Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Women are the stronger sex.

(This is not a continuation of the previous post.)

We know this is true. More male babies die than female babies. Women live longer than men. Generally, women hold up in a crisis better than men. Generally, women are better able than men to multitask (compare mothers to fathers for this one -- and this is one where HoneyBear and I are the exception). Women have more endurance strength than men. (I'll have to look this one up,* but I remember reading about it.) Women can handle more pain than men (think childbirth). The only strength where men excel is brute strength.

Men are afraid of women! Yes, they are. That is why we have patriarchal societies. By using their brute strength and also psychologically overpowering us, they control us. As long as they control us, they don't have to be afraid of us. Now, it wasn't only our physical strengths that frightened them. Women don't tend to be aggressive, so we have more to fear from men than they from us.

Gosh, we're scary! Well, we are. Matriarchal societies aren't necessarily any better than patriarchal societies. In all honesty, a matriarchal society can put men down as badly as the patriarchal society puts women down. And for the same reason: Fear! An interesting thing I've found while researching this is that most matriarchial societies apparently** tend to be egalitarian. This article is quite adamant about it.

Egalitarian societies make sense. After all, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." .-- Genesis 1:27 My emphasis) So, if women aren't aggressive and a physical threat to men, and if matriarchal societies tend to be egalitarian, why do men resist them? Simple answer:

Greed... Yup. Somebody wanted more than his or her fair share. And when we have "stuff" we are afraid someone will take it from us... especially if we think we don't really deserve it. And women were as bad as men. They gave up something good for everyone for the benifit of themselves. Men also took violently (probably more often than women did).

Ruined... And for our greed, what do we get? Society, as it is and has been for a long time is all about greed, greed or money (and the material possessions money provides) and greed for power (which is often just another monetary purchase) "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." -- 1 Timothy 6:10 (My emphasis)

Our lives. We also get patriarchal societies : "Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." -- Genesis 3:16 (My emphasis again) and have to work like a dog for what we would have been freely given: "By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground," -- Genesis 3:19

We need a "do over." I won't be arrogant and say that everyone has to be a born again Christian. I don't exactly even believe that, because I don't believe that churches today are what Jesus was preaching and I've seen all too often that "born again" means doing it their way. I will say that everyone needs to listen to the call of God in their lives and not try to bend God to our own will, or create him their image. If we genuinely seek God, we will find him. If we turn away at his call, we may not have another chance.

This is the natural progression of my thought. I find it fascinating how my mind goes from one thing to another. I can't even remember what sparked that first line. It's been several hours. I've been in and out of the room, doing little things around the house and stopping here in between. I feel myself constrained to point out that I am a Christian, but other than "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have" (1 Peter 3:15), I don't believe it thrusting my beliefs on others. Today, however, the Bible quotes were an integral part of my thinking.

*I wan't able to find anything in the time I had to look.
**My research has not been extensive on any of this.

Crossposted at Tapestry

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Happiness Comes from within Oneself

The beginning of the following was originally posted at Tapestry. I continued it here because I believe it falls under the general subject matter of this blog. It is a true journal entry -- writing to discover for myself what I think. As such it does wander from one topic to the next as my mind thinks. It is not a polished essay. It is neither perfect writing nor perfect thinking. I don't believe there are any major flaws in either, however. I welcome comments. Disagreement is fine, just be polite about it.

Something I've been hearing from different sources lately is really rather profound, if you think about it. "The only viable situation is a win-win situation." Obviously a lose-lose situation is not good, but a win-lose or lose-win situation will degenerate into lose-lose. This all seems pretty obvious to me. It fits in with my "be nice" rule or the golden rule. Alas, too many people are still thinking only of their side of the relationship and as long as that is win it doesn't matter what the other side is. But it really doesn't work because the people on the lose side of a situation are going to do all they can to get their side to win. If your win depends on their lose, it's just going to create problems. Life isn't a game. Everybody can win.

Related to that is self esteem or self love. Somehow we seem to pick up that loving ourselves is a bad thing. Being selfish is a bad thing. Loving ourselves isn't. They are not the same thing. It's pretty hard to put the golden rule into practice effectively if we don't love ourselves. It's also impossible without a win-win attitude. In fact, the golden rule is the rule for win-win. Paraphrased, it's "Help others to win the way you want to win." I wonder... maybe it isn't so much that you need positive self esteem to practice the golden rule as it is that you get positive self esteem when you practice it. If I could do only one thing to change the world, it would be to make people see this clearly. It definitely was a large part of Jesus's message.

Along the line of self love is the realization that happiness comes from within. Nothing and no one can make you happy except yourself. And this just hit me... That includes God (in whatever form you accept him)! On the surface it sounds blaphemous, but it's not! God could make us happy. I believe he doens't because that takes away our free will. We get to choose to be happy.

Have you ever thought that desire is a form of unhappines. I haven't thought about deeper levels, but it's definitely true on the basic level. When we want something we don't have, we are unhappy. Why are we unhappy? We aren't unhappy because we don't have it. Really it has nothing to do with having it or not. It's because we decided to be unhappy if we don't have it.

I think that everyone has known, or at least heard about, someone who should be miserable, but isn't. Everything bad that could happen seems to have happened to them. They've been beaten and betrayed. They're broke and are too ill to work and the medical bills keep coming. Maybe they've lost a child. Some have been tortured. It seems like God has just forgotten all about them and the devil hasn't. It seems that most people in that situation become bitter, angry and definitely unhappy. But there are those who don't. They are genuinly happy. Some people just think they are nuts. And if they are happy through every second of the misery, I'm still inclined to agree. Grief and anger are normal, acceptable, even healthy emotions, but I don't think you can be happy while feeling them. Happy people get over them. They deal with the issues and get on with their lives. In my experience, most of them find reasons to be happy. Ultimately it comes down to a simple decision. They prefer being happy to being miserable. They choose to be happy.

Conversely, there are those who have everything in life and are miserable. Some of them have only material things. It's easier to understand why they would be unhappy if you undestand the need for the spiritual things of life. Some of them have a faith, though. They have people they love and are loved back. But they are unhappy and they don't know why. It's because they have chosen to be unhappy. Certainly it's an unconscious decision, but it's a decision, nonetheless. In part it is because of their misconceptions. They think love will make them happy, having everything they want will make them happy, god will make them happy. Sometimes they blame god if they aren't happy. But god isn't in the business of making people happy.

If you think about it, what is god's purpose? I don't think we can fathom it. Whatever it is, it isn't to serve humanity. We are made to serve god. I don't think there's any question about that. There's a line in Man of LaMancha where Sancho says like 'Whether the stone hit's the pitcher or the pitcher hits the stone, it's the same and bad for the pitcher.' I don't think this is true about serving god or god serving us. Paper can't write on the ink. This isn't a reversible equality. In the end, as far as out lives are concerned, it doesn't matter, except that once you realize and accept that god doesn't serve you, that only you are responsible for your happiness, then you can get on with your life and be happy about it.

We make a trap for ourselves here, too, though. We try to do what makes us happy. The only thing wrong with that is it's depending, again, on something outside us to make us happy. This is true of everything! Helping others, and even loving god, though good things to do, won't make us happy. We are happy only when we decide to be happy. Period.

Part of me still resists a little. What about clinical depression, I ask myself. That's a physical problem of unbalanced chemicals in the brain. This is a valid question as far as I can see. Clinical depression should be properly treated. At the same time I remember my brother. He has multiple sclerosis. Although he strongly suspected before the actual diagnosis was made, it was a blow. Between the natural feelings of depression resulting from the diagnosis and the medications used to treat it (which are apparently fine tuned by trial and error), he ended up with a full blown case of clinical depression. Because of medical interactions, getting the right medical treatment for that took a while, too. When asked how he handled it, he had a simple answer. "I knew I was clinically depressed and we were working on it. In the meantime, I just decided to be happy and mostly I was." He didn't deny the depression. He simply recognized it for what it was and moved on. Amazing. At the time of this conversation, I thought he was a bit crazy. Since then I've come to recognized the value of what he said and what he did. All he did was make a choice.

I can hear the question "Well, what if you make the choice and you're still unhappy?" That makes me think of my Christian conversion. I felt the call of God, of Jesus. I wanted to believe, but it was so hard. Although there was always a spiritual element to my life and the lives of those around me (no athiests, that I'm aware of), I was essentially brought up humanist. Humanism resists evangelical Christianity. On top of that, I knew a lot of people made fun of evangelicals... 'holy rollers' was the common name. I agonized over it. It was hard. Very hard. But I believe it was God calling me to make this decision, so I chose Christ. As I explained it later, it was as if Jesus was at the door knocking, but there was a boulder in the way and I couldn't open it to let him in. Once I decided, however, the boulder evaporated and the door opened.

I think it's the same for happiness. Once we decide to be happy, the boulders in the way of happiness disappear. We realize things. Some have become cliché, but while there may not be originality in clichés, there is often truth. The thing is, those clichés become realities. You can't fake it. And it's not a sour grapes sort of thing. You don't negativize something just because you didn't get it. You don't say "Well, I didn't really want that anyway" just because you didn't get it. In fact, on some level you may still want it. It's just not that important at all, not to your happiness. Have you ever told someone about something you hoped to get and gotten a pleasant, but cool "That's nice." I have and my reaction was "They just don't get how important it is." Maybe they weren't really paying attention, but it may also be that they did get how important it was, that it really wan't important.

A choice for happiness also is not about glossing over harsh realities. If there are problems that can and need to be changed, you work on changing them. You don't give up or ignore them, but you are happy and don't make your happinedd depend on that change. If there are problems that really can't be changed, you recognize them,do what you can, accept what you can't do and be happy despite the problems.

Being happy isn't easy to begin with. You have to let go of a lot of long held misbeliefs. Once you do that, once you decide to be happy, you find true happiness. It's not power, lust, elation or any of the many other things mistaken for happiness. It's simple, abiding joy. I know. I have on occasion rested there.

...to be continued