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 displayed her 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 as a 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 thing was dubious magazines at the Publix checkout lines.  At dinnrt, 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?  What are your plans those of you who have chosen not to accept her, pretend not to see her?  Put your fingers in your ears and say la-la-la every ttime 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 us 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 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.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Nietzsche Was Close

One of the side effects of being a brilliant mind is that idiots like me can second guess you.  This is especially true if you happen to be dead.

Friedrich Nietzsche is dead. 

He was also wrong.  Yes, yes, about the mustache styling but that's not all.

He at one point said. "Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker", which were it in English rather than German would be:  "What does not kill me, makes me stronger".  He was taking about bad or negative experiences.  Good experiences rarely cause risk of death. [Mostly].

I have found this to be not as universally true as Nietzsche would have liked it to be.  Something that comes that close to killing me will not necessarily make me stronger.  Sometimes, it may make me weaker by incenting me to avoid that activity in the future, which universally conflates avoidance with strength, causing me to ignore facts and circumstances.

My near-escape from harrowing experience can also make OTHER PEOPLE stronger.  This is true because other people will  watch what I do and learn from my misfortune.  I may even help them by writing a book.  They will grow both through observing my experience and because they don't have the fear of re-experiencing my pain.

So, he would have been more correct [but still had too bushy a mustache] had he pluralized it and said:  "What does not kill US, makes US stronger".  Sorry, make that "Was uns nicht umbringt, macht uns stärker".  He also could have put a lot of nay-sayers to rest had he just also followed that statement up with "its not the only thing that makes us stronger, but it helps."

[PS:  He was right about a lot of things.  God is probably dead, or better, he was murdered by the Greeks, and there are are no facts, only interpretations.  But this isn't about what he was right about, its about what he was wrong about - and that mustache.  Was that ever in style?]

Monday, April 6, 2015

Rethinking the "Platinum Rule"

Some time ago, I considered the Platinum Rule versus the Golden Rule.

I'm a little older now and more stuff has happened to me.  Sorry if that older post was a little dualistic, and in retrospect, boring because of it.

In short, what I was getting at with the post was that doing for/to others what you would want done for/to you (gold), is good, but gold is not quite as good as doing for/to others what they would want done to themselves.  In a sense, transferring agency from the doer, where it lies in the golden rule, to the recipient, where it lies in the platinum rule.

In retrospect, this puts a lot of pressure on people to know what they want.  Self-agency can be daunting, especially in times of stress.  The more I gallivant through life, the more and more aware I become of times when people just can't seem to bear self-agency and as a result, can end up actively working against their own best interest.  There is even a psychological syndrome (sorry, name escapes me) that will cause us to prefer to win an argument even though we'd actually be better off losing.

So, I guess we need to keep our self and interpersonal awareness keen to know when to gold 'em and know when to platinum 'em.  (Gosh, I wish that rhymed better!)

PS:  Regarding the use of the word "gallivant" to describe life's journey.  Sometimes, its a gallivant, but sometimes is a plod, while other times its a frolic and occasionally its a slumber.  Right at this particular moment, for example its a bit of a chore (not writing this, but in writing this, not doing what I should be doing, which is where the chore part comes in).  I really just chose "gallivant" because its a word my father used to use when he meant that we were going to go about and do some arrangement of fun things.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Doctor Appreciation Day

Today, March 30 is Doctor Appreciation Day.

Yup.  And I didn't even make that up.  Look here.

So, you may ask:  What exactly is wrong with appreciating doctors?  Do I have something against Doctors?  Am I some sort of twisted doctor-hater?

Of course not.  Who doesn't love their doctor?  I love mine.  Had him for ten years.  And I loved the one before that, my first one.  I have doctor friends, and doctor acquaintances and I have doctor clients.

What comes off as inauthentic about Doctor Appreciation Day is the same thing that comes of as inauthentic, or maybe just unaware when people change "Black Lives Matter" to "All Lives Matter".

Doctor Appreciation day for me is every day my doctor does something for me.  Even some days when I'm just happy my doctor did something for me, or for my wife or for my daughters.  Doctor Appreciation Day is EVERY DAY.

If you think "Black Lives Matter" misses that non-black lives also matter, you're missing that point too.  The point is EVERY DAY is "White People Matter Day".  I'm white and I can tell you that l don't always feel like the universe thinks my life matters.  The scary truth is, however bad my day is, at the end of the day, I'm still not black.

The old saying still has some truth in this very not post-racial America, and the truth is this:  No matter how uneducated a non-black person might be, no matter how unhealthy, no matter how unemployable...a non-black person can always still say:  "At least I'm not black."   And there would be some truth to that.

So, I'm just hoping that "Doctor Appreciation Day" was created by the greeting card industry, because if it wasn't, it misses the point just like "All Lives Matter" does.  Every day is Doctor Appreciation Day.

I am grateful, but I will skip celebrating "Doctor Appreciation Day".  I will, if I can get away today and take myself out for lunch, buy my waitress lunch and tell her its "Service Industry Appreciation Day", even if I'm the only one celebrating it and there are no greeting cards.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Funny Little One-Line Jokes

Funny one-line jokes.  (Extracted from a longer list handed to me in a steathily camouflaged bible tract promoting mostly the ugliness of man.)
  1. If at first you don't succeed, avoid skydiving.
  2. Time is what keeps everything from happening all at once.
  3. I don't suffer from insanity; I enjoy every minute.
  4. Give me ambiguity or give me something else.
  5. Always remember that you are unique; just like everyone else.
  6. Consciousness:  That annoying time between naps.
  7. Why is "abbreviation" such a long word?
  8. I started out in this world with nothing, and I still have most of it.
  9. The severity of the itch is inversely correlated to your ability to scratch it.
  10. You can't have everything.  Where would you put it?
  11. I just let my mind wander and  it's yet to come back.
  12. I used to think I was indecisive, but now I'm not so sure.
  13. It's bad luck to be superstitious.
  14. What would happen if you were to get scared half to death twice?
  15. Everywhere is walking distance if you have enough time.

Monday, March 16, 2015

What Hope Looks Like

I happened to spend a few minutes watching the legislature of the Great State of South Carolina on television today.  As I sat there, eating my granola, they passed a few laws.  I think they were actually amendments to other laws, but close enough for right now.  What they passed seemed to be largely in the minutia.  Actually, in reality what they passed seemed to be unintelligible gibberish.

My granola finished, I went back to my day.   I was apparently not done thinking about that gibberish.  What did it mean?  Someone spent a lot of time - a lot of intention - making that gibberish say exactly what they needed it to say and then getting it passed.  Why?  What was their intention?  Were they looking out, either directly or more probably indirectly for themselves?  Was it their intention to act exclusively in the best interest of the people affected by the gibberish?

I have to hold in my thoughts that even though legislation and policy has created such wide-spread have-and-have-not access to resources, the only path that leads to a conclusion in which they shouldn't all be thrown in jail is the path that starts with them having the best interest of the governed in mind.

If I can't hold that - and I fear I may not be able to hold that much longer - the backup thought is that the institutionalized inequity was premeditated.  That convincing people all across America to abandon critical thought and to vote, believe and even act contrary to their own best interest was not some unintended side effect.  It wasn't some bonus.  It was intentional.  Now, thirty years later, those very Americans who long ago set aside their critical thinking skills have come to occupy the very seats in the very halls which were supposed to be occupied those who had created this whole ruse.  Talk about an unintended consequence. That would mean that the joke is so big, and so present, that nobody knows its a joke anymore.

So, you see, I have to have hope that our government is one, gigantic unintended consequence.  Otherwise, it is theft by lawmaking and I'm just not ready to hold that.

Monday, March 9, 2015


Says he:    You write a blog?
Say I:        I do.
Says he:    I didn’t know that.
Say I:        Oh, well.  I guess…
Says he:    How many readers do you have?
Say I:        [I stalled, but it was not needed, I knew the answer.]  Oh, well, I guess…. 
Says he:    I mean, just an estimate.
Say I:        Well, the number is very close to zero.
Says he:    So, what you’re saying is you write a blog that nobody reads.
Say I:        Well...basically, yes.
Says he:    Why?
Say I:        Well, even though nobody reads it now, that doesn’t mean that nobody will ever read it….Plus, its like buying souvenirs.
Says he:    Souvenirs?
Say I:        Yes, so that future me can remember current me or even past me without romanticizing or demonizing.
Says he:    So, you’re not going to remember yourself.
Say I:        Probably not, or at least probably not objectively.
Says he:    But so will everyone else.
Say I:        Hence the reason I’m not too concerned about my low readership.
Says he:    Still seems like a waste of time.
Say I:        Might be.  Won’t know for a few years yet.
Says he:    Is that like Carlin’s “Braindroppings”?
Say I:        Well, in a way yes, and in a way no.  Come to think of it, probably more yes due to the poop reference.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Treating our Children Like Criminals

Did you know that in most school districts across the nation, if your child misses more than a few days of class, they are automatically deemed to have failed the class?  Its one of those ridiculous "zero tolerance" rules that saves the very adults in our society who are entrusted to teach critical thinking skills to our children the burden of actually having to think critically themselves.

So, what is the underlying assumption in this absence policy?  Simply, your child is universally better off if s/he attends class.  Really?  Reflect on your time in school and tell me that you are better off for having sat in every single one of your classes or activities,

What if that class or activity is lead by an unprepared, uncommitted teacher/coach/minister?  What then? Yes, your child will still fail for choosing to do something more productive - even if it is to sit in the car and smoke a joint.  The benefit of doubt is universally awarded - earned or unearned - to the adult. The presumption is so engrained, we even have words for it - words like "elder" and "respect" - both of which have one-way definitions.

What if your child was out in the real world doing something of far greater value than watching the Disney animated version of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" IN ENGLISH as a French culture lesson - every day for a week?  And then in the following week, repeat the same activity with a different movie, this time Ratatouille, again in English - even though a French dubbed version is available.

Let's be honest.  There are two real reasons we have all these discipline issues - which create discipline rules, which create more issues, which create more rules - and neither of them have much to do with our kids.  

The first is that we simply don't trust our children because we are afraid that what they do will make us look bad.  We expect them to magically grope for boundaries, find themselves, "grow up" and discover their world under our care without ever doing something stupid or regrettable.  We react to the potential for being embarrassed fearfully, so we set unreasonable restrictions to which no un-coerced adult-to-be in their right minds would ever willingly agree.  Then, when they "act out" we turn teachable moments into criminal offenses.  We reinforce the message that they need to learn how to grope for their boundaries in way that allows us to be shielded by ignorance or at a minimum, be able to claim ignorance.

The second reason adults create this one-way power dynamic is that these "we-decide-what-is-important-rules" is our own need for self-validation.  If you can learn what you need to learn without actually being in school/church/home then school/church/home is pretty irrelevant, isn't it?

Some adults, including teachers, coaches and ministers understand this and work to create growth environments for children.  Some of us eventually see the error of our ways but don't have a clue about how to fix it.  Some live a whole lifetime without ever understanding this - or refusing to admit that they see it.

There really isn't an effective way of communicating "You know that culture of fear I brought you up in, I was wrong.  Please forget what you know."  So, we either mindlessly or hopelessly press on undaunted in our race to the bottom, busily creating the next hopeless and fearful generation.  All but a few of us base our actions in our fear and assume that any variation from the very lives we wish we could change for ourselves constitutes nothing more than an act of disobedient anarchy that needs to be legislated and litigated in a court in which we are the sole judge and jury.

We treat our children like criminals and then we're completely surprised when they learn to behave like criminals.  

We are stupid.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Burden of Strength

The thing is, you see these people around you and you see them escaping from shit in their lives.  Some of the shit is real, some of it is made up.  Some of it is their own faults, some of it is their shit, but someone else made it.

And you see them, there with their shit, using whatever they can to avoid it - drugs, sex, booze, exercise, pizza, fucking money - whatever it is - and you see them and you're you, and you're strong, and you're beautiful and, worse, you don't have any of their shit, nothing like their shit at all.  And you are or become aware that you really don't have any shit at all.  No shit that you can think of - or worse - you feel like you have shit, but its really all just the made-up-by-me kind and you feel double shitty, first for not really having any shit like they do and then for thinking you do and being embarrassed when you realize that your shit is just bullshit.

So, you're strong, and you're smart and you're beautiful and the world is a welcoming, exciting place for you and that pisses you off because you can't help.  You're supposed to be like Goddammed Superman, but you don't know what to do.  You see those people with all that real, shitty shit and you empathize with them, but that doesn't cut it, so you move all the way to transference and sooner or later their problems become real to you, but they're only real because you made them real.  In your strength, you find weakness and you become like them, but in reality, if only just a little, you know you're not. But then none of that really matters because soon, you're just as screwed as they are becuase now you can't shake the pizza-money-weed thing either and your strength and your empathy have gotten you to be as helpless as they are.

And you realize, after its too late, that you can't help anyone do anything in this place - not even you and despite that's how this all started - you trying to use your strength to help someone, if only a little.  And then, someone uses a bullshit term like "self-care" and you realize after like the nineteenth time you hear it that its not really a bullshit term at all.  Its real, but its also too late for you - or maybe its not because there you see the "new" you - someone just like you...well, just like you were at the beginning...and you see them and you realize that in their eyes, you're that person with all the shit.  And you tell them to make sure they take care of themselves because they're smart, and they're strong, and they're beautiful and they're your ticket back to being smart, strong and beautiful and if you ever get back there, you're going to jump in with both feet and be a life-preserver instead of an anchor to the next person you love with all their shit, so the "new" you needs to stay like the "old" you and take care of themselves and not become like the current you because nobody wins when that happens.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Prayer for the Day of Remembrance

Today is a day set aside as a Day of Remembrance so that we do not forget the internment in prison camps of 120,000  American souls of Japanese and Aleut descent during World War II.

The actual thing was called  Executive Order 9066.  It was signed by one of my historical heroes and one of the most progressive leaders in modern history, President Franklin D. Roosevelt -  a man who nine years earlier scolded us by saying:
"So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."
Just to be clear, in America, we didn't have "prison camps" or "internment camps", we had "assembly centers".  Those "assembly centers" didn't have "prisoners" or "detainees", they had "evacuees".
It took another of my historical heroes to check back in with what we were thinking.  Thirty (30) years later, President Jimmy Carter established a commission to look into what we were thinking and subsequently apologize publicly and try to compensate survivors for their pain.

We allowed this to happen.  You and me. Because it didn't effect us at all.  What did we care?  Why should we care?   After all, we were fighting a war.

Right.  Why should we care?