I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I am on vacation on Cape Cod and my friends are back from the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington. Sure, we have an African American President, but racism still abounds, as I am too frequently reminded of on Facebook.
Recent commentary has got me thinking more about black culture. When I think of black culture, I think of Nikki Giovanni ego tripping through Africa.
I was born in the congo
I walked to the fertile crescent and built
I designed a pyramid so tough that a star
that only glows every one hundred years falls
into the center giving divine perfect light
I am bad
But that was over forty years ago. Where do egos trip today? At the video music awards, Miley Cyrus, apparently trying to tap into aspects of black culture, sang:
And we can't stop
And we won't stop
Can't you see it's we who own the night?
Can't you see it's we who 'bout that life?
Can't stop what? If you can't stop, you're out of control. You need help. Not being able to stop is a sign of addiction. It is part of the Lindsay Lohan path towards court mandated rehabilitation.
But we can stop, and we can stop in unexpected ways. After Newtown, Wayne LaPierre, NRA's executive vice president said, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun". Antoinette Tuff showed this to be wrong, when she spoke from her own brokenness supported by a belief in God's love to stop a shooting.
My pastor, he just started this teaching on anchoring, and how you anchor yourself in the Lord…I just sat there and started praying.
Yes, Antoinette stopped a bad man with a gun. What will it take to stop a bad girl with a song?
As an aside, people are spending a lot of time complaining about how everyone is talking about Miley Cyrus as chemical weapons get used in Syria. This is not an either/or issue. In one discussion, I shared,
the dichotomy between women being violently oppressed because of social constructs of race and gender in the United States and women being violently oppressed by others seeking to maintain power in Syria through the use of chemical weapons seems a bit strained. Human justice for women battered because of the entertainment industry is as much of a human justice issue as how women are being battered by oppressors with chemical weapons on the world stage.
So, what will it take to stop a bad girl with a song, a bad girl with a performance that promotes the degradation of women and has troubling racial overtones? Perhaps, it takes a good man with a song,
Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
None but ourselves can free our mind…
All I ever had:
These songs of freedom,
Maybe it will take a great woman with a poem:
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
Or, as one strong preacher woman I know put it:
Janet's Wardrobe Malfunction; Madonna & Brittany's Kiss; Miley Cyrus's pitiful twerk...its still the oldest profession and pays the bills. Media Pimps and Women are exploited commodities in our sexist world. Pray for our sisters, our daughters, ourselves. Now Rise!
We should not slut shame Miley. We should not overlook the role of those around her in creating and performing the VMA performance. Instead, as Shelly said, we should pray for them, and all of us.
"You're under attack, xm drained 1%, resonator destroyed. Good work"
The graphical representation of a resonator on my smartphone screen turned white and then disappeared. I tapped on the 'fire' button and a circle rippled across the stylized map of the aging New England city I was in.
My glasses made a strange beeping sound and I paused to look up at the ethereal image of a twenty-five inch television floating eight feet above my head to the right. I am a Google Glass explorer and I was receiving notifications of the latest news from CNN and the New York Times. There were stories about the fighting in Syria and Egypt and the radiation leak in the crippled nuclear reactor in Fukyshima Japan.
I returned my attention to Ingress, the augmented reality game on my smartphone. I had a little bit of time I could walk around the city green before heading off to my first meeting of the day.
"The world around you is not what it seems."
In Ingress, resonators are connected to portals. You can only see them in the game. Portals are often at statues or monuments. The game has gotten me out walking more and visiting places I wouldn't normally go.
I walked passed a decrepit lingerie display, a thrift shop full of old shoes and dresses, and a store front with artifacts from a bygone era of reporting. There were For Lease signs on old banks and the Symphony Orchestra had taken up residence in a different closed lingerie store.
One of the few open businesses was a donut store with it's easily recognizable national branding. An obese woman wobbled out eating her daily dose of diabetes. She wasn't running anywhere.
"… to wound the autumnal city" the opening line of a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel comes to mind. It is eight in the morning, and I would expect to see business people heading off to work, but all that I see are the discarded people, down on their luck; the veteran who never did get the PTSD treatment he needed, the immigrant whose hopes of a better world in America never materialized, and the cop trying to keep things from getting too ugly.
There is a decayed movie posted proclaiming "The Empire Strikes Back" and a residential care building next to a large crumbling edifice with a Latin phase about God and Heaven.
I take one more lap around the city green, "Field established, excellent work," sounds from the synthesized voice in Ingress. It is almost time for me to head to my meeting. I take a few notes with Google Glass and bring up the directions.
Between the wearable computing, the augmented reality game, the news of fighting and nuclear radiation leaks, it is hard to distinguish between the autumnal New England city and Dhalgren's Bellona. The closest thing I could find to hope was the discarded lottery ticket on the ground.
the hope of seven generations, maybe more
I believe 1994 was the first year that I went to the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, right about the time of Miranda was a year old. I believe it was also the year that Dar Williams first performed at Falcon Ridge. What was I thinking when I took my young daughters to this event? Sure, some of it was for the sheer joy of going such a wonderful folk festival, but what were my hopes for the girls? What were my hopes for them as I took them to piano lessons or drove them to summer camp? What were my parents hopes for me, when I was younger?
I took piano lessons when I was young. I sang in choirs, but none of that went all that far. My mother loved singing and had a great voice, before the essential tremors started.
I was standing by my window,
On one cold and cloudy day
"Will The Circle Be Unbroken" was the final song of the final workshop stage session of the final day of the Twenty Fifth Anniversary Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. Like Friday night, when Red Molly and Susan Werner performed "May I Suggest", I was tired and wet from a passing rainstorm.
I closed my eyes and thought of my mother. She would be saying how proud she was of Mairead, going all the way to Japan. Her voice would be shaking from the essential tremors, and their would be a tear in her eye as she thought of how much she loved her grandchildren. My mother went to Germany with my father after they were married. He served in the Air Force in Germany during the Korean war. My mother never did get much more of a chance to travel, other than our summertime vacations to campgrounds along the Atlantic Ocean somewhere between Mount Desert Island and Cape Hatteras.
Her shaking would go on wistfully to say how excited she was for Miranda; about her book, for her singing, and all the wonderful opportunities that awaited her. My daughters didn't know my mother when she tried to pursue the arts while struggling to raise a family in Western Massachusetts. After cleaning out the family house, I brought home various artifacts of her creative endeavors.
When I saw that hearse come rolling
For to carry my mother away
The audience stood to join in. I stood too, but could not sing; great performers on the stage, their children now performing on the Main Stage, an enthusiastic crowd; twenty five years of Falcon Ridge. Mairead was traveling in ways my mother only dreamed of. Miranda was singing in venues my mother couldn't even imagine. Memories of my mother during my childhood, all mingled together into a transcendent moment.
Earlier this summer, I ate a wonderful sweet juicy peach. I stood over the sink so the sweet flavors wouldn't make the floor sticky. I closed my eyes and was lost in the moment of eating the peach, nothing else existed but the sweetness of that peach. This moment at Falcon Ridge was like eating that peach.
When my daughter's were young, I used to sing "The Circle Game" to them as I put them to bed.
So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty
Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
There'll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through.
Have the dreams lost any grandeur coming true? Maybe for my daughters, I don't know, but not for me. This is the best part of my life. The circle remains unbroken.
this is the faith
That they invest in you
It's that you'll do one better than was done before
Inside you know
Inside you understand
Inside you know what's yours to finally set right
Mairead and Miranda have already done so much more than just one better than was done before. Fiona is still young, but even now, she has done so much more than just one better too.
The circle has remained unbroken and this is the best part of our lives.
May I suggest
Friday night at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival Main stage; Red Molly is covering Susan Werner's song, with Susan weaving in additional harmony. The rain has stopped, but I am tired, wet and cold.
Miranda is sitting next to me bubbling over with little giggles of joy. She has had a very good day.
May I suggest to you
This is my first night at Falcon Ridge since my mother died. A week ago, Mairead left for Japan. During Dar Williams set, I Skyped her in.
May I suggest this is the best part of your life.
Dar started her set with "The Babysitter's Here".
She says do me a favor don't go with a guy who would make you choose and
Mairead has chosen Japan. She has moved halt the world away to teach English and be nearer her girlfriend. Dar ends her set, like she usually does at Falcon Ridge singing "Iowa". The whole hillside holds up their flashlights, glowsticks, cellphones, or any other source of light, turning the whole hill into a human glowworm grotto, revealing the contours of the otherwise dark cloud. I wonder how many people come to Falcon Ridge specifically for that moment. I wonder what role it plays in bringing Dar back to Falcon Ridge.
And we walk in the world of safe people, and at night we walk into our houses and burn.
Earlier in the day, Miranda stepped out onto the workshop stage at Falcon Ridge. She had volunteered to work that stage as a great opportunity to learn more stage craft while listening to great music. The big set on the workshop stage on Friday was Vance Gilbert giving a critique of various performers. Vance is a great performer and can give scathing, yet productive critiques in a humorous way, slewing as many sacred cows along the way as possible.
He asked performers to get up and play a song that they are having trouble with. Miranda got up and performed her latest song. She had played it in public the first time, the night before at The Front Porch, one of the many song circles that cover the hillside late at night when there aren't performances at the main stage. She told Vance she didn't think it went all that well and was trying to figure out what to do with it.
Miranda has a strong stage presence. She approached the mic with confidence and started her song, not showing any trepidation about Vance saying "Freeze", and then illustrating to the gathered crowd what she was doing wrong. When Vance did stop her, it was with words of praise and Miranda continued on her song, with various interruptions and suggestions from Vance, and some great play between the two of them and the person doing the sign language interpretation at the edge of the stage.
Afterwords others approached Miranda. They told her she had done great the night before and asked her to play her song again. Later, she was asked to perform at a small stage for volunteers. It was in the middle of Dar Williams set, but she was willing to miss even Dar for a chance to work on her performance. She played a twenty minute set and was followed by Vance Gilbert. Afterwards the stage manager told her, "You just got to open for Vance Gilbert!"
And that's how she won the pretty girl game.
During Dar's set, she spoke about how we are all interconnected. She may not have known how interconnected that moment was, Miranda briefly telling Mairead about her experience and then all of us listening to Dar on a hillside in New York and somewhere in Japan, tied together via technology.
This is the best part of your life.
I continue to be overly busy so I am not getting as much writing done as I would like, but I've got a few moments, so I thought I'd reflect on the 'supermoon'.
What does it mean when the moon reaches perigee in Capricorn, the tenth house of the Zodiac, shortly after the summer solstice? There are many different ways to look at this, so I'll try a few different angles.
Larry Sessions, a writer for EarthSky, asks the question, Does a supermoon have a super effect on us?
A supermoon’s effects are imperceptible, far smaller than those encountered in other everyday situations, such as being near a mountain or even a large building.
He talks about this in terms of gravitational force, and finds the effect to be "about 110 milligrams, roughly equivalent to about 1/9th the mass of a paperclip." That's not much of an effect.
He did acknowledge that "the full moon can appear as much as 14% larger in the sky and 30% brighter to our eyes than at minimum size and brightness." This change of brightness to the moon is likely to be unnoticeable from one night to the next, but when someone mentions it, it can lead to observational bias. Mention to people things that happen during full moons, especially during supermoons, and people will look for the occurrence and when they observe it, generalize about it.
If enough people mention something, it can start trending on social media. It can become a fad, a meme, or a topic of the day. Enough people are talking about the 'supermoon' that it has become a top news story showing up in my Google Feed, including a link to Larry Sessions' article.
So, while the effect of a full moon at perigee may be minimal gravitationally, it can be profound psychologically. Some may think about this in terms of vampires, werewolves, and the zodiac. Yet I'm interested in other aspects. I find the moon beautiful. Anything that gets people to stop and think about beauty, to gaze on something beautiful, is, in my book, a good thing.
Tying this to science, anything that gets people to stop and consider the motions of the earth, the moon, planets, and stars, perhaps even ideas like gravity and inertia, is also a good thing.
What would it be like if everyone took a moment every day to reflect on something beautiful and to share it? What would it be like if everyone took a moment every day to think about the wonders of how the universe is created and how humans have used science to broaden their understanding of the universe?
Unfortunately, too many people have too much on their minds in terms of making money and gaining power. Perhaps, instead of focusing on the fabulous creatures, the zodiac, or even beauty and science, another reflection is called for.
There is an old Zen story entitled, The Moon Cannot Be Stolen
A Zen Master lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening, while he was away, a thief sneaked into the hut only to find there was nothing in it to steal. The Zen Master returned and found him. "You have come a long way to visit me," he told the prowler, "and you should not return empty handed. Please take my clothes as a gift." The thief was bewildered, but he took the clothes and ran away. The Master sat naked, watching the moon. "Poor fellow," he mused, " I wish I could give him this beautiful moon."
So, I give to you this different way of thinking about the supermoon. It cannot be stolen.