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Another Perspective

White in a Black Community

    In the summer of 1966, I volunteered to work in an Episcopal Church in Compton, California. It was a modest stone building that had a detached parish hall. Maybe three hundred people could be squeezed inside.


    I was twenty and had just completed my junior year of college. The summer before, the Watts Riots had taken place. Saint Timothy's was located just a few blocks south of where the violence occurred. Along with another white man I didn't know, I lived in a small apartment on the second floor behind the parish hall. The room contained a couple of basic beds, dressers, and stiff chairs. There was also a small bathroom with a shower. Our assignment was to lead an educational program, conduct worship, offer a little religious training, and intermingle with the church community, which was entirely black.


    Doug Woodridge and I walked the neighborhood when we first arrived, passing out flyers announcing the summer program. Teenagers were employed to work with elementary school children. The teens helped the younger students with their reading and math skills. It was a well-conceived program we were being brought in to run.
Doug and I were the only white faces anywhere to be seen, except for the police officers that cruised by looking out of their heavily armed cars like caged animals. I was emotionally young and had a hard time living in these conditions. I went home most weekends to take a deep breath and prepare for the next week. I knew this was frown upon, but I was ill-equipped to lead the program, and the tension drained me. It was I who was being educated, and I could absorb only so much before needing to retreat.


    My biggest take-away from that summer experience was that the teens and my aspirations were the same. The primary difference between us was the color of our skin. That was an enormous revelation for me.
I remember one of the teenage girls saying how upsetting the nearby billboards were. I didn't understand. "They taunt us with items and a lifestyle we cannot afford," she said. "We're shown what we don't have, and the reminder is in our faces every day."


    Growing up in Beverly Hills, this was new to me. While my parents didn't give me much money to carry around, I didn't do without. If there was something I wanted, I usually got it. Being told through advertising, 'this is what you should have,' and not having the means to acquire it was foreign to me. When I saw her point, I understood the frustration and anger that led to the looting and burning the year before.


    The teens spoke of those who made it out of the ghetto and never returned. They both envied and despised these people.


    I was treated well that summer, though on my first day while I was interviewing for the position, someone stole the cassette player out of my car. "They wanted it more than you did," I was told. That rationalization never sat well with me. Other than that, I felt protected and safe, though Doug and I were careful not the leave the church grounds after dark.


    I didn't do my job well. I was ignorant about the Bible, church history, and many of the things I was expected to speak about during the morning chapel services. I'm sure Saint Timothy's leaders were disappointed in me, I would have been if I had been in their shoes. Nevertheless, I received a world-class education of my own that summer, one I am incredibly grateful for.
 
 
 

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Merry Christmas

The Mystery became flesh and dwelt among us. In him appeared life and this life was the light of mankind. The light still shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

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Working with the Dream Ego

 In my Hangtown trilogy, one of the characters, Claire, has a series of mind-boggling dreams. She wanted to know what the dreams meant, so she asked others, including her Roma friend, Adi. That was 1852. Today Adi can't help us, but there are several useful resources that can. One of these is called the dream ego.
 
The dream ego is the image of you in the dream. The actions, attitudes, and feelings of the dream ego are revealing. They tell us things about ourselves we either haven't noticed; or, if we have seen them, we aren't taking these parts of ourselves seriously enough.


There are three steps for working with the dream ego. They'll provide a perspective that is different from our initial understanding of the dream, which is what we want.


Dream:
I am in college in England. It's a fancy private school. I have been away for a while but am returning with good intentions to take advantage of what is here.
 
Here are three steps.


Step One: Follow the action of the dream ego.
This step looks at what the dream ego is doing, and not doing, to highlight the decisions that the dream ego is making.
 
A) Rewrite the dream describing what the dream ego is doing.


Example: I have gone to England for schooling. I am in a fancy private college, one I attended during an earlier time of my life. I intend to take advantage of what the school has to offer.
Decisions:     To go to school
           In England
           Not any school, but a fancy, private one
           This time to take advantage of what is offered
 
B) Rewrite the dream describing what the dream ego is not doing.


Example: I'm not staying home, continuing what I'm currently doing.
I don't ignore or decline the invitation to attend the school.
I am not going to England to seek a job, to vacation, to visit a friend, to teach others, or to have fun.
I am not in a public school, not surrounded by everyday folks, not going to a school everyone can access.
I am not here to repeat my previous experience.


These are the thoughts that come to me quickly. More thoughts might occur later.  This part of the exercise illuminates behaviors or decisions I am not making. It tells me what in the dream might be unusual or missing.
 
Step One Conclusion: My unconscious (source of the dream) wants me to open up to something new. I will do this by returning to an old, familiar way of learning. This time I will do a better job.
 
Step Two: Describe the feelings and attitudes of the dream ego.
 
A) List the dream ego's feelings and attitudes.


Example: A transition is at hand. I am leaving my comfort zone to go to a place I haven't been to in a long time.
I feel adventurous about going to England for school.
I am happy for a second chance.
I am familiar with fancy schools.
I am not concerned about the school's exclusivity.
I feel special to be attending this school.
I am determined to take advantage of the opportunity.
 
B) Describe the attitudes or feelings your ego experiences that are missing from the dream.


Example: I'm not interested in returning to school.
Traveling to Europe for school would be intimidating.
I'd be uncomfortable attending an exclusive school.
I'd be insecure about being able to learn what was taught.
The thrill of adventure is a minor influence in my life.
 
C) Go through the list of feelings and attitudes, and ask each one:


Is this a new feeling or attitude for me?
What is unusual about this feeling or attitude?
Example: The adventurous feeling is unusual.
Going to England for school is new and not a typical thing I'd do.
 
Step Two Conclusion: In this dream, none of the feelings or attitudes of the dream ego are unexpected or unusual. The absence of playfulness is noteworthy though. Whatever it is I'm to learn, my unconscious views as a serious matter, and the unconscious is determined I take advantage of it.
 
Step Three: Ask the dream ego questions.
In this step, we seek to correlate the dream ego's actions/decisions and feeling/attitudes with what's currently going on in our waking lives.


Example: Describe what the dream ego did or felt that I'm not doing in my waking life.
What is my old, familiar approach to learning? What do I need to do differently that'll improve its effectiveness? What is going on in my life now that's like this? What opportunity beckons me?


Since this dream indicates a transition is at hand, I want to know what past change or transition needs revisiting—and doing better? What transition am I being called to make?
Am I resisting making the change the unconscious wants me to make? If so, why?


Step Three Conclusion: In this dream, the dream ego has the opportunity to redo something it didn't take full advantage of when it first experienced it. What might that be? How would my life be different if I did what the dream ego is doing?  What is preventing me from doing this? Also, why isn't there room for playfulness?
 
My reflections: I've never attended school in England, much less a fancy one, so the dream isn't about a second chance to do that. This dream is about something else.


I had this dream at the beginning of my retirement. At the time of the dream, I was looking for what I was going to do. A return to writing, an interest in school I never took seriously, was an opportunity that attracted me, though this time, my writing would be fiction, not non-fiction, with a new determination. Writing a novel would be an exciting adventure that would take me to new places. Since I'd never written a novel, I have much to learn.
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Give this exercise a try with one of your dreams. Let me know if you find the steps helpful. Since I used a short dream to demonstrate how the process works, not every section of the exercise proved to be revealing. That's not uncommon. Give each step a try, but don't fret if a section isn't useful. Another will be.
Send your questions or comments to: binghambooks@gmail.com.
 

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A Little Early California History

California today is an open, welcoming community. It hasn't always been this way. The State has had its share of white supremacists in leadership positions and has honored some of them by naming precious resources after them. We should never forget our history. Here is one example.


John Bigler, a Democrat, in 1851 was running to become the third Governor of California. It's reported on a campaign stop in Hangtown, he visited a floriculturist. While in her shop, he admired a plant with a profusion of white blossoms. The woman smiled and told him the admired flower came from a bulb. She promised to send him some for his inauguration. On the day Bigler was sworn in, the woman sent him a peck of potatoes.


Bigler was popular during his early years in office. His stern policies and harsh verbal attacks on the Chinese were well received. When he first came to power, the capital was in Vallejo, but it lacked the facilities, supplies, and furniture to fulfill the function. Bigler argued the capital should be moved to his adopted home of Sacramento. It was granted, but flooding problems prevented Sacramento from retaining the seat of government. It moved again, this time to Benicia. To encourage the move, Benicia's leaders built a building for the legislature's exclusive use. Nevertheless, Benicia didn't work out either. Government returned to Sacramento and in February 1854 Governor Bigler signed a bill making Sacramento the official Capital of California.


The Governor's popularity peaked in 1854 at the start of his second term. Democrats were the majority in the legislature and pushed through a bill to rename Lake Bonpland, "Lake Bigler". It was John C. Fremont who'd named the high Sierra lake, "Bonpland". Fremont's name never caught on. People preferred to call it "Mountain Lake" or "Fremont's Lake." Maps began identifying it as Lake Bigler in 1853 and the legislature made it official the following year.


Bigler's popularity faded when it became evident he didn't handle State funds wisely and that he supported the South in the Civil War. When he lost favor, so did naming the lake after him. Maps returned to identifying it as "Mountain Lake".  In 1862 it was suggested by Union supporters that the lake be given the name "Tahoe," the name used by a local tribe.


"Tahoe" didn't receive universal acceptance either. Mark Twain mocked the name, urging a return to Bigler. The Placerville Mountain Democrat started an unfounded rumor that "Tahoe" was the name of an Indian who preyed on whites. In response to the criticisms, in 1870 the legislature changed the official name back to "Lake Bigler." It remained this way for approximately thirty years, when the Bigler name again fell out of favor. By the turn of the twentieth century most people were referring to the lake as "Tahoe", though the Legislature didn't officially change the lake's name until 1945.


John Bigler was a man of his times. It's good he is no longer honored for it.
 

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Split Up California

The latest proposal to split up California has been put on hold. It follows—are you ready—two hundred twenty other attempts since California became a state. Be assured I’m not writing about the two hundred twenty attempts, only the early ones that came the closest to being approved. *

Background
Spaniards  Read More 
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A Forgotten American Hero

John Armor Bingham (1815-1900) is one of those historical figures who dedicated his life to making living conditions better for all people, succeeded, and then was forgotten. I wish I was related to him, perhaps named after him, but I’m not.

Yale constitutional law professor Akhil Reed Amar wrote of Bingham:
Even as  Read More 
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Why It’s a Mistake to Interpret Dreams

The other day a friend told me he’d been asked to interpret another person’s dream. He wanted to know what I thought about dream interpretation. Here are my thoughts.
Dreams function as a bridge between consciousness and the unconscious. They’re able to do this because dream images are symbols. Like all  Read More 
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The Life of Alfred Nolan

The following is an account of Alfred Dolan. His story offers a glimpse into the life of prospectors during the California Gold Rush.

Al was born and raised in the Plymouth, Massachusetts. At this time Plymouth was a relatively isolated coastal community dependent on fishing, shipbuilding, and the manufacturing of rope and related products.  Read More 
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The Conflict between Donald Trump's Values and the Values of Christmas

One of the reasons Donald Trump has risen to a position of prominence is due to his being a successful businessman. He is good at making money and promises to use his skills to restore America to greatness. It doesn’t surprise me his rise coincides with the decline of religious belief. Polls indicate  Read More 
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August, 2016 Health Update

A quick update on my chronic lymphocytic leukemia. I am in a trial study that is looking at how two drugs work together on the cancer cells. One I take by infusion: Gazyva. I have experience with this drug, having had it in my last trial study. I am again having a positive response  Read More 
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