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November 17, 2013

The Valley Girl Nation

I was watching older episodes of "Super Soul Sunday" that I had recorded and started thinking about a collection of things today.  The first was a two-part interview with Dr. Maya Angelou and then Dr. Brian Weiss on reincarnation.

I find one thing I like to do when I watch these interviews, is listen to the question and then pause the viewing so that I can answer for myself and then press play and see what the guest had to say.

Oprah always asks such meaty questions that I use it to help figure out ways of presenting the concepts in my life and also to learn how to speak in something shorter than my usual tendency to fill in too much detail, or at least that is what some friends have alluded to, ok came right out and said (I have been told that Thucydides was much briefer in his "History of the Peloponnesian War" and its eight leather clad volumes, so I am trying...). I do find though, that a 45 minute show, after you fast-forward through the commercials, can often take up to two or three hours to get through, partly because my ADD based nature kicks in (oh look, a butterfly).

I am looking at the beginning of this piece and catching myself doing it again, so STOP IT! :)




I was crafting an answer for a question about reincarnation and why I believe in it when I went off on a tangent involving when I really started to become aware of the world's "reality", 1981 in Los Angeles and the beginnings of the Age of the Valley Girl (AVG), like oh my God!

Being a Hollywood kid at the time, we laughed at the way they talked, the way they dressed and the completely vapid way they related to the world around them, the was the Reagan era, shortly after his shooting.

What startled me, was when I finished my walk down memory lane (and deciding to watch "Valley Girl" later tonight for some laughs), was the realization that the rampant consumerism that we used to laugh about those "airheads in the Valley" have become a way of life, it's called America, gag me with a spoon!

In today's version of what it is to be an American, it is not about doing something, but about acquisition of things. The early period of the AVG was marked by the need to go to the mall, the central hub of all Valley life. The appeal is understandable, as Moon Unit Zappa said in the theme of the era:
Encino is like so bitchen
There's like the galleria
And like all these like really great shoe stores
I love going into like clothing stores and stuff
I like buy the neatest mini-skirts and stuff
Its like so bitchen cuz like everybodys like
Super-super nice...

Its like so bitchen...
Frank & Moon Zappa, "Valley Girl" (italics mine)
We humans like to gather things, it's a pre-programmed norm of our species, and we like to go places where "everybodys like super-super nice" (sic) since "its like so bitchen". It seems that somewhere along the way, these went from being niceties of the retail industry to a cultural norm.

Slowly, we are transferring from a culture of doers to a culture of observers and purchasers. I have written before about my frustration about how difficult it is to get people to take action and those who seem to take advantage of this tendency to accumulate power for themselves.

We suffer from the mistaken belief that we are what we have, you are not your Gucci bag, but your things can often actually own you. It's not that it is "bad" to buy or have things, but when it becomes more important than doing things, we can see that we have begun to lose our way somewhere.

So the next time that you find yourself needing some trinket you did not know existed 30-seconds ago, take a moment and ponder the possibility that maybe there is some place better for you to spend not only you time and money, but your attention and intention.

September 30, 2013

Spirituality vs. Religiousness

In today's world we see many anti-religious sentiments, like Bill Maher's "Religulous" amongst many others, and as much as those on the receiving end like to bitch about it, can anyone really blame the detractors of (so-called) Organized Religion? Religion, by definition, is about "re-linking with God/Deity/Source" and becoming better people for it, but most seem to use it as a justification of their general antisocial behavior to anyone or anything differing with their way of doing things.

I ran across this on Facebook and thought it was an excellent example of why I am perceived as tough on organized religion. Sadly, this is not limited to Christianity, I see similar trends in Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, etc.


Pastor Jeremiah Steepek (pictured above) transformed himself into a homeless person and went to the 10,000 member church that he was to be introduced as the head pastor at that morning. He walked around his soon to be church for 30 minutes while it was filling with people for service, only 3 people out of the 7-10,000 people said hello to him. He asked people for change to buy food, NO ONE in the church gave him change. He went into the sanctuary to sit down in the front of the church and was asked by the ushers if he would please sit in the back. He greeted people to be greeted back with stares and dirty looks, with people looking down on him and judging him.

As he sat in the back of the church, he listened to the church announcements and such. When all that was done, the elders went up and were excited to introduce the new pastor of the church to the congregation, "We would like to introduce to you Pastor Jeremiah Steepek." The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation. The homeless man sitting in the back stood up and started walking down the aisle, the clapping stopped with ALL eyes on him, he walked up the altar and took the microphone from the elders (who were in on this) and paused for a moment, then he recited:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ [editor: Matt 25:34-40]

After he recited this, he looked towards the congregation and told them all what he had experienced that morning...many began to cry and many heads were bowed in shame.... he then said....Today I see a gathering of people......not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples...when will YOU decide to become disciples? He then dismissed service until next week.......Being a Christian is more than something you claim. It's something you live by and share with others.

Notes:
Highlighting, color and italics are mine

According to Snopes.com this is likely a fabrication and I remember a similar story about Thomas Jefferson and a hotel before and during his presidency, but the point is still valid.
To make matters worse, this lack of real spiritual growth in religion has become infused with politics, not only here, but also several  places around the world. Here is just one example of how this pseudo-religiousness is poised to destroy a country.
Since "God is on their side," freedom seems to have lost its meaning in the United States. "American Freedom" is slowly becoming the enforcement of one groups ideas overall and if the whole doesn't like it, well tough; or, we call it a "War on Christianity."
"Christian Sharia - The Dangers of an American Theocracy" (unpublished essay)
Robert Burgener

Freedom is about making one's own choices, taking responsibility, and dealing with the resultant repercussions and consequences.

If you believe that:
Same-Sex Marriage is wrong, then you should marry the opposite sex
Abortion is wrong, then you should not have one
Premarital sex is a sin, then you should live in abstinence till you marry
etc...

Point to ponder:
Many people think that morality is following a set of rules and regulations, if this is really the case, then lawyers are the most moral people on the planet (When you finish swallowing what just came up, give it a good thinking).

September 23, 2013

Becoming Human from Homo sapiens

I find the basic concepts of evolution to have some interesting aspects, especially when it comes to certain behavior patterns of Homo sapiens. Yes, I could use the term "Humans", but to my mind, Human or humanity is a state of mind and being, not a scientific classification of species (did that piss you off? Good, act human and earn the name).

So, I guess I should start with an explanation of what the difference is between Humans and Homo sapiens, since it is easier to discuss genus Homo and species sapiens, let us start there.

Scientifically, genus Homo, Latin for man (gender-neutral), includes several descendants of the Australopithecine, predominantly separated from one another by the size of the skull's brain cavity. Modern man, specifically species sapiens, Latin for wise, has been quite the evolutionary success, well, at least until recently...

To me, human and humanity are terms that identify the ability to go beyond a singular "me, mine, and our" mentality and see beyond the needs of only the groups that one associates with. To give you an example, ever see the movie "A Beautiful Mind"? One theme is what is called the "Nash Equilibrium" which is simply the theory that there are times when "every man for himself" does not lead to a maximum result, but a cooperative approach would lead to better chances of success.

To put it another way, if Ayn Rand would find it dubious from her perspective of "Objectivism" and its current incarnations amongst the Conservative Right where they would say yes on Sunday, but no the other six days, it is likely to qualify as Human.
“Human: That which recognizes and applies Spirit as a guiding principle to the biological entity that carries many aspects of earlier states.”
Robert Burgener


So from an evolutionary perspective we have inherited many "norms" that seem to be inborn into our natures. We want to be accepted by the majority, we have a bit of a herd mentality, we follow the leader, we often strive to pound our round "originalness" into the square hole of the norm.

Just how much of that is inborn and how much of it is cultural, I cannot say. In the vast majority of cultures we find originality somewhat discouraged, so I am inclined to think that the cultural aspect is just a continuation of the evolutionary trait.

Presuming the evolutionary concept, these traits make perfectly logical sense. Traveling in groups, cooperation, and not standing out make survival much easier for the individual. We are no longer running from predators that want to make us lunch. These traits are becoming less valuable to the whole and in many ways they are becoming stifling and potentially detrimental to the future growth of Homo sapiens as a species, evolution continues and older traits may need to be discarded.

It is inevitable that at some point awareness should surpass that whence it came, it will involve changes and if one lesson from evolution is more prevalent than most, it is our dread and near hatred of change.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
“You were born an original. Don't die a copy”
John Mason
It is becoming time for Homo sapiens to begin to assess the past and begin the process of awakening to the awareness that is inevitably the future unless we wish to devolve as a species. Though it is only my personal opinion, I suspect that this is a process that we need to get onto quickly, we appear to be creating potential damage and it is likely to take substantially longer to undo what we have already done.

September 16, 2013

Blessings in Disaster

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
The Declaration of Independence
Thomas Jefferson

As citizens, we often look at the documents of the founding of our country as if they are not part of the world that we live in, they are separate from our day-to-day lives. Yet, it is the direct and simple truths of many of them that make them so special in the annuls of time and writing.

Recently I have been going through a life lesson that has been a direct assault on some of my personal biggest fears. I saw it coming, I knew I was going to need to deal with it, and yet, I put myself through two years of, probably, unnecessary pain and anguish.

Nearly three years ago, I panicked. I was in a place of no money, about to face the real possibility of eviction and a car that was not currently functioning.

In late October two things happened; first, a friend wanted to leave a living situation with two other friends and on paper, well, it looked like it would cut the expenses nearly in half (later I would find out the difference in the utilities would demolish that theory). I had also been looking for a job, and though I really did not want to reenter an industry that I had been in previously, I can always get a job in it. If the job had been acquired just two days earlier, the fiasco of the living arrangement could have been completely avoided.

I was aware that the new employer was a good man, but, as we all do, had a few issues and was known to be a bit volatile. With my past experiences, I thought I could handle it, right

The new roommates were friends and while living with others always has its challenges, worst case, you go hide in your room for a bit and let whatever pass, sure

If I had known what the Universe was planning for me, I would have run away screaming like a maniac and considered finding a pretty monastery to cloister myself in.

Instead, I was in a self imposed illusion of safety, at best. The fools paradise started to show its true colors; one roommate was a disaster, so much so that when they gave notice before Christmas, I was elated and thought about throwing a party at the very idea (you know those moments, polite behavior requires you to say "are you sure this is what you want?" But, inside you are doing the Happy-Happy-Joy-Joy-Dance).

A few days later, during a discussion of what we wanted in a replacement, the other roommate gave me notice that he was moving as well, well that sucks! Now there are any numbers of reasons I could list that would make it obvious that neither was going to be any help finding replacements and I was working my butt off on the new job.

So on February 1st I was holding the bag on just short of $1900 a month in rent, work was showing what the reality of the situation was, but I was now stuck. I was working six days a week, plus taking in extra work whereever I could get it.

It was not a complete disaster, the electric bill dropped from over $300 to about $45 (LA DWP stock dropped substantially), a friend ended using one spare bedroom to finish recording an album, some other friends rented the other bedroom for a couple of months while visiting from Europe. It was hard work, but it had some great times.

It took seven months, but when I moved out, I paid the final rent, 1st and last on the new place, and for the first time in my life, paid movers instead of doing it myself, I consider that to be a major success!

Now that Phase One was complete, it was time to learn the other part of the lesson, Oh, you did not get part one? Stop freaking out! The Universe knows what you need and will provide if you will just let it.

Phase Two was going to be more than just working through it, it would require entering the dark caves of my being and facing some of what have become surprisingly powerful issues with me, the Job (cue dark dramatic music)!

I was quickly aware that this was not a good situation to be in, there were major clashes between my personality and that of my employer. As it was to turn out, it was to be a question of how much a "paycheck" was worth and just what was I willing to participate in to acquire one. As it turned out, I have become quite surprised at just how much!

In the last few months I have been trying to work on other projects while dealing with the issues at work (I really do think "work" should be added to that list of four-lettered words not used in polite society). I saw things deteriorating around me and I began desperately looking for alternatives, should I just get another job in the same industry, pays the bills but not likely to be particularly fulfilling. Should I go into another industry, or maybe the Universe has something else in mind.

I must have been ready, not that I necessarily realized it, as the whole situation finally collapsed in on itself, or in laymen's terms, I got fired. When it happened, I was pissed! After I cooled down, I was predominantly relieved and now a couple of days later, I actually want to thank my former employer for it, I am off the fence, a direction toward tomorrow has been placed at my feet and I will see where it goes.

So back to where we started, The Declaration of Independence, or more directly, when the Universe or Spirit guides you toward things, be willing to pursue them for often one has to declare independence from the now to create tomorrow. The alternative can be a very uncomfortable drop kicking, just saying.

September 10, 2013

September 11th - Some Thoughts

Sorry for the delay, I was working on my post for Monday and it suddenly hit a brick wall. Sometimes that happens, I get writing something and it just fades into the darkness, sometimes permanently, other times just for the moment.  I find it most often means that I have something else to do first. So, I will put the entry on the back burner and come back to it at another time.

So what is it that I want to write about today? What has been on my mind all day has been that tomorrow is Wednesday, September 11th, the anniversary of the "terrorist attacks" on New York City and Washington.

I think that such days, while important to remember so that we do not repeat them, are often used for their emotional attachments in attempts to manipulate the populace to a particular perspective or ideology, not necessarily in their own best interest.

Sadly, I expect Fox and the Conservative Talking-Heads to play the dramatic side of the anniversary to its hilt, on one side they will play the sorrow of the anniversary and on the other side, they will likely crow their claims of being the party of national safety.  Is such a claim deserved, honestly, I do not know, but I doubt it.

As much as I would never want to see such an event happened again, I am concerned what it bears for the nation's future when it has become nearly exclusively reactionary, instead of taking the time and energy to discover the truth of a situation, use reasonable judgment, and make an informed decision.

In the current political landscape there is a tendency, particularly amongst the Conservative Right, to play the drama card to manipulate their base. This is America, we allow people to think and believe as they please, but to take such a tragedy and smear it for political gain, personally, I find that deplorable.

Of course, it is possible that the media in general will present a particular image or mentality with an undisclosed purpose in mind (God, I sound like a conspiracy nut).

I guess it is inevitable that in time the anniversary of September 11th will eventually fade into history much as the anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day. For "a date which will live in infamy", it has faded into a memory, remembered mainly through a questionable movie starring Ben Affleck (President Franklin D. Roosevelt would be so disappointed).

Yet, there is the potential, as with all actions, for good to come out of them eventually. Only history will tell, but it is the now that makes history eventually.
 

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