Psychology of Change: Growth, Decay, and Chrysalis.

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Perhaps the “Psychology of Change” is a label that hides too much variation in types to reveal any common patterns. Let me explain. 

First of all, what “works” or what “predicts” change in such diverse situations as: 

  1. One imposed from without by force (as prison inmates, say;) 
  2. Acquired as a child through acceptance of the cultural norms (as is normal);
  3. Enlightenment in an elderly adult through contact with a child (as in Silas Marner, Finding Forrester or Ana).

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May well have nothing to do with one another. In addition, the speed of change, and even the acceleration of change, and, yes, possibly even the jerk might have an impact on what happens. Again, consider a few examples.

You are the major breadwinner (by being a bread maker) in your family of four. You are moderately “well off” financially but your business has been going steadily down for the last five years. You could relocate but you all love the private school your kids go to. Finally, your youngest is a senior, so next year, you will relocate to a part of your nation that is growing. 

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This is no doubt a fairly large change. But, it is also moderately slow. And, not only is it slow; there is only moderate if any acceleration. You will naturally see more details that need to be attended to as the date creeps closer. And, there will be some surprises. But for the most part, the speed and predictability of the change is within your capacity. If you didn’t perceive it to be so, you wouldn’t have decided on the move. 

Now, let’s change things just a bit. Same family of four. Same worsening of conditions. Only now, before your youngest even starts her senior year, COVID 19 strikes. Your business is no longer slowly shrinking. It plummets to the ground. Some people were predicting this might happen months ago, but you chose to listen to the people who said it would all go away. But now is now. You are experiencing much faster and less predictable change. Not only that; the potential magnitude of the change is much greater. Before, you realized it would take time to build your business back up in a new location. But now? You might not even have the wherewithal to survive the next six months, let alone move. And when? And to where? You had a spot all picked out in one of the more trendy and affluent suburbs in Silicon Valley. But now? It’s a hotbed of COVID!

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Are the same things that are important in situation one above the same things that are important in situation two? 

Now, let’s add just a little more to the scenario, but without the COVID19.

As before, you are the major breadwinner (by being a bread maker) in your family of four. You are moderately “well off” financially but your business has been going steadily down for the last five years. You could relocate but you all love the private school your kids go to. Finally, your youngest is a senior, so next year, you will relocate to a part of your nation that is growing. You are on your way to your bakery and the sky grows dark. You worry that it will be pouring down rain just as you make the 50 yard dash to the front door of your bakery.

You need not have worried because the Class Five tornado delivered the front door to a spot only two feet from your normal parking spot. That front door was the largest remaining piece of what had been your grocery store. Your house was also destroyed. And, so was the private school. Luckily, your youngest was unharmed. Not so luckily, your other child and your spouse were killed in the storm along with 73 others in the area. 

We all have the intuition that this person will make the most profound changes, but in what way? Of course, nearly anyone would be in complete shock for a time and not know what to do. But then what? It seems equally likely that the person would:

A. Decide that life is absurd and it’s out to destroy you and the only way to protect yourself is drink like a fish. And, the child’s better off somewhere else.

B. Decide that life is absurd and it’s out to destroy you and the only way to protect yourself is to never love again.  And, the child’s better off somewhere else.

Of course, A and B are not mutually exclusive. They often go together.

C. You decide that life may end at any time and that the most important thing in life is to enjoy every moment. And, that means, among other things, spending a lot of time with your remaining family & friends. 

D. You decide that service to others is the most important thing in life and you and your child both eventually become involved in a UN project to show people how to bake more nutritious bread.



There are endless possibilities of course. And, they are not fixed outcomes. The person may decide that life may end at any time and that the most important thing in life is to enjoy every moment — and to spend time with friends and then — three years later —- take path A or D instead. 

As someone trained in “Experimental Psychology,” my disciplinary reflex is to try to identify parameters and try to relate conditions of change to results in terms of outcome as a function of those parameters. 

Perhaps, however, a better approach is more like the Periodic Table. Rather than an “infinite variety”, it might be true that most cases fall into one of several dozen categories. Each category is basically a theme or premise for a story which we relate to precisely because they are common “types” of change. 

Examples might include:

 “Situation slowly deteriorates and protagonist makes adjustment.” 


“A natural disaster destroys much (or all) of what the protagonist loves and they must create a whole new life.” 

“Situation slowly deteriorates, and in turn, the protagonist engages in ever more self-destructive behavior, making the situation worse and eventually resulting in disaster.”

“Situation slowly deteriorates, and in turn, the protagonist engages in ever more self-destructive behavior, making the situation worse and eventually resulting in — enlightenment followed by a complete turn-around.” 

And so on. 

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Essays on America: Wednesday 

The Invisibility Cloak of Habit

The Update Problem 

How the Nightingale Learned to Sing

Take a Glance; Join the Dance

The Walkabout Diaries: Racism is Absurd.

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Metaphors for just how absurd Racism is: 

I send Stupid Stu to the Store to purchase kidney beans for my chile.  He can’t find the kidney beans so instead he comes back with three kidneys from the butcher. “Kidney” and “Kidney beans” according to him, must be closely related because they have the same label. 

Kidney Beans

Actual kidney organ

Handy Handsome Hal and I are hanging a picture. I am holding the picture in place and it’s centered, but when I ask Hal to hand me the hammer, it turns out, the hammer is not in the toolbox. I ask Hal to go into the laundry room and get the hammer hanging there — the one with the wooden handle. Instead, Handy Handsome Hal goes into the kitchen and brings me a wooden spoon. “Here you go!” He says. “It also has a wooden handle.” 

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Marvelous Marvin has decided that the science and math required are too difficult for him so instead of architecture, he decides to become an artist instead. Here are his first three paintings:  

(All three paintings look exactly the same and are entitled: “Proper Shades”)

 

Marvelous Marvin’s silly sister Silvia has decided to become a composer. Here’s is a short selection from her Second, Sixth, and Seventh symphonies. (Each symphony is exactly the same).

White-noise-sound-20sec-mono-44100Hz.ogg


In our Tennis Tournament, Timmy the Tennis Player and I draw each other as partners. Our opponents, new to both of us, are two lefties. We know nothing else about them — not their records, not their rankings. Timmy comes over to me and says, “It’ll be easy to beat them! I played a lefty once in high school. He hit everything cross court! All we have to do is cover the cross-court angles! When I serve, you’ll never have to worry about him going right up the line. Just poach right away!”

Me: “Well, Timmy, I’ve played against plenty of left-handers and I can assure you that they don’t always hit cross-court! Have you ever watched Nadal?”

Timmy: “Oh, Nadal’s an exception! He’s brilliant! But your typical lefty hits cross-court. They just can’t or won’t hit down the line. I think the fact that the net is higher there throws them off.”

Me: “Why on earth would it be harder for a lefty to hit down the line than a righty?”

Timmy: “I don’t know. I think it probably has something to do with the earth’s rotation. It’s clockwise like being a right hander. It’s the right way. So, the lefty is just unnatural. So they can’t hit down the line. Believe me! I know! I played a left-hander, like I said.”  

Me: “Yes, I know Timmy, but I’ve had lots of experience with left-handed players. My brother is left-handed. My son is left-handed and though he doesn’t play tennis, he’s extremely coordinated. He plays musical instruments, draws, juggles — and I’ve watched plenty of left-handed pros on TV. They’re perfectly capable of hitting any shot a righty does.” 

Timmy: “You’ll see!” 

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Which one of these is different? 

Flower of the Trumpet Tree

White Rose

White Rose

White Rose

Flora the Flubbing Florists says the one in the last one is different. Why? Because it’s a shade darker. 

Come on people. Grow up. We’re adult humans, not viruses. We have brains. Let’s use them.  

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Essays on America: Labelism 

How the Nightingale Learned to Sing

Life is a Dance

Race-Place-Space-Face

Answers to your Many Questions

Blood Red Blood

The Only Them That Counts is All of Us

The Walkabout Diaries: Lest We Forget…

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Flower in the crannied wall,

I pluck you out of the crannies,

I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,

Little flower–but if I could understand

What you are, root and all, and all in all,

I should know what God and man is. — Alfred Lord Tennyson, Flower in the Crannied Wall

I love flowers. I love taking pictures of flowers. They amaze me because of their beauty, but that’s only where love starts; not where it ends.

Imagine: a flower depending on bees (as well as other insects)  for pollination! Bees depend collectively on the flower for their continued existence. What we see now are two groups of living beings, from very different parts of the Great Tree of Life, who have “learned” (mainly in an evolutionary sense) that they are better off working as partners. 

I can see why it’s tempting for some people to look at this as a “proof” of an active God who created all of creation in a relative eye blink. To me, though, it’s even more wonderful to contemplate that this collaboration took work and accommodation on both sides; that it evolved over time; that is still evolving. And with each step, is there something analogous to trust that accumulates in both flower and bee? 

Can you imagine what the bee sees, feels, smells?

There are, after all, plants who eat insects; e.g., the Honeydew, Venus Fly-trap, and Pitcher Plant. So, if we look at it from the plant’s perspective, it might be a huge windfall to be the most beautiful and attractive flower imaginable and to eat every last honeybee in one summer. The plant would “win” a windfall of nitrogen. Similarly, we can imagine a bee-like insect who comes to the plant and rather than simply “gathering pollen,” it devours the entire plant. Lots of calories.

That one year.

Of course, next year, there would be no such plants to eat or even gather pollen from. Of course, it isn’t only flowers and bees who have such an arrangement. It’s all over the place! 

Collaboration and cooperation are not just features of the ecosystem, of course. The flower may be the most beautiful and showy part of a “flowering plant,” but it not the only part. The roots are just as vital as is the stem as are the leaves as are the flowers. They are in balance. All are important. And, in a way, each has its own beauty. 

Three leaves in the San Diego sunset.

Exposed root of a tree. But which one? Should I cover it?

Back to the bees though — what could be a more intimate form of cooperation? The flower actually depends on the bee to fulfill its sexual roles! The flower is associated with sexual love in many ways and in many different societies. And sexual reproduction, whether by flower, bee, or human is implicitly saying to the universe, indeed, shouting, whispering, and singing to the universe: “There is still more; there is still something better to strive for; an individual such as never has existed before and a species that will continue to explore what is possible. Life will not end with my life. I am a part of all life that ever has existed or ever will exist. Yes!”

Not bees, nor humans, nor even roses are a timeless inviolate and changeless perfection of form and function that never again needs to change. The essence of life is change balanced with stability. Change by itself is chaos. And stability without change is delusional. More accurately, it’s delusional to start with, but ultimately it is death. Any system, person, species, government, town, institution that declares itself perfect and unchangeable regardless of circumstances is a system, person, species, government, town, institution that has just signed its own death warrant. 

Every part of the plant is important. And every part receives benefit. Everyone in human society benefits from the work of the whole but not everyone receives benefit. If a flower neglects its roots, or its stems, or its leaves, the whole plant will die. For our society to survive, it must change. And one of the changes near the top of that list is to make our society more fair. If we don’t, the whole flower of our civilization will die. As will the bees. 

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Life is a Dance

Take a Look; Join the Dance

Ripples

Introduction to Pattern Language for Collaboration 

Index to Pattern Language for Collaboration 

How the Nightingale Learned to Sing

Math Class: Who Are You? 

Ambition 

Peace 

The Walkabout Diaries: Life Will Find a Way

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It’s what life does! 

Check this out. What is this? It’s obviously the stump of a dead tree. Or, perhaps more accurately, it’s the dead and broken trunk of a tree. 

Or, is it? 

It took me about five minutes to convince myself that all of those yellow flowers and associated green leaves are part of that same tree! 

Here’s another example. Where did these mushrooms come from? As you likely know, they grow from spores. But where did these spores come from? I didn’t plant them. There are no mushrooms nearby. But somehow, a puff of spores wafted on the wind and found an appreciative stretch of well-shaded damp ground. 

Life is amazing. Well, after all, it’s been doing its thing for 4.5 billion years. And, when I say “it”, of course, I really mean “we” because all of life — you, me, and everyone else and every other life form on this planet, like it or not, are on this same spaceship earth.  

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Life is a Dance

Author Page on Amazon

Career Advice from Polonius

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Career Advice from Polonius: To Thine Own Self be True

“To thine own self be true.” This advice comes from Polonius who is giving advice to his son in Act I, scene 3 of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. 

Polonius says: “This above all: to thine own self be true. And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Let’s focus on the first part. 

One of the dreams of education is to customize teaching to the specific learning style(s) of individual students. This was a hot topic when I was in graduate school.

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Around 50 years ago. 

Some day, your grandchildren or your great-grandchildren may be the beneficiaries of learning experiences that are individualized to their specific styles. I wouldn’t hold my breath, but it could happen. It isn’t only a question of research on what various styles are and how to present material that resonates with these various styles. There is also the question of priorities and dollars and personnel. 

But meanwhile, here’s the good news. You don’t have to wait for another 50 years of research and a reshuffling of priorities so folx spend more money on education and less on, let’s say, cosmetics and professional sports. As I say, don’t hold your breath.

But let’s get back to the good news. The good news is that you can discover for yourself how to maximize your own learning as well as what your particular talents are. 

One cautionary note: Don’t be a jerk about it. If you’re in a group dealing with grief, don’t say, “Well, I learn best if a subject is reduced to a few hundred polynomial formulae. So, let’s start right there. Let’s reduce grief to three dimensions. Later, of course, we can do a proper multidimensional scaling exercise to determine the optimal number of dimensions.”

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No. Don’t say that. Of course, you’re free to suggest that approach, but chances are, in this situation, and in most realistic group situations, you will be treated to information in the same manner as many others who have different styles from yours.

However, in many situations, you are, far and away the main important stakeholder. You can use your knowledge of how things work for you in order to strategize and plan how you will learn about things. You can organize and arrange your work so you’ll be more productive. 

Here’s a trivial example. I have learned that my eyes have a wisdom of their own. If, for instance, I’m going out for a walk around the garden to take some pictures of the sunset on the flowers, I grab my stuff and find myself turning and staring at the hat-rack on the way out the door. When I was younger, I would ignore this. But what I have learned is that my eyes are really good at knowing what to look at. So, even if I’m in a hurry, I take a moment to reflect on why my eyes are looking there. And, then, it comes to me. I’ll do better if I wear a brimmed hat to keep the sun out of my eyes while I look at my iPhone.



By paying attention to this little quirk, I’ve saved myself a lot of grief over the years; e.g., not left the house without my wallet, etc.

Here’s another example. I’m very good at seeing “patterns” emerge from a small number of examples or when there is considerable noise involved. This serves me well as my hearing diminishes because I can use top-down processing. Generally, but not always, I understand what people are saying. If I try to listen to a foreign language tape that is only isolated audio words, I have no hope of knowing what they are saying. “Key” “Tee”, “Pea”, sound exactly the same.

Seeing patterns easily is generally a nice capacity. However, I’m horrible at finding my own typos immediately after I write something. I actually “see” what I meant to type. A week later, I’m pretty good at catching the errors. If I had more patience, I would wait a week to proofread for every blog post, but being patient isn’t a strength either. I do go back over old posts occasionally and fix the typos (which I never saw at the time). 

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When I go to the movies — remember when we used to go to movies? — anyway, if I went to a comedy, I was very likely to laugh too soon. I “hear” the punchline two lines earlier than it actually occurs. There’s no benefit to my laughing early! But that’s when the punchline hits me. I do keep it soft so as not to disturb the others in the audience. On the other hand, I’m pretty good at “discovering” the playing patterns of my tennis opponents and anticipating what they are going to do. Naturally, I don’t always guess right, but I do way better than chance.

I bring up these examples to illustrate a generality; that most of these individual differences have an upside and a downside. Mainly, learning about my own styles and capacities is something I learned well after leaving high school. That makes sense. In school — or at least, the schools I went to — everybody got the same instruction in the same way almost all the time. But as an adult, you often have a lot of control over your own timing, flow of information, etc. I think it’s worth your while to look back at your experience and discover what you have difficulty with, what you’re OK at and what you are exceptionally good at. When you have a choice, use the approach you’re really good at. 

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More background on “knowing yourself” 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Know_thyself

The Teeth of the Shark

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The gaping, hungry maw of a Great White Shark circles beneath unseen. 

Wolves staring their glowing, glowering eyes in the snowy woods. We feel the burning eyes but they are just beyond our ken.

Roaring forest fire burns tree and bush and flesh as we run amok with blind panic. 

Would we not protect our children from these horrors if we could?

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I fear for our children. And our children’s children. 

But not for Great White Sharks, or wolves, or forest fires or Grizzly Bears.

High in the thin invisible air, higher than the condor soars — deep, deep in the dark underground rivers of the world and in the crushing ocean depths, there lurks a monster more terrible than these by far.

Its tiny stinging tendrils reach out from the ocean, the sky, the forests. 

They are ugly and they reek though often they snake out unseen to claim their victims.

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Each year the monster grows and claims more victims, condemning them to death — not the swift but terrible death of the Grizzly’s jaws — or the snap of a Great White Shark. 

Instead, the victim succumbs to the slow, grey, agonizing and painful cancer of rotting disease. In the tumor’s desire for unlimited growth, it sucks the life from its victim over months or years. The tumor, of course, like all creatures of pure greed, has no life of its own. It cannot sustain its own life but must prey on others. That is the nature of Greed, of Cancer, and of Pollution – three names for three heads of one deadly dog: Cerberus. 

(Wikipedia, 14 March, 2021: Hercules and Cerberus. Oil on canvas, by Peter Paul Rubens 1636, Prado Museum.)

And yet, we do not choose to kill the monster. Indeed, we feed this monster. 

We fool ourselves that we make friends with it. 

In truth, we simply bribe it with Today so that it may grow stronger for eating Tomorrow. 

In our Greed, we give the monster what it wants Today so that Tomorrow it may eat more of our children and of our children’s children.

Oh, yes. 

I fear. 

I fear for our children. 

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Ugly, fetid, foul, poisonous tentacles of pollution encircle our children and they are closing in. They are closing in. 

And yet, we have all the weapons we need: our will.

We can withdraw the hand of Greed that feeds Today to the deadly beast. 

And all through the massive hall of mirrors, the countless years called:

 “The Infinite Tomorrow”, 

our progeny will thank us.  

Unlike us, their empathy will be strong, valued, and nearly ubiquitous. So, they will know that, as absurd as it sounds, this was not an easy decision for us. It was a near thing. We nearly doomed our entire species to lives of disease, disaster, and despair. 

But we cannot let that happen, can we?

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https://www.who.int/news-room/air-pollution

https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/05/05/850470436/u-n-warns-number-of-people-starving-to-death-could-double-amid-pandemic

https://www.theworldcounts.com/challenges/planet-earth/freshwater/deaths-from-dirty-water/story

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/12/02/global-warming-world-not-doing-nearly-enough-un-report/6476363002/

It Couldn’t Happen to a Nicer Guy

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“Where the hell is Vladdy? He was…where’s my f###ing watch? Isn’t anybody around here competent? Where’s my watch? Hello? What the … ? Where’s my Adderall? Vladdy? Vladdy? Where’s my Vladdy?!”

He stuck out his hand and stoved two of his teeny fingers against the cold stone wall. He screamed in protest at the pain, though most folx would have laughed it off. He blinked and tried to look around; re-orient himself. He was coming down from the Adderall. Nothing made sense. He was Undisputed King of the Universe. Yet, he seemed to be trapped in … well … it looked to him more like a prison cell than anything else. 

“F###! It is a prison cell! “ he yelled aloud to no-one in particular. “That’s right! God damn! I wish I believed in God because then … but without any of that Golden Rule crap or all the other Bull$hit. I just want a God I can call on to bail me out of trouble. Where the hell is my Vladdy?” 

He alternated among muttering, screaming, talking aloud, and pounding his teeny fists against each other. His long litany of people to blame was quite long by now. You couldn’t really say that he had the list memorized. It varied a lot from day to day, but it generally included at least the following minimal set:

{CIA, FBI, NSC, NSA, ABC, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, Time, FORTUNE, FORBES, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, the US Military generally, and the USAF, USN, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, and Space Force in particular; The Wall Street Journal, the Obamas, the Clintons, FDR, JFK, Jimmy Carter, RINOS, rhinos, the UN, the EU, Brexit, Bad Luck, George Soros, Bill Gates, Bad Germs, Doctors, WHO, Doctor WHO, the FDA, OSHA, EPA, NASA, People of Color, Mexico, People of Color from Mexico, Asians, Asia, Africa, South America, Canada, immigrants, emigrants, migrants, grants, rants, ants, NTSB, China, UK, Arabs, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, homosexuals, hemophiliacs, hemispheres, trans people, cis people, people with big hands, people with other big stuff, any other people}. 

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“Look at this place! I need a palace! Not this place! Wait. All I need is the letter ‘A’ and I can change the “place” into “palace” — hah! I may be down, but I’m definitely not out. Now, where the hell to get an “A”? Hey, God!! YO!! Give me an ‘A’ — no? Nothing. That’s how it’s gonna be huh? Wait till I get out of here! Hey! You want to prove you exist? Give me an ‘A’ right now! No? Then, do me a favor and just kill me right this second.” 

Did you ever have one of those dreams where you fall off your bike and you jerk awake suddenly? Or, perhaps you’ve dreamt of flying but then it turns into a dream of falling and depending on your personality, it’s either kind of fun or absolutely terrifying. For him, it was terrifying. And, even though it only lasted for ten minutes, it seemed to him as thought it lasted forever. He never admitted fear during his entirely cowardly life before prison and he wasn’t about to start now. He kept a stack of chips close at hand so he could always put one or two on his shoulder. After a ten minute free fall of sheer dark pinwheeling terror, he judged that putting a whole damned stack of chips on his shoulder was not out of line. So, it’s perhaps understandable that his first words to Saint Peter were:

“Who the F### are you? And where the F### am I?”

I don’t know how you imagine St. Peter’s voice, but I think of it as full and deep like an opera singer’s voice. No. Not like an opera singer but more like a duet with a chorus in the background, yet with every word completely intelligible no matter how many hair cells you’ve lost along the way because you were a drummer in a Rock Band, say, or served in live combat unlike the protagonist of our current story, who would do anything and tell any lie to stay as far away as possible from live combat.

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So, the operatic fullness of St. Peter’s voice echoed as though in a nested set of cathedrals, each connected to others across the globe and back through millennia. This is what he said:

“We are here for the sorting. It won’t take long.” 

Perhaps it should appear more like this:

“We are here for the sorting. It won’t take long.” 

But that just makes it sound big, not resonant or magical. Best to stick with ancillary descriptions, wouldn’t you say? Let’s get back to the response of our protagonist.

“Sorting? What sorting? Wait! Is this that heaven or hell thingy? That’s all BS to grab money — or, so I thought. What?” 

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Again the voice — a voice that had overtones of oceans roaring, rain falling, thunder booming, bells chiming, children laughing, wolves howling, and the nightingale singing. This time it said:

“Oh, no. Not at all. It’s much more specific and subtle.”

Now you or I might wait till we heard more about the situation we were in before saying anything else. Here’s the odd thing. Some people would view as brave just thoughtlessly blurting out something that could alter the course of your whole life — or afterlife. But I view rashness as a sign of weakness and cowardliness. In essence, the blurter cannot stand not knowing the outcome. They turn to jelly in the face of the unknown. It takes more courage to gather data, gather data, always upgrading and updating your plan and doing the best that you know how. That’s wisdom and courage. Blurting out the first thing that flashes in your brain is neither. But that is what our protagonist is all about. 

“Well, I am rich and famous! So give me a great place — the greatest place — in all of heaven. Obviously!”

I don’t know about you, but I generally don’t think of Christian Saints as smiling exactly. Perhaps they have that beatific “All is Life and Life is All and God is All and All is Good” loving everything smile. Come to think of it, it’s very much like Buddha’s smile.

But no. Saint Peter’s smile this time wasn’t that smile. It was a genuine smile about 50% camaraderie. It also held 40% of the usual saintly “God is in me and you and it’s all good” smile. But, I swear, there — right there — at the corner of his lips —  was 10% the smile of irony, of karmic justice, of snark, of satire,  — all my favorite genres rolled into one. It cannot be said that it was a purely saintly smile. But, after all, anyone would have to be heartless not to see the beauty and the wisdom in our protagonist’s new “assignment” among the world of the living, or, more likely a world that seems like the world of the living.

 
Our protagonist found himself propelled backward in time to the womb of a very dark woman in Brazil. Her tribe had lived in this part of the rain forest for millennia. Now, they were being forced out for — well, I could give you a long causal chain — or really network — but let’s just cut to the chase — she was being forced out, along with her whole tribe for greed. That’s the bottom line. Some extremely wealthy people wanted to become more extremely wealthy and they didn’t really care if it meant uprooting a 5000 year old civilization and making life miserable for every one of the inhabitants. Oh, and I should mention, hastening global climate change catastrophes as well. 

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Anyway, she had to sell her own body and later her young daughter’s body as well (our protagonist in a former life) for food and transportation. It was a perilous journey; a difficult journey; a hellish journey. More than once, the child had been ready to end it all, but the mother comforted the child, now lame from too many beatings at the hands of her many molesters and urged her on. The mother told the child of a land where there would be no more beatings. In this land, they didn’t care about where you came from. They didn’t care about the color of your skin. They would give you a chance. No-one was above the law. When we get to this promised land, all will be well. All will be well is what she told her child.

When they finally got to that fabled land of milk and honey, that shining city upon the hill, something slightly different from the mother’s dream for her daughter came to pass.

They were separated and never saw each other again. They yelled and screamed for each other but there were just the two of them and those who pulled them steadily farther apart were many and armed and strong. Each heard the voice of the other becoming fainter and fainter. At last though, nothing but memory.

But that didn’t stop the molestations; not for mother; nor for her daughter. 

Photo by Lucas Pezeta on Pexels.com

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Can it be that earth is actually an elaborate method to extract punishment? If so, how many lifetimes will it take for our protagonist to atone?

Does each person really write, direct, and star in their own play? Or, are some of us, merely bit players in dramas constructed for another purpose entirely? 

If we view Karma this way, isn’t there also a danger of blaming people born into bad circumstances because they must have done something bad in their “previous life”?

I believe we can co-construct the future on this earth. We can collectively write the play, direct it, and play parts. Of course, we’ll have to improvise as well. We can make this world less filled with pain, less filled with racism, less filled with misogyny, and more filled with truth and beauty and grace. 

Will we be rewarded in an afterlife

I don’t know. 

But I do know we will be rewarded through the lives that come after. Let’s make the world better for those lives. Countless millions made the world we live in better for us.

Photo by Frans Van Heerden on Pexels.com



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Other stories in the “Heaven’s Gate” series. 

https://petersironwood.com/2020/12/28/as-gold-as-it-gets/

https://petersironwood.com/2020/12/29/do-unto-others/

https://petersironwood.com/2021/02/27/tit-for-tat/

https://petersironwood.com/2021/02/26/i-cant-be-bothered/

https://petersironwood.com/2020/12/14/how-the-nightingale-learned-to-sing/

Author Page on Amazon

The Forest

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[The poem below is one I wrote about 60 years ago. I still feel the same way today. So, here’s an example of something that hasn’t changed about me psychologically despite all that’s happened in my world and in the world..]

I think the forest is a holy place: 

A shrine of peace for bird and beast and man;

For when I stop to rest from life’s quick place,

I journey through the wood and there I scan

With eyes and mind a palace, emerald-walled.

I see the columns, black or gray or white;

And I am thrilled and my whole being enthralled

With this great tonic of the forest light

Which casts the tender green of maple leaves

About the dark, dank, mossy forest floor;

And then the stillness of the woodland cleaves,

When some beast’s call or cry is heard once more.

But I have often seen a sight of shame:

A forest where the trees are all the same;

Where every trunk’s conforming hue is gray

And every limb and twig is set in form.

I walk for miles and see no creature gay,

For everything must coincide, conform.

I see a fiery disc set sky aflame;

The sunset throws black shadows, thin and tall; 

Yet even this to beauty has no claim —

Each tree is three feet wide and forty tall.



Some people say that would be heavenly: 

To live where each bright day the setting sun

Shall beam and gleam and glimmer flawlessly.

But I would rather see some variation:



A world where trees are not at all the same —

Where every oak its unique beauty does acclaim. 


Author Page on Amazon

Who Knew Good Grades are an Aphrodisiac?

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the psychology of change lately. For one thing, it’s quite relevant to the pivot projects (https://pivotprojects.org

I thought it would be fun to write a series of blog posts on experiences of personal change, either as a student, as a teacher, or more commonly, neither. It would be even more fun if readers shared a bit about their experiences of psychological change. Wouldn’t it be to everyone’s benefit if we understood the general principles of psychological change so that we can do a better job adapting to this ever-changing world? So, think of the example below as just “my turn.” And, then, it will be your turn. 

When I was in “Junior High School,” I was interested in some parts of school and not so much in others. I didn’t care about my grades but they were okay because at that point, I had a very good memory. And, then, one day near the end of eighth grade, I happened upon a book in our library that said good grades were important because — guess what? 

You’ll get into college? Nope. 

That you’ll get a better paying job? Nope. 

This book claimed a reward much more meaningful than either of those were at that point in my life. It claimed that if a guy got good grades, he’d be liked by the girls! Here was a secret formula to success with girls. All I had to do was get good grades!

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It did not even occur to me at the time that this claim probably had zero data behind it. It was likely written to induce guys to get good grades. I honestly don’t even think it said anything about what it meant for girls to get good grades. However, that may have been because the book was titled and aimed solely at boys. Of course, it could simply be the rampant sexism that is with us still — (sigh) — like that one guest who you know is about to barf on your rug because they’ve had too much to drink, and they live next door and they’re being obnoxious and you really just wish your neighbor would head home but they don’t. Instead, they stay until they disgust and insult everyone, barf on the carpet, then start screaming at you for serving cheap wine. That guest is what continued sexism & misogyny is like for most us. It’s also what all the other superiority BS is like for most of us. 

Photo by Anna Tarazevich on Pexels.com

I had no such consciousness at the time. I just remember reading it and feeling as though I had discovered something akin to “The Fountain of Youth” or “El Dorado.” What’s amazing is that reading something in a book altered my behavior immediately and in a way that lasted for years. Getting girls to like me. That was a motivation that I could tie into. I think because getting girls was also tied into competition, it also changed me so that I viewed getting the best grades as winning. I already liked to win! Oh, yes. I was competitive. Overly competitive. But I had never thought of grades in school as any kind of competition. I got my grades based on how well I did and you got your grades based on how well you did. The two had been, in my mind, completely unrelated events. 

Until I read that passage. 

How many people did that passage impact? For me, even if it wasn’t based on any real data, it had a positive impact. I got good grades and I did have wonderful girlfriends. I got praise from my classmates too. I didn’t ever really feel the envy & hate portrayed in so many modern movies about high school. Maybe I was just too busy studying to notice. 

I wonder if the same passage could have impacted some people’s lives negatively? Maybe someone read that and they just found out that they had gotten their girlfriend pregnant. They might have read such a passage and thought it was a cruel irony. Or, perhaps they were gay. Or, maybe they had a learning disability and were already working their tail off to keep a C average. 

And, I suppose that the majority of kids my age who read it might have known it was BS from the git-go. On them, it had little or no effect.

Even if I am the only one to have ever taken it seriously, it is pretty remarkable nonetheless that my behavior could be pushed into a new state simply by reading a sentence or two in a book.  

See? There is hope for humanity!  

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

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This essay describes some of the blockages to change; in particular, what is sometimes called “cognitive dissonance” In general, our decisions, unlike those of classical economic theory, are path-dependent. https://petersironwood.com/2019/07/18/essays-on-america-wednesday/

This post talks about how our habits can be so strong that we literally do not see what is right in front of us. https://petersironwood.com/2017/02/25/the-invisibility-cloak-of-habit/

The link here is to thoughts on how hard it is to face up to realizing that we’ve been fooled.
https://petersironwood.com/2020/06/28/essays-on-america-happy-talk-lies/

Author page on Amazon.

Come Back to the Light

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Come to the Light Side

The Bright Side

The Right Side.

Come join the Love Side

The Dove Side

Above Side.

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Eschew that Hades Hate:

Pretending all is Great;

Lying through your Teeth;

Playing from Beneath;

Adoring gilded Calf.

There is no Seed;

It’s only Chaff.

There is no Rose;

Your Garden’s Weed. 

The Path you Chose:

A King sans Clothes. 

It’s Long Past the Hour

To Douse the Light 

And Worship Brainless Power;

Believe that Might makes Right.

Our Evolutionary Arc

Turned Long Ago away from Dark. 

Photo by David Trounce on Pexels.com

Now we Stand

Upon the Edge;

It’s Razor-Thin; 

Will Cut your Skin. 

It was not Planned;

No Time to Hedge.

We Must be Brave

And Face our Fate: 

Return to Cave; 

Or Elevate.

Photo by Darren Lawrence on Pexels.com

We Green our Land —

Or Decimate.

To Beautify

Or Putrefy?

Tend the Gardens; Build those Spires!

Put out! — don’t Spread those Fires! 

We can Use the Help of Everyone. 

Lend a Hand; You’ll see it’s Fun. 

By Giving you will surely Find

Improving Muscle and your Mind. 

By Giving, you’ll Receive the Greatest Gift.

By Stealing, you’ll Create a Rift;

You will Set your Soul Adrift;

You’ll Live a Pointless Life of Grift. 

Come to the Light Side

The Bright Side

The Right Side.

Come join the Love Side

The Dove Side

Above Side.

Together we will Make Earth Green;

We will See the Stars Unseen;

We will Feel the Love of All. 

We will Whirl & Twirl the Ball

While Dancing on the Razor Rim.

We will Smile & we will Sing,

We will Make the Hillsides Ring.

Every Cup, we’ll Fill to Brim. 

Come back Over to the Light.

Come back Over; Truth will Win. 

Come back Over; Join with True. 

We need Red and White and Blue. 

Come back Over; Quit Vain Sin.

Open your Eyes; Restore your Sight. 

Come back Over to the Light.

Come back Over to the Light. 

Open your Eyes; Restore your Sight.

Photo by Dana Tentis on Pexels.com

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Other Poems 

https://petersironwood.com/2020/02/23/piano/

https://petersironwood.com/2020/02/26/race-place-space-face/

https://petersironwood.com/2020/03/01/the-bubble-people/

https://petersironwood.com/2020/03/04/ambition/

https://petersironwood.com/2020/03/05/the-impossible/

https://petersironwood.com/2020/03/07/peace/

https://petersironwood.com/2020/03/17/the-truth-train/

https://petersironwood.com/2020/03/17/maybe-it-needs-a-new-starter/

https://petersironwood.com/2020/03/25/the-joy-of-juggling/

https://petersironwood.com/2020/03/27/the-most-serious-work/

https://petersironwood.com/2020/03/30/is-a-dream/

https://petersironwood.com/2020/04/05/imagine-all-the-people/

https://petersironwood.com/2020/04/13/life-is-a-dance/

https://petersironwood.com/2020/04/16/the-pandemic-anti-acedemic/

https://petersironwood.com/2020/05/08/snowflake/

https://petersironwood.com/2020/05/23/you-gave-me-no-fangs/

https://petersironwood.com/2020/05/24/blood-red-blood/

https://petersironwood.com/2020/05/30/screaming-out-a-warning/

https://petersironwood.com/2020/06/20/the-watershed-virus/

https://petersironwood.com/2020/07/13/who-are-the-speakers-for-the-dead/

https://petersironwood.com/2020/08/11/put-in-the-fool-put-out-the-fool/

https://petersironwood.com/2020/08/17/roar-ocean-roar/

https://petersironwood.com/2020/08/20/try-the-truth/

https://petersironwood.com/2020/08/23/listen-you-can-hear-the-echoes-of-your-actions/

https://petersironwood.com/2020/09/06/my-captains-no-captain/

https://petersironwood.com/2020/09/09/comes-the-dawn/

Author Page on Amazon