(For Ch.1, please click here)
Gen 1:28: God blessed [mankind] and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Here, man is granted dominion over the earth..not necessarily with the imperative to care for it and protect its creatures but to subdue it and rule over them. Big win here, it seems, for the sport-hunting, flesh-eating folks amongst us.
Gen 1:29: Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
Wait a minute. Holy caca. After granting mankind dominion over the animals, God doesn’t seem to say anything about subsisting on them. Instead, he offers us the endless bounty of his plants, seeds, and fruits. Did God intend us to be vegans? That would seem much more consistent with the kind of dominion that is protective rather than exploitative. Time to party, hippies!
Gen 2:2: By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.
Trying to find humor in this as opposed to get mired in the ridiculousness. It’s just difficult for me to understand how an omnipotent power gets tired and requires rest. I understand why I might need a cafecito around 4pm but, well, you get me. In retrospect, it may have been useful for God to create an espresso machine prior to an interstellar planetary system.
Gen 2:3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
OK…so it’s clear. The sabbath day is the seventh day. Saturday. Not Sunday. Got it! Everyone down with that? Good, so it’s settled. See everyone next Saturday, err, Sunday at Church?
Gen 2:7 Then the Lord God formed a manfrom the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
Although I believe in the Big Bang and the evolutionary development of mankind, I think this imagery is remarkably beautiful…that adam in Hebrew means “man” and adamah means “ground”. Man is of the ground, of the earth. Not separate from it but inexorably part of it. And when our life is over, our ashes will turn to dust and our dust will be returned back to the earth. Life eternal.
From classic slut-shaming, to gender-role questioning, to intersectional-feminism advocating…the reaction to one gaudy pop performance reminds me just how differently we each experience the same reality. Whether it’s da Vinci’s smile or Disney’s woman-child, same canvas and yet such disparate interpretations.
On this question of dealing honestly with hard truths, Baldwin reminds us,
Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” In that essay, titled “As Much Truth as One Can Bear,” Baldwin suggested that a great writer attempts “to tell as much of the truth as one can bear, and then a little more. (James Baldwin, “As Much Truth As One Can Bear,” in Randall Kenan, ed., The Cross of Redemption: Uncollected Writings (New York: Pantheon, 2010), pp. 28-34.)
He was speaking about the struggle for justice within the human family, but if we extend that spirit to the state of the larger living world, the necessary formulation today would be “to tell as much of the truth as one can bear, and then all the rest of the truth, whether we can bear it or not.”
“I’m against homosexuals pretending like they’re married.” Will the homophobic, racist, sexist conservative noise never cease?
"You can’t make up anything anymore. The world itself is a satire. All you’re doing is recording it." ~Art Buchwald
Today is my mom’s birthday. Here are some things she’s taught me, for which I am forever grateful:
*Laughing at yourself is the best way to co-opt and neutralize the sting of other people laughing at you
*US medical care, while excellent at dealing with high-trauma emergencies, is just about the worst when it comes to day-to-day health and nutrition practices.
*To paraphrase Albert Camus, “It is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners.”
*Injustice is ever-present and our responsibility is to alleviate human suffering as opposed to ignoring it, sanctioning it, and promoting it.
*The lost art of driving stick-shift.
*My sensitivity and intensity are not debilitating but empowering.
*It’s possible to live and breathe social justice even if that is not directly evident in our professional titles. It’s possible to be an insurance broker and still be just as socially responsible and politically active as someone who specifically works for a non-profit organization.
*Drinking doesn’t suit me.
*You don’t necessarily need “God” to do the right thing, to overcome adversity, to find meaning in your life.
*Staying busy, while sometimes exhausting and a strategy for avoiding our own problems, is a better option that being sedentary and letting the mind wander.
*There is no problem that cannot be immediately diffused by simply learning how to breathe properly.
*This self-doubt, self-loathing bullshit aint good for nobody. Own your power. Remember you are worthy of love.
*Patience, acceptance, forgiveness.
*If being “normal” is what has helped to create the kind of world we now live in, then daring to be “weird” is not only courageous but it’s the most ethical thing you can do.
*Sing out loud regardless of who’s listening, dance like no one is watching, and speak truth to power like there are no consequences.
…And mom, I am. For you, for the life you’ve given me, for the life you’ve helped me to recover, and for the life still waiting for me because of your unconditional support, love, and belief. You are the tiniest woman with the biggest heart. My politics, my values, my identity…so much of it is a result of the model you have provided me—the template you have given me to stay awake to the pain of the world’s problems without becoming calloused, to empathize without sacrificing healthy boundaries, to dare to love even if it multiplies the prospects of heartbreak, to forgive myself, to forgive others, to keep getting up every day to fight, to stop fighting all the time, to keep healing, to realize I’ve never been broken or incomplete and to finally stop the ceaseless search for my missing piece that was never missing to begin with. Too cheesy? Fuck it. You taught me that, too.
Happy birthday, Ma! I hope this year is filled with a kind of peace, serenity, love and meaning that you so richly deserve.
*(love yo more than anything and then infinitely more than that and then infinitely more than even that)
Simmer down, white folks.
(For #38-#42, please click here)
43) Sobriety may not be the only way for every person with my kind of brain equipment to live a meaningful and happy life, but 14 months or so of direct experience reinforces the belief that it IS the only way for me.
44) I believe in Global Warming…Or Climate Change…(or whatever nomenclature leftists are now being forced to use, despite the vast consensus of reasonably-thinking people and scientifically-based research, in order to make right-wing denialists and rapture-awaiting lunatics grasp the basic concept that our governmental policies, corporate behaviors, and every-day personal choices all have profound consequences on the world we inhabit). Chances are, this planet will be more than fine once humans have ceased to exist. It’s much stronger, much smarter, and much more resilient. And whenever we doubt or forget that, it is quick to remind us. In the end, it’s not so much the earth’s fate I worry about: it’s our own…the type of existence (or lack thereof, really) awaiting us in the creeping shadow of the apocalypse.
45) That the aforementioned kind of resistance to rational inquiry and denial of empirical evidence is hardly surprising given our society’s almost prideful celebration of willful ignorance. This is not an aberration; it’s our modus operandi. As Issac Asimov once wrote:
“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”
46) The United States is NOT the greatest country in the world. Cue the rant from every liberal’s favorite fictional conservative.
47) That these phrases are redundant:
#48+ coming soon…
Comparing oneself to others, my friend Paul tells me, is the quickest route towards unhappiness. He’s right. There will always be someone with a bigger house, a nicer car, a quicker wit, a loftier status, a happier marriage, a less embarrassing family, a fitter body, a healthier existence…a seemingly luckier, easier, and more desirable (at least on the surface) lot in life. Not only is this kind of envy insatiable but most times it is delusional. We’re not only blind to our own blessings…we’re just as much blind to the burdens of others.
But these types of comparisons don’t just lead us down the inevitable road towards misery; they also, at times, serve to make us happy. After all, it is pretty common, when experiencing a great deal of dissatisfaction or pain, to alleviate our suffering by juxtaposing it against the afflictions of others. At Least I’m Not Fighting Cancer Like That Guy on TV. At Least I’m Not Poor. At Last I’m Not Homeless. At Least I’m Not Fat…Or Ugly. Or one variation of the all-time cringe-worthy classics: At Least I’m Not Starving Like Those Malnourished Fly-Face Kids in Africa (indeed, where would our comparative gratitude exercises be without our racist, ignorant, overgeneralized assumptions about life on the “Dark Continent”?). Unfortunately, we rarely attach any sense of personal accountability for improving the circumstances of those less fortunate. We don’t want to be responsible for changing their lots; we just want them to be available to make us feel better about ours.
Please don’t get me wrong. I think it is totally reasonable and perfectly understandable to contemplate the less-than-enviable circumstances of others in order to better appreciate our own situations—-to place our problems in a pile, so to speak, next to the piles of everyone else in the world and quickly realize how loathe we would be to trade. I just worry that it sometimes becomes too easy to become voyeurs instead of advocates, seizing upon the misfortunes of others in order to alleviate our own misanthropy while perversely marveling in the fact that we are the ones to be envied. We are “compensated” by the fact that we have it “better” relatively-speaking. But those to whom we compare ourselves—those who provide us with that sense of relief—well, what do they get out of the transaction besides a smug “Thanks for taking one for the team in the crapshoot of destiny”?
From that vantage point, the “It Could Be Worse” approach appears just as dangerous and potentially problematic as the “It Could Be Better” mindset. Whether envious or piteous, both comparisons seem to be somewhat contemptuous. They are characterized by jealousy and judgment, covetousness and condescension. And they’re also fleeting, because whether we are pulling ourselves up or pushing ourselves down, we can escape for only so long before we are forced to return to the lives we’ve actually been granted and deal with the only shit we can ever really know…our own.
If you’re anything like me, it requires a concerted effort on a daily basis to find that middle space between envy and pity. Just today, I bounced back and forth between extremes. In one moment, I found myself anxious about money and desirous of more financial security (read: more opportunities to get nicer things I don’t really need in the first place and maybe take my girlfriend on more luxurious vacations). In another, I wondered why I couldn’t be more like those take-no-shit entrepreneurs who just go out and take what they want without apology or self-doubt. If only! Moments later, I was looking at shocking video images of hundreds of dead children in Syria and thinking to myself how lucky I was to be spared from such gut-wrenching atrocities within the safe confines of my well-air-conditioned South Beach apartment. If only!
This exercise of constant comparison, as many of you know, is some really exhausting shit. Like spin-class/cross-fit type shit for the mind and soul.
The trick of it, with proper mentorship and guidance, is to learn how to break the habit of comparing ourselves to others—both affirmatively and dismissively—and to count our own blessings instead of counting those of others…to stop competing…heck, to stop keeping score altogether (more blessings, equal blessings, less blessings)…to practice gratitude instead of searching for reasons to justify having it…to just exist as who we are…fuck it, to stop pretending that we “are” discrete, autonomous individuals in the first place…to awaken, as Thich Nat Hanh reminds us, from the illusion of our separateness.