Monday, November 23, 2015

Truth in Advertising

I love advertising.  I wish I had gone into that line of work, actually.

In the United States, we have "truth in advertising" laws.  These laws basically define what the truth is.  So, when describing a product - let's say hamburger - you can say "Never Frozen" even though the hamburger had actually been frozen.  This is because the word "frozen" is defined by science differently than its defined by law.  When you and I say "frozen", we mean one thing, but advertisers and product labelers are saying something else entirely.

The same goes for a whole string of "bullshit" words.  All Natural.  New.  Improved.  Healthy.  Most of these words have legal definitions that vary from what you and I think when we hear the word. Think about this:  How can something be both "new" and "improved" at the same time?  That really doesn't make a whole lot of sense, does it?

There is one bastion of truth in advertising:  pharmaceutical advertising.  First of all, promoting prescription drugs directly to the general public is fraught with moral landmines.  [The United States and New Zealand are the only two countries on earth that allow direct to consumer marketing of prescription pharmaceuticals.]  The limits imposed in exchange for the ability to advertise have pretty wide ranging effects.  Having to list all those side affects makes for some riveting commercials, [NOT!].  Does anyone know what the "purple pill" does?  They never actually say, but we know it may cause bloody poop.

But when you think about it, these ads are proof that at least someone understands what is really meant by "truth in advertising".  The pharmaceutical ads are required to go beyond truth all the way to disclosure.

What makes them so different from other products or advertising statements?  What if other companies were subject to the same rules as pharmaceuticals? Would they say things like:
Our prices are lower because we buy substandard product from overseas factories which benefit from child labor and then we under pay our employees and use Medicaid as an employee benefit.  All for you!
The meat we use in our food has been processed right up to the point where it is not even considered meat anymore by the USDA.  Then we back it off just a bit.  The enables us to keep our prices low. Come in today and get two for the price of one.
We have improved our product.  Look, its got a new box.  Nice, huh?
This product is all natural.  That's right, even the food coloring, which at one point was determined to be too dangerous to be a prescription drug.  But, don't worry it passed the USDA food safety screens just fine.  It's derived from petroleum by-products from the refining process, and we all know that petroleum comes from the ground, and the ground is natural.
That might make television commercials more interesting, at least.

Monday, November 16, 2015


The follow up meeting to my annual physical...let's just say...didn't go well.

My sedentary lifestyle where most of my physical activity is concentrated on moving my fingers over keyboard keys and making sounds come out of my mouth has finally caught up with me.  Add to sedentary the stress of teen-age transitions into adulthood and increasing job responsibilities that appear to happen in the 50's and you hit the medical trifecta.  Sigh.
So, I am leaving this rather glum meeting and heading to where I am going next and there on the side of the road is a billboard for a large national restaurant chain advertising pancakes.  I thought to my self that we tell young people that they can't smoke cigarettes because its bad for their health and therefore bad for society.  There should be some sort of prohibition against people over 50 eating pancakes.  You'd have to show a card from your doctor or something giving you permission to eat pancakes.

Come to think of it, if advertising cigarettes on billboards is illegal, why is advertising pancakes legal?  According to my doctor, pancakes are as bad for me as cigarettes are for teenagers. 

Come to think of it, if pancakes and cigarettes are so bad, why do we need to have them at all?  Right.  They're very profitable - especially pancakes.

Profit trumps benefit.  That's not really fair because profit is a benefit.  I guess its a matter of perspective.

Thankfully, I don't really even care for pancakes that much.  Some members of my family are pancake fanatics (pan-fan's, I guess). 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Prayer for Veteran's Day

Have you ever been to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington?  

I went recently for the second time.  This time, it wasn't the obvious engraved names that caught my attention.  This time, it was me and the trees.

If you ever get another chance to visit, try for a minute to shift your attention from the detail to the big picture.  I got a chance to step back and look at the enormity of the work.  Standing there, I felt the monument's designers tap me on the shoulder, (or maybe slap me upside the head) and show me their message.  There, the names blended into the background of shiny black granite.  Standing on the vein of black stone that snakes through the center of the walkway I was too far away to see each individual name.  What I did see, quite perfectly, was my own reflection, set against the sea of names of the lost.

Then, I looked further down the wall, past the bend of the black granite.  The reflection of the trunks of the trees behind me on the wall seemed to line up perfectly with the crowns of the trees in the distance.  One set of trees links up with another set of trees through a monument to the fallen in a misunderstood war. 

They tell me my ability to stand here and think about this is due in part to the sacrifice of the fallen.  They may be right.  But standing here today, I can’t help but think that the monument designers were trying to tell me and posterity that making sure we don't need any more poignant war memorials begins with me.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Books I Don't Like...

Something oddly unusual is happening to me right now.

Until recently, I could confidently say that I had never finished a book I didn't like.  Of course, there are exceptions for books I am required to read.  Nobody wants to read a book about pension administration, for example.  (Well, actually some people do, but that's for another post).

I do have a book that I do like that I can't finish because it makes my head hurt.  No matter how vehemently I try, I can't get through it and every time I start it back up, I have to backtrack becuase I had trouble retaining what I've read in the past.

Right now, I am reading two books I don't like.  One is a non-fiction (or at least ostensibly non-fiction) for which I am a book group discussion leader, so I suppose you could say that I am required to read that one. [Funny note on that book:  Nobody in the group likes it either.  I'm concerned that my bias maybe has leaked into that group, but it is a pretty disagreeable book.]

The second was suggested by a friend.  It's fiction, and I dislike every single character in the book.  I have never experienced this before.  There have certainly been books I wasn't overly keen on, but I can't say I've ever tripped on a book that I disliked everyone.

In the past, I would not have finished the book.  I would not have said anything to anyone about the book.  If it had come up in conversation at a later date, I probably wouldn't even have remembered having tried to read the book.  I read the bad, one star reviews online with a great deal of contempt.  In my world, what kind of person would a) read an entire book they disliked and b) bother to look it up and write a review on it.(1)

But this on is different.  I will finish.  I don't know why...probably becuase of who referred it to me.

(1)  Ok, in full disclosure, I did that once.  In all my online commentary, I have 1 - count them - 1 one-star book review.  But having read these two books, I may go back and give that old book another star.  At least that one angered me to the point of finishing and writing about it!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Saving America Billions of Dollars in Seven Words

As I get on the hotel elevator, there is a gentleman already on it.  We're both headed down.  I didn't notice it at the time, but he was carrying one of those electric cigarette things.  He turns to me and says:

"I'm an idiot, you know.  I bought this thing so I could smoke in my hotel room, and yet I still go outside to smoke.  I guess it's just habit."

Then, he says the very words that could have saved this country billions of dollars.  He said:

"I really don't want to smoke anymore."

The elevator doors open and we moved toward the lobby door, me on my way to my car and he on his way to a smoke his electric cigarette.

As I passed by the front of the hotel, I saw him sitting there smoking. I waved, but he didn't see me.

We spent billions of corporate and government dollars to engage in a debate about whether or not tobacco was addictive. The debate ran for decades and ended up in front the Supreme Court.  This guy started and ended that debate with a mere seven words.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Can Dust Go to Heaven?

I have had the pleasure of being involved in a church book study group to look into the most recent Sam Harris book "Waking Up:  A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion".   As a result of this study, I've spent a lot of the past week considering consciousness.

In our discussion group, we got into conversation about the language around consciousness.   We particularly looked at the word "unconscious".  One of the other participants suggested that what we mean when we say "unconsciousness" is not really the opposite of consciousness, but an "unaware consciousness".  The absence of consciousness, we named aconsciousness.

Using that definition, unconsciousness was much more strongly related to what some call the subconscious than it was to the words apparent implication:  the absence of consciousness.

Someone questioned a comment from the Franciscan Friar (Roman Catholic) Richard Rohr who made a claim that the foundation of consciousness (the seat of the soul) comes from and returns to a collective unconsciousness, which I took to mean not an absence of consciousness, but rather the unaware variety of consciousness.

But then I started to wonder.  The Catholics say "You are dust an and unto dust you shall return."  One might make the presupposition that they do not consider dust to have consciousness the way Buddhists consider ants to have consciousness.  I don't even think the most pious of Buddhists would consider dust to be conscious. 

So, the question remains, is consciousness existentially something different than aconsciousness, or does it all totally flow together. 

Can dust go to heaven?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Exactly How Impatient is God

People seem to think God is eternal. The claim that God transcends time - that time doesn't pertain to God - is not unique to any one theology.

Then, along come Modern man - or should I say, Modern, white man - and starts to kill people in the name of God.  Sure, the crusades and the missionaries and the jihads really weren't 100% about God, but they were at least done in the name of God.

So, people - or should I say, white men - put their timeframe on God.  You must convert and you must convert now.  Now is very important - you know, for the eternal salvation of your soul.  And if you don't, we'll kill you and take all your stuff.

But how do you jive these two thoughts?  That God is at once eternal and time-transcending while simultaneously looking for immediate results.  For a time-transcendent being, trying to make sense of a single human lifespan must seem like trying to pick out a single rose while flying overhead in a commercial passenger plane.  What if that one rose is out the other side of the plane?  God might miss it entirely!  [Note that for God to not run the risk of missing it entirely, one of God's natural states would probably also have to be transcending space, but I don't think that's a standard theological claim.]

Each religion claims to have received emissaries directly from God, urging immediate change.  People have been turned into pillars of salt, for Pete's sake, and there are frogs and locusts involved.  Lots of them.  Time seems to be very, very important to God.

I wonder how I would think about concepts like "now" if time didn't pertain to me.  Lots of very human concepts would become rather useless, I would think.  Planning, for example would seem pointless.  Remembering too. 

Maybe to a being for whom time has no meaning, linear or circular notions of time really don't matter.  Everything must seem to happen all at the same time through every moment.  It must be like watching bazillions of television programs at the same time.  Can God focus on all that stuff all at the same time?

It makes us feel better if we're able to situationally hold God to be both just like us and also very different from us.    It helps suit our needs.

The greatest sin is a sin against yourself.

Monday, October 12, 2015


Why do I love baseball so much? it goes....

I love baseball because it mirrors life.  Most of the time, you do the right thing and you get the desired outcomes - or you do the wrong thing and get undesirable outcomes.  That's kinda the way life goes most of the time.

But sometimes, you do the right thing and get undesirable outcomes - or you completely do the wrong thing and get the desired outcome anyway - despite doing the wrong thing.

The batter can have a string of three at-bats.  In the first two, he swings awkwardly and rolls the ball slowly to the infield and manages somehow to reach base safely - in both cases, managing to just barely hit the top of the ball hard enough to roll it past the pitcher.  On the third at-bat, the same batter swings a textbook-perfect swing and hits the ball perfectly.  The line drive screams toward the right fielder - directly to the right fielder - who catches it without taking a single step and the batter is out.  Two successes on texbook failures, and a failure on a textbook success.  That's the way life goes every then and again.

The same thing can happen with a pitcher, who pitches a masterful game, giving up just one run on just a smattering of hits.  Maybe the only hit was a home run that scored the opposing team's only run of the game - all the other batters fared miserably against the pitcher on this day. His team hits the ball all over the place, but manages to not score any runs in the game.  Despite his masterful performance, the pitcher is recorded as the losing pitcher, despite having technically outpitched the opposing pitcher and his team having outhit the opposing team.

And then, there's the doubly-odd.  One former player (Vladimir Guerrero) was known far and wide as a great "bad pitch" hitter.  He once actually reached base safely by hitting a pitch that had bounced on its way to the plate!  And yet, he managed to go 0/3 in David Cone's 1999 perfect game (which I was in the stands to witness).

Baseball reflects the uncertainty of life. That's why its so wonderful.  All sports do to some extent - if they didn't involve uncertainty, they would be pointless.  If the outcome of a game can be determined without actually playing the game, it makes the whole thing rather stupid.

As I write this, the Chicago Cubs are back in the playoffs.  Last week, the team won its first playoff game since 2003.   That's not even the worst of it.  They had lost nine playoff games in between.  In one of the Back to the Future movies, Marty McFly learns that the 2015 Cubs will win the World Series in a five game sweep of the Miami/Florida Marlins.  Well, the Marlins ended up not making the 2015 playoffs and the movie predicted that they'd win the World Series a week before the actual 2015 World Series would even begin - but that's all just being a factist for me.

The spirit of the game lies is the same spirit that fills life with hope and disappointment.  

Monday, October 5, 2015

Baby Seagulls

Have you evern noticed how rare it is to see a baby seagull?  For that matter, it's really rare to see a dead one, too.  It seems like all the seagulls you ever wanna run into are in the prime of life.  Maybe it just seems that way to me, and its not like I'm an avid seagull enthusiast or anything.

My family has recently been very close to a teenager with a substance reliance problem.  If you were to just look at her circles of friends, it seems like 100% of teenagers have these issues.  Most of them refuse to acknowledge its a problem (mostly becuase its not a problem for them, actually).  It is very painful to all involved.

I happened to be re-reading an employment policy of a company I know.  The policy says that this company is a "drug free workplace".  It goes on to say that:
"The illegal use of drugs is a national problem that seriously affects every American. Drug abuse not only affects individual users and their families, but it also presents new dangers for the workplace." 

So, if this is true, and if its wide spread, where are all these kids with substance reliance issues going to work?  Are there places who consider the illegal use of drugs to be beneficial to the workplace?  Where will they go when they leave the nest?  Many of them are leaving the nest under less than optimal situations.

They're like baby and dead seagulls.  You don't really see them that much, but they're around. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Into the "Stretchy Part"!

And onto the bus stormed five little kids, all probably the same age, I'd guess five or maybe six years old. Behind that bundle of energy was their caretaker - by my guess -  parent to none of them.

They all immediately sat down in and amongst already seated passengers. Overjoyed to be here, sitting here. Their joy erupted again when one of them realized that the seats on the turntable where the bus hinges - they called it the "stretchy part" we're still available.  There was implied disbelief that all these silly adults would choose to sit anywhere else but in the stretchy part.

The collective conscience of the five sprung into action as they jumped into the aisle on their way to the stretchy part of the bus. The woman sitting across from me joined eyes with me and we shared a smile, basking in the sudden joy blizzard that had just passed us by on their way to these premier, yet magically vacant seats.

Unfortunately, their joy seemed to interfere with the very serious work of two adults who had boarded behind them. One was probably 30 and whatever was going on in his phone required his full and undivided attention. He he rolled his eyes to the roof of the bus. Maybe there was a fly up there.

The other serious adult was wearing garb from a casino, and I couldn't help but wonder how adult games seem so soul-sucking in the light of the luck of these five stretchy-seated five year olds.

Monday, September 21, 2015

God Granted...

Do you know what this is? 

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation.
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Its the third verse of the "Defence of Fort McHenry", written in 1814 during the War of 1812.  A little later, it got a title change to "The Star Spangled Banner" after it had been set to (interestingly enough, 50 year old British) music and then and a little expos-facto, was made the national anthem in 1931.

"Heaven" and "the Power"  clearly wanted the United States to exist, just the way it is.  It was born and lived its run-up to anthemhood in the days of "Manifest Destiny".  You could call this a real boom that swept the nation - and for right reason.  That American were bound to take over all of the continent/west and make it just like Europe was - to restore civility to the wild west.

I wonder if God had called us to greater things, if we would have heard him over our own hubris?

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Thing is Never the Thing

Have you ever gotten involved in a conversation, only to realize that the conversation itself was meant to serve as a distraction from a larger question?

I think of the infamous Christian discussions about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin.  If you're busy discussing the nature of a thing, you will probably fail entirely to question its existence in the first place.

This happens when people make mistakes, too.  Rather than apologizing and moving on, they create drama.  This dramapology is not one of my shortcomings, but I can see it and it is quite ubiquitous.  If we worry about why the e-mail didn't go or was lost or not received, then we don't need to talk about what the e-mail actually said, do we?  A little shit-storm about tangential events can certainly allow us - if we all want - to brush the real thing under the rug.

But then sometimes its serious.  Expressing "I hate you" when what is really meant is "I hate me" and nobody moves toward wholeness.   Worrying about the doctor being unpleasant sure can help us forget that dad is dying.  In both cases, pain is distributed rather than lived.

The problem, I guess with the thing not always being the thing is that we might often be better off if the thing actually was the thing every then and again.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Lamenting the Demise of Irreverence

Every year on September 11,  I try to listen to Imus in the Morning. This year, his audience has shrunk from a national television and radio audience to a local, radio-only audience. Thanks to the magic of the Internet, I am streaming Imus in the Morning this morning on WABC in New York. Unfortunately, they're playing a "best of" show, which is good, I guess.

I was a devout Imus listener at the time of September 11, 2001.  I remember being glued to the radio listing to the show produced and aired on the fly, with no commercials and no breaks.  It was then and still is one of the very best coverages of any unplanned event that I have ever heard.

This day always makes me miss Imus.  Missing Imus makes me miss the America in which we could be irreverent without being insulting.

Granted, he was both and he’s run afoul with several people and groups because of it, but I would argue that his irreverence and humor didn’t really change much over the years.  As a matter of fact, I might say that he toned things down a bit as he went from a local to a national celebrity.

The change that Imus either missed or attempted to challenge is our collective definition of and threshold for discomfort. Something that was irreverent and funny years ago is now personally insulting. The avoidance of pain is fast becoming the primary concern amongst us.

Our inability to laugh at ourselves and more importantly, to laugh with someone as they laugh at themselves has devolved into laughing at and feeling indignant at being laughed at.

That sensitivity is coming from somewhere.  What has happened along the way?  Was it economic?  Was it social?

Across America right now, churches of my faith have put up “Black Lives Matter” banners, only to have them defaced, stolen or ruined.  Just the other day, one of the leading candidates for the Presidency commented that another contender would not make a good President because of the way she looked.  I like to think that these things would not have happened thirty years ago, and if they did happen, they would have met with a stiff rebuke because they were uncivil and outside of the social conventions that defined interpersonal relationships.

Sure, we called Jimmy Carter a "peanut farmer" to demean him and laughed at the travails of his brother Billy and maybe I'm just being nostalgic, but it seemed different.

The civil discourse and mutual understanding that comes from having a good laugh at yourself or with others laughing at themselves - from really getting to know one and other - has largely vanished. It has been replaced with self-defensive posturing (even being self-defensive to ourselves) that robs from us the opportunity to engage people on a whole hearted basis and band together on the road to solidarity.  We make friends by laughing together so that when the tough times come and disagreement is real, we can still hold our communities together.

I lament that loss when I hear Imus.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Happy Labor Day

Happy Labor day.

On this day, I would like to remember those who died to move the balance between the capital class and the working class.  There were "riots", murders, outright assassinations and many were put at physical danger.

In 1884, police tried to dissipate a peaceful meeting of striking workers in Chicago's Haymarket area, killing two striking workers.  The next day, a homemade bomb went off in a crowd of policeman as they approached the re-gathered striking workers.  Twelve policemen were killed.  What followed was a trial so rickety that just a couple years later, the next Governor of Illinois commuted the sentence of four of those convicted. Four others and already been hung and one more had committed suicide en lieu of the hanging.

So, twelve police, two striking workers and the five convicted all died.  All members of the working class.  Zero members of the capital class were affected.

It took a while, but eventually, with widespread prosperity, the United States caught up by moving the balance through legislative actions.

1935 - Right to Collective Bargaining
1935 - Social Security Act
1938 - Federal Minimum Wage Laws
1940 - 40 Hour Work Week
1940 - Child Labor Restrictions
1965 - Medicare
2010 - Affordable Care Act

All of the above faced battles in the Supreme Court.  None of those laws we now hold so dearly were the first of their kind in the world.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Great Binding Law

In a recent discussion about all the pain and fear currently on display in our country and elsewhere, I was asked what I thought was "wrong with the world" these days.

I don't necessarily think anything is wrong with the world, its just that we are afraid.  We're afraid of the world and each other, in varying degrees and at varying times.  It seems to have come around again to be all about money and power. Power seems to have devolved into equal parts self-reciprocating machismo (women not immune), blind arrogance and willful indifference.  

I spend a lot of time working with companies and it seems that these days, shareholders demand so much from companies that the individuals who run them scurry around to avoid failure.  

These three elements are requisites to success.  We reward this psychotic behavior with huge paydays.  Seven Generations?  We are incented to look out seven days, weeks maybe, maybe just maybe seven months. 

The Great Binding Law (of Peace) of the Iroquois Nations (circa 1451 CE) in #28 demands of leaders a personal fidelity to the nation (which means removing self-interest), present and future. 

The Great Binding Law of the United States (1787) says nothing about personal accountability of leaders.

Maybe it all really does start at the top. Maybe its just a timing thing.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Worst Projects

The worst projects are not the ones that seem insurmountable.  Not the ones that will take a herculean, all-hands-on-deck effort.  Those can actually be wonderful, they can pull a community together to make something better than can be shared.

Even when the too-big-to-succeed projects are not about community, they're still not all that bad because when they're done, you can still have a sense of accomplishment.  Like Charlie Brown used to say, it's like peeing in a dark suit, you feel better and nobody notices.

The worst projects are like peeing in a dark suit, but you don't feel better.  They're the projects that you have to stop everything you're doing to get done and all they do is reset you back to ground zero.  Three days worth of work to unscramble an egg, only to have someone say "see, there is the egg, I told you it was right there".

Effort into the hands of the unappreciative, or the ungrateful, or the jaded or the entitled.  Those are the worst projects, regardless of how much effort they take or how you feel about your effort afterwards.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Taking a Position of Weakness over Strength

Say I:              Oh for God's sake will you stop trying to prove that Jesus was who you want him to be, already!

Says He: [puzzled stare]

Say I:              Every time you reach into that damn Bible of yours and pull out "proof" that Jesus was God or that he is the saviour or the Messiah or a miracle worker, you cheapen your own belief.

Says He:        My belief is not cheap.

Say I:              First, I didn't say that your belief is cheap.  I said, you cheapen your belief.  Secondly, I can prove it.

Says He:        Go right ahead.

Say I:              Prove to me that humans need air to breathe.

Says He:        That's ridiculous.   How do I prove that?

Say I:              Right.  What's ridiculous is not how to prove it, but why to bother proving it.  You have so much evidence for it that looking it up in a book is just silly.  Proving self-evident, obvious things is voluntarily taking a position of weakness when you're really in a position of strength.  It's silly.

Says He:        So, proving what I believe is silly?

Say I:              Yes.  It turns God into a science - something documentable.  The only reason you would bother to document it is to prove you were right, which cheapens your faith because you voluntarily claim a defensive, apologetic position.  You're defending do, but you're not, you're really defending your own work, your own belief, your own - apparently weak - beliefs by telling me what someone else thinks.

Says He:        I'm not sure I follow you.  Proving God is silly and cheap?

Say I:              Yes.  God is not a chemistry or math equation.  Proving what you have faith in based on what you feel - or worse, what someone else felt - is silly.  If you have so much faith in God that God became so obvious as breathing air, then why would you try to prove your faith?  

That you keep trying to prove your faith by burying your nose in that silly book is like saying you love Paris because you have read a travel guide about it:  its cheap.  Just live as if what you have faith in is actuallytrue and this constant urge to prove your point will eventually go away.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Concept of Balance

Eastern religions have a concept of balance that goes beyond the personal - its metaphysical.

Western religions have this too, although the people in control of interpreting what Jesus, Moses and Muhammad meant have buried it.

The other day, I was talking with someone about balance and she said to me that some things were not meant to be in balance.  For example, poverty should not balance wealth.  I thought about this long after the conversation had ended and I do think she has a point, but maybe not for the same reasons she had in mind.

Economic justice is a man-made system. It's not something like male and female; salty and sweet; old and new.  Economics doesn't happen naturally.  So, she has a point in refusing to apply a concept of balance to it because the balancing point would then also be man-made and subject to manipulation.

But, what about knowledge?  Is knowing supposed to be balanced with non-knowing?  [And not-knowing is not the same as ignorance.  Ignorance implies that something can be known, but simply isn't known.  Not-knowing is something that science can't ever get to understanding.  We need a word for that.]

Since we've made the modernist move from believing that everything we didn't understand was somehow caused by God all the way to believing that "nothing is unknowable", science has basically replaced God.  Many of us are more comfortable with this replacement because it gives us hope that we can control our own definition, meaning and destiny.

I wonder if there is some middle ground to be found between "God is a mystery" and "God is Science".  For me, they are both right, but to them, both viewpoints fight each other to stand alone, one without the other.

Personally, I am uncomfortable in a world where everything is knowable.  It's like a wet blanket over the mystery of life.  Love goes from being God's presence to a series of electro-chemical reactions in our brains.  Beauty goes from being a gift from God to being some subjugation to the collective opinion. 

I do like anti-biotics and heart-transplant surgeries - I'm not wishing for some sort of reversion to the blood-letting days, but some sort of happy medium would be nice.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Jesus on the Cross

What exactly did Jesus say while he was on the cross?  Well, that depends on the narration you read.

In the narration presented in the Gospel of John (John 19:23-31) Jesus actually says more than in any other Gospel.  He greets his mother (John 19:26), he asks for something to drink (John 19-28 - from the writer's account to fulfill prophecy in the Hebrew scriptures), and then at the moment of his death he says "It is finished" (John 19-30).

In the narration presented in the Gospel of Luke, (Luke 23:33-46), Jesus tells one of the other convicts executed with him that they will be in Paradise with him (Luke 23:43) and at the moment of his death, he cries out to his father (God, one would presume) "Father into your hands I commend my spirit".

In the narrations presented in the Gospel of Mark, (Mark 15:24-37), and the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 27:35-50) Jesus doesn't say anything until moments before death, at which time he cries out to "Father, Father, why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34) or "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:45), and he also lets out a large undefined cry at the actual moment of his death (Mark 15:37) and Matthew (27:50).

In the anecdote presented in the Gospel of Phillip, Jesus says only "My God, my God, why lord have you forsaken me?" It is said that he says these words only after he had "left that place".

In the Second Treatise of the Great Seth, Jesus is narrating or retelling the event of his crucifixion and many of the events (the wine, the piercing with the reeds, the crown of thorns) are present, but according to Jesus, he himself was not, rather he was observing and, according to his retelling, laughing at them.

Maybe he said it all.  None of the stories claim to be a recording of events.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Oh What Prizes the Future Holds

So, after we've gotten to the point where "smart data" has run its course and I only get commercials for TV shows that my personal watching patterns suggest I might like, or I only get ads for products that I have a high probability to buy based on the things that I buy all the time already, what's next?

When all the companies who make money selling things [this is a tangent - selling things that most people don't need, probably can't afford and may not even want - because things you need, want and can afford generally don't need advertising at all], what will happen? When prices have remained the same, but marketing costs have gone down and all of the marketing dollars are spent not on the message, but on the audience selection process, what then?  When the marketing costs are low and yet the prices remain the same and the benefits of becoming part of the world of big data [profits] go into the hands of the very, very few, what then?

Is there a fear that we will be so cocooned, that we will only see things from people who think like we do, or who already know what we think?

And what about the "news", well, its not really news anymore, is it?  It's news feeds, where you can choose what you want to know about.  But the problem with choosing what you want to know about is that you don't know what you don't know, so you don't know what you're missing, even though I do know that the Ottawa Senators scored with 17 seconds to go in overtime last night.

Will I eventually stop paying for things on my charge card even though carrying around cash is such a risk and a bother, just to confuse the big data people into showing me new things?  Maybe I'll buy some tampons or some afro-syle cream just to get coupons from CVS for something I don't even know is there. 

Thanks to my voluntary compliance with the laws of big data, the whole selling-things universe knows I'm this age, that my kids are this age, where I shop, what I buy, the websites I look at, the friends I have and their ages and their kids ages and where they shop and the websites they look at.

Maybe then, after everyone I know is buying the same everything I buy, maybe then, someone will send me something about something new, just on a whim, or maybe because they misread the big data, and maybe then, my eyes will open from my commercialized slumber to a world of someone else's commercialized slumber.

Oh what prized the future holds.

Monday, July 20, 2015

It's Been Hot!

Its been hot recently here.  95 to 100 degrees most of the time.  93 at 9 in the morning today after a rainy day yesterday.   Good for the tomatoes, I like to say.

Its South Carolina - and not the ocean part - so its not super-unusual for it to be so hot.  But this time, I noticed something that makes a lot of sense to me.

I've always hated air conditioning.  I call it "indoor refrigeration" because that's what it is.  Calling it "air conditioning" makes it sound like something necessary to correct an inherent imperfection in the air.  Anyway,  I hate the way it teaches your own body's cooling systems to get lazy and shrinks the range of climate variables in which we feel comfortable.  I worry that it has unknown health implications.

As someone with a lifelong cringing feeling about excessive indoor refrigeration, the fact that this little epiphany came as I am nearing 50 is a tiny bit startling.  The shift that ended in my little epiphany started on our trip to the Florida Keys this May (Santa was kind).  In the Keys, the distinction between indoors and outdoors is much less clearly defined.  Shade is a wonderful refrigerant. Shade and a breeze and your own human cooling systems can take care of just about everything.  My wife had previously not seen this, holding fast to the assertion that a) I was nuts, and b) without air conditioning, life would not be bearable.

The shift continued when we got home.  We step out of a place with indoor refrigeration into the outside air and she will say "oh, thank God, it was so cold in there".  She'll say, "I didn't even realize how cold it was in there."  We have always kept our indoor refrigeration at our home at 79 (too much colder than that and I would be constantly uncomfortable). As we step into the house from walking the doggies, she used to rejoice getting out of the heat, but she's started to say "Holy crap, its cold in here". After a mere 27 years of marriage, she's coming around to my way of looking at the world.  Its not too hot outside, its too cold inside.

I've always known this, but now that I can articulate it, it has me wondering what other things I have backwards.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Whipping that Mule

Work (what we do, what we produce) is so very disconnected from what we need that we often end up with mismatches.  A musician who takes a job shuffling papers or a builder serving drinks at a bar.  These mismatches can flourish and even be sources of growth, but there is a big margin of error.  They can also be life-sucking.  Being alive right now for many of us means choosing to have the life drained from our veins when the sun is out because we wish to support what we do "after-hours".   For many of us, what we do after-hours has less commercial value than it needs to have to allow us to keep afloat in the economic ocean.

Wait, that's a bad metaphor.  "Keeping afloat" is passive, but this economic ocean of ours is not designed to maintain our wellbeing, so "keeping afloat" really means "struggle mightely".  For many of us, passive floating won't cut it.

This is why the true challenge - gone largely unaccepted - is to create efficiency in a very ineffective world.  [Well, the world is actually very effective, just not in maintaining wide-spread wellbeing.]  

Food systems, financial systems, work systems, religious systems, art systems all need the attention of those who are designed to float passively in them.  Those people need to redouble their efforts around one simple idea.  The idea is so simple, actually, that its scary.

Make it very, very easy to do the right thing; and very, very difficult to do the wrong thing.

Think of how simple that is and yet how hard it is to do.  I have personally taken on this vow as an avocation at work.  I know the jobs on my team were absolutely nobody's childhood dreams.  That does not mean, however, that how these people spend their days can't be easy and fulfilling and socially valuable.  Complex systems administered by disinterested people is a recipie for defeat, and yet they are all around us because our economy treats the people who play those roles like livestock.  Actually, you could make the case that absent the slaughterhouse, our society might actually treat livestock better, [but again, another thought].

If our leaders saw us as valuable, they would want us to succeed and they would create these easy/right-hard/wrong systems.  Instead, we get "you need to pay more attention or we'll find someone who will" - the 21st century equivalent of whipping the mule.  Just like the mule, the people playing these roles are more and more powerless to say back to these leaders "well, maybe if you made it so that I didn't have to be functioning at a super-high level every moment, we'd all be better off".

This is one of the complaints against the unionization movement here in America.  It curtailed the mule-whipping, but failed to produce enough of the easy/right-hard/wrong feedback.  So, we've chosen to go back to whipping that mule.

The funny thing is, someone thinks they won a battle.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Prayer for In(ter)Dependence Day

I was able to visit Washington again recently.  We went to Arlington for the funeral of my Aunt.

As I stood there in Arlington with my mother and my daughter and a few distant cousins I had just met, I could not comprehend how many graves there were.  Graves as far as the eye could see. It was huge and it was astounding - the sights and the silence.

The next day we walked.  We walked from the Washington Monument down the hill to the World War II memorial.  We stopped and remembered and told my daughter of my father's service in the Navy.  We found our states - Florida, New Hampshire and South Carolina carved into the rock pillars stretching above the fountain.

We kept walking, through the park making our way to the Vietnam Memorial. The monument was enormous and silent - much more silent than the World War II Memorial with its loud fountains.   I could not help but think that the monument was trying to tell me that making sure we don't need any more meaningful war memorials begins with me.

We continued our walking tour later that afternoon.  As the sun was setting, we walked through the Korean War Memorial.  We looked into the faces of the people who fought that war.    In that solemn place, I could hear and feel George Carlin making real for us the personal toll that war takes not only on the families of the deceased, but also on the survivors themselves.  How “shell shock” was intentionally diluted down to “battle fatigue” and eventually the pain was entire hidden behind a very clinical-sounding “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”. Carved into the wall of the memorial is etched “Freedom is not free.”  I looked into the faces of the monument and I saw “shell shock”, not PTSD.

We were getting tired.  It was getting late.  By the time we walked all the way to the Roosevelt Memorial, it was dark. Like the Korean memorial, it was about the people.  We looked into their faces too.  They were poor and lost and had no part of the cause of their pain and loss. There, carved into the rocks on the side of one of the waterfalls, Roosevelt's words read:
"I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded...I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed...I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war."
Independence is a myth.  We are incredibly inter-dependent.

Monday, June 29, 2015

What Racists Feel

I have lived in  South Carolina now for ten years.  Exactly.  Well, ten years and two days, to be exactly exact.

Even after ten years, I still have feelings for people wearing camouflage in non-hunting, non-military situations [which, as a non-hunter and not in the military, these are the only situations in which I would encounter people wearing camouflage prior to moving here].    I can exclude here people under the age of - well, let's say ten.  People under the age of ten are excluded.

Everyone else, however, I don't know if its my brain or my gut or both that just draw these wildly uncharitable thoughts about these people.  
"Are you so [explicative] stupid that you don't know I'm not a [explicative] deer, and that there are no trees in this [explicative] building we're all in?  That means I can see you.  You know that, don't you? [explicative]" 
"What, exactly are you trying to hide from?"   
"So, you're the hunter, and I'm the pray.  Ok.  I get it.  Stay away from Mr. Toughguy.  Message received. [explicative, explicative]" 
"Do you not have anyone in your life who loves you enough to tell you that you're not ten, and you're not hunting, this isn't [explicative] Halloween and we're not at war (at least here) and therefore, you look like a [explicative] idiot wearing army/hunter dress up clothes?"
Yes, my friends, these are the things that go through my mind and my gut when I see someone over the age of ten wearing camouflage.  Even just a hat.  All of this comes with no training, nobody ever told me to feel this way about people wearing camouflage.  I just do, even though I feel guilt bordering on shame when I feel these feelings.  I make huge judgements on their character and intelligence even though my only interaction with them is that I happened to see them and they happened to be wearing camouflage.

Imagine if the people you loved told you to hate another group of people in just that same way.  The color of their skin instead of the color of their hat.  

I feel my guilt every time my gut stirs on seeing camouflage.  Imagine if instead of guilt, I felt pride.  Pride because my clan had taught me to hate people who wear camouflage - hate to the point of killing them and that it was not only OK, but just and righteous to rid the world of these camouflage-wearing drains on society.

We had a lynching again this spring.  It was in Mississippi.  The news didn't call it that.  They said that a "black man was found hung in a tree".  Whatever.  It was a lynching.

If I want to, but can't shake my gut's reaction to camouflage, how can we even hope that racism will disappear from clans trained take their racism as a source of pride?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Reality in Line with World View

Do you ever find it odd how in line your view of something is with the way you perceive it to be?

I was at a small meeting to discuss a particular religious text just a short time ago.  There was a small panel of experts who had studied the text from a variety of viewpoints. 

The text wasn't troubling to me.  I went mostly to support a member of the panel - and I was interested.  I, along with most people in the audience of about 100 attendees found the conversation engaging, even eye-opening. 

A smaller group of attendees, maybe around 20 or so, were very troubled that the angle from which the text had been interpreted in their corner of the religion was not being considered by the panel.  Honestly, to get to see the text from their angle, you really had to bend it quite a bit.  You had to insert some things that were absent and ignore some things that were present.  Most of their contribution to the discussion was centered around these insertions and deletions.

They wanted the scripture to paint a picture of their God the way they wanted their God to appear.  The possibility that God kinda didn't appear that way in this text seemed to cause them them some great strain.

I felt for them.  I know I do that to myself.  I am thinking a thought and then - wham - any bit of confirming evidence sends me into a confirmation bias overdrive.  I find myself doing it in interpersonal relationships.  I find myself doing it in interpreting business communications or financial reports.

It really leaves me in a state of either aloneness if I consider my opinion to be unpopular, or aloneness in the sense that everyone around me feels/thinks the same thing.

Being vulnerable to consider shortfalls in my own interpretation is hard work.  It's a sin, nowadays - wishy-washy, flip-flop.  Critical reflection is seen as weakness.  No wonder we don't teach it anymore.

The fear that drove these 20 folks to attend this meeting must have been enormous.  Maybe even so large that they couldn't see it anymore.  It could have been like air.  It left me considering where my air is.

Monday, June 15, 2015

I Left a Tip

I left a tip in the restaurant I just left, even though I could have been "justified" in not leaving a tip based on the server's performance.  The server was quite unpleasant and really seemed disinterested in whether or not I was gaining anything other than caloric intake from my meal.

I felt bad for her.  How can someone be so disconnected from their task at the moment?  Was she living the past somehow, stewing on something that happened on the way to work, or maybe after she got here?

Was she living in the future somehow, concerned about paying the rent [a real possibility based on her displayed hospitality skills], or what someone else would say or maybe even do to her tonight or tomorrow?

Either way, I recognized that we are connected.  In some way, I benefit from the system that sets a server's wage at $2.17 [in South Carolina].  The rest of a server's income is based in part on things that are under their control [being hospitable, welcoming, attentive, detail-oriented] and in part on things that are clearly not under their control [the condition of the food and surroundings, limitations on the menu].

I remember once when we were out in a small group. One person's appetizer showed up at the table after her meal.  This person complained profusely.  Everything else was fine with the meal - with all our meals, for that matter.  This person even went so far as to eat some, but not all of the tardy appetizer.  This member of my group refused to leave a tip because of the "bad service", even though they acknowledged that the server didn't cook the appetizer and the cook didn't live off tips.  [Maybe the tardy-appetizer was just an excuse to save a little cash, who knows.]

I left a tip for my unpleasant, disinterested server today.  I also left a tip that day in the group for member of our group who refused based on the tardy-appetizer.  I am at least partly to blame for and I receive some benefit from a system that puts the income of service folks at the whim of patrons.  I cannot succeed if they don't.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Seeing How We Fit In

Years ago, work seemed to be a matter of survival.  I'm reading a fictional account of pre-Revolutionary America, and the value of work is so personal, so life-giving compared to how work fits into many of or lives today.  On my own team at work, we have people who perform tasks that would seem unbelievably specialized if compared to the work going on in the story.  My team and I would surely have starved in pre-Revolutionary America.

The value my team and I provide to society is real, but it is risky work.  We are so specialized, that disruptions in law, policy or markets could really have a strongly negative impact on our value to society.  I imagine being the world's preeminent expert on rotary-dial telephone design, if what we do isn't valued anymore, we're not valued anymore.  With the pace of change it is probable that at one point, we may be simultaneously near the top our game and reaching the end of our value to society.

Our society has changed.  I joke that "My garden is at Earthfare (a local grocery store)."  But if my income were to vanish, a garden would be helpful.

We each have gone from fitting into society as a whole, individual unit to being a mere cog in a wheel.  In one way, our society is better off for it - society benefits from the contributions of me and my team. In other way though, we are all more fragile and fear is so pervasive, that we hardly know our own fragility is there anymore.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Caitlyn Jenner

It is fairly well known amongst my inner circles (such as they are) that I exist nearly entirely in a current-event and pop-culture black hole.  If it doesn't come up in conversation amongst friends, or its not something I'm otherwise interested in, I probably have no idea what the hell is going on.

Earlier this week, out for dinner with friends, I got brought up to date on Caitlyn Jenner.  Previously, my only exposure to the whole affair was dubious magazines at the Publix checkout lines.  At dinner, I thought nothing of the whole thing.  I now regret my decision to read, instead of scrolling on past a few of the Facebook postings of her, and the comments.

As I result, I have come to the realization that we have collectively - and in some instances individually - gone bat-shit crazy.

What is it about one person's choices that effect us so profoundly?  What is it about us that makes us so angry or repulsed by something someone else does to and by themselves?  We're supportive of that Zimmerman thug, but Bruce/Caitlyn makes us pop a gasket?  Really?

So many comments about not having to "accept" her.  Fuck off.  Who died and made you judge and jury?    Put your fingers in your ears and say la-la-la every time she comes on TV?  Maybe a little righteous indignation thrown in for spice? She has decided that this is how she is going to live her life.  The fact that we think its incumbent upon us to decide whether or not we're going to accept her make us diagnosable, not publishable.

Honest to God, people.  Don't you have something you should be doing?  Comparing her to marines?  What the fuck is that?  She didn't call herself a hero, other people called her a hero.  Other people can call her whatever the fuck they want to call her and they don't need your blessing.  Do they still make hats big enough for you to wear?

The fact is, we all get to make our own decisions.  That tiny little fact makes some (apparently more than I had previously thought) people nervous - people who want everyone to look the same and talk the same and dress the same and think the same.  Cultural nazis who need everyone to be snapped to order who get all kerfuffled when any bit of evidence that chaos still exists rears its ugly head.  

The fact that a male athlete wants to live as a woman drives our testosterone fueled images of manliness around then bend and back says a lot about us and absolutely nothing about Caitlyn Jenner. I am surprised to see just how many of us need to behave like the opposite is true to avoid facing whatever it is in ourselves that makes us act like a misbehaving seven year old when confronting ourselves wholeheartedly.

This whole thing has accelerated what had previously been my slowly eroding faith in humanity.

Monday, June 1, 2015

You know, you have always been such a disspointment to me.

On television, two characters, long ago friends, separated by something that now seems petty had recently had reason to come back together. Ater their reuniting experience is over, the taller one reveals to the shorter one that despite outward appearances, over the coming monhts, a terminal disease and will result in a slow, painful and agonizing death.  The taller one has asked the shorter one to preempt the suffering - perform euthanasia to spare everyone the pain the next few months will bring.

In the story, the shorter one resists for long time. At one point when the shorter one refuses yet again, the taller one says "You know, you have always been such a disspointment to me".

I sat there watching the scene and I realized just how fully these two characters loved one and other, despite their separation.  What feelings of both pain and joy it must have been to be told that you were "such a dissapointment".

To have someone care about me and hold me in such high regard while simultaneously painfully aware of my limitations must be a gift like none other.  To care so deeply as to be able to tell me point blank, without emotion or coercion like the taller character did, that I was a dissapointment.

I hope one day, someone I love will tell me that I have been such a disappointment.  At that moment, I will receive the gifts of a glimpse of the power of love an a good look into my own real power.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Ra Day

Today would have been the celebration of the Egyptian God Ra.

Every culture has its own ways of looking at god.  Some cultures tend to think that god appears in just one form, or no form at all.  Other cultures such as the ancient Egyptians tended to think that God is kinda everywhere and that seeing god or knowing god is more in the eye of the beholder.  I would put the modern-day Christians in the latter group, with its saints, angels, rainbows and the occaisional Virgin Mary appearance in a blueberry muffin.

It's sometimes hard to keep things in perspective, when we're part of the things, but the pre-Roman, pre-Christian Egyptian culture lasted about 3,000, or about 1/3 again as long as Christianity has existed so far.  Just like in Christianity, Ra's nature changed for the Egyptians as their understanding of the world evolved.   Ra was for the most part, the God of the Sun, and as such, he was a nourisher god, like Vishnu and Krishna.  He was also the creator God at various points of the way the ancients understood him.  He went from being a minor to god to being the primary god at various points along his 3,000 years of fame.

Happily, our evidence seems to indicate that at no point in Ra being an important God did the worship of God involve any sacrifice of anything or anyone.

So, I am going to celebrate Ra today.  I may even write myself a little song I can sing.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Fifteen Days in May

This year, there are fifteen days separating Mother's Day and Memorial Day.

Aside from those fifteen days, what is the connection between the two?  The connection is war.

Mother's day was originally established in 1872 as "Mother's Day of Peace".  It was a day of peace for those mothers who had lost sons to war or were concerned that they would one day lose sons to war.  In the early part of the last century, the peace/war aspects of the holiday were replaced with greeting cards.

The traditions of decorating graves to memorialize those lost in the Civil War started while the war was still ongoing.  The holiday was formalized in Charleston, SC when a mass grave of union soldiers was cleaned up and "decorated" by (mostly black) locals.  Like Mother's day, it has either evolved or devolved, depending on how you look at it.  It's mostly now just a day off, although it's really not a big greeting card day.

Fifteen days separate the hope that one day we can stop war, from the remembrance of those who died in either forming (or ostensibly forming) or defending (or ostensibly defending) our American Empire. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Personality Types

Without passing any judgement at all on the current, well known personality types such as the Myers-Briggs (Jungian) and Enneagrams (Riso and Hudson) - [I'm a n ENFP and by all accounts, a off-the-charts 6 (an accusation I dispute, by the way), if you're wondering].

I'd like to suggest a new personality type assigned specifically to work-product - what you produce as a result of what you do.

I'm normally one to shun categorization, but lately, I've begun to apply these personality types toward work-product. 

Type 1 attitude is when you just want to get by, or pretend to get by, or be able to claim to have gotten by - or at a minimum to avoid blame for not having gotten by.  I see this attitude in myself when doing things I dislike, like yard work.   The upside to this attitude is minimizing the time spent doing unpleasant things.  The downside is shoddy work-product and a lot of stress around fear of judgement or adverse repercussions.

Type 2 attitude is when you want what you do to be perfect and devote tremendous effort to getting it done absolutely flawlessly.  I see this attitude in myself when I do things I love that have a highly public nature about them, like preparing to give public talks, or writing things that will be permanently recorded or have future repurcussions.  The upside to this attitude is excellent work product and self-fulfillment through the work product.  The downside is something we all know well: perfectionism - wasting lots of time on minutely incremental improvements.

Type 3 is a blending of the two.

I don't know about you, but lately, I've been noticing more and more Type 1's.  I know everyone needs a job, but I wish the jobs were more interesting and would allow these poor, trodding souls to gallivant through their day from time to time and visit Type 2 every now and then.

I know radical Type 2's can be as damaging as Type 1's, but normally they're enthusiastic, if somewhat time-insensitive.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Brakes for Less

There is a company in Charleston, SC where spend a lot of time named "Brakes For Less".  I know nothing about the company but for the name.

I dunno about "Cheap Brakes".  There are a couple things in life where quality trumps price and, at least to me, brakes are one of those things.

Discount surgical sutures?

Save Big on Babysitting here!

I am very grateful that I have the resources to prioritze quality over price when I feel I need to.  I wish we didn't need "Brakes for Less" and could all choose "Safety Brakes".

Addition to Loose Cannon

I have made an edit to the Loose Cannon page.  I have added Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore.

Happy reading.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The New No-No Song

My favorite Beatle is George.  However, I am gaining a new appreciation for Ringo.  George still trumps Ringo, but Ringo is rising in the ranks.
[NB:  Not big on Paul at all and John is far too much of an icon to be considered for favorite Beatle status.  Debate amongst yourselves.]

Anywhoo, Ringo has this goofy little song call the No-No Song.  In it, he one-by-one explains why he can't really drink, smoke pot or snort cocaine anymore.  He was 35 in 1974 when he recorded it.  He's 74 today and still sings it.

I'm 48, but I've been rounding up to 50 for some time.  I laugh at the song because if I were writing my own no-no song today, the main culprits would be gluten, dairy and meat.

I say, no, no, no, no I can't do that no more. 
I'm tired falling asleep when I don't want to. 
No thank you please, it only makes me feel like crap,
and then it makes it hard to do just about anything else.

My, my, my how the times have changed.

Friday, May 1, 2015

May Day in Baltimore

Baltimore is bringing up an issue that people throughout time have failed to address. I can confidently predict that we will choose to fail to address it again because it is too painful.  Even people who want to address it will fail, like the Apostle Peter.  Three times?  No, no...many times more than that.  Even Peter didn't get it until the rooster crowed.  

The issue at the heart of it all is how we choose to define "violence". 

When a CVS is set on fire, it is an act of vandalism.  It is clearly violence.  We draw a hard and fast "zero-tolerance" line.  You can't do that.  It is easy to define, nice neat and tidy.

When a law is passed that empowers one group at the expense of another, it is governance - the will of the people.  When it is followed by another law...and another one...and another one, it is policy.  Policy creeps into our awareness and becomes normative.  In reality, it is also violence, but it is legal violence.  You can do that.  Unlike setting something on fire, its not easy to define.  Its messy.

We are tuned to keep an eye out for the fires, but we are also tuned to ignore - or even incentivize - governance and law. We are, after all a "nation of laws", not a "nation of morals".  That is why I predict that we will choose yet again to fail to act on the awareness that both setting the fires and passing immoral laws are violence, but disproportionately addressed by society.  

Deriving benefit from immoral laws is the same as Peter failing to lay claim to the Jesus who loved him.  Slavery and apartheid were both perfectly legal, but they were never moral. That is what separates Sunday mornings from Monday mornings.

A system which distributes despair will always have Baltimores.

Happy May Day, again.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Parenting Tips

So, I got one of those long, pedantic emails today.  Its point - succinctly - is that people raising kids today are too protective.  Their mothers smoked and drank and put them to sleep on their stomachs and not everyone who tried out for the team made it and they stayed out late at night and knew their neighbors and...I think you get the point.

It pissed me off.  It pissed me off even more because it came from my mother, who I KNOW doesn't believe that shit.  So, into the abyss of where ever it came, I wrote the following:
Sure.  But.

That same group of people are also the ones who have waged nearly perpetual war for most of their and our lives.  They fought the first war, and bits of the next two, but after that, they sent the black folks and the poor folks and the immigrant folks to fight the rest of them.  They also benefitted from those wars, creating the most wealth of any prior generation ever in the history of the universe - and then rigged the rules to be sure only a very select few benefited from it.

That same group cheapened our food the point of making us all sick and then turned access to healthcare into a privilege reserved just some.  They unleashed a drug-dependency culture that changed the face of families and they built neighborhoods with big garage doors to make a buck even though nobody in those neighborhoods would ever know their neighbors because of those garage doors.

They cut funding to aid the mentally ill to keep taxes low and replaced care with custody by demonizing mental illness, casting it to the ever-growing leper pile and then waiting for the mentally ill or drug-dependent to finally break the law so they could be thrown in jail. 

They created and benefited from a financial system that prays on the weak, rewards the lucky and protect the wealthy, and then they set it up so that they benefited from it whether it helped or hurt society.

So, forgive me if I don't put a lot of stock in the parenting and life tips of these people.  These people who now look back over their time here on earth and all they can see is greatness and personal victory because they've trained themselves to believe that Jesus loves them and that someone's success or failure has nothing to do with the circumstances into which they were born - an event over which they themselves had zero influence.  How is someone supposed to pull themselves up by their bootstraps if the factory long ago stopped making boots? 

Maybe if they had been born a couple decades later, their self-aggrandizing parenting and life-tips might be different.

So, yea, I wish had the luxury of raising my kids under the same circumstances you had, Mr. Pedantic E-Mail Writer.    But I don't.

So, when I get parenting and life tips from this group that basically call me stupid, weak or self-centered, I smile, even though what I really want to do is invite them to give it a try in this post-them world.  But, I don't because I know it would be pointless.  And I am too tired to bother.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Happy Independence Day

Today is Independence Day for the Conch Republic, known to many as The Florida Keys.

For those of you unaware, the Conch Republic was formed on April 23, 1982 as a response to the US Border Patrol's roadblock of US 1 in their "War on Drugs" .  Every vehicle going through the roadblock was searched for drugs, making the trip to the Keys unpleasant.

The "War on Drugs" roadblock effectively cut off the Keys from the rest of the United States and strangled the its primary source of income - tourism.  The Key West City council complained to the Federal Government, but got nowhere.

As a result, a band of Conch rebels assembled.  They elected a Prime Minister, seceded from the United States and Declared War.  After one entire minute, the Prime Minister apologized for declaring war, surrendered and applied for $1B in foreign aid from the US State Department.  That application is apparently still pending, although most people seem to have forgotten it, at this point.

The Motto of the Conch Republic, depending on who you talk to is "We Seceded Where Others Failed" or "The Mitigation of World Tension through the Exercises of Humor".  The most popular bumper sticker on Key West is:  "One Human Family".  Our church on Key West is called "One Island Family".

If I ever disappear without a trace, I would suggest that you start the search parties in the Conch Republic.  Start at the Green Parrot, right at mile marker 0, around happy hour and work your way over Mallory Square around sunset. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Ten Deadly Sins

The Judeo-Christian tradition is full of neat and tidy lists.  You get this wonderful conciseness after a couple thousand years, I suppose.  The Judeo-Christians aren't alone.  4 noble truths, 8-fold path, the list of lists is a long one.  

One of the more well-known neat, tidy little lists is the seven deadly sins.  They pop up articulated for the first time as a nice neat list in the Hebrew Scriptures, in which, none other than the wise King Solomon gets them down on paper (or papyrus) in the Proverbs. The Christian church administrator Paul later expands and adds some color to the list in his letter to the Galatians.

The Roman Catholic church puts them in a nice, neat little package, ready for daily application as: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, envy, lust and gluttony.   Pretty hard to argue with, none of those are very good ideas.  [Although on a side note, greed, pride, envy and gluttony seem to have been chosen as the basis for our current economic system.]  

They are specifically not good ideas because they prioritize the self over a participation in a community.  The Judeo-Christians are talking about a community which includes God, which is important, even in God-optional communities, they're not very good ideas.

Whichever community the tidy little list is fostering, I think its missing a few items. When I'm king I would like to add righteousness, tediousness, boringness, complacency and arrogance.  

While we're editing...envy, lust and greed all seem to be branches from the same trunk, so I think we can roll them all into a single - let's call it a meta-sin:  greed.  You know, for simplicity's sake.  So, the new list would be as follows:

1.  Wrath:  Thou shalt chill out.  Anger beith self-indulgent.
2.  Greed:  This is a two-parter.  First, thou shalt not taketh stuff that ain't either already yours or offered freely.  Second, thou shalt not taketh extra  stuff until everyone else haveth what they need.  Of course after everyone haveth what they need, there would be no point in taking extra, but that beith another blog post. [Regardless of what the economy wants you to believeth.]
3.  Sloth:  Thou shalt get off thy ass and participate in thy own life and the lives of others in thine community.
4.  Pride:  Thy poop, actually does stinketh, just like everyone else's.  Also, so does thy breath.
5.  Gluttony:  Thou shalt not believeth that more of a good thing is a better thing.  [Regardless of what the economy wants you to believe.]
6.  Righteousness:  Thou shalt never, uttereth the words:  "I toldeth you so." or anything intended to say "I toldeth you so.".
7.  Tediousness:  Thou shalt understand that there is a difference between sloth and taking a break every now and then.
8.  Boringness:  Thou shalt be aware when thou hast sucked the life out of a conversation.  [Also, thou shalt not suck the life out of a conversation for thy own benefit.]
9.  Complacency:  Thou shalt not "beith ok with it" when "it" doth not pertain to you.
10.  Arrogance:  Nobody believeth thy display of hyperbolic pride.  Thou shalt not use your influence to dominate another just because it maketh you feel all warm and fuzzy.