383. Counterintuitive

Here’s a disturbing question for you:  When do folks suicide most often– summer, winter, spring or fall? Most folks think winter and the holiday season is ripe for suicides. That may be, but it’s spring that consistently hosts the most suicides in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. (You know they are opposite, right?)According to the CDC April and May show a marked increase in suicides in the U.S. and other northern countries, and that suicides actually decline in the bleak winter months. One study I saw clearly demonstrated Monday as the favored day for suicides to occur. Maybe those folks just didn’t want to go to jobs they really hated. Hmmm, you’d think quitting or calling off might have been more effective.

Not to make light of suicide. I feel deeply for folks who are in such a pain filled state that they can only think of destroying the pain container instead of destroying or managing the pain. It’s the all-or-nothing approach to problem solving, similar to burning down your house to make sure you eliminate the pesky mice that run around your kitchen at night. Undeniably, it works; but this solution obliterates the plaintiff, bailiff, courtroom, reporters, judge and jury. It’s an odd sort of justice that obscures the original injustice.

I recall a local anesthesiologist who offed himself on an examining table at the hospital to protest real or perceived maltreatment. The thing is, we’ll never know what the rest of the truth  was because he executed himself as he executed his strange justice. I do not recall if it was a Monday in spring or not. Doesn’t matter. His job was to anesthetize patients in surgery and to revive them afterwards. It’s supposed to be a round trip ticket not a one way. Which is why single passengers who buy one way airline tickets with cash attract so much attention from the TSA. The guys I know who do this are not terrorists; instead, they are repossessing cars or delivering machinery. In any event, they are coming back… unlike Dr. Doom, who fully anesthetized himself forever.

Sad and disturbing. No one can grasp the unbearable weight that moves a finger to pull a trigger of the cocked pistol at one’s temple. Follow the triggered nerve back to the tortured brain that has been rehearsing this exit strategy. Almost all suicides are completed alone, which reduces the risk of revival or interference. Still, what an airless bedroom closet or bathroom it must be as the suicider sits and builds up the critical and final momentum for the ultimate terminus. Like waiting to vomit and then ride the terminal wave out of consciousness, where the constant is becomes the eternal is not. The pain and hopelessness must feel like giant aliens that must be destroyed.                                                                                 Image result for giant alien pictures

The demoniac self named “Legion” in the Gospel of Mark 5, had so many unclean spirits driving him that he smashed rocks against himself and ran around tombs naked and screaming near the pig herds of the Gerasenes.  His repetitive insanity was ended by Jesus with a command, “Come out of him, you unclean spirit.” The legion of unclean spirits came out and complied. They asked Jesus not to torment them and begged to be cast into the nearby herd of pigs. He complied and they possessed the pigs, leading 2,000 to hurl themselves into the Sea of Galilee and drown. That’s a lot of bacon, folks.

One life was saved, one mind restored. And you’d think that the folks around the Gerasenes would be pleased, but they weren’t. They begged Jesus to get back in his boat and leave. No thank you or praise or worship, nope. Just fear simmered in the melted grease of confusion. It’s been said that miracles don’t produce faith; rather, faith produces miracles. I agree. Despite witnessing the overcoming of supernatural forces, the locals wanted no part of this Savior. Counter intuitive again. If you don’t want the problem nor the solution, then really, what do you want? More confusion, I suppose.

 I recall a story of a young man’s suicide with a pistol. The parents were devastated, yet they gave the gun to the victim’s younger brother.  I’m not a gun hater, but if your older son overdoses on oxycontins do you give the rest of the prescription to his little brother? Or if the one hangs himself, do you give the remaining noose to his kid brother? Seems counterintuitive again. The math of suicide is not that hard to do, if you simply possess the courage to do it.
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Despite the common terminology, no two suicides are identical. Some are grandiose exits with letters full of anger and bitterness. Some are murder/ suicides involving children or partners, parents or pets. Somewhere in the convoluted thinking the perpetrator believes the survivors can’t make it without him/her, or he/she can’t make it without them… and it’s better to make it a package deal. Some are desperate hangings while the family is away. Even when clear reasons are attached to suicides, survivors ponder the WHY? I suppose this question comes from the valuing of life on the one hand, and the incomprehensibility of destroying oneself on the other hand, which is literally no longer there.
Guilt and shame follow suicides as surely as the million WHYS. Yet, if survivors look hard at the evidence, it is usually not their fault. The fault is most often in the suicider’s brain, where he/she solves a temporary  problem with a permanent solution. Overkill is a fair comment, I believe.  Intuitively healthy minds seek survival and generativity. Counterintuitively, unhealthy minds seek death and the cut off of their loved ones. A life well lived is a beautiful thing. A suicide is, no matter how meaningful or dramatic, is a disaster.

374. Misery

Miser, misery, miserable. Notice the connection?  In old Latin miser was an adjective that meant wretched, unhappy, pitiable, or in distress. Miser, the noun, is a person who hoards money or valuables, choosing a wretched lifestyle in order to hang on to his filthy lucre. Ebenezer Scrooge is the classic miser until he repents.  Misery is a state of wretchedness, distress, suffering and just bad, bad juju. In fact, you can have plural miseries, which at first glance looks like miniseries, only it’s missing the middle -ni-, and it fits, don’t you think?  Because you could feel as if your life were a miniseries featuring a new misery each weekly episode if you lived like a miser, penny pinching and always focusing on what is owed to you. In fact, you’d be downright miserable, lower than the hardened gum stuck to Neil Young’s ultra-depressed boot heels.

What I have found in the counseling field is that many self identified miserables are also bone collectors, i.e., folks who hang on to old, even ridiculously ancient hurts or debts. Remember the play/movie Les Miserables?  A lot of unforgiveness and vengeance in that story of the policeman chasing the former prisoner. Why would someone hold on to vengeance so long, even risking his own life in order to make another man pay his perceived debt to society?

My buddy Chuck shared a story of his 80 year old neighbor, Sonny. One day he and Sonny went to the hardware store over in Slippery Rock. As Chuck parked the truck outside the store, he noticed Sonny was glaring a double stink eye at another old man who had just gotten out of his pick up truck.

“Who the Hell is he?” asked Chuck.

“My cousin”, was all Sonny replied.

“Why the double stink  eye, man? Did he hurt you?”

“We haven’t talked since we were kids.”

“Why the Hell not?”

“Well, his dad, my uncle, stole some land from my dad back before the War.”

“You’re kidding me,” Chuck exclaimed. “You’re stuck on something from before World War II?”

“No,” Sonny continued, ” World War I.”

True story minus the anonymous reductions. How long can one person hate on another?  Till Death, I suppose. You don’t have to Google search bitter misers to find them. You most likely already know one or more, though they may not hoard material goods. Some misers hoard compliments, gratitude, love, or especially, forgiveness. They squeeze these blessings so tightly that no one can pluck one from their bony, pinched fingers with a John Deere tractor.

Oh, and their anger burns below the surface, like the old coal mining town of Centralia, Pennsylvania in northeast PA.  The state imposed eminent domain on the few folks who chose to remain in that ghost town, below which a manmade inferno slowly bellows. No one knows for sure if the underground fire began in 1932 or 1962, but everyone agrees that it is too dangerous to live near Centralia as the coal seams slowly burn to cinders and the ground above them collapses. What a way to go! Can you imagine picking spring flowers one moment, and the next moment you are melting in 3,000 degrees of coal fire. Hey, let’s just give Johnny Cash the microphone…

“I fell in to a burning ring of fire

I went down, down, down and the flames went higher

And it burns, burns, burns

The ring of fire, the ring of fire.”

Oh, indeed the fire of anger does burn, burn, burn out a bitter man’s soul. In fact, parts of an angry man may collapse like Centralia building lots when he least expects it.  Angry folks have a greater likelihood of heart attacks. No wonder. When resentment rages for years through your arteries like a mine fire, consuming all available oxygen and living things in its path, it hollows you out. Once it gets going down deep in the caverns of your soul, only Death will extinguish bitter anger.

Unless, of course, you practice forgiveness and quit your claim on a debt that would be paid in Confederate money anyway. Yammering for your pound of flesh… from a corpse will never satisfy any need. Forgiveness is the foam that rushes on top of waves of conscious love into every deep, inflamed crevice, extinguishing even Pacific rim lava flows. In the time it takes to kiss a baby, water absorbs the heat of melting rocks. Columns of steam vapor rush away from the cooling volcanic rock. Seawater transforms itself to heal the angry molten rock and stop its plasmatic advance. Still,  bitter folks will say the water is sacrificing itself for no reason. Water did not start the fire or condone its growth, gurgling up from the bowels of the earth. The wise, however, observe that water’s nature is to transform the earth not to judge it. And so water transforms the natural landscape as surely as forgiveness or bitterness shapes the inner universe. One of my favorite Shakespearean lines is this

“The quality of mercy is not strained; it droppeth like the gentle rain from heaven on the place beneath; it is twice blest: It blesseth him who gives and him who takes.”

Sweet nectar there, honeysuckle and lavender combined into one ointment– fresh love. Such fragrance held close to your nose can overwhelm the stench of burning coal mines. We still put flowers on graves today, slapping death in the face with life and beauty, however fleeting they may be. Death is the original miser, after all. You have a choice, Bloggilillies: bitterly wait in a coal mine for someone else to make things right, or let go and move on with your fragrant life.

321. Grief, Loss and Elvis

Grief… breathing feels like air slowly passing through holes in the lungs and entering the stomach, causing a loss of sensation throughout the gastro intestinal tract. Bloated emptiness feels nothing. Digestion stops flat. What is food to a dead man but mockery?

Hunger becomes only a hazy memory from another vague time period when food connected to flavorful living. The last taste of vinegar lingers on the back of my tongue… or is that formaldehyde? Fumes hover across the exhalations. Surely these expirations would ignite with a flame.

Each breath is like a ragged flagged mourner’s car in a funeral parade that gets waved through intersections while other bodily functions wait out of respect. The race is over. Only jerks cut into funeral processions because their lives are so much more important than the one whose memorial they are interrupting. Ironically, Death often gets priority when and where life is not respected. Still, everyone is merely passing through this life’s lens at different rates. Movie extras disappear unnoticed. Life is lived in the foreground, right? Front and center, here and now. All the leads are the loved ones in our lives. The anonymous dead fall breathlessly and remain inert behind the breathing.

The heart slows. It seems only an echo of a heartbeat, mere white noise, though that sounds too clinical and optimistic. This drum beat comes from an abandoned well at the bottom of which an abandoned child slaps an empty water bucket weakly, hopelessly waiting for no one to come. “Bump a bump… bump. Ba bump.” Mud oozes up between his toes.

My brain like plump ice cream scoops melts and drips off the cone until it all collapses on the baking sidewalk, leaving an empty cone for flies to devour. Butter brickle Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. Dogs lap up his liquified face. He was a good egg.

“He just died, that’s all. All the cardio problems finally won. His torso was a sharpening stone for scalpels. Scars every which way. He showed them to me once with an odd angry pride. ‘I’ve been carved more than a Christmas turkey’, he said.”

“I can handle death. It’s just that eternity is so long”, he told me later, quietly. I think he knew his time was near.

My body feels weighed down by concrete blocks under leagues of dark water. My executioner knows where.  Elvis resonates through the thick water in my ears…

“Are you lonesome tonight,
Do you miss me tonight?
Are you sorry we drifted apart?
Does your memory stray to a brighter sunny day
When I kissed you and called you sweetheart?
Do the chairs in your parlor seem empty and bare?
Do you gaze at your doorstep and picture me there?
Is your heart filled with pain, shall I come back again?
Tell me dear, are you lonesome tonight?”

“…Now the stage is bare and I’m standing there
With emptiness all around
And if you won’t come back to me
Then make them bring the curtain down.

Is your heart filled with pain, shall I come back again?
Tell me dear, are you lonesome tonight?”

So many questions, Elvis. No answers needed. He is lonesome. All those questions can be turned into statements, you know. ‘ I am lonesome tonight. I miss you. I am sorry we drifted apart.’ A plaintive man taking accountability for his failures again just doesn’t sell so well, however. Elvis is hoping that his ex-chicky lover is grieving, hoping to hear her say “Yes, yes, yes” to all these speculative questions. But wait!

Elvis: “Shall I come back again?”

Chicky: “No. Finish the ending. Bury the corpse of our love.”

Elvis: “But, but, but Baby!! I’m feeling a B side in this love of ours.”

Chicky: “Before its un-embalmed putrefaction gags us all.”

Elvis: “But Baby, all my horses and all my men can put the King’s pieces back together again. Jest, uh, trust me.”

Chicky: “No they can’t, Elvis. The pieces are not all here, and some are too tiny. Pulverized to dust.”

Elvis: “But, but, but Baby!! Baby! You aint seen nothing yet.”

Chicky: “Actually all I have seen is nothing.”

And it fades to a looping nightmare where you go searching for a bathroom that works in a world of broken plumbing. Long corridors of faceless folks who cannot tell you where the water lines are.  From leagues above your nightmare ears comes a bubbling Elvis through a wall of green Jell-O,  “But, but, but Baby.”

He’s got to stop doing that or my bla-bla-bladder will bu-bu-bu- burst. Self serving promises are embedded in his strumming questions.

“Am I lonesome tonight?” Less so without you. I can handle Death it’s just that Eternity is such a long time.

 

301. Thank You, Talibanditos

I was reading about the recent attack of teenaged Afghan girls who had acid thrown in their young faces by Taliban extremists. (Pardon the redundancy.) At first I didn’t get it. I thought that it was finally safe for Afghanistan’s next generation of women to attend school so that they would not be such total fanatical idiots like the morons who attacked them. It bothered me until the other day while I was cutting the grass and my numb mind wandered. I suddenly got the logic of the Taliban idiots. They have several good reasons for disfiguring innocent school girls

1. By pouring acid in these girls’ faces, the Talibuttheads could make the girls as ugly on the outside as the attackers are on the inside. Seeing their handiwork displayed forever will show folks for as long as these girls live just how ugly a heart poisoned by hatred can to be.  And not only one zealous Talijerk, but the whole lot of them. And as they scream “jihad and Allahu Akbar” on deaf ears, only scarred faces and mute mouths will silently stand witness. These poor girls won’t pray out loud to Allah, for what kind of God condemns his own daughters to be maimed? Thanks, Taliban Carcinogeniuses, you have answered the previous rhetorical question for the world. Chemical de-vangelists. Brilliant cretins who worship annihilation. Ground zero is your holy spot; your god is plutonium. “Here’s a toast to you guys. Yes, it’s hydrochloric acid. Tastes like bleachy poison with a hint of charcoal finish, huh? The second sip doesn’t burn so much, though.”

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2. Blinding the next generation of women makes them as blind as their attackers. In this way they won’t be able to read their Korans or any other texts. Instead they can live a life of impoverished dependence on hysterical fundamental mullahs who shriek in the name of the Prophet with pure venom. After all, acid is simply the distilled liquid form of their fanatical verbal streams. Instead of just deadening the listeners’ ears with toxic steam, acid eye wash can burn out retinas, blotting out most of God’s beauty. Thank you, Talibandits for your gift of the blind leading the blind. Your example is perfectly despicable.

The poppy flower.

3. Blinding young women keeps them as ignorant as their attackers and guarantees more ignorant devolution. They will get to wallow in the victim hot tub of religious quicksand till death. What an agonizingly delicious deal! The gift of incompetent stupidity passes to the next generation. Hatred and vengeance served hot on a pita with hummus and a celery stalk. Reminds me of the old Asimov line, “Violence is the final refuge of the incompetent.” How true!!  These Talibaboons cannot make, invent, discover or create anything. Instead they destroy, even their own young. Like their first cousins Isis, nothing is sacred, nothing is holy, certainly not human life. They recruit the next human wave like heroin dealers selling opiates to the hopeless. Truth is the first victim of warfare and religious zealotry. The dealers promise vibrant poppy flower salvation but deliver oppression via dead opium bulbs.

The opium factory.

4. Worshiping violence and death is easier than protecting life, culture, art, beauty, love, and the good of mankind. But it’s all or nothing with Talibuttons, and since they lack competence, their answer to complex issues is nothing cubed. Just look at the before and after  pictures of Buddhist carvings in Bamiyan.

They were dynamited and destroyed in March 2001 by the Taliban, on orders from leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, after the Taliban government declared that they were idols. And of course, the world is a safer place now without these irreplaceable antiquities. Who needs history? Idiots don’t. It’s like giving wristwatches to chimpanzees. Thanks for absolute intolerance and mono-monotheist nihilism. Your purity, Talibanzais, makes things so clear.

5. Thanks for making it so clear that evil exists in a pure form. Many times issues overlap and get quite complicated in our modern world. They take time to sort out and categorize. Not this one. Thank you, Talibitemes, for simplifying while magnifying your infantile blind rage with Stone Age clarity. Your black stain on humanity can be seen from a satellite in space, but you probably have a fatwah against space crafts. So let’s just say, we can see it from the Kyber Pass. It’s not religion, it’s not culture, it’s not a value system that you represent. It is the same old opium paste of hate and power and greed with automatic weapons.

6. In a free society it is easy to get distracted by lovely things, trivial things, even sports and landscaping television shows. Thanks again, Taliburdens, for bringing the focus back to the gates of Hell, where blind mullahs lead blind girls into eternity under the blind eyes of Cerberus. Thanks again for reminding me of Marvin Gaye’s fatalistic line, “Only three things for sure: taxes, death and trouble.”