Image and Bias

Like many other authors, my writing is often inspired by
what I am reading or by the people around me. One of the books I am reading
right now is
A Slip of the Keyboard
by Sir Terry Pratchett. Of the many tangents it inspired, one is how others see
each of us and how we build our views of others. How I see myself is its own
conundrum but reading this book and
Finding
Mary Foster
brought to mind the many varied ways I am viewed by others,
both those I know and those I do not.
Some people have a particular image they want to put forth
for others, like playing to an audience. Others have a mold or image they
strive to fit into. Unconscious or not most people have an idea or image of what
they should be. Inherently this implies they have an idea what others should be
as well.

What are the triggers that create and build the internal
stories you have about those around you? Clothing is a major social marker and
is the first point of information in many instances. They are an indication in people’s
minds of a person’s sense of style, their social status or standing, their
interests, personal and grooming habits, financial status, origin or home
region, connection a person may have, and sometimes their religion. These
images and indications may be completely inaccurate but they are typically
automatic and impact our interactions. Some people have an image of what other
things imply about a person and their background based on skin color, gender,
hair, eyes, voice, or mannerisms.

Depending how and where we met, you may have a very
different view of me than someone else. I am naturally quiet, introverted,
adaptable, passionate, generally untrusting but very trusting of those I am
close to, compassionate, and interested in learning and growth. I am aware of
some images of me, such as those that find me cold, distant, angry, and harsh.
On the other end you have those that find me open, caring, trustworthy,
compassionate, and quiet. On another range you have those that find me eager to
learn, intelligent, thoughtful, practical, and diligent compared to those that
find me flighty, uninformed, brash, talkative, and uncaring.
If I am viewed on such a broad scale as loquacious and brash
in one corner and silent and shy in another what purpose is served by me
worrying about my image? It is of interest though. As a gamer I am accustomed
to roles and displaying an image in short sessions. The idea of being a
different person for different needs is not hard to understand.
When someone enters a room in an expensive, tailored suit
people tend to respond differently and treat them differently than the one
entering in shorts or the one in a mini skirt. Their memory of each person
tends to be colored by the clothes as well. Consider, each of those
descriptions gave you an image of someone didn’t it? It was likely more
complete than just the clothes really give you reason to know. Play a game with
me for a minute or two.

Take each of those outfits in turn and create a brief story
showing a person of different origins, social classes, and put both more than
one gender in each role. How does your image change?

We each live many roles in life. In many ways we are a
different person for each. However, none of these roles define us or are
actually separate. What they define is the view others have of us and maybe how
we contain the needs of our lives. This could bother us or it can inform us. We
can learn to notice our own reactions and stories we build about others.
Perhaps we aspire to be the same in all our roles but perhaps we do not. That
choice is personal and is a point of growth or awareness we may not all be
striving for. But not judging others on a biased view or opinion of minor
factors.
On the other hand there will always be some words, actions,
and patterns of behavior that are incompatible with our own standards or
beliefs. That one item may be the foundation for a judgment of exclusion. We
should always strive to not base judgment on invariables such as physical
traits, medical issues, orientation, place of origin, or gender. We may be
unlikely to completely remove bias but that does not mean we accept it in
ourselves or others. I have no interest in associating with hate, control,
violence, or divisiveness. These are variable traits and chosen actions and beliefs.

Return with me to the images of the people entering a room.
Take each individual of each gender from each story and picture them
demonstrating extremes of emotion and behavior such as hat, kindness,
professionalism, laziness, fear, love, open mindedness, and closed mindedness.
Now, after all that, when I step back and say someone in a tailored suit,
someone in shorts, and someone in a skirt enter the room what is your mental
image? Has it changed? Do you get one image or a series of varied ones? Have
the colors changed?
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Distance

Distance. My last post was the distance of those that lost their place. This is about distance within society and relationships. Sometimes we feel distant from someone we see every day. Other times we feel close to someone at a great physical distance. Other than a few nieces, nephews and cousins I am distant from my family. For years some of us lived in the same area but we rarely saw one another and after mother died we were increasingly distant. My husband and I are physically very distant but we talk every day and text all the time, we are not distant. We don’t have the emotional distance that is the standard in my family or his. My job is new so there is a natural distance of strangers that must be together every day and interact on a proscribed pattern. My roommates are each in their own worlds with little contact between us. We are distant in a whole different way.
Having moved back here again I feel the great distance to the mainland friends. However, when we lived in the same state we all worked and rarely saw each other. So, is the physical distance the source of that distance? Recent years have brought a new battle, with depression. That is part of the distance. Social anxieties and my natural introvert tendencies are also factors. My distance is often of my own devising and probably often in my own mind.
Crowds have always been difficult, sometimes to the point of physical pain or illness. I don’t make friends well, so moving many times, often great distances, allowed my circle to shrink from small to near non-existence. When you don’t make the casual friends most people have, you tend to have fewer but closer friends. To suddenly realize they consider the outsider and casual acquaintance you feared you are is not so much a shock as a blow. You are not surprised but you don’t know where it leaves you.

Gaiman at one point says that events are cowards. Like events, stresses tend to leap out at you all at once rather than one at a time. We all have stress and problems. How many can add up before you feel like you are being killed by the death of a thousand paper cuts while a mountain falls on you.

Many people add a little distance to those around them when a major stressor hits. By the same token some people distance themselves from people undergoing large amounts of stress. When debt becomes a problem or their marriage is strained that may become a verboten topic and one less thing friends are party to. A fight at work or uncomfortable relationships there are another type of stressor. Illness, auto problems, children, family, sick pets, trouble with neighbors, natural disasters, fear, debt, lost of income, each thing adds up a little or a lot and affects you and those around you. Each thing adds distance somewhere.
When work stresses you out and you come home angry it affects your family. Each thing adds to or changes the distance somewhere. Often that distance is more inside you than outside or it is in response to the changes in your behavior. But that distance feeds the fear, depression, anger, and pain. Distance creates distance.

Okay, so I feel distant and far from friends. But, as I settle back into the peace of living here where I choose to be I can admit that the distance is no greater here than it was anywhere else. I can allow myself to admit the distance is my own pain, social anxiety, and fear of being hurt more. Recognizing that allows me to acknowledge when I am creating a distance that I choose not to develop and to change my actions and reactions, thus breaking the triggers and changing the stories. The distance here is the same in every meaningful way as it was there but I am taking action in my responses.
Distance in society and relationships is a constantly changing thing with each layer and interconnected connection flowing with changes in the others. Our work life impacts our emotional state and our energy levels. What we eat, read, enjoy, and where we go affects our relationships and energy levels. I quit drinking and found my circle of active friends changed because we had different interests and pastimes. When stress levels are too high I find it hard to maintain the social connections that could help my mental state. But all of those things are also impacted by the many facets of the lives of each other person involved.
We live in a web of constantly changing distance that is as much internal as external.

Neverwhere and Distance

Taking the bus to work allows a lot of time to read. One of my books this week is Neverwhere. I am reading it again for a book club but it has been a favorite for years. One idea has especially stuck with me for years. That is how easily one falls from society and how hard it can be to return.
On the streets near my place you see a lot of homelessness. Mostly people ignore them, avoid them, and fear them. I often wonder why. What is it their fear? Sometimes I wonder if part of it is the fear they could easily be in that position themselves. Does it feel contagious or dangerous to get to close or acknowledge them? This is part of the the idea in Neverwhere. The act of acknowledging them, of helping them causes him to lose his place in society and fall through the cracks into the city under the city.
I understand this. Over the years I have spent a lot of time with homeless in many cities. There is a distance, a sense of separation from society that feels insurmountable. Being there either with them or as one of them you feel like you are in another world, a harsh and dangerous world far removed from the life you so recently knew. People rushing by have no connection to you and look down with a demeaning disdain and fear of contamination. Parents pull children away like you will eat them or infect them. Women move across the street like you are a threat to their safety.

By contrast, living in the high rise and living on the farm were vastly different from each other but they are connected. There is a pleasant and casual hostility between the sections within society, a rivalry of place and meaning. It is vastly different than the alien world underneath that none of them want to acknowledge.

The department head at one job asked the group how many of us were 1 or 2 checks from being homeless. Less than 5% could say no and most of those shared expenses with families. Working every day, many with multiple jobs, most with two or more family earners, many in school, most sharing expenses, yet we all lived paycheck to paycheck. Each of us knew that we needed every single check just to survive.

When that is always in the back of your mind (And how could it not be niggling at you to some extent) you see those homeless and know that you are one injury, illness, pregnancy from being where they are. Maybe the fear isn’t fear of them but fear of our economy and society that will not protect those on the edges. Would your friends be there if you went on the street? Would they blame you for being lazy or understand what happened? Would they help or would the distance grow? Would you be able to let them help or would your shame increase that distance?
I volunteer at a public garden and many people walk there or take the bus. Nearby is a walking underpass everyone avoids and says is unsafe. But the only reason anyone has ever given is that the homeless sleep there and need to have regular purges by the city. Daily I see homeless people. They are desperate, hungry, dirty, often broken. Many have given up. Sometimes they make me uncomfortable with smell or actions or talking to themselves but they don’t make me afraid.

But I approach them as someone that feels a distance from society and those around me at work, in stores, on the bus, on the beach. I still struggle to relate and communicate as a part of society. They talk about sports, family, nights out drinking, casual friendships, and simple lives they assume everyone relates to. Groups have always been hard for me anyway but life has made that more true rather than less. My degree was gained in classes with students half my age. My family is distant, callous and judgmental. Friends are far away. I worked my way to a high rise apartment and fell more than once in life. I have lived in many cities and in many parts and sections of society from the farms to the law offices, the hospitals to the construction sites, the streets to the high society events.
When people around me talk about how hard it is to afford living I remember mom sitting in the car calculating how she would feed 8 of us on $10 for the week. I remember selling cookies or anything else she and I could make so I could afford to be a part of the business meetings. When they talk about taking time off work or leaving their jobs or their 18 year old needing to look at getting something I remember I was a model at 14 and carrying lumber before 12. I remember working 5 part time jobs to pay for school and still being buried in school debt now. I remember driving my shiny new Mini and my limping 40 year old Honda. They talk about fearing the homeless and I remember the van of guys trying to grab me and the old man shooting the shotgun at the kids picking blackberries and us running unsure if he would really shoot us. I remember fights in the street and quiet nights answering phones in the room beside the morgue. I remember gardens and farm animals. I remember dark streets and formal dresses. I remember dying friends and casual game nights. I remember motorcycle trips and camping in the cold. I remember hospitals that couldn’t tell me what was wrong because there was no point in testing someone with cheap insurance and hospitals with spacious private rooms for comfortable recovery for those with the right insurance. I remember losing my job knowing I wouldn’t be able to pay rent and just leaving to avoid it. I remember using a public bathroom to get into my suit or formal dress so I could be at the event and smiling or the interview. I remember mother crying after a hellish trip to get to a meeting because she realized everyone there just had dinner, dressed, drove over and was reasonably calm and feeling normal and she was desperate, stressed and exhausted. The car caught on fire on the way there, her cancer treatments were possibly coming back, she had a migraine, one child was sick and another hurt, dad and she fought that day, a storm slammed into the house as we left for the meeting but there was no rain when we arrived and everyone else was dry, the floor in the bathroom collapsed and the mortgage company wanted to take the house.

Distance. It will never fully leave me. I can never completely escape the feeling I may not belong and that those around me can see it. Even when they cant and I know it, I feel like they can. I feel the distance so I can’t escape it. So, I understand the idea of falling through the cracks.

Distance

Leaves of Peckerwood Garden

Over time I have done collections of images of various types from bark or magnolia blooms to pathways and the recent stairs collection. Today’s collection was inspired by the variegated maple I got a picture of the other day.

Often the best part about a plant isn’t the bloom, it may be the leaves, the bark, the form, the behavior, or the smell. This set is devoted to leaves in Peckerwood Garden and it could be massively larger than it is.

When I write I often do it on my phone at night and just past it into here when I am on a computer so going back through it sometimes I edit and review and sometimes I just post. This is a collection of mostly old images I have taken ranging as far back as 2014 and I have done little to the set to prepare it for here.

Need and the Balance of Life

Why do people consider suffering a competition? Why when someone says they are stressed and tired do people feel they should deride them and tell them how much worse of others are? Why when someone is tired and sick do people feel the need to tell them they don’t deserve to complain because others are worse? Why is someone is having trouble paying rent or buying food do people tell them to get over it others have less? There seems to be a delicate balance point of acceptable suffering that places people in the place to deserve help and comfort but not be looked down on as being less of a person. there is also a level of ideal suffering that makes a person better in the eyes of others and makes them good. Phrases like suffer for their faith or suffering is the price of success are common and reinforce this idea. But also ideas like god rewards the faithful and the the difference between success and failure is a lack of will indicate that people believe the better people do better and have more and that poverty and illness is a sign of weakness and god’s disfavor. The very idea is rather appalling to evaluate in depth.
In the microcosm of my acquaintances I know people on every spectrum of this thought pattern and physical circumstances. When someone in their 40s says they are not bouncing back as quickly as they once did the response is for others to tell them how much more they work and how old they are to show the person is just weak and should “man up.” When a chronically ill friend mentions how hard basic activities are someone will invariably tell them they should lose weight or eat better or exercise more and their disease would disappear. When someone is afraid of the guns showing up in their neighborhood and children’s school someone will tell them the strong own guns and protect themselves whatever the cost to others and to fear that is to be weak and want to be dominated. When someone is stressed from everything in life someone will tell them how much worse someone else’s life is and that they are just being weak. When a marriage falls apart and someone can’t handle it someone will tell them they should have done better or that they should just get over it. When someone with social anxiety has trouble with general tasks someone will tell them it is just an excuse and they need to just do it or don’t complain. When someone is broke and desperate someone will tell them they should have a degree or a better job or work harder or work more hours. When someone is discriminated against someone will tell them not to infringe other peoples rights or expect to be handed everything. When someone can’t afford the medical care they need someone will tell them why society doesn’t owe people things they can’t afford on their own. When someone needs a handicapped spot and auto cart but doesn’t look ill enough they are judged and attacked.
Accepting someone’s suffering for what it is and where it is coming from seems a rare skill. We don’t know what is in each persons whole life or mind. We don’t know their past. We don’t know their health. We don’t know their family. We don’t know if that house they live in is in foreclosure and falling apart but they hide it. We don’t know if their refrigerator is empty and their clothes are old and from a thrift store. We don’t know if that shiny phone came from Craigslist and required work to repair to workable. We don’t know if their shoes don’t fit or have holes we can’t see. We don’t know that person walking to the automatic cart has a chronic illness or back injury we cant see. We don’t know if their social anxiety makes a shopping trip an ordeal. We don’t know if they are hiding a chronic illness that makes a basic workday a huge trial every day. We don’t know if their marriage that looks so nice is falling apart or violent. We don’t know that smiling man just lost his wife to cancer. We don’t know that smiling woman just left the hospital where her husband injured and car totaled. We don’t know the woman calmly running the office is trying not to show how worried she is that she left water pouring through the house from flooding. We don’t know if that small cough is allergies, a cold, cancer, flood damage, or measles.
All over the world people are suffering. People in some countries are in large numbers sleeping on the streets and starving. But here in our own country people starving may be doing it in a house they can’t afford and they may be working every day to pay for it. People here may be unable to afford to run the heater or air conditioner or water and can’t cook because the power is out. Being in a house may be better than being on the street but here they must also keep up appearances or be shunned and shamed for being a lesser person. If they slip they could lose the job that doesn’t pay the bills, their friends, their family, their homes, their car. It only takes a little to knock a lot of people of the precarious balance that is life for many. Working 2 jobs and struggling to survive means they don’t have the energy to do more and if that balance is disturbed they could drop all the plates.
It isn’t a competition. Everyone needs help. Everyone deserves a chance and to have basic needs met. Life shouldn’t be a constant struggle for so many. Society is broken. The economy is broken. Politics is broken. This does not make those caught in the wrong side of it lesser people, it means they are caught in a web they can’t escape from. Maybe they went into debt trying to further their degree and now they can’t get out of the hole. Maybe they had an injury or illness that put them in the hole. Maybe they were hit by a natural disaster. Maybe politics killed their chances. Maybe violence and murder hit their lives. Maybe drugs hit their family. Maybe age simply caught up to them.
Wherever they are that is not to be looked down on. They can move forward and do better but not without something to tip the balance. There is a part of the equation that is money and family, part that is raw luck and timing, part that is skill and education, part that is connections and placement, part that is societal acceptance and privilege, part that is work and endurance. But all of these things are a part and lacking enough of them to tip a balance all the work in the world will not change. My friend cannot work her disease away. My coworker cannot work his wife alive. None of us can work ourselves younger. I cannot work away my debt that is more than several years pay.
People are not less for struggling, they are working and you are working. Accept that you can both be working and have different strengths to draw on. Each of us has areas we are better in and areas we are not so good in. Accept that we are all in our own place and society has not dealt the same hand to everyone. Many start with half the deck of others and some start with extra cards. Accept that many people can need help in many ways. The desperate nature of one does not remove the need from the other it just means they need different things. Sometimes a supporting word can fill small needs and other times food or a job to buy food is the desperate need. Both are still needs and both are valid. Don’t refuse the one because the other hat you won’t provide also exists, especially for a friend.

Steps in the Garden

I have 2 pictures this week of steps in Peckerwood Garden and decided to pull in some older images of other steps to make a collection. This highlights the point that although this is an amazing garden, well worth visiting and learning about, it is not accessible.

Although they are now beginning to address this issue, it will be an ongoing issue and will not be addressed on a large scale for quite some time. Many of the issues lie in areas that are protected from changes so addressing the issue is not a simple one. But the current plan is to develop alternate paths that address the issues and progress is slow but they are working on it.

A Time of Transition

Changes happen all the time. Sometimes they are small or small in comparison to other things. Other times they seem huge and consuming but may or may not actually be. Right now is one of those times for me. After 5 years here at one of the most amazing gardens I have ever seen I am moving forward and helping them prepare for their next steps forward. This has been a long process as I gave notice in February to allow plenty of time for a transition. We negotiated the original move date to allow them more time to find someone and me more time to transition meaning I am now moving at the end of this month. Several stages of planning, applications, and direction have passed with varying degrees of certainty and levels of adjustment to change they would bring.

Many hours at work have been spent in meetings coordinating work and tasks to prepare them for a new structure and person. Many hours have gone into documenting every task in the job and organizing the office and supplies with the new funding that finally allows a proper set of storage supplies and equipment.

I have been here through a lot of changes at the garden and at home. When I started we were desperately broke, went rapidly down to 2 staff, and I worked closely with the founder most days, the property was private property, and our guest count was around 2000 a year. In these 5 years we have developed a real budget that includes major refurbishment projects, we have tackled the deferred maintenance from a couple decades, we have added a director of horticulture and a nursery manager, we have gone fully public garden, and we had more than 2000 guests in March alone this year. Where this garden can go from here is open to the imagination and it will remain a critical time of history that I was able to be a part of.

Leaving is a professional choice and a personal one that is allowing me to return to Hawaii and pursue a life I choose. But the changes will be massive in many ways. I am leaving my home, my life, my job, most possessions, my online business, my husband, and many friends behind. On the other hand, I will be working every day and returning to a place I previously lived, I will still be me, I will still eat and play and live, I will still love the things I do now, I will still be married, and I will still connect to my friends mostly online. So, maybe it isn’t as much a change as it first seems.

As I talk to each person in my life and communicate these happenings I see many responses and it often amuses me how people react and how the reactions change when they know where I am going. It is interesting those that you seem to feel an emotional disconnect the moment they learn you are leaving the state as opposed to those that immediately want to be sure you know how important you are and have been to them or the company. It is interesting those that wish you well and are sad for the loss until they hear Hawaii and then they are dismissive or jealous as opposed to those that grow more concerned for the distance and costs involved. Friends that step out and support or those that smile and nod are neither one a surprise since I have done this before. But this is the longest time I have had to prepare and communicate and to see the developments as they happen and not from the distance of one that has already done the unexpected.

Returning to life

The desk was cold and hard. the room was noisy, but in a distant way that crashed like waves on the bubble she felt around her. Being here was odd, fascinating, wonderful, scary, and felt like an impossible blend of familiar and strange.
Returning to university had been hard but she was glad she had acted on her decision. sitting here waiting for class to start she watched this room full of kids half her age and smiled. In some things she related all too well and in others it was like dealing with another species that grew up on another world. She has friends in this room and others she barely knows. A few she barely tolerates but that is the nature of a university. This is not her first or even her second. It also won’t be her last but she will graduate here.
Emotional distance has kept her going for some time now. Getting here hadn’t been easy but it was worth it. That morning she had been up early as every other day to get to one of her 5 jobs. Every break in class was an hour or two she could be at work and tuition was high. The sun from the window behind her caught the sparkle on one girl’s toe as she moved then on her finger. Watching the girl she recognized the ring from work that morning. Washing the dishes in the cafeteria was soothing in a way but sometimes the private university students were rude to staff they considered beneath them. This girl she remembered came through not long after the hilariously stoned boy that had been shocked by her hand reaching out the window for his plates.
A voice broke into her watching as someone realized she was there and joined her. The group project was halfway done and the team needed to meet soon. On her other side sat a friend from last night’s gaming session. These kids were bringing her back and although they didn’t know it, healing her.

After the past few years seeing the world with college students in this small, secluded place was exactly the separation from life she needed. Community college had been good. She had finished both programs. But she hadn’t gotten the certificates because she left before the optional test. Community college was still in Houston though and that was the last place she wanted to be. Here she was in the world of this small school and these people that saw the world fresh and light with none of the darkness she had seen in the world.

Darkness was there but here she could remember how to find the balance inside to deal with it. Here she could remember the important things not what business and society said was important but rather those things that make people smile or laugh. Learning with them and teaching in the writing center reminded her that helping and teaching healed both people.

Walking

Looking back on it later she remembered heat, dry grass, walking, and the realization that something had to change.
Walking along the side of the road in the dry grass was mind numbing. Heat pressed down on the leather jacket and pants. Her hair was damp from sweat and the T-shirt clung wetly to her skin. The heat was almost visible and the humidity was so high you could feel the air touching you. She could feel a sunburn even through the jacket.
It felt like she had been at this for quite some time but she wasn’t certain how far she had gone or how long she had walked. Starting in Hempstead she had headed first for Houston then decided to go to Rosenberg from the edge of Houston. That was a drive she had done many times and even in a car it felt long.

A couple of short rides and fending of men that felt a ride meant they deserved sex and she had lunch in Rosenberg. Her ex girlfriend was pleasant and commented how much calmer she was when wired. watching her ex eat as they talked she never even wanted any of the food.

Now, she was walking into Houston. The roads were mostly empty of businesses in this area but more would start showing up soon. Horns honked and hate was hurled from windows at the woman in motorcycle gear walking in the summer heat. Golden grass was so dry it was noisy under her feet and snapped rather than bending. Heat shimmers rippled around her and she was thirsty all the time.
It felt like long stretches of road weren’t there because she didn’t really remember walking them. She just walked in the direction she was going and kept moving. Thoughts rolled continuously but grew increasingly random and sometimes she wondered if she had missed a point of logic somewhere. Sleep was a distant memory she had avoided longer than she could really count. Speed and constant movement kept her going. She remembered weeks of going from place to place, pool hall to pool hall, friends place to stranger’s party, hotel lobbies to university campuses, and always looking for entertainment. When one group stopped being active and got sleepy or boring there was always something else to do.

At some point a clock in front of a bank flashed the current temperature of 115 degrees and her brain suddenly wondered when was the last time she ate and why had she not noticed how hot it was. This couldn’t be healthy. Another mile or two down the road she was sure it had been days, as many as 2 weeks but there had been protein drinks in there and a diet drink here and there. That couldn’t be good. Her body was still wired but coming down. She could remember every time it had tried to come down recently and she had taken more to roll it a bit further. It hurt to come down. When she came down she had to see her life and feel her body, recognize where she was. She couldn’t avoid the depression and voices when she came down. Looking in the mirror she saw a stranger and had no idea what to do about it.
There was a whole foods in the parking lot and as she thought she decided she needed the smoothie shown on the sign. With no other options available she stopped at the payphone and called a friend to get her. She didn’t know if he would but she knew he wouldn’t try to get something from her because she needed help.
Sitting there and slowly drinking the smoothie, she waited. mind numb and crashing she just waited. When they reached his place she went to sleep. Sometime a couple days later she began to realize what happened and what she needed to do. Change came in with the heat of summer and walking that may have been hours and may have been days. Life, she realized had been waiting there all along.

A memory of winter

Campus was quiet. The crackle of ice and drips were the loudest thing she heard where voices and movements of more than fifty thousand students usually filled the space with a constant background hum that had become the baseline for quiet for her. this small section of campus, a square hidden on the back corner was never as busy but even for this week, silence was something she had never felt here. Everything glittered and glowed in the diffuse white light of a winter day like few that came to this region. Every plant was a shining light against the white ground. Trees drooped and arched, reaching down to better show off the icy coats that were so rare here. Chill wind did not usually make her smile but nothing was going to ruin her enjoyment of an empty city, that for once didn’t press on her mind with the constant assault and pressure of thousands of people within every block living and moving around her. Outside campus most of the city was still there but they hunkered down in their homes, pulling their minds and attention inside, away from the dangerous storms and destructive ice that blanketed the city. Roads glittered, empty and quiet. Even the interstates were peaceful in their lazy paths. Occasional sirens broke the silence marking the location of any that ventured out like birds calling warning to the flock and stiring snow flurries in their rise that would blanket the space and cover all traces of their disturbance. Her heavy cloak caught a gust of wind and wrapped tight around her, it’s black a stark shadow in the jewel tinted day. Tendrils of hair peeked out near her hands, having tangled in a gust of wind when she reached out to touch the chill trees beside the campus clinic.

A Question of Support

One thing after another recently raises the question of what do we support and how, along with the question of are we giving tacit consent to things we claim to disagree with. This is part of the can we separate the art from the artist question. The obvious ones are companies acting in ways we disapprove of and illegally, and artists of all types that have done things contrary to a civilized culture. But the question runs into every area of life at this point. I have read numerous articles, discussions, comment threads, and had conversations about the topic and noticed several good points and bad points.

Tacit consent is a touchy subject for many people. Are we consenting when we fail to speak up? What about when we purchase something created by someone that has done the questionable thing? What about when we make excuses? At what point do our words of dissent become lies or manipulation when we refuse to put our money and our actions behind them? At what point are we becoming hypocrites when we chose to prioritize our immediate gratification over our principles? At what point are we proving yourself untrustworthy when we manipulate our religion or political stance to support one thing at the expense of so many others. At what point do we become the monster we can’t see when we refuse to support what is right and what supports a just, equal, peaceful, and healthy society in favor of an ideal or convenience that have overridden our judgment?

Many acts have no place in a civilized society and in a developed nation. these acts have no place in any society, but we have recourse in a society based on laws and culture to stop them when we may not have previously. It is not that the acts have become wrong and were not before, it is that we as a society have grown and learned to have the conversations about consent and equality, about communication and justice. We have opened the discussion to include more peoples and groups and have been forced to face the reality of inappropriate behaviors that we allowed previously. We have expanded the space of equality enough to show the distance we need to go. Science has developed to the point to show the inaccuracy of statements and beliefs previously held as true. Technology has developed to allow greater connectivity and equality. We cannot go backward and close our minds and eyes to what we know.

Future generations will address these and other issues and they will be rooted in the disputes of today. When I learn a better way of thinking and communicating I embrace it and open my mind, I move forward in a new path and let go of the misconceptions that I had. In this same way, when I learn that a person has done things I can not condone then when I move forward I have a choice to either accept those actions as less important that the item the person creates or to forgo that entertainment or need in favor of an alternative that I am willing to support.

Yes, when we put our money toward a name, be it a person or a company, we are supporting their actions and their words. When we buy the ticket to the movies made by a pedophile or known rapist we provide our statement that we are more interested in that 2 hour entertainment than we are in justice and right behavior. When we vote for a political candidate that lies, cheats, and holds other ideals than the laws and constitution of our nation then we are stating that our moral sense is flexible and we will support what is selfish and easy above what is right.

Acceptance of wrong actions such as discrimination, sexual assault, fraud, and violence is counter to living in a society. The questions and answers may not be clear cut and simple but each time we decide we are making a statement of support or dissent. It is up to us which we chose but we must know that others will choose to hold us to that and we must accept the responsibility of our actions.

The population of the world is vast and the popular names of celebrities, artists, and politicians are limited and heavily manipulated by corporations and media so we see these few people as amazing and rare talents, forgetting that millions of others would stand in those shoes if given the chance. Others with talent are not seen or not upheld. We have limited ourselves not been limited by the available sources. Their actions or publicity neither improves nor negates their qualities and skills. However, it does negate their acceptability as a spokesperson and example for future generations.

Should the error of a man that assaults a woman erase his future as a public figure? Let’s rephrase that though. The rape of a person is grounds for baring the rapist from public positions and honor as an example to society. We must be aware that our words can also give tacit consent. When the woman in a coma was raped and gave birth, I saw many people arguing that it was wrong to call it rape because that implies we know what happened. No! If there is no ongoing and clear consent that has not been in any way coerced, then it is rape. Saying otherwise is consenting to allow it to continue.

I buy most of my video games used so the producers rarely see money from me and I rarely have a game anytime near when it is released. However, when I find a game and company I support and want to see supported, I will go out of my way to purchase it new and to support the team I want my money to give consent to. I am not going to discard my old movies and games that have people involved in that have been proven to be rapists unless I find that I can’t watch those movies and enjoy them without thinking about that. However, I will not go to a theater for those people. I will not buy new videos they are in. I will not give my money to their name in future and I will not forget.

Art is part of a person. When I paint, I paint from within me and my life. I paint a person as they are not as the photograph shows them to an extent. I drew someone the other day and they looked very angry. The view was angrier than the picture that was calm. However, the character is an angry and violent character and I subconsciously reflected that. My colors reflect me and what I am seeing in the art I am creating. When I sew a sleep mask it came from a place of need on my part and a desire to share what I saw as a need. The wood burning, I do represents the world around me and how I interact with it. All of art is part of a person. It is an expression of something within and of the artist’s view of what is around them.

Given that, we have yet another reason that our support is consent. If I am an environmentalist but continue to support destructive companies or buy many individually packaged disposable items how can I continue to say I am an environmentalist. Until our money supports the reality that is right there will not be change. Until we insist those around us behave in accordance to equality, justice, peace, environmental support, and social development we are consenting to the opposing actions and beliefs of those around us.

The recent uproar about a Gillette commercial is an excellent example of this part. They simply said to be a better man and stand for what is right, be strong and stand for justice. People that are upset with that have chosen to support a society of discrimination, assault, violence, and bullying because that is, according to their words now what makes a man a man.

The many directors and actors accused of sexual assault, rape, harassment, and manipulation are another example of what we are discussing. When people choose to go to those movies made by these people, they are choosing to put their consent on those people and to say that they do not insist on right behavior only on immediate gratification.

The companies that destroy our waters, violate the laws, abuse their workers, and waste materials are an example of another aspect. When we buy their products we support their choice to destroy the planet, cheat the economy, break the law, exploit the people.

Our money is our first form of consent in most of society today. Our spending habits is where we most directly how what we support and accept. We need to be vocal and active to support the things we believe in but we must also put our actions and money to support the same things.

 

A Walk in the Garden

I had a walk in the garden today and the air was chill, the sun bright, and the bees busy and happy. Having not been out for photography much recently it was really refreshing to walk in the woods.  A morning of spreadsheets left me ready for walking and fresh air, even if cooler than I like. these pictures are from today not from the trip detailed here.

The past couple of weeks have been an interesting mix. A trip to New Braunfels did not go quite as planned. It was relaxing, frustrating, painful, and quiet.

Typically, I go to New Braunfels to go to Schlitterbahn. this time, however I just wanted quiet. I took a friend for 2 quiet nights hiding from New Years which has historically not gone well. Staying at the Howard Johnson was quiet and comfortable. They were well priced, clean, and friendly. I was annoyed to find on the second night that the drain plug cannot be closed for a bath, you can only do a shower, but it wasn’t the end of the world. Staff will tell you if you chat with them that they can be somewhat inconsistent in cleaning and maintenance and I found that was true. The refrigerator was unplugged, but as long as you are nice to them they take care of anything.

My friend had to leave early so I was alone the second afternoon and night which led to the later adventures and doctor’s visit. Having purchased a new sketchbook for the trip I spent lunch sketching in Alpine Haus restaurant enjoying a quiet German lunch. It made a nice followup to the Huisache restaurant from the night before which serves American food that is well done and pretty. Although my friend was unhappy to learn quail is served mostly whole. The appetizer plate was fun. The only issue arose after returning to the hotel. that is when I learned I left my phone somewhere. Eventually I found it…it had been run over by a car.

Antique shops and thrift shops in the area filled my time after my friend was home and on the way to her doctor. A pleasant time exploring a friendly town. Near dinnertime I was debating either a poke bowl or the free apetizer at the steakhouse that the restaraunt provided when things went another direction.

My car, who I haven’t owned long but have had no problems from, overheated. I stopped to wait it out and explored Target and a couple other places in the shopping center. However, I was only just recovering from being sick and was tired so I went back to the car hoping to get to bed. this led to a hand full of 2nd degree burns and eventually a doctor visit. I saw the doctor several times and the nurse, and an assistant as my hand was checked, cleaned, treated, then wrapped. I had a prescription and instructions for care and left unsure how I would drive several hours home with my right hand bandaged like a club and hurting like hell. I am right handed and although I use my left hand often, I found it really challenging to do so when I had to.

I returned to my hotel to rest and found by morning that my hand was healing but I was getting sick again. Once I got home, after a detour to return my friend’s keys, I spent several days in bed sick. Still congested today, I can hardly hear out of my right ear.

All of this did not ruin my trip however. New Braunfels was friendly, quiet, and pleasant. May painful new years is not really a new thing and getting sick is not the fault of the trip. Pleasant weather and good food was a soothing side note to the chaos wending it’s way through my peaceful trip that remained peaceful other than moments of screaming pain and rain clouds chasing me home after.

Today, I type this with no bandages and no medication for sick, and my car shows no sign of any problem. No evidence of overheating or what caused it shows itself but she obviously felt I should have gone back to the room and rested a bit sooner…when I first thought about it.

Relationships

Relationships are a intricate part of life and communication. We have relationships of many types from casual friends, neighbors, close friends, parents, siblings, spouse, children, work, employer, and many more. How we interact, communicate, react, act, and view others depends on our relationship with them, ourselves, others our brain deems like them, and others around us at the time. Some people are more influenced by some factors than others. sometimes a close relationship can mask truly unacceptable behaviors or words because we have viewed it through a filter. But things can change those filters and that can change our relationships in every area. Every action, reaction, bias, interaction, decision, and communication we have is influenced by the others in our past. Our mind tries to predict what the outcome will be and triggers responses down to our emotional state that may or may not be appropriate from someone else’s perspective. Some people pay attention to those responses and make more active decisions about response and some are happy with that state.
Have you ever had a time when something happened that changed how you viewed a whole host of other things? Relationships are subject to this same thing. You can be is a long term relationship that has been a comfortable place you don’t want to leave for years but a major pain in another relationship can suddenly cause you to see the red flags you were ignoring before. A conflict in one situation can be the last straw that leaves you unwilling to accept similar behaviors from anyone. Sudden realization of ongoing trauma and abuse in one relationship can cause you to see it it in others. Our relationships are not vacuums and our lives are an intricate web of who we are and who we are around, and what we do and think. Just as what we say and repeat impacts what we think, so do relationships affect each other.
How does your family and your past with them impact your spousal relationship? Do you have certain behaviors that trigger responses because of childhood? Do you have tones of voice that cause you to respond in predictable ways? Do you accept behaviors or words that you don’t agree with because you feel it is how things always are? Do you expect a level of intimacy or closeness that is in some way related to what you knew from your family? Do you fear being alone more than bad relationships? Do you fear bad relationships more than being alone? Has your family changed how you give or accept trust or compassion? Have you ever looked at these things and decided to change them and be aware of them?
We spend a great deal of our time at work. In the US, we often spend the majority of our time at work. These are the people we interact with the most and they will impact our other relationships. A stressful environment at work not only changes what you need and want at home but it changes our level of patience and communication. When I go home angry at a coworker that in many ways reminds me of my husband then I am less tolerant of things I might otherwise accept in my husband. The question is sometimes should I accept those behaviors and this is just lowering my tolerance wrongly; or is it just highlighting things incompatible to a relationship I want to have? I’m not sure I can answer that even for myself.  Our work relationships may strengthen personal relationships like friends or they may strain them. I may leave with great relief to be out of there and with my friends or I may leave under too much stress to deal well with others. A happy work environment leaves you more able to have casual relationships that are not touched by work but how many of us have that?
So what about the other direction? When you fight with children or spouse in the morning do you enter the office affected by it? Maybe your commute is long enough to diffuse it or maybe it makes it worse. If you are having a long term issue with family does it change your mood at work? If it impacts your mood, it impacts your relationships. Returning to the we don’t live in a vacuum and our lives should be viewed as a whole picture not separate parts. When we try to be someone different for each hat we wear, we are straining all the others.  The cross impacts can be positive or not, both from trauma and pleasure. A terrible fight can open your eyes to things in many other areas. A peaceful and wonderful trip can highlight the unhappiness in areas of life. A depressing occurrence in one relationship can hurt other relationships or tie them closer. A new strong friendship can show flaws in other relationships or show you why you love them all.
Our work/life balance is important because it is part of how we live, how we interact, how we grow, how we connect. Change and growth is good and should remain part of our lives all our lives but we also need the stable parts that draw our core. Some people need a stable job and career. Some need a home they own and love. Some need family connections. Some need the little rituals they can do anywhere like my bedtime pot of tea. For some it is a place, others a person. For some it is a feeling or a state of being, and for others it is whole picture. But the state of that stable point impacts our relationships. Knowing what our stable point is allows us more freedom in other areas that we may not need to be as stable in as we thought in our fear of change.
Relationships are work and they require patience, acceptance of others, commitment from all involved, communication, and time. But how often do we fall into the trap of sunk costs? A marriage is a commitment we made and it should be honored and helped, worked for and treasured. However, the sunk costs of our time, commitment, work, emotional state, and years of tolerance do not equate to requiring us to keep sinking our value into it if it is a lost cause or should be ended. How far does tolerance extend? Just because we are at a fragile state and accepted things in the beginning we should not have accepted, does not mean we should continue doing so. You should grow together so if one person heals and grows and sees these issue and the other can’t join that then there is likely little to be done. If communication and passion is a one way street there is no relationship in the positive sense. that leaves you in an unequal and destructive relationship that drains one person to feed another. Instability or unequal states can be emotional, verbal, physical, economic, and any other area of the relationship. It is not wrong to reevaluate those commitments and consider that all parties must be keeping the commitments or it is not being held to value.
Friendships have the same issue of sunk costs. A close friend for many years that has drifted away on their side but you still hold in the same position can be just as much a drain on you and the pain is real when you realize it. There is no vow or legal commitment to a friendship and you can choose each day how you will continue to connect to them and nurture a friendship they no longer care about but you hold dear. In any relationship there must be balance and communication but you have to be able to see when the communication is one sided and it is not of value to try and show someone something they don’t care to be a part of. Honesty is important and they must be honest and open with you or there is no path forward.
Blindness to reality is a disservice to you, to others, and to your relationships. We need to be open and clear minded to aid our best emotional state and nurture the relationships that nurture us. We also need to build the strength in ourselves that allows us to deal appropriately with unpleasant and but inescapable relationships like often occur at work or in families.
How many drains can you allow in your life before there isn’t enough in you to live your life? What areas can you or will you change to address the overabundance of drains and add more inflow and balanced interactions?
The painting is Nemesis, acrylic on stretched canvas by me.

Society changes.

Changes happen, sometimes fast and sometimes slow but the interesting point is what changes. Often changes are skin deep or partial. I have been reading some of Asimov’s Robot series and the parallels in conversations to our society are still relevant. He shows this same point in the 50 worlds and their relationship with Earth, each other, and in particular with robots. When you look back in your own lifetime you will see many changes. Examining history beyond that reveals many more. But how many of them are complete changes in society and not overlays? How many fluctuate and move through various parts of society, thus never really uprooted? One of these is the sense of other, of the group beneath. Who that group is varies by place and time but there is a villain, a scapegoat, and an inferior. These may be each a separate group or combined in a complicated image of what a group is.

When the detective in the stories talks about the equality of robots on Aurora being only words you can see the same in society now. How many discussions have we had or read about equality for all and that this society or that doesn’t have discrimination. But inside we know that isn’t true, some are just more aware than others of the depth of the disparities. The poor don’t have the same opportunities and are portrayed as lesser people in most aspects. Different religious groups are viewed differently and often it goes so far as to call them evil and dangerous for no other reason than their faith. Races are treated vastly different in ways that range from the subtle to the downright deadly. Cultural norms of one group are considered superior or normal thus rendering all other cultures as other. Genders are not treated the same and are exposed to different expectations. Medical differences are hugely limiting on most societies I have visited or lived in. Gender or sexual variances are so divisive that many groups don’t acknowledge their existence and simply label them as evil. Educational groups are highly divided and mistrustful of each other. The difference in how corporate executives at any level view business people in other fields can be drastic in practice.
Changes happen though. Remember schools in the 1980’s and 1990’s? Remember offices in the 1990’s and 2000’s compared to recently. Suddenly we have seen a resurgence of many issues in recent months but there is a difference this time. Now, we can talk about it. some people always talked about it and always pushed for change but now you hear the discussion in the office, at school, in the news, on TV, at restaurants, and in the home. For the first time I talk to friends and we are all bringing up issues at work to be addressed and we feel that even if the changes are not made or are not complete, we are heard and we do not feel our jobs are at risk. There are still many jobs that is not true but change is permeating in a different way than it has before. What we are seeing is a society trying to change how it thinks and discusses issues which can bring about greater and more durable change. What we have is not a society with a sense of equality but rather a society trying to understand equality and trying to get all of society to see the issues. We have a society trying to communicate with each other from vast differences and sometimes succeeding better than others.

Robots on Aurora are expected to quietly stand in their niches in the wall when in a room with humans. They are not allowed in restrooms. Humans expect them to respond immediately to commands and keep silent unless there is reason or they are asked a question. I have personally been told to keep quiet at work or in churches. Expected to be quiet while the men speak or the important people talk I found myself remembering childhood in independent Baptist churches where my mother was in trouble for daring to teach men or question the word of the leaders. considering how to handle the situation I felt the feelings I had as a child told to be silent unless spoken to or brimming with anger as some man told my father to correct me and send me away from the dinner table for questioning his biblical statement that was directly in opposition to the verses I quoted to him. But then I thought of more than that, I thought of others outside myself and how their situation in this place would be different. When a coworker says a child visiting will be fine because he is a good Chinese kid he shows his racism. When a few days after saying how open he is to gays since they are a big part of this business world he makes a comment about two men that “well I think they are more than friends or coworkers are you sure you want to eat what they made?” he showed a massive bigotry and blindness to his own views. When a woman in town assumes the mas she passes is there to mow a lawn or that the man entering the courthouse is there for a drug trial when one is a business owner and the other is just getting some paperwork they show their racism. When a coworker puts his arm around me and says I need someone to protect me he is showing his sexism and is imposing intimacy on me without consent.

Reading articles, studies, news reports, and watching those around me I began to see that there was as much an issue with the deep bias and intrinsic bias as ever but that many people genuinely believe they aren’t biased. People that are opposed to discrimination will act or speak from the place of ingrained privilege and internalized bias that is so intrinsic in their society that it is normal to them. I noticed that some of them intended a compliment when they said these things. These are the things that require more than laws and regulations, they require visibility of issues, broad and pervasive conversations, they require a light to be shown on the assumptions people make and the limited viewpoints people live in.

Violence and mass shootings are growing to be commonplace in the United States and it is risking becoming a normalized part of society. Most of them are incidents that highlight these differences in society, the fear of either changes in society or of some other that has been vilified. Political discussion grow heated and angry in any arena from the home or the office to the media and online. These discussions center in almost every case I see on some aspect of other, of inequality, of difference, on fear and anger. As discussions about society and the differences between equality, justice, and equity grow and get into the commonplace they bring out fear in those that fear change and that are either aware of their bias and happy with it or unaware of their privilege and happy with it. Fear displays and anger and without opening to the discussion, the walls have come up in their mind.
When a person looks around and sees changes in society that make them think longingly of a past that they are remembering from a particular perspective. they are longing to have the next generation grow up in what they have created in their head. When people talk longingly of a simpler time, I always wonder what they mean by that. I know in general what they are thinking of but when you compare that image to the worldwide reality you can’t help but think it is so much more than unrealistic but that it was never a reality. Many people think back fondly to a happy childhood but how would their grandparents remember that same time? My parents worked hard and tried to buffer their kids from some things but they wanted us to know what was really happening. When we struggled to put food on the table I knew it. I don’t look back and think that a simpler time because while it was in theory simple for children my parents were literally killing themselves to survive and my friends from other countries lived in fear, my neighbors died in shootings or fires, and I knew to stay out of reach of any man in his 50’s.

Today, men in their 50s are still most likely to touch me inappropriately or say unacceptable things in situations like work or with guests. But I am not a child anymore, I am in my 40s so it is different. We still have victim blaming and shaming, especially regarding rape and race issues. People still fear for their safety when doing simple tasks, especially any person that knows they are an other by race, religion, relationship orientation, or medical needs. Doctors still tell patients that they need to lose weight rather than evaluating actual medical needs or seeing medical causes of their weight or even noticing when every test shows they are healthy. Black men are still more likely to be shot before arrested than any other group in the US. We have a lot of work to do. A conversation is a step but it is a step that causes reactive changes both positive and negative.
We can’t ignore our past or hide it. We can’t ignore the problems now. But we also need to acknowledge the steps that are working, not to pat ourselves on the back but to know what else we can do and what is working. When we discuss them we need to be honest about both positive and negative impacts of the work and changes. Science and research must be a guiding director that leads the conversation.

My high school had 2 black students. How many of that student body do you think came out of there and took the time and effort to learn and open their experience? In our school taxes was taught as the primary reason for the civil war. Christopher Columbus was a hero and religious leaders made historical lists above any social justice leader. Evolution was taught but in the context of a disproven theory, highlighting only faulty projects. My point is not to discuss the faults of my school but to highlight the ongoing need and some of why the issue is what it is today. Our education system is fractured and varied and filled with bias reinforcement. When students are taught to study using confirmation bias then they have a longer and harder path to understanding the issues and they must want to get there.

Conversation around me in the small town I am in or in groups of guests at work reveal the dominant biases and entitlement issues in play. Many people genuinely believe a woman in a short skirt or with sexy underwear is at fault in rape. They genuinely believe a man that has rapec or is okay with it is unbiased for a court trial but any woman that has even been harassed isn’t… actually the issue is they don’t want unbiased. People genuinely believe it is understandable that a cop shot a black man that was unarmed, the cop feared for his life. They genuinely believe it is okay a woman died in the jail a few miles away because if she wasn’t a criminal it wouldn’t have happened… Nevermind that her crime was a misdemeanor like their speeding. They genuinely believe asylum seekers are illegal and dangerous. They genuinely hold racial biases about most groups. I could go on for hours about the conversations I witness but it progresses nothing beyond teaching us that we have a lot of work ahead of us.

Writing, art, Business, and practice, any medium is fair game.