Values

Living Values

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These are my answers to the question: “What do you want to make happen in yourself?”

Out of all the flavors of experience these are the 28 I value most.
They are not actions for my ego or achievements for my identity, but more like specific kinds of “essences” that I want to extract from the things I do and what happens to me.

If the mind can make a hell out of heaven or a heaven from hell, these are the things I want my mind to make – no matter what events occur.

My choice of action follows from these values. “What creates more of what I want in the world, for all the people involved in this situation?”

I have been terrified to pursue many of these things. Modern society tells me not to value them. Some cultures would say that in valuing these types of experiences, which may seem to oppose competition and domination,  I’m not being a real man.

What I value is not found on the surface of objects, and no superficial appearance can provide these things to me.

My values may not be common in modern America. What matters to me most is not material, and I cannot purchase these things or own them.

These values may not be what society expects from a male. These values may not be what society expects from an American.

I am now okay with all that stuff. I can be a “black sheep” or a “disappointment” to others without being one to myself. I am okay with however a society or culture or group of people may react to what I choose to be in the world.

A sense of peace and certainty now accompanies the feeling that my mind has found a harmony with my soul. That peace is relatively new.

It took a feeling of anxious rebellion to break free of cultural boundaries, and a lot of wandering through unmapped emotional territory to arrive at this feeling of “okay, this is who I am.”

I pursue the creation of these living values in myself and others.

I choose to let others accept me or reject me based on who I am.
The responsibility to share my heart and mind and soul lies with me.

I will fully manifest what is within the core of my being and express this truth to the limit of my abilities.

awareness     honesty     choice     creation

vulnerability     openness     acceptance     collaboration

exploration     wonder     sincerity     gratitude

depth     awe     compassion     connection

scope     experience     passion     expression

appreciation     understanding    inspiration     sensuality

quality     freedom     exhilaration     ecstasy

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Main Page

all people on earth are wholly human
and therefore worthy of my love,


our seven thousand human languages point to what is meaningful,

the energy of our physics,
the angels and demons of our religions,
are the stars in the sky within us

the energy uncontained by human words,

the energy of physics, force and mass in motion, the angels and demons dancing as they will

whatever we might call them

the billion stars beyond seven thousand languages

each word pointing up,

my mind makes constellations

after


my heart is warmed by light beyond

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Main Page, My Experiences

Fitting Into Society

When I was little, I had a toy with a wooden plank shaped like my sketch above. It had a square-shape, a circle-shape, and a star-shape that fit into the board.

Societies give us limited options for fitting in, and they don’t always match the shape of what we are.

I had a conversation that made me think about this, recently.

Fierce eyes attracted mine as I walked to a bus stop, and I stopped to talk with the woman they beamed from.

We ended up sitting by water, where she correctly identified the sound of raccoons chittering in the underbrush, and pointed out a massive heron bathing on the other side of the sparkling lake.

I laid out boxes of fresh raspberries and plump blueberries from Pike’s Place, and we drank probiotic grape juice together.

Sharing this lightest and healthiest of meals, we talked about pain and trauma and the heaviest things. This included why I no longer live indoors.

When I handed her a box of raisins to feed the raccoons, she muttered “raison d’être” under her breath, and I felt a tingle up the back of my neck. I probably felt the tingle because I’m sapiosexual, but also because of the subjects we discussed.

Do you exist for the purpose of fitting into society? What purpose does society ask you to serve, to justify your existence?

I noticed that in the city, any time I was more than a few feet away from this woman, men swarmed her like flies on a piece of fruit. She’s shaped lean and long in that traditional fashion-model mold I’d have found a little boring if not for the fierce eyes.

Society has a place for this shape – she can be an “object” and get paid for it. Society could take pictures and use the photographs to sell expensive makeup at the mall.

Based on her brilliance, I doubt she’d find that fulfilling. She had other ideas about how to fit in.

She and I agreed that I’d “given up on society.”

However, after thinking about this and getting the chance to write about it, I want to make a finer point:

I love humanity. I’m human and this asks me to be social to feel alive. I love life.

I do everything I can to affirm living with each of my days. I try, despite my mind’s notions of good and bad, to affirm our humanity in its wholeness.

All I’ve given up on is trying to fit in. Or wearing a suit and pretending to fit in. Or shaming myself for the fact that I don’t.

I don’t fit into a society that mistakes systems of economy and systems of politics, or any other manmade ideas, for reality.

Human ideologies and systems are useful, and make-believe ideas such as “money” can help us organize efforts and resources together.

But “money” is human make-believe, and human beings did not create the planet or its resources. Our ideas about how to manage the planet and ourselves, exist only in our minds.

What I have given up on, is trying to “fit into” societies that confuse make-believe manmade systems for reality.

That toy I had as a kid came with a mallet to help you tap the shapes into the board. I could beat on one shape and cram it into the square, but I’m done with that now.

I invite you to be whatever shape you are, and quit beating yourself on the head if you’re not fitting in.

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The Lending Library


I ran out of fiction this morning, having finished off the Stephen King books somebody left at a bus stop. The city is closed, and the waterfront Starbucks locked its doors this morning, which means Seattle is Officially Shut Down. The libraries have been closed for a week.


It occurred to me that the library I made a few years ago might still be open.
Back when I had a house, I put a wine chiller in my front yard and filled it with books and VHS tapes.


So I rode the bus down to the old neighborhood, where a 400sq-ft house made out of a barge hides between multi-million-dollar condos. Sure enough, whoever is in that funky little house today still wants books in their yard.


The seal on the wine-chiller’s door was in good shape when I found it at a thrift store, so I knew I could keep Northwest moisture out of VHS tapes and prevent the books from smelling like my grandma’s house. Cleaning the stickiness out of the bottom when I got it home, it occurred to me to try plugging the thing in. It seemed to hold temp. “Rich people,” I smiled to myself, imagining the worldview and perspectives of someone who spills Merlot in their $3,000 wine chiller and simply has the servants haul it away.
Having never seen a lending library which offered both movies and books before, I called the box “Movies and More” as a homage to the video store I rode my bike to as a teenager.


The seal on the door is still good.


The jubilant sign I’d cut from red and yellow plastic and taped to the inside of the door is gone now. There were no videos in there this morning, but a VCR doesn’t fit in my backpack anyway. I got to thinking about the past.
Years ago (shockingly few, since I feel only tangentially related to the person who lived in that house,) I’d jog down the steps every morning eager to open the stainless-steel door.


“What does the neighborhood want to share, today?”


My six-pound dog learned to pause there as we’d go out, instead of towing me down the sidewalk. She’d wiggle her tail and indulge my bizarre human behaviors as if I’d found a particularly fascinating urine spot.


Each morning I looked forward to seeing what was new in there. Instead of discarded books and movies, there was often passion in the offerings. Sometimes a short letter explained why it was a favorite book, or a sticky-note read: “Dang good drama.”


People seemed to communicate with one another through their contributions. Patterns emerged. My “Ferris Beuller’s Day Off” led to “Breakfast Club” and was met by “Sixteen Candles.” A fairly complete tour of the 80’s by way of John Hughes emerged in the box, capped off by “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”


One day somebody filled it from top to bottom with DVDs and Blu-Rays. I kept the “Zombieland” Blu-Ray for myself.


Overall, I think my favorite lending-library moment was the morning I opened the door to find “Breakfast of Champions” and “Only Cowgirls Get the Blues” pushed together. Someone had nestled these VHS tapes against each other on an otherwise empty shelf, to make what I saw as a charmingly obscure statement. Some form of synergy is often intuited between Kurt Vonnegut and Tom Robbins by readers, and here someone had commented on it. The tapes sat together like brother birds, perched like crows on a telephone line.


Much has happened since I put that lending library up.


I’m sure there is a continuity, a through-line of some sort, between the person who opened that stainless steel door daily, and me today. At the very least, he and I might pick similar books.


I took one and I left one.

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Real Change

A friend of mine who sells Real Change newspapers saw me coming up the steps of the office this morning. He grabbed my shoulder and told me what happened for him recently:

He sold enough papers to get an apartment and sleep indoors.

Then, with the help of a local celebrity (a member of Pearl Jam) he sold enough papers in one day to pay his whole next months rent.

Real Change is a quality newspaper and a pretty incredible idea – help homeless people who want to participate with society’s systems get involved in capitalism. Give them a place to start. A way to participate with the world humans make out of dollars and ownership. No address required.

My own experience with the paper has been inspiring.

Years ago, I used to buy them from the guy who stood out in front of my local Trader Joe’s. In those days I was a Real Change customer. I’d walk up the hill from the house I rented, to get cheap Belgian chocolate bars and affordable French butter. A gregarious, lanky dude was always out front of the store offering papers for $2. The newspaper was full of progressive ideas I liked, and buying them became a habit when I was an indoors-person.

Life eventually exploded, as it sometimes does. I am no longer an indoors-person.

A few months ago, I looked across the street from a shelter in the damp dark of a Seattle morning, and saw an office: “Real Change.” After a moment, the name rang a bell – this must be the office for the papers I had once enjoyed buying and reading.

I returned to the same spot, out front of the TJ’s, this time as a vendor. It turned out that it was still a great place to have conversations about Noam Chomsky. While doing this I also went from zero dollars in my pocket to enough money to buy vitamin D3 and shoes without holes.

This has been a big deal for me over the last few months, because I could purchase comfort for a few dollars a week while doing something I wanted to do anyway – talk about social issues and thinky-things. It was a return to my old neighborhood, where I once stocked my lending library with VHS movies. It was a return to the streetcorner where I once stood and personally asked over 2,000 people to vote. (I’m not sure these left-leaning Seattleites did, based on how that election turned out.)

The streetcorner turned out to be a sort of spiritual nexus in my life – it was also the spot a homeless man once handed me his jacket. The primal simplicity of that moment changed me.

Just recently, another vendor earned that corner, a place that had turned out to be such a crossroads in my life. Kudos to him – he had to sell hundreds of newspapers in a month to reserve it for himself. I wasn’t going to do that.

I’ve noticed that no other streetcorner feels as good to me, and that when I try to sell papers anywhere else the only conversations I have are with the bones in my busted left foot. They keep yapping at me if I stand in one place, yet they seem happy to hike all day carrying nearly 300lbs up Seattle hills. So I’m moving on towards other things.

“Real Change” is something special. They do even more than help outdoor homeless people become successful indoor capitalists. They provide community for people who are ready to sign the social contract, but may never have been handed a pen by their parents.

They organize political and social activism. While I personally have no orientation “left” or “right” (I’m a “forward” guy) – I wholeheartedly support the efforts of people who put their hearts into this sort of change. I feel kinship with anyone who is actively easing suffering, and Real Change does this and more.

Even the “Emerald City Resource Guide” that’s showing me other things I can move toward, is published by them.

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Bridge to the Future

At a potluck in the big city a couple days ago, I talked with a man about the future of mankind.

Cancer had brought his personal future into doubt. He wondered about our collective future, and asked if I thought we were heading in the wrong direction.

The word “direction” felt important to me. In the direction our species is headed – in the distance – lies a place where the most fulfillment for the most people is possible. He asked me how I could see things in this way. A metaphor emerged which he told me he greatly appreciated:

There is a chasm between where we are now as a species, and a peaceful and harmonious place we want to be. On the other side of the chasm is a form of welcome and togetherness that our species as a whole has yet to experience.

The bridge that spans between now and this future does appear to be in bad shape.

The whole thing may tumble into the abyss.

Hatred in politics pulls it down in every country, schisms in religion pull it apart in every community.

It may be helpful to remember why a species would find itself in such trouble to begin with:

Was it a good idea to put billions of people at the same dinner table and allow them to talk about politics and religion?

We became global through commerce and then revealed everyone’s beliefs using social media.

While it might appear that lots of people have become dangerously deluded and unreasonable in the last few years, that is not the case.

We have been stupid and hateful for millennia. It’s part of being homo sapiens.

If you doubt this, please pick a chapter from a history book and read it. Any era or civilization will do.

Way back in the 20th century, Americans could think of ourselves as a group. We had no idea how stupid and hateful the other political party’s beliefs were. CBS, NBC and ABC didn’t show us that stuff.

Now we have Twitter. We get updates of outrageous insanity on a minute-by-minute basis.

However – we are, collectively, as nations and neighborhoods, moving toward something our species has never seen before. A wholeness and relatedness.

This means an interrelation of diverse and differing parts, just like when a mostly-masculine human and more-feminine person get together. They find things in common, but do not become identical. A global, harmonious, and peaceful world does not require us to meld into a large pile of gray goo.

In a fully interrelating, global world as experienced by a whole species, many beliefs won’t match up and that’s great.

So far, our species has mostly-transcended the de-humanization of those with differing skin color. We do less and less hatred-by-race. About 200 years ago most countries passed laws that people could not own people. Things have gotten better, and not perfect, since then.

Our species has mostly-transcended the de-humanization of those with differing genitals than our own. We do less and less minimization of women. About 100 years ago some countries passed laws that allowed women to vote. Things have gotten better, and not perfect, since then.

Now, we get to find ways to transcend the de-humanization of those with differing worldviews.

Transcending tribalism – our temptation to exalt “us” over “them” – when it comes to belief systems is harder. It was the spread of a belief in “human rights” that urged these other changes to happen. We can look around our country to see people who don’t value human rights.

Yet such people remain human.

We’re going to need to find something other than beliefs we all have in common.

This is the bridge to the future. Empathy and understanding for the human-ness of the “other,” based on something deeper or more fundamental than worldviews.

If you are a member of the Compassion Circle, you are working on building this bridge and strengthening the supports. Our human tendencies to divide and conquer are as basic as gravity threatening to pull this bridge down, and even our differing names for the same process have traditionally helped us divide.

We need ways to describe what lifts us up and holds us together – here are a few and please add more in comments:

It’s the opposite of “othering” that lets us connect

It is re-humanization that allows us to love

Transcending tribalism

Inclusion

Seriously, truly, welcoming a diversity of worldviews (even when this involves enduring our own feelings of moral disgust)

The bridge to the future can hold up the weight of billions of people, as precarious as it may look now. We are weaving a new strand and strengthening it with our own lives whenever we put empathy and understanding into practice.

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My laptop conked out in the cold this morning so I tried something new.

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I’m a grown-up!

At the bus stop by a highrise today, a woman whose eyes I liked looking into asked me: “Do you know what this building is?”

When I was young and people asked me: “How’s it going?” I responded in the least appropriate ways. I would answer the question as accurately as possible. Or I would attempt clarification:

Them: “How’s it going?”

Me: “Is your inquiry regarding my general emotional state, or are you asking me to make value judgments about recent events?”

I was not a popular kid.

Social norms and customs and just about anything that other people seem to “know how to do without thinking about it” have never been easy for me. I never understood trends, hair-gel, or why the hell anyone listened to “New Kids on the Block.”

Seemingly, I must think about everything. The upside to this is that I know my own values, and why I do what I do. The downside was missing out on being social, and much of what people enjoy up through their teenage years.

By forcing myself into professions of near-constant interaction, I learned. I paid attention to how human beings interact and make decisions. I attempted to help them make better decisions using awareness of their own values, and self-honesty and reason and inquiry. After talking to tens of thousands of people I learned some things.

Among them was that when people say: “How’s it going?” it is intended as a form of greeting or acknowledgment.

Today, when the woman asked me: “Do you know what this building is?” I did not attempt to answer this question.

Instead, I considered that she may have intended to say:

“You should take me to your favorite produce shop in the city, and then we will sit on a bench overlooking the water and eat strawberries together.”

That’s what we did.

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Written in the woods

The evergreens weave green-gray fractals overhead. Climbing slippery deadfall in the near-dark to get here, I never broke one ankle. Not one. When I got back to this favorite place, the area was unsoaked. A special sort of tree held my spot for me, and the soft bed of pine needles is still dry after days of hardcore rain.

Even the blanket I’d rolled and tucked into a canvas bag and wedged between branches is exactly where I left it. Okay, so it’s not a blanket. It’s a dog bed. But it’s really thick and it keeps two-thirds of me quite warm.

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Big-Hearted Mermaid Bathrooms

Yesterday I came out of the bathroom and there’s one of my street-buddies, standing in the middle of the coffee shop.

He was using a Bic lighter and cooking the skin of his arm.

He explained to me that he was trying to “get the bugs out.” I urged him to do this outside instead of in front of a bunch of wide-eyed “indoor people.” Most people are less familiar with meth-headed logic than I am. Arm-cooking makes them uncomfortable. I did manage to coax him outside for a moment on my way to get newspapers to sell, but only a moment.

This morning, a sweet barista let me know that, yes, it took police to physically remove him from the store yesterday. That sucks.

This is a city that thinks it has a “homeless problem.” It doesn’t.

It has a “meth problem” and a “mental illness problem” and weird economic dynamics that lead to visible symptoms like tents and a “man cooking his arm in the coffee shop.”

I can most certainly see why people think “homelessness” is a problem. It’s the external part. The obvious outer symptom of deep inner malady.

It’s like the time I tried putting on my pants and my belt wouldn’t fasten. I thought that what I needed was a new belt.

But it turned out that I was just really fat.

We would all like symptoms to go away immediately.

I’ve got to give big thanks to one of our most iconic corporations for helping human beings during the time it takes to heal and grow. It costs the company money and they don’t get to brag about it directly.

In America we’re told corporations are “people.” I’ve met human beings who are murderers and thieves. But none of them have poisoned thousands of babies to make a profit, like some corporations I can think of.

If I’m going to pay attention to the bad stuff, I will also pay attention when a company does good things.

Starbucks is helping people.

Starbucks cannot brag about this good thing they do. They let individuals like me use a bathroom.

It’s not the type of “virtue” that can be practiced and also “virtue signaled.”

It’s a massively helpful act that is invisible to the general public. It also costs them money.

If Mr. Starbuck wanted to change this policy, he could do so in an instant and put lots of money back in his pocket.

I’ve spent enough time working in corporate environments to know when employees have been ordered to do something. It is clear to me after observing the behavior of employees in multiple locations over the last five months, that a directive came down from the top:

Homeless people buy nothing and they make a mess.

Treat them exactly as you treat customers, anyway.

Let them warm up inside, let them use the bathroom – and most importantly – WELCOME them to do so.

I see employees do this every day.

This is a big, big deal to thousands of people.

(At the moment I typed this sentence into my laptop, the guy who panhandles out front stepped inside the Starbucks I’m sitting in. The employees behind the counter yelled out his first name with a hearty “Good morning!”)

This helps outdoor-people in a big way.

It also helps the city. When human beings can use the bathrooms inside buildings, the streets smell better. In a city where almost NO OTHER BUSINESS provides a bathroom, the Starbucks on every corner is literally the only place to go indoors.

I’m writing this because yesterday I saw how hard a company’s policy of “welcoming everyone” can be on employees and profit margin.

When you let the guy who is dragging a garbage bag around carry it into the bathroom, you’re going to find a boot sticking out of the toilet.

For a business, that boot costs you money two ways:

One – The Half-Caff-Soy-Macchiato sees that boot and hops back in his Tesla, never to return. You lose precisely the customers you’d want to keep – ones with no problem paying $20 for coffee and muffins.

Two – Byy cheerfully handing out the bathroom codes to everyone, Starbucks essentially needs to have a full-time janitor on staff.

That makes things hard on the employees. (They have explained to me that they take turns with the newfound janitor position.)

I want to call out this large and successful company for also being benevolent. “Big company” and “helping people” don’t often go together, and as a corporation Starbucks doesn’t need to be good to anyone. It’s costing them money, and they could easily print an hourly bathroom code on receipts instead of welcoming everyone.

The pic is from the first location at Pike’s Place Market, before she put on a bikini.

Thanks, you topless mermaid you.

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