Note: I took a Skillshare class called “The Style Class: Work out Your Illustration Style Through a Daily Project” with Instructor Tom Froese. My project was “By Their Fruit You Shall Know Them” as I identified human “fruit” (values, behaviors, principles) and a fruit for every letter of the alphabet. Some letters have a lot of possibilities, both for the idea and for the fruit, and some letters are a stretch. But I was able to do it, though not all of the fruit are personally known to me. However, all the ideas are important to me, I will use this project as inspiration to write, as I seem to be not writing much in the new year, or since the election actually. Another note: I am writing for an adult audience, though these illustrations look child-like. Maybe my children’s version will come later.
What is authenticity? Being authentic, your real, true self. One of the most influential writers on my life is Parker Palmer. His book Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of A Teacher’s Life got me through the rough years of teaching when I resisted the test-centered mandates.. It helped me to strive to be “authentic” in this struggle - to never forget that my students are precious souls that I am responsible to nurture., to help to be authentic. An earlier book of his, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life deepened my quest for authenticity and helped me to understand people who appear one way to the world, but whose actions contradict that. Their actions spoke louder than their apparent persona.
This morning I was listening to a podcast - Design Matters with Debbie Millman. The guest was Tanya Selvaratham, a writer-producer-activist. Her book Assume Nothing is an account of her experience with domestic violence. In the podcast, she discusses the insidiousness of abuse by one’s partner. In her case, it was the New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who she fell in love with because his appearance to the world as a progressive who meditated hid his latent misogyny. This reminded me of my interest in authenticity, especially in terms of one's relationships.
My first play, Wind Dances, was about a young Japanese-American dancer who hid her authentic self from her father. My second play, Pulani, was about a young Chamorro girl who had to go on a journey to become her authentic self, a healer responsible to help her community. I wrote a play, Ka Ikena, exploring whether one could or should return to one’s values held in youth. The main character was a visionary poet as a college student and then became a successful developer. When I was writing this, I kept this theme taped to the wall next to my desk - “Can one live an authentic life?” I suppose if I stretched it, I’d find a way to fit this theme into all of my writing, but you get the idea.
How do you know if you are being authentic? How do I know if I am being true to myself, or just fooling myself? Just trying to please? To make nice? To avoid conflict? I have tried to twist myself every which way in the past, especially in navigating the world of relationships and trying to make something work when it wasn’t meant to.
In today's political climate, I am particularly triggered by blatant hypocrisy - for example how one can claim to be "pro-life" but then have no empathy for migrants who risk their lives so that their children can have not jut better lives, but LIFE itself. And who would have thought I would honor Republican Liz Cheney for her integrity? I disagree with most of her conservative views but admire her courage standing up to the dangerous anti-democratic lies that her party continues to spew.
What is truth? Authenticity? I do think the answer is knowable, but sometimes it needs to unfurl on its own. It takes being vigilant, being open to being wrong, being on the lookout for signs. For example, if you lie, and find yourself having to lie again to cover your initial lie, that’s a sign of inauthenticity. If you hurt and alienate loved ones to preserve your lie, that is a sign.
The quest for authenticity is a song that never ends.You can keep adding verses, keeping the theme and melody of your authentic self. It can get more and more complex, but you know it’s consistently the same song. If you don't know what that song is - the melody, the theme - that is a sign and a first step is to find it. . Then sing it.
Writing long essays were good for me, to help me to organize my thoughts, back up my arguments, etc., but it was a lot like preaching to the choir, and having few readers.. I find that writing letters to the editor of my local paper serves a greater purpose. This is my community, so I am in dialogue with people in my own small community. I don't have illusions that I changed anyone's mind, but I think it's important to TRY to educate. This was in response to a previous letter writer who wanted to know why the media called the insurrectionists involved in the Capitol riots a "mob" while the Black Lives Matter protesters are called "protestors" or "activists."
The sun sets on 2020, and in the past I made a list of "best things" about the year. This year, my list is shorter. No travel, but lots of learning. This will not be in chronological order, or in order of importance. Except for the first one, the things will be posted as they come to my mind as I relax with this adult beverage.
If I had to choose a word to describe how I feel about 2020, I would say fortunate. Though I am sad to have lost loved ones I will never see again (two cousins, a beloved husband of a good friend), for the most part, I have been fortunate. Instead of feeling restless and frustrated, I feel gratitude. Grateful that I have a place to live, an income (pension, investments, social security), a family, friends, health, a sense of purpose.
Reflection one year after a psychedelic women’s retreat
Many of you who know me might be shocked to know that the women’s retreat I went to last year was a psilocybin (aka “magic mushrooms”) retreat, so this is a “coming out” of sorts. I had been meaning to write about my experience at this Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) women’s retreat in Oaxaca, Mexico ever since I returned a year ago. But it is better that I waited a year; I can now write about how it affected me.
My psilocybin journey connected the dots for me in many ways and I am convinced this particular gift from nature has much to offer the world. I wrote a detailed account which I will publish in total at some point. In this essay, I skip the activities and descriptive details and instead share how it helped me to break through spiritual, creative, and psychological blocks.
The Dec. 1 Bloomberg Opinion piece on education policy reminded me of the bad old days of former presidents George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Barack Obama’s Race to the Top, with its anti-union undertones and that trigger word — “accountability.”
It paints unions as protecting members, devoid of accountability. No one goes into teaching because it’s easy, or because they can do whatever and be protected by a union. If you ask educators why they went into the profession, their answers will most likely be altruistic. Teachers want to be successful in their jobs, but most know that success measured by test scores is shallow and demoralizing. Encouraging positive relationships, assigning meaningful long-term projects, promoting collaboration with others, fostering creativity, reading to pursue their own interests, applying critical thinking are goals that don’t get measured but contribute to measures of success for most teachers.
The Bloomberg piece encourages Biden to expand charter schools. We do have successful ones in West Hawaii, but expansion means the opposite for traditional schools — reduction. Again, the Bloomberg piece demonizes unions, saying they have “waged war” against charter schools. In Hawaii, charter schools are represented by the same union as traditional public schools, so there isn’t the same antagonism that other places may have. However, there is some resentment between the two types of schools, having to do with funding.
In the Biden-Harris administration, I am hoping for a new era of respect for public education. Opportunities that we provide can be monitored and elevated. Besides securing the basics, we can note if students are getting the counseling they need and the arts that would enhance their learning; if their physical environments are conducive to learning; if they are safe; if they have nutritious meals; if they are learning how to get along with each other; if they are connecting to their communities and the world; if critical thinking is valued and implemented.
Test scores are only one piece of information about student development, but if it’s the major thing you consider, everything else will take a back seat.
Diane Aoki is a resident of Kealakekua
Another of my letters to my local paper.
Democracy or republic? Electoral College or not?
I agree with Patricia Knox’s letter on Nov. 24 that civics education needs to be mandatory. Just as important is thinking skills, which can be taught all across the curriculum through all grades. This includes the ability to process complex issues, such as whether the United States is a democracy or republic, or the merits of the Electoral College. Ms. Knox claims that we are not a democracy. A democracy is a government by the people either directly OR by their elected representatives. In a republic, laws are made by elected representatives and governed by a constitution protecting its citizens’ rights. So, we are both.
The Electoral College was a cunning deal, with the slave-owning states gaining the upper hand. Counting their slaves as 3/5ths of a person, gave them more representatives and electors, which served them well. Now that we have Constitutional voting rights protections, does the Electoral College still serve to perpetuate racism, as it did at its onset?
One thing to consider: A vote in California, which has a very diverse population, carries less weight than a voter in Wyoming, a very white state, when translating the numbers into the Electoral College. A vote in states with large urban areas, which are racially diverse, have less weight than states that are largely rural, which are mostly white.
The times demand of us to be critical thinkers. Civics education must include the history and impact of this racism.
A Protest Song
Published on Medium aokidiane.medium.com/i-dont-know-why-you-still-love-him-7c63545c4361
Story Behind the Song
I have a friend who was writing lyrics to old songs as a way to vent her anxiety about our current political situation. She shared the lyrics on Facebook a while back — maybe 2 months ago. That inspired me to write this one. I had written this song in 2015 as a broken-hearted love song, (I Told A Man I Loved Him) which I never shared except at a songwriting workshop at the Hawaii Songwriting Festival. I used the same melody for this song, so I didn’t have to work out a new tune, and the words came easily.
I had taken classical guitar lessons in college many moons ago. Once when I was low on money, and out of frustration for my skills, I sold my guitar. I finally replaced it when I was in Baja Mexico in 2000, where I bought a small guitar (size of a big ukulele) for about $30. I’d been practicing noncommittally over the years. In the pandemic, I decided to re-learn guitar. so I took a class from Great Courses, then signed up for a free 3-month trial from Fender.
When I wrote this song, it was with the intention to share it as part of the movement to vote Trump out. But I just could not get to the point of mastery and time was running out, so I made the decision — mistakes and all — just post it. So today, I posted on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. My hope is that I will have some musician friends — at least 1 — who will learn it and share it. I really never wanted to be a performer, but I do want to be a songwriter. I realized early on in my songwriting journey that I would need to have some kind of performing skills in order to share. So, I’ve been working on that. In fact, I set my writing aside for a while in order to put in my practice time for this.
Here it is. Mistakes and all. For what it’s worth. MUSICIANS! If you would like to learn it, sing it, share it, please do, I’d be honored. Just credit me somewhere.
Link to YouTube Video
How can you be both against abortion AND birth control?
Do you wonder why Christians you think are reasonable can STILL support Trump, even if they know he’s immoral and incompetent? It’s because they think they’re saving babies. He doesn’t need to be eloquent or even have policy plans. All he has to do is say certain magic words, like law and order, and in this case, abortion. For good measure, say “nine month” abortion, and you have secured a moral imperative in which the ends justify the means.
It’s not about saving babies though.
If it’s about saving babies, you would be FOR birth control, right?You wouldn’t have pushed for the 2014 Supreme Court decision that allows private companies to deny birth control coverage to their employees if it opposes their religious beliefs. Women earning less than a living wage will not be able to afford birth control and therefore possibly be faced with unintended pregnancies. Will they have abortions? Maybe, maybe not. But you didn’t have to put them in this position! You could’ve just allowed them the contraception and the education to prevent unintended pregnancies. Voila! No abortion necessary.
If it’s about saving babies, you would not be so adamant about overturning Roe v Wade
The data is in: abortions have declined to its lowest levels since Roe passed. The reasons are unclear, but the theories seems to coincide with changing social norms, as well as increased access.
More women are expected to work, to get some postsecondary education, and to support their families, which make unplanned childbearing more costly and the benefits of delay much greater. The second reason is greater access to and increased use of the most effective forms of contraception, such as long-acting reversible contraceptives.( Sawhill and Guhot, Brookings, June 24, 2019)
If Roe is overturned, abortions will continue. If public opinion is a gauge, the majority of Americans are not opposed to abortion. 61% think that abortion should be legal in all or most cases while 38% believe abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. If a woman’s life situation compels her to end the pregnancy, she will, no matter the risk. Young people support abortion rights, and if their current fervor for activism is an indication, they will not easily acquiesce to rights being taken away.
If you succeed in criminalizing all abortions, they would be moved underground as before, unsafe and illegal. Women with means would be able to have them safely, and women without means would likely resort to desperate unsafe measures. That’s how it was back then, in the dark ages. Mentioning the methods is just too sad, but you can google it.
Diane Aoki is a writer who explores other modes of creativity as her intuition leads her.