Thursday, December 21, 2006

Mitt Romney's Concession Speech.

Should he withdraw from the race he hasn't officially entered yet.

Mitt: Look, maybe us Mormons do believe in crazy stories that make absolutely no sense, and maybe Joseph Smith did make it all up, but I have a great life. and a great family, and I have the Book of Mormon to thank for that. The truth is, I don't care if Joseph Smith made it all up, because what the church teaches now is loving your family, being nice and helping people. And even though people in this country might think that's stupid, I still choose to believe in it. All I ever did was try to be your friend, America, but you're so high and mighty you couldn't look past my religion and just be my friend back. You've got a lot of growing up to do, buddy. Suck my balls.

[turns around and walks off. All four boys just look at him in wonder, even Weisberg.]

Weisberg: Damn, that kid is cool, huh?

Wiesberg’s column is way off. For the most complete, entertaining, yet surprisingly even-handed treatment of the controversial Joseph Smith story, look here. [The episode, not the site, which I haven't bothered to look at.]

Mitt is the man to beat, this election. He’s smart, he’s good looking in a most presidential kind’ve way, he’s a business-oriented conservative who can play nice with liberals, his values appeal to Southern Christian conservatives, he's a Northeast governer with ties to the West, and he’s going to impress the hell out of the voting public (if perhaps not the political pundits) once the debates get underway. It’s foolish and arrogant to underestimate this man because of his religion. “Let he who is without sin…” and all that.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Following Rainbows, Sun Dogs & Shadows

[Some thoughts on the unacknowledged world and shadow self, banged out Friday 12/15, on my pda/phone, on a plane]

There were low-hanging, thin clouds over O'hare airport this morning. After we broke through the cloud cover, I looked down and saw the shadow of our airplane, surrounded by a lovely rainbow hued nimbus. The colors were quite intense, with three visible bands of fading saturation. I watched the shadow of our plane throughout our ascent, as our shadow became smaller, and the refraction, though visible, gradually less evident. The effect persisted for a surprisingly long time, and even as the clouds thinned, and our shadow became a speck, then disappearing, I could see a hint of rose pacing our progress. Just as the clouds were reduced to small clots, we passed over something highly reflective on the ground - a thin, narrow band, though of what I can't say (a steel barrier of some sort? It seemed too bright for water). There, again, that rainbow hue became visible again - no longer a hint of rose, but the divided, visible spectrum. I've no doubt it follows still, though I can't see it.

I'm sure this is a natural phenomenon; a product of the light bending around the skin of our aircraft in the moist air. We turned at one point, casting the surface of our wings more directly against the oncoming sunlight, and the effect intensified. I don't know why I've never seen it before. Perhaps it takes a unique set of conditions, and angle. It reminded me, once, of a day I was driving to a conference in the Utah mountains, north of Morgan. It was a clear, cold, sunny day, with the light intensified by the reflective snow. I looked up, and saw an intense, vertical band of rainbow (a sun dog), as the light passed through what must have been suspended ice crystals. I'd never seen one before, and I haven't seen one since. It was an unexpected wonder.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of an early morning drive on highway three, along the Saranac River. I come from a mixed desert and alpine climate, and it’s a rare joy to drive through wisps of fog so thick you feel as though you could catch hold of them. There are rock faces along that road where small natural springs make their tiny contribution to that lovely waterway, and though its unseasonably warm there now, they'd become frozen miniature sculptures, under the shadow of night.

I have reverence for the gifts afforded by shadows. There is an underbelly to the world - a place where terrible things happen that almost never see the light of day. But it’s a gift to understand there are two sides, not one; a gift that fosters kinship between poets, artists, therapists and drunks. Though the disparity can be shocking, attempts to reconcile the worlds within a unified view, particularly those involving the creation of an externalized construct, result in objects with the power to convey the solution attempted, with varying degrees of success, by its creator.

So out of the shadows of genocide, the work of Victor Frankl emerges, or from madness, Van Gogh. Childhood alienation and failure produces an Edison, or an Einstein, while wasting disease produces a withered, luminescent Hawking. Out of the bitter shadows of subjugation and murder comes Martin Luther King jr., Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela. From the ravages of addiction: Dylan, Jerry Garcia, or any number of modern artists (though I dearly wish they weren't using self-destructive substances as a substitute for transformative experience).

But there are grave risks, and a terrible price that is only mitigated, not absolved, by reconciliations between the two halves of things. To the extent that transformative experiences with the unacknowledged prompt a broader consideration and view of the universe, they facilitate wisdom, innovation, and art. To the extent they encourage increasingly frantic efforts to deny the unacknowledged, they stifle internal development and foster conditions that make unspeakable acts possible. This, for better or worse, appears to be an integral aspect of being human that supersedes philosophical assertions about moral relativism; intentionally keeping one eye closed narrows view, and limits the universe of potential solutions.

Despite what is characteristically promulgated, the world is not threatened, now or at any other time, by evil persons. The world faces grave threats from concrete thinkers - literalists who find virtue in the certainty afforded by closing one eye. To the extent we encourage this in our culture, we are cultivating the elements of our own destruction - no matter how virtuous we convince ourselves, or noble our cause. Evangelical Christianity, fundamentalist Islam, or blind adherence to political, economic or philosophical ideology all require us to shut off our precious cognitive faculties, selectively limit our field of vision, and preclude consideration of, or reconciliation with, the unacknowledged. Self-blinded narcissists have worked more destruction than all the sociopaths who ever walked the face of the earth.

So, while I don't love my shadow, I acknowledge its importance, and value its gifts. It keeps me humble, and forces me to acknowledge my own divided nature.

I’d much rather be complete, and conflicted, than at peace in my blinders.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Follow a shadow, it still flies you; Seem to fly it, it will pursue. Ben Jonson

Some of us are taught, growing up, to fear the shame of failure. Then, we either spend our time quelling the fear directly, through repetitive accomplishment, or avoiding it by withdrawing. In either case, failure is a primary theme.

One of the great failures of Judeo-Christian culture is our apparent inability to recognize the manner in which prohibition and shame reinforces an underlying concept. Until we learn this, we are doomed to cultivate what we fear most.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Cheese, Gromit!

Found a local distributor for Wensleydale cheese!

It's lovely (and it makes my face look nice and toothy when I say it). We enjoyed some last night, accompanied by a dandelion and burdock soda, which my son described as a combination of Nyquil and Benadryl, with a hint of licorice (I'd say anise, myself).

Strangely enough, it grows on you, and it actually provided a nice compliment to the Wensleydale.

Tonight, it's cane cola - part of my nefarious plot to instill expensive tastes in my son (motivate him to attend college). Think it'll work?

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

"Roller skates! He was wearing roller skates!"

Perusing my favorite home for wayward scholars, poets, and wannabe political pundits this morning, I came across this post. I don’t know about the rest of you, but my adolescence had a number of similar moments.

While I was in high school, I worked for several years at a local roller rink. It was the perfect job, really – I got to skate free whenever I wanted, the work was easy, and for some peculiar reason the girls really seemed to dig the bright orange vest and whistle. I mean, REALLY dig it. During the summer, work at the attached waterslide produced an absolutely stunning tan (I’ll let you know when the melanoma shows up). My employment there put me into an entirely different league, so far as the dating scene went.

So, I’m sixteen and skating there one night, and a girl I’d been seeing steadily shows up with her friend – who also happened to be dating my friend. It seemed natural enough to give him a call, and ask him to join us – so we left to pick him up. I skated out to the parking lot, and his girlfriend started begging to drive. Figuring it gave me a good excuse to ride with my date on my lap, I tossed her the keys.

My friend lives, oh, maybe eight miles away. The trip is going fine, we’re all laughing, my girlfriend is indeed riding on my lap, in the passenger seat – a perfect moment. The driver tells a joke, starts to laugh, and I say, “There’s a stop sign up there.” She’s too busy laughing, so I say louder, “Watch out for the stop sign. There’s a stop sign!” Then, I see the truck headed for the intersection from the left.

Moments like this one are eerily reminiscent of those movies they used to scare us with in Driver’s Education. Time really does slow, and you snap into the surreal. I yell “Stop!” She looks up, sees the truck, and (get this) – throws her hand in the air and screams! We hit the truck doing about 30 – the truck was going about forty.

So, my hot little VW Rabbit (totaled – as was the truck) is reeling slowly away, and I yell at her to brake. She screams “I am, I am!” But we’re not slowing at all; I look down and she’s pumping the clutch. We roll casually through the intersection (while I yank the emergency brake with no discernable effect), across some guy’s lawn, and hit his truck (truck number two) right behind the driver’s side door – right where the frame would be most damaged.

I open my door, go sprawling out onto the grass, and the guy comes out of his house, takes one look at me, and says, disgusted, “Roller skates! He was wearing roller skates!”

His mistake in identifying me as the driver caused some trouble, later, but not as much as the discovery that the girl driving was only fifteen (who knew?). My girlfriend? She broke up with me two weeks later – while I was lying in bed with a concussion (another story).

My father, capable of being an intensely judgmental and disapproving man, came to the scene, ascertained everyone was all right, worked out all the arrangements with the police, other driver, and man whose truck we’d impolitely rammed while parked innocuously in his driveway. He never yelled at me – even when he found out about the girl’s age – and he didn’t really punish me. It was his brightest moment as my father, really – he understood that lowering the boom on me, when I was already traumatized, would only make matters worse. He took the opportunity instead to model how such matters are best handled. It’s a lesson I took to heart.

My answer to the question at hand, by the way, is that I would certainly not lie for my son. The world is a scary place, but our fear of catastrophe so often outweighs the reality of actual challenges, and undermines out ability to effectively cope with disaster. By encouraging my teenage son to retreat from responsibility, I’d be teaching him a powerful lesson about the manner in which crises should be handled – a lesson I don’t want him to learn, least of all from me. What I would do is help him navigate it – be with him while we talked to police and insurance agents, hire an attorney if need be, and help him find ways to cope with the consequences.

Because that’s how you support the ones you love in difficult times – by encouraging or facilitating an accurate assessment and effective response that neither exaggerates the scope of the crisis, nor minimizes it.

Thanks dad.