DecidingToBeBetter is open to all
by Marshall Brain
DecidingToBeBetter membership is open to all. We will accept into our membership anyone who is willing to commit to the pursuit of the highest integrity and highly ethical behavior. What this means is that DecidingToBeBetter membership welcomes everyone:
The huge advantage of this type of diversity and openness is the fact that it gives you a chance to talk to, work with and hear the ideas of a wide variety of people, all of whom share a common interest in becoming better personally and making the world a better place.
- Both women and men are welcome in all DecidingToBeBetter communities and are completely equal in all repects.
- We are happy to welcome adult members of any age into DecidingToBeBetter.
- People of all races are welcome at DecidingToBeBetter.
- We do not care if you are Democrat or Republican, liberal, moderate or conservative, libertarian, or whatever. Every political stripe is welcome.
- We do not care if you are Atheist, Agnostic, Secular humanist, Christian, Muslim, Hindu or Navi. Membership is open to everyone.
- We are happy to welcome members of all sexual orientations. What happens between two consenting adults is their own business. We support the idea of marriage between any two consenting adults.
There is a book called "Finding Joy" by Dr. Charlotte Kasl that offers a perspective on the advantages of openness, tolerance and diversity.
It's fine to have beliefs and feel passionately about them so long as you remember that they are just beliefs and they are not necessarily right... When your self-identity and beliefs merge, differences feel threatening. You are likely to defend your turf, become righteous and angry, and possibly shame or abuse other people who see things differently. When people adopt a belief - be it about religion, politics, sex roles, or whatever - as the one, correct belief, their minds get locked up in a rigid box, and other people with differing beliefs are the enemy. And what do you do to the enemy? Abuse them, shame them, hate them or even kill them.
Thus there is not, and never shall be, a DecidingToBeBetter "extremist" or "fundamentalist". You cannot be an ethical person, a person of integrity, while screaming at someone else or killing someone else because they do not believe the same things you believe. It is impossible to be doing good works and making the world a better place while accusing half of the world of being idiots. There are better ways for humans to communicate.
This doesn't mean that you should put away your soap box if there is something important you want to say to the world. But if you know that "a belief is a belief is a belief" and it isn't necessarily so, you'll deliver your message in a way that more people can hear. And you will end up with a sense of humor. Righteous people are usually deadly serious. If you want an example, listen the the preachers on TV and wait for someone to laugh at himself or herself.
To feel joy is to have a capacity to hear others and be interested in their differences rather than to be afraid or threatened by them. This is part of being a mature person. We all have something to learn from others, be it about culture, religion, medicine, politics or sex roles. Imagine how our world would be different if all children were taught about different religions in the world as different belief systems. Muslims believe, Christians believe, Jehova's Witnesses believe, Pagans believe, Jews believe, Atheists believe. Imagine if all children were taught the different customs of different cultures and told that goodness is about tolerance, understanding, and compassion and that we can have love and respect for people who are different.
When I work with recovering Catholics or Fundamentalists who have been taught that their religion is the one and only right way, I try to help them understand that their beliefs feel true because they were indoctrinated very strongly at a very vulnerable age. "You'll burn in hell if you don't do it this way" is a strong incentive to a five-year-old to adopt a belief.
So listen to your beliefs, think about how you learned them, and realize that they are not genetic, nor are they "the only way." You are free to acquire new perspectives, to absorb new ideas, and to question everything you were taught to believe. As your mind opens to exploration and change, you'll feel a new lightness and more joy.
Note that there is a difference between belief and facts. "I believe that the world is flat" is factually incorrect, because it is a fact that the earth is a sphere. This fact is proven in a thousand different ways. Therefore, no one is required to agree with your belief in a flat earth. However, "we can have love and respect for people who are different."
By the same token, when something is immoral, unethical and wrong, that wrong needs to be addressed and if possible eliminated. If there is genocide occurring somewhere in the world, the people responsible for the atrocity should be called out for it and stopped. There is no room or reason to tolerate genocide, or any other type of unethical behavior.
At the Rally to Restore Sanity, Jon Stewart put it this way:
"I can't control what people think this was. I can only tell you my intentions. This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith or people of activism or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate argument or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear. They are and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus and not be enemies.
We are all in this together. Our differences make us stronger by allowing us to look at things from many different perspectives.
But unfortunately one of our main tools in delineating the two broke. The country's 24 hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems but its existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold its magnifying up to our problems bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected dangerous flaming ant epidemic.
If we amplify everything we hear nothing. There are terrorists and racists and Stalinists and theocrats but those are titles that must be earned. You must have the resume. Not being able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Partiers or real bigots and Juan Williams and Rick Sanchez is an insult, not only to those people but to the racists themselves who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate--just as the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe not more. The press is our immune system. If we overreact to everything we actually get sicker--and perhaps eczema.
And yet, with that being said, I feel good-strangely, calmly good. Because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false. It is us through a fun house mirror, and not the good kind that makes you look slim in the waist and maybe taller, but the kind where you have a giant forehead and an ass shaped like a month old pumpkin and one eyeball.
So, why would we work together? Why would you reach across the aisle to a pumpkin assed forehead eyeball monster? If the picture of us were true, of course, our inability to solve problems would actually be quite sane and reasonable. Why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution or racists and homophobes who see no one's humanity but their own? We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is - on the brink of catastrophe - torn by polarizing hate and how it's a shame that we can't work together to get things done, but the truth is we do. We work together to get things done every damn day!
The only place we don't is here or on cable TV. But Americans don't live here or on cable TV. Where we live our values and principles form the foundations that sustains us while we get things done, not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done. Most Americans don't live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives. Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do - often something that they do not want to do - but they do it--impossible things every day that are only made possible by the little reasonable compromises that we all make.
Look on the screen. This is where we are. This is who we are. (points to the Jumbotron screen which show traffic merging into a tunnel). These cars - that's a schoolteacher who probably thinks his taxes are too high. He's going to work. There's another car-a woman with two small kids who can't really think about anything else right now. There's another car, swinging, I don't even know if you can see it - the lady's in the NRA and she loves Oprah. There's another car - an investment banker, gay, also likes Oprah. Another car's a Latino carpenter. Another car a fundamentalist vacuum salesman. Atheist obstetrician. Mormon Jay-Z fan. But this is us. Every one of the cars that you see is filled with individuals of strong belief and principles they hold dear - often principles and beliefs in direct opposition to their fellow travelers.
And yet these millions of cars must somehow find a way to squeeze one by one into a mile long 30 foot wide tunnel carved underneath a mighty river. Carved, by the way, by people who I'm sure had their differences. And they do it. Concession by conscession. You go. Then I'll go. You go. Then I'll go. You go then I'll go. Oh my God, is that an NRA sticker on your car? Is that an Obama sticker on your car? Well, that's okay - you go and then I'll go.
And sure, at some point there will be a selfish jerk who zips up the shoulder and cuts in at the last minute, but that individual is rare and he is scorned and not hired as an analyst.
Because we know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light we have to work together. And the truth is, there will always be darkness. And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn't the promised land. Sometimes it's just New Jersey. But we do it anyway, together.
If you want to know why I'm here and want I want from you, I can only assure you this: you have already given it to me. Your presence was what I wanted.
Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder. To see you here today and the kind of people that you are has restored mine. Thank you."