Some People You Know Are Insane

A man needs a little madness, or else he never dares cut the rope and be free.
– Nikos Kazantzakis, writer (1883-1957)

When I was a child there were sane people, of which I and everyone I was allowed to meet were a part, insane people who remained in institutions (insane asylums) so that they didn’t do anything that others might object to, and a nebulous category of people who spent time in “mental hospitals” but were allowed to visit their relatives for short periods at home.

No one explained how that last category worked or why only the odd person we knew was in that group.

Almost everyone I knew was “sane.” We carried on our lives as if everyone was sane. We pretended that the “others” didn’t exist, except when they came to visit.

The discrepancy in my mind arose when I could understand the insane people who came to visit better than I could the supposedly sane people I knew. The fact that no one subsequently found the need to have me locked up is my sole concrete evidence that I belong in the world of the sane.

What and who can we deem truly sane any more? I don’t mean to seem ungrateful for my freedom. I am less than grateful for the freedom of many people I have had the misfortune to meet, as well as many I have only had the pleasure of seeing in action from a distance.

The Ontario Provincial Police estimate that at any time of any day there will be between one and three people driving while legally drunk on the 40 km stretch of highway that passes near our home. Considering that it’s a lonely chunk of road on which maybe only 50 cars at most would be driving at the busiest time (usually fewer than 20), that’s a big number of accidents waiting to happen. That’s all day, every day.

In our rural municipality we have no trash pickup. Spend ten minutes at our dump and you are bound to see at least one person who throws trash in the recycling or recyclable materials in with the trash. Within 15 minutes you will hear someone ask the attendant whether magazines go in with the paper and whether cardboard can be recycled (everyone can see four huge bins labelled CARDBOARD on entering the yard). The same people ask the same inane questions almost every time they visit the dump. That’s inane, we haven’t reached the stage of adding the “s” yet.

The absolute silliest people to visit the dump are those who come in $50,000 (and up) SUVs. They have important jobs in the city (Toronto) but they can’t figure out on their own that metal stuff goes with metal stuff, paper with paper and trash where the bears have gathered.

Once a week we buy groceries and other supplies. Apparently Tuesday, our normal shopping day, is “stupid day.” The college and university students are a joy to behold. You can see them learning the ropes of healthy shopping as they trip around the store. They, however, are the exceptions.

Older adults act as if there is no one else in the store. They stop their carts in the middle of the aisle, sometimes even turning them so no one else could possibly pass them, then traipse off to gaze at a shelf for some item they have been considering buying for the past several weeks. Being polite Canadians, we seldom ask the offending twit to move her cart, preferring instead to stand and wait until she moves on without prompting.

We can always see people buying lottery tickets. It thrills them to pieces when they win $2 or (heavens!) $10,000. It never occurs to them that they spent $20,000 to win that $10,000. Few, it seems, keep count of what they spend to win.

These examples may be seen by anyone in any community in the world, I would guess. Stupidity is a characteristic unique to humans. In other species, the stupid ones become lunch.

I am convinced that we use the word stupid to describe those whose behaviour outside of psychiatric hospitals strongly resembles that of the hospital inmates who aren’t allowed out on their own. What does sanity mean after all?One school of thought in psychiatry holds that no one is truly insane, that those we call insane have simply chosen to create fantasy lives for themselves that are distinctly different from the fantasy lives that those of us on the outside find too “different.” Different from the norms that have been established for us by the industries of our culture.

Insane people don’t usually wear makeup. Insane people don’t dress fashionably. Insane people don’t believe that money is the most important thing in their lives. They love to be touched and to have conversations, but they aren’t tolerant of others who talk about themselves and won’t let them tell their own stories. The rest of us accept that sane people talking about themselves without giving others a chance to have their share of air time is just a fact of life we have to put up with.

Insane people don’t worry about the things that sane people do. They have different priorities about what’s important. Their fears may be stronger than those of “normal people.” That may be a sham because sane people seldom admit their fears.

Insane people, when they get frustrated, retreat into a fantasy world that others can’t understand. Sane people simply blame others around them for what’s wrong and focus on dishing out the guilt, either silently or aloud. Sane people seldom blame themselves for anything. Divorce, for example, is a legal separation of two people who are innocent while the other is “guilty as hell.”

We in the “sane” world accept that people who do totally foolish things, who treat others in almost inhumane fashion, who would steal from their own mothers and sell their grandmothers if they could, who believe in the most outrageous things that they couldn’t support with evidence, are sane.

Insane people won’t do that. If something is wrong, they insist on telling others that it’s wrong. For heaven’s sake! Sane people don’t do that. We leave the responsibility for dealing with such things to our governments.

After all, governments don’t really represent anybody, so they should certainly be in charge of managing problems we can’t deal with ourselves.

It’s the only sane thing to do.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how sane people can easily and cheaply manage personal and community problems that governments have no idea or ability with.
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A Broken Heart Means A Better Person

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The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe.
– Joanna Macy, writer and teacher (1929- )

When I first read that quote I thought “Oh, No, another of those namby-pamby, wishy-washy, ‘the world’s a beautiful place’ kind of fluff stuff.”

Then I thought about people with broken hearts. That led inevitably to thinking about people whose hearts apparently had never broken.

That moved me to the startling conclusion that I have never met a person who has not suffered from a broken heart who I have liked. They’re cold, unfeeling. They care little for anyone else, unless the other person can do something to help them or because it’s their duty and it will make them look good.

As co-workers they aren’t much fun, unless you want to retire to a pub after work. They usually have a ready supply of jokes or insults to sling around about people who are having problems. You can’t learn much from them because they don’t care enough to teach anyone else.

While they pride themselves on their parenting skills, it’s not much fun to be their child because they have no idea what a child needs. They do know how to structure family life so they visit the theme parks and drive SUVs and the kids know how to behave because they’re painful to be around when they bitch about the kid not being well mannered.

People whose hearts have been broken open–usually more than once–so they’re never sure they will be able to piece their lives back together again, they care about others. They’re sometimes painful to be around too because they want others to avoid having their hearts broken (little knowing how counter-productive that is to building stability and sensitivity in young people). But they care and they show it.

They’re usually much loved as parents because they know–perhaps their most important and endearing characteristic–how much those they love need to be touched. Touch is a basic human need, though not one well publicized. Those whose hearts have been broken want to hold their loved ones near, which while being awkward sometimes lets their loved ones know how much they are loved.

People whose hearts have been broken are better listeners, especially to others who have problems. They have been there and know that often just listening is the best form of comforting for someone in great need.

They need to be learners more than those whose hearts have never been broken. Rock-hearted people believe they already know as much as they need to know, find learning from someone else humiliating, believe that nothing is true unless it conforms to their personal life experience.

Those whose hearts have been broken know they will never know enough. They know they didn’t know enough to prevent their heart from being broken, so they had better learn more. They never learn the secret (and they shouldn’t) but they learn a great deal more along the way.

Broken hearted people know how to trust, even if it hurts them. Rock hearts never trust anyone fully, which makes them shallow people.

Heart-healed people know how to smile in such a way that they convey both that they feel good and that they want others to share what they feel. They appreciate being happy because they know it never lasts. They also eventually learn that unhappiness never lasts. Life is a cycle of ups and downs and the survivors live it more fully.

The survivors share more of themselves and what they have. They share their love with family and loved ones, but also with strangers, homeless people, lost children, dying aunts, co-workers who are “suddenly single.”

Heartbreak survivors learn that emotions work like a pendulum, the farther they swing to the negative, the greater the potential they have for their emotions to swing the same distance toward happiness, peace and contentment. Hard hearted people may not get angry much, but they don’t have the capacity to enjoy life to the fullest either. They believe that happiness can be bought with money and delight in the acquisition of it.

Those with unbroken hearts like to be bosses because they don’t have the ability to be sensitive to the things that common people enjoy and appreciate. They think they are whole people because they have no experience with being other than like rocks. They believe they are the smart ones and those who get their hearts broken are simply careless with their emotions, that are needless anyway.

People with cobbled-together hearts know how to live whole lives, something they discover before they find themselves at the end of it. Some of the rock hearts never learn that and secretly die with the intention of returning to earth and finding a way to take their money with them wherever they go. It’s all they really have.

I find it easy to like people whose heart has been broken. We share much in common, including our ability to survive. I wouldn’t care if I never met people whose heart has never been broken.

Have you ever wondered about why some kids are so very different from other kids? It’s not just their natures. Part of it is that some kids have never had their hearts broken (yet) so they act like the child version of adult rock hearts. A broken heart is not something you wish on a child, but it makes them different people who live different lives because of it.

Life changes when you get your heart broken. It’s a tough experience, but no one ever promised us that life would be grand. At least they shouldn’t have because it’s not. We grow when we survive the worst that life has to throw at us.

People whose hearts have been broken have a greater capacity for life. But you could never convince the rock hearts of that.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to grow better and stronger people after their hearts have been broken.
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Microsoft, What Have You Done?

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“The number one benefit of information technology is that it empowers people to do what they want to do. It lets people be creative. It lets people be productive. It lets people learn things they didn’t think they could learn before, and so in a sense it is all about potential.”
– Steve Ballmer (Microsoft CEO)

The world is always a beautiful and interesting place when we hear from the gods of Microsoft. To listen to them, you would think they made it.

Do you feel empowered to do what you want to do? In terms of learning what I could not before, I certainly benefit from the age of information technology. But do what I want to do? People, not technology, stand in the way of that because they don’t make the technology do what I would like it to do.

Computers and the internet allow me to be creative in ways that were never before possible. As I have impaired fine motor skills (brain and fingers not on speaking terms) and mild dyslexia (usually involving interchanging of letters), writing with a pen or pencil would be extremely slow and discouraging. With a keyboard, Delete and the backspace key are among my favoured allies.

Those of us who use the internet frequently each day must commit devotedly to security measures. I spend approximately one-fifth of my time at the computer updating my anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-rootkit and various anti-rogue programs, then scanning with them. My updating and scanning time often equals the time I have to be creative and productive, Ballmer’s two biggies.

That 20 percent increases dramatically if I have a hardware failure, a spyware invasion (not likely, but it happens to others) or installation of bad (incompatible) software that just doesn’t want to go away.

No doubt I save a lot of trees every year because I don’t use a typewriter. No doubt I bear some responsibility for employees of white-out manufacturers not having jobs because I have nothing on paper to cover up.

Ballmer’s statement is the party line. It’s what we have been brainwashed to believe since the early days of personal computers. The truth of the statement is questionable in practice. Unless you have abundant Microsoft redundancy servers and computers to back you up so that you can switch from one keyboard to another within seconds. Unless, that is, you have redundant money.

The oldest generation among us cries that people don’t write letters any more, that young people can’t spell and their grammar is atrocious. All true. However, I feel certain that the percentage of adults who write something each day is many times higher than it was in grandpa’s day. Anyway, wasn’t it grandma who wrote most of the letters that grandpa took credit for?

We should have no doubt that the potential Ballmer spoke about is there for us. We have access to the best libraries in the world, online services that allow us to communicate with people around the world by voice or written word, forums that find us sharing ideas with others on six continents, and vacations we can take any day where we can see better photographs than most of us could take ourselves–and no lost luggage.

Like it or not, the electronic age is with us full force and likely forever.

A friend who is involved on the inside track with computers phoned today to ask if I had an account with a particular bank. He advises his clients to not use Outlook express for online bank services (such as money transfers), but even the special web services whose main purpose is online banking can be invaded.

Some accounts in the branch I deal with had been “tampered with” (other details were confidential and the bank publicly denied everything). The only way they could have been invaded (money removed improperly) was if the transaction information taking place between a user’s computer and the bank, using a secure service, were captured during the transaction, just as a phone line can be tapped.

Information technology has sped up the pace of the world we live in. Grandmas’s dress may be in style because that style has returned, but if she can’t receive text messages on her cell phone and upload pictures from the phone to YouTube or MySpace, she only looks fashionable.

The world and most every life in it is in constant change. We need to not only be physically ready for it, we need to be emotionally prepared to cope with it. It’s life today.

Privacy faded into history several years ago. Today almost everything about our life is public information. The average person who works in a city passes from 100 to 300 video cameras each day. Workplaces have hidden cameras “for security purposes.” Police cars have camcorders on their dashboards.

Let’s not forget little software programs that employers, parents and spouses can hide in a computer to track every web page, every keystroke, done by a computer. Maybe those six-year-old kids who are smarter than their parents with a computer can bypass kid-control software by installing a tracker program themselves to learn what daddy has been up to late at night. Whatever you do, don’t tell your kids they can’t do it.

Did you know that the Central Intelligence Agency and similar organizations in other countries monitor every email sent (software searching for keywords) and can pinpoint the exact computer that accessed a web site that appeals to terrorists, right down to the street, house and computer?

Being a crook simply isn’t safe any more. Although, organized crime can be seen less often on the streets now and more often with email and web site scams. Even the underground economy is more organized.

Yes, Messrs. Ballmer and Gates, you have given us much to think about.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how we can prepare our children for a future that is much different and much more complex than the world we grew up in.
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Mad Max Comes Closer To Reality

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“I think that our fundamental belief is that for us growth is a way of life and we have to grow at all times.”
– Mukesh Ambani, MD, Chairman Reliance Industries, India

The question that jumps to mind each time I read that quote is Why? Why do we believe that growth is a way of life? Why do we believe that we have to grow at all times?

Mr. Ambani is a wealthy man, an influential man in many aspects of the Indian social system. He got there by believing that Reliance (India’s largest private sector company and himself its largest shareholder) had to continue to grow. As if the preordained destiny of all corporations is to grow.

Worldcom had to grow. Enron had to grow. Quest had to grow. Exxon has to grow. Halliburton has to grow. These companies became frighteningly large, with startling influence on the political system of their home countries. They could make or break a president, for example.

Some, like Enron, didn’t make it because their growth was mostly in the minds of their top executives and shareholders. Others barely survived. Some can’t be stopped by currently accepted means.

There’s only one reason why growth is an absolute necessity for corporations. Greed. Shareholders don’t just want their share, they want more than their share. When shareholders make more profit than expected, they generously endow their top executives with compensation packages that annually rival what in the days of our grandparents constituted a remarkable lifetime of wealth accumulation.

We have seen recently how interconnected business is around the world today when some below-prime mortgages defaulted in some US banks and world stock markets quivered for a few days until the US Federal Reserve and other national banks adjusted their priorities to bring the markets back into line.

Most of us know what it’s like when we get to a bank or store to find that we can’t make a purchase or deposit or withdraw money from our accounts because “the system is down.” What if a hacker brought Microsoft to its knees? What if the New York Stock Exchange had to lock its doors because its computer systems and their redundant backups all went down together?

We tend to think of 9/11, when the World Trade Centers came down, as a colossal tragedy of unprecedented proportions. Yet from a business standpoint 9/11 was something that affected companies simply had to work around. What could have been worse would be a power loss that required rebuilding major infrastructure over a period of weeks or months.

I believe it will happen some day. A couple of years after 9/11 millions of people in northeastern US and central Canada went without power because of a glitch in a power grid in Ohio somewhere. It could have been worse. That required mostly a quick fix.

In my own remote community a year ago, a tornado did enough damage that it required several teams of electrical workers to get power restored to our cottage community within ten days. It would have taken a month if many residents hadn’t pitched in to help keep them supplied from morning until night.

That tornado didn’t strike New York, Tokyo or London. It struck a cottage community. The real damage it did was in the nearby wilderness where it levelled every tree in a half kilometer swath, two kilometers long. Millions of trees were wrenched out of the ground but nobody cared because no one lived there.

Life as we know it could change in a moment if we suddenly couldn’t buy food, couldn’t get water out of our taps, couldn’t fill our cars with fuel, couldn’t turn on our computers. What would change? Mad Max comes to mind. The crazy people who merely annoy or bully their victims today would use their guns to take from others what they need, without considering what those others might need.

Corporate greed has become a social norm–greed is now a personal and accepted norm for many people. When some big crunch arrives, the greedy bullies will become greedier and more aggressive. Some people always profit when the majority of people are in need.

We could focus more on people rather than making the greed of a few the social norm for everyone.

Mad Max was not just a 1979 Australian science fiction movie. It was a forecast of what life could be like in the future if we do not change the focus of our society from money to people. What did we do about it? Nothing. Road rage wasn’t a factor in 1979, though it was in the movie.

How many signposts do we need?

Corporate hacks call anyone who wants to make people more important than money a communist. But we aren’t, any more than they are fascists. Those are political labels people use to denigrate each other, to destroy their reputations.

Money’s not a bad thing. It only becomes bad when people use money as the driving force in their lives, when they make the acquisition of wealth the hallmark of success in their lives.

That’s the way it is now in the western world for many people. The people who make important decisions that affect the lives of every one of us.

Think long term. Choose carefully. Vote wisely.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to change society, for those who know what they want but don’t know how to do it. It’s easier than you think. Political spin doctors know these techniques already. So do those who train terrorists and suicide bombers. If you don’t, you will be their play dough.
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How Religious Moralists Are Destroying Us

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“The only question to ask yourself is, how much are you willing to sacrifice to achieve this success?”
– Larry Flynt, Hustler publisher and porn filmmaker

Larry Flynt came out of a background of poverty to make a success of himself, if wealth and notoriety are the hallmarks of success, as they are according to social leaders in the western world.

Hustler broke the morality barriers as the magazine outdid Playboy in providing what a great number of readers wanted most, bold views of naked female genitals. Mere coincidence caused much of the rest of the female bodies to appear in the magazine’s photos as well.

Flynt now makes fortunes serving up filmed sexual experiences tied loosely together by flimsy plots to audiences that are so ready to accept his offerings that even the highly rated Friends television show often had two or more of the characters gathering to watch “porn.”

Many people don’t like what Flynt does. The man can’t walk, is paralyzed below the waist because he took a bullet from some highly moral person who thought him better dead. The attempted murderer had many supporters among other highly moral people.

Is Larry Flynt a success or a despicable moral pervert? Either, depending on who you speak to.

What everyone seems to miss on this subject is the reason why Hustler and Flynt’s other enterprises have such huge audiences who always have money to spend to buy his products.

The explanation is that he provides something that people believe they need and want. You may disagree with that, but that changes nothing. The well known angst and rebellion of many teenagers have fundamentally the same cause. The young people want something they aren’t getting from the most important people in their lives. That’s usually nothing more or less than knowledge about their world.

But what exactly do they want? As a society we don’t know because we have readily adopted the hypocrisies we have been fed since the Victorian era (though they began hundreds of years earlier). Those hypocrisies require us to either deny truths or to keep them covered.

First of all, the people who want to kill someone who is immoral by their standards break one of the founding principles of those moral standards, that of not killing or wanting to kill another person.

While virtually all of these people would tell us that they believe that God created humans and that humans are God’s greatest creation, His most perfect of all perfection, they want our bodies covered because it’s apparently shameful to them. The irony (hypocrisy) of believing that God created perfection then their wanting to cover it because it is shameful totally escapes them.

We highly intelligent mammals may not all want to kill others of our own kind, but almost every one of us has a built-in hormonal urge to reproduce, considered by religions as a moral imperative and by evolutionists as the instinct to spread our genetic material for the survival of our species.

In order that we not copulate in brutal and insensitive ways, methods that have males treating females as nothing more than sexual objects, we need to learn how to have sexual experiences that both partners believe are enjoyable and respectful. Yet we forbid those members of our society who are approaching or at the peak of their reproductive potential from learning such information.

It’s “dirty.” It’s “lewd.” It may well be exactly in line with what the God these people worship has dictated in holy books and what their moral teachings say about treating others with respect and providing them with learning experiences, but they have decided that it’s wrong.

Teenagers who are gaining their own footing in the intellectual sphere of learning find this hypocrisy repulsive. They may not say so in so many words, but they show their revulsion by rebelling in other ways, transferring their displeasure with what they are being denied to the same culture of people who deny them their fundamental human rights.

Adults, who have almost no other ways of learning the information themselves, turn to pornography as the easiest way to learn. Can’t they learn from television and movies? Yes, but few people want to begin their sexual events by ripping each other’s clothes off, inhaling the skin off each other’s faces with their open-mouthed “kissing fish” kisses and thrashing around as if physical harm is a definite possibility. That’s not respectful, enjoyable or even realistic.

Our public access outlets for sexual information are nothing less than examples of insensitive and brutal events where film or tape can’t convey the true beauty of the experience so they resort to exaggerated acrobatics.

It’s time for us to grow up as a society. It’s time we acted like responsible adults who know what their children need instead of brain-impaired large children who let bullies with twisted senses of moral power dominate our lives, creating more problems for us than they ever solve and denying us basic human rights.

We live in a society where hypocritical bullies rule the roost. It’s time to tell them NO MORE! It’s time for us to take responsibility ourselves rather than let them feed us their retrogressive morality that gives them power and creates enormous social problems for the rest of us.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to make the right things happen and the wrong things disappear in our society.
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Worry: A Form of Slow Suicide

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“It makes no sense to worry about things you have no control
over because there’s nothing you can do about them, and why
worry about things you don’t control? The activity of worrying
keeps you immobilized.”
– Dr. Wayne Dyer

I confess to a bias in favour of the thinking of Wayne Dyer on many questions. He always bases his answers and propositions on the realities of human nature. Human thinking, without taking human nature into account, lacks a feeling of reality, such as ordinary folks may feel when reading philosophy.

Dr. Dyer focusses on worry in this quote. He could as easily have given his attention to anger, vengeance, self pity or self delusion about religious matters, all situations where people cause more harm to themselves than they receive as benefits.

Worry is a form of masochism, of harming ourselves without due cause. We always have an excuse for our worry, not a reason, though we believe it’s real. Our excuses are more often self pity than anything else.

Let’s take the example of a mother/wife worrying about the husband/son/daughter who is way past his/her expected time for arriving home. We all know there are thousands of reasons why people may be delayed. Some bear on bad judgment of choices about how to be responsible about getting home at an expected time or phoning to give a reason for the delay, but most are simply reasons beyond the control of the “late” party.

During the summer high season for tourists at the resort where my wife works, she usually leaves work at midnight. She drives alone along a highway that is known to have drunk drivers any day of the year. On a weekend night, the risk is greater. On any night she may encounter a deer, moose, bear, racoon or coyote on the road, among other possibilities, each of which have been known to conduct themselves inappropriately in the face of an oncoming vehicle.

Every night my wife works I have a valid reason to be concerned about her safety on the highway late at night. However, I could experience the same conditions in the daytime, myself, and think nothing of it. I think that if I wouldn’t be afraid of driving the highway then I should have confidence enough in my wife to drive it safely as well.

Confidence? Perhaps trust would be a better word. We all know that our trust could be betrayed by anyone and the worst kind of trust betrayal is by a loved one. But it happens. I would rather trust because I can live with trust much longer than I can live with worry.

When my wife gets home, she finds a happy (if sleepy) husband who is glad to see her home instead of a frazzled mess of a man who can’t keep his emotions under control.

If I worried, it would not be about the safety of my wife so much as how I would get along without her in the event of a fatal accident. That’s reality.

If we worry about our financial problems, they incapacitate us. Rather, we incapacitate ourselves since worry has never accomplished anything. Nothing ever got better because someone worried. Nothing ever got solved. No one ever felt more loved because someone worried about them–cared, yes, but not worry.

Worry is purely destructive. And we do it to ourselves. No one ever asks us to worry about them or about our problems. No one holds our head under water until we promise to worry. Worry is purely voluntary. We hurt ourselves.

How can we not worry about important matters? After all, some things we worry about may change our lives, always for the worse. They seldom do. Few of the things we worry about come to pass. Worry prevents us from doing anything about matters we have the ability to address. It immobilizes us, as Dr. Dyer said.

When we accept that worry is nothing more than a form of self pity, it becomes easier to shake the habit. No one wants to be thought of as harming themselves. That’s akin to suicide on the morality scale.

If you can’t do anything about it, don’t worry because it won’t likely happen anyway. If you can do something about it, get on with it. If a situation means that much to you, change it or change the conditions that create it.

Finally, worry could kill you. Like any strong emotion, worry compromises the immune system, causing it to fail when it’s needed most. It’s like sending your immune system into a gunfight with a pencil as a weapon. A compromised immune system leaves you open to attack from any kind of harmful microbe, especially those you wouldn’t have any trouble with if you were healthy.

People who worry are not healthy. Not physically, not emotionally.

No one can enjoy life when they worry.

Walkers claim that you can’t walk and worry at the same time. Instead of worrying, go for a walk. It’s good cardiovascular exercise, so you will be much healthier for it. And you will live longer and healthier.

Good thing I don’t worry when my wife drives home at night. There are too many bears out there on the dirt road in the forest where we live.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to get through your life safely and happily while banishing your problems. It works and the plan is embarrassingly cheap.
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How To Permanently Warp A Child’s Mind

You know that children are growing up when they start asking questions that have answers.
– John J. Plomp

Written as a joke, this statement tells much about the relationships of many parents and their young children.

All questions have answers. How a parent responds to a question to which he or she doesn’t have a ready answer that is generally acceptable to their community or is verifiably true will vary a great deal.

Some parents won’t answer the “questions without answers” at all. To a young child who is formulating a concept of the world around her, no answer is rejection of the child as an individual, robbing her of recognition as a person who has or will some day have a significant role to play in the society around her.

Others parents may say “nobody knows” when in fact someone may well know the answer to a question such as “Daddy, why is the sky blue?” Everyone on this planet lives under a blue sky, though the shade will differ from place to place. A child trying to understand her environment will want to know about what’s up there as well as what is underneath her feet.

An honest answer from such parents may be “Someone knows, but I’m too lazy to find out for you.” Whether the parent intends the child to understand this as the unspoken reply, that is what the child will conclude. A young child will have trouble believing that everyone lives under a blue sky and nobody knows why it’s blue. To a child, this would be inconceivable. Children believe that everyone wants to know about the world around them because that is what they inherently want themselves.

Some parents create fantasies as answers to questions to which they don’t know the real answers. These fantasies are not usually harmful to the child because most will accept as they get older that every culture has fantasies they use to explain complicated questions to young children. Fantasy concepts such as the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy create fun situations for kids so they tend to accept them under those conditions even when they cease to believe in them as realities. And they pass them along to their own children.

To a young child, is it wrong to explain thunder as angels bowling in the heavens? Thunder can sound very much like a bowling ball rolling down an alley. The parent relates a sound to one the child may understand, that of a bowling ball rolling over wood. However, attached onto that little story are the “throwaway” concepts of angels and heaven. They don’t mean much to an adult as part of a fantasy story, perhaps, but not so with a child.

As the child ages and is taught religious lessons about angels and heaven, the story about bowling angels seems ridiculous. But no more ridiculous than heaven’s streets being paved with gold when spirits have no need for either paved streets or the mineral that is valued only by mortal humans.

A few parents will know the answers to those questions that young children have. I am reminded of the joke about the parent whose young child asks about sex, whereupon the parent thinks the child must be more mature than he believes and undertakes to explain mammalian reproduction. At the end of the story, the child thanks the parent and says “Bobby asked me what sex our cat was and I didn’t know.”

A parent who doesn’t know the answer to a question posed by a young child has an obligation to find out and report back to the child. A parent who knows the answer must explain it in language the child can understand. That’s often a problem. Babies, for example, don’t use Baby Talk. Only adults do that. A parent who underestimates the ability of a child to comprehend an intellectual concept underestimates the potential of the child.

Young children spend almost all of their waking hours formulating concepts of the world around them. Adults, by comparison, do this very little. Many adults are more prepared to accept the explanation and conclusions of someone else (even a stranger) for a complicated question than to find out for themselves. That accounts for why we have so many stupid followers in our society who are prepared to believe almost anything if it’s told to them in an authoritative manner.
Young children understand concepts because it’s what they do. For the first six years of their lives, everything they experience is a component of what becomes their concept of what the world is all about.

Lie to a young child and the child will grow up to believe that lying is acceptable, especially if you don’t get caught. Strike the child unnecessarily and the child will understand that physical abuse of children is the way of the world. Sexually abuse a young child and you destroy any possibility that it will grow up to be a competent and confident individual adult who can stand with other more balanced adults as an equal.

Treat a young child with respect and the child will respect others as an adolescent and an adult. Teach a child what he needs to know and he will teach others, spreading the word exponentially.
Fail to teach a child what he needs to know before he needs it, such as how and why to avoid drugs and alcohol, and the best intentioned of parents may find themselves trying to raise a child that has become an addict.

Children don’t want to be ignorant. No young child wants to grow to be a social deviant. Every child wants to be respected, appreciated and treated as a member of the society (family) to which he or she belongs. The family is the child’s world and no child wants to be an ignorant member of that world.

If this is the kind of adult we want in our community, this is how we must treat our children. Teach right, teach good and teach peace.

If we want our children to be treated this way by their parents, we must teach young adults what they need to know before they become parents. This can be done by the education system with very few and inexpensive changes.

If you believe that this is the best way to make your community, your country, your world a better place to live, don’t let this message end when you reach the end of this article. Talk it up among your friends and relatives. Talk about it at work. Especially talk about it at Home and School and Parent-Teacher meetings.

This is what you can do to make a difference to the world. Change can only happen one conversation at a time.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to help people make significant changes to better their communities and their own lives.
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