Blurred Lines: Science and Spirituality

Some scientists are beginning to embrace spiritual philosophies while some religious leaders are recognizing the science behind spirituality. In this exciting new time of discovery we are considering possibilities that were in the fringe or fantasy category a few years prior. From discussions about quantum consciousness to real fear about the Singularity we find ourselves moving ever closer to a merging of science and spirituality.

I have spent many years with one foot in both worlds. My love for science and discovery brings a voracious appetite for news on the latest “eureka.” My life long quest for purpose drives me to soak up all I can about the spiritual philosophies around the globe and how they came to be. The quest is not without bumps, blocks and criticism. My science minded agnostic/atheist friends and family members pull one direction with their feet firmly planted, while some close to me in the spiritual camp faithfully attribute everything to an Infinite Intelligence they call God and pull the opposite direction.

Between the tug-of-war I seek a solution that satisfies both sides. Impossible? Maybe. Yet with each year it seems the rope gets shorter bringing the two sides closer and closer. This delicate dance of ideas and understanding tends to leave a dust trail of social change as well. When science brings information that changes the common understanding of something, social attitudes must also change.

When it was proven that the Earth is round and rotates around the Sun, thanks to Nicolaus Copernicus and others, there were hold-outs who tried to discredit the idea. Copernicus was a Catholic Cleric and the Church was involved in all aspects of celestial studies, so once the Copernican model was published with the blessings of the Church there was no stopping the theory from being studied further and finally proven. Martin Luther, John Calvin and Abraham Calovius were all vocal in their opposition of the Copernican theory. Martin Luther said of Nicolaus Copernicus and his ideas: “There is talk of a new astrologer who wants to prove that the earth moves and goes around instead of the sky, the sun, the moon, just as if somebody were moving in a carriage or ship might hold that he was sitting still and at rest while the earth and the trees walked and moved. But that is how things are nowadays: when a man wishes to be clever he must . . . invent something special, and the way he does it must need be the best! The fool wants to turn the whole art of astronomy upside-down. However, as Holy Scripture tells us, so did Joshua bid the sun to stand still and not the earth.”

With today’s statement by Pope Francis, “”If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” we see a monumental shift in philosophy once again. As science proves that the complicated interaction of our brain and body produce a variety of variations in our behavior, tastes and physical construct, then even the religious community must take a new look at what their definition of “natural” is. The argument that can be a double-edged sword is: If God is all-powerful and Omnipresent, then nothing is a mistake and all things are in Divine Right Order.  By measuring everything by that truth (at least for those in the spiritual camp) then all things, thoughts, ideas and events are of God.

On the other side, as science continues to reach deep into the most mysterious realms of our ancient past, there is a struggle to embrace the quantum aspect of consciousness and the possibility of its eternal existence. What came before the Big Bang is a nagging nuisance for some and an exciting lifelong quest for others. Quantum mechanics eloquently explains a lot about how matter forms and the relationship between our thoughts and material formation. This, however, insinuates intelligence that responds to us and acts as co-creator with us. That comes very close to the God philosophy.

As a spiritual-science student in the school of Life, I find these questions and discoveries to be somewhat of a personal Manna that nourishes my curiosity and drives me to explore and learn. The more blurred the line between science and spirituality becomes, the more exciting it is to be on this quest. It is these unattainable answers that motivate me and make the journey worth while.

Running from my White-ness

This has been a difficult few weeks for many, triumphant for some and confusing for me.  Maybe it’s my generation, maybe it’s my liberal insanity or maybe it’s just my personal need to be everyone’s mother (I got an A+ in co-dependency). Regardless, my feathers get very ruffled any time I perceive something as unfair or unjust. It stirs me up to the point of saying and writing things that may surprise people, even offend or anger them. I have asked myself if the need to crusade for people of color may be just as biased in its obsession as the most racist among us have need to oppress.  The answer came when my husband basically called me out on it with his simple words, “It’s not about black or white it’s about justice and equality.”

Me and my husband Mike
Me and my husband Mike

Now, I know that at first thought the statement may seem strange, but it made perfect sense once I applied my hubby’s logic. Equality and freedom are straight forward. We are either free and equal or we are not.  As Americans we believe in equal opportunity and freedom, after all it is what we are built on. If everything is measured by this standard we all know the truth. The battle for justice in this country boils down to education versus ignorance, fact versus fiction and responsible lawmaking.

The Trayvon Martin tragedy followed by the decision in the George Zimmerman trial struck me deep in the heart.  I was overcome with empathy for the family and disappointment in the system.  Once again I was moved to crusade for the underdog, stand on my soapbox and shout “foul!” to the world. What I realized in the 24 hours following the Zimmerman jury decision is that my emotional reaction to injustice for people of color, those who are gay, those with disabilities or the poor and needy seems to be greatly out of proportion with my concern for those who are white, wealthy or otherwise in a place of privilege.

This revelation made me stop and look at myself in a new way. What makes me feel that I need to be a voice for anyone? How is my vile berating of those who oppress going to make any difference? Who do I think I am? The most important question I asked myself was why do you feel guilty for being white and happy?  Chris Matthews had two men on his show Hardball that expressed one possible reason.  The interview with Val Nicholas and Michael Steele (via Huffington Post) discussed the experiences of young Black males in this country who must live by a different set of rules and guidelines to stay safe in our society.

My three daughters are very different in every way, but they also have had a common thread during their childhood. Each of them without prompting by anyone had a best or close friend in school who was Black. Now this may not seem like an odd occurrence in California, but the small city we live in has a Black population of 0.9%. Thinking this over I realized that my sister and I had possibly influenced and encouraged our children with comments about equality, etc. over the years. This should be a good thing, right? But why does there need to be a reason for my children’s open acceptance of any friend that resonates with them? Isn’t this what I was trying to teach them?

My sister’s two children are half Puerto Rican, and have had their share of social difficulties living here because of their dark skin and curly hair. There have been many occasions of racial slurs, comments and assumptions which probably contributed to our attitude which was inadvertently imparted onto our children.  My sister herself endured comments about her choice of friends and dates.  After dating a Black man for a year or so she was referred to in our town as “that chick who dates Black guys.”  Our children became crusaders for the underdogs just like us, and suffered a few times for it because of our small minded community.

My niece Amanda and nephew Miguel
My niece Amanda and nephew Miguel, around 1993

This crusader persona manifested in a big way when one of my daughters did not want to participate in a class project on family heritage because she was ashamed of that heritage. Most of her friends were Hispanic or mixed race and she felt embarrassed because of the history she represented. Considering the fact that she has very light skin and blonde hair, I think they already knew her racial background, but she still tried to be something else.  I remember her even saying to me, “I am ashamed to be white.”  This disturbed me because I wanted her to be proud of her ancestors, but I understood where she was coming from.

My father, Hubert Wayne Bell, around 1955
My father, Hubert Wayne Bell, around 1955

Growing up I was fascinated by the Native American culture. I wanted to be one of them and spent hours researching my Dad’s family trying to find a connection that would prove my Native American bloodline.  Though looking at my father, sister and brother one could plainly see some interesting colorful influence on our family gene pool, we have yet to find the documentation to support what it might be.

As a teenager I was in love with the Jackson 5.  I had all their records and wanted to marry Michael.  My little sister was influenced by that as well.  One time we were at an out of town football game watching my brothers play. Our team was primarily White with a sprinkling of Hispanic, the other football team was entirely Black.  There was a large family sitting near us that was with the opposing team. When my six year old sister saw them she got very excited and yelled out, “Look mom, it’s the Jackson 5!”  My mom was horrified, she shushed my sister and smiled a shy apology to the family.  My sister’s reaction and our general response to anyone of color was born out of our fascination with them.  All children are curious about difference, and unless that curiosity is tainted by a racist environment they will explore and learn about each other without preconception.

Me (far right) with my siblings
Me (far right) with my siblings

At that same football game I took my little sister to the restroom which was packed with girls from the other team’s cheer leading squad.  We walked in the door and they all stopped talking then stared at us. I smiled and said hello, then squeezed through them to take little sis to the stall. The silence was uncomfortable, but soon my sister finished and walked out to wash her hands. As we stood there, two of the girls came to the sink and asked if they could touch our hair. My hair was long, brown and straight, my sister had soft natural curls almost black in color. The girls began to smooth our hair, talking about how long it was, play with different braiding techniques and discussing it’s texture.  Then the other girls started to talk about their own hair and soon we were all talking about our hair, outfits and cheer leading.

When you grow up in a sheltered bubble, without any negative influence regarding difference, you maintain that untainted acceptance of everyone.  It is only when society begins to point out those differences that children form an opinion.  Racism is learned.

But what about the guilt?  Why did I spend my life running from my whiteness? Why did my daughters go through the same thing growing up? I began to realize that education had the greatest impact.  What I learned in my grade school days was so sugary sweet that I graduated with the belief that America was the savior of the world and that Slavery was a  blight caused by a few bad people wiped clean by the heroic Abraham Lincoln.  The Civil Rights Movement was touched on with very little information about Martin Luther King, Jr. and a great emphasis about how great President Kennedy was.

I believe it was the desecration of the Native American people that kicked off my passion for other cultures.  My great grandfather Arthur Buchanan lived for many years with the Blackfoot and  Lakota Sioux in Pine Ridge, and was seven years old when some of his friends were killed during the Wounded Knee massacre. Grandpa Buchanan came to America with his parents from Scotland.  He loved the Sioux people and spent much of his life helping them. His stories contributed to my fascination with other cultures.

My Great-Great Grandparents
My Great-Great Grandparents

When I got into college and began to take history and philosophy courses, I started to wake up.  Some of the required books led me to read other books that opened my eyes to a deeper understanding of our history and the unfolding America.  Beyond that was the enlightening accounts of human atrocities across the globe throughout history.  It was a Pandora’s Box and I craved more.  I found myself seeking out stories of conquest and oppression, from Manifest Destiny to the Salem Witch Trials, the Crusades to the Spanish Inquisition.  In most cases the common denominator in the historical accounts was European conquest and the progress of religion or entitlement.

I grew up barefoot running around on a farm.  At that time poor people in my part of California lived a farming life.  We grew most of our food and made a twice per year visit to Sears for clothes supplemented by hand-me-downs from relatives.  My parents came to California with their parents from Oklahoma and Michigan during the 1940’s.  Their ancestors were struggling farm folk as well.  Irish, Scottish, English and a sprinkling of something mysterious rooted in the back country of the South, our family is a perfect representation of the plain old melting pot America has come to be.

Me, dad, mom and siblings
Me, dad, mom and siblings

Maybe part of the influence for me was a longing to belong to something bigger. I was searching for identity, searching for a “race” or a heritage that had a culture I could be proud of.  What I’ve come to realize is that my culture is American, my race is American Stew and pride can be found in the multicolored beauty of the faces that built and continue to build this awesome country.  My  husband’s simple words have brought me around to understand that the way to a more united and equal America is by less separation and more conversation, a focus on our commonalities rather than our differences and finding pride in our diversity.  Remembering that no matter what color, age, shape, gender or lifestyle we are equally deserving of justice and freedom, mercy and understanding.

We must be willing to listen to the stories from oppressed people about the daily adjustments they have had to make in order to feel safe and free. We must discuss ways to eliminate the need for a Black father to lecture his son about how to avoid being arrested, beat or killed just because he is mistaken for a criminal. We also must be willing to accept the fact that most White people today have a mixed bag of ancestry with a naive understanding about Black life, but do not have hate and racism in their hearts. They do not always know how to help, but the desire to do something is there.

How can I serve in this capacity?  By making sure that if I am going to stand up for the right of anyone it must be unbiased.  That my recognition of one segment’s oppression while ignoring another is biased.  By celebrating me, my family, my history and continuing to walk on the side of American Freedom in the spirit our forefathers really meant it to be.  By rooting for the winner as well as the underdog and walking with the knowledge that ALL of us are truly created equal, and that with freedom comes the responsibility to make sure EVERYONE among us is able to experience that freedom.

Autism, my son and drugs

Okay, a misleading title I know, but now that you are reading please stay with me.  I recently posted Parenting a teen with Autism on this blog expressing the pain and frustration of trying to do the right thing for my nineteen year old son.  At that time we were wrestling with decisions about drugs, diet, behavior modification, etc. in trying to help Jason through his transition into adulthood.  This post is a follow up on what has happened in the month since.

Following a visit with his new doctor, and after a lot of research into different medication options, we made the decision to put him back on Risperdal.  Part of the reason was based on the feeling that we were losing him in a sense. He stopped laughing, stopped communicating and seemed absolutely overcome with new ticks such as eye blinking and hand twitching. He wore a callous in the palm of his hand where his index finger rubbed from constantly closing and opening it.  It has been two weeks since we started him back on the medication and he is back to his social self.  We are still dealing with self abuse at times, usually when he does not get what he wants and is angry.  But in general he is happy and playful again.

I have advocated for trying natural ways to help him, whether herbal remedies or diet with some breathing exercises nothing seems to make a difference.  At this point I realize that my son is a very headstrong and independent being that does not want to be “made” to do anything.  Part of our approach in helping him cope now is expanding his communication as much as possible and helping him understand appropriate ways of expression without anger.  He has been using a Kindle Fire for over a year now that has language programs designed for Autism…but all he seems interested in is YouTube.  I allow this because he has to use the keyboard to spell out songs he wants.  This is helping him to better understand the association between written words, language and things he wants.  We will be starting some behavior modification therapy again soon, we hope to have better results this time.

I don’t know what another year will bring, or another month, or even tomorrow, but I do know that Jason continues to teach us a lot about ourselves and the mysteries of human social interaction with each passing storm.

Boobs…

The moment society decides that the human body is a beautiful, life giving, life nurturing temple of joy and a sacred gift we will begin to exist in peace and harmony with each other and the planet.  When the health of a child becomes more important than the health of a corporation, then maybe, just maybe we will actually move toward that Utopia we all imagine.

breastfeedingart1

By allowing dogma and tradition to cloud our judgement we have perverted our very essence as a Being and have actually begun to devolve into something that even our Creator can hardly recognize.  Wake up people, embrace the beautiful, the joyful, the diverse reality of what and who we are and the connectivity that shapes our future.

Whether breastfeeding, marriage rights or women’s rights, it seems that the world is quickly becoming a pressure cooker regarding whose rights are right and whose rights are wrong.

While I do believe that all of us are on our own personal path and all opinions are part of the great quest for understanding, I find myself growing impatient with the ongoing effort to suppress anything natural in favor of whatever can be monetized.  Be it religion, genetically altered plants, baby formula or oil we place value on the very things that move us away from our most natural state and in some cases the very things that may be our demise as a species.

The corporation with the money to press media and government to protect and support their efforts will always attempt to move society in their favor. This includes keeping the social morals controlled by their definition and by how it furthers their agenda.  They can control laws, religion and the economy…but only if we the people allow it.  We have separated ourselves into the haves and the have not, the “true” American or not, the conservative and the liberal, the beautiful and the ugly sometimes using the Bible to back our point.

Please watch this awesome video about society’s attitude toward breastfeeding.  Although the poet is referring to the United Kingdom, it is a small example of what I am trying to say.