People who dominate.

People who are dominated.

Who belongs in which group? Think about the people you know and how they relate to you or to others. Many people fall into both groups in their interactions with different people. In charge, subordinate, superior, smarter, older, younger, indifferent. Wives, husbands, siblings, students (except for what directly affects their grade), children.

Not listening is aggressive. I do not need you, I do not have to regard you as equal.

Not listening is passive aggressive. I do not find you worth listening to, but I don’t want to say so openly.  Or, I am being discounted by you, so I will retaliate quietly, by ‘not hearing’ what you say whenever I think I can get away with it.

I’m not putting friends in either group, you see, because that is how you know someone, whether they’re related to you or not, is your friend. They listen to you. They accept that what you say is valid. They act with what you say as a factor in their decisions.

People who listen are the people you want in your life.

Do you listen?

My Face Is Up Here

June 25, 2011

This would work far better for me if it were Guittard, or Droste, or Lindt…uh, okay. I’ll stop thinking about it now.


Anyways :

Calling It Like It Is

June 11, 2011

Let’s put the blame on the offenders – yes!

Wonderful post.

If only he knew what I really wanted  (ignoring that fact that most of us live in a nebula of vague wants, not clear and specific star-points).

If I have to tell him to say he loves me, it loses all its meaning (men don’t seem to think talking about feelings is as important as women do).

Men are so different from women  (and women are different from men) (and you are different from me) (and everyone is different from everyone else)

But –

We are also all the same. We all want to be shown that people respect us, like us, love us… we all want to feel connected.

So, hey, why not go out on a limb here and tell people what you need, and ask them what they need, and then start being kind to each other !

And now for the final three comics in Non Sequitur’s week long exploration of Argumentative Reasoning  (first three here)  or: why we have so many problems understanding facts.

Wouldn’t it be brilliant if politicians and media were required to state facts clearly, without spin? And cite their sources, and list consequences of the advocated actions? Of course, it would be so boring to most people that no one would pay any attention.

Argumentative reasoning is a hot topic just now.

Essentially it is the idea that we make our decisions based on immediate, unconscious emotional reaction; then, equally unconsciously, we select arguments or proofs that support our emotional bias.

As far as I can tell, this idea explains all of the global warming controversy in this country. If people actually looked at the facts… well, let’s not get optimistic.

Cherry-picking evidence is the great boon of the internet. Instead of being alone in your head, you can click away until you find myriads of like-emotioned people to support any ol’ whacky premise you can devise.  And plenty of political groups who are pretending to agree with your views so they get your votes.

What would happen if people actually analyzed the track records of the people they vote for? But then, I keep wondering why any woman would support fundamentalists, of any religion. Do they really think their whole purpose of living is to be a slave? Domestic servitude, domestic prostitution,and a brood-mare to boot. What sane person would *choose* that life for themselves and their daughters? And yet, women follow fundamentalism and its political arms, such as the tea party.

I cannot see a good argumentative reasoning for that. Which, of course, exposes my confirmation bias. But I will keep trying. I want to understand how people come to the conclusions they do, and what would convince someone their life is *systematically*  without any value.

If the tea party got into control, how long do you think women would be allowed to hold public office, let alone have the vote?

Humor can sometimes open a crack in a closed mind. With that faint, wistful, wishful hope, here’s three comics from Non Sequitur:

Two articles in the Guardian this morning. Both thoughtful and thought-provoking.

The first is an interview with the author / Martin Amis /. Apparently he likes to stir controversy, and is fond of the phrase  “if I lost half my brain, then I’d do… whatever the questioner had asked”. This time, he was asked if he’d ever write children’s books.

Well, of course that got a furious response from children’s authors. Rightly so – you need a very good mind to write children’s books, but it is a particular type of writing. And Amis is, in his provocative way, indicating that he hasn’t that type of mind. For him and his style, it would be a hardship. So why the fury?

I would be angry, too, I’m sure. But the fury displayed in the comments? Equal arrogance, far more vitriol.I don’t write kid’s books, but even so, if he said he couldn’t write in my style, even implying my style is a lesser style only shows his ignorance and ego. Or, more accurately, his love of stirring up wasp’s nests.

He also mentions that the fast-accelerating population shift to far greater percentage of elderly people will cause social upheaval. Again, a valid point. Again, he chooses to express it in a provocative way: euthanasia booths on every corner with a martini and a medal for those who use them.

Predictably, people react as if he’s saying “round ’em up and shoot ’em where they stand.”

He is not.

Think of the words. He’s a writer. Words matter.

A martini. A celebration. A drink associated with conviviality. So – a wake, a celebration of a life.

A medal. Why do we give medals? To acknowledge courage or achievement far beyond the ordinary. He is saying that he recognizes the extraordinary courage it would take to commit suicide, even if one is in pain and without hope of cure.

Yes, he is deliberately riling people. But underneath that irritating manner, he is stating truths. He is a writer who delights in complexity and style that children are not capable of appreciating. He would, truly, have to deny much of his way of writing to tone down the vocabulary, the plot lines, the themes to a children’s level. He’s not claiming he’s better than those who can write for children. It’s as challenging in its own way as his style is for him. But it’s not his style. So ignore him. Be glad of good writing wherever you find it – and don’t judge other styles by your own.

And don’t force other people to live when they no longer wish to. Give them the ultimate respect and dignity of allowing them to choose their time, and to die peacefully, without pain. If your religion forbids suicide, then don’t do it. But don’t you dare force others to live by your beliefs. Just don’t. That is evil.

And with all that in mind, the / second article /  is about a man who has devoted decades to compiling a ‘Good Book’ – how people can live ethically and wisely. No religion to stir hatred and violence against others, just thinking compassionately and caring about each other. Sounds good to me. He is an advocate that everyone can and should be able to study philosophy – a conclusion I have also reached. Learning to think, and to think clearly, is crucial to our being able to survive in this crowded and rapidly altering world.

Asked about religious people being offended by plain-speaking atheists, he replies,  “My rejoinder is to say when the boot was on their foot they burned us at the stake. All we’re doing is speaking very frankly and bluntly and they don’t like it.”  Absolutely true. The religious response of killing those who disagree is still around, and even in the US deliberate, malicious, vindictive actions towards non-believers are far too common – and endorsed by the government all too often.

I’ve posted about what it means / to be a skeptic /, and / to be an atheist /. Both require abandoning ideas of superiority or of having all the answers.

To let go of one’s preconceptions is essential. If you feel above others, if you think you know what’s what, you stop looking around, stop trying to understand. You never seek reconciliation.

We need to cooperate. We know to our great cost that whatever happens anywhere on this planet affects everyone on this planet.

We need to find common grounds. We have to seek ways to become one people, while still respecting our individual qualities and ideas.

A tricky balance indeed.

I have a theory that music is a possible way to show people how akin we all are.

I love ‘classical’ music – the overarching genre, not just the specific period. / Vaughn-Williams’ ‘Dives and Lazarus’ / is so evocative, so haunting. / Bach’s ‘Chaccone in Dminor’ /. / Elgar’s ‘Introduction and Allegro for Strings’ /. The ethereal themes, so like crystalline starlight in /  Beethoven’s ‘Emperor Concerto’ /. Mozart. / Wagner’s rich drama /. Dvorak. Haydn. Monteverdi. The intense emotions of / Verdi’s ‘Requiem‘ /.

But if there is a music that will unite the world, it will not be of that calibre. It will be the music people sing to, dance to, hear in their minds. Accessible, primal, simple and strong.

One can learn to love classical music – some are born loving it. Most never will even try. Like poetry and literature, if there’s too much of the mind involved, most people would rather be doing something else.

But even those who love the exquisite intricacies of Bach can dance to the beat of hip hop. Folk songs, simple rhythms, simple melodies. Still pulling at the heart, still drawing joy or sorrow, but in an immediate way; those are the songs that can people everywhere can share together.

We still have to contend with nationalism. Just prior to Eurovision 2010 Greece had caused a big financial mess for the EU. It showed in comments and voting. As well, hereditary enemies and allies tend to vote predictably.

The winning song, though, was a / quirky little tune from Germany /. Not bad, but to me the best songs were/  Greece’s ‘Opa’ /  and / Turkey’s ‘We Could Be the Same’ /. I have them on a cd in my car and listen to them regularly – they still delight me. Not bubblegum pop; this is vibrant music encompassing folk, rock, rap styles. Sounds that stimulate and inspire. Rhythm and passion any human can respond to. I’ve given links to other Eurovision songs in / this post / and a / Finnish tango in this post/, which really proves my point about music crossing cultural barriers.

Whatever lies behind globalization, it has to respect regional and national pride – perhaps sharing music would be a way to show that each country, each people have something to offer that everyone can understand and enjoy?

We need to see how we are the same, and from that, learn to appreciate the unique aspects that could enrich, not divide us as a global people.

update:  In a nice coincidence my son sent me a link this morning, adding his observation:  / “the best song ever” / . Ruslana weaves primal themes into her performances. She also fulfills the points I discussed above. In a Western presentation, with Western technology and style, she incorporates essential Ukrainian (Russian will be a more accessible description to most people) sounds and images, as well as a focus on our relationship with earth.

(no blame attaches to them – the fault and prolixity are mine alone)

Personal Freedom.

An illusion?

I suspect so.

Free will? Of course. But not truly free. All we are today is the result of choices made in the past, be they active or passive. No one determines life for us, but we are bound by all the connections we create, and even by our own existence. Much of this contemplation is a direct result from reading / this blogger /.

I was once told that we all have moods, and we are helpless before them. This is true. All we can do is learn to recognize them, accept their influence, and try not to live according to their dictates. That requires knowing one’s base state.

Is there a base state? A ‘me’ that is free of mood, desire, hope, regret, love, hate, anger, jealousy, revenge, empathy, sympathy, tolerant acceptance… where do I stop the list?

I think there is a basic core. The part of me that creates characters for my stories and imbues them with life, sets them into motion: that part of me must be optimistic, thinking, kindly disposed towards humanity. At least, that’s how my characters all seem to end up. Funny how what makes for nice people makes for a boring story.

What does personal freedom mean? I shall enter the caveat ‘to me’ here: let it be understood to apply throughout. I have at least learned enough to know that she who ‘speaks for humanity’ is a deluded fool.

So, for me, personal freedom means the ability to call my time my own and not to devote myself primarily to care-taking tasks. Of course, if I could learn to confront, to demand the respect of equal responsibility – but one has to accept that other people are not willing to change their patterns, perhaps unable to see the lack of real respect hidden by genuine affection.

That immediately gets back to the choices made.

We are chained by the choices made. And by the dreams outside those chains.

We are also anchored by those choices. They are the foundation of what is: the place we stand. The rest is in relation to where we stand. And understanding (too many ‘stands’ – what to do?) understanding how we got where we are, for good or ill, is the way to understand where we want to be, and why; and, hopefully, how to get there.

Who am I? Interesting how coincidence works. I’d been reflecting on the labels we give ourselves, the odd things we can be proud of.  / This blogger / had a post today that centered on this misplaced devotion to national myths.

I have been known to boast of my family history in an oblique way. Yet I always step back and ask myself why? Why am I boasting of what my ancestors did? What have ‘I’ done? If I’m going to obsess about my family tree, then let me ask, would they boast of having me for a descendant?

Sheer folly. So – toss out all that history. What heritage lies behind me of nation, family, even education – that doesn’t count. All that matters is what I do with it.

Tangent. Reading people who say that as long as they don’t actively discriminate, they are guiltless of discrimination. No. If you perceive a problem, and do nothing to help rectify it, you are guilty of perpetuating. Women in science blogs are an eye-opening and very disheartening read. There are many forms of prejudice in the world, but the only one that spans all cultures, all religions, all institutions is that against women. Blacks in power, Muslims in power, white males in power – all repress women. It makes me angry, and frightened at how easily women could lose the few rights they’ve gained.

Okay… so that anger is part of who I am. What else? Optimism? I’m listening to the / 2011 Eurovision / songs right now. My daughter and I are thinking we should compile a list of all the songs that use variants of ‘dum dum, ah, ah, ah, ooo, yeah, oh oh…. ‘ What delights me about Eurovision is that, beneath all the politicking is an optimistic reality. People of different countries, religions, ages, educations can all enjoy Eurovision. It is something that shows we are all humans together. I love that. (I don’t love some of the songs though. Thank goodness for / Turkey /. And / Cyprus /. And / Belarus /. / Ireland / is a quirky delight, but a pain to watch. But Finland! That a country who sent / Lordi / and / Terasbetoni /, who are having such marvelous fun performing, could chose a ‘dum-dum’ boy! The theme of the song is worthwhile, but, after all, / Romania / does it much better).

End of digression here.

Anger and optimism. Next?

No. A point by point analysis of my personality is irrelevant. What matters is that I understand myself as best as possible.

To ‘know thyself’ is like being a skeptic. Constantly questioning. Yes, there has to be a base, a place to stand. But from that tiny core one must always be willing to adjust as new facts arise. And that is where mood-control comes in. When I crash, as I did today (how much of that is a delayed reaction to the death of / Diana Wynne-Jones /?  I hadn’t realized what an icon she was to me until I learned she was gone) or when I exult, as I do when writing goes well, or new ideas come bursting forth in their technicolor brilliance – those are extremes. Somewhere between then is me.

That ‘me’ is wondering what she wants to do with her life, and why. And whether my connections are chains, or securities that I require.

Emotional chains. People. Obligations of love. Actually, not just people. I have four cats. I cannot hand them off like unwanted parcels. I have a contract of love with them, too.

The strongest chains are those to children. Having brought them into the world (not to mention that I love them, and truly like and respect them), my life was bound by their needs until they were ready to fly off. I did all I could to give them the tools and opportunities to explore for themselves what life could offer them. Now they only need me as moral support. That solidarity is what family is all about: people who have their own lives, but are always there when need arises – of joy or sorrow, finance or emotion.

If it weren’t for my family my children would have lost many opportunities. I could not have afforded to provide instruments and lessons – my parents stepped in. My sister, living for a few years in Europe, gave us a trip to Budapest to visit them.

Even so, there were seven long years of increasing debt. In one of its less endearing quirks, the Wheel of Fortune did a massive downturn. Highly educated and experienced people, with strong work ethics cannot always get jobs in this country. They are poor and struggling, and struggling all the more for the contempt the republican party throws at them. Not much help for those in need when ‘They’ tank the economy and families suffer. We are finally pulling out, but the debts of necessity after those long years are far too heavy (doctors and dentists are not philanthropists, and growing children need clothes).

Some of that debt is due to the vagaries of our local education. In this town, it is assumed (and I am quoting a school counselor here) all the smart kids come from rich families, who can pay for them to take university classes. Ergo, not many advanced classes offered. Well, our kids needed the advanced classes. Both were out of high school maths by their sophomore year. So, college tuition had to be found. Fun, huh? But that falls into the category of doing whatever I could to ensure they have choices for their futures.

All this leads back to that HUGE chain. Finances.

One has to pay off debt. One has to have money to survive. The ‘how much’ depends on what you can do without. It’s pointless to say you want to be free to be creative if you must work other jobs all the hours you can just to pay the bills. Shared income does go farther. But if shared income means you are not free to do your ‘real’ work?

And let us never forget that in this glorious nation, one has to have either wealth or health insurance (truly, one needs both), or, quite literally, suffer needlessly.

I have a theory that when I start earning money from writing, I will gain insight into what I must do or not do. Hah. How we delude ourselves.

Personal freedom means financial and emotional independence. It also means acceptance of what is, but only until you can change what should be changed.

Which then adds the dilemma of what should be changed, and when. In the last year, I’ve had my life given back to me. Years of lying fallow are replaced with more ideas and dreams than I could ever have imagined having. Obligations honorably discharged (except for that blasted debt), and now I am assessing who and what I am, and who and where I want to be. Daunting.

After all this meandering and maundering, I am no farther in my quest. I am here. Here I stand. I see where I want to be. I see no path between the two. Why? Because I cannot bear to hurt those I love. Because I must act with honor and respect for all those I am connected to. Because I fear to make leaps without knowing what’s on the other side. Chains of my making.

Life is choices. Life is change.

Life is connections. Life is chains.

Life is a quest to understand one’s self.

Life is a balancing act, a struggle to find a spot of stability, reconciling the opposing forces.

Personal Freedom is recognizing our ongoing choices, reconciling them in an attempt to create of ourselves a balanced whole.

What does it mean to be a skeptic?

It means you take nothing – not even your own beliefs and opinions as fact.You look for proof, and you recognize the difference between proven, working proof, and possible proof. (do you know what theory means when a scientist uses it? If not, you need to learn how to check facts) It means you regularly ask yourself:  “Why do I think this? What am I basing this on? Am I open to new input? What would it take for me to change my mind, or even just adjust my stance?”

If you cannot at least transiently put yourself into your ‘opposition’s’ mindset, you are too closed.

Can you imagine what it would feel like to be religious? to have that certainty, that security? can you sense how comfortable, how confident you would feel? Yes? Then you are an honest skeptic. You try to empathize even where you don’t agree.

Psi: Can you accept that, though it seems highly unlikely, there might be huge discoveries about the human mind’s abilities still to come, based on new ways of observing phenomena? Then you are an honest skeptic.

Do you seek out new information? consider other points of view? recognize that what you see is not what other people see? (Literally, as well as figuratively) That unless other ideas are imposed on you, to determine your life style and your freedoms, then it’s okay to have alternate points of view? Congratulations.

That is the only point at which anyone should balk. No one should ever imagine that their beliefs give them the right to control someone else’s life. No one has the right to treat you, or anyone else, as an object in their control.

Yes, this is my belief. Can you show me where it fails in making life better for everyone? ( honest question, not a rhetorical one) It allows everyone personal liberty, and denies everyone the right to take their personal beliefs into the public sphere. Murder? Nope. You are assuming control of someone else’s life. Same for rape. Robbery? Ditto. Prayer in school – need you ask?

The only question I’ve found so far that can’t be answered by this simple code is abortion. I can see that the potential fetus is a potential person. But I cannot see that a potential is more important than an actual. This is a relic of the catholic’s belief that a child is more important than its mother. (organized misogyny, yes?) So in abortion, I still have to feel that a woman’s life is her own.

If you feel really strongly that the child is more important, then I know you are adopting unwanted babies on a yearly basis, and pouring money into orphanages and foster care, and health care for the mothers. In fact, I’ll bet you spend every free moment insisting our government provide adequate health care and strong,  career expanding options in education. And you certainly advocate free, government-provided contraception for everyone who wants it. Right?.

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