Posts tagged ‘Responsibility’

Responsibility in the Blogosphere | Ethics

www.snopes.com

http://www.snopes.com (Photo credit: biggraham)

Recently, I came across a blog that quoted and commented on an article that has been widely circulated, mostly in email, but is full of misinformation.  I know bloggers aren’t professional journalists and do not belong to any ethical society.  However, discovering that a blogger may not realize the power of their words available online disappointed me.  That at least one reader questioned the report’s validity pleased me, though.  In my comment, I provided a link to the Snopes article referring to the report.

Snopes is one of a few online resources known to research without bias whether a reported fact is indeed the truth.   Most often, such services focus on the distribution of emails and the online publication of materials that are distributed en mass and have the ability to significantly sway person’s opinions and therefore behavior.  Sadly, when it comes to some very important matters such as the interpretation of research statistics, language, and literary work, the complexity of the necessary investigation and of the detail needed to accurately present results is far too involved for a service like Snopes to undertake.   In fact, often times, such is the topic of countless volumes and only the most dedicated and discerning reader can come close to an accurate assessment of the truth in what s/he is examining.

I respected the blog reader’s willingness to read what others write with a spirit of discernment.  Hopefully she does the same with what she hears.  If we are to be seekers, ministers and bearers of Truth, one important ingredient is doubt.  We are not to doubt the Truth, but rather what is presented to us as Truth until we can discern validity to the best of our ability through careful consideration of the motives of majority opinion, well-rounded study, dialogue with experts in their field, reasoned argument, and earnest prayer. God gave us brains and the Spirit to guide us for a reason.  Even well-intentioned persons are capable of great folly, whether by accident, lack of discipline in spiritual stewardship, or the misguided ignorance of spiritual immaturity.  We all have room to grow and we can best do so by exercising the “muscle” of our brain and practicing virtues for the development of our souls.

Aside from personal responsibility in such situations, I’ve been wondering as blogging becomes more popular, what if any measures should be in place to encourage accuracy in the report of “facts”?  How can we do so without infringing upon free speech?  Who would be responsible for regulating such?  I think we can all recognize the difference between slant versus lie.  Even if one source says, “General Smith strode to the mic,” another says, “walked to”, and a third says, “ambled up to,” they all agree on the fact that the General moved towards (apparently on his feet) and arrived at a specific microphone.  Mass dissemination of misinformation has the potential to create or prevent change in ways that have significant negative impact.  What responsibility do I have to help prevent such?

If you enjoyed this article, consider reading the following related post on this blog,  On Blind Faith.  Your comments on one or both are greatly appreciated.

Advertisements

Doing Away with Welfare Rodents – perspective

This article was originally published July 6th of 2011 and is being republished as a foundation for an upcoming article. The illustration is a recent addition, a stock photo image combining photography and clip art to which I added the words then blended the coloring. Enjoy the article. Please share your opinions and be a part of the solution…

Have you heard that term, “welfare rodents”? It’s the most derogatory term I’ve heard to describe those, especially children, reliant on welfare. I heard someone mumble it as I walked with the two foster kids, for whom I help care, to our seats for the fireworks display last night. It implies such people are like rats – dirty, sneaky, robbing food, spreading disease, worthy of nothing more than laboratory experiments. Some express the same sentiment more subtly like 1996 Kansas House guest minister Rev. Joe Wright, who in the prayer to open the session (since referred to as The Prayer of Repentance and actually written by Rev. Bob Russel), stated  “We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.” I do empathize to a degree with the prayer’s sentiment; I agree there are people who abuse the welfare system. However, as stated, his words imply that all on welfare are lazy. This is not a new or infrequently held attitude. In fact, as the numbers on welfare rise due to our recent financial crisis, this espoused opinion reverberates far and wide. The foster kids are of course on welfare, but I won’t discuss them any further here. I, too, currently am on welfare. I can’t be sure whether the person who mumbled the term was referring to any of us, but it has given rise to things I’ve been wanting to say and haven’t yet. I am disabled, but I am not my disability. I am unemployed, but I am not lazy. I have tried repeatedly to work, even since first being on disability, and not only failed, but endangered my health even more by trying to do so. Some are forgiving of the disabled or displaced children on welfare, but reject the notion that others need it. In general, I disagree with this perspective. I could sit back and quietly accept that at least they’re not picking on me, but it’s just not in my nature.

I once had a personal care attendant who assisted me for over a year and also relied on welfare to a degree. She was an honest, hard-working, God-loving woman with three very sweet boys, aged 11, 7 and 3. Her first husband abandoned her and her first son, providing no support. Her second husband worked a 36 hour split-shift in Dietary at a hospital. I won’t give you a full run-down of their expenses, but they were not frivolous in their spending. They simply could not make ends meet. She was only able to get 15 hours per week of work at just above minimum wage. She had been able to get more hours before her car broke down. Then, at one point, when she tried to fix a sliding closet door, she accidentally deeply cut and broke her foot. Can you believe she was forced to wait four hours for a couple friends to assist her home because she had no money to pay for crutches and the hospital would not loan them to her. When she informed her welfare case worker by phone that she would be off work by order of the doctor for at least three weeks, her worker’s response was only that she needed to provide a copy of a doctor’s note when she was released to work again and written verification of her wage and hours upon return. Two weeks later, due to receive her foodstamps for her kids, she got a letter that not only had her benefits not been increased (as one might have reasonably expected they would), but all assistance of any kind (including her kids’, one of whom has a heart condition, medical coverage) was cancelled because she had not provided written verification of her change in work status. It took 6 weeks for benefits to be reestablished, during which time she accrued an emergency room bill for her son and one for herself due to diabetic complications from an infection of her wounded foot.

Recently, she made the difficult decision to use money she saved up to go back to school for training in a related field she hopes will require less travel and give her better employment opportunity. However she had to limit the days she was available to work because she couldn’t handle working on the four days she went to school and needed to do homework. Now, her agency has told her they can’t accommodate her restricted time available and she has been without any hours for 3 weeks. She is diabetic but now can’t afford even emergency medication she does not qualify for medical coverage except as related to a pregnancy. After having to move due to her landlord’s failures to address poor living conditions resulted in her home being “condemned”, her kids’ new public schools were “fining” her daily because she couldn’t afford their required uniforms for the last month of school. She is being hounded by the hospital for payment on her bills, washes the family’s clothes in the bathtub, sold her furniture except for her kids’ beds, and is now without any phone line (despite hers nd her son’s medical conditions). She survives on will-power, grace, faith, and a strong commitment to the future of her children. Yes, she’s still alive, but can we call this “living”?

As for myself, even with the assistance of welfare, not all of my medications or medical treatments are covered and after paying shelter costs, I have only $250 per month for all other expenses combined. If I did not have federally and state-funded medical coverage at all, just my medications alone would cost over $2000/month. Unable to afford that, my conditions would deteriorate quickly, bringing me to a pre-mature death, perhaps first briefly forcing me into an institution if such were publicly funded. Is there another way? Sure; if we could all count on each other to support the weakest and most in need members of society without the need for a regulated system, we could indeed do away with welfare. However, we do have this system currently and when I did work, I paid into the system that now supports me and have moved past my initial shame in having to rely upon it. I’m sure I have by now drawn from it more than I put in, but believe me, if I could earn a wage, I would. Even of my meager income, I give charitably. Yet, I wish I could give more. And I contribute to society as best I can, helping to raise foster kids, for example and sharing my experience, strength and hope for the benefit of others. So, I wish people would quit trying to eliminate the system or bash people using it, but instead, listen to the people who know how it works first hand (those who administer it and those using it). We need to address the gaps and barriers in the system for the welfare of individuals and our society as a whole. It is a shame that those most in need of advocacy are often least able for health or financial reasons to advocate for themselves. So, I ask you, my readers who are capable, will you please be someone I can count on to support my wanting to be and do the best I can? Will you please join me in  promoting cooperative efforts and a positive outlook? Will you please quit looking for who or what to blame — or simply looking the other way — and look, instead for solutions?!

Recovery Part 1: Breathing Well in Cape Cod – photo illustrated

No more wading in muck...

Recovery means a lot of things to a lot of people, but the general public seems to interpret “in recovery” as meaning “I used to be an active alcoholic/addict, but I’m no longer using.” Many would add “…and I work a Twelve-Step program.” Although I did use substances as a means of self-medicating for a time in my life, I’m blessed to have never become physically addicted. Recognizing my psychological addiction, I did begin my recovery in some of those groups. I’m grateful for the sponsor who helped me realize my addiction was to trying to escape. I’ve also been a part of “recovery” programs for mental health disorders (OCD, Bi-Polar Disorder, Major Depression). Not until recently have I let “recovery” as related to my physical health fall into the same category. With roughly 20 chronic medical condition, I’m often recovering from some bout of illness or flair-up of symptoms. However, for a very long time I was in denial about my declining health. It’s pretty hard to make progress on the path around the pond if you’re still unsuccessfully trying to wade through it. So “recovery” from my physical ailments overall means experiencing and working through the entire process of grieving my healthy self.

What I mean by recovery is something all are a part of at least for some length of time in their life. Recovery means regaining what is lost. Recovery is a process that requires active participation and what has been lost may or may not be due to our own intentions or actions, but it most certainly refers to our joie de vivre – our passion, our reason for being, our hopes, our dreams. Recovery requires honesty, willingness, open-mindedness, flexibility, patience, courage, and perseverance. My recovery is about regaining and reclaiming my reason for being. It’s about becoming the me I’m meant to be, about actively pursuing my full potential, whatever that might be. Stress, physical and emotional, is the biggest contributor to the demise of my health. I’m learning that recovery means making a lot of little, but difficult, changes. I’m exploring both the sources of and remedies for stress in my life. As time goes on, I hope to chronicle my discoveries and my progress.

Some years ago, after two malfunctions of equipment in my past home caused flooding, we simply could not get our recently heart-broken landlord to properly address the problems in a timely manner. At the same time, I was struggling as co-guardian with a frequently violent preteen boy. Moving just didn’t seem a manageable option. Mold set in under the carpet and climbed up the walls of our linen closet. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us, an air filter shoved by a previous tenant into an air duct (not where it belonged and not visible from the air vents at either end of the duct) was collecting layer upon layer of dust and all that is a part of it. Ultimately, my already weakened immune system, inundated with allergens, was overwhelmed. I developed serious allergies to an indoor/outdoor mold, dust mites (that fed off dead skin cells), and both the dander and saliva of cats. Already having mild to moderate exercise-induce asthma, that condition worsened. In addition, I developed moderate to severe “regular” asthma. This was a hard blow to someone who at one time played sports year-round, someone who once walked 25 miles continuously, someone who loved to run and jump and play well into adulthood.

I’ll continue to tell you about my recovery in relation to my other conditions, but let me start with the allergies and asthma. We did move a few years ago into a duplex my former roommate decided to buy. Originally the top floor was reserved for a renter beside me, but realizing that the dust mites from her two dogs and a cat were causing repeated sinus headaches that interfered with my sleep and sometimes triggered migraines, I eventually had to move upstairs. My former roommate was by then my spouse and we could no longer consistently share a bed without abandoning the pets who’d become family too, not to mention withdrawing attention from a needy and destructive child who’d been neglected and abused by his biological parents. Even still, I was in denial. I’d move about too quickly, climb the stairs one too many times, take on a teenager on the basketball court at the close-by elementary, attempt coaching double-header youth soccer games, and continue to take no notice of air quality warnings. I would find myself desperately grasping for my inhaler. I drilled myself into the ground. My immune system was shot; I felt sick most of the time.

Progressing on a new path...

Recently, I returned from a vacation on Cape Cod. While I was there, I was very aware of the difference in my breathing. I could walk a few miles, even uphill without shortness of breath. The air there is unpolluted, moist and cool. No pets were shedding about me. I felt such immense freedom and energy. By the second day upon returning to our pet-filled home in a Midwestern metropolis, I was sluggish, headache-y, and struggling to breathe again. I’d for a long time found it difficult to remember my daily inhaler. Yet, before we left for vacation, I was having to use my rescue inhaler sometimes 3 times per day. Daily heat indexes of 115 and orange air quality were too much for me. Well, having tasted the freedom of breathing again, I made that daily inhaler a priority. My excuse before was that it didn’t fit in my med box and placing it on top often caused it to be lost when accidentally knocked aside. I’ve found a padded case, in which I now store both of my inhalers and a supply of emergency PRN medications, that holds its place well atop my med box. This method seems to be improving my compliance and the results are promising.

I’m putting forth other efforts too. I’ve begun to think, as well, how I might visit the Northeast Coast more regularly. Perhaps I could house-sit, but I’d still need funds to get there. Well, I don’t have all the answers yet. When I go for a PT initial assessment next week, I plan to inquire how best to build my endurance safely. I, also, was lucky enough to discover in a bookstore’s bargain bin a book detailing cardiovascular conditioning, core balance, and strengthening exercises using one of those big inflated balls. I’d learned some exercises before in PT, but had forgotten them and been unable to find anything but directions for strengthening exercises since. Now I’ve just got to get a pump for my ball. I’m moving in a new direction. I’m not doing the same old thing. I know I’m not a sports star anymore. I won’t shame myself for not being able to walk more than half of a block right now. However, I believe I can progress. I’m in recovery.

On Blind Faith

A Break in the Flurries: Blind No More

Whether one hold to a religious faith or not, most are familiar with the phrase “on blind faith”.  Some are absolute proponents of the necessity in some circumstances of believing in something without proof.  Some will believe nothing without proof.  I believe there is a middle ground.  Personally, I am a very spiritual person, so I’ll make no apologies for my belief in a Higher Power, but I won’t tell any one else what to believe or that they should.  I mean instead to remind everyone that whether by divine creation or a pure evolution without a firmly known origin, we have a brain and ought to use it.  I’m simultaneously annoyed by, amused by, frightened for, and disappointed in those who trust completely in the words of another without exploring or examining an issue for themselves – “the followers”.  Most often such feelings wash over me in reference to those led by charismatic, self-identified religious leaders, but I’ve experienced the same even in looking over comments on blogs and social sites.  I could write a whole separate article on such “leaders”, but I’ll refrain for the moment except tp say one thing.  Ignorance masquerading as intelligence is a dangerously contagious virus.  I believe followers sometimes just don’t know where to turn for or how to access information, but often times I think followers are simply afraid to take on the responsibility of making decisions for themselves because they must accept that they are then fully responsible for the consequences of those decisions and the actions or inaction that results.

Sometimes we must weigh all the factors and make very difficult choices.  THose choices are our own and we owe no one an explanation or an apology.  If you have any faith in a Higher Power, in “salvation”…a belief that involves seeking enlightenment…a basic belief that you are meant to grow and change…even a belief that you are a meant to be an active participant in the evolution of the human race, then you know that ultimately, YOU AND NO ONE ELSE is responsible for YOU.  Only YOU know what YOUR heart is telling YOU, and only YOU have lived YOUR life and intimately know YOU.  NO OTHER PERSON know YOU better than YOU.  So, what will YOU choose?  Will YOU choose what is true? what is best for YOU? what YOU know is right? what YOU have discovered for YOURSELF?  Or will YOU believe simply what someone else tells you they believe.  Choose to believe what you will, but remember that beliefs aren’t necessarily facts, no matter how assertively or intelligently they are declared.  If YOU choose to not investigate or think for YOURSELF, YOU are still making a choice and YOU are responsible for that choice.  Similarly, be prepared to know that YOUR words have the power to lead others astray if such persons are ignorant of how to access resources for their own investigation or are lacking in the mental capacity to make reasoned decisions.

Dealing with Fear: Walk; Don’t Run! – illustrated reflection

The painting illustrating this article is an original painting created by using a computer simulated oil brush and pen which were manipulated on the screen by moving my finger on a 1 1/2 inch by 3 1/2 inch touchpad.

Throughout our lives, we face times where our primitive urge to fly, fight or freeze kicks in. We are terrified. Sometimes we don’t know of what. Sometimes the fear is buried so deep, we don’t even realize we are afraid. Many, gasping for breath and reaching blindly into the dark, don’t even realize they’re running. Most often, when I’ve been afraid, I’ve tended toward flight. We think we are in danger and when we truly are in the bodily sense, these responses serve a purpose to protect us. And even when our bodies can’t escape danger, we have inborn ways of escaping mentally. However, whatever the reason, when we take flight in fear, we run full force toward nowhere and often in circles. Mentally, we escape to the desert of our soul where we slowly wither under the glaring sun of Truth. Some never find their way back.

I spent many years running away. I tried to self-medicate with alcohol and sniffing. I hid in a flurry of white lies, ashamed of minor mistakes. I ran to the arms of flattery, not believing in my own self-worth. I mumbled feeble complaints, assuming any request for help would be answered only with judgement. I got caught in a cycle of binging and starving to gain a false sense of control. I absorbed knowledge to avoid opinion. I had break-downs, collapsing into hospital care to avoid taking responsibility for helping myself. I tried over and over to drug myself into oblivion, an ultimate escape. Some roads I have barred myself from, but some are paths that I race down out of habit.

I have overextended myself to the point of serious illness, hoping beyond hope to prove that the walls of my personal limitations would somehow crumble under the force of sheer will. I have tried to save others because I felt powerless to save myself. I have sought perfection in rituals, unconvinced within my depths of my inherent adequacy. I have intellectualized to avoid feeling my emotions, certain they had the power to destroy me. Yet I’ve claimed ignorance when faced with the possibility of being wrong, or of making a “wrong” decision. While ready to collapse, having nearly exhausted my ability to cope, I’ve teased smiles and laughter from stoic professionals. These are my demons. Over-committing, rescuing, perfectionism, intellectualizing, fence-sitting and misplaced humor are still tendencies difficult to resist when panic sets my feet in motion.

Repeatedly, I’ve managed to find my way back, but I must be aware of those patterns of flight if I wish to chart my course toward more fertile ground. I must not only resist these tendencies, but counter them. I must proactively apply strategies which reduce the likelihood of the need to run. When anxiety inches into my heart, I soothe it with a side road jaunt. Instead of getting ready to run, I slow my pace. I talk to family, friends, my treatment team, and my Higher Power. I lose myself in the magic of music. I feel the beat, rewrite the words, sing at the top of my lungs. I read what uplifts me, inspires me. I write, sometimes for release or distraction, sometimes to increase my mindfulness of the present moment. And sometimes, sometimes I write to remind myself of what I’ve learned – where I’ve been and where I want to go. Today, I’d rather walk, walk the path that will get me somewhere. I know that, even if I’m not sure exactly where I want to go, if I want to arrive in a better place, I must heed the command “Walk; don’t run!”

You CAN be Perfect!

Figure 20 from Charles Darwin's The Expression...

Image via Wikipedia

To affirm, simply put, is to add firmness to. To affirm yourself, therefore, is to add firmness to you and to your self, to strengthen both your definition of yourself and your very being. Start by affirming what is known truth – you are human. What does it mean to be human? A human is not all powerful. A human is not all knowing. A human is imperfect. A human feels. Emotions convey a message. Fear tells us we do not know something. Fear is  useful. Fear is normal. Fear is to be expected. We have no reason to fear fear. Likewise, we have no reason to act is if we are fearless or to avoid anything that might evoke fear. Doing so reflects a form of perfectionism. Do not be afraid to fail or to succeed. You can be perfect – perfectly human, perfectly you.
We are meant to strive toward perfection, but neither to reach it nor to expect to reach it. To have a different mindset is to challenge God, to believe we can be equal. To judge ourselves unworthy of God’s love and mercy reflects an expectation that we can be perfect. Thus we manifest our true sin, pride. In refusing God’s love and likewise refusing to love ourselves, God’s creation, we withdraw our trust in God alone. We again forget we are of God. We no longer clearly and consistently recognize God. We begin to fail to see the God in others, but rather see only the façade which their separation from God requires them to create. We, in turn, seek affection from them instead of the God within they are meant to manifest. Hence, God is no longer our first and only love. We lose our way. We separate ourselves even further from the source of our very being, the only Perfect, in whom when we are ultimately united we are perfected in love.
So quit trying to be perfect. When anxieties arise, recognize the feeling as a reminder that you are human, just as you are meant to be. Rejoice that you do not know everything because it is not your responsibility or your burden. Affirm that you not only have a right to be afraid, but that it is normal to fear. Yes, I say rejoice that you have been wonderfully made, that you are extraordinarily ordinary. Rejoice that you know God and that God’s strength is yours for the asking. Just for today, choose to be, strive to be perfectly human. Tell yourself, ” I am perfectly human, naturally flawed, extraordinarily ordinary, wonderfully unique. I am meant to feel and to fail, to find favor and forgiveness in the fullness of God, forever and the only the Perfector of Souls.”  AFFIRMATION: Just for today, I accept and rejoice that I am a human being, created and loveable just as I am.

Hearing God’s Voice

up the garden path

Image by seriykotik1970 via Flickr

People often ask me how I discern God’s voice from some evil spirit’s or my own ego’s. I share this guidance because it is what I do and it seems to lead me on a righteous and serene path when I am faithful to its practice. I can’t honestly say though that what i think is God’s voice always is; that is for each person to discern for him/herself.

Ask “What’s the next right thing to do?” When two completely different sources – in voice or print, direct or indirect – give you the same answer, go with it. The echo is your assurance that the answer harmonizes with your soul, that it is the voice of Spirit.

God speaks to us constantly, but far too rarely are we listening. If you do not ask and actively listen with just one thought in mind, you can neither be sure you didn’t miss the echo and are only stretching to conform an unrelated message to Your Ego’s desire nor be certain of the context of the guidance you have been given thus sending you in the right direction but down the wrong path.

However, do not fret, even when we head in the wrong direction or down the wrong path, God is constantly calling us back and so with due diligence we shall arrive. Some of us just enjoy a more “scenic” route to Enlightenment, Nirvana, Heaven. When I can though, I prefer the shorter path, however difficult or narrow, because I am convinced the Eternal Valley is of greater splendor than any route which might lead me there.

In a future post, I will share some of my experiences applying this practice.