Category: Religion

Speak to us of Houses

Then a mason came forth and said, Speak to us of Houses. And the Prophet answered and said:

Build of your imaginings a bower in the wilderness ere you build a house within the city walls. For even as you have home-comings in your twilight, so has the wanderer in you, the ever distant and alone.

Your house is your larger body.

It grows in the sun and sleeps in the stillness of the night; and it is not dreamless. Does not your house dream? and dreaming, leave the city for grove or hill-top? Would that I could gather your houses into my hand, and like a sower scatter them in forest and meadow. Would the valleys were your streets, and the green paths your alleys, that you might seek one another through vineyards, and come with the fragrance of the earth in your garments.

But these things are not yet to be.

In their fear your forefathers gathered you too near together. And that fear shall endure a little longer. A little longer shall your city walls separate your hearths from your fields. And tell me, people of Orphalese, what have you in these houses? And what is it you guard with fastened doors? Have you peace, the quiet urge that reveals your power? Have you remembrances, the glimmering arches that span the summits of the mind? Have you beauty, that leads the heart from things fashioned of wood and stone to the holy mountain? Tell me, have you these in your houses? Or have you only comfort, and the lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house as a guest, and then becomes a host, and then a master?

Ay, and it becomes a tamer, and with hook and scourge makes puppets of your larger desires. Though its hands are silken, its heart is of iron. It lulls you to sleep only to stand by your bed and jeer at the dignity of the flesh. It makes mock of your sound senses, and lays them in thistledown like fragile vessels. Verily the lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning in the funeral.

But you, children of space, you restless in rest, you shall not be trapped nor tamed. Your house shall not be an anchor but a mast. It shall not be a glistening film that covers a wound, but an eyelid that guards the eye. You shall not fold your wings that you may pass through doors, nor bend your heads that they strike not against a ceiling, nor fear to breathe lest walls should crack and fall down. You shall not dwell in tombs made by the dead for the living. And though of magnificence and splendour, your house shall not hold your secret nor shelter your longing. For that which is boundless in you abides in the mansion of the sky, whose door is the morning mist, and whose windows are the songs and the silences of night.

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26…

hear me roar!

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Admit it: We all support Fake News

There are a lot of fears that I’m having in this moment about the state of our world: its air, its land, its oceans, its rivers, its biodiversity, its prospects, its people, and the relationships between those people. Donald Trump is our President and he has less than zero regard for the health of the planet or for the health of Americans. Or for the health of anyone, really. Who knows what 2018 will bring? I certainly don’t, but I sense that it will not be good. It will not be healthy. It feels as if legislators are uniquely able to ignore facts. From climate change to the energy crisis, from women’s rights to vaccines, from mental illness all the way to mental health, and from classrooms to public parks: The assault on science has been a completely successful one. But it wasn’t Trump or the Republicans who brought rational thinking to its end. Not even close: we did that. And we loved it. We encouraged it:

Check your horoscope! 

Jan 16, 2018 – Something may be troubling a family member, Aquarius, and this person doesn’t seem inclined to talk about it. Your intuition seems to be temporarily blocked, so you can’t figure it out for yourself. Don’t try; it’s probably buried too deeply within the other person. Make it clear that you’re there if needed and then allow this person to go his or her own way. Don’t let this situation cause you to doubt their need and respect for you.” Done. Phew. Lemme read it over again.

What’s your Myers-Briggs type? I’ve never been professionally assessed, but I have taken 5 online tests and received different results each time. But hey, 3 out of those 5 started with “I,” so there’s some profound assessment of my truest self. Right? Phew. Psychoanalysis: achieved.

I love these two belief systems more than anything. But not because they are worth anything, or because they work, or because they represent anything real. Far from it. If you (like myself) have struggled to figure out why the Republican party somehow just censored the EPA, Myers-Briggs and horoscopes can serve as a valuable litmus test. They are the first indicator that a Tool of Trump is in the room. Anyone who believes in Tarot Carts, Myers-Briggs, Horoscopes, etc. is a Tool of Trump. It’s not a nice thing to say, but is it wrong? One can ascertain which people in their lives have ended their subscription to rational thinking by just keeping an open ear to how they discuss pseudoscience, divination, and the supernatural. There comes a time to draw the line between the spiritual: legitimate connection with some higher power, valuable teaching, or source – and the supernatural. The latter are always, of course, petty and capitalistic enterprises. Let’s face it. Every single one of us listens to our friends, our step-sisters, and that Really Hot Instagram Model talk about Myers-Briggs: We’ve all heard of Jung, and wow, that guy was deep or something, or so I’m told, so therefore Myers-Briggs, which I’ve heard is based off of Jung, is probably deep or something too. Don’t question it. There are professionals who can assess this stuff, which is how I know that Cleopatra was definitely an INTJ. Seriously dude don’t be a dick, I know you believe in different things, but you don’t need to tell me this is bullshit. You don’t need to know psychology to study psychology, no I mean, you don’t need to study psychology to know psychology. Myers-Briggs works. I know it works. -pauses to think- It works for me, anyways, and that’s what matters. Can’t you respect that? That it has meaning for me? It doesn’t have to mean the same thing to you.

Somewhere, a bunch of GOP cronies are high-fiving one another and preparing their next oil pipeline.

One could not better demonstrate a loathing of critical thinking or acceptance of scientific thought than to continue on with these enterprises. It’s almost comedic (in a terrifying way) that folks will demand logical coherence from their elected officials & policymakers but smile onwards as we assess one another’s personalities with cheap parlor tricks. One need only look up phrenology to realize the addictiveness of void, pseudoscientific party-talk. Horoscopes are even funnier. The notion that the exact alignment of the planets at the moment you fell out of your mother’s fleshy hole strongly and reliably influences your personality traits has been and is accepted by many. I don’t know exactly what % of people in Minnesota, say, believe in horoscopes, but I do know that just about everybody makes a choice to tolerate these useless and gem-encrusted ramblings. There are a few loud, annoying critics offering disagreements to astrology in particular…

But those people are annoying, I mean just believe what you wanna believe, girl. Horoscopes aren’t hurting anyone, they aren’t the ones causing all this bullshit out in the world.

Hahahahaha. One would certainly be mistaken to assume that astrology is ruining the world, any more than Catholicism is. But the moment that willful delusion takes place at the expense of down-to-earth truths about stuff like, well, the health of the earth – oops. We love to hate truth. And even if we know it’s all a joke, we’ve been well-trained to keep from criticizing it. There exist few forms of willful delusion so overpowering and socially acceptable as Horoscopes. I can think of 2 acquaintances who I clash(ed) with about these issues regularly and they are both phenomenal human beings. They are intelligent, in most regards more successful than me, and are absolutely 100% more popular and well-liked than I am. I have never been a very kind person and so it’s probably appropriate that I am called unkind each and every time this conversation comes up. But the real red flag with these horoscope-types is that it’s always unkind, in their view, for someone to challenge them. For Believers, is downright traumatizing to step into the conversation using a sample of 100 persons, or a self-report survey, to start getting at the claims associated with horoscopes. If you dare mention the word ‘data’ or ‘evidence’ to the local moms who are enjoying their nightly glass of wine and divination session, you will be kicked out of the group. It is like watching a Republican hear that, in fact, women are in charge of their OWN bodies. They can’t handle it. They shut down. Horoscope-Believer will wriggle, writhe, or – in some instances – just hookah themselves out of any accountability for their beliefs. And the one doing the thinking and rationalizing must always come out a jerk, a meanie, someone who disrespects the harmless beliefs of others.

Sigh. But are they harmless? Of course not. The Horoscope-Believer is just the Neoliberal and blue-voting version of the Climate-Change denier. Both of these clowns are no less intelligent or capable than folks who cultivate their thinking skills, but they are still lazier. They are still clowns. In my view a clown is someone who takes nothing seriously – and the terrifying thing is that anyone can have a Clownish attitude, even if they are a good or loving or dedicated person. The majority of democrats have attitudes towards science and science-based rhetoric that are Clownish to the point of malice. I align very much with democrats, and therefore do value stuff like science, keeping the church out of the bedroom and off of womens’ bodies, tossing out old pseudoscientific takes on race, maybe avoiding fossil fuels sometime soon, etc. But it has been frustrating time and time again to notice that people who value these same things – and who want to construct a compassionate and healthy world – actively sabotage their own vision by sabotaging the value of evidence and rationality. They Clown around. Most Democrats actually hate Trump – but they don’t realize that by allowing their friends and often themselves to spout pseudoscience and mistruths, they support him. You are extremely likely to get into a 3 hour debate about the validity of a Myers-Briggs assessment with a blue voter, or to hear them explain for 45 minutes that Trump has a personality disorder/brain disease. That person will be able to copy+paste a Guardian article supporting their opinion, and has at least 3 books at home about astrology. Is it any mystery how Trump got into office? Nope. Unfortunately it’s only the enraged and the petty who are vocal and popular in their attempts to motivate the left: see Dawkins & Harris. Where are the effective agencies and enterprises in support of evidence-based policy? With the death of the EPA methinks there aren’t many warriors standing.

Even if you know these belief systems (astrology) are bullshit, you must become fluent in them. You likely know someone who is either deeply invested in a belief system or even peddling advice of the willfully hallucinatory nature. By discussing these delusional forms of self-understanding openly, and as if you are interested/accepting of them, you will discover the other people in your midst who actually think in that way. This takes a bit of acting and gentle acceptance/understanding. You need to learn how to Clown in order to shut down (or at least give feedback) to a Clown. It is of the utmost importance to identify the people in your environment who have that Tarot deck on their kitchen table – who know to date a Taurus, and not a Libra – who swear, above all odds, that the only reason their boss (ENFP) fired them was because they were just a weird INTJ. The people who walk through the world in this way are the ones who pose the real threat to the health of the earth, proper social policy & healthcare, and other fact-rooted endeavors. It is important to compassionately – but swiftly – correct a Clown’s thinking or otherwise to get them out of your life. It is not unkind to correct a clown. I have been the clown on many occasions in my life and am grateful for the people who have sat me down – or hollered something at me – to help me appreciate the reality or facts of a situation. It’s a good thing to give feedback, even aggressive or unwanted feedback, on an issue this important.

But today we’re faced with a social expectation to Let People Clown Around. Accept that the tarot deck offers legitimacy to your spouse – skip the World Health Organization’s take on illness and how best to treat it and instead complain about pharmaceutical medications – etc. Donald Trump is just a symptom of a larger problem: our collective decision to look away when one party has some credibility and honest evidence about life, and another party nearby is spouting clear BS. It can be tough to evict people from your life who choose, even unwittingly, to support the negative beliefs of the Republican party. But for the sake of the earth, for the sake of the CDC and the EPA, for our public parks, etc……….the game is up. Throw out the cards. Drop the pseudo-psychology and don’t look back. Don’t blame yourself, either. Trump is winning the fight against truth and we just need more fighters right now, not a bunch of guilty broken former-Geminis. K?

thoreau on this day (12/31)

12/31/1851:

There is a low mist in the woods. It is a good day to study lichens. The view so confined it compels your attention to near objects, and the white background reveals the disks of the lichens distinctly. They appear more loose, flowing, expanded, flattened out, the colors brighter for the damp. The round greenish-yellow lichens on the white pines loom through the mist (or are seen dimly) like shields whose devices you would fain read. The trees appear all at once covered with their crop of lichens and mosses of all kinds, -flat and tearful are some, distended by moisture. This is their solstice, and your eyes run swiftly through the mist to these things only. Nature has a day for each of her creatures, her creations. To-day it is an exhibition of lichens at Forest Hall, the livid green of some, the fruit of others. They eclipse the trees they cover. Ah, beautiful is decay! True, as Thales said, the world was made out of water. That is the principle of all things.

A Train Without Rails

One way to really waste your time is reading on and on about mindfulness. And there is surely no end of long long long books books books offering a thousand lifetimes’ worth of answers about mindfulness. Complex, marketable, secular answers. Let’s set those answers and those long books on the shelf for now. When I was 18 years old, a scientist in Madison posed a question in the first half of a brief article. That question was Are questionnaire-based self-reports of mindfulness valid?

Now I’m 25 years old. Unresolved is ‘the questionnaire question’, but absolutely certain to me this morning was my own mindlessness. Here’s a small sample of the day’s distractions, brought to you from first-semester chemistry (via self report…validity to be determined):

 

11:15am Distracted by goal-flavored thoughts about writing a memoir of high quality, visualizing the steps associated with such a venture
11:15:30am Writing-thoughts bubbling up to account for the possibility or inevitability of memoir-thoughts
11:19am Anger-thoughts about institutional life, hot heated word-thoughts offering critiques of abusive power structures and their creations, which stemmed from thoughts about writing
11:24am What’s the best way to steal a lot of stuff from Whole Foods?
11:26am Anger-Argue thoughts about my old job, and the gross inability of my former boss to do her job (or live her live generally)

 

My intent for that 15-minute period was to simply write those thoughts that were most distracting for me. So when I noticed that my attention was unstable even for a moment, or that my mind’s eye had been occluded by some material other than coursework, I wrote down that material non-judgmentally and as it presented itself. It can be hugely valuable to understand and observe our consciousness without responding to or agreeing/disagreeing with it.

Do you have a wobbly attention span? Are you seeking more FOCUS? Go back to the shelf, pick up those conversations about secular mindfulness, and have some Mental Training™ today!