A Startling Revelation

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I was in deep meditation, not suppressing or rejecting thoughts, just acknowledging them and letting them go. One thought, however, broke me from my pleasant calm and besieged me to follow it.

When I had picked up my son from his daycare a few hours earlier he had been eating a cakepop, prompting me to ask him, “Do you have a cakepop?”

I can’t tell you why parents do that, ask their small children to state obviousness, but we all do.

Joan said to me, “How do you know what a cakepop is?”

And I said, “What else could it be? It’s a cake on a pop.”

She shrugged, I collected my son, and we left. Hours later, after the scene had replayed in my head and ended my meditation, I told my wife about it. She laughed, because she’s nice, but didn’t catch anything odd about it either.

I said, “I said, ‘It’s a cake on a pop’!” and mimed the stick that the cake would be sitting on. She continued to look at me like I wasn’t the brightest deck of cards in the toolshed.

“I called the stick a pop, but since when has it even been called that? When has anyone referred to the stick of a lollypop as ‘the pop’?”

“Oh,” she said, “I don’t know. That’s strange. So the stick that food is on is called a pop?”

“Well what else is there?” I responded.

“Popsicle.” we said simultaneously.

Then, it dawned on me, the purpose of this revelation.

“That means that the stick of a popsicle is called a pop, but we, all of us, corporations and individuals alike, call a pop, a popsicle stick. We’ve made it longer, and redundant. Why?”

“It’s like ATM machine!” my wife pointed out.

The superfluous syllables ‘-sickle stick’ will not destroy irreplaceable seconds in my life ever again. Let this egregious linguistic oversight be a lesson to us all. Next week, the ontological reversal of the donut and and its hole.

Taxes are Great You Idiots.

I’m just kidding, I would never really call you an idiot. Unless I got to know you and it turns out that you are an idiot, then I guess I might. I shouldn’t! It serves no purpose. It does happen though, I can be critical beyond necessity.

What determines necessity in regards to criticism?

Perhaps the degree to which the criticism can be acted upon. It isn’t helpful to call you an idiot because it doesn’t provide any guidance as to remedy. It suggests the state of idiocy you are occupying is inalterable…or unalterable, on those I think. That probably isn’t true though, idiocy is usually caused by a gap in information, and so idiocy is cured by filling that gap.

The importance of the issue at which the criticism is directed at must also be considered of course. If you hit me with your car and break my back because you can’t put your cell phone down for 5 minutes to drive to the idiot store and pick up some more duuuhh then pretty much any level of criticism leveled at you is probably appropriate. However, and this is something we all can probably do well to remember, if you squeeze into a gap that wasn’t quite as wide as you thought and I have to tap my brakes, that probably doesn’t justify curses against your mother. Just because a person is in a different car does not make them my sworn enemy and I ought not take every opportunity to testify to their imagined despicableness. Someday I will truly convince myself of that.

So, in order to justify criticism, it ought to be actionable and it should be delivered in relative proportion to the effect caused by the error. As such, I believe it would be justified for me to say that the lack of taxes paid in proportion to income by wealthy corporations is tantamount to murder, and so wealthy corporations, and their officers, ought to pay much more in taxes.

Actionable! There is a directive right at the end there. Proportional to the effect of the error? Well the fact of the matter is that because “we can’t afford” universal healthcare people are dying of curable diseases, cancers, and injuries, so yeah, I think so. There’s a few guys just in the Seattle area that are worth about a quarter of a trillion dollars combined, and all due to the profits made by corporations that pay as close to nothing as possible, their lobbyists, lawyers, and accountants have made sure of it, in taxes. I see a problem, and I see a solution.

Here’s a belief you can let knock around the old noggin for a while; while any one person starves to death, no one should have a billion dollars. Why in the world would a single person ever need a billion dollars? Don’t tell me how much these Croesuses are donating, tell me, if they care so much about the world, why the hell they still have tens of billions of dollars? Let them have ten million dollars! They’ll live like kings forever! Spread the remaining profits around like the fertilizer it ought to be.

It should never be forgotten where the money is made anyway. There isn’t a billionaire alive who doesn’t profit from impoverished workers, the people digging the metal out of mines, slaving away on production lines. There really are people who made no money building the phone in your pocket, who will die working in that factory with nothing to show for it, that’s how such a marvel of modern technology costs so little. Why it costs so little, why it is imperative to the executive boards of this committee that they must put reducing costs, and so the quality of life for as many as employees as possible, is to sell as many as they can. Real people die so phones, and shoes, and computers, and jeans can cost so little. So these horrendously underpaid human beings make the products, then the vastly better paid, but just as dependent in their daily lives on their ability to create wealth for others, in another country consumes them. The only ones making progress is the ones already wealthy in the first place, directly at the expense of pretty much everyone else on the planet.

Dang, ok, sorry. I really just thought about talking about this because of how awesome the library is. I went there with my kid today, and was as blown away as usual by how much they offer. Books, movies, cds, a play area, internet access, printing. The one by my house has machines that convert your records to mp3s, and your video cassettes to mp4s, you can even burn them onto a dvd. All freeish! I mean, I own a house, so about $50 of my property taxes go to the library every year. Thank god! Can you imagine if it didn’t? No more libraries, no more social programs, no more post office, no more schools? Taxes are the best idea ever. Our tax structure, however, is terrible. We put a sales tax on products, we tax water and heat, we tax those things that everyone needs, and the taxes affect those with the least the most. In the meantime we ask nothing of the billionaires among us. If we can have so much with the taxes we collect now, primarily on the backs of the lower classes, imagine what we could do if those with the most among us actually gave back to society to the same degree society benefitted them.

These days dreams of ingraining equality into law seem like Candyland fantasies. When Donald Trump can be president, but the press is upset when a comedian accurately calls out the preposterousness of it all, in language that still wasn’t quite strong enough or specific enough to truly capture it, pipe dreams of a just society seem almost irresponsible. But we need them now more than ever. We must dream of how good it can be, the alternative is to believe this is as good as it gets. I refuse to do that.

 

 

We Live Amongst 10,000 Years of History – A Review of “Chinook Resilience” by Jon Daehnke

In an alternate universe there is a broadcaster reading the evening news, turning to sports she says, “In football today the Jackson Niggers lost their division playoff to the Baltimore Chinks.” 

While some people in this universe find these names objectionable, no one really does much about it. After all, that has been their names for a long time, and plus, “I know a Black and/or Chinese person, and they don’t care, so it must not be racist.”

The Twilight Zone twist is this, we live in that alternate universe. It’s the Washington Redskins instead of the Jackson Niggers, but the sentiment, and the justification, is the same. An organization that generates millions of dollars in 2018, and is celebrated on every media platform, does so under an overtly racist name. It is a name that denigrates groups of people who have already suffered attempted genocide. This is one of the more blatant examples, but racism against Native Americans is, comparatively, common. It is the people whose ancestors have lived on this continent for 10,000 years or more, who had their entire way of life destroyed in under 200 years, whose children were kidnapped and stripped of their heritage, whose languages were forbidden by law, whose women were sterilized against their will, for whom racial epithets and cartoonish caricatures, in sports, on sit-coms, in commercials, are still socially acceptable. 

A fundamental aspect of this racism is the romanticization of Native cultures (assuming in the process that they are all identical). Think Disney’s “Pocahontas”. The ideas that Native Americans lived in perfect harmony with nature, knew no boundaries, and didn’t have the concept of ownership were intrinsic to the rationale that they were primitive, uncivilized people who were undeserving of the resources inherent to where they lived. This line of thinking was, in part, how colonization was justified. It’s also false.

The Chinook people populate the land to the North and South of the lower Columbia River, from the mouth to around The Dalles, and have for thousands of years. As Jon D. Daehnke describes in Chinook Resilience, “Five hundred years ago Chinookan villages line Iyagayt’l imat – now called the Columbia River…A voyage along the river at night would be lit by hundreds of fires burning brightly along the banks…Voyagers would be well aware that there were not alone on the landscape, as thousands of people lived along this stretch of the river, making it one of the most densely populated areas in North America at the time.”

He continues, “Furthermore, the people of the river were part of an established large-scale trade network that ran well into the interior of North America and north and south along the Pacific coast…theirs was a cosmopolitan existence.”

What Daehnke describes are cities. Cities that 500 years ago, before Vancouver or Juan De Fuca ever sailed up the coast, centuries before Lewis and Clark, had already been established for generations. While it was a multicultural and multilingual society, the Chinook themselves had such control over the trading forces of the Pacific Northwest that a form of their language was the official trading language from modern day Alaska down through the Oregon coast. This disturbs the idea of a transient and unstructured band of hunters and gatherers. The Chinook were part of a vast interconnected society, consisting of nation states throughout the continent, that operated largely on the principles of trade. What occurred throughout this continent was not the development of culture, but an attempt at the replacement of it. Chinook Resilience is the story of a culture that persevered. Daehnke structures the historical aspect of the book as a series of opportunities for the destruction of the Chinook heritage.

European settles began coming to the region in large numbers in the early 19th century. After thousands of years of building a culture along the lower Columbia, the Chinook saw the influx of Europeans as an opportunity, not a threat. “Relying on their long-standing expertise in trade and commerce, Chinookans were initially able to use the influx of new trading partners as a way to increase their already considerable wealth and maintain their positions of power on the river.” However, as the settlers began to establish permanent homes, the British and United States were fighting over the Northern border of the United States, and territory that had belonged to the Chinook for thousands of years was suddenly being claimed by these two other nations. Just as the Chinookans were working to maintain control over their territory, disease, malaria and others, struck. The Native Americans, having no natural immunity, perished in great numbers.

“Both the Hudson’s Bay Company and Lewis and Clark estimated a regional Native population of somewhere near 15,500 in the early decades of the 19th century. By 1841 thus number had been reduced to 1,932, a decline of nearly 90 percent.” With houses empty colonialists moved in, and in 1850 the Donation Land Claim Act was passed, with significant help from Thurston County’s namesake Samuel Thurston, and with that the United States government declared that a couple squatting in Native American territory for four years was sufficient for ownership. The Chinook were largely dead from diseases introduced by foreign invaders, and were now having their land usurped by the same people in their absence. 

In 1851, their numbers still greatly diminished, several nations of the Chinook signed a treaty with the United States government. This treaty was blocked, however, by Thurston as he objected to the fact that it allowed the Chinook to stay on their land and that the Chinook would be paid for the land they did relinquish. With no treaty, the Chinook signed several others but none were ratified, the Chinook were unrecognized by the federal government as a nation and so had no real title to their lands, which is their situation to this very day. 

In the late 19th century Chinook children were rounded up and sent to boarding schools, the goal of which was to “‘kill the Indian [to] save the child’ (a policy phrasing attributed to Carlisle Indian School founder Richard Pratt) and so Chinookan children were forbidden to speak their language, forced to dress in white clothing, and often prevented from seeing or visiting their families.” This was a policy that lasted 40 years, into the 1920s.

The Chinook have been brought almost to extinction by disease. They lost generations of youth to boarding schools. Currently, the people of the Chinook suffer in unusually high numbers from drug abuse, alcoholism, and poverty. They are working to bring their language, ubiquitous in this land only 150 years ago, back from the dead. They have been denied federal recognition over and over again, after briefly receiving it by the outgoing Clinton administration in 2001 it was reversed by the Bush administration in 2002. With an ancestry of 10,000 years in the same location, the Chinook are federally unofficial.

This is not a happy story, but, in the end, it is an optimistic one.

In chronicling the hardships faced by the Chinook since European colonization Daehnke writes with the air of a seemingly objective anthropologist. He does not claim to be so, in fact he connects the practice of anthropology with colonialism early in the book, but he simply states the facts as they relate to his thesis, which is that the Chinook faced many challenges and yet continue to exist. In the final two chapters of his book, before his brief concluding remarks, Daehnke is focused on the excavation of the Cathlapotle plankhouse and its re-creation near by, and the reintroduction of canoes to the Chinook culture, respectively. In these chapters Daehnke lowers the veil of objectivity. This is to his credit, for objectivity in the study of human beings isn’t a real possibility, and a subject such as resilience deserves a subjective voice. 

Lewis and Clark rowed through Catlapotle in 1805, many hundreds of years after it had been settled by the Chinook. At the time Lewis and Clark estimated the population of the town around 900 people. About 50 years later it was abandoned, its residents lost to disease and displacement. In the 1990s the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Portland State University, “in consultation and collaboration with the Chinook Indian Nation” began the process of excavating it. Among its principle discoveries was the site of an ancient plankhouse. A plankhouse was a multi-family building designed not only for sleeping and storage but for dances, ceremonies, the drying and curing of food, and much more. They were deemed unsavory by the United States, as they were pushing for Native Americans to adopt the single family residence model, and so many were destroyed. The plankhouse discovered by this archeological effort seemed to be around 500 years old when it ceased being used in the 1800s. 

With the bicentennial of The Corps of Discovery mission, which had briefly visited Cathlapotle, on the horizon it is proposed that a new plankhouse be constructed. The Chinook see this as a positive development, a way to demonstrate their continued existence, but, as Daehnke points out, it is not without issues.

“Like most tribal nations along the Lewis and Clark trail, the Chinook Indian nation was concerned about its representation in the Lewis and Clark story, the undue weight given to a temporally brief expedition rather than the hundreds of generations of occupation by Native peoples, and an accurate portrayal of the devastation that this expedition ultimately represents.”

In the final chapter, “The Return of the Canoes and the Decolonization of Heritage” this story of the Chinook indulges itself in a happy ending. Daehnke describes in detail the craftsmanship of the Chinook canoes, of the mastery of their handling, how impressed Europeans were by the Chinooks ability to control them in high seas and rough waters. These canoes, like so much else, had disappeared. In part because of advances in technology, which the Chinooks took advantage of as well, but the absence of the canoes also represented a spiritual loss. Canoes were painstakingly crafted and decorated, they were the highest form of currency (to the degree that Lewis and Clark were unable to buy one from anyone, and so resorted to stealing one instead). They were considered living beings, members of the family. So their disappearance was more significant than just the result of outboard motors. 

In the 1970s Tom Heidlebaugh and his colleagues refurbished an old canoe to visit Native historical sites around La Push. In the 1980s Bill Reid carved a a fifty foot long canoe based on the measurements of a Haida canoe in a museum collection and paddled it to the World’s Fair in Vancouver, BC. Then, in 1989, the Paddle to Seattle, organized between the nations around Hoh and La Push, as well the Tulalip, Lummi, Heiltsuk, and Suquamish, brought a flotilla of canoes to Golden Gardens State Park. These same groups agreed to meet again in four years, and in 1993 23 canoes, and around two thousand people, gathered in Bella Bella. Four years later they met again in La Push, and after that it became a yearly tradition that has become known as Tribal Journeys. 

The loss of canoes was indicative of the lost culture of the Chinook, and so Daehnke uses their return in the late 20th century as an indication of the revitalization of that culture.  Daehnke points to the healing aspects of participating in Tribal Journeys, particularly in regards to drug and alcohol addiction. Finally, according to Daehnke, Tribal Journeys represents decolonization. 

“One of the goals of colonization was to strip away all of those things that made people Indian-a viewpoint embodied in the famous dictum, ‘Kill the Indian, and save the man.’ Whether it was through the institution of of boarding schools and efforts to remove Native children from their families, the attempted separation of tribal communities from their lands and languages, or direct efforts at eradicating Native populations, colonialism worked to kill the Indian. Tony Johnson (chair of the Chinook Culture Committee and later elected tribal chair) argues however, that Tribal Journeys and the return of the canoes provide a path to decolonization, a way to remind people of the Indigeneity and resilience: ‘Nowadays, one thing we say is “Feed you Indian.” I mean, canoe journeys, Tribal Journeys, being in the canoes, the Salmon Ceremony, things we do-they feed your Indian. You have to find ways to do that.’”

Daehnke points out early on issues with anthropology as regards a living culture, particularly when it is anthropology conducted by the member of one culture on another. The story of the Chinook is not his story, and so his telling of it is necessarily distinct from the story itself. It’s an important point, but not an all encompassing one. The story Daehnke tells is of a culture that faced direct attacks by a racist and oppressive government. A culture systematically prevented from economic development. A culture decimated by disease and addiction. A culture that is still openly mocked and belittled in mainstream society. Mostly, however, it is the well-told and information rich story of a culture that has persevered. 

“Today the Chinook nation has approximately three thousand enrolled citizens…” The Chinook, and hundreds of other indigenous nations around the country, are bringing back their languages, their rituals, their ceremonies. They are taking back their rights, with or without government permission or recognition. The story Daehnke has told is of a people who withstood tragic circumstances and, though diminished, and though there is incredible work ahead, have prevailed in important ways. This is the Chinooks’ story, not Daehnke’s, and it cannot be told in its entirety by a person who it does not belong to, but Daehnke has provided it a voice. It is the story of how the resilience of a people has led to their perseverance. it is a story that suggests that in any nation, under any government, if decent citizens continue to be resilient, then decency will persevere. It’s a story we all need to hear these days. 

Happy Vaisakhi!

20Today is the Punjabi celebration of the solar New Year, a day correlated with the Spring Harvest, a time of new birth and rebirth. I had planned to spend the day gardening in celebration, but the monsoon that has consumed the Pacific Northwest rages into it’s 147th day, so we’re going to a Mariners game instead.

But what better way to celebrate the optimistic spirit of the New Year than with a baseball game? Especially when the home team, who hasn’t been to the playoffs in nearly a generation, is on a four game winning streak. Maybe they’ll win! Maybe they will keep winning! Every year, we entertain the hypothetical premise that the Mariners will keep winning. We have been disappointed over and over again, and still, we’re willing to believe it is possible.

Louis CK once opined that to be an optimist is to be an idiot. “Maybe something nice will happen!” he mocked them as proclaiming, “Why? Would something nice ever happen?” he challenged them. But Louis CK has been banished, for other reasons, and the indomitable spirit of optimism, that definitive characteristic of the adventurous and bold, marches on. And indeed, on occasion, nice things do happen.

I planted seeds in the ground the day before our last snow this year. Weeks crawled past with no sign of a seedling anywhere, but I waited. I did not plow the ground and try again. I did not, sensibly, begin the seeds indoors and then plant the starts later on. No, I just did nothing, believing the seeds would bear life if they just had more time.

Carrots! Basil! Radishes! They live!

Happy Vaisakhi!

Holy Day Appropriation!

On Easter Sunday I was driving home from a camping trip, traveling directly past my family’s festivities in honor of the day on my way. We were skipping it this year, and I was thinking about talking with my wife about dis-including Easter from our holiday calendar permanently. As a father, I am not particularly interested in perpetuating the strange mythology of the Easter Bunny, and as someone who is not a Christian there was no spiritual significance either.

My thoughts drifted on and I began to question why, as non-Christians, we had appropriated only Christian holy days. Easter and Christmas are the only two religion-affiliated holidays we observe, though we do so secularly, but why?

The answer is really just that we grew up celebrating them. I like Christmas too, so we’ll keep celebrating that one, but what else? There’s 12 months a year, why are we only celebrating two holidays anyway? So, I looked to the mighty oracle Google to discover what other holy days there were to take on and how to celebrate them secularly. Thusly, I present to you the official holidays of The Church of Black Coffee for the remainder of 2018!

April 14th: Vaisakhi: Punjabi Spring Harvest/Solar New Year

I don’t understand the January 1st New Year, it’s miserable! A spring new year makes way more sense, and this one from the Punjab is at the optimal flowers blooming, birds singing, and bees buzzing time of the year. I’ll be spending the day out in the garden, and celebrating with family and friends that evening with a decent fruit and vegetable rich meal.

May 1st: Lailat al Bara’ah: Islam Night of Forgiveness

This is the night that many followers of Islam pray for the forgiveness of their loved ones. I already forgive all my dead friends and families, but on this day I’ll be sure to tell stories about them, and try to visit at least one or two graves to say hello.

June 11th: Laylat al Kadr: Night of Power

This holiest of nights for Muslim people commemorates the revealing of the Quran to the prophet Muhammed, a book that begins with the command “Read!” This will be a day that celebrates reading in general, with gifts of books to friends and family. It also so happens that I am not particularly familiar with the Quran, so I will make it a point to begin reading it on this day.

July 27th: Dharma Day: The Buddha’s First Lecture

After achieving enlightenment Siddhartha Gautama felt the overwhelming urge to share his newfound understanding of the universe. While often rendered as an oversimplified version of itself in the West, Buddhism does espouse the benefit of rejecting materialism, and fosters the idea that events in the world are often of much less significance then we give them. This will be a day of quiet breathing, of forgiving myself and others, and of relaxing. I anticipate a hammock being involved at some point.

August 15th: Assumption of Mary: The Rise of Mary into Heaven

Mother Mary wouldn’t suffer such a pedestrian triviality as death! The mother of The Son was assumed bodily into heaven on this day in 41 CE, a Thursday according to Google. The Christians celebrate this day with a feast, and I don’t see a way to improve on that, so a feast it will be.

September 3rd: Labor Day

This holiday has been deprived of celebration for many decades. Now it serves simply as a stopping point for Summer’s fun. No longer! The Church of Black Coffee will bring back the true observation of this holiday by reflecting on the fruits of organized labor, such as the minimum wage, or the weekend. If there is a picket line within 50 miles on this day, we will join it. If not, we will use social media, and perhaps go out into society itself, to remind others of what is made possible when the labor force takes a stand against the oligarchy.

October 1st: International Coffee Day

While the Church of Black Coffee does not usually tolerate international days of any kind, we’ll have to make an exception here. On this day we will indulge in coffee, of course, but we will also be mindful of the origin of our coffee, remembering the resources necessary to producing it, and reaffirming our commitment to buying only sustainable, fair trade, shade grown beans. There will be much jittering on this day, that can be assured.

November 7th: Diwali: The Festival of Lights

While the word means ‘a row of lanterns’, for followers Hinduism, Jainism, Diwali is the celebration of good over evil! In the Hindu tradition it celebrates Rama’s defeat of king Ravana, and so Rama’s return to his kingdom. On this day I will act to achieve some good in the world, be it volunteering at a local food bank, or writing a persuasive letter to a senator or representative. I also know that there are celebrations of Diwali that are open to the public, so I’ll be seeking one to participate in.

December 25th: Christmas

I like this one. I think putting a tree in your house is hilarious, I like getting up early and drinking coffee while the kid plays with the new toys. It’s great. In the spirit of the holiday, and specifically the Sermon on the Mount, I will also demonstrate kindness to the less fortunate around this day, be it in donating toys and clothes or volunteering hours.

So that’s it! Not a huge spread really, but its a start. The 2019 holiday calendar will come out in December of this year. If you have ideas on what holidays to celebrate next year, please let me know!

 

Get to know your opinions

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I told my class that for any statement in regards to the reality of the world, any proposition, there is a significant difference between possessing knowledge of that proposition and an opinion of that proposition. We decided to try and determine what exactly the difference is. We didn’t find an answer that satisfied anyone completely, but we believe we found something meaningful. That’s what philosophy is, by the way, trying to determine the exact nature of objects and concepts. At least to a significant degree. I mention that because many people seem to think philosophy is advice. Virtually any time you hear someone say, “Well, my philosophy is…” all they are going to say is something they believe works for a particular situation. “My philosophy is, you’ve got to live and let live.” That’s advice, it’s a different word for a reason. But I digest.

One thing that is the same about knowledge and opinion is that people claim to have them. A difference is that it is very unlikely that a person can state their opinion and be wrong. If Sheila says, “I don’t like blueberries.” it would be strange if she was wrong. Not lying, wrong. There’s a difference between being wrong and lying, but let’s not go down that rabbit hole.

Let’s go down this one instead, why isn’t there a possessive pronoun for singular subjects? I said, “…a person can state their opinion and be wrong.” In that sentence I stated a singular subject, and then used ‘their’ to refer to that subject’s opinions, but ‘their’ refers to possession by a group of people, right? Actually, never mind. English is fluid, it’s just kind of sticky mess of other languages in the first place, so why don’t we just declare that ‘their’ is a possessive case gender neutral singular subject pronoun as well as a possessive case gender neutral plural subject pronoun? Done!

Anyway, you’re unlikely to state your opinion and be wrong. Your claims to knowledge though? They can definitely be wrong. Probably are wrong most of the time. I don’t mean that as an insult, I mean it in the skepticism is the deal and it’s more than likely that nothing is as it seems, so no one can or does know anything sense. So no offense. Anyway, we thought that was important, that claims to knowledge are often wrong, while claims of opinion seldom are.

Being 4th graders, they wanted to know more. So we figured out why claims of knowledge are often wrong while claims of opinion rarely are. Claims of knowledge have an associated objective fact. if you say, “I know that the sun rises in the East” it’s either true or not true. Regardless of your belief in the sun rising in the east, (and at this point we realized there was this other thing we’d have to figure out, beliefs) it either does or does not. If it does, your claim of knowledge is true, if it doesn’t it’s false. You can’t know things that aren’t true.

Opinions, on the other hand, refer to subjective truths. Having the opinion “I don’t like blueberries” is determined by not liking blueberries. So a person can rarely be wrong about their opinions, as they are just statements of their feelings.

This raised a further question, if it is necessary for a proposition to be true in order to know it, is that all that needs to be the case to know something? We figured pretty quickly that you have to believe it, whatever that means. So, I asked, if I believe that it will rain on March 27th, 2028, and it does, did I know it? They informed me I did not, it had simply been a guess. Then what does it take to know something already?

“You have to have a reason!” said one exasperated 9 year old. A reason, I said, like what? “Like proof, evidence!” Ah ha, I said. So I wrote on the board To have knowledge of a proposition (p) you must believe p, p must be true, and your belief must be justified by something. 

I asked them then, what counts as justification? But then I realized we’d been talking for 90 minutes and it was time to go to lunch.  We’ll figure it out though, 4th graders are smart.

 

The Limited Value of Patience

Sunday’s Evening Service: Emmanuel’s Dream is about a Ghanian named Emmanual who is born with a immature foot, rendering his leg below the thigh functionless. In Ghana, being born disabled is considered a curse, and by the magic of self fulfilling prophecies quickly becomes one. The disabled were expected to beg, assuming they weren’t left for dead by their parents as infants.

Obviously Emmanuel did not succumb to this fate. At a young age his mother had him doing chores, refusing to bring him things. By the time he was five Emmanuel was hopping from place to place on one leg. As a school boy he shined shoes to make ends meet for the family, and purchased a soccer ball for himself along the way. A soccer ball was a commodity in his village, and in order for his classmates to make use of it they had to include him in the games.

His mom gets sick, so at 13 he sneaks away in the night to Accra to cobble shoes, and sends home the money. His mom eventually passes, but before she does she tells Emmanuel to never give up, never beg, always strive for greatness. Emmanuel, having been in the city for some time, has seen how other disabled people are treated, and takes the improvement of their plight as his quest.

He decides he will ride his bike around Ghana to demonstrate that a disabled person is not an unable person. He goes door to door raising money, with plenty of those doors being slammed in his face. Emmanuelwrites to a charitable organization in the States,The Challenged Athletes Foundation, who respond by outfitting him with a bike, bags, and shorts. With his friends in taxi behind him Emmanuel takes off on his quest.

Emmanuel rides through his country, asking people to be conscious of the suffering endured by the less fortunate in their country, to astounding success. His message reaches across the Atlantic, he finds financial support, he is given a prosthetic. For the first time, he is able to walk, he can ride a bike three times faster than before, he receives endorsements and sponsorships. For many, it would have been enough.

Emmanuel, however, learns how to construct frames that can turn a cheap plastic chair into a highly functioning wheel chair, and brings this skill back to Ghana in the form of a charity. He arranged meetings with heads of churches, with the media, with the King of Ghana, who invited the disabled to his palace, an unthinkable act in the years before. In 2006 Ghana passed a Persons with Disability Act, proclaiming discrimination against the disabled illegal. Emmanuel found a group of people being oppressed, reduced to something less than human, and toured across his land asking people for kindness and understanding.

Some people are waiting for a Jesus to rise again, some literally, some figuratively. Others, like Emmanuel, don’t have that kind of patience.

Being Mindful of Awareness or Something

Rambling Sunday Sermon, 3-11-18
 
At the end of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel ‘Timequake’ Kilgore Trout asks Kurt to find two stars in the sky. He states that the light from those two stars would take thousands if not millions of years to reach each other, or to reach Earth. He then asks Kurt to look “precisely at one, and then precisely at the other.”
 
Kurt states he has done so and Kilgore asks, “It took a second, do you think?” to which Kurt says it did not take any longer than that. Kilgore responds, “Even if you’d taken an hour…something would have passed between where those two heavenly bodies used to be, at, conservatively speaking, a million times the speed of light.”
 
The thing that Kilgore Trout is referring to is Kurt’s awareness. This, he proclaims, is a new thing in the world, and one which physicists must take into consideration along side energy and matter, and, it is implied, one which renders the idea that the speed of light is insurmountable obsolete.
 
There is evidence for the proposition that awareness is a force in the world beyond this, fairly cute, fictitious anecdote. Heisenberg pointed out that it is impossible to, at the same time, measure both the velocity of a thing and determine its speed. Measuring one affects the other. Or is it effects? I never know.
 
A quark’s position is determined only when it is measured. The quark is not located, or it is potentially located anywhere, until it is observed, and then all of those probabilities but one collapse. I think, my primary reference in regards to quantum physics is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, so for god’s sake don’t just trust me on this. The point is, though, it does not seem as though awareness is irrelevant fundamentally.
 
It might be though, let me actually study physics for a decade or so and I’ll let you know. I’m just sayin. Irregawdless it sure isn’t irrelevant macroscopically.
 
Awareness is hot right now, but it’s got a new name (lingo and jingles make the world go round) “mindfulness”. Be mindful of your breath, be mindful of your anger, be mindful of others. If Kurt’s uncle Alex were alive today he’d tell you to be mindful of when things are good, not just won the lottery amazing, but drinking lemonade in the shade good, and to say out loud, “if this isn’t nice, what is?” Whatever vernacular you prefer, he is right.
 
Awareness is a tool. It ought to be used to shine light on hate and injustice and cruelty, you could exhaust your whole life’s awareness on these and not begin to be aware of it all. Fine, good, please and thank you. March and protest and vote and call out those people who are fighting against goodness and fairness.
 
A hammer can be used to tear down a moldy old shack, and it can also be used to build a new one the salvaged pieces. Your awareness can help defeat the racists and bigots in the world, but it can also shine a light on lemonade in the shade.
 
Your politicians and corporations, in general, want everyone to be afraid and angry. It’s so much easier to campaign off of fear and anger than off of love and kindness. So march and protest and vote, but don’t forgot to notice where things are good, and to point them out as well. Where things are good, they serve as a compass, and so without noticing them and acknowledging them, without being aware of them, navigating the world, determining where we ought to be going, what changes specifically ought to be made to those things that aren’t good, becomes much more difficult.
 
Do yourself a favor, and do the world a favor, take notice of the good things, too.
 
Ting a ling!
 
 

3-4-2018

It’s a strange custom to characterize the time spent between satisfying obligations as being killed. It is by definition time available to do whatever you want. Between obligations yesterday I went to the flats between Maysville and Everett. I had time to do nothing, so I went nowhere. It was great! Birds, riverfront esplanades, recommissioned train bridges.

We need more time to do nothing, we need to take back some of that time we do have from television, and we need to rebrand that time, give it a little PR boost. If you get to do whatever you want you’re indulging right? You eat dinner, you indulge in dessert. If your time doesn’t belong to anyone else, you shouldn’t kill it, you should indulge in it.

Is it the time you give to obligations that is killed? You sacrifice it to work, not enjoying it, not remembering it, and maybe it is when you don’t remember time that it actually dies. Though that suggests all jobs are soul sucking wastes of time, outside of paying the bills, and that isn’t true. At any rate, if time is being murdered it’s not by a walk in the park on a pleasant Saturday afternoon.

Sermon’s over, go indulge in some time.