Archive for September, 2011

Nobody listens anymore

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

Am I the last person on the planet who actually monitors how much they talk versus how much they actively listen during a ‘conversation?’ Somewhere along the way, dialogues left the building and we are stuck listening to people unload monologues on us without any clue or consideration. The sound you hear is the energy leaking from your body as they drone on sucking the very life out of your ears. And in the rare moments they aren’t talking, they just zone out from actually listening to you respond while they plot what they are about to say next. I know you are aware of this phenomenon. And I know you are either a perpetrator or a victim of it.

Blogs and Twitter and Facebook are all manifestations of this imbalanced sense of entitlement where everyone now feels that every minutiae of their life or every opinion they have is worth reading, whether they know how to put a complete sentence together or not. At least with written monologues, you have the choice to ignore or skip over them. Just as sleazy fashion trends have made it harder to tell a high schooler from a hooker, actual writers now have a much harder time reminding everyone – “Hey, I’m the professional here!”

Here’s a book that simply explains conversation hogs as ‘stealers of energy.” That’s what they do – like an energy vampire, they are sucking your attention from you like blood from your veins. If you are a good listener, you’re well aware just how much energy it takes to actively listen to someone. To care enough about that relationship to follow what they are saying, invest some emotional concern, and maybe even ask a relevant question or two, instead of hijacking the conversation to go off on your own tangent.

Rhythm, Relationships, and Transcendence: Patterns in the Complex Web of Life by Toru Sato reminds us that, on a subatomic level, all matter is just a boundless bundle of energy, and “the only boundary between you and the other person is really a boundary made in your mind.” So why would you want to steal energy from yourself?

“Energy flows where attention goes.” And attention “is the basis for acceptance, respect, influence and care, all of which we crave in our daily lives … We feel energized when others pay attention to us … We feel depleted of energy when others do not pay attention to us.”

“We live in a rhythmic cycle of giving and receiving in all of our relationships … We give and take energy in varying degrees. We can take massive amounts of energy if we take little by little for a prolonged period of time without giving back. This is why we feel exhausted if someone talks to us incessantly for a long time without letting you have your turn. This incessantly speaking person is not yelling at us or physically assaulting us but we feel tired and very lower in energy after a while. This usually does not work well in a relationship because there is no rhythm of giving and taking. There is just taking.”

“We live in a competitive world. We compete for ‘energy.’ This is why many of us want to be famous, want to do heroic things, want to be powerful or influential, want more money. These are all means to gain energy. Being a hero or being famous makes us attract a lot of attention and admiration and sometimes respect. In other words, we receive energy.”

The book goes on to explain how to balance this rhythm of taking and giving, and that the more we let down the artificial boundary between each other and become attentive in a more balanced way, the more we can share consciousness and feel unity. It can happen on an individual basis, and it can happen with groups, countries and even this whole rocking planet.

And it all begins when you start to realize what you are taking from someone when you dump without listening, and what you gain when you trade attention and respect in balance.

Try it sometime. Try it all the time. And read this book for some more insights that can reduce the conflicts in your life to a simpler understanding of the way we compete for energy, and how we can transcend the anxiety and separation such competition creates.

— A. Wayne Carter

Watching Bill Maher, religiously

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

I watch Bill Maher, religiously. Every week. Like church.

He speaks truth to power in a manner so cool and rational and funny, it’s refreshing and entertaining beyond shit.

No matter who the guest or panelist is, he has a way to instantly disarm them with pure reason. It’s hard to argue when someone is brandishing the cold, hard, indisputable facts.

Unless, of course, the subject of religion comes up.

Suddenly, this cool, calculated rationalist begins ranting and raving; practically foaming at the mouth about gullibility, ignorance, stupidity and the ‘fairy tales’ of the believers.

To quote Shakespeare, “Methinks thou doth protest too much.”

How is a raving atheist spewing contempt and intolerance for believers in Jesus or any other faith any different than an evangelical Christian on the other side spewing condemnation and intolerance for heathen non-believers?

They are really mirror images of the same basic intolerance.

Who CARES what someone else believes? Nobody really knows. Why does it bug you so much, Bill? If someone wants to believe in Jesus, Mohammed, Scientology, Leprechauns, or the magic underwear of Mormonism, what’s it to you?

Sure, if someone uses religion to incite hatred and violence and war (as so often has been done throughout history, past and current), then expose it and condemn the hypocrisy of the agenda behind it. But don’t become one of them.

CNN has a religion column and 90 percent of the people who post comments to the column appear to be atheists angrily mocking or condemning the idea of faith, God, or religion. Religious columns online provoke more responses from atheists than actual followers of one faith or the other. What does this say?

Again, methinks they doth protest too much.

I have a theory that many atheists, and probably Bill Maher included, are burned believers. Why else would they get so riled up over what someone else believes?

At some time in their lives, perhaps in the early devout Catholic upbringing of the half-Jewish Bill Maher, they fervently believed in something. Maybe it was the power of prayer. Maybe it was the saving power of grace. Or maybe it was a miracle that just didn’t come through. They lost a parent or precious loved one or even a pet; the bully unjustly got away with his crime; or their parents stopped loving each other and divorced. So they threw away prayers or faith in anything beyond belief in the random cruelty or callousness of life, and embraced pure rationalism.

And now, any time someone else brings up faith or religion, it stirs their blood and those inner emotions and triggers a deep anger at something they once might have believed in and have since lost. How DARE someone else have faith in something?

It’s just a theory.

But I would also remind atheists or non-believers attempting art that almost every great masterpiece in the world of art or music was inspired by faith in something bigger than, or beyond the ego or rationalism of the artist.

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (that’s Jesus in man’s ‘Joy’ there)

Mozart’s Requiem

The Beatles “Let It Be”

Michelangelo’s Pieta or David or Sistine Chapel

Even a secular artist such as Paul Simon found his greatest inspiration in gospel music when he composed, “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

And what would Soul Music – think Marvin Gaye, Al Green or Otis Redding – be without the ‘soul?’ Probably just lifeless, uninspired programmed crap like the Black-Eyed Peas, “I Got a Feeling,” who’s only inspiration appears to be greed for a dance floor remix that has a shelf life about the same as milk.

John Lennon sang “imagine no religion” in his classic, “Imagine,” but he wasn’t talking about God or faith. He meant the use of religion by men as a form of control over others. And keep in mind he wrote this song after extensive experimentation in primary therapy writing cathartic songs like, “God,” and “Mother,” where he was screaming about the loss of … well, his mother. It happened when he was young. He probably prayed to have her in his life and felt betrayed. And he got angry. And later … he protested too much.

But he must have made his own peace eventually forgiving everyone else their silly beliefs in faith or God or religion or alcohol or pills or magic underwear, because one of the last NUMBER ONE hit songs he ever had was the very positive and cheerful, “Whatever Gets You Through the Night.”

It’s all right. It’s all right.

Here’s a simple test to determine whether you believe in some form of God or spiritual life.

Have you ever meditated? Do you believe in the power of meditation?

We’re not talking prayers. Prayer is ASKING for something from above or beyond yourself.

Meditation is LISTENING for something beyond yourself.

If you believe in the power of meditation, then you are not an atheist.

Because meditation is going within yourself to find a silence or inner peace beyond the chatter of your own mind.

It’s letting go of the ego or mask of identity you’ve created for yourself that pretends you really are separated from anyone or anything else.

It’s going within to find that inter-connectivity.

In physics, it’s called The Unified Field Theory. Everything in the universe; solid, gas, or liquid is really just dancing particles of energy suspended in space. Everything really is just ONE thing in a field or matrix.

In metaphysics, this inter-connectivity is called the Collective Unconscious, or Universal Consciousness.

In religion, followers call it God.

And to poets and dreamers, it’s called … Love.

Believe in that, Bill, and you just might find the inner peace and tolerance that evade holier-than-thou zealots who simply can’t “live and let live,” or “Believe what you want, and let believe.”

Believe in that, Bill, and you just might believe again.

I believe in you, Bill.

— A. Wayne Carter