Daily Prompt: Assumption

via Daily Prompt: Assumption

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The assumptions we sometimes (perhaps often) hold become like a dirty film that encrusts our windows to the point we can no longer see out of them! In other words, our assumptions blind us, distort our view of people and life, the world.

How do we form assumptions? Well instead of observing what is going on around us in the world, instead of checking facts, instead of trying to understand another person’s view, we tend to bias our views on what is going on in our inner world. And so we base our views on our emotions, feelings, expectations, beliefs, preceptions, and even our desires and wishes. Our inner world, which can be so helpful and yet in extremis, so unhelpful, becomes, in assuming things, the controlling factor. In assumption there is no second voice, no check, no brake, no alternative canvassed, it is all in our mind. In assumption we are going solo, but we are also going mono. The problem is we begin to believe our own views to the exclusion of other voices and facts, and we become convinced that we are right, and we live into our own reality, our own version of the world.

Simple assumtions don’t really matter, but important ones really do.

One example would be the infamous bystander effect. Following the murder of Kitty Genovese in NY city in 1964, researchers Latane and Darley discovered that there were many witnesses, but all had assumed another would act or do something, hence their coined phrase The Bystander Effect (perceived diffusion of responsibility).

Another example would be the original 1968 Broken Window Theory where Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo was able to prove that when buildings, parked vehicles, and property in general are left unrepaired, some people assume they too can vandalise that property. Thus, one broken window becomes several broken windows on a factory. We assume no one cares.

In terms of people we often make assumptions. We have written off people with disability, we have been suspicious of the foreigner, the refugee, the person who is different by race, colour, belief, creed. Sometimes we cannot even see the person if they hold different political or religious views. we assume they are too different, not from our world, not of our kind. We assume they are dangerous. We just assume.

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We must clean our windows! Alan Alda makes a good point when he said: “Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”

Assumptions are costly in every way.

One of the greatest antidotes to assumption is dialogue, to simply sit with your neighbour, be that house, train, bus, walkway, beach, college, wherever, just get to know the person and not the assumption. Simple really, yet so little practiced. The other antidote is to check your internal view against what is going on around you, don’t just take self-reference as the expert view, or what I call the Facebook view of the world.

Talk and reflect – what do you see now?

All is now darkened
my mind has painted the glass
my ears will bring light

©Paul Cannon

 

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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Filed under community, Haiku, life, mindfulness, Philosophy/Theology, psychology, quote

When Truth Disappears

via Daily Prompt: Disappear

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Daniel Ellsberg.

Last week I watched the movie “The Post”, it has a stellar cast with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, Spielberg directing. For me the technical side of the movie was irelevant, because what was more important in this movie was the story itself, the publication of the Pentagon Papers.

Ellsberg, who had served in the marines in the late 50s, joined the Rand Corporation as a strategic analyst focussing on nuclear strategy. He completed his PhD in economics in 1962, and then in 1964 went to work at the Pentagon as assistant to John McNaughton. He then went to Vietnam for two years, working for general Lansdale through the State Dept. It was while in Vietnam that Ellsberg began to question the US involvement in the war.

When Ellsberg returned from Vietnam he returned to the Rand Corporation, and in 67 he contributed to the top-secret study on the Vietnam war commissioned by McNamara. This study was completed in 1968 and titled The Pentagon Papers. Ellsberg now understood the war to be one of US aggression and not one of support for a legitimate govt. under attack, and was therefore an illigitimate war under the UN Charter. Ellsberg could see from the study that from Kenedy to Johnson to Nixon the US Administration had known they would never win the war the way they were fighting it, so they were simply face saving and condemning a generation of young men to death while destroying another country. Ellsberg with help from a colleague, made secret copies of the Papers. In 1970 he tried to persuade selected US senators to bring them to the senate floor as evidence. This failed, and in 1971 he sent a copy to the NY Times correspondent Neil Sheehan, who published an excerpt with teh promise of a serial. The Nixon Administration sought a court injunction, and succeeded. Ellsberg then gave the papers to The Washington Post, and several other newspapers, who printed them. Another injunction was sought, but the Administration lost and the ruling allowed freedom to print, and they did.

As an aside, Nixon aide Erlichman authorised the formation of “The Whitehouse Plumbers”, Hunt and Liddy, as they were infamously known, to break into Ellsberg’s Psychiatrist’s office and get his files, they did but found nothing worth using against Ellsberg. This action was recorded on tape, and was the undoing of the Administration’s attempt to convict Ellsberg. Notably, shortly after this, the “Plumbers” raided the Watergate office of the Democrat Party, and so Nixon’s fate was then sealed.

The publication of the Pentagon Papers were deemed by the US Supreme Court to be a right of free speech and this ruling was seen as a landmark case. The publication damaged the war effort and was part of the turning of the tide, it shocked a nation that they had been so blatantly lied to by successive administrations. The truth had been a casualty, the truth had disappeared.

But then, isn’t that the story of politics?

  • The fabrication of stories to create a power block in Argentina 74 – 88, which included the systematic murder, rape and torture of citizens deemed to be in opposition to the Junta.
  • The illegal coup by Pinochet based on the projected fear of communism, also resulting in systematic murder, rape and torture of citizens deemed to be in opposition to the Dictator.
  • El Salvador – ditto.
  • Bush Jnr., Blair, Howard and the cooked up (the never found, mythical weapons of mass destruction) need to invade Iraq (not forgetting Somalia and Afghanistan before that).
  • The current rhetoric coming out of the US and UK on Iran is going the same route.

The truth has disappeared in politics, and when truth disappears we should be concerned to restore the truth. I do not believe that governments have any right to hold documents in secret. The argument that secrecy protects the government and security is clearly an oxymoron. Secrecy in government is about staying in power and hiding unethical and criminal behaviour, as a series of whistleblowers have shown over the decades.

Whistleblowing is a dangerous role in any society, and one where any govenrment can cast you as the enemy, but one that some people take seriously as the only action they can take for the good of the people. Ellsberg, Felt, Bukovsky, Ponting, Silkwood, Wright, Vanunu, Serpico, Gun, Manning, Asange, Snowdon, and dozens more have surrendered their own safety and rights to expose the lies that governments and corporations (sometimes colluding) concoct for their own puposes. Sadly, while many western governments have legislated to give some protection of whistleblowers, it usually falls short of full protection and such legislation is still prejudiced in favour of governments and corporations.

Daniel Ellsberg set up “The Truth-Telling Project in the early 2000s, but that is now defunct (though other groups now use that name for other puposes). He spends time writing about the importance of whistleblowing, and supporting those who take that step.

The Pentagon Papers release and whistlebowing in general reminds me of that famous dictum of Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good (men – sic) people do nothing.” And that beautiful quote from Ann Frank: “How wonderful is it that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

Let’s not be ostriches, let’s be truth tellers where we are, let’s make truth reappear.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under community, life, politics, quote, Uncategorized, Whistleblowing

Living Awkward

via Daily Prompt: Awkward

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A few years ago we went to Poland to visit our son Jon’s in-laws. Part of the trip was a pilgrimmage to Auschwitz and a visit to the ancient salt mine at Wieliczka, and staying in the resort town of Zakopane. At the markets in Zakopane one of the features is Oszcypek, a locally made sheep milk cheese. One of our number bought a bag of this cheese, it was quite reasonably priced I was told. The next day we set off by train for the long journey back to Warsaw. Well it was winter, the train was modern and had excellent heating – you can see where this is going – and the bag of cheese was unfortuantely near an aircon vent. Oops!

Well, sheep cheese doesn’t go gooey, when warmed it separates. And so there was initially an impercptible drip. Eventually Lyn noticed a dampness on her beanie, and looked up to be hit on the face by the dripping cheese. As the photo shows, we all began the hunt for the leak, and to move the cheese from the vent. If that weren’t awkward enough, it was just a little embarrassing that a local university student was in the same compartment witnessing this rather inept event. We did laugh, but it was awkward. That beanie took a fair bit of washing to get rid of the smell! Now we fondly remember the moment as a funny travel story, it contributed to making the trip memorable.

I have reflected on the moment and realised that it was socially embarrassing because, well, who likes to smell like sheeps cheese? And who likes to appear incompetent in storing cheese in the first place? And who copes with an audience in such circumstances? Who hasn’t been asked in class to read and not been paying attention as to which page? Who hasn’t been caught out with a maths question in class? Who hasn’t had a socially embarrassing moment as a teenager? (Perhaps a hermit) Teenagers tend to laugh to cover embarrassment, but it can turn to ridicule which derives from anger, and then it gets ugly. But then adults do that too. Who hasn’t pointed out that a friend is wearing odd socks only to be told it was intentional, and thus realizing that one’s own awkwardness drove the question in the first place?

Awkwardness is sometimes defined by our own expectations of how we look, behave and present in social settings or specific circumstances like sport or work. But it can also be coloured by what we imagine or perceive to be what is socially acceptable, and shame can be an unfortunate driving force or response. Humour is a great response, especially the ability to laugh at ourselves. And,  to have empathy. We’ve all been there, so what is the cost to us to ease the embarrassment of another? Exactly – nothing! And in that train there was no anger, there was no scapegoating, there was no fault finding. We laughed together, we were momentarily embarrassed, and then we made adjustments, even the student laughed and shared our feelings, which eased the situation.

I can’t imagine life not being awkward, things happen, and we cannot control every moment or make life perfect, we really do have to learn to live with awkward, but we can help each other in that endeavour, we can ease the shame, the pain, the embarrassment, the anger, we can make it easier for each other. There’s nothing wrong with the feeling, but we can help each other move through it.

Below is a superb TEDtalk by Brene Brown on shame, she nails it.

 

Paul,

pvcann.com

20 Comments

Filed under life, mindfulness, Trains, Travel

A Little Reflection (Don’t Smash The Mirror)

via Daily Prompt: Narcissism

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Narcissus was the son of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Liriope. Liriope was told by the blind seer Tiresias, that Narcissus would have a long life so long as he didn’t recognise himself. As the story goes, Narcissus was rejected by the nymph Echo (though in earlier versions, he was rejected by Ameinias). He went to a pool and gazed in and was captivated by his own image. Narcissus was know for his beauty. He fell in love with himself, and could not leave his reflection, and as a result he died there. The ancient Greeks are said to hold the belief that to see your reflection was fatal (there is a third story that says Narcissus was consumed with grief by the death of his sister, but this is not commonly accepted).

Freud took the term and utilized it as a clinical descriptor. For Freud, narcissism is when you have an excessive degree of self-esteem or self-involvement (focus) which usually denotes immaturity. Freud noted that narcissists become their own sex object (sexual overevaluation), are experts on everything, have no understanding of other people’s boundaries, are likely to exploit others, suffer envy, and more. There are seven types listed, ranging from Positive Narcissism to Success Oriented Narcissism. Many confuse Narcissim with being egotistical, or with being arrogant. The fact that Narcissism memes float around Facebook with indiscriminate likes and comments is proof of this, too many think they can diagnose someone as a narcissist by a single trait. It’s more complex than that. That sort of thing is best left to those professionals trained to make such judgments.

But clinical diagnosis aside, there are still things we can attend to in this story.

It raises a number of valid questions. Am I consumed with myself (am I just gazing into myself all the time)? Am I aware of others? Do I know other people’s boundaries? Do I claim to know things when I really don’t know? Do I exploit other people? Do I shame others regularly? Am I crippled with envy? A yes to any of these would warrant some self-work to effect change. If we don’t we might just die! There is a body of evidence in the public sphere now where medical researchers have show connections between health problems and anger, jealousy, hate, egotism and more. Such things literally eat away at us. But we also die in others ways, constant anger kills relationships, as does egotism, envy, lack of boundaries and so on. And when we live an unfiltered life we not only have an impact on others around us, we also affect ourselves deeply, often crippling oursleves emotionally.

The way forward is not to smash the mirror, but rather to set the mirror aside and notice the world around us, to respond to others in our lives, to not love the self more than another (balance), to respect our own and other people’s boundaries … Our health is in each other, we are the key to each other in some ways and should value each other as reflections to learn from rather than being absorbed in solely ourselves. We are not singular repositories of excellence, we all have pieces of the puzzle of life and we need each other to be able to put the whole picture together as best we can, it still won’t be perfect (and my view is that life can’t be perfect, nor was it meant to be). Alone we may flounder and stagnate. Together we can thrive and flourish and grow. The best reflection is not our own image but the things we give out into the world.

Paul,

pvcann.com

16 Comments

Filed under history, life, mindfulness, Mythology, psychology

Out Of This World

Out Of This World

When I think of out of this world I think of the stars, beyond our galaxy, but in another sense I think of places of transcendence like Uluru. But his morning there was something else. At Flat Rock the dolphins were absent, even the birds, but frogs were singing their song, the water was still, and then, as you will see in the top left corner of the video, as a tiny insect flew over the water, a fish appeared. I might not have been there, but I was and it happened. It was ordinary, simple, normal, yet in another way it was transcendent, it took me out of this world, just in the moment, wonderful.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under bush walking, mindfulness, nature, Philosophy/Theology

The Gordian Knot

via Daily Prompt: Complication

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In downtown ancient Phrygia in Anatolia, in Asia Minor (now modern Turkey) the population were without a king for sometime, and a prophecy was given that the new king would be a man who drove an ox-cart through the city gate. And, a peasant farmer did just that. His name was Gordias, and as per the oracle’s prophecy, Gordias was named king of Phrygia.

Gordias’ son Midas was so grateful that he tied that ox-cart to a post using an complicated knot made from cornel (cornus mas) bark and dedicated it to the god Sabazios (or as the Greeks would say – Zeus). The knot was said to be very complicated, it was described as being several knots together, so intertwined that it was impossible to find the beginning or the end of it, hence its entry into legend as the Gordian Knot.

The legend went on, with a new prophecy that whoever undid the knot would rule all of Asia. Enter Alexander the Great. There are two stories of Alexander undoing the knot, in the first he simply slices it in two with his sword after wrestling with it. In the second, he discovers the central strand and successfully unravels it. Either way, he went on to rule Asia Minor and beyond.

Today it carries the meaning of complication. We use the term “cut the Gordian Knot”, which refers to decisively solving a problem or puzzle. The term also refers to any problem or conundrum that can only be solved with lateral or creative thinking.

We all carry an internal Gordian Knot or two. I think where love is concerned when we meet our life partner we are the key to unravelling the complications of attraction, bonding, and releasing each other in new creative ways. I think there are other knots we carry. Some carry the whole world on their shoulders, others carry depression, anxiety, heartache, grief. Others carry hate, jealousy, anger. Some carry physical knots of illness. It’s a complicated world, and none of these knots can be treated as simple or trite. These knots can’t be dealt with like Alexander slicing them open, nice as that would be.

The ancients believed that the knot was actually a code to be unravelled first, so that the knot would also unravel. In a way it is a metaphor for life – to be patient, to learn the clues to self, to understand self and one’s passions, abilities, and possible paths in life. For me the Gordian Knot is life opening up as I attend to the mindful path, strand by strand, not being too concerned with slicing or loosing the whole, but discovering each intricate strand and its role. Life is a Gordian Knot, and it cannot be short circuited, you cannot succeed by simply getting frustrated and slicing it open. Life, as the cliche goes, must be lived. Our clues to success are in the living into the glorious chaos we call life, remembering Samuel Butler’s comment: “Life is not an exact science, it is an art”, and finding our way. But above all, we are often the key to each other’s unravelling our inner knots, it is an imprecise science or art, sometimes we are totally unware it is happening, it’s called relationship, it begins with dialogue …

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under history, life, mindfulness, Mythology, quote

Liquid Life

Liquid

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I love the ocean, I love rivers and lakes, but there’s something about a country creek, especially the sounds of the running water as it sings over rocks, such a glorious song.

Which reminds me of a line from a poem by Wendell Berry: “The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Choking Ourselves?

via Daily Prompt: Premature

The air that we breathe in some places contributes to illness, alergy onset, sets off asthma, and, according some researchers, is now a cause of premature death. The Guardian report below is somewhat singular in focussing on China and India, but it makes the point that air pollution is a serious business. Truth is, no country is absolved of this, we’re all in it. The country that provides the coal, the oil, the petrochemicals, they’re right in it too.

It is a fixable problem. Renewables, especially solar, wind, battery are strong contenders to replace carbon energy sources. But what happened to walking, public transport, bicycles, car-pooling, reducing non-esential travel? These are just as critical in the whole scheme of pollution control as electric cars and solar power. The same can be said of consumption, buying stuff. Our material wealth may be choking us, literally. That is also fixable, reducing consumption is another strategy in reducing pollution.

So, it comes back to each one of us. There are no faceless people to blame, we’re all in it, time to face up to it and deal with our own lifestyles first. To set the example is more powerful than just complaining. Living what we say we believe is far more potent than asking people to do something. The other trick is not to be too self-righteous when one begins to adopt new ways, that just alienates people. The way to invite people into new patterns of living is to show how good it is, and by demonstrating how it pays off. The evidence is what will move people eventually. I suspect that most people simply want to see what works and how it works. We can do that where we are.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

 

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Filed under chemicals, Economics, education, environment, life, mindfulness, nature, Science

Love is Infectious

via Daily Prompt: Infect

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My love walking the beach.

When we fall in love there is a chemical cocktail that is released into the body, literally infecting us with those feelings we call love.

Being attracted to another stimulates the body. If you feel elated, over-the-moon, energised, then dopamine has been released in your system. It works for other forms of elation too, winning a prize, gambling, sport, and drugs. Dopamine is the pleasure chemical.

Intimacy, closeness, bonding, means that oxytocin is in your system. Oxytocin is released when it gets physical, all that hugging, holding, kissing, touching, staring into each other’s eyes. Oxytocin calms and eneables intimacy and bonding. Sigh.

If sex is on the menu, then testosterone is in the system of both sexes. Testosterone is higher in males, and higher in male saliva, it is believed that kissing increases desire in both partners. Sex increases testosterone in the system.

Pheromones, those chemical messengers, also play a role in love, our noses are key to how we interact with others.

These chemicals work at the intense falling in love/sexual leel, but they are also released in long term relationships. They also impact in the four types of love, so that family, sibling, pet, and friendship also include feelings of love as these chemicals are released.

They’re the things I want to be infected with, the things of love, the elation, the focus, the bonding, the intimacy, belonging, joy, and the energy. Imagine if that infected the world!

The Beatles sang “All You Need Is Love” it was considered a trite song by many, and way too idealistic, and maybe that’s so, but there’s nothing wrong with poetic aspiration. I really liked then, Iand I like it now. And I beleive that love is all we need to change ourselves, and therefore, in turn, to change the world. It doesn’t seem that difficult.

Paul,

pvcann.com

20 Comments

Filed under chemicals, community, life, love, mindfulness, psychology, self-development, Sex

The Thin Place

via Daily Prompt: Thin

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Photo: My thin places are the bush: A walk trail near Bridgetown.

The ancient Celts believed that there were places one could go where people and the spirit world could touch. The Celtic influence on Christianity was such that this belief carried over, that the veil between heaven and earth was thin or transparent. The barrier between human and the divine were almost non-existent. For the ancient Celts these places were mostly forrest groves, but in other cultures they are rivers, billabongs, monoliths, mountain-tops, caves and more.

Not the same, but related in some aspects, the Australian Indigenous peoples created songlines, which trace the creation of the land, the fauna and lore, by ancestral spirits. Indigenous Australians used the songlines as navigation paths, for social connection, cultural knowledge – especially coming to know the flora and fauna, the availability of water, the types of seasons, and how it all came to be. Songlines are places to touch the past and the present.

My thin places are in the bush, these are liminal, threshold places, where the mind transcends the ordinary, where the soul is restored, where the heart is lifted, and the eyes are filled.

Thin places might be Angkor Wat, Machu Picchu, Uluru, Chartres Cathedral, the Pyramids, the Himalayas, the stars, meditation, music, art, and more, places or experiences of place that awaken the soul to something more, something outside the self, something veiled but near. Whether or not this is a spiritual experience or a transcendence of some other kind, thin places are restorative, they are places of contemplation, places of beauty, awe, play, rest, and renewal. We all need thin places, we will know them differently, but we will know them. They are treasures to fill the soul.

John O’Donohue wrote: “When you begin to sense that your imagination is the place where you are most divine, you feel called to clean out of your mind all the worn and shabby furniture of thought. You wish to refurbish yourself with living thought so that you can begin to see.”

Paul,

pvcann.com

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