Acting to Prevent Human Misery

25 Jul

Acting to Prevent Human Misery

by Kathy Custren

 

“When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?” –Eleanor Roosevelt

 

First Do No Harm…First Do No Harm…First Do No Harm

“You are under arrest.”

Imagine waking up to hear these words. It gives us pause to think about being arrested. Much like The Conundrum, it brings conflicting sensations to us. Beyond the sensation of ‘What did I do wrong?’ is the idea of being withheld from being around others for some extended period. Incarceration and institutionalization have extended ramifications on the human psyche, so we seek to avoid this type of situation as much as possible.

 

The frustration that comes from being arrested in some way is not something that works well with many of us. We dislike being barred, restrained, or otherwise told no. Whether individually or collectively, we want to be the ones to place those boundaries, draw the lines, and say when enough is enough.

 

Because what is ‘enough’ can be different for everyone. One person may not be able to stand making their way around a track one time, while others run with hurdles freely. The unique gifts we each bring to the game of life are part of the overall balance of things; yet we tend to focus on what is lacking. Rather than enjoying the bounty we have, we attach to always coming up short, and blaming or stigmatizing those who “bring us down.”

 

Proactivity – What Lies in Knowing and Understanding

So, being proactive is part of our DNA, so to speak. Why invite trouble, heartache, and suffering, when we can seek to avoid it? Why persevere with pain and suffering when there are ways to eliminate various problems?

 

Thinking ahead and designing for the future, is something that gives us a lot of enjoyment. Knowing that we have a well-thought plan of action is helpful to us. We budget time and money to achieve our goals. We consider the ‘what-ifs’ in life and provide for emergencies or contingencies that we know are inevitable.

 

Famine, drought, and disaster are as inevitable as death. In human and world history, there have been any number of catastrophes that cause migration and loss of life. Would we sit on our laurels knowing that what we have could be wiped out at any time? Or, would we seek to somehow make disaster a little less threatening, knowing its inevitability?

 

Flight or Fight – Responding to Trauma

Many are familiar with the ‘flight or fight’ response. When faced with a traumatic situation, we choose to either fight what is challenging us or run from it…live to fight another day. Each of us does what we can, ultimately understanding that it may not be the best option, but the only one we can make at the time, under the circumstances.

 

Yet, we seek to demean or diminish those who are dealing the best with the circumstances they have. None of us truly walk in the shoes of another—we cannot be them. We can only seek to understand, and perhaps commiserate, that ‘there but for the grace of God go I.’ We are either on the donating or receiving end of charity. What goes around comes around…as is the way.

 

Disrupting our comfort level must be something we do every day. If we yearn to stay in, go out. If we want to laze around, get busy. And if we encounter a need, by Jove, let’s do what we can to bring comfort instead of adding to the misery.

 

Beyond the fight or flight is the flow—the giving aspect that there is always more. Once we recognize this ‘flow to things,’ we may understand much more about what it takes to respond to traumatic events. As we struggle to understand and comprehend the great mystery, we get small hints of resolution that we really must heed.

 

Systemic Failure; Structure Remains

So much of what we envision when we think of the destruction of something, whether it is an old railroad line, building, society, or an ecosystem, leaves us with gaps we know are there. The abandoned railroad may have chunks of line missing, but we can tell what it was. An abandoned warehouse could be missing most of its windows or machinery, yet it retains a sense of its former glory. Society itself has many holes…cracks through which vulnerable people fall at an alarming rate. And as the world changes entire biological structures as seen in various epochs, the basic elements remain the same.

 

No one system is perfect, and the structure that upholds it may still be hanging on, but all these gaps are things we could address. Holes in infrastructure could mean there is work to do. We rarely think about quality control when it comes to social or world situations. From patching up a pothole in the road to repairing a broken friendship, there is always room for improvement.

 

Death and destruction are a part of life; they are the dark times amid the light. Understanding this inherency is something upon which we would rather not think, because that requires planning, too, as much as living does. We may not have much of a say in our own demise, but ignoring the fact that it can happen at any time is one of those ‘unlikely events’ that tugs at the back of our mind.

 

The Natural Order and Ages of Humanity

All individuals feed into the greater [good] of our existence, still we fail to see “them” as being an integrated part of our greater wholeness. We use the idea of rivers running to the ocean to describe the natural order. In much the same way, we say all spiritual roads lead to God. The systems we have in place operate as part of the natural order, and serve the larger whole accordingly. Oh, humanity! The same is true with each other.

 

Over time, we identify with these various levels of growth and change. Each generation takes this upon itself…as a yoke of sorts…to break free of the past, of our families, of our history, to start afresh. Consider correspondences to the seven ages of man, the seven chakras of the body, or heptatonic/diatonic scale in music. There is a natural progression, sequence, order, and structure that exists, to which we may apply any number of creative things.

 

When we defy or deny this natural order, it causes all manner of discord, pain, and suffering. As we mindlessly use and abuse our way through life, we mindfully choose to bring pain upon ourselves and others. Some of us cannot help it, since it is all part and parcel of the balance we embody. It should not surprise us that we can identify imbalances in the natural order because these will become evident rather close to home.

 

In our struggles, the choices we make become ever more critical. We feel they are tied most precipitously to our sense of existence. One wrong decision when we have little cushion to fall back on can hurt a lot. Rather than making the wisest of choices with an eye on the prize of future goals and achievements, we are left to decide between the lesser of two evils, or which one will hurt less. This fear-based, restricted stance is a different vantage point from which to operate, entirely.

 

How did we get this way? How can such an advanced or progressive society find itself in such a morass of degeneration? It is dichotomy at work once again. All part of the magnum opus of life; of which, we get to experience but a very small part. As in alchemy or the nearest rainbow, this natural progression is a constant reminder that there is always more beauty to behold. We. Can. Turn. This. Around.

 

What Holds Us Back? Class? We Do, We Do.

“So, wait,” you muse, “if there is always more, then why does it feel as if we are headed towards an ending?” Ah, indeed, there are many endings. Just as there are many beginnings. Balance says there are just as many opportunities for making good choices as there are to make poor ones. This may be especially true if the sum of our choices yields little in the way of true advancement.

 

Sure, we can point to any number of technological advancements. A bounty of progress, built upon years of research and development, high capital expenditures, plenty of commerce, travel, trade agreements, contracts large and small, and decades if not generations of toil and sweat. Where would the CEO of Exxon be without the toil and sweat of the Appalachia coal miners? Where would Apple be without the lowliest of workers hired to solder tiny parts together in a clean room somewhere in China for sub-minimum wage?

 

This advancement of ‘things’ comes at the cost of other things, and people. There is no doubt about it. As we deplete one aspect of our planet’s resources, as we manipulate the materials to suit our fanciful ideas, is there much thought given to the sustainability factor? Humanity excels at tremendous waste. We become the very embodiment of the cancer that invades our bodies, in much the same way we wreak havoc upon the Earth.

 

What if all the fossil fuels we use and burn so rapidly were buried underground for a reason far greater than any our greedy little minds can imagine? We ignore the indigenous who warn us of our lack of foresight. Shoot, we ignore evidence in front of us that exist in the soulful mirrors of the eyes of our fellow beings. We dare not look; treat each other with great ignorance; with a distain and ugliness that drives others away. Do we really feel safer this way, reinforcing the ‘illness’ that ego-driven greed has led?

 

Brick by Brick, We Build a Wall

In our confined freedom, away from others, we can breathe a heavy sigh of relief. Until we realize it is too late—that we have traded what was our life for a jail of our own design. Gates and walls once again reign supreme as methods of both division and presumed safety. For all our interconnectedness, we are driven farther apart. Our children and the most vulnerable and sensitive among us bear the battle scars to prove it as they die at their own hand with each passing day.

 

The folly of walls built by empires in years past do not seem as ridiculous now, perhaps? We hold still others in prisons for far lesser crimes than we allow large corporations to continue doing with reckless abandon. Why, it is an industry—good ‘decent’ work in all these penitentiaries. We taint the most valuable of resources so that every bit of nature carries a premium price, for the greater good, of course.

 

Our drive to excel causes anxiety that contributes to a wide range of mental problems, but we dare not admit this because of the stigma mental illness continues to hold. Decades and generations of apples not falling far from diseased trees does not contribute to a quality orchard. While there may be fewer ‘institutions,’ many people in pain are behind bars, suffering, seen as ‘less human’ than “we are.” Dare to help, and be considered ‘part of the problem.’

 

‘But it is not all horrible,’ we console ourselves. ‘Look at where all the tax money goes. Plus, there is Patreon, and PayPal, and GoFundMe, and all sorts of ways we help each other now. We can join with ‘the big buys’ and sponsor and subscribe to our hearts’ content. Nobody has to know the depth of our generosity. And the churches, all the churches around the world—that’s their job, after all, these non-profits and people who care.’ Except there is a deep economic imbalance that exists. The needs far outweigh the fulfillment…there is always more need, too. How do we reconcile this on a balance sheet?

 

Brick by brick, we build a wall around our hearts, minds, bodies, homes, and countries. To extend ourselves wholeheartedly becomes somehow unbearable, as if cancelling out the good that caring does. To give ourselves unselfishly somehow feels alien to us. At the same time, an odd inclination in what is left of our reptilian brain hints that this could be the very path to humanity’s salvation—to not go the way of the dinosaur.

 

We close ourselves off from each other, then take drugs to numb the pain. Worst still, we close off one thought from the next, compartmentalizing our lives in such a way that juggling becomes the norm. How can we possibly think in a logical manner when we cannot connect the dots? Yet we dare hope to be healed and for all beings to be at peace.

 

Connecting the Dots for the Whole Picture

Puzzles can be fun, you know? A favorite growing up was ‘connect the dots,’ where you started on dot-1 and drew lines to dot-2, and dot-3, and so on. It might have been 15 or 20 dots later before the entire picture was complete, but those lines of connection were what made the image happen. Real life is just as uncomplicated, and just as much fun.

 

Why, then, do we make it so complicated? Is it because we cannot bear to extend our heart energy, that resonance that rings true? What happens when we reach out and connect, dot-to-dot, person-to-person? And what happens if somebody were to touch us? That is energy right there, that carries long-term memories with it. We can choose whether that energy is positive or negative. We can even make a difference and add positivity, to make it better. Again, it is up to us.

 

Yet when it comes to the heart, better seal that sucker up tight, unless you want to be labeled a ‘bleeding-heart-liberal.’ We cannot abide the various images that have been drilled deep into our subconscious and feed our ego. Keep, conserve, retain what is yours lest someone else “take” it from us and cause scarcity that threatens what we know.

 

We cannot possibly hope to help anyone who feels help in any fashion is a weakness. This stigma adds further harm to the pain and misery that exists, but try to explain this to someone who says they have done all that they can. This pessimism and negativity does not allow for miracles to take place. How can they, when we put up a barrier that says, “No!”

 

Constant Evolution and Arrested Development

Nature devises constant evolution; ever-changing and adapting to suit the most optimal outcome. Building walls is our feeble attempt to remain disconnected, despite what nature shows us is the interdependence of all that exists. Our spiritual teachings imply there is more beyond this material world, so even when ‘this’ is over, there is always more.

 

Do we allow this arrested development to continue? Shall we stifle and snuff out our brilliance to save face? If someone is not too proud to beg, will we give them an even harder time of it by placing even more restrictions and stigma on their already bowed backs? How many hoops and red tape will be enough to satisfy? Will we give any more at all, or have a holly jolly laugh at the absurdity of making them “try harder?”

 

Or, will we see that ‘but for the grace of God go I?’ Will we become a channel of peace and share openly instead of doing it behind closed doors? We seek transparency in so many things today, yet hide ourselves away from what makes us most uncomfortable. We would rather not see the homeless, the addicted, and those in need, until we join their ranks. As Joan Osborne wrote:

 

“What if God was one of us?

Just a slob like one of us?

Just a stranger on the bus

Tryin’ to make his way home?”

 

Nearer My God to Thee, indeed. How close could we be to understanding so many of life’s mysteries, by making just the right connection? As precious as we feel life is and can be, we remain oblivious about our role in it all, and how we can do better.

 

We spend valuable hours, days, and months focused on the parade featuring a man with orange hair who claims to be a leader and does not lead; on this man’s family; on a cast of characters who come and go almost as quickly as they do in the City of Oz. It may well be the next nail in our collective coffin of displacement, this lesser-of-two-evils choice. We must eat our sin, while those who require our time and attention most fail to get the help they deserve. All while the travesty of our folly plays out before our eyes to keep us constantly and mindlessly entertained.

 

I mentioned ending earlier, and this too shall end with an impassioned plea for sincerity and justice. It’s not much, but is not easy. The words of other writers echo in the chamber. Let them resound in our hollow hearts and maybe turn that emptiness into something more—honest, open, and fair. For those who lack the means to say so for themselves, I humbly beseech we continue to do more, not less, for each other.

 

Let us act to prevent human misery and avoid heartache. As with everything else, there’s always more.

 

“In a world whose absurdity appears to be so impenetrable, we simply must reach a greater degree of understanding among men, a greater sincerity. We must achieve this or perish. To do so, certain conditions must be fulfilled: men must be frank (falsehood confuses things), free (communication is impossible with slaves). Finally, they must feel a certain justice around them.” –Albert Camus

Without Context, Life Can Be Drastic

5 Jun

Without Context, Life Can Be Drastic

By Kathy Custren

 

Without context, our world loses much of its meaning. There are shades of nuance that exist throughout the vibrational spectrum, that lend added definition, and some may say dignity, to life. In the absence of these sprinklings of understanding, we lose empathy; hardened to only to the extremes of what we see and hear.

 

Before we react to words, in anger, frustration, or even haste, let us stop to consider that there may be more to the picture. When something is bothering us and a caring person takes the time to stop to ask how we are, do we say how we really feel? “I’m fine,” is the standard response to an often-un-standard inquiry. Deep down, we know the other person must have noticed something to make them ask in the first place.

 

Take, for example, the recent exhibit of Kathy Griffin and the image of her holding a “piñata” shaped like the severed head of President Donald Trump. This firestorm of incendiary controversy fueled social media for days. It enraged folks that such a prominent comedienne would “do such a thing.” “What about the President’s son?”

 

Yet, we might quickly forget that these images do not come about of their own accord. We see a well-constructed, highly colorful image designed to inflame. We overlook seeing effigies of President Obama strung from a tree, as if lynched. Surely, the young Obama daughters saw those images more than once while growing up in the White House. If not, kudos to the parents for keeping them insulated; my family saw them.

 

It is not all that easy to stand in front of a crowd and tell a joke, let alone one that makes an impact. Today’s comedians work in a realm of multiple layers of subtleties. These nuances are sometimes lost in the muddled fields of politics, with distinct lines drawn or where ideologies shift periodically.

 

Would Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of President Trump be any less on-point if he played it before the election? Would it even be on our radar? What of those joking about President Clinton’s use of the word, “is?” At face value, does everything have a double entendre? The Taijitu says this is the case.

 

Knowing when to apply nuance, subtlety, or context can be important. Stringing along past experiences within the present moment, with an eye toward future influence, is part and parcel of human communications, rightly or wrongly. These aspects to life are often the difference in knowing what syllable to emphasize when saying, “I love you.” It is said that persons with autism often lack the ability to know when people are making jokes or when words operate as idioms, because they may not read the same social cues as many of us. Without context, we may take words at face value alone and fall into this category.

 

Likewise, the many news reports, memes, and other things we see in the media today. As people work hard to get our attention, we do need to be cognizant of the many layers of understanding and misunderstanding that can occur with communicative awareness. Can we convey context with text alone, or with one limited view? When it comes to freedom of expression, who is to say?

 

Those of us with a skill to fully explain the subtle differences can add shading where needed. However, it behooves us to do such applications wisely. Many colors of the experiential rainbow avoid our spectroscopy. It does not mean these shades do not exist; only that our ability to fully sense and comprehend them is limited. This is true where culture or politics draw such distinct lines, or where the fruition of mindful speech comes into play.

 

So, when it is reported, and even fact-checked with precision, that someone has said something controversial, we must take it with a grain of salt. It can be important to consider the many underlying meanings. Allowing for such context increases our measure of empathy and understanding. As part of The Conundrum, it is ironic that we lose context in using text.  In allowing for the rights and wrongs of our world, this becomes a very important touchstone for us all.

 

About the Author

Kathy Custren, OMTimes Magazine Senior Editor, is a mother who strives for balance with a deep respect for all. Interests include education, elements, nature, humanity’s cosmic origins, philosophy, spirituality, and wellness. Connect with “Consciousness Live” on WordPress and the community page “Consciousness Live” on Facebook. Read more at Mindblogger: http://kathyc-mindblogger.blogspot.com

Conscious Quickie: Spheres

9 Jan

Conscious Quickie for January 8, 2017 is Spheres.

What comes to mind when you think of spheres? Maybe the globe of our world is a good example? There is often more to the word than meets the eye, however. Consider spheres of knowledge or influence, and how these may affect our lives. This would include the family and friends we see daily or on a regular basis who help shape our life experience. Do you find you have grown together with others or apart from them? In what spheres might you be an anchor for others? Spheres of community in which we participate make up part of the overall tapestry of our lives, all part of the web of connection. What we do in life changes along with us, as part of the acquisition of understanding that is fostered along our journey. ~ Blessings!

Conscious Quickie: Inactivity

9 Jan

Conscious Quickie for January 7, 2017 is Inactivity.

Do you see what I did here? As an example of inactivity, the conscious quickie for the day was left undone and published a day later. This inactivity freed up very little of my day, in fact. It made me think of other ways inactivity might leave voids in our lives. Did something else come along to fill up the time? Sure, it did; but it was not part of this daily minder to become more conscious, though. Thus, it felt more like a gaping hole than the simple act of being consciously inactive. Might there be times when inactivity is useful? One of the best reasons for being inactive or “not doing” something would be if the action hurt others. Going one day without thinking of consciousness…was that harmful, or could it be? This is something we can only answer for ourselves. ~ Blessings!

 

The Pretender

6 Jan

Completely agree – and the penultimate comment about people reinforcing existing beliefs and refusing to be educated may just be the biggest hurdle. Thanks for saying it, Melanie ~ Blessings!

Hey Man, It Was A Piece of the Salmon

You know how I like to use a song title or whatever for my titles, and I could use this one for so many things, but I think I’ll let politics win this one. Or politicians, anyway.

Let me begin by making my usual remark that I hate politics. But I don’t really mean that, because you can’t. What politics actually means is “the methods by which we run society” and you can’t really hate that. You can disagree with versions of it, but unless you are completely apathetic over how it’s done you can’t exactly hate that there is a choice here.

Unfortunately all too often these days when people talk about politics what they mean is a very silly running argument about which party is best. It is party politics I can’t stand. This whole “there are only two ways to do anything, and my party has chosen…

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Conscious Quickie: Change

6 Jan

Conscious Quickie for January 6, 2017 is Change.

Here we are, almost a week into the new year, and it is a good time to be conscious of change. Many of us resolve to make various changes, so how is it going? Are we remaining conscious of the many ways change can affect us, or that we can effect change? Is there one main thing you seek to change this year? It is never too late to change, even though some people believe ‘you cannot teach an old dog new tricks.’ Change is a constant thing, as nature shows us. We can change with each breath we take, since the one we take now is different than the last. Our conscious awareness is the same way; what is true now often changes with greater understanding. Do not sweat the details, but remain aware and conscious of the little steps we can take to change every day ~ Blessings!

Conscious Quickie: Heritage

5 Jan

Conscious Quickie for January 5, 2017 is Heritage.

“In everything you say and do, you bring your heritage along with you.” This little rhyme suggests that we are the sum of our parts…our heritage. There is another saying that tells us we are the result of generations of love. Our being here is the evidence that we have a history to honor, and a deep background that goes farther back than many of our working memory banks will recall. Some of us attuned to energy and consciousness may be able to recall some bit of our heritage, whether it is personal or cultural. In expanding our consciousness to consider heritage, rather than keeping our heritage strictly in the past, let us consider that we breathe some renewed life into it on our leg of the journey. Are we the best we can be, and do we honor our heritage in all that we say and do? ~ Blessings!