a late night conversation with myself…

Tonight I asked myself what do I want to understand a little bit better about America?  There’s something happening that feels very unique now.  Unfamiliar.   I paid attention to where my line of inquiry lead me.

First, I GOOGLED:  What makes people curious?

SOURCE: https://www.quora.com/Why-arent-many-people-curious

…’Curiosity’ is a discrete psychological trait that varies within human populations just like other personality dimensions such as extroversion/introversion and agreeableness/aggression.”

OK, some people are born curious and others aren’t.  Well, that makes a lot of sense, right?  Then I started wondering what’s the opposite of curious?  Skepticism? No, skepticism plays in the same sandbox as curiosity.  Disinterested?  Unconcerned?  It wasn’t very clear to me in any way.

I asked myself a question—How do I feel when I’m not being curious? 

I think I might feel certain.

I make assumptions based on my gut or environmental factors/circumstances.

I don’t feel very curious.  I don’t value other people’s ideas.  I don’t listen.

So, next I GOOGLED:  What makes people certain about things?

https://www.quora.com/Why-are-people-so-certain-about-things-that-there-is-no-way-they-can-be-certain-about

“,,,Certainty and similar states of “knowing what we know” arise out of primary brain mechanisms that, like love or anger, function independently of rationality or reason. Feeling correct or certain isn’t a deliberate conclusion or conscious choice. It is a mental sensation that happens to us…”     Source: “ON BEING CERTAIN: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not”  by Dr. Robert A. Burton

So, certainty is actually a biological feeling, a mental sensation independent of rationality or reason?  We choose certainty because it’s easier?

Damn, that’s really interesting.  Now what?  CERTAINTY is so polarizing in America (and in my own home with young adult children).  It’s a conversation killer.  It’s a deal breaker.  It keeps organizations from growing.  How do we find common ground in our nation now?  It’s late—2:53 am—this is way too much for my very tired brain.

I had to further narrow my inquiry. 

HOW DO CERTAINTY & CURIOSITY MANIFEST IN MY LIFE?

Curiosity results in greater understanding & builds trust.

Certainty tends to make me rigid & judgmental.

I don’t want to be rigid & judgmental.

I want to be curious.

Whew, that was interesting and pretty exhausting.  After many hours and lost sleep, I’ve confirmed that my desire is to be a curious person and that few things in life are so certain that they don’t require some investigation.  Life is really funny sometimes.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

And just for reference…This is where I started 4 hours ago. 

My husband, Jeff listened to a book about Jim Jones and told me about it—fascinating and horrifying.  I needed to know more.  Curiosity takes us on interesting journeys, huh?  I’m not going to read the book (39 hours of audio).  Jeff told me enough to want to know a more.  I stumbled upon this information.

Ten warning signs of a potentially unsafe group/leader.

By Rick Ross, Expert Consultant and Intervention Specialist

  1. Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.
  2. No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.
  3. No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget, expenses such as an independently audited financial statement.
  4. Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.
  5. There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.
  6. Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances.
  7. There are records, books, news articles, or television programs that document the abuses of the group/leader.
  8. Followers feel they can never be “good enough”.
  9. The group/leader is always right.
  10. The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing “truth” or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.

Ten warning signs regarding people involved in/with a potentially unsafe group/leader.

  1. Extreme obsessiveness regarding the group/leader resulting in the exclusion of almost every practical consideration.
  2. Individual identity, the group, the leader and/or God as distinct and separate categories of existence become increasingly blurred. Instead, in the follower’s mind these identities become substantially and increasingly fused–as that person’s involvement with the group/leader continues and deepens.
  3. Whenever the group/leader is criticized or questioned it is characterized as “persecution”.
  4. Uncharacteristically stilted and seemingly programmed conversation and mannerisms, cloning of the group/leader in personal behavior.
  5. Dependency upon the group/leader for problem solving, solutions, and definitions without meaningful reflective thought. A seeming inability to think independently or analyze situations without group/leader involvement.
  6. Hyperactivity centered on the group/leader agenda, which seems to supercede any personal goals or individual interests.
  7. A dramatic loss of spontaneity and sense of humor.
  8. Increasing isolation from family and old friends unless they demonstrate an interest in the group/leader.
  9. Anything the group/leader does can be justified no matter how harsh or harmful.
  10. Former followers are at best-considered negative or worse evil and under bad influences. They can not be trusted and personal contact is avoided.

Ten signs of a safe group/leader.

  1. A safe group/leader will answer your questions without becoming judgmental and punitive.
  2. A safe group/leader will disclose information such as finances and often offer an independently audited financial statement regarding budget and expenses. Safe groups and leaders will tell you more than you want to know.
  3. A safe group/leader is often democratic, sharing decision making and encouraging accountability and oversight.
  4. A safe group/leader may have disgruntled former followers, but will not vilify, excommunicate and forbid others from associating with them.
  5. A safe group/leader will not have a paper trail of overwhelmingly negative records, books, articles and statements about them.
  6. A safe group/leader will encourage family communication, community interaction and existing friendships and not feel threatened.
  7. A safe group/leader will recognize reasonable boundaries and limitations when dealing with others.
  8. A safe group/leader will encourage critical thinking, individual autonomy and feelings of self-esteem.
  9. A safe group/leader will admit failings and mistakes and accept constructive criticism and advice.
  10. A safe group/leader will not be the only source of knowledge and learning excluding everyone else, but value dialogue and the free exchange of ideas.

I don’t know where all of this information will lead me.  I guess I wanted to better understand cult leaders.  This made me think about “ABC After School Specials” in the 70s and 80s when kids had to be “reprogrammed”.  In my memory, Jodie Foster was constantly reprogrammed after having fallen prey to a cult leader. 

 

 

SOURCES: wikipedia—Rick Alan Ross

cult education warning signs

Good golly, I’m certain it’s time for bed. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

 

 

Seeking Middle Ground

I think our civilization clearly depends upon finding some middle ground.  I know my own family isn’t talking as much because of the polarized political climate.  We may be reaching a tipping point of sorts, at least that’s what it feels like to me.  I’m hopeful that we can shift course.  I believe in the goodness of our shared humanity.

MIDDLE GROUND; a standpoint or area midway between extreme or opposing positions, options, or objectives (Merriam Webster)

lillibridge-black-and-white-road-shot

We are living in unprecedented times.  A time of chaotic polarity in our civic lives. The lack of middle ground is causing stress to the many systems we all operate in; family, community, government and work.  My husband and I are trying to hold some middle ground and manage the stress and anxiety in our home.  We’re listening to our children and trying to offer counterpoints to the dizzying array of sound bites & headlines out there fighting for our attention every minute of every day. 

I don’t think I’ve hidden my politics from anyone, however, my moderation might be surprising.  Labels are easier for all of us than asking questions or being curious about the WHY of someone’s beliefs.  We’re ALL guilty of not asking questions and making too many assumptions about others.

I grew up in a very conservative family in the South Dakota.  I have deep knowledge of how political beliefs are shaped from both sides of the political aisle.  My paternal Grandfather, Louis Lillibridge was an intellectual and a moderate—in my estimation anyway.  Grandpa could consider a lot of competing ideasHe studied other religions and ideologies.  He read constantly.  I adored him for many reasons, but mostly I felt heard by him.  Don’t we all want to be heard even if people don’t agree with us?

We can’t really be heard if we aren’t willing to listen too.

My politics were left leaning before I left conservative Sioux Falls College (now the University of Sioux Falls) in 1988.  For my family it was easier to blame my democratic husband who hailed from Massachusetts than to believe I was an outlier.  My first experience out of college was to move to New Zealand and work at a non-denominational Christian Radio Station (Radio Rhema) http://www.rhema.co.nz/.  My friends were from all over the world and it was fascinating.  I actually met the King of Tonga.  I heard stories from so many unique perspectives and experiences.  This time in my life greatly shaped my personal beliefs.  Travel made the world seem quite small in some ways, completely accessible and ready for exploration.

I consider myself proudly American AND a global citizen.  My early travel opportunites had a big affect on my choices.  It eventually led me to Burlington, Vermont, where I’ve lived since New Year’s Day 1990.  Our community is rich with diversity and I feel it’s been quite an education for myself and my family.

My daughters have friends from all over the world (including Muslim kids, many who spent time in refuge camps).  They’ve heard interesting stories since early elementary school from their classmates.  This is simply our family’s circumstance of living in Burlington, Vermont.  I acknowledge that not having contact with people of various nationalities, who dress, speak, and worship differently can make people more fearful.  I do understand this from growing up in rural South Dakota AND I don’t pretend to understand what other people feel about this issue.  I’m only speaking from my own experience.

When I wrote and asked about the opposite of FEAR last week there were so many thoughtful responses; acceptance, curiosity, love, hope, community and Mark P. wrote; “ACTIONABLE FAITH is the opposite of fear.”   I love the idea of actionable faith and that sounds a lot like curiosity to me.

 

untitled-32

Right now in American life, it’s seems convenient to align ourselves with our political teams and operate in MOB MENTALITY.  Reciting talking points from the side we’ve taken without listening isn’t real dialogue and won’t ever promote deeper understanding. 

The significantly more challenging and intellectually exhausting space is to take a breath, listen to your own thought and those of others and try to find some middle ground.  It’s really uncomfortable to differentiate ourselves and our views when it puts us at odds with our team or the people we care about.  Uncomfortable, but really necessary.

America, our democracy is calling.

telephone-for-blog

Let’s get curious about each other.

What is the opposite of FEAR?

I went to bed last night wondering what is the opposite of FEAR.  Nothing came to mind immediately for me, or nothing that seemed exactly right anyway.

This is hardly an original ponderable on my part, but I wanted to research and see what resonated the most for me.  You won’t believe how much comes up on a google search on this topic. Here are a few others: hope, love, bravery, courage, faith, trust, fearlessness, gallantry, unconcern, audacity, calm…and many more.

Out of all of the answers I thought and read about, I landed on CURIOSITY.  When I feel most fearful, the more I know the less fearful I am. When I thought about the other possibilities, curiosity kept bubbling up again and again.

I’m curious (of course) about what you think is the opposite of FEAR for you?

Please let me know, let’s start a dialogue.

fear-at-night-driving-sd-lillibridge

curiosity-lillibridge