Friday, May 24, 2013

What is Cruelty?

On the church's Facebook wall a few weeks ago, one member who has "gone atheist" questioned my spirituality by saying that she saw no evidence that spirituality made me a better person because she believes that I am "cruel" on my blog. When I emailed her privately and requested examples of my "cruelty", I never got a response. Not surprised, actually. There are always going to be people with controlling personality types who hate the fact that I have a blog and that I write about the way I view the world and other people. A few have made unreasonable demands to have me take down my blog for whatever reasons, which is a sign of their controlling natures. If something offends you, then don't read it!! It won't hurt my feelings at all if people who are "offended" by something I wrote don't read my blog ever again. I'm actually flattered that people do read my blog.

Whenever someone accuses me of something, the first thing I do is look at the dictionary definition, just so I can try to see if the word fits in some way. At the very least, it gives me insight into another's mind. Here's how Mr. Dictionary defines "Cruel":

adjective, cru·el·er, cru·el·est.
1. willfully or knowingly causing pain or distress to others.
2. enjoying the pain or distress of others: the cruel spectators of the gladiatorial contests.
3. causing or marked by great pain or distress: a cruel remark; a cruel affliction.
4. rigid; stern; strict; unrelentingly severe.

Well...that definitely does not fit me at all, and that is no self-delusion. No one has ever called me that before. I tend to be fair-minded and flexible rather than "rigid, stern, strict, or unrelentingly severe." I definitely have had moments where I physically and emotionally felt another person's pain, which I believe is a sign of true compassion ("compassion" meaning "to suffer with"). I hate to see anyone in pain and I especially would hate it if I was the cause of another person's pain.

However, if someone gets "offended" because they don't like my opinion on something, then I have no responsibility for that because when I write something or say something from my own life experience, it is meant to share my perspective. I'm not sharing something to deliberately hurt someone's feelings and make them feel badly about themselves (unless I'm specifically addressing something wrong that they did, such as speaking out when someone is abusing someone else). It seems that some people are too sensitive or hyper-sensitive that any opinion that another person makes from their own life experience / truth, appears as deliberately "hurtful" or "cruel" to them. This is where learning discernment comes in handy. Children are actually the best teachers for this kind of thing because they have an unfiltered way of expressing themselves and you really do get to learn how to accept their truths and not be so offended by what they might say.

You know who I think is cruel? Dick Cheney! The man just emits that kind of vibe (he was the one who authorized water boarding of terrorist suspects) and you can see it in his countenance as well as his physical manifestation (that crooked sneer of his). When I find someone to be cruel, I don't waste my time with them. I don't read their writings or be in their presence or even talk about them much. I just stay far away from them.

I have my theories on why this particular church member might find my blog to be "cruel", but I won't get into that. All I will say is that this blog is how I view the world. It is opinionated on politics, spirituality, and popular culture. This is my right to write about life from my perspective. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees me that right and my honorable service in the U.S. Navy helped protect those rights. If someone is bothered by anything I say, they can always feel free to post a comment or email me a message. I may or may not agree with their view, and that's the risk you take. However, if it bothers you that much that you'll tell church members on Facebook what an awful and cruel person I am without giving specific details, thus slandering me to people within my faith community, then what you did was cross the line. All I have to say is that if my blog topics and opinions bother you, won't hurt my feelings if you decide to not read it anymore. There are well over 100 million blogs out there to read from. Hope you find a few that makes your heart sing. In the meantime, I'll continue to write about topics of my interests, exercising my right to freedom of speech as guaranteed by our Founding Fathers.

Shifting tracks a little bit, as regular blog readers can see, I have been blogging less lately. It started last year and this year is even less than last year. Well, there is a logical reason for that. Since March of this year, I met a lady who meets all the criteria I have been looking for in a marriage-destined relationship and we have been progressively spending more and more time with one another, which includes every weekend now for several weeks. I'd love to return to a regular blogging schedule, but honestly, I prefer to spend my time at the gym (I joined in March) and with this lady. I have great feelings about where this is heading, so life is going incredibly well since I moved out of that toxic living environment with the divorced bachelor housemates and their neanderthal way of treating women. In case you're curious, the lady doesn't think I'm cruel. In fact, she says that I'm one of the kindest men she's ever met. Her young children even like me. I feel blessed.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Music Video Monday: Red Hot Chili Peppers

In honor of the Red Hot Chili Peppers post-Dalai Lama speech performance, this week's Music Video Monday is my favorite song by this California band, "Snow." It is one of the most fun songs to sing along to, especially on a road trip. It is sheer brilliance and proof that a long-term band can still create great music more than a decade and a half after their "masterpiece" single "Under The Bridge."

Enjoy! If you get a chance to see them in concert, go!!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Dalai Lama's Visit to the City of Roses

This past week, the Dalai Lama has been back in the U.S.A., making stops in a variety of places, including Maryland, where he rubbed noses with Governor Martin O'Malley, whom I am planning to support for president in 2016 should he decide to run. I love this photo of both of them, because it shows just how open-minded the Irish Catholic governor is, recognizing the spiritual leadership of the world's most famous Buddhist monk. I would expect Governor O'Malley to do something like this with the Pope, but not His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Its stuff like this (along with the other things I've learned about him in the past couple of years) that makes me more confident that I'd love to see Governor O'Malley become our next president.

This photo of me was taken at church today. Someone saw my status update on Facebook and requested that I bring my "khata" (white prayer shawl, which has Tibetan writing on it). Each of the more than 10,000 people who attended the Dalai Lama event in Portland received a "khata", which the Dalai Lama blessed en masse at the end of his speech.

Tickets to this all day event were $50, but I received mine for free because I was part of a winning team during a World Affairs Council trivia night event. I saw the three previous speakers at the Arlene Schnitzer auditorium earlier this year and the Dalai Lama event was the final speaker in the series. His speech was at the Veterans Memorial Colosseum (home to the Winterhawks ice hockey team) and was an all day event. I woke up too late to catch the opening of the morning session and only got to see the final 30 minutes. He was part of a panel that included Dr. Suzuki (a famous Buddhist scholar), Oregon Governor Kitzhaber, and some lady who is involved in environmental / sustainability issues in Oregon. The purpose of the event was a weekend conference on environmental responsibility. The Dalai Lama had been in Portland since Thursday, attending various events around town on Thursday and Friday. After this morning's panel interview session ended, the Dalai Lama got up and all he said was, "Lunch?" and the people in the auditorium laughed. I guess it is an unexpected reminder that he has human needs like we all do. His Holiness has to eat, too!

We couldn't bring food into the venue, so our options were overpriced stadium food. I got into the shortest line I saw, which was for pizza, which beat hotdogs for me. On the concourse around the auditorium were various booths of people selling all kinds of Tibetan souvenirs. Since I know of at least three different Tibetan stores in Portland, I didn't have to buy too much of anything I wanted. Lunch was two hours, which offered everyone plenty of time to eat and get to their seats.

The event started when film director Darren Aronofsky came out and gave a short introductory speech. Then the director introduced my Congressman Earl Blumenauer. The Dalai Lama came out and was given a Trailblazers jersey and ballcap, along with a bicycle lapel pin that the Congressman gives to dignitaries. Being a true sport, the Dalai Lama put on the Trailblazers ballcap. He spoke about compassion. His speech didn't really fit the theme of the environmental conference, but it was good to be in the same building as him and finally see him in person, even though my seat was high up in the nosebleed sections. As much as I love and admire the Dalai Lama, his speech was not all that great or memorable. I loved the moments when he laughed, though. Of all the people I've ever seen in life, no one has as great of a laugh as the Dalai Lama. He has a kind of impish / mischievous personality and I think were I to meet him face to face, I'd likely break out in laughter because he would inspire that response in me.

At one point in the speech, a loud boom went off and at first, I thought it was a bomb. But the speakers or the mike blew, which was a testament to his amazing energy. I have no doubt that he blew the speakers. There were two large screens on either side of the stage and the things he spoke into the mike appeared on the screen. We couldn't hear what he was saying, but his words appeared on the screen. He walked back and forth on the stage, asking technicians what happened. Then he sat down in the chair and made a gesture of taking a nap, which got the audience laughing. When he got a new mike, he made a joke about the "boom!" which I thought was funny. This incident really showed his patience and sense of humour.

After his speech, there was a question and answer session, with Aronofsky and Red Hot Chili Pepper Anthony Kiedis taking turns asking the questions. The closing blessing of everyone's khata marked the end of the Dalai Lama's visit and then the Red Hot Chili Peppers brought down the house with a 75 minute set. I've never seen them in concert before so it was great to finally see that. I was really impressed with Flea's stage presence. The concert began with him playing the guitar in a strange position (he bent over, making his body look like a triangle while he played his guitar close to the floor). Flea dominated the stage and I suspect that he was ADD or ADHD and found the perfect career for that. It wasn't long before lead singer Anthony Kiedis took off his shirt. They rocked through their hits and after singing one song in encore ("Give It Away"), I was surprised that they did not sing their biggest and most famous hit: "Under The Bridge." But, they did sing the song that is probably my favorite of theirs: "Snow", which is incredibly fun to sing along to.

All in all, it was a great and memorable day in the City of Roses.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Big Change in the Community of Christ

In April, the Community of Christ, a church that I have been a member of all my life and being a fifth generation member, had its World Conference and the first ever USA National Conference. We've had a World Conference for as long as I remember and in the past, it occurred every even numbered year, where delegates representing congregations from all over the world would meet in Independence, Missouri to discuss and vote on church government legislation. I attended one as a child in the 1970s (either 1976 or 1978) and in 1996. I had wanted to attend this year, but its hard to get time off from work when I only have 5 vacation days (God, I hate American corporations and their stinginess regarding vacation days and benefits). I hope to attend the next one in 2016. World Conference is now once every three years, which I hate. I loved the even numbered thing. We can thank the controversial resignation of the previous church president / prophet for messing up our schedule. We had a World Conference in 2006 and then he resigned in 2007 (for reasons that have never been made public, leading some people to speculate on the salacious reason), so we had to have a special conference to pick a new president for our church (we are no Catholic conclave for sure). The next conference was in 2010 and now here we are in 2013 with TWO conferences, back to back.

The USA National Conference was specifically for the issue of what to do about church members who are gay / bisexual / transgendered. The reason why they have to decide this issue on a national basis (Australia and Canada church congregations already had their national conferences on these issues) is because homosexual rights is a growing reality in the Western industrialized nations, while the topic is still quite taboo for the church congregations in African nations in particular. It presents a problem, because in the past, church policy has been universal. Which means that in 1984, when the priesthood offices were opened up for women to be called and to serve, that meant women in the church anywhere, whether in Missouri or Malawi. Now, though, due to the dangers posed to any sexual minority in an African country, it makes it difficult to have such a universal policy.

What the delegates to the National Conference decided was a pleasant surprise. More than 70% of the delegates supported a policy change that allows the church to recognize and perform same-sex marriages in states where it is legal, or civil unions in states where it is now; and for priesthood calls to be allowed for members who are homosexual / lesbian / bisexual / transgendered. This is a significant change. I wasn't sure that the majority of the church members were quite there yet, as I know quite a few people from my home congregation in Atlanta who are troubled by this development and have threatened to leave the church over this issue (the church lost 50,000 members after 1984's decision allowing women to be called to priesthood offices). I'll be sad to see anyone leave the church over this issue, but what can you do? Society has experienced a seachange since 2004 when so many gay marriage bans were voted on in ballot initiatives. Now, Time magazine had a cover article recently about how the majority of Americans now support marriage equality (not banning gay people from marriage) and the Boy Scouts organization plans to make a decision regarding their ban this month, and the Supreme Court will release their decision on gay marriage in June (just in time for Pride parades?). Society is moving towards equality and tolerance, so it would have been damaging to the church's future authenticity among young people if they continued down the archaic path.

When I heard the wonderful news out of Independence MO one beautiful Sunday morning a few weeks ago, I was proud of my church for once again doing the right thing. Out of all of the churches that grew out of the shared Latter Day Saints history, we remain the most liberal church (and the second largest). I love Community of Christ!

The above video was played at World Conference. It shows the universal nature of our church, as it features singers in Africa, Latin America, America, and Polynesia. The words are pretty simple and comes across as a beautiful mantra. "Peace, Salaam, Shalom." This is the essence of our church and yes, I'm pretty proud to be a member of such a faith community. It is my extended family and my tribe. If you're curious about the Community of Christ, please see if there is one in your part of the world and stop in and say hello.