Grandfather Tree

Now having come to understand that we are all spiritual beings who have chosen to temporarily live a physical existence on this planet, certain musings are inevitable, and shared here.

Monday, December 26, 2005


I tend to get very tired of the “all or nothing” mentality that seems to be pervasive in the culture these days. It may have to do with the ways in which polarity is on its way out, and consequently it is pushing the limits to be seen at the edges. But at any rate, there was an AP piece that came out on December 16, 2005. The title in our local paper of the piece was “Call your nurse ‘sweetie’? That’s sexual harassment.” The article sites a 1982 study reported by the American Nurses Association that 60 percent of the nurses surveyed report being sexually harassed at work. It is not clear to me why they are reported a 22 year old study.

Not to pick only on nurses, I found an article in Social Work: A Journal of the National Association of Social Workers October 2005 (Volume 50, Number 4), entitled “Conflict in the Workplace: Social Workers as Victims and Perpetrators” (pp. 305-315). This article reports a survey of national sample of social workers who were asked about their experiences of workplace violence: being either a perpetrator or a victim of physical or psychological violence. 62% report being a victim of psychological violence and 11.9% perpetrators of the same. (Physical violence 14.7 victim and 4% perpetrator) What does this mean? Well, let’s look at the definitions of psychological violence. They include, among more serious offenses, “stomped away during disagreement,” “insulted or swore,” and for some reason “called fat or ugly” is a separate category (I guess that is a more severe form of insult than other kinds?).

I am wondering how 38% of social workers avoided even one incident in their entire career of someone either insulting them or stomping away during a disagreement. Were these folks involved in difficult human change work? Life is messy and complicated sometimes and emotional stuff will come up if people are moving through difficult times. If stomping away is a form of psychological violence, then parents of teenagers have got to be the sorriest victims around.

Please. Give me a break.

When we define violence in this way, we minimize and trivialize the very awful experiences of psychological torture that some folks go through on a daily basis. I am thinking of women who are involved in relationships with abusive men who literally try to drive them crazy, who have set themselves up as an authority of their identities and who routinely do violent damage to that identity. We trivialize the children who are routinely ridiculed by parents who know little of the notion of nurturance. We trivialize our young men and women’s experience in basic training where their sense of self is routinely and systematically assaulted and abused so that they will learn to not trust themselves and instead follow orders. We trivialize the experience of human beings who are incarcerated without having charges being filed against them, with no contact to the outside world, and then are tortured, whether by U.S. soldiers, or thugs of other governments.

We need to make distinctions. We need to discriminate between that which can be sloughed off and that which ought to be considered kind of bad and that which is truly awful. If a social worker has to go into someone's home and crticize parents for abusing their children and the young mother addicted to meth-amphetamines gets angry and stomps away, that social worker is not a victim of psychological violence. When Mabel who serves me coffee at the local diner calls me sweetie, she is not guilty of sexual harassment. Nor is the 90 year old man who is hospitalized after a stroke and calls his nurse sweetie. Have we forgotten how to think critically? Is common sense completely absent from current culture?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Belief and/or Practice

I have been thinking a lot about the issue of belief and practice since reading Hafidha’s recent blog: Three Days of Jesus and the Word "God" especially her last question: “If one day I should believe in God again, what would change?”

I really think that we in the West are obsessed by belief. We are so interested in what people believe, and specifically whether they believe in God. My partner is a Tibetan Buddhist and people say things like, “Well they believe in God don’t they?” or “Do they believe in Jesus?” I am by no means that knowledgeable about Hinduism but it is my understanding that “what do you believe?” would not be the first question a Hindi would ask, but it would be something like “What is your practice?” Certainly this would be true of Buddhism.

For some reason I do not hear Christians asking “What is your practice?” Why is that? Is it because one doesn’t have to have a practice in order to be a Christian? I do not hear this question from Unitarian Universalists either. Why is that? I suspect that we are a bit afraid to challenge each other spiritually, and this question perhaps has a bit of an edge to it in our culture. Why is that? Perhaps because the question assumes that one has a practice, and perhaps some of us are lazy?

I am going to start sharing my practices on this blog, and I invite others to do so as well. I am really leaning toward the notion that belief is mostly irrelevant but practice is vital, essential, relevant.

So here is my start:

Since my birthday November 27, I have been practicing patience. This is not a foreign practice to me, as I have been playing with it for much of my adult life. However, I am now applying it specifically to myself, leaning to be patient with myself. One of my big, big issues is time, and I tend to always have more on my plate than I can possibly accomplish. Part of that is being a parent of four children, and juggling a lot of work hours. So I am specifically practicing patience with my time schedule. I will do stuff little by little and if it doesn’t get done today, I will praise my efforts and give myself permission to relax and meditate anyway.