First lets set the mood.
It's kind of a long paper...
These songs and more much like them were very uplifting and easy to write to. YES I wrote this whole paper to Peter Cetera and Amy Grant, and NO I don't wanna hear one word about it. To write this paper, I really had to go WAY back to connect to what I needed to. So :p
This paper was entitled, "What motivates me to be an ethical person?"
I recently watched a documentary called “Forgiving Dr. Mengele” that tells the story of a woman named Eva Kor, who is a Holocaust survivor. A few years ago she gave a speech at Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp where she was held as a child, and she forgave the Nazis who experimented on her and murdered her family. She told people that it was her way of healing her own emotional scars. Many people were angered by this statement. Among those were other Holocaust survivors, some of whom were also held at Auschwitz. A few of them were quoted as saying that they could never forgive the Nazis for what they had done. Despite a fire bombing at the Holocaust Museum that she founded and operates, and despite all of the opposition that she faces from heated challenges to her personal beliefs, Eva has remained determined to help people understand what it is to forgive. She once told a group of students at a lecture, “Forgiveness, to me, means that whatever was done to me; it is no longer causing me such pain that I cannot be the person that I want to be.” Eva strongly believes that we should never cut ourselves off from or forget the past, but learn from it, and not allow it to control our destinies. There have been events in our historical past as a species, some even in our own lifetime, that have been so horrendous that words cannot equate the depth of sorrow that we feel. This woman went through one of those experiences, and she survived. She didn't just survive, she became a beacon of light in a darkness of hate and despair, and that is something to bring attention to.
I wanted to tell this story so that I might be able to explain, in a much shorter and less personally invasive way, why I believe that forgiveness can be a way to salvation, and to what Eva calls personal freedom. The things that are in my past do not compare to what Mrs. Kor has been through, but her message of empowerment of one's own life was something to which I could relate. Talking about everything, in therapy or with loved ones, really helped me to face the things in my life that I had denied for so long. Just being able to talk with someone rationally and about where I was mentally and emotionally at that moment in my life helped me to see that you cannot carry pain around with you for the rest of your life. It forms and dictates you in ways you can not see from the inside of that situation looking out. Understanding things from different angles slowly over time formulated within me a overwhelming desire to help other people to understand this as well.
I was not always so “helpful and insightful”. To be completely frank, I was a selfish brat. I thought that life and everything in it should revolve around me and what I wanted. To me, it was completely unfair that life wasn't fair. I wanted things to be easy and convenient, and I didn't want to work or strive for anything. If life wasn't going to hand it to me, I was just going to take it, and I didn't think of anyone but me and my “friends”. I had a Non-Consequentialist point of view and what really hits me now, when I look back at my frame of mind then, is that I knew better. Every time I fought with someone, every time I stole something, every time I got high, I knew what I was doing was wrong. Worse still, I knew why it was wrong, and I didn't care. I was so angry at my father, my mother, my grandparents, and the world, that I was to the point of self-destruction. I wanted to just zone out and pretend that all of it didn't exist. I wanted to pretend that my problems were worse than everyone else's problems, so my behavior was justified to me in that way. There were fights between me and my mother and grandparents that I regret, and I wish I could take back the hurt that I caused, but I'm glad that I can see all of this now with a clear mind. I learned a lot from it, and because of all of this, I have taken on a strong consequentialist view of life, especially when it comes to the issues of morality between myself and people that I love. Now, the main point that I take from this experience is forgiveness. Not just for the people in your life that have wronged or hurt you, but forgiveness for yourself as well.
Don't get me wrong, I don't think that my approach will work for everyone. As the documentary also points out, someone who is in the midst of struggle and fighting for their life may not be able to or is arguably incapable of forgiving the wrong-doer. It was only after much time had passed that I was able to even face my demons, let alone come to some kind of workable terms with them. Forgiveness for me is not about absolving the person of the wrong, it is about empowering yourself to overcome it, and not allowing it to shape you and your life. You choose what kind of life you lead, every moment of your life. My ability to rise above what I had felt was a life shattering past caused my attitude and perspective to change instantly and allowed me to feel more in control of myself and my path.
That frame of mind reminds me of the parting words of another video I watched recently from a website called T.E.D. Their motto, “Ideas Worth Sharing,” explains their motivation to provide speakers and speeches that challenge the mind to see things from a different perspective. In the video I spoke of, a neuroscientist by the name of Jill Bolte Taylor speaks about our capacity to choose how we live our lives. One morning she wakes to discover that she has a vastly different frame of mind and perspective on the world and herself than she did when she went to sleep. During the night, a cerebral stroke caused a large hemorrhage in the left side of her brain, and she explains how this physical change led to the change in her perception. She talks about how it feels to think while being cut off from the left side of the brain. If you don't already know, and I'm sure many of the medical students do, the right side of the brain is what sees, collects and stores everything ever shown to us. It takes in and records the collage of sensory input that we feel, smell, see, taste, and hear about everything around us, all of the time. It thinks only about the right here and right now of every moment. It helps us to feel “connected” to everything around us, and see the beauty in all things. The left side of the brain is a very different place. It is logical and meticulous; finding the hundreds of details in the collage of our lives, categorizing them in association to everything we've ever known, and then projecting the infinity of possibilities before us. Mrs. Taylor asks the crowd at one point in the speech if they can imagine what it would be like to lose all of your emotional baggage all at once. She goes on to describe the experience of being cut off from her left brain chatter as “nirvana,” and uses the story to try and help people understand that it doesn't take a stroke to change your life. Every moment of every day, you choose how you face the world. Do you choose to feel connected to all of us as a people, finding the beauty in all things, and living in the moment? Or do you choose to live every day of your life as a complete individual, disconnected from the whole and alone in your everyday life? Mrs. Taylor supposes to the audience that if we spent more time in the collective thoughts of our right brain, that we might project that peace out into the world. I believe that she may be right about that.
In relation to that, another idea that I wanted to talk about separately was the moral theory Relativism. I can sit all day and talk about what I do, or would do in a situation, but really how can I relate my beliefs to any and every situation or person? My answer to that is: you simply can not. I think that every situation is relative to the people in it or the things that influence it. Think about it, there are over 6.5 Billion people on this planet right now. That staggering number of people alone gives birth to an incalculable number of possible negative situations and an infinite number of reactions to those situations. There is just no way we can all agree. In summary, I feel that though I may preach my form of spiritual gospel, I do not believe it could work for everyone. I understand that people, countries, cultures, and minds are not and never will be the same.
In my life, I can say that every decision I made was based upon my frame of mind at that moment, and that speaks volumes to me. I think I have always been a strong practitioner of Relativism. I do not normally think in absolutes. It was very hard for me as a young person to attach in any way to the idea of Absolutism, though I was raised with people around me with that frame of mind. My grandfather is definitely a practitioner of Absolutism. He has very definitive ideas of how life should be, and I think those ideas eventually helped me to be rigid about the things I do feel strongly about. I do try to maintain an open mind about perspective. Literally putting yourself into someone else's shoes is impossible, and metaphorically, it is still very hard to imagine exactly how they feel. Your perspective can be individually unique and that is why we must work that much harder to relate to each other. I feel like the more I learn and understand about why we are the way we are, then we can continue to learn from it and our actions, and become better people, a better society and hopefully in the long run a really positive force upon this planet.
I have, like everyone else, horrible days in which I have to really work to keep my attitude and instincts in check. It really is not easy, by any stretch of the imagination, but I want to be a good person because I feel that by doing so, I am doing my individual part in the whole of creation. I feel that I am doing what I was put here to do. I may not know why, but just the feeling I get from helping someone, or doing what is right and just is enough for me. As we all know, what is right or just is not usually the easy thing to do. Therefore, it takes real determination to make a positive change and a constant focus on how I speak, present myself, and how I react to situations to be able to stay one step ahead of negative instincts. However, I have insurmountable faith in myself, and in the human race for us to come out of all of this modern chaos to the other end, smarter and more prepared for what I believe are the innate responsibilities that we have to this world, and to ourselves to be better and to do what we have in our potential to do.
I hope that all of this in and out really gave you a better perspective on what motivates and drives me to become better than I am, every day of my life. Please don't take my word on everything else. Please go to the websites I mentioned and watch the videos for yourselves. Take what you can or need to from them, and if anyone needs the web addresses, I can get them for you.
PLEASE let me know what you think!!!
If you are interested in the videos i talk about in the paper, one of them is in the post below this one. The other you might have to rent or purchase to watch it. Thank you again Netflix.com!
NOTE: This paper is the expressed property of Jennifer Russell, and is not to be used for ANY purpose without written permission from the author (that's me! don't make me sue you!!!)
For more info please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org