“It’s Only Meat”

giraffe-dreamstime_xs_31307435The killing, skinning and dismembering of a healthy two-year-old giraffe named Marius in front of child and adult spectators at the Copenhagen, Denmark zoo has haunted me for days. I am still trying to sort out my visceral feelings about this, and trying to understand and share the public outrage and concern on all sides of the issue.

Like hospitals, zoos deal with matters of life and death every day as they win some and lose some. Unlike slaughter houses and butcher shops whose goal is to kill, however, zoos have a fundamental commitment to fostering and preserving life. They are not chartered to offer biology classes that teach anatomy through dissection. So the recent event with Marius surprises and shocks to the core.

I will be the first to claim my disingenuousness, since someone had to kill a healthy animal for the burger I ate last week. I like to pat myself on the back for choosing as much as possible to eat only free range, organic meats and vegetables, but someone is still doing the dirty work for my table behind closed doors. But even this may not  be the central reason I am feeling so uncomfortable and so outraged at the decision taken by the administration of the Danish zoo.

The fact that some parents applauded the zoo’s display does not make it right: parents in the United States also exposed their children to the public lynching of African slaves and later citizens; Inquisitors tortured and killed alleged infidels in gruesome public rituals, and it is likely that well-to-do citizens of Rome gave their children the opportunity to watch early Christians and other dissenters being fed to the lions for sport. In these instances the sport put on display were human beings, even though some were not accepted as such at the time.

Fast forward to the present. Many children and adults who visit zoos are enamored with all sorts of animals, and are rooting for both the large cats and their prey, which in the wild might include giraffes. Visitors typically come to be uplifted and enlightened, to experience a warm moment, not to watch a sweet young animal slaughtered, skinned, dismembered and fed to the large cats who are also captives of the same zoo. In the process of writing this piece I looked again at some of the images of the children and adults witnessing the scene: some were fascinated and appreciative, while others were clearly disturbed. In one image a young girl had turned her back to the scene, but still found herself watching in horror.

What a shock! I was not physically present, watching edited clips from more than a continent’s distance away, and yet I was horrified. Like me, some of those children and adults will remember and be marked by that moment for the rest of their lives.

The most telling issue for me centered around the zookeeper’s comment in one of the videos: “See, it’s just meat!” The missing component in the decision to do this deed was the way in which any and all aspects of human and other animal consciousness were ignored. How can a giraffe have consciousness? Who assumes that the big cats have no idea they are eating their cellmates, and that this meal for some reason does not taste like the others? What about the sibling giraffe forced to witness this horror, essentially alone? After all, it’s only meat. I have watched birds and rabbits and elephants gather and grieve the loss of one of their group, whether hit by a car or eaten by prey. I have seen animals stop and acknowledge that this is their moment to die as they face off their predator, perhaps in the service of the larger ecosystem.

Furthermore, there is clearly a pecking order regarding the value of a life. In an article in the newspaper India Today, Bengt Holst, the scientific director of the zoo was quoted as saying, “”I know the giraffe is a nice looking animal, but I don’t think there would have been such an outrage if it had been an antelope, and I don’t think anyone would have lifted an eyebrow if it was a pig,” said Holst.

In my worldview we are all connected: human, non-human, predator, prey. The event was shared at a cellular level by everyone who participated whether physically present, reading about it, or watching video clips. It was a different sort of execution story, one that reminded us of our distinctive human nature when compared to four-legged animals, and of our failure to recognize that we are indeed part of, not masters of nature. I will add that I feel the same wrenching feeling each time I learn or read about state sponsored executions of human beings through application of the death penalty or mob violence. Are human beings “just meat” too? We are being “culled” too, more often than not based upon fallacious eugenics theories about the relative value of certain human lives as compared to others.

That young giraffe was not “just meat.” While its awareness may not necessarily mirror our own (who knows for sure?), it was nevertheless a conscious being that in its two short years had perhaps come to trust its captors, and may have been more shocked than any that its regular humans would personally kill it based on possibly flawed genetic understandings. As for the other creatures remaining at the zoo and the brouhaha that ensued in this case, how could they trust again, and what will happen down the road when animals large and small begin to rebel in unusual ways?

When a cow is raised on a beef farm, I imagine that its awareness must be different from one raised on a dairy farm with a different life and production cycle. Likewise, being raised on a chicken farm for meat must carry a  different vibration and expectation from being raised on an egg farm, which depends on the chicken’s staying alive. I believe – and I may be totally and anthropomorphically crazy – that all consciousness knows the context of its existence on many levels, whether expressed as a one-celled paramecium or a billion-celled mammal.

What that zoo did in the killing of Marius the giraffe was no different from triggering something like the earlier outbreak of mad cow disease. A few years ago it was discovered that vegetarian cows were being given cow by-products as feed: in essence they were being forced to become meat-eating cannibals in order to lower the costs and boost the profits of the companies that traded in beef products. Mad cow disease was a metaphorical, and perhaps literal rebellion that alerted the world to the plight of these animals. The PBS documentary Blackfish raised similar awareness regarding the plight of killer whales maintained in captivity for the entertainment of aquarium visitors.

Returning to the story of the giraffe, however, the large cats at the zoo were fed the dismembered giraffe. Where is the ethical breach in that, if any? As far as we know, they were not being fed the body parts of other cats, but of animals that are natural prey in the wild. The good intention was to avoid waste and to provide natural feed. And yet there seems to me to be something a little unseemly about that in this particular situation.

In my opinion, and I have no scientific proof to back up my claim, there is something about captivity that binds all these creatures together in this particular multi-species drama called a zoo. Just as warden and prisoner are bound together as one, as well as master and slave, zookeeper and zoo animals are inextricably connected, regardless of species.

It is possible that the giraffe event was an acting out of pathology, not a scientifically “neutral” biology class or a so-called “normal” zoo experience, if there is such a thing. This giraffe did not have an opportunity to run with other giraffes and attempt to escape from a hungry cat who helped maintain the strength of both herds. Nor did the cats have the opportunity to hunt their food and revel in their mastery. Their food was dragged to them from across the compound, and the giraffe was shot like fish in a barrel. This is not nature, and those acts were not natural.

This event certainly reminds me of my responsibility for the killing of animals that I eat,whether or not they die by my hand. At a deeper level, however, it also reminds me of the dilemma involved in eating literally anything if it is true that we live in an aware and elementally interconnected universe. I may as well have been present in the room for the last moments of that giraffe’s life, for just knowing about it adds to my local experience in some way. Frankly, I wish I had missed the story altogether, and yet I was drawn to click on it in my news feed, as I am often drawn to one story or the other. In so doing I, too, must take responsibility for the lives saved or taken, the rescues made or failed, the news that is good, bad, and all too often ugly: just as ugly as the killing of this young, gorgeous, vibrant giraffe.

Perhaps the giraffe staged a political protest in his own way, sacrificing his life for the edification of group consciousness. The face of that giraffe will haunt me all my days. Whatever it was, Marius the giraffe was never “just meat.” Not even close.

This week I am still eating meat and fish and vegetables. Will I become a “breatharian” next week, unable to eat anything at all? Hard to tell but right now, in this moment, that suddenly sounds like an option. Then again, is plain air any less conscious than fish or beef or giraffe or plant or fruit? Maybe, maybe not. What’s a person to do??? Perhaps becoming aware is a first step…

Written on 11 Feb 2014

Sochi Games

IMG_6469 The threat of toothpaste and gel-based insurgent attacks on flights to and from the Sochi Winter Olympics could have an interesting twist. What if, in the process of protecting flights by removing predominantly safe products in travelers’ bags, a different sort of threat is actually put into motion? What if the intelligence gathered and disseminated ahead of time serves as a form of “disinformation?” Now travelers will have to purchase products already onsite in Sochi, and it could be precisely these onsite products that would be contaminated, athletes and travelers literally taking the terror inside the compounds with them as unwitting carriers of their own demise?

I remember watching an old black and white movie many years ago in which the main character is a security guard or driver. He is feeling sleepy, so he drinks coffee from his thermos to help him stay awake. The catch was that he did not realize it was the coffee itself that had been drugged and was making him sleepy! We all let out gasps… “No, don’t drink the coffee!” We roared and that was a fun-filled moment of cinematic terror. The stakes now are much different and much higher.

In reading accounts about security preparations for Sochi, this old twist came to mind because of research I did in the 1960’s about what were then called domestic “disinformation” programs occurring in the United States. What if the  idea of disinformation has been turned around and used by others to compel the purchase of toilet articles after people arrive at the Olympic site? One clever prompt could be to boost business sales there, of course; a more deadly prompt could be to introduce tainted products to athletes and visitors stored on the sites well in advance.

There are many smarter and more informed minds than mine out there working on this. Nevertheless, the possibility of disinformation may be something to think about.

The Root Cause of Divisiveness in American Culture and Politics 2020

Confrontations of Matched Strength
The Battle for Dominance

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A Non-Scientific Approach to Singularity

145597650The search for world peace is ultimately based on a relentless yearning for the Singularity, the remembrance of complete synchrony in that moment just before all remembrance fades into oblivion.

Singularity is the siren’s sound that calls us home for dinner: home for alignment and attunement; home for repair of the universal heart of being. The universal heart is the synchronized breath of All That Is in unbroken, undifferentiated resonance.

The movement towards singularity is heralded by sound, that one long note held together exquisitely for a moment, that can last a day or a million years. That note, that moment of complete synchrony is always followed by silence, by completion and the recognition that there is nothing more to be said or done, nothing misunderstood. It is the sigh of lovers spent after the deepest of embraces.

As soon as the piercing, universe-wrenching sound announcing the imminent fall into nothingness occurs, there is a moment of shimmering into silence, into the singularity of dark matter and soundless, teeming potentiality. In our terms, that moment can last a nanosecond or a trillion years, for in this place of being time has no meaning.

And then the cycle begins again: the breath, that single ray of light out of the darkness of singularity, when All That Is begins its next breath, its next inhale of expansion. Riding on the wings of sound, a ray of light emerges from the silence, the crushing silence of the singularity. There is thought, there is wondering. The “What if…?” of universal mind once again begins to differentiate within its undifferentiated Self. What beauty there is in that individualized expression, the unique blossom that can only twinkle and disappear.

The singularity differentiates itself partly because the search for that brief moment of synchrony just before the silence falls again is so exquisite, so unimaginably sweet, that we would separate again just for the pleasure of “making up,” of finding unmatched harmony, synchrony, and resonance in light structures, finding and returning to the brief moment of holding the breath of all potential being, between the cycle of inhaling and exhaling, the cycle of expansion and contraction, before the light goes out again into the deafening silence of the Singularity.

That moment is the song of the thorn bird, the sound it makes impaled and dying, the sound of having known life outside the inevitable and continuing Singularity; a life that clearly is, and yet ultimately can no longer be an individuated unique being. Its song of sorrow and beauty and pain makes the heart of All That Is, of the Singularity, weep with an emotion it otherwise could never know except through the wail of the dying bird that feels alone, abandoned, and apart. But it is not….

The siren’s song is enough to make the ONE breathe again, and so another ray of light emerges from the darkness of the singularity that was completely and fully spent, enough to make it endure upheaval and war and disaster and extraordinary discoveries of the mind and heart, as each attempts to become its unique expression apart from the whole.

Then one more time, endlessly, just to experience the moment of resonance again, just for the beauty of the impaled thorn bird, just before the light and sound go out into nothingness, into All That Is, the universe lets out a loud and powerful wail, a song before dying into eternal being.

And so it goes, the cycle continues…

  • 12,000 years
  • 35,000 years
  • 260,000 years
  • a million years
  • a billion years
  • a trillion years

Waiting to exhale….

[Thoughts upon waking, written by Helen on 26 February 2011. These thoughts followed and are related to a long conversation with a dear friend in Europe, Rachna in ‘t Veld, whose own poem triggered my musings.]

Alternate Futures

WhichWay?We could continue along what seems to be our current path, exhausting the resources on earth and colonizing other planets in the same way we have colonized this one. We could do that and be scientifically thrilled and justified in our behavior from a particular point of view.

Alternatively, we could skip into that infinite space of the unfettered mind and find solutions that do not require colonization, genocide, the destruction of intellectual and cultural history, and the starvation of others to feel safe in our world. Perhaps that probable world exists already and we could simply travel there with or without spaceships and ask them how they did it.

We could meet future versions of our companies and products and policies and find out ahead of time how they worked out – or not. We could begin to create future success and abundance in this moment teeming with possibility.

Then, using the information from our flights of fancy, we could make certain adjustments now to our process, product line, social policy, energy consumption, and framework of knowledge that would end up shifting the very foundation of our definition of human nature, animal existence, and the qualities of organic and inorganic matter, as well as the qualities of energy and consciousness. The universe would open itself up to us in such new ways that we would have plenty to explore instead of slashing and burning our people, animals, and natural resources, all as a result of distorted good intention.

New categories of business could spring up to replace old ones whose natural life cycle had ended. We might actually become the limitless consciousness we already are, the new human we have actually always been.

In my world, fear of lack is obsolete because, like the elements in a Jungian dream, all of the characters in my environment, whether ten yards or ten thousand miles away, represent some aspect of me. I can only be truly fulfilled when the Whole, when every character in my dream feels fulfilled as well.

In my world, that future already exists, and I intend to go there and see it expressed. Intuition is the small gift in my hand to help me get there.

[This post is excerpted from my book, Seven Seconds or Less]

Detachment From the Outcome

image

If you believe that investment in the outcome is the true mark of loyalty to your company, you have some homework to do now.

Detachment from the outcome does not mean you no longer care. It means that you are willing to let your ego and your fear step aside for a moment. If you are attached to the outcome, you will be closed to the element of surprise, and to information that comes to your aid from outside the domain of reason. It is very hard to remain detached when you know that millions and billions of dollars are riding on your decision, and yet that is precisely what you have to do when you work with intuitive information. You are useless to your business if you are running around at a fever pitch all day every day, even on weekends. You are equally useless if you only use the estimated ten per cent of the brain that is involved in reason-only decision making.

It is critical that you stop first, take a deep breath, and center yourself. You must be able to detach from the outcome for a split second and mean it. The pause must be long enough for you to know what action, if any, would be best for you to undertake in this moment about this pending decision.

In mastering intuition-on-demand for your business purposes, having trust in yourself and in your good intention is first, but detachment from the outcome has to be running a close second. You have to be able to let go of what others might think, and you have to let go of the possibility that your intuitive information might be wrong. Remember, quantitative analysis is often wrong too, but you are willing to act on that because somehow it seems more reasonable to do so.You are willing to embrace some element of risk.

Trust your gut, and then act on what your gut tells you in as neutral and detached a manner as possible. The best way to settle down and realize you are truly on to something useful and profitable is to engage in repeated practice that reaps repeated positive results. Even if you never understand exactly how this process works, the proof in the pudding will be quite enough!

YES!!

YesFor me the most important word in any language is “Yes!”

“Yes” represents the transformation from either-or to both-and thinking. It is the fusion of dualities, the essence of choice, the claiming of personal and collective responsibility. It is ending the need to blame or shame, the need to dominate or annihilate, the need to hoard or steal. I believe that learning to live in a both-and world is our greatest challenge for the next millennium.

“Yes” means I am, I choose, I take responsibility for my life, family, planet, actions, joy and horror. I belong, I create, I shimmer. It also means we are, we choose together, we take responsibility, we belong, we create, we shimmer. Any experience I wish to explore requires the fundamental, conscious, and often unconscious collaboration of so many other human and non-human elements. It doesn’t matter that the cooperation appears to be adversarial at times.

“Yes” is enough: it invites limited or limitless expression.

“Yes” is powerful enough to embrace and obscure the “No” that is its shadow self: the choice not made, the life not lived, the unfulfilled yearning, the unexplored opportunity that remains in the field of probabilities to provide color and contrast, continual choice, the chiaroscuro effect that makes our choices shimmer with delight.

“Yes” is the critical element in all reality creation: a raucous, robust howl into the field of probabilities, whether that reality becomes one of joy or horror. It is the willingness to explore ideas, beliefs, emotions, and options with enough force to materialize them and to see them in their full expression. It is the willingness to take the awesome capacity of wonder to its logical conclusion and to learn from experience as it unfolds. The experience may be terrific, one worth repeating, or it may be terrible, one I/we never want to repeat. Either way, “Yes” furthers. Whether or not I realize it now, the goal is always understanding, fulfillment, collaboration, compassion…the goal is always LOVE.

Sooner or later experience serves love in all its forms, whether or not that service is understood in the present moment. That is why the willingness to say a deep and profound “Yes!” may be the ultimate gift for achieving our particular version of heaven on earth. It acknowledges the grace that permits literally anything to be experienced, perhaps in the form of a Star-Trek-type hologram, while ultimately destroying nothing.

So how does all of this translate into daily life for me specifically?

  • I don’t try to figure out all the details, trusting that the universe “leans in my direction.” I say “Yes” once and emphatically, and then go on to make small and large decisions assuming that any decision I make leads ultimately to my fulfillment. I have stopped “taking my temperature” every three seconds.
  • I have given up my traumas and reasons and excuses and blame for being unfulfilled: parents, partners, children, politics, work, myself…all of it. All of that is part of an either-or worldview. All of that from the past helped create and deepens my current both-and approach, not only in spite of, but also because of those past experiences. I claim, embrace, recognize, even applaud my shortcomings and the shortcomings of others, for that experience always leads me to compassion and the possibility of embracing something quite different…the possibility for individual and collective fulfillment.
  • Whenever I feel a “No” coming on, I try to catch myself and giggle. That’s enough: no long processing, no hair shirt of self-deprecating judgment, no expectation of perfection. I try to simply notice and move on, dropping that potential “No” into the past once again with all the others, to be replaced with a “Yes” in some specific and actionable form right now.
  • I say a small “Yes” a million times a day: laughing at the critters’ antics, taking photos of a new blossom, smiling during a silly family conversation, doing mundane household chores, looking often at the sky, reading something provocative. The big “Yes!” takes care of itself.

North Korea (Private emails written by Helen on 18 Dec 2011 and 31 Mar 2013)

Beneath the SurfaceWritten 18 Dec 2011

The dominoes fall – still again. Part of the surprise, even though all knew [Kim Jong Il] was about to go. No amount of orchestrating and planning can make them “behave” in ways others in the West wish they would. (They means the North Koreans.)….

Be on the lookout. There are wrinkles here, and unanticipated consequences yet to play out. The son, the dauphin, does not last and cannot rule. On the other hand, he could be a Julian in hiding [Emperor Julian], who saw and observed without being seen. If [Kim Jong-un] has seen and not been seen, [or if he has been] too damaged [by what he has seen], he could become a force to be reckoned with and surprise many…if he is allowed to live.

He was named heir because he obeyed. The [uncle] did not obey, and may be the better leader for the new world. He is an enigma. But does [Kim Jong-un] have a heart, which makes him deemed insufficient or too weak to rule, or is he so ruthless he would blow up the world just to get even, just for revenge? The jury is still out on this.

The internal violence – within the family and not just within the country – makes for some highly unusual dynamics. Right out of medieval England and [historical] Germanic drive. I heard the following quote from an old movie this week after a political boss kills one of the inner circle, “I loved this man like a brother, and yet I killed him. Imagine what I will to do any other who betrays me or my objectives.” [from “The Jackal”]

To use another movie metaphor, this is a “Lion in Winter” scenario: internal family intrigue shapes the future of [that] nation and the world….More important than anything: do not base the future on the past. And do NOT make assumptions.

Curious: the son may be a sleeper. Either or both of them…all of them. In either case, heads will roll. The maneuvering has been going on for years. The uncle will not be as powerful as he has imagined. He will be in for a big surprise, and if the West has counted on the uncle, it may be surprised as well. There is much to revenge, and many ways to fashion it, depending upon one’s perspective.

Written 31 Mar 2013

In some domains it may already be too late for short-term relief. The North Korean situation escalates beyond repair. The U.S. State Department is considered weak following Clinton’s exit, and South Korea is considered a weak target because a woman is now at the helm. Both are surprisingly not true. But Kim Jon Un is playing (and counting) on perceived weaknesses, just as Israel planned its surprise attacks on Muslim religious holidays in the 1960’s. Now both parties do the same thing.

There is no conscience here, no underlying sense of ethical propriety. “Get them while they are down [from weakness or prayer], or are perceived to be down.” International conventions on fighting – whether boxing for sport or interrogations for information, or all out war – went out the window. At some point in the past, men understood among each other that it was unacceptable to target the potentially excruciating genitals. Those conventions no longer hold true.

Also, KJU, as a young and overweight man, must prove his mettle with those who want nothing more than to oust him or rule through him as regent because of his youth. He is just young and unwise enough to be unable to control either his testosterone or his mind. This is highly dangerous indeed. He, like Napoleon, is a small man with instruments of destruction in his grasp. This is frightening, and no amount of “reason” gets through to testosterone…. KJU, after years of invisibility and ridicule, [is devoid of reason]. Beware. Will he eventually become a cultural hero and icon, or will he be vilified as the supreme example of hubris?

Attempts to use the old machine of war as economic stimulus do not work in the same way this time. Things go too far. He is not Khrushchev, and this is no longer 1962. The dominoes that have fallen in the Middle East and all of Europe continue to fall with unusual consequences in Asia. The scenarios there are quite different and quite a bit more shattering. Saddam Hussein, Muhammar Khadafy, even Benjamin Netanyahu, are or were not young men any longer when the world was on the brink of WWIII. KJU is a young man, a modern Caligula with no thought for the future of his own people or any other. He is the ultimate narcissist, and this is not good news. Both he and Hitler used personal insecurity to shape national policy and identity, where local or personal identity was wanting.

A most unusual character, and one not to be underestimated. He would, like Jim Jones, actually destroy his own population to prove a point. This is testosterone at the extreme. Do not underestimate his potential for destruction, even if it meant self-destruction as well. Something essential in him was destroyed many years ago. When you are young, you think yourself invincible. There is no moderation here.

Synchronicities

iceberg new 12I awaken from a powerful dream about a family member, and two hours later I receive great news from a closely connected relative. I am having dinner conversation at home on a particular subject, and the very next day I receive an email from someone in my distant past related to that very subject, or I turn on the television at random and see a program about it. Furthermore, on the same day I receive the email that triggered memories of past trauma, I witness similar behavior in the supermarket on the part of complete strangers.

A few years ago, days before my granddaughter moved from our home as a starry-eyed young adult thrilled to be finally on her own, her beloved cat died quite suddenly, on some deeper level setting her free and actually helping with her fresh start. This week close friends lost a beloved animal just as they were embarking on major transitions in their own lives. When I was having trouble leaving a job many years ago that had become unhealthy for me, my pet died on my birthday. I finally left the job a short time later. In addition to raising questions about the nature of animal awareness, these stories reflect a form of synchronicity, often associated with marker life events, often disturbing, and sometimes awesomely wonderful.

These are all personal stories, but there are other synchronicities as well, and on a much grander scale. Unlike the loss of a beloved pet that cannot help but be noticed, and that touches the heart in very personal ways, these larger political and cultural synchronicities often go unnoticed, or at least uncorrelated. During the Clinton administration when the President  was under fire for inappropriate behavior, there were unusual storms and geological activity centered in Arkansas. There have also been more normal, but amazingly synchronous topographical events that correspond with political goings on in the U.S. and abroad, including Europe, Pakistan, Indonesia, Afghanistan, and other countries. I would still love to see correlations between the 2010 volcanic eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland, for example, and the political landscape  throughout Europe and the world. That eruption occurred at the height of the global financial crisis. Get it? “At the height of…”

We pay a lot of attention to New York City here in the U.S., but ignore a relentless stream of land, business, and weather events that centered around Texas during the second Bush administration and afterwards. These other happenings are much harder to track, as they are multivariate and currently there appears to be no scientific attention given to correlations between weather patterns, for example, and political events. At least I am unaware of any such research. As a professional intuitive I notice these things, and often chuckle or weep when I see what cannot be considered “random” at all. Can I prove this assertion? Not yet, but I am working on it. Where are the researchers out there???

The Book – Seven Seconds or Less: From Gut Feeling to Bottom Line…

SSOL_COVERHCBlog - Version 2Helen’s book on applied business intuition is available in hard cover, paperback, and kindle versions online at Balboa Press, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

Below are links to three online bookstores:

Amazon.com:    http://www.amazon.com/Seven-Seconds-Less-Challenging-Business/dp/1452579962/ref=gfix-ews-form

Barnes and Noble:    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/seven-seconds-or-less-helen-l-stewart-phd/1116964564?ean=9781452579962

Balboa Press:     http://bookstore.balboapress.com/

All means ALL!

To whom does the right to the pursuit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness belong? Citizens, non-citizens, certain classes of citizens or non-citizens, certain countries, only the chosen by whatever definition is prevalent at the time? What about the rights, if any, of the unconscious, unaware, and even inorganic, such as the planet itself?

In 2013 I was immersed in reading reviewer comments for my forthcoming book on business intuition. The editing process converged with television programming related to the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington: what the march meant for African-Americans, for the country as a whole, and for the world. In the foreground of my awareness, a book reviewer was asking me to explain my use of the term “unified field” as it relates to intuition. In the background, participants in the original march and journalists asked and answered questions about what really went on during the Civil Rights Movement, a field that was both unified and dis-unified. What did those actions mean at the time?

Following the official ceremonies, blogs praised or slammed who was asked to speak in commemoration of this historic event, or who was excluded from speaking for a variety of reasons. Why was the only “boo” I heard during the ceremony directed at a woman representing the gay community? Why were there any boos at all? What about people and ideas that were “in and acceptable” in one historical moment, but “out and unacceptable” in another? Towards the end of his life, Malcolm X inched towards a more inclusive and non-violent stance with regard to white people; towards the end of his life following unsettling episodes in the north, Martin Luther King, Jr. inched towards considering the need for armed self-defense. Both were gunned down.

Similar questions could be posed about countries and ideologies, components of a very different type of potentially unified field. Who is not worthy of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Who “deserves” suffering and poverty because of their relative place on somebody’s list of acceptable categories? What, if anything, can truly exist outside the cosmic unified field, the foundation of an ultimately collaborative and aware All That Is?

I realized that any effort to cover everybody and every thing in any single list would inevitably forget or exclude some important element of our universal ecosystem. During my labor relations training I learned this early on: the trouble with making lists is that there will always be someone or something inadvertently left off the list, or on the wrong side of somebody’s “red line.” It is better to avoid making lists of desirable “wins” or “losses” altogether, if possible, and to focus instead on the sentiment and fundamental intention of the parties involved in the negotiation process: a good and reasonable retirement plan, or appropriate faculty workload, or basic food, shelter, and clothing, or financial soundness, or national security. And then it hit me in a flash of insight: “All” means ALL.

So as of today, I am starting my own movement: “All means all.” Period. Whether it is the universal capacity for intuition, the capacity for violence and suffering, the capacity to feed all life, the possibility of meaningful and creative work, or the capacity for lasting peace – all means all. There are no ifs, ands, or buts in those three words – all means all. Furthermore, there are no conditions: current or earlier political and social views, current or past off-the-wall behavior, religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, geographical location, financial resources, education, skin color, clothing, hair texture, weight, food to be eaten or avoided, eye shape, body type, place in the phylogenetic system, or place in the food chain. Oops, there I went again, making lists. Even a quick read-through showed me immediately several categories I had overlooked in my effort to include everybody and everything. All means all. No more and no less will do.

I’m not much for political posturing, but I think it is finally time for me to start a new T-shirt slogan at the very least, if not a full-blown political campaign: All Means ALL!!

The Importance of Surprise and Trust in the Intuitive Process

ElementofSurpriseKFS

Surprise is the single most important clue that you have stumbled into the realm of the intuitive. Often what doesn’t make any rational sense right now makes a whole lot of sense in the larger scheme of things, but you won’t be able to know for sure until later.

In the meantime, you have to trust yourself, go with the first thought that comes to you, detach from the outcome, and just wait to see what develops. That’s the tough part: the waiting for confirmation that your hunch was or was not on target. When there are lots of dollars and huge reputations at stake, the waiting for corroboration can seem like an eternity.

That is why trust is at the top of the list of intuitive tips: trust in yourself, and trust in the fundamental good intention of others. If anything can derail accurate intuitive information in a heartbeat, it is the lack of trust. Trust does not mean that you throw away your natural skepticism, or that you stop looking for corroboration through rational methods. Trust means that you are willing to suspend disbelief for a moment, just long enough to dart out into the universe and pick up something that might be useful in resolving the issue at hand, something that all too often might be ignored.

[Excerpt from my book on business intuition entitled Seven Seconds or Less: From Gut Feeling to Bottom Line,  published by Balboa Press, Fall 2013.]

Boston Marathon Events

On the record: the Boston events reflect acts of domestic terrorism that are Tea Party and militia based.

There is always the possibility that external groups can make events appear to be triggered from within, and also the possibility that domestic groups can attempt to make events appear to be triggered internationally. In addition, in light of recent international events, North Korea must now be included into the mix with Al Qaeda when considering the source of any such public attacks.

Nevertheless, I believe and go “On the Record” stating that the Boston Marathon events are domestically based. I also feel that there are more locations linked to the Boston Marathon, and to the Patriot’s Day holiday, yet to be discovered and uncovered.

Reliability and Intuitive Information

SunsetThe sun comes up and the sun goes down and we trust it. Even when the scientists tell us that the sunlight we are seeing today was sent out from our past, is not even today’s sun, and we cannot even be certain that the sun has not already become extinct in real time…it just hasn’t betrayed us yet! While what I just said may not exactly be accurate or sophisticated physics, hopefully you get my point.

Reliability with regard to intuitive information has three principal areas of focus: the reliability of the source of the information; the reliability of the information itself; and the assurance that any subsequent information received will be as reliable as the first. While there is overlap among these considerations, credibility of source has much greater importance with regard to operating on gut feeling than the source, say, of numerical data that are considered to be relatively free from personality tampering.

If I tell you that my intuitive information derives from an insight I had while reading a book on management, it is likely that you will at least pay some attention to what I say. If I tell you that my information – the exact same information – derives from a space being inhabiting the twelfth dimension, it is unlikely you will give me a moment’s notice. In this case the issue is not the reliability of the information itself, which might sound quite reasonable, but the source of that information, which may or may not appear to be credible, and will most likely appear to be completely unreasonable. How can I consider a space being from a twelfth dimension to be a reliable source of intuitive data for the success of my very practical business, when I know of only three dimensions and do not believe in extraterrestrial intelligence? Even if the information could make the company rich, I would resist any attempt to risk the well-being of my company on such an apparently unreliable source.

As distinct from source, there must be some way to determine the reliability of the content of intuitive information received. How can such information be credible in a business environment? How does the information rise above the label of “fortune telling?”

Belief in the source makes people believe in the data. The violation of trust felt when a trusted source is found to be either corrupt or just plain faulty can be quite intense, and can incur not only appropriate wrath, but hefty fines as well. It took years of cumulative data to make investors aware that perhaps their trusted sources of financial data were faulty at best and absolutely wrong at the height of the significant downturn in financial  markets. There were countless clues from intuitive sources that something fairly fundamental to the structuring of global financial instruments was afoot, but because the intuitive sources were considered unreliable and traditional sources had not yet discerned new patterns emerging, many people lost their livelihood as businesses failed or were greatly devalued.

When is that magic moment when the source of information must be questioned deeply, even if it has been reliable in the past? How do we recognize fundamental structural changes on the  horizon before they wipe out investments and savings? In truth, the source and content of information should be questioned at every moment and at every level. One can never be lulled to sleep by past patterns, whether mainstream or intuitive. The issue, then, is how to question without becoming immobilized or unable to trust at all; how to establish reliability when both the playing field and the rules are changing.

Intuition helps trigger an internal awareness that it is time to pay closer attention; it is an individualized alarm clock that allows for routine or continuing action, pending some personal signal that the information received is no longer reliable. It says simply, “Be aware and pay attention.”

There need be no specific content requirement to activate this alarm clock; it is simply an emotional or energetic trigger for increased awareness which may or may not be linked to specific investments, say, or stock performance, or even the news headlines. It is likely to be an internal trigger that lets you know whether the area of concern is professional, financial, or personal. This trigger can be expressed as a pattern of sensation in the body, the appearance of “signs” such as arrows or repeating numbers in the environment, or many other highly individualized clues. You might see the face of your broker in a flash moment with his or her head hanging or tucked into the overcoat; this would be a good moment for a phone call to ask, “How are things going?” During the next few weeks you might pay special attention to the market until you feel you can coast again and things have settled down…or erupted openly.

Business intuition, while often considered unreliable, can be of great service when traditional sources of data fail. Once investors have already taken significant financial losses, the presumably greater risk of seeking out intuitive data when rational analysis has failed now seems not so great at all. This is the moment for thinking outside the box, for discovering whether, and if so, how, information from an intuitive source can make a difference in current performance and future earnings. Such content, even if from a questionable source, can save the day.

From my perspective a fundamental requirement for insuring the reliability of intuitive information is detachment from the outcome, from the content of the data and how this content plays out in the real world. How, when so much money and reputation and lives are on the line, is detachment possible? It is precisely because so much is on the line that detachment becomes critical to achieving reliable results. One has to become a “disinterested party,” so that as little bias as possible enters into the intuitive information. I have made a practice of not being invested financially or emotionally in any business I advise, regardless of the headlines, personal relationships, or known “facts” to the contrary. It is hard enough to be detached; add investment in the outcome and reliability all but bites the dust!

That is why for me, one important clue to the reliability of intuitive information is the extent to which the information comes in a rush, and is a complete surprise to my rational mind; it may even seem outrageous. I know in that moment that the information is not derived from my reading the news, or my professional education, but from some other mysterious, but amazingly more reliable source… my gut feeling, my knowing without knowing how I know. I look for that nanosecond rush, that deep and instantaneous clarity, and I consider such information reliable. That is the information I would pass on to clients and friends; that is what I would use to guide my life. In return, they are responsible, as am I, for what they do with that information, and with how they interpret that information as they apply it to business and life decisions.

The other thing that enhances reliability for me is a fundamental commitment not to edit the rush of intuitive information I receive. When what comes is surprising and may sound totally impractical or impracticable, it is so easy to try to “fix it up” a bit, or edit and temper it. With years of practice, perhaps the most important practice after all, I have learned that reliability is enhanced when I commit to not editing, to taking that very first thought that comes to mind in seven seconds or less – in a nanosecond – and use that, act on that, communicate that. Anything else become increasingly unreliable as the filters of the rational mind take over and make over that gut felt hunch. It is amazing how quickly the rational mind tries to get a hold on that hunch, too! Sometimes a slight alteration changes meaning and timing immensely, just as veering a single degree off course for an airplane could mean ending up in an ocean rather than on a landing strip.

The reliability of subsequent information depends in large measure on demonstrations of reliability in the present or past. This is again why detachment from the outcome is so important. If my ego gets in the way, reliability goes downhill fast. Nothing breeds reliability in the future more than successive demonstrations of reliability in the present and past. I relax and trust myself; clients relax and trust themselves in trusting us both. Then success breeds more success, the “proof” of reliability.

Eventually “all is revealed,” as my father used to say. The remaining question is how much time it takes for reliability to be borne out: 1 week, 1 year, 5 years, a lifetime? This depends on the framing of the question, the framework of the issue, the nature of the business or industry, and a myriad of multivariate expected and unexpected impacts on possible outcomes. That is why, once again, detachment is key. The possibilities are quite literally mind-boggling. At some point we will all know whether the information was reliable or not ex post facto. But then who needs precognitive and predictive information? It will already have become too late. In the meantime, trust in surprise and trust in that rush of knowing without knowing how you know. That’s what I do.

I have a hunch widespread reliability is brewing… Now if we could only get out of the way and let it!

Tackling the Validity Issue for Intuitive Information

questionmark

One of my business clients was interested in only a few narrowly focused commodities. I had worked with this client at least once a week, and sometimes more often, over the course of two years or more. While not every prediction was correct, he began to notice that the pattern of trading was on the mark, but the timing for the pattern to become fully expressed was off the mark. We also discovered that I did much better with long-term predictions than short-term ones, precisely the opposite of weather forecasters.

One particular issue stands out in my mind. The client, whom I’ll call Adam, wanted to know what the price of oil would be exactly one year from that date. Very quickly and completely intuitively, I gave him a price. His response to me was, “That’s impossible. It simply can’t be and makes no sense.” A year later the price of oil was exactly as I had predicted, to the dollar. He told me that had he followed my advice, he would have made many thousands of dollars on that particular investment, but the numbers I had given him intuitively made no rational sense at the time. (As I recall there was an unanticipated global event that affected the price of oil during this period quite a few years ago.) It is the very role of intuition to provide information that makes no rational sense at the time, and to add that “non-rational” information to other sources provided in quite the usual, rational ways.

It can be a daunting task to prove the validity of intuitive information to such a sufficient degree that individuals and companies are willing to make decisions and invest tremendous resources on a business hunch, especially before the benefit of hindsight proves the hunch to have been correct. Nevertheless, investors are willing to make what is the equivalent of “bets” on the future through commodities trading. They may see mounds of analyses, historical information, trends, charts, graphs, numbers, and the advice of their own professional intuitives, otherwise called stock brokers. Ultimately, however, they are trading on a hunch as well.

Validity can only be established ex post facto. While there are measures for predicting  that a certain event or set of probabilities will occur, there can be no true tests ahead of time for the validity  of precognitive information, or for its inherent quality. This does not mean, however, that intuitive information is therefore useless or pointless. For intuitive information, qualitative measures are a must, and what turns out to be valid information  remains valuable, even though it may not meet objective quantitative standards. Hitting the price of oil is a concrete test of validity. Replicating that success beyond chance is a bit trickier: only time will tell. Furthermore, hitting the benefit of a strategic partnership may require many more measures and analyses to determine validity one or five or ten years later.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating; the proof of valid intuitive information, of the hunch, is in its corroboration. What can be measured is the percentage of times a particular professional intuitive is correct, has a “hit,” for example, predicts where the currency market will be on a particular date and time. What cannot be measured is the value and validity of intuitive information that is not numbers driven: “How will this restructuring affect the overall effectiveness of this organization?” We can attempt to attach productivity percentages to employee performance, for example, but that percentage is not a measure of the validity of the intuitive information that initially drove the restructuring process or convinced the CEO of the need for significant overhaul.

Another challenge related to the issue of validity is isolating the impact of the intuitive information alone in a multifaceted and complex organization, where decision making occurs simultaneously on many levels by individuals who may or may not be involved in intuitive decision making. Larry Dossey highlights this problem when he writes about the difficulty of measuring the effect of prayer on healing. Researchers were able to establish control groups and prayer groups with little difficulty. What stymied them, however, was their inability to determine or control who was praying for patients on their own, completely apart from the prayer studies. They discovered that other people had been praying for the patient as well. How could they tell that the patient’s improved health was the result of the prayer group’s intervention and not all those others who voluntarily prayed without being specifically asked to do so? How can we tell whether the success of a particular venture or corporate intervention is the result of the information provided by the intuitive, or by some other relevant organizational processes? At some point, the effective use of intuition depends upon detaching from the outcome, ignoring for the moment how valid it will show itself to be in the future. Unlike other measures in certain key aspects, the more detached from the need to prove, the more accurate and valid the results.

If certain intuitive information proves to be a key factor in the success of a particular decision or event or outcome, it is likely that the impact of that information will be felt by the CEO or manager or other employee, regardless of what is stated publicly at a later time. That person will know and will return to use such awareness again. Even if direct attribution to the power of intuitive tools can never be fully claimed, intuition as a talent or skill has no personality or ego that suffers from lack of acknowledgment the way employees suffer when their work is unrecognized or undervalued. It is the very nature of intuition to be serving humanity from the hidden corners of consciousness.

A Dog’s Intuition

Chaco on the JobIt All Started With Separation Anxiety

When Chaco the dog’s first human became ill and subsequently died, he began to show signs of severe separation anxiety. He would bark scratch, jump up and down, hide so I couldn’t tuck him away and leave him behind, lick his paws until they bled, and eventually try to chew through the bedroom door.

Something had to give. In order to solve “his problem” I sought advice from books, the Web, and a slew of local veterinarians, including some who specialize in dog behaviors. Bottom line, they told me: humans give off a huge range of nonverbal clues about our intentions well ahead of time, especially when it comes to leaving home without them.

The key to diminishing separation anxiety in pets, they say, is surprise: the pet owner facing this issue must vary the daily routine so much that the dog is never certain what the human will do next: when she will leave, and when she will return. For years I had been teaching people that the key to mastering intuition is also surprise. Maybe I needed to attend Chaco’s workshop!

Given that we humans are creatures of immense and apparently very predictable routines, Chaco decided he’d teach me a thing or two about his mastery of intuition, and the equally impressive lack of my own mastery from a dog’s perspective.

Human Clue #1: When I am preparing to leave the house, the first thing I do, of course, is simply think about the fact that I’m leaving. Uh oh, first big mistake. I haven’t even opened my mouth and Chaco’s ears perk up from across the room. He knows something is about to happen. My first thought is, “How does he know already that I’m getting ready to leave the house?”

Eventually I figure out the first point in his PowerPoint presentation to me is: “Stop talking to yourself and saying, “Okay…”

Whenever I have been sitting still for a time, reading or writing, or engaging in some routine household task like washing dishes or dusting the floors, apparently the first thing I do when I’m ready to shift gears is say out loud, without thinking, “Okay…” I am usually alone in these moments, so after a long time and several trips to the vet I discovered that talking to myself and saying “Okay” out loud was a clue to the dog that a change was gonna come, and that the change might not include him. AAARGH!!! Gotta get a grip on talking to myself!

Clue#2: Head to the bedroom closet and drawers. “What in the world am I going to wear?” Clothes have always been a source of discomfort for me, so Chaco not only picks up the routine that searching for clothes means either somebody’s coming or I’m leaving – or I’m getting ready for a stay-at-home Skype video session and can’t look too disheveled from the torso up. He gets nervous for a moment until he figures that it’s Skype rather than leave, and then settles right back into the counter chair, waiting for me to set up the computer next to him.

Clue#3: Right after rummaging through the closet I immediately head for the bathroom to clean up.

Chaco: “Uh oh. This is serious. She’s going out. Combing the hair is the worst sign of all, whether staying or leaving. She would be mortified to face the world with her frizzy hair all askew!”

Showers can be a sign of leaving or settling in for the night, or of going out during the day, so the dog scopes the weather and the light outside to see which it is more likely to be this time.

Chaco: “If it’s midday, it must be that yoga class for old folks, because she goes into that bag in the other closet and puts clothes on over her clothes. The last time she tried to take me with her to that class I barked up a storm, so now I know I’m grounded.”

Clue#4:
Me: “Oh, and I live in Hawaii now. It could rain at any moment, whether gentle mist or downpour. Gotta make sure all the windows and doors are closed and locked. On top of that, I am being regularly reminded that there are more and more tourists in the neighborhood and more and more theft.”

Chaco: “There she goes, walking around the house closing up everything, even though it’s hot as the dickens outside. This is really bad now. But will she take me or leave me at home? Oh no! She’s turning on the light and radio covering the bed and… OMG, she’s getting out my Kong Toy! I’m done for. No hope now. My human is leaving me behind.” Smart dog!

So the behaviorists have told me to vary my routine: get all ready to leave and then stay home. Put on the radio even if I’m staying home. Get dressed even though I’m not going anywhere. What???? Get dressed even though I’m not going anywhere? That is the biggest sacrifice of all, trying to cooperate as a two-legged with four-legged separation anxiety. Being trussed up is not my idea of a pleasant morning or afternoon alone at home, when I could be relaxed and funky instead while I read or write.

Clue#5: “And the most dreaded of all: a trip to the yard to ‘pee pee’ when I don’t even have to go! How humiliating! I’m done for. I’ll just hold it and hide around the corner or under the stairs instead. Maybe she won’t find me; maybe she’ll give in and change her mind and take me with her, or maybe I can even make her late by hiding, so she’ll have to miss her appointment and stay home with me instead.”

Sometimes, more often now that I’m settling into a new location and new routine than a few months ago, I will go through the routine of trying unsuccessfully not to have a routine, and then go over to the box where the red harness and leash are stashed close to the front door. “Yippeee!!” Chaco exclaims. “I’m going; I’m going this time!”

Most of these actions are done wordlessly, mind you. Chaco is an expert at what some in my field call intuition as “pattern recognition:” paying attention to subtle clues that the clue-giver has absolutely no idea are being communicated like big red flags. Chaco, unlike his human, has a Ph.D. in pattern-recognition.

But Wait, There’s More…!!

There is another quality of intuition that defies visual and verbal clues. When I am sad, for example, perhaps in another room of the house out of sight from Chaco, he will suddenly perk up, much like he does when I unconsciously say “okay,” out loud to myself, signaling a change in activity. He will trundle across the house to find me, nuzzle me, knowing in that very moment that he needs to comfort me. I am not boo-hooing, I have made no verbal sign, and I was not visible to him. Something else beyond pattern recognition is going on, as such an episode is rare and follows no pattern or routine that I have been able to discover – yet. Does he know that it is August 15 or September 1st and that I am thinking of a parent or partner or aunt? How does he just “know” that it is sad I am feeling, rather than happy or simply focused? One thing I know for sure: he only does that when I am feeling sad.

Something more is going on in this fascinating arena of intuition, and I am heaven bent on finding out how this type of intuition works; after all, it is a significant part of my professional work. People I do not know call or email or Skype with a question and I just trundle off to the universe and provide meaningful information that they tell me makes sense and even confirms what they were already thinking about as a solution for their situation or concern.

What is the pattern recognition in that type of intuition? No visual clues, no verbal clues, no prior knowledge, no emotional attachment on my part. No routine.

So Chaco has taught me more than I ever wanted to know about pattern recognition which is alive and well indeed, and which often explains a large percentage of manifest and latent communicated behaviors. I guess I’ll have to sign up for his intermediate workshop next: mastering the capacity to mask my intentions about leaving the house is a lot harder than I thought! Chaco may also have something to say about politics and privacy, but he’ll have to save that for his advanced workshop… I’m still struggling with the basics!

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Many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip…

Teacup“Resolve” is such a heavy word. No wonder we avoid it like the plague, peeking in once a year to see how far we have fallen or strayed from our good intentions, from our last year’s dreams and last decade’s desires.

The very word itself feels like punishment: public humiliation for being weak and imperfect. I resolve to lose weight because I have gotten fat and everyone can see it; I resolve to spend more time with my family because I have ignored them entirely in favor of work, and everyone can see that too in their sadness and acting out.

Perhaps my New Year’s resolution is to give up on the use of the word “resolve.” But then I’d have to give up on the linchpin of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, the Constitution, and almost any declaration of independence or praise or rebellion, or on all measures to control bad behavior and honor virtue. I’d have to give up on the world of contracts too, which by their very convoluted nature are inevitably broken. Contracts actually codify, while attempting and intending to avert, persistent bad behavior.

Maybe my mother had it right all along when she credited her grandmother (and I’m sure many mothers and grandmothers before her) with the phrase, “As my Grandmomma would say, there’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip.” Intentions and resolutions, by their very nature, go awry. Resolve, by its very nature, involves action under pressure, reflected in all those weighty historical documents and broken promises and New Year’s resolutions. Machiavelli realized that little is accomplished without pressure; on the other hand, he also recognized the limits of force.

What if the pressure for achieving goals were permitted to emanate spontaneously from within in the search for joy and self-expression as an individual or as a people, rather than as an external instrument for repression or control? How long would it take then for the warden to realize that he spends most of his life in a prison behind locked doors as much as the prisoners he punishes? Or a general to realize that his son, in order to maintain the family honor, must also fight the designated enemy and risk being maimed or killed? Is there joy in that exertion of pressure, in the use of force to control what we perceive to be our depraved human nature, or to control our buoyant and irrepressible human instinct for adventure? Perhaps for a time, but there are limits to force.

Granted, there are some of us who thoroughly enjoy killing and maiming and force; I am certainly not in denial about that. But the current sense of enjoyment may derive from our having been maimed ourselves, having concluded that this is “just the way things are.” We may even just want to see what killing feels like. Given the choice, however, I have enough faith in human nature to think that most of us would choose joy, however that joy might be expressed. I daresay that most, regardless of gender, culture, nationality or religion, prefer the joy of dreams fulfilled; the possibility that the future will be kind to their beloveds; and that the possibility of choice and joy, which are at the foundation of all resolutions, truly exists – if not for oneself, then for one’s family or town or country.

But once again, I have fallen into the trap perhaps set for others: to resolve to give up the use of the word resolve surely sets me up for failure as well, and even perhaps for public humiliation, just as any other and many others before me.

Maybe I can shake things up and begin to think instead that the “slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip” may be a natural source of innovation and change, that spilled milk or coffee on my emotional T-shirt may be as powerful as a million standing armies, or a gazillion legal proclamations that I am – or am not – my brother’s keeper, or that I have been chosen by God to rule the earth.

The sociologist George Herbert Mead became well-known for his baseball analogy to explain the inevitability of the unexpected, which certainly contributes to the failure of resolve. No matter how much you know about the players, the weather, or the quality of the baseball itself, you never know until the moment the ball is pitched whether it will be a strike or a ball or a fly or a home run, or whether the catcher will catch it. There is, and there will always be that moment of surprise, no matter how many computational and political modalities we use to predict and control outcomes, and to meet our resolve successfully.

So we might as well prepare as best we can, get happy, and learn to revel in surprise and failed resolutions. That slip could be the next great or small invention, or it could be forgiveness where none was expected, or a chance encounter that changes the direction of a human life. Or, of course, it could be disaster. But every moment, every lifting of the cup to the lip, whether I savor every single drop without a spill, or ruin my brand new T-shirt, offers yet another opportunity for joy and the delicious liquid of life experience.

There are naturally those who would ask, “What if my cup is only filled with sand? My enemy has captured and hoards all the water?” My response would be to return to Machiavelli: there are limits to force. My sand may hold diamonds or oil or healing plants that only grow in my desert. Eventually my cup too will be full of water, of life force. Everyone, and I mean every one, offers some indivisible gift to the planet. If there is to be a resolution, perhaps it might be to find that special gift in each other that contributes to my joy, my self-expression, and the security of my beloveds. Then I will want to protect them. Or not. Whatever I do, however many times my stated intention goes awry, another adventure opens up to see if that cup makes it to my lip the next time without a slip so I can quench, at least for that moment only, my inevitable thirst for more experience. Without adventure and continual experience we die, just as surely as we die without a continuous source of precious liquid.

So I hereby resolve not necessarily to give up setting intentions or making resolutions which I will inevitably fail to meet in full. I resolve simply to keep lifting that cup to my lip. Maybe next time I won’t dribble down my chest… Maybe.

Choice With a Lower Case “c”

The beauty in blockages

One would think, considering the headlines of the day, that the most significant choice facing us today has to do with elected and appointed leadership of the few over (or for) the many: dictatorships, democracies, courts, political parties, religious expression, economic and territorial imperatives, and varying definitions of terrorism.

These apparent choices, however, are just the tip of the iceberg, belying the many small choices we make on a daily basis that lead to those overwhelming global choices, whether or not we are consciously aware of the connections at the time.

For example, what is the distinction, if any, between personal choice and social responsibility?

I find myself scratching my head in wonder and disbelief and dismay at how thorny this whole question of Big Choices has grown. Does fate override choice, for example?

Unable to come up with a satisfactory answer to the big questions, I have decided instead to focus on small choices  with a lower case “c” that seem within the scope of individual action, of my control and decision making regardless who wins the big battles:

  • choosing to be civil, even when I do not understand the point of view of the other
  • choosing to look a homeless person in the eye as I pass him on the street, or acknowledge her existence
  • choosing to share the road, instead of continuing to be the “Boston driver” I was bred to be, with a universal right to own the road
  • choosing to say both Israel and Palestine in the same breath, regardless of the overwhelming pressure to speak only one name or the other, and to face real consequences and potential shunning whichever name I mention
  • choosing to say “I love you” only if and when I mean it, and then to say it often
  • choosing to find the good intention lurking in the hurtful words of an adversary, or simply of someone who drives me nuts
  • choosing to be happy to find myself a minority of a different sort living in Hawaii – neither native Hawaiian nor Asian, nor part of the more racially different mainland oriented military presence
  • choosing not to give up on my body, even though I am fast approaching seventy years old; choosing to believe sincerely that age “ain’t nuthin’ but a number”
  • choosing health, even though family script says I should be sick or dead with cancer by now
  • choosing to notice the exquisite sunrises and sunsets and rainbows, while not denying the trash and bi-modal extremes of wealth and poverty on the ground
  • choosing to explore the little nooks and crannies of my mind, as well as of my little neighborhood:  open to constant surprise in all the stories tucked away behind building facades in need of remodeling, and roads in need of repair
  • choosing to believe that no God (or perhaps a very unusual one indeed) would actually choose to impose suffering on its creation, just as no ordinary parent would choose suffering for his or her children
  • choosing to believe that the possibility of free will, even if it means the possibility of horror, is an inexpressible act of love
  • choosing to believe that even those who hate me, or fail to understand me, are actually governed by their fear for their own safety and survival; and to believe that fear is fundamentally grounded in good intention gone awry
  • choosing as a supervisor to catch people doing something right and acknowledge them, instead of trying to catch people doing something wrong and punish them
  • choosing to love my family, even when and even though I do not share, and perhaps do not understand, their world view
  • choosing to save the little moth trapped in the shower, even as I spread toxic vinegar to stop the ant trail in the critters’ food bin
  • choosing to walk for the cure, even though I would have enjoyed sleeping in
  • choosing to put the cell phone down three hours a day, so I can explore other areas of my mind and heart
  • choosing to say I’m sorry, rather than blaming everything on everybody else
  • choosing to forgive myself for not knowing better and doing better sooner
  • choosing not to give up on certain family members, even though all the facts say I should
  • choosing to expect absolutely nothing, and to be open to absolutely anything

I have so many choices to make! At every turn, every moment of every day. Choosing the big stuff – like a President or Senator or a place to live or a doctor or a bank or an insurance company – that’s nothing compared to being responsible for my personal choices each time I encounter another being on my way to understanding the nature of choice with a capital “C.”

*****

On a more esoteric (and perhaps more controversial) level, there are some who believe that not only dicey issues like sexual orientation, but also fixed categories like skin color, ethnicity, religion, and gender are actually choices as well on some deep level. There are others who would even go so far as to say that natural disasters are chosen or consciously imposed, and that people belong to a chosen, and therefore divinely favored race or culture or academic discipline or religion. Still others feel that poverty is chosen, the result of poor choices in this life or another.

In the political domain, there are those who believe that the result of national and international elections (or more crassly stated, simple grabs for power) are predestined by God or fate; and that this power, taken or given,  is a reward for faithfulness, or a punishment for the sins of the fathers and mothers since the beginning of time. For example, some believe strongly that black people all over the world bear the mark of Cain, punished for killing his brother Abel in Old Testament times, based on Judeo-Christian myth and history. Furthermore, from that same tradition women are predestined to suffer as punishment for Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden.

Some lesser-known theories would even argue that human beings were placed here on this planet as an outpost prison of another civilization because our ancient alien forefathers committed crimes in some other area of the universe, and we have to stay here until we get it right.

What is the true nature of choice, really? With the cards stacked so definitively and unfavorably before birth for a clear majority of humanity, how far do we go, how far can we go in arriving at the true meaning and the true expression of choice?

As for the larger questions, I believe personally that we may have something to say ahead of time about the family we join in our lifetime. But once here, we are stuck with certain gifts and challenges like skin color, genetic history, sexual orientation, and mental and artistic capacities. All of these are open to alteration, of course (by one method or the other!), but these fundamental categories, including economic and social status of the family of origin, as well as religious or spiritual orientation, create the infrastructure of our life’s opportunities and challenges. To paraphrase James Baldwin, “You can’t do anything in the world until you deal with your Mama (and Papa).”

When all is said and done these fixed categories – these apparent limitations to choice – anchor us and provide a frame of reference for all we think and do, as well as for all we fail to think and fail to do. Categories also offer opportunities for excitement and wonder and mastery as we learn to revel in them or overcome them. Otherwise, like the stratospheric skydiver, we would be in total free fall without knowing which end was up, spinning out of control until we managed to control our fear first, so then we could make reasoned choices and survive the fall home.

Thank goodness for being stuck with certain apparently immutable categories! Who would I be without them?!! And even now, given the remote possibility that I might even have chosen my characteristics in advance, as some mystics and quantum physicists say, I can still claim my limitless possibilities through the act of making daily choices with a lower case “c.” And if I am not able to arrive at such sublime mastery in this particular moment, then I’ll play with other probabilities and spin off variations on a theme in my dreams and nightmares and perhaps even other lifetimes of wonder!

Of course I will vote for my list of public choices with a capital “C” in November! But between now and then, and after then regardless of the outcome of these elections, I will vote, by my every private choice in every small moment of my day, which kind of world I wish to inhabit. Who knows, maybe one day or year or decade from now, those choices might become a party platform!

Election Accountability With a Twist…

[First published 25 October 2012]

I have an idea.

What if before electing a President or Senator or Congressional Representative, say every 10 years, we were required to spend every 9th year trading places with someone – ANYONE else – in the country, or better yet, in the world? There would be no loopholes, no exceptions, and most importantly, NO CHOICE. Simple lottery. You could end up next door, or you could end up on the other side of the world.

Parents with children under the age of 18 would be able to stay together and take their children with them. Children over 18 and all others would have to draw their own lot.

All mortgage, insurance and basic automatic payments for those who have such things would be covered to insure that their home and basic belongings would be covered during the time away, and the person traveling away would receive the median income of the person or family or town or situation to which he or she would be relocated, whether that amount would result in an increase or decrease of resources, plus appropriate clothing and food for the climate to last 6 months of the year away. The remaining resources will have to be earned or gathered in local ways.

Sometimes an individual’s situation would improve dramatically, and sometimes the situation would suffer dramatically. There are important and often unexpected challenges either way. Sometimes the exchange situation would just be a wash, with little noticeable change.

Everyone would move around all at once during the 5th year, and in the 6th year following this experiment, national and international elections would be held. Candidates could only run for public office if they had proven participation in the trade-out year during the most recent cycle. All campaign candidates would receive the same amount of money from a central campaign fund for media appearances and advertising.

  • How long would it take for social policies to change, and what would they look like?
  • How long would it take for societies to disintegrate into a Mad-Max-Thunder-Drome scenario, where the candidates would try to kill each other off early since their resources for manipulation would be limited and evenly distributed?
  • How long would it take for traditional adversaries to reach across the aisle and support legislation that benefited everyone?
  • How long would it take before we would actually be willing to trade places with anyone, anywhere in the world for a brief and finite period of time, or for a lifetime?
  • How long would it take for us to change the way we live at home?
  • How long would it take for us to adapt or change our foreign policy, regardless of the particular country, to shift away from territorial imperatives to embrace the entire planet?
  • How long would it take us to treat others the way we would want to be treated if we lived in their shoes?

Maybe there is something to be said for ending big government. What if this were the only thing big government did for four cycles – 40 years: give its people a taste of the vast country and the vast world? What would our revised governments look like? What would our old and new dwelling places and consumption patterns look like? What would be the shifting nature of daily life? How many of us are ready to begin such an experiment? What if we as voters didn’t agree to this outrageous but intriguing possibility, but insisted that our elected leaders did?

When all is said and done, the best social – and perhaps political – policy can be summed up in 5 simple words: “What goes around, comes around.”

Sooner or later, anticipated or not, wherever you may find yourself on the political or social or cultural or ethnic or religious or intellectual or age or gender spectrum, remember this if you remember nothing else: What goes around always, eventually, comes around. Can you live with that? Can you find true leadership that expresses and supports that simple axiom?

In the last remaining days before this U.S. election, try a simple experiment: find a place in this country or elsewhere the world where you would least like to live, and go there if you can afford to get there, for 24 hours. That place could be a place of wealth or poverty, of sickness or health. If you do not feel safe in such a place because it is so different from what you know, see if you can find someone there to look out for you and keep you safe for this short period of time. Use your six degrees of separation to create a mind boggling experience for yourself.

And then go home and hold those you love close to you. Pay attention to what you love about your current situation and life and work and friends and hominess and even homelessness and uncertainty and loneliness. Then think about what happened during your time on the other side of life. And then, finally, vote with your heart and your newly found, albeit brief and tiny glimpse, into beginning to understand what goes around.

It really doesn’t matter how you vote. It really does matter that you understand those five simple words: “What goes around, comes around.” Stand tall and wise and proud as what goes around from you comes back around to bless you. And for once, at last, your blessing encompasses the whole world.

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