Archive for July, 2010

If a tree falls in the woods, but there is nobody there to hear it, does it make a sound? When I was younger and I heard this riddle, I thought it was a pile of crap. Of course it makes a sound! You don’t have to be there to hear it!

Then I taught a fifth grade block on acoustics. I had never really thought about the fact that our ears and their innards are devices contrived to catch vibrations that wiggle through the air after some disturbance has occurred. These vibrations are translated by the other soggy tool that many humans have: the brain.

If a tree falls in the woods, it makes vibrations that wiggle through the air. But vibrations in and of themselves, are not sound. They are vibrations that have the potential to be sound.

What’s the point? Following my therablog posting on violence and the apparent disconnect between two highly touted ways of being in the world (thinking positively will bring joy to you v. being aware/conscious of dangerous situations will keep you safe as described in Gavin De Becker’s The Gift of Fear), I attended a Rosicrucian conference in San Jose, CA. The speakers talked all about the connections between our thoughts and our material world (health, wealth, joie de vivre) and how we create our world anew every moment, through our thoughts about it.

About a month or so ago I bookstore-perused a book entitled Five Steps to a Quantum Life: How to Use the Astounding Secrets of Quantum Physics to Create the Life You Want. The author, Natalie Reid, spoke about a phenomenon that you may be familiar with: once you buy a red car, you see red cars everywhere. She raises the question–were you not seeing them before because you didn’t notice them, or were you not seeing them there before because they actually weren’t there until you became conscious of them?

That sounds stupid, until you think about the above tree fall riddle, and mix it up with the utterly astounding complexities that scientists from every part of the globe are presently testing: string theory (the theory that elementary particles are long strings of light vibrating at different modes like guitar strings), multiverses (parallel universes or alternate realities, in which another you might exist, which are created with every choice that you make) and brane theory (that alternate Universe in which you might live could actually exist upon the skin of one of those vibrating strings mentioned earlier). Who do you think you are? When you make a choice, if another you is whisked away into another Universe, having made a different choice, are you her too? Or is she somebody else now?

Your choices on how you perceive the world (what you are conscious of) create your reality by collapsing the waves of possibility provided by subatomic particles swooshing all around you. (Read more about this here.)

Further questioning, does evil (or violence) exist if you choose not to see it–i.e. choose to not believe in it? Can we choose what we want to perceive in the world? I certainly know that I have experience folks with high abilities to choose what they hear–selective hearing.

One commenter mentioned on my last posting that thinking positively doesn’t preclude the necessity to be aware of potential dangers. But, is it possible that just by acknowledging the fact that someone or something could be harmful to us, we bring violence into our reality when it wasn’t there before?

If you reject negative particles bouncing toward you as non-existent, like the red cars that you don’t see…would they then simply move on and bother someone else who does believe in them, someone who will collapse that experience out of the sea of possibilities?

Rejecting the possibility of danger is a tall order, I know…and one that to test you’d kind of have to be willing to be murdered. I’m not sure what I think about it.


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(photo by Toni Frissell at Weeki Wachee spring, Florida, 1947)

In my quest to begin this microseries on violence I went to the library (I love summer vacation). I entered in the keyword violence. Many, many hundreds of titles came up, two of which caught my eye right away. The first book was called The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Methods that Protect us from Violence by Gavin De Becker. The second was called Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear by Max Lucado.

Whoa! There’s a paradox for you…fear can save your life and make you miserable at the same time.

I grew up going to Unity Church, which is of the mind that we create our existence–good or bad–through our thoughts. Negative thoughts (which may be unconscious) may bring about negative experiences. An example of this viewpoint (which is certainly NOT singular to Unity Church) can be found in the book Good-Bye to Guilt: Releasing Fear Through Forgiveness, by Jerald Jampolsky.

In this book a woman writes to the author describing a knife attack in the laundry room of her apartment building. She was badly injured and the attacker ran away (apparently uncaught). After this event she and her husband decided to move which started a snowball effect of miracles: they finally bought the house they had been putting off, the realtor invited the woman to join her meditation group, the woman stumbled onto Jampolsky’s work, she was able to heal from her initial trauma as well as uncover other emotional issues that she had been repressing.

Since then I look upon my attack as a crisis of fear, an attack, if you will, of myself on my old way of “not-being.” Toward the man involved, from the moment if happened, I felt a curious distance, a sense of impersonality (behind the fear) as though he were an actor playing a role. In came the crashing realization that if I had caused my attack, it was all in my power. I could choose not to have it happen again. (Judi from Good-Bye to Guilt)

Gavin De Becker has a different, much less philosophical take on violence. He focuses more on the perpetrator than on the victim. He feels that people who commit violent acts are highly predictable, and that it is up to us (as potential victims) to understand and recognize the signs of someone capable of violence and to not put ourselves into/get ourselves out of dangerous situations. He shows that prior to most violent encounters there are subtle and obvious warnings. We must learn to trust our intuitions and challenge the social norms that allow us to make choices against our better judgement. “Which is more ridiculous?” he asks, “waiting a moment for the next elevator, or climbing into a soundproofed steel box with a man you are frightened of?”

So. Why does violence happen? Is it random, or do we somehow play a part in attracting it to ourselves? Both of the above sources seem to be saying that we do, indeed, often make choices that bring atrocities to us, one through negative thinking and one through ignoring bodily and other warning signs in an effort to not rock the boat. But these books also highlight a disconcerting contradiction: should we be looking for violent people so that we can avoid them? Or should we be focusing our thoughts on good, in order to attract it to us?

I don’t know the answer. It doesn’t appear that the ole’ “little bit of both” solution will work either. How can you be sizing someone up gauging their potential for violence, as you are looking at the good in all situations? I’m stymied…for now.

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I watched The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo last night. (Be warned, this blog is a major spoiler for the movie. If you haven’t watched it yet and you want to, stop reading now and come back tomorrow.) I thought the movie was pretty good. Having not seen any trailer for it or read the book, however, I was a bit shocked at the horrible and raw violence that transpired at multiple points during the movie. There is a rape scene that was particularly traumatic.

While the plot was not save-the-world good, the cinematography, the soundtrack, the cold, icy setting, the main actress and, surprisingly, those scenes of violence definitely made a strong impression on me. So strong that I’ve spent a good part of today thinking about them.

Spoilage beginning now: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, who has been broken by a traumatic past, and the hero News Reporter stumble onto the solution of a forty-year old unsolved murder case (there’s way more to it than that, but I’m trying to stay under 400 words). The killer is a pathological serial rapist/killer, whose father taught him how to strangle a woman when the killer was 16 years old. (ick). There’s a chase scene (after TGwtDT finds out the truth and saves the hero from being murdered) which ends with the killer begging TG to help him escape his overturned vehicle which is on fire and is (as usual in a movie) about to explode. TG walks away and the killer dies.

All that is well and good, but my favorite part (not really) is where the Hero with the Heart of Gold discovers what she did. He tells her that  the killer’s father was awful too, in an attempt, I suppose, to get her to feel sympathy. But she says that the killer had all the same chances and choices that everybody has. He made his bed and she doesn’t feel bad (that’s not verbatim).

Heart of Gold says that HE would have never let the man die, but he can understand why she did.

The thoughts that were provoked by TGwtDT were as follows: Why are some people so violent? What’s inside some people that permits them to act in such a way? Why does revenge feel so justifiable? How can there be such bad people in the world? What is the best way to deal with the reality that people do awful things? Learn more about it? Turn away from it in hope that I can create my own non-violent reality? Would Jesus be mad at the girl for walking away from the vehicle, knowing that God put her in a body and a life that would teach her to be hardened?

So cometh a therablog microseries on violence.

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(Robert Fludd)

This is a follow up to the posting about my smart cells. (If you haven’t read it yet, read it now and then return to this page to complete your process. It’s required.)

I haven’t read the new-ish Dan Brown book yet, because I fell off the self help book bandwagon (I have a deeply entrenched addiction to self-help books). Today I read this in the book called The Gift of Change, by Marianne Williamson.

Remember, every thought we think takes us and others around us either straight to heaven (an awareness of our oneness) or straight to hell (the ego’s state of separation). If we think good about the world, then we’re liable to see it. And if we think bad, we’re liable to see that too. We achieve so little because we have undisciplined minds.* We allow ourselves to wander far too easily into negative thoughts and negative word. And from both come negative experience.

Since all minds are joined, conflict between any two of us contributes to war, and reconciliation between any two of us takes us closer to world peace. Our smallest judgement adds to war, and our smallest forgiveness adds to peace. Miracles affect situations we will never even know about.* Thoughts of true peace in Idaho affect plans for peace in Palestine. What an extraordinary opportunity as well as responsibility we have, to try and get it right. (asterisked sentences are from Course in Miracles Workbook)

Definition of microcosm from thefreedictionary.com:

A small, representative system having analogies to a larger system in constitution, configuration, or development: “He sees the auto industry as a microcosm of the U.S. itself” (William J. Hampton).

etymology–Middle English microcosmeman as a little world, from Old French, from Late Latin microcosmus, from Greek mikros kosmosmikrossmallkosmosworld, order.]

In Biology of Belief, Bruce Lipton says that every cell is like a “miniature human.”

Each eukaryote (nucleus-containing cell) possesses the functional equivalent of our nervous system, digestive system, respiratory system, excretory system, endocrine system, muscle and skeletal systems, circulatory system, integument (skin), reproductive system and even a primitive immune system.

Inside our body are 50 trillion cells. More than 10 times the human population on the earth. And as the Swami pointed out so eloquently in yesterday’s blog, all the cells in the community inside our skins get along just fine.

We each have 50 trillion “miniature humans” inside our skin. (Don’t be grossed out, its cool!) These are microcosms, tiny communities within larger communities, within larger communities…and it goes on and on forever. Infinitely forever. Furthermore, if something funky is happening on one level…it’s happening on the other levels too. In both directions.

What an extraordinary opportunity as well as responsibility we have, to try and get it right.

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(human blood cells)

I was listening to the radio the other day and I heard the end of a report on some military exploit involving death and shooting. I thought to myself how great it would be if leaders of different countries could trust each other enough to know that the other guy wouldn’t hurt him or try to do anything bad to him on purpose. That way everyone could stop the cycle of eye-for-an-eyeing.

But then I remembered that half the time I can’t even get along with my friends and family–people who I know would never wish failure on me.  I hold grievances, protect my assets, make false accusations (sometimes knowingly!), point fingers, and generally act like a tyrant waging war on my fellow humans.

How can I expect world leaders to act any different toward actual enemies when I choose and wage battles with people I know and love?

I am the dictator of Suesylvania.

Yesterday I went to see Swami Beyondananada at the Oregon Country Fair. During the talk he said that he thought men had nipples as decoys in order to attract other nipples. “It seems to be working,” he said, beaming beneath his purple turban.

While that was a very funny bit,  my favorite part of the talk was when he mentioned our human bodies. “We have a system of 50 trillion cells working here. There’s no unemployment. All the organs are working together…you don’t ever hear that the liver has invaded the pancreas now do you? If we could only remember the intelligence of a single cell, we could get along fine!”

Microcosm and macrocosm. If I find myself complaining about the national budget, I’ll think do I have my finances in order? If I find myself angrily muttering about BP polluting the ocean, I’ll think am I making good choices for my own body? If I find myself wondering when our world leaders will get it together and stop ordering the deaths of so many soldiers, I’ll think have I learned to live without fear of attack?

Because until I can do it on my small level, I’m not doing my part to help humanity evolve to the next level. That which is above is the same as that which is below…

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Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods. –Einstein

Long hair reduces the need for barbers; socks can be done without; one leather jacket solves the coat problem for many years; suspenders are superfluous. –Einstein

Today I was driving down the road and I saw a man driving a van with his arm dangling out the window. I was thinking about something else and I glanced over and thought to myself, hairy arm. That was all. Just hairy arm and then back to business. But then another voice, a voice that sounded a little like a man who might do the voiceovers on a toothpaste commercial, entered from stage left and exclaimed, no, no, NO! That arm is so very hairy! Don’t you feel  squeamish looking at it? Ew.

At this point we had stopped at a red light and so I glanced back over to the man’s arm to check if I felt squeamish about it. No. No, I don’t feel squeamish. It’s just a hairy arm. Leave me alone Toothpaste Voiceover Man Head Voice.

Oh, said TVMHV, then left me alone in the car.

I’m taking a meditation class at the Brahma Kumaris Center here in town. Yesterday the teacher spoke about a thing called sanskaras, which are grooves carved into our consciousness by our past experiences. Once something happens the same way more than once, it creates a groove or a rut. When we have a new experience which is similar to something that happened to us in the past (maybe I heard somebody say once that hairy arms are gross?), we can slip into the groove of our sanskara as a shortcut, because it’s easier than recreating our response anew again.

Some sanskaras are good, like organizing your desk when you feel stressed out or putting flowers on the kitchen table for dinner. Often though, our sanskara do not benefit us. Maybe you get enraged when someone cuts you off on the street. Maybe you lie about your age. Maybe you judge people with hairy arms. You perceive the world, and then you make a judgement based on your past experience.

But what if you’ve changed your mind? Or you want to change your mind, but your sanskara is so deep that you just keep doing the same thing despite your desire to change? The teacher of my meditation class said that we must train our intellect to take charge of the thoughts that run through our heads. Otherwise we are pulled through the world on these pre-carved ruts, and we cease to have the ability to make our own, authentic way.

I’m proud of myself for using my intellect today. Somewhere in this world is a man with hairy arms who doesn’t need to defend himself from my invisible but damaging judgmental thoughts. It’s a small but worthy victory. Aahhh. Sweet victory.

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(Painting by Albrecht Durer)

Several months ago I was at the airport, kicking around the bookstore, like I usually do in airports. I saw the new thriller by Dan Brown.  I have a sort of love/hate relationship with Dan Brown. I find his work to be intellectually stimulating on many levels, if I can successfully maneuver the machismo/misogyny combo platter which is offered up with a nice healthy side of violence. (To be honest, I’ve only actually read The DaVinci Code.)

I am thoroughly impressed with any author who is able to take an academic topic (in this case art history) and weave it into a fictional story that is palatable, nay…desirable, for today’s finicky American readers. It’s really quite difficult to do without dropping a bunch of information that you (the author) find to be extraordinary in every way, but doesn’t have anything to do with the story line. Example:

The two girls walked down the street happily. Suddenly, Girl One grabbed Girl Two and shrieked loudly.

“Girl Two, is that a black hole over there by that fire hydrant?!?! Did you know that black holes are a region of space from which nothing, not even light, can escape!?” exclaimed Girl One.

“No, I didn’t know that!” said Girl Two as they continued off down the street hand in hand. “Fascinating!”

That sort of thing is easy to fold into an academic fictional story and to think that it might slip by the reader. But readers are usually pretty smart. They know when you’re trying to trick them into learning something, unless you’re really neat about it, which Dan Brown is.

Anyway. All of this is  a long segue into my real topic of the day: wanting stuff. At the airport that day, I wanted The Lost Symbol. I read the inside jacket. Then I flipped the book over and nearly choked on my “The Country’s Best Yogurt” frozen sorbet treat…the book cost nearly $30.

That is a restaurant meal for three people, including the tip, said my brain.

Yes, answered my heart, but the meal disappears into energy and waste in a matter of hours. This book will stick around for years.

You’ll never read it again. It will go on the shelf for a few months and then you’ll sell it for $3 at Smith Family for a 90% loss in investment. That’s pathetic, says brain.

But think about Dan Brown! He is a struggling writer, just like us. How long do you think he toiled upon this opus? Surely that is worth the suggested deniro? replied heart, imploringly. When heart starts using weird words to distract brain like that, I know its time to pull out the big gun. My cell phone.

Dialing: M-Baby Home Line.

M-Baby: Hello?

Me: I’m in the airport. I’d like to get a $30 book. What do you think about that?

M-Baby: You have a shelf full of books here. Wow! Thirty dollars! That is a restaurant meal for three people including a tip!

Me: I know. But it’s the new Dan Brown book.

M-Baby: The guy who wrote DaVinci Code? That movie was really violent.

Me: I know. But my heart really wants to read it.

M-Baby: Baby. You do not need another book. Especially one that costs thirty dollars and is probably available at the library.

Me: You’re right, I don’t. I’m just going to go and sit by my gate and look at one of the four boring books I brought along with me specifically for reading in the airport.

M-Baby: That sounds like a good idea to me. I’ll see you in a few hours.

And so I did. And I survived. And I didn’t even ever think about the Dan Brown book again after I hung up the phone.

The point of all of this is that I found Dan Brown’s $30 book at Goodwill yesterday. It cost $3.49 and it even had a extra cool dust cover on it because it came from some library that I’d never heard of. (Why would a library get rid of a new Dan Brown book? Are people bored already? Maybe someone lost it, had to pay the library for it, then found it later…)

The lord works in mysterious and unknowable ways. My heart is full.

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