10 July 2016

The Problem is Me.

Me: "I don't care if you're gay, trans, or bisexual, that's your business, but if you pick mushrooms off of pizza, I'm gonna judge you and think you're an extremely immature individual." 
Friend: "That might be the most honest statement I've ever heard." 
Me: "Hey, I know my morals are often hypocritical; there's definitely a sliding scale with no rhyme or reason; and that my morals often revolve around me judging someone." 

Are you this honest with yourself? Do you even realize when you're judging someone because of their race? their food preference? who they love? Do you? One of the great gifts studying anthropology has given me is the ability to look into my own mind. I can see just how much I'm influenced by the world around me-- and even more so, how that world teaches me to judge others. 

Let me give an example. The other night I was riding the bus home from a friend's house. It was about 10:30pm. I walked on and immediately my mind is assessing the situation. I went down the rows mentally evaluating each person: are they a threat? do I have to watch them? should I maybe sit away from said person? does this person look like they have bed bugs? should I not be reading my book with my cochlear implant off in case something happens? do I feel safe? 

You may think this seems a bit extreme, or even out of character since I'm not one to really be paranoid about safety, germs, etc. Now, I don't consciously go through each question like a checklist. Rather, it happens in a split second. That night on the bus, while going through my checklist, I quickly realized I was the only white person on the bus. Literally. There was one Hispanic looking lady, me, and then about a dozen African Americans. Some were couples; about half were men. Luckily, that night, I didn't feel threatened or nervous so I took my usual seat, busted out the African mythology book I was nerd-ing out on, and read away. 

There have been times though where I did judge people on the bus based on their skin color, appearance, facial expressions. Stereotyping is a primitive instinct. It dates back to our early ancestors whose survival instincts lead them to judge situations and persons quickly, often relying on what they previously have experienced. I call this their catalog of "how to interact with other humans". It is similar too but different from the catalogs of "dangerous animals" "don't eat that, Joey died from eating that", "weather patterns", etc. We needed these catalogs to survive and the idea has stuck with us thousands of years later. 

Time for another story-- I live in downtown Denver where it is not uncommon to pass upwards to 30+ homeless people on my way to/from work. Normally I pass by them without any feelings, each of us going about our own business. However, there's recently been a string of attacks on the mall where a homeless person (or several) attacks someone. I was watching the news early about this said situation. That same day, as I was walking my usual route home, I could tell I was feeling nervous, unsafe. I made a point to walk more quickly pass the homeless crowds that were gathered. Tried not to make eye contact, or tried to do so in order to say "don't beat me up please". Again, I'm not saying this was a conscious choice on my part. If I was not more aware of myself and my own reality, I probably wouldn't have thought anything of it. But I am very aware of my own prejudices, or my own reactions to things. Therefore, I knew there was a problem. 

The problem is this: the news I watch, the stories I fill my mind with directly affect my interactions with others. You might think this is common sense. But do you realize that it affects your subconscious reactions as well? That all those news articles, conversations with friends, and movie blockbusters get filed away into your mind. They become part of that catalog of experience we turn to when entering any given situation I mentioned earlier. Watching a news story about unstable homeless populations makes me skittish around homeless people. Reading a letter from a rape victim makes me uncomfortable around men. Watching a movie about slavery makes me hate white people. Watching a chick flick makes me irrationally upset when a guy doesn't declare his love for me while filling my room with roses and whatever else happens in chick flicks. Watching a TV show where the terrorists are always Middle Eastern makes me wonder about every student I see from the ESL school at work. What we fill our mind with matters. 

My mother told of an experience she recently had at work. She was washing her hands in the bathroom when a fellow employee, African American, was doing the same thing. This woman was using the paper towel to clean up the water mess she made when a white woman walked in. Without second though perhaps, this white woman called the African American woman out, complaining about something that needed to be cleaned in the hallway. The white woman didn't see that this Africa American woman was probably wearing nice office clothes; she didn't see that the woman was simply washing her hands. She saw a dark skinned person with a paper towel in their hands and assumed "housekeeping". 

You can blame this on rural Pennsylvania. You could make assumptions about this white woman-- maybe she's a racist, or has only know African American maids, or just wasn't thinking. But the truth is somewhere in her catalog entitled "how to interact with other humans", the idea that black people are cleaners is in there. 

I recently had an argument with my boss. I was trying to say that everyone is a little bit racist. Or, to borrow from Avenue Q: "Everyone's a little bit racist/ sometimes./ doesn't mean we go/around committing hate crimes./ look around and you'll find/no one's really color blind./ maybe it's a fact/ we all should face/ everyone makes judgments/ based on race." He argued to say that this wasn't so. 

Me: "Don't we make assumptions about every person we see?"
Boss: "Yes but that just makes you prejudice, not racist." 
Me: "If we gain our prejudices from the media and the media is racist-- wouldn't it follow that our prejudices are racist?"

 My boss finally conceded on this point, but I could tell the idea made him uncomfortable. We live in a society filled with people who are uncomfortable with the idea that we could be racist, we could be bigoted, we could be hypocrites, and we could be like the white lady from my mom's work. We don't want to be them. We want to be progressive, we want to be better than our grandparents and the slave owners.

Well, we can be better. Any addict knows that the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. If you can't set yourself face to face with your own weakness, you will never stay clean. Even after that, you might have to down deep, step after step, to examine your own psyche to not just put a band- aid over the problem, to not just abstain but to actually solve that which is haunting you. One of my favorite quotes about racism comes from Chris Rock: "We treat racism in this country like it's a style that America went through. Like flared legs or lava lamps. 'Oh that crazy thing we did. We were hanging black people.' We treat it like a fad instead of a disease that eradicated millions of people."

In order for our society as a whole to be better, we as individuals must be better. We must be more anxiously engaged in filling our catalogs with positive stereotypes. Warning: I'm not saying to fill your minds with rainbows and butterflies so that we don't learn to see warning signs as such and therefore land ourselves in dangerous situations. I'm simply saying not every Hispanic doesn't speak English; not every African American is going rob me at gun point; not every Caucasian is intelligent; not every guy wearing saggy pants is an uneducated hooligan; not every woman with fake nails and dyed hair is a ditz; not every man is going to rape me; not every woman is going to support me. 

I could go on and on but I'll stop here. I think you get what I'm trying to say. I don't know all the answers. I don't know how to solve all the problems our country is facing right now but I do know (and this I believe with all my heart) that unless we, as individuals, can look ourselves in the mirror and say, openly and honestly "I judge people for picking mushrooms off their pizza. And I sometimes judge the African American I see wearing his pants down to his ankles. And sometimes I judge the white girl dressed in a skintight dress heading to the club at midnight. And sometimes I make assumptions about the homeless, or the black girl, or that taxi driver, or the overweight man on the bus, or the cosplay girl at the convention center," then our country is never going to get better because I will never see that the problem is me. 

14 February 2015

My 50 Cents on 50 Shades... cause I can't not have an opinion.

Christian Grey is a messed up man. He really should be seeing a therapist to work through his issues. But he does not live in such a world; he lives in a world where brooding, domineering men are seen as mysterious and troubled. This does not excuse what he did at all but it helps take some of the blame off of the handcuffs and blindfolds and onto the man committing the acts.

When done right (aka in healthy, educated situations), BDSM provides an environment of trust and intimacy as well as one of sexual exploration. The stigma really needs to be taken off this community and I hope this film -- even though, from what I hear, most in the BDSM world despises it for its inaccurate representation-- will open up an avenue for discussion about this side of erotica and sex.

Anastasia is not completely blameless either. However, she is naive and is a product, just as Christian is, of a world where women bodies are for the use of men. I have fallen victim more than once to the ideology that "men only want me for my body" or "if a man wants it, if I don't see a good reason to say no (because just not wanting to isn't good enough), then I shouldn't say no". Just as I hope 50 Shades opens up the BDSM community to less discrimination, I hope it also opens up discussion on the hyper-sexualization of women.

Along with glorifying women solely for their bodies, and along with glorifying the dark troubled man, we also glorify money. It's the modernization of Prince Charming coming to rescue Cinderella out of obscurity, low self-esteem, and poverty that leads women into overlooking unhealthy relationship signs.

I've come to try and live my life by a quote I found last year:
 "The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better."

So instead of just demonizing 50 Shaes, calling it porn, let's ask what about our society needs to be changed so something like this is seen for what it is, instead of what it is not. Let's promote healthy, safe sex (whether that be handcuffs or missionary style) instead of promoting violence sex. Let us promote love being the motivating factor instead of lust. Let's promote the keys to a healthy life-- dealing with past scars; seeking a selfless existence, developing self-awareness. Let us promote a society that glamorizes service, love, people as people, and stears clear of glamorizing money, fame, success. 

Let us promote it through our own actions-- self reflect today on your own relationships. Are they healthy? Are they uplifting you? Are they helping you be a better person? Reflect on your own actions. Are your intentions pure? Are you conscious of your motivations? Do you need to go see a therapist or perhaps a good friend to heal from past hurts? Take notice when you watch movies. Do you agree or not with the character's actions? Are you rationalizing away bad behavior?

As always,
 "be the change you wish to see in the world".

03 October 2014

Learning to love all of me.

The biggest casualty of a journey to self-discovery is one's ego. Your faults, your weaknesses, your past decisions come to the surface. Surprisingly however, what doesn't follow is the usual self-pity and shame of my imperfections. Instead, your soul whispers "Yes! I rejoice when you make mistakes! I welcome your weakness!" 

At this point there are several options: one-- your soul is in some serious denial; two-- you can be offended that your soul is thriving off all your weaknesses; three-- you can ask why. So I decided to do just that (adding a dramatic flare just for the heck of it). "Oh soul of mine, why do you rejoice when I feel shame?" 

"Because," says my soul patiently, "mistakes are signs of living; weaknesses are opportunities to grow; failures are chances to learn." My soul gave me much to ponder.... Could all that really be true? 

"Do what's uncomfortable and scary and hard 
but pays off in the long run. Be willing to fail. 
Let yourself fail. Fail in a the way and place 
where you would be proud to fail." 

"The transformed self, living in union, no longer lives in shame or denial of its weakness, but even lives with rejoicing because it does not need to pretend that it is any more than it actually is-- which is now more than enough! 'When I am weak, I am strong,' Paul says to make the same point dramatically." 

"Do what's uncomfortable and scary and hard but pays off in the long run. Be willing to fail. Let yourself fail. Fail in a the way and place where you would be proud to fail." 

"I am learning every day to allow the space between where I am and where I want to be to inspire me and not terrify me." 

"Second chances are not given to make things right, But are given to prove that we could be better even after we fall." 

I think what I keep forgetting is that making mistakes is part of life. If I truly believe that I came to Earth to continue on my journey to perfection, then why I am so ashamed that I'm falling short? Why I am so afraid to act, in case I do the wrong thing? Because, I'm imperfect! 

So I'm going to start looking at life as my soul does. I'm going to embrace my imperfections. And yes, I'll most likely mess up or I'll act too rashly or I'll make a fool of myself but you know what? I'll be living. And laughing. And learning. 

30 July 2014

"It is better to pass through sorrow...."

"And in that day Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God.
And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient." (Moses 5:10-11)

I have thought a lot about Adam and Eve, especially Eve in these past few months. Struck by Eve's responses to the whole experience-- "It is better to pass through all this hardness, sorrow, and toil so that we can know good from evil"-- I've wondered why she would say something like that? Why, for her, was it not enough to simply believe God when he said "Don't eat this." It was enough for Adam. Was it simply because Satan was so tempting, so good that Eve couldn't handle it? Or did she know something-- know the value of knowing for oneself? 

Many an apostle or prophet say that we don't need to make mistakes because we can learn from others. Yes, sometimes we can. Sometimes we can read the scriptures or watch our loved ones make mistakes and say "I don't want to do that." But sometimes, that is not enough. We have to know for ourselves.

 I am an extremely curious person. Always have been. (Ask the parentals). I want to know things. I want to experience all that mortality has to offer.  I am not satisfied by reading or listening to stories told. I remember, it was my sophomore year of college. My sister was going through a really rough time and I had a roommate who was going to a school psychologist. Depression, she said it was. I decided to join her one day-- I've always been curious about the "lay on a couch and spill your guts" experience. I was filling out the forms and it asked if I was depressed or sad or whatnot. I remember writing "No, but I want to be." I wanted to be depressed so I could know what my sister and roommate was going through. I wanted to know what that was like. I was curious about that mortal experience of being. 

It is not enough for me to take other people's word; it is not enough to see other's suffering. I want to understand their suffering in the realist way possible-- by suffering with them. 

So Eve wanted her eyes opened so she could know good and evil; sorrow and joy; pleasure and pain; obedience and sin. Granted, this is all just the Gospel according to Corrine.  There's another theory I heard from a friend of mine that really rang true to me-- she said, perhaps God would have eventually told Adam and Eve to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil; the test therefore wasn't a black and white "never do this" but rather a test in God's timing. "Don't eat this because you are not ready; because it is not time; and in my own time, I will command you to eat." Does that sound familiar? "I'm not telling you to not have sex, I'm telling you to not have sex until you are married."/ "Wait to go to the temple until you are ready to make those covenants. It is not for everyone, at any time. There is a time and place for it." 

So, perhaps it wasn't so much curiosity but instead, Eve jumped the gun a little bit. She didn't want to wait, or perhaps the temptation was too great, or perhaps she lacked faith in God's timing. She may have been the first, but she most certainly wasn't the last to be guilty of such a charge.

Now, the point of all this rambling is because I wonder why I've been trying to live my life as an Adam all while secretly being an Eve. And why, now of all times, I've decided to accept being an Eve. 

I know that it isn't the ideal way to learn things. Sometimes I tell myself, "if only you had more faith Corrine", "just read your scriptures, go to church, pray and you'll be satisfied", "you don't have to do this", "just trust in God", "obedience is the key" .....  But for some reason I can't,, or I won't, say no. I give in. My only hope is that, like Eve, I will not only open my eyes, learn the good from the evil but that I will also be able to see and rejoice in the sweetness of my redemption. 

26 July 2014

"In every walk with nature, one receives far more than she seeks"

The key to overcoming the fears which plague us in mortality is learning to see ourselves for what we really are.

I am not merely as majestic as the Rockies,
As delicate as the meadows,
As breathtaking as the sunset,
As hopeful as the sunrise,
As constant as the tide,
As powerful as lightening,
As unpredictable as hail,
As determined as a river.

No. I am not my own separate reservoir of power. I am not separated from the divinity which surrounds me. I am part of it.

Therefore, I am the Rockies.
I am the meadows.
I am the sunset and the sunrise.
I am the tide.
I am lightening.
I am hail.
I am river.

And if I am all of those things, how can I fail? How can I fail to be anything other than determined, unpredictable, powerful, constant, hopeful, breathtaking, delicate and majestic?

The answer is, I cannot. Nature does more than teach, inspire, give... nature connects us with the invincibility of our own soul.