Tag Archives: Musings

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.

Meditation series part 4: Active meditation

Active Meditation is recommended for those with some experience with passive meditation. However, it can feel easier to those that have trouble with the extended passive meditations sessions. It will be effective on its own but a time of passive meditation should be combined with it for best results.
Quoting one source “Once the ego mind has quieted down after passive meditation, and you then shift into an active form of meditation, this is where you can truly harness the power of meditation for creating inner transformation and charging up with new energy.”

The first example many people will think of is the use of meditative yoga or walking. Other actions and work activities can be meditative: think of raking a zen garden. Any task you can drop into a meditative state while doing is appropriate.
All meditation trains your attention but active meditation can be a great help to those that have trouble with long periods of sitting or quiet. Although it is recommended as a later stage if it is needed to help train your mind, it is the right time.

Active meditations are used to develop a connection between mind and body, drawing your attention to breathing and making use of the adaptive network of the brain. As in passive meditation, active meditation will have distractions. Simply acknowledge them in general terms and let them pass. Do not try to make them go away or identify them, just let them go and focus on your breathing. This practice is one of the stages of developing full awareness and connection to all parts of the body and feeling every part of it.

The 4 types of meditative yoga are pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi. Research and try different yoga forms and activities when you are learning.

In active meditation, you are using some of the same principles as in a mindfulness meditation. Here it is with intent to engage all your senses in the focus. This is often aided in early stages by having an actual physical focus such as a sound, a flame, a bowl of water, something you can physically interact with and engage the senses to help train yourself. This is one of many reasons active meditation is not step one, but a physical focus can be used in active meditation.

Walking meditations: think of the Christian practices like James Way in Spain. Many people walk to clear their head or relieve stress. Time to walk at lunch can change the work day. At many jobs or schools I have used lunch as a time for some type of meditation to keep stress down. In Zen, walking meditation is called kinhin and is combined with extensive sitting meditation.

I prefer to do walking meditation outside but it can be done in an office or other room. You know meditation mazes, paths, and other things designed to focus you but you usually just walk, pause, breath, and be a part of only walking. Two forms are done. One is a clearing and open form that is less focus than empty. The one we are discussing here is clearing the mind by focusing on walking. Do not go on autopilot, that is why it helps during work. For 10 minutes be actively aware of the steps and breathing and nothing else.

Start by being aware of the major components of walking: the lifting of a foot; then the standing and slow movement of that foot forward; then the foot lands on the floor, feel it; feel the weight shift off that foot and how the foot begins to lift. Different forms focus on breathing, the movement itself, the sounds you cause, or other parts of the walking.
Work meditations include gardening or cleaning. Think of monks and the work they do. Working at a garden I hear many people talk about gardening and although they may or may not intend it that way, they use it as meditation. The practice is very similar to walking.

Art meditations: think of the zen doodles or free-form painting. Other activities include flower arranging (Ikebana), calligraphy (Shodō), and archery (Kyūdō). Really, you have no limitations in art meditation and the details vary. This is definitely one I recommend. Art is a release anyway so it’s a perfect outlet. I do free form sewing sometimes also and you can research this and try activities for years without exhausting the options. Some are open or empty mind to allow the art to express. Others are focused like the walking.
Dancing: think of Dhikr in Sufism, trance meditations, Mevlevi Dervish and Sama. I love dance meditation. Although I have not done it recently, it was my primary form for a long time. When I would dance, I was alone even in a crowd. The only thing that existed was dancing. Fully immersed in dance you find a completely different place of meditation than walking or working. My choice is the free form dance with music that you just do as it feels.

Exercise meditation can be any form of exercise but most the recognizable will be yoga or tai chi. Tai chi is also the first option most think of regarding martial meditation. This is another section that could be a series of books to itself do I recommend research and trying them. Even if you plan to practice alone, taking a class can really help you. You want to learn the forms enough that you are not thinking about them. You want to be able to meditate.
Again with meditative there are many forms that include both open and focused. Empty mind forms often use yoga. Focused forms are often guided or use equipment like weights, blocks, straps, muscle focus, or music. Your form must be right both for safety and to be most effective. Take the time and training to perfect your form and work up gradually from repeating a couple of perfect forms to more. Yoga, for instance is good for you and the learning time is stress relief itself.
As with all meditation, find what works for you and in your path. Research, experience, and think of you in the activities. The important point is a consistent and continuous practice that you do every day. A combination of types can give you a way to do that. In some jobs I did yoga at lunch and sitting forms at night. Other places I walked at lunch or meditated on the beach before work and did a water meditation after. What I need changes, what is available changes, time availability changes. It will grow easier to make time but start by working we within your schedule and altering it as little as possible. You are building a practice and it will develop.

Wacom and the Economy

Today, I received my Christmas present – a Wacom Bamboo Fun Pen and Touch. Very cool, I have wanted one for a long time. We are getting it set up now but I may need to pull my desktop out of storage for much work, my laptop just doesn’t have the art tools on it. I have been actively working on development of a card based board game, Steampunk theme recently and I want to work on the art. Thus, the Wacom… I have been reading about the tablet since we got home and looking at how to set it up. It seems really neat, I am still amazed at how much they usually run (Craigslist is my friend on this one). They are a great tool, and very entertaining, but this business model that everything is worth the maximum amount you can convince someone to pay is somewhat absurd and dangerous to me. I understand trying to make a profit, but it has gotten so inflated that each step of the economy must inflate more to cover the cost of the other falsely inflated prices and the end result is a stack of numbers beyond logic.

I felt the same way about a company I worked for in Hawaii. They were a pointless business, falsely inflating the price of construction, and they were one of several unnecessary steps in the process. The result? Insanely high construction cost and building purchase costs. Not the only factor of course, but an important one. We talked to suppliers that supplied items they marked up from manufacturers. We took their price, marked it up and bid to sub-contractors that took that, marked it up and bid to general contractors, who marked it up and bid to architects, who marked it up and bid to owners (sometimes there was another couple steps in this process). You see my problem with the result? Remove some steps and the price drops to half with no change in design, quality, product, supply, source, or anything else. We see this in the grocery store and gas station every day. I have heard recently of a new plan already approved to take chickens killed and pre-processed in the states, ship them to Chine to finish processing, and then ship them back to the states to be sold as fresh or frozen chicken. How bizarre. I am not certain where one should start on the flaws in that one, economy or not.

But, back to the Wacom: Soon, I shall be learning a new tool and working on the project full steam. It might be nice to have another artist for some areas I am uncertain of my skill in, but I have learned so many others, what is one more. Now to find a safe way to keep the Wacom on my desk when it is not in use…Cats.