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Archive for June, 2010

(Ascension of Christ by Garofalo)
I know a person who is annoying. I had a conversation with this person today. (Let’s call the person “A” so that I don’t have to keep saying “person.” What an annoying word.) Now, as those of you who have read my blog in the past might know, I’ve been working on not talking about people behind their backs. It seems to be going pretty well, except with one (or maybe two) exceptions. “A” is such an annoying person to me that I can’t seem to help myself from recounting all of the incredibly irritating and “A”-aphobia inducing things to anyone who knows (and also dislikes) “A.” Also, the things are so annoying that they are hilarious. Like Saturday Night Live hilarious. Who can walk away from that sort of thing? (I’m holding back right now from telling you the most hilarious story about “A.” You would die of laughter. Ok, maybe you wouldn’t, but I would have a really fun time writing about it.)

So, I’m sitting in the hot car outside Trader Joe’s (not right now–this is a sort of flashback scene–right now I’m at home typing), waiting for my family, thinking about Jesus. I’m trying to picture Jesus hangin’ in the lounge, cracking jokes with me about “A.” Just doesn’t work. In my image I crack one, then Jesus smiles wanly at me, as if to say “You just haven’t gotten here yet, have you Young Child?” Then in my head I’m like, “No! Jesus doesn’t judge!” The picture changes to Jesus laughing a little, because funny jokes are funny even when they are mean, and then changing the subject to levitation or taxation without representation.

Then I start thinking that God wouldn’t want us to have boring lives. Stand up comedy is all about making fun of other people! But then I remember that I love Ellen, and she is rarely mean. She’s just anomolously funny. But seriously, how boring would it be to not be able to crack a joke about somebody who is making my life hell by being irritating and manipulative?

All of this sounds like justification.  I am fully aware that I have made a pact with Jesus to try to not talk negatively about anyone, including “A.” I even know that when I talk about “A,” I’m actually revealing my own weaknesses toward manipulation and irritating behavior…but it’s like I can’t help myself. The desire to make someone laugh (at another’s expense) or to make myself feel better (at another’s expense) is too great and I spill the beans, so to speak.

Something’s gotta give. And so beginneth my next blogapy (new term coined by me meaning blog therapy…hm. It doesn’t work that great. Sounds like a painful invasive surgery. How about therablogging? Hm. Better, but still not quite right. I’ll think on it.) on the topic of how to quit being an arrogant prat.

Sigh.

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In teaching 5th grade “ancient civilizations” curriculum, I’ve come to notice a certain pattern of power. At first, it starts as a flick of an idea you have while tearing down and packing up the encampment for the 10th time in a year (hunter gatherers before they banded together to form villages). Maybe you realize that each of your many neighboring kingdoms each have a different consequence for knocking out a neighbor’s teeth, and you decide to make it right (Hammurabi’s Code). Or maybe the idea started while reading the omen of a measly six vultures flying over your brother’s Aventine Hill to twelve eagles flying over your Palatine Hill (Remus and Romulus choosing the home of Rome…guess who founded Rome and who ended up dead?).

Anyway, somebody has an idea that bigger is better. More people all together are stronger. Unification and consolidation are good for business. And it works great, for a while. But every great civilization in history has its spring, summer, fall and then winter. Every great civilization eventually loses power. They don’t know when to stop. Joining together is good. More people are stronger. But then comes the perversion of power, when some people in the mix become disposable.

I recently began reading a book (borrowed from Bad Egg Books loan) called Zapatista! Reinventing Revolution in Mexico. The Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) took up an armed occupation of seven towns in Mexico on January 1, 1994. Thousands of indigenous men and women marched into the city of San Cristobal de las Casas and demanded that the Mexican government look at them and listen to them. Their land was being exploited by outside interests (cattle ranchers, oil companies, paper producers, etc.) Their home was a land rich in natural resources but the people who lived their lives there were (and are still) dirt poor and dying of starvation and of preventable or curable diseases.

The Zapatistas are not trying to gain power. They are trying to regain humanity. They understand that with centralized power comes perversion.

The ‘centre’ asks us, demands of us, that we should sign a peace agreement quickly and convert ourselves into an ‘institutional’ political force, that is to say, convert ourselves into yet another part of the machinery of power. To them we answer ‘NO’ and they do not understand it. They do not understand that we are not in agreement with those ideas. They do not understand that we do not want offices or posts in government. They do not understand that we are struggling not for the stairs to be swept clean from the top to the bottom, but for there to be no stairs, for there to be no kingdom at all. We do not want to struggle for power, because the struggle for power is central to the world we reject; it does not form part of the world that we want. (EZLN communication quoted in Zapatista! Reinventing Revolution in Mexico)

I feel that ever day we grow closer and closer to the end of “us” v. “them” mentality. It is hard work, but the (eventual) reward is indescribable happiness.

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(William Shakespeare)

Several years ago when I was in college writing a paper on something important involving things that had to do with my education, I distracted myself by reading an online dissertation on whether Shakespeare really wrote all those plays. This morning, for some weird reason, I woke up thinking about this topic, so I thought I’d write about it.

Shakespeare is/was a beloved writer. Or at least, we think he is/was. There happens to be a plethora of evidence that suggests a fraud. I will list some of this information (which I found  here and here and in the [awesome] book The Secret Teachings of All Ages by Manly P. Hall) for your perusal.

1. If you were famous, don’t you think that your family would talk about that a little bit to one another? My brother recently took a photograph of David Hasselhoff and I’ve told no fewer than several thousand people about it. And that’s David Hasselhoff. Shakespeare was the JK Rowling of the Renaissance. One would think that his family might have sent each other a letter or two about how great that was. No such letters or communication exist. Nothing. (As a matter of fact,  Shakespeare’s parents and at least some of his children were illiterate.)

2. There are only six known examples of Shakespeare’s handwriting in existence. All of these examples are signatures, and three of them are in his will.

The scrawling, uncertain method of their execution stamps Shakespeare as unfamiliar with the use of a pen, and it is obvious either that he copied a signature prepared for him or that his hand was guided while he wrote. (Manly P. Hall)

Hmmmmmmmm.

3. Stratford on Avon only had a grammar school (King Edward IV Grammar School) meaning Shakespeare had only the equivalent of an eighth grade education. Further, there is no evidence that he ever travelled outside England. There is also no evidence that William Shakespeare had a library. In his will, WS makes special notice of his “second best bed” and his “broad silver gilt bowl” but makes no mention of any books, manuscripts, or unpublished work, which, it would seem, should have been the most valuable of his possessions.

Where did William Shakespeare secure his knowledge of modern French, Italian, Spanish and Danish, to say nothing of classical Latin and Greek? The philosophic ideals promulgated throughout the Shakespearian plays demonstrate their author to have been thoroughly familiar with certain doctrines and tenets peculiar to Rosicrucianism; in fact the profundity of the Shakespearian productions stamps their creator as one of the illuminati of the ages. (Manly P. Hall)

4. Lastly I will mention the strange inscription on William Shakespeare’s tombstone. It reads:

Good frend for Jesus sake forebeare, To digg the dust enclosed heare. Blese be ye man that spares the stones, And curst be he that moves my bones.

Some folks say that other folks were trying to keep a third kind of folks’s prying shovels away from an empty coffin…

So, if William Shakespeare didn’t write all those plays, than who did? And why did the person use an alternate identity? Manly P. Hall has a suggestion. He says that Francis Bacon, the alchemist, wrote the plays. Bacon renounced all personal credit to his work when he entered the secret society of the Rosicrucians (Hall has a LOT of other evidence to back up his claim, but I haven’t got room for that today). Sam Sloan says that a woman named Elizabeth Vere wrote the plays and gave credit to WS because a woman couldn’t write a play and be taken seriously at the time.

Who knows what the truth is? Nobody. Certainly not me. But it is interesting. (I sense a Francis Bacon biography blog post in the works…)


(Francis Bacon)

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(Karl Marx)

I was at the grocery store the other day. I was buying black-eyed peas and feta cheese for dinner. The woman behind me was buying popcicles, whipped cream, ice cream, and brownie mix. Her daughter, who was around three, put their items onto the checkout counter and mixed them in with my peas and feta. The woman apologized, smiled sheepishly and told her daughter not to mix their stuff up with my healthy food. Then she looked me in the eye meaningfully and let me know that this was not their usual fare…it was a special occasion.

Like I give a mouse’s fart what the neighbors are buying at the grocery store. (I really wanted to say mouse’s fart. I’m giggling right now.) It’s interesting, because usually at that market I’m buying root beer and chocolate bars. I suppose you could say my healthy choices there were a special occasion as well. It makes me wonder, if the tables had been turned, and we would have been shopping normally, would that woman have judged me for buying chocolate and root beer? Or would she smile knowingly and slide her organic, locally grown radish bunch over to make room?

How much time do we waste feeling judged by other people? How much time do we waste judging others? I’m tired of feeling like I “should” be doing something other than what I’m doing. Who actually decides what people “should” be doing? Or is it just one of those things that everybody thinks everybody else is thinking?

I’m reading a book called Notes from the Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture by Stephen Duncombe. In the chapter Work Duncombe quotes Karl Marx’s son-in-law Paul Lafargue from an essay called The Right to Be Lazy:

The proletariat must trample under foot the prejudices of Christian ethics, economic ethics and free-thought ethics. It must return to its natural instincts, it must proclaim the Rights of Laziness…

Commercial break while I look up proletariat…………Proletariat=workers/working class people or the lowest class of citizens in ancient Rome. Ah. Duncombe goes on:

In the era since World War Two, a stable and meaningful career has been considered a birthright for the white middle class. In the past few decades, however, the availability and quality of jobs has declined. What growth there has been has occurred in the service sector and sales, and in management and the professions. The former provide dead-end jobs, while the latter demand long hours and commitment to the corporate world, and are fiercely competitive–yet offer little security.

In rebellion against a culture that glorifies the work ethic with silly football-coach aphorisms such as “Winners don’t quit and quitters don’t win,”…zine writers celebrate quitting. The Quitter Quarterly, edited by Shelly Ross and Evan Harris, gives advice to the prospective quitter: not only quit things yourself but revel in it:

‘Tell everyone you know that you have quit. Because of the stigma attached to quitting, many quitters deny themselves the pride and gratification of quitting…Send reminders, call [friends] to discuss the circumstances of your quitting, invite people to your house and dwell on whatever you quit.’

Now, this section is all about work and jobs. But I think it applies, within reason of course, to grocery buying too. And body image. And measuring intelligence. All of these things fall under the influence of negative dualistic thinking. One is right and the other is wrong. Nobody likes to be wrong, but you might have to get used to it, at least until it disappears.

The great majority of us are required to live a life of constant duplicity.  Your health is bound to be affected if, day after day, you say the opposite of what you feel, if you grovel before what you dislike, and rejoice at what brings you nothing but misfortune.  ~Boris Pasternak

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.              ~e.e. cummings

(Paul “is that real?” Lafargue)

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(Jean-Baptiste Lamarck)

In the last month I have witnessed a lot of death in nature. There was the green snake killed by the scrub jay (an experience on which I wrote a blog entry). Then two weeks ago I saw a little brown bird being pecked to death by a crow. Over the weekend I saw a tiny squirrel baby separated from it’s mom, and very near death. Today I saw a badly injured jay being killed by another jay. That is a lot of nature kill in a very short period of time.

I remember reading the book Animal Wise by Ted Andrews. Andrews says that the world of nature “mirrors the magnificence of our souls.” When animals show up in our lives, they are there as messengers of the divine, to direct us on our spiritual path.

What’s my message after seeing all this killing and death in nature around me? Smite the weak? Root out the timorous and peck it to death? If I were to take Andrews literally at his word, I might  think my spiritual path had taken a decidedly Darwinian turn. That is, if I hadn’t recently read this:

Unfortunately, we conveniently “forgot” about the cooperation necessary for evolution when Charles Darwin emphasized a radically different theory about the emergence of life. He concluded 150 years ago that living organisms are perpetually embroiled in a “struggle for existence.” For Darwin, struggle and violence are not only a part of animal (human) behavior, but the principle “forces” behind evolutionary advancement. Darwin wrote of an inevitable “struggle for life” and that evolution was driven by “the war of nature, from famine and death.” Couple that with Darwin’s notion that evolution is random and you have a world [of] a series of meaningless, bloody battles for survival. (from The Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton)

Darwin gave us “survival of the fittest.” He told us that if you want to win, you have to beat everybody else. But, as Lipton points out, Darwin may have gotten the scoop on this story, but he wasn’t the first scientist to have a theory on the topic. A French biologist, Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck wrote a book on evolution fifty years prior to Darwin.

Not only did Lamarck present his theory fifty years before Darwin, he offered a much less harsh theory of the mechanisms of evolution. Lamarck’s theory suggested that evolution was based on an “instructive” cooperative interaction among organisms and their environment that enables life forms to survive and evolve in a dynamic world. (Biology of Belief)

Lamarck’s theory was shot down by scientists of the day and by the church, both of which adhered strongly to creationism. However, modern scientists are beginning to come back around to this theory, noting the many instances of symbiotic relationships in nature.

We need to move beyond Darwinian theory, which stresses the importance of individuals, to one that stresses the importance of the community. British scientist Timothy Lenton provides evidence that evolution is more dependent on the interaction among species than it is on the interaction of individuals within a species. Evolution becomes a matter of the survival of the fittest groups rather than the survival of the fittest individuals. (Biology of Belief)

Darwin’s theory gave rise to the ideals of modern capitalism. Get rich. It doesn’t matter who or what you destroy on the way, because they are weaker than you if they can’t beat you. Only the strong can survive and the weak don’t matter.  The oil spill isn’t really Darwin’s fault, but the way that he presented the world, as a war of individuals, certainly encourages the ideology that created it. But Lamarck knew that that which appears to be weak is a part of the strong, and by destroying it, the whole is compromised.

The green snake, the brown bird, the baby squirrel, and the jay are a part of me. The message is (right now anyway) that things (ideas, experiences, thought patterns) can be broken down and taken apart and let to leave my present existence, but through my good intents and practices, their gifts will not be forgotten or capitalized upon inappropriately. I didn’t cause the pain, but I am witness to it, and I honor the power behind it. As in nature, balance is key.

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I just got back from spending a night with twenty-one 5th graders and eight parents. We had really good food, thanks to the selfless devotion of one Jason B., who held a “food prep night” before we left. Fresh greens, garlic bread with real garlic, tomato sauce with fresh oregano. And real meatballs. Then liege waffles for breakfast. And quiche. With bacon. The kicker? He made home-made marshmallows. Seriously! I thought that only machines and chemicals could make marshmallows! But no. And boy howdy, do they ever make good ‘smores.

The trip was well organized, thanks to the help of Luminara S. We did a plant and animal scavenger hunt (organized by Pat B.) in the woods, an intuition game  (you get blindfolded and have to walk through the group of classmates who stand like trees), built tree limb shelters and we did a talent show. We found a dying baby squirrel who was parted from his mamma. We walked under two waterfalls. We got dumped on and checked into the lodge an hour early. We sang Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s Somewhere Over the Rainbow around the campfire. It was great.

The lack of cynicism was amazing. They sang along with that ukelele like nobody was watching. They walked toe-heel through the forest, quiet like foxes, as the Whole Earth Nature School instructor had  shown them. They wiped the spit off the spit bug to see what he looked like under there (the spit comes out of his butt!). They assiduously stuffed the chinks in their dead wood shelters with moss, then tore it all down without complaint when we were done.

One of my favorite teachers, a man named Dennis Klocek, said that children are able to rest through appropriate play. I don’t think I fully understood that until this weekend. They are resting from the pulling of the world, from media telling them who they are supposed to be, and from the feeling that they just aren’t measuring up to that invisible standard. In play, they are able to let their imaginations and curiosity take over for a moment, without feeling like it’s wrong or stupid. They can relax within themselves.

As always, this weekend my students taught me more than I could ever hope to give to them. I am very blessed.

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(Sojourner Truth–my favorite brassy lady)

I belong to a group called the Emerald Valley Time Exchange. The time exchange is a place where you…well…exchange time. It’s so simple, it’s genius. I have my own online account. I put in a request if I need help with something, like walking my dog while I’m away or getting a haircut, or I look on the list of offers to see if somebody is available with the skill I require. If it works out and they pick me up from the airport or cook me an Asian dinner or whatever, my account is debited an hour (or two or however many it took).

Then, my account is negative an hour (there are no overdraft fees in this bank!). I look on the list of things that people in the exchange need help with. If I see something that I want to do, I send them an email and we make arrangements. I do the work and I’m credited an hour (or two or however many it took.) So far I’ve received around 10 hours of manuscript editing. I’ve given hours by “tabling” EVTE events and by writing up interviews for my friend Sue Supriano of Steppin’ Out of Babylon. Sue Supriano interviews folks about a HUGE variety of issues including: peak oil, climate change, immigration, civil rights, sustainability, ecology, racism, militarism, and peace.

It’s a great gig for me because I get to listen to the people she interviews and write up a short summary of the interview for Sue’s website. Plus, I get credited an hour for my time, which I can use however I want (within our time exchange community, of course).

Anyway. That long rant (ie time bank plug) was leading up to something. The latest interview I summarized for Sue was a man named David Cobb, who is a community organizer in Eureka, CA. He is also an attorney and a member of the group Democracy Unlimited of Humbolt County.

In the interview Cobb says that many people feel like the judicial system in the United States is there to protect them. In fact, historically, the judicial system has served to protect the property rights of the elite. It has only been through decades of persistent pressure from activist groups demanding change, that the judicial systems have ever supported the people of this country. His group’s focus is on shepherding a non-violent uprising of the people and shifting the nation’s focus back toward legalized democracy. In other words, a country where the government and the judicial system are working for the people, rather than for a handful of elite families.

I’m inspired. But I have some work to do.

I have a big mouth and high expectations. But, for whatever reason, I’ve always been fairly apologetic about this fact. Make a demand!, think it through…, apologize. There are two types of people I admire, the go-getters and the calm-in-the-face-of-adversityers. I’m realizing now that I give higher credence to the latter, but I need to come to terms with the fact that I am the former.

I will, upon completion of this blog entry, begin to shift my pattern into something more like this: think it through, Make a Demand!, and then forgive myself for being so brassy. The world needs me.

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