Monday, November 23, 2015

My Imitation of Life

This piece of writing will be a summary of my life. It is a summary that is being filtered through one very specific element within that life. However, even though this summary of my life is being filtered through one very specific element, it still feels like it is an extremely useful, honest, and teaching summary of my entire life.

I, like everyone, was born with a distinct set of things about me that would prove to make my life difficult, challenging, painful to navigate, and sometimes very frightening. Chief among these things is being born into the specific biological family of origin I was born into, being born in the American South, being born a black male, being born homosexual (gay, same gender loving), being born with what I now understand to be a strong non-binary and non-gender conforming approach to both myself and the world as a whole, being born an empath, and being born a highly sensitive person (HSP).

I was also born with a distinct set of things about me in place that would seem to make my life easier in at least some ways or at least less dramatically and obviously challenging. Some of these things are being born into the specific biological family of origin I was born into, being born male, being born with what has been deduced by admittedly subjective assessment instruments as my having above average intelligence, having an absolutely insatiable hunger and thirst for spiritual truth, having a very gentle and kind heart, and having a very keen and advanced ability to detect and uncover even very cleverly disguised levels and degrees of bullshit in both myself and others.

Naturally, as my life began to unfold, both of these sets of things about me began to interact with each other and jockey, as it were, for supreme dominance.

At some point, rather early in my life, it would seem that the things about me that were the more challenging ones assumed some tangible degree of dominance. I believe this happened chiefly because both me and most human beings tend to form relationships with other human beings based largely around those things we experience as being mutually challenging for us because, among other reasons, we really, really enjoy complaining to and with other people seemingly much more than we enjoy celebrating our own and each other’s gifts and talents. We also seem to be much more inspired by what we imagine are those things we presume make us different from one another as opposed to those things that make us more or less the same. Although this is often not completely clear cut. Life often isn’t and then again, it often is.

So as those things about me that were very challenging continued to exert dominance in my life and especially in guiding the relationships I formed, a certain overarching perspective began to become solidified within me. I am going to describe this overarching perspective as being symbolized by a certain invisible pair of prescription contact lenses being attached to my eyes and that would provide me with something of a rather dominant worldview. I am going to summarize this worldview as being the, I am a victim worldview.

Now, the world is absolutely filled with other people who also have an, I am a victim pair of invisible contact lenses affixed to their eyes. It is exponentially more difficult not to find such people than it is to find them. So all of us with this specific pair of prescription contact lenses on, typically have a great many other people to commiserate with through our shared vision brought about by the wearing of these lenses through which we experience much of our own lives and the world.  This lens has probably been a significant element within human culture for a very long time now—many centuries at least, I am guessing. And it has become extremely normalized too. It has become normalized to the degree that it is not even experienced by many as a worldview at all. It is often experienced by many people now more along the lines of simply being “what is,” similar perhaps to how air and the other elements are experienced as simply being what is. Yes, that’s right, it is simply taken for granted as being what is. It is experienced as being very natural. Many of us can no longer even remember a day when this worldview was not with us.

The, I am a victim worldview has also seems, for all intents and purposes, to have become something of a religion these days as well. At least it seems to me to have that same type of power and influence over some people. Or maybe it’s really more like a cult. I’m not sure which. However, where most people would very proudly state, “I am a Christian, or “I am a Muslim,” or “I am A Hindu,” the, I am a victim religion (or cult) has the exact opposite impact and effect on most of its adherent’s. We are far more likely to vehemently proclaim, I am absolutely not a victim. Also, one can very easily be a very devout practitioner of one of the other world religions or wisdom traditions and also be an extremely solid practitioner of the, I am a victim religion/cult, as well.

So it seems I have perhaps gone through much of my life with this invisible pair of prescription contact lenses affixed to my eyes and have formed many primary and other important relationships with many others who have also had some version of this same or approximate prescription affixed to their eyes as well. And we begin to believe the worldview provided by these lenses as being simply what is. We often vehemently defend our right to have this worldview, either passively or aggressively. Many of us disavow any other worldview while interestingly, we also simultaneously very stridently deny this is even our worldview at all. It’s all very odd and surreal though also very real and penetrating and informative. Many both fiction and nonfiction books written by people with and for this worldview become instant and persistent bestsellers. Many of the world’s most celebrated poems, plays, and musicals are written from this perspective as well. Almost the entire industry of popular music is one continuous catalog of songs representing this worldview. And so it should come as no surprise that many of the various awards and esteemed prizes awarded to people in the arts and letters are awarded to those who have most masterfully appealed to those with this worldview whether the recipients of the awards and prizes themselves have this worldview in actuality or not.

Many of us with this contact prescription could/would easily be assessed as being extremely “nice” people. Many of us have a very strong commitment to being of service in the world. Many of us have a deep, demonstrated love for our fellow man/woman, and would seem to be deeply committed to making the world a better and safer place for all. Many different types of institutions and organizations are filled with people who have this particular lens affixed to their eyes. These institutions and organizations are extremely diverse and cover many different diverse areas of life. Many such organizations and institutions have missions that state their devotion to making the world a better place for everyone or for at least some specifically disenfranchised segment of people in the world. Over the years I have been involved in many such institutions and organizations.

In 2012 I became involved in yet another one of these many such organizations. I am still connected to it. This organization is East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland, California. If you are interested in discovering the mission and other important elements of EBMC, I invite you to peruse its website. It is filled with valuable information that satisfies many such desires. For the purposes of this particular piece of writing, what is important for you the reader to know, is that in the last quarter of 2014 I had an experience with a subgroup of people at EBMC that ultimately became quite destabilizing for me. A lot of deep and largely unconscious and it would seem disowned or at least unattended to injuries, festering puss infected emotional wounds, and unhealed parts of me were quickly and surprisingly deeply triggered and brought to the surface by this experience. In my life I have experienced several far more, at least on the surface, devastating and horrific events than this one. However, this one really really seemed to shake me to the core. I know many of the reasons for this though not all of the reasons. This particular event with this particular subgroup at EBMC became a foundationally life altering one for me—so much so that I currently divide and perhaps for the rest of my life will divide my life into the pre and the post 2014 life altering EBMC episode parts. Yes, it has ended up being that impactful and of that much importance in my life.

And one of the things that eventually came out of this experience was that my, I am a victim, pair of prescription contact lenses that had seemingly protected and supported me for so long, had given me a seemingly unrelenting and reliable way of understanding the world so clearly, and had provided me with so many seemingly beautiful and wonderful comrades for so many decades, got completely shattered in the aftermath of it all.

This was shocking and completely unexpected.

My immediate and admittedly reflexive impulse was to frantically though carefully construct another pair of, I am a victim, pair of prescription contact lenses to replace the ones that had been so unexpectedly destroyed by this experience I had at EBMC.  I felt so completely naked without them. I believed I absolutely needed replacements. I however, knew they could not at all be the same prescription as the previous one—the one I had worn for so many years before, because many of the people who played a role in this experience at EBMC also had that precise or very similar prescription, it seemed to me. And I viewed those people as betraying and hurting me. So I knew I had to fashion my new contacts out of different material.
And then voilà! A perfect solution presented itself to me. I received a grand “aha” moment, a perfect illumination! I would construct a new pair of, I am a victim prescription contact lenses constructed out of, built from the idea, belief, and understanding that I had been victimized by those people at EBMC.

So with new found enthusiasm and commitment I set about to painstakingly and meticulously construct these new contact lenses. I was completely jazzed. It however, is a long and very arduous process to perfectly and sturdily construct such lenses. They must be both extremely durable and come with the extremely important element of providing an airtight sense of absolute denial that one is in reality allowing oneself to be a victim. It can take many months or even a year or so to construct such a thing. However, I was very determined and very committed to this project.

But then, while in the midst of painstakingly constructing my perfect new pair of, I am a victim prescription contact lenses, something happened I did not plan on happening. At the end of June 2015 I walked into St Paul’s Episcopal Church in Bremerton, WA and almost immediately, experienced what I am going to call The Holy Spirit, approaching me and enveloping me in complete and absolute love and forgiveness and gently, ever so gently taking those nearly completed contact lenses from me and telling me I did not need them and would never need such a pair of contact lenses ever again in this life. At first I was defiant. I didn’t believe what I was being told. Surely I needed these new contacts. How would I survive this mean, tough, hard, hard world without some kind of weapon like this to help me through it all? How would I survive without always having ready made targets to project or blame significant portions of my suffering on. I however, was instructed to trust and to surrender to this truth and to this love I was being presented with. I was told that I would be given human guides to help me with this, some of whom would be found in this very church community I now found myself in communion with. And then I slowly began to understand. And I decided to surrender to this truth, this revelation, this blessing.

I am now in the clumsy and haphazard, imperfect, unfamiliar, surreal, very frightening and very lonely at times, and infinitely Blessed process of relying on my own naked eyes through which to now understand the world and my rightful place in it…

Amazing grace how sweet the sound…

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Rachel Dolezal

The story of Rachel Dolezal broke during a rather introspective period in my life. I am still in this period. It however, is not as intense as it was during the late Spring of 2015, when the Rachel Dolezal story came to light. This was a time when I was taking an extended break from social media posting in general, taking a break from commenting on news and culture stories, and also taking a break from extending myself in many other ways as well. It was a time when I was focusing mostly on internal pursuits, my souls unraveling’s, and looking at a large number of great and powerful insights that had recently come into my consciousness—insights that seemingly required an enormous amount of processing and reflection. Eventually, it was what for me was that disturbing and grand spectacle of narcissism and bullying that was Marisa Johnson and Mara Willaford’s interruption of Bernie Sanders at that rally in Seattle, WA on August 8, 2015, that challenged my self imposed introspection so strongly that it could no longer sustain itself. However, before that incident infected my world like a rabid virus, I almost broke my silence a few months earlier as a result of the story that broke around what we now know as The Rachel Dolezal story. I now feel compelled to share some of my strongest thoughts about the whole Rachel Dolezal affair—thoughts that have now had several months to marinate under a careful and a hopefully wise maturation process.

Fasten your seatbelts.

Most experts in the areas that are most pertinent to this discussion of Rachel Dolezal believe the concept of “race” is a completely made up social construct that has no clear grounding in human biology. Further, it is a social construct largely invented by white elitist imperialists making use of extremely questionable pseudo-science in order to underpin the machinations of white colonialists who were desiring to create a white supremacist based socioeconomic structural base through which to oppress, subjugate, and discriminate against other human beings they viewed as somehow lesser than themselves. They also didn’t want these others to benefit from this socioeconomic structure because of their own greed, avarice, and relative moral bankruptcy in addition to their imperialist tendencies. In other words, they desired to oppress, subjugate, and discriminate against other human beings who essentially looked like I do—and who also look like many of the people who have been the most loud and vociferous critics of Rachel Dolezal.

The huge, glaring, and extremely problematic reality of all of that—not for me but for the people who more or less look like me yet are among those loud and vociferous critics of Rachel Dolezal—is that by playing virtually every card they have played in their loud and vociferous criticism of Dolezal, they have inadvertently placed themselves in the unenviable position of being extremely cozy bedfellows with those exact same elitist imperialists who were some of the principal architects of race (sic) to begin with, many generations ago. Lord have mercy. Those old codgers must be having a grand ole time in hell right now with their awareness of just how fertile the divisive seeds they planted all those many years ago have indeed tuned out to be, and all the completely unfathomable co-conspirators they would end up gathering into their far flung devilish fold.*

Let me try to break this down as simply as possible here. Significant elements of “Black Pride” consciousness, and the sloppy conflating of ethnicity, culture, heredity, and race are very problematic for the critics of Rachel Dolezal case. Many of these people's arguments do not ring fully true. Much of this criticism however, unwittingly emboldens racist ideas because most of it relies on the exact same separation consciousness and made up divisive social constructs that those elitist imperialists who constructed the idea of race used to underpin their nefarious constructions to begin with.

So, in essence, most of the people who are criticizing Dolezal are trying to have it both ways. They tend to position themselves as being strongly anti-racist and Black Pride oriented yet they are essentially using racist constructions to undergird their vilification of a woman who is essentially shining a light on their own unacknowledged duplicity. It is extremely difficult to have it both ways when it comes to these type matters which is why most of Dolezal’s critics are not acknowledging the glaring problems and inherent conflicts imbedded in their retrograde, flawed, and ironically incendiary rhetoric that they unsuccessfully (in my opinion) try to use against her. In addition, as if all of that wasn’t bad enough, it gets worse. These ctitics are also trying to tell another sovereign human being (Dolezal) what she can and cannot say or believe is her own personal experience and personal identity. That, of course, is completely presumptuous, absurd, and just plain silly. In fact it’s so silly it borders on really being satirical. It probably crosses the satire border going 200 miles per hour in a flashy European sports car, crashing through that border crossing between that which should be taken seriously and that which is rightfully satire, without even stopping and running over and killing the border guard in the process. And I can’t even begin to imagine how outraged most of these same people would very likely be if someone tried to tell them how they should identify and define themselves.

The literary scholar, journalist, Emmy Award winning filmmaker, and the current Alphonse Fletcher Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University, and esteemed historian Louis Henry "Skip" Gates, Jr. “looks black.” I believe this is what most people would say at least. Here is a picture of him. 

His entire illustrious, star studded, high profile, highly respected, multi-faceted professional career has been an exact extension of his presumed and strongly glorified “blackness.” Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of “Skip” and I respect him too. I’m just pointing out what I believe are the realities of things with regard to how he is generally perceived. On his public television program African American Lives, which has a very strong African American genealogy research element to it, he has painstakingly researched his own family genealogy along with those of other well-known black celebrities. He has traced his own African and African American roots back at least seven generations, I believe. This is not an easy thing for a large number of black folks to accomplish due to many obstacles. The biggest obstacle is the history of slavery in this country and how the official and often statistically recorded lives of slaves were typically and infamously recorded much more in the manner of how livestock was recorded than how human lives were typically recorded. Yet, he has somehow accrued enormous amounts of information about his own black American and African American ancestry. He has been able to trace back some of his ancestors all the way back to slavery times in the American South. And due to relatively recent advances in genealogy technology he has even been able to trace his ancestry back to very specific parts and regions of Africa and with extremely high levels of accuracy. Most people would consider him to be “black.” Yet, when he had a highly detailed analysis of his own DNA performed, it revealed he is a whopping 50% European, DNA-wise—largely from Irish ancestry. Even the generally near completely unflappable Dr. Gates seemed rather astonished when this was revealed to him. He then traveled to Ireland, took a production team with him, met some of his very distant relatives, and recorded some of his exploits in his newly discovered homeland.

Additionally, I have had the very educational and eye opening experience of living in Southern Louisiana for a portion of my life. This is a place in the continental USA that has long been associated with both extremely rigid and extremely fluid constructions of race. The very first day I visited southern Louisiana, shortly before I moved there, I met people who were considerably darker than me (I am about the complexion of photos I have seen of former professional wrestler and actor, “The Rock”), who completely and seriously identified as “white.” And I met people who were the complexion of Ronald McDonald (OK, more than a slight exaggeration there) who completely and seriously identified as “black.” Both of these realities were then and are today a totally and absolutely normal par for the course type of experience in southern Louisiana. So the way someone looks to the naked eye, as far as racial (sic) identity goes, is almost completely unreliable of course, not only in America but throughout many parts of the world.

So who really gets to decide who’s black, or not, or what exactly makes someone black or not, or what’s black enough or even white enough for that matter? And when one (fallaciously) decides he or she is indeed the divinely appointed King or Queen of the realm capable of doing any or all of this, who gets to let them know they are mistaken and who they have in reality placed themselves in league with? Answer: I do, I do. Yay!

Still, I will be the first to admit that Rachel Dolezal made some tactical and strategic errors in how I believe she handled her whole “coming out.” She told some lies I don’t believe she needed to tell. She made some other unfortunate missteps and guffaws. She compromised her integrity in ways that were probably damaging to her credibility in some important ways, etc. Still, none of these mistakes caused me to become a critic of her. Not in the least. My gratitude for her unmasking of several of the serious glitches in the race matrix overshadowed any tendency I might have had in that direction. Like Toto in The Wizard of Oz, Rachel Dolezal has revealed that the man behind the curtain is in fact a charlatan, a straw man. In this case however, that charlatan and straw man is the construct of race itself. Through Dolezal it has also been revealed, once again, just how clever, insidious, evil, and extremely problematic of a straw man he truly is for all of us to somehow coexist with. This is especially true for those of us who also believe we are forced to position ourselves in ways where we are unwittingly and yet constantly trying to find ways to benefit from him too, simply because we are not willing to be truly honest with ourselves about some important truths, are too quick to judge others, are lacking in mental/emotional/spiritual spaciousness, and are perhaps overly invested in separation consciousness.

Maybe some black folks and some misguidedly overzealous people of color and white allies are just mad because Dolezal didn’t ask the black community for its approval or blessing before she decided to acknowledge that she, in her heart of hearts, identifies as black. Let me provide you members of the black community and others who may suffer from this sentiment about her with what I believe is an important and necessary wake-up call for you. She absolutely did not and does not need and will likely never need your approval nor blessing for anything. And she won’t likely ever need your absolution either.

Now, for all of you who have the ears that likely need to hear this, take all of that information about Rachel Dolezal not needing the approval nor absolution of the black community and allow that deep truth to set you free. Move on from there and perhaps start a personal campaign to look at the areas in your own lives that could use some attention, turn your attention there, and stop focusing on what you imagine to be the faults and flaws in others, especially those who don’t view nor understand the world in the same ways as you. Maybe decide to instead focus on some internal home improvements for a change. Perhaps that’s a 2015 Christmas present you can give to yourselves. If you do that you may find that everything in your entire world might become more beautifully grounded and tangibly sacred. Hallelujah!

* I don't in fact believe in Hell.

Saturday, October 31, 2015


This is what seems like it wants to be expressed through me today...

It feels/seems as if I lapsed into a coma of sorts sometime in mid-2013 and lasting until just a few months ago. This is how it seems to me. It seems like sometime in mid-2013 I lapsed into a coma in Oakland, California and two years later I somewhat magically regained consciousness and awoke here in Bremerton, Washington. This is in fact something of a quasi-dramatic overstatement being used mostly for effect. Obviously, I was not really in a coma during this period of time. However, it does somewhat realistically seem as if it did sort of happen.

I am also very cognizant of and have absolutely full consciousness and awareness about what has most likely triggered all of this.

Between February and May of 2013 I experienced two significant medical emergencies at my place of work in downtown San Francisco, CA. During the first event, I walked into my supervisor’s office very early in the morning and informed him of very concerning physical sensations I was experiencing. He subsequently called 911. Paramedics arrived, took some initial readings, and the decision was fairly quickly made by the paramedics to transport me by ambulance to Kaiser Hospital/San Francisco. I stayed at Kaiser for most of the day. Many tests were taken. I was eventually released several hours later. I went to Japantown and treated myself to dinner at my favorite Japanese restaurant there. The food was great, as usual. I then traveled back to Oakland to my partner and our apartment.

The second medical event occurred almost exactly 3 months later. I experienced very similar and equally concerning physical sensations. One again I walked into my supervisor’s office and explained to him that I was having the same symptoms I had experienced 3 months earlier. This time one of the physicians who was employed at my place of work was available and was called into my supervisor’s office for consultation. After a brief consultation with this person a decision was made once again to transport me via ambulance to Kaiser Hospital/San Francisco. Being carried through my place of work, however, on a gurney three months earlier, in front of co-workers and clients had been stress inducing for me. So this time I asked my supervisor if he would drive me to the hospital instead. He agreed. His car was parked several blocks away from the building. He informed me it would likely take him 15-20 minutes to come back and pick me up. I stayed outside and awaited his return. By the time he arrived back to take me to the hospital, some twenty minutes later, all my symptoms had abated and I felt oddly refreshed and very renewed. Given this, I requested that my supervisor drop me off at the San Francisco Transbay Bus Terminal instead of taking me to the hospital. He did this. I took a bus back home to Oakland and relaxed for the rest of the day.

Even though I had some very real physical symptoms during both of these medical encounters, like blood pressure readings of around 200/110 during both events, I slowly began to believe both events had essentially been rather intense panic attacks brought on by what I viewed as my extremely stressful life at that time. This, among other things, was significantly characterized by my job, which I experienced as both highly stressful and almost completely unrewarding in most ways. I also had other highly stressful aspects of my personal life at that time as well.

After the second medical “event” at my place of work, this place of work required that I get a release from my physician in order to return to work as a glorified wage slave there. Patrick, my Kaiser physician, was completely prepared to write me such a letter and told me so. However, I asked him not to do so. I was beginning to see certain clear writing on the wall in terms of my life, my life’s journey, and my future life’s vocation. This decision of mine to not get a work clearance from Patrick for all intents and purposes served as my resignation letter from my place of work. It also was the first conscious step toward what would eventually become a fourteen month stretch of homelessness for my partner, our two dogs, and myself, on the mean, somewhat unforgiving streets of Oakland, living in our twelve year old Buick Crossover. And it would also eventually be the decision that I would ultimately see as a lifesaving decision both physically and spiritually. But first, before I went to hell in order to save my life, we had enough saved from my wage slavery to pay for 6 months’ rent at our overpriced Cleveland Heights neighborhood Oakland apartment. And then we were graciously “put up” by a very supportive and loving Buddhist friend in Oakland for two more additional months before we hit the streets of Oakland living in our vehicle. Thirteen months later this same vehicle would transport us to our new home in Bremerton, WA.

Most of the things I experienced in my life before mid-2013 are relatively clear to me and feel very real, just like all of the life memories you have, unless, of course, you have dementia or some kind of chronic dissociative thing going on in your life. Things that happened in my life between mid-2013 and mid-2015 however, mostly feel like a somewhat shadowy dream or nightmare, (depending on different factors). I did experience many traumatic events during that thirteen months of living in the vehicle and of being homeless. Not all of that trauma had to do with living in the vehicle nor being homeless. My main point however, is that most of these events and even the people of that timeframe don’t feel completely real to me anymore. Events and people who are strongly connected to that 2-year period specifically and not to any previous period in my life feel the most abstract and unreal to me now. Each and every day many of these people feel less and less real and are pretty much on the periphery of my life at this point anyway. I experience relatively little sense of loss or grief around that. While at the same time I also have this sense that loss and grief are significant factors in why all of this is happening. However, it also feels like this entire experience has also been brought about by divine grace or will or some kind of weird destiny. This feels much more present and real than the grief and loss aspects do at this point. I experience this sense of divine grace and destiny as being very reassuring and as ultimately being very positive.

I know that trauma plays some role in what I am experiencing or have experienced in the last two years. It however, in no way has the starring role. I don’t believe I am in denial about that. Now that I feel relatively safe—and around what feel like authentically loving, caring, and supportive people—many of whom, in reality, feel much more like angels than mere mortals, I do not really have the motivation to lie to nor kid myself in such ways.

I believe I experienced a Dark Night of the Soul spiritual event, and a significant series of traumatic events simultaneously between 2013-2015. There were periods where the trauma was likely the most prominent. I believe I am now in a period where the Dark Night of the Soul experience is the most prominent. I believe my “coma” experience is due to the process of coming out of the Dark Night and experiencing a sort of “rebirth” that has come about as a direct result of it. I do not believe I think this simply because believing such is “sexier” than believing that everything I am experiencing is the sole purview of trauma or depression or some similar such thing. I am continuously consulting with both helping professionals and “spiritual friends” all of whom have my very best interests at heart and whom I believe would not in any way lead me astray. Each of these individuals concur with my assessment of things. 

My sense of now being awakened from my “coma” is marked by several current experiences. Some things feel almost completely foreign now--things that use to be very important in my life. Now it is as if they were never really a part of my real life at all. I will, for example, sometimes go to the social media pages of strident progressive social justice activists friends whose views I use to 99% agree with and I will read these people's last forty or fifty posts. Sometimes I’ll spend more than an hour just reading his or her posts. Or I will read an entire progressive social justice periodical or newsletter from cover to cover—one that used to be a favorite of mine. In each instance, I will have the sense while engaging in this activity and will also come away feeling as if I just read something in an exotic foreign language that I have absolutely no facility nor skill for understanding. I don’t experience anger nor frustration about what I have read. I used to when I would engage in this same activity a couple of months ago, but not now. I also don’t laugh sarcastically at what is being said and expressed. I don’t feel superior nor wiser. I don’t really feel anything. I just have this odd sensation that I simply do not really understand anything that is being expressed—that almost everything that is being expressed is something that simply no longer computes for me. I have the awareness that I used to hold the exact same beliefs as the ones I just read. Sometimes that feels somewhat odd. It no longer however, really makes any sense to me now.