Taking the Hill for Human Rights

At their immature levels, religions can be obsessed with the differences that make them better or more right than others. Pope Francis insists that mercy is at the very top of the Christian hierarchy of great truths*, and everything falls apart whenever mercy is displaced by anything else or anything less. —Fr Richard Rohr

 

Pastor John Pavlovitz wrote in a recent post: “Whatever hill is worth dying on for you in this life, take it now.”
https://johnpavlovitz.com/2018/07/03/pick-a-hill-worth-dying-on-america/

I realized right away that I knew which “hill” that was for me. Despite the progress of the past decade, the ability of LGBTQ+ people to work, to buy ordinary products and services, to adopt children, to live in a particular building or neighborhood, even just to live at all has been under heavy attack of late.

A couple of weeks ago I watched Hannah Gadsby’s high-impact one-woman show Nanette, which you absolutely should check out. In her native Tasmania, homosexuality was illegal until 1997!!!! I was 37 then, for freak’s sake! That was a sobering reminder of how fragile our situation is. In my relatively open community, it’s easy to forget how difficult things can be in so many parts of the world.

And of course that includes much of the US. The vice-president, may he soon be enlightened, is trying to establish a “religious liberty” office to make sure that anyone whose religion tells them to discriminate against those who are different in their sexual or gender identity can do so with complete freedom, the Constitution and legal precedent be damned. As Cornel West has said, “The fundamentalist Christians want to be fundamental about everything except Love Thy Neighbor!”

I often find myself imagining something like this:

Incredibly, because Americans insist on continuing to use the death penalty and it seemed to be under threat, last fall the US voted AGAINST a UN “resolution condemning the use of the death penalty as punishment for consensual gay relations.” The resolution passed anyway, but the US had sided with a group of countries known for human-rights abuses and against all of Europe and almost all of the rest of the Americas. We could have abstained. We did not.
https://www.cnn.com/2017/10/05/opinions/un-death-penalty-resolution-usa-lgbt-ghitis-opinion/index.html

This feels more and more like a crisis, one building inexorably, one that can’t be ignored. “If you aren’t finding your voice right now, don’t bother worrying about it again,” Pavlovitz wrote. “You won’t have one much longer.” So I am continuing to make whatever sounds I can.

The event that got me started thinking about writing this post was the death of Jeremy Reynalds, who founded the local help for the homeless organization Joy Junction. Friends commented about something I had forgotten: that Reynalds not only forbade LGBTQ+ folk from staying at his shelter, but even refused to take donations from such people. Wow. I wasn’t good enough for him to help me if I needed it, and even my money wasn’t good enough for him. I had a seriously hard time with this. It bugged me for days. It even contributed to some physical symptoms.

But later, I read that Reynalds had changed, which is a great relief and source of hope.  ‘“I’m much less judgmental than I used to be, and that’s made me a much happier person,” Reynalds said in 2016. “My mantra for the last eight or nine years is ‘Let God do the judging, and I will do the loving.’”
https://www.abqjournal.com/1197802/reynalds-leaves-legacy-of-helping-the-less-fortunate.html

Understanding why certain religious people are so set in their anti-LGBTQ stance runs one directly down the infinitely dark rabbit hole of biblical literalism. In researching background for this post, I came across the word “bibliolatry,” which refers to worshiping the written word above all else including real, living people and even the living traditions of one’s faith– not to mention the living Christ in whom one supposedly believes. To that, another kind of Christian might reply:

I understand that we all cherry-pick whatever agrees with our preconceived notions. However— something that has been said so many times, but it bears repeating since they Just Don’t Seem to Get It— if these people are going to insist that same-sex relationships are sinful because of their interpretation of a few words in Leviticus, why is it that they feel free to eat shellfish and wear polyester/cotton clothing and trim their beards?

I haven’t had any recent opportunities to ask this directly of an evangelical. Typical answers might be that this was written a very long time ago and that society has changed a great deal, and/or that Jesus superseded the Old Testament laws with the greater law of “Love one another.” One article, in explaining why we no longer execute disobedient children, simply stated, “The Old Testament Law is not in force today.”** Well, that was easy, wasn’t it.  Except that they’re saying it is.

In addition to this convenient inconsistency, they seem to have decided that the way God constructed nature and humanity is not OK, because they insist that biology is something quite different from what it really is. It probably won’t help to tell a person who believes the Earth is only 6000 years old to objectively observe the natural world, but even a cursory survey would quickly show that sexuality and gender are not binary, but exist along continua. Now, for religious people to question nature and find it lacking is to question and criticize the workings of the mind of God. Isn’t that blasphemy? How can that be acceptable to them?

Well, that’s why it’s so crucial for them to believe that sexual orientation is a choice. If homosexuality does NOT inherently exist in nature, but rather is invented by depraved or confused human minds, then there is no conflict with their chosen biblical interpretation. Likewise, if there is no such thing as an intersex or transgender child and the kids are only imagining it all, there is no need to revise rigidly prescribed gender roles. There are powerful incentives for them to wish reality away.

Somehow I have felt compelled to follow the rabbit downward and better understand the origins of this way of thinking. I hadn’t realized how recent a phenomenon biblical literalism is. Fundamentalists might like to think of themselves as part of an ancient tradition, part of the bedrock of Christianity, as the name implies, but this is not the case. Certainly it is not how most of us brought up in mainstream forms of Christianity were taught to think about the bible. We were taught in Catholic school that biblical stories such as the Adam and Eve myth were to be understood as allegories, and there is nothing at all modern or “liberal” about such an attitude. Very early authorities such as Philo of Alexandria and Origen*** wrote about just that way of understanding scripture, and their teaching was accepted for most of the past two millennia.

Dr. Kevin Lewis went so far as to describe literalism as heresy: ’The heresy of literalism as such is a modern, post-scientific phenomenon. Its beginnings can be traced in seventeenth-century Protestant orthodoxy, but it bloomed with twentieth-century Fundamentalism, when the modern world fully embraced the dynamic power of natural science. Scientific method crucially altered the Western mind. After Descartes we became principled skeptics, doubting in order to find out the truth. The notion stole into the religious mind that biblical narratives make proposals that only appear to compete with testable scientific findings (to test our faith) while ultimately, if miraculously, conforming to scientific truth.’

‘So rose up in history a reactionary Christian mind, panicked and defensive, straining to assert scientific proof (thereby establishing absolute certainty) for its Scripture and the articles of belief it wished to communicate. Thus did literalism teach the “letter” to drive out the “spirit” of the biblical writings, effectively misusing the text in order to promote a corrupted theological agenda. The effect is a rigid constriction of the inspiring Word.’
http://people.cas.sc.edu/lewiske/heresy.html

I have often said that if someone wishes to take scripture literally, they had better be able to read and write the ancient languages involved, fluently, and understand exactly how the words were used at the time those passages were written. Only then can they expect to have any idea what it is that they are taking literally. Some scholars try to do that.

A rather arcane article, “The Secret History of Leviticus” by Idan Dershowitz, showed up in the New York Times, interestingly enough. Dershowitz analyzed the text in detail to elucidate likely changes over the long period of time that probably elapsed as the book was rewritten into its present form. He points out that there were generally no known prohibitions against sex between men in earlier times, and that the prohibitions appear to have been absent in the earliest version of Leviticus as well, and to have been added later in the book’s history. 
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/21/opinion/sunday/bible-prohibit-gay-sex.html?action=click&module=Trending&pgtype=Article&region=Footer&contentCollection=Trending

An interesting case is a website written by Rick Brentlinger, who identifies himself as a gay Christian and an independent Baptist preacher. (I’m a little sorry to identify him by name, since I am about to harshly criticize him.)  I found it while looking for the meaning of the passages about homosexuality in the original languages. He has a rather different take on Leviticus, and on Paul, asserting that in both cases the prohibition is really against temple prostitution rather than same-sex relations in general. I can’t say whether or not he is accurate in his analysis, but it is an interesting perspective. One statement of his with which I wholeheartedly agree: ”Scripture cannot mean NOW/ What it did not mean THEN.”

Unfortunately, Brentlinger goes on to toe the literalist line, even stating in so many words that Adam was a real man and the first human. He rails against common practices like contemplative prayer and meditation, saying that only reading or hearing scripture is acceptable prayer. (It amazes me— how is one supposed to listen to God with all those words chattering in one’s mind all the time?) Yet he even slams Lectio Divina, in which one reads scripture in a mystical manner, intending to let its meaning manifest in a nonverbal awareness. Even the way other people read the Bible is not good enough for him! It seems to me that he is playing along with the game plan of the very people who oppress him and his. I can empathize a little, though. Otherwise he would have to separate entirely from his faith community and his home culture, I suppose, and that might be too much to contemplate. It seems that he is finding a way to be part of the groupthink and be himself at the same time.

At any rate, there is nothing at all that literalists can quote from Jesus’ preaching on homosexuality or other matters of sexual orientation or gender identity, because nothing is there, neither prohibitions nor permissions. There is that one story that can be interpreted as being tolerant of same-sex relationships, the one about the centurion who asked Jesus to heal his servant/companion and shows absolute faith that he can do it. Brentlinger does interpret it that way.

I wonder what the literalists think about the apocryphal books such as the Gospel of Thomas, and how they deal with the idea that some gospels were written through divine inspiration and some weren’t, when it is clear that ordinary humans chose which books to include in the canon. Some of those books were of inferior quality, but others were discarded because they didn’t fit the political power needs of the men who were in charge. And they were all men, of course. In the early days of Christianity, many individuals were preaching and transmitting their own revelations and insights, and some of the most famous were women. The powers that were felt the need to squelch all that, making us all poorer in the process. Some of the early writings have come to light in the past century, of course, and now we have a broader perspective that makes biblical literalism appear all the more ludicrous.

It was decided by some of those august Church Fathers, trying to hold their young organization together, that revelation had stopped at the death of the last apostle, and no one else was going to hear anything worthwhile from God! This connects with the suspicious attitude toward contemplative prayer and meditation— one must simply accept what has already been written, and heaven forbid that one might connect with the divine on one’s own. (Everything there is authoritarian at its core. And that, dear reader, has a lot to do with the love of fundamentalists for our current administration.)

I’ll end by bringing you back to John Pavlovitz, who had to broaden his thinking when he was exposed to people who were different from those he’d been brought up with— and then his brother came out as gay. ‘”It was a gradual deconstruction of my faith,” he says. “You look at one isolated area of the Bible, for example, then realize, Well, if that doesn’t mean what I was taught it meant, what other areas of my spiritual journey was I taking for granted? So you start digging into it, and you find yourself exploring all areas of your belief system.”’

And he claims some of that personal revelation, which doesn’t go over well with the kind of church he moved away from:
‘Some simply know in their gut, he says, that a religion of in-groups and out-groups isn’t what Jesus was preaching.’
https://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/how-raleighs-john-pavlovitz-went-from-fired-megachurch-pastor-to-rising-star-of-the-religious-left/Content?oid=9664688

You know, if you’ve been reading my stuff, where I stand with regard to personal revelation. And so here I am, on my hill, where I intend to stay until it’s no longer necessary.

 

*Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), 36-37.
http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html

**https://www.gotquestions.org/stone-rebellious-children.html

*** https://www.newdawnmagazine.com/articles/rescuing-the-bible-from-literalism

This article also takes up archeological questions about the origin of the people of Israel, the supposed conquest of Canaan, and the exodus from Egypt. These are fascinating matters which also feed into our current political situation, but I’ll take them up at another time.

 

 

 

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New Beatitudes for a Hurting World

Sometimes social media, for all the trouble it causes and all the time it sucks, can bring real inspiration and even be a transmitter of grace. I am grateful to have encountered Nadia Bolz-Weber, an extraordinary Lutheran minister and founding pastor of the House for All Sinners and Saints church, in a video on Facebook. I hope it’s OK with her that I transcribed her stunning distillation of Christianity:

Blessed are the agnostics.
Blessed are they who doubt,
those who aren’t sure,
those who can still be surprised.
Blessed are those who have nothing to offer.
Blessed are they for whom death is not an abstraction.
Blessed are they who have buried their loved ones,
for whom tears could fill an ocean.
Blessed are they who have loved enough
to know what loss feels like.
Blessed are they who don’t have the luxury
of taking things for granted anymore.
Blessed are they who can’t fall apart,
because they have to keep it together for everyone else.
Blessed are those who still aren’t over it yet.
Blessed are those who mourn.
Blessed are those who no one else notices,
the kids who sit alone at middle school lunch tables,
the laundry guys at the hospital, the sex workers,
and the night-shift street sweepers.
Blessed are the forgotten,
blessed are the closeted,
blessed are the unemployed,
the unimpressive,
the underrepresented.
Blessed are the wrongly accused,
the ones who never catch a break,
the ones for whom life is hard,
for Jesus chose to surround himself
with people like them.
Blessed are those without documentation.
Blessed are the ones without lobbyists.
Blessed are those who make terrible business decisions
for the sake of people.
Blessed are the burned-out social workers
and the overworked teachers
and the pro-bono case takers.
Blessed are the kind-hearted NFL players
and the fundraising trophy wives.
And blessed are the kids who step
between the bullies and the weak.
Blessed is everyone who has ever forgiven me
when I didn’t deserve it.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they totally get it.
You are of heaven, and Jesus blesses you.

(Line breaks and punctuation are my best guesses.)

After the tears ran their course and I could see again, I looked at the comments on her presentation. (You know what a bad idea that usually is.) And yes, there were those who had to let everyone know how much more theological knowledge and biblical scholarship they had at their disposal than this trained and ordained minister, who they instantly labeled as a heretic. There was even a heated argument about some translations of the Bible being valid and others being heretical. Way to totally miss the point, folks.

What I found particularly shocking— even though I rather expected it to come up— was the view that God will not forgive everyone, only some who deserve it. I’ve seen it before, but I’ve never gotten used to it. A God who withholds love is a very weird God for a religion whose adherents like to say “God is love.”

Some even said that it’s incorrect to say that we are not supposed to judge others, that indeed we should and it’s biblical to do so. But one doesn’t need to have a great deal of scriptural knowledge to remember “Judge not lest ye be judged.”

It surprises me to realize that the rather stodgy and ordinary Catholic parish I belonged to as a child somehow didn’t infect me with the controlling, judgmental spirit exhibited by so many folks who claim to be Christians. I might have expected Catholicism to be far to the more rigid side of the spectrum of denominations, but it often seems to be relatively open. Not always, but often. At any rate, I don’t think it’s only in recent years that I got the idea that Jesus’ teaching is more like Pastrix (her term) Nadia’s words and less like judgment and shaming and inflexible rules that no one can really follow.

The Jesus that Nadia allies herself with seems like the one I’ve met, the one you heard about here if you were around to read this a year ago: https://elenedom.wordpress.com/2017/06/21/you-know-my-heart/
Maybe that’s the Jesus you know too. The one who championed the poor and marginalized while criticizing the rich and self-satisfied. How can inclusion and forgiveness be heretical for Christians?

I wrote in that post: “Perhaps the people I am complaining about have tapped into a pervasive field of fear and judgment, just as I connected with a field of love and acceptance. I would suppose that it is absolutely real to them. I know where I would rather live, and I know which is more likely to generate a world that is better for all of us.”

And now I have to go and work on tolerance myself:

Blessed are those who sincerely read their holy books
even when they ignore the parts they don’t like,
for they are trying to make sense of a crazy world.
Blessed are all of us with our preconceived notions.
Blessed are those who hurt so much inside,
believing themselves to be flawed,
that they must constantly point out the flaws of others.
Blessed are the judgmental,
who find themselves to be unworthy.
Blessed are the spiritually immature,
who rely on being told what to think,
for they will grow up eventually.
Blessed are they who see evil everywhere,
because in their way they are trying to be good.

And blessed are all those who love anyway,
no matter what, without question, without ceasing.

 

The Sarcastic Lutheran blog: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/
http://www.nadiabolzweber.com/
She writes books, too. I just preordered her next one, Shameless: A Sexual Reformation.

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Filed under health and healing, human rights, spirituality

“Captain, I’m afraid I don’t know where we are.”

If your threat ganglia pop out, there’s usually a good reason.

That line keeps repeating in my head.

As all good science-fiction should do, Star Trek: Discovery used fantastical but relatable metaphors to comment on our situation here and now.  The conceit of the Mirror Universe, the place Saru didn’t recognize when he made the statement above, was as good as any to explore the deep and pervasive sense of disorientation so many of us continue to feel.  (For those who missed it, the Mirror Universe– the one where, you might remember, Spock had a beard– was populated by the same beings as our own but was a twisted place where humans ran a cruel, xenophobic, racist empire based on war.)

Much of the first season of Discovery was deeply dark and very 2017-18.  It appeared that even Starfleet captains had renounced virtue in favor of expediency.  Of course it turned out that the brilliant but ruthless Captain Lorca was really a denizen of the evil universe’s Terran Empire, and had never been meant to represent Federation values at all.  But then, in desperation to survive against the Klingon onslaught, which was threatening the existence of Earth itself, Starfleet came to the brink of committing genocide, leading to this exchange:

Admiral Cornwell: “We do not have the luxury of principles!”
Michael Burnham: “That is all we have, Admiral!”*

In the face of destruction of our entire planet– a situation we DO face in real life– and against threats not only to any chance of democracy but to truth itself, is this valid?  Do we have any room to maneuver at all?  Can we survive without compromising our values?

The wide-eyed optimism of Star Trek, which has never died, says that there is always a better way.  To choose compassion over fear.  To choose the Federation values of peace, fairness, inclusiveness, and respect for those who are different. When trapped between unacceptable alternatives, to find a third path.

In Gene Roddenberry’s cosmology, things got a whole lot worse before they got better.  I remember some adults talking that way when I was a kid, around the time of Classic Trek, explicitly expecting that there would be an era of horrendous upheavals and destruction to live through, somewhere about now.  I don’t know what made them think that way, but they seem to have been correct.  One can hope that the calm really will come through after the storm, and that somehow it will all make sense.  Personally, my threat ganglia are still out and waving.

**************************************************************

About a week ago I wrote this, in response to people asking me for my thoughts about the current primary season.  Non-New Mexicans probably won’t care:

I’ve been wanting to write something about my choice of candidates for the gubernatorial and congressional primaries, in part to explain my thinking to myself. I am helping two campaigns, to the small extent that I have energy to do so. People I’ve spoken with are expressing a lot of confusion, because we have the blessing or curse of multiple decent human beings running. So let’s think a few aspects of the races through. I’m interested in the thoughts of others who may have come to a different set of conclusions.

I was a little bit concerned that I might be basing my choices on emotional reactions to my favorite candidates, so I have spent time thinking through the matter as dispassionately as possible.  [My Vulcan ancestry at work again.]  Yet, I have to say that my two candidates are nice, pleasant people to be around, and that is a big part of my support for them. At the same time, they’re tough and they don’t knuckle under. I think they’ve got the right combination of the two.

There’s no confusion with the governor’s race for me. I’ve been a fan of Michelle Lujan Grisham for years, and every time I have the opportunity to speak with her in person, I like her all the better. The last time I saw her was at the annual meeting of the Health Security for New Mexicans Campaign on April 28. I had the good fortune to be getting out of my car at the same time she was getting out of hers, and we had a bit of a walk to get into the building, around two sides of a block, so I had her to myself for a few minutes. We discussed health insurers and some maddening issues for health care providers like me. Michelle has the health care wonk thing going on, having run the state health department, and that’s important for me. I know from previous discussions that she would try to get the superintendent of insurance to work more for the people and less for the insurers, and that she has some specific ideas about that.

The fact that she showed up for our meeting at all was big, of course. But this was bigger: When I asked her how an ordinary person could go about contacting her on a specific issue like the one we were talking about, she replied, “I work for you. Call me.” OK, that might not really happen very easily in practice. But the sentiment seemed real. I do believe that Michelle acts out of a spirit of service and that she does not put herself above her constituents.

One of the first things our representative did when she got to Congress was to try living on a food budget equal to that of a food stamp recipient, to see how real people can manage it. She reported on how difficult it was. This was when I first took real notice of her, and I immediately developed respect for her. In the past she’s done hands-on investigations like going undercover at a nursing home to expose abuse. She doesn’t take the easiest paths and sometimes she upsets those who are in charge. She is exceedingly tenacious, maybe to the point where she annoys some people; that’s a big reason why we finally got the cleanup of the Kirtland jet fuel spill going after so much dithering around. She knows how to build a coalition; that’s how a bipartisan group of female lawmakers broke the logjam on VAWA.

Jeff Apodaca did not show up at the Health Security meeting himself, but he did send two representatives, his wife and former candidate Peter DiBenedittis, who now works for him. Apodaca stated forcefully in the debate televised today that he would put a single-payer system in place in the state. That’s quite commendable, but he seemed to think he could do that all by himself, making me wonder if he really has much of an idea how state government works.

Apodaca has expressed a number of ideas that strike me as interesting, fresh, and utterly unrealistic. Yes, it would be totally great if we could pipe water from areas that often have flooding to those that have drought. (He suggested that if water were piped to Texas, the Texans wouldn’t need to take water from NM!) Maybe someday that could even be done. Is it a real-world, near-term solution for our desiccated state? Um, no. My impression is that he may not even realize that what he’s saying comes off more like science fiction than policy. Perhaps I’m being a stick in the mud (the long-dried mud, that is), and I should be more welcoming toward way-out-of-the-box possibilities, but I’d rather we would start with something we could actually get done, and soon.

There is something that disturbs me more about Apodaca, though, and that’s what I perceive as negativity and anger. His speech at the Progressive Summit in January struck me as one of the nastiest and most venomous presentations I’d ever heard from a candidate. I can’t remember the specifics of what he talked about, but he belittled others rather than lifting everyone up. He lost any chance at my vote there and then. That unpleasantness was on display in today’s debate, as well.

Joe Cervantes is more of a conundrum for the progressive Democrat trying to choose a governor. His TV ads include endorsements from people I really respect, Jerry Ortiz y Pino and my own beloved state senator, Mimi Stewart. He comported himself quite well in the debate this evening, and the fact that he represents Sunland Park, right on the southern border, makes his perspective especially useful in the present climate. I still have to go with Michelle, though, because of my personal experience with her and more importantly her broad experience in both state and federal government.

What we can’t lose perspective on: The candidate we pick will go up against Steve Pearce in the fall. If you’re bothering to read this, you probably realize how dangerous Pearce would be as governor— a man who, among all his other alarming qualities, believes that his wife should obey him because that’s biblical!

In 2014, we ended up with an incredibly weak Democratic candidate, Gary King, and Susana Martinez wiped the floor with him. Those who had any idea what was going on repudiated King at the party convention, but he was able to gather enough extra signatures to get on the ballot anyway. Name-recognition and fondness for his dad put him on top in the primary, but there wasn’t enough enthusiasm to take him through the general election. We can’t let this happen again. King is universally hailed as a nice guy, but niceness isn’t necessarily a great thing when it’s wishy-washy.

I can’t help remembering how it was in 2010, when then-lieutenant governor Diane Denish wrote out pages and pages of specific and actionable policy ideas while running for governor. She had plans up the wazoo. Her opponent, Susana, said practically nothing and appeared to have little idea what she was getting herself into. But she represented law and order, and Denish was tainted by the corruption into which Bill Richardson had sunk the governor’s office. We all know how that worked out.

Now we have to pull ourselves out of a different sort of morass. I agree with Mayor Tim Keller, who made the point many times during his own campaign that we have to do our own lifting and can’t rely on help to swoop in from somewhere else. But there are better and worse mechanisms we can use to get it done, and more and less knowledgeable and energetic people to lead as we do it.

****************************************************************

Rep. Lujan Grisham, when asked why she was giving up her seat in Congress to run for governor, said that with Washington so dysfunctional, the state and local levels are where things can get done. (Mayor Keller said something similar when he left his job as state auditor.) Yet, we still have to have someone warming those seats at the Capitol and at least attempting to do something positive. My choice for NM CD1 is Deb Haaland.

I’m not being a great help to any campaign, but I did get out and knock on doors in the past couple of days to get out the vote for Deb, my first experience of canvassing. Most people weren’t home, or at least didn’t answer— no surprise there. I had the privilege of walking a really lovely neighborhood, and even got to see one of the “spaceship” houses close up and talk with its very friendly owner. (If you’re a local, you know the two houses I mean.) The most heartening interaction today was with a guy who told me, “Oh, I’m a Republican. My wife’s the Democrat. But we still live with each other.”

Of course I had to explain why I was bothering to walk around with a Deb yard sign and why I had picked her out of the crowded primary field. Everyone knows by now that she’d be the first Native American woman elected to Congress. That is a major matter, since Indians have practically no representation in DC at all, and women are still quite underrepresented. Especially in this time of environmental peril, I do think it’s well worthwhile, even crucial, to include a Native point of view, and we need far more than this one individual to express it. But people want to know what else there is about Deb.

I could go on about renewable energy being a critical necessity for the state’s economy and the world, and her championing of it, or her support for universal health coverage. I could add that she’s had a broad range of experiences, rather than, for example, being a lawyer for her entire adult life. She’s known for working hard for progressive causes and candidates over the years, for always showing up. She showed up at Standing Rock with the water protectors, too. Growing up in a military family, although she did not go into an armed service herself, will give her perspective when the present administration pushes for war. 

But what originally attracted me to Deb was something very simple, a small gesture that made a lasting impression. I was at a gathering hosted by Equality New Mexico a couple of years ago, where I met her and also Santa Fe’s new mayor, Alan Webber. The room was crowded, and I was trying unsuccessfully to slip between bodies and furniture to get a glass of water. Deb saw this, filled a glass and brought it to me. She was the chair of the state Democratic party at the time, but she so didn’t make a big deal of herself. She was real and down to earth. She saw a need and literally filled it. That graciousness and warmth has characterized every interaction I’ve had with her.

In addition, Deb is my age and has been a small-business owner, so I see her as a woman like me. As a single mother of one daughter, she is like my own mother. Her daughter is an LGBTQ person (a different one of the letters from me) and I know Deb will always do whatever she can to protect us from discrimination and worse.

Having said all that, I’d be happy if we could hire all the primary candidates as a team (with one possible exception), because they all have considerable strengths.

It’s a little bit painful not to be able to support my city councilor, Pat Davis, in this primary. I have great respect for Pat and his work with Progress Now, and as with Deb and Michelle, he is always a delight to meet in person. He can articulate his position on issues with great clarity, and I’d say he won the debate that was televised a few days ago, though other viewers might disagree. However, whichever Democrat we elect in the primary has got to be able to win the general election in November, and I’m afraid Pat is too polarizing a figure to manage that. The unopposed Republican, Janice Arnold-Jones, is non-loony and also very articulate, and it’s possible that she could come off looking like the voice of reason, a comfortable and non-threatening choice.

It’s a burning question for all the Democratic candidates this year, at least the leftier ones— should we push as hard as we can for our progressive values, or try to be palatable to a broader swath of the electorate? I honestly don’t know. It’s looking, from elections that have already taken place, like strong progressives are doing quite well. Pat Davis decided to go for it with his “Fuck the NRA” ad, which was, shall we say, a bit surprising to the viewing audience. A former cop who has been shot himself, he concluded that being nice and polite was getting us nowhere, and I can’t fault him for trying to push the gun conversation in a more useful direction. He did get national attention. However, it’s possible that he committed suicide as a candidate, and that the audacious ad caused some people to stop listening to his usual far more measured and reasonable arguments. We’ll see more as this continues to play out.

I was very unhappy with Davis when he voted for the ART project, although he said he had come around to it reluctantly, and he did fight to get a stop put in my neighborhood, which was going to be left out. Worse, every day when I drive to my office, I curse his decision to make Zuni one lane. He pushed for the re-striping of the road in order to stop pedestrians from getting killed, and no one could argue with that as a reason, but with traffic getting backed up for blocks, cars using the bike lane for turns, and still no clear places for pedestrians to cross, I question whether Zuni really is safer for anyone. Early on, one of my patients was involved in a car accident, when another driver hit her while failing to merge where the road goes from two lanes to one at San Mateo, a poorly-designed area if you ask me. And this redesign was done while the ART construction was at its height and Central was virtually unusable. Zuni was never meant to be a major artery to begin with, as my former councilor Rey Garduno once told me— yet the ART proponents blithely assumed it could take on the extra traffic Central, while reduced to one lane. Yeah, right. Pat Davis stands by his decision, since it was meant to save lives, but it seems to me that the Zuni situation is an example of not quite thinking things through. (End of Zuni rant.)

Damon Martinez’s enthusiasm about the ATF sting that was supposed to get the “worst of the worst” of local criminals and instead netted low-level guys, most of them black, entrapping and victimizing at least one harmless person and costing millions in the process, was enough to lose any chance at my vote.

Antoinette Sedillo Lopez is probably a fine choice for this office, and she is supported by a lot of people I respect. My husband and I think that Deb’s range of experiences will be more useful.

I don’t know much about Damian Lara. As an immigration lawyer, no doubt he does excellent work. He too may seem relatively extreme to the general electorate— though again, maybe that could be a good thing.

Paul Moya speaks well and seems to have good ideas, but he’s very young and could use more experience for this national-level job.
*************************************************************************
I had a terrible time deciding about the lieutenant governor and land commissioner candidates. Both Rick Miera and Howie Morales would likely make fantastic lieutenant governors. I voted for Miera on the basis of his support for us Doctors of Oriental Medicine and our patients, as well as for the Health Security Act.  All the land commissioner hopefuls have useful experience and excellent ideas, though Garrett VeneKlasen gives the most detail about his plans.

So we have a wealth of strong, qualified, apparently sincere and decent candidates, but it’s a little hard to feel confident about the future of US government in general this year. I can only hope that we’re accomplishing something more than rearranging the Titanic’s furniture.

In any case, GO VOTE!

 

* The fates of the Klingons and the Federation are decided largely by a quartet of seriously badass women.  We have strong women on both sides in NM as well.  May the Burnhams among us prevail!

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When we lose our minds, where do they go?

Thank you to DailyOM for the image. Photographer unknown.

 

A former patient of mine, an elderly lady with severe dementia, passed on a few weeks ago. She had commented many times that she was ready to go whenever it happened, but that she hadn’t been invited yet. At last she received that invitation.

She had told me some years ago about seeing her husband a number of times after his death (long before she was stricken with dementia), and she kindly gave me a copy of her notes on those events. However, it wasn’t entirely clear that she was describing genuine spirit contacts; some of the instances sounded more like dreams, like the one in which she said her husband was driving, which I don’t really understand. I wasn’t sure what to do with the less-clear notes and I didn’t use them in a post. Now, since I’m thinking of her and since she did take the trouble to write them for me, I’m copying them here. She didn’t want her name used, she said at the time, so I’m respecting her wishes and referring to her as R. I’ve removed the names of her husband and other family members as well.

Numbers refer to addresses, and names are those of the family dogs. R. wrote “he had both legs” because her husband had had a terrible time with diabetes that sadly had included amputations.

Note that the events from 2000 and 2004 in particular do sound very typical of spirit contacts.
*************************************************************************

1998
No. 1   at 1848— New room— he liked it
No. 2   at 8711
No. 3   with Reggie walking towards me on Stilwell [a street], I had Skipper walking to him (going north) he had both legs, and he looked good.
No. 4   8711— in the shower
No. 5   we were sitting huddled together on the curb— it was very cold.

Jan. 1999
No. 6   He was driving me from Eastdale to 8711 in a snowstorm— we had three dogs.
No. 7   S. came, we were having an estate sale at 8711
No. 8   S. came to take me with him to a gun show, going to England (8711)

May 1999
No. 9   S. came to new shop, he was sitting reading the paper
No. 10   We delivered a cake together from CIMM., we had to get more frosting to finish it

June 1999
No. 11   Saw S. and Zack, just for a minute. Zack was jumping up and down— they were going for a walk

July 1999
No. 12   Saw S., he was waiting for me with his arms open to me— made me very sad.

May 31, 2000
No. 12   Saw S. at Lagniappe (restaurant)— he was coming down the hallway, smiling, looking good.

Nov. 1, 2000, 11 am
No. 14   I did not see him but I felt him there at 8711, I was by B.’s bedroom and there was a distinct loud thump in the closet by his gun room— I opened the door & found N.’s duvet coverlet that we had been searching for. I know S. was there, I could feel him close to me. His love reached out to me.

Oct. 10, 2004
No. 15   I saw S. just for a few minutes, he was very agitated & did not speak to me— it was the day G. (cousin) had a heart attack— he was running back and forth— I had not actually seen him in four years

*************************************************************************

(R.’s daughter told me that she heard the thump mentioned in No. 14.)

R. was a vibrant and talkative lady, full of stories about her life in three different countries and her experiences of being a child during WWII. (She had been particularly incensed at the Germans for dropping bombs nearby because they scared her dog.) She had been an energetic businesswoman throughout her adulthood and into old age. In the last few years of her life she was severely affected by dementia, and there was a kind of grey curtain covering her face, so that it was difficult to see through it to who she really was.

In Chinese medicine we have the concept of Shen, often translated as “spirit” but not quite synonymous with it. Shen is what you see when you look into someone’s eyes. You know what I mean— the Shen can appear bright, haunted, clouded, darkened, or spaced out and not all there. An animal can project these effects as much as a human can. Facial expression is only part of it. And when it fades, everyone can tell.

When we lose our minds, where do they go? Are they still there the entire time?

Did I ever tell you the story about Adyashanti’s mother and her client? I was reminded of it while thinking about R. Adyashanti is an American spiritual teacher, and in a talk I heard online, he related something his mother had told him about one of her home-health clients. She was working with a lady who was approaching the end of her life, who had such advanced Alzheimer’s that she no longer spoke. The lady suddenly popped up with this statement: “I just want you to know that none of this is really affecting me.” Then the lights went out again and never came back on. You can imagine that the caregiver, as she reported, thought that she must have been hallucinating for a moment. I wish I had more details— I don’t even know the name of Adyashanti’s mom.

Terminal lucidity is well-documented though not well understood. People with dementia also have moments of astonishing clarity. R.’s hospice caregiver reported that R. had at times been with it enough to teach her a few words of French. That’s amazing for a woman who needed explicit step-by-step instructions just to dress herself.

My best understanding comes from Bruce Lipton’s concept that the body and brain are only the receiver, while the mind is a program being broadcast from somewhere else. In dementia, the “TV set” works very poorly, but the program is still going on.

I’d love to see R.’s latest episode.

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I Only Work in Inner Space, Part II

I jotted down the following one evening in Grants, NM, when I was staying over in order to go out to see a patient in a remote location the next day. I didn’t add the date, so I don’t know even what year it was, but it has been quite a while since I worked at that office. I’d estimate that I wrote it around 2010, while thinking about that matter of trying to explore inner space without becoming a “space case.” It came out more or less as advice to people who are starting out as intuitive healers in a world that may not even believe their work exists. I think it’s still worth sharing, so here it is, with some minor editing:

Be open to being wrong. Be open to being right.

Some new intuitives, realizing how often they turn out to be correct, might take off on a power trip of some kind. Especially when frightening or distressing material comes through, it should not be stated as an absolute fact that cannot be avoided. Don’t pretend to have all the answers to anything. And don’t impose your point of view or your system of beliefs on anyone as if it were the ultimate. Don’t judge or act self-righteous.

More often, though, the problem is that we constantly second-guess ourselves and fail to trust valid information when it comes to us. I try to maintain a healthy skepticism about ideas that come into my own head, the same as I would with ideas from any other source, constantly checking any way I can. However, the temptation to edit every thought can stop the flow and make it impossible to accomplish anything.

When I do intuitive healing with patients, I prefer to work in collaboration with the person on my table. So often, I see something that seems totally off the wall and vanishingly unlikely to me, but I screw up my courage and tell the patient about it, and it turns out to be dead on. This gives the patient an opportunity to add her own insights, and we find a path through the jungle together, tossing out ideas and testing them until we find the issues that are most fundamental and clear them. Sometimes the patient is sleeping or otherwise not amenable to joining in on this process, and in that case I can still get a lot done, but it’s all the more powerful when we work together.

My point is that I’m not in the business of proving I can divine all the answers; my job is to aid patients in their journey toward healing, not to impress them with my skills. Not that I never feel a need to prove that I can do what I do, especially with the pseudoskeptic types, but it’s crucial to let go of all such concerns if we want to get clear information.

I feel fortunate that I don’t have to identify myself as a professional psychic. If that were the case, I’d always be expected to come up with revelations of some kind, preferably earth-shattering ones. Sometimes neither I nor the patient can find profound meanings in their illnesses and injuries, and many times there’s no need to. We can just do some needles, bodywork, or herbs, and everything’s fine.

One of the things I admire about my mentor Mendy Lou Blackburn, who does identify herself as a professional psychic, is that she doesn’t tell her clients what they want to hear, unless that’s what they need to hear. It’s pretty easy to figure out what a person is hoping you’ll tell them, even without any great psychic ability. A person could probably make a lot of money just feeding comforting, flattering words to clients, but anyone who’s honest knows that would lead to no good. There is a middle way of using firmness to express hard truths without dictating to, insulting, or unnecessarily frightening the client.

I’ve been writing as if you are doing readings for other people, or planning to do so, but perhaps you intend only to gather intuitive impressions for your own development. We need to be all the more careful in reading or channeling for ourselves because we may be quite blind to our own beliefs and preconceived notions— they are so close we can’t see them clearly.

Be open to greatness.

Betsy Morgan Coffman told our beginning channeling class that we might find ourselves in contact with some very high-level being, Jesus for example, and that often people get upset and refuse to trust that this is happening. “But think about it,” she said. “Why wouldn’t Jesus want to talk to you?”

But what of the Wayne Bents of the world [Bent was an abusive cult leader who was jailed and was much in the news when I originally wrote this], the people who are sure that not only is God talking to them, He is telling them to gather followers who will treat them as His representatives on earth? Bent reported being told that he was the Messiah in so many words, if I remember correctly. I use him as an example because there is general agreement that he’s delusional. That is, he’s been less successful than some, and done more obvious harm, or at least been caught at it. But what’s the essential difference between Bent and, say, Joan of Arc? Perhaps “by their fruits” is still the best way that you will know them.

Some years ago I was part of a Noetic Sciences group that held meetings with inspirational speakers and uplifting activities. Once a young guy showed up and introduced himself, quite matter-of-factly, as the latest incarnation of some great line of spiritual teachers or world leaders, I don’t remember what exactly. This pronouncement was delivered in the same tone as if he’d told us he lived in Bernalillo or had just started college. Totally normal for him. When I looked toward him, I saw a black space in the room where he should have been. He scared the hell out of me, and I hoped he’d never come back. Nobody else had a bad feeling about him— I asked them later. I never saw him again, and I don’t know what fruits, if any, he or his message produced. Every so often I run into someone with claims along the same lines, and am not sure what to think. My own tales of my experiences with famous deceased humans and higher beings may strike someone in a similar way, so I can’t judge. I just know that that particular young man left me feeling extremely uneasy.

You probably will never receive a message that says you’re the Messiah or the incarnation of some other august figure. But never doubt that you are as deserving of enlightenment as anyone.

If, instead, a message you get tears you down, it’s probably coming from you and not Them. Source/Spirit/Higher Powers/the Divine might be applying tough love at times, not letting you get away with laziness or self-deception, but won’t belittle you or discourage your sincere efforts. They typically seem to think better of us than we do of ourselves; They see the reality of the infinite beings we truly are.

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No, I’m From New Mexico. I Only Work in Inner Space.

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve so often thought of this moment in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (yes, the one with the whales):

Dr. Gillian Taylor: Don’t tell me, you’re from outer space.
Admiral Kirk: No, I’m from Iowa. I only work in outer space.

I’m not sure how to clearly describe the space in which I do so much of my own work. It isn’t exactly the “normal” Earth plane, but I don’t think it’s so very far removed, either. Likely it’s a place we all visit at least some of the time.

Staying grounded while working in some of the farther reaches of what one might call inner space can be a challenge. I’ve seen some healer colleagues leave the known galaxy and never return, going so far out that they couldn’t communicate anymore and became of little use to their patients or themselves.

And where do I live when I’m not working? It often feels like I don’t quite inhabit the material world the way I once did. Yet, I make every effort to keep solidly attached to my body and to bring my experience back to consensus reality in a way that’s comprehensible to everyone here. I think of myself as a journalist who goes to exotic lands and brings back the stories.

So from time to time I am criticized for being too intellectual, not letting go of thinking long enough to really fly. I decided some years ago that this is my natural place, to translate, to be a bridge between worlds and worldviews. So far that’s the best I can do. It may limit me as a mystic and psychic, but I won’t get too severely lost this way, and I may have a better chance of telling others where I’ve been.

I only work in inner space. I don’t want to become a space case.
********************************************************************

Back in the Star Trek universe, there have been some striking new developments. At the time of the first episode of Star Trek: Discovery, last fall, I was most displeased, and didn’t see much hope for the new series. There are still a number of aspects of it that don’t work, if you ask me (Spock has an adopted sister we never knew about?  Seriously?), plus a few moments that have been just plain idiotic (everyone has panned Landry’s suicide-by-tardigrade), and I still cannot approve of this latest iteration of the Klingons! But they’ve worked their brow-ridges off on this story, and now I’m behind them all the way. OK, most of the way. All the way when it concerns their willingness to take on Big Questions in the way that Star Trek always has. What are we? Who are we, and how do we know? How do we deal with those who are different from us, and are they really so different at all? And what happens if we fall in love with our worst enemy?

[!SPOILERS FOLLOW!]

It feels like after all these years that I’ve followed Star Trek, it has now caught up to me. In this case, I was there first. The Discovery story arc, thus far, depends on a concept that I think is a lovely metaphor for the way things really are: all life throughout the universe is connected by a web of mycelia generated by a spacefaring species of fungi, and one can access this network and use it to travel anywhere and anywhen instantly. Space fungi? Sounds like something Stanisław Lem would come up with (not so different from his killer space potatoes!). And the animal they imagined as having a natural ability to traverse the network was something utterly ridiculous— a gigantic version of an actual Earth creature, the microscopic tardigrade or water bear (which to be fair has some science-fiction-like properties in real life). But the image of the network is beautiful, compelling, and evocative of the way everything in the universe really is entangled and in communication with everything else.

Although for a while I was still suspicious of the new series, I soon found myself intensely pulled into this “magic mushroom” paradigm of space travel, and I began to identify with its inventor, Paul Stamets (named for the quirky present-day mycologist). It all seemed so familiar. Why was that happening? It took me a little while to remember this:

“So I held the intention of looking at Orion, and I began to have quite a vivid vision.  First, against an image of space with stars, there was a huge burst of white light coming through what looked like a wormhole in a science-fiction movie.  I could see a round tunnel behind it, and on the other side, an equally huge, bright mass of light.  This seemed to describe where Orion was coming from.”

Oh. Kind of like:

 

 

 

 

 

“Then I felt myself flying or being pulled through the hole, and found myself on the other side, in the other universe.  I had only had the intention of looking at all this, but suddenly it was like actually being there, though I was still quite aware of the usual room around me.  I could feel tingling, like little sparks, and warmth all over my body.  As I more or less adjusted to my surroundings, I began to see the sparks as small, twinkling points of light all around me.  Somehow the points of light seemed excited and happy, as if they were glad I was there.  It felt like the entire space was filled with love and joy—and fun, a sense of lightness, as if I had walked into some wonderful celebration.  Mendy was observing all this, and she could see the same little lights and feel the sensation of love.  There was absolutely no seriousness or gravity about any of this.”
https://elenedom.wordpress.com/2010/03/17/orions-net/

(Discovery and her crew do in fact end up in another universe in the middle of the season, but their experience is far darker than mine.)

The spores are depicted as, guess what, little points of light that sometimes act as if they are conscious beings. At the end of one sequence of using the drive, one of the sparks flies with apparent intention onto the shoulder of Cadet Tilly and disappears into her body, leaving us with a mystery to look forward to in the next season. Perhaps we are meant to understand that, rather than being made of physical protoplasm like fungi on Earth, the magic mycelia exist as purely energetic beings in the mold of some other space-native creatures that have cropped up on Star Trek from time to time. That would be a bit easier to swallow, since otherwise one must explain how physical fungi could get sustenance out in the void.

Whatever sort of biology it is supposed to have, the mycelial network contains fascinating possibilities. Within it, one can communicate with others who have entered, even those who exist in alternate universes, and reconnect with the dead. Linear time seems irrelevant. For a while Stamets becomes understandably confused and unstuck in time, unmoored from the usual limited consensus reality and not yet able to find his way through the infinitely complex patterns beyond it. I found myself identifying with that too.

It’s music that allows Stamets to get oriented again, and later to bring the ship home. “Follow the music,” his deceased partner tells him, from within the mycelia. Discovery and her crew are saved by a gay man’s love of opera. Perfectly plausible, right?

As with the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Sub Rosa,” which I wrote about a few months ago, I began to wonder whether someone had seen what I had seen, and had packaged it as science fiction to make it more acceptable. Or maybe these ideas have shown up because there are truths that we all know about subconsciously, and they find their way to the surface when we let ourselves wander freely in search of stories.

Star Trek: Discovery wrapped up its first season tonight, and afterward one of the showrunners, Aaron Harberts, said that something they are really interested in for the next year is “the collision between science and spirituality.” We’ll have a long wait to see what they do with that, but even the fact that they have it in mind feels like light-years of progress to me.

 

The idea that everything is conscious, or “panpsychism”:
https://qz.com/1184574/the-idea-that-everything-from-spoons-to-stones-are-conscious-is-gaining-academic-credibility/

Human hearts are connected to geomagnetic and solar activity:
https://www.chi.is/resource/geomagnetic/?utm_source=CHI+COMMUNITY&utm_campaign=3d22c57494-September-2017-Community&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_a80f47d270-3d22c57494-122790253&mc_cid=3d22c57494&mc_eid=16c170fb9a

Related post: 
https://elenedom.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/vulcan-ancestry/

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25 Years with Fryderyk

As of today or possibly tomorrow, it’s been 25 years since the earth-shattering day when I first found myself in contact with Fryderyk Chopin.  At the time I didn’t realize how important this event was and I didn’t make note of the date.  I know it was a few days before Valentine’s Day.

https://elenedom.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/how-i-met-fryderyk/

While looking for a particular portrait to add to this post, I came across the photo (not painting) at left, which practically caused me to faint.  I would love to know what processes were used to create it.  The hair is a little on the dark side, and maybe the jaw has just a tad too much bone, but overall the likeness is stunning.  It brings Chopin instantly, dramatically, immediately into the present moment, where, for me, he always is.

And I’m going to leave my observance of the day at that.

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