Love and Fear

Although it probably won’t mean anything to anybody else, I have a fairly developed philosophy of life.  It works for me.  You’re welcome to any parts of it you might like.  I like to explain things with stories that everybody knows.  Goldilocks explains why this philosophy isn’t for everybody.  A lot of Papa Bears will think it’s too simple.  They’ll know a whole lot about some of the subjects I’ll touch on and criticize the work as too superficial.  There will also be a lot of Mama Bears who think it’s too complicated.  It talks about so many things and asks the readers for so much responsibility.  Well, it’s not written for either of these groups.  It’s written for those people who think it’s just about right.  In fact, the whole damn point is to find that place in your life that’s just about right, not too hard and not too easy.   And I don’t claim it’s original.  Some of it might be.  I don’t know.

I believe that human beings are only motivated by two things, love and fear.  Every positive thing you do is motivated by love.  In future posts I’ll expound upon this more fully.  Right now I want to talk more generally.  We face the decision between these two motivations every day.  Love is always the right choice and fear is always wrong.  Unfortunately we don’t choose love very often.  Love is hard.  It requires effort, risk, and responsibility.  Love involves change.  Fear is easy.  It means staying where you are, protecting yourself, and is easily justified.  Beware.

Sometimes in life there is an interesting phenomena.  We make a series of small decisions that all seem to be correct.  Then we look back and it turns out they led to a big mistake.  How can it be that a hundred small good decisions could lead you to a big mistake?  It hppens because those decisions were made out of fear.  Fear is insidious and very powerful because it always sounds so damn reasonable.  This is a deep vein, and I’ll be mining it a lot in the coming months.

Squirrels have a place in this philosophy too.  Squirrels always want you to choose fear.  They scare and manipulate you for their own gain.  They’re scared all the time and they want you to be scared too.  Pointing out these squirrly schemes is one of the reasons I have this blog.  Piss off a squirrel.  Spit in the face fear.  Go do something for love.

Bah Bah Bah

There are times that I can’t stand human beings.  The day after Thanksgiving is one of those times.  People are acting like fucking sheep.  A big group of corporate squirrels announce that everyone should go shopping and so the malls fill up.  Stores are opening at 4 am.  A guy was killed in a stampede caused by a Walmart opening their doors for business.  Enough already.  Lemmings.  Sheep.  Mindless workers in the ant hill.  Stop it.  Stop it right now.  Wake the fuck up.

I worked in retail.  I sat in on meetings.  I’m only going to explain this one time.  Big retail corporations make as much as 40% of their gross profit between TG and Christmas.  They do this by getting you to buy shit you wouldn’t buy otherwise.  They probably can’t survive if you only buy the stuff you need or even want.  They need the Christmas shopping season to sell you a bunch of other crap.  Their existence depends on it so they’ll do anything to make sure that happens.

Big retail operations know a lot about what makes people buy shit.  Everything from carpet color to music to smells in the store.  One of the things they know is that the earlier you start Christmas shopping the more you are likely to spend.  The sheep who starts buying in November will buy more than the sheep who waits until 12/20 so they try to get you out as early as possible.  They get the media and news sheep to do stories about the biggest shopping day on Friday after TG.  It isn’t.  The Saturday before Christmas is.  It probably is about fourth or fifth largest.  But if you shop today you’ll probably spend more total dollars in the next month.  They also know that if they can get you in the door they stand a better chance of selling you shit so they have a few really good bargains.  This deep discount serves a second purpose because it means some morons will probably stand outside the store all night generating excitement and publicity.  Nice going.  You waited 32 hours outside a Best Buy to save $100 on a cheap laptop.  You made about 3 bucks an hour.  Fucking genius.  How impossibly stupid do you have to be to wait outside a Walmart all night when that Walmart is open EVERY OTHER FUCKING DAY OF THE YEAR!

I would like to announce here that the day after President’s Day is now Black and Blue Tuesday.  Everyone should spend that day hitting themselves over the head with a hammer.  People can line up outside Home Depot to buy special cheap hammers.  The networks can dispatch reporters to tell us that this what everyone is doing.  The aspirin companies will thrive.  If you’re a good loyal American and good Christian you’ll go grab your hammers and start whacking away.  I hear everyone is doing it.  Vaya con Dios and Viva la Revolucion!

– Archbishop Angus

A Biker Monk

Bikers and  Martial Artists have something in common.  They are looking for a little calm and they need the presence of danger to focus them.  The following was posted on the XL list by Bill.  It explains it pretty well from the biker perspective and would be equally true of martial artists.  I must be particularly fucked up since I need both!

We have a wacky theory for why people like to ride motorcycles, and it goes like this: The act of riding is a form of meditation, because the concentration that’s required to safely ride a motorcycle tends to focus the
mind in a way that eliminates other mental distractions that might interfere
with the mission.  This creates a single-mindedness that, in effect, displaces the continuous stream of thoughts that normally flow through our consciousness.

Thoughts about what to eat, who to meet, and worries about the common stresses of everyday life, such as pressures from work and home, disappear from our minds during the ride, because the concentration that’s necessary to focus on the ride pushes those thoughts far into the background.  The result is that the mind becomes refreshed after a ride just like it would after a session of formal meditation or a relaxing vacation.

Just like some people get “hooked” on meditation, motorcyclists get hooked on riding because of the mental relief that it brings.  I wouldn’t be surprised if someone discovers that endorphins or something are released during the act of riding.  I’m sure you’ve noticed that you can’t “zone out” on a motorcycle like you can when driving a car.  Riding safe means being focused and alert at all times – which is one of the reasons why it’s so important to stop and rest at frequent intervals when riding a motorcycle on a long trip.

Slowing Down

I like this idea.  It was written by Donella Meadows.

THOSE OF US WHO think the world needs saving-from environmental  destruction, rapacious greed, decaying morals, drugs, crime, racism, whatever-keep very busy crusading for our favorite remedies. Carbon taxes. Campaign reform.  The Endangered Species Act. A lower capital gains tax.  Strong regulation.  No regulation. You  know. That long list of mutually inconsistent Holy Grails with  which we like to hit each other over the head. There’s one solution to the world’s problems, however, that I never hear the frenzied activists suggest — slowing down.

Slowing down could be the single most effective solution to the  particular save-the-world struggle I immerse myself in-the struggle for  sustainability, for living harmoniously and well within the limits and laws of the Earth.  Suppose we weren’t in such a hurry. We could take time to walk instead of drive, to sail instead of fly. To clean up our messes. To discuss our plans throughout the whole community before we send in  bulldozers to make irreversible changes. To figure out how  many fish the ocean can produce before boats race out to beat other boats to whatever fish are left.  Suppose we went at a slow enough pace not only to smell the flowers, but to feel our bodies, play with children, look openly without agenda or timetable into the faces of loved ones.  Suppose we stopped gulping fast food and started savoring slow food, grown, cooked, served and eaten with care.  Suppose we took time each day to sit in silence.

I think, if we did those things, the world wouldn’t need much saving.  We could cut our energy and material use drastically, because  we would get the full good out of what we use. We wouldn’t have to buy so many things to save time. (Have you ever wondered, with all our timesaving paraphernalia, what happens to the time we save?)  We wouldn’t make so many mistakes. We could listen more and hurt each other less. Maybe we could even take time to reason through our favorite solutions, test them, and learn what their actual effects are.

Said Thomas Merton, who spent his time in a Trappist monastery: “There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist . . . most easily succumbs: activism and overwork . . .To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many people, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his work for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of his own work, because it  kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”

A friend in India tells me that the onslaught of Western advertising in his country is a cultural blow, not so much because of the messages of the ads but because of their pace. The stun-the-senses barrage of all TV programming, especially ads, is antithetical to a thousands-year-old tradition of contemplation. I can imagine that.  I have been driven crazy by the somnolent pace at which things get done in India. Don’t these people know that time is money?  What they know, actually, is that time is life, and to go zooming through it is to miss living.

S l o w . . . d o w n. Do that first. Then, quietly, carefully, think about what else might need to be done.  The only problem with this cure is that I can’t prescribe it for others, because I have such trouble following it myself. It’s so easy to get swept up in the hurtling pace of the world. Like most of the other world-savers I know, I’m way too busy to eat well, sit quietly, take a vacation, or even, some days, think.

Edward Abbey, the great curmudgeon of environmentalism, knew better when  he said: “It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it.  While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for awhile and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much: I promise you this one sweet victory over . .  . those desk-bound people with their hearts in a safe deposit box and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: You will outlive the bastards.”

Good advice. Too bad I don’t have time to take it. I have to go save the world.

Approval and Disapproval

Disapproval is an unpleasant way to go through the world.  When I’m in a good space I approve of everything!  When I’m in a bad space what I think is irrelevant.  Criticism and judgment assume knowledge that you just don’t have.  ALL knowledge is just a guess.  Many of those guesses might be right, but we just don’t KNOW.  At best we have only perceptions filtered trough our senses and our brain.  Since we know nothing for sure we can’t possibly make any kind of definite judgments.  How can we approve or disapprove of anything if we don’t fully understand it?

We can have opinions.  I like love better than fear.  Chocolate ice cream is better than genocide.  Sex is better than sitcoms.  But be sure to keep these opinions in perspective.  We are not that damn important.  Each of us is irrelevant in the overall workings of the universe so how much weight should our opinion carry?  We shouldn’t even take them too seriously, let alone expect someone else to.

The only thing that has any significance is action.  You have a very short time on earth, and very limited energy.  You’d better use it on actions and not waste it with irrelevant approvals or even opinions.  When we stop disapproving and approve of everything the world opens up.  Joy is manifest in you and you just want to smile!  Or not.

Prop 8 and Sex

All of this drama around gay marriage has me thinking about sex.  Well, actually, I’m thinking about sex most of the time.  I meant it has me thinking about sex as a social and psychological force.  This country, and perhaps most of this world, is seriously fucked up when it comes to sex and prop 8 is just the latest of million recent examples.  Let me elaborate.

As Violet Blue (definitely someone who avoids the squirrels) recently pointed out in an article on SFGate, prop 8 was about sex.  The squirrels who went to the polls and voted to strip rights away were totally freaked out by sex.  There’s no other reasonable explanation.  No one is bothered by two male roommates living together.  Two widowed brothers raising children would be considered heroic.  No one would need to protect children from the idea that two women might stand in front of them and hold hands.  The only unacceptable part of gay marriage is what people imagine they might be doing between the proverbial sheets.  That’s why we need to “protect the children’ and reinforce traditional marriage’.  The real message is the only acceptable sex is between married heterosexuals for procreation.  This is the ‘traditional value’ they’re trying to protect and they’d put that in the damn constitution if they could get away with it.  This is the battle that conservatives are always fighting, and I’m fucking sick of it.

From now on anytime you see one of these right wing religious freaks on tv talking about something you should apply this new knowledge.  Here is a quick translator to get you started;

Protect traditional marriage = Keep people from fucking outside of marriage.

Traditional values = monogamous heterosexual sex for procreation.

Antiabortion = Don’t have sex for fun.

Real American = Repressed sexually.

The Gay Agenda = People who acknowledge that sex is cool.

Secular Humanist = Joyful in their human sexuality.

In a later post I’m going to flesh out this theme of sexual repression and what it costs us as a society and as loving people.  In the meantime don’t let the squirrels keep from enjoying a good time with your genitals!

The Biker Code

I’m a biker.  That doesn’t mean I’m a thug or uneducated.  It means I choose to ride a motorcycle.  And I choose to live life a little more fully and little more dangerously. My friend Raven sent this Biker’s Code to me and I liked it.  So I’m going to republish it here.  I think it’s pretty solid advice.  Try to follow it.

The Bikers Code:

It used to be that all bikers shared a common bond, an unspoken code of ethics and behavior that transcended words and was built on actions. There was never a bible written on this Biker’s Code of the West and there was no need for such to me.  But the times are a-changin’ and there seems to be a lot of new riders out there. These days the riders you see blastin’ down the tarmac are just as likely to be clad in shorts and sneakers as jeans and engineer boots. And the roughest, toughest-looking biker you pull up next to could be your doctor or lawyer and may be wearin’ a Rolex watch under his leathers. There’s nothing wrong with that, so long as these new riders learn the Code of the West just as we old-timers did. 

Being a biker used to be about using your creativity to take a basket case old hawg and using only grit and ingenuity, turning it into a one of a kind eye dazzler, then risking your life on the asphalt on a bike you made yourself out of pride. Bikers wore leather and grease because they knew cagers would just as soon run them down as look at them, so they had to be intimidating. We were a breed unto ourselves with no union, no support group, and in many cases, no family (they threw us out). We had to make it in the world of our own, against all rules, against mainstream society, and against all odds. You know, we survived and prospered because of the Biker Code of the West and we never took shit from anybody. As an old scooter tramp named Jug once said, “It’s every tramp’s job to school the young. How else are they gonna know a Panhead from a bed pan?” With that in mind, we bring you a primer on the basic two-wheeled Code of the West. Take heed, brothers and sisters, for our Code is a hallowed one filled with honor and loyalty, the likes of which have not been since the days of knighthood. 

The Biker Commandments

* Don’t take any shit.  This is an essential part of being a biker. It has to do with respect and honor. Anyone can be a brash, quick- tempered lout. Be cool, stand tall and backup what you say with action. 

* Never lie, cheat or steal. Another way of saying this is to always tell the truth. Bikers are always the greasy bad guys in the movies, but every real biker knows that his word is his bond. Your word is all you have in life that is truly yours.

* Don’t Snivel. Absolutely no one likes or respects a sniveler.  Another way to think of it is, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Most of life’s little inconveniences work themselves out whether you snivel or not. 

* Never say die and never give up. Whether it’s in a fight, a debate, or a business deal, no matter how bad it gets, a biker never gives up. That’s why you see a lot of wealthy bikers these days, ’cause they don’t know how to quit in any element of their lives. In the biker world of rugged individualists, only the strong survive. 

* Help others.  Even moral support, if that is all you can give, is better than riding on by. Remember life is about the journey, the ride, not getting there. You already are there.  And don’t just help bikers, show the world that we are better than our image portrays us. Courtesy costs you nothing and gives you everything. 

* Stick to your guns. Do what you say you’ll do, be there when you say you will. This is called integrity. 

* Life is not a drill. Yeah, this ain’t no dress rehearsal. This is life-go out and take big bites of it. You’ve got no time to lose and bikers don’t stand around waiting for the party to come to them. You only go around once. Tomorrow you could be road kill, thanks to a chain smoker asleep at the wheel of his Caddy. Live life now, make the most of each moment.

– Author Unknown

A Hero or Two

A few months ago I saw two shows that reminded me that it’s good to have heroes.  Not the Superman kind of hero.  Someone famous or semi-famous that you can look towards to find an example of traits you’d like to nurture in yourself.  I know they’re undoubtedly flawed human beings too, but there’s still something about them that inspires something in me.  Maybe we can call them Squirrelhunters.

The first was David Alan Coe. If you don’t know who he is, find out.  He’s written  an incredible number of hit songs over the last 40 years.  Everyone from Loggins and Messina to Kid Rock record his songs.  He’s also been singing and performing for almost as long.  Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings are/were his best friends.  Enough said.  It was a great show filled with dozens of songs you knew played by an accomplished performer.  It was also in a tiny theater/community center in Petaluma.  There’s a tremendous disconnect between his level of accomplishment and the level of his fame.  Half way through the show he addressed this directly.  He said how proud he was that David Alan Coe would never be seen on MTV because David Alan Coe was never going to stop saying ‘Motherfucker’.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and I like it.  It is a wonderful way of saying that he was not going to make himself bland just to make himself acceptable to the corporate masses.  Creative people tend to be ornery.  Interesting people tend to be a little rough around the edges.  Smart people sometimes don’t play well with others.  But the squirrels in society want everybody to be homogenous and easily controlled.  It was really inspiring for me to see somebody who gave up fame and undoubtedly fortune in order to keep saying ‘motherfucker’.  Would you rather be yourself or would you rather be rich?  This might be the question of our time.

The second show I saw was Henry Rollins.  I’d seen him before and I’m never disappointed.  He’s the last singer of Black Flag, a sometime actor, world traveler, and monologuist.  He’s another person who does his own thinking, in his own way.  He’s mad.  A lot.  It was a great reminder that there are a lot of crappy things in this world to get mad about.  The squirrels would like to take your anger because it gives you the power to try to change things.  So go ahead, find an injustice and get pissed off.  The squirrels hate it.

Are you strong enough to be yourself?  Am I?  Seeing these two guys helped.

Prop 8

Prop 8

Like everybody else I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the election, and like many people I was thrilled by the sight of a man with African heritage leading a country that once enslaved his people.  Great and heady stuff.  I’ve been voting since Carter/Reagan, and this was the first time I cast a presidential vote for someone I actually wanted to win.  I am a little tired with the constant theorizing about why and how he won.  How about this- he was just the better candidate?  It could happen you know.  The better guy wins.  That alone would be a reason to hope.  And I think he’ll be one hell of a president.  If it matters.  But we’ll get to that on some other day.

Having said this, election day made me profoundly sad.  The State of CA decided to amend it’s constitution to specifically discriminate against a minority by voting for prop 8.  The squirrels were busy that day.  I’m going to spend today’s post venting my spleen over this incredibly mean spirited turn of events.  It is exactly the kind of topic I get worked up about most.

First, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m a straight man of northern European heritage.  I have no political party and belong to no organized religion.  In short, I have no personal horse in this race.  But I do have some strong opinions and observations, in no particular order.

Bigotry is always ugly.  And bigots always claim that they aren’t bigots, they’re just voicing a concern or “more conservative view” of the world.  Bullshit.  The arguments against gay marriage are word for word, line for line, lie for lie, the exact same arguments heard against interracial marriage.  It was hateful then, it is hateful now.  The only correct response is to stand up, put aside your politically correct social relativism, and call a bigot a bigot.  The racial and sexual disparity in this country didn’t really begin to change until good people refused to let bigots have their say without heaping shame upon them.  If you voted yes on prop 8 you are a bigot.  BIGOT- n.   One who is strongly partial to one’s own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ.  End of discussion.

Next I’d like to address the question of the law.  How is this amendment possibly legal in this day in age?  I thought the purpose of the constitution was to protect the rights of all the people who live here.  The original framers of our national constitution used it to limit the power of the government.  This whole fucking country is founded on the idea that constitutions protect rights from greedy assholes who would like to take them from you.  So how can you amend a constitution to specifically deny rights to some members of your society?  All right, I get it.  A lot of people don’t like gays.  They’re uncomfortable with any group that might acknowledge that they have sex and they’re scared shitless of anything that doesn’t happen on ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’.  So here’s an idea- go back into your narrow little world and ignore gay people.  Hate them in your heart if you think that’s necessary but be an American and keep the government out of it.

There are a couple parts of this bigotry that really get me worked up, and no, you haven’t seen me worked up yet.  Be patient, I’m getting there.  Can we all stop this bullshit about ‘protecting the children’?  As soon as you hear this phrase you know the person talking is full of shit.  I’ve actually worked with kids.  They have fairly simple needs; love, food, shelter, support, and education.  Many many children don’t have these things.  If you really want to ‘protect the children’ then make sure these bases are covered.  Otherwise, shut the hell up.  The real fear behind this obsession is that little Tommy might grow up to be smarter, wiser, or emotionally healthier than mama and papa.  Lord knows you better protect them from that.  Keep them stupid, repressed, and scared since that’s how the parents lives.  God, I hate people.

There are 2 more points I’m going to expound upon before moving on.  One is marriage in general.  Maybe the lesson in this is that marriage as an institution needs to be abolished.  Maybe we’re becoming too sophisticated a society to have such a narrow legal contract rule us.  Polyamory, alternative life styles, serial monogamy, the high divorce rate, women’s equal rights, etc might all be signs that we need a new model.  I understand that logistically there needs to be a way for the government to define who has legal rights in certain situations.  Perhaps some sort of expandable domestic agreement along with child rearing contracts would work better.  I haven’t thought much about this, but it is worth exploring by the more progressive minds in the legal community.

The last thing I’d like to say directly about prop 8 is how depressing it was to see large groups of African Americans campaigning for it in Oakland,  The irony of electing the first black skinned president while members of his community voted to strip rights from another group was almost top thick to bear.  Nietzsche once said that slaves don’t want to be free, they want to own slaves.  How sad to think that in this case that might be true.

Hate and intolerance have no place in the law and no place in human society.  Let’s get ready to man the barricades and lawyer up.  Choose love and joy instead.  Vaya con Dios and Viva la Revolucion!

-Archbishop Angus