F#@* Hope

I got a charm bracelet for Christmas that read “F hope.” It has been an inspiration to me, and  I want to share with you the story behind it and how it supports me each day to stand up and act out my convictions in the world.

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For the last six months, my mother has been into charm bracelets. I decided that if I were to get one, I wanted something that would be inspirational and a reminder on how I wanted to live life. I was thinking through different inspirational sayings, and I remembered a powerful statement from Pema Chrodron in her book, When Things Fall Apart :

As long as we’re addicted to hope, we feel that we can tone our experience down or liven it up or change it somehow, and we continue to suffer a lot. In a nontheistic state of mind, abandoning hope is an affirmation, the beginning of the beginning. You could even put “Abandon Hope” on your refrigerator door instead of more conventional aspirations like “Everyday in everyway, I’m getting better and better.” We hold onto hope and it robs us of the present moment. If hope and fear are two different sides of the same coin, so are hopelessness and confidence. If we’re willing to give up hope that insecurity and pain can be exterminated, then we can have the courage to relax with the groundlessness of our situation.

The statement resonated with me, and so I told my mom that I wanted a bracelet that said, “fuck hope.” I explained to her that hope is the other side of fear, a delusion that is often not based in reality, and as long as we live through that, we will not be in the present moment. That was in October – before the election – and then she actually got me the bracelet for Christmas.

My first reaction was a bit stunned. I had only really thought about the quote from a superficial level. Yes, I agree that you do not want to live in delusion, but do I really want to FUCK hope? Many teachings like this I feel like I agree with in principle, think that I should really ponder it a bit more- and don’t. Getting this bracelet made me step up to this opportunity, and start thinking through my thoughts, feelings, and convictions a bit deeper. Explore what it means to fuck hope.

First, I am a proud Quaker, and a core conviction in my life is that there is that there is that of God/Spirit/ability to transform in every person and situation. Recognizing that there is that of God/Spirit/ability to transform, I believe that healing is possible and everyone deserves respect by their nature of being alive. As soon as I got this bracelet, I started to question how abandoning hope clashed or agreed with this core conviction. I started to realized that I often put too much faith that things will magically get better. Even though a situation can transform, I have a responsibility to connect with the Spirt within me and to step up when I feel called. I cannot put too much faith in the universe when it comes to my life, society, and the future of the planet. That said, I can also have that faith that the movement will continue when I need to take time and heal.  I am still part of a movement and a community, and I can still rest in the faith that others will also stand up to the call within themselves.

Second, I tend to err on the side of politics of respectability and I strive for non-violence.   The “F” in the bracelet is for “Fuck” and this made me uncomfortable. I initially told myself that it could be “Forget” and not “Fuck.” However, as I continued to think about it and sit in my own discomfort, I realize that my desire to wash it was aligned to the politics of respectability that is currently being used to delegitimize movements. People are saying that certain speech and actions are should not be heard because they do not meet a set standard.  These standards are rooted in a history of racism, sexism, and colonialism.  I am sure that the reason that the word “Fuck” bothers me, is very likely rooted in the puritan and colonial history of America. This is same history that has done so many injustices in the world. I am called to be a bit uncomfortable and now this bracelet be a reminder that it is okay to feel uncomfortable.  It instigates a primal emotion within me – and that is kinda what I am going for… So the word “Fuck” is important.

Third, I have a fairly established mindfulnees meditation practice and connect with many Buddhist teachings. There is a vow taken by many Buddhists to attain enlightenment, the bodhisattva vow. It essentially states:

Sentient beings are numberless; I vow to save them all.

Desires are inexhaustible; I vow to put an end to them.

 The dharmas are boundless; I vow to master them.

 The Buddha’s Way is unsurpassable; I vow to attain it.

I see working within this non-dual state of being, an openness that embraces the paradox that a task is completely hopeless and having the commitment and determination to end it, is the state of being that we need to heal the world.

One thing I learned from a weeklong, silent, love and kindness, retreat in December, is that the mind has a problem with paradoxes, but the heart can embrace them. The mind looks at a hawk swooping down at a mouse and attempts to pick sides. If one wishes the hawk health, then the mouse must die. If one wishes the mouse safety, the hawk will be hungry. The heart does not have such boundaries; the heart is fully capable of wishing the hawk health simultaneously wishing the mouse safety. The power to love can be present in any situation and is only limited by the mind.

Going back to my bracelet, after these contemplations, I see the bracelet as a symbol:

  • To recognize and respect that of God in each person.
  • To not put all my faith that God will magically appear, but that I have a responsibility to engage life to support the transformation I yearn to see in the world
  • That I am a part of a community, and we can carry the torch forward as others rest
  • That it is okay to feel uncomfortable and challenge our preconceived notions, as our notions may be linked to our history that is full of pain and injustice
  • That even though the world is full of suffering and over coming is impossible, the heart can hold both the feelings of hopelessness and still have the love, determination, and commitment to ending injustices
  • To choose to live through the heart

I hope that this bit of reflection supports you and your journey. I would love to hear your thoughts, and especially your contemplations on some of these topics.  I recognize it is challenging a some notions people may have about hope and such… I would love to engage in thoughtful and wholehearted responces.

A part of the human experience

Yesterday, I wrote an email inquiring about postdoc on social justice in STEM. The position seemed awesome, but I did not hear about it till about a month after an application deadline. I asked if open, and briefly stated my research and past experience. The recipient wrote back that technically it was open; however, they were on the last in-person interview and based on the quality of the applicants it will be filled soon.

My heart sunk, and the thought of these highly qualified candidates out there made me feel inferior.  I hate this human tendency to compare, and this desire to better than or feel less than.

I want to rejoice with all the amazing people out there who are working towards these topics that I am so passionate about!  I want there to be so many people, and tons of positions, that promote social justice in STEM.  That is how the culture of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, is going to change to be a more inclusive space.

 

My Vow to Non-conformity

Iimage vow to align with that of God within me to the best of my ability. I will listen and remain open to the thoughts and views of others, especially loved ones, while deciding my decisions in life; however, the choices I make will be mine, which I intend to choose to be authentic to my Spirit, values, and way of viewing the world.

 

 

 

 

 

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Engineering: Cultural issues, My vision, and Myself as a Quaker Engineer

In an attempt to understand why I am in this field and what I see my role as being, I have decided to examine the following three questions:  (1) What is the fundamental issue in engineering education, (2) What is my vision of a new engineering education community, and (3) what role do I want to explore in my ideal paradigm.

(1) What is the fundamental issue in engineering education?

The fundamental issue within engineering is the dualistic mindset, grounded in the positivist paradigm which feeds on the notion that engineering is superior and other fields are inferior. This dualistic mindset is embedded throughout the engineering and engineering education culture, and is highlighted in the concept of “rigor.”   During the ASEE Distinguished Lecture, Donna Riley (2013) focuses on the concept of “rigor” within engineering education.  She highlights that “rigor” in engineering education research usually has a formal research question and theoretical framework.  Engineers often think of high levels of complex math as being more “rigorous,” so the field also leans towards quantitative research. Riley also examines the definition of the word “rigor,” meaning that there is a “stiffness,” “cruelty,”  “inflexibility, “ etc. This word “rigor,” that the community has embraced confines the type of research that is acceptable in the field.   Some engineering education scholars have attempted broaden the term “rigorous” by arguing that there is “rigorous” qualitative research that needs to be embraced within the field (Streveler & Smith 2006). I agree that some research can have more trustworthy results, and I appreciate that there is the movement to push engineering education out of the existing box. However, this attempt builds on the notion that there is some work that is fits within a certain box “rigor” and in order to do good research a person needs to follow the set guideline.

Some engineering change agents have attempted to flip the perspective of what qualities are needed in an engineer.  A recent manifesto has declared that engineers need to “find joy in life,” to be “open, trusted, and trusting,” and to be “authentically connected to others.” This manifesto moves the emphasis away from technical ability, ultimately a radical shift in the discourse of engineering (BigBeacon 2013).  Even though I love the thought of a world with all engineers having this approach to life, I appreciate the shift in perspective of what qualities are needed in an engineer and I identify as “this type of engineer,” I know, mostly through failed romantic relationships, that forcing all engineers to live like this will not work. Not all individuals want these qualities in their life and attempting to change another person to be something they are not is wasteful energy.  So identifying an engineer in this light also plays into the aforementioned polarity.  Where the superior engineer is the compassionate engineer.

(2) What is my vision of a new engineering education community?

In order to address this issue, the engineering community needs to move from a positivist to a constructivist paradigm.  In a constructivist paradigm, the basic notion is that each person creates his or her own understanding of the world through experience.  Learning comes from reflecting and challenging pre-existing ideas of the world.  In this space, every individual’s engineering story is respected and valid, and through critical reflection and open discourse, we as a community can engage on appropriate methodologies for given research. The overall community does not hold a superior-inferior dichotomy belief, but there is still room for individuals who are in the positivist mindset.   This view would allow the individual to appreciate and respect the liberal art major, while still having room in the community for the individual who does not have the same appreciation and respect for the non-engineer.  I believe that through reflection individuals will ultimately see that their own dichotomy mindset is invalid, however, allowing that mindset to exist is crucial.

Community standard of “rigor” can and would need to exist, but the limitations would be recognized.  Some problems need rigor to be solved; yet many do not. For example, when an engineer is designing a bridge the structure design needs to be done precise to insure it’s stability.  However, engineers can also work on the aesthetics or be involved with community outreach to determine the uses of the bridge. This work needs to be intentional, requires more creativity, and will ultimately determine the greatness of the structure. There are approaches that are more or less appropriate for this work depending on the community, culture, etc., and research needs to be grounded in past work.  However, this method needs to be more flexible and allow for the messy nature of problem. The engineering community needs engineers in all different forms, and to embrace different engineers rather than trying to make engineers all the same.

In my own engineering story, I entered into engineering based on many of the reasons I have issues with now.  I started off being a chemical engineering student, the most “difficult” of engineering major, at one of the top universities’ in the world, UC Berkeley. I loved the challenge, the mental stimulation, and the complements I received on my intelligence.  As a woman engineer, the standard line people said when I explained my major was, “Wow, you must be smart.” Through this experience, I connected my intelligence to being “better,” and thus sharpening my internal polarity. Since I was smart, it meant that people not studying engineering were less smart.

In my junior year, after reading a work by Dr. Crewe (1997), an anthropologist, regarding engineers designing useless cook stoves because they failed to look at how people interacted with the technology, I started to reflect on my own practice and my education .  In engineering, because of the high prestige of the technical, students do not learn the practical, ultimately harming society.  At that time, I vowed to be a bridge from the social to the technical.

I see education as the way to accomplish this.  Ultimately, I see allowing students and trusting them to follow their own passions is the best way to impact the world, while at the same time, following my own passion.

(3) What role do I want to explore in this ideal paradigm.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Since my time in undergrad, I have put out a lot of energy in attempting to change the existing engineering paradigm and have contemplated what it means to change.  My initial approach was head on, and I learned that approach is emotionally exhausting and I can get burnt out fast.  I have sat face to face with professors and explained how the pedagogy methods are not effective and in my view unethical, only to be dismissed and belittled for attempting to approach the topic. Although I am not giving up on having difficult conversations about engineering paradigm, that is no longer my primarily way to create change in the world. I wish to change by living a life that I believe in, one that embodies my principals and hopefully I might be a role model for others.

A large part of who I am is a Quaker, and so one of the next steps I am going to explore in life is looking at what it might mean to be a Quaker engineer. I see a Quaker design processes as one that seeks unity of all the community members, before a technology can come to fruition.  The technology would have the intention of peace, to enhance equality of all sentient beings, and cultivate a deep respect for the earth.   Upon graduation I am hoping to spend some months in Monteverde, a community in Costa Rica and work with students at a bilingual Quaker school and explore this topic.  I don’t know if this will be a permanent role for me, but I think it is a good first step as a way for me to live as a wholehearted engineer.

Conclusion

Overall, I think the current engineering community has a strict dualistic mindset that attempts to place a box on what an engineer is without.   This thought is grounded in the positivist mindset.  In order to be a inclusive community, we need to embody a more constructivist mindset and allow for and value different types of engineers.  I will be living by example, as I explore what it means for me to be an engineer.

 

References:

Big Beacon. (2013). Big Beacon Manifesto. Retrieved October, 2013, from http://bigbeacon.org/big-beacon-manifesto.pdf

Crewe, E. (1997). The Silent Traditions of Developing Cooks. In R. D. G. a. R. L. Stirrat (Ed.), Discourse of Development Anthropological Perspectives. Oxford, UK: Berg.

Riley, D. (2013). Rigor/Us: Merit Standards and Diversity in Engineering Education. ASEE 2013 Distinguished Lecture, Atlanta Georgia

Streveler, Ruth A., and Karl A. Smith. “Conducting rigorous research in engineering education.” Journal of Engineering Education 95.2 (2006): 103-105

We finally met

Taken when I ran into him a few months ago.

Taken when I ran into him a few months ago.

It’s been awhile, but I finally met with President Daniels. I did not think I would get the opportunity after the Howard Zinn fiasco, but got an email from his assistant earlier this week. I met with him this morning and it went well. It got very heated at points, but there was a tone of respect and desire to think outside the box.

We talked about the outcomes based pay and what it means to be subjective. That the fact that someone is determining what the outcomes are- is the subjective point. He got that.

We talked about the issues relating to his appointment. He feels that he was asked to be there and he wants to be help Purdue. I pointed out that he appointed people that had the same ideologies as him (which he agreed) and so it is understandable that they would think like him. He did not see it as cronyism – I think this is a sensitive topic for him.

Daniels thinks that the students, alumni, and faculty all support him, and all the decisions that he makes. That the news is picking up on the topics against him because that is what the news does – highlights the issues. I talked about the community of fear that is on this campus, especially within the staff.

We discussed the Howard Zinn situation. Daniels pointed out how Zinn was against the scientific method – I assume meaning that he did view the world through am objective paradigm. I said everything was subjective, and he said it wasn’t. I pointed to gravity and how gravity itself can be objective, but our understanding of it has changed dramatically over time and there still are many things we do not know.

I discussed my view that a governor should not be dictating what is in schools because there is a board for that. That such actions are censorship. I recognized it was the more radical stance. He is very passionate about keeping a stance of academic freedom, but I don’t think he really understands what it is. I am hoping by discussing my stance, which I think is consistent with many academics, he might be able to see that this is less of a cut and dry issue as he seems to see it. It’s not just about what is taught in classes at universities.

I told him that if he wanted to gain some academic freedom credibility, he should personally invite James Loewen to Purdue University, and ideally invite him for a meal. He said he will look into it and I will do a follow up email later.

Overall, I was able to hold my ground quiet well. The conversation got intense and went over about 15 minutes- he agreed to talk again. I am looking forward to it.

Stepping Stones: A Reflection on Professional Development

Each step we take has a history behind it, other steps that got us to that point.  As we walk, we create a path.  A narrative can never be complete by isolating one segment, but a reflection on a few steps can provide some insight into the trail. In this reflection, I will articulate three critical steps.  The first is my involvement in Quakerism and Occupy, the second is to organize a confidential space, the “town halls,”  to discuss major concerns within the Engineering Education (ENE) graduate student community and the final is my organization of a Quaker retreat. By taking what I have learned from each step, I bring new skills to each situation, build personal capacities and have a clearer vision of what I wish to do in the future.

My step into Quakerism and Occupy

I am relatively new to Quakerism.  I have been attending a local meeting since Fall 2010. Then in July 2011, I went to a larger meeting of Quakers in the Midwest, which is referred to as a “yearly meeting.”  One of the key attributes of Quakers is they worship in silence, cultivating the holy spirit, and follow leadings from God. At the meeting, there was time to share personal experiences in a worshipful way, spiritual-centered workshops and speakers throughout the weekend. I felt accepted in the community and thankful to be a part of it.  After the yearly meeting, I was inspired to be more active in the Quaker community.  The first step I took was attending an environmental conference, Quaker Earth-care Witness (QEW) in Chicago in October 2011. Each morning we had worship sharing and reflection on the environmental impacts of American food production.  There were talks from policy makers and overviews of different projects attendees were working on.  This meeting happened during the height of Occupy, and many of the attendees were actively involved in the movement.  One man even went out of his way to go and sleep each night at the Occupy camp in Chicago.

Quaker process and guiding principals have a lot of similarities with the Occupy movement. During any type of meeting, business or planning, Quakers seek Unity before making a decision.  This is similar to a consensus, but rather than objectively agreeing, there is an agreement through Spirit.  For example, many Quakers do not believe that Christ is the Son of God and thus would not consider themselves Christians.  However, when the Norway Quakers recently decided to join in with other Christian institutions, they reached Unity on the decision.  They acted from a place of Spirit, rather than a place of rational thinking.  There are six main testimonies of Quakers: simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality and stewardship. Both the process and many of the testimonies were found in the Occupy movement.  The Occupy movement worked primarily through consensus. Things were thoroughly discussed.  There was a strong presence of equality, as there were no designated leaders in any meeting and the intent was to give each person equal opportunity to speak. This is why many Quakers were active in the Occupy movement.

After I left the QEW conference, I become active in Occupy Lafayette and Occupy Purdue. I would regularly attend meetings and have discussions on issues our community was facing, like threats on Union labor.  Certain topics interested me more than others, issues in food and the environment were topics that greatly weighed on my heart.  However, upon reflection of the Occupy, what I really liked about it was that it gave people a chance to come together and identify the issues that were bothering them, such as labor, food, and banking policies.  Issues became clearer and then people stepped up and face them, by holding protests and speaking out.

Both Quakerism and Occupy create a space that allows people to recognize common concerns. This space is much more process oriented than having a tangible end.   I appreciate this element of both Quakers and Occupy, and have integrated this lesson into my following steps of life.

ENE Town Halls

My experience with the Quakers and Occupy laid the ground for some changes in the ENE grad student community.  When I first started at Purdue in 2009, I was the ENE Graduate Student Associate Committee (GSAC) representative.  There I met with the Associate Dean once a month to discuss concerns of my department. I spoke up about the issues I faced as a graduate student; however, I could only do so much, since I was new and did not know the concerns of other students. As I continued in the program and became embedded in the department, students started to discuses their issues with me. It seemed like the graduate students needed some type of Occupy movement, or at least a meeting, where they could confidentially discuss issues they faced.  I decided to set up a space to do just that, and we called them “town halls.”

I was co-chair of the communication committee in Spring 2011 and our department head, Dr. Radcliff, headed a leadership workshop emphasizing how each of us should take on one task that we could lead.  I started having smaller, semi-formal meetings, so the graduate students can articulate their issues and come up with solutions.  The first semester we had one every few months.  We ended up having two larger meetings during the weeks that our regular seminar didn’t have a speaker. In the discussions, I ensured confidentiality and replicated the facilitation method from the Occupy meetings.  Some students felt more comfortable approaching me personally about topics they saw were essential to include, but did not want to share with the group.

By the end of the semester, we were able to sort out main issues in the following five categories: community, advisor-advisee relations, new student transition, courses and health insurance issues.  This concise list provided a tangible record to accompany various representatives to the graduate school and the college. The graduate students associate now has had a few meetings with the department head and the graduate committee chair to discuss issues.  The department head has acknowledged the difficulty in addressing many issues of those that we have brought up; however, he recognizes them a problems that need attention.

For me, I see this achievement not as much as solving any of the problems, but rather creating a process so that students can be a part of the conversation.  This year the town halls have continued with new organizers.  I am grateful to have made a mark and started a tradition that allowed graduate students to vocalize their concerns in a formal way. This whole experience has been fulfilling to me.  I felt like I found a niche to create safe space so that people can step up and articulate the issues that were concerning them. As it is said in Quaker terminology, this was a leading.

Organizing the Midwinter in the Midwest retreat

Another leading I had, and followed through on, was to co-organize a Young Adult Quaker retreat.  This took place from January 4th to 6th 2013 in Pendleton, Indiana. For months prior to the event I was skyping every Sunday afternoon, figuring the schedule and organizing the event.  Everything aligned nicely, my largest contribution was the theme “A place for Quakers to dialogue and understand each other’s views of Christ and Scripture.” I did not know how this would actually unfold.  Though I had helped created space for people to talk about issues before, we did not know how to program such an event for 3 days. As we went forward a Friend[1] contacted me telling me she felt led to organize the programming, and another mentioned she would like to organize the food.  I then got shifted to collecting and managing the money.  A task I felt more qualified for. As the first night approached, I was nervous.  People came later than was planned and there was an awkward silence as we sat around the table.

Quakers come from many theological standpoints on Christ and Scripture. There are four main branches: conservative, liberal, evangelical and FUM.  The two branches I am most familiar with are conservative and liberal. Conservative Quakers are more true to the original practices.  The liberal friends branched off in the 1800s, the main theological difference is that they started to question scripture as being secondary to the personal connection with the Holy Spirit. I am a liberal Quaker, and have friends in other branches.  My view of the liberal Quakers is that we are much more “spiritual” than religious. Most of the Quakers I know do not consider Jesus as the Son of God, and use terms such as “Spirit” and “the light” rather than “God.”  They are more open to New-age practices, and are more likely to be interfaith. I consider myself a Buddhist Quaker.

When I have met Friends from other branches and asked them about their beliefs, I was often met with an uncomfortable feeling. I received the vibe- “I rather not talk about it.”  I wanted to understand this. This is what instigated my interest in creating such a space, not to change others, but to be able to talk about our own thoughts and beliefs.

The retreat did just that.  There were 18 people that came from different branches. There was discussion of our personal spiritual journeys, we shared one-on-one conversations on our thoughts of Jesus and Scripture, and each night ended with discussions in a small spiritual group.  The space was open and allowed for the diverse views to be discussed freely. A lot of the attendees had insights that deepened their own faith.  I felt a sense of deep satisfaction that I helped create the environment to allow for personal growth.

Conclusion

Through these three steps, I have gained a deeper understanding of myself and the world around me.   I have gained insight that it is not accomplishments that matter, but creating processes that allow for voices to be heard and growth to happen.  Change is slow, and that is okay.  I see myself as being a catalyst of growth by working to create safe spaces for progress to happen.  I will continue deepening my experience and skills as I move forward on my path of life.


[1] Quakers are referred to as “Friends” with a capital F

Global Warming or Gods Vengeance? Let’s talk.

photoBelow is a synopsis of  a conversation I had, the actual conversation was about 1 hour and 20 minutes, with someone who thinks very differently than I do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Driver: Do you mind the radio (It was on a christian station)

Me: I don’t mind.

Driver: So what are you studying?

Me: Ph.D. in Engineering Education

Driver: So do you want to teach engineering (the typical response when I tell people what I am studying)

Me: No, I want to write a book once I graduate.

awkward silence

Me: It’s about the spiritual process I went through I went though in my early 20’s.

Silence

Me: What was your spiritual process?

She was “saved” when she was 19, and then got a degree in theology and is a teacher in the truths of the bible.

Me: I am Quaker, but I do not believe that Jesus is the son of God, but am very spiritual.

Driver: So, did you have a falling out with them.

Me: No, actually I am not alone in my Quaker branch.  (I attempt to explain the different branches of Quakerism and the variation in theologies to the best of my ability.)

Driver: I knew a Quaker, she was a student of mine, basically a daughter to me.  They made a documentary about her.

Me: What was the documentary about?

Driver:  She was actually Amish, and left her community when she was 15.

Me:  (Thinking: I did not know that Quaker meme was true )  That must of been hard to leave her family.

I described some aspects of Quakers.  We worship in silence, opening ourselves to the Holy Spirit to guide us.  I talked about my leading towards environmental activism.  We talked more about the power of the Holy Spirit (I would normally call it Light, but have nothing against describing it as Holy Spirit, and knew she would understand that easier), and how it has shed light in out lives.

Driver: What? How I could believe in Holy Sprit, and not everything else in the Bible – (specifically her interpretation of it).

Me: Do you know the Bible says not to eat shell fish.

Driver: No, but some things where written for that time. Were does it say that?

Me: Corinthians somewhere. (Here are the actual verses)

Driver: What do your Quakers think of homosexuality.

Me: Our meeting allows gay marriage.

Driver: The Bible says homosexuality is an abomination.

Me: Jesus never says it, and they mention homosexuality right next to where they say not to eat shell fish.

Driver: You just look.  These weather patterns are proof of God’s vengeance.  The only reason anything good happens in America is because of christians praying.  America is wicked. Look at what we did to the Native Americans and the Slaves.

Me: (Thinking: I am terrified that people that have these beliefs make up large portion of this country, and in their view they are completely right.  Science can not persuade them.  I sent her metta, buddhist form of love and kindness and surrounded her in light.  The only thing I could think of. ) Does that means if a country does well, are correct spiritually?

Driver: Yes.

Me: What about northern Europe.

Driver: I don’t know about their spiritual practices.

Me: Oh – well, they do allow gay marriage and in some places – marijuana.

Driver: (changed the topic) … something about Israel needing our protection, and that Obama sent money to the Muslim in Egypt.

Me: What about “thou shall not kill.”

Driver:  I see how you can misunderstand that, but this is different.  We are in a demonic war.  You know about lucifer and the other angles that got sent out of heaven.

She went on to explain the demonic war and how certain people are just evil. I look on the internet, it is provided for free on the shuttle, and looked up a verse we studied in our Quaker meeting a few months ago.

Me: What about  Luke 6:35, “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked”

Driver: Ohhh, I give love – I am spreading love all the time.

As we parted ways, we agreed to disagree.  I affirmed that I am still searching, and she said she hoped I would “find” the truth at some point, like she did.

I smiled. I hope that she will open her heart to Spirit and continue searching.

_____

For real change to happen, these conversations need to take place.  For days I wanted to dismis her, but she touches the same Light that I touch and has the same rights under our democratic system of government.  I fear for global warming and long for social justice, she fears for God’s vengeance for our country allowing gay marriage.  I do not believe the answer lies in the middle, I believe I am representing the Truth. However, I am completely open to be proven wrong.

I do not believe the solution is through dismissal and denigration of anyone.  It is through conversations where we listen and hold each other in the light. That is where growth and justice come from.

I have no intention of learning the bible for the purpose of creating an argument.  I do not believe I can change her , or anyone’s mind. I hope by having conversations with people that thinks completely differently, and doing it with the intention of love and light, that the universe will shift and let Truth prevail.

Aside

Mitch Daniels Discernment Update

screen-shot-2013-01-20-at-1-05-13-pm.pngIt has been a while since my last blog, and a lot of things happened in my life.  I passed my preliminary examines, so I am now a candidate of my PhD program.  I went on a 5-day silent Buddhist retreat at Spirit Rock, a Quaker New Years Gathering, and another Quaker gathering that I helped organize, midwinter in the midwest.  Then – I turned 30.  Now I am back at Purdue, working on my dissertation.

I wanted to fill everyone in on my discernment on the conversation with President Daniels. Two Quakers suggested that I look into the policies of Gov. Daniels more before the meeting, to understand him and his policies. I started my Mitch Daniels investigation by listening to his audio book. I did this on the train to Washington DC, for the FCNL (Friends Committee on National Legislation) public policy institute in November.

Daniels Audio Book 

Mitch Daniels’ audio book, Keeping the Republic, has made me more republican than I had ever been before.  I understood his side, though I don’t agree.  I see his core philosophies being embedded in the following paragraph:

“Americans who always thought that “public service” meant that the government works for them must now wonder if they had it wrong.  People who have salaries, benefits, and protections against layoffs that far exceed anything in the private sector are now issuing orders to them and making all kinds of choices for them: where and when they can build, what equipment they can add to their businesses, where their children can go to school, what kind of health insurance they must carry, what kind of credit card they may use, and so on. “ (p.47)

Two things I want to highlight on are: the entitlements of “public servants” and individual liberties.

Daniels sees a government employees should not be entitled to elite lifestyles at the taxpayer’s expense.  He sees the government worker’s role “rose from underpaid public servant to the position of a privileged elite” (p.39), stating that “the average public employee in the federal government earns on average $123,049 a year” (p.39); while “the typical worker” who pays the federal worker’s salary makes only $61,051.  (He sites Chris Edwards and a fact check that discredits this study can be found here). This ideology is behind his anti-union stance for governmental employees. I understand this thinking and I firmly disagree with it.  I see it lacking evidence, as the values are not correct, and it ignores the real value that governmental work provides.

When I was growing up, my father was an employee of the state.  He worked at a psych facility as a psych tech.  Although we did by no means live a lavish lifestyle, I grew up in a space of financial security, and we could go on vacations and had good health insurance. My dad said that the state gave him I-O-Us a few times when the state budget did not pass (it was California- they are not known for passing budgets on time), but the credit union still cashed the paycheck. Living in this type of household is a luxury in our modern economy. My family was not concerned about layoffs – I can say now- what a blessing. When we were older, he went back to school and got a better job. He now works as a lecturer at a private university, and is making probably three times as much as he did when I was growing up.

That is not the type of space Gov. Daniels’ plan would have created.  Though his thought is not about the lack of stability in the homes, he is fundamentally against governmental employees – like they are against all that is good in this nation.  He sees the world in a completely different way than I do.

The other thing is choice, and linking that to liberty and small government. In chapter 4 Daniels uses Elmer Kelton’s book The Time It Never Rained to describe his views on regulations.  The book is about a drought in West Texas in the 1950’s. The protagonist, Charlie Flagg, refused governmental assistance -“If you get to dependin’ on the government, the day’ll come when the damn federals will dictate everything you do.  Some desk clerk in Washington will decide where you live and where you work and what color toilet paper you wipe yourself with.  And you’ll be scared to say anything because they might cut you off of the tit.”  Daniels then goes on to put this fictional character in modern times, “Just imagine, for example, drought stricken Charlie’s reaction to the 2010 EPA rules that attempt to control the amount of dust farmers are permitted to create on their own lands.  Or his reaction to mandates that dictate how many gallons of water a toilet can flush or the type of light bulb one can buy.” (p.64) Daniels sees all benefits should come with personal choice, from health insurance plans that allows the individual to decide what type of medication to purchase and school vouchers, citing many stories and background for each.

There is even a picture of him in the book where he is riding a motorcycle in a parade without a helmet (legal) or glasses (illegal) – I assume to highlight his desire for small amount of government intervention.  However, he also mentions he is anti-choice when it comes to women’s rights. He has attempted to defund all Planned Parenthood because there are some that provide abortions.  This action seems to contradict his thoughts on personal liberty.

This is an interesting point of self-reflection.  What do I think about this self-liberty?  Well, I actually agree with some of his health care ideas.  I think a health care insurance plan should encourage you to spend less if you don’t need it.  So many people are over diagnosing in this country. If people were in charge of the way their money was being spent, I think they might think wisely. However, I am on a medication at the moment that needs the name brand, and so I would be concerned with someone not getting a generic brand just to try to save money – however, I don’t think that is my responsibility to make that level of choice for someone.

I must say though, I don’t know how I feel on personal liberties on everything.  I am very much for low flush toilets, and energy efficient light bulbs.  I was an energy consultant for two and a half years where I calculated the savings from such things.  I see the benefit to the earth. I consider it government’s role to set such guidelines to reduce energy waste. I love California’s policies on energy efficiency, and I wish more states would follow suit. An energy efficient light bulb can produce the same amount of light with lower wattage. If there are reasons like ambiance for a restaurant, I understand that, and the codes have such things built in.

Also, I am a “you better not tell me what to do with my body” kind of gal, very pro-choice.  Does someone feel the same way when they say “don’t tell me what kind of light bulbs to use”? In my worldview legislating a person’s vagina is much more inappropriate than legislating a person’s light bulbs.

As I see it, those two things – over entitled government workers and personal liberty have dictated a lot of Gov. Daniels philosophies on government.

My Time in DC

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As I mentioned above, I listened to his audio book on the way to FCNL policy institute in November. I realized Mitchell Daniels is very much loved by republicans, especially in Indiana. So when I got to D.C. I though the best argument for a Hoosier on the rational to reduce government pentagon spending would be to say it was in the name of “fiscal responsibility”, that we do not have a balanced budget, and the military is wasteful spending.  There has never even been an audit of pentagon spending, and the tax cuts should have ended.  I was actually all for completely falling off the “fiscal cliff,” allowing tax cuts to expire for everyone and the drastic spending cuts to take over.  This was FCNL’s plan, and I thought it made sense and would actually get us out of the budget deficit.  And that is the argument I made to the staffer of Congress representative Todd Rokita, and in the note I left a note for Senator Dan Coats. The staffer seemed to brush me off as transient to the state, since I was at Purdue and not a true Hoosier.

I can’t say I disagree with him.  I do not see myself living in Indiana much longer after I receive my diploma, and as I was going through the list on which participants were talking to which congress person, I saw people signed up to speak to the senators of my home state of California – Boxer and Feinstein who I first voted for.  I longed to talk to them.  I do not know if it is actually true, but I felt that they would listen to what I really wanted to say.

Upon reflection on the time in D.C., I realized I had spoke too much with my head and not enough with my heart.  My heart thinks military spending is wrong, because killing is wrong.  Killing in the name of freedom is wrong.  Humans are humans no mater what country they belong to.  If you think that it is the “terrorist” that must die, try putting yourself in the terrorist shoes. Military contracts that bring money to cities, that embed local economies is wrong. We do not need an economy that is rooted in violence.  Lets take those jobs and make a better world with them. Information here.

We need diplomacy to prevent war at all cost.  We need to be a nation that cares about our vets, and gives them, and all people, the help we all deserve.  I am interested in talking about the role of peace troops to prevent war- “What should the role of peace troops be?” “Should the UN prevented Rawanda when they had the chance?” … I think that these are the debates we should engage in as a country, and not “Should we stop financing war because of fiscal reasons.”  I am not an “ends justify the means” kind of gal.

My Discernment Now

Going to DC let me see that my heart was the important topic. I contacted Parker Palmer and sent him my blog. He has agreed to talk to me on the phone next Thursday. Yay!

I care about the ethical issues, but am now thinking that the most ethical issues were with the board of trustees and not Daniels. I am thinking of writing an op-ed at some point regarding the shift that has been happening with trustees through out the country, and also investigate the history. However, with Daniels I have realized that my main issue is his skepticism to global warming.  I am not the only one who is concerned. Daniels has vocalized his skepticism on TV  and said that the “ debate, so far, has been dominated by “experts” from the University of Hollywood and the P.C. Institute of Technology,” while giving a speech at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. This concerns me. As Bruggor, the author of the blog above, points out it might just be have been a political statement – but as a leader of a top university, I believe Daniels should be educated on the true debate.

As mentioned above, Mitch Daniels’ described the environmental policy as limiting personal liberty. A professor I know said that a colleague in agriculture asked him a direct question on his support of climate change support, and he avoided the question – changing the conversation to the benefits of natural gas.  That is a political move, but not one that the president of a top University should make. My next blog will look at his stances on issues on the environment, and understand his thoughts more.

Also, when I meet with him I would like to take the opportunity to take advantage of the fact that he is not an academic by mentioning some of the issues that some graduate students face like being required to work more hours then they are paid, and the manipulations of some faculty towards international students. This too will be thought out in more detail in a later blog.

Okay, now back to work on analyzing data for my dissertation.

Dear Vice President Gore

I have been thinking about climate change. Too many people think it is a debate; they don’t see the pictures of the ice caps and don’t understand the science.  This bothers me.

Public discourse does not even mention climate change. “Climate Silence” is current term being mentioned on the internet.  Policy makers are afraid it sounds too dooms day. And granted, it is. We need legislation reducing carbon emissions. But in order for this to happen, we need an educated population that demands legislation.  I think media is the best way to accomplish this goal.

I suggest you, with possibly Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Ney, do a TV show on climate change. Each week you can talk about a piece of science, interviewing researchers and showing pictures of places of the world. The program could encourage individuals to reduce their impact and contact their representatives to get climate legislation on the table.

I was in DC last week and met with a staffer of my House representative for a Quaker Lobby weekend.  The topic in discussion was to reduce of pentagon spending.  I feel kind of ashamed because I didn’t mention climate, and this topic is the weightiest thing on my heart.  I didn’t do it because it is not part of the discourse, thought he would not take me seriously and wanted to focus on one topic highlighted by the Quaker lobbing group that I came there for.  I regret that I did not mentioned this and realized that I should have.

After the An Inconvenient Truth, people saw the data and change started to happen.  Your movie made shifts in the discourse, but currently many people are questioning the science again. And from my experience, many people that do know the science are giving up.  They see it as inevitable, and are less motivated to do something than they were 5 years ago. Even if we go over 3 degrees, as we are projected to do, we need to stop this with serious legislation.  And more importantly we need to live in a society that can talk about our most pressing issues.

I believe with your leadership on the issue, you can educate the general populous and alter the conversation of Climate change.  End the climate silence. I suggest a television show as a means to this end.

I’d watch it.

~Julia

How should I engage with people who think differently than I do?

In the last two weeks, I have contemplated what it means to be fully engaged, and noticed my complete avoidance of engagement.  I find it difficult to allow myself to be fully immersed in discussion with people who take a different stance than I do, mostly from a political label.  I find it just as difficult to fully immerse myself in discussion with people I hold the same “label” as I do, if not more difficult. The line between these complicated levels of engagement is blurry, and my reaction is to take the easier option, and to focus on the things we do agree about, and to ignore the rest. This closes my heart to understanding why there is disagreement and difference.

About a month ago, on a plane to California, I was sitting next to a man who obviously shared the same political spectrum as me. There was another person in our row, a 15-year-old woman, who was going to visit a friend.  The man was talking about how he was planning on smoking pot when he arrived at home. He turned to me and said, “A little bit of pot never hurt anyone.” I do not have a problem with people who smoke marijuana. I think marijuana should be legalized. However, I do not use it, because I see it how it can be used as a way to escape responsibility in life, and I think it should not be used in excess.  At the time, I just agreed with him. Upon reflection, I see that I should have engaged in conversation with him. I should have expressed my full beliefs. By not speaking, I allowed myself to take the more comfortable option of not engaging in the discussion because I agreed, and thought his opinion was kind of true.  Also, had I actually spoken, it might have made the young woman sitting in the row more comfortable.

Lately I have been exploring areas of tension.  I have sensed something that is leading me to engage in the conversations about Christ among Friends.  The subject of Christ seems like such a taboo topic in many ways.  The Quaker branches have differing views that are often glossed over when the groups get together, because it is more comfortable not to discuss their opinions about Christ.  I am new to the religious Society of Friends, but find that any time I try talking about theology and Christ, the energy shuts down. I have been working with two Friends on planning a Young Adult Friends retreat in January. This involves inviting other branches to talk about our views of Christ.  To start this conversation, I have decided to discuss my own views about why I don’t think I could ever believe that Christ is the Son of God and the “only” way to God. I am not saying this to close discussion, but to show where I am in the discourse, and why I believe what I believe.  I truly appreciate others that think differently than me. I also envy my more conservative Friend’s connection with Spirit, and see something there that I am interested in exploring.  However, I feel limited due to this barrier of avoiding engaging in conversation, I want to open my heart so I can completely engage in this conversation, and learn all that I can about differing opinions, so I can accept and understand others, and grow as a person.

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