11/12/12

The Age of Myth – Chapter Two

The Great Rift Valley of Africa runs 5,600km (3,500miles), from the Red Sea and Ethiopia in the north, south to Lake Victoria where it splits off, and from Uganda continues south as far down as present day Mozambique. The Great Rift is where two plates of the earth’s crust are separating and is also where our human ancestry seems to have begun.

The earliest traces of man have been found in the valleys of Lake Turkana in Kenya and the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, between Mount Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti Plain. The Olduvai Gorge itself is a 30-mile long gash in Tanzania’s Serengeti Plain. The area is considered the primary host of all other cultures. Why this is so will be explained as we go.

Evidence of the earliest Humanoids has been found and dated from 4 to 1.6 million years ago in Tanzania, 700,000 years ago in Java, and 420,000 years ago in China. From sites found in the Olduvai Gorge in Africa and elsewhere, these early peoples favoured lakeside camps, rock overhangs and caves for protection from predators and the weather. Their camps were most always near water availability, like rivers and lakes, and close to herds of game and vegetable foods. They would stay in each camp for a few days or weeks before moving on to better land. Many of these sites also contain bones of smaller animals, species less powerful than these early humanoids.

Hunting seems to have been more running down and grappling their quarry to the ground, with scavenging the more important means of getting food, with their weapons most often being made out of wood. These early humanoids were opportunistic hunters, picking over carcasses from predator kills and gathering wild vegetables. At the time, the larger animals were kept at a distance and avoided, for they were not afraid of man yet, indeed to many of the larger predators, early man was inconsequential and often the prey.

These early humans were bipedal, had an upright posture, a high vertical forehead and rounded skull, were about 1.5m tall, and became the species, Homo erectus. For when earlier species had first moved out of the trees and the forests and onto the grasslands they had begun to walk upright, to see over the grass. By about two million years ago, Homo erectus had spread out over Africa, Asia and Europe, with their descendants thought to be the first humans to use fire.

From watching fellow creatures they would eventually develop memory and foresight, and by mimicking the behaviour of the other living things around them they would assimilate such things as trapping; from the spider, basketry; from birds, burrowing from rabbits, dam building from the beaver and the art of poisons from snakes. These early peoples did not think themselves as being different from the rest of the animal world. With no language, they grunted and squawked like everyone else. From copying the other creature’s diets, mostly fruits and vegetables, to watching how they would get their food and how they would store it, they became very adept at exploring their surroundings and keeping a memory of which plants, insects and small animals one could eat and which ones were to be avoided. Their reality was a world of animal, vegetable and human spirits interacting with each other. They could not tell the difference between material and immaterial, imaginary or real, animate or inanimate. With no idea of self, there was little difference of skills, and having no idea about the concept of surplus there wasn’t much difference in status distinction between each other. The sensations that bombarded them daily needed an immediate response, so life was lived very much in the moment with not much thought about past or future. One’s life was determined by one’s actions to what was happening at that moment, at that time.

Because of their intimate connection with the earth, they expressed great care for its well being, for they believed that they were simply one part of the earth’s body and did not distinguish themselves from everything less in nature, thus they did not possess the sense of self, only the concept of their groups survival. Their culture consisted of a father, mother, siblings and extended family members, perhaps a dozen individuals, whose only concern was each day’s survival as a group.

Everything in nature represented a spirit or demon, depending on whether looked at as friend or foe, with animals and trees considered human but simply in another form. And because they did not see themselves as finite mortal beings they did not believe that people died, but rather they went to sleep and their spirit entered a netherworld and/or parallel existence. As to birth they also had no idea, they did not make the connection that sex had anything to do with the birth of a child, instead believing a spirit would enter a female’s body and then be brought forth, with a baby thought of as being half spirit and half human, who remained in contact with the world it came from until which time it grew up and then, sometimes over years, would have to pass through various rites of passage to become a part of the community. Because having too many babies would prove to be a hindrance to the tribe’s survival of having to be always on the move, a woman could only carry one child at a time and until that child could keep up on its own to have another was no doubt forbidden. Biology took care of this issue; women would breast feed their child for two full years, thus enabling suckling to be the contraceptive technique that it is, by repressing the menstrual cycle. The average reproductive cycle of most of the women, over an average life span of about thirty years, was perhaps 10-15 children, though of course we do not know an actual fertility rate.

The evolution of all species is all about natural selection, with many similarities in all living things. For example, creatures known as vertebrates – having a backbone – all share the five digits, skeletal structure of a hand. This appears not only in humans but also in apes, raccoons, cats, bats, porpoise, whales, lizards, turtles and a plethora of other creatures. Dolphins are able, as we are, to call each other by name. At the same time it is curious why many male mammals, including humans, have nipples. All animals share the same basic bodily functions and feelings, such as pleasure, pain, breathing, eating, drinking, defecating, sleeping, the drives to find a mate and procreate, birth, and death. For humans especially, history has followed different courses for different peoples because of different environments, not because of any biological differences between the peoples themselves.

The fact of the matter is, all humans have the same facial grammar; everyone smiles the same, frown the same, uses the eyes to convey cognition or flirtatiousness the same. A laugh is a laugh, anywhere on the planet and when one is angry, everyone knows they are. Don’t you find that human beings are very good looking people when they smile, and so disgustingly ugly when angry? But it’s much more than that, for instance, when people smile, the mouth doesn’t convey the whole truth. A true smile appears in the eyes and it’s no wonder the majority of a human’s muscles are in our faces, which seems to prove how important expression is in inter-personal communication. Then there is the tilt of the head, arch of the eyebrow or where the eyes are looking when communicating that further convey what one is thinking and trying to say or feel. Without eye contact we never truly know what someone is saying because we are not getting the whole story. The eyes are truly the windows into our soul. Even people that don’t understand what each other are saying can look at each other and communicate more than words could possibly describe. In Donald E. Brown’s excellent “Human Universals” he finds that there are about 400 specific behaviours that are invariant among all humans, with the facial expressions of basic emotions truly universal, and shared by many other animals besides humans, whether it is anger, happiness, sadness, disgust, fear, surprise or contempt.

About 150,000 years ago the evolutionary pace quickened when our skull and its contents evolved to the point where we became able to plan more for specific projects or definite purposes. At about the same time the development of speech and a symbolic system of language began, which allowed future cultures a much quicker way to share ideas that enabled them to cope with their environment. As language became more complex it allowed the ability to remember, transmit, and exchange information much more quickly and it allowed for such knowledge to be passed on through the ages, where myths through oral traditions would form, though it would not be until 50,000 years ago that language and culture would really begin to change who we were and who we would become.

Language would eventually give us the ability to create worlds of memories and life histories, and unfortunately, it would make us self-conscious. Before language we could only live in the moment and react to the shifting patterns of our environment, but language brought us the awareness of oneself, in terms of what others expect; humans who sense they are being evaluated and perhaps sensing a negative attitude towards themselves become self-conscious. While being conscious is being aware of oneself and subjectively experiencing each moment and having memory control; where we can think of something and then replay it in our head to examine what we had just thought. Yet we cannot both, think of something and also be self-consciously aware of what we are thinking. Conscious experiences also include inner feelings and thoughts as well as being aware of self and others. Other animals are simply conscious and not self-conscious at all. Yes they are highly intelligent and very aware of the world around them, but they do not look inward and observe the process of consciousness at work. They are not self aware, nor have imaginations, independent will or a conscience, because they are programmed by instinct, genetics and/or training.

There are many views on the origin of language. While it is true that all animals communicate in some way, human language would eventually become associated with the human way of using symbols and speech, while human nature is thinking, feeling and acting, which all humans have in common. Some views state that language is an extension of speech, which all humans have within themselves, with reason the most primary characteristic of human nature. Some believe language developed first, before reason, perhaps explaining many of the negative aspects of human communication. Others believe language and reason co-evolved. While still others believe that reason was developed out of the need for more complex communication, when more sophisticated social structures came about by the gains made by language and/or reason. It is surmised that more sophisticated human behaviour and basic speech both appeared about 164,000 years ago in southeast Africa, beginning with grunts and clicks, with language then evolving at a pace with cultural growth.

Speech evolved from non-verbal mood vocalization signals such as a cry of pain, a scream or a laugh. Other nonverbal forms include the expression of silence, hugging, touching and looking into someone’s eyes. Non-verbal communication is all about tone. While the tone of one’s voice is how the earliest humans signalled one another, speech brought cooperative exchange of information and allowed early humans to refer to objects in their environment. Non-verbal vocalization signals are still very important to us in being able to communicate; in fact they are everything, no matter what the media technology toys of our age tells us. When we cry out in pain, anyone listening can usually tell how severe it is; though with speech we now also add a few choice words along with the cry of pain, adding expression to the experience. Tone of voice is also the reason one can travel to another land and not knowing the language of that part of the world, can still get a reaction and communicate with other animals, even pets, which live there.

The evolution of speech was also connected to the development of the human vocal tract; it’s development allowed a far larger range of sound and the ability to speak more quickly. Our speaking rate has always been connected to the brain, which needs the body to take a breath about every five seconds. The earliest humans that began to speak could say maybe four to five words in five seconds. Today we can get off twenty to thirty-five words in five seconds, in fact a typical human today has a speaking rate of more than two hundred words a minute; three girlfriends chatting could raise this rate exponentially.

Language and speech would alter our brains. In order to operate, the brain needs to understand the inside world of the body and a view of the world outside, to act intelligently and make decisions. Before speech and language the brain relied on the senses. The sense organs would see, feel, hear, and taste to build a consciously experienced picture of the outside world. Sensations such as hunger, pain, and thirst told the brain what it should do to satisfy the demands of the body and because early humans operated on mostly instinct and intuition, the brain allowed rich areas of knowledge to surface in the conscious plane, which early humans would envision, and then do the images that were presented.

Among all animal species we are the only ones who tell stories. Living by the narrative in our communication is important to us because by listening to each other’s stories we are given to needing each other’s companionship and inclined to intimacy, affection, relationships and sociability. Language and speech would indeed change the way we lived and how we were to evolve socially, but at the same time it was when, ever so slowly, we would begin to lose focus on the present moment.

An animal’s mind operates by perception, recognition, simple thought association and environment, and is led by being aware of the moment, much like early humanoids but with language the human mind began operating not only by perception but also with memory, imagination, and more complex habits of thought such as inner-driven attention and self awareness. As humans we are responsible for our own lives, with our behaviour a function of our decisions, not our conditions. The traits of behaviour which sets humans apart from other animals’ starts with self awareness and the ability to think about our thought process, and possessing an imagination, where in our minds we can create other realities. We also have independent will; the ability to act based on our self awareness, and finally we have a conscience, an inner awareness of right or wrong, which we gain from internalizing the moral standards of behaviour of the social group we live in.

Meanwhile, the original groups of perhaps a dozen humans eventually became nomadic bands, basically large family groups of about 25-30 people. Living as hunters, gatherers and foragers, each group would need about 250 square miles (400 sq. km) to support itself. A small band would only have to travel a few miles every couple of weeks, or maybe led by the full moon, move to a new campsite about every four weeks. Most of their travels were just moving back and forth to familiar areas according to the season. In fact for over 95% of our human existence we have lived this way, as foragers and on occasion, hunters. We lived off of what the earth gave us, within daily and annual routines that matched the rhythms of the changing seasons and progressions of each day. Time would be measured only by the sun, the seasons, and the generations.

Most of these early hunters and gatherers diet was made up of nuts, fruits, edible roots, shellfish, insects and eggs, and were dependant on knowing which ones could be eaten and where to find them. To survive they had to depend on their intelligence and knowledge of the land and nature. When available, meat was a welcome addition to their diet whether by spearing big game, snaring small animals, scavenging carcasses left by bigger predators or from fishing. At first they would have had an easy time living off the land; most groups would have been able to gather the food they needed that day in only a few hours.

Beginning with simple wooden clubs, hunting and tool kit technologies would develop further when small game could not sustain the growing populations. These advancements in technologies allowed early humans to go after bigger game. Like the earliest tools, they were still often made from stone, but now would become finer and lighter, with the sharp flakes, broken and chipped from stone, and being used not only for hunting but also for cutting and sawing. As far as hunting, early man found that they could literally walk up to many of the larger animals, for they were not afraid of man. Though during the first million years of our evolvement, early humans were nowhere near being the predator they would one day become. It would take thousands of generations for the larger animals to develop the sense to run or attack when they see or sense a human. As early humans found ever more lethal ways to kill, scavenging was less needed and with the advancement of their tool technologies they were able to start processing the meat and using more of the carcasses such as the skin and bones, to further their advancement along even more and ensure their survival.

Instead of being centred on and preoccupied with oneself and the gratification of one’s own egotistical desires, early humans were more altruistic, where they were unselfishly concerned for and devoted to the welfare of their family. The group needed to be organized and work as a group; even in the pairing up of certain men and women into stable and perhaps loving couples for the better survivability of the child. But then most all animals possess this trait, where the behaviour of an animal, though it might not be exactly to its advantage and perhaps is life-threatening, benefits others of its kind, most often its family. While making up simple tools took a great deal of thought, testing and refinement and was a turning point for human’s evolvement, learning how to get along with our fellow human beings would prove more difficult.

With language and speech, the human ego began to develop and time began to take over our lives. Our thoughts eventually became only concerned with the past and the future. We would begin to rely on our past for our identity and sense of self, while we looked to the future for our fulfilment. This state of consciousness brought forth fear, anxiety, expectation, regret, guilt, and anger into our lives, while our cultures and environments would form whom we have become today, shaped personalities, with our brains filled with a continuous stream of thought. But we should not get too far ahead of ourselves.

Early humans were formed from interaction between only a few people, mostly all family members, the surrounding environment, and their unconscious mind; where the mental phenomena of feelings, perceptions, intuitions, thoughts, habits, and desires, exist. Being an exploratory species by nature, as their populations grew and enough room to forage became intruded upon they would have to move more often, with generation upon generation slowly making their way farther out of Africa.

By about 400,000 years ago, Homo erectus had been joined by another species of humanoid, Homo neanderthalensis and between them had spread throughout Africa, Asia and Europe. Around this time another species would also evolve and enter the mix, Archaic Homo sapiens. Then about 170,000 years ago, anatomically modern humans, Homo sapiens sapiens would arrive on the scene.

First appearing in Ethiopia, these more modern humans slowly replaced all the other populations, while language, speech and more sophisticated human behaviour began to appear, and evolution, brain size and myth would take another slow step forward, though self awareness, lives filled with an almost constant state of mental distraction, and such things as an ego, were still thousands of years away.

 

 

 

 

10/30/12

The Age of Myth – Chapter One

“They must find it difficult . . . those who have taken authority as the truth, rather than truth as the authority.”   G. Massey, Egyptologist.

 

The basic truths of human nature are the principles within us, which are the natural laws of the human dimension and include fairness, integrity, human dignity, service, and potential. These are the guidelines for human conduct. We all possess these truths and are creatures subject to all the basic laws of animal behaviour, because morality was inherent in humanity long before we achieved reason.

Too many of us think we are above these biological controls. That somehow thousands of years of genetic legacy is now beneath us because we think we have evolved so much, just in the past few hundred years, that we now reside above all those who came before us. Yet many people today are living unfulfilled lives because of such grandiose new motives and self-conceited ideas, which try to make us seem to be so much more than just a biological species. Our day to day lives get acted out, but it often seems something is missing, yet many of us feel we are more powerful, more innovative, smarter, and more financially well off than every other creature on the planet that has ever been. Our attitude has changed to where we now feel that reflecting on the past as being somehow offensive and hurtful. Meanwhile our character, the spirit within us, is being replaced by personality. We think we are growing and developing, but find ourselves ever the more disappointed and frustrated. We stopped listening to whom we are sometime in the last century and have become ignorant to our human nature.

Even before civilizations and organized religions, we knew that to attain love one must give their love to others to know what love is. That one could only be creative if they shared their creativeness with others; that only through the act of giving of something could one experience having; and to kill a fellow human being was wrong, no matter the reason. These are the fundamental truths that have guided us but are now being held suspect, by fear, faith, consumer-capitalism and even ourselves. Slapping one’s knee and shouting “I knew I shouldn’t have said that!” or “I knew that was going to happen” are cop-outs. We ignore our gut instincts and allow them to be shaped by others. Reality is we are an exploratory species now living in sedentary tribal groups, which stultifies our growth because our cultures and religious beliefs follow rigid patterns of behaviour and thought, thus restricting development and only promoting more needing and wanting. Such suppression of our fundamental urges is what is currently eating away at our souls and making us physically, mentally and morally sick. So much fear, spin and doubt has been cast into our hearts and minds that it keeps us illiterate functionally and spiritually.

Civilization has become a consumer and corporate world, with many religious beliefs continuing to hold onto the premise that their God is a supreme being who created the world in six days and who is to be feared. If indeed this is the case and that creation was the final goal, why was it not reached right away, all at once? Why was perfection not realized at the beginning? It could be because God is not a supreme being at all but instead is simply a word representing the definition of life.

If the adage “by our nature we are moral beings” is true, when did it all start to go askew? Perhaps when we stopped listening to the basic principles within ourselves and instead focused on the voices in our heads. Many believe, everything started to get confusing at the dawn of civilization and the invention of writing, five thousand years ago. It was a time when the human ego and the ability to view oneself apart from nature began to develop even more, where our mental processes started to separate from instinctive ones. Communication and dissemination of knowledge became symbolic and took the form of myth; though within these myths lay absolute truths concerning the processes of the natural world.

A myth is not always a lie, it also expresses something fundamental about how we perceive the world and human life as it really is. It also communicates to us our values and how we should live in the world and finally, myths show how we do in fact live in our worlds, through our lifestyles. Prominent anthropologist Clifford Geertz, formulates that a myth, in effect says “we live (or ought to live) the way we do because the world is the way it is. And because the world is the way it is, living as we do (or ought to) is uniquely satisfying and fulfilling.”

With civilization and the written word we became citizens and workers, and our villages became cities. And because politics, art, religion and even history are conscious, self mediating processes, they each dwell between the realms of spirit and life, idea and reality, just like our personal worlds do.

Pre-history, before the written word, is where our cultural origins are found, through science, archaeology and oral traditions, and is where the collective cultural heritage of all of humankind lies. Up until the mid 19th century some believed the Bible’s version of the world to be about 6,000 years old. By the end of that century the first humans were believed to be about 100,000 years old. Today, according to modern scientific archaeology, natural sciences, geneticists, and geology, and using radiocarbon, radiation exposure, and potassium argon dating techniques, we emerged in East Africa at least 2.5 million years ago, while the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, with the first life-form appearing on its surface within a billion years.

The dedicated work of anthropologists; studying humanity and it’s culture, archaeologists; systematically studying the lives and cultures of ancient humankind through the use of scientific and controlled techniques, physical anthropologists; studying the evolution, behaviour and biology of humankind and geneticists; opening up new doors nearly every day concerning what we are made of, where we are from and that we are all related, have all combined in teaching us much of our collective past, and with the laws of association and superposition, are revealing many truths of our history. Like Newton, Da Vinci, Hugo, Galileo, Einstein and all the others that came before and since, they believe that the importance of seeking truth is not in the divinity, but rather in the belief of the supremacy of direct knowledge over faith. What has come more into the light is the importance of culture as the distinctive adaptive system used by humans to evolve. It is humankind’s way to adapt to our varied environments, instead of being rigidly held in check and suffering.

All animals, including humans, adapted to their environments through biological evolution. If it adapted it survived, if unable to, it evolved into a new species, moved away or died. With humans, culture is the traditional system of belief and behaviour that is understood by an individual. Culture is both, our own version within a social group and the version shared by everyone collectively as a group. When animals die, their experience dies with them, with humans, when we die our experience continues on in our culture. The ongoing phenomenon of culture usually changes very slowly over time, which is what has allowed us as a species to adapt and evolve. Today, culture has reached such a fast pace that we, as a species, are finding it ever more difficult and confusing, because we can no longer adjust or keep up to it.

Though the strides in scientific, psychological and social disciplines in the last ten years have been incredible, we should be moving quickly to retrieve what knowledge we may find of our past before we continue to blindly, and at an ever quickening pace, “pave over paradise” amidst a global climate crisis.

In the first century AD, the most valuable library in the world was in Alexandria, in the north central part of Egypt, on the delta of the Nile River. It held more than half a million papyrus scrolls, in several temples which contained much of the wisdom and science of the previous thousand years, including the works of the Egyptians, Babylonians and the writings of the Greek philosophers. A Christian bishop entered these greatest of libraries and put them to the torch, destroying everything, because he thought himself to be expelling paganism. From 16th century Catholic missionaries destroying all records of the history and cultures of the peoples they exterminated in the Americas, to today’s industrial activity, road construction, urban sprawl, strip mining, deforestation, archaeological looting, bulldozer, crane and plough, we are erasing untold truths and more comprehensive knowledge of our past. In 2001, the Taliban destroyed two statues of the Buddha, both more than 38 meters tall and carved into the side of a mountain, nearly two thousand years ago, at Bamiyan in Afghanistan. It seems curiosity about our past will always outstrip our ability to find out more as time goes on, and more is lost.

Archaeology in the past few decades has made some truly “worthy of belief” discoveries. Advancements made via technology are opening chapters of history that we did not know about, with archaeology finally reaching depths that we have not reached yet, raising new answers of what we know of our past. This is why history is important. If we forget or not try to understand what the past tells us, it has been proven time after time, like a big carousal, we will continue to make the same mistakes.

The Achilles heel of archaeology is that only a tiny fraction of all organisms leaves fossil traces anywhere. Most fossils of Hominoid specimens come from sediments dating back a few million years ago, but in many areas where fossils may be, their access and discovery are blocked because of the continuing movements and cracks of the earth’s surface. There is also much evidence hidden beneath dense plant growth, forests, jungles, and man-made structures, and considering that at the height of the last ice age, 13,000 years ago, sea levels were about 350 feet lower than today means many traces of human presence is deep underwater. Finally, there is the reality that anything from the past, if it wasn’t a rock, has dissolved back into the earth.

As to human fossils, they give us evidence of size, proportion, and muscular development. Studying fossils has given us an understanding of the three most important phases of human evolvement; walking upright, a mandible thumb and increased brain size. What they cannot give us, and is based on an informed hypothesis, are facial features and how they thought, which is the most important to us.

To understand the evolvement of humans spiritually and culturally, one has to look back farther than when we first became citizens of civilizations, back to when we were still small families of hunters and gatherers and eventually farmers. Back to a time when the wisdom we desperately crave today, was ripe and fertile. Back to where everything that happened and existed was born of the same energy. Life was moment to moment, where a human being was not separate from creation but one with it and held great respect for nature; where life was brutal but not necessarily portrayed as such, for it was life. Back to the time before the development of the human ego, where a newborn child, a flower and a shiny rock still brought smiles to our faces and we were not criticized for doing so, nor did we feel guilty.

To be continued………..

 

08/11/12

Dazed and Confused

“There must be some kinda way out of here.

Said the joker to the thief.

There’s too much confusion.

I can’t get no relief”

All Along the Watchtower – lyrics by Bob Dylan

After writing the four Oh Canada, where art thou going articles I felt drained, perhaps confused. Maybe it was the weight of too much information. Or the fact that the current political system in most capitalistic/democratic countries, including my own, is truly broken, with the world now being run rough-shod by a shockingly small number of transnational corporations and few hundred individuals doing what they will with the planet and its inhabitants. While at the same time many of us plead ignorance. The confusion I felt, altered something in me and made me remember what mostly affects our lives happens at the community level and not on the other side of the planet. But then I realized, holy cow, my community and more specifically my tribe is just as confused as I am.

On the federal level in Canada and after an election, we have no more say in any decisions made by that government, basically the same at the provincial level, who also make their own decisions without any public consultation, with their often times wrong and misguided decisions felt by all except themselves. While on the community level is where we live our daily lives.

On our streets, in our homes, at our workplace, where we buy our food, raise our children, where we meet with friends and where we share our lives with a loved one is what is important to our lives. What affects us the most is the environment, how clean the water is out of the tap, what are the conditions of our communities’ infrastructure and how safe are our streets, most all of our needs are met within the community we live in.

Politics on the community level, in most cases is working. If a municipal’s council comes up with something that many in the community feels strongly about, the town or city hall fills up pretty quick at the next week’s meeting. But reality dictates that councils are also often influenced by the local business community, small groups of usually retired teachers and other very politically correct individuals. Citizens who believe it is their civic duty to make their community safer but perform with such fervor that this type of over the top justified involvement most often becomes invasive involvement. They become hall monitors and snitches, always on the lookout for that one small thing a fellow citizen does that the police or city council might be interested in.

Technology seems to be opening up transparency and on the whole, at least at the town or city level there is still a degree of accountability. We live in the same community with those elected; their kids go to the same school as our kids. We get people into government by voting for them, supposedly to speak on our behalf. And only at the community level can you speak your behalf to the elected member of your community face to face and personal.

Of course this all breaks down the bigger the community, town or city is because those on council are humans and once they believe they have power over others and are becoming increasingly wealthy compared to their neighbours, they will move away and their kids will attend private schools. Scientific American and Psychological Science have both shown and have proven that the wealthier a person becomes the less empathy they have for people unlike themselves. They become much more focused on self and that such a level of self interest of course promotes wrongdoing and unethical behaviour. While the true psychopaths, if defined as individuals whose brains do not register stressful feelings when they observe harms on others, who are most likely to deceive and manipulate others for personal gain and who represent less than one per-cent of humanity while possessing more net worth than the bottom 90% combined, are the puppet masters and running the show.

So anyways, I’ve decided to focus my articles more on the community level. This came about because of two things: a community project I assisted with and the fact I just took a week off and travelled through some very cool little communities around nearby Puget Sound in the States. With an open mind, a willingness to always talk and with a friendly and inquisitive nature I’ve met many people over the past week. And you know what? Most people do know the current way of things is askew and wrong on many levels, but their lives take up all their time and though realized or not, the simple human interaction we have within our tribes, the thirty to forty people we come into contact with daily or at least once a week face to face, is what makes up nearly every moment of our lives. For this is where humanness resides.

The community project needed a dozen people to volunteer to work as a team, by using each one of our specific traits and experience to bring the project to fulfilment. Many in the group had obviously stepped out of their routine and you know what? They craved it, egos were not evident, and everyone was engaged in the moment and enjoyed the feeling of being a part of something far bigger than they themselves individually. It made us happy.

Happy is a funny thing. We consume, earn and spend, often times even when we can’t even afford it, forever chasing down some false and misguided happiness. Yet within our individual worlds, deep down, the level of respect and admiration from friends, families, peers and communities determines a human’s happiness, not wealth, economic status or overall success, while food, sex and water simply keep us alive.

We each would hope to be an engaged, trusted, generous and accepted member of our individual groups. Indeed within our local hierarchies the individuals with such traits hold a higher status among the group. And if truth were to be told, where we stand with those whom we live our lives alongside and the acceptance and respect earned from them makes us happier, regardless of our wealth or fame.

Volumes of reports and studies on happiness all clearly show that feeling respected and admired as a human can cause our happiness to increase and being happier makes those around you happier, thus overall happiness increases. Meanwhile, it’s also been proven time after time and over the eons that just feeling rich or feeling above others, one’s feeling of happiness does not increase. We should know this, you think?

Seriously I don’t see much happy these days. The smiles are there but the eyes aren’t smiling. There are days lately where I feel I’m either going nuts or I’m just noticing we’re all nuts. It seems everyone is questioning, whether it be our lives, relationships or jobs. There’s also a lot of denial out there, even with reality gobsmacking us in the face. We are all agog with far too much information, looking more zombie-like with a thousand yard stare and either a stupid little grin stuck on our face or in most cases just a permanent scowl, with everyone seemingly so pissed off.

Personally, I get excited when I sense change in the air. But lately it’s getting rather thick, with information exponentially increasing in speed and volume it is now far more than we can absorb.  It’s not even subtle anymore, this struggle we are having over our subjectivity, our inner reality, and how we define our needs.  If change is dealt with an honest apprehension of one’s situation and without cynicism, it can only be proactive, but our avoidance of doing so will only create tragedy.

Communities are being affected by change the hardest because it is where we actually live and because of the trickle-down effect from the top of greed, oily slime and the oppressive nature of capitalism and consumerism. Yes capitalism creates new ideas, but its goal is to intensify consumerism, even when it is no longer affordable for the average humanoid, and it does so with no ecological or moral principles. Advertisers have shaped our attitudes, what we taste, see, hear, smell and feel. Our car and clothes we are told are what defines us. And yes we have unlimited information and technology at hand, because it’s been put there before us to purchase to keep us busy and entertained, while we lose control of the world out on our streets. This happens oddly enough because we think we have freedom, no rights, but we say we are free and safe. We’ve given up far too much just to think we live in a safe and wonderful environment. Our idea of what normal is and what is sane, decent and patriotic has sucked our soul’s dry, while each day we desperately try not to notice that the systems running our societies outside our front doors are terribly broken. It’s like we don’t trust ourselves anymore. The weathers fine, no it is not. Equal rights, excuse me? There will always be jobs for anyone willing to work we are told, nope not no more, because there are simply too many of us. Our senses are numbed daily by a myriad of means, we are all self medicating in some way.

Most of us are seeing the same things, the same stories, yet we are coming to different interpretations. Everything that is said or done is becoming being taken the wrong way. People are offended very easily these days, always “put out”. Trying to prove their point is whatever they say it is by their level of indignation. Trust and respect seems to have been replaced with fear and blame. Any truths and realities are argued and often denied because of a two minute sound bite of only a few dozen words announced on any mainstream news stream that they had heard, seen or read. So much of what we say amongst others is misinterpreted and questioned. We are realizing the deteriorating situation of our lives, individual world-views and the planet, and it is scaring the hell out of us. The scariest is the realization that things have gotten so out of hand yet we allowed ourselves to be distracted while it went on and we are confused by the realization that many aspects of our lives have somehow become beyond our control. It seems all that is left is denial and rage.

Grasping reality can sometimes be painful but rarely does anyone die or lose an eye over it and a change in behaviour does not necessarily always mean mental illness, but could be perceived as a type of societal shell shock. It’s as though one doesn’t know what to believe anymore. Not knowing if one should accept the reality of our lives; where not everyone is a drunk driver, murder (at least here in Canada) is rare, there is no such thing as the perfect family, we all have mental illnesses, and the majority of the population will experience violence only on the screen, thousands of times and all different ways. Or we can keep acknowledging and swallowing the steady stream of propaganda shoved down our throats and which assault on our senses on a daily basis.

Changes are happening that are far too fast for the mind to comprehend and weigh their implications, because reflection has been ignored and tossed aside when the television entered our worlds and became the center of our universes. The people that are getting off of their addiction to the aptly nick-named boob tube are often times awakening to find themselves embarrassed for their blindness and ignorance. I was.

But then that is what a capitalistic system creates, class stratification; along with racism, prejudice and feelings amongst the majority of people of powerlessness, unfocussed rage and shame. These frustrations are then controlled by developed compulsions and self indulgences which displace such frustrations. While the majority slave away at their lives the few at the top snicker away that so many have fallen for the propaganda. They do not snicker fearlessly though for they dread and pray the majority do not become pissed off and develop such insolence as standing up and saying enough is enough.

The less people who instead of simply stepping outside and being aware of what the environment is doing, are told what the weather and other people’s lives are doing via a seemingly drunk on caffeine and themselves, boob tube personality with a painted on smile, the better. The less people who still think the world is gumdrops and lollipops the better as well.

Nearly everyone I know is questioning something in their lives. What was once right or wrong doesn’t necessarily mean right or wrong anymore. We seem to have been programmed but are now trying to shake the cobwebs out. Whether because of our parents, peers or mainstream media, what we once believed good is now bad and vice versa. People are not dealing with their shattered dream so well I fear. One of the reasons for this is that too many of us are still living in the past and so very scared of the future, with many of us still hung up over things that happened years and decades ago. Yet all it takes to create positive change in one’s life is relentless struggle to keep a greater self awareness of the present. Most mistakes I have made and continue to make, happen whenever I’m not listening or not aware of the moment nor focused on the task at hand.

It seems ladies and gentlemen we have also somehow lost our empathy, equal rights and traditions. If we were electrical, which in part we are, we’re blowing fuses, experiencing black and brown outs, and disconnecting all over the place. The promise of more open communication through texting and tweetering is actually creating the opposite. Someone once said our generation has at hand, more information and technology than at any time in history, yet we have somehow become the stupidest.

It does not have to continue. All it takes is taking one step forward instead of leaning out of a sofa for the remote. Stepping away from mundane routine and habitual thought that keep us away from taking such a step, for the majority of folk, seems to be the scariest part. It is but being engaged in your world. It’s hard work being aware of each moment and is sometimes forgotten or ignored for hours or days at a time, but it must never be given up on. The only place the ego does not dwell or like, is when their host is living in the present moment. This is where true change happens.

Another step forward could be finally finding out your neighbours name and taking some pride in your community. Not so proud? Do something about it and get others to help you. It’s like if you want a responsible, trusted, smart and goofy child, you as a parent should be responsible, trusted, smart and goofy. You don’t agree to how we’re ravaging the planet and ourselves, speak up, create change and better yourself. Go to a municipal council meeting one night. Once a year spend the fifteen minutes or so and vote. Know who you are voting for. The community you live in is not your living room or house, its outside on the street. The people you meet each day are your community and this is where we can make a difference for the better. Don’ be intimidated by the media and corporate propaganda, no one owns the Earth. At the same time we must stop fouling our own nests, the rest of the animal kingdom are shaking their heads in disgust laughing at us and crying at the same time.

Let us not be souls who instead of dying peacefully, aware and grateful, it will be the tragic; sitting up from one’s deathbed after your life had just flashed before your eyes and very sadly gasping “Oh shit”. Overwhelmed with regret and guilt, thinking of all the things one should of, would of and could have done. Rueing all the differences in one’s life, in other’s lives and in their own worlds, that could have been made. And then slowly laying your head back down upon the pillow and allowing your last breath to escape from within. With finality perhaps asking ourselves if we had made a difference that we had lived or we had never made a difference and it was of no concern to anyone whether we had lived at all.

To paraphrase the humanist and writer, Eckhart Tolle, “The greatest achievement of humanity is not art, science or technology, but will be the recognition of its own dysfunction, our collective madness,” and dealing with it.

 

 

11/24/11

The Erosion of Etiquette

To whom it may concern,

Some days I get the distinct impression we are barely putting up with each other and that conversation has progressed to where one person is speaking and the other is not really listening, they are merely thinking about what they are going to say when you shut up, with each member of society believing their world view is the right one. Thinking that only what they think matters and though they will sneer “what are you looking at?” they hope everyone is watching them. We are in desperate need of etiquette, which includes manners and ethics. For is it not true that the best of society is when it’s members show good form when communicating with each other, possess the instinct and not just the conscious obedience of manners and understand politeness and grace is far more to one’s advantage than being mean and rude? And that above all else should not members of a community have instinctive consideration for the feelings of others? We have come to believe that how we look, dress and act creates our personality but what is important is what we are, instead of what we appear to be. As it is we are so determined to be different we are all starting to look the same. Tattoo anyone?

What movie will we all watch or which book shall we all read this week? But then this is only one of many primitive instincts we still possess, as do most all creatures on the planet. The impulse inside of us that takes in information and responds without being aware of why we acted the way we do. As well as being oblivious to how it is doing it. We adapt the same behaviour of those around us, which influences things like what we do in our spare time, who one hangs out with and what we spend our money on. This innate impulse is the same reason why birds flock together, insects swarm and cows herd.  And yet the only difference between humans and all other creatures is that we have the ability to be aware of our actions and the ability to think about what we are thinking. But what is different today is that, as we densely pack ourselves into cities and have so much access to so much technology, we are communicating less with each other face to face. We seem to be so preoccupied with our toys, and when we do have to interact, we use the moment to just make sure only our point is made on only how we feel, which is unfortunate, because one of the things that makes life worth living in is the beauty of a shared moment with a fellow human being.

Wherever we are during our daily routine, whether driving, out walking or riding a bike, shopping, reading magazines and newspapers, watching television, listening to the radio or music or riding the bus we are bombarded with attitude. From sneers, derisive looks and remarks to arguing loudly, swearing and fighting. Our culture seems to now think that being inappropriate and unacceptable, angry and rude shows somehow that an individual is confident. But as mentioned earlier this should come to be no surprise, as we are only acting as the rest of the herd are. Instant gratification and personal empowerment has created outrage and a lack of civility. According to anthropology and humanities professor, Peter Wood, this all started with families, “when parents, instead of teaching self-control and self-restraint, began to teach their children that to be truly themselves they need to be expressive of what they feel.”, which has created many people, “who act out their sense of entitled rage; their belief that they cannot be authentically themselves unless they feel their anger and give it a voice; and that their version of the world can be brought to pass by sheer assertion of wrath.”

On the other side of the coin are the many others, who hopefully are the majority, who are getting tired of “attitude”, as well as others who, when they go out into public are open and needing to be friendly because of their need to receive a smile, simple thanks or a kind word from a fellow human being, which allows them to get through one more day.  It seems, ladies and gentlemen, that the only ones who really stand out in a positive way today, and always have, are ladies and gentlemen.

We are in desperate need to revitalize dignity, in ourselves and in our society, and especially in our leadership. If indeed having manners means having a personality, which is the outward expression of one’s inherent character and attitude towards life, then there are many people out there who don’t have much of a personality and probably don’t have much in the way of manners either.

Manners start with what’s called the Harm Principle, where no one should be forcibly prevented from acting in any way he or she chooses, provided their acts are not invasive of the free acts of others. There used to be much more importance placed on how to act when interacting with others, because each act and how we behave determines who we are. Each act becomes a part of our day and of our lives.

This has been so ever since we were small, individualistic and solitary tribes, where agreements were established to regulate the rights of the individual and the tribe. Formal and accepted usages and practises of social behaviour, rather than of nature, which were understood by each member to have a specific meaning when made by either of them.  Then when we began to gather in larger groups and became more sedentary, with an available and sustainable food source. To ensure the safety of the community, as we began eating, sleeping and living with ever larger groups of individuals, manners became safeguards in human interaction and represented conduct that keeps each person within the law and made civilized life worthy.  These laws would become well defined and rigid and became all about responsibility and accountability and order in our daily life. Everyone knew their place and were all expected to discover a place in the economy and to find meaning in family and children. The purpose of life was to live well and create a more secure and better world for future generations. Manners would become conventional wisdom and “the rules in the game of life.”

The American author, Emily Post, believed that, “the structure of etiquette is comparable to that of a house of which the foundation is ethics and the rest good taste, correct speech, quiet unassuming behaviour and a proper pride of dignity.” And that only an ignorant and shallow person would think that having any sort of etiquette and politeness is showing weakness and being timid, quite the opposite actually, because our daily habits reflect our deepest values.  Which are not what others think of us or how they treat you or from the scripts the media writes for us, but inherent values which create integrity, which itself breeds security as in having a sense of worth, identity, self-esteem and personal strength. This creates a noble personality, which is having an inner guidance, a source of direction in life based on references, standards and principles that govern how we make decisions in our daily lives and how we carry them out, one minute at a time. Having a noble personality is also about wisdom, perspective of life and having a sense of balance. It is also about understanding and that in society the “whole is greater than the sum of the parts” and that one should accept fair judgment and embrace perception and comprehension. And finally, a noble person has the power and the faculty and capacity to act. The strength to accomplish something by overcoming deeply embedded habits and having the energy to make choices and decisions.  An honorable person is honest, including about themselves. They know their strengths and weaknesses and are not afraid to combine being vulnerable and competent. They are people who are willing to be unpopular and are always empathic towards others.

Researching this piece I came across George Washington’s 110 rules of civility, the works of Emily Post, as well as many other resources and though most of these lists are of admirable and just characteristics of a gentleman, they are also intended for the lady as well, along with her womanly charm.

Civil and decent behaviour is diminishing, fading by the wayside, as we run headlong down our separate roads, ranting and raving and not knowing why or even stopping for a moment  to catch our breath. If I may, I’d like to start with general everyday human interaction and conversation, shall we?

When meeting someone, male or female and especially when being introduced, shake their hand. Not too limp, nor too strong, but a handshake that has a feeling of both strength and warmth and always look the person in the eye as you do it, which shows respect. Let your handshake mirror your personality. This simple act began when many of us wore swords and/or carried a knife in our belt. Since most people are right-handed, shaking someone’s hand used to mean that you were understood as being civil and respectful, since you had your weapon sheathed. If you are sitting, stand up when being introduced or meeting someone. In acknowledgement of an introduction with a fellow human a simple “How do you do?” will do.

Because conversation should be an equal amount of give and take, abide by these four rules: think before you speak, think of whom you are speaking too, think of what you are saying and actually listen to who is talking to you and “Be careful to whom, what, why and when you speak”.

Try not to repeatedly repeat oneself for many things said that are of interest are told briefly and told for the first time. Do not let a conversation turn into contradiction and argument. Keep your prejudices to yourself and try not to ever tell anyone they are wrong or stupid or full of bullshit. Quietly saying, “No. I don’t think I agree with you” is far better than, “Your an idiot and so very wrong.”

Preaching has no place in society except in a textbook, classroom or pulpit and one should always remember that there are no regrets for things left unsaid and which would be uncalled for if said.

Do not pretend to know more than you do, for only the smallest of minds find it difficult to say “I don’t know.” When someone asks you a question you don’t want to answer, smile and ask “Why do you want to know?”  Do not make fun of anything that is important to someone or laugh at another person’s dreams, because people who don’t have dreams don’t have much.  Do not contradict everything you hear someone say.

Most conversations have at least two sides of the story, sometimes even more, but as long as animosity and self-righteousness does not enter the picture and respect is shown, it stays a discussion and not a carousal ride of an argument.

Do not laugh or talk too loud in public. It raises the stress level in a group and most always draws negative attention. A lady or gentleman is never bombastic, egotistical, pretentious or overbearing but in no way does this make them servile either.  People who talk too easily usually talk too much and many who think they are very good conversationalists more often than not, become pests.  Do not speak evil of anyone not present. To keep friends, never slander anyone by speaking behind their backs and never speak of anyone present without having them overhear what you say. Try to not interrupt someone speaking; only the egotistical constantly interrupt. If you have to interrupt, do it politely with an “excuse me” or “I beg your pardon”.  At the same time, don’t slap people on the back in conversation and never touch a woman, anywhere, without permission. Don’t push, nudge or pat people.

Do not swear. If you swear a lot, it shows you don’t know enough words to express your thoughts. Personally, the occasional “pooh” or “effin” can actually express a lot and on occasion is  the perfect word to describe the moment, as long it’s not said in malice and often. But cursing usually sounds as crude and vulgar as it is. I also feel that when women swear, for some reason it sounds especially ignorant. So please be a lady or gentleman by learning words and how to pronounce them. Know what they mean by reading proven literary works and not just which books are popular. Start having a dictionary nearby and read it once in awhile. And remember that people who are perhaps less educated and prone to using improper grammar can also be brilliant, exceptional people, loved by everyone who knows them, because they are what  they seem  and nothing else.

One should be courteous and respectful in all oral, written, e-mail, cell phone and voicemail communications. Smile when answering a phone, whomever, will hear it in your voice. Any electronic communication such as the internet or e-mailing, one must always be aware that you can’t take back what’s in cyberspace. As to texters and twitters, you are on your own, literally, really and truly.

One of the most important traits one should have is the ability to listen in an open, non-defensive way. When expressing oneself always be honest and without blame and of course in any conversation allow the other person the space to also express themselves.  We influence others only when they feel you are actually listening to them, that you understand what they are expressing and that you actually want to listen. This is called empathic listening and doesn’t necessarily mean you agree with someone all the time, but you do fully understand them and what they are saying, emotionally and intellectually. On some levels this appears risky in that in order to have influence you have to be, to a certain extent, influenced to really understand. Yet reality dictates that those who gain the greatest opportunities and accomplishments are those that understand the concept of “we”, and use their minds to work selflessly with mutual respect and creative cooperation for mutual benefit.  Indeed, the people who count interpersonal relationships as being of the highest importance as to who they are, are usually the happiest, most satisfied and have good self-esteem. While people who say “that doesn’t interest me” or “that bores me” defines their own limitations.

How we communicate with each other is determined as such; 10% by the words used, 30% by sounds and tone of voice and 60% by our body language. Kind of disrupts the belief many have that they are communicating very well with their fellow humans by texting a coded language.

When interacting with others look closely at their whole face. Facial expressions of basic emotions, such as anger, happiness, sadness, disgust, fear, surprise and contempt are universal and shared by every human being on the planet. Look people in the eye when interacting with them and remember that a real smile is when a person’s eyes are smiling along with the mouth. These are all not only just signals of what is going on in our heads; they are also showing exactly what is going on in our heads. Above all else trust your intuition. In the first few seconds of meeting someone, intuition is the emotional reactions, gut-feelings, and thoughts that most times seem irrational, but more often than not are very rational and correct. Intuition happens very quickly, and triggers and influences our behaviour without even us knowing of such changes. One must judge using their instinct rather than just with our eyes and ears and to remember that perception is reality.

Many times we will get irritated with someone because we have miss-read them or have recognized something in that person that we don’t like about ourselves. Most all arguments between people are misunderstandings or hurt feelings, caused because we failed to read that person and ignored our gut-instinct. Those who relish arguing and contradicting on a consistent basis are usually fighting to retain a presumed position of power, frightened for their self-protection, stealing energy from others, and most always, will resist change. Unless the emotions of jealousy, irritation, envy, resentment, bitterness and blame are understood for what they are and we free ourselves from them, a person will never create or achieve anything and will only live a life of constant drama and power struggles.

Do not spit in public. Just like don’t pick your nose, chew your nails or pick your teeth in public either. If you have to cough, do it thoughtfully and in consideration of those around you.  When sneezing, sighing or yawning, do it quietly and put your hand over your mouth and/or turn away. Do not stare at or ogle someone. It is blatant psychological aggression and simply intimidating people for no reason. Avoid flattery at all times; it is far too easily read by others for what it is, which isn’t much.

In conversation never name drop and think it’s making you out to be more important somehow. Never mention what something you have costs. Do not flaunt your wealth if you got it. It should have nothing to do with who you are. Just because someone has wealth does not necessarily mean they are smart. Though they could purchase anything they do so desire, far too many feel they are also appointed experts in all things, including their prejudices of opinion, expert criticism, taste and judgement.  While the posers and the hoity-toity types who put on airs, within all classes of society, are mostly people who are blindly licking the feet of those above them while kicking at those below.

Avoid telling racial, off-color jokes and unkind gossip. One of the cruelest things to do to a person is to laugh at their mistakes.  Humour should never be malicious. The funniest among us know the tricks of putting a twist on a simple story, the use of tone of voice and the personality that is put into their story or observation. The best can make us both laugh and cry.

It goes without saying but always be polite, even to someone you don’t fancy that much. Don’t allow yourself to be dropped down to that level. Never lose your temper, it only shows you can’t control your emotions and in all cases you are just embarrassing yourself.  Having self control in difficult or dangerous circumstances is when one stands out over others who betray their emotions of anger, fear, hatred, embarrassment, enthusiasm and whoopee in public, which most always affects the sensibilities of others. Remember, the actions of individuals should only be defined as preventing harm to other individuals, not causing it.

Never allow criticism to become a condemnation of a person’s character, for we all live in glass houses and really shouldn’t be throwing stones. Criticizing a person’s performance is far different than showing contempt for someone. Any comments made from a higher level, thinking you are above or superior over others is an insult and shows disgust. Never exclude someone from your community by making them feel they don’t mean anything and are not even a human being.  Treating anybody like dirt only proves that the person doing the treating has not been that far from the dirt themselves.  It is said that with every negative experience, such as contempt, derision and mockery that we absorb, we will need five positive experiences to counter balance our emotional makeup and maintain our sense of self worth.

Never wear a hat at a dinner table and always wait until everyone is seated before eating. Never speak with your mouth full of food. Don’t reach across someone; always ask for it to be passed. Put down your knife after using it. Engage people in dinner conversation and be gracious in doing so. A true lady or gentleman always knows when it’s time to leave a party. Be grateful and always thank the host. When dining out, tip well and discreetly and only if it is earned.

Always appear efficient, honest and without reproach, even if you are not. Use the verbal graces; Excuse me and I beg your pardon, yes ma’am and no sir, please and thank you, I am sorry, I made a mistake and will you forgive me? Never let anyone see you looking at your watch, but be respectful of other people’s time. Be punctual at all times, because one of the greatest signs of respect of someone is simply being on time.  Always be aware of the consequences of your actions on others. “Sleep not when others speak, sit not when others stand, speak not when you should hold your peace and walk not on when others stop.”

We all should possess the meat and potatoes of decent behaviour and a person of good character, which is the inviolability of our word and to be incorruptible. Never make a promise you cannot keep and most importantly, before one can make and keep promises with others one must be willing to make and keep promises with themselves. When you give your word always deliver on it and never promise to deliver the impossible.

Any money borrowed without security is considered a debt of honor and must be paid without fail and as soon as possible. If not well off financially, do not sponge off others. Any debt should be paid off by as much as you can and to the best of your ability. Never discuss money or family affairs either in public or with simple acquaintances. If you can’t afford something don’t buy it. Never accept a bribe for it “distorts the words of a righteous person and blinds a clear sighted person.”

Honor one’s mother and father, do not murder, cheat, steal or testify false truths and do not desire for your neighbour’s house, belongings or wife or husband. If you are a habitual liar, you will not be trusted or believed. It is why there is so much dysfunction in many actors and actresses lives and relationships, because they spend their working lives as professional liars. They perform behavioural lies by becoming someone else, usually a fictional character. This no doubt is what causes most of the damage to their personal lives that they all seem to experience. They lose sight of their inner being and forget who they really are.

A true gentleman should always display actions of chivalry when it comes to being around the ladies. And though it’s not always appreciated or asked for, always open doors for them. Hold their coat for them when they put it on, help her with her seat, if needed; give up your seat for both a lady and the elderly. Always stand when a women enters or exits a room. Always ask if she needs anything and when walking, give her your arm, especially if she is wearing heels. If walking stairs walk beside or slightly ahead of her; on an escalator stand in front going down and behind when going up and when walking along a sidewalk the gentleman should walk on the outside, closest to the street. When walking down a dark aisle, the man should always go first.

In a relationship everyone must always remember discretion, honor and integrity. Do not kiss and tell. Keep details of one’s love life private and never break confidence. Never criticize your partner, in public or with acquaintances, no matter how scandalous and never treat your partner with disrespect before anyone. In a breakup or divorce never tarnish a partner’s name, for this is just tarnishing oneself and proves “you are not, was not, and never will be a gentleman or lady.” Do not use relationships to make you feel happy or fulfilled but instead use them to make you more conscious and aware of yourself. If one stays on the path of anger, jealousy, defensiveness and the urge to argue or need to always be right it will forever lead to pain, confusion, madness and violence. Always express thoughts and feelings to each other when they happen and do not leave them to time, for time is where the ego will distort the picture into unreal and ludicrous scenarios, building resentment and jealousy, which creates further problems.

Be aware of the energy we all possess. When two people meet and the sparks of romance fly, it is because both are giving out energy, thus both are also receiving energy. Far too often what happens is that one person decides they don’t have to give their partner this static energy anymore because they are receiving enough for themselves and what usually happens is that the partner still giving and trying becomes empty because they are no longer being replenished. This most always leads to problems, including confusion, resentment, argument and eventual breakup.

Never have sex with someone who does not desire to have such an experience with you, never force sex on anybody and never invite another to have sex who isn’t old enough, emotionally healed enough, mature enough or mentally stable enough to make such a decision. A person’s moral character, what type of person they are, is shown in their conduct during times of passion. While pornography is primal sexual release, when for a split second after you release, a little piece somewhere in one’s soul feels as though it dies. Reality is that sexual fulfillment is all about being in the moment, connection and intimacy. It is the opposite of what porn tries to be. Intimacy is being focused and in sync with your partner, where such things as respect, admiration, communication, trust, transparency, exploration, laughter, vulnerability and surrender come together. When two people become aware that two souls are, for a moment, becoming one; ” the experience is probably the closest we get to being in the realm of the divine.” Never, ever, say “I love you” if you do not mean it, but when you do love, love deeply and passionately and yes, one might get hurt but it is the only way to live life completely. Much like good manners, love should simply be courteous consideration of another person’s feelings and interests.  As to marriage the three things that most influence whether it lasts or not is faithfulness, sex and the sharing of responsibilities of the home.

As to health, we must be conscious of the health of mind, body and spirit. Many people are only concerned with mind and body; some are only concerned with being just a body. But one must tend to all facets of our selves, especially spirit, because without it lays depression, anxiety, fear, doubt, hurry and worry, agitation, restlessness and an unhealthy mind and body.

When attending a funeral have consideration for the family of the deceased. Never force anything upon people in grief and understand they will often not act like their usual selves. When coming into contact with someone in mourning, stop and press your hand with theirs and then move on and understand that in their presence one should put aside all consciousness of self, because service should be the only gift of value offered. And to realize a funeral is not about you or how loudly and unique you can dress; dress in the darkest and most appropriate clothes you have.

In regards to business, any exhibition or lack of etiquette and manners will reflect more on your chances to get a job then how magnificent you think your resume is. Bad manners usually prove that you would be unsuitable to represent the dignity of the job and the employer, while the person who succeeds displays proper etiquette and whose good manners imply consideration of the customers, the company and fellow employee’s interests, as well as their own. The more a person is empathetic towards different groups of people the better they do and the more people they are in sympathy with and understand, the more customers, associates and constituents they will have. To learn how not to act, especially if you an elected representative of the people, simply watch the dishonorable, passive aggressiveness, reticent and dispassionate actions of members of parliament, who do not speak for those they represent but abide by what their party tells them to do, say and act.

Never underestimate the power of presence, as in your demeanor and body language. Don’t slouch or hang your chin. Keep the back straight and shoulders wide. This does not mean puffing out one’s chest like a peacock; it’s just that, indifference breeds more indifference and the perception of inner confidence and strength breeds respect and power. Next time you are talking to a store clerk, show quiet, confident body language and good manners and you will surely receive respect in return.

Want to be a good parent? Do you want a more pleasant, confident and cooperative child? Be a more understanding, empathic, consistent and loving parent, much like if you want to be respected, show some. If you want to be trusted, be trustworthy.  The way a boy treats his mother is the way he’ll treat his wife.

If one fails in something do not fail the lesson. Take responsibility for what went on, don’t blame others or make excuses. Think about the choices you made and how they might have been done differently. Ask yourself if the failure happened because of a lack of skills that one could improve. If it was, improve yourself; seek assistance if you need to, constructive criticism and constructive feedback are always good and do not misjudge seeking help as being a weakness, it only shows a person who is willing to learn and change, forever moving forward. It is not what happens to us that hurts us; it is our response to what happens to us that hurts us.

David Brooks of the New York Times describes the four main causes of the demise of dignity as being; capitalism, where everyone is encouraged to become managers of their own brand and that whenever one does something good, fireworks, spotlights, loud theme songs, yelling “look at me, look at me” and high-fives all around is expected; the cult of naturalism, where we are encouraged to get rid of deception and repression, to liberate our own feelings to the general public at large; charismatic evangelism and how everyone needs to parade their degrading and intimate emotions in public and hopefully on television; and radical egalitarianism which creates hostility to aristocratic protocol, dress and the etiquette of ladies and gentlemen, even though these manners are all based on respect.

Where we go from here is only for us to decide, but if we don’t pass on such things as manners, civil, decent behaviour and dignity to the generations following us, they will no doubt lose the freedom of behaving according to their moral principles because their principles will be changed and will simply be programmed by someone else what they can and can’t do, say, think and act, controlled by either gun or cool-aid to prevent the chaos of angry mobs and violence. For this not to happen we must start to teach our children well.

Not exactly in a nutshell or a brief, attention span of a hummingbird, article, but there you have it for etiquette and manners. There is of course so much more out there but when it’s all said and done, civil and decent behaviour stems from just treating others how you would like to be treated. We must remember that good manners are truly universal. But it is something that must be taught, within each particular society. We become how we were raised and what type of culture and society we were born into. Other than that we all share the same basic emotions, with all our lives based on interpersonal relationships. We all laugh and cry. We all need to get along and we all need to be loved.

Being a gentleman and a lady or a good man or good woman  is someone who understands that they can project sympathy and understanding where and when they choose and feels in no way of having to lower any of their instinctive defences to behave this way. A genuine and sincere person can go anywhere and be welcomed by everyone they come into contact with; they are people of ability and intellect. They do not mimic the manners of others or tread on the sensibilities of those less fortunate than themselves.  It’s not magic or myth that those who give get much more in return and those who are decent and good people are wealthy beyond means in their relationships with their fellow humans and finally, reality usually dictates that good things happen to good people.

I conclude this article with Rule # 110 of George Washington’s 110 Rules of Civility. I would like to also take this time to thank you for your time and patience.

“Labor to keep alive in your breast that little celestial fire called conscience.”

 

 

 

Photo- Nicola Corboy-     http://www.flickr.com/photos/n_corboy/4921290518/

Post, Emily. 1922. Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home

AskMen – Men's Online Magazine

MANNERS FOR MEN–Part One

George Washington's Rules of Good Behavior

Manners for Boys: “Gentlemen” – An Endangered Species? | Googol Learning

Schachter, Harvey, A failure lesson from Lincoln, The Globe and Mail newspaper, November 7, 2011, Pg B7.

Brooks, David, The Regrettable Death of Personal Dignity, The New York Times, 2010.

Wood, Peter, A Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America Now, Encounter Books, 2007.

Fralic, Shelley, Why is everyone so darn angry? The Vancouver Sun newspaper, February 24, 2007, Pg F4.

 

 

 

11/13/11

A Stream of Prophets (2009) Prologue

“If people bring so much courage to this world, the world has to kill them to break them. So of course, it kills them. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these, you can be sure that they will kill you too, but there will be no special hurry.”       Ernest Hemingway,   “A Farewell to Arms.

Prologue

The central message of many of the great teachers of wisdom that have come along, as well as the multitudes we do not know about, and yet who have entered each of our lives at some point in time, is that they all stressed a spiritual awakening, and the need to rise above materialism, fear, inequality, and/or persecution. They appear to help us rid ourselves of the physical substances we identify with such as the essential natures of who we are which only keeps the ego, the collective madness of our species, in place and imprisons each of us separately within our own conditioned personalities and the voices in our heads.

In many cases these teachers are simple, humble heroes, courageously facing off against the forces of greed, fear and the lust for power. Forces that are forever being pushed along by humanity’s ego and which have a thirst made never to be satisfied. Its infection comes by way of warfare and violence, and its presence has tainted nations, religions, beliefs, and personal relationships. This gap between the way human behaviour is and the way it ought to behave, is from where many philosophers speak and teach. They realize that empathic consciousness overcomes this gap; for there is no dividing line between what one is and what one should be, for they are one in the same.

The earliest of prophets taught about the need for enlightenment, salvation, and awakening. They were talking about transformation. They spoke of sin, suffering and delusion and they also shared the insight of a transformation of the nature of the human condition and of what lies within our consciousness. Trying to become a better human being is a great idea, but unless there is a change of consciousness it is yet another form of self enhancement, the desire for a better self image. One cannot become good by trying to be good. One must find the good that is already within us, and allow it to emerge. But to emerge, there has to be a change in our state of consciousness.

In most cases, the message that the prophets were trying to get across arose from their concern for their people, and their collective sense of existence. What they are trying to communicate often times goes against the grain of the framework that our sense of existence is based on, our world-view. Strangely enough many of us don’t really acknowledge a world view, but most prophets had a very good understanding of this. The world-view is what was created by individuals who ran and continue to run societies and are basically behaviour control methods. They include laws, patriotism, religion, propaganda and nationalism and operate nationally, at the community level and the unconscious level. The princes of capitalism don’t like people walking around preaching spirituality and world peace, let alone inner peace.

For many of the prophets, after they had been ridiculed, reviled, spat on, stoned, beaten, imprisoned, or killed, their messages would often be misinterpreted, distorted, and misunderstood by the disciples that followed them. Other men took the teachings and organized them into books; and the belief of a religion came to be. Soon there was no more need to seek enlightenment, but instead, in the belief of one god, and to serve and worship him on the basis of guilt.

And that was one of the main problems with the teachings of many of the prophets, especially before the 16th century. Nearly all religions had stubbornly resisted any attempt to translate their sacred texts into languages everybody could understand. It became more important to believe, but not think.

Over the years many things were added and edited that had nothing to do with the prophet’s original intentions and lessons. Incredible publicity campaigns grew up after them, spreading the word. With the best scribes and much influence from the literate elite of society who attained much wealth along the way, the original teachings of many of the prophets, and the changes they brought about, created cultures. Culture became the beliefs, values, behaviour, and material objects that constitute many peoples’ way of life. Our culture and where we live, not only shapes what we do, it also forms our personalities. The religions that formed from these original teachings became divisive and not unifying at all, because they brought more violence, hatred and racism and a greater lack of tolerance for other people and other religions. They became ideologies, belief systems that people could identify with and use to enhance their false sense of self. They who believed were right while all others were wrong. Others were either nonbelievers or wrong believers and could be killed because of it. Convert and repent or die. If you did not think as they did, you were considered evil. As religions grew it soon became all about conflict between the dominant and disadvantaged, the rich and poor, the black and white, Aboriginal and Anglo-Saxon, Westerner and Asian, Christian and Muslim and on and on and on.

Far too many people do not realize the differences between spirituality and religion. Having a set of thoughts regarded as the absolute truth, dictated by a belief system, does not make you spiritual. The more one tries to make these fabricated beliefs a part of their thoughts and identity, the more one moves away from the spirituality within themselves. That is why the original teachings of many prophets, such as the need for mankind to transform consciousness, have arisen again, but this time outside the structures of most organized religions. Though structures are still needed in modern societies because of the size of our population and the fact that our species is flawed, in that we are a menace to ourselves because we continue to fall into disasters caused by our passions. Thus man-made systems have to be created and put into place to keep our desires in check and on an even keel.

Many of the prophets were spiritually enlightened individuals who liberated themselves from attachments that led to selfish desires. They were people who preoccupied themselves with thoughts, feelings, and aspirations for their fellow human beings. True prophets believe in the value of human life, any human life. Both preaching and open dialogue are used. And more often than not, the messages indicate that there is always a reason for what happens in our lives. It may not be the most obvious reason, but if you look hard enough you will find it, as nothing really happens by chance. The proof lies in the universe itself, which has proven time and time again, and against all odds, that it is a very meaningful place indeed.

Appropriately enough, the journey to enlightenment, bears many comparisons to the composition of the classical heroes’ tale. Though a few prophets do reach the final stage of enlightenment, the reality is, it is very rare. The majority of prophets are simply, mere mortals, who have flaws just like everyone else; ambitions and regrets, wives, sons and daughters. But something inside them would arise, and above all they held dear, even their own personal safety, they felt compelled to throw themselves onto the tears in the fabric of our existence. To stand up and say what was needed to be said. And if they were righteous and true in their stance and point of view, many would come to support them, and to revile them.

Reaching enlightenment is where one feels to be a part of the realization of spirit, of the energy that exists in the global human community. The enlightened do not necessarily believe in a god, but they seem to carry a grace that makes them more aware and complete than other fellow humans. They do not think of themselves as perfect, rather they think of all humans and nature, and hold dear the aspect of each.

The enlightened are able to get along with anybody, and are able to have dialogue with all people, no matter their stage of spirituality or faith-based tradition. They live each moment as it happens. The problems the enlightened and many prophets have, as mentioned earlier, are the structures that make up our societies, the world-view that has been constructed by despotism and religions. These structures are what we sustain ourselves with for personal and corporate survival and which are significant, to our existence. Structures of institutions, habits, culture, and tradition, are the things that people cherish, and which brings about social cohesion, religious faith and national pride. But if these values disappear and we no longer have our distractions and allegiances of the ego, then the majority of the populations of most countries would then clearly see their exploitation and with the curtain drawn back would see the flagrant, harsh, and unadorned reality of the differences between the corporate elite and the worker. It is why many who reach enlightenment are murdered at the hands of those who they had hoped to change.

According to Ken Wilber’s “Integral Spirituality,” there are six stages of spiritual evolvement. The first stage on the road to enlightenment begins when we reach about the age of seven years. Before and after birth we make no distinctions at all about anything. By seven, our thoughts are made up by what we’ve learned from our parents, the surroundings of our childhood and interactions with other children. As for spirituality, our thoughts are made up of unconscious and mostly religious fantasy. The next stage is when we begin to hold certain aspects of these myths as literal and absolute truths. We also start believing in miracles. The third stage is when we move beyond our family’s faith and start accepting the judgments of others, such as teachers, the media, and priests. This is when we first start developing a loyalty to a certain ideology, group or lifestyle, whether it is religious, the military, artistic, sport, economic, or political.

The fourth stage is where self, our inner being, comes into contact with the ego. Spirituality suddenly becomes more of an individual struggle. One becomes more reflective, concerned about achieving their full potential through creativity, independence, and a grasp of the real world, and to take more responsibility for their beliefs. It is the time one starts asking if there is anything beyond this deity-ruled world. Much of what they seek is hidden behind words and language. It becomes a time when one stops ignoring those little voices in our head that are forever questioning orthodoxy and when one will begin to seriously examine other religions and belief systems and many times coming to the realization that some of one’s personal convictions are very relative to them. Many organized religions fearfully believe that this stage is the “mortal sin” of humans in thinking of self and not ego controlled thoughts. To seek knowledge and to ask questions, to be more confident or to use reason have all been deemed “evil thoughts” by many of the faithful. The most important characteristic of this stage is when we realize that each one of us has a choice in how we live our lives. Allowing the masses to know they have a choice is what most scares the few at the top.

The fifth stage is integration. It is when we recognize our weaknesses and can see truth over contradictory and absurd beliefs. We no longer take literally the stories of spiritual and cultural traditions, but instead seek the truth which is deep within each one of us. We study all the philosophers and scriptures, using their symbolism to bridge the gap between rational and intuitive. Both sides of our brain working together allows us to seek that which is not directly visible in the material world.

The final stage is enlightenment and being aware of each moment of each day. It has nothing to do with what you do with your body or mind; it has to do with what you do with your soul. One does not need classes, religious ritual, or seminars to find out who they are. Love without exception, without requirement, and without wanting or needing anything in return. One achieves enlightenment when their life possesses happiness, peace, and wisdom, and they share these with others. They see that life is no longer just about them, but instead is about everyone else that their spirit touches. It is this final stage of enlightenment that the earliest priests and rulers tried to hide from the masses.

After the first cities arose more than five thousand years ago, they had quickly begun expanding outwards. In conquering nearby lands for room to grow more food to feed and work their increasing populations, they rolled over other cultures and cities for their wealth, natural resources and people, who would become their slaves with generation after generation of warfare, enslavement and bloodshed, compounded regularly by drought, famine or flood. Every city-state was busily rushing around using humanity as fodder with each frantically trying to claim the biggest piece of the pie.

No doubt because of this Dynastic Age world-view, which lasted two thousand years, in about 800 BC, many cultures would come to similar solutions to the war and violence that plagued their respective societies. Before this time, the majority of the planet was ruled by their kings, pharaohs, priests, and hundreds of gods, with two prophets, Abraham and Moses standing out because they would be among the first to believe in only one god, were respected and feared leaders of their own distinct tribe and their stories would become written word.

But after 800 BC, what the German philosopher Karl Jaspers would call the Axial Age began and gradually ended about seven hundred years later. The Axial Age was an explosion of spiritual growth and influx of prophets all over the planet. It was like the world had decided to come up for air, and by taking a big breath, it brought out its consciousness. But then that is what a true prophet’s role in society is, promoting change, based on their messages and actions.

The similar solutions these respective societies would come to, was the development of four great religious traditions; Confucianism and Daoism in China, Hinduism and Buddhism in India, Monotheism, from which would arrive Judaism, and later on, Christianity and Islam and the philosophical rationalism in Greece.

By 800 BC the Hebrew tribes had conquered all of Palestine and Israel and finally laid claim to their promised land. At last there was a measure of peace. The scribes began writing and copying the books of the Torah, which would become known as the Old Testament and be written for only the Jewish people. The stories of Abraham, Moses, the history of the Hebrew tribes, and the belief in only one god, were finally being recorded and fine tuned, though all around them were tribes who believed in many gods. The preceding centuries had created much waste and injustice from mankind’s unending and brutal violence upon itself. And it would have an effect on the Hebrew, where, though their god was still the father, demanding, and threatening, and still existed outside of humanity, he would now become more of a personal god, more responsive and the sole creator of the universe.

At nearly the same time, the Greeks, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle threw themselves into the roles of being prophets of humanity and nature, through the theory that reason provides the primary basis for knowledge rather than experience, authority, or spiritual revelation. They also brought about a new system hoping it would end the carnage of the past. It was a system where the exchange and discussion of ideas were allowed, a system that protected the right of each citizen to hold their own view and opinion, no matter their strength. This system, based on interaction, would become democracy.

In the East, Buddha, Confucius and Lao Tzi brought forth simplicity and inner and cultural peace by taking the concept of a god and accepting it as a force, but a force that could only be found through enlightenment. God became a consciousness one could be connected to on the inside, instead of a god one had to please by obeying his laws and rituals. It was a shift in awareness for the Chinese, an opening that brought their collective consciousness into harmony and security.

Oceans away, the Olmecs and Aztec would soon construct their pyramids and temples, and begin sacrificing the blood of their people to appease their own gods.

Many of the Axial Age prophets were not concerned with doctrine or the supernatural. The belief was in the behaviour of humanity. “What mattered was not what you believed, but how you behaved,” behaviour that was characterized by an emptying of the self, the abandonment of egotism and materialism, and having compassion for others. The focus was now about how one treated their fellow man, and the idea that there was nothing wrong with who or what you believed in, as long as those beliefs impelled you to act with consideration toward others, especially strangers. These were new ideas to many people of the Axial Age, especially the realization that one’s behaviour, rather than one’s belief, was what was important in both life and community.

The main principle these prophets gave was hope. They made changes that in practical terms, brought people out of an abyss. They taught that the quest for happiness and harmonious interaction between individuals and groups, involved some kind of spiritual journey, whose completion, though sometimes beyond the limits of human emotion and ordinary understanding, would bring fulfilment and remove the pain, tribulation, tragedy, worry, and confusion. A sense of purpose of why we are here began to develop. They also emphasised the importance of resolution, of being vigilant and aware of one’s path. And most importantly, when journeying to fulfilment, one should not look back.

The concepts of the Greeks, Asians, and the knowledge contained in Babylon, would have a profound effect on what would eventually become the Bible and later the Qur’an, as well as on the rest of the world. But unfortunately much of what was envisioned during the Axial Age would be pushed to the sidelines, hidden and banned with Christianity, and then Islam, arising after the Greeks and the Romans were no more. By 900 A.D., most Western cultures would revert back to adopting a religious view that society expressed God’s will. Christianity and Islam saw their societies and their worlds as the product of supernatural forces and lived their lives guided by selfish human nature and the worship of different versions of the same god. Social thought became focused on what society ought to be. And it would not be until 1500 A.D. that social thought would be based on the need to understand society as it existed. The changes in the spirituality of humanity during the Axial Age had profoundly affected people, and it had continued to run deeply until the 16Th century, where it once again arose from the mist, and sprouted the prophets, thinkers, and philosophers of the Scientific Revolution and humanity would develop a new world-view of heaven and earth. Then arrived the Age of Enlightenment in late 18Th century Europe, which would begin to shape the modern Western world.

The words of the prophets do overlap on many issues and what was and continues to be written of their teachings; identifies fundamental points of observances and rituals, and characterize ancient wisdom with contemporary language. They seem to share a common resource and spiritual heritage which allows its believers within a particular tradition, to identify, support, and commune with others, though not all of their new found knowledge went to the common people. In many cases, the theories and discussions and understandings were for the elite of society, who in most cases were the only ones who had the idle time to spend their days arguing points of philosophy and life, as well as being, in most cases, the only ones who could read.

The Greek philosophers, as well as men like Confucius taught only aristocratic men, sharing their wisdom with just a privileged few, mostly males of noble birth. Throughout much of human history, formal schooling was generally only available to the wealthy. Indeed, the Greek root of the word school, is leisure. Many of their beliefs and philosophies did eventually make it to the common man, but unfortunately not until hundreds of years later.

Many prophets were simply figureheads, patriarchs of beliefs that arose from their visions, meditations and reflections. Some scholars suggest that the visions and insights of the earliest prophets could very well have been a result of schizophrenia. And though some of the teachings of the prophets might very well have been based on haphazard fantasy, undeniably most are based on some sort of a sense of other levels of reality; forms of awareness that we in the modern West gave up in order to develop a more rational and more efficient way of thought.

Virtually all the brilliant thinkers of the ancient world were more interested in envisioning the “ideal” society rather than caring about the actual society around them. What they achieved worked its way down the chain eventually, but even then, only to the educated.

Other prophets dealt with issues, for social change, and brought forth values and norms for society. Values that would serve as guidelines for social living, and which would be culturally defined standards, such as desirability, goodness, and beauty, while beliefs would become specific statements on what the people held to be true and of what ought to exist in their lives. The norms of cultures are the rules and expectations by which a society guides the behaviour of its people. Values and norms do not describe actual human behaviour as much as prescribe how people of a society should act. The most important thing many prophets brought, besides hope, was change, because it is a fact, that new ideas create change in sociological thinking within a culture.

Since the first ancient civilizations, our lives have been framed by the social forces at work in our particular time and environment in which we happen to live in. Society is a complex system, and has always been characterized by inequality and conflict, which at times has created social change. However division in society has always been based on social inequality. Unequal distribution of wealth, income, education, power and prestige are all linked to the factors of race, ethnicity, gender, and age.

Typically, social structure benefits some while depriving others. But what often rises above these truths is the fact that shared values or social interdependence generates unity among members of society. And this is where most prophets have made their mark.

In religion, a prophet (or a prophetess) is a person who has encountered the supernatural or the divine, often one who serves as an intermediary with humanity, an agent of god. Though there are also prophets in music, science, philosophy, literature, and even in our daily lives, all of whom made a difference to our sense of existence, and who are not divine or supernatural in any way.  That is why authentic prophets by some are false prophets to others.

But ethical leadership is what the world desperately needs today. Our modern age came about after an age of enlightenment, while today it has become an age of entitlement. There is less gratitude and more attitude in today’s society because too many are living lives of flagrant consumption and yet at the same time acting so hard done by. Our attitude of not appreciating what we have, because of so much concern with what we want and can get is what is not allowing us to behave in a civilized manner anymore, to ourselves and to others.

This essay contains only a few of the untold numbers of prophets who have made a difference in their fellow human beings lives’, whether culturally, spiritually, scientifically, or behaviourally. It also includes prophets who preached a simple life apart from the materialistic world, and some who were prophets for justice, equality and peace, and strangely enough, most of the greatest prophets seem to always show up when their neighbours, people or culture, needs them most. Many of these prophets have also admitted, at least once in their lives, that when everything is said and done, “the most cherished thing we could do for each other, is to simply be a little kinder.” Or as the respected Jewish rabbi, Hillel, once answered a skeptic who had asked him to teach him the Torah, ” What is hateful to yourself do not do to another. This is the whole Torah, go and study it, the rest is commentary.”