The First Steps to Revolution

Gather round brothers and sisters, time to hear some preachin again.  As pretty much anyone who’s ever read this blog is aware, I’m openly advocating for revolution.  I really don’t even care what kind.  Spiritual, political, violent, nonviolent, cultural, intellectual, emotional, whatever.  Just something BIG and MEANINGFUL that’ll shake us up and rekindle the passion that we currently bury under a deep pile of homogeneous bullshit.  The path we’re on leads directly to hell and all we do is argue over how fast to drive.  We some kind of new renaissance to wake us the hell up before the reaper knocks at our door.

I know that a lot of you out there are so tied into one party or one religion that you can’t see your way clear.  I know that others of you are so beaten down that you think it’s all too hopeless.  I know that there are Pollyanna apologists that, like Candide, think this is the best of all possible worlds.  But I also know that as I look around I see a whole bunch of people who live in fear.  I see wealth stolen from the average man by an evil group of manipulative oligarchs.  I see citizens choose a false security over their constitutionally guaranteed rights.  I see religion and patriotism used to bludgeon other human beings.  I see Joy and Beauty and Truth trampled beneath the ugly machine of commerce.  And deep in my soul I know one more thing.  I know that WE ARE BETTER THAN THIS.

Since none of us, not even the wise and wonderful Archbishop, have the slightest fucking idea what the future might bring we can’t actually decide what kind of revolution we’ll get.  That’s part of the fun.  It’s what makes revolutions dangerous and cool.  That shouldn’t stop us from starting one though, and that brings me to today’s topic, and in only three paragraphs!  (Jeez, I’m long winded.  Oh well, part of my charm I guess.)  How do we start our revolution?  The same way we do everything else.  By changing ourselves, one painful step at a time.

Okay, I can’t help myself.  I’m a creature of a certain time and place.  To some extent I’m defined by my environment which means you’ll have to indulge me as I use the language and format that seems to define change in this society.  Yep, the 12 step program.  We’re addicted to our hopeless lifestyles and petty differences so here are my 12 Steps to Revolution.  To paraphrase the great Arlo Guthrie, if one person does it they’ll be seen as crazy but if, no when, we get enough people doing it we’ll be a movement.  And the step after that?  Why, Vaya con Dios and Viva la Revolucion!

12 Steps to Revolution

1)  Declare Your Freedom
The first step to revolution is to declare yourself to be free.  Not kind of free, not free-ish, truly free.  You are not an American or a Christian or a Democrat, you are a HUMAN BEING.  You have power and you get to make choices.  Those choices do not need to limit you to someone else’s ideas.  Unless you understand what it means to be free you’ll never understand your own power or potential.  Understand too that your constitution protects that freedom.  Read it and understand it.  Then spit on anyone who violates that sacred document.  Remember, your freedom cannot be taken, it can only be surrendered.

2)  Find Your Courage
You are so much stronger than you think you are.  Do you believe in God?  Really, so you think he created you without the necessary courage to create change?  Or maybe you think that, as the result of thousands of generations of survivors you’re too weak to adapt or change or do what must be done.  BULLSHIT.  You have courage.  Go find it because the evil among us count on you being scared.

3)  Reclaim Your Individuality
You are unique in the universe.  Why do you do what every other idiot around you is doing.  Look around.  The people you’re conforming to are miserable.  Take the responsibility to be yourself.  Let go of your past.  Forget what your abusive mother said about you.  Dare to be different because otherwise you’ll end up just like everyone else.  While you’re at it you can learn to be tolerant of the differences in others.  Even if they have tattoos and carry a whip.

4)  Get Back in Your Body
If you want to control your life and create change you’ve got to get in better shape.  Revolutions are hard work.  Besides, being stronger and healthier make you happier too and happiness is always a revolutionary act.

5)  Control Your Appetites
Sex, food and inebriation are fun.  Enjoy them all but do it by choice, not addiction.  If you live by eating processed shit and killing brain cells you have no hope for the future.  Save those things for the occasional binge!

6)  Discover Your Inner Warrior
Revolutions need warriors.  Somewhere in your genetic past is one bad motherfucker.  Find him or her and learn their skills.  Learn to defend yourself.  Or learn to heal others.  Or learn how to be prepared for emergencies.  These skills breed confidence and independence.

7)  Cultivate Your Inner Monk
Take your spirituality seriously.  Define your relationship to the universe.  Give big deep issues some thought.  Make a little time every day to express your soul or meditate or pray.

8)  Speak The Truth
It’s truly revolutionary.  Evil depends on lies and obfuscation.  Ignore anyone who lies and refuse to tolerate bullshit.  Go ahead, tell your wife that yes, she does look fat in that dress.

9)  Kill the Man
Okay, maybe not literally.  At least not yet!  Most of our institutions are failing us.  The government sucks.  Religions are run by hateful perverts.  The media have become unrepentant whores.  Corporations would sell your ass for 12 cents.  So ignore them.  Keep away from them as much as possible.  I’m not advocating going out to live in the woods like some Luddite militia moron.  Just limit how much contact you have with institutions that don’t have your interests at heart.

10)  Be of Service
There are people all around you that are in dire need of something.  Kids who can’t read.  Women living in fear.  Older people isolated and depressed.  Young adults who need a mentor.  Go find one or two and help them out.  Teach them something.  The world needs your skills and service leads to enlightenment

11)  Appreciate Beauty
Wanna really piss off the evil little fuckers?  Go do something unique and beautiful.  They can’t stand it.  Listen to music constantly.  Fill your spaces with art.  Cover the bland with something cool and subversive.  There’s a good reason why every oppressive dictatorship stomps out art first.

12)  Trust in Joy and Hope
They are powerful.  Bathe in them.  Find fun in everything you do.  You can, you know.  They’re the engine that drives every revolution and the first casualty of despair.  Never, ever giver them up, for they are God incarnate.

Lost and Doomed

All right people, settle in and mount up cause it’s time to rant about politics again.  Let me start off by assuring all of you that the current situation is absolutely fucking hopeless.  Nothing GOOD or USEFUL is going to get done.  The rich are going to get richer, the evil are going to get stronger, and the kind are going to continue to get trampled.  The state of the union is one of lethargy and despair.  There now, aren’t you reassured?

Oh Archbishop, why is it so hopeless?  I’m glad you asked.  We’ll start our little discussion by looking at the political divide that seems to define every debate.  Both parties in this country have some good points but, like all limited world views, they eventually run into evil squirrel territory.  At their best Republicans believe in self reliance, a free market, and personal responsibility.  When those positive impulses get taken too far they can quickly become callous or hard hearted.  They’re also pretty damn useless during a national tragedy or when shit needs to get built for everyone’s benefit.  On the other side of the aisle the best Democrats espouse collective cooperation and championing the poorest and least powerful.  However if you give them free reign they immediately start telling everyone how to live and throwing money at useless shit.  When our system works the two parties constantly negotiate a middle space between the common good and individual rights.  The impulse toward self reliance keeps Democrats from forcing everyone into bubble wrap (for our own safety, of course) while allowing them to protect workers rights and makes sure the infrastructure gets repaired.  Since, in theory, both sides are also restrained by the constitution we’ve tended to be a pretty moderate and reasonable nation.  Damn successful too.  All in all a pretty good system.

At least it was.  Not so much any more.  Now it’s fucked beyond redemption.  How did that happen?  Oh, the usual ways.  Inattentiveness and unintended consequences.  We made small decisions and indulged in lapses of judgment that created a system where compromise is impossible and extremism is rewarded.  We disenfranchised the majority in a way that perpetuates these mistakes and ignored common sense.  We gave in to our basest fears and prejudices.  We trusted our system even when it had clearly stopped working.  And, oh yeah, we pissed all over the constitution.  Perhaps you’d like more specifics?  Sure, let’s do that.

All over the television the punditocracy is wringing their carefully manicured hands over both party’s inability to find compromise space without terrorist threats or immediate capitulation.  The average interview with the man in the street always seems to center around the phrase “we just need both sides to work together”.  Well yes, but no.  Part of the problem here is that both sides have worked together a little too comfortably.  Not on legislation or anything useful, but on insuring that the both of them get to keep what they’ve already stolen.  The obvious example is how they both strive to keep any kind of third party from gaining viability, but I’m not even talking about that.  What I’m referring to is gerrymandering.

According to the constitution we take a census every ten years and divide up congressional districts according to population.  Since we’re a pretty fluid country that population is always shifting and most states have to redraw their districts every time.  The naive among you might think that these districts are drawn in order to insure fair representation or perhaps by reasonable geographical lines.   Ha ha ha.   Actually both parties get together with the goal of creating as many ‘safe’ districts for themselves as possible.  A safe district is one that’s guaranteed to vote for one party REGARDLESS OF WHO IS RUNNING.  An example: There are both very liberal and super conservative pockets of voters in California.  The Republicans know they can’t get a majority of districts and would rather not take their chances in a fair fight.  The Democrats want as many safe districts as they can get so they give the Republicans just enough conservative districts to keep the Democrats from gaining the necessary 2/3 majority necessary to pass tax hikes in the State House.  Both sides are happy.  Everybody wins, except for the people of CA who get to live with government shutdowns every year.

Over time both sides have gotten pretty sophisticated at this game.  Today as many as 2/3 of all districts can be considered by one of the two parties to be ‘safe’.  Well, good for them. Of course there are a couple of down sides to this system.  From a philosophical standpoint it’s deeply undemocratic.  In a ‘safe’ district you’re not really going to get to cast a meaningful vote because only one party can win.  If you’re conservative in San Francisco you’re just shit out of luck.  The real problems, though, aren’t just theoretical.  Gerrymandering makes it nearly impossible to unseat incumbents even if they’re totally fucking corrupt.  Assuming an incumbent has power in their own party they essentially get a free pass.  In a very real way this means that many voters have representatives that absolutely do NOT have to vote in their interest.  I know, it sounds like I’m being hyperbolic and lord knows I have that tendency but not in this case.  Nancy Pelosi can vote any damn way she wants and she’ll still get reelected.  There are Republican dudes who consistently vote against things that would be a boon to their own constituents.  This isn’t democracy any longer, its oligarchy.

That sounds pretty bad, huh?  Well, it might not even be the worst result of gerrymandering.  Remember earlier we said that this country runs best when moderates of each party put checks on the other sides weaknesses?  Of course you do.  You’re a careful reader.  So guess what?  Gerrymandering means that moderate representatives can’t get elected!  It’s true.  Let’s imagine a district made up of voters scattered equally throughout the political spectrum.  If the Democrats nominate a flaming liberal they’ll probably lose to a moderate Republican.  The same is true if the Republicans nominate a racist nazi.  He’ll lose because everyone in the middle will be disgusted.  Either way a reasonable, moderate person will win much of the time.  What’s more they’ll have to represent the district pretty well or they’ll lose next time.  Too bad there aren’t too many of those imaginary districts.  Instead let’s look at a district that’s been specifically designed to give one of the parties a win.  Hell, it doesn’t even matter which one.  The populace is, by definition, either more conservative or liberal than the average person.  Now if you want to win you just need to get past the primary.  You don’t need any of the moderate votes from the other side.  Over time the candidates from these districts get more and more extreme and less and less representative of the country as a whole.  This played out in the last election as we saw super conservative ‘tea party’ candidates run against Republicans in ‘safe’ conservative districts.  None of these batshit crazy dingdongs would have stood a chance if they had to get even one moderate liberal vote in order to win.  Crazy non masturbating witch lady, anyone?  She won her primary but since she had to run state wide, she got crushed.  If she’d been in a safe congressional district she’d be making laws right now.  That’s why we have a House of Representatives that’s filled with extreme ideologues who don’t need to actually ‘represent’ anything other than their craziest constituents.

Okay, so gerrymandering has fucked up the House beyond any hope.  At least we have the Senate.  That’s true, and they’ve taken institutional hopeless to a whole new level.  Their arcane rules and ‘senatorial prerogatives’ are the most undemocratic process in our now fragile union.  Any small group of senators can pretty much kill every good idea.  Nominations sit for months.  Bills are filibustered.  Whacky minorities with an ax to grind can destroy the best compromises.  If you want to save the senate you’re going to have to overhaul their rules.  Good luck with that.  But at least they tend to be more reasonable because they have to win larger elections, right?  Nope.  Wrong again.  The senate is the least fair elected body in the free world.

So you think maybe I’m being hyperbolic again.  Okay, explain to me how it’s fair that the average voter in Wyoming has 73 times more power than I do?  It’s true.  There are about 500,000 people in the state of Wyoming.  I live in California where there are about 36,500,000 people, or 73 times more.  We each get to elect 2 senators.  So every time the Senate votes the people of Wyoming get 73 times the representation.  Besides being ludicrously unfair it means that the more progressive, urban states are constantly having their needs undermined by a bunch of smaller states who could care less about their issues.  Want to build a better mass transit system up the East coast?  Good idea.  80 million people would benefit.  Too bad a couple million in Utah, Montana, Wyoming and Alaska can kill it.  This isn’t democracy, it’s tyranny of the rural minority.  I have the greatest respect for the men who wrote our constitution but they couldn’t possibly have foreseen that the mayor of small city like San Francisco would govern more people than entire states.  No one in the late 18th century could imagine that NYC would eventually have more voters than the combined population of 8 whole states.

It’s beginning to sound pretty bad, isn’t it?  I’m just getting started.  Let’s talk about money.  Elections are expensive.  Television time and big organizations cost a lot.  In order to get elected you have to have access to some very deep pockets.  Remember when they asked Dillinger why he robbed banks and he replied ‘cause that’s where the money is?  Well, election campaigns are exactly the same.  They need a lot of cash so they have to go to where the money is.  Let’s just apply a little common sense.  Who has the most money?  That’s right, rich people and big corporations.  Duh.  Under our current system you have to please the rich and the corporate in order to acquire the money needed to get elected.  And believe me, those two groups aren’t going to give away money without getting something in return.

At some point in every campaign cycle it comes to light that some huge corporation gave a bazillion dollars to one of the candidates.  The television talking heads dispatch a reporter to ask that corporation’s spokesman if they think they’re buying anything specific and the spokesman smiles and says all they expect in return is ‘access’.  The talking head accepts this answer as reasonable and moves on.  Of course even the most naive watcher thinks that might not be all they’re getting but let’s take them at their word for a minute.  All they want is ‘access’?  Access is everything.  Who gets in to see an elected official and can plead their cause is likely to win.  Why is it okay that their time is clearly only open to the highest bidders?  Can you go spend an entire afternoon with your Senator to let them know what you want done?  I bet not.  But the dude who wrote him or her a big ass check can.

It gets worse.  Elected representatives frequently want to get better jobs if they get voted out or choose to leave ‘public service’.  The giant corporations who fund them just happen to have they jobs they want.  Here’s how it works.  Joe wants to be a congressman.  Megamicrointeltech gives him a bunch of money and he wins.  While serving he passes laws and gets rid of regulations and in general helps Megamicrointeltech make even bigger piles of money.  After a few years he retires from his seat and goes to work for…  I’m sure you get the idea.  And it’s not just elected officials.  Cabinet members, military officers, high ranking officials of all kind and in all branches of government play this game.  It’s legal and not even newsworthy any more.  If you want to pull your hair out by the roots get on the internet and see how many Treasury and SEC officials have or currently work for Goldman Sachs and then give a little thought as to why they were saved while their largest competitor, Lehmann Brothers, was allowed to go under. Or why the TARP money all went to Wall St.

Up until this point in our history there have been repeated attempts to control the amount of money and patronage in elections and governing.  Now the Supreme Court has decided that almost any attempt to do so is unconstitutional.   The Citizen’s United case broke down the last few remaining dams and now the money is flowing like beer at a Nascar race.  Big donors can pretty much give whatever they want and can do so ANONYMOUSLY.  We’ve reached the point where industries can literally buy a Senator.  No, really.  Look at the math.  It might take 8-10 million dollars to win a seat in one of the smaller states and that’s petty cash to oil or mining or financial concerns.  And remember that earlier we pointed out that every Senator is equal even if way fewer people get to vote for them.  The system is for sale and brother, you ain’t in the bidding.

In a free country there isn’t a whole lot you can do to keep rich people from having more power.  Okay, I get that.  No problem.  But there should be things you can do to limit corporations or specific industries from literally taking over.  But not here in the good ole US of A.  The Supreme Court has decided that corporations are individuals and therefor have all the rights guaranteed by the constitution.  You can’t limit their speech or legislate their political involvement.  What an unbelievable crock of shit.  Corporations are NOT people.  Corporations have one, and only one, function; to make money.  That’s reasonable.  They’re businesses.  They should make money.  Actually, if a corporate board were specifically not making money they would be voted out and perhaps go to jail for fraud.  Humans are a little more complicated than that.  Sure, we make money and have professional lives.  But we also love and cry.  We’re capable of altruism and charity.  We breed and sacrifice.  We sometimes choose joy or knowledge or spirituality over commerce.  And therefor we should have more rights.  As long as we’re willing to treat corporations as humans under the law we’re going to end up being ruled by them.  End of story.

Since large corporations have taken over control of big pieces of the government they’ve gotten to change the way many things are regulated.  A prime example is the media.  Once upon a time we had strict regulation of the PUBLIC airwaves.  That’s right PUBLIC.  We decided that if you want to broadcast you’ll need to follow certain rules.  You’ll need to limit how many outlets you own.  You’ll need to abide by the ‘fairness doctrine’ and let both sides of a political issue have equal time.  You’ll need to be clear about what’s sponsored and who’s paying for the content.  Guess what?  Those regulations are all gone.  Now a couple of companies own almost all the fucking radio stations in the whole damn country.  A few giant corporations own almost all of the big media companies.  And a free press, one of the cornerstones of democracy, is no more.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time arguing whether the remaining media is ‘free’ or not.  It isn’t.  It all has to make a profit and those profits go into relatively few hands.  Instead I’m going to talk about some of the results of media conglomeration.  First of all the media is, rightly or wrongly, no longer trusted.  Ironically this means that in this age of nearly unlimited access to data, voters are dumber than ever.  Many millions of people think that Iraq was responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and that Obama is a Muslim.  Since the media is inherently untrustworthy it’s easy to disbelieve them on the rare occasions they decide to actually point out that these ‘facts’ are totally wrong.

Our media has been completely ghettoized according to race, politics, and religious belief.  I’m sure it’s easier to make a profit if you know EXACTLY who your audience is and what they want to hear.  It also means that you can tell them any damn fool thing you want.  Since they don’t watch other stations or read other publications they’ll never know the difference.  And what outlet is going to report on the excessive power of corporations?  It’s almost impossible to be too cynical.

I’m not really telling you anything you don’t already know.  Look around you.  Things are bad and people are scared.  The feeling that your way of life is being stolen from you is real.  In that the Tea Party and the whacky pinko left are absolutely correct. The problem is both sides are being manipulated into blaming each other.  It’s the liberals and gays and Mexicans that are stealing your job and healthcare and education.  The Tea Party is racist and ignorant and wants to destroy the country.  Nope. Those things are happening, but it ain’t the other side doing it.   It’s criminology 101.  When there’s a crime look to see who benefitted.  In this case it’s the rich, the ruling class, and big corporations.  They’ve been busy overseeing the largest transfer of wealth in history while we’ve been busy rounding up the usual suspects and demonizing the ‘other side’.  (I’ve reposted Wake Up below).

There is legitimate fear and it’s being craftily manipulated.  That’s what makes this whole fucking thing so damnably difficult to deal with.  The qualities and mechanisms that would help improve things are the very things that fear has taken from us.  Debate, dialogue, trust, free speech, civil rights, tolerance and cooperation are the way out but we’re too fucking scared to give them a chance.  And believe me, the perpetrators of these crimes know it.  You can’t turn on any media at all without being told to fear something.  The whole TSA charade is to keep us in line and afraid.  As a people we’ve allowed a false choice between civil rights and security dominate the debate and in doing so we’ve soiled the sacred document of our founding.  Both political parties are responsible but I’ve written on that quite a few times before.  I’ll just reiterate how sad it is that we, as a country, turned out to be too cowardly to face the inner threats to democracy.

So, is all of this fixable?  Perhaps not because both extremes agree on so much stuff.  Both the far left and the far right are doing pretty well.  They both think that people need to be told what to do and, having agreed, just want to spend time fighting each other for that privilege.  Getting either side to change that primary fact is likely impossible.  I also don’t think that the indulgently wealthy corporations are willing to give up their new found power.  Change would certainly take many years and require constitutional amendments that take away corporate equality and alter the way we elect our government.  Without those things we’ll need a revolution and those always get bloody.  But who knows, it could happen.  And revolutions are exciting!

I suppose we could start by everyone refusing to vote for either party.  Ever.  That might shake stuff up.  Most importantly we need to stop defining ourselves through our politics.  If every single person who reads this stops arguing left vs right we might have a chance.  It’s a false choice anyway because there is ALWAYS more that we agree on once we stop demonizing.  I kind of doubt that will happen.  Of course being a little more educated and lot less fearful and way more joyful would help, but that sounds like a pipe dream.  Oh well, so it goes.

The wisest book in the world, The Tao Teh Ching, teaches that when the country is corrupt, patriotism is born.  The more patriotic a leader or movement the more likely they are morally deficient.  It’s not a coincidence that patriotism seems to be at an all time high.  The same is true for spirituality.  When virtue is lost religious orthodoxy springs up.  Those who have a real relationship with the universe or God don’t need to demand piety from others.  Again, not a surprise that so much ‘”Christian” bullshit fills the air while so little understanding and forgiveness fill our hearts.  It’s more important now than ever before to remember that no matter how fucked up this society may get, you can still control yourself and your own life.  You can be a model of freedom and spirituality even if you’re the only one on the block.  So get to it.  Vaya con Dios and Viva la Revolucion.

-Archbishop Angus

My Excellent Adventure…

Ok , ok, I know I’m a little wacky.  That isn’t exactly news.  I have a mirror.  Besides, I know better than most the strange things that happen between my ears.  Sometimes though even I’m surprised by how really out of touch I am.  Gather round the virtual pulpit and listen to my excellent adventure into the land of the normal…

At the end of this month I’m going to ride my motorcycle to Vegas.  I’ve done this quite a few times before and I know it can be a little grueling.  600 miles done in 11 hours or so, frequently through the desert heat.  Being a somewhat responsible biker I always do a thorough vehicle check a few weeks before the trip and second one the day before.  Anyway, I decided that my rear tire and most likely my rear brake pads should be replaced before I hit the road.  I called around the usual places and the only one who could do it quickly and reasonably was a shop that didn’t take appointments.  Everything was done on a first come, first serve basis and they opened at a barbaric 7:30 am.  I decided to get there at opening last Wednesday.

My first surprise came when I found traffic at 7:00 am.  Who knew?  These days I almost never get up until after 8 and when I was training I used to leave the house before 5.  Why were all these people up and on the road?  Oh yeah, they have real jobs!  They ‘go to work’ at a proscribed time.  What a ridiculous notion, and that was just the beginning.  After I dropped the bike off I decided to walk a few blocks towards downtown San Francisco.  There were people rushing everywhere.  The lines to get caffeinated up at Starbucks were huge.  The Bart station was spewing suits out onto the street.  Oh my god, I used to be like this many many tears ago.  I was horrified.  I needed to adjust.

Every morning  when I get up I spend about 45-60 minutes doing Tai Chi, martial arts exercises and meditation.  I decided to find a quiet spot and stay on schedule.  I walked over to Yerba Buena park and it was beautiful.  A big grassy area, trees, a big crashing waterfall.  It even had people.  About 40 elderly Chinese scattered in small groups doing their morning exercises and Tai Chi.  I found a good spot near the waterfall and joined right in.  A couple of them gave me dirty looks but I think most of them were quite tickled by the big tattooed biker doing the forms in leathers and heavy boots.  A few even motioned that they liked my blue mohawk.  I had a great workout.  It was so quiet and peaceful but I knew that there were bustling business types on all sides of us.  I think the old Chinese people were having more fun.  I know I was.

Since I was so pleased by my workout I decided to treat myself.  I normally don’t eat much fast food but I have a secret passion for Sausage McMuffins.  I wandered up to Market Street, a calm force amongst the still raging human commuting storm.  I got a table at McDonald’s and spent about 45 minutes watching the suits scurry into and out of office buildings.  I can’t even begin to imagine what they all do in there but they seem to think it’s awfully important.  There was a homeless person at one of the adjacent tables.  (This is SF.  There is ALWAYS a homeless person at the next table.)  He made eye contact a few times while reading a free newspaper weekly pulled from his piled belongings.  I assumed he would eventually ask for money but I was wrong.  As I got up to leave he nodded at me and said “watch out, the rest of them aren’t like you”.  I stopped to consider what he said and decided I had to ask why.  He said “I been watching you.  You’re not one of them”.  Hmmmmm, intriguing.  “You smile.  Watch them out there, they never smile.  You were sitting there watching them and you were smiling.  They don’t do that.”  I thanked him and he gave me a big smile of his own and went back to muttering under his breath at the paper.  That was interesting.

As I headed back to pick up my bike I tried on his awareness.  I looked for smiles.  Not a one.  I probably passed more than 200 people and not one of them was smiling.  I’m not sure that means anything and I don’t think I necessarily want to be included in the ‘crazy homeless person’ group.  But I do tend to smile a lot.  As I was riding home I remembered that I used to get shit for smiling from the kids who I was teaching.  They used to say “what you got to be so happy about” or “why you smilin all the time”.  I never really had a good answer for them.  It does occur to me though that it might be because I don’t go to ‘work’ in one of those big office buildings.  And I’m pretty sure it’s cause I don’t take anything as seriously as they seem to.

Anyway, that was my excellent adventure.  On Tuesday I’m going to put up a big political piece that I’ve been working on for the last couple of weeks.  In the meantime have a good weekend.  And maybe smile a little.  It couldn’t hurt.  Vaya con Dios and Viva la Revolucion.

– Archbishop Angus

Fathers and Sons

As some of you may know, this summer saw my son move out on his own.  The transition has not been an easy one for him.  Maybe it never is for anyone at that difficult age.  It’s been easy for me because it seems natural and I want him to be strong and independent.  As usual, I have contemplated the meaning.

My father was an insecure and angry man who spent his life finding success in a corporate world he hated.  His inability to live as he wanted caused him to lash out at his eldest son and, eventually, to drink himself to death.  Fortunately I got to know the real man a little bit before he passed and some of these thoughts are the result of that experience.

The dynamic between fathers and sons is unique.  I have a daughter but her challenges are different because men and women are different.  I know, not politically correct, but as usual, I don’t give a fuck.  This isn’t written specifically for my son or for my father.  It’s just a statement for the universe.

Dear Son:

There are things I wish you could know.  Not just hear or read, but truly understand.  Maybe not today or even tomorrow, but soon.  Sometime before you need them.  These are truths as I know them, and they matter.

Know that even if you live to be 200 years old, you will never find another soul who loves you as I do.  There is not another man who will fight harder for you, push or defend you more sincerely, and care more deeply.  Such a thing just can not be.

Know that life is good and the world is a beautiful place.  Know that faith is strong and that love is magical.  Know that Joy is everywhere and there for the taking.  Know that you can and will make the right choices if you can best your fear.  Know that integrity is worth the effort.

Know that much of what you fear is meaningless.  The things that seem so scary or large today will be unremembered before you know it.  Know that actions matter, ideas and opinions change, and relationships define your life.  Caring for the people around you is more valuable then you can guess, and the opinions of others more worthless.

Know that, in some small way, you will be defined by the people in your life.  Make good choices and surround yourself with interesting and caring souls.

Know that there is passion in you and that you can find it.  Act upon it.  Accept that it will demand a lot of hard work.  Laziness will cause more regret than any action.

Know that following leads you nowhere.  Finding YOUR path and YOUR way is why you’re here.  To follow others is to cede your most precious gift.

Know that you can achieve anything you choose, that you are much stronger and more resilient than you imagine.  Know too that my approval is hard to win, not because I want you to fail, but because I want your wins to mean something.

Know that I have very high standards for you.  Not because I need you to succeed for my ego.  I have a life to feed that beast.  High standards are your birthright and I know how rich life your can be.  To see you waste a minute on self doubt or passing fear is a loss beyond words.

Know that there are things that mean NOTHING to me.  I don’t care how much money you make or what status you garner, I only care you that you adore what you do and do it well.  I don’t care who you choose to love, only that you love them unconditionally and without fear.  I don’t care who you are, just that you be strong and honest, a man among men.

Know that I have fought demons.  Sometimes I have won and sometimes I have lost.  The demons I have beaten you will never know.  The demons that have bested me will challenge you.  It is your job to beat as many as you can before they can  challenge YOUR son.

Know that you can disappoint me.  You can make me angry or very very sad.  But you cannot make me give up on you.  You cannot make me abandon you.  You cannot make give up the dream that you will be a better man than I am.  You cannot rob me of the hope that you will some day understand and appreciate all that I have done, good and bad, weak and strong, right and wrong.

This may well be the worst piece I have ever written.  Too personal and sentimental to the point of sappy.  Oh well, and so it goes.  Vaya con Dios and Viv la Revolucion.

– Archbishop Angus