11.27.16

the MOMA

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:10 am by Administrator

there are many things that i wanted to think through and process on this week off from work, but i got around to none of these things. it is part of my process now to understand the where and the when as pertains to my ruminations. the planning and deliberations cannot be forced without exacting a significant price. and so it happened that the proper opportunity never presented itself. it doesn’t really matter, in the end. productivity doesn’t really matter. advancement doesn’t matter. my ability to work hard and to produce something of value can never be questioned; i exhaust myself routinely for all purposes great and small. no, the matter at hand is the truth about what is best. and my heart tells me what is best. i tend to this thing, like a gardener with his soil, raising up a plant that he had no role in designing or conceiving. and so i am a slave to my preoccupations.

what has preoccupied me throughout this whole week is two things, both of which relate to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. it is a remarkable place by the way, and i was equally impressed by the building itself, the range of its permanent collection, and the boldness of its Bruce Conner exhibit.

in any case, i came to Hopper’s “Intermission” and found myself amused by the placard description of the painting, taken mostly from a quote from the Bay Area artist Robert Bechtle. there is a bit of tongue in cheek in Bechtle’s assessment of Hopper, in which he suggests that Hopper might have been a better painter if not for a certain lack of finesse; but then Bechtle concedes that this seeming “ineptness” is somehow essential to Hopper’s charm. it is on its face a very candid remark and one that does not take away from Hopper’s place among his peers. but when i left the museum and thought more about it, i found myself more and more aggrieved at the thought that the MOMA’s patrons might be impressed by the comment—impressed enough to be convinced that Edward Hopper’s unique style is in fact a result of his technical limitations. i was troubled enough to email the museum about this concern and to request a revision of the placard in my response to the museum survey. the rationale i offered was this: such a nuanced opinion of Hopper might be appropriate in a larger and more broadly representative exhibition of his works, but it is unnecessary and perhaps even inappropriate as a label for Hopper’s only painting in the MOMA collection. as such, it stands as an indictment rather than as a facet of perspective.

on the other hand, i found that the placard describing Rauschenberg’s “White Painting” was simply not nuanced enough. the “White Painting” is immediately challenging in so many ways; and to default to John Cage’s singular interpretation of the monochromatic white panels strikes me as either expedient or suspect. there is nothing straightforward about the work, either as a standalone statement about art or as part of a movement and meant to be understood in context. i think it is the great struggle of all curators of abstract art to balance the reputation of their collections against the sensibilities of their common visitors. Rauschenberg’s work deserves to be acknowledged for its boldness, nihilism, and inherent controversy; it requires a context above and beyond what is offered by the elegiacal words of an admiring peer. a little empathy is in order… perhaps: “Rauschenberg’s White Painting is on the one hand absolutely ridiculous; it is on the other hand a curious reflection of the artist and of the space and time within which this work was conceived. if it has purpose, it is in demanding a particular sensitivity from its viewer. one could argue that this piece demands struggle—the struggle to define, to situate, and ultimately to position oneself. it is an exorbitant demand; but Rauschenberg will have it no other way. others have tried to replicate what he sought to accomplish in the “White Painting”—and for whatever reason, they failed, while he, in the eyes of some, did succeed.”

11.26.16

41 (Seestrück, by Gerhard Richter)

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:48 am by Administrator

standing at a balcony overlooking the restless sea
i find myself with anxiety or with something else entirely
threatening to tip over into despair
and strangely i have forgotten
where it came from.

a thought comes to mind: that i need not know
where it began to know what it is.
like a crop of flowers shorn with suddenness,
while stems were pulled taut
for the sharp sweep of the blade.

for us, it’s petals and the smell of their decay
and for the flower it is a submission
and for the poets it is an exchange
between man and the dirt of the earth,
a sordid affair.

in truth, would it help to know?
do the unsettled feelings have roots in my world
or do the waves that reflect nothing of the sky
have no origin or cause, only force
ever spilling over into the tides?

i saw a painting by Richter of nature;
despite us, the ocean is utterly inhuman.
so often nowadays, a forgetting comes with the sadness
and thus it comes from nowhere and goes nowhere
but all the way through.

11.18.16

the 4, the leader, and the pain of giving

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:06 am by Administrator

what the 4 needs from others is… admiration.

i nearly turned down a promotion because i knew that the person i’d have to report to is a 4. i know 4s keenly well. i can spot them in a crowd; i can sense their presence. they have a basic awkwardness; they have a gnawing skepticism about people; they are exceedingly particular; and they have a sharp edge, an intensity that is grating and even offensive. sometimes, i pity the 4 even when i don’t even know who he is. frequently, i fear the 4 without giving her the benefit of the doubt. and all of this is because i was fathered by a 4, and indeed i am a 4 myself.

a 4 requires the admiration of others. it is a non-negotiable for him or her. if he is not admired, then he cannot feel valuable to others; and if she cannot feel valuable to others, then she has no place among them. but here is the great irony: no one knows better than the 4 that he is unworthy of admiration. a 4 is acutely and deeply aware of all of his shortcomings and weaknesses. he experiences those limitations not simply as an inconvenience but as an evil. thus, a 4 spends his entire life seeking an admiration that he knows he is deeply and pervasively unworthy of. and that is why the 4 is consigned to unhappiness, a hollowing, self-loathing kind of unhappiness.

because the 4 experiences the brutality of existence in this particular way, the 4 rarely gravitates to another 4. we intuitively understand the volatility and cruelty of our peers. we will instead gravitate toward people we find to be less self-aware or even primitive by comparison. we will surround ourselves with 1s, whom we find adorably structured and self-limiting; or with 2s, whom we find slavish and servile; or 5s whom we find cutely magical; or 6s whom we find endearingly robotic; or 7s whom we find naively adventuresome; or 9s whom we find incomprehensible for their lack of passions, opinions, or decisions. we’ll struggle with 3s, whom we find to be consummately fake, and we’ll be wary of 8s who are confrontational for arbitrary reasons. but most of all we’ll despise other 4s, who think of no one but themselves.

it can be a painful, awful, and lonely thing to be a 4. i sense their suffering, because it is my suffering. we are the poets, artists, and narcissists of the world. we are andy warhol and adolf hitler. the 4 lives in the loathing of self, and the only balm for this is the profound admiration of others.

what the 4 respects in others is… honesty.

what the 4 loathes above all in others is unctuous falsehood. this too is an irony, because the 4 loves admiration. there is that fine line between genuine admiration and flattery—and the 4 revolts against pandering and flattery of all kinds.

i have hated few people in my lifetime, but i once despised someone that was actually quite close to me. i despised her for being a fake. she said one thing but did another. she made a promise but betrayed that promise to be expedient. her interest was to be perceived positively and to meet the imminent needs of others around her. on the one hand, i could see that she sought to please those around her; but i could not forgive her for betraying herself in the process. this is something i have come to understand about myself, the 4: we do not believe in genuine selflessness, so we are suspicious of anyone who tries to be perceived as such. in the end, we most respect those who are candidly unashamed of their motivations, because we consider that to be the closest thing to real integrity.

i myself am a paradox in this regard. i sense the evil in others and therefore have no philosophical objection to deceiving them for self-gain; but when i am dishonest even in the smallest of statements, i feel extraordinarily bad about myself. there is no white lie for me, even when i believe that others in my life are not entitled to the truth.

what the 4 truly needs to experience for growth is… forgiveness.

4s don’t just need to receive forgiveness. they have to forgive others. and unlike people who are simply less sensitive, less aware, and less perceptive in general, 4s constantly experience things that they must forgive. they must forgive the person that did not greet them in the hallway; they must forgive the child who did not thank them for making breakfast; they must forgive the society that elected an abomination of a president; they must forgive a world that does not feed poor people. forgive, forgive, forgive. if a 4 does not learn to forgive as a daily or even hourly discipline, then resentment steadily builds, like crap in a clogged toilet. a 4 can transform from a stable person to a livid vengeful beast in a matter of moments. it takes more than self-control to contain the 4; ultimately it takes real forgiveness.

i’ve heard forgiveness described as a form of self-expiation; i think it was one of those facile and pseudo evidence-based TED talks. emotionally primitive people perhaps can define forgiveness in this way. 4s cannot practice forgiveness as a form of self-manipulation. for them, forgiveness has to result from genuine empathy and heartfelt redirection. a 4 is powerfully capable of empathy because of his emotional reach, but 4s frequently choose not to exercise this muscle because the idea of sympathizing with an object of rage often feels ungratifying. it is more immediately satisfying for a 4 to scapegoat someone than to honestly understand him. for instance, i find great satisfaction in the idea of spitting into donald trump’s face and then kicking him in the balls before rubbing his face in a mound of feces. yet, in the mere turn of a moment, i can recognize in a profound way that donald trump is simply no worse of a human being than myself—and that i gain nothing from demonizing him. empathy is always there, even in the midst of rage.

to grow, the 4 must favor empathy over emotional gratification. it is a discipline. it is what gives the 4 real power over his world.

—————————

leadership is very hard. i sat down with a senior leader at my company recently, and we were talking about a restructuring of the organization that will result in the firing of some people that i really like. it made me feel very weary. then this leader began talking about what it has been like for her to come home every day from work to take care of a sibling who is rapidly dying of a degenerative disease, and i broke out into sobbing right in front of her. the distress of firing people coupled with the idea of her ceaselessly difficult life evoked a sudden and irrepressible sorrow in the very seat of my soul, and i could not control myself. we cried together, and in the midst of all the emotion, i realized that this is what leadership does. it forces you to do difficult things, it burns you out, and then it forces you into a lonely retirement when you are used up and have nothing left. it is a thankless burden, and it leaves no one unscathed. i think of moses and king david, great leaders who died bitter men. God, the leader of leaders, wanted us to understand His awful burden.

i have no illusions now about what awaits me. when i am spent and can no longer be useful, i will fade quickly to irrelevance. my children will have their own lives and burdens and will be unable to attend to my needs. my stories will be old and boring. my breath will be rank and loathsome. just my presence will be a burden to those who are younger and more vital. no one will remember what i dreamed of or accomplished as a younger man. these realizations make me want to endear myself to my young children, but even now i recognize that their affection is nothing to be relied upon. in truth, we are born alone, and we die alone. family, relationship, and love—they’re ideas that bear us up as we move proudly and swiftly toward the oblivion of old age. in fact, to lead is to learn what it means to be left behind.

—————————

we have been looking for a church for the past few months, and i have not enjoyed being churchless. 4s love the ritual of church, and only now in this nomadic time have i recognized how much i have lost by leaving my spiritual community. i think that the one comforting thing about not being rooted at a church was that i didn’t have to pay tithes and offerings.

we ended up visiting a church last weekend that i liked a lot. in fact, it was a powerful worship experience for me. though it was our first sunday at the church, it felt totally right in so many ways. i turned to my wife next to me at one point and whispered to her that we were 4 months behind in tithes and that i wanted to give it all today. she seemed a bit surprised, perhaps because she doesn’t count things like i do, but she nodded and handed me her checkbook. i wrote out the fairly massive amount, dropped the check in the offertory bag, felt a sudden knife-like pain on my insides as i handed off the bag, and immediately knew that i’d done the right thing. the right thing always hurts. and for a frugal, relatively unfashionable person like myself, sacrificial giving is the way that i worship, because it hurts so much to give.

when i look back at my past, my most poignant and spiritual memories revolve around times when i lost something or gave it up. my car got broken into in baltimore and someone stole my backpack in the trunk—a backpack that contained the Bible my mother had given my father as a wedding gift, as well as the journal i had written in during the most difficult moments of my time in philadelphia. that was a difficult loss that i never forgot. later on, a friend of mine asked me for money when he was hard up for cash, and i didn’t know at the time that he was a drug addict and a pimp. he never paid me back; but worse still i knew that the money had done him no good. another time, i was in a fiercely emotional time of prayer with God while i was stopped at a light, and a homeless man came up and knocked on my window. i gave him twenty bucks, while tears were streaming down my face. i never give to panhandlers; and that’s why i’ll never forget that i gave to that man, for no good reason at all.

when i first started tithing more than twelve years ago, i thought a lot about what the church would do with my money. that’s the thing: i thought it was my money. my thoughts have evolved a lot in that regard, over the years. it’s kind of like elizabeth bishop’s poem; i just began to realize that losing stuff is how i stayed alive, spiritually speaking. losing stuff, having it stolen from me, or just giving it away is how i remembered time and time again that i don’t actually own anything. i don’t own my body; i don’t own money; i don’t own my children; i don’t own my rights or entitlements under the law. it’s a hard thing to know as an american in these times, but it’s my truth and i hold onto it tight. the truth is that i don’t own anything, and the tithe i give to God is what belongs to Him (along with everything i didn’t give Him). and when i give to the point that it hurts, i know that this pain is God’s arms encircling me as He tells me again, like He’s told me so often through the years, that i am His. i don’t belong to the world, or to my wife, or to my children, or to my society. i belong to Him. and so i give, and i keep giving, and i don’t deny myself the privilege of giving of myself, because i may be selfish the way only a 4 can be selfish, but i want so much to be close to God that i’ll give up my life and all the little things in it if it will buy me His favor.

on days like today, i know it in my bones. God has shown me favor. i don’t know why, and i don’t ask for the reasons. i bask in it because i know i have it, and as long as i have it, i’m going to enjoy it. no one can know better than i do how unworthy i am to receive that love, and that’s why when i worship the Lord, i give Him something that only i can. i’m a 4. i’m different. i suffer. i am loved

11.14.16

the work on the inside

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:34 pm by Administrator

on the one hand, it’s about the work on the inside—
my very first house was in hamden, a row home
from the faded decades, built by men come down
from the Appalachians. it was a relic
of creaking wood and brick walls,
begging for days of longing, and also labor.

a whole life can go by packing the divots,
tamping down and filling out the walls,
the sills, the frames, as if i could follow
the unbroken and innumerable lines all the way
to a point of clarity, the expression
of an elegance that endured the many seasons.

of the seasons, i am surprised mostly by the Fall.
its mists still catch me unaware, when i awaken.
i take on breath heavier than the usual air
and walk bent forward, head tilted to capture
the sound of last season’s leaves leavening the earth
that seems suddenly alive underfoot.

it makes me remember that for all that was painted,
hewn, and obsessed over with spackle and brush
while my fingers slid over wood, like memory over time,
i was not a part of the place. i was inside,
tracing my moments and their troubles over all its facets,
forgetting what it had been before the rumination.

in truth, to remember it is to feel the need for poetry,
to feel in a sharp twinge, like the swift glance over the shoulder
at all autumns and winters fallen behind to disappearing,
that for all the work done on the inside,
there was no changing what it is.
and it is plain now, years later, at least to me:

on the one hand, it’s all the edges and grooves
i smoothed out on the inside. and on the other,
it is a shambling house i cannot tell apart from the next.
they will never see the details i pored over,
and it doesn’t mean that it all didn’t matter—
only that the living happened where no one else could see.

11.10.16

understand–and empathize

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:55 pm by Administrator

as i struggle through these reactions, i remember that this is still the same country that voted obama into office in 2008. this is still the same country that legalized gay marriage. this is still a country in which religious freedom, equality under the law regardless of race or station, and the needs of the disabled and handicapped are respected. this is still the country i was born in and learned to love; it is the country that i call home. i may have moments of sharp disagreement with cohorts and communities of this country, but i still believe that there is no greater nation in the world, not only in the present but also throughout its history.

i am embarrassed that the highest representative of this country will now be a man who objectifies women, boasts about his sexual conquests, says openly cruel and prejudiced things about people of color, and celebrates his general ignorance about details relevant to the direction of this country. his history of incompetence as a businessman and his total lack of credible perspective on complex issues rankles me. throughout this country, people work hard to gain the experience and skills necessary to succeed in their work; Donald Trump ascended to this nation’s political office simply by being a bully and an ostentatious buffoon. it fills me with shame. it fills me with shame to no end.

but it would be untruthful of me to say that Trump’s victory does not attest to something of america’s enduring greatness. the fact that he, a political outsider not even fully supported by his own party, was able to overcome all obvious obstacles to his success is clear evidence of the fact that the White House is the people’s seat of power. regardless of whether or not he won the popular vote, Trump’s appeal proved to be pervasive, and his ability to capitalize on that and rise to power is proof that our political process works. i may despise the man—but i have to recognize that the institutions, laws, and principles that i honor are precisely what allowed the people of the United States to elect him to our nation’s highest public office. i do not like the result; but the democratic process of this country is alive and well, and i respect that.

it would also be untruthful of me to say that donald’s voters were exclusively racist white americans. i’m very sure that many racist white americans chose to vote for hillary clinton. racist asian-americans, black americans, latino americans, and native americans voted on both sides of this ticket. racism never has one clear candidate; it’s an egalitarian force in its ability to affect everyone regardless of color or creed and in its way of compelling all of us to constantly reevaluate why we bind together regardless of our differences in the pursuit of nationhood. i have to admit that donald’s constituents are probably not that much different from myself. they fear losing their jobs; they want change for the better; they are disturbed by all the violence in the world; they want their children to have better prospects than their own.

i sat down this morning during my first meeting of the day and decided to write down what i believe will be the positive and negative impacts of a donald trump presidency. i was surprised to see the number of positive developments that i hoped to give him credit for. when i finished the exercise, i realized that there is actually a very good chance that a donald trump presidency will not ruin this country or derail its journey. there is at least a decent chance that a donald trump term in office may improve life for many important segments of this nation. and i think that there is a legitimate and not inconsiderable chance that donald trump will exceed my own expectations of him—and earn my respect.

i do not write these things to apologize for what i’ve previously written. i have been deeply and thoroughly offended by trump’s behavior and statements during this campaign season. but just as i overcame my angry reaction to 9/11, and just as i persevered through the passage of Prop 8 in California in 2008, i believe that i will emerge from my disappointment with the 2016 election with something more than resignation. i will emerge a changed man. this is exciting to me. i want to believe that i can stay connected to this country and to many of its people, regardless of the sensibilities and biases that i have been groomed to embrace.

here is my list of the things i am anticipating from donald’s first term, categorized by my feelings about them:

Potentially good developments:

1. Collaborative leadership: Obama led by force of intellect and with the help of a closeted brain trust. he failed to inspire or engage anyone across the aisle and proved himself to be one of the most ineffective american politicians in recent history. Donald on the other hand has made it clear that he will delegate authority and lead through others. it is possible that the model of leadership he demonstrates will not be as egocentric, patriarchal, and confrontational as the persona he has previously projected; and surely the American people would benefit from seeing a new culture of collaborative leadership in Washington.

2. Engagement between D.C. and the blue-collar workers of America: Donald Trump has won the hearts of disenchanted middle-class workers across the country, who were crushed by the 2008 recession and have still not experienced the economic recovery enjoyed by stock-owners and the very wealthy. his message about domestic job creation and international trade has been vague and imprecise but clearly sufficient for that struggling segment of america. if Donald is able to leverage his opposition to the TPP and NAFTA in order to create jobs in industry and manufacturing, then he will have delivered something important to the American people—and in the process, he will have legitimized the White House in the eyes of the people.

3. Detente with the Russian Federation and China: Obama’s baffling loss of credibility with the other two superpowers of the world has not been good for the global economy or for the United States. i believe that americans are willing to look at the crimean secession/annexation as a matter of regional self-determination, and i also believe that americans are inclined to look at the Russians as our natural allies in the war against ISIS (and muslim fundamentalism in general). Trump offers immediate hope of better relations with Russia. his personal lack of interest in environmental issues and his general bias toward realpolitik makes me believe that he will also be uniquely able to reengage China as an economic and political partner. that partnership is sorely needed to address emerging issues with North Korea and the Philippines, and at some point one has to think that Americans are ready to move past sticking points like Tibetan independence, Chinese human rights, pollution, and the South China Sea.

4. Deescalation of American military commitments abroad: in tandem with #3 above, i believe that Donald will follow through with his campaign statements about reevaluating the U.S.’s participation in NATO and other regional security partnerships. while critics may decry the ramifications of isolationist policy, i’m very much aligned with a movement away from global policing—which is what obama seemed to advocate before the office changed him into a war-hawk.

5. Evolution of the GOP platform: Donald Trump’s Republicanism is not a moral conservatism, and his ascendancy promises that the GOP will evolve with its voter base. it’s about time that the GOP in America came to stand for something other than pro-life, anti-gay ideological stances. to me, this election stated fairly clearly that the people of the United States want their political parties to speak directly to their primary fears and anxieties—and right now those fears revolve around jobs, the economy, and our nation’s security. the GOP can and will evolve to address those issues, and the country needs the GOP to reinvent itself along these lines in order to maintain a legitimate two-party system over the long term.

6. Grass-Roots Political Activism: Best of all, a Donald Trump presidency is sure to galvanize political activism among people of color and the youth. a Clinton presidency might have lulled Gen X and Yers into ongoing complacency about the inevitability of political processes. a Donald Trump presidency on the other hand is an immediate red alert to all voters under the age of 35, who are generally more progressive than their parents. the effect of this stimulus could be pervasive and far-reaching into the future. i am hopeful that for the first time we may see true sociopolitical alignment develop between Latinos and Blacks.

Potentially Negative Developments:

1. Reform of public education: i do fear that Trump will de-fund public education. he is a known enemy of the common core, but more fundamentally he is a skeptic of many programs designed to engage and educate at-risk youth. it is true that we cannot continue to throw more money at failing school systems, and accountability around results is sorely needed. but decreasing federal support for public schooling might be an unfortunate measure, particularly given that social mobility and our economic future so hinge on the ability of our public schools to address disparities in educational outcomes.

2. The repeal of Obamacare: i will be the first to admit that i am not a fan of the ACA. while it has helped the very poor, it has been incredibly unfortunate for the middle-class, small business owners, health plans, and basically everyone who was not immediately impacted by Medi-Cal expansion. like bernie, i’ve argued that the failure of Obamacare is that it did not go far enough, whether in establishing a public option or forcing big pharma to control its prices. the simple repeal of Obamacare would be a spartan and ruinous measure that would hurt many people without necessarily controlling costs—the real priority for anyone interested in sustainable health care reform.

3. The environment: Trump has been fairly opposed to measures and partnerships designed to decrease carbon emissions. i was an admirer of obama’s firm stance on supporting green technologies and energy independence, and i am concerned that Trump will reverse some of those modest gains we have enjoyed.

4. Immigration policy: put simply, the wall, the ban on muslim immigration, and a forceful policy on deportation of “illegals” are unacceptable to me. while i believe that Congress and the VP will curb Trump’s commitment to these measures, he will be compelled to make good on some of his most ostentatious campaign promises around these issues. it would be a major setback to the cause of social justice in this country, and if he presses too hard on these issues, he will not only divide the nation but also assure himself of a failed first term in office.

understanding and empathy: the difference, the tension

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:23 am by Administrator

it was a very bad day today.

my first meeting of the day was a teleconference with about a dozen people. it appeared to be business as usual for the first half hour of the call until it was my turn to lead the discussion. i found myself nearly unable to initiate speech, stuttered out a few words, and then decided that i had to be candid. “i’m still struggling with what happened yesterday,” i said. “my focus is elsewhere, but i will try to be coherent.” it was like everyone stopped holding their breath. there was a collective groan from the group, and a few people offered sympathy. i struggled through the remainder of the call.

after that debacle of a call, i caught up with one of my senior team members, and we ended up commiserating for about half an hour over the election result. she speculated that this was all about the anger of middle-income uneducated white people, which of course sparked my latent anger against white people in general. but then i privately had to acknowledge to myself that the only Trump supporters i really know are my own parents—and they’re not white people. they’re immigrants and precisely the kind of people that Trump’s rhetoric should most antagonize. the bitterness of that irony flowed through me like a wave of pain, leaving me listless.

in the afternoon, i had a training session along with two other managers i know. i was in no shape to talk any further about the election, but as soon as pleasantries were out of the way, both of them began to talk about the difficult nights they had endured, watching the election results come in. one of them, a Taiwanese-American, told me that his son had cried about the election result and wanted the family to move to Canada. the other person, a Mexican-American woman, expressed her helplessness and shame. i was unable to focus on the training. randomly at various points i was overcome by anxiety about strange and tangential things. had i forgotten to email someone? was this or that person disappointed with me? am i forgetting to do something important? my life felt randomly and utterly out of control.

my day ended with another conference call. one of the guys on the first call of the day asked me how i was doing, and i answered that i was doing worse and may not be well for several days. after the call was over, a colleague who’d been on the teleconference emailed me personally. he thanked me for disclosing my feelings so openly on the call. as an american of middle eastern descent, he admitted to me that he now felt a sudden need to lose weight and get in shape to protect himself “from outside threats”. and he thanked me for being aligned with him in his profound disappointment with Trump’s victory. “it lessens the blow when you know you are part of a great team,” he wrote me, “no matter what the results at the end of the game”.

what i could not say in my last entry but am now fully capable of saying is this: i was made to fight and to resist men like Donald Trump. i was created to fear them, to hate them, and to agitate against them with everything in my being. there is nothing redeeming about the man or his ideas. he embodies the great evil at the heart of america: its pride, its selfishness, its entitlement, and its oppression of those in need. i believe that God has inflicted america with the presidency of Donald Trump to punish the United States for its corruption, its greed, and its idolatry. and the land will surely suffer for the terrible destruction that he will wreak upon us all. the embarrassment that we feel at his ascendancy is only the beginning; the cultural change that he will promote will be the undoing of all who fear God. that affliction will begin with the defenseless and the poor—refugees, undocumented Mexicans, and poor people of color. but it will extend to all of us who share this country with them.

there is a tension between understanding and empathy. i do understand the sentiments of those who voted for Trump. i will not condescend to them, despite their ignorance, racism, self-loathing, and pervasive wickedness. they will undoubtedly suffer for the cruelty that they have imposed upon us all. but i do not empathize with these people who put Donald Trump in power. i can understand them, but i will never love them. they will live to see the tragedy of what they have done; they will die and not be replaced by other like-minded fools. they will be despised by those who succeed them, they will be blamed for the suffering of the generations that follow, and they will be scorned by all throughout the world who mock us for the spectacle we have produced. there will be no redemption for these sons of satan. they will be wiped off the face of this world, like the devilish man who inspired them, and together they will be thrown into the lake of sulphur to endure eternal agony

11.09.16

the daemon

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:45 pm by Administrator

philip pullman’s “The Golden Compass” trilogy remains one of my favorite fantasy trilogies of all time. i read the books when i was twenty-six years old. it was an interesting time in my life. it was my fourth year of medical school, a relatively unstructured time that felt very much like the calm before the storm. i had plenty of time to contemplate the terror of my imminent residency training program. i also had a lot of time to contemplate the tragedy of 9/11, still fresh in my memory, and to ruminate on what i was doing with my life. i fell in love with progressive house music, art museums, and the city of philadelphia. i came to accept that my feeling of lostness was intrinsic to my experience of life. i determined that in a fundamental way, i might be nomadic for the rest of my years.

there were many aspects of pullman’s story universe that resonated with me: the alethiometer and the loss of it; the tyranny of organized religion; the dust and what connects man to his universe. but the idea i loved most was the idea of the daemon. in the universe of the golden compass, every human has a daemon—a projection of his or her essence, in the form of an animal. when one is young and still forming, his or her daemon can take a variety of forms; but as he advances into adolescence, the identity congeals. a single form predominates. it settles upon the form of a single creature, with all its singular tendencies and traits. and thus is the inevitability and immutability of one’s identity ultimately established.

i think that the Golden Compass was so compelling to me because it was paradigm shattering. it resonated with my growing unease with the Christian religion and enabled me to elaborate my resistance to its culture and tenets–a breakthrough that allowed me to give up magical faith and eventually rediscover relationship with God as a mutual compact. when it came to the idea of daemons, pullman’s story pressed me to consider my identity as something essential—not simply the aggregation of my history, my decisions, and my ideas but rather an irreducible and elemental thing. i began the work of defining who i am. that work continues to this day.

what transpired yesterday in the national election is something i am trying to understand within the context of my personal journey. there are so many ways i can react to it, i realize, and i’m bound to none of these reactions. like shifting forms and beings, my feelings come on strong, pass through me, mutate and evolve as they intersect with memories and ideas, and express themselves in sundry and unpredictable ways. my feelings transmute into other feelings. there is no single experience of history. for me, there are countless reactions, and in the face of those reactions, there are innumerable ways for me to define myself and thus be known, primarily to myself but also to others.

all of this might sound like rationalization, but it isn’t. truly, i don’t know where to begin. i did not anticipate that trump would win this election, so i’m beginning now that fundamental work of understanding how it came to pass, what it might mean, and how i feel about it. my mind faces it like trauma, and i can articulate why this is. i know that i have at points despised the man and his family. i have taken offense at many things he has said. i have felt anger and betrayal toward those who have supported him. and most of all, i have been unable to understand his success. throughout his life, he has projected shamelessness, chauvinism, narcissism, and elitism, and for these qualities he has been rewarded time and time again with success. i thought that at last his relentless journey of self-aggrandization would end, with great humiliation. i was wrong.

i am tempted to feel defeat, and i’m tempted to react to that defeat with bitterness and hostility. but i can choose to look at it much differently, and i’m acutely aware of this. i can choose to accept something that i previously recognized and even wrote about. donald has been beloved and embraced not because he is heroic and morally exemplary; he has ascended to power because he has connected deeply with the people of this country. he has demonstrated a powerful and personal understanding of their experiences and fears. that he has done this with imprecise argumentation and braggadocio is perhaps less relevant than i originally believed. americans in this country feel betrayed by obama and by the political establishment in general; they feel anxious about how the world is changing and how america’s place in it is evolving; and they want to see decisiveness and assertiveness imposed against the objects of their fear—terrorists, outsiders, extremists of all kinds.

it is possible for me to understand that. my daemon can turn on its head. it can morph its shape, retract its fangs, widen its eyes, grow wings over its arms. i sense in me the ability to pivot where i am and see it anew. no, there is no sympathy in me for the man and what he has demonstrated of himself. but i can see the real thing, the precious thing even, that connects him as a symbol to his followers and devotees. it is something more than racism and xenophobia; it is desperation, fear, and a loss of control. it is a resentment of intellectual men who say much and do little. i understand that. for sixteen years, i have shared that feeling, that sense of displacement, that anger at our government. for sixteen years, i have resented the actions and words of the presidents of the United States. so there is in me a latent sentiment yet unexplored until now: the longing for a human wrecking ball, to break apart the twisted logic of corrupt insiders and establishment politicians, and to infuse raw, angry, and even belligerent humanity into the process of government.

amidst my feelings, which harden and soften, rise and then fall, i recognize that i am not any one thing, not yet. i am still finding my place among people. and it is because of this that i can say that what happened last night is not necessarily any one thing i can define. it is a movement in the world, just as a nation is not a single place but rather a movement of people across time. if i try, i can perhaps understand where that movement came from and where it is going. my tears and distress are worthless now. what i must do is to seek to understand, so that i can recognize where it is that i stand, so that i might find my truth. these movements will go their ways regardless. the forces that govern our world are not for me to judge; they are simply the background, against which my daemon imprints its shadow and makes itself known