Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I Don't Post Here Any More

Join me at the Thunder Echo Blog.
It's more fun...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Catch Me at Thunder Echo Blog

Here’s a funny story. The local Seattle news, King 5, reported over the weekend that people all over Western Washington were scared and concerned about a mysterious white powder that was found on people’s cars and homes. Was it anthrax? Did terrorist fly a plane over the Puget Sound and distribute some horrible bio-weapon? Well King 5 paid a lab to analyze the mysterious substance and it turned out to be tree pollen. Pollen from pine trees.

Everyone is so worried about security these days. National Security, Homeland Security, Security Systems, Airport Security, Port Security, Social Security. Now we are even afraid of trees. TREES. Do we need a Department of Tree Security?

Let me clue everyone into a little secret: There is no such thing as security. Nothing is secure. No place, no person, no thing, no process can ever be secure.

When I think about it, I am pretty sure I don’t want security any way. A secure world would be very prison like. I want Freedom. Freedom to think. Freedom to act. Freedom to try things. Freedom to make mistakes. Freedom to learn from them. Freedom to pursue happiness.

Now I am not entirely sure that freedom actually exists either. But I would rather spend my life chasing Freedom than locking myself away in fear trying to find Security.

I was trying to keep two blogs going. Thunder Echo was all about art, music, poetry. And Black & Blue Heart was about politics and society. Well I have decided that those self imposed boxes were an attempt at security. I was trying to keep my art clean and my politics away from the people I work with. But I am going to throw those distinctions away in the name of Freedom.

From now on, I am going to post what ever I want about any topic on Thunder Echo Blog. There will still be art, poetry and music. But there will also be politics and society and philosophy. It may get messy, but it will be free. And Jay Birds want to be Free!

So I won't be posting here.
Join me at http://thunderecho.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Meeting My Congressman: Rick Larsen

I was invited to a Town Hall Meeting with my Congressman, Rick Larsen (D-WA), in Arlington last Saturday. So I packed up the family, my wife Evelyn and two daughters, and we braved the snow and ice to drive to the Arlington Boys and Girls Club. We had front row seats as part of an audience of about 40 people.

Rick Larsen (no relation by the way) has always been the most responsive of my three state representatives as far as answering emails and letters is concerned. (Maria Cantwell could learn a thing or two from Congressman Larsen.) But I was curious to see what he was like in person. Rep. Larsen gave a brief overview of the First 100 Hours program the Democrats have been working on since they were elected into the majority: ethics reform, exposing earmarks, returning “civility” to the House, implementing the rest of the 9/11 Commission recommendations, keeping WMD out of the hands of terrorists, raising the minimum wage, stem cell research, etc. This only took him about 20 minutes and he didn’t seem to posture and over-hype things like so many politicians do (but there weren’t any television cameras so he may not have felt the need). But he did admit that “Iraq is a cloud that hangs over everything we are trying to do.”

Then Rick started taking questions. This was the most interesting part of the meeting. People asked a lot of questions on a lot of topics. There were few weirdoes (“I’m worried about terrorists. Will you ban cell phone use on the highway?”) and a few people were there to pump their pet projects (“Will you support the right of horse owners to ride in National Parks?”), but most of the questions showed an admirable level of intellect, knowledge and concern on the part of those who attended. It was good to share concern over Iraq, the environment, and other topics with others in my community, especially when my opinions seem so “far out” to most of the people I work with and live near. For a conservative district there were a lot of liberal concerns.

The most memorable exchanges were these:

Rick said he did not think the Congress would support Bush’s troop surge.

He said that the Democrats would not try to impeach the President because “he is done in two years” and because he didn’t feel that Democrats had been elected to impeach the President. I did remind him that George Bush deserved impeachment even if he didn’t get it.

Rick felt that our concerns about military action against Iran were not founded. Several of us disagreed with him on this one and I asked why we were raiding Iran’s Consulate in Iraq, but the Congressman felt that no military strikes against Iran would happen. I hope he is right. Larsen also said that “talking to Iran and Syria about Iraq was probably a good idea.” Imagine that, wanting to talk to people instead of bombing them!

He also expressed concern that we were passing the cost of the war onto our children.

When my turn came I asked the following: I appreciate the actions the Democrats are taking so far, but my concern is a more fundamental one. When I talk to my daughters about our government, I find that I have to describe two governments: the representative democracy we are supposed to have and the money dominated government we actually have. I feel that our representatives should only be taking money from us, not from corporations and lobbyists. Would you support some kind of publicly financed campaigns?
Unfortunately Congressman Larsen was unwilling to support publicly financed campaigns. He said that it was up to the voters to judge the honesty of our representatives and to throw the bums out if they aren’t doing a good job. Not a surprising answer really coming from an incumbent congressman with all the fundraising advantages that come with it.

All in all I was encouraged by the experience. I felt like Rick Larsen was actually interested in our opinions even if they did not match exactly with his. And it was good to expose my children to part of the democratic process. In 2003 and 2004 I was disappointed in Larsen’s support of the Iraq War, but that was during a time when the majority of his constituents supported the war. Now that a majority of us in this district have made it clear that we do not support the Occupation of Iraq, it is good to see Rick Larsen shifting to represent us. I hope he can use his new seat on the Arm Forces Committee to bring our military involvement in Iraq to a close.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

New Strategy in Iraq?

I listened to the President’s speech on Iraq. The speech that promised to layout his new strategy for winning in Iraq. The result of months of consultation and careful deliberation. So I listened to the President’s speech to see what the new strategy would be.

I must say first off, this was probably the best speech George Bush has given in years. He sounded reasonable and he even wore a blue tie. And the best part was when he admitted that things had not gone well in Iraq and that any mistakes made were his responsibility.

But the content left me speechless. There was no new strategy. There were a few minor tactical tweaks made and apparently some fresh arm twisting of the Iraqi Prime Minister, but new strategy? No. This speech was “Stay the Course” disguised as new strategy. The only strategy being employed was one of delay—delay changing anything significantly until Mr. Bush is out of the White House and the horrible problems he created in Iraq are someone else’s responsibility to clean up.

The “surge” of new troops does not even return U.S. troop levels to what they were only 18 months ago. More troops did not make a difference then. There is no indication that more troops will make a difference now. The level of troops that military experts say would make a difference would require hundreds of thousands of new troops, not tens of thousands. We cannot muster enough troops to reach effective levels of security in Iraq.

The new plan by the Iraqi government is really the new plan that Bush has forced the Iraqi’s to endorse. So there is little evidence to suggest that Iraqi forces will change strategies or take on more responsibility. Continued U.S. troops gives the Iraqi’s a cheap and easy target to blame for everything that is wrong in Iraq, (and much of the problem is our fault) but the U.S. is not causing this religious and sectarian violence which everyone refuses to call A Civil War.

The U.S. should never have invaded Iraq. But staying is not solving the current political, religious, and racial problems. The U.S. won the war in Iraq. But we are losing the occupation of Iraq. We need to stop trying to force a military solution to these religious, sectarian, political and racial problems. We should admit our ineffectiveness, work with Iraq’s neighbors to secure the borders, and get out of the middle of the Iraqi Civil War.

When you have a bucket full of muddy water, you don’t clarify it by stirring it with a stick. You stop and wait and let the sediments fall to the bottom. You don’t calm a situation by throwing more violence into the middle of it.

There are many new strategies that could be taken in Iraq. But what President Bush proposed in his speech was not new and it was not strategic. It was pathetic and dangerous. Time will tell if the new Democratic Congress has the balls to withdraw support and authorization for Bush’s Iraqi policies. I hope they do.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Listening To: Myself

Art is not what I do for a living.
But Art is what I do when I am living.
I had a few friends who went into commercial art for a living. And they all stopped producing their own art (which they loved) and began hating the commercial art they were producing for a living. Art went from being enjoyable personal expression and became hated public product. I, on the other hand, have always felt that my artistic expression was a necessary and valuable personal expression. Art is part of my practice, part of my psychology, part of my intersecting with and making sense of the wider world. So I decided years ago that I needed my art for me and that commercializing it could poison it.

So I make extremely personal and perhaps egocentric art.
And I make no real effort to publicize or commercialize my art.
Only a handful of friends and family (people who have to bump into me anyway) are exposed to what I do artistically. Some of them tolerate my art. Some of them yawn and roll their eyes. Some of them genuinely seem to like my drawings and music. But mostly, I have to admit, the audience for my art is me. And as long as I am enjoying producing and reviewing my art, I am satisfied.

But sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have a wider audience. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to make art for a living. But that would mean making an effort to market my art and myself. It could just be fear or laziness that stops me from taking that road. What if I’m not as good as I think? What if I tried really hard and failed? What if people didn’t want to pay for what I do? But then again I like making a steady salary. I like being able to produce what I want when I want, so that it feels like a genuine personal expression instead of a job.

So for reasons dark and light, I keep my art to and for myself.

But I do stick some of it up on my website (www.whatdoweknow.com) and my art blog (www.thunderecho.blogspot.com). And strangely enough a small handful of complete strangers have expressed an interest in my art, poetry and music. A few (mostly in Japan for whatever reason) have even paid cash to have Thunder Echo CDs mailed to them. And I still harbor secret fantasies of being “discovered” by some rich person who wants to pay me huge amounts of money for my art. But I know what the odds are of that happening…

So to my friends and family: Sorry but I will keep putting my stuff on the refrigerator and asking you what you think.
To the handful of anonymous fans: Thanks for being interested enough to drop me note and listening to my music.
To the Artist: Dude, you are a weird fucker, but you make me laugh. So keep making music. And keep making doodles. And keep throwing random words together. Cause you let me know I am alive.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Listening To: Stuart Davis

If Ken Wilber is the philosopher king at Integral Institute, then Stuart Davis is the court jester. But don’t be fooled by Stuart’s clowning around. Beneath the antics (and very funny antics they are) is the insight of a true spiritual seeker. Like the Zen mystics of a by-gone age, Stuart will lure you in with a catchy tune and then wack you upside the head with a jarring jewel of wisdom.

Stuart Davis has over 10 studio albums; all released without major label support or shackles. You could throw Stu into the College Radio/Indy Rock category and you wouldn’t be wrong, but Davis quickly transcends typical rock stereotypes with his playful yet masterful excursions into psychology, sociology, and spirituality. Davis creates pop rock parables: they penetrate the listener at whatever level the listener is prepared to receive them at.

The latest Stuart Davis studio album is this year’s, ¿What, is a rollicking tour through several levels of the spiral of development. All of Stuart’s albums are available on his website: http://www.stuartdavis.com/. Oh, and his wife just had a baby. So help the Davises celebrate by ordering a few CD’s. His clones will pop them into the mail as soon as they get a break from filming their TV Show and touring. Enjoy.

Monday, December 04, 2006

November Wet and Wild

November in Arlington started with rain and flooding and ended with snow.

For several days after Thanksgiving, the Puget Sound area got hit with snow. We had over a foot of snow at our house. Lots of trees lost branches. We had a couple of days with no power, no school, no work. So we huddled around the fireplace to stay warm and listened to the transistor radio.

Now the snow is melting. We are getting caught up at work and watching the same storm pound the Midwest. Suddenly, Christmas is just around the corner.

November was the wettest month in the Seattle area since they started keeping records 150 years ago. So hopefully December weather will be a little more normal.

Friday, November 17, 2006

It All Depends on Perspective

My brother is mad at me for raving about Ken Wilber but not explaining his work. On one hand, that is like being mad at me for not trying to sing a new post-punk ballad that I have listened to and you haven’t. But on the other hand, you would expect me to say more than, “Listen to this song, Dude. It rocks!” So listen up, Dude, because this stuff rocks. But if you really want to experience it, you have to read and/or listen to Ken Wilber.

Ken Wilber has written over 20 books, of which I have only read 5 or 6 so far. Obviously, even if my understanding was as complete and as deep as Ken’s, I would need thousands of pages to discuss all the things Ken discusses. So instead of being comprehensive I will only tackle small bits of his theory.

As an English Major and lover of the power of language, I was first attracted to Ken’s use of Perspective. Ken observed that all human languages have a natural range of perspectives: First Person (I), Second Person (You), Third Person (It) and Singular and Plural versions of these (We, Its). We naturally construct sentences that incorporate all of these perspectives. Ken also explains how most of us tend to focus excessively on one of these perspectives and ignore other perspectives.

One of Ken’s driving motivations is his idea that everybody can’t be 100% wrong about everything. Or to state it more positively, everybody is right, but probably not 100% right. This is a problem most of us have faced in one way or another. Science can examine your body (an It) and tell you if you have a tumor, but Doctors can’t tell you why you feel depressed (an I experience). The scientist can study neural pathways and endorphins (Its) but never fully explain the fact of your disturbing relationships with your coworkers (a We experience).

Part of what Ken does is take truth wherever he finds it and tries to figure out which Perspective that truth is true from. My experiences inside my thoughts and feelings are true, but so are the doctor’s descriptions of my blood chemistry and X-rays. These things don’t explain each other or make the other go away, but they do correspond to each other. My emotions correspond to different endorphin levels in the brain. The It and the I are both two different perspectives on the same event. Both of these truths are part of a bigger multi perspective truth, an Integral Truth.

Ken doesn’t claim to be an expert in every field of knowledge, but what he does know he arranges within his Map of Quadrants (see the grid above), and these sometimes contradictory truths quite often make more sense and illuminate each other in surprising ways when they can illuminate the insides and outsides of each other, when individual things can be combined into richer collectives.

Try it: take any thing in your experience (a person, fact, thought, belief, organization, etc.) and place it in each of the four quadrants, take those four perspectives in relation to that thing (I, It, We, Its) and see what emerges.

Ken’s Integral Model encompasses more than just these four quadrants (there are Levels, Lines, Stages and States) but even just this one tool is worth the price of admission. With just this one dimension of the map you start to figure out riddles like why science and religion can’t talk to each other. Science is all about outside things (It and Its) and religion is all about inside experiences solitary and social (I and We). Both camps refuse to give up their truth but the tools of the other side can’t be used to verify the truths they are defending. Science can’t find god, but Religion can’t explain gravity.

Of course endlessly taking different perspectives has its own dangers and you have to watch out for the portions of each position that are not 100% true (because remember, everybody is right but nobody is 100% right). But the 4 Quadrants really do open up a lot of new territory for exploration. You still have to go out and explore the territory in person, but it is good to have a better map as you navigate.

So I hope you find this thing interesting and that we can fit it into a broader network of interesting things. Maybe I’ll tackle some other Integral topics later.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Reading Ken Wilber

I remember the first Ken Wilber book I ever saw. I was prowling the stacks at the Barnes & Noble when I saw a book called, “A Brief History of Everything.” Wow! What an egotistical blowhard. Who could possible believe they could explain EVERYTHING in a couple of hundred pages? Who did this Ken Wilber guy think he was?

So I picked up the book and started reading, just to get a sample of the obvious crap that was bound to be inside. And I kept reading, and reading, and reading. Then I bought the book and took it home and read the whole thing. Ken Wilber really was attempting to describe a framework or map that helps to position EVERYTHING in relation to everything else. EVERYTHING. It was skeptical. But it was just so damned interesting. It made my brain hurt at times, but I kept on fighting my way through his theory. Ken Wilber was obviously a compulsive learner who had dipped his toes into a vast quantity of knowledge from a huge number of areas: philosophy, psychology, religion, physics, sociology, etc., etc., etc. I was impressed by his reach and intrigued by his ideas, but I had this sneaking feeling that his Integral Model was just too good to be true.

So I put the book down and kept on moving through my life. That was over six years ago. I kept living and reading and trying to make sense of everything. And I noticed a strange thing: I kept placing the things I was learning into Ken’s Integral Model and they kept fitting. Not only did things fit, the more I looked at things from the multiple perspectives of the Integral Model the more things started to make sense.

I will not even attempt to describe Ken Wilber’s Integral Model, or AQAL, or any his stuff here. Ken Wilber does a much better job explaining than I could do in a quick blog entry. But I will say that I am still reading Ken Wilber (most recently, Boomeritis and Integral Spirituality) and I am still blown away by his ability to bring seemingly contradictory realms of experience and knowledge together. And I am increasingly blown away by the circle of like minded people who have gathered around him to share and discuss their areas of expertise. It gives me hope to see so many smart and compassionate people focusing on understanding and growing and evolving so that we can reach our highest potentials.

So why this post? No reason other than to say, I really dig Ken and I think other smart people might like him too.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Hell and High Water

I have been absent from the Internet and this blog for a while.
First I lost over a week to the hell of a serious migraine headache.
Then the local rivers flooded and kept me and my family from returning to our home. Everything is fine—we did not get flooded, just our access roads got flooded. Since recovering from the migraine and regaining access to our house I have been playing catch-up at work. So there has been no time for blogging.

But the Hell and High Water have receded, and in the middle of all that Election Day came and went. Three Cheers for the voters of America! And now I have my fingers crossed, hoping that the Democrats can avoid screwing things up as badly as the Republicans did.