Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Down with Santa!

Santa is sort of the secular Jesus of our culture, the culture of our tv habits, elementary school textbooks, and  philosophies we share without realizing we even have them, etc. 

Santa is also the antichrist.

I know, I know. Bold claim. Most of us laughed off the oddity of the Satan = Santa anagram long ago. Yet the more I explored the idea of Santa as a representative of mainstream American values, the less and less laughable it got.

His moral philosophy is simple to the point of stupidity: "Be good and I'll give you things." Santa is operating from one of the lowest rungs of the moral ladder, and he has no interest in your further growth beyond this rung. He doesn't actually care whether his presents are making you naughtier or nicer.

Santa just goes down the list and hands out the goods. Or quite often, doesn't. Which is pretty messed up when you consider that Santa seems to count things like shelter, food, water, and not-dying-of-disease as "gifts." Especially considering Santa has no contingency plan to keep innocent children from ending up on the same list as their parents as a matter of course.

Santa is already seeming like not such a good arbitrator of good and evil, but let's check it out: what exactly makes someone naughty or nice, according to Santa? How do we escape the dire punishment of not making the "nice" list?

The more willing you are to put Santa's priorities over everything else, including spending time with your family, keeping yourself healthy, or trying to make the world a better place, the more likely you are to make the "nice" list.

That's it. That's the one prerequisite. Cheating everyone you meet? Stealing from them? Taking advantage of good faith, honesty, and kinship? Disrespecting people? Hurting them? Santa doesn't actually care about that stuff at all, although just for appearances he has to punish you if you're dumb enough to get yaself caught. But as long as he doesn't see it, carry on.

In the meantime, the "nice" list keep getting more and more exclusive each year, so even if you've been getting better and better and working harder to make The Workshop more and more efficient, productive, and lucrative--in other words, even if you have been giving Santa the BEST of yourself, and none of it to your family--you still might not make the nice list.

Similarly, "naughty" folks can be doing just about anything else with their time, including round-the-clock saving of orphaned babies, or caring for veterans, or teaching people in need some skills that will help them survive and thrive. 

Doesn't matter. Naughty, naughty, naughty. No gifts for you. 

BUT. Even if you're on the naughty list, there may still be hope. Depending on where you are and what color your skin is, Santa still thinks you deserve some gifts. He's just going to take them increasingly out of your skin down the line.

How could you not take out debt? You know your kids deserve gifts. 

They deserve to be distracted from their own curiosity, each other, and the natural world with a lot of stuff, just like any other kid in the neighborhood.

Your spouse deserves that endless parade of tacky symbols reminding them that their individuality is less important to you than the functions they serve in your life. 

And you? You deserve any thing that promises to make you feel better about yourself--more beautiful, more adventurous, more sophisticated, more pampered, more impressive, more imposing. As long as none of them actually succeeds in actually making you feel like you are good enough, just the way you are. Don't want anyone reducing your dependency on more and more and more stuff. 

If no one looked outside of themselves for happiness, what would become of The Workshop?

No man can serve two masters. It's right in the Bible. Also here are some statistics.

Not all of the people still keeping their heads above the water, which is a pretty low bar for success but that's where we're at, have done terrible things. Some are even able to be well-rounded, awesome, and care about their kids. I've seen it. I think.

If, on the other hand, you're struggling, please take time to reflect on your personal priorities and whether you've been made to feel bad at any point for putting them before Santa's, and take some time to reflect on prioritizing the "good person" thing, even when it's just a matter of spending time and attention on people you love, and feel good about it.

That is, if you can feel anything at all, considering how cold it is this time of year, and how heat is another one of those gifts you only get if Santa says so.

One nation under Santa, extremely divided, with bondage and injustice for most.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Yes We Can Love

Don't Yell Wolf

I want to preface this with a note. I've seen a lot of pushback in response to recent calls for love, empathy, and understanding for Trump voters. I've also been approached by friends (expect a part two pending those conversations). People are reeling or grim at this most recent affirmation of what they already knew, at what it means for their personal futures, their families, friends, and neighbors, and many are angry at the idea that we focus on anything other than showing support for the people most affected by a Trump presidency.

That is exactly what I'm trying to do. That is exactly why I'm writing today. This message is the most important thing I can think of to try and interrupt the pattern of what it looks like is about to happen.

We don't have time to keep inching our way imperceptibly towards our goals. An entire population which both fights and impedes us could be working alongside us instead. We, collectively, don't have the luxury to ignore them. We, personally, *of course* have the right to refuse to engage. Please never interpret anything I write as a demand that a victim force themselves to reconcile with their attacker. I would never presume to tell anyone if, or when, that should happen,let alone insist they ignore their pain and get moving.

Let me give you some personal context on why I feel this is so important.

Since about halfway through my undergraduate degree, my sisters and I have been clashing intensely with our entire, very conservative and religious extended family. We've been trying to make a case that the Republican party is pro-corporation and anti-American, and that they've fallen for wolves in sheep's clothing if they think the Republican party is more Christian. 

There have been some embittered debates. Pretty sure I'm not gonna be in certain wills. 

When you have built a pattern of trying to shame someone out of their opinions by demonstrating how their beliefs make them a bad person, they eventually just stop listening to you. So that when you share the very most important insights of your life thus far, they're just not listening.

My family was done listening by the time I learned the truth about racism in America, how the prison system, when you look at the bare facts of how it operates, it's clear that this is the modern face of segregation and slavery. They weren't listening when I tried to share something that I knew they would care about deeply and want to change if they understood. 

Over recent years I've been very deliberately dialing down the angry responses and upping the verbal affirmation of the things I agree with. Slowly, we've begun to have actual conversations again. The last time they were in town, my dad made an offhand remark about "people being too sensitive" which initiated a conversation about political correctness which started to veer towards conflict, but when my mom pointed this out and we all took a breath and kept talking, resulted in everyone agreeing that listening, showing concern that you've caused pain, and making a genuine effort to change the behavior is a good response to getting called out as a racist, and a reasonable thing for people of color to ask.

That is not how things worked out when I brought up the Harvard professor arrested for trying to get into his own home.

I'm not trying to recenter the conversation back around white people. I'm trying to help other people, and in particular people like me, with family and friends they might have estranged because of their tactic of getting super angry and heaping shame and disgust, to re-establish those bonds so that we can start having the conversations that would have kept Trump from getting elected in the first place.

This is by no means meant to replace direct action on behalf of people of color. Here are a few resources for that:

How to Intervene in a Racist Attack 
Black Girl Dangerous 
5 Tips for Being an Ally
Maximum Middle Age

The Long Con

Our enmity is neither natural, nor accidental. People like Murdoch carefully cultivate and feed a great
fear of difference, a great distrust in people who are different in certain ways, and then wield it to keep us distracted, divided, and resigned. It's really quite an elegant system of control. The worse the squeeze, the more we blame each other for the fact that neither party's policies have done the slightest thing to stop the slow, sad march of the middle class into poverty.

I think we're afraid. I think that's why we satisfy ourselves with minor ideological "victories" against straw men and extremists. I think that's why we reassure ourselves that it is more noble and important to defeat than to understand and extend care to our fellow human beings, who are also frightened, frustrated, and in pain.

The greatest challenge our generation will ever face is the mandate to transform difference from a weapon of mass oppression to an engine for positive change. We must rise to it with love, creativity, ingenuity and boldness, before irreversible, devastating events are set in motion.

There are dragons loose on the world.  Alive but lifeless, they are capable of heedless, relentless destruction. They have none of the spark of empathy, none of the survival instinct, not even a flicker of the deep inner connection all living creatures share. They were born of greed, called into being by a man who figured out how to manipulate people's sense of thrift to get them to buy endless piles of cheap crap, their sense of personal accountability to get them to surrender to joyless work for people who don't care about them, and their sense of wonder to get them to trade in their dignity for a few dingy commodities. These beasts roam wild, breathing pollution into the air, crapping trash all over the world, stomping out species, poisoning us, draining everything of authenticity and quality. Their only goal: to gain, to grow, to dominate.

They've almost destroyed the planet. We're alarmingly close to that precipice. Maybe the dragon-tamers are so drunk on their own power that they've forgotten they live here, too. Maybe they're hoist on their own petard--they can't get along at this point, either. Or, scariest and kind of likely, they're saving all of these resources they've been stealing from us to build a spaceship and leave us all behind on the no-longer-viable Earth while they find some other gorgeous cosmic organism to rape and murder.

The blog I write is very stubbornly, bull-headedly, with many stops and starts and stumbling blocks, trying to re-establish a conversation with everyone at once. By insulating us in our bias groups and then feeding us misinformation to elevate our fear of and disdain for one another, Facebook and the mainstream media have completely eliminated respectful discourse, the only thing which stands any chance to disarm difference.

If you're getting frustrated that I'm telling you to change your ways with no regard for the fact that the other guys are the ones who really need to change, or conversely if you read this as an affirmation that it's the other guys who actually need to change, go back and re-read everything you just read through the eyes of someone who believes the opposite of you. If you'll listen to the language I use, you'll realize I'm putting challenges both to myself and to you in how I portray things, by which "you" I mean You, Someone Who, Like Me, Wants to Make the World Better.  Without disguising who I am and which way I lean in terms of my personal views, I counterbalance my bias towards the things I obviously agree with by putting more effort into demonstrating my kinship with those who although I disagree with, I thoroughly respect as individuals. (I check with my mom to see whether I'm really missing the mark with the opposite side. She typically says something along the lines of, "mostly it's okay.")

Everyone who can rally: we gotta sit down and talk, a LOT, and really try our best, or chances are good we're all going to die before our time. Yuck. Lame.

When You Belong

You know, everyone talks about how bad bullying is, how bad bullies are. I think part of the reason it's such a difficult phenomenon to address is the fact that sometimes the bullies are kids with a lot of friends, popular kids, people no one wants to call out, people you could get made fun of for taking too seriously, for killing the buzz, because clearly everyone's just playing. Clearly they don't mean any harm.

In middle school, picked on and harassed by certain classmates, I found it bewildering how many friends they had, how often people would make statements like "x is so nice!" They weren't nice. Not to me, or to people like me, who couldn't distance ourselves from the insult, who couldn't find the confidence to laugh along. 

People could see this but nobody seemed to care. 

If you're not the one being targeted, it's hard to even see meanness, sometimes.There's an aspect to this I now find very positive and normal. I don't think that the second someone does something unpleasant to someone else, every other human should shun them. This is a recipe for a lot of disconnected, angry, dangerous people.

But there's another aspect to it that's not so positive.

I can't remember how or exactly why the switch flipped. I think it was after a friend of friend spent a good couple of days with us, and he was a comedian and kept calling me out on things I said, pointing out things that could be interpreted as intellectual elitism. Because I didn't in any way find this man inferior in terms of wits, I didn't take it to heart, but I was watching John Oliver one day, dear sweet funny friend John, and all of a sudden I thought "what if I was one of the people he likes to make fun of, and I didn't have a diploma to distance myself from the idea that I'm dumb?"

All of a sudden my dear sweet funny friend starting sounding a lot less dear and sweet. All of a sudden he sounded arrogant, callous, and contemptuous. The audience laughter, such a warm, reassuring sound, began to sound ugly and cruel. And I suddenly got a vision of being on the other end of one of my diatribes--it wasn't pretty.

I know many, many people who, like me, have a holy horror of physical violence as a way to solve disputes (I like it fine in certain contexts, for example roller derby, where everyone in the path of pain has volunteered to be there), yet see nothing wrong with delivering an intense verbal assault. 

It's ironic that the people most in arms about hate speech and class and social divides have been lulled into thinking that this sort of political commentary is doing anything other than deepening those very divides, salting wounds, and essentially kicking people when they're down. It's exactly what we accuse the racists of: taking out their anger on their fellow dispossessed, instead of teaming up and ending oppression.

The Pleasure of Rage

Have you ever watched yourself when you were chewing someone out? Really letting into them, telling them how despicable they are, how disgusted you are with them? 

Let's be honest: it's thrilling to drop all pretense of mutual respect and go for the jugular. There's nothing not thrilling about it. Righteous indignation satisfies so many of our desires at once: the desire to be good, the desire to act, the desire to assert our power in the world, the desire to be right, the desire to surrender to our physical instincts (put in a more positive way: to be in harmony with ourselves). 

The high tends to disguise some basic facts about righteous wrath. First, any high that relies on someone else experiencing a low is probably not all that righteous. Second, we're all mighty mighty hypocrites who shouldn't be casting stones. And third, most important of all, especially now: it's a strategically terrible move. 

It doesn't offer evidence that our beliefs are ethically superior; doesn't offer assurance that we are good people who strangers can count on for trust and support. It doesn't stand to convince anyone to agree with us. It doesn't help ensure the safety or general welfare of people who believe like we do. 

It does quite literally the opposite of all of those things.

As we look around for someone to blame for all of the divisiveness, it's time to ask how we're contributing personally to the opposition's fear that our victory means their misery.

What I'm saying is, we've been haaaaad! My dad always said the left is brainwashed too, and I thought he was wrong but I kept trying to wrap my head around what that would look like...since we base all of our stuff on science, unlike...

Didn't you ever wonder why, if the oligarchs own basically ALL of the media...and if the leftist pundits really stand to dethrone the people who allow that happen...didn't you ever wonder why they're allowed to have their own shows?

Did you think"maybe these fools just don't have enough respect for the power of words"? Did you think "maybe it's just a matter of 'money is money' to them, this guy doesn't care as long as you don't say anything bad about him, personally"? But maybe something about it still didn't seem right.

Here's what I think: the oligarchs are fiiiiiine with the liberal agenda. They're fiiiiiine with the conservative agenda. They have no investment in the outcome, because they are capable of bypassing all human interaction. They are so removed, they don't need their liberties protected anymore. But they can use the tug-of-war, the violent back-and-forth of stealing back your priorities and ignoring the other guy, to make us feel like we're capable of influencing the actions of our leaders even though our collective wealth and welfare and the viability of more and more employment options steadily declines.

Trump Voters are not Evil

Let's take it back a step. If we have no evidence that the other person's utopia will bring us misery, beyond the fact that they disagree with us, we really ought not proceed with that assumption.

Someone I respect voted for Trump. He said he's been watching the presidents parade through office, red blue red red blue blue red, all establishment politicians, and none of them did anything to affect the growing income gap, not in his whole lifetime. "One thing he said struck me. He said 'how much worse can it get?'" 

Any of us who paid attention to our history books is probably thinking "a whole lot worse, for a whole lot of people." I said as much. "We're about to find out, aren't we?" 

I felt a lot of anger towards him, but I was also humbled in that anger. This is a good man, my husband's surrogate father of sorts, kind and generous-hearted. He's Mexican-American,  supports gay rights and wants to help refugees. He was desperate. Trump is the Terrifying Big Red Button version of Bernie Sanders. Don't forget about this man when you tell me you can't possibly have anything in common with Trump supporters.

I abhor just about everything Trump stands for except one thing.

Redemption for rural America. I support him in that.

I mean, don't you?

I don't support it MORE than relief and aid for people of color, not in this country or any other. I also don't support it less, or see how anyone can justify that. Because some poor white people in rural America are bigots, all of them deserve to suffer? Keep in mind that they were raised into this. Keep in mind you're talking about heroin and meth addiction, suicide, and the loss of everything they know. 

What's the plan? Hate them into loving better?

This is why we can't all just get along. Because instead of looking for excuses to love each other, we look for reasons why we don't have to. It's because even though nearly every ethical tradition in the world has some version or other of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," nearly every tradition in the world also has a big old asterisk and a list of exceptions, a "be as big of an * as you want to these folks" loophole.

You Are Not a Good Person

It's true. You're not. See my other post. You are a person who is capable of some good actions and some bad ones. The good ones don't negate the bad ones. The point of the good ones is not to offset the bad ones.

You're not a good person, so it's important that you keep working on yourself. It's also important that you stop waiting to love yourself. Until what? You're not a good person--and you never will be. You're not a bad person, either. Love yourself now. Practice making space now for people to be exactly who they are. Same way you do for children. 

We are all luminous beings deserving of everything good in the universe. We can never love each other as much as we deserve. Every single one of us needs to train ourselves out of using the people around us as punching bags because we're angry about the state of the world!

I know it's hard to do. It's hard to even recognize. What the pundits have essentially gotten us to do is identify people who are different than us in certain ways as The Problem, instantly turn over the controls to our instinctual need to defend our home and family whenever The Problem is around, which means we then taunt, avoid, or attack The Problem.

It doesn't matter what certain individuals from the other side say or do, it doesn't justify attacking the entire group. It doesn't matter how stupid or evil someone sounds...spreading hatred is not scoring points for humanity, so take a deep breath and resist the will of the oligarchs.

On that note, can we please stop showing loyalty by supporting one another's bad behavior towards opposing tribes and randos? As fun and satisfying as that can be, it's so so important at this juncture that we put our energy into building relationships and trust, not destroying them.

I'm not saying it's not perfectly within your rights to get angry, to rant, to rave. Sometimes you need to do it. I'm just saying, don't kid yourself that you're making the world better. Don't lean in. Because the evidence is in: you're not. Bad behavior thrives under mockery and scrutiny. Hatred is emboldened when it is returned with hatred.

The Real Problem

The best way to interrupt the pattern of destruction that's been programmed into us is to fully recognize what's happening as we begin to sink into the rage. We've been brainwashed like Derek Zoolander to think that we're saving the world by spreading hatred--as long as we direct that hatred against the right people.

We've been trained, exactly as they have, to exhaust our fight on people who have just as much motive as we do to dismantle the current system. 

When the rage sets in, think "this person is not The Problem, save it for the problems."

Fight to the Death Love to the Life

In a healthy relationship, you love a person for exactly who they are, flaws and all. You try not to take it personally when they lash out against you, accidentally hurt you or misunderstand you. You also don't let them get away with abusing you. You find a balance between self-preservation and generosity. In this way you hold space for their journey. 

(Once again, I am not advocating for victims to show more love to their attackers. This applies only to the many who disagree with you, but have yet to hurt you directly in any way.)

My mother-in-law and I don't see eye to eye on everything. We don't always like the way the other one treats us. Sometimes she wants me to support her by doing things that imply support for ideas I don't agree with (like the idea that dressing up inis an important way to show respect for others). She feels very disrespected by how informal I am sometimes, like the time I let the dog lick my plate at dinner, and put it back on the table. The seeming triviality of these things belies the actual threat they pose to the two of us having a meaningful relationship. We both have to relax when it comes to certain things, and pay more attention to others. It's a lot of emotional work! And, as tends to be the case, the work is partly what makes it so rewarding.

We all know how to get with people who don't see the world the way we do. Or at least, we used to. It's entirely possible! 

Here are some tips:

When it comes to those volatile matters of difference, prioritize civility over all else. 

Give one another the benefit of the doubt in every way possible, and trust that the same is being done for you. 

Focus on the positive. No matter how heinous someone's beliefs, they continue to be a nuanced being full of bright and dark moments, with people, things, animals they love, moments of beauty, etc. 

Treat the worst moments or traits or beliefs as personal challenges the other person will one day surmount, storms that will one day pass over, phases that they will grow out of. 

And in the meantime, hold space. This is vital. Sometimes we can't actively feel love towards someone. Sometimes we feel an urge to actively withdraw our love. This is a misguided urge. We can love someone without agreeing with them. Loving them does not mean supporting everything they stand for. 

It means believing in redemption, for everyone, and desiring it for everyone--stubbornly, eternally, optimistically, faithfully, irrepressibly.

Seeing the light in them no matter what the surface is manifesting in the moment. Caring what happens to them no matter what the surface is manifesting. It means understanding deep down that every single spark of sentience on this planet is just a version of you that came up through the dark differently.

Or forget the mamby-pamby hippie kumbayah side of it. Do it because it's the most strategic way to save humanity. Do it because everything else we've tried has only gotten us deeper and deeper into this mess. Do what you can, only what you can, but everything you can.

Love imperfection. Love imperfectly. Love now.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Holding Space

There are a lot of people out there who don't feel listened to.

Here's the thing about violence--we give it way more respect than it deserves. Because we consider tragic things holy, the aftermath of violence tends to be treated with a certain kind of awe; we honor people who died by violence much more readily than we do most intentional accomplishments. We reserve a kind of horrified respect for the aggressors; the same respect we give to other mysterious, incomprehensible, fearful forces.

But neither violence nor its outcomes are remotely respectable. Not by any measure. It defies every quality of a well-cultivated mind--self-restraint, patience, broad-mindedness, foresight, empathy. It is as shortsighted, small-minded, and unimaginative as a tool can be. It's not really incomprehensible or mysterious. It's just a brutish, simplistic solution to problems we can all relate to.

That it is still being employed, blunt-object style, by society at large, when we are on the other hand so sophisticated as to enable people across the globe to have nightly conversations with one another, shows just how entrenched and petrified our leadership has become.

Take comfort in knowing they don't represent the vast majority of people. Quite the opposite.

Well, okay, but even so, there's still a lot of desire for violence out there. There are still a lot of men, and, yes, women (far fewer, but they exist) who try to solve their powerlessness by asserting power in the most basic way on the world around them. Who can't see the beauty in crafting more complex and mutually agreeable solutions.

What do we do with all of that? We can't just let it be, can we? Isn't it our noble calling to attack and shame it and keep it in a perpetual state of discomfort until it changes?

Well, except, if you keep picking the scab immediately after it forms, the skin never has time to heal underneath.

I mean this more on a person-to-person level, because the Dakota Access Pipeline and the general Fossil Fuel crisis, the unjustifiable imprisonment of so many Americans, the puppet election of the oligarchy, these things are urgent and they deserve constant, relentless pressure and attacks.

But when it comes to other human beings, maybe it's our job just to love them as best we can for exactly who they are, like, for the majority of the time, and mayyybe once in a while, when they're feeling particularly receptive, offer them some insight?

I like to call this "holding space," and now I try to do it for myself, not just for others.

Remembering that "perfect" isn't really a thing in this time and space, let alone something anyone is supposed to already be. Seeing things that go wrong as interesting challenges instead of punishments for something someone was supposed to already be, but wasn't. Realizing that depending on what area of life you look at, you're no more advanced, or remedial, than most. Leaving both the "I'm awesome" and "I'm the worst" ego games alone (as much as possible).

Violence is attention-getting, and that's part of the point of it. I think it's worth trying to see all people right now, instead of waiting for them to do something worthy of praise, instead of waiting to love them until they've attained our approval by accessing and teaching themselves the mandatory things as quickly as possible. When we can manage to. And if we can't love them, we should hold space for them until they do learn.

Everyone deserves the space to become.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

In Pursuit of Glory

It's not that anyone is perfect. Somewhere, stitches are being dropped. Somewhere, misspellings. With mortals there is always going to be slack that demands being picked up. Most of us enjoy being able to pick up someone else's slack plus our own on occasion, but individualism at its finest, at its most marble, at its coldest, says that if you can't pick up your own slack always, you are a waste of the resources it takes to keep you alive.

People who hold themselves to a standard of perfection are the ones most keenly familiar with the idea of "cruel to be kind." No one is crueler to themselves in the name of kindness. Lacking the ability to hold perfection at arm's length and assess its worthiness as a personal goal, the lived experience of prioritizing it over all else, mistakenly equating intangible benefits with the psychosomatic (considering them therefore impossible to experience), they constantly evaluate the world around them for warmth and love and find it barren and cold, unwilling to acknowledge the possibility that it is the starting point of distrust and the tests themselves which drive the temperature down. 

Religious perfectionists find a somewhat less painful path, suppressing the understanding that faith is a willfully blind leap into certainty, hiding it under the willfully joyous blanket of faith, which offers not only blinders (should the Truth turn out to be not such a beautiful thing), but also a cure for loneliness, as it offers sound structures within which to receive and offer love, free of ulterior motives, it offers tangible imperatives to serve others, and of course the promise that everything will definitely get better if only you persevere.

It takes one kind of courage to do what’s necessary, never mind the cost. It takes another kind to pause and think about the likely side effects of the realization of your desires. If you never think beyond victory, beyond the finish line, you never stop to wonder if winning is worth the price you’ll pay to get there. Then again, if you are always trying to calculate the relative value of your efforts, you forget what a pleasure it can be proving that you can exceed your own expectations.

Maybe you believe that we all start out as a drain of resources and have to earn our way into validation (Ayn Rand is probably one of the best known prophets of the secular version of the “fallen man” stance.) Or maybe there’s some other inherent part of you, besides your tendency to mess up on occasion, that you feel the need to explain to people, to apologize for. Where you were born, or the color of your skin, or your gender, or the way you express it. Some part of your appearance, your beliefs or your education level or your parentage.

When we all ought to be learning to give of ourselves joyfully and often, to accept of others gracefully and often, and also to pay attention to the balance of things around us, power, gratitude, awareness, respect,

instead we're taught to be ashamed or proud, depending on how we compare to others, using measures mostly having to do with our usefulness as units of production. We're taught to assess every individual and situation in terms of its immediate usefulness to us. We're taught to see bad things that happen to us as punishment for our failures, for our neglect, instead of useful experiences that teach us important lessons of empathy and care.

We're taught to look for reasons not to connect with others. Our principles, our principled lives, so noble in our heads, turn into a reason not to connect with or invest in anyone who is unable or unwilling to commit to the same path.

Our love of beautiful things, of quality, of craft, of a well-turned phrase, can become a reason not to extend our love towards that which is not immediately appealing or accessible.

Our self-respect and respect for others can lend itself to exclusion of those who don't express respect in ways we recognize, or offer it more cautiously and slowly than we do.

Our awareness of power structures and illusions can keep us from noticing the beautiful individuality in how each so-called cog negotiates the paradox and complexity of being human in a repressive society.

Sometimes it seems like first thing we see is all of the choices we wouldn’t personally make. We celebrate the disasters of our ideological opponents as validation of our own ideologies and we distrust and dislike their joy, because if their worldview makes them so happy, maybe we’re the ones who are wrong.

You're not a waste of resources, you're the hallowed reason they exist in the first place. What you produce, or don’t, for the Powers That Be (PB) is not a good measure of your value. You may have picked up on this theme in our stories and reality shows and culture at large--that to prioritize massive monetary gains means essentially giving up on having genuine, loving relationships.

Your intangible value, which the PB don't give a dying duck about, is the you-ness, the gifts of yourself that you give to those around you. The most valuable thing any of us can offer. Which is why it's such nonsense that we get rewarded for our tangible contributions based on our specific skillsets, instead of just nurtured as a matter of fact for being a part of the human fabric.

If the religious people weren't all so busy making sure gays know it really really IS a sin to love someone with your same genitalia, or that when you murder a baby you're really really murdering a baby, this is what they'd be hurrying to tell you: That you're precious just for being alive. That this life is a gift to you and you are a gift to everyone in it and they are a gift to you too.

How should we measure the success of our competing relationships with the divine? How about the relative skill with which we love one another? Whether or not our love is being experienced as love by those who receive it?

According to that measure I still have a long way to go, but I’m starting to improve. 

Look, we were thrown into this arena and handed pointy sticks and told to battle it out, and just look how many of us are instead helping one another and living for art and finding cool alternate things to do with pointy sticks.

You can agonize if you want over all of the stitches you drop, but just remember: the people who come across as perfect aren’t, at all; they’re taking the toll out beyond your line of sight.

Somewhere in all of us is the expectation that everyone else should see our inherently loveability; that they should all be trying their darndest to love us. But sometimes trying gets in the way of doing.

And if we haven’t figured out how to love ourselves, how should anyone else be able to? They’ve got less information than we do. They’ve got less insight into what we’ve been through and what we hope for. 

Work on loving yourself. Work on giving yourself actual reasons to love yourself. Its some of the most important work you can do on behalf of humanity.