Thoughts on Cinco de Mayo

I’ve seen a number of Facebook posts warning the world not to engage in Cinco de Mayo celebrations unless they really know what it’s about.  I am not Mexican, and until today I really did not know specifically what this holiday was about.  I only had a vague notion that it celebrated Mexican culture.

So I googled Cinco de Mayo and discovered that – like many other holidays – it commemorates a historical event that was quite violent and of questionable moral value.  Somewhat along the lines of St. Patrick’s Day, which celebrates the deliberate cultural colonization of an indigenous religion (St. Patrick was known for converting all of the pagan druids to Christianity) – Cinco de Mayo celebrates a major battle between Mexico and France in which a lot of people died fighting over debts.  Moreover, although Mexico won the battle against the well-equipped French forces, this battle led to the fame and eventual dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz, known for ruling Mexico much in the same way that Trump rules the United States today.  Namely, a corporate oligarchy that centralizes wealth and legitimates civil repression.

However, in spite of the dark side of history, Mexico’s victory over France in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862 has been a source of great pride for Mexico, and it remains a celebration of Mexican culture and Mexican pride to Mexicans living all over the world – many of whom live in the United States.  Moreover, it is more widely celebrated in the U.S. than in Mexico.

So in response to those who are saying “don’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo unless it/you are authentic,” I say that (a) it has been celebrated in the U.S. just as long as it has been celebrated in Mexico, and (b) the blend of new and old, the adaptation of Cinco de Mayo in the U.S., and the general sentiment of respect for Mexico that it engenders are in fact better than the actual, historical events it was made to commemorate.

And likewise, I would say the same for St. Patrick’s Day.  (not that they are the same!)

 

 

 

 

 

Thawing out

Spring is in the air and things are changing!  Trump’s healthcare bill did not pass, the DNC is replacing all of their staff, the Republicans want to repeal the loan forgiveness plans that are in place, and people all over the country are uniting to defend basic values like science and respect for human dignity.  Ithaca seems to be abuzz with plans for new green buildings and sustainability and sanctuary city policies.  Debate on racial issues and gender issues is popping up in unexpected places.  The courts are transitioning to using email.   Lol

On a more personal level, I feel a willingness to reconsider my values and realign my work and my life with what I believe in.  Granted, I already do believe in what I am doing and who I am working for, but I have this feeling that I can be a greater advocate for people and causes.  And I am better equipped to ascertain what I enjoy and what motivates me and what my strengths can bring to the world.

So I say to the optimists and pessimists alike, welcome 2017!

 

 

Holistic approach to health

I have a chest cold, not too serious.  But every time I get sick, I wonder/ponder about the emotional aspect of sickness – how emotions can be stored in the body and how the body processes them.  Within this framework, sickness seems like a way to get rid of old emotions and move on to the new.  Granted, I believe in science and I know there are viral and bacterial causes of illness.  But the strength of the immune system is linked to stress, and stress is a mindset and a state of being highly influenced by emotions.

Chinese medicine also draws connections between the emotional and physical bodies.  I do not remember many details, but I do remember that different organs in the body help deal with different aspects and issues in life.  For example, if you have a problem with your lungs, you may be dealing with anxiety or grief.  Treating the lungs physically, with medicine or body work, as well as dealing with the causes of anxiety and/or grief in your life, would result in healing.

The tricky part is to avoid blaming yourself for doing things that make you sick.  It doesn’t help to feel guilty or angry at yourself for getting sick.  True, there may have been things you could have done to prevent it.  But the key lesson is to listen to your body and see how you can make changes in habits and lifestyle, both physical, and  emotional, in order to improve and be a healthier happier person.

 

 

What is it like to live in New York City?

My girlfriend Tanya wants me to move to the big Apple this summer.  I have never lived in New York City and I am skeptical about living in such a busy and populated place.  How do introverts handle it?  How do people who like alone time find it in the city?

I guess you can retreat to the apartment.  But in that case, you need a very comfortable apartment or at least one that’s not too cramped.  You could go to a park, but when I was here in NYC this past summer, the parks were more crowded then the grocery stores are in Ithaca.  I like the space and the woods and the openness of a small town.

I would love to hear from other people who lived in New York City for part of their lives, especially those who have lived in Ithaca at some point.  Please let me know your thoughts.

 

 

 

 

Why aren’t people concerned about the psychological effects of pollution?

Polluting the environment is not just a matter of parts per million in the air or water.  When a person dumps a toxin into a field or stream or any natural area, they are showing that they lack respect and have disdain for the natural environment.  They are saying the equivalent of “I don’t care about you” to the web of life that lives there.  To me, this is deeply offensive and equal to the actual physical harm caused by toxic or chemical pollution.

I find it offensive because nature and the earth are the source of all of our resources and all of our energy and all of the settings we choose to live in and experience.  Life would not exist if not for the balance of ecosystems on the planet; nor would it exist without a unique blend of elements in the earth’s crust and in the atmosphere that makes the planet livable.  Even if you assume that God created the universe and created humans at some point, it still holds true that we depend on the Earth for all things and we will be better off if we take care of natural resources and promote the long term health of the planet.

Each person who sees or smells or feels pollution under their feet can get depressed and can become more disassociated from the natural world each time they experience it as ugly and dirty and unwelcoming.  For people who were born and grew up in large cities, they may not have ever become comfortable with nature, and this is tragic.  However, even worse is to grow up at war with nature and to continue the fight into adulthood and to take that animosity to the grave.  In that instance you, your children, your family and all those you touched will bring that sense of opposition into the future, and it will shape interactions with the natural world for years to come.

 

A message from Monica Lewinsky

I came across an unexpected Ted Talk by Monica Lewinsky about shame and humiliation.  There is perhaps no better example of a non-public figure being publicly humiliated to a global audience than Lewinsky.  As she describes, the mainstream news broke the story of her sex scandal with Bill Clinton at a time when internet access was becoming prevalent, and the internet provided a mechanism to share the details of that scandal across the globe with more content and detail than ever provided in print media and TV.  She was only 22 at the time.

She suffered from extreme cyber bullying, trolling, and online harassment.  I cannot imagine what it would be like to be despised and humiliated and joked about by millions of complete strangers all over the world.  It is not a situation I would wish on anyone, no matter what they did or said.

Here is a link to her Ted Talk:  https://www.ted.com/talks/monica_lewinsky_the_price_of_shame

 

 

бард музыка

To what extent does the script, or written form of a language, affect culture?  Does having a character-based alphabet result in a different manner of perception and thinking than having a language with the Latin alphabet?  I wonder if I would visualize things differently if I grew up speaking Chinese rather than English.  Does the grammar also have an effect?

While at a Russian music/drinking festival two weeks ago, I noticed that the structure of a language does indeed affect the types and quality of song lyrics as well as musical genres.  Russian culture has produced a rich treasure of bard music, which to an American ear, basically sounds like folk music of the singer/songwriter variety.  However, Russian bard music is endowed with endlessly complex lyrics that take advantage of the eccentricities of Russian grammar, a grammatical system that is known for modifying nouns due to practically every subject and object doing the speaking or being talked about.  The end result is that Russians have the biggest and best crayon box with which to color their song lyrics and make sure that their words rhyme.

Could it be easier to rhyme in Russian than in English?  I am not proficient enough at Russian to make any sort of determination.  But for those of you who have never heard Russian bard music, I highly recommend listening and comparing this genre to anything the English language has to offer.