Easier said

know thyself

I have devoted much of my life to knowing myself, or trying to know myself, but it has been a little like running after my shadow. The more I try to think my way into self-understanding, the more elusive it becomes. I appear to do better when I take an indirect approach.

These past three years of my life seem like lost years, where I have fallen down a rabbit hole and have not known how to find my way out. If you were to ask me why this has been so, though, I would most likely shrug. If, however, you were to ask me about my TV-watching behavior during this time, I might have more to go on.

For the first six months, I watched anything. I was so distressed that I just needed noise and moving pictures to swaddle me. Then, I graduated to crime shows: Law & Order, Without a TraceThe Closer, In Plain Sight, and the like. They were unashamedly formulaic, and I found comfort in their predictability. At least something could be counted on.

I moved onto the The Dog Whisperer, Nature, Nova, and the Science Channel and was caught there for a long while. Because I didn’t go out very often, through these shows I could feel wonder and some hope — but without risking much of anything. They were my church, for a time.

When I found myself judging César Millán for his post-divorce choice of women, I knew it was time to move on, and my attention turned to shows like Downton Abbey, Homeland, and Breaking Bad. Everything about these shows was inspiring — the writing and acting most notably — and I suppose I was ready to be inspired even if I didn’t know it.

For the past few months, I have cared only about watching the news and have become great friends with Rachel Maddow, Amy Goodman, Hari Sreenivasan, and others. I’ve been poking my nose out the hole, but now I’m going to have to squeeze my whole body up and out.


The political is personal

obamasFor something to become deeply held, I have to experience it first. Faith, for me, is visceral, and the minute it becomes a matter of intellect, I’m lost. So it seems with patriotism. I am left cold by the sight of an American flag hanging off a pick-up truck barreling down the road at 90 mph, but the sight of our first couple holding each other in a loving embrace leaves me in tears.

I wept on and off throughout the day yesterday, Inaugural Day, and today find myself thinking about it. Over the course of my adult life, I have at times feigned indifference to the goings-on in Washington. During the George W. Bush years, for example, I could barely say his name much less engage actively in political life. With President Obama, though, whom I admire more than any other US president for his downright decency, I am inclined to hang on his every word and to believe that, with him at the helm, the good will out.

It is this deep hope that forms the foundation of my patriotism, this sense that darkness runs backward to the corners now so that we might see our way forward to a life that honors all life.


I’m done, John Mackey

john mackeyI lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for nearly 30 years and came of age in Berkeley, where I went to college and where my daughter was born. I took for granted that eating healthful, organic food was my due, if not my birthright, in part because it was readily available. Near me was a food co-op, and I shopped there regularly.

When it was taken over by Whole Foods Market in 1990, I became a devotee. In fact, since then I have lived in several other states and have carried my devotion with me. I now live in Washington, DC, and for 13 years have shopped in every Whole Foods Market in the Washington Metropolitan Area. Several days ago, though, after listening to an interview with Whole Foods co-CEO John Mackey, I decided I would never step foot in the man’s markets again. I’m done with him.

Mackey has been hawking his book Conscious Capitalism, and it was this he was meant to discuss in an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep. When asked what he thought about Obama’s health care law, however, he said it was a “fascist” program. In subsequent interviews elsewhere, he admitted this might have been a poor choice of words, but his contrition proved disingenuous as he went on to say that the law would raise his company’s costs and to suggest that, as a result, it would ultimately have a negative impact on healthcare coverage for his employees.

In 2012, Whole Foods Market reported earnings of more than $1 billion. Cashiers there start at $10/hour. I can’t abide corporate greed.


On meaning

chaosWhat do Andrea Bocelli’s rendition of Amazing Grace, a commercial for Proactiv, a treadmill, the Stylistics, a peach raspberry yogurt parfait from Starbucks, loneliness, and David Bianculli have in common? They all contributed to the constellation of experiences I had in the days leading up to January 1, 2013, and they served to remind me that my life is nonsensical unless there is something to give shape to its seeming randomness. Although I am persuaded that, in the end, nothing can confer meaningful purpose unless it is somehow connected to that which is higher, finer, and infinitely more dimensional than my smallest of selves,  I nevertheless struggle with an intellect and an intellectual tradition that mocks me for believing in God.

When I started writing this blog a year ago, I think I was in search of a lesser, more manageable god, one who might help me impose orderliness on my experiences and give them more meaning than they would have otherwise deserved; if nothing else, the very act of laying down words within a rectangular space offers a visual organization that at least can hint at meaning and importance where they might not have existed.

Still, these past few weeks I have wondered about what I am adding to the world by coming here and writing, and my doubts have been fueled by something I recently read in the paper—a joke about bloggers (the definition of a blogger: someone with high self-esteem and a keyboard).