What Makes Us Think We’re So Special?

Snowflakes and avalanches | Science News for Students

The postmodern internet has given us many things, but nothing looms larger than the ability each of us has today to determine the persona with which we wish to represent ourselves online. We present ourselves in the best possible light, and that’s fine. The postmodern mantra of “I participate, therefore I understand” is something we now all have, and we’re really just beginning to learn what that means. There is simply no end to the possibilities for connected human beings. It’s the closest tool ever created that can match the threat that the Tower of Babel once posed, under the watchful eyes of God.

Today, what we say about our uniqueness is what matters, not what anybody else might think or say. We are the author of our own identity, which means nobody can challenge us, not really. Even a simple observation by a friend can be repudiated fairly in the name of one’s agency.

We are indeed entitled to create and manage our own agency online or IRL — and paying attention to this can reap great benefits. However, we’re not permitted to alter natural laws governing human behavior in the process. One can state all they wish, for example, that they “never get cold,” when in truth everybody gets cold. We shiver in the cold and when we have a fever, because we’re human. We make mistakes. We can’t help it, for that’s a part of being human, too. We resist governors that prevent the kind of license we seek to justify our behavior. We are in it for ourselves, when left to our own devices. “No, I’m not,” you say, but you really can’t help it. Survival is the most base instinct of all, and we can’t help but go there.

In fact, the farther we reach into this uniqueness in creating ourselves for distribution, the greater the likelihood we’ll paint ourselves into an unsalvageable corner sooner or later. Again, we can deny our humanity, but we will be responsible for so doing. This can be life or death stuff, for who doesn’t want to feel special?

Therefore, one of the greatest ills of our society in the postmodern era is the idea that we each are completely unique, and it’s getting worse.

In recovery, we call this concept “terminal uniqueness,” but it applies to all human beings, not just those who’ve come to realize they have a problem, one that’s compounded by presenting ourselves to ourselves as a unique entity within the species. Think about it for a moment. The word “unique” means “one of a kind.” Are you really one of a kind? I think not, and therein lies the difficulty. Another word for unique is alone. Think about that one for a minute. Utterly alone.

Our science will examine other animals to study their reactions to all sorts of stimuli, and those results are based on the reality that all mice are the same. Research subjects, regardless of their species, are always grouped accordingly, because a monkey is a monkey, and a squirrel is a squirrel. How is it that we can conclude that somehow the human animal is not subject to natural laws and therefore must be studied as complex individuals?

The real problem with this is that we feel free to skip over those commonalities that make us all the same, because we’d rather stand out by arguing how different we are. As my old psychiatrist Dinshaw Gagrat taught me long ago, “People are like snowflakes, Terry. All different but all still snowflakes.” So, this business of exploring our humanity might be far more important than we think.

In his marvelous series of books, Edward Bear (Marty Slattery) speaks to and for all of us when he makes the observations that humans are driven by certain common needs and fears. His Seven Deadly Needs are the Need to Know, Need to Be Right, Need to Get Even, Need to Look Good, Need to Judge, Need to Keep Score, and the Need to Control. This allows him to make general comments about human behavior, because we all — to one extent or another — have the same deadly needs. He also writes of our Seven Deadly Fears. They are Fear of Intimacy, Fear of the Unknown, Fear of Change, Fear of Rejection/Abandonment, Fear of Conflict/Anger/Confrontation, Fear of Becoming a Burden, and Fear of Dying. The reader can see what kind of unity is possible if we’d but agree that these are descriptive of the nature of being human. It’s also possible now to see what common good can be achieved with such a general understanding.

But what about the person who insists they have no fear of becoming a burden? Are we to argue with such? It may be useless, but it shouldn’t alter our overall perspective. Of course, there are exceptions, but we’ve built an entire culture on those exceptions and shunned the need to speak about ourselves as members of the human race. You want a total cultural makeover? Let’s begin here.

Religion is perhaps the greatest offender here, because religion offers a different spin on the nature of our beings. Trusting in God, for examples, means we “shouldn’t” have any of those fears, for God is our provider. He’s also the Meeter of our every need, so we don’t really need to be anxious about anything, nor are those deadly needs really all that deadly to us. We don’t fear death, because we know where we’re going. Etc. Etc. Right?

Wrong!

Nothing about our basic nature changes through religious experiences or “faith”. The Christian “born again” experience, for example, doesn’t actually change the nature of the human vessel. That would be impossible, and that’s not what it means anyway. There’s nothing wrong with positive thinking, positive confession, or any motivational tools that help people better live their lives. But, to build one’s entire life around such is to miss the real value of life, which is love, strength, courage, hopefulness, self-control, imagination, self-awareness, joy, justice, and mercy, Life rejects self-centeredness, which is the entire point.

If this were not true, then why is there so much manipulation of others built around religion’s very core? Why is it that the few can create and manage a narrative that allows people to believe that they are somehow special, and therefore, entitled to their special space within the culture? The few will always exploit human nature in maintaining their place at the top. Envy is never satisfied. Wealth produces discontent, because wealth has the resources to act on that discontent. The more discontent is addressed, the greater it grows. Rich people, it seems, are just as human as the rest of us.

We are all — every one of us — simply garden-variety human beings. Time and chance determine under-the-sun circumstances, which is why the comforts we deem as our “rights” are really just happenstance based on our environment and circumstances. There is truly no one “special” and yet, we all are special.

Like snowflakes. All different, yet all the same.

Deconstructing Life, A Series

When we awaken each morning, we do so from within the confines of life under the sun. By that I mean all the beauty, emotions, and grandeur of that which our animal senses provide. Unfortunately, it also binds us to this animal world, and rather than study what “might” lie beyond, we fix our attention on that which we can touch, taste, see, smell, and hear. The traveling of great distances all begin with our knowledge under the sun. Earth is the starting point, or so we believe. The mere suggestion of time travel is the stuff of science fiction, with its warp speed, jump drives, and time travel machines. All of it begins with the assumption that, as animals, we must develop our science around that animal experience.

One of the greatest revelations in my own life was the discovery that I am a spiritual being on a human (animal) journey, not a human being on a spiritual quest. I can’t make myself or ever be any more spiritual than I am today. This body of mine is the vehicle within which I live and move and have my being under the sun, as Ecclesiastes puts it. As such, I’m bound to a perspective of life as an intelligent animal, and time travel is limited to my imagination within that perspective. But, if I can allow my mind to wander, I find that a whole new world of rules apply, beginning with the filter that there are no rules, other than that which can only be understood from outside, beyond, or from deep within our animal experience.

This makes questions far more important than answers, because we know so little about the subject.

For example, in the Messianic Psalm 110, David writes: The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” It’s a very important Bible verse, because Melchizedek was a “priest of the most high God” in the book of Genesis, which is essentially the story of the birth of the Jews and their priesthood on behalf of Jehovah. Abraham encountered Melchizedek early in life and paid a tithe to him, thus validating his priesthood for all time as being greater than the priesthood of the Jews. Abraham’s son Levi was the head of the priests of the entire Jewish faith, and yet, his priesthood was lesser than that of Melchizedek. Why is that, and how is it so?

“You could say,” Paul notes in the New Testament, “that Levi himself paid a tithe to Melchizedek — while in Abraham’s bosom.” And, this not only validates the Psalm as Messianic but also raises some interesting logic for our consideration, namely that Levi, who hadn’t yet been born, was bound in his life to the deeds of his grandfather. For those who think only of life under the sun, this is impossible, for Levi was his own man, with his own agency, his own set of responsibilities, his own sense of time, and completely separate from his father.

And yet, we have evidence presented that Levi was present when Abraham paid the tithe to Melchizedek. So, if Levi was so bound, what can be said of the rest of us? Are we all subject to the actions of our roots? Are we then responsible? Do we carry forth in the shadow of our roots or are we actually guided by them? Was I there — in my father’s, grandfather’s, great-grandfather’s bosom — when he ruthlessly managed his slaves? Do I carry the mark as a slave owner? If we are to understand this correctly, the answer must be yes.

This is why it’s so preposterous to argue our terminal uniqueness. None of us are truly unique, because we are all human beings. Now, can we be unique in our view of life? Of course, but that view often attempts to escape roots we’d rather not be a part of them, and in so doing, we can make enormous mistakes.

Consider the new rage among us with the use of the word “agency.” The Urban Dictionary describes it this way: “The new hip word, meaning one realizes and uses their power to further their ends.” Basically, it means that you have tools available to develop and shape your own reality, and — here’s the important part — nobody else has a right to deny you your agency. What it really applies to is life under the sun, for your agency is lost the moment you try to separate yourself from everybody on a human level. That’s not possible, so even those who “identify” a certain way, may be setting themselves up for future disaster, because humans are more alike than different.

You’re entitled to create your own best version of yourself, but you have no right in stating that we must accept your agency. It doesn’t work that way, for your being has so very much in common with mine. This is a key part of the pathological fantasy that Donald Trump is living. We just can’t bring ourselves to believe his view of himself (and we don’t have to). Donald Trump is a garden-variety human being, just like the rest of us.

For most believers, time is a linear construct, one that is always moving forward, never backwards. For those with knowledge beyond the sun, however, time is fixed, and we are the ones who are moving. And, if time is a fixed construct, then time “travel” isn’t nearly so mysterious as we think. The problem we have is that we’re attempting to travel forwards or backwards from our lives under the sun. Why? So we can bring things back to use in positioning us for this life. We can’t help it; it’s our animal nature to be so.

Einstein proved that time is relative, and this is down to the cellular level. Each day for me as a 74-year old man moves at a speed that is much more rapid than when I was a young man of 18, for each day today represents 1/74 of my life, whereas at age 18, it was only 1/18 of my life. And while it moves quickly for me, that movement is different than all others, because time is fixed for everyone. Immortality under the sun is absurd, because such a person would burn and move at such a high rate as to be invisible.

Hence, spiritual truths like the above involving Melchizedek cannot be understood without knowledge that doesn’t exist under the sun. It must come from the world of the spirit.

If I’ve lived my life in the past, then I will live my life in the future. There. That was pretty simple, right? If I was there a thousand years into the past, then I’ll be there a thousand years from now. Time and distance are physical constructs within which human life exists. But it also exists outside these dimensions, beyond them, and within them simultaneously. This is Zoe life, the Life of God, eternal life, the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of God. Think of a portrait plane traveling left to right across a landscape plane. Only dead center of their connection is fixed. Everything else is moving.

And, it is to this Life that we must give our attention, if we are to grow as a species. The price is a high one, though. We must first possess a soft and giving heart, for the life of God flows from the source, through us, to the rest of the human race, and only then, beyond.

Religion fears sex above all, because sex threatens their logic by occupying all of our animal senses simultaneously. In this way, their thinking goes, it’s impossible to be connected with God when even such thoughts of sex occur. The animal is not the spiritual, they would have us believe.

However, the truth is that sex is one of the very few human sensual experiences that can actually do the opposite. By occupying all of the senses simultaneously, sex completely frees the spirit and the mind to fly to and from the source. There is no higher calling for animals than to reproduce. Throw in the deep spiritual connection available to humans during the act, and it’s also very high on a spiritual level. Our species has it so wrong here.

When we die, our spirits don’t really “go” anywhere. They simply return to occupy their place back within the whole of life, which then influences those living under the sun. It’s why evolution is undeniable, despite the insistence of some believers that we were made exactly the same as all those who’ve come before us. There is not a lot of logic in such a belief, because life is much too efficient to toss aside everything that a generation has brought to its table for dispersal among the population yet to come.

Evolution comes from a spirit filled with possibilities based on all that has gone before. Evolution is the result of the species learning, bringing that knowledge to life beyond the sun, sharing it widely, so that life in time brings it about. What do other animal species do with what they’ve learned? It’s imprinted forever in the life that governs all in the here and now.

Just because I leave life under the sun does not mean that I lose my ability to influence this life, because, for all practical purposes, I will be, indeed, still here. Just because your animal senses can’t detect me doesn’t mean that I’ve disappeared into nothingness. My thoughts and views are actually more influential beyond the sun, because of what I’ve learned and applied in my animal life, a life that requires marketing to the masses for influence to be counted. Influence coming from within the whole of life beyond the sun is lasting, because it speaks to the inner man instead of the outer man.

There ought to be an entire branch of science that investigates this, but science under the sun requires measurements that only exists under the sun. Therefore, it’s a useless enterprise.

When a baby breathes in life, she’s automatically entered into time and distance from an animal perspective. But, she also has the ability to access all that came before her and all that will come ahead, because this connectivity is what will determine life’s quality or quantity throughout her days under the sun. It’s hard to look upon a baby and see her potential as anything less than amazing. Parents can set her on the right path, but she will need to do her own living without outside interference.

Such interference is the curse of the wealthy, because discontent increases with opportunities for acting on it. We never learn the necessary lessons of humility and sacrifice absent the lack that encourages both. This is why every act of humankind is ultimately vanity.

Time and space are only for our animal selves, as is Maslow’s quest for self-actualization. In truth, we are all part of the vast resources that make up our planet, but life doesn’t begin or end there.

And that, my friends, is our hope, and the best way to prepare ourselves for that hope is to first align ourselves with it, then to consciously keep ourselves in the moment, and then finally try our best (it is the nature of human beings to be born with clay feet) to live in accordance with a new set of rules that begin with self-sacrifice.

To be continued…

Terminal Uniqueness

To addicts in recovery, we are made aware that the real disease of addiction is called “Terminal Uniqueness,” that age-old quest to prove myself better, worse, or otherwise different than you. It is entirely ego-driven, and it effects people in ways that are both observable to others and deeply-known by the sufferers. Its most damaging symptom is that it results in our separating from others and isolating, because it validates the internal belief that I am somehow unique. The word itself means alone in whichever class we pick, and that is what leads to all sorts of behavior that undermines our self-worth.

I’ve written about this before, but I need to take a slightly different tact today.

I can get away with presenting this as an illness inclined towards addicts, but the truth is it’s rampant in our culture, especially today when we have so much leverage in determining our own brands. Yup, that’s what we call crafting a sellable self for others to consume.

You can find it in discussions of race or poverty today. It’s all over political arguments. You can certainly find it on social media everywhere. You can find it on “Only Fans” (BTW, parents, do you know if your son or daughter has an Only Fans page?) among those who take their clothes off and do nasty things to make a buck while in isolation. Take a look at the patrons, for example, of Walmart, where a particular form of uniqueness can be found in the way people dress. Pick just about any issue, and you’ll find it stuffed with the masks and fallacious imagery of those who offer support or disagreement. Wealthy people have their own ways of standing out, but it depends on your point-of-view.

Our culture is flooded with the unspoken cry, “Dig me,” and its institutions are designed to take advantage of the disease.

  • Finance: You need money to reach your objective. We can help.
  • Marriage: You need the right “partner” to be all you can be. We can help.
  • Medicine: You need your health for your unique journey. We can help.
  • Mental Health: You need to determine how far you can go with this. We can help.
  • Religion: You need us to make sure you have a right relationship with God. You want God’s blessing, right? We can help.
  • The Law: You need to make sure you don’t cross the wrong lines in your effort to be YOU. We can help.
  • Education: We can put you on the right path for your unique objective.

These groups represent the status quo in Western life, the aristocrats, the one percent. We are the hamsters on their wheels. And so we plot and plan. We try things on to see how they fit. We organize ourselves around our self-image and fine tune it before heading out to make a name for ourselves. I mean, it’s the American way, right?

So it has always been and will always be, unless there is a righteous rebellion.

We’ve gotten so far downstream in this effort today that we’re no longer able to even consider how alike we really are.

“But my husband…”
“But my upbringing…”
“But my abuse…”
“But my bad luck…”
“But my illness(es)…”
“But my injury…”
“But my situation…”

Can we please stop our complaining?

We find excuses everywhere to deny our nature as garden-variety human beings. It seems there’s just no future in being just one in the crowd. Who wants to be “normal?”

Somewhere inside all the masks and afflictions, we are all the same.

My old shrink, Doctor Gagrat, told me once:

“Terry, people are like snowflakes. All different but all still snowflakes. Put some heat to them, and they melt. If I stab you with an ice pick, you’ll bleed, and your blood will be red. If I stab your psyche with a weapon, you also bleed.”

This is without a doubt a true statement, and my point today is that if we were each simply seeking our authentic selves, we’d be much better off as a species within the cosmos. Instead of seeking to stand out, we would be able to give our attention to being better human beings.

But who wants to be a better human? What does that do for ME?

  • Life is free to do our heavy lifting for us.
  • It allows us be imperfect, just like everybody else.
  • It buys us freedom.
  • It buys us peace and all of the spiritual fruit we believe is tied to the goals of our struggle.
  • It allows for unconditional love.
  • We cease striving for “our” place within the whole, for our place is already set.
  • Life gets remarkably easy to live, for we’re in sync with it instead of fighting against it.
  • Things go wrong, of course, but we’re able to place them in the proper perspective.

The real idiocy of this disease is that it’s so incredibly useless. It functions as a yoke attaching us to a life of constant struggle. You wonder why people can’t sleep? The subconscious mind doesn’t shut down when attempting to sleep, because it’s way too active trying to plan the next steps in the fantasy. If we could just all say “Enough!”

This ought to be the top priority of all religions and the most preached sermon across the globe. Only then will we learn the truth about what humanity is doing on this planet and the path for reaching our universal purpose.

We simply don’t have the power to sustain such artificiality.

The Power to Say “No”

Disclaimer: Entire books have been written on this topic, so my handling of it may seem shallow to some. Sorry, but I don’t feel I’m supposed to write such a project, but I do think it’s worth discussing here.

The most important aspect of human life is consciousness and, especially, the mind. The human mind is the command and control mechanism for all of the systems, processes, and behaviors that make us human. Science doesn’t go here, because it requires grappling with human nature and things that cannot be measured in the scientific way. All we have is anecdotal evidence, and no scientist worth her credentials would be so foolish as to give their stamp of approval to such. Even the science of the mind — also known as psychology or psychiatry — admits as much, and this is across the widest possible slice of the à la carte menu of mental health treatments.

I recall when Sandra Seich and I put together our company ANSIR (A New Style In Relating), we spoke to a great many psychologists, both clinical and counseling practitioners about our instrument. This spectrum is fascinating, for one relies entirely on science and scientific theories, whereas the other offers a more holistic approach. What we discovered was the counseling psychologists are patient-focused and, therefore, open to all kinds of ideas and options. Clinical psychologists, however, are driven almost entirely by scientific methodology. As several people told us in analyzing our personality test, the more scientific the test, the less useful it becomes in counseling actual people. This is because science demands broad, provable categories to study, while counseling psychologists tend to see each individual patient as unique within the symptoms presented. You can judge for yourselves which is for you.

The point is we don’t “know” much about the human mind, even though countless investigators have tried. For this, we must turn to other practices including religion, pseudoscience, countless non-religious yet spiritual institutions, such as New Age thinkers, and even the anecdotal experiences of professionals within the field. This of course fits nicely within the realm of quackery and deviance, which is another reason science wants nothing to do with it.

Even what can be considered breakthrough schools of thinking receive skeptical responses from those colleagues who stick to their scientific guns in defending against the relentless growth of mental health issues within our culture. While mental health is tricky to navigate — and for whatever the cause — those poor suffering souls I’ve known in my life (self included) all seem to have lost the ability to say “no”. The real mystery is why and, perhaps more importantly, what to do about it.

Knowing that it’s not good for us, why do we sneak that piece of cake just before bedtime? Why do we “just have to” gaze at the beauty of comeliness and covet possession of the same? After awhile on the river of alcohol consumption, why is it that the first thing we think of upon awakening from a spree with a hangover is doing it again? Why do we allow friends to convince us to do things we know we ought not to do? And, why do we get so defensive when observers of our behavior try to help us, and why do we agree with those who say that regardless of the cause (if there is one), modifying behavior is the only process that can help.

We do so, because the alternatives are considered beneath our dignity. Perhaps our problems are not the problem but rather our inability to reject a course of behavior that will eventually lead us to ruin. The Apostle Paul wrote that he was perplexed by his own behavior, in that he would do the things he knew he should not do, and that he would not do the things he knew he should do. “O wretched man that I am,” he wrote. “Who can deliver me from this bond of death?”

Trauma only makes matters worse, for our reactions to trauma seem to set us up for future mental health difficulties, such as anxiety and depression. Why does this effect some and not others, or does trauma have a way of forcing an escape from reality? Is it not all wound around an inability to say no, whether it’s forced or assumed? And, is the cause at all related to the cure? Do we simply just need to say no?

Bob Newhart’s wonderful skit about a psychologist who’s only treatment is the use of the words “stop it” is a marvelous illustration of the foolishness of such thinking. That’s because we think of these problems in terms of ownership, and it defies logic to give up what we have. “My” illness. “My” condition. “My aches and pains. “My” anxiety. “My” relatives. “My” ex. “My” helplessness. “My” upbringing. “My” uniqueness. “My” cancer. “My” fibromyalgia. My” suffering. “My” affliction. “My” thorn in the flesh. “My” depression. And so forth.

No, no, no, no, a thousand times no!

Look, afflictions are real. Diseases are real. We’re not talking about the things of the flesh. However, when we take ownership of such, we’ve entered dangerous territory, for such things do not actually define us. If that were the case, we should all hide our heads in hopelessness. The truth is that these things stand in the way of self-discovery, and that is a spectacular piece of self-deception, one that’s based in our senses under the sun. Healing, therefore, is found — is often found — in the here and in the now, for that is the time and place of life, and life rejects all forms of artificial death, e.g. “poor me”. Like many other things in life, it isn’t the affliction that causes our suffering, per se, but rather our reaction to it.

It’s time to talk about the Biblical devil, for evil is always the outcome of self-deception, whether big or small. If the devil is the “father of all lies,” then his realm must be the human ego, for that is the person within us that often makes the decisions for us — for our protection, of course — especially in times of stress. For purposes of this discussion, let’s define evil as that which draws us from the here and now with its incumbent rejection of any life that exists beyond the sun. This results in all forms of inhuman behavior, including those events that seem to lead our news reports hour-by-hour. Man’s inhumanity towards man ought not to dominate our minds as it relates to life, for this is a profound limitation to our lives under the sun. There’s absolutely nothing “new” about it, for the matter of evil is part and parcel of our nature.

Are babies born innocent and later “learn” selfishness? That’s illogical and provably so, because crying when hungry is most certainly a form of self expression. To argue that a baby learns this through trial and error is to deny the first screams and tears. Yes, she learns that it works, but where does that initial behavior originate? The senses demand to be heard, but at the same time, they send false signals of satisfaction that are never enough. Satisfaction may last for a season, but eventually, it requires more and more and more. As Olivia Newton John asked a musical question, “It’s never enough, never never enough. Why is all that we have simply never enough?”

Absent our ability to actually study the matter, for a very large group of people, the devil is an answer that’s sufficient. Creative attempts to offer a different perspective have come from enormously talented and curious people, especially those who’ve taken the time for individual study of what is commonly known as the human ego. If you are human, you have an ego. He exists to provide answers where none seem possible, and it’s to him that we often turn in times of distress. Thoughtful, intriguing, and soaring books have been written about such things as “ego states,” trauma bonding, and other manifestations of ego study. They deserve our attention, because they come from minds with a lifetime of deep diving when it comes to understanding the human mind. Adam and Eve had egos. It was Eve’s ego that led her to the Tree of Life (“You don’t really think that God would kill you for eating it, do you? I mean, it’s not poison.”). Jesus faced and defeated his own ego in the wilderness. His stomach was growling during the 40-day fast, so the voice of his ego rose to tempt him to turn rocks into bread. It wasn’t a guy in a red suit with horns and a pitchfork. That is the stuff of myths. Hell, we don’t need a devil when we have such an intimate enemy as our own ego.

One of the things that was so different about Jesus is that he recognized the voice of his ego and said a resounding “no”! So, it seems to me that we can do the same. Otherwise, we are most to be pitied, especially for Christians who say they “follow the ways of the Lord.” The first deception of the ego is that he doesn’t exist, and that gives a great multitude an excuse to give up without even trying. After all, their discomfort is greater than any earthly solution, and therefore, we should all just suffer while bearing our own personal thorns in the flesh. Nonsense. Either that, or Jesus was not “the firstborn among many,” and the gate he claimed to represent leads to nowhere.

I fully appreciate the potential for mischief that’s presented with this missive, for we still see through a glass darkly. However, in order to talk back to our egos, we must first learn to recognize its voice, even during times of panic. “You’re going to be abandoned” was a constant, almost unspoken message that I heard throughout my life. Think about that for a minute. It was a marvelous deception foisted on me as the result of an episode of what seemed to me an abandonment in my youth. A mind incapable of separating such a voice from the situation that brought it about is impossible for a 5‑year old, and so it became an essential part of my thinking about myself. I fought it, and I fought it, always to lose and try again.

I learned through AA that what I thought made me unique was all bullshit and that I needed a miracle to overcome it. I got my miracle, and the most obvious evidence is in my sleep. When we give up fighting the deceptions that dominate us, it is an enormous weight lifted from the shoulders of our souls, and the problem of sleeplessness disappears. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous contains the stories of many people who had found recovery from the addiction that drove their lives for sometimes a very long period of time. These stories are filled with addicts trying to explain their drinking to themselves and others. Example episodes of their perplexity often begin with “I had this thought” or “it came to me that I should.” These triggers were, in fact, the voices of their own egos attempting to rationalize or make an argument for drinking.

So, we know it’s important, but how exactly do we learn to recognize the voice of our ego? It’s actually very simple. Deliberately place a temptation in front of yourself. Don’t do anything but listen. Trust me; it’ll be there, perhaps even in thoughts that are profoundly familiar. Listen anyway. We KNOW what the outcome will likely be, so it’s very important that we hear those thoughts as they pass across the horizon of our minds like so many wild horses.

Redemption is what gives us the power to say no to that which is pretending to be us. You might be amazed at how effective a simple “shut up” can be in a conversation with what you think is yourself. As we say in AA, “My mind is a dangerous place, because I’m not alone in there.”

How true, my friends. How very, very true.

The New Split in Christianity

Image result for northern ireland conflict
Northern Ireland 1970

Christianity has had its share of historical ugliness when it comes to defining and defending the faith. From Catholic priests offering indulgences for those who could afford them to the violence and death between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland and elsewhere, including the U.S., Protestantism arose as the Bible became more broadly available through the printing press, so that those outside the grasp of Rome could discover for themselves God’s instructions to humanity.

The ruling class slowly evolved to support protestantism, in part, because good works and deeds within its evangelical mandate took a back seat to one’s faith, which is an open door for mischief through claims of righteousness. Those brave souls who moved across the sea to tame the wilderness known today as America carried the evangelical message with them, a license to destroy the beliefs and lifestyles of the native population in the name of saving them. It was no accident that they also brought with them the business acumen of those from their fatherlands.

And so, the gap between the two forms of Christianity widened, one emphasizing the holiness of this life on earth, the other offering a prize in the afterlife. The Apostle James wrote that faith without works is dead, but Luther called the book of James “the epistle of straw”, thus enabling societal growth as the real higher power in the works of man.

Today, there’s a new and growing split between forms of the protestant faith, one that is seen and discussed in only a very few places. The political power and wealth of the white evangelicals has replaced the hand-to-hand combat that is the war on poverty as the primary mission of the church.

To be sure, the evangelicals have their answer to poverty, which is to emulate its leaders, because “God is no respecter of persons” and what they’ve been given is available to everyone. It’s warmly presented as “Give a man a fish, and you’ve fed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you’ve fed him for a lifetime.” This, of course, presupposes an equal playing field for all and the natural resources for everybody to be rich. This is quite impossible, even though “God owns the cattle on a thousand hills.”

A supporter gestures at the press as Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump addresses supporters during a campaign rally in Cincinnati

The Language of Zion forms an important narrative for these faithful people, for there is nothing so absolute as to end all discussion than a good Bible verse or summarizing metaphor in secret-handshake language that only its practitioners understand. These believers point to what they view as the sexual sins of the culture as the great enemy of theirs and especially their children. This is another assumed license they’ve been given to practice their brand of Christianity despite what the Bible actually says.

The best illustration of this is found in the 16th chapter of book of Ezekiel where God tells the prophet to tell Jerusalem how displeased He was with them. In the 15th verse, God tells Jerusalem, “But you trusted in your beauty and used your fame to become a prostitute.” To God, the comparison is valid, and if you’re looking for Bible verses about sexual misconduct, look no further than this chapter. For 48 verses the prophet rages on about the wickedness of their sin, and then he makes this remarkable observation:

Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.

So, while Christians today rail on about homosexuality, bisexuality, transgenders, and other forms of what are called “queer,” God is concerned only with the love in their hearts for the poor and needy.

Another example of this is found in the book of the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah was called to prophesy God’s unhappiness with King Shallum, the son of righteous King Josiah. Under Josiah, the land had prospered and all was well, but Shallum hadn’t walked in his father’s ways and had fully slipped into sin by reinserting pagan beliefs into the culture. In referring to Josiah, Jeremiah offers this word of God to Shallum that justifies removing him from the throne:

“Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place…

…“Woe to him (Shallum) who builds his palace by unrighteousness, his upper rooms by injustice, making his own people work for nothing, not paying them for their labor. He says, ‘I will build myself a great palace with spacious upper rooms.’ So he makes large windows in it, panels it with cedar and decorates it in red. ‘Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar? Did not your father have food and drink? He did what was right and just, so all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?’ declares the Lord. ‘But your eyes and your heart are set only on dishonest gain, on shedding innocent blood and on oppression and extortion.’”

Image result for poor and needy

God’s message to humanity is to care for the poor and needy, and not through the laziness assumed in teaching a man to fish, and this brings us back to the current split in Protestantism. It’s not going to end well for those who remove themselves from this core mandate of the faith, and that’s not me saying so; it’s directly from God’s word to humankind.

Gospel preachers who fly around in private jets to spread their form of prosperity are the modern-day Shallums and Sodoms, and it’s their followers who will suffer most in the final analysis. The splitting within Christianity today is along the grain and will not be joined back together with only glue, and God’s forgiveness is not absolute, despite the redemptive power of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

During his ministry, Jesus warned everywhere of the deceptions that plagued humanity. He asked the Pharisees to consider the words of the prophet Hosea to the unrighteous:

“…I have hewn them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of My mouth, and My judgments go forth like lightning. For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”

Let me close with a few rhetorical questions. How does your religion feel about the destruction of our planet in the name of profit for the rich? How does your faith reconcile borrowing two trillion dollars to give to the rich in the name of a tax cut, while demanding that everybody else pay for it? How does your faith explain its beliefs about protecting the unborn without pleading the cause of those already born? How does your religion rationalize spreading its legs for the wicked while denying the needs and desires of those immigrants seeking the very freedoms we enjoy?

These and other questions are what is tearing Christianity apart in this century. Behavior today is the only issue that matters, despite the promise of Heaven to those who beg forgiveness at the end of a life of greed and avarice. That is the great deception of today, and I fear for those brothers and sisters who will not be held blameless for their support of such ungodliness.

NOTE: All Bible verses from the New International Version (NIV)

On Being Human

Courtesy, the brilliant Nick Galifanakis.

Long ago, I made peace with the idea that ALL humans really want and need the same thing: to do the best we can with what we know. It’s the same in the physical, in the psychological, and in the spiritual. There’s nothing whatsoever “wrong” with this; it’s a healthy part of human nature.

And, in terms of judging the behavior of others, this is a wise position to take, because it strikes at the heart of what motivates people. We want to help ourselves, our families, our communities, and beyond. That only some are able to do this well is the thing that’s really wrong with our world under the sun. Sadly, these few are the ones with the dragons capable of raining down terror on the rest of us. Dracarys!

Those who associate with a God of their understanding — as a part of their teaching, training, and faith — fully grasp the significance of helping the poor and the afflicted among us. Chaos ensues, however, when even a few of these get the idea that helping others means personal loss to themselves, or even more deceptively, that the poor are somehow “out to take what’s ours.” This stance puts us at odds with God, no matter which religion we pick. It ought to concern those who do so, but it doesn’t.

For, no matter how we play it, those who are stuck in the rut of competing for what they believe to be “theirs” are at odds with others who are more giving. As a friend recently said, “It’s not a piece of pie.” Helping others is a natural behavior for humans, one that runs into conflict only when we put our spiritual selves on hold while we pursue getting what we can to better our physical lives. This produces the takers in a world of givers, and they are an abomination before God.

Luke 6:24 “But woe to you, rich ones, for you have your comfort!”

It’s a lot easier on all of us to view the realities of life through the veil of wanting to do the best we can for ourselves and our families. This knowledge (or is it a belief?) has a way of injecting compassion into those who are aware. Everybody seems to agree with the principle but not with how to bring it about throughout the planet. Resources to accomplish the task appear to the uninitiated as a zero-sum game and one that requires that I take from somebody else in order to satisfy my own wants and needs. Once I’ve accumulated “mine,” I might be able to turn my attention to somebody else. Wash, rinse, repeat.

The fear that somebody else “might” take away my piece of pie is a powerful motivator to maintain the status quo, no matter who gets stomped on in the process. This, again, is human nature gone to seed, revealing the hidden motives of selfishness and self-centeredness. And, if this is to be our stance, we are sad and to be pitied.

Those who know God, however, understand that His approach is for us to give of ourselves first in order to be filled fully via the spirit with what’s best for us afterwards (See: The parable of the garden hose). This is foolishness to the world under the sun, but those of us who also fully inhabit the spiritual see the wisdom of such an approach. God is fully committed to the poor, and that includes Jesus. You can’t go very far in reading the Bible until you encounter this truth.

And, this is why the Republican approach to religion is so off-putting to me. To them, social justice is a major weakness in governance, and why Trump puppet master Steve Bannon said in 2017:

“The longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the democrats.”

This is a crude albeit correct description of Republican Party Politics, because it seeks to benefit the status quo and by extension, the wealthy and the haves. The sole strategic thrust of the Democrats ought to be how their opponents only speak for the wealthy and the filthy rich, and the bones they toss to white evangelicals — like abortion and religious freedom — are only offered to ensure a larger support base. Republicans, quite honestly, could give a crap about fetuses being aborted. The litmus test for conservative judges is not abortion; it’s how business-friendly they are. The price conservatives demand is support for the wealthy, and since a lot of these preachers consider themselves in that category, the match is perfect. Moreover, the wealthy give money to big churches and ministries (it’s called a tax write-off).

And, no preacher worth his salt wants to turn that down, right?

This business of being human can give us all fits, not just the poor and the afflicted, so how are we supposed to judge others? the Bible says we should “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”

They’ve taken the human idea of doing the best for ourselves, our families, and our communities and turned it into selfishness.

And, it’s not pretty.