Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Cliff

We are a world on the brink. Many of us feel a great deal of fear. Fear of the future, fear of one another, fear of losing what little we have left. We are stampeding towards the edge of a cliff.

Those who have paid attention to the stories of stampedes passed down by the generations before us understand exactly which cliff we’re headed towards.

The cliff is hatred.

At the bottom of the cliff is the realm of terrible deeds we shuddered over as children, horrible acts we could hardly bring ourselves to imagine, the sorts of things from which entire generations never recover.

For too long, we have listened to, and repeated to one another, a story of how the masses, i.e. most of us, are foolish. Ignorant. Incapable of governing ourselves. How we are hateful and poor in spirit and undeserving of more than we have.

It feels like a loving story when we say to ourselves and the people we love that we are not like the rest. We look out for our circle, the way no one else does. We are kind, intelligent, decent, and well-intentioned, the way no one else is.

We deserve everything we want. No one else does.

No one else does. These words are the dogs driving us ever closer to our collective misery and doom. Every time we turn to condemn one another, they grow more powerful. Every time we ignore the evil within and the good without, they grow more powerful.

The sheep at the front of the herd are the easiest to blame for the direction we’re all headed. The ones who can see the edge of the cliff already and who, instead of turning back, are screaming “CANONBALL!” Yet their confidence comes from the noise of the rest of us thundering on behind them in the exact same direction.

Here is the loving story: We are not better or worse than one another. We are all good. We all do evil things. We are all intelligent. We all do foolish things. We are all well-intentioned. We all hurt one another.

If only we could break free of the tight, fearful pack, we could verge off, away from the cliff, to the right, to the left, back the way we came, whatever makes sense to each of us, and make it to safety. But the ones on the right are fighting back against the ones on the left, and the ones on the left are pushing hard against the ones on the right, and most of those are pushing hard against the ones in the front, so we’re all stuck in a tight pack, running hard towards disaster, blaming one another all the way.

We are all capable of governing ourselves. Together. As long as we listen to one another.
How bad must things get before we assume the mantle of responsibility? Before we trust that we can do a better job than whoever we’ve trusted with the task thus far? Before we stop saying we’re powerless and start proving that we're not?

Give it long enough and it won't matter whose fault it was. It won't matter which part of the pack we were in, the front, the sides, the back. 

So let's not.

It can be extremely difficult exchanging ideas between people who see the world very differently from one another. People have such different associations with different concepts,  different ideas of what is healthy and virtuous vs. insidious and upsetting. So I'm working on establishing some extremely basic definitions for use across belief systems. We need a common language to remind us of our mutual interests, like the need for respect, like the need to ask others what respect looks like to them, like the need to care about the answer.

GOOD: When we are nurtured

EVIL: When we are destroyed

The vague revolutionary "they" catches a lot of flak so I'm pretty proud of this new definition, which applies to everyone, regardless of creed, party, faith, or socio-economic status. 

THEM/THEY: Those who act without regard for us

Every time we make some excuse not to have another's interests at heart, or forget to, or choose not to care, we join THEIR ranks. See, people don't often set out specifically to do evil. More typically evil is a byproduct of that disregard that goes along with their actions.

US: Sentient life, all of it, regardless of creed, nationality, education level, socioeconomic status, race, gender, philosophy, and, importantly, behavior (i.e. even THEY are US)

Those few who do specifically set out to do evil to others, of these Chilean director, shaman, and philosopher Alejandro Jodorowsky says: 

"a criminal (does not) exist who bears all the guilt: 
all individual crime is a product of the family, the society, and history." 

Pain comes from pain comes from pain. As another of my favorite artists, Zak and What Army?, said, "We're all escaping from the same hell"; the hell of the love we needed and didn't receive, the love we needed to offer and couldn't bring ourselves to, the hell of our failure to properly appreciate the love we do give and receive every day.

But the question remains: what do we do about THEM? They are, after all, hurting us, and allowing them to continue doesn't exactly show regard for us. 

First, whatever we need to do to make ourselves safe (without becoming THEM), and second, whatever we can do to help THEM become one of US again.

Our aim for THEM can never be anything other than accountability and rehabilitation. Desire for retribution, vengeance, any wish of pain for another, is THEIR territory. By definition. 

It's pretty understandable to want to punish some stranger as much as possible, to want to go easy on our loved ones. Protecting people from consequences is not loving. Important lessons are learned from consequences. Natural consequences are often the best spur for moral growth. And saving the really bad consequences for the people who fall outside of our circle of love is the perfect way to convince others to stop caring at all about OUR welfare. Like a FutureThreatsToOurHappiness machine, churning out more THEMs by the minute.

There is a philosophy of the universe that says there is enough to go around, enough for all of us to have what we want and need to be happy, yet in order for that to happen, we need to accept that everything might not happen exactly the way, or according to the timing we prefer. We can get what we want while still allowing the same for others. In fact, it's the only way to go about getting what we want that holds any promise of lasting happiness.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

An Open Letter to Brock's Dad, aka Everyass

I don't know you, but I see you. You could be any entitled rich white ass. You could be every entitled rich white ass. You are Everyass. You are the poster child of Rape Culture, White Culture, Might Equals Right Culture. Because it’s all the same thing. 

What I can take was always mine, and will be forever, hallelujah, amen.

You’re still in caveman tribal mode: Good Guys vs. Evil. In that fight, you're justified in using whatever it takes to survive, no matter what. Smash and destroy and betray and disregard and overpower. Take what you need and want. Survive. No time for integrity. No time for compromise. No time for anyone else’s needs but your own. That's the price of success. As the media has been in such a hurry to point out, your golden boy was caught raping a woman at a top university. His swim times are phenomenal.

Surely though you can see why, when you claim he’s too delicate for the sort of consequences the rest of us suffer out here, here in this fantastic dystopia that you, Everyass, and those like you fight so hard to create, our rage begins to grow.

When you don’t bat an eye as families are torn apart and parents languish in literal slavery, when you don’t seem to think brown and black children are too delicate to grow up without parents who dared self-medicate with weed instead of OxyContin or Prozac or Xanex, but god forbid your rapist son spend six months in jail for condemning an innocent woman to a lifetime of trauma, our rage grows. Maybe you’re right; maybe jail is so cruel and unusual that even the cruelest and most unusual criminals, like rapists, shouldn’t be subjected to it. If that’s how you really feel, it’s about time you got more upset about all of your fellow Americans being subjected to it for far lesser reasons. 

The truth is, you don’t care about justice or liberty. What you really want is a personal, consequence-free zone for you and yours. And the more you succeed at this, the more you protect your children from any experience that would allow them to relate to, care about, and grow into decent human beings alongside of the rest of us. Money can stand in for a lot of personal growth. It has clearly saved you and your terrible spawn from ever learning a damned thing from life. You've nurtured a careful inability to understand that other people experience pain, too. Well done.

Empathy is not a small trait to be missing. The ability to balance your own needs and desires against those of others is a baseline skill for participation in a community. Your son caused another human being grave harm. He should suffer over that. You should feel anguish over that. If you had this basic decency I'm talking about, which you're going to need if you don't want to be voted off the island one of these days, you'd be examining your teachings, thinking about what attitudes you hold and convey about the value of other humans, the beauty of individuality, the inviolable sovereignty of a person over their own body. Maybe you couldn't have done any better but maybe you could have, right? Maybe a rapist son is a good wake-up call, a good time to re-evaluate your ethical model of the universe?

Sir, this is what it looks like to care about others besides yourself: you'd tell your son to spend as much time and energy as it takes to help with this woman's healing, to understand what she's been through, to do anything he can do. You'd encourage him to bow his head and accept whatever consequences society sees fit to give him. "Don't think only about yourself and what you're going through, son," you'd tell him. "That's what got you in this mess in the first place. It's time to start thinking about what experiences we provide for others; what kind of world we're creating for the people in our lives. It's time to understand, from her side of things, what experience you forced on this woman that night."

If you had the baseline sense of empathy necessary to thrive in a community, you would recognize that the most important fact about your son right now is his demonstrated willingness to violently sacrifice another human's welfare to his whims. He is a threat to intoxicated women everywhere. You shouldn't protect that. Your son's delicate monsterhood doesn't deserve to be preserved!

What you call love is better known as psychotic overindulgence. A loving father wouldn't be trying to explain to the world about his son. A loving father would be doing everything in his power to help his son connect the suffering he will experience now to the suffering that others experience; the suffering that woman experienced. A loving father would be trying to help his son forge a new sense of self through adversity, shaped in important ways by the magnitude of the pain he has caused another.

I hope you figure out in time that the Everyass way of life is dying.


A More Generous America Than You Should Expect

Friday, June 3, 2016

How to Shed Your Faith Without Losing Your Soul

Churchgoers! I’m here to tell you the good news! God did not put anyone else in charge of you. You’ve long suspected and feared this, and I’m here to tell you: it’s true. Each of us is a direct conduit of the divine. None of us needs someone else to interpret divine will for us. We are it.

This thought may fill you with fear. The fear of responsibility. The fear of accountability. The fear of losing what is most precious to you. Religion has been your comfort, your foundation for your sense of self, for your relationships. You may wonder what meaning your life could have without it. What if I tell you that everything you cared about when you were religious, you still care about when you’re not? Your family. Your friends. Making the world a better place. Becoming a better person. Loving those who despitefully use you. Helping those in need.

Religion is just a scaffolding to help us “fake it til we make it,” so to speak. If you can see the point and feel the benefits of living a life that is honest, useful to others, and focused first and foremost on loving one another, you don’t need religion.

The sense of specialness you get from being exclusively in tune with God, the sense of piety from denying yourself pleasure, the anticipation of a much better afterlife, these things are nothing next to the peace of mind you attain once you give yourself full permission to address cognitive dissonance and begin taking full accountability for the outcomes of your beliefs and actions. Those special, light-bathed moments that confirm you alone are connected to the divine? Everyone has those moments. Everyone is connected to the divine. Literally everyone. And it’s awesome.

Your faith’s structures are fantastic. Don’t stop using them. Keep coming together, singing, enjoying the holiness of community, presence, and worship of the divine. The feelings you feel are real. It is holy to sing together and celebrate the fact that we are here on this planet, the great mystery of our existence, it is holy to bring ourselves in tune with one another, it is holy to gather and experience love!

Instead of locating the divine in something far above you that demands you fit yourself carefully into a box through constant war with your own urges, listen intently to the individual path on which you are being guided, trust yourself, and celebrate divinity in the people around you, in the coming together, in unity.

Keep visiting one another. Keep seeing to it that every human being has invested humans looking out for them. Keep taking care of the sick, helping beleaguered new mothers and visiting the elderly. Encourage others to do the same and offer them venues without first demanding that they align their personal moral universe to match yours.

Keep your rituals. When we engage with the physical world, we communicate with the unconscious. As above, so below. Open up your temples to all who are willing to be respectful inside of them. Let them see their own rituals through. The symbols of others are not in conflict with yours. The rituals of others do not contradict yours. There is room for everyone.

Keep doing missionary work. Send your missionaries everywhere, teaching people to love and respect themselves for their own divinity, and to love and respect others for theirs. Don’t stop doing the good work. Keep it up. Shed the skin of conformity. The demand that you live your divinity by suppressing someone else’s is designed to free you. Let the hypocrisy unravel your faith; it's supposed to.

Religions all carry within them the key to breaking free of them. The very first of the Ten Commandments is “Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me.” What do you think a human being standing in for divinity constitutes besides something coming between you and God, standing literally “before God”? Jesus Christ said that God is love, and that your only commandment is “Love One another as I have loved you.” Do you find that your faith makes it harder for you to love others or to receive the love that others feel towards you? Do you sense the intense wish of your unconditional love to flow free and unrestricted towards all, instead of stopping short when it encounters certain behaviors and ideas?

God is us! God is all! Free yourself! Surrender yourself to love!