Thursday, January 7, 2016

Something's Broken

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mystic Monkeymind, Heal Thyself

Last night, my sister read me a hate filled post from someone I don’t know, and have no desire to know. In this post, the person basically said that all fast food workers deserve to be underpaid because they are unskilled, lazy jerks who aren’t putting their lives on the line serving in wars that a large portion of the country and, indeed, the world think are unjust and possibly manufactured to pad the coffers of warmonger whose own children are never placed in danger. Those fast food workers don’t deserve to make more money than soldiers make, when they have “chosen” to seek out jobs meant for teenagers.

Ignoring the fact that if fast food workers were paid a decent wage, other jobs would pay more to attract better workers, and the whole country would benefit because people actually earned enough to do more than barely survive, clearly this person believes that there are no former or current military personnel working in fast food, nor could there possibly be any college graduates unable to find work because the jobs they trained for have been shipped overseas.

As you can tell, this really pissed me off.

It made me angry enough that I vocalized the wish that karma would track this person down and lay a hefty whoop-ass dose of justice upon their vile little head. I was angry enough to declare them a judgmental ass without enough life experience to begin to grasp the ugliness of what they had posted.

And the fact that I reacted that way not only pissed me off, it made me sad. Why did it make me sad?

Because I don’t want to be the person who responds to that ugliness with anger. I want to be the kind of person who can respond to that with a genuine outpouring of compassion for the pain that person must live with in order to be that unkind. I want to be the sort of person who opens my own heart to send a flood of loving, healing kindness to that unhappy person. I want to be the kind of person who doesn’t judge the judgmental nature of others. I am deeply disappointed at just how spectacularly I failed to be the kind of person I want to be. That’s why reacting with anger makes me sad.

But why did I react with anger to begin with? Partially because there is so much unkindness, endlessly spewed forth in posts similar to that one. Partly because it feels futile to try and explain to people that kindness works better than hatred. I’ve got me a hefty dose of sheer frustration - which means that again, I am not managing to live the life I am trying to live. I need the Serenity Prayer tattooed on the insides of my eyelids!

I cannot change other people, nor should I want to. They have the right to be who they are. The best I can do is be compassionate and accepting. I did not do my best.

But the other part of why this made me so angry - and it took me all night to figure this out - is that I do feel compassion for that person, because I can remember being that person. I can remember a time when I thought homeless people just needed to make an effort, drug addicts chose to be addicted, poor people just needed to try harder. I can remember being negative about random strangers’ appearances, behaviors, and attitudes. I can remember being the superior little bitch who couldn’t grasp a struggle I hadn’t personally experienced.

And because I can remember being that person, failing to forgive this person for being less than the Ideal even I failed to meet, is triply damning to me. I preach forgiveness a lot. Forgive others because they are acting from painful places you cannot see. Forgive yourself, because you too, are acting from within a place of pain. Forgive, I say, repeatedly. And driving around thinking about this for hours, I realized something Very Important.

I failed to be the person I want to be for a really big reason.

I failed to come close to my ideal self because I have consistently failed to forgive myself for having been the judgmental little bitch I described above. I have worked a long time to become kinder than the selfish, spoiled child I once was. I really have come a long way. Seven league boots strides. But I’m ashamed of that past person, and that means I’m not coming to ME from a place of loving kindness, or at least not nearly as kind as I could be.

Forgiveness is hard. It’s hard because you have to pick off the scab and let it bleed a bit, you have to slather on the ointment of compassionate seeing, and you have skip the bandage, so the wound gets air - healing needs room to breathe. I’m healing now. And from my place of imperfect healing-in-progress compassion, I’m sending out a huge bucket of loving kindness and gratitude to the person whose post made me so angry to begin with.

Eyes and wounds and heart a little more open.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

An open letter to the Senate and Congress of the United States of America

Ladies and Gentlemen of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate,

It is your duty to make decisions based on what is best for the People of these United States. You have failed. Your endless pandering to personal self interest and the interests of the corporations who have bought your votes must stop.
You are the largest Organization of Welfare Leeches in the country.
You have free medical care - excellent free medical care - yet you deny Americans access to even mediocre medical care at a reason price.
You have guaranteed retirement benefits, yet you constantly empower corporations to raid the retirement funds of the American people. You have allowed Social Security - which we pay for, out of our increasingly limited paychecks - to be used to finance everything except our retirements, and now you are intent on cutting our returns on our own investments in Social Security by claiming it is an entitlement we don't deserve. We OWN it. It's OUR money. Give it back.
You add reprehensible projects onto the tail end of programs that are desperately needed as a method of funneling money to your own districts without caring whether the projects you fund have any reasonable basis in need or usefulness.
You vote against assistance for the victims of one national disaster, then vote for assistance for your own neighborhood. Many of you voted against assistance for victims of Sandy and then asked for assistance for much lesser disasters. You lack the decency to even be ashamed of your self-serving greed.
You refuse to establish decent gun control measures, then whine for help when some nutter you enabled opens fire on your constituents. You don't care that 91% of the American public demanded that decent gun control measures be enacted, because your owners, the NRA said vote against it.
You don't care that our water supply is being contaminated, because your owners in the Oil and Gas industries tell you climate change is bogus.
One assumes that the college degrees you're all so proud of indicate intelligence, but quite frankly, your obvious inability to grasp basic facts indicates that those degrees are just one more thing you bought rather than earned.
Your utter refusal to look at the long range impact of your behavior is stupefying. You are poisoning your own children, your own grandchildren. You are destroying your own country for the immediate gratification of dollars into your campaign funds and the abuse of power sitting in that nice, upholstered chair allows you.
While some of you are actually trying to improve the terrible situation this country is now in, many of you are too busy conducting power plays to even understand that it is You, personally, I am addressing. If you are sitting there thinking I'm talking to someone else, you are Wrong.
I'm talking to YOU.
Do you even know who your employers are? You are employed by the American People and you need to start doing as the American People Dictate, not as the PACS and Lobbyists bribe you to do.
We've had enough.
This is your notice, Congress, Senate. Do your damned jobs or get out of the way. Go sit on your obstructionist asses at home, where you will continue to collect your ridiculous retirement that you've done nothing to earn. We have a country that needs honest, caring leaders and you have proven that you are not that.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Govt. Island: Winter Walk in the woods

Govt. Island: Winter Walk in the woods: Now that winter is officially with us that does not mean that there is little to see when you go to Government Island.  A cold day is a gr...

Saturday, November 10, 2012


For some time now, I've been whining about how frightened Americans seem to be these days. My rants have mostly focused on how many of our freedoms people seem willing to sacrifice for "safety". I don't believe "safety" is possible. People want to be protected from terrorists, but the only way to be protected is not to be terrified. No one can prevent every possible bad thing from happening. The beltway snipers were terrorists, serial killers are terrorists, so are bullies and abusers - but no one seems to think of them that way. "Terrorists" -the word- means "foreigners" to an awful lot of people. Anyway, we're so afraid of terrorists that we've sacrificed our rights - freedom from illegal searches, unwarranted invasions on our privacy. Hell, we've even given up on the right to a speedy trial - or any trial - and all the government has to do to implement that denial is say 'terrorist'.

I think if people are willing to deny someone else the right to a speedy and fair trial, they should lose that right themselves. Not everyone should lose that right - just the people who want to take it away from others. Same with the "sanctity of marriage" group - they should forfeit the right to choose their own partners.

(Yes, I digressed a bit. I'm back on topic now...) When the shooter went wild on the Virginia Tech campus, parents went apeshit because the school didn't do enough to protect their children. Here's a news flash: They aren't children. They are old enough to vote, marry, die in war, and even to drink in some places (not Virginia). They are adults. Besides that, why would anyone expect that a murder over here would turn into a murderous spree across campus a few hours later? No one could predict that, so no one could know what to do to prevent it. Sure, after the fact, you can say they shoulda this or they shoulda that.

No one could know that some nutcase would open fire in a movie theater, and considering the volume of the Dark Knight and the amount of gunfire in that movie, who would be able to tell the difference between live fire and that playing on the screen? Theaters are soundproofed so that horrendously loud movie doesn't interfere with the horrendously loud movie playing screen right next door.

So, a few months ago, several scientific studies were correlated to pinpoint this whole fear thing. Mostly the research has to do with conservatives vs. liberals, but I think those are the wrong labels. Some people have a bigger right amygdala - which monitors fear, and others have a larger anterior cingulate cortex, which monitors ambiguity. If your amygdala is larger, you are more frightened. If your anterior cingulate cortex is bigger, you are better at handling ambiguity. People who are afraid need more controls, people who aren't bothered by uncertainty need fewer controls.

The studies explain that amygdalites (I made that up, it's shorthand for "people with larger amygdalas) are more concerned with self-preservation: what is best for ME (and mine), whereas cingulates (shorthand for people with larger anterior cingulate cortexes) are more focused on what is best for all, even if that means that the result isn't necessarily in their own personal best interest.

Cingulates pass out free water in a drought, while amygdalites hide their water rather than share it. Those who sell it for four times the usual price are probably people with relatively equal amygdala / cingulate sizing. They get the water to people who need it, but make sure they also benefit from the distribution. Yes, I do know that those sharing the water benefit, but that is more cerebral / spiritual than tangible. 

Politically, cingulates are more likely to say 'let's move forward, do things differently' and amygdalites are more likely to say 'let's go back to how it used to be'.

Innovators and traditionalists. Since not all change is good, and humans are mostly wired to maintain status quo, tradition is pretty strong stuff. But not all tradition is good, and if we didn't change the status quo, quite frankly, we'd all be cavemen. Innovation is vital. Without it, no one would be voting at all - at the very least we'd have small tribes run by the meanest dude in town. 'How it used to be'  sucked.

None of the studies discussed whether people can affect the size of their amygdalas and anterior cingulate cortexes. Can we, by practicing creativity exercises and adapting to change, enlarge our anterior cingulate cortex? By giving in to fear or worry, can we cause the right amygdala to grow?

I do know that if you fear something - heights, for example - you can learn to overcome that or you can let it take over. You can climb one rung higher on a ladder daily, until you reach the roof, or you can cling to the handrail and descend the stairs with trepidation. I know that if you don't push back against fear, fear pushes in on you.

Fear is that nightmare room where the walls close in on you. It's scary to do new things and to push yourself to do things you fear, but doing so expands the space you have to live in. Expanding your own world makes the world bigger for everyone else too. I'm not suggesting everyone throw all caution to the wind, just that we all try to do something new each day, even something tiny, so that none of feel the need to constrain others simply because we're afraid of change.