Saturday, May 15, 2010

A Day with Shotguns

I spent yesterday on a gun range in an NRA shotgun class sponsored by the DTMMS Organization of Shootists. Having spent most of my life in a somewhat vague anti-gun stance (resembling "well, how could they be good?"), the classes I have taken through DTMMS have been eye-opening.

My friend Karen has written about this in one of the more thoughtful blog posts I've seen on this topic, with some useful training links - the main point being that education always trumps ignorance, and self-reflection and self-responsibility are what really make a life and death difference in our world.

Having now been introduced to shotguns, I can't say I'll be racing back out to shoot clays anytime soon. I was totally surprised to find that I loved rifle shooting, and becoming a decent shot with a pistol has been an intriguing and worthy challenge. But shotguns...I'm not there yet.

I did enjoy the sport - watching my friends succeed, learning how to align with their intent and feel what was about to happen, predicting with greater and greater accuracy whether the shooter at the line would hit their mark.

But my birdies? Let's just say that if I were suddenly forced to feed myself by shooting small game, it might be a good time to consider vegetarianism. I understand the theory, and I even had a few moments when my shot and the clay occupied the same place in space and time. (A very few...) I know what it feels like to stop trying, stop thinking, align with that target and actualize my intent.

And that's the reason that yesterday will not be the last day with a shotgun in hand. Frustration and bruises aside (and no, bruises are not inevitable - they're just the evidence of how much more I have to learn), that feeling is worth learning.

Ultimately, that's the biggest energy I've gained in meeting the challenge to learn to shoot: I've encountered no other experience that demonstrates so strongly and immediately what it feels like to intend and hold total responsibility for that intent. And a shotgun teaches how to do that in motion. Yes, indeedy - that's worth going back for.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


I'm traveling at the moment, and am presently in a very agreeable place: Ann Arbor, MI.  I spent a lot of my life in university environments because they are so stimulating: the university is dedicated to learning, and so is usually surrounded by a frenzy of learning opportunities, from the traditional bookish things to exotic and experimental foods to musical or theatrical experiences to community diversity, and more.  People in college towns carry an aura of energetic focus, of intensity and interest.  Ann Arbor is a great example of all those good things, and in addition is a lovely town; on top of all that, it's spring and gorgeous.  So, how happy can I stand to be? 

Well - pretty happy, as it turns out.  But on to the point of this blog.

I live in Arizona.  The culture clash between Arizonans (as represented by our legislature, for the purposes of this blog, which has just passed a permit-free concealed carry law as well as a very controversial immigration law) and the decidedly liberal university community in Ann Arbor is a little shocking.  In my conversations here I've encountered quite a few people who just refuse to consider the idea of even visiting Arizona (or are convinced their friends/family physically prevent them from going, for political reasons).  It's pretty clear from their conversation that they consider most Arizonans to be whacked-out Neanderthal right-wing-nuts, devoid of both compassion and intelligence.  I'm not exaggerating.  Do they see themselves ever taking the time, making the effort, to talk with any of them (always supposing, of course, that Arizonans can talk)?  No.  Decidedly not.  Most certainly not.  No.

It's a shame, because at least some Arizonans feel similarly about university liberal types.  (Well, Arizonans realize liberals can talk - in fact, they may be of the opinion that that's all liberals can do.)  And this means that all folks in either of those two groups know about the other will be the things that typically show up in the media: exaggerated, judgmental, hard-line opinions that serve to alienate rather than to engender understanding of the position. 

I'm not totally against political correctness" - as long as it is used to provoke thoughtful consideration of what one says or does.  But when it is used to justify shutting down particular kinds of thought, speech or action rather than to generate discussion and consideration - that's just wrong.  And separating from people that you don't even know, because you happen to dislike some of their reported opinions, without even entering into a discussion with them to understand why they might hold those opinions, falls into the latter category. Not only are you selling them short, you're also depriving yourself of an opportunity to learn something significantly  outside your own experience. 

I think of the university in general as one of our human manifestations of the value of statement, stand and stance one takes in relationship to general knowledge (one of the 7 Values of the Everything, from the Sweet Medicine SunDance path).  How do you get your knowledge? How to you test its validity?  How do you make sure you see multiple points of view?  How do you determine what you truly know?  And I want my university - my own internal one, at least - to be of the kind that is willing to hear other points of view, and to be equipped and willing to see where there is value there, so that I may grow.

Love ya, Ann Arbor and Arizona!  A3!!!