there's just no way I could continue to leave my adolescent rantings and ravings on public display for no productive or current purpose for much longer. I finally found a tool to massively privatize my past entries, so that's what I've done. I'll go through eventually and pick out a few that I still think are worth reading, kind of a "best of the worst" collection. But in the meantime, too much noise, not enough awesome. fin.
Where can you catch me these days? Well, in real life, but good luck. And also, on Twitter. http://www.twitter.com/pogopark . y'all might be as skeptical about Twitter as I was for ages but it's gotten me excited about communicating with people on the Internet for the first time in literally years.
And it's gotten me back in the habit of journalling, in a sense. Blogging is lonely if you're not famous, though, so I've made a new livejournal. pogopark is where you will eventually find me puzzling out the difficulties and awesomenesses of adult life. I hope to see all y'all there, truly.
So, this is the last thing I expected to be posting about right now... but this article just blew my mind a little bit. I hadn't done the homework on Iran -- not that I was buying what the Bush Administration was selling, but I didn't know how to decode the nonsense. Now I have a better idea.
Scott Ritter was the UN weapons inspector in Iraq, pre-1998. He was one of the most illuminating voices in the run-up to the Iraq war, making clear the lack of threat Iraq posed and pointing out exactly where the Bush Administration was making shit up to justify its rush to war. Here in the Nation he discusses his recent trip to Iran. What he found there is not only in direct contradiction of the neoconservatives' frame for Iran, but it also shows that there is hope to solving even our most insurmountable-seeming problems in the Middle East -- if only we knew how to relate to potential allies.The Case for Engagement, by Scott Ritter
There's only 7 days left... one week... somewhere between 100 and 125 working hours... very little sleep. I've been here in Seattle for nearly 5 weeks and it barely seems like the 14 days I spent in Columbus in 2004. I think that's mostly because I've spent 90% of my waking hours in this office, working at an increasingly frenetic pace, without any weekends or other events to mark the passage of time. It's been overwhelmingly great, though, much better than I had expected, and much less frustrating than I had worried it might be, given some of the more problematic aspects of the company that is running the campaign on behalf of MoveOn. Plus, the other day this dude stopped by:
The real saving grace, though, is the fact that the organizational model we're using is really quite amazing. I'm sure most of my friends have heard me rant and rave about the potential the Internet has for connecting, organizing, and mobilizing great masses of people to effect positive social and political change. Here MoveOn, itself a grassroots, bottom-controlled organization enabled by the Intarweb, has created a great framework to mobilize its 3.5 million members to put in serious work on key campaigns around the country.
So basically, I spend a lot of time doing this:
MoveOn Member (MOM): Hello?
Me: Hi, is [MOM] there?
MOM: Yeah, this is her.
Me: Hi! My name's Tim, and I'm an organizer with MoveOn.org here in Seattle. How are you today?
MOM: Good! I love MoveOn. What can I do for you?
Me: Wellll..... wanna make some phone calls?
And then when MOM comes down to the office, they do a lot of this (not pictured):
MOM #2: Hello?
In-office MOM: Hi, is [MOM #2] there?
MOM #2: Yeah, this is him.
In-office MOM: Hi! My name's [MOM], and I'm a volunteer with MoveOn.org! How are you?
MOM #2: Good... what do you need?
In-office MOM: Wellllll..... wanna make some phone calls?
And then MOM #2 sits down at his/her/per computer, calls up Callforchange.org and gets hooked up with an easy script, a list of numbers to call, and an easy system to mark their results. And then they call voters, for as long as they can stand, finding out who's going to vote Democrat in races like Washington's 8th, Iowa's 2nd, Texas' 22nd, RI-Sen, etc. They're super-easy conversations but they've helped us to build a list of solid but "unlikely" Democratic voters -- exactly the people that we need to turn out in the final weekend of the campaign.
So basically... at this point, with the help of about 100,000 volunteers around the country, we have identified more than half a million (500,000+) voters in the top 50 most competitive races -- voters who have a history of missing midterm election years like this one; voters who, if they turn out, -will- win us a working majority in Congress. Any poll of "likely voters" does not include these cats, and since most of the key races will be won or lost by less than 10,000 votes, we can turn out more than that margin and make all the difference. The only thing is, it completely and totally hinges on whether or not people step up and do the work of making phone calls.
So here I throw my offer on the table... enter my plea before the jury... whisper my demand with cautious respect: please, friends, please, make a conscious and determined effort to do something this weekend or on Election Day to help end Republican domination of our Federal Government.
I'm talking to every single person I know, regardless of political stripe, radicalism, or philosophy. If you don't agree that Dems are preferable to Republicans, or believe that their leadership can have a tangible positive effect within a system as admittedly problematic as our government -- listen, friends, I respect your skeptics, but take a look around outside your philosophical bubble for a second. There are terrible things in store for us the next 30+ years if we don't oust these corporatist villains from the controls NOW. Whatever kind of conversation, dialogue, progression we can achieve as a unified but separate whole is impossible with these villains in total control, with their stacked Supreme Court, with their inability to even consider our pressing problems, nevermind have enough imagination to build some solutions.
If you won't do it for your constitutional rights, do it for the 500,000 Iraqis who have died at our collective hands over the past 3 1/2 years. If you won't do it for them, do it for New Orleans, which badly needs a Federal Government that is an ally to its efforts to rebuild itself and not a powerful advocate for the corporate wet dream that is NOLA's gentrification. If you won't do it for New Orleans, do it for the planet which we're destroying everyday due to passively complicit government. If you won't do it for clean air and non-drowned urban areas, do it for the answers we'll get once Democrats take control of the House ethics and judiciary committees. And if you won't do it for the truth, friends, please do it for me.
The big push begins Saturday. Let's do this.
Next post: The Top 10 Reasons Why Progressives, Liberals, Libertarians, and Anarchists Should Work Harder Than They Have Ever Worked Before To Elect Members of the Democratic Party to Congress on November 7, 2006: Somewhere in between sleeping and working I'll find time to offer all y'all skeptics, activists, and conscientious objectors some very solid reasons to look forward to a Democratic majority in one or both houses of Congress -- and to work to make sure that's what we get on the 7th.
That is pretty sweet.
A real update will come later. So much has been going on. Things are good, I'm just scraping the bottom of the barrel energy-wise. Scraping vigorously, though. This (working on behalf of Democrats) is the best thing I could possibly be doing right now. Where are my radicals at?
But the best part is yet to come -- at the end of September, I'll be transferred to a city To Be Determined to work on another project. This project has the short term goal of turning out Democratic votes on November 7th, and the long-term goal of training community leaders and organizers in order to build stronger local and regional grassroots networks. The golden part is, I get to express a preferred city to work in -- but they have to be places I can stay for free, for a little over a month. The alternative is staying with MoveOn members, and that's cool too, but I'd much rather stay with friends. The thing is, I will barely be around; working 16-hour days / 80 hour weeks during the length of my stay. So, hopefully that means I won't be much of a nuisance.
So, friends, if you have a living situation that would permit you to Adopt-an-Organizer for a month in your key metropolitan area, and you'd be willing to accept me into your home, please let me know. I'm going to tell them in 2 days where I have housing, or if I don't. Awesome!
Dear Youth Office,
I started a bit later than some, but I guess you could say I dove right into YRUU. My very first event was a one-day election con at which I was elected to the BCD Youth Adult Council as “Email Newsletter Coordinator” (read: Webmaster). My second event was the first inter-district MASSive Con. My third event was the one that kicked it into high gear for me: GA Youth Caucus at Salt Lake City.
In the summer of 1999 I was a 15-year-old youth wandering about in the nether between freshman and sophomore years. I’d just begun to discover people, emerging from a more introspective world of my own creation into an environment that had quickly begun to offer two extremes: amazing fun, and amazing anguish - as often go the mid-teenage years.
At this point, though, the difference was that I hadn’t shaken my middle-school mindset of dwelling in the negative. In middle-school, the negatives were far less consequential or heart-rending than they had the potential to be in High School. Like many other youth at the time, I was big into grunge music, and that genre’s dark but not morbid attitude generally sums up my how my outlook on life stood as I was transitioning from freshman to sophomore year, going from looking inwards to looking outwards.
Quickly, though, I was impacted by a series of amazingly and overwhelmingly positive events – first the election con, where people seemed so eager to accept me that they’d elect me to a position simply because I had some skills that they felt would be valuable; then Massive, where I found an amazing open community and where I experienced my first worships (finding that they were nothing like what I had expected them to be); and then General Assembly, where I was just blown away by so many factors. General Assembly 1999 drove the point home – life is good.
One of the biggest components of this discovery was the worships I found at GA. I enjoyed the regular GA Youth Caucus worships for the most part, and some of them were very powerful. The best worships I attended in Salt Lake City, though, were ones led aside from the main ones. Matt Moore, who was the assistant Worship Coordinator, led smaller worships in the mornings. These worships were amazing, and, looking back with a more experienced eye now, were the first to demonstrate to me the simplistic beauty of a good worship. (Some of the worships the main Worship Coordinator led, on the other hand, demonstrated to me some of the things that can make a good worship go bad – in some ways an equally valuable lesson.)
I brought the knowledge and
enthusiasm I had gained from my experiences in Salt Lake back to BCD and my
youth group, as I continued to learn from the leaders in the district. I
started helping to plan worships, a little at first, then more and more, until
I came to a point when I realized that I hadn’t been a participant in a worship
in months, and I decided that I needed to take a few cons off from worship
planning. Which I did, but it’s hard once people expect you to be good at
planning worships to not keep doing it.
Finally, GA 2000 came around, in Nashville. I went to GA full of conflict and confusion; suffice it to say that the turmoil was romantically related - and the object of confusion was attending GA, not making things any easier. Looking back, I wasted large portions of GA 2000 being a jerk – more to myself than to anyone else, wasting my time being pouty instead of taking advantage of my opportunities. The parts of Nashville that really stick out in my memory, though, were the worships. Because Matt was, that year, the Worship Coordinator, and I was now a pretty close friend of his, I ended up helping him a lot with worship planning. In fact, it was one group of mostly BCD kids who mostly ended up planning the worships – not because we were being exclusive; we had announced the meetings every morning. I’m not really sure why it worked out that way, but it did. The advantage of this was that we mostly knew each other (I think it was actually entirely Mass kids, and so we did all know each other from Massive Con) and so it was easier to work together right off the bat. The obvious disadvantage was that we had all experienced the same worships over the past year and had a lot of the same ideas for things we could do. As a result, some of the worships weren’t as strong as we would have liked. However, the strength of our bonds contributed greatly to one particular triumph (two actually; the all-GA worship was also quite strong, but it wasn’t planned by entirely the same group and, in my view, didn’t compare to this one as far as personal impact).
It was the second-to-last night’s worship, and we decided that the caucus was ready for some stretching. We decided on the theme – loneliness. This was, I believe, my idea – I don’t directly remember it, but it definitely fit my personal state of mind at the time (especially since the aforementioned object of confusion was part of our worship planning group). Either way, we all liked it and decided it was very appropriate – GA is full of lonely situations. Sometimes you just can’t find someone you know. Sometimes you end up constantly missing the people you really wanted to catch up with. Sometimes you find yourself wandering around an unknown city by yourself – it doesn’t even matter how far from the GA activities you are, cities are scary by yourself. And there are many other such situations. So, we decided that people would be open to this topic, and resolved to figure out some way to help people deal with it.
We found this great amazing setting for the
worship – in fact, one of the lessons I learned from this worship was that
setting has a great deal to do with people’s emotions during worship.
As a result, I’m going to go to great lengths to describe the setting in order
to describe the worship, so please do your best to picture the situation.
Right across the street from the hotel (you guys might remember this if you
were there, I regret to say that I do not recall whether you were or not,
except, of course, for Jen) there was this series of concrete patios (I wish I
had a picture to illustrate it[i];
I never feel like I’m doing the scene justice when I describe it). At the head
of the main one there was this giant war memorial – it looked kinda like the
Greek Parthenon, except smaller, and the ceiling was open (I’m not sure if the
Parthenon has an open ceiling or not) and there was this statue in the middle
of some guy. It was at the top of this hill, and on the downward side, between
it and the concrete patio, there was this magnificent set of stone steps. At
the top, they spanned about half the total length of the structure (but they
were in the center) and as they descended they got longer and longer (but still
centered). Actually, in case that didn’t make sense, I’ll represent it using
text. The steps were kinda like this:
Three cheers for text art, eh? Anyhow… actually, I found a picture of the place, but I went to too much effort to delete the text steps. And they’re too pretty. So here’s a picture of the memorial (although I don’t recall there being handrails... which are the ugliest part of the picture. So mentally remove them, I guess). And I didn’t see any letters floating around in a circular fashion at the time, either, so you can take those out too. For reference, that statue is pretty tall – in fact, the stone base it sits on was taller than 6 feet (you obviously can’t see all of it, but I estimate that the part that’s visible is probably 2 feet, so the total height is probably about 18 or 20 feet).
Now take this picture, and all those words I used to describe the scene, and then mentally modify your mental image of the place so that it’s night-time. The sky is dark, but there are some clouds (Note again, also, the open ceiling). There are lights on the inside of the memorial that are lighting the orangeish stone in a yellow light – they face inwards, towards the stone, so they give the place sort of an orange-yellow ambience instead of just lighting the place yellow. Finally, there is a slight breeze, but it’s generally very warm (early 90s, I’d guess). Now I think you’ve got the idea of the mood and ambience of the setting.
We had the 200 or so people (there were way more takers for worship that night than we had expected) start on the patio (they were off to the left there in that photo) with their eyes closed, and two by two each of the worship planners brought the worship-goers up the steps and into the darkened but lit structure, seating them facing in a random direction at least a few feet apart from each other and with their eyes still closed – in essence, simulating the detachment of loneliness.
I don’t remember the exact order of events, but I believe we started with a chalice lighting – some verse was read on loneliness and the chalice was lit. Although the worshippers had no idea where they were facing, and probably couldn’t hear where the chalice was because of the echo of the space and the slight breeze, we wanted them to hear the match, or the lighter, or whatever we used, and to know that there was a chalice lit somewhere – some kind of hope of orientation.
Next, one of the worship planners after another shared times when they had felt lonely at GA – one time each. Before they were done, though, the goal had been achieved – others started in. We had wanted to do this whole worship using as few instructions as possible, because often instructions are used too much in worship and they impede with the flow and detract from the overall impact of the experience. The sharing lasted a really long time. I was surprised how many comments there were – it seemed like almost everyone had encountered it at GA. This was the moment when I knew for sure that this was going to be a successful worship. After a very long time had passed (eventually the sharing diverged on its own from being specifically at GA to being elsewhere – which was good. This is another value of not being too specific, it lets the worship follow its own path according to the needs of the worshippers. In effect, it suits them better. The trick is not to let it get out of control, though, for obvious reasons – if the worship ends up with the prewritten conclusion, like a reading or a song, and it has nothing to do with three-quarters of what was shared, people are either a) not going to feel closure or b) just feel like the worship was completely worthless).
Eventually, the responses started to slow and I started in with a fairly long piece I had written for the worship. It was about how I took the loneliness brought by a relationship being severed and by not being able to find my friends at GA and turned it into strength by suiting up, going out, and walking around the general area while listening to music through headphones – the music was my friend, my life’s soundtrack. The music made me feel like I was strong, surrounded by things much larger than me but striding around and between them with attitude. There was one song in particular that I used for this purpose, and which I quoted (actually, I think I sang the lyrics) in the piece – a 311 song called “Let the Cards Fall”: “Let the cards fall/let the cards fall where they may/All I can do, all I can say.” As I took it, it meant accepting situations and not trying to fight the inevitabilities of life – for me, the loneliness I was dealing with as I was struggling to contemplate and come to terms with the loss of my first love. My hope was that others would be able to apply it to their own causes of loneliness and frustration.
Finally, we did a ritual where some of the worship planners walked around and put a drop of water on everyone’s forehead (unless they opted out with some motion or other) to symbolize washing away their loneliness. As they did this a song played. The song we chose (by my suggestion) was a then-new Pearl Jam song called “Nothing as it Seems”. The version we used (only because we didn’t have the album one) was live. This had an unplanned but amazing effect (for me, and for many of the other people I talked to) – Pearl Jam’s guitarist, Mike McCready, uses a lot of echoy guitar noises that tend to bounce around the venue when they play live. This song is incredibly haunting to begin with – it’s a somber song about a man who’s lost by himself in a world where nothing is as it seems to be (again, the reason I chose it is obvious). But I remember, as I always will, the way I felt while that song was playing. I was looking up, through the frame of the yellow-lit stone, at the sky, which seemed to be a very dark violet of swirling clouds. There was also a weak spotlight swinging through the clouds. At the same time, this haunting song with Mike McCready’s echoing guitar effects was bouncing around this structure.
It was an amazing moment – of personal spirituality, but also of accomplishment, because I’d been a big part of constructing this situation that was moving me so, and which I knew had to be having the same effect on the people around me.
As the song ended, I could hear some people sniffling, and a couple people really crying. It’s often hard to tell during worship whether this is a good thing or a bad thing – happy tears are always good, but sad tears can be good or bad, depending on whether the individual has stretched far enough to heal, and depending on whether there is enough closure offered to help them do so. This is where we didn’t do so well – I believe the final aspect of the worship was a short closing reading about finding strength, and then came the ‘blessed be’ – some people hadn’t had the healing yet, and we failed to give it to them.
We were saved, though, by a group of worshippers who knew what was going on well enough to not let it happen. They began singing songs of healing (“there is more love”, etc). Unfortunately, not everyone stuck around long enough after the ‘blessed be’ to participate in this, and I wish that we’d included it. Anyhow, the songs continued for quite a while, and then eventually people got up and we left in groups, with our arms over each others’ shoulders. The afterglow both of the success and of the healing I’d personally gone through against my own demons of loneliness lasted a really long time. There was the realization that we had failed some of the people. But there were a lot of people who told us how good it was, and that made me feel really good, as being congratulated on a good worship always does.
Since then I’ve participated in a lot of worship planning. Humorously, at my first MBD con ever I ended up leading the planning of the first night’s worship, somehow – despite the fact that I had no idea who most of the 100 or so congoers were. At cons I’ve tried to balance about evenly the number of worships I planned and the number I participated in, in order to both maintain a certain spiritual balance and to keep learning from ideas carried out without my fingerprints. At GA 2001 I helped with a couple of the worships, but more with carrying them out than with planning them, although one of them I played a significant role in planning. At ConCon 2k1, though, I was in the worship planning workshop. That wasn’t the most gratifying experience of my life, but some of the worships the group made were pretty good (more towards the end) and I felt good about my contributions even when I felt bad about some other things that occurred. We can just say that I learned a great deal of what not to do at worships. And how not to deal with people as well.
So this year, I want to take on the role of GA Worship Coordinator. I’ve been to GA three times, and there I’ve seen good worships, I’ve seen bad worships, and I’ve seen great worships (and even had the opportunity to help with a couple). Last year I also debated applying for this staff position, but I felt that I needed another years’ experience to pull it off successfully. This year, I’ve got that experience, and I feel that I have a good handle on the things that succeed in touching people and the things that don’t. I’ve got also a good handle on the process of adjusting a group to worship so that eventually they will be ready to stretch. I’m confident that I’ll be able to pull off the position of Worship Coordinator at GA with good results, and I am hereby asking you for the job.
As far as antiracism: Anti-racism
= prejudice + power. I’m fairly well acquainted with the concepts, and
although I’ve never been to a real Jubilee World workshop or anything
officially provided by the UUA, I have participated in Identity groups at GA
2000 and 2001 and ConCon 2001, and I’ve read a good deal on the subject. I am
my district’s social action coordinator and so I’ve made an effort to stay on
top of these and other important issues.
Thank you for considering my application. Keep rockin’ and I’ll see you guys soon.
[i] Wow, wishes really do come true… I suppose I could have changed this sentence, but I liked the way this whole story flowed through my fingertips so I left it intact.