liveonearth: (Default)
I have often said "it's a free will universe" as a basis for extolling choice as a power, whether conscious or unconscious, for determining your experience. To "choice" I always connect the concept of responsibility. Responsibility always follows immediately upon choice. Those who tremble before this power of choice may even habitually refuse to make choices, unwilling to take on the responsibility that choice of necessity implies. This is a choice in itself, a pattern of omission and passivity with it's own distinct effects and power to manipulate. All this having been said, what if in fact it's not "a free will universe" after all? The concept of "predestination" also has a long history in philosophical and religious thought and stands as a counterpoint to "free will" with it's own ardent supporters. When I look at an average day, things happen and I respond. Needs arise and I must act. My breath and heartbeat and peristalsis are events occurring to me, gifts freely given from what great source I cannot truly fathom. I won't pretend to resolve here a millennia-long question. And in the face of it, perhaps, at the very least, we might choose with lighter hearts, and enjoy the uncertainty knowing that our every action is effected upon waves of permission from powers greater than our own.
--Gil Hedley, Integral Anatomy
liveonearth: (Default)
Maher crossed a line with his joke, but that's what comedians do. It's the taboos that make jokes funny, the fact that they refer to something that is painful or secret. The US history of enslaving Africans is not secret, but it is painful. The pain is felt by many of us, perhaps not the same for those with other colors of skin, but there is no doubt that it has marred many generations of our society. When/how will we ever get past it? Can the descendants of slavery ever forgive?

My great grandmother lived in the piedmont of North Carolina and owned a slave. Am I guilty? Should I be punished for that? I have been punished, and I'm sure I will be punished more. Do I deserve this punishment? I go out of my way to protect and include black people. Does my calling them black people make me a racist? How about brown people, red people, white people? Does my effort to be inclusive make me an ass? Is there any way for a white person to broach this subject without it being negatively received? I know I am priviledged but I am not immune to the attitudes of people around me of every description.

Racial relations get worse when people are unfairly punished. I was born with no ill will toward any group. Painful experiences in my life have led me to be wary of certain groups of people. Usually it is the people who have historically been abused who later become agressive or condescending. Jewish people have treated me badly, moreso than Blacks but some of them too have assumed that I am a racist and helped to make me into one. It is understandable, but it does not result in the whirled peas that we seek.

Those who say Maher should be fired for racism, seriously now? He did not call anyone else a nigger, he was referring to himself. His joke was on TV and showed that he understood the class system that was applied to black slaves in our nation. Who else but a comedian can publicly break taboos and get people talking about it? If we are to heal these wounds, we need to talk about it. Keeping it secret and taboo does nothing to reduce the pain. Time passing, generations shifting, that reduces the pain... but I wish we could do it faster.

This brings me to the question about words. The word nigger is apparently 100% taboo, at least for a white person to say on TV. It appears to me that it is just a word. It is not the word that I am worried about, it is the attitude. Certainly words and attitudes are linked, but it is not a 100% correlation between saying the word nigger and being a racist or promoting racism. I do not believe that Maher is a racist. I think he is trying to defuse the tensions around our dark history and get us all to laugh, together, and let the pain slip away.

What other words are taboo? I can't think of any that the two white men I live with react to as strongly. Honky? LOL.

I wish "bitch" were less acceptable. The word has been applied to me many times in my life, usually because I refused to do what a white man wanted me to do, or because I got angry. The word bitch has been used to suppress the will of a huge class of people, and it is still in common usage and acceptable in rap music and other places. I am allowed to get angry and to assert myself without deserving denigration. But women have been put down for a long time and a large segment of our population would like to keep us down. If Maher had said "I'm a bitch", I would not have been offended. That is not the same as him calling someone else a bitch.

I would like to hear from the descendants of slaves in the US as to whether they think Maher should be fired. I bet they will say no. He is doing his job, making us laugh out things that hurt.
liveonearth: (Default)
You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it's going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it's always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt.
~ Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

About Pirsig and his book: I was made to read this book at approximately age 18, when I first started working at the Nantahala Outdoor Center in North Carolina. I was quite moldable, impressionable, unformed at that age. Payson Kennedy was in charge of training and orienting all new staff, and reading this book was his one requirement. What it taught me was a lesson that took many years to sink in, that small details deserve our full attention, that doing your best it the only way to do anything right. Thank you Payson for requiring us to read this book, for it has helped form my perspective for over 30 years since then. I think it may be time to reread it.

This of course was all brought up because Pirsig has died at the age of 88. It's encouraging to note that his book was rejected by 121 publishing houses before someone decided to print it.

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/04/24/525443040/-zen-and-the-art-of-motorcycle-maintenance-author-robert-m-pirsig-dies-at-88

QotD: Meat

Apr. 22nd, 2017 10:34 am
liveonearth: (Default)
If God had not intended for us to eat animals,
how come He made them out of meat?
--found attributed to Sarah Palin but have been informed that John Cleese said it before she did.....
liveonearth: (Default)
The morning question: What good shall I do today?
The evening question: What good have I done today?
~ Ben Franklin
liveonearth: (Default)
It’s fantastic to look at people and see that they really, deep down, are enlightened. They’re It. They’re faces of the divine.

And they look at you, and they say ‘oh no, but I’m not divine. I’m just ordinary little me.’ You look at them in a funny way, and here you see the buddha nature looking out of their eyes, straight at you, and saying it’s not, and saying it quite sincerely.

And that’s why, when you get up against a great guru, the Zen master, or whatever, he has a funny look in his eyes. When you say ‘I have a problem, guru. I’m really mixed up, I don’t understand,’ he looks at you in this queer way, and you think ‘oh dear me, he’s reading my most secret thoughts. He’s seeing all the awful things I am, all my cowardice, all my shortcomings.’

But that’s not what he’s looking at. He’s giving you a funny look for quite another reason altogether. He’s giving you a funny look because he sees in you the Brahman, the Godhead, just claiming it’s ‘poor little me’.

~ Alan Watts, Lectures on Zen/Spiritual Alchemy
liveonearth: (Default)
What I Have Learned So Far

Meditation is old and honorable, so why should I
not sit, every morning of my life, on the hillside,
looking into the shining world? Because, properly
attended to, delight, as well as havoc, is suggestion.

Can one be passionate about the just, the
ideal, the sublime, and the holy, and yet commit
to no labor in its cause? I don’t think so.

All summations have a beginning, all effect has a
story, all kindness begins with the sown seed.
Thought buds toward radiance. The gospel of
light is the crossroads of — indolence, or action.
Be ignited, or be gone.

~ Mary Oliver
liveonearth: (moon)
It is much more important to know what sort of person this disease has than what sort of disease this person has.
--William Osler
liveonearth: (moon)
Creationism gets treated by religious people as if it were a viable theoretical alternative to Evolution.  They do this in spite of the fact that evolution is broadly accepted by educated people world wide.  Evolution is obviously working on species today, and it is visible to any person with minimal powers of observation and exposure to the natural world.  Darwin was one such person.  Creationism is a myth, a dogma.  It is based on nothing other than a nice fictional book, and promoted by a whole lot of people who need a simple and colorul story to tell about how the world came to be.  Every culture, language and religion has its own creation story.  Creation stories can be spectacular and we love them.  But this does not make them theories in the scientific forum.  This does not make them true.  This just makes them good fiction.
liveonearth: (pentacle 2)
This is the after-elementary-school program being offered by an organization called The Satanic Temple.   It was news to me, but the Satanists I met tonight at the FFRF meeting consider themselves to be atheists.  They do not believe in a metaphysical God or Satan.  Satan instead is a symbol of individual liberty, of the ability we each have to say "I'm out" when someone offers us a load of dogma.  Lucifer, of course, is the fallen angel in Christian mythology who refused to tow the line.  "...Our metaphor of Satan is a literary construct inspired by authors such as Anatole France and Milton--a rebel angel defiant of autocratic structure and concerned with the material world. Satanism as a rejection of superstitious supernaturalism."

This take on Satan is all fine and good if you're inside that particular literary bubble.  If you, like me, grew up surrounded by Christian mythology, Satan is THE bad guy.  So I was a bit taken aback that they want to call their program this, and their club, and so on.  Why choose such a hot button for Christians?  Why not call it after school Humanism, or Atheism, or Evolution???  Well they do have a reason.  The concept is that Satanists can assert their rights as a religious organization and influence public affairs, reminding the dominant religious groups that in America such privileges are for all religions, not just the chosen ones.

I also learned that the legal definition of a religious organization is one that takes a stand about god.  Hence an atheist organization is a religious organization in the good old US of A.

The Oregon chapter of The Satanic Temple is brand new.  They've offered After School Satan Clubs at two elementary schools where Good News Clubs are already offered.  They plan to teach evolution, and how the world was formed.  The only problem is that when the local chaper offered an open house at a local school, the superintendent of the school (Karen Gray) let all the students and teachers go home an hour early, effectively eliminating the curious audience while also ticking off the parents who had to get out of work an hour early to pick up their babies.  Only two students signed up.  I wonder how many would have signed up if it was the After School Spaghettimonster Club?

The 2001 Supreme Court Decision called Good News Club vs Milford Central School resulted in a decision that the Milford school's restriction of the Good News Club violated the Club's free speech rights, and that no Establishment Clause concern justified that violation.  If you don't remember the Establishment Clause, it's the part of the First (free speech) Amendment that prohibits the establishment of religion by Congress.  So after school programs are allowed access to school premises regardless of content.  Free speech is allowed by religious groups as well as boy scouts, debate and chess club...and Corporations, but that's a separate ball of wax.

The Good News Club is a private Christian organization for children.  Their goal is to Christianize the next generation.  They teach elementary school kids that they are sinners and that they are going to hell if they don't repent and do right by this one particular version of God.  The Child Evangelism Fellowship creates the curriculum and trains instructors.  They have over 40,000 volunteers in the US and in 2011 there were 3560 clubs in public schools in the US and over 42,000 clubs worldwide.  THIS is how they get off calling it a Christian Nation.  And they are effectively brainwashing children before they've developed the powers of discimination to know they've been hoodwinked.    A 5th grader is unlikely to really comprehend that the teachings after school are of a different nature from the teachings in school.

Because of the 2001 SCOTUS decision, Satanists have the same rights of access to public schools as Christians, so After School Satan is one answer to the Christianization.  The name is intended to provoke Christians, and it does.  There have been ample protests.  The goal is simple: to get the Christians to remove their programs from public schools, so that then the Satanists will go back into private and stop enticing their children with cool programs and rebelliousness.

One of the coolest things I heard from tonight's programs was the 7 Tenets of The Satanic Temple.  They are beautifully enlightened so I will share:

I. One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.


II. The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.


III. One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.


IV. The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo your own.


V. Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs.


VI. People are fallible. If we make a mistake, we should do our best to rectify it and resolve any harm that may have been caused.


VII. Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.

Wouldn't it be nice if THESE were American Values?

liveonearth: (moon)
This documentary is well worth seeing.  It explains how the 13th Amendment did more than free the slaves, because it had an exception that said criminals could be imprisoned.  A massive cultural effort ensued to criminalize blacks, and our so-called "criminal justice" system was not sufficient to protect them from powerful white men determined to keep them down.

A Netflix documentary (called 13TH) shows us is just how easy it is to criminalize a previously enslaved population.  This history is ugly, and the present is not pretty either.  The percentage of our populace that is behind bars far exceeds that of any other nation, and the percentage of that imprisoned mass that is black or brown in skin color is also ridiculous.  There is definitely something wrong.

13TH was directed by Ana DuVernay who has quite a resume.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ava_DuVernay
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/13TH_(film)
What I learned so far (we haven't finished watching the documentary) )
liveonearth: (Homer Simpson "D'oh!")
I keep reading in the media that the record Latino turnout at the polls is a new "firewall" or somesuch for Democrats.  Well that may apply in this election, but don't count on it in the future.  Latinos are independent and have been provoked to vote for their own interests.  Trump voters have provided a new impetus for the Republican party to stop shafting its lower income voters.  If the R party can respond in any effective way to this challenge it could result in a shift in the demographics of both parties.

*First use of new tag: hispanic.  This population now activated is likely to become a powerful force in US politics.  Too bad they're so Catholic.
liveonearth: (moon)
"Do not take the Jews and Christians as allies"

I read this in a summary of an article by Lailatul Fitriyah in The Jakarta Post.  He says "hard-line Muslims" are invoking a twisted interpretation of this verse to argue that true Muslims must not vote for a Christian governor.

Truth be known, American style freedoms only work if all religious people do NOT take the dictates of their religious books as literal requirements.  What if all Christians did exactly what the Bible tells them to do?  Nevermind the old testament, the new is just as full of horrors.

Islamism is what we call government within the Muslim religion.  What do we call what we have, where religious people continually try to infiltrate government and government funded programs?  Christianism?

Islam is not the problem, religion is.
liveonearth: (moon)

STILL I RISE

Maya Angelou, 1928 - 2014

You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?

Why are you beset with gloom?

‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells

Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?

Bowed head and lowered eyes?

Shoulders falling down like teardrops,

Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?

Don’t you take it awful hard

‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines

Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?

Does it come as a surprise

That I dance like I’ve got diamonds

At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame

I rise

Up from a past that’s rooted in pain

I rise

I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.

liveonearth: (fist)
Just as Obama's presidency has deeply offended white supremacists and caused a resurgence of lively xenophobia in America, Clinton's impending presidency is bringing out the long-quiet depressed white guy who just hates women.  Why?  They wouldn't sleep with him, left him, weren't good to him when he needed it?  His mother did him wrong?  These sentiments that have come into public life are troubling and far too private really to be on T-shirts and election posters.  The loss of civility, and respect for reason, are devastating losses.  How can we come together as a nation when people talk this way to each other?  Are we headed back toward the civil war, when the south refused to accept Abraham Lincoln as their president and seceeded?

I am flying to Tennessee on the day after the election.  The town where my parents live--Oak Ridge--is not your average southern town.  It has a national laboratory in it, full of elitists with education Pile High and Deep.  Oak Ridge has so many scientists that the general world view of assimilating new information and coming up with new, reason-based theories, is part of the town culture.  Tennessee itself is not really fully southern, having been split by the Mason-Dixon line and with families on both sides of the civil war divide.  Still, I am curious to see what I will find the day after the election.

Bitch.  I have been called this.  Always by men.  Always by men who wanted me to do something other than what I chose to do.  Always by men who were unable to control or manipulate me.  They hated that I had a mind of my own.  They wanted me to bow down to their will.   I am not bitchy; I do not strike out for vengance.  I want only the same freedoms that men themselves expect, without having to be called names.  Without being told "calm down honey".  Clinton is in for as many years of verbal abuse as she is in office, plus some.  I thank her in advance for her strength and restraint in the face of the onslaught.  I am grateful that Obama has modeled for all of us the finest in human decency.  You dudes out there who say he is divisive: you are projecting.

I am not for "trigger warnings" and the extremes of political correctness that some youngsters seem to be demanding in college.  Buck up I say, and realize that some people take for granted what is exceptional to you, and vice versa.  Learn to self-soothe, to calm yourself in the face of alarming or disturbing realities or even art.  If you must protect yourself from certain things, do it yourself, do not expect the rest of us to tiptoe around you forevermore.  Friends are kept away like slugs when you are surrounded by eggshells.  Life is rich and lucious and sometimes the spice burns.  Eat it anyway.  Feel the feelings and realize that feelings are not you, they are something temporary that passes through you.  This too shall pass.  Racists: our first black president is about to step down and thousands of us will miss him terribly.  Sexists: our first female president is about to win.  Get used to it.  Whatever the reason for your bias, it is not acceptable.  We're moving on.

These interesting times are about to get even more interesting.
liveonearth: (moon)
The current retrograde is supposed to last until September 22.  It's a long one.  Lots of people think that this planetary phenomenon is the reason that things haven't been going their way.  You're not supposed to make any major decisions or stick your neck out during a retrograde.  Why?  Superstition, in a word.

Most people who believe this bunk don't understand what the mercury retrograde really is.  They think it's something serious, when it is really just an optical illusion in the sky.  Mercury appears to be going backwards because of our perspective from here on earth, and the relative movements of the other planets.  For a sky-watcher, it's interesting.  For the superstitious person, it's momentous.  Like zodiac signs in astrology, it guides their choices and gives meaning to events.

People who embrace "new age" spirituality are the most likely to believe in the negative effects of a mercury retrograde.  They also tend to believe in karma and reincarnation.  These beliefs are indicative of the overall ignorance of our populace.  People think that because they have shed institutionalized religion that their new superstition must be better.  Too many people seek explanations for what they experience, and then latch onto them without further consideration.

How is reincarnation any more plausible than heaven and hell?  Are we capable of living with "I don't know" as our answer?  Is intellectual laziness really our future?
liveonearth: (moon)
What Clinton's remark broadcasted is how little she thinks of conservatives in general. Her tone was so dismissive ("you name it") as to suggest that every xenophobe on the planet was unworthy of having skin. What she obviously doesn't understand is that we are all conservative at our roots, until these basic feelings are educated out of us, or overridden by culture.  Xenophobes are people too.

It has a lot to do with who we grow up with.  If we grow up in an educated multi-ethnic culture, then ethnicity no longer has such a charge.  But if we are acculturated in a homogenous group, we will feel more comfortable with people of our same kind.  This is the instinctive basis of xenophobia. It is reasonable to be cautious around people whose values are unknown to you, and whose behavior is not predictable.

Xenophobia can be trained in at any stage of life.  I have suffered the hate of the Navajo and Apache when living and traveling in Arizona.  I understand why they hate the white eyes, because I do too, but I personally do not deserve their bad treatment.  Still, I got the bad treatment, and now when I see a tribal member I am on guard.  The same thing has happened to me here in Portland.  I had always liked and respected every Jew I ever met. Then I was mistreated by an attending Jewish doctor who took offense at me saying the words "a Jew" because in her mind she inserted the word "dirty". That word was not in my mind until she explained to me how offensive it was for me to say "a Jew", and then threatened to flunk me, sanctioned me through the college and required that I take cultural competency training. Other Jews near to me have hurt my feelings since then, and I have developed a reaction to Jews that I did not have before, when I lived in Denver next door to the Ashkenazis and thought they were really decent folk.

In spite of all my education and knowing things, I have feelings that are influenced by what happens to me in my life. Does this make me deplorable?

Oh, and all you decent men out there who think that you are not sexist. If you were born and raised in the U.S. you are sexist. Ask any European, male or female. I am a woman. I have never made anywhere near as much money as my partner, in my opinion because he has a penis. Yesterday I drove a vehicle up to a boat inspection station on the highway and the man with the clipboard came up and started asking questions of a man who got out of the passenger door. At the gas station the attendant speaks to the men first. Men here invariably address men first when approaching a couple. This seems like a tiny offense, but compounded into the reality of daily life, a woman knows that this is still a man's world. Clinton knows it all too well. American men, including educated ones, are unconscious of this kind of sexism "lite".  There's no stoning here, but men are not aware of the degree to which they are programmed to be sexist, and should spend more time in introspection around this. I think part of the problem conservatives have with lesbians is the men have no one they can talk to.

I realize I'm making a bunch of generalizations, just like Clinton did. My point is that these base impulses are present in the vast majority of all humanity, and Americans are clearly not above it. Our culture seems to be regressing. In my lifetime I have watched our society and politics become obnoxious. Substantive debate is rare, name calling commonplace. If there is to be a conversation between opposing sides, there must first be respect. Respect is a Universal human need. People denied respect are hostile and possibly subversive.

Liberals in general need to stop denigrating conservatives and dig deep enough into themselves to understand the conservative position. Conservatives need to educate themselves to articulate their concerns and rationales clearly to others. Everyone needs to start with the assumption that the other guys are decent humans just trying to do the right thing, the best way they know how. Then the conversation can begin.
liveonearth: (moon)
I think this may be part of the reason that so many people have defaulted to supporting tRump.  At a gut level he gets it, that somehow the religion of Islam is motivating some people to kill bunches of hedonistic rich oblivious Americans.  We are The Great Satan, after all.  Our women roam around half naked.  We drink alcohol and eat so much that we can't get out of our chairs.  The Muslims who hate us find plenty to hate.  And the teachings of the religion are harsh.  Unforgiving.  Granted, most religions have some myths and stories that motivate hateful actions.  Most religions have a few fundamentalists whose simplistic interpretations lead them to extreme beliefs and behaviors.  Islam has a lot of people like that.  I am certain that the followers of ISIL think that American Muslims who don't help their cause are apostates, no better than the rest of us.  So given that there are quite a few Muslims who think we all deserve to die, and several at least who've been successful at violently killing Americans, being afraid of Muslims sounds kind of reasonable.  If the Dems don't admit to this, and begin teaching Americans about how they've been attempting to quell the fears of peaceable Muslims in order to prevent religious based warfare, they are missing the boat.  Blaming the Pulse shooting solely on easy access to guns is missing the very important point that currently there are a lot of people with this religious background who are motivated to kill.  We need to study them, to understand them.  They are not necessarily insane, they simply live in a different reality dictated by a different culture.  There are also a lot of Americans who are not Muslim who share their distaste for gays, their disrespect for loose women, and their instinctive hatred of other races.  Maybe you should be afraid.
liveonearth: (Spidey: come into my parlour)

THE MISTRUST OF SCIENCE

By Atul Gawande , JUNE 10, 2016

The following was delivered as the commencement address at the California Institute of Technology, on Friday, June 10th.

Text behind cut )

Atul Gawande, a surgeon and public-health researcher, became a New Yorker staff writer in 1998.

liveonearth: (moon)
For me, the characteristic features of a mystlcial and therefore untrustworthy, theory are that it is not refutable, that it appeals to authority, that it relies heavily on anecdote, that is makes a virtue of consensus (look how many people believe like me!), and that it takes the high moral ground.  You will notice that this applies to most religions.
--Matt Ridley in Evolution of Everything; How New Ideas Emerge, page 270

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