Word Winding

attempting to spin cacophony into sanity

Archive for the category “Plug Yer Ears, It’s Soapbox Time!”

Bridges

The challenge I am keen to master is the art of blending compassion with unwavering pursuit of truth.

Today, that looks like feeling genuinely sorry not just for the cabinet nominees but even for the president himself, all caught like deer in headlights without any idea how to competently do their jobs, with all the world watching and so many ridiculing. What a horrible sinking sensation I would have in the pit of my stomach. There was a moment when each one had the choice to decline or accept this role. I, too, might easily have become ensnared in “fake it till you make it” and not now know how to step down. I might even be unable to admit to my nearest and dearest, or even to myself, just how out of my depth I had suddenly found myself.

Obviously that compassion cannot sway me into accepting for one moment their incompetence at the helm. But seeing their humanity has the power to shape all I say and do. Instead of being sucked into the bottomless pit that is ridiculing their lack of knowledge, today I choose to say about each one: “it is clear this individual does not possess the requisite experience. What other options do we have?”

The marches yesterday were our rallying cry, and now the work begins in each of us, in our homes, in our families and circles of friends, at our workplaces, and rippling outward into our towns, cities, states and country and world. We have an enormous opportunity to transcend party lines in the current political climate. I commit myself to building bridges.

Holding Space

It’s not either-or.

We can extend ourselves to understand rather than demonize those who voted another way. We can search for connection to, for common ground with, for a way forward that is more than us vs. them.

We can do that while we circle around those most affected by this shift in politics: The undocumented. The refugees. The non-Christians. The non-cis. The non-hetero. The water protectors. The victims of abuse and rape. The people of color. The poor. The earth herself, and the plants and animals struggling to survive in our man-altered climate.

I am finding my balance in this image. Those of us with strength and privilege in a ring. Behind us, sheltered by our bodies, concentric rings with the most vulnerable at the center. We are resolute in our stance, and yet also reaching out. Holding space for a shared path.

If you’re looking for guidance, I cannot recommend highly enough the work of two brilliant lights: Starhawk and Veronica Torres.

Starhawk’s world-class novel The Fifth Sacred Thing has become increasingly, alarmingly relevant over the years since its publication. There is also a prequel and a sequel, and many many other offerings by her as well, including an amazing children’s book, The Last Wild Witch. Her thoughts on the election are an antidote to fear and hatred. Visit Starhawk’s website here.

I have the immense pleasure of being Veronica Torres’ friend. Her work as channel for Eloheim and the Council directly influences my ability to stay sane, grounded, and engaged in this crazy world. She has a zillion recordings of channeling sessions, a number of books (my favorite is A Warrior’s Tale), and various other offerings (the Levels of Creating is a revolutionary tool for self-discovery). Her Core Emotion Session is what I would give each and every one of you if I could. Visit Veronica’s website here.

Countries

Countries are at once
Too large
And too small–
Too powerful
And too impotent–
Too simple
And too complex.

I long for the village.
The ancient, archetypal
Village in the wilderness.
Answerable only to itself.
Part of no larger plans.

I long for the universe.
The glacial, eternal
Universe expanding.
Answerable only to itself.
Beyond plans.

I am the country
Writhing within my skin.
Arrogant
Insecure
Devastated
Jubilant
Conflicted.

I am the village
Deep at my core.
Self-contained
Cooperative
Minute
Complete
Imperfect.

I am the universe
At the outer edges of my awareness.
Unknowable
Infinite
Inescapable
Intricate
True.

The village and the universe
(In addition to their many other tasks)
Must cradle the country
As a child who has, every day
Knowingly and unknowingly
Done terrible and wonderful things.

Cradle, without condemning.
Cradle, without condoning.

Cradle while seeing clearly
The universe
Far beyond this moment
The village
Deep within this moment.

Once upon a car lot…

I am required to purchase a car today. I can choose whichever one I want, or I can abstain and one will be selected for me.

It’s a small but diverse selection at the car lot. I see before me a slightly goofy looking electric car, a prim hybrid, a clunky bio diesel, a small pickup truck, several SUVs, and a hummer monstrosity.

I choose the electric.

Unfortunately, right at that moment a giant comes along and smashes the electric vehicle as well as all of the SUVs.
I REALLY wanted that electric car! It was goofy and eco-friendly to the max. I am bummed.

But I need to make a decision or the car lot attendants choose for me, and I really don’t want to get stuck with the gas guzzling hulk.

The hybrid is pretty obviously the next best thing to the electric. But it’s hard to stomach next best, so I try to convince myself that biodiesel is practical. Or that the pickup truck’s rugged charm is enough to outweigh its gas consumption.

Eventually, I see the salespeople edging toward the hummer, which they are desperate to get off the lot, so I quit postponing the decision I know is best: hybrid it is.

All of which is to say… Hillary Clinton 2016! 😉

You Are Invited

This election feels different. The stakes feel very, very high. Turning point in history high. Millions of lives hanging in the balance high.

On behalf of the United States of America, I would like to take a moment to issue an open invitation.

There are no better words for it than those crafted by the renowned Starhawk in her increasingly relevant novel The Fifth Sacred Thing:

“There is a place for you at our table, if you will choose to join us.”


My fellow Berning ones and assorted independents, we belong at the table. We are a sizable percentage of this country and have influenced the creation of the most progressive platform a major party in our nation has ever put forth. Cooperation is what this moment in time requires from all of us. Extend a welcoming hand. We may disagree some but I believe we can sit at this table together and discuss it like friends.

Hillary diehards, you belong at the table. Your passion for Ms. Clinton comes from a good place and we look forward to hearing more of what you see in her so we can catch some of your enthusiasm. Refrain from disparaging remarks. Cooperation is what this moment in time requires from all of us. Extend a welcoming hand. We may disagree some but I believe we can sit at this table together and discuss it like friends.

Moderates and apolitical types, you belong at the table. You have untapped potential to breathe fresh air into a heated room. Share your perspective, mediate, find humor in tense moments, and change the subject when truly required. Cooperation is what this moment in time requires from all of us. Extend a welcoming hand. We may disagree some but I believe we can sit at this table together and discuss it like friends.

Conservatives of all stripes, you belong at the table. So many of your values are ours as well. You want to live in happiness and safety. We do, too. You want to be free to make your own way in life. We do, too. Cooperation is what this moment in time requires from all of us. Extend a welcoming hand. We may disagree some but I believe we can sit at this table together and discuss it like friends.

Whether we realize it or not, at some point we chose to consider one another enemies, chose to exaggerate and vilify and blame. We can choose to consider one another friends. Quirky friends, maybe, somewhat embarrassing friends whose eccentric ways leave us shaking our heads, but still friends.

In our splintered factions, we are not just biased against and bewildered by the opposition. We are also ineffective. If we truly want what we say we want from this life, we will sit at the table together. We will refuse to allow anger and fear and greed to run amok and devastate our imperfect but much treasured home. We will extend a welcoming hand even when it seems, as my friend Pythia says, that our only common ground is that we breathe. We will bite our tongues when necessary and speak our truth when necessary. We will disagree respectfully. We will sit and we will invite others to sit at this table and discuss it like friends even when it is not comfortable or convenient because that is the only path that honors the democracy we strive to be.

My Atheism

There seems to be a lot of disagreement about what the word atheism is allowed mean, among atheists as well as among theists. Almost as though it is difficult to understand an large group designation being erroneously simplified, or even vilified. Which is laughable since all belief systems/religions have had that experience throughout their history, no matter how universal many of their core values may be.

So when I use the term atheism, what do I mean? Not for all who claim the word, but for me personally?

I mean I have considered (and am involved in ongoing reassessment of) the idea of a god or gods existing, both in the forms depicted by major religions as well as in a variety of creative and more scientifically plausible forms, and have concluded that it just doesn’t resonate as truth for me.

Here’s the closest I come to a version of god: I can imagine the possibility of a sort of universe-sized organism, but since I would be less than the tiniest atom and since there has been no word from a central processing unit, I suspect it is more likely jellyfish than human. Regardless, when it comes to living out my own brief life I look elsewhere for strength and inspiration.

[I don’t mind if you believe, of course. Provided you are being a halfway decent sort of person most of the time, have as many gods as suits you. Of course I take issue with things like genocide and oppression (whether they are done in the name of religion or not) but I am not one to lump all believers into the same inferno just because a handful who operate under the same group name are acting out of line with common decency.]

I do believe there are many more connections in this experience we call life than we have yet begun to feel the outlines of scientifically. Things we call spiritual because we do not understand how they work but know them to be true nonetheless. The power of meditation, the possibility of past lives, the ever evolving consciousness of our species, of our planet, of the universe. These and so many more, all stretching like spiderwebs across time and space, unseen but felt. Threads of magic clinging to us, streaming along behind us as we go about our small routines, fundamentally no different from a lark or a slug.

One particle knows but cannot know but does know that another exists and has been changed. To my mind the greatest mysteries do not fear the unraveling of their secrets, and remain beautiful even if full understanding is achieved.

Physical touch. Music. The right words. A moment of quiet. “Good physics,” as my high school teacher called the never ending quest to understand how things work. And always the churning, shifting rhythms of our surroundings, of our world, of the universe. That is where I go for solace, for rejuvenation, for celebration.

Sometimes it is in a church. Sometimes a yoga class. Sometimes a concert hall. Sometimes a rainstorm or an intoxicating whiff of jasmine and citrus or a gently curving smile.

Always I can find it amongst my very favorite trees, the scraggly, wise, humorous oaks that cling to our grassy hills, that appear flimsy as tumbleweeds but have evolved to withstand all but the fiercest of wildfires.

Always when outside under the moon.

Always in the soft breath and fluttering eyelashes of a beloved at rest.

That’s my atheism.

As David Whyte says, “It doesn’t interest me if there is one God or many gods… I want to know if you know how to melt into that fierce heat of living, falling toward the center of your longing.”

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Beyond the TED talk

So this video is making the rounds:

http://www.ted.com/talks/jennifer_senior_for_parents_happiness_is_a_very_high_bar

I have never experienced this before: simultaneously agreeing with what is being said and being irritated beyond belief by it. I did not click with the speaker and it is all info I have gotten via other sources with better, much less stressful vibes. Still, I get why people are loving it. This kind if goal-adjustment is certainly needed by frazzled parents everywhere.

I think she is missing a few key pieces:

1) going back even further than farms and factories, to small groups of hunter-gatherers, to find guidance for our roles as parents and children. Perhaps it is the Daniel Quinn and Continuum Concept fan in me, perhaps it is my inheritance from my anthropology-studying mother, but more than anything that is where I turn when I seek clarification.

2) the lack of 24/7 live-in extended family/friend support in our culture. Completely not even kind of addressed.

3) the importance of leading by example. I believe that if your goal is happiness, self-sufficiency, an innovative spirit, generosity, you name it, you need only exemplify it to the best of your ability. Your kids will soak it in just as readily they do all your bad habits.

What do you think?

How do you know something exists?

Recently this photo caught my fancy:

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I love that something presumably created out of closedmindedness can be so… Oddly universally appealing.

The original intent is clear: theist says this, atheist says, but here I am, theist says aha! now ya see what I’m saying, atheist is either slinks away or converts on the spot.

But an atheist sees it in an identical/opposite way.

Namely, that you don’t just believe something without reason. (Especially not in the face of solid evidence to the contrary, as with the atheist still existing contrary to the above meme.)

Because the issue here is about what really convinces a person that something is true.

The average, relatively mentally sound person, theist or atheist, believes something when there is either a) evidence, or b) someone or something they trust says it is true.

So when I say I don’t believe in any deities, I mean I have been given no proof, no reason, and no one whose authority is unquestionable to me has said it is so.

And when a theist says they do believe in one or more deities, they mean they either have personal experience (I specify “personal” not to be derogatory but because we have no scientific evidence of deity existence) that has proven their deity(deities) to exist, or someone they trust implicitly has said it is so.

So. How do YOU know something exists?

Explaining Privilege (Unphotographed Moments – Days Sixteen, Seventeen, and Eighteen)

(This post is part of a series for August 2013 entitled “Unphotographed Moments.” Read the intro to the series here.)

I have been fixated upon privilege and discrimination for more than half my life. Lately, in the Zimmerman verdict’s aftermath, I have been disheartened by the deluge of evidence, ranging from reposted Facebook memes to articles that read (at first glance) as well-reasoned, that shows how little the concept of privilege is even addressed let alone understood in this country. To that end, this “weekend edition” of my unphotographed moments series will be devoted to tracking privilege. This is what it is like to live in my head, in my heart, in my privileged skin.

I will add that this is by no means an exhaustive list of the ways my privilege has influenced my experience of the past three days; that would be impossible.

Friday’s Unphotographed Moments:

This morning I was fortunate that I have a husband, that he did not have to work early in the morning, and that he was able and willing to wake up with our kids so I could sleep in. I rolled over onto my stomach, stretched my limbs out gratefully, and dozed off easily.

Today I was lucky to have a portion of my job (teaching my Little Uncaged Musicians classes) be one where my children are welcome so I don’t need to find childcare. I was fortunate to have one class member barter her clarinet abilities as well as her delicious cooking skills for participation in the class, another babysitting hours since my husband’s job and mine sometimes overlap and the rest of my lessons which are almost all not ones I can bring my kids to, and another dress up items for my little ones. These are all luxuries one would normally have to pay for, but I have the skills to teach a class that is worth something to these students’ parents. I have those skills because my parents valued early music education beginning with singing to me as a baby and piano lessons starting at age 3, because they supported my freedom to follow my interests both financially and emotionally, because their parenting style and the educational philosophy of my first school (a private Montessori school) encouraged creativity and problem-solving, because they funded much of my college tuition, and because while I still needed to find a part-time job to help support myself as a student I had an implicit safety net allowing me to take a risk like running my own home teaching studio. I likely have had a number of students over the years who chose me (or even who chose to learn one of the instruments I teach) because we shared a race, whether or not they were aware of it. I have certainly been able to attract more students by living in middle class neighborhoods, where I have never had to worry about racism preventing me from getting an apartment or house.

Today while I was piling children into the car a woman walking wearing earbuds stopped, paused her music, said hello, and then offered me a gallon of organic milk her departing houseguests were leaving behind. I was lucky to share her race or she might not have considered me a worthy recipient. If she had still offered, it might have felt uncomfortably condescending. Further, I was fortunate to not be in a state of poverty forced to choose between getting to work on time (i.e., leaving rather than waiting for her to go home and get it) and having free milk for my kids. I was also privileged to be able to decline gracefully, something that might have been less well-received had I been a POC and she still white.

Today I was privileged to have an electric car (or a car at all) in which to drive my children to Rapunzel’s house for babysitting (so lucky to have someone I trust utterly and completely with my kids) and then myself a half-hour north to teach a family of three students who otherwise might not have chosen to take lessons with me due to the driving time involved. I was lucky to have taken a good driver’s ed program offered in the summer at my high school, patient parents to take me out and a car in which to learn, rather than either me or my parents having work prevent me from attending, such that I eventually cultivated a calm and safe driving demeanor as well as a meditative approach to unexpected delays allowing me to worry very little about whether I might be late when navigating stop-and-go traffic as a result of an accident (5 min late, and I was lucky my students don’t mind just running five minutes over on the rare occasions when that happens). The meditative approach is from my gentle and introspective mother, my constantly-self-improving father, many many other people, and piles and piles of books I have been lucky to encounter. (Not to mention the literacy required to glean their wisdom.) Had I been involved in the accident, I of course would have automatic advantage over any POC involved, especially if the justice system were involved. And had their been no accident at all, I would’ve arrived a few minutes early to my lesson and sat in my parked car listening to the radio without “threatening” passersby in the process.

Tonight my husband put sound equipment away dressed all in black in a state park outdoor music venue without serious concern for his safety. No one thought he was stealing, or drug dealing, or even loitering. I know this without asking.

Tonight I was privileged to have the luxury of contacting my husband three different ways (phone message, text message, and email) to ask him to bring home an emergency pack of paper diapers because not only had I failed to do any laundry so we were out of cloth ones, but we had also run out of the disposables Owlet uses at night as well. I was privileged that he was in a car to make such a side trip easy and of course quite fortunate to live near a relatively safe fully-stocked grocery store open 24 hours. He was lucky to have on his pale skin and therefore not looked at askance for shopping at such a late hour, and dressed in black clothing to boot. I was lucky to have learned of E.C., had an easy time implementing it, and therefore was in a place to hope that our underwear-clad child wouldn’t soak the bed before diapers arrived (and, in fact, she got up to use the loo in the middle of the night and was dry in the morning for the first time in ages!) and that our little guy wouldn’t overflow his diaper before those reinforcements were here.

Tonight when I fall asleep I will not worry that my son could grow up to be Treyvon Martin.

Saturday’s Unphotographed Moments:

This morning I was fortunate that I have a husband, that he did not have to work early in the morning, and that he was able and willing to wake up with our kids so I could sleep in. I rolled over onto my stomach, stretched my limbs out gratefully, and dozed off easily.

Today I was privileged not to need to work. I have weekends entirely off most of the time.

Today I read a book to my daughter in which all three of the characters were white and neither of us noticed at the time. However, the characters were a family with two moms and a child, which did at some point drift to my attention.

Today my husband and daughter were able to go shopping as white people. That means no one looked at him with suspicion, no one tried to touch her adorable hair, and they were both surrounded at every moment with people who share their race. Furthermore, they are the same race, so no one wondered whether he might have kidnapped her. No one looked at his purchases for confirmation of stereotypes they might have about his race.

Tonight my daughter and I watched the first half of The Sound of Music (her first time!) and neither of us noticed at the time that all the actors were white and all the characters heterosexual.

Tonight my husband put sound equipment away dressed all in black in a state park outdoor music venue without serious concern for his safety. No one thought he was stealing, or drug dealing, or even loitering. I know this without asking.

Tonight when I fall asleep I will not worry that my son could grow up to be Treyvon Martin.

Sunday’s Unphotographed Moments:

Today I was privileged not to need to work. I have weekends entirely off most of the time.

This morning I got in my car (discussed at length above) and took my children out to breakfast with that disposable income I have where we ate in the company of our own race. The cashier gave Owlet a free bread turtle (for the second time in our two visits to this place); I wonder if he would have done the same for a POC. I hope so. I did not ever feel the behavior of my kids was interpreted by onlookers as a positive or negative reflection on my entire race.

After breakfast we drove to the Unitarians, arriving nearly an hour early to play at the little playground there. No one looked at us as interlopers or wondered to themselves if perhaps we were a homeless family because we were dressed well enough and white. We dropped Platypup off in the preschool room and finally (whew!) encountered our first POC of the day. Still, the congregation is very middle class white overall, and so I cringed a little to see that the topic of the service was racism.

As eager as I am for us privileged folks to do some serious talking on the subject, I am always a little squeamish for fear it might be bungled. It was not bungled, but the chosen method for topic introduction was to ask us to pair up sitting there in our pews and each tell a true story about a time we had been discriminated against. The man next to me relayed his experience having a disability and being bussed to a special school to the mockery of the neighborhood children.

My mind went completely blank. Having spent the past couple days hunting down my privilege with vigor, I was incapable of rewiring my brain in search of the opposite. I stuttered something out about having lived a very privileged life and being unable to think of a thing. He looked at me with unreadable eyes and soon the regular service order resumed.

It was three hours before I remembered a single experience of discrimination.

Tonight when I fall asleep I will not worry that my son could grow up to be Treyvon Martin.

That, my friends, is privilege.

———-

Today’s one-shot photo:

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The little rugs my Little Uncaged Musicians sit on in class.

Question #12: Can common ground on abortion be found?

(This post is part of a series for July 2013 entitled “Question Month.” Read the intro to the series here.)

My Facebook post earlier today:

“Question No. 12: Brainstorm time! Inspired by yet another fruitless debate between pro and anti choice camps (regarding abortion), today’s question is simple: knowing what we know of one another’s deeply held, virtually unshakeable differences, what are things we can AGREE ON to do to reduce the number of abortions?”

I think it is telling of more than it just being a weekend that quite a few people read this and yet no one commented.

Is there no room for agreement? Are we doomed to partisan hell?

Because the lines in the sand on this issue are so deep and rife with jellyfish, it took me a little searching to ensure my statistics came from as impartial a party as possible. I finally found this page by the CDC and recommend it to all who are curious about what people are having abortions.

So who has abortions? According to the above site, “nearly one-fifth of all pregnancies end in abortion.” It is mostly young, single women early on in pregnancy (the majority before eight weeks gestation and almost all within the first trimester). And, most important for our brainstorming session, “nearly all abortions are preceded by an unintended pregnancy, with most recent estimates suggesting that intended pregnancies account for <5% of all abortions, including those which presumably are performed for maternal medical indications and fetal abnormalities."

It is important to note that women of all races, ethnicities, and religions are having abortions.

It is clear to me that preventing unintended pregnancy is essential to preventing abortion. We could attempt to brainwash people into wanting to bear children in their teens and early twenties, but I suspect we will have more luck with contraception. According to this Guttmacher page, “the two-thirds of U.S. women at risk of unintended pregnancy who practice contraception consistently and correctly account for only 5% of unintended pregnancies.” The rest are those using contraception improperly (43%) or not at all (52%).

Universal access to practical sex education, which I believe should certainly include but not be limited to discussion of abstinence, would see a clear reduction in undesired pregnancies. Free access to routine preventative health care visits and free contraception might practically cinch the deal.

Add substantial support (both financial and emotional/spiritual) rather than scorn for young and impoverished individuals and another main reason for abortion is on its way to being dealt with by clearing obstacles from the path toward birth and child rearing.

It is easier to prevent a flood by fixing a leak than by waiting for the pipe to burst. Common sense tells us to put on a hat to avoid a sunburned nose rather than do nothing but break out the aloe vera afterward. And I can tell you it is way easier to stop one sibling from harming another at the first warning signs of a bad mood developing than to wait until the shoving commences.

Our (so unrepresentative) members of Congress feel it is wiser to tackle this issue after it is essentially too late; once a person who wishes not to be with child becomes so, they make up their own mind whether to give birth or abort regardless of legality. It is as though these politicians delight in shouting obscenities at people tumbling down a flight of stairs rather than bothering to address the broken step at the top.

The nation is rather split on abortion.

Fine.

Do we just throw up our hands?

Divided we may be on abortion. But we are significantly less divided on the use of contraception with the clear majority strongly in favor. Enter the temporary vasectomy RISUG which will finally give men something way easier than condoms to use when preventing pregnancy is the only goal (i.e., in a committed relationship with low risk of STDs).

We could batter heads endlessly, most of us with the best interests of someone at heart. But no one wins that way. Let’s utterly baffle our congress(wo)men and join forces wherever we can agree so that lives really are saved.

None of us, pro- or anti-choice alike, are really in favor of ending tiny lives. So let us begin there, on common ground.

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