SPEAK LOCALLY – WITH A GLOBAL VOICE

The problems that we face – such as climate change, inequality, and the resurgence of authoritarianism, nationalism, and militarism – are global in scope and nature. We may feel isolated in our local struggles, but it is a very powerful thing to realize, as I have in the course of my travels, that there are quite literally billions across the planet who are waging similar struggles, feeling similar feelings, and seeking similar solutions. So when you speak locally, use that global voice, knowing that you are not alone.

Once I had a castle

Once I had a castle
But it fell down stone by stone
It’s alright, it was just a hassle
For I lived in there alone

Once I had a golden chain
I wore it cross my chest
Then I lost it in the driving rain
But it was really for the best

And once I had a silver ring
That my love gave to me
At least she didn’t take it back
When she’d had enough of me

My To-Do List

  1. Help establish multi-party democracy in the United States.
  2. Encourage the surgical separation of Christianity and Capitalism.
  3. Help facilitate the transition to
    1. The Next American Republic.
    2. A New Values Economy.
  4. Further develop & expound the philosophy & methodology of “Serious Silliness.”
  5. Finish & disseminate creative works (songs, essays, etc.).
  6. Develop a better relationship with/understanding of mortality; find an opportunity for a good & useful death.
  7. Have fun in the meantime.

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Excerpt from The McAdooiad

(In my epic poem The McAdooiad, a political consultant leads an expedition to Hades to conduct a focus group there. While there, they are given a tour by the shade of someone who might be Mark Twain, or maybe Kurt Vonnegut. They travel to the section of Hell called the Vale of Conservative Commentators.)

“Hell has expanded, you know, since Dante’s day,” the guide explained.
“There are more than just nine rings now; indeed, there are more than nine sets of rings, and new construction continues apace.

But it cannot keep up with the influx of souls,

Hence your delays upon entry.

It’s more like a giant anti-amusement complex, a vast park of punishment, a mall of maulings, subdivisions of sufferings,
For those who could not, would not, dared not repent.

But for all the mass production, for all the identical rows of high-rises,

Still there are some who have rated their very own personal dooms, who have crafted their eternal homes, which even now await their architects

Somewhere in this Hell … here, see this vast, empty plain?
In the midst of this plain there is a table.
Behind the table is a comfortable leather chair.
On the table is a huge golden microphone, and an ashtray with a cigar.

There is a man who will be condemned
To sit behind that microphone forever, and smoke that cigar,

And talk and talk and talk and talk….

Trying to convince someone, anyone, that he does not belong there.
The microphone, however, will not be connected to anything.
Only he will hear himself, and he will hear only himself
But he will not even convince himself.

Because no one could ever make him change his mind.”

 

A random bunch of my favorite songs

In no particular order – I’ll just post ’em as I think of ’em… These are some of the songs that make me stop in my tracks, turn up the radio, dance in my chair, or even start singing along…. The songs that make my scalp tingle, my heart race, or my mind soar… Some of these songs are part of my self-definition; some mark particular moments, or even eras, in my life…

  • Kate Bush, “The Big Sky”
  • 801, “TNK (Tomorrow Never Knows)”
  • Beatles, “It’s All Too Much”
  • Jane’s Addiction, “Jane Says”
  • REM, “It’s the End of the World”
  • The Who, “Eminence Front”
  • John Cale & Brian Eno, “Spinning Away”
  • The Horse Flies, “I Live Where It’s Grey”
  • Natalie Merchant, “Carnival”
  • Bush, “Machine Head”
  • David Bowie, “‘Heroes'”
  • Roxy Music, “The Thrill of It All”
  • Pink Floyd, “One of These Days”
  • Blue Öyster Cult, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”
  • George Harrison, “Art of Dying”
  • Peter Gabriel, “I Have the Touch”
  • King Crimson, “Discipline”
  • David Byrne, “Five Golden Sections”
  • Talking Heads, “Houses in Motion”
  • Emerson, Lake & Palmer, “Lucky Man”
  • Cat Stevens, “Wild World”
  • Radiohead, “Karma Police”
  • Foo Fighters, “Everlong”
  • Pearl Jam, “Black”
  • Eddie Vedder, “Big Hot Sun”
  • David Byrne/Brian Eno, “America is Waiting”
  • Human Sexual Response, “What Does Sex Mean to Me?”
  • The Beatles, “I Am the Walrus”
  • Synergy, “Breakdown in World Communication”
  • Stephen Foster, “Hard Times Come Again No More”
  • Bjork, “I Miss You”
  • Kate Bush, “Deeper Understanding”
  • Laurie Anderson, “Big Science”
  • Tom Tom Club, “Wordy Rappinghood”

Limerick for The Hague

A fellow arrived at the Hague
With symptoms both dire and vague
When he spiked a fever
They called Unilever
Who said “Sounds to us like the plague.”

TWO NOT TEN

I have never quite understood the emphasis that some American Christians put on the so-called “Ten Commandments,” particularly their insistance that governments should use tax dollars to create displays or monuments of them in courts, schools, and other public places.
Not there is anything wrong with the Ten, mind you… It’s just that one might expect that Christians – especially conservative, fundamentalist Christians – would have a preference for the formulation laid out by Yeshua ben Yosef himself, as quoted in Matthew, chapter 22:

The Greatest Commandment

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (NIV; courtesy http://www.biblegateway.com)

I mean, doesn’t that cover the territory pretty effectively? How many more commandments do we need, anyway? Why the Ten, not the Two?

Besides the fact that this formulation is ever so much shorter, I think it is also much more universal. After all, Jesus says “love the Lord your God,” which could just as well be applied to and accepted by Muslims or Hindus as Christians. In fact, to me this says: Whoever (or whatever) your God (or guiding principle, or moral code, or object of worship, or purpose in life) happens to be, in short whatever that Most Important Thing in Life is, you should devote yourself to it fully. I think even atheists and freethinkers could get behind an idea like that, semantics nonwithstanding.

There’s your First Commandment sorted out.

As fot the Second, I really can’t imagine anyone having a problem with “Love your neighbor as yourself” – unless, of course, one is afflicted with self-loathing or suicidal tendencies…

Well, no, on further thought, let me amend that. Your “rugged individualists” might have some trouble getting their heads around that commandment. I remember a conversation I had with a co-worker one day… 

“Skip, what would you do if, after the collapse of civilization, I showed up at your house with my family?”

My response was immediate. “I’d invite you in and share what I could.”

“Right,” he said. “And that is where you and I are different. If our roles were reversed, I’d shoot you immediately – my family’s needs come first.”

He wasn’t being mean about it – indeed, he’s not a mean guy, he’s quite capable of generosity and compassion – but he had obviously thought things through, and made some choices, and those choices didn’t take into account this commandment’s call for community and solidarity.

Well, if these things were easy to do, if they came to us naturally, we wouldn’t need commandments at all, I suppose.

But to get back to the question of why the Ten, and not the Two… I suspect the answer might lie in this: they are two entirely different types of instructions, and those types appeal to different kinds of minds.

Briefly, these two kinds can be called algorithmic and heuristic. Algorithmic instructions are precise, specific, and step-by-step. Recipes calling for exactly two level teaspoons of salt, for example. Follow the algorithm correctly, and you should get the same results every time.

“Add salt to taste,” however, is a heuristic instruction. Heuristics are vaguer, more subjective, and likely to produce different results in different circumstances.

They’re also harder to judge.

If someone violates an algorithm – skips over a step, or doesn’t adhere to the specifications, or eats the wrong food on the wrong day, the error is usually easy to spot – and one can then correct, criticize, punish, or condemn as needed.  But with heuristics, there’s no precise standard, no target to hit or miss – you can only do a better or worse job of trying to follow the guideline.

How can you measure how well someone loves? You can’t – you can only supply feedback, guidance, and encouragement.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that the former, in the form of the Old Testament laws, should appeal to fundamentalists, people who generally show a preference for clear, hierarchical lines of authority and enforcement, unambiguous standards for judgment, and strong sanctions for noncompliance.

Oh, and by the way – that thing about public displays? Unconstitutional on its face, and here’s why. Different religious groups have taken the Old Testament list and broken it up in different ways. Specifically, Catholics and Protestants use different numbering schemes. So any monument that lists the “Ten Commandments” using one scheme or the other would thereby be showing a denominational preference, and that would be in direct violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Using the Two instead would skirt that problem nicely. Imagine seeing this on our schoolhouses, courthouses, and prisons:

1. Love your God
2. Love your neighbor

And the details are up to us.