Thursday, November 30, 2006

Do we have the power?

The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.
- Benjamin Disraeli

In most cases, power is what you achieve by causing others to submit to your will. That inevitably means the sacrifice of some part of a person's free will.

A person who has lost some of his free will is crippled. His soul, the part of him that is his real being (not just his body), is crippled. His weakness is emphasized by virtue of comparison to the strength of the powerful person, the person in control.

It could be said that every democracy is effectively a dictatorship. The person with the power controls the words and the votes of those elected under him. No law is passed without being approved by the most powerful person.

What we have today is not unlike what existed in the Dark Ages, only tidied up a bit, and the cultural groups are much larger. And people aren't killed for disagreeing with others. Except maybe in Russia and the Middle East. Oh, and China and the Stans. And Ukraine.

All great civilizations of the past were built on a base of military power. In the 21st century and beyond, such empires will not be possible. Some people in every part of the world are prepared to sacrifice their own lives to make sure that any country that attempts to control others by military might will be destabilized through acts of "terrorism."

Disraeli said that we can help people by revealing their strengths to themselves. That includes giving them the power to control their own lives.

Those who feel they control their own lives will want to work together with others who feel the same. This could provide a base for a great civilization based on people who work together for the mutual benefit of every one of them.

This is not socialism, but a new phase of humanity.

No one, no society, will become truly great by making some of its people small.

We need to help each other up. We need to help each other to learn our strengths.

Together we have strengths to be a great civilization. On our own, we have the strengths only to survive under the power of our leaders.

Few leaders are prepared to put the welfare of their people ahead of their own best interests. But then, we do not teach that as a goal to strive for.

We could teach that. It works.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to light the path for those who want improvement.
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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Einstein had it right; we didn't pay attention

The problems of today cannot be solved with the same thinking that gave us the problems in the first place.
- Albert Einstein

Yet that is precisely what we do, as countries, as communities and as individuals. Not everyone, of course, but enough that we can see a pattern.

A man or woman who has a very unhappy first marriage sets out to find a second mate, then chooses one with basically the same problems that caused them so much grief in the first marriage. Some extent their pattern to a third and fourth marriage.

People complain about the councillors that represent them in their city government. They call them spendthrifts, stupid, careless about people with certain problems in their community. Then basically the same people are elected to office next time.

The Cold War is a perfect example of two countries that got their way with many other countries within their sphere of influence by investments, political pressure or military might. It destroyed not only the old Soviet Union, but every individual state within the union because they were all nearly bankrupt.

Today the US--who clearly won the Cold War--is busy trying to influence it most intransigent opponents, by economic might and military persuasion. And it's bankrupting itself in the process.

The United Nations, an organization that encompasses almost every nation in the world, strives for world peace. But its member nations hesitate to send troops from nations that are at peace into civil war zones because they don't want any of their soldiers killed on foreign soil unless it's in the defence of their own country. Protect your own. It's always worked in the past.

People who want to be wealthy the easy way spend thousands of dollars buying lottery tickets, impovershing themselves and their families in the hope of winning a fortune they won't have the financial sense to hang onto.

Rebuilding a life, a community or a country is frightening. Frightening because people are afraid of change or because they don't have the foresight to know what they want? Or maybe they have the foresight, but not the willpower to implement changes that would bring the new situation about. Arguments can and have been mounted for each of these possibilities.

Our problems grow. We continue trying to address them in the same ways we always have.

Too many bad guys on the streets? Build more prisons, hire more police and engage more judges. But don't do what is needed to prevent people from turning to crime in the first place.

Too many people taking drugs? Stop the plants from being grown and put the sellers in prison. Don't change conditions so that the people who buy the drugs won't want to purchase them any more.

All change begins with education. That can be done in schools, where everyone gets the same message, or it can be done by the media and new laws.

How do you think our present system of depending on the media and passing new laws has done? In my country, social problems keep growing.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to put responsibility and authority into the hands of people who can make changes happen.
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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Would a severe tragedy destroy your life?

"The one serious conviction that a man should have is that nothing is to be taken too seriously."
- Nicholas Butler, American educator (1862–1947)

Nothing about our lives that could change at a moment's notice should be taken too seriously.

Your job could disappear unexpectedly. Your car could be totalled in an accident or a fire could make it worthless within minutes. The life of a loved one could be snuffed out in the time it takes to receive a phone call.

The death of a loved one shouldn't be taken seriously? Or, worse, the loved one shouldn't be taken seriously? An explanation of not taking something too seriously is in order so that we can make sense of this quote.

The quote says "too seriously." That should mean "life-ending" or "life-destroying."

We have all heard of people who say that they couldn't live without their lover. Most, though it would be last on their list of possibilities, could indeed survive and make a new life. It happens to many people. Some can't cope with their loss and demonstrate this by suicide or depression that compromises their immune system to the extent that they die of some disease within months or a few years. That's too seriously.

Life, by its nature, must carry on. Survival is our most basic instinct. We, as components of the life on this planet, must be prepared to carry on and build a new life when a loved one dies.

Is that absolutely necessary? Would the world be lessened by the loss of one more life?

That's not necessarily a moral question. It could be a practical question. If you and many others were aware that someone you know wanted to commit suicide, how many people do you believe would advocate leaving that person alone to end his life? The answer would be unanimous or close to it, some intervention would be essential.

As awkward and unpleasant as it may sound, each of us would do well to think about the possibility that a sudden tragedy could alter our lives. If our life had to be changed due to one of those unpredictable events or sets of circumstances, we should at least have some idea about how we would cope with it. Coping is how we get through tragedies.

If we don't have a plan, tragedy could wreak more havoc with our life than is necessary, maybe even ending it or bringing more tragedy to our loved ones who would survive the tragedy.

They don't deserve that. You don't deserve that.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to help everyone be prepared for the eventualities of life.
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Monday, November 27, 2006

Failure is the norm, so learn from it

"If at first you don't succeed, you're running about average."
- M.H. Alderson

It sounds like a joke. It's not meant to be.

Overnight successes are rare. In the music business, a group that's an overnight success has usually been slaving away in the trenches, building a fan base, crafting new skills and polishing them for about a decade.

In painting, as in others of the arts, a decade of being the "starving artist" is the norm before recognition hits, if it comes at all.

No one is born being great at anything. You might wonder if savants (remember 'Rain Man'?) were born with some mysterious built-in talent since they sometimes have amazing abilities by the time they are four years old.

Prevailing thinking today says that savants are autistic, but some disagree. It's possible that a petit mal epileptic attack on a young brain could alter how it develops. Almost everyone has one or a few petit mal attacks in their lives at some points, even if they are not diagnosed as epilepsy by a physician. When the electrical impulses of epilepsy go charging through the brain in chaotic fashion they have been known to change a person's disposition, their character, their abilities, even their approach to life. It could happen at a very young age. But, at that, there is no general agreement that a brilliant savant has a developed talent that gathers a fan base. Savants, in that sense, may not be successes, just different.

Most people begin their lives being fairly average. Some develop extraordinary skills and talents, while most of us become pretty good at a few things. Most people with extraordinary talents and skills endured many failures along their path to success.

Even in business, failure is common on first attempts. The founders of Ford and Hershey's were perhaps the best known business failures who became successes in their second or third business attempts.

On one point successful people (who are recongized as such by the public) agree, they learned more from their failures than they did from their successes. They used their failures as real-life learning situations on which they built their future successes.

We can all learn from that. We can use failures and tragedies in our lives as learning situations on which we can build better futures. Just remember, a better future doesn't come quickly.

It will come with diligence, determination and staying the course.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to show the way through the detours of life.
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Sunday, November 26, 2006

What you buy could affect your future

Humanity also needs dreamers, for whom the disinterested development of an enterprise is so captivating that it becomes impossible for them to devote their care to their own material profit. Without doubt, these dreamers do not deserve wealth, because they do not desire it. Even so, a well-organized society should assure to such workers the efficient means of
accomplishing their task, in a life freed from material care and freely consecrated to research.
- Marie Curie, scientist, Nobel laureate (1867-1934)

Was the Polish-born double Nobel prize winner advocating socialism in this quotation? In a way, but no more than she could have been advocating the same thing for any form of government.

When we look at the countries of the world that are considered to be progressive today, that is in which progress is being made in various fields of study, they all provide the means by which researchers may carry out their work with some degree of financial security.

I say some degree because in many of them science researchers must vie with each other for government grants and university positions to provide the framework in which to conduct their studies. Others who cannot or will not participate in the politics of academia and R&D work under the ones who will.

A decade or two ago most of the new research papers that were published came out of the USA. More recently the percentage has dropped close to 65 percent, down from nearly 90 percent. During the same period the US economy has faltered and the value of its currency has fallen somewhat against other major currencies. Over the same period, government monies for research in science have dropped off, more noticably so during the regime of the current president.

World leaders among nations today have money to spend, to invest and to give to poorer nations. They get much of that money when they export products, technologies, information and skills to other countries who want it. These exports depend to some extent on investments by governments in research that puts the countries' export corporations ahead of the competition.

When research money comes more from corporations than from governments, development tends toward products and services that may be sold for great profit rather than those that may benefit all humankind.

Who is paying for research into the products and skills you buy? No system is without its faults and its corruption. Making the right choice could affect the future of your country.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, encouraging everyone to become educated about what is behind the stuff they buy.
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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Succeed, fail or what?

"If we don't succeed, we run the risk of failure."
- Dan Quayle, former US Vice President

Life is not black and white, good or bad, in or out.

Vice President Quale was vilified by the media for this apparently foolish remark. But it's not foolish.

Every living person fails at some things. Everyone succeeds at some things. But with most things we do we can't be categorized as either. We're just somewhere in the middle.

So it is with countries, a fact that the US media were happy to overlook when they skewered their VP over this comment. Most countries can't be said to succeed or to be more successful than all others at anything.

The US is unquestionably the most powerful country in the world militarily. That is if numbers of weapons (including weapons of mass detruction) are taken into account. But is it the best at war?

Need it be the best at war? Many people believe it must. Many people believe that only the threat of invasion by the world's most powerful military will prevent "renegade" countries from making trouble for the US.

Many countries of the world are not strong militarily, yet their people live happy and safe lives. They live in countries that are not "successful" (superior) by most measures.

There is a middle ground, be it for countries or for individuals. Most of us live there.

Those who call the vast majority of us failures when we do not side with them because they are the most powerful are wrong.

Somebody had to say it.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to help most people feel comfortable and safe in the middle.
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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Is good naturally weaker than evil?

We must not be frightened nor cajoled into accepting evil as deliverance from evil. We must go on struggling to be human, though monsters of abstractions police and threaten us.
- Robert Hayden, poet and educator (1913-1980)

As Hayden lived in the middle part of the last century and died a generation ago, he was speaking in general terms (so far as our purposes here are concerned), not of conditions we may be experiencing today.

I say that not excuse any association that a reader may make based on their personal experiences or interests, but to remind you that it's not my motive to bring any specific situation of today to attention with this quote.

The forces in the world that we generally consider to be good are large, but usually not aggressive, presumptuous or that wish to enslave or harm any life. Seldom enough are they organized into an effective force that could implement the good they wish to convey. And to receive, as they are not entirely altruistic by any means. They tend to be empowered by tragedy, especially disasters that affect others.

Forces that we generally perceive to be evil (lots of interpretation there, I understand) are more aggressive, often better organized and even manage to find financing to support their campaigns.

Good does not always win out over evil due to its massive numbers. We can see this with Nazi Germany, any of the other examples of genocide that have occurred over the past century or from most wars.

If good has such large numbers of people, why can it not get organized and quickly defeat the forces they believe are evil?

Because, by nature, good people do not want to defeat anyone by violence. They don't believe that violence is essential in most situations, though they are prepared in most cases to engage in violence when no other options are left to them.

Evil wants to organize for the purpose of having power. Good wants to live and let live, to help and to be helped, to do good as they believe it should be done.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to show the difference between good and evil.
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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Your brain moulds your face

The fingers of your thoughts are molding your face ceaselessly.
- Charles Reznikoff, poet (1894-1976)

This can be taken literally as well as metaphorically (which we might expect from a poet).

What goes on in our minds does affect our faces. The older we get, the more likely those fingers of our thoughts will mould our face.

Let's take the examples of laugh lines and frown lines. Laugh lines tend to form more when we are awake. Those who laugh or smile little have fewer laugh lines because their facial muscles do not form themselves into configurations that would create the creases we call laugh lines very often.

The more we laugh, the more laugh creases are likely to form on our faces. Since laughing is healthy, we should interpret laugh lines as being an indicator of good health.

Frown lines tend to form for many people while they are asleep. As we have little control over what our brain dreams at night, if it chooses to express concern over problems it considers serious, we might frown. As some dreams carry on for many minutes, if these concerned dreams continue for many nights, frown creases will develop between our eyes. Other lines may form on the sides of our mouth.

The elasticity of our skin when we are younger prevents it from developing permanent creases in our youth. Exceptions might be forehead creases that we may express unconsciously for long periods of time, either when we are awake or asleep. These are called primary lines, as opposed the the small lines that may form around the eyes as we age.

As we get older, our skin loses much of its elasticity and skin has more of a tendancy to remain in a position or condition that it has been in for periods of time. Frown or look sad for long periods of time and this will shown on your face.

Your mother may have told you not to pout or frown or your face would freeze that way. It wasn't true when you were a child, but it could be true in your adulthood.

Eyes have their own ways of expressing the conditions of our lives. In childhood those expressions may be temporary. As adults, the expressions may remain permanently.

Our eyes and our faces tell how life has played us.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to help you understand how faces tell the stories of our lives.
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Monday, November 20, 2006

The connection between religion, fear and violence

"With most men, unbelief in one thing springs from blind belief in another."
- Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, German physicist and satirist (1742–1799)

Any belief is, almost by definition, based on something that is not provable. Anything factual has evidence to prove it, so belief is not necessary.

A commitment to one belief that is not provable makes it difficult for a person to switch easily to another belief. Or, apparently, even a conclusion based on a set of facts, as we can see by those who believe in the creation of the universe in six days when abundant evidence points to an extensive period of time.

Any belief forms part of who we are as individuals. It's part of the foundation of our life.

When any person or argument seeks to knock part of the foundation of our life out from under us, we will greet it with reluctance. Some, in fear, face it with vehemence, even violence.

Today we see fear on the parts of the world's two largest religions, Islam and Christianity. Few who write about these two religions stress the similarities of their common histories and belief set, preferring instead to focus on their differences. This results in war or what we now call terrorism.

Each side fears that the other will take over the ground it has won over many centuries. Despite the fact that each believes in religious tolerance and peace, some members of each have turned to violence and hatred as the only ways they believe the other can be stopped.

Neither religion wants to find the common ground for the two religions because it fears the other may take advantage of that as a weakness and trample it into oblivion.

The strongest belief for many people of each religion is that the other is wrong. That belief is hard to change, especially hard because it is based on fear.

Fear is our strongest emotion. Anyone who lives in fear is susceptible to any kind of evidence that appears to support or justify that fear. As Lichtenberg said, it may be blind belief that ignores the facts or the efforts of others to bring the two factions together, to bring peace.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make the connection between blind belief and fear.
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Saturday, November 18, 2006

A good example can be annoying

"Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example."
- Mark Twain

Some people can't cope with it. Either success of some sort of a clean version of good example drives them crazy.

It's human nature. I'm not aware of anyone ever having said that human nature was a good example of anything positive.

It is, however, by some means about which there is no common agreement, one of the components of our makeup which has allowed humans to flourish on every part of our planet.

Some people don't want others to succeed or to be happy or to give the impression that they are achieving important goals in their lives.

They can't raise themselves above the positions they have worked themselves into. So they try to hack away at others to bring them down to their level.

A good example reminds them of their mortality, of their failures, of their weaknesses.

Sadly, very little can be done to help them up. They believe (or force themselves to believe) that they are at the peek of success themselves. But deep down they know they are not.

We can help those who want to improve. We can do nothing for those who believe that they have nothing to improve upon.

Do they like what they see when they look into a mirror? Do they even see anything? Perhaps they see what they want to see and that is all that matters to them.

Pity. We will have to grow without them.

No one builds statues to remember critics after they die. No one creates memorials. They are quickly forgotten while those who are good examples live on in memory and story for generations.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to help those who want to improve.
Learn more at

Friday, November 17, 2006

Do we really understand what life is?

We all travel the milky way together, trees and men... trees are travellers, in the ordinary sense. They make journeys, not very extensive ones, it is true: but our own little comes and goes are only little more than tree-wavings—many of them not so much.
- John Muir, naturalist, explorer, and writer (1838-1914)

There was a time, little more than a century ago, when the average person in any country travelled little more than 20 miles (32 km)--a day's ride on horseback or a very long walk--from the place where he or she was born during their lifetime.

Is Muir referring to the distances we travel in our lifetimes when he speaks of "our own little comes and goes?" I choose to believe that he meant something different.

A tree, quite apart from the beauty and magnificence of its presentation, also contributes oxygen to the air we breathe. For its whole lifetime. While most of us are arrogant enough to believe that we really matter, perhaps many of us matter to the universe not as much as the oxygen that the tree produces.

When we think of plant life, we say it's alive. But do we act as if each one has a life? Many vegetarians, for example, refuse to eat meat because it derives from animals that have been slaughtered, thus depriving them of their full lifetimes. Yet those very people think nothing of ending the lives of many plants as they consume their meals. Most don't even give a thought to the lives of the plants they kill.

We talk about SETI, the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence elsewhere in our universe, some of us as if its a certainty we will eventually discover. But we don't know how to communicate with non-human life forms on our own planet.

We know that some plants respond positively to classical music and to soft voices. And negatively to harsh rock music and yelling voices. Why would they do that if they didn't have a reason for doing so? Humans can lose the cilia in their ears and suffer emotional hurt from the same sources as plants react negatively, but we don't give credit to any claim that plants can either hear or feel emotions.

We judge the intelligence of animals by how well they can perform mental feats that humans can do. I am not aware of any research studying how well humans can perform the skills that animals can do. We don't care about that.

Humans can produce oxygen in a laboratory or a factory, at great expense. Trees do it with the resources available to them in the air and the ground. They perform other feats that impress scientists, but receive little attention from the general public. All for nothing and without the addition or consumption of extra natural resources.

Oh, we move around from place to place all right. And we have no trouble believing that we are at the top of the food chain and the pinnacle of the intelligence pyramid.

But we can't communicate with life forms other than our own right here on earth (at least not many of us can). And we are unable to do many of the things that other animals and plants can do right here in our own backyards.

"Little more than tree-wavings?"

"Many of [us] not so much."

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to help us see the life around us for what it is rather than for what it isn't.
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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Is reality as bad as we are taught it is?

"We have been taught to believe that negative equals realistic and positive equals unrealistic."
- Susan Jeffers

That was a short act, but a tough one to follow.

Think about all the people you know who believe that the world is much worse today than it was a generation ago. Some believe that End Times (or Armageddon) are near. Some are so afraid to go out of their homes that they tremble in fear each time they do.

How realistic can they get? Fear is real and negative.

The citizens of the USA, one of the safest nations in the world in which to live, have been taught that, realistically, there are terrorists everywhere who are willing and ready to sacrifice themselves in order to kill as many Americans as they can. Yet these same people blithely accept that more Americans murder other Americans each day than people are killed in most of the 27 or so wars of the world.

There are fewer wars ongoing today than ever before in history. The average over the past century has been 28-32 wars at any one time--at all times.

People help each other around the globe daily, far in excess of any global assistance that has happened in history. We aren't taught about that much.

People in most countries are healthier than they have ever been in history. They live longer in countries where health standards and teaching of health measures are taught (and there is no war going on) than ever before.

Fewer babies are dying at birth than ever. Death in childbirth is rare in most countries if any level of health care is available.

We, the people who inhabit this planet, are far more civilized than any generation before us. We believe in human rights on a global scale, as never before. We act to improve health standards as never before. We don't hate as much as our ancestors.

More and more people are treating strangers as friends they have never met than as enemies waiting to harm them. Our media don't teach that. Some people look beyond the media and the naysayers.

The world truly is a better place than it has ever been in history. Our media would want us to believe the opposite--"if it bleeds, it leads."

We have been taught that negative equals realistic. But we don't have to believe it.

And we can work to make sure that the world gets even better for the generations to follow us.

That's something worth believing.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to teach what people need instead of what the media and industries want us to believe.
Learn more at

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

It's easier to mind your own business

"Living apart and at peace with myself, I came to realize more vividly the meaning of the doctrine of acceptance. To refrain from giving advice, to refrain from meddling in the affairs of others, to refrain, even though the motives be the highest, from tampering with another's way of life - so simple, yet so difficult for an active spirit."
- Henry Miller, American writer (1891-1980)

So here'e the thing, Henry. By living your life without caring about the lives of others, you live alone. You live a selfish and egocentric existence. You become a taker rather than a giver.

I'm not certain why someone thought it wise to immortalize this quote, unless it was to justify his or her own selfish motives.

There is no question as to the validity of Miller's claim. The easiest way to not offend anyone, to not have anyone attack you, to "live in peaceful existence" is to allow everyone to be the way they want to be.

But what if that way is self destructive? Should we allow someone to take illegal drugs that will damage their brain, cause them and their loved ones much personal grief, shorten their life and cause a series of breakins or robberies to pay for the drugs?

Should we allow people to join severe religious cults that will in effect imprison them and brainwash their minds? And not interfere with the systematic destruction of some people by others?

Would it have been acceptable to Miller that Hitler's Nazis committed genocide on a massive scale, or that it happened in Rwanda, Bosnia or other places since his death? That would involve leaving Hitler and his ilk to live their lives their own way. Hands-off for Miller.

If you were systematically harming yourself and thereby causing severe psychological and financial harm to your family and loved ones, would you insist on your right to destroy your life slowly and harm the only people who care about you?

Henry Miller may have been an outstanding playright, but he was not a well-loved man. He gave up on trying to help people. Most people who met him in his later years found him annoying.

Perhaps he rarely experienced meeting people who really wanted and needed his help.

As Andrew Carnegie said, "There is no use whatever trying to help people who do not help themselves. You cannot push anyone up a ladder unless he be willing to climb himself."

But some people genuinely want to help themselves. Some can't do it alone and some don't know how to do it. Miller would have missed those people.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to show how to recognize those with their green lights on.
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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Some people just plain shouldn't matter to you

"About all you can do in life is be who you are. Some people will love you for you. Most will love you for what you can do for them, and some won't like you at all."
- Rita Mae Brown, American writer and social activist (1944- )

There are some tough life lessons among those few words.

Being who you are is not "about all you can do in life." But it is the wisest choice. And that's what Rita Mae meant. It's a form of regionalism, meaning that her audience in the part of the country for which she was writing at the time would understand her intention completely.

"Some people will love you for you." That's comforting. In fact, it's said that more people likely love you than you realize. Just die and come back to peek in at your funeral or the interment service and you might be surprised at how many people love you because you made a positive influence in their lives. They won't say it to your face, but you likely wouldn't say the same things to their faces either. We save that for after people die. No one said it made sense.

Of course, that statement by Rita Mae assumes that there is something to love about you. Which is a matter for consideration for some people who think too much about themselves and care little about others.

"Most will love you for what you can do for them." Ouch! I doubt that means the greedy ones who try to suck you dry, as they don't love anyone. Again, it means that you have the ability to be a positive influence on the lives of many people. Many will love you for the help you have given them and others will respect you for what you have done for others.

"Some won't like you at all." That's about as plain as it gets.

We need to accept that some people will never like us. Some will dislike us, try to take advantage of us, even to use us for their own gain, or will try to hurt us because they are hurting and it somehow makes them feel a little better to see us hurt too.

It doesn't mean that we should mistrust everyone. It means that we need to learn ways to distinguish between those we can trust and those we shouldn't commit much of ourselves to.

That last is one of the three hardest lessons I have learned in my life. Not just that some people won't ever like me, but that those people don't matter.

The mud and pebbles that collect in the ridges of the soles of my boots as I walk in the woods matter to me. But the people who dislike me don't matter at all.

They have a right to live, as do I. I have a right to see that they live their lives in a lovely place that is as far from me as they can get. And I will wish them well. But not much more.

As children most of us are taught that what others think of us is important. Then many of us spend much of our lives trying to get past that lesson to the point where we understand that some people just aren't worth the trouble. Or our trust.

The lesson we should be teaching children is that some people matter, other don't. Learn how to tell the difference.

Choose wisely, taking into consideration that for every relationship choice we make there are consequences.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to help you tell the difference between the good guys and the ones that don't matter. Shouldn't matter.
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Monday, November 13, 2006

The best key to happiness

Beauty, unaccompanied by virtue, is as a flower without perfume.
- French proverb

Set aside the facts that we can't agree on the meaning of "beauty," "virtue" is an almost forgotten word about a concept that interests few people and proverbs are derided by many as cutesy sayings that were better suited to biblical times. Do we still have something to work with?

Over the past century we have associated the concepts of goodness and of people being good with religion, with moral righteousness. Over the same period, major organized religions have disgraced themselves on the public stage, be it with encouraging suicide bombing, genocide, supporting cruel dictators or pedophilia. Or just plain lying.

We have done what almost no other animal on earth would do. We made our bed then soiled it with our own feces.

I would make the point that goodness is not associated with religion so much as it has been religion that has associated itself with (even usurped authority for) goodness or morality.

Every society on the planet has similar concepts of goodness, even though we may practise it differently from each other in terms of ritual, costumes and services. In many cases it may be called religion, but in others it's just the way that people have of living together in harmony and good health.

Getting back to the quote, what can we say is beautiful? There are two kinds of beauty, the transient and the perpetual. Human beauty in the physical sense is transient. When it goes, the beautiful person had better have some characteristics and skills as backups or their life will be tragic thereafter.

Nature is not just beautiful, but eternal. A sunset can be beautiful, but short lived. Yet sunsets return every day, as do sunrises. Everything in nature changes, but in doing so it establishes a new form of beauty.

Many people find pictures of the Sahara Desert beautiful. The Sahara (the name comes from the Arabic word for desert) was once a verdant region of lakes, which are always objects of beautiful pictures. (In fact, the Sahara still has its lakes, but they are far below ground level now. It's the world's largest freshwater lake down there.) Once beautiful as lakes, now beautiful as desert.

The most important characteristic of humans that is as eternal as we can get it is our goodness. It lasts a lifetime and is as valuable on the day we die as when we first adopted it. Goodness is our beauty, our virtue, our link with nature and eternity.

"A flower without perfume?" Oh, there are such flowers. They have been bred by humans for their beauty, with no regard for their lack of perfume. Now fewer people than in the past century buy flowers, except for funerals and weddings. The analogy fits too well.

There is abundant evidence that the happiest people on earth hold the lion's share of goodness within them. Dishonest and hurtful people are never happy, no matter how much they parade their possessions before us and laugh in our faces. (Forgive them, hubris is all they have to hold onto.)

I have not pointed you to beauty after all, but to happiness through goodness. And, maybe, to eternal life.

You take it from here.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to give us the keys to eternity.
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Sunday, November 12, 2006

You can turn your weaknesses into strengths

A diamond with a flaw is better than a common stone that is perfect.
- Chinese proverb

I hasten to mention that this article is not about minerals. The quote refers to people.

Having said that, the part of the quote about the "common stone that is perfect" is extremely difficult to explain. I sort of painted myself into a corner, huh?

No, the common stone that is perfect refers to a person who is not recognized for any outstanding or clearly well-developed or superior characteristics. It's the observer that is the object of this part of the quote, not the observed one.

A person who is not recognized for his or her strengths or good deeds will likely have low self esteem. Either that or he will become a bully or an arrogant boor, though these are in the minority compared to the people with low self esteem.

But surely there are few diamonds among us, given that by definition the diamond is rare. Wrong again. Each person is a potential diamond, but only if the observer is looking for diamonds, not common stones.

Taken on their own, the strengths that each person has are treasures that most of us don't have. Each person has at least one strength or talent that most people they know would envy if they were aware of it. Of course that wouldn't happen if a person has not worked hard enough to develop that skill or talent.

We don't need to consider the weaknesses of a person in order to be able to appreciate that person's strengths or talents. Unless their weaknesses impinge on us badly, we should not consider them of great value (in a negative sense). Consider the strengths and the weaknesses will pale in comparison in most people.

How does a person learn what their strengths are? In most cases, strengths or talents are not genetic. Musical parents may raise a musical child, but the child may have developed an interest in music in the womb and learned musical skills so early that they seemed like the child was naturally talented. Then hard work made extraordinary skill seem like a natural talent.

In other words, we can practise those skills or characteristics that we want to have as strengths to the point where we are better at them than most other people. A characteristic such as kindness is appreciated by most people and is one that can be developed by anyone, no matter what gifts or deficits they were born with. Should you believe that kindness is not an important characteristic, listen to a few eulogies at funeral services.

Most Olympic athletes got to the point of being chosen to compete not because of raw talent but because of extraordinary commitment to an excrutiating amount of hard work--hours every day for many years--until they were superior to their peers. Set aside their extraordinary skills and they are no more special than anyone else, except in other ways that they may also have practised (such as socializing or public speaking).

While I will never be an exceptional writer like those who sell millions of books each year, I feel that I have excelled at writing through many years of practice. Since I couldn't read or write until I was well into my 20s and having to write anything of more than a few sentences would strike fear into my heart as a student, I feel I haven't done too badly for myself.

The flaws in the human diamonds come with the person. What we need to do is to polish the shiny parts until others notice them.

Then, for our own strengths to matter, we need to share them and to recognize the strengths of others so that they too may grow.

We gain strength as individuals by raising others to our own level, not by pushing them under our feet.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to help people polish the diamonds within themselves.
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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Staying with the familiar may cause you grief

"One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time."
- Andre Gide, French writer (1869–1951)

Could you discover new lands? Would you allow yourself to lose sight of safety for that long?

Few people can do that. Few people want to.

Few even have the creative bite to devise some worthwhile venture that would require them to do something very different. That's not insulting, just human nature. We are social animals and, like all social animals, most of us are conditioned to be followers.

Few people have the ability to operate their own business. Of the small number who attempt it, a large majority (85%) fail within the first five years. For those with capital to invest, franchises give the feeling of independence while having someone nearby to hold their hands and give careful and detailed guidance. Most people want to be employed by a company that already has its business plan in place and customers ready to order.

One of the more lucrative jobs (one that often requires nothing extraordinary in the way of education) is sales. But selling involves venturing out on your own, taking chances, making cold calls, sometimes living on the edge. Successful sales people love their jobs, but most people do relatively poorly in sales because they don't want to act on their own.

Witness how many people refuse to leave their land when it might be inundated by ash or lava from an exploding volcano. They are afraid of what might happen to them in unfamiliar surroundings with no source of income. People in areas devastated by hurricanes sometimes turn to crime because they can't figure out how to earn a living in unconventional or unfamiliar ways. We value the familiar, even to our own detriment sometimes.

We are a species of followers. It would pay us to remember that when formulating rules and laws. We follow the examples set by our leaders. They are our role models.

When our leaders are crooks who sacrifice the best interests of those they represent in favour of their own, ordinary folks find it pretty easy to circumvent the law too.

The level of civility of people of a country usually reflects the level of honesty of its leaders.

If a country's leaders refuse to take initiatives to improve life among their people, the people themselves may be counted upon to accept their squalor or their deprivations until another leader comes along to pull them out of it or to point out how they are being mistreated or abused. The new leader will be followed only if he or she agrees to lead and to set the standards.

Virtue works best at the grass roots level, but it must begin at the top and work its way down.

Bill Allin
Turning it Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to show how a country can improve its standing in the world by improving the quality of life of its people.
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Friday, November 10, 2006

We can't do it alone

Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That's why it's a comfort to go hand in hand.
- Emily Kimbrough, author and broadcaster (1899-1989)

This goes against almost every lesson that is taught (usually by example) to young people in western countries. Never admit you made a mistake, always find someone else to blame if necessary and never let them see you sweat.

These lessons, young people are led to believe, are what will serve them best when they are at the "top of the heap."

The trouble is, very few make it to the top. And of the few who do, almost none are happy. The vast majority suffer some form of confusion or alienation.

Then who is teaching these lessons? Oddly enough, parents are teaching them, either intentionally and consciously as lessons in life or unconsciously by discussions they have in family settings or by role modelling.

No one can succeed as an island, of course, which is why we have so many people with emotional and psychological problems, so many divorces, so few real friends, so many people who see therapists and so much confusion about how to cope with the ups and downs of life.

The lessons we teach to young people are the setup for the failure they see in their own parents and the failure they will have in their own lives.

We can't do it alone. We need to teach children how to find people they can trust. We need to help them to understand that they should ask for help when they need it. We need to help them to say "I don't understand."

We need to explain to them that they should find someone to help them when they are confused, troubled or when they know they are in need of something in their lives, before they strike off alone without the necessary coping skills and find themselves in trouble.

"Hand in hand" means not just that we are stronger together. It also means that we can share our collective wisdom, knowledge and skills, our creativity and resourcefulness and we can spread the burden of responsibility around among us.

Enough individuals will rise to the top that we don't need to worry about misleading them. At least we would have far more healthy people in the middle of the pack.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to grow healthier and wiser adults.
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Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Chinese got it right about closed minded people

A closed mind is like a closed book: just a block of wood.
- Chinese Proverb

No one likes to have to deal with someone with a closed mind. That includes people with closed minds themselves.

What is a closed mind? We hear and read so much about them, but seldom have the term defined.

To understand the closed mind, we begin with a combination of ignorance and fear. These two terms themselves make "closed mind" hard to define. "Ignorance" in this sense means "lack of knowledge."

In the information age, facts (or misinformation disguised as fact) is in abundance on the internet, just as it has always been available in libraries. People don't know a great deal about the many different topics that come up in conversation or home or work environments during a day. There is more to learn than they have the time or inclination to absorb.

This sets them up for embarrassment if their lack of knowledge is revealed to others. The fear of that embarrassment causes them to formulate strategies to protect themselves, just as a person who can't read will create strategies to prevent others from finding out about their skill gap.

This combination of fear and ignorance so predominates the lives of some people that they literally create lifestyles around their defence strategies. Comparing it to someone who can't read, again, you likely know one or more people who are unable to read, but you aren't aware of it because their defence strategies have been successful. So it is too with the person with the ignorance-fear protection strategy.

Some of these people, whom we can call "closed minded" because they are afraid to have any new information input into their brain since it may upset their defence strategy, are bold about their position. They adopt rationales for things and argue vigorously with those who think differently. They often have been provided with arguing points from mentors, such as religious or political leaders. They are arrogant, aggressive and care little for the feelings of others (which would reveal their lack of real knowledge).

The more common kind of closed minded person is either quiet or acts behind the scenes. The latter would be the neighbourhood gossip, for example, spreading their venom about a victim in face-to-face chats without the victim present. The vast majority of closed minded people are quiet about their positions on many issues because they fear that by opening their mouths they will reveal just how little they know. They don't vote, for example, because they say the candidates are all crooks or paid by industries.

There's nothing wrong with knowing nothing, they believe, so long as you don't advertise it publicly.

Closed minded people reveal themselves by either avoiding discussion on issues of current interest to most people (such as elections) or by taking positions for which they offer no support, only emotional arguments. "Do you support the president or do you support the terrorists?" is a typical emotional argument, as no room is left for a reply that does not fit into one of the two untenable categories.

You can't win an argument with a person with a closed mind. There's no point trying. They don't have room in the tiny sections of their brains in which they eke out their existence to entertain facts or arguments that don't fit perfectly with the positions they hold. Anyone who tries to carry on a debate with a closed minded person will end up in a pissing match because the closed mind will hurl insults rather than confront issues about which he or she knows little or nothing.

As the Chinese proverb hints, you might better debate with a block of wood than with a closed minded person. At least you would come away more emotionally intact.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to show you where the brick walls are so you can navigate around them.
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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Take time to live your own life

"Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated."
- Confucius

It seems that everyone in the western world believes that time moves faster as we get older. Days, weeks and years fly by like never before in the past.

Seconds tick over at the same rate for people of 30 or 60 as they do for children of course, so why does time seem to move so much faster as we get older?

The answer is that as we get older we tend to expect more from life.

We know more people, which means we receive from them and send to them more phone calls and emails, and we speak with them more often when we meet. It's not that we speak with them more than when we were teens, for example, but that we communicate with them in so many more places because we are more mobile.

We belong to more clubs and other groups. We take time to exericse instead of exercising as we execute other tasks.

We own more pieces of machinery to make our lives easier. Washing machines and dryers, lawn mowers, shavers, four-wheelers, boats, food processors, vacuum cleaners and electric toothbrushes all take time to buy, charge and fix (or fuss over being broken before we decide to trash them).

We insist on time to entertain ourselves or to be entertained. Not only do we feel we deserve it, we need this time to relax and unwind from our busy days.

Our work schedules tend to be busier because we have more responsible jobs, which require more decisions in a day, more plans to make, more meetings, more phone calls and emails to send.

Our communication with governments increases--tax forms take longer to figure out or we have to find professionals to do the job for us, we have questions that could cost us dearly if we don't find out from government representatives how to do something properly, there are more laws and bylaws we have to learn about when we removate our homes.

While we learned much of what we needed to know about looking after a home as young adults from our parents, any change to our living arrnagements beyond those early days of young adulthood requires a huge amount of time to process.

Not only divorces and breakups take time, but concern and worry over the possibility of their coming takes time.

Building new lives because of a relationship breakup, loss of a job, a legal charge for which we must defend ourselves (and the planning that goes with each) take enormous amounts of time.

Any kind of conflict that affects our emotions--including physical attacks and emotional terrorism by work colleagues, other members of our religion or neighbours--requires a great deal of time to sort through and figure out what we will do.

Keeping up with explosive volumes of news--now available to us from all parts of the globe as well as from our own community--takes time each day so that we don't appear ignorant when others talk about these events around the water cooler or over coffee.

We tend to adopt more responsibilities in our personal lives than we might have considered in past years.

Finally, those who want to sell us things or persuade us of the merits of their point of view take an inordinate amount of our time. We can learn to control those situations.

The more we expect of life, the more cluttered and complicated it gets, and the faster time seems to pass. And, in many cases, the less time we take to appreciate the good things we have in our lives.

As Confucius said, life is simple if we focus on what we need, what those we love need (not on what they want) and how we fulfill those needs. Wants and desires take time. Taking time to think for ourselves makes time seem less rushed.

Those who take some quiet time for themselves to think and to relax the brain tend to feel less that time is rushing past them, that they are in control of their lives. If we live our lives totally for others and take no time for ourselves, we don't live a life, we vicariously live the lives of the others.

There will always be others who want us to invest our time in them. They may deserve it, but we deserve for ourselves too.

Within reason, it's not selfish, but life-affirming. It's life-extending.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to help each person build the life they want.
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Monday, November 06, 2006

Build yourself right

Illness is in part what the world has done to a victim, but in a larger part it is what the victim has done with his world.
- Karl Menninger, psychiatrist (1893-1990)

If you are reading this message, then you are doing all right.

No matter what your personal circumstances, no matter what your financial situation, no matter what relationships you may or may not have, no matter how much pain you may be in or may have suffered in the past, compared to most people in the world you are doing all right.

Let's put this in perspective. If you are doing all right compared to most people in the world, then why not believe that your world is treating you just fine? Does it make sense for you to fuss and worry and suffer over matters that most people in the world would love to have rather than their own problems?

As you are reading this, you have a good head on your shoulders. People respect you. More people likely love you than you can imagine. You can do things with your mind and maybe with your hands that most people can't. Even if you can't find evidence of these things yourself, it doesn't mean that they aren't true. It may simply mean that you are not looking in the right places.

For one thing, you can think, something that could not be credited to most people in the world, at least beyond a surface level.

When you fuss over what's wrong in your life, you mistreat yourself. Worry can affect blood pressure, the immune system and if you fear something you likely give yourself too many shots of epinephrine (Adrenalin), which can negatively impact any of your body organs.

How you look at life is how you interpret your life to be. It has less to do with what life has dealt you and more to do with what you have done about it.

If you want your life to change and want it to change quickly, it won't cooperate. Any major life change happens slowly if you have control over it. That's just as well because it takes lots of time to build the little blocks that will comprise the foundation of your new life.

If you want your life to be better, no one can do it for you. If you want your life to change quickly, you are doomed to failure. You are responsible for your own future. You build it one step, one block at a time.

If you believe that someone else is responsible for your future, then you are an emotional slave. That too has been your choice. If you don't like it, choose differently.

What do you want to accomplish in your life? How do you plan to do it?

Stop fussing about what's wrong and start building on what's right.

Start with yourself. You must be right before you begin.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to give you a push in the direction you want your life to go.
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Sunday, November 05, 2006

What it takes to be happy

"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."
- Mohandas K. ("The Mahatma") Gandhi

Far be it for me to disagree with Mr. Gandhi, but I would say those conditions would produce more satisfaction and contentment with life than happiness.

Happiness--though elusive to find because it's not something we can "discover"--involves more than just having the whole package together and coherent. It's necessary for a happy person to know that he or she is on the right track for life, that what they are doing is right and good.

Does that mean that a person whose life is lead in a haphazard manner can't be happy, or that a person who does bad things can't be happy?

Happiness can be whatever you define it to be. You can define your lifestyle in such a way that you can say that you are happy. It may allow you to be as happy as you can be.

Oddly, many people don't do that. The more material possessions people have and the more financial security they have locked down, the more they are apt to say that they are not yet as happy as they would like to be.

Who are the happiest people in the world? Within the past couple of years a United Nations study announced that Nigerians were, as a people, the happiest. This despite poverty, sectarian strife and tribal animosities in the oil-rich African nation.

The people of Nigeria aren't all happy, of course. They just rate themselves, individually, as happier than people of any other country.

What they think, say and do may be in harmony, but there must be more to their happiness than that. They think happiness. They act happiness. They believe in happiness. They teach happiness as a way of life to their children. They value the happy times of their lives.

All bad times end. People in many parts of the world are conditioned to think "times are bad" even when they are at their best. To them, times are never good. Except in the past, when they were nearly perfect.

If by remembering the good times of the past makes us happy about them, then we should focus more on the good things that are happening in our lives today than we do on the bad things.

Empower your good feelings by giving them more attention.

Bad stuff happens, but we don't have to dwell on it and make it a central part of our lives.

Good stuff happens too. Tag, you're it! Pass it on!

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to show you the good times of your life.
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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Someone you know may kill you

No society that feeds its children on tales of successful violence can expect them not to believe that violence in the end is rewarded.
- Margaret Mead, anthropologist (1901-1978)

Margaret Mead was an anthropologist, for heaven's sake. Why should we pay any attention to the opinion of an anthropologist?

Let's work through this together. An anthropologist is a person who studies the history of humankind before any humans recorded their own history. She dug up artifacts of prehistoric humans, then built histories around what their lives must have been like based on the collections she found.

However, the history of prehistoric humans means little unless you know a great deal about recorded history. When you see patterns in that, you can determine if and when similar patterns occurred before history was recorded. You might say that anthropologists are super-masters of human history, both recorded and before.

Margaret Mead knew that ancient societies that taught violence to their children in the form of stories were themselves likely to have an average lifespan for males of fewer than 30 years because many of them would die in wars.

As anyone who attended high school more than a generation ago can testify, historical knowledge focussed on battles and wars more than anything else in the days when Margaret Mead was considered one of the tops in her field.

She knew that if you teach violence and war to children, they will be warriors as adults. "Teaching war" means in story form, just as much teaching today is conveyed through stories. Today we do this through conversations around the kitchen table, through television, video games or movies and with war toys that prime young children before they have any real concept of what war is and the devastation it wreaks.

By simple deduction we can understand that majory concepts such as how adults treat each other may be taught to children who have yet to reach school age, not by classroom-style lessons, but incidentally.

Young children have a great deal to learn in the two decades they are given before they reach adulthood. Before formal lessons begin in school or at home, they must learn by absorbing what adults teach them while the adults think the kids aren't paying any attention.

The main job that children have before they go to school is to absorb as much as they can of what happens around them, then sort through this massive and jumbled mess of information to derive some sense of what the world around them is about.

Children learn concepts easily. It's how they learn everything for their first few years. They learn concepts before they learn facts to support them in many cases.

If we want them to learn the concept of peace, we must teach them peace and show them the ways of peaceful people. We must also give them alternatives to violence and anger when things don't go the way they want with other kids and adults.

If we don't actively and consciously teach peace as a concept to young children, they learn about adults from other sources. Most of those other sources teach them that the world of adults is violent.

In some countries, they also learn about the peaceful ways of their people as they study in school. In other countries, they learn to fear others and that the best (maybe the only) way to deal with fearful strangers is to dominate them or to kill them, if necessary. In school. In history class.

As adults, as parents, grandparents, neighbours and participants in community events, we are role models for children, even children we don't know. Either we actively teach peace or we passively allow children to learn fear and violence.

What if children can't cope with the amount of violence and other ways that adults mistreat each other? What if they have moral dilemmas about it? What if they see hypocrisy about violence and can't sort it through in their heads?

Not to worry. There are lots of distractions such as drugs, crime and even mental illnesses that they can resort to.

Every day of our lives we adults pay out of our pockets huge amounts of money to support adults who were once children who could not cope with the circumstances of their lives.

Failure to teach what children need to know costs us dearly.

Bill Allin
Turning it Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to put coping tools into the hands of children before they get their lives wrenched out of shape.
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Friday, November 03, 2006

Why religions fail while heretics succeed

True religion is the life we lead, not the creed we profess.
- Louis Nizer, lawyer (1902-1994)

What Nizer called true religion, some today call spirituality. Or something close. We don't have a good word for someone who is spiritually in touch with God but doesn't conform to the dictates of a religion.

Many people equate "religion" with organized religion. They feel so strongly about membership in an organized relgion being the only definition for "religion" or for being religious that they consider another who is not a member to be an atheist or a pagan. Christianity even adopted the word pagan to mean anyone who does not believe in the God of Christianity.

If membership in an organized religion is what determines whether or not a person is religious and organized religions have been guilty of heinous crimes and violations of their own principles, it's no wonder that people have trended away from "religion" in recent decades.

To understand statistics regarding religious affiliation as iterated in the media, we need to understand that not declaring affiliation with an organized religion does not make a person non-religious, nor does it make them atheist. It just makes them non-practising adherents of a total religious belief set.

It means that a person has beliefs that are not expressed in accordance with the doctrines of major religions. Being accused of being a member of a religious sect, for example, makes a person a social pariah, so people would rather declare no religion than admit to being part of a small religious group that might be called a sect.

What name do we have for a person who has sought out their own spiritual identity, who believes in a power greater than that of humanity and who has committed their life to follow a life course that is in accordance with what he or she believes is the right way to live? Atheist? Agnostic? Heathen (another favourite word of Christianity, though Jews and Muslims use it as well)? That's religious name-calling, something that the principles of organized religions insist should not be done.

Some people call themselves "humanists." These people often do so less because they don't believe in a supernatural power and more because they reject the teachings of organized religions about the supernatural. They don't commit themselves to belief in a supernatural power, instead preferring to help other humans in ways that would have made Jesus of Nazareth and the Prophet Mohammed proud of them.

In a sense, religions have soiled their own beds. Then they condemn others who refuse to join them.

Cutting through all the semantic crap, Louis Nizer said that what is important is how we live, not what we say we believe in. For there are many who profess their beliefs openly and strongly, but fail to act in ways that would affirm their oral commitments. They are people that Jesus would have condemed as hypocrites (he used the term 24 times in the Bible). No doubt the Prophet would have used similar terminology.

Often a person who claims that he doesn't believe in God, when questioned intensively admits that he believes in God, just not in the kind of God that members of organized religions profess to believe in, the kind of God they have given unreasonable and unprovable characteristics and attributes and one that inevitably disappoints because He doesn't live up to the advertising of His loyal followers.

God is not who the Pope or the Ayatollahs say He is. God is not who religious fanatics say He is. God is not who the religious faithful say He is.

God is who He is. He doesn't have to explain Himself to anyone or prove Himself to anyone.

For those who are unable to see the existence of God around them or to feel His extraordinary presence within them, God probably doesn't exist.

God can live with that. Just don't live like a total screw-up.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to put life in perspective.
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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Yoda told it straight

"Do or do not. There is no try."
- Yoda character in 'The Empire Strikes Back' movie

"Try" is one of the most awkward words in the English language.

It's dictionary meanings are all relatively positive in nature. Yet the connotative meanings of "try" (meanings that are impled through use, but not written in disctionaries) are more negative.

"Try your best" suggests that the person may not have otherwise attempted the task or that he may fail in his attempt. But it sounds positive.

"Try to eat your beans" implies that there is a strong dislike for beans on the part of the person.

Even such as usage as "try on this sweater to see how it fits (or looks)" suggests a good possibility that the sweater may neither look good nor fit well.

"Just try" seems like the last attempt by a frustrated parent who is ready to give up on a child.

Children understand connotative meanings of words often better than adults. Adults have had decades more experience with word meanings, usages and dictionaries than children. Children understand their world first by interpreting what they see and hear. "Try" is used with a negative connotation so often that a child hearing a parent tell him to "try" gives him a strong hint that the parent expects him to fail, at least to not succeed completely.

Yoda said "Do or do not." There is determination, commitment in these words. "Do or do not" tells the receiver to not waste his time with fruitless attempts nor raise the hope of the speaker despite failure being likely if the doer lacks sufficient courage, commitment or effort.

Do you want to make the world a better place? Do or do not. Don't pretend that you will do your best while intending to not put your heart into it. Others have done that to us too often for too long. We can't spend promises or sleep on broken dreams.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to succeed beyond your wildest dreams.
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