Life Code: Lessons from “Dexter”

Dexter

“Dexter: Harry’s Code” Scene (Photo credit: http://swishost.com/dexter-widescreen.html)

From the beginning, I loved the idea of Dexter’s character: A serial killer of serial killers.  Perhaps I am too elementary spiritually, not transcended above the idea of such a system of justice.  I’m not sure what it is within me that makes it gratifying, not horrifying, to think of someone killing those who kill innocent people, like my twisted sense of relief to know that child rapists often get killed in prison when their inmates discover the nature of the predator’s crimes.  I feel that somehow I am wrong to think this way, and I am partly ashamed to admit having a side comfortable with such brutality.  The fact that I am not entirely convinced that it is wrong to think this way, however, brings me to believe that my sense of shame is more a learned one rather than an instinctive one.  So, for now at least, Dexterity, it is.

I feel, though, that I am not alone, as “Dexter” was quite a popular show, and not just for his sexy love interest, Hannah McKay (played by Yvonne Strahovsky) in the latter half of the series.  I remember going into a department store and talking to a sales associate about the show when it was at the height of its popularity, and was told that the Henley shirts Dexter sported always sold out quickly.  It made me wonder if the general population was as dark as I was, or if Dexter was, in fact, not really a bad guy, despite the general acceptance that killing is a bad, bad thing.

What made Dexter’s “dark passenger” a welcomed one, I believe, was “The Code,” a set of rules that was taught to Dexter by his father before he passed away:

  1. Never get caught.
  2. Never kill an innocent.

This code serves Dexter well throughout the series, both for his objectives within the context of the show as well as for his likeability as a character from the perspective of the show’s fans.  His code perpetuates his survival and ability to carry justice in the most primal and efficient way.  Without it, his character and story unravel.

In real life, we all must live by codes.  The law has a set of codes, religions have their codes, and general society has its own code of conduct.  People teeter-totter, pick and choose among these different sets of codes to create a basket of their own, some with very full baskets, adhering to every code they know, others, with fairly empty ones.  The exercise of identifying one’s own personal code is important, I believe, because it forces one to examine one’s self, both internally as well as in relation to one’s world, with all the people and triggers in it.  This connects us with our sense of control and, more importantly, accountability, which is a necessary moderator for the sense of power that comes with control.  If there’s any ethical standard or quality control to be found, accountability is the sleuth for it.

I’ve always thought about this theory of a code of conduct, although I’d not labeled it, but I recognized its existence immediately whenever one of my unspoken codes was being violated – the protest rose in full form, from my thoughts to emotions, to the heat rising to head and my neck hairs standing up.  For whatever reasons, I was made to feel and think (and when I was younger, be physical) intensely, and people would see just a facet of me, usually the peaceable side, the side I give freely to everyone in my path; the other side, the one that says Dexter can be my best friend, must be earned.

So my code consists of a justice unfazed by whatever gruesome fate must be met by an individual who gleefully causes comparable pain and destruction of an innocent life.  Understanding this helps me come to terms with who I am, as Dexter had to come to terms with who he was, and to best focus my life in light of this.

My own personal code, in no particular order of importance:

  1. Seek truth.  Every good thing needs strong roots in truth.  Seek it within yourself first, so you can help others find it.
  2. Seek balance.  This is not about becoming homogeneous; this is about living life in such a way that you are truly happy and at peace inside.
  3. Seek joy.  “Face the sun and the shadows fall behind you.”  Walk towards and amongst the positive; shine so brightly that your light is contagious.
  4. Seek to grow.  Read, listen, learn, connect, record, reflect, venture, and think for yourself.
  5. Share what you find.  Contribute to the good of the world; let your knowledge be a platform for others to stand upon as they build theirs.
  6. Be kind.  Many people are hurting in the world, and your kindness may disarm their expressions of pain or salve them.
  7. Be open.  You don’t know everything.  If knowledge is power, and you need power to help or protect the powerless, stay open to keep learning.
  8. Be aware.  It is not enough to be kind or open alone. Know what you’re dealing with.  This is part of self-preservation.
  9. Be of service.  This is another way to contribute to the good of the world, and to honor #10.
  10. Be grateful.  Life has little meaning or joy without this.

Although not spelled out, Dexter actually did most of these things on my list, and I can say vice versa to his.  (Don’t be shocked – I’ll wager most of you can say the same thing.  😉 )

This code has been fairly consistent all my life.  Whenever I’ve failed to adhere to or protect it, it is like I’ve abandoned myself.  Spelling it out has helped me become more aware of it to maintain its integrity.

What about you? What is your personal code, the one that defines and directs the best of who you are and want to be?

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Truth

Nothing owns me.
Neither science nor religion, nor other dogma.
Neither fear of criticism nor need for conformity.

I need no proof to believe in God, nor to be happy.
I need no reward to be kind, nor to do the right thing.
I need no permission to speak up or live it up; I just have to show up.

I am utterly free in thought and in heart.
And as I know better and better, I am free to change and grow,
free of guilt.

And so are you.

Yazminh A.B.

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Life Crop #1: Gratitude (Always in Season)

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(Picture Credit: Gabriella Fabbri)

Do you know of anybody who has so much to be grateful for, yet is not truly happy?  In varying degrees, we may have our areas of discontent; this helps us strive and grow.  But I’m talking about the kind of person who, if they could hear their discontent from the outside looking in, would see how disconnected they were from Gratitude – the warm-fuzzy part of peace and joy.

I had a friend, we’ll call him “Don,” who strove and was exalted by coworkers and peers for his seeming perfection.  Don was always well-groomed, had an adoring wife and beautiful children, a finely decorated home in a friendly, closely-knit neighborhood, many admiring friends, and even the picket fence.  He was intelligent, popular, and looked good for his age.  His wife supported all his endeavors, kids did well in the myriad of activities they were involved in, the family ate out often and went on numerous vacations yearly, and he and his wife had a good social network as couples.  But Don was unhappy, deep inside.  His marriage was good, but not “perfect”—his wife was simple and not on cue with his emotions.  He had had 2 years-long affairs, chasing this “last perfect brick,” and eventually sought counseling to deal with his issues.

When I think of all that Don has and look at my bare-essentials life, and how, as long as my family is well, happy, and together, I am satiated, I feel immensely fortunate to be able to connect with Gratitude.  Don’t get me wrong – Don has acknowledged that he has a lot and is fortunate, and he would say he was grateful for all he had, but he intellectualized Gratitude – he understood that it made sense for him to be grateful, but he could not truly connect with it in his heart, where it is housed.  This doesn’t mean that he was an ingrate, but that he was missing the point of it.

Gratitude says, “I am happy because of what Is.”  It stops and revels in the glow of that joy.  It feels full and asks for nothing more.   It gives meaning to everything good, and goodness to all in its path.

I have started sharing 1 thing I’m grateful for daily on my personal Facebook page for this month, and I revel in that subject of gratitude of the day.  I don’t think of any pressing concerns that “must be resolved before I can be happy” – Gratitude dissolves any such “musts”.

Granted, there are times that may require a call for action, particularly if there’s certain life or death involved, but most of the time in life, we have all we need to be grateful, where your soul feels the joy and celebrates the truth of the present.  It disregards woes of the past or fears of the future. It asserts, “I am happy now because of what Is.”

When I was growing up, as my father worked hard every day, slowly building up his construction business, we moved often from one low-income home to another.  There was one house in particular that I and my brothers refer to as “The Shack.”  It was a pink, dilapidated shoe-box, built of what appeared to be wood slats.  It was as if there was no insulation in that house as we walked around bundled up in the winter, and could see our breath, and the only heat came from an old, black, metal wood-burning stove in the middle of the living room.  The floors slanted along the back length of the house, and there were what seemed like hundreds of large roaches that would scatter whenever we flicked on the light switch in the bathroom or kitchen at night.   Soon after we moved from it, we learned that it was a condemned building which was immediately torn down.

I was maybe 12 or so when we lived in The Shack, and my brothers and I were happy.  We played in the creek and woods, where we were wild and free, and came home to love, where we were warm and safe.  We lived the unconscious stream of Gratitude – reveling in all the good things we had, and not in what we didn’t.

Between my friend, Don, and myself, our upbringings were quite opposite from each other’s.  I cannot speak for him and what was not filled in childhood that may have affected his ability to fully connect with Gratitude amidst all his life’s treasures, but from my teenage years until not too long ago (20 years time), I’ve lived what many may consider an emotionally and spiritually taxing life myself.  I could justify feeling too angry, bitter, entitled, whatever the excuse, to be grateful.

Gratitude is not just a choice, a chore – you can’t just say, “I am grateful,” and not stop to truly listen, see, understand its beauty.  It would be like a spouse saying, “Sure, I love my wife,” but not taking the time to spend with her, look at her, listen to her, and see her and celebrate the person she is.

Gratitude requires full attention for true connection; only then can you reap the benefits that can salve many wounds and fill hollow spaces.

I started this blogging venture in big part due to Gratitude.  And I am so grateful.  I am here speaking to you about this and many things that I hope will help heal your heart and sharpen your senses, and I am so grateful for it all.

But how to be grateful when something is tugging your heart?

What is tugging your heart?

Is it the past?  If so, be present in the truth of today: You are no longer there where the pain happened.  Rejoice! You made it! You didn’t think you would, but you did! What victory! What a blessing!

If it’s anything else, use this formula:

“I am grateful that I am catching this now, AND* I will [course of action].”   

*(Gratitude does not have space for “but.”   To say, “I am grateful for x, but…” is like saying, “I love you, but…”  – the first point immediately withers.  Gratitude is independent joy.)

And be grateful for your ability to process a solution, or find help, or even have friends or family to talk to.  Be grateful that you can read and research, that you can learn and reach out via so many avenues nowadays.  Be grateful if you are healthy, and grateful if you are able to receive medical attention if you are not healthy, and grateful that you have a mind that is well enough to crave growth and learning – this is part of honoring yourself, those you love, the world – be grateful for these desires and connections.

Nothing can replace being connected to Gratitude for true peace and happiness.  It is not required to be alive, but to feel alive…and worthy –  Gratitude senses an ultimate source of goodness in the world, whether or not one is conscious or acknowledging of such a belief.  Thank God for it.

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These Babies are Real: The Beauty of Authenticity

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(Photo: Courtesy of Stock.xchng)

While in the midst of my most confusing, turbulent years, a relative casually commented about girls with implants, saying, “I’d rather have fake pretty over real ugly any day.”  The word play sounded convincing, but at the heart of it was the sad sign of the times, where the core message falls into the bloated “WTF” category.

That comment may be an extreme expression of the sentiment, but it was brutally honest about a viewpoint that manifests itself in many areas of our society.   I have a close friend who feels the need to “keep up” with her image to the world, and she has been on that treadmill for so long that she has become accustomed to it, and in her need to present “perfection,” any insinuation of human imperfection has her scurrying to try to validate against it.  It’s both sad and frustrating to witness.   A family member of mine has been in a series of relationships with people so disconnected from the truth of their own beings that any no real progress could take root, neither on personal nor relationship levels.  I see people putting humanity and/or positivity quotes (the “new cool”) all over Facebook, yet defining success as accumulation of material things, among other contradictions to their campaigns.

It seems that this B.S.itis stems from deep insecurities, which is rooted from the lack of understanding oneself.  When I wanted to start a serious blog, one that I could truly identify with and be able to consistently write about, I had no idea what I had to offer that could give value to others.  I was a Jane of All Trades and master of none, simply because my life routed me every which way, so I could not develop any socially marketable skills – I only knew how to survive, and I learned about the funny ways of the world, and the misconception of the misconception of bad people.  But mostly, what came naturally to me was my introspection, and through my “20 lost years,” this understanding deepened.  The one thing that I knew how to do was be real.  And I would learn that it was not a common ability.

I started off believing that I was doing the right thing, being genuine, kind, fair.  The ridiculousness of chance: me, being this kind of person surrounded by completely opposite types of people.  I stood my ground for a long time, but eventually, I started wondering if I was, in fact, wrong.  At one point, I even thought that I should try to be more superficial, care about amassing money, care about what people thought, because, after all, when you worry, you scurry, and maybe I needed to scurry to fit in, because then my life would be easier and happier, right?  Hypothesis FAIL.

The only thing I learned about that experiment was that such people lived a busy, frantic life. It was flashy and noisy, but without substantial joy.  It was distracting enough on the surface to ignore the loneliness deep inside, and you had to keep chasing the chaos so that you don’t ever have to face the truth of how void of meaning there was in this impressive commotion in which you’re partaking.  Although the power of introverts is coming into awareness, the perversion of extroversion is still society’s soup du jour.

All of this masking is really a disservice to us as a society, as well as individuals.  What kind of society do we have if we’re a network of weak links?  As individuals, how do you fix a problem if you are unaware of it, or if you hide it from others?  Imagine if people could come out and be honest about their true selves because they felt safe in the world they lived in.  If everyone in the world could feel unabridged safety, love, acceptance, there would be no need for validation through power as exhibited in its many morale-(and sometimes moral)-crumbling forms – we may have discovered the formula for world peace!

Well, that’s not a guarantee, but there would certainly be peace in the worlds of our individual lives.  And I would imagine that not many people would be opposed to that scenario.

Being authentic, simply put, is being honest, humble, vulnerable, and human in the most edifying, interconnecting way.  (Not to be confused with being an unapologetic jerk, although if true jerks took on this approach to authenticity by saying, “I’m an asshole, accept it,” they actually do us a service – who wouldn’t want such a fair warning?)

Most insecure, fearful people have been rubbed raw by hurts and disappointments, and so they wrap themselves in layer after layer of all kinds of numbing material, some harder than others, some pricklier than others, but all burying the truth.  It’s no way of living, for we born to be alive, and unless life’s hurdles shut us down, we desperately crave living in this state of convergence of who we really are and who we pretend to be:

(“Breaking Bad”: Walter White – “Alive” Scene)

Authenticity removes the muffling layers, catalyzing self discovery, enhancing life experiences, and teaching the world not only tolerance, but celebration of the individual.  I’ll take this real beauty any day.

Related: “Choosing the Red Pill”

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The Misconception of the Misconception of Bad People

MisconMisconBadGuys(Photo Credit: WiseWander)

This is where I will be frank.  Forgive me for sounding crazy.

Some people are just bad.

They are not just confused, misled, or poor victims of abuse and crooked government that should be given compassion, etc.

These are not people who made stupid, even terrible mistakes in life.

These are people who prey on the innocent, who prey on kindness, who study what “good” and “kind” and “trustworthy” look like, talk like, act like, in order to manipulate the system after they’ve manipulated their victims into a mangled pile of their selves.

These people are evil, bad to the marrow of their bones, and until we recognize that such individuals truly exist, we will not be able to properly protect the good, the normal, the innocent who become victims to such entities.

I used to be where some of you are right now – bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, love-for-all-and-all-for-love.  I would believe in the best of everyone, that the potential is there to be awakened, that there just needs to be kindness and generosity and goodness poured into them, and they would be touched and healed, and evolve.

While this is true for most, this is an absolute lie—a dangerous one—to prescribe across the board.

Our (oxymoron ahead) “justice system” has been played by such individuals because people mean well but don’t know well enough: that not all men are created equal, that “a fair trial” needs far more discretion and knowledge on the participants than the court has any control or interest in ensuring, and that the lax of demand for true justice spreads repercussions into our society like a crack on glass, fanning out into splintering shards.

The problem is that good people play by the rules and the not-so-good play by the feigning of playing by the rules, so they see and predict every move, and intercept and destroy, cheating all the way.

There is a reason why the shady like to do business in the dark: concealment is the best way to ambush, and ambush is an effective strategy to take over what is not freely given.  As long as people don’t know, or insist to not know, they foster successful victimization by these types.

Shine the light – know wtf we’re dealing with in this world.  That’s the first step to solving the problem.

(More to come on this when I start sharing my story.  Stay tuned.)

Related article: “These Babies Are Real: The Beauty of Authenticity

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No Smoke and Daggers Allowed in the Courtroom

NoSmokeDaggersInCourtroom

Before we can have a true system for justice, we have to fairly define the parameters of what is okay vs. not-okay to do to others.

How many times have you experienced as or witnessed the victim, the person who had something deliberately and unfairly imposed upon them by another, having to defend him/herself after taking the hit, while the perpetrator went scot free?  Frustrating, isn’t it?  And yet it happens all the time.  Why the eff is that?  Because people are allowing themselves to be distracted by dramatic tones and fancy hand flourishes in the circus court of life.  In the hubbub, a dust storm erupts and the victim is shanked.

Real-Life Case 1:  Precursor Perpetration Accusation

  • A young girl is molested by her uncle, who is then fumingly thrown out of the house by her mother.  The uncle’s brother, the young girl’s other uncle, says in his defense, “The punishment does not fit the crime.”  And rumors circulate that the young girl shouldn’t have been wearing tight tops, etc.  Um,  who’s doing the molesting?

Real-Life Case 2:  Guilt Deflection

  • A couple enable their 30 year old son to live at home, not work, not go to school, do drugs, and verbally and physically abuse his baby’s mother.  The mother seeks consolation from someone.  The mother of the dysfunctional son starts spreading false rumors about the “helper” to isolate the girl and turn the rest of the extended family against the helper.  Who’s doing the enabling? Who’s doing the abusing?

Real-Life Case 3:  Internalized Abuse

  • A young girl is raised seeing abuse from her biological father to her mother.  Unrelated, kids are teasing her in school.  As a teenager, she falls into a sexually abusive relationship.  As a young adult, she covers herself by branding herself with tattoos and piercings because she doesn’t think that she’s pretty, and is ashamed of herself.  Who were the ones saying ugly things? Who are the ones doing hurtful things? 

Real-Life Case 4:  Broken System

  • A teenager is trapped into the sex trafficking ring, subjecting her to abuse by her pimp and rape by 40+ men a day.  She gets caught by the police and booked and treated as a criminal while her pimp walks.  Who is psychologically and physically abusing these girls and women?  Who is selling their bodies to be tortured, their minds to be broken, their lives to be shredded?

I could go on, and I’m sure you could add your endless list alongside mine.  That being so is a quizzical misfortune.

Why do people believe the hype against the victims?  Why don’t they think and act accordingly?

1. People are lazy.   They are emotionally too lazy to put themselves in the victim’s shoes, but if someone yells “Witch!”, they want in on the excitement, and so jump at the chance to chant along.  They are too lazy to think, so they let the also mentally lazy, but in power, think for them, and let’s face it, it’s a lot of work to confront perpetrators.  So much easier to start bopping on the head of a victim who is already subdued.  These forms of laziness are also forms of complacency.  Complacency inhibits individual growth and breeds all sorts of societal disconnect and dysfunction.  (Solution: Care, damnit!)

2. People are scared.  They are afraid of what others might say, or of what might happen to those they care about who are responsible for hurting someone else, over what is just and fair.  (Solution: Grow a fair pair!)

Sadly, the general population is often a goofy herd of individuals that go along with their faces in the arses of their fellow herd members in front of them, not seeing where they’re being led, bleating when they hear a bleat.  And to be fair, sometimes it’s hard to see in the midst of the sea of fluff and noise.  One has to be willing to raise one’s head and look beyond the herd.

How can we be sure we’re not becoming part of the problem in this mis-assignment of accountability?

Let’s use the hot topic of rape as an example for this exercise.  The options given are a sampling of those often grouped together in this case:

          “It is not okay to ______ someone else.”   {dress scantily, seduce, rape}

Let’s plug in our options now:

1. “It is not okay to dress scantily someone else.”   First off, you can’t “dress scantily” someone else (unless you’re the wardrobe manager for a Victoria Secret’s fashion show); “dressing scantily” is not what you do to someone else.  One chooses one’s way of dressing as one pleases – hopefully with respect to children and/or cultural considerations.  In any case, to say that “dressing scantily” is a criminal act against another, or the cause of a criminal act, is invalid.  NEXT.

2. “It is not okay to seduce someone else.”  This is true if you or the other person is in a relationship with someone else, on a moral sense.  However,  seduction implies the seduction target’s willingness to be seduced; otherwise, you’re just trying to seduce.  In any case, along with #1, this also is invalid as a case for criminal violence or instigation, as explained here:

Rapist2

3. “It is not okay to rape someone else.”  That is all.  The chart below, found circulating online, illustrates this point:

Image(Usable as template for “Causes of Victimizing Acts Imposed from One or More Individuals to Another”)

It is not okay to molest a kid, it is not okay to abuse your baby mama, it is not okay to bully a school mate, it is not okay to physically and psychologically torment someone and sell violations of their bodies.

And, it is not okay to ignore these wronging acts, and worse, put the victim on the stand, behind the bars, or on the gallows.

Be willing to care, to think, to be brave.  And if you already are doing these things, clear the smoke, blow the whistle, shine light in the shadows; make a case for justice, every day.

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Days Like This

It is a beautiful, crisp, sunny fall morning.  Outside my window, the long, morning shadows stretch across the grass, drenched bright green with sunlight.  Usually on beautiful days like this, my mood is high.  But today, it is still sunken from an issue I’ve been wrestling with very recently.  I would be fully transparent with you, but it involves a family member, and I don’t want to disclose his/her business.  But it makes me sad; in fact, I’ve been sad for a few days, and I’ve been going through waves of “just move on” and “why??”  It’s a stupid, superficial thing that happened, but in it are deeper, more meaningful issues that fetter my mind and leave my heart slightly cracked and oozing.

That, along with the worry for a family member that I can disclose: my little brother.   He has struggled with many demons since the death of our brother, and I’m afraid he is struggling still.

And to top it off, I had a dream with a heavy undertone.  In one part of my dream, I was sitting by a beach with large rocks and stones, but I was sitting more by the edge of a kind of cliff that sloped into the water.  There were 3 of us sitting and talking.  Suddenly, the tide started coming in, and when I looked down, the water was already to my knees.  We clambered away towards higher ground – the sands had started rolling away into the sea, leaving us standing in even deeper water.  I reached up to grab the sandy incline, and I could see a large, smooth stone jutting out, but I knew that if I grabbed it, it would dislodge into my hand, so I had to grab the sand as I turned around and reached to help my friend with my other hand.  It was a senseless attempt in my mind: How could I help my friend when I had no firm grasp of something solid myself?  I dug my hand into the sloped ground, and instructed that we pulled both legs up over the edge and rolled onto the new cliff.  Somehow, senselessly, we made it.  In my mind, I insisted that we make it, and so we did.

So I woke up this morning with the weight of my worries and the tarry residue of my dream.

After dropping off my little one to school, every song on the radio, which I would normally be jamming to, just felt inappropriate, and I found myself feeling frustrated with my inability to connect to the sense of joy and gratitude in which I’ve been residing.

But as I look out my window at the sparkling jewel-toned leaves and bright stillness of the world beyond the cloud that I’m steeping in, I’m thinking, I must remember this.  I must remember how hard it is to feel happy when something clasps at your heart and hangs on, like a cold pendulum – everywhere you go, however you move….so hard to not fell the tug and swing, weighing down your desire to jump for joy for the many other wonderful things in life.

I thought of a friend of mine who was going through a painful situation recently, and to whom I had tried to transfer some of my strength and joy to help her deal with her situation, but I could see that she was unaffected by my efforts.  I have not been in this space for a long time, and I shirk at every insinuation of it, but sometimes you cannot help but pass through it, especially when it involves someone you love, and especially-especially when you are like me, who feels in full saturation.

So I am going to steep for just a moment longer, to connect with those who cannot shake off the pendulum, and think of how I can help them when they are feeling like this.  I think I may already have the answer.

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