Posts Tagged ‘Abraham Maslow’

Pilgrimage Statistics 

 Consecutive Days Riding: 144                                      Days Blogged: 128 

New Mileage: 4                                                   Total Trip Mileage: 1006

 Today was my first day back from Spring Break.  I taught three classes in a row that then spent an hour dealing with a student crisis.  After my hour plus drive home and a short ride on the bike I was exhausted, so I decided to rerun one of my posting from early December that continues to be visited on a regular basis by new viewers of my blog.  I hope you enjoy it!  Tomorrow we will talk about political intrigue and the “New Thought” movement in the early 1900s.

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I am an optimist!  I believe that with a focused effort people can regain control over their individual lives and that we as a culture and society can solve the dilemmas and threats we face. However, I am also a realist!  I know there are many opposing forces at play in our lives and that of our culture and society.  Some forces bring us together while others push us apart. Finding the middle ground, the point of balance between these forces is a daunting task for an individual and a society. This is part of the reason why people seek out therapists, spiritual leaders, and the wisdom of the ages.

 Yesterday I paused at the entrance to a colleague’s office, an historian, to inquire about his holiday break.  I know his beliefs on a lot of topics and they bear little resemblance to my own.  An initial discussion of his lingering head cold soon turned to politics and religion. I had not intended to steer the discussion in this direction but it went there at his insistence.  He wanted to talk about “them Muslims and terrorists” and how they are all the enemy. Several times I caught myself becoming defensive and pulled back from confronting his views.  Instead I argued for the need to learn more about the Muslims viewpoint so that we might connect with the more moderate element of their faith. He eventually agreed with my statement that an “us versus them” or an “I’m right and your wrong” approach to such matters leaves no one a winner.  Then with barely a pause he noted how the Muslims needed to change first as it was their fault that these are increasingly dangerous times.

  Dichotomous Thinking and it’s Solution.

 This represents an example of dichotomous thinking and can be defined as: thinking that is also sometimes called “black or white thinking.”  This is when someone is only able to see the extremes of a situation, and is unable to see the “gray areas” or complexities of the situation.”  Such thinking sits up a vicious “us versus them” trap. If truth and righteousness are on our side then why is there any need to understand, accept or compromise with anyone we see as an opponent.  If we hold up a pre-conceived idea of what it means to “meet us half way” then are we not simply demanding that they endorse our position?  Is it at all surprising that presented with these demands, those on the other side will become defensive and see their only option to be resistance in various forms, including perhaps suicide bombings?   I’m reminded of reading the following quote by Pat Buchanan to a Christian Coalition meeting: “Our culture is superior. Our culture is superior because our religion is Christianity and that is the truth that makes men free.”  With this attitude why do we need to sit down and have a discussion with anyone of another religion, culture, sexual orientation, or political party?

  Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

 I am reminded of Abraham Maslow’s well known “Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid”.  He notes that the lower level “Deficiency Needs” of safety and belonging seem stronger in pull than the higher level “Being Needs” such as justice, beauty, compassion and love. One needs to be reflective and attuned to recognize and hear the “voices” of these higher needs. One needs to be aware of the “humanness” of those people who seem opposed to us and of the similarity of our own emotions and needs.

Label them a beast and they will act as one!

 I left this disturbing interaction with my colleague and immediately took a walk. I savored the sting of the winter breeze on my face, filled my lungs with deep breaths of the cold air and listened to the rhythmic sounds of my footsteps.  I let the calming influence of nature bring me back to the moment. 

  A tranquil retreat and pilgrimage!

  Why do some people create altars in their living space, place a bench under a cherished tree, walk a favorite path, or go on a spiritual pilgrimage journey?  I believe it is because during these times and in these places we experience moments of balance in our lives which help us to see the possibility of similar balance in the larger world.  If only more of the dichotomous thinkers could or would avail themselves to these peaceful places.  Perhaps then we would all be closer to finding true peace.

Disasterous retreat from a no win situation.

 Thanks to The Curious Animator at www.tomjech.com/blog/category/images for the dichotomous thinking cartoon. If you enjoyed this posting please consider signing up for the stationarypilgrim’s e-mail list by clicking on the subscribe button at the top right of this page… thank you for visiting!


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Pilgrimage Statistics 

Consecutive Days Riding:  103                                                 Days Blogged: 95

New Mileage: 12                                                               Total Trip Mileage: 785

Form over Function?

As I ride the bike I am thinking about the Pilgrimage Site we will visit today.  It is named the Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values located on the campus of the University of Tampa. 

Sykes Chapel

The site is still under construction, with its outer shell is almost completed.  The Center will serve a very important function for the University and the greater Tampa community as it has brought together worship leaders from 23 local religious groups for monthly interfaith discussions.  The finished Chapel/Center will include a main hall seating 300 people, meeting rooms, meditation rooms, and adjacent meditation garden.  The west end of the Chapel/Center will house a massive pipe organ.  On the plaza outside the center will stand a unique 75 foot grand musical sculpture adorned with 60 bells and a water fountain.  This unique sculpture/fountain brings together harmonious bells similar to what the center will attempt to do with the different faiths.  I believe the survival of our culture depends upon such efforts!  We must break from the past and the failed efforts at finding “one tone” that fits all people, or efforts to suppress notes that we may find disagreeable or just different.  Like this sculpture, we must come together, many different voices, like individual bells, making music and speaking of the divine.

Recently several of my blog viewers commented on my “Pilgrimages, Retreats and Port-a-potties” posting.  One individual shared a Christian prayer  which prompted a second viewer to note the meaninglessness of the prayer to those who “do not believe in God”.  A third viewer then joined in the discussion.  I directed a comment at all three noting: “We could get into all kinds of arguments about whose worldview has “the truth” and in all likelihood all we would do is go into our separate corners and lick our wounds. That is why I look at it from a “functional” level of analysis! All four of our world views work! They work for each of us and meet our needs… for meaning, purpose, guidance. If the world is ever going to find common ground it won’t be arguing till everyone agrees on the one true form of the divine.  This won’t happen until we all agree that as long as a world view (ours or someone else’s) functions in healthy pro-social ways for individuals and society it is a good and valid choice. Remember: “Be certain, but humble.”

Musical Sculpture

This discussion brought me back to a point I often ponder.  Why is it so difficult to find common ground, to listen to each other without trying to establish who is right or wrong. I believe one way of understanding the difficulty behind this task is to realize there are two different ways in which we can analyze religious or spiritual behavior. In psychology we talk about it being an issue of the depth of our analysis.  On the form level, an analysis looks at differences in the form or appearance of the behaviors.  Things like the different names or symbols used for the divine, or different sources of knowledge (e.g., mystical revelation, or sacred Scriptures, or rituals).  This is the level of analysis that tends to ask the question “which form has the truth?”  The other level of analysis, and the one that I challenge the students in my Psychology of Religion class to explore, looks at the functional level of the behavior. Using this analysis you might look at a Christian on their knees praying, a Buddhist sitting in meditation, or a Sufi twirling in a Dervish ritual and see all three as serving the same function for the individuals which is that of connecting with the divine.

 I believe  when you take a functional approach of analysis it is easier to see past the question of “who has the truth” leading one  to ask the question “does the belief system function to meet the individual and community’s needs?” It’s not easy to take a functional approach because you must make an effort and be mindfulness of the other person.  It takes the ability to see past surface differences and peer into the depths of a topic. I believe this issue is also tied to the question of why people do not always act in more positive loving ways toward other people. I’m speaking of the ideas Abraham Maslow embedded in his theory of the Hierarchy of Needs. The lower needs are what he terms the deficiency needs (e.g., if we don’t have enough to eat we feel hungry).  These needs are always pulling at us, especially when TV advertisements tell us we need to look better, we need to have a nicer car, and we need more money.  The needs at the top of the hierarch, the being needs, call to us in a quieter voice and urge us toward behaviors like justice, understanding, compassion, wisdom and love.  These qualities demand that we looks past the surface, pass the question of what’s in it for us, and ask the question “what would do the greatest good for family, friends, community and nation.”  

Strength through Diversity!

Analyzing any choice, religious choices included, is easiest at the level of deficiency.  Caring first and foremost for myself and my people’s needs takes the least amount of effort.  Listening to the subtle voices of the being needs means asking questions about who is harmed, who wins and who loses, it means looking for positions of compromise.  Asking what position has “the truth” is always divisive and pulls a community down.  The functional choice would be to ask what position is the “right one”.  This would bring about the greatest good and is always a win-win situation, lifting up the community

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding:  31                              Consecutive Days Blogging: 32

Today’s Mileage: 7                                              Total Trip Mileage: 287


Holidays and Holy Days on : November 9, 2009

Celebration of the Fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9th 1989.


    I spoke yesterday about the importance of Pilgrimages of Remembrance and we visited a site that houses the memories of the Jewish community in south Florida.  It seems to me that sites of remembrance can exist on three levels:  First on a personal level for an individual or family, such as the roadside memorials that spring up after car accidents that claimed the  life of  a loved one or returning to a childhood home. Second, a site may be representative of a community’s shared memories, like the museum we visited yesterday or a local war memorial. And third a remembrance site may speak  a more universal message, to countries (as with Independence Hall in Philadelphia), a religion (like Mecca to Muslims) or to all of mankind.

thcanyon by R. Nance

Roadside Memorial

     The site we are visiting today represents this type of universal site.  It has a message for the whole world.  The occurence of the holocaust, while doubted by some, is accepted as one of the low points in human history.  It carries an important message and a warning of the extreme degree to which human motivations can turn against the welfare of other human beings. The aftermath of WWII left the world reeling not just because of the level of destruction visited on both the east and west, but because of the questions it raised about human nature and the source of evil.

     Is evil a separate entity that gained control over a nation and directed it to destroy other nations and peoples?  Is there a God, and if so how could he let so many innocent people die? How could a Christian nation (Germany) become this evil monster? Is evil  a dark side that resides within all of us, held in check by our better side?  Is evil a deviation of our human nature to love and care for others, that can be strongly influenced and hijacked by outside forces (political movements, religions and cults)?

washington dc

Washington DC Monuments.

    I don’t have answers to these questions, as most of them are better left to philosophers and theologians.  As a therapist I do witness people struggling with the choices between healthy and prosocial versus addictive and selfish choices.  I agree with Abraham Maslow the Humanistic Personality theorist that the “pull” of  deficiency needs (sustenance, safety, possession, ego, etc) is for many individuals stronger than the being needs (self-actualization).  Like the line for the Indigo Girls song Closer to Fine that states: “Darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable and lightness has a call that’s hard to hear.” I believe  it is crucial that we as individuals and as a community and nation, ask the hard questions. How do we ensure that our better nature and needs predominate over those needs that subjugate, demean and lead ultimately to the destruction of other human beings?

     I believe this struggle between good and evil rages within all of us. I believe  it is a spiritual journey and struggle. I hope you find today’s visit to the Holocaust Memorial of Miami to be insightful.  It will jolt you, as it has me, to remember that  individual choices can and do contribute to larger movements.  Please ask yourself: do these movements represent and promote growth and connectedness or decay and separation from others?

     Now please visit the site by clicking on the Pilgrimage Site button at the top of the page.

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