Adonis Diaries

Archive for June 20th, 2016

From the Outside Looking In (Dec. 2002)

I fooled myself. I pitied myself.

I wanted to know all, diligently, for decades.

I wanted to change the World

In my dreams, night or day.

Aloof, confused, distracted and detached of your Worlds.

It was the right thing then.  Still right, I feel.

      I built ideas, pyramids of them.

Their heads reaching to the stars;

Their bases never touching ground.

Beautiful Pyramids, camping from up high.

Everybody looked base, mean and redundant.

Everything seemed tedious, small and crawling.

 

Nothing changed much.

I am still an outsider looking in the adult world.

 

I still abhor the maintenance part of life, the mechanics of living.

I cannot hope for a lasting relationship:

I cannot maintain a sustainable relationship.

I cannot hope to own real properties:

I cannot maintain properties.

I am scared of owning a house,

Of getting married and keep maintaining choices

I can’t sustain much of anything for long.

 

I admire the maintainers:  they spread progress in due time;

They keep life green; they regenerate man-made nature at a comfortable pace.

I loath the fashionable consumer, the up-to-date youth, and the throwaway:

They spread virtual progress, with other people money.

 

I am not a maintainer but not fashionable at the expense of others.

You cannot admire me but you cannot ignore my integrity.

 

May be that I was not trained properly as a child

To learn taking responsibilities, learning to maintain what I own.

The adult world is still a curiosity to me.

When the time was due to step in,

It was too late for me to learn a new set of behaviors,

In a society alien to me;

A much older or a much younger society.

Power of Vulnerability?

Brené Brown studies human connection — our ability to empathize, belong, love. A talk she shares her deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity.

Brené Brown. Vulnerability researcher. She studies vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. Full bio
Speech on June 2010

A couple years ago, an event planner called me because I was going to do a speaking event. And  she said, “I’m really struggling with how to write about you on the little flyer.”

And I thought, “Well, what’s the struggle?” And she said, “Well, I saw you speak, and I’m going to call you a researcher, I think, but I’m afraid if I call you a researcher, no one will come, because they’ll think you’re boring and irrelevant.”

And she said, “But the thing I liked about your talk is you’re a storyteller. So I think what I’ll do is just call you a storyteller.” 

 The academic, insecure part of me was like, “You’re going to call me a what?” And she said, “I’m going to call you a storyteller.” And I was like, “Why not ‘magic pixie’?”

 I was like, “Let me think about this for a second.” I tried to call deep on my courage. And I thought, you know, I am a storyteller. I’m a qualitative researcher (that many scientists don’t consider science).

I collect stories; that’s what I do. And maybe stories are just data with a soul. And maybe I’m just a storyteller. And so I said, “You know what? Why don’t you just say I’m a researcher-storyteller.” And she went, “Ha ha. There’s no such thing.”

 I’m a researcher-storyteller, and I’m going to talk to you today — we’re talking about expanding perception and so I want to talk to you and tell some stories about a piece of my research that fundamentally expanded my perception and really actually changed the way that I live and love and work and parent.

this is where my story starts. When I was a young researcher, doctoral student, my first year, I had a research professor who said to us, “Here’s the thing, if you cannot measure it, it does not exist.” (Galileo said: measure everything)

And I thought he was just sweet-talking me. I was like, “Really?” and he was like, “Absolutely.”

so you have to understand that I have a bachelor’s and a master’s in social work, and I was getting my Ph.D. in social work, so my entire academic career was surrounded by people who kind of believed in the “life’s messy, love it.” And I’m more of the, “life’s messy, clean it up, organize it and put it into a bento box.”

to think that I had found my way, to have found a career that takes me Lean into the discomfort of the work.” And I’m like, knock discomfort upside the head and move it over and get all A’s. That was my mantra.

I was very excited about this. And so I thought, you know what, this is the career for me, because I am interested in some messy topics. But I want to be able to make them not messy. I want to understand them. I want to hack into these things that I know are important and lay the code out for everyone to see.

 I started with connection. Because, by the time you’re a social worker for 10 years, what you realize is that connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. This is what it’s all about.

It doesn’t matter whether you talk to people who work in social justice, mental health and abuse and neglect, what we know is that connection, the ability to feel connected, is — neurobiologically that’s how we’re wired — it’s why we’re here.

 I thought, you know what, I’m going to start with connection. Well, you know that situation where you get an evaluation from your boss, and she tells you 37 things that you do really awesome, and one “opportunity for growth?”

 all you can think about is that opportunity for growth, right? Well, apparently this is the way my work went as well, because, when you ask people about love, they tell you about heartbreak. When you ask people about belonging, they’ll tell you their most excruciating experiences of being excluded. And when you ask people about connection, the stories they told me were about disconnection.

About six weeks into this research — I ran into this unnamed thing that absolutely unraveled connection in a way that I didn’t understand or had never seen. I pulled back out of the research and thought, I need to figure out what this is. And it turned out to be shame.

And shame is really easily understood as the fear of disconnection: Is there something about me that, if other people know it or see it, that I won’t be worthy of connection?

The things I can tell you about it: It’s universal; we all have it. The only people who don’t experience shame have no capacity for human empathy or connection.

No one wants to talk about it, and the less you talk about it, the more you have it. What underpinned this shame, this “I’m not good enough,” — which, we all know that feeling: “I’m not blank enough. I’m not thin enough, rich enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, promoted enough.”

The thing that underpinned this was excruciating vulnerability. This idea of, in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be really seen.

And you know how I feel about vulnerability. I hate vulnerability. And so I thought, this is my chance to beat it back with my measuring stick. I’m going in, I’m going to figure this stuff out, I’m going to spend a year, I’m going to totally deconstruct shame, I’m going to understand how vulnerability works, and I’m going to outsmart it. So I was ready, and I was really excited. As you know, it’s not going to turn out well.

 You know this. I could tell you a lot about shame, but I’d have to borrow everyone else’s time. But here’s what I can tell you that it boils down to — and this may be one of the most important things that I’ve ever learned in the decade of doing this research.

6:15 My one year turned into six years: Thousands of stories, hundreds of long interviews, focus groups.

At one point, people were sending me journal pages and sending me their stories — thousands of pieces of data in six years. And I kind of got a handle on it. I kind of understood, this is what shame is, this is how it works.

I wrote a book, I published a theory, but something was not okay — and what it was is that, if I roughly took the people I interviewed and divided them into people who really have a sense of worthiness — that’s what this comes down to, a sense of worthiness — they have a strong sense of love and belonging — and folks who struggle for it, and folks who are always wondering if they’re good enough.

There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it. And that was, the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging.

That’s it. They believe they’re worthy. And to me, the hard part of the one thing that keeps us out of connection is our fear that we’re not worthy of connection, was something that, personally and professionally, I felt like I needed to understand better. So what I did is I took all of the interviews where I saw worthiness, where I saw people living that way, and just looked at those.

What do these people have in common? I have a slight office supply addiction, but that’s another talk. So I had a manila folder, and I had a Sharpie, and I was like, what am I going to call this research?

And the first words that came to my mind were “whole-hearted.” These are whole-hearted people, living from this deep sense of worthiness. So I wrote at the top of the manila folder, and I started looking at the data.

In fact, I did it first in a four-day, very intensive data analysis, where I went back, pulled the interviews, the stories, pulled the incidents. What’s the theme? What’s the pattern?

My husband left town with the kids because I always go into this Jackson Pollock crazy thing, where I’m just writing and in my researcher mode.

And so here’s what I found. What they had in common was a sense of courage.

I want to separate courage and bravery for you for a minute.

Courage, the original definition of courage, when it first came into the English language — it’s from the Latin word “cor,” meaning “heart” — and the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.

And so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly.

And the last was they had connection, and — this was the hard part — as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were, which you have to absolutely do that for connection.

The other thing that they had in common was this: They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they really talk about it being excruciating — as I had heard it earlier in the shame interviewing.

They just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say, “I love you” first … the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees … the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram.

They’re willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental.

I personally thought it was betrayal. I could not believe I had pledged allegiance to research, where our job — you know, the definition of research is to control and predict, to study phenomena for the explicit reason to control and predict.

And now my mission to control and predict had turned up the answer that the way to live is with vulnerability and to stop controlling and predicting. This led to a little breakdown —

 I call it a breakdown; my therapist calls it a spiritual awakening.

 A spiritual awakening sounds better than breakdown, but I assure you, it was a breakdown. And I had to put my data away and go find a therapist. Let me tell you something: you know who you are when you call your friends and say, “I think I need to see somebody. Do you have any recommendations?” Because about five of my friends were like, “Wooo, I wouldn’t want to be your therapist.”

 I was like, “What does that mean?” And they’re like, “I’m just saying, you know. Don’t bring your measuring stick.”

11:57 (Laughter)

 I was like, “Okay.” So I found a therapist. My first meeting with her, Diana — I brought in my list of the way the whole-hearted live, and I sat down. And she said, “How are you?” And I said, “I’m great. I’m okay.” She said, “What’s going on?”

And this is a therapist who sees therapists, because we have to go to those, because their B.S. meters are good.

And so I said, “Here’s the thing, I’m struggling.” And she said, “What’s the struggle?” And I said, “Well, I have a vulnerability issue. And I know that vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love. And I think I have a problem, and I need some help.”

And I said, “But here’s the thing: no family stuff, no childhood shit.”

 “I just need some strategies.”

And then I said, “It’s bad, right?” And she said, “It’s neither good nor bad.”

 “It just is what it is.” And I said, “Oh my God, this is going to suck.”

 And it did, and it didn’t. And it took about a year. And you know how there are people that, when they realize that vulnerability and tenderness are important, that they surrender and walk into it.

A: that’s not me, and B: I don’t even hang out with people like that.

13:59 (Laughter)

For me, it was a yearlong street fight. It was a slugfest. Vulnerability pushed, I pushed back. I lost the fight, but probably won my life back.

 then I went back into the research and spent the next couple of years really trying to understand what they, the whole-hearted, what choices they were making, and what we are doing with vulnerability. Why do we struggle with it so much? Am I alone in struggling with vulnerability? No.

So this is what I learned. We numb vulnerability when we’re waiting for the call. It was funny, I sent something out on Twitter and on Facebook that says, “How would you define vulnerability? What makes you feel vulnerable?”

And within an hour and a half, I had 150 responses. Because I wanted to know what’s out there. Having to ask my husband for help because I’m sick, and we’re newly married; initiating sex with my husband; initiating sex with my wife; being turned down; asking someone out; waiting for the doctor to call back; getting laid off; laying off people.

This is the world we live in. We live in a vulnerable world. And one of the ways we deal with it is we numb vulnerability.

And I think there’s evidence — and it’s not the only reason this evidence exists, but I think it’s a huge cause — We are the most in-debt … obese … addicted and medicated adult cohort in U.S. history.

The problem is — and I learned this from the research — that you cannot selectively numb emotion. You can’t say, here’s the bad stuff. Here’s vulnerability, here’s grief, here’s shame, here’s fear, here’s disappointment. I don’t want to feel these. I’m going to have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin.

 I don’t want to feel these. And I know that’s knowing laughter. I hack into your lives for a living. God.

You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing the other affects, our emotions. You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness.

And then, we are miserable, and we are looking for purpose and meaning, and then we feel vulnerable, so then we have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. And it becomes this dangerous cycle.

One of the things that I think we need to think about is why and how we numb. And it doesn’t just have to be addiction.

The other thing we do is we make everything that’s uncertain certain.

Religion has gone from a belief in faith and mystery to certainty. “I’m right, you’re wrong. Shut up.” That’s it. Just certain. The more afraid we are, the more vulnerable we are, the more afraid we are.

This is what politics looks like today. There’s no discourse anymore. There’s no conversation. There’s just blame.

You know how blame is described in the research? A way to discharge pain and discomfort.

We perfect. If there’s anyone who wants their life to look like this, it would be me, but it doesn’t work. Because what we do is we take fat from our butts and put it in our cheeks.

Which just, I hope in 100 years, people will look back and go, “Wow.”

And we perfect, most dangerously, our children.

Let me tell you what we think about children. They’re hardwired for struggle when they get here. And when you hold those perfect little babies in your hand, our job is not to say, “Look at her, she’s perfect. My job is just to keep her perfect — make sure she makes the tennis team by fifth grade and Yale by seventh.” That’s not our job.

Our job is to look and say, “You know what? You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” That’s our job.

Show me a generation of kids raised like that, and we’ll end the problems that we see today.

We pretend that what we do doesn’t have an effect on people. We do that in our personal lives. We do that corporate — whether it’s a bailout, an oil spill … a recall.

We pretend like what we’re doing doesn’t have a huge impact on other people. I would say to companies, this is not our first rodeo, people. We just need you to be authentic and real and say … “We’re sorry. We’ll fix it.”

But there’s another way, and I’ll leave you with this. This is what I have found:

To let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee — and that’s really hard, and I can tell you as a parent, that’s excruciatingly difficult — to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we’re wondering,

“Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately?

Can I be this fierce about this?” just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, “I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.”

And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we’re enough. Because when we work from a place that says, “I’m enough” … then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.

 

 

First time I walked bare feet. Clutching my sandals.  And the last time

Numb at the Magnitude of the Unknown (Part 3). October 25, 2008

That summer of 1975, I noticed many American students walking bare feet,

Carrying their sandals in hand and attending class bare feet.

One day, I felt the urge to imitate them:

I walked to class bare feet, carrying my sandals.

Miss Linda, the English teacher, was dumb struck; her cheeks flushed anger.

I could hear the wrath within her soul:

“American might be permitted to behave so, against my will.

But foreigners?! Certainly and absolutely not: rules are rules”.

She kicked me out of the classroom.

 

I did not enjoy walking bare feet: Summer in Oklahoma scalds any bare skin,

And carrying the stupid sandals was not that cool after all.

The university had an outdoor and an indoor swimming pool.

Many lovely girls lounged around the semi-Olympic size outdoor pool.

I paid for a two-week formal swimming lessons:

I had to swim professionally for the beautiful girls.

 

It was my first formal swimming lessons:

I almost got drowned twice before, in open sea, closest to the shore,

Carried away by tide…

My dense hairy chest and back were a curiosity to everyone.

A Japanese classmate went so far as to compare me to a monkey.

 

I love swimming and have been practicing it ever since.

In every city I relocated to, my first target was finding an affordable indoor pool.

 

After a month of English, which I didn’t need from my pre-test scores,

But I still had to attend because the tuition was prepaid,

I discovered that the university, which conditionally accepted me, was indeed in Stillwater,

Not in the town of Norman.

Stillwater was initially a farming university, in a hole of a town,

A hundred and fifty miles North-East of the State Capital Oklahoma City.

 

I visited that university in August, but I still don’t know how I got there.

The administration told me that I was late, or my application was declined;

I don’t remember the reasons for denying my application, but I felt good.

I was back to the University of Oklahoma at Norman

 

Dr. Hillel Kumin, chairman of the Industrial Engineering department,

Accepted my application for graduate studies without much fussing.

I had to take just two pre-requisite undergraduate courses.

This is how simple life should be:

It matched my naïve perception on systems, organizations and people’s characters.

 

There were a few instances where my model of a simple life matched the real model.

More often, I had to learn to struggle for survival.

Many years later, I was still learning to just scrap a living;

Not much else.

 

To fill the time before the Fall semester begins,

I volunteered with a linguistic society on campus for the summer.

I was to speak, translate and write Arabic for Americans enrolled in linguistics.

They were potential missionaries!

 

It was 1975, and the Americans were still free to be compassionate.

It was 1975, and an American in a position of power

Could wield a wide latitude for making compassionate decisions.

Machine guns for freedom and liberty?

If these data are accurate from Neil deGrasse Tyson, you have the answer

Peter Cortez's photo.

Peter Cortez commented. June 17 at 7:13pm ·

Instead of arguing about guns on Twitter, Neil deGrasse Tyson just laid out the numbers.

Compare These Gun Death Rates: The U.S. Is in a Different World

By JUNE 13, 2016

The mass shooting in Orlando on Sunday was appalling in scale: 49 killed in a single attack. But it’s not unusual for dozens of Americans to be killed by guns in a single day.

Gun homicides are a common cause of death in the United States, killing about as many people as car crashes (not counting van, truck, motorcycle or bus accidents).

Some cases command our attention more than others, of course. Counting mass shootings that make headlines and the thousands of Americans murdered one or a few at a time, gunshot homicides totaled 8,124 in 2014, according to the F.B.I.

This level of violence makes the United States an extreme outlier when measured against the experience of other advanced countries.

Around the world, those countries have substantially lower rates of deaths from gun homicide.

In Germany, being murdered with a gun is as uncommon as being killed by a falling object in the United States. About two people out of every million are killed in a gun homicide. Gun homicides are just as rare in several other European countries, including the Netherlands and Austria.

In the United States, two per million is roughly the death rate for hypothermia or plane crashes.

In Poland and England, only about one out of every million people die in gun homicides each year — about as often as an American dies in an agricultural accident or falling from a ladder.

In Japan, where gun homicides are even rarer, the likelihood of dying this way is about the same as an American’s chance of being killed by lightning — roughly one in 10 million.

To give you a sense of how unusual America’s gun violence problem is, consider the daily death toll compared with other Western democracies.

The chart below imagines that the populations of those countries were the same as the population of the United States.

No Other Rich Western Country Comes Close

Gun homicides per day if each country had the same population as the U.S.
$40,000
60,000
80,000
100,000
30
25
20
15
10
5
0
G.D.P. per capita
United States
Luxembourg
Norway
Ireland
Austria
Germany
Australia
Canada
Iceland
Finland
Spain
Slovenia
Portugal
Lithuania
Greece

Gun homicides per day if each country had the same population as the U.S.
$50,000
100,000
30
20
10
0
G.D.P. per capita
United States
Luxembourg
Norway
Canada
Greece
Poland
Hungary

International comparisons help highlight how exceptional the United States is: In a nation where the right to bear arms is cherished by much of the population, gun homicides are a significant public health concern.

For men 15 to 29, they are the third-leading cause of death, after accidents and suicides.

In other high-income countries, gun homicides are unusual events. Last year’s Paris attacks killed 130 people, which is nearly as many as die from gun homicides in all of France in a typical year.

But even if France had a mass shooting as deadly as the Paris attacks every month, its annual rate of gun homicide death would be lower than that in the United States.

The accompanying table shows the mortality rates for gun homicides in a variety of countries, along with a correspondingly likely cause of death in the United States.

Being killed with a gun here: Is about as likely as
Dying of ________ in the U.S.
Deaths per mil.

Our gun homicide numbers come from the Small Arms Survey, a Swiss nonprofit affiliated with the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, and represent the average gun homicide death rates in those countries between 2007 and 2012.

The United States death rates come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over those same years. There are more recent statistics on American gun deaths, like the F.B.I. number at the top of this article, but we chose these years to provide fair comparisons.

We focused on the rates of gun homicides; the overall rate of gun deaths is substantially higher, because suicides make up a majority of gun deaths in the United States and are also higher than in other developed countries.

The rate of gun violence in the United States is not the highest in the world.

In parts of Central America, Africa and the Middle East, the gun death rates are even higher — close to those from heart attacks and lung cancer in the United States.

In neighboring Mexico, where a drug war rages, 122 people per million die in a gun homicide, a rate slightly higher than Americans’ death rate from pancreatic cancer.

But the countries with those levels of gun violence are not like the United States in many other ways, including G.D.P., life expectancy and education. Among developed democracies, the United States is an outlier.

Editor’s note: A version of this article was first published in December 2015 and was updated after the Orlando shootings.

The table is not meant to make light of rare causes of death. Instead, we show them as a way to help think meaningfully about the differences among gun death rates.


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adonis49

adonis49

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