A Spiritual Autobiography

I wrote the below spiritual autobiography a dozen years ago as part of a servant leadership study group.  While it definitely needs updating, it serves well as a brief overview of my spiritual history and development over much of my life, particularly my early years.  Fortuitously, my humor remains righteously irreverent and my faith grows.

RUTTS
by Alex Haley
(that’s just my pun name)

The year was 1961. Preceded by John, a child was conceived, fathered by a closeted gay man, in Bethlehem, on the outskirts of the city of brotherly love. In my mother’s womb, I was transported to Haiti, where my parents, as doctor and nurse, were beginning their service as medical missionaries with the Mennonite Central Committee. A dozen (and a half) generations ago my ancestors had fled religious persecution and military conscription in Germany to settle in America. For a new beginning, they were gifted with land from William Penn. This land was some of the most fertile in the world; so fertile, in fact, that even gay men father children there! Though now in Haiti, they were soon to be counted again among the privileged of the world. I was born. And on this journey, Joseph followed. Continuing my heritage as a sojourner in a foreign land, I was born a true child of the 60s.

I have no specific memories of those first couple of years in Haiti. However, only in recent years have I realized my ideal vision of serenity as sleeping without a care late in the morning in a mountain cabin while the rain pounds on the tin roof likely came from memories as a baby (now, if only I can figure out why I have a pleasant association with the smell of skunk!). Also, I am told that I was scared of most white people. Strangely, I am still haunted by white people on occasion.

After a brief stint in Detroit, perhaps explaining my love of urban life, I grew up in a small town in Michigan. The town was Mennonite-free, so I was raised a United Methodist. My childhood was strikingly trauma-free (only striking in retrospect). I knew safety. I knew predictability and caring. Our family always ate meals together, beginning with a prayer too short not to recount here: “God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for our food. Amen.” A lot more theology in that prayer than I usually give credit. Our family participated in worship and church functions regularly. Worship was generally boring. One of my few memories was a teenager with a guitar, singing “Blowing in the wind.” I guess that would have been contemporary music, huh? And that was before Bob Dylan was a Christian. I attended Sunday school, vacation Bible school, and youth group. I only vaguely remember confirmation. I remember good times. Except for a desperately poor matching of gifts by placing me in a children’s choir – my first, and really only, experience with “playing hooky.” I loved summer camp. First there were church camps, then Boy Scout camps. My younger brother and I earned Eagle Scout ranking (the highest in Boy Scouts) in record time. Our scoutmaster was easygoing and playful. Perhaps paradoxically, it was easy to achieve in that environment. If “achievement” had been required of me, I probably wouldn’t have done it, or at least wouldn’t have enjoyed it so much. When we later moved and joined another scout troop, which was probably better organized and certainly more rigid, we dropped out after a while.

My understanding of diversity was child-like. I knew that Catholic families were the ones with five or six kids. Good families to play with. My best friend’s dad was Cuban. He also had two older half-siblings. In retrospect, this was the only somewhat non-traditional family I recall; though I don’t recall giving it much thought.

I was baptized at age eleven. Apparently, I was out of the country at the time such events usually occur. Fortunately, my understanding of baptism was still pretty much that of an infant, so it worked out well. I was confirmed a year later. About this same time, I was in little league baseball. In an attempt to deal with performance anxiety, I kept a pocket-sized New Testament in my back pocket. This crude attempt at spiritual osmosis was discovered by my brothers who with little affection labeled me “Bible boy.” I didn’t like this. I remember that my parent rebuked them.

When we moved to Dearborn, Michigan, before my ninth grade, my parents looked for a church nearby, but had little success – “too suburban” I think. Not surprising, considering we lived in a nice home with a pool, only 100 feet from a golf course. They decided to return to their church from earlier years, Central United Methodist Church in downtown Detroit, 20 minutes away. Central is the oldest Protest-ant church in Michigan, and has been called “the conscience of the city.” Always a leader in social justice, their most widely known pastor preached pacifism before, during and after World War II. I was soon to be raised on 45+ minute sermons, truly epic sermons. A turning point happened to me sometime during my high school years when my mom took me to a peace conference at church. My eyes were opened and my heart would soon follow.

I went to Hope College, a small, private, liberal arts school. It was a Christian College, as were most of its staff and students, mostly Reformed and Christian Reformed. However, it was unlikely that I would ever be Reformed; conservatively speaking that is. My college years began with my father lightly warning me of these Calvinists. I didn’t know what he was talking about. My first roommate and I, who were boyhood friends, unknowingly were matched because we were both Methodists – apparently, a rare breed thereabouts. Early on, I must have been an easy target for an overabundance of evangelism. A friend invited me to Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. I went to what turned out to be a practically diversity-free zone; even ALL of the other persons in my small group were named “Kathy” (though probably a diversity of spellings). Later, when I saw out my dorm room window the friend who invited me, I said, “hello.” She asked me what I thought of the meeting. I shouted from the second floor window something to the effect that it was “too religious.” I did like church, and I went willingly. I even went to chapel services three times a week – religiously. I was also on part-time staff of the campus ministry. Though a biology major, I was frequently mistaken for a political science or philosophy major. Apparently, I was succeeding at the liberal arts (or at least the art of being liberal).

I very soon got involved with a small group of students known as the World Hunger Committee. Being a United Methodist, I must have known that there would be a committee for that! This formally launched my work in social justice, and my personal interest in stewardship, vegetarianism and nutrition. That first year, God brought together this son of a Mennonite with a Hope graduate who was a Mennonite (perhaps the only one). I told him that I was concerned about President Carter re-instituting draft registration. He said, “Why don’t you start a peace group?” I said, “Yes.” Fortunately, I didn’t now what I was doing. So, I helped found “Hope for Peace.”

For my own concerns, I hooked up with a Viet Nam war-era draft counselor. To make a long story short, when President Reagan broke his campaign promise to end draft registration, I was identified in the Detroit News as a non-registrant. Being the only publicly-identified non-registrant in Michigan, I garnered much media attention. Eventually, the Reagan ‘get the government off your back’ regime and his Attorney General, Edwin ‘people are only hungry by choice’ Meese III, saw that out of millions of non-registrants, I was number 13 to be prosecuted. In the end, six years later, after heroically losing half a dozen pre-trial motions (with the help of a volunteer team of legal experts), my older brother dying, graduating from college, getting married, having a son, graduating from graduate school, and getting a job, I defended myself before a jury of my peers (though none of them were subject to the law I was defending myself from). I lost. But what did I win? (that is, beside three months room and board at the taxpayers’ expense) I learned to live in good conscience. I learned to refine my beliefs, even amidst great public scrutiny. I learned about civil disobedience, or as A.J. Muste, a great American pacifist and Hope College graduate would have said, “holy obedience” (in my write mind I say, “wholly obedience). I learned that the U.S. government has the absolute authority to draft any citizen regardless of conscientious objection. Any exception to this is due only to “legislative grace.” I learned to live by God’s grace even when it exceeds the grace of my government. Actually, I presented my case at the Detroit Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, in conjunction with a resolution to support young men’s consciences who were subject to draft registration laws, whether their conscience led them to register or not. The resolution failed. So, I learned to live by God’s grace even when it exceeds the grace of my denomination.

During college, after guest preaching at my home church in Detroit, someone came up afterwards and said, “I didn’t know that you were in seminary.” Nonetheless, I consider myself a theological mutt. I have drawn from many Christian traditions. I have studied Asian religions, and I am drawn to Buddhism. I am an amateur philosopher (that is, until someone pays me) and I am intrigued by the angst of existentialism. I have experienced a spiritual re-awakening in Alanon, which has given me things that my church could not. I believe that “religionism” may be the ultimate “-ism,” preventing us from experiencing the oneness of God. I may be a leading candidate to be voted, “most likely to be heretical,” by the powers that be. This is my orthodoxy. I believe that paradox lives in the neighbor of truth; and we should love our neighbors. In true Zen-like fashion, I find that irreverence is often the highest form of reverence. Among my heresies is my unabashed appreciation of “The Simpsons” (but, as the Hindus would say, “Don’t have a cow.”).

After an intense summer working for Bread for the World as an organizer, and days before my senior year began, my brother John was killed in an avalanche in Western Canada; but only after dropping out of college while on foreign study, wandering, rock-climbing and working (pretty much in that order) for a couple of years in Africa and the Western U.S. His death has given me a much greater sense of mortality and the preciousness of life each day. I actually find funerals as fruitful opportunities for reflection and renewing my sense of “living in the moment.” I have undervalued such opportunities. One of the few regrets in my life was missing three of four funerals of my grandparents.

My paternal grandparents were particularly religious. Only upon the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary (and doing the math) did I realize that my father was a near-bastard child to a teen mom. Years later, when my sister was pregnant and out-of-wedlock at age 19, my grandfather said, “The sins of the grandfather are being visited upon the granddaughter.” My thought: get over it! Well, at least, I can now understand why my gay father was closeted until his parents were either dead or demented. While I didn’t see healing in my grandparents, I saw that having an understanding of God under construction is a good thing, and sometimes demolition work is required.

That brings me to my marriage. To make a long, and usually happy, story short, my marriage of 11+ years ended 10 years ago. Nonetheless, we were blessed with two wonderful children, Joshua and Kathryn. I love being a parent. It may be the closest I’ve been able to experience what God must feel in His/Her unconditional love for us. Kate’s life is an ongoing miracle since she was born with multiple heart defects. She underwent two heart surgeries, and at one point with surgical complications, a doctor, trying to be optimistic, said, she has at least a 50/50 chance of living. A brush with death. There’s that mortality thing again. Not unlike death, I thought I had no problem with divorce – as long as it was happening to other people. Accepting our divorce was the most difficult thing I have ever dealt with.

Being out of a “relationship” for a number of years helped my re-develop my relationship with myself and with God. This came more through Alanon than church. Now, being in a relationship for eight years with a wise and beautiful woman has taught me to appreciate life as it comes, one day at a time – with both of us half single, half single parent; no longer with in-laws but ex’s. I’ve learned that God makes all things new, and often faster than I want. God never gives me what I want; God always gives me something better!

My career. God brought me to a career in public health, as I savored its roots in social justice. God brought me out of public health, re-naming me “Top Pun,” and appointing me as a jester for peace, where the pun is mightier than the sword, and justice is no yoke. My canvasses are buttons, T-shirts, bumper stickers, and the World Wide Web. My business, by definition, is good – that is, maximizing prophets. My business is exactly on schedule; though I don’t know what the schedule is.

God brought me to Central’s neighborhood, and a few hours later, to Central. Centralites were my kind of people. Some happened to be Christians who were gay. Through my social justice work, not my public health work, God brought me to work in the fight against HIV/AIDS. This opened further opportunities to work with persons who happened to be gay. My dad “came out.” My parents divorced. God had prepared me.

I have issues with money. I aspire to live simply, gracefully facilitated by my recent poverty-level earnings. Living with less financial security has inspired me to give today because I may not be able to give later. Whatever old car I’m driving facilitates my prayer life (of course, no “auto”-biography would be complete without a mention of my car).

I am a mystic at heart, journeying as a gifted rationalist, Caucasian, male, father, lover, businessman, American, etc., etc., yada, yada, yada. While embracing the enigmatic, I hope these few words will offer you a clue as to who I am. Hopefully, these few words will offer you a clue as to who we are. One of my favorite poems is from Muhammad Ali: “Me. We.”

In all, God has never left me; except for an instant in 1981, but that’s another story…

POEM: Trash Talk

God is culpable
Of more than you can
Imagine
Your momma
Fodder unknown
Know Job
A dyslexic dog
Dissembling I’m OK, you’re KO
Unsporting
A boxer of tiny portions
And don’t get me
Going
On
That big, ugly, unmentionable cistern
You don’t no
Jacked up
As if
To win some race
In venting
All ready
Only hopping
To swear out
You’re welcome
Err flailing
Too give a peace of your mind
Brain dishing a bad as gratitude
For feigning
As mite be Abel
To kick the biggest brass of awe
At the Guardin’ of
Eatin’
Up The Big Apple™
Arboring a grudge
Match
To the hole place
As having conned him
Impotent
As a rubber
Ball
A real bouncer
Off me
Sticking it to you
How in
Sensitive too
The sores of your being
So stoned phase
Tow to tow
As without
A life less stand
Erect it awe
Wanting nothing
Except falling silent
As is
Sow miss taking
Not wresting
Till you
Accede
Punch drunk
Or even wurst
Bared neck deep
Be forgoing your sole
At the bottom of the wring
Floored affront a missive audience
Still
He lives
Fore this dream
In this verbal spar for the coarse
And dumb struck in aptitude
For all else remains
Stairing him down
Forever helled
In his hands dealt
Before any anti-up
Down with that
In a blink if an I
Never the first to given
To a choir
Such hush
Money
In a life unfare
And projecting big
However mum
However long
Too menned
As fraud eons lip
Silently psyching out
As sum unspeakable whore
With a price honor head
As taller rating a lowly art
In sending some alpha mail
Those sacred techs
And incipient twitter
Having never
Really metaphor
Sow allusive
To sum
At best semi-for
Better off
The mirrorly suggestive
Un-intimated by ancient versus
And ode records
An old man in a Jung man’s game
As if
Some ark-type
A pare before them
Where only won is going down
A know lose proposition
What madder
Is an other
Head swimming
As taut from the bottom up
As must be
Know one
Hear
Knot fallen
For that agin
And in
The tacit turn
Of events
Awe is ink or hear it
Or in mortality by a million bytes
Or the numb-er of hits
And what can won do
As trash talk
The next best thing
Too silence
And bring a bout
As know more
A self-maid man
Having a fuel
Fore a maker
As surly as
A chicken before egged on
A can o’ bull
As self effacing
Is only fare
In the whirled heavy wait
Division
Of those in the arena
Where countless I’s are fixed
On good byes
As behind
They’re back
To the wall
Outside on the billing
The name on the mark he
Can
But don’t halve two
In the singular
Word

This long poetry slam offers an energetic and frenetic take on the modern, secular resistance to our metaphysical nature.  A Conclusion Is The Place Where You Got Tired Of Thinking SPIRITUAL BUTTONThis poem employs the metaphor of a boxer trash talking his opponent before the big match, a grudge match: pure physics and impure metaphysics.  This poem intentionally juxtaposes in-your-face physicality, profane language and plenty of attitude with the stereotypically staid and academic stance of philosophical discourse and theological erudition.  This poem mocks the scorn often evident on both sides of the theism-atheism, materialist-metaphysical debate, that fracas awe, aka the no master versus the master debates.  Don't let your victories go to your head, or your failures go to your heart. SPIRITUAL BUTTONMy love of parodies reflects a sense of lightheartedness in a chord with the soul and doing a body good.  For the main event, we all love a parity of parodies.  There is little satisfaction in a blowout.  There is a nagging root for the underdog — whoever that, may be.  What ever weigh, the show goes on.  And the truth lies somewhere between showing up and showing up.

POEM: Possibility Verses

Her mastery
Of the glorious bounty
Of possibility
Taunts those enslaved
By the vain security
Of mere probabilities

This poem is a tribute to the existential divide between possibility and probability.  Possibility is the purview of free will, introducing new realities through choosing one option over another.  Probability is the domain of calculation, predicting the course of endless strings of cause and effect events.  got creativity? SPIRITUAL BUTTONPossibility is the realm of creativity, launching new cascades of cause and effect, and expanding meaning.  Probability is the sphere of the walking dead, where all that matters is predetermined and life is but ghostly animation, navigating predictable paths.  If predictability is what you are about, then probability is probably where you inhabit predominantly, with habitual domesticity.  If fashioning new ways of being in the world is your manor of being, then possibility may very well be your first and last resort.  Those preoccupied with mere probabilities will undoubtedly shortchange much purpose in life, and find themselves as serf the web of feudal circularity.  Those spellbound by possibility will find immersion in life itself, imbued with meaning and the unfathomable intrigue of other free souls.  	 Got Inspiration SPIRITUAL BUTTONThe predictability of a deeply ordered universe provides sound launching places for curious and free spirits, but entreats us to much more than mere security and manipulating control, the ultimate vanity of the undead.  May you find the incalculable freedom of possibility, inspiring others as you breathe in their spirit as well.

 

You can't separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom. Malcolm X quote POLITICAL BUTTONGot Freedom POLITICAL BUTTONLet Freedom Ringb--bMartin Luther King, Jr. BUTTON

HAPPINESS: Hedonic Happiness Versus Meaningful Happiness

I have long been interested in happiness and happiness research.  I recently stumbled across one of the most fascinating scientific articles of any kind that I have read in recent years: Some Key Differences Between a Happy Life and a Meaningful Life.  This happiness research focused on the crucial differences between happiness attributed simply to one’s pleasurable experiences — hedonic happiness — and happiness attributable to experiencing meaning in life.

This particular happiness research peaked my interest because I have been accused of arrogance or hubris in claiming that some people with high levels of happiness may be missing out on substantial aspects or portions of happiness.  My alleged “second guessing” of peoples’ subjective state is substantially confirmed by this groundbreaking happiness research.

From the authors’ abstract:

“Satisfying one’s needs and wants increased happiness but was largely irrelevant to meaningfulness. Happiness was largely present-oriented, whereas meaningfulness involves integrating past, present, and future. For example, thinking about future and past was associated with high meaningfulness but low happiness. Happiness was linked to being a taker rather than a giver, whereas meaningfulness went with being a giver rather than a taker. Higher levels of worry, stress, and anxiety were linked to higher meaningfulness but lower happiness.”

The pleasure of satisfying needs and wants (hedonic happiness) has little to do with leading a meaningful life.  Plus, worry, stress, and anxiety are linked to higher meaningfulness and lower (hedonic) happiness.  The developmental tasks of integrating meaning into and across one’s life can be stress-inducing.  Fortunately, to cut to the chase, leading a meaningful life contributes substantially to a happy life, often accounting for losses in hedonic happiness.  Though the stress of leading a very difficult but meaningful life may result in lower overall level of happiness.  From my perspective, risking or sacrificing hedonic pleasures for a life of increased meanings strikes me as, well…meaning full.

From the introduction:

“The wishes for happiness and for a meaningful life are two of the most widely held goals by which people measure and motivate themselves. A breathtakingly broad variety of other common goals and strivings — as examples, the desires to be healthy, to be loved, to succeed at work, to raise children, to serve one’s religion or country — can be subsumed under either or both of those broad wishes. The present article addresses the relationship between the two. Although undoubtedly happiness and a meaningful life have substantial overlap, our focus is on the differences. More precisely, we shall develop theory and provide data about what factors differentially predict happiness and meaningfulness.

Positive psychology took off in the 1990s as a corrective to psychology’s heavy emphasis on illness, suffering, and misfortune. It sought to enrich human life and enhance human functioning. The study of happiness has received a tremendous boost from the advent of positive psychology. Research on what makes life meaningful has increased as well, but perhaps not nearly as much. This special issue of the journal may be a useful corrective in that it undertakes to call the attention of positive psychologists (and other interested researchers) to issues of meaning and meaningfulness. The present investigation was intended partly to clarify some key differences between happiness and meaningfulness.

We shall argue that although happiness and meaning are important features of a desirable life and indeed are interrelated, they have different roots and implications (MacGregor & Little, 1998). Happiness may be rooted in having one’s needs and desires satisfied, including being largely free from unpleasant events. Meaningfulness may be considerably more complex than happiness, because it requires interpretive construction of circumstances across time according to abstract values and other culturally mediated ideas.”

I deeply appreciate an integrated middle ground between the all-too-frequent pathologizing in modern psychology and a common superficial view in both research and everyday life of happiness as in essence simply pleasant emotional states.  This research seems to get at the heart of integrating our understanding of the interplay between “positive” emotional experience and the genuinely difficult search for experiencing meaning amidst the hardness in life.  Such an understanding seems critical to a more holistic view of happiness, fuller of our best shot at living amidst ultimate realities (objective realities?) than the surreal view of happiness potentially, perhaps even ideally, disconnected from and unmediated by objective reality, i.e., happiness as a purely subjective state.

In defining happiness:

“Happiness is generally defined as subjective well-being, which is to say, an experiential state that contains a globally positive affective tone. It may be narrowly or broadly focused: A person may claim to be happy to have found a lost shoe, happy that the war is over, or happy to be having a good life. Researchers have conceptualized and measured happiness in at least two quite different ways. One is affect balance, indicating having more pleasant than unpleasant emotional states, and is thus essentially an aggregate of how one feels at different moments. The other, life satisfaction, goes beyond momentary feelings to invoke an integrative, evaluative assessment of one’s life as a whole.

Meaning can be a purely symbolic or linguistic reality, as in the meaning of a word. The question of life’s meaning thus applies symbolic ideas to a biological reality. Meaningfulness is presumably both a cognitive and an emotional assessment of whether one’s life has purpose and value. People may feel that life is meaningful if they find it consistently rewarding in some way, even if they cannot articulate just what it all means. Our focus is on meaningfulness and the meaning of life.

Operationally, we let participants in our studies define happiness and a meaningful life in whatever way they chose, rather than imposing specific definitions on them. We also assumed (and found) that the two overlap substantially…In particular, it should be possible to have a highly meaningful life that is not necessarily a happy one (e.g., as religious missionary, political activist, or terrorist).”

These researchers anchor their theory of happiness to the idea that happiness is natural and meaning is cultural.  Of course, these two constructs overlap and interrelate.  How they are related was the purpose of their research.

“We assume the simpler form of happiness (i.e., affect balance rather than life satisfaction), at least, is rooted in nature. All living creatures have biological needs, which consist of things they must obtain from their environment in order to survive and reproduce. Among creatures with brains and central nervous systems, these basic motivations impel them to pursue and enjoy those needed things, and the satisfaction of those needs generally produces positive feeling states. Conversely, negative feelings arise when those needs are thwarted. Hence affect balance depends to some degree on whether basic needs are being satisfied. Possibly life satisfaction too could be swayed by whether, in general, one is getting the things one wants and needs. Human beings are animals, and their global happiness therefore may depend on whether they generally get what they want and need.

If happiness is natural, meaningfulness may depend on culture. All known cultures use language, which enables them to use meanings and communicate them. There is a large set of concepts underlying language, and these concepts are embedded in interconnected networks of meaning. These are built up over many generations, and each new person comes to learn most of these meanings from the group. Appraising the meaningfulness of one’s life thus uses culturally transmitted symbols (via language) to evaluate one’s life in relation to purposes, values, and other meanings that also are mostly learned from the culture. Meaning is thus more linked to one’s cultural identity than is happiness.

Although this special issue is devoted to “personal meaning,” meaning itself is not personal but rather cultural. It is like a large map or web, gradually filled in by the cooperative work of countless generations. An individual’s meaningfulness may be a personally relevant section of that giant, culturally created and culturally transmitted map.

One crucial advantage of meaning is that it is not limited to the immediately present stimulus environment. Meaningful thought allows people to think about past, future, and spatially distant realities (and indeed even possibilities). Related to that, meaning can integrate events across time. Purpose, one important component of meaningfulness, entails that present events draw meaning from future ones. The examples listed above of meaningful but not happy lives (e.g., oppressed political activist) all involve working toward some future goal or outcome, such that the future outcome is highly desirable even though the present activities may be unpleasant. Meaningfulness may therefore often involve understanding one’s life beyond the here and now, integrating future and past. In contrast, happiness, as a subjective feeling state, exists essentially in the present moment. At most, happiness in the form of life satisfaction may integrate some degree of the past into the present — but even so, it evaluates the past from the point of view of the present. Most people would probably not report high life satisfaction on the basis of having had a good past but while being currently miserable.

Consistent with that view that meaning integrates across time, Vallacher and Wegner (1985, 1987) found that higher levels of meaning were consistently marked by longer time frames. As people shifted toward more concrete and less meaningful ways of thinking about their actions, they became more focused on the here and now. Thus, a wedding can be described both as “making a lifelong commitment to love” and as “saying some words in a church.” The former invokes a longer time span and is more meaningful than the latter.

Indeed, Baumeister (1991) observed that life is in constant change but strives for stability, and meaning is an important tool for imposing stability on the flux of life. For example, the feelings and behaviors that two mates have toward each other will fluctuate from day to day, sometimes even momentarily, but culturally mandated meanings such as marriage define the relationship as something constant and stable. (And marriage does in fact help to stabilize relationships, such as by making it more difficult for the partners to dissolve the relationship.) Such ongoing involvements undoubtedly contribute to the degree of meaningfulness a life has. Put another way, the pursuit of goals and fulfillments through ongoing involvements and activities that are interlinked but spread across time may be central to meaningfulness.

Again, we assume there is substantial overlap between meaningfulness and happiness. Humans are social beings, and participation in social groups is a vital means by which people satisfy their basic needs in order to survive and reproduce. Hence interpersonal involvement, among other things, is surely vital for both meaning and happiness. We do not intend to dwell on such things as interpersonal belongingness, because our focus is on the differences between meaningfulness and happiness, but we acknowledge their importance. Although both happiness and meaningfulness may involve interpersonal connection, they may differ in how one relates to others. Insofar as happiness is about having one’s needs satisfied, interpersonal involvements that benefit the self should improve happiness. In contrast, meaningfulness may come instead from making positive contributions to other people.

Although needs can be satisfied in a selfish fashion, the expression and development of selfhood tends to invoke symbolic relations and is therefore more a matter of meaning than happiness. MacGregor and Little (1998) found that the meaningfulness of individuals’ personal projects depended on how consistent they were with core aspects of self and identity. Many animals have the same basic needs as humans, but the human self is far more elaborate and complex than what other animals exhibit. Part of the reason is that the human self is created and structured on the basis of the cultural system (see Baumeister, 2011). On that basis, we predicted that selfhood would have different relationships to happiness and meaningfulness. Happiness would mainly be linked to whether the self’s needs are being satisfied. Meaningfulness would be far more broadly related to what activities express and reflect the symbolic self, some of which would involve contributing to the welfare of others (individually or in general) or other culturally valued activities.”

In more simple term, culture is what separates humans from other animals.  Much pre-existing happiness research focused too closely on the animal (natural) aspects of humans and not adequately accounting for meaning (cultural) aspects.  I can’t help but notice that modern science, with its mechanistic models, often leaves the heart and soul — meaning — of humanity unasccounted for, and therefore devalued.

To conclude and integrate these happiness researchers’ findings:

“Meaningfulness and happiness are positively correlated, so they have much in common. Many factors, such as feeling connected to others, feeling productive, and not being alone or bored contribute similarly to both. Yet the two are distinct, and the focus of this investigation has been to identify the major differences in correlates of happiness (corrected for meaning) and meaningfulness (corrected for happiness). Correcting highly correlated variables for each other can reverse effects, which may contribute to some inconsistency in the literature. Future research should distinguish happiness from meaningfulness, because many ostensible contributors to happiness are in fact mainly associated with meaning and have little or no direct contribution to happiness except by way of increasing meaning. For example, helping others may actually increase happiness because it increases meaningfulness, which in turn contributes to happiness, but when we corrected for the effect on meaningfulness, the pure effect of helping others was if anything the opposite: a reduced level of happiness.

Our findings suggest that happiness is mainly about getting what one wants and needs, including from other people or even just by using money. In contrast, meaningfulness was linked to doing things that express and reflect the self, and in particular to doing positive things for others. Meaningful involvements increase one’s stress, worries, arguments, and anxiety, which reduce happiness. (Spending money to get things went with happiness, but managing money was linked to meaningfulness.) Happiness went with being a taker more than a giver, while meaningfulness was associated with being a giver more than a taker. Whereas happiness was focused on feeling good in the present, meaningfulness integrated past, present, and future, and it sometimes meant feeling bad. Past misfortunes reduce present happiness, but they are linked to higher meaningfulness — perhaps because people cope with them by finding meaning.

The Highly Meaningful But Unhappy Life

Our data enable us to construct a statistical portrait of a life that is highly meaningful but relatively low in happiness, which illuminates the differences between happiness and meaningfulness. This sort of life has received relatively little attention and even less respect. But people who sacrifice their personal pleasures in order to participate constructively in society may make substantial contributions. Cultivating and encouraging such people despite their unhappiness could be a goal worthy of positive psychology.

Our findings depict the unhappy but meaningful life as seriously involved in difficult undertakings. It was marked by ample worry, stress, argument, and anxiety. People with such lives spend much time thinking about past and future: They expect to do a lot of deep thinking, they imagine future events, and they reflect on past struggles and challenges. They perceive themselves as having had more unpleasant experiences than others, and in fact 3% of having a meaningful life was due to having had bad things happen to you.

Although these individuals may be relatively unhappy, several signs suggest they could make positive contributions to society. High meaningfulness despite low happiness was associated with being a giver rather than a taker. These people were likely to say that taking care of children reflected them, as did buying gifts for others. Such people may self-regulate well, as indicated by their reflecting on past struggles and imagining the future, and also in their tendency to reward themselves.

One can also use our findings to depict the highly happy but relatively meaningless life. People with such lives seem rather carefree, lacking in worries and anxieties. If they argue, they do not feel that arguing reflects them. Interpersonally, they are takers rather than givers, and they give little thought to past and future. These patterns suggest that happiness without meaning characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed or even selfish life, in which things go well, needs and desires are easily satisfied, and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided.”

I am so delighted, even happy, that I stumbled across this happiness research.  May the deepest harmonies of nature and human culture conspire to bring about profound happiness for us all.

POEM: More Than Just, A Tinkle In The Pants

Sum people say
Show me the money
Only taking
That folding
Money
Maid of paper
Illegal to ink for won self
You’re money or you’re life
Weather helled up
Or razing heaven
Our soles speak
As bodies of evidence
And life stiles of the rich and famous
Calling out
Be the change
Beholden to common cents
More than just
A tinkle in the pants
Pissing off the powers that be

In my book, any poem that can incorporate wetting won’s pants and pissing off the powers that be can’t be all bad.  This poem taps perhaps the most fundamental divide in moral life: do we serve God or mammon, the worldly powers, the powers that be.  In this poem, I don’t mention God per se, but instead referred to “you’re life.”  I’ll give a tip of the hat to those uncomfortable with any notion of God.  “Life” or “love” is a synonym-spiced confection more palatable to some.

In this crazy postmodern milieu that we live in, the revered field of of science, with its deep commitment to smoking out causality, has mysteriously led to widespread convictions of randomness.  This perhaps began its accelerative phase with the genius of Darwin pinning his monumental theory of evolution to the notion of randomness.  Concrete evidence has proven the theory of evolution as a powerful scientific tool for accounting for the origin of species.  Of course, explaining things backwards is much easier than predicting the nature of future evolution, other than predicting that we will evolve in some random (sic) way.  Randomness is a notion at least as resistant to a coherent cosmology and worldview as the notion of God.  More troubling, randomness, that which has neither antecedent or predictability/causality is exactly the mythology that science is designed to debunk.  While inserting a “miracle” that cannot be measured by science by either observation or in principle may be irresistible if you can convince others to go along with it, but it is not science.  Randomness is no more a scientific principle than God.  Randomness is not a scientific principle — as God is not.  This facet of the philosophy of science can only be ignored at our own peril.  Quite telling, the field of mathematics has failed to identify any form of mathematics that gives adequate support for the unproven assertion of randomness.  Randomness can rightly be pursued as a hypothesis within metaphysics, the realm in which God is explored.  Still, randomness strikes me as antimatter in the matter of coherency.  We do know that any complete coherence MUST contain more true statements than ANY possible logical system can contain within itself.  This is a space that is in principle incompletely accessible by science and mathematics.  This is a space big enough and unknown enough for God and free will to reside or originate.  Is such a neighborhood the zip code for randomness?  At best, it can not be proven by science or mathematics.

Here is a little more on Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem, the mathematical proof under-girding such thoughts:

“In 1931, the Czech-born mathematician Kurt Gödel demonstrated that within any given branch of mathematics, there would always be some propositions that couldn’t be proven either true or false using the rules and axioms… of that mathematical branch itself. You might be able to prove every conceivable statement about numbers within a system by going outside the system in order to come up with new rules and axioms, but by doing so you’ll only create a larger system with its own unprovable statements. The implication is that all logical system of any complexity are, by definition, incomplete; each of them contains, at any given time, more true statements than it can possibly prove according to its own defining set of rules.

Moving to a cultural level, the affection for randomness has brought us to an infection with randomness in everyday life, reflecting both some nihilistic sense of life and sense of humor: “That was so random.”  Our sense of life and humor has been moving from being centered in an elegantly interconnected system to a severed existence plagued by events “coming out of nowhere” — the antithesis of both scientific and religious worldviews.  Is it any wonder that we are possessed by notions of a zombie apocalypse, a world populated by those who are both dead and alive — or is that neither dead nor alive?

I think that Bob Dylan may have stated it about as bluntly and poetically as anyone, in his song, Gotta Serve Somebody (full lyrics below).  “It may be the devil or it may be the Lord/But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”  Of course, the popularity of the devil or the Lord seems to be in decline.  So, for many, the love triangle between self, neighbor, and the mystery of mysteries is reduced to self and neighbor — and perhaps nature (creation).

Well enough, such truth is still great enough to fill many lifetimes. Wee fight for one another to a void being reduced to a mirror monetizable entity.  Most have a palpable sense of what money is, what worldly power looks like, and the rules into which it invites us into its service.  And still, what is the opposite of serving money?  Is serving money just a vain vocation for the terminally unimaginative?  Perhaps the opposite of serving money involves living a life free of attachments to material security or cultural status.  Whatever there is in life that money cannot buy, I see as that which is truly valuable — able to bring a present with authentic integrity and a future that cannot be bought, only given to one another.

To me, money seems to be one of the least interesting things in life.  Personally, I am in wonder at both the abundant curiosities present in scientific discoveries to date and beyond any imagined horizon AND the mysteries of the heart, my own and others, which inspire countless souls to risk life for more life, and to go where no mere scientist dares.  Can we serve awe and give that which can only be proven to exist by giving it.  Life and love awe weighs fine a way. Serve it up!

Gotta Serve Somebody (by Bob Dylan)

You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You might be a rock ‘n’ roll addict prancing on the stage
You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage
You may be a business man or some high-degree thief
They may call you doctor or they may call you chief

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes you are
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You may be a state trooper, you might be a young Turk
You may be the head of some big TV network
You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame
You may be living in another country under another name

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes you are
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You may be a construction worker working on a home
You may be living in a mansion or you might live in a dome
You might own guns and you might even own tanks
You might be somebody’s landlord, you might even own banks

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride
You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side
You may be workin’ in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair
You may be somebody’s mistress, may be somebody’s heir

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

Might like to wear cotton, might like to wear silk
Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk
You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread
You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bed

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You may call me Terry, you may call me Timmy
You may call me Bobby, you may call me Zimmy
You may call me R.J., you may call me Ray
You may call me anything but no matter what you say

Still, you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

POEM: Flagging Defeat

He had enough
Privilege
To ignore
The increasingly grave mound
Of white lies
Worshiping some cruel over lode
Surveying all that was once
Theirs
A teetering tower of babble
Atop spinning
Helled up only buy its careening whirled
Mything the point
All together
Now
Clandestined
Putting on
Unthinking caps
And underhanded false hoods
As lynch
Pin
Heads for defeat
Know madder
How much strange fruit barren
When one states rights
As truth is strangers are friction
Aspersing crowds
For their own good
Libel too change things
Such hyper bully
Spreading tall tails
In their own rapaciousness
Selling specious whoppers
Sow roil fast fooled
Culumny-ating
In counter revolutions
And when hearing the music
Appropriating Supremes
To court continuing prophets
Of the status quo
Inebriated by fomenting hip hops
Staying the sway
Of flag in defeat
All white like
Its shadowy cross
And comforting gray
Relegated to daze of ode
Lying their
As soldiers do
In the by and by
As civil war
(or any wore for that madder)
Can only be one
Surrendering to
That which is
Equal to its humanity

PROTEST Is When I Say I Don't Like Something, RESISTANCE Is When I Put A Stop To ItThis poem is a tribute to recent events leading to the taking down of the confederate flag at several southern state capitols.  Special props go to Bree Newsome who unequivocally demonstrated direct democracy by taking down the confederate flag on the South Carolina statehouse grounds in the aftermath of the racist Charleston massacre.

Sad as it is to still be fighting the civil war 150 years after its official end, the tide is turning.  While a flag may only be symbolic, flags are powerful landmarks in American culture.  Around the world, the American flag represents a nationalism tainted by an imperialism exceeding that of the Roman Empire, waging perpetual war on people of color, non-Christians, and anyone else who resides in the way of national economic interest, such as living in an oil-rich region.  Domestically, the “rebel” flag of the confederacy has held its place for generations as a racist symbol from a failed treason in trying to form a slavery-filled nation-state.

RACISM - If One Of Your Proudest Achievements Is Being White, That Says A Lot About What You Have Done With Your LifeWhite privilege, and its sister, white denial, are alive and, well, dominate the American landscape.  Like water to fish, most whites most of the time don’t see it.  Institutional racism is the elephant in the room of America that few dare speak of openly and publicly.  Beside degrading the lives and humanity of African-Americans, their positive culture and creativity are regularly appropriated for the profit of mainstream — read “white” — America.  The confederate flag has been one of the most persistent and visible signs of continuing white dominance and supremacy.  To get confederate flags out of public places is mind-bogglingly and heart-breakingly overdue, and this process will hopefully mightily speed dialogue and awareness of the perniciousness of racism.

SLAVERY Is The Legal Fiction That A Person Is Property - CORPORATE PERSONHOOD Is The Legal Fiction That Property Is A PersonRacism is one of many forms of dominance that continue to plague humanity.  Today, corporate personhood is trumping the legal rights of actual persons.  The legal fiction of a person being property, known as slavery, may be formally over, but the legal fiction of property as a person, a corporate person with constitutional rights on par with actual persons, is running roughshod over America and the globe.  Corporate personhood is eroding, perhaps even already stolen, democracy as typically conceived in America.  Wage slavery and corporate rule are the weapons of choice these days to enslave the body politic.  Getting money out of politics may dry-dock the fishiest elements of political elites.  Our lives and the future of humanity may very well depend on it.  People will only fare better than money when we value people — all people — more than money.  May it be so…

 

POEM: A We Occupation

I get deeply cared away
Buy you being
On the same side as me
Conveniently not paying
A tension
To the under
Lying fact
That there is but
Won side
Which wee occupy

This short poem addresses a theme that underlies much of my poetry, that, in ultimate reality, we are one.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently stated: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”  The ego, wed to its own independence, over and above interdependence, resists a shared destiny, routinely seeking to carve out its own apparent advantage over larger realities.  After experiencing one’s fair share of unpleasant events, and witnessing the sheer pervasiveness of such events in life, competing to rise above such a fray seems eminently natural — eat or be eaten, kill or be killed.  Only a deep humility and an unbound love for life can transform destruction of selves into self-realization.

Must life feed on life?  Of course, as one, what else could one feed upon?  As a literal example, our food comes from living beings.  Now, some meat-eaters employ this fact as a convenient rationalization that killing is normal, or at least a “necessary” evil, and lazily leap to a mode of thinking (and eating) where killing is of little consequence.  I see enlightenment of living beings gently resting on that thin line between eating and being eaten.  If life must feed on life, is there a way of feeding upon life that enhances life not diminish it?  I believe that life can get bigger or smaller, as a whole, and as a self within the whole.  How big or how small I’m not sure.  Nonetheless, that thin line, our consciousness, is where the expansion or contraction rests.  Is our consciousness, and conscientiousness, confined to our self, our family, our tribe, our species, our planet, or what?  Consciousness may very well be the heart of life itself.  In this case, increasing consciousness increases life and decreasing consciousness decreases life.

One construct of evil would be feeding on death, a level of (un)consciousness that does not recognize or share consciousness with other beings.  Evil consumes consciousness.  In a sense, what evil does share is unconsciousness or contracted consciousness.  Functioning with a shared unconsciousness reduces humans to mere billiard balls, a set, albeit complex set, of cause and effect relationships guided by causes (including others’ wills) outside our self.  In essence, “choosing” unconsciousness or declining to expand consciousness takes us out of the game (the game being enhancing consciousness, life).  Contracted consciousness is a set of relationships (a “contract”) created and maintained by our wills, consciously chosen.  It is these contracts that form the substance and style of our culture, ethical debates, and political fights.  Still, consciousness, and its creative existential force, the will, lies outside any particular set of relationships (material conditions) that can be chosen.  Expanding consciousness will necessarily run into this awareness, that any particular culture, set of social conditions, or ideology, cannot control our conscious free will.  The seemingly obvious exception to this is death, or more specifically, killing, presumably ending conscious free will.  Justified killing is included in most contracts among humans today.  What this often overlooks is that killing particular expressions of conscious free will does not eliminate conscious free will; most bluntly illustrated by the fact that this would require suicide (thus, the fascination of murder-suicide by existentialist writers).  No doubt, killing is a very blunt way of trying to reign in conscious free will.  Of course, many contracted belief systems include an afterlife, the survival of conscious free will.  If this is true, this radically alters the effectiveness of killing.  Unfortunately, sometimes the belief in an afterlife, rather than simply leading to bold living, serves in the rationalization of killing (e.g., “kill them all and let God sort them out”).

Conjoining our consciousnesses seems best served by the most profound precept: love your enemies.  That which is not you — or more aptly put, that which you do not want to be you — must be both transcended and entered into.  Each of us and all of us are best served by manifesting the courage to confront and reconcile both our own inner dark side and the darkness manifest in others.  Back to the eat or be eaten metaphor, the question is begged: what if you were the pray.  The more gently profound precept, have compassion on all living beings, spurs us to walk in another’s shoes and no what it is like for shoeless souls laid bare to the world.  May we all be grounded, and laid to rest, with such compassionate and conscious living.  I deeply appreciate the Zen story of the man encountering another man somewhat boasting in tales about his great relationship and love of animals, to which he interjects, “A fish once saved my life.”  The boaster’s curiosity was peaked to hear such a tale.  To which he was told: “Once I was lost in the woods and perilously hungry.  I found a fish in the stream, and I ate him.”  This signature Zen approach is transcendentally funny and, not coincidentally, enlightening.   He deflated pomposity.  Lauded the fish which saved his life.  Plus, he outflanked even the most compassionate ideology, witnessing to the mystery of mysteries needed to instill life into any chosen ideology.  The Christian take on dietary ideologies is less clever but makes a similar point: “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” (Matthew 15:11)

All great philosophies and the mysticism at the heart of all religions recognizes the irreducible, creative freedom present in humans.  The mystery of creation parallels the making of humans in God’s image as co-creators, romping around the created universe.  Creation focuses on the will, the power present in human consciousness, and presumably God’s consciousness.  However, consciousness is the prerequisite to experience itself, whereby meaning arises, even made possible. Consciousness gives rise to (the experience of) the other, the myriad of things, including our body and mind.  Consciousness, sometimes called “The third eye,” is the seat of all seeing, even able to see our mind from a vantage point other than the mind itself, the true “I.”  Consciousness enlivens existence with experience and we can meaningfully participate in the myriad of things (the created world) through our will.  I strongly suspect that the foundational importance of relationships, sharing, and creation spring out of the nature of God.  As I see it, God consciousness and will give rise (create) to the other so it can share the experience of an other.  Maybe God just got tired of self-consciousness (see my poem: An Answer to the Problem of Evil, which is much more playful than the weighty title might connote).  Giving/creating seems to be the foundational nature of sharing present in enlightened beings, which cements the centrality of relationships among others.  I am struck by the tripartite truth of consciousness of self, the palpable created reality in which we experience, and the irascibly creative will from which we add our own touches.  Granted, I may be touched.  Still, there is a spirit within me that will not rest until our created reality is won size fits awe.

 

PUCO Testimony – FirstEnergy Robbery of Ratepayers

Below is my testimony at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) hearing regarding the proposed corporate welfare for FirstEnergy.  There was an impressive show of force by the anti-nuclear and pro-environmental folks from the region.  There was a show of farce by the usual parade of brown-nosers whose employment is closely related to Davis-Besse nuclear plant operations.  Still, the greatest number of testifiers were opposed to the above-market rate hike to subsidize FirstEnergy’s uncompetitive and dangerous energy generation.  In an unusual move, PUCO literally made every testifier swear.  So, legally, this testimony is “the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”  May PUCO deny FirstEnergy’s application to rip off ratepayers for private profit.

Testimony at PUCO Public Hearing
Re: First Energy Robbery of Ratepayers
January 15, 2015

My name is Dan Rutt. I am a citizen of Toledo and this great planet. I have a B.S. in biology. I have a masters degree in public health. I am a breather of polluted air from coal-fired electric generators. I share with you a planet that is threatened by global climate instability, due to pollution from carbon dioxide and co-called “natural” gas, more accurately described as methane. I live in the deathly shadow of Davis-Besse, the aging nuclear power plant with the worst safety record in the U.S., thanks to a couple of nuclear plants which have been wisely closed recently for safety and economic reasons. It’s Davis-Besse’s turn — hopefully to be decommissioned, not blow up. To you who live outside the region, welcome to Davis-Besse’s kill zone.

I will take my precious few minutes to plead with PUCO, charged with protecting public health and economic sanity. Do not allow the building of a pipeline from the First Energy corporate board room to the public purse. The boondoggle that is the Davis-Besse nuclear plant drives this issue. Davis-Besse is a poor investment economically, a perilous venture environmentally, and a catastrophic threat to human life along the Great Lakes. The federal government already indemnifies the nuclear industry from accountability for catastrophic events. PUCO should not further this lack of accountability by forcing the public to invest in nuclear plants. If anything we should disinvest from nuclear power.

First Energy has lobbied to prop up coal and nuclear, the way of the past. We need change, not infrastructure and rate plans which will lock us into an unsustainable future. Still worse, First Energy has lobbied to block the transition to renewable energy, the way of the future. If First Energy is allowed to pass on most or all of the risk of its increasingly risky ventures to the public — that is, ratepayers and biological entities susceptible to lethal radiation catastrophes — then I suspect that this could trigger a rush of entrepreneurial types wanting to PUCO all over Ohio.

The energy industry is quite adept at playing the hodgepodge of regulatory agencies for its own profit. They are experts at leveraging the narrowness of regulatory agencies’ perspectives and authority, which, given time limitations here, may be summed up as: “It’s not my job” and “I’m only doing my job.” Ironically, this may leave us with somebody’s job, even a so-called “good” job, but no livable world. If your work leads to the destruction of the planet, then it is not a good job. Job one must be protecting the planet. This includes accountability for those who would “invest” (sic) in the destruction of our planet for profit.

There is little doubt that we are being gamed. And if we don’t get wise to this, there are likely to be many losers, and few winners. I wonder if perhaps this issue might be better served by a change of venue. Perhaps we should add to the mix oversight by the Lottery Commission or Casino Control Commission; it might be more honest. Perhaps we could turn that ole Besse into a cash cow. Convert it from a white elephant into a casino. We could call it “Chernobyl on the Lake — an Eerie Adventure.” We could feature Russian Roulette. Unfortunately, we, the public, are already subject to a game of Russian Roulette, playing with nuclear catastrophe and the steamroller of climate instability. Free us from this deadly game. Help us pave the way to a new and sustainable future. Disapprove this proposed rate plan, the robbery of the many to enrich the few, and a dangerous course for all. Thank you.

[Note: I didn’t read this poem at the hearing, but included it in my written testimony]

Good Job
by Dan Rutt, alias “Top Pun” (it’s just, my pun name)

It was early Monday mourning
When the Davis-Besse nuclear plant
Finally ruptured
At the base of Lake Eerie
Weeping poison
From the once-great lakes
Now a watery grave for both sellers
And consumers
Of atomic drivel
For what human remains
The event became known
Simply as “The rupture”
Leaving sleepy millions
In its wake
Sucked into a glowing sky
For who knows watt
Feudal to press release
Fore their heavenly reword
A paradise rolled
Entranced buy snake eyes
In charge of all that meters
Relegating us to hoarse power
Silent partners
Dealt a roil flush
In a conniving casino
Pain only in skullduggery
Forging height reason
And absolute faith in stonewall
As a bet
A dark wager
Echoing in the empty halls
Of unions and congress
“Good job”

POEM: Making a Fuel of My Self

In the cold night
That darkest time
When dawns forgotten
My heart burns
With fear and pain
My home aflame
To an unaltarable offering
And fiery furnish
Of wanton change
Of hammering out or deal
For scanty respite
From that
I hate
Combusting
Up the world
With care less balms
And succors for bid
Sow overdo
And with such gall
I light
All things tinder
Overlooking the infernal warming
Of making a fuel of my self
In whatever eye wood do
Only just
In the mean time
Slamming on
The day brakes
I find myself
In the mourning
Executing catharsis
I come to
Grasping for breath
Only fearing what thou wilt due
I under stand
My shudders unbolted
Udderly apprehended
As in canned essence
Set free
Revealing my son ship
Brethren to awe
And cistern of tears
Still, don’t pine for me
For what
I have got
My ash kicked
By whatever might
Remain
As I urn my weigh
And when moan comes
My hearth is rekindled
Out shining
That which can never be
Holy defeated
Burnishing everything I knead

This poem is about both hope and the striking temptation of violence.  Violence begets violence.  Hate begets hate.  Likewise, love can overcome hate and violence.  Hope is embodied in nonviolent resistance to violence and injustice.  If we succumb to merely returning violence for violence, then we reinforce the cycle we supposedly resist.  If we don’t recognize and accept that at the deepest level of reality my enemy and I are one, then discord will be borne again…and again.  Violence is very hardy because it so predictably riles our most base instincts, the basic structure of our bodies and rudimentary psychology; that is, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Practicing the discipline of nonviolence is the way to break free from this self/other destructive chain of causal events.  Human will is transcendent, naturally rebellious, to this destructive lock-down of reactionary existence.  This inescapable rebellion against being trapped in seemingly perpetual violence is the birth of hope and the path of peace and justice for all.  An undefeatable aspect of human will always stands outside the seductive snare of merely reactionary behavior.  Choosing a higher path is possible.  As Gandhi so simply and boldly declared in word and deed, “Peace is possible.”  We can choose to dishonor this higher aspect of human existence by choosing to settle for reactionary participation in a seemingly inescapable chain of crap that nobody really wants but someone else “makes” me do, as if I am some soulless machine, voting in a rigged game.  This dishonors our true maker, mysterious and gracious.  Perpetrators, those who are most deeply embedded in the illusion that violence will give them the long end of the stick that is one humanity, erroneously believe that they possess some superior will in manipulating the machinations of the day to their advantage (at the expense of others).  Rather, their self-serving complicity with reactionary destructive violence is a denial of creative human will and hope for peace and justice for all.  To escape their own self-dehumanization they pompously attribute their apparent success in navigating the status quo of reactionary existence to a superior will, somehow free from others’ claims on them.  These so-called winners look to themselves apart, seeing themselves as self-made men — in a palpably peculiar insult to their mothers.  And as I like to say: if you are a self-made man, you have a fool for a maker.  Victims residing down the chain of injustice can mirror their perpetrators’ weighs by rattling the chain up or down, either giving the master curators of violence another specimen for their museum of humanity, or perhaps honing one’s hurt on someone even less able or willing to react commensurately.  The predictability of violence is captured in the insularity, unaccountability, and disconnect from humanity (their own and others’) that perpetrators of the powers that be experience in wanting mastery over their own lives.  The predictability of violence among victims is rooted in the reactionary reality that hurt people hurt people.  People tend to do what they know.  Can we know peace and justice, or at least cultivate its possibility?  While experiencing the hurt of violence and injustice can be a powerful impetus to respond unkind, it can also be a profound invitation to solidarity, empathizing, connecting and standing with others, each of who have experiences of hurt and injustice.  This is an aspect of God’s mysterious “preferential option for the poor” whereby reality is constructed in such a way that the poor have better access to their humanity than the rich.  As Brethren to awe/And cistern of tears we are better equipped to join together and bring peace and justice into the whirled.  May it be so.

POEM: Succor Punch: Owed to Water

Water is
Liquid liveliness
On the surface
So abundant
Yet its unique
Properties for gotten
Pre-sumptuously owin’
The establishment
Of hour get-up and go
Taken
For granite
In difference to animating schemas
And listless graces
Making passable
Setting in motion
The commencement of
Every unfinished sentience
In ungraduated wisdom
Wading fore
A singularly strange sappiness
Perfectly suited too
The fluidity of life
A veritable firmament
Unearth
Melting arts
Unequalled
In the eyes sickle
Of all that is mined
And how to trust awe that won thaw
And whose falter
A mist
Viscous rumors
Holding heat
And reflecting lightly
Upon a painful temp
Such is life
Nigh and lo
Knot becoming
More dense
When faced with extreme code
Mysteriously arising
Unfathom-ably
Too lie on the surface
An enigmatic float
In a provocative parade
Of ineluctable chemistry
Dis solving orthodoxy
Putting a damper on bottom-feeding doctrines
And brown-nosing pax
Getting over simplifications
For what we moist dew
To reach
The molting point
A decidedly impossible sublimation
From solid to ethereal
Buy passing juicy rationalizations
To eternal quest in
So wet behind the years
De-man-ing an evolution
From unsurvivable fits
And try cycles
Spoke like a child
Turning around
Agin and agin
In a dizzying dis play
A baby threw out
With the bathwater
To except that
God reigns
On the just and unjust
As many will refuse
To fall
For such
A succor punch
A luscious liquidity
In which offed times
Wee can’t seam to a fiord

This poem is an ode to water.  Water is one of the most familiar substances on earth, covering approximately 3/4 of the earth’s surface.  Yet, water, one of the most chemically simple compounds, behaves very strangely, differently than predicted from its chemical structure.  Water doesn’t behave like other fluids; in fact, compared to similarly sized molecules, water should be a gas at room temperature.  Water, unlike most liquids, gets less dense when it freezes, causing it to float.  Water is sometimes referred to as the universal solvent because such a wide variety of compounds are able to dissolve in it and it is the most common chemical solvent on the planet.  The presence of these and other mysterious characteristics of water make life possible on earth.

As a scientist and a poet, I find water is a powerful metaphor for the mysteries and nature of life.  How is it that such a common, even mundane, substance incarnate such an incalculably improbable set of chemical characteristics that makes life possible?  Through science, humans have made incredible discoveries about how our universe works.  Still, scientists must stand silent in answering how life originated, or why life exists.  Life exists; this we know.  Answering why life exists transcends science.  Scientist are often like fish in a sea of meaning who are not simply blind to meaning but must willfully and ideologically ignore its claim on them; this is popularly called being objective.

In Buddhist tradition, creation stories are not considered that important because they consider how we got into our problems as much less important than how we get out of them.  This seems to be a very practical approach, if perhaps a little incurious.  Scientists share this practicality.  Nonetheless, nothing is even a problem unless we are functioning in a world infused with meaning.  Where does meaning come from?  This strikes me as essentially the same question as where does life come from.  Buddhism incorporates meaning into its practices based on the direct observation of mind, where there is thousands of years of agreed upon coherency forming the tradition, of which participants are invited to confirm for themselves.  While many of the truths of Buddhism have been confirmed by science, the defining truths related to meaning can only be confirmed (or denied) though direct personal experience.  Such “facts” lie outside the purview of science.

Science helps us accurately define the if-then conditions of the world — if this happens, then that will follow.  Strangely though, as fish in a sea of ifs, scientist cannot or will not see that the defining nature of humans rests in choosing one course of action over another, which resides in a world of meaning, something/somewhere transcendent of the causal chain of events that science works to describe.  If remains an eternal hypothesis which science cannot test.  Scientists can study Buddhists, but they can’t study Buddhism with science — at least not the reductionistic science favored in Western cultures.  The practicality shared by Buddhism and science is a commitment to rigorous observation.  Buddhism points its rigorous observation to inner as well as outer life.  Science limits itself to the outer world; the inner world is off-limits.  The inner world of meaning and choice is willfully ignored, sometimes simply assumed to be irrelevant, or worse yet, denied to even exist.  The inner world may be mysterious and elusive, but its secrets are definitely much less likely to experienced if one isn’t even looking there.

Philosophical ponderings and panderings aside, contentions between religion and science, physics and metaphysics, lie in misunderstandings in each respective realm of inquiry.  We are served by scientific literacy and its delineation of many useful facts.  We are served by fluency in our inner life and exploring the humanity of others.  And still, the realm of meaning begs our attention and intention: who, or what, shall you serve?

 

 

 

 

POEM: An Answer to the Problem of Evil

An Answer to the Problem of Evil

One morning God woke up
Before there was such a thing as morning
God was well pleased with God’s self
“I know that I am all that!”
In fact, the only thing better
Than knowing I’m all that
Is to not know I’m all that and then find out I’m all that!
So God got lost
And it’s been mourning since
Good morning

The epic title of this poem is somewhat ambitious, since this poem, no matter how optimistic or hopeful, obviously doesn’t bring an end to the problem of evil.  Of course, the title begs some humility in suggesting “an” answer, not “the” answer.  What I hope this title and poem offer is a positive perspective on the intractable problem of evil.  This poem addresses one of the deepest and thorniest philosophical and theological issues that exists: how can evil exist alongside a powerful, loving God?  Nonetheless, my hope is that this poem’s playful tone elucidates something about the nature of God in the face of such a mournful human problem.

My understanding of salvation is deeply rooted in a transcendent perspective which ever moves me toward that which is larger, more all-encompassing, and more whole — some would call this spiritual perspective as seeking a higher power or God.  I see this process of salvation or enlightenment as a continual trading up to something better.  In the process of trading up, one must give up the current or old to make room for the new and better.  This is a mournful process.  Losing things of value is difficult  This is especially true when things of value are taken away from us without any choice on our part.  These events and processes of loss seem to capture our attention quite effectively.  Somewhat ironically, the process of gaining things of value, especially when due to no choice or action of our own, generally receives little complaint, and often scant attention.  Exhibit A: the gift of life, your very existence.  Unearned gains, the stuff of grace, is the companion of the problem of evil: the problem of good.  Of course, few people demand a solution to the problem of good, not seeing a need to address it as a problem.  Still the philosophical and theological issues are exactly parallel.  To be fair and balanced, these issues should be addressed as the problem of good/evil.  No doubt, some have aspired to amorality as a deeply ironic and banal way of “transcending” such a problem.  If we can’t do any better than this, then we certainly can’t do any worse!  Such a desperate, nihilistic approach seems to me like destroying the question to avoid having to answer the question.  But back to the question at hand!  The process of mourning loss (and celebrating gain) are inextricably linked.  My definition of sacrifice is this: giving up something of value for something of greater value — “trading up.”  When loss is put in perspective of gain, then loss can “gain” positive meaning.  This is certainly no justification for evil, but it opens the process of redemption.  My favorite example of this is getting hit in the face with a two-by-four.  It is possible to learn/gain wisdom from such a situation, whether it was at the hands of another’s cruel intent or an “accident.”  However, just because it is possible to learn/gain from such a situation, does not mean that it is good to hit people in the face with two-by-fours.  It means that such bad situations can be redeemed, placed in a larger, “transcendent” perspective, where wisdom can be gained.  No doubt there are better and worse ways to learn/gain wisdom, but every situation offers raw material for learning.  So, let’s redeem those worthless coupons of loss, whose face value is meaningless, into something greater, something with meaning and value.

This poem sets up this process as God getting lost to us, so the even cooler prospect of discovering God is opened up.  The implied calculus of this deal is that the pain and loss of not knowing God is worth the coolness of (re-)discovering God. The playful tone of this poem emphasizes the creative and playful aspect of God.  Hopefully, this lighthearted aspect of God can be manifest in us enough to make up for the heavy-heartedness of all the pain, loss, and grief that we experience.  So, let’s carry on with the longing and groaning of such discovery.

POEM: Lovers of Dirt

Lovers of Dirt

Wile in cathedrals
The atheist
Dares claim
The title
Of mass debater
As little comes
From behind the veil
That doesn’t exist
In the slightest
Hint elect
To believe
Methods to their madness
Seemingly beyond approach
However rue derangement
Identifying any genus
By its feces
So commonly specious
In its origins
By means
Naturally selective
Preserving favored races
In the struggle
For life
As fashioned
From flights of fancy
For the birds
In plain English
Triggering an evolution
Of rapacious masculinity
Vanquishing femininity
As it sees fit
Too survive
And nothing more
As awe is derived
As so much
Ground Chuck
No longer
A yin without a yang
A homme with only half a story
In tell gents design
New ways of poker
Without reason
Fueling themselves
With fantasies
Of being porn again
Any come hither looks
Reduced to contrivance
Goddesses none
Any go whither looks
Annunciating to the world
A piece of class
A coy that must be played with
Bastards and bitches all
Wed to nothing but progeny
Incesting that the best demands it
Endless reproductions
Preying for deviant genes
To a god of chance
Just for the novelty of it
Tails you win
Heads you lose
Either way
Stuck only
By wieners and losers
How fare
Abet
Between fancy pants
And the un-gaudy
Next to uncleanliness
Soully lovers of dirt
However complicated

This poem is a commentary on atheism, evolution, and gender.  Of any belief group in America, those unaffiliated with religion are the most male, 60%.  As much as religion may be a problem for women, it seems that lack of religion is even less attractive.  If reproduction is the key to human evolution, then perhaps unbelieving men should pay attention to the keyholes.  Both atheism and evolution often strike me as dominated by male pattern balledness.  Reducing human evolution to sexual reproduction strikes me as some form of porn, a way to partner sterile abstract thinking with screwing, an unproductive mating of reductionistic thought and base sexual impulses.

I find the conundrums of atheism well captured in this poem’s title: Lovers of Dirt.  Atheism may be the most poorly equipped belief, or disbelief, system to deal with love.  Perhaps because God is love.  For whatever reason, atheists cannot bring themselves to believe in God, fortunately, I have met many who quest for love.  This poem is partly inspired by a conversation I had with a fellow protester outside the Toledo federal courthouse, when we were protesting corporate personhood, as promoted and reinforced by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United.  This man was clearly offended by considering corporations on the same level as humans, and willing to hit the street to make that point.  In the course of our conversation, it became clear that he was an atheist.  He could clearly tell the difference between the legal fiction of corporate personhood and actual human personhood.  However, he could not articulate the difference between people and dirt.  A parently, people are simply complicated dirt. This claim to be able to make higher level distinctions while being unable to make lower level distinctions seems to strike at the ultimate heartlessness of atheism.

Maybe there are other forms of atheism, but I have found this creep of distinctionless infecting virtually every atheist with which I have ever had a conversation.  Now don’t get me wrong, while I don’t believe in atheism, I do believe in atheists, certainly inasmuch as they embody love.  Plus, I am a big fan of distinctionlessness.  However, I view distinctionlessness as a spiritual aspect of reality, by definition outside the realm of science which only deals with distinctions.  Distinctionlessness might be cited as unity consciousness, the oneness of all reality (which includes consciousness).  Now, to give props to John Paul Sartre, the great atheist existentialist, and author of Being and Nothingness, he might consider distinctionlessness to be represented by nothing.  Sartre dealt in-depth trying to explain the structure of consciousness which necessitated a relationship with nothingness, a perilous journey where we are reduced to alternating between subject and object.  I am a subject and you are an object of my subjectivity.  Then, you are a subject and I am an object of your subjectivity.  And never the twain shall meet. Ad inifinitum!  Perhaps not surprisingly, Sartre was famous for saying, “Hell is other people.” (see No Exit, a one-act play). According to Sartre, other people, in the experience of subjectivity, must reduce others to objects.  Sartre believed that there can only be NO connection between subjects, no underlying unity.  I am at a loss how Sartre can even claim that other subjects exist, if he can only experience them as objects!?  Of course, this self-contradictory assertion is the basis for his atheism.  In this case, God would be Subject with a capital S.  The logic goes like this: if God existed, we would experience God as an object, and since there is no convincing evidence that such an object exists, then God does not exist.  Of course, this same logic, applied to other humans, would necessitate concluding that other people (if you can call them that) don’t exist as subjects.  These are the foolish places that highly rational and completely unreasonable men end up.  Except Sartre was not a fool.  He acknowledged that other subjects existed — only that these subjects existed outside his experience!  He could only experience their objectively ghostly apparitions masquerading as subjects, and occasional buyers of his books.  By beginning with an assumption of nothingness, he ends up with much, much, much, much, much less than if he had begun with an assumption of somethingness.  Both are assumptions, mere propositions or assertions.

Descartes launched modern Western philosophy off with “I think therefore I am,” taking existence as evidence against nonexistent.  Simple but compelling.  Sartre breaks this tradition in a striking way, he appears compelled by nothingness, nonexistence, perhaps quite appropriately, for no apparent reason.  By Sarte’s same logic and assumptions critiquing God’s Subjective existence, Sartre could just as easily made a profoundly good theist had he only explored the logical sequence of knowledge unveiled by allowing that just another subject may exist, another Subject may exist.  This seems a great leap of faith to some.  How could you equate little old me, a subject with a lowercase s, on the same par as God, a Subject with a capital S?!  Yet, this is exactly what Sartre did with his chosen path.  By Sartre’s own logic and apparent experience, he is the only subject that exists!  If there is only one subject, then this is the closest to God one can expect.  Sartre had no basis for distinguishing between a subject with a lowercase s and a Subject with an uppercase S.  Sartre was God!  And God is dead!!  Case closed — and it was a very cold case!  This should come as little surprise, that God was so little.  When being must have a relationship with nothing in order to generate consciousness, subjectivity is necessarily imprisoned: condemned to be free; with nothing to ground its being.  Now, to be fair, Sartre has nothing to stand upon.  By claiming that it was the relationship to nothing that generated consciousness, the breath of subjectivity, he allowed other subjects to exist (spookily as God allows).  All you have to do is believe in nothing.  How hard could that be?  Except that the other ethereal pillar holding up Sartre’s world is that nothing can be the ground of our being.  So, our being comes from nothingness.  Is this magic less objectionable than our being coming from somethingness?  I would agree that God is a no thing, in that the fullness of God, what God IS, cannot be ascertained from studying objective things, anymore than the fullness of human subjects can be understood by simply studying their junk.

In my book, Sartre should have devoted his keen intellect to a masterpiece call Being and Somethingness. In studying Sartre’s Being and Nothingness in my college existentialism class, what I most keenly remember is a footnote, and perhaps the only ultimate foothold in my book.  This footnote stated that his arguments did not preclude the possibility of hope, but that his purpose was not to explore that possibility.  This existential choice on his part left his work despairing.  John Paul Sartre was intellectually clever and outside of his formal philosophy, in real life, fought to be compassionate to others, though chronically despairing and doubting that he could ever really connect with them as fully human.  Perhaps Sartre’s greatest distinction is how well his worldview resonated with those cynical enough to be satisfied with studying the nooks, crannies, and shadows of this deeply pessimistic, foundationless-yet-sold-as-foundational worldview.  He created a lifetime of available preoccupation in his self-proclaimed hell.  And if there truly is no exit from this deadly state of affairs, aspiring to screw some less cruelly than others; then, being right will have to serve as a poor substitute for happiness.  Religion will be reduced to self-fulfilling prophets.  Humanity will never graduate from preoccupation to the much harder vocation of bringing hope to an obviously hurting world.  Hope requires the study of human nature, of which Sartre is so absolutely skeptical, even of its existence.  Such absolute skepticism begs for a different perspective, in that it worships subjectivity, our apparent ability to will one thing over another, either assenting to or rejecting preconditions.  Sartre aspired to build the slimmest possible precipice from which to perch looming subjectivity, a philosophy with as few assumptions as possible, resting on as narrow an objectivity as possible.  But rather than finding a holy grail, he found himself, and apparently the whole world, on a throne of spears. This creates perhaps the largest overreach possible in underestimating both objective reality and subjective reality.  Unity consciousness is the oneness of all reality, which includes consciousness.  Sartre’s arena was human consciousness, and declining to leave that arena, shortchanged the fullness of reality.  His reality lifts human consciousness beyond its ken.  Though he was perhaps within grasp of an occasional barbie — no offense to Simone de Beauvoir, his lifelong lover, to whom one day while they were sitting on a bench outside the Louvre, said, “Let’s sign a two-year lease.”  They never married.  Near the end of her life, de Beauvoir said, “Marriage was impossible. I had no dowry.”  In fact, there was no dowry that could cover the deficit in Sartre’s worldview.  Sartre’s reality became, through his own volition, human consciousness married to nothing, and no divorce laws.  His denial is nearly unfathomable.  His consciousness only unifies with reality in some zombie apocalypse fashion — which seems enduringly fashionable for some reason.  Sartre strips objective reality of any subjectivity but his own, except for those ghostly apparitions (that would be you) who are condemned to walk the earth, a living hell, negating his subjectivity with a moments notice.  His justice: he returns the favor, jousting with lifelike windmills.  This farcical, impossible dream, leaves Sartre riding his knight mare in a one horse town.  His reward: he is the grand marshal and sole entrant in this ludicrous parade.  Though quite miraculously, Sartre ends up joining an elite pantheon of self-fulfilling prophets of epic disproportions.

I can see how many people are deeply reluctant to believe in God.  What I find much more difficult to understand is people’s deep commitment to disallowing for even the possibility of God. In other words, agnosticism seems justified (though a bit indecisive), whereas atheists must take on a mantle of hubris unbecoming to open minds and open hearts.  Sartre proclaims that there is no exit in a house that he built with no doors!  In the end, using Sartre’s arguments against God, the Subject with a capital S, one must argue against subjectivity itself, all subjectivity.  It is to this that I object!  Sartre built an inhospitable house, a testament to his objectivity (or testament to his lack of subjectivity), and he has nothing to blame.  By leveling subjectivity, he finds, least of all, himself.  Not by humility, but by hubris.  And from nowhere comes a call, “Philosopher heal thyself!”  Yet, the great metaphysician, Jesus also begged the question of the physician healing thyself.  Jesus is recounted to have said in Luke 4:18-28 (NIV), in launching his public ministry, by quoting the prophet Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.  He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”  All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.  Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”  “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.  I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed — only Naaman the Syrian.”  All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this.

People are lazy enough to want miracles.  Some just want to be entertained enough to provide a break in their existential ennui.  A rarer few are happy being unhappy.  Jesus’ hometown crowd called for him to reproduce for them the miraculous events that they had heard transpired elsewhere.  Surely he would put on an even better show for the hometown crowd, they thought.  When Jesus implied that his prophetic acts would not get any traction amongst this hometown crowd, accurately citing history, the crowd got pissed.  They bypassed the good news and didn’t even get a good carny show out of it!

Interestingly, the crowd was incredulous even when the heard good news — “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips” — asking “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”  You remember, that snot-nosed kid who used to run around here some years back.  And we all know about Joseph, don’t we?  They just couldn’t believe that such good news and authority could be present in one from such humble and ordinary beginnings.  Jesus made it clear that enlightenment or salvation cannot just be handed to someone like an everyday object, miraculous relic, or even apprehended through the world’s best philosophy.  In Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus, where the condemned rich man upon his death and agony wants a heavenly message sent to his sons on earth, so that they might be saved, he is told: “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” (Luke 16:21)  The good news that Jesus proclaimed was to the poor, not the “successful” in society who have mastered the conventional wisdom.  Jesus proclaimed that freedom for the prisoners is possible, and that recovery of sight for the blind is possible, that setting the oppressed free is possible.  The miraculous is not concerned with overturning the impossible, but with the possible not yet manifest.  This is the realm of faith and hope.  This is the realm that Jesus calls us into.  Some hear this and are deeply moved.  Some hear this as a carnival barker.  Some more recalcitrant few hear this as a carnival barker who never even existed!  There are few problems that denial won’t solve, eh?

I think that Sartre’s cynicism ultimately lies in this fact that you can’t force people to be enlightened.  Jesus understood this.  Sartre knew that our choices literally create meaning by placing value behind some actions and not others, all within the realm of the possible.  Jesus understood this.  Unfortunately, Sartre neutered himself when it came to the realm of the possible, the worst form of self emasculation, with militant atheism — which ironically seems much more popular among men.  The attraction to overt force and militancy seems more hegemonic among men.  Though please note that I don’t think that spirituality is better suited or more fully manifest according to gender.  Nonetheless, I do think that there are specific forms of foolishness that are predominantly occupied by men.  The same goes for women; but that’s another story…

I commend Sartre for trying to tackle the immeasurable perplexity of the relationship of objectivity and subjectivity.  Such a task should vex even the greatest minds, of which I consider Sartre among.

Atheists typically claim to be concerned solely with science.  Fair enough.  Science is about understanding and manipulating the outside “objective” world, the visible, measurable world which makes the world more conducive to usefulness, or better means to some end. Spirituality is about understanding and experiencing the subjective world, the oft invisible, oft immeasurable, typically elusive world conducive to elucidating what are good ends and worthy states of being.  What unkind of world could we possibly expect if we studied only the ways to get places but refused to ponder the full range of places or states of being which are better to move toward?

The study of subjectivity includes understanding ourselves, others, and at least offering a shot at discovering or understanding God, if such a present manifests at any time.  The legitimate existence of metaphysics, the area of study beyond the physical world measurable by reductionistic science, surprisingly to some, is not really controversial amongst professional philosophers.  Of course, in the ever-changing, heated climate of rampant spirituality, there are always some climate change deniers in the crowd.  In the end, reducing the transcendent or spiritual nature of subjective existence to mere objectivity — i.e., humans are complicated dirt, nothing more — is amputating half of one’s existence, and the only half that can ascertain which is the “better” half (which is the one that can make us whole).

To advance metaphysics we must ponder other subjects – you, me, and even God.  Harkening back to the discussion of distinctionlessness, atheists with which I have conversed, seem to be pulled back to distinctionlessness.  I would like to draw a distinction between two forms of distinctionlessness.  There is the ground zero of distinctionlessness that atheists default to, apparently in the face of nothingness, the abyss.  This casts a pall over any ability to discern good from evil, or to carve out any solid ground for our subjective being, even going so far as to doubt whether others or oneself even exist (as a subject), let alone whether God exists!  I contrast this with unity consciousness which is present in the oneness of all reality, which happens to encompass consciousness.  I think that this distinctionlessness of unity consciousness is a fuller representation of reality than the atheist existentialism a la Sartre.  Oneness can only be present with consciousness because if consciousness was not encompassed, then consciousness would be separate, and there would be two disconnected realities, not one.  If these two disconnected realities seem familiar, it might be because they are eerily parallel to Sartre’s alienating description of alternating subject-object, object-subject relationships between so-called subjects — more like objects masquerading as subjects.  Sartre cleverly avoids the problem of two separate realities by defining nothingness as one of the two disconnected realities.  Many people might be willing to agree that nothing is not separate from our one reality, which seems somewhat different than saying nothing is separate from our one reality.  This clever configuration jury-rigs the vexing question of something coming from nothing.  Recall that Sartre views consciousness, a necessary aspect of subjectiveness, as arising from nothingness.  Or put somewhat differently, subjects are dependent on nothing. So which makes more sense: subjects are dependent on nothing OR subjects are dependent on something?  If subjects are dependent on nothing, then they should have no constrains on their freedom.  Deeply ironic, if Sartre is correct that a subject is dependent on nothing, then he has accurately described God!  Further, he has described a monotheistic God, because there could not be two absolutely free God’s operating in the same reality without clashing and limiting each other’s freedom.  Back to human-scale experience, I don’t think that any sane person would claim that their freedom is dependent on nothing.  Clearly, any coherent account of human experience testifies that human freedom is bounded, dependent on something.  If subjects are dependent on something, then an accurate account of reality must include a description of Being and Something, not simply Being and Nothingness.  Of course, existentialist thinkers following Sartre claimed that subjects could actually meet, dare I say, without distinction.  So, the limitations on our freedoms could arise from other subjects (as well as from objects).

But could Sartre be correct?  Yes, if you expect to learn the full truth from an incomplete truth that is factually accurate.  No, if you consider half a picture the full picture.  I think that Sartre is a freaking genius, and that his facts are correct.  Of course, I take some of this on faith, since he was wicked smart, perhaps too smart for his own good!  After all my critical analysis and occasional mocking, I will say that Sartre had all his facts right, he just didn’t have all the facts, or the full truth.

Like I enjoy saying, “Truth lies in the neighborhood of paradox.”  There is a persistently perplexing dualism present in human contemplations of reality.  I think that Sartre nailed down half of this dualism.  On one hand, the nailing down of hard facts was old-school, meaning it was completely consistent with the 400-plus year tradition of the enlightenment and the chain of progress that is Western civilization (as distinct from the contributions of the ancients).  On the other hand, his intellectual work was cutting edge and timely, even before its time.  Seriously, he was working with NOTHING!  This anchored the accomplishments of the enlightenment in a new way.  Of course, for those ultimately not happy with his militant focus, it could be viewed as the last nail in the coffin that is postmodernism. I think that the answer illuminating the full truth involves pursuing both-and answers rather than only either-or answers.  In this light, I would slightly restate an earlier proposition: I don’t think that any sane person would claim that their freedom is ONLY dependent on nothing.  Sartre was ahead of his time, and prescient of modern quantum physics, which has shed light on nothingness.  In quantum physics, particles arise out of nothing, seemingly independent, though subject to probabilistic behavior when viewed as waves.  And the best answer we have about which state of affairs is true is: both.  Subatomic physical behavior is best described as both waves and particles.  This answer, which is as perplexing as the original question, rests on the fact that it depends on how you look at it.  Literally, observing something changes it.  Conscious awareness affects reality in predictable ways (that is, probabilistic).  Translating this into our larger discussion, the freedom present in human consciousness arises from BOTH nothing AND something.  Possibilities collapse into specific actualities based on our observation and intent.

To be fair to Sartre, I’d like to think that had he lived much longer (he died in 1980), he may have been able to incorporate some insights from modern physics into his worldview.  However, the wisdom of the ancients was available to him.  As Jesus pointed out, witnessing miracles won’t necessarily make someone a better, more whole human being.  The power of skepticism and cynicism is strong.

Sartre was correct: Hell is other people.  But, Sartre was only half correct, for: Heaven is other people.  If you can relax your skepticism and cynicism enough, you may just find that others are both your curse AND salvation, which is way better than being mirrorly a curse.  Jesus was a teacher of all subjects.  When Jesus was asked, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40, NIV)  Attention all self-fulfilling prophets: seek and you shall find — but, if at first you don’t find, keep seeking…many subjects await you…and perhaps only one…

Romney Campaign Bans Top Pun from Event

Today, the Mitt Romney campaign held a “victory” rally at the Seagate center in downtown Toledo, Ohio.  Top Pun ran into a mitt-full of cards as the Romney campaign drew a full house; but, as the rain fell, Top Pun declared victory is he drew a royal flush from the Romney campaign, being banned from the event even though possessing a ticket and a media pass.  As the rain fell, Romney supporters lined up two by two around their concrete ark, hoping to save themselves from extinction.  As the Romney-ites waded patiently to see their would-be monarch, I could tell by the many white faces that this wasn’t the servants entrance!  Of course, there were many tanned Romney-ites, but most seem to have vacationed South, or had a tad freaky spray-on or tanning booth tan — perhaps emulating their feckless leader.  Even given the many wet backs that were present, few would be mistaken for Latino.  The only African-Americans I saw near the Romney lineup were button and T-shirt vendors.

Of course, across the street, there was an anti-Romney protest that was much more colorful!  One protester even wrapped themselves in the flag, a gay pride flag, that is.  Not wishing to be restrained by the designated “free speech zone,” I protested outside the box.  I took the opportunity to walk back and forth on the sidewalk alongside the Romney lineup (with few unusual suspects), of course, with my signs:

The Romney crowd, perhaps not so surprisingly, responded with vitriol.  At one point I chanted, “Can someone give me a nice hello, and end of this ugly vitriol.”  One woman asked me if I even knew what a blind trust was.  I trust that she did.  Many in the Romney lineup told me to go to the other side of the street; I suppose in some attempt to keep like with like, and perhaps, hate with hate?!  As I walked up and down the so-called Romney side of the street, even a sheriff’s deputy told me to get on the other side of the street.  When I told him that I knew my rights, and that walking down the public sidewalk and not blocking the public sidewalk was simply exercising my free speech, the sheriff deputy responded: “Would you be walking along here if this were an Obama event?”  I told him that if this Romney event were not happening, that I would have been in Bowling Green protesting the Obama campaign event (likely with a drone and anti-war message).  He told me again that I could not be on the side of the street.  When I persisted in claiming my first amendment free speech right to be there, he said that I was becoming disorderly.  I turned and walked the other way, continuing to walk back and forth, but keeping an eye out for him and his comrades.  The saddest part of this encounter is that the sheriff deputy was apparently proscribing a particular type of free speech — like free speech depends on whether you support Romney, Obama, another, or nobody at all!

The most popular response from the Romney crowd was: “Get a job,” often with some ‘hippie’ or ‘cut-your-hair’ comment thrown in for good measure.  Occasionally, I responded with “I have a job; in fact, I am self-employed, I created my own job.”  Sometimes I might throw in “I even left a government job,” but nary a poker face yielded any approval.  Once, when a Romney-ite was particularly uncivil to me, and I requested that we at least be civil, a woman in the crowd showed approval.  I did experience two Romney-ites threatening violence.  The first was when I overheard a man say to the crowd, “Do you want me to beat up the hippie?”  I asked him if he was threatening violence to me and he said, “It’s an offer.”  The other person, a man, or perhaps man-wannabe, said “I’ll beat your face in.”  I asked him if he was threatening violence to me and he said, “Yes.”  I asked him if he’d like me to call law enforcement over and he said, “Yes.”  Well, his bully talk didn’t faze my walk.  Just goes to show, you can usually rely on the general cowardice of humankind (human-unkind?).

On this rainy day, God rained on the just and the unjust.  Most of the Romney-ites hugged the publicly financed Seagate center rationally seeking shelter so as to not tax their dry wits.  And, since the first shall be last and the last shall be first, I joined the Romney-ites, the end of a long line.  I had secured online the night before my ticket to the event   Being practically soaked to the bone, having paid my dews in the open streets, the ink was running on the ticket that I had printed out and the scanner failed to read it.  I was told to wait for a higher power.  What more irony could I ask for then cryptic ink running on a ruinous ticket.  Of course, not relying on serendipitous irony, I had brought a brown manila envelope containing my tax returns for the last 10 years (actually, which are heavily redacted blank sheets of paper).  Knowing that airport-like security was to be the order of the day, security personnel would likely ask me to open this envelope.  Then, I would respond that I was hoping that if I gave Mitt my tax returns then maybe he would give me his.  I knew that this would probably not be satisfactory, and my alleged tax returns would be declared a security threat and the irony would be complete!  In the meantime, while I was waiting for a boss-man’s stamp of approval for entrance, the young man with a scanner, the first line of security, saw that I had registered by name as “Top Pun,” and he asked me for some ID.  I showed him my media pass (shown below) and my driver’s license.  I told him that I was the soul proprietor of the business, that I wrote a blog, and that I was going to report on this event.  He asked me what kind of business it was.  I told him that I make things like buttons and T-shirts, pointing to my mission statement emblazoned on the media pass and business card, “Maximizing Prophets.”  He didn’t seem to have anything to say to this.  Just then, a man came out and said that the doors would be closed and locked, so if you wanted to get in, get in now.  The young man with a scanner tried to scan my ticket again and it worked!  I went through the two sets of doors and got in a short line for their main security check.  However, as I waited in the security line, another man told the dozen or so of us waiting at security that the fire marshal said they were full and we had to leave.  We went outside.  After a little while, someone came back out and said that we could go in again.  Again, I got in the security line.  Just as I had emptied my pockets and the woman at security asked about the brown manila envelope, a sheriff deputy called me back through the set of doors.  The sheriff deputy instructed me that the event organizers would not let me in their event.  There it was: I was officially uninvited from the Romney victory rally.  Be the change you want to see in the world.  Now, if we could only all get uninvited from a Romney victory rally…

 

 

 

Corporate Wall Falls

Yesterday, as the closing ceremony of Occupy Toledo’s May Day Fest, between two and 2,000 people gathered to tear down “The Wall,”  symbolizing corporate mis-rule and oppression.Wall This wall was cut to shreds to symbolize freeing ourselves from corporate rule.The inanimate corporate logos, appropriately symbolizing the incorporeal non-persons that are American corporations, didn’t stand a chance against the real live human persons wielding the cutting edge of direct democracy.The shell game of avoiding accountability comes to an end as the shell of a corporation, “Shell,” (pictured below) is shell-shocked in one shell of a show.In the end, all of the corporate papers are invoked, provoked and revoked.Looks like this round goes to the human persons!  Corporate non-persons beware!

DTE Shareholder Protest

Between 200 and 200,000 protesters gathered outside the DTE Energy headquarters in Detroit, Michigan.   This DTE Energy protest  was visited upon by two to 2,000 Occupy Toledo protesters.  One unidentified protester, with a striking resemblance to Homer Simpson, wearing a notorious rainbow colored peace hand designed by Top Pun, showed his anti-nuke colors.anti-nuke Homer SimpsonAnother Occupy Toledo protester was less well disguised.  Michael Leonardi, pictured below, to the left, of course, can be seen waving his Occupy Toledo colors and anti-nuclear banner.  Mr. Leonardi received some criticism from other protesters for leading the way, since the more numerous yet bland protesters may have missed their photo op.  Mr. Leonardi bore this burden of leadership well and led despite his numerous followers.Detroit Edison Shareholder ProtestAs Mr. Leonardi and the other alleged participant, a.k.a. Top Pun, came to this protest they made the obvious mistake of parking in the casino parking garage.  The collusion of the purveyors of our casino economy had rolled out the concrete carpet that was a largely empty casino parking garage.  This free parking was apparently not to be had by mere commoners or the general public.  When we were spotted walking out of the parking garage with our fluorescent yellow Occupy Toledo signs and in our radiation suits, the very astute security recognized that maybe we weren’t there to gamble away our hard earned dollars.  This special DTE Energy shareholder security made it clear that we were not welcome and told us that if we didn’t move the car that they would tow it.  They were even kind enough to follow us out (pictured below) to make sure that no empty parking spots were harmed in the making of this fiasco.  Hear, hear, the last thing any anti-nuclear protesters want to do is have anybody take any unwarranted risks, like, say, storing 550 tons of nuclear waste in a five-story building that can’t be offloaded as built without knocking the building over.

Julia Bates Retirement Party, Mock Award

Today a few dozen people descended upon the Lucas County Courthouse in downtown Toledo, Ohio, to wish Lucas County Persecutor Julia Bates a happy retirement and demand justice for Danny Brown

Occupy Toledo had a cake, party hats, noisemakers, and a card to sign.  Several persons went into the courthouse to deliver the card to Julia Bates and chant, “Exonerate Now, Clear Danny Brown’s Name!”  They were escorted out of the courthouse under threat of arrest, continuing to chant.  They were joined by those outside, and soon Julia Bates, under armed escort made her way to cocktails and lunch at a nearby drinking establishment.  The crowd followed her there and protested outside chanting.  Some of the favorite chants were: “Cocktails for Julia, Justice for Danny” and “Serve Justice, Not Cocktails.”  Ms. Bates was protected by a half-dozen or so sheriffs inside the restaurant and another half-dozen or so sheriffs and Toledo police outside. She reportedly was able to stomach lunch and a couple of cocktails with approximately the same ease as she has stomached injustice for Danny Brown for many years.

Below is the script of the retirement party mock award that occurred outside the courthouse:

Retirement Party

Lucas County Persecutor Julia Bates

Justice for Danny Brown

Occupy Toledo

May 1, 2012

 

 

MOCK AWARD

HABEAS B. CORPSE: Hi, my name is Habeas B. Corpse.  I am the president and founder of the National Association for the Advancement of County Persecutors.  The National Association for the Advancement of County Persecutors is proud to present the 2012 Habeas Corpus Award to Lucas County Persecutor Julia Bates.

The Habeas Corpus Award recognizes outlandish success in furthering the principle of speedy justice of the criminal variety.  Lucas County Persecutor Julia Bates has managed to parlay a wrongful conviction of Danny Brown for murder and rape in 1982 into an open-ended, indefinite murder case. Although Danny Brown served 19 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, Lucas County Persecutor Julia Bates was unfazed by such an obstacle to her success. By perpetually holding another suspicious criminal investigation over Danny Brown’s head, Lucas County Persecutor Julia Bates has successfully avoided letting an innocent man clear his name. Lucas County Persecutor Julia Bates has devoted the last decade to producing no evidence worthy of bringing any charges against Danny Brown.  Lucas County Persecutor Julia Bates has demonstrated fantastical creativity in avoiding any exoneration or apology to Danny Brown for his 19 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.  Perhaps, most significantly, if Danny Brown is ever allowed to clear his name, under Ohio law, he would be eligible for compensation for his wrongful conviction resulting in 19 years in prison. This compensation could total over $900,000.  Lucas County Persecutor Julia Bates has successfully postponed this indefinitely.  She has saved Lucas County taxpayers money by devoting virtually no resources to her shallow criminal investigation and by avoiding spending any resources to allow Danny Brown to have his day in court. Please note that Danny Brown is also currently suspected of being innocent of over 666 murders in Lucas County since 1982. With her unending patience in persecuting an innocent Toledo citizen, Lucas County Persecutor Julia Bates has brought new meaning to the term “criminal” justice.

As part of the Habeas Corpus Award, the National Association for the Advancement of County Persecutors provides an honorarium of $30,000.

With equal speed and due diligence the National Association for the Advancement of County Persecutors realized that this 2012 Habeas Corpus Award to Lucas County Persecutor Julia Bates is actually the product of 30 years of wrongful conviction, wrongful imprisonment, and open-ended, unmerited criminal investigations. Yes, we just figured this out. Thus, the National Association for the Advancement of County Persecutors has determined that Lucas County Persecutor Julia Bates is entitled to the Habeas Corpus Award, not only for 2012, but for 31 years:

2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, ………………….1982

[foldout 28.4 foot certificate accordion-style for each year and have persons line up holding them].

We are awarding the Habeas Corpus Award retroactively for 31 years.  Only now do we truly realize what “speedy” justice is. Since the Habeas Corpus Award comes with an honorarium of $30,000 each year, this makes Lucas County Persecutor Julia Bates’ honorarium a total of $930,000. The National Association for the Advancement of County Persecutors promises to pay this honorarium with the same speed and due diligence that Lucas County Persecutor Julia Bates has so amply demonstrated.

[delivery person rushes in, holding up “RUSH DELIVERY” envelope as delivering it]

[Habeas B. Corpse opens envelope, holds up BREAKING NEWS BULLETIN for crowd to see]

HABEAS B. CORPSE: Wait, what is this? It looks like a breaking news bulletin. Lucas County Persecutor Julia Bates, at this very moment, is filing for moral bankruptcy.  Well, we will just have to trust her good judgment on this one. I’m sure she has an airtight case.

[enter citizen]

Hold on, we are not done here! I am here on behalf of Lucas County citizen’s and in the good name of Danny Brown, to conduct a citizen’s arrest. I demand the arrest of Lucas County Persecutor Julia Bates. She is wanted for murder, the murder of justice for Danny Brown. Warning, Julia Bates, also goes under the aliases of “Julia Will Fool Ya” and “Bates and Switch”. She is armed with a public office and is considered a threat to justice. Her last known whereabouts are reported to be lurking about the county courthouse. We ask that any good, justice-loving citizen of Lucas County arrest her immediately upon determining the whereabouts of this fugitive. I have here “Wanted Posters” to help you identify her, apprehend her, and bring her to justice. And please hurry, rumor has it that the best practices in such matters is to wrap up such matters within 30 years, give or take a decade or so.

[handout wanted posters]

May Day Street Theater – Corporate Zombies vs. Village People

This is the script for the street theater production that was performed tonight to kick off Occupy Toledo‘s May Day Fest week’s worth of events:

May Day Eve Celebration

Occupy Toledo

April 30, 2012

“The Corporate Zombies vs. The Village People”

Gather around, friends, and hear a story as old as humankind; or rather, hear a story as old as human unkind.  The story is of the many versus the few.  The players names may change, but the plot is the same.  The few have grabbed power for themselves, while the many suffer.  Sometimes it is the peasants versus the Lords of the land.  Other times it is simply the 99% versus the 1%.

In today’s scene, in this land called the United States of America, once again, the land is divided, and power is not shared equally.  The few, the 1%, have shielded themselves from accountability, by hiding behind non-living corporate entities, a phantom called “corporate personhood.”  The few, the 1%, have become corporate zombies themselves, disconnected from humanity, unable to act justly and with compassion.  In this pathetic state, the corporate zombies have managed to distract, divide, and simply overrun the will of the people.  The corporate zombies have even managed to infect many of the people into believing that rampant injustice, economic slavery, and environmental destruction is the best that we can do.  The corporate zombies have convinced many that corporate rule is too big to fail.  The corporate zombies have convinced many that we the people are too small to make a difference.

The corporate zombies mock economic fairness.

The corporate zombies mock democracy.

The corporate zombies mock equal justice.

The corporate zombies mock environmental stewardship.

The corporate zombies mock human rights of all kinds.

The corporate zombies mock accountability, responsibility for their own actions.

But, alas, there is always a plot twist.  Every time that the few, the 1%, grab power for themselves and bring suffering to the many, people arise to expose the absurdities of rampant injustice, to throw off the chains of economic slavery, and reclaim the earth as the home of all, not a place to be raped for the wealth of a few.  In today’s scene, a group of villagers arise (that would be us).  This group of villagers can see past the propaganda of the few, and boldly declare, “The Emperor has no clothes!”

The corporate zombies may mock economic fairness; they may mock democracy; they may mock equal justice; they may mock environmental stewardship; they may mock human rights of all kinds; they may mock accountability.  BUT, the people of this village, Toledo, Ohio; the people of this village, the United States of America; the people of this village, planet Earth, will arise and declare, at first softly, but then, louder and louder:

 

We will, we will mock you.  Mock you.

We will, we will mock you.

We will, we will mock you!

 

Let the games begin!

But first, a message from our un-corporate sponsors:

Do you, or someone you know, suffer from Corporatitis, an inflammation of corporate power in your life?  Do you, or someone you know, suffer from low wages, poor working conditions, and crappy benefits?  If so, you may have Corporatitis.

Do you, or someone you know, suffer from lack of health insurance, access to needed health care, and an over-exposure to for-profit health care?  If so, you may have Corporatitis.

Do you, or someone you know, suffer from trillion dollar corporate bailouts, costing trillions of dollars, destroying the economy and mortgaging your future?  If so, you may have Corporatitis.

Do you, or someone you know, suffer from greedy money changers, taking kick-backs on every economic transaction you make, and then reducing your life to a credit score?  If so, you may have Corporatitis.

Do you, or someone you know, suffer from greed-induced environmental destruction, having to live with poisoned air, water, land, homes and bodies?  If so, you may have Corporatitis.

Do you, or someone you know, suffer from dependency on energy and utility companies who are the most profitable companies in human history, yet cry poverty when asked to invest in alternative and renewable energy sources?  If so, you may have Corporatitis.

Do you, or someone you know, suffer from greed-induced wars destroying countless lives around the globe?  If so, you may have Corporatitis.

Do you, or someone you know, suffer from an industrial agricultural food system that produces less and less nutritious foods, while destroying local farmers and our environment?  If so, you may have Corporatitis.

Do you, or someone you know, suffer from a political system where so-called democracy is bought and sold to the highest bidder, and you are left with false choices, where true change is not an option.  If so, you may have Corporatitis.

Do you, or someone you know, suffer from a small cabal of media conglomerates who spoon-feed you crap, hoping to convince you, or at least scare you, that you can’t afford justice, economic fairness, or a livable planet, so you had better just get yours while you can?  If so, you may have Corporatitis.

Corporatitis, an inflammation of corporate power, affects tens of millions of people, and it can be debilitating.  However, most people suffer from Corporatitis Minor.  While Corporatitis Minor is a serious condition, and should never be left untreated, Corporatitis Minor is much more treatable than the dreaded Corporatitis Major.   Corporatitis in its worst form, Corporatitis Major, can consume one’s very soul, leaving only a shell of a human being, unable to accept accountability for one’s actions, or to demonstrate compassion to others.  These ghoulish creatures become known by many titles, sometimes “CEO”, “Public Relations Manager”, or “Security Trader.”

These ghoulish creatures are doomed to walk the earth in a non-living state, like zombies, walking the earth, mindlessly and heartlessly feeding on the flesh of the living, in their vain attempts to satisfy their endless need for more and more profits.  Entombed within the phantom of “corporate personhood”, their only hope is to be stripped of the mythical powers that imprison them, which are typically represented by “Logos.”  We the people will strip these corporate “logos,” these “marks of the beast,” from these corporate zombies.  By stripping these corporate logos, we will help free those suffering from Corporatitis Minor, and offer some hope, some possibility, that those suffering from Corporatitis Major can return to the land of the living, and reclaim their place in humanity.

To all those suffering from Corporatitis, there is something we can do about it.  First, we start with a week of daily occupy movements, to purge ourselves of these corporate parasites and phantom persons.  Occupy Toledo’s May Day Fest is just such a remedy.  Though, be warned: treatment for Corporatitis may result in an increase in economic fairness, blossoming democracy, a return to equal justice, a reclamation of environmental health, burgeoning human rights, and a natural inclination to take responsibility for one’s own actions.

Do not be afraid, surround these corporate zombies with the power of the people.  Without their corporate bank accounts; without their league of lawyers and lobbyists; without their private security and control over the security state, they are really quite helpless — even pathetic.

Feel free to run circles around them if you like!

And what do we say in response to the Corporate Zombies mocking justice and democracy for real persons:

We will, we will mock you.  Mock you.

We will, we will mock you.

So, let us begin by stripping these corporate zombies of their corporate logos.

Let us line up and take turns, one by one, take a logo, strip it from the corporate zombie, and place the logo in the dustbin of history.

First up, we have The Banking and Finance Industry, aka, “The Money Changers”

The Money Changers mock economic fairness.

The Money Changers insist on reaping huge profits on financial transactions while producing little of real value.

The Money Changers have created a casino economy where they are the house that doesn’t lose, taking their cut whether their gambles with other people’s money wins or loses.

The Money Changers drain off hundreds of billions of tax dollars as a reward for crashing our economy and creating the largest recession since the Great Depression.

The Money Changers then have the nerve to try to reduce the meaning of human life down to a credit score.

And what do we say in response to the Money Changers mocking economic fairness:

We will, we will mock you, mock you.

We will, we will mock you.

Strip a logo, read the corporate name, place it in the dustbin of history, and declare:

We the people will take back our economy.

Next up, we have the Military-Industrial Complex, aka “The War Profiteers”

The War Profiteers represent one of the most profitable businesses on Earth.

The War Profiteers literally make a killing, and people are dying for their business.

In our most recent wars, tens of thousands of Americans have been killed and maimed; and over one million Iraqis and Afghanis have been killed.

This corporate zombie feeds off the flesh of the dead.

The War Profiteers mock the value of human life.

And what do we say in response to The War Profiteers mocking the value of human life:

We will, we will mock you.

We will, we will mock you.

 

Strip a logo, read the corporate name, place it in the dustbin of history, and declare:

We will inspire human life, not kill it.

 

Next up, we have the Energy Industry Profiteers, a.k.a., The Billionaire Polluters

The Billionaire Polluters are addicted to petroleum, coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy sources which cannot be sustained, and are destroying the planet.

The Billionaire Polluters resist alternative and renewable energy sources, willing to sell their Mother Earth for a buck.

And what do we say in response to The Billionaire Polluters who mock Mother Earth:

We will, we will mock you.

We will, we will mock you.

Strip a logo, read the corporate name, place it in the dustbin of history, and declare:

You may have the energy, but we have the power!

 

Next up, we have the Media and Communications Moguls, aka “The Propaganda Profiteers”

The Propaganda Profiteers dominate the news industry, silencing diverse voices, and silencing dissent.

The Propaganda Profiteers sellout democracy by pandering to unlimited corporate campaign contributions.

The Propaganda Profiteers dominate our entertainment industry, distracting us with inane entertainment, and cramming advertisements down our throats any time and any place they can, gladly taking the hugely profitable role of shill for consumerism.

The Propaganda Profiteers sell a cheap imitation of the truth while justice is denied.

And what do we say in response to The Propaganda Profiteers mocking truth and justice:

We will, we will mock you.

We will, we will mock you.

 

Strip a logo, read the corporate name, place it in the dustbin of history, and declare:

We the people are the medium for change.

Next up, we have the Industrial Food Profiteers

The Industrial Food Profiteers are much more interested in producing food products that can be genetically modified, recombined, packaged, and marketed for maximum profit than they are interested in nourishing humankind.

The Industrial Food Profiteers destroy the livelihoods of small, local, and family-owned farms.

The Industrial Food Profiteers erode topsoil like crack from a crack pipe, and pollute our environment and food with toxins.

And what do we say in response to the Industrial Food Profiteers for making a mockery of one of the most basic human needs — the need for nutritious food:

We will, we will mock you.

We will, we will mock you.

 

Strip a logo, read the corporate name, place it in the dustbin of history, and declare:

We will nourish a food system that nourishes people.

Next up, we have The Health Care Profiteers

The Health Care Profiteers purport to run a health-care system.  However, we know that this so-called health care system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system.

Each year The Health Care Profiteers kill over 20,000 Americans each year because of the lack of health insurance.

This Corporate Zombie literally feeds on the sick and injured, the most vulnerable in society.

The Health Care Profiteers mock health care as a human right, denying sick and injured people help that they need, all in the name of profit.

And what do we say in response to The Health Care Profiteers mocking health care as a human right:

We will, we will mock you.

We will, we will mock you.

 

Strip a logo, read the corporate name, place it in the dustbin of history, and declare:

We the people demand universal health care now.

 

Last but not least, we have a potpourri of purveyors of personhood of corporations over human personhood — enough corporate misrule to piss off real persons of most any variety.  This is a cabal of Sweat Shop Operators, Environment Destroyers, Labor Rights abusers.

These corporate mis-rulers mock labor rights.

These corporate mis-rulers mock making a decent, honest living.

These corporate mis-rulers mock environmental responsibility.

These corporate mis-rulers mock human values, in order to make a buck.

And what do we say in response to these Corporate Mis-Rulers mocking laborers and mocking the planet in which we all must all live:

We will, we will mock you.

We will, we will mock you.

 

Strip a logo, read the corporate name, place it in the dustbin of history, and declare:

We the people will end corporate mis-rule.

 

Now that we have stripped these corporate zombies of their “logos” and placed them in the dustbin of history, we offer these logos up as symbols of the oppression of the people.

[Take DUSTBIN OF HISTORY and place in front of wall (with flame symbols)]

During May Day Fest Week, we will add to this wall symbols representing oppression and barriers to justice and democracy.

[Phoenix egg piñata arises from behind wall.]

We the people, though beaten down, will rise from the ashes, like a phoenix.

We the people will rise above the forces of oppression and the barriers to justice and democracy.

We the people, will end corporate mis-rule!

Let us break open the Phoenix egg piñata to launch Occupy Toledo’s May Day Fest, as we join millions of people around the world in celebrating where true value comes from in our economy, that is, from the honest labors of real people, not from corporate shenanigans, accounting tricks, money changing, or raping Mother Earth.  Let the people rule!  Let May Day Fest begin!

[The Village People take turns hitting piñata until it breaks open, spilling goodies for all]

SONG: Occupy The Streets

Here is the world-wide web release of the soon-to-be-hit single, OCCUPY THE STREETS, by Darryl Stipes and Josh Boyd, a Black Hawk Studio Production.  Darryl is producing Occupy Toledo’s upcoming MAY DAY FEST Free Concert.  Hit the streets, again, and again!  THANKS Darryl!!

Yin Yang

PEACE SYMBOL: Yin Yang Symbol 2–BUTTON

PEACE SYMBOL: Yin Yang Symbol 2--BUTTON

PEACE SYMBOL: Yin Yang Symbol 2–BUTTON

This cool design is linked to a button, but other great Top Pun products like T-shirts, bumper stickers, mugs, caps, key chains, magnets, posters, and sticker sheets can be accessed by scrolling down the product page.

View more Peace Symbol Buttons.

You just have to love the yin yang symbol!  The concept of yin and yang is one of the central concepts in Eastern philosophy, a symbol of the Tao.  The idea of complementariness and interdependence of opposites is essential to understanding life and achieving balance.  Western civilization tends to look toward absolutes and focuses on one or the other side of opposites, that which is considered good.  This is perhaps the foundation of Western imperialism, which presumes an absolute good and then enforces it on the rest of the world.  Imperialism also feeds off demonizing the opposite.  What I find fascinating about complementariness and the interdependence of opposites that seems to naturally give rise to a transcendence of apparent opposites.  Western philosophy includes the idea of some kind of synthesis arising from dialectical conditions, though I think that Westerners tend to reduce this simply to some third absolute rather than what I think is more appropriate mystical other. I am eternally fascinated with the proposition of loving one’s enemies, and I find is perhaps the most challenging practical manifestation of the Tao.  My favorite simple story to illustrate this is about a farmer and his skepticism about being able to determine whether something is good or bad.  The farmer has a valuable horse which runs away, to which his neighbor comments, “that is bad.”  The farmer declares that he is not sure whether it’s good or bad.  The horse returned to the farm with a herd of wild horses.  The farmer’s neighbor comments, “this is good.”  The farmer declares that he is not sure whether it’s good or bad.  The farmer’s son, while trying to train one of the wild horses, is thrown from the horse and breaks his leg.  The farmer’s neighbor comments, “this is bad.”  The farmer declares that is not sure whether it’s good or bad.  The farmer’s nation declares war against the neighboring nation and as the gathering army passes through his province, they conscript many young men along the way; the farmer’s son is not conscripted since his leg is broken.  The farmer’s neighbor comments, “this is good.”   The farmer declares that he is not sure whether it’s good or bad.  Of course, this sequence of events can transpire forever.  I don’t think that such a story an argument against whether good or bad exist, rather it reinforces a deeper wisdom that require some skepticism about affixing unmovable labels of good or bad on any given situation.  What strikes me as the deeper truth is that bad situations can be redeemed and bring about good, and that there is a shadow to good situations that can degrade into bad.  Appreciating and aligning oneself with this flow seems to be the purpose of the Tao.  Of course the first line of the Tao Te Ching, is that the way that can be described is not the way.  Then, ironically, the Tao Te Ching does it’s best to try to describe the way.  Such is the paradox inherent in reality.  This is probably a good reason why a more abstract symbol is appropriate for reflecting the Tao than words.  Sometimes silence is the best.  Or, like I like to say, sometimes buttoning up says it best!

Mock Funeral – Occupy Toledo

Yesterday, April 1st, April Fool’s Day, was the one and only performance of Occupy Toledo‘s Mock Funeral — in life (and death) there are no rehearsals, this is it!  If you missed it, I truly hope that you were doing something else as fun and inspiring!  Thanks to all the players, readers, eulogizers, ushers, HOMElessLAND SECURITY, providers of food, and all who helped make Occupy Toledo’s RE-BIRTHDAY possible.  We rose like a phoenix from the ashes!!  Occupy Toledo will re-start the physical re-occupation of Toledo on May1, May Day, the day of a worldwide general strike!  Join us May 1 in Levi’s Square, downtown Toledo, St. Clair at Madison.  In the meantime you can come help plan the occupation of Toledo at our General Assembly meeting every Wednesday at 6:30 pm at Third Space.

Below is a picture of our own Rev. Ed Heilman serving as mock preacher (note the dollar sign on his bishop’s hat and the dollar sign cross on the altar)

Mock Funeral Preacher (Rev. Ed Heilman)Here is Occupy Toledo’s Obituary from the Mock Funeral:

“Occupy Toledo was born October 10, 2011, to it’s parents, the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street. Born of hope, Occupy Toledo burst onto the scene in its own charmingly childish way. However, from the birth of Occupy Toledo, few people could understand what it wanted. Onlookers mumbled again and again: “What do they want?” “I don’t get it.” Occupy Toledo flailed around for about 6 months until it realized that it was too small to succeed. After scrutinizing corporate behavior, Occupy Toledo in due course discovered that the nobility of American corporations was unparalleled. The dearly departed realized that in these great United States of America, injustices are so few and far between, that it could no longer even occupy itself. Unavoidably, Occupy Toledo came to its senses, recognized its irrelevancy, and accepted that resistance to corporate rule is futile. Fortunately, in the end, Occupy Toledo had gained at least the good sense to crawl into a coroner’s office and die. Occupy Toledo died on April 1, 2012, due to apathy. Protesters were the Time Magazine Person of the Year in 2011. Gracefully, protesters like Occupy Toledo are stepping aside to make room for the inevitable Time Magazine Person of the Year for 2012: the Corporate Person, born of Citizens United, the true will of human persons across America. Occupy Toledo is survived by countless cousins around the country, many of whom have not achieved enlightenment, so they have not yet abandoned their vain struggles against corporate America, which is obviously too big too fail. The bad news is that Occupy Toledo is dead. The good news is that its condition is stable.”

Below is a picture of our own local activist doctor, Johnathon Ross, M.D., reading Occupy Toledo’s Death Certificate and pronouncing its death.

Mock Funeral Doctor (Johnathon Ross, M.D.)Here is Occupy Toledo’s Death Certificate from yesterday’s Mock Funeral:

“I hereby certify that Occupy Toledo, born October 10, 2011, has died on this day, April 1, 2012. The immediate cause of death was apathy. The underlying causes of death included: 1) an atrophied brain due to an overexposure to TV news and infotainment, talk radio, and so-called “reality” TV; 2) learned helplessness, due to an enlarged gullibility, making it susceptible to corporate propaganda and so-called political pundits; 3) a weakened constitution due to lack of exercising freedoms and widespread metastases of planetary consumption; and lastly, 4) pure exhaustion from running on the treadmills of trying to earn enough to maintain a decent household and fend off crushing debt.”

Of course, after the 1% overstepped their hand with their crass compulsions (by bidding on the Phoenix egg for their breakfast), the Phoenix’s prophecy was fulfilled:

“Hear this prophecy: The crass compulsion of the few to buy anything and everything is complete. The few dare to literally buy and consume the HOPE of the many. Because of this abomination of the few, the Phoenix’s prophecy is complete. The many, the 99%, Occupy Toledo, will be re-born one month from today in this same place. HAPPY RE-BIRTHDAY OCCUPY TOLEDO. Join us on May 1, May Day, a world-wide general strike, for the re-occupation of Toledo. Thus speaks the Phoenix, ‘You, the many, the 99%, shall arise again and be free. Join together with the peoples of this land and from around the world, and the few, the 1%, will be vanquished.’ “

Below pictured is yours truly, Dan Rutt, alias “Top Pun” (it’s just, my pun name), with the HAPPY RE-BIRTHDAY card placed over the tombstone announcing the re-occupation of Toledo.

Mock Funeral RE-BIRTHDAY CARD! (Dan Rutt as Funeral Director)

Here is some Toledo Blade coverage for the Mock Funeral.

If you’d like to read the Occupy Toledo Mock Funeral script, you can re-live the event, or get a greater taste of the drama of the day.  Here is a printer-friendly PDF version of the Mock Funeral of Occupy Toledo.