Thursday, July 3, 2014

This Land is MY Land

Bring me your wealthy!

It's no secret that around here my focus is on Buddhism. Honestly, the tenants of Buddhism are so humanistic and so cross culturally relevant. Where Buddhism implores you to connect compassionately with humanity and human suffering, Jesus Christ asks His followers to turn the other cheek and in the Book of Matthew (5:9) we are told "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."

Buddhism tasks us with sitting in meditation to connect with giving and acceptance of people in all of their sadness. In every action we take, our goal is to be mindful that every living being wants to be happy and so we must meet even those who torment us and seek our unhappiness with kindness and compassion. It's very similar to what the Bible teaches its followers in the Book of Luke (6:35) "But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked."

Even under torture, Buddhist monks have prayed for their tormentors; prayed for their happiness and for a cessation of their suffering. Sound familiar? Read a little further in the Book of Luke (23:34) and you find Jesus on the cross saying, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."

In my life, no matter the circumstance, no matter the torment, no matter the pettiness, rival or foe, I seek the path of the Buddha. I try to honor within myself the natural drive to meet with compassion every obstacle I encounter. In most communities in the United States, people SAY that they are followers and disciples of this great man, Jesus Christ. And yet they live lives so far removed from His teachings that the path back to them must surely be obscured with vines and brambles and needles and thorns.

I have been called many names in my life because I attempt to always resist the pull to sink to the level of pettiness and spite that greets me. "But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. "If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.…" (Matthew 5:39-40) Whether it is Jesus Christ or Buddha who commands it, the message is the same. To fulfill our most supreme reason for being, we must live in love and compassion. That is an inviolable Truth spread across every religion and every humanistic paradigm.

In other countries America is considered the greatest place on earth. People leave everything they know and understand politically, socially, culturally, economically, religiously and financially; sometimes at great physical peril. They cross oceans, deserts, and brave horrific physical challenges as well as crime and destitution. They come here because we are a country that stands on the moral high ground of Love and Compassion. We are a Christian nation at our core. And so we must surely be a nation of people ready to help, to love, to reach out and give what we can to whomever we can whenever we can, even if it means we have to give something up ourselves. It's why we celebrate Christian high holidays such as Easter, Lent, and Christmas on a Federally mandated level. And so why wouldn't a mother want her children to live here, no matter the sacrifice?

Why wouldn't a family send their able bodied son to our border in the hopes of this manna, in the hopes of the riches and joy and safety and health that we PROMISE every other nation on the planet? We are America: and we stand taller, mightier, healthier and richer than every other nation. We call them, invade them, protect them, and promise them. And they respond. They uproot everything they know, they risk everything they have, because we have created a world that prizes US.

But do they find us ready to meet them and help them find the American dream? Do we offer them the compassion and promise that EVERY SINGLE ONE of our families at one time was offered? (Unless you're a 100% Native American Indian, in which case, I'm so, so sorry we raped your entire way of life.....and that's a blog for a different day.) Do we fulfill the teachings of our good man, Jesus Christ? Do we even fulfill the promise of our esteemed and very drunk forefathers, who were ALSO immigrants to this land?

No. No we don't. We meet them with protest signs and cries of, "I got mine!" We turn away sick children because fuck 'em. We are the very embodiment of the cartoon called "South Park" and we face the TV cameras with our Latino heritage, with our Germanic features, with our British-based Puritanical pride, and we say, "GET OUT." We say our money won't go to you. We will not give you our coats, our cast off textbooks, our cast off jobs that pay just enough to keep in you squalor. We will NOT support your children because you weren't born here. And if you were, but your parents snuck in, without going through the years and years of impossible, heart achingly difficult expensive red tape that is the legal route to citizenship, then fuck you too.  The sins of the father and know. America is the land free, home of the brave and country of limitless opportunity only if your immigrant family came before 2014.

Sorry suckers. Peace be with you (John 20:21).

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Eleven Things I Hate

Awright, enough with the sentimental hippy dippy crap. I'm over it. I hate these eleven things. (Eleven because I love odd numbers and so do research proves it.)

1 - These kinds of beards. My God. Comb that shit. Groom it. A beard is a glorious indication of maturity, of effervescent, pure concentrated manhood...this display is nothing short of slovenly, unkempt mess. It should be treated with respect and reverence.

2 - Easter grass. You only ever have to buy this once. Because from that single Sunday on, you will never, ever (not once) fail to have Easter grass floating around your home. And thus spoke the Lord: "Ye who buys the Easter grass shall henceforth find it thither and yon, for the grass shall be like the loaves and fishes....and ever multiply." - The Book of Target, Aisle 4: Shelves 1-3

3 - That one rotten potato that fell behind the pantry shelf and took you 9 weeks to find even though it smelled so awful you were fully prepared to burn your home to the ground to get rid of it. 

4 - Button batteries....because this is 2014. If you can't use a regular AA or AAA then get your act together and figure out some way to plug that shit in to recharge it. Button batteries are gratuitously expensive and get stuck in kid's throats, according to a cursory Google image search for "button batteries." I am so done with them.

5 - Coconut water. And you know why? Because no matter how cold you make this stuff, it still feels like someone else's spit in my mouth. 

6 - Jargon. OMFG just say it. 

7 - Cave crickets. Sweet mother of burpees and gluten free toaster muffins....these things are minions of Satan himself. They jump without any regard to the laws of direction or gravity. They just sort of apparate all around you. And I don't normally wish mass extinction on a species, but these right here have it coming. Unless someone can tell me what thing I love eats them...then I will work tirelessly for that particular animal. Because these things SUUUUUCK.

8 - When I Google image search for what it looks like when I bend my fingernail backwards. Initially I thought I hate what it feels like when my nail bends back...and I still do. But it pales in comparison to how I now feel about what I see on an image search thereof. I can't even show you. If you hate yourself and how it feels inside your body to be in a state of relative calm, then go look. I can't stop you.

9 - It's happened in my life that I think I'm going to take a drink of 7-Up but it ends up being water. I hate that. I know for a fact I'd hate it more if when I went to take a drink from a can it was dip spit, but I've only ever ALMOST done that. 

10 - Flat thumb tacks. First of all, that's a minefield right there trying to get one out of the box. And second, trying to get the stupid thing out of a cork-board will result in a nail bending backwards. OH MY GOD.

11 - Excessive talking. 

So that's it. These are the first eleven things I thought of when I decided to write about eleven things I hate. It only took me 30 minutes to think of them, write about them and find their you know I probably have about 50 more things I hate just as much. And now you also know that I don't really put much effort into these blogs. Do you hate that?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

So Much Life

Oh dear readers...all five of you,

I have been quiet for a bit and I have been trying to find my humor and find my righteous indignation, my satirical slant on all things societal and therefore real. But I can't, because there is just so much life happening to me every day and I can't possibly squeeze words out in the meanwhile.

There have been babies born, friends and acquaintances who've made their exit, stage right or stage left; I'm not sure it matters when the moment is yours and it's time to take that one big step. Because we all take big leaps and the two biggest are at the beginning and at the end....and it's only the one at the end that concerns us in daily living. What's out there? What's next?

The natural cycles are overwhelming in Springtime. We clean away the remnants of the fall, the last remaining, straggling leaves which made their way to Earth after the final sweep. We make room for the seedlings, who've miraculously found their way out of their shells, who've reached for a sky they don't even know exists and ruptured through a ceiling in an act of terrifying, instinctive faith. These small blossoms, springing up from the ground...weeds, intended plantings....they're all the same. They're every day and every minute reminders of "life's longing for itself." And I think that's what makes it so marvelous, and difficult, and tumultuous and utterly exquisite.

Life wants nothing more than life; we really can't deny that and in our final breaths, what else matters? What more is there than the answer to the question: Have we fulfilled Life's own longing?

I believe I'm coming to an age in which days count and minutes and the passage of Time begin to feel full. Where minutes and time feel hollow, I find myself in annoyance and in a state of terrible intolerance. There is no list which shows how many days we get and so what does it feel like as we step ever closer to an unknowable edge, finally understanding that that last step is ours alone to take?

Everyday what impresses itself upon me is that we're all the seedling: waking up to a life we really don't understand. Moving through an existence whose answers aren't provided in full measure. And we're all climbing for the sun in a blind trust; hoping, praying, meditating that the Truth will be provided, "for life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday."

Photo credit to Elizabeth Hartlaub - Sacred Grove Farm
Poetry excerpts from hippy dippy Khalil Gibran in his 1923 publication, The Prophet

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Get on the Bus, Old-timer.

There's this dude I know. Let's call him "Wayne." Wayne may not have been the one who coined a term I use all the time, but he's the first one I ever heard say it, so in the World of Liz it's "Wayne's" term.

Wayne gets "tired head" when things are mentally taxing, emotionally draining, or overwrought with drama. And lately I have been getting tired head quite a lot. When my children have more than one activity on our family plate...tired head. When the bills aren't getting paid and it's not even because I don't have the money....tired head. When I have to catch up on the shit-storm that is social media....tired head. 

Some people call it the "Overwhelm," (people like Brigid Schulte, who just published a phenomenal book I'm reading) some people just cry "too busy!" The feeling manifests itself in my world like this: my brain matter feels like it's actually turned into sludge. Like there's no integrity left to it at all and I'm simply an amoebic life form existing on whatever autonomic functions can be carried out in whatever is left of my brain stem.... because everything else has liquefied.

Have you ever had "tired head?"

It's stopping me from doing things that I really want to do! I'm opting out of my beloved Bikram Yoga thanks to this ridiculous feeling. I'm unable to make decisions with any confidence. And whatever part of me that I fancy creative or in any way unique has turned into dull grey ooze. No sparks. No vigor in my mental combustion. It's just....tired. (Thanks, "Wayne!")

So I've been researching what it means to "opt-out" of social media, because that's got to be my number one time suck, emotional drain and point of fury/envy/false expectation creator. People of my age (older than CDs, older than iPhones- my God...that's old) say they're going to opt-out all the time. It's called, "Quitting Facebook" because that's pretty much the only major media we consume in great number. And it's a total lie and adult version of a temper tantrum. You kind of can't do it. At least not forever. 

Woodrow Hartzog and Evan Selinger wrote a piece published by The Atlantic, in February 2013. Ancient history, but let's see if we can pull out anything germane to this discussion. In their article, "Quitters Never Win: The Costs of Leaving Social Media" they say that by opting out, we "miss opportunities for self-expression, personal growth, learning, support, and civic exchange." And that's true enough, but half of our collective dismay at social media is self-expression run amok.

In another piece, written by Alice Marwick, on Social Media Collective - a research blog, the notion of opting out is entirely ridiculous from the start. The problem with opting out is that she'd "miss out on 75% of the invitations in my friends group. And I don’t think it’s for anyone else to say that I should expect my friends to cater to my socially abnormal preference, or that I should prioritize my own personal irritation at Facebook over the very human impulses to connect and socialize." 

And to that point, I agree. Because my Dad is so disconnected that it drives me to actual anger that he can't just read my status updates, tweets and see my Instagrams to keep up with my life. MUST he insist on a phone call?!? A phone call....he won't even text! I'm overwhelmed dammit ...and my head ...suddenly ...tired .....because talking to my father shouldn't be a factor in the overwhelm. It just shouldn't. Except that maybe I'm getting all caught up in a whirlwind of sludge, because, as detailed by PJ Rey, in The Society Pages article, "Part of our collective insistence that social media is something we opt-in to—or, at least, may opt-out of—stems from an underlying moral conviction that the old ways of communicating are more genuine than the new ways of communicating—the “appeal to tradition” fallacy, if you like."

And I do like, because my Dad's refusal to use social media is like any other old-timer who refused to drive a car in the past. Once that's how Americans started getting around, I bet it was super inconvenient for all of his friends. Joe won't drive. Edith won't ride an elevator so she's walking up 45 flights of stairs...see ya 'round Edith. We'll be shitfaced at the bar by the time you haul your old bones up those stairs. 

So we can't really opt out. This is our social landscape. And it's making me very, very tired.

Photo Credit: khalid Albaih via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Nathan Congleton via Compfight cc

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Battle for Silence

There are two things I love. Well, I mean, honestly there are about a ka-jillion things I love but for this right here I want to talk about two things. A book and line of dialogue from a different book.

The book: Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton.

The dialogue: "Silence, you talk too much." From the thirteenth century French romance, Silence.

In the journal by Ms. Sarton, you can read about what happens when a woman with an abundance of thoughts seeks quiet and solitude. In her solitude she attempts to find her real life.

And in the medieval romance called "Silence," a girl who is raised as a boy is tasked with capturing Merlin and is eventually unmasked. The play on the word silence and the name Silence is part of the examination of the lives of women in 13th century France. And, since the day in Professor Charbonneau's lit class in late 1995 when I first read that line, I have laughed at the recitation of it in my head every time the din overwhelms me.

It's the buzz of my every day world that leads me to want to lead May Sarton's life of solitude. Sometimes I positively salivate at the thought of a quiet life in a small cottage of my own. Where my writing could take center stage, where every whim and deep seated conviction alike could have a moment of careful examination. Because sometimes what we *call* silence is so loud I can barely stand it!

There are phones beeping, chirping, knocking, and vibrating. There are cars driving three blocks to the coffee store, and TVs on at theater level volumes with no one watching. Appliances in my house make noise, my dogs make noise. Everyone is talking all the time and it's perfectly acceptable to "think out loud" every single minute of the day. It is rarely quiet:  actually, truly, definitively quiet.

In the United States, in the unending winter of 2014, snow blankets and blankets and blankets our cities and towns. My own quaint village is currently being covered fresh, fluffy snow. And what I love most is the stillness and quiet of a snowy night. No cars, no dogs barking, no music coming from houses or passing motorists...not even the sound of birds. It is just so silent and peaceful outside. It's almost as if the snow is burying noise.

And I love it.

I want to be on a wooden porch, with heavy woolen blankets keeping me warm. I want a hot cup of black tea in my hands - maybe a touch of bourbon and honey, after all - and I want to take in the quiet. All of it. Because in a normal day we're quite frightened of silence. We fill conversations with chatter to avoid lulls. We say more than we want to say in job interviews if the astute employer knows to let even a 3-second gap occur between question and answer. Inevitably, most people will rush to begin speaking again. Silence is awkward.

Is it awkward because we don't like our own thoughts? Is it awkward because we read negative things into silence? We claim one mark of a good relationship when we boast "comfortable silences" with our partners, but I think the words we constantly spew are far more dangerous. For sure, if we stop talking altogether then we stop growing as a team and we stunt our connections as partners in LIVING, but there is great benefit in the quietude. There are abundant lessons in hearing the sound of only our breath. We can be taught multitudes in hearing only the sounds our footfalls make as we walk along a solitary path.

In the maelstrom of every day life, we can keep "demons" at bay, keep insecurities stuffed and fears smothered by the noise and the chatter. In the quiet we are left with nothing but our monkey minds and frantic anxieties. If we let it wash over us, if we walk right into the solitude, we can find that the Silence really does talk too much....but maybe it's the Silence to whom we should be listening.