30 April, 2014

Jealousy

"A competent and self-confident person is incapable of jealousy in anything. Jealousy is invariably a symptom of neurotic insecurity."
--Robert A. Heinlein

WARNING: ADULT CONTENT

I've run across a lot of jealousy, latent or otherwise, in my travels of late. Longtime readers will have some inkling of how I feel about jealousy. For those new to the Breadbin, I consider it to be one of the worst, most corrosive emotions it's possible to feel. It's a perversion, a hateful, spiteful thing, and it baffles me how common it is. I see people claiming to be "in love" that consider jealousy to be an integral part of that love. Crazy.

I've felt it, I won't lie and say I haven't. I'm proud to say, however, that I haven't felt it in many years, not since I noticed that always, always, always it's been rooted in my own insecurity. 

I should distinguish jealousy from its mild stepsister, envy. Envy is wanting something that someone else has. It's a perfectly natural emotion, an impetus for growth. It's what makes the little kid want to be a big kid. Jealousy, on the other hand, is wanting something that someone else has, such that they don't have it anymore

My other working definition of jealousy is "pain at another's happiness", as distinguished from schadenfreude, "happiness at another's pain"--the other monstrous, truly acidic emotion that is even more common and accepted than jealousy...it's the foundation of almost all of what's called "comedy" in this society, and a big reason I don't find very much "comedy" funny. Pain isn't funny. If you think it is, I'm sorry, but there's something wrong with you. 

Usually, but not always, jealousy is tied up in wrongheaded ideas about love--incredibly common in this society, but no less wrongheaded for so being. One of those pervasive, wrongheaded ideas is that love can, and should, be confined to one person per person. This isn't the first time I've posted this poem, and it probably won't be the last, but--

Sweet Marie, she loves just me
(She also loves Maurice McGhee).
No she don't, she loves just me
(She also loves Louise Dupree).
No she don't, she loves just me
(She also loves the willow tree).
No she don't, she loves just me!
(Poor, poor fool, why can't you see
She can love others and still love thee.)
--Shel Silverstein, "Where the Sidewalk Ends"

I first read this poem in third grade. I can't say it had a profound effect on me--even though I've never forgotten it. (Did 2+2=4 have a profound effect on you? Silverstein's poem has, for me, the same sort of  elemental obviousness.) As I've aged, I've found that most people agree with the sentiment behind the poem (it's hard not to, since I've yet to meet someone who only loves one person)...but they don't apply its lessons to their own lives.

I can hear you now. Ken, you're being wilfully obtuse and you know it. The problem isn't love, but how that love is expressed. My wife can love other people, she just better not show it.

Or what? She'll leave you? Are you that insecure in your relationship?  Not surprised. There seems to be a lot of that going around.

"It's not love that is blind, but jealousy."--Lawrence Durrell

I spend a lot of time on Reddit. If you're not familiar with it, it's a giant (almost 115 million unique visitors last month) bulletin board system wherein users submit and comment on content. The content can be anything at all, and both the submissions and the comments are voted up or down by the community at large. The site is organized into various "subreddit" forums (thousands of them). One of the default communities is "AskReddit"--a general catch-all question forum, and the query that caught my interest the other day was this:

"What's a question you never want to know the answer to?"

I like to play Family Feud with things like this--what's going to be the most common answer? Probably the day I'll die, I thought. Click. Nope. Often Reddit has a Hollywood Squares sort of ethos in which the most ridiculous comment gets upvoted to the skies. I thought that had to be the case when I read "how big her ex's dick was". Lots and lots of upvotes, ha-ha, that's funny.

Not funny at all, it seems. That comment touched a collective nerve. Not just touched it, but hammered on it. It became increasingly clear the further and further down I scrolled that a very large number of men have a very large hangup when it comes to their wife's or girlfriend's sexual past.  They don't want to know. Anything. It's so much better, apparently, to convince yourself that your partner was a blank slate when you met her.

So here's jealousy over somebody who isn't even in the damn picture anymore. She chose you, dumbass. Obviously you compensate for your sexual failings in some other, more important way. More likely several much more important ways. And what are you jealous over?  Dick size? What are you, twelve?

Given that so many men seem to be driven crazy simply imagining their partner's past, it goes without saying that they must see threats everywhere in their partner's present.

"I hate jealousy. I hate possessiveness. I'm nobody's possession."--Olga Kurytenko

One problem with jealousy (amongst many) is that it is a self fulfilling prophecy. Feel jealous long enough and hard enough at some imagined threat to your relationship and I will guarantee you the imagined threat will become a real threat. When this happens--it will--you will never believe it's your own distrust dooming things. No, you'll probably feel vindicated instead.

I should probably say that I'm not arguing here for some sort of free-love hippie-dippy mindset. I could do that, and easily, but I'm not doing it here. I'd settle, at this point, for society recognizing how love, like other emotions positive and negative, works. To wit: the more you give, the more you have to give.
This is counter to the way our cultural stories urge us to think about love. Supposedly we're all looking for one soulmate, and once we've found him or her, we'll (a) know it and (b) that one person will fulfill every need we'll ever have in life.
I much prefer the imagery one dear friend suggested to me last week: that there are soul "trees", and we're all leaves on one or another of them. It goes without saying, too, that love isn't needs fulfillment. If you want to kill a relationship, one of the surest ways to do it is to imagine you need something from it. Sooner or later, that need will go unmet, and then what?

Eva doesn't complete me. She's not the other half of me (even though she is the better half of this relationship). I am complete in and of myself and so is she; we have chosen to share our lives, and each day I share with her is a joy, even the sad ones. I do depend on her, probably more than is healthy at times. I'm envious of her many competencies. But if I ever start feeling jealousy, I clamp down on it hard. After more than fifteen years together, I owe her that courtesy. Pain at her happiness is not an option: I love her, which means her happiness is essential to my own. But I can say the same about other people: if something's amiss in the life of a good friend, the part of me that is devoted to that friend is hurting. I think other people can say the same; they may not be comfortable calling that "love". But that's what it is, as far as I'm concerned.

Jealousy isn't part of love. It's actually closer to hate.





I

20 April, 2014

In Defense of the F-Bomb

"Context is everything. Breastfeeding is beneficial to nearly all infants, but to an elderly cardiac patient it can be fatal..."-Spider Robinson

So Masai Ujiri, the general manager of the Toronto Raptors, said a word yesterday.

Actually, he said a whole bunch of them, but the world fixated on just one. That one word, which most of us first hear in kindergarten if not well before, set off a storm of controversy and could end up costing Ujiri significant coin.

"Who's all going to the game?". Ujiri asked a throng of Raptors fans as they partied outside the Air Canada Centre. And then, with his boss, Tim Leiweke right there, Ujiri yelled "FUCK BROOKLYN!"

And the crowd went wild...which is one of a few reasons Ujiri said what he did.

Make no mistake, this was calculated, the same way Justin Trudeau's use of the same word was calculated.

Swearing has several  mental,  physiological, and social  effects.. One, as anyone who has ever unexpectedly injured himself knows, is that it blunts pain. It's also a very effective form of non-violent retribution: swearing energetically at someone who has wronged you yields the same effects as punching him in the face, minus the assault charge.

In the link above we see this:

Swearing can be a way of showing that we really mean something or that it is really important to us. That's why swearing is so much a part of any sport. It also broadens our register and makes us more lively and interesting, being used, for example, to add emphasis or 'punch' to our speech.

That's what Ujiri was going for here. Whereas Trudeau's profanity was an example of

Peer and social bonding. Swearing can serve to show that we belong in a certain group, or that we are able to be ourselves and so wholly comfortable with the members of that group. If done correctly, it can also signal that we are open, honest, self-deprecating, easygoing, and barrel loads of fun.

Stephen Harper criticized Tradeau and said his words showed "a lack of judgment". Given the crowd's response to Trudeau's words was quite similar to the response Ujiri got, I'd suggest Trudeau's judgment was spot-on, and so was Ujiri's.

I would have been seven or so the time I got my mouth washed out with soap for telling a neighbour kid to fuck off, not knowing my mother was standing right behind me at the time. The taste of the soap almost made me say fuck again. (If you say fuck while getting your mouth washed out with soap for saying fuck, what's the punishment for that? Chocolate? Or Drano?)

Those who would suggest that swearing is proof of nothing more than a poor vocabulary should note that context is everything. There are times when swearing is wholly appropriate and even vital, and if you argue otherwise, the weight of history shows you're wrong. Swearing is not new. I bet Mr. Cro-Magnon had a grunted equivalent of "fuck" to employ when he cut himself on his flint. Pompeii had an awful lot of bawdy graffiti. And today, in some places, the word 'fucking' only serves as warning of an impending noun. One of those places, interestingly enough, is Brooklyn, New York.

Nor are our swear words universal, not by a long shot. Go across the pond and you'll learn very quickly not to flinch when you're called a 'feckin' cunt'...it's a term of endearment more often than not. (Whereas the word 'bloody'. which is on a par with 'darn' or 'heck' here, still has some power to shock.) There's also this common Middle Ages street name...people look at me with disbelief when I inform them that "the c-word" was once common and accepted. I tell you, swearing has a long and proud history and it's nothing to be ashamed of, used properly and in context.

If you think I'm building a defence for little kids to swear their fool heads off, you're reading me wrong and should start over. Context, context. Just as there are times when swearing is useful and appropriate, there are times when it certainly is not. Obscenities directed at an individual are not okay--I don't care if you're four or forty, calling someone a fucking idiot is fucking idiotic. Civility, which is a hallmark of civilization, means a civil tongue. I believe teaching kids not to swear is pointless (what kid ever heard 'don't do x' and never did x again? They told me my palms would grow hair. I figured that'd just  make it feel even better.) Teaching kids WHEN to swear, and when not to, is important.

Personally, I'm never offended by a cuss word in and of itself, although I've been very offended by its tone and intent. I don't think Ujiri's use of the "f-bomb" should be held against him.





16 April, 2014

For Nicole: Thought Is Creative

"Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny."--Mahatma Gandhi

My friend Nicole asks me "how thoughts/attitudes/beliefs affect the physical." This is a topic that's near and dear to my heart as I seek to unite science and spirituality in my own little way. It's something that every spiritual book I have ever read gets around to saying sooner or later.
The Christian Bible gets around to saying it right quickly, as it claims we are made in the image and likeness of God the Creator.
It's worth quoting this verse (Gen. 1:27) entire: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." (KJV). I find it very telling that the only definition of what it means to be in the image of God that we're given here is 'male AND female'. There you go, barely into Genesis and we've already determined that the Christian God can't be confined to one gender and one role.
For Christians, this "made in the image of God" business is a double-edged sword. It cuts clean through doubts of self-worth, but it also can very easily be read as 'Thou art God'...which is a blasphemy (albeit a blasphemy I personally happen to believe)...watch this video to see why.

But what, exactly, does it mean?

I'd suggest that it means, above all, that we are creators. That stands as a functional definition of what it is to be human: all of us, instinctively, create in some way. You can discard God in any form and still come to that conclusion. We're makers. It's what we do, because it's who we are. But do we creating by doing, or by thinking?

Both.

What we consciously think about, we tend to create much more easily. Whether it's a musical composition or a new house, it requires the whole brain: conscious thought plus subconscious effort.

Remove the thought and you get instinctive creations. These can be anything, and they come directly from your default state of mind. Live your life full of love, and you'll see and create love everywhere you go. Live your life full of fear, and that's what you'll see and create. In either case, it's because you're only using the material you have to work with. What you see determines who you'll be, to be sure...but also: what you be determines what you see. Seeing is believing? No: often we see things we don't, or can't believe. Believing is seeing.

There are some people, as Nicole notes, who believe that thought has no effect on anything material. This, then, of course, is their experience. I choose to believe otherwise. Because I play with language, I notice that our language puts the lie to that belief. Think about it: if you are crying, someone is very likely to come to you and ask

"WHAT'S THE MATTER?"

There are other people who claim to be able to move things with the power of thought alone.




Personally, I believe in  telekinesis the same way I believe in ghosts: barely. I suspect that nearly every recorded instance of both phenomena is either sleight of hand or explainable some other way. But only nearly. I suspect--can't prove, of course, or I'd be in line for a Nobel, but suspect--that telekinesis and other such 'paranormal' abilities do exist among a select few. Why do I believe this? Because thought is energy. I suspect that it's possible to harness the energy behind a concentrated thought. Is it easy? Hell, no, and it's a good thing it isn't, or our world would be hopelessly chaotic. But possible? Yes, I believe it is.

Belief is a very powerful thing. I can think of no proof of this more convincing than the placebo effect. You give somebody nothing, but convince them you gave them something, and the odds are pretty damned good the nothing will have similar effects to the something. (I particularly love how this site asks 'Placebos: Are they real, or all in your head?" As if there's a difference.

This brings me to prayer. Now prayer  is one of those things that necessarily sharply divides the atheist from the religious. The atheist is apt to say something like "pray into one hand and piss into the other and see which one fills up faster". Having no belief in the power of prayer means by definition that prayers won't work for or on such a person. To the extent that science is able to study prayer, it has been shown to have AT BEST no effect.

This doesn't surprise me, since it's my contention that most people don't pray properly.

I was taught in my Christian days that the only acceptable prayer is one of gratitude. This is not the kind of thing you usually hear, of course, amongst people petitioning their God for some desired outcome. But it only stands to reason that if thought produces experience, the thought "I want...." will produce exactly that in your experience....wanting! Whereas thanking God--and if you're not comfortable with that, substitute 'Life' or 'The Universe' or any other all-encompassing concept--means you recognize you 'want' nothing...and that's a very powerful place to be in life.

If you want money, the way to get it is to realize you already have it. What's the best way to realize that? By giving it away. It sounds counterintuitive, to be sure, but there's always somebody poorer than you, and by making him richer you notice that you had that money to give. Do that often enough and it becomes a habit. Think of yourself as rich, and guess what? You'll actually be rich.

If you want love, give love away and you'll get it. It really is simple like that. Simple...but not easy. Because the same thing holds true for negative emotions, and many of us have a real attachment to those. whether we realize it or not. Also, as Carl Jung noted, "what you resist persists". That's another way of seeing that gratitude will go a lot further than supplication.

The cynical way to phrase this is 'fake it until you make it'. I'd suggest that 'faking it' is not an option, unless you are able to fake it with such sincerity that you're completely unaware you're faking it at all (in which case, of course, you're not!)



For Craig: The Decline of The Arts in Education

"Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything. --Plato
"Earth without art is just...eh" -anonymous

--------

I've been writing about myself for far too long. I've bored the snot out of myself, and if that's the case, I shudder to think what I've done to you, dear reader.
Time for a break and a weightier topic.

My call for blog topics on Facebook produced an outpouring of good ideas. Some of them I'm not qualified to tackle, others (like my niece) I simply need to research more (Ally: soon, hopefully, okay?)

My friend Craig wanted to hear some things on the decline of the arts in schools. I suspect he was thinking primarily of music, and if so I wouldn't blame him: he is one of comparatively few in the world talented enough to be making a living off that art. As it so happens, music is something I cherish myself: I possess a small musical talent and it means a lot to me. That said, while this entry will  focus on music, much of what I'm going to say applies to other arts as well, be they theatrical or of the cut-and-paste variety. And while I'm not the one to write a paean to sport and physical activity in education, I'm quite sure many of my readers could, and should.

In fact, I firmly believe that the 3 R's we hear so much about--only one of which actually starts with R-- really aren't the end-all and be-all of an education. Or at least they shouldn't be. They're trivial, really...doubtless they're important life skills, but they should be taught in the service of everything else.
Current thinking is that there are seven intelligences, not one. They include:

--visual/spatial;
--bodily/kinesthetic;
--musical;
--interpersonal;
--intrapersonal;
--linguistic;
--logical/mathematical.

Education is routinely being repurposed, refocused, and stripped of everything that isn't reading, writing and 'rithmetic...which might produce linguistic and mathematical geniuses, but last I looked that's two forms of intelligence out of seven. Stupid people, in other words.

Let's pretend first of all that there is no intrinsic benefit to music (or art) class, that "all" these classes are is a break from math and reading. Of course this is patently false, but let's pretend anyway, because many parents seem to believe it's true.
Ever seen a real tear-jerker of a movie...or at least a very serious drama, or even a horror movie? All three are likely to have moments of comedy in them. Maybe not many, but they're usually there. Why? To lighten the mood, sure...but also to keep viewers interested, Few people can stand a steady diet of nothing but seriousness.
The same holds true in school. Especially if academics isn't your strong suit, you need opportunities to express yourself in other ways, be they arts or sports....else you're likely to drop out.
And let's face it. Even people who are academic whizzes are probably more likely to remember their extracurricular activities more fondly than their lessons. I know I do.

But music is so much more than a break from the drudgery of multiplication tables (wait a minute, they don't have those anymore, either) and writing exercises. From the standpoint of those multiple intelligences, music fosters (of course) a musical intelligence, but also an interpersonal intelligence. This for a couple of reasons: one, performance in a band or choir, for instance, fosters a sense of teamwork and camaraderie; two, it is not only possible, but inevitable, to learn deeply of a culture or an individual from exposure to that culture or individual's music. This means empathy, which is to my mind the most important skill any student can hope to gain from an education. It also means historical knowledge. For instance, an ardent lover of music can write you a decent paper comparing and contrasting European culture ca. 1722 with that ca. 1872...without having been exposed to anything other than the music of both time periods. Don't believe me? Listen to this, from 1722...and then this, also written for keyboard, from 1872, and draw your own conclusions.

Music does things that other subjects can't do, or can do but poorly. Consider falling in love. Chances are very good that there's a song or songs you hear that bring your beloved to mind instantly. Can't resist the personal here: Eva's got at least ten, and if you consider me a close friend, I guarantee you have at least one.) Can math do that?



...not really.Can words do it? I can spend a lifetime saying loving words to Eva and only get the ones on top...and I've said recently to a dear friend that there really aren't words to describe our friendship..."Friendship" itself is just pitifully inadequate, but the only step up from there is "lover", and that's not right, either.  But I can say in music what words and equations can't.

And if that isn't enough, instruction in music has been shown to increase abstract and spatial-temporal reasoning; enhance aural, visual, memory and language skills; and develop quick and decisive thinking (Johnson, 2004*)

Consider, too, how much discipline it takes to learn an instrument. Ask my friend Craig: it's considerably more demanding than the toughest quadratic equation or spelling test. That kind of self-discipline will serve a music student well in all areas of her life.

Before I go any further, I should mention that we're living through a kind of existential crisis right now. You don't have to go far to find someone bemoaning the rise in stupidity, and even of stupidity-as-virtue, in the world today... Idiocracy as straight documentary. Our politics have devolved into people calling each other stupid. Jackass is a thing. Kids seem incapable of putting together, much less writing, a coherent sentence; Facebook--a public forum all but unimaginable as little as twenty years ago--is riddled with grammar errors I was taught not to make ins second grade, and it seems like they go unnoticed most of the time. In short, the world is moronic and getting more so.

Or is it? The same TV set that brings you such fare as Big Brother's 16th season (Lord have mercy) also brings you Game of Thrones, Veep, Breaking Bad, Mad Men and a slew of other engaging, highly intelligent and complicated serial dramas; the re-emergence of Cosmos (on Fox, of all places!) to say nothing of the biting satire that skewers the nightly network news. The same kids who can't seem to type a coherent sentence spend more time reading than at any time in history, and have developed skills their parents would envy if they could recognize them as skills. (YOU try holding four text conversations simultaneously while watching TV.)
Indeed, kids today seem worlds more intelligent than I was at their age. Not just one kid (though that  niece of mine is pretty damn smart)...every child I'm acquainted with from the age of two on up is smarter and more engaged with the world than I was (and I was by no means an idiot).  Is it just that I have a bunch of smart friends who are great parents? That's undoubtedly part of it, but probably not all of it. The educational system isn't where it needs to be, but it's better than it was. Bullying, by all reports, is down significantly. Students are being groomed to care for the world in a way that my generation simply wasn't.  It's not all bad. It might not even be mostly bad.

To be sure, schooling has come a long way. But there's still so much to do, and many concerns. One of which is that arts funding and participation is declining.

This document (pdf) shows what you would expect: that students in Toronto stand a much higher chance of having a specialized music teacher than schools in Northern Ontario. It also shows that the number of music teachers is dropping, province-wide. Schools are increasingly losing their band and choir programs, especially at the elementary level.

Given everything I've argued above, I'd suggest that needs to change. We owe our children a well-rounded education that concentrates not just on their minds, but also on their bodies...and their spirits.

*Johnson, Jr., Bob L., (2004). A sound education for all: Multicultural issues in music education.Educational Policy; 18 (1), 116-141.


12 April, 2014

Oh, what a feeling

My social calendar is actually more full right now than it has been at any time in my entire life.

I'm feeling a whole lot of emotion at this realization. Mostly happiness, of course...actually a kind of acute happiness that borders on pain and is probably very hard for you social butterflies to understand. Last entry I wrote about two dear friends I saw last week (and I missed them both as soon as they were out of sight)...now I get to see three other friends in the next week. Two are co-workers and the third was a co-worker twenty years ago. All three are women I care quite a lot about (and so is Kate, of course), and so it behooves me to thank and extol my wife Eva, the woman of a thousand virtues.

The one I'd like to single out here is her trust in me. Never mind that my 'girl friends' are simply friends who are girls; no matter that two of them are married, one is partnered and I know very well how all four of them do and more pertinently don't feel about me, Many, if not most wives would not allow their husbands unfettered and unchaperoned access to other women. It would put me in a bind if Eva was many or most wives, because for some strange reason I've always gotten along better with women than with men.

To be sure, I've earned that trust. Since marrying my wife, I have rarely felt more than a fleeting sexual attraction to anyone else. Rarely; for all my protestation, I'm human and male and there have been a couple of intense attractions over the last fifteen years. But cheating? I left that behind long, long ago. Such a purely selfish act, that is, and it almost never works out in real life like you think it will in your fantasies. Take it from somebody who's been there. The person you cheat with is usually a pale imitation of the person you're cheating on (and if that isn't the case, you don't belong with the person you're cheating on anyway and you should leave her before you betray her.)  Having experienced the bitter, bitter aftermath of an affair not once but twice, I was stunned I didn't see it coming (especially the second time--really, Ken, how stupid can you be?) But really, to anybody thinking of a fling--think past the orgasm, okay?

Even though I've never given Eva any reason to distrust me,  I still appreciate her trust. More than she probably knows.

Anyway, I feel all this happiness, and a touch of incredulity I'll probably never lose, a rotten revenant of my years without self-esteem. A very small (and even now, sometimes, not so small) voice inside me whispers that I'm not worth such wonderful friends, or any friends at all. A part of me is--well, "scared" is probably an overstatement, call it a touch of anxiety at just how different this is for me. Wonderfully different...but different. I haven't been friendless since fifth grade, but usually my friends either live far enough away that seeing them is rare...or in the case of friends who live close by, they've often been 'school friends' or 'work friends' and they certainly wouldn't, say, come to my house, nor would I go to theirs. That's been the pattern, with very few exceptions, for my entire life....so much so that being invited to someone's place used to provoke a tear or two. I know how strange that sounds. I'm not crying for joy now, to be sure--for God's sake, I'm past forty--but again, that little boy inside is quivering a little. I work nights, straight nights, and the day people I miss actually seem to miss me too. Wow.


Oh, what a feeling.

06 April, 2014

A Thank You To My Friends

Warning: here be gushy mushy feelings in abundance

This has a weekend to remember and cherish.
Eva's been away on business all week. This is the second time in a couple of months, and as always I've missed her dearly. I'm very grateful she's getting the opportunities to learn so much, and a little envious these opportunities always seem to be located in warm, touristy areas (especially this winter...who couldn't use a week in Orlando along about now, even if much of it's spent in a classroom?)

Solitude and loneliness are two sides of the same coin, and someone who feels as deeply as I do can be deeply appreciative of...well, both, actually. The solitude goes without saying: I'm an introvert and a bit of a loner and mildly to sharply uneasy in the hustle and bustle of social situations unless I'm with a select few people (Eva at the top of that short list) who make me feel comfortable. And loneliness? I spent much of the first two decades of my life practically drowning in it before I even knew what it was. When I feel it now, it's always accompanied by the soothing feeling that this too shall pass.

It passed sooner than it would have thanks to two people I am proud and honoured to call friends. They're also two people who are inextricably linked in my mind, even though they don't know each other at all. Read on as this post is commencing to ramble.

Kate is a woman of heart and mind and it detracts nothing from my love for my wife  to say I love her. (You can keep the 'have your Kate and Eva, too' puns to yourself, thank you very much.)  Craig, meanwhile, you know about--I just saw him a couple of weeks ago playing trumpet in a production of Cabaret. He's an old friend and a good one...that's most of what he and Kate have in common. That and they live in London, where I grew up and (quite honestly) where I sometimes wish I still lived. That city has gone downhill since I moved away in 1989...but most of my friends are still there.

Eva and I first actually met Kate and her partner a year and a half ago, on the same evening we attending Craig's wedding reception. Since then, we've seen neither of them near often enough. This is going to change. I'm just happy I got to see both of them this weekend...

Kate came up on Saturday. Our dogs and cats promptly fell in love with her (Well, Peach had to bark at her for a while first, but later on, she was actually cuddling Kate in a way I don't think I've seen her manage with anyone else besides Eva.)  Before long a big puppy/kitty pile had formed and peace and contentment reigned supreme. A nice dinner was had (still can't get over the fact I like (some) Thai food). Wish you could have stayed longer, Kate, but we're all glad you came. Thank you. *hug*

And today, the third  (or is it fourth?) annual baseball game with Craig. And for the first time, his son Angus came along, which was a real pleasure.  Usually it's the Chicago White Sox in town, but Craig called me a while back and said he had opening weekend tickets versus the Yanks and I had right of first refusal. Like I'd refuse that. I'm not near as much of a baseball fan as Craig is, but you don't turn down a chance to see Derek Jeter on his farewell tour. Quite  possibly the best shortstop the game has ever seen.
The Jays lost, but at least they made it interesting.

Good times, good friends. I feel good. And Eva's coming home several hours earlier than she was originally going to, which is even better.




03 April, 2014

Thoughts on the resignation of Brendan Eich

I cheered.

Then the cheer faltered a little, stuttered, and died in my throat and I thought, did I just feel schadenfreude?

Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich has stepped down after his anti-gay stance was exposed and went viral..

The dating site OKCupid, upon determining you'd reached it using Firefox, helpfully put this up on your screen (click to embiggen:)

And I thought, this is great, but it's just one site. The entire Internet should do this, each and every page of it.

Not a day later, the CEO steps down. As George Takei noted, "Corporations: Sure, you're free to support bigotry. Just be prepared to face the music.

And the band played on...

I predict a shrill chorus of "help, I'm being oppressed!" from certain quarters as this news makes its way around. There will be columns penned about thoughtcrime and how there's no freedom of speech or religion any more. Some people will defiantly 'come out', so to speak, in favour of 'traditional values' and be declared heroes among their fellow bigots.

Christians in particular have been saying for years now that 'yes, it's okay to be gay, but don't act gay, that's a sin.' Well, for values of Christianity that include denial of rights to gayfolk--not all do, by any means--I tell you this: it's okay to be 'Christian', just don't act Christian, that's a sin.

The thing that really irks me about this whole controversy is this: Not one person has ever been able to explain to me how extending marriage rights to homosexual persons harms (a) those persons or (b) any other persons. I've asked, and I'll ask again here, and believe me, I'm listening with open ears and a mind as open as I can make it. I want to know what's being taken from heterosexual couples so that gay couples can wed and be happy together. I want to know denial of human rights is so important to so many people who call themselves Christian. How are you affected if Jack and Gil down the road get married?

Mr. Eich is unrepentant about his beliefs, and he seems to think, even as he resigns, that they'd have had no bearing on his actions as CEO of a company that claims to be all about openness and inclusivity. This is clearly nonsense: people's religious beliefs, to the extent they hold them, inform every action they undertake. Indeed, Mr. Eich donated money in the past to a campaign to actively destroy the rights of gay people. In Christian parlance, "ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" (Mt 7:16)
Eich claims his donation to Prop 8 is not "evidence of animosity" towards gay people. What, then, is it? This, too, reminds me uncomfortably of Christian tenets I've heard over and over: "love the sinner, hate the sin"--which is all well and good until the "sin" is something intrinsic to your very being!

Any time I ask what a CEO is actually for, one of the first things I'm told is that a CEO sets and embodies the values of his or her organization. By empowering Brendan Eich, Mozilla is empowering values that are inimical to its vision of equality for all. As the linked article above puts it,

By financially supporting a cause that said I do not view these people as deserving of all the same rights I have, and acting appalled when people were vocally upset about it, Mr. Eich was not taking responsibility for anything.

That shadenfreude I feel, the happiness at another's pain? I don't think it's shadenfreude when the pain is (a) deserved and (b) self-inflicted.