Beware the false dichotomy

There are many logical fallacies in our world, used innocently and on purpose to mislead us from the great truths available. One day I hope to provide a more exhaustive resource, but for now this will serve as a sample.

A logical fallacy is a piece of reasoning that appears sensible and conclusive, but is not.

Such is the false dichotomy. A false dichotomy is presented as a situation or decision with only two outcomes, when in fact there are many more avenues.

For example, in our world right now, Black Lives Matter is a hot topic. A false dichotomy would be whether a person supports them or not. Only two choices, and one makes a person look like a racist, so there is kind of only one choice.

This is false. There are many levels and kinds of support. Idealogical, logistical, financial. Do I post on Facebook? Do I feed protestors? Am I a protestor? Do I insert my body between a police officer and the person they are beating or choking?

So it is with many situations. There are almost always more than two choices in a situation.

The Bait

This fallacy is inviting because it’s easy. We want easy, simple, direct. It provides a sense of confidence that we made a good decision. We want to be sure. The problem is that this desire is used against us.

The Trap

The false dichotomy is used to manipulate us by eliminating all the choices the presenter doesn’t want us to see, and we are left with only two: the one they want us to pick, and the one they are hoping we don’t want to pick. See the manipulation?

By hiding all the other choices, and making one of the two undesirable, the presenter has herded us to THEIR desired outcome.

The Prod

Urgency is used to force the decision. “This opportunity only exists now. Hurry!”. Again with the herding! Be wary of anyone insisting on your urgency. There are situations where their motives may be pure, and many where they won’t be.

The Escape

I have recognized that, in a false dichotomy, there is always a third option: Gather more information.

This option kills the urgency to decide, and can lead to the discovery of more options.

Also recognize that just because someone else is herding you to a decision doesn’t necessarily make that option bad. You may still choose it, but choose it on YOUR terms, for your reasons.

Challenge: Recognize the false dichotomies in your own thinking and the thinking of others. Explore the third option. Observe how things change or end up differently because you did.

Good vs Good Enough

In order to get this post right, I need to clarify something up front.

In modern English, we are not precise enough in our verbiage, and this causes us problems. The word ‘good’ is used to describe things ranging from quality to effectiveness to mood to morality. The problem is that this word is used so generally that when using it for one thing, people can assume another thing is implied. This is muddying the conversation. So let’s be more precise.

Now I need to explain the difference between relative and absolute references. 

A relative reference is always in relation to something else. An example would be: That item is two shelves below the top shelf. Note the preposition ‘below’, indicating the relationship.

Other ways we use relative references: Better/Worse, Higher/Lower, etc.

Absolute referencing is unique. There are no duplicates, and comparison is not required. One example of this is a mailing address. Many are similar, but no two are the same, and while they can relate, they don’t have to.

So why does this matter at all?

Because people will use one to try and claim the value of the other. Sales people do this all the time. They’ll tell you all about how their product is better, but they might fall short on how it will meet your needs. Or they will flip it if their product isn’t better. Knowing both ways of looking at it makes you a smarter consumer.

Politicians will use statistics to soon something any way they want. Understanding the value, or lack of value, can help you cut through the spin.

For instance, one politician might claim to be tougher on crime than their opponent. And they may be right. But that doesn’t make them effective against crime. They can be relatively tougher and still be inadequate.

Challenge: Recognize when someone is using absolute or relative referencing, and try to weed out any assumptions about one being the other.

Apologies… And forgiveness

I have not been active on my blog for some time because of school. I’m in an intense program and still trying to be a husband and father, so time management can be challenging.

That said, I believe I can find the time. After the wonderful encouragement from my readers, it’s time to get back to work!

So, this is me forgiving myself, asking for your forgiveness, and moving forward.

Conditional Impossibility

We are generally familiar with the idea of conditional possibility. “I will get that as long as I…”. However, we seem to have a very limited understanding of conditional impossibility. We see something that is impossible now and think “That’s impossible.” and leave it at that. And by doing so we have left incredible opportunities on the table. You see, a great many things are only impossible now, not forever.

We must recognize that the impossible now can turn into possible later, but that the change depends on us.

We have the capacity to grow and learn, to become not only different but better. MUCH better. And while this capacity exists within us, it must be cultivated. It must be fostered.

If you dig enough, you will find that the most successful people not only accept that they can grow, they leverage it strongly and consistently. They are unafraid of change. They know the price of change (sacrificing old for new) and willingly pay it.

That’s the sticking point, isn’t it? It isn’t that we don’t want growth. It’s that we aren’t willing to pay the price to get it.

So it comes back to the truth that merely wanting something is insufficient to obtain it. Wanting is Potential energy. Only Kinetic energy can change us, change the universe.

In other words, What are you willing to work for? How much willpower will you use to wrestle your dream into existence? Because no one is going to give you your dream. No one is going to make your vision come true for you. It’s your vision. They have their own. If you want yours, you have to want it enough to overcome the will of those who don’t want it, or don’t care.

So I ask you, in the midst of all your conditional impossibilities:

HOW MUCH DO YOU WANT IT?

Motive

Motive

adjective – producing physical or mechanical motion

noun – a reason for doing something, especially one that is hidden or not obvious

In both these definitions, motive is a force for change.

Unfortunately, this word had largely been monopolized by police dramas as a primary component of crime. While correct, this is a special case, not the larger meaning.

Motive is a force for change. The change can be anything, and the motive can be anything, and their connection may not be obvious or even well perceived. Interestingly, motives can move us to act even when we don’t understand them consciously.

Motives exist throughout nature, animals and plants doing their best to survive and procreate. We have all those same motives as mortal creatures.

But unlike the rest of nature, we have an unparalleled ability to abstract and to self-perceive. This gives us the ability to consciously direct ourselves. We have the ability to defy our basic nature, to choose different, to choose more. We have this ability because we have a dual nature. Our higher nature understands fair play, good sportsmanship and the rule of law. Our lower nature is driven by biology, subject to urges as they arise.

Like every other skill, choosing our higher nature requires effort to develop. Growth takes time. As we choose to develop our higher nature, we can grow.

One example of choosing our higher nature is fasting. We can choose to forego food despite the urge to eat. When done with a higher purpose, and in a balanced way, this can enable spiritual benefits.

This brings me to an important concept: sacrifice. We can choose to sacrifice lesser things for greater. In fact, to obtain greater things, lesser things MUST be sacrificed.

But what will drive us to make these sacrifices?  The key is the proper motive, the proper motivating force.  Force is energy, and energy cannot be created or destroyed, only harnessed.  We cannot conjure from thin air the motivation to accomplish great things, anymore than we can telepathically fill our cars with gas.  But we can perceive the need for gas, and prioritize the time and effort to go get it.  And we can do so because we recognize the value of getting gas before it runs out.

And this leads me to the question: What do we value?  What we value, what we want, is the “carrot”.  So why don’t we accomplish all our dreams and always use our time wisely?  

Conflicting motivations.  The truth is, we are usually not consistently motivated by the same forces all the time.  Those who are accomplish much along their chosen trajectory.  Let us recognize, though, that much accomplishment is not the same as maximizing potential.  Motivations can be selfish, and much accomplishment in being selfish is not a way to be happy, or better.  

Since our motivations will push us wherever they will, being the force for change that they are, should we not then be selective about our motivations? About what we value?

This website is based on a theory of energy movement where the known laws of physics and the intuited and/or revealed laws of spirituality aren’t different.  I’m seeking to draw parallels between the two realms to demonstrate that they really are one and the same.  So what’s my motivation?

I want to make the world and the people in it better.  I believe that unity between people, especially around a good cause, creates joy.  And if we can all agree on how some basic principles of the universe work, unity between people has a chance.  

So good or bad, right or wrong, effective or ineffective, this is me reaching out to the world, inviting us to be better.  We can do it, because the energy to do so is in the system already.  We don’t need to invent more.  We just need to use what we have been given in a better, more effective way.  And I hope to help us do that by helping us all understand the basics of spiritual laws by equating them with basic physical laws.  

So there’s the motivation for writing this blog.  What motivates you through your day, week, month?

Below are some questions to consider when examining motives.

What are you currently making with your talents? Your time?  Your money?

Are your spent resources creating joy for yourself and others?  If not, what are you willing to change to create joy?

What are your motives manifesting? What are your motives making of you?

Which motives are moving you? What motives are in the driver’s seat? When? How often?

Do you like where you are headed?

Challenge: Identify at least one motivating factor that is influencing your life.  Evaluate what that motivation is creating in your life. 

Compassion

I must admit, this was a tough nut to crack. How can I represent compassion as an energetic interaction?

This journey of thought took me first through the concept of asymmetrical interactions, where an output or reaction seems a non sequitur to the input. After all, compassion is sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. When suffering is broadly defined to include any challenge or struggle (including those of our own making), compassion could be described as anything nice we do for others, even those who are unkind to us.

This asymmetric response is THE key. I’ll explain the spiritual why in a bit.

The asymmetric relationship can be described in an energetic metaphor that I think you’ll like:

A step-up transformer.

A step-up transformer is used in an AC system to alter the voltage from lower to higher, sometimes much higher. The fascinating part of this is the input and output wires aren’t physically connected. At all. They are a literal non sequitur. The transformation happens because the input and output coils have different turns (output has more) and share a magnetic field.

When we interact with someone, we are sharing a space. But that space, or the input from the other party, doesn’t have to define the parameters of our response. We can’t choose their inputs, or the turns of their coil. We can choose ours, and that choice can be proactive.

In fact, it has to be proactive if anything is ever to improve. That’s right. I said it. The world will only get better if we make it better. We cannot react our way into a better future. It’s not rhetoric. It’s physics.

We cannot allow lower behavior to define the parameters of our interactions. We must redefine those interactions. Redefine the space. Transform our behavior!

And it’s simple. Set a goal to try it. It can be as simple as:

“Next time my kid is talking to me, I will put my phone away and listen intently.”

“Next time my coworker is crying, I will offer a tissue and some water instead of walking by hurriedly.”

“Next time, I will shoulder extra responsibilities without complaint so my coworker can go home to their sick spouse.”

See the interpersonal spaces in your life as opportunities to exercise compassion. It will transform your life.

Today’s challenge is to step up and transform your space with compassion. Then feel good inside because you lifted another person, the universe, and yourself.

Spiritual laws and physical laws come from the same place

I’m going on the record as a Christian, specifically as a Latter Day Saint.

I believe firmly in a loving Creator who has patterned us and this universe on Eternal principles. Therefore, there should be evidence that physical laws reflect spiritual laws. I believe I have found this evidence in the nature and behavior of light. I will be explaining human interaction of all types in terms of energy.

Power

Welcome to the first post of my Request series! Not long ago I began asking for topics that people might want to know more about. My first official request was to discuss the concept of Power.

What a great suggestion! Power in all its forms is a key part of this thought system. This may well be an ongoing topic.

Let’s start with a definition, shall we? There are many definitions of Power, most of them in context. I believe the most encompassing is this:

A source or means of supplying energy.

As this system defines energy as that which effects a change, Power is then:

A source or means of effecting change.

This fits most or all of the other definitions. If one has no power, it is reasonable to say that one had no ability to create change. If one has great power, it is reasonable to say one can create great change.

A Key Concept

This is a perfect progression for this thought system. This website is dedicated to teaching all people that through our abilities to imagine, to create and to choose, we ALL have great power. And by applying that power effectively, we can create both wonderful and lasting change.

Power can also be abused, can it not? Let us address this for a moment.  We will no doubt revisit the specifics of this, but I want to lay a foundation definition of power abuse.  Abuse of another person or people violates the sacred ability to choose.  When we manipulate, coerce, compel or threaten, we are abusing because we are attempting to minimize or remove the ability to choose.  And abusers (I am among them, and you probably are too, even if only a little) justify these actions for all kinds of reasons.  And every time it isn’t right.  We do not have the right to deny others their right to choose.

A special limited exception applies when one is charged with the safety of another.  We can choose to deny others certain choices, not all of them!, in the name of safety, and only as long as necessary to overcome the immediate danger.  Essentially, our agency becomes a surrogate for theirs until theirs is again safe to use.

So far as I am aware, this exception only applies when the individual is either unable or unwilling to make a safe decision for themselves.  An unconscious person is assumed to want help, and so we choose for them to pursue safety and help.  Keeping a toddler from danger against their will is responsible because they are unable to understand the consequences of their actions. Separating a dangerous person from the population according to due process is legitimate because we are acting in the best interest of both personal and public safety. (Proper use and ramifications of our justice system is a topic for another time.)

Other than this, we must allow all the freedom to choose.  And when we understand the powerful effect this has, we will begin to embrace it.

Personal power

The requester of this topic had been experiencing personal growth and struggling to have those in their life acknowledge that growth and the new personal power that comes with it.

Quite simply, we cannot and should not force others to acknowledge our personal truths.  More importantly, it is unnecessary to try.

As we live our personal truths, our words and actions will speak for themselves.  All of our choices will witness of our new way of being. This presentation of the newly-created circumstances then enables the agency of the perceiver.  And that is where our control ends.  Once perceived, The observer cannot unperceive it, and must therefore choose a response to it.

Even if that response is derogatory, our conviction to live our truth in the face of disapproval will teach them that we really have changed.

And here is the critical part to obtaining and retaining personal power: We must let them choose their response.  We must be comfortable letting them choose, and we must acknowledge their right.  Doing so legitimizes our own right to choose.  By so doing, we give up control and make way for influence.  What we cannot take by force (approval, respect) people will probably give us freely if we allow them the choice.

Growth is the Goal

This action of allowing others to choose and live with those choices is most difficult when we believe comfort, rather than growth, is the sum of life’s pursuits. When we alter our perspective to enthrone growth as the objective, discomfort becomes a necessary building block instead of a burden. 

A training athlete is a well-known example of this.  No one would claim that rigorous training is comfortable, yet all would acknowledge its necessity to compete.  Life and spirituality also require rigorous training to promote growth, which requires the willing endurance of discomfort.  And when we see growth as the objective for others, it becomes possible to allow others to own their discomfort, even if its discomfort they have chosen.

That is not to say that we must abandon people to suffering.  It only means that we accept their right to choose it if they wish. Suffering can teach us much.  When we choose it, we are creating an opportunity to be taught.  (Enter from stage left the need for humility!)

We cannot help someone who does not wish to be helped, because it would violate their right to choose.  And remember, violating that right is a form of abuse.

Remember: allowing someone the right to choose affirms and enables that right in ourselves.  We cannot limit or remove the agency of another without opening the door for the same to be done to us.

Pausing Point

There is much left to discuss on this topic, so I’d like to pause (not stop) on the following point:

Power is the means to effect change.  In order to acquire power, or influence, one must first understand the laws governing the system.  The freedom to choose is one of those laws, and the first pillar in the path to greater personal power.

Today’s invite:  Draw a personal boundary for yourself by consciously respecting the agency of another.  Liking their choice is not required, nor is giving up trying to positively influence them.  But respecting their right to choose will invite them to respect you, and in turn increase your influence with them.

Forgiveness Part 2

Common misconceptions about forgiveness


So many of us don’t understand this nature of forgiveness that we fail to receive its power based on certain misconceptions.  My hope is to address some of these misconceptions here.


As was discussed in Part 1, forgiveness is NOT a restoration.  It is an erasure.  Forgiveness erases the debt of justice, the expectation of renumeration, the price dictated to a recalcitrant offender.


This erasure frees the forgiver from maintaining the debt.  And once free, the forgiver can move forward, regardless of the offender’s attitude or action.


If we want to move forward, we have to move on.


Misconception 1: They don’t deserve forgiveness


This statement is couched in the erroneous idea that forgiveness is for the offender.  It is not, though it may benefit them.  When we realize forgiveness is for the offended, then this statement of “they don’t deserve” becomes nonsense.  What the offender does or does not deserve is beside the point.  Forgiveness is about freeing the offended.  Any benefits beyond that are a welcome bonus.  


If forgiveness were based on merit, it couldn’t ever happen anyway.  By its very nature, forgiveness is for the undeserving.  If a person deserved it, it wouldn’t be forgiveness.  It would be justice.


Misconception 2:  I will forgive, but I will not forget


This almost sounds right, except that it is usually said in anger, suggesting that forgiveness isn’t happening, at least not yet.  Also, forgiveness does not require forgetting.  It does require letting go, or accepting things as they are.  This often is expressed as something like ‘It happened.” with an accepting attitude and a shrug.  Notice that acceptance of the offense actually validates its existence, rather than erasing it from memory.

And remeber, too, that forgiveness is NOT permission to be hurt again! It is zeroing out the debt, not refilling the account!

In some instances, forgetting an offense could lead to, or return to, an unsafe situation.  That isn’t necessary or acceptable.  Everyone deserves to be safe. ‘I forgive you’ can be right at home in combination with ‘Never again’.  Letting go can often be a cathartic step into a new beginning.


Misconception 3:  There can be no forgiveness for THAT!


Again, this statement hangs on the merit of the offense or the offender.  NOTHING MERITS FORGIVENESS.  If forgiveness were merited, it isn’t truly forgiveness.  Anything merit-based would be more like restitution, which revolves around contractual or judicial justice and the actions of the offender. 

To say something is unforgivable, again, is to misunderstand forgiveness, at least where mere mortals are concerned.  The Lord Jesus Christ reserves for Himself the right to forgive whom he will forgive.  Of us it is required to forgive all.  And we can, because forgiveness ultimately is for us.  It can help others, it can clear the way for new and better things, or even a restoration of something beautiful.  But it isn’t dependent on these things.  These are results or fruits of forgiveness, not prerequisites.

Forgiveness also does not require the forgiver to believe that the offense was justified or acceptable.  Forgiveness is for when an offense is neither justified nor acceptable. 


Misconception 4:  If I have forgiven, then I won’t or can’t seek justice.


Also not true.  Forgiveness starts with personal feelings. It can end there.  It is just to seek restitution for damages done, where possible.  Seeking justice may be quite important to protect others or to avoid setting a dangerous precedent of letting an offender continue destructive patterns.

Now, there is nothing wrong with going further and extending mercy.  More on that in the future.  However, in this post, we are discussing what forgiveness is and is not.  Forgiveness isn’t grace or mercy.  Those are things we give.  Forgivess is letting go of any expectation to receive.


It is worth noting that forgiveness can be extremely difficult when the offense is ongoing.  It is right to protect oneself from abuse.  It is NOT right for an abuser to ask forgiveness so that they may then continue an abusive pattern.  


Promises of change aren’t acceptable collateral in an abusive situation.  The circumstances that allow abuse must be short-circuited and the offender undergo rigorous self-reflection and repatterning of their life.  Even then, things should never return “back the way they were.”  New behavior belongs in a new environment, as a symbol of the promise “Never Again”.
Abuser and abused can move on, in some cases together.  It is my humble recommendation that a determination of a continued relationship should be placed on hold during recovery.  After all, the ground must be cleared before anything new can be built.  And until that ground is clear, building anything new is risky at best.


It should not be surprising that some relationships will not survive abuse, and perhaps should not.  Forgiveness has nothing to do with restoring anything old or building anything new.  It is really just restoring balance so that the next phase, whatever that is, can commence.

Understanding what forgiveness is can allow us to enjoy it, or enjoy the knowledge that we have already achieved it. 

Today’s challenge: Ponder one relationship or situation where you have struggled to forgive.  Examine if any of today’s discussed misconceptions have interfered with your process.  If they have, ponder through writing or meditation how changing your perspective on forgiveness can help you achieve it in this situation.

Forgiveness Part 1

Welcome to the inaugural post of my forgiveness series.  

This first post is dedicated to defining and understanding the nature of forgiveness.

I believe so many of us struggle with forgiveness because we truly don’t understand what it is. So let’s define it.

Forgiveness is letting go.

Let us also define what it is not.  Forgiveness is NOT a restoration.

In monetary terms, forgiveness is closing out an account owed to you.  It is literally writing off a debt.  You are relinquishing any right (real or merely perceived) to compensation or recompense or restoration for the offense.

In terms of a house, forgiveness is clearing the ground of dirt, debris or ash.  It is not building a new house.

Note that in each of these examples, forgiveness is preparation for creating something new, not the act of creating it. Also note that the new is in no way required to reflect the old.  Christ himself said that new wine goes in new bottles.

The principle holds in terms of light an energy.  If thoughts and ideas and concepts can be thought of as coherent energy patterns, then forgiveness is dissolving the coherence of that pattern.  A pattern requires maintenance, an input of energy.  A grudge is a pattern tied to an offense.  We don’t have to imagine we weren’t hurt to forgive.  In fact, those who forgive can discuss the past with both calm and factuality.  When we cease to feed our offended feeling, it dies, and we are free from the burden of holding it in existence.

When we fail to forgive we continue in a reactionary paradigm. In essence we are controlled by the actions of others, including those who have injured or offended us.  Like swatting at hallucinations before us, continuing to act and react based on actions of the past interferes with our ability to be fully present and conscientiously direct our present.  

If we want to move forward, we need to move on.

Forgiveness frees our future from the patterns of the past by allowing us to be present.  Forgiveness is for the forgiver.  The forgiven might never know or care, possibly even feeling that they have done nothing that required forgiveness.  One of the great miracles of forgiveness is that it does not have to be reciprocal or accepted by another to be effective.  When we forgive, we are free.  

Today’s invite:  Ponder a past or present situation where you were hurt.  Try to consider the situation from different perspectives, including the offender’s.  Be honest and thorough in your seeking.  Understanding perspectives is one way of contextualizing behavior, which can facilitate forgiveness.