Saturday, March 22, 2014

If gender is a concept, imagine what reality remains.

I played these instructions for eating meditation for my coworkers at a science museum yesterday. You can seek to 14:45 and play about 6 minutes. Kornfield uses raisins but you can use a small bite of any food.

Scientists and Buddhists equally value the practice of simple observation, noticing without preconception. For scientists this allows us to collect unbiased evidence and form realistic explanations. For example, in the meditation we see not a raisin-concept but the shapes and colors and shades that exist; feel the weight and textures that are really there. I invite you now to see that gender is a constructed concept and what exists is the richer, true world of different bodies and behaviors and experiences. This is a world of wonder to which, through years of rough practice, I have awakened.

It's been rough because there has been until recently* little  guidance available on the road to observation while the gender-concept rampantly rules society. It dictates our treatment at school, wardrobe, wages, right to vote and inherit, place in the household, place in bed, vulnerability to violence, and access to expression and affection. Society created this concept and I see that it is, unlike the raisin, 100% harmful. Nature makes a full spectrum of bodies and sexual phenotypes; humans no longer live and fuck for reproduction primarily.

Upon birth, our first instructions are a wrong concept: "it's a boy" or "it's a girl," a concept with the power to smother our inborn ability for simple observation. It catches us into a life built around false concepts and inattention to existence. Any mathematician or physicist would concur that a false assumption can block one from understanding the whole of reality.

Once we achieve simple observation, the next step is to discern between helpful and useless thoughts and actions. It's too late to stop the Nazis destroying gender-inclusive Berlin culture and medical advances or to go public with Britain's WWII computer to speed the internet's union of queer community by over ten years. We can change our language of gender conformity, include youth and others, and turn toward the reality of suffering and loss in our own communities. It's the right thing to do.

We each have a unique toolbox of community-building activities and attitudes. We just have to remind each other to wake up and use it.

*I feel confident that any Gender Studies expert would agree with the simple observation that gender is a construct rather than a natural phenomenon.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Park Review: Mount Diablo State Park

Yesterday I attempted the summit of our local lone peak, Mount Diablo. An easy bike ride from Walnut Creek BART station, the southwest trailhead at Macedo Ranch is shared with cows and calves. The cow path is difficult to negotiate, especially when it's wet. This trail is signed Wall to Summit Trail, though the transition is unclear between some low shrubs and grassy hillside. Trail guides claim the loop I took was just over 6 miles, but it was much harder and I was thoroughly exhausted and sore after 6 hours.

Due to the drought the Park announced water would be shut off, but the restrooms at the trailhead were open. I carried and drank almost all of the 3 liters I carried. I was unprepared, though, for the chill and violent wind at the peak, 3,500 feet. For this you may want a spacesuit. My hands swelled and ears popped on the way down.

I watched gorgeous cloud cover pass overhead, sometimes threatening to bring distant rain close. I was delighted by the interpretive signs marking the K-T boundary, mollusk fossils, and other rock layers. There were some poppies and purple daisies as well as a flowering shrub already in bloom. The burned areas were interesting to traverse, charred on the outside and sprouting about the roots and sometimes limbs.

Nothing compares to the views. Even though the clouds covered the horizon beyond the San Bruno mountains, I saw farther than I'd expected. My technology swallowed the few photos I took.

I don't know why I'm not there every weekend! I'll be back again soon.