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The New Pragmatists Are Rising From The Ashes Of A Bad Economy


By harrisjensen - Posted on 28 May 2009

 Common People Are Rediscovering Time Honored Truths About Our Divine Humanity

by Harris Jensen, MD

Editor, Good Day Journal

I have the greatest admiration for flowers and spring. This morning I neighbors sidehill, an Evening Primrose shot out its 3 inch wide yellow  plumes for the world to see. Nearby a scarlet gilia scattered it several red and shot shell pink blossoms into the sun from the shade of a crab apple tree.
 
If you live in Colorado, you know what kind of winter we have had. One neighbor had half their shingles ripped off their roof in 90 mile an hour winds in December. There has been frigid cold, after the driest of  falls, and the insufferable heat last summer was something else. That's when the seeds were dropped for this spring's blooms.
Nature tells us lessons about how to make it through hard times.  How to bloom in the midst of hardship.
Nature is focused on adapting.
There is a new attitude in this country that is all about just that.  I call them the New Pragmatists.  Americans have always considered themselves practical people, results oriented, but they still hung on to their "hangups" about not asking for help, and being embarrassed to ask for help.  Especially when it came to matters of the body and especially the brain.
But there is a new attitude in the winds.
"I figured, if there was something that would help my brain, what would be wrong with doing that?" one woman recently told me, who was seeing me for a medication and counseling to help her depression..  "To not do something to help myself, well that would be just dumb.  And I don't care what other people think.  I'm doing this for me, not them!"
I couldn't have captured this "New Pragmatist" atttitude any better with words.
 
 Evidence of this changing attitude is reviewed in, "American's Attitudes Towards Mental Health Treatment Seeking: 1990-2003," by Ramin Mojtabai, MD, PHD, in Psychiatric Services, 58:642-651, the May, 2007 issue.  A nationwide survey found in 2001-3 found Americans had changed their attitudes, compared to the 1990's and 1950's.  People were more likely to ask for help from a mental health professional, feel comfortable about it, and feel like it was the smart thing to do--not feel stigmatized.
In 2003, compared to much lower rates in the 1950's, 41 percent said they would ask a mental health professional for help with mental health concerns, 32 percent said they'd feel comfortable about it, and 40 percent said they wouldn't be embarrassed at all for seeking out such assistance.  "Attitudes of younger participants improved more than attitudes of middle aged participants," Dr. Mojtabai wrote.
In soil made from volcanic ash. This is some nasty soil. Get it on your feet and calluses forms that get so sick of your skin will bleed. Get it on your hands and they become chapped and dry. The darned stuff sucks the water right out of you. I guess it's good for something. The cat litter we buy is made out of this stuff. Apparently it absorbs odors two.
Hauling hay bales one evening last winter, I paused and noticed a movement in the light of my headlamp. It was some of this clay. Small particles drifting in the winter wind, probably sailing for miles, only to drop down and add to the soil where ever it fell.
 
Over the eons, this clay has been blown and drifted,
 With the dead and decomposed remains of so many plants, and made into something that can support life, but it better be a damn tough life form.
 
That's what these spring flowers are. Damn tough. Taking light from the sun, water from this clay that does not give it up easily, finding nutrients at the ends of its roots, and somehow making it self bloom.
I admire this kind of tenacity. To thrive in adversity. In the harshest of conditions, it finds a way to survive. When times get better, through the wisdom of nature, woven in to that marvelous fabric of its DNA, it knows when to sprout, and better yet when to throw out its leaves, and even better than that it knows the right time to throw out its blossoms and thrive so it can lay the foundation for yet another successful generation.
 
There's much to learn from the book of God's works.
For glory and beauty really comes from the DNA. It responds adaptively to the environment. With the right temperature and water, it triggers the bloom.
 
The DNA has the information for life. There is a structure to it. Woven in the sequence of cytosine and guanine and other nucleic molecules, here is the structure for working with nature and the adversities as well as opportunities that it presents.
 
I look at that and just wonder. We can't even make the DNA of a flower, much less the DNA of anything. And here these flowers have been making it for millennia. In geologic time, oceans have invaded our area time and again, glaciers have come and gone again and again, and the Rocky Mountains have risen and fallen four times in 10 billion years.
 
In the midst of all this, these flowers have learned to thrive in the harshest of soils in the toughest of weather. Amazing.
These Primroses bloom in the evening. And some in the morning. And this is to attract moths to pollinate them. It's no surprise Miller moths are flattering everywhere now too.
 
These plants and insects are working together, there is is a working together with their DNA as well.
 
In our lives, we can take energy from our adversity. We can direct it. We can plan to seeds when it's best to not to throw out our leaves. We can only sprout when it's safe to do so. We can choose the time to throw out blossoms when we have the best chance to see them were fertilized.
 
People I have spoken to have been mindful of certain wisdoms him that plants have known for 10,000 millennia.
This economy has been like the most brutal winter, with freezing winds that have almost frozen across to the roots of our core wisdom and sensibilities.
But I have seen some people survive.
 
They keep hope by looking for where they can plant some seeds that can sprout when the time is right. They are going to school, and if they are too afraid to, they are working to build up those skills to organize themselves. They are learning to take charge of their most precious possession, time.
 
And some have been laid off. They are going to college to get new skills will. They have researched the economy, understood where the demand is for certain skills, and they are charging ahead with their life, studying for careers in healthcare, accounting, or other professions.
 
Like so much well-crafted DNA, the structure each move they make. With care, they are setting the alarm clock and upon arising, they start their day expressing their intent to do their best today. To make the best of every situation.
 
They blame nothing on anyone.
 
They seized the moment by being grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow. They put their hands on the steering wheel of life and grab hold hard and step on the gas. They wheel into action.
This is not done with recklessness but with wisdom.
Are they accept life as it comes to them and look for opportunities where they may be.
 
A high school senior is graduating this spring, but, mindful of the moment, and the fear that paralyzes her, she asks for help. Not able to focus, she takes her medicine for that, not able to think her way through how to structure her day, she asks a parent for help with that. She picks up a Day timer and looks at it as a way to make her dreams come true. The medicine helps her brain work and focus the way she wants, staying on track, following through. Without the medicine that mind wandered because of ADHD, and fought her every effort to make her life better, to succeed.
 
But now she is determined to make her life the best she can make it.
 
She does not want to compare herself with others, only to do the best that she can, and accepts that that is enough, and that is all any of us can do, like the flower that blooms in spring.
 
She feels the temptation to compare herself with others, who may have more money, better grades, more social status or friends, better clothes, nicer cars and cell phones, but she is just happy to have the chance to do something wonderful with her life. And by god she's going to do it and nobody will stop her!
 
She is happy in the moment. She doesn't want to be at all, have it all, she sees how unhappy adults are who have lived that way, only to see the swings of an uncaring economy take away all those material trappings of success.
 
Likewise, I know a young man who lost his job as a truck driver. A simple mistake and did his job, and the bad economy took away good opportunities for another job. Rather than sink into self-absorption, self blame, and pessimism, he is rising from the ashes of his adversity, accepting his own goodness and common sense.
 
He is talking to his friends and family, he is seeking new opportunities wherever they may be, he is breaking down his abilities as a truck driver into much longer lists of skills and seeing a chance to work in a restaurant, where his good sense and leadership skills can lead to more opportunities in the future.
 
He accepts his own goodness. He is grateful for a chance to start again. He seizes the understanding his day will only be as good as he makes it. He is grateful for the chance to tackle challenges to see opportunities where he never saw them before.
 
This new optimism is as old as this country. He feels himself walking in the footsteps of his grandfather's and their grandfathers. And he really is.
 
He is steering his life with his thoughts and actions, trusting his fortune to no one but himself, but working with everyone he can find, using all the words God gave him.
 
Unlike his ancestors of old, however, this young man will do anything to make his life better. Change anything. Turnover any rock. Climb any mountain. Discover any idea. Apply any good idea in any practical way possible.
 
These young people are rising from their adversities, energized by their fear, and powered by their friends and good common sense, determined to make their life better and they are.
Some find that their brains are fighting them. When they try to focus they can't. When they try to feel good about chasing their dreams, the good feelings are not there. Only a hollowness within. Others find their mood swings from happiness to sadness, from anger to anxiety, and is very hard to control.
 
Others are simply scared out of their wits. Paralyzed by fear, they lose hope, because they simply can't focus on their goals and see away to make for themselves a better day, to rise from the muck and mire of hopelessness and purposeless oneness.
Others wrestle with memories of failure in the past, and these memories attack them like so many seizures in their brain.
 
But this new generation, what I call the new pragmatists, our fearless in the big picture, even in facing their fears that paralyzed them.
 
They realize their brains can fight them. They realize they can ask for help. They realize they have much wisdom and goodness within, if they would only stay quiet a while and search their hearts and souls. Some dared to share their fears with friends, and in the end are revived to know they are not alone, facing the tough times of this bad economy.
 
Others band together, using Facebook, blog sites, e-mails, websites, and create our collective optimism, sharing their hopes and fears, and receiving encouragement from people all over the world.
 
It's not unusual, in my experience, for common people in Italy, Germany, and Australia, to have replied to my blogs and e-mails, as I have asked for help in designing my website, the Good Day Journal.
The economy may be trashed, but common people share a common goodness in their soul, and good people still like to help one another. Isn't that wonderful to know about the world?
 
These new practical people, reaching out this way to the world through the Internet, are finding an inspiration, which they are taking and turning into action. These are the people who are investing in their lives, going on and finishing high school, stopping their addictions to crystal methamphetamine, choosing to let go of alcoholic friends as they fight for their sobriety, and others take that brave move to start college and often up a brave new world for themselves, that of higher learning.
 
These new pragmatists did not really exist 25 years ago. At that time people were too stigmatized to do anything to make their brains work. They felt ashamed to take medication or counseling. These new pragmatists are quiet about it, but they are informed by researching on the Internet, where other people in their blog sites have shared the plane truth of what worked for them to solve the same problems that the new pragmatists face.
 
I need these people now in my office, as a psychiatrist, and I am so impressed.
 
They often have correctly understood their problem, researched what medications and counseling can be useful, and within the first several minutes of meeting me announce that only what they know is their problem, they tell me what they want to do about it, namely what medications and what counseling approach they want to use.
 
"I know I'm depressed," one young person told me, "so I'd like to take some Prozac and get some cognitive behavior therapy.”
And these people really do well. Their depression lifts. They see how to catch irrational thoughts, learn interpersonal skills, and they wheel into action. It’s like cats catching mice! They enjoy the challenge and savor the results.
They don’t have time for books, but they surf the net, read blogs, survey web sites, use Google like there’s no tomorrow, and bounce things off me. They are no one’s fool. They know the internet is full of snake oil salesmen and some drug companies cover up drug testing that show a drug doesn’t work. But they also know there are answers out there, reliable answers, and so they come to me. 
And they often teach me things I didn’t know. Some alternative medications work for them. Some counseling approaches don’t work for them. Spirituality helps them believe in themselves, knowing God believes in them, so they can have the guts to open up to friends and receive their friends affection in their darkest hour.
Some of these people were at the brink of suicide, so this help from people on the net, this help from friends and families and pastors and counselors and doctors, really is helping save these people’s lives.
It’s not all young people. I’ve heard similar stories from people in their 20’s and folks in their 60’s.
Love is still saving people, but now it is coming over the internet too, and I think that is wonderful.
This is the era of the new pragmatists, and it is one with hope, because these are people all over the world who love to help one another. They have a sense of the goodness within themselves and want to share it.
The old pragmatism in this country was focused on material and outward success. The new pragmatists just want to be successful helping others, on the inside as well as the outside. To that, I say hurray!
As a Mason, I can say this attitude dates back at least to the Middle Ages to the stone masons in Europe, and quite possibly it was thriving long before that.
The secret is out, that there is enormous goodness within our souls, and tremendous abilities are there in our chests, if only we would act on that belief, giving service to our fellow man in Faith. This bad economy is only an opportunity to test this time honored principle, and the New Pragmatists are doing just that, not knowing others have done this for over a thousand years. 
 
Harris Jensen,MD