Tag Archives: slacktivist

Radical Transformation

I hold Duff McKagan entirely responsible for this text.

Okay, that’s not quite accurate–he inspires part of my ramblings today, but not all of them. And, hell, it’s not like anyone reading these pages could possibly find the above comment surprising. So, Duff, thank you for providing the board from which I will now gracefully leap, or be shoved, as it turned out.

Last week, for those who don’t (shame on you) keep up with Duff’s various blogs, Duff jokingly proposed (see, yes, I got the joke) a new political ticket: McKagan/Novoselic in a post in which he speculated on some of the current failures in American politics, politicians in general being the most central to these failures.  Krist (the Novoselic mentioned above, should you be wondering), responded with a fantastic takedown of the American public and the need for “we the people” to become “more personally invested” in the entirety of the political process.  Duff then responded in kind.

Got that?

For what it is worth, I agree with both–sort of.  I do think that personal investment and radical transformations are significant and necessary.  Even though my last adventure on the matter rather blew up in my face.  A small, if rather vocal minority, advocated for radical change and were summarily rejected, often in rather vicious ways.  In the end, many of us either stepped down or outright left the church.  Two factions existed, they could not come together, and one gave up the fight.

Do I see a correlation with the current Health Care Reform Bill?  Yes, I do.  In this case, a vocal majority advocates for change but spend a great deal of effort hoping for a better majority.  As my husband often reminds the kids, better is often the enemy of good.  Hell, any one who has ever attempted  a dissertation might agree–there are two types after all: finished and brilliant.

And those categories tend to be mutually exclusive.

Yesterday, I ended my membership at the aforementioned church. That I was struggling with the direction of the church is nothing new to anyone here, and it is true that I resigned my leadership positions in December.  My foot has been out the door for some time.  What changed this week, though, had little to do with the church theology and politics, at least I think so.  What happened was gossip.

Now, I’ve been pondering right speech of late any way in preparation for Lent (I was rather leaning on it as a theme), particularly after reading A.J. Jacobs’ delightful The Year of Living Biblically, which, sadly, I don’t have in front of me right now.  He notes in the course of the year that the need to think carefully before speaking becomes a concern of his almost to the point of obsession (the sections on honesty are just wonderful).  At what point do we abandon honesty necessarily?  What needs to be said?  Will it help or hurt the world for me to speak this particular act?

In the midst of all of this, I was reading slacktivist (granted, I am always reading Fred’s blog, it seems.  Really, I do have a life.  I promise) and this comment struck me:

The authors do a commendably thorough job of debunking and refuting Warnke’s claims. Their earnest, devout perspective makes that debunking even more thorough as it requires them to take agonizing pains to avoid bearing false witness or a lack of charity. You’ll rarely encounter muckraking conducted with such sorrowful reluctance or such genuine lamentation over every bit of dirty laundry uncovered.

And he’s right.  I read those articles and several more besides, as the writers at Cornerstone dismantled Warnke’s stories and others who helped to propagate the hysteria that has come to be known as the Satanic Panic.  Utter commitment to honesty and charity, even whist pointing out the myriad ways in which Warnke lied.

And then Tuesday happened.

I mentioned a few weeks ago (and the events I mentioned are largely why I’ve not been writing as much as I should) that several events had occurred in my life–big ones–but not ones that were mine to share, though they directly affect me.  I pondered laying all the stories out at the time, but it felt unjust.  And, truth be told, it still feels like it would be, so please bear with my vague references for a moment.  On Tuesday, it was relayed to me that one of those events had been shared with a party who had no particular need to know the situation.  The sharer of the story was a church member (who, I’ve no idea, given how few people I’ve told) and the sharee (?) was someone who has been troublesome in my life.

Again, suffice to say that the information was inappropriately shared.  At a time when I desperately needed sanctuary–and I was trying to seek it at the church, in my own small ways–a member of the church took it upon him or herself to tell the story to someone who not only was not a part of the tale but is also someone who I emphatically do not trust.

I wonder if the layers of conversation about gossip and right speech were to prepare me for a response to this mess.

Cue the Duff blogs:  Krist’s remarks in response to Duff made me think more about right speech–and right action.  I can sit back and complain about the ways in which I feel wronged or sad, or I can attempt action.  I can be that change, rather than simply hoping for it.

In other words, did the rugs get pulled because there is a transformation that I need to recognize and have allowed myself not to see?  Have I not been personally invested enough in something I need to pay more heed to?

I’m not quite at a point of action, though I did a damn fine job of running yesterday–maintaining a lovely 7:00 minute mile on the quarter-mile repeats. (Note to self: running fast–yes, this is fast for me–does not suck.  In fact, it rocks).  I am though at the point of consideration–seeking more examples of right speech (clearly, I don’t ever want to–even inadvertently–do this to someone else) and change.

I think, though, the notion of radical transformations will be my Lenten reading.  I’m also going to fast this time–I’m not buying any new books (this is HUGE for me, really) and I’m not going to eat meat during Lent, just to change up my meal structures for a while…see what happens.

I’m looking for book suggestions on this theme–any are welcome.  I’ll be blogging on the readings (and probably kvetching about the fast) throughout Lent.  I’m definitely going to include some political readings (I generally do, this is nothing surprising), but I’d really like to encounter some that deal with transformations of process, not just idea-worship (which I excel at already).

Okay, I promised to write on Beautiful matters, rather than just Disease ones, so to sum up the beautiful here:

  • Political dialogues by favorite bassists who are also willing to think and explore possibilities (what is not to love, really?)
  • Lenten readings
  • A chance to create, rather than receive, sanctuary
  • Running.  Running fast, in particular. Next race is at the end of the month.  Woot!

And while this last is clearly about addiction, it is also quite beautiful:

  • This Sunday will be 365 days
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Straightening Out the Rug

Okay..weird.  I wrote this several days ago (last Thursday) and thought it had disappeared into the great beyond.  Lo and behold, this morning it reappeared.  I’ll comment on it below, but…it seemed worth posting this intact.


I don’t know how many of you remember the silly-ass movie Top Secret (ah, the days and youth of Val Kilmer), but the scene in the diner when he starts spinning on the rug, has for some stupid reason been in my head for the past few days:

Go to 1:26 to see the spinning scene, but the clip is worth the few minutes of goofiness.

Rugs are on my mind–and I am pleased that I defaulted to parody here–because the rug was pulled out from under me rather dramatically twice this week.  While normally I’ve no particular hesitation in sharing my various mistakes and tribulations, these two particular incidents are not mine to share.  They were big and unexpected and utterly terrifying, though.  I’ve not had a panic attack, nor given into my various demons, though I’m quite depressed.  I’m of the opinion that depression is a perfectly rational response, so I’m not worrying over it so much as just trying to maintain a semblance of normal.

The highlight of the past few days was teaching this morning.  I think I have one of those rare classes–mature beyond my initial expectations and wonderfully curious and opinionated.  While they have no idea what has happened, I can’t begin to express the gratitude I owe them for holding me up this morning, when they didn’t even know that they were doing so.  It felt so good to be up there, out of my little reality, and teaching, especially with such delightful students.

One casualty of the events is the marathon I’d planned to run on February 7th.  I’m sad to let it go, but it is prudent to do so.  Once I’ve dusted myself off sufficiently, I may decide to put the training thus far to use toward the ING marathon in Atlanta this spring, but we’ll see what shakes out.  And, as ever, I’m not inclined to believe that things can’t get any worse (or won’t get better, for that matter).  Situations can always degrade and improve.

Anyway, my prayers are with you all in your own situations and moments–good and bad.  My prayers are for all Haitians–ones who lived through the earthquake directly and ones who will experience the aftershocks in the days and weeks to come, both in Haiti and abroad.  My prayers are with those who my lesser brain would like to dismiss and deride right now, because, as a wise woman noted in her tweets of late: “I cannot afford the luxury of a negative thought.”

Couple of readings to share:

On the upside, I’d like to share a few reading goodies: What I’m Up To, from Paradise Perspective.  Great thought: “Keeping focused on the moment, and remembering to be present for this inch, this stitch, and NOT the finished garment (or what’s for dinner) is the goal.”

This one is a couple weeks old, but worth the read:  Starting Over, from Duff’s Reverb Column.

(added on Monday): From slacktivist, Dear Pat Robertson, STFU.  I think the title explains all you need to know.  Amen.


I’m feeling better today.  My memories of last week are foggy at best–except when I was at work, when I was able to focus most– it was utterly awful.  And the third thing (convinced as I am that bad things come in threes) seems to be the possibility of additional furlough days (not sure yet–we have several already worked into the semester, but I’m not sure if they “count”).  But, it is what it is.  We’ll get through the two big “bads” of last week and the potential for more furlough days.  Our lives may look different in the end, but, we’ll get through.

Right now, I’m taking things one stitch at a time (most humorous to me, since one of my current books is this gem: The Happy Hooker.  Why the heck not, right?

I think for the next few posts, I’m going to work on compiling my Lenten Reading list (I need a theme–thoughts?), writing about books, and trying very hard to write the positive.  Focus on the Beautiful, for a while, rather than just the Disease.

Seeking, Polar Bear Style

On my typical morning, I read the newspaper (bless the poor local one, it doesn’t take very long), a couple of web-papers, and several blogs, just to see what might be out there. On Thursdays, I read Duff’s notes on the world, and when fate is with me, slacktivist posts on the same day.

Today is one of those fine days; much reading enjoyment. I’m also listening to People of the Book whilst driving between campuses, so just be aware that somehow this is all creating an odd confluence in my mind.

So…polar bears. Fred (slacktivist) remarks that

Grandin also discussed another case of compulsive animal behavior — a polar bear named Gus who had taken to pacing back and forth in his zoo habitat. Gus’ behavior, Grandin said, was motivated by “seeking.” Being both very intelligent and a predator, Gus was simply going out of his mind with boredom.

That term “seeking” was new to me in this context. Dr. Grandin explained that she was using the terminology of Panksepp’s core emotions — fear, rage, separation anxiety and seeking.

Read the article, it is worth the time; good thoughts on our “gerbil” habits, versus our “polar bear” ones. The seeking bear simply wanted stimulation of some sort, rather than a closed, predictable environment. Oh, how I do identify with that bear.

Duff wrote about mountain climbing today, and in the course of his notes, he remarked upon the obsessive habits of the alcoholic—something rather familiar hereabouts–and noted that he could feel the pull to the summit when he was a mere 300ft away, but had to turn back; he did listen to his climbing partner and descended safely, a remarkable change from the Duff of 15 years ago who not only would not have been climbing any icy mountain safely, but who almost certainly wouldn’t have put safety and wisdom over opportunity.

What Duff is describing, I think–and what I’ve written about as well–is a matter of seeking. Some alcoholics are motivated by fear, and many sober alcoholics are. I can’t tell you how many books I have come across that simply work to manipulate the fear instinct in alcoholics–fear the drink. And that is not necessarily a bad thing, by the way…a bit of fear of what you were willing to do while drunk is a healthy thing indeed. Step 5 in AA–“Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs” is precisely about this–reminding yourself (and at least one other person) what you did. What you were willing to do. Who you hurt.

But, for a certain set of us, the need to, as Duff remarks, “fill the void,” requires something other than just fear. We require activity–outlets for energy that had previously been spent consuming. The energy (which while an active drunk has many different expressions), doesn’t disappear. Either we begin the polar bear pace, which leads to boredom and, unfortunately also leads, too often, back to the bottle, or we fill that space–we seek. We seek physical stimulation (climbing mountains, running, etc.), and we seek, as is used in Fred’s article above, because we are curious. That curiosity was always resident, but alcohol may have masked it. Alcoholics often turn to the church, not just out of fear, but out of this desire to know, to understand. Others, like myself, turn to just wanting to know the answers–as the book I’m listening to puts it– “to move the ball forward, even a millimeter” in the scope of human knowledge.

Alcohol had the effect of creating the “safe space” of the artificial Arctic environment; drunk might look good, might even feel good for a time, but it is self-limiting and only falsely-safe. We begin to pace, which leads to drinking more until we hit a wall or otherwise arrest ourselves from the perpetual back-and-forth. Drunk and guilty. Drunk and sad. As I’ve said before, I often drank to just stop the thoughts for a little while. Get everything to slow down.

I don’t worry over that anymore; I let my thoughts race where they take me….sort of like in this post. My perusals into the relationship between, say, punk and Romanticism may not be life-changing, but they move the ball forward with each connection that becomes apparent. Staying sane appears to require embracing the seeker (DO NOT read any Harry Potter connotations here!) resident in me…and in most of us..I guess. Am I being overly optimistic about the human race again?

Sadly, much of this makes me think of Gravity’s Rainbow, a fact that is disturbing as hell. More on that later.

Off to ponder. And to avoid reading Pynchon.