That’s what we are—a living conversation, reshaping our relationships and our world with every word we speak…
This is a poem I wrote Thanksgiving day—giving thanks for the conversations we have within the Live Conscious community. One line, marked with an asterisk, are words spoken in 1920 by Robert Park, a University of Chicago professor.
Are human beings really that great, all that remarkable? Is being ashamed of one’s humanity a negative and shameful way to think? I say no. Never mind the rest of the human race, just looking at myself, I cannot get over what a wretched creature I am. I think only how to defend myself, and have no real love for others. Unable to control my desires, I am wedded to material things. I live in fear of poverty, illness, and death. Stories in the newspapers and on TV of overseas disasters, civil wars, famine, and poverty cause me only a moment’s pain. My will is weak and I soon go back on my decisions. Russell Call,
Call— “are human beings really that great, all that remarkable?” Well, some are. If you wonder about this, read Mountains Beyond Mountains, by Tracy Kidder. It shows what is possible.
Most of us defend ourselves, we all have desires, to varying degrees we are attached to material things—but can we defend ourselves, have desires, and be attached to material things—and do all of this with grace?
From a Green Psychology point of view, growth begins with awareness—but awareness without judgment. You seem to be aware of many things. I wonder what would happen if you dropped your judgments, even for just a short time?
Thank you for gently pointing my thoughts in a fresh, new, direction on this day with less judgment, I will nurse this seed of less judgment, watch it grow, and see where it takes me. I will also look at the book suggestion you’ve offered, Mountains Beyond Mountains. It sounds fascinating. I’m thankful for you and your responses. Russ
Jake, I love the spareness of your language; you give the reader the permission to build upon, to have amplifying thoughts. Mine ran a bit in this direction. Underneath our need to “defend” is, we suspect, fear. It’s the fear that we, as we are, cannot survive. Perhaps not in the physical sense, but the social sense of survival. Being able to fit in. Being accepted. Being loved. I think that we all may cover up our great insecurities in life: The ones that constantly remind us that we really are not “good enough” to make it. That we are, at root, unacceptable, unlovable. I suspect this is true, because, how could others accept me, love me, if I don’t, ultimately, accept and love myself. This is the most difficult conversation in life to have — the one that we have with ourselves about our own sense of inadequacy. It is perhaps, a primary driver, a primary cause of ambition. (I’ll show them all!) And, until we come to some place of peace and accommodation with this (it may, indeed, not be solvable; it may, indeed, be that we eventually come to a place of understanding that this is what it is to be human — an accident of our own neuro-evolution; that what gives us the drive to survive (socially, if not physically) and excel is the nagging sense that we’re not “good enough” as we are, and we never will be. That then shapes our reality, our perception of reality. We then carry that into the world where, to be “successful” in getting along, day-to-day, we wrap ourselves in our various defensive armor — because we are left with the sense that life is a dangerous place requiring all our defenses, rather than an open and expansive place filled with possibilities. Dr. Paul Farmer? My guess is that he is someone who has found peace with his very human frailties. For me, the people who matter the most to me in my life, and that I admire the most are those who recognize their frailties and fears, and live life fully, openly, expansively and in possibility anyway. Thank you for your poem. –Bruce
Yes, Bruce — I too see our discomfort with our insecurities as a primary driver in life. And it is hard to converse about our insecurities when we talk about them as being “bad” or indicative of a “problem.” This is why I find Green Speak so valuable, it allows me to speak without such judgments.
And, I too appreciate people who recognize/accept their frailties and fears, and live life fully, openly, expansively and in possibility anyway. This is my desire.
As to your point, that we fear we are unlovable, I have thought a lot about this. I observe that people fall into two categories—those who believe they are lovable and those who believe they are not. But, even those people who know they are lovable, they too have insecurities that result in armoring as a way for them to hide.
What I find interesting is the possibility of being completely self-accepting—for then we would not motivate ourselves to prove we are okay, we would motivate ourselves by something more akin to passion. I suspect this describe Paul Farmer (for those who don’t know his name, his story is beautifully told in Mountains Beyond Mountains, by Tracey Kidder).
Thanks Bruce =
You said — “What I find interesting is the possibility of being completely self-accepting—for then we would not motivate ourselves to prove we are okay, we would motivate ourselves by something more akin to passion.”
Hmmm. Fully self-accepting? Wow! So, maybe simply this is the way we are constructed or have evolved (acute, detailed, life-long memory is such a damning quality that doesn’t hinder most other animals, so far as we know. A “fault” of language.)
Maybe I can see a state of grace and peace in being able to fully accept that we may not be able to fully accept ourselves, just as we are. We simply take the whole enchilada and forgive ourselves for our own humanity which is, thankfully, not terribly god-like!
I find for myself that my inability to “be with” others just as they are — without trying to fix or change them — simply accept them is rooted in my inability really, at root, to be with myself just as I am; I am constantly in a nervous twitch about how to fix or change myself. And the result is that I resist actually allowing transformational change to take place. So to re-state, it may be that to “fully accept ourselves” may be a conceit that is unavailable to us, but to fully accept that we cannot fully accept may give us a sense of grace and peace — and, yes, perhaps both passion, as you say, and compassion — both for ourselves and others.
Bruce — I like your suggestion that if we can’t fully accept ourselves, maybe we can accept that we can’t fully accept ourselves.
I think your comments point out the difference between Green Psychology and other paradigms, which is that in the world of Green Psychology, full self-acceptance is much easier to achieve. When I say “full self-acceptance,” I am not saying that we end up liking everything about ourselves. I am suggesting that we can accept even those aspects of ourselves that we don’t like. We “own” them——we own ourselves. Once we do so we no longer victimize ourselves.
A star does not curve gravity, gravity curves space.
Challenge — thanks for engaging in the conversation. I have a few responses I’d like to share:
First — this is a poem, not a scientific article.
Second — my use of a star “curving” gravity is a metaphor that comes from one of the most brilliant judicial minds of the twentieth century, in an article titled, “The Curvature of Constitutional Space.”
Third — I want to use your comment to illustrate the point I was trying to make in my poem. When we focus on the “objective” accuracy of words, we may miss the point of the words. When we unnecessarily correct others, we make ourselves right by making others wrong.
I do this from time to time with Hannah, and I realize that although I may be right, all I have done is create distance. I’m right, but alone—which is not what I want to do with my wife.
I didn’t realize it was a poem & the title of the article shows clearly that the author was conversant with the theory of relativity. his metaphor, I guess that is what it is, seems inaccurate, but metaphors don’t need to be. my intent is not to make anyone wrong, but to be accurate when talking about a theory (not a fact, although it seems to hold) which was relatively new in his time. as far as distance being created, it’s my opinion that sometimes a correction can lead to greater understanding between individuals, that misunderstanding is a primary cause of distance, & that polarization can be alleviated (as well as created) by corrections. what are we to do? The motivation of the corrector & the openness of the correctee are key. am I making you wrong? or am I adding some complications to what I see as a formulation that is sometimes accurate & sometimes not?
wrongly or rightly
Challenge — from a Green Psychology perspective, you are not making me wrong. This is one of the wonderful things—for me—about Green Psychology, it helps us out of the victim/perpetrator dynamic.
Yes, I agree that a “correction” can be a vehicle for better understanding, thus better connection with someone— as well as for distancing.
If we express our intention behind the correction, I suspect this will help. But, even more importantly, if we convey the subjectivity of what we’re saying — “this is my perspective” — we can get outside of the right/wrong model. This is why Green Speak is so valuable in my life.
I appreciate your intent to help me clarify my original words.
Knowing this, the conversation becomes one I have with myself. “Oh why did I blurt that out again! I pray to have the self-discipline to wait before I speak unconsciously again.” Thank you for the reminder. Wonderful.
Let’s go back to the beginnings of our lives. The first thing to be understood is what ego is. A child is born. A child is born without any knowledge, any consciousness of his own self. And when a child is born the first thing he becomes aware of is not himself; the first thing he becomes aware of is the other. It is natural, because the eyes open outwards, the hands touch others, the ears listen to others, the tongue tastes food and the nose smells the outside. All these senses open outwards.
That is what birth means. Birth means coming into this world, the world of the outside. So when a child is born, he is born into this world. He opens his eyes, sees others. ‘Other’ means the thou. He becomes aware of the mother first. Then, by and by, he becomes aware of his own body. That too is the other, that too belongs to the world. He is hungry and he feels the body; his need is satisfied, he forgets the body.
This is how a child grows. First he becomes aware of you, thou, other, and then by and by, in contrast to you, thou, he becomes aware of himself.
This awareness is a reflected awareness. He is not aware of who he is. He is simply aware of the mother and what she thinks about him. If she smiles, if she appreciates the child, if she says, “You are beautiful,” if she hugs and kisses him, the child feels good about himself. Now an ego is born.
Through appreciation, love, care, he feels he is good, he feels he is valuable, he feels he has some significance.
A center is born.
But this center is a reflected center. It is not his real being. He does not know who he is; he simply knows what others think about him. And this is the ego: the reflection, what others think. If nobody thinks that he is of any use, nobody appreciates him, nobody smiles, then too an ego is born: an ill ego; sad, rejected, like a wound; feeling inferior, worthless. This too is the ego. This too is a reflection.
Call— the words you have posted sound familiar. Are they the words of Osho, the Indian mystic? If so, I want to make sure they are attributed to him.
I find these words very thoughtful. My only difference in viewpoint is that I believe our “reflected center” is part of our “real being.” I believe it is a part of our “real being” just like every other experience we have in our lives becomes part of our “real being.”
In the world of Green Psychology we don’t create a distinction between the false self and the real self. We believe that all aspects of ourselves are real. Why does this matter? Because we don’t want people to avoid taking responsibility for some part of themselves by saying, “well, that’s not my true self.” Everything about us is our true selves——maybe some parts are mature, other parts immature, but we are still responsible for every part and every behavior.
I think of this as a “good” thing, because it means I can influence every aspect or part of myself.
Thanks for sharing these words.
The words I’ve shared here are lessons re-worded by me that I’ve learned from reading from a an author and teacher of a Japan’s school of Buddhism. Kentetsu Takamori Daiji Akehashi Kentaro Ito, Translated and adapted by Juliet Winters. I offer my apologizes for not disclosing the source of where I learned this information. In the future I will do my best to remember where I’ve read what it is I’m sharing, and mention where it came from. It’s selfish and immature of me to say anything without saying where I’ve acquired it. Everything I say is certainly not original by any means. Russell
Thanks for letting us know your source. As far as being “selfish and immature,” I don’t know about that——seems a bit harsh. How about just human fallibility——which we all experience——then we can learn and make adjustments as we go forward.