THE CENTER FOR THIRD AGE NEWSLETTER – MARCH 2015
1. FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS
2. WHY DO WE THINK OUR KIDS ARE IN CONSTANT DANGER?
3. WHY KIDS NEED SPIRITUALITY
4. SURRENDER YOUR DATA
5. YOU CANNOT CAPTURE SILENCE, IT CAPTURES YOU
6. PRESENCE IN THE AGE OF PRODUCTIVITY
7. THIS MONTH’S LINKS
QUOTES OF THE MONTH – MAHATMA GANDHI & RUSSELL BRAND
“We think it is time that you recognized that you are masters in someone else’s home. Despite the best intentions of the best of you, you must, in the nature of things, humiliate us to control us. General Dyer is but an extreme example of the principle… it is time you left…”
“You don’t think we’re just going to walk out of India!”
“Yes. In the end, you will walk out. Because 100,000 Englishmen simply cannot control 350 million Indians, if those Indians refuse to cooperate.”
“A small minority cannot control an uncooperative majority, so they must be distracted, divided, tyrannized, or anesthetized into compliance. Gandhi dealt with the colonization of nations by nations; we deal now with the colonization of consciousness by corporations.”
1. FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS
April Greetings, Dear Friends…
Last month’s Musings included this poem:
“There’s A Hole In My Sidewalk:
Autobiography In Five Short Chapters”
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit … but,
my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.I get out immediately.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
I walk down another street.
Once again Third Age colleague Ronn has raised a illuminating point for me:
“As I re-read the Nelson chapters on the mistake of falling into a hole, I saw something missing that could make Frankl’s main point of needing a Statue of Responsibility to balance the existing Statue of Liberty. She described what most of us do in our daily lives – including how we take no responsibility except for that which comes with the personal freedom to walk around the hole and even avoid the street.
“I think these statements need to be added to her chapters to balance emphasize responsibility to community as well as to self:
“Chapter I – Tell the city engineering dept which street has a hole (our city has a special phone number now to report street problems);
“Chapter II – Tell the city manager the hole is still there;
“Chapter III – Tell neighbors about the problem and ask them to complain to city hall;
“Chapter IV – Organize a neighborhood group to attend a city council meeting to loudly complain about the hole;
“Chapter V – Organize a protest in front of city hall to tell them to fix the damn hole!
“Now that is a real lesson on mistakes we make!”
Ronn’s humorous idea helps me see even more deeply how differently we human beings come at life, and how we choose to emphasize responsibility different ways. Nelson’s poem is about taking ‘personal responsibility’ for our individual well-being; Ronn’s additions are about taking ‘community responsibility’ for the well-being of others. Clearly both have their place.
But what draws me to one and Ronn to the other?
“’Drugs and alcohol are not our problem, reality is our problem; drugs and alcohol are our solution to that problem.’ That’s a very smart way of putting it.” – Russell Brand
Brand attributes this quote to an anonymous “someone else, also a drunk,” and, in a nutshell, with Nelson’s poem, it expresses my Third Age understanding of how we, and life, seem to work:
The only problems we have occur in the realities we perceive, and all our solutions are attempted in response to those perceived problems. Change the perceptions and we change the problems and the solutions we attempt. To Brand and me, this is “a very smart way of putting it.”
Unless, of course, you actually believe your perceptions are “the truth” and in that case the holes you see are the only reality possible. But what if, as you are seeing and believing there really is a deep hole in the sidewalk (like worrying our kids are continually at risk – see #2), your sane, sensible friend walking with you neither sees nor believes there is such a hole – and therefore doesn’t fall in to ‘helicopter parenting’ like you do? What then?
Yes, there are holes almost everybody seems to see and fall into, such as stressing ourselves with irritation in traffic we can do nothing about. And there are also holes only some fall in, like allowing our stress to explode into road rage that endangers others and ourselves. But just because we avoid rage doesn’t mean accumulating irritation’s stress is part of normal, healthy living.
These perceptions of differing realities may explain how we can have such differing views on problems and their solutions. No hole, then no problem. But if a hole is real for me – one that endangers or stifles others – doesn’t this require BOTH a personal AND community responsibility to create a realistic solution?
I believe it does, but getting one hole filled doesn’t keep people from falling into another just like it. It is experiencing the shock of the fall and the pain of the recovery that motivates us to look for different paths to travel. And when we find them, of course we want to help others be motivated to find theirs as well.
That’s why we’re so inspired by people like Gandhi and Mother Teresa and Russell Brand who, no matter how many or how deep the holes they fell into, climbed out and, found other streets to walk down – and then devoted their lives to helping the rest of us understand how to find them, too.
That, for me, is how exercising personal freedom and experiencing its full consequences becomes community responsibility; not by protecting others from the experience of holes, but by helping them understand why they fell in and how to choose different streets to live on.
And this old man* thinks he’s finally learned how to do this. The technique is so simple and well-known – and yet very few know how to use it. That’s because it, like many simple and common solutions, it’s very, very hard to do at first.
How often have you heard, “Take a deep breath…” or “Count to ten…” or “Take a step back…” or “Ask WWJD (what would Jesus do)” or “Sleep on it…”? Or as Brother David of www.gratefulness.org puts it, “Try pausing right before and right after undertaking an action, like putting a key in a lock to open a door [or approaching a hole in the sidewalk…] Such pauses take a brief moment, yet they have the effect of decompressing time and centering you [so you’re able to see the holes and other paths available…]
What makes these wise and easy pausings so hard?
How we are seeing our reality – especially when emotion is involved – is the culprit. The times we most need to pause are when our perception forcefully tells us that ‘the problem’ is dangerous, urgent and must be dealt with immediately. These holes are best thought of as unconscious, emotional “hooks” that catch and reel us in before any rational processing kicks in. No wonder we fall in again and again…
This is because we don’t know how to use our emotional perceptions of dangerous realities – our stress – as the trigger to pause instead of act. Once we have learned the habit of using our stress as the signal to pause, life gets enormously safer, easier and delightful. And this can be learned in many ways. For those not drawn to meditation techniques, HeartMath and Mindful Living Programs offer scientific rationales, trainings and technologies that teach you how to recognize and utilize your stress signals beneficially.
To paraphrase Gandhi…
“We think it is time that We recognized that we can be masters in our own home…”
…and, per Brand, glimpse the problems we are seeking solutions for..
“We are living in a zoo, or more accurately a farm, our collective consciousness, our individual consciousness, has been hijacked by a power structure that needs us to remain atomized and disconnected. We want union, we want connection, we need it the way we need other forms of nutrition, and denied it we delve into the lower impulses for sanctuary. We have been segregated and severed, from each other and even from ourselves. We have been told that freedom is the ability to pursue our petty, trivial desires when true freedom is freedom from these petty, trivial desires.”
Much love, FW
*Just a few days ago, Donna and I were talking about birthdays as my 77th is coming up in June. I said, “I’ll be able to celebrate my 80th in just three years!” She went a bit pale and speechless. Finally, it an incredulous tone, she said, “My, god, I’m going to be married to an 80 year old…”
2. WHY ARE WE PARENTING AS IF OUR KIDS ARE IN CONSTANT DANGER?
BY LENORE SKENAZY, QUARTZ: A LITTLE PERSPECTIVE, APRIL 18, 2015
FW NOTE: Is every sentient life form exposed to dangers? Of course. Can we be protected from them all. Not a chance. Have we erred too much in direction of overprotecting our loved ones? Lenore makes a case that we have…
It’s a national story gone worldwide: the Meitiv children, ages 10 and 6, were picked up by cops in Silver Spring, Maryland, for the offense of walking home from the park on a sunny afternoon.
For those unfamiliar with this most recent incident, Silver Spring officers picked up the kids at about 5pm on Apr. 12 and held them in a police cruiser for two hours, after first promising to drive them home—three blocks away. At about seven, the cops finally drove the confused kids 10 miles to a “Crisis Center.” In the meantime, the parents, Danielle and Alexander Meitiv, were frantic: Where were their children?
They allege that no one bothered to call them—or allowed their kids to call—for hours. Even suspected criminals under arrest are generally allowed one phone call.
At 8pm, Child Protective Services finally let the Meitivs know they’d taken custody of the kids. And at 10:30pm, a mere five and a half hours after the kids were detained, the family was reunited.
Welcome to the land of the free—that is, unless authorities think you’re not parenting correctly.
The Meitivs are “Free-Range parents,” a species I have spent a long time championing and defending as founder of the book, blog and movement “Free-Range Kids.” Together, free range parents are dedicated to the idea that our kids deserve the same kind of independence we enjoyed as youngsters.
The Meitivs’s story makes me happy, outraged and then happy all over again. Happy, because the kids get some free time, outside. Outraged, because the parents have been labeled miscreants simply for not following them around every single second. Free range parents are dedicated to the idea that our kids deserve the same kind of independence we enjoyed as youngsters.
But then I am happy again, because the story has thrust this issue into the limelight, setting up a badly needed public debate.
There are plenty of people who think the Meitivs were wrong to trust a 10-year-old outside “alone” with his little sister. I just did a radio interview where the host asked, “But what if the 6-year-old has an asthma attack?” Earlier someone had asked, “What if someone tries to abduct the girl and the boy can’t fight him off?” I half-expected someone to say, “Lenore, what if there’s a tiger on the loose and it likes brother-sister combo platters? What then?”
I call this worst-first thinking: thinking up the worst possible scenario first and proceeding as if it’s likely to happen. This train of thought tends to rear its terrified head whenever anyone suggests that kids can be reasonably safe doing something on their own. For instance, a friend who told her mommy group that she’d left her 8-year-old at home for an hour while she went shopping was immediately castigated. “What if there’s a fire?” asked one mom in the room. Somehow, Americans have been trained to think that the more tragedies they can imagine, the more caring they are.
When my friend said her house has a fire alarm, another one of the moms said, “Well, what about an intruder?” When my friend said her house has a burglar alarm, a third mom suggested the boy might choke. This went on for a few more rounds, with the gist being, something bad could happen.
And to be fair, these paranoid moms had a point: something bad could happen. But if my friend had taken her son with her, he could have slipped on a grape at Wal-Mart and split open his head.
Somehow, Americans have been trained to think that the more tragedies they can imagine, the more caring they are. The free-range kids movement is just trying to bring back a little perspective that says: “Our kids are not in constant danger”—and we shouldn’t have to parent as if they are.
In the case of the Meitivs, today the kids are back home and the family is awaiting word from Child Protective Services as to their fate. Will the parents be found negligent? Abusive? Felonious for the crime of trusting their kids in an era when the crime rate is at a 50-year low, in a town recently voted—I kid you not—”The Most Caring Suburb in America“?
We await the state’s decision. And in the meantime, we are trying not to engage in worst-first thinking on the Meitivs’ behalf.
You can follow Lenore’s writing on her blog Free-Range Kids and on Twitter at @FreeRangeKids. We welcome you comments at email@example.com.
3. WHY KIDS NEED SPIRITUALITY
BY LISA MILLER, APRIL 16, 2015
FW NOTE: This is an important and disturbing challenge to all us parents and grandparents. How do we support our various levels of children’s needs for more than this materialist world offers? They get overwhelming ‘Mad Men’ brainwashing, but what about validation of their intuition that there is more than what we need to “render unto Caesar?
You are Jewish; your husband, a lapsed Catholic. Neither of you believes, much, in God, although occasionally you like to meditate and you both would go hiking more if you could. You’ve had those moments — who hasn’t? — on mountaintops or in art museums or even in prayer when you’ve felt that overwhelming sense of bigness and smallness all at once, the awesomeness of existence, the miracle and fragility of being human. But it’s easy to switch the channel. Life — work, TV, an alluring new bar — intervenes and all that reverence dissipates.
And then you have kids. And that existential shoulder shrug becomes a way of life because … What are you going to do? Entrust an unknown priest or rabbi to teach your children things you’re not sure you believe yourself? Besides, there’s soccer and birthday parties and brunch. But this spiritual apathy nags at you. This isn’t how you (or your parents and grandparents) were raised. And a tiny voice inside you insists on wondering whether you shouldn’t be teaching your kids something about the importance of holiness.
Now a new book by Columbia University psychologist Lisa Miller (no relation) commands that parents heed that little voice. The Spiritual Child: The New Science on Parenting for Health and Lifelong Thriving is an exhaustive and compelling compendium of recent psychological and neurological research, all of which points in the same direction: Children who are raised with a robust and well-developed spiritual life are happier, more optimistic, more thriving, more flexible, and better equipped to deal with life’s ordinary (and even extraordinary) traumas than those who are not. Teenagers, in particular, are exponentially better off if they’re in touch with their spiritual sides — less likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, to engage in risky sex, to cope with depression. “In the entire realm of human experience,” Miller writes, “there is no single factor that will protect your adolescent like a personal sense of spirituality.”
Further, Miller argues, the downside to continuing to neglect your children’s spiritual development is huge — more catastrophic than failing to eat organic, or to prep properly for the SATs or to diligently attend soccer practice. Spiritual stunting can perhaps damage a child forever, creating a brittle sense of self and a lack of resiliency. Miller even cites some evidence that supporting the spiritual development in teens creates more supple pathways between the front part of the brain, which is command central, and the intuitive, perceptual parts, building a more integrated person. “We can see the crisis in the making when spiritual development is neglected or when a child’s individual spiritual curiosity and exploration is denied,” she writes. “In a culture where often enormous amounts of money, empty fame, and cynicism have become toxic dominant values, our children need us to support their quest for a spiritually grounded life at every age.”
Children imbued with spirituality grow into adults who can count their blessings, feel a sense of calling in their work, regard human relationships as sacred, and can see misfortunes as opportunities, claims Miller. Children without build their self-esteem on achievement, are driven to please others, feel alone in the world, and are fatalistic about failures and setbacks. Not since Paul Tough declaimed on the importance of “grit” in his 2012 best seller How Children Succeed has a book made a bigger argument on behalf of an amorphous personal quality without which children are sunk. Miller even believes that “grit” derives from spirituality. “Kids who are high in transcendence are also high in grit,” Miller told me in a phone call. “And, oh, by the way, they will also be more successful.”
Stakes like these create angst for parents like you. You want to give your kids everything, obviously. But how do you support children’s spirituality when you yourself aren’t sure about belief? When, truth be told, anything that smells like religion makes you squirm?
Miller is herself an observant Jew and mother of three, but she acknowledges that organized religion isn’t for everyone. Even the most disbelieving parents can help build spiritual children, she says, simply by being available to and interested in the spiritual journey that naturally occurs in kids, and not quashing it with cynicism or anxiety or impatience. She calls this role “the spiritual ambassador.” Spiritual capacity is partially hard-wired in people — twins studies show that 30 percent of a person’s sense of connectedness to a higher power is inherited — so even if you’ve never been in a church but regularly get that “oh wow” feeling at dusk on Cape Cod, you can pass that “oh wow” capacity on to your kids. That’s transcendence, and according to Miller it can be just as salient a spiritual heritage as, say, a weekly trip to mass. Miller says you should get over your own squeamishness and embrace instead your inner earnestness. Mention your own spiritual feelings, tell your kids how much they mean to you, and encourage them to talk about it themselves.
So many of the things that children do are naturally spiritual: They can gaze at ants on an anthill for hours. That’s mindfulness. They feel a sense of despair when they see a homeless person. That’s compassion, or mercy. Elementary-aged children are profoundly concerned with fairness, or justice, and they feel lifted up by helping other people. That’s charity. The Judeo-Christian tradition has long taught that a parent’s love for children is a metaphor for the way God loves people; Miller advises talking to children about family love as sacred: “Even when you’re away at school we stay connected heart to heart — that’s forever!”
Language like this may set your teeth on edge — and there’s a lot of it in this book — but in Miller’s telling, a spiritual parent-child bond is protective. Her own research has shown that in families with a propensity for depression, the incidence of depression in children is reduced by 80 percent when the child shares a spiritual outlook with the mother. When teenagers have harsh or judgmental parents, the effects of that kind of parenting are mitigated by as much as 70 percent if the teen can call on some kind of direct, personal relationship with a higher power.
In her chapters on adolescence, Miller presents the most compelling evidence for the importance of a thriving spiritual life. Twelve-step programs require an addict to call on and submit to a higher power. But if, in adolescence, a teenager already has a developed sense of a higher power, the likelihood that he or she will abuse drugs or alcohol in the first place goes way, way down. In ongoing MRI research, Miller and her colleagues have shown that an ability to achieve a transcendent relationship actually deactivates a brain’s craving mechanism, “reducing the draw of all objects of insatiable desire.” Brains wired to believe in something like God can short-circuit the impulse to take substances.
The rage of teenagers is like the rage of the prophets, Miller told me on the phone. As part of becoming individuals, they insist on having their own visions of the world and they specialize in sniffing out hypocrisies, especially those of their parents. This is where a parent, especially one who is not sure about religious belief, needs to be scrupulously honest. In the process of finding out who she is, a teenager may veer wildly between alienation and connectedness and joy. Shushing a teen, telling her that her perceptions are out of proportion to reality is like “silencing a mystic,” Miller told me. The better course is to follow her lead: “Stay with her,” says Miller. “Her perceptions are real.” A full-throated spiritual life, after all, is characterized not by knowing the answers, but by asking questions. Which is something a teenager and her agnostic parent might easily do together.
4. SURRENDER YOUR DATA
BY MICHAEL QUATTRONE, AWAKIN.ORG, APRIL 20, 2015
FW NOTE: Quattrone makes us uncomfortable with our comfort in this technological amusement part we have inherited – and, like Russell Brand, he makes sense to me…
Surrender your data, and I will give you wisdom. Empty your bank accounts, and let me show you value. Shut your eyes to entertainment, and open them to beauty. Unplug your high-speed connection and I will connect you to the eternal moment.
Come outside. There is a community waiting to stand in a circle with you and raise its voice. Come outside, and we will walk together to a place we have never been, but can remember. In such a place, the oldest things will be made new by the ripeness of your attention, and all the ancient stories we no longer know will be spoken in tongues of fire and emblazoned on your senses.
Have you tried to think your way into life, or out of it? How has that worked so far? But your merciful heart can forgive you, no matter how long it has been packed away. No matter how many times you denied it, didn’t hear, or pretended not to. That is the heart that brought you here. That is the same generous heart that has opened your life to this moment of choice, this palace of surrender, this precipice of love: your heart that was wild enough to be born into your animal form; your heart that will savage all your false domesticity, and sink its teeth into the flesh of human purpose; the heart that feeds on the blood of life; the heart that gives it back—twofold, tenfold, Godfold—renewed, re-vowed, in the rhythm of the drumbeat that invented time.
This is the choice that is both “now or never” and “now and always.” And all that’s asked of you is to say yes. You must say yes in a way you have not spoken any word before. In a way that breaks both language and silence. Say yes, the oldest prayer to the oldest god; the yes that created everything and holds us still; the yes that only you can say, and only you can hear; the yes that ripples through your body with hunger and pleasure and fear; the yes that will echo, and give you no rest, and will restore you beyond measure; the yes your soul has already spoken; the song that has already moved you; the yes of the name you are given at the gates of heaven, for that is where I am meeting you now.
That is the threshold you are crossing.
5. YOU CANNOT CAPTURE SILENCE, IT CAPTURES YOU
BY RICHARD ROHR, AWAKIN.ORG,MARCH 30, 2015
FW NOTE: Richard offers another take on what ‘pausing’ is and how to go about it – “The opposite of contemplation is not action, it is reaction.” I agree, and reacting is how we fall in our holes…
For me, the two correctives of all spirituality are silence and service. If either of those is missing, it is not true, healthy spirituality. Without silence, we do not really experience our experiences. We may serve others and have many experiences, but without silence, nothing has the power to change us, to awaken us, to give us that joy that the world cannot give, as Jesus says. And without clear acts of free service (needing no payback of any sort, even “heaven”), a person’s spiritual authenticity can and should be called into question. Divine Love always needs to and must overflow!
To live in this primordial, foundational being itself, which I am calling silence, creates a kind of sympathetic resonance with what is right in front of us. Without it, we just react instead of respond. Without some degree of silence, we are never living, never tasting, as there is not much capacity to enjoy, appreciate, or taste the moment as it purely is. The opposite of contemplation is not action, it is reaction. We must wait for pure action, which always proceeds from a contemplative silence in which we are able to listen anew to truth and to what is really happening. Such spiritual silence demands a deep presence to oneself in the moment, which will probably have the same practical effect as presence to God.
You do not hear silence (precisely!), but it is that by which you do hear. You cannot capture silence. It captures you. Silence is a kind of thinking that is not thinking. It’s a kind of thinking which mostly sees(contemplata). Silence, then, is an alternative consciousness. It is a form of intelligence, a form of knowing beyond bodily reacting or emotion. It is a form of knowing beyond mental analysis, which is what we usually call thinking. All of the great world religions at the higher levels(mystical) discovered that our tyrannical mode of everyday thinking (which is largely compulsive, brain-driven, and based on early patterning and conditioning) has to be relativized and limited, or it takes over, to the loss of our primal being and identity in ourselves. I used to think that mysticism was the eventual fruit of years of contemplation; now I think it all begins with one clear moment of mystic consciousness, which then becomes the constant “spring inside us, welling up unto eternal life”.
About the Author: Richard Rohr is a Franciscan friar, an internationally known speaker and author, and âfounding director of the Center for Action and Contemplation. The above passage is from his book, “Silent Compassion: Finding God in Contemplation.”
6. TOOLS OF OUR TOOLS
BY TOM MAHON, SERVICE SPACE, JUNE 22, 2014
FW NOTE: Uncle Albert introduces this better that I can…
“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”
We’ve become the tools of our tools;And the fault – and the solution – lies not in our tools, but in ourselves.
The digital revolution promised so much at the outset: computers would make air travel safer, health care more affordable, and education more widely available.
But for all the evident benefits – and there are many – the tools have taken over the toolmakers.
–Complex algorithms, beyond human understanding, replace even the most high-valued jobs, including the jobs of algorithm writers;
–Yet even as jobs and income disappear, mobile devices bombarded with messages urging endless consumption of finite resources. The resulting frustration is leveraged by powerful media to keep the public in a state of fury and frenzy;
–What jobs do remain demand that we work at superhuman speed to keep up with superfast silicon systems;
–Opaque institutions demand that our lives be absolutely transparent to them, even as hackers can rob us of our very identities;
–Wall Street and Silicon Valley are allied in putting impenetrable walls around ideas (IP) in order to monetize those ideas (IPOs), creating an economy that puts a price on everything, but is unmindful of the value of anything.
When greed, gain and self-aggrandizement are the inputs, then waste, rapacity and rage are the outputs, ravaging the environmental, communal and personal spheres.
And even as we are increasingly drawn into the dark side of the digital ecosystem, it’s increasingly obvious that extrication is increasingly difficult.
So where do we go from here?
First, consider that the purpose of tools is to leverage our limited human abilities in order to accomplish ever-greater results. Archimedes said, “With a lever long enough, and a fulcrum strong enough, I can lift the world.” And he could if he had a place in space on which to rest the fulcrum.
Tools developed in three phases over history. From early on, they leveraged our muscles. With the six simple tools of antiquity – the lever, pulley, screw, wheel, inclined plane, and wedge – our ancestors created civilizations: clearing fields, draining swamps, and building temples and towers for the gods they imagined and the powerful who controlled them.
Then about 400 years ago, our ancestors began to develop tools to extend the senses: first, the telescope and microscope, and later the radio and television, allowing them to see far out, deep down, and long ago.
Beginning in the early 20th Century, we developed tools to extend our brains: computers, the Internet, smart devices, the ‘Cloud.’
But even as our ancestors developed tools over time to leverage their muscles, senses and brains, they also developed tools to leverage their soul, or atman, or psyche, so as to be composed within themselves, and thus try to establish just and civil societies. These spiritual technologies included prayer, meditation, chi gong, yoga, ethical standards, communal worship…
In the past century, revolutions in transportation and communication have enabled the leveraging of spiritual technologies profoundly.
With soul-tools, especially non-violent resistance, Gandhi and his followers brought down the British raj; Dr. King and his followers brought an end to the Jim Crow laws in America; Mandela, de Klerk, et. al. ended apartheid in South Africa; and Lech Walesa, Karol Wojtyła and their supporters brought down the Iron Curtain. And these world-changing events were accomplished with minimal violence.
But Gandhi and others showed it is not enough to bring down wicked regimes. There must be livable alternatives.
Beyond taking a stand against the leveraging of waste and rage, we need to incorporate the two universal pillars of wisdom – composure and compassion – into our use of tools.
How? First, whenever you use a tool – whether a shovel, a pencil, or a supercomputer – do so in a composed frame of mind. That isn’t possible most of the time, especially in work situations, but it is something to be aware of and to strive for.
Then, to the extent possible, consider the outcomes at the other end of the leveraging process. When you apply energy to any tool, the results are usually much greater than the inputs. That is the whole purpose of leverage and of tools. Strive therefore so that the outcomes manifest kindness, or at a minimum cause no pain and do no evil.
When jangledness of mind is present at the inputs, the outcomes will be jangled and hurtful. And people at the receiving end are then likely to express that anger and pain in their own tool use.
And so the cycle of violence propagates and increases with each spin of the wheel. Gandhi and others showed that the pernicious cycle could only be broken when we are composed in our tool use.
So to the extent possible, be mindful of that when you put energy into a tool. And strive for outcomes that manifest kindness and compassion, even if you never see those results.
This model – of composed and mindful inputs leveraged to produce kind and compassionate outcomes – is admittedly not possible for most people much of the time. And by itself it is not a panacea for the all the environmental, communal and personal despoliation resulting from tool use run amok. We have a long, hard slog ahead of us. But every individual effort in that direction, however small, does represent a step in reconnecting technical capability with social and moral responsibility.
There is a second process we can initiate when the rush and disruptions of the digital revolution wear us down. Find others who share your concerns, your situation, your pressures, and then meet and talk with them. Alcoholics Anonymous, among other recovery programs, is good example of how this works: regular meetings with like-minded people provide the chance to speak, with assurance of privacy, about how they are dealing – or not dealing – with stress and pressures in their own lives. Sharing concerns with others similarly afflicted, in a safe place, is a proven first step in dealing with them.
From such meetings at the local level, a new economy of sharing, bartering and promoting the common good may emerge to create meaningful work, and counter the current corrupting global financial system whereby one’s gain comes only at another’s loss.
Individual efforts to be composed when using tools, so as to leverage kindness in the outcomes, can in turn be leveraged by joining with others to share, inspire and protect.
These actions alone do not represent the beginning of the end of the negative consequences of the technology revolution. But they may be the end of the beginning – of the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness brought about by the growing awareness that we are now the tools of our tools.
If we had the ingenuity to invent the devices that increasingly control us, we also have the ingenuity to reclaim our rightful ownership of our tools, so that humane inputs will secure more just, healthy and benevolent outputs.
Pray for peace; work for justice.
Nature is how universe-mind touches our mind.
Tools – technology – are how our mind touches universe-mind.
When these minds are aligned, there is success-in-living.
When they are misaligned, there will be catastrophe.
Mindfulness in our tool-use is essential now,
For our success, our sanity, our survival.
7. THIS MONTH’S LINKS:
DEAR FUTURE GENERATIONS: SORRY…
CARTOONS DRAWN WITH A SINGLE LINE
THE RUNNING OF THE BALLS
MY FATHER’S GIFT
TOP TEN MOST OFFBEAT RELIGIOUS FESTIVALS
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