Shame and Grace

One of the big themes in my personal growth the last year or so has been the interplay between shame, vulnerability, connection and intimacy. This probably isn’t surprising to those paying attention to self help. Especially since Brene Brown has become popular it’s been everywhere.

The idea that keeps coming up is the fact that so many of our personal and social problems arise from shame.  There’s externalized shame and stigma that cripples people mental health and cuts them off from connection and support. Body shaming, hiv stigma, addiction shaming, mental health stigma, so many sources. And more damaging is the internalized shame that results from this externalized shame. Once we start to internalize shame we begin to hide ourselves, and cut ourselves off from others.  We begin to project our fears about ourselves on others and punish them for them.  We acquire narcissistic or codependent tendencies and harm our relationships and those we relate to.

Even in mild cases this shame, and this hiding of parts of ourselves stop us from being fully intimate. We don’t feel like we can be seen, and we become emotionally isolated, even when we’re around others. This lack of human connection leaves us broken. More likely to become addicted to drugs, more likely to shut ourselves off and lose ourselves in distractions, more likely to become violent and angry.  The relationships we’re trying so hard to protect by only showing our good side die from the lack of intimacy. Our creativity dies and our health declines. We live in a hell inside our mind, convinced that we’re unloveable and nasty, and never giving anyone a chance to show us otherwise.

The solution to all of this? Is to stop trying to control our relationships, to stop trying to predict how people react and just open ourselves up.  To become vulnerable, to keep those who will stay when they see us, and let those who won’t go away. And once we feel seen, once we have intimacy and connection, we can improve. We can get help for things we need to change knowing that we won’t be shamed for needing that help. We can see those things that don’t need to change, and the shame was entirely misplaced. Most importantly we begin to be able to do that for ourselves. To give ourselves room to be who we are, even when we’re not perfect. To give ourselves the benefit of the doubt and forgiveness. To have positive self talk, and know we are worthy of love even when those around us aren’t giving it.

But usually we need someone outside of ourselves to lean on to begin this journey. Someone to turn to when we’re struggling. Often this can’t be family or the friend group we built while we were caught in this cycle of shame. They’re frequently the people who helped us internalize the shame in the first place. These people are not safe or healthy to be vulnerable to. So we need someone else to ground us while we find new, safe people.  A therapist can be a good first step. Client centered therapy even gives us a name for what we need: unconditional positive regard. And with it therapists help people make better choices for themselves, improve relationships, and get healthy.

This whole dynamic played a major role in both my leaving and my coming back to religion. The tradition I grew up in definitely used shame as a method of control and especially as a queer kid it sunk deep into me. And just like human relationships, there is no way to have a real relationship with Divinity if you’re hiding yourself out of fear of rejection, or pretending to be someone you’re not in order to impress. And while there were other reasons to leave that church, there certainly wasn’t a way to find God with that concept of them.

But years after I left and thought I was done with everything I felt something stirring. I experienced the unity of all things in love and the acceptance of the world as it is. So I started exploring various faith traditions, and in most faiths I studied I found many things I like and that have influenced my understanding of spirituality. But it wasn’t until I found one where divinity modeled that unconditional positive regard of a therapist that something lit up my soul. Although many or perhaps even most branches of the religion that claim to follow Jesus are shaming, and controlling, the message he taught, and the life he lived showed the opposite.

Jesus showed a God who just wants us to come to Him. To be seen deep down to our core. And to still be loved, not in spite of our vulnerability and our weakness. But in and through it. A God who fearfully and wonderfully made us in Her image. A God that wanted to so fully know us, that the Wisdom of God, left the loving community of God and became human. Born to a poor refugee family in a barn in the backwater colony of a mighty empire. A God who while embodied spent far more time with those viewed as disgusting and unclean than with those viewed as righteous and holy. A God who directly promises us that anyone who comes to Them will never be turned away. A God who after suffering the most shameful death, turned it into the most glorious victory. This God I’ve found to be such a strength. For whenever I’m willing to open myself fully to Her I know that they still find me worthy of love, and who am I to shame what God loves.

Jesus taught there are two great commandments. ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’   Love God even with those thoughts you want to be rid of, even that part of you that you hate, even the doubt or anger you have towards God. Bring all of yourself to the loving presence of God. Now secure in the knowledge that you are loved you can love yourself as God loves you. Only then are you fully ready for the second commandment which is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

Depression weeks

Wake up at seven, unproductive till eleven
Good morning? Thanks I hate it

Half an hour since I got out of the shower
Unfortunately I’m still naked

Persistent headache, probably rhymes with milkshake
Plz reader let it go undebated

The daily grind is a drag, suffocating like a plastic bag
4:30? I’ve almost made it!

No spoons for friends, the conversation ends
This is probably why they’ve faded

~Daniel Butler

Help! I was raised to be “smart” by engineers… but I want to be an artist.

TL;DR What kind of art stuff should I try and who wants to hear about how it goes?

Like all of you I’ve grown up in a world infused by the over valuation of rational thought. A world grounded in enlightenment era values, watered by industrial needs, and breathing the cult of technological progress. And in some ways at least this has suited me. As early as the first grade I knew I was smart. The standardized testing told me so. And I’ve done very well in a STEM career.  But while I’ve been good at math and sciences, it’s not what makes me excited.  Programming has at times, when I’ve been making things, but I don’t know if programming for it’s own sake is what I want to do for the rest of my life. Or if I do, I at least need some other outlets to keep my creative juices flowing, to keep life in my life. The problem is… I don’t know anything else, and my brain is scared its too late to learn new things.

My whole conception of self is bound up in others viewing me as smart. I’d been praised for it from an early age, and that’s how I learned to receive affection and respect. If you’re reading this, especially if we’re close, we probably bonded initially over discussing things intellectually, or knowing random things. And that’s great, I love that, and I don’t want to change that. But I want more, and deep down I’m scared of doing something and not being good at it, because it challenges my ego of being naturally good at things. But that’s not how skills work. Even the skills I do have developed over time, I just started them early enough that I was always seen as ahead of the curve. But, now as I want to learn new things, my ego knows I’m way behind my peers, and rejects trying.

I don’t know how early it came on, but as long as I can remember I’ve known there’s three classes of people. Nerds, athletes, and artists. And I was firmly in the nerd camp. Like any good minmaxer I only put points in the things I was already good at. In fourth grade, I put next to no effort in the sculpting unit at the ‘gifted and talented’ program. There were other people there who were good at it, and I couldn’t try hard and not be the best, that would be humiliating. I have no memory of ever painting, but my gut reaction is that I know I’m bad at a painting. In high school I hung out with the theater kids, and participated in productions. But only as a tech, because that’s the kind of person I was. I’d never try out, acting is for those guys, I’d be terrible at it. How stupid is that? I wasn’t actually very good at sound tech; ADHD and doing things on cues in a story you can’t even see, did not make a good combination. Maybe I would have been better at acting; if I even gave that to myself as an option. Even with nerd things, the desire for being respected for what I knew came to bite me.I used to love playing chess, until in middle school I realized I wasn’t as good at it as my friends and I gave it up.

I don’t know all of where this came from, but I know some. Much has been written about the tragedy “gifted and talented” programs has wrought on kids, probably even more has been written about standardized testing being dominant from a young age. But I also don’t think it helped that both of my parents were also smart, software engineers.  Even the few bits of exposure they gave me to the arts were framed in terms of utility and knowledge. I had to take piano lessons so that I would know how to play in church on an LDS mission.  I have no memory of being exposed to the idea that playing music could be done for fun, for self expression. And so somewhere between when I started and when I stopped taking piano lessons I stopped having fun. And I didn’t practice because I was smart, I had the knowledge from the last lesson, and didn’t understand that I needed to develop a skill. And so I was bad at it, and being bad at it threatened my ego. So I resisted even more until I got out of it with barely any practical ability.  When I was introduced to classical music, it was with the purpose being described as knowing pieces and composers, not just enjoying the music. When I took an interest in Poetry, the value of it became associated with my ability to memorize, not the feelings or stories in the poem.

But the few times arts gotten past my defenses I’ve loved it. My favorite class in the time I was in college was a class about theatre, and certainly not any of my math classes. The times I feel most alive are when I’m exploring art. The times at work I’ve been able to engage best is when making things. My whole reason for getting into programming was to make games, and I’ve never given it much of a real try because it needs art.  So I want to explore more, I want to consider doing things I’ve never done. And I want to learn to value myself without needing to be seen as smart and good at things. So I’m just going to do it. And I’m going to share what I create, and not worry about whether it’s the ideal version of what I want to make. I don’t know what all to try, or how to get started, but I’m just going to do it. Give me ideas of things to try!  Send me encouraging words! Tips, tricks, or whatever you want to share. And I hope to share my progress with any of you who are interested.

Alleluia

This Easter Sunday I wish to share something new in my life. I’ve recently converted to Christianity and intend to be baptized into the Episcopal Church at St Paul’s parish in Queen Anne. For many of you this will be as shocking as it is to myself. It’s a development that’s arisen from the confluence of many streams in my life the last year or so: a realization of the lack of community building institutions in modern life, a greater respect for the joy and meaning faith brings to many, a pondering of the deeply radical message of peace, liberation, and simple living contained in the gospels, a desire to connect more deeply to the traditions of my ancestors, a new found understanding of metaphor and symbolism, an appreciation for ritual, studies of world religion and psychology, a practice of meditation, a healing of emotional wounds from childhood, and most importantly personal mystical experience.

I know many of you, especially in my queer community and my post-mormon community, rightfully have negative associations and images come to mind with Christianity and I hope that to you I can show what I believe to be the true core of the religion, once shed of the imperialistic, fact denying, oppressive cultural baggage attached to much of American Christianity.  I had to unlearn much of what I thought Christianity was, and discover a tradition that’s always been there, but hidden from me.

I’m sure I’ll write more of the 5 year journey from LDS Missionary, through the new atheists, to now in the future but for now I’ll close. Feel free to ask what any of this means to me, and I’ll gladly discuss with you.

Christ the Lord is risen today, alleluia.

On fear’s role

Through out my life, I’ve seen people blaming the Other’s lack of fear for their bad choices.  A lack of fear of the afterlife can be blamed for anything for partying to harming others. A lack of fear of suffering is blamed for risky sex or drug abuse. A lack of fear of the apocalypse is blamed for militarism or climate change denial. A lack of fear of death is blamed for not improving healthcare or addressing gun violence.

I’ve come to think this sentiment is not just wrong about the cause, but also wrong about the benefits of fear. Fear doesn’t lead to good decision making in humans. Fear activates our fight or flight responses and we make short term decisions. Fear creates reactivity, not proactivity. Fear is not a good teacher, of children, of pets, of adults. It breaks people instead. Fear is the mindkiller.

I think more often than not it is the supposedly missing fear that motivates maladaptive behavior. A fear of death drives people to feel alive and deny their mortality, a fear of being forgotten leads to Machiavellian means to rise to the top. A fear of war motivates armament build up or preemptive strikes. A fear of the world changing drastically leads one to deny things which says we must change or it will change for us. Fear is behind the hate of white supremacists, homophobic churches, and anti-islamic groups.

While many religions have strains that have adopted fear to motivate behavior, the most inspiring and uplifiting messages at the base of religion is a message of hope and peace, not fear. The bible repeatedly tells people to not fear. Buddhism places fear as one of the ways the ego protects itself. The message comes through in both that fear is behind much of the worlds pain.

If we look at the problems above, we can see why fear is a bad way to approach them. Fear of eternal death drives one to grab all the pleasure you can with no regards to the consequences. Fear of the afterlife can cause one to ignore or even cause suffering in this life in order to live by their perception of the rules they’ll be judged by. Fear of climate change may cause us to take drastic action that we can’t control. Fear of korea’s nuclear capabilities may cause us to start a war where millions will die.

We instead must listen to the fear, understand what it’s warning us of and take reasoned controlled action. We should be aware that this life has an end and make sure to not live for ‘someday’, to tell those who matter to us that we love them, and to be present. We should be aware of moral imperatives and work to leave the world better than we found it. We should be aware of the way we’re changing the planet, and try and find better ways to meet our needs and to undo the damage we’ve done for future generations. We should be aware of the dangers of war and try to avoid it.

Don’t let the external forces that you fear control your life, be proactive and thoughtful in how you respond.

My gaming laptop – a project post

So here’s the deal – I hate gaming laptops. They’re huge, heavy, have crap battery life and you pay more than you did for your desktop to get a laptop that sucks compared to your desktop.  Why not just spend more money on my desktop?  But on the other hand it would nice to be able to play games from bed. Or at a coffee shop, maybe when I’m traveling – so it’s a bit of a conundrum. I’ve finally found a solutions that works for me — this is the story of the my off and on attempts, and my next post will be an easy to follow how to if you want to try also.

My personal laptop is a Samsung Chromebook Pro. It’s light and tiny, it’s battery lasts forever, its got a taller resolution than 16×9 which is great for reading. It’s got an intel fanless processor in so it handles complex web pages way better than a tablet, but doesn’t get all hot and bothered like oldschool netbooks did.  It can run android apps like hearthstone, since it has the google play store. It’s basically  the bee’s knees. And now it plays any game my computer can play, with a few limitations.

For bed I initially thought about a little TV and another Nvidia Shield. This set top box is awesome – It’s my main entertainment device for my TV. It streams games from my nvidia graphics card. It’s an android tv box so it has google cast. It’s a 4k HDR playback machine, and it even has amazon video – a rarity in the android world.  But I didn’t really want a TV in my room, and that seemed like a lot of investment for not that much more flexibility.

But Nvidia also makes a tablet with the same game streaming technology – a 3/4 year old one.  So if that can do it my chromebook should be able to handle it too. And since I have gigabit internet at home I should have plenty of bandwidth to stream to the outside world.  I found an opensource implementation of the protocol – moonlight and gave it a whirl. It kind of sucked. Both the android version and the alpha chrome extension.  Mouse support was wonky — android one had to click and drag, the chrome one it’s acceleration was way off.  Clicking the touchscreen wouldn’t move the cursor, just clicked wherever the cursor was. Not that great experience, but worked ish for some games.

I spent a few weekends hacking at the code to try and get better mouse support – but fundamentally the protocol isn’t built for it. It only has mouse move event support, so syncing to exact positions is messy. Even more messy is that it’s not a fixed size grid so you cant translate touch events to cursor position directly – 100,100 might be in one spot in one game and in a different spot in another. I tried things like adding a rest button for when the errors added up and touchpoint/cursor point got off, but it wasn’t a good experience. So eventually I gave up trying to force a system to do something it’s not good at.

I took the plunge and set up an ubuntu chroot with crouton (not nearly as tricky as it sounds tbh :P) and played around with Steam In Home Streaming. Finally! this works! Theres a weirdly inconsistent frame rate- and the latency seems not great, but it works and is playable.  I’m satisfied for a bit – but it’s frustrating because I have to manually configure my firewall for it after every reboot, and if I want to do it outside of my house I’ll need a VPN. blah. Plus the crappy performance compared to my shield meant i’d pretty much always get up and go to my desk or my couch. But at least the mouse and touchscreen worked.

This weekend I learned that cloud gaming service Parsec also lets you stream from your own computer. And it’s way more performant than steam — (https://blog.parsecgaming.com/steam-in-home-streaming-latency-test-versus-parsec-7884144b29f1) So I gave it a try attempt. I was hoping to ditch the chroot so tried android app first. It crashes instantly on my chromebook – I’m guessing because it’s intel and not arm.  After installing the linux client that worked! The frames seemed better everything was good, until I started an actual game. Then my latency went to hell (worse than steam). Digging a bit I discovered that it wasn’t able to use. the hardware h264 encoder. I found a ppa with some enhanced intel drivers for ubuntu, installed them and OMG EVERYTHING WORKS WONDERFULLY! Theres a few minor things that I don’t like but the experience of actually playing a game is finally there.  I do have to have my computer on (nvidia can wake it up remotely), the experience of launching a game is more like a remote desktop – nvidia I start the game from a list of games I have installed in a local UI, and then the stream starts right in the game (or steam big picture mode if I select that). And I don’t get quite as good fps as I do with nvidias streaming, and need to use borderless window for best effect. This is likely to do with not as tightly coupled hardware support. However it’s super functional and makes me super pleased – especially as I get ready to be gone for the holidays. (note the intel drivers did make steam streaming a little better too – but the frame rate issue was still present)

EDIT: I may have lied 😦 touch screen does seem to be doing the same thing nvidia did – I could have sworn it was working, if I get it working again I’ll update

EDIT EDIT: It still works – just was in a game that doesn’t like touch screen apparently ❤

 

 

A response to the weird hate for The Last Jedi

Spoilers spoilers spoilers. And more spoilers don’t read this until after you watch it. Mmmk?

I’m serious. I will ruin everything if you haven’t seen it.

Hopefully this is enough spoiler warnings to fill any preview text you see cause I will talk about all of the big plot points. So go away.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way. Almost every complaint I’ve seen about the last Jedi doesn’t make sense – and seem to be super fans mad they didn’t know more than other people for once.

Here are ones Ive been seeing repeated and why they don’t make any sense:

They killed Supreme Leader Snoke off without telling us his backstory or how he got so pwerful. It doesn’t make any sense! — They killed killed emperor palpatine off in RoTJ without telling us his back story or how he got so powerful, it doesn’t matter, it’s not relevant to the story being told in this movie!. Even after three prequels we only learned some of palpatines back story and nothing of his training. For that matter Yoda gets absolutely 0 backstory!

How did Leia do that! We haven’t seen her use the force like that before! — How did Luke build a light saber? How did Luke learn to get his lightsaber from the snow with the force? It’s not important , you’re supposed to see that and understand she’s gotten more powerful since return of the Jedi years and ears ago.

The casino plot was a waste of time!! — uh yeah, that was the point. Not everything works out for the good guys. Cloud city was a trap. Lando sold han out and only regretted it because they were childhood friends. A codebreaker who’s literally been telling you the whole time that there are no good guys and bad guys and all that matters is the money sold you out? No surprise there.

Since when can Luke project himself across the universe, we’ve never seen that before! — We’ve never seen Jedi do anything before they do it on screen the first time… — but why didn’t they do it in the prequels?  — Who knows! Maybe they didn’t want to die like Luke did immediately after. Maybe he discovered it because he’s Luke Skywalker who’s heavily hinted at being more powerful than ‘the chosen one’ was. It doesn’t really matter.

But now Kylo’s the big bad guy all alone, ! — I actually don’t know how this is supposed to be a bad thing. Plus it’s definitely in line with the Sith the rule of two. Something Vader failed at because he wanted Luke to join.

Why didn’t kylo Ren turn? — not every evil jack ass is actually a good guy. He killed his dad to get more powerful in the dark side ffs. We’re you really expecting him to be another Anakin? Vader came back because his whole deal was I’ll go bad to have the power to save my family.

Why didn’t the Vice Admiral just tell Poe the plan! — why in God’s loving name would the highest ranking officer they have left tell a disgraced unpredictable flyboy everything. If he’d just followed orders instead of thinking he knows best they would have had a fleet of fighters and bombers and the first order wouldn’t have known about their cloaked escape. Plus they might not have sent snokes ship after them at all if they didn’t lose the dreadnaught.

Rey finding Luke was a waste of time. — see bit above about things not always working out? Also she stole the Jedi books and Yoda joked about it right before he lit the tree on fire so that’s kinda cool. Sorry Luke didn’t come back and take over everything from all the women. He’s disillusioned and bitter. That’s his story arc. Don’t cry so much. He went there to die, and he did. But he made sure to buy the rebellion the time it needed and say goodbye to his sister. Pretty cool way to go tbh. Even Yoda was disillusioned and didn’t want to train reckless impulsive luke.

If they can just run ships into other shops to take them out why don’t they do it all the time??? — well kamikaze isn’t really sustainable, but it’s not like this is new. The executor was taking out by an AWing running into it at full speed. (And then it crashed into the death star!)

But her parents aren’t special? — well one we don’t know if he was telling the truth. There was no force ghost of been Kenobi being like yep Vader’s your dad. Two Anakin was born a slave in the middle of nowhere.

It didn’t answer my questions from. The Force Awakens — 1) not every question can be answered see thing about snoke. 2) this is the middle movie in a trilogy! Wait until the last one before you decide this is a lost type scenario.

Finally if your critique of this movie is it’s leftists propaganda because a lady with purple hair is in charge and the new Jedi is a girl not Luke Skywalker. Just stop. K?

Seattle and Tacoma

Thoughts as I read this article on how Seattle and Tacoma diverged and evolved separately. From the Stranger so naturally biased to Seattle. But in 2000 so before the success of the Seattle Tech scene allowed the no longer alternative Stranger to reach it’s current heights of navel gazing.

  • I’d always kinda figured the gap happened when Boeing exploded, but never really thought about why Boeing would be in Seattle and not Tacoma.  Both were ports, both are similar climates similar access. What drove Seattle?
  • The binary pairs is something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. Fundamentally it’s self vs others.  It takes extra work to compare and not just contrast, and helps if you have a new third object to be a foil.  Easier to do when you think in yin-yang and not god/satan terms.
  • Ah… Alaska drove Seattle.
  • Not mentioned here, but fun to add.  Seattle’s park systems were built by Olmsteads successor and step-son.  Not as impressive as the alternate tacoma where the city planning was done by Olmstead Sr, but maybe another factor that drove Seattle.  Unfortunately since the designing the interstate and the canal project ruined the interconnections he envisioned.
  • Really cool that he took the time and energy to try and feel the opposite perspective.  Makes this piece have much less of a circle jerk characteristic.

Ye shall know them by their fruits.

As I sit in a hospital room looking at someone I love unconditionally, I can’t help but think of all those who didn’t. All those who taught him he must be worthy of love. All those who taught him that being him wasn’t good enough. That he must behave as expected.

How hollow their claims of concern are now. How empty their tears. How foolish their attempts to make it about them.

My inner child wants to rage and destroy them. Wipe them from the face of the Earth.  Salt their fields, poison all that they held dear. Build a new world with only those who are safe. And later I will grant him that. I will open my inner world and allow him to do as will until he feels satisfied and complete.

But here in the outer word I can simple shut them out. Allow them no more weight than they demonstrate they deserve.

People pleasing, perfectionism, irony and ironing

While ironing this morning I caught myself thinking “I’m not very good at this, but a poor ironing job is still better than wrinkles on clothes stuffed in a day bag”. I was pleased I wasn’t caught up in perfectionism and letting that get in the way, but I felt like there was more to it.

So I reflected on why I wasn’t good at it, it wasn’t a flaw in me, but a skill I haven’t practiced. Why didn’t I practice it? Because for years I pretended to not care. I didn’t iron out of people pleasing. I didn’t care because I felt more in control if I ‘chose’ to look sloppy. I worried more about doing a bad job and appearing authentically flawed than about being inaccurately cast as slovenly I was scared of vulnerability because I’d been taught I was valuable for what I can do. Not valuable for who I am.

My rebellion against people’s wishes was it’s own form of people pleasing. I was just like those who reject relationships before they can be rejected because they fear it will devalue them. I rejected ironing so that no one could reject my skill at ironing and thus devalue me.