While I've been basically housebound, I've been reading an interesting book. It is "My Stroke of Insight" by Jill Bolte Taylor.
What I found so interesting is the way Dr. Taylor spells out exactly the way our brain works and the differences between the left hemisphere and the right hemisphere. She describes what it is like to have a stroke that basically knocked her left brain out of commission. The left brain is the logical, detail-oriented, factual side of the brain.
The right brain uses feelings, intuition, is "big picture" oriented and receives information in symbols and images.
I am right-brain dominant. Obviously. But I still love science.
(If you're not sure whether you are right- or left-brain dominant, you can take this little test. )
As I was reading her book which is a chronicle of her experience as she lived almost totally in her right hemisphere and how her perceptions changed as she regained left brain function, I was thinking about all sorts of possibilities.
What if left brain or right brain dominance is influenced by culture and education? Or perhaps we are born with a certain inclination and that is why some of us truly struggle with our environments. There are a thousand different ways to look at this. The rationalist view would probably suppose that we are merely slaves to our biology. (Of course, I don't believe that.)
This book will make you think about many new things.
If you'd prefer to not read the book, (even though it's really short at 180 pages and I highly recommend it), you can watch this video and get a synopsis.
All in all, truly fascinating stuff. We really are amazing creatures when you think about it.
Let me know what you think. :)
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Monday, May 26, 2008
Thanks to everyone for the suggestions on dealing with this.... "stuff"... on my face.
I can't stand people who go into graphic details about their medical issues and I'm not going to be one of them. Let it suffice to say that I should only go out with a bag over my head. (Instead I'll settle for a wide-brim hat and sunglasses.) Sores are ugly. There's no getting around that. If I saw me in public, I'd wonder. The first few times I went out, I got a variety of questions, most people wondering if I'd been beaten up or been in an accident. That got me to thinking about the way we react when we see someone who is disfigured. In my case, scabs and a swollen eyelid.
Human beings are attracted to beauty by nature, even though our definitions might be different.
Maybe we become shocked by the potential of our body's rebellion, its ability to create such ugliness.
Maybe we're just afraid of what we don't know. It could be contagious.
So.. What do you think when you see someone in public who has obvious facial disfigurement?
The only significant outing I've had this weekend was a meeting at the wat that couldn't be avoided. I've sort of ended up on "the committee", the group of people who are actively involved with running the place. I don't "run" anything, of course, and don't have that aspiration but do believe that if I am going to go there, I have an obligation to be of service. The president of the wat calls me the "public relations person."
An ego title. Fundamentally meaningless. All it means to me is that I can make sure questions are answered, ads are placed for events, return phone calls, contact media when necessary, manage the website, update the blog - because I am retired and have the time. Most of the people work full-time. I think it's important to have those things done in a timely way. Some of you might remember how I reacted and the impression it left on me when my own email went unanswered for a long period of time. Not good. It doesn't show good faith - and this allows me to do something beyond complaining about it.
I made it clear to her that I am happy to do the work but don't care much about titles. It strikes me as rather odd to give people "titles" at a Buddhist wat, which is basically the same as a church. The idea of people behaving as though it is a corporate workplace is beyond my comprehension. During my two hours out there on Saturday afternoon, several people took me aside and told me about this one or that, why I should trust this one or that one ~ this one has a pure heart and that one doesn't.
I listened, even though it was a temptation to ignore all of it. I have an aversion to anything that smacks of group dynamics and competition within a group. Some of it may be valid enough and will explain certain things, like why one woman gave me stink eyes through the entire meeting. (In my opinion, it was purely racist since I was the only non-Asian in the place.) I'll do my best to try to avoid any kind of factionalizing because I honestly believe it has no place on holy ground. If I was Christian, I'd say it's like spitting in Christ's eye. The wat isn't a corporate workplace. It's a place for the practice of spirituality. That should be the one place we put all the ego crap aside and simply do the best we can to keep the place running well and that people are getting what they need.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Saturday, it was very hot here. Over 100 degrees if I recall correctly. Most of the day, my friend and I were out at the wat. Ordinarily, I don't go out on really hot days but this was necessary for a very particular reason so I made an exception.
We finished up what we were doing and decided to go to her apartment to pick up a few things.
Her car was so hot inside, we could have baked a cake!
Her visor was broken.
Basically, that means we were exposed to direct, unfiltered sunlight during the entire drive - to the wat, back from the wat, to her apartment and then to my house ~ all of which are at opposite ends of the city. She is more olive skinned and it didn't bother her. I am a very fair, blue-eyed blonde. It bothered me a lot.
I had no idea at the time that I'd damaged my skin. The entire right side of my face is covered with blistering welts. I'm also still nauseous and drained. At first, I thought I had shingles. The welts began to appear on Monday and are only beginning to look and feel better on Wednesday evening. They're not as red and angry. Now they're pink and obviously healing.
Did I mention I'm still sick though? Still tired. Still have a "run down" feeling?
I hate to think of what I actually did to my body. Thankfully, I don't know all the implications. But I suspect I might has well have jumped in the microwave.
All this to say - use sun screen or some natural concoction to avoid this. Or stay inside.
It's not fun. : )
Monday, May 19, 2008
This morning as I perused the Internet, I found this article. It seemed to me that the writer was stating the obvious.
The article says, in part:
FRANKFURT, Germany, May 16 (UPI) -- A German scientist has proved that people forced to smile and take on-the-job insults suffer more and longer-lasting stress that may harm their health.
Dieter Zapf of the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt studied 4,000 volunteers working in a fake call center. Half were allowed to respond in kind to abuse on the other end of the line while the other half had to suck it up, The Telegraph reports.
Back in the day, when I used to work at an IT Help Desk, the pressure put on all of us to be constantly nice regardless of the behavior of the person on the other end was intense. I recall at one point the supervisors putting a mirror in our cubicles, telling us that we should use them to make sure we were "smiling" because "the customer can hear it in your voices."
My immediate reaction was to take it down and toss it in a drawer because when all is said and done, I do not suffer fools gladly.
The emphasis on this constant faux cheeriness was relentless. There were meetings about it. There were emails about it. They brought in professional corporate trainers to drive home the point that we were merely service objects and should not express any emotion at all.
It began to feel like emotional prostitution. I and my coworkers were IT professionals, not telemarketers. Just the same, we were told that no matter how we were treated, that we should not show our frustration or unhappiness with being talked to in such a manner.
I'm not advocating being rude. At the same time, I can not abide the idea of anyone having to take abuse in order to earn money.
The article continues:
He found that those able to answer back had a brief increase in heart rate. Those who could not had stress symptoms that lasted much longer.
"Every time a person is forced to repress his true feelings there are negative consequences," Zapf said. "We are all able to rein in our emotions but it becomes difficult to do this over a protracted period."
Well, duh! No one is suggesting that customers and representatives get into screaming matches or begin calling each other names and verbally brawling. It only seems to be common sense that emotional prostitution would have negative health consequences.
The solution? According to the article:
In an interview with the German healthcare magazine Apotheken Umschau, Zapf suggested that people who must keep smiling on the job should get regular breaks to let it out.
Wrong. The solution is to make a simple statement. "When you are able to discuss this in a calm and respectful manner, please call back. I'm sure someone will be happy to help you."
What do you think?
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Yesterday was not a good day around here. While I try to avoid bringing that kind of stuff to this site, it holds a larger message.
Charles Eisenstein writes about "The Age of Control", the inherent belief that we have the right to control everything, that nothing should ever inconvenience us or irritate us. It's an extension of the belief that we are separate from nature and that means we have a right to control it for our convenience and benefit. That's the larger picture.
In the small frame, yesterday provided me with a lesson about control. Here's just an overview of what occurred around here.
1) My email was broken all day. Couldn't get my mail to work so I had to spend all my time tracking and trying to make sure things got where they were supposed to go. For the most part, nothing went where it was supposed to go which means I had to keep trying and trying again, only to find out wires were still crossed.
2) Some strange guy came in off the street and for a fleeting moment, I believed we were experiencing a home invasion. The guy finally left and we're okay.
3) Thieves came by during the night and stole two huge potted plants from the front of the house. My housemate was bereft and complaining all day
4) My housemate called her son and discovered he is drinking again. He was drunk by 9.00 a.m.
5) For some unfathomable reason, my housemate believes that I want to hear all about it ~ and not only that, I am supposed to come up with answers to her questions,
6) I could not do one thing without her interrupting me which occurs a lot. One day I counted how many times she interrupts me in a day and it was nearly 20. It doesn't matter if I am reading, on the Internet, gardening or anything else. If I'm present, I am interruptible.
7) One of my housemate's son's friends decided that I needed to be his counselor. I was sitting in the back yard with a book and he interrupted me to tell me all of his issues with women. Every other word started with an 'eff' or "em eff". He told me that when he takes out women, he expects them to "give it up" right away before he takes them out so that he'll know it's "worth my time". Needless to say, he got a severe talking-to from me. I'm at least 20 years older than him and I talked to him as though I am 20 years older than him.
All of these things combined caused me to have something I haven't had in a long time - and that is a panic attack. My head began to pound and the shaking started. The chest pains started. I was short of breath. I really thought my head was going to explode. I couldn't take one. more. thing. No more chaos. No more negativity. No more whining from my housemate. No more frustration from the email. Seriously. I was at the end of my personal rope and there was nothing left to tie a knot.
But... all boiled down.. it was me trying to control my environment. I so needed to control it that I went into my room and shut the door for the remainder of the day. I didn't check my email or talk to anyone in the house.
I needed.. that control.
Somehow I need to learn to roll with these things a bit more - to not get so upset that I am having physical reactions to it.
I'd be curious to hear your thoughts about control... and how much you deal with frustration. It seems to be the weakest link in my personal chain. Frustration.. and my life is, if nothing else, rather consistently frustrating.
So... that's what I'd like to discuss for the weekend. (I will not be posting again until next week.) What are your thoughts on coping with frustration?
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
This week's Wellness Wednesday isn't about something I've overcome. It's not about something I've learned.
It's about something I'm learning.
I am in pain. Not excruciating pain. Nothing life-threatening or life-defying. Just a dull ache. It' s a dull ache created by the constant frustration of trying to communicate and of not being heard, of not feeling embraced by the world. It is about separation from my soul's home. It's the kind of pain that sits in the abdominal area and churns. It's the kind of pain that makes me question the purpose of my efforts, the purpose of the things I do to try to break through the invisible barrier that seems to separate me from others. I've "done" all the things I know how to do to "fix" it. I'm weary of the effort, of the disappointment, of the genuine absence of the kind of connections I need here and now.
I don't want to be separate anymore - but it can't be "fixed". It's not something that can be immediately alleviated so that I'll be comfortable again. I need to walk through this, wherever it leads.
I have to let go of "trying".
Which brings me to the topic of this post. We've been trained since infancy to believe we shouldn't feel pain, that it should be banished at all costs, no matter what we have to do.
Heaven forbid we should ever be uncomfortable.
We've been fed a pack of lies. The cultural belief (the ultimate dictator) is that pain should be completely eliminated. We go to a doctor to get a pill. We take a drink. We smoke some weed. We go find a temporary sex partner. We watch more TV. We have a right to have it numbed. It leads us to resist the pain when it's present which makes it more intense. But the truth is that pain is unavoidable. Just the process of being born into this world automatically means we will be in pain. There's loss. We get old and sick. We die. People can be disappointing. This is reality.
I think the real suffering comes when we don't allow ourselves to feel the pain, to be with it, to demystify it, when we resist it. We resist it, become resentful and see ourselves as victims.
It's gotten to a stage where most people don't entirely understand the difference between pain and suffering. I am in pain right now. I am not suffering. Suffering comes from the resistance, not from the pain itself.
Perhaps the real objective in experiencing pain is to use the pain as a healer. A true healer doesn't merely eliminate the uncomfortable feelings. He, she or it teaches us how to feel alive with all of our feelings, not just the good ones. We need to let it hurt, see where it leads us and know the sensation is merely a sensation. We won't die if we feel pain. We very well might if we don't allow it.
The point is to come to the full realization that true health means we do feel that aliveness, in pleasure or in pain. Our pain is real and I'm not the sort who will tell anyone that everything is really okay, it's going to be okay - that there will be a happy ending.
The separation from others most of us feel is very real. And it's as bad as we all think it is ~ in fact, it's probably worse.
At the same time, all is well. This is a path we have to experience in order to understand that we are creating it with our choices. We are creating it with false beliefs. If anything, the pain will help us to begin making different choices. At that point, we will all begin to heal.
I didn't know I had it in me.
When I read all the posts last night about Aaron McCreador, I reacted rather strongly. It was from the gut. From the core.
It's an interesting dynamic that takes place when we care about something to that degree, the way I care about that place and what I've found there. We become protective. We don't want to see harm come to its door.
New for me. That's not something I've experienced before. I like it though. I like the way it feels.
Posted by thailandchani at 8:00 AM
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
This won't happen here very often but I really need to bring this to the attention of those who read this site and those who may find me through a Google search.
It is not often that I will publicly bring someone to attention. This person has been mentioned on two other blogs and that is how I found out about him.
There is only one word for this man and it is outside the language bounds of this particular blog. Suffice it to say it is a slang term for a bodily orifice that is located in the rear end of most human beings and animals. In fact, that word isn't strong enough. I could think of many more but out of consideration for my readers, I'll leave it to your own imaginations.
For more details on this story, please visit here or here. Both Matt and Tatt2dude have done a good job of providing the basics on the activities of Aaron McCreanor. I just have a few things to say that they have not.
So that you will know what I am talking about, I will quote Tatt2Dude:
Aaron McCreanor is a regular visitor to Thailand. He has a web site and also produces videos of his adventures. Where Aaron differs from many tourists is that he takes pleasure in meeting girls and talking them into having his name tattooed on them whilst filming them being tattooed, at the same time he makes jokes about them out of earshot on his video. He then posts these videos to his website and You Tube. (Video web address and bebo web address)...
I made the mistake of watching the video and was appalled by the callous disregard for two other human beings, even though he thinks they are nothing more than "Thai hoes", undeserving of common human decency.
He laughs and giggles through the entire thing like a 14-year-old boy in the locker room, as though what he was doing was funny, manipulating these women into getting his name tattooed on their bodies. They weren't real people after all. Like most people of his ilk, he sees them as little more than objects who exist for his pleasure.
He takes a great deal of pride in the fact that he will return and continue with these activities.
As we all know, Thailand has a reputation for its s*x industry. There are many reasons why it exists and not the least of it is the plethora of western men who flock there because they believe it is nothing more than their personal playground, nothing more than a place to find cheap rent, cheap booze and cheap s*x.
It is reprehensible and someone has to do something about it. Someone has to take a stand. I'll probably end up being blocked by the Thai government for saying this but.. say it, I will!
It is the responsibility of the Thai government to monitor these men and kick them out of the country. It has a duty to protect its own citizens. There is no way Aaron McCreanor should ever get another entrance visa.
If the situation is ever going to change or improve, someone has to do something. The Thai government has done nothing. They turn a blind eye to these men because they bring money. They allow the exploitation of their own citizens to rake in western mammon. Shame on the government! Shame on them for making it bloody hard for decent people to get a retirement visa but continue to give visas to these young men who have no other goal than to turn the entire country into a tawdry playground.
Deny his next request for a visa. Persona non gratis. Perhaps then people will take the government seriously when they say they want to change Thailand's image.
And you, Aaron McCreanor, are either the maddest person I've ever read about - or you have no concept of acceptable human behavior ~ the latter making you a sociopath.
(Aaron, don't bother leaving your illegible comments all written in weird texting language because I will only delete them. You have no voice here.)
As for the rest of you reading, do you agree that such people should not be allowed in the country? Do you think any person who has shown themselves to be of low character should be kicked out of any country? At what point has someone forfeited his or her right to visit a foreign country?
Monday, May 12, 2008
Recently, I've heard a lot of workplace horror stories. It seems most of these stories are a result of rather barbaric people who so strongly believe in scarcity that they will intentionally do harm to those around them to assure their own security.
They will lie, cheat and backstab in order to secure their own positions, even if it is at someone else's expense. And if that's not bad enough, they are typically rewarded for it through promotions.
The fact that I can't be exposed to those environments is no secret. It literally makes me heart sick. It goes beyond not liking it. It goes beyond finding it distasteful. It is one of the things that can cause me to become enraged.
The idea that people must compete with others to have the right to feed their families is something I will never be able to reconcile. It won't even process through my synapses. I doubt there is anything anyone could say that would change my mind about the amorality of it. My mind is closed like a steel trap.
There are certain things that should be certain for us - for all of us. Affordable housing, an education, health care and a job. That's really not much to ask. It's basic personal maintenance.
Shouldn't we be able to offer that as a humane community? It seems to me that it should be a basic rule in the social contract.
What say you? Do you agree with my fundamental position? If not, why not?
I'm not looking to argue with those who disagree. I will thank you in advance for sharing with me. I'm just curious to discuss this.
I promise to be respectful. :)
Friday, May 09, 2008
Many thanks to everyone who weighed in on my last question.
It was a dilemma of sorts because, on one hand, I really need to know when it is time to set boundaries on other people ~ and how. At what point do I have the right to say "no more"? How much do I contribute to separation by allowing my ego to demand certain things of others? Decency, of course. Kindness is what I choose in my friendships and I am drawn to people who are kind. I don't care for inconsiderate, careless or thoughtless people. That's not ego. That's simply respect for my own existence. Being a person of grace doesn't mean that we become doormats for everyone else's bad behavior.
In the case of my mother, I have forgiven her. At the same time, I don't sanction her behavior. I don't choose to have a relationship with her. She may have grown a lot in the past 20 years which is the approximate length of our estrangement. What I do know is that she has never approached me.
I behaved similarly for many years. I was a rather heartless person and didn't show much compassion for other people. That was a direct result of my mother's modeling.
She cost me a lot of years because I didn't know any better. It cost me many years that I could have spent in community and didn't because I was such an unappealing person.
The cycle has to end somewhere. We can show compassion to another person without becoming emotionally involved in the outcome. We can do it without becoming attached. If we know that some action will deliberately hurt someone else, then we contribute to the suffering of all of us.
I will acknowledge her in the same way I would acknowledge any other woman who is a mother. It is not my job to be judge and jury, condemning her to something that I know would be hurtful and damaging not only to her but to the whole human community. That isn't balancing the scales. That's punishment.
She will get an email from me. Basically it will say something like "thinking of you". Nothing more. Nothing less. In that simple gesture, I know I am doing the best I can with a very difficult situation. While I can't be hypocritical and express feelings that are not genuine, I can wish her peace. I wish that for everyone.
Monday, May 05, 2008
I have a question for all of you, something I've been grappling with intermittently over the past few weeks.
Anyone who has been reading here knows I do not have a relationship with my mother and why. For those who don't yet know, I'll simply say that my mother was my primary abuser growing up. No need to go into all the details any longer. I no longer have any need or desire to wade through that stygian marsh.
Mothers Day, whether here or in Thailand, is a designated day to honor our mothers. The rituals are different but setting the cultural practices aside, what do you believe is a son's or daughter's obligation to honor his or her mother?
I went through the cards yesterday at Target, trying to find one that would be even remotely appropriate (something like "thank you for giving me life"), just in case I decide to do what my spiritual practice encourages. There was not a single card that felt "real" to me and I didn't buy anything.
The position of my practice is basically that we can always find something to be thankful for. In general, I agree with that. I can thank my mother for giving birth to me and that's authentic enough. Let's face it, I wouldn't be here if she hadn't carried me for nine months.
Being somewhat of a purist, I insist on authenticity. I can not send that woman a sentimental card that says how wonderful she is or that she was always "there" for me. She isn't and she hasn't. This isn't meant to be a slight to her. In this case, it's all about me. It's not about her. But the fact remains that she's getting old and probably only has a few years left to live. Looking at it from that perspective, if my taking the minor action that her culture values (sending a card), perhaps it will help her pass away in peace. When all is said and done, she knows she screwed up. I forgive her but I do not trust her enough to have a relationship with her.
So.. what do you think? Do you believe we have an obligation to honor parents who were abusive? Do you think we should stretch ourselves far enough to find something to thank them for ~ or is it better to just let it go?
(I'll tell you my conclusions before I post next time. :)
Saturday, May 03, 2008
Putting it into this frame, it raises some good points about individuality, how it is defined and how it manifests.
Recognizing how our individuality manifests in community is fairly easy. We come to know that our individual traits become a part of our immediate community and how we contribute. We forge an identity from that. That, in my opinion, is the core of individuality and how we recognize it in ourselves and others. It is how we find meaning.
But there is an external system that leads us to believe that our individuality is dependent on how we stand out, how we can be different than others, how we can create a peak experience. When we can't find that peak experience, we begin to feel we have no purpose.
Charles Eisenstein says it best in the book I've been pushing lately. He says: "The result is that we lack the means to establish a strong identity. No one knows our story. Human beings have always defined themselves in great part through their relationships with others, building a common story defining each of its actors. Now these stories have splintered themselves into tiny four person units [...] Unlike the small village or tribe, where everyone knew your story and you knew everyone else's you had a context to create a solid story of self. Today we interact day-in and day-out with outsiders. We maintain our private lives and know little of the lives of [others]."
This is a result of money-based culture, the commoditization of time and relationships. This isn't just about the little pieces of paper that represent specific amounts of value. It's not about money, per se. It is about monetizing. It is about seeing energy as investment. It is about seeing our lives as increments of time which must be used for production and results. Interaction has become focused on what we can get, what we need and what investment (energy) we must exert to "make our dreams come true."
This attitude causes our interactions to become superficial and hollow. That is what brings about the "Blink" response as we immediately evaluate how an Other may be part of our goal or not part of it. Our limbic instinct for survival and the ability to determine safe from unsafe has become perverted. Individuality is lost in a sea of unrealistic expectations. That, again, makes us question our importance as individuals.
Realistically, in my opinion, until we give up the fantasies of what we should be and what others should be, we'll remain in this position. Nothing will ever be enough. Finding our own individuality starts with accepting others as they are. It comes with accepting that fantasies are fantasies for a reason. It comes with accepting that all of us are fundamentally good beings who are fine, just as we are.
Consumer culture will continue to take something we already have and sell it back to us. It will convince us that fantasies are reality and that if we just own the right things and know the right people, we will achieve the peak experience of "finding ourselves." Just buy my book and I'll hand you the answers on a half shell. But it's a lie. There is no book and the knowledge is free.
We're already found.
We're already valuable.
We're already special. We are special to the people whose lives we touch, however lightly, and we are special because we are human beings with all of our good points, our bad points, our questioning, our inherent desire to share (each in our own way) and our inherent capacity to love.
But we have to learn to frame that differently than the culture has framed it for us.
Am I making some sense here?
(More to come. There's a lot more to peel back on this topic.)
Thursday, May 01, 2008
De asked a really important question in comments on my last post and it's had me thinking all day. She says: Can you address the value of the individual, though? I often feel hopeless, and question the worth of my own life. Is it as straightforward as one's value stemming from being part of the whole, the "divine?"
The answer is yes and no. And not entirely. That's part of it, sure. But the defining difference in my perception is between individuality and individualism.
Individuality is an aggregate of all our traits and characteristics, positive and negative. It is what makes us who we are. It is what we bring to the collective table. It is how we find a place in the social web. Without individuality, there would be no creativity.
When I was in Thailand a few months ago, and when I was there several years ago, one of the things I took note of is how we interacted together. My rather annoying trait of objectively observing social dynamics is rooted in my educational background. It's second nature. Here's what I noted:
We did nearly everything together. We cooked together. We kept the house together. We shopped together. We talked together. We laughed, we bickered and we shared. Perhaps the only thing we did in a totally private setting was make love or defecate. I'm sure you get my point. What I'm saying is that we created together. We didn't create the closeness because we shared our deepest emotional secrets. We created it because we depended on each other daily.
One of the things that became very clear was our individuality. We each had different traits that when combined allowed us to do that. We had to get along. We each had to do our part. We each had to come through and be responsible or the whole thing fell apart. It put boundaries on our behavior. We couldn't just blow something off because we didn't want to be bothered. We couldn't decide at the last minute that we'd rather do something else because we depended on each other. Interdependence.
A more recent example is in my interactions with the wat which I mentioned earlier. We have managed to work things out. One of the ways I knew it had really worked out and that it wasn't just making nice is that I got the following message: FYI - The temple committee is planning another celebration coming up in June. If you're free -- help is always needed. That let me know that I was accepted - as an individual. Mainly because in the process of helping, all the things I mentioned above will apply. I will bring my individuality to that setting and, with others, determine how we'll create together. They are allowing me that much entry into their community.
Our individuality is what allows us to share of ourselves. Without us, the entire dynamic of the group would change.
Individualism on the other hand is defined as A social philosophy which stresses the importance of the individual above society.
Individualism is what separates us. Individualism is what makes us question the value or importance of our own lives. Human beings are social animals and individualism tends to monetize or make all interactions utilitarian. We become consumers rather than participants. Rational self-interest becomes the highest motive in our interactions with others. It causes our relationships to be superficial and then we question our worth. You, De, and I were raised in that kind of social system. A mark of good mental health, according to the PTB in that field, is "knowing how to recognize opportunities and take advantage of them."
Gee, doesn't that just give you the warm fuzzies?
So.. at least in my opinion.. the value of our own lives as individuals has some dependence on what we bring to the table, what we are willing to create with others, simply because we are all on this planet together and we need each other. Not because of advantage and not because of self-interest. Combined individuality is what feeds our souls and makes us whole. That is what makes me honor you and hopefully you to honor me. That is what makes us unique. No other reason. Just that we need each other and give of ourselves freely.
This is Part One of the answer.... with more to come. :)