Anger is the Handmaiden to Fear

So much anger. Where does it come from? You ask your two year old to put his toys away and before you know it, the name calling starts.

Big doo-doo head! Fascist! Racist!

Where do they get this stuff?

Anger is a mask for fear. This makes sense. Ever see a wild animal lash out when cornered? Even the king of beasts will lose his cool if escape is impossible. Go ahead, pet him…

Want to see some fireworks? Next time your significant other gets angry, ask them what they are afraid of.

Wait. Maybe that’s not such a good idea. Just a thought.

Like when a baby is crying. ..just getting a head of steam built up. What do babies cry about anyway? They are so inarticulate. Come back when you can formulate a complete sentence. Then we’ll talk…

I mean, in his mother’s womb, he’s got it made. No demands. No control. Every need is provided before he even thinks about it. Then – WHAM!

I’m cold. I’m hungrywetalone… Wah!

Just as powerless as before he was born. But before, he was fearless. And all was well.

But back to the angry two year old. What is he afraid of? Loss of power? He bosses his stuffed animals around and doesn’t want to answer to a higher authority. Scary stuff that. Those stuffed animals always do exactly what he wants.

Fear corrodes. Like a battery.

Do batteries fear losing power? Probably not. If they think about it at all, they know there is a source of power outside themselves to tap into.

People get power and clutch it. Subject others to it. Think it is of themselves. They don’t realize power flows.

I actually remember when our politicians held power only to serve their subjects. I mean, to serve the public. They really thought that way. Imagine. True story.

Now they seem other focused. Maybe got bad habits from hanging out with the wrong people.

Heroes will discount their own efforts. They humbly claim they are mere conduits of something bigger than themselves. And they are fearless.

For all that grasping, what are we really in control of? Have you seen the TV remote?

When you go to sleep at night, do you remind yourself to keep breathing? Command your heart to continue beating? Good idea. Can’t hurt.

But might this pursuit of power be a distraction from something big? What if the real power was outside of us? Outside of our control? And you could rest?

And what if that was alright? What if, like the battery, we grounded ourselves and just tapped into the source?

Step into the current.

What would that be like?

Has Anyone Seen My Je Ne Sais Quoi?

Sometimes, I accompany my wife to her favorite make-up store. Cosmetics are now a highly competitive, big business.  Recently, I have become appalled at the decadent state of ‘modeling.’ Models were once icons of ideal beauty for mere mortals to emulate. Testing the standards of beauty, the movement to use ‘normal’ looking models has taken an ugly turn. And all to sell voluminous brows, or third-eye liner.

Why would anyone ‘normal looking’ spend a fortune on beauty products, in order to emulate and look more like… themselves? And what now passes for the ‘common’ look is more than a little scary. The number of gap toothed models on display make me wonder how much money my parents could have saved on my orthodontia had this fashion become the rage in my youth.

This is the look of normal? A century ago, anyone looking like this would either be locked up in an asylum or had to be part of the English royal family.

Once upon a time, it was thought that a flaw was necessary to be truly beautiful. These days, the stars are either cookie-cutter bland, or the ‘flaw’ has become the whole show. Do today’s young women really want to look like refugees from an episode of “The Walking Dead”? Some of these models make Grace Jones look positively nubile.

Speaking of femininity, a counter movement is growing for men. Am I the only one who thinks male models have become just a tad too self-consciously perfect? The line has been crossed where the tweezed, plucked, waxed and chrome-plated look currently popular, makes the wax figures from Madame Tussauds look ruggedly authentic. All that well-oiled sullenness just begs to be hit with a banana crème pie.

Who is promoting these new standards of beauty? And would someone please clean the Vaseline off their glasses?

Years ago, new to Hollywood, I was working sets for a commercial production company, hungry for a ‘break’. The location manager asked me would I be interested in doing modeling. I was intrigued.

He suggested I go in for a test. He thought I had ‘a look, a certain quality.’ A talent scout he knew, was looking for someone with that… je ne sais quoi. He gave me the card of his photographer friend and I called for an appointment.

Wow. Mere months in the city and I had been discovered! I couldn’t wait to tell my wife. She cynically thought my getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, might be premature.

I told her “Mine is the face that will launch a thousand shipments of what people buy after turning a page in a glossy magazine and seeing my face. Liquor.”

I went to my appointment for the test photo-shoot with eager anticipation. There was none of the ‘metoo’ stuff you may have heard about. The photographer looked at me, pointed and told me to stand by a bicycle parked on the highly-lit set.

I was no fool. I knew better than to ask him what my motivation was.

I did my best to act like it was my bicycle.

He snapped a few shots and told me I could go. That was it. No contracts were forthcoming. No requests for autographs. What a disappointment!

You may be thinking, ‘Well, maybe they couldn’t see the bicycle.’ That wasn’t it. Nor the absence of inflatable abs. Ignorance of my need to sneer wasn’t it either.

However, I do think I know what harpooned my becoming tomorrow’s over-night sensation, today.

I’m sure you haven’t noticed, but I have a slight bow in my legs, which I’ve been told, if I stand in a certain way, on a clear day you can see Catalina Island. My Mom told me, when she was pregnant with me, she got scared by a horse.

But maybe now, with the move away from the ultra-beautiful, I could still make my big break into modeling.  Now, where did I leave my tweezers?

You are Nothing but a Whatchamacallit!

Sticks and stones… you know the rhyme. Designed to thicken children’s perceptual skins against the slings and arrows of ignorant name callers, it works for the innocent. But adults know better. Words can hurt.

Destined always to be the ‘new kid’ at school, I learned unimaginative insults were unworthy of response. If it was clever, I would laugh at the wit employed and win my antagonist over with a good-natured response. The art of schoolyard diplomacy was born.

One might think words are like so many legos available to assemble at will. But words have weight. Their emotional content colors our sense of things. They resonate. Their roots penetrate our joints. Create our world. Change things.

We are immersed in a sea of words and are largely unconscious of how they affect our perception of the world. Speakers of another language literally see the world differently. They don’t just use different words to describe our ‘objective reality’. They swim in a different sea. Some words may have an approximate correspondence or cannot be translated at all.

Their sense of time and space may be as impenetrable as the language they use. In La Paz, Bolivia I heard a folk group singing passionately (in Spanish) about ‘throwing off the yoke of the conquistadors.’ They sang in the present tense.

There is the old joke about England and America being separated by a common language.

Oppressive regimes strive to control the language of their citizens with Orwellian precision. Who would think choice was a bad thing? Especially regarding healthcare decisions? Stating such decisions result in murder is, as Hillary Clinton said during the 2016 campaign “just terribly unfortunate.” Not the decision, but the description.

In his book “1984”, Orwell explains, “a heretical thought—that is, a thought diverging from the principles of Ingsoc—should be literally unthinkable.” People who grew up under totalitarian regimes have told me how their conversation and thought became progressively vague for fear of committing some unnamed crime.

Conservatives criticize the education system for ‘indoctrinating’ the country’s students into leftist thought. Does anyone dispute the idea that Conservatives rely on a different set of words and concepts than Liberals? Each sees a world the other cannot. Yet we all have access to the same words.

Orwell warns about adopting the set phrases of one’s party. Eventually, stock phrases “will construct your sentences for you—even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent—and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself.” Choose your legos carefully. Who does your thinking for you?

Nasty and brutish language says as much about the speaker as what he is describing. The words he uses define him no less than a connect-the-dots picture is revealed through those numbered connections.

Could a study be done of the contrasting word sets used by happy and depressed people?

Babies learn words and increase their ability to discern distinctions between mommy and daddy, red and green, up and down

Open the hood of a modern car and ask a child to describe what they see. If they never saw a modern internal combustion engine before, they might attempt to imitate its sound but won’t have words for it. It would appear a chaotic mass of metal and hoses. But point out the basic components and functions. Words describing the flow of energy  would reveal the sense of the engine’s process and purpose. And so the world.

Babies and children quickly build a structure of words and concepts by which to navigate their world. They readily invent terms for things when they don’t know their proper names. Even babbling has syntax.

A professor once told me, “if you cannot put it into words, you don’t know what you are talking about.” Hmmm.

Another challenged me to tell him one thing ‘that doesn’t have a name’. He had a point. How does one discuss what has no words attached to it? I cannot think of one nameless thing.

Imagine the terror of an infant left alone with a need it cannot express.

Or, think of two babies from the same neighborhood. One is consistently exposed to words like: fear, oppression, hate, weakness, victim, leave.

The other hears only of trust, hope, strength, gratitude, wonder, spirit, opportunity.  Do these word clusters crystallize into a basic framework through which the beginnings of a worldview is formed? Does anyone think the trajectories of these two lives would run parallel, when one sees opportunity everywhere and the other only victim-hood?

Words are powerful. They can give life. Or death.

We need to speak lightness into and darkness out of our children’s lives. And our own.

Women are Powerful

Women are strong.

There seems to be some confusion about that in recent years. For one thing, many feminists have spent an inordinate amount of time falsely promoting the idea that women are always victims, mainly of toxic masculinity. I have read American women are the most oppressed minority in the world. But we are also supposed to believe there is no difference between males and females. Huh.

Now we are told to believe women are strong. Which they are. They always were. In fact they are powerful, whether they know it or not.

Traditionally, women were kept out of the armed forces, especially combat roles, not to discriminate against them but because women were judged not to be expendable. Women were thought to be too important to be mere cannon fodder like their male counterparts. If women want to participate in defending our country, there is no doubt they can be fierce warriors. But that is a separate issue.

Some years ago an anthropologist studied a village (known as the U.S. Congress) and its culture. The study determined that the women actually get things done in this village. Everyone else talks about doing more than they actually do. These results gibe with studies of almost every culture, primitive or not. Huh.

There is currently a new book out, ‘Strong is the new Pretty,’ promoting the concept of strong women. Nicole Kidman and Drew Barrymore are two celebrities who gave it a thumbs up. Considering their decades of survival in the jungles of Hollywood, I would say Kidman and Barrymore know something about strength. The book’s cover claims it consists of photographs of young women ‘being themselves – strong’. I can’t argue with that. Life is tough. Strong is good.

I haven’t seen the book’s contents. But the publishers made an unfortunate choice for the cover shot. The young woman on the cover looks like she is spoiling for a fight, which makes her look neither strong nor pretty. It is not the fault of the woman in the photo. Did the photographer tell her to ‘be herself’? Or, ‘look mean. Look tough.’ She looks ridiculous. Diane Arbus’ famous photo of the enraged little boy holding the toy grenade comes to mind. Pretty wrong.

Feminists have spent the last decades emasculating boys and men. Now they want girls and women to fill the void (and become the men they hate). Is masculinity toxic only when males have it?

Someone (anyone) who is truly strong doesn’t need to swagger around with a snarl on their face. Relaxed confidence does more to fend off potential aggression than in-your-face scowls.

Speaking of Hollywood, the most iconic female stars were no shrinking violets. Millions of fans bought tickets to see Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, Claudette Colbert and others for their spirit, spunk and never-say-die attitude. They inspired all of us. Their strength transcended the muscular.

A friend of mine, Sonny, told me he first worked as a bell hop at a beach side resort near Santa Barbara. One morning he delivered breakfast to a room occupied by Marilyn Monroe. She answered the door in her robe, smiled and asked him to prepare her a cup of coffee. His hand shook as he stirred in the sugar. How many specific cups of coffee do you remember making after thirty years? And you didn’t even taste it?

According to Sonny, no braggart, nothing more than her playful flirtation happened. But they both knew her effect on him. Marilyn Monroe had an undeniable power over people. She still does. Women always have.

Curiously, the powerful are the least visible in society. The poor and vulnerable can be seen on any city street. The powerful are invisible. They travel incognito in private jets to undisclosed locations. They exert their power unseen or from a distance.

Imagine a culture, a utopia in which the women are so powerful, they sequester themselves from society. They require attendants for travel and when in public, they dress anonymously – covered head to foot in shapeless, colorless and un-revealing clothing. Perhaps only their husbands and children know what how they look. In this imaginary society, women reject education. Their immense power is enough. Education is for the male servant class who need it for their physical work.

It might appear to an outsider that the men who acquiesce to these feminine demands are afraid of women’s power. Do these men believe the mere sight of a woman, as she truly is, would deprive them of their will? Render them helpless? Is it for their own good that they submit? Or else what? Are these women so irresistible?

Can you imagine these terrified, desperate men, blowing themselves up in defiance of such enveloping femininity?

What culture would willingly impoverish itself by condemning half its people to such a life? How damaged must one be to perpetuate such fear and weakness? Could healthy balance ever be regained?

Thankfully, imagination is not reality. Every sane parent, man or woman, wants opportunities and happiness for each child. Imposing one’s will on the weak and vulnerable is tyranny and abuse.

 

Ominous Cow Pies Threaten Idyllic Honeymoon

By all accounts (all two of us), ours was a wonderful honeymoon. Except for one small, insignificant, hardly worth mentioning incident.

We stayed in Cambria, on the California Central Coast. One day we went to the beach near San Simeon. Jutting into the ocean was a finger of forested land which intrigued us. We clambered up the embankment and stepped over the ancient wire fence that had been traversed by thousands of tourists before us.

This wild acreage had a park-like feel, with numerous paths populated with picnicking families and tourists coming and going. The ocean breeze wafted through the tall pines draped with Spanish moss creating a dramatic backdrop for pictures.

My wife Cassandra noticed the occasional cow pie as we walked. Having grown up in farm country, I paid them little mind. When two young men came by, we asked about them and they expressed little concern.

Done posing for pictures, we followed the path back toward the parking lot. Cassandra again remarked at the large size of the cow pies which looked typical to me.

Then it happened. We approached the compound of park service buildings and saw it.

Thus far, the accuracy of my account is undisputed. From here on, our perspectives diverge radically.

In the clearing, near the first of the buildings, stood a bull casually chewing its cud.

Cassandra, walking at my elbow suddenly vanished. I caught a glimpse of her as she disappeared back into the forest looking like the goddess Diana in hot pursuit of a deer. I followed as best I could and regained sight of her as she slid down the 20 foot embankment on her tush.

I followed, still not comprehending what spooked her. When we finally talked, I came to understand just how different were our interpretations of reality.

We agree there was a bull.

The dispute is over whether the bull was breathing fire and standing astride the skeletal remains of small children. Or: was the bull about the size of an extremely good-natured and sleepy St. Bernard puppy, secured by a thin silver chain. I think the latter.

Cassandra maintains the bull was about the size of a billboard. I think it was no more dangerous than a billboard. I maintain in fact, it was so passive, the bull resembled a billboard only in that it had graffiti on it.

The average toreador would need to be on stilts to take on the bull she imagines. Not likely.

This is still one of the few disputes we have. Even now, when out with friends, the story of the bull will come up and we’ll each lobby the uninitiated for support.

I grant the bull may have been larger than I describe. However, I maintain it was no threat and had it been aware of our presence, would have been glad to see us.

I usually end the discussion by saying it was unsporting of her to slide down that embankment. That no bull would attempt such a steep incline.

To which Cassandra will reply, “Exactly!”

Don’t be Boring!

The Russian revolutionary, Vladimir Lenin once said, “Whatever you do, don’t be boring.” Or maybe it was Paris Hilton who said that. But the part about always “dressing cute” Ms. Hilton pretty obviously stole from good old Vlad.

Regardless, they may have hit on something. Would the Russian revolution have failed if the serfs hadn’t been so bored with their status, they could only smash it? Do rioters burn their own neighborhoods down merely to juice up their lives?

Fighting non-stop for survival becomes boring without the promise of relief. Today’s revolutionary is tomorrow’s Secretary of the Collective. Somehow though, whatever heights are reached, some always manage to find the bottom.

Not everyone is creative. But anyone can tear down. The French Revolution took on a self-consuming momentum as the adrenaline rush of destruction demanded ever more beheadings. The logical contortions necessary to twist lofty ideals into a promotion of murder demand an Olympic event.

A revolution is exciting. Every day is different. But even the revolution gets boring. There were days when Che Guevara didn’t feel like watching another firing squad. He was a doctor. He could teach. He knew where the centers of pain resided. But as much fun as the most grotesque atrocities might be, repetition robs them of novelty. How to regain the thrill of that first murder?

Finally, realizing he was not working up to his full potential he returned to the revolutionary front to die a ‘hero’s death’ in Bolivia. I never met a bored martyr.

Without imagination, life can be tedious, mundane, boring. Is flight from boredom the key to why people riot and loot? Shoot up schools? Join ISIS?

‘Thinking outside the box’ is a tiresome cliché, especially when one realizes the box outside of which one is thinking rests within a larger box. Which nesting doll do you have to be to avoid feeling redundant?

Parents spend fortunes securing safe environments for their children who then find themselves suffocating in their cocoon of reliable security. Does every child, at least briefly contemplate running away to the adventurous circus?

People seek thrills. Amusement parks exist to quell the boredom of routine life. How many times can one ride the roller coaster before ennui sets in? Want speed? Ride in the space shuttle for six months. But after a month… Australia again?

We want danger but danger we can control. Safe danger.

Imagine the caveman coming home from dodging saber toothed tigers all day on the veldt. He just wants to put his feet up by the fire. His woman is bored. She wants to go out. They didn’t have TV. Perhaps you know the Bruce Springsteen song ’57 Channels (and Nothin’ On)’. The appetite for variety can be insatiable. Exactly how much entertainment can anyone stand?

Change is the missing element. But constant change gets boring too.

The sixties really started when the Beatles blew away all those ‘moon, June, spoon’ balladeers. Punk rock broke the stale formula of disco. Ever hear a technically brilliant musician who is boring to listen to? Artists want to straddle that line between discipline and accident. Only computers listen to computer generated music.

People like dividing the world into two camps: good – bad, haves and haven’ts, blue vs. red. The one and 99. I suggest there are three kinds of people – creators, destroyers and the vast majority who wait for instructions.

Creators vie with destroyers for this third camp. The third camp will more readily join the second if boredom is a factor. How many people do you know who would say, “I’m so bored, let’s build a cathedral!”?

I would more likely expect, “I’m so bored. Let’s break something.” Such activities resemble knee-jerk spasms more than careful planning. Do campus riots follow committee meetings? Or do a few decide a course of action and then get others to participate? Those  cookies won’t bake themselves. Someone else has to prep the Molotov Cocktails. But it all just happens spontaneously!

Advertising seeks to create an anxious urge to acquire the next cool thing which will scratch the itch of this nagging sameness. Imagine if Madison Avenue adopted this strategy to promote its products. “See the USA. Burn your Chevrolet.”

Elon Musk has started ‘The Boring Company’. One of its products is a flame thrower for personal use. What could go wrong?

People generally opt for the status quo if their lives are secure and filled with opportunity. I have read that the rich get rich by doing boring work. It’s the economy, stupid.

Stories and sports events are addictive because they have that rising tension and release built in. People go to movies for catharsis. Someone else’s problems are more entertaining than the tedium of real life. But when the lights came back on, it’s nice to return to something dependable and solid.

Without challenge or texture, life becomes boring.

Bored people will smash things just to break out of the doldrums. Nothing like a high speed police chase to transform those mental cobwebs into blood shot eyes. Isn’t there a cable channel dedicated to broadcasting these impromptu road tours?

Is it human nature to stare at a small video screen for hours per day? Someone is promoting the idea that actual human contact is boring and a virtual community is the ‘future.’ Who would promote that? And why? How many ‘friends’ do you have? More than three? Really?

Perhaps they have it backwards. People are now moving off the grid and becoming anonymous. The pendulum may be swinging back toward living a real life instead of the virtual. One needs grounding so a static charge doesn’t become dangerous.

“The world is just – it’s wonderful when you look at all the detail. It’s just amazing. Nothing is boring if you look at it carefully.” – Freeman Dyson

Think You Think? Think Again.

I once shaved my mustache off. A full week passed before the woman I lived with noticed. Bad sign. And she didn’t need glasses.

Buh-bye.

Or someone who describes their drive through a forest as “just green.”

Then there was the author who ended a chapter with the page half blank. And someone sued him for plagiarism. Imagine being sued, not for stealing someone’s thoughts but for stealing their lack thereof.

It is almost unavoidable that with routine in our lives, things reduce to cartoons of sort. The whole ‘mindfulness’ movement may grow out of that. We are so in our heads, we don’t see. If you aren’t present in your own life, where are you?

Wake up!

Show up!

Skinnerian psychology was a big deal at a college I attended. One professor insisted weather was ‘all in your mind.’ He would add only wear a sweater to his attitude and beard when venturing into 20 below zero temperatures. Whatever lesson his sweater was meant to demonstrate, once outside he walked noticeably faster. Perhaps to avoid that painful and imaginary frostbite.

Another professor insisted that ‘thought doesn’t exist.’ He maintained humans are just complex chemical reactions – like dominoes falling against each other in succession. Any attempt to dispute his position was just used as proof of his point. His circular logic never answered ‘who tipped the first domino?’

He would answer everything with ‘prove it.’ Of course, his deep grasp of science didn’t include that scientific method doesn’t attempt to ‘prove’ anything, but seeks to disprove.

Considering the abilities of the average student, he may have had a point. But he didn’t say ‘these students don’t think’ but ‘thought doesn’t exist.’ Or so he thought.

You might say he was merely trying to provoke me into thinking. But I doubt it. It is a curious strategy to discourage someone to greater heights.

After all, you might say a corn plant does not think, even though it is alive and growing. However, cities and civilizations do not sprout at random. Nor do fields of corn. The entropic principle would never predict humans landing on the moon. What random process becomes more complex and ordered over time?

Granted, ants and bees have complex social orders. However, innovation beyond the scope of their instinctive goals has not been observed. If they start producing electric cars, or libraries, I will stand corrected.

Speaking of libraries, why would a thoughtless person ever build one of those? Romance novels notwithstanding, the mere fact libraries exist is pretty thought provoking. So, what do they keep in those libraries?

Humans, being ‘time binders’ can reflect on the past and project into the future. That ability allows us to accomplish an amazing variety of tasks which simple instinct would not afford. As curious as cats are said to be, few will test a hypothesis for you. Then try telling an architect his job doesn’t involve thinking. He might innovate a new use for his protractor.

The urge to design is hard to suppress. Even anarchists try to organize their followers. The whole Occupy Wall Street movement strove to establish a society without rules. They largely succeeded. Except for the society part.

Some atheists are reported to ask ‘why should believers in God get all the benefits?’ And so atheistic ‘houses of worship’ are springing up. They observed believer’s social sensibilities and personal sense of fulfillment. They recognized that believers gain peace and pleasure from belonging to and serving a cause greater than themselves. And though they might not know why, meaningful rituals contribute to the believer’s quality of life.

Some atheists now seek to incorporate these benefits into their own lives.

See? There is evidence even atheists are capable of thought on occasion.

 

Undelete Your Life

I was a middle child. I learned independence early, trapped between two indifferent elder brothers and a little sister who secured her place in our parent’s hearts by swiftly reporting to them any rule bending on my part.

Someone may be nostalgic for such mist clogged memories, but I am not.

However, it amazes me that so many subscribe so willingly to having their privacy, and even their inner thoughts on display to who knows whom. It is as if they cannot live without that pesky little sister incessantly spying on their personal life. I speak of the universal presence of what is ironically known as the ‘smart phone’.

I find little more annoying than to be in the midst of a private conversation with my wife, only to be interrupted by Siri requesting clarification because she “didn’t quite get that last part.” Really? Has everyone volunteered to bring these devices into their lives, only to have every word recorded and transmitted to unknown parties? Astounding.

Where is George Orwell when we need him?

I recently told a friend smart phones are a solution looking for a problem. But for solving the problem that marketers need to get into our heads so as to better sell us things, the smart phone is sheer genius. People stand in line to buy the latest version of these devilish gizmos. How do I find an app for privacy?

And of course naming it the ‘smart phone’ is not the least of it. Don’t you want to be smart? Wouldn’t it be smart to have a ‘smart phone’? All the smartest people have one. Well, there you are.

What? Are you against ‘smart’? That’s stupid.

There is one function of these phones (forgive me if I drop the ‘smart’ part) which is very promising. That would be the ‘undelete’ function. With a little work this unassuming app could be life changing – literally.

‘Undelete’ is currently used to restore to the active memory, photographs and such that the phone’s owner regrets having deleted. What a great innovation, to be able to act on a second thought. So much of our life is spent thinking ‘If only…’ or ‘could I but take that back…’

What if we could undelete things in our actual lives? Of course there are a multitude of events and remarks we might wish to delete. Such is life.

But what would you undelete, if you could? Something gone at which you might like a second pass?

I think of myself as someone who acts in a positive direction. I don’t act rashly or without forethought (any more). I don’t actively work against people. I try to learn from other’s mistakes but always find a way to make my own. I don’t spend time retracing my steps (except to find a lost wallet). My wife advises her psych students, ‘there are no missteps.’ Even mistakes can useful, if for nothing else, to develop a fine character.

But we do make choices. They may seem insignificant when made. But like the little waves which relentlessly carry Undine away from her lover, the effects can be profound.

I chose not to take piano lessons. How I wish I had taken the challenge when it was offered. Could I ‘have been a contender’? I will never know.

Likewise, I saw my mother and sister drawing and painting together. They developed their individual skills to an enviable degree. They made it look easy. I figured I could always pick it up when I had time.

I guess I never had time because I never developed those skills.

What would I undelete? I would undelete those potential skills I took for granted and dismissed. Opportunities I left on the table.

The course of my life may not have been so very different. Why say no to a positive experience? Don’t turn opportunities away.

Embrace them.

If it Walks like a Quark…

You may think I’m exaggerating but all this quantum physics news makes me think.

Let me get this straight. Nothing is as it seems. Reality is an illusion. Matter is energy and energy is indestructible. I’m not so particular about particle physics. I can’t keep all the quarks and sparks and bosons with charm and tops and bottoms sorted out.

I heard this neutrino was arrested for vagrancy. He said he was just passing through. Turned out they couldn’t hold him.

Then some guy got into a dispute with a photon who was blocking his view of the TV. The judge ruled he should remove the beam from his own eye before worrying about the motes in another’s.

And what about that string theory? Physicists think they are explaining the universe by coming up with 26 dimensions? Really? Most drivers I see on the road struggle with just three dimensions. And now they should worry about twenty-six? I can’t keep my shoes tied.

Sure. Strings bind it all together. When I was a kid I would untangle fishing line by the hour and that was only one string. Be my guest. Twenty-six strings? So, reality is just a monumental harp, but who is going to play it? These guys are looking for the lost chord.

I think Occam’s razor is going to cut all those strings short. You know the simplest, most economical explanation is the best? Put it all into an infinity box but then it’s not infinity anymore. Or even a box.

Of course, I don’t have the math for all that. Let me get back to you.

Then I read about some guy on a mountain top. He has a telescope so powerful, he can look into his scope and see around the curve of the whole universe. He says he clearly saw himself from behind as he bent over to look into his scope. If it’s that powerful, why is he wasting his time looking at his own backside?

He says there are absolutely no absolutes. And he’s absolutely sure of that.

And what about these multiple universes? Tell me, isn’t one enough? Where will we keep them all? Who has the space?

My friend Tim, sent me his tidings. He was so inspired by Daylight Savings Time, he opened up his own Extra Space Storage. But he calls it Extra Space/Time Storage. He charges for twenty-eight days per month and pockets the difference in his time-share. He may be ahead of his time but his profits are astronomical, relatively.

He saves a minute here, a minute there. I don’t know where he keeps it all. His wife, Houri says he could shave an instant off of a moment. But he insists he is not living on borrowed time. His ticker is fine.

He does get all wound up about some things. Anyone killing time ticks him off. He says they shouldn’t just do time but be up for a capital offense. And no eleventh hour reprieves either. Alarming.

Stop watches depress him. Instant coffee makes him restless.

Tim said when he first met Houri, he fell for her in a New York minute. She gave him all her time and he went back for seconds. He passed up time and a half for over-time just for face time with her.  But I think it was her hour glass figure that rang his chimes.

Of course she loves him too. She says he is second to none.

Tim reckons to retire early and have the time of his life driving for the Metro in Nome. Whatever time he has left, his heirs will split six ways from Sunday.

Getting by with Binary

“Are you on the bus, or off the bus?” Ken Kesey

I have been astonished recently at the disparagement of what is called ‘binary thinking.’ You know, the sort of thinking people do when distinguishing between themselves and that other person, also on the tennis court, but on the other side of the net.

This criticism is largely used when referring to a person’s personal gender identification. It would be rude to assign such to another person, despite the obvious clues on display when a newborn baby is about to receive that first slap on its bottom. Mere physical fact is so passé. And is that sex assigned? Or just noted?

Nowadays one’s gender self-assignment is only limited by your imagination. No one has been able to annotate all the proliferating qualifiers. I cannot keep track. Color me sieve-sexual.

These days, even facts cannot be counted on to be objectively true. People declare ‘the science to be settled.’ Science doesn’t settle things, though. It asks questions incessantly and seeks to disprove. Considering the vehemence with which it is often declared, ‘settled science’ appears to be just a euphemism for ‘faith.’

BTW, sorry to be writing this on a computer. I know. So binary.

(I once asked a computer programmer if he knows of anyone who writes code comedy. Code Poetry? What rhymes with zero? Nothing.)

“Call me.”

“Oh, but I don’t have your number.”

“That’s okay. Just use one you like.”

Unlike facts, feelings have nuance – feelings shift and morph and transform. Binary thinking is so specific, either this or that. We (as opposed to ‘they’) prefer fluidity as opposed to solidity. Oops! There goes that binary thinking again.

Jungian psychology identified the male/female continuum within each of us. (For instance, I like it when my wife… oh, never mind.) But Jung isn’t being taught any longer. Do feminists resent having to share a continuum with men? They want it all. I recently read that some feminists have declared that one cannot be both a feminist and a conservative. How binary is that?

“Who are you talking about?”

“That two-spirited, non-binary, half-caff, cis-gendered, non-dairy person with a twist, over there.”

“That narrows it down, but… you mean that man?”

“Yeah, with the coffee.”

I want to ask the protester pictured holding a sign calling for ‘no more borders’ why, if borders are obsolete, they want to stay here so badly.

To be honest, binary thinking predominates because it is just so darned convenient. Yes/no.

On/off.

Us/them.

I/thou.

In/out.

Left/right.

Up/down.

Active/passive.

Cold/hot.

Male/female.

Rich/poor.

True/false.

Connected/unplugged.

Should I stop? Start?

Fall in or out of love? Oops, binary.

Slippery slope? Binary.

Non-binary? Yep. Binary.

Language is made up of distinctions. Try to define your terms without identifying what something is not.

They are descriptive words after all. Not meant to plumb the depths of your soul. And, in the spirit of privacy (remember that?) you don’t need the government in your bedroom. Nor do you need to squeeze your ever evolving sense of identity onto that tiny ID card issued by the state.

Proto-Indo-European (the Mother of all languages) only identified black, red and green as colors. Not much nuance there. Some cultures do not distinguish between green and blue. Is that unitary thinking? Or just lazy?

I am not against nuance. That would be nuance as opposed to… what?

Black/white? Ahh… but what about grey? Yes, what about grey? Is that a cool grey? Or a warm grey?

Is the world more nuanced than a one or a zero? Of course. I have eight other fingers to keep occupied holding the smart phone whilst my thumbs text.

But I think trying to get a four year old to grasp the nuances of gender fluidity, when they can barely form sentences is a bridge too far.

Interestingly, one distinction many love to make is between Fascism and Communism, which to my un-nuanced eye, seem to have more in common than not.

And is there anything more binary than agreement/racist? The best answer I’ve heard (on the radio) to the question of race is there is only the human color – melanin, in various shades.

Beige? Wheat? Some distinctions really do not have a difference.

Where would deconstruction be without construction?

Ugly/pretty obviously has the nuance of pretty ugly.

Yin/yang carries the seed of its opposite within it. This implies change over time. Life is not static. Even stasis is not static. And thankfully, an entity as complicated as a person cannot be reduced to mere ones and zeros. Yet.

But by way of a short hand reference to a quality or behavior, there may be nothing better. Or worse?

Some philosophies attempt to embrace the unity of all things. I’m told one cannot achieve Nirvana without sloughing off binary thinking. Of course, achieving Nirvana is impossible if one wants to ‘achieve’ anything. And to even consider ‘binary thinking’ at all, ensures you will never achieve Nirvana. Pity the poor enlightened soul who remembers there are those who are not enlightened.

In my 3rd grade class was my first introduction to New Math – my first exposure to binary thinking as a concept. I had never heard of computers. Why would anyone want to use only ones and zeros? It made little sense to me. Such a limited palette. I have come to appreciate just how dependent we all are on it. Is binary thinking so pervasive, it is the ultimate unitary mode of thought?

“War is peace.” George Orwell

Must one be in denial to think all things are unified and undifferentiated? Embrace the denial.

I’ve tried to be clear. Perhaps you see it differently.

I’m going to turn up the stereo and celebrate. Viva la difference!