On Culture and My Views - Answers to various questions from my students:

 

From time to time, some of my students at the high school where I teach, and some people in my Reiki classes, ask me questions about our culture and group psychology, as well as questions about myself. They are always deserving of answers, even though, at times, these questions do not permit quick and easy answers. Often, the topics would not be of my choosing. I always try to answer honestly, since there are no improper questions. Some of them deal with philosophy and religion, some with my life choices, some with my ethics, some with sexuality, some with culture and politics, and some range from profound to silly. Except for the occasional question meant to "gross me out", or surprise me, I find that my students' questions are well meant, often asking me about myself to discover if they are the only ones with that kind of question.

Most of them are the timeless questions we all have asked. Below I will list some of the often-repeated questions and the answers which I have given from my understanding and experience. It is inevitable that I will offend someone; this is not by malicious intent, but rather due to the fact that all of us have different views on life. The fact that these questions have been asked of me does indicate that, in some way, the person asking does value the quality of my answers [or might simply want to bait me, or see just what kind of a person I am.].

The fact that I answer the questions does not mean that I have necessarily become an advocate for any of the possible positions on an issue, or that my answers reflect my life practices, but merely that I have tried to address the obvious possibilities without bias or avoidance. Often, when I am asked a question in the form .."what do you think about...", it usually means that the questioner needs answers in this area of life, and is not always interested just in my particular views, but also in the nature and variety of the possible answers.

1 - What is your view of freedom of expression?

I understand that the U.S. Constitution, especially through the First Amendment, provides for a right for all ideas to be spoken, written, and/or displayed, including in works of art,  without governmental interference. The roots of this was the founding fathers' experience of being a political and religious minority in England. Hence, the Constitution has as the First Amendment, a guarantee that all views, especially those which are offensive minority political speech, may be expressed. The framers of the constitution felt that the majority and its preferences needed no special protection, by virtue of its majority status alone. The courts have found that limiting this expression to popular views or limiting the public forums where this can happen is against this amendment. A right without a way and place to express it to the general public is not a right anymore. In a strange sort of way, to be a good citizen of this country implicitly includes the duty (or at least the possibility) to be offended from time to time by offensive minority expression. Not to do so would limit or cancel the rights in the First Amendment. [In that sense, enforced "political correctness", as desirable as the social results are, would be a limitation of these rights of expression.] Even when I am most offended and outraged by someone's expressions or views, I realize that my freedoms are inextricably tied to those of the person who offends me. If their rights of speech suffer, so do mine.

2 - What is your view of the rights of living things?

This is a very difficult question. since it seems to be an attempt to get my views on an important social problem indirectly, I will answer directly. I feel that all life has a basic instinct to continue to exist if it can do so, given the facts. Any deliberate interference with this instinct of an existing person is morally and legally unsound. There are exceptions: when there is a competition of rights in this area, I agree with the right of, even the duty of, self-defense. I also accept the view that life which already exists has primacy over life which might exist. Also, no life may hold another life hostage, or in any kind of involuntary servitude. This cultural view must be above the specific beliefs of any one group or religion, reflecting the society as a whole. Sometimes, there are no good answers in this area, only choices which are better than other choices, even if all of them are undesirable in theory. Often, we are not offered real-life choices between good and bad, only between better or worse.

3 - What is your view of the culture and human sexuality?

Our culture has a very distorted sense of values about human sexuality. [You and I are both affected by this distorted view, even if we have made strides to understand it!] On the one hand, we know that without it, our species could not continue, and we enjoy it. We love to make jokes about it and to look for it in many things. Sexual energy is perhaps the most powerful and focused motivating force which we can generally experience [with intense focused hatred in second place!] {This obviously includes the aberrations of sex and hate!}. The great intensity of love and religious focus are harder to develop. On the other hand, our Puritan heritage makes us leery of any public expression of sex, especially those practices which are not generally held as valid by the majority in the culture. This includes areas of touch, even in the context of massage or Reiki, and partial or full nudity. Some views of sexuality are mistakenly tied to concepts of property, especially regarding women. Many European countries hold much more relaxed views than we do, recognizing the dual roles of sexuality - one of procreation and one of pleasure, each valid in their own right. Many other cultures in South America, Asia, and Africa espouse this more relaxed view, including those very religious cultures which have a "dual view" in which sexuality exists openly in the face of religious opposition.  Historically, our cultural traditions in this area were generally formed during the formation of the Christian Church, affecting not only the Church, but also those religions and cultures which had extensive contact with the Church. Other views were formed in English-speaking societies during the Victorian era. To this day, regardless of your faith and philosophy, you must live in a culture which has great reservations about sexuality and its symbolic manifestations. To ignore this would be to put yourself at risk of society's sanctions and punishments, which are very real.

4 - What is your view of nudity?

As I expressed in answer to the last question, our culture distrusts human sexuality. [Again, this includes you and me!] Nudity seems to be the most obvious visible expression of this in our culture to most people.  I think that every person knows that they are not a "cosmic mistake" and that our feelings and desires , as well as our bodies, are part of the valid input as well as expression which we use in our decision-making. The problem is that we cannot publicly fully admit to this, without the culture trying to limit our expression, even our freedom. [Most energyworkers/bodyworkers are quite comfortable with partial or full nudity in the context of their professional sessions, including draped massage sessions, if their modality permits that. Most of these practitioners are on the US West Coast]. This fact does not mean that we can ignore the societal and legal prohibitions against it. As you mature, you will have decisions to make about your own expressions of freedom. Generally, you will find that a responsible expression of self among close friends on secluded private property is usually ignored by our culture. In Europe, Asia, and South America, men and women often share beaches while nude, without sex being involved. Here in Vermont, public nudity is not prohibited, and there are many beaches where nude bathing is very common. In addition, in the town of Brattleboro, VT, teens have been exercising their right to be nude downtown and a local vote has rejected attempts to ban public nudity. [Recently this town passed an ordinance prohibiting nudity in the downtown area only]. It is when such expressions of personal freedom become public that the most severe societal reactions occur. There is good reason for this, in addition to the fact that the majority opinion holds a negative view. You go against that majority opinion at your peril. When you engage in any form of exercise of personal freedom, you may be in competition with others trying to express their freedoms equally as well. There are no absolute rights; every right is in competition with every other right.  A considerate exercise of freedom on everyone's part leads to a harmonious society. That which offends others or does harm to another is never desirable.

5 - What is your religion/belief system?

A Buddhist story once stated that "...if you meet the Buddha on the road, you should kill him...". This was meant to indicate that a person is not a god, and should not be revered as such. It is like climbing as signpost instead of making the journey to where it points. If you read my entire site, you may be able to describe what I believe and practice. I do not have a name for this; I simply experience, reflect and live. Religion to me is a way of living, a constant aspect of my life, and a way of expanding life to the fullest, both in awareness and in practice. Western religions have always distrusted our human thoughts and impulses as some sort of divine error. This basic distrust casts religion and philosophy in the role of enforcer of cultural limitations and discipline.  Eastern religions and philosophical systems tend to see our existence as basically good, sometimes flawed, sometimes carrying the "baggage" of prior experiences, and always something to expand and build on to gain a greater awareness and function. Religion and philosophy are the means and energy to enrich and free our life from limitation and fear. Physics teaches us that everything is energy in different forms and amounts. My own life experiences validate this. I participate in this ultimate energy, being inseparable from it and from others since this energy is omnipresent. In that sense, I am a mystic [one who participates in a direct perception of the ultimate as part of daily life]. Many religions try to express this fact in different ways. I have the greatest respect for any attempt to become more aware of the ultimate in daily life, even if I would choose another way of describing it. If I were to say that I now have "the truth", I would be in error, since I would be saying "From here on out, I have no discoveries to make; I now know all that there is to be known about religion and life, and regardless of new material or reasoning, I will not change my mind." This is both logically and emotionally unsound. Life is a great adventure, with much to experience and to discover.

6 - What political party do you belong to?

I do not belong to any political party, or have any allegiance to one. To do so would be to shut off any new questions or experiences and any personal choices, since I would be espousing only the party line. That is a contradiction of education. The nature of education is that one becomes increasing aware of new questions and of the complexity of life. There are no easy answers; sometimes there is the uncertainty of no answer at all to a particular problem or situation. I make up my mind on all issues after careful consideration, with all of our rights and duties included. I try to decide on the basis of a healthy society with the most benefits for the most people, while protecting the rights and happiness of minorities, even if I do not like their views. Many times I must vote before I am totally certain of the correct answers, but elections are scheduled and I must decide.  Basically, my increasing years have found me becoming more and more liberal as I understand our responsibilities for one another. Such is the nature of education, which is always liberalizing, as one gains more understanding of the world, people, and complex questions.

7 - Do you have any bias about sexual preferences?

None whatsoever. My beliefs, as well as my duties as a teacher, my responsibilities under the law, and my understanding of the U.S. Constitution prevent me having any view of a person except one based on their individuality and my experience of them as a person. [I do react negatively to those who try to hurt me, or hurt others]. My own orientation is heterosexual, but with great awareness and sensitivity that there are others who express that basic part of themselves in ways which I would not choose for myself. In fact, I support any socially responsible exercise of one's sexuality rather than a mistaken attempt to try to suppress and deny it. This support does not extend to those who hurt others using sexual preference as a justification. All responsible expression of sexuality must be fully mutually consenting and only exercised between adults over 18, with the realization that in today's world, sexual relations between those above the age of consent may also be tolerated, even if not desirable.

8 - What does it feel like to get old?

I often say that, for me, life has remained amazingly the same over the years. Once I reached that age where my awareness of my self included the knowledge that I was functionally in charge of my own life my concept of self crystallized into a fairly consistent one. This seemed to happen around the age of 25, when I was socially, financially and culturally able to function without aid from anyone else. Since that time, I feel about the same as I always did, with the same kinds of thoughts, desires, plans, mental and physical capabilities and awarenesses that I had at 25. I now just have many more stories to tell! Also, the morning view in the mirror reminds me of the passage of time; even though I do not feel it, there is "the old man in the mirror" to remind me! There are certain changes in capabilities and  "comfort levels". However, there is nothing that one loses over the years if one remains excited about the process of living, with all of its ups and downs. The fact that there are ups and downs makes the joys of living especially rich. Aging is not an illness or disorder; it is a pattern of life. The only change I notice as I age is that I value relationships more than things or money. I was always this way, but now the feeling is more intense. As someone said "when we age, we are still ourselves, only more so."

9 - Why is life so unfair?

Life is not fair or unfair. It has not singled you out to punish or reward. Life just is. Some things in life can be planned; others will be by chance. Everyone needs to realize that they and every other person experiences life from their own perspective; they can do no other. What you are saying is - "why can't I do the things that I want to do"? Almost everything is possible if you keep your focus, be considerate of others, and experience life now. The best way to create fairness in your life is to practice it with others.

10 - When will I be mature?

[This is a question often asked in my high school, although I have heard it from those of my age] For me, maturity is biological, psychological, and a level of judgment when choices which are made tend to produce predictable, desired results, both short term and long term. A mature person accepts and anticipates the consequences of their choices. People mature at various paces. Girls at any age before 25 mature faster than boys. At about 25, boys finally catch up with girls developmentally Also, by the age of 25 or so, most of your growing up physically and mentally is over, certainly by the age of 28. Before that, decisions are processed as both factual and emotional data. Perhaps this is why the founding fathers insisted that there were ages appropriate for election to various offices, e.g. President - minimum age 35. The ages of 16, 18, and 21 may be mileposts ages at which certain of society's privileges become available, [some rights at even older points, such as 25 and 35]  but it is not a guarantee of maturity and competence. Some never get to that point; others achieve it at a young age. In another sense, I hope that you never mature, in the sense of the cynical loss of child-like awareness and experience [embodied in the statement "been there, done that". Remember, Mencius [China - 350 B.C.] said "Great is the person who always has the heart of a child".

Why are drugs and other chemicals so bad for us to use?

11 - My answer is based on a my lifetime of experience and observation. When I was young I was an enthusiastic member of my generation; I was no saint! I have come to realize that the quest for a sensation which is always "great" is like asking to build a room in which everything is "up". Without the "down" to compare it with, any "high" becomes less and less perceivable, leading to a never-ending search for better "highs" ending in frustration and/or mental illness of some type. The only "highs" in life which are desirable and  relatively harmless are those which have as part of their nature a repeatability without frustration. Such things as eating, viewing fine landscapes, listening to great music, sex, and close friendship are natural "highs" which are easily repeatable or continuous. In addition, they generally do not risk life and health, and they do not diminish ones perception of life and those around one. They are also legal and shareable, rather than risking fines and confinement, shutting one off from human communication. I belief in enhancing and expanding my participation in life, not deadening it and altering it. Also, "I am fond of myself", which means that I do not want to knowingly harm myself or limit my experiencing of life and its pleasures by altering my awareness with any substance..

12 - Do you believe in evolution?

It is not a matter of belief. So far, all of the evidence supports this theory of how we came to be. To argue in any other way flies in the face of the facts. It is also intuitively correct and probable. Religion and philosophy should not be part of this debate, except to attempt to explain in religion what the facts demonstrate, and to give confidence and reassurance about man's nature and role in the universe. We should not reason that, "since something should be, therefore it is actually so". [Another way of putting this is that even if we want something to be true, that does not make it true.]

13 - Is there an conflict between science and religion?

No. There is no necessary conflict between the two.  Hopefully, religion seeks to expand and enrich the life of its adherents in the context of a healthy responsible life which is in touch with universal truth and energy. Science attempts to explain what can be studied in a repeatable manner and about which measurements can be made. Ethics seeks to make decisions about what is valuable and proper in behavior. None of these are in conflict, unless choices in these areas are in contradiction with facts and possibilities. If so, there is a duty to resolve the conflict with greater study and observation, not with fear, limitation and dogma. If we have confidence in our own beliefs and perceptions, then life can be lived courageously without fear of the known and/or the unknown.

14 - Do you believe in the paranormal?

Again, it is not a question of belief. It is a question of the evidence. Science is very good at describing the things that science has chosen to study. Just because a topic has not yet been fully studied completely does not mean that it does not exist. There are reputable universities and governments conducting research in this area, I find the currently available material consistent with my personal experiences, suggesting strongly that such phenomena are real and part of normal human capabilities, given the right circumstances. In my own life, things that I have experienced validate what has been studied to date. Some problems of study which create problems of method include the fact that some phenomena are one-time or infrequent occurrences, the role of a sympathetic audience, the function of pre-existing religions or philosophy, the role of training and inadequate lab equipment for this purpose. Remember, life is evolving and we will discover personal capacities which are new or re-empowered from the past. Never assume that we already know everything that can be known.

15 - Are you psychic? and what is extrasensory perception?

I suppose that I am, along with everyone of us. The difference between people on this matter seems to be that some people are willing to be open to what they sense, and others try to suppress this kind of perception. Extrasensory perception is that perception which is beyond the normal five senses [seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting]. It may be that it is simply the summation of "sub-threshold" perceptions which seem to come to us from nowhere, and, for some people, it may also be a perception by psychic means alone. Being "psychic" might refer to either kind of perception. I trust my perceptions, even when I am not sure how I got them. Usually, facts arise later to confirm what I have already sensed.

16 - What was your childhood and education like?

I am the oldest of four children, the only male. My father was a Harvard-trained UCC minister. He was a theologian, philosopher, ethicist, teacher, and writer, as well as a parish minister for all of his life, some 91 years [ he never retired, he died at his job]. There was no topic which could not be discussed around the dinner table, Education was the highest goal, which he saw next to godliness. We were taught that we had a responsibility to the community as well as to ourselves and our family. My mother supported my father in everything that he did, as a "professional mother" and church and family helpmate. She taught me about caring, relationships, and started and supported my love of music. I went to many schools in grade school as we mover around the country during WWII. Grade school was in Montpelier, VT. High school was at Needham High School and Moses Brown School. College was at Brown University ('61), as well as certain courses at Harvard University. I majored in Political Science and French. Since then, study of additional fields and phenomena has been a normal part of my life.

17 - Why do we have rules and laws? [why can't we just live without them?]

In the ideal system, there would be no need for rules and laws. Everyone would care about everyone else, and no one would take advantage of anyone else. Since we all know that this is not realistic [there are those who do not, or cannot respect the rights of others, or even their own rights] , we start by setting up only those rules which guarantee our safety and survival. as society becomes more complex, more rules are needed, because those who would do harm become more sophisticated. Rules are there for the group as a whole. That is imperfect, since rules for groups are always unfair to individuals. In an ideal world, rights would be absolute; in a changing, complicated, crowded real world they are not.

 [Consider the right of freedom of action to be like a person waving their arms in any direction possible. If no one else is near, there is no problem with this. As the world gets more crowded, and others wish to swing their arms equally wildly, at some point my arms will hit your arms. Either one of us might insist on an absolute right to swing in any way possible, which would force the other to retract their arms completely to avoid contact, or each of us could pull in our arms a bit, so that each one of us might have an equal chance at a modest freedom of action.]

Society is the same way. As mentioned above, each right is conditioned or limited by every other right so that each of us can have the maximum freedom possible. As the world becomes more crowded, more rights will be limited in theory. Rules and laws spell out these limitations so that each of us can know in advance how to conduct ourselves. This, along with good manners, is "the grease that oils the social machinery." Politics [the way we interact with one another formally in the community] is divided on how to achieve this, with some feeling that the fewer laws possible is better, especially if they already have sufficient freedom, while others want more laws, since they already experience the limitations placed on them by those of greater privilege or power. Also, many such people see the plight of others as well, and try to help those less fortunate. Education is the key to good government. Education tends to be liberalizing to a great extent, with more education tending to produce more liberal people, concerned about not only their own welfare, but also with the welfare of others.

18 - Do you believe in social activism and protests against government and society?

Every citizen has the duty and right to engage in activities which advocate various political and social positions and/or change. The problem comes when a protester does not accept the society and its rules and customs, yet still wants the protections and rights which the society offers. This is not a responsible position. While I support every person in their right to advocate social change, this must be while that person still recognizes that the society and government also have the right to protect themselves against changes. The protester must also be willing to accept such limitations and punishments that legitimate authority and social convention are able to carry out. Martin Luther King understood this very well. He protested vigorously, yet still accepted the punishments which the society carried out. There are many examples of the responsible protest, including the military dictum - "Obey first, then protest the order", the British political concept of the "loyal opposition", and the principle of treating others in the way that you would like to be treated. Ultimately, these methods often lead to great social change. In every protest their are risks. there is a great inertia of rest in government and in society and its customs. A caring and responsible protest, over time, may lead to substantial change. Change in society rarely happens quickly.

19 - Why can't I enjoy life? There are so many problems; I can't see myself living beyond 30. I don't dare to take a chance, but I want just happiness, not pain.

This hits on a very important point - there is no chance for great happiness without a corresponding risk of the experience of pain. By that I mean that we can only know something by contrast with other things. If we only dare to experience very modest difficulties, we limit the chances of experiencing great joys. I do not mean that one should seek out pain and suffering, but that all knowledge is knowledge of contrasts. There is no up without down. All of these terms are relative, not absolute. There are no absolutes in life, only comparisons, even in ethics. Good and Evil stand as a pair, each making the other perceivable. Dare to live fully, learn from pain when it cannot be avoided, and relish the great moments of life. One of the main reasons that smoking happens, that illegal drugs are used, as well as the abuse of alcohol, is the attempt to either narcotize life or to artificially give a sense of well-being to life. Remember, that in traditional society, drugs and mind-altering procedures were not for recreation or retreat, but rather a way of ritually contacting a greater reality only at special times by those who had carefully studied the phenomenon. In today's world, that is not the case. The better option is to discover the natural highs available, as well as the natural comforts inherent in life. One cannot have just one side of a coin. What makes high waves noticeable are the deep troughs between them. The longer I live, the more exciting life becomes, and the more I understand and appreciate.

20 - What us the meaning of life? [what am I supposed to do?] Life seems so short and I want to do the best things.

What a question! It assumes that life is something that has a definite meaning. It is impossible to answer in detail without writing a book, even a library full of books! In a very short form, here is my answer. Keep yourself healthy and happy. Learn everything that you can, both in skills and in philosophy and history. Include in this learning how to express yourself both in writing and in speech. Dare to study the unknown. Since you can take nothing with you but memories and your personal energy at death, make all the connections that you can with other people. Every person has something to share of value, even you. Make pleasant memories for each of you. Try to find some way to contribute to the general good, either by some special contribution, or by a succession of little kindnesses to those others who are your fellow travelers. This is part of the way that each of us becomes timeless. Part of living a good life is experiencing all that we can of the world in which we live. Look at each day as a fresh chance to know a little more of this marvelous universe. Love, marvel, learn, experience, and contribute.

21 - Is there life in everything; is there Ki in everything, and where did it come from and where does it go to?

If by life you mean the capacity to respond to outside stimuli, then the answer is a very qualified "yes". Even rocks expand and contract in response to the warmth of the sun. Plants have some degree of movement in response to other life. Obviously mobile animal avian, and reptile life makes choices and acts fairly independently. If by life you mean an awareness of being an entity, the the answer is "maybe"; it is an area which we have little information about. If by life you mean Ki, then the answer seems to be that whatever lives can die, and at the point of death the Ki of the living entity departs, leaving a thing without Ki. where does this Ki go? Since matter and energy can never be created or destroyed, but only changed from one to the other, it follows that at birth, Ki flowed into the life form from the universe, and at death, the Ki returns to a generalized form in the universe. This may happen instantly, or it may take some time. Obviously, this leaves open the question of reincarnation and discarnate entities. This is a matter of personal belief arising from experience and logic. At some point, I may gain a greater personal understanding of it.

22 - Do you believe in God? [What is God like? Where is God? Is there a God?]

I am aware every day of being an active part of an alive, continuously evolving creation, manifest in time-space. A "Creator", perhaps what you call "God", traditionally has been described as omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, and benevolent. Since the "Creator" is omnipresent, I am a very small, participating part of the "Creator", as are you and everyone and everything else. Therefore, in a very small way, I share in the awareness of the "Creator". By any of my actions, I share in the power and influence of the "Creator", and, hopefully, in the benevolence. "Creation" is intelligence and consciousness manifest in every physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual event and thing. It is inevitable that one will personify the "Creator", but that would be to limit and to try to make the "Creator" like Mankind. The "Creator" is the resolving of all paradoxes dualities, polarities, qualities, and limitations in an aware creative unity. The "Creator" and "Creation" are synonymous in time-space. Logic is an imperfect way to understand the "Creator"; direct experience is a much better way. This comes from a very aware participation in life. This "Creator" does not "belong" to any religion or group, and has been described over the ages with many names and descriptions, each appropriate to the cultures and religions found in various parts of the world. There is no one definition or manifestation of the "Creator" that is better than another. However, each society or person will experience their definition as the best.

23 - Why are my parents so difficult? [Why do I have so many differences with my parents?]

First, remember this - neither you or your parents have had any prior knowledge of what today will bring. Regardless of your ages, you are all experiencing today for the first time; you are all beginners. They have never had a child quite like you. There is no rule book, script, or users manual. Your parents also have intense feelings, just like you. They make mistakes. [I assume that you will admit privately that you make mistakes also.] They are the product of a different time and education, as well as a different part of world history, which has shaped their reactions. {I remember the life-long concerns of my parents about financial security - they lived through the Great Depression and World War II - the experience changed them forever.} Please remember that your children will look at you the same way; their experiences will be different than yours. Your knowledge of the specifics of today's world will always be better than that of your parents. Their knowledge of human relationships and frailties will always be greater than yours.

24 - Why do my relationships change? [What happened to my love relationship and my friends?]

All of us are trying daily to make our lives better. Since this is the first time for all of us, it is hard to predict with any certainty what will happen and who we will become today and tomorrow. Many times significant relationships follow a parallel path, then suddenly diverge. It make no sense to try to hold a person to your path. You are trying to improve; so are they. At times, your paths will suddenly diverge, perhaps to return, perhaps forever. Your choice is to accept this as gracefully as you can. [That sometimes feels impossible!] Each of us who becomes involved with another in a significant way has found a wonderful friend who values us. As our needs and understanding of life change and evolve, sometimes one or both of you changes and finds that other people need to be part of our lives. This does not have to mean great sorrow; many times, it can be welcomed by both of you. This often happens at points of major change in outside life - going off to college, starting a new job, moving to a new residence, and meeting new friends. We certainly do not want a person to be forced to be part of our live; this would be asking them to force affection instead of feeling it spontaneously. [I would not like to be forced to pretend friendship!]'  Follow your own path and be grateful to the people who have walked with you on your path for either a day, or for several years or more.

25 - Why should I live past thirty? [Why is it worth it? I feel overwhelmed; is there a meaningful future? Why not just have fun now?]

This is a question that I hear fairly often, either seemingly as a joke, or made quietly in a sharing of private desperation. I usually ask several questions -"Why thirty?", " What would make it worthwhile?", "How would you not live past thirty?" "Since you have not yet lived very long, how would you know what is meaningful?", "How can you know 'fun' without something to compare it with?", "Why not ask those who have lived through that age and well beyond?". This generally leads to a protracted conversation, in which the person's assumptions about life are discussed, the nature of perception is explored, and what the alternatives might be. Each person is very different in specifics, but surprisingly the same in the basic thrust of emotions and philosophy. My answer is, very briefly, that I am intensely curious about what will happen next. Leaving life is not an option for me; it is much too fascinating. Usually the desire to leave life is based on a fantasy that one can change totally the nature of life from this point on. [one never expects that life will end and that there will be no further perception.] We cannot know anything about the absence of life without something with which to compare it. We cannot know and value "fun" without having experienced "non-fun". Life cannot always be fun. If so, we could not be aware of it.  All knowledge is based on contrast, as are all perceptions. We never perceive life directly; we only perceive changes and differences in life.

26 - What is Truth? [Is it the same as Wisdom?, Is it what most people believe or think?]

Truth is not the same as Wisdom. Truth is not inherent in a majority vote, only Preference. Truth is result of the combination of experience, provable fact, and that which is in keeping with everything that one believes. Every person has their own Truth. Many times, many people have the same Truth. This may delude us into thinking that the majority opinion is always the "truth". Wisdom is the practical application of Truth to understanding life's problems and situations in a way which works positively. Many times, Truth is in the minority. Wisdom is often scarce. In finding Wisdom, one must use every ability - fact-finding, the help of others, belief, emotion, meditation, and intuition.

[Some things in life are problems. When the solution is found, the problem will disappear upon application of the solution. Life is not, in itself, a problem. {In that case, finding the "solution" to life would result in the end of life, if life is the problem.} Some things in life are difficult and challenging situations. When understanding is found through discovering the Truth(s) involved, the situation becomes easier to deal with. The search for a solution to a non-existent problem leads to perpetual frustration, such as finding the "solution" to the "problem" of life. The discovery of the Truth of a situation results in a calmer appreciation of life. This thinking also is applicable to the "problem" of  Good and Evil].

27 - Where are we headed? [What will society become? Are there trends that you see?, Is life worth living?]

At the moment, our society is under increasing great stress, with a war in Iraq, with a "War on Terror" around the world, and with increasing pressures to cure all of our social ills quickly. This leads to blaming and seeing trouble in those who are different from us. Sociologists tell us that when a society comes under great stress, there is a movement of ideas to seek absolute, guaranteed results from all actions and choices. This turn to fundamental ideas has been noted around the world, both in primitive tribes, and also in modern societies. [for example, when the railroads started to cross this country, Native Americans and their way of life was threatened. There was a quick turn to a more fundamentalist type of their religion, and a desire for answers which would explain and potentially control this disruption to their lives.] This turn to the more basic philosophies is not a condemnation of them. Many may feel that stress leads people to find what many have found over the years - that "certainty" can be found in a basic, fundamental approach to life. Those who have taken the predictable route of becoming more fundamentalist in thought, philosophy, politics, and religion are certain that they have certain guaranteed answers for all of life's problems. This, however, is not my personal view.

During such a time of great stress, morality becomes less forgiving, wars are fought on principle rather than realistic objectives, and no sacrifice, either personal or national, is too great to avoid modifying one's position or belief. Civil liberties suffer, individuals become a part of a great group solution, and fear and depression become common. The arts and communication about serious matters suffer greatly. Rather than personal choices and actions, there are socially approved, "politically correct" choices and actions. We can see this around the world in non-Western cultures; I hope that we can see the same trends in our own culture.

Those who recognize the variable and changing nature of our culture see that, for some of our greatest problems, there are only partial, imperfect answers. They know that uncertainty must be understood and tolerated. Such people will be seen as uninformed, hesitant, and probably immoral. My personal view is that one cannot reason in a manner:  "since it should be true, therefore it is true". [For years, the earth was thought to be the center of the universe, since people felt that it should be so.] There is no one "rule book" or "script" for life, in my view, either for a person or for a society.. Each of us is responsible for discovering the right way for life to work out without hurting ourselves or others. This must be tied to the facts of life as we each experience them, not to wishful thinking. In my view, science, art, psychology, and religion are not in conflict with one another. Each exposes us to various parts of creation.

Some Zen thinker once noted that the quest for absolute answers and security can be symbolized by a man falling off a cliff, still holding on to a large rock for security as he falls with the rock. Perhaps we could understand and emulate the Zen story of a man hanging from a small failing, branch over the edge of a cliff. Below him are sharp rocks; above him is a tiger reaching for him. On the failing branch there is a sweet berry. He needs two hands to hold on to the branch. At some point, the man plucks the berry and as he falls, he is heard to say: "What a wonderful sweet berry this is!." 

[This page has just been started - I will be adding to it on a regular basis as I have time and evaluate more questions. I am always interested in considering new questions and topics.  I do value feedback on either the questions, or on my answers. It may be that what a person may comment to me does changes my views, or may simply "firm up" views which I already hold. In any case, feel free to write to me using the "Contact Me" button below.]

Email Lawton