Featured

The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost

road-not-taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.


This is my favorite poem of all time. Having spent the first 18 years of my life living under a rock in regards to world knowledge, this was such an ideal vision for me. I finally got to put a little bit of it to my life when I moved to Vermont. I continue to be inspired by it, and emulate it’s vision in my own life.

What Makes Me A Health Advocate

caduceus-alone

My keyword for 2016 (and beyond) is health. I’ve been ignoring my own for a while, and it shows. This post can only cover so many things in one go, but I’ll give it a try!

Issues I care about:

Vaccination

As someone who was vaccinated on time after I was born (plus having a mom whose professional title is registered nurse!), I’m an advocate for vaccinating children on time. It’s been scientifically proven to curb the spread of curable diseases. Vaccines do not cause autism. Raw Story refutes 6 common Anti-Vax myths.

A friend of mine wrote a book on this subject, and she can defend it better than I can. Check out her book here. Mark Zuckerberg has a book from his club that talks about it.

I believe that anti-vaccination advocates are conspiracy theorists.

Obesity, Proper Nutrition & Physical Fitness

Body image is something that I’ve struggled with since 2001. I am obese, and have been since roughly the 7th grade. While I have sympathy for the “body acceptance movement” I do agree that obesity is still something we need to fight against, and the epidemic continues to grow (pun intended).

With that being said, I feel that it’s an ocean of opposing forces working against getting a healthy body. I have personally experienced how difficult it can be to fight sugar addiction, such as not drinking soda any more. This is at the core of why I believe that corruption has influenced corporate food service. It’s a scary thing to realize that 10 companies control almost everything that we consume in the name of food. What’s scarier is that the market for gyms and fitness centers is so focused on profits that it’s not so much about getting people healthier, but just trying to make a profit. There’s an internet meme that says:

Don’t write one more post about obesity until you can explain to me why a salad costs $7 and a hamburger costs $1.

I can completely understand this. My wallet thanks me when I choose to buy cheap junk food instead of pricey organic vegetables. Furthermore, I’m not a skilled chef in the kitchen, so I’m very unaware of all the great recipes for vegetarian dining out there.

I believe in more awareness of local farmer’s markets and spreading great vegetarian full course options.

HIV and STI awareness

STI rates are skyrocketing. And it’s not just gay men. I feel like not just the millennial generation, but the population as a whole has gone completely flazèda when it comes to safe sex. Honestly, I don’t even have words to offer about what to do, since the current concept of “safe sex education” seems to have ground to a halt when it comes to effectiveness.

For gay men over 40, it’s as if we’ve come back from a war that was far away and distant to most Americans even as it was happening — not unlike the actual wars we’ve experienced in this country in the past decade. -Michelangelo Signorile

I think most people under the age of 35 have forgotten the major AIDS crisis, and the number of lives it claimed. There’s a disconnect where today’s generation feels like it’s all just history now.

Proper Sleep

These days it’s too easy to lose sleep. Our several screens are keeping us awake, in addition to the rest of life’s problems that we constantly worry about. It’s occurred to me that even by having a TV in the bedroom also contributes to the problem. It’s so obvious that sleep is very important to each and every one of us out there. Sleep deprivation is a health hazard.

I used to hate the following quote, now I find it not only accurate, but I believe in it:

“I’m very proud if Grindr has forced us to up up our game. To brush our teeth. Comb our hair. Eat right. Go to the gym. Be a healthy person. Cut back on the smoking. Cut back on the bad things and look your best. We’re men. We visualize. We see before we hear, before we think, before we do anything else. That’s how we are. I haven’t changed that. That’s what our evolution has taught us to do. I certainly go to the gym more because of Grindr. I’m competing with the guy a space away from me on that grid.” – Joel Simkhai, CEO of Grindr, speaking to Michelangelo Signorile.

I’m sure I’ll be adding more to this in the months to come.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Thoughts On: The News

Feedly-logo

Why it’s important:

For the past near-decade now, I keep saying that my news reader app, Feedly (Though I used to use Google Reader) is the most important app on my phone. It’s the one I check constantly, it’s where I learn so much about what’s going on in the world and understand what to be looking for when I leave the house.

Twitter has been a piggyback on that for me – most journalists are on twitter, news breaks on twitter, and I have several mentors and close friends whom I first met on Twitter. I’ve learned about men’s fashion from the Tie Guy, progressive politics from Shoq, and how to look at the world differently (and interact with it) from You Too, Can Be A Guru. A close friend who works for a TV news station and I first met on twitter at a conference years ago.

At the end of the day, it all comes back to constantly finding the latest story about the world. I pride myself on being a storyteller, and it’s my spiritual belief (as a Unitarian Universalist) to spend time listening to other people’s life stories and making my own life better for hearing them, that it’s only natural that I’d be drawn to the news.

How I Got Started:

I first got hooked in 2010 when I discovered what an RSS reader is and does. I learned through “the magic” of Google that website updates can be organized chronologically and like a magazine to be read at one’s leisure and bookmarked to pick up right where you left off. That was Google Reader. After starting my college education in 2006, I started trying to soak up as much of the world as I could like a sponge, since I spent much of my childhood in denial that there was a “rest of the world” out there. I made different categories for the different things that interested me – LGBTQ Issues, Politics, Technology, Finance, ect. I even found out how to plug in blogs and Facebook/Twitter feeds from friends, to keep up with them better. Eventually Google closed down reader, and I’ve had a home at Feedly ever since.

Over time, I refined my sources. The two sites I first ever plugged in were JoeMyGod (LGBTQ Issues) and Mashable (Technology). From there, I kept looking for new sources. I started with the places they quoted from. I found David Pakman on iTunes and started looking up his sources, like Raw Story and Think Progress. The point was to learn. The point was to know what was happening at any given moment. I started looking up local news sources like the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and eventually Seven Days and the Burlington Free Press. There’s a number of people that come to me with technology questions, and the only reason I know how to answer them is because I’m armed with information from places like TechCrunch, Business Insider Tech, and MacRumors.

Bias In The News & Media:

As I continue to grow in my reading, I have come to see more and more about media biases. The bias in media isn’t “Liberal” per se, but rather money. Taking a cue from David Pakman & Shoq Value, I agree that the media market seems very controlled. There is an excellent infographic that can be found here that demonstrates this point perfectly. I make a specific point to seek out independent news sources whenever possible. I have rarely been to the website of a mainstream TV station (or seen a broadcast) in the past 6-10 years.

Money talks in media. The common reference is that “Fox News is owned by the republicans” and “MSNBC and CNN are owned by the democrats.” Here’s some evidence behind that. I think it goes even deeper than that. It comes down to the advertisements you see while browsing the web, on your phone, ect. Yes, I do have a specific political leaning, but part of my journey when I came to Vermont was to open my mind more and look at the world from a different perspective.

Bernie Sanders brought up this very point in his book, Outsider In The White House. He says:

Positive stories are ignored, negative stories are played up…It’s hard to win a fight against someone behind a TV camera. We need to keep thinking about it.

The context for this quote is that he’s talking about a local Vermont news channel’s bias against him in a 1996 election, but the idea applies in so many different ways. How often do you hear any happy news stories being played, not only on TV but online and in print? Happy stories don’t bring in viewers and page views, but negative and “shocking” stories do. Fox isn’t the only station that uses this technique to hook in viewership. Bernie goes on to talk about the media blackout of opposition to the Persian Gulf War in the 90’s.

Furthermore, specific people and companies tend to be shown more favorably on different media channels, and it’s because there’s an exchange of money for it. I don’t blame news companies, per se – they are businesses too after all, but it does make it difficult to take journalism seriously when you see if time after time after time.

There is a major difference between News Reporting, News Opinion, and Entertainment. Corporate media blurs the lines between all three of these. For the longest time, even I was blinded to the differences. I used to see the two political opinion show hosts I follow (David Pakman and Rachel Maddow) as political reporting, when in fact they are opinions and not strictly reports. And yes, Rachel Maddow is part of the corporate conglomerate that is MSNBC – I do see that. What I enjoy about Maddow is that her show (in my opinion)  falls on that blur between news opinion and entertainment.

It wasn’t until a friend of mine began working for a local news station that I watched regularly, that I started to understand what actual news reporting is. Of course, local news channels aren’t independent, they are franchises of their corporate versions, but for the most part, I feel they get much closer to actual reporting. Watching FOX 6 in Milwaukee is a different experience than watching the national Fox News network. Generally speaking, there’s not nearly as much effort to make local news pieces controversial. In my lifetime, I’ve noticed the subtle things that media will do to make events seem more controversial than they really are, in an effort to hook as many people as possible to them. I have been trying to train myself to speak objectively in as many situations as possible, and this blog will become virtual proof of that, assuming I ever get around to not talking about myself and my own life on here.

Another media platform that is sometimes overlooked is radio. While 40% of the world’s population has internet access, more people have access to an AM/FM radio, which is where the radio industry originates from. Now, many radio stations have obvious corporate backers, and independent radio stations have risen up. The David Pakman Show  started out as a radio program. RuPaul and Michelle Visage got their start in radio. This is part of why I get so excited about Podcasts, which I feel is my generation’s way of bringing radio back into the mainstream.

The bottom line is that I want my time and consumption dollars to be spent on media that’s not funded entirely by corporations that are only using the media to further their own interests. I believe that journalism should be about telling the story because it is compelling enough on it’s own, not because a reporter is being paid to tell it through a specific lens. And before you comment – I do recognize how “idealist” this sounds. It’s just my opinion.

Media Overload:

Every so often, I go through a cycle of cutting off some of my sources, if only for a little bit. I experience news fatigue. There’s just so much information coming at me in my own feed (Feedly, Facebook, plus Twitter is quite a lot), that I can’t handle all of it on the level that I used to. I actually tried to watch Pakman on TV instead of keeping up with his show via Podcast, and it got too overwhelming to constantly have to go in and add his videos to a playlist before I could watch them.

I’m curious to see if that rings true when/if I do go back to regularly listening to Pakman.

The news will always be important to me. For a brief period, I even considered changing my college major to journalism/communication to pursue it as a career. As I continue to look to it for my information, I will continue to improve my reading not only the articles themselves, but reading between the lines and seeing where the story is coming from and who wants it known. I’m looking forward to continuing to look at different sources, listening/reading about life from different perspectives, and expanding the way I see the universe.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Thoughts On: Seasons

I am the kind of person that needs four seasons in a year.

Why do I need four seasons? It’s because I have a need for constant change, constant evolution. The changing of the seasons is a perpetual reminder that time moves forward and we are always growing and moving on. Each season is special, but also finite.

I’ve noticed that many people in this world can’t stand cold and snow. If they are born in an area of the country where it’s a normal occurrence, they complain about it and hate it whenever it happens. I love it, in it’s time. I chose to move to Vermont from Wisconsin because I still need that time of year where the ground is covered in snow, the chill exists in the air, and the peaceful silence is there for reflection.

winter-05.jpg.png

Winter is my favorite time of the year to go outside walking. It’s great for reflecting, for listening, for stillness and getting rid of stresses in peace. Poetically, it’s a metaphor for death – the end of a previous life. We celebrate the end of each year during the winter (at least, in my hemisphere of the globe). During winter I like balsam and cedar candles, wood scents, peppermint in my coffee.

park-in-spring-picture.jpg

Spring is the poetic metaphor for birth. It’s a time when the light is coming back. It’s a time for the green grass to take over again. It’s a time for new beginnings, the birth of a garden. For me, spring is captured in the floral scented candles, images of flowers, caramel and sweet creamers in my coffee. Spring is also often “the penultimate test” for me, because it ends with school graduations. Having spent so much of my life surrounded by academia, I’ve always though of spring as “the end” of a year, which is why I’m always telling people that my “New Year’s Day” is somewhere between May and June.

summer-06.jpg.png

Summer is the metaphor for life. It represents happiness and joy to so many people. It’s the “normal” for much of the world, and it’s what those who hate the cold dream of every day of their lives. I capture it in citrus scented candles, lemonades on the porch, hazelnut creamers in coffee. Summer is always the beginning of the year to me, both because it’s just after the end of a school year, and also because my own birthday is toward the later end of the season. The older I get, the more I appreciate summer’s warmth and beauty. Who knows, perhaps I’ll end up in a place where it’s summer all year long?

sheet-market-fall-destination-locations-blog.jpg

Fall is the most beautiful season to me. In poems it represents dying and decay, but the colors and energy are so vibrant that it’s hard for me to picture it that way. Fall feels more like a beginning (once again, because of my academic life always starting in September), and I capture it in the cinnamon and apple candle scents, the cinnamon and spices in my coffee creamers, and the sheer beauty of the land around me. The real privilege of living in Vermont is the absolute painting of the landscape around me in the fall. I’ve been awestruck by how much of a firework show is put on by nature during the months of fall.

At this point in my life, I can’t picture living in a place without the changing of the seasons, just like the changing of the guards.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Thoughts On: Vermont

state-flag-vermont

The original version of this post was written in January 2014, and I’ve preserved that underneath my addition. A second post was written less than a month after I arrived to explain why I chose Vermont. That’s also preserved below.

Vermont has been very good to me so far. I’ve seen state parks, I’ve had two different jobs, learned about a whole new industry, and successfully made my way back into school. Vermont has been both exactly what I expected, and not at all like what I expected at the same time.

What I expected was the feeling of a fresh start. I’ve made an entirely different set of friends since I moved here, I’ve lived in both an apartment with a formal landlord and a house with landlords who have also been counted as friends. Vermont has given me the chance to live out my Waupaca dream, in a rural setting where I can go out walking at night and not have to worry about being mugged or killed.

200444257-001

What I didn’t expect was to find a diverse group of people and experiences. People say that Vermont is “granola and liberal” but I’ve found much of the opposite. “Liberal” and “conservative” also have different implications here. I was used to “conservative” being associated with “anti-gay” whereas here, gay and straight people are very integrated. Gun culture is huge – most people own a gun and know how to use it. I feel like hunting is bigger here than it is in Wisconsin, and that’s saying something. There are more options for healthier food sources, but it’s not as pushed as it appears to be on the internet. Vermont still has an Olive Garden, several McDonald’s, and plenty of other junk food places, alongside the Healthy Living, Trader Joe’s, and organic sections in the grocery stores.

I used to think that “being stuck” where one grew up was a Wisconsin small town thing, but it’s everywhere. There’s plenty of people who were born and raised here that never left the town they grew up in. Some people are happy with that, others complain about it. It’s a fact of life. I got sick of being one of the complainers, which is why I made the decision to move.

I’m starting to see the world a little differently as I continue to spend time here. I hear stories of, and have met people who lived in rural trailer parks, people who knew heavy drug users, people who go back and forth from Canada to their homes on a regular basis, people who can guzzle hand-tapped maple syrup like it’s water. Most folks out here are county-oriented, and love the outdoors; skiing, hiking, camping and the like.

I haven’t fully decided what I’m going to do after I get my bachelors. There are parts of Vermont that I love and there are parts that I’ve definitely had my fill of. At the end of the day, Vermont was the right choice for me in 2014, but who knows where life will bring me come (presumably) 2018.

Respectfully re-submitted,

Lukas Condie

vt_magshape


(Originally posted, May 2014)

Since so many people ask why I have come to Vermont, I’m making a post about it.

Reasons to be in Vermont:

  • Legal Equality.
    • If I do plant my roots here, I won’t even have to worry for a moment about getting married and having kids.
  • State natural beauty.
    • Vermont is one of the greenest and earth-friendly areas I know of.
  • To experience state culture.
    • Vermont has a uniqueness to it that really interests me, as someone who is proud of my own uniqueness.
  • The UU Church.
    • I have so much of my own spiritual journey in front of me.
      And in general it’s a place for me to start again. I lost my ambition and passion about 4 years ago, but have found it again here.

My goals to work towards while I am a Vermont resident:

Health

  • Achieve a goal weight of 165 pounds.
  • Create and maintain a balanced diet, including recognizing and utilizing proper portion sizes.
  • Expand my palette so that I can understand food in different cultures.
  • Walk/Jog 2 miles a day.

Finance

  • Pay off my Credit Card, and close that account.
  • Put money away to go back to college.
  • Put away six month’s worth of income in savings.
  • Know my credit score and continue to work to improve it.
  • Apply for a charge card to continue working with my credit rating, but not fall into a debt cycle again.

Education

  • Finish my bachelor’s degree, after re-starting with Community College.
  • Polish and continue to improve my online article database.
  • Manage and execute a proper reading list.
  • Continue to polish and improve my online skills, starting with blogging and continuing through all social networking.

Culture

  • Define a list of TV Shows and Movies that I have backlogged to view.
  • Define myself, my needs, and my ideas more completely.
  • More specifically, develop my identity and passions more fully.
  • Create and execute my own unique adult fashion style.
  • Refine what social networking means to me, which ones I use, and which ones I will grow with.
  • Learn how to shoot a gun.
  • Define Project #BeyondVT2018 and what the next step in my life will be.

 

(Original posting, January 2014):

It’s been over a year and a half since I last wrote an original post on here. That was 2012, and it’s now 2014.

My life has truly changed in a lot of ways. I’ve changed jobs, I’m single, and most importantly, I’ve developed a lot about who I am and what I stand for and believe in.

I feel like I’ve hit a wall here in Wisconsin. I’ve established a work history, a credit history, and have really felt the effects of letting myself fail out of college the first time around. At the same time, I’m thankful for how life has played out, since I wouldn’t be the person I am without the struggles I’ve gone through. I’ve taken the roots I started with about myself at Parkside and have a budding forest of trees worth of personality, beliefs, values, and interests now.

If you haven’t heard yet, I’m planning to move to Vermont this summer. I vacationed there last summer and absolutely fell in love with the place. Legally speaking, I can get married, have kids, and keep a job without anything interfering with any of those. That was the first thing that drew me there. During my trip, I learned plenty about the culture of the state, the charm of the people there, and the absolute beauty of the land. I can see why it’s considered to be the escape land for New Yorkers, just like how Wisconsin is the escape land for Chicago people. I’ve toured the Community College, and the public University, with plans to be on track to be back in school by Fall 2015.

I’ve come a long way since leaving Kenosha nearly 3 years ago, and I still have a long journey ahead of me. There’s plenty more to come.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Inspirations: The Doctor And Clara Oswald

img_4768

Who is The Doctor?

The Doctor is the title character of the long-running series, Doctor Who. The character is a Timelord from Gallifrey, who ran away with a machine that travels in all of time and space called the TARDIS (short for Time And Relative Dimension In Space), and who often travels with a companion or two.

Being a timelord, the Doctor lives for many hundreds of years, and instead of dying he “regenerates” into a new body and new personality. The show’s creators wrote this fact in when the first actor to play the Doctor became gravely ill and they wanted to keep the show going. To date, 13 different actors have played the role, with twelve having numbers and one non-numbered doctor being retroactively inserted into the series’ chronology in 2013.

Each Doctor has his own personality, tastes, interests, sense of style and decoration, and is unique. Most people know the different doctors by their number, which represents which incarnation of the Doctor they are. Because of this, a common question in the Who fandom is:

Which Doctor is “my Doctor?”

My answer to this involves two different Doctors, Ten and Eleven.

Tenth-Doctor-Blue-With-Coat11th-Doctor-Outfits-doctor-who-35669460-689-920

Just above this paragraph are my two doctors. Ten on the left, Eleven on the right. Ten is technically “my Doctor” because he’s the one I would want to travel with and learn from. He’s got the perfect balance between biting edge and soft understanding of others that really spoke to me when I first saw his part of the series. Both Ten and Eleven have copious amounts of charisma, but Ten has an air of responsibility about him that draws me to want to learn from him.

Eleven is just as charismatic in his own way, but more playful, more relaxed. He doesn’t seem to get as angry as Ten did (and nowhere near as much as Nine or Twelve seemed to), and he’s the Doctor that I see myself emulating.

What About The Doctor Inspires Me?

The Doctor, as a character is very wise and worldly, always traveling and always learning new things. This is even though he has the ability to see all of creation running through his own head as a timelord. He’s a hero to many, having saved countless numbers of planets and species throughout his millennium of lives. His charisma allows any number of different beings to be drawn to him and open up to him. Instead of being afraid of the unknown (which is the natural human instinct), he’s fascinated by it, and seeks it out as often as he possibly can.

All of these personal elements are something I want to strive for. I want to go out and see more of the world. I like being “the shoulder to cry on” or the person people can rely on. At a former job, a manager told me that she believes in “always learning, always growing” which is something I’ve taken with me, and I feel that’s reflected in the Doctor.

My cross country move taught me to look at the world in different ways. By watching the Doctor, I’m seeing that this can be a whole way of life.

kinopoisk.ru

Who is Clara Oswald?

Clara Oswald was a companion of the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors. (This part of the post is a follow up from Rose, a companion of the Ninth and Tenth Doctor)

Clara stepped into the Doctor’s life and changed him for the better. Spoiler alert; she also saves the Doctor’s life at one point. Clara is a clever school teacher who is very curious about the universe, and puts forth passion and energy into the her time with the Doctor (much like the other companions do), though her way of organizing the world around her is much like my own.

How Does Clara Inspire Me?

The episode that showcases the parts of Clara that I strive to emulate (in addition to the Doctor I try to emulate) is from the seventh series, The Bells Of St. John. It’s where Clara meets the Doctor for the first time, and he meets her for the third (time travelers have a funny life that way!)

Clara shows that she’s very savvy to technology – being the one to tap into several computer databases to help save the day, and she understands how to use them. Going forward she shows technological abilities that few other companions have shown to have while traveling with the Doctor. Many people in my personal circle seem to think that I have tech abilities, and while I admit that I do have some (I do own lukascondie.com after all!), I’m not a professional at it, mostly because I don’t have a full understanding of programming languages.

Clara is also resourceful, which is a Slytherin quality that I’m proud of. She knows when and what questions to ask, and how to find information or things she needs to save the world or get the job done. At one point, she posed as the Doctor when the real Doctor was incapacitated and she tried to save the world herself.

910_promo_001.jpg

Clara has been through heartbreak as well, and it changed the way she looks at life. Clara is how I see myself as a “single man” traveling the world, equally how I strive to emulate Eleven.

Thank you, Doctor and Clara for being inspirations!

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

What Makes Me A Queer Advocate

2000px-Gay_flag.svg

Being gay is part of (but not the only!) the core of my very being. Naturally, I am an advocate for learning about and spreading respect of Queer identities.

At it’s absolute core, there are four aspects to this: sexual orientation, sexual preference, gender identity, and gender expression. Let me break it down:

Gender Identity

This is the gender that one identifies as. It can be as simple and well-known as male or female, or it can be more complex and fluid, such as both, neither, and many others. Many people think it’s related to your reproductive bits, but it’s so much more than that. Sure, you can tie your identity to them, but there’s quite a few people out there who don’t.

Full disclosure: I can respect people questioning their gender identity, but I don’t believe that there’s an infinite number of genders out there when it comes to medical and professional things. Doctors ask about biological sex for medical reasons and need information to best help you out, not to oppress individuals.

Gender Expression

This is how one presents themselves to the world. A self identified male will wear men’s clothing, and have men’s interests, just the same way as a self identified woman will wear women’s clothes and have women’s interests. This begins just after the moment of birth, and is based on societal expectations of gender. For example, it is assumed that boys will play with trucks and girls will play with dolls. It shouldn’t be a thing that you have to follow societal standards to the gender that you identify with, but the vast majority of people do feel inclined to express the gender they identify with. It’s perfectly acceptable if a boy wants to play with a doll, or a girl wants to play with a truck.

Sexual Orientation

This is what one identifies as their attraction, based on their gender identity. A heterosexual (straight) male is attracted to females, a homosexual (gay) male is attracted to men, ect.

Sexual Preference

This is how one expresses their sexuality and attraction. This ranges from vanilla to kinky, from monogamous to polyamorous, and other aspects.

I’ll be referring to the above as the “four factors” for the rest of this post.

Queer Issues I fight for:

Marriage is the issue most people think of when they think of queer advocacy. However, marriage is only one specific battleground. There is so much more to fight for.

Employment Non-Discrimination

No one should be denied a job based on any of the four factors of their identity. According to LGBTMap.Org, it’s legal to fire someone for being gay in 28 states at this time I’m posting this. There’s an Employment Non-Discrimination Act that’s been drafted years ago and still trying to get through congress.

This fact alone colors the states that I’m comfortable living in, and is one of the core reasons why I picked Vermont to move to.

Parenting Laws: Adoption/Foster Parenting & Family Leave

It should be illegal to discriminate on potential parents because of their four factors. However, there are only SEVEN states where LGBT folks have their rights as a foster or adopted parent protected.

There are only THREE states where a spouse can use FMLA to take time off if there is a family emergency, without having to worry about proving the legal validity of the relationship. In only EIGHT others, is it legal to use FMLA to take time off for family, but ONLY if the relationship is legally verified, such as with a marriage certificate. 39 states have no leave law.

Medical Laws

In 39 states, it’s completely legal for a healthcare insurance company to refuse to provide coverage to someone because of their sexual/gender identity. This comes down to something as minor (but important!) as an STI screening, or all the way up to major surgery.

For Transgendered individuals, it’s a complicated state-by-state explanation on the legality of changing the recognized gender on one’s birth certificate and ID cards.

It’s still illegal for me to donate blood. Unless of course, I decide to be abstinent for a long time. But that’s not realistically gonna happen.

There are many more areas where injustice and inequality is the law of the land. This is only my personal introduction, hitting the points that I relate to and think about daily, but there are others out there who have to think about so much more when trying to just live life.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

What Makes Me A Unitarian Universalist

Flaming_Chalice.svg

I recently read The Unitarian Universalist Pocket Guide, and I figured it’s about time to make a post explaining my faith system.

41pZk+WCniL._SX346_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

What is Unitarian Universalism?

From the main website itself, Unitarian Universalism is a theologically diverse religion, that encourages people to find their own spiritual path. UU’s have an incredibly diverse mixture of backgrounds, ages, and beliefs. Atheists can be UUs. Jewish folk can be UUs. Christians can be UUs. Each person’s spirituality is unique to themselves, and this religion honors and reflects that.

From the guide:

Because Unitarian Universalists vary considerably in our individual views of spirituality, ministers are accustomed to supporting parishioners in a wide range of theological belief. Whether you are a theist, atheist, humanist, pagan, Deist, nature mystic (the list continues), you find yourself in a category known only to yourself, or you keep changing your mind, the minister will welcome you.

Unitarian Universalists hold the principles as strong values and moral teachings. As Rev. Barbara Wellsten Hove explains, “The Principles are not dogma or doctrine, but rather a guide for those of us who choose to join and participate in Unitarian Universalist religious communities.”

  1. 1st Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  2. 2nd Principle: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  3. 3rd Principle: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  4. 4th Principle: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  5. 5th Principle: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  6. 6th Principle: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  7. 7th Principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

From the pocket guide:

Unitarian Universalism is not attached to particular beliefs; rather it is committed to specific work– striking a balance between openness to differing viewpoints on one hand and fierce advocacy of shared ethical claims on the other.

Furthermore:

Unitarian Universalism is a non-creedal faith. Rather than a common theology, we are bound by our common history, our affirmation of each person’s spiritual quest, and the promises we make to one another about the spiritual values we uphold.

What led me to Unitarian Universalism?

My religious journey started back when I was in elementary school, and my parents took me to the local Methodist Church. Looking back, I didn’t really care too much for going – it was just more work on top of schoolwork. It was another book to read (the Bible), and worst yet, it was “permanent” consequences for making mistakes in life. Luckily, I was never tormented there (for being a closeted gay at that point), while some people had serious struggles with their church, but I wasn’t getting any kind of fulfillment from it either, except perhaps some moments volunteering in the nursery and looking after the children during worship services.

From the UU Guide:

Most people don’t question their social and religious customs. Most simply follow the conveyor belt of life.

This was where I was spiritually until the moment I put high school behind me.

As I entered college for the first time in 2006, I decided to shed my attachment to any religion, and defaulted to Agnostic. I had just enough shred of belief that there was something out there that it was an unanswerable question, so I didn’t fall neatly into the category of Atheist.

In spring 2008, I had a professor who was a UU minister (and happened to be teaching an LGBT Studies course at my school) and I noticed that several local events LGBTQ related were happening at the local UU church. I decided to start reading more about it online, and it really struck a chord with me. I liked how it wasn’t about one set book, that it took different viewpoints together, and was more like a college course on religion and spirituality itself.

In 2011, I started going to a church that was near me (In the meantime I had gotten caught up in the drama of failing out of school and moving to the north side of Milwaukee), and the more I went, the more I started to feel at home there. I related very much to the sermons, the people were very friendly, and I felt like it was a place where I could grow as a person. Not that I dealt with dogma at my childhood church, but I do tend to mentally associate dogma and anger with the halls of a church, having seen so many people use their religion as a sledgehammer on others.

Just before I came to Vermont, I started traveling to other UU Churches in the area (and one down in Missouri when I was there for a weekend), and continued to fall in love with the style and feeling. I’ve even been to the UU Church in downtown Burlington, which is the very Church that “Church Street” is named after.

My biggest challenge in actually going in to listen to sermons and connect with the community comes from my introversion. It’s difficult for me to go into a large room with around a hundred or so other people by myself and get comfortable where I am. I have a dream about meeting someone either romantically or platonically and going to sermons and getting more involved with them. Basically, It’s not something that I know I can do alone, but part of the magic of spiritual community is that friendships are made and it shouldn’t be too difficult to be a part of it.

From the guide:

The sense of awe that kindles the heart of a man when he watches the morning sun strike his bedroom wall and realizes how glad he is to be alive in that moment…

I have moments like this from time to time. This is what gets me out walking, what gets me wanting to see the world. This is what makes me want to listen to other people’s stories, and understand what makes each individual “tick.”

What are my core beliefs as a UU?

The way that I can combine almost all of the core values in the seven principles can be summed up like this:

I listen to as many different people’s life stories, learn from their experiences, and use that information to make myself a better person. From there, I use that wisdom to go out in the world and make a change for the better. 

This applies to even the people I “meet” on television. Many people out there complain about reality television, but what I do like is that it showcases real people’s life stories and experiences. I constantly tell people how I’m a blend of so-and-so and so-and-so, and I mean that. I care about others, and some individuals I meet in life have so much of an impact that I made little adjustments to the way I see life, based on what they’ve told me. Mostly for the better, but I’ve also learned some life lessons from rotten people and what they’ve experienced. At the end of the day, every person has value. Even The Doctor has said:

tumblr_ne1ieq6C4H1rtno3fo1_400

All of this is why I have the whole blog series, My Inspirations.

From the guide:

A good sermon can provoke a decision that moves a person in a whole new direction. It can lift up a portion of our lives, holding it in just such a light as to reveal facets we couldn’t easily see before. A good sermon can tug us further down the path toward a difficult forgiveness or remind us of our inestimable value as persons in a world that values little. Sermons can remind us of basic things we’ve forgotten, help us to learn and unlearn, show us how to reframe the seemingly impossible ideals so that we do not lose hope. I’ve heard sermons that have helped me question an easy faith, even wrestle with God.

I’ve had this experience a handful of times. But each time I have it, it’s incredible. It makes me yearn to hear more UU Ministers speak.

In a Unitarian Universalist congregation, anyone can write a meditation, preach a sermon, or lead a worship celebration.

I still have a long way to go as a UU. But the important thing is to keep listening to others, and keep learning.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie