Thursday, March 26, 2020

A New Game

I think most of us have nights where a disturbing dream keeps coming back over and over. You wake up, and when you drift off, there it is again, turning rest into restlessness.

In my dream, I am working on a sudoku puzzle. But it is clear that it is a waste of time - no matter what I try, I can't make headway toward a solution. So, like any smart game player, I chose to start a new game. Yet when I look at the new game it is the same one that I've been struggling with - that same unsolvable game that has been making me miserable.

What a relief to wake up! It is morning so I am not tempted to try to sleep any longer.

Ok how about this: No more billionaires. None.
After you reach $999 million, every
red cent goes to schools and health care.
You get a trophy that says, "I won capitalism"
and we name a dog park after you. 
Then I realize that, in this wide-awake world, there is a puzzle that I and many others have been trying to solve for years, and it isn't a sudoku. But there is a parallel to the dream. No matter what we do, it is always there, and we can't  hit reset or wake up. It is the puzzle of how to make sense of a world where so much seems like a big game. The game we have been put into that, up until recently it seemed, had no winners.

Interestingly, this game does have a restart button. A pandemic that is not just killing people; it is changing people's lives in other ways. Keeping us from loved ones, who are sometimes sick and dying. It is keeping some home and it is keeping some far away at a job that is essential. There are people who need medical attention for other reasons than the virus, but cannot get it until the medical community has the time and resources to do anything other than help those who are infected. The list of those in pain goes on and on. 

Seen from a different perspective, this pandemic is shuffling the cards. It is dealing, what could be, the first new hand we have had in a long time.

As U.S. president Abraham Lincoln said to his congress in a time of crisis in his nation:

"Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation."

And so, politicians are showing their true colours. Some are sinking to new depths. Their habitual swagger of overconfidence is leading them to say and do foolish things. Others are listening to advisors who are getting the best facts for them. Hopefully, voters won't forget the sort of leadership their heads of state and even local leaders showed, in this time when strong and positive leadership is essential.

There are so many examples of responses that surprise. So much that is wonderful. Some things that just make you shake your head.

Is it possible this pandemic is the world hitting restart?

Friday, March 20, 2020

You Can Take the Educator out of the Classroom

Over the years when I was an active teacher, there were a lot of my students who would tell me they were thinking of becoming a teacher. When they asked for advice, what they got back was a variation on a theme that went like this: "If you feel being a teacher is something you must do, then don't let anyone talk you out of it. We need more good teachers."

I have often seen 'being a teacher' as a character type (I almost wrote 'character flaw'). Teaching isn't only a profession - it is a calling. So, even though I haven't been a part of a class for three years now, I still know that I am a teacher and, likely, always will be.

This is never so evident as when there is what we in the profession call "the teachable moment". This is the occasion when a situation arises, or a question is asked, which makes a particular bit of learning glaringly useful and easily learned if dealt with immediately. Even if it isn't on the curriculum, a good teacher will take advantage of that teachable moment, trying their best to teach their charges that especially relevant bit of knowledge. 

The crisis in the world right now is presenting a series of highly teachable moments. All the good teachers are just itching to be useful by helping everyone (including themselves) become better informed. 

Please make allowances for the people in your community who are, or were, teachers. When they see what is going on, and how desperately some are trying to make sense of it all, the teachers among us will want to make sure the message is one that helps and doesn't hurt. The teachers will want everyone to be strong and to think for themselves - to get information that is useful, not misleading. 

So, check your sources ... footnote those essays. In other words, let's all get through this better than we went in, please. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Ripe For the Picking

When I was a younger and somewhat naive person, someone taught me a really important lesson, unintentionally. The person was grooming me; slowly and carefully building up my trust. When I figured out what was going on, I backed away very slowly, so that they would think I hadn't figured them out, but was simply too busy to carry on the relationship they had in mind. I was lucky to not be hurt seriously.

If you survive something like that, you might go on in life never being able to trust anyone again, I suppose. In my case, it has made me very aware of manipulation, no matter how slight. 

In the previous post here, I wrote about what I see as an appallingly short attention span by folks when they scan social media, and its connection to my withdrawal from platforms like Face-Book. One of the main reasons for that post, and this one, is a shiver up my spine - a shiver of fear that signals danger from manipulative people, organizations, or worse, foreign governments.  

Much too often I have seen some political or social commentary posted and have checked the 'facts' independently, only to find that the whole article was built upon fabrications. So-called authorities being quoted didn't say any such thing, for instance. 

In my previous post, we saw how a slick presentation, referring vaguely to 'a study' can make you confident that something that you suspect to be true has, in fact, been proven. 

This sort of 'error' is not always unintentional. What is worse, however, is that gullible, but well-meaning folks repost and comment on the lies. I might have done it myself! They fall into the trap of those who want us to feel part of a social movement for change ... they are participating in their own grooming. 

During this pandemic, more people will be relying on soundbites and catchy articles for guidance. How can anyone manage to make sure that there is truth in what we read or see on social media?

I can't shake that feeling that we are being groomed. 

~ Ripe for the picking ~

Who is in charge of the harvest?

I am not alone in wondering this, of course:

Sunday, March 15, 2020

A Land of Confusion

For some time I have been backing away from what has been called social media. I like blogging, but ...

Blogs are Way too much trouble
for some to read.

Reading the newspaper used to be a real pleasure; a daily encounter with clever people who knew how to turn a phrase. Sadly, that seems to be changing. 

It isn’t the paucity of good writing in blogs or newspapers that bothers me. It is that people just can't be bothered to read it seems! 

"It's BORING!!"

 It seems the attention span of the population has … oh, wait!! Are you still there????

Did you know that a study found that the average human attention span is now shorter than a goldfish’s? It says so here.

What could this mean for the future?? 

It might mean … the media that is the best at holding your attention might not be something that is meaningful, but something that is slick! And visual. 

All of this actually seems to make sense, but wait - there is a kicker.

There is no such study! 

The BBC went looking for it, and in their article "Busting the Attention Span Myth", they exposed it as missing in action. 

In my next post, I will explore this topic a bit longer, without the interest-catching/holding graphics.

Maybe you came down to see what video I chose … hope you did, because it an oldie and a goodie! 

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Spiritual Thinking

Anyone who has read through the collection of early writings (ideas transcribed from the late 1980s mostly) that are on this site will know that I embrace spirituality. For me, there has to be more than what we see and experience, and that 'more' has to do with an inner self.

This inner part, a soul - if you like - can, if we permit it, help to guide us through life. The advantage of that inner guide is an absence of that part of human nature which constantly looks for gratification - the ego, if you will.

As an illustration of how that works for me in practice, there is musical performance. Someone who is full of desire to make others notice and praise them will get inordinately nervous when they are going to play or sing in front of others. I remember being that sort of person. I now find that it is more important for me to express an inner vision of that music when playing (I don't sing these days). Making a mistake is not a tragedy (oh dear, they must think I'm terrible), but, instead, part of a path to eventually expressing the phrase or piece in an internalized, ideal way. I don't get any more nervous when someone is listening than I do any other time I work on that music. My focus is the music.

At one time, I found it necessary to seem to embrace Christianity. My children were young and there was pressure from some in the family to 'raise them in a Christian home'. I agreed that we should attend a local church. We would all go to church until the children were of an age to be confirmed. At that point, I felt, it would be their choice whether to continue in that church or any other. As it turned out, neither of them now attend a church. Whether they self-identify as Christian now is their business. I do not.

Why am I not a Christian? Some have written whole books on this subject. Bertrand Russell is likely the most notable of these. I am no Russell, so I will keep this short. I believe that the roots of Christianity were as laudable as any other spiritual endeavour. What seems to me to be the problem with Christianity is that it is a religion.

A set of personal beliefs doesn't have to be a religion. In fact, a personal, deeply-felt set of beliefs is what I embrace. Religions, on the other hand, must be codified and followed, well, religiously. For a religion to remain in its pure state, a priesthood must exist. Followers must be protected from straying from the religion's pure set of ideals. There becomes a we and a they. We are not like they are, implying that we are better than they. This is all meant to feed the ego. "You are now baptized. You belong, with all the rights and responsibilities that membership gives you."

Now, I know, I have an axe to grind, just a bit, on the subject of religious belief. There are people whom I cared about (who am I fooling ... I still care about them) who felt it was impossible to be a friend of a 'person like me'. I seem to have broken at least two important rules of their religion: violating my body and marrying someone of the same gender. 

How do they know these things are wrong? They just know. The leadership of their religion says so. What do they feel personally about these things? I'm not sure they know the answer because they don't think for themselves. They are told what to think, so they can stay in their church and be acceptable to their faith. Rant over.

Seth Andrews is the author of Deconverted: A Journey from Religion to Reason. The video below would be of interest to those who wonder what it is like to be highly-devoted to a religion and, then, seemingly suddenly, abandon all of that. I do wish some of my friends and relatives could undergo such an intervention. It would be lovely to know what they feel and what they think about personal relationships, love, and, well, all the rest of what makes living meaningful.

I found this video to be well-spoken, humorous, and poignant. I do wish it was possible to send it to anyone who needs an intervention.