My conflict with conflict

brain-cleanse

Among the great and mighty rules that fledgling novelists and screenwriters learn is to fill their work with conflict. It is so baked into the bread of a writer’s life that this rule is rarely questioned, nor is this devotion to conflict recognized as a major contributor to massive social misery.

Whenever I walk into my neighborhood Costco, I get a brief yet palpable feeling of sadness when I see the line-up of TVs for sale. I have come to view TV as dispensers of bad news, which is to say, constant conflict. If the content that we put into our brains is mind food, then the high-definition TVs that we work into our living spaces act like junk food that may lead to mind poisoning.

We pay for the beautiful TVs and their glorious high-def pictures. We pay for the cable or satellite or subscription services that feed us mind food. Ultimately, without our being consciously aware of it, we may pay for it with our mental health, too.

I don’t think that many people have stopped to wonder what this saturation of media exposure is doing to our consciousness, both individually and collectively. TV is so ubiquitous to our culture as are movies and books that feature conflict (as the majority do) that we think of it as normal. We gorge on this stuff.

I come from the first generation that grew up with TV, the Boomers. Yet while most families had TVs, life was still fairly balanced with other activities. Boomers can remember a life before the saturation of computers, smartphones, Google, etc. From that vantage point, we can see more of the arc of social change that technology has created.

We can see how much more in your face conflict is because of the gadgetry that delivers it.

 KNOW WHEN YOU’RE HOOKED

Sometimes when I go about my everyday business, I realize that I am being influenced by old stories of conflict. Let’s say that I go to a rustic park for a relaxing hike in the woods. Out of nowhere, I start wondering what could go wrong. Is someone waiting down the trail to mug me? Will I slip and fall and need help? Will some wild animal attack me? My mind seems to preview everything that could possibly go wrong, most of it based on stories of other people’s rotten experiences in the woods.

Last fall I drove myself from Oregon to Arizona via Idaho and Utah. I took many roads spontaneously, and especially when driving through Nevada, I found myself more out in the middle of nowhere than ever in memory. I chuckled when I saw that Highway 50 is known as the Loneliest Highway in the US. I believe it! But what struck me the most was how many times during my crossing of the wasteland did I wonder what would happen to me if my car broke down and there was no cell phone service. It was a thought I could not get out of my head no matter how many different songs I played.

Why do I automatically start thinking of all the things that could go wrong? Is it that in all of the stories I have ingested over my years of living, things go wrong all the time? Things going wrong is part of the formula. Was I born to be so fearful, or have I been conditioned after hearing so many stories about problems people encounter. I am not describing a phobia or a mental health condition. Rather, I am describing an awareness of tendencies of thinking and where those tendencies have come from.

The conflicts do not have to be life threatening or horror story fodder. Most of my life does not involve life-threatening situations. It could be something like being afraid to share an opinion for (a conditioned) fear of insulting, offending, or riling someone. That fear could come from having just seen a movie or read a book where someone got into deep doo-doo for expressing an unpopular opinion, such as authors a few generations ago who got imprisoned because they wrote things said to “excite lewd thoughts.”

It could be a fear of consulting a doctor, lawyer, therapist, contractor, or sales person because I had just been exposed to disaster story after disaster story about how some so-called professional abused a client. No, these fears don’t usually keep me from taking an action, and yet there is brain residue from dealing with all the distrust that has come to my consciousness from an external source.

Think about it. Think about how many stories you get exposed to hour after hour, day after day, that graphically illustrate conflict. Think of how many times you become outraged, hurt, or afraid as your first response to a story, even if you can intellectually steady the rocking boat. The story can be either fiction or peddled as non-fiction. The truth is that non-fiction stories, perhaps based on true events, are created using dramatic story-telling techniques aimed at hooking your emotions so you’ll keep watching or reading.

CONSPIRACY THEORIES

I have been thinking about the popularity of conspiracy theories, many of which suggest that Big Government, Big Business, and even Big Illuminati actually control life for the rest of us. They are always doing rotten things to enslave us peons to do their bidding while they bask in the wealth of anything money can buy.

An issue I see with conspiracy theories is that we seem to burn up a lot of energy attempting to solve the riddles rather than working to solve the issues. Did some part of the US Government plan 9/11? Is some tippy-top-secret agency hiding UFO news? Is Monsanto poisoning everybody? For that matter, what about Big Pharma?

Conspiracy theories, which at their core are conflict stories, goad us into fear. They are staples of any media entity in the business of attracting viewers, readers, clickers. The game now is to mislead people with dramatic techniques so they’ll pay attention. Day by day, hour after hour, people are being tempted to turn their attention to stories of conflict, many of which turn out to be manufactured gotchas!

I think that the importance of this is recognizing how we handle real conflicts that affect us personally. How many ordinary people are unconsciously taking the lead from the media and are themselves parroting these conflict strategies? How many people are making up their own conspiracy theories because this is what the media by example has taught them to do?

My Facebook feed has become a parade of nightmare scenarios about calamity. Between all the clickbait (misleading headlines that beckon clicking on the link), sob stories, and rants, Facebook has become the new National Enquirer.

BOOKBUB

I subscribe to Bookbub, an ebook service that offers cheap prices on selected ebooks. Every day in my email I get an announcement about books on sale. They come with a brief description. When I look at these blurbs day after day, I see so much written about conflict. It indicates to me how much we thrive on it.

For example, there is this: “This rich saga traces the rise and fall of the Malacouti family as they face betrayal, ambition, and a painful choice in the early 20th century. ‘A riveting portrait of family strife’ (People).”

And under that one, this one: “In this richly textured novel set against the Bangladesh War of Independence, a young Pakistani widow, Rehana, strives to keep her family safe from the chaos that surrounds her. ‘An immersive, wrenching narrative’ (Publishers Weekly starred review).”

And then: After a serial killer escapes from a mental hospital to hunt down psychic Laura Adderley, can reporter Harrison Frost get to the bottom of the real story?

We don’t seem to see immersive, wrenching narratives about yummy stuff.

“An epic saga of friendship where neighbors band together to assist one another in living the good life. ‘A riveting portrait of cooperation that raises the bar on fulfillment’ (Publishers Weekly)

“Just when Sandra thought she could take not another moment of ecstasy, she discovers that she can. ‘An eye-opening narrative on cosmic pleasure’ (People)

Even when books work their way to happily triumphant endings, the fact is that by design we’re still forced by the conventions of story-telling to go through the long and winding road of turmoil. We’ve apparently decided that conflict is more riveting than solution.

FINDING THE FLIP SIDE

Certainly fear and skepticism have their places in our lives, and being prepared is always good. Yet I wonder what would happen to society as a whole if we did not cultivate so much doubt and dread, shock and awe as a normal business practice. In the end, would it create a healthier climate, or would it create a society of happy munchkins vulnerable to attack from any wicked witch flying by the neighborhood?

I like to nurture my mind. I’ve noticed that finding media that do not pander so eagerly to the conflict formula is a challenge. Inspirational, positive, solution-based media fare that feeds hope, love, and optimism is in relatively short supply. You can always find it if you specifically search for it, but there is a tsunami of conflict to deal with by contrast.

In times of personal struggle, it is good to have access to positive media. When I feel lonely, depressed, discouraged, or frustrated, I like to responsibly heal myself, a task made more challenging if I can’t find healthy input.

I believe that overexposure to messages of conflict is creating unnecessary turmoil. Garbage in, garbage out. There is so much mental cruelty being perpetrated in our information and entertainment media that I personally am not too surprised by all the violence in the world. Cause and effect seems pretty plain to me.

Often I like to fantasize about societies either in our future or on some other planet entirely where people grow up not so bombarded with messages of conflict. Maybe they grow up in a totally love-positive world where a tribe mentality dictates that no one should feel abandoned, no violence necessary, and cooperation is more important than competition. What would life be like in that world? What kind of problems would be eliminated from today’s normalcy if a few generations grew up with brains not filled with such a heavy influence of fear, violence, and losing?

BECOME AWARE

Don’t take my word for it. Pay attention to what media mind food you ingest. Become aware of the messages of conflict streaming into your psyche. Once you begin to notice how people are selling you conflict, you might become more motivated to watch what your brain eats.

 

Woo-woo questions

Moonlight

I am an open-minded skeptic. The afterlife sounds magnificent, but you know what they say about things that sound too good to be true. I am fairly new to reading books and watching videos by and about mediums. Some of them seem silly and unbelievable; some of them are compelling and inspiring.

The more knowledge that I gain, the more questions that I have. I like to go beyond the elementary, Watson. I want answers more satisfying than superficial one-liners and spiritual small talk. Some of what I have seen convinces me that we as a society should look more carefully into the implications of survival of consciousness.

I decided that for my own exploration I would make a list of questions that I would like to see answered or topics more fully addressed. One goal is to separate “entertainment” from more substantial, sophisticated works. Another is to brainstorm areas that I am interested in pursuing in my afterlife research.

While some current practices among mediums seem strange or even distressing to me, the ultimate purpose of my questions is to discover the truth. I deeply desire healing for this planet.

UPDATE NOTE: In my personal reality, “woo-woo” is a fun term, a term of endearment. It represents to me lighting the fire for spiritual knowledge. I understand that for many, “woo-woo” is a term of derision used to scoff at metaphysical studies. So be if for them; I am not changing my love of woo-woo because others want to spoil the party. Woo-hoo for woo-woo!

QUESTIONS AND TOPICS

Authenticity. In his book The Afterlife Experiments, Gary Schwartz explained how he designed experiments anticipating how skeptics might attack those experiments. If he could plug the gaps in any anticipated criticisms of his research methods, he would be doing more complete research. Similarly, I would like to see a medium explain how s/he validates the authenticity of the messages received. The better that a medium explains the mediumship process, the more seriously I take it. Ultimately, a medium is a window into a dimension beyond normal perception, and that excites me.

Afterlife researcher. How do self-proclaimed afterlife researchers validate their credentials? What kind of training do they have? (This is particularly noteworthy for cases where the term afterlife researcher is used to perpetuate a fraud by claiming that someone fully vetted a medium when no one actually did.) Similarly, self-proclaimed skeptics should also be required to put forth their qualifications. Many are highly skilled at arguing, nay-saying, and performing on talk shows, but do they even conduct research? Skepticism is often just show business.

Research. I would like to hear from mediums about the kind of research they would like to see to validate what they do. Trance-channel mediums, in turn, could channel about the best ways to conduct afterlife research as suggested from the other side. Conversations with afterlife researchers now in spirit would be especially valuable.

Methods. How does mediumship work? What can and can’t mediums do? Some mediums, for example, appear to have normal-sounding conversations with spirit, but then falter with names or specifics details on specific questions. What is so hard about getting names answering direct questions if they can hear general answers? How does spirit or a medium explain this? (Skeptics explain it as fraud!) Of course, each medium will have a different skill and talent set, but some general expectations of what’s possible would be valuable for people considering a reading from a medium. (YouTube videos, for instance, show both the insipid and the intriguing.)

Medium’s preparation. Some mediums say that they meditate on a sitter to open the channel before the session begins. This sounds special. However, this does not seem to be necessary during group readings. Are there behind-the-scenes preparations that a medium doing public channeling goes through?

For entertainment purposes only. I wonder how we clients would feel about doctors and lawyers if a consultancy contract with them read “for entertainment purposes only.” Mediums and psychics often use disclaimers like this. Mediums who promote themselves on talk shows sometimes find their gifts played for laughs, particularly by comedy-minded hosts. If we are to take afterlife research and mediumship seriously, a paradigm shift seems needed. If mediums represent the idea that spirit does not die, then let’s get beyond the woo-woo party entertainment phase and move into treating it appropriately for serious afterlife research. (Yes, there is room for fun, but let’s respect the process of communicating with other dimensions.)

Dead Celebrities. Interviews with celebrities and famous historical figures usually suffer from lack of evidence. They sometimes yield good stories, sunbursts of wisdom, and entertainment value, but could not be considered authentic communication from spirit without verifiable evidence. I see great value in interviews with dead historical figures if intelligent, worthwhile questions were asked. Even without an airtight authentication of an identity, spiritually astute questioning of the entity could be enlightening if the conversation revealed a true depth of insight about a person, an era, or the cosmos.

Respectful communication. Some mediums suggest that recognizable icons from history (like Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Edison, Jesus, etc.) are eager to help humanity progress. These entities mean serious business. However, other mediums treat historical figures as novelty attractions for show business—wouldn’t it be fun to see what Marilyn Monroe is up to today? The conversations are casual; the questions are often silly and trite like something a gossip magazine would ask. If spirits truly wish to help evolve the planet, one wonders why they would tolerate and participate in circus-like videos, seminars, and marketing schemes. If these entities really wish to save humanity, shouldn’t they insist on a more respectful, serious-minded venue?

Rules of disclosure. Humans seeks to know answers to mysteries, and the departed are seen as having answers. However, are there rules about what information spirits can and cannot share with us? Easy examples would be all the common conspiracy theories. Was 9/11 an inside job? Who killed JFK? Are governments hiding ET encounters and technology? In general, what rules of disclosure apply to channeling? Is some information forbidden to pass along to humans? Who controls disclosure? What’s allowed and what’s forbidden? Why do so many interviews with historical characters dodge the direct, obvious questions?

The whole truth. Can spirits lie if you ask them a direct question? For example, could a spirit guide give you false information if s/he is guiding you to a crisis that was a soul contract? Do spirits have any motivation to lie? (Are they still human in that regard?) Could one spirit impersonate another one by lying about his/her true identity? When and how does dishonesty become untenable in spirit life?

One-way communication. Some mediums say readings are one-way. That is, the dead tell us things that they want to tell us, but it is not a two-way conversation. Then other channelers appear open for questions, such as Esther of Abraham-Hicks. Spirits/mediums who control or inhibit information seem similar to governments that censor and fill the media with controlled propaganda.

Buying answers. Some mediums and hypnotherapists talk about pre-incarnation life planning. We incarnate with amnesia about these life plans. But then guess what, we can go pay a medium or undergo an expensive past life regression, and suddenly we get access to all this secret information! While it can be argued that this is how free enterprise works in the physical world, buying answers seems to favor the rich. If amnesia serves a purpose, why does this work-around exist?

Negativity excuse. Mediums sometimes say that a sitter’s disbelief in a phenomenon creates a block to it. Mediums sometimes blame sitters for negative energy that squelches messages from coming through. This sure sounds like an easy fall-back position for a fraudulent medium to take to control a sitter who feels s/he is not being read accurately. What is the metaphysical truth about this, especially from a willing, open-minded sitter? How can a person be a healthy skeptic and open at the same time?

Compensation. Is a client paying for competence or for the medium’s fame and overhead? Highly visible mediums tend to be highly priced (assuming you think $300 an hour and up is high.) They are often promoted with active social media marketing. They take on high overheads to support and expand their business. It would be refreshing to hear mediums address this. Are they happy with this system? What are the ethics involved in their pricing? What kind of testing or accreditation should be involved, if any, to justify high fees? Does spirit concur with current pricing practices? Do different societies, say British versus Americans or Africans, approach compensation to mediums differently?

The ratings. In today’s world with the Internet, people can voice their opinions or review the service they got from mediums. This also opens up the possibility that a medium can plant good reviews and enemies or unscrupulous competitors can plant bad reviews. How does this affect mediumship? How do potential clients deal with what may not be true reviews, either good or bad?

Who’s on first? There seem to be different beliefs about what happens to the personality at death. Some mediums say we take our personalities to the other side. Others say we merge with the collective and no longer have individual personality. Some say we never fully incarnate with all of our energy; that a high portion of us stays in spirit while the other part incarnates. Sometimes there can be simultaneous incarnations; one soul incarnates into several people at once. What exactly is the entity that speaks through mediums at any given time? Is it the person, is it a higher self, is it a collective?

Continued growth. In light of the above, a medium could contact personalities (like Mark Twain) who (probably) have already gone on to other lifetimes as new people. Does this imply that any historical character (as with all of us) continues to evolve as that consciousness while s/he also grows as other people in new incarnations?

Change of character. Sometimes ornery characters on the earth plane start speaking from spirit as wise, loving, friendly beings who would have been a pleasure to hang out with. When and how does this change of character happen? How does a mean-spirited drunk or abusive parent suddenly become caring and loving? How about people who in physical life had no interest in metaphysics, yet suddenly sound like ascended masters from spirit?

Time. What is time like between the dimensions? How does time work when flesh humans are in one system that has time and discarnates are in another where time is different? Someone may have died ten years ago our time, but what is it in their time? Sometimes spirits who are “freshly dead” in our time have already gone through life reviews, reunions, and so on. They seemed to change personalities or may have even advanced considerably (of course, this also reflects the medium.)

Accents. Entities who come through via trance-channel mediums often arrive with foreign (to America) accents, or an accent different from that of the consciously awake medium. If two different mediums were to channel the same entity, how closely would the accent and personality follow? How is change of accent explained? (Having heard several trance-channeled iterations of Jesus, I have not heard a same-sounding accent come through from different mediums. They are all different.)

Soul Phone. Presumably, the invention of a soul phone would revolutionize human consciousness by proving life after death. A device capable of communicating with the so-called dead would be an amazing source of comfort and enlightenment. However, in this land of marketing and riches, would or could some corporation monopolize and then monetize the technology? Would or could spirits from the other side allow the soul phone to be lost to commercial interests or become too costly for many?

Psychic referral services. A referral business for psychic mediums may sound like a good idea, but what if it is more like an advertising service? What if the mediums are not vetted or certified as it is implied (until you read the small print?) If mediums pay a listing fee to be featured, then this is advertising with the main beneficiary being the advertising provider. A more comprehensive form of medium certification could help those mediums who are not of the show business mentality (the introverts) but would like certification.

Supply and demand. I find it odd when mediums have long wait lists for personal readings (like over a year) yet still promote their services through ordinary marketing practices. They continue building a demand that they cannot satisfy.

Frauds and karma. If mediums actually see spirits, hear voices, and so on, why would they commit fraud or willfully cheat to amass fame and fortune? Wouldn’t they of all people know that they are responsible for their actions and that physical death would bring them truth to bear? Or were they just acting a part in the Earth School curriculum?

Fraud damage. I think it is important to acknowledge the impact of grandstanding, fraudulent, or incompetent mediums. They feed fuel to skeptics. If they ultimately disappoint, discourage, or enrage clients, it brings dishonor upon the whole field. It makes being a legitimate medium that much more challenging.

Books. Mediums often say that a spirit guide instructed or inspired him or her to write a book. As a writer and as far as I can tell, spirit guides have not been lining up to dictate a book to me! In days past, publishing a book was a major event that involved a whole team of support professionals from a reputable publisher. Getting published was not easy. These days seminars teach how to write a book in a weekend and publish it the next day. Many self-published books today tend to more like commercials for a medium—advertising to create demand for readings—more than explorations of topics.

Vocabulary. As consciousness about death and afterlife evolves, vocabulary should evolve, too. Mediums today often speak to our current culture’s understanding of reality, yet if death is transition, not termination, and life is eternal and nonphysical reality is just another place to live, a new vocabulary should be created. Maybe words need to be re-defined or new words invented to represent new paradigms. Maybe ubiquitous phrases like “tragic death” can be altered to fit a new perception.

Pottymouth spirits. Speaking of vocabulary, over the last few years, more spirits have taken to conversational swearing—to the delight of some and to the head-shaking of others. One champion of the f-bomb is Erik from Channeling Erik, which has the various mediums who channel him swearing, too. While Erik generally offers astute spiritual wisdom with his “regular guy” pottymouth talk, other mediums claim that great spiritual teachers would not swear. (I have read dialogues from some so-called ascended masters who swear, at least via the words that come out of the medium’s mouth.)

Mediums and cults. Sometimes a cult will form around a medium. A cult is often characterized by isolation, secrecy, intimidation, financial blood-sucking, elitism, and narcissism. Is this fraud, devotion to a “low-level” spirit, or a religion? The lack of afterlife research from the mainstream world seems to make cults more powerful in their appeal to certain individuals.

MYSTERIES

Here are a few bonus questions not specifically about mediums, per se.

Nature. The paradigm in the nature kingdom is that we all eat one another in a food chain. Nature shows are filled with violence and cruelty, but it is regarded as “nature.” Why was this plan put into place? What was the design intent? Speaking of nature, what about those creatures that humans have described as pests, such as ants, mosquitoes, roaches? Is killing them a crime against nature? And what about plant life, especially that we cultivate as food?

Wars. Are wars pre-planned? If they occur on Earth for the purposes of karma or upgrading spiritual awareness, is there any point in trying to stop them? If we were to understand the karmic nature of warfare, what would be our exit strategy from choosing not to wage war? Is it even possible?

Diseases. Some authors/mediums claim that we choose exit points and manners of dying. This has huge implications for humanity. Currently we live in worry about how we will die and try to make our life as safe as possible from disease, accidents, and plagues of all kinds. If our death is actually planned in advance, we output vast amounts of energy worrying about various diseases as killers. Additionally, it’s often suggested that our health care industry is more concerned with profit than healing, which could include alternative ways to heal besides drugs and surgeries.

Earth School. On one hand, we are supposed to be in Earth School with a series of obstacles set in our path as learning experiences. So, ultimately, are we supposed to change Earth and make it a more loving place, or are we supposed to accept that this is Earth School where many obstacles are pre-planned?

Sex. In humans, sex serves more purpose than procreation. Over the years, however, culture as a whole has abused sexuality with such institutions as human trafficking, rape, abuse, exploitation, etc. Sexuality has been separated from spirituality when the two are much better merged. As a general rule, spirits don’t talk much about the purpose of sex as an agent of healing, bonding, and even friendship. Some spiritual sources indicate that in the spirit world, monogamy does not exist. Sex there is energy/consciousness merging, and is beyond earthly comprehension. However, understanding it would probably help people in this plane rise above the mess that sex is in today.

Prayer. What is it exactly? Religions create specific rituals, but there must be a big picture, all-encompassing version of what praying is, one that might even satisfy those who do not accept a religious depiction of God. Can praying be non-religious?

Grief. How might the experience of grief evolve if it were conclusively proven that death launches consciousness into another dimension? Could the future of “death” become more of a celebration like graduation or a retirement party?

Hospice. If grief and the perception of death evolves, so could hospice. How might this excellent service from today evolve with changing views?

Death itself. For many of us, the vision of how death works comes from movies and books. It looks scary and painful. People who have had near-death experiences often reveal that dying was not painful—even if coming back into the body was! Is death painful?

THE LIST GROWS

I will add to this list either as I think of other things or people suggest them.