Monday, July 30, 2012

On Intolerance

To this quotation, I might add "fear."

We are living in a world fraught with anger and frustration, largely brought on by fear ("I feel threatened by you," "You want to take something away from me," "Your worldview throws my beliefs into question.")

We are living in a world fraught with intolerance that is also largely brought on by fear ("If I tolerate you, I give into you, thus ceding power and privilege to you," "If I tolerate you and do nothing to fight you, it means I agree with you and I will be judged for that," "If I tolerate you, it's the same as saying your morals and values are just as good as mine.")

The way to battle fear, anger, and intolerance is to do exactly as Jesus advised us: "Love thy enemy." I don't think he meant running over and giving your enemy a great big hug or to not try and stop someone if they have a gun pointed at a crowd and are about to fire. He was talking about understanding--because where there is understanding, anger and intolerance become less powerful. You do not have to agree or see eye-to-eye on everything. But if you at least can understand where the other person is coming from, you can agree to disagree and part in peace, or you can perhaps find or negotiate a happy medium in which you both feel respected. Where there is at least mutual respect, there is much less chance for violence.

When violence meets violence, everybody loses.

This is not to say "tolerance" means to sit back and take it if someone is abusing you or oppressing a group. On the contrary, Jesus, Martin Luther King, Mohandas Ghandi, Dietrich Boenhoeffer--so many who died precisely because they resisted oppression and did so in a way others refused to tolerate--all of them SPOKE OUT. Jesus argued against following the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law and to help the poor. King argued against the oppression of black Americans. Ghandi argued against British colonial rule and tried to barter peace between the Hindus and Muslims. Boenhoeffer opposed the Nazi oppression of Jews. All of these men died for pushing back--albeit peacefully--against an intolerant status quo.

All of this comes up for me because recently, an acquaintance argued that homosexual marriage should not be tolerated because homosexuality is "unnatural," going against God's Laws, and that the sexual act is intended for procreation. I did not raise my fists against this man--I merely pointed out that actually, if he'd just look at the natural world and the animal kingdom (and human beings are animals; and indeed, science is now proving that animals can not only think and reason, but they have consciousness), homosexuality has been observed among virtually all animal species. I then said that there is more to sex than procreation--if marriage hinged on the ability to procreate, then infertile couples should not be allowed to marry, or an middle-aged or elderly woman past menopause should not be allowed to marry. I said that sex is also a physical expression of love, one of God's great blessings. I pointed out that in some countries, homosexuals are legally put to death or jailed, and that this was a matter of great concern to me.

I was attempting to get him to SEE that this view of homosexuality as unnatural and immoral has led to great human suffering, but I'm sad to say he did not hear me. In fact, one of his friends lashed out at me, accusing me of being the intolerant one--intolerant of his friend's views. In all fairness, he did agree that the oppression of homosexuals is wrong. That's a starting place.

And so the world goes 'round and 'round.

All we can do is try--relying on reason, relying on a sense of fair play, relying on the intuition and goodness of our hearts. For we all are creatures of God, possessing the Divine Spark. Seek it out in others, and with God's grace, they will likewise be able to seek it out in you. Peace Profound.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

How to Care for Introverts

A friend asked me the other day about how to make friends with introverts. I passed along to her this list of "Do's and Don't's" when it comes to introverts, but I thought I'd take some time today to explain them a little.

Here's what you need to know in a nutshell: interacting with people is exhausting to us. (People who know me on Facebook might be surprised to hear that. I'm yapping there all the time. But note that it's not face-to-face interaction. It's "safe distance" interaction. And when I write something, I have the time to think it through, trying to be as articulate as I can about what I mean.) That rarely happens in face-to-face conversations with me; I um and ah and stumble over words and struggle to be clear.  This is not so much a problem in the classroom because I teach more as a coach and less as a lecturer handing down the Word. We interact with each other and ask each other questions. But teaching, much as I love it, is still exhausting to me.

Extroverts are the opposite. They enjoy social interaction and find it invigorating. They look for rest and relaxation in hanging out with other people.

Introverts don't seek rest and relaxation with others. Nope. We rest, relax, recenter, regroup, by going INSIDE.  The last thing we want is a party.

If you want to freak out an introvert, give them no notice about a "surprise" that will involve people. We can deal--we can be resilient and adaptable and can think quickly on our feet if necessary--but we simply prefer to not have to do that if it's avoidable. We'd rather have time to adjust and think it through and be ready.

Introverts can be the deepest and most loyal of friends. But whatever you do, don't criticize us in public--especially those of us who also happen to be empaths. It feels like being hit with a big blazing ball of fury, and it will shut us right down. We are also easily embarrassed, so if you are teaching us something new that we may not be quite comfortable with yet, do it with us in private. I know our blushing can be awfully endearing, but nobody likes the sensation of being laughed at. Yeah. We do take things a little too personally.

It's because we are very inner-directed. This doesn't make us narcissists; in fact, most of us are pretty humble and get embarrassed even by compliments. Don't interpret our shyness as lack of confidence or a dislike of people. Just think of us as mostly private, sensitive, thoughtful, loving souls. If you are an introvert's best friend, then you have a good friend indeed.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Tigger Covers Tracy Chapman

I offer the usual apologies for my vocals, but nobody can ever tell what the heck I'm playing unless I'm singing the melody.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Margaret Cho Impersonating Her Mother

This is one of the best ones (she usually includes at least one impersonation of her mother in each of her shows)-- but this one also has a nice piece of wisdom at the end.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"You Who Never Arrived" by Rilke

A beautiful reading by Michelle Belanger of a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke.

PS: you may recognize Michelle as one of the psychics on A&E's Paranormal State.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Buddha Bless You

I always see waves of energy in the "halo" (I guess that's what it is?) above this Buddha's head. So much of this world remains unseen, but as I become more open to the mysteries, they are truly everywhere in front of our noses.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The St. Francis Prayer

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Tracy Chapman: "Mountains O' Things" (live)

For what does it a profit a man, if he gains the whole world yet loses his own soul?

But his grave will be deep and wide enough for his mountains, his mountains of things.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

AA and Faith

I set foot in AA meetings several times before I was finally able (or ready) to let that organization help me. The initial problem was my own brain--the steps bothered me intellectually. Sure, I'd admit I had a drinking problem, but my life wasn't UNMANAGEABLE. I'd never lost a job or gotten a DUI or gotten into a bar fight or stolen from anyone to get money to buy booze. And as for character flaws that only God could help me get rid of, pffft. It was repugnant to me to have to sit there and mindlessly read aloud the step that said I had character defects, as if I were innately some despicable human being. No, in fact I was rather compassionate, my students loved me, I occasionally did volunteer work, and if I found a bug in the house, I was more likely to catch it and release it outside rather than just stomp it to death. (Spiders are the exception--ugh.) And I wasn't even sure I believed in God. With the linchpin of the entire program being faith in some Higher Power, that seemed like a losing proposition to me. God just ain't gonna help me unless I actually believe God will help me, and my rational mind said pooh-pooh to that.

Yet, over the years, I'd keep going back every now and then, and some meetings I even enjoyed--after all, a good drunkalogue delivered with humor can be pretty entertaining, especially if you can personally relate to some of the idiot things alcoholics do when they're drunk. But AA just never sat right with me, so I turned to the alternatives: Moderation Management, SMART Recovery, Rational Recovery--heck, I blasted through Ellis's books with great relish. Sometimes I even got better for a little while. Yet inevitably, my drinking would spiral out of control, as it always did, and I'd find myself drinking even when I didn't necessarily want to: I didn't want the hangover I knew I'd have the next day; I didn't even want to get drunk. I just wanted to feel better, to feel normal. These occasions increased in number, two, three, four times a week, and sometimes the hangovers were so bad I'd have to call in sick to work, making up some lie. "I threw my back out." "I must have eaten something that disagreed with me." "I have a really bad sore throat."

That's when you're gone, you know. That's when the Steps do start to make sense. Was I managing my life well anymore? Honestly? No. Is lying an attribute of good character? No. Can God help me? I didn't know.

So AA meetings sound sometimes like a Christian cult--so what? They start off with the Serenity Prayer and usually end with the Lord's Prayer or (my favorite) the St. Francis Prayer. At that time, I wasn't sure who God was, but as you do when you pick up a novel and start reading, you suspend your disbelief so you can get involved in the world of the novel, so I suspended my disbelief in God by simply thinking, "Well, there's something out there that's greater than me." It was enough.

Long story short, it was in seeking for a purpose in life that started to make me more mindful of the things I barely had given attention to--the smell of barbecue roasting on some neighbor's grill, how trees look fuzzy in the spring when they're sprouting new leaves, how the Buddha statue in the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park is surrounded by vibrations or waves of energy--if you just but look. Look, and you will see. I'd just never taken the time to look. And when you start looking, something shifts inside of you. I wound up becoming a student of Rosicrucianism--it's less a religion, more a philosophy--which satisfies my intellectual mind while satisfing my emotional being. I took up painting because it is a mindful practice--you have to SEE. I picked up the guitar again because music is vibrations, and it eases the savage breast. I began meditating because that's the best way in the world to HEAR and to learn how to separate the voices of the loud committee yabbering in my head from the true.

Know yourself, and you will know God. God is everywhere, residing in everything. The Divine is in all of us. We are all aspects of The One.

And while all of this learning was going on, I totally lost interest in drinking. You cannot be mindful when you're drunk, and the world is too marvelous a thing to not give your attention to. After struggling with alcoholism the better part of my adult life, you could not pay me to take a drink now. I don't want it.

So, I'll be darned if faith didn't save me, if God didn't in fact shift my attention away from alcohol.

That's how it worked for me. AA actually ended up working. I merely had to open my mind and adapt its language to work for me.

I close with a link to a 34-minute video (part of a lecture series) on the practice of meditation and mindfulness. It doesn't matter what faith you follow, as you will see.

Peace Profound.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

How Politicians Get Ahead

This comes from two math teachers with a combined total of 70 years' experience. Here is a little something someone sent me that is indisputable mathematical logic. It also made me laugh out loud. This is a strictly mathematical goes like this:

What makes 100%? What does it mean to give MORE than 100%? Ever wonder about those people who say they are giving more than 100%? We have all been to those meetings where someone wants you to give over 100%. How about achieving 103%? What makes up 100% in life?

Here's a little mathematical formula that might help you answer these questions:



Is represented as:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26.



8+1+18+4+23+15+18+11 = 98%



11+14+15+23+12+5+4+7+5 = 96%


1+20+20+9+20+21+4+5 = 100%



2+21+12+12+19+8+9+20 = 103%

AND, look how far ass kissing will take you.


1+19+19+11+9+19+19+9+14+7 = 118%

So, one can conclude with mathematical certainty that while Hard Work and Knowledge will get you close, and Attitude will get you there, it's the Bullshit and Ass Kissing that will put you over the top.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Oh Noes! Friday the 13th

This is the most awesome political comment I've seen on Facebook today:

Truly, I'm not sure even Mitt Romney wants to claim this one for his side.

(I blurred out her name because it seemed only right to do so.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Tigger's New Toy

I have been terrible about blogging lately. Maybe it's just because I'm having too much fun enjoying my summer, but noodling around with this new toy of mine has been keeping me occupied as well. The only problem with an acoustic-electric guitar is that every mistake you make is amplified--and, well, I do make mistakes! But the guitar sounds so good that many of them even sound intentional, so it's all good.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Very Important Caveat

Well, we're back home safe and sound. But a thought occurred to me on the long drive home yesterday--in posting about learning to properly use Chelle's firearms, I really should post a caveat.


Chelle and I have been together for almost eight years now, and of those eight, I've been sober the last three. Notice that she did not buy her .38 until now. (We've always had the shotgun, but she kept it in her closet unloaded with the rounds hidden--even though I had no idea how to load it, release the round, rack the round, or turn off the safety. I couldn't have fired it even if I'd wanted to.)

It has taken almost three years of steady sobriety for her to become comfortable with the idea of me learning how to use a firearm.

I don't blame her one bit.

Before I got sober, I cannot tell you how many times, when I was severely intoxicated and miserable, I would cry uncontrollably and threaten to shoot my brains out. Had there in fact been a loaded weapon in the house, one of those times I might have actually made good on the threat.

And this is just one of the many problems with out-of-control addiction. Even when you're using and think you should be feeling better because the booze is coursing through your veins, you hate it that you're using. Sobriety sounds like sweet mercy, yet you can't imagine life without using. Addiction feels like a deep, dark, bottomless hole there's no way out of.  You feel like a slave to a substance (and you are), and it seems like the only way out is death.

It's true: addicts who don't get help wind up either in jail, in an institution, or dead.

There are so many deaths listed as suicides and/or "accidental" that are directly related to substance abuse: car accidents, slip and falls, drownings in bathtubs or spas--my educated guess is that the statistics stating how many annual deaths are the result of alcohol or drug abuse are too low.  There are also way too many people out there who are treating (self-medicating) mental illnesses with alcohol and other drugs.

Anyway, this is just something important that I thought I should point out since part of this blog is about recovery. Firing weapons can look like fun and all of that, but I would never recommend having a loaded weapon anywhere near anyone who is using drugs or alcohol--even if they're not addicted. That's just asking for trouble x5.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

More Practicing with Firearms

[again, the anti-gun crowd should skip this post]

My aim improved today although I have to say I'm much more comfortable with the .38 than I am with the shotgun. Chelle did demonstrate for me the difference in the "wounds" (using birdshot) when you fire the shotgun close to a person as opposed to farther away. The moral of the story: get as close as you can because the farther away you are, the more that stuff sprays.

So here was our target:

Basically we stood in front of the bush on the left for practice with the shotgun and several feet behind it for practice with the .38.

Here was my best shot:

And the one below shows the birdshot demonstration on the left hand side (at top and bottom) and then my one big blast with--what did she call it? Double aught buck?--right in the middle.

My hope is to never have to use either of these weapons against a real person, and I surely do hope that just the sound of a shotgun round being racked would be enough to make a threat stop being a threat.

My father-in-law suggested I take one of these targets and hang it in my office with the words "I don't like it when students ask me to change their grades" written on it in big red marker.

I would reckon that's not the best idea. But he is a funny guy.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

On Trustworthiness

There can be no healthy relationship of any kind (friendship, kinship, romantic) if there is not complete trust in each other. Lose that, you lose it all. Trust is one of the hardest things--if not THE hardest thing--to regain. Actions always speak louder than words.  Truth is, some people are self-deluded: they may think they'll do the thing they promise, but when push comes to shove, they won't. Their words are based on a lack of self-knowledge.

Others hide things or tell fibs about themselves because they're afraid if you knew the truth about them, you wouldn't like them. Ultimately that's a dead-end strategy. The truth will out. Besides, why would you want a relationship with anybody who didn't like you for the person you actually are?

Blind trust is equally foolish.  There are simply too many people who are willing to prey on the gentle-hearted who too easily give others the benefit of the doubt. Remember that people need to earn your trust.  This doesn't mean walking around being paranoid and suspicious all the time; it merely means to not put complete faith in someone until they've shown you, time and again by their actions, that they deserve it.

Remember that old saying: "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me."

Trust has been a hard lesson for me. I've been self-deluded and hurt others unintentionally because of it--yet I still hurt them, and it's the result that's important. I've participated in deceptions and felt awful about it because, even though my own side of the street was clean, I still was a part of another person's lie. And naturally I've been lied to and cheated on--haven't most of us at some point? Any one of these seats you may sit in is a sucky-assed place to be.

Bottom line is, treat other people the way you want to be treated: don't lie and don't betray their trust. And treat YOURSELF the way you want to be treated: don't abide lying, untrustworthy people in your life. It's like asking to be hurt.

Toad the Wet Sprocket: "Walk on the Ocean"

Not the best quality video, but a great song.

Friday, July 6, 2012

My Newest Accomplishment

[do not proceed if you are against firearms]

Chelle recently purchased a good, old-fashioned .38 Smith and Wesson revolver (this is the weapon she learned to shoot with when she was in the police academy), so we both figured it was high time I learned how to handle it (and the Remington 12 gauge she owns) safely.

All things considered, I did okay for a newbie. I have a tendency to aim a bit high (so if I'm aiming for the chest, I tend to shoot the target in the head). With the shotgun it doesn't matter much because the whole darn thing just gets a big hole torn in it. My view is: at least I hit the target.

Here I am with the .38.  Stand back, please.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Just Hanging Out and Chillin'

Okay, so here I am spending the July 4th weekend at my lovely in-laws', and a friend asked me to post pics--and I probably will put some random humorous ones on Facebook--but I decided instead to take the world on a tour around half of their property. The photo is from inside the living room looking out onto the front of the property, and then the videos take you in a circle around their property to the right of their house. I'm talking and walking while taking the video, so I'm sorry that you'll have to deal with a bit of shakiness. But, in the second video, I'm pleased to be able to point out the spot where, two years ago, I caught a trout and was trying to run it up a small incline on the way to their pond when I tripped. And as I lay there, I realized I was eye-to-eye with a snake. My Indian name thereafter became Falls With A Fish. Also, the Pell's dog, Kali, makes a cameo.

It truly is beautiful and relaxing up here.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

When Letting Go Means Strength

Some relationships are destined to be.

Some relationships are not destined to be.

Hearts break, but hearts heal.

"You know, Miss Ruth was a lady. And a lady always knows when to leave."

How to Embarrass Your Wife

Here's Chelle with I'll Have Another. He should be winging his way towards Japan just about now, heading off to his new career as a stud. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

So True

I am convinced that, too much nowadays, we love things and use people, rather than the other way away, and that this materialism alone is what's causing so much unhappiness. Love all people. Treat them the way you would wish to be treated.