Don’t Come ’round Here No More…

I should have kicked him out of my studio as soon as he said it, but I didn’t. Maybe I was afraid.

In my mind, I excused his ignorance before the completed thought ever left his mouth. We had been there before; he uttering racists nonsense, and me in the capacity of a fitness trainer, not a priest nor a moral philosopher.

“No invention” he said, “no technology, no great contribution to mankind, ever came from sub-Saharan Africa, and that’s a fact!”

The young man, 26, spoke these words as his father looked on, in presumable agreement, from the treadmill across my studio. That was in 2005, and I have never forgotten it.

The young man’s innuendo was obvious; that people with darker skin – Africans and those people who have descended from sub-Saharan Africans, are of a lesser intelligence, and have contributed little to society through the millennia.

I was gulpsmacked as he spoke, but I kept focused on the task. My job was to guide his exercise form, not his morals. I shrugged it off.

This was not an isolated incident. I live in a community with a deep history of racism. Fallbrook was the home of white supremacist, Tom Metzger, for many years. Metzger’s influence still manifests within this community.

During the Obama administration, I heard the term, nigger in the White House, far too often, yet I never spoke up, always recognizing that my livelihood was at stake.

I have no memory of ever influencing human behavior, asinine or otherwise, through the art of argument. When faced with ignorance, or hatred born of fear, I usually just ignore it, grateful that I am not that which makes me cringe.

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If he were in my presence today, the man who uttered those racist remarks 12 years ago, I still would not have argued with him. I would, though, have asked him to leave my studio – immediately, and I will do so to anyone feeling comfortable enough to test that.

When I reflect on the person I am today, versus the man I was 12 or 20 years ago, if there is a difference between the me of then and the me of now, it is that through each little adversity in my life, the me within has grown slightly more bold – more willing to stand on behalf of his beliefs.

I will never attempt to change the mind of a racist. I am though, much less willing to tolerate one… Jhciacb

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Tolerance, Tole-Rant, To All You I Rant…

I asked a friend recently about hostility on social media. He replied by saying, “What’s the use of having an opinion if you can’t cram it down somebody’s throat”. Of course he was joking, but many I know truly subscribe to that belief…

My Belief…

I don’t believe in god, not in the sense of a divine being – man on the throne kind of stuff. Nor do I believe in a singular intelligence or designer, however vague, ethereal or non-specific it might be. At best I believe in an accidental system, and that beneath this system exists an underlying current of higher purpose pulling society in a singular direction. I believe that as time carries forward the stream of that current narrows.

As human complexity increases and that stream narrows it appears to me that we may be headed for a social eruption of some kind. Whether that eruption takes place in the next few years or few hundred, I have no idea. When I step back though, and attempt to take a big picture view of society, complexity, and directionality, it appears this eruption is unavoidable, so I want to get this off my chest while I can.

No Fight In Me…

On the topics of religions, god, and higher purpose, I have two basic rules; I don’t argue on behalf of, nor do I proselytize my beliefs. I also choose never to argue against the beliefs of others. That is, as I hope my beliefs will be respected by others, I ensure that the beliefs of others are respected by me — unless those beliefs involve hatred.

As the futile debates over religions and god causes schisms, what I do seek are occasional discussions that might otherwise fill those gaps. I tend to think the wellness of culture is absolutely dependent on religious tolerance. If useful discussions can’t be had, I simply disengage from all conversation. To attempt to change a person’s beliefs, mine or yours, is a supreme violation of consciousness.

Probably All That Can Ever Be Known…

In the appendix to his book, The Evolution Of God, Robert Wright masterfully explains what I believe is all we can ever truly understand about god, higher purpose, or why we even think in those terms. Wright speaks of an early hunter-gatherer walking alone through the woods alone at dusk. Suddenly there is a noise. The noise stops the man in his tracks. For a split second he thought he saw something associated with that noise, but can’t be certain whether or not he did. He looks again and sees nothing. Rather than continuing in the same direction, the man adjusts his path. He does this as to exhibit caution in order live another day – to push his genes into the next generation.

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The idea though, that he thought he saw something served him much better than not thinking he saw something. That is, if that guard had not been put up, he may have well walked into danger, and not survived another day to spread his genes.

And that’s where the idea of god begins and ends for me; as an evolutionary presence to ensure we protect ourselves, both physiologically and culturally, from things that may hurt us.

Fast Talkin’ Dawkins…

The primary tenet of biological evolution is that traits which serve getting genes into the next generation survive, and traits that don’t serve that purpose get weeded out in time. If cultural evolution parallels biological evolution, which Richard Dawkins himself stated early on in his career, than religion must be a trait that is serving the advancement of culture. After all, religions have not been weeded out over time, only transmogrified, misused and abused.

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At its very core religion is where all culture began. All art began as sacred art. All governance began as sacred governance. Albeit art and government are now (mostly) secularized in the modern era and in the western world, we have early religions to thank for providing us this framework that today keeps chaos in check – despite what we see on the evening news.

Did You Read Anything Up To This Point…?

I know there are people who have read this far, and ready to take me to task. Don’t bother – that’s kind of my point. However asinine my beliefs may seem to you, they are my beliefs and I value them as I value my child. Try and talk me out of loving my child or my beliefs, and you have lost the argument so there is no need for me to speak.

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I have a great reverence and appreciation for religions, though I subscribe to none. I actually believe that rituals are the most important aspect of the human experience, and like art and government, all ritual began as sacred ritual. Whether we believe in a higher power or not, to me, is not as important as behaving as though there is one.

Where religions go in the future can’t be predicted, though billions will try to chart their path, as billions more try to extinguish them. History though, makes a great case that religions may change over time, and may evolve, but for those who would like to see them disappear, I’ll suggest their very presence is the most vital part of culture, and a necessary trait for cultural survival.

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I believe that a successful outcome for humanity is absolutely dependent on religious tolerance. If one steps back and takes a big picture look at the evolution of culture, I’ll suggest it will be hard to disagree with that. Be well. rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from The Mountain Goats.  Enjoy…