Saturday, April 13, 2019

Planning and Tracking, Tracking and Planning

Reaching personal goals is a big subject in the marketplace these days, as it has been for decades with input from people like Dale Carnegie, author of  How to Win Friends and Influence People, and more recently, Stephen R.Covey author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and Jocko Willink and Leif Babin authors of  Extreme Ownership and The Dichotomy of Leadership. I have personally struggled for decades to get a better handle on my time and my personal productivity.

In 2004, I started working full-time as a Navy Calibration Technician for the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research institute in Bethesda, MD. In addition, shortly after becoming a member, I was elected Vice President of Education for the Toastmasters Club I joined and remained in that capacity for pretty much the next seven years. While I moved almost every year, got married, and then divorced, I also attended college, mostly on-line, until I finished my Bachelor's in Social Science degree in May 2010, graduating with honors. On many weekends, I also worked as a bicycle race official throughout the region including Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware and kept up with a very well weeded garden in a community garden plot as well.

Needless to say...I stayed busy. What with a few field exercises at various times thrown in for good measure, I had a lot on my plate, and keeping track of all of it was a huge challenge.

My very first attempt at long-term planning actually took place many years earlier, fashioning "Three Year Calendars" on large sheets of poster board, all drawn by hand. I created a "Six Year" version of this for my landlady housemate, when I lived in Kalispell, Montana, back in 1989, by creating the calendars on both sides of a single board. I updated that when I moved to Campbellsville, KY shortly after I became involved with the Friends of Green River Lake. In the image below, my personal "Three Year Calendar" is on the left. The one for the Friends of Green River Lake is on the right. (The "blue stars" are for all the weeks that I successfully completed my "Bible Text Coding" discussed in my previous blog.)



Towards the end of my time in the Navy, I designed another planning/tracking system using standard 8.5" x 11" sheets, hole-punched to fit in a three ring binder. One sheet was a monthly calendar I could fill in from scratch. Then there were two planning pages per week. On these sheets I could arrange 2" x 2" Post-It notes for each day of the week and with varying degrees of priority; i.e. in columns "A", "B", or "C". These could be further prioritized depending on how the Post-It notes were stacked on top of each other in each square.

As efficient as this notebook-sized system seemed to be, I never really utilized it well for any extended period of time. I think no matter what system people use (or try to use), they have to be motivated to keep up with it. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I think my focus and productivity have gotten at least somewhat better after reading Tim Urban's articles on procrastination; Why Procrastinators ProcrastinateThe Procrastination Matrix, and How to Beat Procrastination, as well as Your Life In Weeks. I have been keeping up with my "Life Calendar" for almost four years now. It's definitely helping me stay focused on my Big Research Project; i.e. "text coding" the New Testament. I get to color the week's block "blue" when I accomplish my (now) "one chapter per week" goal.

However, there are many, many other things I am challenging myself to do each week now as well. So how do I keep track of the details of all of these things on a weekly basis?

Enter my newest tool: A 3' x 4' White Board with a 2" x 2" "ghost grid." I've been using it for about three weeks now, not only scheduling specific tasks, but tracking my time that is not already scheduled. It's been interesting to see how much time can get "sucked away" when I'm kind of looking at my board, hour-by-hour. Once I've finished a day, I can then make even better notes in my calendar/datebook (something I've been doing consistently now since the end of 2012).


The days with the most notes are the ones that have already passed. I'll remove the notes when I've documented everything in my datebook. The more empty days are ahead of me, but they'll fill in pretty quickly, even though I am off work right now due to a foot injury. With the board turned on its end like this, I have room for two weeks across the top and hours from 6 am to 12 pm down the side. That leaves a little more room for miscellaneous stickers around the edges, projects or tasks that get repeated, or longer-term projects that I haven't scheduled yet. I also put lists of things I need to buy for groceries or other projects. It's turning out to be a pretty flexible system, and I like the kind of "life-sized" quality about it. It's enough to get good detail over a good length of time. And, of course, for even longer-term planning, I can go back to my "Six Year" calendar format.

So this is where things stand to date with my personal attempts to keep track of my time and make the most of it. There are lots of projects that I'm working on for work and for my local community, as well as personal projects. I'm trying to keep all of it in balance!

I do feel I'm getting more accomplished, and there's still enough flexibility in the system to adjust as needed.

As I said earlier, every personal planning/organizational system requires the motivation to use it. I think that's where Tim Urban's articles can have some impact. Perseverance helps, too. I've been wrestling with this bear for a good part  of my life now, and I'm already 54 years old as of the writing of this post. But, I keep trying, and I do feel I'm making progress!

Hope there is something here to keep you motivated as well!

Friday, March 8, 2019

A Review of "Embracing My Multipotentiality for 2018" and Additional Plans for 2019

It's been almost a year since my last post and a very busy first year it was of "Embracing My Multipotentiality". So how did I do?

Regarding:
"Text Coding the New Testament of the Bible for communications relevant to Jonathan Haidt's 'moral foundations'; i.e. Care/Harm, Loyalty/Betrayal, Fairness/Cheating, Authority/Subversion, Sanctity/Degradation and Liberty/Oppression."
I started out wanting to do five chapters a week, and kept up pretty well in the early part of the year, but then work picked-up during the summer and I got behind. I managed to cover those five chapters a week for 16 weeks from January to about mid-April which added up to 80 chapters. As I found that five chapter load a bit too heavy, I dropped back to one chapter per week and restarted in late November 2018. Now I'm at the 16 week mark again (so, 96 chapters total). I hope to maintain this one chapter per week schedule to the completion of the roughly 260 chapters in the New Testament, which means it will take me another three years or so! It feels good though to have this goal and to be persevering to achieve it, even if it is going to take quite a bit longer than I first imagined. Engaging the process of deep, verse by verse consideration has had its own rewards. I know at the end of this journey I will have a fairly unique perspective of the New Testament and who knows how that will evolve out into the rest of my life and the world?
 "Keeping up with my personal yoga exercising three times a week."
This has been off and on a bit throughout the year, but I'm back "on" as of now, squeezing in between three and six yoga sessions/week. I'm pushing to make it six, but the fall-back is three sessions/week.
"Sewing monthly basket liners and preparing cookie samples and recipes for the five people/families I gave baskets to this past Christmas (with any left-over cookies going to my co-workers)."
I managed to keep up with my sewing and cookie baking, although, I did get behind once in a while. As you can see by the photo, there's a lot that went into the "Year 1" baskets.


Furthermore, it got really intense towards Christmas time as I was concluding the "Year 1" baskets while also starting "Year 2". I finally gave up on trying to find the right size and quality of baskets I'm looking for "out there" in thrift stores and the general market, and instead found a source for materials to Make My Own!


Consequently, there were four baskets in the "Year 2" collection that I made myself and I intend to refine my pattern and make all of the baskets for the "Year 3" collection.

Furthermore, I am now creating reusable, coordinating, draw-string closures for the cookie bags using hand-painted mini-button cord locks and 2mm Rattail Cord.


That means for the "Artistic/Creative" potential of my "multipotentialite" life I am (so far): weaving baskets, sewing liners and bows, miniature painting, cooking/baking, and desk-top publishing (for the recipes). And...I just discovered this fabric/wall paper/wrapping paper printing service, Spoonflower.com, which means I have the option now to design my own fabrics as well! All very, very exciting!

Oh, and as if all that weren't enough, as one more challenge for my baskets this year...I'm preparing vegan and gluten free recipes drawn from two main sources: Easy Flourless Muffins, Bars, & Cookies by Amanda Drozdz, and Energy Balls by Christal Sczebel. I feel the former recipes have been a bit "mixed" as far as results go. The "energy balls" have all been pretty good though, at least to me! I'm also trying to convert one more conventional recipe to vegan/gluten free for my offerings each month.
"Taking care of my cat and all the other critters in the neighborhood - birds, squirrels, chipmunks, ground hogs, raccoons, deer, etc...."
Funny story...

As spring rolled in this year, though haltingly, "O.K." (short for "Outside Kitty") disappeared for an extended period of time and I feared the worst. Sure enough, as I was driving to work one afternoon I glanced over to the side of the road to see the white hind paws and grey tabby body of a dead cat, and my heart sank. I couldn't stop though as I was pushed to get to work on-time (as usual) so I waited until I was on my way home to circle the car back around and determine if it was "O.K.". It was dark by then, and rainy, but the dark-tipped tail was the "give-away" for me. So I placed the cold, stiff body of "O.K." in the trunk of the car and took him back home. I laid him on the ground in front of the office door so KiKi and Chloe could sniff him, and know that he was "gone". Cold temperatures persisted, along with rain for the next few days so I left "O.K." lying on "his" chair, resting peacefully. Three or four days later, we finally got a break in the weather. I found a nice little sun-drenched, moss-covered hillock in the woods, and buried "O.K." there with due ceremony, and a couple of sticks of "Holy Cat" incense to send him on his way.

Or...at least I thought...until the REAL "O.K." showed up at the door that night!!!!

In other words...I buried the "wrong" cat!


Although the Real O.K. was favoring his left front paw, he was otherwise alive and well and has continued to show back up at the house more or less regularly (although I still worry about him when he goes "missing" for more than 24 hours). There's a big shaggy dog, one coyote I've seen, and who knows what else he has to avoid to survive, but I'm doing what I can to make sure he has food and water to keep his strength up.

Of Note: I feel kind of bad now that I "sacrificed" one really nice burial spot in the woods, and if I should have to bury the Real O.K., I'll have to find yet another spot! Either way, feral or domestic, the Other Cat got a very nice burial, courtesy of yours truly! (And thanks to the Trail Cam my brother-in-law Ted gave me for Christmas, I have some better photos with which to identify the Real O.K. in the future, if necessary!)
"...while also continuing to broaden my knowledge of primitive skills and wild edibles and sharing those skills whenever possible via Longhunter and other local events."
Only made it to two major events this past year, one being the 2018 Homeplace Fall Heritage Festival  where I was welcomed again to share tent space with Ken Hill. I put a new and improved display together of wild edible and utilitarian plants and demonstrated how to make cordage. I received quite abit of attention from the crowd and look forward to doing it again this next year. (Photo courtesy of Ken Hill)


The second major event was the annual Lakeshore Clean-up on September 15th. I decided to purchase an inflatable kayak and took my time paddling around the western shoreline north of the Site 1 Boat Ramp, retrieving trash with a "grabber" tool and an extendable pole with a paint roller hook on the end of it. The roller hook did not want to stay on my pole so I was retrieving it about as much as I was retrieving trash (!) but, I at least proved to myself that it was a workable idea.


Unfortunately, by the time I got out of the water at the end of the point behind the Visitors Center, everyone had already headed over to the State Park for lunch. So...no boats available to transport me there. I had to deflate the kayak and haul it and my other gear all the way up the hill to the parking lot. My friend Starr, who had also come to volunteer, picked me up. Thank goodness I was at least able to reach her, as I was pretty exhausted after the morning paddling and the hike up the hill. However, it taught me what was possible, and that was a good lesson for sure!
"Taking care of my aging father."
After a very busy Christmas, both with work and family, Dad became weak and lost his balance a couple of times, and falling, while I was away at work on December 26th. Luckily, our next door neighbor was home and was able to help him in both cases. It was a bit disturbing, but I was able to reach out through one of my contacts I'd made at the Chamber of Commerce luncheons, and get some home-health care set-up fairly quickly. My step-sister, Connie Hayse, also pitched in to help early on, staying at the house while I went to work. Dad has since recovered and is pretty much back to "normal" for him.

However, given that bit of a "scare" after Christmas, my sisters and their families made an extra effort to come to visit in February to celebrate Dad's 86th birthday.


While they were in town, Ted, Connie (Dickerson), and I went with my niece, Rhylli, to hike three of the trails around Green River Lake. The weather cooperated with clear skies and relatively warm temperatures giving all of us an opportunity to get some fresh air, sunshine, and exercise! We were on a mission as Rhylli had a "Hiking Pin" to earn, being a recent inductee, and one of the first girls to join the (Boy) Scouts of America.(Photos courtesy Ted Dickerson)


All-in-all it was a really great weekend spent with my immediate family, and Ted got some nice, "rare" photos of me and my sisters together with my dad. (Photos courtesy of Ted Dickerson)

 "Working at Lowe's part-time in the flooring department."
Yep! Still doing that. Have made many improvements, such as creating a new system for organizing trim top-stock, as well as making sure carpet samples are labeled with their respective item numbers, as well as keeping inventory "maps" updated on a more-or-less regular basis. (Of late, as I have not had as many hours in that department specifically, it's been "less".)

BEFORE

AFTER
Either way, it's all about creating as much efficiency as possible, so the specialists have enough time to use the "new" sales system that was "supposed" to free up more of their time and energy to engage with customers. Not so sure that's happening as planned! We'll see what's ahead with a new CEO in place...At least we have more functional hand-held phones/scanners to work with now!
"Meeting regularly with friends (many of them professors/instructors at Campbellsville University) for weekly breakfast meetings, monthly book club meetings, weekly walks on Saturday mornings, monthly panel discussions, etc."
I have managed to keep up with my Book Club meetings, and the rare meeting or phone call with a close friend, but I'm sad to say, I have not been able to keep this going in my life as much as I would like. It's not just me, though, all of my close friends here and "abroad" lead very busy lives as well. I am truly grateful for all of them though, and I thoroughly enjoy the times we do get to spend together.
"...as well as continuing to volunteer for the Friends of Green River Lake."
This Year...I've got extra duties as President of the Friends of Green River Lake as we support the Corps in putting on probably one of the Biggest Events the park has ever done: The 50th Anniversary Celebration of Green River Lake, June 15th, 2019. Prior to that we will also be holding a "Dinner on the Dam" on June 8th, 2019.


These events involve multiple committees, lots of logisitical planning, publicity and fundraising, hiring vendors, crafters, entertainment and educational participants. I'm taking the lead to oversee all of it! So I'm glad I've been, literally, "doing my homework," reading books like, Extreme Ownership... and The Dichotomy of Leadership... by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin! With two large group meetings already on the books, I feel confident we can make this event a success!

And...right after the main event on June 15th...I'm off to my old stomping grounds of Cookeville, Tennessee, for the National Speleological Society Convention 2019. I hope to link-up with some of these guys, and many more. (Photos courtesy Frank Bogle)


The last time we all got together was about mid-way through "Stage I" of my cross-country journey, "Pedaling for Peace", in 2012. (You can read more about that here and here.)


 I expect equally good times to come during the week of the NSS Convention! (And I may even have some "cave themed" fabric from Spoonflower by then as well...We'll see!?)
 "Broadening my influence as a 'medium-sized fish' in this relatively 'small pond' of Campbellsville, KY. (There's some background to understanding the import of that, which may show up in another blog post one of these days!)"
Okay...So I never got to that hinted-at blog post. Eh! Doesn't really matter!

Otherwise, I think my leadership of the 50th Anniversary Event is going to be a real test. And, if all goes well, it will probably influence the confidence others have in my abilities as well as the confidence I have in myself! Keep in mind, it's all volunteer work, but sometimes, that's where we have even more opportunities to grow and discover our true capabilities!

So that's how the past year has gone and how I'm continuing to "embrace my multipotentiality" in 2019! It gets to be pretty intense sometimes, especially since, in reality, I'm not that good at keeping myself organized, or managing my time, or staying focused, but somehow I manage to find the time to do everything I'm doing (although I do sometimes run late on one thing or another, and/or bury the wrong cat!). Take today, for instance, I thought I'd spend it sewing basket liners and yet here I am writing this blog post instead! I have to keep reminding myself that I am choosing this life and all these activities to give my energy and attention to. It doesn't make it any easier, but it does keep me from feeling sorry for myself when things get tougher than usual!

And, of course, I continue to dream of being better organized, managing my time better, and staying focused. And I take small steps here and there towards those goals. So, maybe, someday, I will get "there", but, in the mean time, I'm not going to let my weaknesses stop me from persevering and being productive in all these areas of my life, one way or another!

As it has been said, "Where there's a will, there's a way!"

So far...so good!

We'll see what the rest of 2019 has to bring!?

Yours All-Ways in Love and Peace!







Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Embracing My Multipotentiality for 2018

I'm into my first year fully embracing my "multipotentiality" a la Emilie Wapnick's TEDx talk, Why Some of Us Don't Have One True Calling.

So that means I'm staying freely busy on multiple projects:

-Text Coding the New Testament of the Bible for communications relevant to Jonathan Haidt's "moral foundations"; i.e. Care/Harm, Loyalty/Betrayal, Fairness/Cheating, Authority/Subversion, Sanctity/Degradation and Liberty/Oppression.

- Keeping up with my personal yoga exercising three times a week.

-Sewing monthly basket liners and preparing cookie samples and recipes for the five people/families I gave baskets to this past Christmas (with any left-over cookies going to my co-workers).

- Taking care of my cat and all the other critters in the neighborhood - birds, squirrels, chipmunks, ground hogs, raccoons, deer, etc., while also continuing to broaden my knowledge of primitive skills and wild edibles and sharing those skills whenever possible via Longhunter and other local events.

- Taking care of my aging father.

- Working at Lowe's part-time in the flooring department.

-Meeting regularly with friends (many of them professors/instructors at Campbellsville University) for weekly breakfast meetings, monthly book club meetings, weekly walks on Saturday mornings, monthly panel discussions, etc., as well as continuing to volunteer for The Friends of Green River Lake.

- Broadening my influence as a "medium-sized fish" in this relatively "small pond" of Campbellsville, KY. There's some background to understanding the import of that, which may show up in another blog post one of these days!

Without the pressure I used feel to try to focus on Only One of the above things, I seem to have freed up even more of my energy and attention to continue to do All of them! Very grateful to Emilie Wapnick for bringing that paradigm shift into my consciousness! Maybe it will help some other "multipotentialites" out there, too, so...spread the word!

HAPPY SPRING Everyone!

Here's to Great Year ahead!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Understanding the 4 Major Archetypes for Men and Women

Happy to say...this article got published outside of my own blogging here! My very first! Thinking...there will probably be more, but, for now, you can take a little walk over to Elephant Journal to read my latest post!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Which comes first? The Belief or the Behavior?

I found this article recently as I searched for info about any interaction between Sam Harris and Patricia Churchland.

Author Scott Atran writes: “[C]ore religious beliefs do not have fixed propositional content,” and “People make religious belief – whether Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and so forth – compatible with violence or non-violence according to how they interpret their religious beliefs,” and “That there is a cruel and repugnantly violent contemporary current in Islam, there is no doubt. Factions of the Christian identity movement, the Tamil Tiger interpretation of Hinduism as necessitating suicide attacks against Buddhist enemies, Imperial Japan’s interpretation of Zen Buddhism as a call to a war of extermination against the Chinese, all have produced cruel and barbarous behavior that has adversely affected millions of people. But Harris’s take on such matters is so scientifically uninformed and mendacious as to be a menace to those who seek a practical and reasoned way out of the morass of obscurantism.”

All of this got me thinking…

What if Atran is right, and at some level, people really don’t believe what they say they believe, but they will use passages from various religious texts to simply justify, to themselves and others, actions that they really want to take anyway, for who knows how many other reasons?

This falls in line more with Jonathan Haidt’s ideas about the rational mind being the “rider/press secretary” for the “elephant” that represents the rest of the mind and emotion-driven limbic brain, etc. (Something I forgot to mention in my previous post.) In this example, the press secretary quotes religious texts to make its elephant look good, but the elephant is going to do, or head in the direction of doing, whatever it really wants to do, and the rider/press-secretary just looks for ways to justify the elephant’s behavior after the fact, or after the direction has already been determined. In addition, as I have concluded for a long time now, people tend to believe what they want to believe, even about the fact of their believing in the first place, i.e. "I want to believe that my believing 'x' is good, and that I am good, and even better than others for believing 'x'."

In the case of Islam, it’s unfortunate that the Qur’an and Hadith contain the violence justifying and encouraging passages that they do, because it allows some Muslims with extreme, violent personalities, to justify their own behavior more easily than if they lived in a culture whose religious texts contained fewer if any such easily adoptable passages!

In other words, these are "beliefs of convenience" (my term) - they just happen to support certain already ingrained mindsets and behaviors of the people who claim them.

And sure, there's a cultural feedback loop at work here. If you're raised in a violent culture, you are more likely to become violent yourself. If you are raised with physical abuse as a form of "discipline", you are more likely to be violent as an adult. Doesn't matter if you're Christian or Muslim in this case, except maybe by degree. Most Christians are less violent than many Muslims in part because they do not have as many religious texts that encourage violence that they can use to justify violent behaviors.

So, probably what is more important to recognize and understand apart from belief is what leads people, i.e. their "elephants" to develop violent personalities and inclinations towards violent behavior in the first place.

In addition to Jonathan Haidt, Marshall Rosenberg's work on Non-violent Communication and Compassionate Parenting has a lot to offer to such a discussion, as does Lloyd deMause and his work on  The Origins of War in Child Abuse.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Towards a Better Understanding of Moral Foundations and the Need for Peace Literacy

So here we are, several months into the Trump Presidency. Oh, and in case you didn't realize it, my last post was about him! That's right, I've been aware of emotional/psychological "arrested development" in adults for almost 25 years now! Most of it is caused by childhood trauma; i.e. bad parenting...but then, that has a multiplying effect generation after generation, so it is no wonder so many people are struggling with ordinary "adult" life, even in this highly technologically advanced society. As Paul K. Chappell points out in his forthcoming book, Soldiers of Peace: How to Wield the Weapon of Nonviolence with Maximum Force -  in spite of all of our advancements in technology, we are "preliterate in peace". In other words we aren't all that good at simply knowing how to get along with one another!

I recently encountered someone with whom I shared a great deal in common...except for "beliefs about God (and Jesus)." I walked away from that encounter convinced that he was more interested in how I believed than how I loved, just as I was more interested in how he loved than how he believed. In spite of everything else that we could have shared, mismatching on this point caused him to decide to end the relationship before it really even got started. It saddened me and left me feeling a bit "mad", as in "crazed" by this crazy maddening world that left us unable to relate with one another more functionally. He said he believed that "everything happens for a reason". If he had met me 15 years ago, I would have agreed with him. Now, I think things happen, and we try to glean some greater meaning from those experiences, especially when they are particularly "Dynamic" or traumatic. This encounter was both for me, and I'm trying now to channel my response into more productive writing, as I will admit, I've gotten a bit complacent living here in the heart of the "Heartland" in Campbellsville, KY!

Nevertheless, I have continued to "study" and one of my recent "text books" was Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Religion and Politics. Wow! What a tour de force in presenting his research on "moral foundations" in a clear and concise way! I appreciated the content as well as the structure of its presentation. Definitely one of my new favorite books!

As summarized here, Haidt describes five "moral foundations" for which there is strong evidence: Care/Harm, Fairness/Cheating, Loyalty/Betrayal, Authority/Subversion, and Sanctity/Degradation; and one for which the evidence is not quite as strong, but still important to consider, Liberty/Oppression. The moral foundations are things most people can grasp intuitively, or at a "gut" level, what he refers to as "intuitive ethics". However, through culture we learn to give more emphasis to some of the foundations rather than others, or to express them through specific, sometimes very elaborate behaviors and rituals. That's where things start to get messy and conflicts arise: not from conflict over the foundations themselves, but through conflict over their interpretation and behavioral expressions that vary considerably across nations, cultures, religions, and political parties. What Haidt seems to call for in his writing is a deeper recognition of our moral foundations, what we actually share in common, and less emphasis or distraction by all of the different ways humans can embody and express those foundations.

Also, as I have seen for myself, almost every one of our "intractable" social issues arises from an unresolved conflict between moral foundations. For instance, the abortion issue pits "care" for the unborn against the "liberty" of a women to have control over her own body. State sponsored "welfare" is about "care" for those in need, but again, it is in conflict with the "liberty" of taxpayers to control their own resources, or to freely choose to support other charitable organizations rather than have their money taken from them and used through the government bureaucracy. (Keep in mind, this applies to those who are against "corporate welfare" and "bailouts" as well!) There seems to be a general pattern of thinking that goes: "I want my individual liberty (to do whatever I want), and if I make poor choices, I (also) want the government to be there to take care of me (even if I have no respect for the government and its authority)."

The above statement reflects what I have referred to here as an "Individual Biological Moral Code". Haidt also points out that the U.S. represents more of an "individualistic" society, where it is believed that "society is there to serve the individual", while at the other end of the spectrum, China adheres to a more "collectivist" view where the "individual is there to serve society".  As I recently discussed with Paul K. Chappell, I wonder if either of these cultures would be able to continue as they are if it were not for their interactions with one another? Our individualism is great for generating new ideas, new technologies, etc., but not all that great for finding people willing to do the rather monotonous work of reproducing them. The Chinese are not known for innovation, but they do just fine reproducing products designed in the U.S, something I can speak to very directly given my many years experience working in the production-line sewing industry!

Finally, Haidt suggests that we are "90% chimp and 10% bee". In many, many regards our behavior is similar to that of lower primates. We form bonds with certain members of our society and not with others. We form hierarchies. We will care for our own infants as well as infants belonging to other members of our family group (as necessary), but may even kill the infants of non-related members or of rival groups. We can be faithful or unfaithful to our sexual partners.

In addition, however, we also have an enormous capacity to cooperate with a much larger group of otherwise total strangers in order to share a common experience (like a rock concert) or achieve a common goal (like winning an election). That's the "10% bee" part. Furthermore, as Yuval Noah Harari explains in his book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, it seems one of our greatest talents as humans is to tell stories (like those expressed by all religions concerning the nature of "God" and/or the Universe) as a framework for moral behavior, which can be applied to a much, much, larger group of otherwise unrelated individuals.

Which brings me to one of the points of Haidt's book that really stuck with me: Moral development, learning how to function well and peacefully in a society with other human beings, depends on one's association with a smaller group or "moral community" in which one can be held accountable for one's actions. There has to be some kind of feedback system that allows for "course correction". If you do not grow up in such a community, if you do not feel at least some concern for the good opinion of others, or at least, feel some sense of dependency on others for your overall survival and well-being, then you can behave however you want, without any real moral development taking place, even throughout the course of your entire lifetime!

Furthermore, if you are inclined to think highly of yourself for being one member of the "global community of humankind" without any real connection to a smaller community, one to which you feel more directly accountable, then, again, you can actually live your life as an otherwise immoral person, with no one to stop you, unless your immorality leads you to break laws for which you can be removed from the larger society through incarceration.

This brings me to one final, more recent observation: There are many minority groups in our society whose individual members take great pride in being part of those groups based on their race or gender preference. What is more obvious with race, but maybe less so for some with respect to gender preference, is that both of these characteristics are an expression of a person's biology, over which they have little or no control.  No one consciously chooses to be "Black" or "White," "Asian" or "Hispanic," etc. I have yet to meet a homosexual who claims they are choosing to be homosexual any more than someone else chooses to be heterosexual. And even with religion, at least until fairly recently, a person would be hard-pressed to find others who did not agree with or follow the religion of their birth. Granted, there are opportunities to "choose" to "believe in Christ and accept Him as your Lord and Savior" within various Christian communities, for instance, but if you don't, you may also face shunning or excommunication. At the very least, as long as you continue to be a part of that community, you will also continue to feel the pressure to choose as those in your family/religious community have chosen before you.

So, to a great degree, with regards to race, religion, gender preference, physical disability, etc., no one is actively choosing these identifiable characteristics. However, if there is anything truly unique in the animal kingdom with respect to human beings, it is our capacity for choice with regards to how we behave in our relationships with other human beings, in our relationships with non-humans, and in our relationship with this planet we live on. In his book, Peaceful Revolution: How We Can Create the Future Needed for Humanity's Survival, Paul K. Chappell describes several "muscles" that all human beings can learn to strengthen including the "muscles" of hope, empathy, appreciation, conscience, reason, discipline, and curiosity. These are aspects of our shared humanity that (apart from some forms of mental handicap) we can choose to exercise, no matter what the superficial dictates of our biological, religious, or cultural heritage.

Therefore, rather than focusing so much on the things we can't control, like what race or culture we were born into, or how our brains were wired during development to affect our gender preference/identification, or how intelligent we are, it seems we would be far better off focusing on those human qualities or capacities that we can control, and measuring ourselves, and holding each other accountable, according to how we exercise or demonstrate those capacities. In addition, rather than merely identifying as another member of "the whole of humanity", or even some other broadly recognized majority, minority, secular, religious, or political group, we need to come to embrace and appreciate the importance and power of smaller groups and communities to shape individual and collective moral behavior, to allow ourselves to be held accountable, ideally, for our capacity to exercise our truly human "muscles" of hope, empathy, appreciation, conscience, reason, discipline, and curiosity!

Finally, to begin to bridge the seeming gaps between secular and religious beliefs as well as political ideologies, we need to give more direct consideration to the underlying moral foundations of Care/Harm, Fairness/Cheating, Loyalty/Betrayal, Authority/Subversion, Sanctity/Degradation, and Liberty/Oppression rather than seeing only the surface expressions that vary so widely from culture to culture, religion to religion, and between political parties. 

We must realize we all hold individual responsibility to be Moral Actors and to mature as Moral Actors through the course of our lives and to be held accountable by the smaller communities we either grow-up in or consciously choose. No matter how technologically advanced we become, our long-term success as a species and our individual and collective well-being in the here and now depend on our learning to live together more peacefully.

In Soldiers of Peace..., Paul K. Chappell explains that the majority of human beings were once illiterate with respect to reading and writing. At a certain point in human society we realized that learning to read and write was critical for our survival. Now we have reached another critical point in human society where we are mostly "illiterate in peace", and our survival depends on our becoming "peace literate". I look forward to continuing to take part in and contribute to that ongoing education effort!

Sincerely and Respectfully Yours, In Peace...


Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Four Year Old

This reference goes way, way, back in my personal history. For various reasons, which should become obvious fairly quickly, I have decided to present it here. And I quote:


“If at times he seems somewhat voluble, dogmatic, boastful and bossy, it is because he is a blithe amateur swinging into fresh fields of self-expression. For a while he scarcely can be too concerned about the feelings of others. He is not quite as sensitive to praise [from others as when he was younger]. Instead he praises himself through bragging. Besides he is much less experienced than his brave verbal assertiveness might suggest. He has meager appreciation of disappointment and the personal emotions of others. He is inquisitively interested in death, but has scant comprehension of its meaning. He is plausible because his words often outrun his knowledge.

“[He] is a great talker. He is his own self-appointed commentator and often his own audience. He likes to use words, to try them out, to play with them. He likes new, different words…. [B]right, articulate [he] tends to run his topics to the ground, exhausting every verbal possibility…

“The key to [his] psychology is his high drive combined with a fluid mental organization. His imagery is almost mercurial. It moves from one form to another with careless ease….This same fluidity makes him a  fabricator and a fertile producer of alibis. It also makes it possible for him to dramatize any experience which comes within his ken.

“Social patterns are offset and in part defined by anti-social conduct….His boastfulness reaches towering ego-centric heights. But all this bravado is not as drastic as appears on the surface. [He] is feeling his powers and trying them out…

“Basically, [he] is more interested in socialization than in resistance. He shows this in his great fondness for dressing up and acting like grown-ups…He does not only don an adult hat; but he indulges in long telephone conversations, which echo the exact inflections of the adult voice….He also likes to make faces. This is still another method of identification with adults and perfecting his skill in reading their facial expressions. He is reading into, talking into and acting into the complexities of his culture.”


From: Infant and Child in the Culture of Today, Arnold Gesell and Frances L. Ilg, (1943). Pp.225-228, describing “The Four Year Old”.

If only I had the video footage and the expertise to edit it! Alas, I can only imagine it in my mind's eye... Maybe someone else can make it a reality!