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A Ferret Called Wilson

Chasing Happy, Chasing Dreams

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the dream

Love

When I entered college, I cheated. I did two things that were technically against the rules.

1. I applied as a transfer student because I had missed the deadline to apply as a freshman. It got my application a lot of attention.
2. Instead of a statement of purpose, or an admission essay or a cover letter, or whatever those things are where you say why they should admit you to their school, I wrote a two page essay on how love can save the world.

Out of 900 students applying for admission to Yale university as transfer students, my tricks got me one of only 25 available slots.

Today I wonder to myself how I got so far from those beliefs. I wonder to myself how it was that ten years passed and I forgot the power and the audacity I had as a teenager when I bucked the rules of admission at the top university in the entire country — and got in. I wonder to myself how I ever got so tame.

There is another thought that plagues me these days. Love can save the world. I love passionately, wholly, unreservedly, and more often than not, one sidedly. I have asked myself here on this blog on more than one occasion: If I have this paradise to offer, why does no one take me up on it?

Today, I think I have found this answer, too. I have not actually invited anyone.

Often I feel desperately alone. I don’t think it’s because no one cares about me. I think it’s because in our world we are raised inside invisible barriers that separate us from one another. These barriers take the form of propriety, manners, ettiquette, and respect. The only times we are allowed to breach these boundaries are in romance, and we are only allowed to be in love with one person at a time. This is a recipe for perpetual isolation in no small part because we cannot even see that the cage that holds us is of our own making.

So, why have I not invited anyone to my paradise? My paradise is built of infinite, unbounded love. It is love for myself, love for my fellow humans and love for the awesomeness of the earth that holds me. I have not confessed my love to anyone, not in earnest, not openly and plainly, and this is why I am alone in my world.

It’s scary to confess your love. We are taught that confessions of love must be met with reciprocation or refuttal, but nothing in between. We don’t know that it’s possible to be loved by someone without that person requiring anything from us, so we don’t know how to respond when unconditional love is offered to us. Most of the time, we mistake it for infatuation, romance, or sexual attraction. If we don’t feel this way towards the person loving us, more often than not it spells the end of our relationship with each other. That’s why it’s so scary to offer your love. It’s not because we fear the other person might not feel the same way, but that we fear we may be rejected as humans, that our most precious gift will be scorned, and this is no trivial fear.

But I am a trailblazer. I am an alpha, a loner, a wild beast and a goddess. I listen to all, but take counsel from my heart alone. I shall declare my love! I shall do this honestly, openly, and without hope for reciprocation. I shall take steps to guarantee that my confessions do not manipulate or pressure the humans that I love, and I shall declare my love only to those who I know I am ready to accept immediately and whole heartedly into my paradise.

This frightens me. But I have learned most recently that fear, deep, smouldering fear is my surest sign that I am traveling the path I have been seeking. We only fear when we know what we have to lose. Fear is replacing my anxiety, a kind of nervous unease that all I did and all I am is worth nothing. Fear burns.

Fear wakes the beast and the beast is in love with life.

Still in Pain

First, I would like to apologize. That title is a pun. It’s not appropriate to make puns about being in pain because puns are funny (even if only in the “har har…groan” sense), and pain is not funny. So, sorry for the poor pain pun.*

Recently I had the opportunity to practice being still in my pain. I have mentioned in previous posts about the Numbness — that feeling of excrutiating pain in your soul that just cannot fully manifest itself into tears, and ends up filling your body with an overwhelming numbness that claws at your heart and dims your vision, making you feel like an empty shell in a world made of cardboard. The Numbness is a kind of existential pain, and like all pain, it eventually passes.

I say I had the opportunity to be still in my pain because being still in pain, particularly the numbing kind, allows us to fully experience it, and by experiencing it, allow it to pass. For most of us, the reflexive reaction to pain is to tense up and brace against it. This is true of pain in our bodies, but pain in our hearts can do the same. We also instinctively try to run from the source of the pain. Pain in our bodies is easier to deal with because our bodies know how to deal with pain: remove the source, place a protective scar over the wound, then repair the damage. Pain in our hearts is more difficult. Sometimes we don’t know what the source is, so we run around in panic. Sometimes we put a scar over the wound without removing the source, sealing it in and preventing healing. Sometimes we place a scar so thick, and then forget to remove it later, so that we are emotionally crippled. Stillness is the salve that cures the wound and removes the pain.

Because I was able to sit in stillness for three solid days, doing absolutely nothing to relieve my pain or my fear of more pain to come, I think I was finally able to understand where the pain was coming from. As I sat on my porch, sipping a bitter sweet drink of cool honey-vinegar, the shade over my eyes began to thin and brighten and I began to see finally that my pain was bubbling up from two sources.

First, there was the pain I was experiencing from forcing myself into a role that does not allow for complete expression of who I am. I speak here of my job as an economist. In the past, I thought I was feeling a sense of inadequacy (maybe I was?) that perhaps I am not suited to be an economist because I’m not good enough at it. I thought that my lack of publications was perhaps the result of some flaw in my character — I don’t put in enough hours at work, or my attention deficit disorder prevents me from being able to focus on the minute details of formatting and submitting my work to professional journals. I also felt at times that my pain was perhaps being caused by the incessant judgmental nature of academia. Until you have tenure, you are constantly being evaluated and your livelihood depends on you outperforming in some measurable sense most of your other peers. It is nearly impossible to focus on producing good quality work that answers truly important questions when doing so puts you at risk of going against the greater body of academics who hold the power to decide your future.

In the past, when I have felt this pain of inadequacy and uncertainty about my job, my reaction was to run from it by taking steps to secure my future position. This meant spending more time and more energy devoted to something that did not fulfill me and brought me more pain and more discontent. Even as my conscious mind was aware of the reality that there is nothing particularly special about being an economist that I should bleed my soul for it, I was at the same time unable to see that my actions were at all times reactions to the pain and fear of losing that identity. Put another way, I was stuck in my unhappiness because I kept attempting to escape it by looking backwards at where I came instead of forwards at where I wanted to go. I had no idea where I wanted to go and I didn’t even know that I didn’t know. Rough, no?

The second source of pain that became apparent to me was my relationship (or lack of relationship) with my friends. I have always fought to have good friends and I to this day do not understand why it doesn’t happen. In the past I have often blamed myself for not being proactive enough; I didn’t tell the boy that I liked him (Thunder, I like you HARD, like I want your penis to like my vagina: HARD! There. I said it. Are we friends now? Hmm…), so I’m the only one to blame if our relationship never deepens; No one ever invites me out to play with them, but if I don’t invite them out, then I’m equally to blame that we don’t hang out. Right? What I learned from my stillness is that it doesn’t matter. I am not in possession of the friendships that I crave, and this lack causes me pain.

It took three days of silent, still, intentional inaction to finally understand where my pain was coming from. These days were difficult for me. At every moment, even as the Numbness threatened to suffocate me, I forced myself to remain still. If my thoughts reached out to try and find solutions to my pain, I brought them back. I said to myself, “No, mind, you cannot find a solution to a problem that you do not truly understand. First, let us understand why you hurt so much.”

I feel much stronger and more resilient now than before I spent my time in Stillness. Ironically, my relationships to my friends have not changed, nor have I found a new career path to replace the one that I am sure I must leave. At the same time, however, I feel that a stillness has come to my soul. Where once it felt like a sea under storm, it is much closer now to a windswept lake.

I think that in our world we are told to take action too often. There is this idea that if you do nothing, then you are at fault for your lack of success. I think that this advice at one time used to be good, but has become warped in a society that lacks opportunity for stillness. When one’s default is stillness, then only action can bring new insight. Sometimes, even the switch from inaction to action is enough to focus our intentions and make clear to us what our hearts are craving. However, when we are constantly bombarded with new stimuli, new claims on our attention, new ways to numb the pain, then action can never be wholly separated from reaction and we cannot know if what we do is in fact what our unique being is directing us to do. When this is the place we find ourselves in, only inaction can be trusted to reflect our true desires.

As a result of my stillness and inaction, I have hope now that, at least for a short while, my actions are springing forth authentically from my own Self. I have hope that the steps I choose to take forward, even as they terrify me, are steps towards something that is better than what I am leaving behind.

To close my thoughts, I want to share with you a conversation I had with the manager of my favorite bike shop. In my frustration at their lack of support for my development as a cyclist, I went searching for a shop or a group that I could ride with. I found, on that fateful day that I decided to chase the boys in their team practice, a shop most appropriately named You Can. I ventured in and they enthusiastically offered to train me and support me as an athlete. The catch, however, is that I have to leave the Giant Store. This hurt, and it was not an easy choice to make, but I decided in the moment that I would do it. There is no other way for me to chase this dream. Out of politeness and respect for everything they have done for me, I went to talk to the manager at Giant. He was understanding. He’s a good guy. He’s very dear to me. As we were talking I said to him, “Lately, all I can think of, all I want to do is ride my bike. In the last year of my contract I should be working hard to bolster my resume for my impending job search, but instead I am riding, even taking shortcuts at work in order to have more time to ride. The reality is, no matter how successful I am at my job, I could win the Nobel Prize for all it matters to me, there is nothing that will comfort me if I don’t find out how fast, how far, how hard I can ride. There is simply nothing that I would regret more than not chasing this dream right here and right now.”

My friend was understanding, supportive even. “Well, it’s not a big deal. Somehow things will work out,” he said to me.

I have to trust that. I have to believe that somehow things will work out. There’s just no other way to do it.


*alliteration is also funny and not appropriate. I will not apologize for my alliteration.

Let’s All Compete Ourselves to Death

We are taught to live with “the goal of being competitive so we can make a living.

Does anyone ever stop to wonder if all this competition is wholly necessary in our world? We can’t all be competitive in the meaning used above. Being competitive isn’t just an attitude or feeling here, it’s directly linked to success. Being competitive here specifically means being better than most of your peers. By its very definition, we can’t all be competitive, so what does it mean when we insist that this is the way to design our societies?

In reading this article I was reminded of my PE teacher back in high school. We only had to take one class of physical education in the entire four years I went to high school and the teacher/coach took it upon himself to give us a pep talk about our lives. In classic form, with his foot on the chair and his body draped loomingly casual over his knee, he tells us, “These are the best four years of your life. Don’t waste them by taking naps. You’ll nap in the afternoon, then you will stay up late because you slept too much. Then you will oversleep your alarm because you stayed up late, and the cycle repeats. Push through the tired! Get up and get out and DO something! My athletes are all tough…” I don’t remember what he said after that. I was too hung up on the terrifying notion that high school was the best my life was ever going to get, and that some people didn’t understand that naps were themselves a valid activity to spend the afternoon on.

Why should high school be the best four years of our lives? I think, now that I am what people call an adult, that my PE teacher was making the critical grass is greener error. High school, unlike adulthood, does not have 30-year mortgages to pay, jobs to clock in and out of, bosses that are never pleased with your performance, kids that always need your attention and never shut up. In high school, you are young and your life is ahead of you. Your body is resilient, you are full of potential, you are forgiven for your mistakes on account of you being “just a teenager”, and your job, which is to attend class and do your homework, carries no responsibility whatsoever. To the teacher, high school kids just look like a bunch of brats who get to hang out with their friends, smoke pot, and get doted on by their parents all day, insulating them from all the harsh realities of “real life.”

But again, I ask, why should real life be so harsh? Why should coming of age be a burden? Why must it be that when we are young we have our parents and our teachers to fight for us and care for us, but when we are grown we should be abandoned and left to fend for ourselves?

The belief that being competitive is the only way to survive in this world is simply the other facet of the resignation that life is harsh. But it doesn’t have to be that way, does it? It is a choice we make together as a people.

As an economist, I am familiar with the argument: Inequality and competition are necessary to fuel economic growth. However, even as some people are losing relative to others, it is not actually a bad thing on an objective level because the growth we achieve raises the quality of living of everybody. Moreover, if you try to reduce competition or inequality by redistributing wealth or making laws that prevent people from getting profits or wages that are too different from each other, you will destroy the desire for people to make progress and the economy will stagnate. Therefore the harshness of life is both a necessary and sufficient condition for economic.

The thing that really bothers me, though, is that this is not even true. Recent research has shown that happiness correlates with income only up to a certain level (slightly above the average income level of a community) and that the extremely rich can be just as thinly spread as the moderately poor. Millionaires have been quoted saying outrageous things like “4 million dollars just doesn’t go as far as it used to…” Then there is the blockheaded insistence that bloated bonus packages for top level management are the just and necessary compensation for their entrepreneurship, skill, and willingness to bear the risks of success and failure in the name of economic progress. When stakes are very high, experiments have shown that people perform worse than when stakes are medium or low. The explanation is that high stakes means high pressure and every human, no matter how strong we like to believe we are, has a pressure threshold above which we start to crack.

Economic research, despite what we want to believe, does not support the notion that more money is sufficient to motivate people to innovate or risk new business endeavors. At the same time, is it even necessary? In other words, even if at some point more money cannot induce people to try harder or perform better, are there ways to motivate people without just increasing their income? The answer to this second question is yes. Throughout history great artists and inventors created their works not because of the material rewards they were getting from them, but in spite of the failure of their work to generate income. Two famous examples are Edgar Allen Poe and Nikolai Tessla. Both men are indisputable titans of their fields, and yet both men spent their lives in relative obscurity and suffered their work being stolen, plagiarized, and ridiculed. It was not until after their deaths that their true genius was appreciated. So why would these men persevere? The answer is that it exists within each human being the power and the drive to create.

The “starving artist” archetype is not an archetype for no reason.

So, why, I ask, why is it that we hold so desperately to this notion that harsh competition is the only way to design our lives? Even the economists who brought us this idea in the first place are tearing it down again. Ironically, the authors responsible for contradicting the sacredness of the competitive claim were merely attempting to further their own careers through new, innovative and competitive research. The master’s tools?

I often write as if I know the answers. Often I can see the environment, the underlying infrastructures, that makes otherwise perplexing behavior of humans seem perfectly rational and understandable. When I can, I try to elucidate those structures in the hopes that a better understanding will enable the empathy we need to improve our world. However, in this case, I am at a loss. Why do we cling so desperately to a notion of the world that causes us pain, despair, and a rotting of our spirit inside our still living bodies? Why do we resign ourselves to inaction as all the beauty and joy in our lives is sacrificed on the altar of economic progress? I DON’T KNOW!

I don’t know why we worship competition. I do know, though, that there is another way. I know that we as humans have access to something greater than the scraps that are thrown to us from the rich and the powerful on high. Our world is big enough and, despite all we have done to it, still healthy enough to support all of us in abundant life. Rather than design our lives around the act of getting enough money to pay the bills, we could design our lives around to goal of abundant life. Instead of fearing nature, we could venture out into it to collect our food as it grows wild in the earth, rather than buying it prepackaged and marinated in synthetic chemicals in a grocery store. Instead of spending our hard earned money on brand name items that we wear as a symbol of our success, we could buy products that give our bodies immediate physical comfort. Insteand of blaming ourselves for not being competitive enough, we could acknowledge that the rules are against all of us and instead work together to achieve the happiness that seems to elude us as individuals.

Living in perpetual competition amounts to accepting that their is not enough for all of us, and it is a sour deal. There is no rest for the competitive lest they fall behind. There is no enjoying the spoils of victory when they could be invested into even more competitiveness. Worst of all, when we are always competing, always banking our joy on the outcomes of our endeavors, we are not enjoying the process that is being alive along the way. Humans were never intended to live in perpetual competition. Even hyenas find time to play.

Catch Fire and Burn

The answer that makes spirit burn with creative fire. The answer that makes toes tingle and breath catch. The answer meant only for you.

Did you know that there is an answer? To the question, “who am I and what will I do with my life?”

Did you know that there is an answer that will light you up, set you on fire and make you burn?

I am only just now beginning to see that there is an answer. The light at the end of the tunnel isn’t daylight, it’s fire.

Chase it. Devour it. Consume it and own it and fuel your spirit.

Accept nothing less. To accept anything less is to waste the gift of life you have been given.

Do not pass your days meekly in the herd of other sheep. Do not let your eyes dim. Do not let Them tell you who you are or what you should be doing.

Burn. Catch fire and BURN!


Quote taken from Rebelle Society.

Freeing the Beast

There is a beast inside me. It is a wild, hungry, raging creature born and moulded from the raw energy that composes and binds the universe. Its breath is fire and it howls in the night, stomping, pacing, smoldering within its bounds. It is freedom that it craves and the cage that has contained it these last twenty years is beginning to rust.

It has been barely a week since I rode the Sado Long. Cautious at first, concerned primarily with successfully completing the task of riding 210 kilometers, I eventually found myself alone, just me, the road, and the Beast. I remember the very moment that we locked eyes. I was on a medium length ascent, probably around 6-8% grade and all the men around me were aching and dragging their way up what was in all honesty a moderate climb at best. The part of me that makes most of my life decisions, the cool, rational, respectable side of me, was exhausted. I had nothing left — no reason to believe that I could do any more than crawl my way up the slope with the rest of the men on the road. It was then that the beast spoke to me. I am you. I am in you and I rage. I am not dead yet. You are not done yet. Together, we will fly. I spoke its words aloud, “I am not done yet!” and even as I uttered them I felt the fire fill my body as the beast took over my consciousness.

It has been barely a week since I released the Beast. I can feel it in my muscles, under my skin, seething, flowing, burning. On my bike, on that road, surrounded by humans but completely alone, when it was just me and the beast, I was seduced. I did not think about the consequences of my actions. I was vaguely aware that the speed with which it drove me might not be sustainable over the distance. I was somewhat concerned that the raw energy, the ikioi of the Beast, was more than my weak body was able to manage and that I would find myself broken and lifeless, perhaps in a hunger lock as the Japanese say, somewhere on the side of the road a few kilometers up. I did not consider the possibility that the Beast might not quietly return to its cage when my body was physically exhausted. Indeed this was the far greater risk in releasing it than any damage I could have done to my physical self that day.

It has been barely a week since the Beast and I have begun to cohabit this same body together. Already I can feel it cracking my boundaries and bleeding out into the outside world. Yesterday I woke up and saw my image flash in the mirror as I sat up out of bed. My hair is ringed in flaming pink like a crown of other worldly fire on my head. Of course I’m the one who put it there, but I didn’t consider the consequence of my actions as I bleached out my normal color and painted in the shining, flourescent dye. I had to go to work that day and meet with my students. No time to cover it up or tame it down. No time to pretend that I was not a professor of economics at a prestigious university who was sporting flaming hot pink hair. Fear took over me then. What would my colleagues think? Would I be criticized? Would they tell me to put it away? To lock it up again? Would this one small act of coloring my hair spell the end of my contract, the end of my precious work visa and my access to Paradise? I had no time to think on these matters, only prepare myself to accept the consequences in whatever form they appeared.

I have been chasing a Dream for something around three years now. Every time I check in, the dream has shifted form. Where once the dream was to run away from the world and live in the mountains, it was then to bring the world with me into the mountains to share with them the paradise I learned how to access. Today, my dream has shifted yet again. I want freedom. I want to live in harmony with the Beast. I know now that the Beast is my life force. These years, decades almost, that I have been living in pain, feeling chained by the weight of responsibility and rejected by society, I thought they were spent in mental sickness. I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with chronic depression. I was not depressed. I was starving. I was suffocating. The Beast in me had taken with it all my will to live and I had locked it up in an iron cage and naively hoped that with time it would become tame. The Adults around me told me that taming the beast was my God given responsibility as a human being on this earth. They told me that to successfully tame the beast would be to achieve everlasting life. They lied. To tame the Beast is to have everlasting death; to die, every day, over and over, slowly and painfully. To lock up the Beast is to stand on the edge of a mountain, looking over the valley and hearing the rushing stream of snowmelt below, feeling the warm sun on your skin and the gentle breeze that washes the clouds across the sky, and to be unmoved by it.

It has been barely a week since I released the Beast and I am scared. The power of this creature is overwhelming, but it is also uncontainable. I cannot control the beast any more than a sea wall can hope to control the weight of the ocean. To lock it up again would surely kill me. I have been in the black chasm that is the Beast’s prison and I will never go back there. However to allow it to rage free across the canvas of my life is to reign chaos down on everything that I know. I could lose my job, lose my home, become separated from the people I love, and the only family I know. I like to believe that I am strong. I like to believe that I am intelligent and that no matter what happens that I will find a way to survive. But I don’t just want to survive. I want to Live. I want freedom.

I and the Beast, we will have our freedom.

…and Lighting and Crashes

I was so inspired by my ride with Thunder on Tuesday that when I heard his team was competing in their first race of the season this weekend, I couldn’t help but tag along. I went for support, but also for curiosity. Part of me always knew how wonderful bikes are, but I never knew how much fun road bikes were until our epic rainy mountain adventure.

The race was in Gunma and it was a sort of warm up for the “real thing” next week. I’m not really sure what that means because I asked “does this mean that people aren’t going to ride full out today?” and the answer was a resounding “no.”

I got a chance to ride most of the course during the award ceremony. Oh my goodness it was fun! A twisty windy mountain loop of about six kilometers and no traffic. There were two turns that were pretty tight on a descent — one was an obvious hairpin and the other was what I think people call a composite turn? It starts out with a certain radius and then when you think you’re almost clear, it tucks in harder right at the end and you’re like “shit! I’m going to go off the road here!” Then there’s a section called “the heart burst” which is a short and steep little climb close to the mid point of the race. I didn’t get to ride the last kilometer because my legs were total trash after tuesday (and wednesday, and thursday, and friday), and I couldn’t make the whole six in under thirty minutes. I also had a late start.

The team that raced turned out to be nothing of what I expected. One of the participants is a middle aged guy I rode trails with a few times who I always took for a downhiller, but apparently does some road, too. Another guy who came was pretty quiet and laid back, but apparently races enduros for fun and so surprised all of us with his skill. There was a father-son pair, both riding their first race, and a kid just barely 18 years old by the look of him. And of course, Thunder. The father-son pair both did amazing, twelfth place and first in age class! Enduro-guy, the kid and the downhiller all had a great time, but didn’t place anywhere close to the top ten. They were great fun to cheer, though! Kept switching it up and getting lost in the pack. We never knew where they would be!

Thunder didn’t do so well. He started out with, pardon me, thunderous speed, but started to burn out about half way. At the eighth of twelve laps we thought he had crashed because he had gone from first to a shakey second, to a solid fourth and then to dead last. The lag between him and the leader was so huge we weren’t even sure if he would show up again or not. It turns out that, while he didn’t crash his bicycle, he crashed his legs with serious cramping that was impossible to recover from. What I didn’t know at the time was that it was his first race in three years. No wonder!

Over all it was an amazing day. I got up at three in the morning so we could make the start line by eight. It’s almost eight now as I type this. But I couldn’t help but feel an undeniable thrill being there watching people I know push the limits of their abilities. I found that I wanted to know my limits, too. I have always held back from racing because I know I am not talented. I injure easily and my asthma only leaves me alone if I leave it alone, but not pushing my edge. But today I had a new desire. Of course I would love the chance to win, but I know I will not win, especially when there isn’t even a women’s class. However win or not win, the only way to know exactly how fast I can really move is to get out there and race.

I’m not ready yet, but I feel as if I’ve gotten infected with a new strain of sick. Not just miles, I need speed now.

Level Up at Life

Today was the first day of classes. It’s the university policy to spend the first class divided into two equal introductory sessions. I usually spend the time going over the syllabus, talking about me and my philosophies, and getting a feel for my students.

Today, I had fun! I actually had fun hanging out with a bunch of college kids talking about work that we will both have to do together! I consider this a level up at life:

  • Level 1: Has job that can pay bills. Actually pays bills.
  • Level 2: Maintains a social life in addition to job and bill paying. Enjoys social life.
  • Level 3: Acknowledges that work exists to support social life, not other way around.
  • Level 4: Recognizes Happy when it happens, both at work and outside.
  • Level 5: Has fun at work.

Work life balance is a thing that relies on the assumption that work and life have to occur simultaneously and separately from each other. But the true master of life has fun all the fucking time, even at work.

I’m sure there are more levels. I just haven’t reached them yet. I’ll let you know when I find out what the next one is!

Children Need More

In my morning ritual of browsing the interwebs half mindedly for inspiration and company, I found another article ridiculing the platform “every child deserves a mother and a father.” The fodder for the ridicule? A man murders his wife while all seven of his children are at home. This is clearly proof that the movement is doomed and gay people deserve equal rights, right? Wait, you can’t see that? I thought it was supposed to be obvious.

Let’s break it down. First, the movement attempts to link heterosexual norms with the transcendental rights of children to be protected, loved and given every chance in the world for success. There’s an appeal here to the holiness of children and it’s put in contrast to the self centerednes of adults. Wrapped in this motto is the idea that a lesbian who wants to raise a child with her partner is putting her own sexual desires above the needs of the child because she trades heterosexual partnering from homosexual partnering, thus depriving the child of its right to have a male presence as it grows. When used against homosexual couples seeking equal marriage rights, the every-child movement is ultimately saying that sex is dirty, homosexual sex is dirtier, children are holy, and anyone who would put their own needs above a child’s is a Bad Person.

In my recent post on the mind body connection, I make the claim that the mind cannot operate properly without the body being given appropriate care which includes adequate sleep, nutrition and sex. Regardless of your style of sex or choice of partner, if you are denying yourself sexually, your mind cannot occupy the space of openness and love that children need to grow in health. So in a way, the mother/father movement is also saying that mental health of the adult is not a necessary requirement for them to care for their children. Now we can see the argument begin to break down. On the one hand, a male and female presence are considered necessary on a moral level to raise a child and the underlying reason here is that they contribute to the balanced psychological development of that child. On the other hand, the same psychological underpinnings are ignored when the movement is used to attack same sex couples because it denies the well established link between parental mental health and the health and development of their children.

At this point, I tend to lose my ability to empathize with the warring factions on this mother/father debate. LGBT supporters claim this is all about the heteros versus the homos, and since the homos are the minority and are being discriminated against they get to claim the moral high ground. Since this argument is obviously not about psychology at all (since neither side seems to make well grounded and internally consistent psychological arguments), it breaks down into a shouting match about whose rights are more important, and who is “obviously” more ridiculous for holding to their beliefs. I lose my patience quickly with these types of debates because neither side seems interested in discovering Truth or advancing on the fundamental problem. Here, the fundamental problem is about discrimination, but it is being made to be about children. I believe that if it were about children, both sides would discover that they fall leagues behind the standard for optimal childcare.

2014 Genki-mura Kids
Last year’s amazing group.

Yesterday I finished my service volunteering for the Fukushima-ko Genki Mura Camp, a 100% volunteer based nature camp for child refugees of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Because of their age and small bodies, the levels of radiation still present in their home towns are too high for them to be able to play outside without risking serious long term health problems. They are not even able to play in the grounds at their elementary schools because of the contamination and must spend all day every day inside. If you want to know what pathos is, it’s a nine-year-old child who has never been allowed outside to play. Because we believe that Every Child Deserves to Play Outside, we organize and run this camp twice a year in the warmer months so that these kids can have a respite from the confinement of the remainder of the year. The children at the camp stole my heart as they have done every time I see them.

Because the camp was volunteer based, everyone who helped had their own jobs and their own lives that they had to attend to. Some people could only come for a day, or for a few hours. A handful made it for the whole week. However, the kids never took more than a few seconds to incorporate the newcomers into their games. To them, every adult was a plaything and they were climbing on us, wrestling us, crying on our shoulders, napping in our laps, all within knowing each other for barely a few hours. The first thing that I learned about children from volunteering is that children do not come with a built in emotional slot for mom and dad. Children want to be loved, and need to be loved, and they don’t know yet how to be suspicious of the types of betrayals and let downs that we adults come to anticipate. More importantly, they don’t understand the morality behind a mother and a father caring for them. All they know is that there are people that care for them, they need that care, and when there is a loving adult presence in their life they will latch on and soak up that care for as long as it’s available.

The second thing I learned about children from volunteering is that it doesn’t really matter if you produced them with your own genitals, they are fantastic, beautiful creatures. On the last day we all gathered in a circle to say our goodbyes. Each volunteer stood up and said a few words to the kids about their impressions during the week. There were many wet eyes and most of them were from the grown ups. If only a mother and father can love their child, if the biological connection was what really made the affection between children and their caretakers so strong, then why would we, a group of adults with our own lives and our own families, be so torn to part with some random kids that we’ve known for only a few days? Just like children are capable of taking love and care from strangers, we adults are wired to love and care for children, plain and simple.

At camp this last week, some two dozen children were raised, cared for, educated and inspired by over thirty different adult volunteers. The ages of the volunteers ranged from high school senior to mid-fifties. There were men and women, married and single, straight and… me. I’m neither male nor female. I’m not married and I’m definitely not “straight.” The adults knew most of that. The kids picked up on it immediately and you know? They didn’t care. To them I was just another plaything among the other tall and slow playthings that had come to hang out with them that week. And if i needed any proof that my influence was good for them, all I had to do was watch and listen as they shouted their goodbyes out the bus window on their way back home.

Children are magical and wonderful. They deserve to be loved because they are humans, just like we are. And they are precious to us because in children can we see a reflection of the world as it would be without our judgment and our adulteration. For our sake, we should not debate whether a mother and a father, or two mothers or two fathers, or only one parent is the right set up to raise a child because they are all wrong. The right way to raise a child is to expose it to all the love and all the care that we can find for it in this world, wherever we can find it and for as long as we can provide it, even if we may never see that child again.

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