Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Carols: A Brief History

Though we often think of carols in association with church services, notably in the Christmas season, they began as anything but.

The word carol itself derives from the French carole, which referred in medieval times to a ring-dance. The first Christmas carols were banned from the church because they were festive dances, though there was singing and often accompaniment by musical instruments.

These were frowned upon by the church in the 13th century as holdovers from paganism. Carolers who arrived at a church on Christmas Eve would have to stand outside. As their singing would disturb the somber attitude of the service within the church, the doors were closed against them. Thus began the tradition of carolers strolling to churches, then homes, as people moved around with their singing and dancing, perhaps to keep warm.

The first time that carols were sung in church, it was the priest who sang them, and only the priest. Those in the congregation kept silent, as was the custom where only the priest would sing within the church. In those days, much of the service was sung by the priest, in Latin.

Most carols, then, began apart from church celebrations. Nearly 200 years ago, one of the few times a carol began within a church setting happened in Austria. The church organ broke down on the eve of Christmas, so the service would have no music if the organist and choir leader couldn't think of something.

Within a short time they had prepared a song which was first sung by two choirmen, accompanied on a guitar by the organist. At least that's the story, believed now by some to be a folk tale. Silent Night has become the best known and loved carol in Christendom. Today it's sung in almost every language on the planet. (Follow the link to see some translations from the original German that differ from the words most of us know.)

Christmas carols are distinguished from Christmas songs mostly by the reference in carols to Jesus or to something relating directly to Christmas. In other words, the church appropriated the songs it once found offensive, adopted them, then controlled their proliferation.

One of the best known Christmas songs is Jingle Bells. While this song is appropriate for the Christmas season, it originated in the USA for the purpose of being a carol for Thanksgiving. Jingle Bells, it was originally hoped, would become the Thanksgiving carol. While it refers to sleighs and bells and snow, which few Americans see on their Thanksgiving in late November these days, it was more common for winter weather to have begun by that time of year in the past when Europe was still coming out of the Little Ice Age and America itself was colder than it is today.

Go Tell It On The Mountain, written by John W. Work, Jr., began as an African-American spiritual that gave hope to people who had little of it a century ago. Its words have been adapted numerous times by various groups for different settings and purposes, but the music continues to inspire. The song has a theme and the music a style that Europeans took to, so it was adopted by Christians around the world when Britain was home to the world's largest empire.

Carols, many people feel, do something for us that other Christmas songs don't. They bring back memories of happy times from Christmases past. They always have a positive message and people who know them find it hard to stand by and not join in when others begin to sing them.

Perhaps more than any other feature of the Christmas season, the singing of carols inspires people to what we often call "the true meaning of Christmas," helping us believe that there is more to Christmas than overloading the credit cards.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, what and when to teach children the life skills and knowledge they need to be competent and confident adults, including being inspired by music.
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Saturday, December 22, 2007

How Advertising Molds Your Beliefs

The tourist business is overrun with people bored with themselves.
- Joan Clark, An Audience of Chairs

A majority of people on vacation have one of two possible objectives: to relax and have fun doing much the same things they could have done at home (with some adjustments) or to have experiences they can share later with others at home (to have stories to tell and pictures to share).

Many cities position themselves as vacation destinations by advertising the wealth and diversity of their shopping facilities. Vacationers going to these cities spend time shopping for items they could likely have found in their own cities if they had taken the time to look. They spend money wining, dining and entertaining themselves in settings only slightly different from what they could have found at home.

Bus tours usually move at such a pace that passengers don't have time to learn anything more than they could have learned in an evening on the internet or by watching a few programs on selected specialty television channels. With no lost luggage, broken elevators or arrogant bellhops.

Those who "get away" to warm destinations during their own winter or who go to relaxing places beside water want to unwind from the hectic pace they maintain in their city lives. They could have done much the same activities at home if they had been able to separate themselves mentally and emotionally from their work lives long enough to enjoy the facilities in their own home communities.

If it seems as if I believe that most people live in cities they want to escape from, you're right. In most countries in the western world, around 85 percent of their population live in urban areas, most in large cities. As of the beginning of 2008, for the first time in human history, more people on our planet will live in cities or similar urban areas than live in rural settings.

We have become a world of city dwellers. Yet most of us know deep down that cities may not be the best places for us to live. We migrate to cities because they have jobs to offer.

We no longer want to do jobs that require hard work, the kind that farmers and those who live in relative wilderness areas must do to survive. Moreover, we don't have the skills those people need. We have to move to cities where employers will give us jobs and teach us what we need to do them. We get higher education to learn how to learn, not how to do. Yet we only learn the minimum we need.

We don't want to live lives requiring us to do manual labour, requiring the back more than the brain. Yet most cities dwellers, when studied closely, know so little about what they should know to live successfully, efficiently and comfortably on their income that they waste a good deal of their time and money on purchases and activities that achieve nothing for them. But they make business owners happy.

By doing little that is physically demanding, they gain weight. So they go to exercise clubs, do workouts at home and go running so that they get the kind of physical activity they would have gotten if they worked on a job that required physical effort as well as some thought. They need the exercise to release some of the tension they build up through living stressful lifestyles. Stress being a consequence of "success" in big cities.

Some city folks with enough money buy cottages or cabins, by a lake or somewhere in woods or a rural area. Because they know virtually nothing about living outside a city, they spend money to transform their rural properties into something resembling suburban communities, but with more trees and maybe some water nearby.

Are they bored with themselves, as Joan Clark said? They don't know. They believe they are doing what they should, meaning that they believe they are living well because they are living the way everyone else in their community lives, doing what they do, spending what they spend, vacationing the way their neighbours vacation.

Bored? They don't believe they are bored because they're doing what their social norms tell them they should be doing. They believe they are happy because they do what advertisers tell them they should do to be happy, which happens to be to spend money on the advertised products. They don't even know if they are truly happy because they don't have a clear idea of what happiness is. To them, happiness is what they are told it is by advertisers.

People who don't think for themselves must depend on others to do their thinking for them. Industries do that and tell people what to do, how to act, what to believe, through their advertising. They do this so subtly and with such incredible persistence that few have any idea that their belief systems are being slowly molded different from what any of their ancestors believed.

They aren't bored, just ask them.

Boring, for sure. It's a challenge to find anyone in a city with whom to have a truly interesting conversation because most people are conditioned to spew small talk all day long. At parties, they must inhale alcohol and drugs to lose their inhibitions enough that they feel liberated, thus happy, they believe. At these most opportune times to exchange thoughts on worthy subjects, they fill their time with small talk and contrived nonsense.

But they're not bored and they are happy. Advertisers have told them they aren't bored and they must be happy if they have bought advertised products. They believe it.

They aren't bored with themselves because they believe they aren't bored with themselves. And they believe they aren't boring. Which demonstrates textbook examples of how people can be made to believe anything if it's presented to them in an effective manner and shoved at them often enough.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, what and when to teach children in ways that will grow them into interesting, vibrant self-sufficient adults.
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Friday, December 21, 2007

Charity Means Giving To Losers

A good heart is better than all the heads in the world.
- Edward Bulwer-Lytton, English novelist, poet, politician (1803-1873)

'Tis the season of giving as I write this, Christmas, or "the holidays," the time when we supposedly think more of giving to others than of taking for ourselves. For the Christian part of the world and those countries and cultures that celebrate the gift-giving season along with their Christian (or nominally Christian) neighbours, Christmas is the season of the heart.

Who benefits from this monetary extravagance? Two general groups. One is comprised of people we know who for the most part don't need what we will give to them. The other would be people we don't know, usually, the unfortunate, the homeless, those who have lost (or perhaps who never had) the comforts most of us enjoy.

The latter group is society's losers. We give to people who don't have the stuff to be financially secure and successful in our world.

Some mammals and birds tend to their sick and injured, but humans are the only species on earth that supports its losers, those who don't have what it takes to survive on their own in this tough world. Like the rest of us do. In other species, the weak die, but in ours we keep them alive, though in poverty.

Is "a good heart" in Bulwer-Lytton's quote our lip service to charities that support those that would not survive in any other species? Yes, if the extreme capitalist doctrine that we are fed constantly can be taken at its full value, that's exactly what charity is. Success, by that standard, is wealth.

Virtually every parent of a young child wants that child to grow up to be happy. They'll tell that to anyone. But more important is that they be rich, or at least have a substantial enough income that they can support themselves in a style equivalent to the one they were raised in.

Rich people, including some of our movie and sports stars, are the epitome of success in western culture. Let's get this straight, no rich people are happy. Not really happy. Fake happy, yes. Do you know a happy rich person? They revel in their money, their ability to spend and to impress others. But underneath, most are more miserable than they would like anyone to know. They have money, which they learned and have come to believe is the most important thing in life. But they aren't truly happy.

They don't fare any better in their marital relationships than the rest of us. They have few or no real friends, people who care about them and not their money. They may not divorce at quite the same rate as the average, but that's because their mini-society says that they can afford to have affairs they can pay to cover up. Their friends can be bought and sold. It's a continuation of the value system of old European nobility.

What about those poor people, the ones the rich consider to be losers? Many of them have more real friends than rich people. The homeless ones live in temporary communities that are far more mutually helpful and supportive than any other in the larger community.

Somehow society missed its opportunity to teach them the knowledge and skills they needed to have to support themselves when they were children. How could that happen? Schools are not designed to teach life skills, they're structured to teach the knowledge and skills that the biggest employers in the country need. Industries control the school curriculum because they provide the employment that generates the income that supports the nation.

Parents used to teach life skills, as did neighbours and other members of the community. In smaller communities, this is still the case. Kids learn life lessons from their hockey coach, their scout leader or the nice lady who bakes cookies for the kids. Some learn them in the religious institutions their family belongs to. But none of these are dependable in larger cities. In cities, winning--the capitalist mantra--is everything.

As of the beginning of 2008, more people will live in urban areas of the world than in rural settings for the first time in history. Most countries are becoming urbanized, citified. As if this is a good thing. It's a good thing for industry because it provides a pool of labour for their work force, but it's not so good for so many communities that have become cultural and social ghettoes. Their primary values are to work and to spend. Just like industry wants.

While industries hold wealth and acquisitiveness as ideals of society, which give us happiness, what most of us miss is that the happiness that industry wants for us is fake. It's all advertising mind-twisting.

The "losers" of many societies of the world know more about real human values, traditional values, values that work to benefit the community as well as individuals, than those with money.

So let's continue to support these less fortunate members of our society. They may not have the knowledge or skills that most of us have, but they are perhaps the sole repository of basic human values that industry is trying to brainwash out of us through its persistent advertising.

Or, for the more adventurous among us, get to know some of these people. If you do, you will find that they know stuff you don't, stuff that could make your life richer. Not your pocketbook, your life. You know, the reason why you're here. (It's not really just to work and to spend, you know.)

Consider this. How much will industry care after you die? How will it remember you? Of course it won't. No one expects that. But so many of us adhere to its preaching about working and spending that we must think industry will offer us its own form of heaven.

But, no. Industry can't do that. Industry is not just heartless and sociopathic, it's atheistic. Industry has to be atheistic because it holds money to be its deity. Even industry knows that money is a false god. It just doesn't bother to tell us because it wants us to believe in that god.

Merry Christmas, dear readers! May the spirit of the man whose birth is celebrated this season fill you with love and charity. May you give of yourself to those who will most appreciate it, not necessarily to those who expect it of you. If you do, your life will be richer for it, especially if you get to know some of the beneficiaries of your giving from the heart.

The head always thinks of itself first. The heart thinks of others. Jesus said.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, what and when to teach children the lessons they need to live full lives, as real people not as puppets of industry.
Learn more at

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Getting The Best Out Of People

If you cannot mould yourself entirely as you would wish, how can you expect other people to be entirely to your liking?
- Thomas รก Kempis, Roman Catholic monk and author (ca.1380 - July 25, 1471)

It's so common we could say it's a part of our human nature. We expect things of others that we don't expect of ourselves.

Or we expect more of others than we do of ourselves. We allow ourselves the maximum leeway (give ourselves a break) because we understand the circumstances under which we are living and working, but we don't understand the constraints others have so we don't give them much slack.

If we could mould another person exactly to our liking, what would that make us? God? Slave owner? Mystic? Magician? Brainwasher? In truth, if we did mould someone exactly the way we would like them to be, that would mean having control over their behaviour, which means over their life. That would be against the law of every country and the moral code of every religion of today.

Rather than being disappointed at how others don't meet up to our standards to satisfy our needs (even if we are paying for the service), we should celebrate the fact that we have people we can depend on to some extent. Many people have isolated themselves from others so much that they have no one to turn to when they have needs they can't meet themselves. That's really a state of helplessness.

We can't get people to do whatever we want them to do, even if we pay them. However, we can encourage them, coax them along, express the unfortunate state we find ourselves in because the job we want done has not been completed. Encouragement helps. Patience, when it's demonstrated as patience and not as shutting up and taking what we get, is appreciated.

Three friends who I depend on for various important tasks I can't do myself--one fixing cars, the second fixing computers, the third doing odd jobs like welding and other skilled projects--routinely take longer than I would like to complete what they do for me. However, by explaining how important the job is to me and attempting to show patience by understanding the time problems they have themselves, I usually get more than I pay for when each job is done. If not, I often get special favours later.

We have no real way of knowing the problems that others live with and the effect these problems have on them. What we can do is to explain the problems that are bothering us and hope that this spurs the others to act on our behalf sooner or more completely. And we can be patient with them when they need it from us.

Every person in our lives, no matter how important they are to us, will eventually disappoint us. No exceptions. However, there is no rule telling us that we have to hold their faults against them. We can achieve more by overlooking their short term disappointments while focussing on the long term benefits we derive from associating with these people.

A saying people have around where I live is: Look at the donut, not at the hole.

Give most people an opportunity to deliver their best for you, even when they are under pressure, and most times they will come through much better than strangers we pay more would. True, we don't have the opportunity to tell our friends and associates what we really think of them at the time we need to most, but holding back pays of in the long run if we manage our relationships properly. And it builds better relationships.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, what and when to teach children what they need to know to be competent and confident adults.
Learn more at

Sunday, December 16, 2007

What We Should Teach Children

One realizes the full importance of time only when there is little of it left. Every man's greatest capital asset is his unexpired years of productive life.
- Paul Weeks Litchfield, Goodyear executive and ACF Trustee

Though this is perhaps the most famous of the quotes of "P.W." it's by no means the only one that people credit to him with fondness. Under his guidance, Goodyear became the largest tire and rubber manufacturer in the world.

Litchfield was one of the first executives of large industries who showed care and compassion for both his employees and his community. Had there been more executives like him, the union movement may never have taken hold because it wouldn't have been needed.

This quote is something of a lament as he observes a characteristic of human nature over which he seems to feel he has little control. In general, people are careless with their time until they believe they have little of it left.

Read anecdotes of people who have had near death experiences, or "come back from death," or who have a death sentence ahead of them as a consequence of terminal cancer. Most say that those days were the most precious or their lives.

Not all. I once had a neighbour who was told that he had cancer, cirrhosis of the liver and at least one other affliction (heart problem), any of which were expected to end his life within months or weeks. He went on alcohol and drug binges for days at a time, only recovering long enough to buy more. After about eight months, he realized that he wasn't about to die, so he cleaned up his life and gave the boot to the leaches who had been drinking and snorting on his dime. He became, for the first time in his life, a good father. His story was the reverse of most.

Too many people live most of their lives as if they subscribe to the "life sucks, then you die" philosophy. Rather than arranging their lives so they accomplish what is important to them and bond more securely with those they love most, they focus on what's bad in their lives then seek relief in thrills, depression, mental illness, addiction or acquisitiveness.

Once they realize that their escapes have done nothing to improve their lives, often when their end is near (sometimes never), they cast off the crutches and live to the fullest for their remaining days. They live, in effect, their whole lives within a matter of days. And they love those precious days and hours more than anything else they have experienced.

Why do so many people wait that long? Because we don't teach children the wisdom that we gain over a lifetime. Since children aren't prepared for the ups and downs of life as they grow through adolescence and into adulthood, they adopt escapes of their own, often the same ones as their parents had before them. Like their parents, they feel the need to experience something positive, even if it's a drug rush that is followed by a long and agonizing recovery.

No matter how much money a person has, that person cannot buy a day, an hour or a minute of time for life, any more than you or I can. Let's teach that to our children.

This is not to say that we should teach nihilism, existentialism or some version of "live today for tomorrow we may die" philosophy as they tend to be cast off eventually as unacceptable over a whole lifetime. However, we can teach kids that they need to focus on what is good in their lives instead of what is bad.

They need to know that most times they can increase the good and decrease the bad once they learn how. We can teach that too. They need to know that they should prioritize their lives so that they accomplish what is most important to them, even if they do not accomplish what is less important.

We need to teach them that what benefits industry and politics does not necessarily benefit individuals, that people need to live their own productive lives irrespective of what industries and politicians tell them through their advertising and propaganda campaigns.

We need to teach these messages to young children before they're old enough to suffer the misfortunes that are visited upon them by life and by devotion to what society's establishment wants them to do.

Many of us need to realize that what we have believed (what we have been taught) is wrong, that we can teach our children different from the way we were taught and we can improve our own lives by not being puppets to advertisers and professional snake charmers.

That can't be done in schools because that subject will never make it onto a curriculum. School curriculum is largely controlled by industry: what industry wants, schools provide. That's how the system works.

If we want our children to learn the value of each day of their lives, we need to teach them that value in our homes and in whatever other activities the kids may be involved with.

It's up to us. Industry and politicians only teach them how to be followers, believers, sheep.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, what and when to teach children the valuable lessons of life they will need to live healthy and successful adult lives.
Learn more at

Friday, December 14, 2007

How To Cope With The Worst Of Times

Happy is the man who can endure the highest and lowest fortune. He who has endured such vicissitudes with equanimity has deprived misfortune of its power."
- Seneca, Roman Stoic philosopher (c. 4 BCE – CE 65)

I'm not certain that happiness consists of enduring the highest and lowest fortune has to offer. Most of us endure such highs and lows (or believe we do) during our lives.

Depriving misfortune of its power by living through the vicissitudes of life can hardly be the road to happiness if all of us that don't die in the process manage to live through them. Enduring them with steadiness of mind may be a sign of emotional flatness, an inability to feel strong emotions, even in times of stress.

Seneca's true meaning may have been lost in translation. I'm going to say he meant that people who can live through the trials of their lives as well as the high points without succumbing to excesses or emotional trauma were well prepared to face them.

Being able to cope with the best of times and the worst of times requires skill and knowledge. The knowledge is pretty simple. To cope with these eventualities, we need to know that they will come, both the good and the bad, and that we will survive them and return to some sort of normal state of life. Bad always passes, for everyone, so long as they live through it. Exceptionally good times don't last forever either.

Just knowing that much makes us prepared to face the ups and downs of life better.
The skill part of being prepared for the inevitable variations of life means having the ability to see past the emotional element to the results or consequences that will follow.

If we are going to a place we haven't been before and we travel for hours without knowing exactly where we are, we might feel that we're lost. Even if we know we are following a route proposed for us, we may feel uncomfortable about the fact that nothing around us is familiar. Yet if we focus on the road as the path to the goal and not as a place of discomfort and unfamiliarity, we can get through the trip knowing that the end we want to reach will arrive, in time. We aren't lost if we know we're on the right path.

Life is the same. If we know that hard times will befall us, we have a plan to get through them and something to fall back on to ease the strain, we can feel confident that we will get through them safely. If we know that good times won't last forever and prepare a plan to account for severe downturns, we can live through them with equanimity as well.

Preparation, having a plan for coping, is the key.

Most people fear bad times but have no plan for coping with them when they arrive. They also don't likely have a plan to get through good times without indulging in excesses ("We've got to have a bigger house and a better car"). When either arrives, they fall apart (in some sense), though in different ways. Look at the statistics of what happens to the lives of lottery winners, even though they may buy tickets for years hoping to win.

We don't have to live our lives as if we are going to die next month or next week. But we should keep in mind that some day the very last day of our life will come. We need to make sure that we have taken into account everything we would like to have accomplished, no matter when that day may arrive. That includes what we might say to or do with our loved ones. That day may come decades from now, or it might come tomorrow.

Worse, for many of us, would be when our spouse dies (or leaves the family home). Though we may be as devoted as possible to our mate, we also need to consider the possibility that a day of being alone may come. If we have a plan for what we would do if that eventuality should arrive, we can put the plan into effect and survive it as safely and with as little self destruction as possible.

Life is not just a matter of living. Living through the vicissitudes of life requires us to have plans we can put into effect when fortune deals us a bad hand or a particularly good one at any unexpected time.

What would you do?

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, what and when to teach children the knowledge and skills they need to live with equanimity through the ups and downs of life, and to teach them before they're needed.
Learn more at

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Man Is A Crook!

Once upon a time a man whose axe was missing suspected his neighbour's son.The boy walked like a thief, looked like a thief, and spoke like a thief.But the man found his axe while digging in the valley, and the next time hesaw his neighbour's son, the boy walked, looked and spoke like any otherchild.
- Lao-tzu ("Old Master"), philosopher (6th century BCE), considered founder of Taoism

Whether Lao-tzu was a myth, a single wise man of exceptional insight and observation, a non-existent personality who personified a collection of the wisdom of his day, or even whether he was a contemporary of Confucius or in fact lived in the 4th century BCE, the sayings attributed to him tell us much about human nature today.

In this saying he shows that we tend to see what we want to see. In a police lineup, does the person behind the one-way glass pick the "guilty" party (providing excellent evidence for the prosecution) by actually remembering the person who committed the crime, by comparing a fuzzy memory with the possibilities presented and making a best-guess choice (later sticking with that choice under pressure from police and prosecutor), or by assessing many contributing factors that might help make the decision then choosing the best option?

In my case, I might be able to identify a face I haven't seen for 20 years, but be unable to identify someone I just spoke with ten minutes earlier. Science tells us that we identify whether a person is male or female based on some 200 different factors. How many of them or by how many other factors may we identify someone from memory? And how do our wishes influence our memory?

Lao-tzu says that we see what we want to see, what we expect to see.

In my personal experience with Employment Standards Officers of the Ministry of Labour, Province of Ontario (Canada), when I owned a small business, I discovered that two of them had their minds made up about me before they had any evidence from me (after receiving evidence only from former employees). One investigated my books thoroughly, then apologized for his presumption of my guilt, deciding in my favour.

The other didn't both with evidence from me (refused to even hear it over the phone), found me guilty in absentia (without prior notification of a hearing), broke several laws in the process (including two from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) and began a legal dispute which has gone on for over a decade. (The ministry has continued to support the law-breaker, refusing to admit guilt by an employee.)

While we may see what we want to see, how we act on that "evidence" determines whether we are morally correct ourselves. In the case of Lao-tzu's example, the man who suspected his neighbour's son of stealing his axe apparently didn't take action against the boy. Rightly so, it seems, because when he later found his axe he saw the boy as innocent as any other "not guilty" child.

What was not part of Lao-tzu's parable was whether the man held a grudge against the boy or against the boy's father (his neighbour) until he found the axe that he had mislaid himself. Holding grudges is not only unwise, it's self destructive because it always hurts the grudge holder more than the other party (who usually forgets the incident in question quickly). In the parable, if the man had held a grudge against either the boy or his father, the man would have been doubly guilty himself--and suffered himself greatly for it.

No one among us is without guilt for at least a few major sins. Nor is anyone without good qualities, if we choose to explore them. That includes ourselves. If we are not perfect, we should not expect perfection of others because it's a prescription for self hurt.

People will disappoint us. It's life. Some will disappoint us intentionally and regret it later. Some will disappoint us unintentionally and not even realize that they have done so. A few will disappoint us unintentionally, learn about it and feel guilt and remorse about it. No matter which of the three we can identify with in any example of disappointment or hurt in our lives, if we do not forgive we hurt ourselves.

Hurting ourselves is not just wrong, it's stupid. We see people hurting themselves every day, by various means (mostly damaging their own health). It's still wrong and stupid.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Because we don't learn the "facts of life," especially about human nature, early enough in our lives. If we learn about human nature as children, we can avoid huge amounts of personal hurt later in life because we are prepared for it and have the skills to cope with it. If not, we suffer.

The world is full of adults who are suffering because they haven't accepted the realities of human nature and learned to cope with them. Some drown their sorrows with alcohol, some with drugs (prescribed or street), some by gambling, some by driving fast, some by beating their mates, some by inflicting harm on themselves.

We can teach that knowledge and those skills to children. Most adults know what they should teach, but decline to teach it to younger children because they want to "keep them as innocent as possible for as long as possible." Innocence becomes ignorance and ignorance is the beginning of hurt and suffering. An innocent child is a person growing to become a hurt and possibly broken adult.

As the Crosby, Stills and Nash song said, "Teach your children well." Start today.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, what and when to teach children the "facts of life" that go beyond procreation and get into real living.
Learn more at

Sunday, December 09, 2007

We Have Become Emotional Slaves

I don't think happiness is necessarily the reason we're here. I think we're here to learn and evolve, and the pursuit of knowledge is what alleviates the pain of being human.
- Sting, (Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner), CBE (born 2 October 1951)

What does a rock star know about the lives of ordinary people anyway? As it happens, quite a bit. Far more than most people in his occupation, Sting is an ordinary person once he is off stage/camera. He's also a fair thinker, as this quote suggests.

While it might have been worded better, Sting's thought is profound.

He begins by talking about happiness. The desire for happiness is one of the "needs" that have been falsely and improperly promoted by advertisers for large industries. Most advertising is intended to appeal to needs, real or more commonly invented by the agencies that concoct them. The concept that we were put on this earth to be happy is one of the major myths created by advertisers to promote products and services that supposedly make people happy. In fact, they mostly separate people from their money.

Sting (even his mother calls him that) says that we aren't here to be happy. We have a more important purpose. However (here is where he runs into problem with industries who want to turn everyone into mindless consumers), that more important purpose is not well promoted, as industry sales (greed) is.

I disagree that it's important that the pursuit of knowledge "alleviates the pain of being human." It's a distraction, but so are spending money to buy advertised products we are told we "need" as well as other endeavours. Distractions divert our attention from pain, which is true, and is the primary non-pharmaceutical method for pain relief. When our mind is distracted from pain (which is created in the brain anyway), we forget about our pain.

To learn and evolve seems an ethereal purpose for existence. Sting means evolution of the mind, which is the only kind of which we are capable, as corporeal evolution is beyond us by natural methods.

Learning can only take us so far, then we stop because we are filled with stuff we can't use. The evolution he refers to only happens when we teach what we have learned to others.

Industries put such an overwhelming push on us to mold our thinking (more like brainwashing, if taken in total) that having people teach other people about life goes against the thrust of industry. Industry doesn't want us to learn or to evolve. It wants us to be unthinking followers of their mind-molding techniques.

The more we learn and think, the more we realize that we have become willing victims of brainwashing by industry. As societies, we have adopted industry as God. We don't need a deity any longer to tell us what to do with our lives because we have industry to tell us in minute detail. No one disputes the fact that industry exists. The major power behind the message that "God is not real" is industry, because it wants to remove the mind-molding power that religion once had over us and replace it with their own message.

The unknowing ones may doubt that industry controls our lives and dictates our belief system, but the more they study the more they will realize that we have become emotional slaves to industry just as people in the past were made (unwillingly) physical slaves. Our enslavement has been willing, at least in the sense that no one is forcing our bodies to buy the stuff industry advertises.

We can't evolve, as Sting suggests we should, so long as we don't teach each other to think independently and to advance the real causes of humanity rather than the false causes invented by advertising agencies. If we try, we can expect that we will face enormous opposition from industry because it controls not only the resources and the political system, but the media that have now become the primary purveyors of what we should believe.

You and I don't have to worry about that level of opposition. We need only to do two things. Okay, maybe three. First, we need to learn how industry controls our lives and to change the way we think and act so that we cast off the bonds of our emotional slavery.

Then we need to talk to others about it. We don't have to preach or to write great works of literature to get our message across. We only have to include what we have learned in our conversations with others. Just plain lunchroom/coffee shop talk.

Of course we must teach our children accordingly. We must teach them in stronger messages than they receive from television, which is the primary brainwashing mechanism for industry.

It's not necessary for us to prevent our kids from watching television. We simply need to teach them how to be critical viewers who know that advertising is trying to twist their minds to get them or their parents to buy, buy, buy what industry produces. Once a child learns that lesson, they never forget. They see it everywhere. They resent industry for trying to twist their minds.

As important, they teach it, in conversation with their peers, in ways that industry can never hope to compete with. And so we evolve, as Sting said.

It begins with you and me. It starts today. Go, now, and talk.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, when and what to teach children so that they do not become emotional slaves to industry advertising and mindless consumers of stuff that adds nothing to the value of their lives.
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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Live The Person You Want To Be

Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to circumstance.
- Bruce Barton

I can do this.

Some may think it's impossible, but I know I can do it.

I couldn't have done it in the past, but I can now. I didn't have the knowledge, the strength, the skills or the courage. Now I have more than enough.

Others wouldn't dare to try it, or wouldn't think of it, or wouldn't put the effort into making it happen if that did, or they just couldn't figure out how. I can.

I am better than I was yesterday, much better than in the past. Others may not see me as different, but that's because they think of the old me, before I grew. Before I knew.

I won't ask why, or whether, or when. I will ask only how to do it.

I will welcome the cooperation and assistance of others, but I won't depend on them. I'm the only one I can depend on 100 percent of the time. If I put my will into it.

When I complete my task, my quest, I will share what I have learned with others. With those who want to learn the easy way what I have learned with my sweat and toil, with my thought and effort, with my courage and devotion from the core of my being.

I will become my goal. I will be my objectives. I will be there in thought long before the reality around me catches up.

When I reach my goal, I will not expect others to accept it readily. As it has taken me much time and effort to change into a new reality, it will take others a while to join me.

The new me that results from this quest will be much more than I am today. As my body aches with effort and creaks with age, my mind will be better than others around me if they allow their minds to atrophy with their bodies.

I will not consider myself superior to them. They had their chances, made their choices and must live with the consequences. I made mine and will glory in my achievement.

I will be different. Not just different from the me of my past, but different from those around me. They will know it, I will know it. That will not daunt my courage or effort.

They will get used to the new me. If not, I will associate with them no longer and begin relationships with those who appreciate me as the new me.

I will know that I am who I am because of what they did or neglected to do in the past. That will not entitle them to own me then any more than it does now. I will not refuse to acknowledge the good they did for me, nor will I hold their neglect and their misguided attempts to mold me to their will (with good intent) against them.

I will be the person I want to be, now, so I can grow into that person rather than twisting and bending to what others who want something different of me. They may not like my independence. That will be their problem, their cross to bear, because I have cast mine off. I will not adopt a cross they formed for themselves as if it were my own.

I can be more and better each day. I will learn from my mistakes, improve and gain wisdom along with my other achievements.

Stick around for the change. Watch it happen. Join me if you dare to live beyond who you are today. I will assist you if you wish my help. I will not cease my quest because you want to quit. If necessary, if you prove that you can't keep up, I will leave you behind.

I will grow each day.

I can do this.

Bill Allin
Turning it Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to establish a framework for children that will allow them to grow to become more than generations past thought possible.
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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Who Is Worth Trusting?

I always prefer to believe the best of everybody--it saves so much time.
- Rudyard Kipling

One of the most emotionally taxing things we experience in our lives is trying to decide if we should trust people or not.

Trust is not just critical to our well being, it truly forms part of who we are. We tend to be either the kind of person who trusts people or the kind who doesn't really trust anyone. We all like to think that we are between the two extremes, but seldom are we.

The trouble with trusting people is that they will, inevitably, disappoint us. Every single person we trust will eventually--and to varying degrees--disappoint. Maybe even betray our trust. Not that it's in our nature to disappoint others. On the contrary, few would say that disappointing those who count on them is acceptable. It's just that we're fallible. Agonizingly and repeatedly fallible.

The greatest reason why we disappoint others--and why they disappoint us--is that we forget. This is forgetfulness in a major way. Why have we all become forgetful? News and information sources such as the Information Superhighway not only give us access to incredible amounts of information, some of our commitments require us to absorb enough data to drown us. Many medical doctors, for example, spend one day each week (often more) updating their information and skills. We not only expect it of them when they care for us, we demand it.

Doctors have no choice. We can choose, most of us, but choosing to ignore most of the information available to us makes us stupid. Not immediately, but eventually. First we pass through a stage of progressive ignorance, a condition most people don't realize they are in. By the time real stupidity is upon us, we are little more than moving, noisy protoplasm. Then we think the rest of the world is wrong and we are above it all.

Simply knowing, understanding and accepting that many people will disappoint us will help us to adjust when they do. It should be considered a life skill to be able to accept that people make commitments they have every intention of keeping, but they break those commitments due to forgetfulness or unforeseen circumstances.

Not trusting people causes us to lose much of the deeper values of life. Distrust forces us to shut down our emotions. While shutting down the emotions that would cause us to feel disappointment or grief when someone lets us down, we also shut down our ability to appreciate positive emotions such as love, joy and happiness. Either we have a broad range of emotions or we don't. We can't have a bit of the bad and a lot of the good. Life doesn't work that way.

The best approach to trusting people seems to be to begin by trusting everyone, as Kipling said. If a few people betray our trust repeatedly, we may have to consider putting distance between us and them. That distance--social distance if not physical distance--means that those few people cease to play major roles in our lives. Instead of shutting down our emotions because we have been betrayed, we close out the individuals who have proven that they no longer warrant our trust. Keep what we want, cast off what we don't.

Living life to the fullest means hanging our emotions out there on the edge. There they can pick up crap and get battered around, but they can also gather treasures in ways that we could never imagine by remaining within the safe zone.

It's also important to understand that the treasures we find out there on the edge don't look like treasures as they approach. They may look like space junk. Remember, gold and diamonds don't look impressive when first dug out of the ground.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, what and when to teach children the important lessons of life, such as trusting people. The book gives specific guides for both parents and teachers (and grandparents).
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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Is Domination Our Proper Role?

Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot defend themselves or run away. Andfew destroyers of trees ever plant any; nor can planting avail much towardrestoring our grand aboriginal giants. It took more than three thousandyears to make some of the oldest of the Sequoias, trees that are stillstanding in perfect strength and beauty, waving and singing in the mightyforests of the Sierra.
- John Muir, naturalist, explorer, and writer (1838-1914)

Everyone agrees that trees are living things, but are trees really life as we like to believe we know it?

Let's begin with ourselves. Our bodies are composed of billions of cells, each of which contains a DNA blueprint of who we are as living things. Trees are each composed of billions of cells, each of which contains a DNA blueprint of who they are.

We breathe in oxygen (a minor component of air, at 21 percent), use a small portion of it, then give off a tiny amount of carbon dioxide as waste. Trees take in carbon dioxide through a process called respiration (our process has the same name) and give off a large amount of oxygen as waste. Through a different process, trees also consume oxygen and give off carbon dioxide, which may be involved with their reproductive system.

We eat plant matter and animals that have consumed plant matter to obtain the nutrition by which we exist. Trees acquire their nutrition through their root system, which often brings them the bodies of small animals that have died (the small animals being microscopic, or close to it, but which usually contain the decayed and consumed matter from the bodies of larger animals that have died).

Our circulatory system uses blood as a vehicle, blood being the name for a version of water that transports oxygen and nutrition to our cells. The circulatory system of trees isn't usually red, mostly because the water doesn't contain red blood cells that are part of the immune systems of animals, but it too contains the nutrients the tree needs for each cell to survive. Including components of its immune system.

Each cell of a human is composed of multitudes of atoms and molecules, which is also true of trees and other plants. However, composition of atoms is also true of minerals, the third "kingdom" in the animals-plants-minerals triumvirate we usually think of as comprising "stuff" in our world.

We don't consider rocks to be alive because they don't reproduce, don't strive for survival, don't consume nutrition or give off waste materials. Or, maybe they do, but they don't do it in a timeframe that we recognize. Watch a film about plate tectonics and volcanism before deciding on that question.

Each molecule of oxygen that we breathe, mathematicians have calculated, has likely also been breathed in the past by Leonardo da Vinci, Genghis Khan, the prophet Mohammed, Jesus of Nazareth, Confucius, even the biblical Abraham. Given that trees also consume oxygen, it's also highly likely that the oxygen atoms they take in have been through similar historical human bodies.

We look with varying degrees of interest on the search for extra-terrestrial life in other solar systems and galaxies, which we assume we will identify first by some form of communication that transfers over vast distances of space. Yet we cannot communicate effectively with any other form of life on our own planet, despite the sophisticated communications systems we now know many have.

The closest we can come to communicating with another species of animal is to teach a baby chimp to understand English and to speak back to us using a keyboard. Though this has been done, it's not that we have learned the language or system of communication of another species, but that we have removed a baby chimpanzee from its native forest and brought it up as a human child. That's anthropomorphism in a supremely arrogant form.

In short, we are a destructive, arrogant species of animal whose success has depended largely on our ability to survive the worst possible natural catastrophes while defeating any other species of plant or animal that stands in our way.

We consider ourselves apart from the whole of "what is" rather than one component of it. Some of us don't believe in God because we have defined our existence in such a way that we believe we are as close to gods as any living thing can get.

Trees and people are different forms of the same thing. We are trees, trees are us. So, for that matter, are rocks that we explode, crush and transform for our use.

As movies have taught us to fear life from any place other than earth while we believe we have the power to dominate any form of existence on our own planet, we should hope that if any form of life not originating on earth has the ability to travel through space, it does not have the misfortune to come in contact with us.

If it does come in contact with us, it almost certainly will have characteristics that we will recognize as similar to our own.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to teach children the true position that people have in the system of existence we know as "what is." We can teach them respect, not fear, not violence.
Learn more at

Sunday, December 02, 2007

How To Show Others The Best Of Yourself

When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves.
- William Arthur Ward

People like people who try to bring out the best in them. They may resent the methods used sometimes, but that's because the two may not have agreed on how the methods should be implemented.

Everyone wants more respect. Most prefer to earn the respect of others if they can. That's where the helpers or mentors become so valuable. The mentors try to improve their "students" so that the students will deserve greater respect for their skills and accomplishments. What's not to like about that?

Some people don't want to go to the trouble that inevitably is involved with reaching for greater heights of skill, knowledge or achievement. If the drive of these people is strong enough, they learn the skills of power management instead. They work to become powerful. They gain the respect that derives from having power, though they can't receive respect for their knowledge or skills.

US President George W. Bush, for example, endured lots of criticism during his first years in power because of his undistinguished accomplishments in any field of endeavour. However, he overcame that deficit by becoming the (self designated) "war president" which gave him recognition far beyond what he would have received as president of the US because he had the power to invent causes and invade countries, putting them at war with the most powerful nation on earth. That's power.

President Bush doesn't have to bring out the best in people, he simply has to have others find them and hire them for his Cabinet. Donald Trump doesn't have to bring out the best in people, he simply looks for clone-like representations of himself. Young up-and-comers line up in droves to please Mr. Trump because of his power, not because of his ability to improve their skills. President Bush and Mr. Trump have their own best interests in mind rather than the interests of those they employ.

As Ward said, bringing out the best in others has the additional benefit of bringing out the best in ourselves. What he didn't say but could be a corollary of his quote was that those who bring out the best in others are rarely power mongers. They tend toward the gentle, though their methods sometimes come across as rough. They are often viewed as having "hearts of gold," no matter what manner of exterior they present.

Those who help others up accomplish more than simply giving them a handout. It's the "feeding someone a fish versus teaching them to fish" thing. They become better people by helping others become better.

They never wonder what their mission is in life because they fulfill it with their actions. They live by example the lives they wish for others.

In turn, they advance the cause of humanity in ways that power lovers never could.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, what and when to teach children the critical lessons of life so that they become competent and confident adults without resorting to the escape methods that incomplete adults today do.
Learn more at