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Culture Current Events Philosophy

The Mask of Freedom

Moreso now than any other time in recent memory, we are being asked to weigh the risks and benefits of every action we take. Of course, life is always like this, but the pandemic has certainly brought this daily challenge to the forefront of our minds.

And like any modern challenge, many have retreated to their comfortable fortresses of ideology. If you favor reopening, you are a monster who wants to kill everyone. If you favor continuation of self-isolation, you are a fear-mongering Karen intent on reporting everyone having fun or trying to make a living during these dark times.

The masses will convince you there is no inbetween. You can’t possibly consider the virus a serious threat and value your personal freedom.

They are wrong.

Throughout this pandemic, I’ve been fairly consistent. This is a serious virus that needs serious attention by everyone. Those at higher risk should be even more vigilant. But I have not called for any government action, no police raids on kids’ basketball game, and no laws dictating what people can and cannot do.

And yet, if you show just the slightest bit of deference in the position of one of these two impenetrable castles, you are immediately scolded by the opposite side.

I shouldn’t be surprised. This kind of binary thinking and political brinkmanship was in place long before the virus.

At my core, I believe in freedom. Positions favoring the individual should be the default, but we do require others to live in our modern society. We cannot forget that.

Freedom is a double-edged sword. It gives us tremendous liberty at the cost of tremendous responsibility. Some of this responsibility is to be good protectors and stewards of our land, our friends and loved ones, and our greater community. We show the love of our neighbor not through draconian laws but through compassion and empathy.

Wearing a mask and staying six feet apart from others is not just to protect yourself. It’s to protect others. If you don’t feel the need to protect yourself, you still shouldn’t bring harm to others.

I get it. Masks are uncomfortable. But what is the alternative? Wilfully harming your friends and neighbors?

You see, freedom is a tricky thing. Freedom doesn’t mean you will be free from sacrifice. It doesn’t mean you will always be right. It doesn’t mean you should do something just because you can.

It means you take responsibility for being better, for growing as a person, and striving to minimize the inevitable harm you do to others as you live.

Freedom is a powerful tool to respect and use with wisdom. If you hold it as a bauble to justify your actions, even if they potentially harm others, you aren’t ready for it.

Categories
Culture Philosophy Politics

Shifting Perception

Would you still be as conservative, liberal, “woke”, “red-pilled”, or some crazy combination of those if you had been born ten, twenty, fifty, or perhaps one-hundred years ago?

What if you had been born in another state? Another country?

This is an interesting and worthwhile thought experiment because it demonstrates the malleability of our cultural perceptions.

We are undoubtedly unique individuals with perception filters crafted over our lifetime of experience. But with rare few exceptions, we don’t invent an entirely new lens. Our friends, family, hardships, successes, and the very culture we live in shape this lens.

We call it ours, and rightfully so. We earned it. But adjust just a few settings in our lives and our views may dramatically change.

By demonstrating just how flexible our perception filters are, we see how it is silly to hate someone with a slightly different lens. They may be wrong, and we certainly may think they’re ignorant, but ignoring their path–the very path that helped shape their mindset–is a dangerous fault that leads to prejudice, zealotry, partisanship, and our own mental stagnation.

So, try the experiment for yourself. Play “what-if” with your cultural attunement control panel and see what could have been. The results could be interesting.

Categories
Friendship Nature Philosophy Spirituality

Reflections on a Hallows’ Eve, or Losing a Friend

It is immeasurably convenient for us that the year is separated in light and darkness. Unless you are at the equator, the night dominates October through March, and the day reigns from April through September. The spring and summer are ideal for starting new projects, growing existing ideas, and preparing for the harvest of our labors. The fall and winter are dedicated to reaping those bounties, reflection, and rest as we prepare to enter the cycle once more.

The cooler, rainier weather beckons deep introspection. This inward gaze demands we examine the ups and downs of the past year. It’s been a good year for me. I’ve accomplished more than I ever thought possible. I have little to complain about. But, like everyone, there are things I sincerely wish could have gone better.

Any honest person could come up with quite a few items of regret. I could fill a legal pad, no doubt, but one thing that happened roughly a year ago sticks out in my mind this October. The change of season reminds me of what was lost. As I contemplate the year, I’d like to share an experience of mine. The names and particulars are omitted.

One of the perils of the age of information is that the context of our typed words is often lost. It is this precise oversight that let slip a casual comment on the polarity of our world, and that comment hurt someone. I spoke the truth, as I saw it, and, with most off-the-cuff remarks, I gave it little thought. My principal mistake was not exercising greater discernment with my words.

The comment related to the concept of excess polarity. The love and light crowds of new age spiritualists are quite popular these days, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that at a surface level. But, if you dig deeper, the denial of shadow–the focus on exclusively good things without confronting our demons, can be horrendously toxic.

Most would agree that too much darkness leads to chaos and depravity. But many have not considered that too much light can be just as bad. Zealotry, haughtiness, and willful ignorance to problems are evils all their own. In pointing this out on some meme I have since long forgotten, the assumption was made my words were aimed at my dear friend.

They weren’t, but it didn’t matter. It started a chain reaction that ended the friendship. I don’t regret the message I felt compelled to share–that too much of anything, even light, is bad, but I know it could have gone better. Like with any forest fire, there were tragic losses.

The forest fire, despite its devastation, clears out the old brush and makes room for growth. This is not to say my friend was old growth, but the fire, in this case, represents old patterns. Just as we can co-create with others, we can co-destroy. Sometimes we challenge ourselves, or perhaps unconsciously conspire with others, to spread flames so that we may someday see that new growth. We hope to see the beautiful blossom that sprouts from a seed miraculously spared from the fire.

We can look back at the forest and admire its beauty and treasure it for what it was–a friendly union of souls that briefly shared a path. And, if we’re lucky, we might catch a glimpse, in either one of us, those sprouts of knowledge and companionship we sowed.

That is the gift of destruction.

And so, as we ponder and marinate on the shadow on this dark half of the year, we learn from our mistakes and take stock of our lessons yet to learn.

What are your reflections on the past year? What mistakes have you made, and what do you hope to accomplish?

I hope you all have a blessed fall.

P.S. Like musings on all topics animal, vegetable, mineral, or philosophical? Check out Birgitte Rasine, a fellow writer who I met long ago on a radio show and who’s work I enjoy reading. I think you will, too.

Categories
Nature Philosophy

The Dark Half of the Year

The cycles of nature are more than a metaphor for our lives – they are at the heart of life itself.

Life basks in the glory of the light half of the year, but the journey doesn’t start there. A new life has its roots in the depths of winter, on the coldest of nights, being nurtured by the inner warmth of the earth under a blanket of snow. As the snow thaws, that once insurmountable barrier lifts and the seed sprouts forth, soaking in the sun and rain of spring.  In summer the plant matures and brings forth new life.

Slowly, the days turn shorter, the nights cooler, and the plant ceases to grow. It turns inward, saving its strength for the darkness to come. Leaves fall, vines retreat, and bare branches remain. The tree waits for the light to return, and slumbers in the dark half of the year.

Humans are more complex than trees, but we are nevertheless an integral part of this constant cycle of death and rebirth. We retreat in our homes in the cold, damp, and dreary months and focus more on ourselves and our families. The holiday season marks this occasion as joyful abundance in the face of natural adversity.

At one time we were not so disconnected from the dark half of the year – we struggled to survive during these inhospitable months. We conserved energy. We lived off of our savings. And we endured, patiently waiting for the sun’s return.

And because the human spirit is eternal, we persevered.

One can see this cycle throughout the day: we feel compelled to work and thrive in the sunlight and to rest and relax in the moonlight. We plant our crops in the light half of the year and harvest in the fall for a long cold winter.

The wise human will do more than just note the time of day or the day of the year – they will see, not with their eyes, but with their very soul, how we are an inseparable part of this cycle. We may witness this cycle sixty, eighty, or even a hundred times before we return to darkness.

And then, in the depths of winter, when our grand tour of life seems over, we wait, patiently, under the snow, ready to be born anew.

 

Categories
Philosophy Spirituality

Bad Things Happen to Good People

It’s a comforting thought that good people experience good things and bad people experience bad things. But, as anyone can observe, this is not always the case.

It can provide comfort to imagine a cosmic order of judgement. But nature doesn’t judge. It isn’t interested in our definition of good and evil.

So why do some good people endure hardships, and some bad people seem to have all the luck?

The point of this life is to grow, to learn, and to experience. Some come into this life with a more in-depth lesson plan than others.

We should not measure someone’s worth by how good they seem to have it in this life – rather we should measure their bravery by the challenges they endure.

The courageous soul is often the most unfortunate one. They have taken on many challenges. I admire them for the brave souls that they are.

Categories
Philosophy Politics

Something needs to be done about this!

I’m sure you’ve heard and said that many times.

Here’s a secret: No.. actually, it doesn’t.

By saying others need to do something to address a fear or concern of mine, I am, interestingly enough, giving up control.

I’ve gained tremendous insight about myself by examining my mindset when I make this statement. By asking: “What am I afraid of?” I learn just a bit more about my fears, and in doing so, I gain a valuable tool in overcoming them.

We don’t evolve by forcing others to accommodate us. We grow by facing our fears and taking responsibility for the enormously powerful free will we possess.

 

Categories
Announcements Philosophy Spirituality

Authentic Living

One of my new years resolutions in 2018 is to live an authentic life. The immediate question that comes to mind is – Robert, were you not living authentically?

Yes and no.

For sure, I try to be a good person. I think most of the time I succeed in that endeavor. I do not deceive and try to harm none. But my moral compass is not the focus of this change.

I live a genuine life, but many do not know the real me. Of course, there’s no reason for me to put my entire life in the public view. I am not that kind of person. I do not seek to validate my life through social media or my blog.

That said, I have denied myself  the opportunity to connect with my readers in a more genuine way. My books bare aspects of my soul, but my communications have suffered under two decades of trained corporate filtering.

It’s time to change that. It’s time to be authentic.

What does that mean for you, the reader? It means you’ll be hearing a lot more from me in 2018 and beyond. Rather than posts and messages sieved through a business-minded filter, I will be sharing details about my life, thoughts, and philosophy in a meaningful way that I hope you’ll be able to use in your life.

About 10 years ago, shortly before I started my first novel, I had a spiritual awakening. I emerged from years of post-Catholic atheistic malaise and dove head-first into exploring the world’s religions. I spent considerable time examining both popular and esoteric belief systems and philosophies and learned a lot. Some of that wisdom has seeped into the pages of my books.

Around the time of my second book, I discovered unknown fragments of my heritage. At least 85% of my ancestry comes from Irish and Native American  lineages. I had always felt a connection to these traditions, but never knew why. When I embraced the cultures, I fell in love with the Celtic traditions of ages past.

My ancestors who lived and died in Ireland gave me the benefit of a wonderful rich mystical heritage that has invigorated me in my spiritual studies. My writing improved when I connected with these traditions, and I felt as though I was finally living authentically.

Despite this, my public connections via social media and my blog were still twinged with marketing fluff. Sure, you read the real me – I actually typed those things and mean every single word. But I kept so much back from you. My celebration of the seasons, my rejoice in the majestic elements of nature, and the utter joy I feel being part of this beautiful creation is something I intend on sharing with you, not keeping to myself.

This doesn’t mean things are going to be all happy-shiny-wonderful. I adore the light and seek its truth and wisdom, but I will not be afraid to dive into shadow. It is in destruction we see the seeds of creation, and no life can be lived with any modicum of truth and balance without addressing the darker sides of our nature.

In the embrace of shadow we vanquish our demons and welcome the soothing warmth of day.

So, now it’s time to introduce myself as the real me. Robert, the author, the writer, the mystical spiritualist, the historian, philosopher, and general goofball who is trying, just like you, to make sense of this world.

Pleased to meet you. Let’s restart this journey together.

Categories
Culture Philosophy Spirituality

The Little House of Cultural Expansion

I watched an episode of Little House on the Prairie named Injun Kid last night and was struck by a pivotal moment of cultural expansion. It was subtle, but well played, and analyzing it yields a fascinating look into human psychology and spirituality.

In the episode, a half-Native American boy and his mother arrive in Walnut Grove. His grandfather is embarrassed by his presence and insists that his daughter say she adopted him. When the boy refuses to stand for prayer at church, his grandfather yells at him and informs him he must comply or be punished. The child runs away to a nearby stream and prays for peace between with his grandfather.

Laura inadvertently interrupts his prayer. He explains that he was praying.

souix_prayer

Instead of reacting in fear or hatred because he had a different religion, she reached for common ground.

You mean you were saying a Sioux prayer?”

In that moment, Laura’s entire cultural perspective is changed. She had known nothing but Christianity all her life. In an instant, her mind expanded to see the layer above her faith – the fact that others have belief systems radically different from her own. The moment was well played by Melissa Gilbert. She caught the nuance of the exchange quite well.

Totally absorbing yourself in your culture and religion is an incredible experience – one that benefits the universe by allowing it to gain another unique perspective on the zeitgeist of your cultural paradigm. But when you step back and see other cultures, compare their similarities and differences, your mind expands.

Simply knowing other belief systems exist will invariably change yours, which is why many religions fight to keep outside influence from “corrupting” adherents. It’s a shame, because some of the deepest faith and spiritual wellness one can have is by practicing spirituality in full knowledge that yours is not the only valid approach.

We all bring a unique piece to the universal jigsaw puzzle. We are singularly qualified to offer our unique channeling of spirit to others and the world. When we do this in full knowledge of what others offer, our own experience is enhanced. Our mind is expanded, and we stand on the precipice of evolving to a higher plane of existence.

Star Trek: The Next Generation sums this idea up nicely in the next to last scene of All Good Things…

Categories
Philosophy Spirituality

Faith and Responsibility

The universe rewards faith and responsibility in equal measure.

No matter your belief system, you probably would agree that if you have faith, at least in your own abilities, you are more likely to succeed. This has been shown time in time again both in studies and in most people’s personal lives.

Religious and spiritual people tend to have faith in a greater force than themselves. Some call it God, some refer to multiple gods, some call it the universe, the all, or some other unique but all-encompassing name. Whatever you choose to call it, or not, faith in something is important for success.

Responsibility is seemingly at odds with faith. If we are to believe things will work out as we desire, should we just wait for it to happen? If our lives have a plan and we are following them regardless, should we push anyway, or allow it to come to us?

To better answer this question, outside perspective is helpful. If you believed an injured person will heal regardless of what you do, would you still render them aid and help however you could? Of course – most people would.

Turning this back to ourselves – imagine you are faced with a difficult challenge. Since most of us are, this isn’t hard to imagine. We can have faith that we will overcome it, and this will increase our chance of success. But we still must put forth the effort in meeting that goal.

For a deeper perspective, I like to turn to nature. Animals have complete faith in the universe providing for them. Though some stockpile food for the winter, a sign of responsibility, they do not live in disbelief that the universe will work out the way it should. In nature, faith and responsibility go hand in hand in perfect balance. As always, we can take a page from the Earth’s equilibrium.

Having faith and personal responsibility are not mutually exclusive.

Categories
Philosophy Spirituality

Judgement (or How to Be Human)

It is our task in this life to judge. It is what we are built to do. To judge, discern, and examine self, and this world we chose to be in, is our most noble task.

One of the greatest misconceptions about the spiritual journey is that we live in judgement. This notion of a great book filled with our wrongs is simply a human misconception. Since we judge, we assume that any higher being would judge. I submit that any higher being would have no need for this trait of humanity.

Spirituality is not about living up to a list of principles carved in stone, rather it is a journey to examine the mystery of why we are certainly more than we appear to be. It is a quest for inner peace, to gain profound knowledge, and to maximize our delivery of the most precious thing we can give to others: love.