Balancing, moving to the light

This week the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments about striking down DOMA and Prop 8 in favor of marriage equality. I concentrated some of my Ostara work on this subject, and I will be taking part in an interfaith event to show support for marriage equality. There will be another event the night before. If you can come out and show support, that’s wonderful. If not, please consider directing some energy to this important event. Here are three ways you might join in this work:

Include support for marriage equality in your intention for either Ostara or the full moon:

The world is poised at the turning of the year towards increasing light, with warmth that will nurture many new lives. Let our symbols of new life in seeds and eggs remind us not just of physical fertility, but the possibility of new life brought about by love. In our own lives, let our love make space for new arrivals and open the way for new possibilities.

Pray to Columbia:

Hail Columbia, matron goddess of your district and of our government! You represent our highest ideals of freedom and liberty, calling us to fuller expression of equality. Columbia, help us change our laws to honor all forms of partnership, giving all acts of love and pleasure equal status under law.

Pray to Justice:

Justice, be not blind, but look into our hearts with piercing gaze to discern the ill intent of those who would rule over us with theocratic mandates full of hate. Redress the wrongs and balance the scales to provide equal recognition for all partnerships formed in love.

Bonus: as Hecate suggested, if you’re in the area, you might also consider visiting the Cyrus Cylinder, one of the first human rights documents in history, and empowering it as a symbol of the progress we’ve made and hope to continue making.

What do we teach? Where’s the proof?

In a recent tutoring session, I told my student the following riddle:

A father is driving his son to a baseball game when they are involved in a car accident. The man is killed instantly; the boy is badly injured and taken to a nearby hospital for emergency surgery. While reviewing the case before surgery, the surgeon suddenly cries, “I can’t operate on him! That’s my son!” Who is the surgeon?

I used this simple riddle as an example of unexamined assumptions. One of the great contributions that math makes to a liberal arts education is teaching people how to examine assumptions and construct sound logical arguments. Learning how to write proofs can be frustrating at first, because it means learning to break down every hidden assumption, even the ones that seem pretty basic.

We use the commutative and associative properties of addition and multiplication every day; learning that they have names, and that they’re not necessarily a given in some systems, is so counter-intuitive that it’s hard to absorb. They don’t seem like things that need to be stated or counted among our assumptions. It’s hard to imagine that in some systems a times b doesn’t give you the same answer as b times a. It gets easier after you’ve seen a few examples; not necessarily simple, but easier.

Learning to find the hidden assumptions and then imagine alternatives in math prepares people to do the same thing in the world of human interactions. In human interactions, when cherished assumptions are challenged, and alternatives imagined, the assumptions often get defended as “facts of nature,” or “God’s law,” or “just the way it is.” But once people learn that hidden assumptions aren’t necessarily true, and once they see a few counterexamples, those arguments sound weaker and weaker.

That’s why a proposal to ban teachers from talking about homosexuality will ultimately backfire. The legislator sponsoring the bill claims that he’s trying to give teachers more time to teach core subjects, like math. People trying to defend their unexamined and unsupportable assumptions about human relationships would be better off trying to stop teachers from teaching math, because math is what teaches people to examine their assumptions, imagine alternatives, and recognize counterexamples.

This is why teaching keeps my hope alive, especially when my student was able to come up with three different possible answers to the riddle. It makes me hopeful that it will get easier to imagine that a boy has two fathers or that women, even mothers, can be surgeons.