2014

On the evil power of wealth

There is something fundamentally evil about capitalism. Capitalism constitutes an economic system that enables individuals to accumulate vast holdings of wealth and to use this as power to make it more difficult for less lucky persons to benefit from education, job training, and health care resources. Call it fate, mysterious positioning, being favored and advantaged, but really it is luck that makes it possible for some people to control vast wealth. And to use the power of wealth to suppress others is an evil action.

Who among us had any involvement in determining the circumstances of our birth, or setting our reasoning potential, or composing our physical capacities? To call it blessed to be afforded any of these advantages is both a blatant, selfish assertion of superiority and an egotistical claim to privilege in relation to the other humans who also live in the earth.

The fundamental flaw in capitalism is the absence of any check for greed. No boundary exists, no limitation on quantity, no restriction on the reach of the power that wealth possesses. The power of wealth is used to undermine freedom of choice and to set political agendas that restrict individual expression of the unlucky. And the power of wealth is used to enact laws that protect this privileged benefit.

Others have judged capitalism to be deficient because it allows the use of money to make money. Yet the disturbing characteristic of capitalism seems to be deeper than investment strategies. Capitalism provides the mechanism that can exaggerate the human emotions of fear and insecurity. Capitalism fosters a culture of competition. Competition in turn stimulates the quest to maintain advantage. The quest to maintain advantage creates a rugged individualism that interferes with the development of community by overriding an innate human emotion that evokes sympathy and compassion for those who struggle. Capitalism fosters the erosion of mutual concern and sharing that works to provide for the well being of others.

Over time inequities in quantities of wealth accumulate. Since there is no provision for redistribution of excessive wealth, the gap widens between those empowered by wealth and those from whom it is denied. Some historical societies sought to manage this inequity be enacting laws that periodically required accumulated wealth to be redistributed to those whose positioning had worked to divest them of an adequate basis of wealth. Some societies enacted laws that maintained a relatively modest differential of wealth between those persons who were advantaged and those who were marginalized by community value placed on goods, services, and occupations.

Capitalism bitterly opposes any redistribution mechanisms. Words that describe these economic systems have become emotional flashpoints. Any talk of socialism, communism, and proportionate tax levies sparks entrenched responses from the wealthy whose power quickly works to suppress any social reformation.

It may be that an organized movement that motivates the less wealthy could revise the field and shift the power away from the most wealthy. How would this look? First this movement would voluntarily denounce consumption. Masses of people would refuse to purchase entertainment and luxury items. Instead they would shop locally at independent small businesses buying only what would bring them a comfortable lifestyle without elaboration. These people would refuse to feed the wealthy by routinely buying new items when older items would continue to serve them well. Over time this strategy would have an enormous impact on the present functioning economy that keeps the wealthy in power.

Finding a way to educate and inform people of the inequitable economic character of capitalism would be the initial challenge. Embracing one reasonably attainable goal would be the next step, something as simple as reducing and eventually eliminating the use of plastic products, a by product of the oil industry which privately controls an ancient resource that more appropriately should be managed by the community for the community.

To think in this way is the beginning of a revision of the deficient capitalistic economic system. And ‘Use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without’ is a practical axiom that can make it happen.

On making decisions

Making decisions requires that a choice be made without the possibility of knowing fully how the result will impact others. All of us know of occasions when we look back into the past and realize this truth. Who among us has not said, ‘If I had just known then what I know now I would have made a different choice?’

Although making any decision ushers us into adventurous territory, it can also inhibit us because of the mysterious nature of how future experiences will be affected by a choice. A person can even become paralyzed, unable to commit to a particular option or just acquiesce and go with the flow because of the potentially enormous consequences hidden beyond their knowing. ‘What if’ begins to characterize the proceeding. And ‘what if’ questions have no certain answers either.

Is there some practical guidance for making choices that can prevent us from being overly burdened by the impossibility of knowing for certain if the choice we are about the make will be the best choice for everyone who will be affected?

As strange as it may first sound, ‘What’s best for me’ may the be wisest counsel for an individual when attempting to make the most appropriate choice. Consider this logic: every person is a unique component of the human family; each one of us possesses traits and capacities that differ from anyone else; all of us yearn to be satisfied and fulfilled—a component of being in respectful relationship with other persons who inhabit the earth with us. Therefore every person is equipped to make a specific contribution for the benefit of the community. Thus, when making a choice, one of the foremost goals of the choice is that individual expression be preserved.

Always there are people who believe they know best what another person should do. But really, is this insight at all possible? Surely every concerned individual will want to protect and to insure that someone they care for will not be injured or adversely affected by a choice. Ignorance can produce long lasting severe consequences that cannot be overcome. Enlightenment and education are essential in every decision making event. Gaining as much relevant information as possible must always be a priority. Yet telling someone else what to do is never the right choice for anyone to make.

So even though the mystery associated with the practice of making decisions can never be eliminated, thinking about ‘what’s best for me’—the choice that will move you toward your vision of what you want your life to be about, the thing that will satisfy and fulfill your spirit and your heart—this consideration will provide a way for you to move forward without being disturbed by not knowing for certain what the result of the choice will be. When an individual desires to honor the intention of human relationship—to treat another person in the way you want them to treat you—using the guidance gained from choosing ‘what’s best for me’ is the best way to accommodate the mystery involved in making a choice.

At every moment there are forces at work in the lives of others that no one else can ever comprehend. Because of this reality the consequences for other persons of an individual’s choice simply cannot be determined. By honoring respectful relationship with others, a person can feel confident that the choice that is best for the individual is also best for every one else.

Inevitably in making decisions when there will be unforeseen regrettable consequences of choices previously made. Even when following the guide of ‘what’s best for me,’ situations can unfold following the choice that will cause discomfort, sometimes even pain for both the chooser and others affected by the choice. Rather than believing the original choice was a mistake, the disappointing result can more beneficially be recognized as being a new revelation, a discovery from which a person can gain further insight into and understanding about the human journey in the earth.

Inevitably there will also be persons who will complain because of particular decisions you make. They will say you are insensitive; they may judge you as being selfish and inconsiderate. They will say these kinds of things because they are responding to facts they know about, the reality that can be observed at that time. They do not regard the forces of mystery that are also operating and will have even more of an impact on the composition of future than the temporary reality that can be seen.

And contemplating what might have happened had a different choice been made will never provide any consolation for disappointments and regrets. No one can ever know what might have happened because of the many unknown forces present that make it impossible to predict how the future will come to be. While it is true that one choice made requires other options to be lost forever, human limitations of time and space prevent any of us from realizing the infinite possibilities of experiences that exists. As an individual one person can never experience this variety of possibilities, but as a family, humans likely experience most of the possibilities for the human presence in the earth.

All a person can do is make the human journey in the earth personal—your own, personal experience. Preventing someone else from hijacking the individual experience is a crucial endeavor. Rather than trying to direct another’s pathway by telling them how to choose, each one of us must monitor our own journey. And guard against letting your experience be hijacked by someone else who is telling you what to do. Make your own decisions in the way that is best for you.

When religion fails

Religion originates from the human necessity to live with mystery. Religion provides a method for us to learn how to live with the questions that have no answers, questions about our existence and our future condition after we die. Religion grows out of the sense of right and wrong that is a part of the human spirit we know as conscience. Religion is a systematic method of reconciling what we know from within our soul with the way we live in the earth.

No one lives in complete isolation. All of us have some contact with other humans. We respond to the presence of other people in our environment. Our conscience dictates the kinds of behaviors that we know to be respectful and affirming of other humans. Religion composes behaviors that serve the interests of those professing belief in its doctrines and directives.

Yet history reveals the consequences of so called religious beliefs that serve the interests of a group without having a similar degree of regard for those outside the chosen circle. The conquest of Canaan when the Hebrew people slaughtered men, women, children, and animals without mercy in their pursuit of the Promised Land; Muhammad’s beheading of more than 700 men and boys of the Banu Qurayza Jewish tribe near Medina who had earlier befriended his destitute band; and the Crusades of the Middle Ages by which the Christian church sought to bring in the kingdom of God on earth. These and other similar selfish actions are driven by ascribed religious beliefs that do not go far enough. They fail to include conscientious compassion for those outside the chosen group. No religious person could be committed to follow the deity who allegedly prescribes this brutality.

Of course these kinds of self-serving, degenerate actions are not without purpose. When Saint Augustine of Hippo, a predominate bishop living in the fourth and fifth century in northern Africa, instituted what we know today as the case for justified violence–the Just War Theory–he too was not without purpose. Some of the persons then in the Catholic Church were unsatisfied with the behaviors of the clergy. They decided to organize another system of worship. Augustine opposed this movement. He appealed to the power of civil authority to prevent these persons from achieving their objective. He encouraged the use of violence against these infidels. He likened their situation to persons trapped inside a burning building. By delivering them from the burning building, even if they were dragged out against their will, Augustine argued he was doing them a favor. He was saving them.

Not all such atrocities are so calculated. Yet they all are devised to serve only those administrating the violence. There is no thought whatsoever for those being abused by this proceeding. In either case however these kinds of activities occur when religion does not go far enough.

If the goal of religion is to foster a methodology for living with the questions of mystery, then religion requires that we develop a pattern of living in relationship with others who inhibit the earth with us consistent with the witness of conscience—treat another as I desire them to treat me. Doing violence toward any other person is not a behavior driven by religion. Doing violence toward others is a selfish action devised by persons with a sense of privilege and superiority, regardless of the verbiage used to justify it.

On the management of oil and gas, what a waste

I’m deep in the woods at the property I manage, cutting a tree for 2015 winter firewood. The sweet fragrance of freshly cut white oak enfolds me. My equipment is not the old cross cut saw and turpentine used by my grandfather and me to cut through the wood and sap. I’m using a modern day chain saw. It whines more than the cross cut saw, but I’m only one and concede industry to convenience—a modern way for a modern day.

I pause in the process of sectioning the trunk, temporarily ending the whine of the chain saw. Then I notice it again, another whining squeal in the distance. No where on the farm can I escape this noise. It signals another modern day phenomenon. This sound comes from a pump–a pump extracting oil from underneath the farm. I often think about this modern day operation with a more ancient resource, and each time I think of it, it always bothers me.

What bothers me is that private corporations gather a substance latent in the earth for many, many years and become the sole possessor of this mineral. No human agency works to make this substance. No creative ingenuity composes this substance. Yet the extraction of this substance becomes the possession of a few already wealthy individuals. And because oil is such a valuable ingredient of modern day community life, these already wealthy individuals become even more wealthy.

The production and marketing of oil has a unique way of playing on, manipulating, human feelings of insecurity and vulnerableness. By nature all of us need to feel safe and have some expectation that we can provide for our future. We want to be comfortable—well fed, sheltered, fulfilled. We continually monitor our sense of well being and maneuver to make adjustments that seem beneficial to us and to our interests. Whenever we feel threatened, either by loss of control or by scarcity of resources, we become fearful and distressed. When we become fearful and distressed, we begin to view life as a competition. When we view life as a competition, we become greedy and selfish.

Greed and deception characterize the oil and gas industry. The quest to control and acquire promotes trickery and concealment. Privately managed information leads to activities that misrepresent intentions and exploit the ignorance of others. They call it good business practice. The present method of prospering from an ancient resource disrupts community life by providing an inequitable benefit to a few wealthy persons who customarily own it.

Oil is unlike gold and diamonds. It is not a luxury. Oil has become a necessary ingredient not only to provide for the basic needs of families in our culture but also to enable them to participate in society. Current laws that regulate its ownership to only a few individuals have been put in place by those who financially benefit from this design. It is time to change this pattern of control, making oil a resource that belongs to the entire community. Law binds us. But it is important to remember that the law is only what is popular. Not what’s right or wrong. –Marilyn Manson

On doubt raised by accusation

Doubt is a troubling suspicion. It operates like an elusive parasite that draws essential life-enriching energy away from relationships. Doubt has only the capacity to generate questions. And answers to these questions can only be speculation.

Almost every situation and circumstance, maybe all of them, has the capacity to create doubt. Doubt brings to the surface the reality that we cannot know with certainty what happens in a context in which we are absent, in a context where we are not present to understand every ingredient of the incident that actually took place. And it seems that every situation humans are involved in has some dimension of uncertainty.

Accusations of misbehavior have the effect of creating an accompanying element of doubt, like the birth of an inseparable twin. We can never know all components of an exchange that becomes the basis of an accusation. Even if we had been present in the context, the suggestion of a private misbehavior between two individuals can never be completely measured with certainty as to whether it is true or false. And even in situations where intentions are honorable, perceptions can alter the appearance of the incident so that one of the individuals can interpret the process as an uninvited intrusion into their personal space and a threat to their safety.

The perception of a violation has only the interests of the individual for assuring its endurance and defining its significance. When perception becomes the basis of an accusation, the reason that sets this opinion forth as a violation also becomes a matter of uncertainty. What feelings and objectives are working to promote the accusation? And from where do these conceptions arise?

When an accusation is based on a perceived intention, the reason for its promotion lies hidden in processes taking place within the individual who puts forth the charge. When perception becomes the basis of an accusation it is because of a foundational measure both of self-worth and the kind of appearances that are able to validate the person who promotes the charge. The need for validation originates in the measure of how the individual views their self-worth. When unresolved disappointments are present the results of this revelation will create feelings of deficiency and shame.

No amount of investigation can uncover and verify this hidden agenda. This situation introduces a perplexing dilemma: how to honor the integrity of each person involved while maintaing respect for the individual who continues to promote the accusation? Understanding that uncertainty can never be eliminated, what then becomes the measure of a solution? Eventually the challenge will be to determine in what virtue the probability of error will be lodged, whether in mercy or in justice.

Regardless of which virtue becomes the default position, the uncertainty associated with the accusation can never be resolved. So how does the individual who is identified as perpetrating a violation proceed to process and manage this development? Do they seek to challenge the finding, do they seek retribution, or do they recognize that no amount of effort and conversation will serve to reveal the truth in what actually occurred to prompt the perception? What does it look like in this situation to treat others like you want others to treat you?

The initial response for the one accused is to ask for a meeting with the person promoting the charge. This opportunity can provide a way of clarifying both intentions and the basis of an accusation. When the request for a meeting is denied, the only appropriate response is for the one accused to share with others all the information that is available. This is all that can be done. Using this information as well as information shared by others, persons will proceed to make a determination of fault as they are prompted. Everyone must live with the decision. If this circumstance should come to you, then treating these and the person who promoted the accusation like you want them to treat you means moving on, accepting their appraisal, and investing yourself in worthy projects in which you can spend your passions and capabilities.

You may have wondered in the past about the composition of your journey, about things you have come to discover for which you do not have a logical explanation, things you have come to know that have reasons which you can neither understand nor explain. Yet this knowledge has become the core component of the truth that guides your thoughts, creates your vision, and inspires you to reach out for fulfillment, for an experience of how you know life can become in spite of the reality you are now immersed in.

Following a false accusation one could give them self to work for restoring their reputation; yet what good could come of this. It is better to recognize that living in the now is not the ultimate adventure, nor is it the context that is most desirable. Living with the awareness of the pulse of a process that is carrying you along to a realm of being in which you can freely be the one who you are intended to become frees you from what is in reality a pursuit of vanity.

To be aware of the process of being composed makes us make better sense of now. Choosing this focus deprives someone else of hijacking your life, regardless of how perverted their opinions might be.

On the dynamics of teamwork

I have worked in numerous environments with a variety of persons. I remember occasions when I was in association with individuals who behaved in ways that made the context pleasant and stimulating. Each one had the confidence and focus to allow the team to be fashioned according to the unique talents and capacities of each member. No one dominated either our planning sessions or the manner in which our plans were implemented. These experiences were personally fulfilling for everyone. Each one of us was pleased with what we accomplished.

And I have worked in association with individuals who behaved in ways that made the context uncomfortable and stifling. One or more of the individuals acted is ways that were excessively aggressive and directive. Always their contribution was devised in a way that promoted their personal agendas. When their desires were not affirmed by teammates they attempted to manipulate the others by either judgmental remarks or comments of being discounted and abused. These experiences were frustrating and discouraging. Each one of us was disappointed because of what we were unable to accomplish.

I realize I was perplexed and confused when expected to work in association with individuals who were aggressive and controlling. Perhaps you also have had this kind of experience. How did this incident feel to you? Did you feel distressed and annoyed because you had to invest energy into trying to find some way to resolve this dilemma? Did you feel disgusted when you and the others finally recognized there was no apparent way to solve this problem?

Persons who are aggressive and directive maneuver in ways that suggest that their intention is different from accomplishing a team objective. Their work on the team is not about promoting cooperation with and respect for the contributions of the others. Rather, their work on the team is approached as a competition.

Individuals who need to control consider the function of the team to be a game that they must win. Their participation is devised in a way that will lead to some personally determined conclusion. They are uneasy and uncertain in their inner soul. Their self esteem is deficient and dependent upon the favor of others. They need to be praised, approved, honored, and finding this recognition depends upon their ability to manipulate teammates to support their personal agendas. When this objective is not attained, they resort to more divisive methods for gaining control.

When individuals who need to control do not get their way, they begin working to change the composition of the team. The most effective means of doing this is for the manipulating individual either to leave the team and search for a place where they can succeed in directing others or to work on a project alone. This solution is a mutually beneficial response. Both the directing individual and the previous teammates are in a better position to find personal fulfillment and satisfaction.

The other way in which directing individuals attempt to control is by trying to eliminate persons from the team who do not conform to their expectations. They set about to undermine the performance of others. They misrepresent the effectiveness of those who resist being directed. They resort to using personal relationships with superiors in order to deceive them by offering erroneous explanations of why the work of the team is not progressing. Eventually this kind of maneuvering can become a challenge that those who are being attacked do not choose to endure. These either may leave the team of their own volition or they may be asked to leave by supervisors.

I have wondered about how these distressful situations can be redeemed. Yet I have not discovered a way to proceed that always leads to working successfully through disconnects that disrupt interpersonal relationships. Even in situations when professional facilitators were invited to intervene there were occasions when this procedure was unsuccessful.

In the beginning I had believed that by keeping focused on the purpose for the team’s origination as well as the mission that defined the team’s work, self centered directive assertions would be disciplined so that the team could work at its fullest potential. After many years of team exposures, I still believe this is true. The obvious assertion that each team member will have a differing perspective about how the objective can best be accomplished will not prevent effective teamwork. This fact defines the basis of the team concept. Differing perspectives bring flexibility and enrichment to singular opinions. The only obstacle to teamwork is for one person to demand that their way be chosen.

Effective teamwork can be accomplished whenever each member of the team is committed to the work that prescribes a team composed of persons who consent and are trained to serve and to manage the specific demands that the team will need to address. If a member of the team cannot suppress their personal ego and work for accomplishing team objectives, no amount of counseling and patience and concession and conversation and empathy can serve to offset this deficiency.

An aggressive and controlling individual prevents teamwork. In this instance there can be no team, only a collection of individuals who must find a way to survive until the team composition is changed. In my past experiences I have been involved in this team restructuring. I have chosen to leave teams I have passionately served and I have been asked to leave by superiors. Either way it was better for both me and the others that I did not remain.

There are many worthy pursuits that a person can engage, pursuits where one’s energy and passion can be fully invested and deep longings for fulfillment can be satisfied. When I have been required to work with aggressive and controlling individuals, I have moved on to something else. The only regret I have felt is that I did not make this choice earlier—that I was not more discerning about the company I chose to keep.

The deceptive nature of competition

Human creatures have internal needs both for individual self expression and for belonging to a group. Competitive contexts are fertile fields for these pursuits. The lure of being declared a winner has a strong appeal because it appears to satisfy both of these yearnings. However this dynamic works to produce a conditioned sense of self-worth. The popular acclaim associated with becoming a champion promotes an erroneous  measure of individual self esteem. Competition encourages a sense of self worth that depends upon the measure of superiority for validation.

The influences of competition seem to be subtly present at all levels of American culture. Many people encourage competition because it fosters beneficial processes like teamwork and character formation. This characterization of competition however serves to obscure its deceptive nature. This deceptive nature can be recognized by evaluating the consequences of the particular kind of teamwork and fashioned character that competition produces.

Consider a few of the consequences that result from the dynamics of competition. Resistance to social services originates in the feeling that everyone must look after themselves. Individuals and groups must be cautious to maintain some advantage because there are not enough provisions in the earth to serve everyone alike. Even more basic, in order to prove self-worth a person must demonstrate some observable advantage over others, whether with physical strength or intellectual craftiness.

How do these consequences originate in the climate of competition? To begin, we must acknowledge that competition by definition requires that someone or some group prevail in a contest—that they secure and maintain an advantage. It is not enough to perform at one’s potential. Competition requires that someone or some group strives to beat an opponent. The foundational component of competition is maneuvering for advantage. In this dynamic we recognize the disruptive nature of competition.

At the heart of competition lies the task of winning, being number one, being the best. On the surface the determination to train and the discipline to prepare is admirable. However this intense effort is focused on one purpose—to be better than anyone else. The same intrinsic benefits might be attained in a personal quest to train and to prepare in order to be as good as one can be. But that is not the objective of competition. To compete means to be focused on beating an opponent, an orientation that subtly persists to influence individuals long after the contest has ended.

The latent urge to prevail fostered by competition subtly works to divide and segregate, even in individuals competing in a team context. While there is deep commitment to teammates and the submission of one’s personal capacities to the welfare of the group, the objective of team competitions is for individuals to serve in a way that enables the team to prevail. Playing well is not the objective. The objective of team competition is that the individual contribute in a way that enables the group to win. In doing this all the individuals in the group are declared to be winners.

Therefore although teamwork and personal character are significantly fashioned in the arena of competition, the nature of this teamwork and personal character is not compatible with the kind of social responsibility necessary for humans to effectively relate to other humans who also inhabit the earth. The tendency toward division and segregation that competition produces complicates peaceful cohabitation of all members of the human family. The urge to prevail learned in competitive engagements prompts groups of humans to maneuver in order to maintain an advantage, or in the language of competition, to win.

When I was younger I played on four different sports teams and competed many years as an adult in one individual event. I know the feeling of winning and of the quest to prevail in a contest. And I know of the additional competitive impulse that is produced by the desire to win. As much as I tried, I found that I played harder and with more intensity not when I was trying to do my best but when I was trying to beat someone. I know that my level of performance was higher when I was focused on winning. I have wondered why this was so and the reasons for it left me feeling empty and unfulfilled.

Competition is not the only or even the most helpful method of fostering teamwork and fashioning character. Practices that work to instill a sense of inclusive community produce consideration for the presence of others whether they are in one’s group or beyond. In these experiences persons learn to be conscious of how individual and group practices impact the well being of others. Although mutual respect is cultivated by competitive engagements, mercy and compassion–indispensable traits for fostering peaceful relationships–are advisably absent on the fields of competition.

What kinds of practices work to instill a desire to promote inclusive community? Two initiatives can help move individuals beyond divisive and segregating influences. Education about the circumstances of persons outside one’s immediate awareness cultivates compassion. And personal acquaintance with the environments of others works to cause individuals to honor their presence in the earth.

Programs that inform individuals about the circumstances that other humans experience in the earth promote teamwork and personal character that are fashioned by the virtues of compassion and mercy. The two pursuits of education and personal awareness produce behaviors that are far more affirming and inclusive than behaviors resulting from the influence of competition. And compassion and mercy are self validating, they perfectly satisfy the human quest for self expression.

Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “Show me someone who doesn’t mind losing, and I’ll show you a loser.” Competition determines not only a winner but also losers. If there are no losers, there can be no winner. If there are no losers, then no one loses.

The relationship of secrets and violence

We live in a culture of institutional manipulation designed to pollster increased business profits. We live with circumstances created by the manipulating practices of the US government in the international community. And we are afraid because of violent actions carried out by irrational persons identified as terrorists. Maybe we should think about the relationship of secrets and violence.

Attempting to cover up an operation or objective has a broad range of consequences. The first to come to mind is a concern for why the proceeding needs to be kept hidden. What would result if the activity were to be made accessible to the general population rather than only known by a select group?

Whenever the reason for operations and objectives is not published there is manipulation. We have been conditioned to accept that certain secrets are necessary for our well being. Under specific conditions keeping some thing secret is a benefit. Someone in authority determines for some unknown reason that we are better off if we do not know what is about to happen.

The practice of manipulation introduces several concerns for us to ponder. How does one individual know what is best for someone else? Perhaps our lives in the earth do last longer when someone forcefully prevents us from playing in the street or eating something poison. Ignorance is a reason for instruction and control. Yet how far does this kind of conditioning restriction extend in fashioning community dynamics and its impact on our relationship with persons in other communities?

Another factor to consider is the amount of energy and management required to preserve a secret. Attaching more significance to the operation or objective requires more energy and management be invested. What is the rule that causes a person to decide how much energy and management will be expended to preserve a secret?

We must begin by recognizing that all manipulation is a form of violence. Withholding the purpose or reason for an action so that some secretly devised result can be realized by those crafting the action is an abusive management of information. This apparently innocent measure is designed to prompt specific responses from a target population and fashion favorable public opinion.

We are conditioned to believe that secrets are an acceptable part of our life, both in business and in government. We have learned to live with the consequences of being manipulated in the market place. We call it good advertising and creative business practice. And we applaud politicians who have the capacity to craft words so that they persuade a group to follow or inspire them to support a cause. But what happens when this same proceeding is practiced by the government as it maneuvers in the international community?

Our most serious concern is that no authority exists that can limit the amount of energy and tactical management the government can invest in efforts to preserve a secret. When covert actions do not produce desired results, then open violence ensues. And we accept that this increased violence is necessary because we are caused to be afraid of the consequences if violence is not used.

We are afraid because we know we resent being manipulated. We are afraid because we know what evils humans are capable of producing. We are afraid because we believe others might do to us what we have done to them.

Do you ever wonder what the world would be like if there were no secrets? Maybe we should begin to think about it, about how secrets relate to violence, and how truth might indeed set us free.

On finding the power to forgive

All of us suffer from incidences when we believe someone has deceived or manipulated us or blatantly worked to cause us disappointment or otherwise complicated our life. Whether intentional or not, these kind of actions are painful and we resent the unexpected effort and resources that must be expended and adjustments that must be made in order to live through these disruptions. And our resentment extends to include the person who we believe is guilty of inflicting this disturbance on us.

Finding a way to forgive the person who has been the cause of our sorrow can be an extremely challenging search. The first response to this kind of proceeding is to opt for revenge, to find a way to cause the other person at least as much suffering as we have experienced. Ancient communities have given us examples of ways that have been used to monitor these acts of revenge. Most often there has been some sort of limitation imposed on how much suffering can legally be returned for a violation. Without this restriction acts of revenge tended to be excessive, going far beyond the level of suffering inflicted in the initial incident.

Yet in almost all of these historical examples there has been the sense that revenge is not only permitted but also obliged. Retaliation was considered a method of curbing violations toward members of the community. Without acts of revenge leaders believed persons would be more likely to inflict pain and suffering on each other. And there was a strong feeling that in order to preserve the honor of a family or clan relatives of the person violated had no other alternative than to retaliate.

The need to act on the impulse for revenge and retaliate can be carried out immediately. Or resentment can be internalized for months or even years while one waits for what seems to be the right moment to arrive. And sometimes the desire for revenge can continue for a lifetime and never be resolved, perhaps due to the death of the person toward whom the resentment is directed. In every case carrying the need to retaliate requires one to expend much energy and attention. This component of revenge diverts these personal capacities away from other projects and ambitions.

A few historical examples offer to us another kind of response to abuse, one that does not involve perpetuating violence. There are occasions when someone who had been violated elected to do nothing, to passively absorb the abuse and move on. By avoiding any confrontation either by retreating or moving away, the incident was never addressed. This perhaps is the most difficult option to manage, to continue with life as though the violation never occurred, to interpret the incident as another event in the experience of life in the earth. Letting go of all the disturbance caused by the consequences of a violation and focusing on personal reasons for living is a possible option. Although this response is completely effective, it is very rare. This kind of power is generally inconceivable to observers. Usually anyone opting to follow this course is considered to be either coward or severely depressed.

Another way for a person to respond to the abuse caused by someone without resorting to violence is to forgive the person. Forgiveness is a difficult concept to understand and even more difficult to practice. All of us have heard stories that involve forgiveness and each one of us may have tried to forgive someone. Yet those who have attempted this response have learned through the process that some adjustment is necessary if we are to completely let go of resentment and the urge to retaliate. The results of an act of abuse can never be totally erased. No response can completely eliminate the residue that remains following an act that has caused someone to suffer. The consequence of the abuse remains and it must be managed.

Probably the best way to begin to move toward finding a way to forgive someone is to determine what value has been lost because of the abuse suffered. The difficulty in forgiving someone is directly proportional to the degree of loss one has suffered. Value can be applied to many things. Maybe the loss is a measure of self-confidence that produces embarrassment and shame. Maybe the loss will involve additional resources needed to repair the damage. Maybe more labor will be necessary to accommodate the loss. Maybe the loss is more substantial; maybe one’s health or physical ability has been permanently impaired, maybe the abuse has caused the death of someone. Determining the degree of loss a person has suffered is a critical first step toward finding a way to forgive.

The next helpful proceeding is to recognize that no one has control over another person. None of us can choose what another person will do or direct what another person must do. Those of us who have been under the total authority of someone else know that some decisions can never be taken away. Under any condition, even the most bleak and desperate, a person still has some control over their attitude and actions. Regardless of a person’s circumstances all of their capacity to choose cannot be taken away.

Knowing this not only enables us to understand that we will always be subject to the abusive behaviors of others but also allows us individually to determine how we will respond. Maybe someone will intentionally assault us; maybe someone will do something without even recognizing that it is an abusive action toward us, and there is nothing we can do to prevent it. Either way we will feel real pain and will have to find a way to manage this suffering.

Although another person can never control us, an act of abuse can take control of our attitude and actions if we choose to let it even though everyone knows that acts of revenge never erase the consequences of abuse. The loss caused by abuse leaves a vacuum in a life and this must be addressed. The question that surfaces for someone who has been abused is, ‘What do I want to do with my life? Do I want to commit myself to seek and find revenge so someone else will suffer or do I want to give myself to something that will work to console my spirit and my heart?

Whenever an aggressor who has performed an abusive action repents–sincerely apologizes for the wrong that has been done–responding with forgiveness is made easier. For some mysterious reason, when a person who has assaulted someone else repents of the action a feeling of relief and healing is created. Often this singular condition is enough to enable the violated person to move beyond the urge to retaliate. Knowing that the aggressor sees the painful result of the action and holds regret for having misbehaved brings with it an energy that honors and affirms the individual worth of the one injured

However not all persons who perform abusive behaviors repent of the action. This makes the act of forgiveness more difficult. The sense of loss and the feeling of having been violated has no external aid to help appease this sorrow. All the work of finding a way to forgive must be accomplished solely by the person having been violated. It is in this process that the power to forgive is most difficult to attain.

Some people say that true forgiveness will enable a person to act as though the violation never occurred. Yet because the consequences of abuse can never be erased acting as though the violation never happened is to ignore the reality created by these consequences. Therefore the benefit of forgiveness is to enable the person violated to move ahead within this reality in spite of the disruptions that may persist following an abusive act. Thus, if the goal of forgiveness is not forgetting but effectively processing the violation, then the burden of finding a way to forgive is not as difficult as it may first appear.

Forgiveness means refusing to blame someone else for the way your life is unfolding. Others will certainly influence what happens to you. They may do things that complicate your life, cause it to move in directions you would never choose. But others do not compose your life. This is your prerogative. No matter what happens to you, regardless of how much others abuse you, you still can decide how you will live, what your life in the earth will be about.

Whenever you find the power to stop blaming others for your circumstances then you have found the power to forgive.

On the discovery of truth

Human experience in the earth conditions the individual to discover truth. The quest for truth is the highest innate human occupation. Human existence makes possible a profound discovery which cannot be avoided. In the span of one’s life every person will discover truth.

Two essential components compose the discovery of truth: meaning and purpose. Meaning originates in an incidence when the self is invested in an act that derives its reason from an intention beyond a fulfillment of pleasure or even a search for mutual benefit. There are occasions when friendship or basic respect prompts acts of mercy and support. However for meaning to become a component of the action another more foundational dynamic must be occurring.

For an act to have meaning there must be a kind of reverence associated with the act–a feeling of oneness, a spiritual participation in the welfare of those being affected by the action.

On the level of private personal acts, meaning naturally arises from the capacity of love to orchestrate the uninhibited sharing of reactions–reactions that are designed by both desire and regulation: longing for unity and recognition of restriction.

Meaning relates to purpose because the origination of meaning depends upon pure intention–the endeavor to honor the highest good, both for the self and for the others. And the highest good is the acknowledgement of truth, not a false truth that fashions behaviors generated by the expectations of others and the fear of consequences, but behaviors that embrace the truth of the heart–truth communicated through behaviors fashioned by intentions designed by both desire and regulation.

Finding a way to express truth of the heart–desire, that does not infringe upon responsibility–regulation, is the prerequisite for living a fulfilling life–a life characterized by meaning and purpose. And a fulfilling life is the true potential for the experience of human life in the earth.

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