Equal rites…

I know anecdotally that editors can be quite thankful when they do not have to remind an author that people have different ethnic backgrounds. Characters should also. Recently, as the research phase for A Song Heard in the Future came to a close, I found that is was not going to be difficult to include a range of heritage.

Given that almost any (every?) story set within the world of Greek mythology and worship will be a Mediterranean tale, the likelihood of an all-majority cast seems very, very low. That said, several of the major characters are not actually Greek.

diversity mapThe first king of Thebes was initially from Phoenicia and one of the kings of Thrace was a Libyan immigrant. Pygmalion (or Pumayyaton), the famous sculptor, was a Cypriot. The more-traveled characters may even have heard of a Titan by the name of Gadeiros from what would become Spain and Norax, a hero on the island we call Sardinia and the Greeks knew as Ichnūsa.

The biggest revelation to me regards the ancestry or a demigod famous for Twelve Labours. His great great grandparents were Ethiopian royalty. Is the world ready for a Hercules who is at least one-eighth black?

There is another story about publishing I’ve heard. I won’t repeat it here because it’s absurd and offensive but it regards the readership of science fiction and fantasy. We’ve moved beyond that, right? In this case, I’m hopeful that any future editor of Song will be intrigued by the prospect.

Reinventing a few specific wheels…

In the early ‘90’s, I accidentally reinvented Robert Plutchik’s “Wheel of Emotions”.

715px-Plutchik-wheel.svgAt the time I was employed as a Human Resources manager. I had taken the position in what turned out to be the wholly wrong assumption that the existence of HR departments within corporations was an admission by companies that they are soulless entities and that some sort of concession had to be made. Presumably, employees have souls even in the soul-crushing environment of the cube farm.

Logic dictated that any visit not involving interviews of those seeking employment would be by someone already with the company who was some shade of mad or sad. Whether we should wish to be glad at all times we do have that wish. So, I knew where visitors to my office wanted to “go” but their exact “point of origin” was too broad and vague. I do not believe that I am unique in not liking to be surprised by people. Wanting to help others as quickly as possible may be somewhat more rare.

I needed to craft a tool that would help me help the employees who came to see me. It was, I suspected, akin to a navigational problem. Beyond that, there were two ingredients to my Emotion Map, the color wheel and a quote from Spider Robinson.

Mad, sad, glad; what else is there?”

Mad is traditionally matched to Red. Similarly, Sad is associated with Blue. That left the healthy hue of Green for Glad. Other emotions were set on the color wheel by making some estimations of triangulation.

What’s twice as far from Glad as it is from Sad? What’s the midpoint between Hope and Gratitude?

I don’t have a background in psychology and, as you might guess from any of my previous posts about Vulcans, approached emotion from an almost scientific stance. I was possibly detached. Emotion was not my field.

It shouldn’t be surprising that my map and Plutchik’s Wheel disagree in terms of placement of specific emotions. But there’s another significant difference. My map places extremes of feeling, such as rage and bliss, on the perimeter of the circle. This is the opposite of Plutchik’s illustration. In the center of his model the colors are bright, fading toward the outside. My map fades to pure white in the center.

I felt that the more confusing, mixed emotions should be in that white space. It’s difficult to tell frustration from apathy. The center of my map was part of the tool; it was the doldrums around which I hoped to help, in my HR capacity, each visitor avoid on their course back to Glad.

color wheelNote: I’ve left labels off a new map as I’m revising it gradually.

Although I don’t still have the original copy of the Emotion Map, and I’m no longer working in HR, I do still use this theory. More recently — within just the past year or so — I’ve begun to revisit it. I’m less detached. I’m feeling more. I am now cultivating the field of my own emotion rather than merely surveying that of others.

And I think that’s making me more effective creatively. Art and writing without emotion cannot hope make an impact, can it?

ceteris paribus…

It is probably reasonable to assume that the faith of our parents, if any, is assumed in our early years to be the only faith. I remember noticing and asking about the different iconologia and emblemata of the 14 houses of worship in my very small hometown. It was a disproportionately large number of options. For reasons that are beyond the scope of this post, I was a member of at least five different congregations belonging to different Christian denominations before the age of 12.

And prior to that age, the United States was ramping up to its Bicentennial celebrations and participating in the first two Olympics of which I was aware (some years before the Winter and Summer Games were split and staggered). On display at home was a vast array of old and newly minted patriotic symbols. Each nation of the more than 90 competing The Games (half the world at the time) had brought an entirely different selection of icons to the stadium.

Surely formal education contributed to an awareness of how much larger the world is than I might have imagined before adolescence. But the diversity of religious and national expression was given sharp emphasis by experience and observation. This has allowed me to acknowledge that dignity can arise everywhere on the planet – from each person who will allow it to manifest – regardless of place of birth.

There is a vogue in political thought here, the notion of American exceptionalism. The nation may unfortunately have been born with it. The soil here is not a magical home plate (to employ the metaphor from our “national pastime”). It isn’t where a person is born or lives that makes their accomplishments special. Accomplishment and the person who achieves it are both special – anywhere. I’m not running for office. I don’t have to perpetuate a myth.

As readers of this blog may have guessed, flags and maps fascinate me. A flag is not just the equivalent of a postal code. It is a declaration of a certain set of beliefs and, it must be said, opinions. A map is more than a tool for where to find things. For me, maps have long and collectively been metaphors for the intrinsic potential of what things may be found.

thank youSurfing the Zeitgeist is intended to share my perspective on the value and mission of creative expression – along with a certain view on the universality of potential. The above map shows the nations from which Visits have been made. I track this as a reminder that there isn’t just one zeitgeist to surf. Each visit is more than a “pin in a map” for me. It’s a vantage point – a reminder that my point of view is only one way of examining the zeitgeist. I’m curious about them all – and I think I always have been.

all together now…

handshakeThe desire for diversity to be respected is understandable and vital. Identity is not defined by region, race, or religion alone. We are, each of us, defined by our thoughts and our experience. This need not isolate us but it does mean we are each the ultimate minority – a minority-of-one.

“No man is an island entire of itself;…”
John Donne, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation XVII (1623)

We require society and we all contribute to it as a state. Until 1956, the unofficial motto of the United States was E pluribus unum (meaning Out of many, one). Diversity was, at least tacitly, understood as a strength for 174 years. In the same breath, so was Unity. We’re having trouble with both these days. It wouldn’t be scientific to claim that the change of motto was the sole cause but it might mark the beginning of a decline that’s lasted 59 years and counting.

The sociopolitical climate of the United States has become too fertile a soil for the notion that liberty means absolute freedom from having to follow the dictates of any authority. A very recent example involves a Texas man who literally jumped to fatal encounter with an alligator. He is reported to have said, “[Expletive deleted] that alligator.” after seeing a sign that warned against swimming in Adams Bayou. It seems very likely that he was metaphorically saying, “[Expletive deleted] the Man.”

Signs like the one he ignored exist for a reason. But they’ve all become metaphors for why Liberty does not mean do anything you want, anywhere, at any time.

“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”
George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (1903)

Liberty is a much more complicated concept than seems commonly supposed. It is meant as a process by which we establish and maintain freedom of the individual from interference or coercion. Intrinsic is a duty of respecting the equal rights of others and just laws expressive of just powers designed to safeguard the equal rights of all individuals. The mechanism of this specific freedom includes self-respect as a spiritual virtue, self-reliance as an economic virtue, and self-discipline as a sociopolitical virtue.

On Sept. 24, 2013, at 8:04 (EST), Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) read Dr. SeussGreen Eggs and Ham during a filibuster on the Senate floor. It would have been more constructive had he chosen to read both Chicken Little and the Little Red Hen; the sky may indeed be falling and we all have to pull together.

I am a minority. I am a Self. The same is true of you. A community is a union of interdependent Selves who work best as a whole when each is possessed of self-respect (the spring of respect for others), self-reliance (the well of an economy that benefits all), and self-discipline (the fount and foundation of most other civic and civil worth).

alliesOr, to use a more famous quote…


Takin’ it back…

Having been a member of the Boy Scouts, the presumption that all badges and patches were meant in celebration of both enjoyable experiences and the accumulation of experience could be a forgivable error.

When I first learned about the Star of David badges that the Jews in WWII Germany wore, my preliminary surmise was that they must have been voluntary symbols of resistance and pride. My mother responded in horror at the idea. She was neither an historian nor particularly skilled teacher but I did learn the truth about the Nazi intent. They were meant as marks of shame and easy identification of “undesirables.”

It wasn’t until high school, however, that I learned of one more such mark. By the end of the 1970s, gay rights advocates adopted the pink triangle – as reclamation, as an emblem. At that time, I suspect I should have suspected there were more triangular signs.

That prompt – to know the full list – came when I joined the Freemasons. In that case, as with all non-Jewish political nonconformists, the Masons detected and captured by the Nazis were forced to wear a red triangle.

In the United States these days, we hear all parts of the political spectrum engaging in hyperbolic assertions that one party or another is bordering near fascism. While we must always be vigilant to oppose the rise of another Nazi party, the ubiquity of accusation makes it difficult to see the lines that must not be crossed.

repeatDuring the time of the original Nazi Party, a declaration of loyalty was required. Not making such a pledge “earned” a triangle at least. If the same system were used today, the image at the left might be on my sleeve and pant leg.

It would indicate a Mason who continued to meet after a presumed warning, internment, and intent to escape.

The E stands for Erziehungshäftlinge, which designated intellectuals and suspected organizers of resistance.

In addition, everything seems to be dubbed “the civil rights issue of our time”, including – most recently – the impact of climate change. More hyperbole. More blur.

Meanwhile, there is a group quietly making use of this information. I am not affiliated and only discovered the white triangle while trying to find an image of liberty that was not a photograph of the statue stood on Ft. Wood, Bedloes Island (i.e., The Statue of Liberty).

Liberty Symbol describes itself as an association with the goal of support, development, and promotion of individual and collective liberties. This effort has adopted a white triangle as a symbol for those who see themselves as promoters of said liberties. The symbol serves a dual purpose – also being an emblem for those who have had their liberty curtailed unnecessarily.

Too quietly, Liberty Symbol offers the symbol as a public domain icon and encourages its use. The white triangle was chosen in another reclamation of a sort. I’ve purchased a fair few and given two as gifts and tokens of kinship.

lsWhen placing an order for a white triangle pin, two are shipped. “Because if I am, one of my friends certainly is too.” The pair cost just $5.66 (US) or 5€. And if an order is placed, avoid a delay in shipping by sending an email to the maker noting your order: contact@libertysymbol.com

Note: Acheter is the French word for to buy.

Liberty Symbol’s fine print ends with the following:

All the earnings, if there are some, will be used to pursue the association object true publications and event organization. The association has no employee and will regularly publish its accounting book details.”