Tag Archives: choices

Prayer in Motion

While I was looking for an image to tag this post, I wandered down several paths. Things that showed solidarity, things that showed people helping people, images that showed unity in faith, things that captured the truth that humanity is one species and from those ancient roots sprang a myriad of cultures, faith, ideas—and yet we remain, at the core, one. In the end it dawned on me that I already had the image, the Kalaloch Tree of Life. A tree that holds on to life in the most precarious of situations.

(c) by the author/ photographer 2019

I’ve been wanting to write about this current global event for a few weeks. In part because I have been disappointed at the reaction of those I thought I knew who disregard the threat because they are not in a high risk group, or who were concerned that our hospitals were going to become centers for the spread of infection (I’m not sure when that was not the case), those who thought it was a hoax, or those who were over-reacting to the point of endangering others.

Then there were my heroes and heroines. People who were reaching out to neighbors, volunteering to deliver food and supplies, rearranging their schedules to protect themselves and others. I’ve seen missteps and masterful strokes of leadership. I’ve seen stalled responses and the broadcasting of irresponsible, irrelevant, and (consequently) dangerous information. I’ve looked on the challenges to go against all common sense and trust God to protect them at the communion table, in their gatherings, and in their lives. I grew tired, I cried, and just as often took heart. So much to write about, and unsure of where to start. If nothing else, a National Day of Prayer gave me that start. Prayer, you see, is a verb.

Those of you who know me well know that I have an issue with folks that look to God as a cosmic Santa Claus. “Dear Lord, we’ve made a terrible mess of things (for those who are willing to admit it) could you please just fix it all?” Or even the arrogance of the practice noted above, “God loves me and won’t let anything happen to me so I can do what I please and I’ll be fine (too bad for anyone else that suffers due to my actions).” For those who wish to test the creator of our universe, however you perceive that entity to be, allow me to point out the passage of Luke 4:9-12:

Then the devil brought him to Jerusalem, had him stand on the highest point of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ and ‘with their hands they will lift you up, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You are not to put the Lord your God to the test.’” (NET)

If you are a Christian and you believe Jesus is the Christ, then I am here to tell you that not even the Son of God was willing to test the Creator. Tell me why you should. Tell me how you can dare to risk the suffering of others through your own ignorance and lack of compassion?

After studying and writing about the Book of Job for several years I can tell you I see the same lesson. Just because you think you’ve done all the right things; you are not magically protected from the vagaries of a universe that operates on rules you may not have bothered to learn. The lesson of Job that I see is that the universe operates on understandable rules. Sometimes we suffer because we made bad choices, sometimes it is because the universe operates on knowable rules and we didn’t take the time to learn. Sometimes it is because other people make bad choices. In any case, I believe we are here to do our best to reduce the subsequent damage to our global home, our loved ones, and our neighbors. I believe we are obligated to make the best choices to reduce the suffering of others.

That brings me to the title of this little rant, “Prayer in Motion.” I have no issue with taking a day to set aside time to breath, to get our bearings, to focus, and to reassess priorities. This is true regardless of your faith or ethics. What I do wish to see in the world is an active response, a prayer in motion, if you will. Seriously think about ways you can reduce your contact so that we can get on top of this. Italy has the 2nd highest ranking health care system in the world, yet they are currently (as of this writing) being forced to triage patients for the use of ventilators and life sustaining treatment. Currently, the United States ranks 37th in health care services and has a population more than five times that of Italy. We are coming out of the gate seriously unprepared to handle a large outbreak of anything, let alone something that can kill.

Problem number two: “if you’re sick, stay home” doesn’t work if having a home of any kind depends on you working and your job isn’t portable. This article published by the Pew Research Center breaks down the numbers of people who cannot afford to take off a day or a week with no pay and no benefits. Next time you stop at the local drive through to pick up dinner, you might want to keep this in mind.

That leads us to the next problem, when people stop showing up at places to eat and buy the things we took for granted, businesses suffer, especially the small business trying to keep things propped up. In the Seattle metro area, there are already serious impacts to people who make their living serving the huge population that commutes to commercial centers daily. Many of the professionals in our communities can and do opt to work from home; hotel maids, taxi drivers, food service workers, cleaning personnel, and oh so many others don’t have that option. And when the people are not there to serve, there is no job to do.

But there are things that I see that give me hope. Neighborhoods that pull together to keep an eye on each other. People coming together to find alternative ways to deliver food and supplies to those who no longer should be relying on public transit. People who work on getting medical services where they are needed while containing risk. This is the heart of “prayer in motion.” This is where you step up to finding ways to reduce impact, and to help those who face challenges in surviving this crisis. This is what people of faith, and people with an ethical standard, are called to do.

Take this day to pray, or meditate, or simply practice deep breathing. But use that time to focus on what you as an individual, or as a member of a “social distancing” group, can accomplish that will alleviate the situation. Be informed, make wise choices, and learn to rebuild a society that sees us as one global community facing many global threats. Be the answer.

 

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Filed under Giving Back, Humanties for the Unbound Mind, My Journey with Job

Coddiwomple – the choice to move toward the unknown.

So, here we are on the first day of the year 2020. An arbitrary point in time defined in a thousand ways since recorded history began and measured with a metric we know to be flexible. Yet, we are drawn to a place we can say, “going forward I shall.” Last year about this time I published a blog about ditching the concept of New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I took my inspiration from Melinda Gates and chose a word to carry me through the coming months. That word was Season. It served me well.

I believe I found that when I wanted things to move faster, I remembered to slow down. As hard as it was there were times when frustration would set in, then the peace of timing would settle in. I sincerely believe that attitude of waiting “to the fullness of time” is what supported me to the moment I received an offer to publish my work. The timing was exquisite. That sense of waiting-with-hurried-anticipation has prepared me for the work required to execute a substantial change coming in my day job.

I think I also worked harder to be the seasoning, the influence that took away a bitter sting, or made the ordinary more interesting. Although not always successful, I worked at remembering the things I learned while working on the reservation about waiting until others were finished before I hopped in. Still working on that. I get very passionate about things at times.

With all the lessons I learned, and hope to continue learning, this year needs a different focus. Life is not all about waiting, about being the seasoned influence. At some point we need to find the way to move forward, even if we are uncertain of where the journey will take us. For this year I have chosen a wonderful old English slang word: coddiwomple. It is defined as travel in a purposeful manner toward a vague destination. What a wonderful word; a call into the unknown with confident strides and willing wonder.

Shi Shi Beach – 2019 Personal Collection

I see this word as a natural match to the process of becoming seasoned. A way to take the lessons learned from all the bits and pieces of what it means to flavor, to wait, to grow mature, to feel the perfect moment—and move forward.

If we are honest with ourselves, we know that our goals, our hopes, our dreams, are shapes of the things we wish to accomplish. Sometimes how we get there may surprise us. Sometimes the best laid plans are changed, for better or worse, and we plot a new course. I firmly believe that if we invest ourselves in one and only one outcome, we destroy our ability to deal with life’s unexpected events. If we become seasoned as the old pine with no flexibility left in its limbs winter storms can have a devastating effect while the sapling survives.

I like this concept of moving forward with confidence in a direction that could change, to a destination that might not exist. We cannot be open to opportunities if we are not attentive, flexible, ready to see something that can be rewarding if we take a slightly different path. In some cases, we may need to change everything about the journey, with purpose.

There’s a song that always touches me when I think about life’s choices. It’s about keeping your mind open, keeping your spirit free, taking chances, and in the end—choosing to dance. May 2020 bring you blessings with the challenges and a sense of purpose. Hold tight to your most treasured thoughts and hopes and venture with purpose into the unknown. Last but not least, I Hope you Dance.

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Reflections ~ How we think.

This is an exploring post. I have only just begun to read the things necessary to build these concepts in my own mind, but I so wanted to share what I have found. So, here we be in our own quiet alcove, discussing the workings of the mind, again. These are really important ideas, so join me for the hunt – a hunt for how we think and why it matters.

In the process of finishing my manuscript on the Book of Job, I have been researching what makes us tick. Why do we perceive an event, a person, a situation as we do? What is it that makes us believe that we are accurate in our assumptions and interpretations? Is there a way that we can test those assumptions and conclusions while still believing that we are right – and, perhaps, most of the rest of the world is wrong?

I have recently started a hashtag on Facebook, #BreakTheBox. I did this because I like to challenge commonly held presumptions. Not always because I think they are wrong, in whole or in part, but because I firmly believe that whatever you believe, you should know why you believe. That is very hard work – and here is the reason why.

Thnking

I am currently reading Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman. Professor Kahneman won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2002 for his work on decision making. Along with his research partner, Amos Tversky, he revolutionized what we know about how we think, how we make decisions. Professor Tversky would have shared the prize, if he had still been living.

Here are the basics. Our perceptions of subconscious and conscious thought go far deeper than what we may expect. Kahneman uses terms fairly common in the field; System 1 (the subconscious) and System 2 (the conscious). How these two systems interact is the basis of everything we do and think – everything. That makes it critical to understand that interaction if you truly want to be the master of your fate, the owner of your mind.

System 1 is the quick thinker. By accumulating all of the information that you are in contact with, the things your senses bring to you, and sorting through that sea of data to arrive at – what makes you comfortable, what feels right. As you can see, this is the basis of our intuitive thought. It is an efficient way for our brains to work because it happens quickly and, for the most part, the reactions are based on past experience. It also allows us to make seemingly instantaneous decisions for our own safety or well-being – such as flight or fight choices.

This is also, at times, an unreliable decision-making process. It can be influenced by such things as presentation of the data (was it in a clear font with soothing colors and using grammar in the comfort zone of the reader). Or, how often the data, or something similar, is encountered. Such as a surprise meeting in one location being less surprising the second time in a different location. System 1 is all about averaging things out and making quick decisions based on, well, gut.

Although not strictly statistical in its processes, for the sake of efficiency, this System 1 also relies on a short-hand version of the data. For instance, in the drafting of a bell curve (natural distribution), once the information regarding probability is acquired, our mind locks on to the higher probabilities and ignores the possibilities. So, once we determine that the incarceration rate of young black men in American is statically higher than whites, Asians or Hispanics, we assume that ALL young black men are prison candidates. Consequently, when events happen in the conscious world, our decisions are guided by a presumption made on incomplete data. This becomes an even stronger influence as we gravitate to information that reinforces what we already know, beliefs and interpretations that are within our comfort zone.

Kahneman describes System 1 as highly associative. It links bits of data to previous information and then builds on that link, whether or not there is a clear correlation. In one example he mentions a test question asking the reader if a man who is described as quiet, introspective, and a loner would most likely be a farmer or a librarian. Statistically, there is an overwhelming response that this is a librarian. Here’s the catch. In my mind it was the farmer. Why? I know both, but I am as familiar with farmers as I am with librarians and so I had a wider associative memory on which to base my assessment. Statistically, there are more farmers than librarians meaning that the probability is higher that the person described is a farmer. That, however, is something that System 2 must discover.

This is not a condemnation of our subconscious mind. This is how our minds are built and it works this way to be efficient with the resources at hand. Here, then, is the catch. Unless you want to be guided by your over-reactive, intuitive subconscious, you need to more actively pursue thinking with System 2. This takes work and our minds are notoriously lazy — they like to find the easy way out. And it does not matter how intelligent the thinker is. There are also physiological reasons why our conscious minds cannot maintain a constant level of focused attention. What, then, is the answer?

We can engage in reprogramming our subconscious. This doesn’t mean we have to question each and every thought and impulse. What it does mean is that we should actively pursue the verification of the associative influence on which our decisions are made. When we hear something that seems right, we should try to understand why this is so. Have we actually thought about the logical end result of our decision or association? How much dis-information is shared on social networks without verification because the piece at least sounds like what the person wants to hear?

To give you food for thought, I leave you with this:

Roses are flowers.
Some flowers fade quickly.
Therefore some roses fade quickly.

Well, maybe, maybe not… Some roses might fade quickly, but the presumptions detailed here which led to that conclusion are not directly related; and therefore, not a basis to decide. You see, the fading flowers might not be roses…

Rose dl

Photo Credit: JM Randolph, WANA Commons, Flickr

#BreakTheBox

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Filed under Humanties for the Unbound Mind, My Bookshelf ~ Current times