Firearm Frustration

 

I do not like guns.   I do not own a gun, and would be quite happy living in a world where guns had not been invented. Bows and arrows suffice quite well for any needed hunting.  That said, I find myself in the strange position of disagreeing with the anti-gun lobbyists, whose opinions range the spectrum from denying guns to citizens,  to creating a barricade of regulations, to holding manufacturers and sellers of guns responsible for what owners of guns do with those guns.

A maze of restrictions and regulations will do little to ameliorate the situation we seem to have developed over the past decade of guns being used by people, insane, criminal or otherwise, to murder innocent children and adults.  On the surface, it might seem that the regulations will keep guns out of the hands of violent people, but in actuality, whoever wants a gun badly enough will manage to get one, through the underground, by theft or by some other means.  The history of getting around prohibited items by criminal means attests to this.  It would need to be a more draconian regime than has heretofore existed to eliminate guns by enforcing regulatory means.  I think most of us would not like to live under such a regime.

A stronger step, taking guns away from private citizens (except, perhaps, from registered hunters) also creates more problems than it solves.   Assuming that it can be successfully done (draconian regime??), that would leave guns in the hands of the police and the military.  We have already seen examples of what happens when the police are armed and the populace are not.  Those examples have been quite prominent in the news.  History shows that an armed military and an unarmed populace tends to end in those guns being used to enforce martial law.  Well, then, some might say. Let’s take the guns away from the police and home-based military, too.  Are we willing to have the police and the military at home equally deprived of guns?

The problem with such solutions seems to be one of “who will bell the cat?”  Who will be the first to give up weapons?   After all, if we are not ready to fight back, someone may well attack.  It is a problem of human attitudes towards one another, and towards life generally.  We are competitive, untrusting, and determined to get the best for ourselves, irregardless of how we do that.   In such a milieu, disarming some while arming others does not seem like a very good idea.

So, not having a ready solution, we turn to another option – the scapegoat.  We blame the gun manufacturers and the gun salespeople for the situation of murderers using guns.  Yes, we cite background checks, done or not.  Background checks are good, but even if they are religiously done, it is not possible to find out through them who it is that is inclined to kill people.  SOMEONE, we say, has to be accountable and pay the price for others’ suffering.  So we create a scapegoat, and push for the punishment of the scapegoat.

We are not thinking of what really needs to be done.  The underlying assumption of a society in which guns are perceived to be needed either for aggression or defense needs to be altered.  The idea that one cannot prosper without the equivalent loss to someone else needs to be changed.  The idea that one cannot be good unless someone else is bad, winner unless someone else is loser, needs to be debunked.  The thought that bullying shows strength needs to  be shown for the false idea that it is.

Granted, this is a tall order.  Things have become quite complicated since the days of small towns where people could leave their doors unlocked.  But, if that level of trust existed once, certainly it can again, if people are willing to embrace it.  The addition of more regulation, attempts to police such regulation, or even attempts to make guns scarce will not work.  The creation of scapegoats will not work.  I do understand the pain of those who have suffered.  I do not believe that this is how the human experience was designed to work.  However, the creation of scapegoats will serve only to postpone awareness of the real problems, and further delay steps in creating a less violent world.  Each of us, in our own small way, needs to start now to create more trust, compassion and sharing with those around us.  May we succeed in that endeavor.

Peace,   Diane

Excellence and Perfection

“What a perfect day!  The trees are blooming, the birds are singing, and a warm breeze blows.”   “What an excellent day! The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and there is no traffic on the road!”

These are different statements with different details, yet the words “perfect” and “excellent” are interchangeable between them.  In fact, most people use these words as synonyms, and many, including myself, are tripped up by the assumption that excellence and perfection are the same.  A deeper look, however, reveals an essential difference.

The American Heritage Dictionary, new College edition, defines “excellent” as “being of the highest or finest quality, exceptionally good, superb”.  It defines “perfect” as “complete of its nature or kind; without defect”.   The Unabridged edition of the Random House Dictionary is not much different, defining “excellent” as “remarkably good’ extraordinary”, and “perfect” as “beyond practical or theoretical improvement; without flaws or shortcomings; correct in every detail”.

What stands out is that perfection is a completed process.  It is a destination, a final state, beyond which growth does not occur.  It is static.  Excellence, on the other hand, is exceptional and extraordinary, but it is not a completed process.  It is ongoing and dynamic.  It is growth.

I submit that, dictionaries aside, there is no real definition of perfection.  If asked for details of perfection, a hundred different people will have a hundred varied answers. Perfection is subjective, an assumption in the minds of individuals.  Humanity cannot agree on perfection.  Perfection is static, having ceased to grow, hence to live.  Perfection, in fact, does not exist. It is an illusion to which people subscribe.

Excellence, on the other hand, is a continual engagement in learning, growing, becoming at a greater level than the one at which one currently exists.  It is alive and enlivening. It fuels our lives, our progress and our success, to the extent to which we realize and embrace excellence.  Excellence does, in fact, exist.

It is therefore useless to chastise oneself for not being perfect.  One CANNOT be perfect, because perfect does not exist, at least not on a plane that humans can understand. Penalizing oneself for not being perfect is akin to punishing oneself for being alive.  It is operating from the base of a fairytale, an ungrounded assumption.

The pursuit of excellence, however, is most beneficial.  As excellence is an ongoing process, we are guilt free for not having achieved a specific end.  We are enlivened by the pursuit, and nourished by the achievement of steps along the way.  Excellence brings hope.  We are not stuck and doomed where we are, because we are not at a final end.  The pursuit of excellence carries us forward.  Excellence is life force, waiting for us to partake of it.

May we all let go of guilt over not reaching an illusion.  May we all drink deeply of the life force of excellence.

Peace,     Diane

Elixir for Joy

Whether or not it is recognized as a right by countries around the world, the “pursuit of happiness” is one of the great motivations that underlie  human actions.  People have fought wars, amassed goods, engaged in philanthropies, pursued holy grails, searched for fountains of youth, all in attempts to find an elusive joy.  It has been said that happiness cannot be found directly, but instead through the process of pursuit; however, only few seem to have found it, although many pursue it.  For most, happiness appears to be like a carrot, always ahead, and never quite achieved.  The corresponding stick would be the misery to which people seem to cling via the tendency to keep the misery in focus and engage in dialogues of complaint.

In fact, happiness is not quite so elusive as it would seem.  It involves a choice, the choice of being truly open to being happy.  The common denominator of those who regard themselves as happy is gratitude, accompanied by the letting go of complaint.  Letting go of complaint does not mean that one cannot recognize that there are things that need to be changed.  It means that one does not dwell upon those things, keeping them in mind by a continued stream of words, vocalized or unspoken.  Gratitude means focusing on those things which in the moment are positive aspects of one’s life. It means that instead of repeatedly reviewing what is unsatisfying, painful or needs to be changed, one continually observes and acknowledges the large and small things in life that create joy.

What is focused upon tends to increase.  Thus, even a small amount of desirability contained in whatever disaster situation can be increased by focusing on it. One evokes such focus by observing and giving thanks.  Observing what is unwanted and complaining about it brings a continuation of things to complain about.  Observing what is positive and giving thanks brings a continuation of things to be thankful for.  Examples abound in history, folklore and literature.  Try it and see. Focus on the positive moves one forward.

That forward movement is enhanced when the positive focus is increased by gratitude, by a heartfelt thankfulness.  This is a habit of mind, and like many habits can seem difficult to change.  Making a conscious choice each day to remember what one is grateful for is the first step.  Little by little, that daily choice can lead to a reorientation of mental process and focus.  Little by little and consistent are the watchwords. Gratitude is the elixir.

What are you grateful for?

Peace,     Diane

Riding the Seesaw of Life

A children’s playground is often a great classroom.  One of it’s deeper lessons is the seesaw.  The seesaw is a simple device; the fulcrum is in the center, flanked on either side by a plank which is the same length and weight on each side.  It is in balance.  The children who are sitting on the plank ends are, for optimal function, also of approximately equal weights (even though it may take two smaller children to balance a larger one).  When one child gives a little push with his feet, he rises in the air.  This is followed by a balance as the opposite child gives a little push with her feet, and takes her turn aloft.  The process continues until both children tire of the game.  Neither child judges either the time aloft or the earthbound time as “good or better” or as “bad or worse”. There is balance.  Things work.  However, if one child, usually a heavier one, decides to anchor his or her end of the seesaw to the ground, the balance is disturbed and the game no longer functions.

Similarly, life is a kind of seesaw.  In our individual lives, there are days when we are up, and days when we feel down. They alternate, one following the other.  Change happens, life flows.  The trick is to be like the children, not judging as good or bad either end of our seesaws.  That judging acts like the spoilsport on the playground, anchoring in place the time that we feel down.  Resisting the down times, believing that they will always continue without change, wondering what one may have done to deserve them – these are all forms of judging. They prolong the time down.  They stop the game of seesaw.

What, then, of the person stuck on the “up” end of the seesaw?  What of those people who seem to be always cheerful and happy, and about whom we hear mostly success and good fortune?  Perhaps we have not looked deeply. Could it be that those people appreciate a gray day because they do not judge it?  If a problem rears its head – financial difficulty or illness, perhaps, could it be that they can anticipate the reverse action of the seesaw, knowing that next comes a time of greater abundance or health?  In many cases, quite probably.

There is also a larger aspect to balance; equilibrium is also manifest in macrocosm.  Do we insist on total peace, lack of conflict, as a condition of our societal success?   Perhaps, and perhaps in our own spheres, we mostly achieve that. How then, is there a balance?   Do we not see the violence and hatred that exists elsewhere?   Do we enjoy great wealth?  Look around, elsewhere in the world is equally great poverty.  Do we enjoy long life spans, and have we eradicated most of our known diseases.  In other areas, life spans are short, and not only are known diseases not eradicated, but new ones arise.  There are infinite examples.   We live in a world of polarities, where opposites are connected by a fulcrum, a central point on the continuum, where truth resides.

It is not that the wealthy are intentionally causing the poverty, or that the poor are content to be on the “down” end of the seesaw.  It is the human tendency to resist change, to cling, to fail to learn the lessons inherent in the ups and downs, and then to let go.  The fortunate protect their fortune, often aggressively, and the unfortunate cling by decrying their misfortune, letting that misery fill their lives, and holding no hope or faith that a more uplifting future exists for them.  There is still balance, just in the macrocosm, not in the individual lives.

Look at the playground.  What is the answer to a “stuck” game?  It is sharing the up and down times.  It is not stopping the game by anchoring the seesaw.  It is not fiercely protecting the “up” or clinging desperately to the “down”.  We are all connected.  The Universe is a whole.  It will always be in balance,  because it exists in equilibrium.  If it did not, it would not exist, at least not as the Creation with which we are familiar.  The particulars may change, but the balance remains.

I invite you to think about the seesaw.

Peace,   Diane