Mirrors

The morning, thus far, has seemed almost a frenzy of activity, said activities infringing on achievement of my desired serenity. I suppose I will have to get used to the dislocation of my treasured quiet solitude; the directions given to me at my doctor’s office will squelch my tendency toward calm, slothful indolence. I am to take daily, early-morning blood glucose readings, check my blood pressure and blood oxygen saturation, breathe in the healing fog from a nebulizer, devour a handful of pills (the number of which increased by one after yesterday’s visit with the nurse practitioner), walk (at an early hour, walking will be restricted to some time on the treadmill), and probably a few more rituals intended to improve my health and prolong my life. Despite their intent to improve my lot in life, these rites have succeeded, so far, in making me feel old and infirm. And why should I not feel old and infirm? I am 69 years old. I have behaved, for much of my life, as if my body could be mistreated or ignored, with no consequences. The chickens I freed long, long ago have come home to roost; if I insist on continuing to behave as if I am physically and mentally invincible, I will reap my just, but unpleasant rewards. The choice is mine to make: live within the strictures of  relatively rigid self-care. No longer am I in fine fettle; if I am to retrieve a semblance of the fineness of my fettle, I must adjust my habits. And so I will. I hope. Oh, I will, but whether I can persuade myself to transform newly-acquired good habits into permanent behaviors will be the test. And the measure of my comfort and longevity.

+++

Finally, a Speaker of the House has been elected. I fear the process has done irreparable damage to an already badly faltering institution. But I tend to agree with Ohio Representative Marcy Kaptur, who was profiled in an online article on CNN.com this morning, that the institution has other troubles. She has urged the Democratic party “to wake up to the plight of ‘industrial and agricultural America,’ lest that important segment of the population throw their full-throated support behind the Republican party (even though, in my view, Republican policies treat that segment as if it were simply an expendable means of achieving the party’s desired objectives).

For quite some time, until three or four years ago, I laughed off the idea that the Democratic party paid little attention to the circumstances of middle America, and that it was almost exclusively representative of coastal elites. But I have changed my perspective. Though my wants and needs and preferences in almost all areas of my life mirror those of the coastal elites, I believe the legitimate needs of middle America has been largely ignored by both major parties. And I think my long-held implicit insistence that the soul of the nation be molded into a likeness of my image is unreasonable. And dangerous to democracy. Everyone’s perspectives deserve equal consideration. Even the people I consider deviant right-wingers deserve to be heard. More importantly, they deserve evidence that they have been heard and that their viewpoints have been given more than cursory consideration. I doubt that evidence will be forthcoming from either party, because the parties have morphed into machines whose only functions are to protect themselves and to fight to ensure their superiority over their adversaries; their constituencies be damned. What an unpleasant realization. Although the January 6, 2021 insurrection was an abomination, perhaps a different sort of insurrection, fueled by the rage of the vast, unheard massive moderate middle, could awaken what is missing in most of the members of Congress: a sense of obligation to serve their constituents and their country.

+++

The morning is grey and still. Rain is in the forecast. Weather is one of the eternal forces over which we have little control. Perhaps we should not try to control the weather, paying attention, instead, to our own humanity.

+++

There is wisdom hidden in the reflection of ourselves in the mirror. Our opposites. We look in the mirror and think we see ourselves. In fact, we see only the surface of someone else. If we look deeply, though, we can see beyond who we are and who is reflected in the glass. We should pay heed to him or her. There’s wisdom back there, if only we would probe for it with our minds.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Surrender

Once again, my love affair with the solitude of early morning darkness promises to be all too brief. Though I awoke at a reasonable hour, showering and shaving interfered with the commencement of the day. The time is now 6:30; what remains of darkness soon will be overtaken by daybreak. I need another hour or two of night, but I will get only an hour until the sun rises. Light will overtake darkness long before “official” sunrise at 7:20 or thereabouts. The little time during which the sun remains hidden is insufficient to allow me to ease into the day the way I would like. Setting my alarm every evening would enable me to capture the morning’s darkness, but the noise would rouse mi novia, possibly interrupting the time she most needs to sleep. Besides, the idea of setting an alarm to return me to my natural rhythm disturbs me. Cursing and complaining will accomplish nothing. I must simply adjust and adapt to whatever is happening to my circadian rhythm. Life does not always cooperate with one’s wishes.

+++

No matter how much I wish to write this morning, it simply is not in me. I want to record my thoughts, but they would require too much explanation; without amplifying them in great depth, people reading them would misinterpret them. My thoughts would be mistaken for madness, whereas in fact they are simply expressions of curiosity. They would be interpreted as expressions of curiosity too easily be read as warnings that I am edging toward a dangerous precipice; which is not the case. Just philosophical inquiries about emptiness. Queries about whether a vacuum really can exist. And, if it can, whether space is “something” or “nothing.” We think we know more than we know. Everything in us and around us is steeped in mystery so deep we cannot hope ever to reach the bottom. Or the top.  There’s a reason I cannot write this morning. Language is inadequate to express emotions and perceptions. And so I will surrender, for now.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The New Natural

Noise. Perpetual noise. Like the constant humming or grinding or scraping of crickets. If what I “hear” is simply evidence of tinnitus—or even if it is not—I want it to stop. Now. Some days, I suppose I’m just used to it. Others, like today, I feel myself losing any traces of sanity I might still possess. Those incessant sounds tempt me to strive for absolute silence, using any means necessary to end the ceaseless buzz. An ice pick through the eardrum might do it. Or an explosive device, detonated the distance of a hair’s width from my ear. Or ears. Which ear is it? Or is it both? Perhaps only by drowning the sounds in yet more sounds will do it. Sitting next to railroad tracks as an enormously long freight train races by would at least mask the crickets. At least for a while.

+++

The dream, details of which have completely escaped me, was frustrating and frightening. If I could remember it, I would record the unpleasant experience, with the objective of interpreting its meaning sometime later, when I am in a more serene mood. But that would do no good. The “meaning” of dreams often is nonexistent. It is simply a jumble of images and sounds and irrationality, sculpted around a sensation that feels like it should have meaning but, in fact, has none.

+++

I finally met the woman who bought my house. She contacted me several days ago, by text, looking for a reliable HVAC service company. The heat in what is now her house had gone out just before a strong cold front was expected to descend on the state. And she mentioned that she had some mail for me. I gave her contact information, but opted to stay away for a few days, given that I was in the midst of a fierce cold, or something like it. Yesterday, though, I drove over. We chatted for a while and she gave me the mail, which included a sticker for my car license tags that I had paid for a few months ago but had not received (and had forgotten). When I entered the front door of the house, the view immediately gripped me; it was what had sold my late wife and me on the house when we bought it in 2014. But I now value even more the solitude of the forest, where I have no neighbors. Things change.

+++

I may decide to drive to Little Rock tomorrow to close out a bank account. A short drive might satisfy my urge to take a road trip, but I doubt it will extinguish the desire to get away, on the open highway. An excuse. That’s all I need. Some reason to get in the car and go, But my annual physical is scheduled for next week, so I cannot just strike out for parts unknown without causing some grief for my physician’s office. And that’s the sort of thing that matters these days: keeping the doctor’s office happy. Crud.

+++

I must leave soon. My blood draw and other lab work awaits. This is what occupies my time of late. Maybe I will make  it to breakfast with the “church men” after the blood-letting. Ach. I must get dressed and go.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Expectations

My very long-time habit of waking extremely early seems, unfortunately, to be dissolving. This morning, I woke just after 6:30, a full hour later than my normal “latest” time to wake. The loss of an hour or more of my private time of isolation may be “healthy,” but I truly miss those lonely hours. It is not just the length of time alone I miss, it is the darkness. There is something about looking through the windows into empty blackness that sooths me. Pre-dawn darkness, when I am alone with my thoughts, nourishes my imagination and feeds my need for the purity of solitude. Yet, I have slept in lately. This morning, I woke around 4:15 to pee, but chose to return to bed, where I slept for more than two more hours. I could have, as usual, gotten dressed and padded out into the dark house, but instead I decided to take just a few more minutes to rest. A few more minutes. Maybe it’s just the remnants of my severe cold that is keeping me from my old familiar patterns. I truly hope so. And I hope I can readjust my sleep habits, returning to the reliable hours of darkness that replenish my…what is it?…soul, for want of a better word.

+++

An acquaintance, with whom I have not spoken in quite some time, is a gifted writer. A few years ago, she wrote a short book that she chose not to try to publish. Instead, she shared it with just a few of her colleagues who, like her, enjoy writing. I was fortunate to be among them. She called the book’s genre “granny porn,” in that its plot revolved around a group of elderly men and women who lived in an old house which served as home to a co-ed group of old folks who were sexually interested and active. It’s interesting to think back to my youth and even my middle age when, I remember, the idea of sexually active oldsters was essentially unheard of—almost preposterous. Why the idea that libido might simply dissolve into disinterest made any sense is beyond me. I suppose the tendency for issues of intimacy seemingly to become increasingly private as one ages might contribute to the idea that sex is restricted only to the young. I am not sure what prompted me to think about “granny porn” this morning, but as the matter has surfaced in my brain it makes me think. I wonder whether “granny porn”—based not purely on prurient interests but on the natural evolution of sexual relationships as one ages—might develop a strong following among people in their sixties, seventies, and eighties? Of course, at some point one’s interests in sex must begin to wither simply as a matter of changes brought about by aging. But until then, I would think that literature based on reality, rather than uninformed assumptions, would have a reasonably good-sized market. I doubt I’m going to write much pornography, but someone probably should. 😉

+++

Last night, we watched five of six episodes of a Netflix limited series entitled, Hold Tight.

IMDb‘s description of the series does not do justice to the storyline: “When a young man goes missing soon after his friend dies, life in a tight-knit, affluent Warsaw suburb slowly unravels, exposing secrets and lies.” Set in modern-day Warsaw, Poland, the series started slow, in my view; slow enough that I considered trying something else for the evening’s entertainment. But I am glad we stuck with it. By the beginning of the second episode, though, I was committed. By the end of the fifth episode, I was riveted. While initially a bit difficult because it was performed in Polish with English subtitles, it did not take long to forget that I was not “hearing” it in English.

Harlan Corben, the writer on whose work Hold Tight and several other Netflix limited series is based, is deeply involved in the television/film production of a number of his works. I suspect I will explore some of his 34 novels in the coming months and years.

+++

Mi novia and I went out for a late breakfast this morning, thanks to the absence of some of the normal ingredients of breakfast. Subsequently, we made a trip to the post office and then drove by the site(s) of the tornado that damaged several buildings in and around the Jessieville schools on Monday. From there, we drove just a little north to the approximate area where a body was found off Highway 7 North.  That, and a stop at a pharmacy to pick up a prescription for me, was our excitement for the morning. Only after returning to the house and dawdling for a while did I realize I had not finished writing my blog for the day. Curses! I really must get back on track so my sleep cycle corresponds to my writing processes.  And now, as it nears noon, I will cogitate on the matter. Until tomorrow, I expect…

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Drift

Last night, I slept only intermittently. During those brief periods when I slept, I was semi-conscious; my so-called sleep was a troubled amalgamation of wishes and fears and reactions to imprecise concerns going back to my childhood—a nasty brew that attempted to drown me in memories that might not even have been my own. I think I’ll sleep far better when I return from my doctor’s appointment this morning. Speaking of which, I should leave here around 9 for that visit.

+++

Powerful storms swept through the area yesterday afternoon, evening, and night. The most severe seem to have been north of the Village, where either powerful straight-line winds or a tornado tore into the Jessieville schools, leaving significant damage to buildings and sports fields. The extent of the damage has yet to be reported in full, thanks in part to the fact that our local newspaper is not a full-on news source (it is more of an ad-rag with extremely limited capabilities to pursue and report news). Time will tell just how extensive or limited yesterday’s storms were.

+++

I remain far, far from capable of writing the way I normally write. My cold/flu/affliction is on its way out, but it continues to inhabit me, causing all manner of discomfort or displeasure. I loathe this feeling of ill health and unease. I thought I was over it yesterday morning, but it seemed to have returned with a vengeance later in the day. Enough of this. I will set my alarm in a moment, to alert me when it’s time to leave. In the interim, I will attempt to drift into sleep for just a while.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rebirth

What delights will 2023 bring? What pleasures? What pains? There’s no value in anticipating the unknowable, nor use in wishing for circumstances over which I have little or no control. Hopes and dreams and dreads sometimes seem such wasteful expenditures of energy. But in what, instead, should we invest ourselves? As I contemplate my multiple answers to those seemingly simple questions, the pointlessness of guessing games becomes clear, yet all we can do is guess, for we have no way of telling the future. We can attempt to shape it, but unless we truly are willing to commit “time, talent, and treasure” to modifying our lives, we delude ourselves into thinking we have any control. One can see the absurdity of the dilemma, I think: one has no control unless one exercises the control one has. Control involves taking risks. And risks involve deliberately ceding control. But ceding control, by risk-taking, is the only means by which one can hope to take charge. Circular reasoning. “Living in sphere” is how I have decided to describe it.

+++

I am restless. Not restless in the sense that I simply want to get out of the house, though I am restless in that sense, too. I am restless in the sense that I want to exchange my circumstances for another set. But when I try to envision the set of circumstances I want to explore, I tend to imagine my current self in a new environment. I need to imagine a different self in a different environment. Or, perhaps, a different self in the same environment. Changing both who and where I am would accomplish the difference I seek. But changing who I am without altering my environment would do the same, I think. Both, though, done simultaneously, would be a more thorough revision to the circumstances that define me—both in my eyes and in the eyes of those who see me.

To a great extent, accomplishing that dramatic reconfiguration of my circumstances would involve changing my story. That is, I would have to tell a story about myself that differs from the “truth.” For that “truth” to take hold, I would need to surround myself with people who, today, I do not know and vice versa. Staying where I am, then, would make impossible the idea of a different me. I would have to enter a new environment as a man with a different story. That is, I would have to abandon my history and the people in it; I would have to lie. It would require me to enter a new environment where I am unknown. There, I would introduce myself as a different man with a different past. A mysterious stranger whose history would mold itself around the way I want to be perceived. A believable history hard to confirm or contest. The transformation would be enormously interesting to me, but essentially impossible without a willingness to truly abandon—at least temporarily—my life as it exists today. I would have to leave my present circumstances behind me; my family, my friends…everything. That would be the most painful and most difficult aspect of the exploration. And, I do not have the wherewithal to put people through it. Unless…unless I could share my plans and get buy-in from people around me. Agreement to let me disappear for a while, only to return after my—hopefully—successful transformative experience. Ach! It’s silly to even think it. But I think it, nonetheless.

+++

Though I awoke around 5:30 this morning, my blogging thus far today has been sporadic. I am returning to the computer now (around 8:40), with the objective of finishing today’s post, after which I will rest/nap for a bit. I think I am close to wrapping up my cold/flu/whatever, but continue to tire quite easily, which I find more than a  little irritating. I do not recommend this affliction, whatever it is, for several reasons—not the least of which is the constant tiredness/weakness that accompanies it.

+++

Temperatures today should reach the mid sixties, dropping off to the low fifties and upper forties in the several days to follow. I am easily chilled of late, so I will go outside only when necessary (tomorrow and a few days hence, I have long-established doctors’ appointments).  I look forward to the time when I’m fully recovered from this crud; enough, at least, to deal with cool temperatures without feeling like an elderly geezer unable to cope with temperatures below 80°F (okay, that’s stretching it, but I make the point for emphasis). Enough of this talk. I’ll wrap it up here and take a pause to recover from inadequate sleep.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Revival

Whether it was the flu or a fierce cold, I’ll probably never know. Whatever I had—have—kept me from writing coherently for a few days. I chose not to try to post anything the last couple of days of 2022, opting instead to conserve my mental energy. That conservation did no good, other than allow me a little time to rest. Aside from hiding for all time the thoughts that went through my head as the year ended, my rest accomplished nothing of consequence. But keeping away from people these last several days probably saved others from catching whatever ailed me; and whatever remains with me: the coughing, headaches, body aches, chills, and various other symptoms that caused me to sleep so much. And to fail to sleep when I so desperately wanted to. I doubt whatever it is I had/have is still contagious, but to be safe I am remaining in a quarantine of sorts at home. I would not enjoy going out into the world yet, anyway, as I still feel a little weak and uncertain on my feet. Within a few days, I am confident I can and will safely return to the real world. In the interim, I will continue to contemplate the transition to a new, but artificial, measure of a segment of time.

+++

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

~ Seneca ~

+++

The Gregorian Calendar, which is now used by most of Earth’s population for civil purposes, first replaced the Julian Calendar on the day following Thursday, October 4, 1582; that next day was designated Friday, October 15, 1582. The ten-day adjustment was made by Pope Gregory XIII as a means of “correcting” the calculation of the dates of Easter. The adoption of the Gregorian Calendar, replacing the Julian Calendar, has been taking place ever since Pope Gregory XIII started the process. Ukraine and Yugoslavia and Russia, for example, adopted the Gregorian Calendar in 1918. Saudi Arabia did so in 2016.  My interpretation of the Gregorian Calendar we all use, without thinking, is that it is the result of the merger between astronomical physics and religious accommodation. The calendar is a convenience and a generally simple shorthand that allows us to speak the same language with respect to the measurement of the passage of time.

+++

The end of 2022 is behind us and the beginning of 2023 is here. Both are artificial measures of time, but they serve as milestones; markers to which we can point when examining changes that have taken place in our lives. My hope is that the beginning of 2023 will serve as the marker of positive, productive, rewarding, happy changes. Not only for me, but for everyone. If I had the ability to magically improve the world at large, I would exercise it. And, in fact, I have the ability to do just that. So does everyone else. It’s simply a matter of putting it to good use. I cannot change everything, but I can change something. It may sound cliché and trite, but I am convinced it is true. That always is true; not just at the beginning of a new year. At any moment, we can decide “I will contribute in positive ways, rather than complain or otherwise get in the way of improving the lot of others’ lives.”

As I look back at what I’ve written, I can see that I am not fully recovered from my illness. My mind remains foggy. That will change. But at least I am on the path to shaking off this fierce cold or flu or whatever it is. And when it is finally gone, I will spend time in deep thought, recovering some of the ideas that have been dormant this past week or so. I vaguely remember some I think are worth making available to anyone who might wish to read them. They will be here, in time.

+++

Three monstrous crows just landed on the driveway outside my study window. Their “caws” are loud. How many crows does it take to constitute a murder, I wonder?

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Life Is What It Is

Millions of people are in far worse shape than I. People around the globe live in extreme poverty, are exposed to existential dangers posed by war, face climate disasters that could bring utter ruin, or any combination of other horrors much more severe than mine.

Still, I feel pretty shitty. My head is stopped up, as is my chest, I have a loud and painful cough, my throat is sore, my badly aching joints and muscles are causing me all kinds of grief, and I have a headache that vacillates between painful and simply bothersome. I have slept—or attempting to sleep—in the neighborhood of 52 hours since Monday afternoon. Whether it is the flu or a severe cold, it will disappear in its own time. I’ve tested, twice, for COVID-19 and the results are negative.

Until my symptoms disappear—or until they are, at least, tolerable—I will try to extricate myself from my inexplicable need to blog every day.  Even this short post is draining. But at least I am not facing war, extreme poverty, and other horrors that face so many people on the planet today. I am trying my very best to be grateful for the situation in which I live…and I’m trying to find my maladies tolerable.

Until I blog again, I hope you have all manner of reasons to be satisfied and grateful for your positions on the planet.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Shunning

Yesterday’s creative void turned into a series of naps, punctuated by coughing, nasal decongesting, and other such symptoms of a cold. After said naps, I felt somewhat better. This afternoon, after another night’s and morning’s sleep, I feel considerably worse. I am completely stopped up and my throat is red and raw, presumably from attempts to snore through my BiPAP mask. I had hoped sleep would improve my symptoms. Such are the risks of advancing age. I will pretend to write, anyway.

+++

Christmas Day this year came and went without much fanfare. Ditto, the day after Christmas. The experience was pretty much as it always has been. I’ve had considerable experience with Christmas; years and years, so I have the routine down pat. The variations caused by the presence or absence of specific people become routine, too; the key to easing the adjustment is to enter into the season without expectations. Just go with the flow. Easier said than done, I realize, setting an objective is a good first start.

+++

I awoke early this morning, but I could not maintain wakefulness. First, I sat on the couch, drifting off. Next, I pulled a blanket over my chilly body and attempted to relax on the long white sofa. No luck there, either. So I went back to bed, where I slept several more hours. Mi novia supplied me with blankets and water and Motrin and DayQuil and various other drugs intended to erase or, at least, minimize the symptoms of colds. I remain thoroughly stopped up. My chest is clogged. I attempt to clear my sinuses, but have no luck. I suppose I’ll just have to suffer through this modestly mild misery.

My brain continues to feel fuzzy and uncooperative. I feel fuzzy and uncooperative all around. I give up on writing a blog. There’s no point in trying to write when one’s head aches and one’s attitude is surly and unpleasant. And so I will sit at my desk in this empty house (mi novia is out playing card games with friends) and howl, summoning creatures who might understand my mood and who might have certain ways to make me feel human again.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Creative Void

Usually, even when my mind is blank, I can sit down at my computer and write…something. Not so this morning. I have run into a wall ever since I awoke. An immoveable wall; solid concrete blocks laced together with steel rods. Its height is too great. I cannot reach the top, much less fling myself over it. And, so, I wait again. I’ll return here in a bit.

+++

Where there is anger, there is always pain underneath.

~ Eckhart Tolle ~

+++

Well,  at least I can search out words of wisdom…as above…even while sitting inside this sinking pit, so devoid of creativity. The problem is this: I have nothing in my mind that I am willing to share with just anyone who happens along. In fact, there are precious few people with whom I would be willing to freely share. Those factors being in play, I think I’ll call it quits. I may return later today with a surprise non-morning post. Or I may not.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Sole of a Poet

It’s Christmas Day. Last year on this day, I spent a good bit of the day making a variety of Spanish tapas for the day’s celebratory meal. However, the day was a bit rough, as one of my brothers was in the hospital in physical decline, awaiting the completion of bureaucratic processes that would allow him to be transferred to hospice care; he died 34 days later.

This year, I will roast a large (8.7 pound) prime rib. Various delicious side dishes will complement the rare beef and the obligatory (for me, anyway) pungent horseradish that goes with it. My late wife’s sister will come over later today to partake of the feast. And mi novia and my sister-in-law and I we will play Sequence. I am not a fan of most table games; Sequence is one of the few I find tolerable.  A new game, Ransom Notes, is another one I find interesting. We played the game last night after eating chile con queso and tamales.

As I sit here at my computer, my thoughts drift toward people who are alone today. I suppose today is no different from many other days, but troubling comparisons enter my mind: between people surrounded by friends and family and people who are alone. I have such thoughts every year. Every year, I vow to plan to alleviate, in the future, the loneliness for as many people as possible. And every year I reflect on the fact that I have done nothing to fulfill my vow. I wonder whether I am inherently depressive?

I woke up this morning with my shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, and knees screaming in full rebellion. They react with rage at my every movement. Two Motrin probably is not nearly enough to calm the angry nerve endings that protest the mere fact that I am conscious. They would prefer I consume a tumbler full of vodka or a potent, sleep-inducing, pain-deadening narcotic and return to bed. Vodka is out of the question, and I am more than a little reticent to swallow the most-recently-prescribed narcotic: Tramadol. Tramadol belongs to the group of medicines called opioid analgesics, which act on the central nervous system to relieve pain. My hesitation to use the drug in response to a bunch of very painful joints is based on an experience in which I reacted badly. My reaction could have been to Tramadol or to the combination of Tramadol with other analgesics or to the combination of Tramadol with the lingering effects of anesthesia. Or Tramadol might have been guiltless. My frightening reaction, which included delusions and hallucinations and serious thoughts of suicide, may have had nothing whatsoever to do with Tramadol. But I am sufficiently concerned about taking the stuff that I probably will not do it unless my joint and muscle pain becomes intolerably excruciating. It’s not there yet. Frankly, my frightening experience does not mirror the side effects I have read about, connected with the drug. But my experience was sufficiently scary that I will practice an overabundance of caution. Maybe I should ask for something else to combat the pain of age-related decay?

+++

I have a story to tell. An embarrassing story about something that took place two days ago. A story that reveals the potential consequences of both excessive frugality and long-time neglect.

After attending the celebration of life service for a friend/member of my church—at which I read a poem I wrote for the occasion—we went to our friend’s home to visit with her husband and family. It was there, while I was speaking to him, that her husband pointed to something on the floor between us. Because I had just picked up a canape-sized ham salad sandwich on dark rye, I thought the dark “something” on the floor could have been a slice of the rye that I might have dropped. But it wasn’t; it was a crumbly dark piece of rubber. A while later, as I took a step, another piece of black rubber suddenly appeared on the floor. Immediately, I thought it could be from the sole of my shoes, in that my foot suddenly felt a tad lighter.

Change of scene: back home, in the master bath. I took off my shoes, only to discover the pieces of crumbling rubber had come off my shoes. Big pieces of the soles and heels of both shoes were missing. Though the leather uppers looked perfectly fine, the soles of my very old pair of Ecco brand shoes were crumbling. The shoes I bought several years before I moved away from Dallas were disintegrating while I watched. Mi novia expressed relief that the shoes had not begun to decompose while I walked to or from the pulpit in connection with delivering my poem of remembrance.

Needless to say, I am in need of a replacement pair of dress shoes. As nice as the uppers on my old pair are, it is time for me to discard the old shoes (probably 15 years old or older). I suggested to mi novia that I could just have the shoes re-soled; her reaction assured me it would be best for the shoes not to be reborn.

+++

I’ll end this rambling reflection by wishing everyone who reads this, and all who don’t, a good day. Whether among friends and family or alone, everyone is on my mind this morning. I am thinking about you,  And wishing you—personally—comfort and joy on this and every day.

+++

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Great Deception

The Great Deception. Every year, millions of children are introduced to variations on a long-living lie sustained through collusion and delusion. Parents—intentionally and purposefully—lie to their children, never considering that modeling is far more effective in molding future behaviors than is simple instruction.

Do not believe the lie I told you, for years, about Santa Claus, but believe me when I tell you about the son of God, born of a virgin, who was crucified and died but came back to convince humankind that resurrection is a thing. And to absolve us of our sins. Or some such story. 

And we wonder why so many of us seem to worship a psychotic, neurotic, deeply insane autocrat? We’re taught from an early age that lies are okay and natural and that one should not feel at all embarrassed for accepting as truth the most remarkably absurd and obviously untrue statements and scenarios. That’s on you, parents of the world!

The vindictive sarcasm above to the contrary notwithstanding, I rather like the Christmas season. The lights, the aromas of cooking and just-harvested live trees, and the blatant expressions of goodwill are all rather appealing. And the stories about reindeer and eggnog and mistletoe. And candles. Especially the flickering light of candles.

And when I hear children giggling with delight about Santa Claus and all the good things people do during the Christmas season, I find that I can accept a few lies to unsuspecting kids. They’re going to learn through harsh experience about lies and lying, so we might as well introduce them to deception in a positive way. A way that will introduce to them the concept of open-mindedness; the willingness to accept and embrace  lies, even lies so utterly blatant.

+++

I read a poem yesterday at the celebration of life service, held in our church, for a friend who died last week. Her husband asked me to write and read a poem. Honored to have been asked, I wrote a short narrative poem.  I hope it captured her genuine goodness and her steadfast resolve in support of gratitude and justice.

I learned that a frozen water pipe at church caused damage when it thawed, just after we left, following the celebration of life service.  The damage caused cancellation of this afternoon’s planned service and “soup supper.”

Instead, I will make chile con queso and we’ll steam some of the pork and jalapeño tamales I bought couple of weeks ago from El Mercado Latino. It’s almost by sheer chance that we have everything we need for a traditional Swinburn Christmas Eve. Even beer, though I can’t drink it. It has been five months since I had acute pancreatitis. And it has therefore been five months since I have been off of alcohol. I should have lost a lot of weight during that period, but I must have replaced the empty calories in alcohol with the empty calories of round-the-clock snacks. Moving forward, I’ll reject such frequent snackery.  After the chile con queso and tamales. And tomorrow’s feast.

+++

Odd. I can be extremely flexible, which is how I want to be. But the opposite trait in me is just as strong. I can be rigid, utterly unbending. I can refuse to yield my position on matters both supremely important and extraordinarily trivial. There seems to be no discernable pattern to my broad-mindedness and my opinionated unwillingness to budge, even in the face of irrefutable evidence that my position is inarguably wrong. Fortunately, I think, the outbreaks of headstrong intractability are less frequent than are my periods of tolerance and understanding. Regardless of my position on the continuum, I am ever the skeptic. Even when I fully embrace a position or idea, seeds of doubt as to its rectitude sprout in my mind like kudzu, fed high-nitrogen fertilizer, that might overtake entire forests.

+++

Today is Christmas Eve. I wish everyone a pleasant, merry, safe, and memorable Christmas. I’ll write again tomorrow.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The House You Live In

Brutally cold air—currently in the neighborhood of 1°F—surrounds my warm, cozy house. The wind chill value is and will continue to be considerably lower than that, between -15°F and -30°F, according to hyper-local weather reports and forecasts. So far, water pipes seem to have survived the plunge in temperature from a balmy 42°F around 2 p.m. yesterday. I do not recall a time when temperatures dropped so far so fast. Last night, when we finished watching the final episode of season 3 of Borgen, the temperature had plunged to 4°F.

Thanks to my efforts last Spring to clear my closets of clothes that no longer (that is, never did) fit, I have just one coat to protect me against the cold when I leave the house in a few hours. I sometimes question my intelligence or lack thereof. I suppose it’s not entirely a lack of intelligence. My over-abundance of procrastination is what left me without more clothes suited to cold weather. I put off shopping for clothes far longer than is healthy; my distaste for clothes-shopping is almost a sickness. “Almost” is inappropriate, I suppose. I should attend meetings: “Hello, I’m John. I struggle with an aversion to fashion…any clothing, actually. If left to my own devices, I might either be a nudist or a…what’s the opposite of clothes horse?” My aversion to shopping for new clothes is not so much a distaste for fashion as it is a loathing of the realization that off-the-shelf clothes do not fit. Ever. Only in fairy tales could I expect to find a shirt or a pair of slacks or a jacket or even a pair of socks perfectly tailored to fit my body.

Somehow, I managed to deviate from musings about weather to a semi-rant about clothes that do not fit because they were created for imaginary beings whose bodies differ radically from mine.

+++

How can you expect a man who’s warm to understand one who’s cold?

~ Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn ~

+++

Seriously, I worry that the bitterly cold weather will gnaw at the harnesses of comfort. I worry that the cold might be too much for the walls and windows and doors to keep it at bay. Shivering in the dark, hoping for the miracle of electricity, is an eerie experience; yet one I have rarely encountered. I am extremely fortunate. I live in comfort. I have more than enough to eat. Even in the cold, I can rely on blankets to warm me.

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

~ Dwight D. Eisenhower ~

+++

How decent are we? We are willing to share a bit of our money with unfortunate people, but are we willing to share our homes with them? Do we invite strangers to come in out of the cold? Often, I see generosity as an attempt to replace guilt with something more palatable. We share a portion of our wealth, but we keep a more than adequate store for ourselves. We are willing to share, but only to a point far distant from risking luxury in the name of compassion. When I think of such stuff, I often think of lyrics from a song by Gordon Lightfoot:

And the house you live in will never fall downIf you pity the stranger who stands at the gate.

For some reason, those words and the rest of the lyrics to the song are more meaningful to me than I can justify or explain. They are more inspirational and more thought-provoking—every time I hear them or read them or sing them to myself when I am alone—than I expect them to be.

If only the longing for justice and decency and compassion was enough to cause people to behave differently. But it’s only enough to summon guilt; to motivate us to relieve that discomfort with temporary kindness and grace and sympathy.

+++

Somehow, a bit more than two hours have passed since I made my first cup of coffee this morning. I can see the world outside my window; it does not look as cold as it is, but there is evidence that the air is frigid. Thin patches of snow on the ground. And the bark on the trees looks like it could shatter if barely tapped with a hammer. But that’s strictly my imagination at work; I cannot see how brittle and delicate the trees are in this beastly cold. I can only imagine it. And avoid it to the extent I can.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Waving Goodbye

Waves in the ocean, generated by wind, are said to travel hundreds or even thousands of miles. The language used to describe waves—their genesis, and their demise—is unique. Terms like fetch and swell and contact distance and stochastic process are meant to help explain the formation and behavior of waves; but understanding fluid dynamics requires more than language. An appreciation of the way water interacts with wind to explain the wizardry of living liquid entails accepting the equivalent of voodoo. Black magic. The embrace of Neptune or Poseidon, as one’s divine savior—or his rejection, as the monster responsible for the treachery of the seas.

+++

A kiss is just as difficult to understand as are waves. A kiss should have no more meaning, nor influence, than a handshake or a pat on the shoulder. But the power of a kiss dwarfs even the heartiest handshake. Or the most powerful hug or embrace. Not just any kiss, of course. The right kiss. The kiss that sends electrical current coursing through one’s body. The one that could power all the spotlights and electric motors in North America. With plenty of excess power to illuminate the far reaches of the most distant galaxy.

+++

More patchouli. Because the aroma of a smoldering cone of the right incense unlocks sensual pleasures. The scent of burning patchouli incense unleashes the silent thunder hidden deep inside one’s mind. Not one’s brain; one’s mind.  That joyous amalgamation of thought and emotion and physical sensation; the experience that launches desire and satisfaction and hope and a million more subdued thrills. Or is it all just smoke? Vapor that fools us into believing in fire?

+++

Between 1 and 4 this afternoon, the weather is expected to turn cold and angry. Snow flurries may fall as the temperature begins to slide; 42°F around noon, 38 degrees colder by midnight. If good fortune prevails, the roads will be sufficiently clear and dry by Friday morning to permit a crowd to attend the celebration of life of a friend whose death reminded me that mortality stalks us. One does not prepare for death; one prepares for the aftermath of one’s death. That is, if one considers the rawness of death and its impact on the rest of us. We claim to understand death, but when it happens to people around us, we suddenly realize we do not believe in death. Death cannot possibly be real, can it? Yet it is inevitable. Like the weather. Like temperatures plunging to an unbelievable 4°F. It is bound to happen, eventually. We will be cold and astonished at the sun’s abandonment. We will want to burn sticks of wood and logs and entire cities; anything to overwhelm frigid temperatures. But we will remain civilized. For a time, anyway.

+++

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy paid the U.S. a visit yesterday. I do not pretend to know how his visit will impact the direction of his country’s war against the aggression of Russia. Nor do I know how it will influence this country’s reaction to that aggression. We shall see. Eventually.

+++

It’s 7. Two hours have passed since I arose from bed. I wanted to sleep, but I was uncomfortable. Oh, well. I can sleep again tonight. Or, perhaps, sometime today. For now, I will wave goodbye to sleep. Until next time.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Winter Begins in Earnest

Today is the winter solstice, when one of the Earth’s poles reaches its maximum tilt away from the Sun. This is the day with the northern hemisphere’s shortest period of daylight and the longest night. Perhaps I would have figured that out on my own, had I lived four or five hundred years ago. Today, though, I take it on faith. Belief. Trust in the astronomers who understand the solar system far better than I ever will.

I might not have trusted astronomy (science), had I not been taught the value of the Scientific Method. I might have placed my confidence in religious figures, instead, having been taught of the infallibility of a deity and “his” chosen “priests,” for lack of a better term. Or I might have been inculcated with the mysterious “truths” of the invisible gremlins of the forests and their handlers.

I wonder how our descendants, a thousand years hence, will mock us for our unsophisticated misunderstanding of the universe? I suppose I will not be here to find out.

+++

I hate it when I sleep in, as I did today. Almost 6:30. Hours I could have put to good use; gone forever. That perspective on time tends to make me panic; I am losing some of the limited time available to me with each passing second. Whether I put it to good use or not, first it’s here, then it’s gone. Forever. Never to be retrieved. Never. Ever. Ever.

More than one perspective is available, of course. There’s the one that says, “I can’t get it back, so it’s pointless to miss it.” And there’s the other that says, “If I don’t put every moment to good use, I’ve lost that chance forever, and I will regret that squandered opportunity for all remaining time.” Or something like that.

It occurs to me that I have wasted more than a few moments by writing about them as if they mattered.

+++

When I am surrounded for more than a day or two at a time by people (that is, more than one person) I do not know well, I begin feeling on edge. When the time extends beyond three or four days, my anxiety transforms into displeasure. After a little more time has passed, displeasure might turn into overt surliness. Eventually, anger could replace the surliness. With enough time, I suppose, anger might morph into rage. Fortunately, I think I’ve maxed out at anxiety. My innate introversion seems to be getting more pronounced, in some senses, in my advancing years. I value privacy far more today than I did fifty years ago. I wonder, am I alone in my personality becoming more hardened into its original core as I age?

+++

And so Wednesday begins. And so Winter begins. The forecast for tomorrow night and Friday is brutal. Temperatures dropping to within a few degrees of zero. I may have to move to Ecuador.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Forced Serenity

Yesterday would have been an appropriate day to light a cone of patchouli incense, but I failed to think of it. Today, though, for a variety of reasons, it came to mind. So, as I sit here, the scent of the burning cone fills my nostrils. I cannot say with certainty that it calms me, but I think it helps. I should meditate more frequently, but I would need to awaken even earlier than I do. This morning, I got up around 5; even that, it seems, is not early enough. If I had arisen by 4:30 or, better yet, at 4, I would have felt unhurried and more attuned to the idea of meditation. Tomorrow, perhaps. Today, though, I think I could be sufficiently smooth. Blood pressure of 98/61 and a pulse of 61 suggests I may be relaxed. Yet the body can deceive; physically, I may seem relaxed, but an EKG might reveal something completely different: a frenzied, emotionally chaotic mind-storm. Fortunately, brain waves on an oscilloscope do not reveal the thoughts that undergird the mind-storm. At least not yet. One day, scientists (and others) may be able to read a person’s thoughts. That could be problematic for me, if murderous impulses were deemed enough to warrant arrest and imprisonment. But I’m going off on a tangent here; I’ll loop back into my more sane self.

+++

Out of the blue this morning, a friend from years ago is on my mind. We drifted apart over the years. “Drifted” is misleading; we clashed in ways that seem to have severed our friendship. Close friendships are few and far between, so their dissolution is especially unfortunate and painful. All these years later I am still distraught that all that’s left of one of those extremely rare once-in-a-lifetime friendships are memories and ashes. My memories of how our friendship dissolved are private, so I won’t share them—here or elsewhere. Maybe I should not even touch on it here, but it will serve to remind me—whenever I return to this post—that we should exercise more care to preserve relationships that are important to our well-being and happiness.

+++

This morning’s major news stories, like new stories most days, address issues over which I have absolutely no control: 1) The January 6 congressional committee’s findings and its criminal referrals about Trump; and 2) A major earthquake that caused damage and power outages in Humboldt County in northern California. There were other stories, of course: masses of asylum-seekers at the U.S./Mexico border; the Argentinian win of the soccer World Cup; the status of the Russian invasion of Ukraine; and the finding of guilt in Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial; among others. On one hand, I understand the concept that an informed citizenry is important to a nation’s ongoing progress. On the other hand, I do not follow the logic that suggests I should stay abreast of matters utterly out of my control. Perhaps it’s that we citizens should maintain an understanding of daily national and global events in case something over which we might have some degree of control comes along. When one feels powerless to influence the “big picture,” one tends to shrink into one’s own little domain. At least this “one” does.  I may not have any influence over how to deal with Trump’s criminality or Russia’s immoral belligerence, but my control over what I eat for breakfast is nearly absolute, in the context of the available breakfast foods. And, of course, I chose where to live in retirement (thus far). And various other personally significant matters. If I were to devote as much attention to personal matters over which I have substantial control as I do to national and global news over which I am powerless, I might discover I have even more control than I think. I’ll mull that over for a while.

+++

Using my incense cones in an attempt to attain serenity seems forced. Forced serenity is self-defeating, I’m afraid. Still, I enjoy the scent of burning patchouli. And forcing myself to “chill” demonstrates to me that reality differs radically from fantasy.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Never

Never. I have used the word without considering its finality. It was just another word; a throw-away term for an abstract concept. But today, on the second anniversary of my wife’s death, I understand it. My understanding did not occur suddenly this morning, but today my comprehension is especially acute.

The realization that my eyes have seen my late wife for the last time. That I have heard her voice for the last time. That I have embraced her for the last time. That I have comforted her for the last time. I will never see or hear or touch her again. She and I will never laugh together again. We will never celebrate an anniversary together again. Nor a birthday. Nor anything else. Nothing, ever again. Never. Never is eternal emptiness. Eternal absence. Eternal impossibility. Never. Never. Never.

Apparently, the pain of losing her will never recede. That aching anguish is no different today than it was a year ago, nor any different than it has been every day since. This morning, though, it surfaces more thoroughly. It is not as muffled by the distractions of daily life; today, the calendar insists I again face the reality of never.

A year ago, on the first anniversary of her death, I wrote a post I entitled Today is Immeasurably Sad But Beautiful. The emotions I felt when I wrote those words remain just as raw. But I feel the same appreciative happiness, too. The collision between immense grief and satisfaction creates a level of chaos impossible to describe; I will not bother to try. I will let myself feel what I feel, despite the fact that my self-pitying grief is selfish. I will accept my selfishness today. I really have no other choice.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Wakeful Musings

I tried to get back to sleep, but I failed. So I got up about 3:45 and played Words with Friends with another insomniac. And I noticed the very moment a different insomniac liked a photo I posted on Facebook a few days ago—I considered calling her, but that might have seemed a little creepy at 4:00 a.m., so I did not.

I still haven’t played Wordle this morning. Until a few days ago, I posted my Wordle performance on Facebook every day. I am not completely sure why I stopped; perhaps I just tired of comparing my performance to others’ “scores.” I usually do not find competition particularly gratifying. Maybe that is one of the reasons I never enjoyed team sports much. I liked playing squash when I was in college, but I was not fond of the competitive nature of the game; just knocking the ball around, without keeping score, would have been perfectly fine with me.  What is it about competition that is so attractive to people? And I must admit I find competition attractive sometimes; but not frequently. What is it? Why do we like to favorably compare ourselves with others? It’s a mystery.

+++

The next three chilly days will be preludes to a major drop in temperatures. Mixed precipitation is forecast for Thursday, with the low temperature than night expected to plunge to 1°F. Friday’s high may reach 16°F. The high on Christmas Eve day is forecast to reach 25°F, with the low that night dropping to 16°F. Those low temperatures and Thursday’s mixed precipitation would not be so bad if we were prepared: appropriate winter clothes, proper protections for water lines, adequate insulation, automobiles outfitted with cold-weather gear and equipment. But such weather is not common around here, so we do not plan for it. We stay indoors as much as we can and we hope for the best, after doing what we can to protect our homes and vehicles. And, of course, ourselves. I often think group living arrangements in co-housing environments are preferable to the way most of live today. But I value my privacy and my solitude too much, perhaps, for that to work for me. I don’t know myself well enough to know how I might react to living in close proximity to groups of people. Hmm.

There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more.

~ Lord Byron ~

+++

I graduated from high school fifty years ago last May. Following graduation, in June I moved from Corpus Christi, Texas to Austin, Texas to begin my college career in the summer session. Fifty years ago this month, I was completing my first Fall term classes during the period when the U.S. launched what is known as the “Christmas bombings” of North Vietnam. I do not remember that war-time offensive—I suppose I did not follow the news at the time, focusing my attention instead on my school work and the freedom afforded by my first several months of living away from home. My recollection of the large scale bombing events, which I vaguely remember learning about later, was triggered this morning by scanning CNN.com, a news source that, regardless of its bias, is sometimes an interesting read.

My failure to follow the news at the time is an embarrassment. Yet I doubt I was alone. I remember the Paris Peace Accords, though, and the withdrawal of U.S. troops a few months later. It wasn’t until the end of April 1975 that the war officially ended, roughly two years after the end of U.S. combat involvement.

Despite the fact that I did not always follow the war closely, I was opposed to it from as far back as I remember, even when my brother was sent to Da Nang as an Air Force medic. My opposition to the war did not coincide with any ill will toward U.S. troops; I felt like they were thrust into a situation over which they had no control. They did what they were commanded to do by U.S. administrations, beginning with Kennedy, that should never have intervened in the conflict. That having been said, some of the atrocities conducted by U.S. troops were unforgiveable. But because I have no direct experience with the horrors of war, I do not know how I might have behaved in the circumstances surrounding those atrocities.

Claims that U.S. troops in Vietnam “fought to preserve the freedoms we enjoy” are flawed, just as are similar claims made about our troops in Iraq. They fought because they were commanded by misguided leaders to do so.

There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare.

~ Sun Tzu, the Art of War ~

+++

Only the dead have seen the end of the war.

~ George Santayana ~

+++

I want more coffee now. I may try to brew it especially strong. There are days I wish I had kept my espresso machine; this is one of them. But my machine never made espresso as good as the monstrously expensive machines in coffee specialty shops; I prefer to buy the really good stuff than to make mine that is adequate but not exceptional. For now, I will be satisfied with plain old French roast coffee, adjusted a bit to be stronger than normal. Three hours from now, I will drink more coffee at church as I wait for the Illumination service to begin. I think the service will be exactly like it was last year and in years past. We shall see.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Gonzo

Hunter S. Thompson took his own life. He committed suicide at age 67.

Something I read early this morning mentioned Thompson in passing. For some reason, that casual aside about him led me down a rabbit warren. I refreshed my memory of his style of writing and his style of living. Though I know very little about the way he lived his life, day by day. I know his wife, Anita, was 32 years old when Thompson died; less than half his age. I know Thompson’s funeral was an expensive endeavor, said to have been financed by Johnny Depp. I know Thompson’s ashes were shot out of a cannon as part of the funeral service. But those facts do not reveal what his life was like, day by day. Not that it matters.

Reading that Thompson insisted on always having the ability to take his own life if things got too bad (whatever that means) got my attention. I had a discussion along those lines the other day when mi novia and a friend and I engaged in casual conversation.

+++

Time has flown by this morning. I woke at around 5:30. It’s nearing 8:00 now. How did that happen?

Time compression. I am 69, two years older than Thompson when he died. I remember when I was 67. It was no big deal. But 69 is a surprise. I did not expect it. I remain a teenager at heart. Or maybe a 20-something. Possibly a 30-something. But no older. Not a day over 39.

Yet Reality screams at me and grabs me by the shoulder, sending pain sufficient to cause me to gasp; “You’re an old man!” Reality screams it, pushing me in just the right place so I can feel the damn pain in my hip that periodically reminds me that I should avoid climbing on the roof. Or stairs. I reply with a stream of vulgarities, loud enough to send the birds outside my study window fluttering away.

+++

I deleted what I wrote earlier. Roughly 750 words. It was not suitable for all audiences. Epithets accounted for a quarter of it. That may be an exaggeration. But not much. And the subjects I covered were, at best, awkward and troubling. Had I left it untouched and simply published it, my very small number of followers might have worried that I was in danger. I wasn’t, but I am sure some would argue the point. Best to simply delete the post and start over. So I did. I wish I had saved it for myself, though. It captured what was on my mind. Next time, I will save what I wrote so I can look back, later, and marvel at the depth of the hole into which I crawled.

+++

Enough. Time to move on.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Inheritance

My DNA reveals things about me I once thought were somewhat-private. Now, anyone with access to certain data in the records of ancestry.com can know my DNA suggests: I like the taste of cilantro, I tend to remember my dreams, I am introverted, I am midway between risk-tolerant and risk-averse, that I have dark eyes. But the same data say I am a “night person” and my hair is dark; in fact, I have never been a night person and I had dishwater-blond hair before most of it turned grey. The lesson, I suppose, is that a genetic predisposition to a specific trait does not assure the expression of that trait. Perhaps, though, the fact that a predisposition remains dormant at any given point in one’s life does not guarantee it will remain dormant. I may yet become a “night person,” though the very thought disturbs me—I would hate to replace my early-morning solitude with late-night unknowns. I paid $10 to gain access to those DNA revelations, proving either that I am curious about what my DNA reveals about me or I am ego-driven—or, perhaps, both.

Other people could have different motives to pay the fee for access to their genetic information. Maybe a person is anxious to assuage his concerns that his DNA might reveal a propensity to commit murder. That “trait” has not yet been associated with a genetic marker—but that is not to say that it will not. And who is to say whether the interpretation or application of data about the so-called genetic markers is valid or reliable? I have not bothered to explore the validity or reliability of my ancestry.com information, but I am writing about it as if it were believable merely because it came from a well-known website. Oh, there could be a million motives for paying for access. And a million misinterpretations. And a million resulting missteps or mistakes.

+++

There was a time no so long ago that I would harshly judge a man who kept his hat or cap on after entering any building. A little later, I reserved my condemnation for people who failed to remove their headgear only upon entry to certain buildings, like public libraries or churches. This morning, as I mull over the protocols for when to wear and when to remove head coverings, the existence of such rules or guidelines seems utterly absurd. Why does society feel compelled to dictate what is or is not proper about wearing a hat and when it must be removed. Yet we create and implement silly rules. And we inflict punishment—usually in the form of disapproving looks—on people who opt to ignore them.

Indefensible! We have no right to embarrass or otherwise punish people who flout the protocol for wearing headgear!

How far does that dismissive attitude go? Should we be similarly flexible about the protocol that requires coat and tie in certain upscale restaurants? Or the social requirement that we wear suitable clothing or, at a bare minimum, cover our genitalia? It seems this matter is another one that moves freely (or almost so) along the continuum of what we sometimes call “proper decorum.”

Despite my mockery, I suppose protocol or ritual or whatever you choose to call it may have a legitimate place in society. It sets limits that can be understood—if not supported—by everyone. It provides a recognizable anchor in times of chaos or confusion. And it may differentiate segments of society from one another, thereby helping to cement bonds between those who share certain attributes. Like skin color, unfortunately. Everything has markers that either bind us together or tear us apart.

+++

I have a small butt. It does not do its job of holding up my pants, so I must rely on a belt or suspenders or other such device created to prevent the social faux pas of letting one’s pants fall down. A larger butt, one more distinctly double-half-melon-shaped, probably would prevent that from happening. My shape is dictated, in large part, by my genes. I wonder why the ancestry.com exposé of my traits did not call attention to that physical flaw?

+++

As I sat here at my desk, upright, in a daze approaching sleep, I was jarred awake/alert by a loud “thump” against a window in front of me and to the left. I suspect it was a bird striking the window. But it’s still dark outside. Do birds awaken and fly around at this early hour? When the approaching dawn begins to flush darkness from the sky, I see and hear birds. But this early? In near total darkness?

Hmmm. It may not have been a bird. It could have been a raccoon, its paw balled into a fist, punching at the glass. Or a clumsy squirrel.

I cannot stay fully awake. It is 6:30. I have been up for more than two hours. I think I need more sleep. But I need more coffee, as well. I have a medical appointment at 8:45, so I will stay up; I just need to shower and shave and have breakfast and finish blogging. Not necessarily in that order.

+++

I inherited a significant number of traits and attributes. One of them seems to be a reluctance to call events to an end. But I must do that with this post. The End.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Boundaries

The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?

~ Edgar Allan Poe ~

+++

Writers are not unique in their seeming preoccupation with death; they are scribes who capture in words the emotions we all experience and the thoughts and questions swirling in our brains. Some writers—like Edgar Allan Poe and John Donne and Emily Dickinson and William Shakespeare—are especially astute in their observations about death and our feelings about it. They express with uncommon clarity the enormity of life’s closure. But their words often acknowledge the mystery of death is a mirror image of the mystery of life that precedes it. Humankind, from the beginning of our species’ consciousness, has questioned the meaning of life. We are no closer to answering that question today than our predecessors were in the earliest moments of awareness.  Life and death are eternal mysteries. Yet we sense—or we choose to believe—they both have meaning. That belief can supply comfort, especially when confronting the inevitable ends of the lives of people who matter to us. And, as we reflect on the impact of people close to us who have died, we rightfully conclude their lives had meaning to us and that their absence will be deeply felt. Maybe that is the closest we will come to answering the question of the meaning of life. Perhaps the meaning of individuals’ lives and deaths is not vast and universal but, instead, focused and precise and intimate. Celebration of a life that touches our own, it seems to me, should be a longer-lasting response to a death than is perpetual mournful sadness.

+++

…send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

~ John Donne ~

+++

A bit more than two years ago, I immersed myself in the Danish television series, Borgen. As I finished watching the third season, I lamented the fact that I would have to wait until at least late 2022 to watch another season, when it was planned for release on Danish television. Mi novia had not watched any of the first three seasons, but I wanted to watch the new season with her. I decided to refresh my memory in preparation for the new season. So, we have begun making our way through the first three seasons; a repeat for me, a new experience for her. In my view, it is just as good the second time around. That being said, I can hardly wait to finish the first three seasons so I can watch the next one, which is entitled, Borgen: Power & Glory. If anyone who reads this has watched or is watching Borgen, I would be curious to learn of others’ reactions to the program.

+++

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Experience is Frustration

The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.

~ Bertrand Russell ~

I have said it before and I’ll say it again: FoxNews and CNN never fail to disappoint me. In my view, neither of the two “news” organizations meet any reasonable standards as unbiased sources of meaningful information. When I scanned their websites this morning, their presentations of “news” screamed bigotry; one from the chauvinistic left and one from the narrow-minded far right. Neither is a reliable source of clean, clear, unprejudiced information. As such, I advise anyone who will listen to be wary of anything the two warring propaganda machines produce or distribute. If the two offered descriptions of a puppy, I would be extremely cautious of accepting either’s characterization. One might describe a soft, cuddly creature suitable as a companion to a newborn baby, while the other depicts a vicious, violent, dangerous, bloodthirsty beast that is hungry for babies’ blood. My experience with news organizations—even “reliable” ones—has left me skeptical and mistrustful. I do not like to be doubtful about what I hear from so-called dependable sources of news, but neither do I like to be manipulated into believing stories shaped by partisan apostles and their bigoted handlers. Skimming this morning’s “news” was a mistake; I am no better informed than before I read the polemics, but I am substantially more agitated.

Rioting is a childish way of trying to be a man, but it takes time to rise out of the hell of hatred and frustration and accept that to be a man you don’t have to riot.

~ Abraham Maslow ~

+++

If one is to believe the weather report I saw a few minutes ago, this morning’s clouds and rain showers will give way to a brighter, sunnier afternoon. I hope the meteorologists who prepared the forecast are more reliable and less prone to intentionally misleading their audiences than the two news organizations I castigated in the rant above. I do not mind forecasts that turn out to have been unintentionally wrong,  I would be furious, though, if I thought the forecaster purposely misled me into believing I should expect warm and sunny weather for my cross-country drive when he knew an icy storm would make travel dangerous and potentially deadly.

Chill, John. I just lit a cone of patchouli incense. I will let the aroma combine with my purposeful decompression to smooth my mood. I interrupted my volcanic mood by checking my blood pressure; 96/59, an indication, perhaps, my efforts to chill may have been successful. Though, in reality, I doubt blood pressure is a reliable indicator of one’s state of mind.

+++

Once again, I had a dream that combined experiences from different phases of my past employment experiences. The people and places were real, but they were out of sequence and location. Yet I seemed to know that the experience was present-day, although I knew it was not in the proper place nor in the proper order. I will not remember the dream without writing down what I remember at this moment, but what I remember now is so complex and confusing that I could not hope to document it in a way that would make any sense. So I will let my memories of the dream slip away into the ether. Certain elements were troubling, so it’s probably best to let it dissolve. Otherwise, I might obsess over what is probably a meaningless, chaotic set of misfiring synapses. On one hand, I think dreams have no meaning whatsoever, but on the other I think they may represent unresolved emotional experiences that plague the unconscious. How’s that for conflict?

+++

An hour and a half has passed since I woke, late, this morning. Time remains in compressed mode. It is impossible to believe so much time has passed since I woke, but I know it has. I remember this morning, so far, but it seems to have flown by at the speed of light. Yet it also seems to have slowed almost to the speed of cold molasses flowing across a sheet of ice. I will end, here, this attempt at thinking with my fingers. More coffee, please. And something flavorful to satisfy my hunger.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Time and Space

Several months ago, mi novia and I launched a search for a dining table. We wanted something more modern, more attractive, more appealing. We found one we liked quite a lot, but several considerations caused us to keep looking; the one we liked was very expensive, it was located at a store in northwest Arkansas, and the cost to have it delivered to Hot Springs Village seemed exorbitant. So we kept looking. One of my brothers, who was in the process of planning a move, offered his very attractive teak table, but the cost and logistics of getting it from southeast Texas to the Village argued against it. So we decided to pause our search. For some reason, the matter of our search for a dining table came to my mind this morning. And what came to mind was a sense of relief—relief that we did not invest money and more time in our search. The rarely-used table in the dining room is perfectly fine. While it is not the sleek, Scandinavian-style teak table I had personally wanted, it is more than adequate. Had we spent several thousand dollars on a beautiful new table, we might have forced ourselves to use it more often than we use the old stand-by, but that forced use would have been an attempt to justify what amounts to unjustifiable desire. Or, perhaps, simple greed. Maybe we will, at some point, replace the antique table that is in need of refinishing and repair, but I no longer feel that there is any urgency to it. And, in fact, I think I would feel embarrassed to spend the money to satisfy what seems to me, this morning, to represent raw avarice. I have not shared my thinking on the matter with mi novia yet, inasmuch as it settled in my brain only this morning. I suppose I’ll find out before long whether our thoughts are aligned.

+++

This morning’s blogging paused while I prepared an unusual breakfast of corned beef hash, poached eggs, and a Frankensteinian citrus created through human intervention in the reproductive process of tangerines and/or other such citrusy fruits (also known as Cuties™, mandarins, or other other such terms). During the course of eating breakfast, I wondered about the origin of the term “corned” as applied to beef. Mother Google responded to my curiosity by informing me that corned beef was created as a way to export Irish beef to Britain, explaining that “The term “corned” beef derives from the size of the salt crystals that were used to cure the meat.” I am now curious about the enormous salt crystals used by Irish exporters of beef. Where did they get those giant crystals? Or are large salt crystals more natural than the tiny crystals we find in our table salt? Or is our table salt actually composed of much larger crystals that have been crushed and otherwise processed to be more easily transported and/or shaken on our food at the table? Although I am curious about such stuff, I have other things to do this morning than delved into the genesis of the salt on our tables. [But, in fact, the salt on our table is Falksalt, salt flakes produced in Cyprus and distributed by a company based in Sweden. I became enamored of Falksalt years ago after my late wife decided to try it and we found it exceptionally appealing. And now you know how I came to use  flaked Falksalt at my dining table.]

Breakfast this morning was, in my opinion, a delight.

+++

Sunday’s church service, an Insight presentation of a member’s UUVC Faith Journey, was quite interesting. The presenter, a very active member of the church whose participation in church activities included a year’s service as president, spoke of her evolution from a lengthy early history in a Catholic environment to a long period being “unchurched” through an intellectual and spiritual development that led her to an understanding of that the universe, and consequently humankind’s role in it, is ever-expanding. I enjoy hearing people think aloud, revealing their perspectives on the unknown and unknowable. The presenter’s history as a mathematician and engineer, intertwined with her curiosity about humankind’s almost infinitesimally small place in the expanding universe, was thought-provoking.

+++

The time is approaching 9 a.m., literally hours later than I usually post my blog. The passage of time seems to accelerate lately. That makes me wonder whether time is actually compressing, to the point that the future will become the past and vice versa. Or, perhaps, space and time are in the process of becoming one another, so that tomorrow, for example, will become a physical thing—and a light bulb or a desktop will morph into concepts against which the sequence of experiences will be measured.

My mind is racing, now, far faster than usual. I wonder whether it might one day become possible for me to slip undetected into the brain of a friend, where I can poke around and see or hear or feel her thoughts. Would I be surprised to know what is there? Could I cross between or through or over walls that separate factual experience from fantasy or spiritual pursuits? Would I find, in the head of another friend, an unexpected curiosity about the ancient history of his ancestors’ experience carving canoes from monstrous trees? Would I find in another friend’s mind memories of his experiences that have yet to occur?

That finishes my excursion into a thick fog, laced with the remnants of dead leaves and bird calls. Call me crazy. Just call me. 😉

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Imagine How It Would Be

Ancient, long-buried memories of what seemed, at the time, insignificant thoughts and emotions can erupt like geysers. Those recollections flood the consciousness with forgotten mental images that drown the present in pools from the past. So it was this morning when, purely by chance, I stumbled upon a New York Times article from August, 2001. The article—an obituary, I guess—told of the death that month of author Robert H. Rimmer at age 84. I did not recognize his name, but I recognized the title of what apparently was his most widely-read novel, The Harrad Experiment.

I remember coming across a paperback copy of the book that belonged to my late sister. I suppose it was around the time the book was at the peak of its popularity which, I learned this morning, was 1966 or 1967, when I would have been thirteen or fourteen years old. Though I doubt I read the entire book, I remember reading enough of it to recall that it appealed to the budding libido of a kid awash in hormones. The Times article described the book as a “…novel about an elite Eastern college where male and female students lived in the same dormitory and did pretty much what came naturally…” The article goes on “…some herald(ing) it as a ringing manifesto for free love.” I may be mixing up memories of different books, but I seem to recall scenes that suggested hidden sexual feelings between two strangers could be unleashed if the two of them would sit facing one another in silence, staring into each other’s eyes, for a period of time—I do not remember how long; it could be several minutes or several hours. Whether that scene was from The Harrad Experiment or not, I am certain Rimmer’s novel unleashed a fascination with all things sexual.

The article I read this morning told that Rimmer went on to write several more books (more than a dozen) that all dealt with unconventional sexual relationships that Rimmer “believed would foster fulfillment and freedom.” In an interview with Psychology Today, Rimmer said, “There will be socially approved group marriage, there will be bigamous marriages, there will be open-ended marriages in which each partner has a relationship outside the marriage.

After reading the article from the Times, I remembered my fascination with The Harrad Experiment. I think the book must have been responsible, at least in part, for my fascination with the psychology of sexual attraction. I suspect the book triggered my curiosity about and intellectual acceptance of unconventional sexual relationships. Despite my curiosity and my tolerance and acceptance—in theory—of such relationships, they were never sufficiently appealing to overcome my unwillingness to experiment with them. I never considered exploring bigamy, for example, nor trading marriage partners. But in my early teen years and beyond, I remember being fascinated with the idea of casual, short-term sexual relationships.

It’s interesting that happening upon an old newspaper article could prompt me to remember so much about thoughts and feelings from long, long ago. I suspect the book and subsequent literary explorations were responsible in part for my acceptance of people who were in unconventional relationships. Though the book itself is not responsible for my attitudes, my intellectual and emotional reaction to it no doubt shaped my liberal views. Interestingly, my liberal views apply to others’ relationships, but not to mine. My ego is not adequate to withstand “sharing” someone. And I am not confident that people with whom I am close would be able to withstand the emotional storms such relationships might cause. So, after all this openness and acceptance, I find that I am truly liberal in my thinking only to the extent that it applies to strangers. Admitting my hypocrisy, I suppose, is less painful than stitching up the wounds that “unconventional sexual relationships” could cause. Yet the hesitance to explore, first-hand, such unconventional relationships does nothing to constraint the imagination. The imagination is one reason people might have for holding tight secrets about themselves, for fear of being judged.

+++

A foggy morning, again. As I gaze into the forest, trees in the distance disappear into a grey haze. The quiet of fog-enshrouded mornings is deep. Even the birds and the squirrels seem to acknowledge that silence is in order. But yesterday morning, before church, was like today; yet a few deer and a flock of turkeys in plain view behind the house went about their business—in silence. If I did not know better, I would say Nature is sayings its prayers this morning. Actually, I may not know better. I may know only my perspective; I know nothing of how anyone else—everyone else—experiences the world.

I will stop writing about this for now, but I won’t stop thinking about it. I never stop thinking about it. If I could stop, my head would be empty, luxuriating in the comfort of nothingness. I can only imagine…

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Another Sunday

Ten years ago to the day, as I sat at my desk, I mused about words written by a young woman I knew only superficially from occasionally reading her blog. She occasionally read my blog, as well. If memory serves, I think the occasional exchange of messages about our respective philosophies lasted only a few months. Either she stopped blogging or I stopped reading what she wrote. But I have not forgotten how meaningful I found a few of the words she included in a blog post a few months earlier. I was struck by how they seemed to have been extracted from my brain:

We cling to things because we’re terrified of empty space. We surrounded ourselves with possessions because we feel like we need them to help us express who we are. We hold on to people because we’re afraid of being alone. We carry around our sadness because we would rather feel something than nothing. We try to fill our emptiness with whatever we can.

As I contemplate those words and how personal they seemed, I try to reconstruct the emotions that made the words seem so descriptive of how I felt. And what I felt at the time, I think, was self-pity. Why I felt it is beyond my ability to recall; but I think that is what I felt. Or maybe that’s not quite it; maybe not self-pity, but something akin to it. I had turned 59 years old a few months before. Reaching that age was no more impactful than any of the milestones before it. But I could sense the next birthday would have a jarring effect on me. I anticipated I would feel I had accomplished nothing of consequence in all the years leading up to the commencement of my sixth decade.

Ten years later—ten years shy of approaching my seventh decade—similar thoughts rattle around in my head. But looking at the years since that time, I now understand the life I had then was more full and more satisfying than I realized. I should have known.

+++

When a person expresses his sadness or depression or ennui or…whatever…it does no good for friends to give him all the reasons his emotions are invalid. He does not need to be told all the reasons he should, instead, feel happy and appreciative of all the wonderful things for which he should feel grateful. Instead, he needs his emotions acknowledged, his good fortune notwithstanding. Hah! I proclaim what he needs, as if I am an experienced and knowledgeable therapist. Why do we try to eliminate or invalidate emotional pain? I suspect it is because we do not want people we care about to feel that pain. But dismissing the legitimacy of negative emotions may do more harm than good. I suspect, too, that people rarely reveal all the sources of their negative emotions, in part because they feel embarrassed…they feel responsible for their own pain and they expect they would be judged for it if they exposed their own role in causing it. These are topics worthy of conversation, of course, but getting beyond the guilt probably is extraordinarily hard. That, I imagine, is why years of education and training are required before a person becomes a recognized, qualified, certified, legitimate therapist. At least that’s my guess.

+++

My mind and my fingers are tired. I will try to give both some rest before I launch into another Sunday.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments