“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.”
— Dalai Lama
In any vision that I can conceive of of a healthy society, love and compassion are crucial. Empathy is a close third. It’s not necessarily a matter of walking a mile in each other’s shoes as being willing to understand why they undertook the walk and perhaps be willing to rub their feet afterwards. Or perhaps that is taking the metaphor a bit too far.
Far too often we willfully misunderstand each other. I know that there have been people of whom I was so sure that I would disagree that as soon as they started talking I would listen carefully until they said one phrase that I could misconstrue as wrong. It didn’t matter to me that I was taking it out of context. I just wanted to prove them wrong. Eventually a friend helped me out of that, by rubbing my face in what I was doing. I gradually became aware of how often it was happening and started working on it. I at least hope that’s getting better.
Where were we? Oh yeah, love and compassion and perhaps allowance. Allowing people to be who they are not just in an embrace diversity tolerance way but in a way that we acknowledge their choices in the same way we acknowledge our own. While we’re at it that might become easier, once we start forgiving our own mistakes and be a bit more compassionate and loving towards ourselves. Blessings, G
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“One must assume responsibility for being in a weird world,” he said. “We are in a weird world, you know.”
I nodded my head affirmatively.
“We’re not talking about the same thing,” he said. “For you the world is weird because if you’re not bored with it you’re at odds with it. For me the world is weird because it is stupendous, awesome, mysterious, unfathomable; my interest has been to convince you that you must assume responsibility for being here, in this marvelous world, in this marvelous desert, in this marvelous time. I wanted to convince you that you must learn to make every act count, since you are going to be here for only a short while, in fact, too short for witnessing all the marvels of it.”
–Carlos Castaneda, Journey to Ixtlan
I’ve been thinking a lot about responsibility lately. Particularly our responsibility for living in this world. Responsibility and I tend to have been at odds more often than not. Oh I’ve always been willing to own up to it when I’ve fallen short of doing what I’m supposed to do but following though has been problematic in the past. That changed a lot when we adopted my son Zev. When you have other people counting on you, certain things just fall into place.
More and more often I’ve been thinking about my responsibility as someone who lives in this world. What are my responsibilities to my fellow beings on this planet?Or as a friend said to me recently, “How do you feel for everyone as your child?” So how do we do it? The word for feeling someone’s suffering and doing what you can to ease it is compassion. How do we raise the level of compassion in ourselves and then teach it to others? At this point I have to say that my answer is still, “I don’t know” I feel it has something to do with awareness and honesty
One of the assumptions I’ve always had has been that as soon as I know something I am responsible for it. This assumption has caused me to stop friends from telling me about the misdoings of others. It has also caused me to want to share my experiences and what I learn. Yet, if this is true and I allow myself knowledge of political misdoings and economic injustices that happen every day, where does my responsibility lie? Does it make a difference if I am a bit conflicted over just what can be done? It seems so often that even when I read of what’s going on, or join a march or boycott, I still don’t fully feel it. Part of me wonders about the effectiveness of these techniques. Part of me wonders how much I am letting myself feel my knowledge, feel the suffering of people more effected by these things than I am. Sometimes it feels like I have hung wallpaper over a hole in my being. How do I break through that wallpaper to find my heart? Again, finding answers still in progress. Blessings, G
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“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”
― Edward L. Bernays, Propaganda
Now there’s a quote that gives me chills. Edward L. Bernays was the nephew of Sigmund Freud and in many ways could be considered a godfather of modern culture. He was definitely the father of public relations. As a young man he worked for the Committee on Public Relations which helped sell American involvement in WWI to Europeans. He came back home to the United States with the idea that the propaganda model he learned could have peace time applications and so became the first public relations representative.
Among other things that he was responsible for was:
Making it publicly respectable for women to smoke in public (by selling the concept as ‘torches of freedom’
product placement in movies
the first celebrity endorsement of politicians
focusing not on selling people what they need but on what they desire and speaking to those unconscious desires thus helping to create consumer culture
These are just some of the reasons why I describe him as a ‘godfather’ of modern culture. Those interested can find out a lot more about Edward Bernays, and other influential members of his family by watching Adam Curtis’s fascinating four part BBC documentary, The Century of the Self. You can download and watch this documentary at
While I dislike most of what he stood for (almost all of it) and many of the applications of it, I have to point out on reflection, that without the idea of being able of merchandising culture, most modern ways of communication and entertainment wouldn’t exist including things like Face Book>
My question would be how do we use these techniques to empower people, to help promote taking responsibility for our own decisions and actions and evolution and promote the ideas of love and compassion rather than greed? For a very long time, we’ve had some pretty destructive memes floating around out there. Can we find healthy ones that promote self-actualization and start propagating them? What do you think they would be?
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Mind Field by G A Rosenberg
Sky Dragon by G A Rosenberg
“There are three classes of men; lovers of wisdom, lovers of honor, and lovers of gain.”
Are these three mutually exclusive, wisdom, honour and gain? I mean the proletariat leaning side of me would love to see lovers of gain be of a different ilk than either lovers of wisdom or lovers of honour? What does it mean to be an honourable man?
“Dr. Mark Powell: How do you know right from wrong?
Prot: Every being in the universe knows right from wrong, Mark. ”
This quote strikes me hard. Hard enough that I’ve started writing this section three times and each time I went back and deleted it. I recall so many times in my life that I absolutely knew the right thing to do and I flat out did the opposite? For the life of me, I don’t know that I could give a good reason why. In at least a few cases, I wanted to see where doing the wrong thing would lead me? At other times, it just seemed to be the easiest choice to make given what the people around me were doing. At no time, did I ever come out of the situation saying “Wow, I’m glad I did that”. Most often the response was more like “Well, I paid the ticket and saw the show” I continued on.
Is that what honour is? Knowing the right thing to do and doing it? If so, does our inner integrity and honour go up as we do what we know is right and diminish when we don’t? Is it that shadow self, that I spoke of yesterday that pulls us back from doing the right thing if it can get an ego payoff by doing the opposite? How do I tame it?
These seem like trite questions yet in my life of late they become more meaningful every day. Blessings, G </h4>
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Elevator by G A Rosenberg
“To confront a person with his shadow is to show him his own light. Once one has experienced a few times what it is like to stand judgingly between the opposites, one begins to understand what is meant by the self. Anyone who perceives his shadow and his light simultaneously sees himself from two sides and thus gets in the middle.”
— Carl Jung
As many of you who read this blog may know I’ve been working on a set of tarot pictures that will eventually consist of all 78 cards of a standard tarot deck. I’ve completed a little over a third of the deck. I started making art in order to be able to do these so its a project close to my heart. On the days I feel like starting a new card, I shuffle the deck and ask what would be the best card for me to work on and shuffle and draw until I get to one I haven’t done yet. Today Trump 15-The Devil came up.
So tonight I’m taking a bit of a detour from The Hero archetype and talking about leaps of faith. Hmmm, or am I? The Devil by its very nature represents our shadow selves, some of the very qualities that try to hold us back from taking that leap. It could represent insecurities and fears that we may not be good enough. It may represent hopelessness that the system is rigged and there’s no way that it will do any good. All those lies and rationales we use for not taking that chance to be a hero. In the picture, both figures are only chained by very flimsy strings that they can break at any time. It is not the externals keeping them chained. It rarely is. We are not only the prisoners but our own jailers as well.
How do we break free? How do we reclaim ourselves. The simple yet oh so difficult answer is self-honesty and courage. I believe that each of these grows out of the other one. We need to first admit that our shadow self is there and that its real. What about yourself would you sweep under the rug rather than admit? For me lack of confidence and laziness tend to be the main ones along with too much reliance on my left-hemisphere logical self and too little trust in my ability to feel. Other things too no-doubt, those shadow selves be sneaky buggers.
Once exposed at looked at and shared the shadow can be dealt with. It is only when we hide it or fight it that our chains become stronger. The more we disassociate from our shadow self, the stronger it becomes. The more we accept it and integrate it the more whole we become. Accepting our shadow? That requires quite the leap of faith. Hmm maybe this subject isn’t as far a detour from the Hero as I thought.
Much Love, G
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“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”
— Joseph Campbell
What makes a hero? Someone who is willing to do the right thing no matter what the cost to himself? How do we find the hero within? Go deeper. Go deeper.
I grew up on myths and stories. From an early age I was a pretty voracious reader and what I loved to read most were myths and legends. I went through every book of those I could find and could never get enough. I also loved comic books particularly super-hero ones. Makes sense, what are they but modern mythology? When I discovered both the tarot with the Fool’s journey through the major arcana and then Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey I fell in love with both concepts. They both talk about the arc of the hero and how he leaves the familiar (parents, home) and enters the unknown, encounters several dangers, and returns home with something (possession, power, bride, wisdom) he did not have before. We’re all familiar with the arc. (If not, see Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Star Wars, Alice in Wonderland, The Hobbit and many others and note the similarities)
What makes the hero go on the journey in the first place? Once he does depart what keeps him on the path? Well I can only talk about what I know. So many times in my life I have left the familiar behind, doing such things as joining religious cults, hitch-hiking cross countries and travelling to a different country to get married that I became very familiar with what I called ‘rabbit-hole time’. When i reflect on those times, the biggest thing that stands out is that I was curious, Something caught my attention and I jumped for it. Somehow I believed that even if I was not happy with the outcome, the adventure would be worthwhile. Before today, I would have called that foolishness tho today it was brought to my attention what it really was. A leap of faith. I have had faith in the universe and in the guiding force behind the universe and it has never failed me. Even the hard lessons were not as hard as they could have been. Having the love and support of my family has helped a lot there as well.
To be continued…
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“Listen to your heart. Because, wherever your heart is, that is where you’ll find your treasure.”
Listen to your heart yes but even more important as I’ve been learning lately is listening with your heart.
I have always had a reputation for being a quick study. I can usually read what someone is saying within a spoken line or two. I tended to get impatient after that, finishing what they had to say sometimes putting a question mark at the end because tho I was a fool, I didn’t want to think of myself as an arrogant putz. So much for that idea. I missed something in the equation that I’ve just started figuring out lately. It’s not important only that a person be understood but that they feel listened to as well. I’m getting a bit better at it. I still have a ways to go. It’s a funny thing tho the more I’ve been listening, the more I’ve learned that what a person is saying is only part of the picture. The rest you can’t hear with your brains or your ears but only by listening with your heart.
When you listen with your heart, not only do you hear what a person is saying but what they want to say. Not only their words but the feelings, perhaps unspoken to that they’re saying as well. When I’ve listened with my brain, far too often I was looking for flaws in what they were saying. Perhaps I thought I was being helpful, finding ways in which their statement could be improved or corrected but I don’t want to be the person who does that anymore. Sometimes the help a person needs is not to be corrected but to be considered. That doesn’t mean blindly agreeing, It means absorbing their communication and answering back with what I honestly feel and if I do disagree, then state it without equivocation but making them feel that they’ve been heard. That’s who I’m looking to be now. It will take practice and I’ll screw it up sometimes but I feel like I might be on the right track with this listening stuff. Thanks, G
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“There is no small act of kindness. Every compassionate act makes large the world.”
–Mary Anne Radmacher
I’ve been contemplating the idea of compassion a lot lately. Compassion can be a pretty heady yardstick. Com means with so the word would mean having passion with or to feel with another. If not empathy, tho they much be closely related, it must be it’s kid brother. I suppose in its strictest sense, it means putting yourself in another’s shoes and imagining what they feel and in some cases, in some cases loving them anyway. I do know from experience that knowing what another goes through makes it seriously hard to dislike them. If you realize, that everyone has stuff, underneath what we have done and become in order to survive in this world, we are beautiful. Isn’t one of our purposes to show that beauty even through what the world has made of us?
There was a Hindu man who saw a scorpion floundering around in the water. He decided to save it by stretching out his finger, but the scorpion stung him. The man still tried to get the scorpion out of the water, but the scorpion stung him again.
A man nearby told him to stop saving the scorpion that kept stinging him.
But the Hindu said: “It is the nature of the scorpion to sting. It is my nature to love. Why should I give up my nature to love just because it is the nature of the scorpion to sting?”
Don’t give up loving.
Don’t give up your goodness.
Even if people around you sting.
Maintaining this attitude can be difficult. When someone treats us with anger or pushes a button, answering in kind becomes so easy or spreading the feeling, being nasty to others because someone has been nasty to us first. I have caught myself doing that several times. The cashier at Starbucks was nasty and it bothered me so I was unthinkingly rude to the bus driver who then passed it on to his other passengers, a chain reaction of misery. One day I decided to see if i could turn it around. Maybe the cashier had some problems at home or something going on in her life. When she glared at me and handed me my change I said to her sincerely “I’m so happy to see you here every morning” and smiled at her. She looked shocked and said “Thank you” and smiled back. As I was walking towards the door I looked back and she was smiling at the next customer. That custom, another regular was surprised but he started smiling also. I don’t know how long it lasted, the next day when I stood in front of her, she seemed quite cranky again. Then she looked up at me, smiled and said “Would you like your regular?”
Compassion is a necessary element of forgiveness especially forgiveness of self. Once we start growing compassion, we can look back at our lives and have a greater understanding of people who hurt us and those whom we hurt and can start working on forgiving them. It’s not easy but it’s a lot easier than carrying around that ball of hurt we’ve been carrying for so many years.
Have I been totally successful at this myself? No, but I’m working on it. The successes I have had have made me a happier person for sure.
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Bouncing Psychedelic Balls by G A Rosenberg
“Effective listeners remember that “words have no meaning – people have meaning.” The assignment of meaning to a term is an internal process; meaning comes from inside us. And although our experiences, knowledge and attitudes differ, we often misinterpret each other’s messages while under the illusion that a common understanding has been achieved.”
Well, I believe words do have meaning. Still, I agree with L Baker that you need to listen not only to the words but beyond the words to the heart that speaks them. Not just listen with your ears but listen to your heart. This has been a lesson long in coming to me. Funny thing is that the clues and pieces were there all the time. My favourite story that of the Six Blind Men and the Elephant that I’ve used a lot to illustrate how everybody has part of the truth is all about what happens when people WON’T listen to each other.
Blind Men and the Elephant
poem by John Godfrey Saxe (1816–1887)
It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind
The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the ElephantIs very like a wall!”
The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, “Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”
The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!
The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he;
” ‘Tis clear enough the ElephantIs very like a tree!”
The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”
The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”
And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!
So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!
If those ‘wise’ men had only listened with compassionate hearts to each other, they might have figured out they all had a part of the same thing. Too often we focus on the part of what someone else says that we most want or expect to hear, so if the person is someone whom we have problems with (and we all know those people, usually they are the ones who manage to tell us what we most need to hear in a way we just DON’T want to hear it, then what we hear will cause us problems. We may look for the insult in their words. If they say something that disagrees with our most cherished beliefs than we may very well feel ourselves insulted. I know I have.
Sometimes when an idea of ours has been challenged, we feel exposed and vulnerable, The Emperor who’s new clothes so fine that only the wisest of sages can see it has actually been tricked into walking around naked. How dare they? Yet if we listen, we hear that that is not so at all, we have not been insulted, our clothes are there (tho there is much to be said for being comfortable with nakedness and vulnerability), just a belief has been challenged. Can we refute the challenge, either through our thoughts or through research? Perhaps or possibly we may learn something new. We may come out of the conversation with clearer understanding than we entered it. I know that for me there has been many a time where that has been the case. But only when I listened. Blessings, G
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The Compassionate Heart Listens by G A Rosenberg