Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I got what I wanted for Christmas

I got what I wanted for Christmas: time spent with family.

New Year

2009 has been a pretty good year. I am fortunate to have a good job, which allows me to have food, shelter, transportation, and clothing, and which offers good benefits, including health insurance and ample time off. In my time off, I was able to have a number of visits to and/or from family. Over the course of the year, I saw all my siblings and parents, one of my grandmothers, and a sprinkling of aunts, uncles and cousins. I am fortunate to have many wonderful family and friends, and fortunate that my circle is expanding, with the addition of Bridget and Asher to my family, as well as new friends.

For 2010 and beyond, my wish is for the well-being of my loved ones. And it wouldn't be very good if my loved ones were fine, but everyone else was miserable, so I wish for the well-being of everyone's loved ones. And if there exists anyone who is not anyone's loved one, then my wish for that person is that they become someone's loved one. Thus, my wish for the well-being of everyone's loved ones is a wish for the well-being of everyone.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

My vision

A composer hears music in his head and writes it, so that it may be heard by the world. A painter sees a picture in her head and paints it so that it may be seen by the world. That's what doing something with one's life is -- bringing one's vision into reality. The vision that I have is broad. It is not something easily described or made real.

My vision has to do with people living peacefully according to certain values. The two main threads of my vision could be seen as environmentalism and human relations (especially in childrearing), but these are not two separate things to me. The vision is of a whole community, and there are many attributes which make the community what it is.

The vision that I have is of a world where people treat each other with kindness and respect. The earth's resources are used wisely. Energy comes from renewable sources, such as solar. Food is raised organically. People grow their own gardens and make things with their hands. People help their neighbors. Children are loved, and, like everyone, they are treated with kindness and respect. Children play outdoors and use their imaginations. Children are not inundated with materials things. They don't have plastic toys. They don't watch TV or play video games.

There is no single thing to be done to make my vision a reality. It will take many strands to weave this tapestry. I don't expect to bring this vision into reality for the entire world. Some people choose a different path. But I want to be a part of weaving into reality a community where this vision does exist, so that those who choose this path have a place to go. I don't know exactly how to bring this about, but in my life, I recognize the things that do and don't point the way to this vision. Some of the things which I've found as pointing the way to my vision include:
  • Food: food co-ops, organic gardening, farmer's markets, community gardens, family farms, Fair Winds Farm
  • Do-it-yourself: In addition to gardening, any groups that support any kind of do-it yourself activities, including cooking, carpentry, pottery, sewing, weaving, music, storytelling, dance, etc.
  • Education: Montessori, Waldorf, Marlboro College, College of the Atlantic, Haverford College, Farm and Wilderness Camps, Hulbert Outdoor Center
  • Communities: eco-villages, Monteverde
  • Environment: Groups which support sustainable living, cleaning up pollution, and renewable energy.
  • Supporting locally owned businesses.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Another story from Waldorf book

Another story from the Waldorf book: There was a solar eclipse, so Petrash took his students to view it using paper with pinholes. He found this rather un-inspiring. Then, as he and the students were walking back to the school building, they passed some other students who were outside. He writes:
Several...students were...holding baseball caps so that the sun light was shining through the grommet holes and making a ring of crescent suns on the blacktop. Another student was stretching her mesh vest and dozens of crescent suns were shining beautifully on her lap. I marveled at the ingenuity of the children; their creativity made me feel so old and unimaginative. As I circled the playground, I passed under a tree. On the ground under the tree were hundreds of little partially eclipsed suns. It seemed that each place where the light was able to filter between the cracks in the leafy canopy, an eclipsed sun became visible on the ground. That thought that came to me was that in some amazing way, each individual ray of light conveyed an image of the sun. In the same way, each individual child bore the image of the divine.
As Petrash sees the divine an all children, Quakers see the divine in all people, and Pantheists see the divine in all the universe.

Story from Waldorf book

Today I finished reading Understanding Waldorf Education: Teaching from the Inside Out by Jack Petrash. The book talks about how while traditional education focuses on mental growth, Waldorf education seeks a balance between physical (playing outdoors, learning household skills, sports), emotional (art, music, theater, stories, poetry) and mental. Petrash tells the story of one boy who always struggled with academics, but had a deep appreciation for art and excelled in kindness, conscientiousness, sincerity, and open-mindedness. At 8th grade graduation, this student read the following, which is attributed to an unknown Confederate soldier:

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve.
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I might do great things.
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy.
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for, but everything that I hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all men most richly blessed.

I think if I just read this, I might not like it, because I would think of the illnesses and injuries that have affected me and people I know. I object to telling people disabled by illness that they should be grateful for their conditions, because of the lessons they can learn from it. However, in this context, I appreciated it, because it seemed to me that it was about this particular boy humbly accepting his academic limits, and shining as a good person in his own way, rather than being resentful about his limitations.

Friday, November 27, 2009

El Salvador relief

A friend of mine is spreading the word about El Salvador flood relief. Below is the text of the flyer he has been distributing:
The situation in El Salvador is critical in six of the country's 14 departments (provinces) following torrential rains from Hurricane Ida and subsequent flooding and mudslides. As of Thursday evening, November 12, the confirmed death toll stood at 157 nationwide with 500 people missing just in the area of San Vicente. Some communities are without electricity or running water. More than twenty bridges have collapsed and road destruction has isolated many Salvadorans. The affected Salvadoran population is in need of food, clothing, bedding, water, hygiene kits, medicine, and shelter. We are calling out to our friends and supporters to assist us in our efforts to help those affected to rebuild their communities and their lives. Funds will be critical to both the emergency effort and subsequent rebuilding. Please contribute what you can and share with other concerned people who may be able to help.

All contributions are tax deductible and can be sent to:
US-El Salvador Sister Cities
P.O. Box 2543
Plattsburgh, NY 12901
e-mail and website for more information:
My friend has chosen to direct funds to US-El Salvador Sister Cities both because he knows the people involved, and because they have a well-established relationship with an organization in El Salvador, CRIPDES, so they can direct assistance to El Salvador immediately. CRIPDES, the Association for the Development of El Salvador, is an association of 300 rural communities in El Salvador. CRIPDES strengthens and develops rural community organizing. You can read more about the Sister Cities/CRIPDES relief efforts at http://elsalvadorsolidarity.org/joomla/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=254&Itemid=65.

This is the organization that my friend recommends. However, if you want to contribute but only if you have the convenience of being able to do so online, there are organizations helping with El Salvador relief which accept online donations, including Oxfam America, Plan, and Save the Children.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A good day

Happiness is going rollerblading on a warm (by November standards) sunny day, and then on the way home, hearing a song on the radio that was my favorite when I was about 5, and singing along to the radio. What more could anyone ask for?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving thanks, 2009

It's that time of year again to think about what I am thankful for. Here's what's on my mind this year:
  • It seems the most precious times are the times we spend with loved ones. I am grateful for a large family. I am grateful that my family has expanded, with the addition of my nephew and his mother. My family members follow such diverse paths -- pro-technology and anti-technology, traveler and homebody, athlete and scholar. What they share is the value placed on each person following his or her unique path. They don't seek to conform to a mainstream mold, nor do they tell me how I should live. I am grateful for family and friends who understand and share my values, style of expression, and lifestyle. I am grateful for all the friends who once touched my life, even though now many of their paths have diverged from mine. I am grateful that for the current time in my life, a close friend is there for me every day with kindness, intelligence, and wit.
  • Among those values my family shares with me are that integrity and kindness are more important than wealth and prestige. But it is a luxury to be able to disdain wealth. I only can disdain it because my material needs are met. I am grateful that I never have to worry about not having enough food to eat or not having a place to take shelter from the cold. I am grateful to have a car that runs and the ability to drive it, so that I can easily visit relatives, go grocery shopping, go to concerts, etc.
  • I am grateful that my body is more or less in working order. Last winter when I broke my wrist, it was at times a struggle to function. I think it would be even harder to lose the use of my legs, or my eyesight, or my hearing. It's so easy to forget, but having our five senses and our mobility makes life so much easier, and it's something that can be lost at any time in a sudden accident.
  • Another thing that's easy to forget is the earth, which sustains us with air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat, and beauty to inspire us.
  • I am grateful for the opportunity to do radio shows. Planning playlists is a fulfilling creative outlet for me.
  • I am grateful for my spirituality and values, which keep me grounded through the vicissitudes of life.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How to fix the world

A story on NPR this morning told of a 3-year-old shot by police in South Africa. Apparently some believe that violent police are the only way to curb crime. I wished the reporter had also told us what social science tells us about reducing crime. Does violent law enforcement work? Is there anything else that works equally well or better?

In another story a little later, NPR quoted someone from the US Institute for Peace. It seems that at the US Institute for Peace, people actually try to figure out how to reduce violence and build peaceful societies. I think that's what we need to do. Being outraged about the 3-year-old shot by police is easy, but how do we actually build a world where that kind of thing doesn't happen? I think if it were easy, we would have done it already.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Latest edition of what to do with my life

I am constantly trying to figure out what to do with my life, as can be seen in previous posts with tags such as careers, goals, or paths. My latest thoughts are not really anything new, but they include:
  • Health is a real issue. I can come up with lots of grand plans, but I may not be able to carry them out.
  • It's important to me to be part of a community where people are committed to treating others with respect and doing the right thing.
  • While I think I want to live in a small city/town similar in size to where I live now, it's also important to me to spend a significant amount of time in a more natural/rural environment.
  • I've often thought of how who my sister was at age 2 fit so well with who she grew up to become. At 2, she was scaling the high chair and somersaulting off beds. Now she does capoeira. I felt that if I knew who I was when I was a kid, maybe that would give me some clue as to where to find my niche in the world. When I expressed this sentiment to my grandmother, she said that when I was little, I was always keeping track of people. That made a lot of sense to me. I recalled that while many children enjoy playing Let's Pretend, my interest was in inventing a cast of characters and their relationships with each other, rather than in creating a story of the character's actions. I also recalled that at around 6, I briefly took up gardening, and my interest only lasted enough to start a notebook of gardening tips. Even then, my focus was on compiling information, rather than on hands-on activity. Throughout my school years, including in graduate school, I would make lists or diagrams of the students in my classes. Now in my job, it is fitting that I keep track of students. My most recent day at work, 1) a student told me it's cool that I have such a good sense of which student goes with which advisor, and 2) I discussed with a coworker who all her nieces and nephews were.
  • I like where I live now better than where I used to live, because I feel there's more equality. Where I used to live, I felt there were more extremes of wealth and poverty. Someone told me that this perception was incorrect, so I looked up some data on income distribution in the two metropolitan areas. Just as when I did similar work in school, I enjoyed both 1) the sense of empowerment that comes with using data to get answers to questions, and 2) the process of working with data.
  • Sometimes I think the right career for me would involve using some technical skill, such as working with databases, spreadsheets, or statistics.
  • Other times I think that a job using a technical skill in this way would not be right for me, because the most interesting thing to do is to have a flock of people to keep track of. That is, I want to know the people I keep track of. Just a list of names is not as satisfying.
  • Using technical skills and keeping track of people are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and in fact, one of the things I like about my current job is that I get to do both.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Somewhere in this world

Somewhere in this world, parents are filled with joy at the birth of their first child.

Somewhere in this world, children watch their mother die of cancer.

Somewhere in this world, a bride is filled with bliss, to be so blessed as to be spending the rest of her life with the man she loves.

Somewhere in this world, a storm destroys the crops, and a family wonders how they will survive.

Somewhere in this world, parents sit waiting, filled with fear, for the teenager who has not come home.

Somewhere in this world, a grandmother is delighted to spend time with her grandchild.

Somewhere in this world, a mother yells harsh obscenities at her three-year-old child.

Somewhere in this world, parents beat and kill their children.

Somewhere in this world, a man learns that he has been laid off from his job, and fears that he and his family will become homeless.

Somewhere in this world, a woman who loves to hike and run and play volleyball suddenly falls and is paralyzed.

Somewhere in this world, someone who thought he lost everything is given another chance.

Somewhere in this world, homes and lives are destroyed by flood.

Somewhere in this world, the birds greet the dawn with singing.

And somewhere in this world I sit, wondering how to feel, wondering where I belong. What can I do but is accept my limitations, cry for my losses and the losses of the world, and keep on walking forward, trying to care for this earth and its people, trying to shine a little more love into the world.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Varying skills

A relative was not sure how to use the washing machines at the laundromat, so he e-mailed me a photo so I could advise him.

I have another relative who would have no problem with using washing machines, but who has no idea how to send text e-mails, let alone how to e-mail photos.

We all have different skills. There may be some things that we don't know how to do, but there may also be things that are easy for us that others don't know how to do.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Candy sale

I saw a bowl of candy with a sign saying they were selling candy to benefit the American Heart Association. Shouldn't they be selling things like oatmeal and celery if they are concerned about hearts? But I guess they wouldn't make as much money that way.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Favorite charities, take three

I've written two posts in the past on my favorite charities. I would think that one would have been enough, yet here I feel compelled to do it again, as my interests have shifted. At least they shifted a little bit. Not a whole lot though, so it will actually be kind of repetitive.

Pantheist view of the afterlife

My view of the afterlife, which I consider to be a Pantheist view, is expressed in "Fall Down as the Rain," by Joe Crookston and by "In Dead Earnest" by Lee Hays.

"Fall Down as the Rain" says in part,

And if I get to heaven

I will not stay

I’ll turn myself around again

And fall down as the rain

And when I finally reach the ground

I’ll soak into the sod

Turn myself around again

Come up as goldenrod

Check out Joe Crookston's Fall Down as the Rain album for the full song.

And here's a bit from "In Dead Earnest" by Lee Hays:
Worms, water, sun will have their way,
Returning me to common clay
All that I am will feed the trees
And little fishes in the seas.
The rest of the words can be seen at http://www.peteseeger.net/indeadearnest.htm.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Instruction manual

Someone told me that he finds me unfathomable, and that someone should write an instruction manual for me. This is what I came up with:
  1. I only talk if people are interested in what I have to say. There's no point in talking to people who ask questions just for the sake of making conversation, or in talking to people who just want to hear themselves talk. Ask me questions and be interested in the answer. Tell me things because you actually want me to hear them.
  2. If you wonder how I feel or what I think, ask me. I'm egotistical -- happy to talk about myself.
  3. Being direct and open, even if it's clumsy, is better than being smooth and charming, because it's more honest. The exception to being direct:
  4. Any subtle hint that I did something wrong or that you don't like me I'm likely to pick up on even if it's subtle.
  5. Don't tell me to cheer up, or that I should not be upset about something.  If something bothers me, respect the fact that it bothers me.
  6. Don't tell me what to do. Conveying some useful facts can be acceptable at times, but don't tell me that I'd be happier if I spent more time doing a particular thing. Your advice on how to reform myself is not what will help me blossom. Instead:
  7. You help me blossom just by listening to me and believing in me. When you point out my strengths, that helps those strengths to blossom.
  8. I know my flaws. When you accept me for who I am, you give me space to work on correcting them. When you criticize me, I flare up on the defensive, which does not leave me room to grow.
  9. I might not know all my flaws, or all the ways that I might hurt you, so if I do something that bothers you, just inform me that it bothers you and trust me that I'll try to fix it, rather than yelling at me for doing it.
  10. When people are pushy, i.e. telling me what I should do and not being interested in listening to me, I am likely to respond by shutting off. I say what I need to in order to be polite, but I don't share who I am with them.
  11. However, that's not the only reason I'm quiet, so don't assume that's what's going on if I'm not talking. Maybe you just said something so fascinating that now I'm thinking hard.
  12. If you tell me I should do something (read a certain book, engage in a certain activity) that may decrease my interest in doing it, because I want to make my own choices. However if you tell me that you like something, that may increase my interest in it.
  13. The measure of a person is their compassion, respect, and integrity. I don't measure you by your lifestyle, habits, quirks, prestige, etc.
  14. Don't talk about what morons other people are. It's okay to talk about how much they annoy you, because that's about your own feelings.
  15. Don't think that you are better than other people. Don't think you deserve a high salary because you worked so hard to get where you are.
  16. Live a life of conscience, and understand that I also live a life of conscience, even though our consciences may lead us down different paths. Strive to be the best person you can be, and support me as I strive to be the best person I can be.
  17. Be responsive to how other people feel. Back off when you bother someone.
  18. Although it's true that it's disrespectful to talk endlessly about topics that don't interest me, or to tell me things that will hurt me, on the other hand, keep in mind that I am flattered when you choose share your thoughts, feelings, and interests with me, even though they might not be the same things I would be interested in. I want to know who you are, even though that includes parts that are different from me.  When you choose not to share something with me, you are shutting me out of a part of you.
  19. On the other hand, I do respect that there are some things that you don't want to talk about.  As I get to know you, I'll make note of the topics you don't like to talk about, and I'll stay away from them.
  20. I like conversations where people build on each other's ideas. This requires that people engage in understanding each other's ideas. I don't like it when people are just trying to prove their points without listening to each other.
  21. If I invite you to do something and you don't want to do it, just say no.  Don't clutch at straws in a desperate attempt to find an excuse.  When you clutch at straws, what I hear is that you're lying to me, and that you are desperately trying to evade me.  
  22. If you are done being friends with me, then go.  I deserve to be with people who cherish and respect me.  If you keep hanging around for fear I'll be devastated by your departure, stop being so full of yourself and just go.  
  23. I love to be silly and laugh. I like to frolic and sing and roll in the grass and play with kids.
  24. The greatest joy in life is to be with friends and family.
  25. I like to talk about my family. The best way to get me talking is to ask about my family.
  26. Close friends are adopted family.
  27. I like to keep track of who is who and how they are connected to each other. For example, today after my radio show, my mother was very interested to keep track of the fact that the members of Schooner Fare are Chuck Romanoff, Steve Romanoff, and the late Tom Rowe, and that Tom Rowe was the father of Dave Rowe of the Dave Rowe Trio. When I was in school, I would tell my mother and aunt who all the kids in my class were. Now I am fortunate to have a job that involves a lot of keeping track of information about people.
  28. I am more comfortable with kids than with grownups.
  29. I like to write about my ideas and make lists of stuff, such as this "instruction manual," as well as lists of favorite musicians, favorite songs, etc. I make a lot of to-do lists, ranging from chores to do today to goals for the rest of my life. I'm not so big on implementation. In the same way, when playing make-believe as a child, I would invent a cast of characters, but then lose interest when it got to time for the characters to do things.
  30. I love the outdoors. I am completely head-over-heels captivated by being on the rocky ocean shores of Maine. Other bodies of water are nice too, viewed from shore or from a boat. I love rollerblading. I love walking barefoot in the grass. I love leafy green trees. I love sunshine, blue skies, and sunsets over water.
  31. I love music (not all music, but certain music). I love dancing.
  32. I thrive in a community in which people strive to treat each other with kindness and respect, and which values what I have to offer.
  33. I try to shop at locally owned businesses and farmer's markets, and to get organic food. If I ever become a homeowner, I want solar power.
  34. I try to be kind to all, but I am selective about whom I get close to.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Complaining about people

Last week, I was with some people and felt alienated from them. I felt I did not share their values. In subsequent days, I shared this experience with two other people. It made me feel better to have them affirm my experience, to have them tell me that they shared my values, that it was okay that my values did not match those of the first people.

It doesn't seem right that I like to complain about people.

It doesn't seem right that I always seek affirmation of who I am.

It's like I'm an ostrich burying my head in the sand, trying to surround myself by people who tell me that my way is right.

Shouldn't I be more open to diverse views? Shouldn't I be open to people who tell me that my way of looking at things is wrong?

Higher learning

Someone from one of the email lists I'm on wrote, "Higher learning is perhaps sitting high in a tree and watching."

Yesterday, I sat listening to music and staring into space for several hours. It reminded me that when I was growing up, I often spent time like that. Nowadays, I tend to keep myself occupied at all times. If I'm just sitting still, I read or watch TV. But when I have those times of just letting my thoughts wander, I find I have more inner peace.

Friday, July 31, 2009

So many people annoy me

It bothers me that I find so many people annoying. I am supposed to see good in everyone.

There are a few things that are sort of excuses, reasons why I tell myself it's not so bad that I find so many people annoying:
  1. If I were surrounded by people I love, in good health, and felt I was making a meaningful contribution to the world, I probably wouldn't mind so much that people exist who aren't what I prefer. The reason certain people bother me is not because it bothers me that people with such traits exist, but because there is such an absence of people who can provide me the the kind of support, appreciation, and challenge which I would thrive on.
  2. I'm consistent. I continue to like the people I like. The people who annoy me for a certain reason continue to annoy me for that reason each time I see them. I guess this is reassuring to me because I have this fear that eventually I will dislike everyone. The consistency tells me that it's not a matter of disliking everyone, but that there are certain traits which consistently bother me. Of course, it would be more virtuous of me if I wasn't consistent, in the sense that I learned to not be annoyed by the people who currently annoy me.
  3. Maybe I just have to respect everyone's right to exist, but can still be selective about the company I choose.
The thing is, I don't entirely believe these excuses. I'm supposed to appreciate people, not be annoyed by them.

It's okay to be broken

Someone told me last week, "Everyone wants to be loved and accepted and has some level of fear of rejection. We're all broken in different ways to different degrees."

The reason I found this memorable was because it made it okay. It seems like most of the time, I'm getting a different message: that I'm supposed to be strong and independent, that I'm not supposed to be bothered by the things that bother me. But guess what. It sucks to be alone. It sucks to be rejected. Can't we just allow people to want to be loved?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Promises to make to each other

I am thinking that the promises people should make to each other are:
  1. I promise to try to always treat you with kindness and respect.
  2. I trust that you always try to treat me with kindness and respect, but if you lapse sometimes, I will forgive you.
  3. If you cease to be committed to treating me with kindness and respect, I reserve the right to choose to reduce contact with you.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mission in life

Sometimes I think that my mission in life is supposed to be:
  1. To shine a light on people's strengths. I think that sometimes people express their negative qualities out of unhappiness, feeling threatened, lack of confidence, etc. When people are shown their positive qualities, then they are more likely to act on those qualities.
  2. To spread harmonious feeling. If you are driving your car and another driver honks at you angrily, that makes you feel angry, and makes you more likely to behave angrily toward others. My goal is to do the opposite, to be nice to people so that they are more likely to be nice to others.
  3. To knit people together in harmonious relations. This is similar to #2, but the emphasis here is on strengthening the bonds between people.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Pantheist organizations

The Pantheist organizations are World Pantheist Movement (WPM) and Universal Pantheist Society (UPS). WPM is larger and more dominant, but I prefer UPS. WPM is more atheist, while UPS is open to all types of Pantheists, including the more spiritual and mystical types. Some links for UPS:

Universal Pantheist Society web site
Universal Pantheist Society Facebook group
Universal Pantheist Society Yahoo group (This group can be very chatty. If you don't like getting a lot of e-mail, you might want to adjust your settings to read messages only on the web site or to receive them as a digest.)
Universal Pantheist Society on Ning

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Differences in responses to car accidents

Two stories I heard about how people reacted to car accidents:
  1. In Florida, a woman rear ended a car that was stopped for a red light. When the two drivers got out and met each other, she said, "Why did this happen to me? I'm a Christian." My thinking is if she's a Christian, her concern should be for the welfare of the driver whose car she just hit.
  2. In Woodstock, NY, after a collision, the two drivers got out and hugged each other. That sounds more like the kind of town I'd like to live in.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Last night I lay on the living room floor listening to music, and I felt so fortunate. I was there, safe at home, not having to worry about food, shelter, or the threat of violence. I may not be energetic, but I was not in pain or uncomfortable. I have my hearing, so I am able to enjoy music. How fortunate I am to have my hearing! I've listened to those CDs many times before, but suddenly I was noticing things about the sounds of the instruments that I never noticed before, and it was beautiful!

Quakerism and Pantheism

Quakerism and Pantheism seem like a natural fit to me. The fundamental idea of Quakerism is that of God in everyone. In Quakerism, we serve God by treating all people with love. Pantheism just extends that to the universe. Not only do we treat all people with love, but we also care for the environment. For me, there is no external heaven or afterlife, it's all right here, right now. The world is a wondrous place.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Too much

I knew that going to the festival would be too much for me. I planned on having two days to rest afterwards. Well, a day and a half. But then I was supposed to be better after that. That's when I get frustrated, when I don't recover on schedule.

When I went back to work on Wednesday, I thought I was recovered. That lasted for about the first two hours that I was back at work. The rest of Wednesday and on Thursday, I had trouble doing my work. Friday and Saturday weren't so bad. I thought I was recovered. I thought Sunday would be better than Saturday. It wasn't.

Embrace the mud!

It rained a lot during the Clearwater festival, and when it stopped raining, the ground was muddy. The ground that we had to sit on when watching musical performances. Most people had chairs. I didn't, but that was okay, because I had rain pants. As I was sitting there in the mud, someone walking past me said, "The thing about mud is once you step in it, the rest of the day is a breeze."

It reminded me of something from when I went backpacking a number of years ago. The trail was muddy. My companions and I were stepping carefully on the least muddy spots. Another hiker came through, trompy merrily through the muddiest spots. He advised us "Embrace the mud!"

What these two stories symbolize to me are that if there is something that I'm avoiding doing, sometimes the best thing to do is to plunge in and get it over with.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Sunday, June 28, 2009

All a Man Can Do by Tom Rush

"All a Man Can Do" by Tom Rush starts off with a young man saying goodbye to his parents, young and fresh, embarking on his life. In the end,

It doesn’t seem so long ago, I hitched down to New Mexico
I kissed my mama, I saw my father’s stone
Friends are gone or out or touch, but nothing seems to change that
The desert’s hot the sky’s still blue, I’m getting by still making
Take your chances take your shot, cause 50/50’s all you got
Make each day the best you can, that’s a line I understand
Live each moment like your last, cause life goes by you so damn fast
Make a promise and keep it true, cause that is all a man can do

What this makes me think of is that we grow older, we all experience hardships and loss. The unwise feel sorry for themselves and feel injustices have been done to them. The wise recognize that it's part of the cycles of life, and are able to maintain their sense of wholeness and keep on going through life, keep on seeing the beauty in life.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What I like about volunteering at Clearwater

People think I volunteer at Clearwater because it's a folk festival. That's what drew me to it, and an essential part of what it is, that's only a part of it. I'd rather be there as a volunteer, doing work but missing some of the music, than as an audience member attending every performance. One of the things that I like best is being part of the community. I don't necessarily talk to individual people much, but I like being in an environment where I feel like I'm part of the dominant culture. In my regular life, people think the food I eat is weird, they've never heard of the musicians I like, and they think my values are unusual.

Another aspect that I like is the outdoor environment. I like the scenic views and the rugged living. I like pitching a tent. I like being able to weather the rain by wearing a raincoat and rain pants.

What I want to do with my life, Clearwater edition

When I go somewhere -- to the Clearwater festival or to visit my family -- I feel like I know who I am and what's important to me. When I return to my normal life, it is with the sense that soon it will all slip away -- I'll get caught up in my life again, in caring about the wrong things and not knowing who I am.

Here is what attending this year's Clearwater festival told me:
  • It's important to me to be in a community where people strive to treat everyone well. If you have a goal of doing good in the world, but you don't treat your own people right, you've lost it. In every community, there will be some discord, but it makes a difference whether or not people have a sense that they are all committed to treating each other as community members.
  • I like doing physical work and working with people. Perhaps neither is an area where I would be an expert, but I like doing the work, the nonskilled work that gets assigned to volunteers.
  • I like being useful -- having demands placed on me and being able to rise to the occasion.
  • I like being outside.
  • I like not having to cook, wash dishes, drive, clean house, or manage finances.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hooray for summer

I love summer because after work it is both light enough and warm enough to go outside. And on weekends, I can go sit by the river. And in summer I'm less sick.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Vignettes from What Should I Do With My Life book

I have been reading What Should I Do With My Life? by Po Bronson. It is a series of stories of different people's career paths, people whose paths were not a straight line. It's the kind of book that is good to read just a little at a time, because each story has its own pearl of wisdom, and you need time to digest each one. I just read a few from the beginning of the third section. (There are 8 sections total.) The section starts off with Bronson telling about a particular time in his life. For the past 5 years, he had been working toward an MFA and trying to get his short stories published. One day, he wrote a story that was very different from the stories he usually wrote. It was not about the things serious writers were supposed to write about, but was written from his experience. For years, writing had been laborious. This story flowed quickly from him and was fun to write. He decided he wanted to make it into a novel. Everyone whose opinion he respected told him that this was not the right direction, that his other stories were better. However, it was what he wanted to do, and he pursued it. He got a new agent, finished writing the novel much sooner than he expected, and got it published. It became an international bestseller.

But does it always happen that way? What if the people who gave him advice had been right? Isn't it the case that sometimes the thing that you want to do is not something that anyone else will be interested in paying for?

And is there anything that I love doing the way he loved that kind of writing?

Of the question that is the title of the book, he writes, "Asking the question aspires to end the conflict between who you are and what you do. Answering the question is the way to protect yourself from being lathed into someone you're not."

There's also the story of a young man named Anthony. When he graduated from college, he thought he'd like to be a teacher, but he had a contact in the British Foreign Office, and he chose to take the more prestigious job there, thinking he could always do teaching later. When he was 30, he got sick. Of his illness, Bronson wrote, "His doctor diagnosed him with the Epstein-Barr virus....not a virus that wins the patient much sympathy. It stays dormant in the blood forever, occasionally reactivating in times of stress." This part of course interested me, because it's the same thing that I may have.

Anthony's college friend and his father had both died, so he had experienced the fact that lives can end unexpectedly. While he was sick, the question that he asked himself was, "If I were to make an early exit from this world, what will I feel worst about not getting done?" For him, the answer was to go home to Britain and become a teacher at a school attended by children from low income families. What would my answer be? The first thing would be spending more time with my family. Other things would be compiling the family history information I have, meeting some of the distant relatives whom I don't know (mainly the descendents of Philip Bailey), visiting the places my ancestors lived in Maine, and spending more time outside.


On the way to and from work, I walk past the hydrangeas. At this time of year, the green leaves are growing, but there are no flowers. As I see how the leaves have been growing, it makes me happy, because I know flowers on the way. Sometimes the anticipation of something brings happiness as much as the thing itself.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Parker Palmer interview

In an interview with Chel Avery, Parker Palmer says, "no matter what punishments come down on you for living out your own identity and integrity, and punishments do come, you have to understand eventually that no punishment could be worse than the punishment you lay on yourself by conspiring in your own diminishment." He also describes Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet as saying, "Keep asking your questions but don't expect to get answers to them. Because the questions are too big. Live those questions. The point is to live everything, and one distant day without even knowing it, you may find that you've lived your way into an answer."

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge

I recently read Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge. It did not capture my attention as grippingly as other books I have liked, but I liked the imaginative writing style and the philosophical conclusions.

It is like a fantasy novel without any swords, magic, or dragons, and with royalty only as secondary characters. I think I like it better that way. I think I like fantasy novels for their characters and ideas, and I see the swords, magic, dragons, and princes and princesses as unnecessary. I liked the Tamora Pierce books about Aly and about Beka, both of whom mostly rely on their brains, better than the ones about Alanna and Kel, who are warriors, or Daine, who is a magician. I do like the books about Sandry, Daja, Briar, and Tris best of all. They do use magic, but it's a naturalistic sort of magic which to me is about finding spirituality in everyday tasks.

You can see Hardinge's imaginative writing style on the first page, where she writes, "Her eyes were pale, soft and moist, like skinned grapes, but at the moment they were stubborn, resolute grapes," and in character names such as Eponymous, Kohlrabi, and Caveat.

It's about shifting alliances, figuring who to trust and which side to be on, figuring out which stories are lies and which are truth. It's about freedom of information and thought. In this story, words have the power to transform a person's destiny.

In the end, Mosca decides that she believes in neither the dominant religion of the Beloved, nor the underground religion of the Heart of Consequences. Clent says, "I foresee frightful things when you are old enough to work your will on the world. Cathedrals torn down, mention of both the Consequence and the Beloved banned from the common speech, and children brought up to believe in an empty, soulless heaven." When she says that is not what she would do, Clent asks, "Not even in the service of truth?" and Mosca replies, "That's not serving truth!....if I told people what to believe, they'd stop thinking. And then they'd be easier to lie to. And...what if I was wrong?" When Clent asks her who should decide what is true, Mosca replies, "Nobody. Everybody....Everybody able to stand up and shout what they think, all at once. An' not just the men of letters, an' the lords in their full-bottomed wigs, but the street sellers, an' the porters, an' the bakers. An' not just the clever men, but the muddle-headed, an' the madmen, an' the criminals, an' the children in their infant gowns, an' the really, really stupid. All of 'em. Even the wicked..."

Clent says that would be chaos, and Mosca thinks, "Words were dangerous when loosed. They were more powerful than cannon and more unpredictable than storms. They could turn men's heads inside out and warp their destinies. They could pick up kingdoms and shake them until they rattled. And this was a good thing, a wonderful thing."

It's a lesson that we need to be reminded of often. Even in a country where freedom of expression is a fundamental value, people often seek to suppress views which they consider dangerous.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


School was a tedious chore, and then I went to college and I was like, "Wow, why didn't anyone ever tell me that school could be interesting?!" So it was when I watched Fierce Creatures and I was like, "Wow, why didn't anyone tell me that comedy could be funny?!" It was suggested at the time that perhaps I preferred British humor and would also like Monty Python, but I think Monty Python is even worse than that stuff that Americans call comedy. There have however been two other things that were funny, one Italian and one American: the first part of Life is Beautiful and Boston Legal. Those were the most significant ones, but there have been snippets of humor elsewhere, such as in High Fidelity and Moonstruck.

Tonight I was changing channels on the TV and thinking I really should go to bed but I'm too tired to get up when I came across The Vicar of Dibley. That gave me the same reaction as Fierce Creatures. I was laughing and delighted, and amazed that comedy was actually funny for a change.

Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart books

Philip Pullman's first two Sally Lockhart books, The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in the North, were engaging stories, but they did not have substance. They were the kind of books that successfully held my attention, but did not have a lasting impact.

The third book, The Tiger in the Well, had so much more substance. It brought to life some issues of the day, such as poverty and anti-immigrant sentiment. It was good to see history from that perspective, the texture of life for the underclass, rather than just hearing about kings and wars and treaties. Reading about the issues was also important because those issues are still relevant today.

Another big improvement was that in the final confrontation, the good guys (Sally in one scene and Dan in another) showed compassion for their enemies. I don't like books where the bad guys are just evil. I like books that show that we are all just human, and that show why the bad guys do what they do. The scene in which Dan quelled mob violence by understanding the humanity of those who would attack him was to me one of the most important parts of the book.

After reading the fourth book in the series, The Tin Princess, at first I thought that it was another engaging story, and that it lacked both substance and a satisfying ending. But then as I thought about it, I began to see the substance in the ending. Often in stories, including all four Sally Lockhart books, the good guys win when the bad guys meet their demise. Sometimes that demise comes as a result of violent action on the part of the good guys. The problem with this is that when a person uses violence to achieve their goals, it's hard to believe that they are truly good guys. In order to get around this problem, often what happens is there is a confrontation that comes about as a result of the evil of the bad guys, but somehow in the confrontation, the bad guy ends up dying, though not at the hands of the good guy. For example, in attacking the good guy, the bad guy ends up falling off a cliff. This device is over-used, and I think it's kind of dumb. It says violence is the only resolution, but we don't want to sully the good guy's hands. In such cases, the author seems unable to imagine any resolution other than violence. That's why Dan's quelling the mob in The Tiger in the Well was so important, because it was a true nonviolent resolution.

In The Tin Princess, there are some battles which the good guys win through either violence or through the over-used device of accidental demise in confrontation. They win some battles, but they lose the war. The reason they lose the war is because the violence of the bad guys is mightier than the violence of the good guys. That happens sometimes in life. But the point that the book makes is that although that happens sometimes, it's not the end of the world. The book closes with the hope that both the big picture political situation and the lives of the individuals will move forward to a brighter situation. As Sally says, "Life's not static, you see, Becky. Life's dynamic. Everything changes. That's the beauty of it" (p. 286).

We see a metaphor for this in Sally's reaction to learning that the sweater she put so much time into knitting had been unraveled. Jim unraveled it to use it for their survival. "When she'd heard what Jim had done with the jersey she'd knitted, she laughed with pure happiness, as if there were no final dark, as if the whole universe were a joyful play of light" (p. 286). Sometimes violence wins, and destroys the things we were trying to create, but even when the things we were trying to create are unraveled, we can create new things out of what remains. That is the final message of The Tin Princess.

Monday, April 13, 2009

There's a Light

My Nia teacher is nice, but I just feel like a lump around her. I don't interact with her. I mean, if we talk, I'm just going through the motions. I'm not really present. I'm just a zombie moving through life. I was there in Nia class thinking what is it with me, and it occurred to me that I felt like the light was turned out, like there was no life behind my eyes.

The next day, the light turned on. It was being with a particular individual that turned it on. He often tells me that I look radiant, and I believe him, because I feel radiant around him. Being around him is like having a ball of sunshine drop into my lap. The rest of my life is gray and cold. But I don't know what to do with this. It seems there should be a way to put more sunshine into my life. But where do I find it? Sure I know one person who turns on the light, but it's not about that one person. It's not like bringing that person more into my life is is what I need. What I have with this person is beautiful as it is, and is not meant to be more. Instead it's a matter of what are the attributes of our interactions that bring me sunshine, and how can I put into my life more things that have those attributes.

Other people have brought my sunshine in the past. What did all these cases have in common? It was mostly men, though not men who could potentially be compatible romantic partners. I don't think compatible romantic partners for me even exist. Sometimes the incompatibility was a factor in that it allowed for warmth to flow without it being a threat. Because that was another thing these cases had in common -- being around someone who treated me as if they liked me. That should not be such a rare thing. So one part is treating me as if they like me. Another part is not trying to get anything from me, being happy just to bask in who I am. But there has to be something more. We have to have common ground, to be on a similar intellectual level and to share values sufficiently that there is some understanding happening. I need to be able to open myself completely to receiving the warmth. With most people, I am somewhat closed off because there is some part of the other person that I don't want to get near. So, I need to trust in the other person's goodness enough to open myself to receiving the warmth they offer. And if the warmth I get comes from their positive view of me, it has to be a positive view of who I actually am. With many people, my way of thinking is so different from theirs, that though they may say that they like me, it's only their image of me that they like, and it has little to do with who I actually am.

What is this about being closed off to people because there is some part of them I don't want to get near? That's one reason I close off. The other is awkwardness, it's fear of opening a conversation that I won't know how to continue, fear of getting myself stranded in an interaction.

Can I find my inner sunshine? Instead of closing off to people, just shine out who I am even if it won't fit what they want me to be? That's my problem, I'm always trying to figure out what is expected of me and what people want from me, instead of just being myself.

But, here I am being hard on myself, saying I should just be able to shine even with no one to understand me. That's a kind of thinking that I don't like the fall into. The reality is that everyone thrives when they are loved. So I should stop telling mysef, "You can never be loved, but you nonetheless have to force yourself to shine as much as people who have the advantage of being loved." I don't think it that explicitly, but in a way that's the attitude behind what I expect from myself.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Finished Blood Brothers

I have finished Blood Brothers. After Chacour was ordained, he became a priest in a village. He found there was much discord among Christians there. After months of building up relationships with individuals, he told them in church one day, when they all showed up for Palm Sunday, "Sitting in this building does not make you a Christian" (p. 170). On that day, and over time, he gradually brought about reconciliation within the Christian community. And he did not limit himself to Christians. He told the nuns who worked with him, "If Jesus Christ Himself was somewhere out in the streets of Ibillin needing our help, what would you do?...Whatever we do to the least of men, we do for Him. And the person He sends may not be Christian, but Moslem. Jesus does not ask us just to preach to Moslems, but first to show his love....Isn't it more important to demonstrate the spirit of the gospel, rather than battering people with the words?" (p. 174)

He went on to study alongside Jewish scholars at Hebrew University, to organize a peace march in which Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Druze people marched together through Jerusalem, and to build schools, libraries, and community centers in Palestinian villages. The reason for building the schools, libraries, and community centers was expressed by his bishop, Bishop Raya, when he said, "When you build dignity, you begin to destroy prejudice" (p. 196).

Chacour found that there were both Palestinian and Israeli people who shared his desire for reconciliation, as well as both Palestinian and Israeli people who opposed his efforts. He was spied on, harassed, and kidnaped. The schools, libraries, and community centers he tried to build were vandalized. He knew what it was like to feel hate and anger. He was tired, working for decades, and not knowing if his efforts made a difference. Yet despite all these, he continued working for peace. Whenever a new community center opened up, the first thing he would present was a showing of The Diary of Anne Frank, so that the Palestinian people could better understand the Israelis, and so they could see the dangers of violence.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Some of my favorite things include:

  • Activities: hanging out with friends and family, rollerblading, hiking, dancing, boating, sitting on rocks by the ocean, concerts and festivals (especially outdoors)
  • Sights: oceans, lakes, rivers, trees (with leaves on them or evergreens), see also favorite colors and favorite flowers
  • Sounds: the ocean, see also favorite musicians
  • Smells: clean outdoor air, pine, cedar, ocean
  • Feels: sunshine, grass, comfortable clothes
  • Tastes: strawberries, blueberries, flan, pudding, ice cream
  • Colors: rainbow, tie-dye, lavender, jade
  • Flowers: hydrangeas, lilacs, wisteria
  • Names: Emma, Griffin, Hannah, Holly, Jacob, Jade, Jill, Joy, Juniper, Kate, Logan, Sage, Sierra
  • Musicians, female vocalists: Ronnie Gilbert, Jessee Havey, Carol Noonan, Leandra Peak, Linda Thompson, Mary Travers, Carol Young
  • Musicians, male vocalists : Eric Andersen, Dan Berggren, Joe Crookston, Tom Paxton, Elvis Presley, Tom Rhoads, Tao Rodriguez Seeger, Bill Staines
  • Musicians, charismatic and inspiring: Ronnie Gilbert, Tao Rodriguez Seeger, Pete Seeger
  • Musicians, groups: Kim and Reggie Harris, Magpie, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Schooner Fare, Serendipity Singers, Smithfield Fair, , the Weavers, Woods Tea Company
  • Musicians, not folk: Abba, Beatles, Bee Gees, Meat Loaf, Renaissance, Happy Rhodes, Spirit in Flesh
  • Songs:
      The "by" in the list below refers to performer, not necessarily the writer.
    • What you Are by the Greencards
    • Out of the Rain by the Duhks
    • Mountain Air by Dan Berggren
    • Mary Ellen Carter by Stan Rogers
    • Arrow by Cheryl Wheeler
    • This is a Mean World by Sweet Honey in the Rock
    • Give Light by Magpie
    • Poor Me / (may there always be sunshine) by Joe Crookston
    • Rock Me Grandpa by the Limeliters
    • There is a Mountain by Donovan
    • Funeral for a Friend by Elton John
    • Don't Give Up by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush
    • Wake Up by John McCutcheon
    • Songs I like because of the sound, lively
    • Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond
    • Love is Strange by Mickey and Sylvia
    • Big Blue Sky by Rachel Garlin
    • Cosecha lo que Siembres by Roy Brown, Tito Auger, and Tao Rodriguez Seeger
    • Songs I like because of the sound, mellow
    • Young Westley by Mary McCaslin
    • Wicked Game by Gypsy Soul
    • Acony Bell by Gillian Welch or Annie and the Hedonists
    • The Water is Wide by Mustard's Retreat
    • If I Needed You by Lyle Lovett
    • No Pride at All by Jesse Winchester
    • Defying Gravity by Jesse Winchester
    • So Long Marianne by Leonard Cohen
    • Drop Me Down by Tres Chicas
    • How the Night Time Sings by Brooks Williams
    • Peace Will Come by Tom Paxton
    • She Loved Moses by Amy Fradon
    • Potter's Wheel by Freyda Epstein
    • Evona Darling by Linda Thompson with Teddy Thompson
    • Quite Early Morning by the Mammals
    • Tango to Evorra by Loreena McKennitt
    • Night Ride Across the Caucasus by Loreena McKennitt
    • The Dolphins by Billy Bragg
    • Roseville Fair by Bill Staines
    • I Don't Want Your Millions Mister by Tao Rodriguez Seeger
    • Closer by Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem
    • Songs I like because of the lyrics
    • Sara McCutcheon by Cathy Fink
    • The Golden Glove by John Wesley Harding
    • One Voice by Wailin' Jennies
    • Waltz of the Wallflowers by Small Potatoes
    • Horizontal Hold by Peter Ostroushko
    • Hot Frogs on the Loose by Fred Small
    • Rock Me to Sleep by Faith Petric
    • Songs about peace, simplicity, love and other good values
    • 10,000 Candles, 10,000 Cranes by Small Potatoes
    • From Every Mountain Side by Dan Berggren
    • Peace Begins in my Own Heart by Dan Berggren
    • Satisfied Mind by the Mammals
    • Riverside by Ollabelle
    • The Only Way by Ellis Paul
    • Rich by Neal and Leandra
    • Old Green Sweater by Dan Berggren
    • Coat of Many Colors by Dolly Parton
    • What We Left Behind by Tom Pacheco
    • Alice by Peggy Eyres and Dan Berggren
    • Tannery Pond Reel by Dan Berggren, Chris Shaw, and John Kirk
    • Boys in the Choir by Tom Chapin
    • My Personal Revenge, recorded by Jackson Browne, written by Tomás Borge & Louis Enrique Mejía Godoy; English translation by Jorge Calderón.
    • Poignant songs
    • Ten Dollar Christmas by Christopher Shaw and Bridget Ball
    • Christmas in the Trenches by John McCutcheon
    • Jack and Lucy by Hugh and Katie Moffatt
    • Something in the Rain by Tish Hinojosa
    • Kilkelly, Ireland by Greenfields of America
    • Frankie and Johnny by Garnet Rogers
    • Outside by Kate Blain
    • Songs of long-lasting loves
    • Dance and Sway by Joe Crookston
    • Lies by Stan Rogers
  • Radio stations: WMPG, WMUD, WUMB
  • Authors: Tamora Pierce, Cynthia Voigt, Robin McKinley
  • Fictional characters: Luna Lovegood, Sandrilene fa Toren
  • Actors, female: Drew Barrymore, Kate Jackson, Brittany Murphy
  • Actors, male: Nicholas Cage, John Cusack, Johnny Depp
  • TV: Boston Legal, Pushing Daisies
  • Movies: Adaptation, Fierce Creatures, High Fidelity, Mama Mia, Moonstruck, Secretary, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
  • States: Maine, Vermont
  • Accents: Maine
  • Colleges: College of the Atlantic, Haverford, Marlboro

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Good days and bad days

When I have a bad day (like yesterday), I feel like I'm always sick and I'll never be able to do anything. When I have a good day (like today), I feel like it's good to get stuff done, so I should do things every day. As if just deciding to do things were all it would take. Even though I know the difference is that some days I'm sick and some days I'm not, somehow whichever way I feel, my mind seems to think that is the only way I will ever feel.

The Amber Spyglass

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series consists of three books. The one I like best is The Amber Spyglass, because it's toward the end of that book that he becomes most philosophical.

In chapter 34, there's a night when Mary can't sleep. She goes outside and watches the clouds, the trees, and the Dust. Dust is a concept that exists throughout the three books. I think that it represents life force, free will, creativity, love, consciousness.

When Mary went outside, "She turned toward the grove where her climbing tree stood. It was twenty minutes' walk away; she could see it clearly, towering high and tossing its great head in a dialogue with the urgent wind. They had things to say, and she couldn't hear them. She hurried toward it, moved by the excitement of the night, and desperate to join in. This was the very thing she'd told Will about when he asked if she missed God: it was the sense that the whole universe was alive, and that everything was connected to everything else by threads of meaning" (p. 449).

To me, this is a description of pantheism: There is no all-powerful being controlling the world, but there is a sense of magic and connectedness in the universe, which people can feel when they are out in nature.

As she continues to watch, Mary realizes that dust is flowing out of the universe, being lost to entropy, and she sees that the wind, clouds, moon, and trees are trying to hold it back. And she found that that was her mission too, to try to increase Dust rather than decrease it.

Then Will and Lyra fall in love, and a thick cloud of Dust is drawn to them. This fits with what I was just writing with regard to Blood Brothers: that the way to serve God (or Dust, as the case may be) is through God's creatures, through treating others with love.

Will recalls what his father told them: "He said we have to build the Republic of Heaven where we are. He said that for us there isn't anywhere else" (p. 488). I remember my grandmother saying that Quakers, Unitarian Universalists, and another group, maybe Jews, get along well because they tend to focus on the present world rather than on how to get into Heaven for the afterlife. That's what I believe too. There is no afterlife. As he said, "we have to build the Republic of Heaven where we are." And we build it by doing things that grow the Dust, we build it by building a world where people treat each other with compassion and integrity.

Lyra was able to read the alethiometer until she and Will fell in love. Then she was no longer a child, so she lost the ability. Xaphania tells her that as a child, she was able to read it through grace, but she'll be able to read it again with a lifetime of study. "Your reading will be even better then, after a lifetime of thought and effort, because it will come from conscious understanding. Grace attained like that is deeper and fuller than grace that comes freely" (p. 491). That is what I think about getting older. Although there is the danger of becoming jaded and bitter, if we open ourselves to learning, life becomes deeper and fuller.

Xaphania tells Will and Lyra, "Dust is not a constant. There's not a fixed quantity that has always been the same. Conscious beings make Dust -- they renew it all the time, by thinking and feeling and reflecting, by gaining wisdom and passing it on. And if you help everyone else in your worlds to do that, by helping them to learn and understand about themselves and each other and the way everything works, and by showing them how to be kind instead of cruel, and patient instead of hasty, and cheerful instead of surly, and above all, how to keep their minds open and free and curious..." (pp. 491-492).

The book ends with Lyra saying, "We would have gone with Will and Kirjava....But then we wouldn't have been able to build it. No one can if they put themselves first. We have to be all those difficult things like cheerful and kind and curious and patient, and we've got to study and think and work hard, all of us, in all our different worlds, and then we'll build....the Republic of Heaven" (p. 518).

Blood Brothers, installment 2

I am not finished reading Blood Brothers yet, but I have read more since my last blog about it, so I have a few more things to comment on.

Elias and Faraj have been like brothers to each other for many years, and they expect to continue to follow the same path. But as they discuss their plans for the future, Elias has a realization. "Not all are called to the same task. Both Faraj and I were to be ordained -- but each to a special calling. He had come to feel very strongly about the wealth and extravagance of the Church amid poor and hungry people. It was for them that he hoped to help reform the Church itself. And I -- I would have to find my own calling on a lonelier path that would lead away from my closest friend....For me, a door seemed to stand wide open -- to what end I was not sure -- and unmistakably I was being beckoned through it" (pp. 128-129).

Realizing that he did not have to follow Faraj's path allowed Elias to look for his own path. Many people experience similar things. They think they have to have a prestigious job, or that they have to earn a certain amount of money, or that they have to meet their parents' expectations, or that a certain path would just be too hard. When they learn to look beyond these constraints, they finally are able to see their true path.

It seems I have not yet been able to see what constraints are blocking my thinking, and as a result, I have not been able to see my true path.

Chacour also writes, "God demanded that they demonstrate His own character to the whole world, and that they show forth the face of God in every action from the way they conducted their government down to the use of fair weights and measures in the marketplace" (p. 139). This is consistent with how I've always looked at things. Quakers say there is that of God in everyone. I believe that the way God wants us to serve him is by speaking to that of God within everyone we encounter. Churches, sermons, prayers, rituals -- all that stuff is not how God wants us to serve him. All that stuff is meant to get us into the right frame of mind so that we are able to speak to that of God in others. The trappings of religion are not an end in themselves. They are a means to an end. We have different religions because there are different things that inspire people to speak to that of God in everyone. Whether it's stained glass windows or candles or sitting by the ocean, I don't care what you do to get you there. All I care is that whatever form your religion or lack thereof takes, the end result is to treat others with love.

It's not that I believe that anything goes, that there is no right and wrong. It's that I believe that right or wrong is found in whether you treat others with compassion and integrity, not in your religious affiliation or lack thereof.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Who am I?

Supposedly adolescents are trying to figure out who they are. I knew that when I was an adolescent, but did not really see how it applied to me. Now that I'm middle aged, now I feel like adolescents are supposed to feel. I don't know who I am. I remember that I love hiking, skiing, rollerblading, and kayaking. I remember that I love being part of a large circle of friends, and organizing social events. I remember vivaciously engaging in witty repartee. But then I look at my life and I can't find that person. I look at my life, and I find myself sitting on the kitchen floor in my pajamas at three in the afternoon, eating a bag of microwave popcorn, because I was hungry and it wasn't too hard to cook, and because once it was ready, it didn't seem worth the effort to move to a location farther than the kitchen floor in order to eat it. Now I find myself drugging myself up on caffeine, in a desperate attempt to fulfill the requirements of my job. Now I find myself without friends, because having friends requires that you go out and do things with people, and that is just too much work for me. Now when I think of hiking and skiing, I just think of how burdensome it would be to have to stand up for so long. The doctors say there is nothing wrong with me. Therefore I must be a normal person. I must live according to what normal people are expected to do. I must work full-time and clean my house and go to the store. So I struggle to do all that, though my body tells me it is not what I am meant to be doing. But what else can I do? I have to keep on surviving.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


I took the Belief-O-Matic quiz on beliefnet.com to see what religion I am. I would say that I am Quaker, Pantheist, and Naturalistic Pagan. The problem with the quiz is that of those three, only Quakerism seems to be a possible result. I think I know more than the quiz does about what religion I am, so I did not find the results enlightening, but here they are anyhow, just for entertainment.

1. Secular Humanism (100%)
2. Unitarian Universalism (97%)
3. Liberal Quakers (95%)
4. Theravada Buddhism (80%)
5. Neo-Pagan (77%)
6. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (75%)
7. New Age (72%)
8. Taoism (72%)
9. Nontheist (70%)
10. Mahayana Buddhism (68%)
11. Orthodox Quaker (64%)
12. Reform Judaism (53%)
13. Scientology (52%)
14. Jainism (51%)
15. New Thought (49%)
16. Baha'i Faith (45%)
17. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (43%)
18. Hinduism (35%)
19. Sikhism (32%)
20. Seventh Day Adventist (31%)
21. Islam (26%)
22. Orthodox Judaism (26%)
23. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (25%)
24. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (24%)
25. Eastern Orthodox (17%)
26. Roman Catholic (17%)
27. Jehovah's Witness (13%)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Blurb from Still Point

I found the following on the web site of the Still Point Retreat Center:
Tim Thomas, played by actor Will Smith in the movie Seven Pounds, is a grief-stricken, guilt-driven young man who is unable to forgive himself for his part in the death of 7 innocent people, one of whom was his beloved wife. Tim decides to atone for what to him is an insurmountable burden of sorrow and guilt. He looks for 7 people whose lives will be radically changed for the better by giving parts of himself to them. It is imperative to Tim, however, that these recipients be truly deserving of his precious gifts. We also give bits of ourselves away. All too often we don’t really notice the quality of the people to whom we give because we don’t really know our own worth. Like Tim, we feel that we are less, that we deserve less and so, we settle for less. Each of us is unique and incredibly beautiful deep within. Imagine if we valued ourselves and gave of ourselves knowing the precious gifts that we are! The suffering brought on by settling for less would end. We would begin to draw on inner strength and wisdom in navigating relationships that are mutually enriching and beneficial. Guilt and grief, self-doubt and loathing are difficult feelings to ‘be’ with. Yet we can learn to be OK with ourselves just as we are and release the images of who and what we ‘should’ be that often drive us. We can learn to value ourselves and release judgment. Unlike Tim, let’s opt for life-affirming actions beginning with forgiving and honoring ourselves in all our uniqueness and humanness. We are incredible gifts to the world! Let’s hope we each come to realize our true beauty and worth and enter relationships with that awareness. There are only winners in such a scenario.
Are they implying that we too should only share our gifts with people who are worthy? The idea resonates with me. I feel that I have not been discerning enough in the past about to whom I offer friendship. And yet it is also not consistent with my values, the values I saw expressed in Blood Brothers, the values that say we must love everyone.

This has long been a dilemma for me. I believe in the Quaker principle of that of God in everyone, and yet some people seem to me to be much higher quality people than others. There are some people I look to as role models, and some I definitely would not consider role models, except maybe as a model of what not to be.

The quote resonates with me both because of the idea of discerning quality in other people, and because of the idea of coming to see how precious one's own gifts are. At this time of my life, I feel I'm in a sort of limbo -- I am impaired by lack of health, I don't like my job, I don't live near my family. This situation has made me feel disconnected from my sense of the value of what I have to offer.

Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour

A boy growing up in Galilee, knowing that Jesus walked on the same land he calls home, and knowing that his ancestors were there, that his Christian family is directly descended from the people who heard Jesus speak. In 1947, this boy is seven years old, climbing a fig tree. He does not know of events occurring in the rest of the world. One day, his father explains to the family, "In Europe, there was a man called Hitler. A Satan. For a long time he was killing Jewish people. Men and women, grandparents--even boys and girls like you. He killed them just because they were Jews. For no other reason. Now this Hitler is dead. But our Jewish brothers have been badly hurt and frightened. They can't go back to their homes in Europe, and they have not been welcomed by the rest of the world. So they are coming here to look for a home...We must be especially kind and make them feel at home" (p. 20).

The boy, Elias Chacour, feels terrible for what has happened to the Jews in Europe. What he does not know is that the coming of the Jews will shatter his carefree, idyllic lifestyle as a Palestinian.

Blood Brothers is the story of how, in a time of upheaval and violence, Elias Chacour tries to live by the values of forgiveness and compassion which he learned from his father and from his religion.

I am reading Blood Brothers because it was recommended by my grandmother, and I see why it is important to her. Besides the fact that it takes place in a country she lived in several years previous to the events of the book, the values Elias learned and tries to live by are the values my grandmother and I grew up with in our Quaker family, values which I rarely see expressed in the media or the people around me.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

What to do with my life

I went to an advising conference last week. The idea was that I would find out whether or not I wanted a career in advising, but results were inconclusive. I like the part where you help people figure out their goals and pick their classes. I don't like the part where you urge people to do certain time management things. But that part is not part of all the jobs. I also don't like the part where you have to deal with aggressive parents trying to be overly involved in their kids' lives.

The part about the time management was mostly from a session about a program for students who get kicked out for low grades, then get re-admitted, and as a condition of re-admission, they have to attend a 10 week program on how to be a good student. If I wanted to change people not accustomed to showing up on time, I could have been a social worker.

The problem with figuring out what to do with my life is that there's a fundamental paradox. I think working with people is the most meaningful and rewarding thing to do, but it's also tiring and unpleasant.

One school of thought is that instead of having a rewarding job, I could just have a job that is not annoying, and find fulfillment in what I do outside work. Right now my job is too annoying to follow that plan. It seems to me that working in a library would be the kind of job that was not annoying and would allow me to find fulfillment outside of work. If I work in advising, I would be more likely to find fulfillment in my job than if I worked in a library, but working in advising would have more potential unpleasant aspects as well.

At the conference, I went to a talk by a 22 year old. She was very capable and professional. Far beyond me. I'm used to thinking the reason I can't do stuff is because I'm young and inexperienced, but I guess I can't really use that excuse any more. Now I'm almost as old as the President of the United States.

Today, after dosing up on caffeine, I went rollerblading. At the conference I felt like I didn't belong in my skin. Rollerblading, I felt like I did belong in my skin. Does this tell me anything about what I'm meant to do with my life? Maybe not. Maybe feeling out of place at the advising conference was just because I was new and not exactly working in the profession. The people at the conference did seem to be people I liked and felt similar to.

If I do want to go into advising or something else in higher education, then I would like to get a Master's degree in Higher Education. If I do want to work in higher education, then it would be best to go to school now. Now I have a job that I already want to leave. If my next step was to get a new job, then maybe I wouldn't want to leave that job, so then it would be harder to get the Master's degree. On the other hand, I'm not positive that higher education is the right field for me. It would be silly to spend a lot of money getting a degree in something that I don't even want to do, and then ending up unemployed afterwards. Or even if I decide I do want to stay in higher education, I could still end up unemployed afterwards. Many schools have hiring freezes on now, and things may not be any better by the time I finish a degree.

I would like to get a Master's and then get a good job in a good place, and be able to stay. I like to put down roots. I don't like the unsettled feeling I have now that I don't want to be in my job forever. If I go to school, I'd like to go full-time so that I can more quickly move on to a permanent situation, rather than spending years in limbo as a part-time student.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

TV: Medium

I don't really watch any TV show regularly, but one TV show that I like is Medium. The reason why I like it is because it portrays a loving, stable family (a married couple with kids). Most TV shows seem to think that they should keep throwing conflict, misunderstanding, and deception into all the relationships, because otherwise people won't find it interesting. So to all the TV writers and directors, I just want to say that I for one prefer the shows with the stable loving relationships.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I have bugs in my apartment. I sprayed stuff on them that is supposed to make bugs go away. Or at least die. Now I have bug corpses lying around in addition to live bugs crawling around. Also the spraying stuff is not really good for asthma. I sprayed it on a number of different days, and each time, I got a crop of corpses a day or two later, but the live ones kept on coming.

I was looking on the internet at pictures of bugs to see if I could find out what kind they are. But I didn't find the right kind, and after a while I was like, "I don't like looking at bugs. I have to do that too much in real life anyhow" so I quit.

My bugs are about 3/4 of an inch long. They are black with orange trim. They have six legs and antennae. They fly a little bit, like turkeys do, just to hop off the roost, but mostly they walk around. They seem to come from the south facing windows. Well I don't really see them actually crawling in through the windows, but that is where their concentrations seem to stem from.

Monday, February 16, 2009

His Dark Materials

I have been reading the His Dark Materials trilogy. I am in the third book, so I've read most but not the whole thing. I am still waiting to see what the conclusion will be, but it seems to me that it is that when the serpent tempted Eve, and Adam and Eve left the garden of Eden, it was a good thing, because it meant they could learn knowledge and wisdom, and have the free will to make their own choices, even though that meant making mistakes sometimes. And I think it is about love and freedom of choice over obedience to dogma. And it said, "we have to build the Republic of Heaven where we are, because for us there is no elsewhere."

We take it for granted most of the time because it's all we know, but when you think about it, it is such a gift to be alive. We have this life, and we can make it what we want it to be. It's our opportunity to make our mark on the world. I don't want to spend it toiling at a job that bothers me, and then going home to sit on the couch and read or watch TV. And yet, I don't know how else to live it. I am shackled by two things: the necessity of earning a living, and fatigue. Is their some way to shed these chains? Some light shining through a window that I can follow to find a way out? Or is this my here, is it within these shackles that I must build my republic of heaven?

Not connected to my heart

I'm not connected to my heart. I'm just trying to shove myself in the mold that doesn't fit it. At work, I force myself to concentrate on things that don't interest me. I've lost the liking for the people who used to be my friends, yet I feel I must be civil to them because it's not their fault I've lost the liking. On the weekend, I force myself to do laundry and get groceries even though I'm too tired. I force myself to live this life because it's the life that I've got, and because I can't find anywhere else to go. There is nothing that I desire to do, so I do things I don't desire to do, because one must go on living.

I have seen people living without being connected to their hearts. In retrospect, I think one was a lesbian trying to live as a heterosexual. That's how I feel -- as if I'm trying to live a life of someone who is not me. But I don't know what is the life of me. If I knew, I'd live it.

The character Hilary Faye in Saved! is an example I think. People like Hilary Faye try hard to follow all the rules of their religion, or to do charitable works, in the hopes that it will give them that feeling of grace, or closeness to God. But the only way to get that grace is let your heart be filled with love, and that doesn't happen if you aren't connected to your heart.

How can I get connected to my heart? By trying to get in touch with my spirituality using such techniques as meditation, yoga, religious readings, religious rituals, dance, and being outdoors. Being with people who appreciate who I am would be helpful, but I think the reason I am so distanced from my heart is because I don't know people like that. Occasionally someone treats me with warmth, and it lights my spirit, but then it makes my heart ache, because I know it wasn't of substance.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Grow back stronger

Someone said with regard to my broken wrist that he has heard that after bones break, they grow back stronger. I've heard or thought that logic with regard to a number of other things.

The day we were all waiting to hear which of us would be laid off, someone said, "Every time I got laid off, I ended up with a better job."

When my landlord decided to paint my apartment, I had to pack up all my belongings and then put them away again when the painting was done. It was an opportunity to go through all my stuff and get rid of what I didn't need.

When my computer had a problem and was "fixed" by having everything on it removed, I had to reinstall my programs and restore my files. That too was an opportunity to get rid of things I didn't need.

When my friends disappeared, it was an opportunity to make new and better friends.

It's true that I got some improvements out of the things in my life that broke. Breaking my wrist has helped be get closer to the people who helped me. After my apartment was painted, I did end up getting rid of some stuff, and re-organizing some stuff. And I do have a more discerning view of other people now, so any new friends will be better quality.

But some things that break stay broken. Some things that you try to bring back come back weaker instead of stronger. I still haven't gotten my apartment back to where I want it to be after the painting, nor have I been able to get my computer back to where I want it to be. I don't have friends who are as close as my previous friends used to be.

I like what they say in You've Got Mail: ""People always say that change is a good thing, but what it really means is that something that you didn't want to happen, has happened."

It would be nice if things only changed when I chose to change them, but life is never like that.

It's good to make the best of what life gives you, but sometimes I feel like people are telling me I should be happy about any bad things that happen to me. Making the best of what life gives you doesn't mean thinking, "I'm so delighted that now I am always too tired to do much." It means saying, "I wish I wasn't always too tired to do much, but as long as I am, I guess I'll try to enjoy some restful activities."

Those people who are always telling me that I should be happy about any bad things that happen to me are the people I no longer choose to associate with now that I am more discerning about friends.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Room with a view

On Sunday, Gail said, "Have a good day." I replied, "You too." She said, "Oh, I will." She said that it was a sunny day and she'd be sitting in a room with 18 feet of glass that has a view of a meadow and a bird feeder with all sorts of birds coming to it. One thing I like about summer is I can sit outside, and it feels like I am passing time in a worthwhile way even when I am too tired to do anything. I'd like to have a room like Gail's so that I can enjoy the view of outdoors even when it is too cold to be outside. I'd like to be able to spend my time in a worthwhile way even when I'm too tired to move or think.

I can't set up a place like that in my current apartment because I don't have the right kind of window, but maybe it's something to look for if I ever buy a house, or if I rent another apartment. My dad's apartment has a sliding glass door with a nice view of pine trees.


Weekdays I work (or sit in the office trying to work). Weekday evenings and weekends, I collapse at home. As I lie around and watch bad TV, I think about how I wish I had the energy to do something better with my time. I know it's too much to hope to be able to ski, hike, take dance classes, rollerblade, learn home renovation, or go to concerts, but I'd like to at least be able to read nonfiction, cook dinner, pay my bills, and prepare playlists. It was this sentiment that drove me on Sunday to decide, "This is no way to live. I'm going to resort to caffeine." I used to never have caffeine. In the past few years, caffeine has been the only thing that has helped me, but I've tried to have it only when necessary. Now I've had caffeine every day for three days. It has allowed me to achieve that level of mellow at-home functionality which I described as reading nonfiction, cooking dinner, paying my bills, and preparing playlists. I don't want to rely on caffeine, but the life I have without it is no way to live.

Wrist update

My wrist is still in a cast, but it doesn't hurt as much, so now I can do a lot more with it. It is wonderful to be less impaired, though I'm still looking forward to being able to do more than I can currently do.

I am now using my right hand for typing, but I don't have full use. Basically I have gone from five finger typing to seven finger typing.

I can't use a can opener.

I can tie my shoes, so I don't have to wear my zippered boots every day. That's good because they were hurting my feet.

I don't have much rotational ability. I can't turn doorknobs with my right hand.

I found that licking envelopes is more awkward now. Somehow I can't quite hold the envelope in the right position.

Both the orthopedist and my primary care doctor thought I would be able to drive. I tried it. It didn't work so well so I don't think I'll repeat it. Besides, we are getting a snowstorm tonight, and I can't shovel snow. When I tried driving, I found there were three things I wasn't good at: turning the key, shifting, and steering.

In order to turn the key in the ignition, I have to use my left hand. In order to reach with my left hand, I have to lean way over.

My car is an automatic, but you still have to shift between park, drive, and reverse. The way the shift is supposed to work is you guide it forward and back with your right hand on top while pushing the button with your thumb. I can do the forward and back, but I can't push the button with my right hand, so I have to do that part reaching across with my left.

I can place my hands on the steering wheel when going relatively straight, but my right hand can't do the maneuvering needed for steering around a corner. I was slow steering with my left hand. It would not be good for dealing with an emergency situation, or even being around cars that were in a hurry. I also would not want to have to parallel park, since that requires both shifting and steering.

Favorite Charities, Take Two

In May 2007, I wrote a blog entry about my favorite charities, but there were too many of them, so I'm going to try to narrow it down. The origin of the thought was hearing about requests to donate to a charity "in lieu of flowers" in honor of dead people, and trying to figure out what charities I would want people to donate to for me. But it's really about more than that. It's about getting to what values are most important to me, because once I identify that, I can think that about how to live my life in service to those values.

I favor trying to grow the good things rather than trying to tear down the bad things. The values that are most important to me seem to fall into two general categories:
  1. Community. I aspire to be a person who knits people together and spreads harmonious feelings. I like groups/institutions that emphasize integrity, community, egalitarianism, and participatory decision-making. I have experienced this type of community at Haverford and at Clearwater. Other places that probably also have this type of community are Marlboro College, College of the Atlantic, Waldorf schools (Hawthorne Valley School appeals to me), Sudbury schools, and Quaker schools. One thing about these schools and about Clearwater is that people can be a part of the community and then take the values they learned from it out into the rest of the world.

    Folk music can be used to inspire a sense of community. Pete Seeger has a gift for this. I also admire the way his grandson, Tao Rodriguez Seeger, shines a light on other people.

    I like libraries, because they try to give everyone equal access to information.

    People are diverse. It's natural to seek the company of people who share one's culture and values. I don't expect that all people will be comfortable in all groups. But we should respect and grant rights to all people. Morality should not be judged based on theology, wealth, or the number and gender of one's sexual partners. Instead, the measure of morality should have to do with whether we treat other people with respect, compassion, and integrity.

    HomoRadio is a radio show which enlightens people about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people.

    Oliver's Naturals is a restuarant which knits people together and spreads harmonious feeling. It also promotes organic, locally grown food, which brings me to my next item:

  2. Sustainability. I like small business, organic foods, farmer's markets, food co-ops, simple living, and solar power. Many times supporting these things also includes supporting community. For example, I connect with local people when I go to the farmer's market or community garden.

Based on the above, my list of favorite charities/institutions includes:

  • Haverford College (especially Quaker Student Scholarship Fund)
  • Clearwater (especially funding for low income people to attend the festival)
  • Your local public library
  • HomoRadio
  • Oliver's Naturals
  • Fedco
  • Capital District Community Gardens
  • Troy Farmer's Market