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Archive for February, 2010

The Rise of the New American Worker

Cold working morning brutes into the doors, asking for a mocha in a ceramic cup. I go and sit to the side, watching the factory workers buzz about: the clanking of dishes, the beeping of machines, the grinding of beans. I think to myself, “I’m watching the new American worker.”

The rotation of my wheels in my ears as I buzz by the tall buildings across from Pullman Square. On a side street near the entrance to the Social Security office there is a group of people smoking. They all have badges around their necks. I watch as they bring the cigarettes to their lips, moist, and kiss the tips. And I think to myself that These people work for a call center. I think of their office like a hive, buzzing with the clicking of machines, voices chattering, excuses or pleas for sales, people moving about trying to meet their quota…and I think to myself, “This is the new American worker.”

Driving with my brother and our assistant across the coal fields, I gaze up at a mountain whose top had been removed and then replaced, and the young man standing on the side of the road, inquisitively/suspiciously watching us as my nose is pressed to the glass. Then a giant coal truck interrupts my thinking, and with its rumble I am reminded that each one of these groups, whether it is Starbucks, the call center, or a coal miner, have something in common. I think to myself, “The coal miner is the bridge between the American workers of the past and those that are toiling presently.” The working class is not dead, because nothing dies, not even societal systems. They just transform into something new. But in that transformation, they keep a piece of what I like to think of as “societal DNA.” Imagine that societal systems are like currents in the ocean. Just as one current ends, another begins. Sometimes we perceive a current as ending when really it does not. It simply merges in with another current.

So the worker is alive. They are making our coffee, digging our coal, cleaning our toilets, greasing the wheels of America’s system. A trend towards pretending the worker no longer exists in America has proliferated politics and the media, and I think in that mass thinking we have begun to believe the lie. Wake up, America! The worker is alive and well! They have been reborn…but they still breathe. In waking up, we must begin to understand that through writing the worker out of history, politicians and the systems they support have begun crafting a consciousness of people who do not know the struggles of the common man who do not know the history behind fair wages, the 8 hour work week and the struggles to change child labour laws. By writing out the worker’s struggle in America, mass culture is not encouraged to think about where their energy comes from, where their clothes come from, and who builds their houses.

As I began to think about this more deeply, something dawned on me. Karl Marx once said that at some point the worker’s plight would become so great, their communities so massive, that they would rise up and create revolution. This did not happen as he thought it would. Of course, you do have the rise of the Communists and countries that have accepted a form of socialized government, but all in all the worker has not risen to begin to craft a paradigm shift. Lenin thought he could create revolution for the worker. All he crafted was tyranny. So many people have raised the banner of the Marxist idea without seeing the full picture. The worker/individual must be engaged in the transformation of the self and in that the system will change.

If I begin to know my history and I begin to identify with it, it will change me. If I begin to know my spirit and love my brother within that spirit, that will change me. The workers of today get paid a good wage for the most part. They can feed their families better now then at the beginning of the industrial age. They can even buy nicer things than many people with a college education can here in America. However, with the accumulation of things, there is still a lack of substance. Marx said that once this worker community grew so large, then wages would become more and more miniscule. It would be harder to support the family. He was wrong about that. But here’s where I would like to offer a change. Marx was thinking about physical capital and poverty versus abundance. Instead, lets think of capital in the idea of social capital.

Social capital would be things like knowing my history and being able to act on what I know about my history. In that acknowledgment of self, the worker would begin to understand their self worth. they would see a physical, social, and spiritual connection to their overall community, and we would begin to see the worker in America rise up against systems that did not serve them, because they would have a deeper understanding of self. We would have more of a stake in the molding of America. For what it’s worth, what has been systematically denied to the working class is their social capital. Their history, their intelligence, their spirituality has all been corrupted, twisted into a kind of psychological self restraint that keeps them from reaching for the full height of self actualization.

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This week we are going to diverge from our conversation on mind and world, just a little bit. We’ll pick it up again at some point next week.

Last weekend my grandmother passed away. And yes, it was a sad moment for me, but not in the normal sense of mourning or great loss. For me, my grandmother is not lost. As my loyal readers will know, I believe that she has passed on into a world which we are still interacting with (even though we can’t necessarily see it). It is the world of the ephemeral, the creative, of all those languages that we have a primal need to make mysterious. I believe that God exists within the fabric of this planet, within the structure that makes up the everything. For me, God is everything and nothing simultaneously.

My favorite local priest, Burt Valdez, sums up the way I think about God in this way. He says that once when he was talking to a kindergarden class he asked them where Heaven was. Of course, they all pointed up in unison. He gently said “No. This is where God is.” He pointed his hand out straight and began spinning like a dreidel or a whirling dervish. I can imagine the children’s eyes as they realized that God is everywhere. That is why I am not sad in the sense of mourning or loss. What brings me sadness in reflecting on my grandmother’s death is questions of potential.

My sister-in-law tells me that my grandmother said that she had done everything she wanted to do in life several weeks before her death. Still, I question if doors were not closed for her within the situation of her family. Now, it is quite natural to be taken up by life and moved forward by situations. If, for example, I had not been given cerebral palsy, I may have been able to become a great track star or (because CP is a brain injury and it affects the part of my brain that deals with mathematical values), without it I might have been able to become Albert Einstein. Then again, I could have ended up being a nobody. This is true!

If we exist only in the what ifs, it is too easy to only see the limitations and to never embrace possibilities. We must strike a balance between acknowledging the what ifs and finding a way to move in the direction of their positive outcomes. Over the years I have found that in order to shape these outcomes, one must recognize their full self. All problems, all solutions, everything that exists before now and in the future must be embraced because it makes us who we are. And by embracing it all, a strange thing happens. If one attempts to do that, then the realization occurs that they know nothing about anything about it, and that we can only start from where we are.

Several weeks ago I wrote about embracing all the stages of my development and understanding that all these stages are still active in how i’m developing. Well, it won’t surprise you when I say that’s what I believe happens for each person I come across. It’s not a grain of wisdom that only I hold. My mom and sister came into town yesterday. When we were sitting at the table in Max and Erma’s, my sister was talking about how she really was creative. She talked about it as though she had to convince herself and us, but the thing is (and I told her this) that I saw her creativity years ago. And for me, that young girl, that six year old that she was, is still active in her, although it may have been repressed by situations and time. I smiled as she talked because I can remember when I said to her, “Why won’t you pretend with me?” and she said that she didn’t like to do that.

I realized, sitting at Max and Erma’s, that my insistence on my sister in playing pretend may have had the potential to close that door in that moment of growth. I thought of my grandmother and the sacrifices she made for their family and how, in the end, she didn’t see them as moments she did not capitalize on. She just embraced the path that her life finally played itself out on. Whether she fully self actualized or not, she grabbed onto the idea that she had done everything she could, used every tool she wanted, and she was satisfied.

For what it’s worth, maybe the key is to recognize that potential is all around us, that doors can open and close, and that at our last breath we must have satisfaction that we are moving back into the fabric of consciousness having done what we could. Who knows? That last breath may just be another door opening. I think that’s the truth that have I gleaned from this week in review.

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FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Speaking of Multiple Realities, Part Four

Albert Einstein said, All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man’s life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom.

We are all stardust. This stardust is reconstituted into atoms and these atoms form molecules, and then end over end give birth to us, to all things. Our connection to everything (which starts out on the sub atomic level), cannot be denied. We are of the same material as everything else. This fact leads me to ponder if our thoughts are not just as connected to this everything as our physical bodies are. Imagine the first cave wall that our ancestors came upon where they left their mark. Well, that cave wall, the very first one that we discovered, is still in existence because matter (in all forms) does not disappear. And if this is true, which it is, then even the thought that the first Paleolithic artist was having as she moved her hand across the wall is still with us because the physical essence of thought is electrical impulse, which moves from synapse to synapse in our brain.

Now imagine that there is one huge tree in this unseen world called consciousness. A consciousness that is derived from the material world that both makes up what is outside of consciousness and it also structures our consciousness. This huge tree is built up of the DNA, the actual physical matter, of all human beings since the beginning of the modern form called Homo Sapien. Imagine that this tree has, running through it as its sap, the thought-experiences of all of the original human generations. Imagine more deeply that the root system of this giant tree is like that of a mushroom field: spreading out in every direction, and occasionally the roots poke up from the ground and a new tree begins to form from the root of the original Gaia tree.

Each smaller tree has its own reality. It thinks for itself. It grows at its own pace. It leans in the direction that it wants to. Each smaller tree has its own free will. The key is that it’s connected to its original mother. It has, inborn in it, the experiences of those who came before. Not only that, but because each individual smaller tree is made up of the same mother root, they are all connected. So, in a sense, each smaller tree shares its own experiences with its brothers and sisters on top of having its mother’s history encoded into it. Imagine that the mother tree is in the middle and it is huge…as big as two of the largest Sequoias ever on record. The children she’s produced are spread out around her base for billions upon billions of miles. At a birds eye view the pattern stretching out over the landscape of consciousness would resemble a wheel. The root of the Gaia tree are like the wheels spokes remembering the smaller trees, they too are a part of the spokes in the wheel called consciousness.

Let me now decode this image. The Gaia tree is mythic, it is a starting point and helped me organize my thoughts. There need not be a center of everything, we could in fact generate the Wheel one small tree at a time. The trees could have interlocking roots and these roots could come up from the ground to give birth to one another.The little trees represent individual human consciousness. Although consciousness can be had by more then humans for the illustration here we are just concerned with humans. The Wheel created by the root system and the little trees is what can be understood as a continuum of consciousness. This wheel links all of our past, present, and futures together.

For what its worth: I believe there is no end to consciousness. We humans as with all other things of this world do not pass away we simply pass into a Collective continuum. For next week we will return to the world of the everyday and we will look a how the things discussed in this article play out.

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Feb. 7, 2010

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Speaking of Multiple Realities, Part Three

By Christopher Worth

In boundless space countless shining spheres, about each of which, and illuminated by its light, there revolve a dozen or so smaller ones, hot at the core and covered with a hard, cold crust, upon whose surface there have been generated from a moldy film, beings which live and know… This is what presents itself to us in experience as the truth, the real, the world.

Yet for a thinking being it is a precarious position to stand upon one of those numberless spheres moving freely in boundless space without knowing whence or whither, and to be only one of innumerable similar beings who throng and press and toil, ceaselessly and quickly arising and passing away in time, which has no beginning and no end; moreover, nothing permanent but matter alone and the recurrence of the same varied organic forms, by means of certain ways and channels which are there once and for all.

All that empirical science can teach is only the more exact nature and law of these events. But now at last modern philosophy, especially through Berkeley and Kant, has called to mind that all this is first of all merely a phenomenon of the brain, and is affected with such great, so many, and such different subjective conditions that its supposed absolute reality vanishes away, and leaves room for an entirely different scheme of the world, which consists of what lies at the foundation of that phenomenon, i.e., what is related to it as the thing in itself is related to its mere manifestation.” [From The World as Will and Representation, Arthur Schopenhauer]

Starting from John McDowell’s assertion (but noting that I am not holding to understanding the assertion completely as of yet) that our actions are the fabric of what constitutes our reality, then it is within the act of being that our reality unfolds. In other words, everyone’s heard of the saying “You are what you eat.” Well, you are how you act would be just as apt to define what I am trying to say here. That our realities only unfold as we move through our world constructing metaphors as we move into the sphere of influence of another being and or thing’s world.

In the building of these metaphors we collect and gather from the physical world, We assign meaning to the things around us. We do the same with experience shared as we move into the sphere of influence of others. The base meaning comes from our cognitive toolbox for language construction which we are born with. Note that if meaning is only derived here I believe that the being building the metaphor will operate at a lesser level than, say, someone with a wider sphere of influence to draw from. Martin Heidegger says in On The Way To Language, “To undergo an experience with something – be it a thing, a person, or a god – means that the something befalls us, strikes us, comes over us, overwhelms us, and transforms us.”

We have continually used the phrase “sphere of influence” in these articles. One thing that is clear to me is that the physical world is a sphere of influence and also acts as a the root building blocks of metaphor for understanding spheres of influence that are beyond the physical basis, beyond what can be talked about. Imagine me holding a stone, I through it in a lake. (the Stone represents the physical world) The ripples the stone meeting the water makes are representative of “spheres of influence.” These Ripples each carry a peace of the stone which created them. As they movie away from their “Creator Stone,” I notice that not only do the Ripples overlap, but they also seem to grow out of one another…

I want to add one more line to the concept drawing that I’m trying to draw out here for you. We are connected to all of these spheres of influence (to the point that we could be born out of these influences) through a collective consciousness. This might mean that we are not done growing into our consciousness until the second before our last breath. I believe that all consciousness whether we are aware of it or not, is active and bearing on our waking life. We are all connected through it.

The tree is the tree because it acts as the tree. IS the tree different when it is cut down and made into mulch? Yes. It has properties of the life it had previously, but it is a different thing…serves a different purpose, and thereby acts in a different way. Humans are like trees in all their different varieties. We too can be transformed as the tree is transformed. This transformation can be so dramatic that the essence of who one is at first glance can seem alien compared to who one was. The essence of the person we grow out of is still apart of the fabric of our being. (We will address this more in time)

For what it is worth, next week, we will visit the idea of collective consciousness more deeply, understanding that the tree in its existence is playing off of and/or responding to a history of all other trees. This histories biologically coded, is psychologically coded, and, last but not least, it is metaphorically built on a nonlinear history of trees.

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FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: What Goes Into The Making Of Renaissance

By Christopher Worth

When I was a boy I had the opportunity to meet a lot of boys from Father Flannigan Boys Town. My school bus in Bridgeport, Connecticut would stop at the gates of the boys home, and I would peer out the window and see the campus unfolding beyond the gate and think to myself, “Maybe I could find a family there. Maybe they would accept me there.”

Unfortunately, or fortunately (depending on how you look at it), I was an orphan too young to be in their system, to respond to their structure, to be molded by their goals and desires to create a well rounded individual. At least, that’s what I thought came out of those gates. But as the bus geared up and rolled away, I am brought back to this time and place.

This afternoon, I got the opportunity to visit the A.D. Lewis Center. As I rolled into the parking lot, I looked at the ground around the center, including its pool, and at the Barnett Center Weed and Seed building within earshot of it’s front door….and I thought, “What an amazing campus this would be!” I could see a space where many different entities would come together to form a continuum of care for these children in Huntington’s community.

The A.D. Lewis Center with its attention to a child’s physical and emotional well-being and room for potential growth… The Barnett Center Weed and Seed with its focus on co-ordination of resources, intellectual programming, and its overall concern with the larger community’s area of potential growth. These two entities are, in my mind, inseparable, though they both have their own independent operational systems. They are independent centers doing work within the community; this work finds overlap. So as I roll into the building and I am greeted by one of the Barnett Center’s mother figures with the brightest smile and the heartiest gesture, I can’t help but think to myself, “What if these two entities found a way to physically come together and yet still remain independent?”

I know, for example, that the staff at the Barnett Center come and pick up some of the children from A.D. Lewis and take them to the museum. They’ve been going up there for a pottery class, and to me this exchange is a brilliant one! I belong to a team as an offshoot of “Get To Know Your Neighbor,” a community action organization, who are going into the A.D. Lewis Center and putting on a Mardi Gras celebration. My team is making masks and preparing for a mini Mardi Gras festival.

There are two men behind the scenes. One at the A.D. Lewis Center and one at the Barnett Center. The A.D. Lewis Center’s director is Bob Martin. He is a humble, quiet man who is just doing what he can for his community, for his children. Note that I am not just saying he is doing what he can. He most recently has had an illness that has hospitalized him, yet he was at the A.D. Lewis Center today. He does his work without press, without flash…it is like the farmer tilling the field with a horse and plow. Slow and steady, one child at a time he brings life to a barren field by planting the seed of a healthy child.

Tim White, the man at the helm of the Weed and Seed, has a slightly different approach. He is dealing with the wider issues of the community. He brings press to himself to enhance the overall vision of a Huntington transformed. He is dealing with the larger machine. When I think of him, I think of Henry Ford; following the image, turning out the new vision, making accessible to people who haven’t had it — the wider world of hope. These two people, in my mind, taking into account my explanation of them, one the patient farmer, the other an industrialist, mindful of the value of providing a vehicle towards wider perception…both of these people have a vision for a better world that is valid. They both dreamed of a place where the fertile mind can take root. And so, their systems, their programs, their desires do run in tandem with each other. They are providing an outlet and safe space for the growth of a Renaissance for Huntington, West Virginia.

As I rolled to my bus stop, the vision hit me again. A campus shared between these two buildings. Communal resources partnered while keeping themselves financially independent is possible.

My dream is of a Renaissance, of poets, businessmen, painters, scientists, all being born out of a shared vision. This would call for Huntington’s help. Recognize what you have in Huntington. Know what is being born out of programs like these, and embrace it.

While projects supported by the Barnett Center and the Weed and Seed are well funded and have had great community response, I urge my readers to turn your eyes upon the A.D. Lewis Center. Bob Martin and his staff are truly working on a shoestring budget through the city. Do not think if you have ever donated to the Weed and Seed that you’re donating to the A.D. Lewis Center as well. They are two separate entities. Both need our support for their individual missions. If you are giving one money, give the other one physical time. If you are giving one time, give the other some financial support. We need as much of these two things as we can get in Huntington entire.

I believe a Renaissance is upon us, and for what it’s worth it is up to us to embrace it through programs and community action within this city.

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