That’s my 6th belief!)

Start today… Write down 5-things that you believe in. Take a few minutes to Rediscover who you are. . .you’ll feel better reminding yourself of exactly those qualities that make you strong!

😉

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Notes:

• Ehrman, Bart. HOW JESUS BECAME GOD. HarperOne. N.Y.: (2014)

• images: tinkering with public domain works

The Five Things I Want in An Afterlife

IN OUR LIVES, we have all experienced invaluable friendships, enjoyed some great foods, perhaps fell in love, been hurt, and even sad… yet, we often barely scratch the surface of our humanity, or delve into the meanings we give to existence.

I do know, I don’t want life to end, not after 80-years, not after 103, not ever…though that’s idealistic at this point in our development as a species; maybe someday, but I will long be gone, likely, in 80-years, we all will be gone.

Nevertheless, having thought about life, I was confronted with the notion, that at some point my life here–this will end: that is reality. Pondering mortality, I felt sad, though only momentarily.

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Sadness gave way to smiling, as a peculiar, yet interesting thought crossed my mind… After living, there is death, but I was stuck pondering what I have enjoyed most being alive!
I thought of specific people’s’ companionship, places that meant the most, and I contrasted those memories with a foreign place called, the afterlife; a mysterious place without these many things I valued here, things I wanted to have for all-eternity…many I have taken for granted.

My thoughts began to disorganize because myself, nor anyone I had ever known had any concrete preconceptions of what any afterlife may look, our feel like, if any!?
What would I know of existence without all I’ve come to know? Could I go on forever without a family, or a stupid joke from a close friend?
Inadvertently, I went through the first 3-stages of the Bereavement Process (google them, under psychology).

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Is there an afterlife?

Of what does it consist?

To satisfy my naive curiosity, I needed to conduct an ad hoc experiment.

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Immediately, I tapped my inner- Freud and set out demanding responses from people, as simply as I could, I said:

“Without thinking about it too long, tell me 5-things you would take into the after life if you could…”

Everyone I asked gave variation to the following responses:

• Most said they couldn’t answer that question, as they had never thought about it, or were speechless at the depth of the implications;

• some stated we wont have needs in heaven;

• only a few stated their sibling or a parent;

• one stated he wouldn’t even want a physical body.

WHAT WAS INTERESTING? These people are like me in every way, they have families, friends, aspirations, and like me, none had really thought about loss in such a way, whether taking the family pet or a sibling into the afterlife violated their freedom to choose, what love meant, or the values at play in such a choice. I guess, one could agree to go with another, and ones conception of after life would influence ones luggage, but this was just a simple thought experiment that turned into a bunch of insightful conversations about our beliefs: our unrefined theology.

So, in fairness, here are MY 5-things I would take with me:

1) My consciousness, as I want to be ME, I like who I am and if there’s an experience left after death, I want to experience that with all that I am;

2) Cheddar/Sour Cream Ruffles! (If you have to ask, then you haven’t eaten them);

3) A Purple Lightsaber–you never know what’s out there to defend against, plus, it’s just plain coooool;

4) Digital Wallet, only to show beings who my loved ones were, share my life with whomever I meet, and also to have those photos to show and revisit;

5) My Soulmate. . .but of course, she would have to agree with traveling. She is an amazing mind, and a great human being. Without her, all is dark.

An afterlife can be conceived of! Of what it consists will be based, strangely enough, on terrestrial learning. One thing is for sure, we needed to be cared for on Earth (to exchange emotion with others) so a bit of love will likely help me, my cheddar chips, and my plasma-sword as I venture to a galaxy far-far-away…
Think about your own list, however ridiculous, and consider your choice of five things carefully, as your items will be based on what you’ve known and loved during YOUR life, and YOUR life, this one life…is a beautiful one.🕕

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♒ photos, personal and public domain, courtesy of shutterstock.com

♒ list subject to change the closer I get to death.

♒ it was really a toss-up between tightie-whities and the chips, but I was hungry so…
🙂

THE EPIC OF CIVILIZATION: What Now?

THE OLDEST EPIC POEM, The Epic of Gilgamesh, elaborates upon a long-standing human notion: the selfish quest for immortality. Gilgamesh, himself, was supposed to have prepared the Cuneiform tablet upon which his poem, his story, was carved. Gilgamesh was sort of the first historian (as well as an early hunter-gatherer). He did great and unimaginable things! He encountered gods, ventured into the underworld, and even suffered moral conflict (the stuff of humanity). IMG_20141213_222000 Interestingly, Gilgamesh is also the legendary “father of civilization”, having founded the first city: Uruk (near what is now, Iraq, Mesopotamia).

His is a great story, foreshadowing the story of Moses and Jesus. But perhaps a very important message is not advanced, or is absent: Once cities are constructed, how then, are we supposed to deal with each other in such unfamiliar/unnatural situations? Why, after millenia of practice, are we so seemingly lost?   Perhaps the very premise of civilization contravenes our innate selfishness, that self-interest that drove Gilgamesh to desire eternal life, is the very thing that separates us today? Perhaps, his story is not to be taken literally, or maybe his nature is ours, and the story applicable to all of us? This nevertheless does not address the reasons that living amongst each other produces such flux…

There were many things that drove us to cities, namely, safety in numbers, agriculture, trade, and a greater or diverse gene pool. Additionally, with all of the barter and craftspersonship comes influence. Thus, inequality becomes more of a salient or necessary force.

In order to combat our inner anti-sociality we have devised codes, laws, policies,  to wit: Code of Hammurabi, The 10-Commandments, Magna Carta, etc., each draft an attempt to curtail what we really are: selfish and autonomous creatures. These codes are each an aim to encourage predictability and stability: norms. Each principle rule addresses sociological concepts, how to live amongst other closely situated humans, conformity, and what we ought not to do. Our values and boundaries began taking shape as we moved closer together.

Do we have to have such formal complexity? Can successfully living next to someone really come down to being NICE to her? Does thou shalt not steal have to be delineated on a stone tablet to remind us? Absolutely. Gilgamesh after all told us that. Codification lies at the root of law, ordering complex society so we can maneuver with the least amount of friction and interests are protected.

What are your values? What are your policies? Do you ponder about them much?
You may have heard the old adage, “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything”.

FIVE-PERCENT (5%) OF THE HUMAN POPULATION have a dominant personality type, meaning, they are driven to lead, to order, or to take. Like the speed of light or pi, this percentile is a natural constant, having extremely little variation.
During the time of Gilgamesh, cities were small, thus 1-of-20 dominant types could flourish in a town of say,1,500. These 75-people would have been priests, teachers, government leaders, or military leaders. Acute problems arise, however, once populations reach into the hundred-thousands, or millions, 50,000 dominant types are problematic as competition is high, there exists lean opportunity for legitimate expression: the result is crime. Crime is a simpler means by which expression of dominance is achieved (Wilson , 2005:72).

(view the following slide)
maslow
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was devised, true from simian observations, yet remains applicable to the types of developed crime having occurred throughout human history. Earliest crimes were for food, then the best of caves, or trees, then the gene pool, and to be chieftain or King, then to be a God-king and realize ones life meant more than a bag of bones and a few children, that one has realized full-potential and accepted that which Gilgamesh had to as well, that we will die, there is no eternal life in a literal sense. (Think Alexander the Great.)

Gilgamesh, cities, and Maslow share for us a view of the Epic of Civilization.

Maslow’s study, at least the pyramid, will be worthwhile study, as it calls forth the essence of motivation, that there are certain things that we must do to stay alive. The hierarchy does not rule over us as a law, it does not cleanly escalate everyone’s needs nor address a clean regression, if at all. However, these five (5) needs exist.

This morning, as you wake, believe in goodness, be motivated by the higher order that Gilgamesh missed, that Maslow defined…accept that helping others will accomplish the greatest good: invoking the ripple effect. We pray their eyes are open, and that they too become motivated by helping others: I understand you, I care for you, and I value you. Pass it on, and remake civilization as you have known it.

Notes:

-Colin Wilson, A Criminal History of Mankind, Mercury. London (2005)

– Gilgamesh photo statuary, public domain, 2014

MINDFULNESS: Practical Lessons from Buddhism for Existential Combat

Stressors occlude the path we call life. Stress is physical, as in excercise or disease; external, as noise or weather, and emotional, as in grief or loss. Stress can come in many forms: spiritual, social, etc. Stress is basically defined as: stimuli that provokes an engaging reaction in something. Stress affects everyone differently, as in runners and bodybuilding, it is a tool. In a tempermental individual it is an enemy.

Blotterart jpgphoto by bloggerart

”Meditation in the Buddhist tradition involves a process of intense concentration and attention to quiet the conscious mind” (Nataraja 2008:18). The methodology of meditation varies by culture (tai chi, prayer, dance), yet it is in Buddhism where mindfulness meditation~as opposed to trancendental~appeared, which sought to reduce stress via focusing attention. Mindfulness is being in the moment, and being non~judgemental to unfolding experience (20).
Another way to view this focus is as a distraction from physical/sensual stress.

In contemporary industrialized societies we are bombarded by stresses unique to our human evolutionary biology; we have hunter~gatherer bodies and systems reflective of those experiences. Our contempory morés do not always mesh well with our bodies: we may succomb to anxiety, obesity, diabetes, and socioeconomic pressures. These things sometimes cause us to question whether we are purposeful life forms, with divine predestination, or that life and all that exists is meaningless struggling and randomness.

Hmm..how will mindfulness combat physical or existential stress?

Develop these six (6) features:

1] Adopting the non~judmemental attitude to experiences by observing and not reacting to them as good or bad experiences;

2] Patience must be developed to reduce anxiety and slows perceptual time so we do not suffer disappointments;

3] Accept situations as they are to combat denial and struggle: trust the universe is operating as it should;

4] Trust yourself;

5] Sometimes do nothing, exist in an unforced manner to promote the above concepts and relieve modernity of its sway over your ancient self;

6] Release the excessive emotional value to negative imaginings and seductive worry, (198).

As Pavlov showed us, we can alter a response with the chosen conditioner. In fact, that is what ancient Buddhist practitioners have known all along. There are far greater benefits in seeking a calm, mature perspective to the world, because if one does not develop ones place and self in our vast universe, we become vulnerable and seem lost and overwhelmed.
Tell yourself it’s ok to relax and listen to the wind or to the stillness of your soul. This practice of seemingly doing nothing, will make you stronger than ever and insulate you so you can be the lighthouse for others.

😉

Notes:

Nataraja, S. THE BLISSFUL BRAIN: Neuroscience and Proof of the Power of Meditation. Octopus. N.Y. (2008).

Why Did You Do That, Free Will?

EVERY NOW AND AGAIN people talk about decisions, choices, or free will. There are determinists~those who believe what will occur has pre~determined bases, thus, we lack free will of action, and cannot alter our fates. Then there are those who believe that people make rational and independent choices, of their own free will, and remain arbiters of their future.

This author does not propose a resolution to that timeless mystery, only relate a few facts regarding Human chemistry. Human thought, after all, is an invaluable combination of water, carbon, and hydrogen, and a host of amino acids. These also give us a body as well as our animation.

LET’S REVIEW A MOLECULE and its important interplay with our free will: seratonin. Seratonin has a molecular signature of: C10, H12, N2, O, which reads, ten carbon atoms, twelve of hydrogen, two of nitrogen, and a single oxygen atom. This molecule is derived by the amino~acid Tryptophan, found in foods such as bananas, papayas, and meat from turkeys. In humans, 90% of their seratonin is found in epithelial layers of the gut, and the other 10% in cerebro~spinal fluid, and in the brain where it is an important neurotransmitter.

Molecule

”Posture is more erect post~triumph” ~Darwin

”Heads are lowered after defeat” ~Irenaüs Eibl~Eibesfeldt

A HIGHER SERATONIN LEVEL correlates to social rank. Seratonin is found in greatest concentrations in dominant primate males. This is not to say that socially dominant primate males are genetically endowed to use/absorb/maintain/have naturally larger stores of seratonin. Actually, it means dominance
(greater amounts of seratonin) has a social basis.

Reference the quotes above, as relate to body language (a social phenomenon). Darwin’s ape, having defeated Eibl~Eibesfeldts ape in a territorial brawl, has elevated seratonin: a molecule that encourages a sense of well~being, regulates mood intensity, and ”guards against depression and anxiety” (Wright 1994: 243). As a result of such chemical~social interplay, Darwin’s ape sits proud (and it’s not being recommended that one go beat someone up). Interestingly, research has shown to associate low~levels of 5~hydroxindoleactic acid, a seratonin metabolite, ”in aggressive or violent individuals” (Linnoila et al., 1983).

So how does free will play to these ideas? If seratonin is not by itself deterministic, can one assume individuals have independently unique seratonin levels? Further, since seratonin regulates range of behavior, could a level of seratonin below ones unique baseline produce behavior that cannot be judged as free will? Well, drugs such as Prozac (seratoninergic anti~depressants) attempt to empower people with more will power! Selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) and Mono~amine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI’s) discourage breakdown of seratonin in the brain, thereby keeping seratonin on the synaptic cleft (edge of a neuron), to encourage mood stability, providing resilience against anxiety and depression and maintaining prosocial levels of seratonin.

Additional biosocial factors influenced by seratonin are the receptorcites: 5HT 1A that influences pleasure via dopamine release (chemical also triggered by cocaine, amphetamine, and MDMA), positive/negative effects of schizophrenia, and learning. 5HT 2A also associated with schizophrenia, depression, mood, and anxiety. Seratonin, in a very simplistic way, according to Wright, is a glass of wine (244). [Ethyl alcohol actually releases seratonin, and research by Masters and McGuire (1994) shows people with low seratonin levels commit greater amounts of impulsive crimes (Wright, 244), and alcohol is involved in 64% of violent crime (Barkan 2000)].

Perhaps we will finally realize that social inequality, education and socioeconomic status, are great powers that induce individual response. Is it a stretch to believe Eibl~Eibsfeltds ape turned into a bum and did not potentialize due to chemistry? Social structure? In humans, whether God has given us freedom to choose, or that we are bound to a range of behavior due to chemistry is to be seen, guarded in faith that we do the right things, develop the most beneficial habits, and have sufficient seratonin to encourage the ripple effect of prosociality.

Notes:
1] Flannery, Vazsonyi and Waldman, eds. THE CAMBRIDGE HANDBOOK OF VIOLENT BEHAVIOR AND AGGRESSION. Cambirdge U.P., N.Y. (2007)

2] Wright, Robert. THE MORAL ANIMAL: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology. Vintage N.Y. (1994).

Searching for Home

STANDING ROCK RESERVATION IS NOT A TOURIST ATTRACTION; however, it is a place reeling from the unintended effects of history, yet remains home to thousands of Sioux. Kristen has survived Standing Rock, but not without her share of bumps and bruises.
Kt1
Despite turmoil, a home is difficult to leave. If all one knows is alcohol, emotional and drug abuse one believes it’s typical. Kristen herself had been left with her two sisters in the car while a girl, as mom and dad drank in a bar. She knows the pain of home.

”That’s how dad died, drinking. So drinking was not my thing. I first left home for job corp. at 16, and had not experienced methamphetamine until 18. I used to be a runner and sometime enforcer when asked. I loved to fight. I tried the drug and it has been an uphill battle since then.”

Part of Kristen’s strategy to break the cycle of poverty, drugs, and alcohol was to head to Rapid City, S.D., a new place, greater opportunities. Through it all, she managed to keep all that’s important to her: her boys, Ashton and Logan, a healthy mind, and renewed faith in God.

”My parents, the rez, exposed me to many things. Others’ alcoholism profoundly affected me, my sisters, and my kids, too. I still don’t know where my youngest sister is, but she’s not in a good place. I know what it’s like for alcoholics, but for female meth addicts it’s scarier. Some women steal, lie, con, and prostitute themselves for drugs.
I pray for them.”

Alcoholism is a creeping disease, like meth addiction.

”Some don’t realize the time gone by, years and money wasted until it’s too late to make a difference. One of my major regrets
is losing education. I am a pretty good artist, so while Standing Rock was rough, and we were poor, I learned to paint and craft from my dad. I’ve done tattoos for 20~plus years, so home is still with me, you know. I try to mentor young girls from home and help them cope and understand how bad stuff affects a woman and how to cope.”

Women are especially vulnerable to drug addiction and abuse. Humans were not meant to undergo such trials. Yet, through all the victimization and pain and loss. We still drink, still chase drugs.

Kt2
”I support myself through craft, making dancers’ outfits, and tattooing. My second tat ever was on my mom. (laughs) I broke apart a Walkman and someone showed me how to construct a tat gun and I began tattooing; sometimes even to get/stay high, so my home is always with me.
I recall we had an outhouse, we had to fetch water, we were poor…”

Kt

Life continues, even when you don’t live it. Remaining sober is not a unique challenge, it can very well be ones greatest.

”Anymore, I exercise, go for walks, or read scripture to occupy my mind. Sensitivity to loud/sudden noise, nervousness, suspicion of others are ever present effects from my personal fight with meth. I think about it at times, but I’m wiser, my boys deserve me, and I don’t want to end up a zombie. I do pray a lot and drink water when I feel down. My son likes to smudge (marking with the black ends of burned sweetgrass, for prayer). He smudges the cat, too!” (laughter)
We’re going to be baptized soon, so God and spirituality is a great part of my recovery and lifestyle.”

Kristen’s keys to success.

”Hearing yourself speak heals you; talk to someone immediately. Maybe an elder. If you don’t have someone you can absolutely and genuinely trust, find them. Expressing yourself makes a lot of changes…and you have to stay away from old places and those types of people.”

Thank You, Kristen. Blessings to you.

When He, the spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth…from him you will receive what He will make known to you.” (John 16: 13~14)

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Support Kristen’s effort, order regalia at: kristentuske@gmail.com

FAIRNESS: Social Engineering Feat or Trait Intrinsic to Humanity?

Fairness (justice) is an idea we may not ponder about often enough; we have a tendency to rely on our immediate experiences to guide our perception of fairness, meaning, we know what fairness is when we see it or experience it, but is affected by feelings and bias. Any critical analysis regarding whether humans are inherently fair, or are simply molded to consider fairness, lies outside of the scope of most peoples’ day~to~day activities.

However, looking around us, fairness dictates our very existence through morés, values, laws, and norms; it is the glue which binds people, families, and societies and governments to their diversity of people.

Thus, is fairness inherent to humanity or a socially constructed idea? Is this even an important query in your lives?
Headmachinery
Before answering, I want to state I mean no disrespect in this opinion. I spoke with a number of individuals, each of different race, gender, and creed. Each person shared the same view with regard to our query. Can you guess what their collective perspective was?
__________

We begin life without ideologies, but with a range of physico~sensory capabilities restricting our biological preferences: taste (we generally prefer sweetness to hot); touch (velvet pillows over cacti); audition (white noise over foghorns); and olfaction (potpourri versus dog poo); sight is largely spectrally subjective. The point is, our biology determines our physical range of preferences. That is, we operate within rules not set by us. (Geneticists opine life is programmed to protect itself, its offspring, its DNA, strands of amino acids in helical shape: the chemistry of instinct.)

The fact is, we humans only fundamentally differ ideologically. Our thoughts, while influenced by 5~senses, are unconfined by heat, saltiness, or odors. We have power in our minds to perpetuate difference in our environs, to influence our lives to our subjective liking.

Ideas of fairness clash.

We have several religions where God commands structure (a social shape to thought), perhaps because humans must learn justice and other concepts. We have behavioral models in the form of parents and peers who provide perspective and reinforcement of our chosen attitudes. We have history itself, too! These things, combined with personal experiences, prove that subjective fairness (one’s personal ideas) prove less important than objective fairness (social ideas) over time. For instance, God~Kings and Matriarchies have evolved democracies and rule~of~law, yet wars for resources (to satisfy physical preferences) AND masked in ideology (internal preferences). So we are cognitively evolving. So what’s next?

The answer is not set in stone. Any ideas that reign tomorrow will be determined by YOU, through the people you choose to influence, and behavior or ideas you perpetuate. That’s the answer: Fairness is a social construct. When you are alone, what good is fairness?
But we are not evil. We notice social difference, and when difference evinces unfairness, our sense of justice should kick into gear, allowing our behavior to ripple out into the world.

Thank you for stopping by our charitable foundation. Our hope is you had a just and fair visit.

🙂

Education to Action: Note to College Freshman

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December, 3rd, 2015
Dear University Freshman:

I realize you have likely taken an Autumn season break from pursuing your Post-secondary education (which is understandable, since you spent 15+years on some variation of school), but hey, before you decide on a major – hopefully you ease into it – I want to try to convince you to become a sociologist. Let me briefly state why.

THE STUDY OF OUR NEIGHBORS, is the definition used to simplify the actual breadth and contemporary importance of sociology – combining Latin parts socius with the Greek ology.
Studying our neighbors, their interests, morés, and behaviors had profound consequences for us way back when we were ancient people, and the same is true for us today. Sociologists study people in the simplest terms, but it’s what we do with the data that makes a difference. After all, you may spend years on a single study or experiment, but one must act on the results to become a great sociologist. In sum, a great sociologist makes people better at understanding others and the environment. As a result, the actual world can get better.

Dear freshman, part of the problem with communities today is we don’t have many true-to-form sociologists to help typical people make better sense of themselves. Another great problem is that people like us – those in the social sciences – aren’t in a high tax bracket. Money you make must come from teaching, writing books, giving presentations, or consulting. Fame is not an option. But sociology is worth the effort. Studying ourselves can take us places as a community.

Sociologists can observe or conduct varied research to understand, for example, reasons why women achieve the greatest portions of undergraduate degrees. The numbers we crunch to draw our conclusions are derived from polls, interviews, or university profiles, observation – even loan and employment data.
For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and IRS maintain data about single~parents in the workforce (6%); dual~earning families (40%); husband working and wife remains at home (11%). Tangential data perhaps includes the average number of dependents in families for each family type. One can interpret and reinterpret the research as the data grows and compare it to other information such as graduation rates, or crime rate. So while it is common understanding (based on comparisons from our employment data, arrest and drop~out rates) that crime is higher in areas where families are larger and where disadvantaged minorities reside, many of us don’t have any idea why this remains the case (when there exists enough people get together to make changes they desire, it shouldn’t be that way!)
Sociology also tells us that! Yes, and women tend to succeed through all of that, as it appears.

With data from social researchers we can draft policy, develop and institue programs that will thwart some of the greater negative effects of these realities on us, at any stage that it manifests. Solutions are spelled out in the data!

As as a social scientist you can help a lot of people, heal a lot of people. YOU can do field work of you dislike research: social work, be a detective, parole officer, non-profit advisement, parole board member, Federal agent, investigator, writer, police chief, professor, and so much more… You won’t make a ton of money, but you will make a lot of happiness.

Good luck, Spring Semester, freshman – soon to be social scientists. We’re rooting for You.

• THE RIPPLEFX FOUNDATION

Personality: Your ”Big 5” Characteristics

PersonalityThere exists many theories of personality, and of these nearly all avoid defining what exactly the stuff of personality is. The Big 5 theory is the easiest of theories to comprehend. This theory explains that we are unique individuals whose personalities are different, but that differences are only in degree. The Big 5, refer to the following traits, that they are in each of us:

1] AGREEABLENESS: this trait implies we all have varied temperments, diplomatic skill, and that we are easy or difficult to get along with;
2] CONSCIENCIOUSNESS:
that we hold people’s health, well~being in high regard, and that we can suppress the ‘self’ for others’ benefit;
3] EXTROVERSION: the degree to which we seek new experiences, adventure, and independence;
4] OPENNESS: the ability to share our ideas, feelings, and beliefs with others;
5] EMOTIONAL STABILITY: the degree to which we are affected by stress, whether our behavior is consistent over time.

We can draw interesting inferences simply by understanding these definitions. Also, we can safely state that people each have a greater absence or presence of each of these traits, and that these variations make up our behavioral inclination, thus, global personality. This term can be defined, in my opinion, as follows:

PERSONALITY IS THE MANIFESTATION OF OUR EXPERIENCES AND BIOLOGY THAT HAS SHAPED A CONSISTENT GROUP OF BEHAVIORS THAT ARE DIFFERENT FROM OTHERS’ WHEN MEASURED AGAINST BASE PROSOCIALITY.

Why this definition? Since experts cannot agree upon a term (across many academic fields), we look to how the social sciences define Personality Disorder, and flip it on its head. A personality disorder then, points to ”any mental disorder manifested by maladjustments in motivation and maladaptive patterns relating to ones social environment” (Reber, 2005: 527).

Now we are getting deeper! We know that using this theory, we each develop~more or less~of each of these traits; that if we imagine traits along a spectrum, say from 1~to~10, we can build a simple profile of who our traits claim we are if you assign yourself 5 personal numbers. From that set of numbers we can hypothesize what we would do in particular situations.
And we can also learn where to strengthen our ‘selves’!

Personality is a part of us that people try to measure everyday. Quantifying personality, that is, measuring it, is of benefit to business, education, and criminology (by design, the areas that the RippleFX Foundation operates).

Personality change can alert people to disease (alcoholism) or disorder (depression). Personality, is considered an inflexible thing, alterable only through life~changing events (war~PTSD; birth~post~partem depression), or other trauma.
Personality (behaviorial propensities) however, can also be consciously re~molded!
Introducing how behavior develops into personality is one goal of The RippleFX Foundation. We are working to reinforce the prosocial side of our Big 5 traits in the criminal justice system now! See our Criminal Justice page to download actual copies of our research~based publications. These workbooks were designed to enrich extroversion, openness, agreeableness, conscienciousness, and emotional stability. Please sponsor a class or download a copy for a loved one. Help us further our community efforts by purchasing a ripplefx.org t~shirt via email, or donate to us at any Bank of America location.

What is your personality profile? Where can you use development? Are you a parent? If so, remember this post and use these concepts. Your child’s future may depend on it.

References:

-Aurther Reber and Emily Reber. DICTIONARY OF PSYCHOLOGY. N.Y. Penguin, 2005.

-Photo of brainscan by, Bill Bosking.

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