It Happened Last Night


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copyright © 2011 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

It happened last night.  As I reflect, I realize it has happened all along.  Each day, in most every moment I have an opportunity to look at life and learn.  Yet I become consumed with more immediate concerns.  He said. She said.  The system, situation, or some other entity supplants a deeper assessment.  Years ago, I came to understand that I create my own chaos, calm, or shades of what will be.  As an Educator, I speak of this often.  My students often quote me on the subject of choices. Yet, until yesterday, I never fully grasped how true my words might be.  I am unsure why the events of the evening took me where they did. I share the story.

I received a mail from a magnificent man, someone who has achieved much and is well-known beyond the circle of my life.  This gent is a Scholar, an Educator, an esteemed and prolific Author, a Sage.

Indeed, over the years, Mister B’s published works have helped me grow by leaps and bounds.  I never imagined I might become acquainted with him as a person.   Yet, accidentally, we met.  Minutes after Michael presented as part an expert panel, he and his spouse made way for the auditorium exit.  I was on my way back into the lecture hall. Unexpectedly I had an opportunity to introduce myself, which I did.

His mention of a bad cold earlier, whilst he was on stage, led me thoughts on my miracle cure.  Delighted, he turned to his wondrous wife and asked her to take notes. The two he said would purchase the ingredients before the day was done.  It was obvious to me that Michael and Joslyn are quite close.  Caring exudes from each of them. Surprisingly to me, Michael hugged me for the help I offered.

Over the many months since, Michael and I have spoken, not often, but also, not infrequently.  The conversations are expansive.  Mostly we discuss personal philosophies, experiences, and just enjoy getting to know each other. Through electronic mail, at a distance, we have worked on a few endeavors together. Mister B has become more real to me.  His relationships with family, friends, life, and living are beautiful to behold.

Then it happened.  After weeks of unanswered calls and emails, I asked was there trouble. Unusual for Michael, he had not responded to my communications. He wrote back and said all was well.   Michael was and is rebuilding the front entrance to his home.

Once I learned that the lack of responsiveness was not a reaction to what I had said, done, or been, I was relieved. The real story led me to inquire.  Was Michael doing the work himself?  I discovered he was.  This spectacular specimen of a human being was not solely a Scribe, an Academic, an Educator, and an authority on pedagogy. Michael B is an Artisan, a Craftsman, a Draftsman, a Reformer, Dreamer, a Builder, Rebuilder, Mechanic, and a man who transforms what most think of as truth.

Mister B was kind enough to share a link to a webpage that showed his life’s less noticed path.  As I perused, my mouth was agape.  Thirty years earlier, Michael built his own home.  He used no sub-contractors or Contractors.  All the work was done with his own two hands, assisted only by a mind intent on a mission. That gray matter was also his own.

He and his wife Joslyn reside on a river. During the construction, the two lived in a small duplex, on the dock.  This dwelling today is attached to the main abode, and serves as a guest quarter.  The house that Michael built stands stately in a wooded region, overlooking the same waterway where he and his spouse watched him give rise to his vision.

The home is three-stories high.  Some of the windows are floor-to-ceiling. The rafters reach for the sky.  Balconies abound and surround the abode.  A very large round window appears in the uppermost floor.  In another photograph, an interior shot, Joslyn is comfortably seated.  Her body fits securely in the window frame.  Joslyn obviously has much room to move about.  The portal is huge!  It, the house as a whole, is beautiful; but the dwelling’s exquisiteness is nothing in contrast to the lesson I learned when I probed further.

Overwhelmed with this vision, initially, I did not do, as was my impulse and call Michael. Instead, I rushed about in an attempt to leave on time.  I prepared a hurried breakfast, inhaled my food, or began to, and then, I picked up the telephone. I dialed .with the expectation that I would speak to a voice mail machine.  Mister B was likely working and my being rushed, I thought that fine.  Much to my astonishment, Michael answered.  My words were as a white light.  All I said was uttered in haste.  In contrast, Michael’s voice was calm and reflective.  He shared stories.

The domicile took three years to complete.  Plumbing, masonry, milling, electrical jobs were all his, as were all other aspects involved in building.  As he worked on the edifice he also composed and published a book.  Michael kept a notepad close at-hand during the construction.  Prior to the actual endeavor he designed, plotted, planned and developed his thought.

When he felt overwhelmed, or stuck, Michael would step back and work on another undertaking.  He immersed himself in some effort that freed his mind for further reflection.  Mister B might fix a machine, or make one.  The possibilities are endless for someone such as he. Michael understood then, as he does at present, his own learning style, his likes, and all that he loathes for himself.  Idle hands or head, these are not habits Mister B embraces.

The circular window is but one example.  This porthole was once a Union 76 gas station sign. Michael asked if I was familiar with the expansive logo in the form of a light fixture that scrapes the sky in many a gas station.  I am.  Mister B found an old oversized signet on sale. He purchased it for $45 dollars.  Once hollowed out, the frame would serve as his window on the world. Plexiglas was also purchased for just over $100.  Michael fixed the two together and voilá.  A place to peer out was born.

The structure survived five bad storms over the three decades since its birth. One was directly overhead. Yet, the building stood the test of a tempest and time. As has Michael B.

Prior to our conversation, I knew that Michael began his career in 1952. This was near the same year my Dad started his. I had wondered in the past; were the two close in age.  I searched and found the answer.  Yes, they are, as are many men and women. All sorts of people are born within a generation. This truth does not deny that we are all unique.

Still, these two men, in many ways are identical. Daddy too is extremely precise. Just as Michael, he is an Artisan, a Craftsman, a Draftsman, a Reformer, Dreamer, a Builder, Rebuilder, Mechanic, and a man who transforms what most think of as truth. My Dad loves to build. He envisions what others do not and acts on his farsightedness, or did when I was younger.

“Logan” [my father] is a scholar. He received rewards for his brilliance when he attended school. In his professional calling, he was a Professor, a Lecturer, called upon to train Medical Practitioners, Lawyers, Social Workers, Preachers, and Teachers. My father wrote and spoke on Education as Mister B does, although never so broadly.

When  I was a teen, Daddy was on the School Board for an Independent School.  “Logan” was looked upon as a pillar in the community. My Dad worked as a Public Planner for a very respected worldwide Leadership and Support Organization. Later, respected in his field, Daddy established his own firm.  Up until a year ago, my Papa still worked each and every day.  He drove to his office and counseled others; however, he was never able to console himself.

Just as Michael B, “Logan” had big plans.  While he always worked to execute exactly and in a timely manner, much changed.  In retrospect, I understand that Daddy had hesitated even whilst he moved forward.  No one ever seemed to notice this.  My father kept any self-doubt well hidden. Indeed, he seemed quite confident in his every enterprise.

For all practical purposes and by appearances, Daddy was a success!  “Logan” was as Michael, he dreamed and then, built as he imagined. That is, until the day . . a turn of events did my Dad in.  What occurred all those decades ago, popped the bubble that was Daddy’s triumphant existence

Choices Create What Comes

It was Mother’s Day, near a score in the past.  While waiting for Daddy to return home from a day of fishing, the telephone rang.  It was  Logan. He did not call to say he would be late for dinner; he already was.  Instead, he asked, would we pick him up? My Dad was in jail!

In this exposé, I will not share the depth and details.  Suffice to say, murder, mayhem, and money played no role in the crimes. We arranged for his bail. Mommy, my beau Eric, and I drove miles to the Police station.  No one said a word.  I recall no conversation once we arrived either. From minds to mouths, all seemed frozen in time.  Perhaps, we each were numb with disbelief.  I know I was.

Indeed, I only remember a tall man with impeccable posture, a gent who normally stood six feet four inches tall, slumped over.  Daddy’s stared straight ahead as the four of us walked to the car. He was alive.  He looked as well as could be expected, but I could tell my Dad had died inside.  Never did I imagine that the death would be permanent. It was.

Certainly, everyone, at some time believes they have seen the end.  Frequently, a way of life, superficially  concludes.  This veracity was and is no less true for Mister B. I have heard him tell and seen . . .

While Professor B pursued his potential, he traveled down delicate paths that led to delicious delights and also his demise, of sorts.  As all human beings Michael had a number of serious falls. I smile and think of a tome Mister B published.

Just as Daddy had in the course of his life, Michael stood strong and spoke up when he felt policies were wrong.   For doing so, he was placed in precarious predicaments.  Finally, his own words and deeds strangled him.  In a teaching position, at a local College, after twenty-five years Professor B was handed a pink slip.  His contract was terminated.  The case went to court.  While the job was lost, Mister B was born once more.  His choices kept him alive.

Throughout the ordeal, the Scholar and Scribe never lost hope.  Guilt for compensation lost, a career, nay with his reputation in question Michael did not blame himself.  He did not allow himself to be consumed by what he could not change.  Professionally, Michael’s identity was transformed.  The agreement Professor B had with his family, friends, fellowship, and with himself remained solid.   He would be true.  His sense of strength could not be terminated. Then, and still today, Michael thrives.

“Logan,” on the other hand, found that task impossible to achieve.  Granted, the choice that led to his demise was one society could not accept.  More importantly, my Dad could not tolerate what he had done.  The question I now ask myself is would Michael ever have chosen to “commit” a professional, let alone  a physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual “suicide.”  My Dad chose each of these.  However, in practice, he decided to forego one of these self-destructive travels.  In a corporeal sense, Daddy lives.  Sadly it seems, life can be defined in many ways.  Not all are what we would think of as living.

Life Lessons, Losses Seen as Growth and Gains or Rain

As I recognized more than a decade ago in my own life, my or our choices create what comes.  My personal narrative and the lessons learned was nowhere near as profound as what I see in the lives of these two.  Perhaps, it is easier to understand what is separate from self.  I know not for sure.

I am only certain that the man I know as Daddy was replaced on the day of his arrest.  Ever since, a shell of himself stood in his shoes.  Outwardly, slowly, “Logan” regained respect.  A Governor’s pardon was awarded. He rebuilt his practice, and by appearances, his life.  However, he was never truly the same.  His relationships suffered. The man I was once so close to, for so very long, emotionally moved away from me.  Try as I might, and I did, and do, Daddy, only infrequently welcomes rapports with anyone.  In a meaningful manner, “Logan” separated himself from everyone, except perhaps, his wife.  

While his marriage to my Mom did not last long after the arrest; Daddy wed again. I had long believed that, his marriage would be as Michael’s and Joslyn’s is, a lifetime of love.  Better yet, my hope was the two liked each other.  They had been through more than most relationships endure.  Not in so many words, Daddy implied that my want for him was true.  However, in retrospect, that assumption seems an erroneous one.  From each of them, I heard. I saw.  In time, I began to question whether Daddy was authentically connected to his life partner, or more importantly, to himself.

Often, my Dad speaks of regrets, all he never accomplished and could have.  Manuscripts were  not published, though written.  Programs designed and developed were not implemented.  Post Graduate work woefully waned.  Daddy lost his will and his way when he was but a man in his forties.

Barely middle-aged “Logan” became his guilt.  For a very long time, this thought was but my theory.   I understood all I surmised was speculation.  We can only ask and hope the answer will serve as a window to the other’s soul.  Hence, months ago, I inquired.   I wondered aloud whether  “Logan” had reflected on what I observed, a change in his well-being.

Often, in conversation Daddy speaks of his physical health, or lack thereof.  For my father, it seems nothing compares with the agony that has been his corporeal existence.  Since, that dreaded day, “Logan’s” body has been racked with pain.  He has survived various  bouts of cancer, multiple heart attacks, permanent back injuries, and irreparable damage to his inner organs.  My Dad has struggled through physical miseries  He never had before.  

Mentally too, I detected a change.  Actually, he speaks of this often as well.  The person who taught me to live as Don Quixote, to never say die, to believe that in the next millisecond, it will be better only showed himself in rare moments, and only after he and I chatted alone for awhile.  A year ago, I mentioned what for me was this oddity to my Dad.  I asked him, how could this be.  Where had my Daddy gone?  

My Teacher, my Mentor, my Muse, was my Dad.   His truth was my truth.  In my experience, our shared philosophy has always proven itself accurate.  Today, I think of Michael B and trust he embraces as my Dad did and I do.  Every cloud has a silver lining.  Whence I forget, I realize I only need to only open my eyes.  I will see again; rainbows are a spectrum of colors.  Shades of pretty pink can be seen within the band of blood red.

One that day I proposed the question, what happened? Might it be that the fittest man, one whose health never faltered when I was younger changed the day he first chose to do what landed him in jail?  “Logan” admitted, indeed, he took his own life.  Verve, energy, an authentic excitement, all that he was and encouraged was gone. Yes, all those years ago, he killed himself in every way he could.  His chosen weapon was his woe.  Vigor was a void left behind near two score now.

Daddy said the only reason he remained on the planet was to take care of those who needed his physical presence. At the time he shared, I understood.  I could do nothing else. His pain, physical and emotional is palpable.  Yet, today, as I ruminate on the house that Michael built I realize there is much more to ponder.  Are any of us here or as is said, “there” for others when we are barely present.

It is vital that we give rise to the best of our being. Houses are not built on hurt.  Soreness does not allow our relationships or us to soar.  We must reach for the stars, our stars, and not the rays of light others think bright.  We cannot give what we do not have.  A window, round, large, or square is not constructed without a strong, preferably steel frame.  Beams able to withstand any storm, even one directly overhead, need to be sturdy, straight, and able to hold great weight.  

If love is not within us the gift of such a treasure cannot grow.  Dreams fulfilled or death delivered, each happens. My understanding of these  verities happened last night.  Today, I hold dear a broader belief; in every moment the choice is mine now and forever.

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Hung. Hung Over. Hung Up. Hung Out To Dry



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copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org  

With news of Congressman Anthony Weiner’s indiscretions the word “Hung” has frequently been heard. “Hung Over” too entered our conversations.  Many asked if he was.   “Hung Up” played a powerful role in reflections. “Hung Out to Dry” seems to be the consensus.  Crowds of Congressmen and women, citizens from each political Party, and even those who claim no loyalties, say, The Representative must be renounced. Few wish to admit that Anthony Weiner is but you and me.  

Supreme Court Justices, who served under Chief Jurist Brennan, perhaps, make three.  Any of us might easily say, as the Justices did decades ago; on the subject of obscene or outrageous, “I Know It When I See It.”  We each do. Still, the definitions vary.

While few of us are officially appointed to write “codes” of conduct, as the Supreme Court Justices are, we too avidly watch the actions of another and judge.

“That man is hung. He knows it and shows it.”  Albeit, not to his friends.  He hides.  She is often hung over.  Yet, she says nothing of her excessive drinking to her loved ones.  She hides. I binge. I purge or did for twenty-five years and three months. I devoted sixteen hours a day to this truth.  Food was my folly.  Discuss my doings with others? I too hid.

We are each hung up. Whether others hang us out to dry or not, everyone has hanged him or herself.  We punish ourselves for not being what we think is good enough, smart enough, successful enough, sensational enough, sexy or even sane.  Rather than say we are preoccupied with our own self-perceived inadequacies, we act out.   Some drink or do drugs in abundance.  Countless persons jump from job-to-job or relationship-to-relationship.  For most of the latter, this equates to hopping from bed-to-bed.  Serial marriages are not uncommon.  Multiple sex partners in a lifetime are even more common.  Indeed, these are so prevalent people do not think to gossip about what so many of us, do daily.  Even those intertwined in wedded bliss belie the notion of monogamy and few blink an eye.  

While I indulged in more than my fair share of “intimate” escapades, my chosen weapon for self-destruction was food.  No matter how much I ate, which was usually enough for perhaps, fifty persons in a single day, it did not fill me up. I hoped it would; however, food never satisfied my enormous appetite.  I was forever hungry!  I craved a connection, not to a person, place, or thing.  I wanted to feel connected to me . .  whatever that might have meant.  I was unsure.  I only knew that I did not trust that I could ever be what I imagined everyone else was.

Oddly, or unexpectedly enough, what saved me was what I feared the most. I told a very close friend. While I was nowhere near the end of my self-destructive path, I knew I had to reveal what I truly believed all would reject, my flaws, my foibles, in unadulterated honesty, me.

One day, while home, engaged in a conversation with a chum of near fifteen years, I took the plunge.  “Cher,” I said with much hesitation “I need to tell you something.” Even now, years later, I remember the wave of anxiety that swept over me at the time.  As close as I was to Cher, and by the way I still am, I was sure she would reject me.  Nonetheless, I took a deep breath.  I sat down on the stairs in my home. I needed to.  I did not think my legs would support me if I stood.

I clutched the telephone, looked down, and began to speak.  I do not remember a word I said.  All I recall was how certain I was; Cher would lose all respect for me. She would be critical.  She could never understand.  In truth, nor could I.  Again, I was wrong, thankfully.

All that I assumed Cher would think, say, do, and feel, she never did.

Cher was there for me, with me.  I smile when I think of how much closer we have become.  Before that conversation, Cher had expressed astonishment at the reality of our friendship: She and I were so tight, now more so.

But the depth and details of that story are ones for another day.  In contrast, what I went through, or imagined I would, could not begin to compare with the agony Barry anticipated.  His transgressions, oh my.  Please ponder the tale.

A good friend, a successful man in his early sixties, Barry spent his entire adult life behind bars.  He was imprisoned by his sense of self.  In his pre-teen years, possibly as late as the age of sixteen, he had done a wrong.  Barry molested his younger sister.  

At the time, he was a good Catholic boy.  He attended Catholic schools all his life.  His family was active in their neighborhood Parish.  Barry was not rebellious, or a rabble-rouser.  He did not rant, rage; nor did he reject his teachings.  

Barry grew up in a home where sex was never discussed.  Demonstrative gestures were not placed on view.   His parents were forever proper.  Barry, in pre-puberty and his adolescent years was confused when he felt sexual feelings.  He was certain these were sinful.  Indeed, he believed his very essence was an error. Barry felt as though he was the scourge of the Earth, the devil incarnate.  He wanted so much to understand, to speak with someone, any one, but whom.

Conversations on the subjects of sex nay sexuality were never heard in his home. The church offered no answers.  Certainly, shamed by the sensations, he felt he could not discuss the topic with classmates.  There was no one he trusted to chat with or to.  Hence, Barry acted out.  He acted on what overwhelmed him, raging hormones, inner conflicts, and his confusion. When his younger sister, Rena, was asleep, he entered her room and her body.  Ultimately, the young man felt more miserable, less deserving of the life given to him than he had before he did such a dastardly deed.

The boyish-man, a mere innocent child, thought the girl would tell their parents.  Barry imagined this would open the door to the conversations he craved.  Rena never said a word about what occurred, not to her mother, her father, or her brother.  Barry wondered; did she never know what he did?  The wonder gnawed at him.  Barry could not continue to do as he had done whether Rena was awake or not.  He sealed his soul in silence, as he later learned Rena had.

Indeed, the “girl” did not speak of the events for eons.  The five or more times Barry penetrated her being became his secret.  That is, until Rena was in her late fifties.  Barry’s sister, silent, as he was for all those decades spoke up.

While neither expressed the pain in words before, it was now obvious.  Each experienced their hurts in great depth.  Throughout the course of their lives, the two had dived deeper into all that distracted them.

Barry and Rena excelled in school.   The pair showed, or pretended to show the world and themselves that they were good, or at least good enough.  On the surface the brother and sister soared.  Parents, whose mere disapproval could do more damage, for all those years, never knew.  Nor would anyone else.  

Others opinion of us can cut to the core.  Our opinions of ourselves cut deeper.  Wounds, while not visible, scar a soul.   Rena and Barry surmised they could sear the lesion.  Still, blood was spilled in the form of tears and fears.  Facades were erected in hopes that these would serve to protect fragile hearts.  

The brother and sister built prominent, professional résumés.  In their chosen careers, the siblings achieved great success.  Both married, grew their families, formed fine images.  Yet, neither felt whole.  The two hid . . . from others and themselves.

Food became their friends, more so than mates.  All that mattered was the need to hide.  Silence and secrets sealed their fate.  At home, at work, with family, and the few friends each had, neither was happy.  Rena and Barry were as they are, or would be until the day the dam broke.

When Rena opened up, she instantly blamed Barry for her plight. Likely she had for all those years.  Rena did not know that Barry too placed the onus on himself.  He took full responsibility and does.  

Today, just as I had done earlier, as Anthony Weiner did days ago, Barry works to share what he created, a casket for himself.  More significantly, he has risen from the dead.  Barry opened the door and invited his sister in.  He asked for a conversation. Rena said no.  In actuality, she wrote this in a mail.  Rena wants no contact.  She does not wish to discuss what was or is with anyone.  While she has made some changes in her life… by all appearances, her circumstances remain the same.

However, Barry, while devastated at first, slowly found himself.  Barry said to me, someone he thought of as his one close friend, that he had been haunted by this incident forever.  He recalled and reflected on the similarities of our experiences.  I too hid my self-destructive behavior for a very long time.  Granted, I chose to speak of it before my recklessness became known. Still, once the secret was out in the open I was freed.

Barry remembered how my life changed, or my sense of self did, once Cher knew me at my worse.  He wanted that strength for himself.  Barry began to look at every aspect of his life.  He mused as his favorite musician had; If you are not busy being born, you are busy dying.”  Bobby D and Barry. Indeed.  Barry chose to get busy, to thrive rather than merely survive.

Little by little he sought solace in other than food [What only Barry knew of in the past was also revealed and rejected.  The sort of sex, which might be defined as debauched, was left behind.  Drink to drunkenness was another habit forfeited.]  All was replaced with revelation.  First Barry needed to introduce himself to himself.  The wounded wonder for the being he was had been so severely depressed, Barry had blindly walked through his life.   He was uncertain; who might Barry be.

The process was and is painstakingly measured.  Each step was evaluated.  Barry stumbled. He fell. Then, as a Phoenix, he rose again.  Today, the more Barry tells the tale the more empowered he feels.  He had never realized the power to punish was his alone.  Only he could hurt himself as he had.  

Just as I discovered when I shared my truth with Cher, Barry exclaims, the people who love and like you for who you are, as you are, are those well-aware of your every flaw, foible, and failure.  Indeed, that is the reason others appreciate you as they do.  You are you; he is he.  I am me.  As silly as it seems, we each are or have been self-destructive at times.

Still, as individuals we are unique.  That is truly special.  Our experiences teach us, and those we touch.  Were any of us to ever admit to ourselves that the strong are vulnerable, were we to value that vulnerability, perchance none of us would engage as we do, in lurid behaviors.

Insecure? Nay few show it aloud.  Yet, each of us is. “Regrettable” actions? Guilty as charged. Congressman Anthony Weiner owned his.  The Representative has availed himself of an opportunity to learn, grow, and glow greater.  He has found, just as Barry and I did, the persons’, who had cared for him most, still do.  Might you?   Might you see yourself in another human, one who was self-destructive and has decided to walk the road to recovery?  Will you?

References. Realities. Resources  . . .

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A Weighty Issue

Obsty

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

On February 15th, Barry boarded the plane.  He was deep in thought and noticed few of the people around him.  The prior evening had been exceptional.  This sensitive man celebrated Valentine’s Day with friends, with family, and best of all with himself, a person he had grown to love and respect, an individual he barely knew for all of his life, himself.  

More recently, Barry had become a more balanced individual.  He is now constantly on the move, not merely in a physical sense, but in a more real manner.  The successful businessman, the sensational father, the phenomenal friend, the scholar who climbed the career ladder well, in the not so distant past, never felt truly fulfilled.  Now, he thought of himself as a work in progress, a being who has transitioned beyond his wildest dreams.  Yet, he trusted there were still many roads to travel.  He wondered; would he make it.  On this day, unbeknownst to him, Barry would find his answer.  Yet, he would also be prompted to ask more questions.

Before the plane left the gate, Barry marveled; he had grown, and not in width.  No longer was his priority to please others, even at his own expense.  Barry believes now, as he always did.  It is best never to cause harm, not to others or to himself.  Self-sacrifice was once the way Barry barricaded himself.  He hid his emotions, his feelings, in truth, his fears.  When with others, he acted as though he was empathetic.  The people pleaser wanted to be identified as benevolent.  In a desire to avoid more authentic associations, Barry binged on food.  Early in his life, he grew fat.  Better to blame his weight for what he could not do, then place the onus on others.

As he approached the plank, Barry became aware of those near him.  He began to ponder the persons in his presence.  He observed, in appearance, many of the passengers, were as he once was. Only two short years ago, he was among them.  He was an obese American, one of the almost 90 million exceptionally overweight citizens.  Then, when he thought of his weight, and all the ill effects his bulk caused he felt hopeless. Over time Barry has lost most of his bulge, today he again felt the pain of excessive pounds.  The plane full of people was too heavy to fly out as scheduled.  The weight of the aircraft dictated a necessary change.  

The flight pattern would need to be altered.  Customarily, jets left to the East.  Aircraft passed over a power plant before the highest speed and preferred altitude was reached.  As a precautionary measure, a plane as heavy as the one Barry now sat on could not be allowed to soar low over an electrical grid.  Were the airbus to crash, surely, it would explode.  Sparks would set off fires.  Everyone on the plane would be killed.  Over the intercom, the pilot proclaimed, excessive weight could be a deadly issue.

The crew and air traffic controllers would do what was needed to ensure safe travel. The plump passengers would not be publicly embarrassed.  Nor would any commuter be forced to feel responsible for the situation.  No one person or his or her poundage would be singled out.  Politely, the pilot presented the problem and assured all abroad, he and the tower had taken great care to secure a suitable solution.  The plane would take an alternative route over water, and all would be well.

Barry reflected on what the aviators feared might be the future of those persons anxious to depart from south Florida.  He thought of how similar this situation was to his past.  The once rotund man understood.  In his own life, when he carried extra pounds, there was much he could not do safely.  Then, just as he did now, Barry accepted what was an awkward truth.

In the initial moments, while on the taxiway, Barry was patient.  He endured as he had for most of his years.  Adjustments would be made.  Hours later, he, and the others would move forward, albeit a little more slowly than they would have was the plane not redirected.  Barry and the more bulbous passengers were comforted by the care and attention to detail.  A safe runway for departure, given its current weight, was all those on the aircraft wanted.

Had the plane or more accurately the people on it, been a bit lighter the whole adjustment and delay would never have happened.  Nonetheless, what was, was, and that was alright for those aboard this plane, or at least it had been

Nearly forty minutes earlier, the formerly corpulent Barry was among the hordes of people who boarded the aircraft.  Barry noticed a family, or three persons familiar with each other, were as he once was.  Each weighed over 275 pounds.  He thought; “There but for the grace of G-d go I.”  Barry noticed others of various sizes and shapes, all large.  Yet, he thought nothing of their conditions or circumstances at the time they entered the plane.  He had other thoughts on his mind.  He wanted to return home.  Cuddle with the kitties.  Clean his house, Prepare for a busy workweek.  Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were his only concern as the Valentine’s Day holiday week ended.

The more he had learned to accept himself as a unique and complete person, the less he allowed food sand drink to be his distraction.  He felt no need to dive into the free chips or cocktails the airlines offered.  Barry realized other sought solace in these complimentary sweets.

People seemed pacified by food and the opportunity for greater folly.  Funny, Barry thought, in the past, if a plane were stuck on the ground, during last night’s Valentine’s Day festivities, or on any other occasion he too would have ingested chocolates as he suspected most on this plane would do.  On a day devoted to travel, as this one was, or on an evening dedicated to love, as last night was, Barry, his beloved, or the big woman who sat beside him on a 737, might have exchanged, “Sweets for the sweet.”

Thoughts of his blood-sugar and the adult onset diabetes that became his life long ago would have been ignored. A meal, a chance to steal a bit of snack time, life might be an excuse to celebrate togetherness.  One little innocent confection could do no harm.

Not too long ago, Barry may have sipped an alcoholic nectar with those he cares for and who are fond of him.  Intoxicating beverages that build blubber certainly would have passed his lips.  He might have believed as many he knows still do.  People are less inhibited when drunk with delight.  Intimacy is more possible when the fruit from the vine imbibed.

Many courses of flavorful fattening foods, a meal fit for royalty, surely would have graced a Valentine’s Day table.  Today, on his tray table, condiments would have collected.  The best way to the heart is through the stomach.  The airlines knew that.  Perhaps, that is why the flight attendants walked through the cabin with baskets of peanuts and crackers.  No one would be upset by the delay if hunger was staved.  Surely, 24 months earlier, Barry would have been content to wait as long as the food kept coming.  He too might not have thought of a potential crash or the hazards of a weighty plane.  

Barry pondered.  Possibly, for most of this crowd on the plane, his past habits were their present reality.

Up until recently, Barry believed the pounds poured on to him as if by osmosis.   He did not deliberately seek out sweets, starches, or saturated fats.  They found him.  His refrigerator was full with what he saw in the markets.  Grocery stores were stocked with gooey goodies.  Restaurants served sumptuous delicacies.  Friends and family feasted upon fodder, all of it filling.  Wherever Barry went, it seemed he needed to only look at food, and the weight gain would follow.  

Today, while on an airplane immobilized by the load it carried, he thought of his earlier bulk and that of others.

Barry empathized.  He felt the pain of those who carry unwanted pounds.  He understood the challenges.  It is difficult to develop new habits or to think you can rise above the clouds when you are fat and forlorn.  Barry recalled how he had accepted much that was dealt to him when he was flabby.  What else could he do?  Not long ago, his options were limited, or so he believed.

With much encouragement from the one he shared his Valentine’s Day with this year, last year, and on the February 14th before that, he learned to believe in possibilities, in his own ability to eat, drink, and move through life differently.  His best friend had also faced weighty issues in her lifetime.  His life-partner’s lengthy struggle with food, folly, and an inability to move forward was one he witnessed firsthand.  Barry watched the woman he knew so well work through her inertia.  She languished, anguished, and ultimately left her hefty sense of helplessness behind.  Her efforts helped Barry to believe that his life could be better.

It was not so long ago, Barry began to exercise, to eat healthy foods, to free himself from the habits that hurt him.  Were he a plane, in the past, Barry’s weight would have grounded him.

Today, Barry knew he could not do as he had done years earlier.  He would not stay motionless.  Nor would he say nothing of the circumstances.  He would not resign himself as the load of commuters had.  He wondered whether his own history taught him that extra weight need not be a reality.  A heavier load need not be a burden to be endured.

Unlike the 100 plus others, who seemed settled with the fact that they could not leave the ground, at least not for another two hours, Barry was not.  Just as he had decided not to settle for a life in which he battled his bulge, Barry concluded he would speak to the Captain.  He would ask the pilot to invite ten to fifteen passengers to leave the aircraft.  If this number deplaned, the usual traffic pattern could be put in place.  The persons who remained on the vehicle could travel safely and in a timely manner.  Those who voluntarily exited would not only receive recompense, they would also be assured a safer travel on a lighter plane.

Once Barry voiced his willingness to make a change, to lighten the load, and to leave the aircraft, he was able to garner support from other travelers.  The pleased pilot said he would return to the terminal and allow the few to exit.  The crew was grateful for the diversion. They knew how the temperature and the tempers of those stuck on a plane, still, on the tarmac could rise.  The persons who stayed on the plane were elated.  Fat though most of these may have been, at least they would be able to move a bit more freely through the air with thanks to the benevolence of one who used to be as they were.

Barry pondered the parallels as he walked through the airport.  He had hours to wander and muse as he waited for the next flight.  Determined not to be idle; a circumstance he disdained since he lost his own excessive weight, Barry walked.  As he strolled, he realized he would need to find nourishment.  His breakfast would not hold him through the day and into the evening when he would again board a plane.

As he unsuccessfully searched for other than starchy, fatty, sugary foods in the airport, he became frustrated.  Barry realized there was not a restaurant in the building that carried healthy victuals.  He rented a handcart, placed his luggage on it, and briskly sauntered to another terminal.  He had time.  Besides, it was good to be able to move about and enjoy the sunlight.

As he ambled about, Barry thought of how obesity affects the life of a plane or person.  He saw the many who sat stationary in the terminal.  Most of these individuals were chubby just as those on the plane were.  Barry realized he had been so concerned with his own weight issues he had not noticed what now seemed obvious.  In America, overweight was the new normal.  This point became more real as a security guard approached him.

The officer told Barry he appeared suspicious.  Who was he to walk around the airport, to move about so freely?  People did not do that, not today, and certainly not in a terminal.  Barry shared the story of the plane too heavy to fly the normally prescribed route.  He explained it would be hours before he could board the next flight.  Barry said he last ate very early in the morning.  He was desirous of fruit, or some healthy food to eat.  The sentinel said, Barry was to do as the others, more weighty passengers had.  Sit.  Be still.  Pack on the pounds.  Build the bulge, and be satisfied with confections, soda filled with high fructose corn syrup, and starchy foods.  The security guard assured Barry, there was no fresh produce to be had on the premises.  “I have some Valentine’s Day candy,” the official said.  “Here, have a piece.”  Barry smiled.  He said, “No thank you.”  He walked on and wondered.  When is weight an issue for an individual, a culture, a country, or better still, why is it not?

References for a weighty reality . . .

The Lesson; All Beings Are a Beautiful Bundle of Love

BndlLv

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

The day was delightful.  The water was superb.  The sun was full and bright.  A few billowy, puffy clouds floated through the sky.  They were white, cumulus, fluffy fellows, the type that excite many a child as they gaze into the heavens.  In parks, on lawns, little ones were likely looking up and pointing.  “Look,” they might say,  “It is a horse, a donkey, or perchance a unicorn.”  It was a day for whimsy.  The children, playful in the pool, barely noticed the graceful shapes as they danced above their heads.  Instead, they were focused on what they decided were June bugs.

Three young sweet girls stood in the warm water near their Daddy.  All were calm, content, and serene.  The sisters chatted easily.  Father smiled.  The youngest lass expressed her curiosity.  As her sibling searched for bugs on the plastic rope line, the “baby” in the family asked of the insects.  “Are they icky to touch,” the cautious curly haired youngster inquired.  The more confident elder sister said, “No!  They are cute,” she said.  See.”  The “older” child showed the girl of fewer years.

A stranger, in the adjacent lane was preparing to swim.  Becky was her name.  She was much older than the children, and perhaps no wiser; nonetheless, she share her assessment of the beetle.  Becky said of the six-legged lovelies, “They are life; all creatures are beautiful.”  With that thought, the father beamed, and the older lady plunged head first into the water filled cement reservoir.

Lap after lap and look after look the woman and children enjoyed the quiet of the day.  The words the swimmer shared seemed to hang in the air.  People came and went, throughout the afternoon, and splendor was all anyone saw.

Then, everything changed.  The evolution from tranquil to trauma was  slow; nonetheless, unexpected.  Those in the recreation park were struck, as if by a bolt of lightening.  However, unlike when a storm threatens, swimmers were not forced to leave the pool.  The jolt evoked more silence.  No one screamed, but the sole boy, victim to the method his Mom’s adopted for instruction.

The young mother, a woman, perhaps, in her early thirties, was extremely pleasant in appearance, and it seemed her personality was equally delightful.  She, Madison, entered the deck area with her small son in her arms.  Skin, beautifully tanned, this well-dress lady strode to the lifeguard tower.  The little guy, let us call him, Michael, was not as bronze in color, and was visibly agitated.  Michael whimpered, even as his Mom held him close.  

Becky, the swimmer who enjoyed the company of the little lasses and their Dad before she began her exercise had just finished the more strenuous part of her routine when the mother and child came into view.  Becky, a teacher, enjoyed children, in or outside the classroom.  She marveled at the openness of a mind not yet crushed by the weight of worry.  The sincerity of a small one was a source of fascination for Becky.  Children, early in life, were candid and joyous, at least most were, or appeared to be.

Little Michael, a lad, maybe three, or four, was not a cheerful child.  He wore no glee on his face, although his features were cute as could be from what Becky was able to see.  When the swimmer first noticed Madison and Michael, they were yards away.  They approached the guard tower at the opposite end of the pool and spoke with Brianna, the young adult hired to protect the public in an emergency.  Becky thought nothing of the interaction.  She was relieved to have only her stretches left to complete.  Becky moved the shallow end and commenced with another ritual.

Behind her, a metal chair scraped along the concrete.  The sound startled her and she looked up at the area where people sat enjoying the sun.  Had Becky waited just a moment she would have known Michael and Madison had moved closer to her.  The cries filled the air.  The sweet little boy shrieked, “I wanna go see Daddy.”  Michael howled; “No Mom!!!!  No!”  His face scrunched tightly, this little lovable fellow yelled, “Daddy!  Daddy!  Daddy!  Please Mom!  No!”  Michael repeated the words, “I wanna go see Daddy!”

His mother chided him, gently.  “We have to do this.”  Madison did not seem to believe she could quiet her son’s fears.  An expectation that the little guy might enjoy was void from her voice.  The Mom simply worked feverishly, to accomplish the dreaded task.  She prepared Michael for his dip in the water, and said, “Let’s just get this over with.”

Becky continued with her work out and wondered of the circumstances.  Perchance, the mother and father were divorced or newly separated.  Michael may have expressed the deep distress he felt for a family no longer united.  Becky, the daughter of parents who parted understood how stressful such a situation might be.  She was eight when  . . . her reverie was interrupted.

Madison had abruptly carried Michael to the step at the shallow end of the pool.  The Mom now wore a white shirt over her own bathing suit.  Sweetly, she smiled and leaned forward.  Madison said to Becky, “I do not wish to disturb you.  I want to warn you; I am teaching my son to swim and he screams, loudly.”  As an experienced educator, Becky imagined it would be a mild and momentary shout.  As one who swims daily and had for well over a decade, the teacher witnessed many a young child learn to paddle and breathe in water.  

Indeed, at this very facility she has observed perhaps hundreds of child learn to master their strokes.  The excellent swim teachers, parents and paid professionals, helped calm many a neophyte nerve.  Often Becky watched with admiration as patient Moms, Dads, and lifeguards helped little ones wade through the water.  It was as she shared with the girls earlier in the day, “They, people and insects, are life.  All creatures are beautiful.”

What Becky witnessed next was not beautiful; it was brutal!  Madison held Michaels arms tightly.  She forced him into the water.  The Mom insisted the boy’s head remain face down immersed until she pulled him up.  Apparently, they had practiced this cycle before.  Becky now understood why Michael cringed and cried out long before he was ever near the expansive liquid sea.

Initially, the trained instructor was paralyzed.  Becky could not imagine that a mother might torment her child.  The volume of Michaels screams increased.  His little arms flailed.  “Mom, No!  Pleassssssssse!”  The emotional agony he felt was palpable.  Mom did not stop as he pleaded.  The pain on his face did not move Madison to succumb.  His words, his anguish, nothing stopped this mother on her quest.  For Becky, what must have been a minute or less seemed like hours, years, decades.  She thought of sweet obedient Michael.  While he shed many a tear and shrieked when he could gasp for air, the little love did as he was told or required to do.  He dropped his head into the pool on demand.

Off into the distance, in the parking lot, just outside the fence, Becky noticed a late model shiny black vehicle.  The man at the wheel peered in.  His car was not situated in a space meant for stopping.  This fellow seemed interested in the antics of Madison and Michael.  Becky mused; possibly the sound of suffering haunted him as it did her.  She could not stand by a moment longer.

With an earnest concern, Becky expressed her empathy for the child.  She inquired; “Is he frightened..”  The mother responded, “He can swim.”  Becky queried aloud, had the mother sought other means for instruction.  Perchance, if Michael were given the opportunity to slowly adjust to the water.  If he were allowed to breathe easily as he slowly learned to stoke . . . Becky’s words were cut off.  Still somewhat genteel and reserved, Madison explained, “This is what his teacher taught me to do.”  “She is excellent.  Everyone goes to her.  They call her the swim Nazi.”

The practiced swimmer, and professional educator, shared her own expertise.  Becky told of a time when she worked with another teacher who was extremely punitive.  This castigatory colleague was an award winner.  Some children loved her, parents too.  Students taught Becky what she had not known; if you are raised in a family where cruelty is common, you learn to believe that rough treatment is love.  Violence is fondness when a family is familiar with vicious behavior.

Becky spoke of a man she loves.  He was introduced to swimming in much the way Michael was guided.  This man loathes his parents.  As an adult, he says of himself, he is really messed up.  For the man Becky cares for, trust is not an option.  The lesson he learned at the hands of his mother, who taught him how to swim, just as Madison now advised Michael, is that people will hurt you.

In this very short and quick conversation Becky, recalled her own memories, and how she has vivid recollections of events in that occurred in her life when she was younger than Michael.  Becky looked over at Michael’s face.  The torment was already etched into his skin.  The screeches scarred him.

Madison listened, maybe.  She was polite.  The Mom never let go of her cherished son, Michael.  The activity did not stop.  Nor did the blood curdling screams.  The echoes of pain continued to pierce the air, and break delicate decorum.  

People within the recreation center while startled, they stood still or pretended to ignore what escaped no one.  Only Becky articulated her concern.  Madison expressed her interest; more so once she realized Becky is an educator.  However, without a moment of hesitation, or a break from or for Michael, she offered a retort.  “I will speak with the teacher.”  Becky again offered, the teacher does what she thinks is best.  Perhaps, she, just as the pupils Becky spoke of, had parents who were as aggressive as she was.  

Those who admire the techniques the Nazi swim teacher endorses may also be intimately acquainted with instruction through intimidation.  “In my family no one yells,” Becky said.  Madison responded; the same was true in her life.  She and her husband do not scream.

Michael continues to squeal.  “Mom, Please, No!”  He thrashes.  He grabs for her mother.  Michael reaches for Madison’s shirt and slaps her body and face.  The Mom had mentioned she wore the blouse just for this purpose.  Michael grabbed at the swim instructor, just as prescribed, and when with her, Michael clawed for Madison’s clothing.

His moves do not seem to suggest an intention to hurt the mother Michael loves.  From appearances, the boy only hopes to find a source of solace.  He wants to hold on to someone, anyone.  His words seem to express a desire that his Mom will save him from her.  The child cries out again and again.  He flaps; he flounders.  Little lovable Michael thrashes and struggles.  Madison was not discouraged.

Still alert and attentive to her purpose, Madison proclaims, “The swim teacher has them trained within a week.”  Once more, she says, “Everyone goes to her.”  She may have sensed or seen Becky’s alarm.  Apprehensive, the mother said, “I will speak to my husband.  He is in the car.”  

Becky realized the man who she had observed earlier might have studied the pair with an interest that could not be described.  Possibly, what the father felt was beyond words.  Becky knew that emotionally, this event tugged at her heartstrings.  She wondered; did the Dad wait for he too could not endure the misery inflicted on his son.  How could a mother be so cruel?  How could anyone treat a child with such contempt?  Why were words of compassion and caution not enough to stop the abuse?  Was Becky alone in her anguish?

She exited the pool area, entered the locker room.  Then she scrubbed herself in the shower.  All the while Becky heard the howls and the hollers.  This small sorrowful soul did not rant or rage against his Mom.  He only called out for help.  Each shout sliced the air and sent chills up Becky’s spine.  She could hardly contain her own tears.

Becky left the building and again approached Madison, whose energy and purpose had not waned.  The worried woman spoke, “If I could I would like to inquire; would it not be better if Michael loved his lessons (and the person who teaches him)?”  Did she share the latter thought?  She was so troubled, she did not know what she said.  Had she asked if it was necessary to master the skill in a week?  Madison ignored Becky.  She was done with this exchange.  She said to Michael, “Just a few more minutes.”

Defeated, Becky left the deck.  She walked to the office where the guards stood in alert.  The group discussed what left each of them distraught.  A resigned Brianna verbalized her belief, “There is nothing we can do or say.”  Shocked to discover Becky spoke to the woman, Brianna began to ask of what was said.  Then she realized Madison, with a drained and strained Michael in her arms, was near.  She let out a sound that signaled the need for silence.

The mother and her madness quickly fled the premises.  After a short discussion with the guards, Becky thanked them for listening to her fears and followed the path from the pool to the parking lot.  Apparently, the couple and their child were settling into the coupe.  The father glanced over as he saw Becky near the vehicle.  Nothing was said.  For Becky, there were no words.

She pondered.  Was Becky the person now considered a predator?  Had Madison grumbled to her husband as she shared details of the encounter?  Exhausted and uncertain of the empathy she had supposed all beings had for others, Becky went to her car.  She could not drive away, although she saw the family did.  The lover of living beings, of children, could not fully understand what existed only for moments in her own life.  She was haunted by the hurt she saw in Michael’s face and heard in his calls.

Stunned and shaken Becky sat trembling for a very long time.  She wailed; she wept.  Had she just let a sweet child fend for himself in a world too awful to survive?  

Hours passed and Becky imagines, in her life, Michael, and the impression he made on her would never move on.  Sadly, she fears, what for her was but minutes, for Michael, will be life.

Becky had mentioned to Madison, or hoped she had, the effect of trauma.  To this day, the older educator recounts the stresses that transformed her being.  The lessons, what her Mom, Dad, and mentors did supposedly for her benefit, if not facilitated fondly, harmed her deeply.  Cognizant that children absorb all they encounter and are affected by every exchange, Becky contemplates the drama Michael endured.

In a desire to calm her self, Becky, an educator who loves to learn, sought answers.  She had so many questions, so many concerns.  As a teacher, never labeled a dictatorial tyrant, she had much trepidation.  What had Madison taught Michael?  Was he expected to sink or swim?  As she read, her angst increased.  What would become of Michael?

How Do You Recognize a Patient (or Person) with Trauma if it is Not Always Obvious?

Different people respond differently to traumatic events.  Some people will carry it around in ways that everybody can see that they’ve been impacted.  But most people actually will go through a traumatic experience and won’t have any easily visible or obvious manifestation of that.  The problems may emerge many months or sometimes even years after the original event.  So it’s very important for people who are trying to understand trauma to become aware of the various ways in which traumatic symptoms can manifest, the various ways in which trauma can be carried forward by children and adults, and the pervasive impact that trauma has independent of the way someone is observed to perform.

How Do Relationships Affect the Way the Brain Develops?

Human beings are at our core, relational creatures.  We are designed to live, work, play, and grow in groups.  The very nature of humanity arises from relationships.  You learn language, you learn social language, you learn appropriate emotional regulation, and essentially everything that’s important about life as a human being you learn in context of relationships.  And the very substance of a successful individual is bathed in a whole host of relationships with people in that person’s life  . . .

Can You Continue with the Relationships and How it Affects the Brain

When you look at someone, when you hear someone, when you have a conversation, when you make a joke with somebody, when you touch someone, every single one of those physical interactions are translated into patterned neuronal activity that go into the brain of both people in that interaction and result in positive changes.  These physical changes influence our immune system and they influence the autonomic nervous system that controls your heart and your lungs and your gut.  Literally, when people have a wealth of relationships, where relationships are present in high quantities and they’re of good quality, these individuals are actually physically healthier, they’re emotionally healthier, they’re more cognitively enriched, and they actually reach their potential to be humane in ways that are impossible without relationships.

It’s a very interesting thing that people don’t really appreciate this very much, but that there’s no better biological interaction that you can have than a relationship.

Yes, all beings are but a beautiful bundle of love.  Yet, rarely do humans honor that veracity.  So few people understand the depth of each interaction.  Too frequently, individuals do what was done to them, or what they think they can.  Societal standards, customs, traditions, the lessons taught by authoritarian teachers shape them.  People learn.  Yet, they may not have studied the ultimate lesson.  We are each a lovely and fragile beings.  We grow well when hearts, minds, bodies, and souls are tenderly touched.

“Michael, I am soooooooo sorry,” Becky mused.  What of the relationship she had with Michael, or for that matter, with all beings.  What affect did her actions or inactions have.  Becky though of how all that occurred developed, and how Michael might grow.  “If only I had done more, been more, were a better teacher to your Mom, or had offered to help you learn to swim.”  Becky, heart heavy with regret promised herself, if she were to meet this family again, she would . . . in truth, she did not know what she could or would do.  She only hoped that someone would tell her.  How does one swim in a world where too many forget, all beings are but a bundle of love.

Sources and Suffering . . .

April 15; From Learning to Love, To Loving to Learn

Dearest Gary . . .

Once again, it is time to speak of the past, to reflect on the present, and to acknowledge a future that would have never been without you.

Today is tax day.  This date is looked upon with doom and gloom.  On April 15 many in America are reminded of what for them is a burdensome task.  In 1947, as the calendar page turned for the fifteenth time in the fourth month of the year, Jackie Robinson put on his first Brooklyn Dodgers uniform.  Color lines were broken in professional sports.  Centuries earlier, in 1743, the Revolutionary War ended on this date.  The Continental Congress ratified articles of peace.  The sixteenth President, Abraham Lincoln was assasinated in 1865.  John Wilkes Booth did the deed in the Ford Theatre.  In the twentieth century, the Titanic sank and my cousin Alexander was born.  I too  came alive on this date.  For me, April 15 is the first day of the Renaissance.

Years have passed since my conception began.  The act that consummated my being was but a moment in world history.  It remains barely visible by those throughout the globe.  History books do not document my emergence.  Birth certificates were not filed.  Indeed, at the time of my nativity I was considered an adult, fully developed, and, by most standards mature.  Yet, I was but a neophyte, barely an embryo.  On April fifteen, Gary, you walked into my life and everything changed.

You too may recall the day, the evening, the hours, and minutes of conversation.  Perchance you too still marvel at how two persons who are infinitely different politically, whose professions, are starkly dissimilar could come together as one, and enjoy the company of the other with an intensity that is unimaginable.  I can only trust this was as true for you as it was for me.

They say actions tell a tale.  The four hours of verbal engagement, followed by your call minutes after we departed, for me, speaks volumes.  The force of what ensued was enthusiastic and loud.  Most every moment with you was extremely passionate.  I never knew what to expect.  However, I was always certain I would learn.  What I did not, could not understand at the time was how much my friends, family, familiars, and even those I only encounter for seconds on the street in my daily life might glean from our meeting.

Our engagement, estrangement, push, pull, approach, avoidance, affection, and abhorrence of what was or would not be apparently was infinitely instructive to those I knew and those I was yet to meet.  At the time, no one might have predicted what has since become a spoken truth.  Humans who hurt us do not mean to cause us harm.  They too struggle to survive.  When any of us is in pain, invisible as the injuries may be, we lash out as a wounded animal might.  We work to protect our hearts and souls.  In doing so, we each die inside.  What we fear becomes our future, and will forever be if we do not work through what we thought was and yet, may not have been.  Feelings do not fade away.  Emotions are edifying.

Those close to me tired of the constant confusion that was our relationship.  People in my life were bored with talk of the battle that existed within me as I traveled through the “tunnel of love.”  Many mused, “move on; he is not good for you.”  Yet, I knew you were my mirror, the darkness to my light.  I did not recognize that the enlightenment I experienced would illuminate the path for others.

Only yesterday, as on most days, two of the individuals that walked with me through the pain, persons that love me enough to let me be me, mentioned how helpful my insights, with thanks to my knowledge of you are.

Gary, I thank you for being open with me.  I greatly appreciate the trust you bestowed upon me.  When you shared what is truth for you, I was able to glean that the world for others is never as we might perceive, or believe it to be.  

For you, people are, or were when we last spoke, negative and unhappy.  In your life, there was reason to believe that people who presumably love you have agendas.  Those we adore or wish to be intimate with manipulate.  I recall when you offered, in your family, a celebration of your birth was an occasion to gratify those who organized an event.  Gifts were not presents to you; people gave as pleased them.

I remember your heart and the hurts that scarred what is the most exquisite of organs.  Gary, your spirit is more special than you will ever know.  Sadly, the bruised beauty that beats within you expels a bitter blood.  The sour fluid that fills your being spills out onto those you meet.  Through you, I discovered antipathy averts empathy.  People are easily wounded.  We are all fragile beings.

When our history teaches us that we cannot trust even those who say they love us, we learn to act just as those who harmed us deeply did.  People who have experienced constant criticism come to expect that even a compliment is a cut.  Words meant to express kindness are thought to be tools used to wedge or whittle a way into a person heart.  The “perceived” schema is to probe.  Once a person achieves a position of import, if our past tells us people cannot be trusted with our heart, we feel certain they will become too powerful.  A beaten being will sense anyone too close will pounce, be punitive, and punish us for being vulnerable.

Through my association with you Gary, I found me.  I realized our wounds are reversed, as is our approach to life is.  In my life, compliments pierced my flesh for I could not possibly live up to the potential others thought I had.  Benevolence was but a thoughtfulness that I thought was the essence of every being.  I could not trust wondrous words bequeathed upon me.  I had no faith that I might be a beautiful being inside and out.  I truly believed the best, was anyone but me.

Nevertheless, in my attempt to understand you, I acquired an acceptance that I was not the only imperfect being.  Indeed, we are all flawed and that is the finest find.  If we are to grow, we must be open to opportunities that abound.

You Gary used to tease, “Right and correct are synonymous.”  I now know neither construct exists.  What is “right” is our relationship with self and others.  If we are to connect “comfortably,” we must not impose our beliefs, our personal philosophies, or standards on others.  We must act on authentic principles, not on perceptions.

I have come to believe that the only absolutes are love and peace.  These will not be realized if we do not acknowledge our history, and how it has affected us.  On this day, April 15, 2008, Gary, I kiss your sweet soul, as do all those in my life who have learned through our story.  Gary, you have taught many the value of vulnerability.  Openness may be the most misunderstood notion.  If we are to ever have peace of mind and harmony throughout the globe, we must seize the strength that is born through sincerity.

Gary, I came to realize when I shared myself with you fully, when I offered my earnest apprehensions, when I exposed all my wounds and worries you did not destroy me.  Indeed, when I was most real, so too were you in return.  My awareness likely came too late for us.  Too much damage was done.  It takes two to heal a union.  Insert whatever cliché seems apt.

The lesson remains.  Love blooms when we work to empathize, sympathize, and have compassion.  We can never know what is not communicated.  Hence, again, on this anniversary of my birth into being, I share myself with you.  It was, and will forever be time to speak of the past, to reflect on the present, and to acknowledge a future that would have never been without you.

With love, trust, and care . . .

Spockette [Betsy]

April 15, The  History of Hurt Hearts . . .

The Only Barrier to Communication; My Emotions and Me

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

We each experience many obstructions everyday of our lives.  There are physical fences we cannot or will not climb.  A roadblock might impede our progress on the thoroughfare.  Distance does us in.  Many do not wish to venture beyond familiar neighborhoods.  Proximity can limit our travel.  Time is an interesting concept.  Although, man created seconds, minutes, hours, and days, few of us seem able to separate ourselves from this obstacle. 

As difficult as it might be to ford the river or sea, nothing compares with the challenge we feel when we know there is a need discuss subjects that cause us to feel defensive.  Delicate topics are taboo too.  Conversations of all sorts are difficult.  Personal or professional, what we say aloud and what we do not can cause palms to sweat, hands to clam, pulses to race, and a person to pace.  The heart is easily torn to pieces.  The head hurts at the thought of what might be a threat.  Communication can cleave, or calm; it can be the greatest bridge or the barrier that destroys a connection.

As I approach a theme that is ubiquitous, I realize Communication is the least understood construct in our lives.  I could attempt to discuss what we do easily and yet struggle with from a singular perspective, that of an educator, a parent, a sibling, an employee, or a supervisor; however, I fear what I frequently experience.  If I endeavor to illustrate what occurs when, or how, from a particular perspective people will do what they typically do; they will isolate an incident, and intentionally or not ignore the essence of this discussion, emotions.

As I approach a theme that is ubiquitous, I realize Communication is the least understood construct in our lives.  I could attempt to discuss what we do easily and yet struggle with from a singular perspective, that of an educator, a parent, a sibling, an employee, or a supervisor; however, I fear what I frequently experience.  If I endeavor to illustrate what occurs when, or how, from a particular perspective people will do what they typically do; they will isolate an incident, and intentionally or not ignore the essence of this discussion, emotions.

As I approach a theme that is ubiquitous, I realize Communication is the least understood construct in our lives.  I could attempt to discuss what we do easily and yet struggle with from a singular perspective, that of an educator, a parent, a sibling, an employee, or a supervisor; however, I fear what I frequently experience.  If I endeavor to illustrate what occurs when, or how, from a particular perspective people will do what they typically do; they will isolate an incident, and intentionally or not ignore the essence of this discussion, emotions.

Personally, I do not presume to know what any individual must do to ensure that in their life, communications will be effective.  Nor do I believe that any expert in linguistics can carve a path for you to pursue.  As I share a tale or two, I trust you dear reader will relate as humans do, from your own life experience.  Perchance that is the essential.  We encounter, exchange, empathize, and grow.  Life is an evolution with no singular solution.  Lets us stroll down this path together, and discover the knowledge available to each of us.  If we dare to dive more deeply than we do when we just talk, oh what treasures we might find.  Let us look at the barriers to communication and examine ways to build bridges.

When we survey the research, we find the obscure and the obvious.  Broad statements, outlines that obfuscate or abstract are available.  Perhaps, we can fill in the blanks or read between the lines.  Some of the script seems basic, easy to comprehend.

Barriers to Communication

  • Physical (time, environment, comfort, needs, physical medium)
  • Cultural (ethnic, religious, and social differences)
  • Perceptional (viewing what is said from your own mindset)
  • Motivational (mental inertia)
  • Experiential (lack of similar experience)
  • Emotional (personal feelings at the moment)
  • Linguistic (different languages or vocabulary)
  • Non-verbal (non-word messages)
  • Competition (noise, doing other things besides listening)
  • Words (we assign a meaning to a word often because of culture — note the difference in the meaning of “police” (contrast [affluent neighborhoods] or any inner city perspective) or  “boy” (contrast white male with black male perspectives)
  • Context (high / low)
  • Purpose 
  • Mode (differences in way a message is sent)
  • Gestures (misunderstood gestures are a major barrier see discussion on non-verbal language)
  • Variations in language – accent, dialect
  • Slang – jargon – colloquialism
  • Different forms or reasons for verbal interaction
  • Dueling – seeing who can get the upper hand (playing the dozens)
  • Repartee conversation – taking short turns rather than monologue
  • Ritual conversation – standard replies with little meaning to words themselves (i.e. most US greetings)
  • Self-disclosure.
  • That last element is the one that tugs at heart.  It is the hardest for many to accept or act on.  Yet, in my life open discourse is essential if we wish to cultivate enjoyment.  Communication, when effective brings closeness, counter to what our fears cause us to believe.

    I see you shake your head and say, no that is not so.  You might think, “How can I reveal of what lies deep within me.”  People will not understand.  They may ridicule, rebuff, or resent my beliefs.  ‘Tis true; they might in the moment.  At first blush, people can be reactive.  However, think of a time when you did not tell someone your deepest secret.  Did that not weigh heavily or your heart.  Often, we snub ourselves more severely than others might. 

    In our communication with self, we do exactly what we think others will do if they knew.  We shun us.  We deny our feelings.  The passion that pulses through our veins is veiled, just as it is in the dry list I presented earlier in this essay.  It seems safer to hide the emotions.  Thus, we travel on and justify, rationalize, reason, intellectualize, make excuses, blame . . . human beings mask the essence of a message in order to relieve the pain.  Then they speak of external barriers?

    I cannot speak to my boss; she is a b****!  He is a b******!  We do not speak the same language.  In his culture . . . He could not possibly comprehend.  She is unfamiliar with the language; she will not hear what I say.  He is a man; how could he understand.  You know how women are.  No, tell me.  I have yet to encounter any two that are alike.

    I have to wait so that I may speak to him face-to-face.  However, the time never comes.  Thus, you wait and wait for the perfect opportunity.  It never seems to come.  After awhile, you decide it is just too late.  Then you conclude, it is just too late.  Too much has happened since.  I guess I will have to suffer in silence.

    Communication can cause such anguish.  It can also bring great pleasure.  The two are not separate; nor are they equal.  They are the sum total of our unique being.  Our background and experiences cause us to feel as we do, hear as we might, understand in the manner that makes sense to us.  We may be critical, cordial, compassionate, or cruel; yet, no matter what our intent, another will perceive our words and deeds through their own filter.

    Woes may be similar, worries akin.  You, as I may be apprehensive when confronted with what I perceive is a need to say aloud what I think might be difficult.  I hesitate.  I vacillate.  I hem and hah.  I fear what I might mouth.  In my desire to foil a fight, perhaps I create one? 

    When faced with a dilemma I recall the words my Mom uttered, “If you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all.”  Perchance, that would be best; however, it is my experience, what is not stated does far more damage than what be expressed poorly.

    If someone comes to me and complains, if they accuse me of doing what was detrimental, do I become defensive.  Might I attack, react, reason, or rationalize.  Whatever I choose I must understand, mere words are not enough to communicate the flood that is within me.  Nor will my statements be all that the other sees, hears, or grasps.  There is far more to an interaction than the superficial sense we have of what was said or done.

    Intellectually, I understand the inventory of barriers.  First, there must be a physical proximity before a dialogue can begin.  Yet, how often do you sit with your boss and never say a word when you object to a proposition.  The lack of talk suggests as much as constant chatter.  Yet, silence reveals no more than the sound of words.

    Men, women, and children often reside in the same house and rarely share more than a meal.  Many of us know our spouse or siblings as well as we do others, those outside the home.  Some sleep next to a life partner each evening; they hug, kiss, and become intimately intertwined, bodily interlaced.  However, one or both may loathe their lover.  If they have a story to tell, they will not share it with their supposed soul mate. 

    When there is a need to speak with an associate, an acquaintance, a parent, a pupil, a physician, a personal trainer, a person that represents a professional organization some people feel safe.  An emotional or physical distance can be grand.  At times, individuals feel freer when with those that do not have the emotional power to hurt them.  A cordon for some is a conduit for others.

    For a few, electronic communication is the medium of choice.  Numerous persons feel free to be when they chat in cyberspace.  Apparently, Internet Dating Much More Successful Than Thought. We look for love in all sorts of places.  The desire to connect to another human intimately runs deep.  What we will do for love and what we will say in pursuit of our passion  can have an enormous effect on communication.  When we feel spurned, some of us may say or not express something more profound.  When we are free to be, protected by the net that surrounds an electronic neighborhood, we may let it all fly.  How many of us have received a computer-generated correspondence that bit more than a byte.

    While all sorts of online exchanges can be misunderstood, social scientists say that faceless strangers are especially likely to run into problems.  “Through that initial phone call, people become real,” says Susan Barnes, a professor of communication at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. Simply foregoing common pleasantries can make a message come across as rude-especially if communicators don’t know each other.  A rushed e-mail may give the impression that the exchange is unimportant.  And, because first impressions set the tone for subsequent interaction, Barnes says, the exchange can quickly go downhill.

    Nadler says the missing element in electronic communication is rapport, that in-sync state that’s easier to establish in person or by phone.  Facial expressions, gestures, tone of voice-all these social cues are missing in e-mail (and smiley-face “emoticons” can do only so much to replace them).  But because messages travel almost instantly, people act as if they’re in a face-to-face conversation, says David Falcone, a psychology professor at La Salle University in Philadelphia.  Because of this illusion of proximity, we’re duped into thinking we can communicate about touchy subjects, such as disagreements or criticisms, and that the tone of our writing will be perceived correctly.

    Furthermore, says Nadler, just because we can send a message anytime doesn’t mean someone is there to receive it.  Yet people often fear a delayed reply is a potential blow-off.

    And when we feel slighted, we are more apt to throw a fit via e-mail than we would by phone. “The anonymity of e-mail leads to rudeness,” says Barnes, adding we may not feel accountable, especially if we’ve never actually spoken to the other person.  Even if we mean well, the lack of second-by-second feedback, by which we constantly adjust our words in conversation, can cause us to go on blithely composing messages that will rub the recipient the wrong way.

    Nose to nose is not much better for communication.  Granted, common language can be a problem.  Conventionally we understand different dialects hamper our ability to communicate well.  I, as others might offer infinite and general scenarios to demonstrate how language can inhibit effective exchanges.  However, I suspect if you study the dynamics in each you may realize the verbal and nonverbal communication does not cause the problems.  Again, emotions, expectations, inferences, incite disagreements.  The fire in our heart, in our head ignites the flames

    With no common history and little interaction outside the workplace, the intersection of the two groups — which is occurring more frequently as Korean business and the Hispanic population boom — has been fraught with tension and cultural misunderstandings.

    Ricardo Garcia, 34, complains he wasn’t paid fully by a Korean contractor.  Fermin Soto, a 42-year-old immigrant from Mexico, said he had similar problems with a different contractor, adding that the Korean builder spoke down to Hispanic workers.

    The stories have made Ronald Tobar, who hasn’t worked for a Korean employer, wary.

    “I’m a little afraid of working for them,” said Tobar, a native of Guatemala. “I hear they are aggressive and strict and give the worst jobs to Hispanics.”

    Such perceptions exacerbate tensions between the groups, said Daniel Choi, a lawyer for the Virginia Justice Center, a legal advocacy group for immigrants that mainly represents Hispanics. Many of the workplace problems Choi encounters while working on behalf of Hispanic immigrants against Korean employees are grievances like unpaid wages that have nothing to do with race or culture. Yet, perceptions of ethnic and racial biases often complicate matters.

    When Thomas Yoon helped open the Super H Mart store in Fairfax in 2001, he noticed that some older Koreans, raised in the Confucian Korean culture where relationships are dictated by hierarchy and age, were offended that their Hispanic co-workers were tapping them on the shoulder to get their attention.  To the Koreans, the gesture was disrespectful.  To the Hispanic workers, the shoulder tap was simply a means of communication and signaled familiarity and comfort among the workers.

    While the difference in language and culture contributes to misunderstanding, I suspect what causes a greater riff is the economic disparity.  Money moves many a heart and a mouth.

    A gesture meant to state, “I like you,” may actually connote disdain.  If it seems as though we condescend when in the company of one that thinks them better, or less, that message is felt.  We need not express ourselves aloud.  People hear the unspoken.  Vernacular is victim to much misinterpretation.  Yet, dialect is nothing on balance; a division in dollars can be quite the deal.

    Love, money, and power all rolled into one can cause conflict in any liaison.  Often, when people speak of relationships between men and women we hear such tales of deep distress.  In another of the many available lists presented to enlighten, I read gender is a barrier to communication.  The author cited . . .

    Gender barriers
    There are distinct differences between the speech patterns in a man and those in a woman. A woman speaks between 22,000 and 25,000 words a day whereas a man speaks between 7,000 and 10,000.  In childhood, girls speak earlier than boys and at the age of three, have a vocabulary twice that of boys.

    The reason for this lies in the wiring of a man’s and woman’s brains. When a man talks, his speech is located in the left side of the brain but in no specific area.  When a woman talks, the speech is located in both hemispheres and in two specific locations.

    This means that a man talks in a linear, logical and compartmentalised way, features of left-brain thinking; whereas a woman talks more freely mixing logic and emotion, features of both sides of the brain.  It also explains why women talk for much longer than men each day.

    Ah, that is the excuse used to explain emotional differences.  I marvel at what for me is a deeply held myth.  Men have less words; the male mind is not wired as a woman’s might be.  There is much evidence to support humans are acculturated into the habits they acquire.  Brains are pliable and porous.  From the first, we are taught.  What we learn when we were so very young we believe is natural.  It is our nature to be stoic or expressive.  Boys and girls believe before they are able to grasp there are other options.

    In our society, boys are typically told they are hard-wired, hard-hearted, all that they are not.  Male adults model the behavior, for they too were  taught.  Men are persuaded to believe they are not demonstrative; they must not trust in order to survive.  William Pollack, Ph.D. author of Real Boys explains.  He understands as I have all my life; boys feel very deeply and have much to say.  They are “trained” from birth to speak less.

    Pollack’s message was a consistent one: The “boy code” imposes a “gender straitjacket” on boys, often leaving them without the experience or the tools to express their emotions safely. . . .

    It’s a series of outmoded, unspoken, unwritten rules of conduct by which, for generations, we have brought up boys. According to the code, boys must be tough, stoic, not dependent on others, inexpressive people who are not allowed to share their pain.

    Boys feel great pressure to emulate the code’s ideal boy.  Since they always fall short of this impossible ideal, they become frustrated, depressed, and angry.

    Once more, we see the effect of emotions concealed.  Emotions cloaked or presented as daggers are the barriers to communication in my mind.

    I ponder what for me is most profound.  What we hide from others [and too often from ourselves] hinders a healthy relationship.  With others and self.  Personally, I am haunted by the unspoken.  Ultimately, I conclude that I must speak, but how.

    How do I share what works on my mind?  I fear rejection, resentment, rebellion, a reprimand; yet, I understand that my words to him or her may feel as any of these.  It matters not whether I speak with my ward, my protégé, my mentor, or my muse.  Communication is fragile.  Talk is not cheap; it is priceless, so valuable, and yet so vague.

    If, as I begin to express myself, I see pain in his eyes, I heart the hurt in his voice, do I apologize for the harm I never intended to cause yet did?  Whether it be in a personal or professional encounter, words can wield as weapons.  Much sorrow is evoked when we offer the most innocent observation. 

    A person presumes to know what I meant when I say, “please,” “if you would,” “might I suggest,” and perhaps they are correct.  However, more frequently than not, what each of us hear has more to do with our history than that of the speaker.

    As I broach a conversation, I must wonder; yet rarely do we.  Will a wounded soul, and perchance we all are invisibly injured, be able to hear my words, or even let me come close enough to share my deepest anguish?  Will I, the truly impaired individual be able to separate myself from a need to defend myself, when I am so very offended?

    Will one so strong and healthy, in appearance, be open to foreboding words of his or her failure to achieve.  As a parent, a sibling, a supervisor, a mentor do I dare mention an error on the part of my muse.  Should I mention the pain I feel when she says I am mistaken or the hurt in my heart when he tells me my every action annoys him?  Do I speak to an associate about their behavior, or my reaction to their demeanor?  In what way do I approach a child, a neighbor, or my closest friend?  There is much I conceal, so many secrets, suppositions, and then there are the suggestions others offer, what might I consider if I hope to communicate effectively.

    Last week, in my employ, I was given an assignment.  I was commanded, ordered, directed, told, invited, welcomed, or asked to pen a tome.  The topic would be “barriers to communication.”  Internally I know to my core, I revel in this theme.  For years, I understood, what I wish to do in my life is write and broadly publish volumes of discussions on relationships.  The ways in which we interact fascinates me.  Misinterpretations boggle my mind.  An exchange of ideas, while on the surface is a simple notion.  However, I think there is no endeavor more complex.

    I studied this subject extensively over the years; yet, when this request was made, I felt a tinge of resentment.  I wanted to pursue personal prose, those that interest me.  Well, that must not be true, for indeed this discipline moves me as no other.  Yet, on this occasion I had no enthusiasm for in the work.

    Nevertheless, I started the research, and discovered the reasons I was less than intrigued.  Numerous sources furnished a simple analysis.  Almost all the references addressed the issue as it pertains to a persons’ professional life or the authors spoke in general.  How could they not?  They do not know us. 

    You dear reader, are likely familiar with the conventional wisdom.  What are the barriers and how might we break these.  The words read more than a decade ago resounded in my head.  Stephen Covey, in Seven Principles of Highly Effective Families wrote of how we are not different at work than we are at home.  Judy H. Wright, Parent Educator and Family Coach, also recalls her reveries of Doctor Covey writings. 

    Respect for Myself Respect for the Other Person

    I have a right to my feelings.  He has a right to his feelings.

    One of the hardest lessons we have to learn as humans is you can not force others to do as you wish and you must make choices based on this.  The only thing we truly have control over is our own inner thoughts and outer actions.  We can provide information, influence, and suggestions to our loved ones and associates, but the desire to change [or do] must be within the individual.  Accountability and responsibility involves claiming our own power and using our wisdom to create different results in life.

    Perhaps, that is what worked within me.  Correctly or not I felt as though I was “expected’ to address communication in a manner contrary to my passion.  It seemed, for whatever reason, I was meant to share techniques and these would guide readers.  I understand that people prefer to peruse outlines.  When asked to look deeper or contemplate the motivations and myths within, frequently men, women, and children state, “And your point is,” as though there is a central focus or a guidebook to assist us in the complexity of communication. 

    I struggle with such simplicity.  I fear a tome titled “Communication Made Easy.”  Perhaps billions would willingly purchase a copy of “Communication For Dummies.”  They might read with glee as though they found the answer; however, I cannot author that volume.

    Change the way in which you communicate; it is simple, straightforward, and can be accomplished if only you know the steps.  Allow for accessibility.  Be sensitive to false perceptions, those of others, for clearly we are each correct in our ideals.  Consider language and gender differences, even if these only deter communication because we believe they will.  Certainly, address your own interpersonal preferences and change these if they hinder communication, not that you might recognize the difference between your learned habit and what you believe to be your nature.  Nonetheless, break down those barriers.  Yikes!

    After I found numerous references that offer an index of solutions, I thought to myself, ‘Fine, surface, as these sources are, so too will be my essay.  I will do the project quickly.  I can supplant and expand on a reference or two.  Then I will have time to work on personal projects as I desire to do.’  The composition need not be glorious.  I have other interests to pursue. 

    Again, I remind myself I want to publish prose that discuss the delicate dilemma, how might we best communicate.

    I recalled the thousands of workers I have seen in my lifetime.  They all place personal priorities above the menial and meaningless assigned responsibilities.  Even when engaged in a profession they love, people gravitate to the personal.  Why would I be different?

    We cannot always complete each tasks with equal vigor.  Not every essay need be a masterpiece, nor will this one be.  I decided, I would pen this treatise without delay or enthusiasm.  [Remembering of course, I love, and wish to write volumes on the topic of communication.]

    Just as I was about to begin my labor, the telephone rang.  I received an electronic communication.  Other occupational concerns took precedence.  Then, the daily doings necessary to survive got in my way.  Family situations that needed by full attention mounted.  There were ample distractions.  However, honestly, I knew, I did not wish to work on this tome.  I began to examine why I did not feel as I do when I plunge into a blank page with intention. 

    I am told that many do not write or paint for as they gaze upon a blank page or canvas they feel great anxiety.  I rarely experience such a sense of doom or gloom when in front of an empty space, for I feel no voids.  I observe no vacant expanse.  For me, emotions, raw and exposed, threaten my ability to communicate, to complete tasks, to commence, or to accomplish what I wish to achieve.

    I realized at least a decade ago, what we experience in our professional lives, closely parallels what occurs in our private lives.  We are not one way at work and another way home.  You or I may wish to believe that we are profound in our profession and a failure domestically.  Perchance we excel in our familial endeavors and flounder in each employ.  Each of us, at times may muse we are different in various aspects of our life.  Yet, in truth, what guides us in one circumstance, leads us to travel down each and every avenue.  Our perceptions are extremely powerful.

    Consider the thoughts that occurred to you as you read the various words I used to describe how this project was presented to me.  Some of the terms may have made you cringe.  Those that implied this “assignment” was forced upon me establish that this is an unwelcome endeavor.  I loathe compulsory chores.

    Bear in mind the topic that evoked this essay was not my creation; however, it is my life mission.  Nevertheless, if doing this article is not my idea, then, I can resent the “request.”

    Most humans prefer to feel as though they have freedom of choice.  I definitely do.  Thus, an assignment feels as an obligation, a duty, a job, a task, and certainly not a personal preference.  If the idea was not mine, even though, in honesty, it is, I might feel put upon. 

    My own reaction to a glorious action, an invitation to do, as I deeply desire, can and will change the dynamic of further communication between myself and my “supervisor.’  The barrier, in this incident is as in every other conversation; the way in which I choose to interpret the intention of another affects the entire dialogue.

    Might we also examine how the message was delivered?  Did my ‘superior’ suggest I compose an essay on \ how we hear what we do and why.  Did he present the notion of such an examination as a possibility or was this exercise required, a mandatory pursuit.  In truth, it would not have mattered what “the man” said or how.  The manner in which my “boss” spoke would not have influenced my reaction as much as the mere fact that he is titled, the “person in charge.”  I am but a subordinate.

    In actuality, I am not above or below anyone.  None of us are.  Nor does anyone have the power to demand that we think, say, do, feel, or be, as they desire.  For each of us, our background, experiences, the effect of these and our emotions are the greatest barriers to communication.

    We hear what we judge was said.  Every one of us truly thinks that what we believe to be so is valid and perhaps, it is, for us, in that moment.  However, were we to open our minds, hearts, eyes, and souls we might discover another reality.  Author, Dr. Steven Covey shared a story that may help to explain what occurs in every aspect of our lives.

    These are deep problems, painful problems — problems that quick fix approaches can’t solve.  A few years ago, my wife Sandra and I were struggling with this kind of concern. 

    One of our sons was having a very difficult time in school.  He was doing poorly academically; he didn’t even know how to follow the instructions on the tests, let alone do well in them.  Socially he was immature, often embarrassing those closest to him.  Athletically, he was small, skinny, and uncoordinated — swinging his baseball bat, for example, almost before the ball was even pitched.  Others would laugh at him.  Sandra and I were consumed with a desire to help him.  We felt that if “success” were important in any area of life, it was supremely important in our role as parents.

    So, we worked on our attitudes and behavior toward him and we tried to work on his.  We attempted to psyche him up using positive mental attitude techniques.  “Come on, son!  You can do it!  We know you can.  Put your hands a little higher on the bat and keep your eye on the ball.  Don’t swing till it gets close to you.”  And if he did a little better, we would go to great lengths to reinforce him.  “That’s good, son, keep it up.”

    When others laughed, we reprimanded them.  “Leave him alone.  Get off his back.  He’s just learning.”  And our son would cry, and insist that he’d never be any good, and that he didn’t like baseball anyway  Nothing we did seemed to help, and we were really worried. 

    We could see the effect this was having on his self-esteem.  We tried to be encouraging, helpful, and positive, but after repeated failure, we finally drew back and tried to look at the situation on a different level.  At this time in my professional role, I was involved in leadership development work with various clients throughout the country. 

    In that capacity, I was preparing bimonthly programs on the subject of communication and perception for IBM’s Executive Development Program participants.  As I researched and prepared these presentations, I became particularly interested in how perceptions are formed, how they behave.  This led me to a study of expectancy theory, and self-fulfilling prophecies, or the “Pygmalion effect,” and to a realization of how deeply imbedded our perceptions are. 

    It taught me that we must look at the lens through which we see the world, as well as at the world, we see, and that the lens itself shapes how we interpret the world.  As Sandra and I talked about the concepts I was teaching at IBM and about our own situation, we began to realize that what we were doing to help our son was not in harmony with the way we really saw him.  When we honestly examined our deepest feelings, we realized that our perception was that he was basically inadequate, somehow “behind.”

    No matter how much we worked on our attitude and behavior, our efforts were ineffective because, despite our actions and our words, what we really communicated to him was, “You aren’t capable.  You have to be protected.”  We began to realize that if we wanted to change the situation, we first had to change ourselves.  And to change ourselves effectively, we first had to change our perceptions.

    Perceptions are punitive.  Often we punish others or ourselves unjustly.  After, I read Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman, I understood.  Those that judge us most harshly, are far more critical of themselves.  Ultimately, the victim becomes the abuser.  The violence may not be physical.  It may be verbal, emotional, intellectual, each perhaps, far more traumatic than bumps and bruises to the body.  We criticize ourselves just as we were criticized.

    When you were young, which of these did you feel more often:

  • No matter what I do, my parents love me.
  • I can’t seem to please my parents, no matter what I do.
  • My parents don’t really notice me.
    The answers to such questions reveal more than about our childhood: they also tend to predict how we act in our closest relationships as adults.

    Our childhood shapes our brain in many ways – and so determines our most basic ways of reacting to others – for better and for worse.  If we felt well-loved in childhood, we tend to be secure in our relationships – but if not, then we’re more prone to chronic problems.

  • The primary paradox is that we trust what we believe to be true.  We are so certain that what we understand is accurate, that we cannot imagine how wrong we are.  Perchance, that too is, in large part is the puzzle.

    As children, impressionable and desirous of knowledge, many of us were told we were mistaken, in error, at fault.  What we heard is that our essence was flawed.  Parents, Moms, Dads, school Principals, teachers, people we truly admired certainly must know.  These esteemed individuals can see to our core.  Thus, they have the wisdom to describe us as we are.  As we age, what was said to us is what we say to ourselves.  Sadly, rarely do we realize, those revered individuals never stated what we heard, nonetheless, we internalize the identity we adopted so very long ago.  Indeed, neurological studies demonstrate the brain, chemically etches our patterns and our beliefs.

    As the week went on and this project hung over my head as a weight, I waited for the load to fall down upon me.  Auspiciously, it did.  However, not in the way I expected.

    A very close friend, one that I have known for decades shared a secret he held forever.  He never told another human being.  Yet, what remained hidden revealed itself in an ugly letter.  This kind and gentle man discovered that, a pain he caused in his youth, was known to another.  This other person held her hurt, just as he harbored his.

    Each was deeply scarred.  No words were ever spoken.  Interpretations became truth.  Insinuations and implications grew in intensity.  The mind filled in for what was never spoken of.  Each of these individuals now five and six decades old, is wounded in ways one would never imagine to look at them.

    While both have a semblance of success, the circumstances, never communicated, has hindered their growth.  They have achieved financially, although that was not enough to compensate for the horror they felt and hide.  His and her accomplishments were inadequate; they did not fill the void left by the unmentionable.  The health of each, physically, mentally, emotionally, and possibly intellectually suffered.  Neither felt worthy of awards or accolades.

    She blames him.  He placed the onus on himself.  Perhaps, deep down she thinks she was responsible for  the trauma.  We cannot know for sure.  She refuses to engage in a significant exchange.  He shutters.  How might he ever repent.  The hidden hurt now exposed; yet still not discussed scars the hearts more deeply.

    A life, two lives ended long ago because there were barriers to communication.  It matters not what the blockades were; nor is it important that we know the specifics of what happened oh so very long ago.  The details, indeed, might allow us to feel separate or superior.  “That would never happen to me.”  What occurs often, in the lives of every human being is we, I, do not communicate when we must.  When we do, frequently we are defensive.

    As a species, we’re not very skilled at talking about tough topics.

    Sure, we can gather our courage and blurt out what’s been bothering us for weeks, months, or even years.  We get it out, unload, and move on, leaving hurt feelings and the seeds of another misunderstanding in our wake.

    Part of the problem, Harvard researchers say, is that we approach such confrontations thinking that we not only understand our own point of view, but we also believe we know for sure what the other person did, said, and thought on the subject.  And we think our view is right.

    But in fact, they say, we’re usually wrong, which explains why these kinds of talks often go so badly.

    “When we get into difficult interpersonal conflicts, it’s not very natural for us to see the conflict from the other person’s point of view,” said Douglas Stone, associate director of the Harvard Negotiation Project.  “But it’s a skill that is crucial to learn.”

    empathy, I believe is the best educator.  I cannot ever truly know whom you are within.  When I enter into a conversation, a negotiation, a conciliation, or a concession with a close mind, certain that you are less than I, then, communication will be but a dream.  If we are to remove the force that keeps us separate we must listen, place ourselves where we have never been, in the heart, mind, and soul of another.

    In fact, the way most of us broach difficult topics dooms the conversation from the start, they say. Openings such as “I think we should discuss why you’ve been so inconsiderate lately,” immediately put the other person on the defensive and leads to an “I have not been inconsiderate” response rather than a talk about why he or she has been getting in at 1 a.m. and waking you up by playing the stereo.

    Instead of venting your opinion, the researchers say, you should do at least as much learning about the other person’s point of view as you do talking about your own. Perhaps the person is playing music so late because he or she works two jobs to make ends meet and this is the only time available to study for a history of music course.

    Without asking, you’ll never know.

    “Go in and remember to inquire as much as you tell your story,” said Bruce Patton, the Negotiation Project’s deputy director.

    The greatest barrier to communication is I.  You, he, and she are as I.  Too often, we talk and do not listen.  We hear what we plan to say.  The words of a friend, a family member, and a fellow worker are frequently background noise to our own thoughts.  What escapes from the lips of our neighbor falls to the ground.  We are consumed with emotions; thus, rarely do we communicate completely with compassion.

    I invite you to look at yourself, the way in which you interact with others at home or at work.  Do you invite discussion?  Might you embrace an opportunity to learn, to discover, or to authentically connect, or do you prefer to be in control.

    Please consider we can never imagine what is within another.  Why they did as they did.  Please trust, if you are hurt, so too are they.  I know it is hard to accept that he or she did not mean to demean, destroy, or diminish your worth.  Sadly, they, as you have emotions, raw, and exposed to the elements.

    If you wish to end the madness, remove the line of defense, the molehill in your mind and heart that is now a mountain.  The barrier to communication is the one, or many, you, I, we create.

    Intelligence is Emotional; Empathy is the Best Educator . . .

  • Difficult Conversations. By Bruce Patton, Douglas Stone, Sheila Heen
  • Barriers to  Communication  Lakeside High School.
  • Seven Barriers to  Great Communication.  By Eric Garner, M.D. Copyright, ManageTrainLearn.com .
  • The Pitfalls of Email. By Marina Krakovsky.  Psychology Today. March 22, 2006
  • The Final Showdown Between  In-Person and Cyberspace Relationships, By John Suler.  The Psychology of Cyberspace.
  • Internet Dating Much More Successful Than Thought.  Science Daily. February 23, 2005
  • Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. By Stephen R. Covey.
  • Making Sense of Our Lives. By Daniel Goleman.  May 9, 2007
  • ‘That Is Not What I Meant At All’: Negotiation Project researchers ease difficult everyday conversations.  By Alvin Powell.  Harvard  Gazette.
  • Assuming Personal Responsibility in Relationships By Judy H. Wright
  • Interview: William Pollack–on decoding boys.  NEA Today.  Find Articles September 1999
  • Koreans, Hispanics Work for Harmony, Cultures Can Clash In On-the-Job Mix. By Cecilia Kang. Washington Post.?Sunday, October 7, 2007; Page A01
  • History Happens; Ebbs And Flows. Emotions Are Entrenched

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    On any given day, in any given way we create a foundation for our lives.  What we think, say, do, or feel will be with us throughout our existence.  Even if we believe, we are no longer where we were, we evolved, [and we all do] the effects of our actions, our reactions, do not change unless we work extremely hard to transform them.  Indeed, no matter how diligently we are in our  pursuit, attempting to erase the effects of our deeds, our failure to function, or our rejoinders, these will linger in the hearts and minds of those we associate with.

    People presume to know who we are, and what we meant way-back-when.  Today they are more certain than ever.  Emotions are easily entrenched.

    Only a day ago I was endeavoring to say, just this.  Two prominent persons were in the news.  Numerous articles were written discussing their doings.  Television broadcasts assessing their situations filled the airwaves.  Throughout the day, each time I heard or read of one report, the other followed immediately.  There were no transitions between these news items.  The tales were presented as interesting, somewhat ironic anecdotes,  In my mind, the inference was ever-present; the past is evident in today’s occurrences. 

    As I evaluated these narratives I thought of nothing more, than how “funny” life is.  Try as we might, we cannot escape what we said or did long ago.  It was and is almost humorous to me.  When we consider the twists and turns of events, no one could imagine what will come. 

    It seems to me, those most wanting to forget what occurred “when we were . . .” are the ones more deeply immersed in their history.  I penned prose discussing what for me is somewhat laughable.  In our effort not to repeat history, we often do as we did long ago, or we create a chaos that pales by comparison.

    How often have we purposely pursued a prospect different than those we embarked on before only to discover the similarities?  If we are able to strike a chord that relieves us of former follies, it seems many of us give birth to bigger and better traumas.  While reviewing the day’s events, I marveled.

    In my mind, these two persons were notably not repentant for their earlier conduct.  They each often seem embroiled in incidents that relate back to their past.

    In my missive, I spoke of the wonder woman of note, an esteemed and articulate aspirant.  Some say she is a “polarizing” figure; yet, her prestige is unquestionable.  I imagined that she might have been more cautious, or may have attended to what could have been easily misconstrued prior to this late date. 

    I theorized that perhaps, not wishing to be vulnerable, open, willing to apologize for what others felt and thought hurtful caused a reluctance to change that did not serve this renowned person well.  I pondered; perchance, if this exceptional individual had done other than take a defensive stance, the coverage of her deeds would not have been so great.

    I also offered the other tale musing how harsh life can be when we work to justify our history.  I spoke of a person some think is a criminal.  [Who am I to presume.]  The man discussed in my now deleted missive fell so far from favor that the mere mention of his name causes people to cringe. 

    The only correlations stated in my essay were the two had each been the focus in the day’s news, and each does what many or most of us have done.  They have not actively attended to their history. 

    If any of us has not enthusiastically worked through what was, we might relate. 

    If those around us refuse to lovingly labor with us in hopes of resolving past understandings, well, the predicaments may be similar.  Oh, those well-established emotional reactions can be our undoing.

    In my own life, my personal history haunts me often.  I cannot imagine that I am alone in this experience. 

    I might cite the conversation I had two years ago in September.  An estranged  family member and I spoke for the first time in a long while.  I tried, as I had done many times over the years, to discuss a trauma I never understood.  To this day, I am unsure what happened or exactly when.  I only know that until we, authentically chat about what this individual is feeling and why, we will never move forward.  Indeed, our relationship will continue to regress. 

    Avoidance of the topic has caused great harm.  Ignoring has lead to shared ignorance.  Pretending nothing is wrong reaps greater problems.
    The best way out is always through.
    ~ Robert Frost [Poet]

    In this more recent discussion, I shared all my sorrows.  I suggested every possibility for why we might be where we are, or were on that autumn day when we spoke at length.  I offered my sincerest apologies for every word, and any action.  I explained where I might have been years ago and accepted there was so much I did not know then and desired to understand now. 

    These words came back to me, “It is all in the past.”  I stated, ‘It is not.  What was effects what is.  Our history is our foundation.  It is evident in the present and will create the future, if we do nothing to correct our differing impressions.’

    Two months ago, another individual mentioned an event that occurred more than twenty years ago.  I recall the incident well, and the ensuing misunderstanding.  Money exchanged hands, was re-paid, however, inadequately according to this other person.  I remember the same, and for a score I was certain I had made amends.  Apparently, in the mind and memory of this individual I had not.  However, nothing was said to me for all this time.  Decades came and went and not a word.

    Once I fortuitously learned of this lingering lament, much made sense.  There had long been an unexplained distance between this party and me.  Might this unpaid debt, the one I thought was fully settled be the cause for such a divide.  I strongly suspect it was.

    Again, I was told, now by a second person “It is in the past.”  However, once more, it was not.  I shared with this love as I had with the other.  “Times gone by shade our present and will be prominent in our future.”  We must be willing to approach the untouchable topics and decide that we will work to change what was.  If we do not we will be forever haunted by our history.

    Granted, if the persons we intermingle with are unwilling to alter their initial impression of what we may think are false claims and judgments, our interactions with these individuals will forever reflect their perception of the days gone by.  Their understanding of us, interpretations of our message will be their staunchly defended truth. 

    Not one of us can escape the fact that we have not always been or done as we later realize was best.  Some never think, or state, they have ever done wrong.  That conclusion might harm these persons more severely than admitting, ‘Perhaps, I was at fault.’  They envision stating they were in error as a weakness.  For these saintly souls, vulnerability is not the strength I perceive it to be.

    For me, knowing I am another flawed human being is a reality.  Those that read a recent treatise of mine might tell you that.  Many did tell me this.

    I am being “constructively criticized,” rebuked and reprimanded for supposedly expressing a thought I did not state or even think to consider.  I suspect all of us might be able to relate to this. 

    Interestingly, much of impetus for this inaccurate interpretation was evoked not by my words, but because of an image presented as an introduction to the publication.  In my mind, I was stating that two people had a history that was affecting their lives in the present.  Each wrote of their past, and details of their doings were discussed in the mainstream media on the same day.  Both stories I thought somewhat bizarre.  For me, that was the authentic connection, the only combining of the two I saw. 

    However, numerous persons viewed my symbolic message differently.  It seems, once the portraits were perceived as one, they were forever linked in the minds and hearts of others.  The visual took on a life all its own.  Many readers were not able to separate their first impression, or expectation of what was to come, from what preceeded. 

    Ah, the human heart and the effect it has on a rational mind.  We are all escorted by to our emotions although few wish to admit this.  Perchance that is why our history haunts us.  We protect and defend our beliefs as fact.  Our failure to recognize that what is real for us is not valid for another harms our relationships and ourselves.  I long ago learned, what is “right” for me is the relationship, not my need to prove someone else in error.

    Often when we word our condemnation of an act, we present a punitive stance that defines the essence of the wrongdoer as erroneous.  We use expressions that do not open hearts.  Instead, humans turn a phrase that is punitive and demeaning to the other.  We place the onus on them, the person that disturbed our sensibility.  Had they not said, done, thought, or been as they were [or more truthfully, as we believe them to be] then we would not be in distress. 

    Words such as “I am disappointed in you” [your essential being] pass for constructive criticism.  “Tsk, tsk” [How could you be so corrupt, cunning, dishonest, deceitful, and devious] are considered caring, statements of concern.  “This is beneath you” is posited as an acknowledgement of your extraordinary quality.  Supposedly, the speaker is intending to state their love and admiration.  However, were these words said to you, you likely would not feel as though they were fond of you. 

    Might the articulation actually be more about the speakers’ apprehension, their anxiety over what they believe you or I have become or possibly always were. 

    With thanks to a man I did not fully understand for years, for he was not like anyone I ever experienced, I learned much.  Our perceptions are our reality.  Only empathy can educate us.  Nonetheless . . .

    Most people that presume to know us best, those that claim to have deep knowledge of our intentions, rarely do.  Others believe they recognize whom we are within.  Frequently, they refuse to.  Any attempt at sharing our authentic motivation for whatever might have moved us, is defined as “a veiled pretense,” a “patronizing remark,” or “beneath us.”

    In my endeavor to share a thought that I have honored for years, ‘Fact is far stranger, and infinitely more humorous than fiction,’ I was slammed, damned, criticized, and condemned.

    If others never speak aloud in a truly caring manner when they have concerns, nothing will change.  If they are busy placing the onus on us and are unwilling to believe that what they perceive as our intentions are not, there will be no growth, no understanding, and definitely no shared wisdom.

    In elementary school, we learn the term ‘constructive criticism.’  We think that our expressed concerns are these.  Seldom do we imagine how our disparagement might be heard.  I wonder if this construct, caring censure might be an oxymoron.  Can a person be critical without being cruel.  I think there are ways to productively pronounce a genuine concern without using words that define another as fatally flawed.  However, these require an open heart and mind. 

    Criticism is a misconception: we must read not to understand others but to understand ourselves.
    ~ Emile M. Cioran [French Philosopher. 1911 – 1995]

    Demeaning another will never serve to secure a reciprocal reverence.  Shaming a spirit cannot create a beautiful bond.  Defensiveness does nothing to further discussion or understanding.  Change will not come if we are entrenched in our emotional evaluations.  Calm is not created when we chose words that cut like a knife. 

    In a debate, there are winners and losers.  Disputes do not reap reflective rewards.  In my mind, these forums offer no resolution.

    When someone defines what is above or beneath us, based on his or her unfaltering belief that they know our intention better than we, they place the blame solely on us.  When an individual decides that a person is suggesting more than what they state on the surface, then that person is reading between the lines and envisioning their own message. 

    For those who think, life is a comedy.
    For those who feel, life is a tragedy.

    ~ Horace Walpole [Father of Gothic Novel, Earl of Orford]

    I was told what I really think and who I truly am.  Those that have never meet me, cannot, or will not dialogue with me as a caring, communicative person might, concluded that my message was what I had never thought it to be.

    While as a human, I could rationalize and argue the point they presumed I was making.  I could also make a case for the contrary were I to try.  However, I had no desire to debase the subjects of my missive beyond what I thought interesting

    Possibly, my essay was incomplete.  I was not endeavoring to go deep.  I genuinely was just jotting down a moment of surprise that two such stories, examples of how our past never dies were broadcast back-to-back during the evening news.

    If, as in my situation, a visual is offered revealing that two people have a history that is invasive, and each was being discussed publicly on a single day, is interpreted as meaning more than it was meant to imply, then the messenger will be killed.  I am slain and in the minds of many, I was totally to blame.

    I submit, perhaps the image was powerful and communicated what was not meant to be.  I might have included a third frame.  The visual within that box could have been your face or mine.  However, if the text of the treatise is read as it was presented, or at least as it was intended to be, the reader might understand my message.

    I will try to state it simply.  Anyone of us that does not work through their past and chooses not to help others to understand who we truly are is doomed.  We are fated to realize that people will forever recall our history.  The fiction others create will appear as facts, in part, because we do not correct it. 

    At times, we may not know that someone is feeling as they do.  However, when we are a public figure, as the two I referred to are, it is difficult to avoid ample angst.  I thought it fascinating that these two individuals were being publicly reminded of their past on the same day, nothing more. 

    I think, possibly, we all are forced to face what was; yet, our reminders of the past are not printed in the papers; nor do the accounts of many appear on the same day.  Rarely do we need to address our errors or what others perceive as our mistakes in an open assembly.

    However, on those occasions, when we do endeavor to correct a misimpression, as I have repeatedly tried to do today, our words fall often on deaf ears.  Thus, the thought submitted earlier in the now defunct treatise illustrates my initial and intentional claims.  Facts, or what passes for these, are funnier than fiction.  Historically, the past does not fade from minds.  Sadly, for some, what “may” have never been will always be when humans are involved.

    People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.
    James A. Baldwin [Author]

    Measured Peace. Global Peace Index Ranks America Poorly



    Peace Train by Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens)

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

    It is official; America is not a nation at peace.  We are not tranquil people.  There is violence in our streets and we war wherever and whenever we can.  According to the Global Peace Index, the United States ranks ninety-sixth [96] out of one hundred and twenty one [121] countries studied.  This “superpower” is slightly more serene than Iran; yet less calm than Yemen. 

    Interestingly, Iraq is considered the most violent of all countries.  The Index, created by The Economist Intelligence Unit does not presume a possible correlation between Iraq and the United States.  However, it might be said that what occurs in that particular Middle Eastern region is directly related to American politics.  If we were to truly assess the doings in that sovereign State, we could easily accept that Iraq is merely an extension of the United States, a colony of sorts.  Perhaps that is only my perception.  Nonetheless, the two countries are unmistakably coupled.

    These two territories are separate from the tranquil land of Norway, which is listed as the most peaceful country in the world.  Germany, with its notorious history was declared the twelfth among serene States.  Even Cuba is calm in contrast to America.  This small island nation is not nearly as violent as its Northern neighbor.  Cuba was assessed to be fifty-ninth [59] among all countries.

    We might muse that one country is profoundly peaceful while another civilization is cruel; however, until now there was no way of authentically measuring such an estimation.

    “The objective of the Global Peace Index was to go beyond a crude measure of wars by systemically exploring the texture of peace,” said Global Peace Index President Clyde McConaghy.

    He said the inaugural effort proves “peace can and has and will continue to be measured.”

    The index was compiled based on 24 indicators measuring peace inside and outside of a country.  They included the number of wars a country was involved in the past five years, how many soldiers were killed overseas, and how much money was made in arms sales.

    Domestic indicators included the level of violent crimes, relations with neighboring countries and level of distrust in other citizens.

    The results were then reviewed by a panel of international experts.

    “We were trying to find out what positive qualities lead to peace,” said Leo Abruzzese, the North American editorial director of the intelligence unit that is part of The Economist Group that publishes the well known magazine.

    It seems a Democratic system did not necessarily destine a nation for peace.

    ?Democracy didn?t actually correlate with peace, but a well-functioning democracy did.  Efficient, accountable government seems to be the leading determinant of peace.  Beyond that, income helps.?

    Imagine that money may not buy happiness.  Competence counts.  Might we muse that if the two exist together in one nation, much can be done to promote peace. 

    Social Scientist would not be surprised.  Abraham Maslow speaks of a hierarchy of needs.  When we feel safe, secure, and trust that our life is stable, we are able to self-actualize, achieve fulfillment.  When an individual is free to be, life for that person is good.  When a group of people are capable of performing to their potential, peace is possible, perhaps inevitable.

    The prospect for peace may be found in satisfying personal and public needs effectively.  Empathy integrated into economic policy may create calm.

    Fifteen of the top 20 most peaceful nations are in Western Europe, and countries with higher income appeared to lead to higher levels of peace, he [Abruzzese] said.

    It is an interesting study.  I invite you to share your own theories and conclusions.  I offer the numbers as published by the Economist Intelligence Unit.  Peruse with pleasure.  As you do, watch your back.  If you are an American, the streets are not safe.

    121 Global Peace Index [GPI] rankings

    Countries most at peace ranked first
    Rank/Country/Score?

    1 Norway 1.357
    2 New Zealand 1.363
    3 Denmark 1.377
    4 Ireland 1.396
    5 Japan 1.413
    6 Finland 1.447
    7 Sweden 1.478
    8 Canada 1.481
    9 Portugal 1.481
    10 Austria 1.483
    11 Belgium 1.498
    12 Germany 1.523
    13 Czech Republic 1.524
    14 Switzerland 1.526
    15 Slovenia 1.539
    16 Chile 1.568
    17 Slovakia 1.571
    18 Hungary 1.575
    19 Bhutan 1.611
    20 Netherlands 1.620
    21 Spain 1.633
    22 Oman 1.641
    23 Hong Kong 1.657
    24 Uruguay 1.661
    25 Australia 1.664
    26 Romania 1.682
    27 Poland 1.683
    28 Estonia 1.684
    29 Singapore 1.692
    30 Qatar 1.702
    31 Costa Rica 1.702
    32 South Korea 1.719
    33 Italy 1.724
    34 France 1.729
    35 Vietnam 1.729
    36 Taiwan 1.731
    37 Malaysia 1.744
    38 United Arab Emirates 1.747
    39 Tunisia 1.762
    40 Ghana 1.765
    41 Madagascar 1.766
    42 Botswana 1.786
    43 Lithuania 1.788
    44 Greece 1.791
    45 Panama 1.798
    46 Kuwait 1.818
    47 Latvia 1.848
    48 Morocco 1.893
    49 United Kingdom 1.898
    50 Mozambique 1.909
    51 Cyprus 1.915
    52 Argentina 1.923
    53 Zambia 1.930
    54 Bulgaria 1.936
    55 Paraguay 1.946
    56 Gabon 1.952
    57 Tanzania 1.966
    58 Libya 1.967
    59 Cuba 1.968
    60 China 1.980
    61 Kazakhstan 1.995
    62 Bahrain 1.995
    63 Jordan 1.997
    64 Namibia 2.003
    65 Senegal 2.017
    66 Nicaragua 2.020
    67 Croatia 2.030
    68 Malawi 2.038
    69 Bolivia 2.052
    70 Peru 2.056
    71 Equatorial Guinea 2.059
    72 Moldova 2.059
    73 Egypt 2.068?
    74 Dominican Republic 2.071
    75 Bosnia and Herzegovina 2.089
    76 Cameroon 2.093
    77 Syria 2.106
    78 Indonesia 2.111
    79 Mexico 2.125
    80 Ukraine 2.150
    81 Jamaica 2.164?
    82 Macedonia 2.170
    83 Brazil 2.173
    84 Serbia 2.181
    85 Cambodia 2.197
    86 Bangladesh 2.219
    87 Ecuador 2.219
    88 Papua New Guinea 2.223
    89 El Salvador 2.244
    90 Saudi Arabia 2.246
    91 Kenya 2.258
    92 Turkey 2.272
    93 Guatemala 2.285
    94 Trinidad and Tobago 2.286
    95 Yemen 2.309
    96 United States of America 2.317
    97 Iran 2.320
    98 Honduras 2.390
    99 South Africa 2.399
    100 Philippines 2.428
    101 Azerbaijan 2.448
    102 Venezuela 2.453
    103 Ethiopia 2.479
    104 Uganda 2.489
    105 Thailand 2.491
    106 Zimbabwe 2.495
    107 Algeria 2.503
    108 Myanmar 2.524
    109 India 2.530
    110 Uzbekistan 2.542
    111 Sri Lanka 2.575
    112 Angola 2.587
    113 Cote d?Ivoire 2.638
    114 Lebanon 2.662
    115 Pakistan 2.697
    116 Colombia 2.770
    117 Nigeria 2.898
    118 Russia 2.903
    119 Israel 3.033
    120 Sudan 3.182
    121 Iraq 3.437

    References for your review . . .

  • The Economist Intelligence Unit
  • US ranks low, just above Iran on new peace index, By Deborah Charles. Reuters. May 30, 2007
  • First Global Peace Index Ranks 121 Countries Norway tops list, U.S. comes in at 96. By: Global Peace Index. YubaNet. May 30, 2007
  • Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Educational Psychology Interactive.