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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

Snarky Tone of Gossip

28 Jan

Buddha - WordsA recent article containing a palpable, snarky tone of gossip prompted this entire look into something we might call ‘positive expression.’ Writing ethics are something to which not every author chooses to adhere. Being a writing aficionado, it is a mindful decision to share words in such a way that they are given proper use.

Words most often serve to inform, and if they carry other intent behind them, for fun or profit, it might be good to dig a little deeper. They may convey a particular message and bring the reader’s attention to a subject. Clearly, not every writer can be categorized as a ‘responsible’ one.

word prism FirthPutting words to paper is a form of creation. Scribing gives words life, bringing ideas into existence. As the person wielding the implement with some measure of skill, there is an element of propriety involved. Perhaps, authors have a moral obligation to create something that adds to our experience instead of rendering an abysmal effort not worthy of garnering attention.

Does that sound harsh? Certainly, writing may be considered by many to be a harmless activity. People write things down all the time, whether the words are read or not. We can always choose not to read ‘drivel.’ It is very empowering to be able to express one’s voice in written words. From words of praise to grumbling complaint, the way we utilize the written word has a lasting effect on anyone who intercepts them.

Having an opinion is each person’s prerogative. Communicating one’s opinion is something that can be labeled a mindful action. Is the opinion we seek to convey something that will help or harm? Is it true or a lie?

truth slapIs it okay to “suppose” or otherwise leave hints, or (as some might describe) artfully bend the truth to suit some purpose? There can be a fine line separating exposition and propaganda.

Like any form of energy, negative writing changes and lowers the tone of our vibration. It darkens the very atmosphere in which we live. The greater the readership the more widespread that change or infection can cover.

This can classify communications containing gossip and innuendo as malicious and harmful to our existence. We may not consider that such words have a major impact. Is it okay to hold this sort of idle chatter in our own head? What kind of an effect might that have on the way our ideas or other mental processes take place? Consider how it affects our heart, the very core of our being.

The bottom line is that putting those negative thoughts out into the world for others to experience does nothing to further our humanity. In fact, we might wonder what retards our interactions with others or why they take such a negative turn. We can be doing so much to further ourselves, if it were not for the time and energy wasted on words that do not move us forward.

Words forgivenWith all that said, could doing mindful writing bring us to a better place? Could something as simple as effective, positive writing help to turn things around? Can peace be spread by the use of words that help, heal, and raise our vibration instead?
It certainly opens up the world of possibility. As a writer and blogger for the past few years, there is much to be said for the purpose and intent of putting words together with fidelity and in an ethical manner. While not every person takes the Hippocratic Oath, we can appreciate and mindfully choose to do no harm.

Why not put the words in our blogs and messages to good use?

Namaste ~ Blessings!