Tag Archives: Human nature

The source of true empathy

28 Jan

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Careful that you don’t fall into the trap of believing years of study are equal to experience. The world is full of people who live vicariously through others. True empathy doesn’t come from simply observing. It comes from life fully lived, a life that teaches that no one – including you – can ever fully understand another’s story, just like no one – including you – could ever fully understand yours.

Real help doesn’t come in the form of assessment, diagnosis, and treatment. It comes from two human beings sharing their separate stories together, even though one is disclosing a lot more.

If a helper refuses to share anything about him or herself, there’s a good chance there’s nothing there to share. And that is no help.
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I’d rather share my story with someone who earned an honorable 214 than a petty hedonistic dolt any day. The 214 holder has distinguished him or herself as worthy to a much higher degree.

“Be wrong…once”*

18 Oct

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I was going to write more, but got distracted by Nature’s quiet resolve. I’m still sick of my own voice anyway.

I’ve been right about too many things:
– the re-emergence of a more dangerous terrorist threat in the Middle East;
– WMD finally “uncovered” in Iraq (That may be news to the NY Times, but not to those of us who were there or to anyone not blinded by a political agenda.);
– the predictable changing of the story in the media to make it appear they thought the weapons were there all along;
– the inevitable spread of ebola to the west, and the CDC over-estimating (if not lying about) their ability to cure or control it;
– the virus’s inevitable mutation (Anything that replicates itself that fast will make a commensurately high number of mistakes, i.e.,  mutations, and successful mistakes will replicate themselves. For the so-called experts who say this won’t happen, the process is called “evolution”.);
– the ineptitude, corruption, and failing performance of the company I left last year (A friend still with them who has been promised promotion every year for the past four years, and who runs one of the few remaining profitable orgs in the company, was passed over again. More key producers have left for greener pastures. And as I learned this week, they still have not removed my name from at least one foreign account.);
– sadly, there are other things closer to home I’ve been right about too.

I’m neither a prophet nor a naysayer, just a regular guy who tries to ignore the hype and think things through to their logical conclusion.

There’s a lot wrong in the world right now. Often though, when it’s my read of a situation that’s wrong, it turns out to be a very good thing. Usually when that happens, things come together to prove bad people can – in rare instances – be surprisingly selfless, or that people can occassionally do right collectively, not just as individuals. But unfortunately I’m not often wrong.

Songs have been written about seeing things from a distance, how things seem better with a broader perspective. That hasn’t been my experience. From what I’ve seen, most individuals (maybe 90%) are decent people when you get to know them. It’s collectively that man is about as dumb and corrupt as species come. (Hence the popularity of the truism, ‘none of us is as stupid as all of us’.) I think that is mainly due to the remaining 10% of the human population who are manipulative, coniving, brutish, or otherwise just not decent people. And since we all have pretty much the same potential, those bad apples bring out the worst in the rest of us. It’s why small communities can do so much good, but every government fails. It’s why groups of devout, kind-hearted believers can be so loving, but religions fail.

The problem, in my opinion, is that society has been conceptually hijacked. Instead of counting on the goodness of people and keeping ourselves in check, we’ve bought into counting on organizations and expecting their systems to keep us in check. Suddenly the individual is no longer important or responsible, the majority become lax, and the despicable few sieze the opportunity to build themselves up by bringing everyone else down. It doesn’t take a genius or prophet to see this, just being truly (sometimes painfully) self aware.

Fall is a season of change and today is a good time to listen. I could go for being wrong in a great big positive way, hopefully soon. Maybe there’s a lesson or clue I missed along the way. It has happened before, not often, but it has. I have hope it can again.

Until then I’m backing off (yes, again) to enjoy time in nature and the company of family and friends. You’ll likely see more poetry, simple thoughts, or just photos from me for a while. Hey, the president plays golf to avoid the duties to which he was elected. I can enjoy me time to avoid thinking about politics and religion on a blog I started voluntarily. 😉

May you too enjoy a blessed weekend, and may your heart and head be filled with peace.
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*This post’s title is a line from the movie “Scrooged”. His assistant sends the wrong (nicer) gift to Scrooge’s brother and it turns out to be a sign of better things to come.

Unpopular opinions

30 Jul

Guns don’t kill people, people do…and at the places where guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns…and the outlaws kill people…so do people without guns, which brings us back to the first point.

Conflict is a fact of mankind, in fact rivalry and murder are indeed found throughout the animal kingdom, although man has taken it to a new level. This despite idealistic claims of the opposite. One can attempt to live one’s own life with as little conflict as possible, but you will still come in conflict with others. Multiply that by the world population and its increased divergence of outlooks (including those that are decidedly belligerent) and violent mass conflict is inevitable. The goal then becomes to keep conflict to the least bad level attainable.

The current nation state of Israel was created by outsiders at the end of the second world war. It displaced people who were already living in that area. Since then, generations of people have been born and lived there their entire lives. To say that they do not belong there is a stretch. Likewise, Israel has intentionally colonized new areas over that time to expand into new lands. To say displaced Palestinians do not belong in those areas is also a stretch. Many of the same Islamic countries that condemn Israel are quietly its biggest trading partners (it is a robust nation afterall). As with America and both sides of the conflict, powerful people in those Muslim countries both provide arms and money to the Palestinians, and refuse to create room in their own land for Palestinian refugees. As it has been for well over 2,000 years, that part of the Levant continues to serve as a convenient buffer between outside forces of east and west. Convenient for those outside forces that is, it’s a nightmare of daily existence for those who live there with constant conflict.

Israel has long felt surrounded and alone. In many ways it is. As a result, their responses to violence tend to be extreme. Palestinians have long felt dejected and alone. In many ways they are. As a response they have traditionally attacked from and sought shelter in civilian targets to try to make the Israelis cause collateral damage and look bad. The pro-Palestinian fighters who do this are at least as, if not more than, responsible for innocent casualties than the Israelis are. This type of tactic has been used by terrorists throughout history and is a favorite of Islamists in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia to name just a few recent/ongoing conflicts. The media intentionally compounds and encourages this behavior through sensationalist journalism in order to sell air time. The violence is real, the suffering is real, the deaths are real…the blame is shared.
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God. One can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God. Were it possible, the first step in doing so would be to define God. Given the nebulous nature of the idea of God, and the divergent views of the specifics, it seems very unlikely that all people would ever agree on a common definition. Therefor belief in the existence or nonexistence of such a deity is, by nature, a matter of faith alone. To argue such an unresolvable matter of faith is pointless. The fact that people on all sides feel compelled to argue about it further demonstrates the prevalence of conflict in man’s nature. Note this observation does not imply the existence or nonexistence of a deity or deities, i.e., God, it simply highlights the pointlessness of arguing about it. I find it ironic that the group claiming offense most in my home country today are those who claim to not believe (atheists). So they are offended by something they believe does not exist? Sounds like a disingenuous argument to me. Also those committing the most violence in the name of belief today (Islamists) claim to follow a peace loving God who directs them to murder nonbelievers…or other believers…or fellow believers or themselves if it advances the cause. Really? Or maybe we should refer back to the first two paragraphs above about conflict and killing…

The major religions of the world today (in descending order based on numbers of believers) are: Christianity 31.5%, Islam 23.2%, unaffiliated 16.3% [about half of these are theistic but not religious; unaffiliated also includes secular humanism and atheism], Hinduism 15%, Buddhism 7.1%, folk religions 5.9%, other 0.8%). These figures are based on Wikipedia estimates based on 2012 surveys. Although exact numbers differ in other studies, the breakdown is similar. In reference to points made earlier in this post, it is interesting to note that Judaism, a small sect based primarily on patriarchal lineage, makes up only 0.22% of the world population compared to 31.5% Christian and 23.2% Muslim. While it is true religion has and continues to be used as an excuse by select members of all faiths to commit atrocities (including by secular humanists and atheists), only one major religion (Islam) has as part of its core doctrine the willful domination of specific other religious groups (people of the Book, i.e., Christians and Jews). Fortunately the overwhelming majority of the Muslims I know see this as an ancient doctrine no longer relevant in the modern world. Unfortunately, it remains a core teaching and serves as an excuse for ongoing hostility. Rather than focusing on more immediate factors like the competing (and common) needs of both Palestinians and Israelis, economic disparity within Middle East countries, uneven development between east and west, or the meddling of one country in another country’s internal affairs, Islamists around the world use it as an excuse to commit violence. Incidents of countries meddling in others’ affairs are too numerous to list but notorious recent examples include the US, Iran, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. Additionally while most states claim representative democracy and the rule of law (which has a long conceptual history from the code of Hammrabi to Moses’ ten commandments, the Magna Carta, and myriad other influences), few still identify an official state religion. Most that do are Islamic. This is due to the fact that Islam is meant to carry through every aspect of life and society. Led by devout, tolerant rulers, this is a beautiful example of the completeness of belief which, coupled with military strength and ruthlessness, led to the rapid spread of Islam in the seventh century. Led by intolerant, fanatical Islamists as we see with some groups today, it is a recipe for disaster.

So where did this post come from, so different from my usual posts? For one thing, the current violence in Gaza and the bullshit reporting surrounding it is heartbreaking. I feel for the innocents on all sides. The same is true for Iraq, the Ukraine, and all the other conflicts going on around the world. I’ve also grown tired of the frivolous lawsuits and vacuous arguments concerning everything from public displays to health insurance put forth by atheist groups, Satanists, and fundamentalist Christians alike here in America. (Honestly from tactics and vapidity of argument it’s getting increasingly difficult to tell the differences between these groups.) I’m also tired of the apologist excuses for violent Islamist extremists and their enablers both here and elsewhere. And I’m sick of the Polly Annas who have the freedom to judge and complain about others only because braver, more selfless souls are willing to face harsh reality and defend that freedom with their lives. I haven’t even gotten started on the corrupt media and politicians manipulating information and public opinion all for the sake of profit and power. Basically for all the wonderful beauty of life and mankind, there’s a lot of hypocritical, disingenuous, hateful ignorance. You can try to hide from it or pretend it isn’t there, but to find real peace you have to be able to take it all in.

To address some of your questions or assumptions that probably arose from reading this post, no, I’m not Jewish. I call myself Christian because the basic teachings of Jesus of Nazareth (as far as they’ve been captured in the gospels, Q, and other texts) make perfect sense to me. That said I have been told in no uncertain terms by at least one ordained minister that I am not Christian. No, I am not anti-Islam. I have a lot of friends who are Muslim, good people with whom I have shared some great conversations and who are as against the Islamist extremists as I am. Yes I do have personal first hand experience with the media intentionally misreporting or even fabricating stories to boost ratings. If you still count on them for your understanding of the world you are woefully misinformed. And yes, I do own guns. I grew up around them and they have been a big part of my life my entire life. Not once have I ever known of a gun spontaneously loading itself, aiming, and firing with the intent to kill. Although systems have been developed to do that, using sensors to identify targets, those systems were designed, built, and armed by people. I close with how I opened. Guns (or God or religion or even bad media or politics) don’t kill people, people do. Time to man up or woman up and face reality. You can’t control others or decide for them what to believe, but you can – and have a responsibility to – do it for yourself. Peace.

Life’s blessings

5 May

Tradition says a four-leaf clover brings good luck. I don’t really believe that, but these natural wonders have come to symbolize life’s blessings for me. Look at the photo below. How many four-leaf clover do you see?

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It is often easy to overlook them. We think we’re searching for one simple thing but what we’re really looking for is that one thing, just so, in this way, at that time, under these conditions… When it isn’t exactly as we expect, we have trouble recognizing it. What we really want is control, which we don’t have, and so we are easily distracted by extraneous things.

Look at the photo above again. There are at least four four-leaf clover in it. They aren’t perfect, symmetrical, or obvious. A couple are hard to recognize at all. I can only see them because I took the picture and was able to move around for different perspectives. I had the advantage of running my fingers through the grass to uncover what was hidden and discern between the genuine article and what only appeared to be. If you had created the photo and were in control, you could probably see them too.

…But you didn’t and you’re not, so you’ll have to trust the one who did.

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When I think about it, life is a lot like that. Blessings and peace to you. 🙂

Childish desire for control

29 Apr

When I was a child I loved childish things. I loved to be in control and the feeling of power it would bring. I would spend hours arranging my G.I. Joes and Army men, building roads and tunnels with my Tonka trucks, and racing and playing out scenarios with my Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars.

I could never understand why real people made it so hard. Why do they have to fight? Why can’t they cooperate? In the worlds I created there were clear good guys and bad guys. The good guys would win, and in the end instead of being dead and gone, the bad guys would decide to join the good and learn to get along. That was my control, my power to make things right.

Today as in the 1960s and 70s, people still don’t get along. Couples fight, governments lie, corporations take advantage and write it off with a smile and excuse, “it’s just business.” I’ve seen too much war in the time since then to understand or like it any more than I did as a child. Now I learn that a boy I thought was my son’s friend has been stealing from him. I remember now why I always liked being alone so much.

God never steals from me. He gives us all such wonderful gifts, and yet some people are never satisfied. Even as adults they still crave control and power, taking from others to have more for themselves. And they only see anything wrong with it when someone else steals from them.

You can never fill the emptiness inside you by taking from someone else. You are never in control when driven by spiritual hunger. You will never know real power without the Power of Light shining through you.

Whether one boy stealing from another, religion trying to dictate an individual’s faith, business delivering poor quality service and taking unfair profit, or nations waging war, there will never be an end to the burning cold, emptiness of desire.

I can’t control another. I have no power beyond the Power of Life. Though the temptation is still there at times to “choke the living shit out of some bastard who truly deserves it”, the feeling quickly subsides. For them to be themselves is punishment enough.

Let me accept myself and others for the spiritual weaklings we are. Let the Creative Force that powers the universe flow through my soul. And let me never understand the darkness of the human heart.


Embrace the chaos. Embrace life. And let not the emptiness of another drain your spirit of light.

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