Elementary My Dear

Those of us who attended traditional schools that actually taught basic math may recall that old and notorious nemesis; the “word problem.” In fact, almost no one who has been in a formal school in the last fifty to sixty years ever got by without coming across something similar to:

“If Sally has two apples and Tommy has four, how many apples do they have?”

Most of you, having long since passed basic math, know without thinking that the answer to this question is six. The question to that answer, however, is ‘why?’ Why do we assume without being told that Sally and Tommy are operating collectively and will pool their apples to achieve a greater total harvest? Let us suppose that Tommy and Sally are operating competitively, or even in isolation from one another, and therefore they each have what was stated in the preamble and no further calculation or speculation is required.

Let us change the question, superficially. If I were to ask you; “If Israel has 1000 rockets and Gaza has 900, how many do they have?” the more cynical among you would probably reply; “None, because they launched them all at each other.” Setting politics aside, that remark has important implications.

In situations we know are not real, our immediate impulse is to assume that two people with means will cooperate to achiever greater means than either has alone. However, in realistic or real-world situations, we assume, somewhat but not overly pessimistically, that the two people or groups will oppose one another in an attempt to control all the “apples.”

When and how do so many of us go from the bright-eyed first grader combining Sally and Tommy’s apples as though that were the natural order of things to the stoop-shouldered barfly shaking our heads morosely as the grim and grisly results of our unspoken lowest expectations play out before our very eyes on the TV in the back corner?

Ponder these things for a time, I bid you.

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You Can’t Go Home Again

I elected not to change the title of this piece even though I just deleted all the text that had been here.
Recently I returned to my old college town to see old friends and try to reconnect with someone special to me. It didn’t go as I has hoped. Almost nothing about the people or the place remained as it was when I was a student there previously, and it wasn’t that long ago.
I left feeling a mixture of things. I was sad that so many things had changed, but I enjoyed seeing old friends again. I found there were more people there that I remembered than I would have expected. And at the end of it all, I left with hope for a future with meaningful connections. My friendships had changed because I have changed, and the people with whom I interact that have not changed with me are slowly being phased out of my life.
I always heard “home is where your heart is” as a child. My heart was with my closest friends. And if the friends are no longer there, than neither is home. Home is elsewhere, in new hearts among new people.

No More Faces In The Crowd

This one has been brewing in my head for some time now.
Like many youngsters, at an early age I began watching some of those movies where there is a hero who has to stand tall in a last stand situation, and soon began to imagine myself in those same scenarios. I saw myself standing alone, an indomitable force bearing down on me, and someone standing behind me, sheltering from the storm, waiting for that force to claim my life in exchange for the one behind me, or for me to save them from it.
Now, over the years, the places where these last stands have occurred have changed as have the faces and the names of the one(s) standing behind me as the people that really matter in my life have changed. Lately, however, when I try to envision one of these final scenarios I find that I can no longer put a specific person in the position behind me. I don’t know exactly what that may signify, but I have my suspicions. I believe there are two main possibilities: either there is no one left in my life for whom I would make such a sacrifice, or there is no one I believe would be willing to stand by and watch me die for all the wrong reasons. And I do not know which of those two possibilities is the sadder.
We all die sooner or later, this cannot be avoided, but I would like at least a chance to have some say in the matter. Is there nothing left worth dying for? No person left worth my life? Will I have no say in when and how I leave this world? When at last I look into the eyes of Death, will I truly stand alone?

A Fruit Punch Doughnut?

…And other oddities.

So it has been brought to my attention recently that I, and most of the “civilized” world, eat what only barely qualifies as food. Processed, flavored gunk full of unnecessary amounts of sodium, nitrates, and a myriad of other nefarious chemicals tends to make up most of what is available in grocery stores, at any kind of a reasonable price, that is.

As I sit here slurping down a bowl of Ramen noodles, I find it hard to truly complain about this state of affairs. I enjoy natural food when I can get or afford it. I also do plenty of work that I feel compensates for the pseudo-food.

What brought upon this pondering, was an incident with a jelly donut. A gift of a delicious treat from a friend, I found myself unable to figure out exactly what it was supposed to taste like. The jelly filling was red; it could have been strawberry, cherry, raspberry or a number of other flavors. It didn’t taste like any one specific flavor, but had elements of all of them. I could only conclude that it must have been a fruit punch donut; not meant to be any one flavor but some bizarre amalgamation of many flavors.

Having thus encountered foodstuffs so far removed from their original sources that they can no longer be accurately identified, I must wonder not only what we do to ourselves by ingesting this gunk, but also how and why we have come to this point. It’s not as if someone woke up one day and decided to run perfectly edible food through slurry of carcinogens and sell it for half price…I hope. Can anyone answer me that: How did we go from “I killed it/plucked it off a tree and ate it” to “mechanically-separated homogenized processed food products?” Personally, I blame Spiro Agnew and the rest of the Nixon administration for subsidizing the production of corn and then having to find something to do with all the grain laying around, but I doubt it was that simple.

Anyhow, just thought I’d share one of life’s little mystery meals with you…Just in case you needed some food for thought.

Resolution and Dissolution

Whew! It’s dusty in here. If anyone bothers to read these anymore, I apologize for leaving you hanging for so long. I simply never made the time to sort out and set down the various insights I’ve had over the past several months.

Let’s make that my first New Year’s Resolution: make more time for blogging.

That’s part of what this post is about: things I intend to do better about. 2014 is going to be a year of changes and preparations for me. For starters, I currently live and work as a wage slave somewhere on the mid-Atlantic seaboard, and that simply will not suffice. As the day on which the Gilded Jenga Tower of Western Civilization tumbles and scatters devastation across the world draws ever nearer, I feel a need to be better equipped to live in a post-collapse empire. I feel compelled to become a Maker of Things, a crafter, but of what…I have no idea.

I spent nearly sixteen years in school of some sort, somewhere, preparing for “what I would do with my life,” and now that I have a reasonably tolerable job with employment security and decent fringe benefits, I’m getting ‘Cold Pricklies!’ because I feel myself falling into a rut that could conceivably consume the rest of my useful life. Don’t get me wrong: I still have some plans for what I can do other than this, but it will take time to lay the groundwork and I begin to wonder if it will be worth it to actually embark on those alternate ventures after the time invested here while preparing to leave.

I guess what it boils down to is: should I leave now, with nothing invested and nothing prepared, or should I prepare to leave knowing my time invested here will be lost? Truth be told, I don’t think I have the resourcefulness or the courage to slip my moorings now with neither compass nor cargo. And so I have decided to take the near future to prepare.

This is the year that I put money away in savings for a rainy day. This is the year that I take up a study of new skills and knowledge. This is the year that I end my pretense at adhering to a Church in which I no longer believe. This is the year that I strive to maximize the health of my body and my spirit. This is the year I decrease my dependence on the manufactured, post-industrial world. This is the year that I will purge myself of shame and fear, and the year I will master my rage.

Be these resolved! And I shall put my whole Self into their completion forthwith. I will start with this: Some of you know me by my given name. When others ask who I am, tell them. And tell them I am no longer a practicing Catholic. I have not ceased to have faith in God, only those who claim to speak in his name. Too many people have preached love and practiced hate before my eyes. Too many people have said “Let all…come to me,” and turned away the modern-day counterparts to the tax-collectors and sinners with whom their Savior ate and consorted. The Church that proclaims “Not of this world, but of the next,” spends far too much time and capital on petty, interpersonal bickering and the private practices of individuals in whose lives the God that is Love, not the Church that is Dogmatic Stagnation, ought to be the driving influence.

A slew of harsh invective, to be sure. And in the interest of honesty with myself and the world, I must point out that the misconduct outlined above comes from personal experience with a few individuals and by no means represents the attitude of every Catholic. In fact, many have been supportive of, shall we say, my non-canonical views and beliefs. For them, I wish I could stay. For the love between honest, mostly upright people that is Christ’s second commandment, I dearly wish I could remain where and how I am. But I believe there are practices endorsed by the Catholic Church which contradict what remains of the teachings of Christ and for that reason I no longer commune with them.

I realize that this has all been phrased rather vaguely, and I apologize. I will endeavor to sort out some more specifics where I disagree with contemporary practices and explain them in greater detail at a later time. I may also have to give this message in person to some who don’t interact with me much online, and that will be the true test of my conviction in making this separation. I have lived so long with this dogma and the sharp, seemingly ever-shrinking boundaries, putting it behind me gives me pause and will doubtlessly be a strenuous process. If it is your way, please pray for me that I find the strength to pursue my convictions and not to revert to a hollow faith out of fear.

This post didn’t exactly go where I had first thought or planned, but it came forth truthfully, (as best it could in keeping with my anonymity and the privacy of others), and it shall not be un-made. I sign off today with a name that is beyond my given name, or my assumed name, for with it I named myself.

Malleus

Dear Doctor Freud

Saw this in my Facebook feed yesterday and just couldn’t leave well enough alone. Help yourself to my ramblings and know that everything said below is intended as an honest if lighthearted treatment of an oft-neglected social issue.

dressing modestly

On the subject of the modesty of women’s clothing, I, as a man, am often simply dismissed as a biased party. Which is entirely fair, since I am.

However, and somehow you just knew there was going to be a ‘however,’ I feel I have found a way to justify the positions of men everywhere who are enticed by the sight of a scantily clad female.

Men, and please be honest, we like having sex, don’t we? Of course we do; we should. It’s a biological and psychological drive and repressing those can get nasty in a hurry. Besides which, it’s good for you: like any other organs in the body, sex organs stay healthier longer if they are used on a regular basis. So, men, get off once in a while. It’s for your own good. Women, we appreciate your assistance with this process, either in person or in absentia. (In other words: Yay! Porn!)

I am somewhat, and reasonably, dubious of the idea that a provocative woman can cause seismic activity, (although if the old adage about a butterfly’s wing flap causing tsunamis holds up, I’m sure rocking my couch could set off the Richter scale somewhere). And I would argue that even the most sexually active and intrinsically alluring woman in the world could not corrupt a man’s morality; she simply unleashes his thinly veiled immorality. I would also suggest that morals which restrict one’s basic psycho- and biological impulses ought to be revised for the health of the general population, but that’s an argument for another day.

Having spent this much time discussing the benefits sexual freedom gives the male half of the world, I think it important to touch on the pros and cons afforded the female population. Unfortunately, I have, for genetic reasons, no personal frame of reference in that area. So, ladies, please chime in and let us know what works and what doesn’t.  Men are not mind readers, (we never have been, we never will be), and if you want the most out of the experience we’re going to at least need a hint once in a while.

In short, what I suppose I’m arguing for here is honesty and fact. We all have our sexual proclivities, whatever they may be, and I encourage you to 1) take a moment to figure out for sure what works for you, and 2) pursue a partner, (or partners, I don’t judge), who will fulfill your desires. The only “rules” I would advocate are these: keep it consensual and do it where no one who doesn’t want to see it has to see it. And, please, when you hear people spouting off this stuff about immorality and societal corruption, (or earthquakes), just leave them alone. Those of us who know how to enjoy our bodies responsibly and respectfully will continue to do so and leave the rest to their misery. So be honest with yourselves and with each other, and don’t be afraid to laugh about it: sex is supposed to be fun.

If you made it this far, I thank you for your diligence. My rants often make more sense to me than to anyone else. I meant what I said above. I invite comments on this topic; part of the problem behind the problem is the lack of frank discussion on the subject.

Magnetic Personality

I like to think of myself as a well-rounded person with varied interests and a general acceptance of the eccentricity of others. That being said, there are some things I simply have gut reactions to and very little can change my mind about them. One such group of things, is the colors in the world around me.

Many psychologists, or random people who took psychology in high school, have inundated the media and online data storage facilities with copies of their opinions regarding color theory. If the statistics class I took in high school taught me as much as your psychology class, then I know for a fact that your conclusions are fallible at best and outliers exist, whether you admit to them or not. and since I also took psychology in high school, I’m gonna be a statistic, specifically, and outlier. So here, have fun with my  color theory, Internet.

Red- Appears in several places in my life, mostly food-related, (raw meat, strawberries, NOT tomatoes, etc.) Red is also the color of blood, a substance whose taste I occasionally find enjoyable, and of roses; a symbol associated with a multitude of emotions. Red, in the right context, is an emotional catalyst and awakens powerful inner drives.

Orange-The color of a good bonfire. When seen out of that context tends it to imply danger, such as road construction or a drunken redneck with a shotgun. An eye-catcher, it shows up rarely in my life. Once, though, it was very important: I was asked to shield a cleansing and Fire, glowing decidedly orange, made itself available to me.

Yellow-I’m a lemon guy, that is; I eat lemons…a lot. In that context I’m somewhat fond of yellow, but it’s a horrible color for a car, so I guess you could say I have mixed feelings about it. Yellow is generally also associated with the sun, for more on that see White below.

Green-Bright greens carry a duality in my life, they can either be toxins, or bits of  tape marking out spaces on a stage floor. Generic greens are the grass beneath my feet and are a comforting background to almost any scene. Dark greens remind me of riverbank moss and the cool shade under the old Oak in my front yard. So green is a color I have to take on a case-by-case basis.

Blue-Another case-by-case color. All my life I have been surrounded by blue: light, mid-tone and dark blues in the walls and furnishings of my home, the navy blue pants I wore for eight years of Catholic School, (though I try not to resent the color itself for those years), the Ocean which so often fills me with a longing profound enough to break my heart, the Sky which is usually only blue on hot summer days when I’m stuck working outside, the lights on a police cruiser or an ambulance telling me someone is in trouble, the broken-in old denim jacket I’ve worn through so many (mis)adventures. Blue is everywhere in my life and strikes many cords from rage to contentment to deep sorrow.

Purple- Has recently acquired a happy connotation for me when it was a prominent color in my cousin’s wedding. It’s also the color of a lit-up black light, and black light parties are a personal guilty pleasure. I had always thought of purple as a resplendent color, reserved for royalty and official occasions, but was pleased to discover that this seemingly stuffy color has a wild side.

White-a color I generally don’t like. If you look at the Sun, it tends to be white and  I am not generally comfortable in direct sunlight. White is also a color that has been co-opted to stand for purity and I tend to associate it with presumption and arrogance. Yet it is also the color of snow which, while sometimes inconvenient or hazardous, never fails to bring a bittersweet memory of youthful delight. White is also the color of the Polar Bear, a spirit who answered my call when others needed me to be strong for them.

Gray-an often overlooked color that I couldn’t live without. A proper, mid-tone gray is the happy medium between black and white, the ultimate expression of a balanced universe. But gray comes in many shades, most of which I saw very recently when I all but literally stumbled into a moonlit, midnight snowfall. I stood for what felt like forever confronted by a world with no color, no disparity, just shades of gray blending into one another, and it was without a doubt the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Gray is the primary color of the Coyote who occasionally has fun at my expense, but never beyond my capacity to endure. Finally, Gray is the color of heavy clouds which can bring life-giving rain as well as devastating storms and generally energize the world around me.

Black-is a powerful force in my life. It is the secret spaces where things of untold value lie hidden. It is the backstage space where I do my best work, and the clothes I wear when I’m there. My dog, the only companion in my life whose loyalty has never wavered, is black. Black is Crow, the first spirit to ever touch my mind, and black is the Night, in which I feel a greater sense of belonging and where I find the Other-worldly comes closer to me.

Silver-joins black on my class ring and most of the relatively little jewelry I ever wear. It is associated with the Moon, for whom I have always felt a kind of friendship.

Gold-the color of splendor, it seldom looks good on me as ornamentation, but I still find the odd use for it. In particular, I have a golden necklace given to me in my youth by a friend and spiritual mentor, and though I no longer actively follow that faith, the charm reminds me of my roots. You might say gold is the color of antiquity and of endurance, coupled with nobility it is a rightful color for godhood.

Pink-I have a deep, violent, visceral hatred for most shades of the color pink. Wal-mart store Valentine’s displays have actually given me small seizures. The one and only time I found pink attractive was when my girlfriend dyed her hair hot pink, though I think that was her  more than the hair color. We’re not dating anymore and she changed her hair again, but it was a decent look while it lasted. sadly, those few fond memories have failed to redeem any other shades of pink in my mind.

Brown-yet another color my life would be incomplete without. Brown is even more pervasive in my life than blue, being a color in and on my house, the dirt around it, even the pants I generally wear. Brown is the tree I grew up playing in and the boards I now build sets out of. Brown is a delicious piece of chocolate or a stiff glass of whisky. when I work with a personal shield, it comes most easily as a suit of armor made of a strange golden-brown metal. It is heavy and feels very old, but it is solid, and I know I am safe inside it. I used this metal with the Fire in the shielding I mentioned above. Brown is home, and Brown is strength.

So it is written: Color Theory According to the Arctic Gnome. Some of these colors I am attracted to and others I find repulsive. There are also a few that can be magnetized one way or another depending on the circumstances but, generally speaking, it takes an event of personal emotional significance to change that polarity.

Now, as I make no pretense whatsoever at being an expert on the psychological effects of pigmentation, I wish to reiterate that these observations are solely my opinions and based entirely on my own experiences. I welcome comments.