Featured

A psycho-spiritual role for logic


I’m not an overly enthusiastic fan of reason, logic, rationalism, scientism, physicalism, thinking, etc. But I am absolutely an enthusiastic fan. What does “overly” mean to me?

When you put all of your eggs — all of your big questions — in the basket of rationalism, you cheat your humanity. The height of reason is not the height of humanity {see endnote for more}.

Logic — no matter how pure — is simply not a person’s only way of “knowing.” Let’s take up the question of, “Who am I?”

Mire your self in as much logic as you wish about the question, “Who am I?” You stumble quickly into irrational grandiosity which inflates your self-importance, like Mushu presents himself as The Great Stone Dragon to Mulan (voice, Eddie Murphy): https://youtu.be/zn_nM7x7Lcw.

At the opposite end of the Logic Pendulum‘s swing is that you are but a speck on a tiny planet in the universe, bound to be wormbait and dust.

We each sense that we are something special in the universe, but that sense does not, and cannot, come from our faculty of reason isolated from the rest of our life experience.

“Who am I?” leads us to ponder both the universal and the specific. Neither seems to make sense alone. I am part of something big, and I am an individual. Let’s play further with another question logically…

“What is my potential?”

Here, I think logic has a deep and profound psycho-spiritual role to play for a person. You are NOT the ideals and values you espouse. That’s illogical grandiosity. Yet most of us live our lives thinking and acting this way. We wish to be something we can never be. Consider it logically. An ideal is an ideal and cannot be entirely embodied by… well… a body. Neither ANY-body nor EVERY-body.

Objective truths are unreal. They objectify us. And something within us tells us that we are not mere objects, in reality. So poo-poo on your idolization of objectivity. We are each subjects—agents of action.

“Who am I? What is my potential?” Logically, I am Neil. Logically, my potential cannot exceed Neil’s theoretical potential. Logically.

Why do we get so easily tempted by lures of achievement? By promises of becoming something we wish for? Because we live in a materialistic culture with expert marketing! And those forces are not founded on logic! They appeal to “something” in us far beyond our faculty of reason. At their extreme, they are imaginary realms, outside the realm of logic.

Our imagination lures us, logic be damned!

This propensity, proclivity, impulse, and compulsion for imagination is evoked when we hear platitudes like…
Be all/the best you can be.
Be your best/full self.
Self-actualize.
Know thy-self.

So, set aside your imagination as best you can, and apply here some brutal logic. And remember that psychology informs us by unequivocal consensus that Comparison is a lethal practice for The Self.

You cannot be “that” in its imaginary entirety. You cannot be “this” at every moment. You cannot be this or that by choice, by will, voluntarily in every circumstance.

This is the fullness of logical honesty.

In the sense that you deny each of these truisms, you are logically ill. You become *mentally* ill when you rely exclusively on logic. Because “you” are so much more than an engine for reason.

A human being is much more than a thinker.

A human being is also a feeler.

We try to sort out those two, but that is an exercise of logic! Can you peel an orange with an orange peel?

Anytime we consciously exercise logic, we sense that it is incomplete. And so have the greatest minds in philosophy throughout our history.

Today’s brilliant thinkers have an imaginary hope that we haven’t YET figured out how to subsume our faculties of emotion into our faculty of reason, but will in the future—like scientific discoveries remain incomplete and point to paths we should follow for further discovery. Of course we should do that, but if the aim of those pursuits is a fantasy that we will detangle our thinking faculties from our feeling faculties, and reduce the mystery of the human being, well, then, what are we left with?

Anyhow, that may seem to have strayed from my purpose here. I have drifted into talking about universals, and not the specific You, or Me.

Stop being so hard on yourself because you do not perfectly embody ideals, which were never meant to be perfectly embodied. Be content with valuing them. You are unique in the universe, even outside of time: Never has there been, nor will there ever be, another you.

To “do You well,” practice some logic about who you are, and, especially, who you aren’t.

Then practice some more logic: The full You that you just conceived NEVER remains static.

You are this and that… sometimes.

That’s *honest* logic.

“‘Neil’ is a name which should never be spoken.” Or only spoken as a whisper. Or whatever. Why? Mystery.

This morning’s Neil is not the same as this evening’s…

Logically…


Related: Beware of therapy goals! (2) Envy and the Pitfalls of Validation

.
Neil D. 2021-09-01


{ ENDNOTE

The Enlightenment is a wonderful collective achievement, but it is not the end game. It was just a corrective swing of the pendulum away from the oppression of both the superstitious middle ages and the religiosity of The Renaissance. (https://slate.com/human-interest/2015/01/whats-the-difference-between-the-renaissance-and-the-enlightenment.html)

The Age of Reason and the Industrial Revolution have put us in the age of technology, biotechnology, information, etc. accompanied by political revolutions which have put the freedom of individuals on par with service by the power of the state.

If you are more interested in his characterization of European/western historical ages, I recommend reading about the aforementioned topics as well as “Deism.”

}


Featured

“How do you feel?” “I don’t know…”


“How do you feel?”
“I don’t know…”

I don’t think it’s unusual not know what we’re feeling. Nor even to be unable to feel.
What are you feeling now?
Are you feeling a mixture of feelings?
Are you feeling one shallowly?
Are you feeling one deeply?

If you aren’t sure, there are some almost universal triggers to make or help you feel.

I’m not at all a fan of the musical genres jazz, classical, or country. I can enjoy occasional hits from each, but rarely more than one or two at a time. Upon hearing of my disdain for classical, my sister challenged me.

I believe this 3.5 minute piece is one of the almost universal triggers that cannot be heard without a maelstrom of accompanying feelings (listen with space to move your arms through their full ranges, and fasten your headphones or earbuds securely, for your head will dance upon your neck, and, almost certainly, you’ll need to stand, and quite possibly dance):

If you are a classical music aficionado, don’t try to convert me, but please do share with me pieces like this one, which do not require an appreciation for the art form, and do not for the uninterested include wasteful bridges, interludes, and introductions. I wish to hear more brief pieces like this, in which every note has intrinsic value, even to the infidel.

Neil D. 2020-07-19


Featured

My love letter to me


My love letter to me
…from my mom,
…from my soul,
…from me.

[6 minute read]

My rational mind loves theology, and I can wrap many of my beliefs into tidy packages to delight my reason. But that’s horribly dangerous, just like this theology: “The wages of sin is death, and you need a savior.”

“Do you NOW see and feel, Neil? Despite the crown of thorns, humiliation, false charges, excruciating death, do I threaten my wrath? ‘Forgive them, Abba…’ He was not begging on your behalf because you are unworthy of Our love. He was vocalizing what flows inseparably FROM Our love. Our sadness that you ‘know not what you do…’ To your Selves.

“Do you NOW see and feel, Neil? When I, your passionate and personal God, say that I love you unconditionally, that means no necessity of forgiveness. Our acts of love are not to show you how sinful you are. They are deeds to show you the purity of Our love for you. There’s no need at all for forgiveness when all is love….

“Love does not originate FROM or BY forgiveness. Love is no hostage, contingent on redemption by contrition and absolution. There is NO requirement that forgiveness PRECEDE My love. Neither offense nor guilt affect pure love. Nothing binds love. Forgiveness is a coincidence of true love, NOT a prelude…

“Look at me, my son Neil. LOOK at me. Don’t be afraid. Look at my Son’s crucified, bloody face. Does He look angry?

“The sadness on his face is for you. His face is My face. I am not angry and demanding justice because you have hurt Me. I am the Lord your God, Who fears nothing. I do not fear being hurt. But I can and do feel hurt. I can and do feel sadness. They are part of love, and I AM love. So I am also Hurt. I am also Sadness. But hurt and sadness out of love, not out of fear. Fear is not part of love. Do not fear that you have hurt me, and need my forgiveness. For I love you already. Fearlessly, and fiercely.

“You only fear Me because you cannot feel and trust the fullness of pure love — yet. My Son’s passion is a show of love’s purity, not a message that you need to fear Us, nor that you needed His sacrifice…

“My Son’s passion is Our love story for you, Neil. Don’t corrupt it into a tragedy about sin and penalty and any sense of justice and consequences and conditions and laws and rules…

“His love is pure. My love is pure. Conditions and rules for gaining it are impurities.

“I am sad, because you hurt your self, child. I, the Lord Almighty, BEG and PLEAD with you, Neil… I do not COMMAND you by any other power or authority except love… Fearsomeness is false power, and I am not false. Love holds no space for fear. And I am love…

“Your very Creator is begging and pleading for you to feel Our love in the story of my Son’s life. We do not wish for you to see some sacrifice to atone for your shame and restore your worthiness. Our love is NOT affected by your sin. It doesn’t stop just because you sin. Don’t be so conceited to think you can diminish Our love! Let this love story fly past your ego and annihilate barriers of shame, to touch your tender soul, sweet boy…

“The story of Yeshua is about Our goodness and YOUR goodness… Our and your OUTRAGEOUS capacity for love. Be outraged about that! Stop – STOP – making it about your badness and failure to love. You are hurting and saddening Us and your eternal Self by your ego-centeredness. Center the story on your WHOLE Self, as I made you. Be Self-centered about THAT story.

“Look at me, my son Neil. LOOK at me. Don’t be afraid.

“Let this story through your ego-self to your soul-Self. Begging… Pleading… In love… THAT is who We are.

“Know your shame, son. We do. Let it waft into your ego’s consciousness, and your whole Self can be compassionate with it, as We are. Your repression is keeping Our love from your soul. Even your ego, Neil, can love Us, and can love all of you, if your soul can embrace your whole Self tenderly, as We created it to do. You are made to love. Your soul can do its work, son.

“Imagine my Son’s face at the wedding in Cana, with a joyous smile crinkling his eyes. Imagine the fiery warmth of those eyes locked on the eyes of the woman to be stoned, ‘Nor do I condemn you…’ That is not a warmth that flows FROM forgiving; it is the fire of passionate love, from which forgiveness – like all things truly and purely good – cannot be separated.

“We hurt when those whom We love feel hurt. Just as you do. ‘I have become one of you.’ I have joined humanity because humanity is worthy. You are worthy of Our unconditional love because that love is Ours to give, NOT yours to earn. NO conditions. I am all-powerful. And I am in you. Our power is not rooted in meting out justice. Do not be afraid. Our power is love. I dwell in you: YOUR power is love.

“The moment I and your mother brought you to life, she held you in her arms, and adored you with unconditional love. You had done nothing to earn or deserve it. It was hers to give, not yours to earn. Your soul is no different from your mother’s. Your soul is no different from Me.

“You too have unbounded power to give love without conditions. Please, Neil, pour it out, unshackled by shame, with NO conditions. And, please, begin with pouring it onto my own infinitely lovable son, whom your mother named Neil…

Neil D. 2020-03-06

Related: My love letter to you, My love letter to you PS

Featured

Advent Prequel to Footprints


YouTube video of the poem’s text with Christmas soundtrack: https://youtu.be/fD1k_hfUDFE


(Read the preface to this poem here.)


Based on Mark 5:25-34:

A woman suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” She came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. Immediately she was healed. Jesus, perceiving that power had gone out from him, turned and said, “Who touched my garments?” His disciples said, “You see the crowd pressing around you?” The woman came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace…”

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened…” (Mt 11:28)


Adeste fideles. (Come, faithful).


Advent Prequel To Footprints

(Neil Durso)

Energy, misbalanced.
Self-centered lifetime.
Other-centered lifetime.
Tiresome battles lost.

Shameful failure.
Wasted toils?
No. Delivery to the now.

A curled, sobbing heap,
Writhing on sands of self-desertion.
A finger trembling, raised to an eye…
Tap its pool of tears, running them thin,
Glimpse through the blur:

A shadow over tears on dead sand
Shades the relentless brightness of scorching shame,
Revealing a garment’s hem resting on sandaled toes.

Stretch out of despair a hand.
Touch a finger to the coarse fabric.

From that cloak, a hand extends,
Re-flavoring tears that flow still.
From a spring deep within, never fully felt.
Feel it now. Don’t wrestle floodgates inside.

Epic struggle.
Ordained end.
Rivulets of tears baptize anew.
Every ounce of unrequited effort poured out has prepared the way

Enormous fruitlessness was the way.
En route to the quenching fruit of energy exhausted.

The garment takes you up, in its arms
So gentle, their power feels misplaced.
You tremble at tenderness so unfamiliar.

From this bottom, from this birthplace,
In His wake are one set of footprints.

At cool evening’s arrival,
You’re lowered lovingly
To your own feet.
Refreshed.
At His side.
He at yours.
Two sets of feet imprint the sands.

Onward in silence.
For a time.
Then,
The silence drips into distant song
On fleeting breezes.

Whispering beneath the rising chorus,
“Whither, Yeshua?”
“The City of David.”

A bright star draws your gaze.
And He is gone.

Shepherds appear.
On pilgrimage.
To Light.

Above the sonorous din of lambs’ bleating,
Lyrics grow clearer…

Carried by the parade, your heart then
Your tongue join the hosts’ song.
Reborn of unshackled brokenness,
The beckoned joins the calling:

“O… O… come, all ye faithful…”
(song)


(Read the preface to this poem here.)


-Neil D. 2019-12-16
(revised from 2018-12-24)

Featured

Green Shirt

The gently soft-spoken 20-something didn’t seem to ever stop talking except when he asked of me simple questions and waited for replies with earnestness that made me feel like my answer would be divine and resonate with profoundly undeniable truth and universal wisdom. He sat on a park bench with his beautiful, unthreatening, expectant, wide eyes open naturally enough to look up at me as I stood beside the bench on which he sat lower. His eyes weren’t bloodshot or distant, squinted or spookily wide. His pupils locked on my gaze, without blinking, without discomfort or shame. Without abiding by any conventions of time or rhythm familiar. Just natural, as anyone’s might be awaiting an answer, unconsciously exhaling the puff of smoke from a satisfying drag off the cigarette he just bummed off me…

He did that several times, awaiting several answers to several questions. Of me. Me. Me? Me!

Not hard answers to give. But not easy questions to ask. So, wait–maybe hard questions to answer, but not hard words to summon in answer: “Yeah.” “That’s true.” I know.” “I feel you.” “Right.” “Damn.” “I know.”

Know? Do I really *know* anything?

Now I know I do.

Green Shirt talked and asked about his joy and loss of waking next to her, whose name he didn’t remember. Of being anxious about how he would get eggs and bacon like yesterday. Would the nurses let him have the medicine he needed again?

He’s glad it’s warm today.

Hopes it will be tonight, wherever he winds up.

Wants to work on my car. She knows how to service bearings. He knows he has to clean up dog poop in the park before her company lets him collect cans. She’s not afraid to work hard. Why do they think their reality’s rules make more sense?

Yeah, I suppose Yeshua from Nazareth wore some shade of white fabric in the middle eastern form of that time. But I think, yesterday morning, He wore a green t-shirt.

If you see Green Shirt today, tell her I miss him. Tell him I said hello. Tell her I remember him. Say Hello to her for me. Thank him for talking to me about her own world. Tell her I love hymn… because he trusted me just to affirm her truth. And … loved ME too.

Neil D. 2019-07-25

Father’s Day “Ok”


He’s 24 now. Quite a smart ass. Guess we don’t need a DNA test to know who his dad is😜:

“What would you like to do Sunday Father?”

“Hell, I don’t know. Nothing in particular.”

He didn’t respond to my indifference. I think, instead, perhaps, he accepted it as an honest answer from his father.

I don’t often think about what it means to be a father. Don’t know why, but expect there are many reasons. And, I suppose, rather than lame attempts at putting it into words, I simply prefer stories.

The greatest stories of humanity have led some brilliant minds to the notions of psychological “archetypes.” The mother protects and provides by gathering in. The father protects from a distance, in a sort opposite to gathering in – i.e., by pushing away.

Paternity: A parental paradox, participating in partly protecting and providing primarily by pushing.

It’s so cool to be a participant in this paradox.

I remember taking my toddler to a playground. The other kids playing there were strangers. So mine hung close to me, busying himself near my feet.

For a little while.

But curiosity is irresistible at that age, isn’t it?

Seated on a bench, I read my book, and could see him out of the corner of my eye looking at the other kids playing. Then back to his own task. Then back to them. Then up at me:) I didn’t have to take my eyes off the page to see all this happening. Nor did I. I know what he wanted. I am his father. I knew what would happen. Because I am his father.

He stood up, looked their way, then back at me, pretending not to see him. And he didn’t do it; he didn’t ask if he could go join them. Probably not yet certain he could summon the courage himself. I pretended not to notice the whole thing, eyes on my page.

A few wobbly steps toward them, a pause, observing them, a glance back at dad, thinking “Is this OK?”

I could have looked up and encouraged him. As I think back on it, I’m not entirely certain why I didn’t, but I didn’t. Seems to be a father thing. I wanted my child to own his own choice, not to inherit it by my encouragement or permission. Seems to be what a father is.

He did. He joined them. Not intensely at first. Mostly what’s called “parallel play.” Taking turns down the slide. Not talking to each other. For a while.

It might’ve been a full hour later before he came back to my bench. And I don’t remember how long it was before the next time we went to the playground, but it was probably only a day or two.

I seated myself on a bench, opened my book,…

“Dad, I’m going to go play with my new friend Gavin…”

He didn’t see me gulp, because he was gone. He wasn’t asking for permission, not even probing for encouragement. He could own this choice. Dad will be at that bench. Dad will always be at that bench. Dad is always there…

[And, oh my, he can’t fathom that Dad would rather be nowhere else. Nowhere. Nowhere else except “always there.”]

Yes, stories seem to be the only way to express what it means to me to be a father. Here’s another — that makes even a near-drowning all OK: Ok Drowning Eye-To-Eye

.
Neil D. 2022-06-17


Soul. Ego. Communal Paradox (Rohr, Chittister, Merton)

I write often that the ego and soul of a human being are sensors, of the full self. In weak terms, they are analogues of our five physical senses that inform us of how we do and can interact with the physical universe. These two transcendent sensors, to me, inform us of how we are and can be interacting with fuller truths that include the physical universe and our minds and hearts. The faculty of ego and the faculty of soul are quite plainly indispensable to being human, and like our mind and senses, can also inform us with their own genre of “knowing.” So I find them to be integral faculties for approaching the big questions of life.

The ego, in and of itself, is neither bad nor good. It is merely a sensor. It has no ability to act, only sense; its senses are merely expressed by the actions of a person. The senses which the ego detects are translated into motivators to be expressed by the human being.

The ego tells us that we are separate from every other agent and entity and being in creation. It informs us that our being is essential to the fabric of the universe. We are each unique, and we are each indispensable. And we need no more evidence for that than the very fact of our existence. The entire order of the universe, as grandiose as it sounds, is altered if a single one of us were not here. It is only an illusion of our mind that trivializes who we are to the fabric of existence. Our existential fear derives from that enormous truth – that we matter, and we are matter.

The soul is our sensor of connectedness within the fabric of existence. Like the ego, it too has a temporal dimension because it animates the matter of our body and mind, as our ground of being. Yet, its sensory capability extends mysteriously beyond the physical self – to any extent that there is such a thing – enabling the human being in whom the soul dwells mysteriously to transcend that very singular and material dwelling.

The soul of a human being has no will nor ability to extinguish the ego, but instead to animate it, informing the ego that its limitedness is OK, that this soul will always be tenderly conjoined to its ego, and that, therefore, judgmentalism is nothing for this ego to fear from its all-friendly soul. These senses of the soul endow the full human being with a very true freedom from judgment and shouldness.

No egoic mistake or flaw of a human being is beyond the full understanding of the person’s soul, for that soul is always there as witness, in being. It is never anxious to be larger or smaller as the ego is; it knows the nature of the ego and its dynamics of deflation and inflation, knows that is the ego’s nature, so expects nothing more of that ego and its role as sensor serving the full person; and so the very notion of judgment has no use in the soul’s knowledge paradigm. Neither judgment nor comparison are of any interest to the soul whatsoever.

The nature of ego is to sense separateness and motivate response. It is the nature of the soul merely to be and to love being. The soul gives us being, and therefore loves being. It has no use for black-and-white judgment, which seeks to increase or decrease being, which is senseless to the soul. It is the human being, the person, the mysterious mix of ego and soul, which grows or diminishes self awareness, and grows or diminishes in self awareness.

The soul knows its own nature, and knows the nature of the ego within the self. Both its way of knowing and its knowledge are full and complete because, paradoxically, it is boundless.

The soul is not conscience; it is boundlessly larger than conscience (which informs the ego when it oversteps or gets mixed up outside its nature).

The soul has no value for the notion of blame. It sees nature being natural. The human being does not “feel” alive without living dynamics sesnsed and fueled by ego – the transformations of consciousness about chaos and order, joy and suffering, or what it means to be a human being, and to be human. This demands no judgment whatsoever.

The soul is our sensor of connectedness and being and largeness, able to sense timelessness, yet vaguely, within the bounds of time.

These are my own constructs and language for wrestling with the truths inside of me, for glimpsing my full self – not my self in a moment, nor any idea or ideal or idol outside of moments. For seeing beyond my small self or false self. For sensing beyond my moment-self, alleviating the shame of my egoic mind because it is incapable of sensing beyond my moment-self.

These notions are mine, but I of course did not fabricate them out of nothing. I am influenced by many sources, including the notions that are part of this short article, that includes three writers:

https://cac.org/daily-meditations/the-communal-paradox-2022-07-05/

Neil D. 2022-07-05

Teachers prevent war. Their subjects go viral

TEACHERS:
If you’re normal, you are ready for the break you deserve.
But you aren’t normal.
Trained to teach, you have had to learn on the job how to be epidemiologists, nurses, substitute parents, counselors, janitors, lunch servers, and protectors of society’s most precious.
6 hours/day X 180 days X 15 students = >16,000 student hours of WHO you are, modeled to children.
You think your profession is to impart knowledge about subjects, yet you also impart knowledge about being a subject. How to be an agent in creation.
The overachievers have watched you not leave behind those less comfortable in a rigid and monolithic system.
The underachievers have learned from you that they too have dignity.
All this amidst the largest health tragedy in the human world’s history.
Like the wings of a single butterfly can cause a hurricane, these most precious subjects can multiply those 16,000 hours to spread lessons about living life abundantly, lovingly, with dignity, and spreading love and dignity like mysterious viruses.
Teachers…
YOU prevent deaths.
YOU prevent wars.
How *else* can THAT happen?

Thank you, teachers.

Neil D. 2022-06-01

Dark Night of the Soul (1.8) – Silence


Mirabai Starr’s preface to her contemporary translation of John of the Cross’ original Dark Night introduced my series. Richard Rohr quotes from the translation on the Silence that prevails as the two Nights unfold, in his article titled “Luminous darkness, deepening love”:

“…take a break from ideas and knowledge, to quit troubling herself about thinking and meditating… without agitation, without effort, without the desire to taste or feel him. These urges only disquiet and distract the soul from the peaceful quietude…” (https://cac.org/silence-2022-05-10/)

Easy to say, but nearly impossible amidst torment. I myself may have found my Silence came only after burning through and burning out all my other attempts at understanding:

I slid, unaware, into this paradigm of silence. But only after I burned through all the other apparent alternatives, paralyzed by major depression. Stumbling into nothing but paradoxes entwined in incessant ruminations cycling ceaselessly through my mind.

First, I read. Voraciously, looking for reasons this was being done to me, looking for answers about where I went so wrong, convinced that I did go wrong, and asking why. Why are they doing this? Why did I do this?

Some answers. Partial. None complete, but more enticement and teasing, with half answers, unsatisfying. Chased more. Surely some answer(s) would come.

Just frustration and deepening depression. So I tried all five of the different kinds of pills. I tried exercise, hobbies, new things. I tried old things, music, prayer, meditation, faith practices. I sought a therapy group, couldn’t find one, asked someone to form one. They did.

It didn’t heal me, but it kept me alive, out of hospitals and out of jail. Literally. It kept me going, so I could burn out all evident options. Until nothing was left but silence.

Nothing I could do. All my attempts to understand, to control: Fruitless. [Advent Prequel To Footprints https://feelwithneil.com/2019/12/16/advent-prequel-to-footprints/]
Silence.

What was happening to me?! I screamed. I sobbed. I writhed, curled up in bed. A lot.

I wrote. I wrote what seemed to be true, had stopped chasing, grasping for illusory explanations. Or any explanation at all. It seemed I was doing nothing. It seemed “it” was being done to me.
.
Neil D. 2022-05-13

Next>> Dark Night of the Soul (1.8.1) – Transcendence


Teacher’s Spree


I was reveling about humanity’s determination to put a person on the moon in a decade roiling with assasinations and crises in urban riots, far-off war, and civil rights, when I got this private message.

[Specifics changed for obvious reasons]

Many many months ago, a little boy was waiting in the car as his mother was inside, robbing a human being for $500.

Here’s what that little boy did today, in the words of his school teacher:

“…Absent for 3 weeks, we thought his dad packed up and went back to Missouri. He showed up today. Hair tossled, dirty clothes, looking tired… didn’t have his laptop or even a pencil…I gave him a hug and asked where he had been. He said they went back to St Louis to ‘get a car’ and then had to ‘wait for it to be ready’… At the end of the day, I told him how glad I was that he’s back. And he said, ‘I have something for you.’ He reached in his book bag and pulls out a wallet. He opens the wallet and pulls out a single piece of unwrapped candy. Possibly a Spree. Now this boy knew he had this candy in his wallet. It’s not like he had to look for it. He just spent three weeks traveling half way across the country and back. His mom is in prison. His dad is shacking up with a a known criminal… He didn’t have his laptop or pencil today but he had a piece of candy for his teacher. It might not be a trip to the moon. It might be harder than a trip to the moon.”

Teachers do God’s work, hugging God’s own. And sometimes a Spree is a pretty decent wage.

Neil D. 2022-04-21


Beware: Why popular therapy programs fall short

Popular therapy programs fail in the end; they start, but cannot finish. The truth is too dark for toxically positive self-improvement or healing recovery.

Why be wary of popular self-help books and recovery/therapy programs? Because they are popular! That means they appeal to mass markets, and what mass markets want is, fast and easy. Like a Big Mac and fries. That will satisfy hunger, but is it nourishing? Transformative?

Popular programs will satisfy your hunger. They supply a vocabulary to express what you may have previously had trouble recognizing / expressing. Words like “codependency, dysfunctional, narcissism, people-pleasing”…

This new vocabulary enables you to enter a game. The “name game.” Now you can put a specific name to how you have been victimized or manipulated, how your relationships have been dysfunctional, how you have been mistreated. And a good label for the people who have mistreated you. The name game.

The name game ALWAYS, by necessity, includes a second game. The Blame Game. But this is far less explicit in popular therapies. Why? Why does the Name Game of popular help resources dance around or altogether neglect the implied blame?

If the veiled Blame subgame of the popular Name Game were more explicit, those programs wouldn’t be so popular!

Talking about blame is a negative topic. And popular programs rely on toxic positivity. They cannot talk about any fixes that would be hard, or slow, or drawn out. And they can’t involve potentially negative topics like blame. Yet, popular programs are always incomplete when it comes to transformation. Popularity dictates avoidance of the dark or negative in the reader or participant. It’s too risky as a turn-off. Too hard.

Our culture conditions us to want the Big Mac as a fast fix to our desperate hunger. We dismiss our endurance capability for many, small healthy salads instead of a Big Mac, and salads rarely taste as good. So they don’t appeal to masses that are quite as massive. They can’t be quite as popular. They might include some dangerous elements of hypocrisy or shame, and those topics are too dark when what we want is an escape from suffering.

If we want to escape suffering, we want to avoid the smallest risk of encountering suffering, so we cannot *talk* about suffering (unless shallowly, as caused by someone else, and we are the victims). Too risky. The potential market might narrow.

The farthest they will dip into that direction is to elicit from you a confession that you are not perfect. That is usually as far as the masses are willing to go.

“I’m not perfect, but…” my victimizers are less perfect; I win. They’re bad; I’m less bad. In fact, I’m practically good. And as I practice more of my program’s programs – which I’ve already begun just by using their vocabulary and granting intellectual assent to their premises, which has practically fixed me already – I will be more and more good. I will be on an irreversible and infallible trajectory toward healthy healing and recovery. I will be fixed. And my victimizers will remain losers, while I win.

Cynical? Test it out with some brutal honesty.

Try it out with the prayers or affirmations that conclude each section of your favorite popular self-help resource. Prayers? Of course. We need God’s help for something we cannot achieve on our own. And, “I have God on my side, but my victimizers are judged negatively by God.”

“They are more broken or fallen than I am, so my sins will be fixed and redeemed – I know the vocabulary and exercises, and how to word the conclusion – but they’re going to hell.