The Winds Have Shifted

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Hullo My Good People….

For all my lofty intentions, I’ve not gotten very far on this blog.  Internetting via Android was novel for awhile, but sadly fails to meet my needs for a true web addiction.  I’m not feeling eloquent, wise or inspired these days, but thought I’d check in with ya’s. 

So remember this http://vaweber.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/won-the-lottery-should-i-share/ ? The post conveying my eagerness for others to join the ranks of atheism?  Yeah, well….mmm, not so much anymore.  I’m actually surprised myself, having figured that my zeal for logic, reason & empirical data would keep me amped up on my atheism kick.  I still very much appreciate those things.  But here’s what’s happened: 

1) Beginning in May of this year, I had some interactions or observations that reminded me of our fragility as human beings.  I found that my desire to help the people I care about superseded any desire to have them think as I do.  

Here’s my thing: when I was a Christian, I made up my own god.  And really, most of us do.  Granted, most of us do so within the framework of an established faith tradition, but from there we decide how literally or figuratively we’re going to take the words offered to us; we decide if we’re going to accept religious authority in making moral & ethical decisions, or if we’re going to use our hearts & heads.  In a congregation of 200, there are 200 gods, at least, each with its particular nuanced personality assigned by its creator.  

The god I created changed according to my changing spirituality….and got better every time.  And while I don’t believe in literal deities, when a friend was in spiritual distress in May, I used God to help him.  I took the god that I created and used Him to offer my friend peace & comfort.  I wasn’t being deceitful–my friend knows I’m not a believer.  I simply worked from his particular world view in order to best help him.  I dunno, maybe it’s the UU in me.  But I would do it again and again and again…to help the people I care about.  I will introduce them to my God.  

2) And here’s what else:  I still adore some religious stuff.  I enjoy certain music, mythology, symbolism & rituals.  I can say with almost complete certainty that I’ll never give up the mystical musings of Rumi & Hafiz.  I gladly chant with Krishna Das the songs to Hindu deities.  I cry when Amazing Grace is played on the bagpipes.  I miss some of my old favorite Christian pop music.   And a couple months ago I almost suddenly became comfortable with this side of myself again.  I’m OK with allowing these things to feed my spiritual self without my having to subscribe to their respective belief systems.  I don’t even care if people think I’m Christian, Muslim, Jewish or  whatever.  I know what I enjoy, I know what I believe, and I’d rather be concerned about whether people think I’m compassionate, honest, ethical, intelligent, encouraging, hard-working, kind, inspiring…who cares if they get my belief system wrong?  

 

I know, I know, my atheist readers are rolling their eyes.  Don’t worry.   I still love science & reason.  I still loathe religious abuses.  I don’t believe in gods, demons, angels, ghosts and the like.  But I’ve given myself permission to entertain them for the sake of human compassion and connection.  

~V.  

For J, A, N, J, C, & S ~ thinking of you as I write this; it’s my tenderness for you that causes me to write this.  xoxo

Off-Topic: Question Everything–Series Intro

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I have a confession.   

Because I don’t have a working computer at home, most of my news and information comes, initially, from FaceBook.  I scroll daily through my news-feed and open links to articles of interest which I then painstakingly read from my Android while riding the bus, on my lunch break or lazing around at home.  A frustrating aspect of this is my need to cross- reference, fact-check, and find stories similar in nature to boost my overall understanding of the subject matter. Lemme’ tell ya’, it’s slow going.  You can only do so much from a smart phone, even with multi-tab browsing.
 
A phenomenon that troubles me is people’s reliance on the “information” gleaned from what others post online–a few ill-founded words in fear-invoking language is enough to cause a frenzy in an increasing number of circles.  I find it distressing that a few strategically-phrased sentences superimposed onto a photograph spreads like wildfire on FaceBook & so effortlessly influences public opinion. 
 
An example would be a nostalgic illustration of children near a flagpole, upon which someone has typed something to the effect of, “Like and share if you think kids should recite the Pledge of Allegiance in school!!!”  The implication here is that the Pledge of Allegiance is somehow threatened, but it doesn’t give us any clues as to how or why. This image garnered hundreds of thousands of ‘likes’ and ‘shares.’  It seems people have gone all click-happy out of a knee-jerk reaction for fear of being considered un-American.
 
Well….  How true is it?  Is there a threat to the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance? How do you know?  What are your sources and are they varied enough so that you can rule out a specific agenda?  Do you have a personal investment in whether this is true or false, and if so, are you able to set that aside in search for the truth?   (By the way, yes, I began researching the Pledge of Allegiance issue but am not posting any findings until I have sources in front of me.)
 
To be clear, yes, it’s only social media.  In the most general sense, it’s not about the clicking and the sharing.  It’s about people’s willingness to accept as true that which is unverified and lacking in objective sources.  What people accept as true could be completely inaccurate, a misrepresentation of some of other factual data, and potentially harmful to our society, or parts of it, if it is false and blindly accepted by mass numbers of people.
 
Before the internet, we had our local newspapers….and beside them we had the tabloids.  Back then most of us knew better than to actually believe something from The StarThe Sun or The Inquirer.  With the advent of the internet age, we’ve acquired a means of accessing, quickly, tons more information than was previously available.  But we’ve lost some of our ability to filter that information.  Our heads are swirling with so much of this stuff that we can barely tell what’s up or down anymore.  It seems there are few people who take the time to question the accuracy of what’s coming through their news-feed. 
 
Which is why I’m here now writing to you all.  I purposely haven’t taken a strong stance on issues that I’m uncertain about. You won’t see me posting on FaceBook about cancer and cell phones, GMOs, the Pledge of Allegiance, chem-trails or a plethora of other topics unless and until I’ve researched them as thoroughly as I can and arrived at the most fact-based conclusion possible. I’m gonna’ be using this spot to post my findings of research topics I’ll be taking on.  
 
I’ve placed this series in the ‘Off-Topic’ section because it does stray from my original intended use of this blog. But remember that it does take some humility to be an honest researcher.  It means not becoming attached to the outcome of my inquiry.  It means questioning opinions that I may have always taken for granted as being correct–that one, for me, is chiropractic, and you’ll be hearing more from me on the subject one day.  If I…you…we are honestly committed to the facts, we’ve got to stare down our fears and biases.  The only conclusion of any value is that which is accurate.  With that, the attitude that matters is the one that is open to the facts wherever they may lead….and open to revision as new facts present themselves.*
 
~Valerie
 
 
*I’m sure that’s a paraphrase of one or two famous guys somewhere in time. Feel free to provide the quote in the comments below.

“I Can’t Be a Hero,” or, “Help! I Need Somebody!”

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Over two weeks ago, and then again last week, my boss asked me if the territory I cover is too much for one person.  Twice I told him, “No.”  I told him it was certain  systems in place that made my job harder, which in part was true.  But there was also a voice in my head telling me that if I admitted that my job is too much for me, then I am most certainly deficient.  As if I didn’t have enough issues.

Today as I spun my wheels for the greater good & grew increasingly frustrated, I reached a breaking point.  In a moment of weakness (strength? shame? clarity? anger? humility? defeat?), I typed my boss a quick e-mail.  The details are unimportant, but for the ending, “I’m good at what I do, but I can’t be a hero.  I need a new system.”  (I then promptly got mad at him for agreeing with me.)

On reflection, though, it seems I really have taken pains to be the be-all and end-all, the go-to girl & I’m not sure how that happened.  The problem comes in my stubborn insistence that I can handle it all, when quite clearly I can’t–especially as the perfectionist that I am. 

Trying to be the hero doesn’t really serve anyone in the long run.  It doesn’t give my team mates a chance to learn & grow, or my other colleagues a chance to work with people other than yours truly (a pity, I’m sure, because I’m a pain in the ass).  It doesn’t serve my boss,  colleagues or clients well if my work is less-than-perfect or unfinished at the end of the day.  And it sure as hell doesn’t help me when I feel exhausted, frustrated and unaccomplished at the end of the day.  I love my job, why do I let myself become this way?

I guess sometimes the more heroic act is in not trying to be heroic.  I’m sure it’s been said many times before, but today it’s my turn to own that realization.  I need help learning to ask for help.

On the way home I oh-so-graciously reminded myself of all the ways my life is deficient (plenty of time for contemplating one’s navel while riding the bus).  I have quite a few areas (um, all of them, I think) that need a major makeover.  Even the baby steps seem daunting & I can’t seem to find consistency in small, simple changes.  I need help learning how to ask for help in the rest of my life, too.

Maybe that’s my first baby step.

G’night, y’all,
~Valerie

Size Doesn’t Matter

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Hullo my peeps!  Howzit goin’ in
your part of the cosmic turkey? 

I’m sittin’ here poolside, just being thankful for the little things.  Not just the little things that happen to me (like this pretty weather, and the fact that the laundry facilities didn’t eat my quarters today), but the little things I thought didn’t matter which turned out to be meaningful to others.

Like last week when I wrote a one-line e-mail (OK, it was a run-on sentence) to someone at work recognizing a contribution they’d made to our company.   I have no clout; I’m maybe one step above a peon, and this other person is levels way above me.  I had no reason to think my words would have much of an impact.  Yet in a few simple words, and further evidenced by the fact that this person copied 3 others on the reply, I was touched and humbled to realize that my words really mattered.

Or months ago when I gave my friend a copy of Aaron Freeman’s You Want a Physicist to Speak at Your Funeral.  She gave it to a friend who gave it to a friend whose health is poor, who loved it.  Well apparently another friend knows the One Who’s Sick & here it is months later and I’m finding out how something I shared with someone else came full circle & touched someone’s heart.  Which touched my heart.

So now it’s your turn.  Don’t think you don’t have enough time or resources–size doesn’t matter, and the little things can make a big difference.  It feels good to make others feel good, and everyone wins.  Come back and warm my heart with cool stories of your own.  Oh, and if you get stumped for ideas, here’s a warm-n-fuzzy website to inspire you:  http://www.helpothers.org

Thanks for being y’all,

~Valerie

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Aesop was on to something there...

You are Loved

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My good people (this means you):

There’s more fragility and vulnerability in life than many people realize.  Please remember, everyone is vulnerable.  Everyone.  Regardless of what others choose to show the world, there is a part of them that is capable of being deeply wounded.  Violence encompasses much more than physical assault—it’s in the messages we send ourselves and others, and we never know just how powerfully we might affect someone.  So when the sun goes down, please, let’s make sure we haven’t said anything or behaved in a way so as to devalue another human being…or ourselves. 

Reach out to people when you need an encouraging word.  Reach out to others who could use an ear or a shoulder.  We can’t all be there for everyone, but we can all be there for someone.  We can’t take care of each other, but we can watch out for each other.  You will not have a heart for everyone; I sure don’t.  But when you have a heart for someone, show it!  And when you don’t, simply be kind.   As much as you can do so without compromising your safety or that of others, err on the side of kindness.  Don’t ever wonder if you should! More kindness—to ourselves, to others, to the creatures and to the earth—can only make our lot better in life.  And don’t let anyone fade away….

Another thing: no matter who you are, someone on this grand planet loves you and thinks you’re beautiful.  At least one, and more probably quite a few.  There are probably people out there caring about you whose existence you barely acknowledge.  Think about that when you’re lonely or discouraged.  Intentional or not, you make a difference in this world, and if that message doesn’t come across in your everyday life, reach out to others and let them remind you until you believe in yourself again.

This fragile tendril of existence that we’re lucky enough to experience won’t even see the full dawn before our species becomes extinct.  Take that knowledge and use this life for wholeness, for goodness. 

If there ever was a gospel that needs to be spread, it is this: Your existence on this planet matters. You are beautiful, and you are loved.

 ~Valerie

PS~ I’ve written the above in various forms on a couple of occasions and think it bears repeating…and, to be perfectly honest, I often need to be reminded of these very same words….  ~V.

A Reading by Richard Dawkins

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Every few months I seem to go back to this YouTube video of Richard Dawkins reading from his book, Unweaving the Rainbow.  It’s one of those things that inspires in me a sense of wonder, gratitude, and delight.  My only gripe is the title, which might suggest morbidity to the fainter of heart–I promise you, this is not morbid, nor is it about death.  The transcript is below the video, but please do watch the video—the musical accompaniment combined with the video clips truly enhances Dawkins’ words.  Enjoy, and do share if you’re so inclined.   ~Valerie

“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Sahara.

Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats; scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively outnumbers the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.

We live on a planet that is all but perfect for our kind of life: not too warm and not too cold, basking in kindly sunshine, softly watered; a gently spinning, green and gold harvest festival of a planet. Yes, and alas, there are deserts and slums; there is starvation and racking misery to be found. But take a look at the competition. Compared with most planets this is paradise, and parts of earth are still paradise by any standards. What are the odds that a planet picked at random would have these complaisant properties? Even the most optimistic calculation would put it at less than one in a million.

Imagine a spaceship full of sleeping explorers, deep-frozen would-be colonists of some distant world. Perhaps the ship is on a forlorn mission to save the species before an unstoppable comet, like the one that killed the dinosaurs, hits the home planet. The voyagers go into the deep-freeze soberly reckoning the odds against their spaceship’s ever chancing upon a planet friendly to life. If one in a million planets is suitable at best, and it takes centuries to travel from each star to the next, the spaceship is pathetically unlikely to find a tolerable, let alone safe, haven for its sleeping cargo.

But imagine that the ship’s robot pilot turns out to be unthinkably lucky. After millions of years the ship does find a planet capable of sustaining life: a planet of equable temperature, bathed in warm starshine, refreshed by oxygen and water. The passengers, Rip van Winkles, wake stumbling into the light. After a million years of sleep here is a whole new fertile globe, a lush planet of warm pastures, sparkling streams and waterfalls, a world bountiful with creatures darting through alien green felicity. Our travelers walk entranced, stupefied, unable to believe their unaccustomed senses or their luck. The story asks for too much luck; it would never happen.

And yet isn’t that what has happened to each one of us? We have woken after hundreds of millions of years asleep, defying astronomical odds. Admittedly we didn’t arrive by spaceship, we arrived by being born; and we didn’t burst conscious into the world but accumulated awareness gradually through babyhood. The fact that we slowly apprehend our world, rather than suddenly discover it, should not subtract from its wonder.

It is no accident that our kind of life finds itself on a planet whose temperature, rainfall and everything else are exactly right. If the planet were suitable for another kind of life, it is that other kind of life that would have evolved here. But we as individuals are stil hugely blessed; privileged, and not just privileged to enjoy our planet. More, we are granted the opportunity to understand why our eyes are open, and why they see what they do, in the short time before they close for ever.”

~Richard Dawkins (Unweaving the Rainbow)