Creating a World Free of Absolutes

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Personal Story

How often in our lives do we make decisions from a position of extremes?  Where did these extreme positions come from?  Are we born with them, or are they a learned trait?  I will not attempt to speak for the world in this, as this is a "Personal Story".  Instead I will speak from my own experiences.

An abusive Mother and an emotionally detached Father raised me in the early 1960's.  While she ranted and attacked, he detached, and the world shivered with fear of the impending Nuclear Crisis.  My 4 brothers’ and I played Army, Cowboys and Indians and tortured one another as brothers are want to do.  

I heard and I remembered... 

My Father, born in 1910, was a survivor of the Great Depression while my Mother, born in 1927 was shaped more by World War II.  Both had very extreme views on "those people" (Black, Asian, Jewish, etc) and their Religions, my Father was an ex Catholic and to his dying day detested the Church and embraced Evangelical Christianity; my Mother worshipped her illnesses and cursed God in what I believe was an attempt to get a rise out of Dad.  

Both held the extreme frugality of those raised in the times of want and rationing.  We boys had friends of varying skin tones and could have cared less what their religion was.  I recall being more interested in the latest bicycle or shiny bit of plastic than any intangible divinity that never answered my prayers.  

I heard and I remembered...  

As my Mother's illnesses progressed spurred on by here affinity for narcotics and depressants the family began to fracture.  Everyone seemed to withdraw into a safe space built up around themselves to avoid the drama.  We brother's never stopped loving one another, but we retreated to protect our sanity.  Or at least that is what I did.

I heard and I remembered...

The day before my 18th birthday I moved in with a 23-year-old woman I had met over the summer before my senior year.  I called my Father to inform him the morning of my Birthday and his only reaction was to ask me if I planned on finishing high school, which I did.  From that point on my life became a roller coaster of ups and downs; Married at 19, off to the Navy at 21, two children, a divorce, retired from the Navy, College, re-married and two more children.

I heard and I remembered and I acted...

My childhood was marked by extremes.  Most of the choices I have made over the years reflect my upbringing:  Abuse or apathy.  I now see how over the years I inflicted injuries (real or emotional) onto my self to continue my Mother's actions while simultaneously being detached to my own happiness in 'honor' of my Father.

Thanks to many patient people and gifted writers/teachers I have started to reflect on my life and to identify the places where I made choices which manifested the life I have lived based on the warped worldview of my childhood, a childhood colored in the shades my parents painted with.  But I do not fault them.  They did the best they could with the upbringing they were exposed to.

I now see thanks to these wonderful teachers and guides that we are 'educated' by the atmosphere in which we are raised.  We see and hear and are taught various views which we utilize as a basis for the world we manifest.  Abused as a child?  Then you are more likely to make decisions that 'abuse' yourself in the future.  Bad choices in relations, bad career choices, bad choices in friends are just a few of the symptoms.  Unemotional influences who were frugal in providing praise or affection?  Then you may refuse yourself the love of self that builds confidence and avoid opportunities for joy.

These are not my observations nor are they new.  Louise HayEmmett Fox Byron Katie, Eckhart Tolle and many others have brought this to my attention.  I have found solace in researching the philosophy of Stoicism and the writing of Marcus Aurelius.  All of these, at least for me, point to one single great truth:  

I heard, I remembered, I acted and I am responsible...  

If someone says a hurtful thing and it pains me, I am responsible.  I choose to be hurt, just as I choose to be happy.  No one can hurt me unless I allow it.  What about accidents, physical attacks, war and famine?  Surely those aren't my responsibility or choice.  Did I choose to be abused as a child?  

Although these things may not be avoidable, I can choose to move beyond them, or I can choose to languish in the 'poor me' mind set and continue to punish myself for others actions.  

I am reminded of a Buddhist Parable:

Once upon a time, long, long ago, there were 2 holy men traveling together through the countryside. They came upon a beautiful young woman sitting and sobbing by the side of a stream. She said she was afraid of drowning and asked them if they would help her cross to the other side of the water. Without saying a word, one of the monks picked up the girl and carried her to the other side of the stream where he gently put her down. She thanked him and went on her way. 

The two men then continued their journey. After a while, the monk said to the one who had carried the young woman, "How could you do such a thing? We have taken vows of chastity. It is forbidden to even talk to a woman let alone touch one." The other monk lovingly replied, "When I came to the other side of the stream, I put her down. Why are you still carrying her?"

So today I choose to put down the past and to walk forward in freedom.  I no longer have to live out the extremes of my childhood.  I no longer have to carry on the extreme actions of my parents.  Nor do I have to punish myself for my own extremes.  I am the best me I possibly can be right now, and that is all that matters.   

I heard, I remembered, I acted, I am responsible and I am aware...

I wish to give a personal thanks to Claudia Coniglio, my wife and partner in life, the one who teaches me the most on a daily basis what it means to live in love. 


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Those Who Make This All Possible

There are those that live in the Grey.  While the politicians maneuver and the extremists voices roar they see both sides of the situation and do what must be done so that all of us here in the United States have the freedom to voice our thoughts without fear of repression.  I am proud to call these brave young men and women my Brother's in Arms and I pray someday our services will no longer be needed.

Thank and American Soldier, Marine. Airman or Sailor.

Today's Face of Extremism

Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the man "allegedly" (we must use this term until one is officially convicted of an act) for the horrendous murders at Fort Hood, is today's example of the Extremist thought processes.  Apparently unable to reconcile his Military Duties with his personal beliefs he (again "allegedly") resorted to the extreme acts detailed across the media.  Unfortunately he is not alone in his choices nor are there any shortages of men and women who willingly follow these extreme paths.  

Many believe that this was a Jihadist act on his part and there are those who praise his actions as such.  But to quote the definition of Jihad as posted on the About website; "Jihad is the Arabic for what can be variously translated as "struggle" or "effort," or "to strive," "to exert," "to fight," depending on the context. In the West, the word is generally understood to mean "holy war," and the terms are given, inaccurately, exclusively military connotations."  While the term Jihad does refer to war in defense/support of Islam, it is (or should be) an internal struggle to overcome the spiritual limitations of man.  But even in the Muslim world the term sparks debate as to its actual meaning.

As with any thought process stripped of the grey tones Jihad can be used for purely spiritual (White) or militant (Black) pursuits.  Without the grey it is easily manipulated for evil acts to follow the agendas of those warped individuals who, regardless of society, religion or belief, seek only to empower their sick beliefs.  Extremism is no longer a means to an acceptable end.  It cannot be tolerated in todays society as it has been in the past when the wars were mainly tribal in nature.  The world is too small and the consequences of Weapons of Mass Destruction being utilized make the outcome far too extreme.

Those who would champion their Extreme Ideologies are legion and span human history.  Genocide, enslavement, rape and murder are but a few of the tools used to terrorize and suppress the targets of these perpetrators of madness.  Entire societies have been victims and/or perpetrators of these acts.  Many have lived on both sides, one day a victim and the next the suppressor justifying there own extreme actions as "Justice" for their previous tortures.  

We must grow beyond the extreme to embrace the fact that all actions have ramifications and only by embracing our differences can mankind find true peace.

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind - Mahatma Gandhi

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Shrinking World

I was born in the 1956 and as I grew up I was taught to fear and hate Russians.  Nikita Khrushchev appeared to be a mad man on the evening news screaming and pounding his shoe at the United Nations in 1960.  I recall preparing for the dread Atomic Bomb in first grade.  The teacher played the "Duck and Cover" Civil Defense Film to teach us to hide beneath our desks to avoid the Atomic Holocaust that thankfully never came.  The star of this feature was ironically named "Bert the Turtle".  Even though no reference to the Soviet Union was expressly made, we knew where it would come from.    

Now it is over 50 years later, not a long time in the grand scheme of things.  The menace of the USSR has been replaced by Maria Sharapova and designer vodka.  Suddenly faceless Marxists bent on the destruction of democracy no longer populate Russia.  With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 Perestroika and Glasnost replaced the iconic posters of the Marxist Revolution that had, for me, typified the Russian people: stern women in matronly uniforms and mustachioed men incapable of smiling, glaring toward the west.  Where did they all go?

The Russian people have not changed.   The landscape of the nation remains, albeit with altered borders.  How can these people be the same as those I was taught to fear throughout the Cold War?  If they are the same, then why were they so frightening just a short time ago?

They are gone because they never existed; what were presented to us were absolutes.  Communist Russia the oppressive Black to the shining White purity of the United States and Democracy.   No hint of grey existed in the equation.  We rarely heard anything positive and whenever we did it was presented with the proper shade of Black overlain.  The only "good" Russian was one who defected, who had seen the error of their leaders and sought the White glory of Democracy.

While I am a firm believer in the principals of Democracy and invested 20 years of my life in this nations defense, I believe that the tendency to paint THEM (whoever they may be at the moment) in absolutes is no longer feasible.   The world is simply too small.   We travel at light speed across the Internet to share ideas.  In the world of MTV and Hyper Text we must see the grey shades.  We have to realize that we are Humans living on a single Planet.  From orbit their are no borders.

We must begin to seek out and celebrate the grey in our midst.  We must no longer remain mired in the absolutism that can only result in a dystopian future for all mankind.  The next time you see something on the evening news and you find yourself thinking "those people" remember the Russia of the Cold War, now a distant memory. 

To quote Sting's lyrics from the song "Russians":

"I hope the Russians love their children too." 

Grey Magik - This site is for my musings on the areas between the absolutes. As the world shrinks we are faced with a never ending need to cast off the absolutes of our Father's and accept that there are two sides to every story. Whether we like it or not we are the creators of our reality and I prefer to use this Grey Magik to create a world where we celebrate the beauty of grey...