wholepeace

Posts Tagged ‘Love’

The Argument That Ended It All

In Uncategorized on July 3, 2019 at 7:50 am

She said; he said.
She said he said.
He said; she said.
He said she said.
She did not say, she said.
He did not say, he said.
She said she said.
He said he said.
They said they did not say.
They said.
They did not say.
And what was not was said.
And what was, was not.

The Zero Sum Politics of Scarcity Consciousness

In PeaceAble, Politics on November 9, 2016 at 10:27 am

As I reflect on the reasons People are giving for electing Donald trump to the Presidency, a single theme emerges.

They mention foreign workers taking our jobs; they make reference to variations on the drugged-up, slut of a lazy welfare mother having kids and asking us to support her with our taxes; the unemployed and homeless who want us to take care of them instead of getting a job; the immigrants who are coming here with their customs and religions that they want to force on us; the foreign terrorists disguised as refugees who won’t agree to keep their wars in their own countries instead of coming here to harm us.

Now, all of these things have long been shown by hard evidence to be false, but I it’s not my intention here to argue about them. Instead I want to point out something they have in common that is not often talked about.

They are each a variation on a theme of personal ownership and public scarcity; the idea that any acquisition or benefit or bit of power someone else gets takes something away from me. And if I can strongly identify with a group of people like myself we can declare ourselves collectively robbed.

“If a “foreign” worker comes here and gets a job, that job actually belongs to me or someone like me and has been stolen.” The same thing holds true for someone of a previously disadvantaged group; “Black people are taking white people’s jobs.” “Women in the workforce are taking jobs away from men.”

“If gay people are allowed to marry, then my marriage is less special, less uniquely blessed; so I have been robbed of that blessing.” And, corollary to that is the idea that if same-sex relationships are normal and acceptable, then the natural normality and specialness of my heterosexual relationship are diminished.

“If God can be worshipped in a multitude of ways and all those ways express valid and meaningful understandings of and relationships with God; then I am being robbed of the special righteousness of my relationship with God.” This is the “if everyone is right then no one is right” argument.

And the next step in this reasoning process is that if someone is taking something away from me then that is an attack on me.

“When people say ‘Happy Holidays” it diminishes the specialness of my “Merry Christmas,” so that’s an attack on Christianity itself.”

Now the problems with these arguments should be obvious, but let me state them as clearly as I can.

First, your sense of ownership and entitlement is based on a myth grounded in unacknowledged privilege. Put simply, you don’t own what you think you own. They are what Thom Hartmann calls the “commons.” This isn’t your country any more or less than it is mine and everyone else’s, and I want things for it that are different from what you want, but my desires are no less valid or important than yours.

They aren’t your taxes, they’re mine, too; and some of the things you don’t want to spend them on are things that I do want, and vice-versa.

You don’t own any job; and the fact that you now have to compete for it with people you used to be able to exclude from the pool takes nothing from you except a privilege that is not yours to claim in the first place.

You don’t own marriage or any other social or legal contract between people that does not include you.

And you certainly don’t own God; to think that your truth is the only possible one is arrogance and self-righteousness that is especially ironic in a religion that supposedly teaches you to be humble and leave the righteousness to that God.

Secondly, there is actually no scarcity of most of these things. There is more than enough of being an American for all of us and a great many more.

There is a limited number of jobs, but that’s not the fault of the people who have them. Economists argue that a certain percentage of people need to be unemployed at all times or the economy will suffer. (A side note here: The wealthy don’t invest or start businesses in order to create jobs. They do it to create more wealth for themselves and jobs are seen as a cost of business, not a reason for it.)

There is plenty of love and marriage and sex to go around, and each marriage is equally special for its participants. My marriage does not diminish yours any more than yours diminishes mine. And any of the benefits I may get from my marriage, such as health insurance, clear inheritance of property, lower taxes and so forth, do not reduce the availability of those benefits for you.

And if you can’t allow that there is plenty of God to go around, then the god you believe in is not as great as you claim. Why does it not make sense that a truly universal and all-powerful deity would speak to different groups of people in the ways that they will best understand? Isn’t that part of why you now accept religious texts that are written in English rather than learning to read them in Aramaic or Greek?

America has become a culture filled with people who don’t want to share, don’t play well with others, and act out, throwing a tantrum whenever they don’t get their way.

And that is really what the rise of Donald Trump has given voice to.

And it is a cultural trait that affects us all, because virtually all of our most important cultural traditions reinforce it. Ask yourself if, in fact, you have to actively decide, against your instincts, to reach out to people you’ve been taught to fear, to show compassion to people who make you uncomfortable, perhaps even disgust you. Ask yourself if, in fact, you have an inventory of things that you are protective of and hesitate to share. Be honest. And if you are the normative group of the culture, by which I mean white Christian heterosexual men, then do you not find yourself having to think about the things you do that challenge the norms and privileges associated with that?

This is why we all need allies. The truth is that we are all in this together. And we will either make it work together or destroy it together.

I Dream Who I Am; Not Who I will Be.

In No Particular Path on October 5, 2015 at 9:33 am

“Dream as if you’ll live forever; live as if you’ll die tomorrow.” This meme, in various forms and attributed to various people has been showing up on my FB feed lately.

No.

I won’t do that.

I won’t indulge in timeless fantasy, only to live in fear that my dreams may not come true if I don’t do them right now. Dreams aren’t blueprints, they’re works of art – as realistic or abstract, as representational or as surrealist as we want to make them. But they’re present, not future. Tomorrow they will have changed somehow, sometimes for the better, but not always. When we rush to make our dreams concrete, because we know that our lives are short, we risk the dreams and our lives both.

Artists and poets – artists of all kinds – have spoken of the transience of art in two ways. Art is never really permanent. Like everything else, it can die; it can be destroyed by accident or by design. And works of art are not immutable. They are, in fact, constantly renewed each time some new person encounters them. Artists often hate to finish a painting, writers hate to write the end. There’s always something that could, if one went back, be made different, made better; something that reflects who one was when the work was begun, but not who one is today. Dreams are like that. They tell us more about who we are now than they do about who we will become; or even who we really might wish to become.

Our lives are always lived in the present, though we may seek to avoid that fact. We spend our present time either regretting the past or celebrating it; we spend it either dreaming of the future or trying to control it. But everything we do is a choice, and choice is always present tense. Tomorrow I may die or I may not. What I do today I may regret tomorrow or celebrate. It may lead me in the direction of my dreams or in a direction I could not have imagined. And I cannot know which until it is done, and what is done cannot be undone.

Humans exist in a constant state of both loss and gain, both grief and hope, both beginning and ending. We are conscious of the past, anticipate the future and pay far too little attention to the present.

All of our lives thus far are prologue. The past may be foreshadowing, but it is not prediction. What I did yesterday exists only in my capacity to remember it; what I do today belongs to today; and what I will do tomorrow is possibility, not promise. I savor today not because tomorrow may not come, but because today already is.

There is a similar meme that advises us to tell those we love that we love them today, because tomorrow they may not be here to tell. I think that’s foolish. Love expressed out of fear of lost opportunity is love coerced. I express my love today because I can, so why would I not? If I say I love you in the morning, repeat myself several times during the day, then remind you of it before we go to sleep, it isn’t because I fear that I may not get another chance. It’s because I can think of no better bookends to the day and no better library between them. And if tomorrow you are no longer here, or I am not, then I will believe that every expression of love we have made will live forever. As a breath ripples out into the world and can never be recovered, each new expression of love ripples out and marks our presence. Each new expression of love that we take in, like each new breath, brings with it the oxygen to feed the fire in our souls and give us life for this moment and this day.

And so I will dream because I live today. My dreams keep me conscious of my desires, my hopes, and my fantasies. Today I dream who I am today, and tomorrow I will dream anew.

I will live as though I am alive now, in this moment. And if tomorrow comes I will live then as I live now. If it doesn’t come, then I will have lived to that last moment according to the dreams of every moment.

I know that I will not live forever. I cannot know if I will die tomorrow. But I know that I am here today and I can choose what to do with that.

I will love as I breathe, so that I can draw in that which ignites my soul; and exhale it rippling out into the world.

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