… essays on the Starr trek

Archive for the category “Personal explanation”

Mental Health & World View


I am coming to a conclusion about the state of humans on this planet. We are doomed to destroy ourselves unless we gain the ability to go beyond the mental health problems and extremist world views that are the cause of most conflict.

One of my favourites quotes comes from Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy: it is a sign on the desk of Salvor Hardin, “Violence is the last refuge of the incompent.” That is not to say that every use of violence is by incompetent people, but that frustration and lack of options often leads to violence. The sod who attacked and killed at Westminster this week suffered from mental health issues (detailed account here) and a misguided world view. Andrew Neil outlines the response of British people much better than I could here.

When it comes to Mental Health, we are getting smarter at diagnosing the myriad conditions that cause the human brain to become conflicted: stress, depression, split personality, paranoia, and psychosis; there is an endless list. An inability to process what is happening around us, or to us, can cause us to strike out at real or imagined enemies.

Our World View (or the more specific German word, Weltanschauung – the world view of an individual or group) causes us to accept or reject evidence in an age where information is bountiful and often fake. This crisis of truth is the death of rational thinking. Decisions are made according to a formula or the state of one’s ‘gut’ rather than what is kind, or what is best for all.

So, the enemy of our future is EXTREMISM. And our salvation shall come from UNDERSTANDING. We will not go beyond this crisis until a critical mass of humanity rejects alt-right, hard left, ideology-based thinking, intolerance, bigotry, and the hypocrisy of equating ‘all’ with ‘some’ individuals in any group that differs from what we believe to be normal. Let’s spend money to support those of us with mental health issues. Let’s focus on creating a world view that benefits all living things.

Understanding that a simple and creative life can be lived without damage to air, water, and other living things is the challenge we must face and overcome.


Being An Introvert

Susan cain at TED, with her 'suitcase' containing special books

I’ve just watched Susan Cain’s talk at TED on “the power of introverts.” Perhaps ‘the power of introversion’ might sit better with me. In my case the subtitle is, ‘the power of introversion, whilst dealing with obsessive compulsion, ADHD, solipsism and goodness knows what else.’

Her three key points unlocked understanding about the part of me that thrives on introversion. I phrase it like that because I acknowledge that we are not ‘either/or’, we are all ‘both’ on the extrovert/introvert spectrum.

1. Stop the madness for constant group work. My italics, because she rightly explains that chatty exchanges of ideas benefit both extroverts and introverts, but introverts need time and privacy to finalize their opinions. He-he <grins self-indulgently>. This validated a stand that I took in the last semester of my Masters degree at Griffith. They kept wanting us to work ‘collaboratively/collegially’ with other students. I kicked back against this and refused in one project because: i) I felt it was a sop to students who wanted to cadge off hard-working, highly graded others (yeah, me); ii) who works like that in journalism?; and iii) being me, I didn’t get accepted into the group where the cool kids were (two cute women and a French guy [stop judging me!]). It made for some good drama in our tutorial group. The tutor gave in, but I had to do three times as much work to get my usual ‘A.’ So, thank you Susan Cain, I’ll take justification for my scratchy persona where I can find it. She’s right ‘tho.

 2. Go to the wilderness. This time she’s really right. Whether it be forty days and forty nights, meditating under a Bodhi tree, meeting Gabriel in a cave, all great wisdom comes from some sort of connection with nature. OK, there are exceptions. Karl Marx spent a lot of time in the British Museum Reading Room and bonking the maid (allegedly) and Freud listened to people who were lying (telling the truth?) on his couch. Whatever. It’s good to get into a forest, walk along a beach, climb up high and get an overall view. My analytical mind says that it is simply engaging that part of the brain that goes deeply in search of truth, what neurologists call the ‘God spot.’ My hypnosis training whispers that by turning our eyes upwards at forty-five degrees we access Alpha brain waves. Memo to self: the real power is the physical experience of being in nature – keep in mind Henry David Thoreau and ‘Walden.’

3. Take a good look at what is inside your own suitcase. “… the world needs you and the things that you carry.” Susan comes on stage with a bag of books that epitomize her world, a world that she created and found inside herself. She began her talk by explaining that, as a child, she thought it was natural for people to sit around together reading books. Being thrust into the world of extroverts was viscerally unsettling. It’s good for both extroverts and introverts to share who they really are, what their influences are, what they truly believe. Being open frees us all from the chains of ‘normality’ and ‘conformity.’ This is about being vulnerable and facing our inner shame. For more on vulnerabilty, watch Brené Brown and Google her talk on Shame.

When I was a child, around nine I think, I came down with a sickness that kept me away from school for perhaps two to three months. During that time, my mother made sure that I had lots of books. My reading improved incredibly and when I returned to school, I was ahead of the rest of my cohort (been wanting to use that in a sentence for some time). Wherever we went, I used to read out aloud the signs and adverts (this was the 1950s, not so much neon). Now I’m glad that I had that time on my own and that my mother encouraged me to use it in the way that I did. Interestingly, shortly after I won a scholarship to a grammar school. When this was announced, the males in my primary class used to bail me up after school and intimidate me. I learned to run, up to a track that ran along the base of the Quantock Hills. The guys tried to follow me but always gave up as they got further away from their homes and closer to mine. I guess this was partly because of my introversion and newfound studious demeanour, partly because I lived outside the village. Later, I became one of the class clowns, seeking to win approval through humour (I’m not much of a runner). Susan Cain has helped me understand that early immersion into my own world and to forgive those who feel threatened by inner space. Her book is ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts.’

Human Lessons – Bloody No.5!

Ten Rules for Being Human from If Life Is A Game, These Are The Rules, Dr. Cherie Carter-Scott (1998)

1.      You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it’s yours to keep for the entire period.

2.      You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called, “life.”

3.      There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial, error, and experimentation.  The “failed” experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiments that ultimately “work.”

4.      Lessons are repeated until they are learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can go on to the next lesson.

5.      Learning lessons does not end. There’s no part of life that doesn’t contain its lessons. If you’re alive, that means there are still lessons to be learned.

6.      “There” is no better place than “here.” When your “there” has become a “here”, you will simply obtain another “there” that will again look better than “here.”

7.      Other people are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects to you something you love or hate about yourself.

8.      What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.

9.     Your answers lie within you. The answers to life’s questions lie within you. All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.

10.    You will tend to forget all this.

I discovered this back in the eighties, it was circulating among us Human Potential Movement types that were caught up in the various Large Group Awareness trainings that seemed to be hypnotising us then (think ‘Money and You’, ‘est’, ‘Mind Powers’ etc. – just Google ‘LGAT’ and/or ‘mind control’ if this interests you).  However, I have to wind back my scepticism somewhat as I reflect upon the power of Dr. Cherie’s ‘Rules’, particularly number five, above.  It doesn’t seem to matter how old you get, if you have chosen to follow the Socratic Maxim (‘the unexamined life is not worth living’) then those bloody lessons keep biting away until Rule Four kicks in.

My abiding question is why?  Why is life like this, or is it just a way of looking at life?  If it were simply a viewpoint, why do these rules ring so true, so poignantly, and so viscerally?

Another answer may be suggested by the original wording of Rule One when I first saw it: “… but it’s yours to keep for the entire period this time round.”  Is that why we have to learn lessons?, so that we can keep coming back to the schoolroom – and playground – of Planet Earth?  Is that why some people, ‘just don’t get it’ when it comes to solving problems with violence, or taking advantage of others, or even why we need to protect the planet for future generations (or for ourselves to return to school)? 

I’ve seen past lives under hypnosis, I’ve read all the Edgar Cayce stuff and dabbled in Theosophy (Madame Blavatsky) and Anthroposophy (Rudolph Steiner) and even Scientology (yeah, you know who), but I still don’t know.  I still keep learning those lessons, but.

Becoming Visible

I seek to be seen as I’m growing older, and I now realise that there are separate yet connecting thoughts here. I’m always growing and getting older, and I have allowed my Self to become invisible. For more than five years I have been ‘becoming old’. The aches, pains and grumpiness are all symptoms of frustration at the increasing inefficiency of my Self. In 2004, by agreeing with this view, I went back to one of my easy occupations: driving a taxi. It was not too lucrative, but the work load was bearable – if you didn’t mind 50-60 hours of unpredictable income generation each week – and the scenery was quite attractive, at least on Australia’s Gold Coast. So what has changed and what must change?

I’m endeavouring to re-enter the world. For the past year, my wife wanted to return to her home town of Christchurch to be with family and to regain her ‘Kiwiness’. Like all self-identifications, this is a feeling – mere observation just leads to confusion and incorrect conclusions for the beholder. Yes, I am now an admirer of New Zealand. After our arrival in February 2011, just after the worst of many earthquakes, we went on  a whirlwind camping ‘ticky-tour’ of the South Island. We moved into a new home and began job-searching. My wife is now settling into her new job, managing administration for a building company (a true busy-ness in this earthquake-ravaged city). I have the luxury/anguish of unemployed inaction and penury. I have to try to balance the obligations of home duties with the imaginative exploration of new possibilities and the necessary striving to combat evidence of myself as being ‘unemployable.’ Despite many applications, I have not been asked to attend one interview.

The world that seems to reject me also contains much that fascinates me. I live in a macro/micro consciousness of geo-political chaos (Arab Spring, tsunamis, earthquakes) and personal challenge (indulgence in self-pity) to make and find meaning. Night time listening to the BBC World Service leaves me anxious over the lack of debate and reasoned argument on major issues. Internally, I have this constant battle over personal nutrition and fitness. I do notice that I must do something creative – whether writing or video editing – each day, or I will overeat. Not a desirable outcome on my minimal food budget. However, there are many positive things to fill my day.

I apply for whatever jobs appear to offer possibilities of income, no matter how small. I am a social media practitioner: I post on Facebook, I Tweet, I embellish my LinkedIn profile. I extend my general knowledge with quizzes and internet surfing. I make the bed (not previously something that enthralled me, now I find it comforting). I tidy and wash and sometimes clean. I read in the afternoon sun, whilst the cat curls up beside me and enjoy that. I work on turning twenty hours of film footage into an amusing summary of our 2004 holiday in Vietnam. I get more and more immersed in the technicalities and challenges of Civilization V. I take walks when I can overcome my laziness – I have to keep reminding myself that walking is the greatest source of sanity and inspiration.

At least I know how to proceed for the next twenty years or so. Money would be nice.

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