Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Wrong Shoes

Or: The reasons I love geocaching...without my husband

I mentioned in an earlier entry that I wanted to start talking about reasons I love geocaching. I was looking forward to another geocaching adventure last Saturday, but the trip did not go as planned.
It started going downhill during the dressing for the adventure. I originally had on some plain colored tee and workout pants, but I asked my husband if I looked like a Wal-Mart shopper and he said yes (not that there's anything wrong with it). I changed into khaki shorts and a loose scoop necked tee. I had been out earlier and it was actually a pretty warm day, so my new outfit was not only more fashionable, but more weather friendly.
My husband comes out, and he looked like a Wal-Mart shopper for sure. He was wearing black sweat pants and a long sleeved black t-shirt, and was working the flip-flops. I told him he needed to change either the top or the pants and definitely change those shoes.
"We're going geocaching. You'll need your sneakers!"
But he didn't listen to me, didn't want to change his shoes. He wanted to go, insisted we leave in these conditions. I wanted to refuse to go unless he changed, but we were both holding firm, so I decided to cave in and let it go.
I had a list of about eighteen caches I wanted to get, mostly sneaky urban micros which typically don't require much walking. Okay, it was ambitious, but so what? I was prepared to be satisfied with around four or five. Plus, we were talking about getting some food, since we hadn't eaten since brunch. I was in a great mood. I was even wearing my hat, and when I wear my hat, my "fun-lovin'" side comes out. We dropped the kids off at my mom's and prepared to have some fun couple time together.
The first one we get to is in this alley. It has been out for a few weeks and the logs all mention that it is very clever, very smart. I know the cache hiders, and I consider them part of the "geocaching intelligencia". Geocaching appeals to so many different kinds of people and for different reasons. Among those are this intelligencia, smart cachers who place clever hides, or create complex puzzles, or who have themed hides that revolve around some supersmart interest of theirs. These cachers who hid this one pride themselves on hiding great caches in great locations, so I know that even though this is an urban micro, it won't be some simple LPC (light post cache) or LUM (lame urban micro).

I zero out on this door leading to the alley from the inside, maybe the grocery store that used to be there. I am not having good reception, getting close readings all over the area, and I search the obvious places. I looked all around, and then took a deep breath to start over, the next layer of detection. I went back to GZ and started taking a deeper look at everything. I put my hand on the key hole on the door moved slightly. Key holes shouldn't move...and there it is.
And there it is, perhaps, the redemption of this trip: one more reason I love geocaching. Once you get to the area, you use reasons of detection to find out what is below the surface. There are little treasures everwhere, underneath the eye of a casual observer, just like characteristics in people, everyone full of little secret surprises. You just have to keep your eyes open.
So we arrive at the next stop. Here is where we have our first dilemma: this cache is called "Houston Park-N-Grab #3", so naturally I assumed it would be what the term "park n grab" typically means, which is where the cache is so close you can almost drive right up to it, within about 100 ft usually. Evidentically, it was ironically named. When we parked, we were 0.14 mile away and it was showing it to be into this park with great walking trails. I was sooo going, but my husband didn't go to get out. He said he wanted to stay in the car, protesting,
"I've got the wrong shoes on".
So I take off on my own. It was a great day to be enjoying the outdoors. People were everywhere, so much so that searching was hard once I reached within 40 ft. I was checking the area out where I was closest, and suddenly I saw it. It was on the other side of a chain link fence!
I walked further down the exercise path scout for an entrance to that section, and also because if I wasn't going to be able to get that one, I wanted to at least get the other one I hadn't gotten in this park. It was called "Greybeard" and the clue was simply the title. I could see what tree this one must refer to around the corner of the walking path. It was an easy find, and I continued along the circular path back to the car, never finding the exit to the other area.
I felt very lonely out here, thinking about my husband in the car drinking and listening to music, and how we could be out here getting some exercise together. I used to enjoy it when we would go run together at the YMCA. Sure, he left me in the dust at some point, but we would find each other at sections of the trail up ahead and run together a ways. That was fun. This was not as much fun. It was such a nice day and we could be enjoying it together.
When I got back to the car, we tried to find access the trail area, but it became clear we would have to approach it from a different direction. As we drove, I saw, on the opposite side, the park that must be where final was to the puzzle cache that I solved that morning. I told my husband to turn around. This is how it went,
"Now turn in here."
He keeps driving straight. "Turn in where?"
"Here!" I point in the parking lot.
"Here! Now! Turn!"
"Why are you yelling at me?"
Oops. We missed it. So I go on to the next one. This one is in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

This reminds me of a joke. Recently, (this part is true), two hikers that were lost in a whiteout while climbing Mt Hood were found because they stumbled upon a geocache and were able to use that to give their location on the mountain. There was a thread about this in our Houston Geocaching Society forum, making a case that we should make sure the coordinates are written inside the cache. My friend Gary (aka Texas DreamWeaver) says this:
Do you think that we should all return to the practice of including the coordinates with the cache? I can just visualize some Houston mountain climbers, lost and suffering from hypothermia, opening up a 35mm film canister which didn't have the coords listed inside. With out longitude and latitude, how would they know which Walmart parking lot they were in? To think, by simply following the guidelines, a tragedy could be averted.

When I read that, I had just taken a bite of my lunch, and I started laughing so hard I almost choked. This hide we were at, however, is put out by our local urban micro genius, an older man who has unique and clever hides and is meticulous about his coord accuracy. And I have tried to find it twice before to no avail and really needed some help on it.

BUT...we had this little issue over the parking. ("Park here" "Where?" redoux). And we ended up getting into a screaming match. And then neither of us wanted to go caching anymore, or hang out together. We both just wanted to go home. As we drove, one of us would start talking, and it would result in more fighting. I was desperate to try to redeem the afternoon, make it not all bad, find some middle ground. We already agreed the geocaching was out, it was causing us to fight, the mood was broken.

I suggested he take me out for some nachos. Mexican food would be the only thing better than geocaching, and maybe I could be all right with the afternoon after all if I just had some chili con queso and chips.
"Well, maybe," My husband says, "maybe we can put it all behind us, start over again, and just go out to eat. There is just one condition,"
"What's that?"

"We have to go home first. I'm wearing the wrong shoes."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Void Don't Live Here

I run through my daily digest of forum threads, blogs, emails, the websites I visit, and I end up still feeling frustrated. Maybe today no one is "talking". There is nothing exciting on any of the sites. Maybe I am just not finding what I am "looking for" here. The question is, will it ever be enough? I mean, how many friends, activities, online forums and virtual friends does one need to have to really fill the void, or is it even possible?
I wonder what is wrong with me. It is not like I should be lonely. I have a husband and two little kids who keep me busy. Most of my friends who are raising their children are too busy to get online at all, or to have a social life outside the home.
I have my dog shows and classes. I have my church, where I can talk to like minded people twice a week. I can go to Sunday School, to the worship service, and to Wednesday night Bible Study, and be surrounded by positive people who are interested in my spiritual life and geniunely care for me.
I have my old friends from high school, my old friends from college (or around the age of college), my former team members from the EC, my old friends from the day practice I was at: everywhere I work, I form close friendships with other women that I can't imagine ever losing.
I have my geocaching friends, including the two women I have become close to, and many others that I see at events about once a month or so. Every day, sometimes several times a day, I am in our local forums, talking to these people, or maybe just watching the threads. I go into the main website forums and sometimes talk there, sometimes make friends with people I have never seen.
I have my enrichment forum, my human-animal bond listserve, my primate listserve, my dog show listserve. I am on the dog breeder's email list and get email from other people I have met along the way in the dog world.
I have my blog, with the links to other blogs of people interested in some of the same things. I have blogs saved on my favorites. I link to other people's blogs off my profile. I have my myspace page and my myspace friends, some I know and some I've never met, and sometimes I link to friends of friends of friends of fellow myspacers. I've had long posts back and forth with myspace people I've never met in person.
I still don't feel socially fulfilled. I have decided that this is because I am a complete freak with some emotional blackhole down inside. Sure, it could be because my husband and I have no real partnership. He pretty much ignores me and I him, or else we are fighting. Sometimes we try to do things together, but it always ends badly. Sure it could be because I don't have that special best friend anymore that I spend all my time with, like the girls of my past. Sure it could be just a temporary phase I am going through, some kind of soul stagnation before the big epiphany. Maybe I just need a soulmate.

I go to pick my friend Lara up from work. She tells me I sound sad today and asked what was going on. I told her about the above-mentioned. She says, "Nothing is wrong with you. You're fine. I totally understand what you mean, though. Sometimes I feel the same way. It's normal." We get in the car and drive off, and suddenly I don't feel the void anymore.
It hits me that it is all about presence. I feel lonely because I am not with people. The virtual world does not compare with actually being with someone. I could spend time with the friends I mentioned above, but I don't reach out to them when I am feeling alone. I don't call them when I really need to talk to someone or feel isolated from the world. Sometimes, when I am with those people, the ones who know me but don't really know me, I am not my true self.
I know I am a multi-faceted person. I have many parts to my Self, and I show just a few parts to most people. There are only a few that know all of me, see all my sides. Some friends say that maybe I am not being genuine, or I am hiding things from people, because of this, but I think they just are oversimplifying it. We all kind of do this to a degree, show only the sides of us to others that we think they will accept. Most people just can't accept all my sides because they think in black and white, and therefore my duality of being confuses them. I can't be all bad or all good, but I am little of both. Aren't we all like that?
With Lara, I am free. I am happy. I am able to show her all my sides. I know she will accept them all, because she is willing to demonstrate her duality of being, too. We are both bad and good together. We cruise down the road and my void flies out the open window, as we smoke cigarettes and talk about religion.
I have a captive audience, and I play my favorite songs for her and tell her why I love them. I am tired of telling myself, that was old and boring, but playing them who has never heard them before reawakens my senses and I am able to see what it was I loved about them.
In a way, Lara is like the friend I always wanted but never quite had, the Jack to my Neal. I have written so many entries in my real diary about my longing to have a friendship like Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady's, but it didn't really happen. My friends either weren't creative enough or weren't passionate enough for me to have that aspect of a friendship that I craved: the sense of symbiotic creationism.
Lara and I are there, man. We are bouncing ideas off each other and running our sentences into each other's and it just flows between us. Unfortunately, at this point of our lives, we also have our own lives to lead and can't simply drop everything to spend all our time together. We would love to, of course, since we have so much fun and so much in common, and we make grand plans, "let's set aside during the week for creative time, for exercise time, for studying the Bible, for scrapbooking, for geocaching or hiking, for spending time with the dogs," but time is a precious commodity for both of us.
The importance, really, is the creative time, because that is THE thing, the Jack and Neal thing. I am the idea man and she is the creative force, the one who gets it done. I am running my mouth Neal-style and she says, "man, you really need a tape recorder, record some of the things you say" and I laugh at how I've heard that before, and geez what we would have done if Neal had been running a tape recorder when he was talking, only he was much faster, much wilder, much more alive than me, and here's Jack, aka Lara, figuring out how we are going to fit it all in.

And we ride down the highway, as I play my music for her, every now and then throwing in the naughty lesbian karoake version. We ramble on into the night with our spirituality and sensuality riding shotgun, and there is no room in this car for that void.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Emergence of the Gnostic Gospels
and its Implications for our Faith

In 1945, an important discovery was made in the caves near a town called Nag Hammadi. An Arab peasant had stumbled upon a large earthenware jar (perhaps the first undocumented geocache? jk!) and smashed it open, hoping it contained treasure. What spilled out was not gold, but 13 papyrus books bound in leather.

The peasant did not recognize the importance of what he was seeing. In fact, some of the pages were burned by his mother in her hearth when she was kindling the fire. At some point, some of the texts left the hands of this peasant and were sold in the black market, eventually piquing the interest of Professor Gilles Quispel, distinguished historian of religion at Utrecht, in the Netherlands, who was able to translate the coptic text. Further translation and relevant discussion has continued from the 1970s to the present day, with the most popular translation being James Robinson's 1978 book shown to the left.

Researchers have dated these books to have been written somewhere between 80 and 200 AD, but some biblical scholars now believe that the most likely date is around 140 AD. During the first and second century, all or some of these books and the teachings within them influenced a certain small portion of the developing Christian faithful, who became known collectively as "gnostics".
As the Christian faith developed, it became important to make decisions on the books that would become part of the New Testament and on the foundations of the faith. With the rising power of the "catholic" faith and orthodox school of thought, these "gnostic" books became ousted and were believed to be heretical. The books disappeared and were supposed to be destroyed by the rising orthodoxy.

Certainly some of the ideas presented in the gnostics texts could be considered threatening for the orthodox believers. In general, the gnostic texts suggested that the path to the Divine was through self-knowledge, which in effect could eliminate the function of the church itself.
In addition, certain books, (i.e. Gospel of Phillip), suggested that Jesus did in fact have a special relationship with Mary Magdalene, which in effect could change the perception we have of Jesus as a divine one free of mortal desires and sin, and placing him more in line with the rest of humanity.

"...the companion of the Savior is Mary Magdalene. But Christ loved her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often on her mouth. The rest of the disciples were offended... They said to him, "Why do you love her more than all of us? the Savior answered and said to them, "Why do I not love you as I love her?"

"Gnosticism" as a sect of faith asserts that "direct, personal and absolute knowledge of the authentic truths of existence is accessible to human beings," and that the attainment of such knowledge is the supreme achievement of human life. The Gnostics as a collective were not much interested in dogma or coherent theology. They cherished the ongoing force of divine revelation, rather than a specific creed.

Carl Gustav Jung, the great Swiss psychologist and a life-long student of Gnosticism in its various historical permutations, stated,
…We find in Gnosticism what was lacking in the centuries that followed: a belief in the efficacy of individual revelation and individual knowledge. This belief was rooted in the proud feeling of man's affinity with the gods....

There are some other ideas out there on what it means to be a "gnostic" in terms of belief, but I want to leave that alone for now. I will say that it seems like there is some conflicting information out there. What I want to focus on is what the gospels themselves mean for today's Christian.

Initially upon reading about the suppression of these gospels by the orthodox christianity in its formative years, I felt misled. I felt that we were not given all the materials by which to determine our faith. We had some of the pieces, and we fit them together and said, "hey, here is the image of God we were trying to create", when really half the pieces were slid under the table, and so the image we got was skewed.

I understand, though, that during this time, a time when the New Testament was being created, when it was being decided which items and books belonged in our faith and which didn't, that decisions had to be made in order to create a cohesive organized faith. Without some kind of system, Christianity might not be around today. There were many choices on directions to go, and although it seems like the reasons for choosing which books belonged and which didn't were arbitrary and subjective, at some point someone had to decide something. In this case, it is theoried to be church leaders in the time of Emperor Constantine who decreed that these texts were non-canonical, and therefore heresy.

At that time, it was vital that these texts drop from the scene, and I myself am glad that they were stashed away in a safe place and not simply destroyed. I do think there is some cosmic signifigance to the timing of their unearthing. At this point, I think Western civilization and/or Christianity is at the point where we are willing to accept them and look to them for a greater understanding of God, salvation, and truth. Before this time in culture, I don't think our civilization was ready to handle this information, and perhaps these books would have been unearthed only to be destroyed.

This is not to say that our culture as a whole has developed to the point where we are completely open to new and contradictory ideas on faith. If that was so, jihad would not exist and we would not still be hunting bin Laden in the desert. However, on today's society, and particularly in western culture, there is less emphasis on the importance of maintaining strict theological barriers. We marry between faiths, something that was not possible in the time the gospels were written and even for centuries afterwards. We accept that people have different religious beliefs based on a variety of ideas. Even within Christianity, there are so many sects with differing beliefs on so many issues that re-introducing new ideas is not as threatening, even if they challenge some of our most basic premises.

If there was any question on how the ideas presented in the Nag Hammadi library might change faith, one might just look at the success of the Da Vinci Code and if it has influenced the ideas of contemporary christians, since many of the ideas presented in the book/film were drawn from these ancient texts.

When I first read some of the excerpts from Elaine Pagels' introduction to the Nag Hammadi texts, The Gnostic Gospels, I was thinking that the collective ideas presented were reminscent of the trancendalists, or eastern esotericism. The emphasis on approaching the divine through self-knowledge seemed to me to be related to the the eastern religions, and also had shades of Judaic mysticism. That made it all the more appealing to me, since I have been drawn to those lines of spiritual thought in the past. To me, the books found at Nag Hammadi bridge the gap between eastern and western religions, and open a door to a more complete picture of truth, a door I welcomely open.

I long to read and learn more on this subject, so as I learn, so will you.
Can I help you?

This afternoon, I had this amusing interaction with my supervisor.

She was telling me about something she was going to do, and inviting me to join her. She says to me, "I don't know what you're doing right now, but..."

I really wanted to quip, "That's funny, neither do I!"

Which is amusing on so many levels to me.

I could leave it at that, but then you, my reader, would have no idea what that meant or why it was so hilarious to me. So I will elaborate...just a little.
First of all, I had absolutely no plans for the day. In fact, most of my day was filled with making plans for tomorrow. I was kind of flying by the seat of my pants this afternoon when she caught me and I really had not made any immediate plans except to continue planning for tomorrow. Part of this is because I am still out of sorts with this restructuring of my program I am doing, still trying to figure out the best way to get it all done.
Secondly, as most everyone reading this little blog already knows, I really am very new to this particular area of this field. I have been working with this species less than a year. What cracks me up is that it is not that difficult for me to extend my background to allow me to inherently understand what I am doing. Last week, I overheard the new doctor talking about me to the office girl. She was marveling that I had only been working with these guys for eight months, I guess because I came off knowledgable to her. "I guess she's just a natural," she said.
The thing about that is, though, is that if someone has a firm grounding in animal behavior, it doesn't seem like that much of a stretch for them to be able to understand most animals. All animals communicate mostly through body language and some kind of vocalizations, and it is just a matter of determining the dialect, I guess. Initially, I remember trying to figure out what these guys were saying to me, but at this point, I translate without even thinking about it.
Body language is subtle to humans, because we are not trained to look for it, but if you spend a lot of time with animals, it is something that becomes intrinsic and valuable, not only as a source of information, but also in terms of safety.
When I was a kid, I remember people telling me that a horse's ears will be pinned back when it is angry. That is true, but if you wait until the ears are pinned back, it is probably too late to avoid getting hurt. You have to always be watching for the more subtle signs (tension in the body, shift in weight, the flicker of the ear, turning of the head or eye) and respond to those to keep from even being near a horse when the ears are pinned. There is also appropriate response, which is completely different if the horse is a "bluffer" or is truly aggressive. These are skills that become instinctual the more time you are around horses, and in that respect, it is the same across species. I respond to these guys' body cues now without even thinking about it.
Thirdly, I am just making shit up anyway here. The funniest thing about that is that I invented all this work to do just to keep myself busy, and now people ask for it, depend on it, double check it around here. That cracks me up all the time. I have a whole binder of documentation that could be audited at any time, but it is all stuff I feel like I sort of pulled out of my ass. Oh sure, one of my critical documents was an amended form of something that was left behind by a (big name) doctor that used to work here. Since he left, though, no one was using it to document this stuff, but suddenly now that I am using it, it becomes valuable.
Fourthly, this job is so vastly different than anything I have done before, it doesn't even feel like the same thing. I remember trying to explain this to the HR lady who was here, but she had absolutely no idea what it is like in the real world, so I couldn't frame it for her in a way she understood (probably because she was weird). A large portion of my jobs with the same title in the past involved a lot of client relations. At times I felt like a hostess, a grief counselor, a liasion between the client and the doctor who was trying to mediate middle ground between their contradictory wishes, a translator ("let me explain what the doctor is saying in layman's terms"), a humane educator, a pet and people trainer, a receptionist and "quote maker". A veterinary technician wears many hats during the course of the day.
Here you just take the client out of the equation. The volume and intensity of real work is significantly less. Cleaning, feeding, surgery assistance, patient care; it's all out the window.
Fifth, my supervisor could really care less what I am doing, as long as I am not bugging her. When I first started here, I had no idea what to do with all this rope. Usually doctors keep their techs on a short leash. We are their "right hand men", literally standing right next to them. They don't work on animals without us. The new docs sometimes get anxious when we are not around, because we hold their hands and help them. When they are not working on animals, we are usually scurrying around right near them, within earshot so that if they suddenly decide they need to look at an animal, they can pull our leash and we'll come running.
When I first got here, I was running circles around my boss asking her if I could help her with anything, but she kept sending me away. I got the drift. I never really work with her, we work independently.
She really has no idea what I am doing most of the time. She never asks me to help her, and I stopped asking her a long time ago.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


(Thanks For The Cache)

The other night, I was doing something I have been doing a lot lately, which is to go through blogs of people who have listed "geocaching" as one of their interests. As I was flipping through blogs, I was getting bored easily and moving to the next one. I realized at some point that I was getting bored with the blogs because NONE of them were actually talking about geocaching. Those people had listed it as an interest, but when you got to the blog, none of the entries actually mentioned it at all. Sure, it is interesting to read about other people's lives and what they are thinking about, but what I really want is to hear other people talking about their geocaching experiences.
In thinking about this, I realized that MY blog doesn't really talk about geocaching very much either. I think in the past I talked about it a little, but I stopped doing it because I thought people would find it boring. What if these other people out there who list it as an interest also think the same thing? Maybe their friends are tired of hearing about it too!
At any rate, it made me realize that maybe I should write about it more, but just in a way that doesn't bore my friends to tears.
So this post is going to be one in a series of posts about

This weekend I did some light caching on the way home from my dog show. I didn't want to do too much, because my husband was already watching the children so I could show the dog, and I had to keep his coat looking nice. So I saved the two caches that required the most hiking for last, on Sunday on the way home.
Here are the logs from my favorite two of the seven that I found over the weekend:
Karankawa Burial Ground
January 20 by hardings (775 found)
Well, after getting second best at the dog show, we did the second best thing, and went caching. I was saving this one for after the shows were over, because I knew it would be a wet walk and I didn't want to have to worry about grooming up the aftermath. The dog was trying to help me on this one, but I don't think his sniffer was going to go that far. Luckily it was an easy find once we got there. TNSL, left a geocoin we picked up on a trip out west. There were TWO guardians of the cache today, and one, a frog, did not want to get off and had to be encouraged. I have a cousin to the official cache guardian at home. TFTC!

The Deep Dark Woods
January 20 by hardings (775 found)
Found it today with the dog as we were returning home from a dog show. We hiked the about 0.20 mile from the school. As we got to about 230 ft, I saw where the arrow was pointing and did NOT want to go in there after this rain we've been having. At first glance, it looked like a swamp. Then I spied a dry way in and it wasn't too bad from there as long as we watched for mud. Took TB, left geocoin, too bad I didn't look for the special baggie because I could have given to hubby, who has served overseas twice. Thanks for the exercise and the easy find, once you make your way into there!

As I was going to bed that night, I had visions of hiking through the forest in my mind. I was replaying the walk, the excitement as I grew closer to the cache sight, the smell of the trees and the wet earth. I was hunting ammo cans in the woods in my sleep.
Today's reason that I love geocaching: it provides motivation to get out and enjoy the fresh air, combining exercise with the great outdoors.

Monday, January 21, 2008

She's Talking About My Friends!

Meet Your Old Friend, the Multipurpose Monkey
By Meredith F. Small, LiveScience's Human Nature Columnist
posted: 18 January 2008 12:56 pm ET

A macaque is a really good, general purpose, sort of monkey.
Macaques are also the monkeys that people know the best. When 5-year-olds draw a picture of a monkey , with its smooth body, long tail, tiny ears, and impish face, they are drawing a macaque. We know these animals well because macaques are also the quintessential research animal. The polio vaccine was first developed in macaques, various contraceptives and pharmaceuticals have been tested on macaques, and they were sent into space before apes or people.And now, a macaque is walking on a treadmill and thinking hard to make a remote robot walk, a technique that will hopefully be of use to the disabled in the future, Duke University Medical Center researchers recently announced. But lost in all this service to humankind is the fact that these are really great monkeys, and they have an important place in nature; they are a lot more than lab animals.Macaques are the most geographically widespread primate after humans. But unlike humans, their adaptation to a variety of places is natural, not cultural. Various species of macaques are found in deep forests, on mountainsides and at the beach. They incredibly agile — they scurry across branches high in the canopy and leap tall buildings with a single bound, and they can run really fast when scared by a predator or motorcycle. In other words, macaques know how to stay out of danger. But the real reason macaques are so successful as a species is because they eat just about anything. Flowers, leaves, fruit, insects and whatever an unsuspecting tourist might bring to a temple in Asia. Hard candy? Sure, love it. Potato chips? Monkey favorite. The monkey will also take your ham sandwich and cookies while he's at it.And they are smart, maybe not as smart as chimpanzees, but still very smart. Especially in the social realm. Their lives are full of intrigue, Machiavellian moves for power and concern for who is doing what with whom, just like people.They are also socially intelligent. I once watched a low-status female Barbary macaque worm her way up the tightly held female hierarchy simply by grooming the babies of high-ranking females. She did it quietly, opportunistically, and pretty soon she was one of them. Macaques, especially females, also know more about the bonds of kinship than any human family. Macaque society is matrilineal in every sense; females eat together, sleep together and bring up their kids together.And those bonds are significant. I've seen Barbary macaques form a phalanx behind a female in trouble, and the closest kin were right behind her with more distant relatives farther back, all of them screaming in support. In fact, macaques, not chimpanzees, were the first animals to alert researchers that kinship held the evolutionary key to just about everything primates, including humans, do. We share genes in common with kin and so we should help them over others, even when that preference puts us at risk.Macaques also teach us something about genius. On an ordinary day on Koshima Island, Japan, a young female macaque named Imo picked up a piece of sandy sweet potato and washed it in the sea. Some time later she grabbed a handful of rice and tossed it on the waves also to get rid of the sand. Pretty soon, her recipe for salt potatoes and rice passed from monkey to monkey, demonstrating how culture might have spread among early humans.Maybe soon, we'll see robots washing potatoes for lunch while macaques lounge in beach chairs nearby, thinking really, really hard about that salty potato.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

OH GOD Not Again

Just the other night, out with my friends, I was talking about how I had been able to make my sin go away just by naming it (see post entitled "Oh God")

Well, guess what? It's ba-ack.
And it's badder than ever.

Of course I am analyzing it. This little crush has to be more than just pure physical attraction. I know it's more. Why is it happening, I want to know. I am trying to find some cosmic significance to it. I am not sure if it is some kind of sign, or if it has some kind of ramifications for my marriage. For instance, what if this is God's way of opening a door? I pray a lot about God's will regarding my marriage, wanting him to make it very clear to me what I am supposed to do about it (e.i. forgive my husband for being...less than perfect...or leave him) and I am still not sure. It would pretty much take a beating over my head to convince me what I was seeing was in fact a sign and not something I imagined into being a sign. I am so confused.

Last time I wrote about my crush, I was writing about the tenderness in his smile and the compassion he shows for his animals, and how that turned me on. This time, it is still those things, but it is more. It is the way he slows down when I address him, and walks shoulder in shoulder with me, turning his head to look me in the eye. It makes me feel like we are partners in caring, like what I am saying is valuable and important, like we are working together on it. It is the way he works close to me when we are in the same room, standing almost more than comfortably close while talking to me while we work on a joint project. We are together. We are working in unison. We are of one mind. We are partners. This is what his body language communicates to me. That is very appealing to me. I am at that age, or maybe I have changed in such a way, that allows me to see that is truly what I am looking for.

He stops what he is doing and asks me questions, tells me his ambitions, and I share mine. We both have some of the same background and desires in our work life, both ambitious and compassionate people. I imagine him and I running off together to start our own animal sanctuary, one that focuses on rehabilitation and humane education. We would fill water buckets and clean cages together, while discussing our behavior management plan and our global presence. It is a nice fantasy, but then I think about his two little girls and my two little boys, and all the people we would hurt on the way out and that pretty much kills the fantasy.

I wonder why I met this man now, this man who seems to share so much of what makes me fundamentally who I am. I wonder if there is a reason that he stops his work and stands there, watching me cross the parking lot and smiling. I wonder why that makes my heart beat faster and I smile back before turning my head.

It is kind of funny to me that in the book I just got finished reading, Night Swimming, the main character goes through something kinda like I went through recently when I put this man out of my head for a while. When I dropped the fantasy of being with him, I was able to just be myself and get to know him. I was more relaxed because I wasn't obsessing, and we reached a place in conversation I had never been with him, one that allowed us to become more friendly. I had forgotten about him (although yeah, I was still watching that ass), but I had put it aside and was working on myself, my projects. By doing so, though, it made our friendship grow.

I wonder what the purpose is of this crush that seems to have nowhere to go, of the meaning of the feelings bubbling up inside me, yearning to escape. It is some kind of fire, maybe my own burning bush.

Get your mind out of the gutter! I didn't mean it like that! Out of the burning bush, there came a message. What is the message this situation is trying to tell me?

I wish I knew.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Relevance of "I"

Yesterday evening, I didn't want to go out. I was so stressed out that I felt exhausted and unable to move. I almost backed out of my plans with my friend. I am so glad I didn't, though.
I don't think the night was supposed to go this way, but it ended up being such a low-key evening, but with elements to it that put a smile on my face. The company was great, just a small intimate foursome, and the conversation hit on all my favorite subjects. Through the banter and the unexpected elements, we explored some of the age-old questions: What is truth? What is beauty? What is "God"? What makes men and women different? How do we determine how to live our lives most completely? How do we apply reason and logic to questions of faith, or should we?
Some of the highlights of the evening for me involved the unexpected interaction with two women who seemed to be there to teach me something. The first woman and I danced together, randomly, when I was coming back from the restroom. She wanted to tell me she thought I was beautiful. She asked me some personal questions and took off my coat, telling me I had the moves, that I was "simply sexy". I wasn't really sure of this woman's intentions, because she told me she was a mother but in the same sentence seemed to be flirting. It was odd, but I am glad it happened because it made me feel good inside, and think about what beauty is.
The other woman was a gorgeous, intellingent black woman who asked if she could join our group because we were "having the best conversations". She reminded me of what it was like to be strong and ambitious, and to never settle for less than you deserve. She also made me think about the definition of beauty.
Mostly, though, what I got out of the night was a return to "me". It is so easy to lose one's identity as a mother. You mean nothing more sometimes to your family than someone who can take care of others. Your needs or desires have no function here. I know so many women that lose themselves here and I don't want to. Sometimes, without a determined effort, I start to. I had sacrificed my desires all weekend for my children. I had forgotten there was this other part of me, the "I", that belonged out there in this world, too.
I want to explore more the idea of retaining one's identity, and why it is important. For now, though, I have to run back to my children, and forget...who I am...for a little while.
Indy, this one's for you....

When I think a little more about why what the preacher said about existentialism bothers me, I think about my friend Mari.
Mari has interesting views on many issues, including religion. I think about something she told me once, and how it is related to this idea. She said that "Sin is what we decide it is." Sin is subjective. It is something that the individual believes takes him away from God, and what is considered a sin to one person might not be the same for someone else. Even with that being her opinion, she still lives what appears to be a moral lifestyle in accord the "absolute authority of God".
If we take a subjective approach to our faith, that it take away the absolute morality inherent in God's word? Can't one believe in a subjective truth, even where it comes to "sin" and a moral framework, and yet still adhere to the absolute values set to us by God?
So I did a little deeper, and encounter the existenial theists.
One of the more prominant "faces" of existentialism, Soren Kierkegaard, was, in fact, approaching it from a Christian viewpoint. In Kierkegaard, the singularity of existence comes to light at the moment of conflict between ethics and religious faith. Suppose it is my sense of doing God's will that makes my life meaningful. How does philosophy conceive this meaning?
Kierkegaard, in his book Fear and Trembling, argues that for philosophy life becomes meaningful when one attempts to "raise myself to the universal" by bringing immediate (natural) desires and inclinations under the moral law, which represents "telos" or "what I ought to be". In doing so there is a loss of individuality (since the law holds for all) but one's actions become meaningful in the sense of understandable, governed by a norm. Now a person whose sense of doing God's will is what gives their life meaning will be intelligible just to the extent that their action conforms to the universal dictates of ethics.
Existence as a philosophical problem appears at this point: if there is a dimension to being that is both meaningful and yet not governed by the rational standard of morality, by what standard is it governed? For unless there is some standard, it is impossible to speak of "meaning."
To solve this problem there must be a norm inherent in singularity itself, and, in his Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Kierkegaard tries to express such a norm in his claim that "subjectivity is the truth," an idea that prefigures the existential concept of authenticity. His justification is what he called the "passion of faith". To perform the movement of faith "subjectively" is to embrace the paradox, rather than to seek an escape from it by means of objective textual exegesis, historical criticism, or some other strategy for translating the singularity of my situation into the universal. Because reason cannot help here, the normative appropriation is a function of my "inwardness" or passion. In this way I "truly" become what I nominally already am.
To say that subjectivity is the truth is to highlight a way of being, then, and not a mode of knowing; truth measures the attitude ("passion") with which one makes their own, an "objective uncertainty" (the voice of God) in a "process of highest inwardness."
Ethics are considered transcendent, and are based on God's character. Thus, right and wrong are determined by God. However, due to the subjective nature of transcendent truth, as depicted in theistic existentialism, it could also be said to be determined by the individual themselves.
This makes me think of Mari again. So I dig even deeper.