Jul 312012
 

You have seen me struggling to make sense of the differences between conservatives and liberals, the balance between personal liberties and public responsibilities, and persistent class differences in America. Today, I read an article that suggested a difference between American elites that fills in a gap in my thinking. Naturally, I’m excited and want to share.

Despite our belief that all men are created equal, we have always understood that some of us have advantages of education, wealth, connections, and influence that are not shared equally. And, as a competitive capitalistic society, we mostly accept these class differences in the hope that someday we, or our children, might get rich and powerful too. We expect to always have our elites.

 

The thing that got my attention was the idea that, in America, there are two major background philosophies among our elites. Some derive their life-views from Puritan thought while some get their thinking from Plantation attitudes. This makes a difference in how a person of privilege thinks about what they do with their wealth, what responsibilities they feel for others, and how they define liberty and freedom.
The Puritan ethic emphasizes community and the conviction that those having wealth and power also have the responsibility to use some of it to improve their societies. Historically, they typically responded to an inner call to community service and doing good for others. They have endowed universities and public libraries. They have endorsed government policies that improve the lot of the common man. The Roosevelts and Kennedys have fit this mold. People like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are determined to use their fortunes for good.

Holders of the Plantation ethic are very much different. Sara Robinson’s article describes its origins in the West Indian slave states and its “…utter lack of civic interest, its hostility to the very ideas of democracy and human rights, its love of hierarchy, its fear of technology and progress, its reliance on brutality and violence to maintain “order,” and its outright celebration of inequality as an order divinely ordained by God.”

David Hackett Fischer further describes Plantation Elites that, “…always feared and opposed universal literacy, public schools and libraries, and a free press… they… sank their money into ostentatious homes and clothing and pursuit of pleasure – including lavish parties, games of fortune, predatory sexual conquests, and blood sports involving ritualized animal abuse spectacles.” They held themselves to be unaccountable and above the law.

In the Puritan Ethic, both liberty and authority reside with the community. Individuals are expected to balance their personal desires against the greater good and occasionally make sacrifices in behalf of others. This kind of support maximizes each citizen’s liberty, dignity, and potential. In the Plantation Ethic, one’s sense of liberty depended on their God-given place in society, and gave them the freedom to “take liberties” with the lives, rights, and property of other people. This results in their feeling the right to dominate, exploit, and abuse others and their property with impunity. This defines them, in their own eyes, as “free men.”

What sort of elites do you want writing your laws and running your government?

© 2012, David Satterlee

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Mar 072011
 

 

Political candidates and other public persons need to make the best of every opportunity to present themselves. They need to make sure that each appearance shows their best side. I have found that preparation and presentation reinforce each other. Mastery enables an air of confidence, while projecting confidence sets the stage for mastery.

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Oct 052010
 

The “Mind of Man” Labyrinth

by David Satterlee

It seemed like a good idea. I built a labyrinth. I’d been thinking about it all winter. It wouldn’t need to be very complicated; just a path mowed in the grass and borders not mown to define the path. A labyrinth is a good thing. It’s somewhere to walk in circles and nobody complains that you’re not getting anywhere. It’s not a maze because it doesn’t have any dead ends and you can always get back out just by keeping on the path.

The path switches back and forth. It’s balancing to the mind and calming to the heart. The path is like real life; it doesn’t get you directly to anywhere, it turns you back when you least expect, it leads you inexorably to the inevitable end. Sometimes you just have to quit doing everything better and just do what comes next.

My labyrinth isn’t some gothic mystical thing. It isn’t a form of worship or prayer. Oh, there’s some symbolism: if you saw it from above, it looks like the convolutions of the surface of the human brain. You enter from the brain stem (near the driveway) and walk toward the amygdala in the center. There are extra folds in the areas of visual and aural processing. It’s an original design and very clever.

I wrote an article for the local newspaper (included below). They didn’t use it.

The whole thing is 60 foot in diameter and sits in the vacant lot that my wife owns next to our house. It cost me 30 foot of string and 2 cans of grass paint that I already had. The funny thing is that the only times I walk it are when I mow the path. It seemed like a good idea.

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I was interested to read about a grant awarded to the Gifted and Talented program for the construction of a labyrinth in Chariton. [Chariton Herald-Patriot, Thursday, April 14, 2005, page 7]

This spring, Dianna and I constructed a grass labyrinth on our property in Russell. Visitors are welcome to walk it when it is daylight and dry.

Note: the “WWLL” in the Internet URL below is NOT a typo. A picture of the labyrinth is attached. A higher resolution copy is available on request.

David Satterlee
#############
Russell, IA 50238

641-###-#### (Private – Home)

Russell Labyrinth Available to the Public

Russell residents David and Dianna Satterlee created a grass labyrinth on their property two weeks ago. Visitors are welcome to walk it when it is daylight and dry. Although it looks like a maze, the 60-foot diameter labyrinth has no dead ends. It is intended to create mental balance and relaxation while following the reversing folds of the walkway.

This “Mind of Man” labyrinth lay-out is an original design. Visitors may park on the street and enter it at the “brain-stem” on the south side. “Switchbacks at the sides and far end represent auditory and visual processing centers in the brain” explained David Satterlee. “Viewed from overhead, the curves and turns resemble the folds in the surface of the brain.” Additional information can be found at the World-Wide Labyrinth Locator at http://wwll.veriditas.labyrinthsociety.org/

David is a Natural Health Writer and retired Computer Systems Manager. Dianna is the Music Teacher at Russell Community School. She says that their labyrinth is a great low-impact way to get some exercise, unwind, and relieve stress. Dianna added, “We began researching labyrinths last year but didn’t have the resources to do anything complicated. We laid it out using a center post, string, and a can of grass paint. Concepts from high school geometry let us do things like bisect angles. David mows the path every few days but the grass separating the paths is allowed to grow.”

The Satterlee’s labyrinth is on private property but is available for “respectful public use” when it is daylight and dry. It is located in the lot next to ############# in Russell, Iowa; just 5 miles east of Chariton and 2 miles south of US 34. There is room for several cars to park on the street. They request that no tobacco be used on the property.

A planned labyrinth in Chariton was previously reported (4/14/2005 p. 7).

[Note: This was written in 2005. We moved away; the labyrinth has been mown over for several years now. It isn’t there anymore. I have removed location and contact information to avoid disturbing the current residents.]

Copyright 2005, 2010 David Satterlee

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License, which essentially says that you are free to share the work under the conditions that you attribute it fully, do not use it for commercial purposes, and do not alter it.

Jan 262010
 

Source: “Authentic Happiness,” Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., Chapter 3

In 2000, Barbara Fredrickson won the $100,000 Templeton Positive Psychology Prize. Her winning paper, “claims that positive emotions have a grand purpose into evolution. The bride and are abiding intellectual, physical, and social resources, building up reserves we can draw upon when a threat or opportunity presents itself.”

In one experiment, the subject is given gifts, amused, and exposed to positive words. The subject is more likely to respond creatively. In another experiment, the subject is asked to identify related words. The subject is more likely to respond quickly if they have been “jollied up.” In another experiment of four year olds, the happiness environment improved their ability to learn.

Earlier psychological experimenters such as C. S. Pierce, equated cheerfulness with a lack of trouble or lack cognitive capacity to acknowledge and address troubles. In another experiment, depressed people were “sadder but wiser” in their ability to judge their level of control.

Depressed vs. Happy Thinking Skills

There’s also experimental evidence that depressed people are more realistic and accurate judges of their abilities. Less-happy people have more accurate memories of both good and bad events; they are “evenhanded in assessing success and failure.”

All of this evidence might seem to make a case for the benefits of depression. However, Lisa Aspenwell demonstrated situations in which happy people had an edge over more-unhappy individuals in certain types of life situations. An integrated conclusion is: “a positive mood jolts us into an entirely different way of thinking from a negative mood.

Less happy people tend to be more skeptical and able to respond with critical thinking. Their benefit it is the ability to “focus on what is wrong and then eliminate it.”

It seems reasonable to conclude that happy people tend to rely on positive past experiences and maybe better act repeating their previous behavior. Less distracted by a defensive stance, they are better able to be creative, tolerant, constructed, generous, and defensive, and lateral.”

Building Physical Resources

Positive emotions promote play, which is important to creative processes such as the building of physical resources such as increased muscle and cardiovascular capacity. People with predominantly positive emotions can to enjoy better health and greater longevity.

Happiness is associated with increased productivity and worker income. (This may reflect their ability to interact better with others.)(one might ask if a less-happy affect facilitates concentration problem solving.)

In some experiments, happier people are better able to tolerate adversity such as holding their hands in ice water. Also, a happier general disposition makes it easier for people to overcome the effects of temporary fear or sadness.

Building Social Resources

Strong bonds of affection and attachment between people are facilitated by a positive disposition. They are better able to express their positive feelings and others are more likely to respond positively to them. The happiest of the happy are much more likely to have a “rich and fulfilling social life” and spend the least time alone. They are also more likely to display empathy and be altruistic.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line seems obvious: extroverts are more likely to form relationships outside of themselves, attracting friends. A happy disposition is of special benefit in win-win situations where creativity may win the day. It is about growth. The less-happy disposition is of special benefit in win-lose situations where grim determination may win the day. It is about slaying dragons.

Quotes

 

Brian Johnson of PhilosophersNotes has compiled an outstanding collection of quotations on topics of human potential, development, and performance. Use the links below to go to specific pages.  Then consider opening up your wallet and subscribing to his PDF and MP3 comments on important books.
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Action
Effortless effort
Excellence
Act
Acting
Anxiety
Appreciation
Athletes
Attitude
Audacity
Audio
Authentic
Autobiography
Balance
Belief
Blame
Breathe
Buddhism
Business
Careers
Challenges
Change
Character
Chess
Commitment
Common opinion
Communication
Confidence
Courage
Creativity
Creator
Criticize
Critics
Death
Decide
Depression
Desire
Divine Within
Drama
Dream (aspirations)
Dreams (sleep)
Eastern
Emotion
Emotional Intelligence
Energy
Enthusiasm
Excellence
Exercise
Experience
Failing
Failure
Fear
Flexibility
Flow
Friendship
Forgiveness
Future
General
Genius
Goals
God
Gratitude
Greatness
Growth
Habit
Happiness
Health
Honesty
Horizon
Humility
Humor
Impreccability
Individuality
Insanity
Inspiration
Intent
Intention
Intelligence
Interconnectedness
Intimacy
Iq
Jobs
Judgment
Kind
Laugh
Leadership
Learn
Learning
Live
Love
Luck
Management
Meditation
Million Dollars
Muscles
Mystery
Non-attachment
Overachievement
Patience
Perception
Perfection
Permanence
Perseverance
Persona
Philosopher
Prayer
Projections
Psychology
Purpose
Questions
Reflection
Responsibility
Risk
Secret
Self-awareness
Self concept
Self-mastery
Simplicity
Sin
Smile
Solution
Stoicism
Stop
Stress
Struggle
Success
Sweat
Teach
Temperance
Tension
Think
Thinking
Thoughts
Time Management
Truth
Vice
Vision
Visualization
War
Water
Wisdom
Worry
Yin
Zen

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