A Baby Step into Deep Waters

Expectations are treacherous. They are founded upon intangible qualities such as belief, trust or hope. Failed expectations brings frustration or despair upon those holding the expectations, and the pressures of anger and guilt upon those who are the recipients of expectation.

However, expectations are a very powerful and positive motive force. This is particularly true when the expectations are shared between those expecting, and the person who is expected to do, or to be. If this person raises the expectations of others as a manipulation to gain their support, failure for all is inevitable. If the purpose is fully revealed, in the full light of day, expectation provides a focus for the energies of all people involved. With open and honest, two-way communication, hopes can become reality through the galvanizing bond of shared expectations and withstand peripheral forces that might seek to thwart their fulfillment.

For change as we would have it, and was promised, much work lies ahead. Writing a check to banks and industry is easy. Spewing rhetoric, nothing more than a dull hypnosis to which most of us have grown immune. Partisan fighting, simply a tired smoke screen, reflecting an old class war that the rich already won, many years ago. We have expectations. Not just of our President, but of all our government officials and civil servants. We have expectations toward each other. For something new. For something better. For something that can create good for us all.

Early last year I wrote a piece on Presidential powers, their abuse, and their potential for abuse. In it, I mention Executive Order 13233 which Bush issued in 2001. In this order, Bush required that any President after him would need to have his approval before releasing any of his presidential records. Though seemingly unreported, President Obama ripped up this order from Bush last week in one sentence of his Executive Order 13489 which says:

Sec. 6. Revocation. Executive Order 13233 of November 1, 2001, is revoked.

Obama’s Executive Order relating to presidential records states that former Presidents can claim Executive Privilege for any of their documents, but that, in essence, the current President is the only one who can extend that privilege. This includes, specifically, vice presidential records as well.

This is definitive action, which follows rhetoric along the same lines, where Obama states “Starting today, every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information, but those who seek to make it known.”

And rather than carrying on the tradition of Bush’s presidency which so often overreached its authority and powers, Obama has bowed to the rule of law. “I will also hold myself, as president, to a new standard of openness…. Information will not be withheld just because I say so.  It will be withheld because a separate authority believes my request is well-grounded in the Constitution.”

“Let me say it as simply as I can.  Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

This is extraordinary good news to me, and ought to be good news to everyone. Silence and secrecy is the hallmark of despots. Though occasionally necessary, Obama recognizes that everything in our people’s government must be presumed available to the public unless demonstrated otherwise, in the in strictest of terms. We can also see his new and refreshing philosophy at work in memorandum issued to government agencies on the Freedom of Information Act:

“The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails. The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears. Nondisclosure should never be based on an effort to protect the personal interests of Government officials at the expense of those they are supposed to serve. In responding to requests under the FOIA, executive branch agencies (agencies) should act promptly and in a spirit of cooperation, recognizing that such agencies are servants of the public.”

It will unfortunately require a good deal more effort to, at last, bring the principles of “sunshine in government” to fruition. The government is vast, populated with civil servants who are both entrenched within the presumed value of their own positions and cynical about any possibility of goodness prevailing. Most do not recognize that they are employed as servants of We the People, but instead are government employees. Our expectation is that the United States government will be returned to the people, and not just a few people. Our expectation is that our government will exist, as it was meant to be: for Us.

Obama will undoubtedly need our help. But we would be wrong to give it blindly. These Democrats now have complete control, just as they cried for. Now, there is no place left for blame. I move exclusively to alternative party candidates upon their failure. I have expectations that must be met. There is little hope in me. However, hope may come, if expectations start reaching fulfillment. So you might say, I hope to find the potential for hope.

eclThis is a very good beginning. We should not let our expectations waiver. We should use them to empower people who actually do seek change for the better. We live in peculiar times, where raw science must play an increasing role, alongside a more potent sense of our own humanity and goodwill. The greatest power is the collective power of us all. The individual selfishness of totalitarian rulers, czars, purely fiscally-based corporate interests and a ruling class is moving into decline, through natural processes. It will not go quietly. It will take time, and a concerted effort.

As an example for many of these concepts, you might like to read through the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff’s document on Space Operations released, sort of, just days ago. It represents a new and boundless frontier, above the incidental borders of the world, and how our government’s military arm, which is quite influential, is viewing it. It is not altogether bad. In one breath they speak of helping people through detailed satellite imagery, and in the next breath, protecting US interests in space through, “deceive, disrupt, deny, degrade, or destroy”. We face interesting and complex challenges. But it is on the ground, amidst each of us, from all over the world, that we must determine the best future for us all.

I do not believe I am being hopeful when I say that everyone wants the best for both themselves and for everyone else, in their heart of hearts.  The problems arise from the compromises we are willing to make, in following ideals, that do not align with our humanity. Do we have the strength of character to stop compromising humanity for the sake of our own self-interest, or gain? Can we expect others to stop, if we are not willing, ourselves, to stop?

Philosophy is coming home, to roost, on each of our doorsteps. Perhaps this is because we now enjoy an intelligent President. Or perhaps it’s because we, ourselves, have gained an intelligence and insight, unexpectedly and unlooked-for, and this new President is merely a manifestation of a more profound understanding of our world, that we each have discovered.

Eyes wide open, my darlings. Feet to the flames. And pitchforks on the ready. Listen. Speak. And be heard. Know that your heart is as important as your head. Don’t fear embarassment or failure. Fear silence. Then dispel it with light.

Trust, In the Long Run

I never know what to make of new people. I’ll usually just watch them making themselves. It says more. They can say or do anything, whether it is true or not. Time makes everyone honest, eventually.

It’s often said that you know a good, honest person by their actions when their back is up against the wall. There is some truth in that. But even more truth can be found in someone’s actions when they are utterly embarrassed or humiliated. People avoid this, more than anything.

I’ve spent my whole life asking questions, even the most intimate and penetrating, as all of you who know me can attest. I do it to gain further insight into people and myself. It is also, inevitably, a test of character. I think I live up to my end. It is, perhaps, not entirely fair to expect others to. And I don’t. After a while, the questions aren’t even important. It is everything around them that tell the truer story.

Ask a guy how often he plays with himself. If he answers seriously, “I don’t, I’ve got a girlfriend” or “I just get laid”, you know he’s propping up his insecurity with some notion of “manhood” he holds important, and is willing to lie instead of feeling even insecure. If he answers, “none of your business,” you know that he has some rigid boundaries to watch out for. If he answers, “as much as possible,” you know there is much more likely a true, confident and solid person there.

In other words, going for the throat, or the root, so to speak, can be an efficient and accurate means to divine the more fundamental character of another, at least in part. I have no idea how Obama would answer that question, but imagining it has lead to a wide variety of scenarios. But it is not a question for the public sphere, yet, I suppose. And when it is, it will have lost its efficacy.

A few days ago, someone left some comments on an article I wrote a few years ago about Andy, Mark and marriage in Canada, and even moreso, about the decisions we make in life that effect us through time. This is what he had to say:

“fags. a bunch fucking asseating,cocksucking fags. hope you get aids faggot motherfuckers.”

I ask you, do you think he plays with himself? How would he answer that question?

People do not have such strong emotions unless something very personal is involved. This presents interesting problems for we people, who are mostly bisexual to one degree or another, who live in a society strongly slanted against same-sex love, despite our conceit of some “modern” acceptance. This acceptance exists only barely in our larger society, and sadly, rarely for any individual who ever finds themselves attracted to someone of the same sex.

This certainly leads to a lot of self-loathing, which can manifest in many bizarre and seemingly unrelated ways. But for the bisexual, it’s not always so difficult just choosing the path of being “straight”. What is important to remember, that such things are a choice. In other words, you cannot be straight simply by saying that you are, or even trying to believe it. That’s a good thing to keep in mind when you head to the voting polls. Some things are choices, and some things are not. Who we are capable of loving is not a choice. It just is. And it is the most wonderful thing we can ever hope to experience. And any time that love becomes more, and stronger in the world, we should help it to grow. We all need that.

So if you hear someone talking like this, I suppose it’s okay to get angry. My reaction is more akin to pity, because something within them is truly eating them up. I would try to help, based upon who they were. If that took anger, they would have it. If it took patience and persistence, they would have that. I would want to help, and not for myself either.

So the next time a guy tells you that they cannot tell if other guys are good looking or not, because they like girls, feel sorry them — try to help. Nobody is so insanely straight that they become blind to the aesthetic of half the world’s population. They become blind only as a means, and this is a confessional. If confronted with this fact, their next position is to admit, well, of course the can tell, but they’re not sexually attracted to men. It’s a hot spot, again, so to speak.

Sex is a very strong motive power for us, especially in men. Sparta harnessed this to create one of the world’s greatest armies. But when self-loathing is involved, any attraction can turn to aggression and even the machismo camaraderie of war.

Honesty is a rare quality. Even when brutal, it always leads to greater things. Imagine the trust you might place in another person, entering into a relationship with them, in love, or even in business. If they are willing to lie, rather than feel any degree of embarrassment or humiliation, how likely do you think it is that they would lie to you about selling you out for their own benefit, in one way or another, which is itself, a humiliating and embarrassing thing to do, and confess?

I suppose it might be like a little cache box of personal treasures that we keep hidden, for only our own eyes. Because if we reveal them, we are no longer special. We are no longer what we want to be, or wish we were. We become, only and simply, who we are. And we do not realize, that is where our true magnifisence begins.

Justin, you might be surprised to hear me say this, but you are the “straightest” guy I know, out of all these years, and all these people. Even considering that bizarre Swedish biker fantasy you shared with me. This isn’t a prize. Nor is it a curse. It’s just been a while since I told you that I love you, and I miss you, and in particular your clear, refreshing and utter honesty in all things, that even overwhelms me sometimes. Maybe it is a prize, if I had one to give, that could ever match that.

So here is hoping that should change come, that its foundation is rooted in the truth of all our vulnerabilities and our worth. May our separateness change directions. And our inadequacies find people that can fill them. May we no longer fear, and even have the reason.

The Librarian, the Banker and General

One of my earliest memories is sitting on a little wooden chair with a row of giant Dr. Seuss books, spines aligned revealing their titles, seated neatly on the half-height bookcases at our local public library. Once a week my mother and her friend Ramona, who was the playground teacher/arts and crafts person at our local elementary school, would take me so I could choose the books I wanted to read during the next week. I liked Dr. Suess books a lot, and books about the sun, even though I didn’t understand much of what they said.

I’m told that I was reading before I entered kindergarten, but I have no memories that are in relation to time or place, to know for myself. I do remember first grade, sitting in circles, reading books out loud with other children, being so bored and laughing at “see Spot run! Run Spot, run!” repeated over and over again. I also remember being told by the teacher that I cannot tell the other children what the words are; they must figure them out for themselves. It was a frustrating process for me. It was an exercise in patience.

It was largely my mother’s fault, I am certain. I remember her taping the written name on everything in the house. I remember the sounds of letters, and struggling to understand why “th” or “ough” was the way it was. I remember when sounding out letters became more than just that — when the words started forming their associated objects in my mind, and reading comprehension began. I can only presume that is what made Spot running and running so boring to read.

Today I was reminded of this by a Seattle Times article about a huge jump in library use by the public. They attribute people’s more frequent library visits to our economic downturn. I would be interested to know what types of books are being checked out. We are known to be one of the most literate places in the country, and our King County Library System is second only to Queens Borough, NY in use. Nationally, 68 percent of Americans now have a library card.

Even more surprising, at least to me, is we are reading more actual literature. The article claims that for the first time in 25 years, more of us are wanting to read something substantial. Half of us, in fact. If you look at 18-24 year old people, the increase is even more substantial. This is very good news, considering the vast majority of university degrees are currently in business. My hope is that people are beginning to question, and are seeking answers, that focusing alone upon business and money simply cannot provide.

Social sciences come in second to business, with around half as many undergraduates. That is an interesting group of people, whose powers can be used for good or ill by the predominantly business world. The same holds true for the third and fourth place disciplines of education and psychology. It is interesting noting that our society, characterized by its dominance by business and marketing, produces people educated mostly with degrees in business, psychology and broad social sciences. Our education is dominated by business, and then the disciplines of studying the mind, and the society, and back to education.

Most surprising to me is that philosophy majors, though a tiny minority, have been slowly yet steadily increasing. These are the people trained to think beyond any given discipline. They question everything, and seek answers. Possibly this trend reflects what people are doing on their own, by reading more literature. We attribute the invention of the public library system to one of our country’s founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin. What we might forget is that many of our founding fathers were also deep into the philosophical writings and ideas of the time, that were wandering about in Europe. These philosopher’s critiques of their own cultures, and their ideas for better ones, could be played out and realized in our nascent America, which was not burdened by the traditions and power structures firmly established in their European societies. And this, our founding fathers did.

But as with all free things, some one, some group, or some prevailing purpose or idea will seek to take ahold. For us, this is money. It is money, at the cost of us caring for one another. It is a monstrous industry grown up around war and destruction — of control, painted in the guise of “security”. It is the pursuit of money, where all else is secondary, even life.

There is no way I can express how happy it makes me, learning that people are reading more. How happy I am that they are seeking alternate ideas and perspectives. How happy I am, that it matters to them.

Thousands of letters were sent to families of soldiers who died, and these letters were signed, looking like a human, by a computer. Each letter named this family’s son or daughter, “John Doe”. For some reason, the Pentagon said this horrified them. But what is the difference? Nobody from the Pentagon saw or signed the letters, anyway. The soldiers are John Doe, even if the names were right. I suppose you could say, it is the efficiency of business.

Our President in a national interview claimed that one of the greatest successes of his Presidency, looking back, is the triumph over Al Qaeda in Iraq. When reminded that there was no Al Qaeda in Iraq until he attacked it, his response was, “Yeah, so what?” In the meantime, millions of people are dead and crippled in horrific ways, while a very few others become even richer, and our government and economy go bankrupt.

And by example, Israel, which was created a few years ago forcibly on Palestinian land, subsequently locks the Palestinian people into walled-off areas where their food, medical supplies and power are all controlled by Israel. The Palestinian people elect, legitimately, through a democratic voting process, Hamas to be their government leaders. We and Israel refuse to recognize the outcome of this election because Hamas is not a supplicant to the Israeli will. Instead, we kill thousands of Palestinians. It is true that Palestinians have fought against Israel occupying their land. It is not ethically correct for them to kill Israelis for this. Nor was it ethically correct for Israel to be established there in the first place. Nor is it ethically correct for Israel to do what they are now doing, to the Palestinian people. Nor is it right for us to say to Israel, we are behind you 100%.

War is easy. It is also highly profitably for the few correctly-positioned people. High short-term gains. It takes a lot of money to be elected. When we take into account emergency and supplemental spending, the United States is giving around $1 trillion dollars each year, into the military/industrial complex. This is more than all other nations on Earth, combined. At the same time, we are the only wealthy and industrialized nation that does not provide health care to its citizens, yet we pay more per capita for health care than any of them by far, to insurance companies and hospitals.

I wonder what might happen if we took even half the money we spend on destruction and spend it, instead, on the constructive, both here and for other people around the world. This might hurt the oil industry, and the pharmaceutical industry. And if we provide ourselves with cheaper universal health care, we would certainly hurt the medical insurance industry. But maybe George Bush’s wisdom isn’t really all that far off: “Yeah, so what?”

Move beyond the psychologists and sociologists. Look at the true images of war and death. Find out why so many of our soldiers are committing suicide. Find out why so many Israeli soldiers are. Imagine why our own soldiers, thousands of killed young men and women, are never seen, nor the many, many thousands more that have been mutilated, yet still live. Move beyond the business people and look at what a war economy means. Move beyond the business people and look at care and compassion, only for those with money, really means.

It is hopeful, believing that people are questioning. We stand on the brink of so many possibilities that science and technology have brought us. Just imagine what we might be capable of, if we can bring our more pround sense of humanity into this future. A future that instead values life over all.

Learning to Breathe

I enjoy my internal world. I enjoy it so much that sometimes I find the morning light outside, when there should be only darkness flecked with shimmering at a distance. It’s then that I realize I am in a room.

Nearly every night I move my body around symmetrical lines and curves while dripping sweat. After, I will breathe, sitting still in silence, in centered ways. In different ways. I will breathe until my mind is empty of all things that it can be. It is good, feeling this.

This night thoughts wandered in, like ghostly shapes around a boundless periphery. There is a very fine line between life and death, even when we are safe. The ghostly thought shapes made me wonder what you thought about this.

Vishvarupa, the AllThere is a subtle yet profound difference between having a capacity or having an ability. That difference defines and restricts you, as you consider such questions. The conscious mind lumbers through modifications in an effort to know, and so control. Or, perhaps, to wall away from sight.

This is why I thought, this maple bar is far too intense in its sweetness. Its experience is unreal, far beyond the pleasure of the blueberries just a moment before. The sweetness and texture was a visceral overload, like a bomb that blasts your attention toward meaningless things that always want more. I thought, I prefer the quiet flavor of a sweet yogurt with mint.

I imagined, this must be like sky diving, or various other thrill-seeking pursuits. A visceral overload intended to reveal just what living is like. Or so it is said. It is telling, however, how subdued and introspective these people can become, later in life. Something led them, eventually, to the stillness of blueberries.

Sometimes it is difficult knowing what is sacred and what is not.

I wonder if it is like Christians, proud to be killing in war. What else are we supposed to do, they ask. As the terrorists are getting ready to kill us, should we be all kum-ba-yah? Is it not the teaching of Christ, your Lord, that you should die, rather than kill another? Don’t be a lawyer with me. If nothing else, then yes, you should be all kum-ba-yah.

And you Jews of Israel. God told you that all people, in all their diversity, exist so that you can better know yourself. What is it that you are learning about yourself now? Just look how high the Christians have raised you up.

At least the Muslims can be understood better, on a more human level, as a people who rise up to fight against invaders and pillagers. But this religion, too, has been co-opted as another tool that guides the modifications of mind toward the unholy.

Ah, well. I suppose the oldest religion in the world might be right. “The faith of each is in accordance with one’s own nature.” What we see now is the nature of people, not their better spirit. Where is the belief that people claim to have? “Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is.” I can only assume that, though they say otherwise, they have no true belief.

Rather, “Living in the abyss of ignorance, the deluded think themselves blessed. Attached to works, they know not God.” Our acts, and their acts, are obscene. “As one acts and conducts himself, so does he become. The doer of good becomes good. The doer of evil becomes evil.”

There is such a thin barrier between life and death, existence and non-existence. We are all so unique. Everything is so unique. The scale of this is staggering for the mind, yet blissful for the heart. They are one, and the same.

“The wise man should surrender his words to his mind;
and this he should surrender to the Knowing Self;
and the Knowing Self he should surrender to the Great Self;
and that he should surrender to the Peaceful Self.”

I suppose doing that is harder than killing someone and then asking for forgiveness. Or conjuring through the mind some peculiar sense of duty, that flies in the face of both rationality and the true heart. But it is always harder to walk the walk, than to talk the talk. We know the difference, though, don’t we?

The difference is the blueberries. It is the silence, with only your breath. It is that other person who might be your friend, or someone you love. Other spirits who breathe. They are remarkable. They are beautiful. They are everything.

“The little space within the heart is as great as the vast universe. The heavens and the earth are there, and the sun and the moon and the stars. Fire and lightening and winds are there, and all that now is and all that is not.”

These are all words from the oldest of religions. From the most ancient civilization. Judaism and its offshoots of Christianity and Muslim are barely teenagers in comparison. Rowdy, unruly, and dangerous teenagers. Selfish teenagers. Thugs.

It is time now, I think. We have to grow up. We have to start taking care of each other — to help and to share. To enjoy blueberries, and all the other little things. To put aside the maple bars. To focus on that which allows our existence to be meaningful. Doing so is not an act of destruction. On the contrary, it is an act of creation. It allows us to see and feel the simple yet overwhelming importance of another. And in doing so, it becomes an act of creation, within ourselves.

“Creation is only the projection into form of that which already exists.”