Category Archives: Points of View

20 Thoughts on God

Religion does not have a monopoly on God. This is what I’ve come to realise after years of solo soul searching.

As a child, I still remember my feelings of frustration for not being able to see and talk to God. I longed to get to know God, an almighty being who sees, hears and knows everything, but who no one could see, hear, talk to or touch. This supposed to be powerful God, which the atheists insist to be non-existent, is to this day indescribable, unknowable, unfathomable and mysterious.

As an adult and when I found the courage to do so, I embarked on an armchair soul searching by reading books from various authors from different belief systems and philosophies, and also re-read the bible. As expected, the resulting effect is I became confused, disillusioned and dissatisfied. However, I got to know a few teachers who I resonated with and, over time, helped me develop my own thoughts on a god I can believe in. Not surprisingly, I disconnected from religion, which I narrated and explained in my ‘Losing my Religion‘ blog series, but somehow retained a belief in a god (reasons of which I will explain more in the future). This after lots of reflection, contemplation and rumination! The whole of existence having one than without makes more sense to me. That there is an overall mystical, super-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing, all-hearing figure (or figures) controlling the workings and laws of nature and the universe is reassuring to me. I also surmise science will one day catch up and confirm the reality of spirit life and the existence of a supreme being; and that you don’t have to belong to any religion, go to a specific church or other places of worship to connect with god.

Having kept my new beliefs and opinions to myself, I now share my thoughts and lay my cards on the table so family and friends understand where I stood where a deity is concerned. This is not to say they read my blog, but if they do, then they’d stop wondering why I’ve stopped going to church (except on special occasions). They also won’t try to put me back into the fold, so to speak, or recruit me to their ”brand” of religion because there is no turning back for me. I consider myself free.

For the religious, these thoughts could be sacrilegious; for the atheists, these are silly and meaningless. For the religion-less but non-agnostic and non-atheist like me, what I believe now — believe it or not — has made me stronger, I have less fear and am guilt-free. Depending on your beliefs or spiritual perspective, you may think me courageous or foolish. However, don’t you worry about me. You see, the ”fire and brimstone and hell and damnation” that most religions teach no longer work on me. I feel more happy now, contented and comfortable where I am spiritually, even if I’m taking this spiritual path alone – no family or friends to walk the path along with me.

My musings may not make sense to others but they do to me. I welcome your comments. We can agree to disagree. 🙂

* * *

Love thoughts or thoughts on ‘God’:

  1. Love, honour, remember and thank God but do NOT fear God. [Praise is something god doesn’t want/need so it’s not on my list.]
  2. Why must God be feared? Do good not out of fear of the ”wrath” of God.
  3. If humans are capable of ”unconditional love,” how much more God?
  4. God isn’t one-dimensional, boring, uncreative or unimaginative. God didn’t only make one spiritual path.
  5. God encompasses all. There are many paths to god. Take one or… none.
  6. God would never say ”It’s either my way or the highway.”
  7. If there is a God and God is as God says God is, then my God is your God is our God.
  8. To love God is to love him, her, them, us and yourself. *
  9. I stopped referring to God as he. Nor did I ever refer to god as she or it. But I found a new definition of god: he, she, it, we, they. *
  10. If God is love, then love is the right religion, the one true path. *
  11. If God is the god of all, if God is everywhere and anywhere, if God sees, hears, watches all, then there is nothing to fear.
  12. If God is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, omnibenevolent, eternal, no beginning and no end, then there is more to life than we human beings can ever see, comprehend, imagine or believe.
  13. God doesn’t think like a human being.
  14. Therefore: God is not racist, sexist, xenophobic, elitist, ableist, homophobic, fatist or a speciecist.
  15. We are each unique and all races are equal in God’s divine eyes.
  16. God is NOT callous, dictatorial, hateful, impatient, insecure, jealous, needy, prejudiced, temperamental, unforgiving, vengeful or vindictive. **
  17. God has a sense of humour, I’m sure!
  18. If God has no sense of humor, then God isn’t real.
  19. God would want me to love my life, believe in myself, have fun, be happy, love all, take care of others—including the animals— and love and be kind to myself. God wants the same for you.
  20. God is so much, much greater than what any religion can ever teach us.

* Inspired by Brian Piergrossi

** Inspired by Neale-Donald Walsch

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Pleaaase Don’t Eat Me

Don't eat me

Cute Babe

If only the real Babe could speak…

I’ve been catching up on my knowledge on the loveable antics of animals, especially farm animals. Did you know that animals are much like humans in so many ways?

Animals form close, deep and long-lasting relationships not only with humans, but also with their own kind as well as other species of animals. Researchers and other observers say they love hanging out with their animal and/or human ”best friends”. They are playful and inquisitive, or get themselves into mischief. They feel joy, happiness, contentment, loyalty and love! They are capable of intense love and affection that humans could very well learn from them.

It’s not only feelings of joy though. They feel physical discomfort, suffer mental anguish, squeal in protest, feel terrorised, endure agony, scream in pain, get stressed, and also express extreme distress when separated from their loved ones.

So you can easily imagine how the deplorable and shameful situations in slaughterhouses take its toll on animals. They hold a grudge to those who hurt them. They have long memories, remember past hurts and some, like the chimpanzees, even after many years, don’t forgive. It’s not only elephants who mourn the loss of loved ones and friends, but other animals too.

These are just a few things we have in common with them. And yet, there are many more things we don’t truly know about them.

In her book, The Inner World of Farm Animals, Their Amazing Social, Emotional and Intellectual Capacities, Amy Hatkoff says animals with reasonably complex brains have ”vivid and distinct personalities, minds capable of some kind of rational thought and… feelings”.

Marc Bekoff, in The Emotional Lives of Animals notes that ”Careful scientific research is validating what we intuitively understand: that animals feel, and their emotions are as important to them as ours are to us… Their joy is the purest and most contagious of joys, and their grief the deepest and most devastating.”

Some of the things that farm animals are reported to do or possess, which many of us may or may not know:

We're not food

Loving pigs

• Pigs love video games. They are more intelligent than dogs; smarter than poodles.
• Even though pigs have small brain, they are teachable and are fast learners (what they call a ”one-trial learner”).
• Chickens can count and ”use their right and left brains for different functions”.
• Chickens and roosters have ”highly developed communication skills”.
• Ducks have good sense of humour, and are suspected to even have ”regional accents”.
• Turkeys recognise each other by their voices.
• Turkeys love human companionship and, armless as they are, love to hug and be hugged by humans.
• Goats are ”affectionate” and ”love attention”.
• Sheeps recognise faces and ”respond to emotional cues from both human and sheep faces”.
• Cows are perceptive, sensitive and are self-aware.
• African Buffalos were observed to be making decisions by, what else, ”voting”!

k.d. lang asked a good question, ”We all love animals. Why do we call some ‘pets’ and others ‘dinner’?”

Jane Goodall, a UN Messenger of Peace, shows us how she quit salivating for animal flesh: ”I looked at the piece of animal on my plate, and it symbolized fear, pain, death. I stopped eating it.”

Watching http://www.earthlings.com did it for me. In fact, it was not the merciless torture the animals suffer or the physical and/or psychological problems caused by unthinking humans shown on the video that stuck with me. It was the sight of a dog, perhaps bound to be euthanised, sitting in a corner of its cell with the saddest of eyes I’ve ever seen in a dog.

Unless we watch videos/documentaries or read books on animals and their rights, we’ll remain ignorant about their plight.

I feel so much love for animals now I lost my desire for eating animal meat, much less handle cooked or raw, dead, bloodied meat. Quitting eating meat is not that hard, at least from my experience, once you have a shift in your thinking about the true nature of and our relationship with animals. Once you realise what loving and respecting animals truly mean, you’ll lose your craving for animal flesh. This is coming from me, a one-time hard core meat lover right up to late last year and a picky eater one at that.

My eyes, mind and heart are now wide open. I look at animals in a new light. I now see what other long-time genuine animal lovers see.

Joe Hutto, a naturalist who studied and wrote about wild turkeys, sums it up nicely, ”The time I spent with them was this wonderful kind of humiliation. We are not superior beings, we are just different beings. We are not more interesting creatures.”

* * *

Sources and recommended reading:

The Inner World of Farm Animals, Their Amazing Social, Emotional and Intellectual Capacities by Amy Hatkoff.
Ninety Five, Meeting America’s Farmed Animals in Stories and Photographs, edited by No Voice Unheard.
Animal Liberation by Peter Singer
The Ten Trusts by Jane Goodall and Marc Bekoff

Note: The above images are from istockphoto.com.

The Big Five of Authentic Leadership

Smiling heart

In my last post, I dare posit that someone who is a bad leader is only masquerading as a leader, or one I call a ‘WANNABE’ leader.

It seems to me authentic leaders are hard to find, and there is no fixed formula for being a great leader. Books and blogs abound on the whole gamut of leadership. Most list a whole heap of qualities a leader is supposed to have. Experts say one’s success as a leader depends on the context of the leadership role. It’s obvious that one’s effectiveness as a leader depends on so many factors.

There are five essences, however, that a leader must possess to be considered authentic. If you have these, you have the indelible and invisible mark of an authentic or a potential leader—at least in my idealistic eyes.

Outside of these five essences are other skills and attributes that don’t have to be present in the first instance. In one’s journey as a leader, one’s effectiveness can develop, grow and improve over time. Or not.

Take Hosni Mubarak. Was he an authentic or a wannabe leader? He wasn’t an inauthentic leader because he got himself ousted in power, nor was he an authentic leader because he managed to stay in power for so long. Or take George W. Bush. He wasn’t an inauthentic leader because of his “Bushisms”, nor was he an authentic leader because he got himself elected for two full terms.

The two ex-presidents are so-called leaders because they didn’t have one or more of these essences. I list these intangible qualities with a few obvious examples:

The first essence: A leader has INTEGRITY.

Integrity is doing the right thing—legally, morally, ethically, fairly and justly—even when no one is looking. In other words, LIES, DECEIT, hypocrisy, half-truths, and bad and unethical behaviour are not an option.

Michael Hyatt, a Christian minister I discovered via Google, calls this the FOUNDATION of an authentic leader, and I agree.

A leader with strong personal integrity:

• is always truthful, transparent and will not hide behind bullshits, false promises, false excuses and false pretenses.
• chooses to do the right thing in whatever circumstances or its cost to himself or herself.
• will not backstab his or her way to the top.
• will not insult anyone’s intelligence by using false claims to achieve a selfish end.
• will not indulge in or spread malicious gossip, spread innuendos or unverifiable facts about anyone.
• will not undermine others, let alone his or her own people/staff.

I quote Leonard Roberts (not the actor) who says, “You cannot be a fake. You must stand up for what is right regardless. You cannot maintain your integrity 90 percent and be a leader. It’s got to be 100 percent.”

A person who is incorruptible has the first hallmark of a true leader.

The second essence: A leader has HEART.

If integrity is the foundation of an authentic leader, then the heart is the CORE, so says Michael Hyatt again.

What does it mean to have heart? I read somewhere that the heart of authentic leadership is an emotional process. I think it also has to do with being warm, kind, sincere and having compassion. Someone said a person with heart uses feelings intuitively.

A leader with heart:

• never forgets the humanity of their fellow beings.
• doesn’t play the blame game, nor any un-fun and dirty political games.
• is emotionally intelligent. In his The Soul of Leadership book, Deepak Chopra, describes this as working with positive emotions and dealing effectively with negative emotions.
• is optimistic and focuses on solutions and not problems, and then take positive action.
• is passionate about his or her cause, vision, goals and/or direction and shares them with those who have the right to know.
• has good communication skills. This person speaks from the heart and, at the same time, is a good/attentive listener. Deepak Chopra, describes a good listener as someone who doesn’t interrupt, criticise, argues or patronise.

In my opinion, a brilliant mind can only be complete if his or her mind thinks, analyses, judges with heart.

The third essence: A leader has a NURTURING INSTINCT.

Having a nurturing instinct is having the inclination, interest and willingness to provide the necessary conditions for a person’s talents and skills to grow and develop. And when I say nurture, I mean the lot!

A leader who nurtures:

• inspires, teaches, develops, motivates, trusts, helps, guides, empowers, encourages, engages, cultivates, boosts, persuades, supports and protects.
• sets high expectations and goals, and gives others the right push so they reach their full potential.
• help others overcome their weaknesses.
• doesn’t underestimate people.
• create more leaders, not followers.

Russell Palmer, author of the Ultimate Leadership: Winning Execution Strategies for Your Situation calls releasing human potential as the ultimate goal or the POINT of leadership.

The fourth essence: A leader has SELF-BELIEF.

Having self-belief is being sure of one’s own abilities, strengths, validity, value and worth, and has inner confidence. This self-belief is what creates the SOUL of leadership in a person, so says Earthi-Anne.

A leader with the right amount of self-belief:

• has no feeling of inferiority or sense of insecurity, and is not being cocky.
• keeps his ego in check and lose any sense of arrogance, smugness and false pride.
• doesn’t feel threatened or intimidated by his or her superiors (if any) and/or by smart or smarter subordinates. A genuine leader understands that everyone has his or her weaknesses and strengths; and that someone’s weakness(es) maybe his or her strength(s) and vice versa, and that they can complement each other.
• gives credit to where it’s due; can say no to his or her superiors, if it’s warranted.
• doesn’t feel the need to butter up to their bosses and doesn’t encourage others to butter up to them.

A person who recognises their intrinsic worth as a human being has enough self-belief.

The fifth essence… A leader has BALLS.

If integrity is the foundation, the heart is the core, nurturing is the point and self-belief is the soul, then having balls is what gives you your IN-BUILT ARMOUR, Earthi-Anne dares say.

Call it guts, courage, spine, will, inner strength or mental toughness, a leader with balls:

• is not a bully. A leader doesn’t use fear, intimidation or aggression to get things done or to get what they want.
• is not a wimp and doesn’t balk at intimidators and aggressors.
• not afraid to admit to the truth or admit to their own mistakes.
• doesn’t shy away from giving their superiors or staff the true picture.
• sometimes takes the heat if necessary or when things go wrong, as things sometimes do.
• is not afraid to apologise nor is afraid of people making mistakes. A leader recognises human beings are capable of making mistakes and no one is perfect. A leader understands unavoidable mistakes, just like life’s lessons, are opportunities to learn and grow.

A leader’s mental toughness is what shields himself or herself from self-doubt, detractors, naysayers, critics or enemies.

* * *

I mentioned in my last post that there is one characteristic that is important in a leader. A leader with—yes, you guessed it—a SENSE OF HUMOUR, is the icing on an already rich and filling cake. Imagine a very competent, strong, highly-intelligent, kind and compassionate, and courageous leader but someone who is dull serious and has no sense of humour?? Arrrrggghhhh!! It would make extremely dull what would otherwise be an idyllic work life with an authentic leader.

A leader who knows how and when to use good humour can make our life fun, enjoyable and stress-free — one would hope!

There you have it, my five must-haves: the foundation, the core, the point, the soul and the in-built armour of authentic leadership. PLUS that one teeny, weeny, super extra-special quality or characteristic that I’m trying to force into my self-made wish list. 😀

Cast your eyes over our past and present world leaders and leaders where you work and play. Do any of them have the mark of a true leader? Do YOU have the mark of a true leader? Stand up, be recognised, LEAD and SERVE!! Your team, school, organisation, country—and the world—needs you! I NEEEEED YOU!!

Disclaimer: I’m no expert on authentic leadership but I have a keen interest in this topic, as well as in personal leadership.

The Mark of an Authentic Leader

Heart image from istockphoto.com

Don’t you wish we could see through each person professing to be a leader?

Throughout our history, often unknowingly, we’ve allowed liars, thieves, cheaters, wimps, abusers of power and unscrupulous people to rule.

If it was only possible to discern who are authentic before we vote certain politicians into power, or before we place our trust on certain people and let them lead us, our world would certainly be a much better place. People who we vote to put in government, some people we put on pedestals and some of those who lead us at work betray our trust and expectations.

We’ve been victims of spin, propaganda, misinformation, manipulation, deception and treachery by our so-called leaders. They are so-called leaders because they are NOT authentic leaders. I’m beginning to think, though this is just my opinion, there are no good or bad leaders. Good leaders are authentic leaders. Bad leaders are only wannabes.

I acknowledge being a leader, a genuine leader, is not easy. Leading—be it a country, an organisation, a committee, a large group or a small team—is a tremendous responsibility. It’s hard work! Would-be leaders who want to lodge themselves in power, or current leaders who want to hold on to their position should do what they professed to do, and do what they were voted or hired to do. As the saying goes, if you can’t stand the heat – get out of the kitchen, for those who easily crack under the pressure.

I’ve certainly worked with and for wonderful leaders. I know authentic leaders are out there fulfilling roles that are rightfully theirs and some potential authentic leaders waiting in the wings. However, we also know there are crackpots, unethical or clueless people who, due to misrepresentation or, sometimes, luck, are currently in leadership roles who have no clue how to lead people in a genuine way.

Like the word love, leadership has no one, consistent definition. I’m still on the lookout for the best meaning as I haven’t found THE ONE. On the web, you’ll find that various meanings are attached to the word leadership, like position, roles, functions, styles, capabilities, principles, skills, characteristics, behaviours, qualities and essence.

Managing and leading, as you know, are two clearly different things. Changingminds.org says “managers focus on work; leaders focus on people” and that “managers have subordinates; leaders have followers”.

Being a good manager doesn’t automatically mean being a good leader. A good leader isn’t just being a boss or being a manager. Being a boss is a status, and being a good manager can be taught. However, being an authentic leader, it seems to me, and contrary to common wisdom, is born, not made. Whatever is the truth, one thing cannot be disputed: you have to have certain qualities, or essences as I prefer to call them, to be bestowed the honour of being called an authentic leader.

Authentic leadership is described by a respected spiritual teacher, Andrew Cohen as caring a lot about “a higher purpose, a higher principle, a higher goal that we are willing to make the most important sacrifices for the sake of what we are aspiring to accomplish. It means we care so passionately about others also reaching that goal that we unhesitatingly sacrifice our own peace of mind, comfort, and security in order for them to succeed.”

Leadership expert and author, Robin Sharma, says one can lead without a title. Joe Farcht, another author on leadership suggests building personal leadership precedes building organisational leadership. In my thinking, to be an organisational leader, you must first pass some tests. Once you pass and continue to embody the essences, then you receive the invisible stamp or mark of authentic leadership – the heart.

In my increasing quest to separate the wheat from the chaff of leaders, I hand-pick five essences of an authentic leader. I’ve only formed five because there is a set of traits “embedded” within each essence. If you’re missing any of these, I’d say learn or acquire them first, if it’s even possible, before you boldly attempt to take on a leadership role. I believe you don’t have to have leadership experience to be a successful leader. If you have the mark of a leader, then other essential qualities of a leader not embodied within these essences can be learned, acquired or honed before or while acting in your role.

I’d like to add that there is one extra and interesting characteristic that I have not included within the essences. If you have this or if you know how to use this, can not only help you but also those around you and those you lead. If used inappropriately, it could backfire, but if used effectively can help improve morale.

To be continued…

Disclaimer: I’m no expert on authentic leadership but I have a keen interest in this topic, as well as in personal leadership.

Put your Empathy where your Mouth Is

Suddenly, drastically, I’ve become a ‘meat shunner’.

A ‘meat lover’ all of my life, I’ve now become an ‘animal lover’.

It literally happened overnight after watching Earthlings, a one hour and a bit documentary about the cruel, callous and disrespectful way humans treat animals for food, clothing, entertainment, experimentation (research) and sports.

This five-year old film touched me emotionally and intellectually.

The result: I can never look at fried chicken; roast lamb, beef or pork; a whopper burger, beef steak and other meat and seafood with hungry eyes ever again.

I resolved to change my eating habits and attempt to become a vegetarian, if not a vegan, after only 20 minutes into the film.

Aside from the horrific images, there were three things from the film that stood out for me. Mind you, these are not secret information or new revelations. We all know these but we haven’t taken this knowledge into our heart and mind:

1. Animals are creatures who have a right to co-exist with us on Earth, free from deprivation, torment, maltreatment, pain and suffering.

2. Animals are beings who ‘live, breathe, eat, play, show emotion, experience pain, hunger, thirst’ like humans.

3. Animals are pitifully, horrendously and mindlessly maltreated and killed long before they arrive at our table, on our plate and into our mouth.

Some claim Earthlings is just a propaganda tool. I think those who say this are missing the point. It’s clear that killing animals for food or for other uses, whether painlessly or otherwise; or killing or maltreating animals for fun or in the name of research is seriously barbaric, inhumane and primitive.

So out of my belated respect, empathy and compassion for my fellow ‘earthlings’, I’ve started eliminating all meat and meat products in my diet.

There are those who say the animal carnivores are more cruel toward other animals. Perhaps the animal carnivores have no choice but to kill their fellow animals as a source of food for survival. Humans, however, do have a choice and can make one.

What can you do?

The next time you take a bite of that suckling roast or barbequed meat, spare a thought at what the animal may have endured before reaching your plate as described in ‘Earthlings’:

• “branded on the face with red hot irons [cows]
• dehorned with pliers and tail docked [cows]
• ears clipped, teeth cut, castrated – without pain killers or anesthetics [piglets]
• de-beaked and hoisted upside down and throats slit to bleed [chickens]
• electrocuted [food and circus animals]
• burnt [pigs]
• beaten
• shot
• tied at the neck and kept restricted to keep muscles from developing [calves]
• shackled alive, suspended on a bleed wheel where their throats are slit and immersed in scalding tanks to remove their bristle, with many still struggling as they are dunked upside down where they are submerged and drowned [pigs]
• skinned alive for furs and all leather goods
• harpooned [whales].”

And for dolphins unlucky enough to get caught in the waters of Japan? Some are cut in half while still alive!

Excluding the whales and dolphins, these are factory farm animals. What do you think happen to strays or once-loved pets which are impounded? Some are packed very tightly in gas chambers and gassed as this method is less expensive than the quick and lethal but more humane method of injection.

For the love of animals, face the inconvenient truth: partaking a piece of animal flesh—albeit in sanitised, spiced, cooked, packaged or beautifully-presented form— is tantamount to being complicit in their continued deprivation, suffering, abuse and painful death by human hands.

I no longer want to take part, even indirectly, in this sadistic and disrespectful treatment of animals.

I now refuse to be a part of the meat industry’s continued existence. [Watch Earthlings, Sam!]

And this without fully knowing yet the meat industry’s role in climate change and on the damage to our environment, water and air.

I feel genuine pity to those whose livelihood involve killing or butchering animals. Get out of that hellhole called abattoirs or slaughterhouses. Surely, there is a better way to make a living.

We are thinking, compassionate and loving human beings. We have the power to spare the animals their lives. Let them die a natural death and not directly or indirectly through our hands.

In human hands, animals suffer in millions, daily, all over the planet. It’s time to stop creating hell on earth for animals.

Open your eyes, heart and mind.

It’s time to decide and choose: either you’re FOR the animals’ rights or AGAINST them.

As far as the animals are concerned, there is NO in between.

For more information, check out:

Animals Australia

Exposed: The long, cruel road to the slaughterhouse

Why Eating Meat is Like Butchering the Rainforest

Animal Visuals

James Adonis, who I thank for sharing the link to the video which led me to open my eyes to this long-ignored reality.

Love is a Paradox

I must have gotten up from the wrong side of the bed, or perhaps it was the right side – you decide. I had a sudden thought to blog about a paradox.

This is an easy yet difficult subject, which only a few have mastered.

A subject that is simple, yet so complex.

I, myself, at this ripe old age of, well, old, is an inexperienced student and still learning.

I’m talking about LOVE.

istockphoto.com

There is the romantic, the familial, the neighbourly love…

There is the love for God, for friends, for pets…

Then there is universal love which is all-embracing and signifying unconditional love for all…

And there is self love.

There is no single, universally-accepted definition of love. Love is described in many various ways by very many people.

Is it just me or am I missing something? Is love an enigma?

Those who profess to know the full meaning of the word LOVE, speak.

Love is a word that begs to be defined succinctly.

Love is one powerful, emotion-evoking, all-encompassing word.

Love is most longed for, most dreamed about and most-sought after.

But we all know love is also misunderstood, misused and abused.

So do you really know what love is and what love is not?

Help me answer my questions.

Help me understand love and all its complexities.

Recognise love where I think I see falsity;

See love when it seems none exists;

Find love where it may hide.

[This is the first of many posts about this love-ing feeling.]

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[British/Australian spelling used.]

Losing My Religion (4 of 5)

Image from istockphoto.com

The saga continues…

For this instalment, let’s cut to the chase and let’s make it brief.

I’m sure many expects this to appear in my list and it does. It’s my reason number:

3. the sexual abuse perpetrated and perpetuated by priests eventually got to me.

I won’t repeat what we’ve already heard so many times in the media (since the 1980s), but I’ll briefly explain why this had a bearing in my disenchantment with religion.

In the beginning, although I felt horrified when this news first broke out, I was espousing forgiveness. I also realised priests, after all, can be fallible human beings, susceptible to temptations.

When allegations after allegations of sexual misconduct reverberated around the world, some of them reportedly proven true, I became increasingly dissatisfied with the way these abuses were dealt with.

I’ve recently read a report where the church is trying to blame the priests’ sexual misconduct on homosexuality. A psychologist who specialises in treating sexually-abused children says homosexuality is not the same as pedophilia. The difference is that a person who is sexually attracted to children (regardless of sex) is a pedophile. And pedophilia, according to Wikipedia, is a psychiatric disorder. Pedophilia is also a crime against children.

Let’s remember that not all of these allegations are substantiated and credible. However, granted that, at one time, it’s “only” supposedly about 4% of the entire priesthood (active at the time) who have allegedly committed this crime, it’s 4% too many. I say there should be zero tolerance on pedophilia, especially those committed by people who should know better—those who made teaching people not to “sin” their vocation.

You could say the number of perpetrators are insignificant compared to the total number of priesthood. Well, tell that to the victims and their families. To subject their victims to pain, trauma, shame, depression, maybe even suicidal thoughts, and God knows what other harrowing emotions victims of this type of abuse go through, is the most unkind act of those we least expect to commit this.

Equally sharing the blame are the top brass in the church’s hierarchy who exercise their power in some countries to prevent the poor access to birth control but are impotent in preventing, if not stopping, and tackling this long-term issue head on.

Why would I let a “minority” of offenders turn me off religion? The churches’ leaders’ failure to decisively address and put a stop or at least prevent these abuses leave much to be desired and added to my growing belief that there is no such thing as “one true religion”.

I’ve removed hatred, vindictiveness, revengefulness and other extremely negative traits from my heart (not an easy thing to do for a Scorpio). So I’m not going to condemn those perpetrators to hell or demand that they be jailed for life or wish capital punishment on them.

It doesn’t mean though that I should continue listening to them.

Note: Search online and you’ll see it’s obviously not only priests from the Catholic Church who commit sexual abuse of children but also, it’s alleged, from other Christian denominations, as well as from other religions.

Final instalment: The “mother” of all reasons.

Next topic: [I’m back in my childhood…]

A Perspective on Perception

Image from istockphoto.com

Sometimes, an unfair occurrence results in a sequence of events which then culminate in an unexpected outcome.

One of my ex-managers, the only one ever to give me a negative work performance review, used ‘perception’ as her basis for her review.

This led me to write a strong rebuff on her reasons for doing so > which led me to show a colleague the content of my response > which prompted my colleague to suggest to me that I should write (be an author) > which fuelled my secret dream to creatively use written words to express and communicate my thoughts or stories.

About 15 years later, here I am, blogging about ‘perception’.

* * *

Perception is defined by Wikipedia as the process of attaining awareness and understanding using our five senses and our psyche (imagination, conscience, intellect and memory.)

But when doing this, how do you make sure:

• your imagination isn’t running amok?
• your conscience understands and accepts non-external factors?
• your intellect is acute enough to see what’s happening underneath the surface?
• your memory isn’t playing tricks on you?

There are two opposing views on ‘Perception’:

Perception is reality versus
Perception is NOT reality.

I'm a proponent of the latter view.

My perspective on perception, at least in the context of the two examples below, is that it’s an observation or a belief of something that appears to the observer as real but, without knowing the facts, more often isn’t.

I’ll give you two examples based on real-life events in my past. Obviously, there is more to these stories but for the sake of this blog I won’t go into every detail.

1) At work, I’ve had consistently good performance reviews from my managers. However, one ex-manager, the only one that I didn’t get along with (so far), once included some negative reviews which were based on ‘perception’.

My ex-manager’s contention was that there was a ‘perception’ from others of my discontent and she herself ‘sensed’ a lack of interest and motivation on my part (among other things). I countered by saying that I started a major project on my own accord, produced and completed it above the expected standards which she herself concurred, and delivered on time. Surely, I asked, those are not the actions of a discontented, unmotivated, disinterested person?

I insisted to her that those allegations are false. She must have thought I would just timidly sign and agree to her claims. She disliked me all the more after this but I felt she was being subjective and used hearsays in my performance evaluation. What particularly irked me is those ‘perceptions’ were sprung on me without ever communicating them to me at anytime. From what I know now about ‘leadership’, a good leader should provide regular feedback to his/her staff and not wait till performance appraisal time to do so.

2) Funnily enough, 11 years after this incident, I found myself in a somewhat similar predicament, having another discussion about perception with another manager, though in a friendlier and supportive environment.

My then boss’ view is perception is reality, which I vehemently opposed, drawing from my previous experience.

As he walked by my desk, I grabbed the opportunity to let him know I was getting the impression in our just-held team meeting that he thought I wasn’t happy to do my part of a certain project. He said, ‘Yes, that is the perception.’ So my hunch was correct but, lol… big mistake… his mention of the word ‘perception’ triggered another memory, a familiar, uneasy feeling. I couldn’t let it go.

Unknown to him (I didn’t mention this to him, of course), I’m very ‘experienced’ when it comes to arguing about perception. In fact, I still have a copy of my response I wrote to my other ex-manager all those years ago.

With enough conviction, I replied, ‘I have a problem with perception… because it’s not reality!’ I was feeling déjà vu as I was saying this!

I suggested that, in this second incident, those people having this perception of me should think that if I didn’t want to be involved, I wouldn’t have spent a lot of time writing a few emails, asking questions about the project. Is this the action, I asked, of someone who didn’t want to be involved?

My female ex-manager argued that one needs to look at why people have these perceptions and work with them to change the perceptions. If this was handled properly, I’d probably agree. But in the first incident, for what gain and to what end should I have done this? To appease ignorant, narrow-minded, judgmental, jumping-to-conclusions, shallow-minded, biased or don’t-know-anything-better individuals?

And to include ‘perceptions’ in performance evaluations is idiocy, in my opinion, unless you back it up with solid evidence.

My male ex-boss also had/has this conviction that it is the responsibility of the person being ‘perceived’ to change the perception. I tried to convince him that people should start learning to ‘think outside the square’, that they should change their way of thinking. For me, the onus is on the one ‘perceiving’ to find out the truth.

He asked me, how do you change the perception? I said, ‘by TALKing’. He exclaimed ‘BINGO’!

He was obviously very amused that I, known for being too quiet, knew the obvious answer. However, my point was the person ‘perceiving’ or ‘observing’ should initiate the clearing of their issues, not the other way around.

I gave him an example of him having the perception of being ‘arrogant’ (not my opinion). He took it to mean that’s what I thought of him. He wasn’t amused that I had to use that out of all the examples that I could cite. You could say it isn’t a fair perception, but it’s a good thing that I don’t believe perception is reality. 🙂

Suddenly, I had an insight. ‘You know what’s the problem here?,’ I said to my boss. Now I know what’s the problem! People here have no sense of humour!’ I seriously think some conflicts arise because human beings are just too serious and too hard on each other.

Passionately defending our side of the argument, my boss and I felt equally exhausted at the end of our conversation, or should I say ‘debate’. Each of us probably believing we emerged ‘victorious’ over the other.

Or how about we say ‘perception is not reality until proven otherwise‘? How’s that for a compromise?

The above two incidents highlight the unfairness of having the wrong perceptions on people (not the least because I was a ‘victim’ of it, twice!), misinterpreting people’s actions (or sometimes non-action) or intentions.

Folks, I ask you: let us not jump to conclusions. Let us not read too much between the lines or read things that may not be there. Let’s try to be fair.

First: find out, ask, talk, clarify, research, investigate, COMMUNICATE, discuss, dig deeper, or do what you have to do to clear things up and/or discover if what you have in mind is an actual fact or, in all likelihood, just a misperception.

So which side are you on?

To help settle this issue, please take a moment to complete the poll and feel free to state your reason(s). As always, your comments are welcome and appreciated.

Next topic: Losing My Religion (part 3)

Losing My Religion (2 of 5)

Image from istockphoto.com

In part 1 of the LMR story, I spoke about my childhood and how I always tried to cut short the time I spent on hearing mass. I narrated how I avoided the insistence of an older and well-meaning girl who tried to keep me in the church for a longer time than I wanted.

I mentioned about my ‘talent’ for sitting in one place and mentally escaping into my own world in spite of all the noise. At Catholic churches during mass it isn’t possible, what with all the rituals you have to perform: you sit, stand up and kneel a few times; fall in line for a communion; sing hymns; respond to the homily, etc.

It didn’t happen overnight, this change of heart of mine about my religion and all religions in general. In spite of this disconnect though, I retained my belief in God. I’ll have a deeper explanation about this in future posts.

If you are happy with where you are spiritually, whichever belief system you have, that’s well and good.

If you were never a believer or do not have any beliefs now, that’s alright too. I now believe God, for all the greatness that God is, is not bothered by it. I will also tackle later why believing in a ‘super power’ (and I’m not talking about the US) is better (and I’m not referring to the concept of heaven or hell).

But for now let me address my fellow believers and state the first of my four reasons I mentioned in part 1.

* * *

This is not a chronological account of my search for answers and meaning, which started when I was younger. Over the years, I spent a lot of time contemplating as various thoughts and questions came to my mind about God and the reason(s) for our existence.

For many balmy nights, while living in Manila, I would sit on the concrete steps in front of our apartment in Sta. Mesa. With my elbow on my knee and a hand cupping my chin, I would gaze at the moon and the twinkling stars above and wonder what is out there, is anyone out there, who are we, where did we come from?

While kids noisily and gleefully play in the streets, a common sight throughout the neighbourhoods during my childhood, I spent a lot of time wondering what life is all about.

As I learned about religions and their various denominations, the thought of what these all meant crossed my mind. I read a little bit about some of these religions, beliefs and other philosophies. My eventual response, after reading up, on and off, on this subject over a period of almost two decades, was to ‘disengage’.

One of my reasons is due to:

1. My conflict in reconciling where the Jews, other Christian denominations, the Moslems, the Hindus, the Buddhists, the Sikhs, the Taoists, the Shintoists, the ‘Zoroastrians’, the various Indigenous religions, other non-mainstream religions, the agnostics—plus the atheistic materialists— fit into this.

According to Wikipedia, Christians now make up approximately 2 billion people. Out of these 2 billion, there are a staggering 38,000 different denominations or branches. More branches of Christianity will no doubt emerge as people, for whatever motivate them, form and lead their own group and interpret the bible in their own way.

At one time, I felt Catholicism was the best religion out of all them. That it’s the only correct path and I had a better chance in being allowed into heaven. Everyone else is wrong and ignorantly in the wrong path. However, as you know, each of the people who belong to other Christian denominations or other religions feel the same way, if not stronger, about their respective religion. People ‘peddling’ their own brand of religion, each one of the group believing theirs to be the real deal. Who’s right, who’s wrong?

But I also thought a lot about those people who have never heard of Jesus Christ or concepts like the Holy Trinity, and/or those people who worshipped a different God or Gods. Where will they go when they die? Would God forgive them? How can they redeem themselves?

What about those Christians who think everyone else will go to hell or purgatory unless you are ‘born again’, whatever that means?

How about the Moslems who seriously think that Allah is the one true God, the Qur’an the one true book, and the rest of us are infidels?

The Bahá’í’s who believe Abraham, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad and most recently their own, the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh, are one and the same being and who appeared as these different messengers to establish a religion that was suited for the needs of their time?

The Hindus with their multiple Gods? Does believing in more than one God gets you quicker to reaching nirvana?

The Buddhists who believe that you will reincarnate over and over again until you learn your lessons and paid off all your karmas?

And the Jews who consider themselves God’s chosen people? I felt a tinge of jealousy I wasn’t born into the ‘chosen’ race.

Let’s not even mention the Scientologists who once annoyed me a bit for incessantly calling me to talk me into meeting with them, after I purchased one of their leader’s books.

In all these, I considered and attempted to turn into a vegetarian after reading about a female Vietnamese Buddhist master who teaches that eating meat contributes to global warming.

As I don’t consider myself materialistic, it was easy for me to imagine I was suited to becoming a monk—stripping myself bare of all material possessions—until I learned you have to abstain from the desires of the flesh, alcohol, gambling and other vices. 🙂

I once wanted to be like the Breatharians who claim to live without eating food or drinking water but by proper breathing alone. Imagine how many kilos I would have shed if I tried it? You must have read about a recent news of an Indian man who was reported not to have eaten for two weeks, while doctors in Australia probe him and what he was claiming.

I marveled at the mysterious world of the Shamans and their use of psychedelic plants to, purportedly, take them into different worlds and dimensions.

I read a few articles on secret societies like the Rosicrucians, which I considered joining, and the Freemasons which was for a long time exclusive for males only but have recently started accepting female members.

I’ve heard about the Gnostic Catharrs and the Essenes of the ancient times.

I was surprised to learn of the existence of the moderate Moslems like the Sufis or the Dancing Dervishes.

I read the Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda hoping to get inspired but it somehow drew more questions from me.

So you see how serious I was in getting to know more about religion and other beliefs, and my desire to get some answers to some questions?

We do know religions have the same aim, even if there are myriad paths. If it continues to work for you, that’s admirable, but what gets my goat, so to speak, is the intolerance of others for people whose beliefs are different from their own, people who think they have sole access to the one correct key to open/enter, the pearly gates of St. Peter or the ‘paradise’.

But this is my story and my journey. You have your own story to tell.

To be continued…

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As always, your comments are welcome and appreciated.

Viewing Life through Rose-Coloured Glasses

Image from istockphoto.com

A former boss gave me a sensible advice – ‘… not to write rubbish to fill the gap’. It is in this light that I postpone releasing my 2nd instalment to the ‘Losing My Religion’ post.

Some of you may be eager to hear what I have to say about my reasons for ‘disengaging’ myself from my religion or any religion for that matter. But rather than rushing to publish a half-baked article just to meet my self-imposed deadline, I offer you this week—and as part of my planned ‘opening up’—my alternative meaning to some words (some come with advice).

Most of these are meanings I came up with as I watch a mundane and aimless life—a life that I made ordinary and allowed to be filled with more downs and a few ups—pass through uneventfully. This also includes my own observations on other people’s lives as their own dramas play out in front of me.

Reflecting on my past and looking at my present life, I’ve taught myself to view life through rose-coloured glasses.

There were hard but valuable lessons for me to learn, some of them only very recently. I’m proud to say that in spite of the challenges and my own quota of pain and suffering—and drawing from my inner strength—I’m emerging (and here’s hoping completely and fully emerge) with my sanity intact.

I attribute this to my taking things easy, in the main, and humouring myself often. Plus the belief that there is more to life than what we currently know, if we only knew how to see past our temporary woes.

Who knows, these meanings may also help a few of you in your own journey, as you navigate through the maze of your own life. Some of these words, like ‘love’ and ‘perception’, where they pertain to my life, are topics I will cover in detail in future posts.

* * *

I want to emphasise these are just my opinions and my thoughts. I don’t claim to be a counselor, a church minister, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a philosopher or a walking dictionary: 🙂

Age – It’s not how old or young you are. Anything is possible at any age. (Jessica Watson has proven it to all of us.) You may not be a racist, sexist, xenophobic, elitist, ableist or homophobic, but if you cannot accept that age is just a number, you may be an ageist.

Death – A release; freedom; homecoming; enlightenment; a doorway to another existence, dimension or reality.

Depression – An indication of indulging in excess: too hard on yourself; too hard on others; too much worry; too serious on how you view life sometimes; stressing yourself too much. Life and yourself aren’t meant to be taken too seriously by you. Try and master your mind or entrust your problems to God. Lastly, take it easy and be kind to yourself.

Divorce – Your second chance to find love again. Celebrate!

Gardening – It’s either a hobby or a chore that gives me back pain just by thinking about it. Kidding aside, someone said ‘organic gardening will keep you out of the hospital and add years to your life.’

Generousness – To be always true, it must not be selective (for example: generous to a few but not to others).

Gibberish – As recommended by ‘Laughter Yoga’, this is (1) a technique you use, (2) a strange, undecipherable language you tell yourself – to make yourself laugh silly. My gibberish sounds Chinese so it’s even funnier!

Giggles – A cute sound.

God – is described to be omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. Believing this, I cannot now imagine a jealous, wrathful, insecure, unloving, unforgiving, indulges-in-favouritism and a narrow-minded God, as others inadvertently present God to be. I say: God doesn’t think like a human being. (I will say more in future posts.)

Happiness – I just recently understood this: Happiness is a choice. Don’t wait for it to come or to happen or expect someone to provide it to you. Make that choice now. (Daily affirmation: I am happy.)

Housework – Don’t make this the focus of your life or weekend (I’ll share with you my ‘golden rules’ about housework sometime).

Humour – The elixir of a healthy (the best medicine) and happy (the greatest blessing) life. Make humour your constant companion.

Kindness – Another one where it’s only real if it is NOT selective.

Laughter – A baby’s laughter? A loved-one’s laughter? Your own laughter? The sweetest sound of all! If you do a lot more of this than in being serious, you feel light or de-stressed. You might even fall in love with yourself. I love me!

Life – is a school (plenty of lessons or hard lessons to learn) and a playground (equally plenty of opportunities to enjoy yourself and life).

Love – is a very, very broad subject, I found out. 🙂

Marriage – It’s hard work but it doesn’t have to be. It’s teamwork, but it’s also like cooking food. You need all the right ingredients (respect, affection, thoughtfulness, consideration, trust, kindness, patience etc) to make it taste good; and the right heat or else you burn it or it’s undercooked. (As if I’m so good in the kitchen.)

Medications – Avoid at all cost, if you can help it. Drugs can make you dependent and addicted to them.

Money – It’s a thing you spend for yourself to enjoy life and to help others. Save enough but why accumulate and hoard the rest that on your death you end up bequeathing your ‘millions’ to your favourite pet(s)?

Perception – It’s not reality and it’s not the whole story. You will need to dig deeper to get an inkling of the truth.

Perspective – As someone who had a strong impact on me taught me, there are different angles to an argument/situation. It’s called ‘perspective’.

Plan B – Always have plan B for anything. If plan A doesn’t work out, you don’t get too disappointed or stressed because you have a back-up plan or an exit strategy.

Problems – Look at them as opportunities to make you think creatively of solutions. Or it could be a ‘detour’ which takes you in another direction, perhaps a shortcut, and leads you to where you’re supposed to be at that particular point in your life.

Religion – It’s a way to (1) align yourself with others to keep your faith strong and (2) as a reminder to yourself that there is a God and God is great.

Smile – is contagious and can be a prelude to giggling or laughing, which can make you happy.

Solutions – In ‘Watching the Wheels’, John Lennon sang, ‘there’s no problem, only solutions’. Or another way to look at it is ‘focus on the solutions, not the problem’.

Special – Everyone of us is special, not just the talented, the educated, the rich, the famous, the beautiful, your kids, your family, your race, yourself etc. We are all special.

Thinking – It’s sometimes not used. It’s like physical exercise. You need to make an effort to do so.

Twice divorced – Another chance to find love. Another reason to celebrate. Try and try until you succeed but don’t rush. We all know marriage doesn’t guarantee happiness and you don’t need to be married to be happy.

* * *

So what do you think? Do you have your own special words, with special meanings?

Or is it time for me to change my eyeglasses or use a magnifying glass?

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Next topic: Losing My Religion (part 2)

Forever Sleep

Image from Google.com

My cute little bro, tucked-in and wrapped in an all-white baby blanket,
is sleeping peacefully. Two and a half-year old me, gazing at him curiously, felt the urge to kiss him. I planted one on his cheek and touched his face and hair tenderly. It didn’t occur to me until later, but it felt odd.

A young girl, about a year older than me, startled me by exclaiming, ‘Why did you kiss him? He’s dead!’ In a hurried, excited voice, she explained to me why I shouldn’t have done it. Somehow I understood, but I was disbelieving. ‘No, he’s not dead!,’ I denied. But she was dead sure.

In their grief, explaining to a toddler what death meant wasn’t uppermost in my parents’ mind. I was confused. ‘Ask your mother,’ this mature girl said, ‘if you don’t believe me.’

Tight-lipped as she approached, my mother wore a grim, sad face that confirmed the painful truth. I asked her repeatedly, looking up at her with pleading eyes, hoping she’d say it wasn’t true. A sad nod was all she could muster.

Then it dawned on the young me. I felt a bit odd when I kissed him and ran my fingers through the side of his face. My poor little brother was rock hard, cold and very still. With this revelation, I looked at him again, this time in fear. The look of a lifeless body with the colour of death was ingrained in my memory.

That was my rude introduction to death but then again it’s never under happy circumstances. That first-hand experience—unintentionally kissing death in its face—may explain my subsequent feelings of extreme dread and unease in anything associated with it: cadavers, wakes, funeral parlours, coffins, cemeteries.

Mario was his name. His time on Earth was but a wink for he only lived for 13 hours, I later learned. My parents, especially my father, used to say proudly that he was the most handsome of my brothers. Born in a coastal part of southern Philippines, at a time when midwives were commonly hired to help pregnant mothers give birth, his death was a mystery to my parents. I don’t remember anything else surrounding this day but this particular hair-raising incident is stuck in my memory, kept alive by a photo of my lifeless baby brother taken of that day.

Death is a word that gave me the creeps. Over the years, thankfully not too many times, in funerals, I very hesitantly approach coffins to ‘view’ the body in it. Unless I had to, I often avoid to look. It defeats the purpose of attending a ‘viewing’ really—making an effort to go see the departed, only to close my eyes when I get there.

Fast forward to the present time and after searching long and tirelessly for life’s true meaning, my views of death has changed somewhat. Death, a five-letter word, now means five things to me:

1. Release – from pain, sickness, suffering, imprisonment of some sort.

2. Freedom – from misery, from all the personal dramas that we human beings endure, unnecessarily go through or involve ourselves with.

3. Homecoming – going back to our source, to our real home, for those who believe in the ‘afterlife’ like I do.

4. Enlightenment – perhaps the departed souls will finally be able to find answers to deep-seated and nagging philosophical questions about who we truly are and our real purpose here on Earth.

5. A doorway – to another existence, another dimension, another reality.

These different ways of looking at death will not remove the pain and anguish one would feel when one lose a loved one, especially if it’s sudden and unexpected, but they offer comfort and hope.

Sometimes I wondered, and still do, what the purpose of my brother’s birth and untimely death was in the greater scheme of things. So I look forward to understanding life’s mysteries and knowing or perhaps ‘re-discovering’ the ultimate truth when it’s my turn—though not just yet— to forever sleep and hopefully, expectantly… awake in another realm.

Next topic: Losing my Religion (part 1)

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Jumping Off the Facebook Bandwagon (part 2 of 2)

If your friends post incriminating, unflattering or embarrassing photos of you (at least in your opinion) and they seem to derive enjoyment from it, make light of your feelings of horror and unease, and can’t seem to understand the big fuzz, then you’re not alone.

And if your family and friends are not as uptight, concerned, careful or strict as you concerning their privacy settings, then you’re also in for a rude shock.

For some of you not in the know:

1. your friends may not let non-friends see their wall and other information, but they somehow let everyone else see their albums, including their past profile photos and photos with you on them!
2. the only few reasons to make your ‘Information’ open for all to see is if there are no sensitive information, you’re looking for friends and/or dates, or you want to promote a business, if any.
3. even if you don’t let your friends see tagged photos/videos of you, if the friend who posted photos/videos of you have common friends with you, your common friends will see those tagged photos/videos. If you’re trying to maintain an image, albeit not entirely true, of coolness and ’hotness’, then you can forget all about it. As I found out to my consternation, some people will spoil it for you.
4. you may set enough restrictions on your own content but if your friends are not so conscious or don’t really care, then you’re out of luck as you have no control over their content (their albums with photos of you on them, for example)
5. if your page or albums are set up to be seen by ’everybody’, then everybody—friends and non-friends alike—can see them. ‘Everybody’ is not just all of your friends but everybody in the whole FB community!

So here you are being careful and conscious on who sees which of your photos, and you have friends who post photos of you on their page and willingly or, quite often, unknowingly sharing them with the whole FB world!

If you’re ‘slightly’ worried like me, here’s what you can do:

1. do nothing. Just bite the bullet and accept the inevitability of the inevitable (a comment you posted on a friend’s wall or a photo of you posted by someone else turning up in a publication somewhere because of their lax privacy setting, for example [notwithstanding copyright issues]).
2. say a virtual goodbye to your friends. Then have FB delete your account, not just deactivate it (you’ve exposed yourself enough).
3. hide or remove everything. Don’t post anything else and stick to harmless posts and activities like playing Farmville and the like (though, apparently, if you get addicted—which a lot of people are—it could cost you money).
4. post everything. Follow the old adage – if you can’t beat them, join them! Upload photos of your family and friends with their cellulite showing! Sweet revenge!
5. decline all invitations to any function. Whether you’re a FB user (or any other online social network) or not, stop going to parties and other events where you know everybody has a digital camera and everyone happily taking snaps of every mouthful of food you take, of every facial expression you make. There is no prize in guessing they will post your photos with or without your permission, and with or without restrictions set on who can view them.
6. don’t worry about the cameras. Make sure you bring your own at every function you attend and take snaps of everyone in their unguarded moments. Anyone posting a photo of you without your permission, post one back of that person and use the most unflattering one that you can find. Tit for tat!
7. post all the incriminating, embarrassing or really ugly photos of yourself. Pre-empt those indiscriminately-uploading-photo ‘friends’ of yours. Any unflattering photos of you posted by others from then on would look pretty ok in comparison.

I’ve been contemplating on whether to continue to be a part of this FB bandwagon. Perhaps ‘jump off it’ and start living more in the real world?

I use FB to connect, to engage, to be involved, to share, to vent, to try and be funny, to try and amuse my friends, to show off, to be a fan of whatever/whoever, to learn, to see, to know, to watch, to keep me and my friends mutually up-to-date with tiny bits of goings on in our lives, and even to sometimes… stalk. That’s why I said I’m in a quandary.

Your thoughts?

Update:
How to set Facebook Privacy Settings
Ten Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know
Don’t let Facebook get you into Trouble

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Jumping Off the Facebook Bandwagon (part 1 of 2)

Trying to be instep with the ‘cool’ crowd has placed me in a quandary.

When I first joined Facebook (FB) in early 2007, I was very strict with my privacy settings. I initially used a pseudonym (I know you’re not supposed to do that), limited what I shared and was very cautious of what others could see and find out about me.

But I have loosened up a bit more since then. I’ve posted more and more photos and have been openly sharing my thoughts and memories. In a way, I’ve been desensitised from being more and more exposed to more and more revealing posts from other users.

To give you a bit of insight on the ‘stealth-like’ movement I do on FB:

1. I screen and ignore friend invites from those I don’t know or not related to, even if we have common friends.
2. My contact and work details are not listed.
3. No one outside my FB friends can see who my friends are (for the simple reason that the less outsiders know about me and who my family, friends and co-workers are, the better).
4. I created friend lists with varying privacy levels so not all my albums can be seen by everyone.
5. I upload personal photos of family and friends that aren’t unflattering or will not embarrass them (at least in my opinion) so I don’t upset them.
6. I sometimes hide my profile/photo from the general public (depending on the photo I use) in case someone downloads it, creates a fake account using my name (and pretend to be me) and use my photo as their profile photo. Now don’t laugh and think I’m being paranoid. This has been reported to happen (though you can report it to FB).
7. Every time FB announces an upgrade/adds new features or change their policy, I review my privacy settings.

Do you know how many of your friends have gone through their privacy settings thoroughly and configured them properly and are they compatible with yours?

Why should you take so much trouble in diligently and consciously protecting and controlling what you share and with whom?

1. Pictures of your child, niece/nephew, cousins, yourself and others can be downloaded by anyone for nefarious purposes by some sick people.
2. Phishing is a real concern and risk.
3. Tech Herald says more and more criminals will use FB as a valuable source of profit and information (spreading malware via links or applications, for example).
4. It doesn’t only happen to other people and people we don’t know – identity theft is real and is happening.
5. We all have our own stalkers. I don’t want to give my own stalkers the satisfaction of secretly seeing and downloading photos of me and my family.
6. If you only want certain information/photos to be available to certain people (and hide them from those you don’t really know), then make an effort to change your settings.

However, in spite of these precautions, some of it is for nothing. No matter how much you safeguard your identity and information, there are snippets of you that will be revealed to the online world.

(Continue on to Part 2)

Update:
How to set Facebook Privacy Settings
Ten Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know
Don’t let Facebook get you into Trouble

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