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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

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

EMPLOYING YOUR PERSONALITY

Employing Your Personality

In today’s atmosphere, applying for a job entails providing a large amount of personal information to prospective employers. Health records, medical documents, and psychiatric records, are – in the vast majority of cases – protected information beyond the reach of anyone without direct written authorization. This helps to prevent specific discrimination as exemplified by the 1990’s film Philadelphia. [1]

At any rate, savvy employers may not necessarily require a direct peek into health information as a few carefully worded questions can give any HR Department insight into what type of people are applying for jobs. This way businesses can weed out those applicants – who despite meeting qualifications – are simply not the kind of worker the business desires. Let me exemplify how questions could be posed to applicants in the near future by recalling a few ethics scenarios that I encountered in my college days.

The first scenario presented to you, goes like this:

“Imagine you’re a train conductor on a runaway train. The brakes have failed, the horn does not respond and you have come to a fork in the tracks. On the right side of the tracks – the side you and the train are – there are five Girl Scouts crossing the tracks headed to an adjacent neighborhood to sell cookies. On the left side of the tracks there is a hobo who has fallen asleep on the tracks. You have only enough time to either A) pull a lever to switch the course of the track, saving the five little girls, but killing the hobo, or B) do nothing, whereby the five Girl Scouts are killed, but saving the hobo’s life. Which action do you take?”

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That was a rather common ethics question; one I have proposed to my own students over the years. I have heard everything from, “I’m not answering that”, to “I need more information”, and even, “I’m just jumping off the train”. While their responses are simply attempts to avoid responsibility, for class, this was OK, but mostly, for others, the question is a great point of deep contention and leads to discussion that allows students to get to know one another early on in the course.

Let me give another scenario.

“Imagine you’re a mute walking along the sidewalk at a roadside festival. You are part of a small crowd of people where only you notice an oncoming vehicle that is about to ram into three women at a high rate of speed and kill them. The women are beyond your reach, but there is an elderly man between you and the girls such that if you were to instantly act, you know with certainty that A) pushing the man into the girls would create a domino-effect which will save the lives of three ladies, but would kill the man by placing him in the path of the vehicle, or B) do nothing whereby the three women are killed. Which choice would you make? ”

If you compare the two scenarios, there is a basic distinction that produces answers that could be of keen interest to prospective employers. While the vast majority of businesses will never request access to protected health information, answers to scenarios like these are not protected, and may reveal more about “the real you” than a physical exam. In fact, one retailer, KMart has used actual personality assessments. These are used to determine likelihood of deception in answering, or perhaps an inclination to steal, or embezzle money. The practical usefulness of assessments are unknown, but answers are compiled to hopefully reveal more about you than what you present in your history.

Part of the point is that you have to pay close attention to the changes in the law as relates to applicant-prospective employer relationships, but more importantly, that you occasionally remind yourself of the kind of person you truly are. Reread the two scenarios I presented above. If you have any trouble answering, then perhaps you could benefit yourself and everyone else around by taking some time alone to hopefully figure out why that is before applying for that job.

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Notes:
1) HIPA ( The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), Public Law 104-191)

• 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?

Systemic Challenges


INEVITABILITY OF CHANGE

Change

Change

Communication between two individuals can be a very straightforward exercise. The depth and meaning of what is conveyed, the medium used, the lighting or noise of the environmental setting, can, at times, create unintended complexity for any general conversation. Communicating with two people, then three, and fifty each requires additional considerations that makes preparation to communicate, itself, a distinct realm of specialized knowledge.

The issues of growth and complexity in communication present great challenges to as scarcity of resources and quest for solutions grows more imminent. Plans that worked yesterday, likely wont work forever~and the numbers don’t lie! That realization calls for strategic planning.

INDIVIDUAL, ORGANIZATIONAL, and SYSTEMIC PROBLEMS

Individual Example:
I broke my toe walking to work today.

Organizational:
We broke our toes on the mandatory corporate trolly~ride to work today.

Systemic:
Every baby is now tragically born without toes.

Each of the foregoing situations calls for varied attention, including different levels of action, and resource allocation. In the first example, the toe is immediately an individual problem, but if it were say, Kobe Bryant’s toe, it very well would become an organizational issue (as collective objectives are delimited).

Individual issues are generally easiest to solve; organizational ones, and systemic problems are more complex, often requiring extensive – and expensive redesign. This is why Identification, Foresight and Strategy are important at the outset of any plan. First of all, determining which of the three levels issues belong to is a good exercise in critical thinking. Identification causes one to refine ones place in the world, and percieve the types of knowledge one will require in order to contribute to solutions. With your newfound ideas in place you may ease suffering, and create great benefits for others.

Can you identify one systemic problem?
What happens once you have that knowledge?

Knowledge is Powerful.

🙂

Charles Horton Cooley: Reluctant Sociologist

Cooley, born during the year of African slave emancipation in America, died in the year of another historic event: Black Friday, the year The Great Depression began. Like many great minds, he came from dark times.
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Cooley’s father was a Michigan State Supreme Court Justice, who also taught at Michigan, the place Cooley would also later teach. Cooley was one of America’s first sociologists (and disliked being labeled a sociologist). He influenced many eminent scholars such as, George Herbert Mead and the psycholgist, William James, who was cousin to philosopher, Jeremy Bentham.

Cooley began his academic career with an engineering degree, working briefly for the Census office and the Interstate Commerce Commission. After his graduate studies, Cooley taught Michigan~Ann Arbor’s first sociology course, and immersed himself with theorizing and research regarding the concept of the ‘self’.

Cooley’s notion of the ”looking~glass self” (his most significant idea) highlighted that peoples’ self~concept and personalities were socially constructed, that we are social reflections, that we are the image people reflect back upon us.

Cooley provided an additional contribution in 1899, when he noted in a paper, that the rise of industrialization had led to the subsequent weakening of the nuclear family (mom, dad, kids: the nucleus). Cooley stated Industrialization had stretched the primary family bonds and traditions, and the weakening family had become an exacerbated problem by the increase in individuality.

These two (2) concepts remain relevant and even puzzling. This is because Cooley expounded upon them, lived in heightened awareness of an era of extensive social changes, but he could do nothing to fix them! The images his ideas conjure, when combined, are of Cooley standing helplessly amid the fraying traditional American family, and all the while acknowledging he is but a reflection of them, of society; aware of the changing fabric and unable to reflect much back, being prodded by his own invention!

That society and the individual influence eachother is not a profound concept; it’s profound, however, when individuals refuse to positively influence their world, to shape it: THAT is truly profound.

Here at the RippleFX Foundation, we help you to influence others, taking each quadrant of society and creating a movement toward synergy between the people and their communties. We need you to help us, to recall what you really need your reflection to mean. After all, while the ‘self’ is yours alone, it is the people who give that to you.

It’s time to pick up where Cooley could not: help us give back to our community using the principle of the ripple effect. What can you accomplish for others?
Knowing you can fix a problem and ignoring that call is a neglegent act. Turn to the light?

Reference:

-John Scott and Gordon Marshall. DICTIONARY OF SOCIOLOGY. Oxford U.P. : NY 2005.

-photo: public domain

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