Monday, March 30, 2009

Anything Viv, Please

It is not always fun to be thirsty, but I am always thirsty for some new footage of the mad and wonderful Vivian Stanshall.

For the uninitiated, I don't know how to introduce you. I just don't. There is a tribute site to him here. Lots there. Leader of the Bonzo Dog Band...

...humorist, innovative musician, visual artist, and a great mind of his generation ("Why don't wear hippos wear hats?").

I'm easy to bend. I begin where I end. I'm soft and I'm pink and I'm shy. I'm legless and armless and hairless and harmless. I'll give you three guesses. Who am I?

Yeah, I don't know how to explain. I can't. He brooks no explanation, and brooks don't need explaining anyway.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Teaching The Boys Chess

We are finishing up our first week of Standards-Based Assessments, the big state tests that measure how well our schools are performing (according to No Child Left Behind).

There are no theatre classes for the two weeks of testing, as I will be helping to administer tests as needed. Mainly, my job has been to administer the test to two fifth grade boys who have special accommodations and thus need to be tested in a room separate from their classmates.

The testing goes much quicker for a group of 2 than for a group of 20, and they have finished their tests as much as an hour before their homerooms are done, so they wait around with me. They have books with them but aren't much on reading. The first day, we hung out and talked. What I noticed then was that DP is obsessed with gang culture. His father is connected to it, and it fascinates me. He makes up tall tales and returns without fail to that one subject.

The next day, we got DP some playdough. I played them a video about the musical duo Roderigo y Gabriela and then broke out the playdough. DP immediately fashioned a handgun, of course. Soon after the boys were playing catch and dodge ball with hunks of playdough. This was not going to work.

During lunch, I grabbed my father's chess set, which has followed me around all over the country. After their afternoon testing, I set up the chess board and informed them we were going to play.

It turns out DP knew how to play -- his dad had taught him. BC was completely new to the game and quickly got drawn in. The next day, more chess. They each played me, then jointly played against me, and played against each other. When I played, I thought out loud so they could hear the thought process and strategy.

No more throwing playdough.


Do you know about Roderigo y Gabriela yet? Check 'em out:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Is This Just Too Obvious?

Note to the Republican Party.

It is one thing to say:

I don't think these policies will succeed.

It is another thing to say:

I don't want these policies to succeed.

Psst. Go with the first version. Trust me.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

"Night of January 13th" Opens In Deming

It's been a while but I'm on a stage again. Deming Performing Arts has produced Ayn Rand's Broadway play from the 1934-5 season, Night of January 16th, at Deming's restored Train Depot. I burst in to the courtoom like a mortar round at the end of Act II as a small-time mobster. Don't mess with those middle-aged lady bailiffs -- they know judo and stuff!
Click on the pic for an enhanced view of my arrest.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ask A Veteran What REAL Fascists Are Like

My grandfather fought real fascists.

Well, okay, he was a cook in the navy.


There was a letter in the paper extolling capitalism as opposed to the "socialism" I keep hearing is on the march. (That's news to the real socialists, by the way. Here is an excellent op-ed by an actual socialist explaining why ObamaNomics ain't socialism. He also thanks the right wing for promoting the Socialist Party - nice touch.)

The letter writer was basically confused, and wrote as if the United States has a pure free-market system that is under attack by neo-socialists. Fact is, we have a system that is on a spectrum of free-marketism, with some social controls and other government intervention. We have had progressive taxation, consumer protection laws, laws guaranteeing labor a right to organize, tax credits for investors and business owners, large federal procurements to buoy contractors, and other interventions such as the GIGA-NORMOUS CASH BAILOUT of financial institutions such as AIG! Government is actively involved in our economic system and has been for at least a century.

What killed me about the letter, though, was that the guy suggested that the very idea of an economic system mingling free-market apparati with socialist controls was the equivalent of Mussolini's "Third Way," and he went on to invoke Hitler. (Godwin alert.)

Such rhetoric! Americans calling each other "communist," "socialist," "fascist," as if these terms were interchangeable and did not mean very specific things. Not only the people who write letters to newspapers, but elected officials also behave this way.

What I wondered after reading this letter is what veterans of World War II or Viet Nam think of such loose invective. I mean men who actually fought fascists on a battlefield, who actually risked their lives on military missions against communists. Do any of them feel as though their service has been trivialized, when some smarmy politician in an expensive suit equates his own flabby argument against a moderate Democrat with a struggle against socialism?

I really wonder about that. My grampa, he was a cook in the navy, and pretty cool about politics in his later life. He would probably laugh it off. But I wonder how other veterans feel about it...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Rocks and Sociology

Deming's fairgrounds are out a ways, down Florida Street all the way past Pepper's pretty-good grocery (tip of the hat to Garrison) and the Chaparral elementary school, a little jog to the right and left at Country Club Road, and down a long road past the animal shelter and some lonely businesses until you reach the fairground, a couple of steel buildings and a wide space enclosed by chain-link fence.

It was the 44th annual "Rockhouse Roundup" this weekend. Beautiful gems, minerals, fossils, giodes, and diverse rocks of interest, some harvested locally and others from around the world, were gathered here to meet and greet visitors from all over the country.

To think I nearly skipped it. Sarah and the baby went out while I got ready for my Zen group's Sunday morning sitting, and by the time I joined them Gabriel was delighting the masses with his familiar patter, a rhythmic scat song of nonsense words punctuated by a sort of barking sound he has perfected.

A fella from Silver City had marked down his stone beads, and I bought some, thinking I could make Buddhist malas and sell them to raise a little cash for the Zen group...

It seems I am already looking ahead towards summer vacation, no surprise, filling the time up with activities, and piling up the books I'll finally have time to read.

Spent a little reading time this weekend on a summary of trends in sociology. The more I read about education (for my license and the academic courses I must take), the more interested I become in sociology -- in a sense, the various metaphysics of what a society is, what makes it tick, and what makes people tick.

There are some very interesting approaches to the question, but none so far that deal with the basic metaphysic of "I," the great unexamined notion. The agate beads in the picture above seem to connect into a unified society, and sociologists try to study the string holding them together. A few also look at the individual and make statements about the string, but often those statements themselves contain assumptions that are conditioned, that have not found where the water comes out of the rock (mixing my metaphors now).

Is it useful? Some of it is, for broadening approaches that help us talk with people, to liberate our own limiting views and share that view with another. Zen talk and forms appeal to few of us. A humanist approach to basic education and other social services requires some intellectual work but the potential results have much to offer by way of liberation, personally and socially.

And even as I entertain such ideas, I find myself playing with pretty rocks, holding them and pushing them around, much like Gabriel does.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Don't Tell The Christians...?

The choir director at the methodist church is friendly, and recently he asked me what I had been up to. So I told him about numerous things, including the new zen group. He flushed a bit and whispered, "Don't tell the Christians around here about that."

My wife added, "Keep that under your hat."

A lot of people down-talk Deming, as if this place were full of ignorant villagers who burn people at the stake. I have not really found this to be so, though I am new in town...

Still, I am confident there is no scripture anywhere telling the faithful it is a sin to sit on a pillow and breathe for half an hour. It is true that I do some Buddhist chanting before sitting, but I let people know they are quite welcome to skip that and avoid my singing voice. It is fine to join me for sitting only. I come from a place where Christian-Buddhist retreats are common events, so I regard this fear and conservatism as a bit silly.

Of course I'm not keeping it under my hat. It's not a venereal disease, it's a natural activity that is part of many Christians' practice. While I am not wearing a billboard, of course, I will let people know that it's happening if they ask me.

Frankly, I doubt it's as controversial as my friend was making it. But who knows?

Now, if you'll excuse me, some people are knocking on my door. And one of them has rope. I wonder what this is about...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Piled Hip Deep Degree

As I said in a recent post, a minority party that talks sensibly about the matters affecting our lives is essential for representative democracy, such as it is. This is especially true as long as we are chained to two-party rule.

The Democrats hold a majority of Congress and the presidency, while the minority party continues to devolve: the RNC is a mess, the chairman of the party is a laughing stock, one of the party's rising stars gave a televised speech mocking disaster preparedness, and so on. The party is not talking rationally about the economy or what to do about it, they lie about or misunderstand the policies they criticize, and have intentionally lied about items in the stimulus bill and the budget.

In sum, they are not in a position to credibly challenge and debate matters before Congress, or the President's ideas. This is a real political crisis. We have a President with an ambitious agenda who will present lots of initiatives to a Congress dominated by his own party. Even his good ideas need to be tested.

Think of all the doctoral theses that have never made a tangible difference in your life. They were all challenged and defended in a rigorous process. There is nothing like that in place for the policies that determine your rights, your school district's funds, the taxes you pay, the regulation of industry, consumer protection, and other things that affect you.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Take Back the GOP

We need Republicans. We need sensible people to take that party back, and if they can't, we need to allow other political parties to debate, to talk on television, and to win legislative seats. This is a political crisis.

My mother was a Republican for a long time -- the kind of Republican who, like jaguars tip-toeing around the USA/Mexico wall in the southwest, may be extinct or simply out of view. I grew up in a state that leans Democratic yet produced some wonderful Republican politicians, like the late Senator John Chafee. They were men you might disagree with, but they were sensible and educated people who lived in reality and made decisions based on facts. They were partisan people around election time, but they got back to the people's business and took some pride in a job well-done, not just elections won.

They were certainly not the sort of politician who would publicly wish for a democratically-elected President to fail, just so they could be proved right. There once were Republicans who would consider that unpatriotic and bad for the country's welfare -- and they would have stood up and denounced it.

Politically, our experiment with republican democracy is still immature. We do not have quality political dialogue, in part, because for so long we have been needlessly attached to having two dominant political parties. The two-party system enforces a status quo and depresses meaningful political dialogue. It is often said that the two parties function as a sort of single "Washington DC" party. The party system has worked out, sadly, as Thomas Paine feared back in the 18th century.

We need good debate. Obama's ideas need to be challenged -- even the good ones, and certainly the bad ones. The Democratic majority's initiatives need to be debated with good arguments. If we do not have such debate, we have single-party rule. Our two-party system is bad enough, but now one of those two parties has gone so far off the rails that "Joe the Plumber" is taken seriously as a spokesman for the conservative movement, that George W. Bush and Sarah Palin were considered qualified for President and Vice-President, that scientific data should only be acknowledged when it conforms to a political position.

In short, there is no longer a single reason to take the Republican Party seriously. Instead of shaping good policy, they have pledged to play the role of an insurgent party determined only to thwart the majority party and the President. The head of the RNC spouts nonsense like "never in history has government created a job," and lawmakers feel free enough to admit that obstruction is their goal. It's not country first, it is politics first.

Should we roll our eyes? No, we should be deeply, deeply insulted.

Have a listen to Frank Schaeffer. Schaeffer is an evangelical Christian, a former leader of the Christian right movement, and a former Republican. He is passionate and angry about what happened to his party, and he is right on the money:

Schaeffer also wrote an open letter to the party, here.

If there are any older and wiser heads left in that party, it is time to seize the building. But there might not be much hope. I asked my mother where the Republican statesmen have gone, and she replied: "They're dead."

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Still Getting Brian Wrong

A Welsh town that banned Monty Python's film Life of Brian (1979) when it was first released will screen the movie this month for the first time. The story is even more interesting because the lead actress in that film is now the mayor of that town!

The movie was controversial and banned in several places out of simple, familiar ignorance. People who had not bothered to watch the movie assumed the movie was a spoof of Jesus Christ and his life, and they picketed and banned the movie and made whole bunch of noise about something they knew nothing about and had gotten completely wrong.

And in the story linked above, even NPR gets it wrong, describing it as "the zany British troupe's film satire of the life of Jesus and many other things sacred."

Is there some kind of conditioning in people, some sort of defense mechanism that prevents them from noticing the movie is making fun of people? Not Christ, not God the Father, but people. People who follow political or religious figures around, lionizing them and projecting impossible expectations on them -- that's what the movie is about. It isn't very subtle in making its point, either, yet people continue to miss it and crow about offending Christians.

Watch the movie. It is the story of a man named Brian who lived at the same time as Jesus. Through some farcical circumstances he becomes a political figure and is mistakenly elevated to the status of "messiah" by an ignorant mob. The Romans sentence him to execution as an unwilling martyr, as he protests to the end that it's all been a mistake.

And it has one of the most famous, and funniest, musical finales ever:

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Issues Are Interrelated

Issues are interrelated and effective government depends on treating them so. The war is part of our economy, as are home foreclosures, as is the wrecked healthcare system. As the economy continues to shrink (another 600,000 jobs lost in February) more people lose their insurance and stress the healthcare system further.

Politicians tend to speak of these things as if they were not interrelated because it serves their own political purposes.

At the moment, we have a president who says, out loud, that our health care system has to be dealt with now because it is inseparable from our economy. Good.

Obama is boldly asserting a role for government as a payor of last resort, as the one entity that can spend money on goods and services on a scale large enough to stimulate activity and get that sisyphean stone of American freeish-enterprise rolling back the other way again, while also propping up a few vital financial institutions with federal money.

The cries of "socialism" sound immature and I will admit to questioning the education or intelligence of people who repeat these epithets. It's the same government, folks. We are not seeing a centrally-planned economy, there is no movement towards collectivism, nor is there any expansion of the welfare state in the works (unless you would like to consider bailouts of private corporations a form of welfare). Apparently it is going to be the same speculative boom-and-bust economy, and Obama is simply up in the sky with a plane, seeding clouds and speaking confidently of future rain.

Still, the cries of "socialism" from the public mean something. To politicians in Washington it is probably consciously dishonest, a foundation for re-election campaigns, in hopes that a long-term financial crisis will affect the next election cycle. (Now that's putting country first, isn't it?) I don't want to talk about them. I'd rather talk about people.

People pick up this rhetoric and they aren't running for election. Opinion polls show that more people are getting comfortable with the notion of government playing a major role in health care, perhaps even with a single-payer system. Even so, there is the "base" to whom conservative politicians are speaking who really think, based on their perception and limited education, that all of this will lead to the U.S.S.A.

Again, issues are interrelated. On some level, whether we like to acknowledge it or not, even conservatives know the meaning behind those memos that the Justice Department just released. We do have reasons to be worried about our government's expansion and abuse of its powers. Even the Obama Administration is making clear it wants to retain certain executive powers that were aggressively and illegally expanded by Bush and Cheney.

You cannot simultaneously ask a people to trust government while making government more intrusive and less trustworthy.

More democratic oversight, more transparency, more democratic participation. It is a burden and a responsibility: we need to do more than watch Keith Olbermann or Fox News or whoever our oracle of choice might be. We need to grow up, get involved, demand more participation in oversight of our employees in Washington.

Then we'll be too busy to call names and throw sand. We're due for some political maturity in this great republic.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Oh My God, Not You!!

All week long, during the morning announcements we have been told that our "Skill of the Week" is making an apology. Apparently, to some, these announcements are little more than electronic noise piped into their rooms at 8:30.

Later in the morning, Mrs. F lined her kindergarteners up outside room 198 for theatre class as usual.

One of the boys who frequently exhibits anger issues and other behavioral problems, little Raffa, saw me emerge from the room and he exclaimed, "Oh my GOD! I don't want to SEE YOU ANYMORE!"

I watched Mrs. F. handle the situation. She knelt down to the boy's eye level and gently said to him, "Raffa, I am sorry you feel that way, but if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

What I thought would happen next was a skillful reminder of the skill of the week, and an opportunity to practice that skill. But no, that was it.

Since I am in fact a teacher at the school, and since we are frequently instructed that our job is to teach the behaviors we want to see in our children, I decided to do it myself. I knelt down, looked Raffa in the eye, and said, "It's okay that you feel that way, but what you said was out of line and hurtful. When we say something like that, we need to apologize."

He refused, and I said that was up to him, but he would not be allowed to play games with the rest of us until he "fixed" the mistake.

Eventually he did say he was sorry, and I praised him before the class for modeling the "skill of the week" so perfectly. Everybody gets mad and says bad things sometimes, we all agreed, but when we do, we have to "fix" it.

I wished Mrs. F. were there.

Apparently, there were no hard feelings. Later in the day, Raffa saw me in the hallway and I got a hug.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Theatre Dojo and McNuggets

The Theatre Dojo project in Los Angeles had two principal aims: to help actors find spiritual resources for use in their work and their life, and to offer non-performers some tools, using theatre work, for navigating their lives with some clarity and wisdom.

The business failed, but the project is not dead.

Yesterday, I told you the story of Latreasa Goodman and a mistake she made dealing with a McDonald's restaurant. The headline screams that she called 911 because McDonald's was out of nuggets, yet that isn't true. She called 911 because, in her view, she had been robbed and she didn't know what else to do. Because of her lack of cultural skills, she was cited for misuse of the 911 system. Her story is made to be a viral email, as people from a different social class than Ms. Goodman point at this "stupid person" and laugh their heads off. It is amusing, what she did, but as an actor I look at her perspective, her level of education and street smarts, and her decision made perfect sense from where she was. It was, however, an error with consequences, and that is why I have a hard time laughing at her.

So I drew up a lesson plan around it and used it with my 5th and 4th grade theatre classes today.

As a theatre teacher in a school district with a high level of poverty, I am concerned more with using theatre to teach them useful social and cultural skills than getting them into "show business." We'll do a play this spring, but that hasn't been my main focus. I make them read, speak, tell stories, use expressive movement to explore ideas and feelings, and try to get them talking about all of these things.

First, I presented them with a role play based on Ms. Goodman's situation. You order the McNuggets, they take your money and tell you they are out of them. How do you get your money back? I paired them up and gave them a couple of minutes to play the situation. As they presented their role play, I wrote on the board the procedural steps that they knew:

  • Ask politely for the refund

  • Ask to speak with the boss (manager)

  • Call the company and complain

  • Walk away and don't go back there

  • Use force (the boys really enjoyed playing that scenario!)

After we did that, I presented them with the news story you read on this blog. Made them read it out loud for practice. (At my school more than 50% of the students are English-language learners.) I then asked them if they thought this woman was stupid. Some said yes.

Then I highlighted this quote from the story:

Goodman told WPBF News 25 that she didn't "have a right to jump across the counter and snatch" the money, so she chose to handle it another way.

"She only knew two procedural steps," I said. "This is a 27-year old woman in poverty. Now look at this list of steps you showed in your role-play." (That's the list of steps up above.)

These children are 10, 11, 12 years old, and they knew more than twice as many strategies for getting that refund than the 27-year old woman. I asked them to think about that for a minute.

Then we talked about different uses of language in different situations. "Gimme my money!!" is perfectly all right when your little brother snatches your money at home. At a store, we use a more formal language style. I asked them to translate some stuff back and forth.

We talked about procedural steps and language styles, and the final step of the lesson is role-playing a situation where they explain to Ms. Goodman what her error was and what else she could have done.

That reminds me of Theatre Dojo. Using role play for learning the hidden teachings of human society. I could never be the kind of theatre teacher who has the kids perform "Li'l Abner" or similar crap. I want them to have options when they aren't in school anymore, and what we all need to understand better is that human civilization is an intensely theatrical conceit. To survive and navigate it, we have to master a range of skillsets that allow us to switch roles instantly throughout the day and across our lives, sometimes with the ingenuity and endurance of a kabuki master.

The photo above was taken at a Theatre Dojo workshop in Hollywood in 2007.

The Local Touch

Ran into Will on my walk with Gabriel the other day. Will stocks the alcohol at Pepper's Supermarket, and is open to suggestions. Sometimes I take Gabriel into Page's store -- she runs the health food store. I buy my miso from her, and other things. She has local produce as well, sometimes good and sometimes smallish. That's how it goes.

Gabriel also likes to go visit Mr. Parsons, who runs the used book shop on Copper Street, and has a lovely dog named Ryjal who adores little boys in strollers. Last time I was in there, Mr. Parsons alerted me to a book he found he thought would interest me. He is hoping for a sale, yes, but doing it through personal customer service - the local touch.

I've played in theatres larger than Deming's downtown, but there is local community here, and Deming's Mainstreet program is trying to proliferate that spirit.

Some of the folks working the local soil and producing food around here live across the street from the school where I teach. Shopowners live near their businesses. Business has a face.

If indeed economic times are going to get even worse before they get better, it is likely going to bring more attention to the ways we can do more with less within our communities - to borrow a phrase from Michael Shuman. A short but fascinating interview with him about shopping locally is here.

And that's our morning. You have a good one.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Class Rules and Chicken McNuggets

Hot off the presses, or hot off the internet I suppose: Did you hear about the woman who called 911 because McDonald's ran out of McNuggets? It's all over the internet!

Sadly, yes. Latreasa Goodman of Florida is becoming famous even as I type this, while her story and her picture is multiplied throughout the world-wide web. We can make an educated guess as to who is sending it (they have the internet and time to enjoy it, for one thing), and why it is newsworthy. They think this is the story of a stupid woman.

It is the story of a woman who didn't get information she needs to navigate reality. Lack of education is not stupidity.

Okay, here's my summary. This 27-year old woman walks into a McDonald's, orders chicken McNuggets. Yum. She pays four dollars or whatever they cost. After taking her money, they tell her that the store is all out of McNuggets, and ask her if she would like something else from the menu. Ms. Goodman says no, she wanted McNuggets, just give me a refund. The employee says no, store policy says no refunds, we can give you something else but not cash. (Kind of an asshole policy in a situation like this, if you ask me.)

So she calls the police. That is, she calls 911. In her mind, she was the victim of theft. They took her money, didn't give her the merchandise, and wouldn't give her a refund. In her mind, if you've just been robbed, you call 911. It makes sense from her perspective - and her lack of education.

She told a reporter something very revealing:

Goodman told WPBF News 25 that she didn't "have a right to jump across the counter and snatch" the money, so she chose to handle it another way.

Look at the procedural knowledge this woman has. She appears to know only two ways to pursue a refund at a fast-food restaurant: physically fight for it, or call the police.

I don't know about you, gentle reader, but I was raised in a middle-class home and when I was HALF the age of Ms. Goodman, I knew how to speak to adults in a formal register and pursue a refund if I was not satisfied. If I didn't get the refund there, I know other ways to pursue it: angry letter or phone call to the company, find a way to publicize what they did, or -- let it go. Walk away from the four dollars.

Ah, and that is another thing. Walking away from the four dollars is easier for some than others. Suppose in your budget (assuming you have a budget) you have $20 for discretionary spending for the month. Now reduce it to $10 if your income is uncertain. Subtract four dollars. In poverty, that four dollars is a big deal and so is the dignity with which one is treated by a store clerk.

Latreasa Goodman did not handle this situation in an acceptable way: she was cited for abusing the 911 line, and learned an expensive lesson in how to survive in the world. The fine, I am guessing, is far more than the four dollars; and now she is going to be held up for ridicule across the internet by people who got better information earlier, because they had more resources. Lucky us. Ha ha ha, look at that "stupid person."

In this case, "stupid" = doesn't know the rules by which my social class operates.

Owning and Being Owned

A 1972 essay by the Czech philosopher Erazim Kohak somehow came my way, and I read it this week with such fascination that I read it again, making notes as I went.

The essay is entitled Possessing, Owning, Belonging, and it contained some observations I needed to read or hear. In fact, it articulates why I really am not a socialist -- at least, not a movement socialist.

Kohak fled communist Czechoslovakia in his youth, having lived through both the German and Russian occupations, and lived in the United States for a long time. He is devoutly Christian and living once again in his homeland, teaching at Charles University in Prague.

The essay contains an insightful critique of the socialist movement in theory and practice -- Marxism, Leninism, and the contradiction between the collectivist soviet state and the western socialism of the welfare state (distributing palliative care for the victims of boom-and-bust capitalism).

He then demonstrates underlying, socially-conditioned stereotypes about ownership and what it means to own something. Kohak is very sympathetic to the concept of a socialist system that allows "private" ownership of one's own work. He dismisses the "private ownership good, public ownership bad" dialectic as a fallacy, since the soviet system was no less alienating to the worker than unregulated capitalism. If you divorce an individual from their bond to the earth, to their own labors, and to their own bodies, you are alienating them from their own identity. In such a predicament, "liberation" has no meaning whatsoever.

By working, we become intimate with our world and our community. As Pai-Chang said when the young monks took his gardening tools away, "No work, no eat," and so they gave him his tools back. I think of my 90-year old neighbor in Rhode Island, who still shovelled his own walk, using a little toy shovel so he would not strain his heart. "Takes me longer," he would say, "But what's the hurry?"

In turn, Kohak is quite sympathetic to a different kind of socialism, one that would honor and preserve these bonds. He invokes the concept of communio viatorum from the Reformation ("free as Christ made us free"): we need not rely on priests to be moral and obey our God, yet human beings cannot conceive of a state without an owner or possessor. If it is not a king, it may be an aristocracy or a wealthy class who is allowed to buy political representation; even Marx was snared, putting the party in place of the king!

The link to the Reformation is a beautiful stroke. Kohak speaks of democracy as an expression of the Reformation in the sphere of politics:

“Democracy is the political equivalent of the Reformation: the conception of society as a community of free humans who accept the responsibility for governing themselves and dare do without masters on whom blame can be shifted.”

He then envisions an expression of this responsibility in the sphere of economics, of a truly liberating economics of democratic responsibility.

There is more I could say, but I must depart. I'll post this much and see if conversation ensues, and maybe I can present other quotes from the essay.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Waiting For Hummingbirds

My parents got buried in snow up in Rhode Island, and thus I feel a little guilty watching the sun present itself over the garage while the birds sing and I don't need to turn the heat up. New Mexico is giving spring a try.

Gabriel, at nine and a half months, stood up by himself on Sunday, holding onto a chair for balance. I imagine him walking around with his hands on the furniture any week now. His babble resembles english words which is sometimes a bit startling. I am not ready for my son to speak to me, and won't be ready when it happens, and it will happen even though I am not ready. So it goes.

It is amazing to admit that I am still congested, still coughing albeit less often, that my illness just doesn't want to make a graceful exit. It is hanging on like Governor Blagojevich, still giving press conferences and basking in the media limelight hours after he was impeached and thrown out of office in Illinois. I have the Blagojevich Virus. It just won't go away. Kill it, and it turns into something else and hangs on . I and the United States Senate both have it.

It is a long way to spring break, but New Mexico is giving it a try, warming things up in time for the new Zen group to occupy the garage. We'll see if anyone actually comes tomorrow night. That's how it goes with sitting groups. You may have company, or you may be doing solo practice. You show up, light the candle, bow to Buddha, and see.

With warmer weather, there will be projects. Our washing machine entered nirvana months ago, and the layer of grime underneath the metal hulk will require lashings of boiling water, solvents, and perhaps some light explosives to clean once we finally remove the beast. By the way, we have been cleaning our wardrobe by beating it with rocks.

We need to visit City of Rocks again before the rattlesnakes wake up.

The birdfeeder needs a cleaning, and this reminds me to put up hummingbird feeders this year. When I see hummingbirds, then I will allow myself some optimism and maybe even a little cheer.

For now, it is a long way to rest, and I just coughed again.