Will the Real Ideal Please Stand Up?

I grew up to look like Mary Lou Who’s grandmother without ever becoming one. People who don’t see that as a problem have never had that problem, obvs.

Dating and mating in middle age. Hmm.

Because I am a never-married 68-year-old woman who has always wanted to be married, because I am not dead yet, because I believe that (as Christian author Timothy Keller has said in one of his books) marriage is God’s gift to most people, and because (when I have had enough sleep) I am what you call a handsome woman as well as a fairly optimistic one, I recently signed up for two “dating and mating” websites. This was because of the encouragement of younger married friends who met through such a website.

I am still unmarried after living my entire life for a variety of reasons. Some of them are not my fault, and some of them are.

I find, after a life in which the prelude to marriage for some has been the entire piano recital for me, that I am still eager to find a life partner, but at this point, I am entirely pessimistic–after numerous failed casting calls and auditions–that I will ever be chosen for a starring role in a kind of life that is entirely suppositional in my mind.

That is because I am not a fresh young thing who has never tasted the delights of the marriage bed and whose dreams of that experience are totally unrealistic. I am, you will excuse the expression, an old bag who has never tasted the delights of the marriage bed, yet as time has gone on, I have become more and more fearful that the next attempt I make to find love, get hitched, and have sex with a loving, supportive lifetime “partner in crime” will end in ridicule and rejection.

Admitting that fear up front is supposedly a no-no in the dating and mating world, a sure turn-off. Supposedly I need to to emulate “real-time” dating and present a flawless picture of myself, one which will disappear the moment my theoretical wedding is over and my theoretical honeymoon starts.

Because then, as a flawed human being committed for life to living with another flawed human being, I will no longer be able to gloss over the eccentricities, fears, prejudices, sins, etc. that are as much a part of who I am as my chipped front tooth.

At this point in my life, thanks to my particular genetic heritage, and thanks to the vagaries of three years living in a COVID mask and sitting slumped over a computer and searching the Internet for “real news,” I literally have to remind myself to smile. And I literally cannot hold my head straight up thanks to a condition called upper cross-posture syndrome. If it were not for the YMCA which is a ten-minute walk from my house, I would still look like a walking skeleton thanks to losing significant muscle mass from the inaction forced on everyone by New York state’s version of pandemic lockdown.

In short, I have a lot going for me. Intelligence, creativity, love of people, love of nature, love of family, love of learning.

Yet the reality is this:

  • I currently look unhealthy, debilitated, dull. Not healthy, lively, sparkly.
  • I will never again look again as I did when I was twenty, forty, or sixty-two.
  • I exist in a world where, generally speaking, men of every age and conditon are highly attracted to women who are visually pleasing to them.

If my church truly believed, as it claims to, in supporting singles and marrieds, divorced and widowed, children and adults in living lives that beautifully and accurately reflect God’s love of his Bride the Church, I would not have to resort to online dating and mating. I would have a whole church working, as the Messianic Jewish congregation where I live works, to find real-time, live, actual people to come together in holy matrimony.

But that has never happened. Never. Which is why the younger couple who met online met online.

I’m not dead yet, and I want to be married, and I want marry a good man who shares my values. But time is short, and if (as they say in the South where I’m from) Jesus tarries, I have maybe twenty-five years left on planet Earth (at least based on family history). So I rally cannot afford to spend a lot of time spouting BS and playing games and putting on a non-lockdown front.

And yet if I don’t, there is, realistically speaking, little chance that the visually oriented good man I seek will (from only a photo and messages) intuit that I am the one he has been aching to meet, the one he HAS to make his!

I keep thinking that it would be better for Jesus to come back tomorrow than for me to have to go through one more round of disappointment.

That, I guess, continues to be where prayer is so important. The Black church has a saying (at least that’s where I learned it from) that prayer changes things.

I want to be married for real reasons, not fake ones. So I say things about myself that I’m not supposed to say, admit things I’m not supposed to admit, and remind myself of another Black church saying, “God can make a way where there is no way.”

Si camina como un frijol y habla como un frijol, puede que no sea un frijol sino un trozo de caca de perro.

The Rice And Beans, Rice, Beans, Brazilian

A bodega opened recently in Rochester, New York. It’s on Dewey Avenue about an eight-minute walk from my house on Selye Terrace in the Maplewood neighborhood. I went to check it out yesterday because I love Puerto Rican food and because I read or heard somewhere that the owner’s ostensible purpose was to help address food insecurity in Maplewood.

I’m so slightly skeptical.

Executive orders issued by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office about establishments selling liquor require that those establishments also serve “real food.” I am behind on all the EOs, but I think that includes liquor and corner stores? Maybe not.

I am ambivalent about state government willy nilly dictating “best practices” to any business owner without the approval of the legislature, and New York’s EOs about food and liquor and their relationship to gatherings that might transmit the Rona have caused a lot of business owners a lot of headaches in trying to comply . . . but the food served at the bodega I visited was barely in the category of real.

I bought a “large dinner” for ten dollars. It was steak tips and beans and rice, nothing else, and barely filled what I would call a medium styrofoam clamshell container. The meat was fried almost black, probably in re-used oil that had been heated to the point that it was chemically rancid and thus unfit for human consumption.

The beans and rice, with two chunks of white potato on top, were mushy. They were not quite as bad as porridge with beans, but certainly nowhere as good as homemade beans and rice or even beans and rice made from a Goya box. And after I consumed my dinner, I spent the rest of yesterday experiencing the symptoms I experience when I ingest things like MSG or canola oil or a few other unnatural food ingredients. I had a headache, blurry vision, nasal congestion, a strong feeling of anxiety alternating with anger, and floods of tears over relatively inconsequential thoughts and circumstances. Whatever type of food I bought, it certainly contributed to the opposite of food security.

The bodega I visited looked very similar to a small store I visited when my family went to Puerto Rico for a week in 2002. (It was an amazing vacation, my sister’s gift to my parents in celebration of their fiftieth wedding anniversary).

We spent the night of my parents’ anniversary on La Isla Nena, the small island of Vieques, at a lovely old inn called La Casa Frances, and with me anxiously reviewing my limited Spanish as we drove, my sisters and I walked out in search of a store where we could buy treats to open and enjoy with dinner.

After some tentative coversations with various people we met, we ended up at a very tiny bodega where the minimum number of cans or boxes or bags necessary to fill a particular shelf were carefully lined up. (These five items constitute the canned vegetables shelf: these five boxes constitute the cereal shelf, these five bags constitute the candy shelf.) The prices were very high, and all the items were covered in dust.

The bodega clearly was not an economically viable part of a lively, energetic, productive community. It did not exist to serve the people who built it and stocked it or their relativea and friends. Clearly, at least from my point of view, the bodega existed for the benefit of tourists who came to take a boat out on a night-time tour of Vieques’ unique “biobay” (where strange tiny creatures in the water light up magically when they are disturbed).

At the time my family visited Vieques, the economy in Puerto Rico was not by any means robust. There was a great deal of political agitation regarding Puerto Rico’s status as a territory of the United States. Many citizens of Puerto Rico wanted the island to become independent, and many wanted the island to be recognized as a state.

And everyone in Puerto Rico had struggle to come to terms with the legacy of the the Naval Training Range, a U.S. Naval facility in operation on Vieques from 1941 to 2001. The Navy did not worry too much about its effect on the island economically and culturally and economically when it shut down.

The bodega I visited yesterday was not dusty, but it certainly had the same appearance of being some sort of glorified food cart sitting on the side of the road in hopes of snagging a few bucks from passers-by. What was offered as “real food” was not prepared on-site; it was not fresh and fragrant; it was stale and warmed over.

Other items I saw were the typical city convenience store fare: beer, sugary fruit drinks, sodas, jerky sticks, candy bars, a wide variety of papers for rolling joints, knit beanies that could be rolled down over the face to cover all but eyes, nose, and mouth . . .

Whatever state regulations the bodega was trying to abide by in the serving of steak tips and rice and beans, and whatever customer base it was set up to sell to, helping to alleviate food insecurity in my neighborhood was not a big concern to the owner.

If that had been the case, when I arrived about one-thirty p.m. (the heart of lunch time), I would have (I assume) had to wait in line. Because even at its simplest, Puerto Rican food that is done right attracts a lot of attention because of its inexpensive price, its quality, and its abundance.

I may be slightly prejudiced, having eaten a number of times at the absolutely fantastic Puerto Rican restaurant La Olla Criolla (1582 East Main Street, Rochester, NY 14609–check it out on Facebook), a place which is heaven in a storefront. Their puerco asado is second to none as far as I’m concerned, and their flan is fantastic. They do a a bit more than simply address food insecurity since they are a restaurant, but the people I’ve seen in line are average citizen types picking up something on their lunch hour or taking something home for supper after work.

The bodega near my house doesn’t have that kind of vibe. It makes me wonder how the owner justified its existence to the Neighborhood and Business Development Department at City Hall. Because most store owners in my neighborhood end up in that department looking for tax breaks, incentives, and other help in order to function in a state where the powers that be would tax blinking if they could and certainly tax legitimate small business owners in punitive fashion.

I used to work for NBD when it was known as the Economic Development Department. I was a mere worker bee, the EDD receptionist for a time, but I never saw a single economic development specialist helping anyone start a business that would do basically what I would call not much to improve the quality of life in a struggling city neighborhood.

I’m not against corner stores, convenience stores, or whatever you want to call them. In fact, at one point in my career as a City of Rochester worker bee, my workload was so heavy and my time was so tight that I alternated eating out of vending machines at work with getting supper on the way home from work. I would stop at either a Wilson Farms store on Dewey Avenue or at a pizza shop that had a tendency to burn the bottoms of its pies more often than not.

That kept me from starving, but I would not call that an experience of food security. As a result of my form of eating out, I went from weighing 180 pounds, definitely overweight for my height, to 246, and I did not lose enough weight to get out of the obese category until two years ago after joining the Maplewood YMCA and getting serious about strength training and major diet changes.

I have lived in Maplewood since 1986 and been a homeowner since 2004. As the population has shifted over the years in terms of numbers and ethnic groups, I have lived and interacted with so many different people, and one thing has always been clear: people need food to function, and they need good, real food to function well.

It has always been the case for me that my Cuban and Puerto Rican friends have contributed immensely to the life of Maplewood as they have lived on and shared good, real food whether it be in someone’s home, at a Christmas party, or in a restaurant. Pretty people with shiny hair and eyes, gorgeous skin, beautiful teeth.

There always seem to be problems, however, when someone opens a “corner” store in a neighborhood like mine (considered the poorest neighborhood in Rochester, NY though that is a flat-out lie). Convenience foods sold in such stores (foods designed to imitate the tastes and textures of good, real food) are inevitably made and sold by companies owned by Big Food, America’s multi-million dollar conglomeration of “food producers” (I cannot quite bring myself to call them farmers) and food manufacturers (certainly not bakeries or butchers or delicatessens).

Owners of small stores in my neighborhood who offer “ethnic” food for sale inevitably end up becoming vendors of death by food because the items they purchase for resale are jammed with ingredients incompatible with vibrant human health. The amounts of table sugar, sodium chloride, flavor enhancers, stabilizers, and preservatives packed into any so-called food item in a convenience store cannot do anything but slowly kill whoever routinely makes them part of a daily diet.

I applaud the owner of the bodega down the street for his willingness to start a new business in the year 2020 in a state that for some decades has made it seem, tax-wise at least, that its nickname should be the Vampire State instead of the Empire State. But concern for the health and well-being of his neighborhood . . . nah, I don’t see that at all.

No blood on the floor, but something has died

(Above, July 10, 2020, I discover evidence of just the tip of the iceberg in recent damage to irreplaceable old-growth cedar flooring in the attic of my 113-year-old home.)

Back in January, the company that does a stellar job of maintaining my furnace told me about an extremely attractive opportunity to weatherize my house by taking advantage of a New York State program through NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority).

This is a program a number of friends and neighbors have taken advantage of and spoken very highly of, and I decided to apply.

I qualified for a fifteen-year loan to pay for the work, with an interest rate under four per cent. The cost of the work to me was $4,000 and change since the program made it possible for me to get $8,000 worth of work done for half that. All this was explained in detail by my HVAC company’s very careful, thorough sales rep. He was willing to redo the agreement I finally signed three times. I was very impressed.

Due to weather delays, the crew doing the work did not get to my house until February. Because the weather then was so very cold, and because the paperwork I read and signed (to enable NYSERDA to cut my HVAC company a check) contained essentially the same language as the agreement I initially signed, I did not take the extra step of walking through and just giving the finished project a quick review.

I did take advantage of the offer of a third-party inspection within a month of my house being “foamed” (and having blown-in attic insulation fluffed up and topped off). Due to weather conditions and the advent of Donald and Andrew’s Virus Adventures, the third-party inspection did not take place until June 18.

Again, because of weather (this time hot), I decided not to go into the attic to admire my newly snug and efficient attic (I had been enjoying improvements in the basement since February).

Finally, yesterday, I went up stairs to admire the results of what I thought was the most prudent householding decision I had ever made.

I was aghast at the damage to the floor that I discovered.

The reason for this is that my home is a 1907 American Foursquare that I have owned for the past sixteen years. It is by no means an architectural gem. It bears the marks of 113 years of use and abuse (including being divided into two apartments some time in the thirties or forties). But when I bought it, it had been zoned as a single-family dwelling, had been flipped to erase much of the abuse of being a rental property, and gave me a connection to the history of the city I live in and to my own personal history. I was excited by the history and the potential of a slightly ramshackle but modestly appealing old building.

On both sides of my largely Scotch-Irish family (with other equally clever, creative nationalities thrown in), I come from people who have been makers and builders, inventors and fixers, and appreciators and wise users of all the materials, tools, and techniques that make human dwelling places liveable and loveable. Historically, that has been a Scotch-Irish thing. For so many reasons, it just has.

So finally buying my own home after a whole lifetime of apartment dwelling, and buying an old house with a story, was exciting to me.

It wasn’t until I retired four years ago from a long and time-consuming career as a civil servant that I really began to focus on making my home more livable and loveable. And in the past four years, I have focused on learning more about the history of my home and trying to evoke the kind of comfort and beauty the builders of my home intended to create. I’ve pulled up cheap carpeting. I’ve re-arranged furniture in all the rooms. I’ve had work done (and done work) in my yard. I’ve gotten rid of all kinds of tchotchkes (books, clothes, utensils, furniture, appliances, you name it) that, you will excuse the woo-woo interior decorating approach, seemed to say, “we don’t really belong here.”

I am now at a place where I have a home that is simple in structure, simply furnished, and more full of light and air than ever before. It will never be what it originally was, but it is more and more a joy to me, and I hope it will be more and more a joy for those who visit.

The biggest thrill I have had over the past four years is discovering how carefully and artistically the house was put together. Aside from divine providence, the house has survived because, for one thing, the original framing, flooring, siding, and roofing were made of hand-hewn, hand-planed, hand-installed cedar. It’s what we now call old-growth cedar. Somebody went out somewhere and cut down cedar trees and ran them through a saw mill and, after a period of seasoning, used the end products to make houses. No hardware store provided them.

Cedar is a strong wood. I have a mahogany chest lined with cedar that my great-grandfather (or possibly his father) made; it is clearly not mass-produced and looks just a bit squat and ugly, but it has lasted since the late 1800s. That’s a while.

So . . . when I went up in the attic to view my newly weatherized space . . . and when I saw that huge holes (contrary to what had been described to me)had been bored in the cedar planks of the floor to permit insertion of blow-in insulation . . . and when I saw that in a number of places the irreplaceable planks had been substantially structurally damaged, I felt as if somebody in my family had been stabbed with a knife.

Not fatally. But harmed irreparably. Crippled in some subtle way. With no hope of healing and restoration.

Right now, I feel that I have, in some way, been stabbed with a knife and will never recover. It turns out that one moment of mental inertia, one decision to delay being responsible, one choice to take things easy and check on things later . . . has destroyed the work of hands who not only shaped my house but shaped the character of a city, a state, a country.

I have discovered that, no matter how I try, I cannot get away from being a selfish and self-absorbed modern American who shallowly thinks she’s in touch with her roots and her past because she has an emotional affinity with “old stuff.” Because of a few moments of “oh, what the hell, it can wait; I’m going to take a nap,” I have lost some beauty and memories of my past and my culture forever.

There are obviously practical and tedious activities that I now must focus on in order to lodge protests and make sure the idiots who damaged my property are never able to do it again. But as I do those things, it is going to be with the sense that I was entrusted with some sort of precious treasure that I did not deserve, and I lost it.

Old is Gold

Getting back to one’s cultural and personal roots. Relearning the healthy, hopeful concept of human diversity (in culture, language, appearance, experience). Rediscovering the essence of living as a true human being: hoping and sharing hope.

Never before done in the history of the world, right?

Mommy and Daddy, what is history? Isn’t it that boring stuff that isn’t relevant but we still have to get tested on it in school?

History (my definition) is the story of people, where they come from, what they have done and failed to do, what they love and hate, and why and how all their daily struggles have shaped the common life of human beings from before we ever existed until now.

History is written because, in most cultures, what human beings don’t write down now gets forgotten later. And what is forgotten robs human beings of a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose, a sense of value, a sense that human beings can deal with adversity, overcome challenges, and not only grimly survive, but joyfully thrive.

One source of historical encouragement, warning, and hope is a novel written in the early days of the twentieth century and the closing days of a political endeavor called the British Raj. It is the novel Kim, by early 20th-century British novelist Rudyard Kipling. The book follows the adventures of Kim O’Hara, the orphaned child of an Irish soldier and a nursemaid.

Kim fully, tenderly, humorously, and joyously describes the beauty of a land of varied geographies, lively cultures, and ancient customs. It brings to life the way human beings of all types of education and experience and employment find ways to love each other and cheat each other. It laments the passing of a way of life respectful of the natural world and agonizes over what heart comforts are destroyed in a culture when the benefits of modern medicine, transportation, and political alliances change the look and feel of home.

In various editions and in movie adaptations, Kim is Rudyard Kipling’s ode to the human spirit, to the value of tradition, the purpose of struggle, and the dignity of hard work.

It is his reluctant acknowledgement that neither the calm wisdom of the past nor the lively discoveries of the present can full and securely ground humankind in a sense of hope for the future.

It is funny, it is sad, it is ribald, it is bitter. It is a reminder that being human is hard, and human experience is as exhausting as it is thrilling, but mostly, it is a reminder that being fully, deeply, compassionately human is the only way for human beings to get up every morning and go to sleep every night.

If you haven’t read Kim in a long time, read it again. Or listen to the audiobook. Or watch the movie. And rejoice it its wonders.

If you have never read Kim, or heard or seen it, do it now and fall in love with being human in a new way.

I long to be speechless.

I live in that odd part of the United States designated upstate New York. I have for more than thirty years. It’s got history, diversity, beauty, and even, when politicians aren’t getting things completely effed up, opportunity for creative, enterprising, imaginative human beings to chase a dream or two and even catch them.

I came to New York in the 1980s to go to grad school and study medieval English literature at the University of Rochester. When it became clear that the program I dreamed of being part of had no place for me and my delight in the old, the odd, the noble, and the gentle, I gladly left the program and began building a real life among real, hardworking, no-nonsense, working-class people.

In medieval-lit type parlance, I went from being part of an elite fellowship of scholars and dreamers to being part of οἱ πολλοί or “the people.” Vocabulary.com says, “The hoi polloi is a way of referring to common people, and it is an elitist term usually used by people who consider themselves to be above the masses.

“Snobs rarely like the hoi polloi — that is, the masses, a.k.a. ‘the great unwashed.’ The term comes from the Greek for ‘the many.’ Perhaps because of the similar sounding term hoity-toity to mean someone with fancy airs the phrase is sometimes mistaken for its exact opposite — the elite or upper class. Don’t be fooled.”

There were aspects of grad school I was completely in love with–sitting at lunch and talking non-stop with fellow classmates, wandering around in the basement of the library by myself, sitting in the sun on the quad, learning to read the poem Beowulf in Old English.

The price I had to pay for these simple joys was sitting in lectures where I was told repeatedly that the literature that gave me delight was so meaningless, and the authors that gave me delight were so manipulative, and the cultures they came out of were so corrupt, and I was so conditioned and brainwashed by my own culture . . . that it wasn’t wise or safe for me or anyone else to try and read or respond to the written word without the keen critical and protective interference of the administration and their subordinates.

Because I was intellectually and socially and politically naive and unimpressed with the intellectual shallowness of the academic heroes on pedestals in the 1980s, I tried hard to understand what it was that I could not understand and was too simple-minded to be able to question.

I could not keep my mouth shut; I could not NOT ask questions; I was told I was being too frivolous and that I could not hope to have my work as an academic taken seriously and supported unless I buckled down and stopped being difficult.

Later, when personal problems made it difficult for me to study for my comprehensive exams, and I barely passed and was told that maybe I was not cut out for a rigorous academic life and should find another program where I fit better, I accepted the wisdom of the people in control of my life and left convinced that I was stupid, difficult, deficient, incapable, lazy, and totally unfit to be part of the fellowship I aspired to be part of.

For years after that, for a good thirty-plus years, I allowed my value as a human being to be defined by the memory of people who had not been not interested in me as a person, only as potential proof that their academic agenda was good and right and beneficial.

It took me thirty-plus years to find the courage to examine the shame and struggle of my experience and to believe in my own mind and my ability to decide for myself how to live a meaningful life.

I find it fascinating that my increasing confidence in my own intellect has begun to unfold in the midst of a renaissance of what I might, in a very un-medieval way, describe as the church of “don’t thinky, be happy.” (Can anybody who gets that cultural reference do a decent cover of Bobby McFerron?)

New York politicians now struggling to do damage control related to failed coronavirus policies and procedures are certainly bending the knee in the Church of Don’t Thinky.

They are showing how much they want to fix the problems they ineptly created by denying, reframing, and shaming . . . getting rid of a problem by suppressing any narrative that points out significant governmental ineptitude, ignorance, aversion to risk-taking, systemic parsimony, and indifference to real, human, dependent, struggling lives.

So residents of New York, both upstate and down, are welcome to peacefully demonstrate about anything and everything except their grief, their losses, their destroyed businesses and families. And they can seek whatever solace works for them except spiritual traditions that demand personal accountability and sorrow for selfish, ego-driven, callous indifference to human life.

One traditional way of expressing outrage at this kind of behavior on the part of powerful people is to say, “I can’t believe this; I’m speechless!”

I deeply wish that circumstances were such that I would not have or need words to express my astonishment at people governing without reference to the real public needs of the governed.

But I’m sorry. I’m not, as they say, stupid, lazy, or crazy. And I grew up in a family where we were allowed to talk, argue and be dissatisfied with BS served up as truth.

So, I am not speechless. Not by a long shot (so to speak).

Steel spines save lives from the brink of death; soft hearts smother them.

Twitter screen capture regarding virus consequences in NYC for Mother's Day
Twitter screen cap showing a reminder to the Mayor of America’s largest city that he should be doing more than giving his constituents a politician’s holiday hug.

I am a strong-minded woman who believes in embracing, nurturing, and aiding the weak until the are able to aid themselves.  And as such, I believe it is the most execrable form of cowardice for a government official charged with protecting weak people from harm to THEN to harm them with panic-driven executive orders and punitive police behavior and THEN!

To subsequently hide behind his wife and have HER try to save HIS weak, selfish, self-indulgent butt by pretending that New York City (and indeed the entire state of New York) is NOT full of families devastated by the consequences of execrable virus public policy decisions regarding the treatment of the at-risk elderly.

What is this? Joseon-era Korea? Tang Dynasty China?

As they say, we all gotta go sometime. But the mourning and weeping experienced this Mother’s Day because an insecure power-monger thought HE could manage life and death better than God . . . there’s a fountain of tears that his wife’s cheery televised wishes will never dry up.

Nowhere Man, please listen; don’t you know I’m missing?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The word “panic” has been used a lot to describe a human emotional response to the current so-called virus pandemic. I say so-called because the only thing modern humans have to compare “our pandemic” to is the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918.

All we have to go on from that time is historical data, since anyone alive in 1918 and alive now was probably too young to be reliably aware of what was happening in the world. So how can anyone today say anything truly useful about something with antecedents so long ago?

People are self-admittedly (almost proudly at times) panicking everywhere on social media because they don’t trust statements from anyone in any kind of authority, or because they do trust all kinds of self-proclaimed pundits who offer all kinds of unverified and unverifiable hypotheses and theories about the origins and effects of NCOVID-19.

And then, of course, there is the panic engendered by fear of death. Which has spawned all sorts of little cottage industries designed to help people cope with that. Blogs, vlogs, live-streaming counseling, websites selling t-shirts and mugs and key chains emblazoned with affirming memes, and so much more.

My own particular cottage industry is writing “think-pieces” as they are called. I usually think, before I go to bed, “Wow, it’s all so much B.S.” And then I wake up with some idea about why I and others are so un-reassured by circumstances that they start off each new day surfing the Internet for anything that will not spark worry or outrage or depressingly cruel, mordant humor.

So, last night, after a day of observing the religious traditions of my spirituality, and after an afternoon of surfing the Internet for news and calling a few friends, and after an evening of feeding cats, vacuuming, and listening to YouTube audio books, I said, “Wow, it’s all so much B.S.”

Then I went to bed, got up this morning just a little while ago, fed cats, and realized that what I was looking for (and probably will never find) is a really honest discussion of why people are panicking about dying.

Because for some people, death does not exist. Because God and sin and heaven and hell don’t exist. No God, no divine standards, no punishment for deviating from said standards, no problem, right?

And for people who believe in God, there’s always some explanation of why human beings should not fear death. Usually death is seen as difficult but ultimately and positively transformational if correctly prepared for.

And my restless and snarky inner junior-high English class priss-pot yawns.

Yah, yah, blah, blah, blah.

I think my personal talisman against fear of anything right now is the belief that, if I can mentally dig down to a “real deal” reason why anyone is trying to battle a particular fear with endless fruitless discussion . . . then I will be able to go about my own coronavirus business radiantly, almost effulgently, smug and near-immortal.

But sometimes, digging down to a real deal produces an “aha” moment that is less consoling than the chattering.

Herewith, a poem. After which, I need a hug, which at this time can only be self-administered, and about a quart of dark roast Nescafe.

Meditation on the repudiation, indifference, absence, or death of other human beings

Meaningful human connections are tenuous at best and short-lived
and when they are gone it’s hard to prove to yourself
that they ever existed in more than photos and emails

They often seem little more than complex psychological constructs
put in place by your own mind to block the unbearable thought

that perhaps you don’t exist

Because the absence of meaningful human connections
forces you to realize that the only proof your heart has ever
accepted of your own reality

Is other human beings saying your name

written 04/27/20, 08:47 AM

DNC “Biden” Its Time. Why?

Image by photographer Senator Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama*

*From https://pixabay.com/photos/barack-obama-iphone-smile-relaxed-1199638/

From my perspective as an unregistered indie voter who intensely distrusts anything I hear from or about any politician, I am not sure why Biden continues to appeal to any one, especially in light of his many documented verbal gaffes and imprudent behaviors during his time in Washington.

Maybe someone is more aware than I am about why the Democratic National Committee thinks it’s a good reason reason to ignore irrational, dismissive, and frivolous behavior in senior, Congressional, near-retirement leaders. From my perspective, the DNC seems extremely blind to how offensive certain comments are to conservative members of the Democratic voter base.

And by conservative, I mean Dems and independent voters who of varied ethnic heritages, who are lower-middle class and working class, who live in the South and the Midwest (and in upstate New York), who own guns, who are religious, who work in factories and in McJobs, who will (if they can) work three and even four jobs rather than borrow money or go on assistance, who take pride in their children’s educational accomplishments and support and dialog with their teachers, who often live in multi-generational family groups, who are proud, even if they are reluctant, to see their offspring become members of the military, the police, the fire department.

I myself would very much welcome someone like Tulsi Gabbard as the DNC-supported, funded, and offically propagandized presidential candidate. She is an indigenous American-Samoan, Hindu, business-owning, average-citizen supporting, problem-solving, absolutely inclusive member of Congress.

She has more warmth than Mayor Pete, has issues with Congresspersons who advocate for female genital mutilation and collaboration with governments that seek the harm of our military overseas, and is popular with Millenials.

It doesn’t seem logical and is certain not indicative of common sense that the DNC is blind to the damage that their support of Biden–or any other Old Dem–is doing within the “conservatively liberal” populations. Those are the folks they must convince if they want any chance of electing a candidate who can STRONGLY WIN.)

For example, the lack of DNC explanation about this seems incredibly . . . weird:

YouTube screen cap from Australia's Sky news From Washington Post YouTube channel

Biden’s cognitive issues can no longer be ignored

Sky News Australia–1,968,444 views–March  12, 2020

“Sky News host Rita Panahi says “no matter how hard the Democrats and their allies in the media try, Biden’s cognitive issues can no longer be ignored.”

And there is little DNC adulting and a lot of cricketing in the handling of this information:

Screen cap from Washington Post YouTube channel Screen cap from Washington Post YouTube channel

Will Biden’s gaffes catch up to him in 2020?

Washington Post 159,285 views–Aug 14, 2019

“The Washington Post’s Matt Viser analyzes a string of recent gaffes by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and what they might mean in the 2020 presidential campaign. Read more: https://wapo.st/2Z2C1H4.”

More DNC non-adulting and cricketing attaches to this information that suggests Tulsi was ignored by the DNC at the nominating convention despite younger generations expressing a preference for her ideas and leadership style:

Screen cap from Bold TV YouTube ChannelScreen cap from Bold TV YouTube Channel

Bold TV

2.1K subscribers 1,059 views–May 14, 2019

Tulsi Gabbard, Representative from Hawaii and 2020 candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, joined Bold TV host Julia Sun at Anthony Scaramucci’s Salt Conference to discuss her policy ideas.

Feelz in the time of cholera*

Pixabay image by Korea photographer "Cains"
Image by cains from Pixabay

*El amor en los tiempos del cólera is a novel published in 1985 by Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez. It is, in part, about what constitutes true devotion–to a person or a cause or a faith–and what has the power to shake that devotion or to increase it. A poet and a public servant vie for the love and attention of an easily swayed young woman, and they all spend their lives struggling and failing to understand what constitutes a truly reliable philosophical foundation for love, faith, or action.

It is, like most works of magical realism, steeped in the culturally and personally problematic idea that perception equals reality, and that the more “reasonable” perceptions are (even if productive of great evil), the more “reasonable” (and therefore tolerable) reality is.

This is why, as far as I can tell, Mengele and his experiments on the Jews in WWII were (among other things), made to seem rational, reasonable, and useful to initially horrified scientists and doctors. This was done by constant repeated public exhortations in vast rallies, by private threats, and by personal appeals to individuals’ particular fears and follies.

Based on what I keep reading and hearing, it seems that, today in the public media as well as in private homes, a lot of people seem to be endlessly engaged in re-configuring the historical narrative they are part of, in the very midst of its unfolding, so that they don’t have to admit culpability in either blocking or encouraging work for the benefit of human flourishing in an unfathomable time.

In a fallen world where human beings are born spiritually disconnected from God and from one another, individual human beings do not naturally assume that the standard of, or experience of, or truth of daily reality lies anywhere outside themselves.

They assume that what they experience as “normal” and “true” is the same for every other human being. They naturally assume that everyone else has the same perspective, values, assumptions, etc., even when they are both part of a particular group that professes to hold certain beliefs in common.

When one human being encounters another human being who has a different set of experiences, a different education, a different personality, a different culture, the first human being will naturally want to “correct” what they see and hear from the other human being so that it mirrors what is familiar to them, what appears/seems “right” and “good.”

If the other human being resists or repudiates his or her efforts, the first human being may become angry or afraid, but he or she will rarely immediately and “instinctively” adopt a mindset of curiosity, discovery, negotiation, education, and a willingness to have his or her personal understanding of human relationships broadened.

Not narrowed, not distorted, not destroyed, but made more accurate, more in line with the reality that human existence is so complex that only God can make sense of it and help human beings function properly within it.

When human beings have their sense of the “rightness” of things shaken for whatever reasons, they become anxious, they feel threatened, they become angry, they blame their anxiety and anger and fear on other human beings, on their circumstances, and even (if they believe in him) on God.

They refuse to trust, to listen to, to cooperate with other human beings for their mutual development as individuals and as members of a community. The more threatened they feel, the more they dig their heels in, and the more they insist on their wants and needs and views as the proper foundation for meaningful interaction and relationships.

If one human being can, by various emotional and social and even spiritual machinations, manipulate others into going along with his or her version of how life should be, then he or she will feel that life is good, he or she is loved, and that, to quote Robert Browning, “all’s right with the world.”

If, on the other hand, that human being does not have available enough verbal agility or money or physical power or other means of persuasion, he or she will feel that life is bad, that he or she is disrespected and hated, that life is meaningless, that human effort is useless, and there is no hope for mutual human understanding and community.

For reasons debated endlessly throughout the centuries, human beings do not, unless possessed of extraordinary awareness and humility, automatically acknowledge that their perceptions may be inaccurate, selfish, even completely counter to those ways of thinking, speaking, and acting that characterize human beings functioning at the highest, most noble levels they are capable of displaying.

This is why, as I believe, based on my particular spirituality, people currently affected by the virus pandemic are working so hard to be good and do good . . . while at the same time expressing anger and frustration that things and people are not functioning the way they “should.”

Very few people who end up dominating the public media can articulate with clarity and logic either reasons for concern or reasons for unconcern. Doesn’t matter what political views they hold. They can only wring their hands, point fingers, say it’s someone else’s fault.

And it’s the same with people OUT of the public eye. The hand-wringing and finger-pointing and whatnot is even worse with them . . . because they are clinging to “their” public figures as proof that they are right . . . when their public figures have just as fearful and distorted a view of circumstances as they do.

As time has gone on . . . here in the time of love and cholera . . . it has become more and more apparent to me (as the example of these tendencies most familiar to myself), that debate rooted in MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY is not clarifying issues, solving problems, creating trust and peace.

And more debate, more often, with more people on more stages, with more supposedly fact-laden statements being thrown around like confettiis not going to make things better. And the opposite is not going to work either: more debate in which participants take supposedly fact-laden statements and try to persuade by stating what fact-checking always reveals as blatant lies.

This is why I try not to listen to anybody’s news and make it the foundation of my reality. This is why, whatever is going on, I am convinced that the virus pandemic will end sooner if people focus on life right in front of their noses, love their families, cherish their friends, respect colleagues and strangers, keep their ears open but their mouths shut, and learn to pray for the courage to think, talk, and act as fully and as daringly and as risk-takingly (yet trustingly) human as possible.

Facebook Pimpin and We Be The Hoes

I seriously believe that a lot of the fear and frustration and depression and anger regarding NCOVID-19 has to do with very obvious economic and cultural brainwashing more than any supposed secret political or religious brainwashing.

I have recently started thinking about what people in the United States were sucking in through the media about 20 years before any major crisis–social, political, economic, whatever. We were being shaped mentally and emotionally to have certain expectations of how our lives should unfold by advertisements on TV, in movie theater previews, on bilboards, in fashion magazines, even on the fronts of family restaurant placemats and the backs of cereal boxes.

Even people who rejected the belief that the good life is all about material prosperity were affected by whatever self-glorifying, self-protecting, self-gratifying propaganda was floating in the air.

Unless people belonged to a cult or to very conservative groups such as the Mennonites, the Amish, or the Hasidim, inevitably men and women, boys and girls, old and young gave some kind of nod to whatever kinds of clothes, food, cars, and even romantic fads were being touted as the things that would make life perfect.

Facebook is, for my money, an apt symbol of what is going on in American culture right now.

Facebook started out making certain promises to the people who joined its virtual family. All free all the time forever. All fun all the time forever. Not disclosing that it used data from FB members’ perusal of ads to guarantee to advertisers a terrific return on their investment in FB.

And then when it turned out that the data was usually very personal information and was being stolen by organizations and individuals who wanted to damage the reputation and reliability of Facebook and its advertisers . . . with users’ lives being seriously damaged in the wake of such activity . . .


The anger, the outrage! “How could you do this? How could you break your promises? You promised technology would bring us together and keep us safe and happy FOREVER!”

Because users were seduced by false promises. Doesn’t change the fact that FB played what I can think of only as evil, cynical, head-tripping, wham-bam-thank-you-gullible-victim, psychological manipulation games.

Nevertheless, FB users are equally culpable when it comes to having their peace of mind, their reputations, their bank accounts, their relationships, and even their computers damaged . . . sometimes beyond repair.

Even now that FB has “given more control” to users in being able to select and reject the number and types of ads they see, it is still possible for FB and friends to see and use data from ads that users neglect to “X out of”–which must be done ad by ad on a daily basis.

This is because, every time someone in a FB circle of friends posts a link to a video they think is view-worthy, FB magically and surreptitiously makes note of the ad and stores under the category of “advertising preferences” in a user’s account information.  If the user does not clear the preferences EVERY DAY, then, in many subtle and nefarious ways, the user is a sitting duck, advertising-wise, for FB, its advertisers, and its invisible cloud of hackers who have ways of witnessing what users do every time they post.

Practicing good virus hygiene on FB is important but rarely done.  So screaming at FB when something goes wrong with an account . . . probably very satisfying, but screaming by itself doesn’t “kill” hackers in the least.