The Fear in Our Living

The Fear in Our Living

2019.08.06.

 

We live in troubling times.  I wish I could tell you this is a quote from some book written in medieval times but actually, it is a thought from almost every age of humankind.  I recently saw a post on Facebook that stated:  “Monsters are real and they look like everyday people.  They look like us.”

 

“We have this need for some larger-than-life creature.”  It may seem a bit ironic that one of the leading authors of a book on a giant, human-like mythological creature that may be real is actually an expert on much smaller animals.  Robert Michael Pyle studies moths and butterflies and writes about them but in 1995 he also penned a book about the supposed primate known, among other names, as Yeti, Bigfoot, or Sasquatch.

 

The giants in the American Indian folklore are as varied as the different tribes themselves.  It is important to remember that although they are grouped together much like the term European, the designation of American Indian applies to many tribes, most of which are now extinct.  Many millions of Americans over the past two hundred years could and should claim American Indian ancestry.  The story of Bigfoot is the story of their ancestral mythical creature.

 

The Bigfoot phenomenon is proof that there is a real place for mythologies in the present day.  The past several years saw people viewing a popular television program, “Finding Bigfoot” which aired on the Animal Planet network as well as being replayed via internet formats.  A group of four traveled the world, speaking and exploring the myths about a large, here-to-fore undocumented bipedal primate thought to be a link between the great apes and Homo sapiens.   One member of this group was a female naturalist and botanist but the other three were educated men in other disciplines.  To date, the three men have yet to convince their female scientist companion of the existence of the myth known as Bigfoot although she has dedicated several years of her life to searching for something she claims not to believe exists.

 

Even the more popular terms are modern additions to the myth.   A photograph allegedly taken by Eric Shipton was published with Shipton describing the footprint as one from a Yeti, a mythological creature much like a giant snowman said to inhabit the mountains of Nepal.  Several years another set of footprints was photographed in California and published in a local newspaper.  This time the animal was described as “Bigfoot” and a legend dating back to the earliest settlers in North America had been reborn.  The interest in such photographs is proof of the opening quote of today’s post.

 

The Lummi tribe called their giant ape/man mythological character Ts’emekwes and the descriptions of the character’s preferred diet and activities varied within the tribal culture.   Children were warned of the stiyaha or kwi-kwiyai who were said to roam at night and steal children.  There were also stories of the skoocooms, a giant race which lived on Mount St. Helens and were cannibalistic.  The skoocooms were given supernatural powers and status.  A Canadian reporter also reported on such stories and he used a term from the Halkomalem and named the creature “sasq’ets” or Sasquatch.   Rather than to be feared, though, some tribes translated this name to mean “benign-faced one.”

 

Mythologies of such giant creatures can be found on six of the seven continents and if mankind had been able to survive on Antarctica for thousands of years, there would probably be some from there as well.  We do seem to need to believe in something larger than life, as our mythologies bear witness.  What if there was proof of these creatures?  What if they really did exist and perhaps still do?

 

The Paiute Indians, an American Indian tribe from the regions between the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains also had folklore of such a character.  Their legends tell of a tribe of red-haired giants called Sai’i.  After one such giant gave birth to a disfigured child who was shunned by the tribe, The Paiute believed the Great Spirit of All made their land and living conditions barren and desolate as punishment.  Enemies were then able to conquer the tribe and kill all but two – Paiute and his wife and their skin turned brown from living in such harsh conditions. 

 

In 1911 miners working Nevada’s Lovelock Cave discussed not the guano or bat droppings for which they were searching but bones they claimed were from giants.  Nearby reddish hair was found and many believed the remains were those of the Sai’i or Si-Te-Cah as they were also called.  However, some like Adrienne Mayor in her book “Legends of the First Americans” believe these bones and others found nearby are simply untrained eyes not realizing what they are seeing.   A tall man could have bones that would seem large and hair pigment is not stable and often changes color based upon the conditions in which it is found.  Even black hair can turn reddish or orange given the right mineral composition in the soil in which it is found.

 

What the mythologies of the world tell us is that mankind needs to believe in something. In ‘The Magic of Thinking Big”, David Schwartz writes:  “Believe it can be done. When you believe something can be done, really believe, your mind will find the ways to do it. Believing a solution paves the way to solution.”   

 

Maybe you believe in the yeti or Sasquatch and maybe you believe in the disproof of them.  We create giants in our own minds every day – those problems that seem insurmountable or the dreams that seem impossible.  The only Bigfoot that matters is that one foot that takes a big step towards progress, towards peace, a step taken with hope.  The dawn of a new day requires us to take a step forward.  If we believe in ourselves, that step will have purpose and accomplishment.  The longest journey really does begin with a single step.

 

The best thing to believe in is you.  Let yourself be your creature to believe in today.  Walk away from fear and into your bright future, a future in which you believe you can do anything.  The reality is you can do whatever you set your mind to doing.  Turn your fears into lessons and steps toward success.  We are the solution to our own fear and I do not mean we combat it by entering into warfare with others.  We do it by realizing our own potential.  The only true enemy is our fear.  Believe in yourself.  You are amazing!

The Panorama of Fear

The Panorama of Fear

Creating a Legacy

2019.08.05

 

“We and all creation reflect the image and nature of God the Divine Artist. Creativity, the ability to make or think new things, is of God’s essence. Creativity reflects God.”  These words of Br. Luke Ditewig sounded so wonderful to me the first time I heard them.  It was during a sermon and I was an impressionable teen-ager.  Suddenly from the pew behind me I heard a very gruff whisper.  “Oh yeah?  Then how do you explain heavy metal music?”  The elderly gentleman’s wife saw my shoulders move as I tried to stifle my chuckle.  After the service she turned to her husband and gave his shoulder a marvelously targeted punch:  “Maybe heavy metal music is what God sounds like when he’s mad,” she replied and then winked at me.

 

Recently a young child was asked how God sounded when mad.  I remember being told as a child that thunder was just the angels playing ball or perhaps yelling at each other.  I expected this child to say something similar.  Instead, with a great deal of confidence, this child loudly proclaimed that the sound of gunfire was the sound of an angry God. 

 

Every day we all create our life and our legacy.  It is up to us to have opinions and act upon them.  We have brains and we, hopefully, think so we are going to have an opinion.  IT is also up to us to make sure that those opinions and actions are creating a positive future, though, and that does not always happen.  We have stopped the dialogue of creativity and have become critics instead.

 

We are all critics.  Seriously.  If we are to be honest, we really are all critics.  Everyone knows what they like and what they do not like.  We also all want to matter.  All lives do matter; it is not a new concept.  However, history seems to have forgotten how to record and address the critics.  Instead we have tried to sweep them under the carpet.  History tells us that people are not so easily silenced.  The creative arts are also evidence of this.  It may seem that the artist owes his/her audience something delightful but the truth is…What the artist owes the world is an honest reflection of the moment in time they are capturing.

 

Any creative work is a dialogue between the artist and the audience member and no two audience members are going to hear the exact same dialogue.  Criticism is also dialogue and an important form of feedback that the artist should not ignore.  First, if someone takes the time to critique you, they are honoring the time you spent creating.  Negative critiques do not seem like a compliment but they are.  They also offer a chance to evaluate your work.  Not every critic is going to understand your intent or perhaps the meaning of your work.  Not every critique needs to be followed but they should be given respect and heard.

 

The language one uses in response to criticism is vitally important. Never engage in an argument. Instead, turn the exchange into a discussion about how to resolve the differences or what was unclear.  Most create because we have a burning need inside to let that creativity out.  However, we do need the audience, the viewer, that person who listens to what we are trying to say in whatever form we are creating.

 

“The Critic as Artist” is an essay by Oscar Wilde, containing the most extensive statements of his aesthetic philosophy. A dialogue in two parts, it is by far the longest one included in his collection of essays titled Intentions published in May 1891. “The Critic as Artist” is a significantly revised version of articles that first appeared in the July and September issues of The Nineteenth Century, originally entitled “The True Function and Value of Criticism.” The essay is a conversation between its leading voice Gilbert and Ernest, who suggests ideas for Gilbert to reject. 

 

Through the title, Wilde explores the fact that even a critic is an artist and the critique is in itself a creative art form.  The essay champions contemplative life to the life of action. According to Gilbert, scientific principle of heredity shows we are never less free, never have more illusions than when we try to act with some conscious aim in mind. Critical contemplation is guided by conscious aesthetic sense as well as by the soul.

 

The soul is wiser than we are, writes Wilde, it is the concentrated racial experience revealed by the imagination. Criticism is above reason, sincerity and fairness; it is necessarily subjective. It is increasingly more to criticism than to creation that future belongs as its subject matter and the need to impose form on chaos constantly increases. It is criticism rather than emotional sympathies, abstract ethics or commercial advantages that would make us cosmopolitan and serve as the basis of peace.

 

“Critics don’t help you at all, they are not better than a randomly-picked person,” says Dr. Pascal Wallisch, a psychologist at New York University.  A 2017 study by Wallisch and perception researcher Jake Alden Whritner found that our taste in movies is highly idiosyncratic — they’re peculiar to an individual. Their paper, entitled ‘Strikingly Low Agreement in the Appraisal of Motion Pictures’, also revealed that our preferences are often at odds with those of film critics.  Wallisch and Whritner gave almost 3000 people a list of over 200 popular films — major motion pictures released from 1985 to 2004 (including some in the Star Wars series). The data was collected over 10 years (2005-2015) via an online survey where participants were asked to rate every film they had seen and give each movie a star rating on a scale of 0 to 4 stars.

 

The scientists compared everyone’s scores with everyone else’s in a pairwise manner, compared people to 29 professional film critics (like Roger Ebert) and compared individual scores from those groups with aggregated sources of reviews, including Rotten Tomatoes and the Internet Movie Database (IMDb).  As reported earlier this year in Forbes, “Prior to our research, what was shown is that critics agree highly, but no-one’s ever looked at how critics correlate with regular people,” says Wallisch. “What was relatively unusual is that the average rating between critics and movie-goers was so different. This is the only research that actually shows scientifically that critics and people don’t agree.”

 

In a 2014 New York Times article James Parker answered that age-old question “Should we respond to our critics?”  Parker’s answer was succinct and to the point.  “No. … Getting a bad review is no longer an elite experience. We’ve all been trolled, oafed, flambéed in some thread somewhere.”  He continues:  “Sometimes you are the pigeon,” Claude Chabrol said, “and sometimes you are the statue.” Wonderful, Gitane-flavored words. But we are not statues — we are not made of stone. Anointed with guano, do we not feel it? And right now everybody feels it. Getting a bad review is no longer an elite experience. Writers and non-writers, mandarins and proles, we’ve all been trolled, oafed, flambéed in some thread somewhere, at the bottom of some page. Scroll down, scroll down, take that Orphic trip into the underworld of the comments section, and there they are — the people who really object to you. Their indignation, their vituperation, is astonishing. It seems to predate you somehow, as if they have known and despised you in several former existences. You read their words and your body twitches with malign electricity. You must get out of this place immediately, run toward the light. Let the dead bury their dead. And don’t look back — because if you do, like Orpheus, you’ll lose what you love the most.”

 

The critique is a reflection of the moment in which it was given, nothing more.  In his memoir, “Prince Charming,” the great poet Christopher Logue, in mellow old age, speaks of diving into “a chocolate-liqueur box filled with dated clippings of every review that my books, plays or radio programs had received since 1953.” It is there that he made a discovery: “How differently they read now. At the time, oh, the complaining: That fellow failed to praise me for this, this fellow blamed me for that. . . .”   Now, Logue has a different perspective: “How fair-minded their words appeared, how sensible their suggestions for my improvement.”

 

This blog is a creative work and, like all other creative works, merely a reflection of the moment in which it was written.   Today, August 5, 2019, is a reflection of thirty-six hours of death, the death of innocent people, creative souls in their own right.  It has been thirty-six hours of sorrow and disbelief, a panorama painted with blood and fear, based upon hatred.   I do not know what lessons we will learn from these events of El Paso and Dayton.  Later this week we celebrate the second anniversary of a similar event in Charlottesville.  It would seem we have learned little and yet…  Dialogues have been created and our legacy from these events is one of continued effort. 

 

All the minutes we live and survive are creative efforts.  To honor those who died and to give faith to all still living means we must carry on and have hope.  Acceptance, faith, and hope are the steppingstones of the past that lead to a productive future.  We and we alone will create the legacy of today.  I pray it is one of joy and generosity and kindness to all. 

Creating Fear

Creating Fear

2018.10.31

The Creative Soul – Pentecost 2018

 

 

“We have this need for some larger-than-life creature.”  It may seem a bit ironic that one of the leading authors of a book on a giant, human-like mythological creature that may be real is actually an expert on much smaller animals that are real.  Robert Michael Pyle studies moths and butterflies and writes about them but in 1995 he also penned a book about the supposed primate known, among other names, as Yeti, Bigfoot, or Sasquatch.

 

The giants in American Indian folklore are as varied as the different tribes themselves.  It is important to remember that although they are grouped together much like the term European, the designation of American Indian applies to many tribes, most of which are now extinct.  Many millions of Americans over the past two hundred years could and should claim American Indian ancestry.  The story of Bigfoot is the story of their ancestral mythical creature.

 

The Bigfoot phenomenon is proof that there is a real place for mythologies in the present day.  The past several years saw people viewing a popular television program, “Finding Bigfoot” which aired on the Animal Planet network as well as being replayed via internet formats.  A group of four traveled the world, speaking and exploring the myths about a large, here-to-fore undocumented bipedal primate thought to be a link between the great apes and Homo sapiens.   One member of this group was a female naturalist and botanist but the other three were educated men in other disciplines.  To date, the three men have yet to convince their female scientist companion of the existence of the myth known as Bigfoot although she has dedicated several years of her life to searching for something she claims not to believe exists.

 

Even the more popular terms are modern additions to the myth.   A photograph allegedly taken by Eric Shipton was published with Shipton describing the footprint as one from a Yeti, a mythological creature much like a giant snowman said to inhabit the mountains of Nepal.  Several years another set of footprints was photographed in California and published in a local newspaper.  This time the animal was described as “Bigfoot” and a legend dating back to the earliest settlers in North America had been reborn.  The interest in such photographs is proof of the opening quote of today’s post.

 

The Lummi tribe called their giant ape/man mythological character Ts’emekwes and the descriptions of the character’s preferred diet and activities varied within the tribal culture.   Children were warned of the stiyaha or kwi-kwiyai who were said to roam at night and steal children.  There were also stories of the skoocooms, a giant race which lived on Mount St. Helens and were cannibalistic.  The skoocooms were given supernatural powers and status.  A Canadian reporter also reported on such stories and he used a term from the Halkomalem and named the creature “sasq’ets” or Sasquatch.   Rather than to be feared, though, some tribes translated this name to mean “benign-faced one.”

 

Mythologies of such giant creatures can be found on six of the seven continents and if mankind had been able to survive on Antarctica for thousands of years, there would probably be some from there as well.  We do seem to need to believe in something larger than life, as our mythologies bear witness.  What if there was proof of these creatures?  What if they really did exist and perhaps still do?

 

The Paiute Indians, an American Indian tribe from the regions between the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains also had folklore of such a character.  Their legends tell of a tribe of red-haired giants called Sai’i.  After one such giant gave birth to a disfigured child who was shunned by the tribe, The Paiute believed the Great Spirit of All made their land and living conditions barren and desolate as punishment.  Enemies were then able to conquer the tribe and kill all but two – Paiute and his wife and their skin turned brown from living in such harsh conditions. 

 

In 1911 miners working Nevada’s Lovelock Cave discussed not the guano or bat droppings for which they were searching but bones they claimed were from giants.  Nearby reddish hair was found and many believed the remains were those of the Sai’i or Si-Te-Cah as they were also called.  However, some like Adrienne Mayor in her book “Legends of the First Americans” believe these bones and others found nearby are simply untrained eyes not realizing what they are seeing.   A tall man could have bones that would seem large and hair pigment is not stable and often changes color based upon the conditions in which it is found.  Even black hair can turn reddish or orange given the right mineral composition in the soil in which it is found.

 

What the mythologies of the world tell us is that mankind needs to believe in something. In ‘The Magic of Thinking Big”, David Schwartz writes:  “Believe it can be done. When you believe something can be done, really believe, your mind will find the ways to do it. Believing a solution paves the way to solution.”   

 

Maybe you believe in the yeti or Sasquatch and maybe you believe in the disproof of them.  We create giants in our own minds every day – those problems that seem insurmountable or the dreams that seem impossible.  The only Bigfoot that matters is that one foot that takes a big step towards progress, towards peace, a step taken with hope.  The dawn of a new day requires us to take a step forward.  If we believe in ourselves, that step will have purpose and accomplishment.  The longest journey really does begin with a single step.

 

In the past week, the United States has seen great tragedy.  The monster currently at foot is the monster of fear derived from a created hatred.  Words spoken without thorough thought as to how they could be perceived and the aftermath of these words having been heard and misinterpreted are in part responsible for creating such hatred.  We have created a bogeyman, a monster that exists not in fact but as a result of our own insecurities.  The ego might want quantity of followers but the world needs us to be sincere and in communion with each other.

 

The best thing to believe in is you.  Let yourself be your creature to believe in today.  Walk away from fear and into your bright future, a future in which you believe you can do anything.  The reality is you can do whatever you set your mind to doing.  Turn your fears into lessons and steps toward success.  Believe in yourself.  You are amazing!  The world is waiting for us to create a better tomorrow.

Herd Mentality

Herd Mentality

Lent 35-36

 

Fear is a part of life.  After all, life is messy.  What we can take from the eight beatitudes is that fear can motivate; fear can inspire; fear can teach.  Benjamin Franklin once said “tell me and I forget.  Teach me and I remember.  Involves me and I learn.”  The Beatitudes say the same thing.  We fail to learn when we let fear become our compass.

 

Bertrand Russell believed “neither a man not a crowd not a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear.”  Russell was the winner of the 1952 Nobel Prize for Literature for “recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he campoins humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought.”

 

When we allow fear to guide us, then we fall into what is known as herd mentality.  Quoting Russell again – “collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.”

 

Men and women are pack animals.  We live in social groups and this are conditioned to accept the direction of the herd as absolute and right.  If we fail to really think for ourselves and let fear push us, then we have given up a big part of our living and the direction it will take.

 

There is a lesson to be learned in all aspects of our life.  The Beatitudes offer the promise of this.  They encourage us to consider what we ourselves know to be true and not to follow the herd.  We must strive to avoid pack mentality as well.  The tendency for people to act together without a planned direction detracts from individual responsibility.  In time this restricts needed social change.

 

Life has many features.  Some of life’s aspects include grief, discord, insecurity, and accusation.  Others reflect truth, peace, fulfillment, and mercy.  So how do we learn from the positive and resist fearing the negative?  How do we let the Beatitudes teach us and dissuade us from herd mentality?  How do we take life’s varied events, both good and bad, and not give in to the resulting and natural fear that arises? 

 

The mega hit “I Was Born This Way”, written by Stefani Germanotta who also sings this track and is better known as Lady Gaga, along with Jeppe Laursen, Fernando Garibay, and Paul Blair, offers us some sage advice in answering these question.  “Give yourself prudence and love your friends.  In the religion of the insecure, … [You] must be  [yourself], respect [your] youth.  Don’t hide yourself in regret.  Just love yourself and you’re set.”

Imagine

Imagine

Epiphany

 

I really want to write about imagery but since we are focusing on verbs and action this Epiphany season, I elected a verb form of the word family.  Then I realized that that word  “imagine” was really want I wanted to discuss.

 

There are purportedly seven major types of imagery, each corresponding to a sense, feeling, or action.  These include visual imagery which pertains to graphics, visual scenes, pictures, or the sense of sight.  Then there is auditory imagery, a form of mental imagery that is used to organize and analyze sounds when there is no external auditory stimulus present. This form of imagery is broken up into a couple of auditory modalities such as verbal imagery or musical imagery.   It also includes the imagery of onomatopoeia, using sounds or words about sounds to evoke images of such things that create those noises.  Olfactory imagery pertains to odors, scents, or the sense of smell and the less known gustatory imagery pertains to flavors or the sense of taste.  Tactile imagery pertains to physical textures or the sense of touch while the lesser known kinesthetic imagery pertains to movements or the sense of bodily motion. 

 

Finally there is organic imagery or subjective imagery which pertains to personal experiences of a character’s body, including emotion and the senses of hunger, thirst, fatigue, and pain.  It is this last type of imagery that often poses the greatest threat to us because it can also raise an awareness of fear.  Recently, over the past eighteen months, this type of imagery has been most prevalent worldwide.  Fear is defined by the website and magazine Psychology Today as “a vital response to physical and emotional danger—if we didn’t feel it, we couldn’t protect ourselves from legitimate threats.”

 

Laughter is also a response.  Psychology Today says this about laughter:  “Laughter just might be the most contagious of all emotional experiences. What’s more, it is a full-on collaboration between mind and body. Although laughter is one of the distinguishing features of human beings, little is known about the mechanisms behind it.  Scientists do know that laughter is a highly sophisticated social signaling system, helping people bond and even negotiate. Interestingly, most social laughter does not result from any obvious joke.”  Laughter is also beneficial, as is fear.  Laughter “has numerous health benefits: It releases tension, lowers anxiety, boosts the immune system, and aids circulation.”

 

So today I am asking you to imagine both fear and laughter.  Both are vital responses necessary to the human condition and yet, while they seem very far apart, both serve essential functions.  Carl Sagan, though, reminds us to be certain of that which we consider fearful as well as that which makes us laugh.  “But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”

 

In other words, just because we laugh does not mean something is great.  While Columbus, Fulton, and the Wright Brothers proved themselves to be correct, the laughter they received had little to do with their success.  Their actions were backed by just that – real action.

 

We need to make sure that those things which create fear are also real.  Recent news stories have been built upon fiction, not fact.  Certainly there is shame to be heaped upon those who fabricate such false stories, attempting to engage our imaginations and create fear, but there is also shame on those who readily accept such rather than taking a few moments to fully imagine what might be truth.

 

What if we stopped trying to create fear and simply lived today in the best possible way we could, not worrying or being fearful… just being as productive as possible?  Imagine that, as John Lennon did, please.  “Imagine there’s no heaven.  It’s easy if you try – no hell below us, above us only sky.  Imagine all the people living for today.  Imagine there’s no countries.  It isn’t hard to do; nothing to kill or die for and no religion too. 

 

Imagine all the people living life in peace.  You may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one.  I hope someday you’ll join us and the world will be as one.  Imagine no possessions.  I wonder if you can; no need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man.  Imagine all the people sharing all the world.  You may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one.  I hope someday you’ll join us and the world will be as one.

Fear… and Trust

Fear … and Trust

Epiphany 24

 

Atheists claim that most religion is based upon fear.  Psychologists see fear as a deterrent in keeping us from understanding ourselves and our neighbors.  Fear serves a purpose but that purpose is to keep us alive, not make us crawl into a hole and never come out.  Much like studying history, we can learn a great deal if we analyze our fear.

 

I consider myself a religious person.  For me, my religion is not just a compass by which I live but is the core of my spirituality.  Many see religion as being in competition with spirituality but for me, if one lives both as completely as possible, they go hand in hand.  Religion may give me an outline with which to live and perhaps some reasons for doing so but it is the spiritual connection I have with that outline that give its meaning and purpose.  My fears do much the same for me…when they are based upon reality and not imagination or ego. 

 

University of Massachusetts-Boston economist Julie Nelson argues that the experience of fear has become highly gendered, a problem that she applies to theory and practice in the field of economics. Men learn to fear because they associate such emotions with a dangerous lack of control over the self and world. In her words, “Since bodies are far more vulnerable, mortal, and messy than the pure Cartesian cogito, contemplation of the feminine-associated aspects of human life may create anxiety”.   To avoid this, men gravitate away from the emotional world of fear and anxiety toward a more analytical and objective one in which logic rules over feelings.  The danger of fearing fear, Nelson suggests, is that in their economic thinking, men prefer not to seem “risk averse.” It’s permissible, in this societal context, for women to base their decisions on the fear of negative outcomes, but men who do so may be perceived as weak or unmanly. When economic markets develop around men’s desire not to look risk averse, those markets become more likely to crash and burn, as happened in the late 2000’s.

 

Susan Krauss Whitbourne is a Psychologist who offers some sound advice when it comes to dealing with our fears.  “Separate your own insecurities from the actual threats that the people in your life present to you. Not only will you feel better, but your relationships with those people will benefit, as well.”   All too often the perceived threats that create our fear are just our own insecurities rearing up.

 

I can promise you that no one living in a bombed out hole in Syria has kept you from advancing in your workplace.  They are too busy trying to stay alive.  No one proclaiming bombs are the tools of Allah is quoting the Quran correctly either.  I am not an Islamic scholar but Islam is not a religion of fear.  Neither is Judaism or Christianity.  As we read in yesterday’s blog post, all three proclaim we are to love our neighbors and not fear them.  They also define neighbor as pretty much every other living, breathing human being on the planet.

 

When we build relationships, trust grows.  Trust is the anecdote to fear.  The key is to take the time and invest on those relationships.  Fear may seem to keep you alive for the short-term but trust is the key to longevity.  In 1967 a television host named Fred Rodgers wrote a song he used in the opening of his children’s program.  “It’s a neighborly day in this beautywood, a neighborly day for a beauty, would you be mine? Could you be mine?  I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you; I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.  So let’s make the most of this beautiful day, since we’re together, we might as well say, would you be mine? Could you be mine? Won’t you be my neighbor? “

 

Fear is not a productive way to live and over the long-term serves no real purpose.  Trusting each other, however, is the key to not only good relationships but building a better world.  We really are all neighbors.  It is time to stop fearing and start living with trust.

 

 

 

Voyeur

Voyeurs

Advent 10

 

Got your attention with that title, huh?  In a blog that is dedicated to discussing all things spiritual and religious, whose intent is to get you and me thinking, to put new ideas and perhaps more complete thoughts into my and your heads (hence the blog website name “n2 my head”), you are probably wondering where voyeurism would it, right?

 

We generally think of the word voyeur as a sexual term.  Truth is the word literally means “to see”.  This series during Advent we are discussing grace and during the here and now of the second week of Advent. We are using the empirical approach, borrowed from the study of probabilities, to discuss the concept of grace.  The empirical approach is one based upon observation.  Ah…. Now the use of the word voyeur is starting to make sense, isn’t it?

 

The year 2015 was a very busy year as far as news stories went.  There were the bombings in France; refugees running for their lives in Syria to escape the Islamic State; terrorist activities in other countries including the United States; civilians versus law enforcement agencies, especially in the United States; the legalization of gay marriage in several countries, these actions causing great dissension and fervor in many including religious groups within the United States; a political contest for the highest elected position in the United States which included a candidate whose only real experience for such a position was firing people on his reality show.  Using an empirical approach, where would you think to look for grace in 2015?

 

The easiest, most popular, and most reliable way to observe those moments of grace that occurred in 2015 would be to ask what were the most shared stories and videos on Facebook during that timeframe.  The list in the above paragraph is not conclusive but it does mention some pretty high profile news stories.  Which of those do you think made the list of the most shared, viewed, and received posts on Facebook?  The answer is none of them.  From an empirical approach, none would make the list in our search for grace.

 

The year 2016 has also been fairly busy.  The elections in the United States had results that proved the popularity of reality television over actual experience.  Today TIME Magazine will announce their Person of the Year.  Both presidential candidates are on the short list but so are some pretty interesting choices.  One is a group known as the CRISPR Scientists.  They have developed a new technique that, hopefully, will enable us to locate and isolate the mutations responsible for incurable diseases.  Also on the list is Olympic American gymnast Simone Biles who rose from a very hard childhood to not let life defeat her.  Performer Beyoncé Knowles is another name, not for her singing and performing but for using such venues to speak out against racial injustice, police violence, and feminism.  There are other nominees, most political and yes, the list does include Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for the social media website amassing over one billion subscribers (As one, let me say “You’re welcome, Mark,”).

 

One’s political perspective will come into play as to whether or not you believe your candidate or world leader (The list includes those from India, Turkey, and Russia.) and if there is any grace to be had in their nominations and their actions that garnered them those nominations.   Some on the list, however, practically scream out “Grace!”

 

In 2015 the most shared and viewed posts on Facebook include actor Vin Diesel.  He made the top list of shared videos not once but twice, in fact.  Diesel playing with a puppy certainly speaks of grace towards animals but so did his video of him and a baby.  To see a tough guy connect with the joy of life that a baby represents is grace at its purest form and I for one am overjoyed that it touched so many.

 

The top Facebook post in 2015, according to the company CrowdTangle whose sole purpose is to socially analyze what we do on Facebook and then aid companies in using that for advertising, had 11.7 million interactions.  This means that this post was liked, shared, and/or had comments more than any one other single post.  The top ten list included recipes, life hacks or shortcuts, friends, parenting, and religion and all included videos or images.

 

The top Facebook in 2015 was that of a child with cancer, requesting a certain number of “likes”.  While this post might seem perfect for our attempt to find grace in an empirical manner, it also points out to why grace is in short demand nowadays.  In any one twenty=-four hour time period, they are at least ten new posts going up on Facebook about a sick child and many of these involve a child with cancer.  They tug at our heartstring and make us want to show grace to the child and their family. 

 

In 2014 a sick child with cancer was another popular Facebook post.  This time the picture was not of a child in a hospital bed but of a little girl in a cheerleading outfit standing in a field.  Her bald head was evidence that she had indeed undergone chemotherapy.  However, the picture was over six years old and used without the permission of even awareness of her parents.

 

Social media has become a huge opportunity for those involved in “like farming”.  Once we realize we have been victims of such, our hearts become hardened and we refuse to show grace… to anyone, whether in real life or on social media.  By using “like farming”, Facebook promoters will then take a page with thousands of likes and comments and, after stripping the page of its original content (and yes, they can do that), they will then use that page to promote something else, generally a product they get a commission for selling.  The new page can also be used to spread malware or software used to attach the Facebook user’s computer.  They can also be used for phishing, the act of trying to gather credit card numbers, passwords, or other personal information.

 

Because of these voyeurs, we no longer see the world through eyes of grace.  We suddenly start seeing with the lens of fear and suspicion and to arm ourselves against such, we stop showing grace.  Yesterday I posted a story about a certain Facebook page that was a hoax.  One of my friends commented back:  “I don’t believe that.”  Why?  Because the scammers had done a greatly sophisticated job and my friend is a kind soul.

 

We now are living in a world where it seems like being gracious to others makes us a target and opens us up to victimization.  I have no instant answer.  Let me clear on that.  I agree with those that think Facebook needs to devote more time and algorithms into insuring the validity of such posts.  We, though, as users also bear some responsibility and turning our back on humanity is never a good answer.

 

“The average user doesn’t know any better,” said Tim Senftt, founder of Facecrooks.com, a website that monitors scams and other illegal or unethical activity of Facebook.  In a CNN article in 2014 he explained:  “I think their [the Fb user] tells them it’s not true, but in the back of their minds, they think “What if it is true?  What does it hurt if I press like?’  We need to think before we hit anything, a button on a social media site, the give key on a charitable page, or another person.

 

Living the concept of grace does not mean doing any emotional thing that will make you feel better for a minute.  Whether you define grace in its most simplistic terms of kindness and beauty or in a theological concept of sanctifying or in a spiritual context of that which makes us all better, it needs to be an action with intention and intention never works unless some insight is applied.

 

We cannot go through life being afraid of one another because that means we would have to be afraid of ourselves.  We really are not much different, in spite of how the outside shell might appear.  As we have discussed many times in this blog over the past three years, only .02 percent of our chromosomes are really that different.  Those are the only things that affect our hair texture and color, the shape and size of our nose and lips and eyes, the hue of our skin.  In every other way, every human being is physically constructed the same. 

 

Our uniqueness comes from within, from how we live grace.  Open your eyes today and really view your world.  I think you will find those beautiful moments of grace within a child’s exploration of life and a puppy’s playful joy.  You will also see opportunity, not to fear but to live grace.  Embrace those moments and feel the grace that makes life beautiful.