A Culture of Compassion and Dialogue – Day 272 of 365 Days to a Better You

Say something, do something, or be someone I don’t like and I’ll flame you, unfollow you, or even block you. If I REALLY don’t like what you said, I may seek to enlist others to ruin your career or even cancel you from our culture.

I reserve the right not to expose myself to ideas that challenge my worldview. If you cross that line, I reserve the right to destroy you. It doesn’t matter to me if you’re a famous celebrity or a long-lost friend from elementary school.

Meanwhile, I also reserve the right to be completely hypocritical about how and when I apply these standards, if they’re violated by political, religious, or cultural heroes of mine and it causes me too much cognitive dissonance to apply my standards to them, I’ll ignore and defend them to my last tweet.

This is the mindset of what some have called “Cancel Culture” or what I’ve called for years the Unfollow, Unfriend Culture. Social media, with it’s ability to block or delete someone with a single click, has simplified this, as have prevalent cultural mindsets that subdivide human beings into real and false tribes. Either agree with me 100 percent or I’m instantly clicking you out of my life.

What all of this really is, in my humble opinion, is the mindset of an infantile ego. It’s a small child stamping her feet to get her way. It is not the mindset that creates a compassionate, free, or democratic society where dialogue happens. It’s a recipe to further and further divide us into smaller and smaller circles ending with us being alone and ruled by that childish ego.

We’ve given this brand of ego the ability to create its own despotic fiefdom in our minds.

Is this the enlightened society we want? Do you REALLY want to disown your cousin or your best friend from second grade because he or she voted for someone different or fails one of your cultural litmus tests? What of their humanity? What of yours?

Is it really sound judgment to dismiss people that way? Think how complex and contradictory you are. Shouldn’t they be given the same slack?

I absolutely believe this mindset is an existential threat to critical thinking, freedom, and the compassionate society we must be building in the 21st century. I run several Facebook pages. I’ve never blocked one person, even when they’ve been disrespectful to me. Instead, I try to remind them of their humanity and mine and reestablish that connection. I’ve been instantly blocked on Twitter for daring to disagree, but I’ve never blocked one person. I simply don’t believe in it. Free speech gives other people the right to disagree even with my most cherished ideals. I never forget their humanity or that freedom because my ego is bruised.

This kind of culture only persists because we allow it to. If the social norm was to think of everyone you encounter as a free human being who is where they are in their journey based on their experiences just like us, maybe we’d have more compassion and understanding for their position.

I want to close today with an affirmation of sorts; a kind of pledge. Are you willing?

Affirmation: I refuse to participate in a culture that demeans, dismisses, and cancels other human beings. I’m beautiful, but far from perfect myself. I choose to see that beauty and accept that imperfection in others. I don’t know everything and I haven’t experienced everything. I accept that others can look at life and reach different, reasonable positions from mine. I reserve the right to dialogue respectfully with others in an attempt to persuade them, in the best tradition of a free society. However, I refuse to strip them of their humanity or diminish mine in that process. A sane, enlightened world is possible and I will do my part to bring that world to life.

I love and respect each and every one of you. No matter how similar or disparate our experiences or our views. Namaste and Aloha. I bow to greatness in you and I come to you with respect

Ray

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Do You Respect Freedom? – Day 189 of 365 Days to a Better You

Freedom. It’s a fascinating concept with a checkered past in human history. Presumedly, before we had city-states and division of labor, people were free from laws other than their obligations within their small groups.

Eventually, the powerful centralizing force of civilization, with few exceptions, placed the power to decide in fewer and fewer hands. Over the past 500 years or so, there has been a massive push toward granting the individual more autonomy over his or her life. It’s been a bloody struggle filled with periods of two steps forward and one step back.

By the dawn of the 20th century at least politically if not economically, people in the “western democracies” achieved a level of freedom unparalleled in human history. It wasn’t and isn’t perfect. We still have fallen short of gender and racial fairness, but the leaps forward, compared with most of human history, are amazing.

However, our success in carving out space for the individual and the relative prosperity that has accompanied it, have spawned mindsets that threaten the very principles upon which that freedom is based.

Every one is very familiar with his or her rights and we have expanded that conception so much that, for some, it now means the freedom not to encounter any idea not compatible with one’s own conception of the world. A span of concepts from political and religious exceptionalism to hair-trigger offense mechanism have breached the basic contract upon which individual freedom is written. That is that you can have as much freedom as you’ll allow for others.

In this freest time in human history, many are now willing to use the heavy hand of the state to silence, censor, and curtail the freedom of people for the mere sin of disagreeing with them.

This has brought us to a crossroads. Do we truly believe in the freedom to disagree and will individual freedom be a feature of human society in the future or will our selfishness and need to have a world white-washed of all opposing views and lifestyles plunge us back into the darkness of a tyranny where those choices are made for all by a few societal arbiters?

This question will be answered by all of us and each of us. It comes down to the ways in which you interact with your world every day. Do you support freedom even for those you oppose or despise or do you reach for the easy button of shutting them down? is the principle of freedom alive enough in you to see that the only way any of us can have it is to allow all of us to have it?

A better you is often hamstrung by the culture you live in and we are creating that culture every single day with every single interaction. What kind of culture are you choosing?

I LOVE ALL of you and I support your right to be you. Thanks for stopping by and for challenging your paradigms!

Stay inspired!

Ray

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Crisis Mode – Day 139 of 365 Days to a Better You

It’s often been noted that human beings have an amazing ability to come together in a crisis. Our compassion is elevated. We remember how miraculous and fragile our existence is. We express gratitude for what we have and a willingness to share it with others. It’s an amazing thing to observe.

Here’s the question. Why does there have to be a crisis for us to elevate ourselves and each other to that level? If it’s within us in moments of crisis, it’s there all the time.

That said, if you require a crisis to bring those noble qualities out in you, I have a crisis for you. We have created a crisis of personal, national, and global proportions. We’ve forgotten, if we ever truly knew, how to be civil to each other. We’ve forgotten how to work together. We’ve forgotten how to love one another as we love ourselves.

Power Hack: Here’s the good news. When you really think about it, this problem isn’t hard to solve. We don’t have to agree on everything to shift this vibration. We only have to agree on a few easy to agree upon premises that we pledge live by. Try these on for size.

  1. Allow every human being the space to breathe in and breathe out freely.
  2. Make today better than yesterday.
  3. Allow every human being access to the benefits of the abundant society we have strived for centuries to achieve.
  4. Ensure tomorrow is better than today for our children and grandchildren.

That easy, you might question? Yes. These premises are the simple WHAT that any person of good will can agree upon. Together we can and we must work on the HOWs.

We simply need to begin thinking, acting, and interacting in ways that promote building something rather than burning it all down. Every one of us can and does have a platform to the world today, with the tools at our disposal, to change the vibe in the world.

How are you using yours? Are you building or burning down? Are you contributing to meeting the four common sense objectives above or are you busy trying to score points and win arguments?

We will measure the results in terms of peace rather than war, universal abundance rather the mass disparity, and every human being striving to become the highest version of himself or herself.

If we can’t come together in a compact to achieve these four objectives, then what difference will all the political points or winning arguments make?

The world you and I live in is our creation. We create and recreate it every day. Sure there are negative players. Sure there are disagreements on the HOWs. We don’t need everybody to come along to make it work. We only need a critical mass committed to birthing that world.

Don’t be surprised when I tell you that critical mass begins right here with you and I.

Stay the course! You are making a difference!

Ray

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Bhutto Assassination Proof of Work to Be Done – The Affirmation Spot for Thursday December 27, 2007

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‘He offended me, he hurt me, he owes me, he took what was mine.’ Those who dwell on such thoughts will never be free from hate or find peace within.

‘He offended me, he hurt me, he owes me, he took what was mine.’ Those who dwell not on such thoughts shall be free from hate and find peace within.

For hate only feeds on itself; but love overcomes hate. This is an Eternal Law.

Few know that our purpose in this world is to live in harmony. Those who become aware of this cease their quarrels immediately.

~ Buddha (Dhammpada Chapter 1, verses 3-6)


benazir_bhutto.jpg‘The Buddha’s words are extremely timely today.

The news from Pakistan this morning is dire. Former Prime Minister and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated after a campaign rally in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. This nuclear-armed nation is about to be thrown into chaos and turmoil. Many on both sides will likely call for armed conflict.

Unfornately, 2500 years after these words were uttered too many human beings still don’t “get it”. Our leaders don’t “get it”. Our media certainly does not “get it”. Our arms dealers don’t “get it”.  We clamor for war. We clamor for revenge. We support leaders as “strong” who feed our desire for revenge and war.

The “it” is that violence is the birth of hatred and chaos, not the solution to it.

Even in the western nations, we extoll the virtues of our military prowess and take pride in the fact that we are better able than others to wreak havoc on our enemies. We honor the warrior above the peacemaker and so we get more of what we reward.

Most of all, we promise with a straight face that we will stop killing “them” right after they stop killing “us”. It’s circular logic because there are two sides to the “we” and “them” equation and both sides promise to stop the killing as soon as the other side does. And thus, the killing never ends.

In these few simple verses (and others like them in many sacred texts), rests the solution to the problem. But, we must be willing to take the medicine, if we are to be healed. 

We are reminded incessantly by the purveyors of war and vengeance that this is “unrealistic”.  “Neville Chamberlain, Neville Chamberlain,” they shout. “Peacefulness is weakness.” “We must be strong or our enemies will destroy us.”

The “kill them before they kill us” method has enjoyed a 10,000 year trial run in human civilization. It has utterly failed to solve our problems, but it does line pockets and create jobs. No other product or idea has failed so miserably and yet lasted so long. It survives because it plays on our lowest instincts such as fear and selfishness.

Pakistan is a perfect look into our own future, if we fail to take the medicine. If we fail to understand, as the Buddha says, “that our purpose in this world is to live in harmony.” If we fail to grasp that the vengeance mindset that counts every offense against us and ignores our own faults, is a mindset dooming us to destruction; then we are sealing our fate.

The expiration date on that mindset is fast approaching. The weapons of mass destruction genie is out of the bottle and we are, in a very few decades, going to be faced with a stark choice. Adversaries the world over are going to stand nose-to-nose with nuclear, chemical, and biological weaponry.

The question is will we choose to change or race down the fast track to destruction? The force of habit is hard to stop. We are a world addicted to violence. Sometimes an addict cannot stop himself even at the cost of self-destruction.

Here is the challenge for those of us who “get it” in 2008. We must increase our efforts bring positive change in the world. We must first convince our fellow human beings that a better world is possible. Shockingly, many don’t believe that it is.

  • We must “be the change we want to see in the world.” We must work on our own thoughts and actions to stay positive and focused on a better future. 
  • We must make intelligent, self-interested arguments that counter fear-based and selfishness-based arguments by capitalizing on positive core human instincts.
  • We must be patient with our fellow human beings. They have been conditioned to accept this nonsense for a long time and it is going to take time for them to change. 
  • We must recognize that help is not coming any time soon from our leaders and media who thrive and profit on the conflict. These institutions will probably be the last to change. We will have to force the change by changing hearts and minds.
  • We must see through arguments, even highly emotional ones, that rest on logical fallacies.
  • We must call attention to those logical fallacies and challenge their validity at every turn.
  • We must create a clear vision of what the world will look like without the conflict.

There is hope. There is possibility. There is opportunity. The world need not suffer constant chaos and violence.  For that to come about, though, enough people must believe.

Think about it today. Do you believe a better world is possible or have you bought into the assumption that nothing more is possible and so you accept what is?

I hear people say things like, “I don’t like war, but there has always been war.” “I know our leaders are corrupt, but leaders have always been corrupt.” We need not accept these as immutable truths.

John F. Kennedy quoted George Bernard Shaw in his inaugural address in 1961, “Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not?”

Today as the chaos heats up in Pakistan and elsewhere around our tiny marble of a world. I’m asking you to think about a better world and ask, “Why not?”

Be peaceful Be prosperous

Ray 

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Beyond the Survivor China Finale – The Affirmation Spot for Monday December 17, 2007

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Today’s affirmation is:

“Today I am succeeding in life without compromising my values.”

survivorjpg.gif

Last night was the season finale of America’s favorite reality show – Survivor. I am a passive fan of the show. My wife really enjoys it and so I wind up watching about half the episodes each season with her.

For those of you who are regular viewers, you know all about the final tribal council. Let me catch up those readers who don’t watch the show. The goal of the show is to become the sole survivor and to win $1 million.

On the final show each season, the jury – comprised of the last seven people voted out – has an opportunity to question the final three survivors as to why each deserves the jury’s vote for the million dollars.

Invariably, the subject of deceit and lying comes up. The accepted wisdom of the show is that these characteristics are necessary to advance in the game. Generally, those players who are most adept at duplicity and use it without compunction are contenders to win the show.

The jury is comprised of people victimized by the treachery. Often they are understandably bitter and chastise the finalists for this behavior. The response is always the same. “Hey, it was just ‘game’. It’s not who I really am outside the game.”
Afterall, lying, cheating, stealing, and stabbing in the back are not only the norm in the game, but the only way to have a chance to win.

The Survivor book of wisdom says that honesty, concern for others, and integrity are characteristics that demonstrate weakness and are likely to get you eliminated.

This season, as is often the case, the biggest schemer in the game was awarded the million dollars. At the end of the day, the jury normally recognizes and rewards that person’s behavior. The jury develops A kind of awe of the person’s ability to “play the game”.

The message is clear. It is not that the game should have been conducted more honorably, but that whatever expedient means are necessary to win, are acceptable. Vice becomes virtue.

Of course, ‘the game’ in survivor is only a thinly veiled reference to the game of life we all play every day. The fact that these values are rewarded in a microcosm representing our world is troubling. This is a highly popular show watched by millions of children and young adults.

Is Survivor unwittingly teaching this generation that the fastest way to success is to abandon a positive approach to life and do whatever you must to achieve? Is the take away that as long as I can separate who I really am from what I have to do to win, it’s OK?

The news has recently been filled with information that some of baseball’s most respected icons may have been cheating the system and skewing the record books. This generation’s top hitter (Barry Bonds) and its top pitcher (Roger Clemens) have been implicated in the scandal along with a who’s who list of the games brightest stars. Are we seeing another
version of the same mentality – “I’ll do whatever I must to be on top?”

Are Survivor and the baseball scandal broadcasting a warning to us? I want to shy away from empty moralizing here, but taking the shortcuts or the easy way is always a temptation in life. We’ve gone beyond “me-first” to “me-only” thinking.

However,when this mentality rules in a society that society is risking collapse. No one trusts anyone else and every one hunkers down in a bunker mentality. People become short-sighted and the ability to cooperate lessens.

We need to ask ourselves whether or not this message represents the society we all want to live in.

We are capable of so much more! There is a superior way to achieve in life. We can build our skills, improve our outlook, and work towards our goals. We can learn to work towards goals that benefit me, but don’t tear down your dreams in the process. We can, indeed we must, pursue our dreams without leaving footprints on the backs of our colleagues
and friends.

I’m not advocating a world where there are no winners and no losers or where everything is “fair”. Such a world does not really exist. I’m also not saying Survivor isn’t tantalizing entertainment or pushing the idea that it should be off the air.

What I am suggesting is that we remember something clearly forgotten in Survivor and the baseball scandal. We cannot separate who we truly are from what we are willing to do to win. The real “game” we are here to play is one where we must learn to maximize our own potential without hurting others in the process.

Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

Be peaceful Be prosperous

Ray

The Affirmation Spot

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