How So, Logically Speaking

I remember hearing during a lecture on Philosophy, Artificial Intelligence and Genetics that science, when exploring the human mind, has always perceived it within the terms of the machinery prevalent during any time in history. The mind is like a water fountain… or later, like a hydraulic system where things well up, and go down. Then, in the industrial era, like a steam engine, fed and pumping on rails, and later, like a switchboard with messages connected in, back and around with wiring. And now, most lately, the mind is like a computer.

We can program computers, and many of us do. We can take seemingly disparate things and tie them together into a functioning whole. We can account for anomalies that might otherwise adversely impact the required systemics, with exception handlers. We create targeted constraints to enhance greater capabilities in focused areas.

But right now, computers aren’t really aware of what they’re actually doing. They, neither happily nor unhappily, carry on endlessly executing their various programs. However, the programmers monitor operation, looking for potential problems or unexpected results. And, if any are found, implement changes to either eliminate the possibility of recurrence or add new capabilities to accommodate.

This is a piece on computers, and a little more. It is a remote test to reveal insecurities, logical flaws, robustness and usefulness. It began a while ago.

Sometimes in computers you experience conceptual epiphanies. My mom used to always tell me that I just like pushing buttons. I got my first true insight into computers back in the 70’s when I was taking flying lessons. This lady pilot’s husband was a physicist at Boeing. I used to spend a lot of time talking with him while I was in junior high. He gave me a book on the Fortran programming language. I read it, even though I didn’t have a computer. A while later, this local computer store started giving me a computer each weekend that I could take home, then return the following Monday. By that time, I had already learned how mindless computers really were, and how fascinating. Fountains were more like minds.

My second epiphany was the concept of recursion. It has qualities of the infinite, though you probably don’t want that. It’s a spiral of self-reference that keeps spitting things out. It can be very useful, and just as easily, tragic.

Generally, computers do one thing, then another, then another. But if they do it right, and have good organizational skills, it appears they can keep all kinds of plates spinning in the air simultaneously. One thing, and then another, and another is procedural. It is linear, like the rule of law. It is comfortable, and certain.

Sometimes in your Main program, it can get cluttered. Repetitive details, even though they are necessary, can be removed from the Main, delegated to sub routines that can be completely forgotten, yet somehow relied upon. As your Main program expands, you might find that these sub routines no longer function the way they need to, in service of the Main. You need new subroutines.

I came late to Object oriented programming. We won’t think of these subroutines any more. Instead, they are Objects. The more generic they are, the better. Keep them happy by getting good definitions from them up-front, and you’re good to go. You even share a memory space. You can mix and match them.

It took me a long time to understand the Objectification of everything. Even people who Objectified regularly and fluently could not explain it. This is all they would have needed to tell me: there really is no difference between the Procedural, and the Objectification of things, except that Objects can be grouped together in a shared memory scope and dealt with. Objects inherit the traits of their ancestors. Procedures are just procedures. When you deal with Objectified things, you necessarily have to deal with that entire class of Object. The Procedural is blind to class.

As a programmer, I like Object-oriented programming. It lets me be lazy. I can group up tons of stuff into broad generalizations, define a class for them, lay down some rules, and be done with them. Then I can use them any time I might need, without having to pay any attention to them. No matter what Main I might be executing, those generalized classes of Objects, if applicable, can be invoked to service my Main. Unfortunately, any time someone else’s Main starts trying to use your Objects, you end up finding out pretty quickly that you somehow didn’t, no matter how hard you tried, take everything into account.

That’s why, as a programmer, I like Standards and Protocols. Someone, somewhere, after giving it tons of thought, scientifically, through committee, etc… says how it needs to be — what is acceptable, how things should appear, and how, in detail, things can or cannot be done. Often you can find classes of Objects that will implement the Standards and Protocols for you, so that you don’t have to worry about them when dealing with your own Objects — your Main can move along smoothly and effectively because you’ve plugged it right in. It’s very satisfying. And rewarding.

Microsoft is known for taking Standards, then altering them slightly, so that things only work with their own Objects. Television programming protocols for information utilize relational Object methods, while the strict typifying of variables insures class integrity. Sometimes it is more expedient to trick Procedures about variables when variable types are unknown, taking all necessary precautions, of course.

It’s interesting the various languages in use, when it’s all just really about shuffling around the power Objects. I’ve learned a lot of languages over the years. They each make some different assumptions, and have different ways of looking at things. They accomplish things differently — at least on the outward surface. Some people subscribe to a given language, extolling its virtues. These people often demarcate others. Many people seem to prefer fascist languages that require heavy typifying. These languages leave little to chance and are normally highly efficient. You can learn the rules, then play the game, and your Main is on track. A few of us prefer the less heavily typified languages. However, there are far fewer rules and you must be a little creative if you want your Main to run sensibly. It is flexible, accommodating personally elegant, which, incidentally, vexes the fascists.

Funny, how black and white computers are. On or off. True or False. Right or wrong, it doesn’t matter to them, as long as they’re following the game plan — executing the rules. It doesn’t matter to them. The Object in the class is called, and it dutifully, without any human impediments of responsibility, returns the result. Independent of any language.

Just a short time ago, the same people who worked to create the structure of truth were the same people who created the methods of operation. I understand now that, in our more compartmentalized world, those who create the structure of truth do so independently of method executors. Truth, and the executors of methods, are connected, only through protocol.

The Main has become little more than thin strings, binding Objects to data.

Here is some Perl poetry for you — some computer nerd poetry. Fresh from the grill.


my $self = $satisfied ? 0 : 1;

if ($self == 1) {
    foreach (`who`) {
        ($heart) = split;
        my $hand = join(".", ("eyes", $heart));
        `touch $hand`;
    }

    foreach (`who`) {
        ($heart) = split;
        open ARMS, ">" . join(".", ("eyes", $heart));
        print ARMS "nothing is sacred";
        while ($strangers < 1) {
            close ARMS;
            last;
        }
    }

THEN:
    while (sleep) {
        die "anon";
    }
}

And I guess while I’m at it, Jeff (so good hearing from you after all this time!) sent some information on how the System is stealthily planning to better track and identify Objects. The ACLU doesn’t like it much either. We have Jeff’s link and the ACLU link if you want to check it out.

Although I haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere, our local Congressman, House representative Dave Reichert has a bill that just made it out of subcommittee to amend the Homeland Security Act, adding provisions to it about “Homegrown Terrorism” — that is, identifying our own people who look like they might become terrorists by exhibiting “radicalism” in what they write about, talk about, etc, and taking “pro-active” steps to get rid of the threat before it happens. This is HR1955, the “Homegrown Terrorism Act“. Made a little PDF for ya there, of it.

And to maybe just go all crazy, all-out liberal on ya, the Navy is once again trying to implement its incredibly intense Low Frequency Sonar. They completed some very limited and inconclusive studies which you can read at NOAA if you like. They mention that the Navy, after implementation, will do further research on how to limit its damaging impact on marine life. It’s my opinion they should complete that research before implementation. Then again, Al Qaeda is on their way in submarines. The NRDC has an action site for this if you’re interested. They only gave a tiny window of time for people to comment. I wrote this to the NOAA guy who issues approval, not to the Navy guy on the NRDC site:

Please extend the public comment period on the Navy’s LFA sonar deployment to a reasonable timeframe. Having a comment period of two weeks for such an important issue, not only publicly, but also scientifically, is beneath the dignity of your office.

LFA sonar does, without question, impact ocean species. Our understanding of this impact is severely limited, not only by a lack of any broad scientific studies, but also by our lack of knowledge concerning sea life and the diversity of species in general — and their interdependency.

The Navy has stated they will undertake technical research to limit the effects LFA sonar has upon marine life once the LFA sonar system is deployed. However, in the years following the court ruling that barred LFA sonar, the Navy elected to focus upon rhetorical justifications of current LFA sonar technologies rather than refining LFA sonar technologies to eliminate risk and impact upon marine life.

It is your responsibility to insure that the Navy undertakes the steps necessary to refine their underwater detection technologies so that our marine life is not impacted, before you approve their technologies.

Please, on behalf of the part of the world for which you are the custodian, let us see the honor in your stewardship.

Most sincerely,
Mark

And finally, and Mr. Bernhard you probably get the happiest about this, Congress seems to be interested in actually freeing some of the public airways to the public! I know, it’s crazy. There are bills in both the House and the Senate about this issue. The Prometheus Radio Project has collected some information on it. One of our Senators out here in Washington, Maria Cantwell, created the Senate version (S1675). The House version (HR2802), sadly, we don’t have any sponsors behind from out here. But if you care about freeing up radio frequencies for public use, let those Congresspeople know! Few better ways to expand the API…

I can’t wait until people quit lying and trying to push everything down and grab it all. It’s irritating having to think about these things.

Honestly.

It was a while ago, one night, when this friend came running out into the parking lot where a few of us were gathered, standing against our cars, talking away. He came out with an unusually focused and excited look on his face, excited with worry. He told the story quickly about how another friend had gotten into a fight, but that everything was alright now. It had almost turned into a group fight, but this friend was out here with us now, instead. “Weren’t you going to help him out?”, we asked him. “I have a wife and kids to worry about,” he replied. Hypocritical I thought, since he was someone who often cheated on his wife. This family, convenient in one sense, a hindrance in another. Whatever works best for the moment. But still, you couldn’t help but love the guy.

Years before that I met this other guy named Jared. At the time, I was doing work for Battelle Memorial Institute, while continuing my “there and gone” love affair with academia. We ended up working together, along mainly with Kim and Robert to build up this wonderfully innovative ISP, founded upon good, solid quality and no nonsense. This was in the first wave, the initial influx of the Internet into the general population, where so many possibilities existed, and a positive spirit about the future, in much more than just money, prevailed. We all worked very independently, very decentralized. At first, I would even travel to complete stranger’s houses to help them get their computers connected to this “new” Internet. Sometimes they would make me coffee, and sometimes insist that I have dinner with them. After a while, I was no longer able to do this because there were just far too many new people each day. Strangely, I found myself caring about them all, in their many, varied worlds. Someone would call up with questions, and I’d hear kids screaming in the background, or maybe dogs barking. One day a person would be friendly, and the next day, obviously frustrated. I would receive their personal checks in loads, and got to know the pictures they chose, and the names. Sometimes I would notice when a new name was added to check because they got married, or a name dropped away. I always wrote them, and asked them about these things.

I also developed a habit of broadcasting email messages all of them, telling them why something broke, and what we’re doing to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Sometimes I would just send out messages for no reason other than to say hello, or to say, “happy gay day!” on the day of the gay pride parade. I met with some opposition from others in our little co-op business, but I kept doing it. That sea of customers were my customers, and I wanted them to know that I cared about them, and I wanted them to know that I was going to be honest with them: I wanted them to know that when I told them something, they could count on it not being any bullshit, at least as far as I knew it not to be. And it seemed to work — I never had a customer leave unless they had to, for some reason like moving away. Even when we had a disaster and their service was down for almost a week, not a single customer of mine left. It goes against reason, in a way, imagining that you could love so many people like that. But they knew it. And they trusted, that we would do right by them, too.

Since that time I have worked in, and with, many different organizations. I hear people say things like, “we care about our customers” or “we care about the common man”. Trust us. Buy us. I have sat in on long, drawn-out sessions with marketing people developing schemes to maneuver people into the proper alignment to funnel their money in. I have been told, this is business. We know business. I have even watched some of these business people try to be “human” with people, which is almost always, excruciatingly awkward, and a little unsettling. Ironically, it is often what these business people desire, too, being able to be, just a little more human. But somehow, it seems to almost always manifest as a palpable contrivance.

We need to bring our sons and daughters home. We need to stay the course. If we leave now, it’s losing the war. But what is it to win?

Let’s go back to the corporation I was talking about in the last piece. We have a corporate officer, promising to pay employees based upon specific performance goals. They meet or exceed those goals, but then, they are paid nothing. Or sometimes, the formula that determines what they are paid is altered at the last minute, never in favor of the employee. But what’s to complain, really? If they don’t like it, they don’t have to work there. We’re all just learning, anyway, aren’t we? Oh, I know I’ve made mistakes, but I just can’t seem to name any specific ones. Re-hashing this again and a again is a dangerous influence — you will speak to nobody. Silence. Secrecy. So things can continue as they need to.

Mike wrote a review recently, which had a sentence, in particular, that caught my eye: “The villain here is a bureaucratic ideology that refuses to credit actual events, and habitually employs ad hominem attacks as a way of discrediting bearers of inconvenient truths.” Even Republicans are attacking the President now, and all the President can do is point to terrorists, terrorists!, Al-Quaeda in the streets of Baghdad! US Soldiers bursting into people’s houses in the middle of the night, putting bags over people’s heads, and disappearing many, and some people getting angry, taking up arms, and suddenly they are Al-Quaeda. So much corruption revealed in our own government, in so many places, and so many people. How does one keep track? If you speak against war, are you unpatriotic? Are you dangerous?

Some truths are not very easy to keep hidden. Even when people go to very great lengths to hide, obscure or manipulate truth, other truths become revealed. At a time when secrecy and obfuscation is the norm and the expected, another truth comes to light: we are being told less and less, with more and more.

It’s interesting what people choose to focus on, or rather provide to us as focus. There’s the old corporate thing: yes, a mistake was made, now let’s forget about it and just move forward. We have to move forward. Forget the past. Never doomed to repetition. Bush recently saying, yes, someone in the White House leaked the CIA operative’s identity — that’s all behind us now, and we have to move on. And we have no people out there being disruptive about it, making themselves “dangerous”. Maybe they must have a wife and kids to worry about. Maybe they want to say how evil Iran is for helping kill US soldiers, while we occupy their neighboring country — and of all the thousands of people we have imprisoned over there, less than 200 are non-Iraquis, and by far, the majority of those few foreign soldiers are not from Iran, but rather from Saudi Arabia, a country which apparently can do no wrong. Congress agrees with the President on this, it seems.

Obfuscation and secrecy are interesting tools. They are also loaded, and dangerous tools. Telling half-truths is often worse than a lie. And keeping your mouth shut absolves you of nothing.

In a previous piece I mentioned how the “Sunshine in Government” Act, or S.849, was supposed to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act, which is next to useless any more — and mentioned how some Senator put an anonymous hold on the bill, keeping it locked away. Well, it turns out, thanks to the efforts of The Society of Professional Journalists, that it was Republican Jon Kyl of Arizona who did it. Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader has asked the Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, to have Kyl release his hold, but Reid has received no response from McConnell, nor Kyl. Not that he needs it — Reid, the Majority, can still bring it to the floor.

So we talk, and we wait, and years go by. We intend, and we wish. We wait for weather to pass. We see what we see, and things happen, out in the open, and behind closed doors. Tough words happen, little change, and the next, same, repetitive round begins.

To this day, some of the customers from those ISP days still keep in contact. Hello! It’s surprising a bit, I suppose, because there is nothing I can really do for them any more, and nothing they can really do for me. But I think it’s like a happy memory that hopefully we all have a few of — of a time when the world was a little more kind. A time when they, as my business customers, might receive some “inappropriate” ramblings from their ISP, and they might be offended, or laugh, or just perhaps a “wow, what a surprise”… Yet somehow they knew I had their best interests firmly at heart, regardless of my craziness, and they knew they did not have to worry about me screwing them over somehow. Mostly because, if I were going to screw them over, I would tell them, straight up. I learned so much during those days. Probably the most important thing was that, if I’m honest with others, even in all my craziness, they will forgive you for an awful lot of things. Things that, in any other context, except that long history of honesty, would be unforgivable. They knew, when I said I was sorry, that I really meant it, and that I had done, and would do, everything I could to make sure whatever happened, would never happen again. And strangest of all, it made me the happiest person in the world, just taking care of them. The whole, crazy, impossible lot of them.

Good.

We see things differently. This we learn some time after childhood, then continue learning it for the rest of our lives. Some are dismissive, and battle. Others obsess, becoming mired within themselves. Still others, and the majority, avoid thinking about it. We see things differently. But, having all else removed, do we experience things so differently?

We give our politicians a lot of grief, whether directly, or just secretly within ourselves or the immediate people around us. But these politicians do understand that we all see things differently. They cannot avoid it. In fact, during their rise, it is probably the most unrelenting pressure upon their minds. The more educated-ish among us give it a word: plurality. More than one. More than me. Multiple ways. Equally valid, unless they injure. And that’s where it gets tricky — what injures some, may actually help others.

You have to wonder, as a politician rises, that sea of plurality beneath them, lifting them up – what is important? That they are elevated? That this subset-sea the politician represents now has a singular, unified voice in that politician? Or that somehow, by being elevated by a group of people, this politician has been given a stamp of approval upon their own, singular way of seeing the world that can now be brought to bear upon us all?

Idyllic, in a way, believing this is how we do things. But this is only one thing, in many.

Craig was a good-looking boy, raised catholic, and was a thoughtful, unusually kind person. He liked doing things with his body, playing sports, on a team. He liked his body, and other bodies. He fell in love with a man naturally, then panicked when he realized this was at odds with ideals. He fled, suppressed, and got a degree in finance and economics. He spends a good deal of his time considering the psychology of other people and how to sell things to them. He has learned well that the realities inside are subordinate to conceptual ideals and achieving the desired results. He convinces himself that this is the best thing. Simultaneously, it eats at him.

Some time ago, the concept of the corporation was granted the status of an entity, in and of itself. In doing so, a business becomes separate from the owner or controller, endowed with many of the rights and some of the obligations of an individual. Just recently, the Supreme Court ruled that a corporation has Constitutional rights, as surely as any person. An entity that does not exist, except conceptually, has the same basic rights and freedoms as any individual person. And what is the primary mandate of all corporations? To take any and all actions necessary to increase monetary profit. And what do people do?

It makes me wonder, one day could we elect corporations as our government representatives? It’s strange the news coverage now, of presidential candidates. I almost never hear what they believe about important things, what their intentions are, or what they would do differently – what is truly important to them, and what they believe. What I do hear is how much money their campaign has raised.

I learn things about how pharmaceutical corporations have several lobbyists employed in Washington for every single member of Congress, and how much money this new Medicaid drug program is costing us, while we cannot even negotiate drug costs with the corporations. I learn that one of the fundamental milestones the Iraqi people must meet to prove they can survive without us, is that they give us sweeping control of their oil resources. I learn that inciting and rallying the Islamic world is worth the risk. At least, Economically. At least, Financially. After all, what is a few trillion dollars spent on a war, considering we’ll get our hands on a few trillion more in the long run? It’s profit. It’s our mandate. It’s our primary function.

So here, we have to look at something. Take Craig again, for example. He stomped down his heart so that he might conform to ideals. Religion. Economics. Finance. The things we raise up, above our own self. And this can be a very good thing, at times. It can also be a very terrible thing. How do we know?

Well, when a poet sees the things in the world, they interconnect internally – they are experienced, felt, and meaning, the science of reason, becomes implied by the more generalized. When a scientist sees the things in the world, the exquisite detail is unearthed – the observations leading to the science of reason primarily, and the more poetic notions become implied. Then there are the people who just want, more, with no curiosity and with no effort. This is what the corporations count on, and by degrees, what the politicians rely upon.

A few years ago I started a company with a long-time friend. I had possessed the knowledge and insight to create, he possessed the financial strength and was not bothered by working with accounting. Things were going well, and I brought in another friend to help me out building things. This friend was uncommonly insightful and devoted to “good”. As time passed, the financial friend continued trends of lying to and manipulating employees and eventually revealed, through ongoing deeds, with no doubt, that his control of the company was more important than the company itself, though his words spoke otherwise. I eventually became embarrassed being someone who helped run a company and find directions – I became embarrassed speaking to employees that I knew had been lied to and manipulated. The friend I had brought in saw this too, and it bothered him greatly. I told him that things might become difficult, as I can’t contribute to furthering this any more, and asked if he had alternative places he might find work, to which he said yes, undoubtedly. Then, I began fighting for the employees, with this long-time friend – in fact, known since kindergarten. I was met with assurances and promises, yet bad things continued to happen. Eventually I started being accused being this destructive and “dangerous” force. I was left with a choice of destroying the company, or leaving. I chose leaving, hoping, eventually, this long-time friend would come to realize on his own where the negative forces actually were. In the back of my mind, though I never said anything, I had hoped that the friend I had brought in would leave as well, leaving the originally friend with nothing but himself to have to consider. Forcing him to confront what he had become, and was willing to do. But my other friend remained, despite his devotion to “good”, and used my leaving to get more money for himself. Strangely, I cannot fault him too much, because the creation was a very engaging one and even I was tempted to overlook and continue supporting the “bad”.

So then, how do we know? We want more, yes? We want “good”, yes? But in the terms of Economics and Finance, do we have any concept of the moral/ethical “good”? In terms of Religion? How about “more”?

A few days ago as I was walking around on Capitol Hill, I was stopped by two men at a table on the sidewalk with pamphlets. They asked me what I thought about our current political situation. It turns out they had some very good insights and I respect them greatly for being out in the public offering alternative viewpoints. They were Socialists, and had pamphlets. In fact, I gave them $1 for a newsletter they had, just to help support diversity. They seemed to like what I thought about things too, and invited me to a meeting they were having. I wasn’t really able to explain briefly how, with intellectual systems, I’m fairly well rooted in my Ivory Tower, so I just told them that I wasn’t very good with groups of people. But I see their benefit, and greatly respect what they’re doing, and I hope they do very well offering alternative ideas to people who, for the most part, stagnate in perpetuity. Such is my conceit.

Politics and political systems. Politicians. Corporations. You, and me. Our food crops moved away to foreign countries. We invade, conquer and occupy other nations until we have their resources. We want what’s good, and what’s right. We want more for ourselves. And we want to just be left alone, and not be bothered.

A few days ago I watched a Bill Moyers show on impeachment. It was a discussion between him and two intellectuals, even conservative. They seemed to agree that our politicians had no real idea about the Constitution and what it represented, and instead of respecting and protecting it, only use it as a tool when necessary. A friend who works in government joked to me the other day, when Libby’s conviction was commuted by the President, that nobody there is really bothered by it, and it’s just business as usual, worthy possibly of a lunch discussion. It is a grave mistake believing that anyone representing us is able, even if they are willing, to represent us as people. They represent Economics and Finance. They represent Religion, when it brings them more votes.

How often have we heard Economists say, just trust the market forces? The flow of money will eventually lead to what is right without us taking any action. Is this science? Is this religion? Is this more important than you, and me? Are the abstract entities, which now possess our Constitutional rights, the true American citizens?

My friends in that company I mentioned make their decisions every day. They make decisions that impact people both inside the corporation and outside. People who run corporations are compelled by law to make decisions that will only maximize the profit of the corporation. But they do not always do this – sometimes they are willing to compromise the concept of “fiduciary responsibility” to maintain or increase their power over the corporation. Since this is the case, might it not be also a valid thing to compromise fiduciary responsibility in the interest of benefiting humanity in some way?

The actual owners of corporations, the shareholders, have little voice in corporate policy and decisions. Some shareholders, like Google, have practically no voice since their shares are a different type than the shares the executives hold. These shareholders only have fractional votes per share in comparison. Yet it seems to me, based upon how I feel when talking with people, and based upon an increasing number of scientific studies, that a growing majority of people are willing to sacrifice a little money, at least, in order to do what is ethically the right thing to do. Ethically the right thing to do, in the terms of right-ness than nearly anyone, regardless of religion, would agree upon.

I firmly believe that most of us are there. However, it takes some action on our part to bring about change, even if that action is simply to walk away. It takes speaking what is on your mind and heart, despite the perceived consequences. It takes the discipline to really look at something, and to question, where a question exists. It takes, bringing to light. It takes, moving beyond. It takes embracing something new, that, to each of us personally, isn’t anything new at all.

 We’re currently at a turning point in history, politically.  Money is our God, not truth, and not freedom. We absolve ourselves our any responsibility for our actions, by taking no action. However, if we as humans take no action, the turning point will be fueled by other forces more than willing to take action. I leave it to you. I’m doing what I can. And I would so much like to see just how good, good can be.

Underneath the Hood

When I manage to step back from myself, which is not very easy and prone to gross error, I can, at least, be certain of a few things. I seem to have developed some repetitive routines that occur each day automatically, and to which I am simply a helpless participant. I say “helpless” because these routines appear to be benign and I can find few reasons to waste any effort upon eliminating them simply because they are repetitive routines. And I like them.

One occurs in the morning, when I wake, with the mindless compulsion of the undead to locate coffee and brew it. There have been times when no beans could be found, but any description of this, for you, is impossible since the incidents have been psychologically repressed. Almost immediately I find myself in front of the computer screen, still in a zombie state, absorbing aggregated information until I somehow remember that coffee is brewing, and should be finished by now. Sometimes I forget the coffee. I’ve remembered the coffee today, by the way.

The other occurs in the evening when I start to get drowsy. I end up positioning myself in front of a television with a clear area around me to work up a sweat and stretch, and stretch, and stretch. The TiVo records things for me which I go through at this time. However, sometimes, like last night, I’ll just pick a random station to watch live. This is one of the reasons I’m writing right now. I don’t remember the station, and I don’t remember the show. But it was a Christian show, with a introductory segment that looked like a DJ with a headset standing in front of towering, backdrop video screens, pounding out tunes to the masses. But when the intro was done, we were left with a fairly handsome middle-aged man on a stage in front of a sea of people with a large masculine-looking bed sporting black and gold sheets. He said, sex is the worship of God.

He went on to say all sorts of Christian things, and also things about how sex has been removed from the church and he thinks it should come back because it’s very natural and God created it. He talked about how this bed behind him represented different things to different people. He sat down on the bed, and moved his hand across the covers, as he said, to some it represents rebellion. And to others, it represents fear. Then he stated his position: “I want to bring the bed back into the church.” I almost couldn’t stand this. Let me explain.

After I managed to sort out my own crazy sexuality, I was able to enjoy myself. There is not a lot of reason you can apply to sexuality and have it hold true. So, “sorting out” my own sexuality isn’t really the best description. How about, after having accepted I was a sexual being, I was able to enjoy myself. And even moreso, after having accepted that other people were sexual beings with just as much craziness. No matter how mentally disciplined we like to think of ourselves, the sexual factors always come into play, in one way or another, and to varying degrees. Sexuality is just too fundamental. Different people have worked out different ways of working beyond it to allow them to function more smoothly in society. In a terribly generalized way, men usually objectify their penis, instilling it with a mind and a will of its own with which they constantly battle — and wear like a badge. And women usually sublimate their sexuality as a means to elevate themselves in all manner of ways.

Now, the theory behind sexual abstanence in spirituality is to remove a very strong influence from your mind which can cause highly biased ideas and motivations to exert their influence over you. Particularly, when you are a spiritual leader of a large number of people, having such wild biases can make your leadership inconsistent amongst your followers at minimum, potentially leading to all kinds of chaos. However, if the spiritual “teachings” explain away inconsistencies, it should be fine.

But we’re talking Christianity here. We’re talking the Christianity that can put some personality on the stage and sell them as spiritual gurus based upon their Nielson ratings. And this handsome, middle-aged guy, talking the Christian talk, had a bed on the stage with him. This guy was selling sex. And, like Britney Spears, I didn’t see much inside to warrant anything but record sales.

Now, to be fair, there are a lot of problems with sexuality for most people. This guy is very right, it seems to me, when he says that our sexuality is perfectly natural and nothing to be ashamed of, nor hidden away until it develops into a neurosis of one form or another. But this goes far beyond just the TV Christian people. We’re starting to see it, more and more, reflected in our friends and acquaintances and even our politics. And last night, even in our religions.

We’re starting to see an open-ness. A diversity. It’s not a fad. It’s more like, even cliched, seeing people emerging from their variously-shaped closets, or even ourselves emerging from our own little will-imposed containers, to find ourselves standing out there in the same place we’ve always been, but with something just somehow lifted from our shoulders, or our eyes and hearts just a little more open beyond the confines of ourselves. Honestly, it’s a silly little thing, when all is said and done. An obvious thing. An inevitable thing. And the future people, if we manage to survive, will wonder at how it was possible we had to endure such silliness.

I have seen people enter into a spiritual life including celibacy as a result, in large part, of their inability to deal with their own sexuality. I have watched friend enter into a marriage of purpose and convenience with people they did not even love in an attempt to solidify their sexuality into an ideal. I have watched people lie, hide, threaten, trick, and even completely snap as a result of their own sexual disassociation. So in this respect, I admire what this Christian sexual salesman was trying to do. But I think I’m speaking on terms a little more broad than he.

A while ago, I told our Christian fundamentalist friend that you Christians have run us straight into war — thanks very much for all the death and suffering. Strangely, he was silent. I then began picking up on things — things such as doubt, and regret. He suspected that he might have bought something that was sold to him in pretty wrapping paper. I think, for the first time, he began to see that these Republicans (generalized) were interested in money and power, and little else. They put on the dog and pony show for the Christians, they offered the words, and the Christians bought it. They snapped right up that shopping channel item. And now they’re living with it.

It’s interesting, the corporations represented by the Republican Party; probably most of the major ones have policies of non-discrimination based upon sexuality. Many even have health plans that allow domestic partners benefits. However, Bush is aware most people can’t stand him any more, and see him for who he is. The Republican Party knows this as well. So now, as Congress is passing the legislation to fund the city of Washington, DC, Bush is threatening a veto if it contains money to fund an office for domestic partner benefits. Selling to the Christians again?

But I have to wonder, what does he really have to sell now? We have another very Christian family close to us that has a boy entering a major university on a sports scholarship. Before he could be admitted, he had to complete two courses with at least a ‘B’, and one of these courses was a sociology course. The topic he wanted to write about, despite the influence of others, was the situation of being gay while being on a premier college sports team. His mother told him that she loved him whether he was gay or straight, and he said he was straight — he just thought it must be a difficult thing and he wanted to write about it to help. I told him that he was very brave to take on such a subject in his current position and that I was very proud of him. And although he ended up writing about Mennonites juxtaposed against modern society, the whole incident said something about our future. Something encouraging.

I so often wonder how it is that people can get so caught up in their own heads that the resort to killing one another. I suppose it cannot be too surprising when we consider that most people don’t even allow themselves to truly exist. They bend under the pressures, in idealistic and unrealistic constraint, forever at odds with themselves, and feeling the pressure such disparity creates. After a while, a switch flips, and they say, this is just how things have to be, to function. And with that, the force occurs that makes young people wonder how the older people can never change society for the better ways that are so obvious to them.

And here we are then. Families and values. Wars. Love, legislated. Imagining what other people think, and making ourselves appeal to it, to maintain our status. Our influence. Our relevance. I suppose in some sense it’s really too bad we cannot cuddle up with our own sense of relevance. We can only work to maintain it. I don’t know if the Christians will buy what the Republican Party is selling again. And the Democratic Party doesn’t seem much better, except for the fact that they seem to care about things like seeing that we’re educated and that we can go to the doctor, and that it’s ok to love people, regardless of who they are, or who you are.

I am really proud of that neighbor boy, who completely loves his sport and his teammates, who wanted to write about someone like him who was gay. It’s taking a stand, despite everything. But he didn’t. Not now, at least. It really seems strange to me when people accuse me of being a pessimist. Perhaps they wouldn’t if they only knew how much I deeply believed in this young man.