Sunday, July 20, 2008

What I hate about allopathic doctors

  1. If it doesn't fit the mold of any diseases they know, or if they can't find a physical cause, they say that there is nothing wrong with you. When I was in fifth grade or so, I was taught that menstrual cramps are all in your head. Around sixth grade, the doctors found a physical cause for them so then they decided to believe in them. Couldn't they have believed in them based on the experiences of generations of women?
  2. They want you to fit their pre-determined symptom categories. I've had symptoms which doctors classified as "muscle aches" or "shortness of breath" when those classifications really didn't describe my situation, they were just the closest the doctor could get in their pre-determined categories.
  3. They think that drugs and surgery are the only cures. My co-worker's doctor was considering such approaches for my co-worker's back pain, but then my co-worker discovered that things like using a different pillow and doing Nia helped her. Doctors should suggest those kinds of things before they jump to drugs and surgery.
I'm glad I found a naturopath. I only wish I lived in one of those states where a naturopath can be your primary care doctor.

Monday, July 14, 2008

People who get it

It's usually preferable not to remark on the physical ailments that pervade my existence, because if I mention them, often I receive lectures from people lacking health problems about how I would be fine if only I did such-and-such.

But I can talk to Steech about it, because Steech gets it. When I tell him about being home alone thinking what if I keel over, what if I die, he tells me about he times he would make sure the phone was near his bed before going to sleep, in case he had to call 911. And he says when he thinks what if he dies, he figures, "if I'm dead, people can deal without having a pianist that particular morning, and I'm not too fussed about it." And he remarks, "I suppose, the great thing about being replaced as a species by robots is that, as robots, we can be programmed not to be tired or feel lousy."

Monday, July 7, 2008

Letter to Clearwater

Here is a copy of a message I sent to Clearwater today, inspired by my experience volunteering at the Clearwater festival a few weeks ago, as well as previous experiences:

I first met Clearwater around 1989 when I spent a week on the boat as a volunteer crew member. What struck me then was Clearwater's welcoming attitude. At the time, I was also involved with another organization which was trying to do good things in the world. However, the attitude of that organization toward its supporters and potential supporters seemed to be, "We want your money, but we don't want you to get involved because our work is so important that we can't afford to have amateurs like you messing it up." It was so refreshing to see how Clearwater welcomed people. I especially remember that when we docked, we'd invite anyone who was on the dock at the time onto the boat for a tour.

After that experience on the boat, I dropped out of touch with Clearwater for about 15 years. I had been drawn in 1989 by an interest in boats. I was drawn again 15 years later by folk music. I had been volunteering at folk concerts for a few years and I felt the next step would be to volunteer at a festival. I read on the internet about all the festivals in my region and decided Clearwater was the one for me. Not only did it have music, it also had a soul, a larger purpose. Moreover, I still liked boats.

I've volunteered at the festival four times now, and have felt the same open, welcoming attitude that I noticed when I first crewed on the boat. Clearwater actively tries to draw in people of different ages, races, and abilities. I volunteered alongside a 13-year-old this year. Too often, people that age are told they are too young to be useful, but Clearwater welcomed her contributions.

There are performers of different cultures, races, and musical styles. There is music I don't like, and that's good because it means there's a place for people whose musical tastes are different from mine.

Sometimes I feel that organizations which embrace diversity don't want me. I'm white, heterosexual, able-bodied, and not young enough to count as youth. Because I'm less experienced than the baby boomers, but don't help with diversity, I feel some organizations don't want me. However, I feel that Clearwater welcomes everyone, including people like me.

At this year's revival, Magpie sang, "Give light, and the people will find the way." That captures what Clearwater is about. It's not an elite group that thinks the masses are too ignorant to do anything of value. Instead it's a group that gives light to the masses, because it believes in our ability to find the way.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Ode to summer

I've written this other years, but it's such a pleasure to
  • Have it be light outside after work.
  • Be able to enjoy the fresh air wafting against my skin rather than tensing up to ward off the cold.
  • Feel the grass on my bare feet.
  • Walk barefoot, or wear sandals.
  • Wear clothes that allow freedom of movement.
  • Be outside, whether for gardening, outdoor concerts, festivals, having lunch, looking at the scenery, or anything else.

My religious beliefs

I believe in science. I believe in evolution. Humans evolved to desire sex because those whose genes made them desire sex passed on their genes, while those whose genes did not cause them to desire sex did not pass on their genes. Humans evolved to have strong feelings of affection and protectiveness toward babies and small children because those who protected their children had their genes carried on. In the same way, humans evolved to have a sense of religion or spirituality because those who did were more successful at working cooperatively with others. In Dancing in the Streets, Barbara Ehrenreich says the same thing about dance, that it evolved because it made people more successful at working with others. I see dance and spirituality as being intertwined.

I don't believe in a God who is a guy in a white robe who lives in the sky and controls our lives like we are chess pieces. But religions sometimes say, "God is love," and that much I'll believe. I don't believe in God as a separate being. But I believe humans can achieve a spiritual state of mind, and that that state of mind makes them feel connected to other people and to the earth.

I don't believe that there is only one true religion. I believe that religions are paths to achieving a spiritual state of mind. Because people have different cultures, they develop religions which are compatible with their cultures.

I live in a Christian culture, and Christianity is a better path for me than religions of other cultures. I don't conform to traditional Christianity however. The things that many Christians take literally, I take metaphorically.

I come from a long line of Quakers. Quakers are a particular version of Christianity, and it's a version that fits me well. The fundamental belief of Quakers is that there is that of God in everyone. To me, God is that sense of spirituality for which everyone has the capacity.

Some would say I'm a humanist, because I don't believe in God as a being outside ourselves. I've heard religious Christians say that humanism is bad because it's about worshiping ourselves. I don't consider myself a humanist and I don't believe in worshiping ourselves. Humanists often don't believe in God. I believe in God, I just have a different interpretation of God than some people do. A lot of religious writings make sense to me. I just understand the God they are talking about to mean love, spirituality, the way that some things in our lives can't be explained or controlled, and a sense of magic and wonder. I don't think that this God is something that I worship. It's something that I can discover if I'm open to it.

I don't really believe people should worship anything. I saw a debate on the internet between a Muslim and a Christian. Each was pointing out inaccuracies or inconsistencies in each other's holy books. The idea was that the books are supposed to be the word of God and therefore perfect, so if there is any flaw, that shows that they are not the true word of God. To me it's wrong to place so much importance on a book. That's idolatry, which the Bible says is wrong. A book is just a collection of words that people wrote down at some time in the past. We should not idolize or worship any physical objects or rituals. God is just love, not something that can be concretely captured.

If people shouldn't worship anything, what should they do? I believe people should seek to humbly walk a path of compassion, kindness, and integrity. They should always be open to broadening their understandings, and they should seek to make the world a better place. Why should they do this? Not because they will go to heaven when they die if they do it correctly. Not because some guy in the sky will punish them if they don't. But because that's the route to feeling that I belong in my own skin. Because we evolved to feel peace of mind when we live this way, and to feel that something is missing when we don't.

Another religion that is part of my culture and which partially resonates with me is paganism, particularly Celtic. You might say that it died out long ago, so how can it be part of my culture? But we still see its influences a lot in fantasy novels. There are also pagan influences in Halloween, Christmas, and Easter. And we know May Day exists even though we don't always celebrate it. To me, being connected to the earth is a significant part of spirituality. It's partly because being in nature brings out our spiritual sides, and partly because part of being spiritual is accepting the things we can't change, and the weather and the seasons are a good reminder of the way our lives go through good times and bad times. Therefore, it makes sense to me to tie religious rituals in with the solstices and equinoxes. However, I don't feel a particular connection to any of the neopagan religions that I know of.

Some people might say I'm a Buddhist, because I don't believe in a supreme being, and because I believe in things like being kind to others, and not being driven to acquire material things. But I'm not a Buddhist. One part of Buddhism is about the importance of letting go, about not being attached to the things in the world. The outlook of Buddhism does not fit me culturally. I believe in being attached to other people. I believe the messiness and pain of caring about other people is an essential part of what makes life worthwhile. I started reading a Buddhist book, Siddhartha, and it was about how he left his wife and baby to go meditate and find truth. It was so aggravated by the way it glorified leaving one's family that I didn't finish the book. I believe that it's only through our love for others that we attain the spirit of God. And I don't mean love for humankind, I mean love for the particular individuals that you are faced with every day. That's one thing that I like about Quakerism, because we find God by looking for its spark within everyone around us.

I believe that religion and rituals are paths to attaining a spiritual state of mind. Dance, music, singing, being in nature, yoga, adopting a humble posture such as kneeling, being silent, and listening to an inspirational speaker are all potential paths. It doesn't matter which religion you choose. What matters is whether that religion works to make you more compassionate toward others, or whether it turns you into a bigot.

Some people are atheists. To me it seems sad if they do not have a sense of magic and wonder (though you can be atheist and still have a sense of magic and wonder). They would probably think that it is sad that some people are so deluded as to believe in God. And more traditional Christians probably think it's sad that I don't know their God. We all believe what we believe, and it feels like people who believe otherwise must have sad lives, but the reality is, having different beliefs doesn't make a person sad. We all believe what we believe, and we all think our beliefs are right, and others are wrong, but that doesn't mean it's true, because we can't all be right. And everyone would say "We can't all be right. That's why I'm the only one that's right." But if everyone is saying it, then the logic just doesn't hold up. So we just have to let people enjoy their own beliefs, and instead of pitying them for not having the belief that we have, we can be happy for them when they find their own paths.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

My people

I come from a family of New Englanders, Quakers, rural people, hippies, vegetarians, farmers, organic gardeners, and educators. Some have been activists. We are more concerned with the well-being of the world (including humans, animals, and the environment) than with the glory of our country. We value thriftiness and integrity. We wear things out thoroughly before discarding them, which can mean things like driving cars with non-functioning gas gauges, eating off chipped plates, and wearing clothes with holes in them. We live according to our values and could be role models for those who observe and appreciate, but we don't bring attention to ourselves. We assume other people are living according to their own needs, abilities, and preferences, so we don't tell them they ought to live differently. We take what life brings us and make the best of it more than we fight the people who don't behave as we would wish them to. We avoid wealth and prestige. We seldom know what the latest fashions are. We are more troubled by pushy people than by taciturn people. In fact, we tend to be taciturn ourselves. We like to read. We are not good at singing, but we like to do it anyhow. We are not particularly handy with things like carpentry and machinery. We think that people who aspire to be investment bankers or soldiers are weirder than people who are imprisoned for their activism or people who choose to live without plumbing. We are rugged, outdoor people, but sometimes our ruggedness is tempered by illness. We are proud to be out of step with the mainstream.