Saturday, September 20, 2014

People's Climate March in New York City and around the world on Sunday, 09/21/14

Friends,

I can't believe the People's Climate March is less than 48 hours away. And I can tell you, without a doubt, that it's going to be absolutely beautiful on a scale that we've never seen before.

These numbers don't tell the whole story, but they definitely give you an idea of what's coming on Sunday:
 
2,100: The number of People's Climate events taking place this weekend in over 160 countries around the world -- this is part of something truly global.

1,500: Partner organizations officially supporting the march -- and it's still growing!

1,000: Artists who have been hard at work for months making absolutely stunning materials for the march using more than 100 gallons of paint, 350 yards of posterboard, 13 parachutes, and miles of cardboard tubes (because no one is allowed to use wood in the march - NYPD rules).

500: Buses coming from across the country. Lined up end to end that's more than twice the width of Manhattan at its widest point - and they're carrying 25,000 people to the march.

475: The number of volunteers we have to help support the march this weekend as greeters and march marshals -- but we still need 200 more! Click here to sign up to volunteer, and we'll get you oriented ASAP.

362: The number of college campuses where students are organizing to turn out for this march in huge numbers. Young people will not accept a future ravaged by climate change.

300: The length in feet of a single banner in the march. It might just be the biggest climate banner ever (at least that I've seen - you can find it in the "We Know Who's Responsible" theme).

125: World leaders planning to attend the climate leadership summit on Tuesday -- more than at any previous climate summit or negotiation. Let's send them to the negotiating table with the sound of a enormous movement ringing in their ears.

82: The expected temperature on Sunday. That's beautiful weather to make history in.

29: The number of marching bands that will be making sure this march has a beat. And that's not counting the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3 bagpipers.

26: The number of city blocks being blocked off for this march to lineup - check out the lineup here and find your people. Or just show up at 86th St and Central Park West at 11 AM.

5: How many friends you should bring (or at least forward this email to) - because to change everything it takes everyone.

1: Planets we have. Which means we also only have one shot to get this right.

0: The amount of progress we'll make if we stay home. We don't know that this will work - but we do know that if we stay home, the only thing that's going to change is the climate.

 This is going to be huge.
-YJ Cho and everyone working on the People's Climate March

Editor's note:

If any UUs go, please give us a report of your experience here at UU A Way Of Life, please. Leave it in the comments or send it to me at davidgmarkham@gmail.com and I will publish it as a separate article with your permission.

All Along The Watch Tower and Unitarian Universalism

"Let us not talk falsely now,
The hour is getting late."
     Bob Dylan, All Along The Watchtower

"As I see it, the primary religious task these days is to try to think straight. Seeing clearly is more important than good behavior, for redemptive action is born of vision. Religious faith, far from being a substitute for thought, makes thinking possible. You can't think straight with a heart full of fear, for fear seeks safety, not truth."
     William Sloane Coffin, A Passion For The Possible, p.2

Coffin's quote is full of gobbletygook much of which is stupid, but taking the whole thing like one is listening to music or reading poetry, it makes sense. For what straight thinking can be done with a heart full of fear? And what can help one deal with fear better than a mind full of faith? And what can one best put one's faith in than a principle such as Unitarian Universalist's fourth, "a free and responsible search for truth and meaning"? It is much easier, though, to give up a faith of one's own and depend on someone else's faith like a Pope, or a priest, or a minister, or a iman, or a rabbi, or a guru of some other stripe.

UUs are known as freethinkers. They have courage, faith, hope, and bravery to rely on their own reason and intuitive wisdom. UUs eschew the ubiquitous tendency for people to talk falsely relying on someone else's faith rather than having the courage and motivation to create one's own. As one approaches death and the hour is getting late, sometimes, some people are more motivated to come to terms with one's own God. UUs are a people who don't wait until the last hour, but devote their life time to a free and responsible search. UUs spend their lifetime watching from the Watch Tower and trying to make sense out what they see.

My Kind Of Church Music - All Along The Watch Tower, Jimi Hendrix

Friday, September 19, 2014

The paradox of a UU way of life

I have shared with you before how much I love Linda McCullough Moore's stories in her book of short stories, This Road Will Take Us Closer To The Moon, and I love the seventh story, "My Country 'Tis Of Thee" where she tells the story of entertaining a Cambodian immigrant couple for supper.

Moore describes the narrator's anxiety about hosting them and the narrator's awkwardness and self consciousness in trying to relate with a couple from a different culture as an American. Moore subtly catches the guilt of the American about our consumptive greed, sense of entitlement, sense of being exceptional in the face of foreign witnesses that make us unconsciously uncomfortable. There is a recognition of the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and the desire for justice, equity, and compassion in our human relations, but also a shameful awareness that we continually fail to implement these values in our behavior and policies which we proudly pontificate. Here's one scene in the story that exemplifies this complex idea:

     "I felt guilty when I ran into Boren. I was buying soy milk that has sixty calories and nine grams of protein in a glass. No animals were killed in its procurement. A purchase devoid of any sin, or any that I knew of. But nonetheless, I felt greedily consumptive, with four liters in my basket. Foreigners always make me feel so American, a card carrying member of the U.S.
     And club membership is a tricky thing for me. I hardly ever fit.
     'You thrive on ostracism,' my sister told me on once. I beamed.
     'It's not a compliment,' she said.
     But I do try to not be part of any group I'm in. It's not that hard. People are usually pretty happy to exclude me."

One of the characteristics of a Unitarian Universalist way of life, taken seriously, is a desire to become a better person and to improve the world. This self consciousness is a necessary foundation for this growth, and yet how can we be in the now, be present, when we continually anxiously want to become our better selves? This is the paradox we UUs live. Moore hits it spot on in this story "My County 'Tis Of Thee."

Monday, September 15, 2014

Despair is arrogant and pompous and God might well think it is rude.

I hope you are enjoying This Road Will Take Us Closer To The Moon. The sixth story, "The Next Life" is about a waitress who takes in an abandoned 5 year old girl whose aging grandmother can no longer take care of her and leaves her in an emergency room.

Jesus told His disciples that the way to the kingdom is "to love as I have loved." Somebody asked Mother Teresa about this saying one time, "Who, Mother, should I love?" And Mother Teresa is said to have said, "Whomever life puts in your path."

Moore writes:

"...Nobody, not one of us, knows what's going to happen, and it is bright purple, patent arrogance to give up hope because you think you're so damn smart you know your life is sure to be a sinkhole from now on. Despair is arrogant and pompous and God might well think it's rude." p.82-83

If you want to hear God laugh, tell God your plans.

Amen.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Going back to school raises the question “What is schooling for?”

It’s been quite a week in Disneyland.

The kids are now back in school, for better of for worse. Some reluctant students have griped about returning to the classroom, stating in no uncertain terms that they hate school.

"It's stupid," one tenth grader told me. "It's a boring waste of time and I don't understand why I should be forced to go. Last I checked this was a free country."

That set me to wondering why the state, in its infinite wisdom, supports compulsory education. Why do we incarcerate kids against their wills and deprive them of their liberty? Our Constitution prohibits the government from infringing on the freedoms of its citizens. A writ of habeas corpus can be brought in any jurisdiction that takes liberties with personal freedoms -- except, of course, where kids are concerned.

We kill them through abortion, incarcerate them in school, and force them to abide by the court's ruling in ugly court divorce cases. Supposedly it's for their own good.

I asked some of the members of our community what they thought about the idea of compulsory schooling.

"Kids have to go to school -- period," said Elmer Sandbagger. "What are you going to do -- let them sit around all day? If they don't learn anything, how are they going to participate in our democracy? Well, I guess they could just read USA Today, but kids should go to school, too, for gym."

"We should pay kids to go to school," said Jennifer Goldigger. “My father gave me $5 for each 'A' I brought home. He even gave me a car when I graduated. I decided not to go to college -- not that I didn't like school or anything. See, I want to be a model or an actress, and I'm dancing at the Babes Unlimited Club to make ends meet until I get my big break. Overall, I enjoyed school. I really liked cheerleading for the football team. In fact, some of my fondest school memories involve football players.”

“We have turned into a godless nation since they took prayer out of the schools," said Roy Christian. They're teaching secular humanistic values, talking about sex, distributing condoms. I don't want my kids to have any part of it. I'll send them to a private Christian school or homeschool them if I have to. Education is the God-given responsibility of parents, and the government has no business telling me how to do it."

A guy we know has been thinking about starting the American Association to End Compulsory Education. He decided to lay low, though, when NEA vigilantes threw a brick through his front window and set his schnauzer on fire. He has a point. There are a lot of ways to get an education, and public schooling is not necessarily the best. We wish that there were more affordable alternatives. But the teacher unions have a captive audience, and the taxpayers keep coughing up the bucks to support what amounts to a government monopoly. So, until there are vouchers, viable alternatives and competition among schools, test scores will continue to plummet, cultural literacy will continue its steady downward spiral, and students will continue to complain that school is boring and a waste of time. And they're right.

And that's the way it is in Disneyland this week, where Jennifer is using her education to excel as an  exotic dancer, Roy worries that his 13-year-old daughter's boyfriend will decide to take advantage of the free condoms now available in school, and the school taxes have gone up another 17% this year. 

The Amelioration Foundation realizes that there are two sides to every story. Although we believe compulsory education makes about as much sense as diet chocolate, there are certainly some excellent arguments for maintaining our educational status quo. Thus, in keeping with our reputation for objectivity and fair play, we present ...

Top Ten Reasons Why Ending Compulsory Education is a Bad Idea  

10.  Easier to get drugs at school.

9.   Army recruiters would be faced with a dwindling pool of kids with no options; would have to find another source of financially strapped, impressionable young people to do the bidding of the military-industrial complex.

8.   NEA would have to reduce membership fees.

7.   Parents might have to spend more time with their children, take an interest in their socialization.

6.   Cliff's Notes sales would plummet as students begin to actually read literature, rather than memorize pertinent fact for multiple choice/fill-in-the-blank tests.

5.   Public schools provide necessary skills for becoming a corporate drone upon graduating.

4.   Students would lack social skills without daily contact with peers at school; might go through life unable to respond appropriately to interactions such as, "Fuck you, Faggot!"

3.   Dean of students gets a rush from suspending troublemakers; might turn to girlie mags, heroin to compensate.

2.   Students might begin to think freely, threaten social order, endanger
the American way of life.

1.      School administrators would have to go to work at Burger King, or become hedge fund managers and do some real work for a change.

 Editor's note: 

The above story is obviously satire and at certain points disturbing. As Americans we rarely question the idea of compulsory schooling and the purpose it serves in our society. If we are going to sincerely engage in the free and responsible search for truth and meaning we have to seriously examine the major institution in our society which claims to serve this purpose of transmitting truth and meaning from previous to subsequent generations in our society. Furthermore, it is not a free search but one that we have made compulsory. The question of how responsible it is raises interesting questions of what stakeholder interests are being served by the system we have created?


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Scottish indedpendence and Unitarian Universalism

I usually don't publish political things here unless they directly affect Unitarian Universalists but this short video on Scottish independence is very succinct and informative and relates to UUs fifth principle which is "the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society and large." Should UUs care about the outcome? If so what should be the Unitarian Universalist position on this question of Scottish independence if UU should take one?

For information about the Scottish Unitarian Association click here.

Are you trying everything?

One of the reasons I love Linda McCullough Moore's short stories so much is the slightly askance view she takes on life which makes me laugh with the absurdity of it all. In her fifth story in her book of short stories, This Road Will Take Us Closer To The Moon, entitled Ball Doll she tells a story about a woman, Margaret, who goes home to visit her elderly mother who has had a stroke and her Aunt Mary.

Moore opens her story with these lines,

"I feel like I'm dying, but I'm not exactly breaking new ground here. Someone in my family is always dying. My father, who did die a dozen years ago, used to say, 'People are dying who never died before.' Tonight, it's Aunt Mary, well technically, my sister Eileen's husband Tom's Aunt Mary, but close enough for our purposes."

I had to laugh at her opening paragraph. At age 68 I've seen many people die, my parents, two of my children, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends, acquaintances, it seems never ending. Somebody is always dying. And it puzzles me that dying, being a normal regular part, of life is treated as if it was tragically abnormal. In our contemporary society in the United States, it seems that people aren't supposed to die and when they do something has gone terribly wrong.

"Aunt Mary's legs are swollen up like two balloons," Eileen's voice is schoolmarm taut. "She couldn't catch her breath, and when we took her to the E.R., they gave her morphine right away, and six different kinds of medicine, and I said to the doctor, 'Does this mean you're trying everything?' and he said, 'Yes.'"
The Aunt Mary in question is 97.
She looks older.

There is a lot more to this story that I am not going to go into now and I recommend it to you.

Questions for consideration, journaling, and possible discussion.

  1.  What has been your experience with death over the course of  your life and more recently?
  2.  To what extent do you think that our society has inappropriate attitudes about death?
  3.  What are your thoughts about Eileen's attitude about Aunt Mary getting "everything" at the      end of her life at age 97?