Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.


Love, not Shame; Compassion, not Fear

A chain of associations.

First up, a very moving testimony from someone who has fought back from a low point and still struggles to fight the shame heaped upon her for it:

I Was a Lazy, Immoral Single Mother

 . . . What kills me when I read self-righteous declarations by the likes of Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee about the moral waywardness and laziness of poor single mothers is not the right’s propensity to blame a national problem on its victims. What I find most infuriating is how inept their proposed solution is: to shame single mothers.

It’s as if they believe the only thing standing in the way of single mothers becoming pious, industrious, financial successes who raise upstanding citizens is a little more self-loathing.

I have news for the right: The one and only thing that most poor, single mothers have in abundance is self-loathing. We constantly worry about where we went wrong, are going wrong, and how many different ways we are screwing up. It is like suggesting that the problems of people stranded on a life-raft could be resolved with a serious infusion of sea-water.

I know how much self-loathing most welfare mothers endure because, on a dark fall day in 1995, I became a single mother on welfare. . . .

I firmly believe that everyone ultimately wants self-respect and feelings of self-worth more than they want an easy ride through laziness, theft, and the like, it's just often hard for people to find and believe in those things in themselves.  Does shaming people motivate them away from the negative and toward the positive?  Not from my perspective.

Here's a consideration from a parenting perspective.  Because compassion for others is grounded in compassion for self, after all.

Raising a Moral Child

 . . . anywhere from a quarter to more than half of our propensity to be giving and caring is inherited. That leaves a lot of room for nurture, and the evidence on how parents raise kind and compassionate children flies in the face of what many of even the most well-intentioned parents do in praising good behavior, responding to bad behavior, and communicating their values. . . .

Children were much more generous after their character had been praised than after their actions had been. Praising their character helped them internalize it as part of their identities. The children learned who they were from observing their own actions: I am a helpful person. . . .

Praise in response to good behavior may be half the battle, but our responses to bad behavior have consequences, too. When children cause harm, they typically feel one of two moral emotions: shame or guilt. . . .

Shame is the feeling that I am a bad person, whereas guilt is the feeling that I have done a bad thing. Shame is a negative judgment about the core self, which is devastating: Shame makes children feel small and worthless, and they respond either by lashing out at the target or escaping the situation altogether. In contrast, guilt is a negative judgment about an action, which can be repaired by good behavior. When children feel guilt, they tend to experience remorse and regret, empathize with the person they have harmed, and aim to make it right. . . .

If we want our children to care about others, we need to teach them to feel guilt rather than shame when they misbehave. . . .

The most effective response to bad behavior is to express disappointment. . . . The beauty of expressing disappointment is that it communicates disapproval of the bad behavior, coupled with high expectations and the potential for improvement: “You’re a good person, even if you did a bad thing, and I know you can do better.” . . .

The thing I struggle with is that I get frustrated when I don't see compassion and generosity in others, even though it seems I'm one of those people more genetically predisposed to it.

This Machine Can Tell Whether You're Liberal or Conservative

"We know that liberals and conservatives are really deeply different on a variety of things," Hibbing explains on the latest episode of the Inquiring Minds podcast (stream above). "It runs from their tastes, to their cognitive patterns—how they think about things, what they pay attention to—to their physical reactions. We can measure their sympathetic nervous systems, which is the fight-or-flight system. And liberals and conservatives tend to respond very differently." . . .

Conservatives, Hibbing's research suggests, go through the world more attentive to negative, threatening, and disgusting stimuli—and then they adopt tough, defensive, and aversive ideologies to match that perceived reality. . . .

The authors therefore concluded that based on results like these, "those on the political right and those on the political left may simply experience the world differently."

"Maybe you've had this experience, watching a political debate with somebody who disagrees with you," says Hibbing. "And you discuss it afterwards. And it's like, 'Did we watch the same debate?' And in some respects, you didn't. And I think that's what this research indicates." . . .

That word, "primal," helps us begin to understand what Hibbing and his colleagues now think ideology actually is. They think that humans have core preferences for how societies ought to be structured: Some of us are more hierarchical, as opposed to egalitarian; some of us prefer harsher punishments for rule breakers, whereas some of us would be more inclined to forgive; some of us find outsiders or out-groups intriguing and enticing, whereas others find them threatening. Hibbing and his team have even found that preferences on such matters appear to have a genetic basis.

Thus, the idea seems to be that our physiology, who we are in our bodies, may lead us to experience the world in such a way that basic preferences about how to run society emerge naturally from more basic dispositions and habits of perception. So, if you have a negativity bias, and you focus more on the aversive and disgusting, then the world seems more threatening to you. And thus, policies like supporting a stronger military, or being tougher on immigration, might feel very natural. . . .

So if that's the case, what to do about it?  I can't help but believe the answer to a better world lies in seeing the potential for good in others and helping them discover it for themselves, yet those who work to prevent that philosophy becoming policy can't help but believe the answer to a better world lies in seeing the threat in others and always being on guard against it.  I really have no good answer to that, I just know I can't stop trying to make the case that helping others helps me.

Like in this anecdote that was shared (without credit) on Facebook as the caption to the photo below:
Once, a group of 50 people was attending a seminar. Suddenly, the speaker stopped and decided to do a group activity. He started giving each person a balloon. Each one was asked to write his/her name on it using a marker pen. Then all the balloons were collected and put in another room.

Now these delegates were let in that room and asked to find the balloon which had their name on it, within five minutes. Everyone was frantically searching for their name, colliding into each other, pushing around others, and there was utter chaos.

At the end of five minutes no one could find their own balloon.

Now each one was asked to randomly collect a balloon and give it to the person whose name was written on it. Within minutes everyone had their own balloon.

The speaker began— exactly this is happening in our lives. Everyone is frantically looking for happiness all around, not knowing where it is.

Our happiness lies in the happiness of other people. Give them their happiness; you will get your own happiness. And this is the purpose of human life.

Which is almost the same story I shared a few years back (with credit) in the post, "On Earth as It Is in Heaven":

People are always wishing. But once in China a man got his wish, which was to see the difference between heaven and hell before he died. When he visited hell, he saw tables crowded with delicious food, but everyone was hungry and angry. They had food, but were forced to sit several feet from the table and use chopsticks three feet long that made it impossible to get any food into their mouths.

When the man saw heaven, he was very surprised for it looked the same. Big tables of delicious food. People forced to sit several feet from the table and use three-foot long chopsticks that made it impossible to get any food into their mouths. It was exactly like hell, but in heaven the people were well fed and happy.


In heaven they were feeding one another.

Or, on a more fundamental level, as a perspective from which to operate in, "My Philosophy" (which includes more than what I'm quoting, including another poignant graph from Jessica Hagy at Indexed):

What you choose to see in others is what you project for others to see in you.

If you assume others have selfish motives and bad intentions you will treat them as such, and that's what they'll assume about you. If you see them as greedy hoarders out to take from you, then you'll preemptively hoard from them before they can. If you see the world as a threat and a danger to you, then you'll build your defenses to ward the world off and become a danger to others. If you see others as competition, then you'll always compete with everyone and do your best to put yourself at the top at everyone else's expense. If you find others ugly, stupid, incapable, or otherwise lacking, they'll see it in your eyes and know you are someone who holds them in disdain.

If, on the other hand, you can find the positive motives and good intentions behind others' actions, you'll treat them with understanding and respect. If you see them as generous, then you'll be freer with your generosity toward them and become a more giving person. If you assume others are interested in working with you and finding ways to mutually succeed, you'll find yourself practicing teamwork and working to create cohesive wholes of all your various groups. If you see the beauty, wisdom, and talents of others, you'll treat them with a warmth and kindness that brings out your own beauty.

If you want to be a good person, you must learn to find the goodness in others.

As in this short video about what a man gets from his anonymous, unrewarded generosity:

 . . . What he does receive are emotions.  He witnesses happiness.  Reaches a deeper understanding.  Feels the love.  Receives what money can't buy.  A world made more beautiful.  And in your life?  What is it you desire most?  Believe in good.


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