Us Against Them, Or Are We Them? ©

As we read of, hear of, speak of, and view the most recent fighting in Iraq, as we consider the reported conquest over the Iraqi insurgents in Fallejuah, in Mosul, in Baghdad, and more, might we also ask . . ?
How can we profess peace and then pounce, punitively?
Might we also ask: Are we fighting these persons in the name of freedom?
Is the falling of Fallejuah our folly or have we fixed what we consider a flawed system?
Are we fighting in the name of democracy, “of, by, and for the people,” and if so, which people?

Throughout my life, I am struck by how often we meet ourselves in the mirror.  We meet our image, see our reflection, and yet we believe that our reflection is the reverse.  We do not realize that we are as they are.

In the spring of 2004, I wrote a poem after, again, experiencing this possibility.  I had participated in what was purported to be a peaceful protest.  During this event, and during this past political season, there seemed to be numerous persons meeting themselves in the mirror and yet, not realizing this.  Might this be titled, “When We Are Them,” or . . .
With the intention of provoking thought, might we ask . . .

Are We Them? . . .

Are We Meeting Ourselves In The Mirror?

I wonder and ask . . .
Are we marching in the name of peace and love?
Are we marching to create greater awareness?
Are we marching to express our belief that . . .
“No one has the right to tell another what they should, think, say, do, feel, or be?”
Yet, when we march,
Are we indeed telling others what they “should, think, say, do, feel, or be?”

Are we marching to honor peace and love for all others equally?
Are we marching for choice?
Are we honoring the choice for all to think, say, do, feel, and be, as they believe is best [for them]?

I wonder and ask . . .
Are we asserting that any unilateral attacks, occupations, and aggressions are not healthy?
Are we addressing and acknowledging freedom, freedom of speech, choice, religion, and thought?
I wonder and ask what of our actions?

I wonder and ask.  Is it them, or is it us that labels others, negates others, or denigrates others?
I wonder and ask.  Is it them, or is it us that considers others as evil?
I wonder and ask.  Is it them, or is it us that discriminates against others?
I wonder and ask.  Is it them, or is it us that would wish to fight for what is right?
What is right?  Is right truly synonymous with correct or is it only a sense of winning?

I wonder and ask . . .
They label us left, liberal, progressive, radical, revolutionary, agitator, propagandist, and  . . .
We label them right, reactionary, conservative, dogmatic, rigid, arrogant, and propagandist.
They impose and force their beliefs on us in subtle and severe manners.
Do we impose and force our beliefs on them in subtle and severe manners?
I ask us to reflect upon our words, our actions, our reactions, and ourselves.

They unilaterally attack their enemies with weapons and words; they are aggressive.
We speak of peace and love and yet, let them question us . . .
Do we at times unilaterally attack them as though they are our enemies?
Do we wish to consider another as our enemy?

Do we attack with words wielding as weapons; are we aggressive?
Who among us acts aggressively, inciting, instigating, and intentionally inflaming?
Is it they or we?

Is it they or is it we, that assaults another and does this in the name of justice?
Is it they or is it we, confronting the other as though they are our adversary?
Is it they or is it we, wielding weapons of our choice?

They powerfully practice facilitating freedom through force.
They “Storm”, they “Shock” and they “Awe.”
They profess patriotism.
To protect; they create policy.
They dismiss civil rights in the name of security.
Through their speech they demand and then . . .
Do we defiantly demand, with expletives deleted?
Are we creating peace?
Do we love or are we too “storming,” “shocking,” and “awing”?

I wonder and ask . . .
Are we meeting ourselves in the mirror?
Do they have the power?
Are we the power?
What is the power?
“Power to the people!”
Is the power within and apparent through our actions?
Is power of, by, and for the people, and is the power within all people, equally?
“Equally,” I wonder of them and I wonder of us?
I wonder; will we get what we give, give what we get; are we meeting ourselves in the mirror?

I wonder and ask; believe as we might that we are insightful, independent, informed individuals . . .
Do they not believe the same of themselves?
Are we each the other’s reflection in reverse?
As insightful and informed individuals, I ask if we are truly independent.
Are we isolated, insulated, separate or solitary?
Do we effect no one and does no one effect us?  Is this true?
What of the affects on others and on ourselves?
My experience is that we are eternally exchanging, engaging, enticing, and effecting.
I wonder and ask; are we evolving when we mirror what we claim to disdain?
My hope is that we will choose to evolve peacefully, lovingly when we reflect upon our mirror image.

Months later, on April 5, 2005, while reading the Daily Kos, I was reminded of my own piece.  In an article titled “Is it a conspiracy if no one conspires?”  I ask; are these words of conspirators.  “Power to the people, all people equally.”  Is the constitutional premise of, “of, by, and for the people” implying an “Us” against “Them”?  I thought that words expressed connectedness, or at least a desire to achieve connectedness.

I recall, “United We Stand!”  I remember my history; Republican President Lincoln offered, “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” and yet, “they” promote an “us” against “them.”  I myself was hoping to live in a united states, a country that works together for the greater good.  Yet, volumes are written of the classes and the masses, the Reds and the Blues, the left and what some believe is the “right.”  I wonder; is it not true, “As we think, so shall we be!”

Bulimia. A Bit Becomes a Binge [Chapter Two]

copyright © 2004 Betsy L. Angert

Did she consider what she was creating, what would come of this moment?  Did she consider how a moment, frozen in the cold of the evening would become frozen in time and yet would begin the story of a bulimic?  Did she think through what she was doing or why?  Did she consider how this choice, this coming, this purging would effect her friends, her family, her life and her self?  How would she see herself from this moment on or would she ever be able to see herself again?

Had she just separated the parts of her life?  Was she now the person that she presents to the public, to people that she passes, or was she now a different person, a person beginning on a path that she could not, would not wish to imagine?  Again she was haunted, although now more deeply, with the questions of “Who is she?”  “What would she become?” and now, there was the additional query, “What had she done?”

At the time she did not consider what she had done, what she was doing, she just did it!  That evening, she continued walking to her class and indeed; she was so very separate from the whole scenario.  She did not give it a thought.  She, to this day, does not recall thinking of it in depth and detail for quite some time.  She was uncertain as to why she chose to continue doing as she did.  It did not give her pleasure, it did not feel good, and it did not bring her feelings of being better or furthering her desire for betterment.  She continued without conscious awareness for what she had done, for what she was doing, or for what was to come.

She hesitated, or did she, on the next occasion, the time in which she partook of the same, eating and then throwing it up.  She no longer even thought of whether she felt full, uncomfortable in her clothing, or with her circumstances, she simply did, just as she had done earlier.  In retrospect, she cannot recall, did she throw up her next meal, did days go by, was it only hours?  All she knows is that it continued, endlessly, or so it seemed, for years, and years, and years. 

How?  When?  Why, and would this process continue on, into infinity?  Once it began, it certainly seemed to.  She was out of control or was it that the cycle was out of control?  Was there a control, a cure, and a consequence for all that ailed her.  She did not know, nor did she even consider the possibilities, the probabilities, the precepts, or the parameters.  She blindly did as she did.  It began with a bit, a bite, and then it became a burgeoning binge, after binge, after binge.

What was she doing and becoming and why?  Was she so willing to “perfect” this process?  Oh, yes, she was, and she did perfect it.  She began slowly, throwing up her food on the sly, gathering food, hiding food, and hiding what she was doing.  She hid from others, she hid from herself; she was hurting and hurting herself.

[Chapter Two in a series]

Please peruse Chapters One through Six, if you choose.

  • The Beginning. Bulimia and Becoming [Chapter One]
  • Bulimia. A Bit Becomes a Binge [Chapter Two]
  • Binges Build A Being, Separate From Self [Chapter Three]
  • Hiding the Food. Hiding The Feelings, Hiding Me [Chapter Four]
  • The Satiated Stomach. The Study Of Food [Chapter Five]
  • Bulimia. Wait! It is Not My Weight [Chapter Six]
    Or Similar Discussions . . .

  • When Will I Be Right? Is It Ever Okay To Be Me?
  • Weight. Balancing Fat with Feelings, Habits With Health
  • Yes Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus ©

    Please tell me that it is not so!  Is it, as I heard twice today.  Is all the anger that we are hearing of in the news, reading of in the newspapers, and seeing at the stores, not really a rail against the retailers for saying "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas?"  Is it, as a devout Christian told me today; Christians truly believe and are upset because  “They, “the Jews,” are making money from the Christian holiday of Christmas?”  Please tell me, is this the true cause for all this commotion?  Do Christians believe that all merchants, manufacturers, and marketers are Jewish?  Are only “they,” the Jews, profiting from and commercializing the birth of Christ?  Are all those that express “Happy Holidays” condescending, criminal, or coddling the Christians; or is it only Jews that do these dastardly deeds?

    Is it true that in this free market society, one considered “Judeo-Christian,” and one that I thought was accepting and inclusive of more than Christians, people no longer espouse the principles that this country was founded on?  Are religious freedom, free enterprise, and free speech, now a reason for protest and picketing?  Are these principles no longer, as we prefer and prosper from?  If this is true, than I am very confused and concerned!

    Having had a conversation with a beloved Christian, one that states that unless one is Christian they cannot understand how it feels not to be honored for what they believe, for what they practice, and for who they are, I wonder how can this be.  Is there a being alive that has not felt, at some time or another as though they were not being honored for their beliefs, practices, and for who they are?  How must it feel to be black in a white world, Asian, in a world where Caucasian is considered the look of beauty, Islamic, Muslim, Moslem, Persian, Iranian, Iraqi, or Afghani living in America after 911.  How might it feel to be physically less able in a world of the physically able?  We are all different than others, yet, we experience similar.

    If Christians think that non-Christians do not know how it feels when they are not acknowledged and honored for their faith, beliefs, race, or religion, I ask them to please imagine what it feels like not to be Christian in a Christian country, especially during Christian holidays.  One can imagine, if they choose to, how it feels to be in the moccasins of another.  However, in this recent conversation, the moccasins of empathy were empty.  The beloved Christian continued,  “When people express wishes of “Happy Holidays,” to a Christian, they are not acknowledging that this is Christmas.”  She expressed that these supposed well wishes cause Christians, such as she, to feel angry, disrespected, hurt, fearful, or as though they are  . . .?

    I ask; is this not the season of many holy days, some holier than others, depending on one’s personal philosophies?  Is this not the winter solstice, Chanukah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, the time for atheistic, agnostic, Buddhist, Moslem, Islamic, any, and every other being’s holy days?  Are these not the days in which we would wish any of them, all of them, no matter what their beliefs, the happiest of holy days, otherwise known as ??holidays?’
    Merriam Webster defines holy as . . .
    1: exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness
    2: DIVINE  “for the Lord our God is holy,” Psalms 99:9 (Authorized Version)
    3: devoted entirely to the deity or the work of the deity
    4: having a divine quality
    No matter what your faith, are all days not holy?  Would we not all wish to be honored each and every holy day?  Would we not wish for the happiness of others and enjoy well wishes bestowed upon us?  On each and every day, would we not wish to be honored for what we believe, no matter what our beliefs?  Would we not wish for “happiness,” for one, and for all?  Would we not wish to be acknowledged for who we are, as we are, even by persons that barely know us? 

    Are wishes of joy and happiness offensive?  Why is it that Christians, those deeply connected to their faith, to the trinity, to their Lord Jesus Christ, do not choose to practice as the Lord preaches?  Would the Christian community not wish to treat others, as they would wish to be treated?  Yet, I was told that, as a non-Christian I could not, would not, understand how it feels to have others wish them “Happy Holidays!”  I was told that the Jews are using this, the Christian holiday, to help only themselves; that they are patronizing their patronage.

    I understand that billions do not celebrate Christmas.  Yet, the millions that do expect non-Christian persons to be joyous when greeted with the salutation of “Merry Christmas.”  Many assume and presume that because they are, many are, and some are celebrating Christmas, that we are all celebrating Christmas.  Yet, not all of us are.  Nonetheless, in America, Christmas is imposed upon us all, proposed to be the only celebration of importance in this winter season.  Evidence of this is that, it is said, recently shouted, that the only proper greeting during this [shopping] season is “Merry Christmas” and that wishing others their “happiness” is offensive.

    Today I was told that it is tradition, it is just, justice, and that, just for “us,” the chosen gesture must be “Merry Christmas!”  Thus, I ask, "Is today, and are all days from November through December to be celebrated as though they are Christmas Day?”  Does each of these days celebrate the birth of Christ?  I thought that birth occurred only on a day and that Christmas was the celebration of that day.  I have heard that some celebrate for twelve days.  However, I did not realize that once Christians choose to begin partaking in the spirit of their Christmas consumption we must all consume solely for Christmas.  I had no idea that once they began shopping for their spouses, siblings, supervisors, and sweethearts, it is then required that all shoppers must do the same.

    I wonder and ask, be it Christmas or not, is it not true that people shop; they shop for all seasons, for all reasons, Christmas, being one among many.  People need not shop to celebrate Christmas or any other commemoration.  Yet, people are shopping!  I thought that the stores were open to all, always, Christians, and those that are not.  I thought that the stores were open to all, always, even those that do not celebrate this, or any other “official” holiday.

    Currently, the stores, possibly the stated policies or practices of these stores, or those that work within the stores, seem to be the source of such controversy.  Expressions of "Happy Holidays" heard by sales associates and displayed in shops rather than seem to be inciting and inflaming the Christian community.  Yet, the stores, or the sales associates, do not know our practices, our faith, or our preference for a salutation unless we are wearing signs saying, "Please recognize me as a Christian, a Jew, an atheist, an agnostic, a Buddhist, a Shaman, a sage, or a scientist.”  Nor do they have the time to discern who we are and what we want.  They see us once or twice, and even then, only for a moment.

    Would we wish “them” to judge us, label us, based solely on our physical appearance?  Would we hope that, they will attempt to determine our religious practices or preferences, based solely on what they believe or on what they see.  Without personal knowledge of who we are or what we believe how can they address us so as not to offend?  We may be Christian, we may not be.  Therefore, they attempt to honor us and honor a truth that is true for all of us, each day; they wish us happiness, on this, any, and every holy day!!!

    This is what I was saying to the beloved Christian, then, it was said, "The Jews are making money on our holiday!"  I was dumbfounded!!!!!!!  Minutes later, after leaving this discussion with hopes that we came to some convergence, I turned on the radio, an AM station.  The station was advertising one of their programs.  They aired a clip, one in which a famous commentator is heard to express the same, “The Jews are making money on our Christian holiday!”

    Wow, I thought!  Are there not those of any, or many religions that are wealthy?  Are some, several, and even scores of these wealthy ones not Jewish?  Are only Jews profiting and are only Jews proprietors?

    For me, this is fascinating!  The folly of history seems to continue.  Throughout history, Jews were denied entrance into states, colonies, and nations and even when they were allowed to live amongst the others, more often than not they were denied the right to own property, a business, and, therefore, went into businesses that allowed them to survive?  Often banking, medicine, and law were the only opportunities open to Jews
    The Jewish culture thrives on learning, comprehensively, discussing endlessly, looking, and listening, they learn their crafts well.  Are they to be criticized for this?  Can we all not choose to learn our lessons well?  Can we choose to do well?

    Who among us would not wish for abundance?  Is there not abundance for all? Did God not, in his infinite wisdom, create a world that continually creates and creates?  If we take cups of water from the ocean, will the ocean not replenish itself?  Nature, God, creates and creates, consistently!  The universe, nature, the ocean, and God do not know of depleting or deficits.  Consider cancer, insects, and fungi; they grow, strive, thrive, and survive. Abundance abounds and is available for all. Why we would wish to covet our neighbor’s possessions?  Oh my gosh, is this not one of the commandments?  Yet, what of “them,” the “Jews?”

    Please tell me that it is not so; are Christians protesting and picketing the stores, is their desire to be spoken to with respect, to be honored for their Christian faith?  Is the reaction to the words “Happy Holidays” really a reaction to an erroneous belief that Jews are making money on a Christian holiday?  Sadly, I asked.

    I was greeted with grunts of commercialism, capitalizing on the Christians.  This complaint comes from one that loudly voices her love of country, a country that promotes capitalism, free enterprise, and free markets.  How odd this is to me.  Did the early Christian settlers not create this prized system and is it not true that today’s Christians also prosper from these principles.  Thinking of this, I ask, “If you do not appreciate the commercialism of celebrations, do not desire consumerism, materialism, and marketing manias, then why not choose your own path, without accusing, begrudging, belittling, or bemoaning others for their choices.”

    Ah, those others, “them,” the Jews.  I wonder was Jesus not a Jew and did he not profess, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.”  Is there a sin in attempting to honor another and all for who they might be and what they might be celebrating?  Can any of us truly know the minds or motivations of another?  Would it not be best to consider that just as any of us believe that we would, others, even “they” are intending to honor you?

    For me, I know that if you are looking for a reason to be offended, you can and will always find one!  A Christian businessman, Henry Ford, once stated, “No matter what you believe, you are correct!”  If you believe that others are after you, that they are influenced by Satan, that they sin, if you believe that people are basically good, at times making unwise, unhealthy choices, you will be correct.  What ever you believe, you first learn it, and then live it; ultimately, you experience it.  Your beliefs are confirmed in everything you see, do, think, and are.  For just as I can and do, you too will justify your beliefs, rationalize them, intellectualize them, and prove them true.  For, “As you think [to your core, not as you say you believe,] so shall you be.”

    With concern for thinking and being, in 1887; The New York Sun chose to respond to skepticism and cynicism with this editorial . . .
    Virginia, your little friends are wrong.  They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age.  They do not believe except what they see.  They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds.  All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little.  In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.  Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.
    He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.  Alas!  How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus!  It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias.  There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, and no romance to make tolerable this existence.  We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight.  The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

    Now, Pray tell all “Virginia[s],” what do you wish to think and to be?

    Gift Giving . . . Cater or Catharsis ©

    It is the holiday season; people are presenting others with gifts.  These gifts may be gifts of love, those that the other has longed for, gifts they lust after, or gifts that they look forward to receiving and yet, often they are not.  What we receive is often what we would never wish for.  The holidays, be they Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, or any other occasions, bring the best, the worst, the mundane, and what we cannot imagine, nor would we ever expect.  During the holidays, we are supposedly celebrating.  Often we celebrate our connections, with those that we care for or about.  We celebrate with families, with friends, and with fellow beings.  The celebration is not always as joyous as celebrations are “supposed to be.”  Often they feel as an exercise, one in catering or catharsis.  What of “care?”  Might “cater” or “catharsis” be expressions of care, and if so, which one?  Is it neither, either, both, or . . . what is caring and what is a gift?

    Gifts may be those that cater to the cravings of those that we care for.  We may be giving them as they desire or we may give the gift of catharsis.  We may be giving in our own attempt to purge or purify our own feelings, expressing our own sadness, stress, pity, or fear.

    Have you ever been given a gift that you disdain, do not desire, and would never want or wish for?  Yet, the giver of this gift seems to believe that they have given you a great gift, one that is an expression of their care.  Have you ever chosen to give what you crave for, not knowing, or caring whether the one that you are giving to would wish for the same?  My cousin Alvin calls these latter gifts, be they verbal or visible, “cathartic.”  People profess to know what is best for “you!”  Recently, I was given the gift of catharsis, criticism, in the name of care and construction, and thus I wrote . . .

    The Use of “You” . . . The disciplines Differ, As Do We! ©
    “Invest.”  [Might this imply “you need to invest?”]?
    “Try!”  [Possibly, this implies “you need to try, or you need try this!].
    “You must” . . . think, say, do, feel, or be as the speaker believes is right and correct.

    What might these expressions arouse?
    What might these statements stimulate between ?
    How might these words alter the dynamics between the speaker and the person that these are said to?
    And what of these similar statements . . .

    “You need to . . .”
    “You should . . .”
    Might I suggest to you . . .?”
    “Have you thought to . . .?”

    Were these words ever said to you?  Did you truly believe that they were words said with of love, care, concern, and compassion?,  or were these words intended as constructive criticism? or   Might you have convinced yourself that they these were expressions of kindness, because knowing, or wanting to believe that they were spoken by someone that you would suppose or imagine, does loves you?  Did these words create a connection between you and the person that passed these judgments?  Did you sense the serenity of [mutual] understanding?, or . . .

    Possibly, when words such as these are said to you, you feel that the speaker is outside your mind, heart, body, soul, and spirit; they could not possibly know what is best for you, or why you choose as you do.  Did they consider that you had thought of these possibilities prior to their sharing?  Did they ask?  Do they truly care or know of your thoughts, feelings, experiences, or did they simply state what they believe is best and therefore desirable [for them]?

    Their words may seem as dictums.  Psychologists, social scientists, and those that research human development caution us all to consider the use of the word “you” when speaking with others.  The use of “you” may be and is often experienced as a command, a demand, and often creates defensiveness.  People tend to react when they are told what they might “try,” “invest in,” “must,” “need to,” or “should,” think, say, do, feel or be.  Reactions are the result of fear or hurt, and I wonder why would we wish to speak in a manner that might cause fear or hurt another.  Why would we presume, assume, or believe that we could possibly truly know the history, thoughts, feelings, experiences of anyone, even ourselves.  Are we not each evolving, even within?

    When words wield as a judgment, as though another knows what is best for us, we resent, rebel, revolt, and often react in destructive manners [those that are destructive to others and to ourselves.]  I believe that beings are interesting souls; they believe that they know what is best for themselves and others and often, if they choose to be reflective, they discover that they are in error.

    What, for me, initially created what I now experience as an error in my own use of the word “you,” began in elementary school.  In early English classes I was told, as many of us were, never to write in the “first person.”  Only those that are egocentric, self-centered, or even the dreaded “conceited” use the word “I.”  Who among us would wish to bare the burden of these labels; it certainly is not me.  For decades, I followed this decisive didactic.  I wrote and spoke in generalizations, using “you” to speak of the whole, considering that this represented an openness to the universal, us, as a whole, we . . . you [and possibly, an implied, “I”.]  I did as I was taught to do, and I trusted that the words of others [educators and those elders that must know] were correct, caring, and constructive.

    Then the worst occurred, and I discovered that it was the best for me.  I met a man and it began, a relationship that was so bad that I did not even realize that I was in a relationship!  [More writings on that will be offered later, in future bloggings.]  This man has life experiences far different than my own; he was the black to my white, the dark to my light and yet we were similar.  I saw myself in him, just as when one looks in a mirror, the reflection is reversed.  He shared that his world, beginning as a child, was one of criticism, cutting comments, and cruelty in the name of kindness or so his history seemed to him.  Therefore, these became his filter; he interpreted his feelings through this expectation, even if these were not the intent of another’s expressions.

    The depth of my feelings and the extreme manner in which this man might interpret my meanings created a need or a want for me to consider what I had never known, what a word means to us, is not what it means to another!  What we believe is natural, universally understood, or “as it is,” is not, for another.  For the most part, when we as beings relate, we do so through our own unique history, our own emotions and experiences, and the essence of how these effect us.  We forget or we are not aware that another’s world is not ours, that when we use “you” we are generalizing from our own “self.”  While we as beings may be similar, none of us is ever the same as another.

    Meeting this man, having this experience, was the cause for my reading, research, reflection, and realizations.  The depth of my caring caused me to consider what I had not.  I considered what part I play in a partnership.  I realized that every exchange is a partnership.  With this reflection and realization, I could not help but conclude that when I use the word “you” in speaking with, or writing to another, I am eliminating empathy.  When I use the word, “you” it seems a dictum and creates defensiveness.  The person reading or hearing “you” may feel slightly disturbed, truly dismissed, diminished, and denied of their unique thoughts, feelings, experiences, and worth.  Granted, people have perfected not necessarily revealing their reactions; however, there is a reaction.

    Intellectually, I knew that the disciplines of English and Psychology differ in their assessment of the use of “you” and the reactions that these might create.  I knew, and yet . . . for me, the knowledge was not integrated into my awareness or actions.  Personal experiences alone offered ample opportunities for me to assess that people prefer to choose what is right or correct for them and that the use of the word “you” does not seem to offer that freedom.  Nonetheless . . .

    For me what is folly, fascinating, and even funny is that your, mine, or our actions, reactions, often occur without awareness.  It seems that what many of us think, say, do, feel, and are, is often not consistent, integrated, nor have we internalized what we intellectually know.  We claim to be sensitive to others, and to our selves, and yet we often do not realize that what you, I, or we choose creates the chaos, trauma, and drama that intellectually we would never wish for.  Do you, I, or we consciously consider that our own choices will create what comes?  How often do your, mine, or our choices create calm, serenity, and peace?  Might we not prefer peace?  How often do choices create the contrary?  How often do we create what, consciously, we do not crave?  Humans, for me, are quite humorous!!!

    If we think through the humor of our own edicts and errors, I believe that we all will experience the comedy of life and learning.  I did, and I am.  The emotional effects of my experience with this man were enormous and the affect was life altering, hooray!!!  Happiness grew, I grew, all in my world was more whole, more wonderful, more meaningful, and I experienced an enlightenment that I never imagined.  I learned that empathy is the best educator and the truest teacher!

    To empathize I must realize that I can only speak for myself.  I can and do care for and of you when I do not speak for you!  Therefore, I propose that using “I” may not be egocentric; it is the contrary.  If I speak for “you,” if I state what “you must, need to, or should” think, say, do, feel, or be, than am I not egocentric, believing that I know what is best for you?  Now, I believe that when “I” consciously choose to honor “you,” I must express my beliefs as my own, acknowledging that we are different, just as the disciplines are.  When I write in first-person I am expressing that my thoughts, feelings, sayings, doings, and being are mine alone!  I cannot choose for “you” or for others and thus, “I” use “I,” rather than speak for, or choose for, “you!”

    Towards a desire to grow and glow greater, together, I write this reflection.  A comment, a constructive criticism, a communication, and one that I consider the catalyst for a possible convergence, stimulates this sharing.  The comment was offered  . . .

    “Invest in the uses of adding ‘oomph’, and maybe a little humor, to your writings.  An essay is not just words to mull over; they must inspire.
    You refer to yourself constantly – for example: ‘I am a person that chooses consciously not only to be; I choose to think.’  Try:’ You must not only choose to be; you must also choose to think.’ -av²”

    Ah, what we do not know and assume, when we do not ask another of their history, heart, and head, when we presume to know what is within another and or best for them.  My hope is that sharing this personal reflection will inform.  Yes, I have researched, read, reasoned, and reflected, thus realizing that the use of the first-person point-of-view is, for me, vital.  The process that led to this preference was an avid pursuit.  When the effects of wisdom and words became personal, my pondering began.  The evolution was more than interesting; information was internalized.

    Possibly “you” too will reflect and realize what happens when people profess to know “”you”,” to know who “you” are and what is best for “you.”  Possibly, “you” might experience how “you” can accidentally hurt one that “you” love when “you” profess to know what is best for them, as though “you” know what they “must,” “try,” or “invest in” better than they might know for themselves.  Possibly, “you” will, as I did, recognize that only we know what is best for us.  Possibly.  Then, “you” too will internalize information that “you” know intellectually.  Whether “you” do or do not, I thank “you” for being the cause for this possible need to clarify.  I experience that every exchange is a cause.  There will be an effect, though frequently invisible, and this effect will affect each of us for the better, “you,” and me.

    Tis The Season . . . Why, Because I Love You! ©

    The words wielded were . . .
    “Damn you!” 
    “F you!” 
    “You A!” 
    “Shove it up your . . .” 
    “How could you?” 
    “I will show you,” and why, because I love you! 
    “I’m done!” 
    “I do not care anymore!” 
    “I am moving on!” 
    “Leave me alone.”  Ah, the sweet sounds of love.

    Sung throughout this time of year are the words, “‘Tis the season to be jolly.”  Yet, is it not true that every season offers reason to be jolly?  Would we not feel jolly and joyful when we share with our loved ones?  Would we not suppose that expressions of care would bring us peace and serenity?  Would we not think and believe that sharing would be the source of such sweet feelings?  One would think this to be true, however, it seems that this season brings such stress to many.  We may regress, feel filled with regrets, and find reason to be reactive [fearful and hurt], rather than active [expressing with love.]  Months ago I experienced a conversation, persons expressing their love through pain, and I thought . . . “Why, because I love you?”  Thus, I wrote . . .

    Why, Because I Love You! ©

    Damn you!
    F you!
    You “A!”
    Shove it up your,
    How could you?
    I will show you,
    Why?  Because I love you!

    I’m done!
    I do not care anymore!
    I love you, but I am not in love with you!

    Get out of my life!
    I am moving on!
    You need to move on too.
    I do not love you anymore.

    Get on with your life,
    Leave me alone.
    It is over!

    I never really loved you.
    We grew apart.
    I grew and you did not.
    I love someone else now.
    Why do I say all of this?
    Why?  Because I love you!

    I wonder and I ask . . .
    Is this the way I would speak to a love, of a love, to one that I once loved?
    Do I speak in manners such as these because I still love?

    Would you have the power to effect me?
    To affect my actions, reactions if I did not love you, if I did not care for you?
    Would you have the power to evoke such a response if I did not feel a fondness for you?
    Would I ever say such reactive words to one that I love?
    Would I ever say such reactive words to one that I never did love?
    Would I ever say such reactive words to one that I did once love?
    Would I ever say such reactive words to one that I did not care for or about?
    Would I ever say such reactive words to one that I never did care for or about?
    I wonder and I ask . . .

    I wonder and I ask if I were feeling love, and loving you would I react so severely?
    I think that the answer is yes.
    I wonder and I ask if I did not care would I be reactive?
    I think not.

    Would I wish to be reactive?
    Will I regret being reactive?
    What will I create if I am reactive?

    The pain, the hurt, the fear . . .
    For me, anger is these.
    I wonder and I ask do you too experience that anger is Pain, Hurt, Fear, and the fear of feeling . . .
    The fear of feeling it all again and again?

    And then, when I choose to react,
    To express my anger,
    Do I not create what I fear, again and again?
    I wonder and I ask . . .
    When I am hurt, feeling pain, expressed as anger,
    Why do I say, think, and do as I say, think, and do?
    Why, because I love you!
    I wonder and I ask myself,
    How do I love you?
    I wonder and I ask myself,
    How will I express my love for you?
    I wonder and I ask myself,
    What will I create if I express my love for you in the ways that I might?
    Why do I wonder and ask of what I say, think, and do?
    Why, because I love you!

    The Beginning. Bulimia and Becoming [Chapter One]

    copyright © 2004 Betsy L. Angert

    For her, it began one evening, one cold winter evening in Wisconsin. She felt so empty and yet so full. The emptiness was for her future . . . and for her past, her present.  The fullness was a feeling in her stomach, in her heart, in her mind, a fullness experienced through all her feelings.  She was empty; she was full.  Her experiences and emotions left her feeling empty.  Yet, she was filled with food, fear, and thus, the folly began.

    Who was she? Where was she going in life? What of her relationships, past, present, and future? Did these fill her life with meaning and or fill her with fear. She was in her senior year at the University and knew that she had pursued a study that was not her passion, not her desired choice for a profession and yet, she intentionally had chosen this pursuit because the profession that was her truer passion would place her in a situation that was too scary to consider.

    She was not competitive then and she still is not. She shuns and shies away from any such pursuit. The profession that she felt more passion for than the one she pursued was that of her parents. Thankfully, her parents never pushed her; they may have had no idea that she had not chosen her purest passion. For after all, she was passionate about learning. She loved all learning and so it appeared as though she was pursuing her passion, and she was.

    She was pursuing learning. Nonetheless, she knew and she felt empty. Beginning her senior year and knowing or believing that graduation was inevitable, she wondered, “What would she do?” “What would she become?” “Who is she?” and “What had she done?” Then there is the “Why?” of it all.

    She had eaten too much, minutes and hours earlier. She was full, stuffed, and suffering. She needed to prepare for her evening class and yet she was so physically, or was it psychologically uncomfortable, in her clothes, in her commitment, and with her concerns. She did finally dress for the cold and drive to campus. She parked four blocks from her class and began walking the dark streets. She was destined to continue on this path, [or so it seemed.] Was this the path to class, to career, or was it the path to a calamity? Had she chosen this path, the one that she was creating? Had she consciously chosen this or that path?

    She was not comfortable with all the feelings, the food in her now too full stomach, or was it that she was not comfortable with all the food that filled her thoughts. She stopped. She threw it up, the food. Yes, the action was voluntary. The stomach was not reacting to illness; throwing up the food was a totally conscious choice, a decision to eliminate what was bothering her, the feeling of fullness. Now, I ask, was she full of food, or full of fear, or both.

    [Chapter One in a series]

    Please peruse Chapters One through Seven, if you choose . . .

    The Luxury of Learning is Lost

    copyright © 2004 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or

    The words said were, “We do not have that luxury anymore.”  The speaker stated that she loved the luxury. The luxury that she was speaking of is that of teaching in a manner that enlivens learning, engages, and ensures that students internalize information. She was referring to her joy for teaching in a manner that creates learning, the learning that lasts for a lifetime. Is it true that teaching in this manner is an indulgence; and that she is no longer able to partake in this possibility?  How sad.  

    Now, to believe that teaching in this fashion is a “luxury” and that it is lost, never to return is a concept that I cannot, or more accurately, wish not to consider. I cannot help but wonder; why does she feel that she no longer has this?  When, why, or how, did she lose what was once the objective in teaching?  How could or would she consider taking the time to guide learning, to give students an opportunity to truly learn, an extravagance?  I wondered why, and yet I knew.

    Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition. – Jacques Barzun  

    Days have past and the words still haunt me. The idea saddens me. I no longer wonder, for I knew then and sadly, I must now acknowledge that I do know. I know, for I experience it each and everyday. I read of it in the newspapers, in editorials, in professional journals, and in books. I hear of it from friends, from family, from any, and many that have even the smallest sense of what is going on in our nation’s schools. I speak with instructors, and others that are familiar with “education” as it exists today, and there is much concern. The policies and practices that are present in our schools, throughout this Nation, cause much trepidation.

    Currently, I am employed as a substitute teacher, what some so sweetly call a “guest teacher.”  I have a Master of Arts degree in Education, with a focus on Instructional Systems. I am credentialed in Psychology, Social Science, English, Art, Computer Concepts, and Computer Applications. I taught at the University level, instructing in the Teacher Credentialing programs. After receiving my degrees, my own formal education continues. Therefore, you might guess that education is important to me. It is!

    As an educator, one that has had her own classroom, created her own curriculums, taught those that were training to be come instructors, as one that has recently “visited” classrooms that are not her own, and as one that has been a student, I recognize the need to be sensitive to authentic learning rather than to the appearance of academic achievement. More so than academic achievements, a love of learning is what I would wish to facilitate.  

    I acknowledge that there are achievements today or the appearance of these; some students truly are accelerating academically, though I wonder if they are truly learning. However, on any and many days, I experience, just as other educators do, that students, even in the best of schools, and even the best of students, no longer read the text for meaning; they simply search for answers, short and simplistic answers. I not only experience and observe this; I ask students if this is true. I listen to their admissions. I hear their perplexing sighs when asked of their work and of their learning and their answers concern me.

    Students often share that they can master the art of test taking and yet, they do not fully understand the concepts. They state that they do not know how the information relates to the subject, to their lives, or to the wider world. They express that they can read and recite the words, and yet they do not comprehend the content or the context. Oh, yes, they can answer questions, regurgitate the text; nonetheless, when you ask them to explain these in their own words, even those pupils that seemingly can paraphrase what they read tell me that they do not truly connect to the meaning. When asked to probe more deeply, to present a parallel from their own lives, they express that they are lost!!!

    Teachers also express their own sense of feeling lost. They are lost in imposed schedules and lost in a simplistic stress on standards. They are saturated; they must create a credible trail, one that validates that the subjects are being taught well and that students are learning. The trail, or the trial, is in the test results. Students and teachers are now lost in statistics. Today, in our nation’s schools the focus is on the visible and verifiable. Yet, learning and facilitating growth are neither of these. Nonetheless, in our frenzy to find validation for what we are doing or not, we wok to produce a product, our pupils scores present a pretense of success. Genuine learning and true teaching are also lost. It seems that gaining knowledge and inspiring instruction are now missing from our Nation’s classrooms.

    In teaching, you cannot see the fruit of a day’s work. It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years.
     – Jacques Barzun

    At times, the fruit of “teaching” is invisible for a lifetime. For those that are forced, or feel a need to feed only formulas, facts, and the foundation necessary for gaining knowledge, never create what bares the fruits of learning. This is true even in the best of schools. I experience this in a community that is elite and highly educated. Just as those in schools that are fighting to survive, learners and instructors are coping with the stress of scoring and testing strategies. The level of angst is felt within all districts, dioceses, and in corporations that deliver educational services. I am aware that, now, education is governed by rigid regulations. There are ample frustrations filtered through the fulfillment of learning and teaching. It seems that for many, it is just as Einstein expressed, “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.

    It is for this reason that I am sharing an account of a day in the life of an educator; I wish to advance awareness and to open a discussion for what many experience. I would like to ask each of us to consider what occurs when we concentrate on the concrete. I believe that when we do, we all lose much. Students no longer have the opportunity to truly understand what teachers are attempting to teach; nor do they often love their growth. We have also lessened the opportunities for instructors.

    From my own life history, I believe that if we do not love learning, then we do not choose to develop the habits that create a deep desire to investigate, innovate, or imagine, even on our own. I believe that if we focus on creating a love for learning, a curriculum that demonstrates care for the student, for the subject, and one that is sensitive to the nuances of the process of progression, and then success will be guaranteed.

    The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil. – Ralph Waldo Emerson [American Lecturer, Poet, leading exponent of New England Transcendentalism]

    The other day I was teaching in a Social Science classroom. I was working with students that I have worked with often over the last two years. Frequently, their teacher requests that I assist in her absences. She has shared that she values my desire and ability to facilitate understanding. She has had many an occasion to observe me teach. On this day, she asked that I have the class read and discuss seven to ten pages. I was told not to go farther for she, the contracted teacher, would prefer to save the next lesson for another day.

    As we read and discussed, I asked the students to reference a portion and then share, in their own words, the meaning of what they just read. I know for myself and I have verified that this is true for others, many can read aloud and then not know what they read. Therefore, I always ask students to take the time to breathe and begin to internalize the words that they read aloud.

    Many in prosperous and professional communities, such as the one in which I work, can and do this well or so it seems. I realize that appearances can be deceiving. Often, when asked to provide a parallel, or if they understand what the words mean, when asked if they comprehend the ideas and the concepts, the meaning behind the words, students repeatedly admit that they do not understand these. They cannot offer similar concepts; they are unable to relate the material to their own life experiences, nor do they truly grasp the greater significance. Many, most, and often all confess that they can recite and regurgitate as expected or as needed to appear knowledgeable, yet they do not truly understand or internalize the information.

    Therefore, I discuss the readings further, present parallels, share stories that suggest similarities between the lives of the students and the lives of those that they, or we, are studying. These enliven the essence of the lesson. As I do, and did on this day, as I ask questions that assist them in sensing the similarities between themselves and the text, I discover a captive audience, one that cares to learn, asks questions, offers comments, and is engaged. I discover students no longer feel lost. Learning looms large when I take the time to stimulate student learning.

    On this day, as on many others, each of us, the students and I, feel enriched and enlightened. These exchanges are educational; they create a joy in learning. Students often tell me that these discussions, the drawing of parallels, are not only memorable, they help them to truly learn.

    Then it happened, and I learned again, what I would rather forget. In reviewing the day, I mentioned to the students’ teacher that we as a class were energized, the text was meaningful, and the discussion exhilarating. However, we did not finish all of the pages she assigned. She sighed deeply. She expressed her dread for falling behind; the need to complete the curriculum as the calendar dictates, and then she said it, teaching in a manner that stimulates students so that they truly understand, well, “We do not have that luxury anymore.”

    Sadly, the lesson learned is that what I do, what I did, what many educators do, and would prefer to do again, evoking authentic learning through deeper discussions, facilitating learning that lasts a lifetime, creating curriculums that are energizing and enjoyable for all, is a luxury, one that lost. I wonder what have we created.

    Tell me and I will forget; show me and I may remember; but directly involve me, and I’ll make it my own. – Confucian text

    I do not wonder why this teacher, or why do many teachers throughout this nation no longer have, or feel that they have, the luxury to truly teach. I do wonder why it is that now, capital and careers are more than important than learning. I wonder and I ask; I ask those that profess, propose, and then impose policies that stress schedules, simplistic, narrow and naive standards, to please explain this to me.

    I wonder why the rote, routine, rehearsed, and rigid is more reassuring to the masses than real learning is. I wonder why scores, statistics, and strategies have supplanted an interest in our students. I wonder why we settle for “standards” and no longer allow the minds of our students and teachers to soar. I wonder when we will learn and when will our classroom objectives parallel those we have for our future.

    Post Script . . . Not long after my own writing, the Los Angeles Times offered another illustration of how students are shortchanged. I offer this reading for your review. Please review and reflect upon this report from the Sunday, November 28, 2004, Los Angeles Times.“Are Schools Shortchanging Students”

    Be-Think © [Typepad Original]

    copyright © 2004 Betsy L. Angert

    May I introduce the being and thinking behind this blog.  I am an educator, an author, and a student of life.

    As a mentor, I massage learning, facilitate discovery.  As a scholar, I endeavor to energize minds.  As an essayist, I explore.  As a pupil, I devour wisdom.  I am a person who chooses consciously not only to be; I choose to think.  I am as you are, traveling towards enlightenment.

    As a person who is choosing to investigate a site titled “Be-Think,” you too may be interested in the value of being and thinking. Possibly, you are probing, searching for a treasure. I believe that the treasure of our being increases when we contemplate our own thoughts [as well as the thoughts of others.]

    It is my belief that our thoughts are the catalyst for our actions; for “As we think so shall we be.” I wonder, “What will we be?”  Please explore with me, for  . . .
    We know what we are, but know not what we may be.
    ~ Shakespeare: Hamlet, IV, c. 1601

    As we explore, we might acknowledge that, sadly, soooo much of what we think is not as we say, or even what we say that we believe. Our truest beliefs are buried beneath the surface. How often do you say that you will succeed and yet you suspect that you will not? How often do you find that while you state the affirmative, what you believe is less than? How often have you spoken of yourself as though you knew your self and then discovered that you did not? How often do you believe that you know what you yourself are thinking then, later discover that you were in error? You did not truly admit to yourself your own inner thoughts.

    What we truly believe is learned. We learn to think, to be, [to say, to do, to feel], and to believe as we do when we are very, very, very young, before we realize that there are other options. Sadly, some of us never reflect and realize that the truth for others is what they learned to be true. Nor have we reflected and realized that this too is true of us.

    In this site, I hope to offer opportunities, open minds, stimulate thoughts that avail other options, options beyond those that you, I, or we might already know. I hope to travel beyond, to travel together, to take us all on a trip that is never ending. My desire is that our expedition is intellectually, emotionally, physiologically, psychologically, and spiritually expanding.

    Mike Pinder, of the Moody Blues offers, as I believe. In 1968 he wrote . . .
    “Thinking is the best way to travel . . .”
    From “In Search of the lost Chord”

    While thinking is the best way to travel, at least it is for me, I know and trust that what we think and what we do with these thoughts affects our being. I offer a thought that affects me eternally. I believe that it is one of the most meaningful thoughts ever expressed. It is written by Horace Walpole; he is the father of the Gothic Novel. He lived in the 16th century, yet, for me, his wisdom is timeless. His father was the first Prime Minister of England and he himself was a Member of Parliament. He writes . . .
    “For those who think, life is a comedy.
    For those who feel, life is a tragedy.”

    ~ Horace Walpole [Father of Gothic Novels, Member of Parliament]

    I believe that we all feel and if we choose to think through the feelings, we will find such folly, funniness, and fun. Therefore, I ask you to please journey with me, think, and be better, and better, the best, and then even beyond! For, as Copernicus states . . .
    “To know that we know what we know,
    and to know that we do not know what we do not know,
    that is true knowledge.”

    ~ Nicolaus Copernicus  [February 19, 1473 – May 24, 1543]
    Astronomer, Mathematician; Proponent of Heliocentric Cosmic Model.