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pity

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“From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Look again at that dot. That’s here, that’s home, that’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

“The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

“Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

“The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

“It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

~Carl Sagan

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... but tell us how you really feel ...

Christine O’Donnell is an easy target. A really, REALLY easy target. And not because she’s the girl who won’t (allegedly) masturbate. Any way you look at it, the anti-masturbation comments are sincerely wacked and, most likely, so is Ms. O’Donnell. At least, from the perspective of reality. But understanding that truth shouldn’t then cause us to write her off.

I think that would be a mistake … and not just for the reasons outlined in the piece I linked.

The thing is with O’Donnell, she speaks to a very large and likely still-influencial minority, extremist Christianists who hate the modern world and the Enlightenment that spawned it – and all the challenges said world presents for a mindset that is okay in believing in bearded white guys as God and other, similar departures from reality. She has questioned that the concept of the separation of church and state exists in the First Amendment – in front of an audience of law students, no less – and has characterized resistance to the inclusion of Creationism as part of science curriculums as an example of support for ‘big-government mandates.’

Say what?

Take her monkey statement. Christine says (not in so many words):  “Evolution can’t be true – if it were and we evolved from monkeys, why haven’t monkeys evolved?”

Seriously, why are there still monkeys hanging around?

*sigh*

What Darwin suggests (and I use the term ‘suggests’ in tongue-in-cheek fashion) is that we – monkeys and humans, two species of simian ancestry – evolved from a COMMON ancestor.

Now stop.

If you sincerely don’t ‘get it’, don’t actually understand the ramifications of that statement, stop bullshiting, go to google and start researching what I mean when I use the phrase ‘evolved from a common ancestor’. Or, if you are pressed for time, visit talkorigins.org, in particular this piece entitled: What is Evolution.

Shorthand explanation: the term ‘common ancestor’ means we – monkeys and homo sapiens – came from the same place, but our lines developed in different fashion. This really shouldn’t be hard to grok (translation: fathom). It’s sort of like you and your brothers and/or sisters or (for you single children) you and your contemporaries, growing into different lives and all that means, your worlds evolving in different directions even though you came from the same beginnings. This example of how life-paths vary works as an analog of the functioning of evolutionary biology: divergence in biology is like divergence in the way people of similar origins lives’ unfold, which is to say to different places and fates.

It happens to bats and beetles and cockroaches.

It happens to simians.

It’s really not all that hard to understand.

Unless you are lazy, or stupid, in denial … or a fanatic.

Here’s a thought:

Could one of you Creationists out there articulate a “Theory” of Creationism – a scientific ‘Theory’ of Creationism – that makes predictions that can be scientifically tested and verified?

Failing that, can you point us to a specific source for one? (I’m talking about an all-encompassing theory here, something upon which a scientific discipline or school of thought can rest upon akin to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity for Physics or Darwin’s Theory of Evolution for Biology and Medicine).

Bottom line: If you are going to claim it is science and insist it be taught as science, you need to provide the evidence it is science.

Where’s the “theory”?

If you want legitimacy, pony up.

Articulate a scientific “Theory” of Creationism that makes predictions that can be tested and verified as science.

Oh, and all you Creationism 2.0 fans, AKA Intelligent Designers (And, yes, ‘Intelligent Designers’ does sound like a 60s comic book secret society). Same deal. Talk is cheap. Where’s the Theory? 20 years or so since the Discovery Institute came into being and in that time NO RESEARCH, no actual TESTING OF THE ALLEGED THEORY!!! (And note that the Discovery Institute admits it has done no research.)

Seriously … WTF?

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Disproving” evolution won’t do it for you…that would only disprove evolution – not that you can, but the distinction is important in the sense that a common Red Herring engaged in by Creationists trying to dodge is to attack evolution instead of answer the question. It should be understood that anyone who understands science to a competent degree understands this is a false proposition, and if the effort is to convince those people of the veracity of your position, then heading down that road simply labels you as a “fraud”.

 

This isn’t about comparing the merits of one against the other; but about establishing the individual claim’s veracity as science. This is particularly relevant given the two ideas are, by definition, areas of separate, unrelated focus: even if it were a scientific theory, Creationism ultimately concerns itself with discussing origins; Evolution, on the other hand, focuses on the progress of life through time, not its ultimate origin. On that basis alone, talk of the two being ‘competing theories’ is a non-sequitur. – Stu

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What exactly does the theory of evolution state?

The theory of evolution states that:

1. All life forms (species) have developed from other species.

2. All living things are related to one another to varying degrees through common descent (share common ancestors).

3. All life on Earth has a common origin. In other words, that in the distant past, there once existed an original life form and that this life form gave rise to all subsequent life forms.

4. The process by which one species evolves into another involves random heritable genetic mutations (changes), some of which are more likely to spread and persist in a gene pool than others. Mutations that result in a survival advantage for organisms that possess them, are more likely to spread and persist than mutations that do not result in a survival advantage and/or that result in a survival disadvantage.


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Celebrate

You know, I think there’s a reason why:

The Japanese don’t celebrate the Rape of Nanking

The Russians don’t celebrate Stalin’s purges

The Germans don’t celebrate the Holocaust

… so tell me again …

… Why is it we celebrate Columbus Day?

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… and so it goes …

“When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.” ~ Ben Franklin

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“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been about 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; From spiritual faith to great courage; From liberty to abundance; From abundance to selfishness; From selfishness to apathy; From apathy to dependence; From dependence back into bondage.” ~ Alexander Fraser Tyler.

Via the Daily Dish

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With one breath, with one flow
You will know synchronicity…
~Synchronicity, The Police

Heat Wave …

I stepped out of the garage Monday morning, took a moment and inhaled the city.

It’s an odd scent for this odd, crazy season of weather.

A scent of warmth.

We’re not used to that here, this year, around the City by the Bay, or the entire Bay Area for that matter. We been under a gray haze and unseasonably cool temperatures for months now, with occasional short periods of clear skies and even shorter blink-and-you’ll-miss-it heat waves … or what passes for heat waves in my magical metropolis. Truly a summer without sun.

A lost summer …

We’re having a heat wave.
A tropical heat wave.
The temperature’s rising
It isn’t surprising…

~Heat Wave, Irving Berlin

I dreamt of running last week.

Funny, that. I haven’t dreamt of running in all the time since my spine and knees finally told me “Enough!” long years ago. And now I’m reminded of that dream on this new, warm morning as I breathe in the fresh day. Synchronicity at play. Lots and lots of synchronicity this day, this odd, disconnected, want-to-throw-it-all-away day. Right now, in this moment within the dream of a moment, I think of running, of reasons for running. I long for running with an ache that eclipses the sadness I felt when I woke from that odd, wonderful dream of a run.

A little while later I’m listening to the Police on the drive to work, scent of fresh coffee filling the cab of the Buddhamobile. The sun is rising, emerging blood red from behind the San Bruno mountains as I head south on 280, thoughts roaming another time, remembering similar feelings of hurt and loss, of steady orbits thrown out of kilter …

… dreams of running.

Blue

Joni Mitchell sings a beautiful song on a sometimes melancholy album called, simply, Blue. This was my real introduction to Ms. Mitchell, whom I’d heard many times over the preceeding years but first really listened to while I was stationed in Germany back in the day, 18 years young and lonely and cut off from the familiar, but that is a tale for another time. Suffice to say she has since supplied a significant portion of the soundtrack of my adult life.

Blue came together after Mitchell’s breakup with Graham Nash and, if the content of the album is any indication, the split was deep and painful. And as the album illustrates, this is also one of the side benefits of this kind of angst – if you want to refer to it them as ‘benefits’ – of having creative talent: the ability to focus your anguish into a creation.

I digress. This song I’m talking about is called River. And as I’m writing this and thinking about that song I experience another of those moments, one of those soundtrack events from the unfilmed movie of my life. River is the song we were listening to when it became apparent that my first wife and I were going to go our separate ways, and in the remembrance of that instant the echo of its sad melody provides a nice … no, not nice … the word… phrase … I’m looking for is … a synchronically poignant … counterpoint to how I felt as the realization sunk in that our life together was drawing to a close. Of course, that was before the insanity set in and things really went to hell and the moment’s memory lost all of its resonance but that, too, is another story.

River is about getting away from pain. It’s also about causing it.

I’m so hard to handle,
I’m selfish and I’m sad,
Now I’ve gone and lost the best baby
That I ever had
Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly
Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I made my baby say goodbye

More important – at least, from this Monday morning perspective – River addresses the complexity of living life, how the choices we make, conscious and unconscious, can often cause as much pain as joy, for ourselves and for those we love. And with that understanding comes the underlying need to escape, to throw off all the associated angst and skate away …

Problem here is skating away on a frozen river in these parts, even in the winter, is out of the question, and a downright insane concept in the summer.

But, then, insane is one of those things I do so well …

Walking in Your Footsteps …

But I’m not listening to Joni as I think on dreams, these dreams of running.

Soundtracks.

I had a several soundtracks I ran to, back in that lost time before the steady accumulation of age, motorcycle mishaps and long falls from heights worked their inexorably dark magic on my body. In this bygone era the Walkman was still a relatively new contraption, and I had mine, the small, hand-sized hunk of metal and plastic providing a rhythm and pattern for my runs while muting the sounds of the city, allowing insulation from the outside world. (Now, my good friend, Bob, who is still a runner at his *cough* advanced *cough* age would scoff at the idea of the music while running, I’m sure; but, then, he has the wide open spaces where city sounds do not intrude.) There were different soundtracks for different courses I ran, but the best all-around running music for a run anywhere, any time, was the Police’s Synchronicity.

I remember all of this … not from the dream but, instead, from its wake … and in the subsequent days I move through the here-and-now with this faint ghost of a past keeping pace with my life. Of course, memory is a fickle repository. What happened and what you actually remember of what happened are often two different things. So, too, likely  the immediacy of what is happening to me now shall change and reshape itself …

Synchronicity I through Synchronicity II. A continuity, a flow. The first song would kick in and I’d take off, working out a good stride, a sudden shock to the system and the heart rate goes up and the blood and oxygen flow and I’d lose myself to the next 25 minutes or so. And by the time the run was over it was always good, even when I had to work for it.

I’d like to be able to work for it right now …

Dreams

… there’s a (running) joke about runners that asks: “Why are you in such a hurry not to go anywhere?” ...

I miss the running … there’s the cathartic effect, for one thing, the ability to take yourself out of your life for a little while and just focus on the intimate immediacy of the biological machine that is your body as you go through the experience of exertion. There’s no time for thinking about crap on the run, stupid or otherwise … at least, not right away, not until you settle into your stride and stop thinking about what it is you are doing: running. That varied, of course. Some runs were tough – you never got in sync, never found a happy place where the run takes care of itself and instead it seems you’re constantly working it, searching for that happy spot where you hit your personal cruise control.

Other times you settle into a groove without even realizing … you’re just there and suddenly it’s just you in that random state of mind, a place of free-association and ADD, playing things out in the landscape of memory and imagination.

1983 was a pretty messed up year. Lot of stuff went on I’d just as soon not think about … and rarely do. But then come days like today, where I’m feeling the way I’m feeling, and it’s hard to keep the memories – good and bad – at bay. Even more interesting to me in an odd, almost detached way: I find I don’t want to shut these things out, that I’m almost embracing this odd, recurring empty feeling in my gut, like there is something there telling me I am alive with a forceful immediacy .

So I let the memory of that time wash over me this Monday morning, let myself rekindle the experience of me nearly 30 years gone – has it really been that long? – and feel my breath catch. It’s a big “Wow!” moment all over again, just like the night before. And then it’s on, and I hop in the Buddhamobile and head on out to greet my day, the first good weather day since I can recall for weeks, and I’m thinking and remembering and it is all good. Momentum: for all the negatives I noted in an earlier posting, it can be your friend, keeping your mind off things you don’t want to deal with, still another reason to long for the run. By the time I stop at the coffee shop in Daly City I’m living in two realities, and the longing for the one I can’t step into is surprisingly compelling and almost urgent.

Everything comes and goes
Marked by lovers
And styles of clothes
Things that you held high
And told yourself were true
Lost or changing
As the days come down to you…

~Down to You, Joni Mitchell

1983. I found a place on 10th Avenue, in the Inner Sunset, at the tail end of a nomadic summer of loss and homelessness, a near-death experience, borrowed couches and patches of rug to lay out my sleeping bag. This, of course, garnered a deep appreciation for good friends in hard times that remains in my heart to this day. By the end of that beautiful, terrible season I landed a job that paid me enough to get by and settled into pursuing a career in the theatre I was already having second thoughts about. And I eased into the process of gestating the new bits and pieces acquired, the knowledge of things I’d garnered about myself that I’d been long overdue in discovering.

Bittersweet growth and revelations, aches and pains and joys and laughter …

Life.

It’s a process.

I started running that fall. Geographically, I was perfectly set up for it – I lived a block from Golden Gate Park, near the the (old) Academy of Sciences and the (older) De Young that didn’t look like the grounded starship … … that rests upon the site in these modern times. That part of the Park was/is special to me, a recurring local in my life story. And as I recall these things on this Monday morning, within my waking dream of memory I delve deeper, almost another quarter of a century, remembering a child, wandering, rapturous and amazed through these places with his granddad, falling in love with planets and stars and dinosaurs. Being in this place again, living so close: in some respects it was like coming home. And back in 1983, running through the fresh, early morning light, breathing in the crisp, cool air that carried with it the hint of the warmth of the day to come, there came a healing comfort that worked its way inside my wounded heart and settled deep in the hidden house of my spirit.

Thats my soul up there …

Everyone runs, even when they don’t.

Running is something we are geared to do, an evolutionary, protective function built into our DNA.

Fight/flight.

Fear.

Fear is a biggie: when fear takes us we run, even when we’re standing still, ’cause when that fear of something, anything, becomes so great, we have no choice but to flee, to leave it behind, to save ourselves. We run from predators, from responsibilities, from strangers and friends, from anger, from rejection, from pain, from grief … from love.

It’s like that so often with a lost or broken love, this running, this longing for a river upon which one can skate away upon, away from owning up to the commitment of giving and taking hearts. The slipping on of the running shoes of the heart, leaving the wounded affection behind.

The reasoning –  why we run – can be confused and muddled – and maybe the runner doesn’t even understand why it was they ran. Oh, there are surface “reasons” we all can come up with, like the understanding that few couples love each other with equal intensity and suddenly, one day, the lover of lesser heart awakens and understands it’s time to go and before you know it the shoes are on and they are gone with barely the whisper of a breeze to mark their passing. But to the person left behind, this perception is often magnified, because they are left with nothing but the memory, with their heart in their hands, with the rain in their eyes, to paraphrase a favorite poet.

So why are we in such a hurry not to go anywhere?

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Many miles away there’s a shadow on the door
Of a cottage on the shore
Of a dark Scottish Lake…

~Synchronicity II, The Police

Sabotage...

There was a girl.

There is always a girl in these stories of lost love. Or a boy. Someone. Someone you cared about, often more then you realized.

You gave your heart to them, and they to you and, one day, they return it. Or you do. Something ends. Gets mangled. Dies. In that discordant summer of ’83, I was never sure which happened. Amidst all the other crazy things in my life that year, the loss of family, the end of school, friends disappearing down the varied pathways of their lives, the home I’d loved like no other lost forever … details got lost in the ebb and flow and I guess now, decades later, the specifics really don’t matter.

Suffice to say there were a lot of endings. A lot of loss. After a while, they tend to roll over you, becoming obscured in the actuality of the experience.

And the loss lived on … for a long, thoughtful, aching time …

I don’t pretend to know what motivates people to do some of the things they do. Heck, I’m not sure half the time why I do some of the things I do. But there are clues, stuff I’ve watched as I witnessed people dance a certain dance during the journey of my own existence. Most of the time the dancers aren’t even aware they are dancing. But they are. Maybe it’s about survival, an innate need for self-preservation of something. Much like the running DNA, this is probably an offshoot of that fight/flight gene our ancestors developed in the distant past, that special instinct that kicked in when impending change loomed on the event horizons of their lives.

An avoidance gene.

Or, as I’m thinking of it in the here and now, the sabotage gene.

It works like this: we undermine things when we want out of something we’re afraid of committing ourselves to, situations where we don’t trust our feelings. We just do. Often without even being aware we are doing so, let alone understanding why. Other times, maybe not so much. Something takes hold of us, a momentum (there’s that word again), and we’re carried along until we find ourselves standing alone in a cold and empty place, half-wondering how the hell we got there.

But the wondering does us no good. There are no answers because of the two people that can answer the questions one is gone … and the other stares back at the mirror with nothing to say.

That’s when we really run, if we’re not running already. We feel that pain and the loss and the end result of the fears that informed us … and we run. We run, trying to put what we feel or think we feel or thought we felt behind us, try to leave the pain and the uncertainty on and beyond the increasingly distant horizon. The farther we run, as the reasoning goes, the further behind we leave the wreckage and ruin of that sabotage.

The good part of all this is also the bittersweet part:

Eventually, we succeed.

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“… it was because we failed to do the thing we really have a genius for, which is compromise. … Americans like to think of themselves as uncompromising … Our true genius is for compromise … Our whole government is founded on it … and it failed.”

~Shelby Foote, speaking on the causes of the Civil War …

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