02/7/13

The Age of Myth – Chapter Four

Cro-Magnon, the first anatomically modern man, began to move into Europe about 40,000 years ago, with the skeletal remains of one of its population, found in the cave Pestera Cu Oase, in Romania, and radiocarbon dated to 37,800 years ago. They had broken away from the main group of Homo sapien survivors of the eruption of Mt Toba, 30,000 years previous, who had come out of the Ethiopian highlands and had replaced survivors of the earlier species, Homo erectus, throughout Africa, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. And though they had also made their way to Australia and the Far East, the majority of the Cro-Magnon population lived around the lakes of the Mediterranean basin, which was not a sea yet, North Africa, the Canary Islands, and the Eastern Mediterranean. They had become highly specialized hunters and gatherers and had developed speech, and soon, their own languages, while the environment of wherever they had ended up on the planet would dictate the race of human they would become, with random mutations in our DNA providing the basis of variation.

Moving north Cro-Magnon began to run into the Neanderthal, who would eventually be pushed to the edge of their world, with the last few Neanderthal tribes’ remnants found in Western Spain and Gibraltar. Before Cro-Magnon, the Neanderthal population was perhaps 15,000 to 20,000 individuals, living between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural Mountains and though the Neanderthal species would perish, it was not their complete extinction, for many were undoubtedly assimilated into the newer species. Some theories suggest the contributing factor in the Neanderthals demise was simply, “when limitless imagination replaced robust physiques.”

Just recently, Swedish archeological geneticist Svante Paabo completed mapping the DNA of the Neanderthal and found that many people today, except for most all African descendents, have about 3 to 5 per cent of their DNA in common with Neanderthals. Interestingly, but then considering the harsh environment in which the Neanderthal lived, the genes we share with them are all in the parts that make up our immune system.

With the demise of Neanderthal, the Upper Palaeolithic period (40,000 to 10,000 years ago) began and represented a gigantic step forward in our species consciousness and abilities.

Illustration by Zdenek Burian Early modern-humanCro-Magnons were taller than other Homo sapiens and the earlier species, with a more erect posture, prominent nose and chin, lower brow ridges and unlike the Neanderthal and Erectus’ backward sloping skulls, had a rounder skull, with a more vertical forehead. Thus a bigger brain, which was crucial, considering being stupid usually got you killed, while ingenuity and intellect was needed for survival. And with a higher forehead, more muscles formed in the face, with more control of eyebrows and forehead skin, which aided in communication.

They wore clothes of softened leather sewn with bone needles and thread from an animal’s gut and wore lots of necklaces, bracelets, and amulets made from shells, flowers, teeth, and bones. Their quilts were animal pelts and they often lived in pit-huts, similar to North American natives’ tepees. During the winters they would live in semi-permanent settlements, usually in narrow valley bottoms or caves, while over the summers, and using lightweight, portable tents, they would follow the herds of their prey. Their campsites contained oil lamps and hearths that were very complex in themselves, with much forethought made every time they camped. For instance, each tent would typically face the east, to catch the morning sun’s warmth. They had developed many tools which could work bone, antler and hides. They had darts, harpoons, fish hooks, rope, eyed needles, and hunted with spears and javelins. Unable to store or keep food they were typical hunters and gatherers, constantly on the move.

Over time, family size groups of these earliest modern humans, perhaps ten to twelve individuals, would grow to thirty to forty people. With the group replenished most often with arriving males from other tribes. Eventually leaders would arise within these larger groups and were either dominant males and females or elders who held wisdom in the form of the collective memories of the group. Their basic, isolated way of primitive life began to change and would evolve into the hierarchy system, and because the populations of many areas had grown, for the first time groups started coming into closer contact with each other, intruding on each other. But at the same time the increased interaction between groups also meant the sharing of ideas and exchange of raw materials.

A leader and other strong members of the group would become the most active in protecting their particular group, as well as settling any squabbles within their own group and between others. This is the time many believe early man began to fight each other. Mostly for two reasons, to establish dominance in a group or to establish territorial rights over a particular piece of ground. But if fighting ever did break out, very rarely did anyone die.

As to the individuals with psychopathic natures, which does not necessarily mean violent, but individuals who would attempt to steal, cheat or bully were suppressed by a consensus process amongst the tribe, which had the power to ostracize, banish or even kill. Any psychotic behaviour had to be controlled, because to survive, the cohesion and stability of the group needed cooperation amongst its members to exist. Only after farming was developed, thousands of years later, would psychopaths no longer be held in check and would rise in power, right up to the present day.

Though over time the whole life of a tribe would revolve around its leader, these earlier humans had become more co-operative hunters, and the leaders of these ever growing groups found out that often times dominant authority had to be curtailed somewhat to retain the loyalty of the group. Each member was just as strong as the next, with the dumb, weak and frail rarely surviving into adulthood. Even the children, who of course were not passively entertained by video games, television, their phone and movies, would spend their waking hours actively doing something, such as talking, playing, learning to hunt, and helping out in gathering. Constant interaction with nature and each other, they had much more childhood stimulation and activity than most children today, which promoted mental development, confidence and better health.

Having to get along with more and more people within the group, as well as with other groups, a leader could not be feared so much anymore and instead, had to get everyone on his or her side by getting them to want to help him or her. Eventually as the populations grew, with everyone having their say, leaders had to become just another member of the group, because they could no longer command unquestioning support, obedience and/or influence. But with the groups growing into ever larger populations there was still needed an all powerful figure who could keep the group under control and over time there came the invention of a god.

Early modern man did not fear nature or feel helpless against it, but instead made the forces of nature into things with whom they could associate with and even regard as equal. They all thought very independently and yet were never intimidated by each other’s intellect, and did not feel submissive to anyone or anything. There were few illusions and most all instinctual impulses they would have, never disregarded the relationship of any other individual to them. These early peoples focussed more on living in equilibrium with their environment. Assured that their existence in the world was the same in the past, and would be unchanged in the future.

Symbolic behaviour would become ever the more prominent and was linked to animism, humanity’s oldest belief system, the belief that natural objects were conscious forms of life, and that they affect humanity. They viewed the forests, mountains, oceans, even the wind, as spiritual forces, and displayed a reverence for the natural environment. They believed a soul or spirit existed in every object, living, as well as inanimate and that in a future state, an object’s soul exists as part of an immaterial and universal soul. These early beliefs were based on instinct, emotion and intuition. Most tribal religions, even today, are different in form and ritual, but all seek to explain the mystery of life by insisting that nature is animated by spirits. Though these early peoples began to have supernatural beliefs, they did not serve to justify any central authority, transfer of wealth or maintain peace between unrelated individuals. Nature and humans were to be respected equally and would live in complete harmony with one another. Humans at this time did not feel separate from nature that belief would arise later with the first civilizations.

But the ego was rapidly developing, along with language, the first signs of abstract thought, finely made tools, the concept of fishing, and the understanding of bartering. Anthropologists, through ethnographic research studies of hunter-gatherer societies suggest that with some tribes, individual status was based on how generous a person was who has acquired wealth, while other groups remained egalitarian and non-hierarchical societies, sharing their food and materials. Art and jewellery also became prevalent, as did game playing, music and ceremonies for their dearly departed.

Besides the development of more complex hunting strategies, sophisticated planning, and social structure, certain aspects of a human’s life became more sacred, such as births, deaths and the passage to adulthood. Symbols and rituals became more elaborate. And as projectile points, engraving tools, knife blades and drilling tools evolved, so did art, with the first signs of art appearing in fossil records, 50,000 years ago, in Africa. The earliest known cave paintings, found in France, are dated 34,000 years ago and picture rhino, bison and horses, done in black charcoal and red ochre. A lion-headed figurine carved out of a mammoth tusk found in Germany, is from the same time. In Czechoslovakia, fired clay figurines and woven baskets have been found dating back 27,000 years, and proving music was also evolving, a bird-bone flute found in France is 23,000 years old.

These early peoples lived in an age with no reason, and relied on their feelings to make any decisions. With much of what they thought about each day driven by their emotions. Any problems were dealt with instinctively, thus quickly. Other problems would evolve when, much later, humans would first start experiencing reason. Reason was still thousands of years in the future and really did not last very long when it did arrive, since today we have already abandoned it and replaced it with ideology. Besides, when we cut off our feelings and ignore our gut feelings, only then does decision making become difficult. And as we have now come to realize, life is all about decision making, in fact, to somewhat prove the point, though our brains only makes up about 2 per cent of our body weight, the electrochemistry within it, when working hard on making a decision, will burn up a fifth of the food and oxygen we consume.

What was also evolving was our social behaviour. Most humans were still intimately connected to the rhythms and signals of the natural world and lived and responded instinctively. Life was still a routine of searching for food, getting along with our band members and accepting levels of power to the physically stronger, the more attuned or the group as a whole. Whatever accepted hierarchy, the constant tragedies, challenges, and difficulties of daily life were without reflection. With no ego, there was no jealousy or greed, or temper tantrum because something didn’t go one’s way. But over the next hundreds of millennia, certain individuals began to grow restless with the challenging daily routines of life. When someone died, they began to ask why and then wonder how the death could be avoided in the future. More and more individuals began stepping back from their automatic responses and started examining the full scope of existence and looking at the big picture. Aware that life endured through cycles of the sun, moon, and seasons, lifestyle, food sharing, division of labour, and cooperation became more important to one’s daily life. Where once the tribes were relaxed in their daily lives and everyone knew their place, they began to be afflicted with the concept, which we are still trying to figure out today, of simply how to get along with our neighbours. It was the birth of self awareness, and lead humans to understand the important need, not only of physical survival, but of the need for psychological survival as well. To be understood, affirmed, validated and appreciated within social worlds which would became incredible more complex.

As mentioned earlier, the first signs of art appear in fossil records dated 50,000 years ago, in Africa. By 30,000 years ago, when art was becoming more prolific and we began to decorate things more, there was the rather sudden appearance of a symbol set painted on the cave walls throughout Europe. Whether it was developed somewhere else or was a local phenomenon but used materials that did not survive over the millennia, or we simple haven’t found yet, we do not know.

Anthropologist Genevieve von Petzinger has found that, while surviving examples of the earliest art was of animal and human imagery, by 30,000 years ago a core set of 19 symbols, with distinct shapes began to appear in Europe and eventually outnumber any imagery of either animals or humans. These geometric signs would be repeated over the next 20,000 years, with the same symbols moving across the earth with the expansion of humans. The same symbols would also be found in Australia, first inhabited by humans 50,000 years ago. Over the next millennia these original symbols would rise to 26 distinct shapes, the same as the English alphabet.

The numerous evidences of fertility figurines, cave painting and petro-glyphs shows the importance symbolism became in human development, especially with language and writing. Symbolism allows the mind to see intuitively – to see what is not directly visible in the material world. It is what engages the right side of the human brain, while the left side of our brains is bound by rational or linear thought, like language and writing. And this is why the first written languages were developed out of hieroglyphs, which is basically art that is inseparable from the script that goes along with it.

No matter where hieroglyphs have been found, they are all very similar, even the Egyptian and Mayan hieroglyphs in particular, though separated by an ocean. In most of these places the script was used for inscriptions covering tombs, temples, obelisks, and sculpture, then would eventually be written on papyrus, bark, or paper, for ritual and sacred text. The first written language would be developed by the Sumerians, more than 5,000 years ago, to keep track of goods and materials.

These Middle Eastern and Egyptian scripts were eventually replaced with a new form of hieroglyphs, known as “popular script.” The Phoenicians would then spread these first written languages, which included signs for the consonants, all over the Mediterranean, where they would eventually be adopted by the Greeks and Romans. Over the next couple of centuries, the script would evolve with Greek letters to write the Egyptian language, and then during the Roman era, a Greek-based alphabet called “Coptic” appeared, and would become the dominant alphabet of Europe. Though hieroglyphs would remain the most widely used scripts until 392 A.D., at which time the Holy Roman Church would ban all non-Christian worship, and hieroglyphs immediately began to disappear.

The oldest language known is the Khoisan, in Southeast Africa, which is made up of clicking sounds, and is probably more than 50,000 years old. Up to this day the Niger-Congo region has more than fourteen hundred languages, 25% of the languages in the entire world. Cautious estimates suggest that more than 10,000 languages eventually existed globally. While over half of the six thousand languages currently spoken, are unlikely to survive the next 100 years. The Pueblo natives of North America believe different languages were created “so it wouldn’t be easy for humans to quarrel.”

The Upper Palaeolithic period also represents the birth of modern man, and specifically his mind. Physically, a Cro-Magnon standing in a crowd today and dressed, you would be hard pressed to pick them out. Same build, same mind, which is why symbolism was as important then as it still is today. Because, though we hate to admit it, humans are a biological species, being operated by a large brain, which has separate right and left hemispheres in the cerebral cortex, which we call today, right brain and left brain. We have possessed such a brain for over 40,000 years, yet today we apparently use only about 10% of our brains. As to the other 90%, is it that we have forgotten how to access it or is it the parts we haven’t yet reached?

In fact, the biochemical processes of the mind are also closely linked to our health, emotionally and physically. Mentioned in both, Eastern philosophy and the Old Testament, is how important the brain is to our immune system, and that the spleen, thymus, bone marrow, glands, liver, lungs, kidney, and heart are all connected, with much control of the brain resting with the organs. It is why there are intense, emotional and spiritual aspects of serious illnesses, and why if you grow up believing showing emotion is a sign of weakness you are sick a lot and have a shorter lifespan. It shows that besides the importance of being honest with others, we must also be honest with how we feel ourselves.

The right brain is totally in the present, and is voiceless, speaking through symbolism, instinct, and dreams. It deals with spatial and abstract relationships, and the subconscious. It cares about compassion, integrity context, peace, love and being supportive. It focuses on our similarities and the big picture that all humans are connected. While the left brain talks a lot, and which is what we have become.

We mange from the left, because it is logical, thinks linearly and literally, and is where our intelligence lies. It judges, punishes and deceives, living in the past and the present. It focuses on our differences and is critical of those unlike ourselves, thus is the root of bigotry, prejudice, and fear or hate of the unfamiliar. Today it keeps us busy in our day to day lives, yet no matter what awards of our society it achieves, it never makes anyone truly happy or satisfied. It loves routine and running on automatic, dreading having to shift gears. The left brain defines our boundaries of who we are and understands language but has a problem with its limitations, compared to the gut feelings and intuition of the right, which remember has no voice. And this is the trouble we find ourselves in today, because the reality of life is it is not just logical, it is also emotional, with symbols, words, texting and tweeting, too often holding us back in describing what we should instead be sensing and feeling.

The peoples of the Upper Palaeolithic period minds evolved gradually as did all things human, especially their social worlds and day to day living, though it was undoubtedly hardly felt by each generation, for it was a naturally slow process. Unlike today where instead of natural progressions lasting thousands of years, they now speed by seemingly on a weekly basis. It’s no wonder why mental illness has become the number one affliction of our species, with day to day living becoming all about simply being a good consumer and how to afford it, and that we are much more than just a biological species. Far from it we boast, unbelieving.

However, genetics, biochemistry, and molecular biology have taught us that organisms, which we are one, do not and cannot evolve because they need or want to, that natural selection cannot create mutants to serve its purposes, and that inheritable variation is random, with any genetic variation arising or not arising strictly by chance. Before the advent of modern transportation, not so long ago, human populations were scattered all over the planet and had very little contact with each other, thus we rarely exchanged genes. Over the course of human history, through random changes in the genome and natural selection, our species has developed many different traits, such as skin color, eye shape and immune systems. And even though such genetic diversity differentiates each individual from every other person in the world, most of our genes are not segregated among the traditional races of Caucasoid, Mongoloid, and Negroid. Thus our shared genetic heritage unites us all as one species.

Meanwhile, humanity slowly made their way through their ever evolving lives, still believing they were a part of nature, which genetics proves they were, and not above it as we believe we are. While at the same time the earth was also naturally progressing and forever changing, not caring about whom or what lives on its mantel.

After taking tens of thousands of years to cool down, peak glaciations of the last great ice age was reached about 18,000 years ago. Much of Europe, Asia – down to the Himalayans, and North America –  down to approximately the mid point of America, was covered in glaciers more than 3 km high, while Antarctica had crept northward and brushed upon South America. The temperatures near the ice sheets had fallen by at least 15.5 degrees C (60 F) and between 21 and 27 C (36 – 48F) in the tropics. The sea levels had dropped to 130 m (425 ft) below modern levels, exposing thousands upon thousands of square miles of the continental shelves of all the continents. In some areas these gently sloping gradients would have had our present shorelines, dozens of miles out to sea, while the edges of these shelves drop off very quickly, in fact the edges of the continental shelves are the highest and most extensive escarpments known on earth, with their average drop being 3657 m (12,000 ft) and in some cases, 9140 m (30,000 ft), straight down. The Bering Sea was a dry land, the Mediterranean’s basin a group of lakes, the English Channel a vast dry valley, and the Indonesian Galapagos united in one vast land of mountains and valleys. Today’s Venice, Italy, was about 200 miles from the nearest shoreline, while the Atlantic shoreline of North America was at least 60 miles to the east of where it presently is today. But then the glaciers began to retreat, the ice began to melt and the temperatures began to climb.

According to the latest research, and the most distinguished geneticist, Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, human gene frequencies; the gradual change of a character or phenotype in a species over a particular geographical area, show that there were three areas of human expansion during the Upper Palaeolithic era. One was centered on the Sea of Japan and its archipelagos and expanded out along the shorelines, and by boat to the western coast of North America, starting from the Solomon Island group, then out over the Pacific Islands. Eventually becoming the ancestors of many west coast North American native peoples, most notably the Haida Gweii. They also migrated back into Southeast Asia.

Another group was centered over Northern Eurasia and Siberia. This group migrated south and to the east over the Bering land bridge into North America. They would be the ancestors of the Clovis and all the other peoples who would eventually inhabit North and South America.

The third expansion came out of Arabia and the Middle East area and moved into Europe, the Mediterranean and northeast Africa. There is debate over whether Cro-Magnon had expanded along the ice age shoreline of Europe, Greenland and then south along the North American east coast.

Many of these migrations would soon cease though as the ice continued to melt, and would have left many groups of peoples isolated. Within 5,000 years after peak glaciations the world’s sea levels rose 20 m (66ft). The great glacial lakes in North America, which were once massive sheets of ice, began to flood off the continent and about 11,500 years ago, according to fossil remains of coral beds, there was an abrupt rise in sea levels of another 24 m (79 ft) and once again the earth’s surface was changed, and all the species upon its surface would have to adapt along with it to survive, with many sites of human habitat flooded over, as the Mediterranean continued to fill and the shorelines of most of the continents were disappearing beneath the water. More and more, groups of people had to move to higher ground, leaving behind what culture they did have, to the rising seas. Though these transitions often times took generations, in the northern regions, changes were more drastic, in that from a glacial environment it was becoming forest, the land being exposed by the retreating glaciers would have been compressed flat by the immense weight of the ice as it slowly crept northward, and had ripped out huge gouges in the earth, which today, are the fjords of northern Europe, Hudsons Bay and North America The ice melting also would have exposed seasonal rivers and lakes, with great forests arising over the now barren lands. By 13,000 years ago the tundra-glacial hunters were being replaced by Mesolithic forest and coastal hunters and gatherers. And with new technologies such as the bow and arrow, they began to devastate any big game still remaining.

In North America much of the north and central regions became grass land. And with a north-south corridor opening up through the melting ice sheets, and the Bering land bridge slowly disappearing, another wave of peoples began to fan out over the continent. They would become known as the Clovis people.

The North American natives, the Northern Paiute, of present day California, Nevada, and Oregon have an interesting legend, about their ancestors who had come from the north, “Ice had formed ahead of them, and it reached all the way to the sky. The people could not cross it . . .  A Raven flew up and struck the ice and cracked it. Coyote said, “These small people can’t get across the ice.”  Another Raven flew up again and cracked the ice again. Coyote said, “Try again. Try again.” Raven flew up again, broke the ice, and the people ran across.

The first wave of humans had migrated down the western coastline earlier, as far south as Santa Rosa Island, off the Californian coast. The bones and remains of “Arlington Springs Man” were found there, and are dated to 13,000 years ago. At peak glaciations 18,000 years ago, the four Channel Islands, that lay up to 26m (42km) off the state of California was one big island called Santa Rosae, and was only five miles off the coast, not so isolated as they are today, separately. The earliest documented settlement on the Queen Charlotte Islands of Canada’s west coast, has been found to have been used more than 11,000 years ago. Coinciding with sites found on the east coast of North America dated to about the same time.

Though they were not the first, nor the last humans to reach North America, the Clovis people thrived from about 14,000 years ago. North America before this time was much the same as Africa as far as mega-fauna (large mammals) goes, with many species. From herds of mammoths and horses, to lions, cheetahs, camels, and great grand sloths, North American Llamas, musk ox, giant beaver, short-faced bears (bigger than grizzlies), American mastodon, giant bison, and saber-tooth tigers roamed the landscape. But after peak glaciations many of the bigger mammals weighing more than 40kg (88 lbs) began to die out. Though the ice age itself was the cause of thousands of extinctions of creatures, humans entering the scene would have a profound impact on these animals.

Over the last 50,000 years, thirty-three of the largest mammals in North America have become extinct. Many of these species, as well as the Clovis peoples themselves, would soon disappear and become extinct 12,900 years ago. Some scientific evidence has suggested that a swarm of comets roared through the atmosphere at that time and broke up into hundreds of fragments, hitting North America like the pellets out of a sawed-off shotgun. The effect on the climate was sudden, as a huge dust cloud expanded outwards. In less than two years the temperature dropped -7 C (18 F). And within a couple of a hundred years after the devastation from the initial impact, changes in the environment and the hunting capabilities of the Clovis people, fifteen species of the largest mammals could not adapt or survive, and soon went the way of the dinosaur, and were no more.

More recent and perhaps more accurate data suggests that indeed the earth cooled at this time in what has been named the Younger Dryas, though it was not due to a meteorite but actually a cooling period caused by an abrupt change in the complex of the global climate. The same thing was happening in Europe and by 15,000 years ago the woolly mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, European Hippo, Irish elk, cave lion, European Jaguar, cave bear, hyena, steppe bison and the interesting elasmotherium, which were similar to a Rhino but with longer legs, all became extinct. The elasmotherium 2 m (6 ft) high and over 6 m (20ft) long and upwards of five tonnes, had a single two meters long horn, was a fast runner and had teeth similar to a horse. But soon the hunting prowess of humans alone decimated most all these animals and with most of the larger game gone, smaller forest animals, such as deer would replace them.

Meanwhile the Indonesian landmass was becoming a group of separate islands once more, with New Guinea even more isolated, and the Australian continent was turning into a desert, with most all of the big game once there already driven to extinction 20,000 – 30,000 years previously by the first archaic inhabitants. The descendants of these first inhabitants of Australia would find themselves ever more isolated in a barren land, nearly devoid of animal life.

The people of the Japanese archipelago would become perhaps the first sedentary people in the world, with the Jomon period starting at least 16,000 years ago. They seemed to have been very skilled coastal and deep water fishermen. Pottery found in Japanese archaeology sites have been dated to about 15,000 years ago. There are theories that these seafaring people had made their way around and along the edge of the glaciers that protruded down from the Bering land bridge, before it had melted back northwards, and had extensively explored down the west coast of the North American continent.

All this expansion of populations of humans covering the earth’s landmasses would have a profound effect on the future of all living things. Population would become an issue, as well as the un-evolving needs of food and water, and the new primary quandary of our species, how do we get along.

 

 

Image – An artist’s conception of an early modern human. Credit: Illustration by Zdenek Burian.

http://www.stoneageinstitute.org/

 

 

06/3/12

Global Charter

Written on the side of a building at Fisherman’s wharf in Victoria’s inner harbour, some time ago. Author unknown, but then considering the global intent, so very apropos.

Global Charter.

Think of no one as them.

Don’t confuse your comfort with your safety.

Talk to strangers.

Imagine other cultures through their Art, Poetry and Novels.

Listen to music you don’t understand. Dance to it.

Act locally.

Notice the working of power and privilege in your culture.

Question consumption.

Know how your lettuce and coffee are grown.

Wake up and smell the exploitation.

Look for fair trade and union labels.

Help build economies from the bottom up.

Acquire few needs.

Learn a 2nd or even 3rd language.

Visit people, places and cultures, not tourist attractions.

Learn peoples history. Re-define progress.

Know physical and political geography.

Play sports/games with other cultures.

Watch films with subtitles.

Know your heritage.

Honor everyone’s holidays.

Look at the moon and imagine someone else, looking at it too.

Read the UN Universal Declaration of Human rights.

Understand global economy in terms of people, land and water.

Know where your bank banks.

Never believe you have a right to anyone else’s resources.

Refuse to wear corporate logos: defy corporate domination.

Question military/corporate connections.

Don’t confuse money with wealth, or time with money.

Have a pen/e-mail pal.

Honor indigenous cultures.

Judge governance by how well it meets all peoples needs.

Be sceptical about what you read.

Eat adventurously. Enjoy vegetables, beans and grains in your diet.

Choose curiosity over certainty.

Know where your water comes from and where your wastes go.

Pledge allegiance to the earth: question nationalism.

Think North/ Central/ South.- there are many Americans.

Assume that many others share your dreams.

Know that no one is silent though many are not heard. Work to change this.

Don’t always look for the differences in people. Notice the similarities.

Do unto others what you would want them to do unto you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

01/26/12

Racism Yet No biological changes in humans for 10,000 years

Every human being on the planet is of one species. Significant biological evolution for our species, at least the last biggest change, stopped between 50,000 to 100,000 years ago. By this time we had radiated out to every corner of the planet, and races developed. Because we are one species, originally evolving in Africa, this ensured that when we diverged across the planet, that racial and ethnic groups were and are biologically equivalent.

The differences between the races are very much “skin deep”. The most recent adaptations to our species occurred about 20,000 years ago. And it all had to do with the parts of us that interact with the world around us; skin colour, immune system, and metabolic changes due to the digestion of unique foods, amongst each race.

Human genetics prove that any racial superiority is a myth. Intelligence is not a single trait; it’s a huge entourage of abilities. Each race has an ancestral environment that favoured a different set of talents, with each race best adapted to their unique environment. This interestingly, eliminates the question of superiority between the races.

All the races of our species are not fundamentally the same, which is good. Otherwise the planet would be a boring place. Regardless of where one is born, each and all individuals are deserving of the same rights and opportunities. Every one of us brings different strengths and talents to the table, and this is why the most democratic, invigorating, and creative places on the planet are multi-racial cultures.

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.

 

 

 

10/26/11

Accountable to be Responsible in Sports

Coaching fifteen, sixteen and seventeen year olds in the game of hockey at the Midget level for the past seven seasons became a passion the day I realized that there was so much of the team game that had to do with life away from the rink. Each day afterward the importance was placed on making the player a better player and perhaps a better young man as well. The beauty of this is that to become a better player in hockey you have to become a better team player and when you become a better player you also understand that you will also need to be the hardest working player, be accountable and responsible. Just like in life.

Many of our children become enamored by their sports hero. Much more than anybody on television or film, in music or politics and there is a reason for this. More often than not a successful athlete, especially one involved in a team sport, possesses many traits that are rare in our everyday society.

The following is something that describes what’s needed to be a successful athlete and indeed are the traits nearly all successful people possess. Each year I’d give a copy to each of the nineteen players on the team, I don’t know exactly who read it or not, but for those that did not I hope one day they come across it and give it a ponder, because it could also be read as the expectations of yourself to live a successful life. If you simply replace the words teammate with fellow human being and coach to parent, who should be the child’s mentor and hero, and team to community, it lists what is needed to be successful no matter whether it’s on a field, in an arena or an office tower, on the street, at home or simply interacting with a fellow human being.

 

Commitment – the pledge to one’s teammates that you will be accountable for the responsibilities of your position and how it relates to the team system.

Drive – the desire or need to win, to achieve, and to be successful in athletics. An athlete with drive desires to attain athletic excellence and responds positively to competitive situations. They also aspire to accomplish difficult tasks and set and maintain high goals in athletics.

Determination – the willingness to put forth the physical effort necessary to be successful. A determined athlete is persistent and unrelenting in work habits, practices long and hard, works on their skills until exhausted and does not give up easily on a problem.

Emotional Control – the capability to maintain one’s cool during the stresses involved in athletic competition. An athlete with strong emotional control can face stress in a calm objective manner and rarely allows feelings to affect performance. They are not easily discouraged, depressed, or frustrated by bad breaks, calls, or mistakes.

Conscientiousness – the willingness to do things according to the rules. A conscientious athlete will not attempt to bend the rules to suit personal needs. They display the tendency to be exacting in character, are dominated by a sense of duty and place the good of the team ahead of personal well being, nor do they try to con the coaches or teammates.

Mental Toughness – the ability to accept strong criticism and setbacks without competing less effectively. A mentally tough player does not become easily upset when losing, or competing poorly. Does not need excessive praise or encouragement from coaches and recovers quickly when things go wrong.

Trust – the acceptance of and belief, in people. A trusting athlete believes what coaches and fellow athletes say, is free of jealous tendencies and tends to get along well with his teammates.

Responsibility – the acceptance of responsibility for the consequences of one’s actions, including mistakes. A responsible athlete accepts blame and criticism, even when not deserved, can endure physical and mental pain and does not dwell on mistakes or impose self punishment.

It’s also very important to have passion for the game, whatever that game happens to be.

These fundamental traits have become rare in society today because our measure of success far too often is based on acquisition of wealth, property and power, instead of the fulfillment of one’s own potential and pursuits. The problem with our altered definition of success is that it breeds the defamation of rational thought.

Many of the young today are simply not stimulated by anything anymore or for very long, no matter how hard the media and technology tries to keep them entertained. They see their future as getting through high school and if able, party through college, then get a job, marry and produce children for many times the wrong reasons, buy things and go into debt. For many youngsters this way of thinking has become so very boring and shallow. But then they have learned life through television and through their parent’s actions. Anyone can berate their child with words for hours on end, but it passes effortlessly in one ear and out the other. While the same child will learn more about life, by watching a few moments of interaction with their parent and someone else, than a thousand words screamed at them would. There is a gap between outside stimulus and our response. The key to growth and happiness is how we use that space.

Too many parents have just wanted to be liked by their children instead of wanting to be trusted and respected, which is called having integrity and which will eventually produce love.

Many of the young, around the globe, are also realizing that it was illusion that led them to believe life is a race. That they were led along by strings of bells and whistles, goodies and shiny, sweet things and that climbing a ladder or a set of stairs was the benchmarks for status and success. They see the end game, of simply becoming either a wage slave or reaching some place of social standing and financial security. In both cases many will feel unfulfilled, even cheated in some way, because they have been led to believe that live is a journey with a serious purpose only at the end, instead of during. Too many, just before they die, regret that they did not realize that while the song of life was being played they had failed to listen to it or failed to sing and dance while it was being played.

As the traits listed above attest to, being an exceptional person, athlete or not, takes hard work and discipline. This is why so many are attracted to and follow sports, where success still possesses the time-honored components of hard work, where both great love and great achievements involve great effort and sometimes risk; patience, as in listening and not afraid of spending time alone just reflecting; scholarship and learning as much as one can; self-discipline whereas not believing all you hear, spending all you have or sleeping all you want; self-sacrifice and not standing by while a fellow human needs help or encouragement; and due diligence, doing your homework.

But the notion that success is achieved because of effort-induced aptitude has been replaced with success now being seen as all about the right positive attitude. Which on some levels is very important, but as we do too many aspects of our lives we wander to the extreme. Having the right attitude has been far too overly hyped and has become all about spin, where even hope is hyped, which has brought about a pandemic of self-entitlement, especially amongst the young. For too many years, too many children have been pushed along to be either a rock star, movie star, the best hockey, soccer, football, basketball etc, etc, player in the world or even the next prime minister or president, though this last endeavor has lost its ranking and luster, not because of the goal to become a better person but to achieve the money and purchasing power that goes with it.

Self entitlement brings about unwillingness to take responsibility for one’s actions. The intention is to now blame someone else or something else for everything that goes wrong with our lives, as well as feeling justified in thinking so.

After many a lackluster, no effort given game or practice I’ve heard players whine the old, would have, should have and could have. I always tell them that that is no way to live one’s life. But because of the numerous distractions of our modern, speeded up lives the majority of us, especially youth, have become excellent procrastinators. Three factors push our procrastination habits along, a lack of self-confidence, being bored with the task at hand and impulsiveness, which all lead us away from our goals and toward distraction.

This belief in self entitlement has wreaked havoc in both corporate business and society, with many human’s egos doing the happy dance over the fact self-confidence is now all about anger, narcissism and rage, because outrage and lack of civility gives instant gratification and personal empowerment of the ego. These traits used to be deemed unacceptable and inappropriate behavior, not anymore, especially when it comes to business. Far too often predatory and greedy behavior is what allows one to survive in today’s corporate business world. Though there are signs this behavior is changing. For it is not human nature to act that way, but is a by-product of our culture, ever since we stopped hunting and gathering thousands of years ago and had to learn to live with each other in larger than family groups.

This negative behavior uses wrath in an attempt to make one’s version of the world unchallengeable. Too many are using raw, in your face anger to get one’s way, for the world to conform to their wishes. It’s basically emotionally punching another human in the face. There are many weak men and women who actually think rudeness, contempt, mockery and derision is inner strength. People who live lives of random acts of rudeness and anger, whether aggressively or passively, are usually people that feel something is missing in their life. Even though in many cases they might have grown up getting all sorts of toys and treats in lieu of a hug, a kind word, any love or forgivness, or perhaps even raised by parents who believed the earth, planets and stars revolved around their perfect child. Basically, most rude people are not very content, self-confident or happy people. Anger is becoming a problem because of family structures breaking down and too many parents no longer teaching self-restraint and self-control but instead the narcissistic, “To be truefully yourself you need to be expressive of what you feel”, so now a person’s rage just spews out, with their opinion alone the right way.

In reality anger is a built in mechanism of the “fight or flight” dynamic of a human being. Whenever we are in a life threatening situation anger affects the human body by suppressing the immune system, the heart rate climbs, breathing becomes rapid, muscles tense up and blood pressure rises, which is good if one’s survival is at risk, but is totally unnecessary dealing with our lives today.

The teams and players that make up politics and the corporate business world have been achieving very little success and in actual fact have been on a losing streak, with everything they try to better the situation so far is just guaranteeing much more of the same. They keep losing, and keep losing the lesson as well. Much like our societies, where too many have become reactive and driven by feelings, circumstances, conditions and their environment and focusing too much on the weaknesses of others, problems and conditions in which they have no control over. Allowing the negative energies of blame and victimization to control us and not allow anyone to accomplish anything also enables reactive people’s nature to absolve themselves of responsibility.

Proactive people on the other hand are driven by carefully thought about, internalized values and focus their efforts instead on things they can do something about. They possess many of the traits listed above, commitment, drive, emotional control, determination, conscientiousness and responsibility. They understand that being aware is being conscious of one’s behavior and that when the ego and the uninterrupted thoughts in our heads are in charge we are unconscious.

It is interesting that in all the great literature of all progressive societies, love is a verb, expressing action and existence; while reactive people define love as a feeling, as in a point of view, a perception and an idea.

So how does one become successful and/or get what they need? Understand that most everyone is secretly wondering what’s in it for them. Listen carefully. Allow intuition to arise from within, and then simply provide the very thing the other person needs. In life and in business, any change needs to be where kind and considerate people get farther than having selfish, greedy and cutthroat people get ahead. The people that are moving forward should be with clear eyed confidence that comes from knowing that being sincerely nice and polite and placing other people’s needs on the same level as our own will get you nearly anything you want.

It’s all about respecting oneself; indeed this is where integrity and compassion comes from. You can’t buy respect or success, they both have to be earned and you can’t go through life thinking happiness will happen all by itself because you have an attitude or a false sense of entitlement. Nearly all we purchase in our lives makes us happy for about a day. The stuff we can’t buy, through healthy relationships and supportive communities, is human experience.

Success, nearly every single time, goes to people who are proactive; people who have solutions to problems and are not problems themselves. They are most often people who grab the initiative to do whatever is necessary, consistent with proper and correct principles and values to get the job at hand done. We all possess these traits but in many of us they lie dormant and unused. They are immobilized because of constant pushing and shoving of someone else. Acting according to your own principles and values, instead of being acted upon by others creates a noble and balanced character.

The most important need today is to restore in ourselves, and instill in our young, the courage to take responsibility, to admit mistakes and look within to solve problems. If the problem is overwhelming then one must look beyond themselves to people in the community and then be willing to work with each other to find solutions. Just like any successful athlete, business person or citizen would do.

09/23/11

Peanut Butter Toast & Cats

The other day i’m standing there, minding my own business. I believe i was humming a tune, while spreading about a one inch thick mass of peanut butter onto a piece of toast. I had already applied a generous amount of butter, and topped it off with squeezing what was left of a plastic jar of nearly dried up honey. And you know what that is like. So i go to plant it onto a plate and………oh pooh. It falls off and lands with a splat on the linoleum before me. I suppose if you think about it, it makes sense. The side of the toast with the butter, peanut butter, and honey. Well it weighs more than the other side. But then i started thinking………….A cat. Now a cat, well you can toss that critter off a three story building, and every time it’ll land on its feet. Though i’m sure from a longer way up, the cat would still land on it’s feet, but they might not be able to take the force from falling and their feet shatter. Who knows?
So anyways, i’m thinking, i wonder what would happen if one were to duct tape a heavily laden, peanut butter and honey piece of toast onto a cats back. And then dropped them. Would the peanut buttered toast upset the cats ability to get it’s feet around? You see my dilemma. Personally i believe the only way the toast would land first is if you used a very small cat, perhaps a kitten. And the toast was just slobbered with peanut butter, about two inches thick i figure. But hey, i’m no scientist.

09/15/11

Pathological Forms of Ego

The ego, in it’s essential nature is pathological. It is also about dysfunction and suffering. Many mental disorders consist of the same egoic traits that operate in a normal person, except that they have become so pronounced that their pathological nature becomes obvious to anyone, except the sufferer.

Many normal people tell certain kinds of lies from time to time in order to make themselves appear more important, more special, and to enhance their image in the mind of others: who they know, what their achievements, abilities and possessions are, and whatever else the ego uses to identify. Some people, driven by the ego’s feeling of insufficiency and it’s need to have or be more. Become wrapped in a life of nearly complete fiction. Their grandiose and self-inflated image can sometimes fool others, but usually not for very long.

The mental illness that is paranoia is in part an exaggerated form of ego for indeed, the ego is the voices in our heads. Usually because of a persistent underlying feeling of fear, a story will be made up by the ego. The story often has an inner consistency and logic so that it sometimes fools others into believing it as well. Sometimes organizations and entire nations have paranoid belief systems at their very basis. The ego’s fear and distrust of other people, it’s tendency to emphasize the difference in others by focusing on their perceived faults and make those faults into their identity, taken further and monsters are created. The ego needs others, but it’s dilemma is that deep down it hates and fears them. The stronger the ego in you, the more likely it is that in your perception other people are the main source of problems in your life. You will also be more likely to make life difficult for others. But of course you will not see that. It is always others who seem to be doing to you.

Paranoia also manifests another symptom that is an element of every ego, although in paranoia it takes on a more extreme form. The more the sufferer sees themselves persecuted, spied on, or threatened by others, the more pronounced becomes their sense of being the center of the universe around whom everything revolves, and the more important and special they feel as the imagined focal point of so many people’s attention. Their sense of being a victim, of being wronged by so many people, makes them feel very special. The basis of their delusional story, they often assign to themselves the role of both victim and potential hero who is going to save the world or defeat the forces of evil.

The more unaware one is of themselves, the more unconscious. The more likely their egoic pathology will assume the form of violence. Violence is the primitive but still widely used way the ego attempts to assert itself, to prove itself right and another wrong. A person who identify’s with the thoughts that make up their opinions, those thoughts harden into mental positions which are invested with a sense of self. Thus Identity and thought emerge and once this happens, people will feel and act as if they are defending their very self instead of simply ones’ opinion. They feel and act as if they are fighting for survival and their emotions will reflect that unconscious belief. They become turbulent, upset, angry, defensive, or aggressive. They feel they need to win at all costs lest they become annihilated. That is the illusion the ego creates. It does not know that mind and mental positions have nothing to do with who you are because the ego only operates from the unconscious, past and future, When we are aware of the present moment the ego does not operate, it doesn’t know what to do.

 

Reference:

Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth – Awakening to your Life’s Purpose, Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 2005.