Can You Escape Your Cave?

In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave he teaches us to question every assumption we have about the reality we call “real.” The power of his message was encouraging a way to develop the skill of thinking for yourself and discovering your own unique solutions to any problem.

“See human beings as though they were in an underground cave-like dwelling with its entrance, a long one, open to the light across the whole width of the cave.  They are in it from childhood with their legs and necks in bonds so that they are fixed, seeing only The Wall in front of them, unable because of the bond to turn their head all the way around.” ~ Plato

When you trust no one life is hard. When you deceive yourself of your own truth you lose connection to your intuition. This results in a life and the life of those you influence filled with worry and fear. We all become habituated to certain roles and beliefs in life, bound by invisible chains that keep us from some turning our heads and minds in another direction.

Rather than focusing energy on blame or a feeling of superior beliefs, can we embrace curiosity? Look at great discoveries that advanced our condition. The wheel, electricity, and penicillin just to name a few. Were these advancements the result of a mind entrenched in annoyed complaints or judgement of others? Can young minds develop to further advance our race and experience in an environment fed by pained annoyance? Or a feeling of superiority?

When I examine the life of people who’s energy and spirit seem to breathe life and grow almost effortlessly. They are like the plants that simply live off of air no soil or water needed. I see people who embrace wonder and curiosity, they talk about ideas and experiences not people. What they impart I want to be more like they add to our pool of knowledge and resilience.

Our greatest scientists and inventors had curiosity coursing through their veins. Curiosity leads to tolerance, noncritical attitudes, unconventional thinking, and yes even duct tape! A personal favorite invention of mine.

Consider a world where we can hold our differences and still be one; you, me, us. Have you considered the benefits of engaging in the world as a curious observer seeking wonder? Creating an environment that fosters a love of learning and a hunger to know more.

By remaining in our caves and chained to past roles, beliefs and solutions we are being taught to fear and worry and that we cannot grow and expand the world for ourselves or anyone else. If we study and contemplate for ourselves and discovered our own unique solutions to any challenges we face, can you imagine the possibilities, the potential that could be unleashed!

Knowledge gained through the senses is no more than opinion, in order to have real knowledge, we must gain it through philosophical reasoning. And that reasoning needs to be gained through our own journey of wonder and curiosity, not from the shadows in a cave, chained and bound through our own complicit imprisonment. Venture out risk the sights of a new world, go on an intellectual journey and discover beauty and meaning by thinking for yourself, not what others tell you is reality. You will be reluctant to go back once you adjust to the light outside of the cave.

“Your thoughts have the power to control; our being, our emotions, and the way we view the world that surrounds us. If you don’t constantly re-think what you think of on a daily basis, how do you ever expect to evolve into a being of; wisdom, truth, understanding, love, and above all, to be there for others?”

― Martin R. Lemieux

How Much Dumb Tax Are We Willing to Pay?

I was in a business class for entrepreneurs and the instructor said business owners frequently pay dumb tax and her job was to lower ours as much as possible. Dumb tax is the price we pay for what she characterized as “dumb mistakes”.  I thought the whole notion of paying a dumb tax analogy was really clever. I have paid heavily toward the dumb tax in many areas of my life not just in business. And I know I am not alone.the-new-york-public-library-kAJLRQwt5yY-unsplash

Photo by The New York Public Library on Unsplash

I feel we are currently paying a hefty dumb tax through our current apathetic response to norm violations. When I was growing up my elders would teach and reinforce for me important benchmarks, those unwritten but understood rules of society, that preserve order. I am not referring to social or traditional customs but the understood code of conduct regarding vices like the seven deadly sins; hubris, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and laziness. I was taught growing up this was God’s way of running a morally balanced universe, and that seemed reasonable to me. I find it fascinating and deeply concerning many of our elders and leaders today seem willing to pay dumb tax or eagerly impose that tax upon us to pay. Mistakes manifested by indifference or disregard for these very standards, that keeps our universe scrupulously equalized, carry a massive tax for that indifference.

picture into refleccting sunglasses

Photo by Caleb Stokes on Unsplash

This all puts a great onus on all of us indvidually to to be more discerning about the source, author and dates of information we are consuming. The use of algorithms in social media sites predict what you want to see and forward that to reinforce what beliefs you evidently hold. Its like taking a car out on a race track running a quick lap and assuming you’ve gone somewhere when you actually end up right back where you started. We are all running in circles and paying high taxes, even those who oppose all taxes, the dumb tax does not discriminate we all pay it. Rather than worrying about the danger from others or others insulting us, lets not insult our own intelligence and be our own source of danger.

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide. I hope I am over wary; but if I am not, there is, even now, something of ill-omen, amongst us. I mean the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country; the growing disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions, in lieu of the sober judgment of Courts; and the worse than savage mobs, for the executive ministers of justice. This disposition is awfully fearful in any community; and that it now exists in ours, though grating to our feelings to admit, it would be a violation of truth, and an insult to our intelligence, to deny. ~ Abraham Lincoln

Diversity Beyond Black and White

Diversity is not just about race, culture, ethnicity, gender, religion, political affiliation, economic systems, sexual identity, social status, geography, language, philosophy, hobbies, education, heritage, life experience or world views it’s about all of these and and so much more.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

It’s also interesting to see corporations have discovered that in their C-suites and board rooms a monoculture is not good for business.  If you surround yourself by sameness it does not cultivate an idea-rich, innovative environment, so boards actually try to balance points of view, talents and personalities to maximize their potential for success.  It is ironic that in their own board rooms they see the value of a polyculture, and why? Because they want growth and enhance the prosperity for their company’s shareholders and bottom line. Studies have a shown a rich corporate multicultural tapestry is powerful, sustainable and attracts the best and brightest. And yet these same corporations ask our farmers to engage in the very model they avoid in their own corporate board rooms – monoculture factory farming and monoculture crop production. They encourage a monoculture political climate through financial support focused on single-issue endorsements. For many executives in this conundrum view the morality of this approach as transactional leadership. Meaning following the decision that serves the immediate desired benefit rather than committing to a viable long-term mission or vision.

The history of the craft of tapestry over the centuries supports this philosophy of diversity. As many tribes, clans, customs, rituals, ceremonies, ideas and experiences were brought together over the years new materials were combined; wool, silk, linen, cotton, gold, and silver and new dyes were incorporated. The more diverse the tapestry the more durable the tapestry proved to be. These tapestries have survived in vibrant color and great condition for thousands of years. They combined new approaches, ideas and materials to produce a more enduring result that was intended to last beyond the weavers and recipients lifetimes.

Embracing diversity from this perspective is adopting the perspective of the scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, artists, philosophers, healers, and architects that forged the building blocks of the world we live in now. Escape the pull to sameness and invite an idea-rich mosaic that will sustain us for lifetimes and pull the magic out of us all!!!

Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilizations ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Diversity: The art of thinking independently together ~ Malcolm Forbes

 

Be Vunerable – Life is Short

img_0541I am what some people graciously call unique and the less gracious among us call odd. I always seem to welcome challenging situations. Rather than trying to hypothesize what would be the “right” way to react to a situation, I generally react from my gut and intuition. I do listen to others characterization of my behavior and will attempt to adjust as necessary if I feel it is consistent with who I am. However, I began to realize my rainbow sherbet life was slowing becoming bland vanilla with too much adjusting.

I am very open and honest, my motto: is TMI a bad thing?!?! I trust easily, and yes, I have been hurt because of it. I try to live a vulnerable life. It can be scary sometimes, but I really cannot see living any other way. So, what you see is what you get whether you see me at a project site, the beach, with my kids, with friends, with family, with co-workers. I also try to respect others journey. I don’t feel the need to judge where others are at in their life, a beautiful thing happens when you judge less and live more. Everyone can bring you wisdom, joy and life lessons.

I suffered a traumatic brain injury in a terrible accident a few years ago and had to face my toughest challenge, mounting a rehabilitation and recovery plan. As part of my recovery I had to become very dependent upon others, not a concept I am used to or enjoyed. I have been extremely blessed because I have so many family and friends who care about me and helped me through that difficult time. I received many gifts from that accident, one was a greater appreciation and perspective for others in a similar situation.  It’s a gift to have some idea of what it is like to walk in another’s moccasins.

In addition to the amazing love, support and kindness I received then and still receive now is a lot of advice about my recovery, which is a mixed blessing. When you are struggling to get back on track after any major disruption in life, whether it’s a traumatic injury, death of a loved one, or loss of a job, it can be very difficult to navigate and understand your path.  So I thought about the principle referred to as Occam’s razor – the basic watered-down definition is simple is better. And I like simple solutions, simple is less stressful for me, easier to navigate and understand. I see people who have their work persona, their home persona and their church persona etc…. honestly, I am just not that talented or able to pull that off, and honestly I just don’t have the desire. So now people who knew me before the accident say I have lost my filter. It’s more than that, I have lost the need to be anything other than what I truly am I have gained the ability to say and do what I truly believe. There is less burden in living this life when you don’t have to carry the load of judgement, worry and fear. Unburden yourself by truly fulfilling your curiosity, speaking your truth and enjoying your wonder. Or be simple and odd like me!

Cherish and allow your authentic self to be experienced by all you see.

“The greatest challenge in life is to be our own person and accept that being different is a blessing and not a curse. A person who knows who they are lives a simple life by eliminating from their orbit anything that does not align with his or her overriding purpose and values. A person must be selective with their time and energy because both elements of life are limited.”
― Kilroy J. Oldster, Dead Toad Scrolls

Is this the Means to the End we Desire?

tax reformThere are so many articles, opinion pieces being shared on the tax reform proposals by the House and Senate and many friends and family are camped out, or more like entrenched, on both sides of the issue tossing hand grenades toward each other. So with my simplistic brain, I am trying to first understand what problem are we trying to fix and will the recommended solutions actually fix the problem we have identified. First I have to confess I am not a tax or finance expert. Also, I am very skeptical and suspicious of any “data” I read on the internet that I have not personally confirmed. I think many times we are provided “data” from groups with specific agendas to sway us either towards their way of thinking or against another’s way of thinking by issuing subjective interpretations of data or providing data out of context. I understand that is in most cases that is their job, so I am not necessarily disappointed in their approach I am just mindful of it. I am disappointed, however, with how easily we assume what we hear to be fact if it evidences our leaning or persuasion, rather than taking a step back and checking sources and doing our own homework. I am not a big fan of living on either end of the pendulum swing I tend to prefer to be grounded rather than flying high one way or the other. However, I do think everyone is entitled to their opinions and it doesn’t threaten me if it does not align with my thinking. I just want us all to be using accurate data when making or reinforcing our positions.

What is the problem? In my humble opinion, the United States is on this steady economic growth path but the message we are hearing from all our leaders is that things are not good. Specifically, job growth is stagnant.

What is the current situation? I looked at the revenue of the top 100 companies according to Forbes in 1985 versus 2014. Why 1985 and 2014? Those were the dates that straddled the financial crisis in 2009 and the dip in 2011 to get a true baseline. So the total revenue for the top 100 companies (according to Forbes) in 1985 was $1 trillion and the profits were $1 billion, the top 100 companies (according to Forbes) in 2014 was $7 trillion and profits were $755 billion.  So we see a nice healthy 600% increase in revenue and an incredible 75000% increase in profits, so life is good for our top American companies. We want our companies to do well because we know that means we will all win in this scenario. So let’s look at other data what are the average private wages in 1985 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics the average hourly rate was $8.61 and in 2014 it was $20.73 so this is an increase of 240% and payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, commonly referred to as the entitlements, increased from 7.05% to 7.65%. an increase of 108%. The CEO compensation increase at the same time increased 937%. Further, during my randomly selected time frame, I looked into what is the difference between the earning ratio of worker to CEO, in 1985 the CEO to private worker compensation ratio was $30 to $1 and in 2014 it was $300 to $1.

Now for those who need to know what was the Republican versus Democrat leadership during this 29 years time span I selected, I have the following data; there was a Republic President for 17 years and a Democrat President for 12 yearsOver this 29-year timeline, the House of Representatives had a Republican majority 12 years and Democrats 17 years, The Senate had a Republican majority 16 years and Democrats 13 years. Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate 10 of those years and the Democrats controlled both 19 years. So what does this tell us? In my opinion nothing really, I just wanted to state exactly what it was because I have a feeling some people who read this really need to know this in order to stay with me.

So the economy seems to be doing well, the top corporations seem to be doing well and are cash-flush, but it appears there are many Americans not benefiting from this economy. So again in my humble opinion, the real problem is the depressed labor market and this is a complex issue with many nuances, however, to keep things simple I am going to just leave it there. And my concern is that I believe we are trying to help the depressed labor market by providing corporate tax relief. I say concerned because I am not sure this fix solves our problem. Historically corporate tax relief doesn’t necessarily translate into more jobs or higher wages. I am not against corporate tax relief I am just not sure it will have the desired effect. A corporation’s mission is to increase returns for their shareholders and investors so the incentive is to actually pay down debt, or replace human labor whenever possible. They focus on reducing costs to be able to make things or provide services at less cost and boost the profit margins and returns. And many times that is done by reducing labor through automation or mechanization. To further illustrate this concern, recently Gary Cohen, the current administration’s Chief Economic Advisor, attended a gathering of CEO’s hosted by the Wall Street Journal. A moderator at the gathering asked the crowd through a show of hands if lower corporate taxes would increase their capital investments when only a few raised their hands. Cohen asked, “Why aren’t the other hands up?” Again Corporate profits, while fantastic for the shareholders, do not always manifest jobs and increased wages.

So what do I think the answer is I believe the real answer to increasing the job market and wages and provide the biggest near-term boost to gross domestic product comes from investing in our infrastructure.  I sincerely wish Congress would have taken up infrastructure investment before tax reform, there seems to be more incentive for both sides of the pendulum to come together with infrastructure investment. Federal transportation infrastructure investment accounts for just 1.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), a reduction from peak investment levels of 2.2 percent in the 1960s, leaving more of the responsibility to state and local governments. The US ranks 15th in the world for infrastructure expenditures as a percent of GDP.

In its most recent report card on the condition of America’s infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave U.S. infrastructure a D+ or “poor” rating.  The engineers estimated the cost of bringing America’s infrastructure to a state of good repair (a grade of B) by 2025 at $4.6 trillion, of which only about 55 percent has been committed.  Improving roads and bridges alone would require $1.1 trillion more than states, local governments, and the federal government has allocated.  Schools need another $380 billion beyond what’s been invested. The Congressional Budget Office is projecting a $1.7 trillion increase in the federal budget deficit from the current House of Representatives tax reform bill. The Senates tax reform bill is projected to increase the federal budget deficit by $1 trillion. If we could instead invest the projected deficit and finance the new investment through new federal government debt rather than a progressive increase in taxation, a regressive increase in taxation, or cuts to government transfer programs we could have an impact on the labor market and wages as well as GDP. And the benefits of automation and innovation in infrastructure means the labor forces employed are more efficient and more improvements can be achieved. Jobs created would be disproportionately filled by workers without a four-year university degree. When the lower and middle class has disposable income they consume, which also benefits small business.

We need to modernize our infrastructure on a National basis through investment in driverless technologies, transit-oriented development, public schools, U.S. ports and inland waterways. Our infrastructure investments should focus on sustainable and resilient improvements. Properly executed infrastructure investment offers many ways we can put people to work with good wages and increase our economic engine while advancing our communities and benefiting the future generations of our country.

Men build too many walls and not enough bridges ~Joseph Fort Newton

 

 

 

 

When Life Takes an Unexpected Turn

I have known many people who have been forced to take a path less traveled through betrayal, illness, loss, or injury. When I saw their lives being derailed I felt a strong

traffic-signs

Life is Easy Just Follow the Signs

empathetic reaction and tried to provide any support I could. However, there is no lesson better learned than the one you experience first hand.  And this is where I was taught the most profound and painful lesson of my life. I was fortunate or unfortunate enough, depending on your opinion, to experience a drastic unexpected turn that shook the foundation of my life.  How did I get here? I took a very mundane trip on a hotel elevator one beautiful sunny day that ended with me in a coma with a traumatic brain and spine injury and my family being told to make necessary arrangements because this may not end well for me. As you may suspect since you are reading these words, the worst did not happen, I survived. The path since that time has been both heartbreaking and heartwarming. The heartwarming moments were the friends and family that mobilized to help me and my family through my rehabilitation and recovery. The heartbreaking moments are the debilitating pain I have suffered from since the accident, the loss of pleasurable pastimes and the drastic change in my career trajectory. I owned my own company, I was a runner and ran several times a week with a group of marvelous women who had become more than running buddies they were my emotional support system. I was a lover of food, my guilty addiction was binge-watching the food network. I own a BMW motorcycle and loved to go for rides with my brother and friends. Not only did I suffer brain trauma but I also suffered spine trauma that has required two surgeries to repair the damage. I have not been able to run since the accident, I have been told by the medical experts I should not ride a motorcycle again, according to the doctors I cannot afford another head injury. I have completely lost my sense of smell which has affected the flavors I experience. So the foods and drinks I enjoyed before do not hold the same pleasure now. I sold my company, my recovery demanded my focus and required an abrupt career path change.

These adjustments due to my unexpected turn, while regrettable, are trivial when all is said and done. But the adjustment I did not anticipate is the shifting sands of my support system. Two friends that were my stalwarts through this whole event both relocated out-of-state. Their sudden absence was difficult for me and my family. That coupled with the more subtle shifting sands of friends connected to specific pastimes and activities I can no longer participate in has been disorienting and disquieting.  As a result, I have come to understand the inherent voluntary nature of friendship that makes it subject to life’s whims and unexpected turns. This path was unforeseen and has required me to release expectations of myself and others, which admittedly is a work in process. I have friends who have put me up on a tenuous pedestal as an inspiration and I have friends who have chastised me for infractions of judgment. Both are uncomfortable realities of my new path. Change is generally distressing for all, those riding out the storm as well as the onlookers. My ask for you dear reader –  be gentle with yourself and others embroiled in change. There are many people traveling unexpected paths and they no longer fit in the box they have been dutifully building for themselves. Therefore to view or deduce them from your own constructed framework or ethos will prove frustrating for all.

I refer to us “unexpected path pilgrims” as phoenixes. A phoenix attains new life by arising from the ashes of its forebearer. There are many of us out there, for those who love the phoenixes in your life, understand the phoenix no longer has their rigid framework, it was obliterated. There is a blessing in that glorious cacophony as well as turmoil. So relating to your phoenix with your own rigid framework will be disappointing. You can both grow from this experience and peek outside your own cage and search for connections in unlikely places not previously explored. If you are only drawn to people who see and experience the world as you do, and one of those conformists suddenly takes you out of your comfortable allegory, it’s scary. Your phoenix may no longer fit in the story you have created. I encourage you to explore a new narrative. I have always loved mosaics, the beautiful randomness of divergent colors, shapes, sizes, and flow that come together to paint a beautiful image is a wonderful example that a change in path or perspective can lead you to an unexpected and powerful result.

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading ~ Gautama Buddha

The Sacred Clown

There is a belief among the Lakota people, of a very powerful and important person called the heyoka or as they were called by early European anthropologists, “clowns,” who misunderstood their contrary behavior and role.

warning-reflections-in-this-mirror-may-be-distorted-by-socially

 Because they use their powers to help their people, they are held in great reverence. The heyoka is a lightning bolt that cuts to the truth in an uncomfortable way by inspiring confusion or anger by not following the rules and asking difficult questions. Ultimately their role is to inspire others to a higher place. Being a heyoka is not an easy path, and someone does not “become” a heyoka but is so from birth, they are essential to the sustainable functioning of a tribe.

Essentially by doing the opposite of what is accepted behavior, it teaches the tribe moral behavior by achieving a better understanding of their own foolishness, hypocrisy, and ignorance.

I have been thinking about the heyoka a lot lately, and their role to help us confront our own demons so we may reach a higher calling. I see so many people in disbelief that we are in such a confusing time in our world. Where the social norms we used to follow no longer seem to have a place in our society. People are focusing on what divides us, particularly by using labels. In Lewis Carroll’s book “Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There,” Alice walked through the wood of no names, where there are no individual names and no awareness of qualities that set them apart from others. Alice loses her identity and meets a fawn who also forgets its identity and accepts Alice completely and fearlessly. There are no distinctions in this place between human and animal, self and other.  The eradication of distinction allows their universe to expand.

Rather than apply labels to dehumanize others’ unconventional behavior, or to make us feel “right” wouldn’t it be magnificent if we used this wisdom to recognize our connectedness. Recognize what we are feeling when we see, read or hear a message by another and how it relates to our own fears, beliefs, and misunderstandings. Labeling is extremely divisive and distancing. Instead of our tendency to separate from each other by applying labels, what if we listen to each other and our unique perspectives. Labels smear your glasses so you will never be able to see the person or their perspective clearly. When we label or base our opinion of a group based on religion, race, gender, sexual identity or political affiliation we have merely stunted our own growth which stunts our collective growth. It is powerful when we can discuss ideas or approaches without labeling or deciding the worthiness of the person in the discussion.

We are barraged with messages of what to think and believe. What is true. Who is good or bad. May I suggest instead listen to your intuition, your gut so we can learn to trust our instincts again rather than seeking from others what is true. And our truth may not conform to others and may have aspects that conform to those who despise each other. Heyoka’s are a powerful teacher and while they taught through contradiction and satire they were honored because of the value they brought the tribe.

“I am a fierce combination of confusing contradictions that add up to magical possibilities.” ― Unknown Author

If I diminish you, I diminish myself and humanity.

My wish for humanity this year and moving forward is the ability to gracefully

Oneness.jpg

Photo Credit: Onenessmission.com

and respectfully address, challenge or confront ideas, NOT people. Many people engaged in discussions with a compelling argument on opposing sides, rather than a thoughtful discourse on ideas use the statement “you are……, he/she is………they are………” which is frequently followed by a label, insult or disrespectful moniker. We determine the worth of the ideas by the moniker or label we attach to the person. The judgement we use determines the value we assign to the idea. How limiting and suffocating! We are all let down by the potential power of the moment when people are attacked and diminished rather than a healthy vetting of the idea or philosophy. Unfortunately the recent election in America has seemingly given permission to this manner of communication. Please be aware that assigning blame to any particular person, party or persuasion, is not important and ill advised, a wise elder I know says, stay focused on the signal not the noise. Focusing on the  noise, which our ego will compel us to do, will entangle us in a quagmire of stagnation and drudgery. So let us focus on the signal instead and ascend to a more satisfying and expansive world by concentrating on possibility, potential, courage and abundance.

We all have an important decision to make henceforth to truly affect what kind of world we want to manifest for each other; our children, grandchildren, brothers and sisters. We have to resist becoming idle in our comfort zone or paralyzed by our fears. So this year dear readers consider as part of a New Year’s resolution to fly towards a life of exhilaration and authenticity. Let us be mindful in all our interactions and observations to advance each other. Remember this simple approach in our communications both written and verbal; is it true, is it necessary, it is kind, and will it improve humanity.

We all have the ability and power to create our own journey and in turn impact the journey of others. So it is up to us how our journey will be, we can choose a rugged or a flowing path. Things will happen that effect us, but how we perceive these events and take action from there is our choice. Speak up when doing so advances our humanity. When engaged in a challenging discussion scrutinize the idea not the person. Try to avoid “I” or “You” statements, remember the vision of humanity is to focus on we and us. Look for common ground when areas of conflict appear remember the strong foundation we share first and then work through the conflicts. When we see injustice or unkindness be courageous speak up for our vision of humanity. Let us celebrate and spend time with what is refreshing and rejuvenating in our community and lives. Let us encourage fellowship and kindness. Each day focus on what supports this vision, the signal, rather than what doesn’t, the noise. We all seek belongingness and to sustain a peaceful and thriving existence we have to find ways to advance the feelings of acceptance to each other while also advancing our cleverness.

Let us all transform and break out of our cocoons of fear and spread our wings to create a humanity of oneness!

If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other ~ Mother Teresa

Can you see the picture through the pixels?

I read an articlepixel online of the top 20 fake news stories in 2016 and how they out performed real news stories. As I read through the list I recognized several stories I recognized from social media postings. I thought about how I am wired with regard to this type of situation. I treat everything I see or read as a single data point then I look for more data so I can develop a hypothesis or conclusion. It’s how we are trained as engineers, we have to look at all the data available to provide a practical approach to solve a problem.  Ergo each story I read is just one pixel in a picture made up of millions of pixels. If you look at one pixel you really cannot tell what the picture is and that pixel may mislead you to believe the picture is something vastly different from the reality.

I feel there is a considerable amount of distortion going on through social media. We see these titillating pixels and even though it is just one teeny pixel we decide we know the picture. This approach lacks curiosity!  The great accomplishments and innovations over the millennia are thanks to curiosity. Curiosity is engaged innocent observation. Curiosity is fun! When we are curious and seeking solutions it’s a powerful and delightful quest. There is no ego attached to curiosity, we have to be present and open when we are engaged in a curiosity crusade. When we are curious and not attached to ego the search and observation is for edification or problem solving not proving you right or someone else wrong. Curiosity allows room for discussion of differing ideas without the need for hateful communication or insults. Curiosity can make the most ordinary task exciting and a potentially cantankerous subject intriguing and enjoyable.

I recommend that we all engage and exercise our curiosity muscle, it will enhance our well-being, our humanity and our happiness. So remember the next pixel you see is just a wee bit of the big picture that awaits you.

Curiosity is one of the greatest secrets to happiness ~ Bryant H. McGill

The “Us versus Them” Effect

Recent events in our world have left me wondering what happened to the shades of gray in our world. Everything is, pun intended, black and white. It leaves many of us, like me, who live in shades of gray wondering where do I belong in this new paradigm, do I belong? There is a strong message being perpetrated that if you believe in one thing you are obviously against another. For example: you either support law enforcement or you support batman_slapping_robinblack lives matter, you can’t support both; you either support the Standing Rock tribal interests or you support US supplied oil pipelines; you cannot support Donald Trump if you support women, Latinos or Muslims; if you support Hillary Clinton then you do not support the Military; you either support immigration reform or support a great wall construction. I have faith in our humanity that we can dig a little deeper and we are more complex than the Us versus Them Effect allows us to explore.

The list goes on and on but the most important point in my humble opinion is that we have lost our ability to look for what connects us as human brothers and sisters, and instead we are encouraged to focus and judge each other on our differences. Fear has eroded our sense of social empathy, instant gratification has compelled us to judge and react without consideration and contemplation. I am one of those irritating people who have to think about everything. I am open to listen to everyone’s ideas and experience. However, when people give me data that needs to be confirmed I am compelled to check the facts before I form an opinion. It’s the geotechnical engineer in me, I get the soil data and that tells me the information in a small location but not necessarily what is present throughout the entire site. So I use other methods and experience to determine does that small piece of data represent the conditions for the whole site.

I am very concerned about this climate where we encourage people to react quickly, accept information without confirming its validity, judge motives instantly. Where we criticize each other so disrespectfully. I have watched adults criticizing young people harshly for sharing their beliefs because they do not coincide with their own beliefs. So the message that young person receives is “my thoughts are somehow wrong and should not be shared.” That’s not the world I want to foster. I want compassion, kindness, innovation, love and peace. A world where we are encouraged to think for ourselves.

I want to encourage the sharing of information and respectful challenging of ideas. There is an anti-intellectual, anti-science trend I am seeing and quite disturbed about in America. Many members of Congress deny the validity of climate change despite the findings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Our culture no longer values education as many other countries do and it is going to have devastating effects for our children and our children’s children. Schools and college’s primary mission used to be to foster understanding and to educate and more and more I see the trend towards training student to pass tests or for jobs. We can do better!!!

I encourage everyone reading this to engage in encouraging reading and discussion about issues and ideas, not online but in person at a coffee shop or the dinner table. Encourage everyone to read challenging books with ideas that may oppose their own, turn off – the computer, the smart phone, the TV. Go for a walk and discuss world events and ideas to improve the human condition. Reach out to someone who doesn’t look like you, does not practice the same religion as you, or subscribe to the same political ideas as you. See where you connect and what you have in common. It’s always easier to criticize or hate a group when you have no personal attachment. Let’s reach out to each other and recognize what connects us where we have mutual goals, dreams and desires to make this world a better place for all. Smile at strangers, bless those you do not agree with. The next time someone says something that causes an unpleasant reaction in your body reflect on that, think about why that is and then think about one redeeming attribute that person or group has, you will be begin your path to a higher place, a place of dignity and truth.

Rather than being with me or against me let’s start a movement ~ let’s find out where we compliment each other, where our combined energy can create good and raise the tide for all.

We had people of all backgrounds coming together – all races, all creeds, all colors, all status in life. And coming together there was a kind of quiet dignity and a kind of sense of caring and a feeling of joint responsibility. ~ Dorothy Height

 

 

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