Sunday, February 22, 2015

Finishing the thought bracelets

Dobra Teahouse
Taste of Kashmir tea
Medicine Ball (dessert thingy... it has chocolate)

Let's see, quick update...

I've been sick.  I got the flu on Valentine's night.  It's alright.  Greg had already passed out on the couch while I was putting the boys down.  Yay, parenting!  I'm still recovering, though.  The active being sick part is pretty much done, but things have not cleared out and I'm all eeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhh...  Hopefully, tea will help.

I'm also plodding away with the book stuff when I can get time alone with the computer.  People often think that if you're a stay-at-home parent you get all this extra time to work on stuff.  Totally not true.  Maybe some people can do that, but I think it requires different kids.  Or different furniture.  And additional people.  At any rate, it's not good think time when I can actually sit in front of a screen uninterrupted.  It's still distracted time, because I'm still "on deck" ready to break up a fight or wipe a bottom or argue over whether or not it is actually snack time.

It's also a problem that I still don't have a computer - this is Greg's, and I have to pry him off of his own computer if I want to get any work done, and by then it's later than I should be up.  And that's how someone who "doesn't work" can only write for a couple of hours one day a week and get no sleep.  Ever.

But you still do it.  There's a Rumi quote that goes, "If all you can do is crawl, start crawling."  Which is a lot more poetic than my, "Go stand on your treadmill!"

Some explaining.

Once upon a time, I bought a used treadmill with my little tax refund.  And like most home treadmills, it mostly sat around and did nothing.  It was in the living room corner, and I would look at it and think, "I should be walking on that thing, but I really don't want to put on shoes... or real clothes.  I hurt.  I'm tired...  I don't wunna."  So I made a deal with myself: every day, I would just get up and stand on it.  Often with no shoes, no shirt (the curtains were closed).  But I would get up there and stand on it.  And if I got up there and stood on it, I'd probably start walking for a little bit.  And if I was going to walk, then I'd walk for five minutes.  And if I walked for five, I knew that I could walk for 12 minutes, because that was usually when my body would finally start to feel okay and I could walk for the 20 minutes I was supposed to walk.

So all I had to do to walk for 20 minutes was to stand on my treadmill.  All the work was done in the standing.

There are two kinds of energy I learned in school: potential and kinetic.  Potential - static, contained, waiting.  Kinetic - moving.  Energy in motion.  That's what I want myself to be.  No more waiting, no more same cycle repeating.  I want to be living.  And when it comes to friction - the force that opposes motion - static friction is the hardest to overcome.

And that brings me to tattoos!  I got some more.  While I was contemplating what words or quotes I wanted to finish the thought bracelets around my wrist, I gravitated towards three words I had tweeted for the new year in 2014: Peaceful. Kinetic. Wise.  But another word struck me and resonated: Lovingkindness.  It's actually a particular meditation for Buddhists, focusing on developing and practicing sincere love for all human beings.  So, also for the sake of spacing, I settled on "Kinetic~Lovingkindness" on my left wrist.  With a treble clef and an 8-point star (from an Eric Carle book) to divide it from the "Bliss in the Is..." phrase already there.

So what went on the right wrist?  The second sun from the Moby doodle (I also recolored the first sun), and Rumi.  Not the quote from above, but another one in Arabic script.  Why in Arabic?  First, space availability.  Second, it's lovely script.  Third, it deepens the meaning of the translation which is (I really hope, Google Translator), "Every story is us."

All of us have a unique story.  No matter how similar to another, it is always in some way different.  And that is why there is always some value in every single human story.  And yet, we are all human.  We are all made from the same star stuff.  Even though we cannot all live the same story, we all share in each other's story.  We are all born with our own unique genetic make-up, surrounded by the environment and people that will shape us.  So we can't say when you look at another person that you, as you were born, could have actually become that other person.  And yet, every other person on this earth, I consider to be another manifestation of myself.

No matter how grand and benevolent and peaceful and wise...  And no matter how brutal, how truly evil and inhuman...  In some way, they are mine.  Because a human being is a human being is a human being.  I happen to be this human, but the stuff that made me, made them, too.  And that's all very difficult, especially staring into the eyes of someone truly evil.  I don't want to own them.  But I feel that I have to.  I have to own their story, too, or I can't see them.  And if I can't see them, I can't understand.

My husband and I diverge on this point.  He, like many, was deeply affected by the September 11th attacks.  But he has no interest in understanding why someone would want to fly a plane into a building and slaughter innocents.  He just wants to see them gone.  Gone from the face of the earth so they can't hurt anyone else.  And if Hell exists, so much the better, because it's waiting for them.  He does not believe in changing minds, he does not believe it is possible.

I, on the other hand, think the most important thing we can do is understand why someone would fly a plane into a building.  Because we make ourselves monsters, and if we don't understand why, then we will simply keep making more.  I cannot imagine myself having the impulse to do something like that, but I have to try to think that this person who did this is also me.  What would it take to bring me to that place?  How could we un-make that monster?

Every story matters.  Every story of suffering, of tragedy, of success, of mediocrity... it all matters.  Truth, insight comes from anyone, anywhere, in every tongue.  Every story, every perspective... it all has value.  If we didn't think the stranger's story was about us, would we listen?

This may be easier for me because I am a very sensitive, empathetic person.  And I kinda thought everyone understood that we are all connected to each other.  But then I was reminded by a really terrible adaptation of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" that some people are not born with this understanding, or are talked away from it.  If Ayn Rand wasn't a biological sociopath, then her early childhood experiences certainly pushed her that way.  That woman had zero empathy, and also zero understanding of those who do.  It's not social control to say that we're all connected and cannot be wholly selfish beings.  She just swung way too far to the other end of the spectrum.

But even her story is mine.  She wasn't wrong about everything she wrote about, though I disagree with most of her stuff that is wielded like a cudgel against anyone who isn't a "successful entrepreneur" or whatever you want to call the  selfishly rich.  Not people who are rich.  Just the rich who believe in elitist thinking and the relative worth of human beings, and therefore manipulate the system to protect and increase their own wealth and influence.

Oh, what a bunch of poppycock.

Come, have tea with me, those of you who think I'm wrong, who think you know who I am... who do not know I am you, too.  I may not change your mind, but perhaps, you may just begin to see me, and to see yourself here, on the other side of the table.

Much love.  Hippy - out!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Discuss! Kindly...

Downtown Grounds
12oz Soy Mocha
Taos Mountain toasted coconut energy bar

I am trying not to blog at all so that I can focus on finishing up the book.  Hopefully, I will have actual book in hand when I journey south again with the boys in March.  But something has been on my mind, and I may well piss some people off, but I feel I have to put my two cents out there.

Let me tell you about today... 

One of my favorite coffee shops was vandalized over the weekend, so I am working from here in solidarity.  Before coming here, we took the boys to get caught up on their last vaccination (chickenpox - which the school system is battling in our area).  Before sending Henry to his class, I had to make sure to wipe the peanut butter off his face because the school has asked that parents not only avoid bringing nuts to school, but also scrupulously clean the hands and faces of their children so that there are no traces of any nuts on them when they arrived to play with their classmates.  Today also happens to be the 20th anniversary of me ending my virginity.

What does all that have in common?  Let me start in reverse order.

When I realized that this was the 20th anniversary of me deflowering a Jehovah's Witness, I started tweeting some reflections with the hashtag "20yrsofnookie".  One of those central reflections was that even smart people will do very stupid things under the influence of sexual arousal.  I could add to that people will do very stupid things when the consequences are distant and abstract.

Stupid things like not wearing a condom and risking premature parenting and worse.  Things like smashing the window of a small business to get to a trivial amount of money left in the cash register.  Things like not taking care of the environment, or not supporting measures to slow the human impact on the climate.  Things like not supporting a living wage and cutting social programs (as I have bitched about extensively already).  Things like not vaccinating yourself or your kids.

And that is why, I would like to ask all my pro-vaccination friends to stop being so hostile for a bit.  I'm not asking you to not feel angry.  I'm not asking you to shut up.  But even I, who obviously support vaccination, cannot stomach the barrage of snark and contempt that is clogging up my social media right now.  If your goal is to get people to change their mind and get their kids vaccinated, then you are (mostly) going about it the wrong way.

I admit that I have been flippant about some things, and a little hostile, even.  But most of the time, I hope I do not come across like that.  I try to reign it in enough to show that I am open to hearing the other side.  When you throw around contempt and condescension, all you do is get people's backs up and shut down their willingness to listen.  You drive them further into their corners instead of bringing them to your side.

We have a cultural problem where all topics seem to get driven into this binary positioning of either for or against.  And people are encouraged to take it personal, whatever their position is.  Many years ago, I was in a relationship with a former debate team champion.  Meanwhile, I was the math/science major.  When we argued (which was a lot) these two backgrounds became really apparent.  The object of my arguing was to employ logic and listening reach a mutual understanding.  His objective was to win the argument by whatever means worked, including logic, yes, but also tactics like interrupting or flustering your "opponent" by provoking emotional responses.

I confess, after we had been in an escalating argument where I had been successfully keeping a cool stream of point-by-point logic in the face his erratic, inflammatory statements, I did end up chucking a water bottle at him after he called me irrational.  Not my best moment.

My point is just that "debates" try to win the audience, while "discussions" try to win the people taking part in them.  It's hard when you have a righteous anger, but it's important to try to extend your compassion to the person making you angry.  Try.  Try to remember that the person across from you made their decision for any number of reasons, including their love for the people most precious to them.  Challenge them, yes.  Ask them to go back to the reasons that brought them there, to listen to the responses to their concerns, to consider things from other perspectives.  Remember that they have a mind and it can be changed.  Offer to embrace them as an equal instead of battling them into submission, and you are more likely to see them move out of their corners and listen.

I understand that some people think that giving people the chance to opt out of vaccinations is coddling paranoia, and is now too dangerous to be allowed.  I understand that view.  I understand that their choice presents enough of a risk that unvaccinated kids may have to be kept out of the regular school system.  Someone else posted something like, 'If my kid can't bring peanut butter to school, your kid can't bring preventable diseases.'  I still don't believe that the choice should be taken away from them.

Just imagine that it's not some anti-conformist, hippy parent you're arguing with.  Imagine it's an anti-government, open-carry, Bundy-Rancher type parent who doesn't want to get their kid vaccinated.  How do think a mandatory vaccination edict would go over with them?

I've written before that scientists are not infallible, and there have been terrible mistakes in public health over the years, from Thalidomide to lead paint to lobotomies and hysterectomies as mental health treatments to the whole process of hospital childbirth in the first half of the last century (look it up - oh my god).  And there have been some terrible things done by governments, including this government, like forced sterilizations of black Americans, also in the first half of the last century.  So, it is not wholly irrational that people could find reason to not do something that would benefit their child, especially, as I said before, when the consequences are distant and abstract.

However, the consequences are becoming tangible now... tangible and tragic.  But this is a winnable argument.  Maybe it's going to take PSAs and even health classes in the schools and seminars for the parents.  But the preponderance of the evidence shows clearly that it is much safer - for everyone - to vaccinate.  I have also said before that there is a middle ground to this discussion, but "middle" was a wrong choice of word.  There is room for discussion, more that we could know about the production process and such that could make people more comfortable with the choice.  But until then, as parents we gotta go with what we got.

The boys have arrived to pick me up.  Time to go!  No time for edits.