Minimizing Pain, Maximizing Joy on the Hidden Brain

In this NPR podcast from the Hidden Brain, the concepts of pain and joy are explored. It is a nice introduction to stoic philosophy. In the process they touch on the importance of valuing what you have and spending less time on negative visualization. At the core, this discussion is about being satisfied with simplicity and “doing what you can with what you have where you are”.

I would love to hear what you think after listening to it. 


En las fronteras … con Anzaldúa (for Spanish Friday)

Today is Spanish Friday, so the rest of this post will be in Spanish. I got the idea from the following blog . If you are participating in Spanish Friday as well, please feel free to leave a link to your blog in the comments. 

Anzaldúa se centra en la experiencia de los mestizos … gente que vive en la frontera entre dos mundos, dos culturas. Ella habla del dificultad que los que viven en los márgenes han vivido tratando de conciliar mensajes, expectativas y valores contradictorios que se enfrentan todos los días. Ellos estan balanceando entre dos comunidades que se encuentran a menudo en desacuerdo con los demás.

No es fácil vivir en las fronteras. Anzaldúa lo deja claro. Sin embargo, también apunta a la posibilidad de que se presente si estos habitantes de dos mundos pueden aprender a aceptar los dos lados de sí mismos y convertir la frontera en una encrucijada. Tal vez el futuro de nuestra especie está en las manos de estos que pueden cruzar la frontera. Al ser los dos, del grupo y extraños al mismo tiempo, se colocan en una posición única para negociar las diferencias y explicar los problemas con una visión desde ambos lados. Tal vez, la clave para una solución exitosa es tan solo buscarlos y darles una voz en lugar de empujar de nuevo insistiendo en que eligen uno u otro lado.

Anzaldúa se centró en las fronteras que son más vivos en su vida, pero nos encontramos con estas fronteras en cualquier lugar  donde las personas con identidades diferentes entran en contacto. Mira como una residente fronteriza lucha con su identidad en este interesante documental:

Want that epic win? Change your perspective!

Russell challenged us to change our perspective.  He suggested that our current perspective might actually be holding us back from being the best we can be and seeing all the possibilities that are available to us.

Enter Jane McGonigal … telling us that we need to play MORE if we want to solve the big problems we face as a species.  What? Play MORE? Talk about a change of perspective! Check her explanation out here:

TED Talk by Jane McGonigal

Knowledge is the beginning…

I’ve been focused on Jasper’s idea of the “loving struggle”. As I delve deeper into my thoughts on the matter, I find myself thinking about the struggle. If I look for a definition of the word, I find:

1. to contend with an adversary or opposing force.
2. to contend resolutely with a task, problem, etc; strive
3. to advance with violent effort

When I think of the word, I think of a resolute determination. Normally if a person is engaged in a struggle, they are refusing to give up or be beaten by the situation. I think this is a very important thing to remember when we think about the “loving struggle”.

When people engage in “loving struggle”, I believe they are showing some faith in their hope for a solution. They believe it is worth the blood, sweat and tears that might be shed before an end to the conflict is found. They will continue to struggle even if the odds seem stacked against them.  By entering into a compassionate or at the very least respectful dialogue with their adversary, they are keeping the door open.

Around the world, in conflict situations near and far, we can find brave, hopeful individuals who are willing to do what they must to foster “loving struggle” in themselves and others. One example of individuals trying to bring about change through an opening of doors is found in the East-West Divan Orchestra.

The orchestra is the dream child of two great men, Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim, and it is built around the reality of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.  Bringing together young musicians from thoughout the middle east (both Arab and Israeli), they are providing an opportunity for dialogue.

I give you a brief excerpt from the documentary which was made about their work. If you have an opportunity to watch it in its entirity, I urge you to do so! Although his partner, Edward Said, has died, Barenboim continues the work with the East-West Divan Orchestra.

Exploring the loving struggle in our world today…

The bombed remains of automobiles with the bom...
The bombed remains of automobiles with the bombed Federal Building in the background. The military is providing around the clock support since a car bomb exploded inside the building on Wednesday, April 19, 1995. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I attempt to process the events that unfurled on January 6th, 2021, I have stumbled back upon some of my earlier reflections based on the concept of loving struggle. I thought this one in particular was worth posting again.


When I first read about Jaspers and his concept of loving struggle I had a bit of trouble getting my mind around it. However, with continued contemplation of the concept, I think I am beginning to get it.

Now, I seem to find the idea of this loving struggle echoing in the words of many people whose work focuses on peace and conflict resolution, and I am beginning to see why Jaspers thought our survival depends on our ability to enter into a loving struggle with others.

One place where I am repeatedly reminded of the importance of the loving struggle is the radio program On Being. This program from American Public Mediafocuses on “big questions at the center of human life”.  One recent program focused on forgiveness and revenge.  As I listened to the guest, Michael McCullough, I suddenly found myself thinking, “He is talking about the loving struggle.” 

McCullough is a research psychologist whose work focuses on the social and biological factors involved in forgiveness and revenge. In his interview, he compared and contrasted situations in which individuals sought revenge and situations in which people offered forgiveness instead of revenge.  He looked at interpersonal situations, but he also extrapolated to global political examples, and he said that people seem to be hardwired to seek revenge when we are wronged, but  “if you can convince me that you’re safe, right, that I don’t have to worry about being harmed in the same way a second time, maybe I’m willing to move a little bit forward” and look for a peaceful resolution.

How does the perpetrator convince the victim that he/she is safe? By engaging in a loving struggle.  McCullough offers two wonderful examples. One figure of public forgiveness whom Michael McCullough writes about is Bud Welch. His 23-year-old daughter Julie died in the bombing of the Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Another touching example comes from Uganda.  In both cases, by engaging in loving struggle, the cycle of violence is being broken.  It is worth a listen:

Thich Nhat Hanh and Karl Jaspers

As I contemplate Karl Jasper’s idea of “loving struggle,” I find that at least in my understanding, his ideas are quite similar to the ideas of Thich Nhat Hanh.  Both men recognize the importance of communication in the peace process. Both see that while it is not easy for us to enter into a dialogue with our adversaries, it is necessary if we are ever going to coexist peacefully.  We need to see the world from the perspective of the other if we are to have any hope of resolving conflicts.  As long as we negate the suffering of the other, there is a chasm that prevents us from showing them compassion. Why do I need to show compassion to my “enemy”? Because this compassion allows me to become a mindful listener.  If the other person/group believes that they are being listened to, that their point of view/suffering is being acknowledged, it can result in a lowering of their defenses.  They begin to open up and see that there might be a way towards peace and common understanding.

Starting close to home…

By focusing on Jaspers in the chapter on communication, McCarty focuses our attention on communication at a community level. However, it seems if we cannot even communicate effectively with the people who are closest to us, the odds seem to be against us when we attempt to enter in a serious dialogue with “the other”  – people who have different cultural backgrounds, different worldviews, different value systems, and perhaps very little interest in hearing our point of view.

So, in the interest of exploring interpersonal communication, I turn to Deborah Tannen.  For anyone who is not familiar with Tannen’s work, here is a sample:

In this one, she is focusing on the communication between mothers and daughters. So many messages and metamessages there…