Posts tagged ‘belief’

September 8, 2017

What is There to Know?

by lisa st john

There is no other system that responds to aerodynamics and fluid dynamics quite like shifting sand.

Physicists have formulae for the behavior of solids, liquids, and gases but do not have an adequate scientific description of granular motion. Granular behavior doesn’t fit neatly into a single physical theory.

 

Long Beach Island

Why do you like games so much?

Because when I’m playing Bocce or Canasta or Scrabble I know there are rules, and if I play by these rules, with a little luck there is a chance I can win. Unlike real life, where you can do everything right and still get screwed.

 

Scrabble tile lost to the bushes

Games have a science behind them. They are analytical and organized, unlike shifting sand. But the beauty of science is that just because something doesn’t fit into a neat little theory is not to say that we know nothing about it. Knowing is not the same as universal truth. Science is based on change. Did the Sun and planets all revolve around the Earth back in Ptolemy’s time? Of course not. But was it “true” (scientifically) back then? Sure.

As artist Tim Minchin says, “Science adjusts it’s views based on what’s observed/Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved./If you show me/ That, say, homeopathy works, Then I will change my mind” (Storm).

I do not mean to discount belief. We must believe that sand moves in mysterious ways in order for us to know it as a fact. We can’t know something and not believe it. Aside from Gettier, knowledge must be justified, true AND believable. This is the logical analysis of knowledge.

Logic is important to me because without it, all we have is guesswork and belief. Logic isn’t always easy though. Take the Gambler’s Fallacy. If I throw two dice ten times and I don’t get a 7 then I am “due” to get a 7 soon, right? Wrong. The dice do not know (or remember) what the previous throws were. Every time you throw it will still be  6/36 chance that you will roll a 7. We tend to believe that we are “due” to get a 7 because it’s instinctual; it’s intuitive. Why do we believe weird things? Watch this 14 minute fun video:

Why am I going on about all of this? Because of fake news and social media and a HUGE lack of scientific, logical thought in our world today. We need sites like Snopes (no, we are not putting Robert E. Lee on the $20 bill) and Politifact (no, Katy Perry did not convince ISIS to lay down their guns) because we aren’t taught to think critically, and it’s a critical time to start.

We need knowledge.

We also need belief.

Crash Davis does not, “believe in Quantum Physics when it comes to matters of the heart,” nor should he. What does he believe in, you ask?

“Well, I believe in the soul, the cock, the pussy, the small of a woman’s back, the hangin’ curveball, high fiber, good Scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, over-rated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there oughta be a constitutional amendment outlawing AstroTurf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve. And I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days” (Bull Durham).

It’s a great writing/mindfulness exercise. Rewrite Crash’s speech for yourself. I tried it. Here it is:

http://bovano.com/

I believe in double rainbows, the cock, the cunt, the wonder of the universe, the buzz of hummingbirds, real ice cream, red wine, that the poetry of my teenage years was angst-ridden garbage. I believe that Trump did “grab pussy.” I believe there should be a constitutional amendment making rape a high crime like treason and punishable by death. I believe in true love, soulmates, fuck-buddies and that only christians should celebrate Christmas. And I believe in the power of art.

What if we balanced every minute of mainstream media watching with an equal amount of poetry reading?

What if we didn’t comment on social media as much as we danced in our kitchens?

I would like to know.

 

Buy my poetry chapbook, Ponderings, HERE.

May 30, 2016

Some Things I Know

by lisa st john

 

I may not know the difference between a rosebush and raspberries, admittedly. But there are some things I do know.

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I know rain at an outdoor celebration staved off by kindness.
I know the universal joy of sharing a meal with the blurred line of friends and family.

I may not know why Pi can do what it does, or why ferns speak fractals and they, in turn, speak chaos.

But I know the blissful tears of the father and the harmonious tears of the mother. I know that the tenuous strands of young love spin and weave, creating the strength of an unbreakable union.

With the multitude of horrible things in this world—things I do not want to know—I am indebted to the goddess of perspective for allowing me to also see the first hummingbird of the season, and to hear the “wild rumpus” of worshipped children.

And if there is a secular word for “blessed” then please, someone tell me. Because I am.

I know pain, but also gracious healing. I know fear, but also comfort. I know the darker side of turmoil and the gentle light of peace. And right now, in this moment, I am alive with all I know.

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Ponderings is available at Finishinglinepress or you can get a signed copy from me directly 15.00. paypal.me/lisastjohn

August 25, 2015

Perforated

by lisa st john

Unlike some of my sisters out there in the world, I do not choose to wear the veil that covers me. My friend calls it a “Saran Wrap” of sadness. I didn’t realize that I had it until she told me. But it’s there. It’s a veil. It’s thin and breathable but it’s there. I’m not sad all the time anymore, but I wasn’t sure I could ever say, “I’m happy” again and really mean it. Not until now.

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It has been 1,006 days since my husband, Kent, died. But it’s also been 10, 588 days since my fabulous son was born. He will be 29 years old this year, and that blows my mind. He is handsome and gentle and intelligent and successful in every sense of the word. He has a beautiful fiancée and just moved into his first (fabulous) home. I have been hanging here trying to help out and trying not to get in the way. And I think the veil got thinner.

Have they put something in my drink? Did my own kid rufi me? Or is it possible that my sadness has found a quiet spot? Their joy is contagious. Even the German Shepherd, Missy, catches it. She ran sprints around the new house yesterday, almost knocking over the yet-to-be-hung bazillion-inch television. And I swear that dog was smiling. We call her “Soul Puppy” because her love is so curative. How could I cry when a sweet little pup was licking my face? What right did I have to be mourning when I could instead take part in the supreme joy that is puppy romping?

The breeze here is warm and inviting. The sky is bluer than I ever remember. The world is lush with life and newness and bliss. Now I not only recognize it, but feel a bit of it too. The veil is thinning. So all of you joyous people out there, please remember: SHARE. Dance in the grocery store and sing while driving and laugh and laugh and laugh. Those of us with veils need it.

p.s.: Thank you artists. Thank you for making “a joyful sound” and sharing the beauty.

p.p.s: Shout out to some of my favorite artists: Kaileigh Osarczuk, Amanda Palmer, Karhu Moon, and all the laughing children of the world.

I just got this message from Finishing Line Press: “Your book will be going to print very soon. I will keep you updated on when your file leaves for the printer.” Oh yea. You can get it here.

August 5, 2015

It’s Just Stuff

by lisa st john

 There will be joy…whether we want it or not.

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Cone Dog Millionaire?

Loss and grief are unforgiving teachers. Are you ready for the quiz? No? Too bad; so sad.

All we can do is decide how to react to moments. We cannot choose the moments. All we can do is be good to ourselves so that we can be good to one another.

“Aren’t you sad…devastated that he’s leaving?”
“I, uhm…want him to be happy.”
“But you’ll have to get on A PLANE to see him!”
“Yes. And that’s how I am going to spend my money.”
“But he is your only one, what about saving for your retirement… .”
“I’d like to think I raised a good adult, even though he is my ‘only one’ (!?). Now he is off being an adult. ‘I never seen a hearse with a trailer hitch.’ Do you know that song?”
What?!”

Recently, someone told me that I don’t respect money. This is true. It is just stuff. It is used to get more stuff. Or it is used to help create experience. I like to think that is what we taught our son. Experience over things, moments over regrets.

Recently, someone told me that I shouldn’t always pay for her dinner. “Do you forget,” I asked her, “that you wired me money all the time when I was pregnant and alone and couldn’t work anymore?”

“No. I guess I forgot…”
“Twenty-nine years ago I stole a bag of rice from a grocery store. I paid for the can of beans. You taught me that beans and rice make a complete protein—healthy for the baby.”
“Yea, but…”
“You taught me how to ask.”

My late husband used to tell the story of a college friend who didn’t have drinking money. My husband used to tell him, “If I’ve got enough for one beer, I’ve got enough for two. Let’s go.”

I like to believe that this sentiment is alive and well in the world at large and not just in my own life. Can I afford to buy a recent high school graduate a new car? No. Can I afford to give a few bucks toward her crowdsourcing effort? Hell, yeah. It’s just stuff.

“What do you mean you don’t balance your checkbook?”
“That’s what ATMs are for—checking my balance.”

My logic works kind of like this: I got a refund for a $200.00 deposit I put on a rental house for my last vacation. I forgot about putting down the deposit. So now I have a brand new (free!) $200.00 that I didn’t have before. (Well, technically I did have it but I forgot it so… .) Now I have a new $199.00 camera. For FREE! (Sort of.)

There is no amount of money that can buy anything worthwhile. There is no amount of money that will bring my husband back. I am stuck here; I am stuck here without him, and I will be damned if all he taught me about living in the moment is going to go to waste. I hope I die broke. I hope I helped make many experiences along the way.

“Does it get easier? The loss? The grieving?”
“I don’t know anything about easy. I just know about change.”

p.s. My first chapbook, Ponderings, will be out at the end of this month. I just proofed the first set of galleys from Finishing Line Press. Buy it. And if you can’t let yourself laugh at weird, stupid stuff like trumping your cat, well, then… .

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March 30, 2015

“Words, words, words” (Hamlet IIii)

by lisa st john

It was born
in blood, the word
grew in the dark body, beating
and flew through the lips and the mouth. (Pablo Neruda “The Word”)

Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality. (Edgar Allan Poe)

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I love words, yet I hate the way they can be used. I love their power even when destructive. I have loved watching and hearing them change over time. It’s exciting when new ones pop up or nouns get verbed. “I will Google this.”

But when did feminism become a negative thing? When did the belief of, and actions for, equal rights between the sexes get a bad rap? I was raised by older sisters—hippies who burned their bras and broke the rules and believed that we had to work twice as hard as men to get the same results. How did this change? I had to look, and I found this:

“The Waves of Feminism” by Martha Rampton, professor of history and director of the Center for Gender Equity at Pacific University.

1st Wave late 19th early 20th centuries: The goal of this wave was to open up opportunities for women, with a focus on suffrage. The wave formally began at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, when 300 men and women rallied to the cause of equality for women. Elizabeth Cady Stanton (d.1902) drafted the Seneca Falls Declaration outlining the new movement’s ideology and political strategies.

In its early stages, feminism was interrelated with the temperance and abolitionist movements and gave voice to now-famous activists like the African-American Sojourner Truth (d.1883), who demanded, “Ain’t I a woman?” Victorian America saw women acting in very “un-ladylike” ways (public speaking, demonstrating, stints in jail), which challenged the “cult of domesticity.”

2nd Wave 1960s-1990s : “The second wave was increasingly theoretical, based on a fusion of neo-Marxism and psycho-analytic theory and began to associate the subjugation of women with broader critiques of patriarchy, capitalism, normative heterosexuality, and the woman’s role as wife and mother. Sex and gender were differentiated — the former being biological, and the later a social construct that varies culture-to-culture and over time.”

3rd Wave mid 1990s – now: “The ‘grrls’ of the third wave have stepped onto the stage as strong and empowered, eschewing victimization and defining feminine beauty for themselves as subjects, not as objects of a sexist patriarchy. They have developed a rhetoric of mimicry, which reappropriates derogatory terms like ‘slut’ and ‘bitch’ in order to subvert sexist culture and deprive it of verbal weapons. Reality is conceived not so much in terms of fixed structures and power relations, but in terms of performance within contingencies. Third wave feminism breaks boundaries.

Where feminism will go from here is unclear, but the point is that feminism, by whatever name, is alive and well both in academia and outside of it. Some older feminists feel discouraged by the younger generation’s seeming ignorance of or disregard for the struggles and achievements of the early movement. They see little progress (the pay gap has not significantly narrowed in 60 years), and are fearful that the new high-heeled, red-lipped college grrls are letting us backslide.”

What saddens me are comments by young women today such as, “I am not a feminist because I don’t hate men.” I want to educate them. I want them to learn the history of the movement. I am going to take students on a field trip to see She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry in Rosendale next month. But that seems like such a limp effort. I am in the process of wrapping my head around how to raise awareness (even the phrase “raise awareness” sounds lame).

Did we raise awareness when “Healing the Hurt” conference changed its name to PrideWorks? Do young activists even know that the now famous NYC Pride Parade was first called “Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day” after the Stonewall Riots ?

I had to fight bureaucrats and bible-thumpers to get a Gay-Straight Alliance Club formed in a high school once upon a time. It was passed as long as we called it The “Rainbow” Club. It was a start.

Does knowing the history matter to the language?

“There is no more sexism,” a student told me once. “My mom is a lawyer, my dad is a doctor, and I am going to __________ for pre-med in September.”

“Excellent,” I replied. “When you are done with your undergraduate degree (or maybe it will take until grad school) I want you to come back and tell me how wrong I was; how you were treated just like your male colleagues.” She snorted and rolled her eyes, but she hasn’t come back. I wish she had. I wish I was wrong.

You can buy my first chapbook of poetry HERE at Finishing Line Press. It’s called Ponderings.

February 22, 2015

The Satire Paradox: Part One

by lisa st john

tree

 

Tis strange – but true; for truth is always strange;
Stranger than fiction; if it could be told,
How much would novels gain by the exchange!
How differently the world would men behold!
How oft would vice and virtue places change!

Lord Byron‘s Don Juan

It is truly strange—that nano-moment between sleep and awake when illusion and reality look face to face. Like the lovely movie Ladyhawke where the lovers are doomed to never meet in person again. Rutget Hauer is a wolf at night when Michelle Pfeiffer is a human and she turns into a hawk during the day when he turns back to human. Helluva curse. I wish it wasn’t real. My mind teased me this morning in that nano-moment; Kent wasn’t gone, and I wasn’t a widow and then–

But that’s what makes us human, right? Caring? Suffering? Therein lies the paradox (and is the joke ever on us): we live to love and be hurt so we know what love is and what it means to hurt so we know what life is. Humph. Or is it all a big satire created to change us into better humans? Better humans. Not sure what that means. I don’t want to go all singularity right now. Better ponder that another time.

“So…ha ha, just kidding about that scotch making you feel better,” said morning head apologizing to nighttime head. But it did. But it doesn’t. Does it feel good to write a blog because of the guilt, knowing I should be grading papers instead, or in spite of it?

Truth really is stranger than fiction. Otherwise no one would believe either. It’s like Tim O’Brien so eloquently states in The Things They Carried, “That’s what stories are for. Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are… Often the crazy stuff is true and the normal stuff isn’t, because the normal stuff is necessary to make you believe the truly incredible craziness.”

It’s why there are no decent shows or movies about teaching high school because no one would believe them. Do you know how many times I have uttered the phrase, “STOP touching each other!” or “Where is the rest of your skirt?!” or “Stop fucking swearing or I’m going to fucking call your mother and fucking see how she fucking likes to hear it.” They don’t like that, the students. Teachers aren’t supposed to swear. It does, however, take the shock factor out of it for them. Hee.

It makes the teacher human, being sarcastically inhumane. Are You Human? is the poignant TED Talk by Ze Frank that is worth every one of the 4 minutes and 34 seconds it will take to watch. Go ahead. I’ll be right here.

His compelling lines echoed for me this morning: Have you ever woken up blissfully and suddenly been flooded by the awful remembrance that someone had left you? Have you ever lost the ability to imagine a future without a person that no longer was in your life? Have you ever looked back on that event with the sad smile of autumn and the realization that futures will happen regardless?”

This morning he wasn’t gone, he just was… almost here.

Bad Religion says it best in their song, Stranger than Fiction. “Life is the crummiest book I’ve ever read.” And yet—that’s exactly what makes it so damn fabulous!

Maybe that is Art’s purpose. To show us the possibility of the extraordinary.

September 29, 2014

Summer Version 2.0

by lisa st john

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I hear it all the time. As soon as someone learns I am a public high school teacher, it starts. “Oh! It must be so nice to have summers off!” A low growl begins in my inner gut as I decide whether the human uttering the offensive comment is worthy of an explanation or not. Taylor Mali explains it best. What DO teachers make? Puhlease.

I don’t really have the energy for that argument right now, however. I am currently embroiled in a conflicting dialectic with Summer Lisa. Work Lisa hates her. I mean that with the best definition of hate in mind—a feeling so strong that it circles back around dangerously close to love.

True cruelty is apathy. e.g.: “I wish I cared enough to hate them.”

This conversation turns into a polemic at times, but I can’t help but feel that it’s an important discussion. It goes something like this:

Work Lisa (WL): “You need to step up your shit. We are way behind in grading.”

Summer Lisa (SW): “It’s okay. It’s too nice out to grade. The garden needs work too, and …”

WL: “No. We have essays to read and lessons to plan. Think about the kids!”

SW: “I love the kids. The kids aren’t here now. Just a lot of Oompa-Loompa paperwork. Let’s go outside…”

WL: “We usually have the whole semester planned out by now, we’ve got to–”

SL: “Maybe we don’t need to have everything planned out so far in advance, maybe–”

WL: “SHUT UP!”

SL (whispering): “Oh look…Gibbs is head-slapping Tony again–”

WL: “STOP! We are soooo moving the computer desk away from the television… .”

SL: “No!”

WL: “EXCUSE me?!”

SL: “Wouldn’t it be good to dig our toes in the sand again? To read uninterrupted? Remember daydreaming? Remember writing?”

WL (pause): “There’s no sand. It’s almost winter.”

SL: “There’s sand just an airplane ride away. And almost winter is not the same as winter anyway.”

WL: “Well…Missy is coming tomorrow. It’s always good to play.”

SL: “YES! Now you are getting it. Puppy joy!”

WL: “It’s not that I don’t love you and need you ya’ know. I just–”

SL: “in-just spring…”

WL: “See what I mean?! Off on another tangent… .”

SL: “You love my tangents. You love me. You just don’t remember me that well. It’s been awhile. It’s okay. I’m right here.”

missy

p.s.: Many thanks to mi hermana (L) for letting me steal the Oompah-Loompah phrase regarding idiotic, meaningless paperwork.

June 25, 2014

Signs

by lisa st john

 

Wrong-Way-Go-Back-Sign-K-7425

Sign : something (such as an action or event) which shows that something else exists, is true, or will happen.

If only I had seen this sign before I got married at 17. Or if someone had shown it to me before I said, “yes” on so many other bizarre occasions. Oh well. They probably did show me. I probably did see a sign. I just ignored it. I don’t think we are meant to pay attention to most signs.

If a sign’s purpose is to show that “something else exists” then isn’t everything a sign? It’s like language. There is no understanding without metaphor—comparison. Semantics demands it. This science of signs is based on the fact that, “everything is created from the interaction of three things: real objects, signs and interpretations of signs” (Pierce qtd. Carreira). This is reality.

 

DANGER! MEN IN TREES

Out here in the country, this was a common sign before the more politically correct versions came out. While we should very well be afraid of men in trees, I think the actual meaning was more like, “watch out for the construction/tree trimming going on up ahead.” If we really want to get particular, then we must realize that, “Things do not exist unless they exist in relationship with something else. In fact, things do not exist at all. Relationships exist. There are no individual things. The existence of anything is always contingent upon something else” (Carreira in the fantastic website called Philosophy is Not a Luxury: dedicated to the profound utility of questioning reality).

 

This is why obvious signs baffle me. “Do not iron while wearing shirt.” Really?

 

Then again, if a sign’s purpose is to show that “something is true” what about the foolishness of predictability and superstition? I tripped as I left the porch. A sure “sign” that I should have stayed home. A crop circle sign? Proof of aliens or bored humans with tractors and lasers? If a sign’s purpose is to show that “something will happen” then I better start reading my horoscope. Apparently I am a Virgo but in other cultures I am a snake. So I am a “virgin” who has the “sensual art of seduction down.” M-kay.

 

The only thing without a sign is Zero. How magical is mathematics? Our friend Wikipedia states that, “In mathematics, the concept of sign originates from the property of every non-zero real number to be positive or negative. Zero itself is signless…The number zero is neither positive nor negative, and therefore has no sign. In arithmetic, +0 and −0 both denote the same number 0, which is the additive inverse of itself.”

 

Poetry!

 

The true irony rests in the phrase “Sign of the Times” which can either be the biblical nonsense or the name of an interesting website that purports to be an “experiment” that arranges news items in relation to quantum physics.

 

In a world where, “More people believe in angels and the devil than believe in the theory of evolution” methinks we have a problem actually seeing signs.

 

You can become blind by seeing each day as a similar one. Each day is a different one, each day brings a miracle of its own. It’s just a matter of paying attention to this miracle.

Paulo Coelho

 

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