Thursday, February 26, 2009

Language, Categories, Naming, Symbols

I'm gonna keep putting up some of these thoughts. I have been letting this stuff marinate for years, so it's nice to write it out. And writing is actually part of what this post is about.

I understand that throwing concepts around while using common language can be trying, as we all bring different things to the table when we exchange words and concepts.

This ambivalence I am writing about is made possible, in part, by this fluidity of language. Language is symbol and common currency. Nothing more. We call something a chair only because we have chosen communally (and somewhat arbitrarily) to call it so. There are other names for seated things, for things made of wood or steel, etc. But we all surrender to the name chair for the sake of commonality.

What use is it to be able to name something if everyone else refuses to call it so? (There might be value to that, actually, but that's not what I'm getting at.)

We submit our individual perceptions to communal language, ideas, customs, and categories. And words are merely symbols pointing at something. This is important to remember.

Categories can be even more trying when trying to break your eye open (Six Feet Under reference, anyone?!?). Categories are so helpful, and categorization is what we do as humanity. This is what helps us to understand and know. I (and you) categorize daily, knowingly and unknowingly. It helps us to write rules for how to deal with different things in a more efficient way. But categories are not real, just as language is not static. Categories are constructs to limit us, so we can focus and find similarities and differences.

Are you picking up what I'm putting down?

So, when we get locked into language (one of our few means of common currency) or categories, we can begin to think they're reality. But they're not. They only point at reality, right?

Symbols are powerful, but if we let the symbols become reality, they will become false idols, so to speak.

Naming things is important, as long as we realize it is unique to our experience and the communal experience we surrender to.

I'm going to stop there even though I've more to say on this. It's only 8pm, but we're all dead tired and going to sleep. 8 hours of driving tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Importance of Rewards

To keep vamping on that last post, I have also been thinking of the importance of rewards and how every key narrative (religious, economic, social, etc.) has rewards to ensure proper behavior. It's not necessarily a controlling thing; in fact, it might be a key to sustainability in any system.

If you believe you will be rewarded (whether with verbal praise, acceptance, money, or even an ego-boost of "I did the right thing"), then it makes the going easier. In fact, the whole "I did the RIGHT thing" assumes a particular exclusive view about what's right and the reward is that you stuck to the script. And counter-cultural scripts are no different. Refusing money, praise, power...these things are all given worth, depending on the community you are a part of.

Rewards are important. If there is nothing but heartbreak, why do something? (Please understand I'm being a little coarse here.) But seriously, most challenges taken on, dire situations faced, and risks taken are usually done because of some greater end that aligns with the story. Small selfless (or selfish) steps here and there to ensure the outcome is as we'd like to see it.

This goes back to the arbitrariness (word?) of stories. Rewards are arbitrary as well, and like stories, they are often communally committed to, but individually understood. But they must exist.

Ayn Rand gets at this a bit with her book THE VIRTUE OF SELFISHNESS. The idea that all we do is prompted by what I call our "Survival Story". That is, even the ideals we create are part of our socio-mental survival.

Again, this doesn't say that doing something because you'll get a nice little ROI (whether in social, emotional, spiritual, or economic capital) is wrong or unhelpful. Just like I said with stories, it's better to choose one perhaps than not to. But they're arbitrary and the value-reward system that makes them up is as well. Interesting.

Monday, February 23, 2009

This I Believe

We're all delusional. The more I think about it...and the more I talk to people...the more I believe this. We believe what we want to. We write stories more in retrospect than we realize. We sew up holes. We use words like hope and faith to bridge the gaps between memory, reality, and fear.

We're all delusional. But is there any other way to live? Can you really not believe in anything? Some guiding story? Some authority to give meaning to what you do or do not do?

We simply choose to believe things because we must...or we are inclined or convinced to. And this doesn't make the stories untrue. It just makes them arbitrary. And I think that's what's hard for most of us to accept.

I know a great many folks (myself included) who've staked their lives on a particular perspective / story / way. And these people are trying to live beautiful lives. And I respect that. But it gets harder and harder to believe that what we're high on is Truth. It's truth bent by experience bent by truth. Art informing life informing art.

We're all delusional. But is it better to know everything and believe in nothing? I wonder.

Family Portrait B

Thanks again to Mr. Longbrake.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Am I the only person who hopes that he checked all the correct boxes and put in all the correct numbers? I just know that some day I'm gonna get audited and they'll say something like, "You said you made $18 at that gig....receipts show you made $20! And they put you up for the night. Oh yah, buddy, you're gonna pay for that mess-up!"

Lord, have mercy.

Beneath the Surface

I just finished the FRONTLINE program called "Inside the Meltdown." Wow. That was heavy.

You can view it below.

Thing is, for me, I don't have stocks (well, I have 1 in Apple and 1 in Toyota) and our IRAs are ridiculously malnourished (we just started them last year), so it doesn't really affect me right away. We bought our car with cash and our house with a mortgage with a decent rate that's a fixed 30-year.

But I know that there are people out there who are deeply affected by this looming (or already imminent) mess. I hear people saying naive things about how annoyed they are by people talking about it and making conservative fiscal decisions because of it.

Our workload has slowed and that has certainly been a wake-up call to us. And we've begun to really introduce a budget and take a hard look at some numbers and "supposed" values.

I wondered at the end of this FRONTLINE about the future of the USA. Will this be the thing that truly begins to dethrone the most powerful nation in the world? Will people like me wake from their slumber and try to live more frugally? Or will we suffocate in our own decadence? Who knows what's ahead. Do you?

Are you changing the way you live? Does it shift your world much? Or are you still kinda untouched by this economic shift? Or are you choosing as a discipline to try to think positive and not perpetuate the decline myth? Do tell.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

25 Things

I cannot believe I'm doing this, but enough friends have led the way, so I am now merely a follower in this great cause called 25 THINGS. You know the drill.

I was a "professional" pastor for 2-5 years, depending on how you view it.

I never tell that fact to a soul.

I'll always be a pastor in some way, shape, or form.

I am jealous of my wife's patience, thoughtfulness, and care toward both Pax and I. I would always try to give the same energy back, but it comes at a cost I'm not willing to pay some times.

Part of the reason I love Portland so much is because it reminds me of where I grew up in north Texas. In some ways.

Part of the reason I love Portland so much is because it reminds me of San Francisco. In some ways.

I love wine, but am still a novice oenophile who likes to pretend.

I wanted to wear glasses so badly in high school that I wore fake glasses.

I love the outdoors.

I'm terrified of camping by myself or with Holly or really outside at all. I am convinced that either A) Someone is going to kill me or B) Some animal will make me their midnight snack.

I am so afraid of heights/falling, that when we rode a gondola in Switzerland, I cried for the full 5 minutes. It was quite a sight.

I love dogs, but I don't want one right now.

I hate cats. I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate cats. Period. There is no cat that is like a dog (sorry Jesse) and I cannot stand cats. I am simply opposed to them philosophically and pragmatically. Nuff said.

I fear that I will fail at everything I start, so I start fewer things than I used to.

I am deeply skeptical of people who are really dispassionate and hard to provoke.

I am even more skeptical of people who are passionate about everything under the sun.

I have been both of those people at some point along the way.

I cannot imagine a life without Paxton, yet he has made my life more complicated than I ever thought it could be.

Paxton and Holly have a direct line to my heart which means that they, more than anyone else, can make me laugh and smile and make me curse my existence more quickly than any one else I know.

I have always felt like a poser.

I keep waiting for the day when I will do something just because I want to or think it is a good thing to do, regardless of who's watching. For me, everything is material and my life feels like a performance. (Some of you will get that; some of you won't.)

I like singing and writing songs, but I will not die if I cannot touch my guitar ever again. I don't need it that way. But I enjoy it.

I always wanted to be able to draw or articulate visions on paper. But I never could. Not even with a computer.

I think that most all people simply do what makes sense to them and then write their story (or call on authority) to support their case.

I am a recovering fundamentalist who is fundamentally opposed to fundamentalism in all, conservative, religious, idealogical. Basically I'm opposed to believing 100% in anything, simply because I feel that if you cannot critique your self, your group, your identity, your society, your world, then you're not really seeing clearly. Am I fundamentalist about this? Well I did say that I'm fundamentally opposed to fundamentalism, so you do the word math.

Installation Art

So this is how the piece turned out, for now. Holly's planning on painting something on the windows as well.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What I Did This Evening

Thanks to Adam for such beautiful words. To hear a little back story, check out his blog.

beneath the sky
by Adam Klein

Beneath the blanket of warm gray sky
moisture falls
The parched land forced to rest

it can only produce so much
for so long

Shoots and fruits have withered
the herds passed
all that remains are ghosts of life passed

it can only produce so much
for so long

it pines for lush green, flourishing life
pulling at all its resources
pushing, striving, and trying to be fertile

it's left barren
dusty and cracked

Beneath the blanket of warm gray sky
moisture falls
and light enters through each drop
the land bathes itself in eternity present
resting in the sky
resting in what holds its being together

Beneath the blanket of warm gray sky
rest weary wanderlust
rest passing pilgrim
rest earnest seeker
looking for life in odd doors
vintage windows
eclectic mixes
worn streets
and torn sheets

rest till the breath you breathe
penetrates the pulsing soul
evaporating the imposed veils of separation

rest until the air you swim in is
thick with the being of love

rest until you is we

Beneath the blanket of warm gray sky

Birthday Breakfast

Birthday Snow

Holly and I went to the Willamette Valley yesterday and stayed the
night in McMinnville. Walked through vineyards to cellars in the sleet
and rain, only to wake today to snow. Nice.

We had tapas and Tempeanillo last night to celebrate the impending
trip to Spain. Got way too dull and now we're off to a big breakfast.
Dear Lord.

Pax is with Brad and Birgitta and Maddax and Vienna. Okay time to

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Reports on Wine Drinking

So, just in case you were interested in what the results from the wine survey were, I'll include this graph below. The other stuff isn't reading as clearly when I export, so it'll have to wait, but I have no problem sharing it with you if you're interested. It was very helpful to me, so thanks to the 70 or so of you that participated.


Friday, February 06, 2009

Looking for a Web Application Developer

Preferably one experienced in PHP, with experience in building some level of social software. If you are one or know a good one, please do email me. Thanks!

Congrats Stavlunds

So happy to see that there's another little Stavlund on the world.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Dick's Words

Protecting the country’s security is “a tough, mean, dirty, nasty business,” he said. “These are evil people. And we’re not going to win this fight by turning the other cheek.”

Wow. Well there it is.

This is My Excavation

As my sister posted, I must post. I, too, seem to find words very powerful. Especially ones that are put together in such a way as to dislodge something deep within me.

I am a johnny-come-lately to most music. I came upon Bon Iver after Mike reviewed them (and according to his blog, he had just recently discovered them as well).

Last night, as I stared at my computer screen entering data, I put Re: Stacks on repeat because it just felt right.

This my excavation and today is Qumran
Everything that happens is from now on

I thought of Mike and Stacy and Ella and how they're about to give birth to their second baby girl. I thought about friends in transition who are landing. I thought about the many stops along the way I've taken.

At the end of the night, I felt very sad and empty. I have fewer and fewer Qumrans. Life is much more full of nuance and everyday spice...less of the big stuff. Or the big stuff seems smaller now. Or I dunno.

I didn't hole up in a cabin in Wisconsin this winter, but I didn't need to. Justin did. And he reconnected with the Ground which is connected to me. Which is how he knew to write these words. He tapped into It. Thanks man.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

A Quick Thought on Protectionism and Globalisation

I know this is a topic of discussion globally right now, so I figured I'd weigh in.

I'm all about buying locally, supporting artists/growers/farmers in my region, but I think I do this hypocritically.

That is, I believe in some sort of brotherhood of man, that we're all connected and that national boundaries are (somewhat) insignificant in the grand picture. (Of course, nationality is very important when discussing values, the stories we live by, expectations, blah, blah, blah.) But I believe in globalisation as an idea (though the reality has had a rough start since it was started by the powerful...seems sketchy to be sure).

You see, I believe in globalisation like I believe in trading with my neighbors. For example, Rob (our neighbor down the street) is a great handiman. He helped me put some shingles up where there was a hole on the side of our house. I could have done that, but I valued his ability and skill and paid him for it. Perhaps at some point, he'll hire us to design a website because we're pretty good at that. This is called trade. And in the largest sense, this is called community.

Yes, I did just say that trade is community.

I've known a great many folks (myself included) who have overvalued "going off the grid"...this idea of getting off the Empire's system, going into the margins, etc. But isn't this a form of isolationism, elitism, and narrow tribalism? It's the perfect American hero...a person/small community shouting a loud (or quiet) Fuck You! to the "Empire" (as if it's that simple).

But I think we miss something here. We would say that trading in our neighborhood is a good idea, and buying stuff locally-made is great. (Of course food could be a wholly different discussion here.) But what about buying stuff from our neighborhood of neighborhoods called the State of Oregon? Or our neighborhoods of neighborhoods of neighborhoods called the US? Or our neighborhoods get it: The World.

Now I can only write this post because I used to think it was much more black and white, but I see more nuance now and I really think that entering into a phase of protectionism and it's shadow (isolationism) would be dangerous.

Trade is community. The "off the gridders" don't need anyone. That is not community.

Anyone else have thoughts along this vein? Again, I'm not pointing fingers. I'm just suggesting the duplicity that many of us live by...myself hugely included.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Last Night

We hosted a fun wine-tasting get together at our place last night. It was fun, hopefully educational, and something we'll share with you in due time. :)

Amos shot a few pics and this was my fave...

If you're in the area and would like to join, we're hoping to host at least one more in the month of Feb...perhaps even two.