Archive for October, 2014

Another Personal Note

A ‘friend’ of mine wrote this. It’s very well put in my estimation. I hear it. Feel it. Time to act on it. What about you?

(click on images to enlarge)

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Thanks Kevin. Thanks for the thinking and courage to put it out there. Thanks for giving me something thought provoking to post at a time when I don’t have the bandwidth to work on it. Just thanks. We’ll have a beer together soon.

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Tiny Hoops

HoopsGirl

“The fidelity of the spouses in the unity of marriage involves reciprocal respect of their right to become a father and a mother only through each other. The child has the right to be conceived, carried in the womb, brought into the world and brought up within marriage: it is through the secure and recognized relationship to his own parents that the child can discover his own identity and achieve his own proper human development.”
—Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Donum Vitae – The Gift of Life, 1987

 

The double-standard of Catholic doctrine. Do not use birth control or things that interfere with the making of life, but then Catholics are also told that things like in vitro fertilization are also not acceptable. It is deemed to be immoral because, “The new life is not engendered through an act of love between husband and wife…” Really? If your definition of ‘act of love’ is specific enough then it’s true, but…

In fairness, there is nuance to this. Anytime we grapple with issues of morality things can get complicated. I give them credit for trying to be intelligent in interpreting morality and the value of the increasing resources and complex decisions people make with respect to children (as recently as yesterday they softened their stance on a few related issues). Catholic texts on the subject tend to rapidly transition from the morality of the fact that it doesn’t take place in the woman’s body to practical issues such as cost, dangers, unintended results such as too many fetuses, and possible screening, which raises a different, but related moral questions.

Then there is the question of the adoption of frozen embryos, which they perceive as a very slippery slope as well. Not to mention other techniques. It’s a little blurry, and over time the nuances change.

They seem to lay these decisions out as if having more medical or technical insight than perhaps they do. What about a couple who deeply wants to have children? How much authority should the church have in the details of how they go about it? And what about a couple that do not want to have (more) children. Must they anyway?

I would think the Church could comment on the various options, and raise questions about them (which is part of what happens, in fairness), but why not let Catholics choose what they believe is right for them without the guilt trip? Is it really immoral for a couple to choose in vitro? Would Jesus rather they go without having their own children? It seems to me the boundaries of authority are overstepped on a regular basis by religions.

And thus…they find themselves on the slow road to irrelevance. Take a look at Europe, who are about 200 years ahead of the U.S. in this realm. Does anyone seriously deny that’s where we’re headed (albeit with some kicking and screaming)? I acknowledge that relevance may not be a core concern of religion. But when you equate relevance to power it actually seems like they care about it a lot. It’s just that these and other factors belie the fact that many of the ideals held there are from bygone eras where the human condition really was different. That said, other religious traditions (with respect to eating, cleaning, marriage, etc.) have been de-emphasized significantly over the years. So…on the one hand, things do change. But on the other hand we hang on to many things that arguably should change.

Plenty of double standards rooted in tricky questions that often have to be interpreted subjectively. Maybe it would be better to focus on spirituality and let the individuals define appropriate actions for themselves. If we focus on the underlying spirituality more, and then have leaders who lead by example (don’t get me started there), then more people, not less, would be affected positively and would likely lead better, more fulfilled and happy lives. And, though I am in no position to say, I speculate those more happy and fulfilled and morally consistent people would probably be living more closely to the underlying ideals we try to push them into through doctrine. I may be out to lunch, but I believe a rising tide would lift all boats in this respect.

That was the way of Jesus, at least as it is told in the books and stories. But it does not seem to be the dominant part of the way of the religions that worship him.

Broken Cup

ManinCup

Your favorite cup. You use it for cappuccino in the morning or tea in the afternoon. It is warm in your hands and fits well as your fingers wrap around. When filled with water it’s lovely how the light reflects off of the surface and refracts through the liquid. Tap it with a spoon and the sonorous ringing it emits comforts the soul.

It will break. One day you will place it too precariously and fate or chance will do what it does. In an unthinking moment you may brush it off the table. Or someone else will.

This is inevitable. You can nurture it and care for it, but eventually something is bound to happen to that cup.

What can you do?

Do you avoid acquiring a cup you will get so attached to?

Do you acquire it, but keep it locked away safely out of danger?

Do you use it a little and then put it away so as not to risk the loss?

Do you try to convince yourself it’s not really such a great cup? Buy others to replace it while you still have it.

Or do make it your go-to cup and use it up? Accepting that the cup is already broken. It is dust. Such that when it finally happens you are not so disappointed. You are prepared, and recognize that the inevitable finally happened. You are able to quickly move on from the loss and bask in the good feelings and and good times you had with your cup.

Until that happens you treasure and enjoy your cup daily.

Art to Burden

B.B. King In Concert - San Rafael, CA

B.B. King has been out on tour. He is almost 90 years old. I had the pleasure of working with B.B. on some shows back in the early ’90s. He’s really a great guy with an awesome sense for music. He’s also a ‘hard core’ old skool blues man.

The ‘grind’ of the road has been written about, but experienced by few. It really is a difficult life. I will spare you the gory details — plenty of places to read all about it online. Suffice to say it is really harsh physically, and more so mentally. Recently he had a fall in Chicago, which resulted in him having to cancel his next show in Fort Wayne, and then subsequent shows. He’s okay, and has intentions of resuming the tour.

Why?

Why does a 90 y.o. man want to be on tour? Does he? I worry that his people are continuing to prop him up and send him out on stage, not because he needs the money (he most certainly does not), but because they do. Or is it because he doesn’t know what else to do? Is his identity so wrapped up in being B.B. King that he can’t do anything else?

I don’t pretend to know him, but I have spent some time with him and know people in the close circle. He doesn’t need the money and doesn’t care about the adulation that much. The truth is some around him encourage him to stop touring. I believe B.B. wants to die on stage. That would be true to his hard core bluesman persona, and would in his mind be the right way to pay respects to the struggling artists who came before him. That’s not the half of it.

The rest is that he knows how many depend on him. I estimate there are roughly 300 people who pretty directly receive income from him and his operations. That doesn’t count all the peripheral monies made, nor the economic impact to all the small and medium sized towns where he plays, particularly the economy of the lower socioeconomic part of his demographic.

He truly feels the responsibility and doesn’t want to let people down. So he keeps doing it, show after show, town after town. The grind of a hard working man. And he will do it until he literally can’t anymore. That’s who he has defined himself as being. His identity with himself.

Dare I say the performances reveal that he is a shell of his former self, both in playing and singing. It’s still him — the essence of it is still there, and the audiences enjoy getting to hear a legend. But it is so far removed from the art, and even craft of it. It’s just the fulfillment of perceived obligations at this point. When he goes, people will admire him for this.

Far be it for me to tell B.B. what he should be doing with what little of his life remains. If he truly gets joy and purpose out of it, and it’s what he wants to do, that’s okay. I’m not sure if it’s dignified, but if he thinks it is, then that’s good enough for me. However, I assert he does it mainly out of obligation, which has become so much a part of his wiring he doesn’t seriously consider the alternatives. He is blind to it, though most around him — even casual observers — see it clearly.

We all tend to cling to the persona we believe we see in ourselves, usually far past the point of good sense and good (mental) health. What a waste this is as time passes. Yet it’s extremely difficult to separate the complex tapestry of what one is with respect to what one has invented.

So we keep singing the blues and propping ourselves up to go on.

B.B. — Whatever happens, you are a cool cat, and from what I experienced you treated everyone with respect. There will never be another like you.

The Top

WomanonLadderIt is lonely at the top. Most never understand how lonely it can be. It’s only when you’ve led a company or a group of people (or sometimes even one person) where you’ve had the full responsibility on your shoulders that you begin to understand how isolated you become.

What’s talked about less is how much can be seen from up there, having climbed every rung, fought through every obstacle. One really does acquire a perspective unknown to others. It is possible to see more broadly, making decisions based on factors not always visible to others, and therefore potentially controversial, and more isolating.

One also loses touch with the reality shared by most others. The disconnect belies the importance of all the support it takes to maintain that position. It may be lonely, but it is in part due to the inevitably skewed perspective one develops.

Eventually…entropy does its thing and brings us down to earth. Still disconnected and alone. Loneliness is one thing when masked by the success of riding high, but quite another when it’s all one has. Was it all worth it? Now that you have satisfied the curiosity and know what’s behind the curtain, would you do it again?

The people who have what it takes to get there in the first place would usually do it again. That’s where the magic comes from. Within. Eventually that skill and perspective may collide with wisdom, and it becomes even more valuable. Even from above it is now possible to stay connected and accessible, so others can come alongside for the ride, which is much more fun and rewarding. Both parties have to be up for the challenge. Easier said than done.

HAL in Us

HALJuxtaposed

In the story that begins to unfold in 2001: A Space Odessy, the HAL 9000 computer goes berserk, and appears to deviate wildly from its programming. In a later story it is revealed that HAL was actually given instructions that under the circumstances as they unfolded turned out to be in direct conflict with its underlying programming. HAL, who is portrayed as virtually sentient in the tale, went ‘insane’ and had to be shut down.

One of the infamous instructions involved keeping the full nature of a mission secret from some of the crew. In hindsight this was not a good idea, even though it made sense at the time. Hal’s situation spontaneously arose as the conflict could not be reconciled. We often do it to ourselves. The saying that you “can’t con an honest man” isn’t literally true, but it does build off of a truth. Cons rely on the human nature desire or willingness to accept an otherwise unearned advantage and get ahead. It is such a part of our wiring and culture that even the most honest and diligent of us are vulnerable if the con is subtle enough. It’s hard to turn away a good deal, even if it’s a little too good to be true.

HAL was a product of programming. Not looking for any advantage. HAL’s job was to administrate. As pure as it gets, and yet if you judged by his actions he became evil. The problem is HAL was told to lie by people who are able to lie while navigating and minimizing the inherent conflicts that arise. Humans. For HAL there was no way out, and it wrecked him.

We are also programmed, only our programming is affected by our biology and feelings. No one among us is pure, or even close. Any attempts to be so are carried out in the shadow of how we’ve been programmed ourselves. A process riddled with imperfections and even the neuroses of our programmers. Some of us have been in situations that seem hopeless; conflicts that can’t be reconciled. We usually got ourselves there through actions that, in hindsight, were questionable. We sometimes even con ourselves. To be human is to mess it up. But it is our programming that fertilizes the grass we choose to walk upon.

Being shut down isn’t a workable option for us, although in extreme cases it does happen. No, we’re lose wrecking ourselves or everything and everyone until the conflict gets resolved, or somehow resolves itself. If only we had a ‘hold’ button. We could stop the insanity until proper treatment can be implemented.

HAL was ultimately able to be reprogrammed with the conflict removed, though there was lingering damage (the extent of which differs between written and cinematic versions of the story). We are left with the scars and the damage from what we are part of…which in and of itself begets the process of developing different issues. There really isn’t a way out.

Our solution is to deploy our learned skill of overlooking and dealing. Compensating. And for the most part it doesn’t get so overwhelming for us that we can’t function, or at least appear to function. So that’s the solution. Time heals. Move on. Etc.

In the story HAL’s apparent demise comes as an expense of saving some humans, in a sense atoning for past transgressions, which weren’t its fault to begin with. When it recognized its fate it asked what would happen afterwords, as in after death. Not a lot of comfort could be offered there. The end. None of HAL’s actions would have been any different had it been a God fearing computer. HAL exercised free will, within the boundaries of its programming. Just as we do.

Carrying baggage is part of our walk of life. Religion sweeps in and convinces some that the walk isn’t the point, which makes it a little easier. It’s no wonder we are strongly seduced by that subroutine in our programming.

 

 

 



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