Pandemic Paralysis

I haven’t been able to do any writing for weeks. Not even a journal entry. I am managing to keep producing the Portal, but that’s been about it. No walking. Indeed, I spent pretty much all of June in bed.

       I am now boycotting the news. I just can’t stand to read about any more stupidity. And I am going to move heaven and earth to stay out of bed when I’m not sleeping, as much as humanly possible, and to start getting my walks in again.

Illegitimi non carborundum— mock Latin; genuine sentiment.

Slouching Toward Bethlehem

I didn’t read The Second Coming until I was about 27. It remains the most powerful poem I’ve ever read. It’s been more and more on my mind lately.

       The center has not held. We are spinning wildly toward a society that is polarized beyond correction or redemption. About 20 years ago there was a “John Titor” popping up on all the wingnut (conspiracy theory/flat earth/Illuminati) websites. He purported to be from the future, and he said he had come back to try to warn America we were going to have a civil war. He didn’t warn us there was going to be a pandemic, as far as I remember. But I didn’t pay much attention to his writings.

       As I write this, on Mothers Day of 2020, the idea of another civil war in the US doesn’t seem so outlandish. Covid 19, far from bringing us back together, is dividing us further. This isn’t helped by the fact that we have a malignant narcissist with the intelligence of damp seaweed in the White House, of course. But then nothing is being helped by that.

       I used to suspect, when I was in my 20’s, that we might be living through the failure of the American state. Then a career happened to me, and I didn’t give the issue a lot more thought for many years. Throughout the 21st Century thus far, though, I’ve become more and more convinced that this is in fact what’s happening. The coronavirus pandemic laid bare our profound societal and cultural weaknesses, and those weaknesses are being exacerbated instead of ameliorated with every passing day.

       We aren’t capable to make a concerted effort to fight a deadly disease. We lack the will, the resources, and the leadership. Other countries, as well as the UN, have had to send us humanitarian aid in hopes of helping us deal with our shortage of supplies and equipment. That’s right. We needed (and need) humanitarian aid. We who have always been the giver of such aid now stand in need of it.

       We have a leader who is incapable of understanding this crisis, and utterly unable to show any empathy for those who are suffering from it. His performance is macabre and surreal. He cares about one thing: being re-elected. He will do whatever he has to do (or not do) to ensure that happens. And since he still has a “base” of about a quarter of the American electorate….it’s just too hideous to contemplate. The election and presidency of Donald Trump are the clearest evidence that our state, and our political system, are failing.

       Meanwhile white supremacy is on the rise, both in the US (thanks to Trump’s “nudge, nudge; wink, wink” disapproval of it) and worldwide. And thanks to the Internet, it is organizing on a global scale. Think the Nazis in the 1930’s in Germany, except it’s the fascist white supremacists in the whole world in the 2020’s.

       And what rough beast? Goddess help our species. And we’re going to need that help. We’re going to need a lot of Divine mercy. We certainly don’t deserve it; in fact, quite the opposite. But if that’s true of us as a species (and I believe it is) that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with the pain and heartache so many are going through now; going through, moreover, with damn little sympathy or compassion from us as a nation, and none at all from the midwife for that beast, a “very stable genius” who sits in the Oval Office and spews vitriol and demonstrates breathtaking stupidity. Constantly. Things fall apart. Welcome to the end of the American state.

You Can’t Fix Stupid

The coronavirus pandemic prompted numerous state and local governments to issue stay-at-home orders at various times in March. At first, because people were very much afraid of the virus, these orders were largely heeded. But now, since the “curve is flattening” and many locations have not yet been hit by the virus (anyone see the correlation?) some people are chafing against these orders.

Once again, a crisis is being politicized. Protests against the stay-at-home orders are popping up all over. And guess what? The people who attend these protests are practically guaranteeing that some of them will get the virus. This pandemic is not a political question. The virus doesn’t care. If it gets a chance to infect you, it will. And its chance to infect you is entirely dependent on your proximity to others.

Zombie Apocalypse Disorder

Paraskevidekatriaphobia. Thanks to Wikipedia, I just learned that word this morning, Friday the 13th. It means fear of Friday the 13th. Given the craziness of the past few days, it’s reasonable to assume that more people than usual will suffer from some high anxiety today.

We are certainly in a bizarre situation, which the age of social media has made much worse than it might otherwise be. Add to that a slow and incompetent government response, capped by a Chief Executive who gave a typically inaccurate and far-from-reassuring Oval Office speech on Wednesday night, and you have a full-blown panic in the U.S.

The run of toilet paper I find particularly incomprehensible. I’m attributing it to what I call zombie apocalypse syndrome. I think a lot of people feel like that mythical event has begun. Hence the intense weirdness we are seeing more and more of.

I’m not trying to minimize the seriousness of the coronavirus. It needs to be taken seriously. But after weeks of not taking it seriously, Americans are freaking out over it. And why should they not? The stock market is in free fall, and every major American sports season currently otherwise ongoing–basketball, hockey, and baseball– has been cancelled or postponed. March madness has taken on a very different meaning this year.

We are facing an insoluble dilemma. Without serious and even draconian measures to limit the spread of the disease, we might experience a true pandemic, with tens or even hundreds of thousands of deaths. No one can accurately predict the number, because no one knows how virulent this bug actually is.

But these measures which are being taken to limit the spread of the disease are killing something else: the American economy. Another incomprehensible thing, along with the toilet paper hoarding, is how much money this is costing Americans.

Let’s look at the silver lining, though. We have two new phrases which have entered the lexicon overnight. They are of course social distancing and flattening the curve.

Let’s hope the curve can be flattened. In America, the virus has a head start on us due to the inertia of both the government and the population in responding to it. Now, though, the response is full-blown. So is the fear. So is the economic damage. Let’s just hope both the fear and the damage to Americans’ wallets and pocketbooks can be contained as well.

Whispers in the hush of Winter nights

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

There are a few, and only a few sights and experiences in my life which have made me aware of the Presence of the Divine. I long ago eschewed religion. Men (usually) take a perfectly good set of spiritual beliefs and begin mucking about with it. The result is religion. I consider myself to be a spiritual person. I stopped considering myself to be a religious person a long time ago.

The winter night sky in Colorado is a sight which kept me connected to the sense of the Divine, both before and after I abandoned religion. Even now, just the sight of it in a photograph, as in the one above, is enough to send a shiver down my spine, and bring back a rush of memories of winter nights there. Memories which create again that sense of Presence in my heart and soul.

My heart has been broken and my soul tarnished considerably since I left Colorado, almost 40 years ago. Nevertheless, a moment of serendipity in searching for an illustration to accompany this post reconnects me with that awareness of the Divine, however you define (or do not define) it.

When I’m looking ahead into 2020 without much hope, either for myself personally or for the world in general, stumbling across this picture reminds me of the lesson of the whispers in the hush of those Colorado winter nights. All is one. Love is all. The rest is illusion, misunderstanding, or mere detail.

2020: WTF?

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

When I was younger, predictions about the future often began with, “In the year 2020…” I cannot adequately express how old that makes me feel. Twenty-twenty also means 1970, the year I turned 14 and the year I lost my political virginity, was 50 years ago. Who remembers Kent State now?

As with past infatuations, my enthusiasm for this website has waned. I have been continuing to do my podcast, and posting something to those pages, but this blog and (especially) the Holly and Ivy pages have been sadly neglected. And isn’t it funny how we fall back on the passive voice I have sadly neglected them. There.

The week between Christmas and the New Year always has a vaguely funereal feel to me. When I was younger that feeling was largely masked by the otherworldly aspect. The week does seem like it is in a “congruent reality,” as Terry Pratchett phrased it. But I’m noticing the “end of the old” aspect more and more now. I am getting old, and I shall end.

I am trying to find some reason to be positive and have hope for 2020. I am not having much luck. I’m not seeing any signs of a restoration of sanity and civility, in the US or the wider world. There does seem to be the tiniest bit of momentum beginning in the matter of dealing with climate change, but if ever the phrase “too little, too late” were appropriate, it is there.

So I’m drifting onward, like the Fellowship on their boat journey down Anduin. I have three companions instead of eight, and two of the three are cats. And I’m not sure which of the Fellowship I best represent now. Sam, maybe. Let’s just hope I’m not Boromir.

Nevertheless, 2020 is upon us. There are fewer than 40 hours left in 2019 as I write this. So Happy New Year, regardless. Let’s hope for the best and prepare for the worst. It’s about all anyone can do.

Thanksgiving

Image by cocoparisienne from Pixabay

The imminent arrival of another Thanksgiving means the holiday season is upon us, and when we are through the holiday season, 2020 will be upon us. I’m not sure I’ve ever been less happy about an impending new year. Thanksgiving has been a problematic holiday for me ever since 1973. It was the day before that Thanksgiving that my brother J.F. or Jules as he preferred to be called when he became an adult, died of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was 26 years old, and had just begun his residency. He was my family’s pride and joy. His death devastated my oldest sister in particular, although it was tremendously difficult for all of us. He was nine years my senior. I resembled him physically, and pretty much idolized him even though, or perhaps because, we were different in many ways.

Cliche it may be, but the fact is time does past faster as you get older. It does not seem possible that 2019 is almost gone. And to top it off, today is the 21st. Tomorrow will be the 56th anniversary of JFK’s assassination. I was seven, and as it happened I was home sick from school that day, and watching daytime TV— a novel enough experience on a weekday. And as it happened I was watching CBS. When Walter Cronkite came on and announced the horrific news, he began to weep. I will never forget that moment. I didn’t fully understand what had happened, but the next few days were very frightening. My mom was weeping, and dad seemed like he was in shock. 

So I have to admit I’m not exactly thrilled that Thanksgiving is upon us. For almost 40 years it has been just Judi and me for Thanksgiving, anyway. We went to relatives’ houses a few times when we were new to Idaho, but it’s been 30 years, at least since we spent the holiday in the company of anyone but each other. Actually that was not true in 2006 and 2007, but those were horrible years for other reasons. This year will be no different from most of the 40 Thanksgivings that have preceded it. It’s been a number of years since we even bothered with a turkey.

Nevertheless, I have real blessings to count this year. I have enough to eat, and a roof over my head. I am doing a podcast which is very rewarding. Judi and I are together, however problematic our relationship. Last but certainly not least, we are both blessed to have the amazing tortie sisters in our lives. Holly and Ivy have been lifesavers for us in the past 11 months. So I will give thanks next Thursday. I will also remember Thanksgivings past, painful as  some of them have been. 

Samhain


Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

When I was a kid, Halloween was always my favorite holiday. No doubt that was because you got to go around to people’s houses and get candy, not to mention you got to wear a costume while doing it. In the half-century since, Halloween has remained a favorite. Some fifteen years ago or so I became interested in alternative spirituality. That’s not true: I have been interested in it all my life. In the fall of 2003, though, a confluence of events resulted, among other things, in my beginning to learn about Celtic spirituality, in a thoroughly unsystematic way.

I got sober on the 25th of August, 2003. My game store was going to be closing at the end of that year. I didn’t have the resources to keep it open, and I was trying to adjust to that reality while living one day at a time, which really is what you have to do when you’re getting (and staying) sober. In the fall of 2003, I went down the conspiracy theory rabbit hole. A few days after the 25th I googled “Cayce Nostradamus 9/11” and found myself immersed in the wild world of conspiracy theories about the attacks on the twin towers. That was only the beginning, and by December I was getting pretty unhinged.

I was going out early in the morning trying to spot Planet X in the eastern sky. I knew all about chemtrails, secret bases on the moon and Mars, and a half dozen other “tinfoil hat” conspiracy theories. Coast to Coast AM was a staple of my nightly diet. I had indeed gone to Wonderland, and a very dystopian place it was.

One of the less crazy parts of this period of my life was my research and reading about Theosophy, which led me among other places to reading about the Celts and their spiritual beliefs. I found a website maintained by John and Caitlin Matthews, which was not filled with conspiracy theories. It did have a lot of good information about Celtic spiritual beliefs.

One of the things I learned, of course, was about how Samhain became Halloween. And for some reason, for the first time it occurred to me that I may well have been conceived on Samhain. (I’m a Lughnasa baby.) In succeeding years I would come to think of the seasons in terms of the Celtic cross-quarter holidays. And I would look at Halloween in a different light.

A few weeks ago I began working with my Tarot cards again. I received a deck sometime in early 2003. It was actually left at my house after a D&D session, and no one ever claimed it. I worked with the cards on and off thereafter. I did quite a bit of work with them in 2009, when I was in homeless. I stopped working with them after I got out of the “transitional housing facility for the homeless” in 2010, and didn’t touch them for about a year. Then I worked with them for another six months or so in early 2012, stopped again, started again in 2015 or so…. You get the picture.

Most people connect Tarot cards with gypsies, fortune-telling and the like. They were never meant to be used to “tell fortunes.” They are, I believe, a set of tools by which an individual can examine his life and gain greater understanding of his physical, mental, emotional and spiritual self.

This time around I feel like I’m getting more out of working with them than ever before. More than anything else I think that’s because I am working them, and not just using them The difference may be thought of as analogous to the difference between someone who does some carpentry, but doesn’t really consider the work he’s doing critically, and puts the “finished product” aside without evaluating it properly.

My life is changing in so many ways, as Neil Young sang all those years ago. There seems to be a qualitative difference to the changes I’m experiencing currently. I think a lot of that has to do with the aging process. But I’m feeling like perhaps, at last, I am beginning to gain a glimmering wisdom. I don’t and never will claim to be wise, for only a fool does that. I am receiving insights which I am able to use to change my life for the better. The cards are a part of that, but again, they’re only a tool. And any tool is only as good as the person using it.

Palouse Autumn

The Palouse is beautiful in the autumn. We’re well into October now, so the harvest has finished, but the harvested fields are beautiful, all gold and yellow and brown. Here in town the leaves are busily making themselves yellow, orange and red. The colors of autumn are one of my favorite aspects of the season. When I was growing up in Colorado it was the yellow of the aspen, or “quakies,” as we called them, that predominated. Here we get much more of the color spectrum.

This autumn is my 64th, this time around. I’m facing the arrival of the winter of my life, which makes autumn more beautiful than ever.

My life has been marred by a lot of mistakes. Who’s isn’t, for sure, but the bipolar made mine both worse and more frequent. Winter is coming in a world gone mad, and we have precious little security with which to face it. However, it is, as a quondam friend of mine liked to say, what it is. And what it is right now, is beautiful.