What Does Satisfy? Part 1: Spirit 


In honor of Easter, this Sunday, I’ll talk about God, religion, and spirit first.

No, religion does not magically make everything in life perfect and sunshiney. 

With all the suffering the world,  the only way to be perfectly sunshiney is to either be entirely ignorant and sheltered or to have such an “us vs. them” mentality that you lose all empathy for people who aren’t like you. 

Granted, there are ways to be happier,  to do all you can and trust God and other people to do the rest. I’m working on both sides of that:  really doing my best,  and really putting aside unhelpful worrying. 

Religion isn’t a magic feel good tonic (or it shouldn’t be), but connecting with a church that more closely matches my values  (and doesn’t promote things I actively think are wrong) really has helped. 

I even sang a solo in the worship service this past (Palm) Sunday, and I honestly didn’t know how much I’d missed that (The song is “Christmas had its Cradle, Easter has its Cross,” one of my all time favorites).

And spending quiet time disconnected from phones, tv and internet, focusing on and connecting with God, is also wonderful, when I keep my focus enough to actually do it. Whether this takes the form of self composed prayer, praying existing prayers (the Jesus prayer is my favorite), or simple wordless meditation,  it is always good. 

So, in a nutshell, 

Coherence and integrity between my spiritual values and my spiritual community

Reconnecting with and sharing spiritual songs that mean a lot to me (making a joyful noise unto the Lord)

Spending time away from the fragmenting distractions of the daily material world, focusing on God

Have all helped a lot. 

Happy Passover and Happy Easter. 

Meat Free Monday: Babalu in Jackson, MS

Babalu Tacos and Tapas is positively great.  They have a few vegan things on the menu,  including their outstanding guac and their black eyed pea hummus.

But I got a couple of almost-vegan items made vegan: the vegetal taco (just ask them to hold the cheese. It is delicious!) and the black bean burger, which came with guac, onion, arugula, and a delicious sauce. 

They normally fry the black bran burger, which requires an egg bath, but for vegans, they skip the egg bath and grill it instead. It was outstanding.

Their iced tea was also good. Ask for it with lime, for an unexpected treat.

They have locations in Jackson, Memphis, Knoxville, Birmingham (Alabama, not England), and Charlotte.

When Nothing Satisfies

DISCLAIMER: I  WROTE THIS BACK IN DECEMBER. I’M MUCH BETTER NOW. Also, the song choice is supposed to be funny.

It occured to me back in December that if I’m not actually enjoying all the things I’m doing that I’m supposed to enjoy, then one or both of two things is true: 

Either 

1) there’s a disconnect between what I (and everyone around me) thinks I enjoy and what I actually do enjoy.

    Or 

    2) I’m suffering from depression to the point that I really can’t enjoy anything. 

    I’m pretty sure #2 isn’t true, so I need to look more closely at #1.

    If #1 is true, it’s probably because I’m operating in bad faith, fooling myself and some of those around me, not being honest about:

    • my needs
    • The choices I’m actually making and why
    • The reasons I so often delay decisions to the point of advocating them
    • The costs of my choices
    • What I can and can’t do, really, in terms of my life

    I’ve done a lot of thinking about that (and working with it) over this year’s first three months. Next week, I’ll write about what I’ve discovered. 



      Bury It and Rise Above: Chvrches’ “Bury It” Video, Kishotenketsu, and Race

      Chvrches’ Bury It video is a great example of something called Kishotenketsu, which I talked about last week. 

      Here’s a refresher: kishotenketsu is a mostly Japanese story structure that doesn’t rely on conflict to creat interest. It has four acts:

      Ki – Introduction

      Sho – Development

      Ten – Twist

      Ketsu – Conclusion 

      Ki – the three young people (animated versions of the band Chvrches: Lauren, Iain, and Martin) are standing on a rooftop looking at a pile of random-looking items they’ve gathered. Lauren raises her hands and concentrates.

      Sho – Lauren lifts some of the items telekinetically, holding several up at once. Iain and Martin join in, making individual items spin or lift.

      Ten – (animated version of) Haley appears on a nearby rooftop. Random items float up in front of her, forming floating stepping stones, and she walks across the gap between the buildings. She then shows Lauren, Iain, and Martin just how much can be done with their power, including encasing herself in a ball of light and flying.

      Ketsu – Lauren, Iain, and Martin join her, and they fly through the city together, happily, fully, embracing their abilities/creativity/identities.

      There’s no conflict in the video, although when Haley first appears, she’s introduced the way enemies often are in comics and animation. Animated Iain almost falls when he tries to fly, then catches himself and flies off to join the others, but nobody sabotaged him, and it was a moment, not the main plot of the story.

      I believe the story in the “Bury It” video closely follows the kishotenketsu form, whether anybody on the creative team intended it to or not.

      There’s one more thing I love about this video: the parent carrying a baby, who was endangered by Iain’s near-fall was a black father. In the past, that would have universally been a white mother.

      Black men haven’t been seen as parental in popular culture until recently. Neither were white men, but it was far worse with black men. Little things add up, and every subversion of the “savage black man” and “not a father” stereotypes (invented to justify slavery in the Americas and conquest in Africa) is a good thing, in my mind.

      Did I mention I love this video?

      Meat Free Monday: How Much Does Meat Really Cost?

      Although animal products are often cheap in the store (99 cents for a big pack of hot dogs, 49 cents for a box of mac n cheese), there are a lot of external costs that get pushed off onto the taxpayers, and are hidden from view.

      While there are hidden costs to everything, the hidden costs of animal agriculture tend to be a lot higher than those of most plant based foods.

      For more information, look at David Simon’s book Meatonomics.  the video below also gives a bit more info. 

      Kishotenketsu, Story Structure, and the Nonviolent Imagination 


      What is Kishotenketsu? It’s a four-act story structure characterized by a twist in the middle. 

      As you can guess by the name, it’s Asian, originating in Chinese poetry and developing in many forms of Japanese poetry and storytelling.  It’s the story structure Studio Ghibli often uses in its films. 

      But why should we care? Because unlike western story structures, Kishotenketsu is not rooted in conflict, and doesn’t rely on conflict to maintain interest. 

      That isn’t to say that it excludes conflict, but that it doesn’t require it like the typical western storytelling. 

      I’m not alone in my belief that we in the western world are primed (through a “mean world” viewpoint) to support war and nationalism by the stories we hear  from early childhood on. 

      Western storytelling’s three-act structure is pure conflict: 1) introduce conflict 2) escalate conflict, 3) resolve conflict. And when conflict is resolved, at least somebody is going to lose, to suffer some kind of harm, be it physical or emotional or social.

      Traditional three-act storytelling comes down to winners and losers, and I think we can do better. 

      Kishotenketsu is a tool to help me do better, as a writer, yes, but also as a person in general. My nonviolent imagination needs nourishing,  just like everyone else’s. 

      Kishotenketsu helps me imagine story structures that aren’t just boring navel gazing,  stories where things happen, even action things, but where the very heart of the story isn’t a struggle or conflict.

      It’s also helps me imagine win-win situations, situations where conflict can be averted by reconciliation of opposites.

      And it’s helped me learn to write short stories, which is something that completely escaped my understanding before 2017.

      I think that’s enough for now: I’ll be revisiting this topic soon.