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.

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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…

YKNOW