Archive for December, 2008

I don’t really want to be an “ist.” I don’t want to be stuck in a box as an anthropologist, folklorist, mythologist, hypnotherapist, religionist, spiritualist, or any other kind of “ist.”

I think that this sort of division plays a big role in our inability to heal and move forward, both as individuals and as a species. There are divisions within the divisions and everyone thinks that their perspective is the best one for everyone.

How dumb is that? While specialists fight over which form of therapy is best, people are repeatedly given the message that their own innate knowledge is flawed and not to be trusted. Don’t go with the therapist that “feels right” to you – go with the one with the most diplomas on the wall or the most empirical data behind their technique.

The same can be said for religions and philosophies, too. And though people seem to be more accepting of dogma in religion or philosophy, those same dogmatic stances are no more logical, effective, or “correct” than those held by therapists, scientists, etc. (Dogma is dogma, anyway you look at it).

While all of these “ists” argue, there are non-standardized forms of healing that rely on community and belief (in the form, in the community, or in the healer) that work just fine. There are no empirical studies, no rigorous tests to “prove” this form works, yet the people who use it swear by it and do just fine, thank you.

I want to be someone who sees beyond the divisions and helps people find what works for them. I want to erase those divisions and bring folklorists together with physicians, mythologists together with psychiatrists, herbalists together with nutritionists, all working together to create a network of wisdom that everyone can access and draw on in time of need.

Of course, in order for this to happen, we need to let go of judgment and fear. We have to stop judging other techniques as “quakery” simply because there have been no empirical studies. Remember, there have been no empirical studies on the efficacy of aspirin (they’ve all been anecdotal), yet at this point no one questions aspirin’s usefulness. And we have to let go of several fears: the fear that this other form will be injurious to those who use it; the fear that it is “only” the placebo effect (more on that later); the fear that these other forms will draw income away from our own wallets; and, lurking deep down inside, the fear that these other techniques actually work and all of our beliefs about them have been wrong all this time.

This is where I think the study of belief, culture, and folklore all come into play.

Alan Lomax said that, “the folklorist has the duty to speak as the advocate of the common man,” and while I think the common man or woman is perfectly capable of speaking for him or her self, there is merit to this statement. I would change it a bit, however, and give it a slightly different perspective:

Folklorists have the duty to illustrate the relevance of the common: the beliefs, rituals, music, stories, customs, jokes, food, art and adornment of the everyday person. Through this illustration we find commonalities and see each other as much more alike than not; as having similar needs, hopes and dreams; and of being more “human” than previously thought.

The diplomat needs to know these things if he is to be effective in working with his counterpart from a vastly different culture. The military strategist needs to know these things to understand when and where military action will be most effective and when it will incur the greatest retaliation. The teacher needs to know these things to better communicate with her students of differing backgrounds. The doctor needs to know these things to use every possible tool to aid in the healing process. The attorney needs to know these things to better defend his client. The traveler needs to know these things to enhance her trips abroad. The clergy need to know these things to make sense of the different ways that people express their faith. And I need to know them to better understand myself, my family, my nation and how we all fit into the web of existence.

Therefore, I propose to use some other form if self-identification, regardless of any degrees or training I may accumulate over my lifetime. Something that doesn’t put me in a box, clearly delineated for all to assume judgment upon. Something that does not, by its very existence, create division and suspicion in others. Something more suited to my perspective and belief. Something like: Observer of the Way Things Are and Seeker of Why That Is.

How do you identify yourself, in your heart and to the world?

About the placebo effect: when will we stop saying that it was “only” the placebo effect that created wellness in a person? Why on earth should we disdain the power of the mind to effect positive change without introducing chemicals or involving invasive techniques? Shouldn’t we applaud the placebo effect? Here we have people healing themselves from the inside, all because they have faith in the drug/technique/healing professional – I think we should be delighted and study the effect more closely to find ways to use it on a regular basis.


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The Color of Idiocy

There has been a growing, unofficial movement in this country over the last ten years to create “girl-friendly” editions of items that should, by rights, be considered genderless (but usually aren’t). This includes basic hand tools with pink or floral handles (you’ve seen them at Ace and True Value, I know you have), pink cordless drills and screwdrivers, hot pink duct tape, pink gardening tools, pink softballs, and most recently a surge of all things for the kitchen in pink, with some of the proceeds going to breast cancer prevention/education/cure groups. Okay, those are fine, I even like some of them.

But this is just plain stupid.

In today’s paper, on page four of the full-color insert for Joe’s sporting goods (previously G.I. Joe’s), we see not one but TWO pink guns.

Yep. Let that sink in a bit.

Pink guns.

One is a BB gun and the other is a “youth” .22 rifle.

The stocks of both are pink. Really pink.

Aside from the fact that I’m not entirely sure that a “youth” needs a .22 rifle (remember, I’m not anti-gun, just anti-stupid), the whole concept of a pink gun is just, well, I’m not sure I can even find the words to express what’s wrong with this. The tag line for the .22 says, “Bolt action, single shot, and it even comes in pink for your little Annie Oakley.”

Annie Oakley would NOT have used this gun, I’m quite sure. What’s next, pink AK-47’s? Pink Saturday Night Specials? I know, pink hand grenades. Granted, those are mostly metal so you’d have to treat the metal with something to turn it pinkish, but you get my point.

Although, if you collect guns, I’d suggest buying these. Like the witchy Barbies of a few years back, they’ll disappear off the shelves faster than you can say “gender equality” and you won’t see them again any time soon.

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This lovely photo of the McKenzie River bounded by snowing trees was taken in January, 2008 by my talented husband. We took the dog up to Sahalie Falls to romp in the snow and to let Mitch take some photos of the falls in the snow and on the way back down the mountain we pulled off onto a road that crosses the river and leads to an electric station maintenance compound (more than a “shack” but less that a full station). The road had only been snow-plowed up to the compound and beyond it was snow to a depth of about 4 feet. Too deep to take Tucker in – I’d have lost him in the snow!

Some of you know that going to Sahalie in the winter is one of my favorite things to do. A bright sunny day, anywhere from two to four feet of snow on the ground, and that gorgeous waterfall surrounded by icicles and snow covered trees has got to be one of the greatest gift winter could give me.

Now I just need to get me some grippers for my shoes (I’m kind of tired of slipping and falling on my keister each year).

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Well, three more days of actual classes and five exams and Fall 2008 session is over. Then three weeks of deep housecleaning, catching up on sleep, some short family visits and on to Spring 2009. Wow – how is it possible that we are already looking at 2009? I must have slipped through some wormhole or something because it simply doesn’t seem like we could be that far along in the year.

The good news is that the Winter Solstice is only 20 days away – that makes me very happy. Just a shade less than three more weeks of shortening days, then we start to get a little more daytime each day (I’d say sunlight, but hey, I live in Oregon, so…). Yippee! Anything that makes life a little brighter is a good thing. Although I have to say that this fall has been absolutely stunning. Unseasonably warm, more sunlight than usual, and truly spectacular days. We were even into the low 70’s as late as mid-October, which is almost unheard of here.

The hardest part about the Oregon winters is the damp cold and the lack of sunlight. It may not rain every day, but you can go 7-10 days without seeing any real sunlight, just diffuse light coming through the overcast skies. And damp cold that bites into my joints (I know, I’m trying very hard not to think about the long term ramifications of that statement). Even my little dog gets seasonal affective disorder. But, thanks to my brilliant mother, we have a couple of full-spectrum lights that we run when we are home and the skies are grey. The cat doesn’t seem to care much, I’ve noticed. Well, she doesn’t care much as long as there is canned food in the bowl at the proscribed time and she can supplement her diet with a little “ala carte” now and then.

All of this is my way of saying “Welcome” to the holiday season. We don’t do presents much any more, just stocking stuffers for the girls and magazine subscriptions for the boys (different sets of kids). Mitch asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and since he can’t give me a renewed planet all by himself, he’s going to settle for taking me to see “Singin’ in the Rain” at the movies this coming Weds night. I love old musicals and this one is a particular favorite. Having never seen it on the big screen, this will be a treat. And him being willing to sit through it with me will be extra special. I’ll have to control myself and not sing along with it.

Enough procrastinating! Devo studiare per l’esame finale d’italiano domani.


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