The Circle of Existence: Chapter 11 – Words, Concepts, Expectations

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bypeople-talking-441462_1280 DCH Park

“Miracles happen every day, change your perception of what a miracle is and you’ll see them all around you.”
– Jon Bon Jovi

“Studies have shown that 90% of error in thinking is due to error in perception.”

“Most of the mistakes in thinking are inadequacies of perception rather than mistakes of logic.”
– Edward de Bono

There is a literary and dramatic trope called a perception filter. With a perception filter in place, you tend not to see whatever it is hiding. You avoid it. You don’t see it, either the thing being hidden or the filter itself. You don’t notice them. You just avoid them. The filter doesn’t confer true invisibility but you tend to not notice things that are hidden by it.

The fact is that such perception filters are in place all around us. Real perception filters do not require a technological implementation. All they require is an assumption, an expectation, on the part of the viewer and that viewer will assume that he has seen something that is not there or ignore something that is – all in accordance with his expectations. In other words, the viewer will tend to see what he expects to see, regardless of whether or not what he expects is part of the reality around him.

It sounds crazy but expectations control perception. That means that you can control perception. You just have to control expectations. This seems very powerful but also very silly, even unbelievable. Isn’t it obvious that you see whatever is there to be seen, regardless of expectations?

Actually, you don’t. One very dramatic example is in the notion that the world is flat. Another is in the attitude with which telescopic observations consistent with the Copernican theory of the Universe were greeted. More recent examples include the attitudes that protected small pox (the piercing of which led to development of the first small pox vaccine), the attitude that protected disease in general (the piercing of which led to stopping a plague and the practice of epidemiology), the so-called Ultraviolet Catastrophe (which led to the creation of quantum theory), and the characterization of the chemical nature of DNA.

In the last cited example, people the world over, including leading scientists, assumed that the chemical structure of DNA had to be protein based because up to that time, protein was the only type of molecule that was known to form complex structures. Every complex structure in nature seemed to be based on protein so it seemed reasonable that DNA, which conveys complex information from one generation to the next, would be based on protein.

However every chemical analysis of DNA failed to detect any protein. The chemical nature of DNA remained a mystery until Watson and Crick famously threw out the assumption that DNA had to be protein based. Once they did that, they were free to look at the data with open eyes. They were free of their expectations and consequently, free to receive and follow their observations and able to perceive the right conclusion.

If anything, assumptions and expectations are even more common in everyday life. Lest you assume that such filtering of perception might have been true in the past but is no longer true, please see the Attention Experiment (its website is called “the invisible gorilla”). The Attention Experiment demonstrates that this phenomenon is still active today. (Chabris, Christopher and Simons, Daniel, “the invisible gorilla”, www.theinvisiblegorilla.com/gorilla_experiment.html, accessed 17 JUL 14.

Please note that the mere fact that this is going on today does not necessarily mean that we must be this way. It does not imply a boundary or limitation. It illustrates what is going on so that we can be more aware. By being more aware of what is going on (one hopes) we can notice when we slip into unthinking default behavior and perceptions and instead, do something about it.)

Perceptions determine the shape of society. If we’re not careful, those assumptions and expectations can control everything. They can shape how we interact with each other. They can shape how we see and understand ourselves. They can determine whole economies. Arguably, they already do.

How can you free yourself of such control? How can you notice such assumptions and expectations so that you can deal with them and free yourself to determine your own fate? Creative scientists, artists, philosophers, and clerics have wrestled with this question down the ages. Economists and politicians have been motivated by the idea of understanding the people and forces at work to better inspire folks and provide for their needs, hopefully creating a happier society.

To be sure, this is not true of everyone. There are some who seem to be focused on making money and amassing power over others. Their attitude seems to be that things are the way they are and they can’t be changed. They therefore try to fit in to the system as they find it. They are concerned with playing the game better rather than trying to define a better game.

Whether they realize it or not, by acceding to the status quo, they are supporting the status quo. The extant system reflects the choices of everyone who is alive now. If enough of those choices fall in line with the status quo, it should be no surprise that the status quo does not change.

Such change begins with you. I have found that precision and clarity in the things that I say is an important first step toward changing what I say. I cannot heal what I do not see. By the same token, I cannot change what I do not notice. My aim is to become more aware of what I say. Toward this end, I have found that scientific thinking, observation, and honesty are useful, although these things are by no means unique to science. Indeed, I find that they are common to all human pursuits.

What filter or expectations do you have? What do you take for granted or see as “just the way things are?” How do those assumptions shape your experience of things?

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More of the book, The Circle of Existence can be found at www.smashwords.com.

© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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”The Circle of Existence: Chapter 11 – Words, Concepts, Expectations” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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A Special Spot

by Ingrid Dean

wolves-58998_1280Worried parents reported that their sixteen-year-old son was missing. They thought he had run away, but they had no idea where. When I arrived at their home, something didn’t feel right. I asked the parents more questions than usual. I asked if the boy got good grades in school and if he had any troubles he was dealing with. They said his grades had gone down recently and that he was on anti-depressants.

When the parents mentioned anti-depressants, I got a very clear thought: This is not a runaway complaint. I don’t know why the word anti-depressant triggered this thought, because usually it doesn’t mean anything to me. I know that anti-depressants are often very helpful to people, even children.

I looked in the boy’s bedroom and saw two unopened packs of cigarettes by his bed. I thought, What sixteen-year-old boy leaves two packs of cigarettes behind? Most teenagers carry their cigarettes with them, especially if their parents allow them to smoke. This was the second hint that the incident was not what it appeared to be.

I didn’t want to ask, but I did: “Do you have any weapons in the house?” The father said yes and that he had already looked. All of the cases were present. I asked if he had opened the cases, and he said no. I told him to go check. When he returned, he reported that a rifle, a Ruegar .280, was missing. I suddenly knew their son was probably dead, but I didn’t say anything. Not yet. It was the third clear thought that came through my mind.

I got the urge to take a look outside. Sure enough, I found footwear impressions in the snow that appeared to be the boy’s— and they seemed to lead into the woods.

The snow was patchy this time of year, so I called Dispatch for canine assistance. While I waited for the dog and handler to arrive, I telephoned the boy’s best friend. I asked if there were any special spots where the boy might have walked. I knew most teenagers have one. Because the snow was minimal, I knew that even with a dog, it might be difficult to track the boy unless I had an idea where to head. Sure enough, the boy had a special spot.

When the canine officer arrived, the dog picked up a scent. It was an overcast winter day. The canine handler, the dog, and I followed the boy’s scent toward his special spot. I was glad I had called the boy’s best friend for directions so that I knew we were on the right track. As we walked I realized how breathtaking this area is. The near-pristine woodlands, hilly terrain, and sand dunes of Leelanau County, Michigan, are absolutely gorgeous. The smell of the pines was pungent and pure. What a pity this young man has taken his own life, when there is so much to love about this land and life. I already knew we’d find him dead.

We continued to follow the boy’s scent. The trees opened up into a small open area in the woods. This was his special spot. We saw him. He had shot his head off with the missing rifle. I was so thankful I had trusted my intuition and hadn’t allowed the boy’s parents to come with us. The bloody scene was too gory for any parent ever to see.

Although it was hard and their grief unbearable, the boy’s parents were relieved I had found their son.

I thought about this case several times afterward. If I had treated this situation like a routine runaway complaint, the boy’s body might never have been found. Corpses are often eaten by animals—sometimes without a trace left—especially in this area of Northern Michigan known for its vultures, eagles, and coyotes. I am sure many of my fellow comrades also rely on intuitive thoughts. Most of us seldom, if ever, talk about it, of course. Policemen are expected to rely on logic and “just the facts.”

More like this and some of Ingrid’s other work can be found at www.spiritofthebadge.com.

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The Circle of Existence: Chapter 9 – The Forge

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by DCH Park

Rick Sharloch, Yuma, sunrise in the Sonoran desert

Rick Sharloch,
Yuma, sunrise in the Sonoran desert

“26 April: I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.”
– James Joyce

“You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one.”
– James Anthony Froude

“Nothing splendid was ever created in cold blood. Heat is required to forge anything. Every great accomplishment is the story of a flaming heart.”
– Arnold H. Glasgow

I was watching some random television the other day when one character said something to another about a stretch of desert called “The Forge” and how crossing it would prove fatal. It suddenly connected for me how life is in many ways a forge in which we temper our spirits.

There are many teachers and authors who espouse the value and virtues of success, wealth, and joy. No doubt, these are worthwhile things. The ability to open to joy in our lives directly determines how much joy we can have in our lives. Likewise, financial success will at best be difficult to achieve and maintain for someone who believes that rich people are somehow dishonest or less honorable than poor people.

Nonetheless, I have found that it is dealing with the challenges – the difficult things – in life that have led to the most potent lessons and often to the greatest joys. It has been said that what we look at disappears and that by noticing and holding silent presence with those parts of ourselves that are in pain, anger, or discomfort, we allow them to open like a seed softens in water, and lead us to the heart of our pain.

(Although doing so is a whole practice unto itself. Being able to be aware of something without creating or echoing any blame, recrimination, or judgment is a skill that is not taught, much less widely practiced, in this society. Hence it is easy to get lost in the first step – noticing what is there, how you feel. When you get lost and enlarge the emotion, you can never experience all of it. You make it larger all the time, so you can never find the edges or the center.

When you take the opposite approach and notice yourself feeling whatever is there, you are both inside the emotion, feeling it, and outside the emotion, noticing yourself feel. You are bigger than the emotion and you experience that you are bigger. The emotion is thus limited and you can experience it completely. Then you can follow the trail it’s a part of all the way back to the wound it springs from and heal it.)

It has also been said that in order to lessen the influence of undesired or “negative” thoughts and expectations our best course is to redirect our focus toward things that we would prefer. The intention is to allow the undesired experience to dissipate as we gain momentum with our preferred experience. This is an alternative view that, although popular, runs counter to the idea of turning into the pain.

To be fair, it does seem to lead to financial and/or romantic success for many people as they define it. However even when it does work, it is relatively slow (often taking 20 years or more) and it fails to consider the question of whether the game we find is the game we “should” be playing. In other words, it fails to recognize the existence of defining beliefs, much less ask the questions of what existential beliefs we have, how those beliefs shape society, and what beliefs we would prefer.

Consider the image of the forge. Sword makers in ancient Japan were able to produce steel blades of remarkable quality using techniques and materials that were very primitive by today’s standards. They successfully married two disparate qualities of steel (characteristic of different types of steel) into single blades. Thus, their blades were flexible (a quality of ductile, low-carbon steel) while also being hard and able to hold edges (a characteristic of brittle, high-carbon steel).

At no point does the steel resist the process. It accepts the intense heat and the plunging cold as silently and gracefully as it accepts the pounding hammer. Each blow of the hammer and each calorie of heat energy is felt and shared by the entire billet. As they are accepted, they induce a change in the steel itself. These changes are shared throughout the depth of the steel and accumulate to transform a jagged piece of ore into a shining blade. This transformation is as critically dependent on removing impurities as it is on strengthening and interconnecting parts. Too many impurities and the blade is fatally flawed, just as not enough of the right steel or a weak inter-layer bond ruins the blade.

Do not resist, analyze, or otherwise try to contain, control, direct, or buffer your experience. Doing so will only prolong the process and possibly weaken or damage the final result. Be humble. Be accepting. Be the blade. Allow the heat and the hammer to do their jobs. Bring your whole self to the moment. Be honest with yourself and with your experience. As impurities burn off, let the smoke go. Let new connections form, recognizing that each new link changes the potential and dynamic of your whole web of connections, allowing you to bend or cut as needed.

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More of the book, The Circle of Existence can be found at www.smashwords.com.

© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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The Circle of Existence: Chapter 8 – Turning Into the Pain

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by DCH Park

Fort Collins Back Pain by Ryan Weisgerber, https://www.flickr.com/photos/fortcollinschiropractor/6169824610/

Fort Collins Back Pain by Ryan Weisgerber, https://www.flickr.com/photos/fortcollinschiropractor/6169824610/

“My attitude is that if you push me towards something that you think is a weakness, then I will turn that perceived weakness into a strength.”
– Michael Jordan

“Entrepreneurs are simply those who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity and are able to turn both to their advantage.”
– Niccolo Machiavelli

“But the attitude of faith is to let go, and become open to truth, whatever it might turn out to be.”
– Alan Watts

The other day I was coming up some stairs and overheard someone talking on the phone. What I heard was remarkable. The person was apparently celebrating something bad. I gathered that the other party had just shared something that had happened to him or her, probably expecting sympathy, blame, or some other standard means to enlarge the pain.

To her credit, the person whom I overheard did none of those things. Instead, she celebrated it. I doubt that she was trying to encourage more painful experiences with her celebration. Rather, she was remembering that there are no bad things. What she said about it confirmed that this was her attitude.

Rather than ask why a benevolent God (or Universe or whatever) could “let” “bad” things happen to “good” people, consider that there are no bad things. There are painful things (You can substitute any emotion you want in that sentence to replace the word “painful.”) but there are no bad things. The pain serves a purpose. It leads you directly to the wound.

Consider a splinter. You might not notice it at first but as time goes on, the damaged area becomes painful as infection sets in. As more time goes on, it becomes more painful. You can bandage the splintered area and try to cushion it. You can take analgesics to numb the pain (and all sensation along with it). That way you can continue to ignore it. However, the pain is doing you a service. It is showing you exactly where the splinter is. Whereas it might have been too small to notice at first, the pain shows you exactly where it is. As soon as the splinter is removed, healing begins and the wound feels better.

On flights they always say, “Please affix your own oxygen mask before attending to small children who may be traveling with you.” It is a reminder to take care of yourself first. The message conjures images of a small child who has collapsed for lack of oxygen. The well-meaning parent is slumped over for the same reason. The parent has collapsed in trying to get the child’s oxygen mask on first and failed to do so. Even if successful, I wonder, would the child be physically able to attach the parent’s mask? Would the child even be able to reach the dangling mask?

Another common example is found in the advice we give to drivers who are learning to deal with a skid. When the car is spinning out of control, we are told, the thing to do is to turn into the skid. The same advice is given to pilots. Similarly, seamen are taught to drop anchor (and if they have sails to trim them) if they are caught in a storm. They are taught to turn their bow into the storm and “ride it out.”

Individuals who have gone through military training will recognize the advice to run toward the explosion if your unit is targeted by artillery. The “natural” tendency is to run away from the explosion but artillery marksmen find their range by “bracketing.” They deliberately fire down range of their target and then deliberately fire up range of it. That way, they establish their range and they know that their intended target lies somewhere between these two. Then they fire succeeding shots within that range, first down range of the target, then up range of it, each time coming a little closer to the middle. When they hit their target, they “fire for effect.” They let loose with everything they have on the target.

Thus, while on the battlefield, you are actually safer if you run toward the first explosion. That will ideally get you outside of the field of effect. If you run the other way, away from the explosion, you might be running directly into the next blast. It is almost guaranteed that you will run into a blast if you continuously run away from the last explosion. This is counter to popular wisdom but it is in keeping with the advice given to drivers, pilots, sailors, and those seeking oxygen masks on a plane.

The advice that runs through all of these examples is that we heal, we (re)gain control, when we turn into the thing that brings pain, fear, etc. Indeed, it is never as bad as we expect it to be and the storm, spin, explosion, or whatever, is always worst before we go into it. It is never as bad as we imagine it will be. The shortest way to the other side is straight through.

The case of the oxygen masks may seem obscured compared to the other examples, but it is an excellent metaphor. There are people who put the happiness and fulfillment of others before their own. Such people often even define their own happiness in terms of others’. They often see themselves deriving their own happiness (satisfaction, etc.) from that of others. This means that they see themselves as having to make other people happy before they can be happy themselves. Similarly, there are whole industries devoted to creating and selling pain killers of various strengths. The benefit that such pain killers promise is a resumption or intensification of the same activity that caused the pain in the first place, usually in order to continue working! In both cases, the advice is to turn away from or ignore the pain or whatever is coming up within yourself and focus on something outside of yourself.

Thus, we are in an interesting situation. In cases in which lives are not seen to be in immediate danger, we are advised in one way. In situations that are seen as immediately life threatening, we are advised differently. The advice in the two situations is directly opposite. It is also fairly uniform within them. It does not seem to be affected by culture or other factors. Which one do you feel serves you and supports your further growth? Which one would you accept as being true?

I have found that in turning into the pain (fear, etc.) I was not only able to find the center of the wound, I was able to hear it and thus to heal it. In other words, the wound itself tells me what it needs, what it is crying out for. Filling the hole, providing what is missing, constitutes healing the wound. Once it is healed, it goes away like a vanishing fog but you need to listen to it to find out what it needs. In order to listen to it, it helps to be aware of it. That’s what turning into the pain, fear, etc. does.

For whatever reason or reasons, much of society is structured to encourage us to turn away from our pain unless a life threatening condition exists. Consider over-the-counter pain relief. This assumption – that pain, fear, etc. should be taken away without your conscious participation or even understanding – is common on many (perhaps all) levels of “mainstream” society as long as a life threatening situation does not exist. Why are there two conflicting messages?

I have learned over and over in science that if there are two messages about something, either there is something(s) that is(are) not well understood or one is a lie. In the first case, what generally happens is that one situation or both are eventually discovered to be special cases. What appeared to be two situations (or messages) are seen to be one simple one. The unions of quantum physics, Newtonian physics, and relativity are good examples. Newtonian physics is seen as the special case of quantum physics where things are very large. In the same way, Newtonian physics is seen as a special case of relativistic physics wherein things are extremely slow.

Is the advice to turn away from pain a special case in which lives are not threatened? In special cases, the rules are not changed – only the values they operate over change. This can be seen in the cases of Newtonian, quantum, and relativistic physics. It can also be seen in the case of squares, which are special cases of rectangles, and mammals, which are special cases of animals. However, in the different messages about how to deal with pain, rules do seem to change. In one case the suggested rule is to turn into the pain. In the other, the suggested rule is to turn away from the pain. This would seem to imply that one of them is a lie.

(Please note that it is a lie in that it is a delaying action. The Universe is good. There is no “bad” or “evil” as they are commonly understood. There is nothing to resist. The lie does nothing more than encourage a perception of separation between you and your divinity. It slows down your personal growth or even brings it to a standstill. Typically, other forces are accepted or inserted into that separation to be supported or profited. A clever lie even furthers evolution or ties itself to a fundamental truth, the way some gristle might be interwoven into the meat. But sooner or later, the lie will be revealed and further evolution will be stymied.

If, by that point, the unwanted delaying lie has been incorporated into the fabric of what you accept as the fundamental nature of things, you may not even see it.)

By turning into the pain, you can find the metaphorical splinter that causes the infection, remove it, and begin to heal. On the other hand, if you turn away from the pain, no matter where else in the Universe you turn, you will not find the splinter, the cause of your wound. By moving into your discomfort, you move closer to the cause of your wound. You move closer to healing it. By moving away from your discomfort, you move farther away from your healing.

Furthermore, removing a splinter is hardly a life threatening condition in most cases. It would seem that the advice to turn into the pain can lead you to the center of the wound in more situations than life threatening ones. On the other hand, turning away from the pain definitely does not apply in life threatening situations. Perhaps it doesn’t work at all. Perhaps it simply delays the consequences of the wound, allowing it to become even more exacerbated and (as in the case of over-the-counter analgesics) creating an opportunity for even more profit. (“Who is gathering that profit?” is a good question.)

Nature is so marvelously constructed that pain, fear, etc. is not only acutely felt (so it is hard to ignore), it tells you exactly where to look. “As below, so above.” The truth is the truth. Understanding it in one realm leads directly to understanding in other realms. If the realms look unconnected, it’s because one or the other or both are not well enough understood (yet). In other words, their commonality is not yet understood. Their connection to each other or to the truth is not yet understood or not understood well enough.

The only thing that blocks the discovery and articulation of truth is willing blindness to what is there. That’s what pain and other emotions do for us. They indicate our blind spots. What we do, whether we numb ourselves or turn into the pain, is up to us.

When we numb ourselves, we practice being blind. Such blindness or unwillingness is often a function of belief. Wherever such belief might come from, however, it encourages us to get things backward. Rather than being open to what is there and using that experience to lead to truth and further opening, such belief defines or declares what is “true” and shapes observations to fit that expectation. In other words, such blindness leads to less openness, less truth, which is only possible because you’ve numbed yourself.

How open are you to possibilities outside of the things you expect and assume? How do you find your blind spots? Do you turn into the pain or do you turn away from it?

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More of the book, The Circle of Existence can be found at www.smashwords.com.

© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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”The Circle of Existence: Chapter 8 – Turning Into the Pain” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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This Time, I Was the Victim

by Ingrid Dean

robbingIt was the beginning of the 2003 holiday season when my wife and I were invited to a holiday fundraiser at a posh restaurant in Detroit’s Indian Village area. The purpose was to raise money for less fortunate inner-city kids so they could be supplied with shoes for the upcoming winter.

I did my homework on the event. The mayor and some federal judges were also invited, so I trusted that their security details would have things well in hand. Thus, I did not fear for my wife’s and my safety or that of the other guests, including a police lieutenant from my department and his wife.

The entertainment, food, and drinks were fantastic. A very nice evening, even though the mayor never showed nor did any of the federal judges or other celebrities as promised.

Things were winding down for the evening. The valet girl found me and gave me the keys to my vehicle, saying she was going off duty and would no longer be responsible for my truck. Then, she ran out the door. I went to the door to look for my truck, saw it, and was returning to the restaurant when two gunmen broke in, rushed me with a gun pointed directly at my face, grabbed me by the necktie, and forced me into the dining room. One of them fired a shot next to my head and announced the hold-up. I went to the ground and a second shot was fired, fragmenting when it hit a $40,000 grand piano. A fragment of the slug struck a lady.

I was not armed, as I believed the mayor’s security detail would be present. It’s a good thing I wasn’t because if my weapon were seen I am positive I would have become another Detroit
homicide statistic.

I believed I was going to be shot in the head as I lay face down on the floor. I threw my cash on the floor, as the gunman demanded everybody’s wallets. My wallet had a badge and police ID in it. If that were revealed, I most assuredly would have been shot.

For some unknown reason, I envisioned a crime scene photo with me lying face down on the floor with my brains spilling out of my skull. I was not about to allow that to happen. My wife was only a few feet away, hiding underneath a table. She appeared to be okay.

I began to pray, and I felt the presence of a guardian angel. The fear left me and I was able to focus on the criminals’ actions so that I might become the best witness and see them led off to prison in handcuffs.

I threw my wallet under a table and it landed face open with the badge in full sight. I flipped it closed. How they never saw this had to be the work of an angel.

I was kicked in the groin as the number two gunman gathered up the cash and wallets. They went to a second dining room and I heard screaming and another gunshot. Then all was silent. I immediately called 911 to report the armed robbery with shots fired. I was still on the phone when the first patrol officer arrived, calming everyone and checking for injuries. Before I knew it, there were uniformed officers all over.

Suspects were being picked up in the neighborhood and brought back to the scene, but I couldn’t identify any of them. My wife and I were thankful to go home alive that night with only relatively minor injuries.

About a week later, we were sitting in our kitchen having our Saturday morning coffee, watching the local Detroit news program when I saw a story about a major arrest having been made by the Violent Crimes Task Force, a team comprised of FBI Agents, Michigan State Police Troopers, Detroit Police Officers, and some suburban Detroit officers. The number one gunman’s mug shot was displayed and I immediately recognized him as the one responsible for the armed robbery where we were victims.

All weekend I telephoned the investigator assigned to our case, with no reply. Monday morning, I was able to contact a member of the Task Force and told him our story. The bad guy had been arrested with four others responsible for murder, armed robberies, and carjacking. A fifth suspect, a juvenile, had fled to Alabama, and the FBI was after him. Their specialty was robbing patrons at fundraisers.

Weeks later, I was able to pick him out in a line-up at the Wayne County Jail. Although I never saw the case go to trial, as the number one suspect had already been convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life without parole, I believe it was the intervention of an angel that saved my life that night. And also some Divine Intervention that led me to watch the local news channel and see the scumbag’s mug shot.

 

More like this and some of Ingrid’s other work can be found at www.spiritofthebadge.com.

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The Circle of Existence: Chapter 7 – The Background Trend

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by DCH Park

monarchy-153404_1280“Reality is not a function of the event as event, but of the relationship of that event to past, and future, events.”
– Robert Penn Warren

“The frame, the definition, is a type of context. And context, as we said before, determines the meaning of things. There is no such thing as the view from nowhere, or from everywhere for that matter. Our point of view biases our observation, consciously and unconsciously. You cannot understand the view without the point of view.”
– Noam Shpancer

I read Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There when I was in eighth or ninth grade. I remember taking it with me when my class went on a field trip into the city to see a play. I have no memory of the play but I have an image of the lot of us standing outside the theater. I took the book with me to pass the time when we were waiting on line. I remember because some of my classmates saw it and teased me for reading what they knew as a children’s story. I smiled at their teasing and returned to my reading. I had picked it up because I read somewhere that Lewis Carroll’s stories were an excellent exercise in logic.

In it, the Red Queen is initially cordial to Alice, explaining the rules of chess. The narrative at one point says, “Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else—if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”

“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!” (Carroll, Lewis, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, Chapter 2, http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2?id=CarGlas.sgm&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&tag=public&part=2&division=div1, retrieved 15 JUL 14.)

The Red Queen’s Race, as it has come to be called, has been used to illustrate competitive adaptation in evolutionary biology, the “Treadmill of Production” in environmental sociology, and other concepts. In engineering and physics it can be likened to a DC offset, though the Red Queen’s Race, which is run as fast as you can, is probably overstating the matter a bit.

A DC offset is a background level that affects everything the same way so that relative differences between one point and another are unaffected because both the beginning and end points are affected by the same amounts and in the same direction. It is expressed mathematically by adding a constant to both inputs and outputs. The offset can even change over time. If it does, of course, the offset becomes a more complex function than adding a simple constant, but relative differences will be unaffected as long as both end points are affected the same way.

I have always been puzzled by Dodgson’s (Lewis Carroll’s “real” name) inclusion of the Red Queen’s Race in his novella. For one thing, it would seem that you only have to “run at least twice as fast” to make progress if you’re going in the same direction as the offset. If your goal is in the other direction, the offset brings you closer to it. If the offset is increasing over time, even if the increase is imperceptibly small over the course of a day or a week, then you may not have to run at all. You may be able to reach your goal by simply standing still. The background trend will bring you and your goal together.

Nevertheless, the race itself is an intriguing concept with vast implications but it doesn’t seem to impact the rest of the book or characters at all. The characters all walk about normally and the landscape stays put afterward. Is it possible that Dodgson was alluding to a background trend in the real world and not a fictional trend at all? Arguably, all of the fantastical things that Alice encounters in Wonderland are rooted in real world experiences. Their outrageous appearances serve to distract and disarm you but those outrageous elements begin in truth. The next question then would seem to be, “What is the truth? What, if anything, is true about the Red Queen’s Race?”

It surely isn’t literally true. We would probably notice if the landscape moved relative to our places in it. We would probably end up saying something very much like what the Red Queen says. Instead, we think it strange.

Is there a background trend that we don’t notice but that very powerfully affects us? Even something intangible can nevertheless be real. A moment’s reflection finds that even non-physical things can be felt through their effects. (This is not to say that everything that is intangible is real. Rather, those things that exert real effects are real, even if we can’t see them directly. We can ignore them but we do so at the risk of also ignoring their effects. Those effects may be small, but taken over a whole lifetime or several generations, their cumulative effect can be decisive.)

We can measure and feel their effects even when we can’t perceive them directly. This has been demonstrated even with physical things, for example, with things that are very small, like a bacterium or virus and things that are very big, like in plate tectonics. Perhaps the effect is very small. Perhaps the effect is only readily apparent over generations. Perhaps we are taught to simply take it for granted or not to notice it. Perhaps something else is going on or a combination of things is happening.

Certainly if the effect was very slow, it could be taken for background noise. It might not even be noticed but its cumulative impact could be very powerful. For example, a tree grows so slowly that its growth is imperceptible. It appears to be immobile, like a stone. However, over decades and even centuries the impact of a tree can be enormous.

How much more potent might a social bias be? Such a bias might be small and only noticeable over many generations but its cumulative impact on history might be huge. Even if there were a bias, one can imagine that it would still be possible for notable individuals to do remarkable things. They could “run … twice as fast” and achieve something remarkable. However, in a situation in which there were a background bias, the tendency would be for individuals and institutions in general to conform with the bias, especially over time. For example, once the founder died, you’d expect the institution(s) left behind would tend to fall more and more in line with the background trend.

Regardless of why the offset hasn’t been widely noticed, the question remains, is there one? Is there a general tendency in one direction? For example, are there corporations which are widely vilified and hated today, that have a long history of being consistently hated and vilified, that were nevertheless loved and embraced in their communities in their early years? Corporations that had a founder who was charitable and devoted to good works in the community but that changed after the founder died?

Alternatively, are there corporations that went the other way? Companies that had founders who were hated and vilified but whose influence was limited to the early years of the corporation? Companies that became widely loved and lauded after the influence of the founder waned?

If there is a background tendency, what is it? Is the tendency consistent or universal? How does the tendency affect your life and the decisions you make? Such a tendency would be like swimming across a river. Your aim may be to reach the other side and you may picture some point directly opposite your starting point. The relative motion between you and the water might put you on that heading. However the motion of the water itself means that you actually end up much farther downstream. The motion of the water is like a background trend. In order to reach the point that you envisioned, it may be necessary to swim much farther and harder and to swim at a different angle than the one you originally had in mind.

What is your experience? Is there a background trend? If so, which direction is the bias in? Where is the current going?

###

More of the book, The Circle of Existence can be found at www.smashwords.com.

© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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The Circle of Existence: Chapter 6 – Defining Beliefs

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by DCH Park

candle-201623_1280“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”
– Buddha

“True love doesn’t come to you, it has to be inside you.”
– Julia Roberts

“Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside of them was superior to circumstances.”
– Bruce Barton

Some people speak of limiting beliefs. Beliefs that we carry can limit our senses of what we can do, who we can be, and what is possible. For example, how likely am I to be successful if I don’t believe that I can be? How likely am I to win the big race if I honestly believe that the other guy is faster or deserves to win more than I do?

However, beliefs and how they can affect us is subtler, more complex, and more powerful than the term limiting belief implies. In fact, these beliefs are defining. Defining beliefs are usually centered on ourselves, our families and friends, society, or the world and our relationships and interactions with them. As such, they can certainly be limiting. However, beyond embodying limits, defining beliefs shape the fundamental nature of the world and our roles in it, as we experience them.

There are at least two different types of defining beliefs. Let’s call them personal and existential. They are distinct but strongly interrelated. At times, the distinction may even seem arbitrary, especially for beliefs that lie on or near the border between them. Nevertheless, as will become clear, the differences are significant.

Personal defining beliefs are those that relate directly to the way of the world and how we have to be in the world to get along. They might take any of several different forms, such as: “The world is safe/unsafe;” “The world is unreliable or impermanent;” “The world is hard and unyielding;” “Life is struggle/joyful;” “Making money is hard or requires sacrifice or is easy;” or “Societal hierarchy is real and important.”

Often personal defining beliefs originate in the aftermath of a significant, surprising trauma. (Please note that I am using “trauma” in the theosophical sense – a change in a love relationship so that you can never experience that love in the same way again.) The natural response to such trauma is shock and pain (and possibly a sense of betrayal) over the loss coupled with bewilderment as to exactly what happened and why.

When this happens (especially when we are young) the emotional pain can be quite intense. As much as we might like to reverse events and unmake the trauma, we don’t know how to reverse it. Perhaps it’s impossible to reverse it. The only thing we can commonly do is try to understand why it happened so that we can protect ourselves from similar pain in the future.

Of course, these post facto decisions about what must have happened are usually flawed, but that doesn’t stop the process nor deter us from latching onto the decision and installing it as a rule. In this way, such decisions are used to define how the world works and how we must be in the world to be safe, effective, loved, etc. In addition, the emotional energy stirred up by the trauma is usually channeled into the decision and resulting rule(s), making them very strong and deeply rooted. Of course, the more potent the original trauma, the more significant we believe the decision to be and the more imperative the derived rule becomes. Some decisions like this can have effects that last an entire lifetime.

For example, a child who suddenly loses a cherished toy as it flies out the car window and then sees his father pull the car over and run out to retrieve the toy, dodging traffic the whole time, might be impressed and decide that there isn’t any loss that can’t be healed with love. He might alternatively focus on the whizzing cars and decide that the world is a hard and heartless place. If the father instead continues to drive on and yells at the child for being so careless, he might decide that the world is basically a cruel and unsafe place where even those he loves the most can turn on him at any time through no fault of his own.

The decisions that the child makes about the way of the world and the interpretations that he draws from those decisions can lead directly to beliefs about how the world operates and who he must be to be safe, loved, and happy. Thus, personal defining beliefs can be understood as beliefs about the rules of the game – how it is played, what the different pieces are, how game pieces are moved, what strategies are best, how to win, what constitutes winning, etc.

In contrast, existential defining beliefs are about the container that holds the game. Whereas personal beliefs focus on how to play a better game, conceptually, existential beliefs focus on which game is played. They are more philosophical in nature, but are of no less importance than personal defining beliefs. In fact, although they seem to be more abstract, in fact they deal with more fundamental questions about existence and experience.

Examples of existential beliefs include: “Evil exists;” “Good is eternally at war with evil;” “It is possible to be separate from someone and thus oppose that person,” “Cosmic laws/rules exist;” and “Cosmic laws are inviolable.” They define the boundaries that limit the scope of play. They are not unlike the mythical edge of the world that sailors used to fear. They are taken to be absolute and discontinuous. Humans (the belief goes) have no choice but to stay away from the limits, safely immersed in the game on the board. Any attempt to cross or even touch the limits of the board, we are told, result in annihilation or madness or both. However, these are only beliefs. They are taken to be more fundamental and thus are often harder to find, but their power, like that of all beliefs, comes from the fact that we accept them.

Interestingly, when we do come across a discontinuous limit, it is a signal that what we thought we knew is wrong. This has been shown over and over throughout history and invariably leads to great discoveries, new knowledge, and heroic achievements. Reaching and breaching limits that were thought to be impervious is a defining characteristic of a hero. Examples abound. In art, the development of Cubism, Impressionism, and other movements is one example. In pop art, there are the characters of Harry Potter and Truman in The Truman Show, among others.

In science, running into and transcending discontinuous limits often heralds paradigm shifts that allow for radically new and exciting possibilities. The notions of the double helix structure of DNA, the failure of Newtonian physics and the emergence of Quantum Theory, and the shift toward plate tectonics in geology are three examples.

In life, as in science and art, meeting and transcending defining beliefs of either type can precipitate huge spurts of growth and creativity. What beliefs do you have that define the world, who you must be, or what is possible and why and how?

###

More of the book, The Circle of Existence can be found at www.smashwords.com.

© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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”The Circle of Existence: Chapter 6 – Defining Beliefs” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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The Circle of Existence: Chapter 5 – Casting Shadows

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by DCH Park

By User:Nino Barbieri (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

By User:Nino Barbieri (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

“The beginnings and ends of shadow lie between the light and darkness and may be infinitely diminished and infinitely increased. Shadow is the means by which bodies display their form. The forms of bodies could not be understood in detail but for shadow.”
– Leonardo da Vinci

“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”
– Abraham Lincoln

“Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.”
– Carl Sandburg

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

Imagine an irregular object floating in space. Light shines down on it, casting a shadow on the floor below. The shadow is a perfect projection of the widest parts of the object even though those widest parts may not be in the same plane.

All you have is the shadow but you are really interested in the object itself. It is easy to see that the shape and behavior of the shadow are determined by the object but going the other way and understanding the nature of the object from nothing more than its shadow can be very hard and in some cases, impossible. For example, a sphere and a cone can both project a circle shadow. There are many other shapes that can project the same shadow, some of which are highly irregular. But if you are reasoning back to the object when all you know is that it projects a circle shadow, the object itself cannot be uniquely determined.

Movement and change in the shadow make understanding the object easier but very simple and straightforward behavior of the object can produce complicated and bizarre behavior in the shadow. Elaborate rules may have to be invented to explain the behavior of the shadow if that’s all you see, whereas no such rules would be needed if the shadow is understood as a projection of the object. Life becomes simpler when behavior of the shadow is understood in terms of behavior of the object.

The truth casts “shadows” into the physical Universe in the same way that a three dimensional object casts shadows onto a plane. Very different shadows can all be cast by the same object just as the same truth can present differently at different times and from different angles. Understanding the truth from nothing more than what it casts into physical reality is like trying to reconstruct an object from nothing more than its shadows – it is not impossible but it can be very hard and it can be very easy to go down a blind alley and not know it.

However, all of the shadows are cast by the same object. Therefore they must all be consistent with each other. In a similar manner, the shadows of truth that we find in the physical Universe are all consistent with each other. Also, the things that are not true – the apparitions cast by things other than the truth – are inconsistent with the truth. With two objects casting shadows, the shadows may appear consistent some of the time but they are from two different things and their apparent consistency will break down sooner or later. In the same way, the apparent consistency between shadows of true things and shadows of untrue things will break down sooner or later (please see also Chapter 13: Consistency).

This is why it is so important to use every sense you have in your body – even senses that go beyond the traditional five. We can’t afford to ignore any clue in working from the physical shadow back to the truth. The clues can be so subtle that it is easy to mistake some or miss them altogether. Who knows which clue might make a critical difference? Yet this is done. Clues are ignored, most frequently to honor or continue to hold old ideas even (some would say “especially”) in the face of clues that point in a different direction.

How is this done? Sometimes a clue’s champion is vilified, ridiculed, or otherwise tainted so that the clue itself is never taken seriously. Alternatively, the clue can be simply ignored. Subtle clue(s) are easily and often ignored. A clue’s subtlety does not mean that it is wrong or doesn’t exist. Nevertheless, history shows that such ignorance is common. In fact, evidence that seems to contradict the common “wisdom” or the established order is frequently ignored, especially by the “powers that be” and those motivated out of a perception of lack – that in order to increase wealth, safety, whatever, it must be taken from someone else. (There is more than enough wealth, safety, food, joy, health, etc. in the Universe for everyone’s needs. We don’t have to take anything from anyone else to have enough for ourselves. In fact, we have more of it when we help others to receive it. Ironically, by denying those things to other people, the size of the whole pie gets smaller, even if the piece we carve out for ourselves is bigger in the next round. Eventually, the pie will shrink to the point where there won’t be enough for everybody.)

Another trick that has been used many times throughout history is to confound two or more otherwise inconsistent things. The basic tactic is to present one thing every time another thing comes up so you learn to associate one thing with the other. The only relationship between them is the forced one but people tend to forget that fact and come to associate one thing with the other habitually. It may sound silly but after a while the two things may come to be so closely associated in people’s minds that they have trouble even conceiving of them as separate entities any longer. (One example of this is found in the attitudes some people had toward women working outside of the home. Some people believed that women were delicate creatures and were not well suited to do “unsightly” or complex jobs, such as police work or management. Such attitudes are rare in the U.S. today but they were common here not too long ago.)

Nevertheless, the essential observation – that a habitual bond is formed between different ideas that have nothing to do with each other – is sound. The end result is a belief that the two ideas are an inseparable unit. In practice, one idea is often true and the confounded idea is often untrue. In order to honor the truth, you must first recognize the truth as separate from its confounded idea. You must separate them again.

A more subtle tactic, albeit one that seems to be more common these days, is distraction combined with a default. As the pace of life increases, people become busier and busier just trying to survive. As their time and energy are more and more consumed, they have less and less to devote to healing, silence, and joy. Consequently, they believe that they have to accept the existing default in order to survive, in order to keep up. (Who forces them and why and how are good questions.)

People don’t typically devote time or energy to considering what they accept. They simply accept what is given and move on. This acceptance is currently encouraged in society, ostensibly for the sake of alacrity, but the fact is that simply accepting something (for any reason) does not mean that the choice made is the best choice nor that the range from which it was chosen even reflects the full range of possible choices. It may only reflect what was done before or a way of thinking that is common or something else, but that doesn’t make it any more right. (A powerful result from Organization Theory is that choosing the set of things that someone else will choose from is one way to exercise power. Please also see the note in “Chapter 25: Freedom.”)

When ignorance isn’t enough, some folks resort to violently enforcing the established point of view. It can be an act of defiance to recognize and honor the truth. Many of those who argue for the status quo are wont to conjure images of violence, chaos, and death as the certain outcomes of changing things. They seem to argue that the only alternative to the status quo is chaos and a complete lack of order. But a change in the order is not lack of order. It is interesting that the same people who decry change because of violence are often the first ones to resort to exactly the same violence they decry.

All of this can be rather confusing. What is truth and what is untruth? Where/how is one commonly associated with the other? Is that link between them real? Whom does that link benefit? Whom does that link damage? You are best served to trust yourself and really observe for yourself what is there. Find the truth-nuggets in what is said, no matter who is saying it. What is important is what is said, not who is saying it.

When things seem confusing, it is usually because part of the puzzle is misunderstood or yet to be revealed. Confusion makes confounding things easier but there is always a mismatch or giveaway. This is why it is so important to be aware of all of your senses and what they are telling you. Anything that seems to be inconsistent or that leads to complications bears further consideration. There may be other things going on besides the truth but if there are, the inconsistencies are always there to be seen.

There may be some people who try to gain advantage by hiding a part of the puzzle, seeking to use the truth only for themselves and their chosen few. They seem to prefer to “rule in hell” instead of recognizing other people as equals. They would rather be top of the heap of a very small ant hill than equal members in a community that raises itself to the stars. My sense is that this attitude also comes from an incomplete or inaccurate picture. As these inaccuracies are revealed and healed, such attitudes are naturally diminished. The natural result is an evolution toward a community of equals.

This community of equals is what most creative scientists and artists imagine for everyone. They are concerned with discovering and elucidating the truth, whatever it may be and wherever they may find it. How we organize ourselves – the economic and social implications of that truth – is taken by them to be a consequence of the truth. It falls out of the truth. It doesn’t direct it or determine its course. It certainly doesn’t limit the truth. And you find the truth by looking for consistencies between shadows.

###

More of the book, The Circle of Existence can be found at www.smashwords.com.

© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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Her Voice

by Ingrid Dean

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When I first heard the woman’s voice, I had been involved in the thirty-five-year-old investigation for eight years. This particular cold case involved the murder of a twenty-three-year-old college student in 1969. Like so many others, this one had been shelved time after time over the years due to a lack of investigative leads. It was the kind of case that every police department has—the one referred to as the case—and everyone knows which one you are talking about.

Finally, after years of dead-ends, science might come to our rescue. Breakthrough DNA-extraction technology had just become available and evidence from the case had been delivered to the lab for analysis. There was nothing left for us to do at this point but to wait patiently for the results. We desperately hoped for a break in the case.

During this time I traveled to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to attend an FBI-sponsored violent crimes seminar. While there, I spoke to several of my counterparts at length, explaining what our scientists were attempting to do with the evidence while fishing for any investigative ideas they might have.

After many hours of exchanging tall-tales and war stories, I found myself back in my hotel room in the early morning hours and quickly fell asleep—or so I thought. After what seemed like only minutes, I distinctly heard a female voice softly calling my name. As I hovered in that familiar valley between sleep and conscious thought, the voice continued to slowly call my name: “Eric, wake up. I need you.” The voice seemed to be getting closer, increasing in volume and clarity, until I knew I was fully awake. As I lay there, trying to understand what I thought was a strange dream, I once again heard her voice urgently calling my name and telling me to wake up. I was needed.

The voice was so clear and so close—it was right next to me! I could feel her breath on my neck! This realization startled me and I instantly jumped out of bed and fumbled for the light switch. Maybe someone was playing a trick on me and was hiding in the room. Upon turning on the lights I saw no one. I searched the entire room, including the closet, bathroom, and behind the TV. I even opened the door to check the hallway for stragglers—all to no avail. I was alone.

Needless to say it took me quite awhile to fall asleep after this scare. Eventually I chalked it up to being a bad dream from sleeping in a strange bed . . . until I returned home.

On the following Monday, as I sat in a meeting sipping coffee and listening half-heartedly to the speaker, I received a 911 page from the lab. Could this be what we’ve been waiting for all these years? I excused myself from the room and immediately called the lab. They had a positive CODIS notification! Score one for the scientists! They had done what no one else had—identify the person responsible for this crime.

By analyzing the DNA that was embedded into the weave of the victim’s clothing by the offender, and matching that DNA profile to a list of known felons, the lab was able to give us a name. We could now move the investigation forward and bring it to a successful conclusion.

Although I have never believed in ghosts or the paranormal, I am unable to provide any earthly explanation for what I experienced in that hotel room. I believe it was the victim calling to me and telling me I was needed. Her message of “Eric, wake up—I need you” is etched firmly in my mind. I can still hear her voice and feel her breath on my neck. She knew it was time for me to wake up; that things were happening that needed my attention.

She was right.

More like this and some of Ingrid’s other work can be found at www.spiritofthebadge.com.

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Behavior vs. Being

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by DCH Park

One of the apparently more difficult things to deal with is the difference between behavior and being. We are trained to confuse these two. Often people react to hearing criticism of their beings when all that was intended was criticism of behavior or (worse) honest appraisal and reaction to behavior.

My wife once reminded me of how it is possible to love the divine in the other and to hold that love above everything else. Loving the divine in the other also makes healing possible. Embracing that divine makes many things possible that seem impossible otherwise. In many ways embracing the divine in others and yourself is the very essence of spirituality.

Perhaps that is why it is so strongly resisted. Regardless of why it is resisted though, Ego benefits when it is. What I have noticed is that in your outrage over being criticized, the tendency is to lose sight of yourself feeling outrage and to become submerged in the outrage. Other emotions work as well.

What they have in common is the tendency or expectation (some even encourage) the emotional reaction that protects Ego and is seen to come from criticism. It is remarkable that such criticism can be reacted to when it is not meant.

If I am catching something in a conversation that was not thrown by you, the other participant in the conversation, then it must have come from me, even though I may insist that it came from outside of myself. That is what I and resisting seeing and taking account of – myself.

One way to deal with this is to look for the difference between your being and your behavior. Is there something that you’re doing that assumes or restricts yourself and/or someone else? Is there some way that your actions or attitudes control those of another? How would better understanding and articulating them and/or your reasons for them lead to deeper realization of your own being or your reasons for choosing as you did and the wound(s) it (they) sprang from?

I find that pushing or trying to create behavior always boils down to control. I am trying to control myself and often trying to control others. I may be trying to control conversations or points of view, but I am trying to control.

Being is different. Being does not go away. It is in no rush. It can sit and placidly listen. It can even draw another out in the case that there is something waiting to be drawn out without losing focus or being diminished in any way.

What are you trying to control? What are you imposing Ego over? Is it strictly for Ego’s sake? How can you more clearly see and love the divine in yourself and the other?

© 2014, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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