Saturday, May 30

Not as common as we’d like.

I’ve been thinking about “common sense” lately. I told a friend where these thoughts were going and she said “you need to make this a blog post”. “Ya, I think I do. I think I need to analyze it further too.” Well, I’ve analyzed, and I think I only see the top of the iceberg, but I’ll share anyway since it’s the top of the iceberg that alerts us to the whole iceberg.

Common sense seems to be more related to the way we think and our paying attention, as opposed to how great or amazing our intellect or IQ might be.

The first reason I say that is because I have met and been close to many intelligent people in my life. A pattern I have seen is that some of the people I consider to be quite genius and intelligent can’t seem to figure out the obvious stuff that I think of as common sense.

In my 20's I decided the two can’t go hand in hand. That you get one or the other and because I clearly had the “easy” common sense, I was by no means ever going to become a genius at anything. And all the really smart people I met, who had no common sense, never would. Now, in my 40's, I've decided I was wrong.

My older sister is one of my examples of this. That Girl can do the most amazing things! She writes songs (lyrics and music) that are so freaking awesome and clever! She plays multiple musical instruments, she speaks 3 languages fluently, knows a good chunk of other languages, and she has endless skills any person could call genius. But then she calls me to help her do the easy stuff. “how do I…?”.  Me being the middle child, the one who was given the “lets figure this out” mind, I usually am able to answer or fix whatever she asks me about, and with ease. You can see why I thought that we are each bestowed with the ability to have common sense, or be a genius, or be “thick”. (as the British say.)

Now that I’m older, I’ve met a shit-ton of people. I’ve worked with so many minds, and I interact with all kinds of people on a daily basis, so I have a new theory.

Common sense is not something you have or don’t have, not like being a genius. Common sense is a way that people think, and a way of “being”. Which will make sense as I elaborate on “being”.

I have two co-workers that illustrate my point. Both teenagers. One of them is a problem solver, communicator, thinker, and easily paying attention to everything. The other is in her own world, answering her own questions AFTER she asks them aloud and realizes she knows the answer, clearly not “thinking” before she speaks. Ya, we all totally do this, it’s nothing strange, but this is the part of common sense I’m learning. And I toooo am having more common sense as I change my LACK of thinking, into thinking. And THIS brings me to my other half of “a way of being”.

That half is presence. I know that to some, “being present” is easy and the normal way of life, but for most people, I actually think that being present is incredibly difficult. I believe modern technology such as cell phones are turning off our ability to “be present”. The reason they are doing it is because we can’t pay attention to everything all the time. Being present requires PAYING A-FUCKING-TTENTION. I say that so big because by not doing it, and being on a cell phone, people have died. When you are driving, you need to give driving your attention. When you are having a conversation, you need to give the person you attention. When you are ordering a cup of coffee, you need to order a cup of coffee. Paying attention to what you are doing at all times is how you are present, and it is how you are able to think clearly and have common sense.

I am not in any way saying that I’m some amazing attention-payer. Life is crazy busy, multi-tasking is 100% required in my job, so paying attention is almost a luxury I can't afford. However, I regularly do something and say to myself, “Had I been paying attention, that wouldn't have happened.” We all do it, I know I’m really just saying what everyone already knows, but as I figure out HOW we all can have more common sense, I’m noticing more and more when people are not present, when people don’t even seem to want to be present, and what they seem to be doing more often is turning the thinking off. As I try to pay better attention, to be more present so I don’t make mistakes that I’ll regret, my attention is super keen on those who are doing the opposite, and really turning down their common sense dial.

I’ve posted before about cell phones and how rude I find it when people in your company decide the phone is what they need to be looking at, but I’m not harping on about Cell Phones, what I’m talking about is everything that people tune into instead of paying attention to what is happening in the moment and going on “presently”.

I know someone who always wants to talk about themselves. When they call, they ask how I am and when I answer, the response I get to everything I say is “Oh fun.” The person is clearly just waiting for me to finish so they can feel like they asked, but then get down to business of doing the talking. This happened endless times before one day I decided I actually don’t want to hear “Oh, fun” anymore. In reality,I don’t need to be heard, what I’ve been up to is of no importance, but the underlying message of –lets pretend I give a shit about your life so I can tell you all about mine, and it coming in the words “oh, fun” showed me I was not talking to someone being present. When nothing changes, I do.

I want to lastly illustrate my point of presence and common sense with an example. On a daily basis I come in contact with countless people at work. What I have noticed is that people’s expressions often change when they start talking to me and they see my level of paying attention to them. It’s almost like they suddenly become present because they realize it’s uncomfortable to not be paying attention to someone who is totally paying attention to you. Some people shy away from this level of paying attention. It’s nothing so much seen as felt, but once you feel it, you see it too. If I am listening to you, responding to everything you say, and acting based on your words, you want to be paying attention so you don’t miss anything. It’s that not wanting to miss anything that happens when you are present, and THAT is what generates common sense. If you are present and thinking, your dial is turned up.

Wednesday, May 6

It’s ingrained in us…

…to believe certain things. And the bible is why.

If you read my blog often, you know I’m fond of some of the teachings from the Sermon on the Mount and I have used many of them to make my point and illustrate stories from my personal life. Most of these are “Ah ha moments” I’ve had relating a teaching by Jesus to my modern day life. I’m not about to tell you I’m a Christian, or turn this into any kind of Pro-Jesus post (especially since I’ve long since walked away from religion), but instead I want to share some more perspective I have on a couple other things from the Sermon on the Mount. And I will just point out that I realize there is debate as to whether Jesus was the one who said them in the first place. (refer to The Jesus Mysteries by Timothy Freke & Peter Gandy)

That being said, I’m not trying to discuss Jesus in this blog post, I’m specifically addressing a couple things that we grew up believing, and even though there are many bible teachings we benefit from, there are a couple that need further attention, and I think are harmful. Yep, I just said that. Which is another way of saying “I disagree with some things that have been ingrained in me from childhood.” J (many things actually)

I started reading a book about the previously lost gospel of Judas called the Secrets of Judas, by James M Robinson. This was after my boyfriend and I were reading the Jesus Mysteries. Because of that book I was reading about Judas with a more open mind than in the past. Not because I have been closed minded, but I feel like having more information on any given subject opens the mind for more information on it, which increases understanding but also increases fascination. The Jesus Mysteries is a great place to start.

As I was reading the Secrets of Judas, I came upon a short section of the Sermon on the Mount. After reading a few paragraphs, that I totally agree with, I read a couple that I don’t. As I continued, my heckles went up. I have not read the sermon on the mount in my adulthood, and certainly not since writing my book on self esteem. I bring that up because I now hold the importance of self-view as important as food and water. That being the case, I suddenly found myself having a lot to say about what I was reading. There were a couple “teachings” that sound far more harmful than helpful in this day and age.

I know that I could be stoned for having an opinion of my own, disagreeing with such a sacred cow like Jesus, but I think what I was reading, and what I was relating to are thoughts completely worth voicing. I have already told a few friends how I am now seeing this old teaching, and they have expressed that they too find the teaching difficult and uncomfortable, but one they believed they needed to adhere to. Sheesh, this sounds like I’m getting cryptic, I will get to my point ASAP.

I spend a lot of time in search of perspective, paying attention to perception in general, and listening to the way people interact with others and me.  In doing this, I seem to have an opinion on many things, and just having an opinion doesn’t mean I think people need to agree with me. What I want to be clear on—is that I believe everyone has the right to think what they want EVEN if it is disagreeing with a sacred leader, be it Jesus, Mohammed, Buddah… anyone. Think for yourself, listen to everything, develop opinions, and be YOU, not what someone tells you to be.

That being said, you are going to now hear me being me. This is where people should stop reading if they can’t handle free-thinking.

The part of the Sermon on the Mount that I’m reading in The Secrets of Judas can be found in Luke. Here is the part from this book I want to elaborate on:

“Love your enemies and pray for those persecuting you, so that you may become sons of your father, for he raises his sun on bad and good and rains on the just and unjust.”

“The one who slaps you on the cheek, offer him the other as well, and to the person wanting to take you to court and get your shirt, turn over to him the coat as well. And the one who conscripts you for one mile, go with him a second. To the one who asks of you, give; and from the one who borrows, do not ask back what is yours. And the way you want people to treat you, that is how you treat them.”

“Do not pass judgment so you are not judged. For with what judgment you pass judgment, you shall be judged. And with the measure you use to measure out, it will be measured out to you”.

Ok, that’s it. Not a big deal, most of us recognize these words, and it is ingrained in us to believe and accept them. Now, I just have a few things to say.

In regard to: “Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you”. I may not be willing to love someone who qualifies as an enemy, because you gotta be a horrible person to be an enemy to me. AND if you are a horrible person, I’m not going to have anything to do with you, which means I’m not even going to put thought, time, love into someone who could be that awful. However, if someone is around me enough to persecute me, I might pray for them in a round-about-way by praying for my own rising out of the situation. Which might mean they become better people to realize what they are doing… Sure, I will pray for that. I think on some level most of us pray for people like that to “wake the fuck up”, but I think that one should be careful HOW they pray for that person. Would you pray that enemy continues to be a successful enemy? Would you pray for their strength? I think one should be pretty careful and specific if you decide to pray for someone worthy of the word “enemy”.

I don’t get “so that you may become sons of your father, for he raises his sun on bad and good and rains on the just and unjust.” One doesn’t become a son of your father, because one already is. This is an issue I have with religion in general, an attempt to make actual things conditional things. I don’t have much to say on this part since I find it pointless.

”The way you want people to treat you, that is how you treat them”. I agree with this, respect is a big deal to me. “Do not pass judgment so you are not judged. For with what judgment you pass judgment, you shall be judged. And with the measure you use to measure out, it will be measured out to you”. And so it should be. Don’t be a jerk and think nobody should treat you like one.

Now for the stuff I see as harmful. This is what I feel most strongly about:

“The one who slaps you on the cheek, offer him the other as well, and to the person wanting to take you to court and get your shirt, turn over to him the coat as well. And the one who conscripts you for one mile, go with him a second. To the one who asks of you, give; and from the one who borrows, do not ask back what is yours.”

This is where I hear these words directly saying: teach people it’s ok to treat you poorly. Teach people you aren’t worth respecting, teach them they can benefit in being a jerk, and in this process of turning yourself into a bigger wuss, you will succeed at making bigger assholes for the rest of the world to also deal with. And when they are greedier in every way, be ok with it.

What is interesting about this teaching, is that I have direct situations in my life, specific people, who are doing or have done these things, and interestingly, I have already decided that just “taking it” is a way to convey I’m good being treated like I don’t matter. I’m ok to have my things taken. I’m cool to be left without. What that really amounts to is not having enough care for yourself, that you could/would stand up for yourself and say, “Hey, you can’t act like that.” Or “Don’t think I’m happy to let you take advantage of me.  What it really is, to turn the cheek, to turn over your coat, to go a second mile, and to not ask for your borrowed things back, is to be an enabler. An enabler of what you ask? An enabler of terrible attitude, treatment, and Assholeness. You enable them to treat you (and likely others) shitty, without respect. Could somebody please stand up and tell me right now how creating bigger assholes for the world is a good thing? And to do it to the detriment of our own self worth…? You gotta be kidding me.

I’ve been the person turning the other cheek, I’ve been the person giving shirt and coat, I’ve gone an extra mile when I didn’t want to go further, and I’ve seen the attitude of people who borrow and don’t return your things. And do you know what I have learned from each of these situations in my life? I’ve learned I should NOT have let them happen. These are things that someone with a poor self-esteem does. And each of them ONLY ADD to that poor and awful self-view. This is NOT OK!

I was an enabler for many years. Finding out I was one didn’t stop it either. I ended up learning there are many ways to enable a person to take from you. And what did I learn in all that? I learned it mainly harms me! Being a nice-guy is a bit complicated. We have to be nice and kind, because we SHOULD treat others how we want to be treated, and in doing good, you make happiness! BUT, allowing or even ignoring it when you are treated like shit? No. That is not ok, and you WILL make the world a more terrible place for the rest of us if you don’t stop people from taking from you.

Make no mistake, giving and allowing someone to keep taking are NOT the same thing. I realize this is a bit complicated for some who continually give because they can’t tell the difference. Here is how I would suggest deciphering between the two. How does the person make you feel? Is there dread when you give? Do you feel lessened in strength when you give to the person? Are they always asking you to give in their actions? Do they give you a choice to NOT give?

I am using “give” to represent many things. Turning your cheek so they can slap your other side too is giving them opportunity. Giving your face to be slapped over and over reminds me of a saying. “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” If you are turning your cheek to be slapped over and over from one side to the other, do you really think this form of giving is helping them or you? Nope. Not even a bit. What I will tell you it IS doing tho… it’s harming YOU. It’s so very easy to destroy your own self worth. You have the ability to convince yourself of anything, and if you continually communicate to your heart and mind that it’s ok to be treated bad in ANY way, you harm yourself.

This is getting too long. I apologize that what feels like a simple thought requires me finding so many words to explain. I’ll try to sum up.

By not allowing these things to happen, (cheek-coat-second mile-give-don’t ask for borrowed goods back) you are saying. “YOU CAN’T treat me like shit. I’m not going to allow you to be a jerk in my life: “I love myself”.

If there is anything I’m going to be championing the rest of my life it is that you need to love yourself and be someone who you love loving. Standing up for yourself, and let people exit the room of your life who aren’t also lovely people. Don’t encourage the assholes of the world, don’t feed them or they will get bigger.