Monday, February 8, 2016
Here is the scene: I am having breakfast at a very blue collar place in North Charleston, SC. A very red state. The place is empty but for me and the waitress, who I know from being there often.
As per normal, the TV is on Headline News. Also as per normal, the story of whatever jackass thing the Trump said the night before.
The waitress looks at me and says "Can you believe that?" in a friendly sort of way.
I don't know what to think. Is she agreeing with him or is she questioning him? As a socialist living and working in a very red state, I have learned over time to tread lightly and go slowly.
I make some neutral comment.
Pretty quickly it's obvious that she thinks he's an idiot. I make a confirming comment. She expresses that she is worried about our country. I am not sure if I'm on candid camera or not.
So, I say. "What worries me is not that he says what he says, but that so many people take him so seriously."
[And here is the good part] To which, she replies while waving her arms around the empty room as thought the place was full..."Not these people."
I'm shocked. I say, "What do you mean?"
She says, "I overhear them all. Everyone thinks he's a jackass." Her words...not mine.
He's leading in the polls in SC, but maybe there is a ray of hope.
Monday, February 1, 2016
I created a few Saints - Martin Luther King, Jr and the Groundhog for two.
For me - as I pointed out previously - here and here, Saint Groundhog is the patron Saint of Good Things to Come and Patience.
I recently learned, that my own personal religion is not the only adherent to the patron Saint of Good Things to Come or Patience.
|Photographed by Arthistorygrrl. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikipedia|
Saint Brigid is so well respected amongst feminists that noted feminist artist Judy Chicago set a place for her in her work, The Dinner Party. How about that for making a lasting impression.
Saint Brigid is not the Patron Saint of Good Things to come, however. There doesn't seem to be one, which is why I made the Groundhog a Saint.
Monday, January 25, 2016
He was 42.
He had a relatively crappy life, riddled with health issues that were not going away. All of a sudden, he had stage four lung cancer and his life went from crappy to over in a matter of weeks.
This, of course came shortly after adopting two children with the love of his life, his high school sweetheart.
I hereby rescind my Facebook post in which I lamented inconvenient hair growth I experience as a 50 year old.
Monday, January 18, 2016
Every year when Gasparilla comes around it makes me lament the shortage of pirates nowadays. Vikings, for this discussion, fill the same role. I'm not keen on the raping and pillaging aspects of being a pirate or a Viking. I'd prefer they find a way to fulfil their economic duties without all the violence, that would be better, I'm not sure how possible that would be, especially nowadays.
The economic duty of the pirate was to level the playing field in a rigged game. I guess you could say they were the first Non-Governmental Agency (NGO). Piracy nowadays is limited to mostly the coast of Africa, but in its last glory days, someone with modest means and a lot of brains could strike at the heart of an empire (or at their pockets, hard to tell the difference sometimes). In the long run, it probably just made the empires more powerful and taught the powerful how to get a firmer grip on their power - how to make it waterproof and bulletproof.
Robin Hood was a pirate too. Rob from the rich and give to the poor. That's effectively what pirates did. They didn't rob from the rich and give to the rich, that's for sure.
It's also MLK day. He was a different kind of pirate. He and his crew operated without violence and instead of taking advantage of momentary weaknesses, he exposed huge societal flaws. He too probably just taught the powerful - taught them to tighten up their game to have the appearance of fairness while minimizing sacrifice.
I am led to understand that pirates and Vikings and Robin Hood were vicious in their means. I guess you could throw Atilla the Hun in the mix too. Maybe Genghis Khan (despite the new chain of quick-serve restaurants bizarrely named for him.) MLK fought viciousness by his means. I suppose so did pirates and Vikings too - after all its not like they were stealing cookies from Girl Scout troops.
So, I lament - not the killing or the swashbuckling (whatever that is) - but the lack of a defined method of dealing with an imbalance of power and wealth that pirates provided, if only for short time.
Monday, December 14, 2015
First, there is actual noise. With improvements in sound distribution technology, it seems like more and more public places are louder and louder. Finding a quiet place to have a beer and a snack, for example, has become nearly impossible.
There is also the stack of - technically, it's mail, but in actuality it's really just personally delivered, long distance recycling.
Monday, December 7, 2015
Monday, November 30, 2015
I'm a little foggy on all the details, but they were discussing a large donation from a big multi-national corporation to help Canadian war veterans deal with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The first person who talked was concerned that such a donation might have been made to gain some political favor or advantage. The second person rebutted, stating that PTSD is too large a problem to turn into a political beanbag. He stated that "We are not in a position to refuse this donation."
Where it got interesting was the third person. Rather emphatically, he said "How come? Why is that that we're not in a position to refuse this donation." He went on to ask why the government hasn't taken care of this already.
This is a very Canadian response. Americans are used to their government failing to address important issues and having those issues fall to charity. Canadians are not.
This says a lot about how we look at the world. I was telling a friend about my experience listening to this program he looked at me with a sort of fire in his eyes and questioned why, in America, we have something called the "Wounded Warrior Project". Why is the care for our wounded veterans a matter to be left to thw whim of charity?
He has a point. We've always had a Wounded Warrior Project, I told him. We just used to call it the Veteran's Administration.
Thursday, November 26, 2015
Gratitude not enough of a word. There are many kinds of gratitude.
There is the sense of relief gratitude for having dodged some sort of bullet.
There is the "thank heaven that's not me" sense of gratitude.
There is the happiness to be in the right place at the right time sort of gratitude.
There is the sense of reward and fulfillment that maybe you don't think you fully deserve sort of gratitude.
Most of those are what I would call gratitude 101 - beginner's gratitude.
For the next level of gratitude you need to transcend your self. This usually ends up involving some higher power, like a God, or some magical power like luck or the cosmos or whatever.
For the next level of gratitude, you need to also transcend God. If God had a role in your positive results, its normally based on your performance to some task. So, transcending yourself and God is the pathway to true gratitude.
Here is a simple example. You wake up. It's a nice day. You're happy.
First level of gratitude: Hey. I'm not dead. That's awesome. Many people didn't wake up this morning.
Second level of gratitude: God gave me this beautiful day to use to do something great.
Third level of gratitude: Non-verbal warmth. Smile. Deep breath. Exhale.
Monday, November 23, 2015
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
Well....here 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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."
Monday, June 29, 2015
"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?"
Monday, June 22, 2015
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.
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 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
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
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.
Monday, June 1, 2015
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
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
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
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.