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Tag: change

Are our cultural differences becoming less significant?

Cultural differences quote on desert background.

“The old differences separating one system from another now are becoming less and less important, less and less easy to define.”

From ‘Myths To Live By’ by Joseph Campbell

In my opinion, cultural differences were becoming less important.

The more we all were able to see each other, travel, read and experience cultural differences, religious and political differences, etc., the more we seemed to see our human similarities. It was rough at first, but felt as though things were going to get better. Maybe those differences wouldn’t be so important.

It seems, though, that in response, those that hold power in the old systems are getting worried. That worry translates into power grabs and sometimes violence. It’s a dangerous time to be living in, mostly because it seems so easy for one group to turn on another.

A common tactic, which we are seeing now, fifty years after Campbell wrote this book is to set up divisions, throw out land mines of opposition. False information, gossip, and scare news, are thrown around in ways far easier to accomplish than ever before, especially now that those that live in cities are being ordered to stay at home and not gather with others. People from outside the cities are ordered to stay out of city centers. We all get our information through “social networks” and the national and worldwide news media, through our phones and computers, with no way to confirm what we’re seeing there with the actual physical world around us, except those of us that refuse to comply with those orders.

We humans crave order to our universe.

We can’t stand not knowing what the plan is, who’s in charge, and what the rules are. In general, we’re much happier building up illusions and myths about the world around us, than facing the chaos and uncertainty that real life is. Strange isn’t it? I wonder what kind of evolutionary help that was. What was it about creating stories about the world around us that made it more likely the next generation would survive?

My opinion? The more you can know about others, the more you move outside your own circle, the more you realize that we’re all basically the same with wildly different ways of filling those identical needs of food, relationship, and procreation. Cultural differences slowly become far less important.

The more we stay separate, the more walls we build, the easier it is for us to be used as tools. There is, and always has been, a small group of people that believe they know what’s best for everyone else and are happy to take care of the rest, by force if necessary. And there is also a much larger group of people that simply want to live their lives without the burden of independent thought.

There’s a third group, though. One that wants to be left alone to live their lives as they see fit, take their own chances, and accept responsibility for their own choices. They want to explore the world of people and thought on their own terms, using their own resources. They don’t need a mythology to control the world around them. They want to embrace those cultural differences, the chaos, and live within it, as part of it, with no one to blame for the outcome but themselves. They believe anyone can, and would choose to, live this way if they were only shown it was possible.

I used to believe that third group was growing in size, as I feel Joseph Campbell probably did when he wrote this book in 1972. But this past year has put a lot of holes in that thinking. Maybe we aren’t so evolved as I had begun to thing. I’m still watching and waiting to see what happens. I still have hope that it’s only a minor setback.


Want to read this book? You can get it on Amazon HERE.

It’s That Old Feeling of Overwhelm Again

“Post, a man of his times, tapped into a fin-de-siecle American fear. The pace of change – with telegraphs, electricity, railroads, ticker tapes, and economic booms and busts – seemed overwhelming.”

Uncommon Grounds by Mark Pendergrast

This was the turn of the last century, 1897. Can you imagine someone being transported from then to now? I believe it would hit him like a ton of bricks. Our pace of change – with the internet, smart phones, social media, 24-hour news, and economic booms and busts – is overwhelming to most of us and we aren’t even aware that we’re feeling it.

Can you feel it creeping up on you, that sense of overwhelm?

We are told, by our social media friends and advertising, that we should be doing more to stay on top of things, follow this, vote for that, boycott these companies, and rage against these kinds of people. We should be raising our children, maintaining a career, and building our bodies and minds at the same time. And don’t forget all the other atrocities that are happening all over the world so that you can have your $3 drive-thru coffee on the way to whatever it is you are going to do!

We feel bad when we slow down and unplug. As if the world’s activities are somehow our responsibility and we’re slacking big time.

In response to this silent and sneaking sense of overwhelm, we lash out at each other in anger and frustration every chance we get.

And thanks to our instant electronic connection with the entire population of the world, we get that chance very often. We send ripples of intensity, fear, sadness, electronic screams out into the world with every keystroke or thumb click…and then wonder why there is so much ugliness out there.

The internet is evil! Smash your smart phone! Delete your social media accounts!

Nah…don’t fall for the hype!

These tools are capable of doing so much for us in so many good ways. We just need to learn how to use them. Fire was once only an unruly part of nature, destroying everything in its path, until we learned how to use it more wisely. The same goes for every force and every invention. There is a learning curve and there is pain to any learning experience.

Until then, don’t fall for the hype and fear mongering. You don’t need to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Take breaks, regroup, breathe, and remember those are people out there just like you…maybe not as smart but they’re working on it. Give each other some space to learn and grow.

Does Change Have to be Violent?

Change… “will come to pass by violence and upheaval, by flame and by fury, for no change comes calmly over the world.”
“It will be so. We do not will it so.”
“Ignorance is king. Many would not profit by his abdication. Many enrich themselves by means of his dark monarchy. They are his Court, and in his name they defraud and govern, enrich themselves and perpetuate their power.”

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

In the story, I totally agree. A big change is coming and it’s yet to be seen whether or not it will be a good one; good in the “better for all of mankind” kind of way.

But I don’t think change must be violent. Big dramatic changes can disrupt everything, but small, steady, almost unnoticeable changes can be just as good and for more people. The Grand Canyon was slowly eroded into what it is today, or was it? Children are can be born and grow up without violence and pain. A tree grows from seed into a towering pine over hundreds of years.

But I like the small line in the middle most. “It WILL be so. We do not WILL it so.” Inevitability. He believes he’s stating a natural law. He doesn’t want violence, but violence will be the natural consequence of the changes that are coming to their world.

Is progress always violent? Growth spurts are inevitable, I suppose. The more we try to reign in the changes of technological advancement, the more problems we cause in the long run possibly; the old adage of ripping the bandage off quickly.

An Old Analogy, Sure

Wool is an amazing thing. Thousands of tiny strands are woven into one long piece of yarn. Each fuzzy piece is brushed and lined up with others. As it’s twisted, each piece reaches out to the ones next to it and bonds to the next, and the next. It can go on forever if you kept feeding it.

Watching a video showing how wool yarn is made reminded me of this quote from Orson Wells, “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”

Humanity just keeps stretching out over time like one long piece of yarn. Each new human is added to the spindle and it touches the lives next to it and the next, going on into the future. Only in fiction does a story start and end. We create it in our minds. This is the story of X and it starts here with this and ends here with that. It’s up to us whether or not the story has a happy ending.

Reality, or at least the reality that we perceive, doesn’t work that way. It’s continuous, never-starting and never-ending, a chicken or the egg thing. With every event that happens in this world we can ask, “What happened before that?” and “What happened after that?”

I used to believe my Grandmother’s story had a tragic ending until I zoomed out to see the bigger picture and found that her story never really ended at all.

My Grandma was the center of our family, the key to all our gatherings until suddenly she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Her health faded quickly and within a few months, she was gone. She was 70 years old. I don’t think any of had ever even begun to think she could be leaving us any time soon. It was a big shock to our whole family. A shock that, 15 years later, we’re all still recovering from in some way.

Did her story have a tragic end? Only if you end it there, but you’d be creating that ending, manufacturing it in your mind. In reality, her story is still being told. It’s being told in how her family reacted to her death and how her children and grandchildren adjusted without her physical presence. It’s still being told in family photos, holidays where we talk about her, and how we all, including her great-grandchildren, still feel the effects of her presence in our lives.

And if you zoom out, she is simply another small piece of wool in the yarn being spun, a thread in a tapestry that continues to be woven. We all are. We all die but no matter how far we zoom out, the picture never ends. No matter how far we zoom in, we keep seeing more of the details that make up our universe.

When things seem scary and overwhelming, I like to imagine zooming the lens out and make those things smaller, tiny details in an otherwise beautiful story. Suddenly, I’m not so worried.

My belief, my hope really, is that when we die, when we leave this physical world, we can zoom out even farther and see an even bigger, more glorious picture than we can imagine from this perspective.

Jump

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Photo by Blake Cheek on Unsplash

Sometimes we have to just do the thing that might ruin everything, the thing you might fail at, the thing that could change everything, just to see what happens.

That’s where the growth is.

And growth is what keeps us living.

Learning to Understand and Accept Change

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Photo by Ramiro Martinez on Unsplash

There is something important that I’ve recently learned to understand and accept. Things change. And they don’t always change permanently. Analogies about the cycles of the moon have become cliché but maybe there’s something to it after all.

I never really noticed the changes in the moon until I moved to the rural desert. The living room of our desert home is mostly windows, which makes the moon-rise, and the sunrise for that matter, very visible. Through our mostly uncovered windows, it’s obvious that the sun and moon rise and set each day more and more to the north and south as the earth wobbles on its axis. It’s amazing to watch and makes one see very clearly why ancient people might worship this cycle. It’s very comforting.

While the sun takes its sweet time moving across the sky, the seasons change day by day, week by week, the moon gives us a whole different feeling. To me, the sun is the big picture, the whole life, but the moon is our daily struggle. She rushes across the night, coming up at different times of the day or night, in different shapes and sizes. Her cycles are quicker and more dramatic than the sun’s. One week she comes up at sunset full of herself. The next week she’s late and half-dressed. Sometimes she comes up a shell of her usual self, right in the middle of the day. Some days we can’t see her at all. And yet, no one stresses about it. No one thinks, “Oh shit! The moon! Something has upset her. We have to fix it!” We just wait, because we know she’ll be back if we leave her to her own devices.

And the moon? I don’t see her as caring much about what the sun is up to, or the earth, or us. She just does her thing and we love her for it.

What if we were more like that? What if we became more aware of our own cycles and simply accepted them? What if we understood other people will have different cycles that have nothing to do with us, and accepted them right where they are?

And why is it that we think that we must live in a straight line or a climbing staircase? These analogies cause us to believe that if we fall to the left or right of the line or reach the end of a set of stairs with no way to go up farther, we fail. We look at our relationships with the world around us as if they can only escalate or die, reach the next level or die off.

For me seems to be more of a cycle that comes around again and again, sometimes with the same person, sometimes with a different person, with any type of relationship. Whether we’re talking about a romantic relationship, a platonic friendship, a sexual relationship, or a parent, child, or sibling, etc., makes no difference. All relationships cycle through and around and back, spiraling up, down, or laterally. Even the relationship we have with ourselves.

My relationship with myself is complicated. There are days and weeks that I feel like she’s doing a fine job of all the things I expect of her. I’m proud of her accomplishments, her strength. She’s a good, responsible friend to have. And then, even though she has not changed one bit in reality, my feelings toward her change. She forgot something I wanted her to remember or took a day off from responsibility to play. I blame her for everything that has gone wrong with our life. In time, again though she’s not changed at all, I begin to fall in love with her. She’s sexy and confident and I want to be close to her, to spend time alone with her. Then it’s gone again, she’s just another woman in my way and I long to break free. Days later, there she is again impressing me with her strength and brilliance. And we’re coming around on the cycle again.

In every relationship we have, each time we go around this cycle we learn more about each other. With every successful ebb and flow of the tide of emotions, we learn to trust each other more. What constitutes “successful?” We don’t walk away from the relationship and we don’t throw hurtful words or actions at each other to make the other do or act the way we want them to only to make us feel better. Success is loving the other unconditionally, regardless of our feelings at the moment.

The more I come to understand that how I feel is not necessarily a reflection of anyone else’s behavior, but merely a season or phase of the moon, the stronger my relationships grow. Every time I learn again that the cycle will return, that every feeling is temporary, the stronger that cycle turns into a spiral ascending into the sky.

Pretty “out there” isn’t it? It’s the truth though. You won’t always be happy. You won’t always be sad. No one needs to be fixed. No one needs to be set straight. It all just is. Accept it. Be in it. And wait for the moon to cycle back again.

Personal Narratives Can Change

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Photo by Liana Mikah on Unsplash

We all have stories about how things are supposed to work out. We get them from our parents, our extended family, friends, education, entertainment, everywhere. The trouble is, they aren’t always true, or at least they aren’t true for everyone. What happens when we run into a reality that conflicts with our established narratives? Motion sickness.

I’ve always been very susceptible to motion sickness. I was the kid in the back seat of the VW bug complaining that it was too hot and turning green on the way to the grocery store. I was the one that had to sit in the front seat with the AC on in my face. I’m the one using every trick in the book, from deep breathing to focusing intently on the road ahead, to keep from having to pull over and rest on the way to anything. And not just on mountain roads! I can get sick just driving down the freeway if someone asks me to look at the map!

Motion sickness is said to be caused by a conflict between your eyes and your ears. Your eyes tell your brain that you are still, but your inner ear says that you are moving. Conflicting information causes your body to rebel and become nauseous. I’m not sure what evolutionary help this is, but it does cause someone like me to reflect on the bigger picture.

As we grow we all create these personal narratives. They make it easier and more streamlined to deal with all of life. This works like this. He acts like this. This relationship works this way. We don’t need to think about those things as much. We put them in the back of our head and work on the new things.

But what if the story we’ve built in our heads about how things are supposed to go doesn’t match the reality of the situation we are currently in? Anxiety, anger, depression, that nauseous feeling that something is horribly wrong!

Just like when I start to get motion sickness, it’s time to focus on the reality and take some deep breaths because things are about to change. It’s what I have learned to call a “growth point,” the place in my life that I learn something new, my world is about it become bigger. It can be so scary though. What if reality isn’t nearly as good as my fantasy? Then again…how can one live in a fantasy permanently? Life, no matter how complicated, is much easier to deal with when we accept the reality, or at least as close as we can come to it.

Change is unavoidable. How we deal with those changes is what makes the difference in our lives.

Do we hold on to what we believed to be true and ignore reality? Do we get angry and blame the people around us for letting us down? Do we walk away from situations, people, environments when they fail to meet our expectations? It doesn’t seem very productive. If we keep searching for the world that matches our narratives as we know them, we may never find it. We may just keep walking away from the very people and places that are offering us the opportunity to grow into something better.

What else can I do? I could stop, take a deep breath, and make some space for my feelings first. Things are changing, something is different. What is it and how can I see it more clearly? I could ask some questions. Is this person or situation failing me, deliberately hurting me, or causing me some kind of trouble? Or are they only doing what they have always done, doing what’s best for them at the moment? Will it really hurt me? Is it really wrong? Looking at the situation or person with an open heart helps. I want to understand.

What seems to help is talking to a special someone, someone that is as open to change as I am, someone that has no stake in the game. That person is hard to find and changes according to the situation. I’m not really looking for advice what I talk. I’m only looking for feedback, someone that will ask questions from a different point of view and is willing to go down some crazy rabbit holes with me. Talking to the wrong person can make my situation infinitely worse. I’ve learned to be very selective.

When I lack another human to speak with, I write. And I write a lot. I write whatever comes to mind, even the meanest and nastiest thoughts. Writing out the hurt and the angry words, the words sparked by fear and mistrust, seems to release them into the void and make space for clearer thinking. Once my narrative is out on paper alongside of the potential for change, I feel like I can think more logically. I come back to that same writing the next day and walk away feeling stronger and ready to embrace change, only to come screaming back to scrawl on the walls of my paper cave over and over again.

I talk to myself on the pages. I fight and scold and lecture, I listen and give myself feedback. Lord, I hope no one reads that stuff some day and has me committed! Some of it strongly resembles the raving of a very sick person. But maybe that’s the reality of it. At moment, I am sick. What my eyes see and what my inner ear feels doesn’t match, and my mind is reacting violently. But I know from experience, the feeling is only temporary. Focus and adjust, take a rest from the effort, and try again. It’s the only way to grow.

Change or Stay Miserable, Your Choice

I keep finding this over and over again; in books, on TV, in articles and social media posts.

“If you want things to be different, you’re going to have to change things. You’ll have to do some work.”

Over the years, conversations with friends have spun around the same subject. Over coffee I hear a friend talk about how frustrating her situation is. Over lunch I hear another friend complain about his life. On the internet, friend after friend posting about how they feel stuck.

Translation: “How do I keep doing the same thing, not make any effort or take any chances, and get better results?” The answer, of course, is that you can’t. You will need to change. You’ll either have to change what you’re doing, change how you think about something, or change where you are. You cannot remain the same, put no effort into growth, and become more than you were yesterday.

The whole thing reminds me of that commercial for the yellow pages. “If I advertised in the yellow pages, people might come to my amusement park.” We might look at our situation and think we want to change it but do nothing instead. We don’t take responsibility, the right to change things. Instead we wallow in our life and complain how complicated it is and how unhappy we are. Maybe because it’s easier or less scary than changing.

I’m not saying I have everything under control, no one ever does, but I have learned to be a lot happier over the last twenty years. I’d also say the last five years have been my biggest and fastest growing years, and I don’t mean my waist size, although I really should work on that. I’ve had some major ah-ha moments that have really changed how I see things and how I react to things.

It all started with meditation. I’d been mocking it for years when people had suggested it. I laughed out loud when my doctor suggested it to help me while I transitioned off of anti-anxiety medication. I’m not sure how long I heard the suggestion but at one point, about five years ago, I saw an ad for CALM for seventh time in a row that morning and decided to give their free trial a chance. It changed me. Something about the way they described practice just clicked for me. I’ve been keeping a morning meditation practice ever since. I do hope to spend more consistent time in practice, but I do what I can for now.

You’re going to laugh but almost all “self-help” books are great for me. I try to read a few every year. Books like “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and “Boundaries” were great, as well as “Depression is a Choice” and “I Don’t Have to Make Everything Better.”

Right now, I’m reading “Warrior Goddess Training.” There’s so much there I already know but it helps me immensely to read these affirming words again and see how much I’ve already internalized and how much I still need to keep consciously working.

This morning there was a bit in the book that took hold of me and I can’t stop thinking about it. It was about the difference between “linear” and “cyclical” living. Linear living would be thinking that if you work through life just right, you’ll get great results, you’ll always be happy, and everything will go well. But we all know that isn’t true. You can make all the “right” decisions and still find yourself dealing with a crisis you don’t think you can handle.

Cyclical living is understanding and accepting that good times come and go through no fault of your own. Some days we’re happy and that’s great, but some days we’re depressed or angry and that’s ok too. It will all pass by and cycle around. Life and death, happiness and sadness, night and day, it’s all part of the cycle. We’ll be young. We’ll grow old. We’ll have kids and care for them. They’ll care for us. Love it all.

I want to create a reminder for myself that “This too shall pass.” Remembering that will help me to love the good times because they are short and the bad times for the same reason. I haven’t made my life better by making the “right” choices, feeding my kids the right food, or training my husband to do what I think is best. I’ve made my life happier by changing my outlook and seeing where I can effectively do something and where I can be lovingly accepting of the situation as it is.

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