Bare Bones Biology 143 – Education

Last week I introduced Stepháne Luchini, whose expertise is in communication techniques as they relate to community and justice. This week and next, I want to air a bit more from his commentary. Unfortunately I had to edit out some car noise, but I think the message is his, and I want to present his message because so many people ask me “what can we do?” or sometimes they tell me there is nothing we can do. My answer, for about the past three years, has been that we must discuss the issues together.

TarSandsHoustonASC_1752sIn fact, we now have factual data available to discuss, relative to our basic communal issues, and of course the purpose of discussion is to bring our opinions to the facts and to each other. If we only discuss with people who agree, that’s almost the same as not discussing, and it generally ends in a big session of “blame-placing” or “aint-it-awful,” or both, which can relieve our own sense of responsibility but does not result in improving the mental health of our communities. That’s one reason I was so interested in Stepháne’s comments about debate, dialog and community. Here’s Stepháne:

“You were interested in exploring the difference between debate and dialog. I think dialog is a conversation between two or more people. It’s one that facilitates people taking into consderation others. Debate’s a contest to see who can win over the other. I don’t think that really helps to facilitate consideration. I think it develops division, competition.”

“Dialog helps take into consideration all beings. I think to consider all beings, we have to consider who is going to be part of the dialog. I think dialog suggests that we have to think of who else will be part of the dialog and invite those others into the dialog. A specific example is if we say at a public meeting about what’s going to happen with water issues in the town of Silver City, who should be at that meeting? Who should we invite? Maybe it’s not that we should decide in a quiet back room of the corporation, Ok who do we want to talk with about water issues because we have a bias toward wanting to make some money. Or as it was in Bolivia, where people needed a new water system, and a US based corporation comes along and says we’ll put in a nice new water system. The people were really happy until they started to get these horrendous bills to charge them for water that was always free, and they revolted. That didn’t work out for that company apparently, because nobody paid.

”We have a system that perpetuates harm and hurts, I believe, with our criminal justice system right now, and I think a lot of people go into it with a feeling that they really want to fulfill the needs of justice. They feel tired, or discouraged, or know that it’s actually causing more harm, and are really seeking what better we can do. People who are district attorneys, people who are judges. So I think there’s room. I think people in criminal justice, professionals, many or most of them, if they saw a new way that could promote healing and true accountability, they would embrace it. My experience with restorative justice suggests that people in our community, if given an opportunity, would embrace an alternative way. I think people can take up dialog. I think we can take up dialog in our politics than our debate. I think we can do more with our efforts to promote community. I think people are ready for it.”

Lynn Lamoreux
Photos by Lynn

This blog is an expanded version of Bare Bones Biology radio program that will playnext week on KEOS Radio, 98.1 FM, Bryan, Texas.
Bare Bones Biology is a completely nonprofit project. The podcast can be downloaded at:

Recommended References:
http://www.restorativejustice.org/
http://www.luchinimediationservices.com/restorative-justice1.html

Questions for discussion.
(1) What is the most important need in my community and who should be involved in a dialog about that issue.
(2) How does this need differ from the needs of the ecosystem? How do you know what the ecosystem needs? Which is more important and why?
For a free copy of the Bare Bones Biology Ecology energy handbook, go to the right side of my blog https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com, under chapters. Be sure to let me know if it doesn’t work, or if you find something in the book with which you disagree.

Bare Bones Biology 142 – Community/Mediation

An excellent study of different sorts of communities was recently published by Jared Diamond, The World Until Yesterday, Viking Press. Diamond discussed different types of social organizations under various headings, including “peace and war.”

130106-TarSands-asc_1675LSs copyAdministering disputes, justice and peace is, of course, an essential community function. The power of community is based on the efforts of people acting together to accomplish the common goal. To do that, we must not prey upon each other, and we must find the most effective ways to administer justice and, if necessary, control individual behaviors that harm the community.

Our American rule of law seems to be based in a sort of dichotomous debate model, right or wrong, win or lose, power and weakness, and — let’s face it – it’s not working very well. There are several weaknesses in this model. Most obvious is that the basic power is administered via fear, rather than compassion, justice or fairness. Winning, that is beating up on other people, or fighting over anything, does not increase trust among the members of the community, and then the community tends to use compassion unwisely.

We delight in rescuing victims, but to rescue victims it’s necessary to generate victims in the first place. In our culture and in our media and our education system, we do not hear glory tales about preventing victimization. Lately there has been a move to prevent bullying, but of course we aren’t really serious about that. Our whole corposystem model is based in rewarding the biggest bully. Schoolchildren aren’t going to believe that it is not; and I don’t see anyone changing the model. Nor do I see anyone out there shouting the praises of the people who do prevent victims. For example, the gory evening TV programs, last time I looked, all were based in the glory of the gore. But there are people in our culture who are working hard to do just that – prevent victims – and they are using various methods that relate to various sorts of problems.

122212-Solstice-_2s copyProbably you have heard of the restorative justice model of conflict resolution. There are links on my blog. Last summer, when I was in Silver City, I had the good fortune to discuss the restorative justice model of conflict resolution with a leading practicioner, Stepháne Luchini:

“I’ve always been interested in peacemaking and social justice, and even now I’ve moved into criminal justice, as a mediator in the field of restorative justice. But my larger interest is in community and the work with restorative justice is based on dialogue. How can we bring people together who might be in pain where there’s been harm, where there’s anger, and how can we bring people together where they can feel safe where there’s hope of something changing, a transformation, and how can I as a facilitator help guide people through a dialogue process in rocky territory where it’s difficult and we want to avoid conflict and harm, and transform somehow our experience in the past that has been hurtful or where we have hurt someone, to a new experience – transform the relationships we have had between us and them, the good person and the bad person, into something where we recognize the real essence of who we are as human beings, that we all have a need for being safe, we all have a need for being cared for and recognized. That’s what I’ve enjoyed doing for the last decade now, the restorative justice work, because I see, after a couple hour meeting between victims and offenders how something can so dramatically change where there is healing where people who have hurt each other can now hug each other.”

Lynn Lamoreux
Photos by Lynn

This blog is an expanded version of Bare Bones Biology radio program that will play
next week on KEOS Radio, 98.1 FM, Bryan, Texas. Bare Bones Biology is a completely
nonprofit project. The podcast can be downloaded at:


Recommended References:

Diamond, Jared. The World Until Yesterday, what can we learn from traditional societies? Viking Press, 2012
http://www.restorativejustice.org/
http://www.luchinimediationservices.com/restorative-justice1.html

Bare Bones Biology 136 – Corposystem Community

Last week we overviewed the relationship between the corposystem and the whole earth ecosystem. The earth ecosystem is the unique unit of life that consists of the sum of all the other units of life on earth and the climate they generate. The ecosystem uses light energy to make food energy (Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook*). It then uses the food energy to do the work of staying alive – that is, it keeps all the earth organisms alive by making food for them. Then it recycles the products of life, that we think of as waste products; but the ecosystem puts the products together with more energy from the sun to make more life. The ecological miracle of life is that it is sustainable, as long as the products are recycled and there is light energy from the sun.

Earth Systems Final2 copyThe corposystem is the modern corpo-political culture. It uses the food energy from the ecosystem to feed the humans who do the work of making money. That work includes withholding from both the human community and the biological community any services that are not profitable. In other words the corposystem retains the money and also, for the most part does not recycle its products.

The problem the corposystem is now facing is that money (despite the clever misuse of the term by some authors) money is not energy. No matter how many clever games we use to make more of it – money cannot grow food energy to feed the humans who do the work of the corposystem. Only the process of photosynthesis can energize life on earth, and we can’t do photosynthesis. Even if we could, we would just unbalance a different node of the web of Life.

It is people working and living that drives the corposystem. It is the resources from the ecosystem (food energy and other resources) that feed the work of humans, and it is the work of humans that drives the corposystem cycle. Not money. Money is a product we play with.

This is good because it means, whenever we take a mind to, we humans can stop the insanity of competing with the ecosystem. We can change our culture to one that collaborates with the work of the ecosystem and so is more sustainable. Whenever we decide to, we can use the work of our hands, minds and bodies to support the cycles of life that actually do feed the welfare of the whole of Life itself. To do this, we need to understand how the corposystem generates a human culture of fear, anger, hatred, greed and dominance, in spite of our normal human need for the kind of a compassionate community that I have described in earlier blogs in this series (beginning with Bare Bones Biology 092).

HeroVictimVillain copyThe cycle of human roles that drives the work of the corposystem is shown within the corposystem cycle in the diagram on my blog. The culture diagram is my perception of our modern American culture: It can be a guide to ourselves, and a hope for the future if we can understand what we are doing to ourselves.

First let’s remember that a cycle is not me or you as individuals. A cycle is more like a set of job titles, or life-styles. I claim that our modern American corposystem culture limits us to three available over-all life styles: Victim life style: Villain life style: Good Guy-Hero life style. Some individuals choose to become very good at one or other of those life styles, but we aren’t specifically stuck. If you are raised with all the life skills of a Victim you can choose, and if you work very hard to figure out what keeps you in that life style, you can change to another lifestyle. But in our culture you will not be recognized, understood or rewarded if you try to choose any lifestyle that is too far apart from the available three. This is really difficult to explain, so I have placed a personal example on my blog directly below the transcript of this podcast. (https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/a-heads-up/).

Lynn Lamoreux
Photos by Lynn

This blog is an expanded version of Bare Bones Biology radio program that will play
next week on KEOS Radio, 98.1 FM, Bryan, Texas. Bare Bones Biology is a completely
nonprofit project. The podcast can be downloaded at http://traffic.libsyn.com/fff/Bare_Bones_Biology_136_-_Corposystem_CommunityF.mp3

Recommended References:

Bare Bones Biology Ecology Energy Handbook
Go to the right side of the page under Chapters and download your free no strings PDF.
Bare Bones Biology 135 – https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2012/12/05/
A Heads Up – https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/a-heads-up/

Question for Discussion

Most people who read this blog are aware of the concept of Yin and Yang. For every earthly action or event, there is the possibility of both a “good” and a “bad” result. If we are really paying attention to the results of our actions, we can observe that this is true in our human experience. Why do you think this is true?

Try this for an Idea

Watch your actions for a whole day. You will be happy with some things you do and not happy with other things you do. Why is this? Is it because of peer pressure or because of some negative or positive responses of other people? Or is it because you have really considered the right or wrong of your actions? Ask yourself, why are they right and why are they wrong?

Definitions:
Whole Earth Ecosystem = All the species of organisms on earth and the environment that they generate to live in.
Corposystem = The modern American corpo-political system including its international entanglements.

Bare Bones Biology 134 – Community and Ego

I had a dream last night about human ego, whatever that is, I will not try to define. In the dream, some guy was driving the bus and I was picking up the pieces. Literally, I mean, I was picking the pieces of newspaper and trash, old egg shells, gum and plastic wrappings — out from under the gas pedal — as they kept rolling back in there — while two other people sat behind, telling me what I was doing wrong, and the trash kept piling higher and deeper.

You will never guess what this dream was trying to tell me, because I didn’t until I started to write it down, and immediately came to mind my persistent question: “Why did The Creator give us our ego in the first place?” The thing causes so much pain and suffering to us and our communities, convincing us that our own belief system, our own need to be more right, is more real than reality. It isn’t, you know. Nobody is “right,” because nobody understands everything. And if we believe that our mind, emotions, intellect (reference), or our world view (reference), are more powerful than the biological reality. Well, that’s a pretty good definition of pain and suffering, now or later.

Pain is life enhancing. It guides our choice of behaviors so that we avoid drowning in the river when its currents are swirling in flood, or burning our little hands on the stove. Because we were formed within the biological community – our response to pain is biologically life enhancing.

To understand why we were given an ego is more difficult. What good is the blasted thing, if the use of it causes us emotional pain and suffering, but it doesn’t tell us what the danger is? Well, of course, that’s one function of community – to help us avoid emotional suffering by passing down the wisdom teachings of the ages. The harm caused by our ego-trips is well and often explained in all the wisdom teachings, and better behaviors described.

Maybe that’s what the ego is meant to do. Maybe our ego suffering is meant to enhance the welfare of the community by passing on some wisdom from now to benefit the future. I hope so, because our age is growing new problems faster than any before, and with these new problems, we must learn new lessons (or apply the old ones) about what not to do if we don’t want to suffer.

Our origins designed us genetically and behaviorally to live in a biosystem that functions to support life, but our human culture now has grown an artificial corposystem that functions to make money. And the power of this corposystem seems to lie mostly in our human ego needs.

So many people so filled with the fear of not being better than other people. Is that our ego? Why do we feel that we must be better than someone else? We can’t discuss the important issues, because someone might go into a one-up or one-down tizzy, or just turn their backs and walk away for fear that we might know something they don’t know. But isn’t that the point of discussion, that everyone knows more than only one? Don’t we WANT to deal with the problems? We keep saying that we do, and then the next thing you know we are debating irrelevant questions for no better reason than to satisfy our never-ending need to win. Even though the floods of climate change (climate change series Bare Bones Biology 092 through 100) are already tickling our toes – even though everyone really does know the end result of these ego trips, in our modern times, will be disaster.

So now my question is: how can we be aware of our ego, and all the negative, painful behaviors that it generates — how can we use that knowledge to grow a more positive, life-supporting human community?

Lynn Lamoreux
Photos by Lynn

This blog is an expanded version of Bare Bones Biology radio program that will play next week on KEOS Radio, 98.1 FM, Bryan, Texas. Bare Bones Biology is a completely nonprofit project. The podcast can be downloaded at

Recommended Action/Question for Discussion: I’m tempted to suggest that you start an argument and consider what methods you use to win. And what are the results. But in fact I doubt that you need to know more about how to argue. So instead I suggest you find a person with whom to discuss an issue and see how long you can keep it going without either of you having an obvious emotional reaction (because this will be a serious subject.) Maybe you could try this one – http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/11/26/why_birth_control_is_still_a_big_idea
“In the United States, especially this year, any occasion when contraceptives and public policy overlap seems to be an excuse to fight about other issues.”

Bare Bones Biology 116 – Wendy Johnson Workshop

Bare Bones Biology 107 through today, 116, are about communication. Different kinds of communication. And of course we didn’t scratch the surface. Communications has become an entire discipline. I know someone with a PhD in the subject. But there’s nothing new about the simple point of this series of blogs — that all communications are real, but they are useful to us in different ways, as we grow own personal future or, more importantly in the long view as we try to resolve the biological illness that faces our ecosystem.
,
We know we cannot survive without the ecosystem. Therefore, picking out whatever we like to believe, or whatever communication stirs our emotions, or whatever we wish were true — and working very, very hard for it – or going with the flow because that’s normal human behavior – none of those approaches to communication will resolve our current biological dilemma. What we mostly need is good information and good discussion. Sometimes a good place to look for these is in a workshop setting.

I recently attended a workshop about the four elements with Wendy Johnson (author of “Gardening At the Dragon’s Gate,” Bantam Dell), at Upaya Zen Center (http:www.Upaya.org).

The workshop experience merged our awareness of our human values, emotions and needs with the mother-nurture of nature as we examined each of the four elements that are organized by Buddhism as: earth, water, fire and air (and space). We all know that these are the fruits of the ecosystem, that we cannot do without them, that our behaviors influence their availability, and that I have also been talking about these issues from my perspective of our physical survival needs. It was a joy to experience Wendy’s beautiful rendition of the same issues, blending the physical survival needs with our human emotional needs and a practical approach, learning through gardening, that goes beyond either perspective.

We really could resolve our biological dilemma, if we would only reach that one step beyond the science and beyond the emotions and use our inborn compassionate nature, and our recognition that the problem at its roots is biological, as an incentive to study the fact-based needs of the ecosystem – and find a way to give the mother life what it needs that is different from what we need – for it and for ourselves and our future. We have everything to do that — except the will. The facts are available and so are the technologies. The compassionate will, however, is being drowned in a sea of fear, hostility, short-sighted self-interest and false propaganda.

Here is Wendy’s better vision.

“I love to make the connection between the outer waters of the world and the inner waters that do compose us. Three-fifths of water of our bodies is carried inside our cells, and then another two/fifths outside as blood plasma, cerebro-spinal fluid and intestinal tract fluid. So we are walking bags of water. We can feel that. Especially in a dry place. Those of us from the Bay Area, from Portland, Oregon, where water animates the air. We have to search for the resonance that is our human inheritance.

“And every day, every day, three percent of the water in our bodies is replenished with new molecules. Water from the deep abyss of the ocean, I was thinking this morning we are replenished, not only with fresh water, but from water that is in the huge hydrologic cycle, coming up fresh, and that water includes water from the depths of the Gulf of Mexico, water mixed with the ancient fire of oil, water from rain on the tall grass prairie, and from the ancient forests. Actually, we measure water, in the woods, we measure water by how much stored fog and vapor. In the ancient redwoods, now whittled down to 2.5 percent of their original size. How much water they give back, so stepping into the redwood forest, I remember years ago with Thich Nhat Hanh (www.plumvillage.org), he said: ‘We step into a Sangha of water and life.’ You can feel it, stepping onto that ground, water vapor breathing with the trees. So, three percent of our bodies are always refreshed by the upwelling and the sinking down, by the rhythm of water.

“And yet water shortage, water depletion, the so-called resource, I hate to even use that word in connection with water, the so-called resourcefulness of water is already one of the greatest challenges we are facing.”
For more of this and the remaining elements, check out Wendy’s podcasts part one and part two at Upaya http://www.upaya.org/dharma/the-four-elements-series-all-2-parts/. Or for air, surely you remember Bare Bones Biology 093 was also pretty good, and the same general interdependence relationship is also true of energy (fire) and earth. I recommend you listen to Wendy’s podcasts of this workshop, parts one and two, and I also highly recommend her dharma talk of the previous week. http://www.upaya.org/dharma/wendy-johnson-06-13-2012-the-four-elements-return-to-their-true-nature/

During this workshop, we went down to the little Santa Fe River to put our feet in the water and wonder what it would feel like without water.

Bitsy and I went back again last week and splashed about while the children swung on the tire. But two days later there was no more water in the little Santa Fe river. Only a place in the bottom of the channel where some animal had tried to dig for it.
Bare Bones Biology 116 – Wendy Johnson Workshop
KEOS-FM, 89.1, Bryan, Texas
For a podcast of this radio spot, click here
Or go to http://www.BareBonesBiology.com

Recommended References and Trackbacks:
Upaya Zen Center, http://www.Upaya.org
Wendy Johnson, Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate gardeningatthedragonsgate.com/
http://www.upaya.org/dharma/the-four-elements-series-all-2-parts/
http://www.upaya.org/dharma/wendy-johnson-06-13-2012-the-four-elements-return-to-their-true-nature/
Bare Bones Biology 107-115 and 093
Thich Nhat Hanhwww.plumvillage.org http://www.plumvillage.org

Bare Bones Biology 065 – Aintitawful

Right from the beginning, my blog has been about power, particularly it is about personal power – our power to build our lives around our own positive values. Of course we can’t do anything or everything that we want to do. Other powers exist that we do not personally control. The power of communities; the power of the corposystem; and most importantly for our survival, the power of the ecosystem. We can not directly control these other things, at least we can’t control how they respond to our mutual environment, and it’s better that we don’t try.

It is better to clearly understand the powers that we are able to control, rather than to stand around comparing notes about what we can not do. Or to cry and complain because we can’t have everything we want. It’s given away, that crying time. We could have used that time to grow our own personal power. When we spend time complaining about the corposystem, whether we hate it or fear it, all that time we are complaining about the corposystem we are actually growing the power of the corposystem, and they count on that help. They nurture it. They want us to believe they can control us. But it’s only true at level three. In the important ways, they can not control us at the level of personal power. Not unless we believe in the corposystem more than we believe in ourselves.

I have spoken often about levels of organization, including levels of power. I am not the ecosystem (level four in my system of categorizing). I am not the corposystem (level three). I am not the community (level two). But I am me, level one, and my personal power is my own to claim and use for the benefit of myself or of humankind or for whatever I choose to use it. I can give it away, but nobody can take it away from me. It lives in the choices that I make right now. Every breath, every millisecond of life, contains a choice – what to do – and whether I think about it or not, whether I believe it or not, what I do with the choice of this moment, including doing nothing, is my personal power (or my weakness). If I choose to spend this moment moaning over the negative power of the corposystem, then I am growing a future, for myself and for other people, that will be one long moan.

The Peach Clubhouse exists because I could not find enough expressions of personal power in the other places where I looked for them, including some educational and progressive groups. What I found instead was a lock-step re-affirmation of the power of the corposystem to rule our lives unhampered.

That’s hogwash.

But it’s easy to understand.

Because it’s hard to see around our training.

For example, I came THIS close to making the Peach Clubhouse into a nonprofit organization, before I realized what that means. The nonprofits are the scavengers of the corposystem. They’re part of the corposystem. Like a buzzard or a maggot, they support the corposystem by cleaning up after it, cleaning up the harm that it causes. And more importantly they support the corposystem mantra. Success is growth – selling, fighting, growing.

Well, damn, selling, fighting and growing only creates more messes, and it defines the nonprofits by the same toxic charter that defines the corposystem. Were I to buy into this system, I would betray the whole purpose of the Peach Clubhouse — this emblem of my personal power — by allowing it to be swallowed up into the corposystem, defined by the greed, fear and hatred of the corposystem. As our media, and our rule of law, have been swallowed up, and even – you can believe this or not – the corposystem evidently thinks it can swallow up the ecosystem. Well that won’t happen, because none of us can live without the ecosystem. And neither will I throw the Peach Clubhouse into that black hole.

Bare Bones Biology 065 – Aintitawful
KEOS radio 89.1 FM, Bryan, Texas
Transcript at FactFictionFancy.wordpress.com
Audio later this week at http://www.BareBonesBiology.com

Fear

childWe have been talking about fear, and in fact there are many things to fear in the world of today — or any day for that matter — but those are not the real things that the media will tell you about. The media and the politicians, the educational systems and yes, even the religious and charitable organizations will tell you to fear the things they want you to change — not the things that need changing. In today’s world subunits of all these groups make their living primarily off of fear, and even though we are the richest and the safest land — probably in all of history — except for our penchant for killing ourselves — we actually believe this load of tripe. And we continue to believe even though we have been given the antidote to fear a couple millennia ago. Of course the antidote is compassion; what the Bible refers to as love.

You don’t need me to tell you about the politics. You can see it for yourself. The subject of this blog is personal power. How to not be controlled unnecessarily. And it’s perfectly obvious today — just watch the TV — no don’t — that the fat cats are using fear to control us. This has been discussed to death (John Cory, Truthout 03 October 09) for example. Sorry they don’t seem to have a link.

Well, maybe it’s not obvious to scientists. Maybe that’s our trouble. We think too much in square blocks, and then we use those square thought blocks to build ramparts and fortresses where we can hide from our fear. Fear of what? If we don’t know — we can always invent something, and blame that thing, and then we can hate it and our mind is no longer filled with fear but with hatred. I remember one time in my life when my mind was filled with hatred and to tell the truth I prefer the fear. Hatred is an awful feeling. But then fear is also unpleasant, so why are we determined to be afraid of things that are not real when there are real things we should be fixing? Why — besides the half-lies of the politicos, the news media, NGO’s and the corn flake companies et al.?

I asked that question a quarter of a century ago. In fact I was a fearful little thing then, but when I moved to the Bible Belt, I was astonished by the amount of fear that I encountered, the people I was expected to be afraid of, and more amazing the people who were afraid of me. I always thought this had something to do with the shattered remnants of the civil war (and it is convincing evidence for the futility of war as a vehicle for reducing fear and hatred, as the warriors continue illogically to claim. How silly can you be, curing fear with fear).

Wendell Berry (The Hidden Wound) has a somewhat different explanation that is based in his personal experience with the institution of slavery and its toxic impact on our Christian antidote to fear. He says that, because Christianity clearly is incompatable with slavery, the preachers had to modify the Biblical message of compassion/love:

“ . . . the moral obligation was clearly excerpted from the religion. The question of how best to live on the earth, among one’s fellow creatures, was permitted to atrophy, and the churches devoted themselves exclusively and obsessively with the question of salvation.”

Yes, that sounds familiar. When I first moved to South Carolina, I remember attending a church service that consisted almost entirely of a diatribe of hatred directed at another church on the other side of town. So I am inclined to accept Wendell Berry’s analysis.

And that brings us full circle back to our subject. Fear as the father of hatred. We were talking about this a couple weeks ago, and I was spinning my thoughts, trying to free them from those square blocks to understand what I know about fear. Quite a bit, actually, and I learned to deal with it, but I never did learn where it came from until last week when I and a powerful Texas storm front arrived at the dreaded Houston “mixmaster” at the same moment.

The mixmaster is about an acre of land filled with high-speed lanes of traffic where three major highways intersect. OK, so it makes sense to be afraid when there is something to be afraid of, but why do I feel afraid, for example, to speak in public? That fear is entirely artificial, and is a huge handicap for me. What is the function of artificial fear? Besides allowing us to be controlled? And right there in the middle of the mixmaster, trying to get into a wet, semi-visible lane that would end up on 290, I had a flash of insight.

Fear is very simple. It’s a way to be someplace else when I don’t like where I am. When my head is filled with artificial fear, I don’t have to do whatever it is I don’t want to do. Or at least I can pretend I’m not there. Sort of like daydreaming only not as much fun.

Oh, well, that is pretty complicated after all, but forget about me and just remember the important points — fear is the father of hatred, and we do have obligations to other people.

In our culture we receive many false messages:

“You can do whatever you want; you are free to not do anything you don’t want to do.” Hogwash. We have obligations to other people and to the community as a whole, a fact that all true religions make very clear. And the greatest of these is compassion. If we understood our obligations, we would not (as a generalization) need to hide in our fear and hatred.

Compassion is the antidote to fear; fear is the father of hatred. Therefore, compassion is the antidote to both.
Compassion is the core of every major religion (Karen Armstrong, The Case for God).

And reverence is the mother of compassion:

“ . . . the main principle of reverence, that human beings should never play at being gods.” (Paul Woodruff, Reverence).

(Photo from Outside the Circles in production.)