Self Motivated User-focussed Gratitude

Self Motivated User-focussed Gratitude

I often think that gratitude is much misunderstood. Despite the positive psychology movement and religious organizations recognizing its benefits I sometimes feel only half of the subject is considered.

There is a reasonable body of research which suggests that keeping a Gratitude Journal, a diary of things for which you are grateful can help you promote a positive frame of mind and a greater sense of happiness. People who keep gratitude journals have been shown to be generally happier, optimistic and more productive to similar people who do not keep such journals. Gratitude Journals have been shown to reduce depressive symptoms and possibly have beneficial effects on some chronic physical ailments.

Intuitively this “count your blessings” approach seems to have much to commend it and I have looked at a number of paper and computerized gratitude journals. They did not work for me. When I tried to use them I transformed into tearful actor winning the best cameo role in an international film at the Oscars – “I’d like to thank my Mum and Dad for having me, my children for being nice, my employers for putting up with my incompetence, my neighbours for having a nice garden, the sun for shining and making me feel warm, my bodily health for persisting so far despite my ignoring it, the wind for clearing the lawns of leaves and the bees for pollinating the plants so we do not die in a famine. I’d also like to thank the canteen boy .. .. .. .. “.

This was the problem, there are many, many things one might be thankful for. Although, it has to be said, that I only became aware of these once writing in the journal. I was not thankful before I sat down to think, largely I had taken these things for granted. I had glimmers of gratitude after I wrote the lists. Sometimes I worried that the feeling I had was contentment rather than gratitude, a sense of happiness with my lot, having counted my blessings I was pleased there were so many.

There is a danger in this: if it fosters contentment might it not also foster complacency? It might make me happier by making me happy with my lot. Perhaps a better route to happiness sometimes would be to recognize my troubles and tribulations and change them.

I think this risk is biggest when only half of the nature of gratitude is recognised. In addition to being grateful for things we are also grateful to people. Gratitude is a debt we owe, when we feel gratitude we know we require to say “thank you” to someone. Those of a religious nature rarely forget this half. They are thankful to God and gratitude serves to bolster and strengthen their faith.  Thanksgiving is a natural aspect of religious life and gratitude is understandable in this context.

“Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus toward you

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

To whom do those without a deity give thanks; to friends and family certainly, but who for the bigger things – to fate ? And what of those things one enjoys that one sees as the fruits of one’s own labour – you can not really be grateful to yourself, you can’t owe thanks to yourself. And here is the rub. Sometimes people are grateful to the fates that they have been lucky and no disasters have befallen then, they are proud that they have worked and collected many things to look on in happiness, they are pleased that they have formed good relations with their friends and families and they feel fortunate that their parents bore them in a place they feel safe and secure. But this pride in your own acheivements and contentedness with your circumstances is not gratitude. There is a shorter word for this Self Motivated User-focussed Gratitude, it is called being “smug“. Unfortunately the happiness that accompanies smugness is always short-lived because, as we know, pride always comes before a fall.


From Daily Prompt : Gratitude

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Would you prefer to be good ?

Would you prefer to be good ?

Which would you prefer the red or the yellow ? Would you prefer tea or coffee ? Would you prefer I wore this dress or the first one ? Thousand of times each day we use our option to chose our preferences. When I saw the word appearing as the Daily Prompt today, my initial thought was that “I’d prefer not to do that one, it’s too trivial” But after further consideration I realised it was one of the most important issues we face.

When we select preferences we are making a choice and this process of thinking and choosing is what makes us human. When we prefer something, and choose it, it is based on a conscious decision; an awareness of our desires and needs and consideration of consequences. When I do things, most of my actions are determined by my conscious thoughts and deliberations unlike animals which are largely driven by reflex and instinct. Though goats may eat leaves instead of snails it is not because of preference; they eat what they are wired to eat, there is no element of choice.

Our desires also have deep instinctive, animal roots but as sentient beings we elect and choose how to act in them. I may desire the sandwich you are holding, I may even need it if I am hungry, but I do not simply take it. I make a choice as to whether that is the right thing to do. Similarly, no matter how strong baser urges to mate might be, we make a choice as to whether to try and initiate mating is appropriate or wise. Our entire waking lives are a series of choices one after another. How we make these choices, how we exercise our free will to choose, is what defines us a person. The person who sees his own desires as having importance over everything else is well known to us, and generally poorly regarded. On the other hand, the individual who temperately meets her or his needs, and pays heed to the needs of other when the make their own choices, is generally well thought of.

We need to be able to make these choices in order that we can become better people. We need to be able to choose freely in order to be good.  I pay my taxes reliably (I have little choice in the matter) and the money I give does help many good projects amongst the poor and disadvantaged. But I have not acted as a good person in doing this, I did not make that choice, I did not prefer to help someone else over myself, thus this was not a good act and I did not become a good or better person. If I had given a fraction of this money, by my own choice, and expressing a preference that is was used by someone else rather than myself, I would have done a much better act and may have taken the first steps to becoming a good person. (Thankfully the corollary also holds that I am not a bad person because of the tax money I gave being used for bad ends, for example funding the wars in the Middle East).

Many totalitarian states justify their removal of choice as being possible as choice is no longer necessary. If people are fed, housed, employed and repaired then there is no need for choices they say. The former eastern bloc used to argue that, as all needs were met (although they rarely were), there was no need for choice which was a capitalist decadence – why give people the choice of 10 types of car when everyone can have 1 basic car ? Choice creates envy and discord – just ensure everyone gets enough and there is no need for choice. This type of thinking does work when managing farms; feeding, housing, mating and repairing the animals can be done effectively without arranging any choice but animals don’t need choice, humans do !

When humans find themselves unable to make choices, or find that their choices make no difference, they become unwell. Seligman wrote about “learned helplessness” when he observed the effect of removing effective choice from dogs. Many stories told by the survivors of the Nazi camps reveal that once choice has been removed from life, hope also departs, and people cannot survive and live without hope.

So whether you made the choice to read this, or not, enjoy the millions of choices you are going to make in your life and try and prefer the options which will be better for you.

 


 

via Daily Prompt: Prefer

Androphilia by Jack Donovan

Androphilia by Jack Donovan

I had read and enjoyed Jack Donovan’s book “The Way othf Men” and when I came across Androphilia, while browsing the net, I decided to give it a try. I was probably not the author’s target demographic as he describes his book as a ‘rant‘ and ‘manifesto’ for homosexual men to encourage them to throw of the chains of the gay culture and to rediscover masculinity. That being said, only half of the book is about the gay culture and gay identity, about half is also concerned with the nature of masculinity itself.

I suppose it should be no surprise that someone who has found his desire is directed towards other men would have thought about masculinity and have useful and interesting insights into the nature of ‘manliness’. This is not a minor point as Mr Donovan points out :-

“Being male is the fundamental source of identity for every male—before race, class or creed—and being a man affects virtually every aspect of a man’s life”

However,  despite the importance of the topic maleness and masculinity receive scant attention in current culture. Indeed, when it is addressed it is more usually in terms of the problems of masculinity rather than consideration of its essence and utility. This unfortunately leaves men, both heterosexual and homosexual, with little opportunity to discuss how to live a life of a good man. Masculine virtues tend not to be recognised and we have a regrettable tendency to pathologize boyish behavioural patterns. He argues we need to try and re-find the masculine codes of behaviour, and this seems pertinent to all men.

What I’ve suggested here is a loose code of masculine honor, based on values like self-reliance, independence, personal responsibility, integrity, self-respect and respect for other men, that have resonated with males throughout the ages. These values have been common themes in many codes of masculinity, and they’ve inspired countless males to be better men

The other half of the book concerns the gay culture and I am really unable to appraise this aspect as easily. I share his belief that “Men should be defined by what they do, not who they screw.” but I am less certain that gay culture tends to have deleterious effects :-

“The word gay describes a whole cultural and political movement that promotes anti-male feminism, victim mentality, and leftist politics.”

“In response, I believe gay culture is a reproach to manly men. Gay culture critiques, stifles, and qualifies masculinity. It encourages effeminate affectations and effeminate interests.”

Though his arguments sound logical and coherent I have no idea how many gay men reject the effeminate aspects of this culture, nor how many share his  appreciation of manliness. But I would agree that “The gay community makes sexuality a complete lifestyle, instead of merely a part of life.” is a dangerous strategy, a dangerous strategy also promoted by other identity groups.

He can be very scathing in this area, as righteous as only an ex-sinner can be, but sometimes in these, more rant heavy passages, his writing does reveal his humour and wit more clearly.

It has always seemed like some profoundly ironic cosmic joke to me that the culture of men who love men is a culture that deifies women and celebrates effeminacy.”

I’d recommend the book to anyone interested in the subject of masculinity, whatever direction their libido takes, there is a lot of meat in this short book. The present kindle version also include a few essays as appendices which are a pleasant addition, especially his rebuttal of same-sex marriage (or perhaps just marriage) which shows a fresh viewpoint on the subject.

 

 

Animal Passions

Animal Passions

I never really gave it much thought, when I dropped out 5 years ago, that I would be responsible for securing the sexual satisfaction of my animal charges. I had always known I’d keep sheep, chickens and goats but hadn’t, at first, given much thought to keeping rams, cockerels and billy goats. I had recollections from my youth of the tales of the birds and the bees but I had rather naively just imagined that it would all just happen naturally and by accident, as it did with my own offspring. I had never really though that I would have to be the procurer of male company for them all, nor had I considered just how ornery and cussed these males could be.

Last year we dried off our two milking goats. They had given us a good run of milking and had been very productive. One of them being equally productive following a cloudburst, or phantom, pregnancy. But eventually the frozen milk ran out and we need to get them pregnant again so we can resume milking next spring. We really have missed the milk, yoghurt and cheese, and I also miss the rhythmBilly goat kid of daily milking. Starting the day early, in the byre, with just the animals for company is great for the spirits and the schedule of the milkings twice a day gives a structure to the days and is a bit like the heartbeat of the farm.

After a search we found a billy kid locally. A pretty alpine-saanen cross who was, thankfully intact. Unfortunately he had not been disbudded and thus has a pair of impressive horns. It is too late to dehorn him as this would be risky and unpleasant for him so we will have to cope with this. It perhaps makes me at risk of breaking my cardinal rule of animal husbandry – “Don’t have any animals you can’t beat in a fair fight!” as I fear, when bigger,  I may be no match for him.

When we got him back to the homestead it was clear from the attitude of the two girls that we had made a good choice. Pamela leapt to greet him and within half an hour of arriving they had mated. Pookie kept her reserve overnight and  looked rather disdainfully at her sister and her antics. However, the following morning it was she and he who were making all the noise and action while Pamela looked on with a bored expression.DSC07179

We will know in three or four weeks if the girls go back into season again or whether our first few days will prove productive. It seem likely that we may be able to expect kids in the middle of March 2018 and resume dairy production shortly thereafter.

I was surprised at how early boy goats become sexually mature. It seems that they are ready to ‘work‘ at around three months and this young boy was only a little over four months old. It has been almost surreal to watch this infant, who is all testicles and hormones, trying to mount the dams in the yard as if he were some pocket Casanova. But despite his youth he seems adequately mature, so finger crossed as we wait for spring.

DSC07202

 

 

 

Goat Willow

Goat Willow

I find it very difficult to express the differences that have occurred in my life over the last five years but this pick-up full of goat willow might help. It might not be obvious on first glance but bear with me.

About a decade ago I experienced a crisis of faith. I had progressed well in life. I had a well paid job as a consultant in the NHS, I had fairly good health (or so I thought), my children were grown and doing well for themselves, my marriage was sound and I had no debt. I enjoyed regular holidays and gained pleasure from the status of my work. I was a technophile and the Koreans could not invent gadgets and novelties quick enough for me and, fortunately, living in the centre of the town I could shop at any hour of the day or night. No appetite needed to wait to be sated.

However, despite this I found that I was often unhappy, frequently disgruntled and usually felt aimless and bored. I thought that my relative affluence was part of the problem as was the inauthentic nature of my life. I lived most things though the eyes of others. I had realised that many of the moral and political views I had were incorrect and unhelpful. I decided that I need to change; so I left my post, headed out of the town, and sought a new life. I often think it has worked and my current happiness seems to support me in that belief. However, it was my neighbour’s goat willow that let me know how much life had changed.Untitled picture

My neighbour has a great deal of what she calls pussy willow (salix caprea), but which is also known as goat willow. It has the latter name because in Heironymous Bock’s herbal it is shown in a drawing being eaten by goats, and I can confirm that goats are very partial to it.  Now my neighbour needed to clear her garden and saw the goat willow as garden waste destined for the bonfire. When she told me I felt my spirits jump.

With the very poor summer, with little sun and very few dry spells, we have not been able to take a crop of hay. As a small scale enterprise we can not use silage and big bales of hay, we require to  make small bales of hay by hand.  This has left us short of goat food and sheep food for the winter ahead, so the idea of all this forage going free was exciting. I was round within minutes to collect it and get it back to the goats. They, in turn, picked off every leaf of the first batch at their first sitting leaving me shafts which I can dry over the next year or two to create kindling (Willow needs seasoned for a long time before it burns satisfactorily). I was feeling very pleased with my discovery thinking, I’ve saved my neighbour work, reduced waste, fed the goats, saved some of our hay for the sheep and started to provide fuel for 2019.

Not a leaf left
Not a leaf left

Then it struck me. Five years ago I could never experienced such pleasure from such a simple days work. At that time, I would have been trying to convince myself I was happy while  unpacking a gadget I had bought following yet another shopping excursion.  I would have been trying to convince myself that the increased speed or memory size the thing had would improve my life, but would still be vaguely aware that it was simply another gewgaw that I’d replace with a newer version next year. Now finding simple pleasures in simple activities lets me lead a freer, more settled, life. It has allowed my appetites to shrink to more normal levels so that now I can gain as much pleasure from finding a supply of edible leaves as I did before at much greater expense. This may have been the insight that William Morris had when he wrote “Free men must live simple lives and have simple pleasures

 

 

 

 

Just hope no-one describes you as “loyal”

Just hope no-one describes you as “loyal”

I have become aware that I hope no-one describes me as loyal. This would not be a good sign. Although many people file the word “loyal” away in their memory beside the virtues (alongside courageous, true, steadfast and reliable), nine times out of ten when the word ‘loyal’ is used it really means stupid, hoodwinked or shortsighted.

Think about it. Remember the last story about a politicians “loyal wife” ? She may have been virtuous but she was being so described as she was standing beside a man who had betrayed her and her trust. Who are the “loyal subjects” ? They are but the cannon fodder who are marshalled by kings or emperors to lay down their own lives so that the ruler may become richer yet. And what about “loyalty cards” ? These are the tricks used by companies to keep us using them when we could get better deals or services elsewhere. And “loyal fans” ?  Those are the ones following the teams that continually loses.

Therefore I am quite certain that if I am unfortunate enough to find myself described as “loyal” then something has gone badly wrong. Either someone has cheated on me, deceived me, or has made me put my interests below theirs. It is possible to share a vision and, when doing so, it is wise to stick with it (and those sharing the vision) through difficult times.  Love doesn’t require constant revalidation and love survives through the thin, lean times  as well as the easy days. But when the word loyal is wheeled out you can be certain that we are no longer in some, temporary blip and that love may have long gone.

“Loyal” – listen out for the word and, unless you are a dog,  be ready to change you plans if you hear the word applied to you !

 

 

 

Every single lash .. ..

Every single lash .. ..

I normally steer clear of issues of gender politics. The arena is so toxic and tribal that it is difficult to have constructive discussions of how we might improve matters. This is not because the subject is inherently difficult, indeed it is blindingly simple ; all humans are born with the same few inalienable rights, which apply equally, and their gender and race play no part in this. Unfortunately this is not enough in this area where tribal loyalties and blind dogma seem to rule and ensure that all discussions degenerate into bad-mouthed squabbles.405

It is therefore with trepidation that I write to complain about the current cover of “Glamour” magazine and its false #poweredbywomen tagline. This caught my eye in the supermarket and was successful in that it made me think about gender disparities in the workplace. I note that they stated that in these issues the magazine would be 100% made by women” and that “Every photo in our pages? Taken by a woman. Every hair coiffed. Every lash curled.(by a woman)”.  Which made me think about the divisions of labour. While I am fairly certain that “every lash curled” was curled by a woman I wondered how different this was to another day of the week. I have a sneaky feeling that in the world of lash curling or hair coiffing there is already a female preponderance. But what about other areas of the magazine’s production ?

I think we can sleep easy that the gender disparity in forestry has not been tackled.  In this hazardous industry with an appalling death rate amongst its workers 99% of those working outdoors are men. We can bet safely that is was a man who clambered up the hill in the rain or snow, to use the chainsaw, to cut down the trees to make the magazine’s paper.  Another industry with a dreadful record of safety for its workers is the haulage industry. Of those people working outdoors in lonely lives, often having to sleep in their lorry’s cab in a car park far away from their families, 99.5% are men. I think we can be sure than glamour magazine was not shuttled by a fleet of women lorry drivers from the factories to the shops.

While there is better gender ratio in the printing industry as a whole (70:30) this masks a wider split – white collar office jobs are predominately held by women while dangerous factory jobs are overwhelmingly male. All of this is before we step further back in the supply chain to prinking ink and those who obtain the pigments, the miners who mine the ores that create the metals from which  the machinery is made, and the assembly line workers to create them. There are lost of jobs where there is a disparity and none of these will have been tackled by Glamour’s mock feminism.

The cheek of this magazine to put its model on the front page with her fist of solidarity at odds with her winsome smile, perfect coiffure and model good looks. She is no ‘Rosie the Riveter’, no image of female strength and ambition;  just another model on the front page showing women how they should look. It really does take exceptional degree of irony to to take up the fight for increasing the proportion women in the workplace in one of the few industries where this is not a problem. I think that fashion journalists, glamour consultants, fashion models, hairstylists, make up artists and the rest have already cracked this problem. Indeed we should perhaps be arguing for more male models to try and reduce the effects of the objectification of women by this industry. I don’t think I have seen a worse case of “virtue signalling” since the campaign to give away tampons at Glasgow Airport to end period poverty;   if one group of women are less likely to suffer from this, then it is wealthy people stepping off aeroplanes –  surely “To those that have, shall be given“.

How could this campaign got off to such a ledebad start in missing the gender disparities in its own industry and how could it be so crass and blinkered. Perhaps a look at the group behind it will give a clue.  This group of predominately white, young middle class women will have a biased view of the world.  Where are the people of colour, does the cosmetic industry  feel that this is too poor a market ? Where are the older people, the glamour industry doesn’t tolerate the elderly? Where are the plain people,  this industry ejects you when your looks fade ? Where are the disabled, its hard to break into this industry if you deviate from accepted definitions of beauty ?

We do have pressing issues on inequality of opportunity and pressing issues on inequality of remuneration for work, but boosting the cosmetics and glamour industries profile is not one of them. This industry does enough damage to all of us, but especially women, as it is and we don’t need them to steal feminism to create a marketing strategy. Lets campaign for real changes, equal pay, equal parental leave and responsibility and pick some priorities. Here in the west they might be the lack of male teachers to give our boys a role model to encourage learning and academic aspiration, the lack of female taxi drivers to widen the choice for passengers, the lack of male nurses to encourage men to come forward more readily with health problems, and the lack of female manual workers in the days of mechanisation there is no real call for brute strength, look at our female athletes they are clearly the match for men. And lets get rid of magazines that tell women how they should look, how they should dress, how they should use cosmetics, and , increasingly, how they should think. It is not a woman’s lot to “curl a lash” any more than it is a man’s to fell a tree. Stop pigeonholing us.