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Godless morality and arbitrary ethics - Limmud 2010

I enclose below the argument that I presented to a panel debate entitled 'Living the good life - Can we dispense with God?' which took place at the 2010 Limmud Conference, held at Warwick University, Coventry, over the holiday period. The panel consisted of Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association, Tamar Frankiel, Dean of Academic Affairs and Professor of Comparative Religion at the Academy for Jewish Religion, California, and myself:-

The proposition before us this morning is ‘Living the good life – Can we dispense with God?’

I am pretty certain that you can live an ‘emotionally satisfactory life’ without religion - if by that we mean, a life which is simply about maximizing pleasure. Indeed, if we are really nothing more than the result of a cosmic accident, hedonism and suicide are, surely, the two most logical options?

But, as far as morality, I would contend, by its very nature that it is necessarily and intrinsically bound up in an underlying religious context.

Am I suggesting that atheists can’t be good, or that people of faith can’t be bad?

Of course I am not.

However, how we determine ‘what is good’, or indeed the converse, ‘what is bad’, can only be considered in absolute terms, if we are not the result of a freak of nature, because if that is all that we are, then good and bad are no more than relative perspectives and therefore of no more importance than the difference between a preference for vanilla ice cream as opposed to chocolate ice cream.

Now, I don’t doubt that evolutionary biologists will claim that we, as ‘homosapiens’, have an innate propensity to perceive certain behaviours as more appropriate than others, but even then, the nature and spectrum of this choice, such as whether it is always wrong to kill or always right to give, without any Divine parameters are not - if you forgive the pun – cast in stone!, but subject to arbitrary debate.

To take an example, when does human life begin? Is it at conception? Is it 24 weeks? Is it at birth? Or perhaps, as Peter Singer, the humanist philosopher, believes, it is only if and when a human develops full cognitive faculties. Indeed, he goes further arguing his book, ‘Practical Ethics’,“If the fetus does not have the same claim to life as a person, it appears that the newborn baby does not either, and the life of a newborn baby is of less value to it than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee is to the nonhuman animal” He asks that we put aside “these ‘emotionally’ moving, but strictly irrelevant aspects of the killing of a baby we can see that the grounds for not killing persons do not apply to newborn infants”(1).

Singer is a utilitarian, who believes that the moral worth of an action is solely determined by its usefulness in maximizing utility, which is pleasure, satisfaction and knowledge, summed amongst all sentient beings.

Jeremy Bentham, an early advocate of this principle, argued that infanticide was “of a nature not to give the slightest inquietude to the most timid imagination” (2). In other words, ‘what’s the problem?’

And Singer, you should note, has also made the case for bestiality (3) and voluntary cannibalism (4).

And this is from the man whom Richard Dawkins believes to be “one of the most moral people in the world”! (4)

But, should we be surprised? Dawkins himself has argued that child abuse is actually less harmful than religious education! (5), whilst Peter Tatchell, the human rights activist (who in September, along with Dawkins, attempted to make a citizens’ arrest on the Pope on his visit to the UK, for the alleged widespread child abuse within the Catholic Church), himself argued that “not all sex involving children is unwanted, abusive and harmful.” (6)
 
Indeed, Friedrich Nietzsche, the 20th Century atheist philosopher, who famously proclaimed that ‘God is dead’ (7), himself declared that if we accept that God is nothing more than a human construct, then so to must also be the concepts of absolute truth and the idea of an underlying morality. Instead, we are left with the principles of ‘perspectivism’(8), which means that there is no true way of understanding the world, only subjective opinion, and ‘nihilism’(9), the idea that nothing has inherent importance and life is utterly meaningless.

Nietzsche maintains that our whole moral discourse has been framed around, and derived from, religious principles. Therefore, if we decide that ‘God is dead’, then we have to re-evaluate everything that we stand for and what we believe.

As Shakespeare’s Hamlet says “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” (10)

So, should it matter if 6 million Jews were ‘killed’ by the Nazis? The word ‘murder’ is surely a pejorative term, for aren’t we just talking about one animal killing another? We wouldn’t get so angered by a lion killing a deer we would simply call it the ‘law of the jungle’.

Surely, if there is no God, there is no qualitative difference between a human being and an animal, or, as Singer puts it, a ‘non-human’ animal?

In which case, the killing of 6 million Jews is really no worse than the daily slaughter of cattle for the human food chain?

Adolf Hitler famously proclaimed that “The Jews have inflicted two wounds on mankind. Circumcision for the body, and conscience for the soul. They are Jewish inventions... I am freeing humanity from the shackles of the soul, from the degrading suffering caused by the false vision called conscience and ethics...” (11)   

I will end by quoting G.K. Chesterton, who is attributed to have said, “When men stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing. They believe in everything.” (12)

1 Peter Singer, ‘Practical Ethics’ (London: Cambridge University Press, 1981) p.169-171

2 Peter Singer, ‘Practical Ethics’ (London: Cambridge University Press, 1981) p.171

3 Peter Singer, Nerve, ‘Heavy Petting’, 2001 (http://www.utilitarian.net/singer/by/2001----.htm)

4 Peter Singer interview by Richard Dawkins ‘The Genius of Darwin – the Uncut Interviews’, Channel 4
Documentary (2008) (http://richarddawkins.net/videos/3951-peter-singer-the-genius-of-darwin-the-uncut-interviews)

5 Richard Dawkins, ‘The God Delusion’ (Bantam Press; 1st edition, 2006), p.354-356

6 Peter Tatchell, Letter to ‘The Guardian’ Newspaper in defence of academic work ‘boy-love’, June 26 1997

7 Friedrich Neitzsche, ‘The Gay Science’, Cambridge University Press (23 Aug 2001), Section 125, 1882 p.199

8 Friedrich Neitzsche, ‘The Gay Science’, Cambridge University Press (23 Aug 2001), Section 125, 1882 p.213

9 Friedrich Neitzsche, ‘The Gay Science’, Cambridge University Press (23 Aug 2001), Section 125, 1882 p.204

10 William Shakespeare, ‘Hamlet’, Act 2, Scene 2

11 Herman Rauschning, ‘Hitler Speaks’, Kessinger Publishing, LLC (May 15, 2006) p. 220

12 Academic Kids Encyclopaedia http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/G.K._Chesterton

Economic booms and reality busts

Not for the first time there has been much conflicting ‘evidence’ purporting to either claim that the economy is on the road to recovery, albeit limping along, or that we are facing a so-called ‘double-dip recession’. Of course, few mention the fact that this could actually be a depression, but I’ll leave that one for another day.
 
However, what really gets my goat is house prices, or more to the point, the oft-used argument that the spiralling cost of property over the last 15 years or so was due to increased demand and a shortage of supply. This myth has been propagated for so long that it is seemingly hardwired into the national psyche.

So let’s lance the boil once and for all. House price growth had next to nothing to do with a shortage of supply and high demand. There I have said it.
 
What drove the housing bubble was the greed and stupidity of lenders. In the previous era of sanity, borrowers were restricted to loans of no more than three times individual income or two and half times joint income. Sellers could therefore only sell property at the price that buyers could afford. Any attempt to charge above the true market rate was rebuffed and the property price was thus in alignment with earnings and real economic growth, i.e. if people earned more they could get more since their salary ratios would increase accordingly.

But then, bubbles are nothing new. The most famous of which is probably the South Sea Bubble of 1720, though the most humorous was perhaps the Dutch Tulip Bubble of 1637 where the newly introduced tulip bulbs from the Ottoman Empire were sold for 10 times the annual income of a skilled craftsman. What no one realised at the time is that once a tulip is planted it is likely to create many more such bulbs, and so render the entire stock worthless, but, hey, why ruin a great short-term business venture, especially if people are daft enough to invest?

Returning to property, in the good old days, a property was simply a place to live, not a place to make money from, but thanks to Margaret Thatcher that all changed. Not that this was her intention, mind, but that is the trouble with ideologues - they naively think that all human beings and society as a whole operate in the self-same way as they do. 

Thatcher’s deregulation of the financial markets, which was about creating more competition in order to benefit the consumer, led to unintended consequences. The rules were thrown out the window - if you forgive the pun - on the flawed assumption that the free market would self-regulate. All of a sudden, new and evermore inventive ways of lending were created, which bore no relation to real growth and affordability, because what Thatcher and the free-marketeers significantly failed to consider was that lenders would happily break all the rules in order to gain competitive advantage. The theory simply failed to account for human nature. 

As a result, instead of the dog wagging the tail, i.e. lenders giving borrowers mortgages on the basis of their incomes with buyers responding accordingly; the tail now wagged the dog, i.e. sellers were able to set the market rate because lenders were content to provide borrowers increased multiples of income, irrespective of affordability. The perverse logic behind the lenders thinking was that property prices could only go up and so they would be worth more than the loans. If the borrower defaulted, the property could be repossessed at a profit and sold on. However, what they, and seemingly everybody, not least the government, spectacularly failed to grasp was that house price inflation was as a direct result of their lending and not because of substantive economic growth in the real world. In simple language, the growth was self-perpetuated and therefore entirely bogus.
If that wasn’t bad enough, and to add insult to injury, lenders became even more reckless, lending, as in the case of Northern Rock, up to 125% of the supposed value of the property, the proceeds of which were used to fund a consumption binge; providing interest-only mortgages, which were nothing more than hugely expensive rental agreements; and self-certifiable or so-called ‘liar’ loans, where buyers did not even have to prove incomes in order to get what were in reality unaffordable mortgages.

However, arguably the biggest scandal of all was the facilitation of the Buy-to-Let. This effectively allowed those with existing mortgages and properties to purchase many more, not as places to live, but as 'investments' to rent out and so, constricting many, particularly first-time buyers, from even getting a foot on the ladder. In an ironic twist, given Thatcher's attempt to wean people off council houses into their own homes, this merely shifted the problem to the private-sector with landlords extorting ridiculous rents, many of which were paid for by councils for those on housing benefit.

Amazing as it may now seem, but then perhaps not given the history of bubbles, what no one spotted was the canary in the coal mine, i.e. that during the same period, incomes, in real terms, were actually stalling, whilst the cost of living, propped up by ever more inventive borrowing mechanisms, was increasing. But then no one cared and why should they? If people were happy consuming and living the life of riley, then so were governments who conspired and, together with the Bank of England, kept monetary policy loose. The fact that this was unsustainable was ignored and metaphorically swept under the carpet. The most important thing was to ensure that the illusion was maintained. People were being encouraged to remortgage and use the proceeds (profit!) to spend, spend, spend. As a result of which businesses were expanding. Hence the unprecedented growth in ever more adventurous holiday options, the rapid technological and innovation advancements (e.g. flat screen televisions, iPods, iPads), increased car sales etc. Everyone was a winner. 

The problem would be bad enough if it was just the UK with this problem, but given the globalised economy was based on half the world (e.g. UK, US, Spain and Ireland) spending what it didn’t have to buy the goods produced by the other half (e.g. China, India and Eastern Europe) I think you can see why, to paraphrase Oliver Hardy, that’s another fine mess we’ve got ourselves in.

The sad reality is that we in the UK, like our friends in much of Europe and the US, are sitting on a toxic time-bomb. Median house prices are in many places, such as London and the South East, as much as 10 times median incomes (i.e. £330k to £32k), and the only way is therefore down.

And for those who think that this can never happen, they would be well advised to look to the Land of the Rising Sun. In the late 1980s the Japanese housing market’s bubble burst and in some places property prices plunged by as much as 90%. Today, over two decades later, property prices remain 50% below what they were at the height of the bubble. Oh, and if that doesn’t shock you, their stock market also fell from a height of 38,957.44 in December 1989 to 9,135.74 today – a 77% fall!

Anyone for a tulip bulb?

Daniel Anderson

Becoming childlike

Education is traditionally seen as a top-down process. Schooling is very much about children being expected to listen and learn, whilst adults are there to teach and instruct. But let’s try turning this idea on its head. Is there anything that adults can, or perhaps even should, learn from children?
 
I would propose that there is.

Take my oldest nephew, Louie, who is now nearly 4 years of age, but who right from the outset displayed a very strong and determined personality - and don’t we just know it! For when he gets stroppy no amount of trying to placate him will make one jot of difference. In fact, the more that you attempt to get him to come out of his mood, the more he will simply dig his heels in. However, what is most interesting is that when he is just left alone to his own devices, in next to no time at all he will find something else to occupy his attention and his mood will lift. Such that anybody who would have been unaware of his prior negative mood state and walks in on him will be completely oblivious and assume that he is a naturally happy and contented kid – which, to be fair, he generally is!

My point is simply that what Louie demonstrates is an innate capacity not only to shift moods, which is what we all regularly do, consciously, though more often than not sub-consciously, but, importantly, that he does not attempt to question his mood state. Louie just naturally accepts the prevailing mood state as a given. Nor does he carry any baggage from one mood state to the next, but simply sees each moment for what it is, a fresh opportunity. Indeed, this is characteristic of all toddlers.   

The thing is that somewhere along the line, education, and by this I include all life experience – formal and informal, tends to lead to us to accumulating a lot of stuff, not of all of it helpful. Indeed, there is much that is anything but. That’s the problem with life - and with us. Young children, by contrast, tend to have a naive innocence about life, and about themselves. Unlike us, they don’t generally wake up each morning worrying about the events of yesterday or the concerns of tomorrow. Instead, they tend to grasp the opportunity of the moment and look forward to the day ahead with excitement.

In fact, their problems only start when we start badgering them and imposing upon them our own agendas. Don’t get me wrong, there is much that children need to learn about the practicalities of life and it is our job as adults is to help foster them so that they can develop and reach their own unique potential. However, too much of what counts for modern education is less about nurturing innate capacities and talents, but more about instructing kids to fit particular models of learning, structured around knowledge and information. The net result is that the individual often gets lost in the mix, which when compounded with life’s myriad of challenges and complexities often leaves the resulting adult far removed from who they were when they began life’s journey.     

Children are born pure, with a natural excitement about life. The major challenge we all face is to retain, perhaps even regain, that zest and appreciation of the moment, whilst navigating the inevitable choppy waters of life’s rich experiences. As the old saying goes, yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift, that is why it is called the present.

Thanks Louie for the education.

Daniel Anderson

The boiling frog syndrome

It is said that if you take a frog and place it in boiling water then it will jump straight out, reacting to the instant change in water temperature and obvious threat to its life, but that if it is placed in cold water, which is then slowly heated up, the frog will be boiled alive. Now, I have absolutely no idea as to whether this is true or not, neither is it my intention to encourage you to indulge in some gruesome animal experimentation in order to test it for yourself, but what I am drawing your attention to is the metaphor behind what has become known as the ‘boiling frog syndrome’, namely mankind’s seeming inability to consciously react to the consequences of gradual, but nonetheless significant changes in society, some of which could be said to have been rather benign, perhaps even beneficial, but many others could be considered somewhat more disturbing.

So for instance, let’s take the World Wide Web. The whole nature of work has been totally transformed through its capacity to connect us up in an instant with people thousands of miles away, creating global networks unprecedented even only a decade ago. Yet how many of us ever stop and contemplate how significant these changes are and what our lives would be like without them having occurred? Likewise, the access to relatively affordable travel has enabled the masses to visit exotic places that our predecessors could only have dreamed about, but which we take for granted as an entitlement, if not a right.
 
But, it also explains how our television and computer screens are now filled with evermore graphic scenes of a violent or sexual nature and most of us don’t blink an eyelid; how swearing and aggression have become commonplace in everyday life, and deemed unworthy of comment; and why many of our schools and colleges are installing knife ‘arches’ and introducing hand-held scanners to tackle increasing levels of gang knife and gun crime, whilst we are constantly being informed that our neighbourhoods are much safer and more secure than ever before.

It perhaps also illustrates how it is possible for well-intentioned government legislation aimed at improving our wellbeing, through the introduction of more surveillance schemes like CCTV, the monitoring of individuals’ mobile phones data, internet usage, and even supermarket loyalty cards; increased police stop and search powers; involuntary DNA databases; and the launch of ID cards; can eventually lead to totalitarianism by stealth. 

However, perhaps the most important lesson we can take from the ‘boiling frog syndrome’ is the realisation that we are not frogs! Instead, we are blessed with the innate capacity for conscious self-awareness, but that it is up to us to proactively choose to use this faculty.

All of which reminds me of the parable of the boy who dreamt that he was on a sinking ship with his mother and father but was only able to save himself and one other – either his mother or his father, but not both. What should he do?
 
Wake up, of course!

Daniel Anderson


Blair, Iraq and the Power of Perception

As one of those fortunate enough to have got a ticket to hear Tony Blair give evidence to the Iraq Inquiry, which was set up by Gordon Brown to identify lessons that could be learned from the conflict, I was struck far more by the preconceptions by many of those in attendance, as well as the mass media in general. Most have already decided what they believe, inquiry or no inquiry, and so anything that doesn’t conform to their own preconceived notions, which are, in the main, negative towards Blair, George Bush, the rationale for the war, removal of Saddam Hussein and the consequences thereof, is nothing more than a sham.

Indeed, the whole experience was somewhat surreal. The anti-war protestors were in full force with their rhythmic, and somewhat mesmerizing mantra – led by their equivalent of ‘high priest’, or in this case ‘priestess’ shouting ‘Tony Blair!’ to which her congregation duly responded ‘War Criminal!’. The world’s media were gathered around the entrance, enticing attendees to comment on their expectations to print and to microphone, with flash photography in abundance. Unsurprisingly therefore, security was necessarily tight, necessitating a personalised ticketing system with two examples of ID, airport style security checks and so forth.

Alas, my ticket did not permit entrance to the inquiry or ‘interrogation’ room itself, but an adjacent room, referred to as the ‘Additional Viewing Facility’ or ‘AVF’ for short, with a large television screen relaying the proceedings, enabling up to 700 of us - although it appeared that many had decided to forego their opportunity, judging by the rows of empty seats - privileged to have succeeded in the ballot for tickets, to observe the performances of the panellists and, of course, Mr Blair himself, albeit from afar.

The most exciting moment - for there were not many - came approximately 45 minutes into the proceedings when someone got up in the ‘AVF’, stood on his chair and shouted that he couldn’t take any more of this – by which he meant Tony Blair’s evidence, because, and I quote, ‘He is a liar and a war criminal!’, after which, and to collective cries of ‘Will you shut up’, he decided to eject himself with his parting shot being ‘Alright, I am going, I ain’t taking any more of this’, I think somewhat surprised and certainly disappointed that nobody else supported his cause, and before the security personnel, by then approaching rapidly, had the chance to remove him themselves.

Tony Blair’s evidence before the panel lasted a full six hours, split into a morning and afternoon shift – of which I was only present for the first three hours, which focused specifically on the case for war. So the protestor - for argument’s sake, let’s call him Charlie - left less than a third of the way through Blair’s presentation of the facts as he saw them. Yet, Charlie had already determined that whatever Tony Blair would say other than ‘I was wrong, I am a war criminal, I should face a war tribunal’ etc. was never going to be acceptable. This position was echoed on my way back on the tube chatting to a couple who had sat through the evidence, but told me that they never believed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, irrespective of the fact that even the United Nations were at the time of the view that he had them, the argument being around how best to deal with him in light of this.

Indeed, what this situation amply demonstrates is how it is our perception rather than the particulars of an external situation, which is responsible for our outlook on life. How often have we all made up our minds about something, such that when presented with the facts we choose to merely fit them into our already formed opinion or ignore them entirely? And this doesn’t have to be something as serious as to whether we believe or disbelieve a former prime minister’s reasons for taking a country to war, but can just so easily apply to our decision to purchase a new flat-screen television when the old cathode ray one is perfectly fit for use, even if it is not as svelte as its intended replacement; or perhaps it is our wish to indulge ourselves on another slice of  chocolate cake when committed to losing weight, because we have rationalized that ‘just one more slice’ won’t really make that much difference, of course conveniently forgetting, that this is not just ‘one more slice’, but ‘one more’ after the ‘one more’ before!

Whatever the case, the point is that the mind is not just some benign receptacle, merely recording and informing the individual in an impartial manner as to the particulars of whatever circumstances are presented before him or her. Instead, it is often in overdrive constantly playing with the literally thousands of thoughts and ideas that are continually entering our heads, and turning them into mini, or perhaps not so mini, dramas, which often bear no semblance to reality, at least in an objective sense, to what is going on in the outside world, a process often termed ‘the monkey mind’, analogous to the monkey who jumps from tree to tree.

Indeed, the Kabbalah cognizant of this tendency suggests that the mind is comprised of 3 distinct components, 'Hokhmah', the ongoing creation of thoughts and ideas; 'Binah', the capacity to analyze and interpret those thoughts and ideas; and 'Da’at', the ability to integrate those two separate processes and reach a sense of clarity, rejecting or accepting the suitability or otherwise of those thoughts and ideas.

The bottom line being that it is within our power to choose whether to accept and run with the contents of our minds or reject them as nothing more than a series of transitory thoughts, which can be noted, but not acted upon. Conscious awareness is one of the main goals of Kabbalah, as well as many other spiritual disciplines, and it is by taking control of, and recognizing we are not, our thoughts that we can achieve the first stage of a process of life transformation.

Ultimately, I have no idea whether Tony Blair is telling the truth or not, though the case he presented was quite compelling, but I do know that our friend Charlie and his many friends outside certainly have even less idea, because they are at the mercy of their minds, which to my way of thinking, isn’t a very good place to be.  

Daniel Anderson

Climate Change is not the problem

World leaders have begun gathering in Copenhagen for the United Nations Climate Conference. The meeting's objective, which follows on from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, is to consider what, if any, action they will take to address ongoing concerns over climate change, or more to the point, the consequences of heavy industrialisation, which it is claimed threatens the future of the planet.

 

Indeed, according to mainstream opinion, the time for action is now. For example, the Forests and European Union Resource Network (Fern) suggest that today's atmosphere contains 40% more carbon dioxide than at the start of the Industrial Revolution; that just to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations at present levels would require emissions to be reduced by 70% by the end of this century and that the only effective way to tackle climate change is to reduce and not offset emissions since the latter merely distracts from the problem.

 

However, there is a mounting body of opinion, albeit a minority  view, that suggests that such claims are false or at the very least massively overstated. Not helped by recent revelations that the director of a leading climate research unit at the University of East Anglia manipulated data on global warming, which didn't fit with the prevailing consensus. 

 

But be this as it may, if mankind is indeed in any way responsible, even if some scientists have foolishly and unnecessarily abused data in order to cement their case, then we do have to seriously consider where we go from here.


It is therefore of some considerable concern that reports have already emerged that significant and potentially irreconcilable differences exist between the parties and it is unlikely  that they will be able to  reach agreement anytime soon. Instead, somewhat remarkably given what is potentially at stake, world leaders seem more preoccupied with the viability or otherwise of the various economic stimulus packages that they are putting in place arguing in all seriousness that business must ultimately come first. Of course, no one seems to recognize the seeming folly of such a position, in that if the eco-system were to collapse so would mankind's existence, in which case business under such circumstances would hardly then matter.

 

The question therefore, is where do we go from here and is the situation really as desperate as many clearly believe?

 

Well, from a Kabbalistic perspective, the main problem society faces today, has nothing to do with climate change (man-made or otherwise), global warming, rising sea levels and so forth - at least not directly. Since these things are really just a manifestation of a deeper malaise, namely mankind's pursuance of an ego-centric agenda, and whilst we continue to put our own wants and demands for material gain, above and beyond anything else then are we are likely to suffer the consequences of such choices.   

 

Copenhagen then might be the right place, in that it is where those who have the capacity to lead the way are meeting, but it certainly has the wrong agenda. For if we really want to address the problems facing the world today then we need to look at where our priorities lie. But don't take my word for it; instead here is what Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler said with remarkable prescience in 1944 'Material is a double-edged sword. Advancement in one direction is more than offset by deterioration in another. The great benefits of civilizations are invariably accompanied by its degradations. People don't want to understand that uncorrected human nature will ruin all their efforts. If people become 'givers'ť, the world will be a wonderful place to live in, irrespective of technology. So long as they remain 'takers'ť, their efforts will inevitably be directed towards selfishness, violence and war. Every advance in technology will be used for destruction and ruin....'


The question then for our world leaders is a simple choice. Do we want to continue as 'takers' and suffer the inevitable and potentially catastrophic consequences of our narcissism? Or do we become 'givers' and thereby transform the world to one based on selflessness, compassion and outward-centeredness?

 

It really is that simple. 


Daniel Anderson 

The BNP, freedom of speech and social order

The media and our politicians have been in a real tiz these last few days arguing and counter-arguing over the BBC's decision to invite Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party (BNP) to appear on the weekly political panel show, 'Question Time'.

 

The arguments for, propounded by the BBC themselves, was that Mr Griffin is a member of a legitimate political party, that had achieved 6% of the popular vote in the June European Elections, which equates to over a million supporters, and as a result of which had won 2 seats and so therefore can be said to speak for a sizeable minority of the population. Others in support of their appearance argue for freedom of speech, as well as adding that attempting to deny that voice we risk worsening the problem because many, particularly the white working-class, face rising unemployment and seeing an influx of migration, feel disenfranchised by the mainstream political establishment.

 

Those against, argue that irrespective of any support that the BNP may have, its views, such as repatriation for those considered 'non-indigenous', are abhorrent and offensive to the vast majority and therefore unacceptable. They further add that by allowing Mr Griffin to appear on a primetime television show it somehow confers an air of legitimacy from which they can only benefit.

 

Of course, the irony of all this is that the publicity given to this matter ensured that the programme itself achieved its highest ever viewing figures in its 30-year history and that the BNP was given prominent coverage across all television channels and the popular press!

 

But, the question for those opposed to his appearance is that if we feel that his party’s views are offensive and unacceptable and if this is the sole measure we wish to use to determine their exposure or otherwise, then it makes no sense to merely prevent them having media exposure when they remain, for all intents and purposes, a legal entity. In a similar vein it is surely somewhat ridiculous and democratically questionable - for those who believe in the values of democracy - to prohibit teachers, doctors and police officers from being members of the BNP. It is rather like saying that the BNP should be allowed to exist, but it is just that nobody can vote for them. Surely, it would make far more sense, from such a perspective; to simply ban them and other similar organizations outright from participating within the political process and then prosecute anyone caught associating with them?

 

Such a proposal may well fly in the face of the principle of freedom of speech, but then in spite of all the talk of this being sacrosanct there is no such thing and never has been. Democratic society has its own level of censorship, which we all accept as a given. It is really just a matter of where we decide to draw the line and at which point in time we happen to be standing, since the line itself has tended to shift depending on the prevailing cultural, social or political context. For instance, 50 years ago it was prohibited to promote or discuss homosexuality as a lifestyle choice. Indeed, anyone caught doing so could, and often did, face prosecution, even imprisonment. Today, this is no longer the case. Instead, we have done an about-turn and have created a new crime of ‘homophobia' when one can be prosecuted for making what are considered to be derogatory comments against anyone choosing homosexuality as a way of life.

 

Thus what is considered right and wrong is less to do with fixed, timeless, principles of existence, but very much dependent on the values western democracy decides are in or out of vogue at a given point in history. All of which is very much at odds with a Kabbalistic world view, which holds that our goal in life is simply to seek to realign ourselves with the nature of the universe and the will of the Creator, rather than the fluctuating whims of society, and it is our failure to follow our own internal moral compass that has led to all manner of disorders that bedevil us today, be they social, political, psychological or even physical.

 

Thus though the BNP may be a somewhat grotesque manifestation of some of the worst aspects of human nature, attempting to silence or ridicule them simply because of the offense that they cause, merely risks tackling only the symptom, rather than the underlying cause, of their popularity, namely legitimate fears and concerns about the nature of where society is heading.

 

We ignore them at our peril.


Daniel Anderson

Sir Alan - You're Fired!

So another series of the Apprentice is in full flow with Sir Alan Sugar once again searching for his young protégé. In the process we are, once more, subjected to a barrage of egotistical proclamations from the 16 candidates, such as “I am the best salesperson in Europe” and “If I want something I will get it” etc. all vying for the attentions of the ‘self-made’ millionaire. Though to a large extent this bravado is very much driven by the need to make good television, sadly society increasingly seems to believe that material growth in and of itself is what matters, irrespective of the manner and means used. As a result, not surprisingly, we have seen a related growth in selfishness, distrust, and inconsideration of other.

Israel Salanter, founder of the 19th Century mussar movement, which saw ethical conduct and behaviour as the underpinning principle of a meritorious life, both for the individual, but importantly for society at large, argued that we should by all means seek to promote ourselves, but not if it means demoting the validity of another.

The Kabbalah recognizes that we do indeed have animalistic drives and passions, which left to their own devices will lead to gratuitous expressions of self-interest, but argues that these are located in the lower-order soul, known as the Nefesh HaBehamit. However, this drive is not, in and of itself, bad for it creates the drive to life, without which we would not bother getting out of bed in the morning, nor would we eat, drink or play, but this is not, or at least should not be, the overriding force that determines how we live our lives.

The Nefesh Elokit, by contrast, is the higher-order, Divine soul, which gives us a sense of purpose, the spiritual connection to the Ultimate Reality, an acceptance of meaning beyond mere self. The challenge in life, indeed the whole basis of free will, is the ongoing battle to determine who is in control. An often used analogy is between that of a horse (Nefesh HaBehamit) and rider (Nefesh Elokit). The Kabbalah suggests that the difference in essence is between selfishness, and selflessness. Whilst the former is expressed often through surface-level emotive states, i.e. anger, jealousy, lust and greed, the latter is expressed through being other-centred, i.e. love, compassion, sensitivity, appreciation etc.    

Our goal in life is to seek to elevate the holy above the profane, to simply to become outward-focused rather than self-centred. This is something Sir Alan’s young upstarts would do well to consider.   

Daniel Anderson   

 

 

Is Warren Buffett really the world's richest man?

It would appear that Bill Gates' halo must be slipping. According to Forbes business magazine, The Microsoft co-founder is now only the 3rd wealthiest man in the world with his personal fortune only having increased by a mere $2bn last year to a total of $58bn, whilst investment guru Warren Buffett’s personal wealth increased by $10bn over the same period to a total of $62bn. And let’s not forget Carlos Slim Helu, a Mexican communications magnate who pipped Mr Gates to second position and who saw his personal wealth double over the past two years.

Now before you get out your handkerchief and weep for Bill Gates let’s get some of these figures into perspective. According to World Bank estimates, $54bn a year would eliminate starvation and malnutrition by 2015, whilst $30bn would provide a year of primary education for every child on earth (source: Boston.com).

Sobering stuff.

But, the problem I have with the Forbes analysis has nothing to do with Bill Gates, Warren Buffett or Carlos Slim Helu - at least not directly, but has everything to do with definition. Now I don’t for one minute expect a business-orientated magazine, to characterize ‘wealth’ as relating to anything other than financial accumulation, but I do think that they - and western society in general - are very much wide of the mark.

By contrast, The Talmud suggests that the one who is wealthy is the one who is happy with his lot (Talmud Avot 4:1), which effectively means that true wealth is not so much about what you own materially, but rather more about appreciating and accepting your blessings, irrespective of your financial position.

Of course, money has the potential to bring tremendous benefit to the world around us, particularly if it is used to create opportunities for others rather than just seen as a means of accumulation. But, how many so-called ‘wealthy’ people are content with what they have, such as their nearest and dearest, or focus on the contribution they can make to the world around them?

Take the porn king Paul Raymond who died this week.

In his lifetime he amassed a £650mn fortune, but died alone as a virtual recluse, his marriage having collapsed because of his infidelity, he was estranged from his son, whose own children subsist on benefits, and had never recovered from death of his daughter from a drugs overdose 17 years ago.

Can Mr Raymond really be said to have died 'wealthy'?

Psychiatrist and Rabbi, Abraham Twerski recounts an old story of an old beggar who was given a magic purse, which contained a single dollar, and when he removed the dollar, another dollar would take its place. Three days later he was found dead, lying on a heap of dollars.

The moral of the story being that unless a person learns to appreciate with what they have, they will never have enough and most certainly cannot be classed as ‘wealthy’.

Daniel Anderson   

Finding Tranquility

Green in colour therapy signifies balance. It is neither one of the hotter 
colours like red nor one of the cooler ones like blue.
Being truly balanced in body and soul is a truly magnificent feeling. 

Sometimes we may feel too depressed or perhaps even too silly. Green
will bring us back to the centre. Green is standing barefoot on the grass,
an activity which helps balance body and mind.
Green funnily enough, is wonderful for laughter, too. What is the connection 
between laughter and balance?
'Part of our ability to laugh comes from not taking ourselves too seriously. 
We must realise that in spite of our own personal efforts, ultimately our
success is beyond our control....Thus we can tap into a pure level of
humour. Such perception is necessary for maintaining health and
balance'
Nechama Sarah G. Nadborny
Green is a combination of yellow (optimism) and blue (spirituality). If we 
take ourselves and our problems too seriously, we need the optimistic
spirituality (which leads to happiness) of green to balance us - enabling
us to laugh at ourselves.
Then, we can use the green energy which says 'go and grow' to move 
forward without doubt - decisively. In other words doing our best with
confidence (and laughter!) knowing that the result is not always in our hands.

Marvin Shaw

Stand Up For Yourself

Turquoise (blue-green) has the refreshing quality of the sea. There is a 
certain newness, quirkiness and individuality about this colour. You
stand out if you wear turquoise.
It is connected to your individuality - especially in relation to the choices 
that you make. In this day and age, it's all too easy to just go with the
flow and to be over affected by other's opinions and moods. Turquoise
is the colour of immunity. By being immune to other's wishes, you are
free to choose what is truly best for your personal growth.
Yet, turquoise also brings us a sense of humility and thankfulness. It's 
the colour of nature in that it contains the blue of the sky and the green
of the grass. It, itself, is the colour of the sea. Humility, in its true
meaning, is being appreciative of your own gifts, being appreciative of
other's gifts and being thankful for the greatest gift of all - that of life
itself.
With turquoise, you are aware of your own smallness, being just a 
speck on this vast planet. Yet of your own greatness too - knowing
that you can express your own individuality and make a difference.
You are worth more than a million dollars!

Marvin Shaw

Chilling Out!

Whereas Indigo has the quality of a meditative night sky, blue is 
the beauty of a clear cloudless morning - the very essence of
clarity. It is also the colour of the ocean, calm and serene.
Imagine clear blue waters washing over you - all your negative
energies and confusions dissolve. Your body is clean, your
mind is clear.
Blue is also good for clarity of speech - a wonderful colour to 
help us express ourselves. If you go for an interview, wear
some blue. You may notice that often newsrooms in TV
studios have a blue background for this reason.
Blue is also THE colour for dealing with stress, the prime 
colour to calm your anger and your mind. If you want to
relax, just think of your favourite shade of light or royal blue.
Whereas red is the energetic, orange the emotional and 
yellow the mental - blue is our first step to the spiritual.
Any colour with blue in it has a spiritual air. Blue yonder.
Blue lifts our eyes up towards the sky, our souls up
toward heaven.
Thus, it is a good colour, too for judging people favourably.
By seeing someone with true clarity, you can notice their
good points. By seeing them as a spiritual being like
yourself, you will find it easier to appreciate their efforts.
This will lead to a calmer and more satisfying relationship.


Marvin Shaw

Sleeping Securely

'Indigo (Blue-Violet) is the vault of heaven in a moonless light' 
Pauline Wills
'Indigo is insight, the visionary nature. Hold on to your vision 
and others will follow....Bring your dreams down to earth.'

Philippa Merrivale
Indigo is our mission in life.....our arrow shot into the blue 
yonder.....up, up and away....
Indigo is connected to the night. Andy Baggott tells us that it's 
useful in the treatment of insomnia. Indigo is connected to our
dreams, to our highest aspirations. By combining the relaxing
properties of blue and the intuition that is violet, indigo becomes
a wonderful colour for meditation, especially in the focus of
guiding us toward our wildest dreams.
Indigo leads us to have faith in our own unique gifts and toward 
the expression of our special talents. With indigo, we may create
our own miracles by discovering and realising our life-mission.

Marvin Shaw

Respect Yourself

'Emotionally violet teaches us to love our feelings and to accept 
them as part of ourselves'
Pauline Wills.
When things start going wrong for us, we often feel negative, sad, 
angry, depressed or down. Even despair.
Violet (imagine the sight and scent of beautiful lavender fields) is 
the most powerful colour for dealing with the ups and downs of life
- which often materialise as negative feelings.
Violet is an equal mixture of the physical (red) and the spiritual 
(blue). Violet is about trust in both. It's about trusting the breath,
which means valuing and respecting the fact that we have been
given the precious gift of life. Trusting in ourselves. Trusting in
our intuition to help guide us. Trusting in the spiritual.
When you think or feel you are falling or taking a down-turn in 
your life, try the following. Sit upright in a chair, well supported
and balanced, in correct and relaxed posture. Imagine breathing
in violet and breathing out yellow its complimentary colour. This
will help to stabilize and boost your energies.
Lavender (in the same family as violet) is a wonderful herb and 
aromatherapy oil to make you feel good too!
Marvin Shaw 

More Colourful Relationships

'Magenta is the colour which prompts a person to make changes
so that they can evolve as
human-beings' Pauline Wills

The difference between human-beings and animals is that humans 
have a conscience and a soul. Magenta is the highest on our 12
colour spectrum just as a human's qualities make him or her the
highest species in this world. An animal will normally eat if he is
hungry. A human-being may choose to share his or her food with
another - or even to fast.
Magenta symbolises us taking the needs of other human beings 
into consideration. Thus it's the key colour to enhance relationships.
It's the colour for having compassion for another human being. It's a
colour of oneness and forgiveness. It's a colour of unconditional love
and indeed often looks like a deep shade of pink - a colour often
associated with love.
'Magenta is about being appropriate in each moment, loving the small 
things'
Philippa Merrivale.
In other words - taking the time to appreciate each temporary moment 
and remembering every good in our precious lives. Watching the sun
set in a blazing magenta sky over the sea at the end of a hot summer's
day.......
Marvin Shaw 

Let's Get Physical!

Red, the colour of our life-blood is the colour of energy and action. 
Whenever we're feeling tired, lethargic or listless - red is the colour
to get us going. Interestingly, although red is the 'stop' at traffic lights
- it's precisely at that moment that we're ready to explode into action
and get going!
Yet red is also a colour to ground us - to bring us back to the physical, 
to our bodies, to the earth. The word for red, in Hebrew, is 'adom' which
is also the name of the first physical being on earth (Adam) whilst the
root of the word 'adom' is connected to blood and earth.
Nonetheless, too much red can make us too physical and sometimes 
angry so we must use it sparingly or in combination with a colour such
as green (it’s complementary) or turquoise in order to weaken its
potency whilst still maximising its energising effects.

Marvin Shaw

Are You Listening?

'Coral is a combination of both the male and female energies 
and creates with it a wholeness and harmony'
Pauline Wills.
This is one reason it's such a good colour for communication, 
bringing together the natural differences between male and female,
and creating harmony both with the other and ourselves and the
male and female WITHIN ourselves.
Coral (Red-Orange) is also a wonderful colour if we ever experience 
grief, shock or trauma.
'There are occasions when shock or trauma have been very deeply 
experienced and where the orange ray is too direct to contemplate.
In such a situation, the coral may provide a gentler energy with
which to comfort it.’
Philippa Merrivale.
Whereas orange is connected to our emotions, red is pure physical 
energy. The red-orange combination allows our deepest emotions to
be released and expressed safely.

Marvin Shaw
 

Creative Living

Orange is a bright, joyous colour. It contains and combines the 
positive thinking of yellow and the 'moving on with energy' of red.
It is also connected to sight and to the way we can choose to 
look at things. It is interesting that carrots (which are orange)
are said to be good for one's eyesight.
Orange is, therefore, a good colour for helping us accept our past
 - to see the joy in our past, too. If we are too stuck in a perceived
negative past, orange can bring its (red) energy and (yellow)
optimism to give us a more positive viewpoint. Orange is our
protection from a negative memory in our past.....an emotional
comforter.
It's connected to our creativity too. It's an off-beat and quirky colour. 
Looking at our past in a creative way can enable us to learn and
grow from our experiences and thus to accept them more easily.
Orange is a colour of fun. Looking at our lives creatively creates 
numerous opportunities for fun!

Marvin Shaw

Confidence Building

We are aware that gold is something valuable and special. Gold 
standard is the best standard. Gold has the highest monetary value.
Winning a gold medal in the Olympics signifies the best of the best. 
The colour gold is a mixture of yellow and orange and incorporates
the positive thinking of yellow with the joy that is orange. If we need
a colour to motivate us, then gold is that colour.
According to colour therapist Pauline Wills, gold is the colour of wisdom, 
truth and knowledge. It combines the learning of yellow with the creativity
and correct vision of orange.
With gold we have self-esteem. With gold, we have confidence - we 
can walk our walk.
Should you ever feel stuck or depressed, imagine being surrounded 
by a luminous gold energy whizzing around the perimeter of your body.
Then, go out and walk, preferably in a natural setting. Lift your head
slightly and you will start to feel uplifted. You will begin to appreciate
the full value of your life - which is worth more than a million dollars.

Marvin Shaw

Brightening Up Your Day

When the sun comes up and daytime arrives, it is as though we're 
being offered a new start in life. The darkness of night has dispelled
and the light of the sun signifies a brand new day. Yellow is the
colour of optimism and positive thinking.
It is a great colour, too, to help us study. When we shine a light on 
an object or a piece of writing, it makes them clearer. So yellow is
an excellent colour for clear thinking - and thus as an aid for
time-management too.
Whereas yellow-green is a good colour for detoxification (mint, for 
example, is wonderful when we are feeling sick) yellow is better
used for healing the mind.
Whenever we are thinking in a negative fashion - imagining a 
brilliant yellow light filtering into our brain can help to lift and
lighten our thoughts.
When we are thinking in a more positive way, our bodies feel 
better too - and this promotes healing.

Marvin Shaw

Liberating Yourself

When we think of the colour green, we often think of grass, open-spaces 
and freedom. Yellow, on the other hand, denotes the optimism of a
beautiful bright sunny day.
Yellow-Green (olive or lime green) is often connected to new life, re-birth, 
freedom and optimism.
As colour therapist Philippa Merivale says ‘olive is the colour of the new leaf 
unfolding’
. It is the colour of the Spring, the colour that ultimately says to us
that the death of winter was just a step before new life and re-birth.
If the fear of death is, deep down, the root of all our fears, then yellow-green 
becomes the ultimate antidote to fear.

Marvin Shaw

Finding Happiness

Laughing at the false you - Acting out the fulfilled you

If you ask people what they really want in life, then it's likely that at the
very essence of their desires will be achieving happiness. Ask them,
however, how they define happiness and you'll, most likely, receive a rather
wide-ranging array of
responses.

In the final step (of 12) on the road to fulfilment you’ll learn about the 
very essence of happiness and how to bring it into your life,
discovering the importance of balance. Wonderful food is great, but
in moderation. Sleep is important and necessary, in moderation.
Sexual relations are marvellous and fulfilling, in moderation.
Perhaps, most importantly, you'll learn how to laugh, to see the 
funny side of life. To understand that you can't control what happens
to you that much and that unpredictability and change can actually be
refreshing and fun.
And finally, you’ll learn how to 'act' as if you’re happy (try smiling, now!) 
and how that can actually make you happy!

Marvin Shaw

Achieving Prosperity And Success

Personal Growth - Choosing the ingredients and eating with gratitude

Compared to previous generations, we are relatively wealthy. Yet we may 
still feel 'unsuccessful' in our lives - especially when comparing ourselves
to others.
So first of all we need to be thankful for what we HAVE got, whether this 
be health, friends, family or just the gift of nature or life itself.
Real success is found within personal growth, i.e. becoming a better person. 
This depends on our starting point, our own efforts and our particular talents.
Yoga has the right idea. In that particular discipline, we measure ourselves
against our previous performance - not against others.
Giving charity is a wonderful sign of prosperity. Not only is it a good 
thing for the recipient. It is also good for the giver - as giving even a small
amount of charity on a regular basis transforms you into a more charitable
and righteous person. This act also tells your unconscious mind that you
are wealthy, as you have the financial means to give to another. This type
of 'prosperity thinking' is one of the first steps to prosperity.
In the penultimate step (of 12) on the road to fulfilment, you’ll learn that 
prosperity is good as long as it's used for the good. Deciding what you
really need in your life is also important.

Getting rid of excess weight or possessions can allow new things to
come into your life.
By making your own choices about your real needs will result in your 
immunity from other peoples’ agendas, as well as being free from the
prevalent societal view and somewhat distorted  description of success.

Marvin Shaw
 

Anger Transformation

Anger management - Judging favourably

You may not think that you get angry - and I hope you don't! - but did you 
know that frustration, annoyance, angst and even boredom can all be
expressions of anger.
Anger is clearly not good for our health, yet suppressing our anger (and 
other emotions) can lead to depression. Our aim must therefore be to let out
any anger in a safe and harmless manner - and then to look at our world and
our life situation in more creative and positive ways.
Once we realise how bad anger is for us and the fact that we may have either 
overt or hidden anger, then we can start to do something about it.
In step ten (of 12) on the road to fulfilment, you will discover practical physical
 ways to release your anger safely. Jogging or even screaming out our
rustrations in a secluded space are just two of many options.
Indeed, if certain situations seem to repeat themselves in our lives, there is, 
perhaps, a message for us to learn and by accepting this message as a teacher
our anger can begin to subside as we look at other possible ways to confront
(gently!) our situation. By doing so we'll also learn to judge others - and ourselves
- favourably. The effects on our health and general well-being will be palpable.

Marvin Shaw

Stress Management

Sleeping your way towards "mission accomplished"

Along with low self-esteem, stress is probably one of the most prevalent 
problems of our generation. In this 'I want it now' culture, it's all too
easy to get stressed out. For example, what with multi-channel television,
the growth of the internet and many other forms of ever-increasing
technological advancements, it is perhaps not surprising that we are
suffering this rather modern disease we call ‘information overload’.
It's as though we've forgotten the simple pleasures and most important
things in life.
In step nine (of 12) on the road to fulfilment, you need to learn how to 
relax your body (progressive relaxation) and to calm your mind (meditation).
Part of this process involves focusing on your life-mission i.e. determining
what it is you really want from life. This takes some work, but is one of the
most rewarding and essential endeavours you can do in order to live a life of
minor miracles.
A relaxed body, a calm mind, and knowing who you really are and what truly 
matters - is a most wonderful antidote to stressful living.

Marvin Shaw

Dealing Wth Adversity

Bouncing back intuitively through the miracle of breath

There are times in our lives when we all feel down. In fact, that's the 
nature of life itself. Ups and downs. And if truth be told, without the
downs we wouldn't really appreciate the ups so much.
Adversity can indeed be our best teacher - it often points to a lack in 
our lives. If, for example, we are without a (fulfilling) job or a (loving)
partner and we resulting feel bad - then at least we become aware of what
we need in our lives. Likewise, if we regularly feel angry or frustrated, it may
well be that we need to work on these specific character traits as a means
to unravelling the root causes of our unease.
If we see our problems as challenges, they can actually be transformed into 
positive goals. Also, if we learn to listen to and respect our feelings, we allow
them to gradually evolve and change.
In step eight (of 12) on the road to fulfilment we need to learn good posture 
and breathing along with the skills to develop faith and trust in our own basic
goodness. This naturally improves our in-born intuition. Answers appear more
readily and our adversity becomes yesterday's teacher.

Marvin Shaw

Building Your Relationships

Touching joy - temporary moments and permanent relationships

Although we are all unique with very own talents, skills and abilities, 
none of us are perfect. In fact, we are not meant to be perfect. Indeed,
perhaps ironically, it is through our imperfections that we are able to
contribute to the environments within in which we live and thereby help
perfect the world – a process known as ‘Tikkun Olam’. 
To do this, we need help. We can't do it all by ourselves. Yet by 
combining our talents, skills and abilities with those of others, we can
achieve wonders. Hospitals, for example, could not exist without doctors
to heal, nurses to nurse, cleaners to clean, even builders to build...
Relationships make the world go round. On a more personal level, two 
people who share, love, care and give to each other can often feel more
complete than a single person. A good friendship, marriage or relationship
is worth its weight in gold.
Everyday we relate to each other on various levels. Good relationship skills 
are invaluable. In step seven (of 12) on the road to fulfilment we learn to have
compassion for others and to feel, share and give love to those around us
whilst remembering and focusing on the good they have done.
We also have an important relationship with ourselves. By being easier on 
ourselves, we learn to love ourselves more. This makes it easier to relate
better to our fellow humans in our goal to make the world a better place.

Marvin Shaw
 
 

Goal Setting And Achievement

Forgiveness - The first action towards goal achievement

When we have positive, worthwhile and appealing goals in our lives and 
we take action towards them, we not only feel good and find ourselves in
an upbeat frame of mind, but most importantly, we naturally feel drawn to
taking action to achieve them.
There are simple, yet powerful, practical exercises we can do to in order to 
show us what we truly deeply need and desire. One thing’s for sure - our
motivation increases, once we have goals we really want.   
Even if, at some point, we decide to re-assess or even change our goals - it 
really doesn't matter. During step six (of 12) on the road to fulfilment what is
important is that we have meaningful goals and that we are taking steps to
achieve them. This is what makes us feel worthwhile, productive and happy
human-beings. It follows that once we achieve a particular goal - we benefit
by setting a new one.
Our goals can (and should) also be spiritual and character-building. When 
we feel that we are on the path to becoming a better person, we naturally feel
good.
Having the courage to admit past mistakes and to regret and resolve not to 
repeat them is a most wonderful character-building goal, which can only lead
to us becoming more fulfilled.

Marvin Shaw
 

Improving Your Communication Skills

Are you really listening or are you too wrapped up in your own emotions? 
One of the most powerful secrets of communicating with others is simply to listen 
to them. By learning to truly listen to another human-being and to feel a little of what
they are feeling will gradually lead to a deeper, more responsive, and ultimately more
fulfilling level of communication for you both.  
To be able to truly listen to others is a healing action. Listening to others takes the 
focus off you and your problems - and this makes you feel more valuable and less
stressed.
However, it is also important to communicate with yourself. 
So for a change, why not try turning off the I-Pod, the mobile and even the television 
and start listening to your own inner voice?
Note what you hear and feel. 
And then ask yourself what are you going to do about it?
In step five (of 12) on the road to fulfilment, you need to start letting go of any 
negative thoughts and feelings, but in a safe and emotionally beneficial, constructive
manner.
Do you remember having a good cry in the past that seemed to wash away all your 
angst and made you feel so much better?
Once these emotions have been released and your thoughts have been unblocked, 
you are truly able to listen to your inner desires and needs. You are then
communicating with yourself and thus are more able to communicate honestly
and effectively with others.

Marvin Shaw
 

Developing Your Self Esteem

Accepting your past by seeing the good

Low self-esteem is possibly the biggest problem of this generation. It can
show itself in people feeling small and worthless or conversely in people
behaving arrogantly and trying to dominate others - in an attempt for them
to feel better about themselves.

Yet self-esteem is just self-image - the way in which we see ourselves. 
If we look at our past and we think it was full of missed opportunities and 
empty moments then we are simply reinforcing a pre-existing negative
self-image. 
However, if we choose to see our past as us doing the best we could with 
whatever character imperfections we then had, if we see our past as
something we can learn and grow from - a teacher to guide us as to what
character traits we need to improve, if we see ourselves as genuinely worthy,
important, and with our own unique job in life - then our self-esteem rises.
The truth is that we are all unique. There is no one on this earth exactly 
like us.
Step four (of 12) on the road to fulfilment is to learn to appreciate that we 
each have our own individual challenges in life, which will help make us
better human-beings. Once we identify those particular challenges and work
on improving our character traits, our self-image begins to change and our
self-esteem rises.

Marvin Shaw

Getting Motivated

Walking your walk - The holistic way to enhance self-esteem

The biggest enemy of motivation is depression. To be depressed is to be 
stuck in a rut. Sometimes, so badly, that you are not able to physically move.
When you feel that you are progressing in the right direction towards a 
satisfying and fulfilling goal, you feel motivated.
The secret to escaping depression is two-fold. Firstly, one can read or study 
an uplifting book, concept or idea. This can transform, inspire and motivate you
to move forward positively in your own life. Secondly, one can move your body
and walk, especially in a pleasant or natural environment. But if truth be told,
any walking, dance, natural movement or exercise can promote health and
well-being. When you are no longer in the same physical space of your
depression and you get your body walking and moving - your ‘stuck-ness’
goes and your movement brings on positive feelings and natural inspiration
and motivation.
Step three (of 12) on the road to fulfilment is to begin to appreciate the benefits
of
action. When you feel down, the simple action of lifting your head slightly
upwards (and smiling) can make you feel both happier and more motivated

to make positive progress in your life. Try it!

Marvin Shaw

Positive Thinking

Positive thinking...positive values...positive beliefs

'Think good and it will be good'.

Well I don’t know about you, but this sounds just too good to be true, and yet 
this maxim is easy to prove.
The stress in our lives is often caused, not by an actual event - but by the 
THOUGHT of something bad happening (an event, which in fact often never
takes place or at least is not as bad as we fear).
The fact is that we often can't control or forecast future situations, but we 
CAN learn to control our own thoughts. Whenever we think of something bad
or unhappy that may happen, we start to worry, feel tense, nervous, stressed
or unhappy.
However, now - yes, right now - I want you to think of something really lovely. 
Something real, e.g. like a gorgeous baby or person that you love. Or else
something or some place that you'd love to be. Lying on a beautiful beach
perhaps, in ideal temperatures and glorious and serene surroundings. Maybe
a smile appears on your face as your body gradually feels calm and relaxed....
Step two (of 12) on the road to fulfilment, is to learn how to think good as a 
means to beginning to feel good.

Marvin Shaw

Confronting Fear

Creating yourself anew through speech

It has been said that our biggest fear is not death or even pain - but that of speaking in 
public!

Could this possibly be true?

On examination, we can begin to understand what this fear of Public Speaking is really
about. Our prime worry is of receiving a bad or negative reaction. What
if we don't get
applause? What if we foul up? What will
people say about us? What DOES their
reaction say about us as a person? What embarrassment!
I suggest that our deepest fear is that nobody really loves us. For when someone truly 
loves us, like a loving and caring parent, they don't stop loving us when we fail.
Unfortunately, we don't always have the supportive parents, friends or audience that
give us the unconditional love that we all need.
Our first step (of 12), therefore, on the road to fulfilment, is to give ourselves that love 
that we crave. By learning to speak words of love and care to both ourselves and
others, we become a person filled with love. When we truly love ourselves and others,
we feel fulfilled and our fear of failure quickly dissolves.

Marvin Shaw

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