Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Financial Smackdown?

I can't help but wonder this.

It was surprising yesterday to hear that the Bail Out package failed. My first question when I hear about these things is "how will this affect working people and poor people?" That's my primary concern. People complaining about having to pay more taxes makes no sense. People who will be affected by losing their pensions, their homes and their investments is a much bigger issue than my wallet - or yours. People who will lose their jobs, the prices that will raise by a few orders of magnitude by inflation, the "trickle down" effect of this is huge! But this is part of living in a community. Mutual responsibility for each other.

So... I supported it on that basis. It's not a partisan issue. I don't belong to any political party. It's a human issue. And, yes, it's rearranging chairs on the Titanic but it's at least a step toward preventing economic catastrophe.

Later when I thought about the failure and viewed it as a failure of culture rather than a political failure only, something even larger came to mind.

Perhaps there is major change on the horizon. If there is an economic meltdown, community will be essential. Depending on each other will be essential. The culture will have to shift in its values and way of life.

It doesn't seem the lessons were learned after Katrina. Lessons weren't learned after Gustav. Lessons weren't learned by other catastrophic events that have occurred over the past few years. It always goes back to "business as usual" without substantial change.

I'm not saying this is punishment. I don't believe that for a minute and I'm not one of those Pat Robertson types who thinks the Apocalypse is coming. The world isn't going to end tomorrow. That kind of fearmongering nonsense is just an energy sinkhole.

This is about money. And attitudes about money. Value placed on money.

It's just money. At least on the surface.

But what if this is a much larger lesson? Have you ever considered that? How would you live if you didn't have "stuff" and money to depend on? What if neighbors had to depend on each other for sustenance? What if we had to give up the idea that we are independent and autonomous in all things?

What if we all needed each other? What would change?

Now.. at the risk of pissing nearly everyone off, I'll hit "publish".


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sacred Life Sunday: Spirits in the Material World

Charles Eisenstein wrote an interesting blog post that brought me out of the woodwork because he wrote about something I relate to so strongly. I felt the need to talk about it.

He writes about how inept he feels in the material world, that he never seems to have much interest in building things, shaping things and controlling things. He mentions being extremely thin and even having an appearance of being separate from the material world.

I have always felt that way, too. The only difference between us, as I commented to him, is that he is extremely thin and I built a wall of fat instead ~ to protect myself from the onslaught of what he calls "the wreckage from civilization and culture".

The fat feels like a buffer and I suspect that is why all of my attempts to lose it have failed. All the diets, all the exercise and all the efforts to "will" it away haven't worked.

For some time now, I've suspected the fat was a protection. In fact, I've even written about it here. Kim Chernin has written books about it. It's not my original idea.

Still, this issue hasn't resolved because I have yet to come completely to terms with being a very spiritual person in what often feels like an overly-material world. I don't know how I would respond without the fat to protect me.

It's caused me to retreat into a very small world, one I control tightly. Even at that, the leakage comes in through the cracks in the wall. No wall is strong enough.

And I'm not sure it should be.

Retreating really doesn't work any more. I'm finding a need to be among others, to develop a more balanced attitude toward all of this, even with the knowledge that I will always live in my head and in jai - the heart. It is said that jai is the sixth sense that controls all the others and I believe that's true.

As I step out a little bit, I'm beginning to find some refuge with others. They're tucked away in little housing developments and condominium complexes, in apartments in the corners, far from the main street, sometimes in their converted garages, insulated from wide public view. They have unlisted phone numbers that are passed from hand-to-hand.

I went to such a place Friday night - which is something I will eventually blog about - but not now.

I don't know that I will ever come to terms with the material world in the way Charles Eisenstein talks about. No survivalist will ever live in this body. The very idea repels me, the idea of shaping and pounding the world into my image. Things are free here and I honor their spirit. There are no spiders killed, no building things and turning them into my personal convenience items. I have no interest in finding more and more "things" to make my life "easier".

I want to gather some things that will remind me, that will serve as symbols of my ultimate objective, which is to develop spiritually to a degree that I will be one of those hidden in a small apartment, far from the main street - and whose phone number will be passed hand-to-hand. I will do all I can to help others develop spiritually as well.

The fat will take care of itself.


Just a note: Thank you so much for all the wonderful comments to my last post. Reading about the things that make all of you happy brought a smile to my world when I needed it.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Other People's Choices...

Sometimes it's difficult to understand other people's choices.

I wrote here a while back about my neighbors who have a .. um... contentious relationship. Out of a sound sleep, I was awakened Wednesday night to crashing, banging and squealing coming from their apartment. Literally, I've never heard another human being squeal the way M can. She sounded like she was being gutted.

This was after a steady 2 hours of screeching and hollering in the afternoon.

Within ten minutes, I heard three loud bangs on their door. It was bad enough that a passing police officer was pounding on their door.

Without going into needless detail, she left in her car and S was taken to jail. It was around 1.00 a.m. We got back to sleep here around 3.00 a.m.

And yesterday they were both back in there like nothing happened at all. But they were quiet.

Wednesday was not a good day for me anyway. Again, I don't need to go into detail. I'll simply say it was horrible. For a variety of reasons. It was a dark place I thought I'd grown beyond.

Yesterday was a recovery day. I couldn't think clearly or concentrate on anything. Mostly, I took naps and stared mindlessly at the TV. Reading was impossible because my mind kept skipping beats.

In the afternoon, my housemate and her son were screaming and yelling at each other.

And I came to realize something.

I'm getting old.

And I'm sick and bloody tired of hearing other people's anger. I don't want to hear their yelling or their emotional outbursts. When all else is stripped away, they're usually ticked off because they can't control someone else.

Newsflash: We don't get to control other people!

I'm feeling the pull of somewhere else, another setting. It's not even necessarily Thailand but definitely someplace rural, someplace quiet, someplace where the dark underside of humanity will be hidden for a while. Someplace with a flowing stream. And trees. I want to spend some time where people at least have a basic level of contentment. Because the truth is that as long as we have food, water, a place to stay and someone who cares whether we live or die, we don't have much right to be so chronically dissatisfied.

I want to be someplace where there is some distance from the constant craving, grasping, competition and unhappiness because of ego. I want some peace.

I'm still not well today... but better.

Thanks for reading. I don't even know why I'm posting this crap. I'm sure it's of no interest, as Phil Ochs wrote, "outside of a small circle of friends".

Tell me something positive. Tell me something you're happy about. Tell me why your life is good.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wellness Wednesday: Nature Walking in Urbania

In short, I don't believe we have to buy products to be physically fit. I believe lots of marketing critters would like us to believe it though. This does a real disservice to low-income people who might actually believe they can't have good physical health because they can't "afford" it.

Sorry. Ain't buying it ~ figuratively or literally.

As long as we have arms and legs, we can exercise free. There's no need for gyms, gimmicks or "special programs". You don't need special clothes. You don't need Jenny Craig or Nutri-System. You don't need Curves. It is, as someone said, "a big bowl of wrong"! Physical fitness is relatively simple. Move. That's all there is to it. Eat less. Move around.

I believe this strongly which is why my purchase this morning surprised even me.

While walking, it's nice to have something to listen to besides other people's car radios (especially those jerks who honestly believe we want to hear their bass a mile away), trucks, sirens and other urban sounds. So... I bought a portable MP3 player. I looked at a variety of them. I even looked at iPods but there's no way I am willing to spend that kind of money for something so frivolous. As long as there are other people who need food and water, I can't justify that kind of expense for something so completely unnecessary. Even spending $80.00 on a player is a stretch but at least I can justify it a little bit.

The MP3 player isn't for music. Truth told, music isn't all that interesting ~ but I discovered that the soul series on Oprah's website which features many inspirational speakers and even the TED talks can be downloaded in MP3 format. Listening to inspirational speaking is something I've always liked. That's probably why I am a talk radio fan as well. There are just some fascinating people on this planet and I want to hear what they have to say.

Coast to Coast radio also offers MP3 downloads of the nightly show. Since I often fall asleep in the middle of it, it will be a pleasure to listen to it during the day.

I'm also going to download nature sounds on it. There are no birds chirping or crickets here in the 'hood. This area is mostly concrete and strip malls. Sometimes I would like to hear birds, small animals, wind, rain or even the ocean.

I know this device is certainly not necessary for health and well-being. It's strictly a luxury - but sometimes that needs to be okay, too. If it keeps my feet moving, I'll give it a try.


Just for today, I can also be found here, as if you don't get enough of me already!


I'm hanging out here today. Please come by and visit. All are invited. :)


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sacred Life Sunday: What Happens When We Die....

For some reason, I have never experienced anything remotely close to fear of death. Sure, I have feared lingering illness, but not transition itself. It never occurred to me to be afraid.

Yet I couldn't have provided a picture of what the afterlife looked like, if challenged. I just knew there was one. It didn't concern me much. There was something at the inner core that knew when it was time, when I was done here, it would be time to go back where I came from.

In fact, honestly, I've never felt as though I belong here. Of course I do.. or I wouldn't be here.. but that's my way of saying that I feel like an observer more than a participant. The antics of Samsara often leave me feeling very odd - like watching a movie in a foreign language with poorly-written subtitles. The veil between the spirit world and this one is apparently fairly thin for me.

Last night I listened to a radio show about the afterlife. The man who was being interviewed has written a book claiming to provide scientific evidence that an afterlife exists. Clearly, in my opinion, he was trying to appeal to western minds that prefer scientific evidence of everything - but this is something that can't be proven. It's a matter of faith.

I believe we go somewhere familiar, that we have a complete understanding of what earthly (and otherworldly) life is all about, why we are here, the significance of this incarnation and the purpose of the next one. I do believe in a multiverse, that there is life that may or may not be similar to ours in other dimensions.

It just makes sense.

For a long time, I didn't believe we would recognize people from the past. The idea seemed rather absurd. It just makes no sense. While I try to keep an open mind, it's a hard one to grasp. It doesn't fit in with the process of reincarnation. If reincarnation exists, then those souls we know who have passed on have also moved on to other incarnations.

However, now I do believe that spirits can manifest as they choose and might imitate people known to us so that the newly arriving spirit won't be frightened. Remember that scene in the movie "Contact", as an example? For those who didn't believe or never thought about it, the whole process of transition would likely be rather frightening.

Some spirits don't realize they're dead and continue hanging around on earth for a while. Those are people who have died suddenly, violently or by suicide. That would explain poltergeists and other apparitions. Sometimes they don't know where to go. They need to be guided.

I believe we can be visited by spirits from the Other Side. In fact, I've had a visitation as I wrote about here some time back. My father visited me after his suicide. I don't believe he'd completely crossed over at that point but was looking for a way.

The purpose of all this rambling is to say that I believe death is just as sacred as life. It's not something to fear. It is a homecoming, a resolution and a completion. It's a graduation from one state of being to another.

I'd be interested in reading what you believe about the afterlife.


Friday, September 19, 2008

What in the world are they thinking????

What would make people choose to protest outside the home of a homicide suspect?

This morning I've been watching the news and there have been several reports of physical confrontations in front of Casey Anthony's parents' house in Orlando. Casey Anthony, for those who have been living in a cave, is the woman whose daughter, Caylee, has been missing for a very long time and she continually lies about what happened. The little girl hasn't been found yet.

Granted, it's tragic and the case is sickening. Casey Anthony is disgusting. But protesting in front of her house? Blocking the streets? Harassing her parents? Bothering all the neighbors who have nothing to do with the case? The verbal violence has been escalating over the past several days and now police are concerned about people bringing weapons.

Do these people honestly believe Casey Anthony will come out and say "Ok, guys. You're right. I should tell the truth. I've been really stupid and I'll come clean now. I've seen the light."

The real point is that I can understand protesting political policies or even protesting in front of a business that has been unfair in its practices somehow. I can see protesting for a cause, for raising consciousness, for bringing something to the attention of the public so that we can take action. Protesting has a place in a healthy society. Any society.

This is simply voyeurism at its worst. The people who are gathering there are reducing a very tragic case to little more than an opportunity for entertainment. There have been reports of people showing up, carrying signs, drinking beer and yelling.

I've been watching this case on the news and I'll admit it: I think Casey Anthony is probably guilty of murder. No. Wrong. No qualifiers. I think she is guilty of murder.

At the same time, this kind of circus is a blatant display of public stupidity. It contributes absolutely nothing in the effort to investigate and ultimately prosecute the case. What in the world would compel people to behave that way?

Those people hanging around the front of her parents' house need to go do something worthwhile. Perhaps they could work for Obama's campaign (although I doubt that is their political persuasion), do some volunteer work for missing children, join the search team - something - anything - but this!



Thursday, September 18, 2008


Well, no more memes for me!

Yesterday I discovered something interesting. I spent most of the day on my sobriety support list, talking with people, encouraging them in newly found sobriety, talking about things that matter to all of us.

As usual, I'm the dissident of the group because my views and outlooks are very different than the standard - yet we are growing into an understanding and acceptance of each other. We have a weekly conference call and are starting a mid-week call today. It's helping me to balance out my thinking - to be more accepting and I hope it's doing the same for the people I talk with. It seems to be.

What I've discovered is that I am really pretty good in one-to-one conversations. I talked with three new people on the phone. It was rather delightful and we discovered commonalities among our differences. We talked about all sorts of topics, not just addiction. We talked about books and jobs and cultures and ex-husbands and a whole range of things from the mundane to the esoteric.

In the end, we're all just people. No matter what culture we align to, no matter what language we speak, secular or spiritual, we're very much the same. We have quirks and characteristics. We all have our triggers and mine was tripped yesterday, both in the group and on this site. In the group, we work through those things together in an encouraging and positive way. We all want to be valued and loved. We all want to share things in common.

I think I'm better at that in a one-on-one fashion than I am here. Yesterday I got my first real glimpse of that and it's something I'm still working through.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Steal this Meme... Politics

FranIAm, a blogger I've recently discovered, offers up this meme. Please be sure to read hers, too! And feel free to steal it and let me know if you decide to do it so I can link you here. It includes seven political questions for Obama supporters.

1) What is your name (nickname, whatever you're comfortable sharing), your age (range), gender, occupation, income bracket (range), how you identify (gay/straight/whatever)? Married/Single/Divorced? Kids (how many)?

Chani, 56 yo, female. The rest of it is irrelevant. Hopefully my ideas will have some merit, regardless of my position on the social grid.

2) What are the most important issues to you in this presidential election and why?

Foreign policy, education, health care and economic equality. They are most important because I believe any country is only as civilized as the way it treats all its citizens. I also consider it very important to know how that country will behave in relation to the rest of the world.

3) Why do you think voters should vote for Obama/Biden, what differentiates this ticket from McCain/Palin?

Basically the truth of the matter is that there's only a hair's difference in packaging between the two of them. They are all wealthy people who will protect their own class interests. At the same time, I do think of Obama as being a Kennedy-like Democrat who does consider economic equality to be important. His voting record substantiates that. He can inspire with his words and ideas. He is someone who can impact the culture by changing thinking. He will be a softening influence who may begin to smooth some of the rough edges of US culture.

Ultimately, I think the senatorial and congressional elections are probably more important than the presidential election.

4) If McCain/Palin wins this election, where do you see our country going in the next four years?

I don't think it will be a "disaster". I'm not usually given to that kind of hyperbole - but definitely don't think there will be any positive change. If McCain's actions over the past several years are any indication, he will engage in a very dangerous foreign policy. Anyone who can joke about bombing other countries is not someone who is in touch with reality.

Sarah Palin is particularly scary. She, in my opinion, completely lacks compassion for all living beings. She's as hard as stone, seems mean-spirited and I have the feeling she would be the object of many, many scandals. She would be an embarrassment on the world "stage".

I shudder to think of any Supreme Court justices they might appoint.

5) Economically, where do you think this country is today and how do you think Obama/Biden can make a positive impact?

I think this country has become economically predatory. There seems to be little concern for the well-being of people in other countries or the more vulnerable in this country. The elite here have more money in their banquet budgets than most people earn in a lifetime.

Capitalism, by its very nature, is predatory. It's okay for non-essential items because it does encourage creativity but when the right to education, health care, jobs and housing are a competitive sport, something is wrong. Seriously wrong.

6) In the past 8-years, how do you think this country has changed under the Bush regime? Have you been affected by these changes? If so, in what ways?

I haven't been that affected but that doesn't matter. If any of us are affected, all of us are affected. I've seen people all over the world who have been impacted - whether it's by corporate irresponsibility, the export of market culture to other parts of the world or irresponsible military action, it all comes down to the same thing: The US has become a bully nation. There are many countries in the world that are terrified of this one... with just cause.

The cultural changes during the Bush Administration are really an extension of the Reagan years. Greed is good. Prejudice is acceptable. Social Darwinism. That all started in the 80s.

At least Reagan had a personality. He was a kind of affable "guy next door", if not terribly bright. I can't say the same for the Borg-like Bush administration and certainly can't say that for GWB, whom I consider to be a complete buffoon.

7) I have read that Palin is considered the new voice of feminism, which is offensive in my opinion. Of equal concern are her views on abortion and the removal of books from libraries. I'd like to know what you think about all of that and how you feel about McCain choosing Palin as a running mate. And what kind of message you think that sends to women?

If Palin is the new voice of feminism, Gloria Steinem must be wretching and Betty Freidan must be flipping in her grave! There is nothing "feminine" about Sarah Palin. She has used the label of feminism to justify her own raw ambition and as an excuse to adopt all the worst attributes of masculinity. Feminism is all about honoring the feminine, the nurturer, the hearth tender. It's about women, not about women behaving like men.

Honestly, I don't think McCain realizes what he's gotten himself into with her. He's not the sharpest tool in the shed. If he had been, he would have realized that she is far too aggressive, far too bombastic, far too unappealing to really do his campaign any good. If I'd been his campaign manager, I would have talked him out of it. It was a short-sighted and rather idiotic move. While the novelty of it may last for a while, the newness will wear off and people will see it for the transparent move it is.

If McCain/Palin uphold the Patriot Act, they don't need to do anything else regarding the other issues. Since 9/11, this has become a national security state with the domestic intelligence agencies (such as the FBI and NSA) having the power to violate the Constitution at will. In the name of national security, the CIA and other intelligence services continue to violate the sovereignty of other nations.


Monday, September 15, 2008

When to speak up and when to back off....

Yesterday, shortly after I posted, something very disturbing happened in my environment. Please be aware before reading this that there is some disturbing dialogue.

As I sat here at the computer, I heard some crashing and banging noises in the apartment next to mine. It's a small studio and a man and woman live there together. The guy is an abuser. I've known that for a long time. I've heard his yelling and badgering before. In fact, I've had a few interactions with him myself over other issues. I yelled right back and he backed down.

Yesterday was more disturbing though because, as far as I'm concerned, I heard a rape in progress.

I was drawn to the hallway because of the crashing and banging. I heard his voice coming through the door.

"Why? I want you to tell me why!"

(muffled female sounds)

"You are a useless m---f-----! Everything you do is an embarrassment to me! And now you won't even do what you're good at? I want you to tell me why!"

"I love you. I'm sorry."

"I love you. I'm sorry," he repeated in a mocking tone. "That's no answer! I want an answer!"

"I don't know. I'm tired. I've been working...."

"Oh, yeah! At Walmart! You're really something special, aren't you? Is that all you plan to do with your life? If it wasn't for you dragging me down, I could be so much more! And you say you love me? Bullshit, you m----- f-------!"

(muffled female voice)

"Well, you'll give me what I want now or I'll go find someone who will! Today!"

There were some other things said. I moved out of the hallway because I really couldn't stand it anymore.

It made me cry. I couldn't fathom, in the deepest part of me, how any woman would allow herself to be treated that way.

I'm a peaceful person but will admit that I am not known for taking crap from anyone. If a man spoke to me that way, he'd be out so fast his head would fall off. He'd be walking like he just got off a horse for a very, very long time. I don't play around. I've never tolerated verbal or physical violence from anyone and never will.

So obviously I can't understand her. At all.

Yet I gave serious thought to my obligations to her - as her neighbor and as another woman.

My instinct was to call the police. My further instinct was to go to her place of work and let her know that I'm paying attention and that if she needs help, she can yell through the wall for me.

I'm fairly familiar with the dynamics of domestic violence but I'm no expert.

So I ask... what would you do in similar circumstances?


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sacred Life Sunday: Leave it lay where Jesus flung it

This morning, I woke up, rolled over and turned the radio on. The first sound I heard was the lovely voice of a 70+ year old woman, a former philosophy professor, talking about how she finds meaning in that decade of her life ~ especially now as a widow living alone.

"Taking out the garbage for a neighbor is more important than writing an article," she said. Of course that was not the sum of her message. The message she was trying to get across is that the little kindnesses matter most.

We all know that. I know we do. It's not like it's an original or profound thought but it's worth hearing every now and then, just to know for certain that it hasn't been forgotten.

When she was done, I came out of the bedroom, went to the coffee pot and came here to the computer. A long running thread on one of my email lists was all about "getting it done", producing, having task lists and then the inevitable praise emails coming through, telling each other how wonderful they are for "doing" so much.

You know, I try to keep in mind that everyone has different priorities - and it's not my job to judge it or make it right or wrong. It's where they are. Who am I to tell them it should be any different? And would it make any difference if I did? As the old saying goes, move on .... leave it lay where Jesus flung it. The universe is providing me with lots of "don't judge" lessons lately.

This is a big one for me. Not judging. As a cultural dissident, I have to judge. As a Buddhist, I can't judge.

So .. I can safely speak to the purely feeling level... the thread depressed me. It made me want to cry. I wanted to go back to bed. Perhaps if I turned the radio on, that lovely woman with the lovely voice would still be talking. She sounded so grounded, so content, so wise. Everyone's WishFor Grandma. She's too young to be my grandma. Even a bit too young to be my mother. But she felt like Grandma. I wanted to rewind time, to have a few more minutes in her world.

But.. the radio show was already over. Time had moved past the moment.

Now I'm getting ready to go out for my morning walk. I'll probably stop by Starbuck's to pick up a green tea/lemonade drink to take with me. Maybe there will be someone there who needs to hear a "good morning". Maybe there will be someone there who looks like he or she could use a cup of coffee and I can buy it. I'll stick ten bucks in my pocket - just in case. Maybe there will be a peaceful sound in the breeze or a stray cat to pet. Maybe....

And it won't be a "task" to be "achieved". It won't be on a "to-do list" and it won't have a price tag on it. It's "being", not "doing" - and it has no assigned value on the Production/Possibility Curve.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Weekend: Just a Bunch of Random Stuff.....

Does anyone like the lampshade in that picture above? I used to hand make those in the 80s and still have a bunch of them around the house. Arthritis has taken over my fingers too much to make them now ~ but I certainly did like doing it.

How about that interview with Sarah Palin and Charlie Gibson? There's something to be said for research and a comprehensive understanding of world and domestic politics. She seems to lack both. She didn't know what "the Bush Doctrine" is! She can receive all the briefings in the world for now - but if she doesn't have a context to put it in, she'll just keep flubbing up.

Last night, a friend and I went to Chipotle for dinner. Not too impressive overall but the conversation was reasonably good. As usual, we talked about religion most of the evening. Even when we disagree, we're fairly good about staying balanced with it - and it's a welcome refuge to spend four or five hours with someone who shares my cultural point of view.

Chipotle though. We won't go again. In general, I don't like "order it here and pick it up over there" restaurants but especially didn't like that they asked my name when I ordered and then handed me a little flashing gadget that beeped loudly when my food was done. The food was okay but nothing exciting and I really didn't like that beeping thing - or being asked to identify myself in a fast food joint.


I like my anonymity.

It's finally cooling down! It was cool enough last night for a light jacket. Not being a hot weather person, this is my season coming up.

Now I have to order more clothes. It takes weeks for them to get here. Which card should I max out this time? Citibank or Wamu?

Okay. So all of this is totally random, irrelevant and insignificant flotsam. That happens sometimes. Even around here. :)

One more thing: Perhaps a bit sensitive but not intended to be offensive or confrontative. There are two of my favorite sites that I can no longer visit because of the page loads. Sure, I can rezd them in Google Reader but I can't comment - and there's just no pleasure in it without being able to comment. The loads are very, very slow and all the ads have to load in before I can see the text. The ads bounce and some of them are actual videos. I like y'all - but don't like being marketed to so aggressively. I want to read what you have to say but that's the operative phrase: what you have to say ~ so you might want to check your page load and make sure people can get in. If any of you want to know from me whether your page load is too long, leave a note and I will tell you privately. Thanks. :)

Hope everyone has a peaceful weekend.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

So, yeah... what if.... (No Sarah In This Post!)

Last night, I was laying in bed - listening to Coast to Coast in the weesmas. During the broadcast, there was some discussion of the CERN collider and the possible implications. Much of it was over my head scientifically - but my broad (and limited) understanding is that it has something to do with splitting particles even further than before. Some time earlier today, that was to have taken place.

It got me to thinking about John Lennon's old song, "Imagine". Yes, my mind does travel along some weird paths, particularly when I'm half asleep.

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people...

So let's imagine this experiment in particle splitting proves that this is all there is. Pure science. No God. No cosmic consciousness, nothing "out there". Our existence is purely random chance in a random universe. We exist simply because we exist. There is no higher purpose.

What do you think the world would look like?


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Compassion for those we don't like....

It's a hard one. Really.

For the past week or so, I've gotten lost in my own "dislike Sarah Palin very strongly" club. (I won't say hate because I don't hate her. I just disagree with her on the most fundamental things.) I've allowed her to become a focal point for everything I dislike in US culture. To listen to her speak sets my teeth off - particularly since she has a voice that could shatter glass. Like a cat being dragged through a knothole in the fence comes to mind. I mean - truly - I don't like the woman. I don't like what she stands for and I don't like who she chooses to be.

On the other hand, I struggle with that tendencu because she is a product of her environment, just like I am. Just like most of us are. It's unlikely that she stood before the mirror one day and made a conscious decision to be who she is. She didn't sculpt herself from raw clay. She is a product of her environment, her culture, her upbringing and her spiritual conditioning. So far in her life, it's worked for her so I doubt she's done a lot of serious self-examination or made a deliberate choice to be the way she is.

So.. where I'm going with this is that I am trying (really trying) to find a place of compassion for her, to ferret out the good in her so that I can stop feeling the way I do. It's toxic for me, toxic for my environment, toxic for all of us - when one of us chooses to so strongly dislike someone that it overrides our compassion and commitment to our own values.

I'm sure she loves her kids. I'm sure she, no matter how much I disagree with her, cares about her country. She's not Mugabe. She's not Milosevic. She's not Hitler. She's a (in my mind) misguided person with some really screwy values. I'm sure she cares about something I care about - although it would probably take hours and hours of conversation between us to find that one kernel of likemindedness. We'd both have to dig and we'd both have to make a strong effort. Looking at it objectively though, even if we were trapped on an elevator together with no other options for company, I don't think she'd like me all that much, either - so that conversation would probably not take place.

Not so deep within me, I know that my non-acceptance of her as a person is just the flipside of what I perceive she does herself. I'm so rooted in my own sense of righteousness that I can't make room for her or her thinking. I "other" her because it's safer and easier than trying to find any commonality.

I know that's not good. This isn't really about Sarah Palin, although she's an expedient example. It's about me. It's about everyone who finds themselves trapped in "othering" behavior.

So.. what do we do when we find someone who so perfectly exemplifies everything that we find distasteful?

I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on this.


As an aside, I found this link in someone's comments. It is one of the best articles I've seen yet on the topic of Sarah Palin. The comments attached to the article are good, too.


Saturday, September 06, 2008


I woke up to one virulent nastygram this morning! That happens on occasion here, especially when I state opinions about US politics. The "love it or leave it" folks come out of the woodwork.

The writer implied (again - it's getting dull) that as a cultural dissident in this country, I have no right to complain about politics. I've made it clear in the writer's mind that I "hate" this country and everything it stands for. There was all kinds of talk about loyalty, duty, patriotism and the fact that I have forfeited my right to say a word! He ended with "try doing and saying the things you do and say in your beloved Thailand. See where it will get you."

It was a long nastygram. Several hundred words. I'll give the writer this much: he was articulate. He didn't use a bunch of filthy language. Most of the nastygrams I get are written in all caps with really stupid grammatical errors. They're full of vulgarity. Usually they are unsigned. This guy signed his name and gave me his email address. For that reason alone, I will probably reply to him.

I try to appreciate the nastygrams as much as the praise. After all, it is someone taking the time to share an opinion with me and that in itself has value.

But let me address this "I have no right..." issue. I do have a right. For several reasons.

I live on this planet. At least for now. I may be getting old but haven't gone to the Other Side yet. What the US does affects the rest of the world. Look at any country in the world and tell me it's not impacted by activities, political and geopolitical, of the US. I will never fall back on the "I was born here" argument because I think it's cheesy and has no substance. The fact is that we are all stuck on this planet together, for better and for worse.
Secondly - and perhaps most importantly - my history has included all sorts of activities which I believe will make the US a better place for everyone - in the US and without. If I didn't care about American people, there are plenty of other things I could have done with my time. I could have gone shopping more, partied more and feathered my own nest for the past 30+ years. I could have used that energy to my benefit only. That would have been praised quite highly in this culture. After all, I would have been (as my macroeconomics instructor in college said) "looking out for my own self-interest and maximizing my own potential".


I've seen a lot of changes in the landscape over the past thirty years. From peaceful protests in the early 70s to protests now that are met with excessive police presence, arrests and violence. Watching the alternative press cover the protests in St Paul is very frightening. (I might add that there's been very little coverage in the mainstream press - including MS-NBC, CNN and, of course, Fox.) I've seen people bullied into sitting it out because they're afraid for their jobs, their families and their physical well-being. People are afraid of speaking their minds on email, on blogs, on talk radio shows and in the press. All of this in the name of "The Patriot Act" which, if you choose to take the time to read it, I guarantee it will scare the hell out of you.

I am not afraid to speak my mind. Maybe I just have nothing to lose and perhaps the fire in my belly is just too strong. These things matter to me. People matter to me. The idea of any nation putting dangerous policies into place and exporting them all over the world scares the hell out of me and I'm going to speak up about it. I've spoken up about Sarah Palin because I believe she would be a disaster for this country. In a higher position, she'd be a disaster for the world. Anyone who would say the war in Iraq is "God's will" and pressure a librarian in Wasalla to ban certain books, firing her when she wouldn't comply, is someone to fear. Look at the fact that she may have used her position to get her sister's ex-husband fired from his job as a state trooper. She whined during her RNC speech about having to give POWs any rights. Is that someone who deserves power? I don't think so! She's a scary lady, one who makes John McCain look like a pussycat in comparison. I will continue to speak out about her.

So if anyone wants to disagree with me, please feel free. If anyone wants to challenge my ideas, please do. If anyone has an opinion or belief system that is different than mine, I want to hear about it. But don't ever tell me I "have no right" to speak up about US politics.

You're dead wrong!


Thursday, September 04, 2008

My Last Sarah Post....

Sarah Louise Heath Palin in 1984

I promise. This will be my last post about Sarah Palin. Ordinarily, I don't get involved in this stuff but also recognize that US politics do have an impact on the rest of the world. In that respect, I reserve the right to make comments. :)

This post actually began as a comment on someone else's site and I decided to follow it up here.

Last night, I listened to her speech and was taken back by several things.

One of the things I realized while listening to her is that she is completely out of touch with anything outside her small sphere. The real struggles of real people in real cities and real homes across the country are so vague to her that it would be like trying to explain physics to a water buffalo. She simply doesn't get it. Not once did she mention homeless people, the mortgage crisis, poverty (and yes, Jon-Jon, it even exists in Alaska!), or any other social issue that the rest of us deal with on a daily basis. Not once did she mention anything she has done for other people that didn't ultimately serve herself.

She was snotty, competitive, snide and snarky. Her speech had a constant undertone of sarcasm. It didn't make her look clever or smart. It just made her look mean. She didn't come across as anyone I would like to meet, even for a short period. Something tells me that no one with similar ambitions would dare to cross her. Her nickname "Sarahcuda" or "Sarah the Barracuda" is probably not far from the mark.

She reminds me of a "type" - and we all knew those types in high school. The hard-driven, ambitious types who would eat their young to get what they want. They stepped over their "collateral losses" and never looked back. They always got their way - if not by persuasion, by bullying.

I bring this up, not because I want to be snarky about Sarah Palin. I bring it up for a larger reason.

These types of people tend to influence popular culture. Certain types of behavior become acceptable in a culture, cued by its leaders. In the same way Ronald Reagan made lack of compassion and prejudice acceptable, Sarah Palin will make sarcasm, raw ambition and lack of compassion acceptable. Anyone who is not like her ~ with similar values and aspirations in the world ~ will be ignored - or even worse, "Othered". Anyone who doesn't fit into her very narrow view of the outside world will be bullied or silenced.

She's Dick Cheney with a vagina.

She is not a good role model for young women.

My opinion. Nothing more. Nothing less.


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Cheap and Tawdry.....

I guess I have something to say after all.

For the past few days, there has been a glut of speculation, rumor and tawdry discussion about Bristol Palin, Sarah Palin, who is covering for the other, whether the baby is really Sarah's or is it Bristol's, her husband's former DUI and a whole assortment of totally inappropriate discussions about the private lives of these people.

Just so we're clear: I don't agree with their politics. Not at all. Not even a little bit.

And I never thought I'd be defending them. On the other hand, this kind of discussion about their personal lives and perhaps even (shock!) human flaws has turned a political election into an episode of "Dynasty" or "Dallas". Okay. I'm dating myself but I don't know the current prime time soap operas. "Desperate Housewives"?

Barack Obama was right. Families and kids should be off-limits. They didn't choose to run for any elected office and we shouldn't be gossiping about them. That's what it is ... gossip.

Anyone who's been around the Internet for a while has probably seen the phrase "ad hominem attacks". Attacking someone on a personal basis usually just shows that the attacker can't argue the issues. It's a playground tactic that has no place in an adult activity - such as electing a president.

'Nuff said.


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Wellness Wednesday: A Little Beauty Break...

I don't have anything burning right now so I thought I'd offer a little beauty break instead. Hope everyone enjoys the pictures. :)



Monday, September 01, 2008

I can't believe I've had this site for two years now! I started in September 2006.

Who would have thought I'd have that much to say? It's certainly surprising. The ebbs and flows of this place, some of which have driven me to distraction at times - the people who have come and gone, the topics that have been hashed and rehashed, conflicts and resolutions... an occasional troll in the comment section, the meta-discussions about how to tell when a site is useful or has met its expiration date.

We've seen each other naked - those of us who have stuck around for a long time, seeing and experiencing each other's fluctuations and changes. We've shared some incredible stuff - some of it good and some of it not so good. I remember the conflict on BlogRhet last summer. We've asked each other the hard questions.

I find value in that, even though it's challenging and sometimes gut-wrenching. I've grown a lot from the feedback I've received here. Some of it changed my thinking and some of it confirmed my thinking - sometimes by good example and sometimes by bad.

The thing is that I am very, very reluctant to give in to the illusion that blogging is a valid substitute for real flesh and blood relationships. It would be easy to do. The evolution of electronic relationships being viewed with the same validity as physical community is disturbing. Real community runs much deeper. Real community is an investment in the lives of others. It's casseroles when someone is sick. It's shared experiences. It's Real Life. It's messy and complex and fun and loving and touching ~ all those things that a computer screen simply can not offer.

This is a hologram.

That's not to say it has no value. It does. I have made legitimate friends through this site. They are people I've actually talked with in the flesh. I know them. For the most part though, this site is just an open forum for the exchange of ideas and experiences. It's a way to get to know what others are thinking in a very safe setting. It's a way of sharing general wisdom. It's a way to get to know how other people live and how they process the world.

I'd like to see that come into perspective as so many people are falling into the trap of technology. Cell phones, Blackberries, blogs, email lists and chat rooms are not reality. They are a cheap facsimile. They're useful tools but they can never be the nuts and bolts of community. If anything, they're a distraction. Just because something is faster and easier doesn't mean it's better.

As much as I enjoy this site, I'm trying to keep these things in mind. It is not a substitute for real community. And I don't want to be just one more byte in the data stream. I want to speak here when it can improve the silence.

What do you think?