Monday, January 27, 2014

Optional Vision.

     Short post, and I'll let Brian Regan present most of the content (thanks Brian!), but this is something to reflect on. My wife has horrible vision. It's true. I asked her the other day if the two colors I had on matched. She said she didn't have her glasses on so she couldn't tell. This means her vision is so bad she can't see colors without contacts or glasses. Colors, people! Sometimes she will complain about her current prescription not keeping up with the degradation of her eyesight. She will still wait 9 months to a year before she ever calls someone to make an eye appointment, but who cares? It's just vision!
     The truth is, we all do this. We put on hold the truly important and critical things in our life because of the busy-ness of day to day tasks. I am just as culpable of this as everyone else. The trash needs to get taken out on Thursday night. The bills have to be paid. My children's diapers need to get change. These things need to get done. Because we all have responsibilities to the world that will not wait, we must make times for the things that cannot be denied. Time to relax, to be with family and friends, to get out of our comfort zone, to regain our existential sight. To remind ourselves who we are, why we do what we do, and what is important in life. When we make time to do this, the little things of life will be recharged with meaning instead of being burdensome chores. We will take out the trash so someone else doesn't have to. We will be grateful we have money to pay the bills (or we will reevaluate what is important to spend money on if we are unable to pay our bills). We will change diapers and be reminded of how our children are truly dependent on us for their safety in this world. We will remember falling in love with our spouse, our first real success in school or work, or that there is someone else in the world that loves us, possibly more than we love ourselves. And that is how we can make optional vision become optimal vision.


Myopic
(C) 2014 Nathan D. Croy

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Ukraine and Kansas University

*This post contains quotes which have strong language. Just thought you should know.*

     Recently, KCUR (Kansas Public Radio) did a story on a professor that was fired from Kansas University for expressing a view that was in conflict with the views of KU. Please click HERE for that story. Leading up to that story, KCUR asked people to chime in on their own opinion concerning firing people for expressing views that are not compatible with the views of the employer. It was surprising to see how many people felt it was fine for schools or corporations to maintain a "media policy" that prevents their employees from expressing dissident voices; even on personal or private pages.
     It would be unfair to compare the firing of one professor to the current struggle and protests in the Ukraine. While the issues are very different, what interested me is the response of those in power to the protests of others. The Ukrainian president recently passed laws outlawing the gathering of people in order to protest. If a protester did register for one of these events, they received a text stating they were in violation of the recently passed law. Bypassing the Orwellian implications of receiving electronic notifications on something you haven't even done yet, does anyone else see a similarity between what happened to this KU professor and what is happening to the Ukrainian people?
     Being kept quiet can happen through various means. In the Ukraine it is happening through threats, imprisonment, violence, and electronic tracking. In other countries, like North Korea, the control is more overt and the media is clearly a mouthpiece for the government. It can also be more subtle. In countries where advertising and media are prevalent, the fight can be so subtle we are unaware we are losing.
     In the 2011 movie, Detachment, Adrien Brody plays a teacher (who probably plays the piano). Speaking to his class he says this about the "Marketing Holocaust":
     "Examples of lies in society: I need to be pretty to be happy. I need surgery to be pretty. I need to be thin, famous, fashionable. Our young men, today, are being told that women are whores. Bitches. Things to be screwed. Beaten. Shit on. Shamed. This is a marketing holocaust. Twenty-four hours a day for the rest of our lives, 'the powers that be' are hard at work dumbing us to death. So, to defend ourselves and fight against assimilating this dullness into our thought processes, we must learn to read. To stimulate our own imagination. To cultivate our own consciousness. Our own belief systems. We all need these skills to defend...to preserve our minds."
This message is not new. Fight Club expressed a similar message, albeit with a slightly darker and nihilistic response. The Matrix is an allegory for this message that "the powers that be" want us to remain docile, calm, quiet, and forever pursuing the status quo which "they" conveniently create. If this is beginning to sound a bit paranoid, go to the Ukraine and enjoy a quiet and peaceful protest. For a less dramatic approach, why not try going shopping while asking yourself why you like the clothes you like.
     This is not a blanket excuse to be an unmitigated argumentative pain in the neck. Part of being mature and learning to exercise love is to be sensitive and appropriate. However, that does not allow institutions, in any form they may take, to silence our voices. An offense even worse than trying to silence a voice is trying to replace it. To require others say, through their actions or their voice, that everything is fine, when everything is not fine, is to deny them their humanity for our own comfort. If we are honest with ourselves, the reason we seek uniformity and conformity is to avoid the discomfort that comes with difference.
     As I tweeted to KCUR, firing someone for expressing a dissident voice is tantamount to eradicating autonomy in the name of peace; it is self-defeating. When we ask people not to disagree with our beliefs, our policies, or our motives, we deny ourselves opportunities for growth. When our insistence on being right outstrips our desire for relationship, our rightness no longer matters.

*UPDATE* I was informed by KCUR via Twitter that the professor from KU has not been fired and instead is on administrative leave. Here is an article from the Huff Post about his supension.

Everything Is Great No Mouth
Everything Is Great
(C) Nathan D. Croy, 2014
    

Friday, January 10, 2014

Guilt, Shame, & Personal Accountability

"Fight against yourself, recover yourself to decency, to modesty, to freedom. ...And, in the first place, condemn your actions; but when you have condemned them, do not despair of yourself.

"For both ruin and recovery are from within."
~Epictetus, Discourses, Ch. 9

     People can feel shame without taking accountability. This also means people can take accountability without feeling shame. Shame and guilt should not be confused. Guilt has restorative properties and always contains a means of penance; of ways to make right our wrong doing and seek forgiveness. Guilt is inherently external: Focused on what we have done; not on who we are.
     Shame, on the other hand, does not call us to restoration or community. Instead, it calls us to isolation and focuses on who we are rather than what we have done. This is a terrific topic and a great book on the topic is called "Guilt and Shame". There is a link to it in the Book List, and I recommend it. However, for now, what is important is knowing the distinction between guilt (healthy response to a wrong doing) and shame (unhealthy judgment about our personhood).
     Though shame and guilt are very different, they do have one thing in common: personal accountability. The quote from Epictetus should not be read to mean that success or failure lies within us. "Both ruin and recovery are from within." The decision to take responsibility for our actions, and thereby have the power to do something about them, lies within us. If we feel guilt, if we feel shame, yet believe there is nothing we can do, that circumstances were in control of our lives, well then we are utterly powerless and we may as well fall into despair. Some believe this is a freeing concept, that if our fate lies in the stars instead of ourselves, we are free of condemnation. Yet this idea does not explain away our guilt or shame.
     Passing the buck and blaming others for your situation, even if it is an accurate perception, does little to empower us, change the situation, or help heal relationships. However, taking an earnest look at ourselves, allowing trusted friends and advisers to reflect back to us who we are, begins the process of personal accountability. This is one way shame can be converted to proper guilt. That we can begin distinguishing between who we are and what we do. When this happens, we can begin personally being accountable for our actions without allowing those actions to define us.
     Leave a comment about a time you wrestled with shame or guilt. How did you handle it? Were you able to take personal responsibility?

Hear no, See no, They did it.
(C) Nathan D. Croy