Bear60's Blog


The Lind Wurm Story
May 3, 2009, 07:16PMMay
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

The Lind Wurm or the Snake That Was Thrown Out of the Window Tale
(this Scandinavian story came to me through Robert Bly’s book The Sibling Society)

Long ago, in a land faraway, lived a childless king and queen. They longed for a son to carry on their name and dynasty. They went to priests, shamans, sages and soothsayers to get advice on how to conceive a son. Finally, the queen was pregnant; on the day she was to give birth, the midwives found two children in her uterus. The first to enter the world was a snake, and one of the midwives quickly threw it out of the window, without the king or queen knowing it.

The second baby was a beautiful little boy. Both king and queen were exultant, and went about doing fathering and mothering of their wonderful new addition. The boy grew and before anyone knew it he was an adolescent. At a dance he met a winsome young woman with whom he fell in love. One sunny day, he left his castle to travel to her home. On the way, at a crossroads, he met a huge dragon that stopped him in his tracks. He told the young man that he was his elder brother, and sang this song: “He who is born first, marries first. He who is born first marries first.” Then he breathed out long flames that smelled like horrible burnt rubber. Frightened, he turned around and went home.

When he got home, he went to his father, and asked him, “Do I have an older brother, a fire-breathing dragon?” The father replied, “No son. You have no other siblings. You are our pride and joy. I don’t know what’s gotten into you.”

After some time went by, he attempted to go see the young woman he loved and wanted to marry. On this trip the same thing happened. He met the dragon, and now he looked bigger, meaner and fiercer even then the first time. He sang the same song, too. Even more scared he ran back to his castle. When he arrived he found his mother and asked her, “Mother, do I have an older brother who happens to be a large, ugly dragon?” His mother said to him, “No, my loving son. You are our only son, and I would give my life for you in an heartbeat!”

The mother was now suspicious, and found the old midwife, now living deep in the forest; she was old and shriveled, but still alive. She asked her if something or someone was born before her son. The midwife told her the story of the tiny snake. In disbelief, the mother said, “Why didn’t you tell me?” The midwife said that she was afraid, and didn’t know there was another child in there, until the boy emerged.

The king and queen talked, and they realized that the only way their son would be able to marry was if they could find a way to get the dragon out of the way, by getting him married first. They put out an “all points bulletin” sort of announcement that the king and queen had another, older son who needed a wife. He said that all the legible young women could apply for the position, and would receive a healthy endowment, and high place in the kingdom.

Well, the story goes, that twelve woman applied. Each of them came to the castle, and the dragon took each of them to the bridal chamber to consummate the marriage. He would ask each of the brides to remove their wedding blouse, then he would let loose a huge fire stream, and pounce on the bride in a fatal pounce. In the morning, when the attendants checked the room, all they could find was the dragon sipping tea, but there was no sign of the bride.

The woodcutter’s daughter, a beautiful, aquiline woman wanted to take the challenge and marry the other son. She told her father, who was none too pleased, and then went to meet the old crone who lived in the dark forest. She told the old woman about her desire, and the woman said, “There are a few things you must do and bring with you to prepare for this momentous event. First, make seven wedding blouses, and embellish them artfully. When you go to the wedding put all seven of them on. Make sure you take with you a hard, bristle brush, some lye, and a pale of milk.” The young woman told her she would do exactly what she was told, even though it made no sense to her.

It took ten months to make the wedding blouses; when she was done, she got the other things the crone told her to take and went to the king and queen’s castle to propose marriage to the oldest son. After the wedding, the dragon took her to the bridal chamber. He told her to take off her wedding blouse. “Not so fast,” she told him. “You also have to do something for me. After I take off the wedding blouse you have to remove a layer of skin.” The dragon looked at her quizzically. “No one has asked me to do that before! But since you’re so beautiful, I’ll agree.”

So the process began. With each wedding blouse the young woman removed, the dragon pulled and stretched off a layer of skin. With each layer the pain increased. He howled in pain, and with each layer his fire breath decreased in intensity. Finally, at the end, after he pulled off the last layer, he was totally exhausted and fell into a decomposing heap on the floor. He lay in a pool of bloody mucous of shredded skin. The young woman knew she had to act. She scraped his bare, raw skin with the bristle brush until it shone like a shiny radish. Then she poured lye on his skin, and lastly the pale of milk. Suddenly, the dragon vanished and a beautifully formed young prince stood up. It was love at first sight. They went to the king and queen, and asked to be married right away. And they lived happily ever after. So did the second son who married his first love, the woodcutter’s daughter.

In terms of gender identification, what meanings may be ascribed to this story?

✗ The dragon symbolizes the skewed idea of maleness; or we might say, with the psychiatrist Carl Jung, that the symbol pictures men’s shadow side. Whether individually or collectively, one’s shadow is a disowned and denied part of maleness that we want to hide, rather than keep it right in front of us so we are always aware of it. The shadow comes into existence from poor role models, wrong information from those we love (our own fathers), social conditioning, and our peer group.
✗ When the dragon removed his layers of skin, we might say he was going through death and transformation. It was painful indeed. This is the image of getting rid of the false self of maleness and masculinity. Men have to take off the skin of male superiority (the need to be “one up”), patriarchy, being in control, bias against women, and of perpetuating the WMS (white male system) in order to enter wholeness. The groom who emerged from the milky mess of the dragon’s remains reflects a state of true self or integrated self.
✗ The bride was an empowered woman; she sought advice from the wise crone. She found her voice and other means to confront the dragon, the archetype of male power found in the WMS. She saw the dragon as equal, and met him on his own playing field. When she refused to be “one down” with the dragon, over and over again, he lost his power over her, and eventually disintegrated.

Discussion Questions:

✔ As a male how have you been in collusion with the WMS?
✔ As a male, what stereotypes have you had, or do you now have, of women?
✔ As a male, what are the results of always having to be “one up?” How do you feel about it?
✔ As a female how have you seen the WMS at work in your life? What were its consequences? How did it make you feel?
✔ As a female, have you found “your voice” to speak truth to power? Can you share a little about this process using personal examples?

© Christopher Bear Beam, April, 2009

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SILENT RACISM* YELLS OUT LOUD AGAIN
March 21, 2011, 07:16AMMar
Filed under: Diversity, Uncategorized | Tags: ,

Silent Racism is the sort of racism that is unconscious, and often unspoken. It may describe whites who have no sense that they have any racialized conditioning, thus they would back away from thinking about racialized conditioning, as it pertains to their own personal inferences regarding whether they’re suffering from any form of Racism or are in denial. This racialized conditioning was used to found this nation, and has been perpetuated through ongoing generations in people’s minds, and embedded in American customs and laws.

Did you realize that 90% of our nation’s life has been spent living within the confines of slavery and Jim Crow laws lasting up until the Civil Rights Era. This is a huge segment of time, breeding the Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome (Joy Leary has written a book by the same title) as an African American disease, with all the trappings of cultural trauma, irrational behaviors, re-triggering and healing.

We can be thankful for having brains and minds that are incredibly maleable, elastic, and resilient. This makes it possible to essentially re-build our brains, within certain limitations. Our self-introspective role is to de-construct our racialized conditioning and to assimilate and internalize new constructions and conversations about Racism. This is hard work, and requires confronting who we really are, and getting a feel for our own racialized conditioning. It means we learn about a varied slate of kinds of Racism that we see prevalent in our culture. It means we have developed coping mechanisms, if we happen to be re-triggered by our own perception of trauma.

Which brings me to a current example: recently a young Latina American, was a contestant in the Miss San Antonio Beauty Contest, and was disqualified. The beauty pageant officials said it was due to the failure of the young contestant to keep appointments, and some other trivial points.

After this happened, one of the officials of the pageant pulled this contestant aside and said to her, ‘you’ve just got to lay off those tacos, …’ The young Latina saw where this statement was coming from, so she decided to sue the pageant. We need to be critical thinkers about these types of stereotypes. Why did the official use the term “tacos,” instead of something else? Was this person so culturally incompetent that she didn’t think at all about how this might affect the young Latina? Or Latinas/os as an ethnicity? Or people we might call Mexican Americans, Salvadoran Americans, or people born in Spain?

The pageant official was making a statement, knowingly or not. She was perhaps voicing a Euro-centric Cultural Racism as an informal statement of the pageant’s operating procedure. White Systemic Racism consists of a philosophical anxiom that white is right; whiteness is the norm of what is beautiful, good, civilized, intelligent, morally superior, etc., and that any other norms are “less than” and inferior. Another way of paraphrasing what the pageant official told the disqualified Latina is this: tacos aren’t good–they’re an inferior food associated with South American or Mexican cultures. “Tacos aren’t good–they’re an inferior food, bad and uncivilized!”

If you are a European American and open to expanding your conscious, cultural sensititivity and competency, observe what you see and hear around you in the culture, to learn what you can about our form of Racism and how you’ve colluded with White Systemic Racism extant in our society. Use others, who may different than you, as your mirrors for growth.

3/20/2011 Copyright Christopher Bear-Beam, M.A., LPCI
* Barbara Trepagnier, Silent Racism



APPLES AND ORANGES: WHY DO WE FLIP OUR ASSUMPTIONS THINKING THEY ARE FACTS?
March 8, 2011, 07:16AMMar
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags:

Austin, Texas—All of us needs to occasionally come down from our ivory towers and white privilege; after all, it’s less painful than being pushed from up top by someone else. Someone standing on your fingers desperately trying to pry your fingers from the tight grip on the stone ridge of the cliff.

The other day I was watching a movie where one of the characters talked about a principle of life for those who want to more empowered, because he could see that a younger character in the film was thinking he was “all that.” I remember my dad saying, “he has a big head” meaning the person was arrogant or stubbornly holding onto his own opinions. A line said by this older man in the film went like this: “A man who thinks he’s bigger than everyone else needs to take a trip to a cemetery. Cemeteries show us what life is really like. Each of us is only a handful of dirt.”

Have you ever noticed that when we as a species, get some vital piece of knowledge or understanding we often completely flip it upside down. We develop theories, conjectures, hypotheses, opinions, assumptions and biases about some idea, person, or thing—we thnk to ourselves, “Wow, this is the truth; this is all based on on accurate facts,” and before we know it, we’ve flipped our own ideas into a distortion of factual information. Each piece of anecdotal information must fit within our newly generated opinion of reality. The problem with this is that this little baby of ours may be a delusion, an illusion, with an untimely birth and death. Any new information is selectively denied.

Generally most conflicts occur when people are skirmishing with each other about the rightness of their ideologies or views of life; they are usually talking past each other, and not really talking with each other, nor listening to the essence of what another person means. Only with a form of open dialogue will we be able to understand the other, and be understood by them.

David Bohm has written much about what he calls the dialogue process. It may be hard making this transition to a dialogue model of communication, but may yield some good outcomes. Bohm asks us to temporarily suspend judgment and seeking only to listen for facts or data; the main goal is to communicate at a deeper level, to the person behind the mask and listening to the heart of the other person. Listening is about receiving the meaning of persons, not just hearing the sound of a word. So we are asked to temporarily suspend judgments and interpretive evaluations. We have at our disposal the use of a diverse package of re-framed styles of communication. The listener’s role is to listen empathically, paraphrasing or re-phrasing the other’s feelings and statements.

If humans could begin to speak and listen with others on the base of scientific facts, this might decrease conflict from the neighborhood all the way to the global planet.

Here’s a cookie for all of you to see. If I ask you, “what is this?” most people would reply “it’s a chocolate chip cookie.” However, various cultures have different names for “cookie,” or a “cookie” in their culture may be something totally different than what I think is a “cookie.” To add to this, we have “cookies” connected to computers—disabled or enabled.

Conflicts usually start when someone asks, “What is it—really?” Humans will die to have security and certainty. Our egos don’t want to die a small death to our need for survival and certainty about life in general. Many arguments and conflicts between significant others seem to be over trivial ideas. Often there is a much deeper reason for a person to get triggered than the presenting trivial reason. The source of adversity and oppositional reasoning is the ego; the ego gets a real good feeling by flipping assumptions on their heads and calling them facts. In short, our egos need is thinking that it’s bigger than everyone else.

William Pemberton is a consultant whose specialty is conflict resolution. The following diagram came out of Pemberton’s research, found in a paper delivered to the Second Conference on General Semantics, June 12, 1954. Of course the discipline of General Semantics has changed and integrated new interdisciplinary research into its own belief system. The essential teaching of General Semantics is that one may learn the skill of distinguishing between facts and interpretations of those facts, and not flipping them upside down. Our language should be in alignment with the structure of life we find in all natural systems, otherwise we end up with some crazy making notions and a whole lot of immature thinking.

INVOLUNTARY SPEECH AND BEHAVIOR

“threatened” and “threatening” ^ 1. Ignoring—withdrawing, sullen silence as
(non-acceptance) a weapon against a nemesis
^ 2. Attacking-criticizing a). judgments:
^ approval, disapproval; b). advice
^ ought, shall, must, etc.
^ 3. Deceiving, lying, joking, pep talks
“non-threatened” and “ non ^ 4. Asking questions: a). for information
threatening” (acceptance) ^ (what, where, when, why); b). by silent
^ (observing, listening, inviting further
^ communication)
^ 5. Authentic statements of feeling;
^ a). describing one’s own feelings; b).
^ understanding others’ feelings
^ 6. Providing feed back: restating others’
^ restating others’ evaluations

Using this diagram as a map for less threatening communication, and more of a healthy way of encoding and decoding, we may get a better glimpse of how we “evaluate or evaluations.”

Pemberton describes a defensive posture in communication as crisis talk. Scientific abstraction and reasoning helps us to move to a “process of life orientation;” Awareness of various levels of biological life may assist us in keeping the lower levels of abstraction in their proper places. Only later after gathering all the data we can, we can make some initial inferences based on fact not on our own pet theories and assumptions. This keeps our reasoning adhering to facts rather than what we might only think are facts, and not mature reasoning. It’s vital as well to continually return to test the facts on which our evaluations stand.

© Christopher Bear-Beam, MA, LPCI March 5, 2011 (originally written in 1/10)



APPLES AND ORANGES: BE AWARE THAT ALL OF US FLIP OUR ASSUMPTIONS AND NAME THEM THE TRUTH OR “JUST THE FACTS”
March 8, 2011, 07:16AMMar
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags:

Austin, Texas—All of us needs to occasionally come down from our ivory towers and white privilege; after all, it’s less painful than being pushed from up top by someone else. Someone standing on your fingers desperately trying to pry your fingers from the tight grip on the stone ridge of the cliff.

The other day I was watching a movie where one of the characters talked about a principle of life for those who want to more empowered, because he could see that a younger character in the film was thinking he was “all that.” I remember my dad saying, “he has a big head” meaning the person was arrogant or stubbornly holding onto his own opinions. A line said by this older man in the film went like this: “A man who thinks he’s bigger than everyone else needs to take a trip to a cemetery. Cemeteries show us what life is really like. Each of us is only a handful of dirt.”

Have you ever noticed that when we as a species, get some vital piece of knowledge or understanding we often completely flip it upside down. We develop theories, conjectures, hypotheses, opinions, assumptions and biases about some idea, person, or thing—we thnk to ourselves, “Wow, this is the truth; this is all based on on accurate facts,” and before we know it, we’ve flipped our own ideas into a distortion of factual information. Each piece of anecdotal information must fit within our newly generated opinion of reality. The problem with this is that this little baby of ours may be a delusion, an illusion, with an untimely birth and death. Any new information is selectively denied.

Generally most conflicts occur when people are skirmishing with each other about the rightness of their ideologies or views of life; they are usually talking past each other, and not really talking with each other, nor listening to the essence of what another person means. Only with a form of open dialogue will we be able to understand the other, and be understood by them.

David Bohm has written much about what he calls the dialogue process. It may be hard making this transition to a dialogue model of communication, but may yield some good outcomes. Bohm asks us to temporarily suspend judgment and seeking only to listen for facts or data; the main goal is to communicate at a deeper level, to the person behind the mask and listening to the heart of the other person. Listening is about receiving the meaning of persons, not just hearing the sound of a word. So we are asked to temporarily suspend judgments and interpretive evaluations. We have at our disposal the use of a diverse package of re-framed styles of communication. The listener’s role is to listen empathically, paraphrasing or re-phrasing the other’s feelings and statements.

If humans could begin to speak and listen with others on the base of scientific facts, this might decrease conflict from the neighborhood all the way to the global planet.

Here’s a cookie for all of you to see. If I ask you, “what is this?” most people would reply “it’s a chocolate chip cookie.” However, various cultures have different names for “cookie,” or a “cookie” in their culture may be something totally different than what I think is a “cookie.” To add to this, we have “cookies” connected to computers—disabled or enabled.

Conflicts usually start when someone asks, “What is it—really?” Humans will die to have security and certainty. Our egos don’t want to die a small death to our need for survival and certainty about life in general. Many arguments and conflicts between significant others seem to be over trivial ideas. Often there is a much deeper reason for a person to get triggered than the presenting trivial reason. The source of adversity and oppositional reasoning is the ego; the ego gets a real good feeling by flipping assumptions on their heads and calling them facts. In short, our egos need is thinking that it’s bigger than everyone else.

William Pemberton is a consultant whose specialty is conflict resolution. The following diagram came out of Pemberton’s research, found in a paper delivered to the Second Conference on General Semantics, June 12, 1954. Of course the discipline of General Semantics has changed and integrated new interdisciplinary research into its own belief system. The essential teaching of General Semantics is that one may learn the skill of distinguishing between facts and interpretations of those facts, and not flipping them upside down. Our language should be in alignment with the structure of life we find in all natural systems, otherwise we end up with some crazy making notions and a whole lot of immature thinking.

INVOLUNTARY SPEECH AND BEHAVIOR

“threatened” and “threatening” ^ 1. Ignoring—withdrawing, sullen silence as
(non-acceptance) a weapon against a nemesis
^ 2. Attacking-criticizing a). judgments:
^ approval, disapproval; b). advice
^ ought, shall, must, etc.
^ 3. Deceiving, lying, joking, pep talks
“non-threatened” and “ non ^ 4. Asking questions: a). for information
threatening” (acceptance) ^ (what, where, when, why); b). by silent
^ (observing, listening, inviting further
^ communication)
^ 5. Authentic statements of feeling;
^ a). describing one’s own feelings; b).
^ understanding others’ feelings
^ 6. Providing feed back: restating others’
^ restating others’ evaluations

Using this diagram as a map for less threatening communication, and more of a healthy way of encoding and decoding, we may get a better glimpse of how we “evaluate or evaluations.”

Pemberton describes a defensive posture in communication as crisis talk. Scientific abstraction and reasoning helps us to move to a “process of life orientation;” Awareness of various levels of biological life may assist us in keeping the lower levels of abstraction in their proper places. Only later after gathering all the data we can, we can make some initial inferences based on fact not on our own pet theories and assumptions. This keeps our reasoning adhering to facts rather than what we might only think are facts, and not mature reasoning. It’s vital as well to continually return to test the facts on which our evaluations stand.

© Christopher Bear-Beam, MA, LPCI March 5, 2011 (originally written in 1/10)



HIDDEN KNOWLEDGE AND MISAPPLIED INFERENCES
January 25, 2011, 07:16AMJan
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Have you noticed that proponents of conspiratorial, adversarial theories and one-world ideologies will often make sweeping statements? They pride themselves on freedom of speech and religion, and what they believe is the Truth (many Christian radicals use the norm for the Truth as being whatever comes from the Bible, or perhaps some other mystical book). The main issue here, of course, is that Christianity (and other faith traditions) has many, many different ways of interpreting what they would term the Truth. Often these statements are wide-ranging, “glittering generalities” that are hypothetical premises.

General Semanticists would say at this point, that there are two ways of reasoni,ng. The first would be intensional reasoning. This falls into the category of a “vicious circle.” For example, if I say, “I feel blue,” there aren’t a lot of facts that can be used to explain the meaning of the words that is, in the real world. Show me what a “blue” is without pointing to something blue in the objective world. How would you define blue in a dictionary-sort of way? Is blue a person, place or thing? Who is Ms. Blue or Mr. Blue, anyway?

They would also say that extensional reasoning is based on the structural reality of biological life. If I make statements that use definitions that have no grounding in what can be scientifically known, I will find myself adrift in my own “fuzzy logic” and the consequences of this is that I, the speaker or writer, become the facsimile of Truth. I will find that I am a law to myself. I will find that this is very immature, unsane thinking that truly is crazymaking!

And here’s the rub: when someone starts throwing the word Truth around mindlessly or with some volition or meaning for them, they’ve entered a different world than our scientifically based natural world. When observed carefully, if statements are used that are unaligned to ‘the ways things work in the world,’ one finds oneself working only within their own assumption, bias, inference, and possibly one’s own delusion, then all bets for finding Truth are off, because the boundaries are already set, and these are self-incapacitating. The two types of reasoning create conflicts, poor historians and a general lack of maturity.

A major problem with so much of our thinking processes is that instead of presenting ideas that are factual and built on a scientific statement, we often use what we infer from such facts as statements of absolute certainty. This causes our reasoning to get off track, and our opinions reach the level of statements of truth. People generally will argue about opinions, with each person thinking that his or her opinions are expressions of truth.

To infer something means that when we have something in front of us that may be an observed dynamic in our natural system, so we may infer (interpret?) something out of the facts and empirical reality. What we say in stating our inference is not the same as the empirical object that we may see around us. For that we may need extra materials to verify that it is indeed logical, repeatable, and fitting appropriately next to something else in the real world.

Each of has to find a means to train to be critical thinkers. We need to really ask, “How do I know this?” What sources is the presenter or writer using to support his or her claim? It’s always a red flag when someone makes blanket statements, such as ‘most of the people we know who are Jewish may not be real Jews,” a statement I heard recently on the Power of Prophecy website. Well, I respond “how do you know this?’

Unfortunately, what may happen is that a statement made by a speaker/writer may be an inference or even a bias that can often translate into a false conception of persons, places or things. In one swift movement, we now are listening to a dressed up anti-Semitism, for example, that sounds plausible to people whose mindsets are attuned to exaggeration and drama; they can’t get enough of the emotional component of their findings, but don’t balance this off with sound, intellectual and semantic reasoning.

Many religionists and other ideologues often use these specious methods, because most of the time, there’s no way to disprove someone living within a closed system. The other side effect is that many people who believe in prophecies, mysterious auguries, and the future of the world suffer from what I term prediction addiction. Prediction addiction is the addiction to being the expert who can explain what everything means; it’s the addiction of creating illusory scenarios of what are lives might be like in the future. It’s the dubious hunt for some kind of security based on certainly—in a perfect world this day dream might have some merit, but we live in a messy, often uncontrollable world where there just is no good definition of perfection. Even if there were do we all really want perfection now in this existence?

Teachers of conspiracy theories, New Age prophecies, and biblical prophecies are many times afflicted by prediction addiction that adds to their own denial of their flawed and illogical reasoning. Representatives from other faiths might use their own didactic content in this way as well. Please understand, this writer isn’t against the notion of spirituality, it’s the notion of spiritual messages that are founded on inference rather than fact that the writer opposes.

Many folks who study this kind of material, become self-absorbed in seeing how they can link together statements they believe have been transmitted through the generations, in a patchwork quilt of causal factors, questionable premises, and biased research. Yet they claim it proves their claims. I suppose they are the keepers of the hidden secrets, and only they can communicate this to the world.

There’s also another phenomenon in the mix: polls have shown that the average person in this nation has about a high school reading level. How may any of us burrow down into the hidden, dusty vaults and learn all this information, if it’s hidden from view from most people? It seems far easier to me, if you were making the case for the spiritual, non-empirically-based under girding of Truth, to simply begin observing the natural systems in the world around us. This kind of examination at least assists one in finding how the structure of biota operates in our environment.

When you look at any environment on the planet, you first observe the process of life taking place around you. You find nuances of reality going on here. There is also a non-verbal phase of life in the objective world. At the next level, humans usually describe what they see, but none of us can really say what the word “tide” means in a sheer linguistic and emotionally intelligent way. We are still only using symbolic symbols to somehow attempt to describe something that can be seen in the functioning of the world. The description isn’t the reality—the reality is the reality.
As soon as we use words, to describe the supernatural or spiritual, we’ve already added into the equation limitations.

Here are a few methods that will help us separate fact from friction:

o Always seek original source materials to investigate whether something allegedly is said to be “true.”
o Ask the person who is speaking, if you have the opportunity, “How do you know that?”
o Am I reasoning from my own thoughts and conjectures, or are there external, factual and extensional supports that indicate the truth or error of any statement or premise?
o Check out http://www.generalsemantics.org, the Institute of General Semantics website to find out more about semantic principles that may be used in our daily lives.
o Learn the difference between a fact and an inference.
o Do an ID check of your self: listen to your own verbal patterns, and learn to be aware of facts you use, inferences you have cultivated around certain issues, biases towards others, and stereotypes about different groups that effect the way you perceive them in either a negative or positive way.

Try these “check points” out to see how they work for you. Don’t be persuaded about any given theory or idea, but use your critical thinking skills.

© Christopher Bear-Beam, MA January 23, 2011



DIRTY DANCES IN THE DESERT
December 13, 2010, 07:16AMDec
Filed under: Spirituality

Short is the life span of human beings. One should live as if one’s head is on fire. Gotama Buddha

Stephen Bachelor writes in Living With the Devil that humans find it hard to see what Mara’s (sort of the Buddhist equivalent to the Devil for Christians) next move is (these intrusions are often filled with conflictual uncertainties and ambiguity), however we can recognize his signature in ourselves, and the world around us.

In order to prompt this inner looking, Buddhism developed a theory of Four Maras:

· The devil of psychophysical existence
· The devil of compulsiveness
· The devil of death
· The devil who is born of a god

Bachelor notes that there is an additional Mara sometimes added to this list that fits very well for me:

§ The devil of conditioning

This is our bio-psycho-socio-history consisting of “the drives, conventions, patterns, and habits that urge us to follow the most familiar course of action irrespective of how inappropriate or destructive it might be” (pp.26-27). We might say this was Gotama’s definition of insanity.

This presents difficulties for all of us who have all changed since birth and youth. Even the conditioning of certain past beliefs in our bag of tricks will create doubts, inner arguments and deep uncertainties in our minds. For me, it was being conditioned by my family of origin, to adopt Christian beliefs or some form of it. I’ve changed, and now align myself more with a Buddhist or Taoist faith. This, at times, has created internal artifacts that get in the way of my own growth; at times a multitude of questions and moods clamor for my attention.

I’ve thought much recently (am I thinking too much?) of the two meetings of Gotama Buddha, and Jesus Christ, respectively. Gotama sat under a Bodhi tree for many years having all kinds of interactions with Mara; Jesus’ meeting with the Devil took place in the wilderness, with the Devil placing many invitations to join him in his presence.

Here are some initial ideas that emerged from my musings:

Ø Both Jesus and Gotama were trying to find a way to deal with their own messy questions and issues, at the time.
Ø They were alone in a solitary placed; it was a wilderness, which is often used metaphorically as a place of desolation, and a place where no other contingency can be there to support us in the struggle.
Ø Mara is described as an old, crusty farmer with his hair tied up on top of his head. Both Mara and the Devil communicate in human words, in a human and sentient world, that essentially functions as the material word does. Both Mara and the Devil don’t come off as being vindictive or having a hidden agenda of wanting to kill either one of them. To my weak, ignorant eyes, it doesn’t seem as though they had ulterior motives. Others who seemed to know the story line interpreted the motive orientation to me. Rather, the Devil and Mara seem as though they’re only trying to help. After all, they only want what is best for us.
Ø Both Mara and the Devil attempted to persuade them of their own way of doing business, i.e., the cravings and desires we all have for material objects and other humans, mental formulations, contingencies found in the natural world (contingencies explain to us that everything is somehow dependent or linked to something else), the pride of privilege, the vanity of time-space-realities-of-illusion, etc. Essentially, these temptations, in boiled-down-from were: ‘don’t go anywhere, just stay where you are, keep doing what you’ve always done, it’ll be ok and all work out.

§ One of the main differentiations between Gotama and Jesus we might notice here between Gotama’s and Jesus’ worldview was that Jesus used a sacred book that he believed to contain truth; Gotama used what he knew from his own observations and what he’d experienced under that tree for many years; it had emerged from his own insides. They used different (not better or worse) strategies based on their own, historically contexted, perceptions.

Ø It may be possible to conceptually understand what helped both of them in their respective meetings with the adherents of material reign:
Ø Jesus countered the Devil with a fulsomeness of spiritual armament such as Holy Word, Spiritual Practices, and what some might term as ‘practical theology.’
Ø Gotama met Mara with Emptiness—and not an emptiness you and I might think of. This was an understanding of Emptiness from his own experiential, learning-base. Gotama saw Mara essentially as his own self. It was Gotama’s choice to let go of everything outside of Emptiness, perhaps Emptiness itself; in short, he let go of the pay-off that his ‘old man’ had once received from living and expecting the results of his own mind—now he was free, resulting in leaving nothing for Mara to cling to.
§ This reminded me of what Jesus once told his disciples: ‘the prince of this world has nothing in me.’ There’s nothing left for you to mess with here! So you might as well leave and go do your thing.
§ We might conjecture that both Gotama and Jesus were enlightened when they came to their own ‘dirty dances in the desert.’

© Christopher Bear Beam, MA 12/12/10



Accidental Happenings?
July 25, 2010, 07:16AMJul
Filed under: Mental Health, Spirituality

If something turns out well or good in your life, do you count it as a coincidence? People have very diverse worldviews around the subject of random events, coincidences, serendipity, and the notion that what happens to us in life “is all good.” Now, try this one on for size: there is a supernatural being that operates with a “law and order” mentality. “Hey buddy, hey sister, you did that bad thing to your uncle Harry, so I’m going to punish you hard!” By now, you’re huddled in a corner pissing on yourself.

It was Carl Gustav Jung who coined the term synchronicity. Jung also developed his theory of the collective unconscious. These two concepts are wedded together in a kind of causal dance.

Jung perceived the collective unconscious as a subterranean collection of universal archetypes. These symbols, if accessed by the conscious mind, may give understanding to a person if they are going through a season of wondering which way to go, what to do, questioning one’s identity, and examining one’s core values and beliefs. Certain aspects of these symbolic archetypes may flood the observer’s mind with creative and invigorating ideas.

Jung saw the archetypes as universals. The symbols represent our human existence. Humans deal with these symbols as a regular, usually unaware, domain of their lives, even if they don’t know they’re operating, or perceive a very real dynamic occurring in their life. Towards the end of his life, Jung delved into certain Eastern themes as a psychoanalyst. Universal archetypes seem to be very similar to the Taoist understanding of Tao. Tao is in all things, outside all things, under all things, around all things, above all things, and circumstantial to all things.

Perhaps this metaphor will explain more simply and clearly the metaphor of synchronicity. Visualize a beach. Swimmers dot the shallow water. You are there with them. You kneel down in the water, and you feel a current rolling through your open legs. On the surface you see the relentless forward movement of white-capped waves. They slosh into the beach, then recede again out to deeper water in the bay.

The Tao is the constantly changing, underwater current. It is the underside of the moveable waves. Waves actually don’t have their own self-propulsion, but are locomotive by the watery action of the lower currents. Waves represent the energies and respites of the processes within their ecosphere.

Tao is the connecting force in all-natural life forms. The waves are interactions and meaningful kairos (meaningful time) where synchronicities are born to bring events, objects, people, and processes together. Human beings are the thinking and intuitive interpreters of these happenings in their lives.

If you believe in synchronicity, you will begin to be more aware of the events and processes of your own life, and the kinds of intersections and interstices you cross in your journeying. You will shift your thinking away from the pole of accidental happenings (not that everything transports meanings of synchronicity). You’ll start wondering about that person you met at a party one evening that seemed to answer a question you had the night before. Coincidence? Chance? Fate?

If you can even think of one event or interaction with a person that seemed to have a mysterious message for you, then you must conclude that synchronicity has probability and maybe you have to keep exploring its possibilities.

© Christopher Bear Beam, M.A. July 24, 2010



CULTURAL ENCOUNTERS OF A GROWING KIND
June 30, 2010, 07:16AMJun
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

One of the richest adventures I’ve had in my adult life is working as a resident chaplain in an urban setting. I worked for two years for a major hospital system in Houston, Texas. This hospital system had a mission statement of serving its diverse community and offering appropriate pastoral care. What I came to understand from this work experience was the incredible ethnic diversity as well as its diversity of faith traditions represented by patients in the hospital. I learned this as I made my rounds through the ER, ICU, Ambulatory Care, and other surgical units.

I have to say that I often learned (and still learning by the way) by my mistakes. I am a sixty-one year old European American male, so I’ve had lots to learn. I had already begun my multicultural journey in 1996, and by this time it was 2002-2004. I’ve been mentored and trained to be a co-facilitator in presentations to various groups and coalitions of individuals and organizations by Cherry Steinwender, the Co-Executive Director of The Center for the Healing of Racism in Houston, Texas (www.centerhealingracism.org), who has helped me to understand diversity in much more than just an academic way. She also inspired me to write a book about the “crazymaking” aspects of racism (see http://www.chrisbearbeam.com).

This was different, however. This was “down and dirty” experiential learning—sometimes of the most painful kind as I learned about my own Unaware Racism. One night, while on call all night, I met a young Asian woman in the cafeteria. I asked her if I could join her and introduced myself as the “on call chaplain.”

I began asking her questions about her background and where she grew up. She described coming to the U.S from Thailand with her family. She spent some time on a boat during the journey, and then tearfully described seeing a rape of a young woman by some robbers. As I asked her more questions, and listened to her story, trying to empathize with this horrendous experience, I realized I was doing so in some kind of clinical, non-verbal way, without much pathos or feeling. As I reflect on this, I can see that I knew so little about her culture, and what it took to get out of her country, I projected a kind of sympathy onto her, and she felt misunderstood and not really heard by me. She finally blurted out, through her tears, that I didn’t understand, and simply shut down in her conversation with me. Now, much later, I understand much better the reason for this.

We Americans are so narcissist and superior in our interactions with folks from a different ethnicity or culture that we come across grandiose and unfeeling. In many places in the world, there’s still the belief that Whites are the most superior people in the world. To a large degree this is accurate, because our separated isolationism keeps us closed off from the experiences of those of color, the majority of the planet’s inhabitants. As I view it, our denial keeps us from learning from the rich tapestry of diversity and the people who live in a culture so different from ours.

The hospital became host to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, (I even met a Zoroastrian one time at the hospital, and there were Roams there also), Muslims, Jews, and Christians, Eastern Orthodox Christians, New Age blends, atheists and agnostics. Each major sect or group has its own cultural milieu of how it deals with death (there was no lack of this at the hospital). They each have their own practices, rituals, prayers, use of authority, and customs related to death. The incident most poignant in my mind was being called to the death of a Buddhist person. I had just come out of the patient’s room, only minutes after the patient had died, and stood in the hall. I heard comments from the nurses behind me at the nursing station. I looked in the direction where they were looking, and I saw a huge group of Asian people walking towards me, very solemnly, and very sad. Apparently, in the Buddhist tradition, all of the friends and family of the loved one who died had to come as one group. Then there would be a number of prayers and rituals for the dead, and their custom was to wait near the dead person for a set space of time or until the soul had gone to its next resting place.

The Buddhists taught me the importance of honor, both to the living and the dead. They showed me the absolute belief in the afterlife of the soul and spirit. Finally, they taught me about the bond of community and family connection. In short, I was initiated into this diverse, Buddhist way of death and dying.

One more example comes to mind, and took place within a Christian, cultural context. One of my peer chaplains was a female, Catholic religious. She was very wise, and worked hard to understand the various cultures in which she worked. We were in ICU, and a patient had a very serious prognosis of death. The family’s priest was called, when we were in ICU, and we found he was an Eastern Orthodox priest. We got to the place and my female chaplain friend asked if they wanted us to pray with them, and they replied that they would. As she began to pray, the priest declared in a very patronizing way, that since he was the male he should be the one to pray. My friend backed off, and let the priest pray. Afterwards, she was one angry woman as she processed the sexism she had just faced. I was shocked as well, thinking that we were over this type of religious sexism, but then I realized that it was a shock back to the reality of the tenaciousness of patriarchal conditioning.

I’m grateful for this time of learning from diverse faith traditions, because it genuinely enriched me as a multicultural human being.

© Christopher Bear Beam, M.A.