RESPOND DON’T REACT

The other day, I worked on a document for about an hour and then attended to other things. The next day, I found that my computer has frozen up and after many attempts to save the document, I had to reboot the computer.

As I waited for it to come up, I thought of TE Lawrence whose 1000 page manuscript of his Seven Pillars of Wisdom was lost at the Reading train station in London in 1922.  He spend the next 3 months rewriting it.

I told myself that when I brought up the file, that I would be at peace regardless of whether my work was there or not.  It was not and I felt relaxed and ready to make the effort again.

You can not change the past, even a second ago. So why react to it? The second after an event, you only have control of how you respond. You don’t have control of the event. And in some essential way, it actually becomes perfect. The universe “just is”.

So what do we want:

  • The weather to be different. We can’t change it.  No use complaining.
  • Other drivers to drive better. They don’t know you. Why should you let them control your mood?
  • We lose something or someone and want it to be otherwise
  • We want others to behave a certain way.
  • We want the world to be different.

Spiritual teachers have taught for centuries the idea of not being attached to the external world. I find it very inspiring to see videos of enlightened teachers such as Ram Dass and the Dalai Lama. They are happy all of the time, regardless of external events.

Many say that a regular spiritual practice of meditation will make one less reactive. This is what I have experienced when I meditate regularly. 

We can decide to respond to events that trigger a reaction, by just catching ourselves and letting go, knowing that we have no control of what just happened because it already happened. This is not easy when someone is truly annoying you. It is an ongoing practice, forgiving ourselves for reacting and pledging to do the best we can next time. 

This does not mean that you don’t govern your life, set boundaries, make requests and take action. It just means that at some level you can be at peace with whatever happens.

To learn more about Triggers, see my talk at the Saturday Morning Men’s Cafe.

How reactive are you?

Do let others hijack your mood?

MIDLIFE CRISIS

A few years ago I studied the lives of my ancestors. Everyone one of them had a significant life event occur in their 40’s which one could characterized as a crisis which altered the course of their life. Here is a list.

Paternal Grandfather – Jesse Anderson MD-Spanish Flu and Tuberculosis at age 44. Poor health caused him to give up his medical practice. Died at 54.
Paternal Grandmother Laurie Anderson Swift Widowed at age 46. Rebuilt her life successfully through a wealthy husband.
Maternal Grandfather Franz Behnes – Affluent cotton merchant bankrupt at 50. Moved back to US from Germany. Sold life insurance. Retired later, supported by single daughter.
Maternal Grandmother Lucy Behnes Bankrupt at 43. Transitioned from upper middle class matron to department store clerk. Retired later, supported by single daughter.
Father Lee Anderson MD Injured age 47. Practiced medicine in wheelchair until death at 54.
Mother Frances Anderson Widowed at age 49. Successfully rebuilt her life. Wrote a newspaper column, sold real estate, and owned highly successful restaurant.
Sister -Gail Upton Bankrupt at age 48. Rebuilt her financial life by selling and buying real estate and retired successfully.
Bruce Divorced, fired from job, brother and mother died, career crisis, broke at age 38 till 42. Rebuilt 2nd and 3rd careers, remarried and retired financially successful.

Those in the next generation are now in their early 50’s and each of them have had similar crises in their lives, manifested externally or by internal turmoil and they have responded positively to the challenge.

What is it with these Andersons? Are we cursed? I don’t think so. I think not having a crisis in your 40’s is the exception. And this includes people who have good values and are living meaningful and useful lives. We know everyone’s life is a series of attachments and losses.

With these external events, there are also internal dynamics that are occurring. When we have a crisis, it is a call to grow up and to no longer live out our parental and cultural programming. With insight, courage and determination, we rise to the occasion in the midst of adversity. We are able to correct earlier choices, declare our full individuality and transition to a more meaningful and satisfying life. It takes traumatic events to precipitate our growth.

And I suspect if you look at your life, you will see similar times of despair and transition toward growth and new beginnings.

Do you have regrets, or do you look back on these traumatic events as a blessing? Most would say it was a blessing. It was a way to re-emerge into a better life, even though it did not seem to be at the time.  

The divorce from my first marriage was very traumatic, but in retrospect it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I created a happy single life for 20 years and a happy married life with an extraordinary woman for the next 20 years.

Did you have a midlife crisis?

How did you rise to the challenge?

Any regrets?

VIOLENCE

 

An earlier comment about violence caused me to think more about the violence I have actually seen for myself during my lifetime, rather than having read about or seeing videos, or heard from others. Well,  to me the world is not a violent place if I based this on what I have personally seen. I have never seen blood spilled ( except for a cut), either through attack or accident. Unlike a police officer or an emergency room nurse or doctor, or combat soldier,  I have not only not been exposed to the effects of violence, I have not actually seen anyone shot or injured. I have not even seen a grisly automobile accident.

The above is actually pretty remarkable. Reading history, and the news one sees violence all the time.  There is lots of violence in movies, TV, books and games.

But when I think about it, 150 years ago, most people were on farms and small towns.  Being that there was little news of the wider world, their reality was that things were peaceful, unless they were in a war zone or high crime culture. So the speed of information from afar has created the impression that the world is full of violence when, as a percentage of the time, it is not.  There could be a 6 million people exposed to violent acts a year in the US, either through being a victim or perpetrator and that would mean that 98% of the population was not personally exposed to violence. An interesting statistic is that the incidence of fatal and non fatal gun violence in the United States has dropped by 40% in the last 20 years. Who would know that by reading and listening to the news.

So one of the ways that I have lived a blessed life, is that I have not been exposed to or suffered from violence.

So, to what degree have you been personally exposed to violence?

I AM A FEMINIST

When I was 20 years old I was critical of my future sister and brother-in-law for insisting that their 10-year-old boy wash the dishes. I referred to it as “woman’s work”. I was product of my parental and cultural programing. The only time my father went in the kitchen was to get ice cream at 3 am. Traditional roles were the norm in my household. When married, I pitched in to “help” my wife with the dishes.  At 36, I was single and washed my own dishes for next 20 years.

Now, thank goodness, household chores and roles are negotiated based on interests and considerations other than gender, and this is as it should be. Looking back, it just seems ridiculous that it was otherwise.

When I entered the workforce in the 60’s, women’s career options were limited. Now woman can do any job men can do including fighter pilot, astronaut, and CEO.  And there is absolutely no reason they should be paid less for the same work. Most major corporations get it. They pay woman graduate electrical engineers the same as men.  And yet there is still a huge gender gap in pay. There should not be a gap, period.

In 1972, The Equal Rights Amendment was proposed as a way to give women equal legal status to men.  “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” It was passed by Congress  but fell three states short of the 38 needed for ratification by a June 30, 1982 deadline. There was a belief that the ERA would eliminate laws designed to protect women which led to the eventual defeat of the amendment. I wish it would have passed. We would be further along than we are now.

While my family had traditional roles, my father modeled total respect for woman. My mother was a strong woman and would not have married him if he hadn’t. Over the years, I have been astonished at some men’s attitude toward woman. An example is the weird belief that sex is transactional and that if a woman is treated to dinner, the man is entitled to sex. I found statements like that just foreign and the majority of my male friends do as well. And, there are men who are misogynists.

I was curious about what Wikipedia say about misogyny which means the hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women or girls. Misogyny is manifest in numerous ways, including social exclusion, sex discrimination, hostility, androcentrism, patriarchy, male privilege, belittling of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification. By count, check how many of these were on display during the Kavanaugh Senate hearings.

My wife has taught me about the patriarchy, i.e. the Catholic Church, our political culture, and our corporate culture. Having worked for a female entrepreneur CEO who was very successful, I have never had an issue with women in power. I am convinced that when woman gain equal power, the world will be a better place.

So, I am a feminist. Woman should be equal in all matters. And I hope my three granddaughters will see that as a reality.

Are you a feminist?

Why not?

SIN AND EVIL

I was introduced to the concept of sin when I went to Sunday school at an Episcopal church; and have been exposed to those who preach to us sinners. A sin is an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law. And, I do not see myself as a sinner. I don’t believe in divine law and so I don’t transgress against divine law.  I guess I could say that I am a good person who has done some bad things that are minor. I have not stolen from others, other than an occasional grape from the grocery store or the miscalculated change. I have never physically hurt anyone. In fist fights in junior high school, I was mostly on the receiving end. I have never abused anyone. I don’t think that I have ever really been mean. That does not mean that I have not unintentionally hurt someone’s feelings and or that I am some saint. It just means that I have lived life as a good guy.

Now that being said, on reading the above, it seems pretty sanctimonious. I have hurt people. I have made them mad and hurt feelings. Most the time by having judgments about what they do, not about who they are. My son is a good example. As a father and someone who cares about him I  want him to lead a happy life, and when I judge that he is not doing things in his interest, I have made it known. And, that has really pissed him off at times. And there have been other people in my life to whom I have voiced judgements who have been hurt and upset. If there is anyone reading this who thinks I need to make amends, let me know.

I asked a Catholic colleague of mine one time when she last sinned. And she said very recently. She stated that she had sinful thoughts. Wow, isn’t that something. The Church indoctrinates people to feel guilty about their thoughts as well as their actions. Yep. Better not look at an attractive woman or man with some imagination or you will go to hell. That’s one of the ten commandments, right.  What an ingenious way to exert power and control over others. You have to come to us to confess to your very thoughts.

How about evil?  In the movie Judgement at Nuremberg, two prosecutors are talking and one states that the root of evil is the lack of empathy. That really struck me. In what way am I evil? Do I lack empathy? Of course I do. And there are acts of omission and acts of commission. Taking action to do harm is evil. Failing to act? Perhaps that is just cowardice.

And I can’t absolutely say that I am incapable of evil. Too many normal people have done evil. I recently read a survey that 70% of people have thought about murdering someone at one time in their lives.

So are you a sinner?

Have you ever been evil or personally known anyone who is evil?

Do you need to make amends?

SUMMARY

As an introduction to my summary of the last 12 blogs, here is a video which represents a simple present moment; the love and connection between Judith and me. Our connection to nature, to the flow of life, the wind, water, and the sailing technology a thousand years in the making.  We come together through the permutations of our respective lives and the lives of our ancestors and the history of the universe. It is a testament to our having lived lives that are qualitatively and materially better that most humans. With these blessings we are brought together in a simple sublime moment. And, the present moment is superior to and transcends all speculation.

Now with that, I am going to speculate.

I have no idea where or why the universe exists. My life and the universe are a staggering mystery. My place in the universe is so small, it is not a place. My place in time is so short, it is no time. The universe is impersonal. Without life, it is without meaning or consciousness. With the complexity of life, the Universe becomes conscious and meaningful. My cosmic vocation is to give meaning to the Universe for me. 

Facts and evidence along with rationality are important. Evolution and climate change are proven. Anti-GMO and Anti-Vax is batty. It is useful to examine false premises and to be willing to drop them. The sun rises and sets and yet paradoxically, the earth goes around the sun. The motions of the planets do not influence the affairs of humans.

The Bible is a book that is written by men not by God. Good Bible stories and precepts cause good things. Bad Bible stories and precepts have caused death and destruction of millions. A current example is that pressure from some religious leaders has resulted in the banning of a number of anti-AIDS campaigns, including condom promotion in Africa. This may have caused the deaths of thousands of men and women and children; perhaps more.

The false premise that we began examining is.. A rationalistic scientific way of thinking is the only way to the truth of reality.  This is because my bias is empiricism and rationalism. Science can only explain reality.

I explored consciousness. Consciousness is a mystery to scientists. It is difficult to scientifically research subjective experience, although it is being done with some credibility. Non duality is an “experience“ of consciousness where the subjective sense of oneness and connection with everything is a real phenomenon, although a relative few have experienced it.  Some non dualists think that the world only exists in our consciousness and is revealed to us by observation. So, the moon did not exist before mankind. This, in my view, is nuts. This is almost like creationists who declare that nothing existed before a few thousand years ago.

In looking at Psi phenomenon, I found little of it credible. I am trying to keep an open mind; however, it is difficult because so many charlatans pollute the landscape. Kinda like televangelists and faith healers.

I then looked at Christian dogma and declared most of it as invalid for me. I do adhere to Christian values, of tolerance, love, and compassion. These values are expressed in many other religions.  What you believe is up to you. Just don’t try to convert or control me and I will do the same for you.

And as far as death is concerned, I, like you, will have to face it. Although there are thousands of stories and beliefs of life after death, there is no credible evidence for this. It is a mystery. And what the hell, I have known my entire life that I will die in the midst of the mystery.

I will continue to explore these ideas and others in future blogs. Meantime I have an invitation for you. If you want to talk about this stuff on Zoom webcam, email me. I love to be in conversation.

Here is a compilation of all the blogs written so far.Bruce’s Reflections Blog 2018

DEATH

I died on January 11, 2000. My heart stopped and my lungs quit functioning. There was no heartbeat and no air going into and out of my lungs. There was no time; no past, no present, and no future. I was not aware that I existed. I was gone.

Twenty-five minutes later my heart was restarted and my lungs inflated. And, I was taken off of a heart/lung bypass machine. Three hours later I became conscious and a breathing tube was taken out of my throat. I had been unconscious for five hours while undergoing open heart surgery to repair the mitral valve in my heart. I was totally unaware and I only knew that I was alive when I woke up.

This has happened again in 2013 when I had a five hour operation to rebuild my broken arm from a bike accident. At stage 4 anesthesia there is no awareness. A total blank. This is unlike sleep where one dreams and there are at times some sense of awareness.

Based on my personal experience, my belief is that when I die, it will like going into a deep sleep and not waking up.  My body will be gone. I will no longer cast a shadow. I will no longer exist. So, there is really no need to be afraid of being dead. I just won’t exist. Just like my parents, Frances and Lee, my brother Gordon, and my son Brian, no longer exist; and my deceased friends and billions of other humans in the past.

Being born is waking up having not gone to sleep. I will be in the same place as I was in March 1941 prior to my conception. No place. And of course, there is the mystery. Who knows if there is life after death? No one knows and if someone professes to know, they are coming from their own personal subjective experience.  

Now how about the process of dying. That I fear. I used to joke that some idiot is  going to whisper in my ear on my deathbed “This is going to be a growth experience.” I now know that it is. Some die quickly almost instantaneously like my son Brian who was killed in an auto accident. But many die slowly. And for those who do, it can be a transcendent experience. 

I have been reading Grace in Dying by  Kathleen D Singh. She was with hundreds of individuals who were dying and found that almost all of them  moved through phases of chaos, acceptance and then surrender leading to peace and transcendence. I hope to do that and to rise above the suffering when I am dying.

I know that as one approaches death, material things fall away and relationships and connection with others emerge to be the most important. I do believe that we are born to love, and that love is perhaps all that ultimately matters to us.

What is your take on dying?

Life after death? Continued consciousness?

 

BELIEFS

The Apostles Creed.

   I believe in God, the Father almighty,
   creator of heaven and earth.
   I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
   who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
   born of the Virgin Mary,
   suffered under Pontius Pilate,
   was crucified, died, and was buried;
   he descended to the dead.
   On the third day he rose again;
   he ascended into heaven,
   he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
   and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
   I believe in the Holy Spirit,
   the holy catholic Church,
   the communion of saints,
   the forgiveness of sins,
   the resurrection of the body,
   and the life everlasting. Amen.

As a boy, I was an acolyte in the Episcopal church. The apostle’s creed was recited out loud at every service. When I was about 15, I realized that I was an acolyte to please my grandmother. By 20, I was a pain-in-the-ass atheist, asking people whether an all-powerful God could strike a match on a wet piece of soap. I came to understand the Holy Communion as a cannibalistic ritual taken from pagan times and that passages in the bible caused the deaths of millions of people.

And now, I do not believe in anything in the Apostles creed; the immaculate conception, the virgin birth, the resurrection, judgment, saints, and the rest. It is a hell of a story, but it is not true. So am I a Christian?  I say yes.

Many years ago I read The Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus. I “got” Jesus. The message is simple: Love, Tolerance and Compassion. That is it. Everything else can be ignored including sin, hell, redemption, and all that other dogmatic stuff.  And “Christians” who are not loving to all, tolerant of all, and compassionate for all, are not following the teachings of Christ.

I have changed to a secular value system, which I think is the trend. As Europe has become more secular in the last 50 years, has it become less moral? It has not. There can be a moral value system based in culture and humanistic values without religion. In fact, many think that religion has a negative net value. YouTube debates on whether religion does more harm than good are fascinating. The anti-religion side usually wins.

While I am not religious associated with dogma,  I am still a seeker of the transcendent and continue to try to seek truth beyond the logical and physical.

And, I am deeply respectful of others’ personal experience and their connection to their personal God or whatever brings them awareness of that which is greater. I remember seeing a Hindu woman turn and leave a shrine of a Goddess and the peaceful expression on her face was the same as those leaving the altar from the Eucharist. You won’t find me arguing with you about your internal experience.  And of course, don’t discount mine either.

So, what are your beliefs? Do they match mine or is there something you want to add?

 

PARAPSYCHOLOGY

In an attempt to show that physicalism is not the sole basis of reality,  I have researched a little about parapsychology. By the way, physicalism means relying only on science for the truth.

Parapsychology is the study of paranormal and psychic phenomena which include telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, near-death experiences, reincarnation, apparitional experiences, and other paranormal claims. It is identified as pseudoscience and yet continues to be investigated despite being unable to provide convincing evidence for the existence of any psychic phenomena after more than a century of research.

The challenge with investigation of these kind of phenomenon is that they are not conducive to the scientific method and are almost entirely anecdotal in nature.

I have listed below examples of parapsychological phenomena with links to Wikipedia articles, all of which debunk them with lots of citations. And there are not many entries that try to rebut their invalidity.

Mediums
Speaking to and hearing the dead
Demonic Possession
Being possessed by an evil spirit
Reincarnation
Living individuals reveal past lives
Psychokinesis
Moving objects with your mind
Aura Reading
 See light around a body
Near Death Experiences
Remote  viewing and heavenly experiences while almost dead
Telepathy
 Reading others’ minds
Precognition
 Knowing a specific future event
Remote Viewing
See things beyond one sight
Astral projection
Going to another place without your body
Clairvoyance
Various forms of ESP
Objects that have magical powers such as or magnetic bracelets, electrical devices

Much of above is believed and practiced by well-intentioned people, but some are frauds and tricksters who do these things for money.

All of us have anecdotal stories that support this stuff, including me. I was transported out of my body to the ceiling when I was 10 years old. My son read my mind when he was three. These are stories, not explanations. And, one story does not make the case for paranormal phenomenon .

Most of  the research is based on “a belief in search of data rather than observation in search of an explanation”. Kinda like creationism.

Near Death experiences are certainly real, but do not demonstrate that there is an afterlife. See this article on the physiology of drugs and NDE’s.

The One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge was an offer by the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) to pay out one million U.S. dollars to anyone who can demonstrate a supernatural or paranormal ability under agreed-upon scientific testing criteria. A version of the challenge was first issued in 1964. Over a thousand people applied to take it, but none have been successful.

Susan Blakemore, parapsychology researcher for 30 years, revealed what she found in researching  paranormal phenomenon. And guess what she found. Nothing! Listen to her interview on Closer to The Truth. She made the statement that if these phenomena were shown to be true, the entirety of science would be upended. Let’s hope that it happens. just for the excitement of it.

There are serious organizations with reputable people who continue to investigate these phenomena. These include:

Institute of Noetic Sciences -Wikipedia
The research reported on their website is sparse.

University of Virginia Institute of Perceptual Studies
Their books are 800 pages and cost $50. Not exactly written to convince a wide audience.

So, does parapsychology prove the premise A rationalistic scientific way of thinking is the only way to the truth of reality to be false? I doubt it. However, I am interested in your views, particularly if you can cite specific research that supports any of these phenomena.

NON DUALITY

Have you ever fallen in love with being alive? A number of years ago I was hiking on Tequille Island in Lake Titicaca, Peru. As I approached a vista from the trail, I had this exquisite feeling of aliveness. I felt connected to everything far beyond my physical body. There was a sense of oneness.

Non Duality describes an experience where your state of consciousness shifts and your sense of self falls away to something larger and expansive. It primarily refers to a state of consciousness, in which the dichotomy of I-other is ‘transcended’, and awareness is described as ‘centerless’ and ‘without dichotomies’. Although this state of consciousness appears spontaneous for me, it usually is the “result” of prolonged meditative/contemplative practice. One can also experience non duality through a Near Death Experience or psychedelic drugs. Perhaps you’ve experienced the sense of oneness at a time in your life: perhaps a lot.

The essential discovery of all the great spiritual traditions, including Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Zen, Sufism, Kashmir Shaivism and Judaism, is that experience is not divided into a perceiving subject, an entity known as ‘I,’ and a perceived object,  world or other. There is a Oneness.

Rather than quoting spiritual teachers, here are quotes from physicists.

Einstein said that “reality is an illusion all be a persistent one. Space and time are modes in which we think, not conditions in what we live.”  

Werner Heisenberg, Nobel prize winning physicist stated, “The universe is not only stranger than we think, it is stranger than we can think”.

Erwin Schrödinger, Nobel prize winning physicist stated, “ We do not belong to this material world that science constructs for us.  We are not inside, we are outside. We are spectators. The reason we think that we are inside in the picture is because our bodies are inside the picture. The plurality that we perceive is only an appearance; it is not real.”

Now take 4 minutes to listen to this video beginning at 42.00 to 46.37. You will learn that the universe may be an illusion and that it may only exist when it is being observed.

Now let’s come back to non duality.

If everything is just boundless energy, then there really may be no separation.

The apparent separateness between you and the external world is powerful illusion that seems to divide the Oneness of experience into two separate things, when in reality everything is one.

And, when you “awaken” to  this sense of Oneness, there is a dramatic shift in your being. There is happiness, joy, love and transcendence.

There are many non-dualist teachers who suggest that reality is totally subjective and that all matter is only created through awareness, i.e. observation. So rather than the physicalist objective lower right quadrant being the only reality, the non-dualists say that the subjective upper left quadrant is the only reality.

Now, if all of this has not made your head explode, search non duality on the web and learn more. Some teachers include Rupert Spira, Tony Parsons, Jeffery Martin and Tim Freke. And if my musings have really gotten you into this, take the time to hear one of Freke’s lectures.

So, does non duality prove the premise A rationalistic scientific way of thinking is the only way to the truth of reality to be false? Well perhaps rather than either/or it should be both/and. Can we entertain the paradox in the same way as Schrödinger’s cat? Two opposites can both be true.

How are you with paradoxes? Can you entertain two conflicting realities?

When have you experienced a sense of oneness? A sense of non duality?