Tag Archives: connection

Political Heartburn

Feeling the Bern

Flames leap with each beat

up my throat

 

How can so many

hate

   Progress

Defeat

Every step countered

 

They don’t wave me over in the lot

I’m not of their Lot

They smell the liberal sprinkling of salt

Imagine me burning

Imagine us flailing

What’s left when all that’s left is anger

and entertainment

My chest is one match from explosion

Apart

Together

Tired of the same

Begging for change

It shall come

From whom?

For whom?

The future is now

See the light

Feel the creeping cold

 

nuclear possibility

 

Who causes Armageddon?

Who brings Heaven?

 

You.

 

Me.

 

We.

Blooming Society Sunday

A bloom is a small idea of how to improve our world.
Tend the garden of humanity with me by blogging with your own idea on any Sunday.
If you do, feel free to pingback here so we can keep the conversation going.

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Today’s Bloom: Plant a Tree

Trees have always felt like a refuge to me. They’re the cathedrals of nature. Walking amongst them is guaranteed to impart a sense of belonging in the world at large. Maybe it’s because a tree can become home to literally hundreds of creatures. Maybe it’s because we didn’t climb down from them all that long ago.

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There is a tree just outside of where I live.


Well, there was.

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A few of the tree’s branches were beaten by storms. Its roots were grasping at the earth beneath a utility box. Its existence had become inconvenient.

When I saw the orange paint streak of death on its trunk, my heart sank. It’s been a few weeks now. A tree-like bush that grows pink flowers has taken its place.

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There are more of these elsewhere on the property. They’re pretty, but it’s rare to see an insect on their branches. The leaves they grow are sparse. The shade they offer is weak.

The entire plant sways in the wind like a child learning to walk. It will never learn to stand on solid ground, the grip of its roots is too weak. I don’t imagine its tendrils will ever wrap around wires. It will never grow strong or tall. Its branches will never dent a car. It will never offer refuge and will rarely be called home.

The demolition of the former tree ripped the grass from the ground. So, the green and yellow blades were replaced with dainty squares of pre-grown grass. The seams left behind by this unnatural planting have started to fill in. In the city, nature takes what it can get.

I live in a state where temperatures in the summer are expected to reach and hover around Fahrenheit’s triple digits. I live on a planet with a finite source of drinkable water — a planet where people routinely do not have access to clean water, let alone drinkable. Yet, every day I see concrete being watered as inept sprinklers fail to spray the precious liquid on grass that will never stay green anyway.

Even in the massive metropolis where I reside, there are stretches of highway that cut through open fields. But every time I travel them, I notice the open spaces are shrinking. ‘Land for Sale’ signs are the orange paint of meadows.

I recently saw a wild sunflower patch flattened. What replaced it? A parking lot for a hotel. Want to know how many hotels were already standing in a one block radius? Three.

I’m not against cities. I live in the fourth largest metropolitan area in the United States. I throw no stones. Still, I think to most of us, this massive and invasive urbanization feels wrong. Humanity’s main problems stem from choosing hubris over harmony.

Planting a tree is reaching a hand out to Mother Nature. I just hope she’ll take it.

The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.
-Chinese Proverb

Get 10 free trees from the Arbor Day Foundation
Apply for tree seedlings from the National Wildlife Federation
Learn how to plant a tree

“History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” -James Joyce

By Xetobyte

I am from Texas, but I can’t recall ever having called myself a Texan.

I am from the United States of America, but I rarely identify as American.

One of the high-schools I attended was named after Robert E. Lee. While it was our mascot, I’ve never claimed to be a Rebel.

I was raised without patriotism and never wanted to embrace it. My lineage and birthplace are accidents of my birth. Still, the accidental nature of the life I was born into does not exempt me from examining history.

In junior high, I had a history teacher that taught me that history was really “HIS Story”. HIS being God. There was no need to explain which one. My teacher was clearly referring to the big white spirit guy in the sky. He also said that the Civil War wasn’t actually about slavery. Then we all watched Denzel Washington get whipped in Glory.

It was a weird class. I sat in the back, next to the first friend I made at that school. In fact, it was one of my favorite classes. The middle-aged, obviously Republican, leader of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, church-going, married with two kids, cis white man that taught it humored me.

Recently freed from religion, but also removed from all my friends, I was just beginning to form my own opinions about the world. I wasn’t an atheist; I called myself spiritual. I hadn’t thought at all about social justice, racism, or feminism. Yet, here was a man of authority with whom I naturally disagreed. I was fundamentally averse to all of the things he used his classroom as a pulpit to teach as fact. I wasn’t eloquent, but I called him out. I disrupted his class and he let me. We actually got along all right.

That was the last classroom in which I learned much of anything about the Civil War. World War I & II were duly covered, but the textbooks’ sections on the Civil War always seemed brief. If it hadn’t been for the fact that one of my high-school history teachers was actually a Vietnam veteran, I would have been taught from a textbook that thought that the near 20 year conflict deserved no more than three paragraphs.

Looking back, I realize that my formative thoughts about our planet and its history were entirely filtered through old white people, all but one of them men. How different those classes would have been under people of color, I can only imagine.

The absurdity of the fact that many of our streets and buildings were named after Confederate figures didn’t escape me as a teenager, but it didn’t make much of an impression either. As an adult, that’s changed.

While I attended Lee High, I dated a guy not-so-distantly related to Robert E. Lee. I have family members that have bought versions of the Confederate flag to wear and display. I have a diploma from an institution that took its name from a man that led the army that took up arms against its own nation.

I’ve heard it argued that these monikers are simply patriotic nods of the head celebrating American heroes. But how can that be? I may not be a patriot, but as I understand it, a patriot does not seek to disband their country. A patriot does not attack their brethren. A patriot does not enslave their fellow citizens. If not, what exactly is the point? Lee did not fight for the United States. He fought for the Confederate States. Thankfully, he was defeated.

He is not an American hero. It is neither heroic nor patriotic to revere his name or the symbol of the resistance he led. When his name, and the names of those that fought under him, are venerated as “heritage”, we are forgetting the nightmare of history — brother against brother, humans in chains, and a new country torn apart soon after its birth.

America is a country born of high ideals, ideals it has yet to live up to. We do not mindlessly look past swastikas. We do not name buildings after Gavrilo Princip. We do not build monuments to the leaders of the Apartheid. The signs of Jim Crow are locked in museums. Roads named after Martin Luther King Jr. should not share crosswalks with roads named after General Lee.

Yet, a 2011 poll showed that 10% of Americans have positive associations with the Confederate flag and 58% feel neither positively or negatively. 48% of Americans still regurgitate the line that the Civil War was about states’ rights.

It’s been 154 years. The last Civil War veteran died in 1956, less than 60 years ago. On the line of time, the Civil War has just happened. The ink of its history is only just now drying. Have we already forgotten? Has it already faded from reality to hazy nightmare, its effects still felt, but its meaning lost?

I am not a patriot. I am a humanist. No matter how we identify, it’s time to wake up and learn the lessons of our long night’s sleep.

Why? Why? Why? Why?

I have been listening — listening to the words of books and blogs, to the words of those I follow and see, and to the spoken gems of podcasts and stages. I’ve been listening to my village. This is what they’ve said. This is what I’ve learned.

Why? Why? Why?
Ricardo Semler took over his father’s company. He ripped out the time clocks. He let employees set their own salaries. He even let his employees vote him out of his executive position. What gave him the courage to give his employees more freedom? He asked why. Then he asked it again and again.
I find that this method of exploring the reasons why we do what we do is effective in every facet of life. I find that asking an additional ‘Why?’ makes egos shrink and stars glow brighter.

It’s not about me.
Some of you have already read Vance’s post ‘Calling My Shot‘. The post has stuck with me the last couple of months. I seek to learn all I can and live each day in hopes of bettering myself and the world around me. But isn’t improving myself tantamount to improving my our world? Our greatest happiness comes from making others happy. When we consume ourselves with the joy of others, we find that we are cared for from without and within. But is there really any without?

I am just a little person, one person in a sea of many little people who are not aware of me, yet each potentially a simultaneous understanding of the other; each, in a sense, a simulacrum or synecdoche for all others: if I understand myself sufficiently deeply, then in that moment I understand the other, however remote my presence to them.
Hariod Brawn

It’s not about me. What does me even mean? Whatever me is, it doesn’t exist without all of us.

I am going to die.
I mentioned in a previous post that I recently went to an Amanda Palmer concert. One of the standing traditions at her shows is an ‘Ask Amanda’ segment where she answers questions audience members have written down before the show. When I attended, one question was something along the lines of “How do you snap out of it when you’re in a really deep, dark funk?” Amanda’s answer was simple: “I just remember that I am going to die. That tends to put things in perspective.”

Today, Victoria posted about a recent study that showed that much of believers’ disdain for atheists comes from a fear of death. Our culture has a deep fear and aversion to death. We all but pretend it doesn’t happen. Religion exacerbates this fear with its various versions of afterlives and hereafters. Our mortality should feed our zest for life, not dampen our desires.

Gully Foyle is my name
And Terra is my nation.
Deep space is my dwelling place,
The stars my destination.
-Alfred Bester, The Stars My Destination

The book this quote is from was quite a ride. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it until the last few pages. That’s true of many books I read. It is now one of my all-time favorites. The stars are my destination. The stars are your destination. The stars are our destination.

Why?
It’s not about me.
Why?
I am going to die.
Why?
The stars my destination.
Why?

?

What now?
How?
Act.


I celebrate myself;
And what I assume you shall assume;
For every atom belonging to me, as good belongs to you.

All goes onward and outward—nothing collapses;
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

I too am not a bit tamed—I too am untranslatable;
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

I bequeath myself to the dirt, to grow from the grass I love;
If you want me again, look for me under your boot-soles.
-Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no tomorrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace.
―Oscar Wilde, The Canterville Ghost
*Special thanks to Victoria for reminding me of this wonderful quote.*

Blooming Society Sunday

Every Sunday I share a bloom – a small idea of how to improve our world.
Tend the garden of humanity with me by blogging with your own idea on any Sunday.
If you do, feel free to pingback here so we can keep the conversation going.

white flowers
This Week’s Bloom:
Treat Children like People

This is simple. Children are people, after all. Yet this is an ideal that I have seen violated my entire life. As long as the phrase ‘seen and not heard’ is used to describe children, we have a problem. Youths have a different chemical and hormonal makeup, their experience level is low, but that does not make them unimportant or unoriginal. Their personalities and behavior are as varied as adults. So, how do we stop belittling the little ones?

Talk to Them
This is not the same thing as talking at them. Children are given instructions and commands more often than they are engaged in conversation. A lot of adults ignore children to the extent that aliens would be surprised to learn that children are capable of thoughtful speech. Don’t be one of those adults. Their interests and worries may be different than yours, but that is true of most people. If you can uncover something they care about, they’ll make you care about it too. Share in their enthusiasm and wonderment, they are far more interested in life than most adults.

Answer their Questions
If you talk to a child long enough, you are going to get asked a question. You may get asked fifteen questions in one minute. Take the time to unpack their curiosity and give them a clearer view of the world. All of that fantastic wonder comes from the very lack of experience that society chides them for. If a child asks you a question that seems ‘inappropriate’, answer them anyway. Keep it basic, but avoid the ‘you’re too young’ response if at all possible. If they’re asking, they aren’t too young. There isn’t anything in this world that children can’t understand except for the illogical notions and nonsensical expectations society takes for granted. They have not been weighed down by opinion or disappointment and all they really want is to know how the world works. If you help them, odds are good that you’ll end up learning something new yourself.

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Admit Mistakes
People lie and cheat. People are mean and incorrect. Not everyone all the time, but everyone sometimes. We have a tendency to deny our shortcomings, especially to children. This is a mistake in itself. Children are learning what to expect out of life, what is considered okay, and what is not. When we are dishonest with children, when we cover up the darker parts of who we are, they are given a skewed perspective. Marking out our mistakes does not teach them right from wrong, it teaches them to hide. Most adults struggle with what to show the world and what to keep inside. This starts with the mixed messages we are given as children. Admit mistakes and apologize, especially with regards to children. You’ll make the next generation a more genuine one.

Respect Them
Children are not half-people, they are whole. Their needs and wants are no less important for their small stature. They are not minions to be ordered around. They are not automatons mindlessly obeying every whim. When they speak, listen. When they ask, answer. When you wrong them, apologize. Their inabilities do not make them burdensome. Their ignorance makes them a privilege to know.