Sunday, June 1, 2014

Thoughts on Elliot Rodger's Manifesto.

Several days ago I read My Twisted Life, by Elliot Rodger. After reading it I knew that it was a work that would require deep thought before I could comment on it. After much contemplation I think I am ready to summarize my thoughts.

Elliot Rodger was a young man who felt himself different and apart from the world, and he was. There are many in this life who will know the great pain that comes from being socially rejected. Some will know this as children, as I did, and yet others such as Elliot will have happy childhoods but as puberty approaches they will know this loneliness and rejection as young adults. Still others will know this all their lives.

As humans, we want to be accepted by our counter parts. Although some may be introverts to varying degrees, I don’t think even the most hard-core introvert wants to be rejected at their core. There is a difference between wanting to spend alone time and being rejected by the population at large. Some might choose to be isolated but no one chooses to be rejected.

The easy thing to do, after reading My Twisted Life, would be to judge, to assign labels on Elliot such as misogynist, socially inept, egotist… harder still to reach for a common ground, to reach for understanding, compassion.

Many will say that we need to spurn the killer and have compassion for the victims and yes no doubt about it, we do need to have compassion for those whose lives were ripped away, however that does not preclude having compassion for the young man that felt so much despair and depression that his hurt stayed festering for years until he finally erupted.

It has been said that Elliot was a high functioning autistic. I know something about this, as a friend and family member to several people with Asperger’s. I have witnessed the way that society treats these people that have something a little different about them.

I’ve heard it said that over 50% of human communication is nonverbal. That means that most of us are programmed to pick up nonverbal clues in communication. When someone doesn’t know the language of communication very well, such as when to smile, what to do with their hands, when they don’t project friendliness, relaxed expressions and body language and in essence don’t do the “right” nonverbal things, then other humans will automatically react with uncertainty, hesitancy and fear, and that fear leads to rejection. I have seen this many times in watching how some of my friends react to my other friends that have Asperger’s. “He’s weird.” “I don’t know, something about him that isn’t right.” The person may not have actually had a conversation with my Asperger’s friend or family member but have already felt this sense of awkwardness emanating from the person enough to have formed an opinion and a judgement. In all fairness, this is something that keeps us protected from harm as we try to decipher clues about another person to figure out if they mean us harm. Ultimately we are always conscious of our survival, which leads me back to Elliot.

The most basic human need and the one that drives us as a species is the need for love and acceptance. It’s why babies cry the minute they are pushed into this world. Without attracting love and attention to themselves they will surely die. As we grow up in a family we are taught and trained to lose our neediness for others and schooled to become independent, to feed and clothe ourselves and to become less needy towards our parents and eventually to find a mate to love and marry.

What though, if you are like Elliot and put off signals that constantly repeal not only the opposite sex, but people in general? Humans are a complicated system of emotion and survival, programming and deprogramming and we have to live under an umbrella of almost impossible-to-follow social constructions, rules and expectations. This is why the show Seinfeld was such a hit because it brought to light the crazy social rules we twist ourselves like pretzels to follow.

When you don’t fit into society it can be extremely lonely, disheartening and depressing. For some it can signal the start of a physiological disturbance. Elliot didn’t just feel lonely one day and went out and killed people the next. It took years of rejection and pain to bring about the conclusion that it did.
Now most people who experience rejection and the pain of being a social outcast don’t go out and shoot up a town of people. That’s where mental health comes in.  There are many ways that people deal with this sort of thing. Some will accept it and learn to live with it. Others will keep trying to find friends that accept them for them. Many will succeed in this and find at least one or two friends that accept them and many have even found a mate. Some though, like Elliot continue to sink deeper into depression and some will commit suicide. For still others, depression turns to frustration and then to anger. As evidenced in his manifesto, Elliot’s thoughts circled again and again to the fact that he was socially rejected by females and he began to hold a deep-seated rage towards not only the women who he claims rejected him but also towards the popular jocks who seemed to win where he failed. Elliot held a rage towards all those who lived a “normal” life that included love and sex primarily, but also friendship and acceptance, as that is what he claims that he wanted above all else. He began to blame the world around him and even his own mother for the fact that others had the life that he couldn’t have.

Through it all, Elliot refused to explore the possibility that he himself could do some things to improve himself, to make himself a person of substance to have something to offer a potential mate. His manifesto is filled with the attitude that he was perfect and the world was wrong.

It is troubling to look at ourselves as imperfect. It is painful to consider why we have failed and that we might be flawed. Elliot seemingly could not perform this task of self-reflection and problem solving. It was beyond him. His writing reveals his problem-solving to be quite superficial, stating that the reason he didn’t have a woman was that he wasn’t rich, rather than a personality flaw that he could work on. He spent great expense and effort to try to win the lottery as a way to gain approval and was wrapped up in a materialistic attitude about life.  As his rage deepened his focus became singular, not to ‘settle’ for a life that included whomever would be his friend and whichever girl he could win, no, he had to have a pretty girl, a blonde and be the most popular kid. He would never lower his standards and so his rage continued to build. Towards the end of his life, it was plain to see that he had lost all sense of reality and only had the most superficial wants and desires. His anger had built to the point of no return and this failure to accept reason and reality is what truly lead him to his hate filled murdering spree.

Elliot Rodger’s life is a sad tale of rejection and then rejection of rejection, which resulted in a rage that could not be quenched. On some level, we all know the pain of rejection and we also know the anger that wells inside when we feel we are dealt with unjustly. Elliot knew it all but his anger rose to such heights that not many of us have felt, namely the anger that causes one to take a life and feel glee while doing so. Elliot needs a moment of our compassion, not in the same sense that the victims do, but yet in a way unique to him, for a person carrying that much pain inside should garner our consideration, our sympathy and maybe, just maybe, our forgiveness because we all have this great capacity to feel pain and rage and it is only our reason, something which was worn away in Elliot, that separates us from a killer. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

January-- Pippi Longstocking

Every quirky kid needs a hero, or in this case a heroine, and Pippi was mine. This must be why this book was the first one on my list for the Books That Made Me Love Reading Challenge.

When I think of reading Pippi Longstocking, a precursory memory comes leaping back, a little misty around the edges but yet opaque enough to watch it for a while. It is a rainy day and I am perched on the two-seater couch in front of the huge window of my parents' living room. Under my butt is the well worn, slippery Burgundy fabric, not yet recovered in plush chartreuse, but every day nearing its fate. I hold this book in my hand, staring at the cover, repeating the author's name in my head as it is so unusual. Astrid. I like this. I try it out as my second name, as I was wont to do every time I came across a name I liked; being a kid with no second name affords one the obsession with fill-in-the-blank contemplation.

On to the main feature. The book for me fulfilled every last fantasy a quirky kid could dream of. Imagine you had all the money in the world. You had no pesky parents to insist you do this or that, to make you do chores or send you to school. You had a horse, of course of course! A monkey (who doesn't want a monkey?) and you had the strength that marked a very strong dividing line between dependant and independent. Every childhood problem was solved. Why did you need learning when you had all the earthly wants? Money, freedom, strength, companionship and heck, two neighbourhood children who adored you and put up with all your quirks with the utmost patience, understanding and acceptance. Yes! A dream come true. In my mind, Pippi was excellently written and was the perfect novel. I couldn't get enough of it. I read every Pippi book and watched every Pippi TV show and movie. She bucked the system and was accepted for it and never challenged. She proved her point and no one interfered. I was going to be like that someday too.

Reading this book yesterday for the first time since I was about 9 years old was an eye opener in several ways. First, I recognized that Pippi Longstocking was not the best thing ever written. It departs greatly from the literary tenets of today with it's focus on plot development, climax and denouement. Pippi is a book of vignettes and adventures rather than a story. That is to say that aside from the first chapter which introduces the characters, the subsequent chapters could appear in any order, except perhaps the last chapter, which I will explain in a moment.

Reading this book from an adult perspective forces me into a diagnosis mindset which was not present when I read this book as a child. I found myself trying to come up with a label for her actions such as Asperger's, sociopath... I was better able to see how the dialogue revealed not only a girl that didn't' know manners but one who was speaking volumes by her very actions. Something I did not catch when I was 9 years old.

There is a scene where Pippi goes to a tea party and tries to outdo the women there who are exchanging bourgeois suffering stories about their incompetent servants. She invents an outlandish story about a non-existent family servant who did incredibly outrageous things. There is a similar story where Pippi goes to school and tries to cover up her lack of book knowledge by demonstrating her worldly knowledge through outlandish story telling.

Ah ha! I thought, This is something we all do, don't we, to one degree or another? When we feel insecure, when we feel stupid, don't we then try to downplay the competition by outdoing it, thereby rendering it useless, trite or beneath us.

It struck me that Pippi was trying to cover up a world of hurt, a world of insecurity, and a world of isolation by making up her own rules, making up her own person and shutting out the world. The fact is that when you incorporate others into your life, then you have to concern yourself with pleasing them, being approved by them, and living up to their expectations. That is a big pill to swallow and Pippi always reverts back to her own world of pleasing no one but herself.

For the rest of us, that can be lonely. For Pippi, she has set her mind that she will always come out on top. She has seemed to solve the riddle of loneliness by creating fantasies about her parents love and whereabouts. This book, oddly enough, does not address the issue of loneliness, sadness, isolation and abandonment. Pippi is not phased by any of that stuff. She won't let herself be.

An interesting character indeed.

I surmise that the book, in its vignette style could interchange any chapter, except for the ending. The reason is that in the last chapter, Pippi finds pistols and guns in an old chest in the attic and discharges them merrily in the presence of her two compatriots Tommy and Annika. She also sends the pistols home with the children when the father of the children comes to pick them up to take them home, Pippi yelling after them that they will all be pirates some day. This absolutely has to be the last chapter for no doubt the father would not allow his kids to return to play pistols with the quirky neighbour kid.

Reading Pippi in the light of idolizing it as a child and now viewing it as an adult, I believe, only serves to increase my compassion and understanding for a child who lives her life by her own terms. As a child I thought it was cool and something to strive for. As an adult I understand that it is more a story of doing what one has to do to survive and some of us are more prepared to do that than others.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

2012 Books That Made Me Love Reading Challenge

I saw online a Challenge called "Books That Made Me Love Reading." Challenge. The goal is to read one book a month for the year of 2012 from your childhood that sparked you to love reading. Before I saw this challenge I had been thinking of rereading some of my old favorites. This is the perfect reason (excuse?) to do so.

There are so many good books that come to mind, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Ping, Are You There God, It's Me Margaret, Little House on the Prairie (which started my love of history, espescially the Victorian age.) Lavender Green Magic, Pippi Longstocking... I'm going to have trouble figuring out where to start. But I would love to fit in some of those beloved books, into my regular reading schedule. So here I go...

Here are the rules...

♥ Write an introductory challenge post, discussing why you love reading and what some of your favorite books of all time are (especially those you loved when you were younger).

♥ Leave a comment below and link to your challenge post or GoodReads list.

♥ Add the challenge badge to your blog and link it back to this post. You can grab the code below.

♥ Re-read one old favorite per month and write a review that discusses why you loved the book back then and why you love it now (or why you don’t love it quite as much now). Remember: You can read anything from children’s books to classic literature—whatever turned you onto this beloved hobby is A-OK with us.

♥ Whenever you read a new book for the challenge, visit this website and add the links to your reviews on the corresponding month’s post.

♥ I’ll tweet out links to challenge entries as I receive them. I have over 12,000 Twitter followers and would love to help drive traffic to your blogs!

I hope I can find some of my old favorites. I know I have some here, in my garage, in a box, but I wonder if I can find some of the ones I never owned but borrowed from the Library. Do they still have Pippi Longstocking in the Library and how late is it open till tonight? :D

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Emerson Challenge Day Three

One Strong Belief by Buster Benson

It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. - Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance
The world is powered by passionate people, powerful ideas, and fearless action. What’s one strong belief you possess that isn’t shared by your closest friends or family? What inspires this belief, and what have you done to actively live it?

I have more than a few beliefs that keep me rather set apart from my friends and the people that are close to me. For one, I am a vegetarian in a meat eater's world. I believe in living my conviction that it is wrong to torture or injure another living creature for our monetary gain or otherwise. In short, it is wrong to exploit. I will not willing take part in the cruel exploitation of animals. I am an animal lover and have spent a decade of my life trying to help and heal animals. I also own several pets and administer daily to their comfort and needs. How could I then support a system that does the opposite of this? A system that hurts, maims, tortures and kills animals before their time. I could not. Not when it is unreasonable to do so and not when there are other choices.

The other belief I have, and this strikes me more deeply, is the belief that I must, (note, not would prefer to, not would like to) but MUST succeed at my craft of Art and Writing. I have done both all my life, from a very young age.

When I was five years old, my ambition was to write the dictionary. I began to copy out the Richard Scary version, until my Dad told me I couldn't do that, it wasn't legal and that I had to make up my own stories. Once I learned that, I began to write my own stories. I wrote stories to read to my family and baby brother at bed time. I wrote reams and reams of poems. I read poems in church, I entered contests, and won. I wrote articles for the web and for magazines. I wrote short stories and then novels and never stopped from that day to this.

Also when I was five, I decided that I would sell paintings to make money. I painted up a bunch and went door to door selling them for five and ten cents each. I received my first commission at that age; a lady who told me that my abstracts were of "nothing" and if I really wanted to sell her a painting I would go home and painting something like a house and come back and sell that. I did and satisfied, she bought it. As with my writing, I went on to paint and paint, entering and winning contests, having exhibitions, having my art published in school annuals and when I move on to adulthood, having my work sold around the world and put in many galleries.

For me, the fact that I needed to be a writer and needed to be a painter were my earliest core beliefs. They are a part of me, like a fingerprint or a hair folicle. Something that one carries with them all their life that never alters. I know many writers and painters that are content to paint and write and nothing more. They might sell a painting at a local art fair or to a friend but that isn't what motivates them. They might write a story for fun or to get something off their chest but being published isn't a necessity. For me, being known world wide IS a necessity. Being widely published IS a necessity. It is a passion. And I know it will be a chief pursuit til my dying day.

I believe this is what sets me apart from my friends. I know of no one else of my close friends or family that devotes as many hours to the pursuit of their passion as I do. Granted, I am extremely lucky that I do have the means to be able to pursue this. I am supported by my hubby who holds down a full time job so I can write and paint and focus on selling my work. We've had to make sacrifices too so that I can. I don't take vacations or drive fancy cars. We have one family car and live in a townhouse not a big house with a yard like I've always dreamed. But there are dreams and then there are passions, and the passions have a soul that takes over everything else. When you let your passions rule, it's more powerful than any dream you can have of owning this or that. It is a fulfillment of the soul. It is magical. It is godlike. I will gladly give up a few frivolous dreams here and there to live fully in my passion. There is nothing else like it. It is mighty. It is powerful. And in the end, I believe it will take you where you need to go. Even if you have to go there alone.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Trust 30 Day Two - Today.

Liz Danzico – Today

Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing. The force of character is cumulative. – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

If ‘the voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tracks,’ then it is more genuine to be present today than to recount yesterdays. How would you describe today using only one sentence? Tell today’s sentence to one other person. Repeat each day.

Here is my response.

Today is a composite of the energy, trust, love, attitude, compassion and forgiveness you bring to it; each minute of it is your ever-renewed chance to create magnificence.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

#Trust30 - Day One - 15 minutes to live.

One of my writer friends found and posted this inspiring thirty day challenge, and not one to take challenges lightly, I signed up for this.

#Trust30 is an online initiative and 30-day writing challenge that encourages you to look within and trust yourself. Use this as an opportunity to reflect on your now, and to create direction for your future. 30 prompts from inspiring thought-leaders will guide you on your writing journey.

The Inspiration

To celebrate Emerson's 208th birthday, The Domino Project is republishing a work of art that's especially relevant today. Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson urges readers to trust their intuition rather than conforming to the will of the majority.

The Pledge Details

  1. The #Trust30 challenge starts at 6am ET on May 31st and runs for 30 days.
  2. Each day we'll post a prompt from an original thinker and doer on You can also sign-up for daily emails.
  3. Fill out the short form below to commit to participating in the #trust30 online initiative.
  4. Blog, journal, or create something on each of the 30 days.
  5. Tweet using the hashtag #trust30 to show your support and involvement.
This is today's challenge

We are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each other. Our age yields no great and perfect persons. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

You just discovered you have fifteen minutes to live.

1. Set a timer for fifteen minutes.
2. Write the story that has to be written.


The story that needs to be written is the story of our future. The story of our future is the story of our present, for what we do today will determine the outcome of our future. What you sow, you will reap in the hour of harvest, as a great prophet once forewarned. The way through the challenging times ahead is be awake to what our values are. How do we direct our energy? Do we live the life we value and value the life we live? When I was seven years old I read a statement that has stuck with me through my whole adult life.
"Would the child you were, be proud of the adult you've become?"

What values did you have as a child that you have since lost? Are you proud of the way you've lived your life? Are you proud of the way you have taught your children? Have they walked into life embracing the values of your parents' and of the mentors in your own life that have passed their knowledge onto you? Will the next generation that you have birthed into this world be able to carry forward goodness and respect for the earth and mankind? Whom do they emulate? Do they have the tools to be better stewards of the earth and the whole animal kingdom than the previous generation?

Everyone has duality in their personality. Sometimes we help a neighbour, other times we shun a neighbour. Sometimes we trample and other times we lift up. Will you choose to embrace the higher vibration of your soul and reject the lower? Will you inspire others to do the same? If your life were recorded, would you invite the world to watch it? What choices do you make today to enable others to make positive choices in their life? How will you love today to ensure there is love in the future? The power of the future lies in the now. How will your actions today determine the future?

This is the story that needs telling. This is the story that will matter when we're gone.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Shenpa and Changing Patterns

Do you ever find yourself suddenly in the throes of an argument with someone and the more you talk, the more he or she talks and the deeper the two of you go into misunderstanding, offense, anger and hurt? What happens after this? You walk away feeling frustrated, angry and hurt; feeling like this person is self-centered, unsympathetic and ignorant. You vow to end the friendship, or just lock away a little piece (or maybe a big piece) of yourself in a desperate attempt to get along with that person, and avoid further painful episodes of trauma and drama. If this is done, then the relationship is sure to suffer permanent damage.

Later, when you reflect on the argument, you might be able to locate the exact point in which the conversation turned from friendly and engaged, to something that felt tight and uncomfortable, like suddenly being hit in the face by a strong forceful wind. You are left metaphorically gasping for air as though the natural, comfortable, in and out breath was suddenly pinched off. In Tibetan Buddhism, there is a word for this moment when we feel hooked or triggered in a negative way. It is called Shenpa. At the moment of Shenpa, we feel a gut reaction to revolt, to react in a way that will make the other feel and understand our discomfort. We suddenly feel a boiling need to pounce and tear apart who we now suddenly see as our opponent rather than the ally that stood before us moments before. Whether we say a cutting comment in response to the Shenpa, or we shut down mentally and emotionally, or we cry, shake or whimper, the fact is that this event has the power to suddenly change the course of the conversation in ways that are detrimental.

Once Shenpa is engaged, it can be extremely difficult to gain control and get the conversation back on an even keel. It has been said that with repeated mental and emotional patterns, the grooves in our brain can grow deeper, only reinforcing the negative behavior the more we “play” it. Literally, the only way we can reprogram our behavior is to cut off the old patterns and replace them with new ones. Then those negative grooves that were formed will begin to smooth over and we will have replaced an old pattern with a new, healthier one.

In order to start the process of rewiring your brain, you must first be aware to the Shenpa. That involves keying in to the sensations of the body; keeping your experience in the body rather than in the mind. A great way to practice this is through meditation. Sit in a quiet room, close your eyes and focus your attention on your out breath. Breathe naturally and become aware of your exhale breath. Soon your mind will start to drift off, thinking about the chores you have to do, when the kids need to be picked up, what you will have for dinner, etc. When you catch yourself thinking, just return your focus to the breath, in a non judgmental way, and lovingly label your thoughts, “thinking.” With practice you will be able to feel more attuned to your body rather than dwelling in your mind. With this practice you will start to become aware when you are triggered, as it is first felt in the body. You may feel tightness in your gut, or a feeling like you’ve been hit in the chest or throat. Your cheeks might colour or your fists might clench. With awareness practice you will get to know your moment of Shenpa.

Now, let’s come back to the moment of the conversation where you’ve suddenly become aware that you are hooked. You feel that familiar “slap in the face” feeling. You are ready to pounce. You are poised on the precipice of that cliff, where it would feel really good to leap into the chasm of retaliation. Where do you go from here? The answer is, you stay. Yes. You just stay on the edge of that cliff. Your mind will be racing, thinking of all the things you want to say to that person to let them know how they have offended you. You want to fill that space with words, preferably explicatives. But you’ve done that before haven’t you, and did it solve the problem? Did it promote peace and harmony? No, it didn’t.

The key to uncoiling from your ready-to-pounce state is to slow the mind. This can be accomplished by first slowing the body. Focus on your breath. With the out breath, breathe out the ill feelings, let them purge from your soul. Take in the clean, pure air and let it fill up the aching spot. Slow the mind down. It wants to talk a mile a minute. It wants to hold forth, defend, defame, maybe yell, break down or lament “it’s not fair!” Stay present with your self. Stay in the body, slow it down. Think of your brain like a giant sieve about to strain crushed fruit for its concentrated life-giving nectar. At the top of the sieve lies all the detritus; the peels, the seeds and all the other inedible parts that will spoil the nectar. These represent the hurtful words that are circulating your mind. These words could be intended for your partner, such as “What a jerk, I can’t believe he’s being such a prick again!” “He always thinks he’s so right.” “Who does he think he is anyway?” Or they could be aimed inwardly, “I guess I’m stupid.” This just proves I’m unlovable.” Or whatever it is we tell ourselves. Now, imagine that the nectar of truth is filtering down through the muck. Those distorted thoughts get left in your mind, while you allow the truth to drip down. You soften your thoughts and turn them into softer words. “You jerk! You are hurting me on purpose;” becomes “I’m feeling that your comment was unfair.” Keep breathing and filtering the nectar. What is the truth of what you wish to say? What is the heart of it? Soon it becomes “I’m having difficulty with the conversation. I feel some hurt bubble up and I don’t know what to say. I feel I might say something hurtful. Can we pause for a minute and slow down and catch our breaths?”

Asking your partner for a pause break is one of the best things you can do to derail the situation. If you put forth the request in a non judgmental way, it can evoke compassion in your partner. You can agree to return to the topic at a later time or just spend a few moments together in mutual silence. When you choose to do that, you can tap into the other person’s basic goodness. Try to imagine you are them. Have you ever felt how they do? What were your feelings at that time? Try to picture that you are the one having the issue they seem to be having with you? We are All ONE and it is not hard to imagine the basic human emotions of jealousy, self consciousness, doubt, unworthiness, fear and hurt that drive the Shenpa. You can spiritually connect with your partner if you realize that you are both caught in the hook; that you are staring into the eyes of someone who, right at the moment is going through the exact same phenomenon as you are. They feel the same punch in the stomach feeling as you, the same fears and doubts. Then you can extend compassion to your partner knowing that you are actually experiencing a state of Oneness as opposed to a duality.

Armed with the tools of slowness of mind, cleansing breaths, filtered and purified speech and a feeling of compassion and Oneness, you can then return to the topic of conversation with a renewed vision. It now becomes amazingly easy to reconcile and raise each other up.

This process takes a lot of practice before you become skilled at effective communication and problem solving, but with patience you will start to see improvements. Those deep grooves will start to lessen and you will form new, healthier patterns and your relationships will begin to improve. Don’t expect to get rid of the Shenpa. It is a part of life and a part of who we are, but we can experience it, and yet not let it hold a power over us. With patience and practice we can tame this pouncing lion.