Monday, November 04, 2013

A Furry Heart-Shaped Space

I remember the day perfectly. It was sunny and cold. We'd been in our new house for a little over two months when our old kitty who shared our lives for 18 years finally gave up being my extra special lap cat, and died in my arms in the middle of the night.

It was over 17 years ago, but I remember the sadness that gripped me for days. I walked around still practicing cat tail awareness, the art of making sure there wasn't a tail in the path of my feet. I got up every morning and immediately headed for the cat food, before I remembered there no longer was an insistent demand for breakfast at my heels. And since she was the kind of cat who could work a room better than any politician, it was weeks before I could be in a crowd of friends without breaking into tears.

As you can see from her photograph, she was gorgeous, probably one of the most beautiful cats I've been privileged to have in my life.

But she was also the kind of cat who fell out of trees and off of roofs. The vets we took her to for emergency treatment could find no reason for this clumsiness in a cat. Our theory was that she would just get so blissed out by sunbeams and lovely spring days, that she would forget where she was--a real "in the moment" cat.

She was the perfect cat for us then because we were social and she was social. We had lots of people, friends, acquaintances, loved ones who filled our lives then and she adored them all. Except for a couple of them, she managed to get at least a hand on her from every single person who passed through our lives. In retrospect, we should have paid closer attention to the ones she rejected. She saw what we didn't see and was therefore that much wiser.

In her last months, she was frail, thin and very much dependent on us for everything. We got a used playpen from the classifieds (it's what people used before there was Craig's List) and made that her safe place. We bathed her, hand fed her, and when it became clear that she needed help to make the transition, we called the vet. He was going to come to our house in the morning, but that night, as I was holding her in my arms and crying, she slowly slipped away and left me broken-hearted.

I thought I would never have another cat. She left too big a hole and nothing could ever fill it the way she did. But I've always lived with critters and the house felt empty and cavernous without one. I walked around like a sad armless zombie until one day, a lovely spring morning with birds chirping in the trees and the first buds on the pear tree just forming, I'd had enough of empty cat syndrome. I called up the feed store and asked if they had any kittens. They told me they had a whole bunch of 5 dollar bundles of fluff and to come on down.

I was convinced I knew what kind of cat I wanted. He had to be orange. For some reason I wanted a male, probably because I loved one of my friend's cats who was an orange love bug. He had to be short-haired because it meant less cat hair to clean up and less hairballs to throw up. I knew he would be there waiting for me.

And he was, an adorable little orange fluff ball that I was test holding when a tiny little claw hooked itself into Jeff's sweater and looked up at him with a pleading promise of love if only he'd pick her. Her name was Ashes and she was sleeping in the litter box away from all the other kitties. There was something about that which appealed to both of us since we had just bought a house and were feeling all grown up, and also a bit alone being the adults all of a sudden with a mortgage and jobs. He handed her to me and I put the other kitty back in the cage and reached out my arms. I was already half-way to the cash register the moment our eyes met.

She was barely 8 weeks old and when we brought her home, the first thing she did was check out where the litter box was, where the food dishes were, and where the best place to hang out was. She did all this with the confidence of a critter who had accomplished what she set out to do that day--get out of that cage and into her own palace. She went from Ashes to Sophie and for nearly 17 years she ruled our house and hearts.

She was truly a princess. Unlike Esme, there were only a handful of people Miss Sophie decided were worthy of her grace. If anyone tried to get her attention or forced her to be touched or petted, that person went on a permanent shit list. They never got near her again. But if you ignored her, she would eventually come out after the third or fourth visit and sit down in front of you, with her back turned, and a very clear attitude of "Okay, you can pet me now."  After that, the person became just another body in the house who would be honored with the privilege of giving her a pet or two.

There were many days over the next decade where she was our soothing balm during difficult times. We had no money most of the time as we struggled to survive in a trashed economy. We had no money to travel or go out for dinner or buy anything but the basics.

But we had a cat who kept us company, who was always within a few inches if we needed to just hold a cat or pet one. She made herself available to both keep us company in times of want, and to heal us in times of sorrow and broken hearts. She was the strength that allowed us to get through the loss of several of our friends to death and illness. She was the soft warm balm that eased some difficult decisions we had to make then in order to survive both physically, emotionally, and financially.

The biggest gift she gave us was teaching us how to love openly and completely. She was our princess and we loved her unashamedly. We were a solid and loyal and loving tribe of three. And we were certain we'd have many happy years together.

This summer I noticed that she was losing weight and at first I tried to deny she was ill, that it was simply old age that was making her so thin and frail. And then one day she tried to jump up to her favorite perch in my office and she missed and landed on the floor. I picked her up and put her on her perch and that became our routine for a couple weeks. By then I knew she was dying, that surgery would be ineffective and wouldn't be worth the cost and the misery it would put her through. If I knew I could get a few more years, we might have chanced it, but for three or four more months, it wasn't worth putting her through it.

I spent most of the next couple weeks crying with her in my arms. I couldn't bear the thought of not having her in my life after almost 17 years. She was a part of me. She slept in the office with me all day, hung out with me and Jeff at night, and always would come to say good night and tuck me in before leaving to explore the endless fascination of night time through the windows in the living room.

And then the day came when we knew she wouldn't survive the night. We made her as comfortable as possible and in her last moment of consciousness, we locked eyes again like we did all those years ago and said our goodbyes. Once again, another beloved pet died in my arms after 17 years of love and devotion.

I didn't think I could ever go through this kind of pain again. Before Esme died, we also had a dog who lived part of his life with her. He died at the age of 18, ten years before we lost Esme. Sophie was pet number three we had together who lived over 17 years. There's only so much grief you can handle before you say enough, I can't take anymore. We were both reluctant to get another pet ever again. I told myself we were too old for another pet, that it would outlive us and that wouldn't be fair to any potential furry one.

And the grief was so strong, it felt disloyal to even think about another cat. I had bonded with Sophie in a way I never had before. It was a new feeling for me, to trust my heart so completely to something outside of myself, to love so completely there was no shame, no embarrassment, no fear someone would consider me silly for such a thing. She was part of me and when she died, I lost a large piece of myself. I didn't think I would ever recover.

But life has other plans for us when we think we have everything all figured out. I cried myself to sleep for at least two weeks after Sophie died. I couldn't sleep without being "tucked in" by her every night. I was exhausted from lack of sleep and grief. Neither Jeff nor I could handle being around anyone. We isolated ourselves with our loss and our grief and waited for time to heal the deep sorrow and make it tolerable enough to go on.

And then one night I fell into an exhausted sleep and dreamed that Sophie was alive and leaping around gracefully and miraculously healed. She was the young cat again, full and round and warm and a bundle of happy armful. And then I saw she was with another cat who kept staring at me with these great big eyes. In the dream I turned to look at this cat and when I turned back to look at Sophie, there no longer was a Sophie, just this big-eyed cat staring at me. I heard someone call her. "Daisy! Come here, Daisy!"

I spent the morning in tears, and more because I wanted to look at pictures of kitties than anything else, I clicked on a Craig's List ad for a kitty. It's our lean time of year so we couldn't afford the "rehoming fees" the posters wanted for their kittens, so I was sure I was just window shopping. And I was, until I saw her picture, the cat I dreamed about, the big-eyed cat named Daisy.

We had absolutely no money as every cent we had was going to buy propane. I didn't even look to see how much the poster wanted. I called and asked about her ad. It turned out she lived a couple blocks away and for the "right person" there would be no rehoming fee. There was no question about whether she was coming home with us. We put the cat carrier in the back seat and drove to pick up our new cat.

She's two years old and in a week she has already charmed her way into our hearts. She's adorable and cute and funny and smart as can be. We are still getting to know each other, but she's already gone through the house and sat on everything to let any interlopers know this house is taken. She is a lovable little creature who doesn't tolerate being held but absolutely loves being petted. She's the first cat I've petted who demands her tummy be rubbed, who loves being combed, and who loves water. We keep finding her in the bath tub, on the sink, batting at drops of water on the window. Unlike our other cats, she's a climber. We find her in places we can't even imagine how she got there. And once again, when we wake up in the morning, there's a sweet little merping sound wishing us good morning and by the way...where's breakfast?

It is a most delightful way to start the day.

Monday, August 05, 2013

So, they grew meat...

Scientists grew meat from the stem cells of a cow.  Pasty white meat from an animal that was never really an animal, just something scraped into a Petri dish. It even has its own Wikipedia page. In Vitro Meat.  Seriously. This is the Internet. Of course, it has its own Wiki page, probably within minutes of it emerging in strands from the dish, just like our ancestors did eons ago on the banks of Lake Ooze.

Then, of course,  the scientists shaped it into a burger, because if its anything geeks know well, it's the shape of fast food. Sadly, even after mixing the pasty stem cell "meat" with bread crumbs, seasoning, and frying it in an heart-choking amount of butter, it tasted meaty in texture, but the flavor was nothing to get overly excited about.

But it is exciting to speculate on meat grown from stem cells. Bland meat that has no flavor. Pasty white meat that you'd never know was "beef." Many possibilities have been put forth since the meat hit the frying pan. People excitedly surmised this Frankenmeat had the potential to end world hunger. Space techies suddenly saw a solution to feeding the passengers and crew on unlimited space travel voyages. Animal lovers saw a way to save the cows at last.

That started me thinking. The meat is bland and therefore interchangeable. Why stop at beef? Why not chickens? Why not fish? It would all taste the same and the only differences would be in flavorings and added fat content.

Think about it. We could send people to explore the galaxy forever. They could continually generate their own meat from a tiny laboratory space. The only problem would be disposing of waste, clothing themselves as fabric wears out after awhile, water, and, because such voyages would be decades long, eventually each other.

Then I started thinking some more. All that bland meat that looked and tasted the same. Horrifying as it is for some to admit, the truth is if our stem cells were grown the same way, we could not be picked out from the crowd of other animals on the plate. We'd be just as bland, just as pasty, just as white, although I suspect our fat content might be a tad higher.

When we bury a body, we take up valuable real estate on a planet that is running out of resources. If we can reduce a cow to a mess of stem cells served up seasoned and fried on our plate, we've already set aside the ethics and moral arguments. It's not a cow anymore. It was never a cow even though it came from a cow. The same argument would apply to us in that situation. It wouldn't be us in that dish even though it came from us.

What it comes down to is we are not any different than that fried stem cell burger on a plate. That meat is us.  We ARE meat when you really do think about it. We are not vegetable. We are not gold. We are not holy. We are meat.

So basically this is the reality we are faced with: humans are greedy, consuming omnivores and I don't see us changing anytime soon. We're going to want our "meat" to taste different from other "meat." It's why we have multiple flavors of ice cream, multiple arrangements of topping on pizzas, multiple everything.

 But the resources are not endless and stem cell meat is just the beginning of new moral arguments over food and survival. Eventually the argument will not be what is meat and what is not meat, but what is Messy Meat and what is practical meat. And because it will all taste the same, some types of meat will have premium labels. And I'm guessing it won't be the cow with the expensive label stuck to its Petri-grown ass.

You can argue all you want, but Soylent Green is here. The minute the contents of that Petri dish ended up in the stomach of someone else, we officially became meat. Now it's a just a matter of adjusting to that reality.

From Ursine Logic's Child-Free By Choice shop.


Saturday, August 03, 2013

Life Outside the Kingdom of Singularity

I've always lived in a diverse world, beginning with my family who were culturally blended into a whole that would never be homogeneous. We barely fit into society most of the time, much less within the confines of the same family. In retrospect I understand it was because we were so different from each other. We had so many diverse skills, talents, ideas, and dreams that we were bound to part ways in order to achieve at least a semblance of success. We had to find our way through a maze of visions in order to claim one as our own.

But the visions were an excuse for a very basic truth that ran through all of us: we had to find our OWN way. It was the only chance we had to develop our ideas, our  personalities, our  paths separate from the herd. And it wasn't until recently that I began to understand how rare that was, how unusual to set upon a path unique only to you, and to seek independence in self and action from the familiar comfort of singularity. I suspect that it's not a world many live in  lately.

One place I notice it most is in the type of education most people currently receive. They are well-trained in their skill set. They are the best in what they do. They can discuss their field endlessly and flawlessly. Until they run into a very large wall.

That is the wall of singularity. They know what they know, and maybe the more creative ones can imagine and implement ways to incorporate what they know into something similar to create a third thing that resembles them both, but differs only slightly.

It is the same feeling trying to have a discussion with a member of the singularity. They know their subject. They can apply anything to that subject: the religion of computers, the politics of engineering, the literature of design. But then the wall gets them. Then the noose of singularity cuts off their thinking. Then the conversation becomes forced and not as entertaining. It is at some point, like discussing the weather. Yes, it rained in the past. It is raining in the present. It will rain in the future.

But there is no poetry to the rain. There is no search for meaning in  the sound of the rain or the feel of it upon the skin. There are no long songs written to the rain. It is all sterile and precise and oh so tedious and boring. 

And worse, such singularity crosses swiftly over into dogmatism. No new input means no new ideas. No new ideas means the existing ones are elevated to the point where they are beyond criticism. They take on a holiness, a religiosity that eventually won't allow criticism because the other sides cease to exist.

People then begin the process of becoming as rigid as their ideas.Change becomes fearful. Different people become scary. Different ideas become tyranny. The more the world around them changes, the more the singularity cling to the only things they know, whether it is religion, science, art, politics, music, literature, murder, mayhem, war, hate, bigotry, intolerance.

More than anything this spells the doom of cultures and society. It wasn't their differences that destroyed them. It was their sameness. Inbreeding of ideas is just as destructive as inbreeding of people. Over time you are left with monumental stupidity and nothing left to repair the damage done to communities, towns, states, countries, and eventually the planet. There's no one left smart enough or educated enough to fix the problems so the culture dies.

We are moving in that direction and we will reach the crossroads fairly soon. Ignorance has a way of taking over because it feeds on itself. But there are a few things to throw in its path that while it may not stop it, might at least slow it down some.

One of the biggest is education. I was one of the lucky ones as were many of my generation. We had a true liberal arts education, which meant we had to also study math, science, history, literature, and art. More than anything, we were taught to think and analyze, something that is rarely taught anymore. Now people are taught to focus, to apply precise learning to precise topics and not deviate from the task at hand.

But we need to deviate. We need to learn how what we are being taught applies to the past, present and future. We need to see the historical consequences of actions without the filter of politics or religion. We need to understand what it means to make our own decisions and therefore learn to accept responsibility for our actions. We need to learn to think, to analyze, to discuss, to hear, to listen, and to contemplate.

 Because if we don't, our singularity will be the chain hooked to the nose of our precious little prejudices, and the other end will be in the hand of those who need herds of singular minded sheep to use for their own purposes.


Friday, April 19, 2013

The View From Here

I live in a tiny vacation community, one of the handful of year round residents in my neighborhood. My neighbors, when they are here, are mostly Canadian. The rest of us are varying degrees of American ranging from born and raised in the same community, to recent and not so recent immigrants. In the three years I've lived here, I've made a couple of really good friends, am working on filling out a couple more, and am on good happy daily hello terms with all my neighbors. What makes this unusual is that every single one of us differs politically, religiously, and economically. And yet we live in happy harmony with each other.

I've thought a lot about this in the last few days. I thought about it as I exchanged hellos and small talk about kitties and the suddenly delightful spring-like day with my neighbor. The day after the election he wore a shirt with an anti-gay marriage theme and bemoaned the taking over of America by socialism. I made no secret that I voted for every one of his worst nightmares...Obama, same-sex marriage, marijuana legalization...his entire list of horrors. We basically nullified each other's votes.

For a couple days he avoided me and my equally treasonous spouse. We didn't see each other by the mailbox. We didn't say hello. We didn't exchange small talk. And then there he was as if nothing had happened. He was friendly. I was friendly. I played with his kitties. He bragged about their antics. We went on with our respective days.

I think what soothed this over is that we both have had a chance to interact on a small, friendly and frequent basis. Brief though those moments are,they are still enough to let both of us see we are not monsters. In fact, if you laid a lot of our lives side by side, they'd be similar. We've both worked most our lives. We both are approaching retirement with just enough to survive on if we are frugal and don't want for much, he a bit better than I because he had a great union job for most his life.  For both of us, it's how we've lived most our lives so there isn't much of a step down. It's normal. We're working class. We have no rich relatives to save us in old age. We are our own saviors.

And yet we are so different in how we think. He is conservative. I'm as liberal as they come. I have two wonderful friends I desperately want DOMA to go away for so they can stay in the country. He's terrified gays will force him to marry his cat. We've never talked religion, but I suspect he has strong religious beliefs but does not feel the need to inflict them on me, just as I have no need to talk about my atheism to him. It's ours. It is who we are and not something we need to force on others to have it be meaningful to ourselves.

We get along because we know enough about each other to feel comfortable with each other. We're never going to party together or even have a cup of coffee on the porch. We have our own lives, our own friends, our own families. We are neighbors in a small village and we both know if it comes down to it, we have each other's back, politics and religion be damned.

The neighbors that are closest to me politically are still a few levels shy of liberal and are what I consider salt of the earth type Americans, the ones you call "good people." They are not complex, but they are not stupid. They value the beauty of the land because they grew up in it and so are environmentalists by default. They hunt and fish because it's a source of food they grew up with and they still need the extra supplies to survive when money is tight. They waste nothing, grow most of their own food, and spend a lot of time just enjoying life.

They believe in a live and let live philosophy and they walk their talk. I can't imagine them judging anyone. I felt immediately accepted by them. They are familiar to me. I grew up with them. I married a man who came from the same kind of background. I like them as people. When we first moved here, they sent over cookies and a holiday card with a Bible quote that was more inclusive and loving than mean and judgmental.

I suspect they are true Christians, the kind of people who volunteer at the food bank and give generously to their church when they have extra. If I needed help with anything, I'd feel comfortable asking them and I'm certain they'd feel comfortable asking me. We are good neighbors. We joke about things in the neighborhood. We laugh a lot. I'm fairly certain they voted similar to me except for the gays, but I'm certain that soon as they actually meet and interact with someone openly gay, they'll come around. There's no reason for them not to.

My other neighbors are retired Canadians who worked as firefighters, law enforcement and white collar professions. We live here for the same reason. We love the trees, the saltwater, the squirrels, the heron, the eagles, the absolutely luscious vegetation, the blissful peace and quiet. On holidays we like to drink and be merry. We have friends and family around the fire pits and grills. We makes things go boom on the 4th of July and New Year's.

We live a simple and delicious existence. None of us are rich. Some of us are poor. But all of us have found what we require to survive and be happy. We get along. We enjoy seeing each other in our gardens, on our porches, decks, and mowing the lawns that refuse to stop growing. We are here for the same reason and that is far more important than our religions or political beliefs.

And of course, being such a diverse and delightful environment, there's also people here who are just like me. We've had delightful conversations. We've already created perfect worlds over bottles of wine, glasses of beer, and cups of tea. We've met in the local taverns, gone out to eat together, and sat down on the beach to absorb the sunsets. We've become friends and are working on deepening those new and delightful bonds.

All in all, we are a tiny neighborhood in a small community in a vacation suburb of a larger town. We are as unique as where we live and just as we appreciate the diversity of nature and wildlife, we are learning to appreciate each other. We may not always agree, and we may in some cases never agree, but what we do share is we took the time to say hello to our neighbors, got to know each other, and discovered our differences were far less important than the common ground and dreams we shared.

In our tiny piece of paradise, we've caught a glimpse of how the world can truly be if we lived in it as neighbors, if we watched out for each other, if we didn't try to force our beliefs on each other, if we respected each other's individual spaces as if they were our own, if we lived as if we all had the same right to exist in the same tiny little place on the planet. Yes, we are not perfect, but we are trying and maybe that is what makes the difference between harmony and horror. Maybe that is why we can get along with each other when others can't. Maybe we have something here that others can have as well if they take the first step, extend the first hand, share the first hello. It sure beats the alternatives.


Thursday, April 04, 2013

Words From One Of The Carrots In The Stew

We've never met in person,  but our virtual friendship is entering the twenty year mark, long enough for both of us to forget we never actually met in person. But that's the internet and I am grateful that it brought us together that day on a long defunct literary discussion list. From fifteen women, we are down to a handful. Literally a handful. We can count each other on one hand.

Over the last couple decades we've shared our lives with thousands and thousands of words. They've described love, life, death, rebirth, the good, the bad, the indifferent, and tears of joy, of sadness, of despair, and of loss. We've grieved the death of our literary sisters. We've lamented, cursed, and screamed at growing old, not for vanity or the loss of our youth, but because it takes away those we love. If you live long enough, you become a survivor by default and it's often a sad place to be. There is no victory in it, just the whimsical nature of time and the hand you are dealt.

And sadly now, my friend is in her final weeks. Last week she decided to end all further attempts to heal her and is instead focusing on what she calls "the end game." We've both lost enough friends to breast cancer in the last decade to know it's not a fight to lose because she never picked cancer as an opponent. It just happened to her as it happens to far too many women. To call it a fight implies a loss or victory to the opponent. No. It is simply a change, a transition from living to dying. She's a purist that way. Throughout it all, she's focused on living and not on dying. She's wanted to be addressed and acknowledged and loved as a living human being, not one who is dying. Victory to her means her friends and those she loves are able to forget what is going on in her body and focus on her the way they always did.

She refuses to be called brave because she says she is not. She does what the doctors tell her. She listens to what her body wants and does not want. As another of our friends who died last year said, who she is becomes far more important than what is happening to her. Rather than brave or courageous or strong or winning and/or losing, she prefers the term "growing." I have loved watching the process of her coming into her own as a woman, as a friend, as a delightful human being.

Yes, the sadness over eventually losing her is often hard to feel, but honestly, the same can be said for all my friends. Once you hit those later years, the sixties, the seventies, losing friends becomes far more common than we ever realized. We become better at saying goodbye. We become better at helping. We become better at cutting through the crap and learn to just be with each other.

While I really believe we have become better as a culture at accepting that death is an inevitable part of living, there are certain issues that still need perfecting, and one of those is pain management. There is absolutely no reason my friend or anyone should have to suffer pain at the end of their life. And yet they do. I've asked my friends in the medical professions how this is possible, how is it that with all our advances, the only option for pain management at the end is either suffering so you can stay conscious as long as possible, or such heavy doses that you are virtually in a coma until you transit from here to some other reality.

I've heard many answers and the most common seems to be our dance with morality. We are taught certain drugs are bad and unbelievably there's still those who would deny the full range of pain medication to the dying because they don't want to make them addicts. Seriously. I'm not joking. There are moralists who would rather see someone in pain than risk making them addicts just before they die. This is just fucked up in so many ways.

Then there's the whole money/research issue. Life is for the living and so we focus the funds on helping the living and not the dying. Medicines are developed for profit and pain medications are relatively cheap compared to chemo drugs, so the dying get filled up with those and have to suffer in pain. My friend has learned to be insistent to not feeling pain and also not being out of it until it's time to be out of it.

This worked well until a couple days ago when she lost the ability to speak and can barely type. Now she is dependent on what others think is good for her instead of what she needs and wants. This is in spite of reams and reams of last wills, living wills, final directives. At some point, the "team" takes over and the patient is no longer a willing participant.

But we've been through this before, so her pain is less than others in her situation. She has people fighting for her, family who understand her wishes completely and are ferocious in the face of those who try and go against them.

And yet, dying is a complicated process, especially in this digital age. We thought we'd covered everything, the eventual message on her blog, her Facebook page, her twitter account, and for the most part we have. But there's always loose ends, personal things you forget to tell people, things that matter to you but didn't realize mattered to you until you lose access to them. This happened with her twitter account. Because she could no longer type easily, she let it go for a few days and a well meaning friend closed it down for her as he mistakenly thought those were her instructions. He feels terrible that he misread her instructions, but it's too late to get it back. It's gone.

So today I've contacted some of the people she was following in an attempt to at least give her access to the progress of people she cared about. It's a surprisingly long list. I'm not trying to recreate her account but merely becoming a conduit from them to her via me and my account. Most people have been completely understanding and others are suspicious and required some reassuring words before clicking that little follow button. Others, mostly from her community of breast cancer women, appear to have fallen off the radar. Their last posts were weeks ago and they don't answer my requests. It's not for me to ask her why these people matter to her but they do.

So here's my reason for writing this. For those of you who are support, family, friends with someone who is beginning the end game, please remember there are people like my friend. You may not understand why she needs to keep in touch with people who are strangers, you may not know about the many emails she received from complete strangers moved by her blog describing her path and the lessons learned and unlearned, you may not know she also has people she followed, read and connected with on a level only those who are going through such a thing can understand, but they matter to her.

I have promised to keep her virtual family connected with updates. It doesn't take much, just a few moments to post on her blog that she is with us but unable to type, that she is transitioning and wishing everyone love and happiness and the spiritual and personal growth that develops us as human beings. It doesn't take much and yet it means so much. There is a middle path to protecting the cherished privacy, the final intimate moments of life with those we love, and yet not losing touch with those who have come to care about us.

We, at the heart of ourselves as human beings, tend to measure everything on a personal level, so if we don't understand something it somehow becomes less in importance. And one thing we often fail at is understanding why and how someone cares about us. If it isn't a personal lover, a close friend, a familiar family member, we don't always see how much we matter to someone else. That's our last obstacle to overcome as members of the upright species: learning to accept there are those who love us, who care about us, even if we barely feel them inside our hearts. Our lack of awareness doesn't lessen what they feel. It just makes our planet a more lonely place for all of us.

So today I will contact more from the list of twitter friends and help make the world a less lonely place. And one day I hope my friends and family will do the same for me because we all live in this stew together, no matter how much we cling to our individual carrot or potato self.

Lavender Skies Print
Lavender Skies Print by northwest_photograph
Shop for Boulevard park Posters online at


Monday, February 25, 2013

Village Idiocy

I recently spent a month recovering from the flu. It was the kind of flu that didn't allow me to do much for a couple weeks except mindless crap. Seriously, it hurt to think and it wore me out to do anything requiring more than minimal effort. I tried reading but couldn't focus. I tried to work, but after trying to put up one design several different times only to accidentally delete an hours worth of work by clicking the wrong key, I gave up. I turned to the old standby--games. I spent a couple days making the world safe from angry birds, but even that required more energy than I had , so I turned to television. Specifically, mindless tedious stupefying television, the kind most of America feeds on for most of their waking hours when they're not working.

I'm not an anti-television snob. There's some excellent shows that I usually wait until they come out on Netflix to watch, and I really am an Amazing Race junkie.  But that's about it. I've never watched many of the popular culture shows. I tried, I really did, but in the end they were about not every interesting people doing not very interesting things. And I may be old, but not old enough to get my news from television actors pretending to be journalists. I'd rather read blogs online from many different views to form an opinion, rather than have it fed to me by actors who wouldn't know a real news story if it kicked them in their partisan asses.

What I did find as I flipped from channel to channel is that American television is like the worst little inbred community of stupid people on the planet. I've lived in small towns and the news is basically the same kind of tedious gossip that passes for conversation in those horrid little communities. No one ever talks about ideas. They talk about other people. No one ever talks about the problems of the world. They talk about who's bedding whom and whose divorce is that week's meat to rip apart and feed to the hogs. No one ever talks about solutions to world hunger, the destruction of the planet, how to make a better world. They gossip instead. They say mean and horrible things about people they don't even know. They form sides. They create a world of us and them. The news on television has become the worst of these things, the worst of these people, the meanest and most shallow excuse for existence imaginable.

At first, just as I felt when exposed to this behavior in small communities populated with small-minded idiots, I was stunned that people could live this way, that they could get  information this way, that they could make real life choices based on being fed pure biased bullshit.

And then I began to understand it was all deliberate. Television feeds into the small minded idiots in these communities. It creates low information voters. It creates people who are always afraid of some boogy man or woman of the week. It makes it seem normal to have an us and them world where everything is always one person's fault, one ethnic group's fault, one country's fault. It creates the kind of fear that discourages independent thinking for herd behavior. Television tells you different people are bad. Different ideas are bad. Truth is bad.

Television is called programming for a reason. It doesn't want you to think or discuss real ideas. It wants you to gossip about each other. It wants you to always blame someone else for problems you create yourself. It wants you to live in fear and in mistrust and to always always think just like everyone else. And to severely punish those who are not like you.

And in between, they want to sell you shit. Lots of shit. Stupid shit designed just for people who no longer are able to think for themselves. Step right up, and please do use your neighbor's back to step on as you climb up the Randian ladder of disdain and privilege, because you're special and deserve to buy all the crap they're selling you.