Katie is not quite Jesus.

If self-actualization is the highest good, then the song Chained to the Rhythm is just Katy Perry virtue-signaling. She doesn’t mean a thing she’s saying, except to the extent that it will earn her money and help her actualize her own self.

If Americans, especially of the up-and-coming variety, took her seriously, sales of mind-altering substances (legal and illegal) would plummet. Wasted zombies would go into rehab. Apple and Samsung would not be able to sell one more device.

Both locally and internationally, the rising generation would be getting their heads out of their asses as no previous generation has been able to. They would be finally solving, with wisdom and compassion, the problems of military imposition of political salvation, food and water insecurity, infant mortality, human trafficking, genital mutilation, racism, general human stupidity, etc. Right?

Or are Katie and company coming to realize that, like every other generation before them, they are failing to usher in a new age . . . and thus cannot help but run in search of newer, fancier shackles?

Chained To The Rhythm
(feat. Skip Marley)

[Katy Perry:]
Are we crazy?
Living our lives through a lens
Trapped in our white picket fence
Like ornaments
So comfortable, we’re living in a bubble, bubble
So comfortable, we cannot see the trouble, trouble
Aren’t you lonely?
Up there in utopia
Where nothing will ever be enough
Happily numb
So comfortable, we’re living in a bubble, bubble
So comfortable, we cannot see the trouble, trouble

(Aha)
So put your rose-colored glasses on
And party on

Turn it up, it’s your favorite song
Dance, dance, dance to the distortion

Turn it up, keep it on repeat
Stumbling around like a wasted zombie, yeah
We think we’re free (Aha)
Drink, this one’s on me
We’re all chained to the rhythm
To the rhythm
To the rhythm
Turn it up, it’s your favorite song
Dance, dance, dance to the distortion
Turn it up, keep it on repeat
Stumbling around like a wasted zombie, yeah
We think we’re free (Aha)
Drink, this one’s on me
We’re all chained to the rhythm
To the rhythm
To the rhythm

Are we tone deaf?
Keep sweeping it under the mat
Thought we could do better than that
I hope we can
So comfortable, we’re living in a bubble, bubble
So comfortable, we cannot see the trouble, trouble

(Aha)
So put your rose-colored glasses on
And party on

Turn it up, it’s your favorite song
Dance, dance, dance to the distortion
Turn it up, keep it on repeat
Stumbling around like a wasted zombie, yeah
We think we’re free (Aha)
Drink, this one’s on me
We’re all chained to the rhythm
To the rhythm
To the rhythm

Turn it up, it’s your favorite song
Dance, dance, dance to the distortion
Turn it up, keep it on repeat
Stumbling around like a wasted zombie, yeah
We think we’re free (Aha)
Drink, this one’s on me
We’re all chained to the rhythm
To the rhythm
To the rhythm

[Skip Marley:]
It is my desire
Break down the walls to connect, inspire, ay
Up in your high place, liars
Time is ticking for the empire
The truth they feed is feeble
As so many times before
They greed over the people
They stumbling and fumbling
And we about to riot
They woke up, they woke up the lions
(Woo!)

[Katy Perry:]
Turn it up, it’s your favorite song
Dance, dance, dance to the distortion
Turn it up (turn it up, turn it up), keep it on repeat
Stumbling around like a wasted zombie (like a wasted zombie), yeah
We think we’re free (Aha)
Drink, this one’s on me
We’re all chained to the rhythm
To the rhythm
To the rhythm

It goes on and on and on
It goes on and on and on
It goes on and on and on
‘Cause we’re all chained to the rhythm
[From MetroLyrics]

International Women’s Day? This is all we get? Really?

Only one day to honor women when it’s women who have held civilization together since FOREVER?

Several years ago, in a women’s book discussion group I was part of, the point was made that evidence of women’s contributions through the humble yet necessary domestic arts throughout history have tended to be more susceptible to moth and rot than men’s armor and swords.

So the real contributions of women, the constant contributions of women, the endless contributions of women from the dawn of time until now . . . will never be known in their fullness.

It appears, based on hard evidence in existence, that women haven’t done anything “big.”

And maybe they never have. What if all the most valuable contributions really are all “small” stuff that women have done to keep civilization on track day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment?

They still deserve much, much more than one stupid day.

The letter of the Law kills, but the Spirit gives life. Duh.

In so many areas of the world, for good and for ill, there has obviously been cultural slop-over for hundreds or thousands of years.

And maybe at the start of the slopping process there was much more consensus about what people adhering to the principles of being human do as an innate expression of their existence as human beings.

And maybe the principles of being human were much easier to do, or maybe people were more secure in their sense of themselves as human beings.

And maybe as a result, human beings could actualize their humanity based on broad and simple principles of thought rather than on narrow and complicated lists of behaviors.

Because of course, as anyone these days knows, you cannot decorate your house or feed your family or start an exercise program or be a good person (however you define that) without lists and lists of materials, tools, techniques, times, dates, places, experts, costs, opinions, ratings, blogs, favorites on Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Snapchat, Tumblr, orYouTube . . .

And if you dare to exercise your personhood with simpler lists, fewer lists, or no lists at all . . . then you run the risk of other people seeing you as much less dedicated than they are to being human. Or seeing you as not human at all.

Which is funny. Because when human beings are called animals, it’s an insult to animals. As far as I can tell, animals always act true to the principles of their animalhood.

They are always consistent about their behavior.

Their behavior has purpose and limits and operates on broad principles that they carry within them.

They co-exist with each other as different species much better than human beings co-exist as one species.

Their behavior only becomes aberrant when they are forced to act against their animal nature by human beings.

When people with lists compare the behavior of other people (with lists) to *their* lists . . . and determine that the other people must not be fully human because they aren’t acting according to the right list . . . and in fact must be less than human . . . what they usually end up doing is the endlessly popular activity of “demonizing” . . . labeling the other people as creatures who represent evil and are a threat and MUST therefore be eliminated.

As a Christian, I do believe in evil. And I do believe that there are people who, in pursuit of many different kinds of lists, willingly repudiate what is truly good and willingly ally themselves with what is truly evil.

They repudiate the broad principles of personhood for their particular list.

As a Christian, I believe that among other things, Jesus gave human beings broad principles of personhood that he said were in keeping with the essence of being human.

He made it clear that everyone trying to operate outside of those broad principles . . . with lots and lots of lists in single-space, eight-point, .25-inch margins . . . in particular Christians, but everyone else as well, religious or irreligious, political, apolitical, male, female . . .

Each one of those people would be choosing to be less than human . . . and every one of them would some day, by choosing over and over . . . end up in a permanent state of being less than human.

But not because of being born less than human. Because of choosing, for a whole host of reasons, to bit by bit abandon true humanity in favor of making lists and killing other human being with them.

I believe that God decided, before anything existed, that there would be many cultures so that people could express many facets of what it means to bear the image of God.

But somehow, cultures have become the means by which people obscure the image of God in each other and then torture and kill each other with endless tiny gashes from paper cuts from the edges of lists, with smothering clouds of punch-hole confetti from lists in binders, with crushing mountains of lists stored and stacked in copier paper boxes.

Jesus said, among many other freeing things,”If you love me, you will obey my commands.”  And human beings naturally think of commands as lists of stuff to do.

But what were his commands?  What are they?  They are NOT, if you know anything about the Bible, written on endless reams of human beings’ divisive, dehumanizing lists.

They have nothing with doing something but with being something.

His principles are so broad that human beings cannot contain them or understand them or put them into practice without his help.

And where cultures (even non-Christian cultures, even non-religious cultures) grasp in some way even a tiny part of this reality, human beings can wear whatever clothes they want, and eat whatever food they want, and speak whatever languages they want, and get whatever education they want, and marry who they want or not, and dwell in safety and eat and work together and sleep at night>

Wrapped in the arms of broad principles, not in the winding sheets of lists.

I’m cold. Will I ever get warm?

Today in Rochester, New York, we are having what might loosely be termed a “cold snap.” The info from Weather.com:

Cloudy, -3°F
Feels Like -24°
Wind NW 17 mph
Humidity 60%
Dew Point -13°F
Pressure 30.35 in
Visibility 5.0 mi
UV Index 1 of 10

Early winter in upstate New York was mild with days in the fifties and sixties.  I was so happy not to have to wear boots and socks.  Or hats and gloves.

But the reality for where I live is that once January arrives, it is impossible to pretend that it’s winter in Virginia (which this year has its own weather worries).

It’s February, and of course the world revolves around the sun toward spring, the daylight increases and the temperature drops.  Someone once explained to me scientifically why this happens.  Still doesn’t make it any better.

I went around the house upstairs this morning and covered all the heating vents so that the heat from the furnace would primarily blast through the downstairs vents and, I hope, heat the first floor fairly well before oozing up the stairs to the second floor.

The plan may be working.  The second floor is less stuffy, and the first floor is less frigid.  May be wishful thinking, but there seems to be a change.

Thinking of this scenario in symbolic terms seems so obvious.  In my life right now, there are a few changes going on that seem to be allowing me an experience of being more the real person I think God wants me to be.  Dietary changes addressing life-long problems with allergies and sensitivities have made it possible for me to function without things like brain fog, huge mood swings, and an inability to basically just sit still and relax.

Being generally antsy and cranky my whole life . . . and being told over and over that  I am (and it’s bad, bad, bad) . . . and (oddly) on occasion being told over and over that I hate myself because I am obsessed with honestly understanding and dealing with these problems . . .

It’s understandable that I should distance myself from situations (mosttly social) in which my behavior constantly earns me nothing but criticism.  Right?

It’s understandable that I would develop a façade of indifference, even coldness, toward anyone I think might be ready to criticize and reject me.  Right?

And it’s not just behavior due to brain fog, inflammation, and congestion.  There’s stuff like bullying in grade school.  Inaccurate self-concept.  Unrealistic expectations about life in general.

At some point, it’s just easier to build a wall of not caring to hide the vulnerable, fragile heart that cares too  much and can’t seem to function without getting shattered.

But today, I am more aware than I have ever been that, if I spend the rest of my life being cool, even cold, and impervious to the possibility of hurt, I will also never experience what it means to be warm and open to the possibility of healing and love.

Cue the violins.  Release the rose petal cascade.  No, don’t.

I’ve seen so many people recently, at work and elsewhere, fronting.  Pretending they are in control of their lives, their emotions, their finances, their destinies.  **Of course** they are not stressed, unhappy, lonely, insecure.  Haven’t they just told me (from behind a mask of superiority) that they are not?

I wish that the answer to my clear, strong awareness of my self-protection was as simple as taping down layers of aluminum foil and turning up a thermostat.

However, you can’t just turn off or cover over a lifetime of bad experiences and misunderstandings.  Or even a few years of misery.  You can’t just open your eyes and decide, “Okay, no more blind spots, no more fear.”

I have heard all my life that self-knowledge is the key to change.  But if self-knowledge was easily obtainable, and if it were really the key to change, it seems to me human kind would have eliminated all problems and become perfect a long time ago.

I want to change, but I keep thinking of the question in the Bible, “Can a leopard change its spots?”  The answer seems to be, if you read a lot in the Bible no.  Creatures cannot be other than what they are.

So how do I change for real and for good?  How do I change from being a spotted, skulking leopard into a real human being?  If wanting to is not enough, what then?

For Margaret and some others

I wrote this almost three years ago as I was contemplating an astonishing possibility: that I might have met a man who was The Real Deal; I was also thinking about four women friends and their struggles to find meaningful relationships and to deal with the aftermath of relationships that did not last. Two of them are veterans, and two are active military.

Standing by the side of the road

Okay, guy, I have been thinking, what if I finally
show up on your radar screen as a

really huge,

huge,

massively huge,

significant

blip,

and you say, “Sorry, I’m going to have to
blow you up, there’s a highway
named after me going through”?

I’m not hiding in a bunker anymore.

If you say no, I’ll have to take it full-on,
and it will hurt like damn-all.

But I understand, as I have not before,
that I will not die.

My brain and my heart will slam around inside of me for some time.

But of course, afterward,
I will still be able to walk and talk,
laugh and love.

Because I do not derive my life from you.

I derive a slap on the leg and a laugh
when I fall down backward
because my pack is too heavy.

Brisk breezes and cold beer on hot days.

A fully charged flashlight on dark, moonless nights.

An arm around my shoulder when beautiful,
fragile, loved things collapse
under life’s sniper fire.

But my life, and its ability to grow and bloom
in whatever circumstances,

comes from elsewhere.
I take my orders from elsewhere.

My orders are to stand, live, and
love, no matter what.

If I did not have to obey those orders,
I would not be standing exposed
on this dusty highway,
waiting for you to arrive.

I would be hiding in a bunker with my rifle,
sweating bullets, dying from self-inflicted wounds.

The sun is baking my hair, my face,
but I smell the coolness of an oasis spring.

Advance, O king. I have a basket of dates for you,
and I have a jug of wine.

If you choose to pass on to the dunes without me
and be lost out in the shifting white landscape,

So be it.

I will still.

Will.

Still.

Stand.

Live.

And love.

11-27-2012

It’s not a crime if it’s selfish. (This is a rant with religious concepts in it. Run away, run away, run away! )

[I also posted this on Facebook in a slightly different form.]

I have been listening to National Public Radio on the Oregon shooting.  The usual experts are droning on about how-could-this-happen and what-can-we-do-about-this.

In a culture which has worshipped self-satisfaction and self-expression as the highest good for decades now, why is anyone shocked at mass shootings as a common occurrence?

If I should be able to do whatever I want whenever I want with whomever I want . . . why can’t someone with a grudge and a gun do the same?

Never mind that the result is sure to be death and destruction.

In the name of unrestrained expression of one set of values or another, there are various groups of all sorts of political, social, and religious backgrounds . . .

They are groups that are male, female, straight, gay, conservative, liberal, religious, atheistic . . .

They come in all sorts of colors, they come from all sorts of backgrounds . . .

They are, in their various lifestyles, all dedicated to What Makes Me Happy and Shuts You Down.

Whoever they are, and whatever they think must be done to exalt their agendas, they think nothing of ridiculing, bullying, shouting down, humiliating, blame-placing, legislating, finger-pointing and otherwise pounding those they are afraid of . . . yes, at the bottom of it all, afraid of . . . into the ground, ideally until they don’t exist anymore.

And some of these groups of people are not terrorists or politicians or bullies. Some of them are hiding their desire for self-exaltation behind the nicest façades you could ever want to see.

I read somewhere a long time ago, that if you take self-exaltation to its logical conclusion, you end up with hatred, revenge, murder, death. For Self to feel totally secure and protected, Other has to go.

I don’t believe that being a self is a bad thing.

One reason I became a Christian is that, after five or six years of pursuing Eastern philosophies, I came to believe that God made me to be a unique individual with a unique consciousness.

I came to believe that having/being an ego was the core reality of human existence. The problem is that I keep losing sight of how my self is supposed to be in relationship with other selves. Because there are other selves, and they are not illusions.

For me the chiefest problem, the thing that keeps me in contention with other selves, that keeps me shooting off my mouth and hurting and ridiculing and putting up walls around my self . . . is the notion that I am at the center of the universe, that I am the lynchpin of reality.

Does that sound crazy? I am absolutely convinced that if you scratch any human being, you’ll find that idea murmuring, shouting, or otherwise controlling a huge amount of thought, attitude, and behavior.

In college, shortly after I became a Christian, I devised a mantra to replace those that I chanted when I practiced yoga.

“I am NOT the center of the universe; I am NOT the center of the universe; I am NOT the center of the universe.” It had a very calming, peaceful effect unlike any mantra I had used before.

I wonder what would have happened, or NOT happened if the current dead mass killing shooter had used that as his mantra.