Saturday, May 5

The Rules of The Game

     After decades of studying the human race, I've noticed some interesting rules that keep popping up despite attempts at common sense and logic.
        The Law.
        From the death penalty to school dress codes, laws are meant to teach us how to behave, you know, like not killing each other and wearing plaids with stripes. So far the death penalty is useless as a deterrent and nobody gives a shit what you wear.
         Except- a girl was denied a place on a boys baseball team because the rules state she must wear a protective cup- the league smugly declared. So she started wearing a protective cup- around her ankle, got to follow the rules.
         A golfer with a walking disability was denied use of a golf cart at a PGA tournament, because the rulebook says everyone must walk and the cart is an unfair advantage the chairman of  "rules are rules" insisted. Turns out there was a loophole in the same rule book to use one. The Grand Poobah wasn't so happy then.
          Don't get me wrong, rules are important, they help define society and set boundaries to keep it under control, but absolute obedience to written rules can be ruinous, even lethal, when taken to extreme.
         Like the epic tragedy of the women denied an abortion -which would have saved her life- because abortions are illegal in Catholic Ireland. Praise be to God that law was upheld. The ramifications of breaking the rules can be debated later but you can't fix dead.
         Did these people really think upholding the rules with no exceptions would make them look good? Mind you, these were not some petty tyrants in the bowels of an organization- although they certainly acted like one, they were people in charge. I guess there is such a thing as bad publicity.
         They adhered to the law as a symbol of order and failed miserably. They exposed the limitations of fixed rules when they meet shifting reality. That brings us to the next rule.
          Reality is a collective hunch that we pretty much make up as we go along.  Australia has strict rules on how climate change can be discussed-if at all and our darling EPA insists you not use certain words in climate reports like -anything connected to real science. Meanwhile coal and gas companies in the US have a free pass to continue to pollute an already strained environment. Meteorologist in Australia had to add another color to describe the record breaking temperatures during a ten year drought, followed by half of Brisbane under water from Winter flooding.
         "Hey everybody, all we have to do is simply disregard what's going on and it will go away." Yeah that's working out. There is no climate change, nobody is abusing children and, my favorite delusion of all-the Earth is flat.
         There are people who believe the earth is flat after watching videos on YouTube made by morons with no concept of science. Don't you see, NASA is concealing the truth with armed guards patrolling the ice wall that is Antarctica and the Arctic circle so we don't discover the truth and they can keep their budget. These are supposedly educated people who work without adult supervision. You're mocking our beliefs with your elitist snickering. They complain.
         No, we're laughing at idiots. I'm guessing this is a wholesale rejection of science because these same scientists are telling us how our discoveries and improvements on nature are destroying the world. If they got the shape of the earth wrong, what else did they get wrong? goes the weird logic. Science does get things wrong occasionally but not with this one.
         Ever since Descartes had his epiphany  "I think therefore I am" we have bought into the notion that the world is like a machine which can be controlled to do our bidding. Only now because of our attempt to tame it, we have screwed it up. Oops! Oh no wait, we had nothing to do with that. You can't have it both ways.
         Which brings me to delusions evil twin -denial.
         "Hey everybody, all we have to do is deny a problem and it wall go away"-like racism, child abuse, and persistent dandruff. Racism didn't go away even though black people can sit in a restaurant with white folks and get elected President.
         A white guy was harassing a black waitress in a restaurant to the point of her having to call the cops. He defended himself with- and I quote- "I'm not racist that nigger is making stuff up."            Facepalm. PC is not a cure for racism, it's just a vaccine shielding us from it's presence- until some unvaccinated dumb shit reminds us it's still there.
         The baseball league tried to kick a girl off a team because they really didn't want her to play with the boys- so they used the rule of law for another common tactic-
         The Work Around. When we don't like a staunch outdated rule, we simply find a way around it.
         Orthodox Jews respect the law that dictates that one cannot travel beyond their property on the Sabbath. Someone got the bright idea to collectively buy up a row of houses so they could visit the Bernstein's three doors down and not violate the law. See?
         Politicians and lawyers are notorious for fiddling with technicalities for a work around. The 13th Amendment bans slavery-except for prisoners. Corporate America has taken advantage of this loophole to brazen levels. They scored a trifecta with this one: cheap labor, re enslavement of minorities* and-in many states- keeping those convicted felons from voting. It's a winning loophole!
        The biggest rule book is the Bible of course, but there is not enough time to cover the cherry picking that goes on with that, it's threatening certainty created the work around.
        If it sounds like I'm picking on everyone -I am- because we all do these dumb, judgmental things, it's in our DNA along with arthritis and acne.
        You want to hate blacks, Jews, whatever, fine, you have the right to believe in whatever  suits you. The line is drawn when you force others to your belief.
         The Golden Rule is universal and promptly ignored for a reason. We like to judge and sneer down on others, it makes us feel special and superior but it just reveals how small we can be. In all the literature I've read on philosophy, religion, and metaphysics, the biggest rule is: don't coerce your will on others-it's bad karma.      
         The official denying a disabled golfer in a tournament does so because otherwise he would have to accept him as normal when he would rather see him as broken and beneath him.
         The law, parents and friends would rather think a young lady is lying about being sexually assaulted by that beloved teacher, coach or priest because the alternate is realizing they trusted someone who was evil.
         A politician or religious authority finds a loophole in sacred law because it interferes with their weekend plans or is a handy way to condemn a group they deem inferior.
         See how that works? I hate Rush Limbaugh and Nazis as much as the next person but they have a right to be here like the rest of us delusional folks.
         There are solutions to these behaviors. Acknowledge them, question everything. A reality check every once in a while is a good idea. Honestly is easier than trying to remember than what lie you're telling to who-including yourself. Denial, delusion, pedantry, loopholes simply put off the enviable realization that we're not as clever or enlightened as we thought.
         Let a law be a servant not a poor master. "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child, but when I became an adult, I put away childish things."- St. Paul.
         When reality overwhelms you, have a drink, loosen up and remember, none of this is real anyway.
* The black population is only 12.5%  yet make up 24% of prison population.

Friday, April 27

An Open letter to Charlie Rose

Mr. Rose,
       I miss your show. I miss your insightful interviews with everyone from celebrities to heads of state, but most of all what I miss is the respect I had for you as a journalist.
      When I heard of the accusation of harassment, I thought it was overreaction, then I read the Washington Post and knew it was all too true because your behavior is all too common.
      When is society going to let men act beyond the narrow minded role of aggressor, winner and dominator in every interaction? When are we all going to learn respect each other instead of seeing trophies or something to fear? Why does a mature man act like an arrested juvenile? Is this really the only way men think they can gain power over women -with unwanted sexual advances? What were you thinking?
      "I am greatly embarrassed." Charlie Rose said "I have behaved insensitively at times, and I accept responsibility for that, though I do not believe that all of these allegations are accurate, I always felt that I pursued shared feelings though I now realize that I was mistaken."
      You can keep your retirement, you deserve it, with a sad stain on an otherwise great legacy. Or you can find atonement and continue to be a real voice in journalism we so desperately need in this time of chaos. You can do this confronting this issue. You can interviewDan Harmon and ask him about the self examination of his abusive behavior with a female co worker and how she forgave him. You can explore the effect of the degrading conditions women have endured in the workplace for decades and help everyone understand this cultural sexism. You can do this because you know how to get  people to speak the truth.
      “I do believe that someone as brilliant as Charlie could have sought help and documented the process,” says former assistant and accuser Kyle Godfrey-Ryan. “He could have dived into research about the male ego and tried to get to the root of why this pattern of abuse is so common with positions of power. He could have used this moment to change the state of play in journalism.”
Speak up Mr. Rose and be a mensch again. Owe up to this and join the liberation.
            Alisa McLaughlin

Charlie Rose Metoo sexual harassment Dan Harmon

Saturday, April 21

The Myth of Martial Arts


      I have practiced Aikido for 30 years and feel the need to correct the unrealistic view of martial arts that have evolved over time.
     Movies in particular, are the big offenders. The fights are a thing of beuty; clean and neat with precise movements and counter attacks. The combatants are equal in skill and fight on for several minutes taking blows that barely leave a mark. Right.
     Ignorant amateurs constantly point out how fake martial art are, how that would never work in a real fight. Really? How many fights do they plan to be in? Most street fights are messy, violent and hardly ever equal. They are usually over in seconds when someone gets hurt or is knocked out. Keep in mind that videos of martial art techniques are demonstrations not combat. What these critics fail to see is the real purpose of martial arts. They are not about men challenging each other in cock fights to prove something.
A Brief History of Budo
      Tae Kwon Do means hands and feet, Karate means empty hands. These unarmed forms were developed by civilians and monks when only the military was allowed to own weapons.
     In feudal Japan, martial arts changed when the Shogun rule ended the petty civil wars and the Samurai were effectively out of a job. They had the time to blend Budo-martial arts-and Buddhism into a spiritual as well as physical practice. When the Samurai were dissolved in the 1860's martial arts evolved again into competitive sports.
Training for Real Life
     Most people take up martial arts as self defense, a way to exercise or as self improvement. The techniques aren't about learning cool moves to defend yourself in a street fight or warding off robbers. You are not expected to use the maneuvers taught but apply the confidence and composure you learn to everyday life. Stuck in traffic? Instead of fuming, relax, do some meditation. Someone being obnoxious? Stay calm and centered so you don't lose your balance or temper. Same with emergency situations.
     The TV Show "What would You Do?" demonstrated an excellent example. A man posed as a an abusive boyfriend in a park. He was approached by another man who firmly and calmly told him to back off. He did the right thing the right way. It turns out the passerby had a black belt in karate and although he was nervous at the encounter, he remained steady the whole time.
      I have used Aikido many times over the years and never had to put a hand on anyone. It's about being centered and gauging a situation to avoid danger or escalation- something police officers should learn.
     The critics of martial arts or combat challengers don't understand what they are talking about. Morihei Ueshiba, a fierce warrior and founder of aikido realized, "True budo must be the spirit of harmony and loving protection of all creation."

Saturday, April 14

An Introduction to Tarot

Here is a small sample of a book on tarot I'm currently editing and hope to self publish.

 Introduction to Tarot
     Divination of one sort or another has been practiced as long humans felt a need to understand the hidden forces around them. Whether it was the village shaman invoking the spirits, court magi or religious clergy, all have sought to communicate with the divine. Tarot is another way to help you understand those hidden forces. Like any tool it takes time, patience and knowledge to use it properly. This book is not intended as an encyclopedic discussion of the subject, rather a handy and easy source to remind the reader of the cards meaning as you lay them out. It is for both the experienced as well as the beginner.
     In the 20 years of studying tarot, I was constantly fascinated at how the meaning and imagery of the cards shifted with each reading. Interpreting the cards is an art  because ultimately it’s not the cards you are reading but the subject-called a querent, tarot is merely an instrumental way to read their energy.

 A Brief History of the Cards
     The modern Tarot deck is composed of 78 cards, the minor arcana; ace to ten and four suits ( pentacles, cups, wands, and swords). The major arcana consist of 22 cards from 0 to 21 (or 1 to 22 depending on the deck). In most decks each card of the minor arcana is self contained and limited in meaning. The cards or the major arcana tell a deeper story that requires careful interpretation.
     There are many misconceptions about the tarot and their origins. The biggest is that the tarot is ancient, it’s origins shrouded in mystery. Historically tarot appeared in medieval Europe, via Islam c. 14th century in the form of lavishly painted  playing cards for the nobility. The earliest mention c.1332  is an edict from Alfonso XI of Spain banning their use as all playing cards were banned as a form of gambling. The word derives from the Italian tarocchi, meaning trumps; in French it’s tarot. The deck consisted of suits of cups, swords, coins and staves with the court cards; kings, knights and pages. The queens and the fool were included later.
     Another myth is that tarot, and by extension any divination, is sorcery. This belief was reinforced by religious propaganda as a way of discrediting personal divination. The Catholic Church singled out the tarot as the “Devil’s picture book” because imagery in tarot borrows from several occult practices such as numerology, astrology and Kabbala. Ironically, many cards also use Christian iconography; the tower (the tower of Babel) the lovers (Adam and Eve in Eden), the heirophant or pope card and so on. The tarot is not the work of the devil or sorcery but a tool for understanding and connecting with the divine as well as understanding oneself. The tarot as a form of divination may have been around longer but there is no scholarly evidence to support the claim possibly due to the need for secrecy.
     Artist David Hockney discovered that the great masters of medieval and renaissance art may have accomplished the high level of realism and accuracy in their paintings with the use of lenses and the camera obscura to project an image on a canvas and trace it. They kept such techniques hidden because of religious superstition about such devices.
     It was this same philosophy that kept early tarot practitioners exclusive and covert. King James II of England banned a book that revealed the secrets of street magicians because it was beneficial for the authorities to let people believe it was real as a reason for persecution.
     There were many who wrote of their study of the tarot, but it was a deck created in 1909 by Arthur Edward Waite and illustrator by Pamela Colman Smith that set the gold standard. Waite and Smith were prominent members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a Victorian era new age group. His fusion of various sources along with Smith's iconic images created a deck that is the most familiar.           
     Another misconception is that tarot can predict the future. Good luck with that. Prophecy is dicey business very few can claim success. The tarot is about understanding the aspects of personality and subconscious influences of the present rather than predicting the future.
     As Robert Place said in his book  The Tarot: History, Symbolism and Divination  “Instead of predicting the future, the cards work best when they are used to help create a more fulfilling future.”
     Forget any cultural references you may have seen about tarot. Movies and TV are especially notorious for inaccuracy. They will for dramatic effect depict the death card literally (cue the ominous music) when the death card is in fact, a positive symbol in many instances.
     The cards aren’t the only thing suffering from an image problem. Readers are often portrayed as flaky hippies or women in Gypsy garb speaking with a Romanian accent. Please. This image is so entrenched a client was startled when I showed up in jeans and a Hawaiian shirt. In my experience readers have ranged from housewives to professional psychics.

Friday, April 6

The Rave: Home, Home on the Range

    There is considerable talk about efficient cars, smaller homes, cleaner energy but for the most part, it's talk. The reality is that we live in a society that wants you to use more gas, have a bigger house and use up more energy resources because-money. Specifically, tax revenue.
    The more gas you use, the more road tax is collected. Same with property. City zoning prefers you have a bigger house based on the economics of property tax. The idea that you can do whatever you want with your property is anathema to local zoning. Private property owners inthe Portland area found this out after building small additions on their land and then were handed huge tax increases.
 People who want to live off the grid on their land have been cited for living in unsafe conditions and forced to go on the grid, at their expense so that local utilities can make money.
    Large cities have also expressed little interest in resources or space for the poor and homeless because there is no profit in it. The housing market prefers high rents forcing out the middle class and poor causing evictions instead of small, sustainable living. Most cities require a dwelling to be at least 500 sq. feet making most tiny homes illegal.
    For now there is no incentive to be resourceful. Bigger is better, a scenario based on the delusion that land and fossil fuels are inexhaustible as well as a burgeoning economy.
    Solar energy? In Spain you are taxed for using it even as the user attempts to lower their electrical bills. There are attempts to ban it in some places because it competes with the local utilities.
     The current approach to development involves asking for a tax break from a local city government claiming it will improve the economy but that bargain comes at our expense. How does this encourage sustainability? How does this promote efficient use of land and resources?
     Contractors don't want to build small homes-not profitable. Banks don't want to finance or loan for the same reasons. Realtors can't sell them because of the belief no one wants a small house. These are the realities economy living are up against.
      The archaic codes governing land use, energy and building have to be modified to suit the changing landscape. There are solutions and movements to more sustainable living. The alternatives are spreading because they are more economical and efficient.