Holiday weekend in May unwinding with R.L. Burnside’s tunes

R.L. Burnside is badass, for those who didn’t already know. cool5

“See My Jumper Hanging On the Line” (1978 footage):

“Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down”:

“Bad Luck City”:

“It’s Bad, Ya Know”:

“Chain of Fools”:

“Goin’ Down South”:

“Snake Drive”:

Chillin’ out in the wee hours between Saturday night and Sunday morning, sipping earl grey tea and Busch Light, as I’m fond to do. Listening to good music and trying to unwind.

Flow: For Love of Water

“Flow: How Did a Handful of Corporations Steal Our Water?”:

More information on this film can be found on its official site.

We Enablers (Monday evening in May rambling)

If Americans, feminists in particular in this instance, cared so much about the conditions confronting Arab and African women and children, we wouldn’t be allowing our government and military to bomb and invade them. Because witnessing your child getting caught up in the crossfire isn’t exactly an improvement on living under patriarchal command. Neither is seeing your home and city be reduced to rubble. But we don’t care all that much apparently. Popular as it is to chat about the horrors of genital mutilation (god awful as that reality indeed is), for most folks living far removed from “those people” it’s more about philosophical and theoretical arguments, not actual human beings and not trying to get down deeper to the bottom of what’s happened to humanity. Because if we dig down deep, we come up with blood on our own hands too. We American women are not innocent, we’re not mere bystanders. We’re voters and tax-payers—in other words, we are enablers.

Breaking these chains requires placing the focus on oneself and recognizing the carnage we help perpetuate. In coming to terms with our own selfishness and greed, with our own fear and cowardice, our own lack of concern and our failures and shortcomings, we come to see how easy it is to be swept with the tide and to wake up one day in a world we do not recall co-creating. But we were there, standing idly by, entertaining ourselves with the latest fashions and bickering over the news of the day. We use the stories of distant people to bolster our arguments with one another, sheltered oceans away and content to remain blissfully ignorant of what all is being done in our names to them. Much better to keep the focus on the other guy, on some stranger we can stereotype and make light of, to distort distant people’s reality into an abstract exercise for our own amusement. Because if we really did care, we’d ask what it is we’re doing (or not doing) that is grievously harming others, and we’d take individual action to rectify these wrongs, by whatever means we are able. Right?

But no, it’s much easier to finger-point and to argue from comfortable perches.

We don’t care because we don’t know what it’s like, we can’t relate, our imaginations being so warped and narrow. For all the heinous shit we can imagine, it’s apparently too much of a stretch for us to see ourselves in the role of predator unto others, whether that be directly or indirectly, intentionally or inadvertently or due to a lack of curiosity on our parts to seek out the truth wherever it may lie. One such truth is that we each are working to pay taxes that fund our military machine that is directed by politicians (whom we also elect to power) who belong to parties that are bought and paid for by major monied interests who push to carry out agendas devoid of any regard for those unlike themselves, which is nearly all of us throughout the world. In this game, humans are treated like pawns, and we are rendered completely disposable and interchangeable. Yet we fund this scheme, unwittingly perhaps, believing there can be no other way and that it is outside of our control, as if we are barnyard animals caged in by electric fencing, awaiting our day to be led to slaughter.

Cowards, that’s what nearly the whole lot of us are. We’re accepting life lived on our knees, preferring to remain alive at all costs, even if that means selling our souls completely and watching hell on earth unfold all around us. We talk the big talk and we butt heads over this or that piece of legislation, but then tomorrow we’ll rise and shine and head to work so as to generate more money to feed the beast that’s killing in our names. We’ll bitch and bicker over how many cents on the dollar we’re earning compared to him or her while sipping our mochas and shopping online. We’ll gripe about common courtesies and hurl undue insults at one another, then return home to cook dinner and to snuggle up to our pets, flipping on the television and tuning out. The media doesn’t report on much of the mayhem done in our names anyway, and if it does there’s always CSI or Jersey Shore to retreat to.

And as we snuggle in at night under blankets sewn by serfs in China, we’ll take our Lunesta so as to bypass the dreams of how our time on this planet may be better spent.

Nevermind. Just roaming thoughts of a woman sitting in her Taiwan-manufactured computer chair, ruining her lungs with smoke, sipping water out of a plastic bottle, waiting for the clock to roll around to the time for my next job appointment. Hypocrisy-in-action?

Sunday morning pondering on women denounced as “whores”

If there’s one thing that’s driven me nuts about growing up female, it’s being forced to contend with double-standards when it comes to the expression of our sexuality. This is no small matter either, and we all still have a long ways to go in coming to terms with why such attitudes persist. And such mindsets aren’t limited to men — women themselves are frequently the harshest critics of other women and their life choices. On the topic of women’s sexuality, the attitudes run so deep throughout various cultures that it’s oftentimes accepted as simply being the way of the world, as if indicative of some sort of natural law that dictates women should be condemned when behaving in sexual ways tolerated in men.

As we all know, there’s a long tradition dating back a few thousand years where such attitudes are not only deemed acceptable but also proved lethal toward women judged to be “whores” and major sinners by others in society. The biblical scriptures handed down by Abrahamic religions paved the way for the European Inquisition of the Dark and Middle Ages and for “witch trials” where condemned women were burnt alive or drowned or stoned to death, and despite more disdain shown today toward treating women with such harsh direct consequences based on mere accusations, the legacy still remains. We hear it in the arguments made against female victims of violence and rape, playing up women’s responsibility in luring such mistreatment based on our manner of dress or our reputations. And we hear it still in the attitudes expressed against prostitutes, it being common to dismiss their suffering as if that’s just how it goes when you play the game, as if exchanging sex for money is the lowest act one can opt for and no respect is worthy of such individuals.

What is it about the “promiscuous” woman that raises our ire and sparks our indignation? And why does this reaction typically differ so dramatically between the hyper-sexual woman versus the hyper-sexual man? When a man misbehaves and cheats on his partner and engages in sex with any number of women, it really isn’t all that uncommon for people to snicker and be willing to sweep it under the rug. Or if they they do take issue with his behavior, how often do people call for the man to be socially ostracized and tossed out to live a lonely life of rejection and pain? How many of us think it’s fair that these men in question be required to step down from their professional posts, even if their sexual escapades directly conflicted with their positions? Ted Haggard comes to mind, and he’s back at it once again, working his way toward the spotlight once more. Former president Bill Clinton is another notable example of how apparently humorous and defensible a man’s catting around can look to others. Or take JFK for instance — he was widely considered a playboy, and yet people still reflect fondly on his memory. Even Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was exposed for sleeping around on Coretta, and while we may take this into consideration when evaluating his overall character, it’s not a blemish so bad as to take away from his ultimate message or the respect we continue to pay to his legacy.

But not so running the other direction. The women Bill Clinton messed around with were the ones vilified. JFK’s transgressions involving Marilyn Monroe led to her being the one remembered by posterity as being a slut (and how many are concerned about JFK’s role in her death?). The gay male prostitute Ted Haggard paid to spend time with is the one whose life and career aspirations were shattered. Some may look upon these men with disdain and shake our heads, and we may call them out as hypocrites, but there still remains a difference in the degree to which it bothers us for some reason. We are better able to overlook these ‘misgivings’ on the part of prominent men, dismissing these as problems to be worked out within their marriages and communities, arguing that these ‘moral failings’ shouldn’t overshadow their real accomplishments. Okay. Fine. But why isn’t that same reasonable tone extended to women guilty of similar behavior?

When a woman cheats on a man, we collectively make it our business to bash her, to call her a whore without even knowing what circumstances led up to her decisions, going so far as to also accuse her of being a bad mother in some instances due to her unfaithfulness. When a woman is found out to have worked as a prostitute once upon a time, even if several decades ago, we tend to deem her as unfit to serve in a public office or to work around children (one recent example was a woman running for mayor in Vicksburg, MS, who is being raked over the coals for long ago working in a Nevada brothel). Once you’ve been branded a “whore,” it’s very hard, if not impossible, to live down such a reputation as a woman, no matter what accomplishments there are to your credit. The accusation tarnishes how people look upon you and it affects the way they feel justified in treating you. If you are walking around with the reputation of being a whore, people feel free to tell you your business and to make unwarranted comments to you and about you out in public, even perfect strangers. When a man looks upon you as “nothing but a whore,” he may feel free to treat you in ways he wouldn’t treat a “respectable lady,” such as forcing sex on you (because who’s going to believe a whore anyway?) or being more physically threatening toward you or speaking to you as if you don’t have a soul to damage. It’s not uncommon, and I know what I speak of here.

When you are deemed to be a whore, it sends a message to others that you are of lesser value than them, that your feelings don’t matter as much, that you’re put here on this planet to put up with other people’s shit and that that is just the way it goes. If you don’t like it, you shouldn’t have let yourself be labeled a whore in the first place, right? Should’ve kept your legs closed, they like to say, even if you received the reputation through no fault of your own, as was once upon a time the case for women who fell victim to rape (and still is the case in Muslim cultures). Because she had been raped, it reduced her social market value in the eyes of others, causing her to be seen as unworthy of marriage — and all for winding up a victim to someone else capable of overpowering her.

But nowadays it’s more an issue of promiscuity where a woman engages in sexual behavior with various partners. I hear all the time how people speak of women like this as not being marriage material, despite the very men claiming this having had their share of sexual partners as well. They speak of her calming down in her 30s and no one wanting her “nasty ass” by that point. Why? I don’t know why. It’s assumed this comes back to territoriality and disparities between the genders/sexes. Are there reasons for why promiscuity may be a problem for women more so than for men? Perhaps when it comes down to creating children, but both sexes obviously play a role in this. And what about when it’s a situation where no children are involved? That doesn’t seem to lighten the stigma placed on sexually-active women, though arguably in these scenarios there are no innocents being affected. So why then? Why do we choose to chastise and treat with disgust women who rule their own bodies and walk to the beat of their own drums? Why is a woman’s sexual agency viewed so narrowly, as if a woman who doesn’t adhere to prescribed social norms should be left out in the cold and banished from decent society? And even if the men she’s having sex with are part of that so-called decent society.

One reason I believe why this is is that society doesn’t like to look upon the whore and see her as a product of the society itself and of men’s will. People don’t seem willing to acknowledge the background that may lead a woman down that path, such as early sexualization by peers or adults. People know that these women are desired by men, hence why men keep getting caught cheating on their wives with them, and yet we shift the blame onto the women primarily, denigrating them as temptresses, unwittingly providing men with an excuse for their behavior as a result. It seems to me we have so little pity or understanding for the sexual woman because something in that worries us, something makes us deeply uncomfortable. Perhaps we can smell that times are changing and these women remain tethered to a point in history that predates the patriarchal era and that aims to be part of its undoing. I also believe people find it easier to blame sexual women than to take a long, hard look at themselves and their loved ones and at society as a whole — heck, to take a look at humanity at its core, at each individual’s potential for good and evil and how that shakes out based, in part, on the environments we’re raised within and how spirited we happen to be.

There must be something very scary indeed about the sexual woman that we would feel so strongly against her that we may sneer at news of her experiencing misfortune and that some may go so far as to attempt to break her body and mind. Why? What is so threatening and so unsettling about the so-called whore that we would rather she be dead or carted off to prison or made to behave in a way more pleasing to our sensibilities? Because it doesn’t make much sense that we can simultaneously hold such strong opinions yet create so much demand for her existence. Men desire her body, yet don’t wish to love her mind, as if the only acceptable approach requires compartmentalization. Why? What is so incredibly difficult about recognizing the full humanity of women who behave in ways similar to many men, yet who most definitely are not men nor wish to be, but rather are men’s corollaries, complementaries, and even rivals. It does seem that this is pointing back to mankind being unwilling to confront their female equivalents, preferring instead women who behave as if pets, domesticated and trained to be loyal companions who behave as they’re instructed by decent society (at least in terms of keeping up appearances), lest they be punished and cast out. And men are heavily encouraged to take this view by women who take issue with and aim to compete with unabashedly sexual women.

But not all women can or will take the yoke, you must understand. And for those we reserve one of the meanest insults: just a whore. The lowest of the low, so some prefer to think.

**Update 5/25/13: Coming back on here to edit this piece a bit, a recurring thought struck me about just how much of this does boil down to competition among women. Not to downplay men’s involvement, but one reason I believe supposedly decent women tend to resent more sexually-interactive women is due to the threat of extramarital sex undermining the wife’s power to negotiate with her husband through the manipulative denial or promise of sex in exchange for what she wants. See, whores throw a monkey wrench into that gameplan, and to an extent I can understand those women’s frustration, because relationships do involve bargaining and incentives at times. And the older a woman gets, the more difficult it is for her to compete against a younger, more sexually adventurous woman. It does come across as quite unfair, but the focus is being placed on women out in society rather than on the men we’re in supposedly committed relationships with. While I understand we live in a pornish culture with sex broadcast everywhere to where we’re all affected whether we want to be or not, and that is a big problem all unto itself, and I see women selling their souls in vying for attention through the exploitation of our sex appeal, and marriages are in big trouble today and monogamy is going out the window — all of that’s true and all of it’s posing special challenges to us today. But at the core of this matter, and it’s certainly not a new concern, is that women fear losing their power if the men in their lives have access to other sexual options that satiate him.

Men are then encouraged to embrace a divide between the women they love versus the women they have sex with, and to deem the latter as being appreciated on a purely physical level, as being objects of sorts, a toy or sexual prop. But not a full-fledged person, not through and through, because he doesn’t want to be concerned with her feelings and her needs outside of the bedroom, because that’s not what her purpose in his life is supposed to be about. It’s like he’s wanting to use her and his wife or girlfriend is wanting to use her too, because both wish to lay the blame with her, and both want to reduce her down and insult her and encourage others to do the same. It’s like both are looking for a scapegoat, albeit for somewhat different reasons and serving their separate agendas. Pretty twisted when you look at it that way.

And what does the sexually-seeking woman get out of all of this? Sex, which hopefully is at least worthwhile. Maybe money or gifts if men’s desire for her is great enough. Opportunities to observe how many men willingly and boldly attempt to initiate a tryst, even going so far as to openly admit they are indeed aiming to sleep around on a spouse or girlfriend, only to later learn how many will then throw her under the bus and claim it was all her fault and doing, crying that the wicked woman lured him, took advantage of him, seduced him — he, a mere man, incapable of controlling himself when faced with sexual temptation. Later, the men in question will make promises to never again stray and fall prey to the “evil” that is another women — that is until a few months go by and the dust has settled and he’s no longer living in the doghouse and he’s been granted forgiveness from his lover. Then it’s back to “game on!” Right? Often enough, yes, that’s the way it goes.

She may also get to glimpse the underbelly of society in all of its perverted glory and to find out that a lot of people differ dramatically behind closed doors from their public personas.

May also wind up with a number of enemies, female ones in particular.

Experiences. Notches on a belt or bedpost.

Anything I’m leaving out here?

Francis Collins – The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence of Belief (plus my thoughts)

Still learning about Francis Collins’ views, and this video went a  long way in letting me know where he’s coming from. He and I come from different places and our views do differ in terms of how we envision or understand God to be. But I greatly appreciated this talk and Q&A. Dr. Collins does a good job of laying out that there’s more to life than science can explain, now and possibly ever; it’s just his conception of God that I have some serious quibbles over. To me, Christianity is interesting, but I see it as yet another narrative in a long line up through history. I cannot accept its deity in full, though I can appreciate what these people 2,000 years ago were attempting to point to. All religious narratives were attempting to describe that which we call “God,” and I believe all fell short. All have so far been caught up in and limited by our human lens. We are incapable of fully comprehending such wonders, that is my belief. To describe God as a He or a She or an It is inadequate and misleading. People take biblical scriptures wayyy too literally these days, and that seriously clouds people’s judgment, religious people and atheists combating them alike.

There’s more to life than science can allow us to understand, this I strongly believe to be true. And this ties into our social, psychological, and moral realm where science is already clearly demonstrating its limitations. This is my primary qualm with the psychiatry and mental health professions today — so-called “experts” are attempting to treat social and interpersonal and system-induced difficulties as if they were medical maladies, “diseases” being the popular term nowadays. That route will never bear fruit, messing with neurochemistry without deeply examining the societal and environmental influences on emotional turbulence and/or apathy. People wish to believe a cure can come in the form of a pill, but oftentimes this is not so, especially not when it comes to addressing our natural reactions to social upheaval. We blame people for not “adjusting properly,” but according to what standard? It’s according to the standard set by our economy primarily. People must function in order to serve it; that seems to be the dominant concern. And most of us are not adjusting well, despite plenty being very good and consistent actors.

For me this all relates back to my own inquiry into that which we call God. It involves a moral dimension that science alone cannot sufficiently address.

But that is all I have time to say tonight.

**Update 5/25/13: That video spurred me to order Francis Collins’ book The Language of God in audiobook format, which arrived a couple days ago. Nice having something new to listen to and concentrate on as I drive between appointments. Audiobooks rock!

A better use for feminist angst?

Was just chatting on the phone with a guyfriend when an idea struck me. I may have come up with a useful outlet for all this pent-up anti-patriarchy energy in my country. Consider this. Here in America we have many, many women highly upset with what remains of our patriarchal history, venting frustration over full 100% equality not having come into complete fruition as of yet. Despite several decades worth of feminist efforts, many feminists apparently remain nonplussed, arguing that something is still holding them back from whatever ultimate goal they envision for this society.

When arguments over gender matters arise, there’s the typical litany of examples of inequalities, including pay differentials and various other statistics. But also within these arguments there’s a good bit of talk about the patriarchal mindsets that maintain a stronghold in cultures outside of the U.S. Much arguing and finger-pointing ensues, using the Middle East as an example of the prevalence of male domination. BUT, what are Americans to do about practices occurring outside of our borders? How is it our responsibility to change people’s minds and lifestyles abroad? And especially how is it the fault of American men, or white men in particular, that men of other colors elsewhere on the globe are perpetuating patriarchy of old? Yet this is how the blame-game goes, and it’s proving very unproductive and disruptive in today’s society, particularly when the focus is on matters outside of our direct control.

Well, I gave this about 15 minutes worth of thought this afternoon and think I’ve come up with a plan for feminists who are truly sick and tired of the patriarchal past lingering on in modern times. Why not head to these countries in the Middle East and Africa and unleash that aggression on a source better deserving of it? Witness a man caning a woman in the street? Shoot him. Learn of an abusive husband mistreating his wives and kids and keeping them slaves in their own home? Abuse him. Ya know, give the men who behave like this a taste of their own medicine. This serves as a three-fold solution where American feminists (and Canadian and British and whoever else cares to join) can take a proactive stance going up against the very men they take most issue with, thereby dispensing justice where it arguably belongs and protecting vulnerable Middle Eastern women that Western feminists seem to care so much about, all while allowing feminists to put their aggression into purposeful use likely to bring about greater change than bickering online and pushing for evermore laws in the U.S. I see this as a potential win-win situation.

Now, granted, it would be tricky, and there’s no guarantees these feminists would prove successful, so they’d need to be smart and very cunning in their tactics. They could first take the opportunity of trying to reason with Middle Eastern men face-to-face, not that I believe that will wind up doing much good. But it’s worth a try before resorting to violence. Because many feminists seem to be holding onto an idealistic approach to solving gender relations, they might first try the tactics attempted here in the U.S. to see if they can make any headway, such as setting up shelters and attempting to work with Middle Eastern women to encourage them to join in taking a proactive and rebellious stance against this outdated form of subjugation. If and when that fails, it’s time to move on to plan B. I imagine that weaponry will be an indispensable asset in that phase of the initiative, because men do typically possess greater physical strength capable of overcoming unprotected women.

What’s great about this plan is that it brings academic theory down to the ground, so to speak, forcing it to contend with practical realities. Many American feminists shun the notion of using firearms, which strikes me as very stupid indeed if your ultimate goal is to protect yourself from rape, beatings, and other attacks. By heading to a country like, say, Saudi Arabia and learning how men get away with what they do in that country, it could prove to be a valuable lesson in how one utilizes their power in an effective response. The beauty of firearms is they are a great equalizer — no matter how brawny or beastly a man may be, he will still succumb to fire power. And the pulling of a trigger is so easy a child can manage it, as is commonly known. This is what makes weapon technology so impressive and incredibly useful in the modern world — because anyone can use it, not only men.

Feminists could take a firm and direct stand against that form of tyranny and free women of those countries to engage in lives that they determine on their own accord, not merely those chosen for them. Female and male genital mutilation could become a thing of the past. And the women of these countries might be impressed to learn that women can mobilize and respond with lethal violence in response to unwarranted male violence. Might give them a few role models to look up to, especially in the next phase where governments and laws are altered to declare women as possessing rights that have historically been denied to them.

If nothing else it would be a valuable learning experience on how power actually works, not only within “civilized” and centralized societies but within countries where a willingness to fight dirty has a greater influence than words. It’s an opportunity to take what academe in the West has taught and to see how far it can carry you when it comes down to the nitty-gritty side of life. Because I’m willing to bet many feminists would be radically transformed themselves to where they no longer placed so much value in social theories concocted by tenured professors living in the comfort of secluded American suburbia. This would demonstrate to women what they are really made of, what they are actually capable of, and they would see that they are not simply put on this planet to look pretty and to spend money on unneeded consumer items and to run our mouths without lifting a finger to take affirmative action.

Lastly, this would prove to be an alternative to enlisting in the U.S. military where women aren’t really wanted. They’ll recruit you, but they tend to resent you being within their ranks, as if that’s not readily apparent by now. Feminist women could opt to form their own militia and to root out men who endanger and suppress the possibility of the sexes coexisting in an atmosphere of mutual respect and appreciation for what each brings to the table.

Much progress has been made in the U.S. in terms of laws on the books intended to protect women’s interests, so at this point we in the U.S. need to shift our focus toward the sexes working together and seeing the value in one another. This necessary phase in our own social development is being obstructed by angry feminists intent on picking fights with men and pushing for more and more oppressive laws that invite our government increasingly into our personal lives, homes, schools, and workplaces. This is unacceptable and is breeding deep resentment that will likely result someday in a backlash if we do not change course immediately. By encouraging angry feminists to utilize their aggression and hostility in a more proactive way and direct it toward those who are openly and proudly upholding the patriarchal past, it shifts their focus from every man they come into contact with here in the U.S. and onto men deserving of more attention elsewhere. Again, a win-win situation potentially, assuming these feminists could carry out their plan with an eye toward justice and fairness tempered with mercy, as we’d expect from any ethical being.

It’s just a thought. beamup

On the question of freedom — an excerpt from the book “I and Thou”

Recently finished reading the book I and Thou by Martin Buber (1958) and I’d like to transcribe a little, beginning on page 51:

Causality has an unlimited reign in the world of It. Every “physical” event that can be perceived by the senses, but also every “psychical” event existing or discovered in self-experience is necessarily valid as being caused and as causing. Further, events to which a teleological character may be attributed are as parts of the unbroken world of It not excepted from this causality; the continuum to which they belong certainly tolerates a teleology, but only as the reverse side worked into a part of causality, and not impairing its continuity and completeness.

The unlimited reign of causality in the world of It, of fundamental importance for the scientific ordering of nature, does not weigh heavily on man, who is not limited to the world of It, but can continually leave it for the world of relation. Here I and Thou freely confront one another in mutual effect that us neither connected with nor coloured by any causality. Here man is assured of the freedom both of his being and of Being. Only he who knows relation and knows about the presence of the Thou is capable of decision. He who decides is free, for he has approached the Face. 

The fiery stuff of all my ability to will seethes tremendously, all that I might do circles around me, still without actuality in the world, flung together and seemingly inseparable, alluring glimpses of powers flicker from all the uttermost bounds: the universe is my temptation, and I achieve being in an instant, with both hands plunged deep in the fire, where the single deed is hidden, the deed which aims at me—now is the moment! Already the menace of the abyss is removed, the centreless Many no longer plays in the iridescent sameness of its pretensions; but only two alternatives are set side by side—the other, the vain idea, and the one, the charge laid on me. But now realization begins in me. For it is not decision to do the one and leave the other a lifeless mass, deposited layer upon layer as dross in my soul. But he alone who directs the whole strength of the alternative into the doing of the charge, who lets the abundant passion of what is rejected invade the growth to reality what is chosen—he alone who “serves God with the evil impulse” makes decision, decides the event. If this is understood, it is also known that this which has been set up, towards which direction is set and decision made, is to be given the name of upright; and if there were a devil it would not be one who decided against God, but one who, in eternity, came to no decision.

Causality does not weigh on the man to whom freedom is assured. He knows that his mortal life swings by nature between Thou and It, and he is aware of the significance of this. It suffices him to be able to cross again and again the threshold of the holy place wherein he was not able to remain; the very fact that he must heave it again and again is inwardly bound up for him with the meaning and character of this life. There, on the threshold, the response, the spirit, is kindled ever new within him; here, in an unholy and needy country, this spark is to be proved. What is called necessity here cannot frighten him, for he has recognized there true necessity, namely, destiny.

Destiny and freedom are solemnly promised to one another. Only the man who makes freedom real to himself meets destiny. In my discovery of the deed that aims at me—in this movement of my freedom the mystery is revealed to me; but also in failure to fulfill the deed as I intended it to be—in this resistance, too, the mystery is revealed to me. He who forgets all that is caused and makes decision out of the depths, who rids himself of property and raiment and naked approaches the Face, is a free man, and destiny confronts him as the counterpart of his freedom. It is not his boundary, but his fulfillment; freedom and destiny are linked together in meaning. And in this meaning destiny, with eyes a moment ago so severe now filled with light, looks out like grace itself.

No; causal necessity does not weigh heavily on the man who returns to the world of It bearing this spark. And in times of healthy life trust streams from men of the spirit to all people. To all men indeed, even to the dullest, meeting—the present—has come somehow, naturally, impulsively, dimly: all men have somewhere been aware of the Thou; now the spirit gives them full assurance.

But in times of sickness it comes about that the world of It, no longer penetrated and fructified by the inflowing world of Thou as by living streams but separated and stagnant, a gigantic ghost of the fens, overpowers man. In coming to terms with a world of objects that no longer assume present being for him he succumbs to this world. Then smooth causality rises up till it is an oppressive, stifling fate.

Every great culture that comprehends nations rests on an original relational incident, on a response to the Thou made at its source, on an act of the being made by the spirit. This act, strengthened by the similarly directed power of succeeding generations, creates in the spirit a special conception of the cosmos; only through this act is cosmos, an apprehended world, a world that is homely and houselike, man’s dwelling in the world, made possible again and again. Only now can man, confident in his soul, build again and again, in a special conception of space, dwellings for God and dwellings for men, and fill swaying time with new hymns and songs, and shape the very community of men. But he is free and consequently creative only so long as he possesses, in action and suffering in his own life, that act of the being—so long as he himself enters into relation. If a culture ceases to be centred in the living and continually renewed relational event, then it hardens into the world of It, which the glowing deeds of solitary spirits only spasmodically break through. Thenceforth smooth causality, which before had no power to disturb the spiritual conception of the cosmos, rises up till it is an oppressive, stifling fate. Wise and masterful destiny, that reigned, in harmony with the wealth of meaning in the cosmos, over all causality, has been changed into a demonic spirit adverse to meaning, and has fallen into the power of causality. The very karma that appeared for the forefathers as a charitable dispensation—for what we do in this life raises us up for a future life in higher spheres—is now recognized as tyranny: for the karma of an earlier life of which we are unconscious has shut us in a prison we cannot break in this life. Where hitherto a heaven was established in a law, manifest to the senses, raising its light arch from which the spindle of necessity hangs, the wandering stars new rule in senseless and oppressive might. It was necessary only to give oneself to Dike, the heavenly “way,” which means also our way, in order to dwell with free hearts in the universal bounds of fate. But now, whatever we do, we are laden with the whole burden of the dead weight of the world, with fate that does not know spirit. The storming desire for the salvation is unsatisfied after manifold attempts, till it is stilled by one who learns to escape the cycle of births, or by one, who saves the souls, that have fallen to alien powers, into the freedom of the children of God. Such an achievement arises out of a new event of meeting, which is in the course of assuming substantial being—out of a new response, determining destiny, of a man to his Thou. In the working out of this central act of the being, one culture can be relieved by another that is given up to the influence of this act, but it can also be given new life in itself alone. 

The sickness of our age is like that of no other age, and it belongs together with them all. The history of cultures is not a course of æons in which one runner after another has to traverse gaily and unsuspectingly the same death-track. A nameless way runs through rise and fall: not a way of progress and development, but a spiral descent through the spiritual underworld, which can also be called an ascent to the innermost, finest, most complicated whirlpool, where there is no advance and no retreat, but only utterly new reversal—the break through. Shall we have to go this way to the end, to trial of the final darkness? Where there is danger, the rescuing force grows too.

The quasi-biological and quasi-historical thought of today, however different the aims of each, have worked together to establish a more tenacious and oppressive belief in fate than has ever before existed. The might of karma or of the stars no longer controls inevitably the lot of man; many powers claim the mastery, but rightly considered most of our contemporaries believe in a mixture of them, just as the late Romans believed in a mixture of gods. This is made easier by the nature of the claim. Whether it is the “law of life” of a universal struggle in which all must take part or renounce life, or the “law of the soul” which completely builds up the psychical person from innate habitual instincts, or the “social law” of an irresistible social progress to which will and consciousness may only be accompaniments, or the “cultural law” of an unchangeably uniform coming and doing of historical structures—whatever form it takes, it always means that man is set in the frame of an inescapable happening that he cannot, or can only in his frenzy, resist. Consecration in the mysteries brought freedom from the compulsion of the stars, and brahman-sacrifice with its accompanying knowledge brought freedom from the compulsion of karma: on both redemption was represented. But the composite god tolerates no belief in release. It is considered folly to imagine any freedom; there is only one choice, between resolute, and hopeless rebellious, slavery. And no matter how much is said, in all these laws, of teleological development and organic growth, at the basis of them all lies possession by process, that is by unlimited causality. The dogma of gradual process is the abdication of man before the exuberant world of It. He misuses the name of destiny: destiny is not a dome pressed tightly down on the world of men; no one meets it but he who went out from freedom. But the dogma of process leaves no room for freedom, none for its most real revelation of all, whose calm strength changes the face if the earth: turning. This dogma does not know the man who through reversal surmounts the universal struggle, tears to pieces the web of habitual instincts, raises the class ban, and stirs, rejuvenates, and transforms the stable structures of history. This dogma allows you in its game only the choice to observe the rules or to retire: but he who is turning overthrows the pieces. The dogma is always willing to allow you to fulfill its limitation with your life and “to remain free” in your soul; but he who is turning looks on this freedom as the most ignominious bondage.

The only thing that can become fate for a man is belief in fate; for this suppresses the movement of turning.

Belief in fate is mistaken from the beginning. All consideration in terms of process is merely an ordering of pure “having become,” of the separated world-event, of objectivity as though it were history; the presence of the Thou, the becoming out of solid connexion, is inaccessible to it. It does not know the reality of the spirit; its scheme is not valid for spirit. Prediction from objectivity is valid only for the man who does not know presentness. He who is overcome by the world of It is bound to see, in the dogma of immutable process, a truth that clears a way through the exuberant growth; in very truth this dogma enslaves him only the more deeply to the world of It. But the world of Thou is not closed. He who goes out to it with concentrated being and risen power to enter into relation becomes aware of freedom. And to be freed from belief that there is no freedom is indeed to be free.

Let’s stop there for today, on page 58. That was a very timely piece that I’m glad to have just now reread while transcribing. Let it be known that I type up pages from books for others to enjoy, but mostly I do it for myself, to force myself to go over the words more carefully and to more deeply consider the content.

Sunday morning thoughts in mid-May

Been doing a bunch of thinking lately. Been also thinking about what a woman mentioned in the last post told me the other day. She said nothing I hadn’t already thought of — much of it was just the sort of things that blackens my heart from time to time and causes me to look upon humanity with disdain.

But, she also brought out my need to defend humanity against such cynicism, though admittedly I’ve flip-flopped since our conversation, sorting through all the horrible stories I remember hearing of, and this also being the week that Michele Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus were discovered after being held captive for a decade. Doesn’t help the case for optimism.

Every day I circle around and around in my feelings toward humanity, oscillating between extremes, but much of the time contemplating shades of gray. There is no confidence in this assessment, only aimlessly looking around and trying to take in what’s going on. People confuse me, and I confuse my own self. Our history boggles my mind.

The woman said she doesn’t believe we’ve evolved in any real sense over the last 10,000 years. And I can’t say one way or the other as to whether I agree. Personally, I tend to think our species’ apex occurred thousands of years ago, perhaps during some point in humans’ hunter-gatherer phase or during early agrarianism. But what would I know? Oh, I do imagine we have evolved, and by this I’m referring in terms of our becoming domesticated, and it’s a process still very much underway. Doesn’t necessarily make us better, and perhaps it has made us worse off, in terms of the civilizations we’ve created as well as what it’s made people into, psychologically. And perhaps I’m imagining things when I entertain the possibility of us ever having been any better than we are today. I can’t even say what might be “better.”

What strikes me as interesting is how we seem to have developed a sense of disgust over what humankind is capable of, and this makes it very easy for people to dismiss other humans as selfish, mean-spirited, corrupted, overly aggressive, deceptive beings. What I wonder, though, is how often that mirror is turned around on oneself?

Also, it’s come to my attention over time how many people out here take great issue with their own species, yet lavish love and heart-felt appreciation on other animal species, particularly their mammalian and avian pets. What troubles me about this is that the very traits they describe as despicable in humans, they tolerate in animals, as though animals simply cannot help their natures, yet we are different. I do believe, of course, that we do differ, yet the truth remains that we too are animals and remain bound to our natures as well (at least to a large extent). Because our natures differ and contain a greater measure of free will doesn’t lead me to completely sever us from the natural kingdom and declare us as “bad.” As I told the woman, the traits she described don’t strike me necessarily as all bad, and she abruptly responded that that indeed is how she feels. She said that humans are mostly “bad” by nature, and I’ve heard this over and over again from people. But what is it that they are pointing to? What makes us so horrible?

Is it that we have some power to choose, whereas animals are largely led by instinct (or, in the case of household pets, driven by habits and reinforcements)? Are we simply angry at one another for not living up to our potential, for not turning away from our base nature, for not making better choices? I can understand all of that. Yet, how much control do we really think we have? Because I don’t believe it’s as broad as we tend to imagine, especially not when we consider the societies we grow up in and what we’re exposed to that influences our thinking. How much free will does one possess when his or her imagination is stunted? How free are we really?

I think sometimes we take issue with one another because we do not like living in captivity. In modernest times, we face the very weird reality of cameras everywhere capturing us, recording us, documenting our whereabouts. With so many people around there’s little room to move about, to do as we wish, without hearing the complaints of others. Even our relationships are scrutinized, as are our financial decisions. Ideologies are at war with one another, and there can be no peace. Technologies have advanced beyond our capability to handle them responsibly, with the common drive for power distorting our worldviews and undermining ethical considerations. We are still very much tribal peoples — that apparently has not, and perhaps will not, change. Much as many have come to realize we all share in our humanity, that we on some level are ONE, these considerations don’t sink in as deeply as we might like to believe. A shift in consciousness radical enough to overwhelm the direction we find ourselves collectively heading in may indeed come too late to be of real use to our species. It is possible.

When people get scared, they tend to get angry, then tend to want to lash out against something. What we do not understand worries us. The unpredictability of others concerns us for our safety and our emotional well-being, and from all directions we are bombarded by news stories and personal accounts and claims of all sorts that degrade our faith in humanity. It all adds up to make it seem like life is meaningless, like it all boils down to avoiding suffering to the extent one is able.  Why not? Why not protect oneself from chaos? Well, because that sort of reflexive response typically points back to the very traits people take issue with in others. That blatant hypocrisy points to a greater truth, which has been paraphrased as: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Because others don’t wish to do it, we then don’t wish to either, because we are afraid of appearing to be suckers, and we’re afraid of being taken further advantage of.

But consider the logic, and we hear this sort of thing all the time. Because she has witnessed disturbing aspects of her fellow humans, she withdraws into her “cocoon” and avoids them like the plague. Because they are “self-centered,” she feels perfectly fine retreating to the comfort and security of her own home, away from all those “selfish” people. She is not made happier as a result though, so this strategy doesn’t seem to be benefiting her incredibly much. Though I will say that the blessing of privacy to return to at the end of the day is a wonderful thing, and I will not disparage its necessity and value. My qualm is only when we hide in here and use this secure perch to lash out at others, others whom we oftentimes do not even know well, whom we make assumptions about, whom we hide from and in person would say no such sort of things to. That cowardice is a bit confusing to me. I grasp the need to put on an act around some people because of the need to remain employed, but that’s not what this is all about. The internet has provided a space for people to vent relatively anonymously through, so we’re freed up to say the most wretched things to one another.

But that lady spends her time online looking at animals, not worrying with other people. She spends her time at home with her pet, and she claims to donate money to causes that benefit animals. And she works in a profession operating under the guise of “treating” people, albeit sometimes against people’s will. The people she comes into contact with are pretty often at their worst, in search of help or brought in in an ambulance. She, like a police officer, sees a disproportionately negative side of humanity as part of her daily work. I can sympathize with how that may skew one’s perception.

I guess my own views are that we are animals nowadays born in captivity and that we tend to be highly-reactive, self-concerned, and unfortunately not terribly good at self-directing in a productive fashion (which partly has to do with boundaries set within our society). We are expected to walk a new path as designated by the rules of our societies, even though plenty of this runs counter to our natures and plenty also runs counter to our interests. But even without our concrete jungle, we have likely always lived as contradictions and likely always will. Just as nature has her contradictions as well. We are not above that, nor are other lifeforms, including our beloved pets, simple as they may individually seem to be.

We have a tendency to reduce everything down to too small or narrow of a view, and once formed we tend to cut off information that contradicts that view, keeping it small and narrow indefinitely. What propensity exists in us to do this, I do not know, but I assume it has to do with individuals reaching their thresholds in terms of the will to process information. It seems all of us narrow our focuses as our lives unfold, hence the notion of us becoming old dogs unable to learn new tricks. It’s not uncommon to hear of old people being accused of being set in their ways, because it’s largely true. Most are. That is what typically becomes of us, perhaps because we cease being as curious, perhaps because the free hours in each day to explore and learn are very limited, perhaps because we’re exhausted from work and our own social lives. And perhaps because we’re not pushed to engage with others and come into less contact with others unlike ourselves due to positioning, as becomes possible when income increases and we can afford to move to the suburbs or when we take a job where we are in a position of power and interact with others unlike ourselves primarily through that lens. We’re molded by our life choices just as much as by what we’re born into.

So what might propel us to be the change we wish to see? What might motivate us to behave differently than that which we claim is “evil” or wrong? Apparently when it comes to the opinions of others, we’re pretty content with playing a part, putting on an act, so it’s unlikely that real and authentic connections can occur between us. What might motivate someone to take time with the people they criticize and condemn so as to gain a deeper understanding of why those people behave as they do? Because so often we judge based on superficial appearances and limited contact.

I’m asking myself these questions too. Perhaps what bothered me most about what that woman said is that I am well-aware of the wrongs in my own being. It is easy to get depressed and to become stuck right there staring at that reality, but I believe a more productive goal would be to step beyond, to continue exploring (particularly that which I find most offensive), and to seek redemption through improving myself and taking action of greater value. Perhaps it won’t prove a thing one way or another when it comes to debating whether humans are “bad” and beyond deserving sympathy, but that’s not what it’s ultimately about at the core. Underneath it all, each of our lives is a journey, and how we conduct ourselves has a lot to do with how we wind up seeing others and whether they wind up relating with us.

All of that is being said as someone who, if she only knew, belongs among those she derides and looks down upon. At one point she declared that she knows what she’s talking about, her being much older than me, nearly my grandmother’s age. I am still relatively young and perhaps still clinging to idealism that will fade with time. She spoke of my generation’s and younger people’s lack of work ethic, and I stood thinking to myself that I see no reason to work as a cog in the wheel for a business that by all accounts gives not one damn about me. If that is due to my lack of work ethic, then so be it. But I do believe our view of work is changing, that people are awakening to the pointlessness of the rat race. Transitions don’t always look like they have a purpose when observed from a traditional vantage point — to her it may seem like ridiculousness and nothing more. I see it as holding the potential for a grassroots revolution of sorts as people try to figure out other way to get by than selling their souls to a job that they loathe. There’s creativity in this. But I suppose it wouldn’t look that way to someone who’s tired from playing the game for so many decades.

I’m not trying to put her down, just trying to understand. She is angry about the reality unfolding, as am I, and our concerns overlap in areas, though I’d be willing to bet our proposed “solutions” would differ dramatically. But that doesn’t make us enemies, even if we can’t see eye to eye. She has been good to me over the last couple of years, and I’ve aimed to be good in return. But admittedly our conversation saddened me a bit. I realize she was just venting and sharing. But I wasn’t in a position where I could give her a full and honest response, nor would it have probably been worth attempting anyway. I too would like to keep my job. So I suppose she’s right at least on that count, that we tend to interact as actors.