Monday, January 21, 2008

Shock Cure

Woe the agony of hauling this carcass out for groceries and Post Office, today. The air lay like dull concrete hovering low, infiltrating, saturating every cell and molecule into premature fossilization. The lock on the truck door got stuck, prolonging the misery with an additional 30 minutes of tinkering, spraying, jiggling, coming back inside to throw things, slam counters, curse, etc.

The Post Office box was stuffed angrily with scrunched up bills, desperate cries for donations, and unsolicited periodicals. The electricity bill alone was FIVE times what it had been in October...and I have
n't even turned on the thermostat yet. Groceries were priced for GE CEOs, but I found a bit of salmon and barley for dinner regardless. Good. Get me out of here, I'm warmed over death.

And then the Mother of All Shocks occurred. It occurred just as I wheeled my cart up to the checkout stand...I know that, because the last thing that I remember seeing was the Eclipse gum for just $1.19.

It was right then and there, that the cashier said, "HowrySheila?"

She REALLY DID say that. No, DON'T TRY TO TELL ME that I was hearing things, Bucko. I heard it. I saw it emerge from her very mouth. Okay, so maybe it was only, "HowrySheil," but what EVERH.

Stunned, I unloaded my stuff, being really careful to pretend like I hadn't noticed. That wo
uld have been totally invasive. Nosirree, it was just another dismal, grumpy, let's-say-something-chipper-about-the-weather (what weather?) grind, since we don't trust each other worth squat, I'm probably using fake ID, and we ALL really just want to get OUT OF THIS PLACE. But then the man checker who usually looks so terrified whenever I ring out, came over to my basket just then, and said, "Here, can I help you out with this?"

Driving home, serotonin dissolving calcified joints and organs, I began tallying some numbers. It's been over three years, since I began shopping at that little Thriftway. Pretty slow, for earning 'regular' status. But then I tallied back a bit further. I had shopped steadfastly at one Albertson's in my old town for SEVENTEEN years, without ONCE having been greeted by name. Oh, sometimes at Costco--that notoriously Good Company--they'll look at your name on the receipt after you've paid them, and give you that suave, smiling, "Thank you for shopping at Costco, Mrs. Wrongscience, and you have a good day now!" But that's not the same as greeting you without any teleprompters.

Okay, okay, what's shocking isn't that it happened, then. What's shocking is that it was so SHOCKING--that never once, over all of those years, had I even noticed being nameless.

When you look at how habituated we all are to maintaining our impersonal, distrustful, even hostile armor for the sake of personal survival, it's no WONDER that everybody's on dope or meds, and that Disease Marketing gets away with such murder. The LAST thing those Big Pharms want us to do is to start recognizing each other by NAME. Good for gut, ba-a-ad for big business.

Now go and burn this.

Back to the burrow in the woods.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

An Amish Sort of Dilemma

Ever fuddled by all of the vitriol over 'science' vs 'religion' etc., one sometimes hankers to hear voices from outside of the fray. Thus Steven Nolt's A History of the Amish (nicely published by a Pennsylvanian firm called Good Books) provided relief--and some rather surprising comparisons--this past week.

Believe it or not, there really are many, MANY decent, morally sound, educated humans walking around on this planet who are turned off by BOTH sides of the science/religion equation. And they generally find themselves in the same sort of bind that has plagued our poor Amish cohorts ever since 1693, when they broke away from the original Anabaptists of 1525 (now generally known as Mennonites), due to what they perceived as laxities. Much has happened in the interim, changes and divisions and reunions galore, but the Amish dilemma has changed little, at its core.

The dilemma is this
: To adapt or not to adapt? Most of us check the 'adapt' box because we aren't steeped in a culture based on mutual support anymore...and because it's way easier and more fun to adapt to really cool new stuff. The Amish have declined--at great cost--to adapt to anything violating their core values.

Meanwhile, whole industries (including the Amish-gaping tourist industry) have grown up around our need for just a whiff of the stoic serenity one associates with the Amish...and with good reason. If we happen to be surrounded by Fundamentalists, then Lord help us if we think Buddhists or Muslims might be rather marvelous just the
way they are. Conversely, if we are surrounded by Progressives, then GOD help us if we're discovered puking over the redefinition of words like 'marriage' to accommodate the demands of political opportunists. And if we are surrounded by both Fundamentalists and Progressives, then HEAVEN help us if we should dare to think that both sides sound like a pack of idiots.

The overall picture is a mess, of course. It always has been, and the Democratic Experiment is an attempt to make something good out of that jolly mess. It does succeed rather thrillingly, I think, unless the reins fall into the wrong hands. "Wrong hands", whether Fundamentalist or Progressive, would be defined as those which fuel, fan, and capitalize upon potential unrest, to satisfy selfish--usually murderous--agendas.

Today's message, then, might be this: Think a wee bit Amish, and don't fall for the bait. Humankind is BOTH emotion and intelligence... and quite a bit more. You might not care to stop schooling after 8th grade, or to wear archaic clothes while you plow, or to marry your cousin; but you CAN opt to be whole, and to build a world where lions and lambs can rest rather comfortably together.

Gray Anatomy

The color gray, as applied to local weather conditions hereabouts, has changed noticeably over the past 40 years. Today's gray, for instance, is reminiscent of The Old Way. Its mystic brooding resonates with concepts like 'dank' or perhaps 'melancholy', even 'dolorous'. It's the perfect sort of ambiance to please a frog, a poet, or possibly even a leprechaun.

Yesterday, however, featured the sort of gray that first began to appear while I was in my second year at University, back in the late '60's. At the time, I thought that I must be suffering from that mildly depressed, dullish malaise known as Sophomore Slump. The color had gone out of life. Some days, I could have sworn that everything seemed the hue of dry concrete.

Only years later, looking back from a stance of satisfied motherhood moored to Common Sense, did I realize that I hadn't been very 'slumped' at all, back then. Everything WAS the hue of dry concrete.

The cause? No, it wasn't that icky Fisheries class with the appallingly stupid professor, that I ended up taking Pass/Fail because I couldn't stand attending; nor was it the new dorm with its towering twin towers--one for males, the other for females. It was the freeway. Interstates 5, 90, 405 and a maze of smaller brethren had been under construction for the previous few years, and were just coming into their own, right when I hit sophomore year.

It's a boggler, realizing that your kids have already grown up in a climate alien to the one that you knew as a child, even though you're all living in the same old place. It's also boggling to hear people refer to global warming as a scam. One wonders if most of them mightn't be under-40ers who've never known anything BUT dry-concrete-gray, and think that Sophomore Slump is just the normal state of affairs. Either that, or they've inhaled so much pollution since birth that they've become living evidence for the latest (February 2008) 'Finding' in Harper's: That human evolution is accelerating.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Iowa Caucus Eve: May the Science Be Right

On this eve of the 2008 Iowa Caucus, I'd like to take just a moment to reflect on its significance. I vote religiously, but never by party--more by candidate, issue, or state of the country.

We look at the violence sparked by elections in places like Pakistan and Kenya, and we feel so lucky to be living where we do. And we are right, to feel so. Yet a horrible shadow has fallen over our wonderful land, this past couple of decades, and my prayer is that we will be able to lift it by the strength of our own belief in ourselves as humans and as Americans. Evangelicals, please be reminded that your Apocalypse was to be marked by an Antichrist who would lead great masses astray. That day has come but you are looking at the wrong place, for your Antichrist. You've been tricked. You need to rise up with all of your massive power and say 'No.'

The power that seduced you told you that you must consider all persons not of your persuasion to be The Enemy. This is not Christ. This is the Mother of All Evildoers.

Mother of All Evildoers always looks better than Christ. It dresses better, it makes more money, it banks on charm, it never admits to failings. If it's a pervert or a criminal, you'll never find out about it. And it preaches that if you repeat a thing enough times--including the most blatant lie--the thing will become reality. This is not Christ. This is Antichrist. Christ is truth, even when it hurts.

The power that tricked you banked on the 'divide and rule' maxim; and in that, it has succeeded. The only way that we will ever overcome the damage, will be by uniting.

I have no more stomach for left-wing radical ranters than I have for right-wing righteous bigots. Both spout Doomsday, insider prejudice, or hatred in various guises, and it's usually because the poor individuals spewing haven't done their deep-down personal housecleaning. Maybe it was just too hard to do. We are, in the end, only human.

This blog's tongue-in-cheek title, 'They Got the Science WRONG', is more a lampoon of human judgement than it is of Science itself. We could no sooner stop this insatiably curious, miraculously creative species from tinkering with Nature, from inventing things, than we could stop it from breathing. The problem is in what we DO with the Science. Take electricity, for instance. We can use it for pure profit at humankind's expense, a la Enron, or we can use it to help humankind first and reap the profits that we earn from it, a la Google. It's a question not of intelligence, but of wisdom.

The last election is an example of what can go wrong when 'the Science' falls into weak hands. My sister is now dead, largely due to the depression that comes of outrage turned inward. Her county was a nearly-pure 'blue' county. Technologically more ahead-of-the-game than many, it used the newest electronic voting machines for the election. The vote count for her county came up, rather fantastically, solid 'red.' There was no paper trail, and she could do nothing. She was a federal inspector, an extremely effectual, admired, and peaceloving lady; and rather than assassinate people or commit violence, she took her own life, in the end.

Is this really Christ? I don't think so, folks. 'Winning at all costs' is not a Christlike goal. Remember...Christ chose to lose, on Earth.

However the Election 2008 turns out, may all of Creation bless America; and may America become a blessed star to all of Creation.