Noticing the Rhythm of Life: What, if Anything, can we Ever Hold on to?

Breathe in. Notice a pause.

 

Breathe out. Notice.

 

Such a basic rhythm. Ever notice the urge to hold that inbreath? Keep it still? Remember it?

 

When I’m walking or meditating and a crow or mourning dove calls ⎼ or all the voices in my head go silent and I feel rooted where I am, so calm ⎼ sometimes I feel an urge to hold that moment. Stop everything. Or we’re in our car and hear the music we most love, we might try to extend the listening forever. We hear our best friend’s voice or hear the “I love you” we’ve been yearning for ⎼ or we smell the aroma of our favorite food or see a sunrise that shatters the dark, or have an insight ⎼ how do we hold that? Can we hold onto that? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

 

We want something pleasant, good, beautiful to last; but it doesn’t. We can feel so focused as we inhale. So alive. And then we breathe out and it’s gone. The urge to make a moment last ⎼ to turn a disappearing sight, sound, feeling into a permanent one ⎼ is something we all sometimes experience. But before we realize it, the moment has passed.

 

We want to feel young. We want our life to last. Then arthritis breathes us in. Pain breathes us in. Or we breathe in and dislike the feeling, the memory. Or we fear it.

 

Sometimes, we want the exhalation to last. We want to push away the inhale; but what we push away somehow always bounces back. Hate is one form the pushing away can take; denial, fear and pain are others. We can also breathe out and let it go, happily or not.

 

We live moment by moment. But if we try to study any moment by attempting to keep it still, then it’s gone. We can’t even find the moment because as soon as we notice it, it’s already passed. Or we‘ve lost it by trying to hold it. Like picking a flower to keep it always with us, and we thereby kill it. We breathe in; holding it can feel so calming, momentarily. Then we come to a point where we must let it go or we suffocate ourselves.

 

Daniel Kahneman, in his wonderful book Thinking Fast and Slow, talks about experiments showing that people prefer to have a good memory of an event over having the lived experience be wonderful. In one experiment, Kahneman and colleagues asked volunteers to endure three episodes of submerging their hands in freezing cold water. In the first, they put one hand in water that was painfully cold but not intolerable for 60 seconds. In the second, with the other hand, they repeated the experience of 60 seconds of painfully cold water. But this time, for an additional 30 seconds, the experimenter allowed some warmer water into the tub.

 

A few minutes after the two trials, the participants were given a choice of which experience would be repeated. 80% of the participants chose the second, despite it being longer. It was the end they remembered most clearly, which was only slightly less painful.

 

Likewise, he asks us to imagine we face an extremely painful operation during which we are conscious. However, we are promised an amnesia-inducing drug that will completely wipe out any memory of the pain. Most people, he conjectures, are fine with that. They consider what he calls the remembering self as more important than the experiencing self….

 

*To read the whole article, please go to the Good Men Project.

Don’t Think of An Elephant: When Gollum Sells Sneakers

This is going to be a very different type of tale, a different type of blog, a different type of creation. It’s going to be about love and hate, finding answers and humor, protecting democracy and freedom⎼ and saving everyone’s lives, even those, maybe, who have no idea their way of thinking about others is driving all of us to a cliff edge.

 

It’s about wonder. Creativity theory can be applied to create art and wonder. We all know that. It can be used to help us make decisions, discover possibilities. I wrote a book about how it can help us educate ourselves and others and think critically about anything. Maybe it can help us defeat a person who thinks being a white nationalist, a fascist concerned only with himself, is the only way to be. Maybe it could help us discover how to turn the variety of threats we face into the energy for constructive action.

 

A neighbor and friend shared on FB that we shouldn’t post even unbeautiful images of the American Voldemort. It would just reinforce his likeness in our mind, make him stronger. We should just ignore him. Let him die in oblivion. And there’s truth in that. But then I think of the saying, don’t think of an elephant. If we try to not think of an elephant, we think of an elephant. It’s a hypnotic technique. Tell ourselves don’t think of a jellyfish, don’t think of someone trying to buy the very air we breathe, and we’ll think of it.

 

George Lakoff, a linguist, and cognitive psychologist wrote two beautiful books using that quote in their titles. One of them is The ALL NEW Don’t Think of An Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate. We can’t not think of what we’re thinking about, not think of the public leader of those trying to own the planet, own all of us, without thinking of him. Think of a beautiful sunrise instead.

 

Imagine someone turning on a switch inside us to all our worst qualities, or all our resentments, grievances; turning on all the lies we tell ourselves, while subverting all truths. Or even worse, turning off our ability to discern the truth in ourselves, or others. Which means our very ability to feel our own bodies. A lie just feels wrong in our gut. Turning off our ability to feel the wrong in our gut destroys our ability to know what to think or eat. It makes us sick. And we project that wrongness in the wrong place, onto others.

 

Once people don’t allow themselves to feel the hurt and pain they cause, how could they ever hear the truth? How could they ever allow someone else to tell the truth? It would hurt them too much; it would shatter them.

 

But this is what might be happening with DJT. Just imagine the pain he might be feeling, and isolation. The only ways he knows to deal with his feelings involve denial and inflicting them on others. Soon he’ll be telling people the Democrats are aliens from Jupiter who have taken over the government, and President Biden is an alien tyrant. Alien to DJT because he can’t believe anyone really cares about others. Oh, maybe tyrant is too big a word for him. DJT does struggle so much with big words. Or not just big words. It’s thinking that he struggles with. Stereotypes are his forte. Lies. Hate.

 

And sales. He successfully blinds millions of the willing by selling hate and grievance. But recently, he desperately tried to sell sneakers at a sneaker convention and was loudly and repeatedly booed. Is his effort laughable⎼ or terrifying?

 

He constantly mouths untruths because his mind is a lollipop land created by Gollum. DJT wants to be the Lord of the Rings, but all he can manage is Gollum….

 

*To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.

Transformative Moments with Trees: The Limits of Usefulness and the Beauty of Imperfection

My wife and I live in rural America on a dirt road on a sometimes-steep hill. Near our home, rising out of a steep bank, is an old red maple tree whose extensive root structure was torn open years ago when the road department widened the road to accommodate large snowplows. Many of us who live in the neighborhood resisted this move very loudly, because the trees lining the road were beautiful and made the road look so ancient.  A neighbor, inspired by other activists in the news at the time, tied herself to one of the trees.

 

But the resistance was short-lived. The crews with chain saws, excavating machines, backhoes, etc. came up the road cutting trees and carving out the banks. Exposing the roots of this one large tree which remains there even today as a reminder.

 

Sometimes, when I focus on the tree, it looks beyond sad. I feel a vulnerability, a pain constantly renewed, a wound that can never heal.  A wound that we humans caused, we humans with our frequent disregard for the health of the earth we depend on. Other times, the roots look very different, look like a secret layer from underneath the surface of the earth, a mystery that had been exposed. Unseen by us, there’s layers of possibly infinite interconnections all twisted and woven together. This is what we stand on.

 

Or maybe the two viewpoints are really one. Maybe there’s an infinite layer of vulnerability and pain, life and death woven into everything. And the pain is what we feel when we can’t sense the infinite weave.

 

We built our house room by room many years ago, in an old, abandoned apple orchard, fitting it in-between trees so we wouldn’t have to cut any. Outside our front door is one that is probably over 100 years old. It barely holds itself together anymore. Its trunk has a large hole running through its center and only three medium-large branches are left alive. It has some blossoms every spring but no edible fruit. Yet, it persists, and we can’t bear to cut it down.

 

Our cats would object strenuously if we did. They depend on the tree as a ladder to the roof and the second story of the house, where their cat window is placed. They love siting on a limb of the tree and looking down at the wildlife that enters the yard. The tree also provides some shade to the front of the house keeping it cool.

 

One morning years ago, when we had almost completed the first room of the house, and the tree was younger and still bearing fruit, I went out to feed the birds. We had a feeder, but also scattered seeds on the ground. This was before we had any pets. A few birds quickly appeared. The first was a chickadee. Maybe the tree had been feeding it for years, so when I held out a hand open with seeds, one bird flew into it to grab some food and fly off.  I was so excited; I offered my hand again. And the bird, or some bird, returned. Maybe the birds saw us as kin to trees.

 

The tree speaks to us, although at a frequency beyond our hearing, but not beyond our feeling. It speaks of a bond between us. I used to clean old bark off the tree every spring, which exposed new growth. It felt to me that the tree took it as a massage, because afterwards it always looked refreshed, more colorful, and alive. I don’t know if that feeling was in the tree or in me, or maybe there was no difference. Maybe this was what the tree spoke to me about. About silent bonds. About living for relationships. Maybe because of my affection for the tree, it felt like the tree had affection for me….

 

*To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.

What Makes a Relationship Work? Allowing Another’s Well-Being to Be as Important as Our Own

This might be one of the most challenging blogs, stories, poems I ever tried to write. It tries to get to the heart of my life without getting too personal, which is clearly a delicate balance. It was written or is being written both at night, in my dreams, and in the daytime. We might all know or think we know what a relationship is. But maybe it’s also something more than we realize, constantly changing as we live.

 

Blogs often arise when I see a hint of what is usually not seen and then follow it, try to open it up, or open me up. Last night, for example, I had this feeling that there was nothing more to write about, nothing more hidden away. Then, in a dream, the hidden side of that feeling was exposed, and there certainly was something there. Something that is almost always with me.

 

In the dream, a young boy and a woman were sitting at a table with me. I didn’t know the boy. My dream self knew the woman, but I don’t think my daytime self does. We were talking about human relationships, particularly intimate ones, and the boy kept asking, what do you mean?

 

For me, like most teenagers and people in their early twenties, relationships of any type, family, friends and certainly lovers, were one of the most important aspects of life. It was not just about fun and pleasure. It was an attempt, a yearning, to get to know how another person experienced life, experienced pains and joys, challenges, and insights ⎼ and to get to know how other people saw me. Such an experience was too fascinating, too powerful to ignore. At its base was the desire to love and be loved. I thought of each person that attracted me as a mystery waiting to be revealed. But unfortunately, I only found glimpses of what I sought. I didn’t know how to go deeper. It felt like I might lose myself if I did.

 

Then it, like everything, changed. I met someone and realized I could truly love this person.

 

The psychologist Carl Jung theorized that when we’re first attracted to someone, we’re perceiving in the other elements of ourselves we’ve denied, lost, or neglected. Our attraction is an attempt to recover what was lost. We project an emotionally charged image of the other person, creating a fascination for them. And likewise, we can think this other person is responsible for our own emotions, our love.

 

But to maintain a relationship, we must let go of what first attracted us, let go of this image and fascination, to find the reality, find the truly breathing person. And if we think of the other as the source of our loving, we never see, never truly feel, who we are. We give up our power over our own emotions and look for ourselves in the wrong places. We get habituated to looking outside ourselves to satisfy what lives inside us. Instead, we must make a decision of sorts, to be honest about who these two beings standing here, now, are.

 

In the dream, I said to the young boy that a loving relationship isn’t really a relationship at all, and it’s not just between two people. But I’m not sure what the dream me meant. It sounds deep, but maybe it’s got a dream logic that makes no sense in the daylight.  Relationship– the roots and etymology of the word takes us to re, meaning back or again, and the Latin relatio, or refero (I relate, refer), fero meaning to bear or carry. It can mean a type of association, kinship, where we carry inside us another being. Another being comes alive in us. Maybe, we bear the weight of feeling vulnerable, and allowing another’s well-being to be as important as our own.

 

Maybe the dream me was referring to the fact that we all exist in a larger setting, a community, a world. Or maybe he was talking about something else……

 

*To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.

 

**The photo is of my parents.

 

 

Freeing Ourselves in the Infinite Right There on the Horizon: I Wish the Sky was not Cloudy All Day

Just look at the sky on a clear day. Just look. Unfortunately, I can’t do it right now. Aside from 2 minutes today, I haven’t seen a clear sky, haven’t seen an unobscured sun for over a week. Even today, it was more a glimpse of blue I saw, not the sun. Haven’t seen more than 5 or 10 hours of clear sky for a month or more. Snow falling, yes. Not big storms, not like the ones that were common years ago, but just enough to paint trees and bushes gray and white. Clouds, mist, fog, rain⎼ this we’ve had in abundance.

 

Sometimes, with the snow, there can be a sense of getting lost in it, enveloped. The whole sky seems to be falling. The sheer number of snowflakes is impossible to fathom ⎼ a mystery pushing aside my attempts to understand it and leaving me as silent as the snow itself. Fog and rain have their own beauty. But they can also create a sense of being locked in, claustrophobic, isolated. People experience SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder. And now, maybe, we have CCAD, Climate Change Affective disorder.

 

A clear sky is dazzling. It’s hard to feel bad when we have that rare sunny winter day. And I think it’s not just the light that makes us feel good. It’s the composition of the sky. It’s the spaciousness. It’s so different than the earth, the trees, buildings, mountains, more like the oceans and rivers. It’s the infinite right there on the horizon waiting for us.

 

But even on sunny days, how many times do we allow ourselves to simply stop and focus on the sky? We spend so much of our time with our heads down. And we don’t realize sky is not just that blue or gray stuff way up there, but it’s that clarity right in front of our eyes. We spend our time too caught in the human-created universe. And so, we get claustrophobic. Feel clouded in, isolated. Not so aware. Maybe deprived.

 

This is true at night, too, although I wonder if more of us look up at night, at the stars and the moon, than during the daytime ⎼ if we don’t have trouble seeing the night sky through city lights or other pollution, or fog, clouds, rain, or snow. But if we can see the sky clearly and go beyond naming the stars we see or giving words to how the moon shows itself to us, the infinite sky is there for us.

 

One evening 50 or so years ago, I had a big argument with my father. I had returned from serving in the Peace Corps a few months previously, had applied and been accepted to graduate school, even had a scholarship. But I did not have a job. It would be six months before college began. And I was thinking about hitch-hiking across the country. My father was appalled. Angry. How could I waste my time like that?

 

He was a successful accountant, a survivor of the depression and World War II. He just couldn’t imagine not working all the time to build an impressive resume or to accumulate financial resources. But as soon as his anger subsided, he became very real and honest. He said that when he went out at night and looked up at the stars, he got lost. He didn’t use the word frightened, but he described it. The night brought the infinite, and maybe death, into his heart and it scared him.

 

He said that the only way he could face the night was to work. Was to have a schedule. Was to devote himself to his job.

 

I was silenced….

 

*To read the whole article, pease go to The Good Men Project.

What is Personal Strength? One Way to Demonstrate Who We Are

What is strength? Weakness? It’s not just aerobic capacity. It’s not just physical. It’s not how much weight we can physically lift but maybe how much reality we can allow ourselves to feel, consider, and act upon.

 

How would any of us like it if we were mistreated? If our children didn’t respect us and quarreled even with each other? If the schools our children attended were filled with people perpetually angry, constantly looking for revenge, and ready to attack before being attacked? Who held grievances they wouldn’t let go of and wouldn’t listen to anyone that expressed an opinion different from their own?

 

Or imagine a workplace like that, where no fellow worker would compromise or work on solving any problems or disagreements, and then spent their time and energy blaming someone else for the failure to get anything accomplished or a workplace filled with mistrust. And then they used fear and intimidation to get what they wanted⎼ their agenda or no agenda. These are not places filled with people I’d consider strong.

 

This is the US GOP led House of Representatives. They quarrel not only with Democrats but each other. Who could forget that, in a historic situation, it took them four days and 15 rounds of voting to elect Kevin McCarthy as Speaker? The Hard-Right GOP later removed McCarthy for the sin of working with Democrats to keep the government functioning⎼ and took 22 days to replace him. Too many threaten opponents with violence instead of trying to talk or negotiate.

 

Too many don’t care about governing as much as seizing power, attacking President Biden, and saying no to legislation proposed by Democrats, even if the proposed legislation will help the nation. What have they done besides holding up funding the government? Or starting an impeachment investigation into President Biden with an accusation of fraud, despite the fact that there was no evidence of fraud? Even their own witnesses in their investigation proved nothing except the corruption of the GOP accusers. Or they threaten to remove President Biden from the ballot in GOP states in order to stop or make meaningless Colorado and Maine removing DJT from the ballot for his involvement in the January 6th violent insurrection.

 

Too many accuse others of fraud to distract from the prosecutions of their own leader(s) for fraud and to make the reality of corruption and its destructiveness meaningless⎼ or to make it seem that all leaders, all of us, do it. I don’t know about anyone else, and I’m not always successful, but I do my best to be sincere and honest, not corrupt.

 

Too many use hate and violence as tools of manipulation. But hate is a way we distance ourselves from others, blinding us, or anyone, from what we’re doing to ourselves and others. It is moral weakness and pain masquerading as strength. It deprives these GOP of the character, patience, or ethical system required to work on the substantive issues we face as a nation, or to care about the pain and difficulties our fellow Americans face. Such work requires the strength to listen to and respect other people as being important. The ability to self-reflect, be patient, and feel empathy illustrate what I think is true strength.

 

The world is suffering deeply right now. Many of us in the US have so much compared to others in this country, and world. There is a great concentration of wealth causing immense poverty. Too many people worldwide are suffering from disasters caused by the climate emergency. Too many are suffering in Palestine and Israel, Ukraine, etc. The GOP just try to deny the threat the climate emergency and wars are to us; yet the threats continue. As an article in the Atlantic Monthly put it, we (our environment) can’t afford another DJT Presidency. We, all the people on the earth, can’t afford another DJT presidency. During the DJT administration, they scrubbed data on global warming, undermined the EPA and environmental laws, pulled out of international agreements, etc. etc.

 

We might cry out in anguish, “What can I do? What effect can I, alone, have?” As if, in a democracy of millions one person should have such an effect. As if each of us was an isolated being, uninfluenced by or incapable of affecting others, and independent of the earth….

 

*To read the whole piece, please click on this link to The Good Men Project.

When I Was Blessed by A Crow: We Soar on Wings We Never Knew We Had, into A Sky We Never Knew Existed

Were you ever blessed by a crow?

 

When I was around 13 or 14, I started playing tackle football on a sandlot team. We played in a park less than a mile from my home. For three years, a crow used to come to the practices and for almost every game. We sometimes fed it. But mostly, it was just there, hopping around, watching, and we began to think of him, her, them as a friend. I never had the superstition that crows meant misfortune, but rather I associated them with good fortune. A blessing from nature.

 

If, when walking, sitting, or standing somewhere, ruminating⎼ lost in thought amidst the noises or silence around us⎼ and a crow flies above us, its harsh call can save us. We can listen, and then silence arrives as if summoned. Other times, the call comes so intermittently we can barely stay with it. But if we can accept its offer, however brief, and listen closely, our attention is re-awakened. We open to whatever is there in that moment.

 

It’s like hearing a friend call to us, or a voice from a dream, or from deep inside our bones. It comes to us, and we can fly into it. We can fly into a sound so full it makes room for everything. And then we soar on wings we never knew we had into a sky we never knew existed⎼ a sky so empty it welcomes us home.

 

Or if we allow ourselves to feel the life of a crow, or maybe anything, to feel that it feels life, feels wind and rain as we do⎼ or maybe differently, but just as crucially, and then we become more alive. It’s so tricky to let go of ourselves and our concerns, our schedules, our anything, or the theatre of our lives. Crows can be a blessing to us all.

 

But it’s not the only call we can focus on. When we meditate, natural sounds like the speech of crows, or chickadees, the rain, wind, or ocean⎼ or the sight of a waterfall or smell of a honeysuckle, or an artwork, anything we find beautiful⎼ can give us something to disappear into. If we welcome it, listening to the calls of whatever we find beautiful can be a wonderful way to let worry and anxiety fly away, leaving a clear sky, or mind, behind.

 

I’ve read meditation teachers advising us to find the emptiness before a thought. That’s so difficult. And I don’t know how much crows think or hold thoughts, or whether they’re adept at finding the emptiness before thought. I do know they are incredibly smart. I once wrote a blog about 3 crows who often visited my yard. I’ve tried to take their picture. But even though I’m inside the house, if I pass a window, they follow me with their eyes. If I just look, they look back. Or they simply eat. But if I pick up a camera, they know. They fly. And when I allow it, the crows fly me to silence. They reflect to me different shapes of myself, exposing who or what is watching, or doing the watching….

 

*To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.

The Power of the Reading Brain: Reading or Speaking a Word Can Connect Us to the Entire Universe

I’ve begun reading a book called Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, by Maryanne Wolf. Right from the beginning, the book confirmed suppositions I’ve had since I started reading and startled me into wonderful new realizations and connections.

 

Proust, the novelist named in the title, thought of reading as a sanctuary where humans could access realities they could never experience otherwise. The author uses him as a metaphor for ⎼ metaphor, literature, communication, art, creation. The squid is used in the title as an analogy for the squid-like appearance of neurons, as well as the study of neuroscience. The complexity of neurons enables our brains to learn, repair themselves, make and change billions of connections, and change ourselves. The book explains how the brain makes reading possible. Knowing how we’re able to read enhances the sense of wonder that we can read.

 

Wolf describes a discovery by cognitive scientist David Swinney, that when we read a word, even a simple one like bug, we activate in our brain not just one simple meaning but a whole host of associations. It utilizes a vast network of neurons, not just the language areas of the brain and the visual cortex, but areas for emotion, reasoning, memory, etc.

 

When we read the word bug, we can think of a crawling insect, as being bugged by a spy or an intrusive neighbor, a glitch in software, maybe even imagining ourselves in a Volkswagen Beetle. And since our minds can stray when we read, and we empathize with characters and situations we read about, those associations can connect us to incalculable other meanings and locations. It can lead to new ideas. It can, for example, connect to the vegetation or location where we’ve seen a bug, been bitten or graced by them. We bring the story of our lives into each word we read.

 

This richness of associations depends on the richness of what we’ve previously stored away. This informs us of the need for children to have a rich upbringing, to meet a variety of people, stimuli, and experiences. For them to be read to, and for them to begin reading a wide variety of literature once they’re able to read. When I was 4 or so my father read literature to me, like the romantic play Cyrano de Bergerac. This instilled in me a love for the possible intimacy of words and storytelling that has lasted throughout my life.

 

All children, and parents, need to have the economic resources to make this richness of upbringing possible⎼ to have good health care, good schools, and a society that appreciates and supports children, parents, literature, and education. As the word bug is connected to our whole lives, the child is interconnected with all of society. We all benefit from a well-cared for and educated younger generation.

 

Also, the more indirect and complex the semantical structure of the written sentence, the more vivid the experience of the reader. Wolf quotes the poet Emily Dickinson as saying, “Tell the truth, but tell it slant.” Tell it with echoes. When told indirectly, more risk is involved, and we take in more of the unexpected. Our imagination and empathy are stimulated, and we have more opportunity to encounter and make connections with ourselves and others….

 

 

*To read the whole article, please click on the following link to The Good Men Project.

An Illusion None of Us Can Afford: An Opportunity All of Us Can Embrace

We humans have many biases, but one that often asserts itself is the negativity bias, or a propensity to select, or attend to negative instead of positive information. We often expect the worst. We do this so the worst won’t happen, or so we can take steps to avoid it.

 

But often, the bias can do the opposite, and lead us to inaction. It can cause depression, or a sense of powerlessness. We can tell ourselves we can’t do anything to avoid whatever we fear will happen or to stop the dismal future we fear is inevitable⎼ even when the only thing making it inevitable is our inaction. We might hide from feeling the reality of the danger because we fear that even the thought is too much to bear; but the reality would be so much worse to face.

 

This is happening to our nation, and maybe our species, right now⎼ in the US, with the dangers of a DJT administration. We might know intellectually how awful he is but ignore what he’s telling us he will do if he wins, because we can’t believe it. Somewhere inside us, it feels impossible that such a destructive result could occur. We can’t, I can’t, believe that our world could change so drastically and get so much worse⎼ and not just the human world in the US but everywhere. But, of course, it can. If DJT somehow becomes president again, NATO would be undermined, and dictators would have even freer rein than they do now to undermine democratic nations.

 

DJT said he would invoke the Insurrection Act on day one of his imagined new administration, and use the military to make him a dictator. He’d suspend the constitution, suspend the rule of law, round up thousands, and initiate rule by him alone. It’s illegal, unconstitutional, but that has never stopped him before. We must stop him.

 

I’m not making this up. We know this. Read the 2025 Project. Listen to his speeches if you can stand it. He copies Hitler, Mussolini, etc. in his language and emotion, promises to “root out” all the “vermin,” imprison those who oppose him. He might end social freedoms, freedom of speech, voting rights, legal rights, abortion rights, workers’ rights, end legal concepts of gender, racial, and religious equality. He’d give ever more preference economically and otherwise to the rich and diminish or end government programs that serve and help most of us ⎼ he’d end Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security, end protections in health care, end the Biden reductions in drug costs, end the EPA, privatize the US Post Office, possibly end public schools, etc. ⎼ and make the poorer 90% of us pay the costs of running his dictatorship.

 

Corruption would flourish. Incompetency. I remember when I was younger and traveling in other nations ruled by dictators. In such nations it was common for people to pay not only fees but bribes to officials to get anything done, to get a license to drive a car, to fish, to build a house, whatever. DJT has already shown a propensity for fraud and corruption. He promises to replace civil service workers, who must show competency for the position in order to get the job, with those whose only noteworthy attribute is being a blind follower of his campaign. Imagine the inefficiency of a whole government bureaucracy controlled and populated by people who’ve shown no competency in their jobs. If DJT somehow gets in office again, whatever restraints on him that were in place before would cease.

 

On Christmas, Rachel Maddow spoke with Chris Hayes about the threat posed by DJT Fascism ⎼ and the need for all of us to act, to vote, and help get out the vote ⎼ and speak to our neighbors. To speak not just to share information, but to get to know them. Create a connection, a community. Because this is our time. Not all generations are called upon to act so significantly….

 

*To read the whole post, please click on this link to The Good Men Project.

An Experiment the Universe is Conducting Right Now: Our Theories About Who We Are Shape How We Feel and How We Act ⎼ Revised

When I was teaching high school, students often asked: If it’s true that humans are (or can be) compassionate, why is there so much human-caused suffering and hurt in the world?

 

One scientific experiment greatly influenced, for decades, how many people thought about this question. This is the “obedience experiment” carried out by Stanley Milgram in the early 1960s, just after the beginning of the Eichmann trial. In that experiment, a volunteer was asked to play a teacher to help another person, the “student,” learn word pairs. Each time the “student” replied with the wrong word, the “teacher” would seemingly give them an electric shock. The voltage of the shock was increased with each wrong answer.

 

The “teacher” sat in one room before an electronic control panel and could see through a window into the room where the “student” sat hooked up to wires. A white-coated experimenter stood in the room with the “teacher” encouraging and instructing with comments like, ”Continue using the 450 volt switch for each wrong answer.” The experimenter repeated these instructions even as the “student” began to scream⎼ and later drop over, silent. The “teacher” raised objections at times; but as the instructions continued, the “teacher” continued the shocks. The student was, in fact, an actor; the shocks to the “student” were not real. However, the emotional effect on the “teacher” was real.

 

It was initially reported by Milgram that 65% of the “teachers” continued to shock their students even to a lethal level. But, according to author and researcher Gina Perry, that statistic was only true with one of the 24 versions of the experiment. There were over 700 people involved in the experiments, and the 65% represented only 26 people. There were some variations of the experiment where no one obeyed the authority. If she is correct, this drastically changes how we might understand the experiment.

 

The philosopher Jacob Needleman studied the visual recordings of the experiment and commented on the facial expression and speech of one of the “teachers.” When questioned just after the experiment was over, the “teacher” said, “I don’t like that one bit. I mean, he [the “student”] wanted to get out and we just keep throwing 450 volts…” The teacher was dazed, and under further questioning couldn’t let themself comprehend what they had done. They couldn’t comprehend their own feelings let alone allow themselves to feel what the “student” might have felt.

 

A startling parallel to Milgram was a series of experiments by Doctor of Psychology, Daniel Batson, who tested whether people would act compassionately to save others from suffering. In one experiment, volunteer subjects, like Milgram’s teachers, watched people receive shocks when they incorrectly answered a memory task. The volunteer was told the person they were watching had suffered trauma as a child. They were then given the choice to leave the experiment or receive the shock intended for the supposed trauma victim. Many subjects felt such compassion for the other person they actually volunteered to take on their pain.

 

What is the message of these experiments? Milgram’s experiment is often considered a cautionary tale revealing the potential for evil in all of us⎼ and the “evil” demonstrated by Milgram arises from our propensity to obey authority despite clear evidence of the wrongness of the act. But why do we hear so much more about this experiment than Batson’s, whose work demonstrates the capacity for compassion?…

 

Happy New Year, and may 2024 be an even better year for all of us than we imagine.

*To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.

 

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Original post:

https://irarabois.com/who-are-we-humans-the-milgram-experiments/