31 July 2018      

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Desire (an excerpt)
Martha Beck

from Living, Loving, and Learning
Leo Buscaglia

Other People's Rights
tom walsh

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Only when you can accept that you are alone, will you discover that you are not alone.

Leonard Jacobson

Not everything that is faced can be changed.
But nothing can be changed until it is faced.

James Baldwin

The entire population of the universe,
with one trifling exception, is composed of others.

John Andrew Holmes


Martha Beck

One of the most amazing things about your body is that the instructions for assembling it, from random protein molecules you can find around the house, are coded into every one of your trillion-plus cells.  They are spelled out in the elegant double helix of your DNA, which will preserve your physical identity throughout life, even as it continuously replaces all the actual particles that comprise you and makes sure that you change dramatically from infancy through puberty and all the way to old age.  Though environmental factors can alter the structure of your body, your basic physiological identity is permanently and indelibly integrated into your fundamental being.

I happen to believe that the same thing is true of your life--or, to put it more romantically, your destiny.  I think we're all born with a set of preferred activities and talents, but more than that, with an inexplicable inner knowledge of the things we are meant to do and be, the changes we are meant to do and be, the changes we are meant to make in the world.  Obviously, there's no way to get scientific evidence of this, but I have observed it so often in clients, and felt it so often in myself, that it simply makes more sense for me to believe than to doubt.

I don't know what part of us stores the code for our right lives--maybe some corner of the brain, maybe the figurative heart, maybe that indefinable phantasm called the soul--but I do know how the code is relayed to our conscious minds, enabling us to make choices in keeping with our purpose.  It happens through the medium of the sensation we call desire.  The knowledge of your destiny is available to you, well before it actually happens, as a message streaming continuously from your heart to your brain, written in the language of longing.  This part is meant to help you access and interpret the yearning that is always leading you toward your right life.

Banished Desire

Menu Item #3 requires that, each day, you identify, articulate, and explore at least one thing you really want.  Sounds easy enough, doesn't it?  Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it--hell, even completely uneducated fleas do it.  Any sentient being knows when it wants to eat, mate, run, sleep, or fight--any sentient being, that is, except most members of the human race.  We are the only beings in creation who systematically eradicate the knowledge of our own desires.

The uniquely human ability to think abstractly and hypothesize about the future is probably to blame.  At some point in all our lives--usually early on--we learn from a combination of observation, advice, and painful experience that wanting is an appallingly dangerous activity.  Even as small children, we watch our elders shrink from their desires, and make mental notes to follow their example.  When we don't get everything we want, the sting of unmet need conditions us against hoping again.  If we dare voice a dream, we're liable to hear a litany of reasons we can't or shouldn't dream it.  By the time we're adolescents, many of us have replaced the awareness of our own desires with meditations on the topic "Why I shouldn't want what I want."  Crushing rebukes reverberate through our brains every time we feel a desire coming on:  "I'll never get what I want, so thinking about it would just frustrate me." "Desire is wicked, and I'm bad for feeling it."  "If I never want anything, I'll never be disappointed."  "Wanting what I want is pure selfishness."

We repeat these claims to ourselves, over and over, because we think this will allow us to avoid pain--the pain of being rebuked by others, of failure, of humiliation, of loss.  One of my friends calls this self-imposed pessimism "inoculating yourself against disappointment."  This is a fabulous idea, except that it doesn't work.  Injecting yourself with the fruits of failure doesn't keep you well, it just makes you sick.  It will stop you from doing anything that might make your dreams come true, and if something good happens to you anyway, it will keep you from enjoying or appreciating your good fortune.

Ironically, we banish most utterly those desires that are most crucial to our happiness.  Did you ever notice how many award-winning children's books and films focus on someone who adopts a wild animal, then has to chase it away so that it can live normally with its own kind?  The climactic scene always seems to  involve the tear-drenched pet owner screaming and shaking firearms at the beloved deer or bear or snail or whatever it is, trying to make the confounded creature run away and mistrust humans for the rest of its life.  I think that this is such a popular theme in juvenile literature because it is an archetype of the way growing humans learn to force away their desires.  To handle what we think are the grim realities of life, we master the art of breaking our own hearts, then hardening what remains the way we'd put a rigid cast on a broken ankle.  The more we love what we think we cannot have, the more cruelly we force it away.

This is why most of the time I spend with clients isn't devoted to helping them get what they want.  That little issue is insignificant compared with the daunting task of helping them identify what they want.  To do this, they must reexamine their deeply internalized belief that wanting is selfish or hopeless--in fact, those who don't know or respect their own wants have no foundation from which to offer generosity and compassion to others.  I can't count the number of hours I've spent looking into the hollow eyes of people who are outwardly very successful, but for whom the spark of genuine desire has been either hidden or extinguished.  Their resistance to becoming aware of their own wants--one of the very things that allows them to succeed in all sorts of difficult endeavors--has become so complete that it blocks access to a sense of purpose, excitement, motivation, even hope.  I can tell you from extensive observation that refusing to feel desire is the only thing more painful than failing to get what you want, and that learning not to yearn, far from preventing disappointment, ultimately guarantees it.

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from Living, Loving and Learning
Leo Buscaglia

Iím overwhelmed at the pleasure of being introduced by someone who knows how to pronounce my name.  I love to talk about my name because itís one of those beautiful Italian names that has every letter in the alphabet.  Itís spelled B-u-s-c-a-g-l-i-a, and itís pronounced like everything.  The best thing, I think, that has ever happened with it in terms of introductions was when I was making a long distance telephone call.  The line was busy and the operator said sheíd call me back as soon as the line was free.  When she called back, I picked up the phone and she said, "Would you please tell Dr. Box Car that his telephone call is ready?"  I said, "Could that be Buscaglia?"  She said, "Sir, it could be damned near anything."

Today Iím here to talk to you about love and I call this "Love in the Classroom." Youíre really very brave to allow me to come here and talk about love in the classroom.  Usually Iím asked to disguise it or at least add something.  You know, "Love, comma, As A Behavior Modifier." Then it sounds very scientific and it doesnít frighten anybody.  Itís the same way that, when I teach my love class on campus, all the faculty members giggle and poke me as I walk down the campus and say, "Hey, donít you have a lab on Saturday?"  I assure them that I donít.

Iíd like to give you a little background about how I got started with this idea of love in the classroom.  About five years ago I was interviewed by our Dean at the School of Education.  Heís a very official man, sitting behind a great big desk.  I had just left the job as Director of Special Education in a large school district in California, having decided that I just wasnít an administrator, I was a teacher and that I wanted to get back to the classroom.  I sat down and he said, "Buscaglia, what do you want to be doing in five years?"  I immediately, without hesitation, said, "Iíd like to be teaching a class in love."  There was a pause, a silence, just like you are doing right now.  Then he cleared his throat and said, "And what else?"

Two years later I was teaching such a class.  I had twenty students.  I now have 200 students with a waiting list of 600.  The last time we opened the class, it was full within the first twenty minutes of the registration period.  It shows you what kind of enthusiasm and excitement there is for a class in love.

It always amazes me the every time the Educational Policyís Commission meets to decide the goals of American education, the first goal is always self-realization or self-actualization.  But I have yet to find a class from elementary school right on up through graduate school on, for instance, "Who am I?, 1A;" or, "What Am I Here For?, 1A;" or "What Is My Responsibility to Man, 1A;" or, if you will, "Love, 1A." As far as I know, we are the only school in the country, and possibly the world, which has a listing called, "Love, 1A," and I am the only professor crazy enough to teach it.

I donít teach this class.  I learn in it.  We get together on a great big rug and sit down and rap for two hours.  It usually goes on into the night but we get involved for at least the formal two hours and share our knowledge, the thesis being that love is learned.  Psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists have told us for years that love is learned.  It isnít something that just happens spontaneously.  I think we believe it is, and thatís why we have so many hang-ups when it comes to human relationships.  Yet, who teaches us how to love?  For one, the society in which we live, and that certainly varies.  Our parents have taught us how to love.  They are our first teachers, but they arenít always the best teachers.  We may expect our parents to be perfect.  Children always grow up expecting their parents to be perfect and then are very disappointed and disillusioned and really angered when they find out that these poor human beings are not.

Maybe the point of arriving at adulthood is facing these two people, this man and this woman, and seeing them as ordinary human beings like ourselves, with hang-ups, with misconceptions, with tenderness, with joy, with sorrow, and with tears, accepting that they are just human beings.  And the big thing is that if we have learned love from these people and from this society, we can unlearn it and relearn it; therefore, there is tremendous hope.

There is tremendous hope for all of us, but somewhere along the line youíve got to learn to love.  I think many of these things are inside of us, and nothing that Iím going to say to you is going to be startlingly new.  What you are going to find is that somebody is going to have nerve enough to stand up and say it, and maybe, therefore, release it in you so you can say, "Thatís the way I feel, too, and is it so wrong to feel this way?"

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I am often accused of being childish.  I prefer to interpret that as child-like.
I still get wildly enthusiastic about little things.  I tend to exaggerate and
fantasize and embellish.  I still listen to instinctual urges.  I play with leaves.
I skip down the street and run against the wind.  I never water my garden
without soaking myself.  It has been after such times of joy that I have
achieved my greatest creativity and produced my best work.

Leo Buscaglia



Other People's Rights

I was eating breakfast at a restaurant recently when I was forced to listen to another man doing business--rather loudly--on his cell phone.  I was forced.  I had no choice but to listen, for the man didn't give me any choice at all.  It was very unpleasant listening to his stressful call while I was trying to relax and start my day in a positive way.  I wanted to go up to him and tell him that since none of the other diners went to his office to eat their breakfast, it really was unfair of him to do his business in a place where they were trying to eat breakfast.

Possibly more upsetting than actually having to listen to half of his conversation, though, was the fact that this man obviously had no respect at all for the rights and needs of the other people in the restaurant.  To him, all that mattered was what he wanted to do, and the other people there didn't ever enter into his thoughts as to whether the time and the place was appropriate for what he was doing.  And yes, other patrons were upset and annoyed, but there really was nothing they could do.

I never want to be that kind of person.

I want my first thought when I'm making decisions about what I'm going to do to be, "How will this affect other people?"  And it doesn't matter if I'm considering the people around me at the moment or the people who will be affected later in some way.  The important thing is that I contribute to the world and the people around me in positive ways because there's a great, great need for positive influences in this world.


Let us be kinder to one another.

Aldous Huxley's last words

My wife and I were walking to the store yesterday when we saw a man throw a cigarette butt to the ground.  He was sitting on a bench, only a few feet from an outdoor ash tray, yet he chose to litter.  A few hours later, I saw a woman smoking outdoors.  She reached down into a large planter with her cigarette and extinguished it, then she wrapped the extinguished butt in a tissue and put it into her pocket.  It was nice to see that she did care about what happened to her litter, and that she wasn't willing to leave her litter on the street for someone else to have to deal with.

I grew up in a family with several smokers.  All through my childhood, I was exposed to cigarette smoke in spite of the fact that it had been proved that the smoke was dangerous to me.  In such a case, the fact that I had a right to clean air was almost secondary--I had a physiological need for clean air.  Yet the people who made the decision over and over to smoke in places where non-smokers also had to be simply disregarded my rights and my needs.

We need clean and healthy environments in which to live.  A dirty, littered place isn't a positive part of anyone's life.  We may get used to it, but it never makes us feel good; it never helps us to appreciate life.  Sometimes, it can even be quite detrimental to our attempts to live full and happy lives.  If an environment isn't clean, it can even host diseases that can make us sick or even kill us in extreme circumstance.

When I decide not to litter, I'm also deciding to respect the rights of other human beings to an environment that is clean and healthy.  I'm saving my locality money by not forcing someone else to clean up after me.  In other words, I'm contributing in a positive way to the world simply by choosing what I'm not going to do.

The worst sin towards our fellow creatures
is not to hate them, but to be indifferent
to them:  that's the essence of inhumanity.

George Bernard Shaw

Many people--especially young people--seem to have a hard time understanding other people's right to quiet.  My wife and I worked as camp hosts at a small campground for one summer, and we were only a bit surprised to see just how many people were willing to stay up very late at night talking and laughing around the campfire, even though they were literally surrounded by the darkened tents of other people who were trying to sleep.  I can understand the positive feeling of companionship and enjoying other people's companies, but if we want to respect the rights of others, then it's important that we recognize that there's a time and a place for everything.  My wife and I had to spend a lot of time reminding people that quiet hours had started at ten because people simply weren't willing to respect those hours.  They wanted to do what they wanted to do, and all of the other people who were affected by their actions simply didn't matter to them.

Many people know that the law of Karma eventually will cause some sort of return to the folks who don't respect the rights of others, but it's a shame that we even have to think of such a thing.  It would be great if everyone were to think about the rights of others when they're deciding which actions to take in their own lives.  If I do something that has awful results in the lives of others, I can be sure that life will return my action to me in some way.  But what would life be like if our understanding of Karma were to be limited to the positive returns that life would provide because we only shared positive thoughts, words, and actions with our fellow humans and the other living beings on this planet?

It is the individual who is not interested in his or
her fellow people who has the greatest difficulties in
life and and provides the greatest injury to others.  It is
from among such individuals that all human failures spring.

Alfred Adler

We should not, of course, make decision about what we do and do not do simply because of what we think we'll get back.  Our decisions should be made based on whether what we're doing is respecting the rights and needs of others.  Life, after all, is a cooperative effort, and the better we treat our fellow human beings, the more we respect them and their rights, the more positive and loving and compassionate is this world going to be.  It's a very simple principal that's important for all of us to realize if we're going to give to the world in positive ways.

More on expectations.



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It's not what we eat but what we digest that makes us strong; not what we gain but what we save that makes us rich; not what we read but what we remember that makes us learned; and not what we profess but what we practice that gives us integrity.

Francis Bacon

There is no one lonelier or more unhappy than a person who does not know the pure joy of creating a life for himself or herself.  To be human is not merely to stand erect and manifest intelligence or knowledge.  To be human in the full sense of the word is to lead a creative life.

The struggle to create new life from within is a truly wonderful thing.  There is found the brilliant wisdom that guides and directs the workings of reason, the light of insight that penetrates the farthest reaches of the universe, the undaunted will to see justice done that meets and challenges all the assaults of evil, the spirit of unbounded care that embraces all who suffer.  When these are fused with that energy of compassion that pours forth from the deepest sources of cosmic life, an ecstatic rhythm arises to color the lives of all people.

Daisaku Ikeda
Buddhism Day by Day


It is not time or opportunity that is to determine intimacy;óit is disposition
alone. Seven years would be insufficient to make some people acquainted
with each other, and seven days are more than enough for others.

Jane Austen




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