To get my stories straight — I wrote the commentary that appears below in THIS post before I wrote the post this one follows:
To clarify, by the time my words had spun themselves out to the end of my commentary I was genuinely concerned that maybe I just woke up this morning with my mean streak showing. So I decided I better get my facts straight before publishing what is in this post.
My thinking is not off target. For America to be OK with having nearly 1 in 4 of our children falling so far behind in overall well-being reflects — to me — that our nation has a serious problem with conscience and compassion — if not also with our common sense.
Everything humans do is about regulating our body chemistry. Eat. Drink. Sleep. Work. Play. Stay warm. Cool off. Have friends. Care about others. Have others care about us. Go on holidays. Relax.
We are physical beings in a body run on body chemistry. Do we think that because we can think about what we think about that we can decide that our body chemistry — which has to be regulated — is only of the most minor concern to us?
Is it because in our culture our strides in science have been outmatched by commercialism that we can separate ourselves as consumer-beings from ourselves as marvels of biochemical engineering?
My bugaboo this morning has to do with how we think about the one word we use (if we are aware enough to use it at all) so naively in our culture that actually describes how we all got started on our merry road to personal freedom in the first place — and how we stay on it. That word is ATTACHMENT.
By itself this word seems to be as nearly useless in its use to describe what it actually means as is the word LOVE. As far as I’m concerned love is a philosophical word that describes a nebulous, ill-defined, amorphous state that carries within it no common or scientific sense at all. Nobody can actually prove love exists. It is not a tangible object (although it turns out that through attachment it is a tangible process). Nobody can agree what love is and the word is used so generally as to be so diluted as a concept that it seems nearly useless.
But in our culture we love to use the word love so we use it as much as we possibly can. This word love reminds me of the children’s story of the emperor who had no clothes. If we use the word as if we know what it actually means — and if we use it often enough in every possible context where it might apply, we can include ourselves in the IN crowd. This makes us feel like more regular people, I suppose. After all, we can love pancakes. We can love our car. We can love a pair of shoes, a movie, our pets, our nation, our mates and our children.
And because love is such a lose-knit word it handily gives us the widest possible net within which we can toss everything that seems to have a value to us. And then we hold on tight.
It then becomes simple common sense to connect the word love directly to the word ATTACHMENT in our minds. If we love something or someone then of course we are attached to it – or her – or him. Our language makes no real distinction between love of animate versus love of inanimate objects, so why bother to think through any further complications regarding attachment, either?
We can learn a new word, attachment, and then simply use it interchangeably with that old world, love. We can be attached to a shirt, a skirt, a car, a pet, a sports team, a movie star, a community, and to one another. And of course we all know we can be strongly attached to our ideas about everything from gun to birth control, from religion to politics, and we are of course attached to our habits — and to our babies.
But then there is an entirely different level of consideration possible in thinking about both love and attachment. This level requires the acceptance of a common round between these words as they might describe what actually matters. But what fun is it, really, to be bound together on a common level of understanding that rests on factual truths?
As long as we personally attach our own meaning to these words we are free to be individuals, not common blended members of a species who cannot escape the gravity of reality. How is it possible to be both common and unique/special at the same time?
Who cares to talk about specifics, anyway? Who wants to know that we don’t escape the fundamental operation of our biochemistry as it is regulated and dysregulated by what/who we love and what/who we are attached to? Why would we want to know that where attachment and love matters most is exactly where our biochemistry cannot keep us alive without being regulated?
Is it blasphemy to accept the fact that what one human being does with its baby from the time it is conceived and then born directly modulates and directs the biochemistry that builds the nervous system and brain of the baby in direct response to caregiver interactions?
Is it even criminal to think about the fact that attachment to babies is a BIOCHEMICAL NEUROLOGICAL INTERACTIONAL REGULATORY PROCESS that determines what kind of body, what kind of a nervous system, brain, stress-calm response system and immune system an infant will grow up with and then live with for the rest of its life?
We live in a culture that increasingly provides its population with increasing chemical compounds designed to be consumed to regulate the biochemistry that regulates mood. Antidepressant consumption alone in our nation should be alerting us to the fact that something is wrong. Terribly wrong.
We accept that we hold more people in more prisons than does any other wealthy nation. We have rampant rates of sexual assault, domestic violence, harm to children, extremes of poverty and wealth that are both appalling and insane. Addictions to alcohol, legal and illegal drugs, to spending, food and sex riddle the fabric of our society. Our education systems are failing, our health is declining, our local community roots are disintegrating and our families are struggling greatly. (It is becoming unpopular to talk about divorce/break-up rates, children being raised without both of their parents, or about working families that do NOT have access to high quality day care that babies and children need.)
As a nation we are continuing to build gross dysregulation into our future generations as our youth become unfit even for military duty at the alarming rate of 75%, and we continue to turn our backs on the fact that we are regressing in the quality of our overall well-being — not progressing. (See: 75% of young Americans unfit for Military Duty)
Whatever we are in love with, and whatever we are attached to, it’s not working.
The point of our physiological stress-calm response system is to take our startle response seriously when we need to. When we experience a state of shock in our body systems it is a sign of health. We are supposed to notice what is wrong, pay attention and then respond appropriately to a problem — and SOLVE it.
We use words like empathy, compassion, conscience and consciousness as if we know what they mean just like we use love and attachment (all processes involving biochemical interactions in our body-brain).
Psychopaths do not have a normal startle response, tied to the fact that they do not have a conscience. Do we as a nation have the ability (a fright-filled thought) to no longer be startled by flaws in our personal and social system to situations that are harmful? What critical level of distress and trauma must exist in our society before our lethargic narcissism and ignorance gives way to asking the right questions about our choices?
Are we so distracted by the noisy clutter of what occupies our attention that we can no longer respond to the scream of our inner alarm system that should have already alerted us to the fact that all is not well in this nation we live in?
We can do better.
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Reminder: Please always click on the title of a post and go to the blog directly to read – my edit process often lags behind my posting – apologies!