371. Change the Filter

I have a reminder note above my computer screen; it tells me when to change the air filter in my office building. Every three months is the target. I suppose I could switch it out more often if I were a worrier, but I’m not. The first year or two I didn’t know about the filter, which is located in a large vent in the attic above my desk. Getting to it requires a ladder and the removal of a ceiling tile and a 6 inch layer of fiberglass insulation. It’s not a hard task, but it is dirty and itchy.

Once you breech the attic, you have to pull yourself up next to the vent and pull out the old filter. It’s covered in gray dust like dryer lint. You slide the fresh new filter into the slot and voila!  Clean air for a while… unlike the first couple of years when I did not know about the filter. I learned on a steamy hot summer day that the filter must be changed or else it turns to a solid concrete barrier that shuts down air flow. When the compressor feels the pressure building up, it automatically shuts down. That’s when I called the HVAC guys.

Friendly Mike’s HVAC tech came out and immediately assessed the situation. My heat pump on the roof was fine, but he needed to use the $200/hour  boom truck to get there. The compressor was just locked up due to a pressure switch glitch. Before you knew it, Larry was climbing into my attic and swapping out filters. He showed me the year old filter that should have been changed out four times by then. It resembled a thin  concrete sheet cake ready for icing and candles. If I took it to the bakery for decorating, the attendant would ask, “And what would like to say on the cake, sir?”dirty air filter photo: dirty cabin filter filter2.jpg

“Eejit… that’s all.”

I think Larry got some satisfaction out of my disgusted reaction. “Wow, Larry, that’s a lot of dust, man.”

“Yup, four hundred dollars worth… yuk, yuk.”

I vowed then and there to never let this happen again in my living lifetime.

Larry offered to come back every three months to do this again. And why not? It was nearly free money for him. Foolishly I agreed to the deal. I say foolishly because the next time he came he put in a filter that he charged $12.00 for, plus his service call fee. I watched him do his routine and was amazed at how simple it was. ‘I can do that’, I thought, without Larry’s service call and overpriced filters. I stocked up on filters of the same type, getting 4 of them for $12.00. Then I couldn’t wait for the system to get dirty.

Mummy Mummies preserved bodiesNinety days later I opened the dark dusty attic tomb to look for the mummified air filter. In my one hand was a flashlight, an air filter in the other. I plucked the old dirty filter out of its slide and inserted the fresh clean one. Simple and satisfying. Yeah! Such a mundane action gave me a boost of manly competence. I felt like doing an Old Spice deodorant commercial then and there. “I am the Dust King! Bow to me, Ye Evil Dust Motes.” I replaced the insulation and ceiling tile without too much mess. Put away the flashlight and ladder. Went back to my routines… thinking about that filter. I had saved the lungs of countless hundreds. Though they would never know, dust free air was thanks enough.

Okay, I associate this and that and the other thing as you already know if you’ve read any of my previous posts. I can’t help it anymore than your kidneys can stop purifying your waste water or your liver purifying your blood. It’s in me, man.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you had a mental filter you could change periodically, one that would catch all the crap of life and keep it from recycling through your brain? How often do you make a mistake and feel stupid for a really long time afterwards as you perseverate on the error? I’m not talking about murder or Wall Street Ponzi schemes here. I mean something as simple as missing your trash pick up on Monday morning. You just forgot it Sunday night. Oh, and it was also recycling pick up day, so you missed that too. You feel stupid and even less than competent because you failed to do something so simple. For the next week you walk by the trash containers and feel stabs of guilt and embarrassment. “I’m a moron. A loser.” The overflowing receptacles seem to mock you as you try to ignore their smell, height and girth.

“This will never happen again,” you vow to the squirrel on your deck.

And we have other mental filters that get dirty, filters of guilt and shame, even pride and self interest. A wise young woman named Angela once told me that she had to choose between her divorced parents, who had been at war with each other for her entire life. Freedom and low maintenance were available at Mom’s home. At Dad’s there was contention and constricting rules that suffocated her. He would not listen to her reasonable and logical requests. “My house, my rules. My way or the highway. Do or die.” He was a binary thinker; black and white were the only colors he acknowledged. She wanted to escape Dad’s control, knowing full well that Mom would switch the script once young Angela moved in with her.Image result for black or white pictures

On the other hand she worried about her younger siblings left behind at Dad’s. He hadn’t been the tenderest or most patient father to them when she was present. What would happen to them in her absence? His new wife would be unavailable for months, she knew. Everyone else in her family seemed to be entitled to go on pursuing their lives and livelihoods, but Angela was constrained to stay behind and pick up their messes. She loved each of her family members but not their messes, the blaming, the tough love, the high drama, the double standards. She just wanted to filter it all out somehow without hurting any of them. Every so often she would get so full of pain and anger she felt she would explode and vaporize. She needed a filter change.

Drugs and alcohol were out. Sex too for now. Just too complicated and hard to control. She settled on cutting herself in a neat 3x 4 inch rectangle across her abdomen with a new razor blade. She then cut vertical lines across the short side and horizontal lines across the long side until she had her bloody drama filter. Finally it felt good to breathe again.

“This will never happen again,” she swore to the empty room.

297. Dx: Imperfect People Disorder

“The problem is this:  you live in a world of imperfect people. No one is smart enough or drives well enough or talks fast enough to suit you. And you are entitled to a reality that suits your needs. Heck, you’re what?  13 now. You are completely able to make adult decisions because of your superior IQ. Is that what you are telling me?”

“Yeah, my parents just don’t get it. They are slipping behind my abilities. I feel like they are skiing behind my speedboat and I have to pull them along, but really, they’re just slowing me down. My mom doesn’t understand, no, can’t understand quantum physics like I do. I’ve told her once what it’s about, broken symmetry and entropy and stuff. Her eyes glazed over and she kept having to say ‘What?’ It’s annoying!!”

“Mmmhmmm. It’s a form of rudeness and disrespect to your superior abilities, and yet you still need her to drop you off and pick you up from sports camps and school functions.”

“Yeah, and she’s always on her phone. I can’t stand that. Distracted drivers are now the number one cause of fatal car crashes.”

“Yeah, I saw that on Facebook. Now when you drive, how will you do it?”

“In-tell-I-gent-ly.  If you use your native intelligence to full potential, well, it’s not that hard. Driving requires less than one per cent of your available brain power.”

“But what about all the other drivers who are not as gifted as you?”

“That’s a problem. I think you ought to have a minimum IQ to get a driver’s license. Only smart people should be allowed to drive. It’s stupid to let stupid people drive on the same roads with lawyers, surgeons, judges, and CEO’s of cutting edge tech firms. If one of these leaders is killed by a moron, that’s a huge loss. If a moron head-ons another moron, no loss.”

“Because low IQ folks bring no value to society, right?”Image result for dumb people pictures

“Absolutely. They are here to be ruled. If you can’t compete, you sit the bench or sweep the floor. Not everyone can be a starter. Those are facts.”

“So, it’s hard for you to be surrounded by imperfect people, huh?”

“You have no idea. I’m in the 99th percentile in achievement tests I take. I’m smarter than a lot of my teachers. It pisses them off,  so like, they’ll try to catch me not paying attention and ask me a question.  Wrong!  I can multitask. So their little traps backfire on them and they get pissed that I beat them at their own game. So then they change the storyline to manners and arrogance and disrespect crap. It’s unscientific and subjective. But it doesn’t matter. Same as my parents: They make the rules for now, but don’t expect me to respect stupid people.”

“So what do you think the per cents are for smart people like you?”

“Well, my measured IQ is over 135, I’m sure. But I think it’s a lot higher… so let’s say I’m in the top one per cent, maybe even higher.”

“Must be lonely up there.”

“Sure is. You can find a dumb person in a second. Finding an exceptionally smart friend is next to impossible.”

“So your friends are not your intellectual equals?”

“No, I mean I like them and all, but they are pretty dumb. They do stupid things and we laugh, but they don’t get the deeper issues of life either.”

“How about finding a girlfriend? If you struggle with your mother’s level of intelligence, and she is an accomplished professional by the way, how do you think dating or marriage is going to be?”

“Uh, she needs to be smart and good looking and ambitious. I mean, I’ll be making six or seven figures and living the cool life, so she’ll have to be okay with my choices. I don’t want a dumb chick who will make me look bad, ya know?”

“You are pretty sure of yourself.”

“It’s easy to be confident if you have the smarts and talent to back it up. Okay, so like in baseball, I’m on base a lot and score most of our team’s runs. In basketball I’m usually the leading scorer. So if I plan on being a neurosurgeon, why would it be any different?”

“I don’t know. I’m wondering how you’ll interact with dumb patients and nurses and other professionals who don’t measure up, though.”

“I think that they will be so glad for my expertise that they will spare me their pettiness. At least I hope they will. In any event I will be at the top of the food chain, so I can call the shots for the most part.”

“Yeah, like a polar bear or an eagle or a lion. The king of the jungle. You’ll be the king pin.”

“Someone has to be at the top. Talent and IQ rule. Cream rises, right?”

“Oh yeah, and milk just sits there. Not to mention skim milk.”

“So, do you have a diagnosis for me? My parents said something about a narcissistic personality? Is that even a diagnosis? Plus, my friends are dying to know.”

“Yes, it is. It encompasses a sort of fixed personality, a set of beliefs about oneself, that you are special even if there is no evidence. Narcissists lack empathy. They believe they are entitled to preferential treatment and should be treated deferentially. But that’s not you. No sir.”

“So do I have a diagnosis? I mean I don’t want to waste my time in therapy if I don’t have some incredible set of issues, ya know?”

“Oh, yes. I get it. And I’ve thought about your condition long and hard. Aside from being here to guide your parents and peers, I think your issue is that you are surrounded by imperfect people.”

“Absolutely. It sucks. Forrest Gump was a good movie but not in real life. I want smart people who think and act like I do.”

“Exactly. That’s why I’m diagnosing you with imperfect people disorder.”

 

 

 

 

 

290. The Messiness of History

Image result for st patrick's cathedral ny picturesReligion      and     Politics need to be very far removed from each other.  We need both to balance each other, but that never seems to happen. When one gets the upper hand, look out people!  Bad juju follows every time. Even in little Dorothy’s world of Depression Era Kansas, there had to be violence and death to reset the scales of justice.

Here is the five second outline of religion.

Impotent and scared, self -centered humans needed an explanation for the forces of nature.

They created unseen gods to explain what couldn’t other wise be explained.

(Motley Crue, 1982)

Eventually a priest came forward to run the show at a price that escalated over time.

“Trust me, people, I got this. The answer to our problems are the people next door. Seize their land, grain, cattle and women.”

Image result for images of moses in the desert(Charlton Heston before he joined the NRA.)

At first it was really cool to have priests running the show. It was new and sexy and liberating to rampage with the moral upper hand.

A new coercive order came out of the earlier chaos.

But the priest’s family inherited the job’s benefits and a priestly aristocratic class developed.

The priests concocted really cool ceremonies and rituals with costumes and props that amazed and scared and entertained the common folk, the 99.9% who labored on behalf of the cool priesthood, their shrines and temples.

Image result for aztec ceremonial pictures'(Where the Wild things Are.)

The 99.9%, ironically, felt more secure while being controlled because they knew the gods were on their side. Yippee! Because the priests told them so and executed anyone who disagreed.

Unfortunately, being essentially selfish human beings, priests built up riches at the expense of the rest of their people by taxing them somehow or enslaving them. Nice work if you can get it.

However, by that time they had become the lawmakers for all because they stood between the gods and the rest of mankind. Whoopy ding ding. They called the shots  and reminded everyone that they called the shots.

(Hammurabi talks with a chumpy subject. “Get my dry cleaning.”)

The priests interpreted what the gods did or didn’t do in such a way that it kept the priests in power. “Oh that?  That’s a holy enigma chupa cabra enchilada.”

“Holy Moly! Posiedon is really ticked off! We need sacrifices right now… but not from my family. Slaughter a 99.9% er.”

They usually had to kill somebody for some orthodox reason, but really they were just keeping their own power.

Image result for aztec ceremonial pictures' (Aztec holy heart extrication. Hmmm, looks like a 40 regular.)

Pretty soon the priests needed body guards since violence became necessary with the control of others.

( Singh warrior with sword. A really big sword.)

 

Inevitably the whole thing collapsed because of drought or natural disaster or the invasion by another bunch of lunatics with a different cast of gods. Or even better, when one of the priests accused the others of lying to the 99.9%.

So a new god would be born from the disaster, who must be appeased by the next selfish group of priests who arose from the ashes like an old burnt chicken.

Repeat. “It’s all good. Trust me. I got this.”

Politics is very similar to religion.

Secular government, religion in a different uniform, comes in between the people and some material enemy.

Image result for george washington victory pictures(Washington crosses the Delaware before the Coast Guard issued him a citation for overcrowding and standing up in a moving non-motorized craft.)

At first the secular governors are good revolutionaries and well armed… and then they get greedy and better armed.

Secular government attaches to myths of strength and greatness of the subject people.

 (George Washington shirtless, godlike. Putinesque.)

Secular government develops symbols and raises an army to defend itself. Funny how only a few years ago it had to raise a rag tag army to fight the evil empire of tyranny and injustice which inevitably it has become.

Image result for u.s. revolutionary army pictures

Secular government develops a nifty tax code to pay their own salary.  The new priests tax the 99.9% sufficiently to finance the expansion of the new empire. It sounds different, but it’s not. Some unfortunate soul is gonna have his heart ripped out to preserve the state.

Secular government’s primary job is to make it absolutely necessary that everyone submit to secular government, i.e., maintain its preeminence in perpetuity.

(A retired secretary of state looks at his legacy sinking.)

Secular government does not like or allow competition as it develops an aristocratic ruling class that mutates into lobbyists, which are congressmen without constraints.

(Napoleon stuffing money in his jacket.)

Secular government will eventually butt heads with religion, trying to suck out the vital marrow of religious truths and values while breaking the bones of any real religious power that might challenge the secular center’s grip on temporal power.

Secular government eventually overrules all competition until the government becomes bloated and unsustainable, and yet demands to be worshiped and respected.

Secular government eventually collapses under its own weight… a fatted pig that cannot walk, and so dies from morbid obesity a few feet away from the public tax trough.

Image result for extremely fat pig pictures (A former congressman turned lobbyist in Arlington, Va.)

Mixing religion with politics is toxic and brings out the worst in both. When the religious right got in bed with right leaning politicians, things got very hostile and stupid. Somehow God was sort of on the ballot. I’m sure there is a matching leftist rendezvous somewhere also, where secular leftists plot the neutering of religious institutions, opening a perfect secular world for loony leftists. I suppose the secular media and progressive politicians go to the same parties in Washington and make fun of religious folks, who are at barbeques with preachers and politicians doing the same thing only using different buzz words. That’s an opposite and equal mistake. Again, we need both but not together and not with one subordinate to the other. There needs to be a strong tension between religious folks and secular government, power balancing power, with guaranteed destruction of civilization hanging in the balance.

 Oh, my. Lions and tigers and bears are everywhere on the Road to OZ, which never did exist. But it’s good to know in our binary world that God is on our side and, therefore, not on anyone else’s.