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This used to be a blog dedicated to one of my interests, dream interpretation. I have decided to expand it to include thoughts about pretty much Everything.

Friday, December 5, 2014

"Saving Christmas," the movie (guest post)

My friend, Peter Brahm, posted this on his FaceBook wall, and I think it's great.  With his permission, I'm copying it here.  He doesn't have a website , but maybe he should start one!  He IS working on writing a book, I hear, so follow his FaceBook page if you're interested in reading that when it's ready.



This is a real poster for a real movie that was really made and really just came out in real theaters.

First off, you have to love how Kirk Cameron, the writer and star of the movie, has his name in letters just a little smaller than the title, while the message of the movie, "put Christ back in Christmas," is in teenie weenie little letters you can barely notice.

Or how about the fact that the title appears to be "Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas," as though he wants all the credit for "saving" a holiday which he and a bunch of his lunatic followers believes is being oppressed into nonexistence, when in actuality it's growing so big that people are even starting to celebrate it the month before?

Or how about the idea that this movie supposedly rails against the commercialization of Christmas, but this is a movie that people will have to pay to see? Hypocritical much, Cameron?

The very message of this movie is repulsive. There is no war on Christmas, period. Acknowledging other people's holidays during December is not waging war on Christmas or Christians or anything like that, it's called being inclusive.

Nutjobs like Cameron, who oppress everyone different from them and then cry about "persecution" any time that they get some reality check about how there's people who aren't Christians who also deserve to be respected, are poisoning society. They spread self-righteous hatred under the veil that they're really doing it out of love for those that they treat like sh*t. They lie about being "oppressed," in spite of making up the religious majority of the nation, whilst demonizing the people they claim they are being oppressed by. They're in the media, they're in the press, and they're even in office, too. And they're the ones who are giving religion a bad name. They're the ones causing much of the criticisms about religion these days.

Movies like "God's Not Dead," "Heaven is for Real," "A Matter of Faith," "Persecuted," and... THIS cosmic abomination are detrimental to society and religion itself, and if you claim to be a Christian, then trust me, supporting this movie and encouraging its level of dogmatic insanity is only going to lead to your religion fading into irrelevance in the near future.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Dear Jane Teresa,

I had an insight recently that I think you might be interested in. 

I was driving along in my car on a long trip last week, listening to your podcast, and I started thinking about all the dream interpretation and alchemy I did several years ago, when I was going through the process of a divorce, questioning my religion, raising small babies, moving, and a host of other extremely stressful situations.  I had remembered lots of dreams during that time period, and I had tried to do an alchemy at least every couple of weeks.  Now I wondered, in hindsight, while driving down the highway, if the dream alchemy had really helped, actually.  It seemed to me like my healing took a long time. And in fact, I still haven't accomplished some of the goals that I was hoping to achieve through alchemy.  Was that all a waste of time? Or did it actually make a difference? "Ah well, who knows," I thought.

When I arrived at my destination, I stopped at a café and to my surprise, I randomly happened to bump into an old friend. We hadn't seen each other in years, but I knew that he had gone through a similar period of extreme stress, around roughly the same time I had gone through mine. As we were talking, catching up, I noticed that when he brought up the names of certain people, or mentioned certain places or situations, how bitter his language became. He was still angry, and I sensed that his current life is hampered by his anger.  It was so obvious to me, but as he was speaking I got the feeling that he wasn't even aware of how angry he was.

I noticed that by comparison, I was doing well, emotionally speaking.  I am no longer angry at the people involved. I'm not nearly as bitter as I used to be.  I feel like I have made considerable progress in making peace with (much of) my past.  (Though I'm sure there is more work to be done!)  I am able to look at what happened to me, and not be triggered by panic or rage.  I'm more relaxed, and definitely happier than I ever have been.

When I noticed the difference between myself and my friend, it felt like there was my answer.  I had engaged with my unconscious, as one (of several) interventions to improve my inner condition, during that time period of extreme stress, and now I can see that my hard work really did help.  I may not have achieved everything I wanted, but perhaps the very act of trying at all was enough for the unconscious to continue its drive for maturity and wholeness and peace, at a faster rate than it could have otherwise.

Now, of course, my friend's situation was not exactly like mine, his personality is not mine, I used other interventions besides only dream alchemy, and so forth, so I can't really make any kind of scientific comparison. These are just my subjective impressions. But the uncanny timing and surprise nature of the visit caused me, at least, to pay attention. It felt like an affirmation to the question I had asked myself earlier in the day. Yes, I am better off for having paid attention to my dreams and having tried to intervene. Yes, I did make progress in 4 years that other people might have needed 8 years for (or who knows how long). Yes, the unconscious should be listened to.

Since you had helped me with a couple of my dreams, I thought I would share this testimonial with you.  Thank you so much for the show, for your research and development into the topic of dreams, and your dedication to share it with the world.

Sincerely,
Sleeping Realities

Friday, August 1, 2014

the logic of weather men

Today I met someone who worked for the National Weather Service (he's retired now.) He told a true story of some soldiers he worked with years ago in the forecasting department. One of them, clearly a higher rank than the others, looked up from his computer screen where the simulations and models were being processed and announced confidently that the weather tomorrow would be sunny and around 82ºF.

The next day, everyone walked into work dripping from the rain and shivering from the cold. They complained at the senior officer about his total miss. To which he replied, in all seriousness and in an indignant tone of voice, "I am a Forecaster, not an Observer."

From what I could gather from the conversation, those who are just starting in the service are Observers, but as they move through the ranks, they "progress" further indoors until they have only their computers to tell them what's going on and what will go on. Few ever actually bother to look out the window after that point. It is, apparently, beneath them to observe.

No attempts were made to recalculate the computer's algorithms to figure out what went wrong and to improve the accuracy of the program. Maintaining the internal logic of the simulations was more important to the people on duty than matching them to reality.

I'm confident that not all people who work/ed there are/were of this mindset.  (The gentleman who told me the story was very sensible, for example!)  But still, there is philosophical, religious, and political commentary to be found in this amusing story...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

loving another

I've heard a certain teaching, in various forms, which I have tried to integrate into my life for very personal reasons.  It is a teaching similar to "the law of attraction," and goes something along the lines of: we are often attracted to people who have a lesson that we need to learn, or who have some quality in abundance that we sense is missing in our own lives ("opposites attract"), or who remind us of our unintegrated shadows. Thus, the teaching goes, if you're attracted to someone who doesn't share your feelings, or who is unhealthy for you, or who is "off limits" for whatever reason, the way to resolve that attraction is to work on the issues in yourself that are brought up by this person.  Kind of like when your body needs certain nutrients, it craves foods that contain those nutrients. So you can essentially swap a healthful food in for an unhealthful one that contains the nutrients you need.

Well, in my case, I've tried that, sincerely and fully, and I can say that it usually doesn't work.  After much reflection, I've decided that this teaching, which I'll call "the Other to Assimilate" has its merits, but it is also dangerous.

First of all, the insidious idea is that my love is something that serves ME, not the other. I'm not actually attracted to the other person; I'm just deceiving myself. I'm really attracted to the lessons he can teach ME, or the qualities in MYSELF that need to be brought forth that he can help with, or even a simple presence to ease MY loneliness.

Well, no.

That's not actually how it works.

After much soul searching, I've realized that most of the people I've loved, I've loved for THEMSELVES.  Even after I learn the lessons that I needed to learn from their presence (and believe me, my conscience is a strong disciplinarian), even after my soul matures and grows due to their influence, even after I find another person to assuage my loneliness, I still miss that specific person when s/he is gone. I'm not missing their lessons or their influence, I'm missing them. Some ineffable quality, an "other," a unique expression of life that defines them as themselves and nobody else.  Yes, if they are abusive or harmful to myself, I need to cut them out of my life. But when there's real love, I grieve their loss, not (only) because of what they gave me, but because of who they are.

Secondly, it reduces love to a flat, predictable formula.  Person X has quality Y; I need Y; therefore, I need X.  But love is much richer than that.  There is always some assimilation of the other's qualities in any relationship; this is a valid component of love. But there's so much more.  There's physical attraction, familiarity of soul, companionship, personality, common activities... Unending possibilities. Every person is a unique universe of potential, character traits, mannerisms, preferences, activities, ideas, and so on.  When you meet someone whose universe somehow resonates with your own, you can't pinpoint one specific reason that you want to be with them, if it's really love.  It's a multi-dimensional, ever-changing, and immense experience.

Thirdly, for some reason, this "Other to Assimilate" teaching seems only to be espoused when talking about romantic love. I never hear people mourning the death of a family member being advised to "learn the lessons you're supposed to learn from that person and move on."  They aren't urged to introspect on what caused them to be attracted to that family member in the first place.  Why is a familial attachment any different than a romantic attachment?  Maybe because there's a tacit recognition that we don't choose our family members and therefore don't really have control over whether we become attached to them or not.  But I think this takes away from the depths of love.  Maybe we are attracted to people romantically for the same reasons we are attracted to our family members or our close friends.  Maybe the romantic Other feels, at some deep level, like family.  Why would we take away from the grief of someone who's lost a romantic prospect, just because it's slightly different than an actual family member?

Finally, this "Other to Assimilate" teaching opposes itself to the feelings and experiences of those who love, or grieve the loss of love.  It essentially tells someone, "I know you FEEL like you love that person, but your feelings are lying. You actually love yourself."  If our feelings are not accurate indicators of our emotional reality, which is by definition intangible and immeasurable, then what can we trust?  Why would we allow somebody who doesn't know us, doesn't know the situation, and is guided by an ideology to prove rather than commitment to reality, to tell us what's "really" going on?  Maybe your feelings are right. Maybe you do love the other.  Maybe you should just listen to your feelings for once and not try to explain away the unexplainable.

People aren't foods to consume. They are people. Respect that.

Friday, June 27, 2014

A landmark debate: Modern vs. Traditional Astrology

Recently there was a debate between Chris Brennan and Eric Meyers on the topic of "Modern vs. Traditional Astrology" that has been making waves in the astrological community. This is a big deal.  You will want to listen to this if you care about astrology.


I'm posting my comments on the debate here.

The first thing I need to say is that I'm not a professional astrologer, and am not trained in any kind of advanced techniques for analyzing an astrological chart.  I know some basics, and am interested in the field, so I cannot comment on the efficacy or usefulness of any particular technique mentioned in the show. My comments are mainly philosophical.

Unfortunately, I'm mostly going to have to pick on Meyers in this post.  He did a lot of interrupting and steam-rolling, and Brennan wasn't able to get a lot of words in edgewise, so there's more to pick on.

The first and overarching fallacy Meyers engaged in was appealing to quantum theory as a way of trying to prove his spiritual beliefs as objectively true.  This is common in New Age circles. They watch the documentary What the Bleep Do We Know Anyway?, and maybe read a few articles about some basic principles of quantum physics, and they jump to conclusions about the applications of this science, namely, the conclusions that Quantum Theory proves their spiritual beliefs.

"Quantum Gravity Photon Race" image by
NASA/Sonoma State University/Aurore Simonnet, Flickr
https://flic.kr/p/7bCCg8

I have two friends who are actually familiar with the field of QT--one, Charles S., is a brilliant computer scientist and pianist, the other, Eric F.-L., is a math professor at Benedictine College.  Neither of them are likely to be into astrology, but I asked them a bit about Quantum Theory, and one thing they made sure to emphasize is that there's a difference between the scientific theory, proper, and the varying interpretations of the theory.  With their permission, I'm copying part of our conversation (emphases mine):


C:  Actually, quantum mechanics is one of the most solid theories out there as far as the math goes. It has a staggering amount of evidence backing it up, and as far as the math goes, it's one of the best theories out there in terms of predictive power, and it has plenty of solid conclusions.
The problem with quantum mechanics is that it's weird, and doesn't seem to make intuitive sense. It's extremely accurate, and if you do the math, you get the right results, but very few people completely understand it, which allows other people to abuse it to justify whatever pseudoscientific beliefs they like and generally get away with it.

Me: Pretty sure you can't use quantum theory to "prove" that there is no objective reality, and we are all creating the illusion of the universe as we go along, as the New Agers are trying to say?

E: That's right -- you can't use quantum theory to prove there is no objective reality. As Charles said, the math is solid, but as for the interpretation, there are many competing ideas. The idea that sentient observers create their own reality is certainly not a necessary part of quantum theory (in fact, you'd be hard pressed to come up with an interpretation that consistently includes the idea of creating your own reality, since everyone's realities have to agree).

C: That kind of thing would fall under the umbrella of the pseudoscientific beliefs that I was referring to. Well, there's the MWI, in which there are many different realities that don't necessarily all agree with each other. That still doesn't mean you create your own reality, though, especially since in MWI, it's hard to figure out what "you" would even mean. Also, MWI, like most interpretations of QM, is hard to call scientific, since so far no one's thought of any way to test it other than the quantum suicide experiment, which would only produce valid results for the person who was doing it.

E: yeah, many worlds was the only one I could think of where a "create your own realities" philosophy might be possible, but as you said, even that would be pretty shady.


In other words, Quantum Theory can be used for scientific purposes, but it cannot teach us about spiritual truths.  Unfortunately, we still have to rely on revelation for that.  And, equally unfortunately, without hard proof we may still have to disagree about which spiritual revelations are actually true.

Meyers' spiritual culture teaches him that all of life is a dream, and we are all projecting our own beliefs and realities into the dream scape, and attracting situations, people, and events to our lives that will teach us spiritual lessons.

My spiritual beliefs do not align with his.  I disagree with him, quite strongly, on some points.  But I can't use quantum physics or any other scientific theory to prove him wrong; likewise, he cannot use quantum physics or any other scientific theory to prove me wrong.

Brennan is probably not an expert in scientific fields (and I highly doubt Meyers is either), so he didn't call Meyers on this point, but if he had done so, it would have changed the entire debate.  That was the one card Meyers kept pulling, the foundation he tried to build everything else on, and it was a terribly weak foundation.

The next point I want to make is that it would be useful to distinguish between spiritual consciousness and cognition. I'm not sure if Meyers was trying to equate them when he brought up the idea of giraffe and spider charts compared to human charts, or if he was just using a metaphor.  Either way, there are problems.  

If he meant to say that the main difference between a human and a giraffe is the level of consciousness (and presumably he'd assert that human consciousness is "higher" than a giraffe's), and if he's equating consciousness with cognition, then the logical conclusion would be that with enough spiritual practice, a giraffe could eventually achieve the consciousness of a human.  Also, if he is equating consciousness and cognition, and if a lower level of consciousness means a "darker manifestation" of the chart's energies (attracting negative energies and situations,) then all animals, due to being "lower" in consciousness than humans, would consistently live in "dark" energies and manifestations.  
"Attack of a Vampire Kitty!" by tanakawho, Flickr



If he meant to use cognition as a metaphor for spiritual consciousness, then the metaphor is a poor one.  The problem is, Meyers asserts that self will is the major factor in spiritual development, but it's a fact that the development of cognition is largely out of our control.  Though there is much variation, humans (all animals, actually) go through fairly predictable stages of cognitive development, and many, of not all, of these are directly influenced by biological developments (brain, hormones, etc.)  A two year old doesn't wake up one day and decide to start talking, to control her bladder, or to explore everything she sees.  These things are natural parts of normal human development.  Free will plays a part in the process, but the bulk of cognitive development seems to be predetermined by genetics and environment.  If spiritual maturity is being compared to cognitive maturity, why would spiritual development be completely a matter of free will, when cognition is not? 

In any case, what does this have to do with astrology? I'm certain that there's no astrologer out there who will say that everything about a person's life can be explained by astrological factors. (As far as I know, a person's chart can't even reveal the gender of the native, which is obviously a huge part of a person's identity.) Brennan wasn't saying that astrology explained a 100% mechanistic and fatalistic universe, but that seemed to be the strawman that Meyers was attacking when he tried to discredit traditional astrology.

If you want to hold certain spiritual beliefs as an astrologer, that's completely fine, but you can't use your spiritual beliefs (which are, by definition, unprovable) to deny that certain astrological techniques, which can be (more or less) proven, actually work.  Actually, Meyers doesn't seem to be doing that; he's doing something worse.  He's using his spiritual beliefs as an excuse not to even investigate whether certain astrological techniques work.  As the old expression goes, the only thing preventing you from finding truth is the belief you've already found it.

This blog post is getting pretty long. Though I have so much more to say, I'll close by stating what, if I were in the audience that night, I would have asked Meyers and Brennan during the Q&A after the debate.

To Mr. Meyers: According to what you've said tonight, people "attract" situations that they judge as "negative" to them in order to learn spiritual lessons.  If a person is more spiritually enlightened, conscious, mature, or whatever the word you want to use, then they will attract less darkness and more light, and, presumably, suffer less.  Therefore, by your logic, what's been called "the 1%" in the USA, the richest people, who have considerably less suffering than the rest of us, should be the most spiritually-awakened individuals in the world.  This is known as a "just-world" viewpoint, that people get what they deserve.  Do you really want to defend this viewpoint?

To Mr. Brennan:  You mentioned that the Tradition should be adaptable to the culture it finds itself in, and techniques and such can be modified to fit the needs of new situations.  That you use Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto is one testimonial to your flexibility.  How, though, do you think traditional astrology, which is rooted in such patriarchal and somewhat rigid cultures, can be reconciled faithfully with today's increased social mobility, feminism, globalism, and other such sensibilities of today's culture?

Monday, June 23, 2014

holiness is evil

My conscience is sharp and keeps me on a short chain.  The very night after I posted my previous post, bashing on "science fundamentalists," my dreams became troubled. I don't remember what they were, but I woke up with a strong memory from 8 years ago, and a profound sense of guilt.  Apparently, my conscience won't let me get away with a judgemental tone towards fundamentalists without reminding me that I used to be one, myself.  I must stay humble.

I was at the Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences, working towards certification in audio engineering.  I found out that another student there needed to record something for her midpoint project.  I volunteered, as there was a song I had written in high school that I wanted to record.  As a teenager, I had performed it at a women's retreat at my church and had gotten great feedback at the time. It had been niggling in my mind for awhile that I wanted to get the song recorded, and this seemed like a great opportunity.

This classmate of mine was leaving the school halfway through the program, due to being pregnant. She was unmarried, and struggling, but that's the only thing I knew about her situation. I didn't actually know her very well, as we were in different cohorts.  She said she just wanted to get the project done, so she was happy that my song was just for piano and voice, not a full band.  She was fairly far along in the pregnancy, and tired.

My song was called "Full of You," and it was about wanting to be "God's kind of girl."  I am not proud of this song, but I feel the need to be open about the kind of person I was then. Confession is good for the soul.

The first few stanzas of this song were:
I watch the girls who pass me by
They simply seem the same
A giddy mind, a flirting eye
A smile with little shame
Some had shallow sheltered lives
And some a rougher start
I see the spirit of the times
And I'm vowing in my heart

I want to be the kind of girl who only points to You
Making my mark on this world, by always ringing true
Not seeking only my own pleasure, serving with a smile
I want to gain that heavenly treasure, and walk the extra mile
And walk in Jesus' style

It was a song about desiring holiness. It was about being different, pure, a true believer.  About being full of God. As opposed to all those other girls out there, those impure, shallow, flirtatious, self-centered girls. The kinds of girls who, oh, say... get pregnant out of wedlock.

How could I not have seen what I was doing?  How could I not have noticed the irony?

Now, in my defense, I didn't really think about the appropriateness of recording my Christian song in a secular environment for an audience of unknown faith. Nor was I thinking about evangelism, although if I had stopped to ask myself if this was a good idea, I might have defended it by using the excuse that I wanted to "shine my light."  I was honestly just thinking, "I like this song, and I want to record it."  I was charging forth in my holiness, only dimly aware of or concerned about what the others around me might be going through.

In my holiness, I ignored a sister who needed help.

In my holiness, I shamed her.

In my holiness, I put myself above her.

When I woke up only now having put this realization together, I grew ill with disgust at myself.  I wished I could go back and choose a different song to record.  I wished I could go back and offer to help this woman with some practical needs (though I didn't know much about pregnancy or child care at that time).  I wished I could even remember my class mate's full name to try to find her now and check to make sure she's OK. 
After a few hours of stewing in this, I remembered to have compassion on myself.  My attitude of prioritizing principles over people was formed by the culture in which I grew up and had little control over.  I was taught to think this way. The people who taught me were well-intentioned, but misguided.  "When you know better you do better," and at the time I didn't know better. 

I would like to think I have grown and changed a lot in eight years.  I hope so.  I hope I wouldn't do such a thing again, but I honestly don't know.  I'm sure this character trait of wanting to be right above all else is one that I'll have to work to keep in balance for the rest of my life.  It's hard to know whether maturity has been gained until it is tested. 

This experience of realizing the damage that I did has solidified in me a determination to change the culture that made my unintentional arrogance possible.  To fight the doctrines and systems of thought that allow and encourage people to dehumanize others.  Cultures that encourage their participants to be "holy," in whatever form or language that is expressed, always, whether intentionally or not, do so at the expense of raising themselves up in value over other humans.  Holiness is pride, the number one sin.  Whenever humans set themselves up as better than others, only harm ensues.  Therefore, holiness leads to evil.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

We need a new label

Fundamentalists are people who are so right they're wrong.

We need a new label to add to the fundie camp: science fundamentalists. These are the people who reject ideas out of hand because they haven't been proved by science yet.

Like the gracious and sensitive person on the IFLS facebook page who posted this gem:

The caption read, "Unless you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, going gluten free will do *nothing* for your health. Image via Skepchick."

Seriously?  What a jerk. These folks deserve to be labeled.  I call them, science fundamentalists.

Just because science hasn't figured out the reasons yet, doesn't mean that a lot of people are not truly benefiting from going gluten free. Who is this person to say what will and will not help someone else with a problem no professional seems to know how to solve?

Sometimes, you have a problem that current science hasn't found an answer for yet, and you have to experiment on your own until you figure out what works. I don't appreciate the insinuation that I'm an idiot for that. (Not that I particularly care what other people think.)

My 6-year-old son is one who has found a LOT of relief by cutting out gluten. He had encopresis, which is a word I truly hope you don't know the meaning of. Picture this: You're going about your day, and suddenly there's poop in your pants.  You don't have sensation of having to go poop beforehand. It just comes whenever it wants to come, and you don't find out until it's already in your pants. Imagine being a child who has this problem.  Imagine being the mother of this child.

The only medical "solution" for this is laxatives. They say it's caused by the child holding in his poop, due to being distracted with other things, or whatever, and so the child gets constipated. In an effort to release the lump of hardened fecal matter stuck in the intestine, the body produces diarrhea, which flows around the lump, and exits the body without activating the normal alert system--the feeling of having to poop.  Lovely.

If this is how encopresis works, then laxatives should help.  Well, laxatives made him poop a lot alright, but they didn't help him regain his sensations of needing to go. And he still had accidents. The pediatrician also told me to put him on a schedule of sitting on the toilet for a certain amount of time every day.  Apparently my already-toilet-trained child had "forgotten" that when you feel like you're supposed to poop, you need to run to the toilet... so I was supposed to retrain him to do that. What?  OK...  Well, I'll give it a try...

The problem is, these interventions did not work.  The poor boy still had accidents every day.  The poor mother had to clean a lot of dirty laundry... and walls... and floors... and hands... Nasty!  I was desperate.  There had to be a cause. There had to be a cure.

Maybe it was a food allergy.  There are some people in my family who were lactose intolerant as children; maybe he's reacting to dairy.  We cut out dairy for 10 days.  No relief.  Well, maybe cutting out constipating foods would help.  We cut out chocolate and dairy for 10 days.  No relief.  Still an accident every day.  Finally I found this blog:
Mom's Guide to Encopresis 
Which said that one family had solved their daughter's problem of encopresis by cutting out gluten and adding probiotics.  Well, we were already doing probiotics, so it was a matter of trying gluten. 

But my stomach sank.  I had done a gluten-free diet for my ex husband several years ago, and it was a major annoyance.  I really hoped this wouldn't work... But of course, like I said, I was desperate.

Two days after going gluten free, my son became regular.  He could feel the sensation of needing to poop.  At first his BM was watery with chunks, but it solidified, and now he has normal daily bowel movements.

I thought maybe it was a coincidence, so two weeks after the bliss of living normally began, I let him eat gluten over the weekend.  He was constipated on Monday and had an accident on Tuesday.  So we went back to gluten-free.  Any time he accidentally gets gluten now, he has an accident the next day.

Placebo? Maybe. But neither I nor he wanted to cut out gluten, because it's such a huge annoyance to live that way, especially when you live in a small town with very few gluten-free substitutes at the grocery stores.. So you will never convince me that cutting out gluten helped him due to placebo; it helped him because it physically helped him. Plus, we tried several other dietary interventions that didn't work, so if placebo were going to work, it should have worked when we cut out dairy or chocolate. 

A recent study suggests that maybe it's the reduction in short-chain carbohydrates called "FODMAPs" that might be the "real" source of people's relief when they go on a gluten-free diet.  Maybe. The problem is, though, that my son's diet is literally exactly the same as it was before; we just swapped out wheat bread, pasta, and cereal, with gluten-free bread, pasta, and cereal.  We were already avoiding HFCS, artificial sweeteners, artificial colors, and most soy. We rarely eat beans. He eats apples regularly, as well as other foods with FODMAPs.  The gluten is the only thing that changed.

I'm not saying it has to be the gluten. Maybe it's something else in wheat, or a combination of factors. I'm not committed to a single position, except the position that I want my son to be able to function properly. I'm just saying, it's working... why are people rude enough to tell me it's not, when I see it with my own eyes?
 

For a science fundie to tell me that cutting out gluten will do nothing for my health because we don't have scientific studies to prove it, is the same as a Christian fundie saying that a Muslim or an Atheist can't possibly have a happy and fulfilled life because Jesus is the only source of fulfillment. It's the same attitude!  To maintain their position, these fundamentalists have to ignore the testimonials of millions of people.

How about a new joke?
If a tree falls in the forest, and a group of peasants hears it land, did it actually make a sound? A science fundamentalist would say, "not unless there's a scientist with a decibel meter there to tell us how loud the impact was."

This isn't to say that science doesn't work. I have a very high respect for science. I'm just saying that science hasn't figured EVERYTHING out yet, and pooh pooh-ing something that is working for a lot of people just because there's some study that says "that shouldn't work" or "there's no study that shows how it works" is arrogant and closed-minded. Science fundamentalists are going against the exploratory spirit of science, itself, by committing themselves unshakably to a position and dismissing or attacking anyone who holds a different position. 
The world is vast! 
There's so much more to learn!  
You can be wrong!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

transition

I'm moving at the end of this month.  Moving out— that I know— but I don't know where TO yet.  It depends on if someone hires me.  The backup plan is to move back in with Mom.  Back in.

If that happens, it'll be three and a half years since moving out from Mom's, and I won't have made any progress.  A giant 3-1/2 year circle.  But maybe something good will happen, and that won't be necessary. One must retain hope.  I'm smart, educated, detail-oriented, passionate and a team player, right? I bring a lot of value. Companies are foolish to overlook me.  Dear God, I'm starting to believe my own cover letters.

I'm not a huge fan of this decrepit old house, but it has served us decently well the past few years, despite the plumbing backing up constantly, the lack of closets, the gaping holes in the windows, and the cracks in the paper-thin walls.  I know and appreciate that I'm lucky to have running water, electricity, and a roof.  I'm not complaining, really I'm not.  I have genuinely enjoyed trying to wrestle this rectangular squat into something resembling pretty and livable.

I'm just fighting the feelings of nostalgia trying to grab me as I envision saying goodbye to the old place.  Why would I miss this dumpy disaster of architectural indifference?  There's surely something better for me out there to go to, somewhere to call home that deserves such a title. (Or maybe not. Life has no guarantees.)

"Don't feel. Just pack.  One step at a time, that's all you can do."

And then, as I pull out some books from my disheveled bookshelf, a CD pops into view.  His CD.  The one I bought from him 11 years ago and listened to until I'd memorized the songs, absorbed the timbres, and conformed to the textures. The one I'd listened to whenever the ache for him became unbearable (but I felt forbidden to do anything about it, like, oh, ask him out.)  The forms, rhythms, chord progressions, and concepts were well-conceived, and the perfectly-placed sarcasm was charming and hilarious... but he sure needed some voice lessons. But that detail only barely mattered. A raspy, scooping assault on the auditory sensibilities can't hold a candle to the power of love.

Love's way of sneaking into your soul and infiltrating the little crevices of your consciousness, sabotaging your critical powers, and blurring the sharp edges of your discernment, is truly diabolical.  That you could want someone, so badly, whom you also both fear and spurn, whom you disagree with so strongly, whom you logically worry would turn out to be a bad match anyway, should be illegal.

And a decade after buying the CD, after my transformation, he was suddenly no longer forbidden, I disagreed with him much less, and he was available (kind of).  It could have worked, surely.  Were the timing different, had I been more suave, had I not tripped over myself... or something... I don't actually know why it didn't work.  He didn't feel the same way, apparently.  Does there need to be any other explanation?

Anyway, I thought I was SO over it, moving on, putting the jerkface in the past. I even have a new forbidden crush now. (How original, my idiotic heart, how original.) But now. Now this CD is burning my hands, and as I throw it away from me as sharply as if it were a scorpion, the ache bursts out from my core, all over again. And despite my attempts not to feel, a strange, choking, crying sound hits my ears, and I realize it's mine.  I have to hold a tissue to my eyes the entire time while reading bedtime stories to my children.

Gone. He's gone forever... but still alive. I could bump into him accidentally some day.  It's worse than if he were dead, because there's still a possibility of seeing him.  We could both end up on the same airplane, or visiting the same museum. What would I do then?  Maybe he'll become a famous musician, and I'll hear him on the radio or something, and have to endure people talking about going to his concerts. Why do I care?  Why did I ever care in the first place? He's a jerk, that's what I have to tell myself to make any kind of sense of what happened.

Maybe I don't really care.  Maybe I'm more over him than I feel tonight.  Maybe this event is just a trigger for the broader feelings of anxiety, loneliness, and uncertainty I'm facing as I move into a very dark and murky future.  Maybe it's easier to think that I'm crying about a past loss than to admit that I'm illogically emotional about a present in which my emotions have no say, whatsoever, in the outcome. Maybe crying about the past allows me to feel more powerful, somehow. To tell myself that maybe I COULD have had a different outcome, if only I were better at dealing with men, or didn't have children, or... something..., than to own up to the fact that the outcome for the future feels completely out of my control, and that makes me feel very vulnerable.

Or maybe it really is how it feels, and I'm just feeling wounded from thinking about him, all over again.

The CD is in the trash.  Such a waste.  But I'd rather listen to the Gaither Band on infinite repeat than that beautiful-odd thing one more time.

Damn these feelings.  Don't feel.  Just pack.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

God In the Elements

I wrote a poem a few years ago and put it into a slideshow. Yesterday I decided to add a soundscape and make it into a short video.


God in the Elements from Sleeping Realities on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

education majors

You know that scene in "Princess Bride," where Inigo says, "I give you my word as a Spaniard," and Westley says, "No good. I've known too many Spaniards."

I feel that way about certified teachers.  Will I send my child to that school and trust them because their teachers are certified?  Most teachers are awesome and know their stuff, but, well, "I've known too many Education majors."  (Ha ha).

I need to meet them.  (And I'm grateful that M is at a place with really good teachers right now.)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Pizza and Power

A few weeks ago, during the Oscars ceremony, a pizza delivery man got the surprise of his life.  When he was led through a door, rather than delivering to a private room as he expected, he found himself on a stage, where, on national television, he was applauded and given a $1,000 tip.  After the incident, it is reported that his pizza business started booming.

(This is the story we are led to believe.  Of course, it could all have been an act. Whether it was or not, though, is irrelevant to the point I want to make.)

Many people were impressed by this action.  A "nobody" is allowed to interact with the "somebodies," and his life dramatically improves afterward.  The high and mighty lower themselves to eat a humble slice of pizza over multi-thousand dollar dresses and suits.  The common man is exalted. Equality is venerated.

I, however, see this scenario as exactly the opposite: cruelty and swagger, thinly disguised as benevolence. A room full of powerful people rubbing their power in the face of someone who has not had the same luck as they have had, just to prove how powerful they are. Flaunting their riches for a laugh. Sure, the guy got a thousand bucks that night. He was also insidiously put in his place, as were all the millions of peons watching the spectacle.

When I posted this opinion to my Facebook page, several of my friends disagreed vehemently with me.

There's always more than one way to interpret a story, of course, but I think this is a story about the power imbalance in our culture, and the signalling of that power from one strata to the others.  Typically in the past, power dominance has been signaled via fashion, possessions, and language.  There are many other ways to signal superiority, however.  The story with the pizza delivery man is an example of powerful people signalling their power to the rest of society, just as they've always done, but in a new and creative way.

I'm really surprised to be quoting Zizek, since generally I don't tend to agree with him, but he is correct when he talks about a philanthropist "repairing with the right hand what he ruined with the left hand."  Someone who accumulates a ton of power through a system that allows that kind of power inequality to exist seldom, then, actively works to dismantle the very system by which he survives. He can only make a show of being kind and good by redistributing relatively small amounts of that power (usually in the form of money) to those less fortunate.

Think of a king in ancient days who would walk through his kingdom once a month to see how things were going. On one of these walks, he happened to see a beautiful peasant girl. He ordered her to his palace and made her one of his concubines. We all know, based on the system of the time, there was nothing anyone could do to stop him. The king had that power. Granted, the girl's life would probably become substantially better because of his act-- she wears nicer clothes, no longer has to work in the fields, gets to eat nicer foods. But from a humanistic perspective, it's a problem, because she has no choice in the matter, and the king has all the choice in the matter. That someone's life is improved, and that the king had good intentions, doesn't mean that this situation is OK.  Neither intentions nor outcome addresses the insidious problem behind the scenario, which is, the gross disparity of power among the people in that society. The ideal of "all humans are created equal" is far from being realized in that society. 

By the way, the king could also randomly have people executed, just because, just as easily as he could improve someone's life, just because.

(Another "by the way": I think the ideal of "equality" is like the Golden Mean being approached by the Fibonacci sequence... It is an "infinite" concept that can never quite be reached, but we must keep trying anyway.)

I think the story of the pizza guy is about power, for a few reasons.

  1. Informed consent is a basic feature of treating other people with dignity as equal human beings. According to the story (and there may be some fudging of the details, who knows), he was led to believe he was just going to deliver a pizza, and instead he ended up in the spotlight on national television. He was not asked if he wanted this or was comfortable with this. That is a violation of his autonomy.
  2. If it were just about blessing someone with a big tip and promoting his business, they could have done that off-air. They could have left him a $1,000 tip in the lobby, and told all their friends what a great pizza place this was. Instead, they decided to air the whole thing. Why would they air it unless there were a point, beyond just common concern for one's fellow man?
  3. In a society that is supposed to be based on the ideal of equality, we must ask if there is any reciprocity in what happened that night. Could the pizza guy conceivably do a similar act to the stars as they did to him? Could he make them wait, surprise them with unrequested national attention, and arbitrarily boost their business? Unlikely. (By the way, they could have been mean to him on stage and told everyone how disgusting the pizza was, too. Just as the king could arbitrarily have had people executed if he wanted. Disparities of power can work for good or ill.) It's extremely ironic that the pizza guy chose to use the term "American Dream" to describe his experience that night, when what happened is exactly the opposite of the American Dream.
  4. The fact that these people are wearing multi-thousand-dollar costumes and eating cheap pizza over them is another signal to the rest of society (the 99%) how much choice the stars have, and how little choice the rest of us have. While almost everyone in society can order a pizza, not all of us can afford those clothes, or decide to change someone's business practically overnight, etc. The whole Oscar's ceremony is an exercise in opulence and indulgence anyway --by bringing an element of the "real world" into it, it creates a foil that only increases the awareness of the disparity between their luxury and the conditions of the "real world."

Thursday, March 6, 2014

nature of the mind

I think a lot about the mind, and wonder what it is, exactly.

The current trend is to assume that the mind is a product of the brain and its functions.  The mind springs from the body, not the other way around.  Lots of work in neuropsychology seems to point that direction.  For example, memories can be (seemingly) deleted when certain parts of the brain are damaged. Personality changes happen when other parts of the brain are damaged.  The ability to speak, reason, control oneself, make plans, or feel emotions, all seem to be housed in the brain.

That word, "housed."  I think it's apt. 

I'm not a neuropsychologist, nor a scientist per se, but I want to believe that the mind, the self, is somehow different from the body, though it uses the body as its means of expression.  The body is a "house" for the mind.  Or the body is "inhabited" by the mind, rather than the mind being a side effect of the body, as materialists want to assume.  Of course, I may be wrong, but there are several reasons I "want" to believe this, which I'll explore later.

I don't want to fall into the trap of separating the mind and the body too far from each other.  I know they are very closely linked.  I just want to pose some ideas.

First, what if the mind weren't only housed in the brain, but in the entire body?  What if the mind were more systemic, like a holograph, than local?  Or partially systemic, and partially local?  Instincts, hunches, suspicions, the unconscious/subconscious, certain emotions-- what if those parts of the mind were generally more related to the body below the head, with reports to the control center as needed?  I wonder this, due to reported experiences by many people of memories (traumatic or good) coming back into consciousness during massages.  I myself had such an experience once. It's a pretty benign example, but I was getting a massage once a few years ago, and at one point, all of a sudden, I welled up with tears and had a really strong nostalgic thought appear out of nowhere--"I really miss playing the piano!"  It seemed that this thought/feeling was released, somehow, by the massage. I can't explain it, but I know this is commonly reported among people who get massages.

Second, what if the mind has the power to produce electricity?  We currently examine brain functions by measuring electrical activity in the brain.  When someone is engaged in an enjoyable and provocative activity (such as music, for example,) the brain "lights up" (as they say) with electrical activity in all regions.  Whereas, when someone is resting, depressed, or not fully present, there is not as much electrical activity.  Somehow, the mind has the power to create an electric current in the "wiring" of the brain.  This is one reason I (want to) believe that the mind is not merely a product of material forces, but a force that acts upon, and interacts with, matter.  What if we could figure out a way to harness the power of the mind to generate electricity for practical, external purposes?  I know that the voltage of the electricity that is produced in the brain is so low as not to be usable, but what if you could figure out a way to get a big group--say, the hundreds of people at a concert--hooked up to a generator, and add a few step-up converters, etc.?  Technology isn't there yet.  Maybe it's not even possible.  But something is going on in that mind-to-electricity connection.

This leads me to my third idea.  What if the mind (as I'm conceiving of it--a force that acts upon and in the body) IS actually a part of the observable universe, but we just haven't discovered how to observe it objectively yet? (This would bring us back to materialism, but I wouldn't care.  Materialism has led to a lot of good, as well as the bad.  If it could incorporate the mind in a better way, I wouldn't see a problem with it.)  It's foolish to think we've come to the end of scientific discovery.  Maybe 100 years from now, we will have instruments that can detect thoughts, emotions, or memories.  Or maybe we'll have an instrument that can objectively measure someone's spiritual maturity level.  Or we'll be able to objectively verify the existence of "auras" that some people claim to be able to see.  Who knows? I think something like this will happen eventually.

Monday, March 3, 2014

I was on a podcast

Just reporting that I was accepted to be on the podcast, "Thirty Seconds or Less."  Believe me, it was hard to censor myself to less than thirty seconds!  I just wanted to put an idea out there.  Hopefully I can find the right people eventually to partner with me on this idea.
http://thirtysecondsorless.net/music/

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Don't fuck it up

"Don't fuck this up, girl."
"I have no idea what to say or how to act. I feel so awkward. I'm nervous, annoyed, bored, excited, condescending, hopeful, disappointed, and irritated, all at once. Why am I here? Why did I come? I'm not ready. Yes I am. I want this. No, I don't want this. Too late now. May as well give it a shot."

"Just don't fuck it up. That's all. This is your one chance. Relax and be yourself!"
"What part of myself should I be? I'm a complicated person. What angle should I showcase? And what's an appropriate topic of conversation? Why did I come? Ugh. I feel sick. Where are my GABA-calm drops? Deep breaths. This is idiotic. I'm not even interested in him, why would I be? He's a loser."

"JUST DON'T FUCK IT UP. THAT'S ALL. IT'S NOT THAT HARD, DAMMIT!"
"I'm cool, I got this. (Whatever that means.)  I'll just smile and be friendly. No, I'll look serious.  No, I'll look bored. No, OK, maybe a smile is better after all.  Too eager. Maybe something kind of in-between.  No, now I look amused, condescending, and uninterested. Let's go back to looking serious."

"You're fucking it up. Stop fucking it up!"
"Here's my chance.  I'll say something funny... I can't think of anything funny.  I'll say something insightful and profound.  No, that will seem like showing off, or, worse, I'll sound like someone who's trying to sound smart but really has no idea what she's talking about.  No... OK, I'll be vulnerable. Vulnerable is good.  Trendy, even.  I'll talk about my feelings about my life situation. Oh, that was too much information, damn. Can I take it back? Damn. How do I get out of this? Smile! Say that life is good and I'm doing great! No, that will be too saccharine. DAMN. Change the subject. My mind is blocked--what do I change the subject to? Ask him about himself.  But what should I ask? It can't be something completely predictable, which will instantly put me at the level of 'just another boring face in the crowd.'  All the other questions I want to ask are wildly inappropriate, surely they are.  And now I'm stammering and taking up too much of his time."

"Did you fuck it up? You fucked it up. Way to go."
"Well... I mean... maybe there's a chance he'll get back to me.  I mean, maybe I did a good job of hiding how nervous I was. Maybe he's interested, but just shy. Or maybe he's nervous, himself, and needs some time to think about it. He seemed kind of interested. I felt sparks. Maybe he did too."

"Uh huh."
"God. Who am I kidding? He acts this way to everyone; I'm just another person to him. He's being polite and kind, but that's all. I hold zero weight for his life. He has much bigger issues on his mind, and much more interesting choices. But still, what did he mean when he said..."

"Stop. Don't get your hopes up. You fucked this one up for good. Now go on with your life and stop trying."
"Yeah. This one was too good for me anyway.  And anyway, I'm a busy person. Who has time for men?  Good riddance."

"You're such a loser."
"Shut up. Only sometimes. I won't let that line control me. And anyway, even if I am, what does it matter? Being single the rest of my life isn't like a prison sentence or something. I can take care of myself."

"There we go."
"I won't try this ever again."

"Yeah right, we both know you're a sucker for pain. Good night, loser girl."
"Now the problem is, how do I get this out of my head and stop worrying about it?"

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Boring health report + a stroke of great luck

True story.

I've been trying to decide lately between using my health insurance to go onto an antidepressant or pay money out of pocket for a visit to a naturopathic doctor who has good reports from some friends. I don't really want to go down the route of antidepressants if I don't have to, since the science behind them is so shoddy, and the execution of how they are dispensed is so often flippant.  But there are some people I know who have had some success with them... And I've thought that maybe many of my bizarre symptoms are just depression manifesting itself.  But maybe not.  I have strongly suspected some kind of hormonal issue.  Mainstream doctors have just looked at me with strange, quizzical expressions when I described my symptoms; they seemed completely unsure of what to do.  I'm sure a naturopathic doctor would not do that. But the money!...  Though the doctor I was considering charges quite a lot less than most mainstream doctors, the ability to have it covered by insurance makes things easier with mainstream doctors.  What to do, what to do.

 Last Thursday, after a week of difficult health, something in me just said, "I'm so sick of this. I'm calling the ND right now." It was a strong feeling I couldn't ignore.

When I called, the secretary told me that someone had just canceled an appointment on Friday morning, could I come at such short notice? And I said yes.

So Friday I drove 90 minutes, one way, to visit the ND.

For months I've been convinced that my set of symptoms are a weird medical mystery, since internet searches didn't yield anything helpful, and since I've never heard of other people struggling with exactly these issues.  I figured they must be idosyncratic side effects of depression and my recent bout with anemia.  I can't describe how surprised--and relieved--I was to hear Dr. K tell me that he sees a patient present with symptoms like mine at least twice a week!  And, unlike some of the other doctors I've visited, he was not bothered or confused about my symptoms.  He came up with a hypothesis quickly and calmly, which was very reassuring.

He is guessing that I have adrenal exhaustion and low progesterone as a result of it.  Everything in my story fits.  He took a blood test to make sure (I'm still waiting on the labs to come back), but based on my symptoms, my previous blood work that I brought in, and the health journal I've kept the past few months, he is sure there's a problem with progesterone, which is partially produced in the adrenal glands.  He also wanted to test for testosterone, iron, thyroid, and a few other things I can't remember.

Here's where the story gets a bit surreal.  He was telling me about the hormone test he wanted to order:  In order to test accurately, the woman has to be somewhere between day 16-22 of her cycle.  I pulled out my calendar and counted.  Friday was day 20 of my cycle!  We could do the test and not have to wait a month!  Meanwhile, the doctor gave me an adrenal supplement, which, if I do have adrenal fatigue, will help me, and if I don't, won't hurt me (if I take the low dosage recommended.)  He expects me to see a noticeable difference in energy level within a few days of taking the supplement.

After the visit a feeling of awe struck me as I reflected on the experience.  I realized that if I had called the office any other day, I would have been scheduled for later than Friday, possibly up to a week later, because of the cancellation that happened.  If I hadn't gone in on Friday, we would have missed the window of opportunity to test my hormone levels.  And I may have suffered for another entire month.  What a stroke of luck that I called so shortly after the other person canceled!  What are the chances?

Brushes with things like this provide rare, numinous moments in life.  The feeling that for that one moment, I was, seemingly, guided invisibly to do exactly the right thing at exactly the right time, took my breath away.  It is a moment I cherish.  What does it mean? 

My mind, due to its upbringing, wants to jump to God, (or any other equivalent name that may exist for a Sentient, Transcendent Power that bestows blessings of good fortune or seemingly impossibly lucky moments.)  But of course, this assumption is problematic.  Of course, there are many examples I could point to of when I (and others) seemed to have been "guided invisibly" into terribly wrong, crushing situations.  Or profoundly long periods of time in which I desperately needed some kind of guidance but felt/heard absolutely nothing.  Why does luck come and go?  The "goodness" of any higher power one may (or not) choose to believe in seems to be arbitrary, at best.

But I don't really want to dwell on theodicy right now.  (I have a vaguely formed theory about intuition and psychic phenomena that could provide an alternate explanation for what happened, once I figure out a way to actually word the idea in my head... But set that aside for now, as well.)

I don't know enough about astrology to determine if my hope has some support from the signs in the sky, but here's another possibility--maybe some good transit or progression is changing my luck. I don't know how to find that out, so I have to set that aside for now also.

So what does it mean?  Probably nothing.  Boom.  Bubble popped.

The fact is, we are allowed to create our own meaning from things.  (I am such an existentialist, oh my.)  Objectively I can understand that this experience of luck is probably just coincidence and there's nothing to read into it; while I can also, simultaneously, decide that I want to find subjective meaning in it, because it makes me happy to find meaning in it, and, goddammit, I need some happiness in my life.  I can choose to believe that this means that things are going to get better, and that I'm not being ignored and abandoned by the forces of life, whatever they are, to oblivion and failure.

(Or, says the cynic, maybe this is an isolated event of good luck and my life will continue on how it's been going regardless.)  The Pollyanna in me (whom I can't really get rid of, no matter how cynically I normally operate) wants to think that maybe my years of suffering are finally starting to turn a corner, and I can start being rewarded with some years of relatively good luck instead. 

Yes, this is all bullshit.  Nothing in life is promised.  But I must admit, it is difficult for me to escape a magical mindset.  So I'm letting myself have this moment of happiness.  Lord knows I've had enough unhappy ones.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Dream Interpretation--"The Wild Band Leader"

The dream

I dreamed I saw Aaron Jackson, but instead of his waking-life role, he was the leader of a rock band.  Also, (unlike in waking life!) he was the most noxious person imaginable. He was self-important, neurotic, air-headed, indulgent, and wild.  He couldn't sit still, and kept twitching and doing things impulsively, supposedly "following his creative spirit," but really just being melodramatic and annoying. For some reason he had decided to have his band go up into space in a rocket to do a concert, and for some reason I was there watching (and feeling really annoyed by the whole thing.)  

There was this sense that oxygen was limited, so time was slowly running out.
Aaron and another band member put on space suits and exited the rocket carrying a large spool that was twined with Christmas lights.  Part of their show was to go out and unroll the Christmas lights in outer space.  I could see the philosophical point of this endeavor (kind of genius, actually), but I thought this was a huge waste of time and resources, just to make a stupid "artistic" point.

Soon the oxygen was almost out, and we needed to get back to Earth ASAP. People were dropping like flies.  (I was just an observer throughout the dream, not really part of it, just watching. So I didn't have any worries about my oxygen.)  Aaron had exactly one minute before his oxygen ran out. 

He and a woman who reminded me of one of the career counselors at my university decided to get under a tarp and try to seal the edges of the tarp to keep the oxygen in, in the attempt to make the oxygen last longer.  It was kind of the idea of when you're hyperventilating, you put a bag over your mouth.

The tarp was very small, and they were struggling to find a way to fit under it and still get the edges to seal.  The woman told Aaron, "Oh, by the way, even though we are going to be together, you should know that I don't really agree with your politics."

Aaron asked her what she disagreed with.  She listed several things, though I don't remember the specifics, and my thought was, "well, they don't really agree on ANYTHING!"  I thought it was silly to be talking about politics at a time like this, though. The important thing was to stay alive.  I do remember she said, "Oh, and you're a SOCIALIST," in the tone of voice that implied that was a really bad thing in her book.

He answered, "I'm not a socialist. I'm a taxpayer."  (Which is actually a pretty profound response, now that I think about it!)

Then he became enraged that she didn't agree with his political views. He pulled out an axe, raised it high above his head, and slammed it down, trying to kill her.  She dodged out of the way, though, kicked it out of his hands, and ducked under the tarp, preventing him from getting under it.  

At that moment, his oxygen ran out completely, and everyone knew he was going to die.  There was a sense of irony that because he tried to kill someone else, he himself lost his life.  Then I woke up, very scared and shaken about almost seeing a murder.

The Shadow

This dream happened the night after I had a long discussion with my sister, in which one of our topics was the concept of "The Shadow" in the psyche.   For those who don't know, in a nutshell, The Shadow is where we put all parts of ourselves that we refuse to identify with (or that we have been conditioned not to identify with). We may feel safer by this psychological protection, but these undesired parts still live on in the unconscious.  Often times we are strongly drawn to or strongly repulsed by people or situations in waking life that remind us of our Shadows.  Any time something elicits a strong emotional reaction that seems to be out of proportion for the situation, it's a clue that The Shadow may be at work.  Until The Shadow is integrated, it controls our lives in powerful, underhanded ways. Much wonderful writing has been penned on this topic, and I encourage everyone to read more on it.  Basically, learning to recognize and integrate The Shadow is an important part of spiritual health and maturity.  But it's very difficult, because nothing makes us more terrified than our own Shadow.

This dream is such an obvious Shadow dream.  The main clue is that I had such strong feelings of disgust and contempt for the Aaron character.  (BTW, this is not the same "Aaron" I've written about in previous posts, just in case anyone was wondering.)  Another clue was how scared I felt when I woke up.  My heart was racing, and I felt paralyzed for a few minutes.  It didn't take me long, though, to figure out that this is a Shadow dream, and a golden opportunity to explore and grow.  Of course, nobody likes doing Shadow work, and I've procrastinated writing this for a few days.  But here goes nothing...

First symbol--Aaron Jackson

A rule of thumb to start with in dreams is "Everything in the dream is part of the dreamer." (It's not ALWAYS true, but it's healthiest to make that assumption until absolutely proven wrong.)  I just noticed that Aaron Jackson has the same initials as me.  Dreams are so clever!  So I have to accept that this much-despised dream Aaron is actually an exiled part of myself. 

I have actually seen Aaron Jackson in waking life, and he's not at all like the dream character. (Well, now that I think about it, he was a little hyperactive, but that's pretty much where the similarity stops!)  I think I could actually be friends with the real Aaron Jackson, but the dream used him as a "despised" symbol for a specific reason.  I remember the sensation I got after hearing the real Aaron Jackson speak about his work.  He's only a year older than me, and he has started several global charities, saved the lives of millions of impoverished children, and made international news by creating the Equality House across the street from Westboro Baptist Church.  Nothing like comparing my life to that list of accomplishments to make me feel insignificant!  Aaron, to me, represents a life of high significance, accomplishments, and success where it counts.

In addition to the successful persona, two other issues related to the Aaron dream character are the diva attitude, and the creative frillery.  I know vaguely that I have these qualities in myself, but I could NEVER get away with them like other people do.  And that is why I despise them in others. 

The Success

I have been dealing with failure issues lately.  It makes sense to have a character in my Shadow be someone whose life has been, by my standards, a huge success.   I do not relate to success, because I've tasted so little of it.  It makes me feel very sad and vulnerable whenever this topic comes up.  So, yes, it's time to deal with it, as I have been trying.

The Diva

When a friend recently told me part of Kurt Cobain's story, in which he (Cobain) freeloaded off his girlfriend and played guitar all day, it made me furious.  Disproportionately furious!! Which was a clue that this was a Shadow issue.  I would love to sit at home and play music all day, but I don't have that luxury. And I would never take advantage of others like that in order to afford myself that luxury.  So my diva, in Shadow, fumes like a semi-dormant volcano!  That other people get away with such irresponsible behavior and go on to become famous, world-changing, and irreplaceable, is disgusting and unfair.

The Artiste

One thing I have a really difficult time with about Art is how expensive and impractical it often is.  Much money and resources are used, and the product at the end has such little of utilitarian function.  That we can't live without it bugs me a little bit. And yet, the Artiste in me longs to be wasteful and indulgent in how I make my statements, but--again--I've never been afforded the luxury. I'm not really sure how to make peace with the fact that Art is a luxury in terms of resources (at least much of it is), even though it is also a necessity.  Artists who create extravagant or avante-garde or seemingly vapid statement-pieces bug me, because, again, I could NEVER get away with that.

A memory

When I was about 10 years old, we had a tape of "The Williamsons," a family of singers who formed Christian music group that was touring at the time.  The daughter, Kara, is about my age, and she had a solo on the tape.  I distinctly remember once when the tape was playing and I was singing along, my dad looked over at me and said, "Can you believe she's the same age as you?  You could totally do that too."  And a feeling punched me in the stomach.  Yes, I could do that too.  I had as much or more talent than she did.  And yet why wasn't I the ten-year-old in a recording studio?  Life is so unfair.

(I know now why not.  Because I wasn't born into a family with lots of connections in Nashville.)  Looking back now, I think that what happened in that moment was a "fox and the grapes situation."  I realized that I could never have that privilege, and so I decided, in order to protect myself from the feelings of unfairness and anger, to tell myself I didn't want that privilege and it didn't really matter.

And that deep unconscious decision, made to protect myself in a moment of vulnerability, has affected the rest of my life.  Maybe I never really put my full heart into a musical career (even though I thought I did), partially because the Shadow who resented my lack of privilege constantly sabotaged my plans.  It told me I didn't really want success.

To this day, whenever I have a chance to sing a solo, I ALWAYS wake up with a terrible sore throat.  It's so predictable, annoying, dreadful... not to mention painful.

This dream arrived a day or two after I signed up to start voice lessons, after over 10 years of no vocal coaching or instruction.  The timing makes sense.  Here is my Shadow figure coming to express its opinion about my decision (made with fear and trembling!) to nourish my music again.

Second symbol--the Career Counselor

That she is a career counselor is a pretty strong clue to her function in the dream.  In waking life, I really enjoy this person.  The few times I've gone to her for résumé advice, the sessions have gone really well.  She is very warm and caring, professional, and open.  One thing that comes to mind is that I had the impression that her style of hair and clothing was a bit like the '80s.  Which might play into the interpretation of the dream, since I grew up in the '80s.

Also, there is an emphasis made in the dream between her conservative political views, and Aaron's liberal ones.  I'm convinced the dream is not talking about real politics at all, and instead making a point about "conservative" vs. "liberal" approaches to my personal life.  I do tend to be conservative and cautious in how I do things in my life. I'm not a huge risk taker, mostly because I'm rather awkward and not good at thinking on my feet. I've learned that it's better to plan things out carefully before executing them, than to try to wing it.

(Hmm, "executing" is the word my mind spilled out there.  And there was definitely an "execution" attempt in the dream!)

Setting

The dream takes place in a rocket ship in outer space.  There are a few ways to interpret this setting.  Interpreting a dream is often like looking at a diamond from different angles.  There is value in all perspectives, even if they are different from each other.

Since going out into space is one thing that would definitely terrify me, I think part of the dream interpretation means that I'm dealing in the realm of fear.  When the body is in a state of fear, breathing becomes shallower, and it's often the case that you literally feel like you don't have enough oxygen.  This dream represents a hypothetical situation drummed up by my mind as potentially one of my worst fears.

Another take on the "outer space" theme is an extension of the Shadow concept.  The Shadow is the part of ourselves that is exiled from integration to the Self.  Being in outer space represents a lack of groundedness and being disconnected from my true nature.

The final possible angle to look at the "outer space" theme is to compare it with the popular idioms of "reaching for the stars," or "being a super star."  In fact, what leader of a rock band doesn't dream of being a super star?  Being in space among the stars represents a drive for notoriety, for significance, for power and glory.

Analysis of the dream action

  1. The first part of the dream sets the stage and provides an image of this Shadow figure, establishing my feelings about him.  
  2. The main problem that the dream sets up is the lack of oxygen and time.  
  3. The response to this problem is that two opposite characters try to share resources and end up nearly killing each other.
A lack of oxygen and time could indicate that I'm feeling like I'm getting old enough, I should really be somewhat settled by now.  Time is limited; we can't do everything.  But despite how many efforts I've made in life, I'm still floating around, trying desperately to find a place of being comfortable in life instead of being in poverty.  But the Shadow part of myself isn't cooperating.  Instead of running towards safety and comfort, which I've longed for for decades, it is heading out further into danger.  It wants to be out among the stars, when the parts of myself that I've chosen to identify with (for survival purposes) want to be safely on solid ground.

The two opposite characters are the career counselor and the band leader.  The career counselor represents my conservative plan to pursue a career in Instructional Design, and go out and get a job that will provide safely for myself and my children.  I enjoy Instructional Design very much, and the plan is a solid one.  The band leader, as the opposite polarity, represents my desires to make it somewhere as a musician.  I literally can't do both, at least not at the same time.  I don't have enough energy (oxygen) or space in my schedule (ha... another pun... "space") to dedicate fully to both of them, especially since I also have children to take care of.

This dream arrived shortly after I signed up for voice lessons.  I want to nurture my creative side, even though I don't think it will lead anywhere, practically.  Doing music just keeps me alive.  But apparently, my creative side isn't happy with just being nurtured. It wants the whole control of my life; it wants to take me far to the stars. It wants to "kill" the practical ideas and go be spacey forever.  Never mind the risks or who gets hurt along the way.

In the dream, I (the practical, conservative, kind career counselor) had to "kill" that creative Shadow part of myself, so we could all stay on task and get safely to Earth.  The dream showed me how I am choosing to deal with the Shadow energies.

Dreams tell us "what is." However, I'm not content with the resolution of this dream.  I do not feel that continuing to exile the Shadow further and further from my identity is healthy or wise.  He needs to be integrated somehow.  After all, he does have some really brilliant ideas.  That line about the taxpayer was pretty smart.  And (even though I don't agree with wasting resources) as a concept, the idea of putting Christmas lights into space is a powerful satirical statement on our culture of phoniness.  But he cannot be in full control, because then the practical woman would be in Shadow, and probably cause problems with depression, addictions, and self-sabotage.  I need to find a way for these two energies to get into balance with each other.

How?  I feel like I have faced this question many times, and tried and tried and tried to deal with it.  I've done dream work on this issue in the past. My sore throats have still not gone away.  With something this deep and painful, it doesn't seem possible that another visualization or set of dream re-writes would actually make a difference.

I'm going to mull this over and decide what to do about it.