Inspiration

What can the Skeleton Warriors of Papua New Guinea teach us about Christmas.

I didn't expect to be blown away by the sheer beauty of a people that paint themselves as skeletons, but it happened.

What is it about these men that took my breath away?

They embrace life.  To paint your body with the visage of death reminds us of the precious and fleeting nature of life.  More than that, their willingness to play with their traditional art form.  This is a quality we have lost in the us vs them culture we adopted over the last several decades.

This is most evident this time of year with some people's reaction to Christmas.

Culture, tradition, and religion

It is undeniable that Christmas has a special significance to Christians, but it is also an American cultural institution.  Movies like Elf, The Santa Clause, and Miracle on 34th Street, not to mention Rudolf, the Night Before Christmas, and A Christmas Carol, all provide secular images that have become cultural fixtures over the years.  Don't even get me started with How the Grinch stole Christmas.

My point being, while, yes, there are some cultural institutions that should be abandoned in the name of inclusion and diversity, we as a culture need to learn to play with the images we have inherited, rather than reject them all blindly.

We have lost too much of our culture to hostile copyright laws to trash what little of the public domain we have left.

If a cultural image bothers you, ask what about it is so troubling.  Is it something inherent in the image, or is it baggage you are carrying with you.

There is too much either/or thinking.

Santa Claus can be both a Christian reminder of St Nicolas of Myra, and a secular figure who sells Coca-cola.  He doesn't have to be one or the other.

If we don't learn how to reconcile the contradictions facing us in these images, we will never be able to cope with more fundamental ones like how all life is sustained by death.  Hydrogen must die to give light to the plants.  Plants and animals must die to sustain our lives.  We ignore these issues by telling ourselves that plants can't feel or think, but they still have to die.

Truth often presents itself through paradoxes.  The sooner we get comfortable with that, the sooner we will start to find peace in our hearts.

Play with your culture

If we don't play with the images we have inherited, they will go away, and if we don't make new ones, we will follow soon after.  We like to think that we are rational creatures, but we are also emotional ones.  Logic speaks to our reason, but images speak to our emotions.  For too long, we have abandoned our emotional natures to fend for themselves, gleaning what little nourishment they can from pop culture.

We are the agents of our culture.  It doesn't belong to us. It has only been entrusted to us until we leave it to the generations after.  Leave it better than it was when it was handed down to you.  Don't short circuit the culture out of some short sighted need to react to the past rather than create the future.

 

Don't you know it's gonna be alright

A friend of my shared a story today about a Transgender Kid who left a suicide note on Tumblr asking for the world to change (read it here).

Stories like this trash my spirit. I only hope that we are moving forward in some ways...

What we need more than anything is a cultural revolution that reconnects us to compassion and hope and breaks the chains cynicism, nihilism, and isolationism have wrapped around our necks. Only when we learn to stand up will things change.

One moment, I need a musical break, sing a long if you know it, if not, it has the words.

For years, decades, centuries, people have tried to change the world, and as Joseph Campbell said:

When we talk about settling the world’s problems, we’re barking up the wrong tree. The world is perfect. It’s a mess. It has always been a mess. We are not going to change it. Our job is to straighten out our own lives.

Every time I quote that, my friends sigh, and tell me that I just don't get it.  We talk for a couple hours until we finally get back around the point.  We cannot change other people, we can only change ourselves.

This is one of the most troubling aspects of modern social movements, our solution is always to pass a law, change a law, or enforce a law.  If history has taught us anything, we have to see that law is only a minor part of the change we need.

Yes, anti-discrimination laws are important, and so are hate crime laws.  They won't accomplish anything if we don't take wise action to change ourselves in such a way that it encourages others to take on the same change.

All of this starts with compassion.  Compassion is simply living by the gold and silver rules:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
— The Golden Rule
Do not do unto other as you would not have them do unto you.
— The Silver Rule

When we act according to these simple rules of compassion that every culture on earth has come to over time, we start building the world that we want to see.  We only have control over our actions.  We have to take responsibility for our own actions.

How can we expect others to treat us with respect if we will not grant them the same courtesy?  How can we expect society to celebrate difference if we demand conformity?  The path forward it to demonstrate through our lives, our jobs, our entertainment, and our businesses that diversity and compassion make us stronger.  If we do not demonstrate the basic interconnectedness of all people, places, and things, we have no hope that others will see it.

In every encounter, be kind, be compassionate, and celebrate the differences between people.  Only through living a life that makes others envious of our joy, hope, and prosperity will others start looking for ways they can have the same thing.

Become a beacon for compassion.  Live compassion in all your words, thoughts, and deeds, and you will be the change that we need.  When others ask you why your life is so different, tell them, but make they want to ask.

One by one, we will realize that we are all interconnected, and that our actions effect everyone and everything.  Eventually, this will change the world.

Glorious Angel in the dark

The angel was originally made by Silver Limit.

That line reverberates through my mind.  Images of shadows and a wounded angel struggling against it.

There are so many stories layered in that one simple sentence.  It speaks to my heart.  I need to build armor to defend against the fiery darts of the wicked.  Leaves' Eyes is a wondrous muse.

The real question is: Is it for Dragons of Night, Our Solemn Hour, or Both?