Follow your gut

Oprah talks about her gut feelings.

Women are supposed to have intuition.

But then, we are also ‘over-emotional.’ We are prone to burst into tears at certain times.

So, the problem with ‘gut’ and intuition is that I don’t always know if I am over-reacting.

How do you learn to listen to your gut? My gut doesn’t speak too often. Usually, there is enough ‘there’ there to hear what is being said.

But this week my gut was speaking. I had an overwhelming sense that something was not right.

I was travelling. I often feel a little apprehensive. I don’t mind flying, but I often feel like I might have forgotten somethng.

The feeling persisted. I got to Atlanta, and I was tired. I thought, “Oh it must be jetlag.”

And it was that time of the month.

And it was humid…and this was wrong..and that other thing was not right…

By the end of the second day there, I was trying to analyze myself. Thinking, “What is wrong? What is wrong with me?”

I love travel. I love it. How could I suddenly not be loving this trip?
I love learning new things? How could I not be paying attention during a class?

What was wrong with me?

I tried doing things that usually comfort me. I had a hot bath. I had a book. I watched Law & Order. I called Chris and vented.

Yes, I ate chocolate.

Chris was incredible, as he usually is. I had devolved into “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Maybe I really do need to go to the doctor…or a chiropracter…I feel so tense! Something is wrong.”

“Yeah,” he said. “You’re really having a tough time. This isn’t like you.”

It took me the whole trip, a trip of several days…feeling very very uncomfortable…to realize that it wasn’t me. It wasn’t me!

It was OUTSIDE of me. The situation I was in was kind of complicated, but in the long run it became utterly clear that the whole trip my gut was screaming RED ALERT and I just couldn’t hear it.

I know now exactly what the problem is.

I hope I have learned how to better interpret gut-ese.

Perhaps I will remind Chris that that is one of the possibilities. He can help me remember by asking, “Is this a message from your gut?”

I don’t know that I could have fully realized what was wrong before I had finished my trip. I knew something was wrong. But maybe I could have realized that it wasn’t me. It would have been nice to know it wasn’t me spinning out of control, it was the situation.

downtown atlanta georgia

I am sitting in a hotel in Downtown Atlanta.

I’ve never been to Georgia before.

I’ve never been to the South before, since McLean, Virginia doesn’t really count.

This is supposed to be the time when it’s ‘nice’ around here. I am now aware of my zero tolerance of humidity.

I am also surprised that what I have seen so far is not historical at all. I would have thought there would be older buildings and things from over a hundred years ago. There are a few statues, which are interesting.

But not a lot of historicity.

The people are friendly, there does not seem to be any graffitti. But the humidity is a no go for me.

Jesus, Buddha, Cold Mountain, and the suffering and salvation of stories

There are times when thoughts come together like objects, and bump against each other. I want to share this thought-object group with you.

I am finishing Buddha by Karen Armstrong. It’s a book on CD.

And I just finished Cold Mountain by Charles frazier, read by the author.

First, I would like to say, both of these books were much easier to take as being read to me. I would have found the book about Buddha not such a page turner, but I did want to hear about the enlightened one, so having it ‘pushed’ at me suited.

And Cold Mountain…well…First, I have seen the movie, which was a good movie, but it was so sad.

But beggars can’t be choosers, when it comes to my little library and it’s collection of books on tape. I took it.

The book is a masterpiece. The recording of the author reading his book is a masterpiece. I have high standards for books, and this one exceeded my expectations dramatically.

Wow. And wow again. The words. His phrasing and timing. I didn’t know it was the author reading it until I sat down to write this post. I continually thought that the reader was perfect for the work, little did I know how perfect. Authors are not always the best ones to read their work, but this one was.

Now, it would have been an excellent read. I loved his writing.

But remember, I saw the movie. I knew the ending. The book, however, was so much richer than the movie. So very many things happened, and so many ponderances took place. It was a leisurely story.

I forgot about the ending, and was enjoying the journey. I was enjoying the way he said ‘of’ and the old-fashioned-to-the-point-of-ancient phrases he used. They seemed deeply rooted in the time.

But the end of the book got closer. And I couldn’t help remembering the end of the movie.

And I couldn’t help but hope it would end different. At times I hit stop. I couldn’t face that lilted voice telling me what happened next.

I cried sheets of tears fully through the last two cassettes. I remember thinking again that I was glad to be listening to the story. I wouldn’t have been able to read the words through my crying.

What a powerful story.

Next thought-object:

In Buddha Karen Armstrong had talked about Siddartha’s journey to enlightenment. Siddartha is Buddha’s pre-enlightened name, if you didn’t know. I didn’t know.

He was born Siddartha, and the Brahmin prophesied that he would achieve enlightenment. Either that or be the King of the Universe. Buddha’s Dad prefferred Siddartha to be King of the Universe rather than just a boring old enlightened one.

Siddartha, however, chose the path of enlightenment. And when I say “chose” I mean to say he leaned into it. He didn’t just meander along and WHOOPS–fall into enlightenment. He worked really hard at it, and sacrificed a lot to get it.

Ms. Armstrong said something that stuck with me about Buddha’s road to enlightenment:

Siddartha was totally and completely sure he would achieve it. He had no doubt, he had utter faith, that enlightenment was a destination that existed and he would get there.

She mused for a little bit about what might have happened if he had given up. No Buddhist monks, no marvelous Buddhist scripture, what a loss, she seemed to say. Buddha knew the end of his story: Enlightenment. It was just a matter keeping going until he got there.

Now, I am not Buddhist. I know very little about Buddhism, but from what I’ve learned, it does not quite appeal to me. It does not fit the world I see around me, and although I would be pleased to learn more about the philosophies of the Buddha, I am a Christian to my core.

It was interesting to hear that Buddha is not supposed to be a god. Literally, he’s “The guy who figured it out”–how to avoid suffering and pain. In his world view, and according to Buddhist thought, there are gods and he is not one of them. He is actually better than a god, because the gods need him to help THEM figure it out.

Now, that’s a mind-bender to a mono-theist like me. Whoa. It made me think about the nature of Christ.

Next thought-object:

So, Christ is God. And Christ is Man. That’s a mind-blower for anybody.

What knife could separate the God from the Man? According to orthodox philosophy, he totally God and totally Man. Which doesn’t answer anything at all, really.

Easter is coming up, you know. It’s Passion week for most of America. Passion, also known as suffering. Just the sort of thing that Buddha was trying to avoid.

Jesus did not avoid His suffering. In fact, He walked right into it. The whole story of the crucifixion is how He gunned for the cross.

Which part was doing that? The man part? I have always tended to think that it was the God part that gave Him the character to do it, but the man part was the body that they tortured.

But, comparing the story of Buddha to the story of Christ put it in a new light.

How confident was Jesus that everything would turn out okay? Did He ever wonder if He was nuts-a faltering of confidence? Did he have a little voice in His head saying, ” ‘Son of God’–give me a break! Who are you kidding?”

What was the nature of Christ’s faith? Buddha had faith in his story; he believed he would reach enlightenment.

Did Jesus have such faith? It is human to falter. In my experience, it is the nature of faith to include faltering. Part of the mustard seed that is faith includes the part that doesn’t quite believe. The part that doesn’t believe but does it anyway.

Was that how Jesus had faith?

While I was listening to the end of Cold Mountain, and crying and wishing-wishing-that it would end differently, I thought about suffering. All the suffering that Inman and Ada has been through, and the whole country suffered in the Civil War. All they had struggled and suffered for…why did the story have to end that way? I wanted so badly for it to end another way.

And I remembered Christ in the garden of Gethsemane. He suffered terror and dread, a suffering before the physical suffering. Sweating blood in his pain, he asked God the Father if there was another way for the story to end. He really wanted a different ending.

O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me

He knows what’s coming. He knows he’s going to be tortured and killed. But does he know the rest? Does he have confidence that He will be the saving of all mankind? What if He didn’t know? What if all He knew was that God said he had to suffer and die?

Suffering and dying is the state of all humans. Suffering and dying doesn’t require godhood. God could require me to sacrifice my life, and I can only hope I would do as he demands. It is possible that He would enable me to do it. It is certain, though, that if I died for some noble purpose it would not result in the redemtion of all creation.

In Jesus’s case, though, it did. My life doesn’t have the currency of Christ’s.

But that doesn’t mean He knew that. Perhaps He knew no more than I know. That the bigger story of suffering, pain and death is in God’s hands and He works it all to good.

Jesus suffered so much in His death. And every step along the way, He could have stopped it.

I think about that, and how much I wanted to stop the sad suffering end of Cold Mountain.

Jesus didn’t stop his end. Because He believed in the story. I don’t know how much He knew of the story. I don’t know how much _I_ know of the story. But in this case, in this story, I know it works out with perfect justice, symmetry and beauty. It’s the story that God is telling, and it’s a story about Him.

Me, and my experiences with suffering and beauty, is only a story inside the big story.

The story, not even a real story in the sense of historical fact, of Cold Mountain is an experience of suffering and beauty and justice because it lines up with the big story, the way the world works, the way God works.

God is the original storyteller. It makes me feel humble to put my spun stories inside of His.

Believe in the stories. That is saving faith.

More things I am reading

Okay…I finished reading In Cold Blood and also Other Rooms,Other Voices, both by Truman Capote

I am listening to Cold Mountain on cassette, and to Crazy Horse on CD. I forget who wrote Cold Mountain, but Larry McMurtry wrote Crazy Horse.

I am dissatisfied with all of the above except for CM.

I once had a friend who reminded me that I am happier when I am reading a good book. I am not doing very wll at finding good books.

I’m finding disturbing ones that make me more feel uneasy.


I am unable to go without a book. I hav to have one, basically. But I regret it, when I go too fast between them. If I leap from one to the next without spending time contemplating the one i have finished. I guess that’s one of the reasons why I like to write reviews of them here.

But sometimes they are very complicated, and I can’t get my head around it enough to write the review.

And too much time goe sby and I’m in the middle of another one.

But they can pile up. I should make a point of getting SOMETHING down about each book.

I’ll try to.

Reflections on the LA protest marches

On March 25, a huge number of people showed up in downtown Los Angeles to draw attention to illegal immigration. What sort of attention did they draw? The estimated half million people who were there paid attention. From the reports I heard, you couldn’t even move without paying close attention.

The gathering had been promoted by Spanish radio stations for weeks. Viva la Raza everywhere. I don’t understand Spanish, so I didn’t know about it until I spoke with my co-worker. Gus was born in Mexico and has a lot of family still there. His father applied for immigration to the US and legally brought his whole family to America when Gus was little.

Gus told me how the radio stations had been ramping up for this protest event for a long time. He’d just had to shut it off. It made me really mad. He remembered the work his father did to gain entrance to America. He told me how these protestors had one hand grabbing for instant American citizenship, and the other hand reaching to pull Aztlanlegally known as the state of California–back into Mexico.

That seems a little conflict of interest. But we could hardly expect otherwise, with that many people involved. It was a lot of people! In my mind. It was really a big story–a huge cultural event.

And it wasn’t just the Saturday protest. had been organizing a walkout for high-schoolers. The teenagers left school and went downtown to protest longer. Monday had a big crowd of kids holding signs. They had even blocked the 110 freeway with their March.

I heard the morning news the next day, exclaiming, “The kids were walking in the freeway! That’s so dangerous! Someone could get KILLED!”

I know that stretch of freeway. It is never free flowing, never. Those kids were never in danger, which is a good thing.

I wanted to hear what other people were saying, so I tuned into my radio stations to hear what the reports and opinions were. What a revelation! Here is the line-up:

KPCC [NPR]: a feature about the California condor
KCRW [NPR again]: a sampling of eclectic alternative music
Power 106 “Where Hip Hop Lives”: Destiny’s Child is getting their Star on the Walk of Fame
KISS fm [ugh…Ryan Seacrest]: Destiny’s Child is getting the Star! And King Kong DVD is out today
KBIG [80s, 90s and TODAY!]: King Kong is out on DVD
Latino 96.3 Reggeaton and Hip Hop: ~~Now this is where it gets interesting

The reggeaton station is a Spanglish station, and reggeaton is teenager music. Mostly the DJs speak English, and some Spanish. Usually they are repeating the same thing, once in Spanish and then again in English. It’s about 90% English, 10% Spanish.

But not Tuesday. It bumped up to about 60% English, 40% Spanish during the high school walkouts. They were talking about nothing else. They were taking calls from teenagers to ask about what they thought, and how they felt about the protests. It was from there that I first began to understand the role myspace played in organizing the protest. To hear the excited kids calling in on cell phones to talk about their opinions–it confirmed to me how important this event was to these kids. It probably was a life-changing experience for them.

But I wanted to hear more. I button punched to the other radio stations, thinking they must be taking calls too.

It was a deafening silence on the subject.

The only other radio station I found talking about it was KPFK, an NPR Pacifica station. They are fringe of the fringe, and I can always count on them to report on any given protest.

This is sort of my point in writing this. Our free and democratic society seems very willing to ignore the issue. What kind of all-men-are-created-equal institution can get up and say there are jobs that Americans are unwilling to do (presumably because they are distasteful–beneath them) but are willing to exploit non-Americans into doing?

Mainstream culture is humming with its fingers in its ears. The top radio stations don’t want to talk about it. Even NPR. Condors! There’s relevance for you.

This is a serious issue for our whole nation. This is not something only Spanish-speaking media outlets should be covering.

Those in positions of influence, our journalists and univerisity professors, should be listening and proposing solutions. The politicians and policy makers need to put their heads together and find a new way to come to terms with this situation. We need a way that is fair and respectful of the equality of all humans.

What’s happening right now is not working.

Book Review: Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

In this story, Orwell tells how he lives when he finds himself basically destitute. While in Paris, he runs low on money and then gets robbed, leading to a stretch of out-and-out poverty.

Since this misfortune starts in Paris, it is easier to accept. Why otherwise would a well-born Englishman end up dependent on the generosity of pawnbrokers to get food? As the story progressed, I could accept the plausibility of his dire straits only because he was in a foreign place. I’ve been in foreign places, and things are different there. I would accept discomforts and experiences that would have been unacceptable at home, because things are supposed to be strange when one is traveling.

Things got pretty strange for Orwell. He writes of how he has to fake solvency to keep his landlady from kicking him out.

He writes with both feet on the ground. The descriptions are utterly realistic–he gives exactly the sort of detail I would ask for if it were a friend of mine telling me their story over a drink. He gives exact numbers of how much things cost, and tells about the way he had to smuggle food into his room. He mourns that he must waste money on the more expensive bread, because the cheapest variety will not fit into his pocket for smuggling.

He does eventually find work as a dishwasher, which gives him enough sustenance to form the idea to ask for help from a London acquaintance. Alas, things don’t always work out as intended.

The characters that fill the Paris portion of the book are vividly drawn, including people living in the shadow of misfortunes of health and love. The cheap Paris boarding house included a share of impractical dilettantes as well. After he crosses the channel, the London characters enjoy the same brilliance of description.

While the Paris paupers have there own methods of getting by, the British differ substantially. It took the author some time to get the hang of homelessness in the UK. He describes the wandering life, going from homeless shelter to homeless shelter. In the contemporary term, they are formally known as casual houses or informally as spikes.

This is George Orwell, author of Animal Farm and 1984. There were some well-reasoned political thoughts regarding poverty. The book was published in 1933, which means the stories related must have happened during the Great Depression. There was a whole lot of poverty to ponder on at the time. A lot of people were beginning to think “whatever we’ve been doing, we should stop and do the opposite.” There was evidently a lot wrong with the world, in many people’s eyes.

So, Orwell took the opportunity to propose some new activities for homeless people. And he talked about he prejudice held in the hearts of most comfortably situated folks. He would have us realize that tramps are people, too.

This book was set about 70 years ago. When I picked it up, I wasn’t sure I would like it. I was utterly amazed by it. I don’t think I’ll forget it. Of course, I couldn’t help comparing it to Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich. I admit, I’ve only read portions of that book, but I know that it is hugely popular, even spawning a musical of itself.

I feel like Orwell happened upon his down-and-outness a little more honestly than Ehrenreich. She meant it to be an investigative journalistic experience, but Orwell just found himself poor and kept his eyes open to the experience. He was not ashamed of his life experiences. He published them and gave all of us a gift in the form of this book.

As a final word, I’d like to recommend the audio book that I experienced this book through. The reader did excellent reading of the many many accents of the characters in the book and made them vibrant.