Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Halloween


Chelle has her annual bout of bronchitis, so yesterday we stayed in to carve a pumpkin (something we've never done in seven years together). I found a horse template online, cut off the top of the pumpkin, scooped and scraped out the guts, and then Chelle went to work. Above is the result.

Meanwhile, yesterday my brother-in-law Jimmy went surfing at Ocean Beach near where he lives in the city. He noticed a helicopter hovering over the water, and, a half hour or so later when he emerged from the ocean, he was stunned to see a thousand people or so Occupying Ocean Beach. And below is what that was all about.

Monday, October 24, 2011

How to Get Through Step Four


Lots of people go out when they do Step Four. It brings them so much grief to dredge up past hurts, injuries done to them and injuries they've done to others--a detailed Step Four can get overwhelming. Resist the urge to judge yourself harshly. We've all done stupid and hurtful things. We've all been someone's victim. Instead of beating yourself up about it, ask yourself, "What can I learn from that experience?" This is how you will be able to move past it.

See yourself as a seeker of wisdom.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Your Daily Chuckle


All we are saying is ... give us a government that represents the PEOPLE once again.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

INFPs and Addiction

When I was in college, I took a course in Jungian Thought (heady stuff, especially when you factor in bong hits while pondering the idea that we're all carbon, so at the molecular level, how can you say you're "you" and I'm "me"--how do we know we're not just two parts of a single larger entity comprised of all of us?) and things like that. Our professor, Charles Haynes, had us take the Myers-Briggs, and I turned out to be an INFP. Now, you know these personality tests: we do tend to change as we mature, so every time we take them, we get a different result. Well, over the years, I've taken the Myers-Briggs two other times, and guess what? I'm really consistent in being an INFP.

The INFP is a comparatively rare type, which fits in quite nicely with my being, in general, an odd duck. We are also uniquely prone to addiction problems, due to our sensitivity and discomfort with pain.

But I was thinking about intuition and feelings this morning--and how much I am driven by both, rather than by sheer logic or rationality. Someone who meets me and doesn't know me well is likely to get the impression that I'm a bright, logical person who only reaches conclusions after considering the evidence. And I can do that; I certainly teach that. When I'm making decisions, I have tried to operate that way.

Yet at a very basic level, I don't. Instead, I start with my feelings (and if it's a person, it'll be how I feel when I'm around them or what I sense about them). Classic empath, in other words. If something feels good or right or honest or moral or like it's the truth, that is my starting place and then if I have to defend a course of action, I will marshal the evidence to support it. Now this is academically dishonest, and I once even told Professor Haynes that, expecting to be chided, but he just laughed. "I do that too," was all he said.

Many of you have seen me moan and groan on Facebook about grading papers. It's precisely because I find it so draining to actually assign a grade. I don't mind reading them; it's the GRADING that gets to me. I have to be fair, so I have to set aside all my subjective stuff (feelings, intuitions, hopes for a student, irritation with mental laziness, etc) and land on a grade that is fair and objective. Consequently I have had to fail papers when I totally agreed with what the student was saying; it was just a weak argument fraught with logical and grammatical errors. Or I've given A's to students when they've written papers which with I deeply disagree; but if it was a pretty sound argument and the essay was clean, there you go.

It's this clash between my values and ideals and the simple reality of things that is bound to disturb me. Yet I deal with that clash when it involves things that don't threaten my own value system. The way I am able to respect people with vastly different views than mine (say, when it comes to politics) is because, most of the time, I intuit that we desire the same good ends. What we disagree about are the means. The means are debatable.

If I realize we don't share the same end (say, someone hates gay people because they think we're evil); and then my intuition is borne out by some gentle probing that shows me their mind is snapped shut and their heart is a block of stone--goodbye. I have no more time for you.) You could say my own mind and heart are just as snapped shut. But that's MY value system. I'm gay; I know I'm not evil. One thing you cannot do is dissuade me from my deep conviction that no one is innately evil. That feels totally wrong to me. I'm going to think you've just gone awfully off-track, and I prefer to not be blasted by your hatred. We all know where hatred has tended to take the human family.

So why did I used to have an alcohol addiction?

I do NOT deal well with the clash I've been describing when my value system is threatened by my own behavior or words. THAT is when I would drink. Something inside me would niggle and gnaw at me, and I thought drinking would make the feeling go away. What I didn't see was that consuming alcohol didn't make me feel better; it was more likely to make me act out even more in direct contradiction with my own value system. I would lie to others; I'd lie to myself; I'd erupt in anger; I would disregard other people's feelings and do things I knew were hurtful. Truth got muddled and I got lost in a world of hurt.

For me, recovery has been a process of getting back in touch with my own value system and aligning my words and actions with it. My alcoholism put the brakes on that. I'm relearning how to trust my own feelings and intuition--what I didn't see before is that they have everything to do with my value system. I spent far too much time tamping those down when ironically, they are who I am, what I am, my little spot in the cosmic unfolding.

"The body's carbon is simply carbon. Hence 'at bottom' the psyche is simply 'world.'"
--Carl Jung

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Daring to Be Greater


What we are is God's gift to us. What we become is our gift to God. All we need do is conquer those fears which keep us small.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Insanity Is ....


Who knows if Einstein was actually the originator of this quotation, but it's attributed to him all over the Internet. It's certainly a common saying in AA (usually in the context of how many of us alcoholics tried over and over to quit or moderate our drinking on our own and failed time after time). But really, it's genius. And it applies to everything.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

AA Is Not a Magic Pill

I met with my sponsor yesterday, who wanted to know how my program was coming. Of course I knew what program she meant, but I was being silly (and feeling guilty, because I haven't been to any meetings lately), so I answered, "What program?"

Her eyes narrowed and she gave me that 'I know you're not serious' look she is so good at delivering.

"Oh. AA," I said.

"Been to any meetings?"

Now I knew damn well she knew I hadn't been to any meetings lately, because she'd asked my partner that recently, and Chelle told her I hadn't. Bless her, Chelle came home and then warned me I was going to get my ass chewed.

I was just honest. "Eh, not getting much from meetings lately. Same old stuff... and I really have no interest in drinking."

She looked at me skeptically.

"Well... I guess I've been throwing my extra time lately into pursuing my spiritual program."

She relaxed and looked curious. "Which is?"

I felt silly because I know my answer is kind of "out there," but you don't lie to your sponsor. That's like a triple-dog lie. You just don't go there. Besides, she knows me so well she knows even when I'm lying to myself. So I just said it.

"I've become a Rosicrucian student. So, I've been doing a lot of reading. Studying some physics. Meditating a lot. I really seem to have lost all interest in drinking."

She was satisfied. "Alcohol wasn't actually the problem."

And of course it wasn't. My alcoholism had been a spiritual problem, the big hole that was left in my psyche when I set aside my spirituality. I was floundering rudderless, and alcohol had merely been a way to relieve me from the anxiety of that.

She reminded me to keep a foot in the door, to go to meetings anyway, and I will. I never intended to just abandon them. For now I am just working on increasing my conscious contact with God--whoever or whatever that is.

AA is not some magic pill that if you work the steps and attend meetings regularly, you will find yourself magically cured. It is relearning how to live in a world fraught with uncertainties and injustices and suffering. If you go to enough meetings and really listen with an open mind, you start to get that. Then there are others who seem to be at every meeting and still never seem to really "get" things. But that's okay. They derive great strength from the community itself, and they stay sober. That's their process. There is no single right way; at least, that's how I see it.

Right now I'm throwing my energy into Step 11. It is a mystical experience for me, so it is kind of solitary work.

I retain community at In the Rooms but I'll return to the real rooms in time. With, I hope, greater wisdom. In the meantime, I continue to share my experiences and insights here.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Do Nothing for Two Minutes


Click here.

Writers Support the Occupy Movement


I proudly add my name to this list in support of this movement and consider myself in most excellent company (actually, that part is rather humbling if you check out the signers and the extraordinary books they've written).

Friday, October 14, 2011

Collisions

In quantum mechanics, there is the theory of entanglement in which two apparently unrelated photons, even separated by a great distance, each react as if they each somehow knew what the other was doing.

In Jungian Thought, there is the concept of synchronicity, or meaningful coincidence, in which two apparently unrelated things happen together, thus creating something meaningful (free of cause-effect).

So. Why do certain people come into our lives?

I don't mean everyday acquaintances or bump-into-a-stranger chance encounters: these folks are more like the extras in a movie, just background in the totality of your life (as you are in theirs). I mean the people who wind up being an influence, who make a difference of some kind, who become a part of your story. I don't think meeting these people is random, though it looks random. When you first encounter someone who is going to change your life in some way, you seldom know at first meeting that this is what will happen. Heck, I met my spouse on www.planetout.com. When I read her first email to me, I had no idea that one day I would be marrying this woman.

I think we are all here to carry out a purpose, and certain people cross our paths either because we agreed to do so before we incarnated here or because the universe sees fit to have us cross paths because each of us has something to teach the other. Ever notice how people come to you at just the right time? It's not random--the universe collides us together because it sees you are both in a unique position, perfectly timed, to do something for the other. The significant people in our lives are here to meet either physical, emotional, or spiritual needs. Each of you is drawn to the other. You will either meet each other's needs or you will be challenged to examine them in some way. The outcome, whether for good or for bad, is a lesson learned or a valuable experience of some kind.

If you don't learn it, someone else will enter your life and the lesson will be repeated.

Our significant others are here--whether they hurt us or fill us with joy; whether they stay or whether they go--to open your mind, heart, or perspective to your current situation and guide you closer to the life you're supposed to lead, so you can fulfill the purpose for which you are here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Why This Sign Is Beyond Stupid


There are plenty of people who voted for Obama in 2008 (I would be among them) who aren't totally pleased with his performance as President. They voted for change, reforms in government, an end to the war in Iraq, or because they weren't happy with George W. Bush's running up the deficit. There are tons of reasons Obama held appeal. But here's my real point: NOBODY, ABSOLUTELY NOBODY, VOTED FOR OBAMA BECAUSE THEY THOUGHT PEOPLE WOULD THINK THEY WERE RACIST IF THEY DIDN'T.

Nope. In fact, this very idea would occur only to a racist. Why? Because they're forever thinking they're being picked on for being racists. Poor things. And they can't imagine anybody would have actually voted for Obama because they saw something they liked about him. So, it had to be his race. It just had to be. Right?

Aside from this, guess what else? Your vote is private. You fill in the grid or punch your chad and turn in your ballot and nobody knows how you voted unless you blab it to the world. So why would anyone vote a certain way because they're afraid of being called a name for the vote they cast?

Would. Not. Happen.

Hence, this sign is not just racist in its conception, it's just stupid.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Twelve Steps According to Hapless Tigger


The following is MY interpretation of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. I do not see them as dogma. They are not the "word of God" as handed down from on high. They are simply TOOLS. I find them useful as a way to relearn how to cope more effectively with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (ie, life). As tools, they are useful as a means to bringing me peace of mind--it's the peace of mind that keeps me sober. (Some may be offended that I've kind of "updated" the language of the Steps--but I needed to, to make them work for me. The current language is, shall we just say, intellectually unpalatable to me personally.) Your own mileage may vary.

1. I have finally had to accept--as in, fully grok it--that I'm just one of those people who can't drink. All attempts to successfully moderate my drinking have failed over the long term. So, I finally accept that I have had to chuck it. Put the stuff down; leave it alone; it never serves me well, and it winds up making all my problems worse. Me and my big ego have no power over this stuff. My own self-will and wishes aren't enough.

2. If I'm not big enough to control what alcohol does to me, maybe something else out there--anything that is NOT me (because I have failed at it numerous times)--can help me get a handle on this.

3. I am willing to suspend my skepticism and outright disbelief long enough to have hope that there is something greater than me and my own will operating in the Universe. I sure as heck don't understand it, and physicists sure are positing some interesting things nowadays, but I'm pretty sure my life wasn't meant to be spent being hungover half the time and staring at the bottom of a shot glass the rest of the time. There's got to be more than this. There is some reason we are here.

4. I reexamined my life--my words, my actions, my decisions--with a willingness to admit to fault with an eye towards not repeating my same mistakes. This isn't an exercise in beating myself up, though: I was not always at fault, and more often was only partially at fault, and this exercise opened my mind and heart up to the idea that we are all imperfectly yet wonderfully human. There is much to learn about myself, about human nature, and better ways to cope with this world if I do an honest appraisal of what has happened to me in the past. Plus, when I do this, I can finally set things down and let them go. And I gain the wisdom of learning from my experiences rather than just obsessing about them all the time to no end.

5. I had a frank discussion with my sponsor about my 4th step work and what I've found out. She's a good coach: she could see the places where I was being too hard on myself or, alternately, too easy on myself, and she could see the places where I needed to turn over a few more rocks and dig a little deeper. We were both able to clearly see where my own values did not align with my words and actions, and I finally understood that most of what drives me crazy and has driven me to drink in the past is when I'm living hypocritically or am scared to death or resentful about something.

6. Silly me! Well, I have faith that I can start living in a sane, rational manner, and if I'm stuck, then I have faith that something will help me work things out in a productive way as opposed to a destructive way.

7. When I'm stuck, I ask for help.

8. If I'm going to start over with a clean slate, then I need to set things right with those I have harmed. This makes us all feel a lot better.

9. I do so, wherever possible (unless my entry into their lives would be more destructive or disruptive or do more harm than good).

10. I continue 4th Step work for the remainder of my days, because it's just a gosh darn good way to check in with myself and make sure I'm not harboring fears or resentments or acting in ways that don't align with my values. I keep my side of the street clean. My life rocks!

11. I continue searching for meaning in my life, which for me personally, has a lot to do with serving others (which is why I teach for a living. It brings me great satisfaction).

12. I've been sober for over two years now, and I feel much, much better than I did when I was using. When people ask me for help, I give it, and I freely share my own experiences in the hopes it may help others. I blog like a maniac. This is 12th Step work to me.

Sacrilege to some; freedom for others.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Overview of Kepler Mission


Find more videos like this on The Rosicrucians


Okay, so Voyager is probing; SETI is listening; and Kepler is actively looking for habitable planets. When will there be contact is the big question.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Thoughts on Solitude

Chelle sometimes worries about me. During the fall semester, she works a lot of long hours at her job, and since I teach only in the mornings, I pretty much have afternoons to myself. Sounds luxurious, but in truth I spend most of my afternoons grading papers and doing lesson plans. And I blog, and I'll visit with some of my friends on Facebook between grading papers.

But when she works late, especially several nights in a row, she worries that I'm home alone doing nothing but living in my head too much, and she has a residual worry that if something upsets me, I may relapse. Now this last worry has pretty much gone away for her over time, and I'm sure more time will make it vanish. I protect my sobriety. Alcohol is nothing I care to ever indulge in again. Not even the thought of one drink appeals. I'd much rather pry my fingernails off, one by one, with a pair of tongs.

So I always have to remind her that I'm by nature an introvert. I deal with 55 students in the morning, along with assorted colleagues, and though I enjoy them all, being sociable exhausts me. (Extroverts are the opposite: they are invigorated by interactions with others. They come alive.) Me, I get sapped. For equilibrium to return, I need to get quiet for a while.

Now this was dangerous when I was drinking, because it basically turned into my being a closet drinker, the kind of alcoholic who'd sit at home and drink myself into a stewing hot mess.

But this isn't what I do at home now. I'll chat with a couple people, sometimes Skype, sometimes on the phone. I'll do chores. And once all the work is done, I take "me" time: sometimes I'll lift weights (I need to do more of that); I'll read; I'll find something on Netflix or amazon--I do things to engage my intellect. Like now: I'm making my way through Season One of Through the Wormhole and that is teaching me about some interesting new discoveries and theories and postulations in physics, which I will then quite happily start mentally riffing on: how does God fit into this? Do what we perceive as spirits or ghosts fit into this? I mean, if particles are conscious. . . . Maybe reincarnation is really not a half-baked wishful thinking fear of death kind of idea, and so on. This is the kind of stuff that invigorates and refreshes me. I feel most like myself when I'm continuing to learn about this universe we all inhabit. And yes, I meditate.

So, to my dear Chelle, and to my dear friends who worry I get lonesome, and to those who think solitude is a fate worse than death: Au contraire.

As far as I'm concerned, for me, solitude is only bad if I'm hiding from something.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Ray LaMontagne: "Beg, Steal, Borrow"



Hands up if he reminds you of Joni Mitchell, with maybe a little Dan Fogelberg and Neil Young thrown in as well.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

USS Hornet: The Gray Ghost

Chelle and I were wondering what to do today for fun, just to get out of the house, so we decided to go visit the USS Hornet berthed over in Alameda. She's one of the United States' most decorated ships, served in World War II (with her pilots shooting down over 1400 Japanese planes over the course of the war); served in Vietnam; and served in the first few Apollo moon missions (the astronauts were fished out of the water and taken aboard the Hornet, where they had to undergo quarantine).

It's also a famous ship because she's said to be haunted, and if you watch Ghost Hunters on the Syfy Channel, then you know Grant and Jason both declared the ship definitely had paranormal activity aboard. She's retired now, of course, and the ship is a museum.

A day that started off cloudy wound up glorious. Here is a shot of the San Francisco skyline across the Bay from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier.


It was altogether an interesting tour. Tourists were pretty much free to wander all over, and not much of the ship was cordoned off. So we went up and down ladders, got lost in the maze that was the bowels of the ship, walked the length of the flight deck, checked out the Apollo exhibits, saw the mess and berths and briefing rooms and officers' quarters and so on. Then we climbed on up to the Island, which is a series of shorter decks with the navigation bridge, captain's cabin, chart room, pilot house, flag deck, etc.

Chelle parked herself in a chair in the pilot house and declared she could drive the colossal ship, and I wandered away laughing at her. I saw a catwalk outside so stepped through a door to get some fresh air and see where the catwalk led. I took a few paces and felt Chelle touch my arm. So I turned to see what she wanted.

Except nobody was there!

Okay, it was just a gentle hand on the inside of my arm, right by my elbow, but it was firm enough to be a clear touch. There was nobody else on that catwalk with me. I turned around a couple times, trying to see if I'd bumped into anything. Nothing but the steel railings, which would've hit the outside, not the inside, of my arm and felt like a bump, not like a touch.

I patted my pockets. There was a brochure stuck in my back pocket, so I pulled it out, then tucked it back in, then let my arm swing against it to touch it (which involved twisting my body a little, which I hadn't done anyway), but no, that felt like paper, not a touch.

So... I have no idea. I either totally imagined that, or I was touched. I can't say it was scary, either. It wasn't cold or creepy or whatnot. It was just a touch. Like I said, I'd honestly thought Chelle had caught up to me and done it.

So that's my USS Hornet ghost story.

Oh, a final point worth noting about the Hornet: she's a Rosie the Riveter ship. Approximately 30% of the crew who built her were women.