The Elephant in the Room Chronicles

Curb your Enthusiasm

In Uncategorized on May 29, 2018 at 8:21 pm

Some time ago the creators and writers of the Jerry Seinfeld show had their own series the lesson of which is worth re-examining.  It was a show that for many was unsettling to watch mostly because it rubbed reality in your face.  Because we do not like reality we don’t like having it rubbed in our face.

The reality is that the universe is all about entropy, it goes from order to disorder, from organization to chaos and from concentrated energy to the dissipation of it.  In this reality, at the best of times, it is extremely difficult to create and hang onto what one would consider quality in life.  No sooner than you get it the forces of the universe, the laws of nature, go to dissipating it.

When we engage in unbridled enthusiasm, in extreme platitudes, in exuberant positivism we inadvertently aid and abet the law of entropy.  We do this because the unwarranted enthusiasm also comes with its equal counterpart – extreme negativism.  Fantastic and awesome very easily becomes terrible and loathsome.  If you are willing to pay the price and put at unnecessary risk the little quality of life that is available to you, as the saying goes, fill your boots.

If you are prone to not curbing your enthusiasm this may just be strategy for rectifying this rather maladaptive practice.

Curbing your enthusiasm is a Zen approach to life and as such nothing new.  What is new is the distortion to which western cultures, primarily the USA and Canada, has subjugated the very useful approach of positive thinking.  It was intended and it works best when applied to solving a problem.  It is a complete misuse of it when it is used to deny the existence of a problem, or reality.

The practice of Zen requires, extremes to be avoided and “let’s see what happens” attitude embraced.  From this perspective happy and negative events are considered as equal possibilities in any series of events.  It is therefore best not to make too much of one or the other.

When the Zen master wins the lucky jackpot the reaction is a ‘curbed’ one expressed as “we will see”.  Similarly when the Zen master experience, an unhappy event the reaction also is a “we will see” attitude.  Then Zen premise being that the moderated reaction is more likely to preserve quality of life than the alternative unbridled enthusiasm and its opposite abject despair.

While bad times do not last forever neither do the good quality of life times.  I for one am not willing to aid entropy especially since it is so pervasively effect on its own.

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Free Will An ancient idea that should be updated

In Uncategorized on May 9, 2018 at 9:01 pm

The Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder chronicled in Sophie’s World the history of philosophy.  In this seminal work the evolution of though, as for example explanations of natural events, reflects the state of knowledge at a given time.  Thunder and lightning were believed to be the workings of gods as storms at sea and the eruption of volcanoes.  These beliefs have long gone by the wayside but some stubbornly persist.  The religious notion of free will is one such idea that served well at the time but no longer.  It served well simply because the evolution of thought was in its infancy, deities were personified in terms of having human like appearances and characteristics and emotions such as anger, granting favours and giving gifts such as free will.

In the Grand Inquisitor passage of Dostoevsky’s novel, The Brothers Karamazov, free will is characterized as an ill conceived gift to a weak and cowardly men kind.  God inspite of knowing better than to trust humanity with free will gives it to test us.  A test which we miserably fail almost each and every time.  In the passage, the Grand Inquisitor advocates for a paternalistic subjugation of humanity essentially through the power of the Spansih Inquisition’s reign of terror.  Without such a ‘fear of god’ the Grand Inquisitor lements about the rise of heretics such as the German cleric Martin Luther, expecting more to come if free will is allowed to prevail.

So from the Grand Inquisitors perspective free will is a detrimental gift from god and as such a big mistake that has to be rectified.  And he is just the person to do it.  But what if the mistake is not god’s but how he interprets or explains human behaviour that is most often troublesome.

To begin, the concept of a deity is inconsistent with making a mistake.  Since a deity cannot make a mistake there is no need for the deity to meddle in the lives of people or for that fact how the universe unfolds.

Accepting this premise the next quandary is how else could men kind had been created accept unencumbered by interference from the said deity.  This very same premise holds for those who subscribe to evolution.

Somehow, somewhere, an entity, without beginning or end at some stage initiated a process the current result of which is what we have today.  To say the least, what we know about our planet and the universe is that it is in a constant state of dynamic, flux.  Things happen.  Sometimes seemingly chaotic and at other times according to the laws of nature.  Whatever form events take they occur without interference.  To interfere would amount to fixing something or a change of mind about something both of which are inconsistent with the common characterization of an omnipotent deity.

Instead of being gifted a free will what if it is nothing more than a reality of being human in the ever changing world in which we live.  In other words, we have options and choices.  The choices we make as infants are vastly different from the choices we make as ‘fully’ developmentally actualized adults.  Nevertheless they are choices and we make them because at the time we consider them to be the right ones to make.

Instead of free will being gifted to humanity perhaps the greatest gift is the innate potential with which each individual is born.  As gracious recipients of the gift of potential perhaps our responsibility, perhaps even the reason for living, is to fully actualize the development of this potential.  As in the parable of financial gift to two sons the one who makes constructive use of it is far more pleasing to the the father than the one who buries it to save it.  Although in this context there is no father to please only a responsibility to act upon.

Are we not squandering the gift of potential when we stubbornly hang on to the personification of one or more deity and make attributions that are human like?  Are we not similarly squandering this gift of potential when we hang on to an outdated unsophisticated idea of free will, pleasing or not pleasing a deity and thereby garnering or not favours?  Is the Grand Inquisitor not blatantly obstructing the gift of potential by striving to curtail it through subjugation and fear of both god and church?

Is the Grand Inquisitor’s characterization of humanity as weak and cowardly nothing more than a description of humanity stuck at the earliest stages of development? Unwittingly does he not want to keep them there under his control?

To ask such questions requires use of that gift of potential.  It requires pursuing and employing increasingly more sophisticated ways of reasoning.  It requires abandoning child like notions of abilities which we don’t have and accepting our profound limitations to understand the infinite force (deity) that is the universe.  To resort to having fate, also is tantamount to squandering that gift that makes us uniquely human.  Relying on faith was acceptable once when we did not know better.  We do now and the time is long overdue to pursue what really matters.  Certainly not wealth.  Certainly not more technologically advanced gadgets (self driving cars indeed).  It is time for us to recognize and honour the gift that makes us human and pursue with the greatest of vigour the actualization of our developmental potential.  Our very survival probably depends on it.

It’s time to set the record straight

In Uncategorized on May 2, 2018 at 9:14 pm

There was a time when any publicity good or bad was considered to be desirable.  Details quickly get forgotten, original sources become lost and all that was remembered was your name in the media.  All that has changed with the advent of the internet.  Incomplete, unflattering, indeed harmful information can live forever, on the world wide web and those so inclined will dredge it up, regardless from what depth and use it with malice against you.

No excuse would justify a lapse of judgment on my part when I failed to produce a standard memorandum of agreement to be read and signed by an assessment subject.  I relied on a verbal explanation of what was to be done, my qualifications for doing it and what tools were to be used to inform the process.

The results did nor favour not vindicate the assessment subject.  Instead of attacking the message, as to be predicted from the assessment, the subject attacked the messenger.

The attack was visceral on several fronts.  One included allegations of misrepresenting my professional affiliation, the other challenging my authority to use assessment tools and the third accessing not the results but the actual questionnaires on which the results, in part, were based.

The battle became one of professional territory.  The College of Psychologists took the position that since my orientation interview did not specify my discipline (which it did verbally) it was reasonable for the assessment subject to assume that I am a psychologist although there is no such assertion in any of my materials or resume.  Nevertheless inspite of being fully cognizant of such a potential attack, I failed to produce the memorandum of agreement during the assessment orientation interview.  I accepted the responsibility and reluctantly agreed to a web posting that specifies that I am not a psychologist.  Curiously other disciplines did not line up to demand that I similarly specify that I am not a psychiatrist, physiotherapists, pastor or in fact neither tinker of pans nor tailor of pants.

In my memorandum of agreement I specify my discipline to be social work and in my resume list degrees and affiliations with the profession.  But I lacked the signed document and there is no excuse for that.  While I have developed past the need for reference group affiliation I do understand the need for professional regulation and became a college member when it was created through legislation.

During the acrimonious process the College of Social Workers did assert that professional social workers can, do and should use standardized questionnaires (what some misinformed people call psychological tests)  as long as they have the training and experience to do so.  Since I have both this became a non issue.

Last but not least the office of the privacy commissioner ruled that indeed questionnaires (tests) are proprietary and closely controlled tools in order to maintain their validity.  Only qualified professionals are allowed to access them.

While the bad taste of a lapse of judgment, because of the internet, lingers for some thirteen years, the only constellation is that the characterization of the assessment subject complainant was and remains the same.