Archive for October, 2014

This morning, gentle reader, I invite you to join me and consider several of the S.P.E.C.I.E.S. seven dimensions. As a reminder the seven dimensions are: Spiritual, Physical, Emotional, Cultural, Intellectual, Environmental, and Social.

Before we explore each dimension it is important for me to note that each dimension powerfully affects the others, especially when it comes to depletion. Significant depletion in one dimension negatively affects all of the other dimensions. Significant depletion in more than one dimension can have a monumentally negative effect on the human SPECIES.

Spiritual – for some Spirit resonates more powerfully. For me, both indicate that there is a life force that sustains us, a life force beyond our senses and comprehension. Paradoxically, it also resides within each of us, with in our relationships and within our communities (in our culture, for example, we speak of ‘team spirit’). We nurture ourselves spiritually or we nurture our spirit and we also deplete ourselves spiritually or we deplete our spirit. If we pause and reflect, most of us have our favorite ways of both nurturing and depleting ourselves spiritually or of nurturing and depleting our spirit. Consider that ‘religions’ in and of themselves do not necessarily nurture us spiritually or nurture our spirit (when ‘misused’ they will dramatically deplete both – as history, ancient and contemporary, reminds us). Our spirit is complemented by and supports and is supported by our Physical Dimension for we are both Spirit(ual) and Physical in our nature.

Physical – we are, obviously, physical beings. As a Species we are entrusted with our physical well-being. We nurture and deplete our physical dimension. Historically, a Big Question was – and continues to be – ‘Are We Our Brother’s Keeper?’ Within the past two decades there has been more and more research that continues to indicate that we are, by nature, an empathetic and caring Species (we are not inherently competitive). It seems it is easier for us to view our individual physical well-being as crucial, than it is to view the physical well-being of our Species as also being crucial. In our culture, for example, we still have not collectively committed to ensuring that each person has access to adequate health care and as a Species we suffer. As a Species we continue to make decisions that put our Species in harm’s way when it comes to our physical well-being. Our continued commitment to depletion affects us spiritually – affects our spirit – affects us physically and affects us emotionally.

Emotional – we are, by nature, an ‘emotional species.’ We like to think that we are ‘rational’ yet research continues to reveal that we are rooted in our emotions and that our emotions ‘take the lead’ in decision-making (we use our rational capabilities to justify our emotionally-based decisions). I can see a certain person who was getting angrier and angrier with me as I invited him to consider this idea (he was, of course, leading with his emotions). For example, in our culture we tend to elect our leaders based upon our emotional response to a candidate – we couch our choice in ‘reasonable language’ but prick the ‘reasonable’ a bit and the emotion comes spilling out.

As a Species our Spiritual (Spirit), Physical and Emotional well-being are intimately interconnected and interdependent. As we will consider next time, they powerfully affect and are powerfully affected by the other four dimensions that together with these three make up the seven dimensions of our SPECIES.

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SPECIES = for example, the human race.

There are any number of questions that might emerge as one considers the concept of the SPECIES that is the human race. Here is one that I have been holding for some time: What are the specific capabilities that are needed to enhance health and to ensure that there is a universal respect for human dignity – for more nurturance and less depletion of the SPECIES?

In response to this question, the Care Ethics Philosopher, Martha Nussbaum suggests a list of attainable human capabilities that we should see as normative (note the words ‘attainable’ and ‘normative’). They are:
1. Being able to live a normal length of lifespan
2. Having good health
3. Maintain bodily integrity
4. Being able to use senses, imagination and think
5. Having emotions and emotional attachments
6. Possess practical reason to form a conception of the good
7. Have social affiliations that are meaningful and respectful
8. Express concern for other species
9. Be able to play
10. Have control over one’s material and political environment

‘Normative’ – This is Martha Nussbaum’s list that she considers to be the ‘standard,’ the ‘norm.’ In addition, some of these might not be ‘attainable’ – given how terms are defined – and some might not be ‘attainable’ given a particular society, but the list does remind us that human life has a whole set of dimensions – all of which are components of what we should see as nurturing health and human dignity in a broad sense. We might not be able to save all the folks in the life boat but we can certainly build better and larger life boats so they would have the capacity to carry more people and more supplies.

Today, gentle reader, I am considering SPECIES in a different way; I am considering S.P.E.C.I.E.S. I am considering that the health of the human SPECIES contains seven dimensions that can be discerned in the acronym: S.P.E.C.I.E.S. I invite you to consider along with me.

CONSIDER: S.P.E.C.I.E.S. This concept contains seven dimensions that help determine the health or dis-ease of the human species as these dimensions help frame the species known as ‘human beings.’

The first ‘S’ is the Spiritual dimension; for some it is ‘Spirit’ – the ‘life breath’ which sustains us.

The ‘P’ is the Physical dimension.

The first ‘E’ is the Emotional dimension.

The ‘C’ is the Cultural dimension.

The ‘I’ is the Intellectual dimension.

The second ‘E’ is the Environmental dimension.

And, the second ‘S’ is the Social dimension.

As a species we humans are charged with – entrusted with, if you will – the challenge and obligation to nurture each of these dimensions more than deplete them. Of course, as human beings we are, by nature, imperfect, and so we will choose depletion at times even when we know we are doing so (part of the reason we make this choice, it seems to me, is that we are full of hubris which leads us to believe that we can fix it after we deplete it).

The health of these species dimensions requires that we cooperate with one another; we are truly ‘in this together’ and we are truly ‘interdependent’ (no one part of the whole species can ensure the health of the species – however, one part can ensure the depletion of all).

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The age in which we live is one of extraordinary changes. Although we ‘live the changes’ we do not know, or we are not aware of the depth and breadth of their impact upon us individually and collectively.

We can say, with some confidence, that since we have recorded our history that every age is an age of change. We can also say, again with some confidence, that a particular age more than another will be remembered as a significant turning point in history.

What characterizes our present age is that it is probably going to be one of those milestone ages, if for no other reason than it is the age where change accelerated from a slow walk to near light speed.

How fast is change occurring? The rate of change is so fast that before we can become effectively adjusted to one change, another has emerged fully grown and stresses our coping and adaptive abilities even more. Does this rapid change affect all of us in the same way? No! We ‘elders’ have the challenge of developing more fully our coping and adaptive skills (which we do, at times, with great reluctance or is it resistance). For those who are one or two generations removed from us elders it seems easier for them to adjust because for them ‘this is the way life is.’ I suppose that historically this has always been so – one generation must cope and adapt and adjust and for the following one ‘this is just the way life is.’ I am recalling that my parents had to cope, adapt and adjust and yet theirs pales in comparison to the extent we elders are now having to do so (or so it seems to me). My adult children (in their mid-thirties) are much better at all of this than I am and yet they are not as good as those in their teens and even they are not as good as the pre-teens.

With continuous change – slow or rapid – our human capacities for coping, adapting, adjusting, innovating, and creating (evolving, if you will) are increasing; our potential for developing seems endless. Consider, gentle reader, that within the last fifteen years scientific and technologic knowledge has progressed both quantitatively and qualitatively more than they did between the ages of Archimedes [c. 287 BC – c. 212 BC] an Ancient Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor, and astronomer and Einstein [14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955] a German-born theoretical physicist and philosopher of science of some note.

For ‘first-world nations’ the increase in the speed of change has enabled us to also increase our ability to produce (in order to meet our needs, wants, desires and wishes). We have also increased our desire to consume and to dominate (especially to attempt to dominate ‘nature’). We have also developed more fully our capacity for destruction (both self and the other).

We have indeed learned more from science and technology than ever before. It also appears as if both will continue to develop more rapidly with each passing year. I pause. . . I ask: Have we also developed a greater capacity when it comes to understanding ourselves? Have we developed a greater capacity to control our ‘wants,’ ‘desires,’ and ‘wishes’ – which also seem to be increasing?

With our continuous increasing in our ability to know and do, I wonder if we are developing a corollary ability/capacity for ‘being’? Do we even see a need to develop our ‘beingness’ more fully? When I think about the major metaphors that frame our life I think ‘not so much.’ Our major cultural metaphors are inorganic – primarily banking metaphors – not organic. The implications for me-you-us are enormous. . .or so it seems to me.

How about you, gentle reader, how do you view ‘The Age in Which We Live’?

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“Finally, everybody agrees that no one pursuit can be successfully followed by a man who is preoccupied with many things—eloquence cannot, nor the liberal studies—since the mind, when distracted, takes in nothing very deeply, but rejects everything that is, as it were, crammed into it. There is nothing the busy man is less busied with than living: there is nothing that is harder to learn.” –Seneca

Sometime around 60 A.D. the great Stoic philosopher, Seneca, wrote these words; they still speak wisdom to us who are willing to listen. They also continue to be a judgment for us living today. Recently I noted in one of my postings that the great Czech author, Milan Kundera, coined the term: ‘Hurry Sickness.’ It is an apt description for the syndrome that many of us in our culture are addicted to. In 1971, the theologian Wayne Oates coined the term ‘workaholic.’ This is also an apt description for the syndrome that many of us in our culture are addicted to.

Consider, if you will gentle reader, that another addiction, ‘Busyness,’ is a container that holds both ‘Hurry Sickness’ and ‘Workaholic.’ ‘Busyness’ is difficult to ‘treat’, just as difficult – if not more so – than drug addiction or alcoholism. Why? Because in our culture ‘keeping busy’ and ‘working hard’ are two powerful stimulants, values and benchmarks that we use to judge one another. ‘Busyness’ is socially approved, honored and rewarded. We flaunt our ‘being so busy’ to one another as we would a badge of honor. We often ‘treat’ our addiction to ‘Busyness’ with other addictions: caffeine, sugar, the now popular ‘energy drinks,’ and legal and illegal drugs of all types.

We treat the symptoms that emerge as if they are the dis-ease themselves: distress, high anxiety, exhaustion, the ever popular ‘burn-out,’ headaches, neck aches, back aches and insomnia (to name a few). We have our triple by-pass surgeries and rely on prescription drugs to keep us from heart attacks and strokes.

As technology continues to evolve, it continues to support and feed our busyness addiction. Among other things, technology feeds our addiction to speed which is directly connected to our ‘Busyness’ addiction. We continue to become more and more impatient – with ourselves and with others and with ‘things’ – how many times have we seen folks standing in an elevator impatiently attacking the up or down buttons (most elevator doors are programmed to close within 7 to 10 seconds; we can’t even be patient for 10 seconds). During the learning sessions I guide, we practice engaging periods of quiet for reflection. Initially many folks show signs of impatience within 3-4 minutes of being quiet.

Now I admit that some of our addiction to ‘Busyness’ is motivated by externals (think, job demands or our ‘need’ to multi-task for we have so many things to do at the same time). However, my experience – with myself and as I have spent time with others – is that our addiction is fed more by the ‘in here’ than in the ‘out there.’

What am I choosing to do that nurtures me – Physically, Intellectually, Emotionally, and Spiritually (or, for some, ‘my spirit’ – the life breath that sustains me)? Who am I, really? Who am I when I stop being ‘busy’? Why am I here (literally, ‘here in this place at this time’ and philosophically, ‘Why do I exist?’). How will my addiction to ‘Busyness’ serve me and others in 50 years or in 100 years? These are some of the ‘in here’ questions that might help us as we strive to find the ‘in here’ motivation to give up our addiction to ‘Busyness.’ On the other hand, it might be easier to have our triple by-pass surgery than it is to give up our addiction. As always, we have choice.

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