Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Fifth Sacred Thing

I have been thinking about this book for a few days so I thought I would write on it. Starhawk wrote a book called the The Fifth Sacred Thing many years ago. It's fiction and it's a favorite of mine. It is set in the near future where corporations control the price of water. We explore this world through the eyes of Bird and find out how people live in that world. The second part of the story involves Bird finding himself back at his home, in San Francisco. San Francisco is a utopia of sorts where people of all religions and races live together peacefully and coexist with the earth. Of course, those in the other areas of California have decided to annex this island of sanity to their insane world. As a pacifist, Starhawk put much thought into the idea of passive resistance and what might happen.

I'm not sure that her vision would come true in that pacifist response but it's a beautifully thought out tale of what might happen. Perhaps the resistance that these people worked out would work. I don't know. It's another option. I've been thinking about it a lot as we talk about the possibilities of another war.

I've purposely been a bit vague on the book. It's worth reading and Starhawk describes her world with far greater color than I could ever begin to describe it. Check it out.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Expecting Outcomes

I am frequently suprised by the results I get doing acupuncture. Sometimes I get great results and other times almost nothing and it will be for the same problem. Each time I feel like I am loosing my touch, I need to step back and remind myself that I am not "doing anything" to this patient. I am merely allowing their body to heal. When I can step back and stop expecting that I will get results (and working too hard to get results sometimes) I find that my treatments work far more effectively.

I have listened to several other practitioners and some are of the mindset that they are doing something and they work very hard to make sure they get results. Others are like me. I might not heal every patient but I do make changes with each person. I try and remind myself that each patient gets what they need. There are people that I am completely frustrated by but they keep coming back to me long after I have suggested they might get better results from a collegue. I can only remind myself that we get what we need.

What we need is not always what we want. It's helpful to remind ourselves of this throughout life when we feel like we are not getting what we want. Perhaps we are getting what we need.

Monday, April 17, 2006


If I preach tolerance then I should be tolerant. I should tolerate all those who are different, whether it be in religious belief, color of skin or lifestyle choices. What if the lifestyle choice they make is to be an intolerant bigot? Do I need to tolerate them? At what point do I stop tolerating them because they begin to hurt others?

This started in a discussion at Bring It On. My original comment got rather messed up and I think people were reading that I was arguing AGAINST tolerating gays and lesbians. I was actually trying to put forth the question of how far do I tolerate those who are intolerant? For simplicity, let’s call those who are intolerant bigots. Basically that’s what they are.

I can legislate their actions. Ethically I can demand that they ACT in a certain way. However, I can’t change their beliefs. I can try and educate them, but a person has to allow themselves to be educated or changed and if they don’t want to do that, I can’t force them to change a fundamental belief pattern. If I do, how am I different from the Conservative Christians who are trying to force me into their religion through legislating it and trying to make this a theocracy?

If a bigot speaks of his bigotry only to his friends and close family about his bigotry is it evil? Do I tolerate that? I guess if it’s not interfering in anyone’s life, I’m willing to tolerate this. After all, in all likelihood, no one who would be hurt by this behavior is likely to know it exists.

If this bigot speaks publicly, but not in a way to incite anger, is this okay? This would be the person who tells offensive jokes while walking down the street or perhaps on a cell phone in a public place or perhaps cracks a joke in a quiet restaurant so that the people at the next table can hear. If someone of the race or lifestyle that the person is joking about overhears these conversations, this could be hurtful and potentially harmful. However, the bigot can argue that he is exercising his right to free speech to tell a joke. Legally we can try and clean up our workplaces so that people don’t have to put up with that, but this is on the street or in a restaurant or at all Mall. Beyond telling this person that s/he is offensive, what can be done? If they don’t want to learn, how far do we tolerate?

The next step is publicly speaking about this. This might be the minister who teaches that certain lifestyle choices go against God’s will. Ministers have been saying this for years. But if he says it specifically about our sexual orientation, which becomes a bigoted statement, is that okay? He’s preaching his religious beliefs. How can we outlaw that? Certainly it becomes more harmful because he is encouraging others to act in a manner that is neither loving nor peaceful. He is teaching intolerance. How can I tolerate that but if it’s his church and they permit such speech, how can I put a stop to this speech?

If this bigot is on the radio, speaking hatefully, where his intolerance can be heard by millions, do I tolerate him? The station doesn’t seem to see what he is saying as intolerant. They perhaps argue free speech. How do I tolerate this? How do I work to stop this?

If this bigot knows it’s wrong to be a bigot and keeps it a secret is it okay? Perhaps he works with a secretive organization like the Ku Klux Klan and commits hate crimes. I can’t tolerate that but I have made it not okay for him to act publicly (where we can watch him) and so he acts in secret because I haven’t managed to change his mind about his beliefs.

Who is worse? Is it the bigot who speaks openly and commits their hate crimes openly or the person who does so in secret because they know that the public won’t tolerate their speech? How do we work on teaching tolerance and protecting those who have been labeled different over the years from feeling the pain of another group’s intolerance and keeping those who would perpetuate the problem from going under ground and perhaps exacerbating their actions?

How far do we tolerate those who are intolerant? Where do I become just as bigoted as they are in my intolerance of thier thoughts, speach and action?

On some level it's probably never okay. Any intolerance only feeds more. I guess my main question to ponder is where is the line where we take action? I don't think there is a set line and we must each act that point we see fit. It does come down that we do live in an imperfect world and our intention is as important as the outcome and each of us needs to think about that.