28 August, 2009

Hating the sin, loving the hypocrite

This is scary to post because it's going to tick some people off, but here goes.

(I don't *want* to offend, but this is an issue I've had with many different religious orientations, not just Christianity. I hope you will hear me out and I trust that you will come to your own conclusions intelligently; my intention is to explain my own feelings with full knowledge that I will change nobody's mind).
First I should say that I do believe there is a god of some kind, and that I've rejected Catholicism, and I respect a lot of traditions and myths as necessary and beautiful - they foster family and social connections and can lead to spiritual growth and joy. I deeply believe in the Golden Rule (which shows up as a thread in most cultures). I feel that people should be allowed to practice their own religions in peace as long as
1) they harm no one (define harm? well... does it hurt? did you bleed? did you have a choice? Were you coerced?)
2) and do not try to impose their religions on others. Since some religions have conversion and population expansion built-in as part of the plan, this is a real problem for me, since our planet is imploding under the weight of our never-ending greed for resources).

I think that everyone, even the most "fundamental" believer, picks and chooses what they will believe and what makes sense to them. The possible exception would be those few who are beaten or brainwashed into parroting whatever they are told. Whether they believe what they espouse is questionable. But they will, by the nature of their own abuse, turn around and abuse others, and blame it on their religion. Or they may reject the doctrine outright and go do something different, if they can escape alive.

Religious texts contain varied and often conflicting information. This is how we get one group focusing on transubstantiation, one group focusing on converting others, one group focusing on the interpretation of individual letters / words / phrases / passages. Cast your seed on the ground or take multiple wives? Beat your wife and screw your slaves or follow the golden rule? Take an eye or turn the cheek? Did Jesus have blue eyes or brown, or did he even exist at all, and if so, was he an avatar or just a nice guy who got nailed to a board? Free choice, God's will, fate, or random acts? Do what you will - or harm no one? Is the wine sacred or profane? "Yes, God hates you, the Upanishads told me so. Now make your virgins plow naked in the moonlight for three nights and maybe I'll send you a rainstorm." This really happened. In India. This summer.
Damn right I'm judgmental about it. I bet somebody enjoyed the show, a few "useless" daughters got married off, and I'm sure that when rain comes (as someday it will) they'll congratulate themselves on a job well done.

I think it's hypocritical to blame one's judgments on one's religion instead of taking responsibility for them. I think it's a way to pass the buck in favor of one's own unexamined fears and prejudices. We support this or we refute that, based not on what a book tells us or what a god tells us, but what we choose to believe will give us a better outcome (heaven, rain, true love, success in battle, parking spaces...).

If it's God's will, why did God will that others would believe ideas diametrically opposed to our own? To make us more stalwart? In that case, do we choose to be more stalwart, or are we little Pavlovian dogs barking at infidels? Did God just decide that anyone who disagrees with us is accursed?

We say we can't help believing what we believe. If we have free will, don't we choose what we are looking for, what we focus on? Consciously, we pin our beliefs and ideas partially on whatever religion or faith or lack of it we have, but the truth is that it's backwards: we keep or drop a religious belief based on what feels right to us. So it *is* possible for me to be a hypocrite if I say "hate the sin but love the sinner" - when I am the one deciding what the sin is, not god. For instance: I like certain kinds of sex. In some cultures, it is considered sinful for people to have sex except for procreation. Sinful. Evil. I am a sinner. I also love the sin. In fact I don't think it's a sin at all (between consenting adult humans), and I bet 99.9% of the people reading this list don't either. But the gray areas of what I do with my own parts, and others' parts, make for a world of judgments. Sex is not a cardboard box, but many want to treat it that way: Slot A can only work with Tab B. Can slot A accept tab B instead of tab A? It might not be structurally practical, but in some cultures, that's a sin. Then we go to having two Slot A's in the same toolbox, being all slotty with each other. That's a really sinny sin. With regard to New Testament Christianity, the "sin" of homosexuality was never even mentioned in the gospels (unless it was removed; there was a lot snipped out - and believe me, if he'd spoken negatively about it, they would have left it in). Jesus obviously talked about a lot more than was recorded in the Gospels. If, in the thousands of words he must have said, he never even bothered to address it or make it an important talking point, maybe it's because in his infinite love and wisdom, it was a non-issue. Maybe he didn't care because homosexuality isn't a sin. Loving thy neighbor: good. Casting the first stone: sin.

If I commit "sins" according to a given doctrine, and expect to be accepted for it, while I simultaneously hold another perceived "sinner" in judgment simply for wanting to be who they are, that's not devout or unconditionally loving. That's hypocritical. I'm doing it right now, damn me, because I really don't want to be judgmental but I really am. I'm judgmental toward people who want to deprive others of the right to marry for love "because I'm a christian and homosexuality is a sin". I'm really mad that people use religion to "prove" they are on higher moral ground, when they're just using the religious equivalent of "because I said so" and hiding behind religion so people will "respect their beliefs". But I have no way to prove that my moral ground is actually higher than theirs. Which makes ME smug and self-righteous. What a mindfuck. oh, dear. I bet that's a sin in somebody's book. Mmm, nice slippery mind... where was I?

Maybe humanity really is doomed. But, if God wanted to save humanity, wouldn't he send a bunch of really nice people who DON'T automatically make babies when they have sex?

I know if I have to sit through anymore apocalyptic movie trailers I'm gonna just shoot myself. So I'm gonna go pretend the end is not near and have an ice cream cone. Just don't watch me lick it, that's a sin in some places.

For what it's worth, it's my two - or three - bits.


19 August, 2009

Post-Vivum: notes on my first art show (Art Attack)

I usually find that I learn better from experiences by writing about them -
so here are some notes from my first art show, and I hope others may find it of
help as they explore the joys and terrors of putting their hearts on their figurative

The art show went much better than I
expected; I think some people wandered out rolling their eye but
that's fine with me. It was too last-minute for most of my friends to
come, but one of my oldest friends was able to make it with her
family, so that was lovely. Overall I'd say about 30 guests came
through, including 2 kids. I made a few connections in terms of people
really looking at and liking my work, and got a possible professional
connection from a graphic artist who needs occasional illustration,
along with several folks interesting in face painting. I was surprised
at the mix of people: about 1/3 who were actually artists, 1/3 people
who were longing to do art but aren't able to, and 1/3 people who
called themselves art-lovers but were non-artists (I asked). Don't
know what that means but I found it very interesting. It was so nice
to be able to say "If I can do it, you can!" Got to paint a beautiful
percussionist/artist with gorgeous skin and bone structure and
copper-colored hair. That was really satisfying.

I need to organize better (of course!) in terms of: unfinished stuff,
finished stuff, "fine art" (definition up for debate), illustration,
and cartooning (I do a lot of stuff with ironic, visual pun, or
editorial content although I rarely post them). And here's the bugaboo:
framing. I hate framing, I hate frames, I hate mattes - unless they are
an integral part of the art. I need to look at why, but I haven't yet.

Notes to self:
• Do not buy or serve cheap italian wine if you can't read the
bottle. The bottle is a pretty blue glass,
but the "dry white" wine was some sort of sparkling thing.
Apparently it was pretty vile.
Happy to say I didn't even think of trying it.
• Buy less cheese (originally I had thought of doing fondue, but
Charlie has been to a lot more gallery openings than me and said -
kindly omitting his first though which was probably ARE YOU OUT OF
YOUR MIND??? - "You're going to drive yourself crazy maintaining that
and cheese goo is going to get everywhere. Just get some cheese and
slice it up." Wise, wise man! We went with sliced cheese and
sourdough, it was fine. I got compliments on my fine taste in
schnackies. Trader Joe's ROCKS.
• I found it helpful for my own nervousness to talk up the place and
the studio rather than my art. Charlie thought I need to talk up my
art more, but I'm not there yet - it was hard for me to verbally be
accepting of my art where it is, and that starts to sound like
excuses. That's my ego in the middle of it all (I need to do more
writing and meditation about the nature of pride and ego in creating
art and sharing art... ooh, I've never really done much in the way of
artshares aside from classroom critiques. Wish we had an ARTS meeting
around here). I did have one nice discussion about a piece that
really made itself; a lady admired it and I said without thinking
"Isn't that cool? It had me up all night, giggling, while I did it."
She lit up and nodded, so she'd clearly been there herself. It's not
about pride although I guess it might look like pride. Those pieces
are treasures because they come from a place of mystery, we just try
to get out of their way and watch them unfold.
• Wear my knee brace and supportive shoes! I spent a lot of time on
my feet today and my leg is *REALLY* hurting me!

Overall, I feel I accomplished what I needed to do - putting myself
out there, warts and all. If this inspired a couple of artists, and if
a few people got that I have something to offer as an artist, that is
a huge gift.

Funny, a week or so ago I asked for a change, and for things
to start shaking loose. Then the car broke down and the cat died, and I got the last-minute OK to open the studio for this show.
That scared me (a lot, actually), but I've also had some
extraordinarily good things happen too, by trying to create forward
momentum. I don't know where it will all take me, if anywhere, but
it's an interesting journey. Minko!

24 July, 2009

Political Kryptonite: Repealing Prop 13

This letter was written to Credo in response to their offer of "Repeal Prop 13" bumper stickers.
The machine behind 13 is too strong, and the propaganda is too inflammatory. Prop 13 reform is considered Kryptonite for politicians. The minute anyone tries to even suggest repealing, we start seeing ads about old ladies being thrown out of their homes because they can't pay the property taxes.The Jarvis-Gann groups are experts at fearmongering and they ruthlessly destroy any chance, because they are greedy beyond imagining.

This is what needs to be hammered home to California voters: Some aspects of Prop 13 CAN be revised to benefit Californians and businesses. If we sell those benefits, I think reformation CAN be pushed through. If we go negative, we will get NOWHERE. At ALL. We must offer not only repair of crumbling schools, public services, and highways: we must offer real improvement, and treat this money carefully as a prudent investment in the future, not merely as an onerous expense. So, constantly frame it as a *benefit*, and have arguments tailored to overcome opposition. It's very easy to preach to the Credo-oriented convert; help give us real talking points for those who need to be convinced.

Here are some thoughts - and keep in mind I'm a layperson, no lawyer, economist, or expert of any kind except how to eat ramen 6 days a week and not get thoroughly sick of it:

• those who inherit their parents' homes could be "grandfathered in" but still pay reasonable property taxes based on the home's current market value, perhaps ramping up in increments or mitigated by the other items factored into the estate tax.
• CORPORATIONS and COMMERCIAL PROPERTY owners should be required to pay property taxes based on their property's current value, not on what they paid before Prop 13. This should be based on square usable footage, not on the parcel. It could be mitigated by credits such as green building, green / water saving open space, alternative energy usage, etc.
• Corporations who rely heavily on California infrastructure - or who are heavy polluters - construction, beverage bottlers, oil producers, container shipping, trucking, airlines, chemical manufacturers, etc. - should pay a fair property tax and have an itty-bitty .05% or something tacked on to help repair and replenish the infrastructure and environment they damage.
• Out-of-state and foreign property holders should see a slightly higher tax rate, because they are using the infrastructure and benefiting from CA consumers and tax payers without contributing... the money is basically being siphoned away never to be seen again.

I think taxes that support our infrastructure should be fair - of course little old ladies should be able to keep their homes, and of course those with big expensive properties and pavement-crushing vehicles should be paying their *fair* share. Not all of it. Just a *fair* share. This won't drive any businesses out of CA and if they are sold on it correctly, they can then play the old "giving back to the community" card....

If trucking companies are paying taxes into a highway repair fund, and their repairs decrease because the roads don't suck, and their insurance rates go down because they have fewer accidents, who loses?

I hope these ideas are helpful in formatting the campaign. I just don't see "REPEAL PROP 13" succeeding. You have to offer something better.

15 July, 2009

We Are All Agents of the Miraculous

What if that were true? What if the supernatural - meaning above the natural laws we can *currently* perceive and measure scientifically - was a reality? For instance, long ago we used willow bark to cure headaches, and were probably grateful to the spirit of the tree for soothing us, and I sure wonder a) WHY the willow bark has that chemical in it and b) HOW we found out that it works in the first place? Did someone boil water in willow basket and have their headache "miraculously" cured? Now we know it's a chemical; we isolate, synthesize, manufacture, package, distribute, advertise... But - isn't that ability so fantastically improbable as to be almost a miracle? Where does science end and miracle begin? Where does that leave the admirable work of people like Richard Dawkins, Penn & Teller, and other debunkers of the paranormal?

Well... I don't think they're fools, or if they are, they're wise fools. Humanity has an enormous capacity for self-deception, and certainly many religions, myths, and charlatans have cause much more damage than good. I think their work is really important, because they skewer the wishful thinking and intellectual laziness that makes not only for bad science, but bad religion.

That being said, disparaging belief and believers actually sets the atheists back in their message; nobody responds well to rudeness, and that rudeness is based on emotion, not logic. People shrink when they are shamed. Their minds expand when their curiosity is encouraged. I understand the atheists' frustration with smart people who go only so far with logic then seemingly turn it off when they get into the realm of faith. I wonder if they would learn something if, instead of insisting they were right, were to look into the physiological and emotional function of faith in human health and effectiveness. Truth is, most of the smartest and most effective people I know (and I know plenty of them) have spiritual sides. And some of the most messed-up are the skeptics.

I'd rather hang out with Thich Nhat Hanh than Penn Gilette, who wears on me after about 20 minutes. I'd rather hang out with the Dalai Lama than Richard Dawkins anyday. But the atheists are doing something wonderful, and important: causing people to really examine WHY they believe, and what they believe, and perhaps turn them to positive action rather than the passivity of sitting there waiting for their prayers to fix their lives. Faith without works really IS dead. I read online somewhere that "prayer is a way of feeling like you're being helpful without actually having to DO anything". Ooh, that one STINGS.

I know that, in terms of philosophy, of numbers, of science, there is an objective truth. One is one and all are all and evermore shall be-oh. And then there's zero, which is only an idea, because even the concept of zero is more than nothing. I also look at fractals, with their twisting permutations of the same motifs, and I see that the truth may be something between the supernatural and the super-mundane. Our search for the truth will necessarily be limited by our perceptions and our ability to process them, our language for what we experience, and our ability to measure. For instance, one man's "evil spirit in the cave" is another man's uranium mine. We barely know how to measure ANYTHING. We only figured out how big an atom is 75+- years ago. What if we are evolving our ability to perceive and measure, that so that the universe can experience itself?

It seems to me that the fact life DOES evolve, and that curiosity has been a part of our evolution, may be a teeny-fractal expression of universal desire to know itself. It is also possible that true faith is an expression of curiosity about the next phase of our development as a species; our brains doing a slow cellular-level nudge toward abilities that transcend our current limitations. It could be that, since our skulls are getting too big to pass through the birth canal, the combination of medical birth assistance and bionic tools such as memory chips and sensory-enhancing implants will actually allow us to manufacture our evolution to a higher level, rather than relying on genetics to do it for us. The trick is to avoid a class system where only the rich access the tools. Another question: when we rely too much on a given technology, we atrophy the area that the technology assists - which is why I have the memory and attention span of a goldfish, and I can't sit on the floor without my hip seizing up.

I can't honestly claim that I've ever accessed a universal mind. But when I diligently try to, my life seems to just work better. I get out of my own way, am happier, more prosperous, more effective. I'm not sitting around expounding on how stupid people are to believe in things.
So the hell with skepticism. I'm going to to a scientific experiment: I'm going to look for wonderfulness in the world, and I'll bet you that the more I look for the more I will find. I'll believe in something. Believe in peace, believe in g/d/s, believe in evolution's power to weed out the ineffective, believe in myself. And in those moments when things look like doom and I just can't, I'm going to make every effort to believe that I can make something better just by acting on faith.

I think skepticism IS healthy... if you're also skeptical about your own skepticism. What if you're wrong? "What if..." has to be the greatest agent of change in the history of humanity. What if you let yourself believe in a power greater than yourself - would it change what you focus on, how you behave, how you feel about others, the trajectory of your life's progress? If you don't believe you are an agent of the miraculous... what can you do to make it so?

28 June, 2009

Happy Birthday, Aisling!

I don't know where you are, but I love you and miss you. I hope you are well, happy and safe.

Google me, I'm easy to email through my other web site.


12 May, 2009

Those things down there, those people over there...

(continued from OtisPTA post 5/16/09)
I had a friend whose mother found out she was gay, beat her with a hairbrush, and threw her out of the house. My mom took her in and she stayed with us for months at a time. I think my dad guessed - he went on a regular dinner-table rant about those awful homosexuals he saw downtown in SF when he was at work, and she would just sit there, quiet as a mouse, trying to disappear. I didn't know she was gay - only her succession of "roommates" did. When she finally told me, I didn't really understand what it meant; I didn't have the means to really support her; I wish now that I'd said "I love you and I'm proud of who you are and I'm glad your my friend" instead of "oh! That explains a lot" without having a clue what it explained. She went through a series of disastrous relationships trying to fit in. She bounced in and out of the military, mental hospitals, a bad marriage to a straight man, prescription drug abuse, and severe depression; eventually we fell out of contact. I wonder what her life would have been like if her mother had understood she was born that way and had a right to happiness. Several of my other friends have married people who came out of the closet after years of marriage based on a lie. Love might have been there, but it wasn't enough; and everyone suffered. Is it necessary to raise more generations of people who must lie to fit in, or even survive?

It's very important this curriculum is about relationships, not about the mechanics of sex. Thinking back to my own prurient (or at least precocious) little self, I was looking up the f-word in the dictionary at age 8 or 9. Unfortunately it was missing out of the Webster's New School Abridged 1962 edition in our school library. If my parents had just explained the basic plumbing and functions, it actually would have put the whole question to rest. It's sad they were able to explain how my nose worked, but taught me to mistrust and fear my own - um, things down there. So instead, I learned about "doing it" from another kid. Who had learned it from a friend at age 6... and his definition and vocabulary were not only lurid but inaccurate. This led to all sorts of confusion, embarrassment, and misapprehension.

This curriculum hardly touches on sex and doesn't need to go much further than in discussion about a conventional nuclear family; something along the lines of "when two people love each other very much, they choose to create a family." And when you go into the biomechanics of it - whether you approve of it or not, it's basically science and kids will only absorb what they are ready for. "Doctors combine genetic material to make a complete baby, which then grows safely in a mommy's uterus until it's ready to be born. "

As I told the City Council - I don't approve of the British Royal Family's doings. I don't believe in the Divine Right of Kings. I hate the idea of arranged and loveless marriages. I think the Prince of Wales dresses funny. But I acknowledge that they exist and are a cultural force to be aware of, and they are different but have their own quirky charm, funny hats and all. They may be one weird family, but they have a right to be themselves, and on a Social Studies level, my daughter needs to know about them.

She has been acquainted with, and been curious about, several gay couples and families; I remind her that love is a gift, and that people should be allowed to decide for themselves whom they will love, and whether they will start a family. She has occasionally noticed men in dresses or women in suits, and had friends who liked to dress a little differently; and I remind her how she'd feel if she were only allowed to wear dresses, or only pants, or only green, or never pink. Her world is a bigger, richer, and more interesting place with no harm done. God save the queens!

29 April, 2009

Curriculum of compassion

In Japan they stress conformity with almost a pathological strictness; they have a saying "the nail that stands out will be hammered down". In the animal world, predators look for the standout weakling - the old, the young, the lame or sick - to cull. But we are evolving beyond our animal nature and it is the "different" people - the smart, the compassionate, the gentle, the dreamer - who will save us from ourselves. Being warriors, grunts and conformists has served us reasonably well for several million years, but now we're strong enough and big enough to have fouled our own nest. Humanity ain't gonna fly unless we start acting with clear, rational thought, not herd mentality. This means that the nonconformists - the meek - shall indeed inherit the earth. We can start by giving them the respect they deserve, and teaching our children it's wrong to bully those who are different.

I'm weird and I'm proud. Get used to it.

05 April, 2009

Fascism, Free Press, and Digital News

I am sometimes struck with the realization that, if our "press" dies and information is all relegated to the digital realm, and our freedom of the press is what keeps government honest, then fascism will have a huge advantage if it owns all the power sources. Also if all our art becomes digital art, and the plug is pulled....


02 April, 2009

Success of the Imagination: Funding art in schools

Adapted from a letter I emailed to our new secretary of education.

The US Government's lack of preparation against the Sept. 11 attacked was made possible by what the Commission called "a failure of the imagination." A lack of access to creativity in our younger generation will lead to negative consequences: social disconnection, low graduation rates, underemployment, and a myriad of unknown roads left untraveled, brilliant ideas unrealized, beautiful realities left fallow. Failure of the imagination on a massive scale. I propose you take this moment to foster the success of the imagination.

I am an actively volunteeering elementary-school parent in Alameda, CA. Our budget has been cut repeatedly, like that of other districts. Alameda is one of the districts suffering doubly because, when our military based closed, we lost Federal funding. This funding has never been made up by the State of California. Add the un-funded testing pressure and draconian mandates of the ridiculous of No Child Left Behind... and most of our children ARE being left behind in an essential way: exposure to and practice of creativity. Although my concerns lie primarily with my home district, I realize this is a statewide problem; we teach the rote and expect a problem-solver. We teach to the test and expect a thinker. As first graders struggle under the thumb of pre-algebra, and fourth-graders are impaled nightly on the shiny pin of 5-page sociology reports, we neglect the very thing that makes school bearable: avenues to explore creativity, expression, and new ideas. Having presented the problem, I'd love to be part of offering a solution: an urgent request that you make a priority to fund arts education in all schools.

My daughter's school, Otis Elementary, has a very active PTA. One of our best efforts is the Art Docent program, where parents come into the classroom and impart lessons to the children about art history and world culture. Children are guided into their own interpretation of the medium, and make their own message. In my 5 years as a docent, I've had many children light up when they see me, clamoring: "are we doing art today?". I've had kids who are not allowed to "make a mess" at home show true joy and enthusiasm and pride in their amazing creations. I've seen kids shine who are frequently seen as trouble-makers or struggle with poor academic achievement. Since different kids have different learning styles, these small successes can help turn things around.

My PTA is not the norm. A number of schools in our district have no art docent program; no art at all aside from "cut out the blue square, paste near the red triangle". Supplies are limited; there is no exposure to different art forms and cultures; there is minimal creativity, there is not much of anything that would make a kid want to show up to school every day. And it's primarily an issue of funding: poor parents, no PTA funding, underserved students. I'm sure that, outside of our district, the same line of demarcation falls: kids of the working poor get the short end of the stick (or the dry end of the paintbrush). Their parents have no time to volunteer and may have language and educational barriers to helping out. Their parents may not have much understanding of art, and they may not value the creative thinking and problem-solving that art brings to the intellectual table. Their parents may even fear (like my Irish immigrant parents did) that studying art, music, theater, or dance means setting yourself up for a life of poverty. But in a culture that values the arts, a lucrative career is possible - at times in the animation industry, I've made more money per year than my father - an insurance sales executive. Ever single item you see around you was created, sold, and packaged by someone. Every movie you watch, every note you listen to, every book you read... artistic products. The arts fuel our economy; yet we give our children little training in artistic expression. We have no idea what these kids could do, because they barely have access to the concepts, let alone the materials.

I think that these under-served, frustrated kids deserve better. In these economic times I know it's hard to get funding for the arts, but with creative thinking, unexpected avenues open: teaching artists will often work for a reasonable stipend, materials can be donated, parents can be mentored to help not only their own children but those who share their classrooms and neighborhoods; teachers can access tools and support to easily integrate arts education with relevant curriculum.

If you fund the arts in schools, everyone wins. If you don't, everyone loses. Please use your own mind creatively, and give arts funding a high priority in the educational budget.

20 February, 2009

Artist Manifesto - draft 3 of 3,529

Become the art you wish to see in the world.

I call for the elevation of kitsch and the worship - or at least close rapturous scrutiny - of false idols with a grain of truth inside. How do events conspire to make the world the way it is? Does the art we make actually contribute to the motions of culture? Of course it does. In that case, by G/d/s, I am going to paint sleeping babies and people kissing passionately. And puppies playing "go fish".

Your list of "25 random things about me" is not random at all. What are the 1000 things you left out? They're no more random - unless EVERYTHING is random, and if that were the case, *nothing* would be predictable. Acts, events, and choices may be surprising to someone who doesn't know the full picture, but that is completely different from actual randomness or coincidence. Predictability is a tool of science, but it's the proof of order. Can there be order without mind? Does order matter? Does mind matter? Does matter matter? It's all or nothing, baby.

What if there is no why? That doesn't make sense, there's always cause and effect. Or is there? discuss amongst yourselves.

08 February, 2009

Inauguration, Prognostication, Intuition, Information

I am going through old unread email digests and found some posts about the inauguration. I don't think I weighed in.

Charlie and I went down to the local library where the local League of Women Voters and Friends of the Library pooled their resources and had a live broadcast of the inauguration. There were 250 people in the room watching 2 large-screen TVs. Kleenex were passed. I broke into tears several times. It was SO nice to be with a community of excited, hopeful people instead of holed up in the living room.

I am a good prognosticator, though I go almost purely by simple intuition. When Ronald Raygun proudly started turning us toward a "service" economy, I wondered how much the servants of the servants would make.My friends shrugged and said "ok, whatever". When Kindergarten Cop came out, I predicted that Arnold S would run for governor. My friends laughed. I hate to tell you how I feel about living in a flood plane between two of the most active and dangerous earthquake faults in the world. If it were my decision, I'd sell the house and move to Oregon tomorrow (yes: volcanos. I know. But I prefer rain to drought). As for our new president, Mistakes Will Be Made. Sheesh, mistakes have already been made. But it's not a party until a glass of punch gets spilled. Mistakes are part of the process... even W made a few. Ok, he double-dipped in the guacamole of life. I will not miss him.

This is my prognostication: things are going to suck for a while, and then they are going to slowly get better. I think we really are reaching a paradigm shift - for now, the pendulum swings away from greed and toward conscientiousness. We in the information age are having trouble figuring out what to do with all those facts, figures, and ideas; how to apply it all toward the highest good, how to be really useful in the world, but we're learning. Intellectually, we're still teenagers; our brains haven't finished growing yet. (look it up)

Personally, things are kinda sucking for me, but I'm hoping for change, and willing to work toward it, and I'm grateful for what I have, including a president with brains and, it appears, moral strength.

The Slippery Slope of Fascism

Buckle up your crampons, folks, it's gonna be a slippery night!

This was written in response to a question my buddy Michael B posed on a group list. I have seen and heard it before, so it seems worth addressing:

Q: If we change the definition {of marriage} for this group {homosexuals}, how do you or under what reasoning can you tell the next group that it can't be changed to suit their want.

A: Note: I've stayed almost completely out of the political discussion this year because of a tendency in the past for mean-spirited commentary to arise. I will do my best to give my perspective on your legitimate question. Take what you like, and leave the rest.

Our dear founding fathers were radicals, not traditionalists. Perhaps if they'd known more about the future they would have thrown in more Biblical stuff, but they didn't. They said "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". Well... without freedom, there is no happiness. These were people who stood up to the Divine Right of Kings. Gay marriage was just a matter of time. There's your slippery slope; freedom begets freedom. We have a sweet, but dying, tradition of asking the bride's dad for her hand in marriage. A sentimental gesture now, but that used to be pretty much the rule of law. So it goes with traditions; some we keep, and some change or fall away.

Michael, your query is known as a "slippery slope" argument. It would be used validly if the slope were, indeed, slippery. However the slope is more of a little hill than a steep cliff - it's shaped more like a bell curve. What you call "want" is, for others, "need", as much as you "need" to be with the woman of your dreams and would be utterly miserable without a soul mate, so do most people have these feelings. Thank goodness they don't all want to be with your wife! That saying "to each his own" is so profoundly wise. The "ah, I'm home" feeling is spread out demographically, not in a line graph with "very straight" at one end to "very gay" at the other. Instead, the spread of sexual proclivity resembles the "liberal/conservative" diagram someone presented a while back, where based on one's answers folks placed on a 2-d plane (I seem to remember it was social conservative/fiscal liberal and permutations thereof). Only in this case, it's 3D, like a little hill. Based on population distribution, in the outer and lower slope (purely by weight of numbers, no moral judgment intended) are the people who are strictly homosexual. Somewhere toward the middle are people who are (admitted or not) bisexual to some level - all cultural pressures aside, they'd probably go for whomever they found attractive (which is why some friends feel it necessary to remind us "always make sure it's a woman!"). And in the big round central hump are the folks who are mostly or completely heterosexual. There's another slope off on another face of the hill somewhere that has people with little or no sex drive. Since that's not much of an advantage in terms of evolution, and is probably related to chemical imbalances or depression, i think it's safe to leave it out for our purposes here. Although there are certainly people who are pressured into having sex they don't want, there are already (thankfully) laws against it (even though it made huge headlines about 30 years ago when a woman successfully had her husband prosecuted for rape for the first time in this country). Anyway, far far out on the fringes are folks who want to marry their goats, or their mothers, or whatever. We'll call that a pretty steep dropoff to zero. And we can build a fence right where the slope is about to drop off, by simply limiting marriage to "consenting adult humans who will harm no one directly by marrying".*

The definition of "harm" is going to be argued. But think about the perception of harm in different societies. In the 1800's, a young woman who kissed without being betrothed was considered a trollop. A woman without a husband was at the bottom of society - so many people were forced into marriages to avoid "harm". And in that social context, perhaps that was best. But it's not best anymore, because now our society allows women to work outside the home. Pursuing, it would be hoped, happiness and liberty. Right now in certain countries, a woman is not allowed to go anywhere before marriage without her husband or father to keep her in line; there is no pursuit of happiness for her, simply acceptance of her lot no matter how bitter. I read just today about a 17-year-old slave who was raped by her master and is now shunned by her family because her baby was born out of wedlock (and her name is not Hester Prynne or Tess Derbyfield). That's their culture, rooted in ancient tradition, but it's not generally accepted in American culture now. And not so long ago in these here United States, interracial marriage was illegal. Is it right for the mainstream to shun and castigate those who wish to follow their hearts' desires? Wouldn't we be wiser to err on the side of protecting personal freedom than forcing conformity?

Sex is about more than procreation. Marriage is about more than sex. They are both about social contracts - as short as a 20-minute makeout session, as long as a lifetime. At their best they provide intimacy and joy, everyone shares their needs and gets some satisfaction through one compromising position or another ;-). At their worst, they are a hellish trap. And then there's the bell curve in between - (sex that could use some modification, marriages that could use some help, but it's all basically ok). Marriage is not primarily for procreation any more; many who have children do it well outside of marriage, many marry long after childbearing age is over, many never have kids but stay together because they love each other.
So, here are some questions, and I'm not asking them with sarcasm but with real fear of where society can go if we start reverting to repressive actions. If homosexual marriage is a threat:
-->Does this mean old retired people who marry are a threat to marriage?
-->Do those who are childless - by choice or not - defy the acceptable definition of marriage?
-->Is YOUR marriage valid if you're not going forth to multiply as the Bible tells its followers to do?
-->If a person strongly desires a family - and you know that "family" is more than a sex partner, it's a sense of being "home" and really belonging - must that family be denied them?
-->If a gay person lies about their sexual orientation to please society, doesn't that harm their partner? is that marriage sanctified by G/d?
-->Should gay men marry only gay women? How does that honor G/d?
-->Should we take back the sodomy laws that were thrown out in 2003? Personally, I'd be very sad never to have oral sex again, but if it's illegal... oh well. I shall have to accept the inevitable knock on the door.
-->If unmarried people cannot adopt, and there are thousands of gay adults longing for children, and there are thousands of unwanted children longing for families, whom does it serve when these people are denied families? Because a civil union doesn't count as a marriage, children in Arkansas are - right now - facing the loss of their adoptive parents. Are foster homes and shelters better for these children than stable and loving parents?

Here is the slippery slope you need to really fear, Michael: the slope of religion-based fascism. I believe in G'd and there's many ways to find them/him/her it, but there are plenty of sects out there who are dead certain there's only ONE way, and literally to hell with everyone else. If our church and state do not remain separate, sooner or later one group of "true believers" will succeed in what they've been trying to do all along - take control of people's private lives. If you value the right to marry whom you please, if you consider that a civil right, how can you deny that civil right to other consenting adults? That's what Prop 8's supporters just did - the Mormon church (which was once ostracized because of polygamous activities) were a huge funder for the Yes on 8 campaign because hey, they are self-elected to call the moral shots. And they are a tax-exempt entity because they are a church - even though they are incredibly powerful political lobbyists. Next, they can turn around and say you aren't married because you're not planning a family. Or damn you because maybe you once had a girlfriend who terminated a pregnancy, or you got caught with condoms or a vibrator or have a vascectomy on your medical records. . Or because you're of Italian extraction and your wife is of (___fill in the blank___) heritage and that wasn't written on Moron the Angel's golden tuba, or whatever. There's your slippery slope. Gay brides and bridegrooms are the very least of your worries. If you really can't dredge up any compassion for those who want the right to marry whom they love, try dredging up a little self-preserving indignation, because someone is going to be regulating you next. I wonder when you'll decide to fight back?

*it will also be very interesting if we ever encounter hot sexy aliens - can we marry them even if we can't procreate with them? Oh, only if they're not gay. Dang.

The Door is Open

I took this phrase from two sources:
the U2 song "Gloria", and my favorite Rumi poem:

"The Breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you
Don't go back to sleep
you must ask for what you really want
Don't go back to sleep
People are going back and forth
Across the doorway where the two worlds touch
The door is round, and open
Don't go back to sleep"

I have spent a fair amount of my life wide awake and dreaming, other times sleeping where my dreams were so vivid I wanted to go back and figure out how to make them real. How do I bring dreams into the waking world - dreams of creativity, of joy, of peace, of fun? How to take the shadow of my psyche and use it to heal myself and others instead of hurt?

I have eclectic taste - possibly insane taste - ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. I like silly humor more than I like sarcasm. I have a lifelong interest in why the heck the world is the way it is... cause and effect? G/d/s? Quarks? Who knows. Even if I thought I knew, that would be faith. The intersection between faith and knowledge - a dangerous and blurry place.

As the Firesign Theater states ".... a force that can only be used for good... or evillllll..." but I don't remember what they were talking about, was it a time machine?

I'm blessed with brilliant and creative friends; you'll find links to their blogs, art and ideas here. I'll add my own art and interests as time permits. Daring to put ourselves out there is one of the greatest challenges many artists face. Creating is easy, sometimes it happens all by itself. Communicating... hard.