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I’m not sure what to write about today...
I’ve been thinking about it all week, and I suppose there are things that have been on my mind that I could pen but I’m not sure yet if I want to...
I did read an article that a friend of mine posted on Facebook about Abortion in Ohio:
A Baby with a Heartbeat Cannot be Aborted in Ohio.
*Disclaimer This does not necessarily represent my opinions, unless I intentionally state otherwise, this is a post of speculative inquiry; and yes, I do believe of "God," although my belief may not fit the typical template.
My first thought was how interesting it is that Republicans support our government getting involved in policy regarding Abortion, I mean they have had issues with Abortion for as long as I can remember, however, it is a notably prominent aspect of the Republican platform to limit the role of government in our day-to-day lives—that happens to be a bullet point that I agree with—and yet it only seems to apply when it actively involves a liberal agenda. The conservative moral agenda apparently merits as much government involvement as is necessary to further the religious purview, which interjects another point of hypocrisy, the Constitution clearly depicts a necessary distinction between the Church and the State...
I have such a difficult time understanding either the Democrat or the Republican agenda when neither follow any logical means of linear thought. It’s like two old white men got together one evening over cigars and brandy and haphazardly coin tossed which issues would fall under which platform. If you drew a line on a chalk board and tried to explain to a child how you logically progressed from one thought to another within a single party platform you would have to completely reinvent what a line represents; essentially linear thought would progress in a way similar to that of the blueprints of a roller coaster, and as that child stared up at your knotted representation of a line they would look at you like you have completely lost your mind because that line is as mathematically linear as 2+2=5, and yet both ideas are still a means only to convey standards created to explain truths limited to our present measure of understanding.
I did comment on the Ohio Abortion post, but I didn’t take a political side. My curiosity was more religious.
I said: “I’m curious how the government enforcing anti-abortion laws is a testament of God’s will? Would it not be more of a testament if abortion wasn’t imposed by a government and the decision to abort was, instead, a question of personal faith?”
Granted, when it comes to understanding the manifestation of God’s will it’s difficult. And I always, always think of the following parable before attempting to do so:
There are these two guys sitting together in a bar in the remote Alaskan wilderness. One of the guys is religious, the other is an atheist, and the two are arguing about the existence of God with that special intensity that comes after about the fourth beer. And the atheist says: “Look, it’s not like I don’t have actual reasons for not believing in God. It’s not like I haven’t ever experimented with the whole God and prayer thing. Just last month I got caught away from the camp in that terrible blizzard, and I was totally lost and I couldn’t see a thing, and it was 50 below, and so I tried it: I fell to my knees in the snow and cried out ‘Oh, God, if there is a God, I’m lost in this blizzard, and I’m gonna die if you don’t help me.’” And now, in the bar, the religious guy looks at the atheist all puzzled. “Well then you must believe now,” he says, “After all, here you are, alive.” The atheist just rolls his eyes. “No, man, all that was was a couple Eskimos happened to come wandering by and showed me the way back to camp.”
It’s easy to run this story through a kind of a standard liberal arts analysis: the exact same experience can mean two totally different things to two different people, given those people’s two different belief templates and two different ways of constructing meaning from experience. Because we prize tolerance and diversity of belief, nowhere in our liberal arts analysis do we want to claim that one guy’s interpretation is true and the other guy’s is false or bad. Which is fine, except we also never end up talking about just where these individual templates and beliefs come from. Meaning, where they come from inside the two guys. As if a person’s most basic orientation toward the world, and the meaning of his experience were somehow just hard-wired, like height or shoe-size; or automatically absorbed from the culture, like language. As if how we construct meaning were not actually a matter of personal, intentional choice.” ~ DFW, This is Water
Still, my question is this:
Does God not care how you feel, or why you come to the resolutions that you do as long as the outcome is in accord to God’s purpose?
If a government imposes moral policy compelling us to accept religious doctrine is that, in fact, the same thing as inherently acting with righteous intent?
Is God a Machiavellian?
How the hell can the end actually justify the means within a moralistic tenet?
And, semi-topically, how can the same group of constituents have such a resolute opinion on gun control? I mean, fundamentally, guns do kill people, they are designed for no other purpose than to kill. What religious or logical sense does it make for them, specifically, to then not support more gun control legislation?
(I’m asking for a friend. No, but logistically I do support the 2nd Amendment, I’m only offering a comparison)
Do you think God likes guns?
Is that how you picture Jesus?
...with an AK-47 strapped to his shoulder and a 9mm on his hip? (“I Want You!” ~ Uncle Sam)
If our opinion of Abortion was based on a moralistically religious creed how then could our opinion on gun control be based solely on a document that very clearly affirms the distinction between Church and State? (Again, I’m asking for a friend.)
It seems to me that there should be a mandatory class on accountability in every institution public or private every year until we finally get it or we die.
We follow standards and templates--penned as manifestos--throughout the course of our lives that were not composed with accountability; without being open to the idea that we can reinvent those standards, and that they don’t necessarily have to conflict, completely, with our present religious and political associations then we are living without conscious conviction, without a consistent moral compass, and in a world where 2+2 does equal 5.
Maintaining literal convictions can be so dangerous to our humanity, and those convictions are the reasons for every single state of disarray within every crevasse of ours or any culture (and no, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have convictions, what I am saying is that you should absolutely learn to be conscious and to be accountable for-, and of those convictions).
It’s funny, I suppose, I mean existentially—politically—I am anti-abortion (get a better idea of my position here), and as such I should have every reason to be, I don’t know, pleased, at the very least, about Ohio not considering Abortion after six weeks, and yet even my doctrine demands critical thought, because, otherwise, neither the means nor the end makes even the slightest bit of difference.
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Image from Dwell Mobile.com
There are a lot of different types of relationships, and I am including those that might fall under the categories of friendships or family, however I’ll be thinking specifically about the different ways that our romantic relationships evolve: how they are developed, whether they mature consciously or automatically based on some latent, conditioned template buried somewhere in our psyche.
I believe, more often than not, that most of us don’t really think about how our relationships develop or whether we have a conscious role in creating the types of relationships that we actually want, I think we just inherently adopt fixed aspects and expectations of the relationships that we’ve witnessed around us as we mature and, kind of, let them shape us, abstractedly.
Think about your own relationships, those from your past as well as those that you might currently be associated with and try to recall how you came to be from where you were; the process of getting to know a person is exciting and fun, but was any of it intentional?
Did you communicate how you wanted the little things, you know, the details, the small stuff: how you talk to each other, intimacy, how you get angry, how you react, jealousy, how you recharge, etc., to develop?
Or is this the first time that you’ve ever actually considered the possibility that you could create your relationship to be whatever you and your partner wanted it to be, without the presupposed idea of the relationship template shading your expectations?
I’ve been married to a Mormon and a Muslim, and there were expectations that I foresaw and many, of course, that I didn’t, but in both cases her expectations were deeply-rooted and unconscious, and, believe it or not, that was the most unexpected thing of all, for me. Which is funny, because I only expected the unexpected, I could never have expected the expected—how unexpected!
I think about myself and how I have been in different relationships and how I have wanted relationships to develop. Now, of course, I wasn’t always aware that I could help to create whatever unique and personal relationship that we wanted when I was young, it took a few relationships and several years to come to that realization but I was always mindful of the necessity of communication in my relationships.
I feel like I have lived several lives throughout the course of my nearly 35 years, all of which were as different as they were similar to one another, however I classify myself, in terms of my active role in a relationship, in two distinct stages: Pre-Samayya and Post-Samayya.
I “married*” Samayya while living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Samayya has three children, her eldest, while Samayya and I were together, was in her early twenties and was living on her own in Albuquerque. Samayya, her two youngest, and myself we all lived together in Santa Fe (I typed Satan Fe, at first, and if you all really knew anything about that relationship you would know how Freudianly true that is).
The last night I was with Samayya and the children we watched Slumdog Millionaire, I had never seen it, and everyone for years had been telling me that I needed to see it, so we put it on our Netflix queue (do you remember that?) The DVD arrived the day before and we were excited to lay down and watch it. I had just put the kids to bed and I wheeled a TV into our bedroom to enjoy the movie. Nearing the end there is a scene where the main guy’s brother is watching the show in his living room, the million dollar question is being asked, while there are two girls dancing around in short skirts and low tops, Samayya was never to, uh, sprightly about me watching that sort of thing so I fast forwarded through the scene. As the credits rolled I muted the TV to talk about the movie, you know, as people do after having just watched a good movie, and Samayya was completely unresponsive, frigid even.
I asked her what was wrong knowing quite well that it involved the aforementioned scene. “Do you remember that scene? With the girls dancing?” Samayya asks. “The one that I fast forwarded through, yeah.” I responded. “Why did you not fast forward through it sooner?” She asks. “Wha? I just...I picked up the remote as soon as I register...oh geezus.” I say. Samayya then started raging out, that’s what I have always called it, raging; because she went from communicable to incommunicable almost immediately and, by then, I had become very familiar with it. She raged and yelled a lot, and I stood silently numb, as most of my days then were spent: numb; I grabbed my pillow, walked to the hall bathroom, because I could use the drawers to hold the door shut (she had previously removed the lock and handle), and I slept in the bathtub.
Every night, for a few years, played on a variation of that scene, not the movie, but what happened after the movie. However, that next morning I grabbed a bag, which I kept packed and hidden in a closet, and I walked away and I never looked back.
That relationship changed me. There is, as a result, a pre-, and post Samayya, me. One of the unique things that I’ve thought about, recently, is how I am, kind of, rebuilding a relationship with myself, knowing how I thought and would communicate with women before Samayya and how I did afterwards. Not only has it been more difficult, obviously. It has also been frustrating, and by that I mean, when you know yourself in a certain way, and you like that self watching a different version of yourself, one that might, at first glance, lack assurance and confidence and assertiveness in a way that I don’t feel but nevertheless portray, it’s frustrating. The relationship literally changed the way that I think, well, no...maybe; it did affect my thought process in the moment: how I might react to and communicate with a person—for the most part I wasn’t capable of thinking or communicating, I essentially went numb, in exactly the same way that I learned to with Samayya. Eventually I did relearn how to approach people—women. A longtime family friend and a cognitive therapist explained to me that I was practicing an approach/avoidance response to, uh, life, I guess.
And, of course, I wanted to relearn to develop and create my relationships with intention. After a few years of working on that, unsuccessfully, I realized that I was trying to hard to be the person that I was before and not allowing myself to become anybody, really; just some shadowy version of a reflection of myself. There are a lot of things that we hold on to, as people; both consciously and unconsciously, that make our lives considerably more difficult than they need to be. Surrendering is really our only way through those times that we’re holding on to something so tightly, unfortunately it’s not always so easy to know how or what to surrender to—I think that might explain why so many people surrender to religion, I don’t necessarily mean to Jesus or Muhammad or the Buddha but to religion, it’s a preexisting, guileless means of surrender, and we can return to it over and over again, and there honestly is nothing wrong with that (religion is only immoral when it plays God, or politics). When we allow fear to guide us then we’ve forgotten why we turned to our prophets in the first place, likewise when Christianity isn’t a means of surrender but a political affiliate.
I haven’t seriously considered being in a relationship in a long time, although I have had a small handful of “relationships” Post-Samayya; because I’m 34 I don’t see the point in dating for the sake only of dating, and I live in a small Hill Country town outside of San Antonio, Texas, my prospects are fairly limited, especially considering the way that I lived my life these last five years—relatively uneventful; unless I decide to consider online dating, but again I think that becomes a question of what I’m looking for exactly.
I did acknowledge somewhat recently that I do have feelings for someone that kind hit me unexpectedly, however, per usual, if I’m not lead astray by manipulative, controlling women then I’m captivated by the unavailable women. Regardless, I do know that any relationship that I get involved in we will need to strip down through all the expectations, the traditions, the ideals, and build something, mutually from scratch. As daunting as some people might find starting over, the routine of unconsciously living a banal life whether alone or conjointly is considerably more disheartening to me.
Relationships are important. It’s not a stretch at all to suggest that our relationships give life meaning, and that too may be part of the reason why it’s been so difficult for me to let go of some of the frustration for having gone through the mess with Samayya in the first place. It’s hard when you look back at nearly a decade of your life knowing that it would have been completely different had it not been for the influence of a single person, and knowing that that influence has in turn influenced how I have interacted with people every day since then, in a negative way, or a way that I’m not happy about. It’s not pleasant laying awake in the evening thinking about how differently you might have wanted interactions to go, not that they were bad, necessarily, however they just don’t feel like you. I wasn’t as conscious about building that relationship as I should have been; it’s important, but it’s also more pleasurable and much more fun to actively create something with someone that you care about.
Samayya* and I were never legally married but an Imam did perform a religious ceremony overlooking Abiquiu Lake in Abiquiu, New Mexico when I was 27 and she was 36.
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Image from movingworlds.com blog
I have promised to publish a column every Thursday, however, tomorrow I’m going to be wrapped up all day, so in order to best keep my promise I’ll be publishing this weeks post today.
I started a series on Communication in my blog many months ago, I decided that I would continue that series as a part of this column instead. My previous posts Why We Communicate: Vain Brain and Why We Communicate: The Complexities of Face-to-Face Talk are available by clicking the title or at my blog.
"Instead of asking, “What's wrong with this person?" Ask, "Where does this person come from?”"
Communication is exceptionally complicated and most of us take the act of-, for granted, we don’t consciously think about what we’re actually communicating, why, or (and maybe most importantly) how. And we definitely don’t consider how our means of communication are actually formed.
The way that we talk, as well as the way that we behave are developed through cultural values and norms. We are taught, both directly and indirectly, what is socially acceptable and to read and follow social cues that guide us through our personal interactions.
This is called this Socialization.
These cultural and social cues have become so commonplace and familiar that we don’t notice them until we interact with people with different cultural norms, and when we are introduced to cues that are different from our own we almost always start with a form of judgment; cultural learning is never neutral. We are taught that there are acceptable ways to behave and to talk, that there are “right” ways of communicating; cues that fit our traditional cultural understandings because they illustrate how the majority of the people within our culture both think and behave, generally.
It’s the form of judgment when we find ourselves questioning the traditions and behaviors of (most recognizably—lately): Middle Eastern cultures. Although there are some that we are familiar with, although unaccustomed to and equally, though not equally criticized, judgmental of such as Asian, and most distinctly, Japanese culture.
Western cultures are considerably more individualist than the collectivist Japanese cultural norms, we have built our society on the foundations of individual achievement and that echos how we communicate with one another, while the Japanese are very much a collectivist culture they focus more on the family and the community and the achievement of the whole. I only mention that because I spent, essentially, the first six years of my life in Tokyo, Japan and when in an environment of several people working for a—seemingly—common goal I notice that I’ll work for the effort of that goal, and I will often forget and get frustrated, when entangled by a few individuals who are mostly interested in their personal advancement, that our society is predominantly self-oriented, and when engaging with people on a personal level through Face-to-Face verbal communication it’s important to be aware, as able as possible, that there are constantly numerous unconscious elements at play in any given moment during face-to-face talk.
Cultural communicative norms offer us enough information to create commonality with the people we are surrounded by within societies that have similar cultural values, as well as offer us enough information to know, or at the very least recognize when someone might be acting or interacting outside of those cultural norms, although within our mutually acceptable cultural norms there exist sub-levels of socialization that are learned indirectly following religious, political, family, etc. influences of the people within our immediate surroundings: sub-cultures; the way that people “perform” within a family, a neighborhood, a community.
In 1996 at the University of Michigan, Richard E. Nisbett and Dov Cohen researched the effects of anger on individuals, specifically 18-20 year old males. The study examined how subjects respond to frustrating, obstructive stimuli when attempting to accomplish a task. It was pretty simple actually, the subjects were required to complete a questionnaire and then, once finish, deliver the document to someone in another room at the end of a long, lean hallway lined with file cabinets where they would advance to the next stage. While in the hallway the students were cut-off by an irate man sifting through a file cabinet whom would offer a muffled insult as the students tried to scoot by, intentionally infuriating the students/subjects before they continued on to the next stage of the study which, in reality, was entirely about how people react to frustrating situations. Ultimately Nisbett and Cohen discovered that a percentage of these students were getting considerably more angry than the rest, and that those students were all from southern states, where the learned behavior of (to abridge) “defending ones honor” is more predominant than in the northern states. Where they learned to react based on the specific, unconscious social cues of their environments.
Words are remarkable things, inasmuch as they can be very shifty. A single word can refer to, or stand for a variety of meanings, even our own lexicons cannot safely define a solitary meaning for one seemingly simple word, let alone the meanings that we apply to words based entirely on our own personal emotional or psychological experiences with a word or a specific meaning of a word; a person might interpret meanings differently than we might intend based on an experience relatable only to that person; we can interpret meaning based on expression, body language, and how something was verbally said, as well as the defined meaning of a word, inasmuch as the fleeting unconscious happenstance of our or their moods can affect a words meaning.
“Meanings are in people, not in words.”
Our learned process of talking to others are primarily a result of unconscious social and cultural cues, also known as, schema.
“Combinations of observed words, vocal tones, and looks that are cued up by changes in the situation, the context, and are culturally provided, prearranged sets of expectations about people and situations that allow us to make sense of what’s going on.”
It’s the same concept as when you walk into a library or a church and your behaviors suddenly shifts, this a learned reaction based on social cues, and much of the way that we communicate with one another is developed from the schema; they have little to do with our conscious thought, because they are buried deeply in what is called the cognitive unconscious part of the mind…
However, I’ll tackle that in the next column on Communication.
I know that the reason I started a column along with the blog was so that I can discuss things from a more personal perspective, and this column really doesn’t read like a personal narrative on communication. I think that is both intentional and not; communication is a very important topic to me, and this being the first column on the subject I think it’s important for me to illustrate that I have both a working knowledge—cause I’m alive—as well as an academic understanding of communication and the psychological background surrounding the topic.
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image from Fee.com
Does anyone else think about how we get caught up in our ideals? That there is a certain longing to be impartial, and yet we continue to find ourselves turning away from our own compassionate instincts in order to feel like we are a part of something, even if that something is so excruciatingly uncompromising and imbalanced.
I was planning to write about Immigration this week. And then the shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio happened and I started thinking about how we immediately succumb to rhetoric and it just, I don’t know, it just didn’t seem to matter anymore—not that the issues that we’re facing: Immigration, Social and Political Divisiveness, etc. don’t matter, of course they still matter, but why, exactly?—We’re all playing this game: the political left vs. the political right, two fixed opposing views neither of which effort any critical thought whatsoever and the only thing that changes from day-to-day, from week-to-week, year-after-year is the issue and that even is on a fairly predictable systemic orbit.
What the fuck are we even talking about?
I mean the resolution clearly rests somewhere near the pivot of this endless charade, and clearly something about our present situation isn’t exactly working, so what the fuck are we talking about?
Here’s how the conversation kind of works in my head; and I’m going to side step both the Immigration and Gun Control issues in order to illustrate how this works. I had a conversation recently with someone who has consciously dissected her purview enough to recognize, based on the harmony of emotion, reason, critical thought, and the fundamental guideline of the American Constitution, where the foundations of measure help to create sensible legislation, and that’s refreshing, you know, to have a conversation about politics that’s rooted in deliberate resolve.
I am Pro-Life. And what I mean by that is a measure beyond our eloquent locution, I am, fundamentally, opposed to Abortion as well as War, the Death Penalty, et al.; I am opposed to the intentional act of execution—of killing.
And yet I find myself arguing with myself regarding just about every one of the those topics.
The answer, for many, might be one of these equally contemptible options, because as a society we are doomed to the silly fate of a coin toss, because that’s the way it has always been, and that is the way that it will always be. If we vote Democrat we blindly choose one option or if we vote Republican we blindly choose the other, at least that’s the way that our political atmosphere has developed.
...that is how the conversation goes, in my head. That is my argument with myself.
And the political lobbyists, the marketers and advertisers of our deafening, Constitutionally lite political affiliates would have us believe that that back-and-forth is a political “Flip-flip”, a “U-turn,” a “Back-flip,” the idea is that you (me!?), yes you! Have no integrity.
But, in reality, it might just be a sign that, well, you’re both full of shit; you the Democrats and you Republicans need to be doing some critical thinking in order to actually develop policy that’s rooted in deliberate resolve.
Here’s the thing about:
Or, even, just the exclusion of the first part, “A Well Regulated Militia,” because a lot of people seem to ignore the very first thought engraved in the second amendment of our Constitution, and, for them, it simply reads:
“Being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Cafeteria Constitutionalism is infuriating, stop it.
Don’t get caught up in the political rhetoric. We do not have to live blindly between party affiliations; critical thought, and examining the issues with an open-mind and open-heart until we creatively and reasonably create sensible legislation that is rooted in deliberate resolve is essentially our only option, I suppose I shouldn't be too worried, I mean, if reality TV is an indication of where we're headed as a society I don't think we have anything et al to worry about.
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*When I use the word conscious I am referring to what most scientist would term self-aware, I just prefer the word 'conscious.'
Are people inherently good? If given the opportunity do you believe that people will “do the right thing?” I’ve gone back and forth on that my entire life and, for a number of years now, I have kind of settled with the faithful idea of “I would like to believe that they are.”
It’s a complicated question. Tom Shadyac is an American director, he’s responsible for Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Liar Liar, Bruce Almighty, and so on he is also responsible for the documentary I AM, which is one of the most incredible documentaries that I’ve ever seen. Shadyac’s idea was to approach various political, scientific, and spiritual leaders and to ask them “What’s wrong with the world?” All of them approached difficult topics and issues that most of us are facing, but they all also, independently, addressed what was right with the world as well, and the relationship that we all have with one another which is deeply rooted in compassion. The vast majority of us have a hard time seeing anything (man or creature) going through pain, of all sorts. It’s easy for me to believe that we have a collective tenderness for empathy, however empathy, as it falls in the assorted account of human behaviors, is kind of a desperate remedy, which is to say that there are a lot of emotional gray areas between compassion and coming to the desperate need of the helpless or desolate.
Why are we so obtuse to a persons needs until we physically witness their desperation? We are inherently compassionate but only if and when their need grows greater than our ability to reason our own inherent selfishness.
As far as I can tell, it’s the little things, the seemingly mundane, professedly unimportant tasks throughout our day-to-day lives, and our own behavioral reactions to those daily menial activities that actuate our inherent goodness.
And, as far as I can tell, most people are inherently indifferent.
Whether we are influenced to be good is inspired by our nature vs. our nurturing is irrelevant, again as far as I can tell, it’s just as true that we are matured by both as it is neither, because the only thing that differs between people who seem to be inherently good as apposed to, what?, inherently bad, I guess, is whether you live consciously or not. Most people seem to live their lives on a day-to-day basis in some kind of default setting, it’s just: go; and these people rarely actually stop to make conscious choices. They simply just do. They are as aware of their behaviors as they are anything else, which really isn’t much of anything except what they have to do.
How does one get to that point? Or, I suppose, the more apt question considering there are far more people living on default than there are living consciously is how does one come to live consciously?
I cannot remember a time in my life when I wasn’t as concerned with the people around me, in any intellectual or emotional capacity, as I have been with myself, although I do know that I have not always thought the way that I do now. I do distinctly remember a time, in the mid to late 90’s, late elementary and early middle school years, when I transitioned, I started wanting to be conscious about the way that I perceived the world, at one point it became a conscious decision.
But what changed?
How did my brain or, the spiritual sense of being within me wake up?
I don’t believe that people are born conscious or unconscious. I believe that people are born a blank slate, however I do think that we learn to choose how to organize the information that we receive: faces, colors, sounds, etc., that influence how we are going to organize the new sets of information, and so on and so forth. We choose, at some point, to decide how we want to process information instead of simply retaining new information.
I’m starting to believe that to choose how we want to perceive the world, instead of just perceiving it the way that the biased information that is feed to us is, say, the missing link between inherent goodness and our default setting.
Maybe that key to unlocking our conscious purview is in recognizing that we do have a choice. We do well, what we are taught to, and we tend to ignore the truths of what are never actually taught. I wonder what we might accomplish if we began to explore the possibilities of teaching ourselves that knowing something and believing something are two very different things, and that being self-aware grants us the purview to not only acknowledge that but to apply it.
People are not inherently good, and we are not inherently bad. But we do inherently have a choice about how we perceive our world, and I believe that conscious choice, regardless of where it leads you, will allow us to acknowledge and accept our differences, regardless of what they might be.