By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Sat, October 20 2007 - 1:09 pm
November 18, 2007
I'm in something of a quandary. I was just writing a Piglet addendum, and really got into Rumilluminations mode. It makes me wonder - do people who write fantasies not give credit where it is due because that will destroy the fantasy? What do you say, J.K. Rowling? Do you just spill out the ideas, no matter where they came from, or do you say, no, I can't do that because that was So-and-So's idea?
I know I never saw the "Lion King". But some things similar to what I have written in Piglet stories evidently happened in the "Lion King". (I found out by being directed to the "Lion King" when I was trying to do confirmatory Google research on an already-written story!) I can't swear that I didn't see a TV ad that lodged something in my unconscious mind!
Oh, yes, I do have an Unconscious! I'm hanging my head down so far that my crown is about ready to fall off!
Yes, even the Queendom of the Introspection of Esther has dark corners where unknowable things happen!
In fact, it is quite possible that I have usurped this throne because my own Queendom is especially unfathomable.
But back to my quandary. Should I take out the credit part of Piglet and the Wolverine and the following suspiciously Rumilluminative stuff, or do I give credit where it is due?
Do I move those paragraphs over here?
Don't tell me not to consider these questions! This is part of what these Rumilluminations are all about!
Help me here! You don't want me to start complaining, do you?
November 17, 2007
There was a little blurb on the news last night about complaining. A bad habit, it was called. I agree. I complain too much. Habitually so, as a matter of fact. So much so that other people habitually complain about how much I complain.
Now, there are some people who bring it out more in me. Years ago a friend and I agreed that we both complained too much, and that each others' company did not improve our behavior.
Unfortunately, not only did we complain about our political leaders (fair game!), we complained about everything and everybody complainable. It was, in a perverse way, kind of fun! We giggled and snickered a lot. It didn't really make us happy, though. We moderated our behavior somewhat, but we stopped seeing so much of each other and eventually she and her love moved away. (In what order these events occurred I do not recall!)
A few years later he came back to town for a visit and we ran into each other. It seemed she had leapt into another relationship (he complained!)
As far as I can tell, everybody does it. Some people more than others, admittedly, and I guess, as with most other things, it is a matter of degree. And style.
When does "voicing concerns" become "complaining?"
Maybe the person who complains a lot has a lot to complain about! Maybe it is a cry for help much less threatening but no less real than a contemplation of suicide.
The counselor on the program suggested that the complainer voice his concerns to the people he is complaining about. Educate them, she urged.
Years ago, I heard a response to that kind of advice in a theatre piece (Anne Lewis speaking) in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She said (more or less): You tell them that what they are doing bothers you. They say, "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know you felt that way." And they keep right on doing it! At the time I thought she was pretty bitter.
But still... that's pretty much my experience! Got a problem with co-workers? Well, tell them about your "concern" if you dare! Oh, but don't be negative! (It's true, it does not help anything!) My experience is, assuming other people care AT ALL if you have a problem with their behavior... well, let's just say you shouldn't assume it.
Let's face it. Everybody has (at least!) slightly different values. Everybody thinks the portion of the alphabet that spells her own name is the most important.
I think that if more people did a little healthy venting, maybe there wouldn't be so much real violence in the world. (You know the old saying, "All talk, no action"? Sometimes that can be a good thing!)
Of course, one reason I have tried to moderate my complaining is that I don't want to elicit a violent response from someone (of obviously different values!) who is sick of listening to it!
November 16, 2007
This morning I woke up at about 6, squinted at my watch and a little bit at the windows, turned over, slept some more. Dreams became more intrusive (extrusive?) and disturbing, and I woke up a couple more times.
Finally I woke up enough to open my eyes wide and BAM! I was face-to-face with a bright red hibiscus, 6 inches wide a foot away from my face. I hadn't even seen it coming!
Pretty good way to start the day, huh?
November 15, 2007
I thought of a legal way to be like Robin Hood! Buy from bigger chain stores when they are having their best, most-money off sales and patronize the smaller stores that beautify our downtown as much as possible!
Yesterday I was going to get a new battery for my watch but could not face going out to one of the ugly mega-stores, so I went to Binders Jewelers in downtown Valparaiso. I found out that the reason they charge more for replacing batteries in a watch than some of those large corporations that only charge for the battery is that they clean the watch and the band while they are at it.
As it turns out, my watch didn't need a new battery at all, so I spent nothing! It seems my watch's timesetting tab comes out more easily now that my watch is getting old, and the battery is still good! I wonder if some harried clerk at Bigstore would have noticed that?
I am trying not to spend money at all these days, so I am not one to talk. But please, if you have money to spend, please spend as much as possible downtown! Support your LOCAL business people and keep our downtowns from being ugly boarded-up wastelands!
November 14, 2007
I found myself rolling around in bed this morning and laughing about, of all things, TV. (Ah, what a difference six straight hours of sleep makes!)
The other night I watched a couple of episodes of "Dirty Jobs" which is just my cup of tea. Or sludge. Or something! It shows people showing Mike Rowe how to do jobs you didn't even know existed, then watching him do them - sometimes, perhaps, as little as possible!
A great one was Mike Rowe "just wanting to be a zombie." The make-up artist Tony was a character who really should be in the movies himself! I really marvelled at his Frankenstein-like looks of obsessive dementia and thought it was a great show!
I bought into it completely, and then the next night (last night) saw "House." The show was hysterical last night. It always has funny aspects, but this episode, which shows House and his "applicants" being interviewed by a reporter (re surgery on the deformed face of a teen-age boy yes I know a very serious subject) was the comic best ever.
It shows how a montage of "real-life" takes can be shown to give any impression at all by its creator (or editors!) So of course Tony the demented make-up artist might be fiction, too. Sigh. After all, he is in show business!
I've always thought "House" was a great name. Such an easy word to remember, but odd for the show. (Nobody less homey than House - I'm sure that's intentional!) But now I realize that one strange thing about it is that it is not called "Dr. House." To show his lack of pretension? To show that in many ways he does not deserve respect? Because there are too many doctor/hospital shows on already and they don't want to turn the viewer off with perception of too much predictability?
Whatever. This episode of "House" ranks right up there with my favorite comic memories, like Steve Martin as the sadistic dentist in "Little Shop of Horrors."
November 13, 2007
Our local Valparaiso Public Library had a book club meeting re AC/DC (see For Book Butterflies Fore, if you like) today, and Phyllis, the staff person in charge, lined up NIPSCO employees Dennis and Carl (no last names today, sorry, I didn't know I would be writing about this!) to talk to us about electricity, and give us a demonstration.
It was very cool, and kind of scary, because Carl talked to us about our grid of electricity (which covers basically the whole eastern half (or more!) of the country. He described what happened in the incredible blackout of 2003. It seems, basically, that a lot of electricity was going through wires, which heated up, sagged (stuff expands when it gets hot) and hit trees under the wires which were not kept cut as low as they used to be because the companies did not want to spend the money. Better to have more profits to look good on Wall Street!
Unfortunately, the consequent blackouts didn't look so good, and Carl said the blackout had economic consequences for the country as great as those of 9/ll. A member of the group suggested that possibly now the companies were doing a better job since that happened. He replied, well, unfortunately, no.
Because of competition, the companies are afraid to put money into infrastructure and setting up new energy sources (it takes power to make power!) and the future looks as if it might be difficult. (Those last words mine, not his!)
I asked them if they had any insider words of advice to give us about how to save electricity. They kind of by-passed the question, saying, "Get your own generator!" I asked them how much something like that would cost, and they said it depends on how big. Well of course.
Anyway, that was their tip to us today. Via me, the Queen of Introspection, come out from my head to visit the real world for a spell!
November 12, 2007
Thomas Edison wasn't forced to go to school. He didn't fit in. Albert Einstein, early in his life, didn't do well in school, either. When he did graduate from an institute of higher education, he suffered fools so un-gladly that he was disliked and resented, and couldn't get work. Tesla was a dreamer, also unappreciated by many, including Edison, who valued Tesla as a worker but had no clue about the world-changing invention in his head.
The dreamers, the misfits, the poor little ignoramuses, the geniuses that seem dumb - they figure in fairy tales, which continually tell us not to underestimate and undervalue them.
But what do we do with them in real life in the modern-day United States?
So far they seem to be working away, inventing, doing their thing, coming up with the internet, somehow getting the support they need. Some of them.
But I can't see them even getting hired by a corporation, unless they have already proven themselves elsewhere. And grant-givers usually like a resume or portfolio of achievement, don't they?
Why, in contemporary America, does a success story from an individual not entitled by the oligarchy still have the ring of a fairy tale?
November 11, 2007
Quite a while ago I wrote, have you ever noticed how few people with children are saints? (If I didn't, I meant to!)
Well, ditto about people who care for their parents! None of us is going to be up for sainthood any time soon! (Especially me, who doesn't do much actual literal care-giving!)
Me, I want to run off and go diamond-hunting! For three decades, ever since I heard about the State Park diamond-mine in Arkansas, I have wanted to run off and go diamond-hunting! Then, years ago, I heard that the mine was pretty well mined out. Not so! Someone just found a big one in the last week or two!
Even when I heard it was supposedly mined out, I wanted to go hunt for diamonds. Now that I am reminded of its existence, I want to go. You know, next year just might be the year!
Another appealing out-door activity is panning for gold.
But, next year, it's going to be a diamond hunt!
(Tip - if you have kids, take them! They are three feet closer to the ground than you are and really good at finding stuff! (Of course, what they find is theirs! Fair's fair! But they might be able to buy their own bike!))
November 10, 2007
We older people often think we are right. This has some basis in reality, because we have lived a relatively longer time and we have seen a lot of situations and learned a lot of lessons.
On the other hand, the mind is going a little. We are more easily confused. We are second-guessing ourselves a little more, not as quick on the uptake as when we are younger. Our senses aren't as acute.
So when it is about human nature, maybe, and identifying the "reality" of what is going on in the politics or ethics of a given situation, youth, listen up!
But when it is about anything else, age, give up the all-knowing stance! We're probably wrong! The young are probably right!
Isn't that a relief?
November 9, 2007
How come so much of our stuff is so counter-intuitive? My microwave oven has the Off button on the left, the On button to the right of it. Now, English goes from left to right on the written page. When we count, do number series, and write equations, we go from left to right. So why does my microwave have the Off button to the left of the On button?
When I started taking accounting, it seemed, quite frankly, bass-ackward! It seemed as if credits were to be subtracted and debits added. My accounting teacher assured us that this would be explained, and that it really did make sense.
I believed her, but it seemed so contrary, and I didn't like it! I looked ahead in the book to find something that would made me want to pursue my studies and saw something about periodic amortization of equipment (pardon me, it has been a decade or so, so these words may be gobbledy-gook.) What I read seemed the opposite of cool and fun. More like dry ice - a novelty to expose yourself to, but never touch. I dropped the course.
No wonder Roseanne Barr had to drop her usual routine and use the jokes of another comedian experienced in the ways of accountants! Accountants are just contrary!
But it is not just accountants. How about electricians? After trying to study electronic circuitry drawings (not course-related, just trying to get a little rudimentary understanding so I could hook up something! Or something - this was also long ago) I threw up my hands in defeat. They just didn't make sense!
Well, guess what, folks. They don't make sense. The author of AC/DC: The Savage Tale of the First Standards War states that circuitry drawings to this day depict the electrical current going in the wrong direction!
No wonder I was confused! Am confused, along with millions of other people! Will be confused, down to the seventh generation!
And if these things make any sense to you, please don't try to explain them to me! Because I think you must be confused!
November 8, 2007
Sunshine, shuns sine, moonlight, loon might,
Boy, it sure is different writing at night!
This morning I thought of a couple of things to write, but I didn't jot either of them down... one of them was an image from something that happened in the past, it was really relevant to something, I couldn't possibly forget it...
After lunch, well, it had slipped my mind, maybe if I played some computer games....
Well, I'm sure it will come back, maybe in a few days!
When I write in the morning, often ideas compete for the right to this space! I have to pick and choose!
As the day wears on...
Clouds build up, the blahg clogs, ideas stick to secrecy,
Stream of consciousness turns into Niagara...
The roar is deafening.
November 7, 2007
A few weeks ago I wrote that the Chosen People were probably the ones who live in the tropics.
But of course, that depends more on the "who" than the "where."
George Bernard Shaw said that nothing is as boring as a succession of fair days. (I ask, how would he know? Wasn't he living in England? Maybe he was in Italy at the time!)
This morning I raked leaves, a job that would be truly maddening if it had to be done on a daily basis all year round. Ditto mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, weeding. Presumably also, if it applied here, fishing, fishing, breaking open coconuts, putting on sunscreen... sounds like hell, doesn't it? Ha, ha!
As it is, I enjoyed the raking. Blue sky, golden leaves, bright sun! Who could complain? As long as it doesn't last forever....
November 6, 2007
Thirty-plus years ago a friend of mine who was a very good writer (published, anyway, in Harper's Monthly, although for some reason she didn't want to write any more) and I were talking about writing while we were driving along in her car.
She saw some people going up the stairs of an apartment building, and said, "What happens when they go inside? Imagine it!" I said, "I just can't!" I wonder if she thought I didn't have any imagination. I knew I do have imagination, and ever since then I have occasionally wondered what my problem was at that moment.
Was it just being put on the spot that way? I have been known to freeze under that kind of pressure before.
Maybe it was because they were real people and I didn't want to put my own fantasy of their reality onto them, in a way. Possible, but I don't really feel any responsibility toward them. They were just an anonymous couple going up (perhaps) their stairs! Anything I might have imagined would not remotely have resembled them!
Just recently I had a new idea. Going into what looked to me like an oppressive little depressing space just plain didn't appeal to me!
When I look at most of what I write, it takes place out of doors. My imagination wants to roam, not cramp itself into some small (presumably mundane) place.
Well, of course, I was making all sorts of assumptions. Now I know that going through that door could take me into the most bizarre and/or magical place on earth! Could, but probably wouldn't. The idea certainly did not appeal to me!
What I write now, on the other hand, isn't necessarily what I would have chosen to write (or read!) in those days of my youth.
In those days I was much more interested in "realistic" literature than fantasy, although I read the Tolkien trilogy. (When I was quite young, of course I read fairy tales!)
But Piglet came to me as a visual image, and that is where most of her stories begin! Sometimes when I am writing her tales, I observe her behavior. A friend of mine said the other day that I know her from the inside. Well, not always. Sometimes, as in the last story, I just watch her and her expression changes... and voila! The direction of the tale changes!
Call it daydreaming, I guess....
November 5, 2007
Since Piglet is on my home page right now, I feel the need to publish a disclaimer. Piglet is not, as she asserts, a pigification of me. Er, I mean, of the narrator, who is also not me.
Actually, both Piglet and the narrator of most of the Piglet stories are nicer than I am. Esther the Queen of Introspection would never yield to the kind of emotional blackmail Piglet employs to get some cherry pie. Well, actually, I might, but only if I wanted some cherry pie myself... which, come to think of it, that narrator might want...
Well, really, the narrator and I are not the same person. Trust me.
Also, I am not the homicidal maniac who commits the murders in Murders of a Flower Child. This is fiction. Flora Rose Thorne is not me or anyone else I know. Thank God or my mom, or the casting agent!
The nano-stories are also fiction. Complete fiction. That is, except for the story entitled 'The Musician's Wife' (the title's longer than the story, huh?) which was told to me as a true story. Except there was no musician, as far as I know. And I don't remember how he killed her. And there is a scientific explanation for that phenomenon. And... well, you get the point.
I tried to make that a longer story once, and I just didn't want to. Ditto the fourth and latest nano story. Yuk! I would not want to linger over or expand on that one! If you do and make a fortune, send me a check, okay?
November 4, 2007
How do you feel about deadlines? In his autobiography Norman Rockwell writes about a fellow artist who committed to coming up with a picture for a magazine every week for three years. The man had some bad luck, but Rockwell believes it was ultimately those unremitting deadlines that destroyed his life.
How do you respond to deadlines? My best way to deal with them is resolutely ignore them, planning to do everything well in advance of them. Some other people seem to use the deadline as a game of chicken, seeing who can run closest to it without being hit.
Attorneys have one of the worst situations, I believe. Their incentive to work ahead of deadlines is undermined by the possibility of a settlement (or plea bargain) which would make the work itself unnecessary and sparing the client unnecessary expense.
Nature has kindly refrained from giving us a set deadline. Yet some thinkers exhort people to act with the consciousness that death is standing just behind your left shoulder.
Ugh. Some people might see this as incentive, using the supposed briefness of our lives as a spur to do more more more! Not me. I find the idea distracting and paralyzing. Like engaging in constant prayer during every waking moment as you are doing everything else you have to do.
Well, I like wholehearted application, myself. Not necessarily work hard, play hard - just presence. That nasty old deadline (or blessed moment of liberation, however you want to see it!) death can stay firmly planted behind my back - along with the Devil!
November 3, 2007
On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you like the weather? For me, for November, this day is a 10! Well, really, for me this time any year, this weather would be a 10! Maybe not if I want to swim, but who needs to swim when the weather is like this? A number 10 day like this? Gorgeous!
Those reared on the golden rule might not realize that for others this weather might not mean the same thing. For some, it is downright cold outside (it is actually 57 F and feels like 75! Honest!)
Spicy food is a good example. Food that elicits a number 10 from me, which is in my book is not worth experiencing more than once, might only be a level 5 for other hardier souls.
How much pain are you in, from 0 to 10? When I read about appendicitis as a girl, I wondered if I would ever get it. Feared it, actually - the excruciating pain! When I actually had a ruptured appendix ("technically", so did I ever really experience "appendicitis" as others do?) I did not experience what I would have called a level 10 pain. What pain I did have I wouldn't have wanted to live with, but a 10? Nah, I've experienced worse when - well, never mind!
Never experienced what I would call level 10 pain, hope I never do.
That is why I say the golden rule, though a wonderful one, is way too subjective to be used as an objective standard of behavior.
Which really has to do with nothing at all on this beautiful number 10 x 10 x 10 fall day!
Where is the scale? Yup, there go the standards!
November 2, 2007
I have automatic sunglasses, i.e. Transitions lenses that magically protect my eyes when I go outside in the bright light. Normally these days I don't even notice their effect on my perceptions - I've been using them for ten years now.
But lately I've taken to looking around me both through and over my dark lenses. The glorious fall foliage that looks like a burnished ruddy gold through my glasses looks like, well, mustard (not my favorite color!) without them.
So, am I really looking at the world through "rose-colored glasses?" Are my glasses an unexceptable improvement on the world? I thought they made it darker, sure, via polarization. Perhaps, though, if they improve on reality in ways, they also cut out light, which for me is an essential mood-lifting drug. When the light comes back in the spring, I get high! When it goes away.... well, I need to look over my lenses a little more often!
But when I look over the lenses, what I gain in verisimilitude, I lose in clarity. I just plain am not seeing as well! I lose a lot of detail!
But when I look through the glasses, I lose the perception of detail in the darkness of the shadows....
I wonder if my glasses are a good metaphor for my outlook on life. My outlook is a little darker in some ways than it used to be. I see more detail than I used to, and those details add up to describe a picture very different than the one I am seeing with no glasses.
The darkness of my lenses is perhaps less cheerful, but really of more beauty and richness than a simple unsullied straight-on view of the world.
Perhaps the best thing about my glasses, is that they (and a microscope and telescope and binoculars - not all of which I do have) give me and other people more different ways of looking at the world. And maybe that is the most accurate "reality" of all.
Hmm... is it time to buy a pair of classic rose-colored glasses?
November 1, 2007
Many years ago, when I was still hankering for a house, I overheard one of my neighbors saying, "People think things are going to save them energy. They don't realize you have to put energy into things."
Ever since, that statement has made me examine my desires. We did not have a car then, so I had yet to own a car. In fact, in those days my needs and wants were fairly simple (I thought.) But since I heard those words, I have examined many of my proposed acquisitions in the light of them.
Of course, when we want something, I think we also want the means or the assistance in taking care of it. (Especially apropos in the case of hand-washables! Who is going to help me wash my undies?)
Reminds me of the genie in the bottle. Who would want the palace and grounds if they had to do all the housecleaning?
Want a palace? Read a book about palaces or visit one on vacation! Want a car? Rent one! (I was once even tempted to rent this wild purple "classic look" convertible - but even for a day it was too expensive!)
The genie in the bottle and the message (usually a plea for help) also found in a bottle - are they images of gifts and needs tossed up by the ocean of our unconscious? Funny - has anyone ever heard a story where both creative energy and a plea for help are found in the same bottle?
Maybe this combination is illustrated in real life - we have all seen the perfect model get-away ship to sail the high seas - trapped in a bottle!
October 31, 2007
If you kill a witch by throwing water on her, as in The Wizard of Oz, how do you kill a warlock?
That is what I have heard is the male equivalent of a witch. (Amazing how much more common the word "witch" is in our everyday speech, isn't it?) So I looked up the derivation of the word. It is, basically, from words meaning "oath" and "break." A warlock is a man who makes a pact with the devil to do evil things. I guess the oath he is breaking is his Christian oath, or perhaps his oath to his temporal lord.
I like the meaning I would take from just looking at it. "Warlock" - one who is locked into war. So how do you kill a warlock? Rust the lock through by washing it with your tears?
Break it with a laser light of liberating truth?
Open it with a key compounded of love, compassion and diplomacy?
October 30, 2007
I am shaking my head over immunity from prosecution granted by our government to law enforcement and security people.
Where are the checks and balances that our government supposedly implements on a grand scale? (I'm talking about the three branches of government: the legislative, the judicial, and the executive.)
Don't the same kinds of checks and balances apply to our individual members of the executive branch? Which is what law enforcement is part of, if I understand correctly.
Lord Acton said, "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
Nobody seems to remember that.
Gee, it is the only thing I know about Lord Acton for. I'll have to look into it. I wonder what other wise sayings he made that everyone seems to have forgotten about?
Well, I just found out enough to whet my appetite. Anyone know of a good biography about him?
October 29, 2007
Years ago I had a dream that I was driving my father's red car. My father had no red car in real life, and I could think of some psychological reasons for that dream, but it was a nice car, that car in the dream (not necessarily what it symbolized!) Kind of a dream car, compared to the ones I had.
Now I drive a red car paid for by my parents. A nice red car (an Intrigue, ha ha) that I got with the help of my neighbor that was the only four-door in the possible price range. It is my car, registered under my name, and I don't want it. We got it so I could chauffeur my parents around.
Way back when, I broke down and bought our first car when I was seven months pregnant with my third child. When the kids hit college, I had two cars. In a couple of years, I was back down to zero.
I prefer walking and riding my bike to driving. I don't like to pay for cars, buy gas, and waste my precious time getting them repaired. I don't like to spend a beautiful Saturday afternoon washing and waxing a car. When I want to take a trip in a car, I can always rent one, I figure. I lived that way for years.
But now I have a car.
At present I am living with my mother in her house of fifty years. It is supposed to go to my sisters and me someday. My older sister said on the phone to me yesterday, "You have a house. It is your house."
I don't want to own a house. I want to live in one, not own it.
I used to want a house when I was married. I assumed I would get married, have kids, and own a house. (Pretty conventional, huh?) But my husband wasn't particularly interested, and houses were expensive in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Gradually I began to appreciate the positive reasons for not owning a house.
Rent is high, but it is no surprise, except when it is raised. You don't have to deal with repairs and major maintainance. You don't have to go through the stress of buying, selling and insuring it. Most importantly, you can't be too tied down to it.
Now, it seems, I effectively "own" a house.
I wonder what else life will give me that I used to want?
And I wonder - will I still want it?
I am, however, thankful for life's blessings - even the ones I don't want! (I think!)
October 28, 2007
There has to be some basis of agreement between any two people or peoples.
Maybe discussions would go better if both people (peoples) could find their points of agreement about basics.
Could it be possible that we are making false assumptions about what those basic common values are?
I would like to propose that it is going to be very difficult to value the same things if our economic positions are very different... and educational positions... and social....
People whose children are hungry have quite a different worldview from people whose children are fat.
Want rapprochement? Let's head toward equality of circumstance!
I would like to think the only way to go is up.
If our leaders continue to plunge us down, they might find that they are living in Iraq! Or Mexico!
Oh, you think that this is a threat? Ha, ha, ha don't be silly! It's something altogether more (or less) humble!
October 27, 2007
I think I mentioned that a friend of mine and I were having a discussion about black and white. We were talking, among other things, about divorce.
He felt, although he sounded a little equivocal or uncertain (you know how people slide their voices around when that happens) that once you make a promise - until death do us part (which I never made, by the way - I was an aged twenty-six!) that should be IT.
People should keep the promise.
I say, well, maybe one hundred years ago. Here. Or now, in some other part of the world where life is very uncertain. Reading a little history makes you realize just how uncertain that survival to say, age forty, was.
All the fuss made over young people dying in this country (beyond personal grief, which is universal) shows just how rare, how unusual it has become here. (Or should I say, had become!)
But who really, besides religious fundamentalists, believe it is likely you can keep such a promise now?
(Damn it, now I am going to get into a discussion about whether it is possible to keep such a promise. I am going to be a humanist about this and say "Look at the statistics!" Everybody (well, almost) goes into marriage believing it is going to last! So I am going to suppose that it is becoming much less possible to keep that promise! Because the promise is no longer so much an expression of hope (that "we will both live a long time like twenty years!" - not likely to happen then!) than "ohmigod I am going to be in this for the next sixty years aaahh......!")
And if the relationship fails, rather than plunge over the cliff to their deaths (or hang around to get beaten to death, emotionally, physically, spiritually (whatever)) they leave. And congratulations to them!
It is very strange. I was already thinking about writing something about promises in here when someone called me and said, playfully, "You promise?" two or three times during the conversation. "Yes," I said. "Yes." Then I bethought myself and answered, "Yes, I think that can be managed."
Well, no. Except with the above qualification.
Promises are for children. A short term promise made to a child is probably keepable. If it is likely not, it shouldn't be made.
(Parenthetically, I read a book by Saul Bellows (The Dean's Christmas I believe it was called) in which a woman takes her mother's speculation as to how long she might have to live as a promise that she would live a good long time and was angry with her mother when she didn't keep that "promise!" (Now there's a subtle person for you, a dreamer, (I would say a child!) and if that's what subtlety does for you, save me from the subtle, dreaming type (Oh damn! That's right, it's already too late...!)))
It seems to me that the only promise a sane adult can make is "I'll do the best I can."
October 26, 2007
Lately I read somewhere that a woman from another country was commenting on the lack of freedom in the United States. I felt this very strongly in school, even in the sixties. The pressure to conform socially was very strong, and if you didn't have the outward trappings or the inward "cause" espoused by the others, you were definitely not one of "them."
Until recently I have felt that in spite of that we are free to be ourselves. You can say what you believe and believe what you feel or see or hear to be true. And doing this, you may not be accepted by others, but in general there is a live and let-live attitude. The laws are made to advise individuals that the the acting-out of subjective viewpoints by violence against others is not okay.
Now I am not so sure. (Maybe even then it was an illusion!) The big bullies are so much bigger and the biased-without-shame elements seem so much greater in numbers!
Freedom doesn't really mean freedom to do whatever you want. We all have to do what we don't want to do, whether it is washing dishes or abandoning a house to a California fire.
The freedom our country has always offered, and I hope still does, is the freedom to become an adult (a difficult process, and one subject to others' (often freely expressed!) opinions) by our own lights, and the freedom to grow and nurture ourselves. People who do whatever they "want" sometimes end up harming themselves grievously.
Well sure, the law is there to protect you. Not. It is there to tell you your rights. Unfortunately it is just a bunch of letters in a bunch of books, and the people meant to enforce it just can't be everywhere at once to protect you, even if they submit themselves to the law and are the best law-upholders in the world.
When a government not completely elected by the people has the power to take the people's money (by coercion, remember: we do not pay our taxes, they are taken from us under threat of prison!); when it spends billions (trillions?) on a war we do not approve and cannot afford, thus making it difficult to address the needs that arise from disaster (natural or manmade) to the people providing that money - that is not freedom. (Who's your daddy? Unca Sam, and he is not a nice one! Come to think of it, doesn't Unca Scrooge dress kind of like Unca Sam? And maybe act like him, sometimes? And...))
That doesn't feel like freedom to me.
I'll still try to be myself. I freely chose a marriage that was not good for me and "freely" stayed within it for many years because I thought I was doing the right (or at least most practical) thing for my children and me. But the biggest thing that made me feel in helpless bondage was to have my money taken away from me and used to support something I abhor: a stupid war.
October 25, 2007
I'm reading a book by John Barth right now (or rather I just finished it!) in which he states that the real soul-food is beauty.
Yes! Why I consider art not to be merely materialistic and luxury loving.
So while in the midst of the reading of this book, I thought of the best definition of art ever. If it is not originally mine, let me know. It seems as if it couldn't be, it is so simple and elegant. (Toot! Toot!)
Art is any human creation that unites beauty and intellect.
Tada! Of course what a person experiences as art is subjective, so why not make that obvious in the definition? Then we won't have to listen to any squabbles about whether any particular creation is art.
I'd rather squabble about - well, no, to be honest, I'd rather not squabble at all.
October 24, 2007
I just had an idea about the Christian belief that Jesus was sent down by God to earth to suffer for our sins.
Isn't that the way it always goes? We suffer from other peoples' sins against us, but don't seem to suffer much from our own! (Until there is some kind of consequence from society, perhaps.)
I am a little disturbed that a friend of mine commented that it sounds as if I believe that if you can be free of the emotions that cause suffering, you can be free of emotions when contemplating evil acts.
That certainly is not the message I mean to convey! I hope that just because we are less emotional about offenses against ourselves, we cannot discriminate against evil on our own parts.
To me any desire to do another evil (besides one species looking at another with a hungry eye, which really in nature is not considered evil at all, just the way things work) does not happen without some form of attachment. Unhealthy attachment, obviously.
Of course, any discussion like this assumes free will. Maybe the best approach to free will is to act as if you have it, and no one else can help what they do.
Yeah, I'm probably repeating myself. Does the opposite of the Golden Rule apply when it comes to free will?
Don't expect others to treat you as well as you treat them?
October 23, 2007
Well, I guess I have seriously decided to do a talk-controlling exercise, since I have now begun it and done it two mornings in a row.
It is really a cool one - I read it in a fung shui book, I think, but don't have the book in the house at present, so I can't give proper credit. Eventually I will.
If you feel your talking is out of control, or your friends think it is and you are open to the possibility:
Every morning when you get out of bed, take a deep cleansing breath. Then, the first morning, take another deep breath, breathe it halfway out, pause, then let it out the rest of the way. The second morning do the same, except divide your long breath into thirds, pausing twice. Continue adding a pause every day and perform the exercise for nine days.
I did this seriously once, and it really works! I was definitely more measured in my speech and I didn't talk as much.
Alas, as with all exercise, it does not last forever. When you start finding yourself with a case of "verbal diarrhea" (as one of my high school teachers rudely put it) try performing that exercise.
I'm going to continue to do it - maybe even twice a year or something! Maybe I'll do it for the nine last days of the year. That way I will not make too many New Year's Resolutions that would be a lot harder to do than a simple nine-day breathing exercise!
(I just hope it doesn't interfere with my writing....)
October 22, 2007
This morning, amidst waking from a nightmare, reading a couple of John Barth short stories, getting dressed, and starting to prepare coffee and breakfast, I must have thought of four or five things to write about. I noted them down for use on some blank future afternoon.
But they were all driven out by a simple, unspoken story within a story about the Malibu, California fire. The article states that the daughter of a former Iranian oil minister, who lost almost all her possessions in the fire, brought out with her some jewelry and Elvis Presley's army fatigues! Now there's a story!
It begs the question of why she (this particular she!) wanted Elvis Presley's army fatigues! It also prompts a lot of other questions, like "How much did she have to pay? Did pheromones play a role in her choice? What kind of shape are they in? Did he have to serve the way others served?"
Or another possible question, which I admit crossed my mind before I read the above article, but it's awfully short (a good one to combine with the mind-boggling news item above, maybe.)
They say that people who live by the sword die by the sword.
Does that mean that people who live by the word die by the word?
People who live by the water often die by the water.
How about people who live by the fire? At least one died in this fire, his identity (called a "detail" in this article - not to him, I bet!) is still unknown.
All my acquaintances would agree I live by the word. (Unless it means I support myself by the word - I wish!)
I even cross words on a regular basis! (Well, not really, I consume crossed words.)
If I die by the word, how will it happen? Will I be grieved by verbs aimed at the heart? Bored to death, to even out my karma? Destroyed by libelous fictional tale-mongering? (Truth to tell, the truth is such a tale, no one would really need to resort to slander to damage me in the eyes of conservatives! I have to be liberal! I have no choice!)
Does confessing to that make me a suicide by verbiage? (Some might say garbage.)
Enough nonsense! You'd think it was Friday!
October 21, 2007
Yesterday I was talking to a man who mentioned that people need to let go of long-ago grievances and move on. I took that to heart personally, but he also meant it with relation to long-ago abuses and suffering of larger groups of people.
His ancestors were French Huguenots, who ended up first in Britain and then here in the U.S. because of religious intolerance. They started new lives here in the United States, and he, for one, is living a new life! He doesn't brood over long-ago grievances.
What he said reminded me of the climate that existed at the time of the Chicago World Exposition (as written about in The Devil in the White City by Erik Larsen.) Not technically part of the exhibition, a western entrepreneur (Buffalo Bill or Wild Bill Hickox - whoever had Annie Oakey in his Wild West show) set up nearby. He had all sorts of frontier characters, including former soldiers and Native American Chiefs, including the brave who had killed General Custer's brother! The Civil War had ended within decades before.
I was kind of impressed by that when I read it. The war was over, and the old differences were buried and people were moving on.
Nowadays, it is almost as if people feel guilty if they feel okay about themselves and their lives, if their ancestors suffered greatly even one hundred or more years before! I really don't understand that. People of all times have suffered greatly. I don't believe they would want their descendants blighting their own lives because of it. Most of us want better than that for our children, our grandchildren.
Some of my ancestors were Quakers who, from what I understand, left England because of religious persecution. At least one or two of them fought in the revolutionary war.
I was reared with no hatred or animosity at all toward England. The idea seems absurd.
Maybe people who literally move on have an easier time psychologically moving on. Old ghosts and landmarks aren't there to haunt them. Old friends and relatives aren't there to instill guilt for having a good life.
Sometimes good things come out of great evil. Let's try to live our lives in the present and deal with present injustice!
October 20, 2007
To continue the subject of color, especially green...
Many years ago when I had small children I was very unhappy. When I was at a psychic fair (is that what they were called?) I consulted a psychic and talked to her.
She may have made a judgment, but she did not say so. She said to imagine green light coming from the ground, up through me and circulating around in me, and then flowing out through the top of my head.
It didn't take me long, doing this exercise, to realize that green stuff coming up out of the ground and going up toward the sky had to do with growth. Once in a while I still do it, but I really don't think you have to do something like that a great deal in order for it to have an effect.
I don't remember the psychic's name - she was an attractive young woman in Santa Fe, New Mexico - but I have never forgotten the encounter. I think the exercise, which would probably sound looney to most scientists, really helped!
I relax a little just thinking about it!
Thank you, lovely unknown woman!
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