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Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category



One might ask the question: why be radically genuine if so much is at risk? My answer, my own personal answer, is that learning is worth the risk. If I am not radically genuine, I will not gain access to information I truly need. To be a more effective person in the future.


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“…all spring the woman with the habits rattles around my head, extant,
worrying a cotton ball, trying to get the last bit of red paint off her left
thumbnail like goddamn Lady Macbeth.”

-Jennifer Michael Hecht


The result of radical genuineness is often emotional distress. When we put ourselves out there in the world, expose our warts and imperfections, stop our people pleasing behaviors, often people will not be pleased. They will be upset. They will be angry and disappointed. And their emotions are real. As real as the computer I write this on. As the real as the hurt I caused them. As real as the regret I feel for having done so. And yet at the same time I understand that I am not the sole cause of these events. I fear a world that teaches others to only see me as the sexist white guy, that teaches me to see others as the way they seem, rather than how they are. The unfortunate fact is that we live in a horrible world that does horrible things to people. I wish I knew why.



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In the long history of humanity’s struggle for good vs. evil, we have repeatedly asked the question “what shall we do?” At times it is not even clear what we mean. Several hundred years prior, Immanuel Kant attempted to clarify the situation. He proposed that what moral questions aim at is the notion of an autonomous choice – one subject to the rules of reason rather than circumstance. How contingent beings such as ourselves (torn between logic and feeling) achieve this, however, remained a mystery. His intellectual heir, Soren Kierkegaard, took up the challenge and pointed out that such struggles can only be fully captured in poetry. The so called “knight of infinite faith” who risks everything against the odds of caprice and fortune can only be sought in dreams and rare moments of terrible sorrow, such as when Abraham and Isaac made their memorable journey. Our problem is that we remember only the outcome, and forget how the people, themselves, must have suffered along the way. What great images such as Sophocles’ Antigone, Shakespeare’s Edgar, Morrison’s Sethe, or Piercy’s woman on the edge of time therefore embody are the demands of wisdom over reason. A wisdom to risk everything and everyone we love and admire on this strange chance in the dark of space, that we are not alone.



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Humanity seems to prefer an intense level of cultural homogeneity, and apparently will halt at nothing to achieve it. Ethnic cleansings along lines of speech, behavior, color, race, gender, emotion, explanation, preference or identity continue to sweep the world in all manner of trials and inquisition. When will we evolve?


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Helpful thought for the day: “Just because he doesn’t value your skills and intellect, does not mean they have suddenly disappeared. And does not mean you have to stop using them. Disrespect doesn’t magically change who you truly are.”


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There is a very disturbing trend within the world of clinical psychology, involving censorship and thought control, that seems to me to be contrary to the principles of a free and scientific community. Often, words viewed a deviant or unpopular are met with censorship, ad hominem attacks, or outright exile. Highly ironic considering the degree to which the community espouses flexibility and “love” as heart felt values. Beyond that, it seems to me quite fearsome to contemplate the degree to which the instruments of fascism continue to linger on in our cultural basements ready, like one of Tolkien’s balrogs, at a moment’s notice. One would have thought that the lessons of the early 20th century were better learned than this. I should have hoped we’d been better schooled in the banality of evil. My antidote to this has been to write a poem about a clinical encounter that engendered strong emotions. It was censored and I reposted it because I believe we all have a duty to oppose the abuses of power with such simple truths as these.



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The events that cause our emotions often get us to think in a strange way—as if when faced with some horrible thing, time will stop there and we will be stuck for all eternity. We forget that time keeps going, to the other side. Who will we be, when that happens? And it will happen.


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While I was out skiing today, I thought about the upcoming memorial service for G, a friend of mine who died recently. I found myself worrying that I might run into J my ex girlfriend who also knew G (I met both of them in the same salsa dance troupe and we all performed together on many occasions). Seeing her again, I believe, would be quite painful, as I was ridiculously in love with her once, and asked her to marry me. (She said no, obviously –but that’s not the point here). I found myself worrying about how painful it would be for me to see her again, especially if she shows up with a new boyfriend or (god forbid) husband. Then the thought occurred to me “but what if, by some miracle, in that moment you find the strength to weather the emotional storm, and find that at some later point, beyond the point of the seeing of J, you have developed or honed some skill that improves your life in some way, brings you closer to a heart felt goal, or saves a life?” I traced this thought to something a FB friend said to me recently “pain is just weakness leaving the body.” Will it indeed change my life? Who knows. One way or the other though, both J and G already have.


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Imagine you want to be a school teacher. You build a school and invite students from the surrounding towns. They arrive; you teach; they learn. One day a student shows up who doesn’t learn. You ask them to stay after class one day and say to them “Your lack of learning in my class is unacceptable to me. I’m not going to tell you how it is, nor am I going to tell you what I want you to learn. I am going to ask you to leave my class and not return until you have hired your own teacher to teach you the things I want you to learn. Please leave now.”

This metaphor occurred to me this morning as symbolic of many features of human cultural habit. Countless examples of inquisition and apostate exile can be identified throughout the history of human gathering and, it seems to me, continue to this day (e.g. our so called criminal justice system). In our effort to guard public hope against private irony, I suspect we have very nearly killed our own capacity for awareness, courage, and creativity Has the attempt been successful?



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Today I learned that for me the statement “you have a problem” is a severely punishing discriminative stimulus, and the statement “we have a problem” is a very powerfully rewarding discriminative stimulus. In other words, tell me it’s my problem and watch me walk away, tell me it’s our problem and watch me get more interested in working together.


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