Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pessimism and Gratitude

Pessimism and Gratitude


The other night on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien”, a comic commented that ‘We live in amazing times and nobody is happy.” I laughed along with the studio audience and then realized that in this time of rotten economic and political news it is rare to talk to anybody and find people in a great mood about anything. We do live in amazing times. Many gay men who would have been dead or barely living and thriving on HIV medication are leading normal productive lives. We complain about our economy and precarious life, though day to day we communicate with extremely efficient cell phones and internet, eat nutritious safe food and control our environment with air conditioning and heat.


So what is going on? Have we lost touch with the power of gratitude and let the pessimism of Fox News, Wolf Blitzer, and Bernard Madoff take over our lives?  Our forbearers lived shorter dimmer lives and still found time to give their children hope. What are we leaving for the next generation?  Our collective angst is going to kill us and squash the next group in the wings.


I know a lot of you cringe when you see the “25 things I’m grateful for” or “25 things you don’t know about me” on Facebook or other social networking sites. They are time consuming, could be called narcissistic and other horrid things. But they do have a wonderful effect. They cause us to pause and reflect on what is good in our lives and what we have accomplished. Just yesterday, I connected through Facebook with my high school English Composition teacher. This was a scary connect as I have been published for the past 10 years or so and each time looking over my shoulder at the ghost of Mrs. Kolodny and her red pen. I am grateful for her original pearls of guidance. I have also reached out and thanked her personally for being part of who I am today.


I think the answer to moving from Pessimism to Gratitude is to move beyond Blame. We have come to use Blame as the vehicle for what is bothering us. Whether it is George Bush, the Religious Right, or the banking industry, it has become a national pastime, and embedded habit in our daily lives. Blame is not part of being the cause of your happiness. As long as blame remains a part of your world view, you are cutting yourself off from real joy.


Instead of complaining about traffic, the lines at the bank, etc. think about how amazing it is that you have the power to move around a city at will. Or that you live among a community of people all so different yet all needing to be at the same bank or grocery store. Our happiness is not the result of one good deed or writing one check to a charity. Our happiness is the result of the countless choices we make every moment. Ask yourself right now, “Am I suffering?” Chances are, you are not. What choice have you made to move towards happiness, love and gratitude? What choices have you made to move away from those?


If we are not aware of the constant choices that we make, then we eventually become controlled by outside forces (Fox News, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh’s followers) or random situations and feel powerless in this world.


To take back control, try and be grateful for our present and be constantly reminded that it DOES matter what you do and how you do it. Be grateful in each moment and the clouds will part.


Have a peaceful week

Sunday, February 15, 2009

How Your Metaphor For The World Shapes Your Values


Our core assumptions about the how we see the world are embedded in the metaphors we use.  More than just a sunny or crabby disposition, how we see the game of life set up colors our responses to everyday happenings. What is coincidence to one person is a personal assault to another.


I see six main ‘game boards’ that people use as metaphors for how things work for them. We really can’t judge how the world works for others, though many times we try too hard to put our own metaphors on others.


The six metaphors are;


1) The world as a battlefield

2) The world as classroom

3) The world as a trap

4) The world as a lover

5) The world as self

6) The world as a machine


The World as a Battlefield



Many people see the world as a battlefield, where good and evil are pitted against each other and the forces of light battle the forces of darkness. This ancient tradition goes back to ancient tribal civilizations.  There is the sense that you are fighting God’s battle and that ultimately you will win. Some people call this kind of certainty and self-righteousness the ‘apartheid of good’.


It’s easy to see the ‘Battlefield” world in others. We all know the constant fighter for political and social injustice. When you ask them how they are doing; the answer is usually a triad on the latest assault on their own cause by the obvious evil-doer. Gays vs. the Religious Right is a great example. Many GLBT people make this a battle instead of a discussion. To quote my favorite politician, Barney Frank, “Most people aren’t homophobes, they just think they have to be.” Obviously Congressmen Frank does not see the world as a battlefield.


The World as a Classroom


A more innocuous version of the battlefield metaphor, is the image of the world as a classroom, a kind of moral gymnasium where you are put through certain tests which would prove your mettle and teach you certain lessons, so you can graduate to other arenas and rewards. Whether a battlefield or a classroom, the world is a proving ground with a grade at the ‘end’.  The grade can be money, a family, a relationship, a great job, or being on the A-List.


We are taught, imprinted, guilted and molded from a very early age to poop, read, run, swim, and be popular. When we describe our lives to another in the elevator speech (the 20 second introduction) we usually use one of the ‘grades’ we have been given be it a good job, a great spouse, a sought after address, etc. Though not as toxic as the battlefield metaphor, the constant competition tends to wear on your value system when you realize there is no final exam at the end of your life. I’m sure you have never given this any thought but what will Paris Hilton do in 30 years when she has done it all?


The World as a Trap


Here the view is not to engage in struggle or vanquish the foe, but to disentangle ourselves and escape from this messy world. We try to extricate ourselves and ascend to a higher, moral high ground. If you venture out too far, you will get slapped. “All gay men are pigs, there is no one that wants a relationship, women are gold-diggers, religion is a crutch” are all terms the people who view the world as a trap use. They separate themselves, many times into disturbing isolation, to avoid being burned by the big bad world.


Some avoidance and insulation is necessary, especially for those of us living in an urban environment. It gives us a ‘time out’ to get things done, evaluate our actions, and give the love to others. Where the trap metaphor becomes a problem is when we see too much of the world as a trap, and not enough of it as the wonderful universe that it is.


The World as a Lover


The world as a lover is seen as a most intimate and gratifying partner. In religious texts we find some of the richest expressions of our erotic relationship with the world. Desire plays a creative, world-manifesting role; giving of oneself, subjecting your body, an erotic experience of body and soul. People who see the world as a lover are amazed at natural beauty, see good experiences as personal gifts, and create a personal relationship with the universe. This personal relationship can be stormy at times, like that with a lover, as our expectations and reality come together.


The World as Self


The world as lover is a complement to the world as self. The saying that you can’t love anyone until you love yourself is a manifestation of this worldview. What outsiders see as a selfish act can be in reality an exercise in making yourself better and thus the world itself. In “The Four Agreements”, by Dr. Manuel Ruiz, we are taught that we are to make no assumptions as to what others may think or do. They are living ‘their’ world and you are living yours. There is no line between the universe and yourself. You are part of an interconnected network of living things. Using the metaphor of the world as self is a progression finding the rhythm of peace.


The World as a Machine


In the seventeenth century, science claimed the domain of the physical world, religion claimed the domain of the mental world. Since then the explosion of public education, (remember that until 250 years ago, only priests and ministers were allowed to study science, Darwin included) science and religion have collided many times and the gay community is the new Petri dish for this clash. For the most part I believe in the science, the raw data in making my worldview decisions. As I have aged there has been enlightenment into the spiritual world. I do believe there are forces out there we don’t understand but do have cause and effect over. Most of us are ‘modernists’ siding with the real world. I do believe that in the future, the spiritual world will not clash with the material world with such damage. Seeing the world as a machine of cause and effect is not all bad, but I don’t think it is the big answer.





How much do you operate within each of these worldviews?


How do you see these worldviews being expressed in the world around you ?


Are each of these views equally valid?


What makes some more valid than others?


I didn’t want to get all Oprah on the blog this week, but Valentines Day brought up some discussions among friends and it seemed that each of them had a personal and unique metaphor for ‘seeing’ our universe.


Have a peaceful week


Nate Klarfeld

Sunday, February 8, 2009

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PROUD and Feeling it!

Proud and Feeling it!


Liberty and Justice for all” What part of all don’t people understand?


 In working with The Stonewall Library & Archives the past 7  or so years I’ve not only been exposed to a ton (40 tons actually) of GLBT history but I’ve touched it, moved it and tried to explain it to countless city and county government people. For those who aren’t familiar with our work, The Stonewall Library & Archives has been a privately run non-profit for over 35 years. This year, the sum of many years work, we moved into Broward County/City of Ft. Lauderdale public space retaining our autonomy, and now operate next to the Public Library, and Art Serve, one of the nation’s leading art incubators.


One of the most striking examples of the change we have experienced as open and proud GLBT men and women is in the ‘how’ of our expressions. Pre-Stonewall, in the 1950’s and 1960’s, homosexuality was seen as a crime and deviant behavior. Our movement was for the most part in the shadows and the visible protests were polite and reserved with gay men in suits and ties and lesbians in full skirts and makeup. What a difference a few decades made in the emergence of the work PROUD. Like the difference between the first and second halves of the “Wizard of OZ”, our world became Technicolor. The certain misery of being closeted so outweighed the potential for happiness that many gays and lesbians were willing to risk it. It was not safe then and is not safe now, but come out and come out PROUD we must.


Harvey Milk’s famous quote – “ “We must destroy the myths once and for all…and most importantly, every gay person must come out. Once they realize that we are indeed their children, and we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie and every innuendo will be destroyed once and for all..”  Gay rights are human rights. Often they are not perceived as human rights because some people still see gays and lesbians as subhuman. When we are in the closet we help perpetuate this stereotype.


Coming out helps others see us as real live human beings. Then it becomes clearer that we are not asking for special rights, simply human rights that all people deserve.


Many lesbian and gay people have not taken the time to think about why they are glad to be gay. After being taught absolutely no positives about being gay, many of us even wonder if there are any reasons to be glad to be gay.


Look around you. There are plenty of reasons to be glad to be gay. We are leaders. We are leaders because we challenge society to look at their inhumanity. Leaders because in spite of all the obstacles we face, we learn to love ourselves. We build healthy communities, reach out and give back to the same society that turned its back on us. There are many reasons to be proud. Are you just ‘okay’ with being gay or are you really proud?


Have a peaceful week.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

I Create My Day

I Create My Day


Several years ago a movie, “What the BLEEP Do We Know?” hit the cultural and para-scientific world with a big bang. What the BLEEP Do We Know!? — First released in theaters in 2004, WTBDWK!? went on to become one of the most successful documentaries of all time. Now distributed in over 30 countries, it has stunned audiences with its revolutionary cinematic blend of dramatic film, documentary, animation and comedy, while serving up a mind-jarring blend of Quantum Physics, spirituality, neurology and evolutionary thought.


Filmed in Portland, Oregon, What the Bleep Do We Know blends a fictional story line, documentary-style discussion, and computer animation to present a viewpoint of the physical universe and human life within it, with connections to neuroscience and quantum physics Some ideas discussed in the film are:

§                     The universe is best seen as constructed from thought (or ideas) rather than from substance

§                     "Empty space" is not empty.

§                     Matter is not solid. Nuclei pop in and out of existence and it is unknown where they disappear to.

§                     Beliefs about who one is and what is real form oneself and one's realities.

§                     Peptides manufactured in the brain can cause a bodily reaction to an emotion.

In the narrative segments of the movie, Marlee Matlin portrays Amanda, a deaf photographer who acts as the viewer's avatar as she experiences her life from startlingly new and different perspectives.

In the documentary segments of the film, interviewees discuss the roots and meaning of Amanda's experiences. The comments focus primarily on a single theme: We create our own reality.

The most often referenced interview in the film is Dr. Joe Dispenza's comments on creating his day. In response to the numerous requests, the following is the transcript of that part of the interview.

"I wake up in the morning and I consciously create my day the way I want it to happen. Now sometimes, because my mind is examining all the things that I need to get done, it takes me a little bit to settle down and get to the point of where I'm actually intentionally creating my day. But here's the thing: When I create my day and out of nowhere little things happen that are so unexplainable, I know that they are the process or the result of my creation. And the more I do that, the more I build a neural net in my brain that I accept that that's possible. (This) gives me the power and the incentive to do it the next day.

"So if we're consciously designing our destiny, and if we're consciously from a spiritual standpoint throwing in with the idea that our thoughts can affect our reality or affect our life -- because reality equals life -- then I have this little pact that I have when I create my day. I say, 'I'm taking this time to create my day and I'm infecting the quantum field. Now if (it) is in fact the observer's watching me the whole time that I'm doing this and there is a spiritual aspect to myself, then show me a sign today that you paid attention to any one of these things that I created, and bring them in a way that I won't expect, so I'm as surprised at my ability to be able to experience these things. And make it so that I have no doubt that it's come from you,' and so I live my life, in a sense, all day long thinking about being a genius or thinking about being the glory and the power of God or thinking about being unconditional love.

"I'll use living as a genius, for example. And as I do that during parts of the day, I'll have thoughts that are so amazing, that cause a chill in my physical body, that have come from nowhere. But then I remember that that thought has an associated energy that's produced an effect in my physical body. Now that's a subjective experience, but the truth is is that I don't think that unless I was creating my day to have unlimited thought, that that thought would come."


Have a peaceful week.


Nate Klarfeld