Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Me? Beautiful?

I find myself very beautiful. I'm happy to find my own face pleasing in the reflection  But I'm always surprised when other people find me beautiful, because I don't expect them to see what I see. I expect them to use the measuring stick that society has provided: long hair (preferably blond), symmetrical features, perfect nose, perfect teeth, pouty mouth, big breasts, small waist, smooth limbs, perfect posture, graceful movement, and many other ideals that I have never seen reflected from my mirror. I'm quite aware that I fall short in every category, that I am not the definition that a random man means when he pictures a "beautiful woman." So I've never considered myself as a beautiful woman, though I, myself, have always taken pleasure in my beauty.  I rarely wear makeup, and never much. I like how I look. I always smile when I meet my own eyes.

When someone else finds me beautiful, I am taken aback, as though they've caught me naked. They've seen me, when I didn't mean to be seen. They've recognized my beauty when I thought the cloaks and filters of social expectation had me shielded. I fear my beauty being recognized.

Humans have a strange relationship with beauty. They crave to set eyes on it, to feel it through senses, as a key component of happiness. Somehow, people start to feel owed the beauty around them as a way of filling other gaping holes, and that includes beautiful women. If I am a beautiful woman, people will want something from me that they otherwise would leave alone, if they found me plain. They will expect me to be ways that I am not, to comply with behaviour that I don't like, to play out the role they envision for me. All that expectation will clang loudly in my ears, drowning out my own voice, and I will become something ugly inside. That is my spin-story of what it means if I am a beautiful woman. That is the root of fear that gets triggered when someone notices what I know, and realizes I am beautiful.

I duck away shyly. I can barely meet their gaze. It's like they've found out my secret and I'm not sure I trust them to keep it.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The test is built to be failed

getting tested past the edges is the only way to know where they are.

it's good it's bad it's up it's down
it's connected
it's repulsed
it's coming through for each other and letting each other down and blaming
ourselves and blaming each other always knowing
neither is fair
neither is true.
It's hating
what's happening but loving
each other
and needing to leave
but having to stay
until pressure breaks the seams
and I run home to lick my wounds
until tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Betrayal of Trust

It is not really possible for someone to betray my trust. What do I mean by that? That I don't trust anyone? Sort of, but the opposite.

I trust everyone to be exactly what they are. You can trust anyone to be what they are - in that sense, everyone is trustworthy. The trick is in knowing what they are.

And so, when someone "betrays your trust" what has really happened is that they have revealed something of who they are that you didn't know before. They have challenged what you thought you knew of them. They were never responsible to be the person you thought they were. They were never responsible for the trust you placed in them that they would be different than what they are, would be what you hoped they were. That was always your responsibility.

That was always MY responsibility.

And so, my responsibility becomes knowing people better, learning who they are, so that I know how I can trust them to be, to act, in situations in which we are likely to find ourselves together. In this way, I grow my trust, but it is not trust in the other person, it is trust in my own judgment of what I can reasonably expect from them. I have always trusted them to be exactly what they are - now, I need to trust myself that I know them well enough to guess right, and entwine with them, count on them, appropriately. 

Knowing that, in any case, most of what I see is simply reflection.

And that will do, for now.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

OOPArts and Creative Disruption

Lately the topic of "OOPArts" or "Out of Place Artifacts" has been popping up. 

I liked the name, so silly, like they are an OOPS, a mistake of the Universe, a mistake of our understanding. OOPArts are artifacts that challenge the general assumptions that human Science uses to understand the timelines of Earth's History from origin until now. Items found that are older than they should be for the workmanship or materials used. Fossilized remains and tools that pop out of coal, putting a lie to everything around which we build museums and elementary curriculum. 

Fact plus Art equals an Artifact.

A great deal of effort goes into proving OOPArts hoaxes, or apparently hiding them. Others extol their existence as proof of a larger belief system. Still others highlight them as the underbelly of widespread conspiracy in the scientific community. It's almost impossible to know for sure whether these OOPArts are real, have been dated properly, or even exist. Some have been proven hoaxes while others have not; some proofs have been debunked to leave more questions. 

I find this all strangely comforting. Disruption ensures survival by stirring up entropy :)  If everything we know about our origins doesn't allow for new evidence, then many closed questions require re-opening. Scientists should be very excited about that. Science isn't about closing questions forever proven, amen. Science is about evolving understanding through open inquiry. If OOPArts keep popping up, I can feel assured that some scientists will be forced to open the questions they raise, even against their conventions, and keep us moving forward. It's like a check and balance in the system.

OOPArts appear in our lives, too.  Artifacts show up in our lives out of sequence, out of our understanding of our own timelines, who we are, what we are meant to be doing. When 99% of what we encounter supports the consensus view of reality and the quasi-droned approach of day-to-day, it's easy to forget that maybe, just maybe, there are other ways of being. But over and over, these anomalies pop up, like niggling doubts, to make us question the very foundation of our science of life. 

Memories we can't place. Deja vu that doesn't jibe with our personal stories of what happened when. Someone else's memory that shakes our belief in what we know about our past. A photograph that proves a memory wrong. The reappearance of a lost object where it couldn't be. The lyrics of a song or the power of a tv show not matching our memory. Pathetic fallacies. We chalk all this up to our imperfection of memory or understanding. We assume we've "dated it wrong" and drop it. It's a hoax we're playing on ourselves. 

Maybe so. And, at the same time, these OOPArts in our own lives offer a chance to open questions we may not realize we ever closed. They are triggers we can choose to pull, to open ourselves more fully to the possibilities of this impossible life on this impossible world in this virtual reality of life. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Expectation to Aspiration

Summit Achieved
I've always had pretty high expectations, which means I'm easily disappointed, and sometimes, easily discouraged when it seems that the realistic solution falls short of what I expect. It's not a helpful pattern. The output is disappointment, and the follow-on processes can be destructive to happiness.

I realize that expectations are the root of suffering, and yet, for me, for a long time, they were the sun that beckoned seeds to grow from soil. Meeting and exceeding expectations felt rewarding, providing feelings of worth and accomplishment, pride in measuring up well to standards. I guess it's easy to mistake those feelings for happiness. It's easy to spend so much of one's mindshare on expectations that deeper forms of happiness, like relationships, body-care, and pursuit of purpose, grow shallow roots.

My work is from Expectation to Aspiration. I'm about a dozen years in, and still so far from my Aspirations that I tend to disparage myself, forget how far I've come. Or maybe, I feel embarrassed at how far I've come, and what that means about where I was if this is where I am. You see, still I turn my aspirations into expectations, so they grown thorns instead of flowers.

What is the difference between expectation and aspiration, then? Expectation implies failure if not met in full as defined. Aspiration implies work, experiments, and time to accomplish, allowing some fluidity in definition. A subtle but profound shift of the lens I use to see the world, to judge what's happening, to choose my actions.

Where Expectation demands to be met and judges failure, Aspiration floats above, forgiving us for not meeting her impossible desires while constantly beckoning towards them. Aspiration lets Now be perfect in its imperfection. Aspiration allows What Is to be a starting point, rather than an intolerable state to be corrected. To me, this feels more hopeful, less demanding; more inspiring, less driving. I like to feel hopeful and inspired better than demanded-on and driven. Less adrenaline. More calm curiosity. I choose this way to live. But where does that leave me for earning in the expectation-driven world?

I aspire to shine my light brightly enough that the people who need it, see it. Now, I look for ways to meet and exceed expectations that people are willing to pay for, as a natural consequence of pursuing this aspiration in particular directions. It's a careful balancing act, and I'm fairly clumsy. Also, my imagination has PTSD.

It's not an easy path. Expectations were clearer, especially when other people set them for me, and the rewards were more immediate. The consensus view of reality might say I was happier then. But my view of reality has a whole different understanding of happiness, not as a feeling but a state, and isn't that really the ultimate Aspiration? Happiness as a state?

Focus work this week: detach from expectations about how things should be, by watching for instances where my expectations are causing me suffering

1. notice suffering and remember that it's caused by expectation
2. assess the priority of the expectation in the context of an aspiration
3. remember that everything is exactly as it must be for anything to exist (and that even if that's not true, it doesn't really matter, because reality just IS)
4. decide to allow "what is" to be fine
5. Calmly take action that supports my aspiration

Remember that Aspiration is another word for Breathe. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Anti-Hate to Pro-Love

Humans are sensitive machines.

When Power decided to enable commerce through the sale and enslavement of people, the Slaver Race needed to develop a narrative that let them reconcile their natural horror and revulsion with the reality in which they participated. They needed to not believe in the consciousness and pain of the enslaved. They needed to see them as lesser, incapable of true enlightened thought, insensitive to their treatment, in order to stifle the natural impediment of empathy. A reprogramming of brains over generations.

But just believing in the inferiority of the enslaved was not enough. To participate in a system so cruel, people who benefited from slavery didn't just need to cognitively believe that the enslaved were less human, less conscious, less sensitive - they also needed to hate them, to see them as deserving their treatment. Otherwise, the emotional dissonance between decency and slavery would feel unbearable. They needed to stifle, dampen, and if possible, eradicate the empathy that caused them pain and doubt. They needed to believe they were right, and even more, to feel that they were right. It was a primal need, the needs of id, ego and superego colliding, synapses formed and reinforced, primal need for social acceptance engaged and imposed; nurtured bigotry becoming nature, passing in the evolutionary data that defines the starting place for any human being born. Many people born pre-programmed with a tendency to smother empathy, to inhabit a mindset of superiority.

It's not just attitude, it's not a decision to be a hateful person. Racism is bred in the blood, bones and brains through generations of severe and extreme programming that dampened the human responses that might have made slavery impossible.

Reclaiming empathy, reclaiming understanding of the glory and importance in every life, relearning how to see and categorize the world of 7 billion people - it's not just something people can individually decide to do, or not. It's something that must rise among us, between us, within us, called by us, welcomed in us, expressed and shared for all of us, over time. For some, this feels like freedom, like joy. For others, it can be incredibly painful to re-see and re-interpret everything we've ever unconsciously accepted. It can feel like judgment, like tearing down, like violence. No wonder so many people reject any idea that makes them this uncomfortable. Their egos protect them with anger, hurt, outrage, smugness, and a host of other mechanisms that all of us accidentally use to keep us safe from noticing what might hurt to notice.

All of this to say: turning hatred on hate is like putting gasoline in your fire hose.

A person living with an ideology of active racism is like a person with any emotional-cognitive approach that doesn't match the desired consensus view of equality. Where they are coming from feels unacceptable to us, but how they got there isn't just a choice they made, it's the culmination of many factors, manifesting through individuals. Finding our own empathy is a challenge in the face of hatred, but it's our test first, before we can begin to shift anyone else.

Instead of anti-hate, we can focus on pro-love, and face what that means, to love an "enemy."

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Rah! Rah! Basic Income!

Our country is a team. We win if we create the highest quality of life for everyone - best place to live in the world. That is the goal. The highest quality of life for the 10% at the top earnings in the population, and also the bottom 10% and the middle 80% where most of us find ourselves. Canada wins when our quality of life is one that provides stability and promotes health, belonging and a sense of purpose in society for everyone.

As a prerequisite, our team should focus on a quality of life that keeps stress reduced, given the increasingly compelling evidence that stress causes the vast majority of our health and social ills, which keep us from winning. A quality of life that encourages each person to contribute to this team because they feel like they have the time and capacity to do so, that doing so is important, and that they want to be a part of making it happen. One where, even if people choose not to participate, they have enough income to maintain physical and emotional stability that reduces their likelihood to commit crimes or be obnoxious.

We are well positioned to win the game of creating systems that allow for a high bar at the lowest levels by encouraging, not stifling, innovation, growth, and reducing our dependence on non-renewable resources. But we seem to have lost sight of the goal. Too many people with money and power have decided they are on a different team than the rest of us. They are on an elite team that controls, one that crosses boundaries of geography and hinges absolutely on levels of power. They control both resources and policies around the world, not on our behalf, but on behalf of winning a different game altogether - one where they compete with each other for control over resources, information and power. The new Generals, sitting in their war rooms, plotting our uses for small movements on their proprietary maps . 

If we were on the same team, no one would be quibbling about whether someone deserves healthcare, justice, food, safe shelter, clean water, social participation, education, sanitation, privacy, security, an ipad, or joy. If we were on the same team, we would use the team's resources to make sure everyone gets a slice of pizza after the game, that everyone has the uniform and has eaten enough to be productive. It's not good for any of us if one kid is stumbling around, hungry, tired and stressed instead of playing her position. It's not good for any of us when people are so overcome by worry, stress and demands to the point that they don't do a good job raising their kids, they don't volunteer or support neighbourhoods, they don't do a very good job at work, they don't bring their creativity to the modern age, and they don't help us WIN! Setting the minimum means every player can play. 

If we're all on the same team, the minimum anyone should ever have to live with is stability, dignity and a chance for participation. That minimum has been well defined by the UN and institutions like the Canadian Index of Wellbeing. 

If we set the minimum at a level that allows full participation, it might seem to cost a lot of money. But with an idea like a Basic Income as a minimum monthly cashflow for every citizen, it's not just a cost but an investment that spurs spending and encourages people to try harder, get on the team, live well instead of struggling to get by. The savings in bureaucracy, health care and justice will more than offset the costs. We can also think of it as a shareholder dividend, collected as we pass GO every month, to keep us able to play the game. We all get better because we are only as good as the weakest player on the field. Building bench strength, if you will. If not for the current batch of lazy bums, at least for their kids, right? Maybe the next genius you exploit will only emerge because the Basic Income let them experiment and innovate instead of working at Walmart. 

We are the only place in the world with this level of peace and this level of diversity existing together. People with money, people with power, I ask you, please get on the team. We have a chance to make things better, and you'll enjoy living here more if people are less stressed. We don't need all these people working long-term, so we can't rely on jobs to feed and house the population. We need to do it through our social systems, by sharing the value creation between private and public interests. If you don't want to pay more taxes, pressure government for a Basic Income instead of the wasteful, tiered, punitive systems in place. It creates a contingent workforce for you, removing your responsibility to keep people fed and housed while making them more likely to be job-ready with good attitudes when you do need them. It's the capitalist solution to the problem that people are not machines. Governments owe you a well-educated, well-raised, healthy and happy pool of workers to choose from - you pay your taxes! You still need to feed the animals in the zoo even when you don't need them to perform to play your games. Otherwise, everything goes to hell, and you have to live here, too.

It's time for us to decide to be one team, Canada, to show the world what's possible when we pay attention to the quality of life of every citizen. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

A Pragmatist's Support for Basic Income in Canada

No bleeding heart!

I'm no bleeding heart. I cultivate compassion, so people might mistake me for a softy, but my heart is highly pragmatic in nature. I don't want to give people something for nothing, I don't support policies that discourage active participation in the social and economic systems. I believe that the right of life in a human body means we owe our best to making the situation here as good as it can be, across the board. I believe that another person's reality is of equal value to mine, even if I can't understand or even fully accept it. My goal is simple: peaceful coexistence on Earth. (Impossible! the conditioned minds shout, and I think yes, because people say so, the grandest simplification of essential truth.)

It's all about peaceful co-existence

When I say that a Basic Income is the way to go, I am not trying to give people something for nothing, and I am not advocating for something likely to make people lazy and stupid. On the contrary, I am advocating for policy that encourages and supports everyone to actively participate in the social and economic systems for the good of all our peaceful co-existence, which includes the good of the market economy. That's what I'm trying to achieve.

I've looked at other measures - for example, Minimum Wage increases, and Living Wages. In both cases, the assumption is that every adult human is physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually capable of working for 40 hours a week, free to do so, and that someone wants to pay them for what they can do. Clearly this assumption does not reflect the lived experience of possibly a majority of Canadians, but certainly a huge representation of people across cultures and backgrounds. People who have dependents, disabled relatives, elderly parents, young children, babies - basically, people living the common and expected life cycle of all people in our society - often cannot rely on themselves to work full time. People get sick, they say a third of us will get cancer - people can't work all the time. We also know that employers shed jobs as quickly as automation becomes cheaper than humans, so even if we don't implement any Living or Minimum wage, jobs will disappear and not be replaced at the mid and lower educational tiers.

Living wage is fair but won't tackle poverty

I still believe a Living Wage as the Minimum Wage represents the actual cost of the resources (human time and effort) and should therefore be set according to the cost for a life that includes meaningful participation in society, in a fair market economy. In that way, the profiteers pay what it costs to maintain their resource, and keep people from otherwise draining the social pools. But, a Living Wage will not tackle poverty. It will just make it feel a little less bad for some people.

The current systems are inefficient and expensive

What about the current system of Disability, Ontario Works (in Ontario) and Employment Insurance? Just thinking about those three sets of bureaucracies makes the Capitalist in me seethe. All to control the behaviour of people who, left to their own devices in a job-shedding economy, would likely contribute more by staying home and taking care of their loved ones and neighbourhoods than by working for some employer and having their government handouts clawed back, or stressing about it. We shame people who are actively looking for jobs and haven't managed to convince anyone to pay them for what they're good at. It's wasteful, counter-productive and stupidly expensive. I won't even talk about the current state as a viable option.

A Basic Income deletes all that. The health benefits, supports and training aspects remain in place, but all the wasteful tracking, determining validity, checking-up and forcing behaviour, all that just disappears. It's been shown time and again that when people have a steady floor of income, they are more willing to try for bigger things, take a risk with innovation, contribute their time as a volunteer, and commit to longer-term projects. Their outlook improves, they become more hopeful and more pleasant, and less likely to cut me off in traffic. When we tear up the floor behind them, they can't be sure of their footing.

A safe place to live, clean water and sanitation, health care, nutritious food and clean air - these are our most basic human needs, and we can choose to make sure that all this resource-transformation-for-profit provides this minimum for all Canadians. I'm still working on getting the numbers (and interesting economists in gathering and crunching them), but my working theory is that it would actually be cheaper to give every adult Canadian $1500 a month than to pay for the punitive, inefficient systems we have.

Not on my dime!

But what about the people who don't need it? At the top tax brackets it's basically taxed back. But on a month-to-month basis, it helps every citizen with cash flow, which helps all that cash flow right through to spending that isn't based on debt.

What about the freeloaders? Based on what we've seen in experiments so far, most people will spend their Basic Income on food and entertainment, fixing cars and housing essentials (like roofs, energy efficient upgrades, etc.), education/training for themselves and their kids, and saving. So, local spending that spurs the economy and improves our neighbourhoods and people's employability. All things we want to encourage.

We also know that hardly anyone will stop working altogether, and the ones who do will be the teens, so they can focus on school, and the moms and others responsible for the care of our most precious and our most vulnerable citizens. Caregivers are, by the way, already working largely for free and in no way compensated for their time or the opportunity costs of not being able to work full time. All of society is built on the free labour of care.

And what about those lazy bums drinking beer and playing nintendo all day? What about them? There aren't many, really, and at least they're not doing crime, or getting angry and disruptive. Let them be lazy. In my experience and studies, I find that most people who are not dealing with significant mental health issues will try to better their position, whatever it is, through some form of effort. If they don't, they either need help or to be left alone. They aren't that expensive, in the grand scheme. We may  not like if someone is "getting by on my dime" but it's better than the alternative.

Shareholder Dividends 

Anyway, governments are our resource stewards. They are supposed to protect as much of our resources as we need to live well, and make sure what they sell and lease pays enough returns to maintain a society where the minimums are met and people have the ability to live in peaceful coexistence. That's their job. The Basic Income is simply shareholder dividends on our shared resources. Good resource stewards would be seeing to the minimums by curtailing the maximums. We need to ask for that.

The Basic Income is the most efficient, the most respectful and the most honest way of accounting for the value of our social good that I've found yet.

I support a Basic Income from my socially minded, fiscally careful, compassionate and pragmatic heart.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Canada 150. Where to start?

My people have been here, creating our bodies on the food and water of this land, for about 400 years. If you are descended from the Indigenous people of what we call Canada, your people have been here much longer, but it's still many generations. Unfortunately, my people came as conquerors, cruely ignorant of any relationship with the land and its people beyond exploitation. I have one early ancestor who set up a farm, a village, and offered medical care to anyone. I like to think that at least he was sympathetic to the Indigenous people; I like to imagine that he honoured and respected them. Perhaps there is some truth to that wish. But he was part of the conquering army of settlers, taking without comprehending what was there, assuming superiority and entitlement to what was yours first.

I am ashamed of the ignorance and cruelty of my ancestors. I feel they are ashamed through me. They recognize what they have done. They realize, through death, through the life in me, that we destroyed a beautiful gift when we discovered this land and its people. We had the chance to bond the lands of the Earth, we had the chance to learn what you knew and begin to remember our own relationship to our own lands, as well as yours. We could have learned to approach the inevitable industrial revolution and all that came from it with the land as our partner, our guide; with our resources generated from a healthy, giving world. We could have brought all the knowing together, and you offered this. You expected that my people were mature enough to engage it. You opened yourselves, and my people arrogantly decided that your wisdom was inferior, that your ways were primitive, that your land was for the taking and your people to be destroyed or assimilated. My people forgot how to value life, and were so blind they lost the chance to remember, to create this land as the place where all the lands of Earth are bonded.

Still, the Land demands this. Still, she calls new people to us, even while you try to recover from the damage my people inflicted and still, to this day, inflict. Daily, more people from all the corners of Earth come here, to what we call Canada, to try to live together in peaceful coexistence that honours our differences and our commonalities. But it is a distorted vision, skewed to the thinking of powerful people who live disconnected from the realities of life as primary value - all life. Our laws, our policies, our very vision, is crafted by powerful men in the spirit of the arrogant enslavement of the Land and its people to the profits of a few.

Despite our failings, the Land calls people here to create the United Nations of Nations. A place for people from all lands to live peacefully with each other and the land. Will the vision be stillborn, or malformed, or just hobble along sickly? If we continue to starve and exploit her, the land will not be able to sustain the bonds we’re forming. I want to work together to figure out what to do about this. I don’t know what’s next.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Police Stop; Stop Police

Another black man shot by a racist cop who got away with it. 

I'm afraid. Every time I'm pulled over by a cop, I'm afraid. I'm not doing anything wrong. I sit in my white-middle-class-mom-mobile, sweating and hoping I don't piss this guy off. That I appear polite and non-threatening enough to avoid any further action on his part than a traffic ticket. That there's no reason for him to use his power to make my life difficult.

The police have power over us. They carry guns. They can force us to comply with their requests with a certain degree of permitted violence. They can take us temporarily out of society without a word to anyone - effectively state-sanctioned kidnapping - if they find a reason to "bring you in." They can mess up our day, our week, our life, if they decide they don't like our attitude. They can manufacture a reason and they will be believed. And ultimately, if they choose to, they can shoot us.

When I'm stopped, police are generally polite and firm, not friendly, taking a stance meant to solidify their position of authority over me. That is what they are trained to do. They expect me to move slowly, be polite, do what I'm told immediately (but not too quickly), and defer to them in every way from body language to tone of voice. If I do these things correctly, I can generally assume that the stop will go smoothly, and I will be on my way. Yet, just that level of interaction shakes me to my core, leaves me afraid and feeling vulnerable. Because these people assume authority over me with a gun at their side, and the threat they will use that power against me remains a constant undercurrent through any interaction between an on-duty officer and me.

That black people are disproportionately stopped by police is clear. But if I'm shaking in my white-lady boots in Canada, with a cop who will probably give me a stern warning and a ticket, what would it feel like if that was not the likely outcome? If I were black, if I were somewhere less tolerant, more racist, and I knew the likely outcome was that I would be removed from my vehicle and subjected to harassment, or worse, that I would be hurt or shot, even when complying with the officer. It's terrifying. In fact, it's state-sanctioned terror.

Policing, done right, is about helping everyone feel safer, not about controlling the behaviour of individuals to make the cop feel safe. Policing, done right, should feel like a helpful and friendly service, not like a threat, not like control in the name of authority. Policing, done right, should not make a routine traffic stop terrifying for anyone, let alone fatal.

Police have a huge power over us, and the means to enforce it. With that comes a responsibility to be better than us at handling interactions, to be more compassionate and more supportive, to be more in control and calm, to recognize and actively work against their own biases. Anyone who's not up to that inner work is not up to the job. When I see cops, I feel fear, because I've seen how power gets abused, and I don't know the person standing in front of me with a badge and a gun. He could be a good one. He could be a bad one.

When I see another black man shot, I don't think that it's not my problem. I don't feel any relief that it's less likely to happen to me because I'm white. It could still happen to me, but more than that, if it can happen to anyone, that means there are cops on our forces who don't have the control, compassion or capability to handle a simple traffic encounter without becoming violent. How many incompetent police are there? How many assholes to be offset by the ones who are truly called to serve? These people have power over us, but as a group they can't be trusted, and they protect each other. So how can any of us trust any of them, while this is the state they train each other into?

I know that if I keep my head down, smile and stay polite, it's unlikely that I will be targeted for violence. A black man does not know that. He has every reason to think the opposite.  As a white person I can hope things go smoothly and expect that my behaviour can help that along. As a black person, no matter how nice and polite and well-behaved, they still can't expect the stop to go smoothly. Nothing they can do in their behaviour can protect them from someone who perceives them as threatening the moment they lay eyes on the colour of their skin. It's an impossible position. It's an intolerable state.

When any officer acts this way, it reflects on the state of policing, and how the ways they use power and authority breed behaviours of power-over and violence. When that's combined with a weak character and racist, sexist or other biased world views, it's a recipe for...well, exactly what we see. I am distressed and disturbed, and I'm afraid for what will happen next.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Sending and Receiving (A Tech Philosophy post)

My phone and my bluetooth speaker have trouble getting along. They just fail to connect. The speaker sends out a signal, but the phone isn't receiving. Then the phone sends out a signal, and the speaker doesn't receive it. Or, they both send signals at the same time; both wait for a signal at the same time. Each device reaches out, each device holds space, ready to receive, but the timing is off. It often takes me several minutes and more than a dozen tries before they finally connect.

They're both talking and listening, they're both programmed to allow the connection, they recognize each other, yet when it comes to performing the cooperative project I require using the capabilities each possesses, they fall short. Their goal, as assigned by me, is to play my music so I can hear it, right now. They struggle to achieve this goal, despite having the capacity and conditions for success.

This makes me think about people, at the one-on-one level, and at the organizational, national and global levels. Just the same. We're sending when we should be receiving. We're waiting for a signal when we should be reaching out. We're making multiple failed attempts at communicating and connecting. We are failing to perform the cooperative project we've been assigned, here - to find a way to respect all life and continue exploring with curious devotion. To play life as music, so we can all hear it. 

So I consider:

Where can I hold stillness to allow the message of the other? Where can I reach into an open space, meeting someone where they are with words they can hear? How might I do better at holding space to receive, and listening for the connection points? 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Cognitive Dissonance: Equality and Freedom

Over the past two years I have been seeing more women in my neighbourhood wearing clothing of arab fashions - that is, completely covered in heavy material, heads covered, and, more and more often, faces completely covered except for the eyes peeking out. It's been jarring for me, it's taken adjustment.

Having rejected my own religion initially and primarily on the grounds that it discriminated against me as a woman, I find it hard to find my okay-ness with women having any set of rules applied to them that are not equally applied to men. To me, that fundamental discrimination is simply unacceptable. 

I feel a little lucky that I don't believe in a religion that holds me to uncomfortable standards only because I reside in a woman's body. I think it would be hard to live with cultural expectations that make me hide my smile, never feel the breeze on my cheeks, see every man outside my family as someone from whom to hide my body. 

 I think it would be even harder to hold an honest belief that there is one true god and he wants me to completely cover myself in the heat of day, despite having sent me to the planet naked. Knowing me, I would especially agonize over thought that, in following the will of that god, my visible choice could also symbolize and institutionalize inequality between the sexes for myself and the next generation. If I really believed in that god, and I really believed this is what he wanted from me, I would have no choice but to comply. 

Maybe I wouldn't mind the head cover, the half-mask that creates distance from people who can't see me smile back at them. Maybe I would take pride, even joy, in keeping my modesty intact, saving my body for the appropriate place and time. Maybe I wouldn't feel as hot in there as I imagine; maybe I wouldn't constantly itch to just rip it off.  Maybe it could truly be the most comfortable thing I have to wear. Maybe it would keep me feeling safe. 

As hard as it is for me, I hold those possibilities true, and allow that they, or other positive spins that I didn't think of, could be the experience of the women I see. I will give the respect of assuming that, if people are dressed in a particular way, it's because they want to be, because they like it or choose it. In that way, I can tolerate the choice. That doesn't mean I like it. 

I don't like the message it sends to my children and the other girls and boys of their generation, when females are told through visual cues that their bodies are meant to be hidden, that men can't be trusted to interact with them as humans unless they are covered up, that there is something secret, shameful or unsightly about their natural form. To me, it's just the other side of the sexualization coin. 

I'm a feminist. I don't agree with being held to more stringent rules of anything, including dress, simply because I find myself in a woman's body. I don't have a belief system to honour, I don't believe in a god that cares how I dress more than he cares about how men dress. I don't have a culture to respect -  women in my culture dress in all kinds of ways. I have pressures from media and society, but I have choices, and if I wanted to cover myself totally I would be allowed, just as I'd be allowed to wear a bikini if I wanted. I know my choices have limits, but I have them because of my situation.

I want to give everyone the respect of believing that they also have the same choices I do and are making theirs, but I fear that the structures, social expectations and interpretations of particular leaders through history have affected those choices, infected them with patriarchy, limited them by gender. Even feeling that fear feels wrong to me, because I can't know another woman's experience, but given what I've read and studied, I gather that not every woman who dresses fully covered is choosing it freely, or would choose it without the social prohibitions in place around her. 

Still, it feels condescending to consider freedom of choice, since we're all steeped in our own culture's tea, so I come back to respect. I have a choice how I dress. The covered women I see have a choice how they dress. Their choice honours their beliefs, but symbolizes, for me, institutionalized inequality. As a feminist, I have to accept that. I have to believe in their personhood and their right to choose. 

But I have a hard time moving from tolerance to acceptance. Because I didn't accept institutionalized inequality in my laws. I didn't accept institutionalized inequality in my schools. I didn't accept institutionalized inequality in my workplaces. I didn't accept institutionalized inequality in my own inherited religion. I don't accept institutionalized inequality in the world. 

For more than a century, people in Canada and elsewhere have been fighting for equal rights, and equal choices for all. For women, a big part of that has been the right to dress and look how we choose and be treated with respect. We expect/respect that men will take care of themselves, we believe in them and trust that they are capable of interacting with us as equals. Together with our men, women have pressured systems to protect us properly; we have stepped up and asked men to take responsibility for their violence, their sexualization of women, their role in using the patriarchy to hold us as a second class. We have demanded the same rights and freedoms men enjoy, This is an ongoing struggle, far from won. 

When anyone wears symbols of institutionalized inequality in everyday view as something to be celebrated and proud of, it's very hard for those of use who fight those symbols in every other aspect of life to say, hey, I'm proud of your choice, sister. I want to, I really do, but I feel about headscarves and face-covers the way I feel about a guy walking around in a "no fatties" t-shirt. To me, they both symbolize aspects of culture that patriarchy has used to bind and control women, keep them from pursuing their own full personhood outside of gender-based social roles, and ensure that men maintain authority. 

I live with this cognitive and emotional dissonance every day. I don't talk about it - I don't trust people to understand the nuance of my concerns. I also realize that my view is painted with privilege, probably rife with prejudices I haven't learned enough to see or overcome yet. I work hard to see. 

I know that I need to defend the rights of free speech and choice even when I don't agree with what is being said. But I don't like feeling like my philosophical objections to the objectifications of patriarchy can't be addressed because they apply to people coming from other cultures or races, or simply because they are "religious." Religion has been a tool of the patriarchy for all time - both Christians and Muslims are far from exempt in this regard.  How will we ever get to real conversations if I can't assert my belief in equality without being told I'm religiously or culturally intolerant? It seems like just another way to isolate women from each other.

In the end, I support the rights of all people to choose what they wear. There are a lot of people wearing things I don't support - sexist jokes on t-shirts, overly sexualized bathing suits on young kids, people covered head to toe with just their eyes peeking out - to me, it's all the same problem. I don't like to see any of it, because to me these modes of dress all point to a large-scale epidemic of institutionalized gender inequality. But despite that, because of it, fundamentally, I support the right of every person to choose how they express through clothing. That's where I sit, today. That's the best I can do. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Why not sleep?

Why not sleep
if you're done,
let the day have run its course
let the night come on full force
let the doing go
let the thinking flow away
keep fear at bay
sink softly, gently, kindly between sheets
daily feats complete
head nestled sweet and loved and warm
leave all behind until the morn
when all begins again?

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Motivation and Clawbacks

I've been thinking about the "Basic Income" experiment in Ontario. The goal feels...off.

What if we aren't trying to lift people out of poverty? What if we are helping all citizens feel motivated to live a full life, and making sure they have what they need to do that? How will things change?

To feel motivated, people need to feel they have the capacity (emotional, time, health, support) and resources (money, credit, support) to handle the challenges they are likely to face in pursuing their lives.

I have observed, over and over, that the intrinsic nature of humans is to try to better their position from wherever they find themselves. Motivation in humans appears to require only two ingredients: a strong desire for something, and the belief that action can result in fulfillment of that desire. When either ingredient is lacking, we see Motivation's opposite: Apathy. Or, worse, we see his evil twin, Anger.

I can't care about whether someone is lazy while I work for the betterment of myself and society - who am I to judge their choices when I don't know their lives? I do care that they don't cause problems in my happy life or the pursuit of my motivation. So, I'd rather some people be lazy than criminal, than obnoxious, than resentful, than desperate, than afraid, than angry, than in despair, than under pressure. All of which, whether we believe it or not, become significantly alleviated when one stops worrying about having something nutritious to eat and somewhere safe and stable to live.

Here's the important crux: I don't think we actually have to worry about the lazy bums getting by on our dime. After much exploration and observation, I have come to the conclusion that they are edge-cases or ill; in the first instance, allowing them to coast costs little, and in the second, effective supports become important. But the vast majority of people would find their way to motivation if they didn't have to worry about rent. It's a real opportunity for community building. Nation building.

And so, to the Government of Ontario, I say:

The beauty of a basic income without clawbacks is that it distributes the dividends from our shared resources in such a way as to cover the very minimum requirements to stay alive and participate in life, at all. Work, after that, is tied directly to motivation, allowing motivation to become an individual choice based on life stage and needs. It does so while eliminating a great deal of bureaucratic tracking and enforcement. 
In Canada, we have an opportunity to try the Basic Income. We have a chance to show that when the basics are met, most people can find their motivation for what's next, will innovate and grow. But instead, we're squandering our chance with clawbacks that turn it into a welfare increase and fail to take advantage of process efficiencies. 
Worse, by calling this a Basic Income pilot, we are ruining the good name of Basic Income by not really doing the experiment we said we would. The point of a Basic Income is not to distribute money to poor people. The point of a Basic Income is to provide hope. It's to say, this is the floor that's holding you up, now you can stand and walk around; don't worry, we won't pull up sections of floor behind you. 
It's wrong to claw back. It distorts the spirit of the experiment. The lack of claw back is the whole point. If you're afraid people won't like it, try using your welfare and disability budgets to give the Basic Income universally. See how many people want it canceled after a year. See how much more money is flowing through the economy. See how many fewer road rage incidents occur. 

For the rest of us...

Rather than prescribing what motivation must look like, allowing each person to find motivation means covering off Maslow's bottom rung. There's a lot we need to adjust to as we realize just how far off course we've allowed things to go, if our goal is to have a relatively happy life that doesn't come at the expense of other people's misery and the destruction of our planet.

Many people say they want happiness for all, but they don't believe we can do it. So many people holding that belief is why we can't. I do believe we can do it, if we set a goal, honestly try, and give it enough time. At least, that's how I choose to try to live. I find it more encouraging than apathy and anger.

(thoughts on the 46th anniversary of the day I joined this planet)

Thursday, May 4, 2017



Love, the ultimate four letter word,
so powerful it has been feminized
and thus degraded.

What would Love do
if I loved you
if I let what you see be true
knowing my sight is too, true,
separate and equal
holding in opposition the same three dimensional space?

Whose questions are these to ask?
Not mine, too big for me.
The asking asks too much; it's not my place.
I beg this to be true
all the while knowing
my voice belongs to me
to use.
How I choose
is what makes me.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Models and Values (some thoughts on business, in two parts)

 Part 1: Models
I was a consumer of models. Tools, diagrams, approaches, instructions, guides. The more I consumed, the more they contradicted and overlapped, repeated and denied, stripped understanding bare of meaning, into just knowing how to do. 
I was a teacher of models. Approaches, combinations, ways to engage, showing proven ways to simplify, problem-solve, get the same results consistently, meet the requirements and goals. The problems always rooted where the desire to solve them lacked depth. 
I was a creator of models. Frameworks, mind-maps, system diagrams and ways to understand. Boundaries tend to limit, definitions to simplify. Crafting the framework distracts and obfuscates the whole. Pieces expand and multiply into a thousand competing details. 
In the end, the master model I navigate sums into one line:
honour my values as I create value

Part 2: Values and Value in Business

Change happens person by person, generation by generation. Models won't solve the root problems, which are truly common at the core, no matter how often and well those models are applied.

Within each of our DNA lies a sequence, a code of possibility to play out over our lifetime. Feeling that code in body, mind and spirit, working with its energy and not against, becomes the work to learn. It's not a set of instructions; it's a story to read, a feeling to experience, a knowing to follow. How do we access our potential into a life that satisfies what matters most?

And what does any of that have to do with business?

Businesses are the framework of activities engaged by humans to transform resources into value.

Currently, most activities of most businesses work against human potential at the individual level. From childhood to old age, people are worked for many hours of most of their days, generally at or exceeding their capacity, until they succumb to illness, exhaustion or lack of will. They are discouraged from feeling or expressing emotions in their workplaces, asked to engage their minds and bodies in activities unrelated to what matters most to them, and to close off the parts of themselves that might rebel against this situation.

Most businesses thus fail to engage the natural potential of the humans in their systems. They treat people like they should mimic machines and expect people to perform at a high level all of the time. At the same time, most humans use most of their time and energy in pursuit of goals that matter to the business more than they matter to them, while ignoring, rejecting or yearning for more of their time and energy for something else.

We like to pretend that kinder, gentler workplaces, or compassion training for managers, or more engagement and teambuilding will change this fundamental disconnect. Perhaps it is possible to run a business where every person cares about business success at a deep level, bringing their highest personal value in a way that honours what truly matters most to them. But it doesn't sound particularly scaleable to most leaders.

The good news is, people don't need to be fully self-actualized at work. They'd never survive if they were, and most people have learned to discipline themselves to the point where they barely notice. Humans are social creatures who naturally have a desire to align their goals, values and selfness to the organization that allows their livelihood. They want to see the meaning in what they do, and feel they are honouring their potential and what matters most to them. They're ready for it.

Businesses have an opportunity to benefit significantly from more of people's creative potential with very little effort. Even one or two legitimate steps towards engagement at a values level will unleash the kind of loyalty and creativity we call true competitive advantage.  There are already lots of models and frameworks that represent important steps forward - enough for years of business transformation.

What interests me most is what comes after that.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

debt (a small poetic cry)

if I let myself acknowledge the extent of gratitude owing if I feel my debt in full for all the ways that others made me those around me and those whose misery feeds my happiness whose labour feeds my tummy whose jeopardy feeds my safety whose oppression made my luck if I let myself see it, for an instant, at a distance how can I possibly go on?

Friday, February 24, 2017

Musings at an end-point

When I rate my relative health and happiness before I started this big experiment, this attempt to allow emergence to emerge, to let my business find its path without forcing it through the meat-grinders I've been taught, I find I'm less healthy and less happy than when I started. Do I know myself better? Much. Have I learned a lot about myself, others, and the Energy of What Is? Definitely. Do I have some great ideas and buds of direction? Sure. But am I happier? Definitely not. Am I healthier? Less healthy. Do I have more time for what matters? Quite the opposite.

I left paid employment when my health forced me - I simply couldn't keep up to the full-time expectations and also take care of myself and my family. I looked for and tried out so many ways to get back to commercial viability - that is, a decent income - without a job, while honouring my gifts and my true nature. Maybe I tried too many ways. Maybe too much trying and not enough completing. Maybe too slowly - but that was why I left full-time work in the first place. It doesn't matter. All the reasons aren't the reason. The reason doesn't hold the answers.

I come to the end, with more debt, more stress and anxiety, more weight and poorer sleep. I come back to ground zero worse off - more tired, more discouraged, and with a deeper sense that what I was fighting against was the reality that I may not have a "tribe" here on Earth - there may  not be people ready to receive what I bring in a way that lets me build up the parts of life most important to me without going bankrupt. And if those people actually were out there, I may not have what it takes to find them and help them understand and act. I fall short. Reality I suspected and ignored, hoped away.

I stand on this side of my big attempts with all I have failed to disprove, proofs I didn't want to find, and few ideas. I wonder if there is any point in any of the directions before me. The ones that seemed most logical have been most elusive, and the ones that seemed like pipedreams - the ones I denied and delayed, withheld myself permission to pursue - they sit, stagnant and resentful, staring at me and wondering if they can forgive me for not believing in them. Even as I still don't, not really.

I don't think I'm so different from everyone else. I see, and I want to be seen and known and appreciated for the wholeness of what I bring. It's not my fault that my wholeness seems to be over-large, that others haven't built their own power enough to stand beside me without feeling overpowered. But it is my problem. A problem I have no interest in solving, right now, even if I have no choice but to try.

What will I owe the Multiverse if I waste what's left of the potential within me? What do I owe for the privilege of my Being? And in the end, how on Earth am I supposed to tie that to an income?

Here I am again and still.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Reversal (a micro fable)

On that day the woman, Reason, birthed her twins in a warm room in a cold land, witnessed only by the Father. In the custom of her people she named them from The Virtues: Logic and Sense. From the start, the children lived up to their names. They fed the heart-fires of their namesake Virtues within themselves, not noticing or caring for the fires that starved out, the ones burning as embers under ash. Logic pursued pure thinking, data-based, unencumbered by the unprovable, or mere feelings. Sense trusted “gut feel,” believing that the body held information of value based on experience. Making opposite choices, the siblings’ natures seemed set at odds. Neither could respect the decisions of the other from their own viewpoint. Reason found herself helpless, seeing the beauty in the ways of each child, torn in the conflicts that inevitably rose between their ways of seeing, their ways of being. But there was something more at the heart of her distress. In truth, Reason felt a nagging sensation, a long-held suspicion, a secret shame; that on the first morning of their birth, she had accidentally reversed their names.