Monday, August 31, 2015

Great Binding Law

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Worst Projects

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 17, 2015

Taking a Position of Weakness over Strength

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

Says He: [puzzled stare]

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

Says He:        My belief is not cheap.

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

Says He:        Go right ahead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, August 10, 2015

Concept of Balance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 3, 2015

Jesus on the Cross

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Monday, July 27, 2015

Oh What Prizes the Future Holds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh what prized the future holds.

Monday, July 20, 2015

It's Been Hot!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 13, 2015

Whipping that Mule

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Saturday, July 4, 2015

Prayer for In(ter)Dependence Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 29, 2015

What Racists Feel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 22, 2015

Reality in Line with World View

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 15, 2015

I Left a Tip

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 8, 2015

Seeing How We Fit In

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 5, 2015

Caitlyn Jenner

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Monday, June 1, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Ra Day

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 25, 2015

Fifteen Days in May

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, May 18, 2015

Personality Types

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

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

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

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

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

Type 3 is a blending of the two.

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

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

Monday, May 11, 2015

Brakes for Less

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

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

Discount surgical sutures?

Save Big on Babysitting here!

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


Addition to Loose Cannon

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

Happy reading.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The New No-No Song

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

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

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

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

My, my, my how the times have changed.


Friday, May 1, 2015

May Day in Baltimore

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

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

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

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

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

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

A system which distributes despair will always have Baltimores.

Happy May Day, again.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Parenting Tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Happy Independence Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Ten Deadly Sins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Souvenirs

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.