Jul 112012
 

Today, I’m taking up the subject of permanent solutions to temporary problems.  Most of us have known someone who committed suicide.  It is a terrible thing to feel such profound despair and hopelessness, or perhaps anger and helplessness, that permanently removing yourself from this world seems to be the best option.

With very, very rare exceptions, there is always hope. It is not useful to “burn down the barn to get rid of the mice.” The one thing that never changes is that everything always changes. Great suffering now is very, very unlikely to not allow for great satisfaction later. A crying child is usually comforted. A squeaking door usually gets oiled.  Every soul has the capacity to love and the potential to be loved.

I recently developed shingles and experienced considerable temporary pain. I have an aunt who, according to those who were with her, lay for weeks with shingles and actually begged her friends to kill her. I had to cut off the beard that I had thought defined my face. My aunt simply had to suffer. She eventually recovered and lived for years as a joyful and beloved inspiration and support in many ways to family, friends, and neighbors. Things change. There is always hope. Life triumphs.

Our life, like our world, is constructed of interacting dynamic processes. Things always change. And, can’t you see a disposition in the universe toward ever-increasing complexity and organization? One might think that, because a cold beverage in a hot room will eventually reach an equilibrium temperature, that the universe is destined to eventually reach some static, uneventful state. Yet, somehow it doesn’t seem to work like that. There is some creative organizing force at work.

Some people visualize an infinitely wise and powerful divine intervention responsible for deliberate creation. Some people imagine an original force that unrolled itself into all that is, with all things continuously rolling back toward that perfect oneness. Some people simply see mathematical oddities at work that promote self-organizing systems and evolution. In any case, in the long run, you can have faith that things always tend to get better.

And, you don’t have to just wait for things to get better. Somehow, we are sentient. We are able to imagine possible futures, make plans, gather resources, and work individually and in communities toward desired change. There are very few problems that will not yield to the persistent, faithful, combined efforts of a group that wants to make a difference and is willing to compromise, cooperate, and collaborate. It is always possible to move progressively forward. You can believe in hope. You can believe in change. It is not necessary to choose permanent solutions to temporary problems.

© 2012, David Satterlee

[amz-related-products search_index='Books' keywords='suicide prevention' unit='grid']
May 312012
 

Our Democracy requires the participation of informed citizens. How do citizens become competent to become active in government, working to create a better country for their neighbors? Education at home and at school is a key factor.

A successful democracy assumes that people are basically good and decent should make responsible choices for themselves. Without the general moral and intellectual capacity of its citizens, it would be impossible for a constitution to grant universal citizenship and self-governance.

Parents and schools are expected to bring out the best in our children. The best involves more than prescribed knowledge and obedience to authority; it includes self-knowledge, self-discipline, and the enduring desire to keep on learning. We hope to maximize every child’s potential. We want every person to have the liberty and ability to pursue the adventure of a productive and satisfying life. Further, we expect that the success of every person contributes to the collective success of our communities and our nation.

As children develop into mature adults, they should be able to understand their beliefs, form personal opinions, explain themselves, consider the needs of others, and make decisions that produce good results. Especially today, when few find secure employment for life, we need to be able to think critically about new situations, solve new problems, and work successfully with previously-unknown people.

It is not enough for a student to simply acquire the skills of a trade. Graduates need to be equipped with an expanded perspective and the mental flexibility to make their way on the unfamiliar landscape of our rapidly-changing world. This kind of preparation allows them to recognize and take advantage of opportunities as they arise. Even better, this kind of preparation allows them to network socially, work well in a group, maintain supportive relationships, and actually create opportunities.

Critical thinking should not be the private tool of the privately-educated elite. Critical thinking should be one of our most cherished values, and the birthright of every child willing to apply themself. Critical thinking should be an expected product of a rich family life. Critical thinking should be the core competency delivered by our public schools.

Some may recoil from all this be-the-best-you-can-be and prepare-for-your-future effort. Some may be content to do what they’re told, do only what is needed to get by, and blame others for their misfortunes. Some may realize that I have been describing a “liberal education,” and correctly conclude that the more of it you have, the more liberal you will likely become. Maybe that’s a good thing.

How can our individual, community, and national well-being be bad? I am convinced that we must prepare our children to successfully resist those who would take away our government of, by, and for the people. If we do not, we will see the completion of the efforts of a powerful few to seize our government and use it to enrich themselves.

©2012, David Satterlee

[amz-related-products search_index=’Books’ keywords=’liberal optimism democracy’ unit=’grid’]

Apr 102012
 

@ChumForThought – By David Satterlee – Throwing ideas into dangerous waters

“No man is an island.” Communities are the foundation of civilization. It is almost impossible to be entirely self-sufficient. We need each other for our variety of abilities, interests, and ideas. Our individual differences make us stronger as a group.

Farmers understand that monoculture crops require extra care because they are more vulnerable to disease and disaster. Colonies of single-cell bacteria do not need diversity in the same way because they just reproduce rapidly to consume whatever they find and then die back.

For people, it is easiest to create communities when everyone shares mostly the same values. But, the more we isolate ourselves from others who are different in some way, the more extreme, intolerant, and fragile, our group becomes.

In the natural environment, thousands of different plants and animals work together to fix nitrogen, provide shade, hold soil from erosion, cross pollinate, and such. Our human communities also prosper when they embrace diversity.

Communities do not allow unlimited personal freedoms. In fact, one of the properties of communities is that they are intrusive and coercive. People in communities voluntarily give up some individual liberties and, in the spirit of Ephesians 5:21, “submit to one another” for the common good.

For instance, if you catch my child throwing rocks and breaking windows, I should appreciate, or at lease accept it, if you bring him to me, explain the problem, and expect me to disciplined and correct him.

As communications tools and speeds rapidly increase in our modern world, we find ourselves to be involved in larger and larger communities of interests and communities of relationships. This can be fearful for those who prefer the comfortable memory of things like they used to be.

Nonetheless, we are obliged to keep on extending ourselves to understand, or at least accept, that we are all in this together and that the Golden Rule works both ways.

©2012, David Satterlee

Mar 082012
 

Senator Barack Obama gave the keynote address at the 2004 DNC Convention in Boston.

  • America as a beacon of opportunity. Humble beginnings in Kansas.
  • ”My parents shared an abiding belief in the possibilities of this nation.”
  • ”In a generous America, you don’t have to be rich to achieve your potential.”
  • ”We have more work to do.”
  • “People don’t expect government to solve all their problems. But they sense, deep in their bones, that, with just a slight shift in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America can have a decent shot at life.”
  • “It is that fundamental belief: “I am my brother’s keeper. I am my sister’s keeper.” that makes this country work.
  • “[E Pluribus Unum] is what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, and yet still come together as one American family.”
  • “The audacity of hope [faith] is God’s greatest gift to us – the bedrock of this nation.”
[amz-related-products search_index=’Books’ keywords=’obama inspired’ unit=’grid’]
An appeal to national unity.
Dec 222009
 

image Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist, co-founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom

“Hanson and Mendius successfully answer the question: How can you use your mind to strengthen positive brain states and ultimately change your life?

Arguing that our ancestors brains, flooded with adrenaline and cortisol, were wired for survival, the authors reveal how this neurological propensity for high arousal contributes to our present-day chronic illness, depression, and anxiety.

Using Buddhism s eightfold path as a model, they illustrate how meditation and relaxation can change our brain s natural tendencies. Pictures illustrate the brain s functions and practical meditation exercises are found throughout. The authors also discuss the importance of diet and nutritional supplements.

Arguing that our ancestors brains, flooded with adrenaline and cortisol, were wired for survival, the authors reveal how this neurological propensity for high arousal contributes to our present-day chronic illness, depression, and anxiety. Using Buddhism s eightfold path as a model, they illustrate how meditation and relaxation can change our brain s natural tendencies. Pictures illustrate the brain s functions and practical meditation exercises are found throughout. The authors also discuss the importance of diet and nutritional supplements. “

Shop at Amazon for:
Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom
by: Rick Hanson Ph.D.

“A wonderfully comprehensive book. The authors have made it easy to understand how our minds function and how to make changes so that we can live happier, fuller lives.” —Sharon Salzberg, author of Lovingkindness

“Solidly grounded in the latest neuroscientific research, and supported by a deep understanding of contemplative practice, this book is accessible, compelling, and profound—a crystallization of practical wisdom!" –Philip David Zelazo, Ph.D., Nancy M. and John E. Lindahl Professor, Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota

“This is simply the best book I have read on why and how we can shape our brains to be peaceful and happy. This is a book that will literally change your brain and your life.” —Jennifer Louden, author of The Woman’s Comfort Book and The Life Organizer