2 January 2017

Is He My President, Too? The Status Of Being Human. Thoughts on 2017.

Is He My President, Too?

Like many people, I am figuring out how to be in the New Year, in what seems to be a new political reality for my country. I have always taken my country for granted, Americans have the luxury of doing that, and now it is not something I can take for granted, but something I have to think about, talk about.

I am not a hater of Donald Trump, I respect the idea of the open mind, so many people see many good things in him, and I am eager to see if I can see them too. I don't believe that people are inherently stupid, or inherently blind. If anyone was blind, it was me, and so many people l like me.

But my eyes are open now, and I can't say I am at peace with what I see and hear. If I ask myself any question now about the new President, it is this: Is he my President, too? He doesn't seem to be speaking to me or thinking of me, at least not yet, and I have this idea that the President is the President of everybody, that is such an important message to go out, and if it doesn't go out, people get frightened and anxious.

This is, of course, what it feels like to be left behind, or to feel left behind.

My question now for me is what precisely is my responsibility in a society that seems to be a totalitarian society, if not a totalitarian government. The new politics, the victorious politics seem monolithic to me. All public and political institutions now in power, all public manifestations, governmental, institutional, civic, are coordinated. There is no office or job of public significance, from Congress to the executive to the judiciary, in which an unequivocal acceptance of certain ruling principles is not demanded, often aggressively.

Dissent is either unheard of or prohibited or punished in the new politics, facts have lost their primacy and meaning. They are simply ignored or re-cast as fits. Whoever participates in public life at all, regardless of party membership or membership in the new elite formations of the new regime, is now implicated in one way or another in the decisions and actions of the regime as a whole.

My responsibility is not to oppose Donald Trump, or the people who supported  him.
He won the election and speaks to and for much of the country, long ignored and left behind.

In a democracy, they deserve to be heard, and he deserves a chance to hear them and respond to them. But the people who did not support the winner also deserve to be heard, they are also entitled to not be left behind. That is the task of a leader in a democratic culture, one that is not monolithic or totalitarian.

The unease I feel is that he seems so far to only speak to them, and not to me. If so, history will repeat itself and create a vast new class of angry victims. It will create whole new populations and cultures of people soon to be left behind and feel excluded, the next culture of permanent disenchantment. I wish he would speak to me, just once, or at least acknowledge that he knows of me and how others like me feel.

Or surround himself with one person who does.

As a former journalist, I know that journalists are a society of skeptics, and revolutions are littered with the corpses of skeptics, there is usually only one punishment for  heresy. We are not really supposed to be liked, and have never been liked. The media are a moral mess, and facts have been horrifically devalued. So what am I  responsible for, besides putting up pretty photos of interesting animals?

I'm not looking to take sides, but to find my moral space. And stand up in it, rather than argue and agonize about it.

The moral philosopher Hannah Arendt writes eloquently about the moral responsibility of citizens in a monolithic culture. It takes a certain moral quality, she wrote, to even recognize powerless and injustice, the good will and good faith to face realities and not live in illusions and lies. Even under desperate conditions, should they come to pass, the admission of our own impotence and frustration is a last remnant of real strength.

Power can still be preserved, even under desperate conditions.

What are my responsibilities in the coming years? Is he my President, too? Will he and I come to respect one another?

One thing I know is that my job is not to hate and argue, but to think.

To wait with an open mind and heart. No one can predict the future, I am eager to be reassured and pleasantly surprised.  My wish for those left behind, is for them to be found.  I will be inspired and happy of people find good work and hope again. I do not hate those with whom I disagree, that is not something I will ever permit anyone to do to me.

When I think of moral responsibility, I think of the future.

I think the question I will face, from my granddaughter, my daughter, my wife, from myself over time,  from my Gods, is not "why did you obey?,"  rather "what did you support?"  My answer to that question is my moral responsibility, I think. If I ever do run into St. Peter at the gate (not too likely, I suppose) I want to be ready.

In moral matters, there is no such thing as obedience or disobedience. We look inside of ourselves to see right from wrong.

It is not about the left or the right, not a question of obedience and subservience. It is rather a question of thoughtfulness, and the thread of compassion. Thoughtfulness, not politics,  is my faith and passion. That is the only label I hope to accept, the only moral way for me.

The challenge for me is not to argue and hate but to think this time through carefully, to retain a measure of self-confidence and even pride. The idea, wrote Arendt, is to retain what in other times we called the dignity and honor of man, not of mankind.

To cherish and preserve the status of being human. Some may argue about that, but I know what it means to me, and I imagine you know what it means to you.

I think I am finding my responsibility in that. I hope my president will be my president, too.

Posted in General

What Is Friendship?

Friendship

I believe one is fortunate to find one good friend in life, and even more fortunate to keep him (or her.)

For much of my life, I've struggled with the idea of friendship. When I was a child, I had no friends, and in my adult life I mostly fled from friendship, abandoned it or avoided it. I have some friends now, more than before, more than ever, and have begun to clarify my idea of what a friend  really is.

I hear a lot about friendship, but very few people can describe what it really is.

For me, friendship has nothing to do with Facebook or the world of social media.  It doesn't come with a click on a computer keyboard. I have become close to many people online and off, but real friendship to me is real and material, not temporal or imagined.

Friends are people I have seen, talked to and met. Friendship is a relationship of mutual affection that is stronger than an association. I've learned some hard lessons about friendship.

For some years, I believed I had made close friends on an online association of creative people who became nearly obsessed with rescuing one another and who professed great affection for me. Not surprisingly, the group broke up abruptly and I found the people I thought were friends were not, the ties were thinner than filaments in a light bulb, they simply snapped  pressure.

I think that's how you know when you have a real friend, the ties do not snap like that.

Friends, even busy ones, are there when you need them to be there, they do not need to be asked or told. You know them, they know you. Friendships are affirming, nourishing. When you think of a real friend, it feels good. If it doesn't feel good, it most likely isn't.

Friends do not rescue me, they hold my hand while I rescue myself. Friends give me nothing but their trust and encouragement. They tell me the truth and they hear the truth from me. Friends find time for me, no matter what their lives are like, and I find time for them.

Friends respect one another, they do not seek drama but reliability. They can simply be counted on. People say families are the people who must take you in, but I don't believe this is true. I think this is what friends do. Friends join together in a powerful sacrament – we support the lives and hopes of one another, we do not ever take those things unto ourselves, or take them over.

Friends help us make sense of the world, they lift us up. They encourage us and help us to fight for our dreams.

Friendship is about acceptance as well as trust. I do not seek to change my friends. Friendship requires active listening, the ability to be still and hear. It is not my job to save them or take their troubles away, only they can do that.

Friendship takes time. People who have no time for me are not my friends, they might be associations or acquaintances, but friends tell each other they have no time. Friends don't talk about being there. They are there.

Friendship is precious and fragile, life is short. If friendship is not important, it is not real. Friendship is not about worrying, it is about knowing. If a friendship is born out of drama, it will flicker and fade, like an old candle someone forgot to blow out. Friendship is individual, personal. Friendship is important.

I doubt I will ever have many friends, that is no longer my nature, if it ever was. In the new year, I hope to keep working to understand what it means.

Posted in General

Video: The New Ogg Winter Scarves (Three Only, From Maria)

At 3 a.m., Monday morning, Maria sat up in bed and said "I had a dream about scarves." A Boise, Idaho quilter named Kenna Ogg had sent her some fabric scraps and squares, and Maria got this idea for a warm and beautiful winter scarf made in a different way than she had ever made her art before.

I was invited this afternoon to come to her Studio Barn and make a video – one in our new and very successful You Tube sales series. You can see the scarves and hear Maria describe them and show them.

She is only making three, they cost $60 plus shipping and will go on sale this afternoon. You can see them on her blog here. You can order one by e-mailing her at [email protected] This is exciting for me to see.

That's how dreams come true.

Posted in General

Red and Maria: Fiber Chair

Red And Maria

Red often visits Maria when she is working on her second Fiber Chair. These two are very close, they have a beautiful relationship.

Posted in General

Minnie

Minnie

Sunday, I was at Ed and Carol Gulley's farm and took some photos of their old farm dog Minnie, as she was sitting by Ed's side and getting her head stroked, which I imagine has happened countless times over the years. Her look was timeless.

Posted in General