Life Ain’t Fair. I’m the Proof

life-aint-fairThis is not up for debate. It’s not. It’s a lesson to be learned by every single human being ever. It is beyond true. It’s so true, that it probably isn’t proven by the exception. I doubt there can be an exception because even if your life is perfect from start to finish, it has a finish.

Duh.

I knew a guy once who was obsessed with the idea that people who were undeserving often got rewarded. Actually, it wasn’t a tit-for-tat sort of thing so much as it was random reward unattached to random behavior, good or otherwise.

It fairly drives some folks crazy. It sure did him. People who “do everything right” get hugely annoyed when people who don’t “do everything right” seem to be happy. They want them to suffer. It’s like fundigelicals reminding us liberals that “if you don’t repent, you’ll go to hell”. They always smile when they say that, because they are very sure we won’t and so they can be happy knowing “we’ll get ours” come judgment day. They presume of course a judgment day.

It’s why the workers in the vineyard got so pissed when the boss paid the workers who only worked an hour the same as those that had worked a full day. “Unfair!!!” The boss said, “hey, what’s that got to do with you? You got what YOU bargained for didn’t ya?”

Some folks just can’t handle that. Which leads me to believe that they find “doing everything right” a major pain, and they don’t do it because it’s the right thing to do, but because they want the reward. So getting a reward for not doing everything right, might just mean that they won’t get a reward for doing everything right. Kind of puts a monkey wrench in the whole salvation thing don’t it?

It also makes God sort of insane.

Or?

Perhaps God sees things in a way that humans don’t. At least for all the literalists out there, the Bible suggests that God does see not as humans but as God. So perhaps, just perhaps, our assumptions of what is the “right thing to do” aren’t so clear. At least to the point that it might be better if we keep our damn mouths shut when we “disapprove” of what others are doing.

Not talking here folks about murder and abuse and other dictatorial behaviors, but more ambiguous things like gay marriage, and women’s health rights, and stuff like that. Unless you are a hard-nosed self-styled pope (meaning your interpretation of scripture is infallible until God tells you different), most of us concede that there’s a lot of grey in some social policy areas. If that is true, then we best not tell others how to behave regarding them I suspect.

In any case, I personally believe that everyone is “saved”, which makes it all unnecessary to bewail whether anyone is getting their just desserts or not, or being failed by their supreme deity in any way. Unlike the fundigelicals, I do not have to resort to “God’s ways are mysterious” and “God had some reason for inflicting me with this misery that I’ll understand some day.” If I do a good thing it’s because I want to, not because I NEED to.

It’s enough that “shit happens”.

For me at least.

I’m a decent enough person. Far from the best kind of person I can conceive of. I have plenty of people I know who are much better than I am. They are kinder for sure.

Case in point. I was getting blood work done a few weeks ago as part of a general updating of my health records. After slapping my inner arms and squeezing my upper arms to death trying to “pop up a vein”, the blood sucker said this: “Do they usually taking blood from your hand instead of your arm?”

I replied, “yeah, the one’s who can’t do the arm, do the hand”.

Now the Contrarian said that my mistake was in being snarky/sarcastic BEFORE I had properly secured the end of relationship with said person. After all, she still wielded the mighty needle when I dissed her. There is some truth to that observation.

So you see, I am a sarcastic, snarky, bitch type person when I’m (a) in a hurry (b) tired or (c) just damn well feel like it.

This served me quite well when I was a defense attorney. I could utter questions at cop or citizen with such jaw-dropping “and your mama too” sarcasm that I would often see a judge turn away suddenly to hide his snicker before the jury, while a prosecutor jumped out of his/her shorts to bellow “OBJECTION, ARGUMENTATIVE”. I of course would smile softly and whisper, “withdrawn”, as the witness shot daggers of ineffectual rage which of course all missed their target, for their mouths were forever silenced by the loudly following “NO FURTHER QUESTIONS!”

It probably serves me less well now. But it is who I am in the last analysis, and I always feel fairly fake and pretentious when I put on that “oh, no take all the time in the world packing my groceries. I can surely see that changing items in and out until one achieves the perfect fit, is the way it should be done” look on my face.

But back to the topic at hand. Reward.

Yes, I’m not a deserving person, I have a trail of bleeding bodies who all feel “abused” by my acidic tongue, to prove it, one that trails back at least to junior high.

But guess what? My life has turned out fairly wonderfully from my point of view. And nobody else’s point of view matters. And that really galls the hell out of a few people I know. And ya know, that sort of makes me feel even happier.

As they say, a life lived well is the best revenge.

The Thing About Gratitude

Bathing-In-Love-and-GratitudeIt’s all good, right?

I mean, we see it every day. The call to gratitude. We are told to journal it. We are told to start every day with it.

Well I read something the other day that got me to thinking that perhaps we are looking at it wrongly, or at least superficially.

Let’s be real here.

When do we invoke this “count your blessings” doctrine?

Usually when crap is going badly for us. When the winter has been too long, or we are challenged by a health issue, or a loved one dies, or doesn’t love us any more. When the kids fly the coop, when the sinuses act up, when a promotion falls through. The list of human bumps in the road are endless.

And somebody reminds us, or we remind ourselves, to remember how darn fortunate we are “all things considered.”

So we dig our way out of the hole by posting a list of ten “gratitudes” each day, or we write in a journal, or we at least start our meditation/prayers with a list. Partly this greatly enlarges our concept of what we can be grateful for of course. The flowers, the sun when it has rained for days, a really good cup of coffee.

But what underlines much of this process, either consciously or otherwise, is an assumption of who or what one is to be grateful to. In fact, it’s pretty much in your face in some meme’s I’ve seen on Facebook.

God.

We thank God for this, that, and everything good that happens to us. We thank God for a sunny warm day for that outdoor wedding, for surviving that heart attack, and for keeping us from that awful accident  at that spot we passed only seconds before.

And that creates the great unspoken counterpoint.

Other people died in the accident we avoided. Others don’t survive their heart attacks. It rains on plenty of outdoor weddings. What have these folks done wrong? not enough of?

When we give gratefulness to God for the good, we automatically suggest that others weren’t deserving enough, didn’t believe enough, well enough, or something. Not enough. We however, are “good” enough.

God must love us a lot since we have all “this”. And God, consequently must not love them as much.

That is what we mean, even if we don’t think it.

And of course even our prayer of gratitude is not pure. It’s done for a purpose. To get us out of our sad/angry/scared place.

bathingSee all the benefits?

Surely we should be grateful. We work hard, we are patient, we study, we have friends and family who help us. All these things can be the point of our gratitude and no doubt deservingly so. Whatever my parents were or were not, they got me to college, allowed me the opportunity to become a lawyer, make a good living, set myself up for a nicely comfortable financial life. I owe them my gratitude. I also owe it to myself for all those endless days and nights of studying that first year of law school without which their funds would have been wasted.

But when I take it up the scale and I thank God, then I’m heading in a whole new direction.

For then I must posit and belief that God is a meddler. God is a minutia freak. God is pulling an infinity of strings to make sure that I got that education, that job, met that man, moved to that place, and on and on and on. Once you start here, you can’t stop. God ends up being responsible for every tooth not rotted with decay. God becomes responsible for somebody remembering to post birthday greetings on your Wall.

Free will is out the door, because it’s all part of God’s plan, that fall-back position for “I don’t know how the hell this happened”.

And if it’s one way, then it’s all ways. God is also responsible for the flood that ruined your home with not enough insurance to cover the repairs. God is at fault the reason for sonny boy not getting into Princeton. God ruined the souffle.

Because He is either in charge or he’s not. There’s no middle ground. It’s all part of the great mysterious “plan” and it’s gotta happen that way. You have to have a headache on March 7, so that a husband doesn’t keel over from a stroke because you didn’t make that chocolate cake that was the last straw that would break the blood vessel’s  wall two days later.

And if all that is true, then people who are shot and killed in Syria today were only dying because God willed it. It was for that higher purpose “plan”. And if people live with not enough to eat, well they are supposed to. There are slippery slopes, and this is one of them. Start down the path to praising God for the good in your life, and you have to admit that he causes all the bad too.

I’m not saying that God sits back and never does a thing. I think he speaks to each of us urgently every moment, begging us to rise to the occasion. And if we do, we’re looking out for ourselves, our loved ones, and all the people we don’t even know. We’re kinder and better to ourselves and everyone else. God urges that surgeon to be the best surgeon and completely focused. He begs her not to drink the night before. BUT SHE EITHER LISTENS OR DOESN’T AND IF SHE DOESN’T, AND HER HAND SLIPS, SHE’S TO BLAME, NOT GOD, FOR THE PATIENT’S DEATH.

You see what I mean?

That’s how God is God and we are we, fault-prone humans with free will to do or not do as we choose.

So by all means, give thanks for all you have. It’s a fine practice. Just remember who you need to thank and who not.

God can be thanked for much, but micromanaging your little life? Ahhh, not so much.

The Truth Is. . . .

the-truth-is-revealed-when-we-allowI can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to know.

As a kid I remember trying to figure out how Santa could visit every house in our subdivision let alone the city, state, country, WORLD.

I puzzled over a child’s book about the moon and various theories about how we got it. My favorite was the one where it was like a giant pimple that got bigger and puffier, and then like taffy stretched until it tore loose.

On and on it went. The search for what was true.

I figure that search if taken seriously (most don’t of course, and live out their lives in normal day-to-day fluff until one day they cease breathing), it leads to one of two outcomes.

If it’s undertaken in some desperation and fear of annihilation, then I figure it leads to fundamentalism. Such folk breathe a sigh of relief, life is survivable!, and close up shop and live out the remaining time in normal day-to-day fluff until one day they cease breathing. Since the journey was taken in desperation, the conclusion that “I am saved, no more need be said or thought” becomes the black box of all black boxes, survivable by the onslaught of all  FACTS to the contrary. It thus becomes not a search for truth, but an easy fix to my anxiety issues.

The other outcome is never really an outcome at all for most, but entails a life spent in searching. Unwilling to accept the first “pretty” truth offered and thereafter to sit with the

See-no-evil-hear-no-evil-speak-no-evilfundamentalist mentality, we accept what appears true, only to discard it as we learn more and realize that truth is but an appearance, and the search proceeds.

Ultimately we end up with a lot of possibilities but few sureties.

We leave a trail of discarded theories and books behind, encompassing the fields of philosophy, theology, particle physics, neuroscience,  and cosmological models. (Am I the only one who bemoaned the loss of a pet theory such as the “steady-state universe as the damnable “facts” insisted I must?)

We read about Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Confucius, Buddhism, Sikhism, Zen, New Age, Old Age, Wiccan, and every conceivable “science” of the mind.

And it all comes down to partial answers and belief.

Every so-called guru has his/her answer, but as Jed McKenna asks, where do they roll out their “graduates”, i.e. fully enlightened beings, meaning people who KNOW?  Every teacher has those who claim he/she has “changed their lives forever” and an equal number who cry charlatan. And they are probably both right.

 

I’m told to seek what is true. What is unalterably, perfectly, demonstrably true. And I am asked to ask again and again, “who am I?” Those operating in delusional dreams will answer, wife, mother, seamstress, student and other rot. Those semi-conscious, like myself, will respond smartly with a great deal of egotistical holier-than-thou-ism, “a spiritual being having a human experience”. We are both equally wrong I suspect, or both right. I doesn’t matter.

We have no proof we are either. We only think. René’s famous quote “I think, therefore I am” or  cogito ergo sum to those who want to appear smarter than the average dog, is trite, and quite possibly wrong. For we must recall the Matrix and it’s consciousness in the circuit board which is merely an update on Plato’s cave.

We are left in the end, as I see it at least with nothing more than the statement that “a mind exists”. It may be mine, but that is just the beginning. There may be others, and perhaps one great one, or we may be all parts of one great one, or we may only be a created computer “mind” inhabiting a stage, playing out scripts or doing inprov at the behest of “a” mind.

I can only operate from this mind that I appear to have. The rest is all supposition and appearances.

That may be the only truth, this thinking thing,  and I might well be wrong in that too.

If you have ever had the experience of sitting in a group of people at any social occasion or otherwise, and felt suddenly “pulled back” and aloof from all going on around you, observing even yourself from a “corner” of the room, then you know what  I mean here. Is this reality or have we slipped in these moments into an open doorway we mostly fail to see? Do we glimpse the Matrix as it were, in such moments?

Are we like Jim Carrey in The Truman Show, or like Bill Murray in Groundhog’s Day? How can we tell?

We are told we must wake up! And we do this by asking questions and being relentless in stripping away the rot and retaining only the kernel of truth at the center.

Is there a center? Is there anything beyond the peelings?

I can reach the point that tells me that I am not what others think I am, nor even what I think I am. I am the product of what others have thought of what I have said, thought, and done, and how I have responded and molded myself to that. Where did I conform, retreat, stand my ground, or ignore what others said? How strong was my “self” or non-self as the truth seekers would say? When I peel away the layers of this false me is there a me at all in the end?

Does it matter?

Is it better to live in the illusion rather than be no-self?

It’s all about fuzzy concepts of non-duality in which mind and the universe are seen as the same. It’s a thoroughly Asian concept prominent in most Eastern religions, but finding purchase in the West among neo-Platonists. Mostly the West interprets it as a mind/body oneness.

Somehow this is seen as preferable, this non-dualism, but why that is so is not yet apparent to me. It’s also considered de rigueur to claim that the universe is a friendly place ready to do our bidding. Again, I’m not sure why.

truthSo, if you see me, and I seem to be gazing into the sky, and I seem to be standing there, doing nothing, well I’m not. Doing nothing that is. I’m thinking. That’s the only thing I know to do.

If I come up with something I’ll be sure to let you know. But I’ve been told that we each have our own row to hoe and the universe will deliver us what and who we need exactly as we are ready to receive it, and in that uniquely unique fashion, we are all in this on our own.

There is peace in the truth.

(PS. If all this sounded slightly black, then I definitely set the wrong tone. It’s quite E N L I G H T E N I N G. )

dance-of-joy

 

Black Women Writers Can Jump (or Shadow Mentors)

Alice WalkerWe watched American Master’s Beauty in Truth last night. The life of Alice Walker, best known for writing The Color Purple. She goes to the top of my list of people I’d love to spend an evening with. She joins a list that includes Kathryn Hepburn, Carl Sagan, Woody Guthrie, Malcolm X,  Dorothy Parker, Hypatia, Da Vinci, Socrates.

At the same time she makes me feel shame. More of that in a moment. The Contrarian said ditto for him in the shame department for much different reasons. He’s neglected women writers over the years. We talked a while of all the issues she raised.

How she said that “activism is the rent one pays for being alive”, or how she noted that “even the monk who meditates in a cave contributes to the world.” How she was puzzled that anyone would marry anyone “forever” since people come into your life to teach you something, and if we are growing, we grow out of relationships and we move on. As she moved from marriage to a white lawyer to a “partnering” with another man, to relationships with three women. How she birthed a girl and now doesn’t know who she is any more as that daughter streaked the tabloids with “why my mother no longer cares about me.”

How she traveled the world, dipping her hand into causes that fought for women’s and people’s rights, never caring what apple carts were upset. How she suffered the agony of aloneness when her own ripped her apart for  seemingly forever over her depiction of Black men in The Color Purple.

How she writes, and how she lives, and loves, and continues to smile gently and get on with the messy business of life.

And how she writes! How the voices of the characters chatter in her head and she seeks the quiet of aloneness and busily writes down “their story”. She upsets me whole idea of writing novels. She makes me rethink  my writing.

Such a powerful presence in our world. And she  makes me feel shame.

Shame that it took me so very long to begin to be who I am, and not who I was supposed to be, and desperately wanted to be for far too long.

I mentioned recently that I never saw myself in the house with the white picket fence, standing at the door with lunch boxes, apron, and a lipsticked mouth, waiting on three or four passing blazes of pre-teen energy bodies, to run by with a grab at the lunch as they tumbled forth to school, with a man in a suit and briefcase bringing up the rear, jutting his head to one side to peck me on the cheek as he sauntered off to enter the male world of “business”.

I kept this all to myself, feared that I was strange, and did my damnedest  to act like everyone else. Being a bit on the chubby side and wearing glasses put me at a distinct disadvantage which meant I had to try even harder. Add in the fact that I went to a small county school where cliques were EVERYTHING and not being “in” was definitely out, and you can understand that graduation was met with a sigh of relief and the ever-present optimism that college would be better.

Indeed I did not ever see myself as mommy stuff. I was way more comfortable in those young years even seeing myself as Captain Kirk’s First Officer than I was being Donna Reed or The Beav’s mother, June. I mean no disrespect to mothers everyone and anywhere, but having charge of squalling smelly babies was not my idea of a good thing, and I gritted my teeth through a handful of babysitting jobs just to prove that I could.

Don’t get me wrong, I think kids are great, also necessary, delightful at times, undeniably wise sometimes, funny, and all that stuff. As long as they as they belong to someone else.

But I was raised in the time and place that I was and so even though I saw the world from a “liberated” perch long before I heard the word, I did my best to want what I was told I was supposed to want. I scoured the countryside and cities and located the men I was supposed to, and had all the relationships one would expect. Some loved me to death, others enough, some not at all. And I returned that favor. Some were dear friends, some sweet encounters, some were frantic matings between two who just got the instant hots the minute they laid eyes on each other. (I even did it in the police station once.)

They tell me that during her last sickness, my mother was told that I had married. She smiled.

I’m not surprised. She never thought much of my lawyering. Marriage was and would always be the defining feature of womanhood to her. My appellation switched from failure to success with a ring on the left hand, third finger.

I bought into that stuff for so much longer than I care to admit.

I got lucky. Found a great man. One who loved me madly. One who, as the months and years went by and I peeled off the scabs of long- ago received wounds, and showed him all the sore spots, uncovering the ugly scars of things I’d said and done that I’d kept hidden in that secret organ we all have inside that almost no one knows about, one, who, still loved me even then. The flawed me, he loved. And I loved him back a thousand times a thousand for that.

This is all to say that I was not the child, not even the adult who gives less than half a shit what you or anyone thinks and does what they want. I was not the Alice Walker kid who declared at age 13 that she was through with “formal religion” and made it stick. Such people have some hidden lake of self-esteem that they can run to and drink deeply from whenever needed. I knew it not, and so I tried to be as I was “supposed to be” because being liked meant everything, being normal was everything.

I’ve gratefully moved off that stuck spot. I’m me and glorious. I admit I like to play a few games of bingo every day, and I’m reading about feminist criticism as a methodology of biblical scholarship. I care passionately about a host of issues am a true bleeding-heart liberal, feminist (with the facts to back it up),  and tell people what I believe and argue with them when they don’t agree with me. I cook, don’t clean, and engage in more crafts that is sane. I was bored with law about the time I figured out I was doing it right. I’m smarter than most, but no genius by far. I know that education opened me up to a world that my provincial little auto town never would have.

I consider myself better than no one. My choices are mine, meant to make me right with me. Your choices might well horrify me, but I make no judgement about why you chose them. That I truly mean. Until your choices impinge on mine or others right to make their choices. Then, Houston, we got a problem.

And I love Alice Walker, and somewhere in the shadows of my soul she’s been mentoring me from afar, and somehow I heard her, albeit it took a long time to get through.

She makes me proud to be a woman. Hell she makes me proud to be human.

 

 

Items to Make You Queen of the Watercooler Next Week

large_overworkedSee that’s me. I mean, imagine a woman instead of a man, and that’s me. I’m spend hours reading just so that you don’t have to. I mean you can if you want to of course. God forbid that fine education goes to waste, but I have burned up the Intertubes in an effort to find all the news that you missed.

And I read it all. And some of it was crap upon further inspection, and so I ditched it. And the rest, well you gotta know this stuff. Especially if you want all your friends and aunt Tilde to think you are just a real smart ass. (meant in the kindest way of course)

So, let’s get to it, in no particular order.

Paul Krugman has a fine op-ed in the NYTimes detailing the crazy party, AKA, the GOP. What he says is very true. The GOP argument for deliberately toying with the very health of our economy goes something like this: I have put a gun to your head and demanded your money or your life. If you refuse to give me your money, it’s your fault that you’re dead. I gave you the option to live after all!

On the other hand, this may all go to prove that one can actually get admitted to Harvard and get through it with flying colors and still be utterly and profoundly stupid. Ted Cruz may be set to be one of the most spectacular blazing super nova that sputtered out in record time in the history of horses asses, err, super novae.

If it is true that humans have an individualized predisposition to violence, is it equally true that humans in community have a predisposition to violence in the form of war? It seems many assume this to be true. But evolutionary biologist, David P. Barash argues that this may in fact not be true. The latter may be only a capacity rather than an adaptation. Want to learn more? If you don’t think it matters, think again. We base our defense systems on assumptions of what other groups are likely to do. If we assume all people are driven to war to achieve ends, we build a different defense system than if we do not. And we’ve sure got the tax bills to reflect that.

I know that most of you are just thrilled every time you get a chance to read about quantum mechanics, I mean what self-respecting grease monkey or grocery check out lady  isn’t obsessed with the working of the universe at the extra-tiny scale? Ever heard of an aplituhedron? I bet not. It all means that all the complicated mathematical twists and turns are eliminated as well as the super computer to do the computations. Now little Bobby can explain the most complicated sub-particle interaction with nothing more than a pencil and paper again!

If you are going, uhh, okay so what? Well, you all know that physicists have been since the beginning of time, trying to join the big universe with the small universe (macro and micro forces?) and it has just never fit well, and well, the don’t call it the elegant universe for nothing. Everybody who knows this stuff figured the answer would eventually be simple. This might be it. I’m not a physicist as you might have guessed by now.

I mean this is simply delicious early fall reading. Get to it.  :)

Now I know you will love this one. There is a new book out there that you probably will want to get. I can imagine about half a dozen of you will be on Amazon in moments. It’s called Holy Shit: A Brief History of Swearing, by Melissa Mohr. Colin Burrows review of the book is worth the reading. Now read it your grouthead gnat snapper!

Steven Pinker from Harvard has written a book that details how we are becoming less violent as societies over time. He also argues that the world would be better led by science than by the humanities. Some beg to differ. A great essay from The Berlin Review of Books, and Gloria Origgi, A Reply to Steven Picker’s Scientific Manifesto.

overworked4111Love words? Lots of words? Okay.

The American Scholar has a fun essay called Is There a Word for That? Words are being made up all the time, but you knew that. Want to know who created some words we now take for granted? Who is responsible for katydid? Or neologize ? Or Anglophobia? Blurb? Gerrymander? Bromide? Oh I bet I got your attention now.

Similarly, if you have ever remembered the quote but not the quoter, and the more you looked the harder it got? Who Really Sad That? You would be surprised at how often we get the attribution wrong. Amaze your friends by correcting their quotes!

“Whoever is not a socialist when he is 20 has no heart; whoever is not a conservative when he is 30 has no brain.” Usually attributed to Churchill. Actually? Nobody knows.

Enter the fine world of WAS–Wrongly Attributed Statements.

I betcha thought that the human mind created the gear, that round thingie that has “teeth” and meshes with other objects similarly constructed? That together makes things turn and other things go up and down and maybe side to side? You would be wrong. Scientists have found a gear in nature for the very first time. And YOU are some of the first non-specialists to know that, so don’t you feel so very proud?

A cute little guy called a planthopper (he has a very important scientific name you need not memorize) has a couple of gears in his back legs that mesh together and then when he calls on them to, spin backward sending him off on a leap across the earth that looks pretty fun. I’m sure it made sense to him too in terms of escaping predators or getting up as high as he wanted to feed. It’s called evolution folks. There is a little embedded video so you can watch him go!

Must a life be meaningful in order to be happy? Do we prefer meaningfulness over happiness if we can’t have both? They are not the same by the way. Happiness in part is getting what you want or need in life. Meaningfulness can have zero to do with this. Similarly happy people report that health is essential, yet health has nothing to do with meaningful lives. Happiness is apparent in the now, while meaningfulness tends to be a future assessment. This is a long article but one that raises lots of questions to think about. Well worth your time.

Nautilus brings us the ever-beloved essay on dinosaurs. The discovery and explanation of our bird predecessors have had a varied history as scientists working from small numbers of bones, continually revised their thinking of these creatures over time. As is usual, it is the unsung tiny dinosaurs that have done the most to correct our understanding over time of what these cuties looked like and how they lived. For the kid in all of us, this article will satisfy. I still wish there had been Brontosaurus, they were so neat!

With the advent of all the cute devices we have now from phones to tablets to readers to computers, all with calendars and reminders of one sort or another, there is less and less reason to have to memorize things. Nobody has to write down a phone number or address. The call is registered, switch it to contacts and it’s saved forever. Enter an address in your Google maps app, and you don’t need to record that address again. And maybe, just maybe that’s a good thing. Memorization may be a much over-rated thing. Curious? Read on.

How many late night gab fests have lingered long into the night over the ever-present question– Why was Spinoza excommunicated anyway? I mean this guy was ostracized with a big O, like in members of the congregation being order to be no closer that four cubits to the man. That’s some serious excommunication! Worse, payment of a fine served to dissolve most bans. Spinoza’s was life long. Spinoza himself never spoke of the harem, most of his works and fame came long after it. What is as interesting as why is by whom: Jews who had escaped forced Catholicism in Spain and Portugal and once free in Amsterdam, practiced a form of Judaism that was anything but normative. All in all, quite fascinating.

Happy reading everyone, and to all a good day!

books

The Decline and Fall of Humanity

art-social-20media-620x349I don’t mean to scare ya or nothin’. That is not my intent. And I’m not complaining actually either. Hardly. Just a little.

Mostly, I’m just wondering.

I been kicking this around the old brain pan for a few days. You know what I mean. A thought raises an interesting idea, but it doesn’t really seem to connect or go anywhere. So it just lays there, floating around in the hungry sub-conscious, peeking out every so often to inquire if any new facts have come along that it can connect to. You know what I mean.

Actually this blogging is symptomatic of it. It’s that idea that really valuable ideas are generated on the fly, just letting the old fingers fly over the keys, caressing them in synchronicity such that they produce words in an order that makes intelligible sentences if not intelligible thoughts. Blogging is defined by talking out of your ass about any subject that comes to mind with no filter and no grade at the end. It eschews the very notion of editing. What you write today is not even what you believe tomorrow.

But isn’t life becoming that. If you want proof go to The Tale of My Heart, and her post, Proof of the Doomed Society.  We now go nowhere without our smart phones. To have a dead battery stops the world until you are recharged and redownloaded. Google announces it is shutting down its reader and panic ensues. HOW WILL I GET MY NEWS? Newspapers are for wrapping gifts to be avant-garde.

It’s all about the sound bite. It’s all about the photo snapped. A picture is worth a thousand words you know. And we are all photographers now. News agencies depend on us. They depend on us to snap the “I was there at the critical moment when death arrived!” My opinion, written in the semi-formal but oh so official looking template from a free blogging platform is sought by journalists who sit in Starbucks with laptops aglow while sipping the latest de rigueur in designer coffee blends.

We are all so with it with our “clouds” and our insta-messages. No one is disconnected. No one is alone because there is a vast matrix of interconnected “friends” instantly at hand. You aren’t lonely any more are you?

socialmediaSo connected am I that I have to “manage” my social media, and set up filters, because you know, you have your business socials and your college socials, god forbid your high school socials, your hometown socials, your family socials, your kids friends parents socials. Filter!

I live in a city where I as an Anglo, am a minority. So I’m doing my best to learn Spanish, even more urgent since my new housekeeper (meeting her Monday) doesn’t speak any form of the King’s English. So I have a program for that.

A nice virtual “coach” tells me “way to go Sherry” and “now you’re really moving!” at the end of each lesson, although I can call on her at any time for words of encouragement. And boy, do I feel encouraged!

I bought a piece of software to organize all my recipes and connect my pantry to my grocery list, to my ingredient list, to my blog, to my brain. I will have the most interactive and clean little piece of recipe joy in a few months after I have painstakingly “captured” all the nearly 300 recipes I’ve published on my web site. And then interfaced them with the pantry inventory that I will spend days painstakingly adding. I will be able, so they tell me, to put in ingredients from my inventory and it will “find” recipes that I can make with nary a foot in the food store.

No more stuffed little 3 x 5 boxes crammed with newspaper recipes and handwritten ones that one day you will sit down and copy to a card. No more of that. And while you’re at it, no more sisters sitting around with kleenex with “mom’s recipe box” going through each and every one, laughing and crying at the memories induced by “Aunt Tilda’s Wild Jello Swirl” and the fun that was at the family reunion back in ’93. No, Mom’s recipe box is online, and prints out professional looking copies, instead of the one that used to be in the box–you know the one–with the chocolate frosting stain on the corner where it fell in the bowl when Alicia grabbed it out of Becky’s hand that time?

No more of that. Let’s hear it for the INTERNETS!

Let’s hear it for technology and connectedness and never having to look someone in the eye who you are calling a jackass.

But hey, I can play games and I can “beat” other people, real or otherwise, and do I really care? I win!

And after all, I did learn how to fold a fitted sheet. That’s something to be proud of.

And I did learn 7,329 more ways to cook chicken.  That’s something too.

And if I want to, I can publish a book, and not have to wait on some snotty editor to tell me I write like shit. I can ignore that. After all, what do they know about this rockin’ civilization at this point?

Gibbons was wrong. Rome didn’t fall. It just re-invented itself.

Don’t we all?

Every week?

It’s all just evolution, can’t you see that?

These were all generated as “related” so I’m relatin’ ‘em.

Once I Was an Aardvark

Not buying that are ya?

Well, if  you would, I could justify this rather haphazard blog post as being from a funny little creature with a piggy nose. Kinda cute actually.

Anyway, I’m musing on a Saturday morning, having worked my finger, errr, claws to the knuckle-bone washing the clothes and folding the clothes and getting into some really rank crap in the closet which is where I am now in my packing adventure.

Crap in the sense that what does one do with a hundred or so cassette tapes and VCR tapes that are, how shall we say, ancient by today’s technology?

Why do I continue to save pairs of shoes that are old, broken down, and not wearable even if fashion regresses three decades?

And socks. What is the point of saving the “other” of the one you throw away? What is the point of saving the one hole in the toe sock? Do I look like a person who sits down and darns socks?

Do I look like a person at all?

Do I?

Okay, a bit like uncle Oscar, but just a bit.

Do you know we watch Christmas Vacation every year with Chevy Chase? Do you know we laugh at the same stuff every year?

Aardvarks love Chevy Chase.

I mean don’t you just want to squeeze him and love him? Or her. It’s a her. After all, I’m a her. So it must be a her. Never mind.

I think that Socrates and Marcus Aurelius would have had an exceptional conversation.

Once long ago, Steve Allen and his wife used to host a show on PBS where they played various historical characters. They would then have a couple of other actors. They would pair Plato with Cleopatra and Attila and Winston Churchill, and then have a round table.

I wish someone would resurrect that show.

Anyway, I loved what Aurelius had to say about God.

I think I would have liked to sit and listen to him. I wouldn’t be presumptuous enough to think I could actually converse with him. But I could sure listen.

Do you have historical favorites you wish you could meet?

Words are rather strange things aren’t they? As I spoke of the other day, they take on visceral emotion. Sometimes words are used to mask truth.

Tennessee, decided that people should read the 10 Commandments more often, so it voted to put them in public places for your edification. It did not use the word edification however, since I doubt any Tennessee legislator knows what the word means, and if any of them do, they certainly don’t believe you would.

They chose to describe their actions this way: the Ten Commandments are referred to as “historically significant documents.”

I find that amusing.

I also figure they were thinking that it wouldn’t sound really good to some of the folks in Tennessee if they were to use the real words.

I am giving them a little pass here though. I have it on good authority that the Tennessee legislature, sure that the world is scheduled to end this year (according to those Mayans of course),  decided to actively try to go back in time in the hopes of forestalling that event. It was hotly debated of course, since there were those who thought it unseemly to mess with the Lord’s Armageddon plans.

Which brings me to this.

Oh please, you knew, from the beginning, that this was all leading inexorably to the etch-a-sketch. Please.

I had one as a kid.

Biggest waste of money I never spent.

Never drew a damn thing with, except some lines. B O R I N G.

And all those so-called pictures you’ve seen on TV or on the Internet of these glorious art works?

Fakes.

Every one of ‘em. I know, cuz I tried a gazillion times to draw with that thing, and I never could. Ipso facto: can’t be done.

Oh, was this the one you were expecting?

Well, I know, it’s being made more of than perhaps it deserves.

But you just gotta KNOW. You just gotta know that the Willard brigade is having lots of late-night chats about how in the heck they are gonna soften all those hard right positions when it comes to trying to appeal to normal folks in the general election. You just KNOW they’ve talked about how they can U-turn it.

So when the Etch-a-Sketch analogy was announced by his own COMMUNICATIONS mouthpiece, well, it just rang so freakin’ true.

I mean the cartoonists are not hungry for subject matter this GOP nominating season are they?

You thought I couldn’t do it didn’t ya?

Tie all these threads together in a nice package of unity.

What part of “leading inexorably” didn’t you get?

I will accept your accolades and cash.

I mean you think I do this for free?

Good God, we get to do this all again next week.

Hell, you know, is your worst nightmare relived forever. Remember that when you snicker that God ain’t real.

And just because I have pity, I leave you with this: