Friday, June 30, 2006

Building Peace

I've heard so much contention and animosity between folks who have differing views on the military action and "war on terrorism" currently going on.

Regardless of where you may stand on that issue, I offer the following thoughts:

“I charge you all that each one of you concentrate all the thoughts of your heart on love and unity. When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love. Thoughts of war bring destruction to all harmony, well-being, restfulness and content.

Thoughts of love are constructive of brotherhood, peace, friendship, and happiness.” - ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, pg. 29

Needless Hunger

I've been doing some more blog exploring, checking out sites by linking backwards from the comments or side links on other people's blogs that I regularly read. Sort of like playing the game six degrees of Kevin Bacon.

All that meandering took me to The Pondering Pig which I found to be pretty interesting. Then that took me over to Russ Kirby's site, Preaching Poetic which had some really good info on issues related to world hunger.

I do not mean to minimize the very real and legitimate issue of doing battle to fight hunger. I know that hundreds of thousands of people are starving in a world where there is so much obscene waste.

But reading all this reminded me of another kind of hunger.... The hunger of our souls. Far too many of us overindulged, fat Americans have more than enough food to put on our tables, but we have forgotten how to love, how to listen, how to be present with one another. I recently heard about some study that found a quarter of the population of this country said they had no one in their lives with whom the could have meaningful, intimate conversation.

We are too disconnected from ourselves, from our communities and from our creator.

Yes, the issue of not enough food for too many bodies matters a lot, and should be addressed with vigor.

But in my mind, the issue of not enough love for ourselves, our planet and each other is of equal importance.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Slash and Burn

For some time now I have had another blog going under a different pseudonym. This one tends to be a place for me to ponder and discuss ideas. The one I used to call "Turning The Hamster Wheel" was more a place where I explored feelings, motives, personal angst and vulnerabilty.

I made a point of keeping that one well hidden. Still, just having those words "out there", even on a private, unlisted blog just felt too creepy. So I deleted the whole thing.

Now I am slowly rebuilding it, under a new name and at a different URL, only this time being a bit more guarded.

This process has given me an opportunity to explore my attitudes about public vs. private. What sort of things will I tell the world? What sort of things do I reserve for my family or closest friends? What sort of things are so private that I don't even want to admit them to myself?

I intend to explore more on the other site to see where it will lead me. Thinking deep thoughts is all well and good, but navigating the currents of the heart can sometimes become sacred ground, albeit treacherous at times.

Monday, June 26, 2006


I’ve been exploring a few new blogs and websites, seeing what items of interest I might discover. I found some fascinating essays over at The Baron of Deseret.

I’ve been giving some thought to the issues he brought up about Pornography.

I have some strange ambivalence on this issue. On the one hand I am a strong advocate for free speech and I balk at the idea of most forms of censorship. There are many sorts of programs or print media that I would find distasteful or offensive that I still think has every right to exist – I simply choose to avoid it. However, there are some limits to what sorts of communication can be permitted at all. For example, most reasonable people would agree that civilized societies do not tolerate individuals shouting “FIRE!” in a crowded theatre simply to get a reaction. There are regulations against libel and slander. It is also illegal to publish materials deemed to be of national security. So there is plenty of precedent set for saying some forms of communication are so dangerous or harmful that no one should be allowed to engage in them, rather than leaving it up to a matter of personal choice. But who decides when entertainment medium crosses that line? What sorts of films or print materials should be restricted from production even though there is a proven demand?

I find it unacceptable for media to portray sex and violence in a titillating, gratuitous fashion. But I am aware that some people find this stimulating and appealing. At what point does my concern for the negative influence of pornography outweigh another person’s right to view it if he or she wishes?

I have every right to speak out against pornography or to try to educate others about the negative influence is has in society. But at what point do I as an individual (or banded together with others as a concerned group of citizens) have the right to tell other consenting adults what they can or cannot be a part of making or viewing??

I tend to view pornography much as I do alcohol consumption. I am convinced that pornography is addictive to SOME people, just as alcohol is addictive to SOME people. I am convinced that pornography leads SOME people to do dangerous, destructive things just as alcohol consumption leads SOME people to do dangerous, destructive things. Yet, I do not support a total ban on alcohol. Likewise, I am not comfortable with insisting on a total ban on pornography.

I personally choose not to drink and I do not allow any form of alcohol in my home for others to drink. I support restrictions that ban young people from drinking. But, for the most part, I agree that whether or not someone will drink should be up to each individual, even though I recognize that the consequences of excess drinking are serious indeed. Thousands of people are killed on our highways each year in alcohol related crashes. Countless acts of interpersonal violence are either triggered or exacerbated by booze. In general, alcohol abuse contributes to havoc being wreaked in families, in society and in individual lives. Yet I am a firm believer that we should have the choice of whether we will drink or not drink.

For most mainstream types of pornography, I feel the same way. I choose not to view pornography and I do not allow it in my home. I feel quite strongly that children should not be exposed to it. But if adults choose to have pornography be part of their lives, so be it. I really do believe in the maxim that folks should be taught correct principles and then allowed to govern themselves.

But pornography also has an incredibly dark and twisted side that goes so far beyond sexy movies or magazines….there are some in the industry who profit substantially from unleashing a level of depravity that makes me shudder. There is stuff on the market today that just feels so insidious and WRONG that I am tempted to say it should be stopped. However, I recognize there are adults who would say they have the right to participate in even the most extreme fetish fulfillments. How far is too far? Whose sensibilities determine where we as a society will draw the line?

I honestly don’t have an answer to that.

Friday, June 16, 2006

How Open Minded Are You?

The person who I got this from measured in at 72% open minded. So of course I am wildly curious about the ways our views are similar and how they are different. Is it a good thing to be MORE open minded rather than less? Is there a point where continuing to increase on that scale offers a diminishing return? Is it perhaps just as valuable and valid to have strong convictions about some things in life that I am determined to stand my ground on as it is to be open and flexible, willing to consider alternate points of view??

You Are 56% Open Minded

You are a very open minded person, but you're also well grounded.

Tolerant and flexible, you appreciate most lifestyles and viewpoints.

But you also know where you stand firm, and you can draw that line.

You're open to considering every possibility - but in the end, you stand true to yourself.

A Question of Ethics

I've been having some interesting discussions recently about the ethics of violating copyright laws in terms of all the cut and paste use of unauthorized images (such as many of the pictures on this site) or burning a CD / DVD to "share" music or movies with a friend. There are some very good issues on this topic being addressed here.

I am taking a deeper look at my own practices and working toward more honest ownership of the areas where I fall back on rationalization and justification for stuff that it would be better if I simply did not do.

Deviance is viewed differently by different people to be sure. In my mind, if I cross YOUR moral code it doesn't trouble me all that much. But if I can't walk my own talk in terms of integrity, then something clearly is out of whack. I'll be working on this.

What I am recognizing more all the time is that what I consider Right or Wrong does NOT necessarily match the standards for what is legal / illegal or what may be viewed as socially acceptable or deviant.

There are things that are completely, totally legal (such as smoking cigarettes, watching pornography, or being lazy) that I choose to avoid because they cross my moral code.

There are other things that are ILLEGAL, but are such a matter of common practice that most people --myself included--think nothing of violating (such as driving 5 miles over the speed limit). Unauthorized use of private images or other intellectual property is fast approaching this category.

However, just because "everyone is doing it" does not make it right. That's the kind of thinking that created the kool aid catastrphe in Jim Jones's Guyana melt down.

Observing a stupid rule just because it is the rule seems suspect. But at what point is it ethical to violate codes I do not happen to agree with? (Such as my refusal to puchase a licence for my dog.) Face it, if everyone agreed with a given policy or regulation we wouldn't need the rule at all, because individuals' internal values would take care of the situation. The whole reason we make and enforce rules in our society is to provide guidelines and sanctions for those who would otherwise do the thing we forbid. So no spittin' on the sidewalk ya uncouth bum!

I will continue to search and pray and ponder over the issue of ethics and integrity... trying to discern not just what I can get away with or what is acceptable in the eyes of the world, but what, for ME, is "right" and what is "wrong", fully recognizing that my answers may be very different from yours...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Rethinking Identity

I’ve been re-thinking some of my earlier views about identity….

Had an interesting conversation with my beloved this evening about whether or not a change in one’s body precipitated a shift in identity. We spoke of people we know who have either gained or lost over 100 lbs, became disabled, or simply “got old”.

Clearly, how each of these people is now perceived by others is very different from their former states. Beyond that, how they experience themselves is radically changed.

I remember an individual I knew in the past who had been fully bearded for many, many years but then one day decided to bare his face. OH MY LAND it was like meeting a new man. He said he felt completely different and that it definitely had a dramatic effect on the way he interacted with people to have his whole face exposed.

So…with that in mind, how much do I consider my physical state to be an integral part of my “identity”? How much do I see identity as a static condition and how much is it a work in progress that evolves over time?

For instance, am I inherently the same person I was when I was four years old? Am I the same person I will be when (if) I arrive at eighty or ninety?

My genetics are the same as when I was four, but in just about every other way I am so very different from my early days. So, is that little girl in the pictures of me as a kid the person I USED to be or is that the person I still am, just smaller with less life experience? If I am someone new now, at what point did I leave off being that babygirl and start being me? Were there other me's inbetween? As I grow older, will my identity continue to evolve to some new state of being or will it remain constant, merely inhabiting a transformed shell?

What of a person who makes extreme life changes such as spiritual conversion or addiction recovery. Can we truly die to our old life and be renewed an a wholly new soul?

So many questions, and no real answers. But I’ll keep looking and considering…
Found some good stuff HERE.

Defining Identity

I LOVE the quotes I pick up over on the No Contact Politics site. The latest one says:
"We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be." --Kurt Vonnegut, from Mother Night.

I've long been intrigued by the whole issue of identity and what constitutes who we REALLY are, as opposed to the social masks that we wear.

I am not my body. If I were to lose an arm or an eye, a breast, my teeth or my hair, I would still be me. (albeit a different sort of me, a different expression and experience of me - But I WOULD still be ME, wouldn't I??)

I am not my thoughts, my emotions or my opinions. Those provide the context for my daily walk- giving me the weather and climate of how I sense my life - but they are the outer trappings, not my core me. All of those can and do change on a regular basis. Yet I am still me.

I am not my behavior. What I DO is generally a reflection of my desires, my values, my thoughts, my needs and my cultural training. But it is not my identity.

So what is "personality", and is that the same as identity? I can willfully, deliberately change my thoughts, or my behavior. Can I choose or shape my personality or am I stuck with making do with whatever cards I get dealt?

I've heard much talk of the "spirit" or "core essense" of a person. How can I find it /feel it/ nourish it/ reveal it? How do I learn to recognize the constant being behind all the many ways I relate to the world rather than defining myself by my work, my relationships, my many social roles...or by the moods that are transitory images of smoke and mirrors playing out at any given time?

Monday, June 12, 2006


I've tried laying down in the quiet and the dark.
I've tried drinking warm milk.
I've tried taking a bath in lavender water.
It's no use.
Sleep remains elusive.
So I read, I write, I listen to music, I let my thoughts roam...

I've never understood the concept of counting sheep.
Where did that come from?

My body is tired. I'm on my fourth day of not enough z's.
But the brain has other plans....

So it goes.

I wonder sometimes who else is up in this dark night... what imaginations, what machinations, what plots and perils and ponderings are bouncing around among the stars?

Perceptions of even the most mundane sensory input become so convoluted in the middle of the night. As one AM slips into 2 and then 3 my brain gets fuzzy and I begin to think of all sorts of ideas that SEEM so credible at the time only to burst like soap bubbles in light of day.

Don't give the girl any matches or sharp objects after midnight - she's not to be trusted.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Remembering the Starfish Story

One of the things I absolutely hate is the tendency of some women I know to sit around verbally bashing the men in their lives. I refuse to participate in this insidious practice and generally will not associate with women who make a habit of it. In the first place, I adore men in general and am particularly fond of one or two of them in particular. I prefer to focus on the many fine qualities I appreciate about the testosterone laden species. Sure, there are some jerks in the world. But that goes for both genders. Basically, I think it is unproductive and downright destructive to spend a lot of energy in spiteful criticism.

So I started wondering about when and why I find it acceptable to be critical of my government, my culture, my employers, or the noisy neighbors next door.

Where do I draw the line between “accentuate the positive” and giving voice to feelings from annoyance to outrage at what I see happening around me?

When is “venting” about something that makes us angry a healthy thing and when is it merely adding fuel to the fire of negativity?

My main philosophy of life is that if I am displeased with something I have three options:
1) take action to change the situation
2) change how I am defining / reaction to the situation
3) remove myself from the situation

Merely complaining does not seem to move me in the direction of any of the above. It just reinforces what I don’t like about what is happening.

So that takes me back to how upset I get over my government’s short sighted, and in my view, very misguided policies in relation to the rest of the world.

What am I willing to do to try to improve the situation? Sitting around being outraged really does not serve me or the world that I live in. So do I let my outrage run its course till it fizzles out into apathetic disregard or do I channel it into some sort of action?

Granted, I may be just one person and my efforts may appear to have little impact. But like the famous story of the starfish, any difference I DO make can be of use to someone.

It was Everett Edward Hale who said: “ I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; I will not refuse to do the something I can do.

So the trick, for me, is working to determine what, where, and how to best place my focus and energy to find the path for my efforts....

In Power of Vision Joel Barker says:

"Vision without action is merely a dream.
Action without vison just passes the time.
Vision with action can change the world."

I honestly believe that to be true. What remains is to see what I will do about it.

MAPS and our place in the world...

I’ve been giving some thought to why so many Americans have such a pathetic sense of geography and even worse sense of the importance of events that are happening throughout the world.

At work the other day I tried to talk to someone about current events going on in Timor. All I got back was a very blank look and the question “Where is Timor?” Once the person I was speaking with learned that Timor was a small island country between Australia and Indonesia, she completely dismissed the conversation. It could not have seemed less relevant to this person. Her perception was that any events in Timor had no direct bearing on her life, and any views or actions she took could not possibly have any influence on what happens in Timor, so why bother with it? Change the channel. End of story.

So I’ve been thinking more on the processes we rely on for whose suffering matters to us and whose does not.

First, there is an element of whether we consider the ones suffering to be an “us” or a “them” that influences whether or not we will become emotionally involved or take any action. On a personal level, in a crowded room of mothers and toddlers playing together, no matter how noisy it gets, each mom is atuned to know if HER baby is crying. That signal tells her brain when she should get up and intervene and when she can carry on with whatever conversation she may be having. This is also demonstrated by the different ways we respond to genocide, depending on whether the peoples being systematical slaughter look like the dominant white culture of America or not. Just compare knowledge of and reaction to the European Holocaust with how most Americans respond to the atrocities of the Hutu-Tutsi conflict or the travesty of Pol Pot.

Then there is the whole issue of self interest. Is there oil involved? Whether our government cares who invades who definitely gets measured on THAT scale.

Beyond that – there is the whole issue of MAPS. Throughout our entire educational experience, Americans are exposed to word maps that show the United States smack dab in the middle – reinforcing the silly notion that we are the center of the universe. Just as the Sapir Whorf hypothesis would suggest that the words we use shape our perceptions of the world, I think the symbolic representations we surround ourselves with – like our maps – have power to reinforce ideology.

Maybe it would do us some good to throw out all our old maps and replace them with new ones that demonstrate that the good ole U S of A is just one land mass of many, and that OUR culture, OUR views and OUR traditional practices are not the end all, be-all of the world.

When will we ever learn to take our place at the world’s table as collaborating partners rather than egocentric, oblivious thugs pushing our weight around?

Friday, June 09, 2006

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

In Search of Truth

I’ve been playing around with the Blog a bit, adding some links and experimenting with various templates. Those who don’t know me would say I simply have too much free time. Those who DO know me realize I simply seldom sleep. It’s an interesting diversion in the middle of the night.

So as I was cruising through various web sites having to do with faith/religion/spirituality I was amazed by the wide diversity of beliefs there are in the world.

I am often more intrigued with WHY people believe whatever it is they believe rather than examining the specifics of any particular dogma or doctrine.

Initially most of us believe whatever our family and/or culture exposed us to in a prominent way during our formative years. For some, that sticks throughout their life.

But then there are the rest of us who spend much of our lives searching, questioning, wondering what we can believe and struggling to figure out how that belief will influence the way we behave.

Once when I was a young girl, perhaps nine or ten or so, I had a dream that I was in an elevator. As the elevator went up and down to the various “floors” each one had a cardboard sign with a crayon printed label of some different religion. People came and went, carefully making sure they got off on the proper floor. But when I finally picked my exit point I entered a spacious room with many doors – each one leading to a different elevator exit. Every elevator door was marked a different denomination: Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Seventh Day Adventist, etc. yet they ALL eventually led to the very same room.

Logic seems to insist that varying churches with contradictory beliefs can’t both/all be true …. Surely someone is RIGHT and the other WRONG?? Or does that truly have to be the case? Is it at all possible that our differences in doctrinal views are more akin to the story of the Blind Men and the Elephant, because none of us have a complete universal view?

So many people get all hung up on believing they have the only CORRECT religion. My own faith also believes they have the cutting edge on truth. Somehow I always squirm at that, even though I have a deep testimony of the teachings.

Why can’t we all be more willing to embrace one another and acknowledge our commonalities, celebrating the divine image of God that resides within everyone’s spirit rather than forever building up walls of division separating “us” from “them”?

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