3.28.2013

Gay Marriage: I Don't Get It.


(This post was originally run May, 2012. With the Supreme Court reviewing the topic of gay marriage this week I thought it was appropriate to repost.)

I consider myself a smart guy.

I actively seek understanding and knowledge, and to that end, I read (a lot). I ask a lot of questions. I talk to a lot of people. I watch videos. I listen to talks. I try to pay attention to as much around me as I possibly can. And I feel like I do a pretty fair job of accumulating data, parsing it and drawing at least somewhat educated conclusions about things.

But I have to come clean: There's one thing I just plain cannot understand, and that's why anyone gives a shit about gay people getting married.

Why is this a thing? Why does it matter? It makes NO sense to me whatsoever.

Two men or two women decide to tie the knot. What happens? Why are religious people and Republicans (usually one in the same) so up in arms about it?

To try to wrap my head around it, I've analyzed it step by step and see what effect it has on you (or anyone who isn't them).

1) They love each other. They have found another person on this planet -- a planet housing nearly 7 billion (that's 7,000,000,000) people -- that they not only get along with, that they not only feel emotions toward, that they not only share a bond with, but that they feel safe around and unified with. They love each other. Just like you love your spouse, fiancee, or significant other.
Who does this affect? Their friends, who are happy for them. Their family, who (we hope) support them.
Does this impact your daily life? No.
What should you do about it? Mind your own fucking business.

2) They exchange vows. They promise to love, honor, protect and support one another.
Who does this affect? The caterer, the event planner, the hosts, and the attendees.
Does this impact your daily life? No.
What should you do about it? Mind your own fucking business.

3) They hand each other rings. They place a band of metal (or string or what have you) on each others' hands as an external symbol that they are in a monogamous relationship with another person.
Who does this affect? The jeweler. They've made a little money.
Does this impact your daily life? Well, are you the jeweler? No? Then no.
What should you do about it? Mind your own fucking business.

4) They consummate the marriage. However they see fit.
Who does this affect? Unless they're particularly loud about it and you're in the next room, no one except them.
Does this impact your daily life? It shouldn't. If it does, you're overly concerned about the private lives of other people and seriously, seriously, SERIOUSLY need a hobby that isn't counting rosary.
What should you do about it? Mind your own fucking business.

5) They live together. They decorate their home. They watch television or listen to the radio or knit or play video games. They cook food. They eat. 
Who does this affect? Retail outlets in the community who benefit from increased domestic goods sales (because, let's face it, couples consume more than individuals in just about every regard).
Does this impact your daily life? If you work at a retail outlet where they shop, sure. 
What should you do about it? Mind your own fucking business.

6) They share benefits. House, insurance, 401k, cars. Just like a man and a woman would.
Who does this affect? No one that isn't already affected by the union of a man and a woman.
Does this impact your daily life? Are you impacted by marriage by a man and a woman in the same way? Then yes, and you should seek to abolish all marriage. Otherwise, no.
What should you do about it? Mind your own fucking business.

None of this computes for me. So I have tried to fall back on my early "churchgoing" life (which is code for "My parents dragged me somewhere I didn't want to be for two hours every Sunday, except when they didn't feel like going"). And in this attempt to understand based on past recollection and current explanation from my religious friends, it boils down to the following:

"The Bible says homosexuality is a sin. The Bible is the word of God. We are God's adherents. We must honor and respect the word of God. This means we stand against the union of people of the same gender."

I will share here a link to a fantastic resource which lists, with excruciating detail and research, the contradictions and fallacies in the Bible. The word of the almighty, the perfect, the all-knowing... Filled with contradictions. But ignore the actual facts for a minute.

These points are from a rather fantastic response to Dr. Laura, an openly Christian Orthodox Jewish (corrected, sorry) "therapist" with a nationally syndicated radio show who routinely quotes scripture to help callers with problems. They highlight quite a number of issues that "God's word" speaks against, and yet in our modern society, we've found ways around:


  • When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev. 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. How should I deal with this? 
  • I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as it suggests in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
  • I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev. 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
  • Lev. 25:44 states that I may buy slaves from the nations that are around us. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans but not Canadians. Can you clarify?
  • I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?
  • A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Lev. 10:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?
  • Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?



And here's Dan Savage's take on the matter, which I implore you, regardless of your religious beliefs, to watch -- if for no other reason than to take in data on the other side of the argument and actually have some information to form your points:





So yes, I don't get it. I don't get the hypocrisy, I don't get the insistence on putting your morals on other peoples' daily existence, I don't understand how beliefs -- which by nature belong solely to you and pertain only to whats in your mind, regardless of who else could relate to them -- can manifest themselves in actions against other people's lives WHICH DON'T IMPACT YOU WHATSOEVER.
I don't get it. Please, explain it to me. Give me a reason that doesn't start with "my beliefs" or "the Bible says" because neither of those things matter when it comes to the daily lives of people. Give me reasons. Give me plausible, fact-based logical reasons why homosexuals shouldn't be allowed to bond themselves in legal union and share their lives. 
Just one. I beg of you. Because of all the stupidity in the world, even the stuff I cannot relate to one bit, this is one thing I simply cannot get my head around. 

3.22.2013

Grace

(Note: this post was originally posted Sept, 2011. I'm reposting it because I want to.)

My favorite word is Grace.

It means so many wonderful things. It can mean forgiveness. It can mean beauty. It can mean goodwill. For those who believe in the divine, grace can also be the blessing of God. But there's an element to the word that strikes a chord within me; which makes me shudder and sometimes even cry at the sheer beauty of the meaning of the word. It also happens to be my favorite Jeff Buckley song.

Grace is a presence; an elegance. It's a manner of being which shines when the chips are down and life is its most difficult. It's the way you hold yourself and speak and act when you're no longer paying attention to how you're holding yourself, speaking and acting.

It shows up in sports all the time. It's actually the reason I love hockey so much -- when you watch a hockey game, you're watching athletes at their absolute prime, performing moves on ice that most people can't perform on dry ground, with a stick on a puck three inches in diameter, against equally skilled players doing the exact same thing. There are moments in every hockey game where I marvel at what the human body is capable of.

And when the game wears on and the body wears down, you begin seeing some real magic. The 3rd period in hockey. The fourth quarter in football. The moments where every practice and every drill for months on end become instinct and the body simply acts at the peak of its ability, and an athlete's grace is on display.

It also shows up in art, when the mind is no longer focused on mechanics and the beauty is allowed to flow. Painting, dancing, music... Art begins to show when the mind is turned off and the hours and weeks and months and years of practice and rudiments and exercises and sketches and writing begin showing their importance. The body becomes graceful and the soul begins to speak through instinct.

The same goes in life. When you're at your most exhausted is where the real magic shows up. When you've pulled your seventh all nighter in a week and you're now no longer thinking through code or presentation briefs or client requirements or the ghost of your art teacher explaining how you're doing everything wrong, and you let go and your instincts show up and take over.

Art is grace. Presence of mind is grace. Confidence is grace. Live your life with grace.

Grace is not mechanics. Grace is not perfection. Grace is actually imperfection; the human aspects of creation and existence made manifest in moments that show who you are, not who you have been. And we all know there is a gracefulness in painting and drawing and dancing and music, as well as in beautiful athletic endeavors and well prepared speeches.  But grace is also in our work and our speech and our actions day in and day out, and especially in the hidden moments where our lives are most strained. When you're tired and beaten and bruised and you're worn down, your character shows up and you show the world and yourself just what you're made of. And if you're a pessimist, you'll succumb to defeat. Hell, you'll welcome it. If you're lazy, you'll fall down fast. If you never explore and research, you won't have the presence of mind to come up with answers and solutions. You will be without grace, and you will receive none.

That which you do most, and most often, is what will show up when the cards are down and you're facing a fourth quarter situation in life. Live the rest of your life like you're practicing for that moment. Show up, do good work, think, read books, exercise that mind of yours. Work out and run and keep your body in shape. Speak with eloquence like the words you say matter. Keep your head up and look forward, never down. Walk with purpose. Love yourself.

Have Grace.

Because when the shit goes down and you're no longer capable of thinking about how to handle it all... You'll handle it.


3.20.2013

On Fucking Up

Look, you're going to fuck up. It is an absolute certainty. No one can avoid it.

No one is perfect. We are all human, humans are flawed, and that's what makes us all so very special: the mistakes. The mistakes contrast and highlight the great things that make up the best parts of who we are.

So embrace the mistakes. Know – not think, but know – that you are going to fuck something up somewhere at some point.

What matters most is what you do after you fuck up. Miles Davis said, "If you hit a wrong note, it's the next note that you play that determines if its's good or bad."

Step up. Take responsibility. Ask for forgiveness. Take action. Make it right (or, as right as it can be). Don't hide. Don't run. Own that shit.

The only thing worse than fucking up is running from it, and the only thing people love more than someone who never does the wrong thing, is someone who does the right thing. So do the right thing. Steer your ship into the storm, batten down the hatches, and cackle like a mad person as you embrace the suck of taking responsibility for your fuckup.

Or, you know, be a coward and run. I'm sure once you finally outrun your own shadow, you'll be very happy.


3.13.2013

Sometimes, I Write About Why I Write. This Is That.

Note: this post was originally written on Feb 22, 2012. I've recently been readdressing many aspects of my life and my work, and in digging through my writing, found this. I shared it with a dear friend and was motivated to share it again with you all. I hope it speaks to you and gives you some insight to why I have done and will do what I do.


*   *   *

This post is a bit of an experiment. So, I ask that you indulge me and do me a favor:

Play this song while you read this post. You'll want sound on, obviously. Pretty please?







You certainly don't have to. It's not required. But if you're playing it, thank you. It may seem corny. It is corny. I love this song. I've loved it since the first time I heard it. And the song honestly feels like putting your hand in someone else's. And because of that, I wanted to share it with you and use it as a soundtrack of sorts. It's what I want to do with this post, and I'm glad that you're willing to experiment with me. Because that's what this is, after all. One big, gigantic experiment. It has been since I started writing.

And lately, why I write has been a question on my mind. It's a question I feel I know the answer to, but it still comes up in my mind and in my heart.

Sometimes, I know exactly what I'm doing when I post something deep and introspective and heartfelt.  I know what I'm feeling is what you are feeling or have felt. I am talking directly to you. I want to tell you how alone you are not. I want you to know that there's this guy living on this planet, probably in your country, possibly in your state or city or even town, who has gone through what you are going through (or have gone through) and that you are not alone. We may not be friends. We may not even like each other. But you have company on this journey through life.

Sometimes, I just want to be crass. I want to get a reaction from people. I want to see them gasp or groan or pretend they're civil and above you when they know fully right and well they're just as human as I am, and were thinking the same thing I was. They just didn't have the guts to say it.

Sometimes, I want to explore emotion. I want to poke and prod at the things within me; within us all. I want to see how they react when tested. I want to know if the response is a social requirement or a true, honest feeling.

Sometimes, I have something in me I just need to share. I want to open my heart to the experience of being both understood and misunderstood; to discover who feels what I feel and who doesn't. I want to dig into the human experience and find out just how alike (or alone) I am.

Sometimes, I want to call bullshit on what I, you and everyone else knows is bullshit. I want to piss on the posers. I want to point at them and say "you're a fucking faker." I want to call them on their unyielding need for validation and attention and mock them for co-opting something special and interesting and great for their own vanity.

Sometimes, I am scared. I am so very scared. And I write about what scares me so that it's no longer just in my head. It's out there. It's on paper. It's on the blog. It's in front of thousands of people. Things aren't so scary when they're not just in your head. It's hard to fight a thought. It's easy to fight information. And writing it all down transforms it from thought to information. And that is liberating on so many levels.

Sometimes, I just hurt, and I need to bleed.

Sometimes, I feel so much joy from being alive and I want you to feel it, too. I want you to read the words I write and go "you know, Joe's right!" I want you to really FEEL every word I'm typing; to internalize it and study it and put it into your heart and your mind and do something with it. I want you to learn to work out. I want you to learn to fist fight. I want you to stand up for yourself. I want women to feel beautiful because they are beautiful, not because they match the images on magazine covers.

Sometimes, I want you to laugh. Nothing more. Just laugh.

Sometimes, all of these things I do... Well sometimes, they conflict. Sometimes, they're meant to conflict and contrast one another. Sometimes, it's just the fact that my mood changes. I may post a snide comment on some peoples' inherent need to put themselves on pedestals and be contrarian so they can feel superior, either morally or spiritually, to others. Sometimes I celebrate the life of a man I never met who took a picture of himself with his cat, and I talk about how much that moment touched me.

Sometimes I'm a hypocrite. Sometimes, I hate myself for being one, because above all things in the world, I hate hypocrites (well, maybe child abusers more than that).

But always, I am a human being. I am flawed and I am broken in places. In other places, I am pieced together and held firm with the glue of experience. But in all cases, I'm subject to the exact same mood swings and difference in opinions and varying needs to reflect on or express my feelings as you are.

When you write things down, they take on a certain sense of permanence. There's a log. You can't just scream and yell and vent and then expect people to forget it ever happened like you can when you're face to face, speaking to another person. When you confide in the world with your writing, you commit your sins in front of an entity with a permanent, flawless memory.

This isn't my curse. This is my choice. It's what I do. It's what I must do. Because above all else -- above the fear of being pointed out and laughed at, or called a loser, or called a pussy, or called a hypocrite -- I must hang out for the world to see the things I feel and think and know.

Because it might mean something to you. Because we're on this journey together. Because I know that the writers I admire and love and read every day, or every month, or once a year -- they're with me on this journey. They've been where I've been. They're my companions throughout this time I spend on this Earth. They let me know that I am human. I am flawed and I am broken in places. In other places, I  am pieced together and held firm with the glue of experience.

And it's okay. It's how it should be. That's why they write. That's why I write. It's my way of spiritually taking your hand into mine and saying "You can be brave, because I've been brave, and I know that if I can do it, anyone can do it." It's my way of teaching you how to do the things it took me so long to figure out; the things that once I figured them out made my life so much better.

Because we're all human. All of us.

And we're in this together. All of us.

Even if you don't want to be. Even if you are skeptical. Even if you've read everything I've written, and if you think that I'm full of shit. It's okay. I think I'm full of shit, too. And you know what? You are, too. We all are.

Welcome to life. Take my hand. We'll get through it together.

3.04.2013

Never Chase.

When you chase after someone, that means they're running. And just because you decided to chase them doesn't mean they're going to stop running. In fact, they usually speed up.

If you catch them, you may experience a moment's joy at the victory, but then you'll have to decide if winning them was worth the fatigue and exhaustion. If it's not, resentment instantly builds and the relationship equity is now in a hole that it's impossible to escape from.

Maybe it's fun. Maybe that's a fine reason to do it. And in that case, go nuts - just don't be surprised or hurt when the thrill of that chase is far more exhilarating than the victory.

To me, there's no upside. So don't chase.