Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Meandering About: Veganism and Tolstoy

I am not a vegan, nor am I even a vegetarian. I try and keep my meat intake to a minimal level, but that is more based on a health decision rather than an animal rights motivation. I have heard arguments made by many people, and many faith traditions to support veganism and most of the fall very short, and even those I agree with in certain ideals I am not convinced enough to be motivated to stop the consumption of meat and other animal products.

I know there is a sect of believers within my own tradition of faith that believe a vegan diet is strongly endorsed in the Christian canon. Citing examples such as the diet given to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, as well as the diet in the book of Daniel eaten by the 4 young men. These stories do not address the ethical questions involved in consumption of other animals and so have very little impact on my thinking, except to note that even ancient people had an understanding of the health benefits of veganism.

Hinduism supports veganism as an action which benefits one's Karma. As my views on sin within my tradition are considered heretical by many Christians, my views on Karma would be nearly identical to my views on sin. Sin is language to discuss that which destroys. Any behavior that brings destruction to ourselves, our relationships, or the world is therefore sin. In the same way, I would see Karma in a very similar way. This leads to the weakness I find in the Hindu argument is that they fail to convince me that meat eating is destructive to the world. I certainly would be motivated by their ideas on Karma to avoid meat which is attained by the factory farming system, since it's practices produce great ecological damage to the planet, and I believe emotional damage to the people who work in that degradative environment. I avoid factory farm meat for the same reasons I avoid pornography, because it's production dehumanizes the people involved in it's production, and therefore I am responsible for that act of violence. So I am still left as an "ethical" meat eater.

Now Krishna's teachings seem to have the wisdom that has most left me thinking on these matters. In their teachings I read a parable about a parent that had "normal" children and a child with severe mental disabilities. The parable asks the question of whether the loving parent would allow the intelligent child to consume the developmentally disabled child because their intelligences were viewed as unequal. This speaks me to as a parent and if I thought the parallel worked I would certainly become a vegan with no second look back. Although I do agree that ALL THINGS are the creation of loving God, I do not believe that since all things come from a common source of love, they are coequal in the eyes of that source. I "created" my children, and I created a vermicompost system with about 5000 worms in it. I LOVE my children, and I also LOVED my worms, and I lovingly ground up all their food in a blender before adding it to the food trays to aid their digestion. However, a day came when my worm bin got infested with maggots. I had tray upon tray of maggots. That day I dumped the worms bins, releasing the remaining worms back into the soil. Yet if one of my children came home covered in maggots, I would certainly do everything in my power to keep her alive. Now I love my children, and I love my vermicompost systems, but I love them in VERY different ways. So my philosophical ideas are challenged by the Krishna thought, but my lifestyle remains unaffected.

Currently my views on the consumption of animal products would be best described as compassionate and moderated, since I have seen nothing that convinces me to move past this idea. I however came by a quote today by my philosophical hero Leo Tolstoy, "As long as there are slaughterhouses there will be battlefields." This quote has me thinking again. Is the Buddhist that when we ingest meat we ingest the violence committed against the animal at slaughter the point Tolstoy is making here? Is he saying that a person who numbs his conscience by taking the life of another species is capabler of the same numbness toward the "other" of his own species? Is he agreeing with the Jains who believe in the "peaceful coexistence of all things," considering that as long as we accept violence in our existence in anyway, we will accept it in a plurality of ways? This point is made by the wonderful work of feminist theology in their discussions of the societal prevalence of kyriarchy.

I do not know what I think about the quote except to say that it has me thinking. I respect Tolstoy immensely, and will get to the source of the quote and try to understand more in it's intended context. Questions like these excite me; and I love both the intellectual challenge of considering them, but also the dialog of people from a perspective of ideas also. I call this blog "Dispossessed" because I always feel like a nomad in a world of cities, this is where I am wandering today.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Feminist Dad

I have an addiction. Every free moment of my time, and some extra that are not actually free, I am spending on Pinterest.  I heard of this site a while back, but it was not until the last several weeks that I was sent an invite from a friend and have started using it.  Now after this short time I find myself in the process of looking for an addiction support group.

Seriously though, it is an amazing site and I have had a blast seeing so much of what it has to offer.  With one exception.  I feel that a large percentage of the site's current active users are traditional "Stay At Home Moms" (SAHM).  This is not to say I have a problem with the SAHM decision.  Our family was blessed by my wife's decision to fill this role for ten years between the time our oldest was born until out youngest started school.  I believe that the SAHM or SAHD decision is a very personal decision to each family, and there are both obvious strengths and weaknesses to either or neither of these decisions.   My problem is the very traditional "gender roles" I see posted with great regularity by many of these SAHM members.

I am a father of two daughters, and although I supported the ideals of gender equality before becoming a dad.  I became a feminist in that delivery room when my wife gave birth to our oldest daughter.  I can not believe ANY MAN can look at his daughter and want anything less than everything the world has to offer for her.

 I want daughters who have the strength of character of Rosa Parks; the commitment to justice of Dorothy Day;  the tenacity of purpose of Margaret Sanger; the outspoken voice of Elanor Roosevelt; and the commitment to the impoverished of Mother Teresa .

We need to raise a generation of girls who are not limited by the patriarchal prejudices of our civilization's history.  We need girls who will grow up to understand that beauty and femininity are not tied up in heirloom ideas and archaic bigotry.  I want to stand as part of a generation of fathers who treasure our daughters so deeply we offer up the stories of Marie Curie, Hariett Tubman, Virginia Woolf, Amelia Earhart, Jane Jacobs, Margret Thatcher, and Georgia O'Keefe as more inspirational than the fiction of Disney's Cinderella, Belle, and  Snow White.  We need daughters who would be more likely to call the police on a 200 year old obsessed stalker vampire than to maniacally adopt it as the greatest love story ever told. OK, perhaps the last sentence was a bit tongue in cheek.

I am a feminist dad and I plan on offering the world two daughters who are fiercely independent, driven, free thinking, investigative and see their femininity enhanced rather than diminished by these traits, and I know there are other dads out there working to do the same.

UPDATE: I saw this image and thought it  needed to be tagged onto the bottom, because the UP opening sequence is the kind of love story I want my daughters to see:

Monday, November 28, 2011

All Natural Bird Seed Ornaments

Heart Ornament
It's time to decorate the house for Christmas, YAY!!!  In our house my wife is responsible for interior decor and I am responsible for exterior decor, with veto power vested in both parties.  It is a system that works.  For me that meant I needed to be thinking through how I was going to decorate the outside of the house with Christmas cheer.

I have seen bird seed ornaments at the Bird Store, or in garden sections at the local hardware store, but they always have strange ingredients that one finds in prepackaged foods, and that scares me.  I have also seen people post bird seed ornaments on sites like pinterest, but they always seems to rely on gelatin as the binder.  This rubs my hippie sensibilities the wrong way.

Now a delicacy I like to make around the house is Sprouted Lentil Cakes.  In my work with improving my recipe for these cakes, I have learned quite a bit about all natural binders, I know what works and what just crumbles back apart.  So I decided to use that information to make my own recipe for bird seed ornaments.  So if you're looking for an all natural recipe (glitter pipe cleaner not included) then here it goes.

1/2 Cup Raw Golden Flax Seed
15 Ounce Jar of Crunchy Peanut Butter
4 Cups Wild Bird Seed
Several Seasonal Cookie Cutters
30 Pipe Cleaners of Pieces of thread / yarn

Bird Seed Mixture
Step 1: Cover Flax Seed in water and soak for 3 hours.  This will create a natural gelatinous solution that needs to be blended along with the excess water in the food processor.  Do not drain excess water. After processing flax seed, it should look like a chunky meringue.
Step 2: Place blended flax seed and the entire jar of Peanut butter into your stand mixer.  Mix together well.
Step 3: While Flax seed and peanut butter are busy getting all mixed up.  Rinse and drain birdseed.  This whole thing works better if your bird seed is damp before adding to mixer.
Step 4:  Slowly add bird seed to mixer 1/2 cup at a time. 

Place hook in middle
 Make sure you choose large open cookie cutters.  I tried a Santa, a bell, and a reindeer that all crumbled from too much detail.
Step 5: Lay cookie cutter upside down on parchment or on a silicone baking sheet. Tightly pack the bird seed mix into the cookie cutter filling it half way.
Step 6: Insert pipe cleaner or thread  making a loop to hang from. Press lightly into packed seed mixture.
Step 7: Fill remainder of cook cutter with seed mixture packing tightly.  I used a flat spatula and pressed my weight down on it to ensure a firm packing.
Step 8: Clear excess mixture from sides of the cookie cutter before attempting to move.
Ornaments Lined Up On Tray
I have a nine tray Excalibur dehydrator which I set on 115 degrees for 4 hours.  An oven set at 175 and propped open would also work if you do not have a dedicated dehydrator. 
Step 9: Flip cookie cutter right side up using a flat spatula if ornament stick to baking sheet.
Step 10: Place down flat on dehydrating tray or cookie sheet, and lift slowly using your thumbs to press against ornament so it remains flat on tray.  The ornament is VERY delicate at this point and if it breaks apart just move it back to your work area and start over.
Step 11: Dehydrate until ornament is no loner crumbling.  This took me 4 hours at 115 degrees.

With all this being done this way I still had about a 10% loss after dehydration as I was hanging them on the Christmas tree.  I thought that was VERY GOOD result being I had not used any outside chemicals or gels as binders.

While the ornaments were drying our family sat down and strung popcorn garland to hang on the outside tree where our ornaments would be featured.  It was very fun for a while, but as with most tedious projects the kids lost interest and my wife and I were left finishing the garland alone.

All together we made a wonderful all natural decorated tree for the neighbors and the neighborhood birds to enjoy.  The remaining ornaments made a wonderful early Christmas gift for our children's teachers and staff.

May you and your family have as wonderful time as we did making these cute all natural bird seed ornaments.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

3 Day Vegan Chili

I have found a new store that I am in love with, Crystal and Spice Shoppe in downtown Belleville, IL. In fact the owners, Gloria and Rod Smith accused me of stalking them yesterday, and said they were going to talk to the bank about an addition so I could just move in. Their shop is part of a spice co-op and sells fresh dried herbs and spices at incredible prices, and at quanties as small as the quarter ounce. I bought 4 ounces of Smoked Durango sea salt for under $4.00. That same salt would have cost me $15+ on Amazon. That does not even take into consideration the quality and freshness of their spices, which makes the value all that much greater. So as I ramble on, you can see my passion, and the reason behind the stalking joke.

The point of posting, is not to sell you on visiting Crystal and Spice, although if you live locally you'd be silly not to. Instead I wanted to share this unbelievable Vegan chili I made using their wonderful spices. It has a deep rich texture and smoky flavor, I'd challenge anyone to tell me they miss the animal flesh in this terrific pot of autumn goodness. I know, I know I'm a little early. Best of all, all the ingredients in this dish are shelf stable and it would be a fabulous set of ingredients to keep around the house in case of an extended emergency. It's slow food, so it won't be ready today, but here goes, and trust me it's worth the wait.

Staple Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup green lentils
  • 1 cup Red kidney beans
Crystal & Spice Ingredients:
  • 2oz Bacums (Bacon Flavored tsp)
  • 2oz Vegetable Soup Mix
  • 2oz Tomato Powder
  • 1 tsp Durango Smoked Salt
  • 1 tsp Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1 tsp Chipotle Powder
Lentil Preparation:
Day 1 - Start Lentils: The lentils will need to soak in filtered water overnight. Place your 1/4 cup of lentils in a full cup of filtered water. Leave to sit overnight.
Day 2 - In the morning,drain your lentils, rinse them thoroughly, and place the rinsed lentils wrapped in a kitchen towel into a bowl. Repeat rinsing procedure late evening and wrap in a new clean kitchen towel.
Day 3 - This morning you will rinse one final time and wrap in a clean towel. By this time your lentils should have tails and be easily chewed.

Kidney Bean Preparation:
Day 2: Soak 1 cup of red kidney beans overnight in 4 cups of filtered water.
Day 3: Three and a half hours before you are ready to eat drain and rinse beans.  Place beans in an uncovered pot with 4 cups of water.  When water comes to a boil add Smoked Salt, Bacums, and Chipotle Powder.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered for 3 hours, checking water occasionally.

Final Chili Assembly:
When beans have finished simmering it's time to make the chili.  In my case all my water had boiled down so I added 3 more cups of water to the pan.  Return to a boil, then add Vegetable soup mix, tomato powder, chili powder and cumin.  All these ingredients will absorb a lot of your newly added water, simmer the mixture for another 15 minutes to set the flavors. The last step is to just boil off any remaining water till you have a nice think chili consistency, I did not have any remaining water.  Finally, after removing chili from heat, mix in your  sprouted lentils, cover and let set at least 10 minutes before serving.

It is an amazing chili, and well worth the 3 days of work to make it.  It is packed full of nutritious whole food plant based ingredients, and the spice combination packs a knockout punch.  If you're ever going to be in the area, let us know a few days in advanced and we'll cook up a pot for us all to share!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wikileaks, Manning and the #WLVoteYes vote

Sgt. Bradley Manning committed treason, that is assuming he is the person responsible as currently charged. Bradley Manning violated the oaths he took in his office as a soldier to this country and will pay the legal consequences of that. I believe that our government has a responsibility to execute criminal prosecution against Sgt. Manning, those involved with him in this theft, and those participating in similar acts of sedition and treason against the intelligence of this country. So it may surprise you, being that I support the governments prosecution against Sgt Manning that when I think about Wikileaks and their journalistic work, I believe it exists as a great testament to the US Constitution. Having journalist that are using their freedom to challenge the actions of government are as important to the governance of this nation as the prosecutors compiling their case against Sgt. Manning.

So you may be thinking that perhaps I should have written this blog a few months when the story broke, rather than now months later. I admit that you are perhaps right. I have actually sat down to write a blog like this several times, but knowing that my opinion will alienate people on every side of the discussion, I have deleted these drafts and left my blog unpublished. Discussion about this is so charged with passionate energy. This means for me that my support of the US Government's case against Sgt. Manning and my support of Wikileaks opens me up to being a target by both sides of that passionate energy.

However tonight as of one hour ago Wikileaks asked the world a question.
Global vote: should WikiLeaks release all US cables in searchable form? tweet #WLVoteYes or #WLVoteNo Why:
This got me to thinking that I wanted to answer that question. It can not for me be answered in 255 characters.

My tweet response to this question is #WLVoteYes. I do believe that Wikileaks should publicly release the full unredacted text of the entire database in a publicly searchable format. There is no longer anything to protect. Those parties with a malicious intent already have the full database at this point, and so all that remains is for this information to be used by the people of United States to hold their government and it's agents accountable for actions that do not promote the amazing ideals of the American experiment.

I do understand that Sgt. Manning's actions will put U.S. interests and personnel in danger, however that damage is done no matter the outcome of such a vote. This is a question of availability for those who wish to protect the actual ideas of the Declaration of Independence. This is no longer about the overt sedition and treason of Mr. Manning. This is about the back room manipulation and abuse of power by those charged with protecting the American ideal. This is about the sedition against the American people by the government officials and corporate power brokers who stand at interest of their own profiteering over the interests of "We the People." This is about a form of treason that can not be prosecuted, but can still be exposed and stripped of it's influence.

Wikileaks should make this information public, as an act of patriotism, and protectors of liberty, as those who believe this is America; land of the free with justice for all.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Listening To Pain

I have a story to tell, I do not have permission to tell it publicly, but here I proceed anyway. It is a story of love, pain, learning and unlearning.

This weekend was Art On The Square here in Belleville where we live. It is a big deal for a small city to have such a highly acclaimed event with such talented artists. So with the children spending the evening with my parents, the woman I love and I went to go see the art. As with any event of this type, there was art I liked and art I disliked, there were high points and low points; which admittedly would have changed based on style and preference.

After an evening of great art and good conversation with several of the artists we wandered into the booth of Ron Phillips. Phillips is an amazing artist who uses his media to both tell the story of his people and to inspire hope for a better story future generations will tell.

As we were both gushing over our favorites of his pieces he pointed out a particular piece he wanted to show us. This picture was a timeline of the atrocities against and accomplishments of blacks in America set on a USAmerica flag. The piece had photos of the colonial slave ships and whites only signs. It had pictures of heroes like Fredrick Douglas, Harriet Tubman, Malcom X and Barack Obama. I commented that it was an amazing piece and captured the timeline well.

The artist then pointed to a photograph within the picture and asked me if I knew who the person was. I did not, so I responded, "No, but I can identify most others." Phillips proceeded, "That's Emmett Till." I answered back, oblivious to what was taking place outside myself, "No, don't know him but I do see..." and I began to proceed to identify a few of the works subjects.

As I rattled off my repository of useless trivia I was interrupted to be taught a lesson on listening to pain. This woman I love spoke over me to the artist, "Tell us his story." I silenced myself and listened as Ron shared the details of the tragic death of a little boy named Emmett Till. As Phillips finished his story my wife put her arms around him and just cried mourning the disgraceful brutal end of this boy's life. I watched as her and this artist, this stranger, shared the pain of the sickening curse poured out on this boy.

When the two of them broke their embrace Ron told her, "That was the highest compliment on my work I received tonight." No one would have believed it not true.

I am in debited to them both for what I learned in those moments.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Ash Wednesday - Lenten Burning

A Lenten oblation has been very difficult for me to decide this year. Most everything that came across my mind seemed like a trite exercise in self control, rather than an actual sacrifice which would relinquish control and challenge me to endure suffering. So last night, as I was riding the train between work in Chicago and home in St. Louis I was being intentional to find the kind of self abnegating act I was looking for. One surrender came to mind repeatedly, but each time, I dismissed it, explaining away the impracticability and impossibility of the act. As many times I justified the act away, I became more and more aware of my need to make this my lenten offering. So last night, as I stood outside alone in the cool air, I made my commitments to die to this liberty.

So here today, this new day, the launching day of lent; I burned. I don't mean I failed a little. No I blew out in a Hindenburg explosion of my will, my situation, and my sacrifice. WOW! Now I have "fallen off the wagon" in other Lenten sacrifices. I have found myself a few weeks into lent, and either by failure of will, or forgetfulness I have resumed my regular life leaving behind my earlier commitment. This was unrelated to those, this was a failure, that as I stood in the ashes of the explosion I knew, this task would make me burn, this test would cause me to die, this is not a souvenir this is a graveyard.

Ash Wednesday, today, is a celebration of death. The grave looms, like God's own self, both immanent and transcendent. Interment is the most inevitable reality of living. That which lives will die, and today the tradition of the liturgical calendar is to embrace the return to dust and ashes that form us. Living is chronic condition. We accept our proximity to death, so that we can experience the abundance of living. We look into the ugly emptiness of the unknown to embrace the beautiful fullness of living.

In the ashes of today's failure, I look at the death I create everyday and I remember the lesson of the forest fire, that from death and ashes, from the soil burned and destroyed, comes emergence, come new vibrant life. I embrace my death, in order to birth life.

"All along I thought
I was learning how to take
How to bend not how to break
How to live not how to cry
But really
I've been learning how to die" - Jon Foreman

Thursday, March 03, 2011

HUQueerPress & Loving Like Jesus

At one time in my life I would have thought by the time I was 35 years old I'd be a Harding Alumni. You see I grew up in the Church of Christ in the midwest, and was in a church where everyone graduated high school and went to Harding. In fact, I had one of my senior pictures taken in full Hardng University attire. Yet, I have a fairly strong rebellious streak in me so I bucked the tide of following like another lemming off the HU cliff and chose to attend York College, the "liberal" school.

My own experiences at York College are one reason I take the issue of the HUQueerPress so seriously. My best friend my freshman year at York was gay. Even at the "liberal" COC college I went to, I wittnessed first hand this was not Ok. He did not return after that first year, it seemed to him to embrace "coming out" meant leaving YC. You see counselors, professors, and students claimed to love him, yet it is hard to feel love from a person who thinks you need to be fixed.

As I followed the @HUQueerPress feed today I could not help but see ruminations of a debate very similar a generation before at Harding. "If you don't like how Harding treats Black students you are free to go elsewhere." I know the black eye and continuing consequences that racial segregation has wrought on the Churches of Christ. I could not help but be proud of these new voices who stand against such sexual biogtry, and challenge the university to do better than it has.

My hope is that a surge of student allies will rise up and shape a better response than the response of Harding University president David Burks did in chapel today. My hope is that there are Harding students ready to follow the Jesus path, to be persecuted for loving and supporting those the "purity police" deem unclean. My hope is that the love embodied by Jesus will break down EVERY barrier of segregation and opression at Harding, in the Churches of Christ, in Christianity at large, and in all the world.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

We have been working on the new house for two months now. We have moved to St. Louis, and though we are not living in the new house yet, the kiddos are enrolled in school and making friends in the new neighborhood.

The house is beginning to come together and look like a house that we can live in. In a few more weeks, we will be ready to call the place a home. In a few more weeks all the unnecessary walls will be removed, new fixtures will be in place, the original beauty of the floors will be restored, and the house will begin to shine again with the beauty, love, and hospitality of a place occupied by a family.

Hope is growing in the little house.