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Archive for the ‘Mores’ Category

I recently realized that I have developed a personal philosophy. I’m not really sure when it arose, or at what rate. It definitely grew plantlike. A little seed settled in some corner and found a receptive environment. It settled and swelled and finally germinated. The the little roots began to sink in. Deeper and deeper they found purchase as only a nubbin rose up. The little leaves, the cotyledons, bore virtually no resemblance to what it would become with time and the right environment, but they were there. Easily overlooked and mistaken for every other plantlet it continued to grow amongst the weeds until such a height and distinctiveness of maturing leaves kindled a faint recognition. A thought that there was something familiar about this one.

Then, some event. A drought, a fire, a landslide revealed this growth for what it was. While all else was swept or burned away, this one, deeply rooted and grown strong remained and stood tall and was recognized.

I imaging this is how it goes for many people, though certainly not all. Folks strong of faith in their religion I imagine to have a strong awareness of philosophy from a much earlier age than I, just because it is taught and named rather than discovered. I am sure that produces its own struggles and challenges, but I am equally sure that they are somewhat different. I was never given a guiding light as a child. I built my own lantern out of construction paper and toothpicks to start with, and only now do I have something that feels clear and sturdy. And while mine may bear similarity to others, that is more a facet of analogous evolution for similar, basic human needs and motivations than by design.

And in my philosophy, serenity plays a huge role. Think of the monk on a distant mountain chanting to the winds. That is my ideal. Serenity, harmony, balance with the world. To that end, I appreciate the Serenity Prayer. I’d like it even better sans the whole ‘god’ bit, but it is well known, and when things are well known, it makes it easier to communicate meaning. You can say to someone, “You know about that thing there? It’s like that,” with some confidence you’ll actually be communicating your meaning to them. It’s like having the nature guide book- the one with all the plants and pictures in it over the different seasons and being able to point at the pictures and saying, “mine is like this one here.”

This is especially important when, like mine, yours is not, say, a maple tree, or a California redwood, but a somewhat less well known Madrone.

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Social Mores 1

Song lyrics always interest me. They are artistic expression of feelings and thoughts, and something I have zero skill at. I’ll do karaoke, but I know full well that I can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Sometimes though, a song’s lyrics will ruin the song for me, even if is one that I’ve enjoyed for a long while. McEntire’s song She Thinks His Name Was John is one of them. The story is a woman who gets AIDS, and it is sad, but the song reads like it’s her fault, which I think is just one more example of victim blaming, which was well discussed by AAG here.

“In her heart, she knew that it was wrong.” That’s the crux: the idea that it is wrong to have a 100%  consensual night of sex with someone you are attracted to. And that if you do have sex for pleasure, you deserve what you have coming to you. In this case, to catch HIV and die of AIDS. There’s also the message that she is undeserving/won’t ever be loved, be married or have kids, which many loving families living with the disease have disproven many times over. I recognize that this song is a bit older now, and that we have progressed in our HIV treatments, but I wonder if we have progressed in our attitudes much. Can you imagine what it would be like if you had to tell your family that you were HIV positive? The assumption is that the victims have done something wrong to catch it.

I used to like this song, before I really listened to it, and now I cannot stand it.  But little messages like this seem to be embedded everywhere, usually flying below the radar in terms of being noticed, and combining with others to normalize the status quo and enforce social norms. We get, “Isn’t it sad, luckily it would never happen to me because I am morally superior and don’t have sex outside my heteromonogamous marriage.” But what if the song was different? What if the message was, “Hey, let’s find John! We need to let him know he’s infected and spreading disease so that he can get treated and hopefully save others!” That would be a very different song, one I might well listen to. It would be a more encouraging message for our world, and one that might actually help.

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