Tag Archives: New Year

Rethinking HOPE

New years are traditionally welcomed as a harbinger of fresh hope and the opportunity for new beginnings. In these perilous times, I have searched my heart for the most realistic approach to fulling the eternal hope for love, unity and survival which everyone everywhere shares in common – a way that acknowledges escalating world challenges while balancing them with their inherent potential for renewal.

Because it rings true as the vision of realistic hope, I have chosen to return to this simple essay, written in the year 2000, included in Conscience: Your Ultimate Personal Survival Guide.

May your New Year be filled with the blessings of your dearest heart’s desire.

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ESSAY 63. HOPE

Ephesians

Here the people could stand it no longer and complained of the long voyage; but the Admiral cheered them as best he could, holding out the good hope of the advantages they would have. He added that it was useless to complain, he had come [to go] to the Indies, and so had to continue it until he found them, with the help of Our Lord.  — Christopher Columbus, Journal of the First Voyage

We live at a particularly perilous moment, one in which self-deception is a subject of increasing urgency. The planet itself faces a threat unknown in other times: its utter destruction. . . The splitting of the atom, said Einstein, has changed everything, save how we think. And thus, he observed, “we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.” — Daniel Goleman, Vital Lies, Simple Truths

We are seeing a health care system in pain, people in pain, and a world in pain. I believe that something can be done to make it better. — Patch Adams, Gesundheit!

THE FRONT

Webster’s defines hope as a feeling that what is wanted will happen. It is a desire accompanied by expectation. It can mean that which one has a hope for. It can mean a reason for hope. A meaning listed as archaic is to trust or rely.

In I Ching context, hope transcends short-sighted wishing and emotional wanting. It is a trust that one has the wherewithal to respond appropriately to every change of fortune. It’s not total self-sufficiency, but awareness that one’s efforts are met half way. When one does the best one can, the rest is supplied in the right way, at the right time.

Daniel Goleman emphasizes the direct relationship between honest self-awareness and survival. Like Einstein and like Strauss & Howe (authors of The Fourth Turning), Goleman is a messenger of awareness we’re often trained to block out. His vision is in synch with The Book of Change philosophy in this: ignoring dangers, deceiving ourselves that all is well when it isn’t, doesn’t make problems go away. It only renders us powerless to recognize early warning signals in time to prepare and ameliorate the worst that might come.

In The Fourth Turning, Strauss and Howe emphasize that declining resources will necessitate major changes in healthcare delivery. Anticipating that the cost of health-care will continue to rise and become increasingly unaffordable, they recommend that cost-effective, affordable alternatives be in put in place now. Forward-looking health practitioners are therefore now turning to inexpensive, preventive self-maintenance practices like Tai Chi, Qigong and yoga.

There are hidden benefits to timely austerities. Though it is unfortunate that people see fit to return back to self-responsible methods only as a last resort, if the prospect of hard times returns people back to their more simple and beneficial roots, it serves as a blessing in disguise.

In his epistle to the Corinthians, St. Paul wrote of hope in the context of faith and charity. His hope isn’t Webster’s hope of wanting and expecting. Like I Ching hope, it is trust that human events which make no sense in the short-term fit into the larger pattern of life, and that God’s will does in the long-term prevail.

THE BACK

The opposite of hope is despair. Seeing one’s situation as hopeless is a self-fulfilling prophecy. So long as one places hope in externals, one feeds the illusion of powerlessness. Turning the focus of hope inwards makes all the difference.

Self-deception is a perversion of hope. Lacking a concept of cyclical change, linear thinkers hope to control time. They defy the aging process or pretend change can’t or hasn’t happened rather than adjusting and benefiting from new opportunities that arise to replace the ones which pass away.

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WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET

After months of over nights engrossed in writing Rethinking Survival, the kaleidescope has turned. Time to put on another hat. It’s now or never. Give form to thought. First I produced the Kindle version and now the paperback edition. Quite a strenuous project. A friend likened it to giving birth.

Tonight, Friday, December 27th of the waning year 2013, I’m waiting for final approval of the submitted book. How, then, do I announce this new arrival? It’s full of hope for the New Year, yet so fragile in its uncertain future.

When I draw on my memory banks for the best way to describe my concern, I’m remembering a powerful experience from Oberlin years. It was the mid 1960’s. I was a college Freshman. The occasion was a performance of Brahm’s A German Requiem.

I was seated towards the back of the upper balcony in Finney Chapel. This 19th century, church-like assembly hall was fitted with wooden pews and a large front stage. The Conservatory Orchestra and College Choir were seated up front. The chapel was filled to capacity with a mix of students, faculty and “townies.”

The Requiem wasn’t new to me. As a member of the Festival Choir at Interlochen’s National Music Camp, I’d actually participated in an earlier concert. So the power of the music was reinforced with memories of intense rehearsals.

The unforgettable, dirge-like opening weighs on the soul with its ponderous message of mortality. ” . . . all flesh is as grass, and the glory of man like flowers. The grass withers and the flower falls.”

But at Oberlin, I had the misfortune to be seated behind a clique of music students. (Conservatory students called their building the Con. We called them “Connies.”) They were remarkably oblivious to the solemnness of the Requiem. Throughout, they showed off their cleverness by critiquing the performance. In stage whispers, hissing derogatory remarks. A soloist’s pitch was off. The conductor’s tempo was too slow.

However, right next to them, ignoring the Connies entirely, sat a single listener, engrossed in his attention to the music. His right elbow rested on the pew before me, his hand resting on his chin, as if deep in thought. I could actually hear his wind-up wristwatch ticking in time to the morbid music. It took my breath away. It seemed as if the watch was in synch with the Brahms, confirming the shortness of human life on Earth. The countdown clock was ticking for those with an ear to hear.

Were the Connies rude? That was the least of it! They’d totally missed what Brahms had labored to communicate to us from an earlier century. What a loss.

Were they correct in their technical assessments? Maybe, so far as it went. I wouldn’t know. Because I was listening for the music, not the mistakes. This was my choice.

I made this decision at Interlochen while attending student concerts there. On the one hand, I realized, I could listen with my physical ears, focusing on the limitations of amateur musicians. But that approach would have driven me crazy. I’d have made myself miserable.

On the other hand, I could listen with the heart. I could open myself to what the composer heard with the inner ear and done his best to express in the language of music. I could admire the energy of enthusiastic, sincere students who loved the music and were doing their very best, however imperfectly, to measure up to it. That was the beneficial path of gratitude and enjoyment.

In the English language, we use the same word for both the piece of paper upon which physical notes are printed . . . the sheet music . . . and for the music itself. In contrast, in the German language of the Requiem, two different words are used to distinguish between the notation and the actual sound.

Just so, I agreed with myself not to worry so much for the technical notes, but instead to focus on the actual music. I chose to listen with the inner ear to hear what the composer intended and what merely human musicians labored to recreate. Here Brahms was reminding us with his dark, brooding music that mankind, as numerous as blades of grass on the face of the earth, is perilously mortal. Like flowers, all human greatness ultimately comes to naught.

But the Connies missed it in their chit chat, hearing only with their physical ears.

This memory serves to illustrate the choices available for approaching Rethinking Survival. It’s my best hope that readers will meet me half way — that they’ll focus not on the book’s technical mistakes but on its substance and value. This book is about survival in the very literal sense of the term. And like the Requiem, it balances short-term warnings with long-term hope. Brahms completes his reminder of mortality with the confirmation of immortality: “The word of the Lord endures for eternity.” Rethinking Survival mirrors this balance.

In short, what I’m offering is the very best I could do given limited time and finite resources. For the sake of the message, I urge readers to forgive an imperfect messenger for the sake of the message. Because what you see is what you get — either a powerful paradigm or a less than perfect physical book. Your choice.

 

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Rethinking Gladwell’s Tipping Point

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 The Call to Positive Action

 Malcolm Gladwell, author of David and Goliath, earlier wrote The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. In the language of Einstein’s atomic physics, it’s called critical mass. In the world of ideas, it’s the trigger point of a paradigm shift. Gladwell describes it as magic:

 The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. . . A precisely targeted push can cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate.

His book identifies the catalysts which precipitate a tipping point. Psychological studies are analyzed to name the key elements of social change. At the right time, a handful of people with the right idea and the right messaging can make huge waves. With three key ingredients in place, what seems to happen spontaneously, almost mysteriously, can be deliberately replicated.

Three special kinds of people are necessary to precipitate a paradigm shift. Gladwell profiles the personality types whose combined effort makes the difference. He calls them mavens, salesmen, and connectors.

Mavens are the experts who know their subject in-depth and in great detail. They delight in sharing their knowledge to help others. They have no agenda other than to be of service, so people trust their information. In this case, the information being shared is the perennial philosophy embodied in the Positive Paradigm. It radiates from the center of the wheel.

Salesmen have a knack for tapping into what the public wants. They’re keenly perceptive about human nature and are therefore persuasive in getting others to buy what they have for sale. Salesmen are in touch with the middle level of the wheel. They connect with human motivations to energize basic hopes (namely, for survival) and fears (of extinction).

Connectors take joy in building extended networks of acquaintances. They’re the matchmakers who introduce friends to other friends. They’re the doers who spin the wheel round at the surface of the rim. In this case, they have the ability to spread the Positive Paradigm message worldwide to everyone with the common sense to hear.

Put these three special kinds of people together and there’s magic in the making. The levels of creation can be linked and unified. A powerful idea presented persuasively to the public and carried around the globe by word-of-mouth can travel faster than a speeding bullet.

Rethinking Survival is the work of a maven. I’ve spent a lifetime refining these ideas. I’ve worked hard to express them in a simple, clear and hopefully entertaining way. I take delight in the possible good that could come from sharing them.

But, true to life, there’s always a down side. The lifestyle optimal for writing such a book disqualifies me from wearing the hats of a connector or a salesman. My strength in one context is a weakness in another. I’m a deeply private person. Knowing my limitations, I’m calling on the strengths of my readers to balance out my weak spots. I’m not independently wealthy. (Joke!) I have no support network of family, friends, agents and publicists. I need you to ACT as salesmen and connectors on behalf of the Positive Paradigm. Together, we can work miracles.

What Gladwell describes in terms of psychological studies also expressed in Chinese philosophy. Here’s the tipping point idea from Lao Tze’s perspective:

Passage 78

 Nothing under heaven is as soft,

receptive or pliant as water;

but when amassed,

nothing withstands

its tidal wave impact.

 As water penetrates and dissolves the hard,

erodes and absorbs the rigid,

those who yield and encompass their foes

prevail long after evil doers

have disappeared.

Like water, the sage absorbs the world’s suffering,

endures its hardships,

and responsive to the times,

becomes the catalyst

of collective action.

So it is that the low and high trade places,

and the forceful lose their influence;

this is known by many,

but practiced by few.

 This passage applies to promoting the Positive Paradigm idea in the following way. A solitary writer is like a single drop of water in the ocean. But an idea whose time has come, when spread by word-of-mouth and owned by the masses, can take on the force of a social tsunami.

I have no political clout or social standing. But I’ve allowed nothing to discourage me in my determination to be a catalyst of collective positive action. I’ve experienced my share of hardships. I identify with the world’s suffering. So I trust that, having done my best, it will be enough.

This book will survive by surfing the tidal waves of Titanic times. Because there is a mighty zeitgeist stirring the air. Its force is obliging everyone on the planet to make critical choices. Its power is driving us to take action.

It’s a question of which worldview will prevail. Everyone must choose. (Failing to choose consciously is also a choice.)

Do we cling to dysfunctional paradigms that have brought us to the brink of Titanic disaster? Or do we opt for Einstein’s new way of thinking? Do we choose to be, or not to be? To survive or perish from the face of the earth, that is the question.

So if you’re ready and willing to tip the balance in favor of human survival, BE PART OF THE SOLUTION. SPREAD THE WORD. Urge everyone you know who stands to benefit from Rethinking Survival to read it and then act on it. Do so with passionate conviction. Now! Fill the all-important roles of salesmen and connectors.

And may the Force be with you and your friends, Now and into the New Year!

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