"A good example is the best sermon." - Thomas Fuller


January 29th, 2008

I have to admit, sometimes I feel like a Vulcan.

For instance remember that time in Star Trek IV where the Earth woman what's-her-face drops Spock off in that park in San Fransisco and she asks where he's going and he says around and she says something like, "Oh, well if you change your mind," and he says, "Is there something wrong with the one I have?"

And then there was this part at the beginning of Star Trek VI where Kirk's ranting insanely about the Klingons who have just entered a point in their history where they were teatering on extinction and Spock says something like, "But they're about to die," and Kirk screams, "Let them die!" and Spock just looks at him like he's fucking insane.

Yeah, that look Spock had at that moment is often my feeling when trying to interpret human emotions, that they just don't make sense and while they're not logical I'm going to stand there and try to make sense of them while they do make sense but they don't make sense but they do but they don't.

D'ya know what I mean?

It's been that way all my life but more so the more I become myself, the more unique I become, the more free my mind and my heart. I look back and raise and eyebrow and think, "What the fuck?" sometimes and while I've learned it's okay to be the me I am I wonder how people got to the they that they are and I think, "Isn't there a logical alternative to all this? Isn't there a way we can find our way together in peace, understanding, thoughtfulness, compassion, understanding, and love?"

Yeah, yeah, I know, Vulcan's don't love but what is logic without the acceptance of what is and humans, yes, we believe in love and we believe in friendship and passion and, well, you know, all that sillystuff. Fascinating it all is but what a web to traverse, all these unique universes each person keeps in their mind, places to explore and learn and grow and mature!

January 25th, 2008

You know, the last few days I've been asking myself what I'm bringing to the problems I face in my friendships and relationships. I've looked at my past relationships and while there have been difficulties, they've always been over different things. One person wanted to suck my wallet dry without getting a job and without even helping out around the house. Another took violent opposition when I expressed concerns with their drunk driving. Another was (unbeknownst to me) addicted to marijuana and was calling me up three times a day for a month accusing me of cheating on her (I was not). And so on and so forth… While all these things eventually lead to some pretty heated arguments I really couldn't say I bore any responsibility in the difficulties except that I had to choose whether or not to stay in the situation.

And so I've struggled to find out what theme I have brought to my friendships and relationships, a theme which does cause difficulty and upset, and I think I've put my finger on it.

When I was younger, especially through my Depression, I had a set of well defined standards and expectations for how people treated me. People rarely treated me according to my personal list of standards and expectations so as you can imagine I spent most of my time feeling hurt and unloved. It wasn't an easy time for me and frankly I spent a great deal of my time convinced that I knew what a caring person "should" act like and if people didn't agree with me it was them, not me, that had the problem.

As I struggled through that I began to recognize something: Everyone is different, everyone is unique. We each have different stories and because of that we have different ways of communicating, different ways of expressing our emotions, and most importantly, different expectations for how the world "should" work.

The other day I realized that one of the reasons I overcame my Depression is that I started to take responsibility for my beliefs about how the world "should" work and how a good person "should" act. I saw more and more that it wasn't fair for me to project my expectations of a "good/caring person" on others when they didn't or couldn't possibly know my personal story or how any given thing might effect me, that I had to have compassion and understanding for other people's unique ways of relating to the world. I would not be alive today if I had not learned that projecting my expectations on others was a form of emotional masochism.

Does that mean I don't express my expectations and boundaries anymore? No. But I've found that most of the important ones I don't need to: Don't slander or gossip about me. Don't cheat on me. Don't steal from me. Don't intentionally hurt me (either physically or emotionally). Other, lesser expectations, I usually find I'm able to let go of as I learn to find more patience, acceptance, and love for others, as I learn to simply accept that their intentions are usually good and I need to take personal responsibility for how I choose to perceive them.

So what did I learn the other day, what realization did I have about what core issue I bring to my friendships and relationships?

Deep down I feel that the only realistic expectation I can have of any other human being is that they hold themselves to the same standards they hold me. They know their personal story, they know their boundaries and values and expectations, so it's reasonable for me to expect that if they want something from me they'll be able to give me that in return. If they ask me to keep the house clean, they should also help to keep the house clean. If they'd like a hug when they're feeling down, they should be willing to give me a hug when I'm feeling down. If they ask me to speak to them respectfully, I expect them to speak to me respectfully. If they want me to hear their concerns, they should hear my concerns.

Of course one should also have their expecations and always try to meet those but projecting them on others only leads to suffering.

January 22nd, 2008

Obama and Me

A week or two ago I decided it was time to peruse Barak Obama's website in search for truth, justice, and the American way.

Now I must admit I haven't been a fan of Obama. In fact, I haven't known much about him, I've just been rooting for Hillary since, well, about 2001 when I had a premonition she'd be running for President some day. And maybe I'm biased by my desire to see a big change in this country, replace some of the testosterone with some estrogen as so many more progressive countries around the world have done.

Still, why not Obama?

So I took a few hours and perused his stance on issues and you know what, I was impressed. Not only does he have the best candidate site I've seen so far but he (or at least those putting the site together) put a great deal of time into explaining his stance on a great many issues. Multimedia was good to boot.

Great site, Mr. O!

While reading his site I read a speach he gave on Faith and I sat back thinking wow, this is one thoughtful guy. Then I hit one line where he demonstrated a clear disrespect for the separation of Church and State (in particular the idea that the federal government can Constitutionally legislate phrases like "one nation under God") and I thought heck, that really bothers me. So I decided to write Obama a short letter with my concern, informing him that contrary to his opinion some of us were and are offended by government support of Judeo-Christian religions.

I didn't expect to get a response back as I'm sure he receives thousands of letters a day. I expected the autoresponse which I received only a few minutes later. And then nothing.


A few days letter I get my first spam from the Obama campaign thanking me for agreeing with him on Faith related issue. WTF? I read it again and saw that someone had read my letter (or at least some kind of computer program had) and I was sent a form letter about some unrelated Faith related subject.

Hey Obama, thanks for listening. Appreciate it, big guy.

So the next day I get another spam. "We're doing important stuff," or some such thing it says and, "Send us money!"

I returned to the Obama site and looked at the page where I'd previously submitted my comment. Was there a privacy statement? No. Any indication I'd be automatically added to a distribution list if I sent him a message? Nope. Any option to opt out of said distribution list I wasn't being informed of?


So I sent him a letter, went a little something like this: I didn't sign up for spam. Please stop sending me spam.

The next day I got another spam.

So I sent him another letter that went something like this: Hi, yesterday I wrote to tell you I didn't sign up for spam. I'd appreciate it if you'd respect my desire not to be spammed. Please stop seending me spam.

The spam continued and I sent him yet another letter saying more or less this: Hi, I've written several letters saying I don't want spam. Most other web sites these days inform a user before spamming them and give a choice to opt out, it's just common courtesy. I'd appreciate it if you'd respect my desire not to be spammed. If you can't respond to a simple request to respect the privacy of my inbox as a Presidential Candidate would you be capable of listening and responding to my concerns after you're in office?

Dear monsier Obama, maybe I'm just being a little nit picky but I really like being listened to and validated, possibly the most important thing to me in the world. And you know, being President is important and all and more so, listening to the thoughts, ideas, and opinions of the over 300 million people you'll be representing will be incredibly important if you want to lead this country successfully. So please, please, please, do me this one small favour:


Cordially yours,

January 14th, 2008

Lately I've started to listen to a little AM radio show hosted by a guy named Dave Ramsay. At first it was just my desire to have something on the radio other than music, human voices raising thoughts, opinions, and views, that might further enlighten me on my daily way.

Listening to a guy give financial advice wasn't exactly my idea of enjoying my free time but it was something to do when I'd go out for a smoke and as he talked to people in debt I couldn't help but think, "What the hell am I doing spending money on this when I could be paying off my debts?!"

Compared to some I'm not that badly in debt. Yes, I've got the mortgage, but I have a good fixed thirty year loan. Yes, I've got the car payment but it's on a used '99 Volvo now instead of that horendously expensive shiny new Mazda RX8. I have credit card debt but this past month I've just paid off my student loan. And a teeny 401k sits out there in virtual space slowly growing into something that might one day become a retirement.

So I said hey, this is rediculous, anyone that spends more than they make is in some way nuts. I mean, I've got more stuff than 99% of the humans that have ever lived throughout history and I need more?


And so tonight I sat down at my desk to work and take care of a few odds and ends when I pulled up Netflicks to find something to watch and started watching a documentary called Maxed Out and...hmmm...good film, just wanted to share it with you. I hope you take a chance to watch this enlightening film, human voices raising thoughts, opinions, and views, in hopes that they might further enlighten you on your daily way.

January 8th, 2008

Now reason I love science fiction is the forward thinking of the writers. Forget the special effects, forget the characters and acting, it's the ideas about a better future where mankind has evolved. That is what first drew me to science fiction.

This quote is from a classic Trek episode called The City on the Edge of Forever. It's one of my favourite quotations from the old series and is, I believe, the direction we, as a race, should head.

Per an incognito Captain James T. Kirk transported back several hundred years in time to the American Great Depression:

"'Let me help.' A hundred years or so from now, I believe, a famous novelist will write a classic using that theme. He'll recommend those three words over 'I love you.'"

January 5th, 2008

The other night after Huckabee's win in the Iowa Caucus I decided it was time to take a more serious look at this presidential candidate. Being a part-time "information junkie" and interested in his rise to success against the butt of a number of jokes I've heard over the last few weeks (from conservative Republican talk show hosts, no less) who asked, "How could anyone take someone seriously who's called 'President Huck-a-Bee'?" I decided it was time to ask myself what our country would be like Huckabee in the Oval Office.

For those of you who don't know I grew up in a liberal house of registered Democrats. While a substantial number of my views are more liberal in nature something about the Democratic party always rubbed me wrong. I inherently knew the truth couldn't be defined (limited) by any single ideology, however flexible it might be (after all the term liberal is defined as, "open-minded or tolerant, esp. free of or not bound by traditional or conventional ideas, values, etc."). So as a twenty something I began exploring other political parties.

The first and most obvious choice was the other big group in our two party system, the Republican party. I knew right away it wasn't for me. Why?

Several hundred years ago someone wrote the following:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, - That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

When I read these wonders I have to wonder if the founding fathers, if suddenly transported to present day America, wouldn't encourage us to alter or abolish it as it no longer represents the governed but the rich and powerful.

Although it would be a generalization to say these things apply to all Republicans (they do not) I find many of the general (and often unspoken) ideologies/behaviors of the political party troubling. My general perspective is that modern American conservative ideology:

…is critical (sometimes violently) of other points of view (just turn on Fox or the AM radio).
…engenders an adversarial "us vs. them" mentality to problem solving (isn't it time we evolved past this as a race?).
…is too often focused on the manipulation/creation of facts to support its cause, even when there's substantial evidence to the contrary (unforgivable fabrications to launch a "War on Terror" and can you say global warming?).
…is one of greed, having more power, money, or success than someone else without consideration for how this mentality effects others.
…is one of judgment (all but one Republican I have had a conversation with regarding social justice issues has said, quite proudly, that, "If those people wanted a job they'd get off their lazy asses and work harder, they're all just living on welfare anyway and stealing my hard earned money."--I wish to the Goddess I were making that load of felgercarb up!).

I want you to know, though, there are a lot of things about conservatism that I like such as the ideas behind fiscal conservatism and having a strong work ethic. That said…

When I found myself at Huckabee's website (http://www.mikehuckabee.com/) seriously asking myself if I'd be willing to vote for this man I was a little taken aback. Sure, I've voted for presidential candidates who were independent, Green Party, and Democrat, but never a Republican and never a Baptist (I must admit having allergic reactions to Baptists as those I've known weren't altogether respectful of those who didn't share the same values).

So on to Huckabee with that serious question, would I vote for him for President? The rest of this Reflection will thus be titled, "A Response to Project Huckabee" and will be a responsive dialog to his agenda as listed on his website.

Huckabee's "Secure America Plan" caught my attention as his values regarding illegal immigration aligned closely with my own. To quote his site: "Implement a broad-based strategy that commits the resources of the federal government to the enforcement of our immigration laws and results in the attrition of the illegal immigrant population."

While I think we can all agree there are strong emotions on both sides of the fence (pun intended), my belief is that "illegal" is "illegal". We are a nation of laws and should enforce them. We should provide the funds and manpower to enforce them. We are also a nation of values which to me means if a law doesn't make sense or if the reality changes we should change our laws to reflect that reality (i.e. make it easier for people to legally immigrate). The problem right now, in my view, is that we're playing politics instead of just enforcing and when necessary, changing, the laws. I think Huckabee's proposal, while anathema to those most sympathetic to illegal immigrants, makes a great deal of sense and will help us move towards a future where immigration is handled in a straight forward, more harmonious way.

I am, however, against his proposal to put up a fence between the U.S. and Mexico. First and foremost, we're not East Germany during the communist era! Second, it didn't stop East Germans from getting to Western Europe, I think we'd just waste a lot of money trying to stop something that can't be stopped by a wall and likewise, it would simply send an incredibly negative Gestapo-like message to the rest of the world.

Continuing on…

Huckabee writes, "The First Amendment requires that expressions of faith be neither prohibited nor preferred… My faith is my life - it defines me. I don't separate my faith from my personal and professional lives." I read this and thought okay, this seems like the politically correct thing to say and not unlike what Bush sometimes says but does Bush demonstrate respect for other faiths? Lip service, yes, respect and understanding, no.

Reading on, "We should not banish religion from the public square, but should guarantee access to all voices and views. We should share and debate our faith, but never seek to impose it. When discussing faith and politics, we should honor the 'candid' in candidate -- I have much more respect for an honest atheist than a disingenuous believer."

Wow, I'm thinking to myself. That's a view I hold and isn't exactly what I've experienced around Baptists I've known. If this is true, Huckabee, if you really hold this attitude towards other faiths, then how refreshing, you've got my attention!

Next you write, "I support and have always supported passage of a constitutional amendment to protect the right to life. My convictions regarding the sanctity of life have always been clear and consistent, without equivocation or wavering. I believe that Roe v. Wade should be over-turned."

Okay, okay, here's my opinion:

The whole Freedom of Choice vs. Right to Life thing is a hard, hard, hard issue. There is no logical, rational winning argument to this debate, it's a debate of values and personal morals more than anything else. Personally, while I don't agree with your point of view I have one substantial problem with it: you haven't provided one single solution or proposal to support the children that would be born if abortion was again illegal. There are millions of children in America without health care, housing, food, clothes, or even a family; who will take care of these new children if a woman who wants an abortion is forced to have a child? Will that mother raise them with resentment or in an abusive or otherwise screwed up household? Who will provide them food? Who will insure them a proper education? While I respect your values and won't base my vote on this issue alone it deeply troubles me that you provide no solutions to the social and economic problems it would contribute to.

"I am opposed to research on embryonic stem cells."

Have you heard of a guy named Galileo? Let me just say I have a hard time respecting anyone that wants to limit scientific exploration and truth based on morals defined by religious dogma. While I agree there's the potential for a slippery slope if women are encouraged to abort in order to facilitate this form of research I believe limiting it purely on morally religious grounds goes against both science and the First Amendment, the latter of which you would have to swear to uphold as President--something you can't logically do if you promise to hold to a religiously based agenda when in office.

Your next issue regards a Veterans' Bill of Rights and you know, though I'm not pro-war I'm pro-troops (anyone who puts themselves in front of a bullet has my respect) so I agree with you hole heartedly, if we can find the billions of dollars to kill we can find the money to properly take care of those who put their lives and psychological well being on the line. The same goes for their families who spend so much time sitting here at home worried sick. Bush has an easy enough time sending people to die, it's time we found someone who can take care of them when they get back.

In regards to health care you write, "The health care system in this country is irrevocably broken, in part because it is only a 'health care' system, not a 'health' system," and I have to say I don't know exactly what you mean, it sounds like rhetoric to me. So I read on:

"We don't need universal health care mandated by federal edict."

What? We've got the worst health care system in any first world country. When I was in Australia I got free health care (as an American Citizen!) simply because I was sick. Our health care system sucks and if the government isn't going to do anything about it, who is? The medical industry which is making billions off of American's illnesses? That's the same wishful thinking I've been hearing Republicans verbalize for decades and IT DOES NOT WORK!

"As President, I will work with the private sector, Congress, health care providers, and other concerned parties to lead a complete overhaul of our health care system."

Apparently the answer is yes, you're solution is to do the same thing our leaders have always done, rely on Capitalism to solve our health problem. Sorry, Huckabee, it hasn't worked and it's not going to work. Health care should be a right to all citizens. Private industry has demonstrated a clear inability to provide this basic right so it's time government stepped in.

"We do need to get serious about preventive health care."

Universal health care would ironically do that.

In terms of taxes you promote something called a "Fair Tax." While I don't know a lot about it the more I learn the more I like it. And frankly, it helps your case that the current tax system screws the lower and middle class while giving those who don't need breaks the biggest ones in history. I like the idea of a consumption tax. It encourages spending and fairly taxes those of us who are buying big tv's, sports cars, and yachts. Even if you aren't elected president I hope you continue to work on getting the present taxation system replaced by something more logical, straight forward, and fair.

Then we come to, "I support and have consistently supported passage of a federal constitutional amendment that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman."

Didn't you earlier write, "Our nation was birthed in a spirit of faith - not a prescriptive faith telling us how or whether to believe, but acknowledging a providence that pervades our world."? When I read that I was lead to believe that while your faith was part of your personal and professional life you still respected and upheld the rights, values, and dignity of others.

Did I read you wrong?

As late as 1965 Jim Crow laws were enforced treating blacks as "separate but equal". These laws, I think we can both agree, were racist, bigoted and un-American. Throughout history societies, including in America, have not always been defined by one man and one woman. In fact the "nuclear family" is by far the exception, not the norm. The idea of marriage as being defined by one man and one woman is biblically, not socially or historically, based. Frankly, cultures change and we've become a culture where homosexuals want to commit to wedlock just as much as heterosexuals. What gives you the right to take that from them? What gives you the right to contradict some very clear prescriptions in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights? You're agenda to define marriage in this fashion is a straight forward act of bigotry unbefitting someone who claims to follow the lessons of Jesus who, as I recall, was always befriending the poor, the lonely, and the rejected.

Well there we have it folks, won't be voting for someone who feels morally obligated to force his values on others. It's just….well, it's just plain "un-American"!

Back to the hunt!

January 3rd, 2008

There's an old saying that God never gives us more than we can handle. I've been wondering a lot about this lately and while part of me has Faith that the most recent challenges I've encountered are ones I can successfully handle, I'm skeptical (maybe of myself more than anything else).

Do I have worth? Do I have value? Do the things I have to say matter? Are my concerns, perceptions, thoughts and feelings, legitimate? Do I have a positive impact in anyone's life? Am I a social reject and failure? Do I deserve love, compassion, understanding, or respect? Am I expendable?

These are the questions I ask myself when I'm feeling at my lowest, when the frightened child in me wants to hunker down in a fox hole with a bottle of Jack Daniels, a pack of Swisher Sweet Cigarillos, and listen to Pink Floyd's The Wall or any of the half dozen Nirvana albums at my disposal. These are the moments when part of me figures I should answer these questions in the negative because it's too hard, too challenging, too stressful, to reaffirm my worth on a daily, hourly, and moment to moment, basis.

The irony behind this is that I spent New Years Eve thoughtful and intent about the year ahead. I'm not the kind of person to make New Year's resolutions but this year was different. I've known I've needed to make some substantial changes in my life, to get off my proverbial butt and do the personal work that's needed to be done. And so I made two simple, straight forward, yet all encompassing resolutions that I knew would change my life forever:

1) To find personal balance.
2) To find my voice.

As of today I've failed to keep my resolution, failed miserably. Truth is I feel like sticking my head out of the fox hole is tantamount to painting a bull's eye on my forehead. "I'm over here!" I'd be screaming, "Take your best shot!"

Okay, okay, I'm being melodramatic, but that's how it feels sometimes and while feelings may not necessarily be reality based, they're accurate reflections of one's inner experience, not to be questioned, dismissed, or ignored and therefore I cannot question, dismiss, or ignore them if my goal is to find personal balance and my voice in 2008.

My mom sometimes fondly recalls how my big sister, before I was born, would often start her sentences with, "When I was three…" Lately I've found myself starting out an idea with, "Fifteen years ago…" While what follows is not positive on a superficial level, as my sister's stories are recounted to have been, on a deeper level these are stories of incredible challenges overcome and the lessons learned from them, lessons I hope I can teach and share and by some miraculous means improve the world by having found them.

Jim Wallis, an Evangelical Christian I recently stumbled upon, once wrote, "Hope is believing in spite of the evidence, then watching the evidence change."

Fifteen years ago I didn't know that. I'd look at the evidence, I'd compile it in my journals, lists and lists of "terrible" things that had happened to me over a lifetime, and I didn't have much belief because the evidence seemed fairly straight forward and incontrovertible. Someone walking out on me was someone walking out on me. How could you argue with that? Someone threatening to take something I cherish away from me was someone threatening me. How could you argue with that?

So it's not easy, not easy to say to myself or to you, "Fifteen years ago I learned to believe in spite of the evidence," but it is something that is good, something that is necessary.

For me.

For you.

For the world entire.