With power comes responsibility – why beliefs matter

(I wrote this for a competition for radio 2’s thought for the day – I didn’t win!)

Being Good

The other day I went into my eldest daughter’s school to tell stories of the Amazon for their topic. I had learned a few stories of spirits who live in the jungle who punish people if they cause harm to the trees, the animals or other people. I used a storyteller trick of leaving the punishment to the imagination so they actively used their own minds to come up with “The worst punishment you can possibly imagine”.

At the end the children were all gazing at me wide eyed, the energy and power I felt from so many children hanging off my every word made me feel tremendously responsible. They all wanted more detail about the spirits, especially what the punishment was, I reiterated that it was the worst punishment you can possibly imagine and one little girl mouthed “you die”. My next words needed to give them power over their fears. I made it clear that the spirits only punish those who do the wrong thing so we can be glad as that means they are looking out for us to make sure nobody harms us.(I could have scared them into being good by saying they’ll be fine so long as they never do the wrong thing, but I’m not a catholic)

 

From this I realised 2 very important things, firstly it is what we don’t say that has the most power and secondly, the way we feel about being judged depends if we believe ourselves to be good or bad.

 

We all try to be good as we are taught that being good will earn approval, but if those from whom we seek approval are silent, the power of the silence makes us try even harder to please to the detriment of our true self.

 

That is where faith and religion come in. We need to have faith that we are good and worthy of approval from the start, if we believe it, then it is so. Religions give us the rules to live by, if we break the rules we will be told so we can be forgiven and learn. It is our behaviour that we are judged on and it is our behaviour that we can always change to ensure we are always judged to be good.

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Environment and Equity

On the news tonight are the dreadful floods down South and a poor couple with disabiities possibly having to move house due to the bedroom tax.

What is the state doing about it? In a weird distracting way they are telling us to concentrate on the job in hand in order to avoid talking about their policies which are leading to disasters impacting more people and the gap between rich and poor widening. They say the devil is in the detail, I reckon they’re going to congratulate themselves once the environmental disaster has passed and continue to stick to policies that don’t account for the reality that everyone faces.

If policy makers opened their eyes to the reality of life in this country they might do a better job, but just like my vicar and the scientist in Kielder, they are allowing their vision to be clouded by their belief in their own good judgement and to hell with climate change and inequality.

If only they could accept the concept of a loving God to rule their hearts and minds they would have perfect empathy for the people suffering and therefore be shocked into action and they would be able to open their eyes to the reality of a wrathful God of creation who will punish our apathy and inaction. (Yes I know God is just a metaphor, I’m not an idiot, but why can’t we accept the metaphor if it means the government can feel empathy for humanity and fear of the uncontrollable, unpredictable environment?)

Short termism and the need to maintain popularity cause foolish decisions to be made.

Sacrifice popularity and get real. Shit happens, how we deal with it is what is important. Until we sacrifice our childish, immature beliefs of how good and clever we are as individuals, we will never be able to access the truth and logic we need to handle the shit as it happens and better still prepare ourselves and predict what we need to do to avoid the shit.

Thirst for knowledge is causing us to abandon our need to strive for perfection as humans. Empathy and understanding allow us to process information quickly and accurately, but nobody wants to feel too deeply or think too hard, so we just stay as we are and turn a blind eye to the inequality around us and the possibility of our mass consumption being the cause of climate change.

WAKE UP!!!!!!! I just want to shake everyone.

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Belief and science Vs Faith and Economics

At church today (yes, I do go even though I know and understand God differently to modern society, both christians and atheists) the vicar was going on about how he likes to go to Kielder Observatory and one of the scientists there said something like “I wouldn’t want to abuse my children by telling them lies” about christianity and the vicar said something like although he had a concept of the universe, it was his “belief” in God that made him special. Basically both men are stuck in their ways and their beliefs and have closed their minds to any alternative, both believing their judgement is somehow “better” than the other. I believe in equality, so for either to believe they are better than the other makes them both wrong in my book.

Anyway, creation is only one part of what God has supposedly done. In real life it makes no difference to me whether God made the world or magic or science. In truth, to me they are all about the same and ultimately I have to just accept the world is here and be glad to be in it.

So scientists are able to go off on one about how the world was created and priests can go off on one about the same, but what do I tell my children? If I believe it is important that I am all knowing I will tell them with confidence either God or the big bang. Either way I am the holder of knowledge and I can answer my child’s questions so they don’t need to keep annoying me by asking (damn their inquisitiveness!!). The truth is, to a 4 year old, the truth is less important than the ability to imagine the whole world and our insignificance within it. So to hell with the scientists and the priests, I’m a Mother and I want my children to have open inquiring minds so maybe I’ll say “I don’t know, what do you think?” or maybe I’ll tell them both theories and ask them which they like best? So long as their minds remain open to new learning and they can appreciate the beauty around them and lift their eyes up to the skies and imagine the vastness of the universe and be able to focus on the detail in each individual flower. It really doesn’t matter for now.

Then the vicar went on about a man telling him he followed the 10 commandments and the vicar looked at him and thought, “you liar” as in the 10 commandments it says you mustn’t get angry (I’ve just checked, it doesn’t, but lets allow the vicar to be right for the sake of argument). The vicar believes that everyone gets angry, so nobody can keep the commandments. But since my time in hospital I have been able to remove anger from my life. Anger comes to us when our pride is hurt or we are told we are wrong or we hear about injustice. It is possible to let go of anger and let in curiosity, forgiveness, understanding as a response instead of anger. If we all want to be good humans I can’t see anything wrong with striving to rid ourselves of anger. I get irritated and annoyed every day, but when I do I tend to speak it out e.g. why are these shoes here, put them away in the cupboard, or what is this dreadful mess? Gargh!!! I don’t get angry and I can let my feelings out so I don’t build up resentment.

So at the end of church I told the vicar his sermon was wrong and that he might think he knows God, but I think he lacks understanding. I explained why and he said “don’t tell me you don’t get angry” and I said, well not really and I do try not to let things make me angry, that’s the thing about filling your heart up with love (like Jesus says), it’s hard to feel anger when you love everything, so I said again that I thought he was wrong to think the man a liar. This got the vicar really angry!!! And he said “I’ll pray for you (with pointing finger) it sounds like you need it!!” 

I couldn’t help but think he proved my point! He is judging others by his own failings. That isn’t what a good human should do. We should be aware of our failings and strive to increase our empathy and understanding so we can be as good as we possibly can be. The vicar seemed to think it didn’t matter how he lived his life, so long as he believed in God. That is just stupid and arrogant. He even said that he knew atheists who lived better than him, but it was his belief that was important. Absolutely wrong.

How we live is important, not just for ourselves, but for others – God is also an economist. We mustn’t live selfishly as it has an impact on other humans in a world of finite resources. Believing that we can be as greedy as we like because science will find the answer is as stupid and arrogant as the vicar. We need to have faith that if we do our bit to be good and frugal, others will do the same, otherwise if we believe others will be greedy, it might make us want to grab and snatch as much as we can for the sake of our children if not for us.

So to hell with scientists and priests, they’re as bad as one another. Humanity needs to have faith in itself, or an empathetic God of economics. Without faith all hope is lost, without economics to help us understand why behaving well is good for all we have lost sight of the cooperative animals at the centre of our being. That’s God that is. We are God of our own lives, but it takes a lifetime to understand and truly know our internal judgement system. Animals know themselves better than we do. Why do you think Jesus made the story of his birth take place in a stable among the beasts? Society had got a bit up itself then too.

 

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Behaviour Vs Personality

From childhood we have all been taught how to behave. I always thought everyone was taught the same as me, but I have recently learnt that there are 2 totally different ways (more than 2 I know, but at their extreme ends there are 2 key schools of thought) of managing children’s behaviour which lead to personalities either flourishing or being suppressed.

We all want to think of ourselves as rational and reasonable, but we all know that when it comes to family relationships we can all be irrational and unreasonable at times.

Being rational is about being fair – making choices that are good for us and don’t harm others. Being rational or not is controlled by our heart – the right side of our brain, it is about what feels right or wrong. My Pareto Criterion rule comes into play to help us make rational choices. We all know that feeling from childhood – “It’s not fair!” Do we believe that because we are being selfish? Or are our true selves being disregarded or not considered? There is a difference between having hurt feelings because we are proud, and hurt feelings because we are being emotionally abused – having our personalities suppressed.

Being reasonable is about having a reason to back up our choices. It is controlled by our left side of the brain, our logic, our mind, our knowledge of what is acceptable. It is about understanding why a choice makes sense. We know what it is like when it appears nobody understands us, or we are being told what to do by somebody without choice and we disagree with what we are being told. When someone is telling us how we should be or what we should do based on their knowledge without taking into account or even dismissing our knowledge of ourselves. My prisoners dilemma rule comes into play here – it is all about trust and responsibility. We need to be given trust and responsibility that we know what is good for us while taking advice on board.

I was brought up to trust my feelings and to know my own mind. There are loads of crossings over between feelings and thoughts and different connections in the brain, but I think it helps to think of our heart controlling our feelings and our mind controlling our thoughts.

I have worked out that the way I was brought up was the right way.

Yes, I am actually going to make that claim! I know we all want to say “Everybody’s different and what works for you…” but the truth is, there are wrong and right ways of going about things and I know we don’t want to burden parents with more guilt, but guilt is there for a reason. In fact, we will feel more or less guilty depending on how we were brought up. The trick is to bring up children who are true to themselves and understand what is them and what is just bad behaviour. We actually have to draw a line under ourselves and learn the right way, even if it is at odds with how we were brought up. Learning the right way can help us to make sense of how we were brought up and help us let go of negative feelings and negative rules that our family lives by, but don’t really make sense.

Actually guilt and shame play a massive part in the way children are brought up and in the way we see ourselves. Shame is negative as it is about feeling bad about something that can’t be changed, guilt is good as it allows us to make choices or changes that won’t harm others or ourselves. Let go of shame, allow guilt to ensure your choices don’t cause harm. If someone can make you feel ashamed of something you cannot change they can control how you see yourself and manipulate your decisions.

When it comes to behaviour, most parents know that children will only do what they want to do, rather than what the parent wants them to do. So how do you get children to want to do the right thing? In other words, make rational choices.

If you use treats or threats, you will get compliant children, but how will they ever learn what they really want in life – other than external reward and avoiding punishment? 

The only way to help children learn how to make good choices is to point out the true consequences of their actions e.g.Would you like to fall off the sofa? Then you need to stop jumping on it. Do you want to be tired and grumpy all day tomorrow? Then you need to settle down to sleep now. 

So, bringing up rational individuals is about helping them use their own conscience to guide their choices. Encouraging them to consider the consequences of their actions and use their empathy and imagination to want to do the right thing for themselves and the common good. If you allow children to choose for themselves, inevitably they will sometimes choose to do the wrong thing, that is OK, how will they ever learn if they are afraid of failure or we don’t allow them to take responsibility of their actions? Making children feel ashamed when they make a mistake or do the wrong thing is bad. Pointing out the negative consequence so they can learn not to do it again is good. Telling them they are being naughty, when they are just learning how to behave doesn’t do any good. Asking why a child did the wrong thing and pointing out how to put it right is helpful. Life is all about learning, we cannot expect children to know how to behave if we don’t teach them.

At the extreme end of teaching rational behaviour we get parents so afraid their child will always do wrong that they control their child’s behaviour at all times with treats, threats and removal of or large displays of love. It means the child doesn’t develop their own conscience to guide their choices, they always aim to please authority and never learn how to please themselves. Their true personality becomes suppressed. 

How do we teach children to be reasonable? It helps if we are reasonable. Being reasonable is about putting feelings to one side and working out the right choice based on knowledge and information.

If as parents we are more interested in bringing up well mannered children who do the right thing according to what society says is right given their gender, culture, fashion etc we are putting our feelings in the way of being reasonable. We might allow negative behaviours to go unchecked if society doesn’t understand the way children should behave and allows children to behave badly depending upon their status/gender/culture etc. 

How should children behave? Like themselves, but with negative behaviours and feelings contained.

This is when people get really irate – we want our children to be themselves, we mustn’t dictate what is right or wrong behaviour. Yes we must. Humans are animals. Good, cooperative animals who developed in family groups and who haven’t changed biologically for millenia. Good behaviours are kindness, charity, modesty, humility, patience etc. Bad behaviours are arrogance, pride, anger, impatience, jealousy etc.

So when children behave in negative ways we should help them see that their behaviour is negative by pointing out the consequences and teaching by example how to behave the right way. Stories have always been good for teaching positive behaviours and showing the consequences of negative behaviours and showing that redemption is possible.

We all have a “dark side”, there are things that make us angry and pride filled and irritated and stop us seeing others point of view. But these are negative behaviours that we can learn to let go of so that we can be more reasonable. These behaviours are just that, behaviours, they are not our personality, they can stop us from being our true selves. If as adults we are more worried about being cool, saying the “right” thing at the expense of what we truly think, then we are behaving like teenagers at school, not wanting to stand out from the crowd. We are in danger of being manipulated in our views by authorities/peer pressure.

Unfortunately, “good” behaviours are often seen as female and “bad” behaviours typically male. That is a nonsense. We are all equal and all equally able to be good humans, but if we allow negative behaviours to dominate our being we suppress our true animal selves and become socially acceptable, but have trouble in family relationships.

In our current society women don’t choose to be “good” as they believe that is sexist and men are brought up by women who believe it is normal for boys to be “bad”. So we end up in a situation where it is the trend to behave in a “bad” way.

Deep down we are all there waiting to burst out and gain freedom to our true selves, but society is suppressing our desire to be “good” as we rate “bad” behaviours as the way to achieve success, money and status.

If only we knew the truth. 

It’s there inside us all.

Or maybe we don’t want to accept the truth as we will have to admit we sold part of our souls to fit in, get rich, look better, achieve more?

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Proof of a soul

I haven’t really wanted to go on about what inspired me to write this blog as if I mention mental health a lot of people automatically switch off, but I’ve just had a potentially good meeting.

If I had been listened to when I was initially admitted to a mental hospital in December 2012 it could have saved 4 months of my life being locked away from my eldest 2 daughters.

I won’t go into detail, but sexual discrimination is rife in the UK, I didn’t realise the extent until I wasn’t believed because I am female. Really. Now time has passed and I can prove myself again I actually think I have a fighting chance of getting my complaint upheld. If I can prove I wasn’t mentally ill, I was just being myself and responding to being treated as mentally ill and not believed for telling the truth which sent me into a deep physical depression, then it could prove the existence of the human soul.

Lack of empathy for me as a human being caused me to lose all empathy for myself and my whole body stiffened and every passing moment was painful and devoid of emotion. I was dying from the inside out, a slow involuntary suicide that I had no control over. I didn’t know you could die from depression apart from willfully committing suicide. You can. It used to be called melancholia and was recognised as a natural human response to a broken heart. I now fully understand why people would commit suicide willfully, anything to stop the agony of being alive with no empathy. It lasted 5 weeks until ECT switched my empathy back on and I could be myself again.

We are all prisoners in our own minds and lack of empathy for ourselves and others switches out the light of our humanity, our soul.

Living with the truth while others continue to believe a delusion of me that I just can’t be has stretched me to my limits and shown me what I am capable of. I’m secretly glad of the dreadful ordeal I went through as it has taught me everything I have ever believed is true.

Humans are inherently kind and good, but being brought up with discrimination leads to unkind, bad behaviours that go against nature. All discrimination is wrong. All humans are equal, no matter their race, gender, age or faith. I know these words are easy to say, but they are terrifically hard to live by if you have ever been made to feel inferior or superior to others by virtue of your birth into the “wrong” or “right” family with the “wrong” or “right” gender, or just for being a child or an OAP.

There is light at the end of the tunnel to all who have ever suffered discrimination, you just have to forgive and believe…

In humanity, God, Buddha, Allah, unconditional love, kindness, yourself, your soul, the world, Mother Nature, children, art, culture, stories, whatever you feel you can pin your dreams to and not be let down.

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Jonah and Pinocchio

We went to messy church today and the story was Jonah and the Whale. If you don’t know it, basically God told Jonah (or Jonah just dreamed it from his own mind, if that makes it easier to swallow(?!)) to go and spread the word to the Naverenes as they were living badly and said if they didn’t reform in 40 days he’d do something dreadful. Jonah didn’t like the Naverenes so went off somewhere else instead on a boat. God sent a storm, so Jonah asked to be thrown overboard and got swallowed whole by a whale. After 3 days in the whale he got spat out and he went to speak to the Naverenes who mended their ways.

I don’t know if there is any literal truth to the story- has anyone ever survived inside a whale? But the message is simple and relevant:

Jonah is wrong to pass judgement and discriminate against the Naverenes.

God (or good humans if the word God offends) will always forgive wrongdoing once responsibility is taken and people make a change – Jonah and the Naverenes.

I personally don’t like the fact that the original message carries a threat, I think that is wrong as people should be enabled to choose the right path without being forced to as then they will live in fear and may only do the right thing as they are fearful, rather than because they truly believe it is the right thing. I guess Jonah could just tell them the real consequences of their wrongdoing? e.g. being selfish and greedy won’t make you happy, if everyone behaves like this you won’t be able to trust your fellow man so you’ll live in doubt and fear. If everyone behaves selflessly and acts with love for their fellow man, you can trust others and live life in joy and peace. 

So what about Pinocchio? It’s almost the same as Jonah, but more detailed. We accept the story as we know it is made up and respect the author’s intent. It is a simple story of redemption and Pinocchio straying from the path of learning – please note, learning isn’t simply accruing facts, it is also about achieving understanding and empathy for the whole of humanity and our environment. Eventually after a trip to the hellish funfair of delights where he ends up looking an ass he has to sacrifice himself into the sea to learn the truth of the consequences of his actions. Then he becomes a real boy and no longer a puppet.

I wonder if our current capitalist society isn’t making asses of us all as we respond puppetlike to the demands of state, advertising and a selfish (teenage, emotionally immature) society to earn more, want more and sacrifice our children to the same future?

Maybe if we sacrificed our know all attitude that makes us so easy to manipulate (like puppets) and accepted the “real boy/girl” deep in our hearts, we could get off the capitalist wheel of doom and wake up to the truth and beauty of the world around us? Will we encourage our children to follow their own path of learning through life, doing what they enjoy most? Or will we decide for them the path they should take that will lead to a good job at the end? What is more important? Living life in enjoyment with an ever open and inquiring mind? Or getting through life without rocking the boat or standing out as different to end up with status and power/money/knowledge over others?

 

Knowledge without understanding and empathy is useless. Learning isn’t about knowing facts, it is about understanding how to apply those facts for the common good.

 

It’s strange that on the one hand we want our children to be treated as unique individuals, but we also want them to fit in and behave like all the other children so they aren’t bullied for being different. Doesn’t that make them more susceptible to bullying as we teach them to behave as puppets with parents/teachers/authority/peer pressure/selfish society holding the strings? 

I prefer to teach my children that they are different to other children and point out the disadvantages we live with compared to other children in their peer group. However, in truth we are so lucky to have all that we have and we ought to look out for those less fortunate than ourselves. It is wrong to discriminate against people for things they cannot change, but it is perfectly OK to discriminate among children in your class who behave badly towards you. Never be afraid to stand up for what you believe in, even if others think you are wrong, but at the same time be prepared to listen to those who hold different views and allow your understanding to deepen as you accept new ideas.

 

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Belief Vs Science

Believing a God of fairness and reason exists gives humans a reason to be fair and equitable in their affairs.

Scientifically we know there is no such God, but do we have to stop believing just because we know there isn’t a being overseeing our decisions?

I thank our ancestors for their belief which kept them modest in their desires to save resources for their children (us).

How will our descendants judge our current society? Are we using finite resources sparingly for their benefit?

God teaches us to want less and be more. This puts the good of humanity before the selfish whims of the individual.

Science and state currently teach us we can have what we want and never mind the consequences. The more we consume the better for the economy and therefore all of us, but in a capitalist society this just leads to the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Parents invest in their children and stockpile wealth to give them an advantage over their peers, but then that leads to a generation of idleness, or children doubting their own abilities as they have never earned for themselves. The poor are unhappy, but so are the rich.

If ever there was a time for the church to step in and sort out what really matters, it is now. Our society is seriously selfish and warped and our education system has lost the plot. Unfortunately our church leaders don’t truly understand God. They are too busy insisting he is real to accept it is the concept of a fair minded forgiving judge that is most important.

It is only with absolute empathy for all humans as exactly equal that any of us can pass judgement on the affairs of others. How do we know if our empathy is absolute or that we don’t hold some deep seated discrimination at the core of our being that stop our judgement from being perfect?

Do we believe truly that we are equal to all other humans?
Or were we brought up to believe we are superior to other humans outside our family? In conflict we assume we are right and others are wrong.
Or were we brought up to put the needs of others before our own to such an extent that we believe our needs to be inferior to those of others? In conflict we automatically look to ourselves to see what we have done wrong.

Do we believe men and women are equal? Not physically, but mentally and emotionally. If we don’t treat boys and girls as equal  we can hardly expect them to grow up believing themselves to be equal. Belief and perception are equally as important as reality when it comes to the human mind.

I only know that believing and faith allow our minds to be open to new experience and new learning from other humans. Closing our minds to an ideal of absolute Godlike empathy leads to us closing our minds to people who behave differently to our experience.

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