420.To Blog or not to Blog.

 

Why do I blog?  There is no fame or fortune, no status or glory in the blog business. I have refused all pay that has not yet been offered. So why do it?  Uh, why speak to the new barrista at the coffee shop?  Let’s see– because you want to connect, maybe share some of your presence with someone else. Tenderize a brain or two. Learn something in return maybe. Though I don’t know all three of my blog followers, I’m sure they are nice folks with great tolerance and compassion. Why? Because I write some odd things in this blog, mostly for my own entertainment. My devoted followers have not cut me off yet. Maybe this will do it. However, if I’m laughing while typing, that’s usually a good sign. Furthermore, if I find just the right picture on my Google search, that’s even better.

Blogging beats billing or getting my accounts in order. You see, I write on my office computer 90% of the time. Like right now as Leon Russell sings through his nose, “There’s a slow train comin’.” It’s an enjoyable distraction after a few intense therapy sessions. Some days clients don’t show so I click on Pandora and zoom along with Van Morrison, Lou Reed, Dylan, Neil Young, or any of the 100 artists on my shuffle. Music is a big deal for me; it seems to free up ideas and help my stream of consciousness flow. Good therapy needs good therapy, I think. Otherwise the therapist blows. Blogging is one of my coping strategies that ease my blood pressure and stress. I’m not a fan of stress though I willingly engage it daily. Therefore, I need an outlet after ferrying anxious folks across troubled waters.

It used to be running a few miles back when I was young enough to absorb all that pounding. Nowadays my back and hips cry out in protest to jogging. I still hunt groundhogs for fun in the warmer months. Cold-blooded murder of vermin, so it is. And I enjoy it. Every so often I will draw or paint something, usually in watercolors. Chess, too, is a beloved activity when I can find a willing and capable partner. These are all healthy distractions and stress relievers. We can all use more distractions these days, don’t you agree?

The new administration is whirling forward in a dizzying blur. Not sure how things are going to play out. I do find it fascinating and terrifying how the media have been demonized. Sure, some are prima donnas, but the biggest prima donna of all is the Prima Donald.  And sure, he is being demonized as well. There has never been another Prima Donald to my recollection. His panties are in a wad over the silliest and vainest items. Don, buddy, you won. It’s true. Why the conspiracy theory to suggest that not dozens, or scores, hundreds or thousands voted illegally for someone else. No, for a man of your stature, the fraud must be millions. And those millions must be illegal, brown, unwashed criminals loaded down with diseases, eager to rape white women.

If you have ever talked to someone who is delusional, you will find that the delusions are never mundane, garden variety issues. If someone is stalking them or tapping their phone, it can’t be a local marketer or traffic cop or a disgruntled neighbor. Nope. That’s just not good enough. Delusions of persecution need to be big– the Mafia, the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, Interpol,  or the KGB. It doesn’t sound fierce enough if the delusionoid says, “The PTA are after me.” Or NASA. Or AARP. Or the SPCA.  These latter acronyms lack the dramatic serrated edge of the former referents. Go big, my schizophrenic friends, or don’t go at all.

So, why would a sane man want to entertain a conspiracy that undercuts the system that just elected him president? I can only speculate. The Donald has been a magician over the past two years. He has managed to toss firebombs  left, right and center that distract the public and media from his last firebombs. He’s good at this sleight of mouth. But even the Donald has to step back in awe of the verbal tornado woodpecker that is Kellyanne Conway. She is masterful at deflection and redirecting any narrative. She spews more cooked noodles than any Chinese restaurant ever could while breathing through her ears.  Please, folks, you were legally elected by the system . Believe it. No need to gild the outcome into something of an intergalactic victory of our species over the Death Star of the Leftist/ Media/ Demoproglibs.  Act like you believe in the outcome. It is impressive and historic. Stop talking like the prom king is a drag queen who needs an alibi. The new truth in our post factual world is that she looks fabulous, and that’s all that matters.

Oh, oh, oh. But controlling the truth is not the same thing as seeking and speaking truth. Whether that truth is your promised tax returns or climate change; emoluments or fraudulent universities; seeing jihadi Muslims dancing in Jersey City or millions of worshipful audience members on the national mall; there are ways of determining the truth via an abundance of proof. We do this in court and in science labs. But in the big stage of what was once known as news, our anchors, experts, and talking heads allow greasy soundbites to pose as truths. What results is a  paranoid environment of mythical beliefs and alternative facts. Hocus pocus hoaxes.

Instead of seeking and speaking truth, our society seems to have become allergic to truth. We break out in partisan rages rather than calmly putting forth the known relevant facts. So many tricks are used to move the tone over the substance. Today’s soundbite is that 3 million illegals voted not for Trump. Unidentified polling places all over this country were fooled three million times. And the evidence is… missing.

What will next week bring, I wonder? A new Sharknado that Kellyanne will explain away.

*** Please take a moment to rate this post. Thanks for reading.

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417. Communication Breakdown

Image result for phone imagesIt’s a healthier option to write about one’s anger than to blow it all over the deserving others, especially when they are on the other end of a Verizon or Century Link phone. This is a modern saga of catastrophic communication. It has a back story that goes back a month or more. “Please hold. For English, press one. For Spanish, press dos.” Cheesy background music for free.

Image result for phone imagesMy wife wanted new cell phones. Not certain why, but we had outlived our previous service contract and so the deal of the day seemed pretty decent. If we bought new phones, somehow or other the monthly bill would be lowered by $20. Why it was not already lowered was a rude question that I did not ask. I know that in our capitalist economy the goal is to shake as much money as you can from the captive audience. And I realize that the competition is not really so robust as to present a truly free market.  What you say?  Consider this factoid: in Honduras every teenager I came in contact with had a cell phone, a modern one. This poor country had cell towers all around, even in the mountainous areas. Their service was fine. Here’s the rat in the apple bin:  they are unbelievably poor people, second only to Haiti. So how do they afford this modern luxury?  Simple answer is that they pay according to their meager economy’s standards not according to what we have been led to believe is the cost of doing business. Let’s see, Google tells me that the minimum wage in Honduras runs between $175-350 per month. Yet unemployed and partially employed teens have phones. How’s that work? My bill with Verizon is $126 per month for two lines. In Honduras this sort of charge is not possible to sustain. Oh, taxes and higher wages and uh, utility surcharges and 911 upcharges and the greed charge have to be added in the U.S., I guess.

Image result for router box imagesBack home I got my shiny new phone from the nerdy sales guy at Verizon and away we went, sort of. The nightmare nuclear winter of communication began that same day as Dirk the sales guy got my wife’s attention about how to save even more. (Funny thing is we were spending and spending and spending. These savings were promissory syllables on the way to technology hell.) Dirk explained incompletely that these black wonder boxes could circumvent my land lines at home and in my office, thus reducing my overall phone costs. “It’s quite simple (wrong!!!). You simply plug in the box next to your phone and dial 77. We port the phone over and there you go.” We left the Verizon affiliate store with two wonder boxes and a vague idea of what to do.

Image result for no dial tone picturesThe phones were cool, no doubt. However, we noticed in a day or two that our home internet was no longer working. Then our home landline went dead. The wonder box was not working as promised. Naturally we called Verizon and walked through the directions again. Same result. I got a bit panicked thinking that my office line and internet were next. I called Verizon to cut the order on the business line. I was assured by my new buddy Matt at Century Link that we had averted the danger and avoided disaster, however there would be a $59 charge to undo the portage that never happened. “Well,” I said, “that’s on Verizon.”

Image result for tech nerd picturesI called Alex at the Verizon store. He talked abbreviated nerdspeak and assured me that he would get CenturyLink to void the charge. “No worries.” I had lost faith in Alex by now. He had not authority, nor did his manager. Someone else in the cyber army officer corps ported the magic numbers over ether net. These guys only sold phones and broken dreams. That’s it.

“Seven to ten days,” we were told, “that’s how long it takes to port over a number, sir.” The internet-less days ground on slowly, drip, drip, drip at glacier speed.Image result for glacier speed images

 

‘Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?’ Joni Mitchell sang long ago. Her new verse should go, ‘Port out your number, get yourself a dead dial tone.’ That was a month ago. Over that time I thought my phone was not ringing so much, but it was the holiday season and I didn’t mind really. I knew my office internet was running, therefore the phone line was working, right?

In this case I was mistaken. Though I called my voice mail to check for messages remotely, I never thought to call my actual phone number. If I had, I would have heard, “We’re sorry, but the person at this number has not set up a voice mail account yet. Goodbye.” I cannot calculate how many phone calls I did not receive nor the many voice mails that could not be left for me. I just get angry thinking about it.

Image result for blame pictures finger pointingOnce I heard this useless message, I called Century Link to see what was up with my voice mail. I spoke to a low level customer service person who assured me that my unclear issue would be resolved by close of business that day. I called my office the next morning. Same message. It was Saturday, Christmas Eve.  On Monday the 26th I called again; explained my problem to another customer service rep and received another less vigorous reassurance that it should be good to go by the next day. Okay. Tuesday I was in my office.  I received an authoritative call from Mike at Century Link assuring me that my vague problem would be completely solved by the next morning. This morning as it turns out. I called again and heard the same message. Now I was thoroughly angry.

I called Century Link and spoke to another person. I insisted on speaking to a supervisor. I was transferred to the finance department. “Would I like to make a payment on my bill?”  “Actually, no. I’d like to bill your company for wasting my time.” Finance lady put me back in the cue. By the time Dave or Corey or Danielle or Michelle or Josiah or Truly answered, I was breathing deeply and trying to find a balance between my rage and my salvation.  I told myself not to curse them or to use heavy sarcasm. I waited and listened to the bad piano riff loop over and over again. My morning phone call to Century Link lasted 30 minutes. But wait! There’s more.  I was told that I’d be getting a call back as soon as they had news for me. By 2:30 p.m. I called back and raised some heck. “Stop the nicey nice talk. Give me a supervisor now.” Hold, ten minutes.

Image result for smart woman pictures“This is Truly, blah blah blah.”

I recounted my tale of woe for the sixth time. Being a supervisor, she had a brain instead of a script to read to me. She reassured me that the problem was on Verizon’s side. My business phone number belonged to them and needed to be ported over to CenturyLink.  [Meanwhile I’d called Comcast to port my CenturyLink number over as soon as it was returned from Verizon. Phone and internet package for less for the moment, according to Alan at Comcast.]  She encouraged me to call Verizon and have them release my number. Then she’d personally call me back in an hour.

Image result for man drowning imagesI called Verizon and spent 25 minutes on hold while Ivy or Vicki or Jeanette worked on my issue.  I insisted on a supervisor to start. After a very long hold time my Verizon lady informed me that CenturyLink had to request the number back from Verizon.  She had a brain also and managed to tell me back my tale of woe convincingly. Finally, around 4 pm I got a call from Ryan who assured me he had been working on this problem nonstop since Monday, but Verizon would not answer their port department phones. (Really Ryan?) He promised to call me back in five minutes with the way forward. It took all I had not to scream “FIX IT!!!”

Mercifully, around 4:30 I got a three way call between Ryan at CL and Mo at Verizon. We had a brief chat; those two talked nerdspeak briefly; Mo hung up; and Ryan told me it was over. I’d been on the phone over 90 minutes on my day off, trying to undo the fix that I never wanted that I had cut off a month ago, not knowing I’d been cutting off the wrong Hydra head each time. I called my office on my cell and got my own voice mail prompt at long last. Hallelujah, hallelujah. I felt like a beached whale no longer.

Image result for pinocchio washed up on beach picturesMy take away lesson for future reference is to know what you cannot know before the guy who knows nothing at all tells you all he knows and you are paralyzed in not knowingness. And then call a supervisor.

 

410. Stadium Seat Cushion

“I’m a people pleaser, you know. I hate confrontations and avoid conflicts. Like, if I get charged the wrong price at Walmart, I won’t confront the cashier. I just suck it up and get mad at myself instead of the wrong price or the cashier. What’s wrong with me?  I can’t handle hurting others’ feelings, but I can crush my own.”

“You are a stadium seat cushion.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“Well, stadium seating is cheap and durable but not comfortable. So there is an after market for cushions to make the stadium experience less painful, you know, like a pillow on a park bench?”

“Yes! I get the concept. What does it have to do with me?”

“Oh, you see others in distress or discomfort and you throw yourself between their butts and their pain, like a stadium seat cushion, I mean a high quality memory foam covered dense Styrofoam cushion. Top quality with a nice logo like Penn State or the Steelers. Please allow 4 to 6 weeks for delivery.”

“So I’m a butt buffer for others am I?”

“Yep. And a very good one, consensus Hall of Famer first ballot.”

“You have a way of pissing me off and making me laugh at the same time, damn it!”

“It’s a gift.”

“Seriously, I do throw myself in between people and their pain. All the out reach programs I am involved with… somehow I want to alleviate others’ suffering. But why? I’ll make myself miserable to make others happy.”

“Well, let’s see. Did anyone do this for you when you were struggling?”

“No, not really. I felt abandoned and neglected, which are awful feelings. I wondered why no one would come to my rescue, not even God. I figured I was too damaged, not worth their efforts. Shame silenced me. I  did not want to ask anyone else for help so that I did not attract more attention to my  pitiful state. Eventually I learned to do things by myself, with a vengeance. Don’t ever tell me I can’t do something. You’ll regret it. I’ll prove you wrong.”

“Sounds like you do good things for not so good reasons.”

“What?  I help single moms put clothes on their babies. I help hungry people find affordable food. I…”

“I know what you do. That’s the front end of the statement. The back end is the kicker, though. Why do you do these things? ”

“I told you: to alleviate the suffering of innocent, helpless people.”

“And yet it seems like you are trying to alleviate your own childhood and adolescent suffering, as if your good deeds today could somehow cross over time and assuage the aching heart of your eight year old self.”

[TEARS and HUFFING] “No, you are wrong. I can’t stand by and let others suffer or charge them a fee to alleviate their pain like you do.”

“Ouch! So now I’m the psychic predator who preys on helpless folks with insurance.”

“I didn’t mean that. It’s just that I can’t walk away from needy folks who need so much….”

“Because there is some boundary issue?”

“Well, they get under my skin and in my head. I can barely sleep when I do help out.”

“So you will work harder to solve others’ problems than the actual owners of the problems work?”

“Sometimes, maybe, okay. I have once or a dozen times. What’s wrong with caring excessively?”

“The excess part. When caring turns into indulging the other, you are not helping. Cradle to grave welfare becomes slavery not help.”

“So your answer is to dispose of the people, just let them go cold or hungry…”

“Please, just a moment without nuclear defenses. You know the old saying ‘Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime’?”

Image result for man and boy with a fish picture

“Yes, it’s lame. Not everyone eats fish.”

“I don’t. Allergic reaction to fish oil. Ever hear  this one, ‘But man does not live on bread alone.’ ?”

“Oh, no, you’re gonna go all religious on me now.”

“No, in completely secular terms, if you feed and clothe and house everyone you meet on the street, many of them will be back in days if not hours, because they need more than bread, clothes, or shelter. They need hope, meaning and purpose.”Image result for homeless folks picture

“Now you’re gonna play the God card.”

“No, I’m playing the human nature card. We can leave the Divine out of this discussion for the moment. Humans struggle to maintain their environment, even if that is a lean to under a bridge. Swooping in to put that homeless guy in a shelter may not work. Bringing canned meat and vegetables to a chronic alcoholic will likely be met with contempt.  Do some of your kids clothes shoppers complain about colors or styles?”

“Yeah, and that really pisses me off.”

“Why? Humans want what they want; not necessarily what you are graciously offering them.”

“Ingrates are thankless selfish takers.”

“Yep, they don’t see the big picture as they move from cradle to grave on someone else’s nickel.”

“Sometimes I just want to kick them in the ass and tell them to get out… but I do it for the kids. They appreciate the clothes or toys or food even if their stupid parents don’t.”

“Gratitude is powerful stuff.”Image result for gratitude images

“What do you mean?”

“I mean if you focus on what you have and savor it, treasure it even, then you won’t be envying what others have that is newer or shinier or costlier.”

“Okaaaay. Is there some cosmic lesson in this? I feel like you are trying to give me an epiphany or something Greek.”

“Epiphanies are kinder than enemas, Grasshoppa. What I’m so subtly suggesting is that if you seize upon your current blessings and just bathe in them here and now, you will not feel so compelled to fix others. Your, ready for this one?, existential constipation will diminish, and you will laugh, smile and joke more.”

“That’s it? No secret word?”

“Well, I do have one secret word.”

“And that would be….?”

“PRAY.”

“I knew it!!! Back to God!!!”

“Sort of hard to keep Him hidden, dontcha think?”

“Duh!”

 

 

 

 

403. the perfect adjective

So many folks are out there pursuing something perfect, the perfect mate, job, house, car, vacation, etc. (You know who you are.) Exhausting, isn’t it? Know why? Cuz it’s a false construct, blog swallows.  Perfect does not exist and cannot. No matter how precisely you want to cut the diamond or vacuum your living room carpet, under microscopic inspection– flaws, dust and blemishes appear. If you put the microscopic imperfections under a higher powered microscope, you’ll see even more flaws, dust and blemishes. Perfect is an airbrushed, photo-shopped illusion then. We have made the word concept into something it cannot be. Here is the word origin or etymology if you want to flaunt your vocabulary muscles:

1250-1300; < Latin perfectus, past participle of perficere to finish, bring to completion ( per- per- + -fec-, combining form of facere to do1+ -tus past participle suffix); replacing Middle English parfit < Old French < Latin.

Simply put, perfect means finished or completed.  The thing being described needs nothing further. Somehow over the centuries this low bar was raised unattainably high to mean flawless and unblemished. This is an interesting turn away from what something is, toward what it is not. And it is a trap easily wandered in to.

Anorexia nervosa, I think, is the deadly pursuit of an imaginary and perfect body image… “just another five pounds and I’ll stop…” The winner of this competition dies a perfect skeleton. How quaint. They are finished alright.

OCD folks are often perfectionists, chasing the impossible, fully throttled by anxiety. Steps are counted, objects balanced symmetrically, clothes matched, Christmas lights strung exactly and high, i.e., high strung like the stringer of the lights is. Banging away on a mental drum, inner insecurity pulses. Organizing and arranging the outer world somehow calms the OCD sufferer temporarily.

Chasing perfection is a bad dream, though, where you are pole vaulting ever higher and the bar keeps rising, even beyond Olympic levels. No matter how good the vaulter, his record reflects the last height before he failed. Every time achievement is reached, the bar is moved higher, the goal posts farther back, until a new inadequacy is birthed. Winning now is only losing later. In many ways it’s like an addiction wherein the dosage needs to keep increasing to chase the original ephemeral high.

My little ditty for clients goes like this:  Perfection is a living room you can’t live in. A car you can’t drive. It’s a coin you can’t spend and a stamp you won’t send. These things are perfect and precious. They must be kept in a museum. Untouched and uncirculated no seeums. Tragic, really. The precious thing can never be enjoyed by anyone except in some abstract glory. It is preserved under glass like the Constitution or a butterfly. Safe but very dead.

Once upon a time there was a guy who collected coins, or should I say hoarded them. He and his wife lived in an old ranch house that needed painting and new carpeting, and a bunch of other improvements. He told his wife to pick out paint, then they’d get on to the other issues. She came home with five sample cards featuring white and off white shades.   He didn’t care for any of them.  So the wife went to another paint store and came home with five new cards featuring white and off white shades. He methodically vetoed each choice.

Meanwhile Harry the hoarder had a security system installed to protect his million dollar coin collection. Each door and window was wired to an alarm that would sound whenever it was opened. The new unilateral policy became “No open windows”. At some pinpoint of squinty reasoning it sort of made sense because he had a fortune in coins in a big vault somewhere in this weathered ranch house. But how would they paint the living room if the windows couldn’t ever be opened? Ahhh, it was a logical and  passive-aggressive trap: you can paint the living room once I agree to the right shade of white and only if we never open the windows. What contingencies!

Meanwhile the wife grew sad and felt trapped in a dingy house with drab paint and worn out carpeting, and no hope of change because her husband’s coins mattered more than anything she could conceive of. He never said this overtly, but the message was spray painted on the brick wall of his actions.Harry’s perfect world became his own perfect prison. Everyone was a suspect, a potential thief who would rob him of his holy treasure. He lived in fear like Midas, surrounded by cold, unloving coins. His paranoia ran so deep that he shred any paperwork and used municipal dumpsters for his household trash. He knew that some evil geniuses could reconstruct what was in his house by reverse engineering what was in his trash. And he just could not be too careful with all that money sitting in a hidden vault. He wanted to be a good steward.So he said.

Harry had layers of protection for his treasure. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Mt. 6:21. The problem was not with his treasure, however. His unguarded heart grew layer upon layer of cholesterol and plaque– atherosclerosis, also known as hardening of the arteries. His heart literally grew hard as a stone.

Ezekiel 36:26 goes like this, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Harry, on the other hand, wanted a heart of gold where no messy blood flowed through.

One day Harry died in the living room no one ever lived in. The coins no one ever spent paid for his funeral expenses. A funeral no one attended.

Joy finally got to paint her living room, got new beige carpet, and opened the windows. It would have been perfect if Harry hadn’t died prematurely. On the sunlit wall she put a picture of Jesus crucified. The caption read, “It is finished not perfect.”

 

 

 

 

325. Going through the Motions

At dance class Colonel Frank tells us over and over that we have to keep going through the motions of new dance steps in order to develop muscle memory. I understand that. It’s just awkward to do something wrong over and over. It seems like we are practicing the incorrect moves and committing errors to muscle memory instead of perfected dance code. He reassures us that we are repeating near approximations of the desired goal. Our imperfect dancing is getting closer to the target, he says. I hope so. I know that the few dances my eternally youthful bride and I have learned were not there, and not there, and then inexplicably… there. Chick-a- chick-a-boom-boom!!  How’s does that work? One night at the winery I recognized that Santana’s song (actually all Santana songs) was a cha-cha. I just suddenly knew and my wife joined the cha-cha steps in open mouthed wonder at my Astaireness. I was a flaming comet musical dance genius for about 15 seconds.

My road to success went as follows.

1. I don’t know. I’m stupid. Duh.

2. I still don’t know. I’m still stupid. Duh, duh.

3. I know. I don’t know how I know, but I now know. I’m brilliant. Or maybe, I’m incrementally less stupid. Whazzup wiff dat?

It’s not a sexy mantra or a good high school cheer, but it’s true. I suppose I could funk it up and make it more rhythmic…

“I’m dumb, I’m dumb, I dance like a drunken bum.

Still pathetic, pathetic, I aint so copasetic.

I’m better, I’m better, I’m sharper than your cheddar.”

Maybe not. [Movie trailer voice] ‘In a world of reverse limbo dancing, you start with the quality limbo bar on the ground and dance over it until, suddenly,  it becomes embarrassing, criminal, or just anatomically impossible.’And yet we have mastered the Foxtrot, a dance that tied us in silken knots when we first tried to step, touch, feet together, step, touch, feet together. Now we can actually turn the girl and promenade like a pair of Austro-Hungarian royal milk chocolatiers, like trotting foxes come to think of it.

A gym teacher I once worked with used to say, “Fake it till you make it”. I always liked that expression. It simultaneously acknowledges the incompleteness of the now and gives hope for future competence.  It’s not a deceitful proposition. It’s encouraging instead. “Throw the horseshoes till you get a ringer.” “Roll up on that polena” ( in bocce). I like games where imperfection counts for something, i.e., getting near the target is acknowledged and encouraged.

On the other hand there is the self defeating pirate message, “The beatings will continue until morale improves.”  The smart aleck in me likes that impossible situation, at least the dark humor in it. Cyclical dilemmas are fascinating– “We’ll have fun when the work is done…but the work is never done.”

“You’ll be released from prison when you have a fixed address on the outside. But you can’t get a fixed address on the outside till you’re out of prison.”

“You can have credit as soon as you prove you are credit worthy by paying off a loan, for which you need credit.”

“You can have a puppy as soon as you can prove you can raise a dog. But you can’t have a dog unless you start with a puppy. How about a kitten?”

These are no motion processes.  The game is over before it starts. In this world of dilemmas you have to hit the bull’s eye the first and only time you throw with your arms duct taped behind your back. It’s about being perfect. “Hey, just grab the bull by the horns and wrestle him into submission.”

To continue going through the motions of a no motion game is mind numbing. It can break the human mind and spirit, like digging holes and moving dirt only to move the dirt back to fill the original hole for no apparent reason. A one piece checker game, a stalemate, kickball with no ball, frozen mimes– what’s the point?  Humans demand meaning and purpose somewhere after oxygen, water and food, shelter and safety, security and love. Often times suicides are driven by perceived purposelessness and meaningless in one’s life. (Especially troubling is the suicide rate of mimes and circus clowns, estimated at 53%.)

Without water I am thirsty. Without food I am hungry. Without oxygen I’m getting pretty jacked up for my next breath. But all these needs drive me toward survival, the mad thrashing and grasping for life. Without meaning, however, it’s easier for thinking people to let go, to override the survival instinct because they can’t keep simply going through the motions, i.e., the near approximation of life. Just ask a mime, but you’ll never get an answer. He’ll take it to the grave.

Freud said there was a life urge and a death urge, Eros and Thanatos, and I believe this is true. The life urge pulls us to sex and creativity and heaven; the death urge pulls us to depression, defeat, and finally the grave. Sometimes, I guess, the tires of life get deflated and we can hit a flat spot in self esteem, marriage, career, family or faith. Going through the motions may help jumpstart the old energy for life’s zest. Going to the no motion one swing at the piñata mindset will corkscrew you into an early grave. It comes down to a choice of frames around life. Do you go with something hopeful and promising or something desperate and toxic? Imagine framing a baby picture with a thick black frame featuring gargoyles sneering. On the other hand, try framing dear departed Uncle Fred in a cheery pink rosebud frame. The same holds true with how you frame your own life.

So here is the take away nugget: keep going through the motions with faith in the unseen goal. Fake it till you make it, Carlos. Believing in the no motion option is deader than a dead mime.

237. circles

Lately it seems many things are going in circles like a slowed down NASCAR race. My focused desire to write has been on the wane. Life has been a skipping cd, which I realize is a dated reference but better than a skipping record. There are days, weeks or even months when monotony pervades.  The news stutters on, repeating itself over and over. It’s not new, folks. War, disease, racism, and ignorance are doing well.  Life’s same old, mindless routine has become a rut. It’s nobody’s fault, I just find myself looking at a fish in an aquarium swimming around and around his little tank, and I feel like a kindred spirit, a fellow ichthus. Glub glub. Boosh. Woosh. Thrum bum bum. My tank is eight miles wide and ten deep, approximately ten across. I swim back and forth to work and stores, church, friends, etc. The aquarium I live in is nice, just a little too familiar sometimes. Maybe a motorcycle jaunt or a skydive would jack me up. Couldn’t hurt. Well, it could kill me, but other than that, it couldn’t hurt.

Went to NYC to visit my oldest daughter. How many one way streets are there in Manhattan and Brooklyn? More than you can drive down. I had a parking space at a metered spot on a one way street last week. I noticed a free parking space behind me on another one way crossing street. It was 50 yards away but inaccessible unless I drove a half mile and made three lefts, which I did. Only to arrive as some deviant miscreant Brooklynite finished parking in that golden void. I cursed once or twice and kept driving in circles to my right this time. Make four rights and you will wind up in a square circle where you began if you don’t hit a bicyclist, which gets tempting after a while. They cut and swerve like birds through the herd of autobuffalos. A little envy naturally arises. Those guys can glide through stalled traffic and run red lights at will. They weave freely among the metal, concrete and asphalt canyons. Until the rains come, then justice prevails.

My daughters went to a musical while the wife and I went to a swing dance club. It was actually a nice time. We were anonymous tourists with no expectations placed upon us except the cover charge. Nothing is free in NYC. The Holland Tunnel cost $13.oo, just to get into Manhattan. (I still have two outstanding parking tickets from 2006, I think. We sold that car, so I think I escaped those charges… nearly $300, no kidding.) Everything seems to round up to a hundred dollars– tickets, club tabs, breakfast, lunch and dinner. By the time you add in a taxi home, well, there’s another $35.  But forget the cost of everything; remember the value of one thing, my Bliago.  Yes, I can dig that permutation of Shakespeare. Besides, next year it will all cost even more so today is gonna be a bargain in five more years.

Circles, circles, circles. My wife helps an antipoverty group in town called Circles. She’s a bit more practically committed than I am. I try to avoid long term commitments beyond marriage and family. Anyway, about a year ago she began mentoring a young woman who wanted to get out of poverty. It went fairly well for the first year. We could see progress despite some obvious limitations involved. Now here’s the kicker:  remember the loud drunk I posted about in post # 128?  Well, our little mentee girl met him and moved him in with her. Remember that I had the guy arrested and then went to the district justice’s three times before he pled guilty and got six months in the county jail. But it wasn’t over then. While I was on vacation in Florida, the arresting officer called my cell phone and asked if I could testify yet again because Mr. Screamy appealed his 26th drunk and disorderly conviction. Yep, so after Screamo got out of jail he hooked up with this woman. Indirectly she funded his alcohol consumption. Every dollar he did not spend for her rent, phone or utilities, he got to spend on liquor. Fantastic. Indirectly we were helping her indirectly help him directly abuse society. Cyclical injustice without bikes this time.

This development did not sit well with me or my wife. After all, Miss Mentee walked our dog. She was connected to my family. But… we are not stupid. After hearing her talk about her drunk and disorderly new boyfriend, my wife put 1/16 and 1/16 together and got 8/64. She inquired about the paramour, and what do you know?  One and the same dude. On top of that, mentee had known the connection for a while and had said nothing about it. Uh oh. On top of that she claimed, “You are all so judgmental!”  You know what? We certainly are. We can judge between a rattle snake and a baby’s rattle, by God. And we do this on a daily basis, most assuredly. In fact, I judged a completely antisocial drunk who was disrupting my business to be breaking the law and had him arrested a year and a half ago. The Boro police and district justice agreed with me and he was sentenced to six months in jail for the 26th time. That’s 13 years total if  you’re keeping score at home. Furthermore, I judged that helping someone reach to get out of poverty was a good and noble thing to do. Yes, I am so judgmental.

We judge all day every day, but we should not condemn. Judging is using our brains beyond simple perceptions and facts. We judge when we plug facts and memories and concepts into a mental matrix of values and priorities. Otherwise we simply chase our tails and repeat the same old mistakes forever. Poverty is not a lack of money, by the way. Many folks live spiritually impoverished lives while others practice impoverished thinking. In any event no good deed goes unpunished.