Transformation

For breakfast this morning, I ate a pomelo and a grapefruit mi novia bought a a few days ago. The pomelo, with its thick rind and its rather bland flavor was not especially good. But the small grapefruit (much smaller than those I recall from my childhood) was incredibly tasty! Its ruby red flesh combined tartness and sweetness into a joyous flavor I would like to have every morning for breakfast. The taste and coloring reminded me of my youth, when my father brought home big bags of Ruby Red Grapefruit from his travels around the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas. Ah, those were the days! Dad also brought home enormous papayas, bags of limes, oranges…and on and on. I rarely remember much 0f anything from my childhood, but this morning’s grapefruit breakfast triggered some wonderful memories. I remember Dad used to get up early and fry lots of bacon. And I remember hearing about his work history, before he settled on lumber wholesaling (buying lumber from mills and selling it to lumberyards). If memory serves me correctly, Dad worked in the Brownsville shipyard during World War II. And I have vague recollections of hearing, before that, that he was involved in importing South American fruits and vegetables—and that he made occasional trips to South America. If my siblings read this, I hope they might be able to verify or correct my recollection. I find it interesting that I have so few memories of my childhood. But I remember some specifics, like joining Dad on some of his multi-day trips to the Rio Grande Valley. During one of those trips, one of his customers, a lumberyard owner, joined Dad and me at a little diner in Woodsboro, Texas, where we had pie. The diner is probably long gone, but I may take a long, meandering drive to south Texas sometime before long, including a detour through Woodsboro to see whether I remember anything about the little town.

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Groups of people usually are willing, albeit often begrudgingly, to acknowledge leaders. There is evidence of that fact in all sorts of political divisions—from neighborhoods to villages to towns to cities to states nations, and even the entire world. But the degree to which people support (or do not support) leaders of various social and political subdivisions varies to such an extent that “leadership” is often targeted for forced change. Leadership in such circumstances is equivalent to chaos. The reason, as I see it, can be traced to the fact that, within groups, the beliefs and interests of individuals and sub-groups are at odds with those of leaders and leaders’ acolytes. Even situations in which little or no discord exists “in the ranks,” unity eventually seems to eventually break down. Peoples’ interests and beliefs and desires change; the direction and rate of change varies within groups, leading to fractures in the bonds that once might have held the group unified tightly together. No matter the size or geographic scope or other attribute, groups of people always split at some point. Even globally “unified” groups do not stay serenely connected forever. Consider, for example, religions that one might think would reflect unity among their adherents. The Pope is not universally recognized by all Catholics as the leader of the Catholic religion. Protestants, it seems to me, are only vaguely unified; that unity is in name only. Efforts to establish global unity of sorts among nations, vis-a-vis the United Nations, have been only marginally—very marginally—successful. I wonder, in the face of all the evidence that suggests unity is a hopeless goal, why human beings keep trying to achieve the impossible? I guess we’re all romantics, deep down; we refuse to acknowledge that failure is guaranteed, so we try against insurmountable odds to achieve the impossible dream.

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True nostalgia is an ephemeral composition of disjointed memories.

~ Florence King ~

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Somewhere, deep inside me, a seed sprouted long ago but still has never fully matured. If ever my body is autopsied, the coroner (or whoever) will find the sprout; it will be Don Quixote, clawing fiercely, trying to get out.

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I know, it’s very late in the morning for me to be blogging. It may be a sign that I am transforming myself into the person I will become next.

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Below is a video that expresses how to how to wish someone Ramadan Mubarak in various languages around the world. The video is from the Aljazeera website. I post it here in case you have an interest. It interests me, for reasons unknown.

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Another Time

Yesterday’s insight service at church consisted of a screening of a documentary film entitled, Join or Die. Based on the research that led to Robert Putnam’s book, Bowling Alone, the marketing tag line for the film is “A film about why you should join a club — and why the fate of America depends on it.” I was extremely impressed with the documentary and the messages it delivered. I studied sociology in college and have maintained a strong interest in the discipline ever since. Watching the film, I felt the rush of interest and intrigue I felt as I delved into sociological issues in school. A friend at church, to whom I had mentioned my interest in sociological subjects, lent me Putnam’s book a week ago. I thumbed through the lengthy (almost 600 pages) book, but had not yet begun to read it when, last night, mi novia and I decided to listen to the audio book. The first chapter was just as interesting as I had hoped; I expect I will be just as transfixed by the rest of the book.

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Another visit to the oncologist’s office is on the agenda this morning for “labs,” meaning a few tubes of blood will be extracted from the port in my chest. The process has become routine for me, though the brief stabbing pain (the intensity of which is supposedly reduced by a quick, cold spray of local anesthetic) still causes me to wince for a moment. It’s better than multiple attempts to find a willing vein in my arm or hand.

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Though I am in a state of mind suitable for writing, I will resist the urge to allow my fingers to spill the contents of my brain, through my fingers, onto the screen. But know that, if I were to write more this morning, you would feature prominently as I revealed my very positive thoughts. For now, though, I will rein in my fingers, holding them in check until I write again another time.

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War. What is it Good For? Absolutely Nothing

Several of the clocks in the house either have been adjusted or adjusted themselves overnight, reacting to the admonition that most U.S. residents’ clocks “spring forward.” Daylight saving time (DST) has a long, convoluted history—one insufficiently interesting to me to warrant exhaustive research into its evolution. That having been said, I explored enough to learn that Port Arthur, Ontario, Canada, was the first city in the world to enact DST, on 1 July 1908. DST was first implemented in the US with the Standard Time Act of 1918, a wartime (World War I) measure intended to add more daylight hours to conserve energy resources. DST and its companion, Standard Time, have been mucked with repeatedly on a global basis since then. That is more than enough for now; except for my suggestion that everyone who lives in areas impacted by the imposition of DST should adjust their clocks accordingly to avoid being late in meeting their various obligations.

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My sleep patterns continue to annoy me. Once again, I was in bed by around 8 last night. My energy behaves like artillery; a massive burst, followed by an eerie emptiness with only shrapnel left as evidence of its explosive power. That—explosive power—is a bit much. Actually, it is more like the force of an abrupt hiccup. But after the hiccup, only the deathly quiet shreds of a spent artillery shell. Is it odd that I would compare the oscillations in my level of energy to instruments of war? War is hell, smeared with insanity. I sometimes feel that my unpredictable levels of energy (or lack thereof), are hellish states in which to find myself. But when I give serious thought to what I imagine to be the horrors of war, I realize my circumstances do not merit even a single sigh. War is more than just insane; it is monumentally stupid. War-mongers should be disemboweled and hung—bleeding and in excruciating pain—from electric power transmission lines. I realize, of course, how harsh that scenario must seem to people who are unprepared for such repulsive images. Perhaps, though, if we could collectively view the atrocities of war through such scenes, we could collectively end war and the people who wage it by proxy, sending people off to die in pursuit of power. And thus ends my diatribe about my irritation with my sleep patterns.

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The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.

~ Leo Tolstoy ~

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If I can maintain at least the level of energy I feel at the moment, I will go to church in a while. An interesting video about the crucial importance of community engagement is to be shown; I want to see the entire thing. I hope my energy can last until the end of the film, at least.

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Another previously unscheduled visit to the oncologist tomorrow morning. This time will involve only a blood draw for labs. I gather some of the components of my blood have been too low or too high of late, prompting the oncology team, on Friday, to ask me to return on Monday. If nothing else, the trip into Hot Springs might provide me with the opportunity to stop at a donut shop, where I might get an extraordinarily tasty apple fritter or a jalapeño sausage wrapped in a soft dough. I suppose it would be too much to get both; but that would be a very nice reward for making the trip into town at an early hour—again.

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Mi novia made an extremely good, rich, filling turkey-noodle soup a couple of days ago. One-pot meals tend to be quite good. She knows how to pick them.

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I am anxious to get my PET scan; but it is scheduled for more than a week hence. I hope the results are good. If they are not, my oncologist and I will have to talk about next steps and a different approach. Worry does no good, but it sometimes is so intrusive as to be impossible to shed. Ach.

 

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For Me to Tell

People who speak a language other than their native tongue are to be admired. But yesterday, when I called the foreign bank (with a domestic US headquarters office) to attempt to renew a CD I originally bought online, my admiration turned to frustration. I made the original purchase because the rate—5.00% APY—was among the highest I could get when I bought it a year ago; no point in investing with a local bank when I could earn an additional 4.25% by transferring money from my day-t0-day bank. And last year’s purchase was easy. Yesterday, though, when I tried to renew it online for 7 months at 5.30% APY, I encountered confusion, frustration, and annoyance. So I called the bank’s customer service number. The first time was a wash-out; the very nice woman with whom I spoke tried to communicate with me, but her accent was so heavy I could not understand her; she said she could not transfer me to anyone else who might be easier for me to understand. I sent an email to customer service, explaining the problem and asking for a number I could call to reach a native English speaker. The email response gave me the same number to call. I tried it. A different woman, equally pleasant but equally impossible to understand, attempted to help me. Without success, I finally hung up again. I then decided to close out my CD online, only to learn that I had to call the same number to reach a customer service representative to assist me. The third phone call yielded another pleasant woman, considerably easier to understand. I closed my CD account with the bank, transferring the funds to my local bank. I plan to visit a local bank on Monday to buy a slightly shorter-term CD at a slightly lower yield. The calls I made yesterday were transferred out of country—I suspect either Hong Kong or Singapore or the Philippines. The polyglot customer service representatives are no doubt paid less than domestic native English speakers would be paid, but I wonder how many customers and how many dollars are lost to frustration like mine? I admire those folks’ linguistic abilities, but I think their skills would better serve the bank if they were limited to written, not voice, communications.

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Mi novia tends to laugh at my tendency to weep at the drop of a hat; I am sure I have mentioned that in more than one post. I wonder what it is that causes some people—like me—to be so damn sensitive? My thoughts on the matter range from believing ultra-sensitivity is intrinsic—a genetic trait, perhaps—to thinking it is a characteristic cultivated somehow through experience or that a core tendency is enhanced (or exaggerated) through repeated incidents that either are rewarded or, for lack of a better word, punished. The answers, I suspect, are no more than theories; considered beliefs that seem to make sense to the people who hold them. I change my mind quite a lot about the causes of what I call super-sensitivity; and my mind changes equally as often about the causes of what I tend to think of as apparent unkindness…callousness…hard-heartedness…insensitivity… and a dozen other such words. People who do not weep at what are, to me, powerfully emotional situations, are not necessarily unkind or uncaring; they simply have different levels of emotional triggers, right? Or is there a distinct characteristic that differentiates between people who are, like me, super-sensitive and those who maintain unflinching stoicism in circumstances that might bring others to their knees? Why does this issue weigh on me so much? What does it matter? Do other people care? And does it matter whether they do or not? Probably not. I suspect we’re all simply different. Our personalities are carved from the same materials. Or some are carved from stone and some are carved from clay. Or soap. Still, I want a definitive answer. Dammit. But in the immortal words of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, “You can’t always get what you want.”

 

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I got a call from a friend yesterday afternoon, who phoned from a distant vacation spot to inquire how I was doing. Her call instantly boosted my spirits, even though my spirits were not especially low; but the call conveyed that I was on her mind and that she cared to know that my medical engagements were going well. Several other friends commented on yesterday’s blog, too, which was the first one I had written in several days. Again, reading those brief  comments brightened my day. And others who communicated with mi novia during the past several days inquired about me, too, adding “meat” to the reality that I am important to people who are important to me. Spending so much time either at home or sitting in treatment chairs in the oncologist’s office makes those brief inquiries especially meaningful. I am grateful for people who care; people who carve out a little time to get in touch are special sorts.

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I find this man’s thinking unattractive and irritating. Is it just me, or is he as upsetting to decent people as I think he should be? I know just enough about him to attach unflattering labels to him.

Wallow too much in sensitivity and you can’t deal with life, or the truth.

~ Neal Boortz ~

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Have you appeared in others’ dreams? Have others appeared in yours? What, if anything, might those facts mean? What might your insistence in keeping those facts private mean about you? There are so many things to think about, aren’t there? How many people wonder what cold pumice feels like? What sort of person would wonder about such a thing? If the process of dying were guaranteed to be painless, would more people be less frightened of it? If you could be assured that bouncing on a trampoline on your ninety-fifth birthday would fill you with joy, would you do what you have to do to live that long? Every idea probably has some merit; we just need to be willing to explore what that merit might be.

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Hugs can be extremely curative. Just ask me. I’ll tell you.

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Weary

I sit here, letting fluids and medications flow through the port in my chest. A vitamin B-12 shot in my upper arm was a new experience…I think. Too many stabs and jabs to remember. I have been weak and tired most of this week; uninterested in blogging. I feel better today. But I am very, very tired of the restrictions imposed on me by chemotherapy.

I have a PET scan scheduled for a week or two hence. The results of that test should tell whether the treatments are working as planned.

The vision in my left eye has degraded of late, so I must make an appointment to see my eye doctor. Degradation is a lousy experience.

Enough one-finger typing.

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Mental Misdirection

On rare occasion, I feel a slight tightness in my chest. It always dissipates within a few hours, a day at most, but during the time I feel the pressure I worry that it could be something worth being concerned about. But it almost always is accompanied by a bit of an upset stomach, so I blame my diet. If I were to visit a doctor or a clinic or otherwise engage with the healthcare system every time I feel bodily discomfort, I would develop a reputation as a hypochondriac. Visiting doctors or clinics or otherwise engaging with the healthcare system also is a royal pain in the behind, too; the time it takes tends to be extensive and, generally speaking, the outcome is an embarrassing acknowledgement that the reason for the visit is, essentially, “nothing.” Yet every refusal to engage could be that one time that engagement would have been highly appropriate. I have come to the conclusion that the intensity of pain (or the rarity of its characteristics) is a good governor of when it makes good sense to engage. Given individuals’ different experiences with pain, etc., though, it is unlikely that there is a single set of circumstances that would work for everyone. We we all have to wing it or be willing to assume the mantle of hypochondriac. Or refuse medical care in all cases. Winging it makes the best sense to me. For the moment, anyway.

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Mi novia bought some ginger ale recently, which I am drinking at the moment instead of my usual demitasse of espresso. It seems to be dealing with my slightly upset stomach and, to a similar extent, the slight tightness in my chest. I wonder what it is about ginger ale that reduces such symptoms? I doubt it is a cure, but it can have a positive effect on one’s body. Or, possibly, the memories of ginger ale’s “curative powers” from one’s youth might have all the mental impact one needs to return the body to a state of reasonable comfort.

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I think I slept considerably more last night than the two previous evenings, Though I was up and down several times, I seemed to fall quickly asleep each time I returned to bed. That notwithstanding, I am tired this morning. I think I could sleep for a few more hours, but I first have to get a couple of prescriptions filled. I should have gotten one of them on Friday or Saturday, but they slipped my mind; my blood level of magnesium is low, the nurse told me, and I need to replenish it with pills ASAP. If the pills do not work, I can return to the clinic for an infusion of the stuff…and for more saline solution, if I have trouble remaining hydrated.  Jeez! Everything this morning is whiney medical conversation with myself. I am more than a little tired of that.

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No matter the attention I try to give to other subjects, my mind keeps drifting back. I could scream. At least, though, when I called my sister to inquire about the status of her new hip (which has yet to fully and magically heal), the conversation touched on the carry-out or delivery (I don’t remember which) of Indian food they (my brother and sister-in-law are visiting her in Berkeley) were about to eat. Indian food is among my favorites. Lamb vindaloo often tops my list, although plenty of meatless dishes involving eggplant, okra, potatoes, and dozens of other veggies are wonderful…when properly combined with the marvelous flavors of spices from all around the subcontinent. Mi novia has yet to develop a passion (or even a particular tolerance) for Indian food. If we lived in Little Rock (or visited sufficiently 0ften), we could dine in Indian restaurants frequently enough to train her palate. Maybe. Not everyone likes or will ever like Indian food. I realize that. But I will always like it; love it, perhaps is the better way to describe my affinity for the cuisine. A bowl of sambar alongside some potato dosas would wonderful right now, though perhaps a tad too spicy for the condition my gut may be in. Iddlis might be more appropriate than dosas (I do not know enough about the proper regional combinations to know which is “right”). But I prefer dosas.

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I learned yesterday of the deaths of two people who were extremely important to friends of mine. The wife of a former employee died of cancer. Another friend’s mother died, though I do not know the cause. And, within the past week or so, a member of our church—a delightful guy—died. Death is an unwelcome constant in life. The closer it comes to our own experiences, the less welcome it becomes. Ach!

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A Mid-Morning Pause

Another mostly sleepless night, when I would have expected to be made sufficiently tired by last Thursday’s chemotherapy to sleep soundly for hours and hours. Perhaps I will fall fast asleep during the day. I hope so. In the interim, mi novia went to church; I had planned to go, but did not have enough reliable energy to get dressed—and, had I gone, I might have fallen asleep while sitting in the pew. For now, I am washing a load of laundry; I may not wait for them to finish before I try to sleep again. If the washer completes its cycle before I get back in bed again, I may let them sit; better to dry them later, than to let them dry and get badly wrinkled before I hang the shirts and pants. Ach. The feeling of exhaustion, without being able to get to sleep, is maddening.

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Though I would like to express profound thoughts and ask probing questions of the universe, I am unprepared to do either. Instead, I will admit to feeling fatigue that severely limits my intellectual abilities at the moment; maybe beyond the moment. I want sleep. I need sleep. I will attempt to get sleep. This blog can wait. It can always wait. I am the only one who exerts pressure on me to write, write, write. Not now, though. Not for a while.

 

 

 

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Nothing is Trivial

My brother who lives in Dayton will be appalled to learn that I had white chicken chili (with cannellini beans) for dinner last night—and it was exceptionally good! A true believer in the singular authenticity of beef-only red Texas chili, he refuses to accept that adjustments to recipes are not only legitimate but, often, extraordinarily appealing. In my book, the adjustments do not replace the recipes from which they sprang, they simply add to the reserve of options available to enjoy. Actually, th0ugh, I suspect his loathing of white chili is, at least in part, an act; one he performs rather well (but far too often 🙂 )

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After brief periods of intermittent sleep, I finally fell asleep sometime after 5 and awoke at 6. I went to bed around 8 last night, when I felt tired, but sleep did not come except in fits and starts for the rest of the night and into the morning. Perhaps the insomnia was preparation for my post-chemo exhaustion. Fatigue regularly follows those infusions within a day or two. We shall see. The carboplatin, for which I suddenly developed an allergy during my second infusion this time around, was replaced by cisplatin. And I was given a new prescription yesterday, during my post-chemo injections (to fight infections that could sneak in after the chemo weakens my immune system). The pills are meant to boost my magnesium, which has dropped again. They can have unpleasant side effects; though, which if they become intolerably troublesome can be replaced by another infusion. My body will remains a repository of drugs, medications, saline solution, immunotherapy solutions, and cancer-killing poisons for a while longer. A PET scan in the not-too-distant future will reveal whether the stuff is working as intended. Assuming it is, it won’t be long before the cancer-killers will cease and the immunotherapy solutions will continue their work—for two more years, if all goes according to plan.

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As I was viewing my photos on Google Photos this morning, I came across a reminder of the wonderful little brew-pub (Corazón de Malta) near my brother’s and sister-in-law’s house. The growler in the photo—which sits on a table on their terrace—is (or was) full of a marvelous locally-brewed (in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico) beer. Sitting on the terrace, feeling the breeze from Lake Chapala and viewing the lush plants in the surrounding area, is glorious. Ah! Though I was not feeling up to walking around the village much while we were there a few months ago, I was—as usual—transfixed by the environment. And simply sitting on the terrace, enjoying the views while engaged in conversation was a delight. I should have jumped in their pool while we were there, but I didn’t. Maybe next visit.

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I intended to call my sister—who has a new hip—yesterday, but I let my intentions roll down the road. I will try to stay awake long enough after this morning’s long range planning meeting for church to call this afternoon. Though I am confident all is well, I want to confirm that. I am advised—and advise others—not to worry about matters over which they have no control, but I tend not to avoid taking my own advice.

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And now for some expressions about peace; something to think about, even for those think the quotations banal, meaningless, or trite.

We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.

~ Dalai Lama ~

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An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.

~ Mahatma Gandhi ~

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Well past time for breakfast, I suppose. It is said one should eat the breakfast of kings, the lunch of princes, and the dinner of paupers.

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May You Be…

One of the reasons I often do not feel confident or competent when developing fictional characters who are stereotypically masculine males is that their personalities do not reside in me. The only aspect of their personalities that may mirror components of my own is their tendency to be loners, either intensely private or with public faces that conceal something they do not wish to share. But they do not readily express emotions, because the stereotypically masculine male does not reveal elements of his psyche generally considered feminine. When I write such characters into being, they tend to be emotionally shallow; incompetent to either express or understand emotions deeper than an affection for golf or hunting. I suspect, though, if I had the ability to explore such characters—real, nonfiction characters—I would find they are not as shallow as I usually perceive them to be. I imagine I would discover that they simply hide their sentimentality beneath layer upon layer of machismo—dry sweat and leather. I might learn they are afraid of looking weak. To that extent, we have commonalities. But they are better with camouflage than I. As I perceive my flawed writing the stereotypical male, though, I think it may not be my inability to write about him, but my fundamental dislike of him. I do not want to create another macho man. I do not want to add yet another to a world already overwhelmed with too many. I prefer to think my flaw is an emotional block rather than incompetence. But that may be just another way of protecting myself from an unwelcome reality.

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This morning I read a piece in the New York Times in which the writer said he had always had a small social circle of around 12 people, but that number had been shrinking. His comment made me think about my own social circle. First, I had to define what social circle means to me and what it does not mean. It does not mean the totality of people with whom I have occasional social interactions; not all members of my church, for example. Those people constitute my circle of casual engagements. My social circle represents that far smaller number of people with whom I socialize regularly—or periodically. Unlike the writer, my small social circle might be called tiny; closer to four or five…six or seven if I were to expand the measures to include another degree of separation. My social circle, as I define it here, is entirely local; I have a very small number of friends who live in other places. Hmm. I wonder the “average” size of the “average person’s” social circle? There is no average person, of course. And, so, no average social circle. But, still we wonder, what are the most common sizes of social relationships of various kinds? The smaller the circle, I think, the more intense the relationships. But that is simply my thought about it; others may see if from a completely different perspective. One day, I may ask my social circle to think hard about the concept and share it with me. What if they refuse, though? That might cause me to rethink the theory.

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I return to the oncologist’s office today for an injection, a follow-up to yesterday’s four-hour infusion of multiple chemotherapy drugs and related liquids. The intent of today’s experience is to minimize my risk of infection…I think. I took a list of 11 questions with me yesterday and I got answers to most of them. The question about what the purpose of today’s infusion/injection/whatever was not on my list; it should have been. Yesterday was the first time my blood draws and my therapeutic deliveries were made with my recently-implanted infuse-a-port, located on the upper right side of my chest. The port simplified the process, from my standpoint; at the very least, it eliminated what had become multiple attempts to find a suitable vein in one of my arms or one of my hands. My veins have become smaller, it seems, and more likely to roll as I have aged. More evidence of bodily degradation, I suppose.

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My attempts to sleep last night between 8 and 11 were futile, as was my attempt to sleep after 3:30 this morning. But I napped for much of the afternoon after returning from the chemotherapy session, between 4 and 7. I have accumulated an enormous stockpile of rest; my reserve of sleep should serve me for much of the rest of this century. I know, it doesn’t work that way. I should.

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A different language is a different vision of life.

~ Federico Fellini ~

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Crows, some of them the size of cats, sit in my driveway and perch in the trees around the front of the house. They are noisy creatures, their sounds utterly different from roosters but just as loud. I am certain they communicate with one another with the calls and cries and songs (though I have a bit of trouble calling any of those noises “calls”). What are they saying, I wonder? Though I seriously doubt they use a syntax anything like ours, they must have patterns of sounds that carry meaning for one another. Otherwise, why would they make those noises. I have the same questions about cats. Phaedra’s meows and yowls have very specific meanings, I believe, and I think I have come to have a rudimentary understanding of some of them. Dogs, too, communicate with barks and sighs and growls and such. As do most other creatures. Whales’ songs. Snakes’ hisses. What an enormously interesting world it would be—even more so than it is already—if humans could understand the languages of animals and could communicate in those languages.

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From the same article I mentioned above:

“May you be healthy and free of pain.”

“May your life be filled with happiness.”

“May you find peace.”

“May you always be treated kindly.”

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No.

I go in for another chemotherapy treatment today. Less than four hours from now. Every time I go in, I have new questions—or old questions I forgot to ask. Before I settled in to write this post, I typed eleven questions to ask; dozens more, I suspect, rattle around in my subsconscious. They hide there, wanting answers but failing to alert my conscious mind that they worry me and deserve some attention. I will remember them again late at night or over the weekend. That is the way it works for me. The questions for which I am especially anxious for answers cannot be answered—not yet. But some of the eleven questions on my typed list attempt to get at clues to those that are not yet ready for responses. I am sure oncologists and oncology nurses recognize those efforts to get them to forecast the future; they must be quite adept at replying without answering.

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On Saturday morning, a few hours of church time will be devoted to soliciting input for the next iteration of the church’s long range plan. Were I chairing the effort again, I would start fresh. I would utterly abandon the existing strategic plan—a tactical plan, actually—in an effort to be free of the constraints the “old” plan might place on thinking about the future. But I am not in charge. And my approach might well be rejected in its entirety by the congregation. So it’s best for me to simply observe and throw in an occasional idea or observation—assuming I feel well enough to participate in the gathering. It’s hard to know whether this morning’s chemo will intrude on my ability to think by Saturday morning. My thoughts about the future of the church have changed in the nearly five years since I chaired the endeavor. I suspect others’ thoughts may have similarly adjusted to subsequent circumstances. I hope I feel well enough to participate; or, at least, to observe. It is apparent to me that the primary facilitator of the Saturday meeting is extremely well-prepared. Unlike my approach, the facilitator is not apt to let personal perspectives color the way the discussions evolve. The ultimate outcome, therefore, is more likely to be a congregational plan than an individual plan imposed on the congregation. That, of course, is best. Unless one happens to have the personality of Joel Osteen; hmm, I thought I had a better handle on controlling the control-freak hiding just beneath the surface of my brain.

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My cursory read of yesterday’s post revealed an embarrassing number of typos. If I were more energetic and cared more, I would have corrected them this morning. But the energy just isn’t there. And I have come to realize mistakes in my posts do not matter. It would be different, of course, if my blog had a large readership, but it does not. One or two dozen people—on a day of especially robust viewing—might read a post. While those people are important to me, I convince myself they will not judge me too harshly for my un-corrected typos and the sloth my failure to correct them reveals. There was a time I would write—post—correct. I should have approached it with a write—correct—post attitude. But, now, I am just deeply lazy. And I can tolerate being judged, if that’s what were to happen after my mistake-laden posts were published. I should be embarrassed. And I suppose I am. Just not sufficiently embarrassed to do anything about it.\

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If I were to go back to bed right now, I would fall instantly asleep. That sounds sound incredibly inviting…but, no.

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Competing Ideas

Unlike physical pain, emotional injuries are abstractions. They consist of interpretations of intellectual encounters. They express one’s understanding of experience through a unique filter. They are responses to circumstances—mental acrobatics driven by unseen forces. Though they arise from the imagination, emotional injuries can be just as damaging as gashes made to the flesh and as painful as the mark left by a red-hot branding iron. But they are invisible and impossible to measure with precision. Oh, they can leave evidence, but never enough for us to know, with certainty, the source of the scars.

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It’s not the prose and poetry I envy. And it’s not the sculptor’s finished figure.  It’s not the products I envy.  It’s the mind from whence they spring, the mind that recognizes the chaos in clarity and the clarity in confusion. [A slight modification to something I wrote more than 11 years ago…something I stumbled upon and instantly remembered. Odd, I think, that passing moments can leave indelible marks on the memory.]

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Republics will blame Democrats for solar flares. Democrats will blame Republicans for near-misses by asteroids. I blame the sky for the colors I see in the morning, the hues hidden by grey clouds and the impenetrable mist of memories. French mercenary soldiers blame language interpreters for the Icelandic translation mistakes that lead to surrender. There is enough blame to go around; everyone can have an ample share of culpability. But praise is always in short supply.

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With or without plans, the future unfolds in the same way. The future already exists, like the chicken embryo comfortably in its shell, waiting for the egg to crack. Whether the mother hen envisions her chick covered in garish orange and purple feathers or she imagines it in simple white, the outcome has already been established. It’s not predetermined, it is just the way it is. Neither dye nor bleach after hatching changes reality. “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” It doesn’t matter; the cycle takes place with or without an answer.

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The phrase “children without parents” is easy to understand, though it could be interpreted in various ways. But the phrase “parents without children” is universally understand as nonsense…though it could be twisted into meaning it was never meant to have.

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Two or three or four generations from now, today’s parents will be permanently forgotten. I will be expunged from history much more quickly. There is nothing inherently sad about that reality. It is simply a fact that time has been repeated since the beginning of parenthood and its absence.

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Joy is temporary insanity. Nothing is inherently joyous, is it? Then again, no behavior or experience is inherently insane, either. Every experience must be measured against another one that looks, feels, and smells differently. Yes, smells.

 

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Knots

Clearly, all of us have lost our minds. There is no question about it. We go about our days as if there is nothing wrong with electing drunk, rabid alligators to manage our country’s affairs. The solution, of course, is to round up the reptiles, place them in an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and fill it with quick-drying concrete. But will we do it? No, certainly not. Instead, we will get as far as putting them in the pool, but instead of concrete we will argue over whether to fill the pool with hydrochloric acid, manure, or Jello, instead. Or maybe we will simply ignore the fact that we’re supplying the creatures with an endless supply of high-end Scotch. We should not be allowed to permit rabid beasts of any kind to engage in squabbles on our behalf. Our behalf? Hah!

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I have what some folks would call an ugly fantasy. I, on the other hand, consider it beautiful. In this fantasy, I have the ability to project invisible bolts of electricity from my eyes. And I can project them over enormously long distances. Those bolts are deadly. When they strike a drunken, rabid alligator, the animal’s body instantly turns to dust. Not ugly, in my opinion.

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A few years ago, I created some dummy magazine covers (I may have written about them recently…forgive me). The magazine covers were geared toward practitioners of specific criminal enterprises: car theft, burglary, bank robbery, financial market manipulation, and so forth. The titles of the magazines were modeled after Psychology Today. I do not remember all the details, but I believe I created covers (I used Photoshop to alter photos and text) for Auto Theft Today, Home Invasion Today, Bank Robbery Today, Securities Fraud Today, etc. I was more than a little surprised when someone saw images of those dummy magazine covers and said to me something to the effect that “I did not know you had been involved in publishing.” The comment was real. I wonder whether there might be a market for such periodicals? Today, of course, I probably would have to deliver them online; the cost of printing and distribution would be to great to produce hard-copy magazines.

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A great production of a black comedy is better than a mediocre production of a comedy of errors.

~ Tom Stoppard ~

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When I was younger, I wished for the ability to accelerate time—clear away the underbrush that kept the future so distant. I no longer wish for that capability. Today, I would prefer, at least, to slow time’s progress. Better yet, I would like to “rewind” time so I might revise who I was, how I behaved, risks I took, advice I ignored, and dozens of other experiences. But neither wish can be met, of course. It’s too bad, though, that all the mistakes cannot be blotted out of my memory, thoroughly forgotten so that the past would not hang over me like a guillotine. If only. If only. If only. The value of wisdom is recognized far too late. Time twists us into knots that cannot be untied.

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Quid Pro Quo

Gmail has about 1.5 billion users worldwide, according to Statistica. If a post on X (Twitter) had been proven to be legitimate (but, fortunately, the post was bogus), those users’ accounts would have disappeared with the closure of Gmail in August of this year. Google, thanks be to the gods of email communication, has publicly stated that Gmail is “here to stay.” But how would the world of Gmail users deal with the disappearance of the service, if it did shut down? I am essentially certain there would be a mad scramble to establish alternative email accounts. Other services, I suspect, would spare no expense in ramping up and promoting their offerings. While other services might fill the gap left empty by Gmail‘s closure, enormous numbers of users of the service would face the daunting task of notifying their contacts of their new email addresses. And, of course, many of those notifications would go unheeded or unrecorded or otherwise ignored. Email communications, especially for users who rely on the service for business interactions, could swirl into chaos. Could governments the world over step in to require Google to pause its planned closure of Gmail? Probably not, though I suspect they might try (and could well have some forceful, but limited, control). The pandemonium that the potential closure of Gmail could cause should give everyone reason to think about the consequences to our daily lives that the sudden (or even gradual) disappearance of ubiquitous services like Gmail could bring about. Not that we would have any control over such matters, of course. But we should give some thought to how we could prepare, at least to a limited extent, for such disruptive circumstances. Thinking about this possibility sparked my memories of the 1973-1974 Arab oil embargo and its impact on the price and availability of gasoline. The national 55 miles-per-hour maximum speed limit (since abandoned) was one response, as was the creation of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. As I think about our response to the embargo, I wonder whether we would react to the closure of Gmail in the same way; by applying a band-aid to a gushing hemorrhage. Hmmm. Something to occupy my mind, when nothing else will do.

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Somewhere in the darkness outside my window, a mourning dove expresses its grief. Or could the sound I hear come from an owl? There was a time not long ago when I could easily differentiate between the two birds’ calls. I have forgotten how the sounds differ, though. I wish I were better acquainted with the natural world; knowledgeable enough to understand everything far better than I do. My understanding of the world around me comes through communications based upon layer upon layer of filters. Those filters were created by people and artificial experiences influenced deeply by bias and misunderstanding. So what I “know” is what I have surmised through interpreting misinformation or been taught by following an agenda-infused syllabus.

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I have enormous regard for people who not only live on the land but learn from it; and who share their wisdom without arrogance and pride. I respect people who consider farming, for example, not simply as an occupation but as an obligation to understand and tend to the products from and of the earth. Hmm. I remember a brief time when, in my late teens, when I thought I wanted to be a large-animal veterinarian. I was interested in animal husbandry. My interest was based on what I thought, as opposed to what I knew. I could not have known because I had not experienced. I am too old and physically infirm to learn by experience now. I remember those rare times I spent a few hours at a time visiting farms for one reason or another. The odors were at once oddly offensive and intriguing; what some of the people around me found disgusting I found inviting. Hard physical work, coupled with extensive knowledge of the way the natural world works, is required for survival in certain pursuits.

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I stumbled upon a video about a book—Comrade Sisters: Women in the Black Panther Party. And that led me to a brief excursion into reading snippets about other aspects of the Black Panther Party. Some of the names were very familiar to me—Eldridge Cleaver, Stokely Carmichael, Angela Davis, Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, et al—but my memories did not extend to specifics about their roles in the organization. I skimmed some articles that told me of their roles and their lives outside the Black Panthers, but I doubt I will remember much because I did not take time to absorb what I read. What is the point of skimming, when the material I read will not stick? Skimming is just a way to pass the time, I suppose; it attracts my attention away from less innocuous subjects, I suppose.

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When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.

~ Desmond Tutu ~

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I have never trusted missionaries. Their quid pro quo, whether hidden or obvious, troubles me.

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Sleep and Such

My intentions this morning were smothered in sleep. I woke late, giving myself so little time to get ready for church that I opted to stay home and view the service online. But not long after waking and having coffee with mi novia and my sister-in-law, I felt an overwhelming need to sleep again. And so I did. For a few hours. I can feel awake and rested one minute, only to suddenly feel fatigued and exhausted the next. My most recent chemo-therapy session was 2+ weeks ago, yet its effects seem to linger. While these sudden spurts of exhaustion frustrate me, the advice I receive is to just accept them as my body’s expression of how it needs to deal with cancer and cancer treatment. I will continue to view it from that perspective, to the extent I can.

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Even geology—the natural science that relies on facts, observations, and rational understanding—can be tainted with perverse opinions and infected with political greed. Oil. Precious metals. Even gravel pits. Every aspect of geological science can be twisted to serve the worst qualities of humankind—attributes once, perhaps, decent but now gone irreversibly rogue and awry. So is it any wonder that psychology and sociology and dozens of other disciplines are manipulated so readily? The question is asked, “is nothing sacred?” The answer?  No. Nothing is sacred. Nothing. Not even family, friends…nothing matters, except power and money. Or so it seems. But slivers of decency and honor may still have a chance, provided adequate numbers of the “common man” are willing to excuse certain murders. When the ballot has been stripped of its validity, power to the people may be restored only with sufficient pressure applied to a supremely sharp and well-placed razor. How can such ideas find a place in the minds of good people? Peering back in time to the very beginning, witnessing the evolution of humankind, how can they not? A slender smile crosses his face as he contemplates competing moral judgments and wonders which one will win. He knows, of course, for every “winner” there is a loser. And vice versa. For every fact, a falsehood waits with a dagger clenched in its teeth.

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Could a significant population of the U.S.—people who may not share ethnicity or religious beliefs or socio-economic position—find a way to collectively emigrate to a relatively unpopulated part of the world? Could this collection of otherwise like-minded people who share progressive beliefs and liberal perspectives become its own diaspora? I will never know, of course, because if a movement in that direction were to commence, it would take more time to come to fruition than most of us have left. But thinking about the possibility is intriguing. A pipe-dream that softens in our minds the realities that plague us today and the bleakness facing us in the immediate future.

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I sometimes think the pain I occasionally feel in the upper right side of my torso, creeping around toward my back and just beneath my shoulder, must be akin to the pain I would feel had a bullet pierced my body. I have no experience with bullet wounds; it’s just my imagination.  I suspect the pain of a bullet would be far more excruciating, too, and I think it would linger, unlike my actual pain. My pain, I think, is an artifact of my lobectomy of five years ago. The location corresponds to the long scar left from that surgery, but the pain is not limited to the surface; it feels like it is an inch or two beneath the skin. I am used to the periodic sharpness that jars me into awareness; five years is enough time to make the pain natural. But still not welcome. Tolerated, though. The diagnosis that my cancer has returned after five years probably makes me more aware of the pain, too. I am tired of it.

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I feel it coming on again. The need or desire for more sleep. The time is just after 3 in the afternoon. Damn.

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Uncertain

He would have turned 14 next month, but Flaco died before reaching that birthday. His last year of life was the only year he experienced freedom, courtesy of a vandal who shredded the wire mesh of his cage in the Central Park Zoo. Flaco, a Eurasian eagle-owl, was hatched on March 15, 2010, at the Sylvan Heights Bird Park in Scotland Neck, N.C. Less than two months later, he was transferred to the Central Park Zoo. The last year of his life, spent in Manhattan, thrilled New Yorkers and others when they managed to get a glimpse of him perched on terraces and rooftops. Flaco’s body was found yesterday. Apparently, he had struck a building, becoming a victim among the roughly 230,000 birds that die every year when they hit building windows. There’s more to the background and to Flaco’s story, of course. But this synopsis that I created after reading online about Flaco in this morning’s New York Times is enough to remind me that human interest stories sometimes involve humans only tangentially.

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A relaxing visit yesterday afternoon by friends was just what my psyche needed. And the visit yielded something else that is highly important: exceptionally tasty cake. Another visit, this afternoon, will provide an additional uplifting emotional infusion. I have not had a great deal of social engagement in recent weeks, thanks to how I have felt (blah) and to cautions that I should avoid being around people too much. I do not know what “too much” is, but I understand the cautions; my immune system is not up to par during my series of chemo-therapy treatments, so I am especially susceptible to potentially troublesome illnesses. I have been to church, off and on, and I have enjoyed restaurant meals on occasion (but I make a point of maintaining as much distance from others as I can). Just being conscious of the concerns has made me keep to myself (with mi novia, of course, and with a few friends). When, I wonder, will visiting with others—without concern—become common again?

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Friendship improves happiness and abates misery, by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief.

~ Marcus Tullius Cicero ~

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Another infusion of poisons is scheduled for next Thursday. Though I call the stuff poison only in jest,  the liquids the oncologist and her team infuse into my blood are poisons. By regulating how much and how quickly the stuff is pumped into me, the oncology team controls the degree to which the poisons make me sick and minimizes the likelihood the liquids will kill me. Putting oneself at the mercy of people one does not know well—allowing them to inject deadly poisons into one’s bloodstream—requires trust, confidence, and a little spark of madness.

Assuming a repeat of the process used in recent infusions, some of the drugs given to me next Thursday (and/or the day after) will make me feel alive, alert, and energetic for a couple of days afterward. But, then, I will fall back into day after day after day of fatigue, exhaustion, and what seems almost round-the-clock sleep. I know this. If you have been reading this blog much lately, you know this. So why do I keep repeating it here? I suppose it’s because I am having trouble thinking creatively. Even when I feel reasonably alive and alert, my brain seems to be in something of a fog. Alert? Sort of…but not really…or…hell, I don’t know. It’s after 8:20 in the morning and I still cannot seem to write anything of consequence. I guess it’s just one of those days. Ach!

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My sister’s hip replacement went well, I’m glad to say. Interestingly and coincidentally, I lately have had increasing experiences of sudden, sharp but brief pains in what I assume is my right hip. But the pains are not sufficiently frequent, painful, or otherwise meritorious of a doctor’s investigations to warrant anything other than passing mention; and only to myself, though the fact that I am writing on the matter here exposes the issue to perhaps a dozen other people. I’m still unable to think and write. So I will stop. Instead, I will try to play Wordle and the NYT Mini Crossword. If my performance is atrocious in the extreme, I will keep it to myself. If only mediocre, I will keep it to myself. If superb, I may or may not share it. Apparently, my ego is on shaky grounds; I’m a little uncertain today.

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The Motion of Ideas

The last printed edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica was “the 2010 version of the 15th edition, which spans 32 volumes and 32,640 pages.” Though the resource continues now exclusively online, the cessation of the print version marked a significant acknowledgement about the way in which information is stored and accessed. The transformation of the Encyclopædia Britannica from a massive, multi-volume hard-cover collection to an expression of information in the form of zeroes and ones completed the erasure of who we were to who we are. Unlike cruising the internet, getting engrossed in a set of encyclopedias always seems personal; a far more intimate experience in which the physical, paper page shares information and ideas only with the person holding the books in his hands.  Millions of people simultaneously can access the same information online, of course, but the sensuality of those books in one person’s hands—the way they feel, look, smell—is far more appealing than the impersonal fire-hose of information that is the internet. That having been said, the internet is faster, more extensive (though not nearly as well-vetted), and the information it provides is far easier to store. When the choice must be made, I pick that faster, less personal resource; with regrets to the romanticism of a massive set of hard-bound books. Watch ideas and information spray throughout the dark universe.

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Last night, mi novia made a wonderful dinner, Miso-Mushroom Barley Soup, the recipe for which she found in the New York Times. It was nothing short of exceptional. I love all the noted, main ingredients, individually, but mixing them together, along with the marvelous flavors that blend and bind them all together, yields a soup so flavorful that I found it difficult to stop at one bowl. In fact, I did not stop at one; I topped off the meal with another quarter-bowl of the stuff. The fact that the soup’s ingredients include miso made me think of one of my favorite Japanese-influenced breakfasts: miso soup, rice, cucumber, radishes, and salmon filet. I doctor-up my miso soup, adding dried and diced wakame (a species of kelp with a distinctive flavor), sambal oleke, and a few muscular squirts of soy sauce. I am making myself hungry at this late hour (almost 8). I got up very late; after 6. I could kick myself; and I probably will.

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Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all.

~ Nelson Mandela ~

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I feel human at the moment. And I felt human yesterday, though I think I zoned out a few times, which I think signaled that I was not quite finished with my periodic exhaustion. Today, though, I am knocking on wood; maybe I will have a few days of normalcy before next Thursday’s chemo treatment. My sister, who lives far, far, far away on the western fringes of the continent, is having hip replacement surgery today; I send her positive vibes and I look forward to hearing that it was a spectacularly successful procedure. She has dealt with a painful hip for way too long.

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Periodically, I open FoxNews.com in an attempt to better understand the information that feeds people whose political perspectives generally are 180° from mine.  I took a look this morning. The term “information” is far too generous; the network is almost entirely a propaganda machine. Whether the “information” it spews is based entirely on lies, I do not know; I can tell, though, the moment I see the words on the screen that lies, bigotry, intellectual dullness, and all manner of other ugliness inform the network’s decisions about what to say and how to say it. I find absolutely NOTHING of any merit on FoxNews.com. But I’ll keep taking a look from time to time so I can have a better understanding of “the others.” There’s plenty of left-leaning propaganda, too, but I believe a majority of left-leaning consumers of the “news” can separate the wheat from the chaff; no so, I am afraid, on the other side. I try. I try. But maybe not hard enough?

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I can understand the genesis of blind rage. Exponential growth in the number of encounters with frustration can finally cause something—I do not know just what—to snap, releasing pent-up energy that cannot be contained. The frightening aspect of this is that the explosive release is not limited to a particular personality type. It can happen to almost anyone. But it need not happen. If only we just change the world for the better. That’s all it will take.

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Indeed Indeed

One’s personal freedoms are hard to measure, yet the scope of those freedoms correlate closely to the number of people in what I’ll call a person’s “sphere of experience.”  The correlation is a negative; the greater the number of people in one’s sphere of experience, the fewer personal freedoms one can enjoy/experience. For example, a person living alone has essentially no externally imposed restrictions on his or her behavior, but simply living with another person introduces a plethora of restrictions. No longer can one stand naked in the kitchen and howl at the moon at 3 a.m. because that behavior could intrude on another person’s peace. Add another person and the restrictions multiply; only one person at a time can use the single bathroom in one’s living space. Freedoms available to the person who lives and works and otherwise experiences the world around her disappear—or are drastically reduced—when another person (or other people) are introduced to one or more spheres of the single person’s experience. Yet in the majority of cases, it seems, the freedoms lost with the introduction of other people into one’s sphere of experience have less value to the individual than the values added through the addition of others. Over time, though, one’s judgment of added value may shift; the freedoms lost may regain their reduced appeal. Obviously, though, one determines that lost personal freedoms have less value than do additional and enhanced experiences. This is all speculative, of course. But it makes good sense to me. In my case, I miss feeling free to go to Waffle House at 2:00 a.m.; not that I would be likely to go, but living with mi novia restricts my sense that I am free to do so. So there you are.

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Would you judge me if I were to have leftover hummus, pita, and gyro meat for breakfast? Not that it matters, of course. Others’ judgment of my character on the basis of what I choose to have for breakfast is irrelevant to me. Of course, I doubt anyone outside my house and the limited readership of this post give my choice a breakfast even a fleeting thought. Yet what if, suddenly, my choice of breakfast was on the mind of every person in Garland County? What if strangers who pass me in the grocery story or post office knew about (and disapproved of) my breakfast and looked askance at me? Would that bother me? Probably, but only to the extent that I would think it incredibly odd that anyone else would know about and/or have any interest in my choice of breakfast foods. Why in the name of all that’s holy would this be on my mind this morning? Nobody knows. Not even me.

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Now is the time to trim crepe myrtles to maximize their explosion of flowers in the coming months. But I am not in a condition to do the trimming. Fortunately, we have a lawncare person who may do the trimming…and the removal of dead plants or parts of plants, plants killed by the monstrous freezes of January…plants that could have been saved had I arranged to have them protected. But I can be a lazy slug; not usually, but sometimes. Unfortunately, I was a lazy slug when it mattered to the poor plants that suffered from my sloth.

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This post is badly cracked and may well shatter in a thousand pieces if I do not finish writing it and publish it right away. But why would I do that? Why, indeed.

 

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Personal Musings

Yesterday, the dermatological nurse I visited prescribed an antibiotic and a topical medication for the rash behind my right knee. Shortly after that visit, my pharmacy called to inform me that the deductible for the topical would be $387 and asked whether I would like them to fill that prescription. I appreciated the call; it saved me a disappointing trip to the pharmacy because my answer was “no.” My call to the nurse has not been returned; I hope she prescribes something more affordable. Yet, if that ointment is the only option (which I doubt), I could pay the deductible. However, I learned the price of some other medications and related services yesterday that, if they were not fully covered by insurance, could easily bankrupt me during the course of treatment. The charges presented to Medicare and my supplemental insurance carrier, for a single chemotherapy session, amounted to more than $59,000. Only slightly less than $18,000 of that amount was approved by Medicare and Medicare paid only a bit more than $14,000; the difference between Medicare-approved and Medicare-paid was covered by the supplemental insurance. Had I not been covered by Medicare and my supplemental policy, I believe I would have been billed for the entire $59,000. For one treatment. But, if all goes well, I will need only four full-scale chemo treatments. While very expensive, I might be able to drain my savings and cover the costs. After those four treatments, though, I will undergo an additional 35 immunotherapy treatments over the course of two years. The cost of just one drug involved in that process is $31,400 for each treatment—$1,099,000, excluding several hundred dollars of ancillary drugs and services for each session.

It may sound absurd to say it while facing treatment for a potentially deadly disease, but I am exceptionally fortunate. Unless the situation changes dramatically, the disease may still kill me, but the treatments for it probably will not bankrupt me—assuming I do not reach a maximum coverage limit (if any such limit exists) with my supplemental policy.

What about people who have no insurance? Or people whose insurance is insufficient? Or people who are employed and must deal with the astounding cost of treatment while facing a loss of income because of the amount of time they must miss work? A single illness, injury, hospitalization, etc., etc. can bring financial ruin down upon them. I wish our society actually provided a safety-net for people who find themselves in such catastrophic circumstances.

I wonder what proportion of the costs of healthcare—especially extraordinarily expensive components of healthcare—flow toward corporate and individual investor profits? My guess—purely a guess—is that the proportion is staggeringly large. I am in favor of medical professionals, researchers, and others involved in healthcare being paid handsomely. But I am not in favor of massive profits flowing to any component of the industry, such as pharmaceutical companies. Healthcare should not be a profit-oriented enterprise, in my opinion. Ach, but my opinion doesn’t really count. And it won’t unless and until I do more than complain and wish.

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In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.

~ Confucius ~

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I wonder how those of us who live in circumstances of relative wealth can justify using that wealth to maximize our own enjoyment, rather than to minimize the pain of those who live in abject poverty? The justification I hear often suggests we “need” the fuel that pleasure provides to enable us to make meager contributions to relieving others’ pain. On one hand, I can understand and accept that argument, but I question just how much joy we “need” to feed our altruism. Who knows? I do not. Perhaps asking the question without taking action to seek an answer simply ingrains feelings of guilt in us. If that is all, the questions have no value and, instead, are unnecessary self-punishments. But maybe those questions, repeated over time, will eventually propel us toward action. Or, perhaps, others may see the guilt and shame embedded in those questions and take action themselves as a result. Or maybe the entire conversation is pointless and without value.

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If poverty were a man, I would have slain him.

~ Ali ibn Abi Talib ~

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And again, for innumerable reasons, here is Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116. It brings tears to my eyes every time I read it, for very personal reasons.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments; love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no, it is an ever-fixèd mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come.
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom:
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

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In the End, There’s Always Nudity

In yesterday’s post, I expressed my fiercely negative, deeply judgmental, extremely bigoted feelings about a woman I saw wearing a Trump sweatshirt. A while later, on Facebook, I came across a link to an article from a New York Times subscriber-only newsletter opinion piece by David French. The article, entitled “The Meaning of the Super Bowl ‘He Gets Us’ Ad,”  (I do not know whether the link will work for non-subscribers) is worth reading. Though I did not watch the Super Bowl—so did not see the ad—I have read a lot about it. Most of what I have seen echoes my bias against overtly evangelical, über-fundamentalist Christian messages. I assumed, of course, the collective condemnations were made by people who actually understood the intended message. French’s extremely thought-provoking article, though, gave me reason to re-examine my automatic rejection of the article. And it made me think about my bigotry in connection with the woman and her offensive (to me) sweatshirt. The messages in French’s article are too extensive and complex for me to summarize, but I found the following assertions from it especially provocative:

“It’s one thing to possess the courage to say what you believe, but it takes immeasurably more courage to truly love people you’re often told to hate — even and especially if they don’t love you back. There is nothing distinctive about boldly declaring your beliefs. Many people do that. But how many people love their enemies?

That’s what the Super Bowl ad is communicating. It’s not saying there’s no difference between the cop and the young Black man or between the oil rig worker and the climate activist — or that they shouldn’t speak about their differences. It’s saying something far more radical and valuable: I can love you and serve you even when I disagree with you.”

Though French and I have enormously different beliefs and backgrounds, I found myself in substantial agreement with most of what he wrote in his opinion piece. That surprises me, especially in light of one of the ways in which he describes himself:

“I’m an evangelical conservative who believes strongly in a classical liberal, pluralistic vision of American democracy, in which people with deep religious, cultural, and moral differences can live and work together and enjoy equal legal protection and shared cultural tolerance. In both my personal and professional life I strive to live up to the high ideals of Micah 6:8 — to act justly, to love kindness, and to walk humbly before God.”

Now, I wonder whether the sweatshirt-wearing woman and I could jointly embrace French’s message and engage, dispassionately, with one another? And love one another?! I am not sure whether I am a sufficiently decent human being to try.

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Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.

~ Albert Camus ~

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We tend to defend our intellectual flaws with faulty justifications. We would rather not acknowledge even the possibility that our opinions could have unsound bases. Our egos are largely responsible for our unwillingness to allow ourselves to question our own points of view. Because, “what if my position is actually invalid?” “What if?” In our convoluted reasoning, we seem to believe accepting that we might be wrong equates to an admission of an embarrassing imperfection. And an embarrassing imperfection is…embarrassing. Shameful. A heinous flaw from which we can never fully recover in the eyes of those who judge us. Or so we believe.

When I say “we” and “our,” of course, I mean “I” and “my.” Openly acknowledging imperfections can be extremely hard. It’s easier and less painful to place oneself in the company of other, equally imperfect, people.

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I hope today will be as close to “normal” as possible. Already, though, I know it won’t be quite the normal I want; I have an appointment to see a dermatological nurse about an ugly red rash behind my right knee. A week or so ago, I remember fiercely scratching a maddening itch there. That, I am sure, was a mistake. Despite using Neosporin, washing the area regularly, praying to the benevolent Skin Gods (not really), etc., the “rash” seems to have gotten worse. Aside from that matter, I hope everything else will be “normal.” No weakness, fatigue, sudden need to nap for hours, exhaustion, etc., etc. Just “normal.” But I still will try to avoid crowds (but that’s pretty normal for me, anyway). I hope for a day that is not defined entirely by medical considerations and related matters.

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Let me close this post by expressing my support for removing the stigma associated with public nudity. Clothes can be so damn confining. The naked human form, no matter its condition, is natural; we should not, in my opinion, treat it as if it were a hideous monster we must hide from view.

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Half the Day

I watch the woman saunter by, led to an empty restaurant booth by a harried waiter. Three or four men, all wearing baseball caps, follow her. Knowing almost nothing about the woman—nor the men who accompany her—I immediately make a judgment about her and her companions, saying to myself, “She is not only ignorant, she is stupid. And the men must be, too, simply by their willingness to be in her company in a public place. And they probably share her ideas and attitudes.” I realize, at that moment, that my attitude about them is extremely bigoted. And I realize it, still. But I cannot shake my opinion about them. The woman’s sweatshirt is imprinted with “Trump,” proudly proclaiming her support for a man for whom I have nothing but deep, boiling, almost overwhelming contempt. And fear. Fear that, if enough people like that stupid woman and her dim-wit companions go to the polls, he will unravel and set ablaze all the remaining decency that once defined a significant part of who we are as a nation. Damn him and all the mindless cultists who are in love with his derangement! I cannot blame him for my bigotry, of course. But I blame him and his mob of minions for unleashing it. We are at risk of losing what Ruth Bader Ginsburg identified as a characteristic of this country. I have mixed feelings about whether my bigotry puts that attribute in danger; or whether rage like mine is all that is keeping us from tumbling into the abyss.

America is known as a country that welcomes people to its shores. All kinds of people. The image of the Statue of Liberty with Emma Lazarus’ famous poem. She lifts her lamp and welcomes people to the golden shore, where they will not experience prejudice because of the color of their skin, the religious faith that they follow.

~ Ruth Bader Ginsburg ~

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The sudden, almost overwhelming, fatigue that overtakes me without warning will—eventually—disappear. I look forward to again being able to reliably predict that I will feel reasonably energetic from one day to the next; one minute to the next. I do not remember, from my treatments five years ago, that I felt exhausted for so long after each chemotherapy infusion. Memory, though, is unreliable. I cannot reliably remember significant experiences from twenty years ago. Or ten. Or five. That is not new. My memory has always been less than perfect.

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Once again, I am hungry. Ravenously hungry. But I know my hunger would be replaced by feeling full—too full—soon after attacking a plate of food. Maybe the fact that it takes less food for me to feel sated is responsible for my ongoing weight loss…well, no longer ongoing, it seems. I seem to have hit a plateau, finally, after losing roughly 30 pounds in the past year; 50 in the past two years. Though I am pleased to have lost the weight, I need to lose another 30 pounds or more to reach my “ideal” weight. As if there is such a thing as an ideal weight. One’s ideal weight must take into account muscle mass (or lack thereof), which can sway the “ideal” dramatically. Or so I think. Actually, I care less about my weight than about eliminating or, at least, stalling my cancer. Prolonging my life matters more to me than being svelte (I have never been svelte, but I would not reject achieving that condition, if the opportunity presented itself). Food, though. Something flavorful to eat. Something with the right mouthfeel. The definition of mouthfeel, by the way, is the tactile sensation a food gives to the mouth. Ice cream that has softened just enough, but not too much, from its fresh-from-the-freezer hardness has a very appealing mouthfeel. A rare steak, too, has a nice mouthfeel. So does steamed broccoli that has not been allowed to soften to the point of having absolutely no resistance to the tooth. I could go on and on. But I won’t.

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I woke late this morning; around 6. It seems like half the day is gone. Ach!

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Clumsy Thinking

When a person refers to this blog as a diary, I am startled at the characterization, but I should not be surprised by it. It has become precisely that. This diary, though, is not a private record of my thoughts and experiences. It is a public unveiling of my experiences, my emotions, the way I feel about life, and much more. This blog has morphed into a medical journal of late, coupled with a frequently dull accounting of my stream of consciousness. On occasion, my writing delves into philosophical territory, but it has changed over the last few years and now generally sticks to experiential matters and snapshots of my emotions as they oscillate between joy and sorrow. I realize, of course, my emotional life is unlikely to be of more than passing interest to others; often, it is of little more than that to me. But I go on writing about how I think and feel, as if writing about my own thoughts and emotions will eventually reveal myself to myself; as if I may at some point come to understand who I am. That theme always has driven my writing. Even when I write fiction, I realize I am attempting to unravel secrets about myself my brain seems intent on concealing from my consciousness.  What if, though, there are no secrets? What if I am no more emotionally or intellectually complex than sand on a beach? Then what? There are no answers to those questions, of course. Like all questions, they hide behind walls of curiosity and fear.

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My first diagnosis of cancer, five years ago, jolted me a bit, but I don’t remember thinking seriously about the possibility it might actually kill me. Maybe I have simply repressed that memory. Maybe not. This time, though, the way the cancer has expressed itself in multiple places in and around my chest causes me to wonder whether the disease can be eradicated. I am optimistic, as I’ve stated before, but I know the possibility—maybe a strong possibility—exists that it cannot be killed or controlled. From the start, the objective of treatment is to prolong my life; not to “cure” my cancer. That is a realistic approach, but it does not quantify how “prolonging” my life might play out. Might it mean two years beyond today? Six years? Ten years? Four months? These questions are pointless, at this stage. Only after more assessment might they become valid and be eligible for tentative answers. So, the best thing to do is not to worry; worry is warranted only if one has the ability to do something about the subject of worry, which is missing in this situation. So there you are. I am.

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I will not attend church this morning, despite feeling reasonably well at the moment. Experience of late suggests I should not rely on how I feel at any given moment to predict how I will feel an hour or two later. And, though I have not been consistent in avoiding crowds, my weakened immune system says I should; so, this morning, I will. I was to preside over a congregational meeting which will be held to elect members of a nominating committee; the VP has agreed to stand in for me. Mi novia will attend this morning’s service and stay to make a record of the election. I hope attendance is sufficient to establish a quorum to validate the election; but I will try not worry about that for now. I cannot control it, so I should not worry. That is the advice others give me. And the advice I give myself.

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The handyman we engage to handle odds and ends around the house worked yesterday to replace some aging water lines attached to the water heater in the crawl space beneath the house. He also leveled the slab on which the heater sits; ever since we moved in, the water heater has appeared poised to fall over. I think he installed a commercial grade dehumidifier we bought to control the moisture beneath the house, but that task may be scheduled for another time, when he can return. We have grown to depend on the guy to handle any number of such things that we either cannot or should not try to do ourselves. Unlike so many other so-called handymen in the Village, he is reliable and dependable and competent. And unlike so many others, he readily acknowledges the rare tasks he is not equipped to do or comfortable doing. Beyond that, he and his wife (who frequently works with him) are genuinely nice people. We enjoy opportunities to chat with them when they are here.

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Temperatures dropped abruptly yesterday, transforming what had seemed like an early spring day into a powerful reminder that winter still is with us. At the moment, according to The Weather Network, the temperature outside is a brisk 23°F. It should warm to 50°F before the day is out and toy with the 60s for most of the upcoming week, even hitting 70°F around mid-week. I will not bet on that forecast, though. Why should I? There is no reason to count on it. I expect to remain a medical prisoner in my house for most of the next twelve days, when I return to my oncologist’s office for my next chemotherapy treatment. My newly-implanted infuse-a-port will be put to its first use then, both to extract blood for “labs” and to infuse the cancer-killing poison into my blood. That “first use” represents an example of the kind of excitement I have come to appreciate in my life.

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Enough. Again. More enough. Time to rest my fingers and explore the possibility of breakfast.

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Song of Saturday

I read a New York Times online piece this morning. Entitled Jimmy Carter’s Long Goodbye, the article was classified as a piece on politics, but the writer’s focus was not on politics. Rather, it expressed what I sense is the author’s deep appreciation for Carter’s demonstration of surprising strength and stamina, and Carter’s impact on the world—even while in the midst of his year-long (so far) hospice care.  My opinion of Jimmy Carter has changed considerably over the years. Like so many others, I once thought his leadership was weak. I thought his devotion to his religious beliefs interfered with what could have been philosophical strength. But, over the years, I came to view Carter differently. While his obviously deep-seated religious beliefs do not coincide with mine, I now think those beliefs contributed enormously to an extraordinary strength I (and so many others) failed to see in him. In my opinion, one of the most significant differences between Jimmy Carter and other political figures (including presidents) is that Carter has lived his life based on his moral principles—which, obviously, are rooted in his strong religious beliefs. While other politicians claim to believe in and act in response to the guidance of moral codes, Carter did not need to make such claims; he actually embraced a set of morals that would guide his thoughts and behavior for, so far, roughly 99 years. Even the “nicest” politicians, the ones I generally have admired, often put on an act, I think. They express their morality purely as a means of generating support for their political careers; Carter’s exhibition of beliefs that guide his morality is no act. I wonder how the world might have been different if Jimmy Carter had been elected to a second term as President of the United States? Would the rabid Christian nationalism cultivated by the political right have grown so strong? Or, would Carter’s Christian beliefs and his overt embrace of people whose beliefs differ from his own have overwhelmed and suppressed those Christian nationalists I consider dangerous and fundamentally amoral? It is impossible to say with any degree of certainty, of course, but I think Carter’s leadership might have stunted the rise of so-called Christian nationalism. It may be useless to play the game of “what if,” but playing the game now might change how we, as a nation, respond to such threats in the future. Carter’s so-called weakness as a leader was, as I think back on his time as President, was simply a refusal to abandon his core beliefs. Whether I agree with all of those beliefs or not, that refusal is not a weakness at all, but a rare and welcome (too late in coming) strength.

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My low ebb of yesterday morning lasted all day and through most of last night. I stayed awake most of the day…I think…but felt dull and tired and generally exhausted. After a light dinner of tomato bisque and miniature saltine crackers, I went to bed sometime between 7 and 8. Aside from trips to the bathroom to pee, I slept most of the night. I woke sometime before 4, but drifted in and out of sleep for an hour or so and got around 5. I feel optimistic that I will survive the day without too many hours of napping, but I won’t count those chickens just yet. But I feel a little like celebrating that I do not feel utterly fatigued this morning. It has been a week and two days since my most recent chemo treatment, so I should be coming out of my long exhaustion…but my long exhaustion after the first treatment went on much longer than I expected. Mi novia tells me I should simply accept how I feel and not fight it; if I am tired, it’s my body’s signal that I should rest or sleep. She is right, of course, but I wish I could count on feeling good enough to go out. Yet, because the chemo can weaken my immune system, I should avoid being in crowds. This treatment had better work! If subjecting myself to the byproducts of chemotherapy were to fail in its intended outcome, my mood probably would become worse than cranky. I’ll assume the treatment is working. I look forward to getting the results of the oncologist’s assessment and determination of progress.

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The fact that I am hungry right now is a good sign. If I could snap my fingers and find a plate of breakfast in front of me, I would happily devour every scrap of it. I imagine a plate with spicy sausage, toasted English muffin or rye toast, baked tomato (make that 2), sautéed mushrooms, and half of a large Ruby Red grapefruit (I’m not supposed to eat grapefruit because it could negate the effects of one of my cardiac prescriptions, but just one should be okay…I will not tell my cardiologist). A large glass of tomato juice, suitably spicy with several drops of Tabasco sauce, would be a nice accompaniment. And a glass of cold water. And another demi-tasse of espresso. For some reason, eggs do not hold much allure for me lately; it’s not that I find the idea of eating eggs distasteful, only that they are not particularly appealing. I’d eat them, though, if put in front of me. And I might accept hashbrowns, as well. I could go for congee—or a nice Japanese breakfast consisting of a small salmon filet, sliced cucumber, radishes, a bowl of rice, and a cup of miso soup.  Oh, tea would accompany the Japanese breakfast; just plain black tea, not the more traditional green tea, which is okay, but not my favorite. I can dream, can’t I? Instead of all this, though, I’ll probably just have a banana; maybe some bran flakes, as well.

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When someone has cancer, the whole family and everyone who loves them does, too.

~ Terri Clark ~

Terri Clark is a Canadian country singer, in case you do not know her. Her quotation here is so very simple and so very true. It behoove me to remember that people who have cancer are not the only ones dealing with the disease; people surrounding them also essentially have cancer, in that they have to deal with it, both emotionally and physically. The person who actually has the disease has the obligation to lessen the burden of the disease on their loved ones. For one thing, in most cases cancer does not automatically equate to a death sentence. The patient ought to make a point of expressing that to the people around them. And in those cases in which cancer is a death sentence, the patient should do all they can to ease the transition for those who will be left behind to mourn. What that is—what they can do—probably varies according to the people involved, but whatever it is, it is a both a worthy objective to achieve and an obligation that must be met.

I hope this video, below, of this beautiful song can be seen and heard on my blog. I like this version, but I also am enamored of the version by Bonnie Rait and by Richard and Linda Thompson.

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Lessons

Rest last night has not diminished my fatigue this morning. I should be showering now, but my energy is at one of its low ebbs. If not for my appointment to have “labs” taken by the oncologist’s staff this morning, I would be back in bed, attempting to sleep through the feeling of exhaustion. Yesterday, if I napped, it was brief; I did not feel awfully tired. The only obvious evidence, yesterday, of my body’s response to so damn much healthcare were sore shoulders, sore throat (from the tube in my throat during my chemo-port surgery), and discomfort in my neck (where a tube was stabbed into a jugular vein) and my upper chest (where the surgeon made the incision to insert the port). Today, though, all of the little pains seem to have joined forces with my body’s objections to its cancer-related treatments. I am awake because I have to be awake. I await sufficient energy to shave and shower. One demi-tasse of espresso has not delivered enough vitality, yet, to make a shower seem even remotely appealing. I realize this paragraph is just an extended, embarrassing whine. It’s the best I can do at the moment. Perhaps a whine will spur me to behave like an adult; maybe it will prompt me to drop the grouchy baby act and “man up.” What does that mean? “Man up.” It’s an obnoxious phrase tied to the idea than “real men” should muscle through pain and other unpleasant experiences, rather than express their displeasure with discomfort. I can deal with the discomfort associated with cancer and its treatment; I would just prefer not to. I would prefer to be sedated during the entire process, waking after the cancer has been completely eliminated from my body (and my muscles have been thoroughly toned and strengthened during my extended nap). I would call that lengthy nap an “intentional recuperative coma.” There must be a market for such experiences. I think I would be willing to invest in one. But, as I reflect on reality, I realize my experience with cancer thus far has been far less taxing than many…maybe most…other people. Many people suffer through extreme pain, nausea, and a thousand worse experiences. My experiences are minor—extremely minor—in comparison. I should be, and am, embarrassed to spout all of this “woe is me” nonsense when, in fact, my experiences do not deserve even an acknowledgement. Ach! I should muffle the crybaby and just accept the minor inconveniences associated with the disease and its treatment.

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One is never afraid of the unknown; one is afraid of the known coming to an end.

~ Jiddu Krishnamurti ~

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I have only just encountered Jiddu Krishnamurti. Reading his words has been instructive. Educational. Thought-provoking. I value being forced to think beyond my usual, extensive, almost-overwhelming limitations.

In seeking comfort, we generally find a quiet corner in life where there is a minimum of conflict, and then we are afraid to step out of that seclusion.

~ Jiddu Krishnamurti ~

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I am optimistic, but I am a realist, as well. It is too early to tell how the remainder of my experiences will play out. But it is not too early to consider the possibility that now may be the best time to put the money I set aside for retirement to full use. That is selfish, I know, but what the hell? Yet using that money to make a difference for others may be even more gratifying. Ideally, that money would amount to much, much, much more. And it would have amounted to much more, if I had been  thrifty and more dedicated to savings and investments when I was younger. Wither and learn. Time is awash in lessons.

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Pink Sky Streaks Send Positive Signals

It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.

~ Frederick Douglass ~

I hear the sounds of a distant helicopter. Of course I could not see it, even if I went outside. The sky remains completely dark outdoors at this hour: 5:28. Why would a helicopter be flying above Hot Springs Village in the pre-dawn darkness? My only guess—that is is a medical helicopter landing or taking off from the helipad at lakeside by Coronado Center—but the sound seemed to come from the other direction. Noise play tricks in the forest, though. Sounds echo off of…or are absorbed by…the trees. Making accurate judgments about where they are coming from is impossible. The sounds are gone, now, and I have no more information than I did when I first heard the groan of a helicopter engine and the whip of its blades. I am left only with a vague memory of the sound and the dim imprint of possibilities; why it could be in the dark sky at this hour and where it could be going. I wonder: is it taking someone to the hospital, because a ground ambulance would be too slow when seconds might count between life and death? Or is a semi-retired business CEO who lives in a million-dollar-plus house on Lake Balboa being ferried off to a meeting or an early golf game in Little Rock? Or, God forbid, is it just my imagination, the same imagination that amplified the sound and vibration of my heartbeats so much last night while I tried to sleep that I wanted to scream loud enough to muffle my heart’s incessant, loud pumping? I often hear and feel my heartbeat. Probably some relationship to tinnitus—a sound one person hears, but nobody else can perceive. My curiosity caused me to do some research this morning (after the helicopter and in response to my memory of my heartbeat). My noises, I think, are symptoms of pulsatile tinnitus, which “occurs when the ear becomes aware of a change in blood flow in nearby blood vessels. These include the arteries and veins in the neck, base of the skull, and in the ear itself.” according to Medical News Today.

That explanation makes sense to me. The implantation of my chemo-port yesterday involved placement of the port in the right side of my chest and running a tube from the device, up the side of my neck, and into my jugular vein. Perhaps the tube jabbed into one of the jugular veins on the right side of my neck (either the anterior or the exterior jugular vein, if my understanding of a graphic showing the three jugular veins in the neck) amplifies the sound of the flow of blood near my inner ear. No one else could hear such a delicate whisper of noise, but because of its proximity to the tiny bones in my ear, I can. But I distinctly remember the sound pounding in both ears, so that explanation may be off course. Not that it matters, actually.

Not that anything I’ve written so far matters. Not just this morning, but this century. And the last. It is impossible to know whether something one has written matters unless it has some kind of immediate and substantial impact…or unless history places importance on one’s writing produced in times past. Current and immediate impact might be contents of newspaper or magazine or some other, electronically-distributed, ideas. Or it could be books, in whatever form, that become quickly and completely popular. Or some other contents that are recognized, at or near their moment of consumption, as meaningful in a broad, societal sense. These paragraphs are not that. Only time will tell if any of the other paragraphs I—or any of us—have written truly matter. By that time (if it ever comes), we’ll probably be long gone. That very slight possibility—that something we left is a legacy of words—is reason enough for me to wish for the opportunity to move far enough forward in time to enable me to look back to see whether there is, indeed, a legacy of any kind to view. Yet knowing that disappointment probably waits, is reason enough to be satisfied to leave the future alone.

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My fatigue, one week after my second chemo treatment, is not as overwhelming as it has been, but it tends to oscillate up and down in unpredictable ways; I don’t know from hour to hour how I will feel. For that reason, I decided not to go to tonight’s wine dinner that mi novia and I normally attend. Another reason is that I want to (and should) limit my exposure to crowds, some members of which may have COVID, flu, or other afflictions to which I should not be exposed. Anyway, mi novia invited my sister-in-law to fill in for me. I have an obligation at church on Sunday—presiding over election of members of the church nominating committee—that I may ask the vice president to handle in my stead. That function is one of only a few perfunctory acts assigned to the president; the presidency is not a position of power but, instead, of coordination and organization. Because of that, it is very easy for someone else to step in to perform the duties of the office. In spite of my occasional disappointment with the ritual and procedures and bureaucracy woven into the fabric of the church, the organization’s cloth is stronger and more lasting for it.

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I can have peace of mind only when I forgive rather than judge.

~ Gerald Jampolsky ~

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Phrased properly, opposing philosophies can be presented to me in such a way as to draw my agreement and praise. On one hand, that bothers me; one should be capable of selecting only one of two (or more) philosophical positions as one’s own. On the other hand, the ability to find both merit and logic in opposing philosophies may be evidence of one’s open-mindedness and/or one’s ability to lend complex analysis to and about competing ideas. There could be other meanings reasonably assigned to agree with competing ideas. I could spend all day thinking and writing about them. But I won’t.

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Enough of all this. I’ll have another espresso and, against my better judgment, a spoonful or two of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream.  I see a light pink streak in the dim blue sky, a signal that having a little ice cream on the morning after Valentine’s Day is an acceptable deviation from healthy eating. I hope your day is at least as good as mine. And I hope mine is at least reasonably good.

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EXPLANATION OF EDITS: I read the post above again. The number of typos I encountered was more than embarrassing; it was devastating. I hope they were typos. If the keys I hit were tapped on purpose, I am having trouble with my brain functions. Actually, that may be true even if I did not hit those keys on purpose. At any rate, I have attempted to correct the typos. If there are more, I will appreciate being notified. Gently.

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Nothing of Consequence

If my accumulated sleep during the past several weeks could be applied for later use, I might be able to get by without any sleep at all until sometime in late March or early April. Alas, I doubt that is a possibility, though I am not sure why not. I suppose one’s need for sleep is based on 24-hour cycles (or some such periodic measures). Sleep experts/ investigators probably could address that matter, but inasmuch as I do not know any such experts and do not have the discipline at the moment to do research on sleep requirements, my question will go unanswered. Was that really a question, though? It was an implicit question, I think, even if not phrased as a question.

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I woke to the alarm at 5:30 this morning, after long, long, long periods of sleep. We need to leave at 6:15 for the hospital, where a general surgeon will slice into me and jam a port into my chest. I hope he will not be so rough about it as my words might suggest. But I will be under general anesthesia (I think…oh, pleeeasse) during the procedure, so I will be unaware of whether his surgical manner is gentle or rough. Given the timeframe involved, this blog post must, of necessity, be very nearly finished. If I had awakened earlier, I could have written a much longer post. But I did not. So there you are. An almost wasted set of moments, with nothing of consequence on the screen. Such is life.

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