Monday, April 25, 2016

The Endowment

He's worried you'll judge him.

My dog has a dermatologist.

This isn't something completely outrageous in my part of the Western Hemisphere. Lots of people have animals who live inside their homes, who receive medical care better than 85% of the rest of the world's population. (I totally made that percentage up, but you have to admit that it seems pretty plausible.) This past weekend I was so utterly consumed by the amount of accumulated crap in my house that I went to Ikea and bought outdoor furniture to install in my sons' room. My solution for too much stuff was to go buy DIFFERENT stuff. And this can be lumped right in there with the doggie derm. Not abnormal.

It occurred to me how unique the "Western ideology" is on the world stage. I wished for a moment that I could take the time to read the constitutions or manifestos of other countries; that I could ask a broad cross-section of every other population on earth the following question: What right do you feel you have to happiness?

Because it's written in our National "Who Are We" section that we have been "endowed by our Creator," in what is so obvious a Truth as to be "self-evident," with a certain number of "Rights" chief among those are: "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Now, I've made it no secret that I think the Founding Fathers were a bunch a drunken hypocrites, who would probably have been pretty fun to party with as long as you were a land-owning white man. But what a crock of shit they wrote.

It's a set-up for failure!

I kind of think it's why we're the richest, whiniest, most spoiled brats on the planet. From the very beginning, our helicopter founding daddies told us we were special snowflakes. They told us we have an absolute RIGHT to be happy and unfettered. Rules only apply if we agree with them. And honestly, if we think the Dads currently in charge ever get too bossy, you know...."it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government." Huh. The Millennials are the only ones who've actually read the Declaration of Independence, I guess.

Okay, but on the other hand, you also know I'm a hippy dippy Buddhist, if you've ever read other blogs. (There are like 180 of them, but hey - read them or don't.....I'm not the boss of you.) And anyway the Buddha says that all beings are searching for happiness. Even the batshit crazy ones. Even the huge mooches, and the drains on society, and criminals, and the politicians. Ha! That's all a description of the same person....but I digress.

Every living thing wants to be happy and that's the root cause of all our actions, whether or not they're correct actions. When we look at other people and we don't understand them, it's really just that we're not recognizing the recipe they're using to create happiness. But if you've ever eaten "chili" or "pasta sauce" or "pizza" or a "sandwich" then you know that those single words don't really describe the details of what you'd be eating. Are we talking chicken chili? Vegetarian chili? Three-alarm chili? And does the sandwich have meat on it, or is a PB&J? The possibilities are endless - but the guacamole is always an extra charge, okay?

So maybe the drunk Founding Fathers weren't quite so in the bag that they got it completely wrong. And someone needs to make sure they weren't closet Buddhists, because what they wrote would indicate a keen understanding of human nature; well, white-landed-male nature, at any rate. We should probably work on expanding those words to include more people and finally finish what their society couldn't: that ALL people are endowed with the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, even if their recipe for happiness includes anchovies on a pizza. Gross.

The brown people, the white people, the dark eyes, the light eyes, the curly hair, the straight hair....the redheads. It doesn't matter. Each has been endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights. And you know what? That's why my dog has a dermatologist.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The other day, the other guy

Honestly, this picture has it all.
A bike, a sidecar, a tiny house, a hipster, a Keeshond!
You're welcome. 

This past Sunday was gorgeous for a late February day: blue sky, sun shining, not cold. We drove to my in law's house, which is about an hour away and we take a scenic US Route that winds through small towns and gentle hills and valleys. I mean, I live in the armpit, I mean HEARTLAND of America. The great flyover state of Ohio. So trust me. It's a pretty drive.

Of course all the motorcycle riders were out as well and I had the fortune to be right behind a gentleman out for a ride. He was in no hurry to get wherever he was going, and for once in my whole life ever, neither was I. His happiness with traveling at the posted speed limit was fast enough for me too. And from my vantage point, I saw all the times he extended his left hand down at his side, in the rider's wave, to each passing cyclist.

He passed women, men, groups, individuals, people in jean jackets, people in leather jackets. Some had helmets on, some didn't. Some had close haircuts, some had long hair. Every single person extended the sidelong wave in return. They had an unspoken community.

At some point along the drive, I remembered a time I was on a friend's boat, spending the day on the Ohio River. Boaters have this wave as well. You just don't pass a boat on the river without waving. And my friend looked at me and said, "You know half these people would spit on each other sooner than they'd help each other....except out here on the river. Get us all in boats and we'll do whatever it takes to help each other out."

So here we all are. We're strangers. We're foreigners. We're "us" versus "them" all day every day. We're divided, and we're nasty in tone and in feeling. We have all the answers and "they" are the problems, the enemy: poor people, Muslims, Jews, Evangelical Christians, liberals, conservatives, racists, system suckers.....unless we're on a boat or a bike. Unless we're both driving Jeeps. Unless we're both at the same concert. Unless we both drink the same soda.

It takes so little for people to find common humanity - we're hardwired for it! We look for patterns and similarities all the time, on a fundamentally biological level. And so when we see someone who shares even the smallest hobby or interest as us, we identify with one another, rather than divide each other. We wave....and smile....and offer kindness.

I spent the last part of our drive wondering why it's so difficult to assume the similarities. Why do we automatically assume a defensive stance? Was humanity always this way? Because the moment we see a connection, however small, our walls come down and we see each other for the brothers and sisters we are.

It seems to me like there are better assumptions we should all be making about each other. And maybe it's naive to think it, but I don't think anyone would be hurt by supposing that the stranger has more in common with themselves than differences. Ultimately, as my man the Dalai Lama says, every being wants to be happy and seeks fulfillment. How is that not enough of a commonality to bring us together, and offer each other that gentle sidelong wave as we pass?

Photo Credit: juergvollmer via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: oregon ducatisti via Compfight cc

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Ginger beer, bourbon, and other necessities

The other day I was at Trader Joe's and I saw the most wonderful thing. Someone alert Oprah. It's a really pretty bottle of triple gingered beer. Non-alcoholic, so the kids can drink, and also anyone I might know in recovery or in some weird non-problem-drinker state of abstinence. Seriously, if you CAN drink, why don't you? Leave a comment.

Back to the ginger. It's super spicy, and it kind of burns your lips when you first drink it. Fourteen year old needs a mixer with it, eleven year old wants to guzzle it straight, and I fancy a bit of bourbon in mine. Bit more bourbon, please. Don't be stingy. There you go - that's a good pour. We're ramping up to Christmas in my family and things are getting weird again, as they do every year.

We're spending way too much money on presents, and while that makes us both good Americans who support the economy, it also makes us typical Americans who are buying more crap we definitely don't need. But it's a local custom and I like to fit in.

I've been doing small things to remember my basics this season: I'm trying to read things that are calming, I'm attempting to stay away from media hype because I'm thoroughly over the ratings grab that is any of the news outlets, I'm trying to check-in every day with my boys in a meaningful way about their day. We ask these three questions,

"What was good about your day?"
"What was a bummer?"
"How can tomorrow be better?"

In my own subversive way I am trying to lead them to gratitude and calm understanding in every moment. Some days the bummers will far outnumber the good things. Sometimes we won't really be able to figure out how to make tomorrow better. We'll have to sleep on it; to let the moon-rise give us clarity and the sunrise give us courage to try again. Because it seems like everything right now is more difficult if we allow it.

The Western Hemisphere is in its dark period and the sunrise is a squirrely event to catch if you want your courage. But you have to catch it, and you have to face all the tomorrows with a grateful heart and resolve to fix the bummers. You can do that. Trader Joe's sells a magical elixir to right your spirits for $2.99 plus all local applicable tax.

Pour a ginger beer, toast your day, whether good or bummer, and remember that your only requirement is to show-up. Show-up in all your tattered reality, in all your glowing happiness, in all your blah mundane mediocrity. Every day, no matter what, show up and try to help your fellow human shit-shows understand that we're in this together. We can talk together about what's good, what's a bummer, and what we can do to make tomorrow better.

That's really the only necessity.

**P.S. I lied. Bourbon is also a necessity. But that's just me.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Would you like fresh pepper on your froth?

Stick with me - this will all make sense. Maybe. 

I have generalized anxiety disorder. Of course putting that right there is a violation of my privacy rights, but since I did it to myself, I guess it's okay this one time. My anxiety is not the point of today's batch of useless writing, but is the background for what's coming next; because an even bigger mistake is taking place right now than my own self-disclosure of protected medical history.

I am actively avoiding any and all viewpoints which do not directly align with my own. EEP!

The other day I was scrolling through old things I wrote and a common theme has been emerging over the years in my public journaling, which you may or may not be reading. What do I care? I'm not the boss of you. Apparently I really dislike the manufactured drama, the constant spirals of anger and outrage, and if I type "self-righteous indignation" one more time (after this time) my keyboard might spontaneously explode. But there it is. All that froth is just extraordinarily distasteful to me.

And honestly I can't quite wrap my brain around those who LIKE froth.

Several years ago, my friend Matty T told me that he doesn't enter into debate with people if they are not open to changing their mind. Matty T has shown up in four previous entries (here, here, here and here) because he says shit that gets in my brain and takes up permanent residence. And that whole business of avoiding debates with someone who isn't willing to change their mind has simmered for years in my thoughts and has finally distilled into a kind of paradigm for my life. I can't argue anymore just for the sake of arguing.

It's not fun. Because I have anxiety.

Although I am open to changing my mind on a fair number of things (admittedly there are some closely held beliefs which are absolutely inviolable for me) I usually feel pretty solid in my formation of opinion. I like to read, I like to know things, and like to trust the foundation upon which I build my beliefs. So you can bet I'm relatively self-assured if I do enter a debate. But I'm almost always open to changing my mind or tweeking my philosophy if someones has better evidence, more compelling evidence, or a better reasoned argument.

It doesn't seem like I'm in the majority, though.

People's insta-rage is everywhere in every single thing they say or type or share. So I've tuned them out. I'm not allowing anything to make it through the gates if it doesn't align with my viewpoint. I am allowing no challenge. I wish the whole wide world would simmer down, take one giant step back and look all around the planet. The whole thing.

I wish people could understand on a level that reaches deep into their soul that we are all inextricably connected and that the left hand, which lives very far away from the right foot, does so much damage to the body when it hacks at the foot with a knife. The foot has different demands placed upon it; demands and living conditions that the hand can never understand. But to vilify the foot for its differences is cancerous to the body. The hand and foot don't need to be the same and, in fact, the body won't work correctly if they become the same.  The tongue and heart and thigh are all muscles. But you really wouldn't want them to be the exactly the same....and things would get pretty ugly in your daily life if they couldn't work together in concert with one another. The differences are vital to the proper functioning of the whole.

It's a parable for our families, for our neighborhoods, for our cities, states, countries and finally, our global family.

And until my global family understands that we function best because of our differences, then I'm afraid there aren't enough benzodiazepines in the world for me to continuously jump into the froth, fresh pepper or not.

Photo Credit: j-No via Compfight cc

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Celebration (with hate)

If you take the number 175, which is the number of posts I've published (seriously, that's the number..."Good God," you say, "it feels like 175,000"), divide it by five and then divide that number by seven, you get the number five. And in celebration of that incredible and wonderfully odd number, here are five things I hate:


Look, I understand its function. However, it should be treated like the automatic 18% gratuity for parties of five or more - except opposite. An email sent to any number of people over three should automatically disable "reply all". You should have to confirm that you really, really do want to reply all. Then you should have to follow up with a captcha entry that no human being alive could decipher. You should have to jump through so many hoops that you eventually say, "Fuck it, I'm only telling [insert sender's name here]." Because believe me when I tell you that there is absolutely nothing that YOU need to say to any organization at large. In fact, if we're being honest, there's really almost nothing that the organization at large needs to say to YOU. Delete and move on.

Yeah, like THIS ever happens.

Come on! Isn't there enough suffering in the world without adding to it the mind numbing MC Escher task of untangling paperclips? At least at Christmas, just before I throw the wad of lights into the backyard and walk away, I'm drinking a stiff egg nog.

Get some sleep.....
Of course I don't have to tell you that this is how all manner of spooky things (apparitions, serial killers, clown masks, possessed animals from pet semataries) get into your closet in the first place. Then they hide until you're about to fall asleep and start creaking around just to scare the shit out of you and possibly murder you and/or stomp around in your psyche and suck you into a staticky TV. Just close the doors when you're finished and I'll thank you from the depths of my chest cavity area.

What fresh hell is this?
*see also snack bags with naught but dust left inside
Can you just finish whatever it is and throw the carcass away? Because when you put it away, I think there is more. And then it's like drinking water when you were expecting 7-Up (*see also: vodka). It's just a real boner kill.

Uh, yes they were.
And speaking of boners, put that phone in your crotch where it belongs. You think Steve Jobs vibrated it that strongly so it could sit on a table top?? I DON'T THINK SO. He knew better than we what we need and want, so stick it. Of note: It really isn't any quieter when you leave it to vibrate and skitter across the table than if you just left the little dinger noise or bottle cap popping sound on. Enjoy the silence! And shove it into your lady/man parts.

Thanks for celebrating with me! What a thrill ride these past 175 posts of drivel have been.