Take a Knee

Politics as unusual

I really think the NFL could solve this problem right now. The owners and players would just agree to go back to the way it was and have the players stay in their locker rooms until after the Anthem is played. The fans can stand and sing, or stand reverently if they can’t sing, or stand or sit distractedly, or do whatever the heck they want just like before all this started and get back to not thinking about what they would rather not think about on their weekend of diversion. The players could stand or kneel or (see above), while they watch it on the monitors.

The fans would miss out on seeing the players perform the ritual of unity before the contest begins. And give up on insisting they perform like automatons.

The players would give up the opportunity to make a public demonstration of their convictions, having now a made point of their sense of emergency. But they would gain something too. Their protest could very well change how we view, and what we demand of patriotism. It would show us that we must set aside this weird thing of requiring ritual behavior. It would once again insist on the maxim, “Without free choice there is no virtue.”

We have a unique American identity that is tied in many ways to “You can’t tell me what to do.” If our founders went to such great lengths to build this notion into our Constitution when facing religious imperatives in colonial America, why can’t we also see the problem with requiring these other things today, those that abjectly force us to behave a certain way. They are just another kind of imperative; a patriotic one.

I realize the ritual of unity that takes place before the great contest is important. But the rule requiring players to stand on the sideline during the Anthem only started in the NFL in 2009, after the trauma of the Gulf War. College teams largely have their players sit in the locker room only to emerge with great fanfare after. It works pretty well for them.

The post game gathering of opposing teams is much more significant for me anyway. A word of congratulations or encouragement, a bro-hug that re-unites the adversaries, and the picture they provide for us of seeing them as adversaries and not enemies.

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Eclipse Notes

Nature nurtures

“Blue Eclipse” Batik by David Lucht

As totality approached the light around us dimmed. At first this progressed in a kind of familiar way, like when the sky gets hazy. But then in the final ten minutes the quality of light became very unique. It wasn’t “sort of like” anything I’d ever seen. The set of wavelengths that came off that final sliver of sun allow an ordinarily unseen band of color to emerge in the visual spectrum, one that is reserved for just these occasions.

The blue sky shifted to a deep cool gray. The clouds on the horizon turned sunset rose. The air cooled.
I glanced through the eclipse glasses at the disappearing sliver of sun and then back at the rapidly darkening landscape. Back and forth. Fast changes. Sundown on time lapse.
Then it was dark. I looked up without the glasses and saw the diamond ring. That moment was fleeting, treasured, spectacularly beautiful.
And then we were in the totality.
A black disc with petals of brilliant corona was now above us. So extraordinary. An underserved gift. Then we saw Venus. We talked about the light as being “not quite night.” Then for another minute nothing changed. The small crowd we were in was buzzing and “whooping” and I joined in.  I gave Stefanie an eclipse kiss.
 A great wave of gratitude and peace came over me. I was fortunate to share it all with family. Wendell Berry said the religious impulse has much to do with our response to underserved gifts. So it does.
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Our Life in Between

Connections, Philosophy with a tan

The theme of this blog is the life we live in between. We have our main life, usually one of work and home and family. And we have our other life. The one we use to offset the primary life. Vacation. Hobbies. Community service. If we lived only in the first life we might function responsibly but we might also arrive at that dreaded sense of stagnancy. Endless cycles in the mundane. Featureless existence on a long slog towards our demise.

Life proceeds without our prompting. But our sense of being alive depends crucially on our ability to inject our energy into it. And this ability must be expressed in two ways; our responsible existence, and our crazy life. In the time we are allowed we are provided the opportunity to create this crazy space that helps us to regain something. I know that life wants a discussion about what is possible. But practical Dave says this can’t happen. Or that is just plain crazy. We can’t afford it. It can’t be done. Dreamer Dave says “Why not?” So we move into little spots where our dreams can meet up with reality. We buy a boat. We start a project that benefits the community. We open our minds to a way of thinking that isn’t part of our habit.

I find that this creates a space in between. I call it “Life in the Hyphen” because it exists as real as both sides of life. It is where we find wholeness and peace. If we are courageous enough to create both we can then find a point of balance in that “between”.



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Blanket Gravity

Humor or less

I just had a revelation this morning! Sometimes the hour when you first wake up can provide a moment of lucidity. Like being able to remember an old childhood song you used to sing with friends that ended with “… and threw her out the window.” Or finally thinking of that clever answer to a cutting remark someone made yesterday, finding just the one you should have said. Yeah. That would’ve been good.

Well this morning in the midst of my dreamy-eyed transition to wakefulness I had a revelation. It happened as I tugged on my blankets one more time to adjust the ideal temperature zone beneath those blankets, attempting to reconstitute “comfy.” I realized in a flash the answer to something that had puzzled humanity for eons. The solution to a problem so intractable and puzzling that the centuries had until now held it in rank obscurity. These things are known to appear like a flash of light to minds that have laid the diligent groundwork, or to those who just got a good night’s sleep. I will now share with you this insight which will finally answer the riddle, wrapped in enigma, and smothered in secret sauce.

Why do blankets move during the night towards the foot of the bed?

Is it restless feet pushing them down? Or, as my wife suggests…”a group of invisible blanket gnomes situated just off the foot of the bed turning tiny transparent cranks.” Or is it “Just the way it is, eat your breakfast!” These theories are each worthy as plausible conjectures. Each one creates their own path to new hypotheses and suggest fresh methods for creating tests that will either confirm or reject those hypotheses. Well, except the ones involving the gnomes and the breakfast. But my revelation this morning might just serve to detonate those steamships of postulation into tiny bits of flotsam.

I propose: Blanket gravity.

Simply put, I propose a force that runs counter to normal gravity which creates movement at right angles to it. The mere presence of the human body between the mattress and the blankets releases this force which was previously latent. This force is local and has no bearing on objects outside the blankets. It is in effect only as long as the body remains on the mattress, under the blankets, in comfy repose. At this time, and under these specific circumstances, the blankets are compelled to move, in longitudinal fashion along the axis of the body and always from head to foot.

This force is undeniable. It is irresistible. It is universal. It is, after all, a blanket theory of gravity.

As further supporting evidence, I look to the understanding of centrifugal force, known to physicists as a “fictional” force because it does not force the object in motion directly away from the central axis, but instead acts like a series of forces that are tangential to the circle created by the spinning object.

So, if you are on that amusement park ride where you join a group of strangers inside a huge tin can while the floor drops away and you are pinned to the wall with no visible means of support (remember, you payed to do this), you imagine that centrifugal force is pushing you back. You are mistaken. And you should probably be riding the Tilt-a-Whirl.

I drew this picture to show how it works, along with my arrogant declaration about its meaning. I’m sure you will forgive my enthusiasm but the coffee was strong. The next step is peer review of course.


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Reclaiming Government

Politics as unusual

There are two power centers in our American culture, business and government. But before we can proceed with an analysis, let’s look at what we think of when we hear the term “government.” We imagine “government” as being out there somewhere; corrupt, ineffectual, and against our interests. But this is a manufactured image of externalized government which is presented as real by the other power center. We have largely accepted this definition and fall prey to the perception that we are its victim.

Unless we are on board with the attempt to reclaim the term ‘government’ as representing all of us, unless we are focused with putting “We the People” back in the position of power, none of the following will make any sense.

Maybe you think this analysis is shallow and that business has dominated and corrupted government so thoroughly as to make government pointless, at best enfeebled. Or that they are both the same thing. Well then business interests have certainly prevailed because they rely crucially on this transference of the impression of “corruption” to the political sphere. They also count on the impression that you are now powerless to counter their maneuvers.

This gives birth to the premise that “government is the problem”. Again, if you operate from this premise then business interests have won their fight. I hear a lot about how “government should get out of the way”. A very important principle in how society is structured is; There is no such thing as a vacuum. When you hear phrases like these remember that government never disappears. Even narrow interests of the existing power structure require an arbitrator. The goal of this ideology is not some libertarian or anarchist Eden. The goal is to diminish or even remove the power of the voting public.

If we move to deny government its legitimacy (i.e.: the legitimate power of the vote) then sensible regulatory efforts that can benefit us all will no longer occur. Policy decisions that maintain the benefits of the existing power structure become the purview of business related lobbyists. By making “government” the bogeyman the beneficiary is not “the people” but instead, business.
Today we have a seemingly clean split between right and left. But both sides share the deeply held impression that we are caught in a corrupt system. How does this play out to create these diametrically opposed systems of analysis and solutions? The transference of our impression of corruption to the political sphere is the key. The Tea Party right sees government and “those Washington bureaucrats” as the problem. The Occupy left follows the money to analyze the source of corruption in the system. The moneyed interests rely on their ability to use political front men as a smoke screen. If our frustrations with the current state of America can be focused on the overreach of government then we will never see the true power behind the screen. Big business loves the foibles of Washington. The more we are impressed that the Federal government is inept the more leeway Big Money has to operate unhindered.
But wait… we are the government. We can’t permit ourselves to forget that.
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