Issues 2016–April ( 2nd post: A response to HB2)

I believe in love. I believe that life is easier if we love one another.  

With all the bitterness and anger in North Carolina about House Bill 2 (HB2), a darkness has descended on my heart. I am appalled by the guile used by our General Assembly and Governor to accomplish this without advance notice of the bill’s consideration. I am astounded by the lack of shame on the part of those people who were elected to represent the majority’s wishes.

Most disturbing to me is the willingness to use this hateful action to hide attempts to take away the ability of local governments to reflect the wishes of their citizens, to keep wages low, and to allow discrimination based on religion, gender, sexual orientation, race, and other personal characteristics that is forbidden by the United States Constitution and subsequent legal precedents.

Creating a class of people who can be mistreated, whose needs can be ignored, is wrong. This is often the first step for dictators, megalomaniacs, and mad men.  The appeal of this to the most base of human behaviors is undeniable; it has proven an effective tool for creating division among people. Division is necessary to control large populations. This is a fundamental aspect of coup d’état and warfare.

Unfortunately, this sort of legalized, socially-approved discrimination has the support of many religious and political groups. But I know of few religious figures, past or present, who encourage their followers to play the role of deity. Most seem to require acceptance, compassion, and cooperation.  Judgment of one another isn’t conducive to any of those rules for a civil society.

People wanting to care for each other, wanting to live honestly rather than suppressing who they are, and wanting to be respected or shunned based on what Martin Luther King, Jr., referred to so eloquently as “the content of their character,” seem like honorable desires.  How many among us don’t wish for the same things?

Lion, lamb, and angel. Copyright, Melanie Arrowood Wilcox
Lion, lamb, and angel.
Copyright, Melanie Arrowood Wilcox

I wish we could show love to one another. Love is worthy. Love for each other as brothers and sisters is to be cherished. Love as lifelong companions is rare, so rare that few are able to sustain those relationships for more than a few years. If people want to try, who are we to stop them?

For those so cold-hearted that only money matters, I would point out that people who love one another usually take care of each other’s needs. On the ledgers of government, that means we don’t have to pay to support some who are ill, alone, aged, disabled, or simply poor. Encouraging love saves money.

I believe in love.  I believe that love can save us, individually and collectively. I have come to understand  that when love isn’t easy, we can use “act as if we love” to sustain us until it is less troublesome.  It may be difficult to love the cranky two-year-old, the distant and rebellious teenager, the workaholic spouse, or the neighbor who looks different from us and behaves in ways we don’t comprehend.

If we believe in love, we must act as if we do even when it is difficult. That doesn’t mean we have to lie about our confusion or distrust. It does mean we must try to show the acceptance, compassion, and cooperation that civility requires of us.

I believe in love.

I hope you do too.

Shared Wisdom–April 2016

Copyright, Melanie Arrowood Wilcox
Copyright, Melanie Arrowood Wilcox

The depth of darkness to which you can descend and still live is an exact measure of the height to which you can aspire to reach.

–Pliny the Elder

All great artists draw from the same resource: the human heart, which tells us that we are all more alike than we are unalike.

–Maya Angelou

Issues 2016–April

MASS TRANSIT, OR HOW WE GET FROM HERE TO THERE AND BACK AGAIN

The elections have me thinking about what could be done to actually improve life for the majority of people. There are many big issues that I will probably discuss here in the next few months.

Today, though, I will talk about a big issue that isn’t on a scale to get into many of the political party platforms.

I think improving mass transit options would help us advance on many fronts.

Mass transit enhances lives by providing transportation to necessary services and opportunities. It puts more time into each person’s day to be spent with family or at work or school.

 

  1. It lets people who cannot drive or cannot afford vehicles seek employment and get to work.

Additionally, it provides access to medical care unavailable in smaller communities. It lets people take advantage of educational opportunities, including libraries and on-site training.

To some extent, it addresses issues such as food deserts, exercise and play opportunities, and child care.

Alternative transportation, such as trolleys or trams that carry a couple of people or up to three dozen individuals, could be sent into rural areas where larger buses and trains do not provide service. These would be especially useful to permit disabled or elderly people to remain in their homes.

  1. It frees up time for people who so often are tempted to use cell phones to text and talk while driving. This could reduce accidents due to distracted driving. For that matter, it might reduce accidents caused by driver impairment or excessive speed.
  2. It could reduce the number of vehicles on the road, including older ones that tend to do more environmental damage. This could reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
  3. It reduces the cost of maintenance of the highways needed to handle large traffic volume. The cost of maintenance would be more predictable and, most likely, somewhat lower.
  4. This would also be a good time to incorporate solar highway technology, such as that used in Europe, into road construction. Street lights could also make better use of solar technology, as could any parking structures and buildings. Green building techniques, incorporating small gardens or break areas, could also be included in the designs.
  5. It would initially create jobs constructing new infrastructure such as regional hubs for trains and buses and subways. These hubs would need parking areas for the vehicles of those using the mass transit options. Shelters for those waiting for buses or trains would also be needed.
  6. Parking lot security guards and attendants would be required 24/7/365 to keep vehicles and people safe and to provide access to vehicles when people return from their journeys. These would be permanent positions.

In addition to mass transit, we need to encourage healthy alternative personal transport. To that end, I strongly support other changes.

  1. New rural and suburban roads should all have bike and pedestrian lanes as well as places to store bicycles while at one’s destination. Existing roads should be brought to these standards over time, not to exceed ten years.
  2. Urban streets should all have bike lanes and sidewalks as well as bicycle storage facilities.
  3. Training for riding bicycles lawfully and safely should be part of early childhood education. This would fit with most physical education programs.

Issues 2016–March

I hate election season.

Mostly I hate that there is no ‘season’ about elections. There used to be. Mostly it was limited to the last year of the presidential election, with a few months around mid-terms.

Now, there is not a non-election season or year. Campaigning occurs year-round. Nothing gets done because politicians are always fundraising or promoting their superiority over their potential opponents. They draw lines in the sand and dare each other to cross them. I seriously doubt most of them have ever stopped to think about what they are suggesting. If their family lives are anything like their political strategies, I suggest they look for a family therapist or a family law attorney post-haste.

The rest of us, the ‘citizens,’ get emails daily from parties and causes. Mostly it is one or two a day building to a crescendo in the last year before the election.

I had 81 emails this morning, all to be instantly deleted because they were from politicians wanting my money. Hello, out there. I have no money because you folks aren’t doing your jobs. The nation needs to look forward and show concern for its citizens. You are focused on the past and deciding who is good enough, or perhaps rich enough, to deserve your concern. I would derive some unseemly, yes, but honest joy if I could see most of you fired for incompetence.

The handful of emails that really are interesting or important almost disappear in the flood.

I may have to get off email altogether for at least a few days each week for the sake of my sanity.

"Toothless" under the dash 2015 Copyright Melanie Arrowood Wilcox
“Toothless” under the dash
2015
Copyright Melanie Arrowood Wilcox

Science 2016–January: Ancestry, DNA, and Truth-telling

I have always wanted to find out whether the stories passed down by my elders were true. After all, each telling of a story involves subtle and not-so-subtle changes reflecting the teller’s point of view.

My father’s people were Cherokee, according to the stories I was told by  his parents and siblings. He certainly resembled a lot of the images in historical photographs in the North Carolina State Archives. The family photographs would fit nicely in that collection. There are lovely cultural tales and knowledge that I cherish. I don’t think I would value them less if they weren’t “authentic” since, for me, they are authentically mine. My grandparents moved to Tucapaw, South Carolina, to avoid the forced marches to Oklahoma. A few relatives stayed in the blue hills of North Carolina and Tennessee.

My mother’s background was more a blend: Irish (both green and orange), German, and some English in there too. Again I must wonder if all the stories are true. They immigrated to the Blue Ridge Mountains during the Irish famines, I think. My mother was a genealogy buff and even wrote a family history. Those stories and the information they share are treasures, too. I remember the tales of my Catholic great grandmother. Heaven knows, there are plenty of gingers and auburn-haired folks in my mother’s side of my birth family.

I believe I will have a DNA analysis this year. From what my friends have shared, I understand that one gets regional analyses rather than specific countries. That makes sense when you consider that country borders are fluid, human-created fantasies. I believe some companies will sort maternal and paternal lineage.

Some DNA analysis companies will share your information so you can find people who share your profile and might, just maybe, be related. Honestly, I don’t know how I feel about that. I am not at all certain my “potential” relatives would want to think I was in their family tree, either.

Will I be disappointed if I find that my families did not know their ancestry accurately and passed the misinformation along to me? I doubt it. The stories are stories of real people and there is much evidence to support them. I have talked with many relatives on both sides who have anecdotal supporting information. There are birth and death certificates. Did my grandmother live in a house built into a mountainside with goats running over the tin roof? Most likely. That isn’t affected by her DNA.

As for where my ancestors were from, I will be interested regardless of where they were born.

Japanese Maple Copyright Melanie Arrowood Wilcox
Japanese Maple
Copyright Melanie Arrowood Wilcox

 

Spirit 2016–January : Wabi Sabi and Kintsugi

During my year of intentional focus, 2015, I was drawn to minimalist approaches in writing and visual arts, my areas of creative exploration for the last several years.  These approaches reflect my life during this period. Forced to downsize and find strength in the broken parts of my life, I peeled away the outer layers and discovered the dark, sweet seeds inside my heart.

The effect was profound. The losses had hurt so deeply and yet I was free. I could pursue whatever I wanted; no one was there to judge because the judges, including my former self, didn’t exist in my new world. The pain was still there, and I indulged my longing to swim in it often. Always the surface was there for me to find, and each time I tasted the air again I found freedom. It was rejuvenating.

This sense of brokenness and loneliness is at the core of wabi sabi, an ancient Japanese and Chinese concept rooted in Zen Buddhism. The links below may be helpful starts if you want to explore the ideas on your own.

Kintsugi is a Japanese art form that uses precious metals to repair broken things, especially jewelry and pottery. In essence, it is making the broken places stronger and the final product more beautiful. For those healing from trauma, the objects are powerful symbols of hope.

Wabi Sabi

http://www.utne.com/mind-and-body/wabi-sabi.aspx?PageId=2#ArticleContent

(from Natural Home)

“Wabi-sabi reminds us that we are all transient beings on this planet—that our bodies, as well as the material world around us, are in the process of returning to dust. Nature’s cycles of growth, decay, and erosion are embodied in frayed edges, rust, liver spots. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace both the glory and the melancholy found in these marks of passing time.”

http://www.wholeliving.com/133628/wabi-sabi-your-life-6-strategies-embracing-imperfection

“In the world according to Zen, words only hinder true enlightenment; reducing wabi sabi to mere language seems like sacrilege to its spirit. But loosely translated, “wabi” is simplicity, whether elegant or rustic; “sabi” means the beauty of age and wear.”

http://www.touchingstone.com/Wabi_Sabi.html

“Poems like these evoke a deeply personal aesthetic consciousness, a bittersweet mix of loneliness and serenity, a sense of dejection buoyed by freedom from material hindrance. This is what wabi sabi feels like. And one can only experience it by turning the focus from outer appearance to look within. No wonder the Japanese struggle to explain wabi sabi; they try to tell how it feels, not just how it looks!”

Kintsugi

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/02/AR2009030202723.html

“Because the repairs are done with such immaculate craft, and in precious metal, it’s hard to read them as a record of violence and damage. Instead, they take on the look of a deliberate incursion of radically free abstraction into an object that was made according to an utterly different system. It’s like a tiny moment of free jazz played during a fugue by Bach.”

http://www.dajf.org.uk/event/kintsugi-the-art-of-broken-pieces

“The moment in time when something has been shattered is permanently captured by the painstaking labours of a craftsman in building up the layers of lacquer to repair a piece. It is this reference to the now that recalls mushin, a lack of attachment to anything, but rather being present in the moment, something constantly available to all, but particularly so when we drop a piece of china.”

http://www.mindfulcounselinggr.com/kintsugi-celebrating-the-story-behind-the-brokenness/

“For me, counseling very closely resembles Kintsugi. As we spend time sitting with and examining the broken pieces of our lives we gain understanding, which allows us to produce the tools and the eye catching resin needed to restore ourselves to wholeness.”

Shared Wisdom–January 2016

An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.

–Mahatma Gandhi

A black cat crossing your path signifies that the animal is going somewhere.

Groucho Marx
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Totem on Gravestone Pine Hill Cemetery; Burlington, NC Copyright Melanie Arrowood Wilcox
Totem on Gravestone
Pine Hill Cemetery;
Burlington, NC
Copyright Melanie Arrowood Wilcox
I have been thinking about how our perceptions are affected by our preconceptions. I grew up in the South, a white female, not wealthy by any standard one uses to define such things. I graduated from a top public university. These affect how I interpret social issues.
Trying to see our society from viewpoints other than my own requires much putting-aside of my own experience.