Personal Origins of Violence

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible
will make violent revolution inevitable.

~John F. Kennedy~

 

Have you ever seen a violent newborn baby? I haven’t. No one seems to be born violent. So how does someone become violent? Psychologists and sociologists have conducted quite a few studies over the years to try predicting violence.

To the best of my knowledge no way of predicting it has ever been perfected to the point of knowing whether any given individual is about to become violent. Once a person displays such behavior, it is clear then that he or she is capable of aggression and likely to take this course in the future.

The question remains: where does such behavior come from come from? Let’s look at some contributors. One is the path your life takes. The way you live and how you think about life can incline you toward acting violently, peacefully or somewhere in between.  These patterns are often shaped by how your parents lived and what you made of their lives. Dramatic events in your life can also steer you toward a peaceful life pattern or a not so peaceful one. Someone you know and respect could have helped divert a major disaster. Or someone you know and respect could become so frustrated with his or her life that explosive results follow.

Violence as we view it here is brought about by an individual or group of individuals. A person may be influenced by what happens in his or her culture or peer group. It may also be a group effort in which more than one person is responsible for what happens. You can be seen as violent by associating with individuals who show such a pattern whether or not you actually participate in the group’s actions. This is known as guilt by association.

What makes a person violent? Researchers have long debated about whether a tendency toward such behavior can be inherited. This debate continues and has yet to be settled despite years of research.

Aggression is generally viewed as quite similar if not identical. Men tend to engage in more physical forms of aggression while women tend more toward verbal aggression although neither form of aggression is unique to one or the other gender.

Life circumstances appear to play a significant role in all our behavior whether positive or negative. How you are treated in your family, how stable your family is, the safety of your neighborhood, whether you have adequate housing and food, how others react to your racial or ethnic background and how you learn to react to threats can all contribute to how you act. Feeling in physical danger, how you think about yourself, others, your life situation and your prospects for life and what resources you see yourself as possessing also make a contribution.

You may never have acted in such a manner. However you might have considered it at least in passing. Take some time to think about how you got to feel that way and what you did to head it off. Maybe this will help you begin to understand violence in the world.

Life Lab Lessons

  • What has happened in your life to lean you toward violence?
  • What have you experienced which let you toward a peaceful life?
  • What has helped you to control aggressive tendencies?
  • What have you done to provoke others anger?
  • What have you done to keep the peace between you and others?

Ted’s Music

To burn always with this hard, gem-like flame,
to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.

~Walter Pater~

I recently learned of the death of my friend, Ted Ashizawa. I had known him for many years since moving to Batavia in 1974. I got to know Ted through the Genesee Chorale which he founded as well as conducted for many years. I also played with him in the Batavia Recorder Society which met monthly. We played ancient and Renaissance music for recorder and other instruments such as the rackett, shaum, crumhorn and drums.

Music had always held a special place in my mind and emotions. My grandmother was a traveling piano teacher in Attica NY and played for our family when I was quite young. One of the high points of my teen years was seeing The Sound of Music on stage during my first visit to New York. Later I had the privilege of singing in a choir for Pope Paul VI’s Mass in Yankee stadium.

When I learned about the Genesee Chorale I immediately signed up. Unfortunately I became quite busy with my career and family obligations and only sang with the Choral for one season. That year we sang the complex Brahms’ Requiem and Faure’s much simpler but still elegant Requiem.

Ted eventually retired from conducting the Chorale but did return for one anniversary season to conduct Mozart’s Requiem and the Ave Verum. Before the concert, Ted told us that if we moved one person with our music, the concert would be a success. I was moved and know of many others who were moved as well.

As it happened, the Chorale had a concert scheduled the day I attended a memorial gathering in Ted’s honor. Before the concert, a slide show was presented showing the highlights of Ted’s life. During the slide show, there played a recording of the Chorale’s performance of the Ave Verum which I had the privilege to sing with the Chorale under Ted’s direction. The Ave Verum, a beautiful, serene motet by Mozart has become one of my favorite musical memories.

What I most remember about Ted was the ecstasy evident on his face when he conducted the beautiful music he somehow drew from our voices. Ted had this same expression when he listened to music, sang, played the recorder or conducted the Chorale. He had a strong interest in many aspects of life and always made a lively contribution to any discussion.

I am proud to say I knew him as a friend and will always cherish the interactions I had with him on many levels. He will always be in my heart where my musical memories reside. He touched my life in many ways and I will be forever grateful for this.

Life Lab Lessons

What music has stayed with you for many years?
What does it mean to you?
Savor its peace, joy and comfort.
Cherish the music which has brought you to appreciate life.
Cherish the friendships which music made fonder.

A Nation in Search of Leadership

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A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done,
his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.
~Lao Tzu~

As we move toward major party conventions, the leading candidate on one side represents the establishment which has accomplished little other than to remain established. The other leading candidate mimics the anger of the populace about being disenfranchised by the establishment although he is himself well franchised. Neither shows any real sign of leadership toward a more harmonious world.

Unfortunately we have devolved into a society where the powerful rule and concentrate their efforts on maintaining their control of our national wealth and resources. At the other extreme many people have become focused on their own desires without concern about the effect on others. We have lost a sense of consensus we may have had once along the way. Neither candidate has suggested a clear path to supporting the well-being of the nation and its citizens as a whole although platitudes abound on both sides.

Our country was founded on the principles of freedom from persecution, especially for religious beliefs, equality of all people, and forming a democratic republic to ensure individual rights. Unfortunately, “all people” was not quite inclusive right from the beginning, particularly of Native American and people of color. It did not entirely extend to women either.

Throughout our history, we have struggled to maintain these rights and to make them more inclusive of those originally excluded. Although we have made progress in this area, we still have a ways to go. We need to be able to hear each other’s needs, desires, pain and frustration. Then we need to find ways to work together and balance our needs with those of others. Various groups and individuals have made efforts in this direction but none has taken hold consistently in the general populace.

Based on the current offerings of the major parties, we seem to have a choice between business as usual which has kindled widespread dissatisfaction and anger or giving vent to our frustration by joining in the campaign rants. Neither will bring about any meaningful change in how our society conducts itself or lead to greater satisfaction with our collective lot.

The third choice is to start caring for each other by listening to one another and taking appropriate action. Waiting for a leader to emerge with these values is not likely to produce one without our concerted effort. The reason we have the candidates we do is because we voted for them, regardless of what made us do so. The only way to change this is to come together in our common interest and elect someone who shares these values. Are you ready?

Life Lab Lessons

  • Open your ears to the voices of those who agree with you and of those who disagree.
  • Look for issues on which you can agree and express that agreement.
  • Listen to how people feel rather than to the words they use.
  • Find ways to connect with their feelings.
  • Try thinking of mutually agreeable solutions.

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Dispatches From the World Humanitarian Summit: Facing Our Common Humanity Together

 

Tomorrow in Istanbul, the first ever World Humanitarian Summit will begin. I have the privilege to be participating in this unique event, convened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, which will bring together world leaders and humanitarian-aid organizations to discuss how we can do more to alleviate human suffering across the globe.

By most metrics, conflicts have become significantly more frequent and violent in recent years. According to the UN, there were 409 political conflicts around the world in 2015, up from 278 a decade prior. This has contributed to the largest human displacement since World War II, with over 60 million people — about half of them children — forced from their homes because of violence. But despite the staggering need for humanitarian aid — the UN will request $20 billion in 2016, up from only $5 billion in 2006 — only 55 percent of the financing target for life-saving humanitarian assistance was met last year.

Excerpt from Forest Whitaker’s article in the Huffington Post– read more

You Know What I Mean? Finding Commonality Across the Gap

Expert Author Scott Marcus

In L.A.’s school district, when I was a kid, Health was a required class taken in junior high – eighth grade to be specific.

We were taught the basics of course, on how our bodies were changing and even the appropriate methods to shower and dress. And yes, there was that awkward period where our knowledge of the “bird and bees” was clarified – in great detail I might add. As almost-adults, we already pretty much knew the nuts and bolts but my memories are that it was an extremely uncomfortable week, especially since boys and girls were not separated. We were beyond the phase of snickering (at least in class) but everyone sat board straight upright, careful not to make eye contact with anyone else in the room.

I don’t know if it was a required part of the course but one thing I most remember was Mr. Hubbard took us beyond the basics and engaged us in discussions about politics, the economy, and relationships. One could rightly argue that he was as concerned with our societal health as he was with our physical health. Good for him.

Excerpt from Scott Marcus’s column in Ezine- read more

Ripples from an Infant’s Distress


With all that has to happen in the womb, it’s amazing that anyone is ever born at all.

~Coleman Haggerty, CP~

William was born in the usual way to the delight of his family, relatives and their friends. He appeared as a beautiful baby boy and everyone rejoiced. On his second day of life a nurse found him gray and crying in a high pitched tone indicating distress. His caregivers switched into emergency mode and immediately transferred him to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The staff closely monitored him and conducted tests to rule out the most likely reasons for his distress. The tests were all came back normal. He stabilized and returned to looking and acting like a healthy baby.

When a baby is born we all expect or at least hope that no difficulties will arise. When a crisis arises for a newborn, we suddenly face the fragility of life. Babies are delicate and need a great deal of protection. We all accept that. But how do we react when a baby is faced with an unknown threat? We want to do what we can but we don’t know what we can do. We are left to rely on the medical experts and prayers to God to help the baby through the crisis.

Few of us remember a time when infant death was common. Physicians and medical researchers have made tremendous strides in dealing with infants in crisis but there is no guarantee that their knowledge and experience will get any particular infant back on a healthy path.

Such a crisis reminds us that we are all fragile. There is much we can do to keep ourselves as well as our children healthy. Yet there is no guarantee that our efforts will be successful. A crisis also reminds us how precious any life is, especially the lives of those who mean the most to us.

I once heard a sermon by Father Brendan Breen reminding us that whatever we do ripples out through the world with effects on everyone. We obviously do not affect the whole world directly. What we do, good or bad, affects those who come into contact with us. Our actions affect those in contact with us and modify their outlook on life and their actions toward others, again for better or worse. Then those we have affected pass on to others what they have gained or lost from their experience with us. In that way we are all connected, even though we will never meet most of the people we affect indirectly.

As I just mentioned, we tend to see babies as fragile and helpless. Yet William has already had a wide reaching effect on many people most of whom he will never meet. As word of his distress spread from his family to relatives and friends, others who were told of him gained an opportunity to turn their thoughts and prayers in his direction. All of these people got a chance to consider the fragility, wonder and connection with others we all share.

Thank you William for helping all of us to stay connected and human. Good health to you. We look forward to seeing how the rest of your life enriches us.

Life Lab Lessons

  • Treasure the lives of those you love.
  • Show them you care every chance you get.
  • Care for yourself. You are precious to others.
  • Care for people you don’t know when you have the chance.
  • Remember that we are all part of the human community.

If You’ve Lost Faith in Humanity, This One’s For You

Here’s something I’m noticing in alarming frequency: there’s a lot of blame happening, especially and overwhelmingly on the internet. And the blame I’m seeing is this pointing-of-fingers on who is ruining our humanity, which honestly seems like a tall order to throw onto ANYONE. I’m not really talking about politics or social justice issues or anything that high level, although that is certainly part of the finger-pointing.

Excerpt from Jamie Varon’s article in the Huffington Post- read more.

How Fear and Anxiety Cause Violence

How Fear and Anxiety Cause Violence

The world has achieved brilliance without conscience.
Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants.
We know more about war than we do about peace,
more about killing than we know about living.

~Omar Bradley~

Many people lately have become alarmed by “senseless” violence around the world. Have you wondered whether there is a connection between the spate of suicide bombings in Europe and the mass shootings around the world, including those in this country? Not too long ago I suggested a possible connection between fear and violence. Let’s look at this closer.

If you have ever studied psychology or even read about it casually, you are most likely familiar with the fight or flight response to fear. Depending on your circumstances, when faced with something fearful to you, you react by attacking the source of your fear (fight) or avoiding it if it seems more powerful than you are. This kind of fear and response to it follow a direct and immediate threat of an attack such as by a wild animal or a wild person. You don’t have time to think about it but react almost automatically.

Related to fear is anxiety. The feared object might not be immediately present, but we can worry about what might happen or not happen in the future. We become anxious about our own welfare or that of our families, the possible behavior of other people or the course of the society in which we live.

If we are unable to find any way to relieve this anxiety, it builds and eventually leads to a sense of desperation or hopelessness. This can take place inside us and remain unknown to others unless we find someone whom we trust with our concerns or act on our anxiety. Based on my experience and reading, it seems clear that we all have a breaking point where we feel forced to act in ways not typical of us.

Perhaps some people seek violence as a way to be taken seriously for once. Some commit suicide when they feel their life challenges are more than they can bear. The result can be a lashing out toward other individuals or society in general if we see it as responsible for our predicament. If we could understand the workings of others’ minds, much of the violence in our world would not seem quite so senseless.

But what can we do about it? Perhaps the best place to start is to realize that our technology has resulted in amazing inventions allowing us to contact others around the world in a matter of seconds. Yet overload of immediate communication has resulted in separating us rather than bringing us closer together.

In the process of becoming immediately connected we seem to have forgotten what communication is for. Its purpose is to help us understand each other and learn to work together to find harmonious ways for us to exist together. Instead, we use our channels of communication to try to persuade others to think as we do. We use them for entertainment and for advertising and of course to get as many electronic “likes” as possible.

Although our technology to a small extent helps us understand each other, we need to do much more to appreciate each other in our search for meaningful lives. People who tend toward violence may not have had goals much different from our own, but might have had their dreams crushed along the way. They no longer see any path toward a fulfilling life.

Life Lab Lessons

  • Use the media at your disposal to understand the history of the society you live in.
  • Learn about other societies through the same methods.
  • Meet others with backgrounds different from yours.
  • Find out what you and they have in common.
  • Think of ways to bridge cultures at least on an individual level.

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Spirituality in action

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This last column on spirituality and health explores what leading international religious scholar, Karen Armstrong, calls the common foundation of all religions: compassion. Armstrong reminds that at the core of every religious value system is some form of the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have done to you.” Compassion challenges us to stop viewing spirituality as a conceptual discussion reserved for sermons and pulpits, and to start making it about action. Spirituality in action… I believe this is what the mystics and prophets meant when they talked about loving your brother and sister as yourself.

Excerpt from Billy Rosa’s article in New Times- read more