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  • Free will, however you define it, is not available to every human being. Yet, science has proven that our beliefs affect our decisions and quality of life and I think the 'attitude of gratitude' is a great belief to have. When we are born, we are 'planted' into a particular woman, family, culture, time, place, etc. and some people will say that we choose that before we come into this life time. I don't know if we do or not, but some believe in reincarnation and karma, and that karma carries over to the next reincarnation, and there is also 'instant karma', i.e., reactions to our actions, the consequences of what we do, stemming from our beliefs and the decisions we make.

    In the life that we are 'planted' into, we are domesticated, as don Miguel Ruiz calls it, and our family and culture give us our basic beliefs, including our religion and spiritual beliefs, our values, etc. We also are give a particular genetic configuration that determines our abilities and understanding of the world. We can't prove that we choose it before we are born, so let's leave that part out of this for now.

    I worked in a state mental institution with a variety of people, and some were born with severe disabilities, which included multiple physical handicaps along with mental disabilities, and we would have people who were crippled, lying in fetal positions with a mental age of the equivalent of a month or two month old baby. They have no free will. They don't have the mental capacity for it, other than to possibly spit out a food that someone sticks in their mouth, that they don't like the texture or taste.
  • Viktor Frankl, a Psychiatrist, who wrote 'Man's Search for Meaning' wrote of the psychological impact of being in a 'Death Camp' during WW II, and the dehumanization of the people there and how the search for meaning, a sense of humor, etc had a tremendous impact on maintaining their selfhood under such dire circumstances. He writes, 'We have stated that that which was ultimately responsible for the state of the prisoner's inner self was not so much the enumerated psychophysical causes as it was the result of a free decision. Psychological observations of the prisoners have shown that only the men who allowed their inner hold on their moral and spiritual selves to subside eventually fell victim to the camp's degenerating influences. The question now arises, what could, or should, have constituted this "inner hold"?'

    In other words, how do we help others who are born into such unfortunate circumstances or forced into them, to develop and maintain an inner fortitude for 'survival? How can we teach them that when we change our minds, we change our behaviors and when we change our behaviors, we change our minds?

    I do believe (and with 40+ years of being a therapist in all kinds of situations with a large variety of people that were mostly down trodden and at the lower end of mental health) that thinking mental health means to be happy all the time is a very misguided concept. Mental health is having a wide range of feelings that are appropriate for the circumstances, including anger, that is handled in a healthy way. If we have compassion for others, we will walk by the starving man on the street and will see and feel their pain and will hopefully do something about it instead of seeing a dirty bum and say, well he deserves it, he made poor decisions and has a lousy belief system and he needs to get over it. Sometimes life beats people down so much that they can't totally get over it, even if they have a lot of help, especially if it begins in childhood, with beatings, sex abuse, living in a war zone, being brainwashed by particular beliefs that are not healthy, etc. Righteousness is not compassion, and 'there but for the grace of God go I'.
  • With all that said, we are also part of the web of life, interconnected with everything that exists, which is where quantum physics comes in and that is a lengthy topic for another time.

    I am reminded of Thich Nhat Hanh's poem, from his book, 'Being Peace' called, 'Please Call Me By My True Names'

    "Do not say that I'll depart tomorrow
    because even today I still arrive.
    Look deeply: I arrive in every second
    to be a bud on a spring branch,
    to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile, learning to sing in my new nest,
    to be a caterpillar in the heart of flower,
    to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.
    I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry, in order to fear and to hope,
    the rhythm of my heart is the birth and death of all that are alive.
    I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
    and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time to eat the mayfly.
    I am the frog swimming happily in the clear water of a pond,
    and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence, feeds itself on the frog.
    I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones, my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
    and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.
    I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
    who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate,
    and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.
    I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands,
    and I am the man who has to pay his "debt of blood" to my people,
    dying slowly in a forced labor camp.
    My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life.
    My pain is like a river of tears, so full it fills up the four oceans.
    Please call me by my true names,
    so I can hear all my cries and my laughs at once,
    so I can see that my joy and pain are one.
    Please call me by my true names, so I can wake up,
    and so the door of my heart can be left open,
    the door of compassion."
  • Painting is a 5" x 7" alcohol ink, mixed media, on Yupo synthetic paper and then glued on hardboard. It's called 'Color Flow--Free Will'.

    I am having some challenges with Cowbird today, I hope this published with everything in it.
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