Weedy Questions

When questions arise, they are to be taken with seriousness enough to be called hypotheses. The instability that a question implies looks for resolution through testing.

In science, there is little more valuable than a next good question. Here, it is an indicator that a previous question bumped against the limit of its testability. We may not have the technical means to resolve the matter, and it must be held as a question until it can be addressed.

It may also indicate a question was tested and was resolved negatively – the question was based on an incorrect premise or the data shows it to have been disproved.

It is always anticipated that a question will find a positive outcome. When it is confirmed, a new question now needs to be anticipated so we can continue to move one step closer to what might stand behind the idea of “reality”.

If a question is to be useful, it requires a faithful execution of a process to find out and abide by the result to move beyond a wishful thought or build upon a new tool (resolved question).

If the same question keeps arising in the face of a negative outcome, it can be asked if the question is being asked for some reason other than a resolution. One example of a pernicious question (a question weed) comes in politics where a question has been shown not to be true but is still insisted to be held open (the outcome of an election, the counting of votes). In such a case, the question reveals a willful desire of every two-year-old attempting to control their world through a big “No!” Or the confusion of adolescent yearning for an affirmation of one utopia or another, raising it to life-or-death stakes.

When a question comes back with a “No!” The question needs refinement into a better question or accepted until it can be resolved – using the same data, or cynic skepticism is not useful.

The question of the outcome of the 2020 presidential election has moved from one of being asked in order to be resolved into a blunt instrument meant to short-circuit an undesired result. A mistaken idea has been repeated, and we again have to learn a religious axiom that unrequited desire leads to suffering.

As long as people base their search for “happiness” on a result fitting what they think is their short-term best interest and ignoring negative constraints, they will spin their wheels in blown sand until they are stuck enough to either abandon their vehicle or call for assistance. This seems to be where we are with a political use of questions while denying scientific and religious appreciation of questions that come up short and can lead to a better question, being honest about living well in the face of disappointment.

If a question is still asked without a willingness to take its result and build a better question, it will soon be seen as a Big Lie or the titillation of a side-show barker selling fantasy to the next-born sucker.

If we can learn the value of a disproved questions, the 2020 election will have provided a great service. If not, we are in for a rough ride through multiple coups, revolution, and the use of violence to settle a question. This will be a return to the harmful idea of “might makes right”.

For the moment, there needs to be a small grin from a recognition that the “people for freedom from reality” are using “big brother” techniques to control others, even a majority of others. Here, freedom is a false flag that covers a multitude of flies masquerading as a “dear leader”. Such lordship always devolves.

First, Goodbye

One of the process realities are connections between what lies on either side of a boundary when they are a significant part of defining one another. A Day of Inauguration cannot begin unless there is an equivalent Day of Extinguishment. Without their being paired, all manner of fantasies that all-will-be-well will creep in to cause later anguish.

The president of carnage needs recognition, not for his sake, but for the work of the president of unity and empathy. This lack of clarity has already been at work with those nominated to cabinet positions. The purveyors of carnage are still standing as obstacles.

Carnage was the promise of D. T. (Other D.T.s have been caused in so many by one main actor). So it was proclaimed in his first speech on the Capitol steps. A surfeit of lies carefully constructed brought that carnage to fruition. It was evident in the widening of an economic gap between citizens [a micron-size slice of the citizenry benefited at the direct expense of the overwhelming and growing number of poor]. It was evident in police brutality [undeclared local martial law]. It was evident in incompetence to deal with a real physical reality of contagion [more citizens dying in one year than in two World Wars]. It was evident through an initial participation in the voting game and subsequent abandonment of its basic rule of counting [choice was treated as no-choice, revealing the petty dictator as a naked emperor].

Unless this is detailed, those involved acknowledge their deeds, and a gracious reconciliation (see South Africa and Nicaragua experience after throwing off oppressive governments) is implemented, moving forward is greatly impeded. This is no flash in the pan hoopla of one day. This is years of work to free the future from the grip of an ugly past.

Note that there is always the possibility of such a major crisis of wealth disparity, institutional racism, pandemic, and insurrection contains good seeds that might be given an opportunity to grow. Unfortunately, a lack of recognition of the enthrallment we have had with inherently flawed individuals with their vision narrowed to only themselves will continue to haunt.

That haunting may have some hearking back to an old story about seeds. Haunted seeds find themselves bouncing off hardened surfaces and hearts and picked off, one by one [opportunistic feeders on easy money]. Haunted seeds find themselves in shallow soil with no room for roots because all the resources have been siphoned off [excessive military funding and insufficient taxation base because of breaks given the rich and corporations]. Haunted seeds find themselves waking up to find the weeds have grown faster and block their opening to blossom [crony capitalism and corporate lobbyists have gotten to the resources before them].

For seeds to flourish, many intersections have to come together. It may be that the plethora of crises will provide that intersection where something else has to be birthed. If so, the promise is that the investment needed will be repaid thirty, sixty, and one hundred times more.

The choices come down to Truth and Reconciliation or A Newer Deal. Both can be blocked. Vigilance and Action are the only antidotes to Carnage.

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To shift gears, as this is written the list of pardons is not yet available. Of major concern for the chaos D.T. sows wherever he goes is a mass pardon of all those imprisoned for minor drug offenses. I believe they deserve to be released, but to do so at midnight means there would be no way of supporting them in a transition back to everyday life, come morning light. A lack of resources would be expected to have an enormous recidivism rate. A moment of euphoria would be followed by questions of how to survive with no resources for housing, food, work, and an increased drain on community resources to assist folks in such an abrupt change.

We are Seeds

You may have listened in on a renewal of energy to participate in the trials of our day. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a trigger point for that participation.

I suspect that a more regular exposure than a once-a-year event would help in keeping your energy high.

Here are three listenings I did today and can recommend that you parcel out through your next week.

Number 1 — Amanda Goodenough — Minute 29
Number 2 — William Barber, II — Minute 51

Number 3 — Michele Alexander — Minute 21


Yesterday, someone remembered I had done a presentation with lines they found helpful. It wasn’t quite enough of a clue for me to remember which it was as I use lines to assist me in clarifying an issue. If it can work on a 2-D plane, it likely has its applicability in 3-D space and 4-D time.

As the day wore on, I found myself thinking more about Polarities. “Polarities are ongoing, chronic issues that are unavoidable and unsolvable.” The classic example is breathing. An inhale is good for it brings oxygen needed for life. A held breath can only last so long before the oxygen is used and replaced by carbon dioxide. To remain oxygen-deprived is not good. Trying to inhale more doesn’t work. Problem. An exhale is in order. This does resolve the carbon dioxide problem but does not address the need for additional oxygen. We are still oxygen-deprived. Another inhale is in order. What is needed is managing a cycle of Good (inhale), Problem (oxygen-deprived), Good (exhale), Problem (oxygen-deprived), Good (inhale), etc.

Both inhales and exhales are good. Neither works if we are going to turn this into a binary choice, a zero-sum choice. Management is not an issue of good vs. bad, but between two goods and the consequence of only attending to one good. Today’s insistent insurgent demands there be only one answer, and it must be theirs. This is an invitation to disaster, no matter how long they hold their breath as a coercive demand to get-their-way.

Pushing beyond the immediate situation, it is possible to go back to a beginning error in a creation story that has a “creator” lonely for a partner and arranging for a dusty one. The reported first task for each one is that of dominion. If an all-good creator is set over against an all-bad creature we are immediately into a binary, zero-sum game in which there is no winning in the short-run without losing in the long-run.

A better image is that of a partnership between those with a working relationship. With a partner we can manage the bumps along the way, working them out. If it is one with power over the other, dominion will always break the “tie that binds”.

So how to place some lines that can shift an old story to a new story? How might one represent a shift from dominion to management? Would it have some connection to the old tension between selfish freedom and servant responsibility, where each has their place but we keep forgetting their relationship? To choose insurgent freedom (state’s rights, Mammon’s barns) is to be in tension with a needed revival of constitutional general welfare/common good.

It will be good to return to a management style rather than “my way or the highway” demand. Even so, if the management does not attend to the addition of new elements, it is unlikely that a long-term readjustment away from money-as-the-measure-of-all-things-good will last long. It will just be a bait-and-switch back to old power struggles.

I look forward to new power struggles over management, not dominion.

Mark 13:5

Mark 13:5
Jesus said, “Watch out that no one deceives you.

The first non-apocalyptic response is a warning that going down the line of being warned about a final line that, if crossed, will, at long last, trip me up, do me in, is a losing question.

Simply approaching such a line from decades away is no different than if we were already strides past a point of no-return.

Our predilection is to play out every pyramid scheme we have ever met. Putting more and more resources into a dwindling base is never a viable solution.

It is almost that we like being fooled. Scary movies or the latest political huckster both play off our thrill of living on the edge of disaster.

To hear a warning not to be deceived is to build a barrier against anything other than deception. E.E. Cummings put it well in his play, Santa Claus: A Morality:

Who can tell truth from falsehood any more?
I say it, and you feel it in your hearts:
no man or woman on this big small earth.
How should our sages miss the mark of life,
and our most skillful players lose the game?
your hearts will tell you, as my heart has told me:
because all know, and no one understands.

The disciples want to know about some mythologic tomorrow without understanding that tomorrow is very much an outgrowth of today. At stake is not avoiding suffering and death but having a resurrection in the present through changed hearts that trust good news to be truer than the most attractive and believable lie.

= = = = = = =

there will be many opportunities
to become deceived
this sign or that
will be touted
as a last coffin nail
for one argument or

the difficult work
is to not limit
where deception is attempted
your task is to learn
a gentle

deception flows
from self-deception
unto a world view
in univalent signs
creative ambiguity 

Mark 13:4

Mark 13:4
“Tell us, when will these things happen?
What sign will show that all these things are about to come to an end?”

When will things fall apart?

This question has haunted people forever. Each generation complains about the next.

In some ways, this question about destruction is also a question about when new life will break through. Will what we are doing now bear good fruit seven generations down the line?

When Temple walls will fall apart, ask about when a Temple not made with hands will appear. It is quite problematic to ask about a Temple of any sort, for inherent in a Temple is an understanding that there are things or people who are not Temple worthy, regardless of whether the Temple is tangible or not.

There is a sense in which we can see the result of the “progress trap” we have set for ourselves—how we push past all limits until that which sustains is used up. This is an original sin through sociological and anthropological lenses. In the long run, we don’t seem to be able to help ourselves. A small book is helpful here, A Short History of Progress, by Ronald Wright.

Asking for a sign is an apocalyptic question. Many apocalyptic responses have come and gone over the generations. Every interpretation has come up short. The basic question seems to be about what life will be like after we’ve eaten our seed corn or so wrenched communal life from the common so only the rich have resources that have sucked another day’s existence out of the poor. Always the drama is writ large, the consequences worse than dire—terroristic and cannibalistic.

An apocalypse is an easy way to scare ourselves into responsible living, and each time the easy way fails to change our heart.

= = = = = = =

oh so curious are we
looking for every edge
a millisecond per trade
a reliable foretelling
to keep from being caught

unready for an earthquake
a lightning strike
volcanic eruption
another’s anger
a next addiction
a false equivalency

it is in our best interest
to get an insider word
giving advantage
over our competitors
lest we be one step late
crushed beyond recognizability

Mark 13:3

I am back to working on a book that takes a verse-by-verse look at the Gospel of Mark. Each verse has a comment and a stanza. Chapter 13 is seen by some as an apocalyptic section of Mark. That is too easy a reading. Here is the first of three verses that may still have an application for today. These next 3 posts were written in June 2018.

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Mark 13:3
Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives across from the temple.
Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately,

Having been in the Temple and dealt with tests from all the major religious groupings, it is time to back off and reflect on what has been experienced.

Mark shifts his use of εἰς from indicating motion to now indicating a having come to rest. It is time to take stock. They may be at the top of the Mount in a place now named Dominus Flevit (meaning “The Lord Wept” as in Luke 19:41–44). They may be at the bottom of the Mount scouting for a later visit to The Garden of Gethsemane. Wherever they are, this is probably a place Jesus went to for wilderness outside the gates of Jerusalem. Here it was always time to pause and reflect.

It is worth doing our own pausing and reflecting about Andrew’s presence with the inner circle of Peter, James, and John.

If we use the shorthand of metonymy, Andrew stands for all the rest of the disciples. In current discipleship language, this is the priesthood of all believers where each is a marker for all. This partnership of leadership asks each to bear responsibility for the others. It is a loving of one another (John 15:12). This is a larger group alone with Jesus than just four. It is also a group that includes the Readers of Mark.

We are gathered around to hear what we expect to continue moving toward an end game where we cause a coup. It will be easy to slip into the gruesome imagery of the apocalyptic, but important to keep bringing ourselves back to the more realistic picture of simple eschatology that sits ready just beyond our current reach.

= = = = = = =

sitting across from
collection boxes
temple walls
market stalls
kitchen tables
legislative halls

shifts private to public
Peter loses his keys
James and John
lose locks on prestige
Andrew’s and other’s
sugarplums dissolve

such implacability
stares them down
walls thicker than thick
higher than high
trained horses ridden
sharp spears waved

what have we been thinking
fantasies become just that
talk of brave suffering
just talk
it’s finally sinking in
we’re sinking


the ancient story

patriots protect
evolving practices
focused on uniting

patriots resist
evolved results
restrictive on them

some patriots
work on continuity
others smash norms

no other word today
resists translation
across cultural divides

patriots insist patriarchy
for white males
an enduring value

patriots deny patriarchy
an enduring truth
requiring violence

= = = = = = =

[those interested in more can reference usage at Merriam-Webster and Wikipedia, which leads to Fourteen Words still furtively bedeviling societal health.]

Mercy Bound

As I listened to my regular Saturday night music – The Midnight Special on WMFT – I heard “Mercy Bound” as sung by Joan Baez. They were honoring her 80th birthday by playing a number of her recordings (including interesting snippets from interviews with Studs Terkel).

I was not familiar with Mercy Bound. In a first listening, I struck by a line, “In my mind I see myself”. I didn’t have a clear picture of the scene as I mostly heard the tone, solemn.

As is the case with radio programs, the music is here, and then it is gone. So I went searching for the lyrics. Links to a video of Joan singing Mercy Bound, its lyrics, and interviews are all listed below.

I had missed the opening line about “waking up in a dream” and now saw the context of a cultural scream of bypassed people in cold doorways. Last Wednesday, on the Feast of Three Magi, another scream was heard from people who did not have a dream of Mercy being anywhere near, much less ahead of them. There was only grievance and loss and an attempt to deal with that by causing grief and loss to the supposed winners of economic and political power. They have no expectation of a morning light streaming mercy into their lives.

The line that had caught me was a reflection on a woman in her first trimester of pregnancy (a condition of great hope and fear). The singer is surprised to recognize themself still with hope, as well as familiar fear.

It is in the singer’s imagination that a connection is made, and a “prayer” expressed that our common dreaming will lead us all to recognize we all are mercy bound. I expect it will take many more of these epiphanies before enough dreams can lead us through the current thrashing nightmare. May you keep your imagination fresh for the new social contract that needs making. May you forever know you are mercy bound, and a good way to ground that is by extending mercy, even to the unmerciful. (This does not mean avoiding accountability, but the context of such judgments is wider than strict justice.)

There are miles and kilometers to go before we sleep in peace and dream of mercy.

= = = = = = =

A video of the song is available at – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysO7RTk1aeU

The lyrics by Mark D. Addison can be found at – http://www.traditionalmusic.co.uk/baez/png/mercy_bound-joan-baez.png

Interviews with Studs Turkel – https://studsterkel.wfmt.com/search?query=Joan+baez

Pink Pen Offer

Having picked up a 4-pack of disposable fountain pens by Zebra, I decided to journal at least one page in each ink color. Where I usually find some encouragement with my usual archival quality inks (black and dark red), I find myself distracted by this pink. The pen fits well-enough in my hand and flows nicely enough. I find myself disconcerted by the color.

I expect there is something to the seasonality of color tones that go well with or clash with one’s skin or aura. It may be that same, usually unconscious, effect with word color on a particular page. At the same time, I am loathe to seek out a variety of papers on which to experiment with this ink.

I’m going to cut this comment short with the only positive I can come up with. Perhaps, among the readers here, there is someone who does appreciate words in pink. The first to indicate their desire for the pen and send their address will receive this pen and ink.

To assist in the decision-making, this post is being transmitted via an image rather than a font. Of course, you have to put up with my scrawl, but, hopefully, that will be a small penalty to pay for an ink pleasing to your eye. [Note: the picture did not translate well into my WordPress website and so this transcription.]