Thursday, February 22, 2007

This Space of Love, Part 3

If you wish to start with Part 1, go here.

Any experienced polyamorist will tell any newbie that for it to work, polyamory takes honesty and commitment. I have also said it takes a commitment to polyamory itself, to love itself. I may have said that in my zine The Great Activity, if not here.

[side note: contact me if you'd like me to send you a copy! I'll send it to you for free, but you can also buy it here, and read it in the queer archive here.]

For me, this commitment evolved into a recognition that this is a spiritual path. For me, commitment to a spiritual path necessitates a questing mind, or as we say in Zen, Don't Know Mind. I look within and ask "How can this work? What does this look like? What does this feel like?" It changes, my understanding grows, and I become more convinced the key to a happy life, to a good life, comes down to how we cultivate all our relationships, and whether we bring love to all our relationships. It takes on a form, an internal landscape that melds with my past understandings of this internal landscape, until I realize this is the material that glues it all together, that brings shape to that world, this space of love.

Rachel came across this concept, the space of love, from the UV Family, a polyamorous tribe that goes back many years. They too write of this as a process of discovery:

When we listened without judgment and shared without editing, we found that we were consistently "in love with each other." But it wasn't love as we had known it - love as a reaction to another person. It was love that came from simply removing all the resistance to each other. As we gained our sea legs on this ocean of love that we created nightly in our heart sharing ritual, we gradually began to carry it over into everyday life - we could be "in love" while cooking, gardening, walking by the ocean, with someone in a foul mood or by ourselves, because the door to love was within us. Love wasn't an emotion (though wonderful emotions went along with it) and it wasn't a response; it was more like a choice. Love was a space. It couldn't be given or received, only entered.

Not long ago, I said to someone, "In that moment, a door to love opened in my heart for you." I'm keeping that door opened. It's hard to tell if that person walked through or not. A lesson I've had to learn several times, you can't get someone to walk through that door...that has to be their choice. I've also learned it's possible to keep that door open whether the recipient is in your life or not. It is a choice to close your heart, and it is a choice to wish someone well. This inner space, it becomes a touchstone, with more doors open to more specific people, it becomes the modus operandi with more people, with many people. My space of love touches the space of love of strangers. They are oblivious to me, but I see them, I see the miracle that is their life.

There is no avoiding hierarchy in relationships. Strangers on the bus occupy my thoughts little beyond those moments we ride together. If I don't touch base at least weekly with my homies, I miss them. Steve and I have been together longer than Steve and Krissy. Steve and I live together, Krissy has her own place. I resist saying though, that I am Steve's primary, and Krissy his secondary. I already have the relationship with more power. Cultivating love for them as well as for me and us, I want to minimize the impact of those differences. I don't wish to contain and solidify our V into labels that reinforce heirarchy, because who knows what the future may bring? It's possible that creative possibilities will be shut out if we make it one thing and no other. Indeed, I think the UV family would eschew the V term, they say:
What was askew in our old notion about love was that we had thought of it as though it were a vector, which in math is something that has direction and magnitude (and in biology is a disease carrier!). Since a vector is like an arrow, we dubbed this the "Cupid" model of love.


What if another guy comes along and shoots her an arrow? Whose love will she return? After all, there's a limited supply of love arrows . . . and on and on the game goes. Fortunately, we made the discovery that love, rather than being a vector, was a space - a limitless space - that any of us could enter by letting go of our protective games. Each one of us had our own door to the room of love, one uniquely shaped in the image and likeness of our naked selves. We had to leave our masks and armor and baggage outside the room of love and could only retrieve them by leaving love. Judgment, taking offense, blame and guilt
are a few of the components of that baggage - they exist only outside the room of love.

Limitless space....hmmm...sounds a little like emptiness.

I've said it before, one of the most profound characteristics of these to paths of mine, polyamory and Buddhism, is the liberation they bring. When I chose to step down those paths, I don't think I realized what radical choices they could be. Rachel invokes cognitive behavior therapy, saying, "When I remember that it's where I want to be (this choice, or space, of love), and "go there," then problems don't loom so large, and resentful or angry feelings towards H., or my teenager, or my mom, often dissipate."

We are not alone in our perception of the world-altering nature of this choice of love. On Alternet, Courtney E Martin talks about love as a radical act:
It is the moment we critically and consciously choose how to shape our love that we move towards freedom. It is a critical response to our commercialized culture of romance, a rejection of that which feels outdated, a vision of a more inclusive, more authentic, more liberating relationship. In fact, the moment we choose to shape our love is the first, most critical step in shaping the whole God damn world.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

This Space of Love, Part 2

If you want to read Part 1, go here.

In part 2 of her coming out poly, Rachel talks about the limits of language. She said, "In retrospect, I can see that it's problematic to use the single word love to describe both things--my feelings for a new interest and my feelings for a long term mate." I so understand this need to differentiate loves. A new love can be giddy and exciting, while a long-term love banks from a depth of emotional investments, time, memories, and shared experiences.

A while back I meant to investigate why people cheat. I never got around to that again. In some cases, in many cases, I think people find themselves falling in love, and drawn to the new love over the old love. Because we live in a monogamous world, they convince themselves they no longer love the first person, or they accept having two loves, but don't believe they could ever keep the first relationship if they confess the new love. They try to have both worlds, so they cheat. Therapists would say that is a red flag, that something seriously needed fixing in a relationship, or an affair wouldn't happen. Maybe. Perhaps sometimes the thing that makes it so difficult for these accidental cheaters is that completely unexpected crash into love. Love can be quite overwhelming. They don't say "swept off her feet" for nothing.

It says something about Rachel and her relationship with her husband that she could look within herself and accept that she loved two people, and that she could tell him and they could move forward from there. Still, it would be important for him to preserve what they have as special, as love, and view her new feeling as something else....or it could be threatening. (I don't mean to imply I have Rachel and her H figured out, but think of them more as a springboard for my thoughts.)

There is power in words, an unspoken hierarchy in words, unconscious sway from hidden words. Something exists before the words, but putting that something into words gives it a life, solidifies it, makes it somehow more real. (Whatever real means.) When it comes to love, I have experienced the monstrous tornado before any words, and I could not put any other word to that swirling giddy maelstrom. At the time, that first time, I could not withhold the word. It spilled out, it could be no other. Confession: the recipient of that feeling disdained it, saying it was silly, like a high school infatuation. Perhaps that has shaped my reluctance to use the word. I did have crushes in high school. They were nothing like this.

Before that, I did give shape to love through the word. I loved my first husband, not in that whirlwind way, but in naming it so, it became so. It was not enough of a love to weather this maelstrom. After that too, I experienced the edge of the brink of love, the readiness to tip over, and I slipped into the space of love when I named it, when I said the words, "I love you." I expressed it in a poem, as lovers do:

as soon as the words
flew from my mouth
like little incandescent

i knew it was true.
"i love you"
i said.
and i felt the love
take form
where a moment before it had
only been a thought.

So much of this love thing cannot be named, cannot be contained or held in a complete thought, perhaps that is why we try to express it so much in poetry and song, more than any other inner feeling. That first time I truly fell in love, it wasn't just falling in love, it was awakening to my full capacity to love, awakening to the full potential of this space of love. I knew that, even as I felt pulled to that particular person, I knew it wasn't just about him.

A friend of mine has been going to open mike poetry nights. She reports that so many of the intimacies shared are over the anguish and despair over this thing called love. People release suffering and pain through spilling out the words. Unreleased words, hidden truths, can hold us hostage our whole lives, keeping us from loving fully. Monsters in the closet like undisclosed rape, regrets over lost loves, unspoken, perhaps even pushed down til un-thought, these affect how we can love, who we can love.

So too with cheating. Undisclosed feelings separate us from each other. Keeping a piece apart, a web woven of undisclosed words can create an insurmountable wall. Hidden truths and lies can tear apart a fragile love.

In my first post on this space of love, I didn't wish to dilute different flavors of love by labelling them crushes. As I try to wrap my words around this entity, this space of love, I am also trying to say that encouraging this word, love, for these connecting feelings, this breeds more love, bigger love, all-encompassing love, thus greater kindness, compassion and caring. I am not making the word smaller, it doesn't make my love for Steve smaller, or the same as my love for others, but I am making my love for others bigger. (this must be why some say god is love. if anything i would say love is god.)

I found it so intriguing when I read Wendy-O Matik's book (thanks for the comment, Wendy!) that she gave expression to the very same thoughts I had experienced in my polyamorous relationship. She said,

When you have love for someone, you are inspired to do things for them, purely as an act of kindness and not because they owe you something in return. Love has no guarantees, no return-policy, no cash-back, no refunds, no price tags, no guidelines. That's what is so problematic about love. It's a wild ride on the beautiful side of life but completely in the dark.

I say when you love like that, the possibilities completely open up. If you don't expect exact returns, well, you are free to love however much you can produce. What does it cost, really? After a while, you get used to that wild ride. It's not so dark. It's easier to roll with the dips and swells. If there is a cost in anguish, it is made up for with new capacities for compassion. When polyamory works, when people get through the transition from monogamous mindsets, when they've had a chance to experience it when settled, I think there is an almost universal experience of this opening up to a greater capacity to love. The word changes shape, changes its meaning, becomes more inclusive. If we let it.

There is yet another inspiration from Rachel, these words, "this space of love," helped give shape to this understanding of love, helped put words to an inner landscape that is evolving in me. Coming up next, where she found "this space of love." Go here for Part 3.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

This Space of Love

In Redefining our Relationships, Wendy-O Matik says, "There is a tendency to want to put love in a tight frame, easily defined, and then put it on a shelf to over- or underanalyze. But love is far too clever to cooperate on this insignificant level." So, it could be said, is the self that touches buddha nature.

During the fervent fertile years of my Buddhist practice, when I spent much time digging and tilling in myself during Zen retreats, I experienced a fear at times, a trepidation over some next step, some next digging. I don't remember the specific question, but I remember the teacher's answer, "Perhaps you are bigger than you think you are." The small self of the ego tries to protect its walls through defensive posturing, through shrinking into corners, through over- or under-analyzing. Visually I always picture my friend Patrick, who (years ago) put his arm up over his face, bent elbow sticking out both as sword and shield, gleefully reducing the fearful ego to a tiny armor-bound body that clearly couldn't see beyond those sharp-edged walls.

I was finding that big self that needed no sharp elbows, that could see and be seen. Step by step, my zen teachers and my sangha, my beloved spiritual community, helped me expand my self beyond, always going on beyond that little defensive self.

I was learning to love myself. I didn't really know what love was, until it burst off that little shelf and knocked me sideways when I was thirty years old. "There is no place to rest," my buddha nature said. "Nope, you have to learn to love with your whole heart, your whole body, your whole mind." I thought I had come into my own. I thought I had become who I was meant to be. I had. I had learned to love myself. I had learned clarity. I thought I had come to an end, but it was only the beginning.

Wendy also said, "To give without expecting something in return is the ultimate gift of love, but it takes practice." If those first ten years of my Buddhist practice were all about finding the me I was meant to be, this second ten years have been all about forgetting about me, and learning to love without expectation. I don't mean a kind of love that still sets you apart. It's easy to love from inside a monastery on a hill. No, I'm talking about passionate involvement, along with all the psychic bumps and scrapes that come with negotiating the balance of attachment and nonattachment, with diving headfirst into feelings and connections and needs and revulsions. It takes practice.

Being poly, I got to get a lot of practice! Now, I'm not talking just about romantic love. The more I've experienced of that, the more I'm inclined to resist those boundaries. Love is love is love. There are different flavors of love. Each relationship I have, each love I have, has its own flavor, its own urgency, its own rhythm, its own boundaries. All these connections, all my relationships, flow from this love within me that is the same, a pure intention and movement in the direction of good wishes, kindness, compassion. Sometimes that pure intention and movement toward particular persons includes sexuality, sometimes it must exclude sex, but include loving affection. All those monumental rides and crashing highs and lows that came with romantic love helped me open up to a more passionate caring love for my platonic-flavored loves. Those bumps and scrapes prepared me for greater ease with a tender heart. They gave me a tender heart.

I was inspired to try to express this by my newfound blogger friend, Rachel, and her post about How She Found Out She's Poly. She fell in love. She still loved her husband. The feeling and the secret were tearing her apart. She confessed. Her husband had an interesting response:

Now I would call such a thing a "crush", because I believe you shouldn't call something "love" until your souls have mingled, and that takes intimacy and time. I think you can easily have crushes on other people without it affecting love for your partner.

I don't like using that word, crush. Or infatuation. Or even NRE for new relationship energy. I still prefer to say "falling in love". The first smashes the feeling down as insignificant. Indeed that was the intent of the man I quoted. If a feeling is made insignificant, crushed down and made small, well then it will be small. This is what most of us do to ourselves. We have an opportunity for expansion, and we do our damnedest to shrink it down to something we can control and kick around. The second belittles the love, makes it something that doesn't even qualify as love. Love is relegated to some lofty exclusive realm that only certain people are allowed to receive, while others are only worthy of receiving a delusion. The third, so clinical. At least not a delusion, but still not worthy yet of inclusion in this space of love.

Later he says,

I think about human nature, and the way that love can make us irrational and jealous and giddy and happy and sad... Love between two is complicated enough!

Indeed love can be overwhelming with the giddiness and the sadness, but with more experience, more practice, it becomes easier to steer, easier to transform and redirect those strong feelings. You may not be able to control it on that little shelf, but it can be possible to steer it in a general direction. I have learned too that love between two can be simple enough. When we don't have to share all the same interests, the same hobbies, or even the same sexual tastes, it becomes easier to love and accept each other just as we are. The points of conflict become less when we don't expect to have so many points aligned. Not so complicated, we can simply share this space of love.

There's more that Rachel inspired me to say, but I'll take that up in the next installment. Go here for part 2.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Creating Peace Through Community

I've written recently that in some ways we need to ignore what the plutocracy is doing, and simply create what we want in the world in our own lives. People are doing this, people have been doing this: creating intentional communities; exploring the intersections of communities; recognizing communities that are not restrained by geography.

It starts right here, with my habits, my dollars I spend, my choice of work, my friends I cultivate, my groups I help sustain. The same goes for you.

I regularly receive invitations to the round table of a local peace house, a Catholic Worker house or something like that. This week they are hosting a fundraiser and talk by Sharif Abdullah, who is based here in Portland.

He is working to create just this alternate interconnection of communities that I dream of, in the Common Society Movement. He says on the website, "What we need now is vision - a vision that we create together, for a world we want to live in. We need a PROCESS we all can have faith in, because we all participate in it. We need consensus." What I've said eerily echoes what he says:

There is a SYSTEM that keeps violence, hostility and conflict in place: it is capitalist, but it is also communist. The conflict system is imperialist, democratic and socialistic, all in one. It is run by major corporations, AND by each of us who own stock or buy the products of those big corporations. It's all interrelated. It's what CSM Catalysts call "the Mess". Against that, the Catalysts for the new society must be armed with something more than a handshake and a smile.
He has an ambitious agenda:

  • Step 1. Find, train and network 3,000,000 catalyst-leaders, roughly 1% of the US population. We also encourage and support similar processes in all other countries. This process will take up to eight years.
  • Step 2. Facilitate a massive world-wide dialog process to create an inclusive vision and direction for our global society, using the catalyst-leaders as guides and facilitators. This dialog process will take two to five years.
  • Step 3. Implement the vision, based on the systems created in the dialogs. Redirect our national and global resources to achieve a world that works for all. (We don't know what those systems will be, because they haven't been invented yet.) This will take many years, perhaps generations!

So why when I read this do I unconsciously shake my head and think it won't happen? Perhaps it's the blinking advertisement for Sharif Abdullah's books at the top of the screen. Perhaps its my experience that no matter how well-intentioned, you can't get consensus from 100 people who have the common goal of protesting a war. He wants us to imagine "café-style conversations, bringing together 100 people from various walks of life...facilitated by a person who has received specific training in how to include all voices, all points of view and how to create a safe, common, level playing field." Perhaps this is possible in more homogeneous societies, as Sri Lanka perhaps is, but not the United States.

Perhaps it would help if 1 out of 100 people are conscious exemplars of peace. I think we already have that, we just don't have these folks working together on the same goal. It seems to me even people who want peace can be too obstinate to hop on board for a single entity like this. Rather through people being peace, practicing peace, living peace without judgement (boy do I see plenty of judgement), I think we can spread peace like a virus. We can infect others with better problem-solving skills, with emotional skills that enable them to choose love over anger, generosity over greed, with political skills that always turn towards peace, not war.

It also occurred to me that perhaps I resist this because some part of me is afraid that if I look into it, I will find myself obligated to do something. We no longer live in times where we can wait for someone else to facilitate change for peace. If we want peace, we have to step forward and do what we can about it. I was afraid I might find this could be the movement we are looking for, and I would feel I must get involved. Sometimes you don't find your way, your way finds you. Do I really want to find another way?

I may still try to go to that talk and fundraiser, if only to get a glimpse of the man, and see if this is driven by charisma or by true intentions. I think I have put my finger on my main reason to doubt this though, that the change toward will be more organic. The catalysts for peace will make change without cafe conversations of 100 people, but by exemplifying peace in our daily lives, by influencing others through our sincerity, kindness, and peace of mind. We can't even get churches, especially can't get churches, to agree on what constitutes tolerance, and best action, much less all citizens from various walks of life.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Call Senator Smith, But Beware

Portland Peace activists have been regularly visiting Senator Smith's office, trying to hold him to his declaration that he now thinks the Iraq war was wrong.

Yesterday they couldn't get to his office, were stopped at the elevator. Tom, the professor, said, "Smith's rep, Andrew Over, categorically denied that we were being kept out at Smith's office request and, upon further questioning, even denied that the Smith people had any input into this decision."

Seems like a good time to keep the pressure on Smith. Remind him that we his constituents want the war to end. Remind him that he thought so too, post-election, and darned if we wouldn't like to see him follow through with that. Remind him that we are his constituents and deserve the chance to meet with him. There are reports though that people calling Smith's office in support of open/equal access to our elected officials are being told that their calls are being turned over to "security."

See the full story at My Left Wing.

Everybody Reads Midnight at the Dragon Cafe

This year our library's Everybody Reads event features Midnight at the Dragon Cafe by Judy Fong Bates. Every book group hosted by the library this month is reading this novel about a Chinese family of immigrants in Canada. They live in a small town, and own and run the one Chinese restaurant that also doubles as the greasy spoon diner. The author gives a glimpse of what it is like for a girl to grow up straddling two worlds: her isolated Chinese-speaking family, and her English-speaking friends and classmates. Her mother's faith speaks in signs and prophecies, her friends' faith, in church. Cramped by secrets at home, Su-Jen (aka Annie after Annie Oakley) finds some ease in the free-flowing household of her best friend. Family dynamics play out in a tragic Sophoclean destiny, at the center a little girl who may yet outwit any Eastern or Western channeled destiny.

Book groups at book stores and elsewhere are also reading this book this month. My library branch's paperback copies (with no due date) were snapped up within days. Related events pulled in participation by Portland State University, Barnes and Noble, and the Portland Chinese community. Do check out the events link if you're in Portland, there's still some great stuff for thinkers and for families. I hope to attend one of the author's lectures, among others.

I went to the panel discussion called Chinatowns in the Pacific Northwest.

Marie Rose Wong came down from Seattle, author of Sweet Cakes Long Journeys: the Chinatowns of Portland, Oregon. She shared slides from Seattle's International District. When asked why she wrote about Portland, she told us she started looking at the prison records, I guess due to the Chinese Exclusion Act. Portland's records were made public before Seattle's. She meant to spend a day and a half, and descended from the archives two and a half years later. Everything was so well catalogued it became a rich source of history of the Chinese people.

Marie told us there are clues you can look for for the 'real Chinatown' like old buildings with the shadows of signs leaving their imprint. She advised when you do go to an ethnic community, get off the main drag, find the side streets and alleys...that is where you find the real flavor of the community. We learned that what we think of as typical Chinese architecture, the pagoda, is actually a complicated religious structure; Chinatowns don't always look like Chinatowns

In Seattle many buildings are being renovated, and the whole International District is historic landmark, so buildings can't be changed outside, as well as a certain percentage inside. She would like to see more market level housing, not just low income housing, which is what is happening. "We need their money!" she said. I thought about that. This is probably happening because not enough low income housing exists in the first place? And nimbys won't let it in their already gentrified parts of town? That seems to me an astute economic steering. She mentioned mixed use, but she was talking about not just mixed use, but mixed income neighborhoods. Plan for that and more of the money can flow in a neighborhood. That makes sense, but for the nimbys that won't want the working class and poor in their hoods.

The first person to speak was Chet Orloff, director emeritus of the Oregon Historical Society. Some bits I remember:

  • evolution is a story of immigration and migration, so the story of the Pacific Northwest immigration goes back 14,000 years
  • John Day, Oregon. A Chinese doc set up shop, including his pharmacy. During the great flu epidemic none of his patients who drank his medicinal tea died. His pharmacy is preserved there.
  • After the railroads nobody wanted the Chinese, they literally went underground, built a town under the town of Pendleton (A bit of syncronicity...this tidbit reinforced by the teen fiction book I just started reading, fantasy about the Shadow City under Manhattan. The girl studies and learns of all these other underground cities around the world....but her Manhattan city is never mentioned.)

The second person to speak was Carl Abbott, professor of Urban Studies at PSU. Carl liked the numbers. 33 percent of Toronto is Asian. In the novel, Toronto was the one place where the Mom from China felt at ease, among family and people who shared her culture and language. He compared 18 percent in San Francisco, 11 in LA, 24 in Vancouver BC (or did i get couv and toronto switched?)

A final question related back to the did people fare when they were all alone in the small town. Chet Orloff's answer, they became "distinguished." they stood out. Could they make a better life without the competition? Not answered. My thought, no. More businesses all around encourages commerce, and in the novel, Toronto sounded more prosperous than the little town. Marie Rose Wong said there are 90 restaurants in the international district, and they are all open, doing well.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Movies Seen*

*When I list movies or books, it's mostly for me so I can remember what I've seen or read. Sometimes I feel like I have cottage cheese for brains. You may look at this as reviews, but as reviews go, my thoughts would be pretty lame. (and this is about 2 months worth of viewing...I haven't been that much of a couch potato.)

Lost Horizon
This took me back to my AMC watching days, not necessarily in a good way. I was bothered a bit by the depiction of Tibet, and how a utopian society in the middle of the high mountains was led by a white man who'd supposedly lived over 200 years and was called the "High Lama." The people there had created an elite little European enclave with European furnishings but stole the ideas of the Tibetan Buddhists to make it a utopia.

Howl's Moving Castle
Who doesn't like anime by Hayao Miyazaki, director of Spirited Away? This story also happens to come from one of my favorite SciFi/Fantasy authors, Diana Wynne Jones. A girl is cursed into an old lady, and she's caught up in the middle of battling witches. Lauren Bacall wonderful as the voice of the Witch of the Waste.

My Neighbor Totoro

Anime also by Hayao Miyazaki. A co-worker told me I would love it, and she was right. The soot sprites of Spirited Away make a comeback, and Totoro is a giant oak tree spirit that makes friends of two girls who move to the country and whose mother is sick. It was so sweet, I could watch it again. I especially loved the scene when the girls wait in the rain for the bus with their father on it. Totoro joins them, and the girls offer the creature their umbrella. Extra large drops plunk the umbrella, causing Totoro to frizz with startled alarm. I also loved the giant cat bus that Totoro summons to help the older girl look for the younger. Shades of the Cheshire cat. Dakota Fanning (love her!) and her little sister Elle were the voices of the girls for the English version.

Kicking Bird
A truly indie movie shot in Portland. A decent story about a boy who runs to escape bullies who are on the cross-country team. The coach wants him on the team, but also wants the boy to be his ticket out. No Hollywood slickness here. I was tickled to find a small but good part played by one of my Dharma School moms. She also was the casting director. Produced by Angry Filmmaker.

The Ref
Denis Leary makes a great burglar. The bickering couple comes home, and he ends up refereeing. Therapy didn't help, but they find each other again at the end of a gun. Hmmm. I did like it though.

Country Boys
This was a fascinating documentary series from Frontline in which two Appalachian boys were followed by a camera crew, and interviewed, for several years. Poverty is indeed crushing. One boy was born again about a year before the filming, and was and is in a heavy metal Christian band. His girlfriend, now wife, is pretty sharp. They feel God brought them together. With such a love larger than themselves, I kind of think they'll be one of those rare sweet lifelong couples.

Just Like Heaven
A spirit haunts the condo of a man who falls in love with her, and helps her figure out her story. Romantic comedy with a paranormal twist, I like that. And I like Reese Witherspoon.

Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken
A teenage girl is told she's not wanted there anymore, so she leaves home and joins the circus. True depression-era story about a girl who dives into a pool of water on a horse. The scarier part of that for me was her jumping on the horse just before it jumped off the high-dive. Great story. Wild job. She has an accident that makes her blind, and that doesn't stop her.

Taken (miniseries)
A Steven Spielberg creation, it's 10 movies made for TV that pulls in all the lore of UFOlogy. The story follows several generations of three families: one family that descends from an alien and human; one that is consistently taken and probed by the aliens; and one that one that obsessively ties it's supersecret area 51 career to hunting those aliens and the other families. I'm sure Art Bell listeners would catch a whole lot more references than I could. Narrator and final hero of the story played by my favorite child star, Dakota Fanning.

Stage Beauty
Better than "Shakespeare in Love" (who could ever think that was remotely about Shakespeare?) this story is about the time of transition when women went from being outlawed in the theater, to being allowed. But eh, suddenly the women bring a less stylized acting to the stage, and there had to be a romance where she bests him. I guess they had to appeal to the modern audience.

Aeon Flux
I used to watch this as a cartoon on MTV's Liquid Television. I was curious as to how they would translate this into a movie. I never quite knew what was going on with the Liquid Television vignettes, but I guess I wasn't supposed to. Aean Flux was spindly and taut muscles and bones, and could crawl up buildings and jump from skycrapers, and died and rose like a phoenix each episode. The movie captured this well. The plot provided backstory for the cartoon (finally).

Neverwhere (miniseries)
Neil Gaiman is considered one of the best graphic novel artists and authors. I'm not into graphic novels, but was curious about his artistry. It's got a British production feel, not something I find appealing, but the fantasy genre willed out. A parallel society lives Under London, and a man with a boring life finds himself more a part of that world where rats talk, than his old life. Above-ground people don't notice the people from under.

Mysterious Skin
A little league coach messes up two boys for life. One grows up to become a prostitute, the other obsesses about his lost time and thinks he was abducted by aliens. They need each other to recover. Good movie.

Reading Rumi in an Uncertain World
Poetry reading by Robert Bly and Naomi Shihab Nye. Bly has a neat way of repeating lines, allows them to sink in. Rumi's great.

Idiotarod, but not in New York

A person on my alumni list shared with us that we could find photos of the Idiotarod at his favorite blog, here. I didn't quite get there, to the photos of the Idiotarod. (I hadn't heard of it before. Somebody else shared the link to this YouTube video.)

Before I saw the giant penis cart of the Idiotarod, I found this story about George W. Bush in a caterpillar factory. It boggles my mind that this person is our selected president. Whether on purpose or inept driving, what kind of person laughs at the frantic scramble of people avoiding crushing by a monster machine? If it was on purpose, that's insane. He's inhuman. My husband said that's a frat boy for you.

I shared with my alumni list that I am so glad we did not have frat boys at St. John's. I was spared that indignity. At least most frat boys grow up.

Holly Bailey, Newsweek blogger, reported this:

"I would suggest moving back," Bush said as he climbed into the cab of a massive D-10 tractor. "I'm about to crank this sucker up." As the engine roared to life, White House staffers tried to steer the press corps to safety, but when the tractor lurched forward, they too were forced to scramble for safety."Get out of the way!" a news photographer yelled. "I think he might run us over!" said another. White House aides tried to herd the reporters the right way without getting run over themselves. Even the Secret Service got involved, as one agent began yelling at reporters to get clear of the tractor. Watching the chaos below, Bush looked out the tractor's window and laughed, steering the massive machine into the spot where most of the press corps had been positioned. The episode lasted about a minute, and Bush was still laughing when he pulled to a stop. He gave reporters a thumbs-up.

Bush devotee commenters on her blog try to say it was just a joke, can't we cry-baby liberals take a joke?

The LA Times version of the story said this:

Before he spoke, Bush stopped at the Sterling Family Restaurant to chat with customers eating breakfast. But he really came alive when, at the end of a tour of the Caterpillar plant's assembly line, he climbed aboard a D10 tractor, a yellow behemoth capable of moving tons of earth to carve out a path for a highway, and told reporters: "I would suggest moving back. I'm about to crank this sucker up."

With that, the machine came to life, and moved forward on its yellow metal treads, until he brought it to a halt about 20 feet down the line and started it on a backward turn. When he climbed down from the cab, the inner boy was shining through and a broad grin crossed his face.

At least the reporter recognizes he's still a boy inside.

Taming the Hydra

Steve asked me this morning why I used the word "gloomy" since I don't seem to be gloomy. The thing is, when I'm with others, or with him, I am happy. It's when I'm alone that I descend into couch-potato lethargy, when it becomes paradoxically difficult to move out of the house and be among others. I told him that's part of why I said it, I wanted to bring it out of hiding and dispel it, keep it from being my secret alone. The other day I was cleaning out and organizing a closet (alone) and inexplicably felt sad. I sat down to meditate, to let come what would come, but nothing arose. Just sad. Nothing apparently triggered it. While sitting there, my homie called and I confessed to her to my sadness and my inability to find the trigger. I simply talked to her about various things, and afterward I realized I felt cheerful again. I am held and made whole by others. Saying these things, I realized I need to break that pattern of sinking deeper into the couch, so I sit in the neighborhood diner where there's not too many people, but I'm not alone. I'm better able to look at the bad news that depresses me.

Rachel over at Terrible Wonderful World eloquently expresses a similar mixture of grief and dismay, though more eloquently. "How do I begin to express the cold fury, the wrenching grief I feel? Day after day after day, we hear about more people being blown to bits in places far away--far away, but where I have family. Yes, I have family over there. We all have family over there. (Brothers and the human family.)" Alone on a walk, she ponders the state of things. She says, "Where is my optimism this morning? My faith in human wisdom? My hope for the future? Must be here somewhere...[searching pockets]...though I can't seem to find 'em at the moment. A laugh or two will help... Another thing that helps: remembering last night. The world may be going to hell in a handbasket, but some refuge can be found in the arms of my lover. H., you are a dear, sweet man." This helped me clarify my own confusing inconsistency, it is through being with others, loving others, that I find peace and happiness. Here in the cafe and bar, I am happier to be sharing breathing space with my neighbors, even if I don't know them.

And that leads me into my thoughts on interconnection, and how that could be our salvation in this world bent on a hellish distopian post-oil future. I don't have all my thoughts pulled together, certainly it's not complete, but maybe by putting it out there I and others can give it shape. I visited my other homie and his family last night and gave voice to a piece of that thought. We need to build our communities, our connections, and create our future for ourselves. We need to create our own sustainable neighborhoods, our towns. I mentioned this also to my visitors from Albany the other day. They said they need to bring me into their circle...that they fantasize about building a town that is self-sustaining. I seem to recall reading about a town in California that is doing this very thing. Could it be Davis? I said, "We need to ignore what our government is doing." By that I meant that we not participate in the consumerist imperialist policy of the plutocracy that controls our government and the mainstream media, as best we can. My friend's wife aptly realized it was not a thought that would work well in the Heartland, but we all realized we do have a chance here in Portland and Oregon. We already are building the infrastructures that we will need, not only community groups but the city itself.

I have learned from working with the loose peace network here that it isn't a figurehead, it isn't a single iconic figure that makes things happen, but a bunch of folks working together doing their little pieces of the whole. It takes enough people willing to step to the edge of their comfort zone, and it becomes easier as we forge ties, learn how to deal with the inevitable conflict. It is harder, and lonely, to view the march towards Armageddon alone. While the powers that be march closer to that goal (it sure feels like that, with rumbles of attacking Iran) those of us left behind can continue with this task of building a sustainable future. Of course we can't completely ignore them, we must continue to voice our differences, but we must also quietly go about our business the way we envision it.

Peaked oil, global warming, and perpetual war are heady ingredients for difficult times ahead. Visions of Soylent Green rattle around in my head, with updated science and the anti-science religious movement. We are not helpless though, we can effect a more hopeful transformation. It takes individual changes toward sustainability, and it takes towns and cities that plan development for walking, biking, and local agriculture. It takes caring relationships, people who nurture ties whether business or friendships, while not going back to the 'good ol' boys' days.

So just how does one survive the hydra? Heracles could chop off the heads, but he needed help from another to cauterize the wound and keep new heads from growing. In Buddhism we have the image of a sword that cuts through delusion. Our own karmic hydras can definitely be as vicious and grow new heads, and their blood as poisonous. We can't survive alone, and we must face this monster. In the end, Hercules couldn't kill it completely. He buried the final head alive.
(image from wikipedia)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Many-Headed Hydra

I'm finding myself in an odd twisted place of gloom and happiness, cynicism and faith, so much to say I've got nothing to say. What can I say that someone hasn't said? I feel the urge to hunker and nest, at least I can keep a happy home for my hard-working sweetie. Where'd that fifties throwback come from? I begin to see why sweet romantic comedies abounded in the forties. When you know the hell of war is tearing people apart daily, you want to remember the sweet half of our human nature. You want the fantasy of a happy ending, the ache of love rather than grief.

I've been hiding out from half-nakedness. I've been shrinking back from the narcissistic flashing of my inner musings. I know what puny efforts they are, and how silly. I've been more comfortable lately offering for others, but that too takes effort to come out my cave. When I feel resistant, I procrastinate. I count on a deadline, because if I don't have one, I don't do it.

Last week another march for peace ignored, another plea for peace treated as so much wishful thinking. People voted so overwhelmingly for Democrats that the votes overcame the black box fixes, yet who have we placed our faith in? People who posture with non-binding resolutions. I don't believe the Democrats really want to end the war. In my gloomier states of mind, I think either our illusionary democracy is held hostage by fear of attacks from within (remember the unsolved mystery of anthrax?) or by the plutocracy that holds the real reins of power. And those powers that be want to be the ones to have the last oil riches of the world. What a convenient piggy bank war is. The oil sits in the sand like cash in a bank while strife above the sand keeps the vault locked. While other countries continue to purge their reserves, those that have the money will not give up the banked oil in Iraq. I'm afraid we will never leave, whatever posturing the Democrats may do. If they meant it, they would stop the funding.

Last week while people marched in Washington, my own little peace group had a discussion about Peak Oil. See info here. There are experts who say we have reached the peak of global oil production. We can look forward to less oil that is more difficult to extract. The closer we come to scarcity it appears to me the more we obsessively consume.

Then there's global warming. Again it seems the more we experience tangible evidence, the more feverish our gluttonous denials. Stephen Colbert handles this so well. And isn't it nice to wrap up in a comfortable warm cocoon, to ride above others, untouchable, unharmable, in this moment? We are inundated with messages that this is good, feed the self, be happy, yet the creation of this monstrous greedy self inevitably brings us more suffering. Consuming the most in the world will not satisfy our need, will never satisfy our need.

So that is the gloomy stuff, bringing me down, making me feel hopeless. Are we doomed? Can we handle the inevitable change coming from the many-headed hydra of global warming, peaked oil, and war? Yet at the same time I am happy, most happy in loving others, connecting with others. Let me be the June Cleaver to my Steve. (Who'da thunk I'd ever say that?). Let me be the host of the tea party. (I had tea and cookies today with Bookmoochers from Albany, Oregon.) Let me be the beloved Sunday School teacher. Let me take this freedom I have learned from Buddhist practice and from daring to love, and give it to the world, because when I do so my love capacity just keeps getting bigger.

Here is where the faith mixes into this tangled mix of dogged activity and stillness in hiding. In Buddhism we don't have faith in something, we have faith that there is a point to all this effort. If we don't get results, we are told not to hang on to that faith. Faith is trust in the spiritual practice, and spiritual practice evolves. Faith evolves. Lately I have come to realize I place my trust in love.

I have not always been so free to love. Fear crippled my capacities. Fear cripples all our capacities. My Buddhist practice and my Zen teacher and my sangha friends helped me uncover and dissolve those hidden rooms fortified by fear. Clearing out the karma was not enough. If I was unmaking my self, I needed to remake my self to live in this physical world of relationships. I needed to meet conditions and learn how the self is made and unmade and remade by it's connections to others. I didn't know love was the key, but I was certainly drawn to it.

Love can be painful yet fortifying. Most of the pain comes from attachment. It is not love that causes trouble, but attachment. I learned it is possible to let go of attachment and continue to love, and that brings a freedom to love even more. There is still a kind of pain, though, in seeing unnecessary suffering, unnecessary cutting off from love. A friend (whom I love) pointed out that putting myself in such an open space can let in some negative stuff. So, maybe I need to allow for downtime, and quiet hidden times. Love tends towards fierce attachment. It takes practice to allow that to arise and fall, and at the same time experience that same love as complete acceptance.

Out of this tangled mix I begin to see the glimmer of an idea. It could be that very many-headed hydra that brings peace finally to this human condition so consistently marked by violence. If we survive the test. It has to do with interconnecting, and will take another post. (Hold me to that, folks.)