Family values

I am the proud and loving father of a trans-woman.

My daughter Lucy began life as Luke and was a delightful and charming little boy! She is now a most delightful and charming young women, and is making a great life for herself as a circus arts performer. She does juggling, balancing, unicycle (non-binary cycle, she calls the single-wheel and triple-stack versions) and a variety of astoundingly beautiful feminine stage characters with an entertaining banter featuring nuanced humor and commentary.

As a 70-yr-old, straight white southern man who grew up in a time and place when there was little to no public discussion of anything anything outside the cis-gender, binary world, it has been challenging for me to understand and truly relate to the whole process, and as a parent it has been emotionally difficult to accept that we perhaps didn’t really understand what was going on with our child for many years. But we have been living with this reality for about a year now, and things are truly fine.

To put all this in context, we live in a small rural town in south Georgia where the churches are the dominant social institution and all the “red-state” values are strong. (Redneck is no longer politically correct, but it was born here!) Yet, in this small town of just over 10,000 people, we have known four young people personally who have transitioned in the last few years, most of whom I taught in middle school or high school. One of them was very good friends with Lucy in high school, and we were very close to her during the transition. In fact, my wife could probably be credited with saving her life at one point.

Most of these people no longer live in our town, some of them don’t feel comfortable coming to visit. A brave and resourceful few are still trying to live and work here. It’s not easy. That too, is another story.

Without my wife, whose New York Italian background gave her a little more perspective and equanimity about it all, I’m not sure how well I would have done at getting through all this. Knowing and talking with the other young people who have transitioned has been really helpful as well.

We have all had lots of help, and I am particularly grateful also to the writer Allison Washington, a woman who transitioned a long time ago. She writes in a variety of venues with great clarity and openness about her own transition, as it has helped me understand some of the depths and subtleties of the process that I was probably too ignorant and shy to ask about.  (Her Patreon site is a good place to delve into her writing. She’s also on Medium and has been published recently in a variety of national print mags, so probably an easy google…)

I have wrestled for some time with what to say about all this, how to explain our feelings and responses, how to account for this seemingly astounding incidence of children who don’t fit the category assigned them at birth or the gender roles those assignments required of them socially. If you check the stats, however you’ll find that there are probably something like 60 transitioned people living in our town, with somewhere between half and one-quarter of them young people. So it’s just that we’ve been pretty oblivious for a long time.

If you need more knowledge and understanding of this subject, there is lots on the inter-webs, and there is notably a National Geographic issue devoted to the topic. I’m just relating my personal experience, which some people seem to feel is relevant.

At this point, though we are all still working to come to better understanding of it all, I am happy to say that our family is still intact and we have responded gracefully, lovingly to our children as they become who they really are. In the early stages, it was hard, and the feeling of loss was sometimes strong. Gradually, we were able to see that Lucy’s heart is the same, despite the differences in surface appearance, and that it’s that person we love, not the trappings.

Her assurances that we did not fail her in those early years have helped a lot. She says she was very good at concealing what she was going through. As apparently are many.

Most wonderfully, we realize more deeply week by week that Lucy is so much happier, more fulfilled, more expansive and whole that none of those early concerns – how did we fail her? how will she make it? what will she do? what will people think? etc. – are even part of our thoughts anymore.

Lucy is happy and whole and we love her! That’s the important thing.

Cedrus libani

A poem of sorts from August 16, 2016:

 

Here. Take this lash.

Whip it across my face. Draw blood.

I prefer that to these words which cut

deep into my heart

and bury themselves in my mind,

waking me in the night with their pain,

manifesting as a dream of the cedar

I found long ago at the corner of Orange and Wayne,

now gone,

mourned in my dreams alone.

Or in the quiet sleepless hours

I roam about in the house, in the cosmos,

once again feeling the loss of the old forests

as if it were my own.

My life and the cedar’s are not so far apart.

 

The nature of reality

Hmmm. Reality. Interesting concept, but do we have a clue as to what it really is?

Well, actually, no. All we have is this consensus. We all agree that things are pretty much as they seem. But, it could be, as George Musser says, that

The universe we see playing out in space may be just the surface level, where we float like little boats while leviathans stir in the deep. [from: Musser, George. Spooky Action at a Distance: The Phenomenon That Reimagines Space and Time–and What It Means for Black Holes, the Big Bang, and Theories of Everything (p. 182). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition.]

Mosser says that many of the leading researchers and theorists in physics and the related fields of quantum mechanics and such question the very ground of assumptions that science has made for the past several centuries. “Localism” or the idea that things have a position in space – pretty basic assumption, right? — is no longer held to be a valid scientific idea.

Which is confirmed by recent, high-level experiments reported in this Atlantic article, and is increasingly becoming the consensus opinion of scientists in the field. Borrowing a very telling metaphor from physicist and philosopher Jenann Ismael, Musser says:

Today we know that the universe has more to it than things situated within space. Nonlocal phenomena leap out of space; they have no place in its confines. They hint at a level of reality deeper than space, where the concept of distance ceases to apply, where things that appear to lie far apart are actually nearby or perhaps are the same thing manifested in more than one place, like multiple images of a single shard of kaleidoscopic glass. When we think in terms of such a level, the connections between subatomic particles across a lab bench, between the inside and the outside of a black hole, and between opposite sides of the universe don’t seem so spooky anymore.

Ismael says that like a kaleidoscope, where a single bead of glass is “redundantly represented” in different parts of the view screen of the device, what we are learning about the nature of reality means

…seeing space as we know it— everyday space in which we view measurement events located at different parts of space— as an emergent structure. Maybe when we’re looking at two parts, we’re seeing the same event. We’re interacting with the same bit of reality from different parts of space.

In other words, space – in fact, the so-called “space-time continuum” – doesn’t really ‘exist’ in the way we usually think of that term. We are seeing effects from some deeper level of whose nature we have no notion. Physicists are just beginning to suggest various ways of thinking about this, ideas for ideas, that may eventually lead to an understanding of at least a theory of what it actually is, even though it’s very unlikely we’ll ever have evidence or experience of that actuality itself. An emergent structure. A reality that is emerging from some other, unknown, level. Spacetime is an experience that we have, but that manifestation is coming from some other more basic reality.

Bogles the mind really. But that’s because we’re trying to think of these things in terms of space, in terms of locality, in terms of our experience. Because that’s the only way our mind works. So scientists engaging this question are looking for a completely new way of conceiving of reality. Pretty challenging.

As Musser says, “This thinking completely inverts physics. Nonlocality is no longer the mystery; it’s the way things really are, and locality becomes the puzzle. When we can no longer take space for granted, we have to explain what it is and how it arises, either on its own or in union with time.”

These building blocks of spacetime would have neither size nor location, much as a molecule of water is not “wet”. Only the combination of the molecules produces the phenomena we know as water, with all it’s attendant properties. Or like building a model of the Eiffle Tower with popsicle sticks.

In this approach, space is thought of as a notion that explains, or organizes in a convenient way, what we experience. That we might eventually develop a theory that explains that notion in a more causal, existential way is pretty exciting to me.

I intend to try to keep up with the progress in this area, and try to understand it. Which is what leads me to blog about it, creating a new category here, “Quantum Reality” to help me follow and develop my own understanding. Hope some of you find that interesting and will join me in this fascinating quest.

 

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Richey Rich

Interesting report on “The Real News Network” about the money behind the President. These people have been working for years to create what is happening now, and Trump is just a vehicle for their ultra-right agenda. These folks are masters of propaganda.

Robert Mercer, whom we never hear about because he’s a billionaire nerd who runs an extremely profitable hedge fund but never talks to the public, put his billions and his infrastructure – Cambridge Analytica – behind Trump after Cruz dropped out, and they essentially created the Trump phenomena.

According to Bill Black, these people make money by moving money around. “All they do, is make one group of, literally, billionaires, slightly richer than another group of billionaires, and in the process they make themselves billionaires. But they add absolutely nothing to the economy, or the world effectively.” Mercer was a computer guy originally, and figured out some algorithms to game Wall Street, what’s called ‘quantitative trading.’

Black says:

One of the things that is really useful, if you’re a billionaire, and you get your money by doing nothing socially useful, is to valorize what you’re doing and to demonize anyone that might actually restrict it by law, regulation, even social mores.

And propaganda is historically the answer to that.

What most of their political activism is about is protecting themselves from being invested for billions in tax fraud, and beyond that, creating a political environment that allows these mega-billionaire businesses to operate virtually free of regulation – or taxes.

Now his daughter, Rebecca, sits on Trump’s transition team executive committee. Kellyanne Conway was the head of Mercer’s super-PAC when they were pushing Cruz. Now she’s — whatever she is. Second Mouth for the Mouth. Deputy Campaign Manager, David Bossie was president of Citizens United, an organization Mercer has heavily funded since at least 2010. So Mercer’s people are the Trump team, essentially.

They are really good at creating propaganda, beginning with a movie deifying Ronald Reagan, and were behind Citizens United’s anti-Hillary film, “Hillary: The Movie” directed by neo-fascist Steve Bannon, back in 2008. This is the film that led to the now-famous Supreme Court decision that opened up corporate campaign contributions.

In the Real News report, Hedges says:

Casino capitalism has given people like Robert and Rebecca Mercer riches and power beyond most people’s imagination. But the role of activist billionaires in American politics isn’t new. It’s just become stronger, as wealth is concentrated in fewer hands. With the top 1% of Americans today holding onto 40% of the country’s wealth, and with much of that increase taking place in the finance and energy sectors of the economy, the rise of people like Robert Mercer and the Koch brothers, reflects how billionaires have gradually taken more direct control over politicians and the state.

The report is long and a bit disorganized and confusing, but Hedges conclusion is pretty simple:

 An essential part of Trump’s propaganda, is that he represents the interests of workers, the little guy, and will take on the big corporations. But the proof of his loyalties is in his appointments. His Cabinet, the richest in history, along with his close advisors include major players from Wall Street and corporate America.

Rex Tillerson, Andrew Puzder, Linda McMahon, Stephen Swharzman, Todd Ricketts, Gary Cohn, Steve Bannon, Betsy DeVos, Elaine Chao, Wilbur Ross, Steven Mnuchin, Carl Icahn, Peter Theil. These are the true faces of a Trump presidency.

In the end, there are no workers, or little guys on the Trump team. Only the allies of rainmakers Robert and Rebecca Mercer, the billionaires whose political hedge pushed Donald Trump into the White House.

The quotes are from The Real News.com

Stifling dissent

Six journalists were arrested in DC last Friday during inauguration unrest, and the charges sound like the prelude to a repressive authoritarian regime.

The charges are vague, and were applied to a fairly large group of people who were all swept up in a mass arrest. The Guardian:

An arrest report for Engel provided by Washington DC’s metropolitan police department said he was arrested after hundreds of people gathered at the intersection and “numerous crimes were occurring in police presence”.

“The crowd was observed enticing a riot by organizing, promoting, encouraging, and participating in acts of violence in furtherance of the riot,” the police narrative said. “The crowd was observed braking [sic] windows, lighting fires, vandalizing police vehicles, burned a limousine, and other acts of violence. The damage was determined to excess $5,000.00.”

An arrest report for Rubinstein stated only that “numerous individual [sic] were arrested” for violating the district’s laws against rioting.

Jack Keller, a producer for the web documentary series Story of America, said he was charged and detained for about 36 hours after being kettled by police at 12th and L streets on Friday morning and arrested despite telling officers that he was covering the demonstrations as a journalist.

Some 200 people were arrested, and the National Lawyers’ Guild said the police had “indiscriminately targeted people for arrest en masse based on location alone”. That’s pretty clearly just designed to suppress dissent and discourage reporting on any resistance. Being in an area where crimes are being committed should not be grounds for arrest and detention.

….

The Guardian report on the first two – and then four more.

Emma Lindsay on the mess in DC… the best case for optimism yet

Emma Lindsay – Thought she starts with the Manning pardon, it gets wider and takes a very open-minded look at the whole issue of what the Dems have done, what the Repugs have done, and how it all may hold some promise for positive development… at least her commentary is well worth reading. She’s one of the best, clearest, most honest bloggers I’ve read.

As I struggle through the Trump election, the specter of growing normalization and acceptance of the representatives of hatred and racist/classist that seem destined to populate our government, and all the rising signs of fascism, it is increasingly hard to maintain the even-minded approach that I would like to think I believe in.

I am committed to the idea that an approach of inclusiveness and moderation, rejecting us/them dichotomies and divisiveness, will bring us greater freedom, justice and understanding as a nation. But sometimes…. I just want to blast them. So it’s helpful to read those folks, like Emma Lindsay, who are able to see the positives and find optimism in spite of seeing the realities as starkly as I do.

I am also finding it helpful to return – once again, as I have many times before! – to the practice of tonglen and the lojong. A fellow practitioner mentioned to me recently that the teachings say that difficulties are things to be grateful for, and I remembered, yes, Lojong #13, Be grateful to everyone! It certainly applies in the current circumstances.

Chogyam says it deals with ‘conventional reality’ and that ‘without this world we cannot attain enlightenment’ for there would be no path. As long as we have an understanding that we are on the path, all the things that seem like obstacles are actually essential parts of the path.

So let’s be grateful to the horribleness, because it’s certainly giving me an opportunity to practice like nothing before!

…why the Otherworld is just as real as this one

Thanks to my friend Melissa, I’ve just been reading a most amazing blog, Dr. Sharon Blackie’s “Myths and Metamorphoses“. I’m still processing the most recent entry — “The psychology of mythology: or, why the Otherworld is just as real as this one” — but I’m astounded at how similar much of what she says is to the ideas in Spooky Action… the book on quantum entanglement and non-locality!
Dr. Blackie says:

“.. And so, in Corbin’s expression of this ancient Sufi philosophy, the material world which we take as real is in fact totally enveloped by a spiritual reality which influences (or perhaps even determines) it.

How similar to non-locality! Dr. Blackie, who is part of the Celtic culture, continues:

“…the forms and figures which occupy the mundus imaginalis have a real – and the key point here is that ‘reality’ is not just restricted to the material – presence. The mundus imaginalis is the place from where all spiritual and transcendent experience derives. It is the source of synchronicities, ‘psychic’ experiences and creative insights. This world penetrates into our dreams and other visionary experiences, including the places we visit during deep meditation or imaginal journeying.”

“… in most conceptions of the Otherworld in Irish and Welsh literature, the normal rules of existence do not apply: time passes differently, for example, and the seasons may be inverted.”

Time passes differently in all these instances of non-local action, and in fact some quantum researchers think this implies that time is imaginary. Compare this quote from Tim Maudlin in Musser’s book:

“I always thought, and still do, that the discovery and proof of the nonlocality is the single most astonishing discovery of twentieth-century physics,” says Tim Maudlin, a professor at New York University and one of the world’s leading philosophers of physics. In a paper in the late 1990s, he summed up the implications: “The world is not just a set of separately existing localized objects, externally related only by space and time. Something deeper, and more mysterious, knits together the fabric of the world. We have only just come to the moment in the development of physics that we can begin to contemplate what that might be.”

In other word, the normal rules do not apply. Realizing that “locality” is the aspect of our conventional reality that is essential to our very existence, as we understand it, to the notion that we are each separate with “space” between us, consider this: Mosser says, “In the instances of nonlocality I’ve talked about so far, space is failing in its most basic function: to separate things from one another, to space them out. Entangled particles coordinate their behavior without exchanging signals through space. Matter falls into a black hole and manages to climb out of the abyss of space. Galaxies look alike across an unbridgeable gulf of space.”

All of this is not mere speculation. It is based on solid, mainstream scientific experimentation. Real data shows that particles, once together, are forever entangled. Regardless of time, space, or distance.

Entangled particle behave like two coins that always end up the same, either heads or tails, when flipped. Always. In experiments. And this transcends just particles at the quantum level. Mosser again:

“Once physicists were clued in to the importance of entanglement, they began to see it almost everywhere they looked. It occurs even in living organisms. In photosynthesis, entanglement accounts for the unexpectedly high efficiency with which molecules transfer light energy into chemical energy, thereby helping to enable life on our planet.”

Compare again to Dr. Blackie:

“Why does all of this this matter? It matters for a very simple reason: because our relationship with the Otherworld determines what happens in this world. The Otherworld was the source of inspiration, insight, and knowledge. …

It was from the Otherworld that Sovereignty arose, a quality of the goddess of the land who was its guardian and protector, a deeply ecological force. … If the power she bestowed was abused, then we invited disaster. During the reign of a king favoured by the goddess, the land was fertile and prosperous, and the tribe was victorious in war.”

Mythological expressions of an underlying reality that is intricately connected with our everyday apparent reality.

Musser: “Quantum nonlocality is clearly not just a dinner act in Vegas, but an essential aspect of the world, and physicists and philosophers still don’t know what is behind the magic. Could the clues they seek lie in other domains of science? What can they learn from the other types of nonlocality that are out there in the world?”

Indeed. Or perhaps these clues lie in other domains altogether. Domains long known and understood by the peoples of the world, and embedded in the myths and magics that make up the lore of every culture.

Dr. Blackie ends with this: “We ignore it at our peril.”