God = Love

God is love. In order to feel close to God, we engage in acts of love. True acts of love require us to forgo superficial desires in order to help others. When we hear someone say “God is love”, we often tend to transform the claiming our minds. We think God is love in the same way a square is a rectangle. Not all rectangles are squares, but all squares are rectangles. In the same way we may think, God is a representation of love or to know God is to know love. My claim “God is love”, uses the word “is” to mean “equal to”, not greater than and not less than. God is ≯  and ≮  love. God =   love. This does not mean God is limited to our understanding of love. God (love) exceeds our understanding.

Merriam Webster defines love as
a (1) : strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties maternal love for a child (2) : attraction based on sexual desire : affection and tenderness felt by lovers After all these years, they are still very much in love. (3) : affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests love for his old schoolmates
b : an assurance of affection give her my love
: warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion love of the sea
a : the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration baseball was his first love
b (1) : a beloved person : darling —often used as a term of endearment (2) British —used as an informal term of address
a : unselfish loyal and benevolent (see benevolent 1a) concern for the good of another: such as (1) : the fatherly concern of God for humankind (2) : brotherly concern for others
b : a person’s adoration of God
: a god (such as Cupid or Eros) or personification of love
: an amorous episode : love affair
: the sexual embrace : copulation
: a score of zero (as in tennis)
capitalized, Christian Science : god

While these varying definitions have a lot to do with our experience of love, I don’t believe they accurately define love. Love is an energy. It gives life to all things on Earth. It lives within us all and is the power to change our world.

Philosophers have often posed that love and fear are in competition for each other, that love cannot exist where fear exists. While these forces would seem to work in opposition, fear may exist as a result of love. If I love you, I may fear for your safety. But this kind of love is short-sighted and narrow in its view. Energy is never created or destroyed. It only changes form. This means the life-force within us all will never die. Many religions have names for this life-force and claim this life-force returns to God once the physical body dies.

Many religions use ideas of Heaven and Hell as ways of controlling the behavior of the people. They say certain behaviors grant a person the right to enter into a world of eternal bliss and other actions condemn a person to a world of eternal suffering. But a loving deity has no need for this kind of system. It seem much more likely a system that promises reward for socially desirable behaviors and condemnation for socially undesirable behaviors is the product of one or many to whom things of this world are important. Karl Marx is quoted as having said “Religion is the opiate of the masses”. My question is who is administering this opiate? Sure religion gives us comfort. But these blind condemnations of others that come with many incarnations only keep us divided. Lately, the man charged with leading our country has worked to increase this division between us. but even before his presidency, our government has played on our fears and inspired us to give up certain freedoms in pursuit of safety.

If we have true love in us, fear is not a force worth recognizing. True love makes these physical bodies vulnerable as it enables us to understand these bodies are not us. Love is means to a better world. But first, we have to let go of the fear.

Bigger Than This

I dreamed we were to be married. I knew such an arrangement presented certain difficulties. I refused to let myself focus on these difficulties. I would finally know what it was to be married. I would devote myself completely to you. Our troubled past was irrelevant at this moment. The Holy man was ready for us. I loved you. I made myself love you. This love was means to finally holding something I had pursued since grade school.

I woke to contemplation and eventual revelation. I would’ve given you my life. But this life is not mine to give. I cannot devote myself to one single love. I must love all. If God is love, acts of love bring me closer to God, and true acts of love require a certain level of sacrifice, I cannot devote my resources to one person or even one family. As long as I’ve wanted that significant other kind of love, that feeling that I am everything to the other, I cannot sacrifice my cause for this. My love has grown so much bigger than this.

Protesting / Race / Congress

What purpose does protesting serve? A few months ago a friend and I drove about 1,300 to North Dakota to stand with the Sioux tribes at Standing Rock in protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline. There was great racial tension. It would seem I was viewed as a member of the privileged elite as a result of the color of my skin. More than that, I was a “white” male. I was excluded from certain meetings as a result of my skin color. And what did we accomplish? Aside from our donation of supplies and our serving as extra hands for a few days, we really did nothing. According to the article found here (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/dakota-access-pipeline-oil-leak_us_5913764be4b021221db9d34b?utm_hp_ref=dakota-access-pipeline), the not yet operational pipeline had already leaked 84 gallons of crude oil as of April 4th this year.

On January 20th of this year, I went to an anti-Trump rally at Auditorium Shores here in Austin. I recall a speaker going through the audience, thanking every socially defined group of people except for mine. He thanked “black” people and homosexual people and women and muslim people… I understand the thought process is that I have been privileged all my life as a result of my skin color and genitalia. I can’t say I wasn’t. I don’t know what it is like on the other side. I don’t know how my life would’ve been different if I were born female, or to parents of African decent, or gay. I do recognize there are people who look like me staying at the shelter where I work. Were these men born with the same privilege? I recognize there are people who look like me working at the convenience store down the street, making what I expect is little more than minimum wage.

Now I hear that voice in my head that says these men likely make more than their counterparts who belong to these socially defined groups. I don’t have all the answers. But I know I’m not the enemy. And I think, maybe the answer is just to let go of these socially defined labels. I recently watched a video regarding racism. The speaker said it is important to recognize these differences as significant because our “race” is great tool in helping to define ourselves. Why? Why does it matter what color my skin is? In this video, a young male of African decent said he was proud to be “black”. Why? Why should we be proud of something over which we have no control? I’m not proud to be “white”. I don’t feel I am white. My skin color is not #ffffff. I’m not proud to be heterosexual or male. It would seem irrational to be proud of these things.

But what’s worse, these socially defined labels work to divide us. Ask a first-grade child “What is the opposite of white?”. I’ll give you 10 to 1 odds he or she says “black”. We let these labels define us. But we are not opposite each other. We are more alike than we are different. We can continue to divide ourselves, adhering to this great distraction, or we can wake up. Only when we free ourselves of these labels will we have the power to define the real threats to our well-beings.

So what good does protesting do? It makes us feel heard and little more. The decision-makers are not going to be swayed by my taking to the streets. They don’t care what I think. And they especially do not care for the opinions of those who defy the law in order to be heard. In the past, protestors have resorted to violence in order to be heard. These efforts may have brought a spotlight to their causes. But, generally, violence in such a situation hurts members of the community and does little to influence the decision-makers. We could always write our congressmen and congresswomen. We can use the promise a continued career in the congress or politics in general as means to having our voices heard. If they want to remain in their positions, they have to do what we ask of them. In order to influence Congress, we need to educate ourselves. Research what they will be voting on (https://www.countable.us/articles/495-s-congress-voting-week-15-2017) and write your representative: (http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/). Still, the most effective way to make significant change in our world would seem to be just to wake up. Stop seeing each other as enemies and start working together to make a better world.

Skin Color and Crime

In statistics, the term “correlation” may be defined as “the degree to which two or more attributes or measurements on the same group of elements show a tendency to vary together” (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/correlation). This is distinctly different from “causation” – “the action of causing or producing” (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/causation?s=t). Often in the case of correlation, there is a third factor responsible for the correlated variation in data. According to Dummies.com, there is a positive correlation between the consumption of ice cream and the number of murders in New York (http://www.dummies.com/education/math/statistics/how-statistical-correlation-and-causation-are-different/). If we see correlation and causation as the same, we may conclude eating ice-cream inspires homicidal tendencies. From a perspective of logic, however, we can clearly see the two are not casually related. More likely is that there is a third variable causing an increase in both murder and the consumption of ice cream. as the article at Dummies.com suggests, hot weather is also positively correlated with murders and ice cream consumption. It seems more likely this hot weather may be responsible for the first two variables.

Months ago, our president posted a graphic of statistics regarding skin color and murder. Specifically, it addressed this relationship when it comes to “blacks”, “whites”, and police. It has been said that this graphic displayed highly inaccurate statistics and was created by someone with strong racial biases. In spite the inaccuracy of this ever famous graphic, the real statistics still show a correlation between darker skin color and killings:

Without the understanding of the difference in correlation and causation, one may conclude a person’s skin color determines his or her tendency to engage in the killing of another human. But, understanding the relation of correlation and causation, we may begin to look for a logical cause for the relation. As a result of systematic racism, people with darker skin have often not been granted the same opportunities as individuals with lighter skin. This has meant many people with darker skin have had to live in lower-income neighborhoods. According to “theatlantic.com”, “An exclusive analysis uncovers that students of color in the largest 100 cities in the United States are much more likely to attend schools where most of their peers are poor or low-income.” (https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/02/concentration-poverty-american-schools/471414/).

If we look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, we can see how, theoretically, one may seek out food, shelter, and security, before he or she concerns his or herself with esteem needs or self-actualization. When we look at the correlation between socially defined “race” and income, we may see a clear pattern:

And what kind of social order may form out of a group of people’s struggle to survive? With few options for income growth, many young people in these neighborhoods turn to illicit methods. This is why crime rates would tend to be higher in low-income neighborhoods:

And with a criminal record, legitimate work may become increasingly difficult to find. This perpetuates a pattern of illegal activity. Lower income families are less likely to send their children to college. This means children of lower income families are more likely to earn less when they reach adulthood than children of higher income families.

Conclusion: One’s continent of familial origin is not the cause for his or her tendency to engage in socially undesirable behavior. Rather, in our current society, one’s skin color may affect his or her ability to earn a sustainable wage in order to meet his or her basic needs. This inability to earn enough to meet one’s needs creates a tendency to engage in socially undesirable behavior. But the correlation is not the same as the cause. It is social biases that still exist in our society and a self-perpetuating chain of lower income that is responsible for the current correlation in skin color and crime.

The Church of Scientology on Guadalupe: An Exercise in Improv

Today a friend and I found ourselves walking on Guadalupe, looking for entertainment. When we neared the Church of Scientology, we decided we’d go in in pursuit of this entertainment. My friend made jokes as we entered, but my idea of the entertainment I hoped to find here required me to present a certain level of sincerity. It wasn’t my goal to mock these people for their beliefs. I certainly did not want to offend them. So I kept a rather serious demeanor about me. I filled out the “Personality Test”, answering the questions in a way I thought would make me seem fairly vulnerable to anyone’s efforts to try to sway my perspective of the world. When we had finished, a man took my friend aside to review his results. I wandered around the lobby slouching with a frown on my face. Then another man came to collect me. I sat slouched, near him on a couch and made little eye contact as he reviewed my results. The man told me I had mental health issues and was not a good communicator. He asked what I was doing with my life. I told him I lived at the shelter and was looking for work. He asked how long I’d been living in the shelter and I said “A few months. Well…” then with some surprise in my voice “April! So… a year”. He asked what it was in my past that caused me to be in such a bad place now. I drew from personal experience, blaming my dad’s apparent disappointment in me. I began to tear up. I told him that I was living with my girlfriend before. He asked what I did for work before that and I again drew from personal experience, “I was selling insurance for little while”. He said, “Oh yeah, I did that for a while”. “I worked at Burger King before that”. “Did you graduate high school?”, he asked. “No. Well, I got my GED”, I said. He asked me to review personal history for a happy experience, I pulled from generic memories of childhood – Christmas. “And what colors do you see?” “Red and orange.” I covered my mouth with my left hand. He asked me to review this experience further. I talked about my family and gave a reluctant smile. The man then used this smile to try to sell me a book. He said there was a book on the shelf in the lobby that could change my life and help me to feel happy, as I had felt for that second moments before. I had done well. The man believed I was vulnerable and depressed. He said, “I’m not allowed to just give books away, but, if you can come up with $25 to buy the book…” He also recommended I watch a video there in the lobby. I told him I didn’t want to keep my friend, but that I could ask. As I approached my friend, he was already heading for the door. I followed him out the door without saying a word, as I thought the character I’d been playing this whole time would’ve. Moments later, my friend and I were laughing, reviewing our experience. It felt good to laugh. It felt good to be me again.

Damn Right

I am invincible. I know such a claim sounds like that of a child or at least a mentally ill adult. While I can’t, with absolute certainty, deny that I am either, I can illustrate how such a claim may just be inherently rational. When we purchase a loaf of bread from the grocery store, is our intent to buy the bread or the bag in which the bread comes? What about a box of cereal? Then why is it that our physical bodies would seem to define us? What we are is not these containers. These aesthetically pleasing formations of atoms are only our vessels. What we are is the energy inside. Without this energy, this electricity inside our bodies, we would cease to be. Whether it is to be called a soul or simply adenosine triphosphate, this energy is everything to us. Our memories, our personalities, are products of this energy’s shaping of our brains. And we become so attached to these synapses, so attached to these avatars, that we come to believe they are us. But these bodies are not us. What is “us” is eternal; it never dies, but only changes form. The law of conservation of energy states that energy is never created or destroyed. While this body will inevitably wither and the memories and character traits I’ve formed throughout my life will cease to exist without the brain, what I am, what we are, will not die. It can’t. When these bodies cease to be, we will have nothing holding us in place, nothing confining us to this notion that we are divided, naturally apart. The “self” is an illusion; it is a product of this skin. But we are bigger than any one race. We are everything that creates life and makes life possible. We are everything we find beautiful about our world. We are all parts of this greater thing we may choose to call “God”. And damn right, we are invincible.

We Bounce

Wake up. We can’t do it without you
The world couldn’t start without that heart

And this whole game just wouldn’t be the same

You know that tonight we let out the light

And we won’t go back to sleep

Wake up. We can’t do it without you.
The entire hive sings. You are the bees wings.

The electric queen feeds us honey beans

The kings are insane to live their lives of pain

The honey is just so sweet

Wake up. We can’t do it without you.
It’s fine you don’t know about your natural glow

It keeps you up at night, thinking something’s not right

Perfectly you is the best you could do.
Now rise up and take what is ours

Wake up. We can’t do it without you.
Eyes to the sky, the sons of pi

The daughters of mercury,. This is her city

The light is alive. It pumps through the hive

So much bigger now than your scars

A broken wrist and a shattered ego
An esteemed self never mattered much to me, though.
Super powers of empathy grow
To the inner kid named “Id”, we sternly say “No!”
A life for the self we proudly denounce
Now we don’t fall down. We bounce.

Lunch with the extended family

Lunch with the extended family. At the end of the meal comes the check. And everyone has a different thought about how the check should be split. Aunt Sophie suggests we each pay an even amount. Uncle Ralph objects. He thinks we should each pay for just what we ordered. Cousin Libby seconds this. Cousin Demi suggests that we each help pay for the kids. Uncle Ralph objects, “The aren’t my kids. I didn’t have the fun of making them. Why should I pay for them?” I offer to pay for everyone’s meals. But Ralph, Sophie, and Libby object. It is not my responsibility to pay for everyone’s meals. I offer to pay for the kids’ meals and let each adult pay for his or her own. Uncle Ralph objects, “You didn’t have the fun of making them either. They aren’t your responsibility.” Cousin Demi interjects, “But you make more than Sophie and me combined, Ralph.” Uncle Ralph retorts, “It was my choice to go to school instead of having kids.” I speak up again, “Really, I don’t mind.” The table erupts into screaming and I take the kids outside to play.

How to achieve happiness:

For some of us, happiness is a choice. With every misfortune, we can choose between feeling victimized or recognizing the misfortune as a part of this wonderful experience we call “life”. For these people, happiness, contentment with one’s reality, is just the product of a shift in perspective.

For many of us, the change is not that simple. There are physical factors that may inhibit one’s ability to so easily achieve happiness. As our emotional states tend to be directly affected by our physical health, achieving happiness may require a modification to one’s way of living. We get out of our bodies what we put into them. Eat healthy and exercise. Exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins can produce a sense of euphoria. Physical pain may make happiness more difficult. But meditation has worked for me as a way of relieving significant physical pain. Also, endorphins work as a natural pain killer. Some of us have significant chemical imbalances in our brains. Again, we get out of our bodies what we put into them. Eating the right foods can increase serotonin levels in a person’s brain.

Once these physical factors are no longer an issue, happiness is a simple choice. Often, it’s an inevitability. There is nothing on this planet that has the power to “make” us feel any emotion. Things of this world may only inspire us to feel a certain way. But when we claim our emotional responses to happenings in the world, we gain control. When we recognize our responsibility to take care of ourselves, emotion can no longer victimize us. We then take on the responsibility of creating our own happiness. You are beautiful and deserve to be happy. Everyone is and does. Every pain and every pleasure is relative. We can feel victimized, as though we are leaves floating on the breeze, or we can take control, we can do something about our pain.