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On Divorce, Relationships, Society, and Human Progress

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016

Iris & Jarome Bali wedding photo
My blog has been quite vacant for many years.
How to write about the challenges of moving to a culture completely opposite to your own, and the process of your life falling apart, your failure after a decade of trying, in denial, to fix problems that were unfixable and loss of the chance to be with your son you had waited so long for and to suffer the same fate as my divorced parents?

In 2013 I finally accepted defeat, I had waited over 10 years to have a family, and spent 6 gruelling years and every penny I had trying to adopt a child only to have him taken away by my ex when she decided to move back to Canada in response to my ‘year of patience’. I won’t go into the complicated and confusing details. The most painful and difficult time in my life, yes, but I don’t blame her for what happened, or myself, this was a failure of society.

Shoghi Effendi said, “A tempest, unprecedented in its violence, unpredictable in its course, catastrophic in its immediate effects is at present sweeping the face of the earth. Its driving power is remorselessly gaining in range and momentum. Its cleansing force, however much undetected, is increasing with every passing day. Humanity, gripped in the clutches of its devastating power, is smitten by the evidences of its resistless fury. It can neither perceive its origin, nor probe its significance, nor discern its outcome…”

There are dark forces at work in our society, suffering is far too common as a result of ambitions for profit and this has become a distraction to solving common health problems that are destroying families and taking lives.
We are witnessing the collapse of its social structure and the functional, healthy family. Proof of this is in the fact that even amongst the Baha’i community, one that is the utmost authority on unity and healthy community building, over 50% of marriages are failing, This is by no means because the Baha’i system doesn’t work, it is working to unite vastly different cultures in over 200 countries, but it is not immune to the deeply rooted problems in our society that eat away like a cancer at our communities, families, relationships, our lives, our human progress. Their source is al the things our culture prides itself on most: individualism, materialism, self glorification, apathy, and mediocrity. These poisons are alone enough to destroy any marriage and relationship never mind hope for a healthy society that is progressing forward. That is not to say progress is not being made, it is just being greatly hindered.

There is a major and essential component of our education missing that is required to heal this cancer, that is the ability to have healthy and effective relationships with other human beings. Simple right? Absolutely essential for our lives, correct? And yet, where did you have a chance to learn this properly? Did your parents teach you this essential skill? Were they successful in exemplifying this? It should have been taught in middle school, but did you even have a chance to learn it in university? We are not taught the most essential skills required for a healthy and effective life. The only place my ex and I probably ever had a chance to learn this was in a Baha’i study that was a few paragraphs long, the topic of effective consultation that is free of ego. A longer course on the topic is coming, but this is not a task for the Baha’i community alone, it is something that should be taught as early and as often as possible. ‘Effective Relationships’ is an essential skill every human needs to be a master at to have a healthy life and be a community building member of society! But most of us never have a chance to learn this.

I could go on, but a similar disturbing example of our delusions about education in essential skills is the fact that we think that as human beings, because we have the ability to procreate, that we know how to parent a child. Parenting is not something we innately know how to do effectively it is something we need to learn through research and insight from those parents who have raised children that are well balanced, successful, helpful members of society.

These two points about being educated to relate well with others are interlinked, how can we effectively raise children if we cannot relate to each other and pursue healthy relationships? We cannot be naive and think that because we live on a planet with millions of other humans we are innately great at having healthy relationships with each other! We’ve well proven that not to be true. Without these dark forces influencing every aspect of our lives, and a spiritual education at a young age, maybe, but right now that is not the case for most of us.
Without a daily spiritual practice that reminds us that we are created by something greater, spirits in a material world, a world designed to help us grow and develop, our egos WILL take control of our lives, which means we will NOT be in control any longer. Human society cannot progress in this animal state. As long as our egos are in control, there is no hope for happy marriage, well raised children, and healthy society! When our ego is in control, it’s hard to learn or even accept we need to educate ourselves or improve.

Abdu’l-Baha said…“we must be willing to clear away all that we have previously learned, all that would clog our steps on the way to truth…The principal reason for the decline and fall of peoples is ignorance. Today the mass of the people are uninformed even as to ordinary affairs, how much less do they grasp the core of the important problems and complex needs of the time”

Now don’t get me wrong, hope is not lost. My life itself has been rejuvenated, I have a wonderful Chinese wife and we have started a new family together. Every day in the world, there are undeniable signs of human progress and advancement the likes of which we have not seen in a thousand years.

The Baha’i Universal House of Justice said:

“Yet there is reassurance in the knowledge that, amidst the disintegration, a new kind of collective life is taking shape which gives practical expression to all that is heavenly in human beings. Have hope. It will not always be so.”

Maybe your reading this and thinking, “What’s he going on about? My life is pretty good and everything is great!” Well I’m not talking about how to keep things going the way they are, this is about advancing civilization, probably a few hundred years process in my opinion.
I could go on, but I think I’ve said more than enough to get the thoughts that have burdened my mind for years out in the open to hopefully benefit someone like myself.
So in conclusion, If your reading this and have children and don’t want them to end up in unhappy, broken, divorce affected lives, you have an obligation to educate them to relate effectively with others of all races, classes and personalities. This may mean transforming yourself as a parent first. This starts but should not end with virtues:

“Give them (the children) the advantage of every useful kind of knowledge. Let them share in every new and rare and wondrous craft and art. Bring them up to work and strive, and accustom them to hardship. Teach them to dedicate their lives to matters of great import, and inspire them to undertake studies that will benefit mankind.” – Abdu’l-Baha

(accustoming children to hardship is so key, my spoiled western upbringing has given me unrealistic expectations that are way too high, a problem most pre 2000 Chinese don’t have)

This is one of the most important principles of the Baha’i faith that attracted me: The principle of universal and compulsory education.
Bahá’u’lláh compared the world of humanity to the human body. Within this organism, millions of cells, diverse in form and function, play their part in maintaining a healthy system. Similarly, harmonious relationships among individuals, communities, and institutions serve to sustain society and allow for the advancement of civilization.

As long as 2 people are willing, There are more and more resources out there to help us reduce the number of relationship casualties. I assisted Baha’i artist Elika Mahony who has been married over 20 years  put together a page dedicated to relationships and marriage here.
http://www.elikamahony.com/home/love-marriage/
John Gottman has also done amazing research to help people with all types of relationships
https://www.gottman.com/about/the-gottman-method/
He says, to make a relationship last, we need to learn how to manage conflict and ‘keep it calm’, generate greater understanding. Baha’is are often too idealistic, thinking they can accomplish today what may take many years to master in eliminating conflict’. Sometimes we need the practical, scientific approach of research to make realistic progress.

I only wish I new as a child or even 20 years ago what I know now. Everyone should have that chance before they embark on their life journey!

Caring for others can increase life expectancy & decrease stress

Monday, September 9th, 2013

I haven’t been blogging much lately, not for lack to write about, but too much.
I’ve had so many massive changes in my life, some giving me the worst pain and stress I’ve ever experienced.
Guess that’s what happens when you give up a comfortable, western life to serve others and accomplish your dreams…
Naturally I was interested in a Ted.com video called “How to make stress your friend”.
I was expecting some helpful tips, but the research revealed in this video is incredible.

Did you know there’s a neuro-hormone, oxytocin, with its own cute nickname, the cuddle hormone, because it’s released when you hug someone. Oxytocin makes you crave physical contact with your friends and family. It enhances your empathy. It even makes you more willing to help and support the people you care about. When oxytocin is released in the stress response, it is motivating you to seek support. Your biological stress response is nudging you to tell someone how you feel instead of bottling it up. Your stress response wants to make sure you notice when someone else in your life is struggling so that you can support each other. When life is difficult, your stress response wants you to be surrounded by people who care about you. All of these physical benefits of oxytocin are enhanced by social contact and social support, so when you reach out to others under stress, either to seek support or to help someone else, you release more of this hormone, your stress response becomes healthier, and you actually recover faster from stress. I find this amazing, that your stress response has a built-in mechanism for stress resilience, and that mechanism is human connection. Human connection reduces stress.

And that’s not all.  Every major stressful life experience increases the risk of dying by 30 percent. BUT, People who spent time caring for others showed absolutely no stress-related increase in dying. Zero. Caring created resilience. When you choose to connect with others under stress, you can create resilience. Now I wouldn’t necessarily ask for more stressful experiences in my life, but this science has given me a whole new appreciation for stress!

Science has proven doing things for other people is the most effective way to be happy. And now, they’ve proven caring for others increases life expectancy by decreasing stress! Watch for yourself here:

Ted.com:Kelly McGonigal: How to make stress your friend

More and more, research and developments worldwide are showing the futility of the individualistic, selfish lifestyle common in collapsing western countries.
One of the key principles of my belief which I believe comes from God is service to others and humanity. Another is the harmony of science and religion. It’s so confirming to see these things come together, and common sense and spiritual ideals prevailing…

 

Trent Reznors new approach to creating music

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

“You know, I spent years of my life listening to Pink Floyd’s The Wall when I was however old I was, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, whatever. I didn’t have access to that much music. Music was an investment. If I spent eight, ten dollars on an album I was gonna listen to it even if it sucked. I was going to listen it until I liked it, you know? I read the liner notes, I read the etching on the vinyl, on the inside ring. I lived with that material, it became part of me. And I don’t mean just that, but the consumption of music was different.

Today, where you’ve got an iPod that’s filled with music you didn’t pay for, and everybody’s… it’s just a different consumption model, between youtube and the internet and people sharing files. Competition for your attention; people spend less time with music. And hence, as an artist that spent years on records, it’s somewhat defeating when you spend a year and a half on an album to get it just right, and it either leaks or comes out, and gets judged and dismissed in the first half a day, forgotten a week later.

That was a long setup for me saying – I thought it would be interesting to look at an album more like a magazine. Let’s do it, not carelessly, but let’s NOT look at it as the next thing that’s my big statement for the next four years of my life. Here was a very intensive and creative six-to-eight weeks of my life I had, as an album. Here it is. It’s free. That’s what The Slip was. It’s fun to do, it was interesting to see if it could be done. I’m proud of that record, it was fun to make. The self-imposed pressure was also matched with [the fact that] if it sucked I didn’t have to put it out.”

– Trent Reznor, Nine Inch Nails. Read more from the source of this quote here.

The future of education is here! Khan Academy online

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Since I posted about the insightful Ken Robinson talk about how defective the education of our children is, I’ve been thinking, how do I avoid putting my son into this mess? When will a functioning solution exist to address Ken’s excellent suggestions to reform education, given that government institutions are lazy, disinterested and short of funding?

Well as a parent, I was practically jumping up and down with excitement to learn of the non-profit Khan Academy.
Do you think founder Sal Khan is an education major? Of course not. Watch the amazing story about how this developed and how it mushroomed into a serious force in eduction with Bill Gates and Google supporting it:

Happy New Year, Xinnian Kuaile! All about China in 10 minutes

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Chinese Year of Dragon

On the eve of Chinese New Year, Year of the Dragon, the legendary spring festival, fireworks are already going off all day.
To celebrate this rich and highly complex culture, I am sharing everything you need to know but probably don’t about China in 10 minutes:

Since childhood, the fireworks were always a big deal to me, I remember paying $10 for a pack of 100…
Yesterday I went to the seasonal fireworks shop in the land of origin, and they come in cakes of 5000 for $40!
But that’s not the biggest, see below:

10,000 Firecracker cake, China

10,000 Firecracker cake, China

The fireworks here are some of the loudest you will ever hear. It’s like a war zone here for 2 weeks!
The Chinese believe that if you make enough noise, any bad things will be frightened off and your new year will start out with only greatness.

 

Fireworks shop, Beijing China

Fireworks shop, Beijing

祝願你們也有個好年!吃得好,睡得好,身體好,過年好!
– Wish you have a good year! Eat well, sleep well, good health, Happy New Year!

Quality of Life

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

“Everything you have in life can be taken from you except one thing: your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.
THIS is what determines the quality of the life we’ve lived, not whether we’ve been rich or poor, famous or unknown, healthy or suffering,
what determines our quality of life is how we relate to these realities, what kind of meaning we assign them, what kind of attitude we cling to about them, what state of mind we allow them to trigger.”

– Viktor E. Frankl, Holocaust survivor

It’s never too late to reflect on our experiences and rebuild the negative neural pathways in our brain!

 

A new way to get what you want in life

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

I’ve been studying a lot about how to get more of what I want out of life over the last few years, mainly because I really haven’t been getting that despite every effort. One person that has started me on that path is an amazing person and artist, life coach Laura Harley.

But as I studied all the Ekhart Tolle’s and ‘The Secret’ and such famous resources to get back to the important things in life, I still felt something was missing, because these things didn’t seem to work even when followed completely. I met many others who said the same thing, so I knew it wasn’t just me…
I’ve been getting fantastic results from a specific expert in guided meditations recently, Kelly Howell, and I found the answer I had been looking for in one of her Theatre of the mind podcasts called “energy from within”.
Without getting into a lot of detail, The podcast featured a guest speaker who had read pretty much all the help books that exist, and came to a revelation which I will reveal in point form:
– your energy level determines your happiness, success & effectiveness in the thoughts you manifest & wether those thoughts become the things you desire. This is not physical energy, but something more mental or even spiritual.
– its not enough to just think positive thoughts & practise the secret famed ‘law of attraction’, you need to have the positive energy to make it happen
– certain things drain this energy & other things replenish it. This is different for everyone. This is called ‘energy metabolism’
– gratitude lists, positive thinking, books, and most other self help techniques cant work when your energy tank is low, if things are going wrong in your life despite your every effort, you need to replenish it and you will see things will start to happen
– inspired, effective spirit focused meditation is one powerful way to alter your energy metabolism, just like your food metabolism
– replenishing your energy is as simple as reducing the things that suck your energy (certain people, activities) and doing more things that you love that give you energy back (hopefully, your work, music, nature, good friends, and other activities)
– in future, good doctors will measure this & tell you how low you are, and help you raise it through specific activities suited to your needs
(for now, you’ll have to go to a life coach like Laura Harley)

Here’s how to start:

  • Step 1: start realizing who and what gives you energy & what drains it.
  • Step 2: eliminate all unnecessary energy drains (unfortunately some are unavoidable). Replace with those that replenish them
  • Step 3: start your day with 3 easy simple things that make you feel good and do them.

Make no mistake, this information is huge! It works, and if you use it, it WILL transform your life!

So now whenever life takes a nosedive, I quickly turn to some of those things that build up my energy again, and I find I’m able to survive some of the most extreme situations, and come out not only functional, but successful.
I’m still working on it and trying to get there to this place I aspire to despite many challenges, but at least now I have ALL the tools needed to do it!

What kind of things would bring you the energy you need to get where you want to go?


Americans take action against injustice… finally

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Last month I blogged about the current collapse of civilization. Today I was excited to see that Americans seem to finally be waking from their slumber and taking action, moving the process forward. Understandably now that approximately one in every six Americans live in poverty. This week over 700 have been arrested in mostly peaceful protests on wall street called ‘occupy wall street’. Here is the website that started it. What’s interesting about this is you will find little in the media who are afraid, despite the growing thousands taking action not only in New York, but across the country. And major celebrities have started to back the effort. Protestors on wall street What’s amazing and unique about this protest is although it is modelled after Arab Spring, it has no leaders and is not affiliated with any other organizations. It is connected via open source technology and relies on the united efforts of all those involved who collectively are working together to initiate change and make their grievances known. Here is the Official Statement from Occupy Wall Street – this statement was voted on and approved by the general assembly of protesters at Liberty Square: Declaration of the Occupation of New York City: “As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies. As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known. They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage. They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses. They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation. They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization. They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless nonhuman animals, and actively hide these practices. They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions. They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right. They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay. They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility. They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance. They have sold our privacy as a commodity. They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press. They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit. They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce. They have donated large sums of money to politicians supposed to be regulating them. They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil. They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantive profit. They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit. They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media. They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt. They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad. They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas. They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.* To the people of the world, We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power. Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone. To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal. Join us and make your voices heard!” *These grievances are not all-inclusive. To hear from many of the individuals involved directly, there is a blog: we are the 99% Maybe it’s time to start sharing the news and taking action if you aren’t already. It’s your world, your country and your life, take ownership!

The Collapse of Our Civilization

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

The Collapse of Civilization

It’s been some time now, and the verdict is clear… things are getting worse in the world not better:

  • Disparity between rich and poor
  • Too few jobs
  • Games and spectacles “to keep idle citizens entertained”
  • Rule by decree
  • Irresponsible behaviour of public officials

What does this remind you of? Sounds a lot like our civilization, right?

Actually, it is a description of Ancient Rome before it’s collapse!

Many argue, ” things will improve and this is just a temporary situation”, other extremists claim “the end of the world is near”
I don’t buy it. Historian Arnold Toynbee researched the rise and fall of civilization more than anyone, and according to his findings, right now is pretty much exactly when our civilization is due for collapse.

Of course, civilizations don’t just come and go, retired member of the Baha’i Universal House of Justice, the late Dr. Peter Khan describes how they exhibit cracks over time, often hundreds of years in the making, until eventually they crumble and collapse. Much has been written by various authors in an attempt to identify the fissures in the Roman Empire, some of which are very prevalent in much of world society now…

So how do we deal with this? Pure capitalism, like socialism and other man-made systems preceding it, is a flawed system based on certain false assumptions about human nature and well-being (nevermind total disregard of the environment based on an antiquated assumption of inexhaustible natural resources), and it is slowly unravelling before our eyes.
Individuals too, while affected by the system in place, are certainly culpable for the unwise and harmful actions carried out under the pretext of personal rights and “getting ahead of the pack”.
Ultimately, the relationship between society and the individual is so intertwined and mutually affective that ignoring one at the expense of the other has to be viewed as simplistic.
The effect of individualistic, materialistic attitudes so prevalent worldwide have never been so clear – They not only lead to unhappiness, they’re totally destructive.

I’ve been pondering for a long time on how our society is far beyond any kind of band aid solutions, well proven not to be effective. Even more so, I’ve been thinking about how our educational institutions are giving degrees and releasing supposed ‘experts’ into the world with ‘solutions’ for social development that are based in failed approaches. (I posted a great video about this recently that explains why & how the whole foundation of the education system is broken)

So, I’ve been looking into how we create a new civilization, how is it going to happen?

According to Dr. Peter Khan, a healthy civilization involves a foundation of behavioral change through spiritual transformation. A civilization depends upon certain moral and ethical, spiritual characteristics.

Assuming we need to start from scratch to see real improvements to the worlds major problems, we would want to have certain things to create a framework and guideline for a new civilization:

– We would want individuals comprising that civilization to engage in an exploration and application of divine teachings to daily life, so that we can build up a civilization in a reasonable and productive manner

– We would want civilized society to be imbued with a sense of altruism to the service of humanity. We don’t want selfish greedy people, but people who are altruistic, who think of the larger good.

– And essentially we would want them to transmit civilized values to the new generation of children and youth.

There are many who claim to be implementing these practices but the one organization that has really seemed to have grasped these principles and put them into action are the Baha’is.

They are implementing growth of a new type of civilization slowly but surely, in over 220 countries and territories in one collective, unified effort through their devotional meetings, the institute process, and study of the Ruhi Books, a focus on service to humanity, children’s classes, youth classes, and junior youth activities.
But most importantly, they are assisting in a transformation of the human heart and priorities of the individual, the only way true change and lasting solutions have ever occurred in the world.

Don’t want to waste your time contributing to humanity with failed solutions that band aid serious problems? Get involved in one of these activities!

Logic, reason, and common sense dictate that if what we’re doing isn’t working, doing the opposite may be a good place to start.

This makes paper books seem really boring…

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Check out this highly interactive book:

How cool that it’s a follow up to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth!
If only the education of children in our society was important enough to do this for schools….