Empathy, Getting Real, Relationship Food, Self-Rescuing Series, Wisdom

Just waiting for my Nobel Peace Prize.

Sometimes the things I want to say to you are so important to me that it’s paralyzing. I’m so desperate to string together the perfect words to make you act, that I don’t even know where to start.  It’s a heavy burden.

It’s ok though, because I SOLVED ALL THE WORLD’S PROBLEMS!

As I sat drawing at my kitchen table (and continuing to avoid writing), I realized that there’s really only one word you need to understand. One word could repair the fabric of our society the way no legislation, politician or protest can: DIGNITY.

If everyone started honoring the dignity in everyone else the way we deserve just because we exist as human beings, and if we conducted ourselves with the dignity we all posses by the same virtue, all of this ugliness would dry right up.

Here’s how it works: There’s no way you can mistreat someone if you aren’t willing to drag yourself down to that level, and you can’t be sexist, racist, homophobic or discriminate against anyone (or allow your elected officials to do so) if you consider their quality of life first, and how it erodes their dignity (and yours) every single time. The less you’re in touch with your inherent dignity, the easier it is to rob someone of theirs, perpetuating the cycle of mean people creating more mean people. Don’t be mean.

Sounds too simple you say? It really IS simple. It’s the other stuff that’s convoluted. All the ways and reasons we use to hold each other down are only constructed to perpetuate a false bottom. You see, we are all equal. That is a fact. No one starts out any better or more deserving of their dignity that anyone else, but some folks can’t stand not being at the top. You can’t have a top without having a bottom, so the bottom was created one stereotype and one ignorant assumption at a time.

It won’t happen overnight. Maybe it won’t even happen in my lifetime, but it starts with us being cognizant of the way we act, and teaching that to our children until there’s an entire generation that doesn’t remember anything different, and respect is the norm. They will read of our ignorance and prejudices in their history books and be appalled. Can you imagine!?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Empathy, Getting Real, Wisdom

My Hero!

I come to you from my recliner, where I’m researching bohemian clothing (or curating my ideal wardrobe on Pinterest, whatever). Mike is watching a comedy in which two well-known actors discuss writing a screen play about super heroes who can control the world with their minds, and it occurs to me we all have that super power.

The world we live in is a culmination of every single thought we choose to act on, and the ones we don’t. The impact you have on the world around you, and often it’s impact on you, reflects what’s going on in your head. The contents of our minds manifest into our behavior.

Every moment of every day, you get to decide if you’re going to use your powers for good or evil. Are you going to be the villain or the hero?

Empathy, Wisdom

I’m a red state refugee.

I have a vivid childhood memory of playing under a table at the local burger joint while the adults discussed what I now understand to be politics. That’s when I learned I didn’t want to be a Republican, because they’re mean.
I spent the next couple of decades or so (and maybe the rest of my life) trying to reconcile what I was taught in Sunday School, and the fairly ….some might say strict…standard of conduct set forth by my family and teachers with the exclusiveness, misogyny and judgement I saw in the world around me, and by world, I mean the 3.6 square miles of Iowa Park Texas, pop. 6,000ish. I’ve had to separate myself from everything I was certain about to be the kind of person those same people taught me to be.
My world is much bigger now. The distance and years have allowed me some perspective. I’ve come to understand there are categories of Republicans. Of course there are your “Mr. Burns” types; greedy, self-interested business people and the standard bigots, but then there’s this enormous chunk of people who are simply trying to make it to Heaven.
You see, in the Bible Belt it’s hard not to absorb the idea that you are inherently evil, and need someone to instruct you on the straight and narrow path. The respect for leadership that’s so intrinsic in their values also makes them susceptible to manipulation, especially when it’s been twisted to not only discourage questioning authority but trusting one’s own motivations.
Even among the nonreligious, being a respectable, honorable person is deeply rooted in the culture. It’s obvious to me at some point, many years before now, an evil politician realized how easy it could be to say just the right words to activate the powerful loyalty of a large demographic whose desire to do the right thing would keep them voting against their own interests for generations. For you see, some people feel they deserve to be on top, and for there to be a top, they have to create a bottom.  It’s a fallacy that has perverted everything pure about their faith and way of life, and it’s so insidious they can’t even see the major moral conflicts that are so glaring to the rest of us.
I want to be very clear that I will never make excuses for anyone’s bad behavior, especially the mistreatment of any other human being. I just want to offer some insight. I want to do my part to promote the practice of, not only researching the opposition’s agenda, but trying to understand WHY they feel that way, and where our common ground might be. That cultivates empathy, without which there will never be peace.
I hate that rest of the country will miss out on the good things about my culture because the bad has become so pervasive. I continue to mourn the stability, community and relationships I’ve lost because I can’t make peace between my values and the current political climate. There are no words to convey the intensity of my frustration in this matter, but if I lose my empathy and compassion, then I’m as complicit in the problem.
Empathy, Getting Real, Wisdom

Hey white people!

I made you a list of excuses (some of you call them “reasons”) for racism that seem to come up a lot. It studying these ideas, I’ve been consistently shocked by the number of otherwise educated and intelligent people who subscribe to them. I’m left with the conclusion that haters are gonna hate because that’s what they want to do. There’s no reasonable, logical basis for it. They just want to hate, or be superior to someone bad enough to forego all their common sense to do so.

  • You’re elderly, and back in your day it was just the way things were.

Trust me, I know it can take a lifetime to deprogram the lessons we absorb in our upbringing. However, how much common sense can it possibly take to know that treating human beings any differently, especially cruelly, based on NOTHING but the color of their skin is immoral. Just because it was common doesn’t mean it was right. It’s not and never has been. You need to adjust.

  • That’s just the way it’s always been done.

See #1. History has gotten a lot of things wrong. Beating one’s wife, shunning divorcees and persecuting the mentally ill have all been common practices in this country. None of them are fair or humane, and now we prosecute people who do those things. The same should be done with racism.

  • That’s just the way it is where you’re from.

(I’m beginning to see that #1 really sums things up) It’s way past time to look around and see who does what differently and why. Maybe everyone else is onto something and you need to get on board. There’s nothing wrong with loving your home, but make sure you really have something to be proud of. Recognizing that we have some problems to fix doesn’t make you unpatriotic. It means you love your country (or state) enough to want to make it truly worthy of your pride.

  • You just don’t know anyone who’s a different ethnicity from you, so you inadvertently say racist things out of genuine ignorance but would never hurt anyone.

Being from a small, rural community, I know a lot of people like this.  This excuse might have held water at one time, but now we have reliable vehicles, good roads, phone service, the internet…It’s never been easier to get connected with anyone from anywhere. Go make some new friends.

  • You pulled yourself up by your bootstraps, and they can too.

This one could be its own book. I’ll sum it up by saying that if you are not a person of color, a woman, a disabled person or an immigrant, you already got a head start. There are people in this country who have achieved great things by overcoming obstacles so far from your experience that your brain doesn’t even have a place to process them. Just because it’s not happening to you doesn’t mean it’s not valid. No one is saying it’s your fault, but your willful blindness is a luxury the world can no longer afford. Being part of the solution starts with appreciating the advantage you were born with and being empathetic to those we weren’t.

If you’ve been taught, or managed to convince yourself that there’s any acceptable degree of, or reason for racism just remember this:

Ray Charles attended a  SEGREGATED school for the BLIND!

 

Choose Your Words Wisely, Wisdom

(At Least) 6 Steps to Evaluating Information.

I interrupt my originally-intended blog post to bring you this emergency post about how to evaluate the information you are constantly bombarded with on the Internet and elsewhere. This is by no stretch a conclusive list, but it’s a good jump-start to our common sense.
  1.  Is it a tabloid / gossip page? Tabloids are those trashy magazines in the supermarket checkout that rely on sensationalism to draw you in. If you answered yes, just throw it out now…all the way out. If not, move on to step two.
  2. Is it fact or opinion or fact? Some sources are really sneaky about trying to pass off opinion pieces as fact. If the writer uses first-person pronouns such as “I”, or otherwise injects him/herself into the story, it’s opinion. If it resorts to name calling, it’s an opinion. I personally believe it’s wise to consult the opinions of reliable sources, but even then they should be considered suggestion, not fact. Opinion is the spice of your research, not the meat. Approach it with caution and an open mind. Go to step three.
  3. Step two should also be applied to personal blogs, even this one. I only list blogs separately because they sometimes requite a bit of additional discernment. Arise Ink has a bit of a homemade feel, but there are plenty out there that have a slick, news-like aesthetic, and are still just someone’s opinion. You could also happen onto the professional blog of someone who is a legitimate authority in the subject you’re researching. Just pay attention to what you’re really dealing with, and go to step four (Apply the remaining steps to non-opinion pieces).
  4. Is it biased? For the sake of discussion, let’s use politics as an example. Does the article or website criticize or condemn one party or candidate exclusively? Is it written or owned by a specific party/candidate or anyone who is affiliated with, employed by or donates to them? If you answered yes to one or both of these questions, remain skeptical and go to step five.
  5. Look for sources that use specific language.  For example, “The CEO earned $500,000 in 2015”, instead of “The CEO makes a lot of money”. The more specific the information, the easier it is to fact check and the more likely it is to be true. The most reliable material will cite sources, which you should also evaluate carefully.  Go to step six.
  6. Factual sources will generally not use overtly emotional language, like name calling or finger pointing (unless accompanied by documented facts. See #5). This kind of writing is intended to manipulate you. It’s relying on using your emotions to cloud your judgment.
My only intention is to give you some tools that will help you make better decisions about what you put into your brain and what your inflict on the people around you, on and off social medial. I’ve seen good people do so much damage with misinformation. You don’t want to be that person. Remember the truth seldom exists in extremes. The gray areas are always your best bet.
Getting Real, Wisdom

Beware of the false bottom!

If our society was a work of literature, it would consist of about 98% long, rambling run-on sentences about division, oppression and all the worst things human beings do to each other. There would be page upon page about what one side wants and why the other side doesn’t think they should have it, followed by heated commentary from people who can’t seem to put themselves in another person’s shoes well enough to know what they’re talking about.

The other 2% would be beautifully bold statements about when we finally got it right, underlined with the blood, sweat and tears of those who labored sacrificially to make it happen and highlighted with the joy the of ones whose lives and will be forever changed because of it, radiating out to give support and inspiration to future generations.

We should be careful to never take our progress for granted or forget that we don’t stop being equal in the spaces between accomplishments. Inequality is a fallacy, an evil lie perpetuated by those who desperately want to preserve the status quo that severs them so well.

Relationship Food, Self-Rescuing Series, Wisdom

What are your true colors?

Humans are complicated and life is messy. One of the many things we do to keep that theme running is miscommunicate, but before you can really communicate with someone else, you have to get on the same page with yourself.

If an 8-count box of crayons can represent your emotional spectrum, keep reading. This is about getting familiar with the super-deluxe 120-count pack.
Somewhere, somebody decided emotions are either good or bad. For example, happiness, love and gratification feel good, so we naturally want to do things that give us that feeling. Guilt, sadness and fear feel bad and are to be avoided. Anger spans both lists, because there’s often temporary relief in lashing out.
That’s all baloney, and here’s why: Every single one of your feelings serve a purpose, and if heeded appropriately, will help you navigate even the trickiest of situations and relationships.
Think of guilt as your emotional pain response. Pain is your body’s way of alerting you to a problem. It says “take your hand off the stove, Dummy! It’s burning!”. A healthy guilt response will let you know when you’ve behaved badly and need to adjust your behavior.
The same way guilt helps you look out for others, fear helps keep and eye on you. It’s the knot in your stomach that warns you not to take a ride from that stranger at the party, or the panic that makes you take your foot off the gas before careening out of control.
Anger is simple. It’s just mad, and everybody understands that. It’s so easy in fact we seem to want to default to it. Are you hurt? Anger. Are you confused by someone’s actions? Anger. Disappointed? Anger.
We’ve got the idea that being mad puts us in a more powerful position than being hurt. The truth is, being aware of your pain and honest enough to admit it, puts you in control because it’s the first step toward a real resolution. Reacting to a situation when you’re not sure, or not being honest, about your motivations is like taking medicine when you don’t have a proper diagnosis. At best, it won’t help; at worst, it can be dangerous.
You can’t be easily abused or manipulated when you’re in tune with your real feelings. Being aware of all the shades of your emotions makes your intuition much more sensitive
Humans are emotional creatures. We can’t realistically stop ourselves from reacting emotionally to both external and internal forces. If you aren’t honest and aware of what you’re reacting to and why, your response will almost always be inappropriate, dumping more turmoil and confusion into your life. Peace is a product of learning to use your emotions as a tool, instead of being a slave to your emotional triggers.