Disorientation to Awe

When I found out that Nelson Mandela didn’t write the, “Our deepest fear…” quote, my mind was blown. I pecked at my keyboard, clicked my mouse, going site to site trying to find evidence that Mandela indeed said these wise words. Like a seven year old watching the mall Santa take off his white wig and beard, I gaped at my computer with wide eyes and a frozen heart. I just found out that Santa Claus is not real.deepest_fear_marianne_willi

I feel foolish. Bamboozled.

How did I not know the real author of my favorite quote? I am a writer, a seeker, a wonderer, an intellectual, a critical thinker, a checker of words…how can this be?

I’ve read this quote in books printed by traditional commercial publishers, and attributed to Nelson Mandela. A more daunting question is what other popular quotes are erroneously attributed?

I have been using this quote for fifteen years. This quote has been posted in my work space for a decade. I’ve given birth to three children and repeated these words to them. I loved when the movies like Akeela and the Bee and Coach Carter used the quote on screen. The quote was supposed to have been written by a world famous South African sage and yet it was written by a middle-aged white female spiritualist. I respect Marianne Williamson’s work. I enjoyed her newest release Tears to Triumph, a useful guide for people who need to do inner work or understand emotional tolls.

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But knowing the truth about the quote is forcing me to re-orientate myself to the words and their true meaning. They still mean the same thing yet they have a different essence now. They are not words from a world weary, historically oppressed and well-known South African activist.

They are words formed in the mind of a privileged white female with remarkable spiritual insight. My dream of having understood the depth of a great man has been fractured. Even though Mandela did not say it, I am glad someone did; even if that someone is his polar opposite, writer Marianne Williamson.

Barbara Lee, Dennis Kucinich, Marianne Williamson and Lynn Woolsey

Unearthing this truth is leading me toward a better understanding of humanity. Things are messy with us. Although some muddy the water for sport, most humans just simply misunderstand, misjudge, overhear, and just take a guess. The reason society’s fist is so tight around the ideas of ‘proof’ and ‘science’ is because of our tendency to believe inconsistencies, false motives and outright lies. Science and Proof seem to guard us from the horrors of mistakes and deception. But as much as science demystifies, it also generates more questions than it can ever answer. Science knows it’s in over its head. Snafus will happen. So I can be assured that many more will come into my life but I hope that they will all be attributed to the correct source.

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“Your numbers look great”: non-human solutions to very human problems

working-lifeWhen the twins were in kindergarten they were separated between two classes across the hallway from each other. Victoria’s teacher was a soft spoken, cardigan wearing woman with great patience and tenderness. Vanessa’s teacher was a loud, hostile, bitter old lady with no patience for little kids or the learning process. As the school year wore on, Victoria would come home happy, holding up a finger painting she’d done and talking about how she couldn’t wait for school again tomorrow. Vanessa would come home with her head bowed, somber and clingy asking if she can stay home and never return to that mean place again.

I thought Vanessa was simply having trouble adjusting; after all, some kids don’t take to socialization as well as others. But then the phone calls from Mrs. Bitter started to come in. Daily, I would get a call from a gruff, inpatient voice telling me how my daughter was hiding under her desk and refusing to come out or crying in a corner and cannot be swayed to move. Another time she called and said that Vanessa just wouldn’t stop crying, so Vanessa was separated from the group until she stopped being disruptive.

I finally had a meeting with the school and here is what they told me: “Mrs. Bitter can be a disciplinarian, but her numbers are through the roof; she forces her students to do the work by any means necessary, yes, she can seem a little harsh but she gets the job done.”

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The school cared not that my daughter was frightened out of her wits by this overbearing, unnecessarily harsh woman. Mrs. Bitter yelled at the children without cause and humiliated them by calling them names and getting the other children to join in. I knew this from witnessing it myself when I came into the class to monitor Vanessa’s behavior. Mrs. Bitter was horribly impatient and totally unqualified to be a kindergarten teacher – she had no patience for the job. But out of fear and harsh punishment, her students had the highest academic performance rate in the entire school.

After months of being a confused first time parents, my husband and I finally told the school that we wanted our daughter taken out of that class immediately. Yes, Mrs. Bitter squeezed out high tests scores but she also crunched the spirits of tiny kindergarteners and that was not okay. The school loved this lady because her numbers were great, never mind that she abused the students.

 

I find this mindset prevalent in America. The most successful are the most abusive. This mindset has to stop. Abuse is not okay, even if it gets the job done. The job can be done with compassion, levelheadedness, grace with respect for humanity. The twin with the nice patient teacher did just as well as the twin with the mean impatient one, so why are we rewarding destructive pathways to success?

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Our web-based lives further perpetuate this idea that cruelty as a strategy to produce perfection is okay. Increasingly our lives are maintained by algorithms, these complex applications choose our meals, mates, books, toys, fashion, schedules, careers, doctors, diagnoses, and prescriptions.

Technology is helpful and does create the feeling of ease and efficiency, hence my ability to post to this very blog right now. But computerized technology sends the message to its users that they can be as mechanically efficient both on line and off line. Educational systems are built entirely around the idea that pupils perform at the same scientifically established level. Exams transform human students into data elements that either successfully or unsuccessfully navigate algorithms.

We utilize computerized tools to demonstrate performance but the data is only half of the story. At work my performance is based on how well I navigate complex algorithms, not giving any thought to my humanity. If my report was done with accuracy, I’m good; no one cares that my grandma died, a colleague stole my idea, and I just found out that I have a serious medical condition. Human emotion is in play forever and always, yet our technological world turns a blind eye to the things that truly matter offline.

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Social media is thought to produce a layer of humanity for us but it is really insufficient. Our social media profiles are heavily curated advertisements of ourselves. There is really no humanity in our social media. There is really nothing authentically social about it. We post our stances, arguments, and position on issues but we are not really socializing. We are gathering data and arranging pseudo committees to further digitize our lives. I hear that some authentic friendships are made through social media and this is encouraging. Some people really do get married as a result of meeting online. However, speak to these people and they will likely tell you that their relationship was “set up” or “initialized” online but it blossomed offline. Therefore, our online activity serve as a tool to be used to live our lives not to be lived through

 

Bottom line: your numbers, on paper, on social media, on spreadsheets, on data reports, can look awesome, but you as a human being can be doing horribly. It is everyone job to continually remind each other that our “numbers” don’t represent us fully. It is fine to use data as guide but data will never replace humanity.

Bad Magic

Critical thinkers are actively looking for redeeming qualities in our campy, Twitter troll President. I am among those fair minded individuals who like to give people the benefit of the doubt. However, as a black person in America, my vantage point is slanted toward the feeling of alienation that falls around “building a wall”. This calls up feelings of racism.

Donald Trump is like a really lousy magician. We all see the shiny silver coin sticking out between his fore finger and pinky. He then, with a troubling sense of confidence and annoying persistence, tells us he’s just pulled the coin from behind our ears. Many of us just blink at him, wordlessly, afraid to say that we totally saw the coin. The audience members who call out, “sir, we saw the coin”, he tells them to shut up, calls them a derogatory name, and then turns back to the silent ones, throws up his chin and declares without any irony or self-awareness, “I pulled this coin straight from your ear.” His team placates him and pretends to be delighted by this sloppiness.

So he deals in blatant lies. Is this okay? We all know that this is how you become successful in business. This is not a virtue. This is not a complement. Why would white Christians vote for a man who deals in blatant lies? Do they have an agenda of their own? Is it for the best? Do they enjoy faking enthusiasm? It is a vast mystery to me.

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We are well aware that Mr. Trump is not a paragon of virtue. It is frustrating that white Christians have given him a pass but it is not surprising to me. I am a black Christian and I’ve sat through eight years of hearing “liberation from Obama” ads run incessantly on evangelical radio stations and podcasts. It was incredibly uncomfortable to be listening to the message of Jesus Christ, which is acceptance, love, and forgiveness, and then suddenly be interrupted with an angry ad about how Obama is taking white privilege down a peg and how whites should show their displeasure about this. These groups have been courting white Christians since day one. I thought that educated, thinking white Christians would see through this divisive talk and reject the impulse to “save their economic status” at the expense of appearing racist, but boy was I wrong. I’ve learned that many unintentional racists have been unveiled. If they had to choose between their money and human dignity for their dark skinned neighbor, they would choose their money. They just want affordable healthcare and job stability. We all want this. But having to go through a morally corrupt, carefree, rich white man should not have been an option; and yet it is.

The question we all need to ask ourselves, if we have to choose between money and discrimination, which would we choose?

 

 

Good Article

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-to-live-under-an-unqualified-president

America: crazy people with guns

Another mass shooting. When, oh when will America understand that mental health and weaponry don’t mix?

 

A cousin of mine was shot to death. I had a shot gun pointed at my face once. I’ve been shot at as I stood on my front porch as a teenager. All my experiences with guns have been negative, scary, and lasting.  I suppose NRA members and “responsible” gun owners have heartfelt stories to tell about their love affairs with their 9 mm Beretta’s. I unfortunately have a hate-hate relationship with weaponry.MP900315556

Give a gun to a mentally unstable person and you get Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson Arizona, Omaha Nebraska, Henderson Kentucky, and that Pennsylvania Amish school. The trouble with gun law is that people are probably not crazy when they legally purchased their guns.  Declining mental health dilapidates in spells.  A bipolar person is not manic every day. A depressed individual may have days where he feels like his life is going okay. No one truly knows if their put-together next door neighbor who works as an accountant is capable of pulling his 45 out of a locked box and then walking outside and start shooting at random cars passing by.

Afghanistan and Syria have terrorists; groups of trained vigilante killers who cause havoc to all who oppose their laws. America has the mentally disturbed; typically single white males who feel underscored, failed, or simply confused about the capitalist society in which they dwell.

A terrorist is a terrorist no matter what his evil purpose appears to be, but still I can’t help but wonder what’s crazy American Joe Smith’s purpose? What is he avenging? Protecting? Fighting for?

America: crazy people with guns

A cousin of mine was shot to death. I had a shot gun pointed at my face once. I’ve been shot at as I stood on my front porch as a teenager. All my experiences with guns have been negative, scary, and lasting.  I suppose NRA members and “responsible” gun owners have heartfelt stories to tell about their love affairs with their 9 mm Beretta’s. I unfortunately have a hate-hate relationship with weaponry.MP900315556

Give a gun to a mentally unstable person and you get Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson Arizona, Omaha Nebraska, Henderson Kentucky, and that Pennsylvania Amish school. The trouble with gun law is that people are probably not crazy when they legally purchased their guns.  Declining mental health dilapidates in spells.  A bipolar person is not manic every day. A depressed individual may have days where he feels like his life is going okay. No one truly knows if their put-together next door neighbor who works as an accountant is capable of pulling his 45 out of a locked box and then walking outside and start shooting at random cars passing by.

Afghanistan and Syria have terrorists; groups of trained vigilante killers who cause havoc to all who oppose their laws. America has the mentally disturbed; typically single white males who feel underscored, failed, or simply confused about the capitalist society in which they dwell.

A terrorist is a terrorist no matter what his evil purpose appears to be, but still I can’t help but wonder what’s crazy American Joe Smith’s purpose? What is he avenging? Protecting? Fighting for?