Connections

I wrote recently about my lack of enthusiasm for chicken-fried steaks.  I’ve gotten comments and emails from people in Alabama, Utah, Washington D.C., Louisiana, California, and- of course- Texas (El Paso, Dallas, Arlington, and just down the street), who all say that their CFS would change my mind.

So, besides the point I am leading up to, let me say this: have at it, you optimistic CFSers. I will take up you on your offers anytime we are in approximate vicinity to each other. Except don’t ask me to slather anything with white gravy. I just can’t do it.

OK, now to the main point. As I thought about those who made this offer to overturn my CFS bias, I realized that I am looking at a group of people who would, in the same room at the same time, enjoy each other to no end and come away from such an encounter with their circles of consciousness made wider, thus better.

What they all have in common, right now, is a love for good CFS (is that possible?) and some knowledge of me. They could bounce those two subjects back and forth for a few minutes as a dialectical means of establishing some community, but then..I know this is true..one of them would say something which would cause another one to say “Aha!”. The rest would lean in to hear what followed (because all of them know- I also know- how to listen), and a human explosion of thought would begin that would leave everyone there reluctant at evening’s end to go home. But everyone would leave nourished and grateful for another community of which they were a part, but which had also taken them beyond themselves.

Evolution

We all have the opportunity to make connections with people: between ourselves and others, and between others and others. In doing so, we advance humanity. I’ll go ahead and say it this way, so you know how important I think that work is: By bringing certain people together, we can change the world.

And, of course, that can be for good or for bad. At some point, in the late 1920s, someone said, “Adolph, I’d like introduce Hermann to you.” But for those of us with genuine concern for the world and all of its creatures, for those of us who feel the circles of our love straining for larger diameters, the opportunities to affect the ideas that could affect goodness in the world, are present almost daily. We all know people who don’t know each other who should know each other. We all know of synergy which is waiting to sizzle if only two or more special minds whom we also know, could be brought together.

At that’s all we really have to do. If we trust that our instincts and forethought are correct ones, the natural desire for creativity on the part of others will take over.  We, then, can sit back and be a part of the synergy instead feeling like we must lead, form, and guide it according to our own personal expectations. My group of CFS aficionados might not come from their evening together with a solution to end of world hunger in hand, but they might be ready to get together for a CFS cook off, from which there might emerge, in a generation a two, an idea for the speedy transportation of surplus foodstuffs from one nation to another. Who knows?

Which is the real point, I guess to all of this wondering: nobody will know what the potential results of such a meeting of like-minded individuals will be if it never happens. Each of us can be the estuary where new relationships, new community, and new ideas evolve from their present forms.

And there is no way to make white gravy palatable. That’s the only thing I will not allow on the agenda.

Update: 12-18-07

Here’s a picture of white gravy from a breakfast I attended this morning. The breakfast was wonderful. But I didn’t try the gravy..

white gravy

Christmas Presents

You cannot buy happiness. For anyone- not yourself, your spouse, your children, or your boss. You can buy a brief period of satisfaction. How brief? Watch the kids tearing into the next present..and adult attention spans aren’t that much longer.

The GREAT LIE in America is that happiness (as defined by television script writers) is available to anyone whose means and desires coincide. And advertisers keep the sweet carrots dangling just a little bit beyond everyone’s reach, so that no one is ever quite there, where X marks the spot that happiness, true happiness, will finally begin. (Even Lottery winners get the blues: there are many sad stories in that chapter of the New American Dream.)

Last week, I stood in line at the local Fred’s behind a couple who were juggling two credit cards to buy what looked Round One of their Christmas gift orgy. Among the items was a battery operated model of Bill Clinton playing a saxophone. Here’s what it looks like:

Yeah, that’s all it does. How quickly will Uncle Bill tire of that thing? That thing will be in someone’s yard sale by April. Along with probably 25% of December’s Gross National Product, which is quickly becoming China’s Very Gross National Profit. How many gallons of foreign oil were used in this year’s manufacture of those Bill Clinton saxophone toys? And, how much landfill space will they still be occupying 30,000 years from now when the plastic in them finally begins to break down?

So here’s my point: There are alternatives– places where you can spend money and affect the future in positive ways for generations to come. Here are three:

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Kiva is a micro-lender. You can make loans to small business people in places around the world. Your $25, $50, or $100 is added to similar amounts from other lenders to finance the $500 to $1500 loans being requested. The payback rate is close to 100%, and when your money is paid back, you can either get it back or re-invest in someone else’s business.  Some people on my list this year are getting KIVA gift certificates so they can experience the same fun I’ve had giving six women and three men on four continents a real hand up in their lives.

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The SEVA Foundation is also in the business of fighting poverty and disease through self-help projects. And the array of those projects is fascinating. Last year, my wife received a gift from me, given in her name, which enabled two Mayan women in Mexico to be trained as mid wives.

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The Heifer Project is an elder statesman in the world of really good places to share your resources. Last year, each of my three children received a flock of ducks, going to Cambodia. Others received from me a flock of chickens, a goat, and some trees. All of these things are given to the recipients with the understanding that they will use the gifts for both food and income, and that they will give away some of the new chicks, kids, and saplings that result from their work. They are gifts that keep on giving for real.

Two years ago, I received from friends a llama in Ecuador and part of a community water well in South Africa. I’ve never seen either of those gifts, but they are the ones from that Christmas that I remember best. They are making a continuing difference in the lives of people, as they continue to make a difference in my own.

It’s a pretty cool bandwagon. Jump aboard! We’ll meet there at the X where real happiness is always waiting.

Flaming Lips- "Do You Realize?"

Miranda, one of my favorite bloggers (here), began some discussion about the Flaming Lips song, “Do You Realize?” It was a song I’d never heard of, but now have watched the video of about ten times since she brought it to my attention. Watch it, then tell me or tell her what you think. Or read what my son says about it – AFTER YOU”VE WATCHED IT! He’s nailed it. (Like son, like father..that is so much fun to say!)

An excerpt of my son Joshua’s comments on this video:

“That’s pretty heavy: Death, then, is only an illusion. It’s not an end, it’s not even real, and certainly not something to fear or dread. Hmm…

“From where I’m sitting, the sun is setting outside my window. But it’s not setting. Nor is the sun rising elsewhere. The sun isn’t even moving. And that is what The Lips want us to see, that we speak and think in antiquated terms. That the definitions of our world (and ourselves) are still flat conceptually.

“Now you’re job is to let your loved ones know that. Only, of course, you can’t, because you don’t know that yourself yet, because it’s the hardest thing you will ever come to know, so hard only the best among us ever figure it out.

“And here we see what the song is really trying to do. It’s not trying to tell you that you’re going to be okay because the worst thing that’s going to happen to you in your life is that you will die, and that dying isn’t that bad, because dying is just an illusion caused by the world spinning round.

“No, it’s asking you to tell that to someone else. Knowing that if you can tell someone else that, and explain it to them so they will understand it and be comforted by it, then you just might begin to understand it yourself. And what a thing that would be. “

(I love it when it when I get to learn stuff from the younger ones. Really! Thanks, Miranda. Thanks, Joshua. I love you, too! And you get it– that’s too cool!)

Build a Shelter of Light and Air..

I ran across this phrase, and it fascinates me:

shelter light and air

It is fascinating to me because of its Simplicity and Truth. And that Simplicity and Truth is found not only in the images or recollections which the phrase gives rise to in our imaginations or memories; it is the clean nature of the statement itself.

Build a shelter of light and air

Stated in the imperative, it is like a command that has been waiting to be spoken. It is a place which I am perceived to be ready for now- by whom?- and being invited to enter. But first- the imperative- there is work to be done, assembly to be undertaken.

The first task, for me, is disassociation from those things- things, stuff, material- that I have allowed to define me and, in the process, bend me. Because that is what stuff does, it bends the shape of the Image of God, the humanity in us, into the shape of whatever shiny baubles attract us. I have learned to feel my way in the dark with my wallet. I breathe in the smog of others’ desires for me to have the satisfaction that only they can sell to me. I am vulnerable and I have been injured, over and over, because I have traded too many times the security I was born with- the security of community with others- for the individual and illusory safety of bank account numbers and one more gadget.

I have forgotten so much about sharing. But I have remembered enough to know that holding my hands outward, toward others, is eminently more rewarding than holding them clenched and thrust within my pockets. I want to make room for the Image of God to be growing again, through the presence of others, and not stunted any longer through the weight of all my stuff. So it begins there.

The second task is to “let there be light.” Yes, that Light. The Light that comes not from the sun, and certainly not from any incandescent or fluorescent light bulbs; I want more of the Light the ancient rabbis called First Understanding. I want the Light of more Knowledge, yes, but even more than that, I want the Light of Appreciation and Acceptance of what I already do know. I want to spend less and less time criticizing, evaluating, deciding, and then second-guessing, than I do in feeling passionately about and cultivating the facts, ideas, and opinions that are already in me and that I know to be valuable. I want to continue moving from whatever is dark in me, toward that which is Light, and awaits me.

And then, to breathe. I want to breathe through walls which separate me from the pulse of the world around me. I want the Air, the lightness of being which surrounds us all, to be the only barrier between myself and others. I do not want to fight for air behind musty walls of tradition, or within stale spaces of ancient standards. I no longer want to gasp for air within the stench of dogmatic death.

I want to feel the ruach, the breath of God, always blowing against me, always being drawn into my being. I want to feel led by the Spirit into open spaces, and not pushed by the status quo against the brick walls of fear built by others.

I want to build a structure of Light and Air with others, for others, because of others, and live there, too.

That is the only structure, a structure of Understanding and Freedom, that will withstand the onslaught of those who live, instead, in forts, ready to fight and die for the beliefs they cherish and store within dark, thick, impermeable walls. It is the Structure of Light and of Air in which I will live and toward which I am moving.

I beg you to come along. We will need each other, to help each other disassemble, unpack, and even tear down some of what we thought, by ourselves, was precious. We will need each other to remind the other that the Light is sometimes uncomfortable but always illuminating, and that the Air is often harsh and cold, even as it is life-giving and clean.

We will build a structure of Light and of Air and we will say, “Welcome” to all who come nearby.

from Miranda’s blog, “My Brother Is Dead”

“I know, I know. I’m a depressed bitch. But I bring this up only to help. Because the thing I’m coming to realize, the thing that’s really amazing, is not that we all have our crosses to bear. It’s that we’re able to bear them. The world is so much more horrible than we ever could have guessed at age 5, 15, 25, but what makes us as humans so miraculous, so capable, so strong, is that we can handle the horror. We can deal with the very thing we’re terrified of. That which doesn’t kill us, we can live with. I’m not sure how, except that it has to do with evolution, religion, and anti-depressants.
“And hope. Our capacity for suffering may be outweighed only by our capacity to imagine what it’s like not to suffer.”

Go. Read the rest of it here.

Christmas will be on a Tuesday this year..

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It’s always on the same day of the week as my birthday, which was two days ago, a Tuesday. I discovered that “same day” fact at some point in seventh or eighth grade study hall, after I had (no doubt) broken all available pencil leads drawing cartoons of various teachers, gone to the restroom several times, and finished reading whatever James Bond book was in my possession that day.

Be that as it may, and all that is to say, the Christmas spending orgy is about to commence. Jesus will, again, be honored best this year by pushing our Gross National Product through the retail roof! Walmart, Target, and L.L.Bean will again become the hallmarks of American holiness as millions prove their love for baby Jesus by spending, spending, spending themselves into a January nightmare.

But what are a few more 29.9% maxxxed out credit cards compared to the half hour of joy to be experienced by children of all ages as they tear through carefully wrapped gift packages before finally settling down to watch the Christmas Edition of “The Price is Right?” After all, isn’t that exactly what was set in motion by God in that Bethlehem stable 2000 years ago- the right to keep and bear arms full of plastic things molded in China and cloth things sewn in various parts of the Pacific and Caribbean rims?

I notice you can get a jump on Christmas tinsel-spending by jumping on the Halloween lighting bandwagon currently being driven into our collective consciousness by the Chinese-American Plastics Consortium (motto: “Americans Will Buy Anything We Tell Them To!”). There are more orange-colored lights hanging on doorways this year than last year and, barring natural disasters, there are probably less this year than there will be next year. By that time, the Halloween light trend-setters will be needing to replace their antiquated sets from 2006 and this great new niche in the Useless Stuff marketplace will have taken on a full life of its own!

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Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and this year he’s wearing a wool/polyester blend with genuine baby seal trim from Abercombie and Fitch. And you can demonstrate your own holiday spirit this year with a matching outfit- only 495.oo! (hat, boots, and other accessories, extra) Self-indulge yourself this Christmas with 2007’s versions of gold, frankincense, and myrrh; you’ll be glad, for all of ten minutes, that you did!

Or….

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Go to Kiva.org. Find a small business person somewhere in the third world and help them get the amazingly small loan they need to expand their business. Dream for him or her. Hope for their families. Then lend as little as 25 bucks to them in the name of someone on your Christmas list, instead of buying that someone a tie or bauble for their already too-heavy charm bracelet.

Baby Jesus will smile.

 

September 11

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A Prayer

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection:
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is lead forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action–
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father,                                                                                   let my country awake.

Rabindranath Tagore, Photo by James Nachtway, September 11, 2001

(This entire entry lifted, in gratitude, from this always elegant blog)