Monday, February 20, 2017

Project Update: Changing Philosophical Approach to Compassion and Shame & Politics/Social Justice: Importance of Lobbying and Supporting Nonprofits


I have had a fairly boring week when it comes to the writing side of things. For fiction, I spent most mornings re-formatting and editing for misspellings and punctuation, mostly from typos rather than anything conscious, three pages at a time in the morning.

On the essay side, I made a couple points of progress that followed the direction past points of pointed, nothing new and exciting. Most of my struggle has come to conceptualizing thoughts in my head into actual words to put onto page. With how much we ruminate in our minds, I always surprise myself with the difficulty I have finding words and sentences to articulate myself. Nothing exciting, though.

The most interesting part of the project: Running into a block on conceptualizing the subjective benefits of leading a compassionate, moral, ethical lifestyle versus that of a dominating or, at the most weakest, follow a strong dominator and hoping their reaped benefits fall down on you. The rub comes down to the dominator seemingly not aware of their wretched state, as long they continue to stay in control and don’t lose.

As long as the dominator stays on the winning side of circumstances, they perceive things as working out well. They just need to stay on top and keep winning. Until they fall, a logical argument probably can’t reach them. And even more difficult, they can show compassion to a select group, family, friends, and such, so they can enjoy the fruits of compassion. They can always blame their enemies or people struggling against them for not listening to reason and to “order” to get out of their unfortunate situation of losing.

After all, per my reading into compassion, even a wise compassionate person has some duty to hold back benefits, gifts, money, and other enabling things from people who will take advantage of such help, without learning anything. Couldn’t the dominator see themselves doing the very same thing? In some ways, isn’t good and evil subjective?

My current resort into the matter leads me to pursuing the idea that people that pursue evilness and abuse have an addiction because of shame. I now turn to the recovery approach as a way of show how evil and abusiveness lead to self destructiveness by not acknowledging shame and pursuing activities to avoid dealing with that shame.

After some preliminary research, I put a hold at the Chicago Public Library on Healing the Shame that Binds You by John Bradshaw. Can’t say I know how well Bradshaw will hold up to academic scrutiny, but the few sections in the book compel me to read more once the book reaches my local branch. We’ll just have to see what happens there.

POLITICAL/SOCIAL JUSTICE THOUGHTS

I’ll just jump into the Tweets and make relevant comments where appropriate.









Click on link below to have more control over how to see this shout out and to check out the organization I’ve donated to, Youth Outreach Services:

Receiving this shout out after setting a monthly donation of just $4.50 feels pretty cool, but it triggers a connection in my mind to an article I read earlier in the week. The article mainly talked about how the Left has little, if any control, over the Executive and Legislative branches of the US government. Like my conclusion a few weeks ago, that leaves the Left the Judiciary branch to keep the good fight going for the American Spirit and to protect the Constitution.

This particular article brought up this topic in the context of the Right making attacks on the environment, most particularly in the form of the Legislative Branch and Scott Pruitt, Trump’s pick to head the EPA who believes debate should continue to see how much humanity contributes to the “impact” on Climate Change. I forget the particular article I saw earlier this weekend, but it mainly focused on the Legislative Branch looked to remove regulations on coal mining operations disposing of their waste, which includes a lot of mercury. It pretty much comes down to saying they have no problem with coal companies throwing mercury, a hazardous substance, into rivers and other forms of our drinking water.

National Geographic does a great job in this article of illustrating the importance of the EPA in improving the state of our environment and how the gutting of the EPA can really destroy of the state of all our health and our enjoyment of this Earth.

One other illustration from my own experience/thinking. I’ve always wondered about seeing a lot of Asian people wearing face masks like we see surgeons wear. For the longest time, I thought it had to do with trying to avoid getting a contagious disease, whether something as simple as a cold, flu, or something super serious that could kill you quick.

As I’ve learned over the last month or so from hearing news stories about China trying to fix their own environment from being so disgusting, people wear the masks to keep from breathing pollution into their airways and lungs. Interested in having to wear a face mask or gas mask like that everyday to prevent cancer, emphysema, COPD, or any other airway disease we’ve been taught to not smoke to avoid? After all that work of getting cigarettes out of our mouths and making it illegal to have cigarettes in places of work and public spaces, why do we want to pollute our environment so we can expose ourselves to risks that will likely causes us to get these horrible diseases?

Not to mention Climate Change pretty much changing the whole planet to make it inhospitable to human life and any other life that lives in the same environmental conditions. Smart, real smart. . ..

All that being said, one part of the article from earlier this week hit me hard: The Sierra Club files lawsuits against the government, when it can find standing, to defend the environment where and when possible. I never really thought about the importance of non-profits, such as the Sierra Club, the ACLU, and others for filing lawsuits to protect the environment, liberties, rights, and other amazing things that represent the Spirit of the Constitution and America. Honestly, I just saw them as organizations that seeked to change the hearts and minds of everyday people and maybe some amount of lobbying. But lawsuits? Really? Cool!

Which brings me to my big argument about the importance of us contributing and volunteering to nonprofits such as these. These organizations are OUR lobbying organizations. The Right has the NRA, Focus on the Family, and the list of organizations becomes so numerous it becomes exhausting just to find a comprehensive list. The Left really needs to organize more to either have more of these think tanks and organizations for the People or work harder to educate the People what these organizations do and how the People can contribute and help them. If anything, the media and entertainment industry has done an amazing job of parodying Greenpeace enough to make it difficult to take Left organizations seriously.

But now, more than ever, we need to take organizations on the Left seriously and support them, at least the ones that have good organization, understand the government, and know to take action that will be taken seriously and have results. The rich donors on the Right might have their organizations that get their bidding done. The rich donors might have more money than the rest of the population of the word, which is probably more tied up in illiquid investments and land than in donating to these types of organization.

Ever since 2000, though, when I could participate more in politics than ever before, candidates for President that go to the People for donations rather than to big donations from rich people, these candidates keep breaking records for fundraising and can end up building up war chests that rival candidates depending on rich people for their campaign funds, putting together dinners with huge ticket prices, making personal appearances for big ticket prices, and getting big donations but from fewer people.

The two candidates who had the best chance for making it with support from the everyday people, Howard Dean and Bernie Sanders, either made a single mistake that embarrassed them or simply joined a party in a bid to have a chance to become candidate for President since we have political system dominated by two parties. They didn’t have a shortage of funds. They simply got too excited or tried playing the game on a team that they only joined because it was the only way to stand a chance, not as a sincere supporter of that team. Looking back, I can’t see either of them as great candidates, even on the appropriateness of their principles to the times.

Nonetheless, they both did a great job raising funds from the People. We the People, have to open our wallets, time, and efforts, especially at this time, to these nonprofits and lobbying organizations that align with our interests. Directing money toward election campaigns of the President, our Senators, our Representatives, and other governmental positions, from Federal to State to local, isn’t enough to make the world into a better place that doesn’t abuse its people, the environment, and other factors that make the world a worse place. We also have to support our causes, whether with time or money, whatever resources we have available to point toward our causes to make the world bearable, healthy, enjoyable, and just a good and better place to be.

Important Disclosure: Not everyone has the resources to direct in this fashion, and that’s fine. You have to help yourself before you can help others. You have to feed yourself before you can help feed others. You have to hold compassion for yourself to feel compassion toward others (even though having compassions for others can also help you feel care and compassion for yourself).

In the end, though, provide support in the many ways we can to the causes we care about will help mold the world into a better place. The rich and the Right have their lobbyists and lawyers. We have to band together our resources to support our lobbyists and lawyers, especially if we want to survive through the next two to eight years, maintain the good we have accomplished by 2016/17, and maybe, if we’re lucky, possibly improve things here and there.

After all, same-sex marriage finally became legal throughout the United States through a court case, not through Executive Order or direct Legislation. Also, Nixon, who didn’t want the EPA, was forced to make it happen through the direct action of The People. As the article I linked to in a Tweet below shows, we might retain most, if not all, the Affordable Care Act because The People have found it more beneficial rather than damaging. We The People, in this Democracy of ours in the United States, can make things happen. We just need to know how to make them happen, and in this day and age, we’ll make them happen through the appropriate nonprofits, lobbyists, and lawyers.

We can do it. We must hold onto hope. We must keep a hold onto the audaciousness that hope brings us. Without sarcasm: Thank you, Obama, for showing us the audaciousness of hope.



Sunday, February 12, 2017

Project Update (Fairly Routine with Bad Elevator Speech Practice) & This Week in Tweeting Politics & Social Justice


I didn’t get much done for the fiction side of things Thursday and Friday. The nights from Wednesday to Friday, I went out late and had fun. I ended up Thursday and Friday mornings getting ready for work, eating, then running out to work.

Monday to Wednesday mornings, though, I edited the first few pages for small typos and format consistency. Nothing big, but it makes progress.

The party I went to Thursday night (the wife’s birthday), though, I had a good challenge: someone asked me what my novel is about. I didn’t have a good elevator speech, and I even made a comment about that shortcoming. The question came from another amateur writer. They emphasized with that issue, saying they had trouble with their elevator speeches and didn’t have a good one for their writing yet, either. On a good note, though, my scatterbrained answer still piqued their interest.

Surprised by the effectiveness of my outlining during lunch hour at work. Filled up a page handwritten. Still working on the introduction. Nonetheless, I feel articulate, organized, and comfortable so far. I can’t say doing outlines on this paper felt so good in the past. Hopefully this effort doesn’t just give me false hope that I have gotten many times over the last 20 years while working on this novel and project.

My evening calendar looks open for the next week. Hopefully my morning fiction work will make more progress.

POLITICAL/SOCIAL JUSTICE THOUGHTS

This week in politics and social justice feels like a mixed bag for me. The emotions, big status updates on social media (mostly Facebook), and the accumulation of articles to read on Facebook has gotten exhausting. I feel some political/compassion/justice/solicitation fatigue.

Honestly, though, if Facebook allowed us to plug our main feed or notification feed into a RSS reader, I would have reached something of an ideal world of content consumption. Stupid dollar getting in the way of me becoming a better, less stressed out content consumer.

This status makes me unhappy. It feels complacent as if I’m falling into the trap that we all hoped we wouldn’t fall into: pushing hard for social justice with high energy for some time after the injustice(s) occurring then growing too tired to do anything more. I want to do more, but I have little ideas how to do so. Regular life and fast-paced politics combining to make things exhausting and distracting, and the unjust politicians pushing more and more injustice.

Someone made an interesting remark about stress at the party Thursday night: high amounts of stress can induce symptoms in people similar to Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). If true, it provides me hope that if I reduce stress, things can feel better for me. Also, though, crap, those symptoms won’t help me to improve my material status to reach a point where I can reduce stress in a productive manner. Ack!

At the same time, good to see that the judiciary branch met one of its remits: acting as a check to balance out Trump’s craziness. The side of Constitutional justice, compassion, kindness, and appreciation does have some amount of power still left in the US Federal government. Not much, but some amount. I would enjoy seeing more cases with standing based on the Fourteenth Amendment.

So I appreciate at least one super crazy push of Trump has met some slow down. Plenty of other shameful things have occurred with the Cabinet approvals. Nonetheless, other than the Senator Warren issue, most of what has occurred there met at least my predictions of the week or two before. Not great to have happen, but doubted anything serious could be done about them. As much as citizens should fight against the appointments, that drama didn’t exhaust me as much as the “Muslim Ban” stuff from the two weeks previous.

I hope this upcoming week maintains a slower pace in all my directions of attention.

All that said, my week in politics/social justice thought went this way on Twitter:












Sunday, February 05, 2017

Project Update: Done Transcribing, Editing Ugly Essay Outline, and Political & Social Justice Thoughts in the Form of Tweets


I expect to embed a bunch of Tweets this week. It works better for my ruminations on politics and social just this week, but I’ll start with one about writing:


Despite going to bed late last week, I produced some pretty good text. I finished up transcribing the latest chapter this week. Plan to go back to previous chapters to change the name of a character and re-format some parts for consistency (and hopefully cut some words/pages since I get verbose). The character name change comes about because de facto, I combined two characters to one, one that I had always been present and another one that existed in a draft before 2000. A gender/sex change back to the excised character should serve the story better.

I finished an outline draft for one the essays that I had done piecemeal during lunch hours at work. You read right, I draft outlines. Looking back on outlines that I’ve done on this essay going back about ten years, I think I have fifteen outlines plus various other scribblings on paper and in notebooks. I printed out this current outline and brought it on a spa trip yesterday with plans to take a hack at it while taking a break from relaxing. I, unfortunately, I didn’t take a break from relaxing. I’ll have to see what I can do during lunch hours with it using pen and paper rather than a mobile a phone. Something about pen and paper gives me a sense of flexibility and freedom.

Looking back at the rough draft of my last essay, the one that acts as exemplar for the things I want to do with this set of essays, it makes me jealous of myself all that time ago. It has a good basis and understanding of the topic. Thing is, I spent a good long while on that one, too, something like 3-4 years.

Another advantage I had with it: I had only two sources for it, and the author of those two sources wrote them as an accomplished sociologist working on a case study. Also, he had an argument. Even though I came up with a structure that had little to do with those case studies, I could write my essay as an alternative interpretation for how things ended, with some refutation of the hypothesis they had made.

For this essay, I have a lot of sources and none of them make a clear, thought out argument of why events ended up as they did. It requires a lot more original thought on my part. I’ve got some general ideas in my head, but I have yet a way to figure out how to put them down on paper in a comprehensible and compelling way. In my head, my ideas make sense, but I need to make a logical structure and also relate them to the actual events. At least I need to do so enough to make a satisfactory rough draft.

Hopefully that doesn’t require re-reading sources too much. I plan to do that more when I restart the writing process for second run throughs of drafts. Right now, I really just want to get rough drafts for all six essays, so I can get a sense of accomplishment from that.

POLITICAL/SOCIAL JUSTICE THOUGHTS

As mentioned at the start, this blog entry will be heavy with embedded Tweets. I did it a lot this week, and I think I owe myself some sleep tonight.

TRUMP’S SUITABILITY FOR DUTY AS POTUS VS HIS NARCISSISM









BEGINNING OF THE WEEK AFTER THE INITIAL "MUSLIM BAN" FALLOUT & EMOTIONS & HOPE FLYING




ANGER AFTER READING ABOUT THE "HATE SPEECH IS FREE SPEECH" MOVEMENT PRETTY MUCH LED BY MILO YIANNOPOULOS


ENJOYED READING ABOUT ECONOMICALLY PROGRESSIVE GOVERNING LEADING TO ECONOMIC GROWTH AND BETTER LIVING CONDITIONS


DAMN! BARACK OBAMA'S FAREWELL SPEECH REMINDS ME THAT WE'RE THE HOPE WE CAN BELIEVE IN


RESEARCH AND ARGUMENT OF BELIEF AND HOPE THAT TRUMP'S ELECTION AN ABERRATION OF THE GREAT RECESSION AND ELECTORAL DEMOGRAPHIC TEMPORARY SHIFT








This last point strikes a string that I'd really like to explore and learn more about. During the 2016 Election, we heard mostly about the white "hard" working class. If we heard about people of color, we pretty much heard about them as monolithic communities and which candidate they would support, as a default, and maybe how the candidates reacted to Black Lives Matter (BLM).

BLM addressed the hot button ticket of police killing black people with little provocation, but there's more to black people, other people of color, and other communities than who they support and one issue at a time. Heck, different parts of those communities have their own interests and causes that they want to stand and fight for, whether it be for police not shooting, being treated as equals, getting representation, having the opportunities for jobs, getting opportunities for education, helping to deal with the vagaries of survival and having the opportunities to expand their horizons about the world, and so much more.

People of color are human and have as much variety as whites and other majority populations. In some ways, these communities might have more variety to them, too.

And as I have heard from a few podcasts and read in the news (I AM NOT A GREAT EXAMPLE OF HOW TO LEARN ABOUT THESE THINGS), Obama didn't do the best job providing these communities such opportunities, either. The biggest hypothesis of why this occurred has to do with his expending his political capital on trying to get along with the GOP and finding compromises that worked for everyone. It didn't work. Mitch McConnell, after all, vowed to make Obama a "do-nothing President" and try to prevent Obama from doing anything. Ironically, Obama succeeded at his greatest accomplishments when he stopped trying to compromise then pushed through his through whatever means he had available to him.

I'll admit, I voted for Obama back in 2008 because I read about him being so good at reaching across the aisle and getting things done that way in the Senate. The GOP really disappointed me in the barriers they put up against Obama. I guess this taught me needed cynicism for how US politics works and that the idea of compromise and working together accomplishes nothing. We need a President with a good, moral, ethical, honorable agenda and who knows how to put it through by any means necessary. It definitely helps to have the other branches of government, too.

We especially need to have that President in office for nominating Justices to protect human rights and the good fight for down the road. I'll post more Tweets on that matter below.

HAPPY FOR NORMALITY ON SOCIAL MEDIA AGAIN AND LINGUISTIC SHOTS AT TRUMP




JOYFUL ABOUT THE JUDICIAL BRANCH DOING ITS JOB PROTECTING THE SPIRIT OF THE US AND THE CONSTITUTION




Well that about covers my thoughts on politics and social justice issues this week. It didn't feel like so much of a roller coaster ride as the week before, which felt calming and unsettling at the same time. Calming because it felt like our nation returned to some level of sanity. Unsettling because I've done little to help the good fight other than spread news, thoughts, and donate money toward good causes and causes that work to fight the good fight. I aim to get life and brains more organized to do more to fight the good fight.



Saturday, January 28, 2017

Project(s) Update: We Must Fight Divide and Conquer, We Must Unify (at least The Left Does)


Jump to LINKS OF NOTE

I’ll keep this one short because my emotions and patience feel short.

Transcribed for the novel a couple mornings. Added a few points to an outline for the project essay I’m working on.

Otherwise, oversleeping, work, injury, and the whirlwind of the political climate (both the dumb assery and the truly horrible).

I planned to ruminate on the gaslighting and “divide and conquer” that has occurred since before the primary election, continues to this day, and will only end when we, the people, make it end. The “dividing and conquering” has been source from the Right and Left, radicals, liberals, conservatives, and reactionaries.

My main take away of this is that the Left needs to unify, the people on the side of economic justice need to realize that social justice IS important (or to some people, “Identity Politics”), that everyone on the economic outside want the economic justice battle won (be they white, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, First Nation, no matter their ethnicity or race), allowing the “divide and conquer” to continue its reign will make the economic and social state remain horrible and probably get much much worse (as it is in the here and now), and that the Left needs candidates and people in office that will embody this unity to put a stop to today’s fascism and injustice.

That being said, I posted this Tweet earlier today:



Yes, people have to fight for justice. When possible, that fight must not relent.

Nonetheless, for some, the fight starts with themselves and their body. It doesn’t help that for some people, the state of history and society (small as personal to large as world) has created their self-opponent. Being physically injured sometimes does not help with cognition. Combining the two doesn’t help.

In the end, do the innocent and injured need to defend themselves? Do the fatigued need to push themselves past the point of irreparable harm? Must they push themselves to the point of not being able to help in the future? Do they deserve being shamed for their demons that hold them back, or should they receive support to become a stronger activist in the future? Is it worth the risk of pushing them further deeper into themselves and turn them off? Can they help anyone if they hurt themselves?

No. They need support, propping, and building up. They need kindness, compassion, and appreciation. Honestly, if someone doesn’t have the patience to wait for someone else injured, depressed, anxious, shy, or any other innocent but weak position, they should just move on and work to mobilize people who have the strength to act.

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LINKS OF NOTE:

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Project(s) Update: Exploring Nuances of Kindness and Appreciation within Our Power Dynamics


Jump to LINKS OF NOTE

I had minimal concrete progress in my projects this week:


The end of my week got a little unproductive, though, as a I had a small bike accident. Thursday and Global Warming gifted Chicago with a beautiful warm and little wind day. As I turned off the bike path on way to work, I didn’t pay the best attention as the beautiful weather had it all. The lack of wind also didn’t slow me down.

I hit a patch of ice, back wheel slipped away, then I found myself trying to roll into a defensive ball to avoid hitting my head against a stone wall. Didn’t get close to the wall, thank goodness. Instead, I hit my knee cap and the elbow from the arm I used to break my fall rammed into a rib, two, or three and now feel bruised and a little embarrassed internally. Overall, though, it happens, time to rest a little then move on with life. Thank goodness for OTC painkillers like Ibuprofen and acetaminophen.

My internal debating has had an active time, though. Riding the bike, commuting, and doing some fairly repetitive health insurance service and analytical work allows the ruminating mind some time to think. Same with ironing, laundry, eating, and plenty of life reproductive maintenance activities.

This week, I’ve done some analysis of the language I’ve used in last week’s update and some of my social media updates. I specifically refer to my statements about being kind and compassionate to each other. As a white cis-male who identifies with a heterosexual lifestyle, I fear these words may come off as condescending.

It’s one thing to encourage people that they need to engage in self-care and show themselves kindness and compassion. Many of us feel disappointment in ourselves, frustrated with ourselves, and may see ourselves as failures, mainly because we have the imagination to see where we would like to be, what we would like to do, and even how to get there. Often times, however, we have yet to accomplish our goals, for whatever reason.

I have no problem supporting people by encouraging them to show themselves kindness and not beat themselves up. Life has difficulties and puts barriers in our way. Most of us have had pasts that have beaten us up. Many of us probably go through things everyday where we get beaten up. We want to do everything, but if we keep beating ourselves up for not accomplishing anything and thinking we can’t do anything more, we’ll likely never accomplish anything because we won’t have faith in ourselves. We are our worst critic and enemy.

So, please be kind and compassionate to yourself. Do more than just care for yourself. Let yourself know that it’s OK to have these thoughts, acknowledge them as a part of our automatic mind routines, let them flit and and process through our mind. The more we fight them, the more they will fight back and stronger they will get. Research techniques for working with them, if you don’t have any. In the end, though, we all have the strength and ability to accomplish the things we need and want to do. Acknowledging our urges to beat ourselves up is the first step to letting go of it then learning how to let it pass will help a lot to moving onward onto the things we want to do.

However, I feel my urgings to everyone to “be kind and compassionate” to each other comes off as problematic. First off, many people, whether as individuals or as a group/community, exist in a problematic state where showing kindness and compassion to their abuser or oppressive force will only enable and encourage such horrible behavior. Such behavior and actions might be required for survival, depending on the status of the individual or group, but that behavior and actions should not have the intention of kindness and compassion.

The oppressed and marginalized must remember they only act in these ways for their survival, so one day they may find an opportunity to get out, to fight, and reach a point of independence and health. No one should have to accept their oppression as natural, whether they oppress themselves or someone else does it.

And for those who have broken free of their oppression and marginalization or fight the good fight, they need not show kindness and compassion to those who seek to minimize them for the first time or again, whether consciously or not. No one should have to deal with that shit. At this point, maintaining integrity and dignity is a point of survival, much like maintaining life and health by passive aggressively fighting oppression and marginalization when under another person’s or group’s heel. When coming from below, those on high must be held accountable to human dignity and must earn any kindness and compassion from those below.

I need to use the Explanatory Comma more to clarify with whom I’m directing my words. I direct these words to the people and community with power, privilege, and representation. More specifically, I need to make apparent that I aim my words at other cis-white straight males and those who align with them for the privilege and representation, even the hard-working white people of Middle America and Coal Country.

It comes down to the fact that we hurt ourselves and prevent ourselves from growing happiness and joy in the world and for ourselves. I have no problem making a selfish argument for kindness, compassion, and happiness. I don’t mean just a show of it, either. I mean genuine, sincere kindness, compassion, and appreciation for those unlike ourselves. Such expressions and behavior can even mean learning to shut up, sit back, listen and watch. You can learn a lot by just observing. Heck, even among our own privileged community, we can stand to be quiet and observe each other.

And while sitting back, watching/listening, showing kindness, compassion, and appreciation, doing so in a genuine and sincere fashion means not patronizing, not fetishizing, not putting people unlike yourself on a pedestal, and other ways of making others The Other and/or a Thing, an object. These are people, like yourself. Even saying treating people with “kindness and compassion” feels like patronizing them.

At the same time, care, dignity, respect, integrity, rights, and other words we use everyday feel too status quo, just another way we can sweep things under the rug. . .especially since we can then feel like putting things into a perspective of tit-for-tat. Those with privilege feel attacked when they don’t feel like they’re being treated with dignity, respect, and integrity when they’re being treated that way because they’ve treated marginalized people this way for centuries.

They (we) are receiving a quid pro quo treatment. We treat people like shit, those people will treat us like shit back. And hey, I may even get treated like shit. I may receive it collaterally or, even in this essay, I may say something stupid. If that’s the case, I hope to listen, take the reaction seriously, and adjust my thoughts and behavior.

Honestly, I like seeing happy people, I like seeing all people happy, healthy, receptive, kind, and compassionate. If those with power, privilege, and interact from on high, can gather more enjoyment from propping others up and supporting each other, especially those who need it most, they can get it back, whether it be in kind or by seeing that real power comes from helping, encouraging, seeing the growth of others, and learning from them.

Heck, who knows? Maybe if we all pitch into appreciating each other, we don’t have to work so hard to convince ourselves that we’re worth being appreciated, too.

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LINKS OF NOTE:

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Grieving the Obama's Leaving the White House


Ever since President Obama’s farewell speech about a week ago, I tear up anytime I think about or hear/see something about him or his family. This state of mine specifically started when the President took a moment to thank Michelle and his girls: the moment he took out that cloth to wipe away his tear(s) and the camera focused on Michelle and one of the girls trying to hold themselves together: I think I’m grieving Barack stepping down as President and the Obama family leaving the White House.

By Lawrence Jackson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I’ll mention some of the realistic side of things before pouring praise onto the President. Barack was not a perfect President.

  • He caused a lot of harm in his orders to use drones. Even using drones perfectly still has an unsettling feeling, considering how much discomfort I felt about GWB using shock and awe air strikes to defeat Iraq rather than send ground troops in.
  • Barack has the title of “Deporter in Chief”, even though Trump will take on the title with more gusto.
  • He never seemed to have a good way to address police violence against black people and other people of color. Arguably, though, this problem may have come more from his idealism and general goodness in all people that have passed the line of irredeemable evil.
  • And I bet given more time, more people, and/or more research, a list of many disappointments and features worth censure could be made.
Despite such a list, though, the balance of his accomplishments and failures lean more toward one of the best Presidents of the United States I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. Just some amazing things he accomplished that make me really happy:
I’m sure at least a few people will feel justified to protest against a couple, a few, or all of the above accomplishments I’ve listed. This list provides, to me though, his most unequivocal accomplishments that have bettered this country and have increased the acceptance of more humans into the circle of deserving kind, respectable, and considerate treatment because they are a unique combination of matter, time, events, and consciousness worthy of appreciation.

These policies and appointments just touch the surface of President Obama and his family entering my heart in a way that no Presidential family has. Despite criticism that Michelle received for saying, “For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country, because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback”, I felt what she said when I first heard those words. I feel them even moreso now as I feel that pride fall away into despairing fear because in less than 48 hours, President-elect Trump will take office.

The Obama’s didn’t just give hope lip service. They embodied it and projected it out into the world. Just re-read the accomplishments that I listed above, the expansion of humanity in law and government that they created and the acceptance created. Just some of her initiatives and actions to improve the health and state of being of the American people:
And that’s how much I could find with minimal research. I can only imagine how much more I could find if I looked longer and harder.

I feel like it comes down to this, though: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Robinson Obama feel very much like loving Parents of the United States more than President and First Lady. They sincerely care about the United States and the world, and they did (will do) everything in their power to make it better. They want to boost us up, help us become better, inspire the hope and courage in ourselves, and when things go south, they want to comfort us. Even during times of frustration and disbelief about horrible things, the President showed more disbelief and disappointment than blind anger that would seek to engage in violence or tirades (unlike a soon-to-be-President that many in our country fear).

Along with their inspiration and creating hope, the Presidential had a level of sincerity and a genuine disposition. They let their guard down and showed themselves as real people. President Obama acted as a role model as President seeking to do the best he could, but Barack, Michelle, and their girls provided a role model for family. Barack and Michelle fist bumping, their public displays of affection, their dancing together, their verbal expressions of love and faith in each other. I can’t remember any other Presidential couple showing such public effusiveness and comfort in front of the American people, in a wholesome and supportive, not indecent, way.

I always gave a side eye to people who showed emotion during political campaigns or for the candidates they supported. Fascination with the royalty in England always puzzled me. Barack, Michelle, Malia, and Sasha, however, have contributed to me feeling the kind of emotion and inspiration that role models can give people.

I’m even grateful to feel this sadness about them leaving the White House, even though I expect we’ll see them plenty after this Friday (maybe not right away. . .they can use a vacation!). Maybe they won’t hold any political office, but I have a hard time seeing them stay in the background when the country and world still has far to go for improvement and to be engorged in hope.

Thank you, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. You have provided us a bright star of hope from the top of the world. I hope won’t need the remembrance of your time at the head too much to carry us through the next four to eight years. Even if we don’t, though, I will look back fondly on the years between January 2009 and January 2017 as a time of hope, pride, positivity, and inspiration to more everyday to make the world a better place and spread kindness, compassion, and the broadening of our definition of humanity.

Enjoy your much-deserved vacation. I look forward to seeing you again as a model to aspire toward.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Project(s) Update: Learning About Appreciation and Kindness


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I like the idea of a weekly update for my project(s) on The Lextopia.

I put parenthesis around the the ‘s’ because my “bachelor project” has played the part of an organizing principle for my behavior, beliefs, and action in the world. Many in my life probably think that approach to the “bachelor project” doesn’t help me. Not finishing the project gets in the way of me getting my bachelors degree, which gets in the way of my progressing career-wise and in societal symbols of maturity.

To that, I say that I actually have a fair amount of personal growth to do for maturity, which includes learning who I am, the details of my beliefs (I have this ingrained issue with ‘doing good for the sake of doing good’), accepting them, then figuring out how to execute them in the world. I’ll admit, I could choose a more luxurious way to progress through the world. Also, I have a privileged history and background that allows me this approach.

Taking everything into account, though, my current path has more benefit than cost overall. Also, my internal error checker, conscience, ruminating dialogue, obsessive sense of integrity won’t leave me alone about THIS topic and doing so on a level of perfectionism. Adopting verbiage from Design Thinking, I’m accepting that the drive to resolve my project(s) on these terms as fact, not a problem.

Strangely enough, my current branching stream of consciousness and research hopefully has a twin benefit:

  • Providing a major premise for my project, one that has been bothering me for the last 16+ years, as in, I’ve believed it but didn’t know how to discuss it
  • Understanding this premise should me calm down my perfectionist tendencies
Before getting deeper into that, though, quick concrete update (from a Facebook post): 4 months of writing semi-regularly 10-20 minutes before work yields "21" pages of handwritten 4th chapter. Working on 4th 1st draft rewrite [of novel]. Add on for now: I’ve transcribed a couple pages during the same morning 10-20 minutes. Enjoying this re-read. I like handwriting on super rough draft then transcribing onto the computer. It provides an enjoyable experience, allows me to note to self ideas to integrate and take, and gives me the chance to do mini-tweaks as I do a run through.

Also, I’ve re-visited the idea of releasing the novel as some type of income creating serial. I don’t think I have enough confidence in myself to release it in parts, though. I’ve done so many changes based on what to expect down the road after reaching that point, world building could get weird as I change things after learning more about the world, and I’m just uncomfortable setting things into stone earlier in the story then blocking going where I had originally planned later in the story (instead of weighing the issues on both ends).

Another way to put it: I don’t have my techniques and tricks down enough to plan ahead for details. I figure completing a novel or more and getting them published will help me get the down while also building confidence.

And some progress on the essay/intellectual basis of the project on utopianism, which brings us back to my current stream of consciousness and research this week. The last few months, I moved from trying to understand how shame contributes a lot to antisocial behavior to how compassion contributes to pro-social behavior and psychological health. Apparently, per Paul Gilbert Ph.D’s introduction in The Compassionate Mind: A New Approach to Life’s Challenges, researchers often take this path from shame to compassion.

This book has provided me a great resource for both my project and personal development. It has done a lot for helping me understand the phrase “Be kind [or compassionate] to yourself.” I don’t treat myself bad as in insulting myself, saying that I’m worthless, or anything like that. Rather, I’m hard on myself for not accomplishing the things I want to do or feeling satisfied with my “progress” in my life. Seeing the mounds to do on my task lists doesn’t help, either (both personal, household, and professionally). Thrown on knowing that I need connection and a social life, too! And also feeling the compulsion for social and political activism. . .Being a perfectionist is hard and tiring!

Installing ruminations of “Be kind to yourself” into the brain helps. Seeing it bout it out and infect perfectionism has its comedy value, too. Perfectionism goes into so many loops when it tries to perfect taking it easy and chilling out.

Seeing the personal benefits of compassion, both pointed inward and outward, has made me more comfortable with my argument that compassion/kindness should make for an indisputable argument for a rational person. How to properly apply that compassion outwardly, however, tripped me up. Another Facebook post of mine this week sent me down this road:
Couple years ago, read article with gay man saying that he didn't want just tolerance, he wanted [appreciation]. [Inspiring] sentiment.
These words fall into line with a conclusion from one of my project essays that gives me a lot of pride compared to the other essays I’ve written so far. It also falls in with psychological theory from Rollo May and a lot of discussion out there about “hard working rural white voters” and radicalization of people.

The quote and my conclusion in that essay doesn’t feel complete. They feel problematic, actually. For one, the actions taken by radicalized people because they aren’t receiving appreciation goes to far. Then, sourced in my universal acceptance/belief that appreciation is every human’s need, it’s hard to argue against privileged people fighting to keep their privilege and marginalized people fighting to get appreciation, too. Does the drive to receive a pro-social action need to lead to antisocialness, anger, violence, and other horrible things, both for those receiving an abundance of it and those with a dearth of it? Based on that, we’re in a Hobbesian State of Nature.

Then throw on there the sincerity aspect of throwing appreciation and kindness everywhere. I’ve discovered that I have a hangup about receiving personal benefit of showing kindness to the world. I have something of a martyr complex about it. It kind of goes along with the age old criticism I have with believing in God and accepting Jesus because you will go to Heaven. Is someone believing and accepting because they want to get into Heaven or do they REALLY believe and accept God and Jesus because of what they stand for?

So I’m in the middle of the sincerity of appreciation stream of consciousness. Is someone just engaging in appreciating things for their own benefit or because they REALLY appreciate something. Should someone fake until they make it? What if it’s something that really shouldn’t be appreciated, like killing and other horrible things? What if it’s something that doesn’t spark interest? What if someone doesn’t have an interest in appreciating something other than to make the world a better place, whether for themselves or some martyr reason? Can appreciation become disrespectful and fetishizing? What if someone has been taught that a perfectly harmless thing is horrible? Or what if something really does have conflicting good and bad values one way or the other? What if being kind and appreciative sacrifices your identity, integrity, and body? When is that OK? And is it OK to enjoy being kind and appreciative? Can someone lose the privilege of receiving appreciation and kindness or does being a unique combination of space, time, and biology enough to receive kindness and appreciation?

So yeah, that’s where I am with my internal dialogue, views on social justice, and my project(s).

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Saturday, January 07, 2017

We're Embedded in a Cycle of Horrible Humanity & Need to Work to Get Out


In the studies for my project/book, the big thing I learned but always knew is how the problems in our come from individuals being embedded in the flow & momentum of life. Individuals just react rather than examine the situations occurring. In this embeddedness, it's easier in the moment to strike out to survive or to gain an upper hand.

We all have notions & talk the talk that we believe peace, compassion & other good things will make the world better. More often than not, though, our instinct & first thoughts are to look out for number 1, our family, our race, our gender, our country, etc.

This survival/ambition instinct only furthers the cycles we're embedded. To rise above it, we need to stop, examine, learn develop wisdom, develop insight, develop empathy, develop compassion, develop forethought. Otherwise we will destroy the world, the environment, each other & ourselves. Break out of cycles, we can develop joy & real appreciation.

I'm not religious, but I think St Francis of Assissi & others knew the importance of this.

I have privilege, but I have instincts & thoughts of survival that get in my way of taking real risks to improve the world. Some people & populations need to focus on survival & compassion for self before acting outward or a mixed approach.

I need to act where & when I can to pull out of the cycle & encourage others to do the same. That often means those I need to act where & when I can to pull out of the cycle & encourage others to do the same. That often means those like me who will listen to me but not to those not like me. It's hard work on myself first then outward.

But the first step is to pull myself & ourselves out of this cycle of angry despair & fear to see its absurdity & destructiveness.

That has probably been my biggest holdup with finishing my novel/project. . .finding out convincing confirmation & argument that this cycle sucks & another approach will benefit us with more joy & appreciation. More work to do.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Time to Act (or at least plan)


I haven't posted in nearly a year. Partly I haven't because time had become scarce.

Mostly, though, I haven't posted anything because I feared hurting people with my words because of ignorance. All the good intentions in the world mean nothing if the end result means good people get hurt, physically or emotionally.

I had started writing a literary criticism that touched upon population that wasn't my own. The path it took had some interesting points, if it stayed within that population. It drifted into another population in way that would likely cause hurt. I axed that criticism because I didn't find it worthwhile anymore. It would enter into major disrespect.

This experience sent me into analysis paralysis. I felt that I needed to learn more now before I could write about difficult topics without causing offense. I also couldn't think up any other relevant topics to post about.

The US Election of 2016, however, has inspired me to act more and write more. It has fired me up, all the hatemongering and fearmongering. I need to do something to help turnaround the collapse of global civilization and the prejudice out there between populations.

For the last week, I've unleashed plenty of raw anger on social media. Following that path will only contribute to the problem. Strategized and/or concerted hatemongering and fearmongering have heightened the horrible sides of society.

I need hone and temper my anger, use it smarter to actually improve the world. Who knows where this will all take me and the world and how fast it will go?

I can't sit idly by, though. The field calls me as I get off the bench on the sidelines. The time has come to act, which can include learning and self care.

The difference between then and now, though: the sense of urgency.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Doctor & Audience Needs Some Time to Mourn & Find Ourselves Again


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The other night, the news that Steven Moffat had one more Christmas Special and a season left of Doctor Who hit the Internet. The news also provides notification that the next Doctor Who episode will be the 2016 Christmas Special and the next full season will happen in 2017. Moffat's position as showrunner ends then.

The audience has gone through what boils down to two deaths of very close companions to The Doctor. These two characters mean more to the Doctor than just the characters themselves. Their exiting his life permanently means that he has returned to a solitary life.

Sure, the Doctor has friends out there, like Vastra, Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, Osgood, Martha and Mickey, Captain Jack and whoever else he might have out there. As much as they mean to him, though, he never lets his emotional guard down the way that he has with the Pond Family or even Clara Oswald. Even with Rose, the full Time Lord Doctor never lets down his emotional dampers to express his true love for her.

I think a one-year hiatus will do good for the show dramatically. Even after that, having the Doctor travel alone will would do him and the audience some good (even though apparently 2017 will bring us a new companion). The Doctor has some major mourning and finding himself to do.

Ever since The Silence in the Library, the Doctor's emotional and identity fate has become intertwined with the Pond family. Imagine the surprise of the audience, though, when Moffat actually fulfills the demands of the plot/world building hooks that he leaves laying around.

Clara becomes a footnote. An important one that resolves some major plot points, but nonetheless a footnote crutch to the Doctor avoiding something he has to face. The Husbands of River Song turns on our head the assumption that River and the Doctor have their night at the Singing Towers of Darillium before The Snowmen.

After all, in the DVD extra for Series Six, Last Night, River tells another version of the 11th Doctor that they are going to see the Singing Towers of Darillium. Both Doctors have a downcast moment, both thinking it is the last night.

I like to think that this scene occurs during Let's Kill Hitler, during the length of time that just regenerated Mels poisons the Doctor. He wears the same tux. The Doctor, seeing no way out of death, he fetches River for their last night.

I have no idea what causes him to change his mind, to understand that he somehow makes it through the events of Let's Kill Hitler, but he delays their final night again. Maybe she mentions something about an event he had yet to experience or she makes a comment about the tux. Does she ruminate about him wearing it the first time they met and make a comment about how that was a difficult one but everyone made it through somehow? I don't know, but I imagine something like that.

The Husbands of River Song communicates to the audience that the Doctor delays seeing River once again when they part sometime after The Angels Take Manahattan. Not a surprising reaction for a man who has lost his closest friend, the woman who, in many ways, he has grown into maturity with, having met Amy Pond as a child soon afterregenerating. She also acts somewhat as a mother figure, in some ways.

Losing River means accepting the loss of Amy and that formative part of himself. He needs to develop his own identity and complete his mourning. Avoiding River after that point means that he can put off the hard work of mourning and rebuilding himself.

The Husbands of River Song helps make so much more sense of their parting scene in The Name of the Doctor. The ghost of River knows that he won't see her again until he regenerates. She needs to let him know it hurts, though, something like that is worth expressing. Who doesn't wish they could express the pain from a relationship or interaction after it ended? Who doesn't want that kind of closure?

The Doctor's feeling that he has a "duty of care" to Clara provides context to him delaying seeing River again, from Clara's time as the Impossible Girl to the control freak to her death. Seeing her die twice makes a good explanation for his passion to keep her alive, going as far to make grand speeches about it to trying to break the Rules of Time to keep her alive. After all, doesn't he do the same thing as the Time Lord Victorius for someone he had less connection with?

Trying to stop Clara's death, no matter the cost, now feels like the desperate struggle of the Doctor avoiding his fate. Accepting the death of intimate family then moving on with life with one's own identity is scary. The Doctor doesn't want to accept the responsibility and have to face the existential void of having to find new meaning.

If anything, having this psychodrama continue from one regeneration to the next feels the most peculiar. Then again, upon witnessing the death of a stranger that Doctor knows will become one of his most intimate relationships feels peculiar, too. Such a thing will stay with someone, especially when the sacrificor does it for the other's future. Could the parallel have escaped either of them when Clara jumps into the Doctor's grave/timeline.

The Pond era of the Doctor's life has ended. He may not have to mourn Clara since he has forgotten her. Frankly a lot of the audience also may not care enough to mourn for Clara since they never liked her.

Myself, I prefer her as the Impossible Girl than the control freak. The control freak could have worked just fine if the writing transitioned better between the two versions of her. I have a hard time accepting that the Clara in The Day of the Doctor became the control freak starting in The Time of the Doctor. Showing the transition could have helped there.

Having a year off will help take the edges off the ends of Clara and River (even though both have hooks enough to return if the writers want them to do so). Some of the audience needs to do some of their own mourning. It sounds silly to say it. It is just a TV show, after all!

The world of Doctor Who has been around for more than 50 years, though, whether in the form of television, audio dramas or the written form. Paul McGann may have acted in only two episodes of TV (and one of them only a few minutes long), but the 8th Doctor has affected tons of fans through the Big Finish Audio Dramas.

Even New Who has been on for nearly 10 years. People can't help but make emotional connections to fictitious characters that have lasted this long and even to a few of their ancillary characters. New Who makes this connection especially so as the Doctor has displayed more emotions and vulnerability than the cantakerous patriarch of the TARDIS in Classic Who. He has become easier for the audience to connect with.

A year off may not provide enough transition and mourning, though. As with the transition between the Impossible Girl and the control freak not having enough dramatic play out, the Doctor moving onto another companion too quick might not give enough, either.

Doctor Who has done well transitioning from the tragic loss of companions to taking on a new companion. After Rose's exit in Doomsday, Donna helps the Doctor focus a little and gave him an empathic ear.

Martha doesn't have the best run compared to other companions. Nonetheless, she had a reaffirming exit that may have come as a loss to the Doctor, but he can always visit her. Donna's all but death occurs as the Doctor comes to terms that he militarizes people in place of him actually taking on the responsibility, then the David Tennant Specials helps provide a buffer.

For all intents and purposes, the loss of Amy and Rory hasn't come to its full end. I put Amy's exit in a similar category as Martha's, one of reaffirmation where she exits by her own choice and for her own interests, not by circumstances killing her. She has the choice to abandon Rory to the past, but chooses to go to him. Her heart truly lies with him. It ends well for Amy and Rory.

The Doctor's reaction to Amy's exit leaves one of the worst tastes in my mouth than this show has ever put there. The Doctor acts so childish. He should have more maturity. He's the Doctor!

As the show has shown, he never truly deals with that loss. Does trying not to militarize friends apparently have the effect of making the Doctor more vulnerable and open to more feeling and pain than he has let himself show on broadcast TV.

Maybe Moffat will pull off the Doctor's mourning and transition well in the 2016 Christmas Special. I have my doubts, but he has dealt with most other plot hooks that he left hanging about. Only the hybrid hook possibly remains, but debate has occurred whether that one has already resolved or not. He could have left enough room for someone help him transition and get some focus.

I don't like the idea of him getting a full time companion during the Christmas episode, though. It feels too early.

I like the idea of the Doctor not having a full time companion for Series Ten. From media reports, it sounds like Capaldi will likely exit after Series Ten. The part of the Doctor has proven physically grueling, especially on the knees. Even Matt Smith complained about all the running and physicality doing a number on his knees.

Capaldi's two seasons hasn't felt like two seasons of time. He has had some bright spots as the Doctor, especially his speech at the end of The Zygon Inversion and his performance throughout Heaven Sent.

Still, he hasn't FELT like the Doctor yet, at least not like his own Doctor yet. Even Tennant, the only other New Who Doctor who had the same companion after regeneration, came into his own as the Doctor by the end of his first series.

Capaldi has played the Doctor well. Donning old Doctor's wardrobes has had its cute points, but it doesn't feel like he has come into his own as the Doctor. This lack of coming into the character has made the last series feel like they've just rushed by.

The Doctor's avoiding mourning the Pond family has probably contributed to this situation. Capaldi hasn't felt like he has come into his own because the 12th Doctor still hasn't come into his own.

Now, though, he has little choice but to do so. At least if he doesn't get stuck in an inward depressive cycle. Also continued grim darkness could do the show some disservice. The audience can only take so much. More rompy fun would help the show after so many years of grim dark.

If the Doctor can get through believable mourning during the year hiatus and a Christmas episode, great! I have the feeling it will take a little longer, though.

His functional resolution of mourning Rose doesn't feel to have reached its fruition until Martha told him she couldn't be around him. If not for Martha, he may not have even completed his mourning until he regenerated.

People never really get over the loss of a loved one. Being buried in loss has a part in the process of mourning. Nonetheless, people go through a process. It can end in a positive light or end up with someone stuck in their mourning. Both designations can have believable portrayals and both have a place on TV.

The audience has already seen the Doctor wallow in halted mourning. It lasts a long time and weighs on the patience. In real life, sensitivity to someone in this state can matter a lot. So much prolonged reality doesn't always have its place on television. At the same time, process instead of instant end doesn't provide satisfaction.

However it happens, though, whether the Doctor chooses to live agan during the Christmas Special, at some point in Series 10 or at the end, the audience deserves to go through that journey with him. I hope we get this experience.

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