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Baltimore Riots #blacklivesmatter

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Mr. Centrist will not be writing a blog on the recent unrest.  It’s not that I have no opinion or no feeling on the matter.  It is not that I am not outraged over the things others, often white, have said to castigate and dehumanize because I am.  It is simply that I feel that as a white person of means and privilege this is not my story to tell.  If you care at all, if you have a thirst for knowledge and insight about this situation, there have been literally thousands of thoughtful people providing insight that I could never hope to measure up to.  It’s not my story, It’s not my stage.  I will silently stand by my brothers and sisters as they tell their story and I urge you to listen.

A moment in the cafeteria

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In the cafeteria today it was loud and noisy.  Exactly as loud and as noisy as one would expect from a cafeteria. One kid, however, definitely stood out.  He was a small kid.  He was kneeling in his chair looking out over the crowd of children flowing in and out of the room and he was vocalizing at the top of his lungs.  He was hard to miss.  It sounded a little like barking.  Not imitative of a canine, but very loud, sharp vocalizations. I was subbing for another teacher and I was there, nominally, to maintain some sort of order. It was way over the top so I thought about shushing him. Buuut is a loud kid in a room that’s already loud and noisy really worth the fuss?  It’s a cafeteria not a library. As I gave the kid a second look, I saw he had a cochlear implant, so I let him be.  He seemed happy enough, so I don’t think he was in need of help or hurt or anything that would require a teacher’s attention.  Just by the look on his face it seemed like he was happy to see friends.  I’m also given to understand that this technology has difficulties in these exact situations so I have no idea what his perception might be, or how to communicate precisely with him if I tried, as in, “It’s ok to yell and shout so long as you do it a little bit quieter”.  I’m not sure that’d make a lot of sense for a fully hearing typical kid.  I wonder if the sounds he made made sense to him.  In his mind was he forming fully functional words and phrases.  Did he know he was barking?  Was this a quintessential moment of childhood where if you’re loud and happy it doesn’t necessarily have to make perfect sense? Perhaps a member more familiar with the deaf community can answer.  So, he wasn’t hurt. He wasn’t hurting anyone else, and one kid, even a much louder kid, in an already loud place didn’t seem like a huge deal.  Even without the implant I’d have probably let it slide. I am sooo not picky about these kinds of things.  But it did make me pensive about the how variable perception can be.  How even under the best of circumstances between (supposedly) reasonable adults, communication can be hard.  How we relate to each other, or sometimes not.  How isolating differences can make us (if his implant was off or nonfunctional for all I know his barking might have been the only thing he might have been able to hear) or how differences can bring us together and make us stronger.  Again, no point really, just kind of sharing a moment from my day.

From Christmas to Yule

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Christmas Holly

Merry Christmas to all!  I don’t think there are many people who genuinely resent my wish for happiness and community, however, all around the world there are people celebrating their own seasonal holidays that have little or nothing to do with Christmas. There are dozens if not hundreds of traditions near and far all packed tightly together thanks to the relative position of the tilt of Earth’s axis to the sun.  I want to contemplate this fact for a moment.  The seething mass of humanity has picked sometime between November and January to think about what is good in the world and about each other.  It’s not enough to cancel all the wars and oppression in the world, but it’s a wondrous notion worthy of contemplation.  It seems that given the hardness of people throughout much of the world so much of the time that taking even a day or a week to celebrate our commonality and good feelings can not go amiss.

It seems somehow terribly petty to limit this sentiment and joy to just Christians.  Are we so small that we can’t wish goodness on others?   Is there not enough goodness that we must horde it for ourselves?  I reject the notion that we can’t include other people, other religions, other traditions in the spirit of the season.  So happy holidays to everyone!  From the entirety of my soul I wish you well.  Even angry Christians, I wish you the best.

Yes, Christmas is undoubtedly of pagan origin.  The Christians brutally wiped out the pagans and appropriated their holidays to make assimilation of whoever was left easier.  The rise of Christian dominance in Europe and the Americas is a dark and miserable story.  Certainly not one that I want to think about today.  But I know that people are furious with the paganism of Christmas.  They want to reclaim their spirituality in some way.  But I have a better solution to fighting the ghosts of the past.  Celebrate the divine in humanity.  Do you think ancient druids did not love their children?  You think the cults, and the devotees of forgotten gods, didn’t bring home toys to their kids?  Husbands were passionately devoted to their wives.  Families worked hard, celebrated moments of joy, mourned their losses.  They built, laughed, loved, created, lost, mourned, looked to the future, complained about “kids these days” and how everything was going into a general state of decline, and how the new music styles were completely terrible.  Teenagers made awkward small talk and complained about how lame their parents were, and yes they celebrated what was good in their lives, expressed their hope for the future, and had a day of fun simply for the sake of fun.

Do I know this for certain?  absolutely.  I’m positive that humanity hasn’t changed that much in a few thousand years.  We even have scraps of ancient texts with “old man” complaints that haven’t changed substantially in two thousand years.  We criminalize the ancient past, we refuse the basic humanity of each other, and we obsess over our own grievances.

In the best of the Christian tradition, let it go.  Celebrate the fundamental qualities of christmas: Generosity and compassion.  Seize and share the joy in the world that is all too rare for so many people.  You can not serve the cause of evil by celebrating what is good in the world.  You will not limit or “waste” good cheer by wishing it on others or limiting your respect to merely those with Christian traditions.

I don’t see race

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I don’t see race. I don’t see your gender. I don’t see your age, or your family. I do not see your height, or your width. I do not see your shape, your hair, or your color or your eyes. I don’t see your education, your job, or potential. I don’t see your culture or community. I don’t see your neighborhood, your city, your state or your country. I don’t see your accomplishments or failures; your hope or fears. I don’t hear your accent or language. I do not hear your voice. Not your shouts; not your whispers; Not your dispassioned reason or your impassioned thunder.

I don’t see your beliefs, your religion, traditions, or symbols. I don’t see your churches, temples, mosques, or holy places. I don’t hear your stories, your fables, myths, old wives tales, or superstitions. I do not see your elders, prophets, and wise men. I don’t hear your singing, your chanting, or your poetry. I don’t see your dancing.

I don’t see your strengths. I don’t see your needs. I don’t see your struggles. What you have overcome and what you have left to do. I don’t see your heartache when tragedy befalls your brothers or sisters. I don’t hear your cries of anguish, your sorrow, your tears. I do not see your torn clothing and your sackcloth and ashes. I do not hear your prayers or pleas. I don’t hear your anger or frustration. I do not see beyond boxed illusions.

I don’t see your history. Your comings and goings. What you’ve been through. What you’ve taken and left behind. What your still going through, and will continue to go through. I do not see the mountains and valleys, the sun scorched deserts, the plains, or the jungles or the tundra. I don’t see the tapestry of your life. What makes you who you are and who you are not. I do not see you apart and a part of the aggregation of humanity. I don’t see the road you are on or the journey you must travel. That is not what I see. I don’t see race. I don’t see you.  If I can not see race, I can not see anything about you.  I am blind.  I see only myself reflected all around me.  Endless reflections as if looking across mirrors.  An army of me from every angle and I think myself wonderful.

What I vowed to my wife in public… sorta

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While looking for a pancake recipe I found the final version of my written vows.  I know for a fact that I was too emotional to really do them justice on our wedding.  Since, neither of us remember what the other said, we’ll just pretend the speech came out like this.

Vows Final.

I’ve spent the last 6 months thinking about what I would say at this moment.  I had a Shakespearean Hamlet thing going for a while about the nature of choices, but it didn’t really seem wedding appropriate.  I had a little thing about the socio-historical context of wedding vows, but that was boring even for me.  I had some cutsie romantic stuff for a while but I really hated that one.  I went to some basic promises but they were generally utilitarian in nature.  As in I promise to talk things out and negotiate major life decisions and so on.  Besides I’ve already made my promises to you.  After all, if my love and fidelity were in any kind of doubt we wouldn’t be here.  And most recently I had some very flattering and complementary things to say about you and why I loved you.  But then I realized that since the hooting of monkeys became human speech, all our best poets and philosophers have tried to describe the ineffable human experience without a a great deal of success.  This moment has thrown in sharp relief all those things that are ineffable, inexplicable, and indescribable in a very intimate and horribly public fashion (look at audience).  So here it is.  This is my promise.  I vow to explore with you the strange and wonderful moments of the human experience.  OF OUR experience.  All the moments great and small unique or banal.  That together we’ll explore the whole of creation.