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5449002019_c15cd9cc3a_b_editI have awoken to an America that I do not recognize.

The 2016 election shows that what I thought I knew about national politics is wrong and I feel humbled.

Nearly all of the expert analyses of the election turned out flawed including my own amateur efforts.

What is frustrating about the failure of professional and academic analyses of this election is that the methods used to project outcomes are the same methods used to explain the outcomes.

That makes it hard to trust any analysis as to why Trump and the GOP succeeded against expectations; it also makes it hard to trust analyses of what Trump is doing and where our country is going.

A source of error in the projections was that the pollsters and the media did not accurately represent the portion of the electorate who made the difference and that turns out to be half of the voters.

That omission is important to reflect upon because the nearly 60 million people who elected Donald Trump are misread by those of us who were caught unawares on election night.

Trump supporter and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel provides a clue about that misreading;

“I think one thing that should be distinguished here is that the media always is taking Trump literally. It never takes him seriously, but it always takes him literally. I think a lot of the voters who vote for Trump take Trump seriously, but not literally.” [1]

Thiel’s distinction makes all the difference in how we interpret one another across the political divide.

For instance, I suspect that many on the left suppose that Trump cannot practically deliver on promises that he made in the campaign and conclude that this inconsistency will disillusion his supporters and weaken his base.

That conclusion follows only if Trump supporters interpret his Duck-Rabbit_illusionpromises literally and I have come to believe that Trump voters construct his meaning not all literally, but symbolically.

If there are multiple ways to make alternate meanings out of the same words, we must strive to comprehend all of those meanings together.

Unless the people on the opposite sides of the political divide become visible and clear to one another the prospects for national unity will continue to dim.

In the political struggle that fractures America, most of us are boxing with shadows.

I do have one data point to rely on in my account of this election because in August I attended a Trump rally in Everett, WA.

I wanted to find out personally what attraction this unconventional candidate held for his followers.

I want to tell my progressive colleagues and readers that Tump supporters are not bad people; not deplorable.

I talked with a dozen rally attendees and observed hundreds and for the most part, I liked them as individuals.

The rally was thousands large and had a festive atmosphere with families, kids dancing and no physical violence that I witnessed.

The campaign rhetoric was jarring to my ear and I had difficulty referencing what people told me.

They all said that the economy is failing, the military is in decline, billionaires are incorruptible and that America’s core values have been undermined.

None of it looks that way to me, but I did not argue, I listened and listening may be the most important part of dialog.

In academia and on the left of center we have not been listening to half of the electorate and we paid the price for that insensibility on election night.

candle-335965_960_720Perceiving the need to listen to people whose ideas we reject lights a path to a way forward for those of us who value dialog and the exchange of ideas as a means of growth.

The opportunity is to step up to the challenge of creating conversations between people who are not hearing and seeing one another.

This conversation is possible because we all have so much in common.

This conversation is hard because we generally disbelieve what the other side sees as true.

This conversation is necessary because finding our common ground is the one hope that we have to transcend our growing national chasm of ideologies.

To Trump supporters reading this I want to say that those of us who emphasize justice, equity and individual rights are not bad or deplorable either.

We are operating with caricatures of one another, you and I, and it is to our mutual interest to understand how those false images come about and to what purpose.

You know as well as I that election victories are temporary and the political pendulum will swing back in time, so what matters to the good of our nation is how we manage the change together.

I genuinely want to understand what you think and what you trust and what kind of world you aspire to.

flag-american-heart_editWhen enough of us recognize the reflections of ourselves in the human beings on the other side, the bridge building will begin.

I pledge to work towards producing opportunities for political reconciliation and human communication across our community.

I hope that you, dear reader, will join that effort in your own way to make America work together again.

 

Sources
[1] Roller, E. Peter Thiel Wants You to Take Trump Seriously, but Not Too Seriously. November 1, 2016.
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/01/opinion/campaign-stops/peter-thiel-wants-you-to-take-trump-seriously-but-not-too-seriously.html

Image Acknowledgements

5449002019_c15cd9cc3a_b.jpg
https://c2.staticflickr.com/6/5298/5449002019_c15cd9cc3a_b.jpg

Duck-Rabbit_illusion.jpg
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/45/Duck-Rabbit_illusion.jpg

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https://cdn.pixabay.com/photo/2014/05/02/12/41/candle-335965_960_720.jpg

flag-american-heart.jpg
http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=85942&picture=flag-american-heart

maxresdefaultIllness and pain are linked to death through our concept of the quality of life.

A new video, Life Asked Death: Palliative Care in Asia, examines the role of mortality in the qualitative value of life.

The raw reality of this story develops from the context of people seeking treatment for terminal illness in regions with few resources such as parts of Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.

This is not an easy video for some people to watch, even for the 26 minutes that it takes.

I suggest that you do so because the last half of the story focuses on the significance of knowledge in quality of life.

Through direct experience we find that one of the main sources of suffering for dying people is not knowing what is happening to them.About_Bangladesh_IMG_2268

Fear of the unknown – not understanding the path that one is on – creates mental anguish.

The truth about one’s condition and impending death turns out to be a source of strength for the people that we meet in this story.

What a remarkable fact that is, that consciousness of our deaths and the causes of our pain is actually a foundation for greater quality of life.

With consciousness comes choice and with choice comes the resolution of identity, even if we are about to lose ourselves in the mystery of death.

I am eager to know what you think of Life Asked Death: Palliative Care in Asia, and the concepts in it.

In good spirit,

Jon

storytellingA recurring topic at Death Café Corvallis is the legacy.  This may be material inheritance such as money and property, it may be creative inheritance such as a beautiful garden, it may be moral inheritance such as the impact of one’s actions in the world, and it may be communicative inheritance such as the story of your life.

Some people bequeath the story of their lives to their successors by writing memoirs or an autobiography.  Not all of us have time or skill to write a book, but we all have the resources to write our own story.  Writing your story has powerful benefits for your loved ones when you are gone and for your self while you are present.

A valuable guide to writing your story in preparation for your death is Having the Last Say by Alan Gelb.  He provides a practical workflow for developing a single story that conveys meaning from your life.  Gelb describes his process in an interview with thanatologist Gail Rubin – The Consequences of Death.

An interesting element of Gelb’s book is the set of questions that he poses throughout in order to prompt reflection and creativity. Questions such as;

When has my mind and body ever felt in perfect harmony?

If I had to relive moments in my life, which one’s would they be?

If I had to imagine a place in the world that puts me at total peace, what is that place?

Just having these questions is valuable to anyone who thinks about death. They are certainly provocative of personal creativity for addressing a topic that some findmel_blanc_gravestone_505x278 daunting – the story of your own life.

Notably, Gelb emphasizes that the project of value in writing your story is not in order to create a summary or evaluation of your life.  Quite simply you are telling a story about your experience that has significance for you.  That is enough to convey rich meaning for others.  I propose that Gelb’s idea is worth an effort for everyone. Consider the following propositions (mine):

Proposition: we cannot understand what death is unless we understand what life is. 

Corollary: in order to effectively conceptualize our own death, we must accurately conceptualize our own life.

The beauty of Gelb’s approach is that any part of our life experience that has significance for us is sufficient for that conceptualization, in part anyway.

At the least your story will provide content for your survivors as they find need to speak about you and think about you.  At best you may find personal growth through meaning making about that most rare and precious topic – you.

death_cafe_corvalis_jon_dorbolo_88x31

 

Image Acknowledgements

CC Search – https://creativecommons.org/

CA_August-11_covermTwo years may seem like a long time to contemplate a single topic, but in the case of Death Café Corvallis we have barely peeled back the epidermal layer.

It is notable that nearing our second anniversary the local media has taken notice.  Abbie Tumbleston has penned an excellent article in a local news paper –

“Corvallis Death Café Group: Locals Talk Death.”

Moreover that publication, The Corvallis Advocate has devoted an entire 16 page issue to Death, Dying, and Dealing.

Abbie attended Death Café Corvallis gatherings last Spring and conducted an interview with moi.  I never suspected this would blossom into a full-fledged investigation into topics about death open to the whole community.  Well, that happened.

Adrian Clement is a strong force in bringing Death Café Corvallis into being and keeping it

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This is not Adrian

alive.  Whenever I’ve not been able to  attend a gathering, Adrian steps in keeping our meeting schedule unbroken for nearly two years.

 

The real heros of this story are the 20+ fine folks who attend and contribute to Death Café Corvallis each week.

Let us raise our teacups in recognition of death, celebration of life and anticipation of a stimulating third year of conversational liberty.

In good spirit,

Jon

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zen-nothingWoody Allen’s witticism; “I’m not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens” points to an important possible truth: I won’t be there when death happens because there will no longer be an “I.”

Epicurus (341-270 BCE) argued that our own deaths are literally nothing to us.

“Death does not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here. And when it does come, we no longer exist.”

The cornerstone of this argument is the implicit premise that in order for to anything to matter to me there must be a me for it to matter to.

This reasoning also allows that something may become nothing.  That is an ontological proposition of importance.

A contemporary version of this reasoning is explored by philosopher Jeff Mason in Death and It’s Concept.  I recommend reading his article which is short and clear.

It seems to me that this line of reason also presumes an empiricist conception of meaning, such that the significance of a concept requires an experience of it.  I think that empiricist presumption is why this line of thought focuses so on the fear of death.

This way of thinking about death – that it is a non-concept – is ancient and resonates fully with us now only be reflecting upon it.

I’d love to hear from you about these ideas.

Consider attending/joining Death Café Corvallis.

Come speak truth to death

Fall 2015
Mondays 5:30-7:30
2nd St Beanery, 500 SW 2nd St, Corvallis 17330

deathcafecorvallis@gmail.com

Look for the guy in the tie.

Image Acknowledgements

zen-enso221.png
https://thezenlibrary.wordpress.com

Got thoughts about mortality?

Monday’s – 5:30-7:30 PM – 2nd St Beanery – 500 SW 2nd St. Corvallis OR 97333

Death Café Corvallis is simply in order to listen and talk about death.

Death Café Corvallis is NOT a support group, therapeutic agenda, debate society, social action group, religious or anti-religious organization, political committee, or sales pitch.death_cafe_corvallis_hubble_spiral_galax.fw

Our welcoming, friendly and supportive café is open to everyone who participates in a welcoming, friendly and supportive manner. Our guiding principles are respect, openness, and confidentiality.

Come drink coffee, eat cake, and discuss death with interesting people. Join the online Death Cafe Corvallis community if you like.

Death Café Corvallis is allied with the US Death Café.

— contact – deathcafecorvallis@gmail.com

Come talk truth to death.

I am deeply troubled by the recent tragedy in Roseburg and recent atrocities in Yemen and Afghanistan, so I want to share with you ways that I have been exploring for responding to horror without becoming numb to its significance.

I am learning to implement a technology by which you too may sustain yourself while also acting effectively in a tragic world.

First consider how we commonly respond to news of a horrible event.

When I heard of Thursday’s Umpqua massacre I felt a cold weakness in the middle of my chest.

Shortly after I stood before a class of first-year students, some of whom I knew were from Roseburg, all of whom reminded me of the dear people we had just lost.

It seemed apparent to me that they did not yet know what had just happened and I struggled with a sense of unreality as I reached for something meaningful to say.

After that class I wept.

Perhaps you also have physical reactions to awful news.

Next I did what many parents do when we hear of a disaster; call our children just to make sure they are ok.

Then come a series of predicable messages from predictable sources.

People start sharing rumors and reports as if possessing the latest bit of information can impact the gravity of the incident.

Leaders hold press conferences and send email denouncing and consoling.

Some people immediately seize the shock of the moment to advance or defend their political and personal agendas, often in ways that increase the harm.

Then comes a barrage of angry and speculative verbiage about who to blame.

Experts weigh in with analyses, statistics and opinions.

That evening people with gather with candles, put personal items at the site of the harm and set up memorial scholarships, every detail shared by constant repetition through many media.

Then we go on about our business in wait for the next appalling event.

In our present age all of this reaction happens with blinding speed and tends to race past the reality of the moment, as if the attendant information and spectacle is more significant than the event itself.

This set of reactions may be called a “viral cycle” because the activity builds on itself and has a predictable path as social phenomena.cue_routine_reward.fw

Do you recognize the parts of this viral cycle and most important, your roles in it? Do you have characteristic reactions to news of a horrible occurrence?

If you do, and I think that we all do, then there is a habitual pattern in you that guides your reactions automatically.

What concerns me about these habitual patterns is that they typically leave us individually and collectively in a negative mental state and with a sense of impotence about effecting any change for the better.

When there is nothing that we can do about suffering except feel bad, it is natural to seek emotional distance and I suspect that much of transpires in the social viral cycle are various ways of gaining that distance.

Yet we really can do something to make things better in the face of horror and it starts with our remarkable ability to modify our own habits.

There are techniques – a technology – for changing our own habits. By using those techniques we can teach ourselves to react with care and kindness in the face of horror.

This capability matters because increasing care and kindness in the world is the effective means to preventing future tragedies and because acting with care and kindness sustains your self when the worst happens.

Here is how you may modify your gut reactions to tragedy (and any other habits that you want to change).

Learn the technique of habit modification such as that developed in The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business (2014) by Charles Duhigg. the_power_of_habit

In Duhigg’s analysis every habit consists of a cognitive/behavioral loop in which a cue triggers a routine which elicits a reward.

Think of the cue as an event that happens to us, the routine as a behavior pattern that we perform in response to the cue, and the reward as a perception that the routine was successful.

Habits are self-reinforcing and habit change is most effective when we associate the cue and reward with a different routine.

When we learn of a horrific event it is a cue that triggers routines (such as those listed above) which reward us by reducing negative feelings.

Following this analysis of habits, the effective means to changing your reactions to shocking events is to associate the cue (horrible events) and the reward (feeling less badly) with a new routine (patterns of action).

A routine that is relevant to the cue of horrible events is to increase your feelings of care and expressions of kindness

I am serious that expressing kindness from a feeling of care provides an effective counter to shock and frustration

Treating others with kindness from care through words and actions will change how you feel.

I’ll not suggest how to be caringly kind because in order to effect personal change those feelings and behaviors must be uniquely yours.

I will show how to develop those feelings and behaviors for yourself.

Step 1: Every day for two weeks practice caring kindness for yourself and turn them into a habit.

You already know how to be mean to yourself and maybe have a strong inner critic.

Now add to that self-judgment an inner advocate that throughout the day acknowledges positively you for simple accomplishments and voices value for you as a person.

In second week scan the news for a horrific tragedy, it won’t take long, and when you find it make yourself aware that the fact that you care about it is reason enough to be kind to yourself (just some inner kind words are enough).

Step 2: Every day for two weeks practice caring kindness for others.

People are all round you so opportunities for care and kindness abound.

Start with people whom you know and tell them what you value about them, then expand into kindness to strangers.

Repeat the news-scan activity in step 1, this time responding to tragedy by increasing your caring kindness to others.

Step 3: Every day for two weeks practice caring kindness for people whom you dislike or who irritate you.

Caring for enemies may be as simple as wishing them well in your mind instead of wishing them harm; i.e. that they suffer the same as they cause.

Replace signals of irritation (scowls, gestures and words) with quiet patience until you are practiced enough to muster a smile.

Repeat the news-scan activity in steps 1 and 2, this time responding to the tragedy by increasing your caring kindness to people who irritate you.

Now put the three steps together so that you perform all of them at least once per day and please note that in order to work you need to make this a practice in action, not merely a thought.

I base this formula upon the psycho-spiritual technologies developed and taught by Lao-Tzu, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, Śāntideva, King and Gandhi among other luminaries.

I believe that using the technology of habit modification to transform your feelings of hurt and frustration into actionable change will benefit you because the resulting patterns of behavior make you more effective and positive in dealing with tragedy.

I also believe that this practice will contribute to preventing some horrific events because as the practice of care and kindness grows – by you joining it – the people who potentially cause harm will encounter care and kindness.

The killers at Umpqua, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Northern Illinois and so many others expressed their perceptions of social isolation as a partial motive for the horror they inflicted.meditation-651411_640

If a potential killer experiences even momentary kindness from strangers, their path of destruction may be altered.

We have the technology to change ourselves, our actions and the people around us.

You and I are not helpless in the face of horror and tragedy as long as we have the will to become the change that we want to see in the world.

 

Oregon State University Support Resources

OSU has resources for students, staff, and faculty for addressing grief and stress.  The centers of these resources is:

CAPS
http://counseling.oregonstate.edu

Student Health Services
http://studenthealth.oregonstate.edu

 

Image Sources

Sépulcre_Arc-en-Barrois_111008_12
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sadness#/media/File:S%C3%A9pulcre_Arc-en-Barrois_111008_12.jpg

cue_routine.reward.png
jon dorbolo

the_power_of_habit.jpg
http://charlesduhigg.com/the-power-of-habit/

meditation-651411_640
https://pixabay.com/en/meditation-compassion-presence-love-651411/

Acknowledgements

Thanks to the following individuals who contributed to this essay.

– Jennifer Knaus

snuffed_candle_purple"Why Euthanasia will Eventually be the Leading Cause of Death" is a blog post that raises a provocative question, but not the one directly implied in the title – the real issue here is the steady – even rapid – decline in causes of death. If disease, accident, and violence continue to decline, then it follows that lifespans will increase and some other factors will dominate. Whether that is euthanasia or suicide is weakly argued in this article. It is a provocative story all the same.

If topics such as the above interest you, consider attending a Death Café. These events occur around the world and US, including Corvallis, OR.

Death Café Corvallis is simply in order to listen and talk about death. Death Café Corvallis is NOT a support group, therapeutic agenda, debate society,death_cafe_corvallis_hubble_spiral_galax.fw social action group, religious or anti-religious organization, political committee, or sales pitch.

Our welcoming, friendly and supportive Café is open to everyone who participates in a welcoming, friendly and supportive manner. Our guiding principles are respect, openness, and confidentiality. Come drink coffee, eat cake, and discuss death with interesting people.

For gathering logistics or to join Death Cafe Corvallis, if you like, at https://www.facebook.com/groups/deathcafecorvallis

Contact – deathcafecorvallis@gmail.com – for information.

I’ve got bad news and good news.

The bad news is that the world is messed up and life is hard.

The good news is that not everything is messed up and humans get better at dealing with bad news as we grow.

bad_news_vs-300x161The bad news is that it is hard to keep perspective in a world where war, violence, disease, crime, and struggle make up the major part of the information that we consume.

The good news is that perspective and attitude can be balanced by intentionally adding positive information to your media diet.

I am not advising affirmations, inspirational quotes and feel-good stories.

I am referring to developments and events in economics, business, medicine, science, technology, environment, politics, education, athletics, culture and society that work towards the general well-being of people and planet.

Real moments of progress and purpose happen all the time, though you’d not suspect that from the major news media or the trolls of talk radio and TV.

Given the negativity of our major news media it seems rational for intelligent caring people to avoid it, but those are precisely the people who the world needs to be best informed; and by people I mean you.

The resources referred to in this article with annotations and more are available at Dr. Tech’s Bookmarks.

So if to you the world appears to be going to dystopia in a hand basket, please consider some alternative information; for instance.

Crime overall in the United States has declined steeply and steadily since the early 1990’s and is approaching an all-www.bjs.gov.content.pub.pdf.cv13.pdf[2]time low; this is especially true for violent crime. 1

No one knows why crime is declining and none of the usual explanations hold for this trend.

Steven Pinker – Harvard University – thinks that he does know why violence is declining and in his book “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined” (2011) argues that violence and cruelty have been diminishing through most of human history and that we are headed towards a more peaceful and humane future.

Russian geneticist Dmitri Belyaev (1917-1985) conducted a remarkable experiment that showed that the domestication of silver foxes changed both belyaev_silver_foxesthe personalities and physical traits of the animals; they became gentler and cuter. 2

Some contemporary researchers believe that similar changes are occurring in the human species; that is, we are becoming gentler and more physically juvenile than our ancestors; this research is recounted in a RadioLab episode titled “New Nice.”

Research these ideas for yourself and also check out edge.org where the Annual Edge Question is posed to a lot of brilliant people in order to “arrive at the edge of the world’s knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves.”

In particular I recommend the 2007 issue “What Are You Optimistic About?”

Read the GoodNewsNetwork (GNN) which reports real news that is also good news.

GNN editor Geri Weis-Corbley landed a job with TV network CNN just out of college. She told her boss; “There should be a good news show. He informed me that good news doesn’t sell — but the idea gnawed at me like sand in an oyster.”

She quit CNN, started GNN and became the first expert in the field of positive news in the U.S.

In the U.K. there is Positive News, a “solution-focused newspaper, reporting on people and initiatives that are creating a sustainable, just and fulfilling world.”

The DailyGood is another credible source which leans to the inspirational side of information.

You already know where to get the bad news and perhaps were exposed to plenty of it – along with expert commentaries from relatives – over the holiday break.

Now you know where to look for credible positive news.

Using those sources is a rational way to balance your media diet in order to draw grounded inferences about the world. 3

If you know of quality good news sources and good ideas of any kind, please send them to me.

Have a good dead week and don’t let the stress get you down – Dr. Tech believes in you.

Sources

1 Truman, JL. (2011). Criminal Victimization, 2011. Bureau of Justice Statistics.
http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cv11.pdf

2 Bidau, C.J.  Domestication through the Centuries: Darwin’s Ideas and Dmitry Belyaev’s Long-Term Experiment in Silver Foxes. Gayana 73(Suplemento), 2009.
http://www.scielo.cl/pdf/gayana/v73s1/art06.pdf

3 Aquino, K. and McFerran, B. (2011). Moral Identity and the Experience of Moral Elevation in Response to Acts of Uncommon Goodness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 100, No. 4, 703–718
http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/100/4/703.pdf

Image Sources (Creative Commons and public domain)

bad_news_vs-300×161.jpg
http://www.sailinghappilyeverafter.com/wp-content/uploads/bad_news_vs-300×161.jpg

Violent and property victimization, 1993–2013
http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cv13.pdf

Tame-Silver-Fox-783188
http://funboxcomedy.com/uploaded_images/Tame-Silver-Fox-783188.jpg

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