We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

In case you’ve forgotten who should be on your list, a helpful reminder

Beltane                                                                                 Sumi-e Moon

Obey

Say It Ain’t So, Bob

Beltane                                                                               Sumi-e Moon

20151022_101834Probably won’t be going back to Chainsaw Bob’s. Went yesterday to get my chain sharpened. They have a new deal, smart, where you leave your old chain and they put an already sharpened one on your saw. Supposed to save time. And it would if the guy putting the chain back on wasn’t trying to sell another guy a saw.

Gave me plenty of opportunity to peruse the new signs hung over the desk between the shop and the front. A picture of Hillary Clinton had these remarks. Hillary Chicken. 2 fat legs, 2 small breasts and lots of left wings. Next to it was a sign that read. Startling news! 25% of women in the U.S. are being treated for mental illness. You know what means? 75% are untreated! Under these signs a woman whom I assumed was Chainsaw Bob’s wife met customers, organized service and took money.

first-they-came-for-the-mexicans-and-i-did-not-10234171Sexism is still raw and unvarnished in many places, like racism on public display in Charlottesville, Virginia. Murica.

We live in our bubbles. The Big Sort, published in 2009, had the subtitle, Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart. Yesterday the Denver Post reported that the population of downtown Denver had increased by 3 times since 2000 to twenty-six thousand with 81% single, white and with an average age of 34. This is just a single instance of folks choosing to live among those similar to themselves in race, wealth and educational level.

This from Richard Florida and his excellent website, Citylab:  “Americans have not only grown more ideologically polarized over the past couple of decades, Republicans and Democrats are drawn to very different kind of places. Back in 2004, Bill Bishop dubbed the self-segregation of Americans into like-minded communities, “The Big Sort.”” Oct. 25, 2016

When I grew up in Alexandria, Indiana, during the 1950’s it was segregated by race, one black family in the town of 5,000, yet there were college educated folks living next door to factory workers who had, at best, graduated from high school. As a result, I have a blue collar sensibility that sets as deep in my character as the college-educated one I gained at home. Even this modest class diversity is rarer and rarer as suburbs and city neighborhoods, cities and rural areas grow more and more homogeneous.

electoral map

With a pussy-grabber in chief who sees good folks on both sides in Charlottesville, this sorted and ideological reinforcing America is ripe for a wave of extremism even more shocking than we’ve already seen. Trump’s approval rating is growing, still dismal, but moving up. The 30% or so of the U.S. who are his base may not seem like much, 70% are not his base, but Mao noted that only 3% of a country needed to be active revolutionaries for a rebellion to succeed. And he proved it.

What does this augur for our future as a nation? At a minimum it means a large percentage of the population will be unhappy with the government. At its maximum it could mean a white male populist revolt favoring Chainsaw Bob’s tilt to American politics. That’s close to where we are right now.

That Mother

Beltane                                                                                  Mountain Moon

Mothers dayMothers. We all got’em. They’re the link in that long, long chain extending back to the first one-celled organism, aided only by one small spermatozoa from the male. And this has been going on every since mammals switched from eggs to live births. Think about this. Each of us, through our mothers, are the latest manifestation of a 180 million year old tradition of warm blooded animals that arose from a common ancestor sometime in the Jurassic period.

3.8 billion years ago, according to New Science, the first life form emerged from the literal primordial ooze. You represent one of the latest manifestations of a 3.8 billion year long experiment in chemicals, elements that move on their own, that grow and change in response to conditions around them. All thanks to Mom!

When you put it like that, it would be uncharitable not to celebrate her, wouldn’t it? Even if she wasn’t the finest example of an advanced version of the type. And I hope yours was.

My mom added me to that long chain of events, unbroken from that first whatever it was, probably an RNA based life form, probably originally hanging out around some undersea vent. Later it split into the two branches bacteria and archaea. From that point, the rest.

4-ED33F7D1-4709856-800The mom I’m closest to now is Kate. In the curious way of blended families she became the mother of Joseph, who played piano at our wedding in 1990. He and SeoAh sent her a beautiful gardenia plant Friday with a note, We love you. We attended their wedding in Korea in 2016 where SeoAh’s mother asked Kate to watch over her daughter. Moms. She gave birth to Jon in 1968, December 10th, adding him that long, long, long chain. Really quite amazing, to personally bring into the world a brand new instance of a 3.8 billion year old progression. It is, I would say, a real miracle. Holy. Sacred. Divine.

But mothers don’t stop with this singular achievement. At least we hope they don’t. No. Mammalian live births produce babies. Unlike chickens and lizards and bees the transition from larvae to fully functioning member of the species can take a long time. Yes, I know. You know someone who hasn’t gotten there even yet. Well, don’t blame mom. She did her best and then at some point, like all of the animal realm, that kiddo has to walk out on its own.

20160406_134240In fact they never stop. Children don’t stop being children, even at 49 and 36. Or, this year, 50 and 37. And when those children do something wonderful, like adding their own children to the long chain, moms become grandmas. Or, when something scary or bad happens, like a divorce, the kids turn to mom for help.

20161112_183554Kate’s been a wonderful mother, committed through years of difficulty, helping Jon and Joe get to today. It’s not been easy. But, she’s thoughtful, loving, kind. Patient. Generous with both time and money. She’s also a great grandma. Ruth and Gabe are richer, safer, stronger for her presence in their lives.

I was lucky to find her and have her as a role model for Joe as he grew up from age 8, his age when we met. She had him clomping up and down our condo stairs in Irvine Park in ski boots. Today he’s an expert skier, like his brother, Jon, thanks to Kate’s introduction of him to the sport. Joe went with her on many trips to Guatemala, serving in various roles in surgical and other medical procedures. His sense of service, now in the military, grew up in part from his experiences with her. Jon, too.

Today then I’m looking back 3.8 billion years to that first undersea vent that gave the world Kate. A mother and a wife. My love.

Tennessee Rebbe

Beltane                                                                       Mountain Moon

RamiRabbi Rami Shapiro is here from middle Tennessee. He’s a prolific author, 36 books, and funny. Kate and I heard him at mussar on Thursday. He offered a paradigm from somebody whose name I didn’t catch, but it represents the human as living on five levels simultaneously. If you imagine a spiral spun out at least five whorls, he puts the body at the center, then the heart, the mind, the soul and spirit.

The first two operate below the level of consciousness. He referred mostly to the autonomic functions of the body: breathing, heart beating, all those things the body does on its own, that we couldn’t control even if we decided we wanted to. The heart in this model is two emotions love and fear, both of which arise unbidden and with which we then have to contend at the level of mind.

The mind, the ego, focuses on survival, on navigating the body and the heart through the visible world. The mind, in this paradigm, wears masks (but not in a pejorative sense) as it expresses itself to the world. Soul and spirit are, like body and heart, operating out of the realm of usual consciousness, but they can be accessed. In meditation we can reach soul as we are living it right now.

Rami cbeAs soul we become aware of our direct links to other people, to the world we live in and we understand them as part of us and ourselves as part of them. Shapiro says that such dictums as love thy neighbor as thyself become axiomatic at the soul level. When we know the true face of the other, which we can do at soul level, then we have to treat them with loving kindness. This includes the earth.

Spirit is inaccessible through our actions, but in meditation we can come right up to it. Grace has to pull us over the boundary. Once in the realm of spirit our sense of connection becomes total. We know, without effort, the interconnection and interdependence of all things, from the tiniest fly to the furthest galaxy and beyond.

It’s an interesting paradigm in its insistence that we live on all five of these levels all the time. We are always, then, in the realm of the spirit, accessing universal bonds, and the level of soul where we know the true faces of all around us.

Something about it seems a little hinky to me though and I can’t quite identify it. As a heuristic, I believe it has a great deal of value since I do believe we live on several levels all the time. At a minimum it reminds us of that.

Rami holy rascalsHe refers to himself as a perennialist. Here’s what that means:

“I am a Jewish practitioner of Perennial Wisdom, the fourfold teaching at the mystic heart of the world’s religions:

1. all life is a manifesting of a single Reality called by many names: God, Tao. Mother, Allah, Nature, YHVH, Dharmakaya, Brahman, and Great Spirit among others;

2. human beings have an innate capacity to know the One in, with, and as all life;

3. knowing the One carries a universal ethic of compassion and justice toward all beings; and

4. knowing the one and living this ethic is the highest human calling.”

 

 

Sometimes…

Beltane                                                                                  Mountain Moon

Oliver North president of the NRA

Orrin Hatch says McCain should invite Trump to his funeral

Anna Wintour took Trump permanently off the invite list to the Met Gala

Rudy. Stormy. Trumpy.

Spring                                                                          Mountain Moon

Kepler guards our new dishwasher against breakdowns. Good boy!

Kepler guards our new dishwasher against breakdowns. Good boy!

Race/Class/Gender Curvature in Society

Spring                                                           New Shoulder Moon

spacetimeA bit out of left field, more like right field where I played my entire (short) little league career, but occasioned by Tara’s visit yesterday with her son Vincent. Vincent had been explaining his understanding of general and special relativity to Tara and the conversation resumed at our table. He was explaining the difference between light and gravity, light is fast, but gravity is instant and I threw space-time curvature out there.

Anyhow, later on I read an article about a long standing argument on the left, which is more central, race or class. I’ve always been a class is more central guy, but I read an interesting article in the NYT about the sons of wealthy African-Americans. Seems, unlike their white peers, that they often fall through the cracks of our economy, reverting to a lower socio-economic position than their family of origin. Would seem to put race firmly above class.

raceclassgender

2-D, which loses power compared to the 3-D above

As I was going to sleep last night, this image jumped into mind, that race and class are analogous to space-time. That is, they constitute an interwoven web of influences always acting on us, all of us; but, like gravity, when an individual interacts with larger bodies, think the moon and the earth, or the earth and the sun, then the curvature of race-class draws them in. So any one son in the instance of African-Americans has the smaller bodies of his wealthy family and their peers arrayed against the much larger bodies of institutional racism reinforced by white privilege (class) and shot through with bias against black males.

Wanted to write this down before it disappeared. So there it is.

 

Imbolc                                                                         Imbolc Moon

Valentine's Day Cupid-Postman-GraphicsFairy1“Valentine’s Day began in commemoration of St. Valentine. It seems that in the third century A.D., Emperor Claudius II of Rome issued a ban on marriages and engagements, to encourage young men to join the army instead. But Valentine went ahead and continued marrying couples in secret. When the emperor discovered this, Valentine was condemned to death and beheaded. The year was 278.” Chronicle

All Are Welcome

Imbolc                                                                        Imbolc Moon

I love my insightful friends who’ve weathered a gremlin or two. You know who you are.

One of them, Tom, sent me this poem from Rumi:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Splitters and lumpers

Imbolc                                                                           Imbolc Moon

splitters2Last night at Beth Evergreen three presenters, a University of Colorado Regent, a newly hired diversity specialist for Jeffco schools and an Evergreen woman, formerly a philanthropist and LGBT activist, now working in corporate social responsibility spoke about labeling and identity. It was, in some ways, disappointing.

Though the focus was on labeling, someone or something else (like census forms, school boards, the dominant culture) describes you, and identity, you describe yourself, the topic veered rapidly into a mode of doublespeak. It’s difficult to describe, but identity politics has become a minefield of careful positioning, trying not to cause offense, and further and further journeys into talking but not changing. Each person in the room last night, presenters and audience included, brought authentic concern and a willingness to be part of a solution. But, to what?

I kept thinking of the hoary argument in plant classification between lumpers and splitters. The same analytical dynamic plays out in many fields. Lumpers look for commonalities, seek to reduce the number of categories in any particular area of study while splitters look for differences, for nuanced distinctions that allow uniqueness to flourish. Neither approach is right or wrong, it’s almost a psychological tendency, I think, rather than a reasoned stance.

splitters3In identity description the nod now goes to splitters. As one presenter last night said, “I see gender like the stars in the sky, some may be brighter, more prominent, but there are many stars in the sky.” That’s breathtakingly broad.

A key word that emerged last night was fluidity. It basically means that the ground shifts frequently in this conversation, not least because people claiming their own identity often make different distinctions as they learn more about themselves and their community. There are, too, regional differences and age cohort differences. It’s a splitters’ paradise.

Here’s why it was disappointing to me. It felt like conversations from the mid to late sixties, though those were blunter in their focus. They were, at least at first, focused on civil rights for African-Americans, or Blacks, or Black-Americans. The power moves involved in labeling versus identifying were in bold relief. We’re not niggers or coloreds or darkies. We’re Americans with a particular historical background.

Remember Black is beautiful? Afros. Kente cloth. Angela Davis. Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. Last night was the contemporary version: male, female, bisexual, pansexual, transsexual, intersexual, asexual. Gay. Lesbian. It all felt depressingly familiar, as if we’d moved in time away from the sixties, but not in content.

beltane2017gorbachevThat’s not to say that “racial” distinctions were absent from the conversation. Not at all. Unfortunately. The strange, weird thing about this is that race is a nonsense category, not supported by genetics at all. So creating a splitters nomenclature for various “races” reinforces a non-existent and damaging conceptual paradigm. Of course, the culture, in diverse ways, uses race as a placeholder for attaching secondary characteristics to others. Of course it does. But how do we move away from that convenient slotting, or lumping of people based on skin color? Does it happen by emphasizing color? It cannot. Does it happen by ignoring the racist who does? No.

And that was the problem I had with evening. There seems to have no movement forward in the land of identity politics, only movement crabwise.

I did not ask my question, because it occurred to me on the way home, naturally. “Has identity politics by the left contributed to, even caused, the rise of populism now roiling our nation?” That is, have we, in slicing and dicing the particulars of personal difference blinded ourselves to the plight of working class Americans? It seems so to me.

A movement against oligarchy, plutocracy and autarchy must be first made of lumpers. These lumpers must find, express and celebrate the commonalities among those who suffer as a result of concentrated wealth, purchased power, dynastic ambition. Right now we have given away our power with a navel-gazing splitter mentality. Of course, we must be able to define and describe ourselves. Yes. But we must not only reach for the unique and particular, but for the broader and more universal. No political change can come without joining hands, so the more difficult, the more necessary task in the Trump era belongs not to the splitters but to the lumpers.

 

 

 

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