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MAYBE not - “American Culture in its Present form is Problematic,” by Andrew Schatkin

There was a time when poets such as Shelley, Byron, Tennyson, and Browning had a wide audience in the English-speaking world. John Stuart Mill, an English 19th century philosopher, had a wide intellectual impact on the English-speaking world and was even in the House of Commons at one point. In short, writers, poets, and philosophers at one time generated great respect and a substantial public following. Even in the 20th century, philosophers such as John Dewey and Bertrand Russell had a great public impact. There persons were in some ways the celebrities of their time.

It is apparent that times have altered and changed and one may wonder if the change has been for the good. American society has admiration for and sets up on a pedestal the wealthy, the rich and the famous. For some time now, it has been pounded into the psyche and minds of the American public that persons with wealth, notoriety, and celebrity fame are the ones to whom we should look up. Images of the rich and famous are constantly flashed for us by way of television, images, computer images and the silver screen. The American public has been propagandized into believing that the rich and famous are the persons to be admired and respected. This is absolutely ridiculous. In our society, little respect is given to intellectual activity whether scientific or otherwise. The American people are told to respect money and success.

In the early 20th century, Albert Schweitzer left his post in France to serve, for no money reward, African natives in what was then French Africa. He did so because of his Christian commitment to alleviate suffering. It is possible that in today's world he would be ignored and the public eye would be focused on former Mayor Bloomberg and Mitt Romney. For every rich and famous celebrity, there is a humble doctor saving lives, a farmer raising food for the world, and, one may hope, a lawyer bringing some form of justice to his clients. For every celebrity and for every one of the rich and famous whose images appear on television and newspapers, there is a mission post throughout the world in which believing Christian render free medical care and establish free schooling for persons too poor to get that help. One may conclude that being rich and famous does not mean a great deal.

Thus I suggest that American culture, which elevates fame, money, and riches, is a poor culture. There is no respect in America for a great writer who earns no money. There is a great respect for sports figures and actors and actresses because, in American society, success is the benchmark and keystone. How one dresses, for an American, defines that person.

In my opinion, American culture is shallow and deficient in its thrust and meaning. Culture should be defined by artistic, intellectual, scientific and literary contributions, and not by wealth appearance, looks, or the images of success that the media impose on the American public and propagandize into believing their validity and Truth.

Times change. In the 4th century A.D., wealthy people went into the desert of Egypt to find Christ. In today's world, people seek to find what they wish will define themselves in their Lexus or their house in the Hamptons or their penthouse on Park Avenue. It remains to be seen where the truth lies. One may only say that a Galilean peasant 2000 years ago founded a movement that is followed by two billion people today. One may wonder whether the wealth and success that American pop culture idolizes will last beyond the deaths of the persons who have presented to us in their lifetimes images that are fictional and false and have no truth.

Educational and Business Consultant, Writer, Speaker, and Teacher. He is the author of five book chapter in the areas of Evidence, Criminal Law, and Family Law.

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Endings may not be so easy, but they are not optional in this life. There comes a time when a certain activity must be let go. Or a time when a relationship truly needs to end or, at least, change form. The art is knowing when this time comes, and paying close attention to your true inner feelings, rather than your ego, your pride, or the mental image of yourself.

A few weeks ago, Joyce and I, our daughter, Rami, her eight-year-old son, Skye, and our son, John-Nuri, spent four days rafting the Rogue River in southern Oregon. There is one rapid, Rainie Falls, that is a true class five rapid. There is an option that is a bit easier, a man-made fish ladder that takes you around the more difficult falls. This is the way I usually go when alone on the trip with Joyce. Rami, however, is often up for the challenge of running the main falls. On the previous year’s trip, with Rami at the oars in the back of the raft, and John-Nuri and me paddling in the front, I got ejected from the raft, and had to swim through the turbulence to the shore. It wasn’t fun! Then we walked back up river and took a second raft down the falls. This time, when we took the final plunge, I stopped paddling and held on to the raft, which kept me in the boat.

This year, I felt a hesitation when Rami announced, after scouting the rapid, that she would like to try the main falls once again. But I pushed past any trepidation, and ignored Joyce’s premonition. I agreed to participate in this adventure once more. We hiked upriver to our three rafts, and got settled into the one empty boat. In case we flipped over, we didn’t want the extra weight of gear, which would have to be removed underwater before we could flip the raft right side up.

Before leaving shore, we asked the angels to watch over us, and grant us safe passage. This is an important ritual that we do before every challenging rapid (or challenging event in our lives). Then we shoved off and slowly approached the main falls, and the deep booming roar of water flowing at 1600 cubic feet per second, and the spray of mist rising into the air. Rami called for John-Nuri and me to paddle hard to build up momentum, and then we took the plunge. As we fell toward the turbulent pool, I stopped paddling and grabbed hold of a line on the raft to keep me in the boat. We hit the water like a spear, diving deeply straight in. Even under water, with tremendous hydraulic forces pushing me around like I was in a giant washing machine, I clung to the raft.

Then we popped backwards out of the river but, with the stalled momentum, we were at the mercy of the roiling mass of turbulence which launched the raft onto its side, threatening to flip it over. It was like riding a bucking bronco that felt like it was jumping up into the air and would momentarily land on its back, which would not be healthy for the rider. I finally let go, entered the water, and got sucked down into the maelstrom.

I have learned not to panic in these situations. That only depletes your oxygen more quickly. I held my breath, took some strokes toward the surface which seemed to do no good, and waited for the river to release me, and for my life jacket to do its job. After an eternity, perhaps 10-15 seconds, my head broke the surface and I gulped precious air.

And yes, this is also “show and tell.” Someone actually took a two and a half minute video in slow motion of the whole fiasco, which you can view here:

You can see Rami searching for me while I was underwater.

Have I learned my lesson? Yes, I’m officially finished with running the main Rainie Falls. I have nothing more to prove. It is a clear ending for me. I’m happy to sneak down the fish ladder. I’m no longer motivated by adrenaline.

Other endings are not so clear or easy. Jogging was not so easy to let go. I used to love to jog for exercise, but my knees eventually let me know that they were unhappy with this form of exercise. With my knee replacement, I can hike to my heart’s content, but not jog.

Then there’s non-physical letting go. Friendships, for example. Joyce and I both get attached to our friends. Of course it’s more than attachment. It’s love. So when things get hard, or feelings get hurt, we naturally want to work it out as fast as we can, to get back to love. This is what we do in our own relationship. But it doesn’t always work with other people. Not everybody wants to do the hard work of relationship. We still call them friends, but have had to patiently wait for them to be ready to come to the table and work things out. Some have not, even after many years. It’s definitely sad and painful for us.

Separation and divorce can be quite difficult. It can feel like the end of a dream. Joyce and I are committed to help couples do everything they can to prevent this ending. Often, relationships can be saved by learning new tools. But still, relationship endings may be necessary. There are three big reasons to end a relationship: abuse, whether physical or emotional; addiction that is not being addressed; and one or both partners not willing to take responsibility for their part of the equation, or not willing to get the help that is needed. For more on taking responsibility, read this article: https://sharedheart.org/the-shiny-pen-taking-responsibility-in-relationship/

We love our work with groups. Our workshops and retreats. We used to travel several weekends a month by car or plane. It’s no longer easy for us to do this. We’ve had to let go of much of the travel. On the plus side, we are doing more and more at our own home and center, which is very gratifying.

Is there something in your life that no longer serves you? Is there an ending needed? Have the courage to admit the truth – and then take action.

By the way, I hope to raft rivers for many more years. They just might have to get easier and easier.

Here are a few opportunities to bring more love and growth into your life, at the following longer events led by Barry and Joyce Vissell:

Sep 24-30, 2019 — Assisi Retreat, Italy

Feb 11-16, 2020 — The Couples Journey, Aptos

Jun 7-14, 2020 — Shared Heart Alaska Cruise, leaving from Seattle

Jul 19-24, 2020 — Shared Heart Summer Retreat at Breitenbush Hot Springs, OR

Joyce & Barry Vissell, a nurse/therapist and psychiatrist couple since 1964, are counselors near Santa Cruz, CA, who are widely regarded as among the world's top experts on conscious relationship and personal growth. They are the authors of eight books, including two new books, To Really Love a Woman and To Really Love a Man.

Call 831-684-2299 for further information on counseling sessions by phone or in person, their books, recordings or their schedule of talks and workshops. Visit their web site at SharedHeart.org for their free monthly e-heartletter, their updated schedule, and inspiring past articles on many topics about relationship and living from the heart.

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