Think Again

fourfathers cryThink Again was inspired by the ideas set forth by our founding fathers, whom when authoring the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution must have had to think and rethink every word. Just consider how radical this phrase must have sounded to the ear of a King, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

For people in the present, in the United States it is assumed that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is out there and ours for the taking. However, how many US citizens actually pause to consider what an “unalienable” right is? That word does not pop into my mind when considering the American dream. And why should it? And do we have them? Unalienable is defined as, not to be separated, given away, or taken away. Meaning that being born, each human, like the beating of his/her own heart, and the breath flowing through his/her lungs is the owner and embodiment of these birth rights; Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. These rights are not awarded to us or granted to us by a court, they are born into us at our first crying breath, and even though this seems a very logical thought it has not always been the case.

Gazing backwards, history tells that Kings and Queens were ordained by their God; Meaning that according to their belief system they were selected by their God. I believe this form of thinking persists on to todays Royalty. All other humans were perceived as being below Kings and Queens, and would be subjects to them, and under the rule of their divine power. Royalty and its forms of governing people had been the way that most human beings had grown to understand themselves in relation to the world. There was the King or Queen and he or she ruled controlling their subjects’ life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

Then as American history tells, a bunch of men and women immigrants crossed the pond and got all these crazy new ideas about being alive. Can you imagine penning for the first time “all men are created equal?” A shift in consciousness had awakened within a new land called America. The idea of wanting to rule one’s own destiny was born and along with it the ideals of freedom took root. Freedoms potential began to bend humanity in a new direction, which included the ideas of individual life, liberty, and the pursuit of one’s own happiness.

As a side note (and, which is very important parts of our American history) we know that freedom for all in Americans did not originally include all people, Native Americans were slaughtered, Africans were enslaved, women were second class citizens, Japanese were placed in internment camps and if you self-identified (or were outed) with any part of the LBGTQ spectrum you were considered mentally ill and institutionalize or imprisoned, branded a criminal. The white men who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution were writing to define their intentions for the new world, which was really about the freedom of themselves. Consequently the symbol of white equaling power was born.

Thankfully, and over much time the immigrants whom would eventually call themselves Americans evolved to understand and interpret the use of the word “men” as meaning mankind and mankind meaning humankind. In other words all of humankind in America has unalienable rights, which include Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. So even though the original vision of these two documents were not all inclusive, the language was scribed in a way that established the grounds to fight for what is right and good for all legal Americans.

Sadly, today in 2017 the “ illegal immigrants/Muslim immigrant” has become the new Native American, black, women, Japanese, gay, who is being targeted and who is challenging how far unalienable rights extend. In this moment of time we are challenged to grow our humanity rather than shrink our humanity. Let’s remember that unalienable means inseparable or birthright and then let’s expand past the boarders of our minds to be inclusive of the human race’s rights, not just American rights. The pursuit of life liberty and happiness is a human right. In the present trump administration we can see that the full and deepest interpretation of “humankind” has yet to fully be awakened within the minds of our present president trump. He seems to still be in the era of reasoning that interpreted the Declaration of Independence as a document written for white men only. No matter how many ways trump may try to disconnect and divide within our own borders and beyond America, the plain and simple truth will prevail that we are one world, which is inextricably interconnected with each other, and we are all the human race. trump’s crazy making and deception cannot erase this plain and simple FACT.

Thinking and then thinking again and again is so very important because it creates the space within the mind of an individual or a group to reason and then act or not. Having this ability, called reasoning, if used, allows us to create the space in our consciousness to discern right from wrong and good from bad. Deeply contemplating the idea of good or bad is how I spent the morning three days after the presidential election 2016.

Being the curious creature that I am, I wanted to examine my own heart, which is to say that I want to pause and reflect upon what I believe and how I came to have those beliefs, specifically concerning the concepts of good and bad. I felt challenged to do this because many people on Facebook felt that they had the right to post negative comments about me based upon my point of view. I had commented about my disappointment of the Presidential election outcome. The negative posts, posted by others/strangers are what really interest me the most because to ever assume that someone has the right to label anyone anything other than human is to move into a place in consciousness where one perceives him or herself to be above the other. The moment that “name-calling” starts in any way shape or form you can guarantee that someone is feeling a sense of superiority and self righteousness, which can be rationalized as a perfectly normal state of mind after winning what one wanted. Name-calling could also be considered a base line for bullying. I felt bullied.

My feeling of sadness (not defeat) were not so much that trump won the election but rather that so many Americans had chosen to follow and support such a truly bad man. My feelings of sadness were amplified when being bullied by my fellow Americans, whose behaviors were incited by trump.

There are those who will try to turn this around and say calling trump a bad man is the same as name-calling and labeling people, and no matter what I write they will stick to their guns thinking that I’m name-calling and labeling too. There is a difference though and I’d like to break it down into two different scenarios to better illustrate my point.

In one scenario a stranger passes another stranger on the street, and one calls the other a faggot, without having any idea of who that person really is, but the name caller does it anyway because he or she is either ignorant, homophobic or hateful, or all of the above. As a side note, I have lived this particular scenario from as far back as I can remember. Beginning in grammar school the name assigned to me was a sissy then as the boys and girls got older it evolved to faggot and over time I acquired every hatful name associated with being a gay man. Being gay one learns what hate feels like at a very young age. Most LGBTQ humans who are not destroyed by hate come to realize that to hate is wrong and that name call is wrong. Luckily, I did not break from the hate, in fact my mind grew a more deep and inclusive understanding and respect for what it means to be human in all of our varied forms.

In the second scenario all of America watched an adult white male millionaire repeatedly make really bad remarks about every type of human who was not white, like himself. He made those remarks while running for the highest office in the nation. The person applying for the job of president should be well aware of the history of America and of the world for that mater and how hate crimes have negatively shaped our society and the planet. To insight hate, fear and separatism as he has done and continues to do, in a nation that has such deep wounds around the subject is the actions of a bad man. I have, and we all have observed a behavioral patter in trump and it is he himself totally and completely being a bad man. He has shown us his true colors repeatedly.

Let’s make a quick break down of name-calling verses naming an observable behavioral pattern: The hater on the street randomly name calling hasn’t got a clue as to whom the person is that he or she has just hated upon, that is name calling. Naming a behavioral pattern that persist based upon hours and hours of observation is not name-calling, it is a statement of fact, backed by evidence. In this particular case produced by the person himself – trump. His performance while running for president was not second hand information, it did not come from the press… No trump’s fraud, his bankruptcies, his avoiding paying taxes, his racism, his misogyny, the list goes on and on came straight from his own lips, all of which are bad words and bad actions making trump unarguably a bad man. He meant what he said and he said what he what he meant. So for those of you who voted for him thinking that he was performing and only saying what he said for dramatic effect you were wrong. He really meant what he said. And for those who are still saying that you don’t really know what trump means, I hope you will soon figure out that when he speaks there is no mysterious or complex deeper meaning to his words. He means what he says.

Now back to that third day after the election. My mind that particular morning felt a curiosity that opened my thinking to the phenomena of people organizing. Religions came to mind first and so I followed my curiosity to see what I could find. The first question that popped into my mind was, “what are the ages of religions?” The second thought was what are the similarities and guiding principles/beliefs underpinning the different religions beliefs systems?

What I discovered is that one religion verses another does not produce better humans than the other. We are all simply humans. The religion we inherit or choose or don’t choose makes no difference because the base line of all religions is to do good for humanity. Whatever one’s religion, skin color, sexual orientation, nationality, ethnic break down, the clothes one wears, the car you drive, the zip code where you live does not make you or me any better or worse a human than every other human. The fact of matter is that we are all beautifully flawed human beings. We are all humans plane and simple. We all have brains in our skulls, hearts in out chest and the breath that we breath. What we wear on the surface, our skin color, sexual orientation, religion, social status, etc. is not what defines some one as being a good or bad human. It is our thoughts and our actions that define if we are good or bad people.

trump’s thoughts and actions are bad thoughts and actions and he has essentially given all the Haters in America the permission to behave as badly as he does. In his claims to build walls, deport Mexicans, alienate and target Muslims and return to law and order he amplifies fear and in doing so gives justification and permission to anyone and everyone and in every place, the space to act on their fear and hate.

Here is my personal evidence: In one weeks time I had very unusual experiences with name-calling, verbal aggression, fear and hate. In the week leading to the election a black man aggressively confronted me on the street for presumably looking at him the wrong way, when in-fact, I was actuality looking at a very out of place dead bald eagle that lay on the sidewalk of downtown Washington DC, which looked like the man was going to step on. I don’t know about you, but to me the dead bald eagle sure felt like a bad omen. Days after the election a white man shouted at me on the street to “fuck off” because I was stopped on the sidewalk waiting to cross the street on my bicycle. And several people on Facebook have named me as a whiner and a crybaby because I expressed my point of view concerning the election outcome and about the character of trump.

If you know me, you know that I’m not a racist, an inconsiderate bicyclist, a whiner or a crybaby. What I am is a human being like every other human being on the planet. There are wonderful things about me and there are flawed things about me, which can be said for every other human being that walks this planet.

Which leads me to my next point, to dissent is part of the democratic process and one of our freedoms as Americans. We do not have to agree with one another. However, we must always respect each other’s differences. When people moved towards aggressive behaviors and name-calling, respecting one another has gone out the window. To have differing opinions are what causes people to grow and all voices and all opinions are a reflection of who we are as Americans. We are at our deepest roots after all, a melting pot. There is room for everyone to be and to express them selves. Please don’t misconstrue my comments on trump as being anything other than what they are, I will dissent and stand my ground firmly in the belief that good will prevail. Good humans through out all of time have had to stand together to defeat bad humans. The evidence that this has occurred is in the simple fact that we are all alive.

Looking even deeper into the roots of the land that we call America, we must fully integrate and acknowledgment the facts that to build American society it took an all but near annihilation of several tribes of Native Americans people (This atrocity still hangs in the balance). Followed by enslaving Africans whose physical bodies built this nation from the ground up. These historical facts must be fully addressed and made right because they are not fantasy or entertainment. They are our root cause for our constant discontent. We as a society have never made right what we had done wrong. We as a republic were born out of fear and hate. Fear and hate of what had been left behind, fear and hatred of the people discovered here and fear and hate for those we enslaved. The fact that we repeatedly arrive back in the fear and hate state of mind demonstrates that there has yet to have been a proper reconciliation and restitution given in order heal the wounds (at the root) of our forefathers. My guess is that until we make right what we had done wrong the fear and hate that made us will continue to block us from becoming truly free.

To become truly free, it is not the other that we need to fear, but rather it is our own individual close-minded thoughts and perceptions that keep us caged. As humans we have the unique ability to self observe and examine within ourselves what we hold to be true. In order to be set free from out fears, of the other, gazing inward is essential. One can start their journey of gazing inward by answering these questions: Where did your thoughts come from? Who planted the seeds within your mind that has caused you to believe this way or that way? Are your thoughts a habit? Are your actions a habit? Do you explore ideas outside of your own understanding of reality? Do you make an effort to learn about what you do not know? Or do you receive information and accept it blindly? Is the news the only place that you learn about the world and all of the wonderful humans who inhabit it? Do you question your own thoughts? To examine ones thoughts is to look deeply into ones self. Do you look deeply into your own self, or has the world painted a picture for you, of you, and you accept that version as your reality? I ask all these questions because if you are aware of your thinking you can also become aware of your perceptions. Our perceptions of reality form within our mind based upon our circumstances in life, most of which we do not choose. For example I did not choose to be born to a single mother, have a father that abandoned me, being gay, growing up in impoverished neighborhoods…the list goes on and on. My life like many has not been an easy one. My circumstances that I was born into shaped how I perceived reality.

As a child I believed myself to be trash, God did not want me because I was gay, public schools did not want me because I was stupid, the world did not want another mixed race child on welfare draining the system. I had little to no hope of ever surviving my child hood. I thought I was a nothing-useless bag of bones, taking up precious oxygen and space that some more other better person deserved. All of these negative perceptions caused me to consider suicide often.

My circumstances were real but my perception of my self was an outside projection of me, not my true self. My thoughts then, taught to me by the world around me had shaped the way that I perceived myself in space and time and in relation to people and most importantly to myself. As a child I believed it all because I had not yet learned how to think for myself. Thinking for ones self takes practice, patience and hard work. I had to learn how to change my perceptions of myself. I had to learn how to change my mind. If I had not I would be dead. The child that I was born into was taught from first thoughts to hate himself; Suicide, drug addiction, prostitution would have become me, which was my inherited trajectory, taught to me by the world around me. It was all lies, I believed about myself because I knew no better. I had to undo my perceptions of myself to survive. I had to changed my mind and alter my perceptions.

As a child, I of course did not use this language to describe my situation; I did not have the vocabulary or the understanding. What I did have were a few good people who did good things. The good people who saved my life protected me, expressed their love, concern and acceptance of me as I was. From those people, I learned how to accept myself. I could have been full of hate for the world that rejected me at every turn but I was not. I could have been fearful of the world but I was not. I could have hated the haters who so freely hated upon me but I did not. Why? Because, by my nature I’m a compassionate and empathetic human and the world did not teach me these qualities they were born into my body at birth. Being compassionate and empathetic is like breathing to me it’s where my mind goes first and my heart follows. “How can I make things better,” is the question that rises first to my consciousness. Then followed by “What can I do? When the solution comes to mind and it feels right to my heart I move towards action of some sort. Inaction would be to believe someone else is going to take care of things or that I’m not capable myself. Inaction goes against the nature of the world. If you look closely at the natural world around you can see that the whole natural world is in action every living thing is growing and becoming more whole and more complete. It is so very important to live ones life in action. Good actions.

Ironically the stupidest kid in the class is now the teacher; the child that hated every moment of school now goes to school nearly every day of his life. I changed my perceptions of myself and the world received me as I am. Why? Because there is room enough for all of us. I have a fantastic life, is it easy you may ask and the answer is NO it’s a really hard life but I’d ask for no other because it is a life of my making, arrived at by my choices and actions. The good work is almost always the hardest work, and it is worth every heartbeat.

Are you working for the good or just hardly working? To become better human beings is really hard work. Work that starts when you become aware of your own thoughts and perceptions and then adjust them so that they reflect the world that you want to live in and the world that you want to leave behind. And most importantly so that you are the person that you were born to be not some painted on version of self that society had painted for you, of you. Mahatma Gandhi put it best, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Our perception of self must shift to being inclusive of the world as a whole. We are one world one human race everything that we do is affecting one another and the planet. The world, by its nature is made up of interconnectivity and we are the byproducts of this world not the other way around. We are all inextricably connected to the planet and to each other and the sooner that we fully realize this fact the sooner that we can begin the hard work to collectively heal our selves and this beautiful planet. We have to do this because it is our one and only shared true home.

And please do not get me wrong when I say that we are one human race and one planet that I think that we all need to be the same. The opposite is true. For human to evolve and change and discover their true self there must be variation and friction. It is from our differences that we push and pull one another to become better at being human. If we were all the same there would be nothing to learn. To be living life is to be in a continuous state of learning and unlearning.

Sorry, now I’m jumping back to trump. When I comment on trump as being toxic on Facebook, I was reflecting upon an idea that has been realized. I know this to be true because of the above mention week that I lived post his election. trump has created a space in people’s consciousness where they believe themselves to be superior. He has given permission to bully and bullying is what is being done. He has amplified a divisive attitude by connecting to people’s dissatisfaction with their own lives. He has conjuring a reality that pits them against us. This is not something that I’m making up it is a recorded reality. He won people over because he connected to their suffering; he said what people were feeling and thinking. He used our countries collective dissatisfaction to win his place by claiming to be able to fix what ails us.

For the record in America there has always been suffering because suffering is part of the human condition. And on the opposite end of the spectrum there is also great joy because it too is part of the human condition; these states of being are not just an American phenomena they are global. There is also wealth and poverty, which exist as global phenomena. Extremisms are also part of the human condition. Radicals can form in any population including Americans. The history of being human reveals all of this to us. Humans have a great capacity to do both good and bad. All of this is playing out all the time all around the planet.

It was not President Obama that caused you to suffer, it is not the American economy, the color of your skin, and the amount of money that you make, or the place where you live that makes you suffer. It is your own unexamined heart and mind, which causes you to suffer. We forget to look inward to seek answers to our questions and instead turn to entertainment for distractions. To be free from suffering is an individual journey, one that takes learning and intentional work. To tap into your personal suffering one has to create a quiet space. You have to put down your devices, unplug from the web, turn off the television and become still and quiet. Listen to your own thoughts not the ones being fed to your mind for outside sources. When you identify what is causing you to suffer you can then begin to move towards actions that heal your mind and heart. The end of suffering is held within each of us individually and can only be obtained through the self not the other. Others can help and support you along your way but ultimately we are each responsible to make our own peace with our suffering.

Do you ever sit silently? Do you ever unplug from the constant stream of information? If you don’t, then you will never truly understand yourself, your mind has been infiltrated by outside sources. It is only in the quietness and stillness of ones self that one can hear their authentic voice, their true voice. Like everything in life being quiet and still takes practice. It is a practice worth taking up because it is where you will find the content of your true heart and mind. I encourage you to give it a try start with five minutes, sit in silence and follow your breath or spirit whatever language you identify best with. Be aware there will be static in your mind there will be noise, don’t judge it or yourself, simply focus your internal gaze on your breath listen to your inhale and exhale. Find your center. Be amazed that you live in a perfect whole body whatever the condition of your body; it is the only one you get so learn to perceive it as perfection.

If you never read books you are missing out on expanding your consciousness. Reading is another form of being quiet and still. Reading creates a space in the mind that opens pathways to new ways of perceiving our selves and others in the world around us. When is the last time that you pick up a book and read it first page to last? Reading is transformative by its nature. While reading we are processing and thinking deeply for ourselves. An outside source is not telling us how to interpret the book. The part of the mind that makes connections is activated while reading. When making connections our brains are making sense out of the chaos. We are interpreting reality in a way that becomes meaningful through the connection made and our understanding deepens. Our consciousness actually grows. Please read a book, one that supports your beliefs and then another which does not support your beliefs. What you already know to be true for you is wonderful but how you grow your consciousness is by reading what does not support your beliefs. When you know both sides well then you can arrive at a deep understanding of reality verses a one sided painted on point of view.

This is where I leap back to my morning curiosities a few days after the election. In my sadness regarding the election, I wanted to shift my perception by learning something new. I decided to research the age of religions and the basic principles underpinning the faith and practices of those religions.

Now mind you here that I’m of no particular faith and I’m not a religious person. I’m a curious person and I first became fascinated by the religions of the world when I was about eight years old. In my home the word God was not ever spoken. Except by me of course always question the idea of a God. By the age of 10, I was venturing out on Sunday school busses to learn about God. Whatever bus got to my corner first, I hopped on and went to church. Ultimately, I choose no religion and no church to belong to. I choose to be self possessed of my spirit, having experienced that no religion or church accepted me as the person I was born to be. The trend is different now in America, but back only 40 years ago, gays were not welcome in Gods world. I am Gay from birth to the present and will be until I die. Exactly the same way that heterosexual people are born that way and die that way. If you are still of the belief that being gay is a choice try un-choosing to be straight. It cannot be done; we are each born into a body that loves who it loves. If you have ever been in true love try undoing that too. Thankfully many religions that rejected the idea of homosexuality are now embracing it, which goes to show that even religious organizations can shift their perceptions. Change for the good of all humans is a real possibility.

Speaking of possibilities, the one teaching from trump that I see as a positive thing is that he has totally shattered the notion of, “that will never happen” anything and every thing has the potential to happen. Everything is profoundly possible. When you hear the words frame in your mind as words of discouragement, “that will never happen” undo the negative perception of the phrase and use it to empower you into good action. If one bad man can move a nation think upon what a good united human race can do to counteract that bad man. The good people of our nation and of the world must stand our ground against trump’s hate. EVERYTHING CAN HAPPEN!

As you read this and if you are sensitive to the teachings of Buddhist Philosophy you might think that I’m a Buddhist trying to convert you to Buddhist ways. Nothing could be further from the truth. As I said earlier I’m of no particular faith but I am very curious. This past summer, I read many of the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh, he is a Buddhist Zen master, poet, scholar and peace activist. From my reading, I got to know Buddhism a little better. In doing so my consciousness has expanded, I have grown as a person because I learned about what I did not know. I did not have to go on a Buddhist retreat or seek out a Buddhist monk or temple to receive teachings, I simply picked up a book and read, which lead to several more books because I wanted to keep learning. Not because I wanted you or me to become a Buddhist but because I’m curious, I wanted to grow my perceptions and expand my consciousness, I want to do this for my whole life. Learning new ideas and ways of being is a life worth living.

Go to the library and get a book on Muslim philosophy if you are Christian and if you are Muslim go get a book on Buddhism learn about the beautiful aspect of all faiths, which ultimately teach about love and kindness, all of which binds us together not divides us apart. Open a book and grow your mind. If you are white skinned read Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me and learn what it feels like to be born in a male black skinned body in America. If you are heterosexual read Jeanette Winterson’s, Written On the Body, a love story where the name and gender of one of the main characters is never given. You get the picture… read! Read everything not only the things that make you feel validated in your beliefs, read things that challenge your beliefs. You will be amazed by what you can learn and more importantly how you can grow your humanity. When you grow your humanity, compassion blossoms in your heart and you become aware that it is not out there that is making you suffer it is inside you, it is not the other that is causing you pain it is your own inactions.

I learned that third day after the election that some religions are really old Hinduism being the oldest around 4000 years old. I did not actually know that fact before that particular morning. I also read through all of the fundamental or basic beliefs of the older religions. I discover that all the older religions teach, in one-way shape or form the practice of being good to one another. This gave me a great sense of hope, to think that for as long as humans have organized that the foundation of their beliefs was to do and be good to one another. This is a simple way of putting it, I know, but it is really the foundation of all, be good to self and to one another.

I also revisited many of the ideas that the oldest religions had about being human, which in present time seem totally crazy. One that comes to mind is stoning a person to death, which by the way still happens in our time, fortunately not as global phenomena but in small pockets of the world. Every place and its people on the planet are evolving and growing in their own time. I dream of an America that leads the way to becoming better humans and this can only happy if America is open not closed.

Being good and being bad are simple words to measure a complex world but simplicity often times holds the greatest and deepest truths. I invite you to examine your own heart… what do you find there? Where does it send you to look for answers to the questions that underpin your own ideas? How do you choose to move through this world? Do you stand on the side of being good for all people or do you believe that one race is more disserving than another. Do you feel superior? What does your heart tell you? What does good sound like and what does bad sound like? What are you listening to? What are you hearing? Observe yourself and your actions to see if you are aspiring towards the good or bad. Or are you held captive by entertainment frozen in a state of inaction within yourself? Free yourself from blindly following. Wake–up!

My heart tells me to do good actions and my mind tells me to speak good words both for myself and for all people and that is who I am and is what I will do. What will you do?

In my painting a tear falls filled with the American flag. The symbolic all knowing eye in the sky weeps for the lost potential caused by small minds driven by fear and hate. Choose to grow your mind boarder free, giant, inclusive and fearless. Think and then think again and again and again keep opening up. The mind knows no boundaries and those who teach fear are simply trying to cage your mind. Every solution to every perceived problem is held within our minds and they must be free from fear to reach for the beyond. Think about it and then think again and again.