Sticks and stones may break my bones,
But words can also hurt me.
Sticks and stones break only skin,
While words are ghosts that haunt me.
Slant and curved the words-swords fall
To pierce and stick inside me,
bats and bricks may ache through bones,
But words can mortify me.
Pain from words has left its scarCoping With Bullying in Schools, Brendan Byrne (1994)
On mind and heart that’s tender.
Cuts and bruises now have healed,
It’s words that I remember.
Having completed my mindfulness course I thought I would try out this quick course on humanism (free to access for a limited period of time).
My view of my beliefs has changed over the years from atheist, to freethinker, to sceptic, to humanist. I’m still not sure I like the name tag but I know what I think it means to me.
I believe that collectively mankind will move towards the greater good or benefit to all. I believe in people’s intrinsic values, that collectively we are a positive influence.
I believe in working out one’s ethical principles for oneself, thinking through the issues and being willing to stand by them, even if that includes breaking the law. In Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, one of the characters says that if you vote for the death penalty you must be prepared to carry it out personally. Whilst I don’t believe in the death penalty I agree with the individual responsibility.
Humanism is more than just taking a scientific approach but it does mean asking what the evidence says, and questioning the rationale, rather than what you wish to believe. It is not rationalism though; it is evidence based with compassion. I might like to believe that three points of beer every evening is good for me. The evidence suggests otherwise.
There is an endless list of things in which I do not believe because there is no evidence and it makes no sense: gods (Christian, Greek, whoever), ghosts, spirits, afterlife, elves, dwarves, goblins, unicorns, dragons, Father Christmas, faster than light space travel, etc. Some of those I would love to be true.
Much of humanistic beliefs match what I learn in counselling: empathy towards all, holding unconditional positive regard for all individuals and collective groups, respect for each person’s autonomy, an unwillingness to tell people what to do. I believe in a society where we allow people the maximum of freedom with the minimum infringement on other people’s beliefs.
There is also a valuing beyond humans, a necessary belief in the importance of supporting the environment that is our planet and all the animals and plants that constitute it, in trying to reduce our damage of it and to help it stay sustainable for generations to come.
Lastly there is recognition, as Sagan is oft quoted in saying, that we are all made of star-stuff. My life may matter to me an incredible amount and have a lasting impact on those around me but the universe doesn’t care about me or even acknowledge I exist. In the grand scheme of things I am totally insignificant. If my single life is to have any meaning, it is up to me to imbue it with meaning.
I see you as a brave and social person with an intelligence and energy that I am quite envious of who is in an highly pressurized situation of being a single parent of a child with autism that has had a negative effect on his siblings and the family environment which takes a lot of managing and must be frankly exhausting.
I went to see The Work at the weekend with C and S as recommended by our tutor. We all three walked separately down Peckham’s Rye Lane on our way to the venue (in the dark around 6pm on a Sunday night) and all three felt that we were walking in another world. The vibrant street was still very active with a vast number of butchers and fishmongers selling in bulk by the boxful a full range of animals and cuts from goats to chicken feet. Some of the fish smelt wonderful but hygiene looked very suspect in all, which in itself is a bad assumption based on appearance. Shops were still open with lots of interesting fruit and veg that spoke to the ethnic mix of the area.
I felt uncomfortable, for no particular reason (until one man asked me why was I walking down the street on my own) and it made me consider how insular we are and how unaware we can be of how fragile our self-assuredness out on the streets can be. There was an immediate sense of it being another world and of us not belonging. I know I like my comfort zone and my sense of belonging and being in familiar surroundings. In fact my therapist asked me whether an autism assessment would benefit me as this need for familiarity is definitely part of the package. Whether having that label would benefit me is a thought for another day, along with the possibly irrelevant nature v nurture debate it suggests. Either way, a lesson learned is the one I already knew, that I need to go out of my comfort zone in order to feel more comfortable at feeling less comfortable. Continue reading
“Resolve to be thyself; and know that he,
Who finds himself, loses his misery!”
Self-Dependence, Matthew Arnold
When possible, do just one thing at a time.
Pay full attention to what you are doing.
When the mind wanders from what you are doing, bring it back.
Repeat step number three several billion times.
Investigate your distractions.
Meditation Teacher Larry Rosenberg, p222 The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness (includes Guided Meditation Practices CD)
This sums up mindfulness in its total simplicity and acts as a perfect constant reminder.
The tragedy for too many of us is not that our lives are too short but that we take so long before we start to live them.
Following on from my previous post, I need to find a better balance between what I do on a school day and what I do in holidays.
The last two days I have leapt out of bed, got the children up, washed up, exercised, meditated, got washed and dressed, had a thoughtful breakfast and have been at work for 9 or half past.
Although there is stress involved in getting up at half six and I wouldn’t wish that early a start on anybody I actually feel more positive and engaged in my day than on a holiday day when I might sleep in (on and off) until ten, have a cup of tea (or two) in bed with a book and then get up, often to slump in front of a laptop, feeling lacking in energy.
I don’t actually enjoy my so-called relaxation half as much as I do the sense of achievement from having exercised, meditated and got on with work. So I need to think about how I spend my weekends and my holidays in a more productively relaxing way, whether it involves going out or not.
The contrast is too great.