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What Makes Superman Interesting

Send him mail. “Insight for the Young and Unrestrained” is an original weekly column appearing every Thursday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Gregory V. Diehl. Gregory is a writer, musician, educator, and coach for young people at EnabledYouth.com. Archived columns can be found here. IYU-only RSS feed available here. Fans of the Superman mythology know how hard it is to keep a character who can’t be hurt interesting. There’s no space for any real conflict, unless the writer goes to great lengths to introduce it in a usually over-the-top manner. In the recent Man of Steel, director Zack Snyder did an exceptional job (in my opinion, at least) of reinventing a tired and cliché hero into something spectacular and new. He did this by making Superman’s central conflict a psychological burden, not a physical one. To me, this movie was more about the universal struggle of embracing destiny than it was super-powered fights. Clark Kent is a man blessed and burdened with incomprehensible gifts. The greatest difficulty he faces is not learning to use these gifts; it’s not even the pressure and fear of keeping his nature a secret from the world. Superman’s moment of greatest glory comes when he embraces being a powerful and important figure in the world. When dire circumstances demand it, he steps up and learns to take purposeful action on a scale so much larger than the minor emergencies chance had brought upon his path previously. He graduates from exploding oil rigs to alien invasions because he recognizes an immediate need that only he can fill. That need gives him the boost in confidence he requires to reveal himself to the world and go further with his abilities than ever before. In this way, all of us can relate to the man of steel. We so easily fall into the entrapment of routine that it can take a drastic change in our comfort and understanding of the world to instigate any meaningful or lasting progress. These moments can come as near-death experiences or the loss of some major fixture in life. Sometimes they happen when we witness something so big that what we previously cared about begins to seem insignificant. It happens when we fall in love, travel to unfamiliar lands, or undertake some major project that pushes us further than we knew we could go. I’m sure that all men who walked on the moon were forever different because of it. Almost all of us have major gifts and abilities we do not nearly begin to make full use of. Far more common than a lack of ability, is a lack of will. It takes major mental fortitude to begin to adopt a purpose-driven sense of identity and act on a much larger scale in the world. These mental barriers are what stop capable individuals from starting their own small businesses, or small businesses from growing into big businesses, or big businesses from changing the world. It’s probably also the cause of much smaller mental inhibitions, like... continue reading

On the Road to a Right Education

Send him mail. “Insight for the Young and Unrestrained” is an original weekly column appearing every Thursday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Gregory V. Diehl. Gregory is a writer, musician, educator, and coach for young people at EnabledYouth.com. Archived columns can be found here. IYU-only RSS feed available here. (Editor’s note: Originally written in September 2011.) We face a profoundly sad state of affairs in human civilization. What is called a conventional education today is little more than mass cultural training in a particular brand of patriotism, including enforced memorization of the current era’s arbitrarily acceptable ideas. The entire public school system operates under one goal: preparing every individual for entrance into a life of laboring as a functional member in the national work force. Large groups of people are prepared for a specific purpose and lifestyle through the process of indoctrination, and seldom does any real education occur through this process. Indoctrination and Education are entirely opposite concepts.Education is the process of a rational mind coming to healthy maturity, during which the individual adopts accurate conceptions of the world and its various functions. It is a process of self-empowerment, where each new piece of knowledge can be independently verified and remain logically consistent with all other information obtained earlier. It is a voluntary process, fueled only by the individual learner’s inclination toward intrigue and choice to pursue understanding of the unfamiliar. Indoctrination is a process of externally enforced self-degradation. Subjects are commanded exactly what to think. They are never taught how to rationally differentiate truth from illusion. Each new piece of information obtained is potentially a major danger to the subject, for the student is at the mercy of whoever happens to be the information enforcer for the day. The subject’s scope of reality only narrows further with the passage of time. As the external programming solidifies, curiosity withers, sacrificing the greatest blessings of human individuality; the student comes to reject all notions of existence counter to what has been adopted from the prevailing authority. This process is repeated and strengthened with each new generation. Education is the engine of progress for humanity while indoctrination is its greatest hindrance. We live in a world where educational institutions no longer function to empower the individual man, woman, or child to think for themselves and develop rational facilities in critical thinking for examining reality. The greatest hope for humanity lies in the undoing of fallacious beliefs and the implementation of a right concept of education. The most defining features of our species, those traits that separate us most broadly from the so-called “lower” animals, are our capacity for reason, our curiosity to learn, and our physical dexterity for shaping our environment with the utmost precision. The synergistic combination of these traits has enabled us to become a new kind of specialist in the animal kingdom. We are not homo sapien the runner, the climber, the swimmer, nor the flier. We have always and almost exclusively been homo sapien the toolmaker. The tools an... continue reading

The Glorification of Busy

Send him mail. “Insight for the Young and Unrestrained” is an original weekly column appearing every Thursday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Gregory V. Diehl. Gregory is a writer, musician, educator, and coach for young people at EnabledYouth.com. Archived columns can be found here. IYU-only RSS feed available here. When you live your life at warp speed long enough, you forget what slow feels like. The requirements of modern living keep us mentally occupied from task to task, all for the sake of maximum productivity. This is a good problem to have, really, as most parts of the world haven’t reached a state of economic advancement where such streamlined behavior is even possible. The blessings of modern living have their price, though. We get so busy getting things done that we easily forget why we are doing them, or if there might be something we’d much rather be doing if only we had the time to wonder. Children take the most damage from living in a society structured for constant motion. No time ever passes without a plan for its occupation. From the moment they get on board the track of public school, there’s supposed to be a plan for how every important development of their lives is going to unfold. Some collectivist voices decided a long time ago that there was a way human beings ought to be brought up in the world they created for us. The details of this plan have changed throughout the years, but the principle remains the same. By the time most people complete their mandatory schooling, they’ve yet to experience life on their own terms without some kind of sense of what they were “supposed” to be doing. Since a planned existence is all they have ever known, the majority will simply follow suite with how their life has gone until this moment in time. They go to college, usually not because it’s genuinely where their passions guide them, but because it’s all part of the plan for a “successful” life. Soon after, they enter a career field with lots of room for easy advancement, simply because it requires the least amount of ingenuity and personal input on their part. They’re doomed now to spend most of their waking lives as “workers.” The individual details discriminating one type from another hardly matter. “Work” can be defined simply as the things a person makes themselves do because they believe it to be necessary for the sustenance of their living standards. This is in opposition to “play,” which is simply the things they do for the enjoyment brought by the activity itself. They do what they perceive they have to do, so that later there might be some way to get around to doing what they want to do. The revolutionaries of our age and of ages past talk about the process of “finding oneself,” which is only possible because so many of us are so dreadfully lost. It’s a wonder that, even in a world so... continue reading

Do You Suffer From Free Lunch Syndrome?

Send him mail. “Insight for the Young and Unrestrained” is an original weekly column appearing every Thursday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Gregory V. Diehl. Gregory is a writer, musician, educator, and coach for young people at EnabledYouth.com. Archived columns can be found here. IYU-only RSS feed available here. Most people suffer from a debilitating psychological parasite known as Free Lunch Syndrome (FLS). FLS is so widespread, that it is rarely ever noticed. When everyone around you is sick, your standard of health adjusts accordingly. It’s been called many other names, like poverty consciousness, or scarcity mentality, and these terms are just as appropriate. FLS is terminal in most cases; victims will carry it until the day they die. But what exactly is Free Lunch Syndrome, and why should you care about something that seemingly everyone carries and manages to get along with just fine?Free Lunch Syndrome sufferers view all or most interactions with other people and the world as potential for loss and will attempt to avoid as much of this “risky” behavior as possible. They want to minimalize loss so badly that they will go to absurd lengths to shape their lives around which courses of action will require the least possible sacrifice from them. They believe that good things and fortune happen only by occasional chance, luck, or the intervention of a force beyond their control, whereas loss, hardship, and degradation are everywhere and great attention must be put into preventing them. FLS sufferers are economic hypochondriacs. Anything that can go wrong in their life, however outlandish or unlikely, absolutely will go wrong. People with FLS are perplexed by people and organizations who have managed to amass large amounts of wealth. Because they lack the capacity to understand how someone could go from having nearly nothing to having a lot, they invent a hazy explanation that success could only have come through nefarious means. If someone is successful, their success must have come at the expensive of someone else. Because one of the side effects of FLS is a chronic tendency to victimize oneself, the delusional patient will often assume that it was he, or someone like himself, who was somehow taken advantage of in other people’s paths to prosperity. He’ll come to resent anyone with a higher standard of living than the arbitrary one of his immediate neighbors and fellow FLS carriers. Because an FLS patient believes it is mostly, if not entirely, beyond his control to improve his circumstances in life and actually produce something of value for himself or others, he will dedicate an inordinate amount of his time and energy toward figuring out how to take advantage of the good graces or oversights of those better off than he. This is where the name “free lunch” is derived. He will not ever pay a single cent for anything he believes there may be a way to acquire for free. He lacks the capacity to see the chain of causality by which the item or service... continue reading

Guiding the Outliers

Send him mail. “Insight for the Young and Unrestrained” is an original weekly column appearing every Thursday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Gregory V. Diehl. Gregory is a writer, musician, educator, and coach for young people at EnabledYouth.com. Archived columns can be found here. IYU-only RSS feed available here. Spiderman’s superhero mantra that “with great power comes great responsibility” sounds trite and irrelevant to mild-mannered human beings like you and me, but it isn’t. Every society on earth functions under some form of hierarchical structure, and the closer to the top you are the more power you have over your fellow man. Whether the people in the positions of highest authority achieved their status through delusions of noble birth and supernatural intervention, violent conquest, or legitimate leadership ability is irrelevant. For most people, the temptation of suddenly ruling over the lives of others is too much. How can you know your true character until you’ve been placed in such a position?Of course, hierarchies of authority don’t just exist as deities, political figures, police officers, and religious figureheads. We all defer to someone for many of the choices affecting our lives. Most of the time, the authority we give up is voluntary, like when choosing to work as part of a company and taking orders from someone higher up. Every time we hire a specialist to solve a problem we cannot do on our own, we defer to their authority on the subject and trust their judgment. Although, sometimes authority is taken from us without consent by bullies, criminals, and anyone who makes choices for us without asking permission. Children, by nature of their initial physical and intellectual feebleness, are always under the authority of others in society. Anyone who produces an offspring or enters a line of work involving children will find themselves holding great power. Sadly, many are not ready to wield this power. They become short-tempered and begin to act childish themselves when they can’t effectively control a group. Teachers are among the greatest offenders, as we’ve all seen adults, who should not even be given domain over a single child, attempting to chaotically enforce law and order over groups of many. Attempting to teach in groups can be difficult. It requires a totally different approach and dynamic than individual instruction. Large groups, like more than 30 students at a time, are a totally different experience than the personalized interaction that happens when working with only one or a few learners. Due to time constraints and the respective mental differences among all the students participating, one has to streamline whatever is being explained into an extremely generic presentation that will, hopefully, reach some of the people paying attention. However, anytime I instruct a larger group of individuals, I find that there are always a few who stick out from the group for one reason or another. They think differently, or react with a different level of enthusiasm toward the material being presented. They might come into the class with an... continue reading

Advice for Future Teachers

Send him mail. “Insight for the Young and Unrestrained” is an original weekly column appearing every Thursday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Gregory V. Diehl. Gregory is a writer, musician, educator, and coach for young people at EnabledYouth.com. Archived columns can be found here. IYU-only RSS feed available here. “Intellect” is intangible, and therefore not something which can be directly observed. Its workings must be inferred by its measurable physical effects. We can get a sense of ways in which intelligence obviously does not work. We can build numerous positive correlations which show obvious patterns and general trends. But as soon as we attempt to zero in on it and describe it as succinctly as we might describe the parts and processes of an internal combustion engine, it eludes us again with real live demonstrations of human behavior which don’t quite fit the theory. But in exactly the same manner which the position of a planet might be deduced by the observation of its gravitational influence on surrounding bodies, every teacher can make educated guesses about the inner workings of a student’s mind by careful observation of a student’s physical actions and words. In education, information is presented to learners through the use of visible and audible symbols (such as written and spoken words, or physical gestures) with associated meanings. But these demonstrations only take on significance when the student has a mind capable of recognizing the meanings of the symbols presented, and this can only be done through sufficient logical capacity and readily accessible memory. A mind which categorizes every individual idea or activity as completely new and unrelated to the memories of previous experiences cannot learn new tasks or skills. Logic and memory are the glue which bind random data into a cohesive structure, and make learning possible. Therefore, every teacher ought to focus on strengthen and expanding the logical capacity of every student they encounter.In instructing language, this means learning the relevant patterns of sentence structure and the conjugations of verbs. These grammatical principles are applied intuitively to every new vocabulary word through the use of logic, whether or not the student has ever actually heard or seen that new word in use. If not for logical categorization of information, every new word and iteration would have to be learned by rote as merely an arbitrary and unrelated list of facts or labels. Patterns such as this can be represented through the use of logical syllogisms, such as if A is a subset of B, and B is a subset of C, then A must therefore be a subset of C. True education and sharpening of intelligence happens through the enhancement of the understanding of such principles, whereas list-based learning involves no use of logical capacity, and only relies on the occupation of space in memory banks. This distinction may seem small, but it makes all the difference in the world. I’ve seen countless examples of would-be students who insist that they would love to learn music, math, or... continue reading

The Power of Why

Send him mail. “Insight for the Young and Unrestrained” is an original weekly column appearing every Thursday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Gregory V. Diehl. Gregory is a writer, musician, educator, and coach for young people at EnabledYouth.com. Archived columns can be found here. IYU-only RSS feed available here. One of the most exciting things about being human is getting to figure out firsthand exactly where the limits of the my mind lie. There is no set level of knowledge any of us can aspire to attain. Even if we succeed in quantifying the sheer volume of data the average human brain can hold, there are an infinite number of permutations and combinations of information a mind can contain, as new information is always appearing. Each of us can, theoretically, continue to change the present structure of knowledge in our minds and spend each day as a slightly different person than the day before. This sustained change is possible only when we maintain the curiosity necessary to seek out answers to new questions, and the bravery to boldly ask “why” something unfamiliar happens. “Why” is the doorway to personal growth. It allows the foreign to become familiar, and turns the overwhelming into something manageable by human thought. A tremendous amount of fear and distress come from nothing more than the perception of an unmanageable or unknowable force (or an overloading number of factors to deal with). This instinctual reaction to flee in these moments generally does a disservice, as most of the time fleeing is not an option. We can’t run, yet we feel compelled to, so we stay perpetually moving in place in the middle of a situation which will never be dealt with fully. Eventually, the stress destroys us. Whenever the darkness approaches, I sit with it as long as necessary to really experience the painful sensations it sends through my nervous system, as well as the ghastly thoughts it brings to my mental forefront. If there is one principle I have faith in to remain true until the end of time, it’s the trust that nothing ever happens which cannot be understood. My belief in this absolute gives me a religious strength against whatever internal or external chaos erupts in my life. I’ve relied on the assurance of my ability to make sense and order from the seemingly random and destructive forces at work in the world to pull me up from my worst moments and propel me toward growth. It still astounds me how far I’ve come in making sense of and gaining mastery over thoughts and things which once controlled me. Some of them were physical in nature, but the majority were purely emotional. Activities or ideas which once turned me to shambles now have little to no effect on the balance of my fragile psyche. Some now even strengthen me. Mistakes of the past which once invoked only sadness or anger have been engineered into a sense of determination and focus. The phantoms which used to... continue reading

Family Ties

Send him mail. “Insight for the Young and Unrestrained” is an original weekly column appearing every Thursday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Gregory V. Diehl. Gregory is a writer, musician, educator, and coach for young people at EnabledYouth.com. Archived columns can be found here. IYU-only RSS feed available here. I’ve been thinking a lot about social bonds lately, as it has taken me an unfortunately long time to learn how to really connect with other people. I think the experience of coming from a place of psychological isolation from my others has given me a unique perspective on the process of friendship and familial bonding. It’s also made me so very appreciative of how far I’ve come in learning the skill of connection. It seems it’s in our nature to generalize the identities of the masses of people we tend to only marginally interact with every day. Our brains simply aren’t shaped to construct and recognize personal identities for every single face we pass in the street, or everyone we share a few sentences with as we go about our days. We handle this by generalizing individuals with common traits into large and ill-defined groups. There’s not really any harm in this, initially, and in fact it seems to be a necessary aspect of how our minds make sense of the world and other people. It becomes a problem when the stereotypes and generalizations we construct or inherit about people prevent us from actually getting to know them as individuals. It takes a surprising amount of effort and mental acuity to invest the energy necessary to really come to know someone else, and I think it is primarily this laziness which prevents most people from really getting to know each other. They only recognize each other as the social identities and masks they wear to get by in a world of superficial anonymity. The people we really bond with are those who we’ve allowed ourselves to get to know more personally. Ultimately, we see them as extensions of ourselves. The frequency with which we accomplish this depends on the quality of the people around us, but more importantly on how open we are to making these bonds in the first place, which may mean expanding ourselves further than we are comfortable doing. The moment we start to care about someone else, we open ourselves up to a whole new world of emotional sensitivity, which means greater joys and also potentially greater sorrows. The people we learn to call family are the ones we’ve fully accepted into the folds of our minds. It’s easiest to reach this level of social kinship with the people we’ve grown up with, especially if they are blood relatives and thus share many physical and psychological attributes. But there’s no reason to end the continual expansion of this process as we age. It may become harder to keep growing and letting new members into the club as our identities solidify, but that’s only all the more reason to... continue reading

Educators in a New Era

Send him mail. “Insight for the Young and Unrestrained” is an original weekly column appearing every Thursday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Gregory V. Diehl. Gregory is a writer, musician, educator, and coach for young people at EnabledYouth.com. Archived columns can be found here. IYU-only RSS feed available here. The accumulated wisdom of mankind has been kept in written and oral form for thousands of years because the memories of individual people were not enough to preserve it. Individual people grow old, and the the record of their experiences fades with their deteriorating bodies. Parents and educators save youth the trials of experience and the rendering of countless mistakes by sharing this history with them. It is the great irony of our age that until now, most parents and educators have served primarily to push progress in the wrong direction. They hold their children to the past instead of guiding them into an undefined future. By pushing and upholding conventions of the past, they become supporters of tradition and enemies of innovation. The greatest challenge facing those who oversee the upbringing of humanity’s youth is offering the guidance and protection needed, without imposing any restrictions upon a child’s natural development. It’s interesting how what’s considered “natural” child-rearing today has little to do with nature, and a lot to do with what has momentarily become common practice in one arbitrary corner of the world. What’s truly healthy and natural is unique to each child. At the root of modern educational practice is the premise that all human minds function identically, and accordingly ought to be treated identically. We ignore their unique needs and temperaments. Teachers impose intellectual limitations and barriers by funneling the free flow of information down to a single simplistic process. These kinds of educators diminish the uniqueness of their students instead of enhancing it. An exemplary educator is capable of sharing the wisdom of their past without using it as a limitation or hindrance upon their growth. But parents and teachers of this caliber are still quite rare in the world. More often, this task is delegated into the hands of someone who has no inherent interest in the long-term outcome of a child’s mental and emotional integrity. This same person proceeds to follow a method and curriculum of education which has been dictated for the masses by the masses. Teaching doesn’t have to be the cold and impersonal experience most of us experienced as youths. I predict that, in time, a new market demand will emerge for a special kind of educator who excels at entering the minds and connecting with the emotions of his students, so as to best serve them on their respective paths to personal achievement. The ability to really know a person, to see simultaneously where they are and where they could go, is a skillset which few yet embody. Good parents, who place education at a high value for their offspring, recognize this proficiency in the people they appoint to aid in their upbringing.... continue reading

Your Pain Isn’t Special

Send him mail. “Insight for the Young and Unrestrained” is an original weekly column appearing every Thursday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Gregory V. Diehl. Gregory is a writer, musician, educator, and coach for young people at EnabledYouth.com. Archived columns can be found here. IYU-only RSS feed available here. Whenever the occasional local massacre or tragedy occurs, it serves as a reminder to the people nearby that evil exists in the world and it has very real consequences. People become easily saddened and sorrowful because the terrible events they’ve witnessed have hit close to home, and that makes the victims easy to identify with. Terror becomes real when we can suddenly picture it happening to those we know and care about. These sorrowful feelings serve as instigators of change, whether it be effective change or not. They make us want to take steps to create a world where evil actions cannot exist anymore. They are but momentary and passing feelings, however. In time, homeostasis returns to all but those most personally affected by whatever the latest injustice happens to be. Life goes on, or so we tell ourselves. This is, of course, all a great delusion. Anyone with even a glimpse of worldwide awareness knows that great acts of evil are happening at any given time across much of the planet to all types of people. We don’t care about those people though, not in the same way we do when it happens on our own soil. They are too different than we like to believe ourselves to be, and we cannot properly identify with their plight, even if we make the effort to become aware of it. People become emotionally neutered in time, and these now and then tragedies serve only as an excuse to once again experiment with being a creature capable of true empathy toward a fellow man. They’re a mask we get to wear to play along in the game of social normalness, much in the same way that Christmas and the holiday season serve as an excuse to see the family you might never talk to for 11 months out of the year. It’s what we do to remain what think “human” is supposed to mean. Imagine if for a moment the entire population of the earth opened their hearts enough to feel the magnitude of sorrow appropriate for all the crimes against humanity being committed right now. Imagine if we had the capacity to not be so selective in the crises we acknowledge. How many African girls facing forceful clitoral dismemberment did you cry for today? How many of the Chinese schoolchildren being beaten and committing suicide entered your mind at some point on your way to work? Try not to let it ruin your day. Actually, do let it ruin your day. I hope every person reading this has an extremely shitty day thinking about everyone else whose days are incomparably shittier. It is our inability to feel which allows these evils to continue to... continue reading