Thursday, February 18, 2010

The value(?) of individuality

What is the value of individuality? It seems obvious that unity provides strength. The combined efforts of many can accomplish what a single effort cannot. Aesop illustrated the concept in his fable about a farmer with bickering sons who demonstrated the strength of unity by bundling sticks. When a certain task requires a greater diversity of skills than any single person has then it becomes beneficial to form a committee where each contributes her individual skill and strength to the task. So if each person hadn't developed unique skills, the task would be impossible. Hypothetically, if all members in a culture were the same, if no-one had individual or exceptional abilities, the community would stagnate, atrophy, and dwindle. Only when individuality can be expressed, will a culture advance. So if it is to the advantage of a culture to include and promote strong individuals then why are we constantly encouraged socially to conform? why this grand homogenization? It has gotten to the point where a persons individual worth is challenged if they do not demonstrate outward signs of conformity or comply with some pre-determined arbitrary public standard. On the other hand, some personal achievement is publicly celebrated. Our cultural values don't seem to correspond to what, historically, has promoted or advanced our civilizations. Our culture seems to value entertainment more than science, religion, law, or art. We reward actors and athletes with celebrity and wealth while scientists and teachers have to struggle and sacrifice to make their contributions.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Chaos

It usually starts around October. You'll see stores starting to put out Christmas stuff, advertisements urging you to buy the latest thing. Capitalism revs up to a hyper-pitch trying to squeeze every possible cent out of the holidays. Rudolph and Frosty and our modern image of Santa Clause, beloved by many, were created to get us to spend more at Christmastime. Some over zealous types will even start playing Christmas music. If there is a theme that describes our modern celebration of Christmas, it is surely stress. There is so much pressure to buy the right thing, wear the right thing, I've even heard ads for laser-liposuction so that you will look good for Christmas photos.  There are so many special productions just for the season, movies, television, theater, concerts, pageants, displays, boutiques, and on and on. There are gifts to buy and make (but mostly buy), Christmas cards, treats and goodies, and on and on. We worry about getting the right gifts, not forgetting anyone, not spending too much and how to pay for it all. As Christians, we are frequently reminded to remember the true reason for the season and we struggle to find the balance between worship and Santa without it turning into worship OF Santa. With the balancing of schedules, the budgeting of money, the making of lists, shopping, School productions and parties for every member of the family, traffic, black Friday, chaos in the stores and grumpy people everywhere, it may be tempting to wish to have lived in a simpler time, long ago.

Joseph was engaged to be married, he was making arrangements for a new household, Finding a place to live, perhaps building a house. they would need some furniture which he would probably build, beds and bedding pots and pans tools and dishes and various household items. He was in love with Mary and surely excited to begin his life with her when he discovered her pregnancy. He must have felt anguished and betrayed as he considered all the social and legal implications, but his faith was strong enough that a message from an angel in a dream calmed his fears. Then the word came that Caesar would tax everyone and that they must return to the city of their birth. Joseph now must plan a long journey with a pregnant Mary, who, I'm sure was not excited about the prospect, AND worry about being able to pay the taxes. Not much is recorded about the journey, but it's not hard to imagine frequent bathroom breaks, (I wonder what they called them) probably labor pains on a donkey, dust and crowded roads. They made it, and though they were really on a divine mission, they were not spared from the realities of mortality. Joseph's instincts were surely to protect and provide for his wife and unborn child so the lack of available shelter must have caused great anxiety. They found the stable and, with a wife in labor, I'm sure they sought the help of a local midwife. The smell of manure, sharing a room with cows, sheep, chickens and their various noises, the cold air, the dirt and dust, and at the peak of his anxiety,

Jesus was born.

Surely he brought peace. Any new Father can attest to the eclipsing joy, wonder and pride that comes with the birth of a child. His focus was suddenly narrowed to that small boy that was now his to care for, along with the knowledge of his special and essential mission. The trials of the journey are suddenly insignificant, the love of God certainly radiated through the hearts of everyone who witnessed the Child. The Angels were so excited that they could not contain themselves as they took the news to the shepherds who were ready to receive it.
    The celebration of Christmas will still require a balancing act, we probably won't be spared the onslaught of commercialism that gave us Rudolph and Frosty but we can take comfort in the promise of the peace that comes as we welcome The Savior on Christmas day.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Capitalism, Materialism and Global Warming.

Capitalism rewards greed. People who consciously participate in a capitalistic system will do anything right up to the edge of the law to make a buck. That's why we need regulation. A Free market economy rewards sound business practices. It includes Humanity in the equation. Recently, a local mlm owner sent $50 to each of his distributors with instructions to spend it in their local areas. This makes no sense to a capitalist because it produces no income but a free market economist sees the intangible psychological value and the long-term benefit to a local market. Our American system is not purely either one or the other so each of us must decide to participate in ethical, thoughtful ways. This applies to, not only business owners, but also "consumers" I hate that word. It implies the acquisition of materials, depletion of their value and discarding the refuse. I propose that we think of ourselves as stewards rather than consumers. As stewards, we will take responsibility for the things we use throughout our ownership. This will include maintenance, conscientious control of the environmental impact (regardless of our political ideology) and thoughtful disposal of any waste. Failure to accept these responsibilities betrays a selfish and/or lazy world view. Christmas seems to be a good time to think about these issues since we are bombarded with advertising that appeals to our "Consumerism" and is in stark contrast to the higher themes of the holiday which, at their least spiritual, include peace on earth and good will toward men. These principle apply equally well to the production and use of oil, natural gas, wind power, etc. Regardless of whether global warming is real, (it has been so impossibly politicized) we should still be responsible stewards of our environments.
I'm a spiritual guy. I'm also a designer. I love material objects! I'm a sucker for clever design, I have lusted over gadgets and maybe even coveted some technology but I recognize the importance of establishing and maintaining firm personal values. (Don't worry, I wont try to impose them on you) It's a precarious balance. But I believe that each of us can express and reinforce our own values with the objects and environments we choose to surround ourselves with. How about thinking about that while we participate in the Holidays this year?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

which is stronger? Sensory memory, i.e. memory of events we experience through our senses; sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, or emotional memory, i.e. memory of how we feel about or felt during events. I think emotional memory is stronger and more accurate. I also believe that, in most cases, the way we feel is more important than what actually happened. Even as we recall events from our lives, our pleasure or distaste is based on our emotional memory of them. A group of people, all present at the same event, will give different accounts of what actually happened but each will recall, accurately, how they felt. This is why religious conviction must be built on personal feelings about doctrine and cannot be as strong if it is based on "proof". If conviction is based on proof, it will be questioned as the memory of it fades. So the Holy Ghost speaks directly to our emotions and doesn't perform physical miracles.
I think that's why I love music so much, it has an immediate emotional effect. Especially religious music, although I'm quite picky and I react strongly to any that seems contrived or insincere. Music is one of the best things about Christmas. I love hearing new interpretations of old classics, new Christmas songs and, of course, my all time favorites. Some songs from my childhood memory still evoke strong emotions every time I hear them. Mom and Dad had an old reel-to-reel tape player with a Christmas "mix". "Il le ne" & "Mele kalikimaka" are two of my faves from that recording. More recently I've been digging "Chrismas is the time to say I love you" by Darlene Love (remade in 2001 by SR 71 and later performed live in 2005 by Billy Sqier) "Il est ne" by Siouxsie and the Banshees "Little drummer boy" by Bing Crosby and David Bowie (has anyone ever heard a version of this song with a rockin' drum solo? seems like a no-brainer! Neil Pert where are you?) "Spirit of the season" by the MoTab and "Do you hear what I hear?" by Steve Stevens. I could go on... and on, maybe I'll try to find a way to post imeem links to those songs on this blog.Do You Hear What I Hear Christmas Is The Time Mele Kalikimaka Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth Sprit of the Season (from The Polar Expr...Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Music and my Mother-in-law

I generally look forward to Christmastime. I like the general feeling of cheeriness, the anticipation, the enthusiasm of children, etc. This year has been different. Last year was so hectic, so many events, rushing around shopping, unrealistic expectations unfulfilled. Don't get me wrong, it was still pretty good, but I didn't enjoy that other crap at all and I'm certainly not looking forward to it this year. I was ready to be a grinch and resist every effort of cheer. My Mother and Father-in-law came to stay with us for a week at Thanksgiving. I always look forward to their visits, I always have. I'm not involved in any of the stereotypes so just clear them out of your mind. Even with a great visit and one of the best Thanksgiving celebrations ever, I was still ready to assume the role of scrooge, until my Mother-in-law, Lynnette Rodriguez, decided to practice a piano piece that she will be performing for a Christmas program at Church. She is playing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" as arranged by Sally DeFord, a great arrangement. You should know that Lynnette is a very gifted pianist. She would have been a concert pianist if it wasn't for a hand injury she suffered as a child. Nevertheless, she has always been able to play anything! songs from the radio, requests on demand, all from memory. She can even transcribe or shift the key at the drop of a hat. I've always loved to hear her play but this time, in my Home, on My piano, it was transformative. Music is my favorite part of the Holidays and this year, her unwitting gift to me has shifted my perspective. Thanks Mom.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

For my big debut, here are 200 random things from my brain.

1. I think piglets are cute but when you pick them up, they are really hard.
2. I want to get a goat and name it “dog”
3. My favorite animals are giraffes, elephants and flamingo's.
4. I am not afraid at all to speak in public.
5. I am not afraid to die although I would like to wait awhile.
6. I think black is a great color and vastly under rated.
7. I think that Stephen King is a very spiritual writer.
8. My favorite actor is Kevin Spacey.
9. I loved “American Beauty”
10. I don’t think all art should be “pretty”
11. Don’t choose a painting to match your couch.
12. Everyone loves art. Some people just haven’t found their art yet.
13. Everyone is religious. Some people just aren’t aware of what their religion is.
14. Information is power.
15. You won’t protect your children from making bad choices by withholding information.
16. Karen Carpenter was a great singer.
17. Elvis Presley wasn’t.
18. He was a great performer though.
19. Elvis Costello is a great songwriter, a so-so singer.
20. Bruce Springsteen is a great songwriter but a bad singer.
21. So is Bob Dylan.
22. Just because Donald Trump is rich, doesn’t mean that he knows what he is talking about.
23. Unless he is talking about money.
24. Liz Swindle is an impeccable illustrator.
25. James Christensen is a pretty good artist.
26. Ettore Sotsass is one of my design heroes.
27. I enjoy irony.
28. Alanis Morissette doesn’t seem to know what irony is.
29. She is also a pretentious singer.
30. So is Tory Amos.
31. So is Jessica Simpson.
32. I didn’t say they were necessarily bad, just pretentious
33. Jessica Simpson is a bad singer.
34. Most rich people don’t deserve every penny they’ve got.
35. Neither do I.
36. God/ The universe/ The universal consciousness can talk to us through our dreams if we will listen.
37. He won’t try if we are not listening.
38. Our ancestors make us.
39. You can be sure that they are protecting their investment.
40. Individuals are smart, innovative, Kind, Generous, Forgiving. People are stupid.
41. I want to be remembered as Kind and generous.
42. 42
43. I am not always kind.
44. I have a ganglion cyst in my right thumb.
45. I don’t really want to write a book.
46. Maybe a series of essays.
47. Everyone I meet is superior to me in at least one way.
48. I frequently pick up hitchhikers.
49. Once I picked up a kid who had lost his leg when a train ran over it. He was still wearing the bandage.
50. People give too much attention to profanity.
51. I think graffiti is beautiful.
52. Angela Landsbury says that “Beauty and the Beast” is a tale as old as time. How old is time?
53. If the tale is as old as time, are they twins?
54. If gambling is against the laws of God, how come so many Christians play the stock market?
55. Day trading or slot machines?
56. If you’re going to eat something, you should be able to kill it.
57. I think the NRA is great. They support responsible gun ownership.
58. I don’t think that anyone should be able to buy any gun anywhere.
59. I got nothing against automatic weapons.
60. Is “bling” the sound of a sparkle? If so, then if I prefer to wear a lot of matte jewelry then do I still have bling?
61. Sincerity is the best human characteristic.
62. If you throw a pop bottle out your car window and it falls off an overpass killing someone, are you guilty of homicide or littering?
63. Do these pants make you look at my butt?
64. When it comes to entitlement, the only difference between the rich and the poor is that the rich already have most of what they feel entitled to.
65. Most people think they deserve more.
66. I’ve dyed my hair every color but fire engine red.
67. Hair is fun. It grows.
68. I used to wear earrings in both ears, gauged to 10.
69. I have three piercings in my left ear, one in my right. No other piercings.
70. I don’t wear earrings anymore.
71. I have seriously considered getting a tattoo. Of the Angel Moroni.
72. Fornication and infidelity are much more damaging to American families than homosexuality so why aren’t the family values people crusading against them?
73. Huh?
74. Straight people are the ones that keep having gay babies.
75. If 16 penny nails really cost 16 pennies then houses would be much more expensive.
76. Why is the abbreviation for “penny” a d?
77. Why is pound abbreviated lb.?
78. Why is abbreviation such a long word?
79. What is the abbreviation for abbreviation?
80. My favorite color keeps changing.
81. Sometimes it is a combination of colors.
82. Right now it is black.
83. Don’t be hatin’.
84. Mozart is over-rated.
85. 2x42
86. He was pretty good though.
87. Danny Elfman is under-rated.
88. Neil Perth is the greatest drummer in rock.
89. Was Jesus a Christian?
90. Children are suicidal until about age 3.
91. Bacon is a good, Christian meat.
92. Everyone in the world should have the experience of climbing into soft warm bed.
93. I love marbles.
94. The 80’s were a blessing for the inventor of “Aquanet”
95. I think that if everyone were like me the world would be a better place.
96. Do you?
97. I didn’t say perfect, just better.
98. I don’t really hate anything or anyone but sometimes I say it just for effect.
99. I’ve had three people offer to teach me to play guitar just out of the blue.
100. Many people have asked me if I am in a band.
101. I have a collection of guitar picks that I have found on the ground. I don’t look for them, but I have about 20.
102. Maybe I have missed my calling.
103. I played trombone for four years in Jr. High and High school.
104. I was a clogger for two years.
105. We went to Mexico on tour.
106. I got the worst sunburn of my life on the beach in Zhijuatanejo.
107. Sunburns have never caused me much pain.
108. Mosquito bites don’t itch me much.
109. Mosquitoes don’t bite me very often anyway.
110. Anger is helpful when you just don’t have energy to fight.
111. If your car says anything about you, you should see a shrink ‘cause cars can’t talk.
112. Is your car talking about you behind your back?
113. What’s up with the platypus?
114. The platypus is the only poisonous mammal.
115. The platypus is a biological rebel.
116. The platypus is evidence that God has a sense of humor.
117. Seattle is a big test market area. While we lived there we saw many products come and go. Remember O.K. cola? Probably not if you didn’t live in Seattle.
118. I was addicted to Josta cola for about a year until it was discontinued.
119. Faith is the belief that God can give better things to you than you can provide for yourself.
120. It’s always funner to go somewhere when you get to dress up.
121. “Individual rights” is a fundamental principle of Liberal thought. It is what the Constitution is based on.
122. We have lost the definition of “Conservative” and “Liberal” in the politicization of the American bi-partisan system. Neither is inherently right or wrong despite what the talk-show culture has convinced so many. Each has valid contributions to make in our government, debate is healthy and balancing while one-sided name-calling and deridation is not only destructive but also unpatriotic.
123. We’ve had a lot of great Presidents, from several different political parties.
124. From the universe: hard work=quality results.
125. The internet is good.
126. Guns don’t kill people, bullets do.
127. 3x42
128. Fear is the greatest threat to everything good.
129. When afraid, men turn to conflict and women turn to magic.
130. If television is the opiate of the masses then reading is the opiate of…?
131. We need sadness, that’s why we feel melancholy.
132. I like to eat a little meat every once in a while.
133. Do vegetarians ever just want to sink their teeth into a thick juicy eggplant?
134. Vegans and omnivores have plenty of common ground.
135. Furniture is at the center of a material universe.
136. Probably a nice, wooden table.
137. What good is a gun with no bullets?
138. What bad is a gun with no bullets?
139. One of Satan’s greatest accomplishments is to convince us to do something good. Instead of something better.
140. His greatest accomplishment has to be convincing Men that he doesn’t exist.
141. I wonder if there are more CTR rings in Utah or Mickey Mouse antenna balls?
142. Does Australian Karma come around and go around the other way?
143. Do hobos worry about a recession?
144. Who will lose their jobs when Jesus comes back?
145. What will happen to the stock market?
146. I bet a lot of people will wish that churches could be publicly traded.
147. Who makes Jesus’ robes?
148. Music is very healing.
149. It can also cause injuries. Not just in mosh pits.
150. What fun would moshing be without music?
151. Those who dance seem very strange to those who can’t hear the music.
152. I recently heard about “Silent Rave” parties where a group of people agrees to meet in a public place and dance to their mp3 players.
153. Leave it to the techno geeks to make dances unsocial events.
154. What do animals really think about music?
155. I like me a crisp, stiffly starched, white shirt.
156. Not every Sunday but if you’re going to do it, well, do it well.
157. It is the responsibility of government to establish and maintain an atmosphere of opportunity.
158. If the opportunities of an individual or group are legitimately compromised, it is the responsibility of government, at the appropriate level, to restore them.
159. Opportunities are our only true rights.
160. The Constitution of the United States is an inspired document.
161. The Constitution of the United States is not a limiting document. It is a guiding document.
162. The Constitution of the United States is not a perfect Document.
163. Global warming may or may not be legit. We should still be responsible stewards of the earth.
164. Greed is NOT good.
165. Ambition is.
166. If it is not human nature to work hard, strive for improvement and seek for the betterment of Humanity, then capitalism will always fail.
167. Work hard.
168. Do it because it is the right thing to do, not because it will help you to amass more wealth.
169. 4x42
170. Nothing good is accomplished without sacrifice.
171. Put down the cat, I’m talking about personal sacrifice.
172. It’s all about the blues.
173. Never pray for patience.
174. The ideal politician should be: (in order of importance)
175. Humble
176. Righteous
177. Compassionate
178. Confident
179. Articulate
180. Educated
181. Experienced
182. Conservative
183. Flexible and
184. Hip
185. A lot of this list seems to be political in nature.
186. Of all the people in the world that died last year, most of them had eaten rice.
187. I’d rater be kind than right.
188. I’d rater be compassionate than wealthy.
189. I am prejudiced but I try not to let it affect my behavior toward individuals.
190. Women are the most influential gender.
191. If you want to change a culture, convince the women.
192. It may take a generation but the change can be dramatic.
193. Organizations like the Taliban understand this principle well.
194. Re-inventing the wheel is not such a bad thing.
195. Abandon typology.
196. I’d rather be Home.
197. It is the responsibility of each of us to exert our positive influence within our realm of influence.
198. I’m thankful.
199. You and I could love each other.
200. Jesus says we should.