multiracial-human-hands-in-a-circle_625x275-300x132

The Outrage

I had a conversation with myself this morning. One side of me, let’s call her Outraged, was annoyed at what the other side of me, let’s call her Stillness, was thinking.

Outraged said, “I can’t believe you’re sitting there looking at everything happening and not doing anything.”

Stillness answered, “I’m doing what makes sense to me. Living my life as full of compassion and joy as I can manage. Meeting everyone with kindness. Is there anything else I can do?”

“But you should be outraged at the fact that a black man is killed by police every 28 hours! You should be doing something!”

“You are addicted to outrage, Outrage.”

“How dare you say that!”

“See, your blood pressure is up. That’s adrenaline flowing. You’re going to get addicted to your own adrenaline.”

“But we can’t allow this to happen! What are you doing, sitting there looking at the trees?”

“Calm down, Outrage. This happened. We must accept that it happened, and keeps happening. Is there anything I can do at this moment that will prevent it from happening in another 28 hours?”

“Stillness, what are you talking about? Accept it? How dare you accept this! That’s horrible!”

“All I am saying is that what has happened, has happened. We can’t change the past.”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t accept it! I won’t accept it!”

“Outrage, can you turn the clock back to Saturday, or yesterday?”

“Well, of course not.”

“Then, you must accept that it happened. You must accept that it happened twice more since.”

“So what’s your alternative, Ms. Stillness?”

“I don’t have an easy answer, Outrage. This is a very complex issue. It won’t come untangled easily.”

“Oh, so you don’t have an answer, but you want to accuse me of being addicted to outrage? I’m outraged!”

“Well, I do know that if everyone approached everyone else with kindness, this wouldn’t happen. So I’ll just start with me. I will make a commitment to approach everyone I meet with kindness.”

“Pah, I hope you’re not holding your breath, waiting for everyone do do that.”

“Is being outraged any better, Outrage?”

 

 

Share

images

War, blame, self-responsibility, and compassion

There are many, many wars going on right now. Some, like the 44 military conflicts, create suffering on massive scales, and large losses in life. But there are many, many other wars. Gang wars, sectarian conflicts, internal conflicts that have not yet gotten violent, conflicts between political parties, as well as the internecine conflicts between sub-factions social groups, and, sadly, between people in a couple who love each other. Conflict, including everything from the small, private conflicts we live each day, to the huge conflicts that kill thousands, seem to be simply… human. We can’t seem to avoid it. We haven’t managed to avoid it for any of our history as a species.

I spend a lot of my day talking to couples (or members of ex-couples), and writing about relationships. My (relatively new) work as a relationship geek and coach has given me insight into why conflict gets out of control. And in thinking about what’s going on in the world, I actually think that it’s all the same stuff, just vastly expanded in scale. What happens in couples, especially in what we call “high conflict” couples, where each person blames the other for everything, is exactly what’s happening in the world today.

The problem is, blame is never a useful thing. It never gets at the root of the problem, and never solves anything. Even if you are able to get to a sort of settlement, blame will rear its ugly head yet again, and a new cycle of conflict will start. Blame is completely useless in healing conflicts, whether it be conflicts between partners, or conflicts between countries.

If a couple is locked in conflict, it’s easy for a cycle of blame to start going. One person blames the other for an affair, for instance, while that partner blames the other for being cold and withdrawn. Then that partner blames the other for being critical… you get the picture. This is about as useful as the cycle of blame in Israel and Palestine. There comes a point where “who is to blame” is a completely useless path to walk down. And the problem is, especially when it comes to global conflicts, there seems to be no other conversation. Hamas is to blame because they are shooting rockets into Israel. Israel is to blame because they’ve been cutting off Gaza for years… etc., etc., ad nauseum.

So what is the right path? The right path is two fold: self-responsibility and compassion. Where blame doesn’t help, taking self -responsibility does. And we’re not talking self-blame here. We’re talking looking deeply at yourself, and seeing what’s there, and what you are really responsible for. For that person that might have had an affair, it would be taking responsibility for their feelings of alienation and loneliness, and acting on them. I think that a really big thing that people need to take responsibility for is acting out of fear. Some of that fear is immediate, and some of that fear is historical and cultural. But it is fear nonetheless, and acting out of fear never has good results – it can never heal conflict.

And compassion is actually really simple. Not always easy, but simple. And compassion always starts with ourselves. So much misery is caused by lack of self-compassion.

Of course, Israel and Palestine, Russia and Ukraine, and many other conflicts are not between equals. So the burden of self-responsibility is most heavy on the party that has the most power to effect changes in the relationship. But compassion is important for both sides.

I’m glad that I am able to help couples heal conflict. I wish there were a way to help countries do the same. Human beings have a hard time with self-responsibility and compassion, and it just gets worse the larger the collection of humans there are.

 

 

 

 

Share

sfpride

The Personal is Still Political

It’s funny, I’d never read the original paper that coined the term “the personal is political” until I was getting ready to write this blog post. It’s an interesting read. The basic point, from my perspective, is that you can’t separate what we do (or what happens to us) individually, from what happens in society. It’s all connected. Interpersonal social dynamics interweave with group dynamics, differences in culture, history and oppression.

What makes this even more true today is that even more than the late 60’s when that article was written, we live in a society that commodifies everything. There are absolutely a lot of problems with this, but this blog post is not a rail against commodification — that train has left the station, and we’re stuck with it, unless we wish to radically change the way we all live our lives. (I don’t see that coming down the pike anytime soon.)

This year, for Gay Pride, Kink.com, a San Francisco-based company that specializes in internet porn, specifically around BDSM, had a prison-themed party. Here’s a little taste of the promotional material:

What kind of trouble will 3000 of the world’s hottest men get into when in lockdown? Let your fantasies run wild in solitary, fall in love in the shower, plan your jailbreak with your mates, celebrate your creative freedom, in Pride weekend’s BIGGEST circuit party of the year!

Now as you might imagine, there was some degree of outrage at the idea that playing at prison is a good idea for a party for Gay Pride. It’s a really horrible idea. I don’t know who came up with it, but I can think of about 50 different reasons why it should never have happened. Some people rightly protested, and Kink.com’s response to the protest has been also horrifying.

To me, why it could happen, is a much more interesting question than why it did happen. I was in a couple of different Facebook conversations about it, and I thought that I should lay out my perspective in a more ordered, lengthy fashion.

First off, I want to be clear that when it comes to sexuality, I’m libertarian. I think consenting adults should be able to do whatever it is we want to do with each other, and although that party was a horrible idea, kink.com had the right to put it on, and people had a right to go. That said, I am also relentlessly committed to consciousness. I have the habit of doing what I can to shine a light on everything I do in my life and examine it, and ask about whether it is really resonant with my values and higher purpose. Some things I can easily reconcile, and others are a lot harder, because we live in complicated, problematic times, and I’m human (and not a Buddha.) I do have the habit of shining that same light to everything I come in contact with (for good or ill, depending on your point of view, I guess.)

So back to the question, why could this happen? Is it just some one person’s weird idea that it might be fun to have a party where people play at being in prison? Not so much. From my perspective, it’s a reflection of personal play, combined with the commodification of that play.

Being queer in the Bay Area means that you know people, and are exposed to things that are more edgy than, say, living in New England. I do actually rather like that about it. One thing that I’ve been exposed to is sexual play that includes a dynamic that involves drastic power imbalances. For instance, pretending to be prison guard and prisoner, or master and slave. Some people just play at this in the privacy of their bedroom, others play in play parties, and some others live that life 24/7.

I’m going to be clear here — I do have my kinky (I actually say curly) edges, but some particular kinds of role play have always been difficult for me to swallow.  And the reason is that they reflect very real power imbalances that real people do (or did) experience every day in ways that are (or were) very, very less than fun–in fact, in ways that are (and were) devastating to them. Further, some of them are (or were) condoned and institutional, and reflect (or reflected) the very real manifestations of oppression.

Of course, that is their power. People play at being, say, the plumber and the housewife all the time, and it can be kinda sexy, but it doesn’t have an edge, does it? I know that some might argue that embracing those extreme power differentials in the context of sexual play is transformative. I can imagine that might be true in some situations, but I’m not utterly convinced, particularly for dynamics that reflect situations of real oppression. Prison guard/prisoner play, even between people in the privacy of their own bedroom, minimizes the lived reality of people and objectifies the people who are oppressed.  I’m sure it’s fun, though.

But that’s the problem. From my perspective, pleasure is trumping consciousness. And the result?  Add that to the commodification of everything, and add a little dash of OITNB, and you get… The Kink.com prison play party. It was inevitable. I could also write a long treatise on the problematic nature of master/slave play, but luckily, there wasn’t a kink.com slave auction  for Pride.

Sex and sexuality is powerful, fun, enlivening, sacred and transformative. And it can’t be separated from society and its imbalances, oppressions, divisions, and complications. We have to shine the same light onto it as we’d shine onto anything else. We have to be willing to at least look at the effects of our personal choices in  how we find pleasure.

Share

road

Happy.

Ruth and I were walking down our road on our almost-daily walk. And as is often the case when we take this particular walk, I feel happy. Since I didn’t spend most of my life happy, I tend to take sadness or despair for granted, and not question why I feel that way. But happiness? I’m always asking why when it pokes it’s little head up, like a new flower arriving in the spring.

But for the last few months, I have realized that I am happy. I’d say deliriously happy, except that sounds like a state that isn’t sustainable, and I know I am happy in a sustainable way. Not that I’ll always feel happy. I know that I’ll feel sad, or angry, or despairing, or one of a dozen difficult emotions, now and again. But instead of sadness being the baseline, and happiness being a high, it feels like my life has reversed – happiness is the new baseline.

And the funny thing is that it’s not because everything is actually perfect. I still have chronic health issues I am dealing with. I’m still (trying) to pay off my seminary student loan debt. My life at the moment is in flux. I’ve left behind the career I’ve known for 15 years, onto another set of endeavors that have no guarantee. But all of these those seem more like a set of puzzles to solve or experiments to try, rather than a problem I have to deal with.

But what started me out on this journey of happiness was this: I was committed to listening to myself, and how I wanted to live my own life. And being committed to giving myself love and compassion, and being self-aware–they are both things that are core elements of what makes my life happy.  And the funny thing is, I don’t have what many people (at least in the US) think will make them  happy,  but I don’t even want those things. Ease and time is way more important to my quality of life than money or security or stuff.

Sometimes, as I watch the horror the world seems to have in store every single day, I feel a little guilty at being happy, and living the life I truly want.  Watching the world go to hell in a handbasket doesn’t make me happy. But I’ve fully realized that I don’t have any control over what happens in the world, just over what happens in my life. I have control over the things I say (or don’t say,) the actions I can take (or not take,) and the things I can contribute (and not contribute) to the world. Understanding that, and letting go, has made a huge difference. Some of us live lives of choice, and that is a great privilege, one I try to be responsible with.

Share

13706437_ml

Transitions R Us (or… So Long #nptech, and Thanks for All the Fish)

If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know I don’t do any one thing for very long in my life. I think that is both my strength, and my weakness. I don’t know if most polymaths are like this, but at least I am. I’ve been a scientist, a teacher and academic, a business owner, a theology student, and a science fiction author (and a few other things, too.) But the one thing I’ve done the longest of anything is a technologist and developer for the nonprofit sector. 

I discovered my love and fascination with computers and code in the late 1970s in college, and it has been a pretty consistent thread (and will continue to be) in my life. But I have been “doing stuff” for nonprofit organizations around technology issues, primarily having to do with internet technology and web development, since 1994-5, and full time (with a break in 2005-6 to study theology) since 1999. I’ve been meaning to leave it now for a while, and after almost 20 years, it’s finally time to bid all of it adieu.

I’m in my last weeks of working with the fabulous team at DevCollaborative, and if you want some ace people to build your nonprofit Drupal website, they’ll do it with integrity and great skill. I’m happy to have helped build the collaborative, and sad to be leaving them. I look forward to watching them grow and develop as individuals and as a team.

I felt drawn to write some reflections about my time doing the work I’ve been doing, and how I feel now, nearly 20 years down the pike. The first thing to reflect on is nonprofit technology. As a board member of a bunch nonprofit and religious organizations since the mid-80s, I have been committed to the care and feeding of those specific nonprofits, and the sector as a whole. Helping nonprofits use technology wisely felt like a good choice – it felt like I got to have my cake and eat it too, in a way – indulge my love of technology and help change the world in the process.

Twenty years of that has poured some cold water on that nice idea. First, my love of technology meant that I wasn’t always the best arbiter of what a nonprofit should do. I know that there were times our judgments as nonprofit technologists have been clouded by shiny (love of bleeding-edge tech.)  And on the other hand, I was advocating strategies for the development and use of open source software that would free organizations from proprietary products, some of which were crappy, obscenely expensive, promoted lock-in, and made by publicly-traded for-profit companies. I got a lot of bored yawns for those ideas, for years.

Am I glad that nonprofits have the benefit of technology that everyone else does, and lots of help and support? Of course. I’m glad that there are great people and companies and organizations doing this work, and I’m happy for my part in it. And I’m glad that at least for some things like servers and websites (oh, and phones!), open source software has indeed won the day. But I’ve come to feel that none of that is going to change the world. The world needs way, way more than technologically well-equipped nonprofit organizations to save it. (Actually, it needs way, way less of everything, but that’s a post for another day.)

The second set of reflections is about being one of a few among many. I’ve been one of not so many African-American women in nonprofit technology, and one of a very few African American women contributors to open source projects. The space of developers of open source projects and even nonprofit developers is still very white,  very straight, and still largely male.  I didn’t realize for a long time that this loneliness was wearing, but it has been. As I’ve watched the growth of younger women and women of color developers, it’s made me happy, but has not made me feel less lonely, because the space, even as it gets more diverse, is still also pretty young. There aren’t all that many developers my age (I’ll be 55 in August), let alone women my age, let alone queer people of color my age. I hadn’t let myself really feel how tiring that loneliness was until a year or so ago.

I am happy, though, to have been a little part, and a witness to the growth of two communities (and the places those overlap.) In 1994, a student and I installed Linux, which then came on a big pile of floppies, on a server in my office at Hampshire College, for a local nonprofit organization, so they could have email and a website. That’s how I learned about open source software. In 2000ish, I got hooked up with these people who called themselves “Circuit Riders.” The ride on both the open source and nonprofit tech trains has been interesting and full of great characters. I’ve made friends, contributed what I could, and it’s been a nice trip, with no regrets.

What’s next, you ask? Most importantly, my long Buddhist practice, seminary training, and life experience is helping me in an endeavor I’m doing with my partner, Ruth. We’re working on creating tools and resources to help the relationships of women who love women happier, healthier and more conscious. We’ve started Conscious Girlfriend, which is an exciting and completely new chapter in my work life.  It’s using different parts of my brain and gets me back into teaching and writing, both of which I really enjoy. I’m still writing science fiction, and I also hope to start to be much more deliberate about getting the word out about my work. If you want to learn more about that, definitely read my author blog. (hint: podcasts and audio versions!)

 

 

Share

15934857_ml

What Does Marriage Mean to Me?

A old colleague of mine wrote a sweet piece about marriage, and what it means to her to be getting married. I’ve been thinking a lot about marriage these days, for a variety of reasons, and that post prompted me to finally get out the one that’s been brewing in my head for weeks.

As some of you know, I’ve been building “Conscious Girlfriend” with my partner, Ruth. Conscious Girlfriend aims to provide resources for lesbian and queer women to have relationships that are full of awareness, joy and compassion. And this endeavor means that I have been thinking and talking about relationships a lot lately.

This country seems to be in the midst of a major sea change in not only attitudes about marriage, and who should get them, but also the laws regarding marriage. Just today, a brand new set of federal policies were enacted, treating married same-sex couples exactly the same as straight ones. And it seems almost every month brings a new state into the fold of states that allow gay marriage.

Clearly, there is something about marriage that has deep significance for people, so I’ve been examining this for myself. What does marriage mean to me?

There are two threads I can follow. The first is personal, the second political and historical.

First, the personal. When I was growing up, I would not say that I saw very many married couples with relationships I wanted to emulate. I remember when I was 10 or 11, telling my mother I didn’t want to get married. I do know that some of that had to do with the fact that I was beginning to understand that I was queer. But I also think it was because I didn’t really see many couples that seemed especially happy. So in my early life, I assumed that I would never get married.

As I got older, and met more people who had relationships I could see myself in, I still never thought much about marriage per se. I had one partnership where the early assumption was that we’d stay together forever (thankfully, we did not,) but it wasn’t couched as a marriage, really. But also, this was in a sense societal. It was before the gay marriage movement got really going, so it wasn’t in our consciousness at the time.

Between my current partnership with Ruth, and the sea change that has occurred around gay marriage, the idea of getting married isn’t so far from my consciousness anymore. I can imagine getting married, which is something I could not have said 10 years ago.

When I think about it, I think a lot about the sacredness of relationships, the deep, intimate connection between two people, the idea of a safe harbor and platform from which one can branch out and do great work in the world. But I also know that there is something in the idea of official and societal recognition of that deep connection with another human being. And even more when that connection is between two people of the same sex – a connection that has been disallowed in society until quite recently.

That’s big, and I can feel it, even though, for me, the institution of marriage is historically problematic, especially for women.

I remember that fateful May, in 2004, I was in Northampton, Massachusetts, along with a lot of other people, celebrating while couples went to city hall to get married, in the first state in which it was fully legal. I remember standing outside, watching couples walk to get their marriage licenses, talking to a friend of mine. We shared a sense of whiplash – it seemed not so long ago that marriage was something lesbians, at least, didn’t need, or want, and the scathing critiques of marriage from feminists was fresh in all of our minds.

Marriage is an institution with a rather interesting history. The idea of romantic love leading to marriage is a fairly recent development. Earlier than the 19th century (and, sadly, still true in some societies today) most marriages were arranged by the parents. Men had more autonomy in their choices, women had nearly none. In many societies, the parents would basically sell off their daughters to the highest bidder (or the bidder with the highest stature in the community.) Marriage was not an institution that served women well, at all.

I sometimes laugh at the critiques of gay marriage. But, there is a dirty secret that gay marriage advocates are not willing to admit. Gay marriage will not damage any individual heterosexual marriage, but it will change the institution. Just like societal changes that moved marriage from an economic transaction to a romantic connection, and the women’s movement of the 60s and 70s changed marriage again, gay marriage will inevitably change what marriage looks like, and what role it has in our society. It has to, and, frankly, it should.

Even as the idea of getting married myself seems more possible to me, my hope is that at the same time as marriage becomes available to everyone who wants one, and is celebrated and embraced by everyone, our society changes such that those who choose to not get married can be as celebrated, honored and respected  as those who do.

 

 

Share

By Jurrian Persyn (http://www.flickr.com/people/oemebamo/)

Loving the work you do

Image by Jurrian Persyn (http://www.flickr.com/people/oemebamo/)

There has been a lot of talk about a recent article in Slate which is a rather harsh critique of the “Do what you love” idea about work. There is a great critique of this article at the Unexpected Mogul that I encourage you to read. But here is my critique, which is from a slightly different angle.

For the author of the original article, the “do what you love” mantra is said by elites completely oblivious to the realities of most people’s lives, and it devalues workers and their work.  A choice quote from the article:

“In ignoring most work and reclassifying the rest as love, DWYL may be the most elegant anti-worker ideology around. Why should workers assemble and assert their class interests if there’s no such thing as work?”

I do know that many people who use this mantra are completely blind to their privilege.  However, there is another way to look at this, which I’m going to outline here. It is the idea that in fact, “doing what you love” could be the most radical, empowering idea about work that every single person should be able to embrace.

I think I need to have a little preamble before I dive into why I think this could be so radical. First, I have privilege, privilege I hope that I am not blind to. I know that my ability to pursue work that I love (which  I pretty much have for my entire  life) is totally based on the fact that I grew up with educated parents, went to good schools, and got  into a good college I could attend without having to work or take out loans. My father was an independent business owner for many, many years, so I knew the model.

I do think (and have always thought) that for the current model of work to be compassionate and equitable, strong unions are critical. My perspective is that everyone, regardless of education or ability, needs to be able to work a reasonable amount of hours (giving plenty of time for leisure, family, hobbies, community, etc.) to gain compensation that gives them a comfortable life. And if they can’t work, they need to get a reasonable stipend so they can live a comfortable life. A combination of strong unions, government policies that ensure full employment, and a strong social safety net should assure this.

But, frankly, the United States is not Europe, and never, ever, ever will be  (at least not as it is currently arranged.) And besides, Europe is quickly moving backwards. Unless a large chunk of the US either has brain transplants, or decides to secede (my preference) we’re never going to have this combination of unions, full employment and a strong safety net. The US has this weird soup of greed and individualism that will make this impossible. So given this soup, what’s the solution? To my mind, the solution is to use capitalism to destroy Capitalism.

Little “c” capitalism (or perhaps one could use the term “free markets” but that’s kinda co-opted – I’m not sure of another word – basically small biz) is you and me, little guy, leaving the wage slave life, doing work that we love, whether it be growing food, or making bread, or roasting coffee, or cooking meals, or building houses, or helping people with relationships, or helping people get healthy, or walking dogs, or building websites, or one of a zillion vocations.  And maybe we have apprentices (that we pay.) And, if everyone, instead of going to WalMart, or McDonalds, or whatever, bought stuff we needed from you and me little guy, the power that big corporations (big “C” capitalism) have over us, and over our work lives, would disappear.

Let’s face it. For the majority of people in the US, work is something they do to make other people rich. Even creative types – writers make publishers rich, actors make movie moguls rich, athletes make team owners rich. In some cases, if people work for the government, or nonprofits, they do actually work for the good of the people. But mostly, people work so that a very tiny percentage of people can get obscenely rich. For some it does provide reasonable compensation, but for many, it leaves them in poverty, even if they spend almost every waking hour working.

This is not the work I want to value. And it’s not the work I want anyone to be doing (unless, I guess, if they really love making other people rich.)

I’m not saying this is easy. Getting from here to where everyone (I mean every single person) is able to pursue a vocation doing something they love is a very, very long journey. I’m not sure we’ll get there before we do ourselves in by other means (global climate change, for instance.) There is a lot of complexity (for instance, what about all of those gadgets we love? Who cleans the streets?) There is complexity both for individuals (cost, convenience, etc.) as well as the society as a whole.

Really, because of the industrial revolution, and technology advances, we all actually don’t have to work a whole lot for all of us to be just fine (food, health care, housing, etc.) It’s not something that there is a lot of historical precedence for.  In fact, history since the dawn of agriculture is filled with societies that exploit the work of one group or another (even in the name of “the proletariat”.) But it’s not impossible – that’s the path I want us to be walking, and it’s the path I want to help as many people as I can walk it, privileged or not.

 

Share

Internet

2013 to 2014… and my interwebs

(Image by Patrick Barry)

The Year

It’s been a year. A lot happened to me this year, most of it good. I cemented my move to the country by moving to Healdsburg, CA, renting a house with Ruth on a sprawling ranch a few miles southeast of town. I hurt my knee while I was hauling wood up the stairs in my Cazadero house (where I had lived from October 2012 to Feb 2013), and it has been nagging me all year. Given that 2014 is the year I finally get health insurance again (thanks, Obama!) I’ll be having that looked at. My health has improved since I moved to the country, and I have moved from being a gluten-free vegan by necessity, to being a gluten-free-pretty-much-omnivore. Big improvement in my quality of life.

Spiritually, it’s been a strange year. Since I moved from Oakland in October of 2012, I haven’t had a church home, or spiritual community. It’s been a mixed bag. Although I am very eclectic in the spiritual realm, I do like having a centering community to call home, and I miss First Congo. Also, it is an incredibly hard act to follow – where else am I going to find such a truly diverse, passionate, queer-friendly, eclectic bunch? But I have spent time exploring, and reading and expanding my ideas, which has been fun. My work with the amazing Joellyn Monahan has been an important anchor in my meandering spiritual path. I spent some time in 2013 discerning whether to move full-time into teaching contemplative practice, but it turned out that wasn’t the right direction. In 2014, I’m taking a course with the pagan teacher T. Thorn Coyle, on the goddess Brigid. I’m looking forward to something a little different!

I still help nonprofits build websites, with my amazing and wonderful colleagues, Johanna  and Erin. We’re still using Drupal, although I’ve been getting involved in that Drupal fork, called Backdrop. And although I do still build websites for nonprofits, 2013 was the year that I finally stopped calling myself a nonprofit technologist. It’s a long story, with both personal and larger political/societal issues involved. Perhaps I’ll write a blog entry about it at some point. For now, I’m a writer and teacher who does tech stuff so I can eat and have fun sometimes. That works for me.

It wasn’t a huge writing year (at least not compared to some earlier years.) I published one novel. I wrote a novel, and assorted pieces and ideas for others. I spent a good chunk of November doing NaNoWriMo, but didn’t make it (my novel topped out at 28K words.) I hope to publish two novels in my backlog, and finish the one I was working on in November by mid-year 2014.

2014 will be an interesting year. Ruth and I are working on a soon to be revealed joint project, and I’m just in general looking forward to watching the year unfold.

My Interwebs

I’ve been on the interwebs for a long time – since when the internet was largely an academic network. In the years since the web started, I’ve made and had more different websites than I can count, or remember. I’ve had sites on more than 5 different platforms, with many different topics.

Here’s the current lineup, somewhat newly re-arranged, in case you might be interested:

  • This blog, Metacentricities (WP) – my main blog, covering topics including personal, political, social, scientific and technological, with a bit of other stuff thrown in.
  • author.murrain.net (WP) – My new author site/blog – all things writerly and science fiction
  • Life As Practice (WP) – My writing on contemplative practice
  • Michelle’s Tech Attic (Evernote) – A public Evernote notebook of varied tech stuff that I find interesting, and problems I’ve solved.
  • murrain.net (WordPress) – My main site, now mostly just a pointer to stuff.  Nothing new will be posted there, for the most part.

 

I wish the bestest of years for you and yours.

Share

18024826_m

What kind of culture do we really want?

If you aren’t a fan of Ani Difranco, or don’t follow pop-culture (especially left-leaning pop culture) closely, you might have missed the brou-ha-ha around her now cancelled retreat in Louisiana, you can read about it here. The short version is: a promoter asked her to run a retreat in Louisiana, and it turns out it was at the site of an old plantation. People (not sure how many were her fans) got really upset, and she cancelled the event.

What I’m trying to examine here is how this all played out, and what it tells me about the emergence of what I think is pretty troubling: racism-shaming. (New term, coined by moi. There is also homophobia-shaming, classism-shaming, etc.) There was no question that there was little or no consideration (by Ani’s promoter, and/or Ani herself) about the location of the event. Her subsequent actions were also lame less than ideal. But I don’t think those mistakes deserved the vitriol directed at her. (Just a note, I basically like her music, but I would not consider myself a fan. Never been to a concert, and wouldn’t plan to go to one.)

Now first, let me start by saying this not about people with real clear racist intent. I’m not even talking about Paula Deen. I’m talking about people who have already shown themselves to be, in some senses at least, allies. I’m talking about people who we want to be allies, and whose perspectives, points of view and position makes them seem like clear allies. I’m talking about people who care.

Shame is a powerful emotion. When you feel shamed, how do you react? I completely shut down. I get defensive. I can’t listen. I get scared. Being shamed by people I respect and love is even worse. And, it actually doesn’t help me examine what happened. Almost the opposite happens – I don’t ever want to think about it again.

Those of us who think of ourselves as being willing to examine our own privilege, and look at the ways we act in the world want the world to be a kinder, gentler place. We want people to be loved and accepted, no matter who they are, what their skin color, or sexuality, or gender presentation, or class, or ability, or any of the other 12 dozen ways people categorize themselves and each other. We want more openness, more conversation, more love.

But attacking allies is moving us in exactly the opposite direction. People are getting closed down, defensive, and are unwilling to take risks, because of the fear of being shamed by the community for mistakes they might make. And just witnessing the shaming shuts people down. Yes, the whole thing was a big mistake, but you know what? Ani gets to make it. We all get to make mistakes. None of us with any degree of privilege can live in this patriarchal white-supremacist culture without fucking up now and again. It’s just not possible. Being gently prodded to understand our mistakes, rather than shamed, is what’s going to move us toward a kinder, gentler future. Anything else is simply more of the same, with different people on top.

Share

Back again…

I missed having a blog. I missed getting to write about the wide range of things that interest me. So I’m back, at least for a while. I’ll be talking about everything from spirituality and spiritual practice, to politics, and all sorts of things that come across my screen.

Nice to be back.

Share