Posted by: Millard J. Melnyk | May 23, 2015

Fear of Feelings

Our culture fears feeling, branding sub-cultures that honor feeling as inferior — sometimes as weak, mushy, spineless and sometimes as hedonistic and perverted. So I’m very glad that psychologists and sociologists are helping us to realize that feelings — like compassion and empathy, for starters — are not risk-prone defects but fundamental to sanity and reason.

Ask 100 Westerners what would happen if everyone just did whatever they felt like, and you’ll probably get 99.5 answers to the tune of “chaos would erupt.”

Oh really?

Does chaos erupt in the love bed when two people (or more sometimes) do whatever the fuck they feel like? Rarely. But if it happens, they stop and do something else, because otherwise the love-making is over.

Does chaos erupt in the city park where hundreds or even thousands of people, all strangers except to the ones they’re with, do whatever they happen to feel like, even with nary a cop in sight?

We already know how to do this shit.

The cultural narrative would have us believe that our feelings are just sizzling under the surface, ready to erupt Read More…

Posted by: Millard J. Melnyk | May 18, 2015

Our Injustice System

Here are some facts about our injustice system:

  1. We call it a “justice” system. Bullshit.
  2. The only place where we are considered innocent until proven guilty is inside a courtroom during a criminal trial. The only people who consider us innocent until proven guilty are — if we’re lucky — the judge, our defense attorney, and possibly a jury. The state and its prosecution team, on the other hand, are already so convinced we’re guilty that they will expend considerable resources — not to determine if we committed the crime, but to prove that we did in fact commit it. The public basically considers us guilty unless acquitted, which is very different than innocent until proven guilty, and even then they retain their suspicions unless the evidence clearly exonerates us.
  3. How are we considered guilty until proven otherwise? Before we get a chance to “face our accusers” —
  4. Read More…

Posted by: Millard J. Melnyk | May 17, 2015

Lying

I’ve yet to find a problem that we can truly do nothing about. There are always things we can do to solve problems, but we sometimes conclude that what we’re capable of and willing to try won’t be enough, so we capitulate. That’s to take a stand from ignorance, because before we try we’re experientially uninformed. Fools take stands that way. We shouldn’t.

Then to save face, we blame the situation or others involved, painting a picture of a scene dominated by an elephant of a problem so huge that it daunts us, making us feel powerless and helpless in its shadow. But just cuz we feel it doesn’t make it so. And trying to solve a problem but failing the attempt sends a very different message than refusing to try at all. Trying shows that we care, but refusing to try sends exactly the opposite message — that we do not care about solutions enough to risk failure. Reasons of necessity and excuses of impossibility then become side issues, irrelevancies, cover-ups of the real issue: Our refusal to try results from elevation of self and hardening of heart.

When we feel powerless, lying gets really attractive. Lies are like mice. They can freak the problematic elephant out of the frame, forcing it to move rather than solving anything, but eventually they proliferate and overrun the whole scene. You’ve heard of “herding cats” no doubt? No one even contemplates herding mice, and yet managing lies is no less absurd or ultimately futile. What’s more, once they realize that they were tricked by deceptive mice, elephants tend to go on trampling rampages…

When we tell a lie, the entire universe testifies against us, except for those few relatively minuscule factors we manage to manipulate, among them facts about our inner worlds. While we’re fixated on the effects a lie will have on others, we fail to notice that by lying we just alienated ourselves both from them and from reality itself, creating a little bit of false world that we’re now obliged to inhabit or else be found out. Beyond this false bit, this fiction, people remain in touch with many things that they aren’t deceived about, Read More…

Posted by: Millard J. Melnyk | March 19, 2015

Capturing Captivity

Captivity distinguishes authoritarianism from collaboration and influence, both of which recognize the sanctity of freedom of choice and, when properly understood, encourage instigation and exploration, seeing removal of borders, limitations, and hurdles as more of a virtue than a risk.

In contrast, authoritarians cannot bear the uncertainties of unconfined freedom, fear the potential of open-ended, transparent inquiry, and suppress instigation outside of strict governing parameters.

Every authoritarian vehicle hinges on captivity, favoritely euphemized as “security.” To an authoritarian, securing something means trapping it, confining it, binding it. Preserving it means holding it hostage, imprisoned, which is euphemized as “ownership”. Defending its captive state requires violence. The ultimate form of authoritarian defense is killing and, if deemed necessary, annihilation. This indicates a crude, rudimentary mentality towards problems and challenges. Authoritarians reserve sophistication for manipulation of materials, systems, and mentalities after the question of security has been settled.

Despite their proclamations and parades of power, authoritarians assume a contingent position, reacting to presumed adversaries, without which they emerge from the smoke of their own dread as clearly no better than brute abusers. Contingent, because authoritarians depend on the adversity they oppose and seek to overcome, without which they would have no intelligible basis for their programs of domination — a kind of moralistic Münchausen syndrome by proxy occurring at all levels of human relations. Authoritarians presume resistance without sufficient cause for the presumption, which then generates actual resistance to their attacks against supposed enemies on whom they project self-spawned specters of disrespect, defiance, and subversion. Despite their warring against adversarial figments fabricated in anticipation rather than from observation, actual adversity against authoritarians is glaringly, demonstrably absent.

This is why, no matter how far and how long authoritarians go out “conquering and to conquer,” they cannot stop and it’s never enough. No matter what and how much they capture and rule, their true adversary still roams free. Their fear of life continues haunting and threatening and tormenting them, untouched by their efforts to imprison and subdue it through subjugating the hapless that agitate their terrors and evoke their rage, incessantly and painfully reminding them that they are not safe until they secure safety.

In this light, the saying about the Christ takes on new significance:

When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
and gave gifts to men. ~ Ephesians 4:8

Could it be that we must sequester authoritarianism — or more aptly, confine the paranoia that underlies it?

What would the world be like if we captured and imprisoned authoritarians?

Would there be any “world” left?

Posted by: Millard J. Melnyk | March 12, 2015

Send Your “Packing” Packing

When I see someone with a gun strapped to his hip, like the guy in camo at Walmart the other day, I feel less safe. That doesn’t change one whit (and never has all my life, ever since I was small) if he’s wearing a uniform. A shiny little badge on his chest doesn’t make him less dangerous. In fact, for those with the wrong mentality who well know that they are judged by a much more sympathetic standard than the rest of us, their “Ya can’t touch me” attitudes make them far more dangerous.

Check yourself the next time a cop shows up — you, a law-abiding citizen doing nothing wrong at the time. Do your vitals relax (Ah… Now I’m so much safer!) or pump (Ah… oh… What’s going on? What’s gonna happen now?) You’re driving the speed limit in a registered vehicle in good repair with license in your wallet, proof of insurance in the glove box, and a patrol car suddenly appears in your rear view mirror. How’s your heart rate feel now? You know what I’m talking about. Let’s say he pulls you over. Does the gun on his hip make you feel safer then?

I’m shocked to realize that the number of guns per person in the USA is almost 0.9. If all the guns were equally distributed, 9 of 10 Americans would have a gun in their hands. Talk about a cluster fuck powder keg.

There is less than a one percent chance (average violent crime rate in large US cities hit a HIGH of 0.8% in 1991, it’s now just under 0.4%, see Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics, US Total, Violent crime rates) that you will have any call for defense at all. Less than 1 in 200 people will experience a violent crime once in a whole year. I wonder how many think about it 365 days a year, even to the point of “packing”?

For most, having a gun in those situations will just make matters worse because, unless you’re practiced at warding off bad guys at the end of a barrel, (which means you do it often,) it will be your first time and you will suck at it.

In actual fact — judged by the time spent actually using or practicing with your gun vs. time spent fantasizing yourself blowing away “bad guys” — for most people, having a gun for self defense is little more than a morbid form of moralistic ego masturbation.

Maybe you, Mr./Ms. gun-packing citizen, are the exception to that rule, but I doubt it.

Posted by: Millard J. Melnyk | March 10, 2015

Give the Guy a Hand

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Check out my new page on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/MillardJMelnyk

I’m finally asking for help to support my work. Here’s a peek:

Patreon sneakpeek
(Click above to read more…)

If you like what I write and where it’s headed, then help me go farther and faster! 🙂

Or if you think I’m headed for a cliff, then help me go farther, faster, and let’s get it over with! 😉

Either way, I’m definitely on a track and this little engine is just picking up speed.

ReLOVEution3 or bust! 😀

ReLOVEution Reversal

Posted by: Millard J. Melnyk | March 10, 2015

Reverse Your Vision Forwards

If our society is upside-down and backwards, then deliberately turning it upside-down and backwards is the only way to right it. If we’re faced backwards, reversing our vision forwards is exactly what we need to do, especially if we want to do more than stand stock still.

But is this the case? Is that kind of radical step necessary? I decided to find out.

So, I asked people. Most thought it was a crazy question — of course things aren’t that bad. Then I asked them what their solutions for our problems are. I found out two unexpected things.

First, they offered solutions only after making sure that we won’t stray too far from the way things are now. In other words, they ruled out “radical” from the start. In time, I realized that their first priority was not to make things better, but to protect interests vested in the current state of affairs.

So I asked them why — what good reason did they have for ruling out radical possibilities? Many didn’t even get the question, because reasons are relevant only in light of options, but they saw none. Reasons to stand with feet planted on the ground don’t make much sense unless we have the option to fly. But if flying always leads to falling and crashing, it’s not really an option, so standing needs no justification. They didn’t see radical possibilities as options, but as threats.

Others admitted that radical steps aren’t out of the question, but claimed that they’re a bad idea. Their reasons for that opened my eyes to the second unexpected thing. Read More…

Posted by: Millard J. Melnyk | March 8, 2015

The Evil Problem of Evil

Exciting new thoughts today about my most challenging question! Sparked by a great conversation yesterday with my son and a friend’s statement this morning…

“One important lesson I have learned through my experience, is not to depend on a deity to intervene on behalf of the innocent.”

I agree, and it’s one of my big remaining quandaries. There’s something deeply conflicted and inconsistent about operating in trust in a hostile or indifferent environment where violation occurs unless someone intervenes. I’ve asked many who ought to know — believers in a “loving God” — about the most capable interventionist possible (if he exists): “Why doesn’t God intervene?” All I ever get back is shoulder shrugs and “The Lord’s ways are past finding out.”

That’s pathetic. Poppycock! We can do better than that, and I’m making inroads, but it’s still perplexing.

But forget about God. The G question is beside the point of this one.

I think maybe part of the problem is our expectations about our roles as intelligent, caring beings. We want to just enjoy ourselves while we’re here, but what if enjoyment is a perk, and we’re here specifically to solve a problem? Even cosmologists and theoretical physicists have been suggesting this, likening the universe to a kind of grand computer crunching information towards some end.

We assume it’s all about Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything, but that’s something that we decided we want to know for our own reasons, and we aren’t even sure that our reasons are good ones. We just know that not knowing sucks. We never ask if it’s the wrong question. And then we fall to fighting over whether the answer is actually 42.

But maybe the real question is another one: What are we going to do about it? That is in fact the question we’re faced with every time we encounter something amiss. It’s also the question we face after something terrible happens. And it’s the question that we actually define ourselves by.

We ask “Why?” and argue over what things mean, but after all that commotion dies down, we’re still faced with: So? What are ya gonna DO?

Asking “Why?” is actually asking for someone else’s answer — their opinion about what it means, their definition of who we are and what we matter — even if they’re an authority or the Pope or Dalai Lama or God himself. Those are not our answers. No one but us can find and give our answers.

And what if being engaged in creating meaning and understanding is more important than the results? What if the products are secondary to the process? What if being together on the journey is more important than where it lands us, as long as we have and keep each other? It sure beats fighting and killing each other over routes and destinations.

Maybe we need to start defining what things mean instead of asking, and creating meaning instead of wanting to be told.

Maybe if we start doing that we’ll hit a tipping point.

Posted by: Millard J. Melnyk | March 7, 2015

ReLOVEution

ReLOVEution Reversal

The ReLOVEution meme has been getting around lately, but hardly anyone says much about it. It’s become a gel point in my thinking — a great twist on an old term suggesting new possibilities. I think people like the idea that someone figured out how to find “love” in “revolt”, but there’s more to it than that.

Love is revolt. Maybe not in a perfect world; but in this authority-dominated one, love must mutiny. In this one, authority forces love into corners of territory conquered by violating love: exploitation, competition, and profit — especially profit that competes to aggravate and leverage fears for survival. The mentally deficient who rule this world think that love is a game, a weakness. Boy, are they in for a surprise.

In this world, simply making love a top priority makes it revolutionary. Authorities take any challenge to their privileged status as a step towards revolt, and they won’t stand down for anything less. We rarely confront them. Even when they abuse their power, we have qualms about taking action. Like Scilla Elworthy asked in a recent TED talk, “How do we deal with a bully without becoming a thug in return?” Buckets of giant marshmallow love won’t work. Bullies and tyrants don’t smother easily — they instead burn you and your confections. Fighting fire with fire doesn’t work, either. We whose heads aren’t stuck in a World War or even more antiquated mentality know that.

Nonviolent resistance shows some promise but, being a form of protest, it has three Achilles’ heels: Read More…

Posted by: Millard J. Melnyk | February 16, 2015

Follow the Blessing

Six years ago I began an experiment with Joseph Campbell’s “follow your bliss.” I recently expanded that into “follow the blessing” so as to be more inclusive and less narcissistic, although there’s no way around the fact that our interest in other people’s bliss or blessing is inextricably entwined with our own. I also want to recognize that a wonderful life isn’t one long flow of the euphoria that “bliss” can imply. Sometimes bliss feels like deep satisfaction or contented peace. It can also feel ecstatic. It can also feel like victory after serious struggle or relief after intense pain. “Blessing” covers all the above.

Following the blessing means doing what feels blessed. It might bless you, or it might bless others — usually both. But what does doing that mean practically?

At any point in time, faced with a choice between something that you feel must be done (duty) and something you want or love to do (blessing), fuck the first and do the second.

Don’t worry, (since that probably sounds foolhardy,) we have built-in failsafes… Read More…

Posted by: Millard J. Melnyk | February 15, 2015

The Secret of Life in Four Easy Pieces

Piece #1

Perfect potential

Here is the ideal life. Flawless. A blank page, completely open and full of potential, ready for us to do whatever we want. This happens in our dreams. It’s a good thing.

Page: Next [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]
Read More…

Posted by: Millard J. Melnyk | February 10, 2015

Suffering or Potential?

A friend shared this interesting lecture with me. It crystallized something important that I’ve pondered for many years.

Reality and the Sacred

(You can find a transcript here, although the video link there is broken, fyi.)

Consider this excerpt:

The primary Buddhist dictum is that life is suffering. What does that mean? It means that because you’re finite and you’re surrounded by something that’s absolute, in a sense you’re in a battle you can never win because there’s always more of what it is that you’re trying to contend with than there is with you. And worse than that, and it’s for this reason that tyrannies can’t last, is that the thing that you’re contending with isn’t even static. It keeps changing. So that what worked for you yesterday won’t necessarily work for you tomorrow.

Makes sense, right?

That’s the power of the occult (hidden, obscure). What wasn’t mentioned slants the whole picture by omission, so you don’t have a clue that it’s happening. Read More…

Posted by: Millard J. Melnyk | January 28, 2015

Mistake-a-phobia

Mistake-a-phobia is often passed off as skepticism. It’s prudent to be skeptical of new information or unfamiliar people when there’s good reason to be wary or hold doubt. But fear to make mistakes is not prudent — it’s the result of being punished or abused for past mistakes.

Psychologists have a diagnosis for extreme forms of mistake-a-phobia. They call it atychiphobia. As usual, they take a psychological dysfunction that occurs along a wide spectrum of type and severity but apply the label only to the most extreme forms, leaving us with the impression that we’re dysfunction-free unless we fall at the extreme end. That’s not only incorrect, it’s misleading.

Not only are we all some type and degree of mistake-a-phobic, we misunderstand what mistakes are all about. In fact, until some authority informed you that you “made a mistake”, mistakes were just experiences. Some we liked and some we didn’t. Cutting your finger only became a mistake after you or someone else decided that it shouldn’t happen again. Consider that some people’s mistakes are other people’s pleasures.

The more important question is not what does or does not constitute a mistake, it’s who makes the determination. In practically every culture in every society I know of, those determinations were made by Read More…

Posted by: Millard J. Melnyk | January 23, 2015

Ultimatum to the Privileged (like me)

I’m pretty sure that this is going to offend people. And if so, good — they need it. I don’t disparage or belittle any of the good being done in good faith by good people all around, but it’s not nearly enough. We haven’t dug deep enough and few of us have risked much at all — suffered, maybe, but risked what it takes to get rid of suffering? Not many. Most people aren’t so much as willing, let alone decided and committed. Some even claim that eradicating injustice and suffering is impossible.

Bullshit.

Either we’re all in or we’re not in at all. There’s no more time for half measures and half-assed attitudes, and no room for those unwilling to bleed.

What follows is my ultimatum, written as a speech. If you’d like to hear me read it, click here.

Millard J Melnyk

January 23, 2015

=========

If you claim you want justice, equal rights, peace, and dignity for all but you aren’t willing to commit yourselves to secure them no matter the cost — a mere potential loss of your property, your comfort, your safety, your beliefs, your status, your reputation, and even your very lives if necessary — then at best you’re nothing but hypocritical posers trying to pay pounds with pennies, Read More…

Posted by: Millard J. Melnyk | January 8, 2015

Conservatism Is a Cognitive Bias

Did you know that conservatism is a cognitive bias?

Conservatism is a failure to sufficiently revise one’s beliefs in light of new information. On steroids, we know it as “fundamentalism”, which glorifies resistance to belief revision as a kind of saintly, obligatory virtue. This doesn’t just apply to political positions or religious beliefs — it’s a cognitive bent, an ingrained habit of thought that affects all areas of concern. (See Conservatism.)

Conservatism” refers to the experimental finding that people tend to underestimate high values and high likelihoods/probabilities/frequencies and overestimate low ones.
   — Martin Hilbert, Toward a Synthesis of Cognitive Biases, p. 14

In other words, it’s an anti-progressive gravitation towards norms, towards mediocrity, towards established, familiar beliefs — in other words towards the past — coupled with aversion to novel and especially radical or fantastic possibilities. Conservatism doesn’t spurn divergent ideas for implausibility or lack of feasibility, but simply because they are different. It has a retarding effect on cognitive development, personal development, development of knowledge disciplines, and social change. The wheels of justice and most other functions of society turn slowly, but not because we don’t know what to change or how to change it, but rather because everyone pays inordinate attention to covering their asses — one of conservatism’s prime directives.

In my experience, conservatism is always tightly bound with high priorities on Read More…

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