Culture and Religion

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This collection of topics, a brief view of life, could be used to teach an adolescent the basics about life.


Living in the now is important to finding enlightenment, as well as making the most of life by enjoying each moment. This concept, living in the moment, really should be evident when considering human consciousness.

When awake, our consciousness within our brain is continually dealing with our senses, relating what is being sensed with what has been experienced in the past and was saved in our memory. People innately have social skills, with empathy to sense from another's facial expression or tone of voice different emotions and to provide a basis for grasping to some extent their feelings and motives. We are social beings and in any setting with multiple people our behavior will be affected by those around us.

Everything that a person does over the course of a day is influenced by this environment. Every day brings new challenges different from the previous day because with the variety of people and even changes in weather, no day can be exactly the same as the day before (unless a person remains confined in isolation, which is of course a method of torture since it is against our nature).

When asleep, the brain spends time processing its short term memory and attempts to align those events with other experiences. Recent studies on sleep and dreams have discovered people have different kinds of dreams when in REM sleep or when in non-REM sleep. The dreams are apparently an important part of the memory processing, as 'what if' scenarios are played out within a dream sequence to prepare for future similar scenarios. Even a nightmare might play a scenario creating a sequence where the memory processing conjures alternatives. The entire human body is even equipped to support this REM dreaming activity since the entire body becomes immobile, so a dream's muscle movement (like walking) should not result in actual muscle movement.

The human body and its brain is equipped at birth with these natural processes for managing memory and experiences and dealing with other people. Even babies can interpret social activities around them before they have learned a language, and babies seem to have an inherent capability of grasping a language since the baby begins to learn a language before many of the concepts have been taught.

The human being is well adapted for living in the moment, with our complex brain dealing with the complexity of living in a multiple layered social structure within a wonderful, spontaneous universe, as it gathers details from the five senses (hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste). People have adapted to living in the polar regions, to the deserts, to the tropical jungles, to small atolls, to temperate forests, to flat plains, to mountain terraces. People have learned to farm and domesticate animals, and to hunt and fish, and to gather nearby edible plans so within any environment a stable food supply can be managed.

When in a conversation with another individual, the most effective form of communication is giving that person your undivided attention, and being an active participant in the discussion no matter the topic, even if you are just mostly listening to someone who prefers to do most of the talking. We are all social beings and social interaction with others is always important. When you can sense the other person is giving you their complete attention and respect it is natural to reciprocate that attitude by mutual respect. When with someone else, concentrate on what is being said now and on which emotions are being expressed now. This attitude is certainly not my idea, since it was one of the main points in a popular book from long time ago, How to Win Friends and Influence People, written by Dale Carnegie and first published in 1936.

The course of a human life follows a number of changes involving different challenges along the way, from:

childhood - learning the social and language skills to become part of the social network in the family and beyond, while the body physically matures and the personality emotionally matures,

adolescence - learning the vocational skills for a career and the social skills for dealing with other adults,

adulthood - contributing to the community by providing goods and services,

parenthood - not a required stage, but many will find a partner to share the responsibility for raising a family,

middle age - helping earlier generations where possible,

senior - helping earlier generations though eventually with advancing age this generation needs help and care (just as at the beginning, with infants).

Nothing in life is static. Each person ages each day, just as the weather changes each day with the sun's rise and set, and the seasons change from one to the next. Life is an adventure to be enjoyed, with its variety of challenges to address. Take each day as it comes, enjoying whatever challenges arise rather than dwelling on the past or wasting the day while waiting for some future event.

There are certainly obstacles for continued happiness. When burdened by bad memories too often, that worry and distraction can prevent successfully interacting with the present. Each person will have successes and failures in their life and so it is important to learn from and move beyond those failures. Take on the next challenge right now, to put a failure or setback in the past. Even when finding oneself in a depressed mood, family and friends will usually provide support and encouragement; no one is ever truly when living in a community.

When becoming too concerned with wishing for material possessions that are not owned, those unfulfilled wants and wishes detract from enjoying the possessions that are owned right now. No one can have everything so of course there is always something that a person does not have. As one builds a wish list, that activity only emphasizes the need for what could make the person happier and so of course the person will feel less happy. We live in a consumer society where every business will try to convince the populace they will be happier if they buy a particular good or service. If you are always making a wish list because you don't have everything you want then it becomes impossible to ever be happy right now.

Spending too much time hoping and waiting for some event in the future makes the present less attractive, perhaps even intolerable. Plans for the future are great but their enjoyment will happen when that time arrives, so plan appropriately but get back to living and enjoying what is here and now. If you are always planning for the future then you will be unable to ever fully enjoy anything along the way.

Some religions teach there is a barrier between the person and their environment with the concept of reincarnation or an afterlife. The concept of something outside of the body is a physical separation, as if the person's consciousness is somehow not an integrated part of the brain's activities, and it is temporal separation, as if what I am is not part of right now but is instead something unnatural and eternal. If my life will be only a few years long but then after that I will continue to survive forever (either with no body or in a different body), any significance to anything encountered during this short transient life becomes rather meaningless given that prospect. Certainly there is no accompanying concept in living for the moment, since the daily living just needs to be tolerated until the next phase of this suggested course of life occurs. Reincarnation implies the consciousness can move from body to another body so with this concept one must conclude the consciousness is never actually an integral part of any body along the way; a body less soul in the afterlife presumes no body is even needed. The universe is forever but is constantly changing. If someone suggests there is an afterlife, then what is it that continues to survive after the body has ceased functioning? The essence of a person is an integral part of his/her environment and to suggest the removal of that consciousness from its environment is meaningless. A person is a social creature and a person's consciousness is part of the social fabric within the universe and cannot be separated from it, because with that separation there is nothing (like when sleeping without even a dream; only time has past but there was no consciousness in existence). An afterlife suggest a reality like that portrayed in the movie The Matrix where a person's brain lives within a sensory world created by a computer, only in the afterlife the consciousness must get plugged into something else to continue its existence without a physical presence. Do not pine for an afterlife when what is here and now is important to your happiness.

People live each day by navigating through their interactions with others. Always treat others with respect and that will usually be reciprocated, though of course someone having a 'bad day' might have some difficulty being positive in return. Smiling can be contagious (just as yawning can be, another sign of our social nature). A person's mood can be shifted by those around him or her, as our social nature can be reflective of those around us.

Life is a daily adventure, dealing with other people who also have their ups and downs but of course theirs are not synchronized with yours. This adventure is set in a world populated with a known collection of several million species of plant and animal life, orbiting with a collection of other planets (of different sizes and compositions) around the nearest star, which moves around with a collection of other stars (of different sizes and colors) in our galaxy, which moves around the universe among other galaxies (of different sizes and shapes). I can look out a window and have a universe to behold and enjoy.

created - October 2012
last change - 10/09/2012
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