The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

— Oriah Mountain Dreamer

At the Window

I was at the window
when a fly near the latch
was on its back spinning—
legs furious, going nowhere.

I thought to swat it
but something in its struggle
was too much my own.

It kept spinning and began to tire.
Without moving closer, I exhaled
steadily, my breath a sudden wind
and the fly found its legs,
rubbed its face
and flew away.

I continued to stare at the latch
hoping that someday, the breath
of something incomprehensible
would right me and
enable me to fly.

Mark NepoThe Way Under The Way

Words

I am reminded to not be too attached to words and their meanings. People use the same words to describe different things and different words to express the same things. Words have fluidity. 

Selling Confusion

This is a great post by Seth Godin about the campaign of confusion that has caused social upheaval across the world. He addresses three subjects: evolution, vaccines, and climate change.

“Over the last few decades, there’s been a consistent campaign to sow confusion around evolution, vaccines and climate change.

In all three areas, we all have access to far more data, far more certainty and endless amounts of proof that the original theories have held up. The data is more accurate than it’s ever been. Evolution is the best way to explain and predict the origin and change of species. Vaccines are not the cause of autism and save millions of kids’ (and parents’) lives. And the world is, in fact, getting dangerously warmer.

And yet…

Poll after poll in many parts of the world show that people are equivocating or outright denying all three. Unlike the increasingly asymptotic consistency in scientific explanations, the deniers have an endless list of reasons for their confusion, many of which contradict each other. Confusion doesn’t need to be right to be confusing.

Worth noting that this response doesn’t happen around things that are far more complicated or scientifically controversial (like gravity and dark matter). It’s the combination of visceral impact and tribal cohesion that drives the desire to deny.”

That last point is salient. While dubious of certain science, deniers readily accept other things, like cellular phones, solar eclipses, nautical navigation, airplanes, radar, sonar, etc. All these things are results of the methods and tools of science–just like evolution, vaccines, and climate change.

Further:

“Cigarette companies were among the original denialists (they claimed that cigarettes were unrelated to lung cancer, but that didn’t work out very well for them), and much of their confusion playbook is being used on these new topics.”

The confusion playbook now has a powerful weapon: social media. So effective is the reach of social media that adversarial nations (Russia) are using it to effect disruptions in our social, political, and perhaps even economical systems.

Godin asks the one question that I don’t think gets asked enough:

“To what end? Confusion might help some industries or causes in the short run, but where does it lead? Working to turn facts into political issues doesn’t make them any less true.

If this growing cohort ‘wins’, what do they get? In a post-science world, where physics and testable facts are always open to the layman’s opinion in the moment, how are things better? How does one develop a new antibiotic without an understanding of speciation and disease resistance?”

For a New Begining

In out of the way places of the heart
Where your thoughts never think to wander
This beginning has been quietly forming
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire
Feeling the emptiness grow inside you
Noticing how you willed yourself on
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the grey promises that sameness whispered
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

– John O’Donohue

DACA

(Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash)

On Monday, September 11, 2017, California Attorney General Xavier Baccerra filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration for ending DACA. California joins 15 other states and the District of Columbia in seeking to block President Trump from rescinding the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrival program as established by the Obama administration in 2012. To date, there are approximately 800,000 DACA recipients.

All the lawsuits essentially contend that the Trump administration acted unconstitutionally and unlawfully in denying the due process rights of DACA recipients and that terminating the program violates their equal protection under law.

The charge that Trump acted unconstitutionally, of course, brings into question whether DACA itself was unconstitutional. At the time that Presidential Obama announced the policy, detractors denounced the program as an abuse of executive power, stating that the president does not have the authority to waive and create laws, which is the purview of Congress.

The constitutionality debate deserves to be had because the lives of 800,000 people will be affected one way or another. Yet, in rescinding DACA, President Trump has delayed full termination for 6 months, thereby giving Congress time to settle the issue.

There is a good argument that Congress’s inability—or ineffectiveness—in passing any kind of immigration reform forced Obama to sign DACA. Using executive power also prevented Congress from overturning DACA, in particular because Congress could not defund the program. In a sort of brilliant policy slight-of-hand, DACA is almost entirely funded by its own application fees ($495 per application, multiple by 800,000).

While Congress was not ready (or reluctant) to address the immigration issue in 2012, the best way to negotiate a bipartisan deal might be to act now. After all, only Congress can create a long-term solution—DACA was always a mere temporary fix. Last week Trump again met with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, signaling a deal is pending. If Congress does indeed pass a bill with some form of the Dream Act, the debate on DACA’s unconstitutionality and Trump’s subsequently rescission would be rendered moot.

(Posted on Miss Bennett’s Polite Political Society)

Party Before Country

Unless you have been living under a rock, you might have been aware of the deep social, cultural, political and economic divide in this country. If that wasn’t apparent previously, then the 2016 Presidential Election shined a giant light on that gaping crevasse.

Not perhaps since the mid-1800s has American society been so polarized. The question, though, is: Which came first, partisanship in politics or divergence in societal values stemming from a swiftly changing demographic?

In other words, did the the bitterness of politics spilled out into society at large, and with the aid of social media AND mainstream media, causing rifts at the dinner table and on the trains, leading to Internet shaming and Facebook defriending, and fomenting violent picket lines?

Or, were there real societal trends—incubating from demographical growing pains, technological usurpation of human labor, and a widening wealth gap—that made the the current political atmosphere inevitable?

Who knows? We may never get a real answer. Even if there was an answer, it wouldn’t be a simple one.

What we could try to have a discussion on is the current culture of politics, where party members are expected to toe the party line for fear of backlash from within. Compromising, or worse collaborating with the enemy, is anathema to party allegiance. This mentality isn’t a monopoly of one party. It’s a sickness that has infected both Republicans and Democrats. Bipartisanship is to be avoided like the plague.

In August, the California Republicans ousted their own Assembly leader Chad Mayes because he worked with Governor Jerry Brown on extending California’s Cap and Trade Program. Already fighting a steep hill battle in the bluest state and hemorrhaging voters, Mayes defended his decision as a necessary step to garner more Republican voters in a state that overwhelmingly backs legislation against global warming. His detractors claimed he betrayed the party’s position on taxation and overregulation. (There might also have been a between-the-line wink towards denying science.) In an act of retribution, Southern California conservative activist Joseph Turner published a blog post accusing Mayes of having an extra marital affair.

The party line is just as absolute with the Dems. So much so that you can’t even say anything nice about the other side, in particular about President Trump. In a speech in San Francisco, Senator Dianne Feinstein said: “The question is whether [Trump] can learn and change. If so, I believe he can be a good president.” Feinstein further said that people should be prepared for the president to serve out his full four-year term. The outcry was fast and furious, and Feinstein’s staff had to release a statement to clarify the senator’s remarks and to reinforce how “strongly critical” she has been of the president.

There was the usual, albeit more muted, complaints after the recent debt-ceiling deal President Trump made with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. Still, the culture of shunning cooperation across the isle is the prevailing norm. The extreme factions of both sides have hijacked the agenda of government progress. They value obstruction over detente.

It’s not just evident in Washington and the state capitols. Among my own friends and acquaintances there is an oppose-no-matter-what attitude, especially when it comes to Donald Trump, whose vices are endlessly vilified while anything he does that might merit credit is ignored. I wholeheartedly believe that we should all condemn the misogynistic, racist, bigoted, and hateful things that he says and do. At the same time, I don’t think we have to disavow everything he does, especially if it turns out to be beneficial to everyone.

In a speech at the Dallas shooting memorial service last year, George W. Bush said, “Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions. And this has stained our bonds of understanding and common purpose.”

Even if you don’t like Bush, his message is a good one. You don’t disqualify the message just because you don’t like the messenger. And you definitely don’t cut off your nose to spite your face, which is what the current political climate have us do. Compromise has been at the heart of the founding of this country. It is how we have always overcome our greatest challenges. It will be exactly how we change the current toxicity in politics and otherwise.

 

(Posted on Miss Bennett’s Polite Political Society)

To sit and wait

“As soon as I felt a necessity to learn about the nonhuman world, I wished to learn about it in a hurry. And then I began to learn perhaps the most important lesson that nature had to teach me: that I could not learn about her in a hurry. The most important learning, that of experience, can be neither summoned nor sought out. The most worthy knowledge cannot be acquired by what is known as study — though that is necessary, and has its use. It comes in its own good time and its own way to the man who will go where it lives, and wait, and be ready, and watch. Hurry is beside the point, useless, an obstruction. The thing is to be attentively present. To sit and wait is as important as to move. Patience is as valuable as industry. What is to be known is always there. When it reveals itself to you, or when you come upon it, it is by chance. The only condition is your being there and being watchful.”

-Wendell Berry, The Long-Legged House

Alexander Hamilton

To prepare for the stage musical, Hamilton–which I have tickets to at the end of August–I have begun reading Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. The paperback version that I have has 731 pages, which means I need to read 24.4 pages per day in order to finish it before I see the show. It’s doable. I think.

It’s a fitting time to study Hamilton, whose singular vision of a world bustling in trade, industry, stock markets and banking is fully expressed in modern America. Indeed, it was Hamilton’s work that shaped our military, banks, and financial institutions. Furthermore, it was Hamilton who envisioned the magnitude of the federal government’s powers. Over two centuries later, we are still living in Hamilton’s America. The interplay between capitalism and government is indisputably Hamiltonian.

From a personal viewpoint, I have lately begun to question whether capitalism is a good fit for our world going forward. In simplistic terms, capitalism values private ownership and profits. In today’s 7-billion-plus populated world, those ideas of competition as an engine of wealth begin to harshly chafe against all-too-real issues of poverty, stagnating wages, limited natural resources, shrinking habitable land, not to mention a polluted environment. While capitalism undoubtedly pushed societal progress in the form of the Industrial Revolution and brought on the Internet Economy, it accentuates very primal traits in humans: that of the urge for mass consumption and the need to win. We now live in a world where there is enough for everyone, truly. There is no good reason why there should be anyone in poverty. But there is. We come into the world with nothing and we will die without being able to take anything with us. Yet, we spend our entire lifetime trying to amass property.

Of course, the world is complicate. Solutions are not easy. And truth be told, not everyone is motivated to live in a world where everyone does well.