Monday, December 31, 2007
It is 2008 in Thailand so this is when I will come out of lurkdom to wish everyone a wonderful New Year.
I know it is traditional to come up with a laundry list of resolutions but it's just not how I do things. I believe when we cloud ourselves too much with specific expectations, we miss too many good things that come along with simply remaining open. One of the things I've found most challenging is to wake up each day and say "yes". Say yes to any opportunity that may present itself that will allow me to give something to someone who might need it, to recognize the importance of being; being available and being conscious. I want to be present and available for the good things that come in small gestures, exchanged words and gentle kindnesses.
So that is my wish for everyone this year. May you always wake up and say "yes".
S'wadee pi mai.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Just coming up for air... taking an opportunity to say hello.
I've been reading, sewing, shopping on eBay, taking naps, watching movies, doing yoga, had a few marathon phone calls and generally relaxing. My presence in the blogging arena has been negligible but I did get into a few interesting comments-section debates, here and there.
I'll be back in better form after the first of the year. There are a few things to talk about but I haven't written them up yet.
Thank you for all the lovely comments left to my last post. Wow.. 45 people sent me good wishes. I feel rich.. full. How can things not go well with all that awesome positive energy floating around? It was wonderful. Thanks so much. :)
Hope everyone had a good holiday, if you celebrate. If not, I hope you've been having a peaceful time.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
I may be a bit scarce around here over the next few weeks.
There's nothing wrong and I don't have anything negative in my life at all. Sometimes I just find it worthwhile to escape the saturation of the holiday season. It is my time to read books, watch movies, keep up on my private email (which, of course, I welcome), get my sewing done (I have a pile), putter around and occupy myself in renewing and refreshing ways while others are doing the Christmas thing.
I may not be as present in commenting for a while. One thing I want to be clear about though is that it is only temporary. I am not bailing. All of you are still valued in my little corner of the universe. Unfortunately, I have exhausted my repertoire of holiday-centered thoughts or comments. The well has run dry.
I will be back to commenting, too, as soon as it's over. I might still pipe in on non-holiday-related messages.
I'll still be reading all the blogs in my reader though. I will smile when I read of your happiness and cringe when something doesn't go as you'd planned. I wish you all the best of the season and rejoice in your celebration.
See you all soon.... and, please, be at peace. Celebrate well and let it fill your soul like warm flowing honey!
Sunday, December 16, 2007
At this time of year, I remember what it was like when life was different, before Thai culture, before my own transformation into who I have chosen to be today. I think about those who are not so fortunate to discover what I discovered, to choose what I chose and to have my heart literally swell with gratitude for what it's brought me and what it has offered the world. My life is rich because of it.. and that wasn't always so.
There was a time when I sat in a little apartment, wondering why I was such a loser that I couldn't be included in the festivities like others. I remember what it's like to watch one movie after another in hopes that I would simply forget what was going on "out there". In an even earlier incarnation, I remember what it was like to get drunk and stay drunk until it was over. I didn't know or understand that I could really make choices so I kept wearing those ill-fitting shoes until my feet were swollen and blistered.
I put myself through all that torment for absolutely no reason because when all is said and done, the unrealistic cultural expectations foisted on people in every available and technologically possible venue are just ... crap.
It serves no one when we judge ourselves by trumped-up standards and crush our own spirits.
We humans are choice-making beings. We get to choose the lifestyle we'll live. We get to choose to recognize crap when we see it or hear it and cull it out.
For those who are marginalized for one reason or another, this is a good time to remember that families, friends and lives come in an assortment of configurations and all of them are just as valid as the next. Dominant culture sets up an ideal because it benefits a certain demographic to have it that way. If it doesn't serve you, get rid of it. "If it's miffy, let it go."
There are so many possibilities for all of us. This world comes with a huge assortment of ways of life for us to choose. There are hundreds of holidays, hundreds of religions, hundreds of political philosophies, hundreds of choices.
I play with holidays, even in my chosen way of life. I adapt them to fit what I want them to fit and act on them accordingly. One day, I'll write more about that. (And probably piss off some Thai uber-traditionalist who will disapprove but that's a risk I'll take.)
Since coming to the realization that I can choose, my life has improved beyond all of my own desires. I can wish others "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" with a high degree of sincerity because I choose to honor all ways of life. I can even pluck out a thing or two that I like about it. I really enjoy the music of Christmas. "O Holy Night" makes me cry. ( Click here to hear the one that reduces a usually stoic Chani to a pile of wet cheeked, running nose, blubbering. :)
My main point is that recognizing that I have choice widens and expands my world. There's no longer a need to try to cram myself into a box someone or something else constructed and then feel diminished because we can't help it when critical parts of our being fall out the sides.
I wish for everyone that choices will become clear, that the knowledge necessary to make a choice that fits will appear effortlessly and that your life will be enriched by your choice.
For those who have consciously chosen a way of life that is not working out and is leaving you feeling diminished, I wish you peace.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
I'm finding that I don't have much to say lately.
Believe it or not, I spent last night reading "The Purpose-Driven Life" which although a thoroughly Christian book, includes many universal principles as well and emphasizes that we all have a reason for being here. It presents a formula for finding it based on Biblical principles. It was quite popular a few years back and I bought it at that time. It's been gathering dust on my bookshelf after both of my house mates read it. I didn't touch it until recently.
If I were to say that Christian thought has brought nothing to my life, I would be lying. The fact is that I've gotten much value from it. One of the greatest things is the entire concept of universal principles and the fact that there is something to learn from everything.
One day while musing with Pastor Jones, someone with whom I have a casual friendship (which means I love shooting the breeze with him about religion) he gave me a website that is supposed to help us discover our individual spiritual gifts.
It was an interesting little test which told me that I am a teacher and an exhorter. The questions can be answered in any context. Since I am not an evangelical Christian, I answered them in the context of my political and cultural viewpoints. The descriptions of the gifts sounded on-target.
(If you want to take the test, click on "website" rather than my link in the last paragraph which are general descriptions.)
One of the things I've been feeling strongly lately is that I don't have much purpose. It's like I'm waiting, waiting, waiting. I can't get past the feeling that my life will begin when I get to Thailand. I have a need to be around likeminded others where I can share a common worldview and use my talents to contribute to that. That is how I get my reinforcement and we are better prepared to act when we have reinforcement.
I feel rather empty and useless here. One day passes after another and each one is the same. I'm bored with myself and with my existence which is why I don't seem to have as much to say here. I've spilled the contents of my philosophical repertoire, have made the points I can make in what often feels like a "foreign" environment. (I say that advisedly, only to indicate that my worldview is very different from the environment where I am living.) It feels as though I am not growing very much because we grow by experience, not just sitting around.
And that frustrates me horribly. Sometimes it even begins to depress me because I do want to be contributing something. It seems these days that I am only coasting and that's a rather hollow way to live.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Earlier tonight, I was sitting here making up memes. I do this rather frequently actually but would never put them out as such. They are just thoughts that pass through my mind but I recognize that many of them would not be appropriate for blogs. I tend to dig all the way to the roots of things and my "memes" are very challenging that way.
However, anything I do put out, feel free to steal it if you like.. and write about it on your site.
It occurs to me that most of us have one fundamental belief, something we cling to, something that makes the world make sense. It keeps us going through all the craziness, all the tragedy, all the inconsistencies and all the experiences of ourselves and others.
For me, it is the belief that people are inherently good. This is immutable. It can't be changed because without the possibility of redemption, the world makes no sense at all. If we weren't good, we wouldn't be redeemable.
So what is the belief that keeps you sane?
Monday, December 10, 2007
I am knee-deep in a book. That is probably where I will remain the rest of the day. "A Christmas Carol" is on TV. (Yeah, so... stop laughing. It's rude. I like the symbolism. )
It's Just Posts Day. Check them out. There's certainly something far more interesting there than here. :)
Will someone let me know if there's something wrong with this? Is Blogger down? This post has been sitting here inactive for five hours.
Friday, December 07, 2007
Okay. I admit it. I don't play well with others.
That isn't to say I am obnoxious or mean. It doesn't imply that I am not cooperative. I am probably overly cooperative.
But I simply can not bring myself to go along with something, just because someone somewhere wants me to do so.
I have to believe it. I have to feel it. It has to mean something to me.
And yet this comes in conflict to a degree with what a good and trusted friend called "doing what's right for the community."
I am willing to follow rules. In fact, I like rules. I like rules because they enhance harmony. If we all know what is expected of us, it's much easier to get along. Rules free us from too much frivolous choice-making that interferes with getting to the heart of any matter, getting to the important stuff.
Where I part company apparently is with group activities. They've never appealed to me because there's something about groupthink and group dynamics that just. leave. me. cold.
Where is this incomprehensible tirade coming from?
It comes from a discussion I have been having via email with Ajahn S about holidays.
I hate to think I might be a cultural dissident, even in the culture I chose, the one I value so highly that I turned my life inside out to be a part of it, but it seems that some inherent personality traits are more powerful than my commitment to fitting in. I've been extraordinarily lucky in fitting in to that culture. It seems to have happened by some power beyond me. That is how natural it seems. I love that way of life. At the same time, I can't bring myself to engage in ritual that doesn't feed my soul. That is especially true when I can't see how it is feeding anyone's soul.
Maybe I am too cynical. Maybe I'm too analytical. Maybe I'm just a royal pain in the ass.
The truth is that holidays simply don't speak to me on a personal level. Not here. Not there.
S. believes that sometimes we have to do what's best for the community, even if we don't really want to do it. I believe that. There are many cases where the community comes before the individual. In that, I am totally committed to not doing anything that harms community.
Yet when it comes to group celebration, I find it exceedingly easy to say no, to walk away and to ignore it. Completely. Not in a hostile "this is stupid" kind of way but simply in a "this doesn't interest me" way. I will admit honestly that I lose no sleep over this.
I don't see this as harmful to community in any way. No one is going to go to bed hungry or sleep on the street because Chani doesn't care about group celebrations. No one is going to be hurt because I don't care.
S. is implying or perhaps just suggesting (kindly, of course) that it is self-indulgent on my part to hold this view.
I would be curious to hear what others think. Honesty or self-indulgence? (I won't be offended by either answer.)
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
I've been wanting to address this particular topic for a while but wasn't quite sure how to do it. Most people who read here are fairly tolerant of my being an open cultural dissident but I haven't previously gored too many sacred cows.
The supposed "work ethic" is one I've wanted to gore for a long time. Each time I've started to do so, the post gets far too long because these things develop historically. Then they are shaped socially. They don't come out of a vacuum. The posts ended up reading like a sociology white paper and that isn't what I want to do here. At the same time, it is worthy to examine this because it is hurting families and communities.
So.. briefly, here's the history:
Most societies prior to The Reformation didn't have a work ethic - which isn't to say they didn't work. They worked to get the food and goods they needed to live. Sometimes they worked three days in a week, sometimes four days, sometimes seven. Once their basic needs were satisfied, they spent their time doing other things that mattered to them. They spent time with their families or engaged in community activities.
In order for capitalism to thrive, that way of life needed to end. Protestant religious leaders such as Calvin and Luther made work a calling. It was considered a way of serving God. The more you did, the more God would favor you. So creating profit became a virtue.
The more money someone made, the more he or she would be considered as receiving favor from God. In other words, God likes rich folks better than poor folks. (This is where prosperity theology which I mentioned yesterday originated.)
Since societies are generally more secular now, there isn't quite the same emphasis on working for God. Instead, it is considered a sign of "good character" and "success" is defined by the amount of money one has and the power he or she exerts over other people. This idea is consistently pushed by business people, religious leaders, corporations, politicians and teachers.
The social values that follow are that those who work hard must have good character. Those who are poor must have bad character because they are unable to work hard and take advantage of opportunities.
So that is the core of the legitimization of a whole status system as being based on individual effort rather than class or social structure.
The truth is that it is a complete myth.
For one thing, it assumes there is a "level playing field" and that everyone has the same access to education and opportunities. The truth is that most poor people don't "make it". Real wages are going down because of all the unnecessary work that is being done and most people are treadmilling their way through life without anything necessarily satisfying to show for it at the end. Fairness is also a myth. People can work hard all their lives and still be poor at the end.
Still the ideology, the values and the culture of the work ethic continues on. It doesn't continue by accident or through momentum. It is actively promoted.
Schools are, of course, the first place the indoctrination begins. Classes are fashioned after work places where children are taught to work hard, to show up on time and to do what their teachers tell them. They are a place where there are bosses (teachers) and workers, where time is structured and activities disciplined. There's been quite a bit of talk about the amount of homework children are required to do, getting them to work even when they are away from school and at home is part of pushing the work ethic. Creativity and talent are often sacrificed for this regimentation.
The most destructive means of promoting the work ethic is through the negative attitude toward people on welfare or disability. And this is something that goes on in all cultural media. The media love to denigrate the unemployed. Newspapers and television programs include stories about 'people on the dole' who don't want to work and who are just enjoying themselves at the taxpayers' expense. This is all part of the strategy of blaming unemployed people for their own situation, by saying 'Well it's because they don't want to work', rather than acknowledging that there isn't enough work for everyone.
That is not to mention unemployment income and disability income, both of which are notoriously low. Interestingly (or not), disability income is just a bit higher because it is perceived that those who are disabled are not at "fault" for their inability to work. On a personal note, I can tell you that I am now living on one quarter of what I earned when I was working. I worked in the Information Technology field making in the $40-50K a year range. I now live on less than $15K a year.
Honestly, it benefits employers to have the unemployed. It allows employers to set up a horrid system of competition where small groups of people must dogpile each other for one job opportunity. This system allows employers to keep wages low. Just in case people might find alternative lifestyles, manage to live on less income, not be desperate for work, and not provide an army of reserve labor competing for the jobs, the propaganda system plods on. Once welfare was introduced after the Second World War there has been a policy of making welfare as unattractive as possible: by not paying people very much, by always searching for those who might exploit the system, by having work tests, by stigmatizing the unemployed through the media, so that they don't have any self respect and feel worthless because the work ethic says that your worth is totally based on the work you do and your income.
There's not enough room left on my template to even bother talking about how consumerism perpetuates this whole cycle.
This is the point: With people living lives that are so dominated by their work, they don't have time to do the things that make people happy; spending time on relationships, with friends and family or pursuing their talents. Many people don't even have time to sleep well and their health suffers. Levels of stress are increasing, suicide is increasing as well as escalating levels of depression, and meanwhile it goes on, producing more and more in order to keep people in jobs, when all the extra production is only creating more and more unhappiness and dissatisfaction.
But very few get off the treadmill. No one wants to be unemployed because the unemployed are denigrated and the income so low. So, while at one point in history the work ethic may have been useful in raising living standards, it has run its course. We need to look for other, more humane, organizing principles for our societies.
We humans have lots of qualities other than the ones needed to work and make products. And those qualities have been far too long neglected.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Some of you may have been wondering where this month's "Accentuate the Positive" has gone.
Truthfully, it died a quiet death.
Two practical reasons and one more philosophical.
1) I didn't get any response when I mentioned it last week. No one submitted anything. I mean... nothing.
2) The few things that came in from Blog Carnival were in my opinion, one step above blog spam, the equivalent of prosperity theology which I am not willing to support on this site. That's a judgment call on my part and a decision I made based on the kind of values I want to support on this site.
3) Possibly the most important one is that I am not a "leader" type personality. I am not willing to promote, pursue or try to motivate others to do any given thing. I would have been a terrible missionary.
Contributing to the other forums out there is ok with me. I'm happy to contribute posts to Julie's Roundtable or Just Posts and don't have the need to have my own forum.
Don't get me wrong. Accentuating the positive is certainly important and if someone else decides to run with it, I will contribute. It's simply not my nature to do what is necessary to keep it going here.
I believe we come to this earth with different personal styles and gifts. Some of us are leaders. Some of us are followers. Some of us are in between. I fall into the latter category. I follow the things I choose to follow and ignore the rest. There's nothing I feel particularly compelled to follow. My choices are based on the overall philosophy promoted in any particular action. There has to be commonality between my ethics and values and those someone is trying to promote. I'm very political that way. I don't go along to get along when it comes to my most dearly held beliefs and values. That, like anything else, can have both a positive and negative application. On the good side, I'm right there to support someone whose views I believe have a good influence in the world. On the negative side, I can be a bit judgmental.
There's a time I would have taken this entirely differently. I would have believed it was all my fault, that no one takes me seriously, that it's just more evidence that I am not "good enough". It would have been a personal blow. I would have taken it totally personally and would have tortured myself for weeks to come.
Thank goodness I don't live in that Awful Place anymore. That kind of self-absorption is a real energy drain.
There are different characteristics and talents we are given when we come to this life, all of them valid and good. The healthiest and best way to look at it is that we don't "fail". We just discover the traits and characteristics that are part of our personal tool chest and what is needed for our personal paths. While I may not be a "leader", I am influential to a degree in a less dynamic way. The most important thing to know is that we all come with the exact tools we need to fulfill our own destinies. There is no judgment attached to that in that one tool does not have more inherent value than another tool, although corporate propaganda would certainly disagree. The value becomes an issue only in how we choose to use our tools.
What I can and will do is continue to use this site to create positivity through the discussion of certain values and ethics, a way of life, with my own writing and contributions on other sites.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
When I came back from Thailand, one of the things I realized is that I would need a refuge. My own sacred space. It would be the place that would allow me to shut out the rest of the world and feel at home. This is something we all need. I believe that.
The world can be overwhelming, especially for someone like me who treasures peace and quiet. Sometimes the lights are too bright outside. The noises are too loud. People are too aggressive. I feel battered and bruised. I need a space that surrounds me like a cocoon. A womb.
My living space is small. A granny unit. I had to figure out how I could create that, given my limited space. It started small. An item here and there. A silk throw. Pillows. I filled my space with Thai decorative items, Thai furniture. I cook with Thai cookware, imported. (Thank you, eBay!) My flatware is Thai.
So. I'm obsessed. I admit it. I'm committed. Or perhaps I should be but I am in awesome love with my spirit's home.
Seriously though, this is what keeps me grounded. My little sacred space with the things that sooth me all around.
Please tell me about your sacred space.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
After writing yesterday's post and reading the comments, one of them got me thinking.
Flutter asked at what point we stop wanting our parents to be what we want them to be.
For me, that was a long road. I honestly believe that one of the things we all need in this life is a path. We need guidance. We need a faith. Regardless of what we may choose to call it, we all put our faith in something, usually something bigger than us. When we are in touch with that, we have a greater understanding of our own fallibility.
I no longer need Helene to be what I want her to be. The reality is that she came to this life with her own path, just as I came with mine. Whatever we had to learn from each other has been done and I feel "clean" about leaving that relationship behind. We are done. And that's okay.
For any survivor of child abuse, I suspect there's a period of time when we need to blame our parents. All of our personal shortcomings and failures are put on their doorsteps. The anger is normal and natural. The truth is that Helene had me for 18 years but I've had me for 38 years. At this point, I am responsible for my own shortcomings and my own failures. I am also responsible for the good stuff.
There's a point when we grow up and realize that those people who raised us were fallible human beings. They are people who had children at a young age and most of us, if we look back truthfully, can only guess what we might have done at the age of 19 or 20.
Helene was 20 years old when she had me. She has her own karma and her own woundedness. The worst years of the abuse would have had her between 25-40 years old. From my vantage point now, she was a kid herself. Like me, she has created her own reality. I would say that having a husband who committed suicide and a daughter who will not associate with her is punishment enough. (Not that I am exacting punishment. I wouldn't wish that on that on anyone!)
But the reality is that in order for me to be alright, I can not be around someone who diminishes me. Maybe I'm not that strong. I would rather surround myself with people who are positive, uplifting and content enough with themselves that they don't require another human being as an emotional punching bag.
We reap what we sow. And I long ago came to the conclusion that the mistakes she made are not mine to judge. That's for a much Higher Court than any I will preside over.
What I can do is keep a close watch on what I do, what I believe, how I treat others. Because that's my path.