Thursday, January 29, 2015

Day 687: We're All Members of Fight Club

Make an effort to understand others. Make an effort to see what they see. Make an effort to see how they see. Make an effort to see why they see.

So many people impose their views and ways of seeing onto everyone else. This of course is never going to yield accurate feedback - each and every person has been shaped by different contributory factors in their lives. You simply cannot impose your way of looking at the world on everyone and expect them to simply agree with you. Sadly, this is what so many do and is what leads to so many conflicts - not only on a personal level but on a global level too.

Each person accumulates a different set of experiences including beliefs, customs, personalities, habits, ways of communicating, even word definitions - everything really. For example, one person may regard a word like authority in an extremely negative way due to personal experiences in which they believed "authority" was involved in some way. Compare this to someone who regards authority in a positive light and sees it as a constructive tool in building a society. If these two people were to come together to deal with some scenario or conversation about "authority" while having two very different definitions and judgements of the word - unless they take the time to come to a mutual understanding regarding the nature of the word and agree that the word will have one specific definition for the duration of their time together then there will almost certainly be some form of conflict. These (all too common) situations show how inconsiderate and self-centered we actually are - we do not even take a moment to make sure that we are actually talking about the same thing.

How many relationships crumble because the partners cannot find "common ground"? The reality here is that they have not made the effort to create the common ground by developing mutual understanding of each other and, most importantly, words. Words create our worlds. Each encounter you have with someone else will include an exchange of words. It is how we communicate and share ourselves.

Sometimes it seems like people deliberately try to create this conflict by goading each other into reactions. We get so stuck in our opinions that there is no room for any other possibilities. This is not productive, to say the least. It seems quite common for a person to work themselves up into being in a mood to fight and then try to trigger someone else to get angry enough to fight with them (obviously I mean in terms of arguments more than physical altercations). They would look for the specific words that will illicit a response from someone and then bite down into the conflict.

Another aspect of this point of understanding of each other comes in where we could really develop our understanding of ourselves and each other by investigating how we come to be the way we are and see the way we see (views & opinions). I mean this in terms of all aspects of humanity - the good and the bad. Take Hitler for example - if we investigate what actually led to him becoming the man he was we can prevent it from happening again. If we could see the specific thought patterns that he participated in, the specific beliefs that triggered emotional reactions within him then we would have a map of how he got to where he was.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Day 686: Using The Media Industry to Create Change

Aha, so I found the video on the Blogger YouTube video thingy, glory.

As you see in the Talk by Tori Flower, a lot goes into research and development of products - a lot more than you may have initially thought. As Tori describes, first the company finds out who their target audience is and what they want - this will determine the design of the product that is created, from packaging to colours to texture to price, to exclusivity/availability to the number of products in the range and then of course the way that it is advertised. A lot of time and work goes into this process of creating and marketing products - but most of these products are not actually enhancing our lives. Most of these products are petty, superficial, unnecessary and even ridiculous.

Imagine if we were to put that much time and effort into creating and marketing things, lifestyles or opinions that could actually improve the world. Yes, some people do put a lot of time and effort into doing just that, but not on the same scale as the private, for-profit sector.

Tori asks the question of how do you bridge the gap between what people want and what's good for people, which is a relevant question in this day and age of fast food and following trends. Her organisation has played around a bit with positioning healthier fast food type trucks close to schools to try and encourage children to choose healthy food over fast food and they have seen success in the project. This is only one area of society that can be improved upon, and dare I say that it's not even the most pressing issue that needs attention. When you look at the bigger picture, the fast food industry exists only because of the way the economy functions - meaning that our lives are all about making money and so every industry is trying to make money as opposed to improving life as a whole. Take away the profit motive and many things would change.

So if you take a moment to look at the world, look at all the problems we face that must be improved and all the good things we have or could have that could be increased - what can be done to change the nature of the human to actually care about all life (ie the "collective") and spend a little time outside of the personal bubble called "MY LIFE"?

Using methods and tools that are more commonly used in the profit game to nudge people toward change is a realistic and very achievable goal. At the moment the entire media industry (books, movies, magazines, music, TV series, etc) is focused on making money and therefore on creating products that people will want and so buy. Funnily enough, the media industry is actually a major player in designing and influencing the current wants and needs of people to be what they are, so the industry has in a way created the perfect (consumer) customer. Now don't blame the industry - we were all willing participants. BUT - it is time to change the game. The ideals, opinions, personalities, interests, life goals, relationships, lifestyles and so on that the media promote could be changed to portray a much healthier and functional example for the public (especially children). Imagine if TV shows showed how partners can communicate effectively with each other instead of having big melt downs and explosions (simply because they didn't share themselves openly). Imagine if the focus of the media was less on personal fulfillment of desires and more on contributing to your community. Imagine if the video game industry developed games that show how you can overcome common hurdles in life (which Tori actually does talk about - so, that's pretty awesome).

There are many ways we can change the world, but they all start with change on an individual level. We can demand a media industry that's actually beneficial to us and that teaches our children good principles.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Day 685: Learning From Consumer Culture

For some reason Blogger can't find this video to embed, so here is the link.

I will be writing about this video in my next post, please watch it in the mean time to get context. The video is a TEDx Talk by Tori Flower discussing how consumer culture can be used to make "good choices" (like healthy food) more appealing to the public - an interesting and relevant discussion for the lifestyle of fast food and consumerism that is so common in this time. She also touches on mental health and what technology can do to support people to become functional and stable members of society. Very interesting stuff!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Day 684: Brain Control!

At the beginning of this video the 2 doctors compare the human brain to a computer, and as they progress in their Talk it becomes more and more evident that this is a very accurate comparison. What if we could take that one step further and compare the human in its entirety to a computer - ie: not restrict the "mind" to exist only in the brain?

The brain is the hardware and the mind can be called the software, the "mind" being thoughts and emotions and other 'internal' experiences within the human. When we are born, our brain is pretty limited in terms of the programs it runs, basic body functions and maybe some deep programs passed down from family members that will be activated under specific circumstances. As we develop physically, we also program our brains. We develop specific thought patterns along with the basics that will be unique to us, yet similar to those of many other people. When we start participating in something frequently, whether it be a physical action (like sewing, driving, singing) or an idea (that manifests as a recurring thought), we are programming the physical structure of our brains to make that action more easily accessible - in other words our brains start creating specific pathways dedicated to that particular thing (including thought patterns). Thoughts are not simply bubbles that float around in your 'mind' - your mind is integrated into your body and so will your thoughts, emotions, actions etc be. This is partly why it can be so difficult to stop participating in a thought pattern that has become a kind of addiction or even self definition. Take Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as an example: A person starts off with one single thought and for whatever reason, they will actively bring this thought up over and over (yes, obviously there is a lot more to it, this is only one aspect of what is happening). Sometimes the thought is more like a subconscious time bomb that may strike at opportune moments in order to maximise its effectiveness (this aspect I will not go into). Over time, the continuous participation in the thought creates well-used routes in the brain - and what tends to happen to the things we give attention to is that they get more resources to become more developed - so those areas of the brain will be more developed than other areas. This leads to things like OCD, depression, specific personality types and so on in extreme cases - but in reality all of our brains undergo the same (or similar) process. We all have thought patterns that are more prominent than others, belief systems that we have created by literally 'talking ourselves into it' inside our heads.

The question becomes, should technology be used to change these thought patterns? A hard question to answer. The reality is that sometimes it would be incredibly difficult for someone experiencing extreme 'symptoms', like in severe cases of OCD for example, to help themselves to change those thought patterns. They would need very specific support and tools (methods to deal with the thought patterns) to be able to even have a chance of changing their experience. In these cases the electric probes in the brain may be a preferred alternative, at least as an interim form of support . More than that, it would be very possible to use this technology to improve the nature of the human in those people who have no interest in changing themselves. I am speaking of murderers, rapists, pedophiles, psychopaths and other people who have no regard for the wellbeing of anyone but themselves. Controversial, sure. What would you prefer: a rapist with free choice or a functional human being who contributes to society without thoughts of harm, even if it means that their free choice was removed for one moment?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Day 683: What You Think You Know

If you have not yet, watch this video for context.

Rupert Sheldrake begins his Talk by saying how the biggest problem in the world of science today is that scientists believe that everything they think they know about science is correct and therefore are not willing to consider any other possibilities. (This is a generalisation of course) Rupert likens that trust in science to a belief system. He goes on to describe the difference between science as a method of inquiry (research, reason, evidence etc) and science as a belief system or world view, and how science as a world view has restricted the development of science as a method of inquiry.

This phenomenon that Rupert describes can actually be seen in many different areas of our life. We get stuck in our ways of thinking and living and will actually sometimes become defensive when another perspective is offered to us. It is as if we have anchored our entire self definition and self worth in our beliefs and opinions, and when someone comes along and talks about something else, something that challenges our views in any way we act as if we are defending our young from hungry predators. Because we hold on to our views so tightly we do not give ourselves the opportunity to consider or explore what other possibilities exist. This is at the very least a shame and at the very worst a crime against life.

Consider this point within the context of the economy, or international state of affairs, or inter religious state of affairs - everyone is trying to get on top of the mountain called "I am right" and will do so at any cost it seems. How many wars have been started because of one or more groups of people trying to impose their beliefs or opinions on one or more other groups of people? How much of our economy is based on ideals and infrastructure developed decades, or even centuries ago? How much do we hold on to that could actually be altered or overhauled for the better?

I am not saying that everything that Rupert says is correct. This isn't even about being right or wrong. This is about being open to the possibility that there is always more to investigate, discover and improve upon. If we were to open ourselves to considering and investigating everything, and keeping what is good, no matter what area of life, life on earth would explode with potential. Even a belief as simple and common as "It's just the way it is" would be forced out - because we would question WHY it is that way and what can be done to change it to benefit everyone.

We are not defined by what we believe - not really. We are defined by our thoughts, words and actions. We are defined by what we create in this world as well as what we allow. Sure, often our beliefs will determine to a great extent what it is we will create or allow - but we have reached a point of awareness where it doesn't have to be this way. We don't have to live by rules that are not actually bringing about the best possible life for everyone - we are the ones who must determine what will create the best possible life - and this can only be done through the open and unbiased investigation of all possible avenues. Investigate everything and keep what is good.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Day 682: Your Assignment...

This was an interesting video that crossed my Facebook stream. Please watch it, I will discuss it in my next post!

Here is some more contextual information about Rupert Sheldrake and his work:

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Day 681: Passion People!

Generation Y is the generation of people born between 1983 and 2000. Or somewhere around there - watch the video, Eunice mentions the timeframe. generation Y has been labelled as the worst generation ever, labelled as being lazy and entitled. This means that Gen Y peeps generally believe themselves to deserve whatever they want, without them having to lift a finger to obtain it. Obviously this is a generalisation - there will be exceptions. This also only applies to people living in certain countries or people within a specific income bracket. Imagine seeing a starving Ethiopian person who was born in the "Gen Y" time frame - do you imagine them to have this same frame of mind? No. This mentality is created by the examples set by parents and by society - if those examples are not there then the result will not be a "Gen Y individual".

So it has been hypothesized that the ideal of "following your dream/passion" has been a big influence on creating Gen Y. As Eunice shows in her Talk, the use of that particular phrase increased exponentially during the Gen Y time frame. In her Talk, Eunice is exploring the different ways we can live this phrase without becoming a lazy and entitled individual. She essentially is exploring the concept that you can change what something means - just because society has created and developed an idea like "follow your passion" in such a way that it leads to people believing that they are entitled doesn't mean that you have to actually live it that way. You can change how you live it.

Add a few principles to the "Follow your passion" ideal and you have an entirely different outcome:
  1. Put in the work to achieve something - this means developing your self discipline and a sense of responsibility - this will allow you to develop your initiative and not simply do the bare minimum. You can develop yourself to be aware and adaptable to change so that when you see that something can be changed, improved or added to improve your project (whether it is your passion, your home life, your inner experience or work) you do it - you don't put it off or shrug it off. Your goal is to do and be the best you can be, so you make sure that you do everything you can. 
  2. Let go of the idea that you have to be passionate about your career - you can develop your passion outside of your work. There are so many different ways that technology and the internet facilitates the expression and development of so many different passions. Sometimes it is actually easier to separate your work and your passion so that your work creates the financial stability in order for you to follow your passion.
  3. If you don't know what your passion is then don't be afraid to explore and experiment - try different things until you find something you enjoy. Sometimes there are many potential things you see yourself doing - sometimes the best thing to do is consider what you are already good at (if applicable) and other times you just have to pick something and commit to it - don't allow yourself to look back and doubt your choice! Remember that many things take lots of practice - don't get stuck in the idea of failure!
  4. Passion is a privilege - not everyone has the opportunity to follow their passion - which brings me to what I see as being the most important point:
  5. "It doesn't mean anything to follow your passion if it isn't in the service of others" - Spend just as much time discovering your passion as understanding the needs and problems in your community and the world as a whole. Combine your passion with improving your community - don't limit yourself! Imagine creating a world in which everyone has the opportunity to develop their passion.
While technology and the internet has given us the ability to communicate with ease and share ideas and projects, it doesn't mean that everyone will always be successful in every venture they begin (eg Kickstarter) - the reality is that only a handful of people actually get funded. Do not get caught up in the fairytale. Remember that failure is not about you, it's not personal - it does not MAKE you a failure. Failure is a reality of life, learn to accept it, learn from it and move on - do not hold on to it as this way of thinking and perception of yourself will eat you alive.

The world is changing - be part of the change and put your heart and soul into making the world a better place.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Day 680: Hot Hot Heat

(CNN) - 2014 was the Earth's warmest year on record, a U.S. weather agency announced Friday, with average temperatures 0.07 degrees Fahrenheit above the previous high.
The National Climatic Data Center, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, noted the average temperatures over land and oceans were higher in 2014 than any year since 1880 when record-keeping began.

Every person I speak to talks about how "crazy" the weather has been recently - whether they are here in South Africa, USA or Europe. In the area I live the temperature can jump 20 degrees Celsius in a matter of a few hours. Storms have gotten more severe - a few weeks ago lightning struck 2 different buildings within 30 meters of each other as well as a tree 100 meters away in one direction and a carport 100 meters in the other direction - this was all during the same storm but different lightning strikes. A couple weeks before that there was a hailstorm with hail the size of golf balls - the biggest yet in the almost 7 years I've lived here. Last winter we had frost so severe that even the hardiest of African plants like aloes were affected. These extreme events were not isolated, the unusual weather around them simply wasn't as extreme. 

Maybe the nature of nature and the weather is devolving and becoming unstable at the same rate as the minds of people are devolving and destabilizing. The extremeness of our actions in destroying the planet is simply being mirrored back to us in the extremeness of nature. 

This is not a new thing - there's been a lot of talk about protecting the environment and it's been going on for decades. There have been countless summits and conventions and events - most of them have had little to no impact. The one point that is always standing in the way of protecting the planet and ensuring the continued survival of the human race is that we see making money to be more valuable. If we were really serious about making a difference to the state of the world many more changes would have been implemented without the impediment of "the economy" (which is just an imaginary entity humanity created anyway). 

Our actions in this regard reflect what we truly regard to be important. We will give our time, skills and attention to that which we see as having a high priority - whether it is personal or otherwise. Look at the world: What priorities do you see we have? Where are we focusing our time, skills and resources? What parts of life do we give more of ourselves to? While everyone is different in what they see as being important, there is a general trend that you will be able to identify if you look at the bigger picture and it centers around ME. There are some places and areas where this is changing, more people are starting to see the bigger picture and want to change, but not many have taken that realisation to the next step of actually doing something to create change. 

We are at the precipice of change, the tipping point. The state of the planet has degraded to the extent that this may very well be the point of no return - the same could be said about the state of humanity. This is the moment we decide: Will we change and create heaven on earth, or will we continue to seek only to fulfill our own desires and goals at the expense of life.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Day 679: Monsanto-satan

I saw this image on Facebook. For a moment I didn't believe that someone would actually say something like this, and then I remembered what kind of people occupy this little marble in the galaxy.

The reality is that it is unlikely that any serious research/studies will be done into the effects of how we produce food. We do not know what will happen - though we may know in 20 or so years when the human race is diseased and unable to continue to procreate. Maybe 50 years. Who knows.

What we can know and do know is that when a group of individuals (like a company or corporation) behaves the way Monsanto is behaving then they're trying to hide something. That's not rocket science. It doesn't take much to discover that Monsanto owns half the US government high-ups. The logical deductions you can make from these factors is pretty straight forward. Everything about the actions of Monsanto says that they're only in it for the profit

The actions of Monsanto can be compared to the gross negligence of, for example, those individuals involved with skimping on the safety equipment and measures at the Fukushima power plant. Gross negligence may not be severe enough considering that all of Japan is well known for earthquakes, tropical storms, volcanoes and tsunamis - so those individuals under and ill-equipped the (NUCLEAR) power plant in full knowledge of the fact that it was in a hot zone of the wrath of nature. Now we're sitting with (another) part of our little marble being irradiated. At some point some genius sucked his/her thumb and said "It's all good now! It's safe". Right. Because we actually know that as a fact.

I wonder, do you only feel bad when something bad happens after you knowingly put other peoples' lives at risk? That does seem to be the trend - sometimes people don't feel bad at all, no matter which way the wind blows. Do these people "deserve" to die? If someone really doesn't care who gets hurt in the pursuit of their personal enrichment or happiness - should they simply be eliminated? It's a rather tough question since most people do things like that (obviously on smaller scales) - so if you say that selfinsh butt heads should die you're going to have to draw a line somewhere, because pretty much everyone is and/or can be an incredibly selfish butt head. Put an average Joe in a position where he/she could get rich at the expense of human lives, you may be surprised at how many Joe's lose their sense of compassion as the prize money increases. What would you do for $1billion? Hmmm....

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Day 678: Do You Know What You're Feeding Your Pets?

Check out this link to see which big corporations own some of the most widely recognised pet food brands in the world.

Surprised? You shouldn't be.

For a long time I heard about how the pet food industry cannot be trusted. For a long time I shrugged it off, believing, naively, that there was no way that these well known and vet-approved brands could be bad for animals. My cats have always been healthy and very few of them ever got sick or dies from 'natural' causes - I assumed that my cats were safe and healthy. Then, one of my cats suddenly got sick and had to be euthanised - his kidneys had stopped working for reason(s) unknown. He was 4 years old. This was the turning point for me - even though the vets assured me that the reason he got sick was more likely because he was a rescue and probably was infected by a virus when he was young. I started looking into the pet food industry.

Of course I should have known - it is, after all, an industry whose number 1 goal is profit and not a good product. I discovered that most of the major brands approved by vets were owned by some of the biggest and baddest corporations out there.
  • Hills (Science diet) is owned by Colgate-Palmolive
  • Purina is owned by Nestle
  • Mars owns Pedigree and Royal Canin
  • Procter & Gamble owns  Eukanuba, Iams and Innova
Aside from the scandals of recalls and rotten/suspect ingredients going into these foods, What should maybe be more concerning is the fact that the goal of these companies is to make money, not to give the best possible product to pets. If you look at the composition of most pet food products in vets or supermarkets you will see that often the meat content is around 2 - 8% and the bulk of the pellet is made up of maize or some form of wheat. The problem with that is (now there are a lot of people on both sides of this argument - the reality is that no one has conclusive results that indicate what the truth is - probably because no one is interested in the truth) that cats and dogs (for example) evolved on a specific diet of mostly meats - humans introduced grains into their diets. If you have spent much time with many animals you will have seen a few common health issues, and if those animals have been treated by a vet you may have heard that specific food allergy/sensitivity is a common cause of many ailments (especially skin, weight, ear infections, inflammatory conditions). What will likely happen in those scenarios is that the vet will recommend that the animal be placed on a specific type of food, usually one of the Hill's Prescription Diets. What I find to be concerning about this is for example that a dog that is sensitive to chicken will be put on this diet even though there is absolutely no guarantee by the food does not contain chicken. If I remember correctly, the packaging indicates that there is "poultry and poultry by-products" which may or may not include chicken.

I have read the labels on these vet approved foods. Most contain a number of ingredient names that I cannot pronounce. Most contain chicken (which is one of the more common allergens to dogs). Most contain flavourants (because there isn't enough real food in there to make it appealing enough for animals to eat). Most are made up mostly of grains. Most have a low protein content and high carbohydrate content (contrary to the design and evolution of cats and dogs). I read on one of the Hills Prescription Diet cat food labels that the food should not be fed for more than 3 months or it may cause kidney failure. The vet had just recommended I feed that to an elderly cat who we discovered has spinal arthritis (it was the Mobility food).

After my long experience through the mess of the pet food industry I learned more clearly than ever before that you cannot trust any one or any group/company whose goal is profit.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Day 677: Stopping Reactions in a Moment

I have been practicing stopping my reactions recently after a realisation that I can actually stop a reaction just as quickly as the heat of it rises within me.

What I have noticed about reactions is that as you are in it you can feel that something is not right, you know that you may regret what you're doing or saying or that you may have to face some unpleasant consequences in the aftermath of your outburst (or whatever). I actually tested this point for myself, I would slow down within my reaction and acknowledge that knowing within me that I was in the midst of making a mistake but still allow the reaction to continue. Afterwards I would assess whether that feeling was accurate or not. It was, every time.

The reason that we usually use to not stop a reaction even when we know we should is "I am right" - whatever I'm thinking or saying is right and everyone else is wrong. This experience of righteousness can often make stopping the reaction quite difficult when you are not willing to accept that you may be wrong regarding any or all things in your life. For me, once I fully accepted in every moment that I may be wrong about anything and everything I believe to be true and once I realised that whenever I believe I am right with conviction I am probably wrong - it became easier for me to slow down within a reaction and start assessing myself and the situation I'm in more objectively.

Part of the change is especially regarding word choice - whenever I am experiencing even a small reaction I remind myself to stop what I am saying and take a step back so that I can reassess the potential effects of my words. Doing this small thing alone has prevented many potential conflicts or other unpleasant experiences within me and others. Another way I can describe this point is to not say or do ANYTHING in the heat of the moment - whenever there is any heat or movement within you you know you need to stop and take a step back.

It's strange, it's like a part of us wants to react and allow a full on emotional explosion, like we are entitled to rain down chaos and destruction on the people and the world around us. It's like we stop caring in that moment and are absolutely consumed by the experience that has taken over. The key to realise is that you are never truly absolutely consumed - the point of self responsibility always exists. This means that you always have the ability to stop the reaction, the point that is often lacking is the willingness to stop it in that moment. We so often will go full on bonkers and only afterwards realise the damage we have done. That is where the remorse comes rushing in.

I have trained myself to listen to that feeling of uneasiness when I am in a reaction. This does not mean that I catch it in time every single time - it is a process that takes time and practice. What I have also implemented for myself is to repair any damage I do as soon as possible - I make sure that I let the affected people know that I realise that my behaviour and/or words were not acceptable. Within this application that I have been walking I have found that I am much more satisfied with how I handle situations and myself, I am not left with an icky feeling inside me of "I could have done better" or "I could have avoided all of this".

So now when I react I often am able to stop myself before I say or do anything I may regret. As I have been doing this it has become easier - I have also noticed another interesting side effect: I am more patient and supportive with others when they are in a reaction. I have found that I am more able to direct and support people out of their reactions. The most interesting realisation I have has is probably that most reactions stem simply from a lack of understanding, most often a lack of investigating and understanding the entirety of a situation and each person's position within it. As I push myself to look at what other people around me are going through and why I find that this point of understanding is also becoming easier.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Day 676: How Did We Come to This?

(CNN)A 5-year-old Florida girl was killed after her father tossed her from a bridge from his car, police said Thursday.
As a St. Petersburg police officer was driving home just after midnight, he saw a car whiz past him, driving about 100 miles per hour, authorities said.
When the car neared the top of the Dick Misener Bridge, the driver stopped.
"The man reached into the back seat, grabbed his little girl, held her under the arms and then threw her over the railing and into water," St. Petersburg police spokeswoman Yolanda Fernandez told CNN affiliate WFLA.

What must happen for one person to do this to another person - a child no less? What must happen for a father to do this to his child? What must have gone on inside his mind? How did it all begin? What process has to happen for a mind to develop in that way? What must happen for someone to be willing to allow the thoughts within them that would lead to such extreme behaviour?

It seems that most people don't realise how distorted and twisted human "nature" (mind) is becoming. You see that all this terrible stuff is happening, you see that people are doing awful things to each other, you know that there are things happening behind closed doors that would make you shudder or worse - you KNOW that things are getting bade, but it seems like most people will not take the next step of acknowledging and understanding the extent of the problem across our society.

You may have the odd conversation where someone says "oh yes, things are getting really bad now, people are just crazy!" and then they will talk about the weather. What does this tell you? The severity of the problem is not understood, because if we actually understood how extreme the degradation of the mind is then we would be doing so much more than we are (not) doing now to correct this.

When you start investigating and actually looking at what is happening in the world - what people do to each other - you start grasping the extent of the problem. You begin to see that the rate of degradation of the human "condition" is accelerating. Just as it seems that the force of nature is accelerating, that the state of international affairs is breaking down, so is the state of humanity degrading.

In truth it is we who are driving the state of affairs in all aspects of life to become more extreme. We are forcing the nature of life on Earth to become more forceful. We are backing life into a corner, but in truth we are life, so we are sabotaging ourselves. We are attacker and victim at the same time, with the reality that we will drag all of life on earth down with us. If we continue to allow this depravity within ourselves we will only continue to see and experience it around us. There is no way to protect ourselves from it - we create it and therefore it will seep into our lives. There is no hiding from it, even nature is bearing her will down on us, hoping that we will somehow see what we have been creating in this life.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Day 675: Criminal Governance

Having lived my whole life in South Africa I am no stranger to seeing and experiencing the effects of an incompetent and short sighted government. Aside from the frequent tax-funded luxury houses, cars, travel and parties, it seems at times as if the government is not trying to make like better or easier for the citizens of the nation, but that they are actively trying to spread misery and inequality.

Let's take the recent changes in the visa laws. If someone marries a South African citizen, you used to be able to get a spousal visa and renew it from inside or outside the country. Now, and visa that you apply for must be done from your country of citizenship. You can renew your spousal visa from inside South Africa, but no one seems to really know how to do it, so majority of the applications since the implementation of the new law have been declined. This means that people who are living in South Africa with their spouse and children are faced
with 3 choices:
  1. Appeal - if unsuccessful and your visa expired in the process of the appeal you will be forced to leave the country and be banned from reentry for 5 years.
  2. Leave the country and try again from the country where you are a citizen.
  3. Stay in the country illegally. If caught, you will be deported and banned from reentry for 5 years.
During the application process, you are likely to be misinformed of the required documents and the nature of the procedure more than once. Every person within the government working in the immigration/visa department will probably give you different information and contradict one another. You will also have to contend with the slow service of any government institution from which you must obtain documentation. Don't forget the forever imminent postal services strike - South Africa experiences at least one postal service strike per year.

As if it's not enough that no one knows how the procedure works, every one of them also appears to be completely incompetent and lacking in any kind of compassion. This particular visa application requires a minimum of 8 - 10 weeks to process. If you do it in another country it will take about 10 working days. Somehow that's supposed to make sense.

The government also seems to believe that outsourcing every service is the best solution, which means that if you pay a few hundred Rands you can skip queues when applying for your visa and sit in the executive lounge. Obviously this indicates what the real priorities of the government are - especially considering that every time you have to re-apply for something you have to pay all the fees again. This holds true for all branches of government - and most often the need to re-apply is directly caused by incompetence on the part of officials.

This is merely one example of the current state of governance in South Africa - it is not the only one and I am sure that this is not the only country that has a government that makes you want to carve your leg off with a fork after having to deal with them.

Governments should not be making our lives more difficult. We should not dread dealing with them. The people who choose public service should not despise and resent the public. Government officials should want to be guardians of peoples' rights. The leaders of a government should not be greedy and "lose" public funds in big houses, fast cars and fancy parties. Public servants should live by principles that value the needs and rights of people more than their personal advancement or wealth.

It's easy to say what the government should and shouldn't do. The reality is that all governments are made up of people, and it will be the morals and principles of those people that will determine the nature of the government. It is currently the presiding norms of society will be reflected in the actions of governments - so it is time for us to take a good look at what our governments are showing us about the world we create and participate in. We may not each be able to make a large difference on our own, but when we stand together within certain principles we can truly create the world we would like to live in.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Day 674: Give Meaning To Your Life

What gives your life meaning? Is it happiness? A family? Achievements? Work?

Is that truly how you want to give your life meaning? Is your life as meaningful as you want it to be? Have you given yourself a purpose?

So much of the way we live is about self enrichment, self fulfillment, self enlightenment - but is this truly a fulfilling lifestyle? Do these things give us the meaning we so desperately crave?

When you talk to your girlfriends about that cute guy you saw, are you sharing the meaningful parts of yourself?

When you go on a shopping spree to keep up with the latest trends, are you contributing to the development and improvement of society in more than an economic sense?

When you hang out with friends and get drunk or high in all your spare time, are you creating the life you want for yourself, a life that will contribute to the betterment of life on earth?

When you spend every night in front of the TV for hours, are you investigating what meaning you can give your life?

Meaning is something that you must give yourself - you must create a life that will be meaningful. If you are obsessed within your search for meaning then you will not be creating it. Meaning is not something that "happens" to you, or is given to you - it is something that can only come about from you actually moving yourself and directing your life with the goal of manifesting it.

There is so much in this world and in our lives that holds no purpose other than self interest. There are so many things that make no real sense. There is so much pain that could have been avoided. Much of this comes from people who gave their lives meaning - but the meaning they created was meaning only for themselves with no regard for the lives and value of other beings. This abuse of life can be seen everywhere, where the meaning of self interest destroys the opportunities for others to stand up and be the creators of their lives.

The meaning of self interest has become more important than the meaning of life. Those people who had enough willpower to move themselves to give their lives meaning ended up being predominantly the people who were most willing to abuse others in the pursuit of that meaning. Imagine if we all were to give our lives the kind of meaning that would support others, care about them, be honest with them, share ourselves with them, consider them, improve on our society?

What is meaning if not the principles and ideals you hold manifest? If you do nothing to create your meaning then you have no meaning. Intentions mean nothing.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Day 673: Relationship Success Support: Loneliness & The Fear of Being Alone

Why do we sometimes feel so alone? How is loneliness connected to the desire for a partner? How can you assist and support yourself within this experience? What can you learn about yourself through loneliness and fear of being alone? Join us for this third hangout in our series with Cerise Poolman on Relationship Success Support. In addition to the hangout we recommend this series of interviews on loneliness by Sunette Spies:

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