Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Juju be gone!

I have had a bout of bad juju for the last 7 or so days. I don’t know exactly where it came from, but I feel like I’ve turned the corner and it’s finally gone. Juju is a very interesting thing. I think of it as worse than bad karma. To me, juju is malicious and almost evil, definitely a thing of the dark side of the force.

I’m often told that I seem to be a very spiritual person. I find this a bit odd, since I’m somewhat of a secular humanist. I believe in the Universe more than a God and Karma more than the idea of original sin. The Golden Rule is one of my primary guideposts, and I think that the purpose of life is to seek out knowledge and use the knowledge we find for the benefit of others. Altruistic? Maybe. Realistic? Maybe not. Grounding? Damn straight.

It’s been a bazaar week. Yesterday in particular brought revelations both bitter and sweet. The California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, a statewide initiative that identifies marriage as being between a man and a woman. Which means same sex marriages are not permitted according to the California Constitution. I’m trying to figure out exactly how this is going to benefit society. I don’t think that it will. Prop (H)8 will only feed animosity between those who feel they should dictate the rules of love and life and those who choose to embrace who they are, no matter what the price. I don’t believe this defeat is permanent. In fact, I’m more optimistic now than ever that marriage will be open to everyone of sentient being in the future. The Universe has a way of balancing these things. Besides, co-habitating unmarried adults now outnumber those who are married. In the long run, it may turn out that the gays will be the ones who conserve the institution of marriage.

Before the news of Prop 8 though, came a reassuring message of balance. President Obama named his nominee for the Supreme Court. For a moment, lets forget the bootstrap American dream fairy tale that is the life and success of Judge Sonia Sotomayor. What sold me was her genuine experience, solid ethos of the rule of law, and subtle tenacity that the rest of us can only envy. Am I proud that she is Latina? Hell Yeah! But more than anything I’m proud that she is the embodiment of what it means to be smart and strong. And it’s hard not to be emotional about the realization that millions of little girls living in less than optimal economic conditions will see that such a life of success is possible for them as well. It’s definitely a wow moment that I will one day tell my grandkids about.

Bad juju sometimes happens, but I can always tell when it’s gone. A sense of calm envelops me and I’m suddenly reminded that I am strong, and that I can adapt and overcome. Maybe sometimes we need bad experiences to appreciate the opportunities we do have…like the opportunity to succeed despite the odds or to marry the person we love. What ever it’s purpose, I’m grateful for the feeling I have now, of not being overcome by a force, real or imagined, that has the potential of taking me down.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

In-group psychology in need of a tweak...

A recent Wall Street Journal article about Portland Oregon and other "Youth Magnet Cities" got me thinking. The article describes how despite a recession and a higher than average unemployment rate in Portland, young, educated professionals continue to flock to the city, lured by both the scenery and the scene.

This brings up a number of questions, specifically in this new era of responsibility. Is it more important to look for a scene than find a meaningful way to contribute to the struggling economy? The article cited an underemployed lawyer who didn't mind answering phones and walking his bosses dogs, and I can't help but think, what a waste. Maybe part of the reason the country is having a hard time with the boot straps is because every body is wearing Uggs.

I think this could be a case of in-group psychology in need of a tweak. If it's true that young professionals would rather live someplace cool, than a place in need of their education, youth and innovation, then maybe we need to redefine what cool is. Indeed, relocating to a new city with limited prospects for employment may seem brave, but isn't much braver to leave one's comfort zone? I understand the desire to be among those who are like minded, but I also believe that cultural hubs be they left-minded or right-minded contribute to increased polarization within our society. Which leads me to the question, how does hip migrate? Does it begin with just one person or a group? And who among us are not just brave enough, but secure enough in our convictions and cultural landmarks to go out among those who do not live and think as we do?

Sadly, I don't fit the bill. If I did, perhaps I'd still live in the Southern Illinois, where the specialty at the local bakery is literally white bread. Thus I continue to be a whole grain, sourdough and intellectual snob who commutes to a postcard city with a vibrant culture that is just sooo cool. So maybe there is something to be said for aesthetics. Glass houses after all are quite beautiful.