The Eleven Nations in the United States of America

A thought-provoking perspective of the United States of America.

Last month I wrote a post called “Need Some Help in Understanding the World.” In it I talked about an article by Ezra Klein on the website VOX titled “22 Maps and Charts That Will Surprise You” and suggested you look at number seven.

In case you missed it, that map uses outlines of the states as a way to identify where the eleven “countries” or “nations” would be located in what we consider North American. Read More

Books On My Shelf: Fieldnotes on the Compassionate Life

November 5, 2012
Discover how compassion bridges the gap between friend and foe, between Democrat and Republican, between “our team” and “their team.”

 

Books on my shelfI am starting a feature on the blog called “Books on My Shelf.” Every Monday morning, I will give you excerpts and recommendations for books I have enjoyed very much. Some are serious, others light reading. Some are still in print, others not so but still worth getting from the library. Or, they can be ideas to add to your holiday shopping list.
 
If you buy these books using the links in the post, you can help support the upkeep of the Support4Change website and blog. Even if you aren’t planning on buying them, I still think you will enjoy reading the excerpts and my thoughts on these excellent books.

 


Fieldnotes on the Compassionate LifeToday is the day before the elections. Tomorrow, approximately half the country will be happy with the results, and half will be disappointed. Though everyone will be glad the political ads are going to be over.

If your side wins, you may not give much thought to the feelings of those who lost. If your side loses, you may not have many happy feelings for those who won.

What if there were a different way to view the people with whom you disagree?

Here are two excerpts from Field Notes on the Compassionate Life: A Search for the Soul of Kindness by Marc Ian Barasch. This approach to life is one that we would all do well to take to heart.

THE GOOD EYE: Seeing the Best in Another Person Even When It’s Not Obvious

Life offers up its own daily catechism, even if it’s just seeing people in a little better light. Why not just resolve to give everyone the benefit of the doubt? “If we treat people as they ought to be,” said Goethe, almost nailing it, “we help them become what they are capable of becoming.” Or more to the point: Treat them as they already are, if we but had the Good Eye to see it.

Once, at a conference, I noticed a man striding toward me, his face alight. He seemed really happy to see me, but I didn’t have a clue who he was. When he got closer, he pushed his glasses up to the bridge of his nose, peered at my face, looked down at my nametag, took a step back.

“I’m so sorry,” he said, embarrassed. “You looked just like a friend I haven’t seen for years. You even have the same first name … so when someone pointed you out. . .” He trailed off; the effusive warmth seeped away. I told him it was fine. His Good Eye had enveloped me in a gaze of anticipatory delight that made me feel golden. We wound up having lunch. He told me about his research (which coincidentally dovetailed with my own); he talked about the happiness and sorrows of raising a young daughter with multiple sclerosis (for everyone is fighting a great battle). We still stay in touch.

Maybe we should all take off our glasses and hope for more cases of mistaken identity. For that matter, it might be unmistaken. Why not welcome everyone as some long-lost cousin, sprung from our fifty-thousand-African mother, bumping into each other again after a year separation. Wonderful to see you after all this time — you look great!

A friend of mine, a psychologist, works as a counselor to the obdurate, lethal men at Arkansas ‘s infamous Tucker Max prison. She’s well aware that most people look at her clients and see only dregs — “ugly toothless hulks,” as she puts it — but she claims she can only see “radiant bulbs with these big lampshades blocking the light. I know they’re supposed to be ‘untreatable psychopaths,’ but I feel like, Oh, take that fright-mask off! It could come off in two seconds!” It sounds absurd, but she’s remarkably successful. In her presence, the toughest nuts crack wide-open; even their wary, death-row warders let down their guard and cry. She has an x-ray vision that goes straight to the human core.

“It’s like there’s this horribly thick suit of armor,” she explains, trying to make me see it through her eyes, “and I know someone’s trapped inside, so how do we get them out?” I ask her why she even bothers. “The joy!” she says, as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world. “Just the joy of being with people when they show up as they really are.”

If we can’t see who people really are, say possessors of the Good Eye, it’s just our ordinary eye playing tricks on us, focusing on differences and defects, blind to deeper connection. If we mistake each other for strangers, it’s just blurry vision. The Good Eye is the corrective to Einstein’s “optical delusion of consciousness.” As with the rearview mirror that cautions Objects May Be Closer Than They Appear, we might be closer, much closer, than we think.

Rooting for the Winners if You Lost and the Losers if You Won

I have a wildly successful acquaintance next to whose perfectly pillowed existence mine seems a lumpy mattress. I’ve seen him on magazine covers, a self-satisfied, cock-of-the-walk, air-brushed grin on his face. Even worse, he’s in my field, though he does ever so much better (sell-out!). I’ve been training myself, as an antidote to a fulminating case of green-eye, that whenever I feel that little twitch of envy, I wish for more bluebirds of happiness to come sit on his eaves. “Don’t you mean,” asks a cynical friend, “come shit on his sleeves?” But the fact is, my good wishes provide an unexpected sense of relief. It’s an unknotting, expansive feeling, as if what’s his and what’s mine suddenly, metaphysically, belong to both of us and to neither. I recently came across a line from Yoko Ono: “Transform jealousy to admiration / And what you admire / Will become part of your life.” Maybe she did break up the Beatles, but I think she’s onto something.

Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself. Root for the other team. Visualize someone who makes you envious — someone who squats smug as a toad in what is surely your rightful place in the world. Think of them in all their irritating splendor, enjoying the perks and accolades you no doubt deserve. Then … wish sincerely that they get even more goodies.

Isn’t this the mortal sin of “low self-esteem”? Well, not exactly; it’s more like a metaphysical jujitsu. In rooting for someone else’s happiness, we tune to a different wavelength. We feel more beneficent, less deprived, more capable of giving. The focus on another person’s satisfaction becomes a lodestone that paradoxically draws us closer to our own. (Isn’t most envy just our own potential disowned? We are jealous of what we ourselves might become.) Seeing the world through another’s eyes (you in me, me in you) makes it feel there’s at least twice as much to go around; not more money or fame or square footage, but what underlies the whole pursuit: more love.

Look at what this shift in attitude might do to the country. We might actually come together and accomplish something!

Excerpt reprinted with permission
Copyright © 2005 Marc Ian Barasch
For more information, visit www.compassionatelife.com. Marc Ian Barasch is the author of several award-winning books. His recent book, Healing Dreams was hailed by the Washington Post as “lucid, courageous, trailblazing.” His other books include the award-winning classic The Healing Path and the national bestseller Remarkable Recovery: What Extraordinary Healings Tell Us About Getting Well and Staying Well He is a former editor at Psychology Today, Natural Health, and New Age Journal (which won a National Magazine Award under his tenure). He was a founding member of the Naropa University psychology department and he is an Emmy Award-nominated documentary film producer and writer whose work has been broadcast worldwide. He lives in the Colorado Rockies.

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A Promise Not to Text

February 9, 2011
Discover how you can help prevent car accidents.

My grandson was killed several years ago but by a driver who fell asleep at the wheel. So I know the pain of suddenly losing a person you love very much. It is doubly painful to know that the accident could have been prevented.

That is why I want to share with you a video my brother sent me yesterday.  I think everyone who has ever texted (apparently it’s a real word) should absolutely watch. It is ten minutes but can save a life, maybe even yours.

The AT&T “Don’t Text While Driving” documentary below focuses on several young people who were texting while driving; it was the last thing they would ever type. The CoolestOne.com, where I first saw the video, says it should be shown in every high school. I agree. Even more, every parent should require their children to watch it.

And if you text, watch it even if you don’t “usually” text while driving. Any distraction that takes your eyes off the road has the potential to kill you or another person. Is the risk worth it to get that message typed immediately?

After you watch the video, be sure to scroll down and read the rest of the post for a text challenge.

After watching this video, I wondered what I could do, besides putting it in my blog and sending it to family and friends. Then it hit me. Start a campaign to get people who text to promise not to text while driving. I was about to start one on this post when I went back to the CoolestOne.com and discovered they had created the following pledges:

I pledge I will not text while I am driving.

I pledge I will not text while driving and will use only hands free calling if I need to speak on the phone while I am driving.

I pledge I will not text or use my phone while I am driving. If I need to use my phone, I will pull off the road to a safe location.

I wonder if the pledge might catch on more quickly if it were written in “text” language. I frankly don’t know what that would look like since I don’t text. But send me your contributions of any of the pledge statements above in the shortened words and phrases you would use if you were to type it on a cell phone.

Then send that text — when you are not driving — to everyone on your contact list. See how many of them will be willing to take the pledge with you.

I will post all contributions on this blog once a week for three weeks so more people can see it.

Since it takes two to have a text conversation, here is one more suggestion. Pledge not to engage in texting or a cell phone conversation with someone who doesn’t have a hands free phone if you know the intended recipient is behind the wheel. The other person may not want you to stop the conversation, but at least you won’t be responsible for encouraging him or her to drive distracted.

How much better to later see your friend healthy and in person than laid out on a cold slab or reduced to ashes in a jar.

Trust me. I know of what I speak.

P.S. I don’t insist that others be politically correct, but I did wonder why all of the young people who were shown in the video were white. Surely people of color also text while driving and many of them have been killed as well. Perhaps none of those families were willing to be photographed. It’s just something I tend to notice since I live in an interracial area and seeing people of all one color always strikes me as unusual. It doesn’t distract from the power of the video; I just think it would be more impactful for more people if there were teens of other races.

Did you enjoy this post?
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