Egg Boy & Dissonance

EggBoyHe’s not a hero. He’s 16. There’s a well-understood developmental trajectory he is on, part of which means his action are not particularly well thought out. That ‘getting into action’ that youth, especially certain young men, are known for, often leads into danger. Egg boy got punched twice by the politician  and then jumped on and choked by two or thee much larger men (white supremacist supporters of said politician). Well it happened in a public space so egg boy had some safety net in the form of observers and a couple of supporters.

Of course it is just that jumping into action that gives youth their impact. Double that with strong ethical training some youth, world-wide have made amazing contributions. And their contributions make it clear that almost all youth can reach that standard of peaceful action for social change – true heroes.

I am impressed that egg boy and his friends are not just off chillin’ with their mates and ignoring society altogether, as if tomorrow will give us the world ‘we deserve’. And sure, from his point of view, no-one was getting hurt, just a politican’s pride. But anyone being attacked from behind doesn’t knows that, and that can make it dangerous for egg boy. His actions for me are more a signifier, a flare of retaliation that peaceful people tend not to stoop but that more than enough of us ‘wish to do’, as many of my friends attest.

It signifies how many are feeling angry and hurt about these anti-social messages and our all too primate desire to obliterate what is painful to us, that is intruding onto our territory, albeit that territory is abstract ‘the territory of peace and harmony’. My advice is to sit with that dissonance between what we stand for as peace lovers and our actual attitudes and behaviours when confronted by haters. Reaching for an excuse for why even small acts of violence can be defended is a natural response to dissonance but not necessary. My authentic experience is that I delight in egg boys action while also realising, with some shame, that even this mild violence undermines the cause towards peace, and supports the messaging towards violence, just as Anning’s vocal violence supported the Christchurch mosque killings. I sit with this dissonance, accepting this is who I am, and that who I will Be, will be an authentic integration of my primal nature and my higher nature. While there are many other sources of learning around the heroic, adult, approach, so many of which are unknown to popular media, we would do well to review the activism of Martin Luther King in making social change, to see how powerful and heroic is the peaceful approach.

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At Tio’s

Burrito’s and chips
at Tio’s outside diningimage
under the songs
of MeH~He~KoH
and the gaze of giants
made of wire mesh
stuffed with plastic bottles
and metal caps.

A girl whispers in her father’s ear.
I wonder at the open family secret.
And the memory of an excited woman
so imminent by Skype,
our ages fading away
to a younger coyness
and wanting her,
breezes through my mind
from so far away,
clashing with an ancient threat,
an irate disappointed parent,
a confused, querulous child,
my religious community,
in the background, now.
Yet, soon enough,
asking questions,
turning a blind eye
to the entanglement of arms and legs
showing that they saw it all the same
and not yet asking whether
I will marry this woman
who no longer wants marriage
as her badge,
that I am left wondering who
I am to her and who we are
as she opens her heart and
mind and body
and I like it all as I flounder,
weighing the balance
of my life:
she and companionship;
they and an aspirational community;
beautiful delightful love;
a loneliness of vague possibility;
energetic risk;
plodding safety.

My gaze rises from the thought
on the book, to an empty place,
alighting on the boy riding
his tricycle on the roof,
frozen in time and space
against hurtling down,
a mild mannered smile on his
doll-face, as if the consequencesimage
of gravity don’t exist,
while I notice my imbalance
and my hurtling down
is a sense of something
contrived of a physics I
don’t know.

… in no answer for my life
I give up forcing as if I live in a 3 dimensional world,
and, turning, turning, turning,
trying to see out of the corner of my mind
the access to that other dimension
to the essence
to as it is
to what I need to see
and where I need to stand
and how is my humility
and what is my contribution
and how is my leadership
and does the will of God
move through the awkward,
messy, yearning, striving state
of me.

I could tell myself any story
and I know the one I choose
for now, and no one
is wrong about it.

A Synchrony across Centuries

This morning, while reading my morning’s obligation of the writings of Baha’u’llah, from The Four Valleys I came across this reference by Baha’u’llah to a poem of Sana’i, a Persian Poet of some 1,000 years ago. Sana’i had written,
“How can feeble reason encompass the Qur”an
or the spider snare a phoenix in his web?
Woulds thou that the mind should not entrap thee?
Teach it the science of the love of God!”

Done with my obligation, after commencing a few chores, I sat to breakfast with a new book from the world of psychology, “Mistakes were Made (but not by me)” by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson, both eminent researchers of dissonance theory. As I came to the end of a section about our psychological blindspots, they write, “Introspection alone will not help our vision, because it willl simply confirm our self-justifying beliefs that we, personally, cannot be corrupted, coopted, and that our dislike or hatreds of other groups are not irrational. Blind spots enhance our pride and activate our prejudices.” And as I thought the question, “So what, then?” Sana’i’s poem fell clearly into that space, “Wouldst thou that the mind not entrap thee?” Yes, that is the question. “Teach it the science of the love of God”. On this, Baha’u’llah went on, “Wherefore, a man should make ready his heart that it may be worthy of the descent of heavenly grace, and that the bounteous Cup-Bearer may give him to drink of the wine of bestowal from the merciful vessel.”

How would a person cleanse their heart? This question of logical inquiry leads me back to the beginning of another treatiss of Baha’u’llah on the spiritual journey, The Seven Valleys. Here he exhorts, “It is incumbent on the servants that they cleanse the heart – which is the wellspring of divine treaures – from every marking, that they turn away from imitation, which is following the traces of their forefathers and sire, and shut the door of friendliness and enmity upon all the people of the earth.” What, be neither friendly nor hateful? This teaching is to signify that if we let our friendships or our hatreds direct our choices, we will not open that heart to the bounties of God’s knowledge which is love, justice, and unity. In this state, we are not tricked by our tendency to self-justify who are our friends, who are our enemies and what we do because of that, but love them all, more.

This synchrony across 1,000 years makes it clear the effort we humans have been putting into raising ourselves to greater heights of ethical power across all cultures. How absolutely amazing are we.

We don’t like nice, we like tough.

A recent appraisal of the work of one of the world’s greatest psychologists, Elliot Aronson, outlined his seminal finding include: people who suffer in joining a group, commit more; we like people more if they start out disliking us, but then have a change of heart; we like more successful / perfect people if they show they have some human failings. So we like it a little tough, and perhaps we like it more when it’s tough enough to show up everyone’s failings.

Ben Dean, Editor of Coaching Toward Happiness, listed these five things we can learn from  Elliot Aronson.

1.      Thoughts matter.  A key factor in change is cognitive.  Elliot is widely considered to be the world’s leading expert on cognitive dissonance theory.  He’s done ground breaking work in attitude change.  He’s written books on applying cognitive dissonance theory to the world.  Ask him how this applies to the kind of personal and professional change you care about.

2.      Change needs more than one-on-one touch.  Sometimes the most powerful change must come at a group or organizational level.  Elliiot created one of the most powerful interventions ever for a crucial social group–multiethnic classrooms.  His jigsaw approach is now being applied throughout the world.  What is it?  How did he develop it?  Can you apply a simiilar process.

3.      Learn from Masters.  Elliot is a master.  But his own mentors were legendary.  Each has been ranked among the 15 most influential psychologists of the 20th century.  They were Abraham Maslow, David McClelland, and Leon Festinger.  What did Elliot learn from them?  How did they feel about each other?  How can their wisdom apply to us today?

4.      Write like a dream.  Elliot is often described as the best writer in psychology.  His essay on experimentation in social psychology–a dry topic–has been called “a love poem to social psychology.”  His legendary textbook, The Social Animal, is beautifully written–not at all a typical text book–and is in its eleventh edition.  His newest book, Not By Chance Alone, is being hailed as a masterpiece that reads like a novel.  What is his secret for writing beautiful, lucid prose?  Can we get better at it?

5.      I love the underdog who triumphs.  And that is Elliot.  He came from poverty.  Went to bed hungry at night.  He grew up in a home without money or intellectual values.  Despite good grades, his scholarship was pulled his second year at Brandeis.  He doggedly pursued school, sleeping in the woods or in unlocked cars.  Yet he went on to become stunningly successful.  It’s a great story.  I’ll ask him about it and what we can learn for dealing with our own life difficulties.

Inglourious Basterds creates distasteful resonance.

Finally watched ‘Inglourious Basterds’ on DVD, last night. I found myself liking the movie much more than I thought I would. As few movies do, I found it had the effect of making me trawl back over the movie to find the thing that appealed to me. The opening ‘Chapter’ creates a terrible foreboding that ends with a truly horrible scene but is capped by an momentary exhibition of psychotic insanity. And, gradually, looking at the patterns of characterisation, I came to realise that it is in the dissonance of the characters and within the play of scenes, that I had found the appeal. The combination of ‘mumma-boy’ soldiers and psychotic killers is everywhere in the movie. The comic rendition of the Nazi Hierachy seemed initially a trivialisation but juxtaposed against scenes of ‘normal’ people, made for a disturbing atmosphere. This morning I came to the conclusion that the movie is a caricature of a lot of humanity. This is a movie about every conflict we humans have on small and large scales. Quentin Tarantino, in ‘Inglourious Basterds’ has become a master satirical cartoonist.