It's not enough to change our patterns as individual consumers. Even if we do it in a group as a local faith community!

No, we need structural change. Restructuring. Perestroika.

Let's start by not measuring growth as simply the sum total of all transactions. What if a transaction results in harm -- pollution, litter, atmospheric carbon loading, human carbo loading, bullets in a torso, depleted uranium in a village, mines in Laos -- you know -- harm!

Then why measure that transaction as "Gross National Product" without assessing the cost of the harm that results? Why, because then we can measure the cleanup transaction as yet more growth!

This is actually well-trodden ground. Over a decade ago, Redefining Progress in San Francisco developed the "Genuine Progress Indicator" to track the economy in just this way. (The GDP, for example, "treats the depletion of natural capital as income.")

I just wanted to rant about this. Especially after reading Susanne Kromberg's piece on "50 Million Christians Protesting in the Street" and posting it to QuakerQuaker.

The point I want to make here is that even by some seemingly small shifts in the bureaucratic system, such as how we measure "growth" in the United States, we could make a big impact on people's understanding of the real state of the nation.

Even as I need to develop my compassion muscle and work on internal peace and redemption -- turning away from behaviors that harm -- I need to engage the Powers That Be in the task of their redemption, so that they may serve humanity and the rest of the world rather than destroy it. See Walter Wink's work for more on the redemption of the powers!



I bought my first digital camera a week ago, with gift money from my birthday. Our regular film camera quit about six months or so ago, and we'd been making do with the $11 plastic one from Walgreens. (Some other time maybe I'll write about how long it took me to get a CD player; after all, I still have all those great LPs!)

Granite!I got the camera because of the trip I took to New Jersey to visit my mother. While there, I went every day to a local park. The fall foliage there was gorgeous, particularly along the route of a power line. I saw bluebirds, red-tailed hawks, turkey vultures, a cardinal, yellow-shafted flicker, woodpeckers, and more.

There was a little stream running across the clearing, which had the classic red-brown tannin-stained water of the Pine Barrens. Reflected in the water, the leaves and berries stood out against the blue sky and white cloud streaks. I stood so my shadow placed a band of darker contrast against the brilliance of the rest of the scene.

At that moment, I so wanted a capable camera. So, a few weeks later and thousands of miles later, I got one.

Quakerism resting on a bed of sameI spent a little time today snapping artsy photos of walls and granite surfaces around our home. To my surprise, a theme emerged, which I've put on Flickr. I suppose it's absurd to publish one's first attempt at theological art. So be it. Lord, forgive me, a sinner and a publican.


What I learned this weekend

Compassion is a muscle.

You need to use it. You need to exercise it often, so it can grow big and strong.

When your compassion is big and strong, it can come through clearly. Unobstructed.

This is what I learned this weekend from John Calvi, Quaker healer and teacher. He was leading a workshop called "Abandon All Weariness..." at Ben Lomond Quaker Center. Our Friend Blake was there from SF Meeting also. I see from John's website that Blake designed it!

To minimize time away from my family, I didn't drive down to Quaker Center on Friday night until after the boys went to bed, so I missed the introductory session. This way, I was there on Saturday in time for breakfast. Then I drove home Saturday evening around 9:30. Given that it was a full day of massage, walking, and socializing, ending with an evening of face and foot massage, it was a challenge to rev up to the driving task. I made it safely.

It was worth it, though. Around 7:00 this morning, Five Year Old appeared at our bedside, and he patted my shoulder and said happily, "Daddyyyy!" I was really glad to be back right then.

Anyway, that's the tangent. The main point: Compassion is a muscle. Use it often, and exercise it, so it will grow big and strong.

Clear. Unobstructed.


Psychosis TV

When I was in New Jersey, I spent much of the day with my mother at the facility where she was staying, then went to her house for the evening. When I got to the house, I was usually pretty beat. Next I would call my siblings, wife, and the occasional aunt or cousin to update them on the situation. After that, I was pretty energized again.

So I turned on the TV. I have been TV-free in my home since leaving my senior year in college (1987-88), except for one year of living in a group house with the Fourth World Movement.

On my Facebook page, I claim my favorite TV program is a book: Four Reasons for the Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander.

You see, I am a TV addict. When given the opportunity, I sit there mindlessly changing channels, hoping for something better to come on. So, I avoid the problem by not having one of the devices at home. Admittedly, our computer will play DVDs, and so we rent one or borrow one from the library a few times a year. But that's it, except for when we visit either grandma's house.

So, while in NJ, I stayed up too late every night watching TV. I also watched TV with my mom in her room, because it gave her something to focus on outside of her own illness and pain. So I got to see a LOT of TV. Waaay more than I've seen in a long time, even when visiting various relatives.

Sure, there were several good shows. I got to see the Daily Show and the Colbert Report for the first time. (Seriously!) A review of Carol Burnett's career. The Wizard of Oz. And I saw a new episode of South Park, a show I've seen just a couple of times before. It was really rather funny, about the kids nearly achieving "Guitar Hero" video game stardom ("Real guitars are for OLD people!" -- Cartman).

What really struck me from watching all the other shows that I will not admit to watching is how utterly psychotic so many of the people in them are. Psychosis TV as opposed to Psychic TV (semi-legendary music/video outfit).

Here's part of the definition of "psychotic" from wikipedia:

Psychosis is a generic psychiatric term for a mental state often described as involving a "loss of contact with reality". ... People experiencing a psychotic episode ... may exhibit personality changes and disorganized thinking. This is often accompanied by lack of insight into the unusual or bizarre nature of their behaviour, as well as difficulty with social interaction and impairment in carrying out the activities of daily living.

Yes, that sums up my recent experience of TV. Incidentally, if it wasn't for numerous people in my meeting as well as a few kind bloggers praying for me, I probably wouldn't have lasted the week. I know I wasn't doing much praying. I felt pretty distant spiritually... except for doing my filial duty... and one daily practice of walking that I hope to write about.



On my trip back to NJ, I also bought The Last Week by John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg, which I loved; and Home to Harmony, the first Harmony novel by Quaker pastor Philip Gulley. I also loved that, in a different way.

Here is my favorite line from Home to Harmony:

The front page [of the newsletter from "Quaker headquarters"] was the superintendent's letter. He believes in the power of words, that we are one newsletter article away from vitality.

Or maybe we are just one good blog post away! :)

A Living Faith -- in 1990 and 2007

Okay, so I survived Housing Leadership Day VI (230 people registered, we counted 211 noses, definitely our biggest turnout yet). I flew to New Jersey a week later. My mom was transferred out of the hospital a few hours after I got there. I spent nine or ten hours a day with her the next eight days. Then I flew home to my family on Saturday evening. It took 14 hours of travel. It didn't help that the SF Bay was fogged in. Same fog that resulted in the ship crashing into the Bay Bridge and spilling its fuel. Alas!

I looked at my bloglines today and noticed I had 1,961 unread posts. (Reminds me of Robin's post "1,401 posts to go".) Fortunately for my sanity, a significant chunk of those are from newspaper feeds, which I will forgo reading.

I brought along Wilmer Cooper's A Living Faith (Friends United Press, 1990), which I enjoyed reading in reverse, from the last chapter forward. I started that way because I was more interested in Chapter 11, "Quaker Assessment and Future Prospects" than Chapter 1, "A Short History."

Tonight I was reading Chapter 4, "Quaker Understanding of Christ," which ends with a discussion of whether or not Quakers need to be Christians. I found the conclusion particularly to be food for thought:

So the debate goes on and shows no signs of being resolved. Yet the Society of Friends has moved into a new day, and its survival may well depend on a rediscovery of its identity within the context of its own history, coupled with an effort to interpret that identity in a relevant way to a constantly changing world.

Hm, sounds a bit like trends within the convergent Friends conversation... At least that's my take on it.