9-3 The Kingdom of Heaven

Rifkin Reading:

1. “One can also empathize with another’s joy” (Rifkin 178).

I had to read this sentence twice when I first read it, because even though I understood what it was saying, I felt a distinct distance to it. Every time I think of “empathy,” I consider it in relation to suffering or hardship, perhaps due the word’s popular use in society in conjunction with pain. A part of me wonders if this connection stems from Clinton’s popularization of the phrase “I feel your pain” or instead from our competitive society in which we are constantly comparing ourselves/compared to one another. In such a society, are we subconsciously resistant to feeling another’s joy because we are jealous of their joy? Perhaps that’s too cynical.

2. “New teaching models designed to transform education from a competitive contest to a collaborative learning experience are emerging as schools attempt to catch up to a generation that has grown up on the internet and is used to interacting and learning in open social networks where they share information rather than hoard it” (Rifkin 179).

Coming from a small private school where competition ran wild among AP classes, I would love for schools to cultivate a collaborative learning environment. However, I fail to see how this really connects to a generation which “collaborates” on the Internet, as the internet is just another form of potential competition concerning who has the funniest Twitter post, the prettiest Instagram photo, or the best news on Facebook. At the same time, such mediums have the greatest chance of reaching a wide audience, potentially expanding the possibility for empathy. For example, the KickStarter website allows people to promote their ideas, projects, or needs and ask for donations.


Tolle Reading:

3. “On the surface, acceptance looks like a passive state, but in reality it is active and creative because it brings something entirely new into this world. That peace, that subtle energy vibration, is consciousness, and one of the ways in which it enters this world is through surrendered action, one aspect of which is acceptance” (226).

I never thought of acceptance as something active, but in Tolle’s explanation, I see how one can choose to accept something, thus achieving peace, rather than perpetuating negative thoughts. I wonder, however, if there is a time frame to such acceptance. While I can foresee myself entering a state of acceptance concerning a tire change, I question whether I can achieve similar acceptance concerning a bad job choice.

4. “The ‘waiting to start living’ syndrome is one of the most common delusions of the unconscious state” (226).

In the context of short and long time spans, I have suffered under this syndrome. Throughout the week, I often tell myself I can enjoy myself (I can fully live) on the weekends when I don’t have school. At the same time, I tell myself that after I graduate college and find a good job, I can truly live, for I’ll have the money and time to do so. It can be difficult to be in the present moment, to acknowledge that you are living right now, when “right now” is doing homework. I think such difficulty arises from my inflated notions of what it means to live and enjoy myself, as they usually revolve around financial and emotional security. In high school, I had a religion teacher who each day asked us to sit still for five minutes and acknowledge our physical and mental place in the space we currently inhabited. While I haven’t done this practice in years, I think Tolle would approve.

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9-1 Emotive Ethics and Literary Criticism

1. “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” (96).

When I came upon this quote, I was struck by its obvious brilliance. However, despite how logical the principle may seem, I know that I have violated it in the past. Since we often believe that our own ideas, thoughts, and methods are correct, we feel that being understood is the first thing that must be done. After all, we need to enlighten the ignorant among us, right? However, in letting others express their ideas first, we stand a greater chance of proving the validity of our ideas by countering theirs or of actually learning that perhaps their ways/ideas are better.

2. “As we apply brain dominance theory to the three essential roles or organizations, we see that the manager’s role primarily would be left brain and the leader’s role right brain.… Accordingly, my suggestion is this: Manage from the left, lead from the right” (102).

I’m curious as to whether there can be a single individual who possesses the ability to flow between his “left and right brain,” depending on what the situation requires. I wonder if Covey would view the ideal situation to be one individual who has master over both halves or two individuals (one who is more left brain orientated, one more right brain oriented) who work together in harmony.

Potential Answer: After reading Goleman, I get the impression that he believes one individual can both manage and lead successfully when he comments, “Gifted leadership occurs where heart and head – feeling and thought – meet. These are the two wings that allow a leader to soar” (116).

3. “[The four dimensions] also represent the four basic needs and motivations of all people illustrated in the film in the first chapter: to live (survival), to love (relationships), to learn (growth and development), and to leave a legacy (meaning and contribution)” (105).

As these needs coincide with the four universal dimensions of life (body, heart, mind, and spirit), it’s interesting to note that the spirit guides the preceding three, body, heart, and mind. Our desire to leave a legacy spurs our survival, derives from our relationships, and increases with our intellectual growth.

4. “Conscience transforms passion into compassion” (111).

By having a moral compass guide your passion, you are able to give it deeper meaning and power. For example, I may have a passion for reading, but it isn’t until I apply my conscience and consider what good can come from my passion (i.e. teaching others), that I can achieve compassion, an essential ingredient for obtaining a spiritual legacy.

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5. “The trigger point for these compelling emotions is the amygdala…The prefrontal area can veto an emotional impulse – and so ensure that our response will be more effective…Without that veto, the result would be an emotional hijack, where the amygdala’s impulse is acted upon” (117).

I was very interested in learning about the neurological background behind our expression of emotions. The brain’s ability to “veto” impractical or reactionary impulses reminded me of Luther, President Obama’s anger translator, whose aggressive emotional reactions contrast with Obama’s general calm demeanor. Originating from a comedy sketch performed by Key and Peele, the character of Luther appeared at the 2015 White House Correspondents Dinner during President Obama’s speech. While the character of Luther, who obviously lacks the prefrontal area with veto power, is wildly humorous, we certainly wouldn’t want such an individual to be president. The ability to control your emotions and not give in to your amygdala’s reactionary triggers serves as an ideal trait for a leader.

President Obama, Anger Translator in White House Correspondents Dinner 2015 Speech  Full Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpX1bsihugY
President Obama, Anger Translator in White House Correspondents Dinner 2015 Speech
Full Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpX1bsihugY

6. “But circuits from the limbic brain to the prefrontal lobes mean that the signals of strong emotion – anxiety, anger, and the like – can create neural static, sabotaging the ability of the prefrontal lobe to maintain working memory” (123).

In my own life, I’ve often encountered this concept of “neural static,” generally when I’m panicking after having procrastinated on my studies. With an assignment due the next day, I become full of anxiety; however, it is not until I calm myself down by breathing or taking a walk that I can actually complete the assignment.

7. “The emotions, then, matter for rationality. In the dance of feeling and thought the emotional faculty guides our moment-to-moment decisions, working hand-in-hand with the rational mind, enabling – or disabling – thought itself” (124).

Goleman’s emphasis on the close relationship between emotion and rationality dispels the illusion that in order to be rational, one must remove their emotions from the equation. The fact that emotions guide rationality harkens back to Covey’s idea of the interdependent relationships that constitute society. In other words, whether in relation to the elements of one’s mind or to the individuals of society, one most often achieves greatest success when working in tandem with others.