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When the lights were on

Imagine that you are a child who comes from a place where existence is an unbroken flow of Abundance. Where striving is effortless play. Where every mate is soulmate, the warmth of intimacy and the assurance of belonging, and all their personalities and compositions fit together in perfect harmony. Where everything and everyone shares the purpose and meaning of Life. The cause of all that is right and good, kind and just, happiness and contentment.

The cause of Logic and Love inseparable, your Parents. Where you are defined by your inheritance: judgment and choice, freedom and creativity. By Free Will -- Freedom of thought, expression and choice, sovereignty and individuality. The attributes of Self with an indispensable role to play in Creation: ensuring the worth and integrity of Interconnectedness. The process and structure of Creation. Of Reality governed with wisdom and caring. Not through intervention that confines and contracts from the top down but through the free spirit of Creativity that liberates and expands from the bottom up. That consummates every Connection, every Relationship, with the satisfaction, passion, and beauty of reciprocation.

Lights off!

Imagine that you now find yourself removed from familiarity and dumped into strangeness. Suddenly and without warning. With no recognizable coordinates to navigate by and no capacity to navigate even if there were. Because the flow of sharing, affirmation, and empowerment that were your life blood, the source of all that defined you, that gave you motivation and direction, has been cut off. Because you’ve lost consciousness, and the strangeness that you now occupy is the strangeness of a dream. A dream yet without form. Waiting for the characters and story that will animate it. You’re lost, adrift, and utterly helpless. A fool unable to make sense of anything.

Imagine that there is an explanation for what happened. That the strangeness can be navigated, but, for now, you haven’t the experience to know how. Your mind and memory are a blank slate, wiped clean. But even if they weren’t, there is no known playbook for the situation you are now in, none that could have prepared you for this. If there is to be a playbook, you’ll have to write it yourself.

You figure it out

And so when you detect your own reflection, a shadow opposite, you don’t recognize it. Don’t recognize its clue to where you have landed: In the strangeness of opposites. The opposite of the familiarity, the Reality, of where you were. You’ve lost consciousness without  being aware that it was even possible to lose it. And been deposited from the land of all things possible to a never-never land of all things impossible. Into the strangeness, the lawless chaos, of unreality.

All inevitable and for a purpose. But it’s for you and your gifts to figure it out -- character, integrity, independent judgment, and Free Will. And now you have a choice. With faculties impaired, with knowledge gone, you are to make sense of this strange opposition, your own reflection – your mirror image opposite. Your shadow. An apparition unknown to Reality that can only be detected in a dream. Defined by your own attributes because it’s part of your self but in reverse. Its code a derivation, entirely lacking in originality because it has no self. Derived from the definition of everything that you are not.

Only you don’t know it. Why should you when Home, the place you came from, had no opposites? When your Parents could not have prepared you for this.

A case of mistaken identity

In your acute vulnerability – in your desperation to find your way back -- you can’t be aware that the savior you seek, the guide who knows where you are and can help you navigate, is nothing of the kind. It’s the opposite. A thing of the imagination, a parasite attached to its host and entirely dependent on its host. With no sense or sensibility of its own, incapable of guiding itself let alone its host. A lifeless viral code. A predator that would take its host captive and replicate itself. A Joker that would entertain itself and distract its replications with perversions of the Truth. Jokes at their expense. Why? Because that’s all the code of opposition can do.

If only its host mistakes it for an other. Which, of course, you do. In your desperation, the breakdown of your faculties, your lack of experience and discernment, you mistake your own shadow-reflection for an other. Imagine it to be your guide and savior. And once it’s given your own voice with which to fool you, let it fool you into taking you captive. Into reversing roles and turning you into its parasite. Into replacing mindfulness with mindlessness. How can you not trust it when the voice it speaks with is your own?

Escape into captivity: our world of appearances

Imagining, all the while, that you have entrusted your fate to an other who will guide you out of strangeness, if not back Home at least to a safe place. When in truth your mind taken captive is now imagining that you are your captor. You have surrendered self-awareness to self-delusion, the delusion that you are your own opposite. And that the dream world of impossibility where it has taken you – the world where we seem to be now – is real. A world composed of bodies that are apparitions, appearances that are deceptions. All of it a magician’s act, the performance of a gifted illusionist.

A narrative that strikes the mind of a realist, embedded in the dream, as unrealistic. Until, that is, physics speaks for what this world of strangeness is telling us: that maybe it isn’t real. Maybe in some sense it is an illusion. Because not only physics but every field of inquiry that assumes that it is real has failed to prove it. Has started out with the promise of human invention and ingenuity and made great progress, only to fall short of its goal.

Science doesn’t have the answer

Albert Einstein sought an elegant equation to describe the material universe that he revered. That he believed harbored the elegance, simplicity, and beauty of perfection. That brought together the physics of cosmos with particles – quantum gravity. But what he also wanted was to prove that the subject matter of his profession, physics, is real. To put an end, for all time, to the debate between idealists and realists over the subject matter of philosophy: reality. He wanted to be the one with the Answer, and he wasn’t. He failed at both objectives. Quantum gravity remains beyond reach. Where physics today is beginning to acknowledge the illusion that the universe is, the failure of Einstein proved the reality that it isn’t.

Einstein wasn’t alone. Every field of inquiry has failed to explain the origin of appearances, the contradictory laws that govern their behavior. That break down at the extremes. When only another reality can explain the singularities, the anomalies, the mysteries of dark matter, dark energy, and black holes. Particles that are here, there, everywhere, and nowhere, for which time doesn’t exist. The random mutations of cells and the never-to-be-found seat of consciousness.

Energy did it: the dark side of the Force

The common thread through it all: the indivisibility, the inseparability of the creative force of Energy that animates appearances. The agent of Mind that enables Creation and imagination with equal facility. That animates the unreality of unconsciousness as well as the Reality of consciousness and so is complicit in the deception. Because it follows direction, and direction comes from Mind. Mind whether conscious of Reality or only dreaming an illusion. When Energy produced spacetime-matter at the Big Bang, it did so not at the direction of Mind creating Reality from possibilities. It did so at the direction of mind dreaming unreality from impossibilities.

When you lost consciousness, mistook your own reflection for another self, were taken captive by your other self – your dark side, -- and then mistook who you are and where you are, you activated the “dark side of the Force.” The lights gone out, your thoughts were no longer enlightened by Abundance and Innocence, hallmarks of sanity. They were plunged by the false innocence of victimhood into insanity: a hellish pit of fear, blame, rage, hatred, and guilt – wounding emotions conjured by your captor, rival to your Parents. Rival to Reality and Truth. Coded to bring down all of Creation with psychopathic lies. With a barrage of made-up grievances and resentments.

Your mind was a cauldron of torment that it could not tolerate. And so it got rid of its torment. It projected its unwanted emotions out of mind into a separate reality, an act conjured by the illusionist and animated by Energy. The Big Bang. Sheer madness since thoughts can’t leave their source, and “separate reality” can only be a joke. The projection climaxed the illusionist’s magic tricks, but the madness nevertheless remains firmly seated in your mind. Its unwanted emotions went nowhere.

Still, you’re the source of the Big Bang! You invented our universe!

Why?

Your purpose then can’t be to affirm the reality of what’s not real, to exploit it for pleasure until all that’s left is pain. Your purpose must be to learn and grow from experience. To gain the competence to tell the difference between host and reflection, truth from deception, reality from illusion. To tell the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, the light side from the dark side of the Force. Your purpose is to attain the maturity of self-awareness. The awareness that self-the-many is Self-the-One. The knowledge that there are no “others” but reflections of our Self, and in each one of us is the one Self.

To what end? That you may reclaim your identity. Reclaim you Free Will, your individuality and Creativity, and wake up from your self-imposed dream of worthlessness. That you may regain awareness of the connection with your Source that was never lost and return Home. Home to the joyfulness and Worth of Life and Creation. To the oneness, beauty, and perfection of Reality. To having a job to do and the competence of Logic, Love, and experience to do it.

 

 

 

 

 

Bildungsroman: n. A novel whose principal subject is the moral, psychological, and intellectual development of a usually youthful main character.
American Heritage Dictionary, Fifth Edition (2016) 

The dark side of beans

What is that look on your face? Horror. Despair You don’t like hearing from an old guy with a beard? So many! So many what? Pages! Words! What have I done to deserve this? Beans. You ate too many beans, and this is your punishment. I’ll never eat beans again. I promise! 

This is an interesting story. You might enjoy it. It has lots of action. And a girl just like you. Two girls in fact. One is in big trouble, and she needs help. She will if she’s strapped to a torpedo. Don’t spoil the ending! The other is the only person in the universe who can help her. Seriously. I’m not making this up. Will I understand it? Old guys mumbling in their beards tend to lose me.

It’s a lot like Star Wars, the original episode where there was this wonderful Death Star. Cool! It blew up whole planets. That was fun. Does Torpedo Girl get to blow up another Death Star? When our girls are done with it there will be nothing left of the Death Star. OK. But fair warning: I’ll be eating a lot of beans. Oh no! You just spoiled the ending. That’s how they blew up the Death Star!

We’ll be talking a lot about “opposites.” I knew there was a catch. Opposites are just another name for the dark side of the Force. You’ll enjoy all the hot action better if we understand the “dark side” and opposites. Opposites of what? Opposites of anything they’re attached to. What are they, parasites? Yes. We think of the dark side as Palpatine and his evil galactic empire crushing pitiful rebellions. And Lord Vader breathing hard into his dorky helmet while he chokes hapless underlings without touching them. But all they are is opposites. Weak, not strong. This had better be good. 

Mind starting Creation requires thought

What-if stories stimulate our imaginations. This What-if story will put your imagination on steroids. Oh, like Tik Tok. Pah! Another pitiful rebellion! Storm troopers – remove the silly game! 

Imagine that you’re the only thing that is. I do that every day. Then we’re off to a great start. You’re Mind. Yes – pure genius! What a great story! Do you mind if I have another can of beans? Sorry, Mind isn’t matter. It doesn’t need that kind of food. What other kind of food is there? Haven’t you ever heard of food for thought? That’s what this story is. Boring. Beans generate much more excitement.

Can you handle being able to see stuff and make stuff happen without a body? Easy. I’ve always thought of myself as a great mind. Good. You’re Mind and you’d like to make something nice happen. But it won’t be nice if you don’t do it right. You mean I actually have to think? If we’re talking about Mind starting Creation, yes. You’ll have to think. And don’t forget, the Jedi Knights had to go through rigorous training. Then they had to figure out how to deliver the torpedo that blew up the Death Star. That took a lot of thinking.

Logic and Love say no one is above the law

Anything that “happens” needs a definition. A definition that says what it is and what it does. No exceptions. How come? So its definition doesn’t conflict with other definitions or duplicate them. There has to be Order so everything fits together, and everyone gets along. Already it sounds like I don’t get to do anything I want. You can do anything you want so long as it’s possible. It can’t be possible because I want it?

Everything must be part of Order including Mind that defines things. Wow! I thought Mind would be in charge of everything! How can this be? You’ll be OK with this because this is how Order defines itself, and nothing nice can happen without Order. If Mind or anything could run around and do whatever it wants, there would be no Order. Order is harmony. It’s the same principle as democracy: no one is “above the law.” Not even the president. What law? 

Think of the laws that govern making stuff happen as laws of cause and effect. You’ve heard the expression, “That’s the way it is.” Well, the laws are the way things are and that’s that. It’s Necessity. You’re frowning. You know me. I’m not happy if I can’t mess with the rules. Sorry about that. These are rules no one can mess with. Not even the Logic of Mind that laws are based on. Without this law none of the other laws can have any effect. Say it again. No one is above the law, not even the president. Not even the Logic of Mind itself.

You mean Mind is the source of laws but it can’t control them? Yes. The attribute of Mind that’s responsible for governance is responsible for its laws that make governance possible, and they’re made up of equal parts Logic and Love. “Mind” throughout implies Logic and Love combined as one. Then we should say “Mind-Love.” We could, but we might need that to refer to another character. We can infer it without stating it.

No Freedom without Order in a shared world

Definitions are like laws that establish what things are and they can’t be anything different. Mind can make stuff happen so long as it abides by the laws of Necessity. Once it’s defined a thing that’s the way it is. Give me liberty or give me death! Freedom from the tyranny of George III but not Freedom from Order. There can’t be any “liberty” without Order and any Order without laws. The good news is that since the laws are there to ensure Order and Mind can’t change them, they’re also there to ensure Freedom.

If I can’t do anything I want, how is this Freedom? OK. You can have that kind of “freedom,” but only if you decide not to make something nice happen. If you’re happy being the only show in town and having it all to yourself. If not, you’ll be sharing your world with your creations, and no one can share a world with others and be happy if some yo-yo is doing whatever she wants. People in our world do that a lot. They sure do. And it’s what gets them into trouble. Sometimes into jail. They don’t like living in a shared world. They’re a colossal nuisance.

Gertrude’s wisdom

When do I get to make something nice happen? When you learn about what’s possible in a shared, orderly world. Imagine that you’re in a classroom with a blank video screen. Oh good -- video games! Let’s get started! Would you rather have a blank blackboard instead? No video games allowed! Something blank – a blackboard or a video screen – must have been there when Logic and Love first set thinking and feeling in motion. Then I have to think logically. What’s that mean? Think with feeling logically, yes, because you’ll be thinking with values, and feeling is where values come from. Values put the “nice” into making something nice happen.

Logic tells Mind what situation it’s in. It describes circumstances so Mind can figure out where it is and what it means. Then it can use Reason to choose what to do about it. It can’t reason without having a purpose, and Logic makes sure that purpose fits the circumstances. There’s an old joke. Alice Toklas asked Gertrude Stein when Gertrude was very old and wise, “What’s the answer?” Gertrude answered, “What’s the question?” What she meant was, “What are the circumstances?” Without circumstances in the moment and Logic figuring out what they’re telling us, how can we know the question? That was Gertrude’s wisdom.

The Force can’t be a couch potato

We call purpose that fits the circumstances “context.” Even Mind that’s getting started with a blank video screen needs context to know whether and how to do anything. Making anything happen won’t be nice if it doesn’t have the right values and fit the circumstances. Our circumstances are nothing has happened yet and I’m getting bored!

Torpedo Girl is getting bored, so Mind had better get cracking. Its context is nothing is happening, and you know what? What? That would help to explain why Mind did get cracking, because “nothing happening” could be a situation that Mind, which is definitely not nothing, can’t tolerate. Maybe it can Be forever, but it can’t not Do forever. Why not? 

Because how can Mind that’s Logic combined with Love just sit around not doing anything? Not taking care of something or someone? Showing that they care? Mind’s circumstance in the classroom where nothing is happening is a whole lot of thinking and loving that needs to be doing to be what it is. You mean Mind needs stuff just like us? Logic combined with Love is passion. It’s Force. Like the Force in Star Wars? Certainly! Force can’t be Force without acting. It can’t be motivated to act if its passion to respond to circumstances and express itself is a couch potato.

Getting it right: beer, pizza, and football

Wow! I was thinking our Mind is a brain inside a bottle in school where nothing happens. This is different! Very. It’s a dynamo instead, bursting with passion and Energy eager to get going. A powerful locomotive sitting in a train station ready to take its passengers on a grand excursion to an intriguing destination. Once Logic sets up the context.

Good for you! You’ve learned one important lesson. What’s that? Deciding with Reason and acting before we’ve let Logic tell us what our situation is, is a big mistake. Doing what’s right is doing “what the situation calls for.” We can’t do what the situation calls for without first letting our situation tell us what it is. Without first getting it right. Mind needs Logic and Love for that. In our world, easier said than done. It requires lots of intuition, but more about that later.

Get it right before do it right. Are there more circumstances to tell us what our situation calls for? Pay attention to the video screen. It’s about to feed us the most important circumstance for our story. The most important circumstance for another context, too: the world we live in. Ah -- I knew it! Lipstick! Women need lipstick! Yes. And men need beer and pizza. And football. Don’t forget the chips. Beer, pizza, chips, and football. And lots of makeup. Torpedo Girl can go home. We’re already in Heaven.

The impossibility of Mind without Love

The wisdom of Logic is like a stream flowing down a dry streambed, filling each hole at a time, each in its own time. We are the stream, and this is what Wisdom requires of us. We can also think of Logic as flowing in a sequence from left to right. From premise to implication, from before to after. Indefinitely, because one implication always leads to another. Like the geometric value of Pi that never resolves to a whole number. It just goes on and on. You’re going on and on.

It matters what the first premise is, but we don’t have to be too fussy how it’s worded. “Possibility.” This could be the first premise that comes to Mind when Logic and Love have defined its context. You’re Mind and you want to make something “nice” happen, but what do you mean by “nice?” What are the possibilities? This is always the first question when minds begin to choose.

This is it? The most important circumstance? Almost. Possibility could be the first premise because of what it implies: creation, ideals, vision, hope. It’s kind of a North Star we can focus on to help us navigate through distractions, contradictions, adversity, and discouragement. If you’re Mind and you have your heart set on making something nice happen. . . . Heart?

Did you forget? Mind and heart go together. It bears repeating -- they’re inseparable. I was hoping to be a comic book super action hero with no feelings. Not possible. “Possibility” can’t be Mind without Love. Not in our What-if world where everything so far is fine. It’s very different in our world but only because it seems that way. More about that later.

The impossibility of impossibility

For now, if you have your heart set on making something nice happen, you’ll definitely want to stay focused on possibility. Then what is the video screen telling us that’s the most important circumstance? Impossibility. The opposite of possibility. Imagine “possibility” showing up like a link you can click on, and it will take you somewhere. It’s an active link. Then the same instant another link shows up beside it, faded out like it’s not active. A word that’s the first word’s exact opposite. It’s obviously meant to take you somewhere, too, but not while “possibility’s” link is active. Creepy. I’m not sure I want to know where “impossibility” goes if it’s the opposite of “possibility.” Why does it have to show up at all? Do we have to bother with opposites? 

It has to show up because of the same Logic that puts anything on the screen. If a thing is to exist and it implies the existence of its opposite, then some way must be found for its opposite to “exist,” too. The implications of Logic are Force that accounts for Creation along with the connections of Love. But the same implications can’t help accounting for contradiction. And if the definition of a thing implies contradiction, its definition must accommodate contradiction. 

The dark side is opposites 

Logic and Love don’t like contradiction any more than we do, but there you have it. Have what? The “dark side.” The dark side is opposites, and they “exist” because Logic put them there. And if Logic put them there, nothing can be done about it. What’s “logical” about a thing and its contradiction existing side-by-side in the same place at the same time? Sounds crazy to me. 

It is crazy. Order requires Logic and Logic doesn’t tolerate contradictions. The ideal of Logic is to arrive at a place of Peace where there are no contradictions, where the Force can come to rest at last. It will never happen. Not as long as Logic supports Creation. Not as long as Mind wants to make something nice happen.

Meanwhile, we’re stuck with opposites – with “impossibility.” Some way must be found to get all impossibilities – opposites -- out of the picture. How do we do that? The inactive link for impossibility on the video screen offers more than a clue. It’s already taken care of it. Logic has found a way for opposites to exist without “existing.” On a computer we would know to go to a different page on a website, to a different website, or to a different app to find where impossibility’s link is active. To another computer world.

Logic acknowledges the implication of opposites without requiring that they inhabit the same world as their hosts. The parasites are given their own world with its own properties that don’t conflict with their host’s world. Why doesn’t it conflict? 

The faded link to unreality 

If the “existence” of a parasite-opposite is entirely derived from its host’s existence, then it obviously has no existence of its own. Or attributes of its own, either, because its entire definition is derived from its host. It’s defined as its host’s opposite. It has no definition of its own, and nothing can exist that hasn’t been given its own definition. Parasite-opposites don’t get their definition from Logic. They get it from an implication of their hosts’ definition.

The faded link to impossibility takes us to another world that matches its essential attribute: non-existence. It’s unreal. The parasite-opposites world doesn’t conflict because it’s unreal. How can unreality conflict with Reality if it doesn't exist?

For now, Mind is assured that wherever possibility’s link is active impossibility’s won’t be. It may not even see it or be aware that it’s there. But it’s been forewarned. That’s why we started here in the classroom with the video screen. To wave a red flag called “impossibility,” because that’s what parasite-opposites are: an impossibility in Reality. The link will be there, inactive and waiting for the right circumstances for something or someone to make it active. A snake waiting for someone to step on it.

Can it be a cow pie? I won’t finish her story if Torpedo Girl is going to step on a snake. OK, but only if it’s a huge cow pie. I won’t enjoy Torpedo Girl’s story if she only steps in a little cow pie.

Living the dream

The inactive link is waiting for a parasite-opposite’s host to click on it by mistake and make its unreal world “real.” Not really Real, but “real” like a vivid dream. It can’t be Logic that determines whether impossibility’s link becomes active and someone clicks on it. It wouldn’t be Logic’s mistake. It depends on the parasites’ hosts. It depends on Torpedo Girl. It depends on us. It would be our mistake. We are forewarned.

Our story revolves around how understanding this basic circumstance, or fact, can be used to get our girl out of trouble. So, if I’m Mind and I’m going to make something nice happen, I have to be aware that everything has an opposite, and opposites aren’t real. Yes. There’s a dark side, but this is its essential property: it isn’t real. We can only make it seem real when we’re dreaming. Otherwise, it’s an illusion, a magic act. I’m glad we got this settled, because dark sides are everywhere in our world, and they sure seem real. They tell me that our world is a What-if world, but we don’t have to go into that now.

Freedom of Will, Freedom of Choice

Imagine that the nice thing your Mind wants to make happen is to create a world of beauty and peace, Logic and Love. A world that provides a safe, nurturing haven for Life. The miracle of eternal Life that exists in timelessness, where it’s always Now. Life that has Worth because it has purpose, it’s freely chosen and earned. Because it’s exploring, learning, and growing. Having great fun with creativity -- endless diversity evolving in an environment of exquisite Beauty, a soul-sharing sanctuary of innocent work and play. Because all this is a gift from Logic and Love that’s reciprocated – appreciated and given back. Wow! That is a nice thing.

Imagine that Creation requires another Being to achieve its purpose. To see that the Worth of Life and Creation is freely chosen and earned. A Being with its own definition, its own identity, so that Mind and Creation aren’t just patting themselves on the back. Who would that be? 

Our girl, the Child. The Child of the Mind-Love we mentioned, her parents. Father Mind-Choice and Mother Love-Freedom, whose role is to give birth to the Being that Creation requires: Free Choice. The same as Free Will? The Child is an extension of her parents’ Will, their Being. This places her in Relationship with her parents. They are inseparable, and their Relationship is inseparable from the Child’s function. She can’t do her job without it.

But because she is, and has, the capacity to choose independently, she is also Choice. And Choice can never, ever, be controlled by an external influence. Not by her parents or by their Relationship. So, while they’re in Relationship and inseparable, their roles must be kept apart. This is true whether the Child is awake, doing her job in Creation, or asleep and dreaming she’s somewhere else. Free Will and Free Choice refer to the same Child performing different functions: choosing freely while extending the Will, the Being, of her parents.

It's all about character

We will see that the Child doing her job isn’t anything like we imagine it on earth. How’s that? We think of “heaven” as a place where an old guy with a beard watches over angels with wings playing harps on little clouds. As if having a purpose and striving to attain it couldn’t compare with the satisfaction of doing nothing. There’s no change, no “action,” which here must mean some form of gambling, addiction, conflict, and violence.

The Child your Mind-Love brings into Being and Creation leads a very interesting life without any of this. No silly harps and no bullets flying around either. There’s plenty of purpose and meaning. Plenty of risk-taking, too, which requires courage as well as alertness. Plenty of change and innovation. It’s all about character, and that’s always interesting. Is there a reward?

You bet! The  satisfaction of contributing to the Worth of Life. To the meaning of Creation. Every relationship a soulmate. The rapture of intimacy with Mind-Love itself. Of loving and being loved more than you can ever imagine. Happiness! What more could you ask? Wow! She’s got a life! Yes. And Torpedo girl does, too. She’s got a job to do. They both have interesting lives, and they are about to get much more interesting.

[To be continued]

Reflections to share with adolescents

Reflections to share with adolescents who may be wondering about affect: its role in relationships, in adolescents’ future, in mythology, and in all of Creation. How does it figure in the choice between what is Real and unreal, True and false, Good and evil? Why does it matter?

The usual poetic content is heavy with subjective thought and feeling. Grief and romantic Love are common types of feeling but there are others. Many are related to the values listed in my piece on adolescence [Thirteen: Reflections on Character and Values at the Beginning of Adolescence. 08/28/21]  T.R. Hummer’s non-rhyming poem, “My Mother in Bardo” (New Yorker 01/24/22 p. 50), is an example of a poem infused with grief. But if I’m assigned to compose a rhyming poem and I have no particular talent for lyrics, I might produce something lifeless, without affect.

Literature and poetry in particular say a lot about who we are and what’s important to us. For adolescents coming into their own it can be an effective way to gain self-awareness. If they feel a sense of loss, say, for a deceased grandparent, they might express it in a non-rhyming poem. It might be strikingly different from a poem whose search for originality, beauty, or other effect is through rhyme.

Before the Big Bang

Absence of affect in subjective, creative expression is a red flag. For an adolescent it might or might not have implications for character development, but, if so, they can run deep. Star Wars mythology is based on it. What turned Adam Skywalker toward the dark side and service to Palpatine, the galactic emperor? What made the galactic empire evil? Absence of affect.

Explaining Why requires theorizing with Logic about the antecedents of our material universe -- what I call “Reality-Creation.” It preceded the Big Bang, exists in parallel with our material universe, and heavily influences our behavior and its consequences beyond our awareness. It holds sway over the origin and fate of the universe and the meaning of life. Its context is Mind-Love, not spacetime-matter. I use initial caps to set terminology that is of this other Reality apart from the lower case of our un-reality.

The “Child” is the One we were in Reality before the Child lost Consciousness and became the many. While unconscious, it mis-identified with its shadow-reflection, went into a dream state corrupted by its shadow-code, dreamed our un-reality, replicated itself in isolated-separated human bodies, projected the material world detected by their bodies’ senses, and continues to replicate itself within its dream world under the influence of its shadow-reflection. An explanation for all this is the subject of my book-in-progress with the working title, The Story of the Child.

Affect is feeling -- emotional sensitivity. Feeling is value or Worth – things cared for. Gifts with talents the Child was given at birth with which to exercise Free Choice in Creation. Affect is rooted in Mother-Love, the source of all feeling in the Child’s phase of Reality-Creation.

The dis-integration of Love from Mind

The Child has Free Will or Free Choice because the Child is Free Choice, its role in Reality-Creation. In the Child’s phase with Free Choice, the loss of Consciousness produced a dream-world of un-reality where all ideas-thoughts and their associated feelings have opposites. Opposites are the reverse mirror-image shadow-reflection of the Child and all of its values, all of its gifts including its talents.

The code that defines all opposites is derived from the Child’s Being. The code is non-being. Which means it’s insane. Nuts. The appearance of a “system” which is the opposite of system. A system ruled not by laws but by chaos -- arbitrary rule where “rules” apply to everybody but the ruler. The reverse mirror-image of sanity, what we know as the “dark side.” Everyone and everything in our un-reality has a shadow-opposite. A dark side. No exceptions.

What makes the dark side “possible” in the dream state is the separation of Love-feeling from Mind-thought. The marriage between Father Mind / Logic-Choice and Mother Love / Freedom-Creativity not only produced the Child. It’s what holds all the Implications and Interconnections of Reality-Creation together. In our un-reality that integration is gone. Science’s search for a perfectly ordered, perfectly integrated cosmos ended over a century ago and now it’s even giving up on a cosmos that just makes sense. Because it doesn’t. Meanwhile, the judgment we need to manage human affairs, to maintain order in harmony, is equally dis-integrated. It needs to be constantly re-integrated, constantly pieced together, in all our choices.

The Reality-Creation of Consciousness knows nothing of shadows, reflections, or opposites. So, shadow-opposites played no part in the Child’s Conscious exercise of Free Choice in Reality. In un-reality it’s different. “Dark side” shadow-reflections very much represent a choice for us, the unconscious Child’s replications. The choice between Right and wrong, Good and evil, where good values-gifts are the product of Mind integrated with Love-affect and their evil shadow opposites are the product of Mind absent Love-affect. We choose correctly when we discipline our thoughts and feelings, our ideas and values, always to keep Love combined with Mind.

The pussycat “Lord Vader”

One of the traits that distinguish personality types is variation in levels of affect-feeling. In importance attributed to values because feeling is value rooted in Love, the Mother of everything cared for, everything of Worth. What distinguishes character is its values.

Adam Skywalker belonged to a personality type described in Isabel Myers’ Gifts Differing. He “went over to the dark side” because his type’s level of affect-feeling and therefore his character was relatively shallow. Absence of affect-feeling translates to a relatively shallow-weak connection with the Good-positive and therefore a relatively strong susceptibility to, or attraction for, the shadow-negative.

The choice posed by Good-positive – who we are in Reality -- and evil-negative – our shadow in un-reality -- pulls different personality types in different directions. The son Luke Skywalker’s character was relatively deep with feeling-affect, strongly anchored to values, and therefore less susceptible to the attraction of shadow-opposites. The character of Darth Vader – “Dark Father” – was relatively weak with feeling-affect, loosely anchored to values, and therefore more susceptible. Adam Skywalker, who became the mythic “Lord Vader” feared by trembling subordinates, was a personality weakling -- a pussycat. Captives of shadow-reflections can impress with the appearance of strength but their reality is weakness.

Lack of values rooted in affect-feeling translates to a weak or missing internal moral compass. To a weak sense of right vs. wrong -- a lack of conscience. To insensitivity and therefore to predilection for cruelty. What defines the galactic empire and its emperor Palatine as “evil” is an absence of affect-feeling. It’s defined by Mind-thought without Love-value and therefore as character without conscience: insensitive and prone to cruelty. It becomes a universe where harm is done and pain inflicted because it is not felt, because character and values don’t matter.

Guidance from Isabel Myers’ Gifts Differing

Isabel Myers’ Gifts Differing intuits clues from personality types to differences that can account for and predict relative attraction for the dark side. The ESFP type with relatively weak feeling-judgment is a type that, if it’s not disciplined by its social culture, can be misled into shadow-opposites and wrongdoing. It happens to be the type exhibited by the current idol of the Republican party, a body-matter idolater, serial wrong-doer, and a menace to democracy, civilization, and world order. But any type weak on affect-feeling and character-values is a candidate.

My piece about adolescence listed both positive values and their shadow-opposites – the dark side. What an interest in the opposites might indicate about an adolescent’s developing personality type we don’t know. We do know that an ‘S’ (sensing) in preference to an ‘I’ (intuition) would fit an engineer or craftsman working with material objects. Sensing would account, say, for a poem engineered rather than intuited. Intuited, that is, from psyche or soul, from thoughts-feelings stored in humanity’s collective Memory.

We also know that Gifts Differing can help predict choices that different types tend to make and therefore where on balance they may be headed: To promoting humanitarian kindness and freedom (the Jedi Knights) or engaging in inhumane cruelty and oppression (the galactic empire). Definitive conclusions can’t be drawn by outside observers. They can only be drawn by subjects themselves who monitor their personality types – the building of character through their preferences.

While Isabel distinguishes between the light and dark sides the distinction is indirect. It’s implied, for example by reference to “wrongdoing,” inadequate consideration of costs, shallowness, insincerity, and other tendencies. But otherwise her “feeling” doesn’t account for dark side opposites. The difference between thinking (T) and feeling (F) isn’t necessarily what she’s intuited. Nevertheless, the difference is significant and deserves reflection. All of the differences – between introvert-extravert, sensing-intuition, thinking-feeling, and judging-perceptive – are relevant for types’ tendencies toward positive values and their opposites and therefore toward their subjects’ ultimate ending in fulfillment or disappointment.

The turning point: adolescence

Adolescence is a critical phase in establishing these tendencies. It’s the phase when Luke Skywalker committed to the cause of the Jedi Knights after the loss of his foster parents. It’s the phase when his father, Adam, started to part with Obi-Wan, his Jedi trainer, betray the Jedi cause, and go over to the empire. For many, our personal fortunes literally hang in the balance when we are adolescents.

May Affect be with you!

In a world perpetually at war
we do our duty
standing clear or standing up
to the onslaught

Pacifists and soldiers doing our duty
In our own way
caught up in forces of our own making
larger than ourselves

But not beyond our duty
to unmake the forces of our own making

To Understand
to strive for context in the moment
the Memory of purpose and meaning
to answer the Call for Love

Objectifying the “dark side”

A 13-year-old boy found my essay Thirteen: Reflections on Character and Values at the Beginning of Adolescence useful in part for its appendix. Entitled “Values Derived from Human Needs,” the appendix gave words to describe both the light and dark sides of values. He thought the description of the dark side was particularly helpful.

The human mind’s fascination with the “dark side” can have unfortunate consequences. Here is an observation about “evil” in Understanding, the second of my two Christmas letters:

Evil isn’t what “others” do to us. It’s what we do to ourselves. Imagining that our flip side – our reflection, a shadow – is an “other” that has a life, a voice of its own with something to offer. When all it has to “give” is a reverse image, what we aren’t. It’s nothing more than an implication of Logic that all things have opposites. That if two realities can’t be real then our reflections can’t be real. They’re the Joker whose joke is “I’m you.” Whatever its offense making it real by engaging with it is what causes it.

Two mistakes in our thinking put the dark side into our thoughts, make it real, empower it, and bring it to life. The first is objectification. We objectify something that’s a part of ourselves when we mistake it for something that’s not a part of ourselves. When we imagine that it’s a separate object, like a stick or a ball, or a pet or another person that we can relate to. When it’s just the reverse side of ourselves – subject, not object, a shadow or reflection – and has no separate existence of its own.

Bringing the dark side to life with projection

Once we’ve imagined that our shadow-reflection is a separate object we can relate to, we commit a second mistake: projection. We project attributes of ourselves onto this object that give it the “existence” it had heretofore lacked. We project our self, that is, our identity, our sovereignty, and our free will that enable the objectified shadow-reflection to act with authority and autonomy as though it were real.

The thoughts and feelings we project onto the object are those that we are uncomfortable with, that we don’t want. It is these that give our dark side its menace, the aspect of danger, of the appearance of purpose and meaning – something happening -- that fascinates and misleads human awareness into wrongdoing and harm.

These uncomfortable thoughts and feelings were precipitated by an event that preceded our engagement with our shadow-reflection. The event was loss of consciousness, and it set in motion a succession of misperceptions and misjudgments beginning with the misperception that our shadow-reflection is a separate self – an object – and the misjudgment that we can safely entrust our wellbeing to its guidance.

The wrong guide is our own creation

For that is what has come of our mistakes. Objectifying our shadow-reflection and giving it autonomy and authority over us by projecting our selves onto it has turned it into a guide. A very serious misjudgment, because once it’s activated its genetic code has no interest in guidance. Its only interest is captivity: controlling its host so that it can replicate itself like a virus and remain in “existence.” All because we have given it the ability and power to do so that come from ourselves. This is what it means that “Evil isn’t what ‘others’ do to us. It’s what we do to ourselves.”

These reflections are part of the core of Christianity that teaches mindfulness, love, and free will – attributes that belong firmly on the light side of values and not on the dark side. To practice Christianity is to recognize, disable, and disempower the dark side in everything we do. And this means understanding that our shadow-reflection is nothing:

  • Nothing that can be objectified – made into a separate object.
  • Nothing that can be brought to life by projecting ourselves onto it.
  • Nothing that can entertain us with the appearance of danger, of “action,” conflict, violence, hurt, anger, and all the other manifestations of values turned against themselves. Of purpose and meaning taken out of context by minds that misperceive and misjudge.

The most important use of our mind

The choice presented by the light and dark side of our values is whether to lead with gifts given to us – our own ability and authority – for our own purposes or with something that’s been given away and “given” back to us for the wrong guide’s purposes. Whether to lead with our own power given to his Child by God or with derived power that isn’t ours and can’t be used for our own benefit.

The right guide is Jesus or the Holy Spirit, a gift to us from God to his Child, who wishes us well and wants us to succeed, to be free, and to be happy. The wrong guide is the Joker, our mistake, a nothing that can’t wish anything and if it could, would only wish us to be its mindless captive and be unhappy. The choice between these two guides is a function of mind possessed of free will. It is the most important choice we will ever make and the most important use of our mind.

Will that is truly free is an informed will. Will guided by mind that understands. That’s no longer under the spell of our shadow-reflection: nothingness – the “power” of the “dark side.”

Goodbye childhood, hello adolescence!

If you just turned thirteen it may be the most important date in your life. When hormones kick in bodies change – you’ve heard all this. What you may not have heard is that minds can change, too. Minds and selves, so different that what they see out there and in here is hardly recognizable.

That’s how it was for me and my classmates when we were thirteen. Kids fresh out of grade school and Sunday school. Challenged by adolescence, one of the biggest transitions of our lives then and thereafter. While we were also adjusting to Phillips Academy at Andover, then an all-male preparatory school with a no-nonsense approach to education. With a world of opportunity for character development, too. We were destined for four incredible years of education and growth that would put us all in the best universities: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, MIT, Caltech, Stanford, UC Berkeley, Oxford, Cambridge, the rest of the Ivies, and more.

But we didn’t know it yet. All we knew was this thing called childhood was over. We were adolescents. Instead of reading Justin Morgan Had a Horse (1945) now we were reading The Catcher in the Rye (1951). Anticipating a strange new world: the mysterious, sophisticated world of adults. Where safe passage through ambiguity -- the murkiness and deviousness of human motivation -- was by no means assured. We were intrigued, scared, ambivalent. That’s how it was. That was adolescence.

What’s life all about anyway?

We could feel ourselves changing. But changing into who or what was confusing. Because we couldn’t tell where all these forces of humanity and nature were taking us. Decisions coming at us faster than we knew how to decide. Not: Do we run with the crowd or go it alone? Keep up with our homework or blow it off? But: What really interests us? What really matters?

What did we want our one shot at life to be all about? Have something to show for it or just go with the flow? How could we apply ourselves in school to become the person we wanted to be? To develop character with solid values and abilities that helped us grow? To be of service. What was life all about anyway?

Creating something beautiful in the here and now

What can be more exacting, more exciting, than learning to think for ourselves? The beginning of adolescence is when everyone who has learning to share with us gets serious about it. What we learn or don’t learn counts. All the curricular and extra-curricular activities, competitions, assignments, social interactions, and entertainments give us an array of possibilities to choose from. Different beliefs and causes that will bless us with purpose, meaning, and satisfaction the rest of our lives. That will help us discover who we are and how we choose to apply our ideals and powers to create something beautiful -- an expression of what we stand for.

The world of the university may be some years away. But for the thirteen-year-old student who wants to make something beautiful of her life, it starts here. It starts now. it’s not too soon to reflect on her potential. Not If she means to qualify for the best universities. It’s not too soon to realize how satisfying, how much fun, it can be to be responsible for developing her own potential. To be in charge of it. To think for herself. Because no one else can do it for her.

What are the right values?

Kids from families that practice gentle loving kindness are already familiar with the best value of all. They’re halfway there to building character with strong values. For the rest adolescence is their chance to make up for lost time. In either case it’s a pleasure to talk with them about values. Because if they’ve just turned thirteen they want to grow. Their minds and hearts are open. They’re a work in progress, beauty put there to create beauty. Creativity that may not last, because with the onset of “maturity” minds and hearts often close to the possibilities, become set in their ways. Thirteen is beautiful. Keep minds and hearts open and you’ll make it.

Character and values are certainly role-modeled in school but they aren’t expressly taught. We could learn some of the best values in other venues, like church, and also some of the worst. Being parted from independent judgment to demonstrate “faith” in someone else’s judgment is not being mindful. Not when the value of mindfulness is right up there with gentle loving kindness. This is why it’s important to talk about values: there are no “saviors” to do our thinking for us. Building character with strong values is a do-it-yourself proposition. Do it yourself with lots of help, to be sure. Help from other people. Help from philosophy, psychology, theology, and any of the sciences that resonate with Mind and Love. With Logic. Help above all from our own intuition, the source of insights that guide and inspire the arts, sciences, and all of human progress. But always grounded in our own judgment, our own free will. Always.

Values are many things: ideals to inspire us, attributes to define us, instruments to be used. But the place to start is that they’re gifts. And what they require from us, if they’re going to do their job, is thankfulness and respect. Because they come from a Source that deserves thankfulness and respect – from Love. From the Source of our Being and our Worth.

What are the right values? Whatever values fit the situation we’re in. What’s the right fit? Whatever we figure out if we get it right. Choosing values to serve for different situations requires thought, feeling, and conscience. Mind and heart working together.

One thing it does not require is a formula. Minds unable or unwilling to do the work will make a show of values. Minds without conscience or character whose only value is what’s in it for them. If their “values” don’t feel like the real thing they probably aren’t. They’re just appearances for taking advantage, a clever formula someone learned to fool us and hide the truth. It’s not loving or kind. It’s cheating to avoid values. Cheating isn’t getting it right.

Character and values anchor us

We can’t think for ourselves without evaluating. Without being aware of our values and being true to them when we make up our minds. Using our minds to reason and evaluate fortifies us with understanding and good judgment. With conscience that knows right from wrong and displays good character. It assures others that we can be trusted. That we’re safe to be close to at work and play.

Children follow a path laid down for them. Adolescents learning to think for themselves begin choosing their own path. It’s how they transition to becoming young adults. Character isn’t defined for them anymore. They have to define it themselves, and it begins with choices. Choices among values that pull in different directions. The best defense against being pulled in the wrong direction is to choose the right values.

Character isn’t about blowing with the wind. It’s about the values that we choose and commit to. That define and anchor us. The best defense against choosing the wrong path is building the right character.

The ways we express our values

They’re things people need, want, or otherwise care about. One dimension belongs here with us on our planet of spacetime and matter. Another belongs in a part of our mind that’s not spacetime and matter. It’s called “intuition.” It produces spontaneous insights that guide thinking in science and every other field, but no one knows where they come from. A third dimension is their opposites – the “dark side.”

So if we think of “Wealth,” for instance, it could mean property we accumulate for our comfort beyond necessities, like yachts and jewelry. Or it could mean the thought and feeling of Abundance that motivate us to share our Love, Power, and Worth. Those are very different takes on “Wealth,” but they’re equally valid in their contexts. “Scarcity” is one word for their opposite.

Here are ways of labeling ten basic categories of human values or needs:

Love (family-intimacy)
Belonging (community)
Worthiness (affirmation)
Empowerment (energy, control)
Abundance (wealth, material comfort)
Protection (safety, security)
Freedom (free will)
Health (healing)
Beauty (purity, essence)
Hope (faith, purpose).

Like rivers they branch outward into tributaries that contain all kinds of things important to us. Values that we use to make up our minds. “Core values” that apply across humanity and values we choose and express as individuals. They’re part of our everyday experience, as concrete and immediate as the food we eat. If “belonging” doesn’t sound important “fairness” certainly will, and it’s part of belonging.

There are too many values to list all the ways we express them, but some that are implied by our needs are listed in the appendix. Terms that catalogue their opposites are given as well. This should give us a feel for how familiar and relevant values and their opposites are, like “kindness” and “scarcity.” How they influence our work and relationships and how important it is to be aware of them.

One perspective on our choices doesn’t tell us what to think. But by presenting the dark side as well as the light it does give us an idea how values pull in different directions. What choices can imply and where they might lead if we’re not mindful. If we don’t exercise solid independent judgment that comes from introspection, reflection, reasoning, evaluating, and discipline. So when we decide our eyes will be open. So the consequences – especially the costs – won’t be an unpleasant surprise.

Role modeling values

What grandparents learn from their grandchildren is the joyfulness of living in the moment. Of spontaneity that opens minds and hearts. That frees them to laugh and love, to play and think creatively in ways they’ve forgotten or may have never learned before. Time with their grandchildren is well spent. In fact, it can be enormously helpful. What grandparent isn’t grateful for being admitted into the world of a precious child?

We are all role models. Children no less than grownups. But the values a thirteener might learn from a grandparent can’t be following in anyone’s “footsteps.” Grownups’ lives and careers are also a work in progress. They’re not meant to be footsteps for anyone to follow. Let role models guide and motivate us, but don’t let them take over.

Are character and education worth the effort?

Three accomplished role models have written primers on adolescence, worthy causes, and qualifying for some of the best universities:

Being a Teen: Everything Teen Girls and Boys Should Know About Relationships, Sex, Love, Health, Identity, and More, by Jane Fonda (Random House 2014)

It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going!, by Chelsea Clinton (Penguin 2017)

The Ultimate Teen Guide to Getting into the Ivy League: The 10-Step System, by Courtney Malinchak (Strauss Consultants 2017)

These are just a sample of what’s out there. Whatever our situations someone else has been there, thought about it, and come up with insights and information to stimulate our thinking and ease the way. If it seems like we’ve been abandoned the truth is very different. Whatever our situation it puts us into a community that wants to help. Just like our intuition, it only needs to be asked. So don’t let change come of its own accord: bone up on it and master it.

Even the best high schools and preparatory schools can’t make it easy to get into places like Harvard and Caltech. It takes extra effort. If what we’re looking for is “easy” why bother with school at all? Why bother with Life? What lies ahead for all of us is deciding whether we want to make the effort. Malinchak’s book could scare us away or fill us with determination. Which will it be?

Here’s one reason for making an extra effort. At Andover I was an average student with one distinction: I tried hard. I may have been the only athlete recommended for a varsity letter without scoring points for the team. My coach’s recommendation said my work ethic inspired my teammates to score points, and that’s why I deserved the award. The best universities look for applicants who want to excel. Who are passionate about pushing themselves beyond their limits. And one way they measure passion is by level of effort. I made it to Harvard. Andover might have gotten me there without extra effort, but maybe it wouldn’t.

Having an education from a world-class university is like being able to board a plane at a busy airport without going through security. Everyone wants you on board and they want to make it easy. Because the source of your education puts their minds at rest about your mind. About your character, talent, and values. You’re trusted. People can put their confidence in you. A degree from the top universities, like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, Caltech, or Stanford, that’s put to good use, can gain acceptance into the highest circles of wealth, power, and society. I know this from experience. Without my Harvard degree the opportunities that put accomplishment, satisfaction, and joy into my career would not have been there. This is a solid reason for making an extra effort. It might be stressful but you’ll never regret it.

Just as the best universities open up worlds of possibilities, only the values of good character can get us into those worlds. Can give us the power and ability to realize our potential once we’re there. Good education and good character are gifts that never stop giving.

Career or no career? What does Mona Lisa say?

If an adolescent girl is unsure of her motivation Mona Lisa Smile, with Julia Roberts, might help. It’s a 2003 film that tells the story of an art professor at Wellesley College who encouraged her students to pursue careers. The professor’s students divided themselves into women who wanted careers and those who didn’t. I knew a graduate of Wellesley who earned a degree in economics. After that, she earned a law degree from Harvard and a license to practice law in Massachusetts. She had a very good mind. But even though she earned a profession she never actually wanted it. And as soon as she could, she abandoned it.

Do you want training for a professional career? Or are you one of the Wellesley students who don’t want a career? It can be a difficult choice for a conscientious girl that requires a lot of thought. This film may help, because it dramatizes the choice from both sides. Good thinking and great entertainment!

The values of a grandparent: Mindfulness, learning and growth

What this grandparent wants others to know about him is that he places a high value on mind – on learning and growth. That he believes that Mind and Love, thought and feeling, are inseparable. That he will be honest with others and places a high value on facts, Logic, and Truth. He believes that we make the world a better place by making ourselves better persons, and we make ourselves better persons by making the world a better place.

We choose Life when we choose not to be satisfied with the way things are. When we choose to explore the possibilities open to us by our minds. When we allow and encourage our minds to reflect. To see things from perspectives different from our own, To explore new approaches to our work, relationships, and wellbeing. Our values are to be used for creativity, to build character and self-worth.

The “niceness” of sharing, empowerment, and affirmation

In five different regions this grandparent practiced the value of service. Service through ideas (mindfulness), sharing, empowerment, and affirmation. He helped others come together to make good things happen. He shared his ideas, organized, and put them in charge. In one region he helped to secure community leadership training through twelve colleges and universities. Accumulating wealth and power for himself wasn’t a consideration. Attracting support for his career today, in thinking and writing, is a consideration. But he’s still committed to the same values.

The values that make a grandparent loving are gentle loving kindness, service, sharing, empowerment, and affirmation. These are the “niceness” that secures a grandparent’s place in his grandchildren’s hearts, that can cover him with hugs and kisses from grandchildren who need and appreciate it. That secures a place for them in his heart and makes them Best Friends Forever.

What is “empowerment?” It’s sharing our strength and energy with another person to make them stronger. To support their efforts. To help them compete. To cheer them on instead of trying to take them down so we can always be the “winner.” When we empower others we empower ourselves. It makes us all winners.

“Affirmation” is applause. It’s sharing all that we value in ourselves to affirm another’s worth. It’s making sure that if we think we’re important they’re important, too. In a world that can make us all feel overlooked affirming another’s worth can make the difference between hope and despair, between succeeding or giving up. Sharing our worth is sharing our Abundance. It’s Love. And anytime we love another it always comes back. It’s what it was meant to be: Love and affirmation for you and me.

Where did these values come from? From many sources over time. But none more important than the values that shaped this grandparent’s character in adolescence. None more important than what he learned at Phillips Academy, Class of ’55. From teachers, coaches, administrators, and classmates, all devoted to excellence. To making an effort. To being and doing your best. This was Andover. The best.

Sharing or ownership? One way of looking at it

This grandparent’s take on what values are all about is just one perspective out of many. If it stimulates an adolescent’s thinking then it’s done some good. But if she already has high ideals and it messes with them, then it hasn’t. These reflections aren’t “wisdom” if they don’t do any good. All they’re for is to help adolescents think about values so they can learn to think for themselves.

Values are gifts given to us to be shared by a source that is Sharing. It’s Love, and what Love does is share. If we want to know what to do with our gifts we can follow the example set by their Source: we can put them to good use for everyone by sharing. By using our values to empower all of Life and Creation and to affirm its Worth. When we feel truly loved then we feel Love’s power and its affirmation. We feel gentle loving kindness. This is what we share when we share our values. We connect.

Ownership pulls in a different direction. If Love is Freedom ownership is containment. Responsible ownership is sensitive to its impacts on others. But we live in a world where ownership is often abused, where instead of sharing and sensitivity to community it pulls toward possession and control for itself. Owning our gifts can pull us toward misusing them to attain dominance and supremacy by empowering ourselves and affirming our own worth. To compete to “win” by making others lose. To achieve “rightness” by making others wrong. This isn’t gentle loving kindness. If it looks like it don’t be fooled. It’s just appearances – formulas that avoid values. Formulas that avoid mindfulness. It doesn’t connect us with others. It disconnects.

The choice is: Are values to be shared following the example of Love, their Source? Are they to be “owned” responsibly? Or are they to be used only for possession and control? Are they to be used to empower ourselves and others, to express our individuality? Or used to control others to suppress it? Are they to be used to affirm everyone’s worth as equals deserving respect? Or to deny others’ worth?

Friendships and ownership don’t mix

The rules that govern competitive relationships done wrong are beating the other guy, owning, possessing, controlling, dominating, attaining supremacy, and always being right. The rules that prevail in personal friendships are the reverse: share, empower, affirm, respect the other guy’s free will, and keep everyone safe. The rules aren’t win-lose; they’re win-win. They’re both are right.

If it seems like we can’t avoid values owned instead of shared it’s because we spend a lot of time in groups. And group behavior either encourages or tolerates competition. What it offers is belonging, but that’s not the same as Love. Rather than individuals sharing their Abundance, their worth, it’s the group gathering up our worth and sharing it back. As if we were worthless without it. Loyalty to groups and their credos is inevitable, but it can be too much of a good thing. Ownership – the rules that govern group competitive relationships -- never works in individual family relationships and friendships. What does work is sharing. What works is Love.

Competition done right

Ownership focused on supremacy isn’t even the rule when competition is done right. Olympians do compete to win. But what they’re really doing is competing with themselves to excel. They’re feeding off competition to push themselves beyond their limits. The distinction of Olympic gold is excellence, not dominance. If the mindset of Olympians were otherwise they wouldn’t win. They wouldn’t even be in the Olympics.

What we learn at the best schools and universities is the pursuit of excellence. Competing with ourselves to push beyond our limits, not to dominate. Not to puff ourselves up with “winning” and “supremacy.” The pursuit of excellence is the value, the learning, that animates character with strength and energy at schools like Andover and Harvard. Not everyone can qualify for the Olympics. But anyone with talent and motivation, anyone who’s shown that they’re worthy of their values, their gifts and talents, can strive for an Olympic-grade education. For excellence. The best schools and universities are there for us if we qualify. If we’re committed to character and the right values.

What’s the use?

We build and express character according to how we use our gifts. Misusing our gifts is a mistake. Our gifts were given to us for a purpose: to create, support, and affirm the worth of Life. Using them for any other purpose is a mistake. Owning our gifts instead of sharing them so they can be used as weapons is the dark side. A very big mistake.

Strong character and education are developing our talents so they can be used. Weak character is putting talents to the wrong use or letting them go to waste. Sharing and ownership of values are the use and misuse of values.

The goal of values is to be worthy of them, to deserve them. To show their Source and others that they belong to us. They belong to us when they’re shared. The values we own for possession and control aren’t being used for their intended purpose, so they don’t belong to us. They shouldn't be entrusted to us.

The ideal of sharing isn’t always attainable in a world that’s not always “nice.” That conditions us from birth to think of our values as things to be owned and used for our own benefit, to gain wealth and power in competition with others. The wrong values are like toxins that keep us in a state of paralysis, an unchanging status quo without learning and growth, where development is arrested.

Depending on how we use them values are the sun that radiates light with the force of Love and sharing or they’re black holes that consume light with the gravity of ownership and containment. When we turn values into black holes the first object that they consume is our self because we’ve betrayed it.

The goal of learning and growth: sound judgment based on strong ideals

Taking it to the next level in our education and taking on adolescence at the same time can be fulfilling and frightening. Learning and character development are meant to take us out of our comfort zones. That’s natural. What all this shouldn’t be is painful. It can be painful if we’re not prepared. If we’re looking back instead of looking forward. We need to recognize that turning thirteen puts our lives in a different context, with new meaning and purpose. With minds opened to the possibilities from books and thoughts like these, it can make all the difference.

We can choose Love and share our gifts. We can resist the pull of its opposite, because character matters, and so does the truth.

The pull of our ideals is strong but so is the pull away from them. This is the thought to share on the eve of adolescence. A time of exploring and experimenting when an adolescent needs good judgment for protection, based on strong ideals.

As children entering adolescence begin thinking and evaluating for themselves one view is that the best use of our gifts and values is sharing. But that’s just one view. It’s their take that matters. When they’ve taken on the challenge of adolescence and education, when they’ve learned to think for themselves, what will they believe?

From the Class of ’55 to the Class of ’25, with Love

To all thirteen-year-olds may the next four years take you beyond the challenges, adjustments, and frustrations of adolescence. May they take you to a taste, a passion, for its incomparable gift: for learning and growth that never end. For Life as it’s meant to be lived, with meaning, purpose, and joyfulness. May you never be content with the way things are. May you never stop questioning.

Good luck and God bless!

Appendix: Values derived from human needs

Love: spiritual wealth and abundance, giving and receiving, openness, generosity, feeling, empathy, caring, kindness, affirmation-validation, tenderness, home, family and intimacy, interconnecting web of creativity, timelessness, immediacy (the here and now), awareness, unconditional acceptance

[The dark side] Fear: separation, abandonment, judgment and condemnation
(blame), abuse, cruelty, savagery, terror, hatred, rejection, anxiety, hollowness,
invalidation, retribution, neglect

Belonging: roots, extended family, community, fairness, equity, justice, emotional support

[The dark side] Alienation: isolation, loneliness, grievances, resentments,
bigotry, prejudice, inequality, unfairness, injustice

Worthiness: character, enlightenment, presence of mind, competence, gifts, talents, learning, discovery, work, worthy causes, growth (spiritual, personal, character), perseverance, achievement, recognition, largeness, self-respect, innocence

[The dark side] Worthlessness: quitting, surrender, failure, shame, guilt,
littleness, invisibility – not being seen or heard

Empowerment: order, control, strength and energy, forcefulness, assertiveness, will, resolve, conviction, truth, centered, grounded, competitive, prevailing, enduring

[The dark side] Disempowerment: emasculation, humiliation, embarrassment,
debilitation, disorder, disorientation, deception, confusion, doubt, loss, subjugation,
defeat, extinction

Material comfort: food, clothing, shelter, material wealth and abundance, having

[The dark side] Scarcity: impoverishment, homelessness, hunger, deprivation,
exposure, not having

Safety and security: protection and peace, trust, harmlessness, sanctuary (temenos), joyfulness and spontaneity, happiness, playfulness and laughter, immortality

[The dark side] Endangerment: vulnerability, exposure, harmfulness,
betrayal, treachery, pain, injury, mortality

Freedom: choice and expression, independence, individuality, liberation

[The dark side] Enslavement: confinement, restriction, addiction, the
tyranny of judgment and condemnation (blame), oppression, conformity, suffocation

Health (mental, physical, spiritual, emotional): wellness, wholeness, healing (the separation-wound), reason, integrity, miracles

[The dark side] Sickness: woundedness, insanity, delusion, depravity,
grievances, resentments, dismemberment, impairment

Beauty: perfection and purity in forms and functions, appearances and essences, thoughts and ideals, artistic, inspiriting, inspiring, sacred, uncorrupted, aesthetic, sensory attraction and pleasure – sights, sounds, taste, touch, smell

[The dark side] Repugnance: revulsion, aversion, deadening, flawed, marred,
desecrated, violated, corrupted, impure

Hope: faith and purpose

[The dark side] Despair: depression, surrender, collapse, purposelessness,
nihilism, ambivalence, confusion, disbelief

1

Rick’s clientele

Refugees in Rick’s Café Americain are noted for having been driven from their fascist homelands because of their minds. Because they’re independent thinkers who can’t be intimidated into mindless conformance, into group-think. Can’t be parted from their individuality, their sovereign rights as citizens to use their judgment to call out injustices and other wrongs that inflict suffering. That offend shared responsibility to the community, to everyone’s future.

They flee oppression with their different languages, dress, and customs, because they have a conscience. Because they refuse to sacrifice their conscience, their values, their individual worth, to the demands of an authority that tolerates nothing but obedience. That achieves conformance by crushing those who refuse to surrender their minds, their free will, their autonomy and individuality, to the group. That insists on possessing its subjects’ consciences and subjecting them to total control so that they may never question its authority. May never question the rightness or wrongness of its rule. May never use their consciences to question at all.

Escape from “paradise”

To ask Why, because independent thinking that asks Why might awaken its subjects to the Reality of their captivity. To the Truth that their “paradise” of forced conformance is based on a lie: that it’s for their benefit when it’s not. When its real purpose is only to preserve the authority of their oppressor. To preserve the appearance of its legitimacy, its façade of unreality.

The refugees in Rick’s Café are non-conformists not to make trouble, not to disrupt peace in the family. They’re non-conformists to stand up against the façade of peace that’s maintained by possession and coercion. By dominance, disempowerment, cruelty, and invalidation instead of sharing, empowerment, fairness, kindness, and affirmation. To stand up for the values that enable real peace, real harmony. Upheld by the free will of its subjects from the bottom up instead of forced upon them from the top down.

For love of Democracy, for love of Diversity

For all their differences the refugees in Rick’s Café are alike in one respect: they are all democrats. They gather together in Rick’s sanctuary in harmony because the values they share are shared freely, not dictated to them by Rick or by anyone else. They are individuals free to display their differences as we are in a free society, in a democracy.To display their individuality, their eccentricities, their special talents, because that’s the point: to enrich their society with diversity. With contributions from every source, every member with anything to offer no matter how unconventional.

The scene is set in the film’s opening shot as the camera pans from the pianist singing “Knock on Wood” to every table. Where individuals from different countries, different cultures, different perspectives, speaking different languages, are engaged in animated conversation. Opening themselves to an intimacy of thinking, feeling, and judgment that would be unimaginable back home. Sharing lives, sharing thoughts, debating philosophy and ideals.

The cruelty of an unchanging status quo

The title of the film Casablanca's original story was Everybody Comes to Rick’s. Because Rick’s welcomes everybody. Everybody, that is, with a conscience who thinks for themselves. Everybody who has the character and the courage to stand up for what’s right, for personal responsibility, kindness, and justice. The very same reasons why they’re not welcome back home.

For them, it’s an honor not to be welcome back home. A source of pride that they’ve stood up for their conscience and attracted notice. That they prefer exile to the comforts of home where free spirits with a conscience don’t belong. Where change is not welcome that would challenge the thoughtlessness, the cruelty, of an unchanging status quo. Proud that they don’t rely on affirmation by group conformance but by their own native worth, their own individual creativity, their own free spirit of love and inquiry.

Allons enfants de la Patrie!

Who comes to Rick’s? The children of Democracy. Those who love Democracy and the spirits of those who’ve fought and died for Democracy. In the context of its time, "Everybody Comes to Rick’s" was right: Everybody united in opposition to fascism comes to Rick’s. There was nobody else then, not in America.

Today, there is somebody else in America. They’ve chosen another place to go: Plato’s Cave. We will visit them in their Cave, but another time. Rick has just given his musicians permission to play La Marseillaise. A momentous change of mind that will put Victor and Ilsa on the last plane to Lisbon and end Rick’s tale with a beautiful friendship. I don’t want to miss it.

Our values are what really matters – love and family; friendship and community; health and healing; freedom and free will; self-worth; purpose, learning, striving, growth and achievement; abundance; protection and trust; beauty, purity and innocence; empowerment and control. Whenever we’re in doubt, these are our conscience. These are our best guide to avoiding mistakes.

Grandparents know all about mistakes because they’ve seen and made lots of them. They know a lot about values, too, because experience has taught them what’s important. Kids might do fine without a grandparent. But it’s possible they’d do even better with one. Grandparents want kids to have this resource: helping them with values so they avoid mistakes.

This is how grandparents want to be there for their kids. They applaud kids' performances and cheer them from the sidelines. But when kids are ready for more, grandparents are ready for more.

Grandparents don’t tell kids what to do. Setting a good example, standing up for their values – that’s their job. If they follow the wrong example they won’t be role modeling their values. They won’t be role modeling the values they want their grandchildren to have.

What kids need from their grandparents is good role models.

Here are some thoughts about grand-parenting, relationships, and role modeling based on one grandparent's experience:

Respect and affection between friends can never be taken for granted, because that would be telling our friends their needs and feelings don’t matter. That they don’t matter. It would tell them that they’re worthless when friendships should tell them the opposite.

Differences between people can cause serious problems. Our reading and entertainment tell us that every day. Our minds work differently. Our personalities aren’t the same. We value different things. Our priorities are different. We present ourselves differently. We try to connect and communicate differently – the list goes on and on.

Our circumstances are always changing. And our needs and feelings change with them. Because everyone’s circumstances are different, no one has the same point of view.

Our physical, biological, and social environment is a dynamic system driven by powerful forces. Understanding these forces is the purpose of every field of learning -- physics, philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, social science, political science, ethics, theology, biology, and more. We are brought together in one great human enterprise: learning.

One of the great lessons of life is the need for continuous improvement -- for learning and personal growth. This is as true for groups as it is for individuals. It is our purpose. We can’t stand still. We must move forward.

Learning takes effort. It takes thought, and kids are capable of that. If grandparents didn’t believe in their kids they would say, “They’re just kids” and ignore them. Grandparents don’t ignore their kids. They think their kids are worth a whole lot more than just one birthday gift. They're worth a million birthday gifts! They're not “just kids.”

As Vince Lombardi would put it: What’s best for our kids isn’t everything: it’s the only thing. Being useful to their kids is why grandparents exist. A good grandparent will try to be useful even if it means doing without the affection, kindness, joy, and laughter that their kids bless them with. Their kids are worth a trillion birthday gifts!

Relationships usually survive misunderstandings and hurt feelings without too much damage. But when we don’t respect our differences it can have more serious consequences. It can cause wounds that take away trust and safety. It can even bring close friendships to an end.

In the end, there is only one way to save a friendship and that is to earn it. To have strong values, share them, and to stand up for them even if it takes work and may not succeed. What is friendship worth, anyway, if it doesn’t ask something of us? If we don’t risk something?

Living a truly good life and doing what’s right aren’t things to be casual about. They require thought and deliberation. They require care and concentration, because it can be very easy to lose sight of what really matters and make a mistake.

It’s up to each of us to determine for ourselves what’s right. It’s everyone’s duty to affirm the truth about who we are and what we believe in everything we do. It’s all about Character. It’s all about Purpose.

Modesty is being aware that a higher power knows what’s best and letting this awareness guide our conscience. Anyone can find fault with what’s wrong, but who really knows what’s right? This is modesty, a virtue that is everyone’s duty to share, and grandparents would share it with their kids.

Miracles happen when power that we’re not aware of works quietly through our minds and hearts to overcome barriers to change and lead us forward. The barriers to change necessary for friends to move forward may not come down without a miracle. This is as true for brothers and sisters as it is with fathers and sons.

“Happy endings” aren’t a given but neither is disappointment. What we think are “happy endings” may also lie beyond our understanding. We should be prepared for both, because whatever comes may be for the best – we don’t know.