George Floyd’s story is different

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George Floyd was killed unfairly. Why is this so significant?

Before diving in, please note: I am not black and I live in a position of privilege, and so George Floyd’s death as well as other similar deaths have not affected me as directly as they’ve done my black colleagues. But I see and empathize with this pain and fear, so I must speak out.

Also, police officers have one of the most difficult jobs in the world; often making quick judgment calls in stressful situations. I trust our police force and know that occurrences of unfair brutality are rare; but they must stop.

What’s different about George Floyd?

Why was this event unique? 1. The events moved slowly, and 2. We saw enough on video.

In many videos in which police use excessive force, the situation typically moves fast and thus it’s not clear whether the result was justified. Any small action or movement push the officer to pull the trigger and shoot in a split second. It’s impossible to see that same action or movement in the video that caused the officer to pull the trigger. So, we cannot have full certainty whether the officer acted unjustly.

George Floyd’s death was different. We see the video clearly. Derek Chauvin and the other 3 officers had 9 minutes of slow bleeding while George was handcuffed, face down in the street, and calling for his mom for help. Once the clock started ticking and Derek put his knee on the neck, there was no need for a quick judgment call. George was already apprehended and the officer was in a position of power. Even if Derek felt in danger, Derek had 3 officers as backup to reposition George from a fatal hold into a non-fatal hold. In fact, this is actually how good officers are supposed to apprehend suspects: hand-cuff the suspect and then reposition them.

But not this time. Every second that Derek held his knee on George’s neck was a second he chose to actively continue murdering George. Officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd.

George did not face a fair trial for his alleged crime. He was arrested, which we trust our police force to decide when to do. But George was not treated according to just practices given the opportunity to face a trial. Instead, the officer carried out a slow murder on the street in full awareness while others in power watched. Maybe George was guilty. But our country has a justice system that is promised as “innocent until proven guilty” to all. With countless evidence showing how black people are treated over-proportionately as criminals, the justice that is promised is not provided to all.

I identify as someone that has not felt the pain of black issues from systemic racism; however today I woke up to see this as a human issue. No human deserves a knee to the neck in the street by anyone for 9 minutes until they suffocate on their own blood.

A whole lot of Maybes

It’s currently unknown why Derek and the officers carried out the execution for 9 minutes. The reason could occur at any level. Maybe the ethical imbalance of how to treat certain humans was in Derek as an individual. Maybe as a group of 4 officers, their morality was off. Maybe it was racism in the police precinct, or maybe institutionalized systemic racism. Maybe none of that. Maybe a bit of everything.

Maybe the result of how the officers face charges will expose systemic racism, institutional racism, or some other form of injustice. Maybe they were all having a bad day and George was really unlucky.

What’s clear is that this cannot happen again to any human being.

So, we need something to police the police. We design similar systems for other groups with power and privilege like banks and government branches. We need a review board of how law & order treats crimes and criminals.

We’ve seen this too many times before

This was not the first time that an unarmed black civilian has been killed. Eric Garner. Trayvon Martin. Philando Castille. Tamir Rice. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd.

In the past, I would defer to authority. I didn’t know the whole story, so I’d let the experts and the system carry out justice. But the evidence in this case is undeniable that Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd. Now, this makes me question whether past events were judged fairly and why police trials for civilian killings are so rare.

There is something going on and it is not new. Minorities and underprivileged people, but especially African-Americans, have been treated unfairly for centuries in this country from the very beginning. And there is still imbalance of treatment today. We thought we solved it before. But we are seeing the unresolved injustice more often now, because people are filming and sharing events. I was in willful ignorance a few years ago.

Those on the receiving end of imbalance are used to feeling this pain and fear from systems meant to protect or support us. But those who have rarely experienced this imbalance of opportunity need to wake up and see how fairness that is promised does not always equal fairness given.

What do we do?

The right thing to do is to identify areas of imbalance of opportunity; why a drug crime in one neighborhood is a sickness, while the same crime in another neighborhood is a felony. Why? If the crime is the same, then why is our justice given out differently? Why are unarmed black people killed at higher rates? Then we address them. Then we change them.

We as people with privilege have a responsibility to make change, share our opinion, and address these issues. Let’s educate ourselves to have wisdom and empathy for those experiencing systemic imbalance.

Where as a country have promised one thing, but practiced another? Suppose that George Floyd was killed because he was black or poor or suspicious within a country that accepts institutionalized racism. Then we can talk and think about why other unfair imbalances occur, like why the iPhone facial recognition has more trouble recognizing black faces than white. The product designers didn’t intend to be racist, but nevertheless we see an unfair imbalance. A black person spends the same money on the same product but receives different value. This is not fair. Then we can talk about how we would design the next iPhone differently to enable a fairer result.

I believe in good. I believe hierarchies are good. Institutions are good. Change is good. Let’s use what we have.

George Floyd’s death is a universal issue. His life mattered because all lives matter. If you are in the hospital for a broken leg, your broken leg matters because, of course, your whole body matters. But the issue here is that your broken leg needs the treatment. Black lives have not mattered enough in the US, and we must finally follow through to make “fair and balanced” in policy to be “fair and balanced” in practice.

Where new stuff comes from and if this matters: OGB #3 Theogony by Hesiod

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Source

Throughout history, things come from other things. Offspring emerges from parents. Physically, matter changes forms. Metaphysically, things change into other things. How does this happen? Consider two explanations.

  • (A) all stuff is already created
    • Thus, new things emerge by splitting up the existing stuff amongst them
  • (B) new stuff emerges from old stuff
    • Thus, new things emerge as distinct from the old stuff

The Greeks thought of the changing process as a force with a personality: a god: Eros. Eros was the god of love and sex. Through Eros, parents beget children and things become other things. In Theogony, Hesiod pulls together all the popular stories of his day into one meta-narrative. In doing so, he explains where things come from and how they change.

AH-HA

Let’s consider (A) and (B) in some examples from Theogony.

1. Earth produces Sky, Mountains, and Sea.

This seems to be (A). Our planet Earth includes features like sky, mountains, and sea. Thus, Eros can split up Earth into those parts sky, mountains, and sea.

2. Night + Darkness = Day and Brightness.

This seems to be (B). Night has a quality of darkness, which is the absence of light. Day has a quality of brightness, the opposite of darkness. Seemingly, Night does not have the qualities that Day has. So, Night produces something entirely new when Day emerges.

Alternatively, maybe the Greek idea of Night included brightness, and Eros split it up into two: Day and Night. Certainly, in modern language, a “day” can refer to either the daytime and brightness for 12 hours, or the full scope of brightness and darkness for 24 hours.

3. Earth + Sky = Titans, Cyclopes, and Hundred-Handers.

This is not clear whether it’s (A) or (B). The offspring of Earth and Sky seem to have personalities and “souls” like humans do. Whereas Earth and Sky should be like non-living material. How would conscious life emerge from pure physical matter except as new emerging from old, like (B)?

However, the Greek beings Earth and Sky are actually beings that are closer to living than non-living material. This makes (A) more possible to have Titan beings emerging from other living beings.

4. Theia (Titan, “goddess”) + Hyperion (Titan, “he who goes above”) = Sun, Moon, and Dawn.

This is closer to (B) but not clear. This doesn’t make sense in a modern perspective. How could two Titans, beings closer to humans than materials, produce the non-living material Sun, Moon, and Dawn? This appears like the opposite of #3: non-living things emerge from living beings.

Summary

Hesiod does not detail how beings are born or how things become other things, whether through (A) or (B). But Theogony still ties together an important narrative to explain the high-level transfer of ideas and concepts among beings. It shows generally where things come from.

In our modern day, we delve into science to explain the world. As we discover the micro-steps that details how matter changes at a small scale, let’s keep the big picture in mind, like Hesiod did. Maybe it’s ok to build and believe a story that leaves out the details but gives us an explanation of the world at a higher level.

The meta-narrative story explains what’s human: OGB #2 Theogony by Hesiod

Hesiod

In Theogony, Hesiod pulls together all the popular stories of his day into one narrative. Since it’s one narrative explaining the common thread of many narratives, let’s call it a meta-narrative.

Meta-narrative = an overarching account or interpretation of events and circumstances that provides a pattern or structure for people’s beliefs and gives meaning to their experiences. – Oxford Dictionary

AH-HA

The Greeks wanted one narrative story that tied together all the common stories of their day. Through the one common meta-narrative, the Greeks found knowledge of their shared human condition.

The stories of Theogony include the massive Titans, the powerful Zeus, the forethinker Prometheus giving knowledge to man, and the gods’ punishment in response: the first woman Pandora who unleashes a box of evils upon humankind. Lightning bolts tore the sky and babies emerged from the force of love. From top-down, these stories justified worldly events and human behavior.

From bottom-up, a narrative is formed by human biological processes that interpret the world; these processes manifest as human behaviors; these combine into archetypes (“good” behaviors and “bad” behaviors); archetypes then map to language in a narrative story.

Different human people groups create different types of stories. This is because the biological processes and worldly events differ. Humans in arctic adopt different behavior than those in the desert.

But even in disparate people groups, common narratives emerge. For example, many groups strangely spoke about the common Flood Myths. Since the events and behaviors in the Flood narrative appear so widely, a catastrophic flood may have occurred and affected many humans in recent history. Or, many humans have experienced a tragic calamity that destroyed lives and resources. So, a flood should be in our human meta-narrative.

Humans thus share a common drive to “prepare for the flood,” by sacrificing present pleasure for the future benefits: e.g. by working to exchange time for money, or by social distancing to trade short-term contact for long-term health.

Summary

Narratives emerge from many different groups. A meta-narrative like Theogony incorporates all narratives. Thus, it explains what’s common among all of the narratives it uses. The commonalities are what we share. What we share is what it means to be human.

The limits of believability and Greek rhetoric battles: OGB #1 Euripides

I recently joined Online Great Books, “an online community developing classically educated men and women using the Great Books of Western Civilization.” Thus far, we have read Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Aeschylus, Euripides, and we’re about to start Plato. Each month we have a virtual seminar to discuss ideas that we found interesting. In parallel, I’m also in a seminar to discuss creation stories; we have read the Enuma Elish, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and Theogony by Hesiod.

I love it. I highly recommend joining if you are able. Or at least trying it out. I’m reading more and thinking critically. And I’m appreciative of the great things that persist.

In meditating on and discussing these works, certain ideas pop out to me. Some as “AH HA!” and some as “WTF!”.

Thus this is the first of a series of meditations on the ideas from great books that apply to life today, inspired mostly by the ideas of others in my seminars: #037 and #creation. Thanks team!


 

Euripides I: Alcestis, Medea, The Children of Heracles, and Hippolytus

Euripides is known as the last great tragedian. This is probably because he pushed the limit of storytelling. His characters acted rationally enough while pushing the limit of believability. I think he fills the role of the last tragedian because anyone trying to one-up Euripides would have had to jump over the line into ridiculousness.

WTF

What’s the edge of what humans can do? Race 26.2 miles: easy to believe. Race 3,100 miles: less easy to believe.

In Medea, Medea is a powerful, rash, and logical woman who has used selfish acts to get her way. She betrayed her family by killing her own brother to help Jason, her husband. Later, Jason betrays Medea and their marriage oath by taking a mistress. In response, Medea plots and then murders his mistress by tricking her to wear a fancy dress that burns into her flesh. Medea then kills their own children. And literally rides off with their bodies unburied into the sunset on a chariot while Jason looks on in horror.

The storytelling is masterful because even though Medea toils between feeling pity for her innocent children vs. anger in cold blood, she can understand both sides: mercy and revenge. However, she is consistent in her behavior and self-justification by always acting to fulfill revenge. But, even though she commits heinous acts, her anger is believable and justifiable. She follows her anger to the end but justifies her decisions every step of the way. Medea’s character straddles chaos justified into order.

What would Euripedes’ successor have to do to make the sequel to Medea? Tricking Jason into eating his parents? Maybe infanticide in revenge was the evilest but most plausible act by the Greeks. Anything beyond this would reach parody beyond believability.

AH HA:

Battles of rhetoric with witty insults from emotional confrontations are universally enjoyable for us to watch. Euripides includes two levels of battle. Phase one involves long paragraphs of one character going at the other. Then phase two is one-liners back and forth in quick succession. The play acted out seems like a real battle. Each shoots at one another with their slings and arrows from a distance. Then they get closer, fighting hand-to-hand, jabbing and countering.

In Alcestis, Admetus has a chance to save his life from his fated death. Death, personified, pursues him. A god saves him by telling Admetus that he can save his own life by picking a family member to die in his place.

This may seem like a strange thought experiment, but it’s applicable to today. Who decides who lives and dies if a COVID-19 outbreak hits an underprepared hospital without enough beds?

Admetus first asks his parents, who refuse. Then he asks his wife Alcestis, who accepts and dies in his place. Props to Alcestis for going the honorable route: I think this is why the play is called Alcestis, to honor her sacrifice.

Anyway, after Alcestis dies, Admetus confronts his father Pheres about why he wouldn’t sacrifice himself for his son. The following insult battles are compelling. Keep in mind, this was ancient Greece and not Shakespeare.

Part of Admetus’ soliloquy to his father as a “battle phase one”:

  • “Go on, get you other children – you cannot do it too soon – who will look after your old age, and lay you out when you are dead, and see you buried properly. I will not do it. This hand will never bury you.”

Medea and Jason share some blows back-and-forth from their story as well as a “battle phase two”, after Jason confronts Medea about their kids.

  • Jason: “O my poor children, what a vicious mother yours has proved to be.”
  • Medea: “O my poor boys, what a sad end you’ve met, thanks to your father’s failing.”
  • J: “It was not by my hand they died.”
  • M: “It was, though, because of your own arrogance and your new-saddled marriage.”

Summary

  1. Stories throughout history still capture our interest by maintaining believability while pushing the limits of what’s possible. Anything outside of believability enters into comedy and parody.
  2. Intellect and wit can be used as an attack, similar to physicality and technology. Throughout history, we appreciate and enjoy fights, either with swords or words.

Throwback to aphorisms from Bali, part 3

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Personal protection has always been cool – Bali, 2019

During this unique time, I’m missing the freedom to explore, among other things. Travel is an escape from the mundane routine. This is a throwback to our escape to Bali last summer for part 3 of the lessons we learned.

A little tip goes a long way

Money from the West goes far in some other countries. People work hard everywhere. Leave a healthy tip when you’re pleased with the service. Remember that while you’re on vacation, residents are still working. They deserve to know when you appreciate good service.

“Nothing can be built higher than the coconut tree”

There is a fascinating concept that states no building can exceed the height of a coconut tree. Apparently, this isn’t completely true. But it’s a nice story that’s been around for so long because it would make sense if it were true. Regardless, there is a deep respect for nature on Bali.

A store is a home

Often, vendors live and sell in one place. You’ll find the whole family in the store sometimes. Treat it with respect, buy something, and play with the kids. It’ll make their day.

Bali and Indonesia went through some shit

The tsunami absolutely wrecked the island. The debris and leftover destruction are still there. But the Balinese rebuild stronger and continue living with honor.

There is no fee for any ATM withdrawal

Seriously, every ATM we withdrew from did not charge us a fee. My wallet supports whatever program enabled this to happen.

You’re not obligated to buy from a vendor even if you feel like it

This is like the tug of guilt you feel when you walk out of a store without buying anything. Vendors will ask you to take a “quick look, but no need to buy.” They know that looking makes you more likely to buy. Your act of compliance makes you more likely to comply with a future request coming soon: “Why not just buy one?” Then later, “Why not buy another?”

If a universe can be imagined, then it exists

There are many possibilities out there.

Looking back to look forward: What matters to me from my past

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Photo by matthew Feeney on Unsplash

Someone once said that the life flashing before your eyes is what really matters to you. So what really matters to me right now in this COVID-19 crisis? What will I remember about this time? I’m a thinker, so conceptualizing the lessons from this period of my life will take time. As a way to get me there, I am looking back on what formed me to this day. In each case, I’ll outline three things I learned and why they are relevant today.

Experimentation:

Until high school, I always ended up doing new things but didn’t know why. Why did I do certain things and not other things? Video games? I did that. Writing poetry? I didn’t do that. I could imagine myself writing poetry, but why didn’t I?

In my high school years, I started differentiating between the first step and the second step. I first imagined a world in which I did something as before. Next, I added step two: try that thing. I made active choices to expand my breadth of experience. I started out small, stepping a bit out of my comfort zone one inch at a time. Soon, my experimenting exploded into new experiences everywhere. I set myself on a track of openmindedness without limits.

I could imagine a world pranking band camp with my buddies. So, one step led to another by tricksters sneaking to the school overnight and rearranging the letters on a school sign to “GO SUCK COLON.”

Now, my goals span beyond one night of debauchery. I’m finding that there are many worlds in which I can imagine myself. Could I build that bookshelf? Yes, but it looks hard. Still, try it to see if you can. I still experiment today by imagining and then trying.

Learning how to socialize:

I was timid for most of my life until high school. Then, I finally found myself in certain social groups that were familiar. I could not navigate a classroom or gymnasium full of random people. But I started seeing the same teammates on sports teams and pushing ourselves through pain for dozens of hours every week. I opened myself up to them and formed the strongest friendships.

The way to socialize in new situations came down finding familiarity in new situations: new people, new places, new conversation topics. The way I succeed is by latching onto the things I find familiar, finding comfort in that feeling, and then opening myself up to the newness around me. Certainly, the way to succeed is to recollect myself in the familiar but not to stay there, because that’s boring to others.

  • Colleague I know in a group of strangers? When in doubt, comment on a shared memory.
  • New place but something looks the same? When in doubt, comment on what it reminds me of.
  • New topic? Learn it to satisfy my curiosity with the purpose to incorporate it into my worldview. Then share my own experience when I can segue the topic to something similar.

Self-confidence:

One day the librarian threatened to kick me out of the library before class started because I was not working. As a way to impress my friends there, I turned to the closest bookshelf, picked the first book that caught my attention, and set it down on the table. “I’m reading.”

Luck had it that I chose a bright red paperback copy of Engels’ and Marx’s The Communist Manifesto.

For the following few weeks, I walked around with that book in my backpack, fully owning it. Just before I entered the library each day, I pulled the book out of my bag and held it out to walk past the librarian’s front desk.

During those weeks I learned that self-confidence comes from ownership. I fully owned my choice to be reading The Communist Manifesto and even got into debates with the librarian about its ideas. With every interaction, I gained confidence.

Thus, my Confidence Manifesto is taking and fully owning the choices I make. Confidence could be based on experience or could be based on delusion, or many other things. But I learned that confidence is a choice that is within my power: more specifically, a series of choices that align my actions together into a common thread.

Today, I actively base my confidence in relevant experience rather than randomness. I am more certain of my ability to drive a car than a plane. But should I somehow wake up as the pilot of a plane careening toward the earth and everyone is trembling in fear, I have two choices. Tremble, letting fear drown me. Or, have some confidence and try my best to fly the thing and maybe succeed.

Summary

Things may be new right now. But I can imagine myself surviving like this. So watch I Am Legend and let’s try it.

Everything may feel different. Latch onto familiarity to enter the chaos.

The librarian is kicking us out. Grab a book and let’s dive in.

The bet on delayed gratification

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There’s something special about delayed gratification. It allows us to bargain with the future. We bet on more later, rather than less now. The crazy thing is that it works. Athletes delay gratification by actively pushing through pain for a goal in the future. Economies and societies run on this idea as well.

In May 2018, my wife and I chose to give up physical intimacy for a month as a form of devotion. We were having some tough times, and we needed a reset. We prayed for guidance and disciplined our bodies. As a result, we grew closer together. We plunged into cold water, woke up, and reminded ourselves why we loved each other.

Why is this important? Delayed gratification is more than just an indicator of long-term success. It’s a form of discipline. It blocks out the malaise of sloth. The lazy, comfortable body gets a master who knows what’s best.

Delayed gratification is one of the most important human realizations.

Aphorisms from Bali – Part 2

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Jatiluwih Rice Terrace

 

Here’s part two of the things we learned in Bali on our honeymoon; enjoy!

 

Learn how to say thank you and greetings

Sometimes it’s the little things that make it easy to connect to other people. This is an easy way to turn from tourist to friend. Get by on smiles and gestures. Then, use a translator app for everything else. “Terimah kasih!”

Follow the sunset… and the sunrise

Looking for something fun to do? Find the best place to watch the sunset or sunrise. Chances are, you’ll find someone else doing the same.

Know when to turn back

Especially when climbing a dangerous, wet, dark mountain without a trail and without other people.

Don’t dive while sick

Then again, Bali has some of the best diving around, and you can see manta rays. But, the pressure you feel is no joke once you reach a few meters underwater. You have to unlearn some of the basic instincts of survival. If you freak out and you’re 10m underwater, you must surface slowly, not quickly.

Learn how international business runs

It’s fascinating how the real estate market works in Bali, as it is so popular for tourists and ex-pats to settle down. Similarly, there’s a lot of education focused on hospitality since there are plenty of opportunities in the service industry there. Careful though, because you should still only invest in what you know. There are no consistent get-rich-quick opportunities in reality.

Fresh is best

There’s nothing as renewing as sipping on a fresh coconut. And the fish is best eaten when it’s still on ice from the morning. Bananas have a real shape – hint: they’re actually quite small when they aren’t genetically modified to look like a girthy school bus.

Bali is a reminder that you should be increasing your healthspan, not just your lifespan

Most advice is bad, potentially including mine. But this is important. Fill your life with meaning and spirit rather than extending the cold, dead shuffle. Allow me to generalize to say that Balinese have figured this out. They work hard when they work, but they value family, relaxation, and conversation for the meaning of it.

“If you ain’t first” – A survey in Natural Language

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Photo by Kolleen Gladden on Unsplash

Story

A few years ago, I surveyed 60 of my colleagues with a set of questions:

“What is the most important number? And why? All answers are acceptable.”

This question simplifies an important aspect of human culture: value. What we find most important shows what we value. I received 67 numbers with corresponding justification. I consolidated the results, which you can see here. What would you answer?

 

Findings

Number Frequency at 67

Number Frequency Raw

The top numbers chosen were #1 and #10. This makes sense because of how our number system has been set up (base 10).

 

Twist

However, I cared less about the numbers. I cared more about how people projected importance onto numbers using their words.

The top words appearing in peoples’ answers: Word Frequency (two or more occurrences)

Here are some simple quirks and explanations from the data.

  • “Most” appears more frequently than “More” and “Many”
  • “All” appears more than “Some”
  • “Always” appears more than “Sometimes”

To match the absoluteness of my question, the answerer had to provide an absolute judgment. Technically, one could say that a number is more of something than the rest. But we don’t see “Than” frequently used.

  • “My” appears more than “We”

This shows how we ultimately judge value through the lens of the self rather than the group. We may rely on group mentality to save time and assimilate, but it’s good that I have the final say.

  • “It” and “Is” and “It’s” appear more than “They” and “Are”
  • “Number” appears more than “Numbers”

This shows that people did a good job of providing one answer rather than many. But sometimes it’s hard to choose a favorite.

  • “And” appears more than “Or”

This could show how people are more decisive about multiple answers to a question. Or, this could show how people are more indecisive about the uniqueness of their answers. The frequency of “Also” could also bring light to this.

  • “Important” appears only one time more than “Favorite”

People hear “important” but think “favorite.” Maybe what we like is most important to us.

  • “First” appears more than “Last”

Often, what’s “last” is not the most important. Sometimes though, it is the most important. But often it’s much easier to define what comes “first” rather than “last” or the rest. So what’s first stands out. We can all agree that both “first” and “last” are more important than “second” because Ricky Bobby said so.

Oddly, the following appear more than once:

  • “Orgasm”
  • “Lebron James”

 

Conclusions

I don’t have any clear conclusions. This sample was not randomly selected and rigorously conducted. But it’s interesting to think about the results.

If I asked a machine, what would it answer? Natural language processing by machines can interpret the word frequencies and sentence structure using data and algorithms to learn patterns. It could easily tell us the number that is associated with success.

But what is the most important number? Maybe it’s the number that appears most often in quarterly earnings’ calls of companies about to grow.

Or maybe it’s the first number that babies say.

I guess we would still have to decide what values are most important first. Or last.

Praying intentionally as a way to gain patience, oneness, and optimism

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Photo by Billy Pasco on Unsplash

In April 2018, I began to pray. I had never really tried that hard to pray before. I had learned to pray before meals and pray before bed. Both of which are important. But the words I was reciting felt empty and meaningless. Inspired by Pastor David Platt and my renewed interest in spirituality, I began praying more intentionally. I tried a different approach.

I started to speak from my heart with meaning. I did not ask for things I want, rather I asked for guidance. And before asking for anything, I submitted myself to gratitude. I said, “Thank you, God. I am so grateful for the blessings you’ve given me. I don’t deserve any of this, and yet you’ve chosen me.” When I pray, I hear an echo in reply. I don’t know from where the echo responds. But the voice guides me when I submit my weakness and ask for help. It gives me answers and hard truths.

God is many things to many people. I changed from asking for things I don’t have, to thankfulness for what I already have. This is because I realized who I was talking to: God. Jordan Peterson put it best in his conversation with Sam Harris. I understand the gravity and magnificence of God in these terms:

God is how we imaginatively and collectively represent the existence of an action of consciousness across time; as the most real aspects of existence manifest themselves across the longest of time-frames but are not necessarily apprehensible as objects in the here and now…

So God is that which eternally dies and is reborn in the pursuit of higher being and truth. That’s a fundamental element of the hero mythology.

God is the highest value in the hierarchy of values; that’s another way of looking at it.

God is what calls and what responds in the eternal call to adventure.

God is the voice of conscience.

God is the source of judgment, mercy, and guilt.

God is the future to which we make sacrifices and something akin to the transcendental repository of reputation.

Here’s a cool one if you’re an evolutionary biologist. God is that which selects among men in the eternal hierarchy of men.

-Jordan Peterson, https://youtu.be/jey_CzIOfYE

Since I’m still early on in my spiritual journey, I am interested in my own relationship with God through prayer. I’m not interested in telling everyone else what to do. In my personal experience, my prayer resulted in newfound patience, self-integration, and optimism.

I became more patient because I stopped asking for things that I wasn’t getting. Instead, I asked for guidance and strength in the face of difficulty. And even then, I knew that the world could crash down on my family and me in an instant. Through it all, I would get what I need, not what I want. This meant that I learned patience. Usually, I demanded results and progress. But I soon discovered that I often don’t know what’s best for me. And I receive what’s best slowly.

I became more self-integrated. As I spoke from my heart, I said whatever came naturally. That is genuinely what we care about – not what we want ourselves to care about. I began to notice the things that bubble up to my thoughts, but I don’t flesh out. Maybe because I’m embarrassed about them. Instead, I give them to God through prayer. And when I put them into words, God accepts them and replies with an answer. In this way, I accept myself as speaking these words, because God accepts me. I could say what I think is the worst thing, but if God responds and accepts me regardless, then I can own this part of me without ignoring or suppressing it. In this way, I can integrate the not-so-good parts of me and control them, instead of suppressing them and risking that they overcome me.

Lastly, I have a newfound optimism. So far, I’ve shared the deepest thoughts of my heart to God, and he still calls me forward. In this way, I know that there’s nothing that I can do that will separate us. Of course, I’ll make mistakes as I search for the best path toward the good life. Calamity will happen and test or break my will. But I can rest assured that I will not be alone through the adventure.

I should pray about the things that I don’t understand because I need help in those areas. If I pray the same way every time, and I ask questions that I know the answer to, I don’t gain anything. By digging deep and intentionally building a relationship to God through prayer, I have more patience, self-integration, and optimism.