Musings

As Good As It Gets

<March 13/19>

I watched the old movie by that name last night.

(the one with Jack Nicholson & Helen Hunt?)

 

& this morning I thought

“Yeah.

Things are kinda shitty lately.”

 

In the world “at large”

… & in several ways

in my own “little” life.

 

Details not important.

(I suspect many can relate.)

 

Corporate malfeasance is at surely historic levels?

End of world cartoon.jpg

Government shenanigans (far too polite a term, of course) also.

(talk about the Mistress of Understatement!

Whoa.

& Hey. I worked for government agencies in the now-rather-distant past. Don’t get me started...)

 

The weather SUCKS.

 

And climate change continues to gallop apace.

It will morph soon, I think, into climate CHAOS.

(If it hasn’t already??)

 

The issues on which I continue to be an activist

(which btw simply means that I am not passive: I give a shit, & I speak out)

& which, for the record, are nukes & vaccines

 

The corruption/collusion/lies

Are at virtually fever pitch.

(another essay altogether…)

And…

My (apartment building) neighbours are driving me nuts.

Downstairs Dude smokes weed 4-5 times a day

(morning, noon, night, even the middle of the night on occasion)

&, as I have learned

It is not merely hot air that rises

But also, whatever that “hot air” contains.

You see what I’m saying?

 

Listen: I smoked my fair share of weed in my younger days

(Lately? Not so much.)

But just ‘cos my neighbour wants to get stoned

does not mean I want to get stoned.

Or be forced to breathe in his weed-y air.

Shouldn’t I get to have a choice about the matter???

 

Means the windows gotta be wide open

Almost all the darn time.

(& with weather concerns – unseasonable rain & wind, say

& air quality concerns lately – yet another whole topic eh?)

Well geez.

🙁 🙁 🙁

Upstairs neighbour? She likes rocks.

Apparently.

She seems to roll some heavy ones across her floor (my ceiling)

A few times a day.

Very early, then kind of late. (& well, other times too.)

Lately she’s added in having a creature chase a bouncing ball around her apartment. Thump thump thump thump.

 

(just guessing about Ms. Upstairs Person here, ok?

Got my theories.

Might be interesting to be a fly on the wall up there, eh??

But…  I’m not.

I’m just “monkey in the middle” down here.)

 

Last night it was really quite the show, between the two of them.

Holy crap.

🙁🙁🙁🙁

Sigh.

(I ought to add here, I fear this situation is making me a little bit mean. Gotta watch that…)

 

And the weather SUCKS.

Did I already mention that the weather sucks?

(although Tuesday morning, early, was simply brilliantly beautiful!!! 🙂 🙂 Had an utterly wonderful walk down by the lake. 🙂 🙂 )

 

Well. I heard a great interview today on CBC Radio’s Tapestry show.

On grudges.

 

It was a delight! It really was.

Quite enlightening.

I have my fair share of grudges, I reckon – some of which, clearly, based on my new learning

might better have been handled a little bit differently.

(Cool to hear this, actually. Gonna let it percolate a bit.)

& you know what?

The state of the world is making me pretty nearly crazy lately, at times.

Not to mention that a variety of things (both “public” & “personal”) are breaking my heart on a pretty regular basis, too.

 

& you know what I am realizing?

This may be about as good as it gets.

Given the state of everything taking place

on Planet Earth

at this particular point in time.

🙁 🙂

As Kurt Vonnegut might say,

So it goes.

Janet

p.s. I still love that old curmudgeon, Kurt Vonnegut. Been reading, & re-reading, his books for more than 40 years!?

p.p.s. just to be quite clear here, this quotation resonates for me, utterly.

“My predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved. I have been given much and I have given something in return. Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.” Oliver Sacks, M.D., neurologist, prolific author, in his book Gratitude – essays written during his last 2 years of life

 Listen: I have a shitload of things in life to be grateful for. Believe me, I know! I keep working away all the time at being grateful (except for when I forget. Which I do on occasion). Today it occurred to me to make a list of things I am grateful to my parents for. & you know? It was a pretty seriously dysfunctional childhood. But still. They did some stuff right. & I am grateful. Still. Truly.

“You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from.” Cormac McCarthy, Nonconformist Hall of Famer

p.p.p.s. things seem to be getting crazier by the day. (Ya think??). It is taking more & more effort to stay “positive” (though I am not at all attached to the necessity of always staying positive. I am not a New Ager.) I am still reading (OMG thank Goddess for good books!!!!!), walking, raising heck still, & am also a hospice volunteer now. These things are still “working” for me. They keep me tethered to the ground. As it were.

& I am grateful for these nuggets of … well. Sanity. In the midst of its ramping opposite.

 

A Few Quotations that Spring To Mind**

** which btw sometimes just means that these quotations are hanging out close to one another in the 137-page Word document I store some of my collection in – so when I go on a search for a particular one that has percolated to the top of my mind, I wind up finding these other gems along the way, huddling in the same general area

“The philosopher seeks to hear within himself the echoes of the world symphony, and to re-project them in the form of concepts.” – Nietzsche (quoted in Oliver Sacks’ book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales)

“Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look.” – Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times ** more Pema here

“4 Rules for Life

Show up.

Pay attention.

Tell the truth.

Don’t be attached to the results.” – Angeles Arrien, U.S. teacher, author (1940 – ) 

 “So long as I breathe and have the strength to do it, I will not cease philosophizing, exhorting you, indicting whichever of you I happen to meet, telling him in my customary way: Esteemed friend, citizen of Athens, the greatest city in the world, so outstanding in both intelligence and power, aren’t you ashamed to care so much to make all the money you can, and to advance your reputation and prestige – while for truth and wisdom and the improvement of your soul you have no care or worry?” – Socrates, Greek philosopher, 469-399 B.C.

“In helping others we shall help ourselves, for whatever good we give out completes the circle and comes back to us.” – Flora Edwards

“Grace happens when we act with others on behalf of our world.” – Joanna Macy & Molly Young Brown in Coming Back to Life – Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World (New Society Publishers, 1998).

“Yes, it looks bleak. But you are still alive now. You are alive with all the others, in this present moment. And because the truth is speaking in the work, it unlocks the heart. And there’s such a feeling and experience of adventure. It’s like a trumpet call to a great adventure. In all great adventures there comes a time when the little band of heroes feels totally outnumbered and bleak, like Frodo in Lord of the Rings or Pilgrim in Pilgrim’s Progress. You learn to say ‘It looks bleak. Big deal, it looks bleak.’” ~ Joanna Macy [harvested from this page ]

“Thoughts become words. Words become actions. Actions become character. Character is everything.” – Source unknown (seen on the wall at Scarborough Hospital in December 2011.)

“We are grateful for you,” she said. She meant her words of gratitude toward the man standing in the rain, but she also meant that very often the world is cruel, as he must know, and decorating the world does not disguise its cruelty; it simply digs its foundations deeper.” – a character in the novel A Shout in the Ruins, by Kevin Powers

“He was glad to be out of the wind, though, and eventually the claustrophobia passed and instead with the stars and the water’s constant roar came a sense that everyone on earth was irrelevant, that if the world were emptied of people tomorrow they would not be missed at all, not by bird nor beast, or God up in heaven or the devil down in hell. It took a bit of getting used to, but he was surprised how comforting it was to feel that this was so.” – thoughts of the character George in the novel A Shout in the Ruins, by Kevin Powers (mightily worth the read, in my opinion!)

** irrelevantly, perhaps (or maybe just wine-inspired??), more quotations about character here.

** I think I need to go wandering through the postings in my Collections posting. Some about grief. Some about, well, this & that, in these difficult, challenging times. They certainly ARE difficult & challenging times…

Cobwebs

So, I spotted some cobwebs in my bathroom the other day.

In the corner between the cupboard under the sink & the wall, a bit up from the floor, in a spot where neither broom nor vacuum cleaner would have rousted them out. A spot I wouldn’t normally even look at.

I only spotted them ‘cos of the way the sunlight & shadows were playing off one another in the room.

Who knows how long the cobwebs had been there? That I noticed them at all was pure fluke.

** This is not, btw, a musing about how bad a housekeeper I’ve become. I don’t even apologize for that anymore.

It’s that I see the cobwebs as a metaphor. I am always on the lookout for a good metaphor!

The cobwebs were (almost) invisible …but very real. They were there; I just hadn’t noticed them before. Just a fluke of lighting, essentially, that brought them to my attention.

I suspect we all have a cobweb or two in our minds, our lives. Things that are there – but that we have simply not observed (yet). That it might be good to bring our attention to.

You know… bring to consciousness.

Mental/emotional cobwebs. Things that are definitely affecting our lives – maybe even hugely! But that we are oblivious to.

Just ‘cos we can’t see something doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

“If you can’t say something, you can’t see it either.” – Stephen Jenkinson in Die Wise – A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul

It’s similar to the way that, during the day, the stars are right up there in the sky all the while. We just can’t see them … right?

Like that.

Stuff that has a bearing on things – only we’re in the dark about it. As it were. Just not noticing.

Well.

I’ve been a very inquisitive activist for 30+ years now, & I’ve delved into a lot of issues over those decades (waste/garbage/pesticides/ozone layer/toxics/lead/water issues/nukes/energy conservation/climate change … & more recently, vaccines).

& there’s a shit ton of issues I know pretty much diddly about. We can’t know everything about everything!

In order to learn about an individual, particular issue, I’ve always had to shine a little light on it, as it were. Doing research, talking to other activists & researchers; reading what scientists were saying, etc.

Doing some digging, in other words.

Complex issues don’t yield themselves up to us right off the bat. They don’t reveal all their little secrets & complexities without our devoting some work, time, energy – and especially curiosity to them. Takes time to really get a handle on a complex topic.

You know?

Iceberg shrunk image.jpg

Sound bites don’t teach us very much at all.

“I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time -- when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness...

The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance” – Carl Sagan in The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

Now, me, I’ve learned a lot of really uncomfortable things over the years. I can even see now that I have been very slow at times – very hesitant – to fully connect some of those dots I really ought to have put together a good deal sooner than I did.

For sure, I regret this now.

And frankly, a lot of what I’ve learned (am still learning) falls into a pretty big conglomeration of what you might call “inconvenient” truths.

A lot of things many folks might prefer not to know … you know?

Some folks are perfectly content to live among the cobwebs.

For some reason, this has just never been an option for me. My inclination is toward the analytical – always in the attempt to really deeply grasp things. Truth … even when it’s “inconvenient.” (You don’t realize how inconvenient it’s going to be until it’s already too late! Your eyes have been opened already. You can’t just forget what you’ve learned!)

“The trouble is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it, and once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet and saying nothing becomes as political an act as speaking out.  There’s no innocence. Either way you are accountable.” – Arundhati Roy

So.

Several years ago I ran across a quotation that has become a real touchstone for me.

4 Rules for Life

  • Show up.

  • Pay attention.

  • Tell the truth.

  • Don’t be attached to the results. (Angeles Arrien, author (1940 – ) 

 As it happens, I seem to be wired for truth-telling.

For sure I’ve run across people inclined to “shoot the messenger.” They don’t want to hear what I am saying. This has happened to me a number of times, over the years.

I’m getting better & better at the “Don’t be attached to the results” part.

More & more as time goes on, I am content to speak my piece, then walk away & let sleeping dogs lie. As it were.

Now mind you, if I see someone walking along the street & s/he is about to fall into a gigantic sinkhole, odds are I’m going to yell

“Hey! Watch out! Sinkhole alert!!”

… without even having to think about it first.

It’s just the way I’m wired.

Believe me, it would have been an easier life for me in many ways if my wiring had been … configured a little differently.

You know?

What can I say? I yam who I yam.

“Say what you know, do what you must, come what may.” – Sofia Kovalevskaya, 19th century Russian mathematician

Here’s to clear vision, I say – even when what’s coming toward us may be a little on the scary side.

Janet

p.s. I had a number of beach walks recently, while away on vacation. (I’m a nut for walking and also for spotting cool seashells.)

I walked up the beach in one direction, with the sun directly behind me.

Then, after I’d turned around & was heading back, I noticed what looked like a heck of a lot of glass on the sand. Turned out it wasn’t glass – it was sun being reflected off the sand & shells, making it look like glass.

Kind of like the cobwebs!

& the stars we can’t see during the day.

A matter of what the light is shining on at a given moment.

 

There is so much going on out there!!! A lot we miss until we develop a little curiosity & pursue greater clarity.

Sagan on truth copy.jpg

p.p.s. the other night I heard an ‘Ideas’ episode on CBC Radio. It was about scientist (physicist) Neil Turok & some of his views on science/scientific endeavour. He mentioned 4 things he believes are essential to both:

  • Curiosity

  • Courage

  • Creativity

  • Collaboration

For the record, while I don’t share his optimism about what lies ahead for our species, I really enjoyed hearing him share his insights from years of experience as a physicist. I too am all in favour of curiosity, courage, creativity & collaboration. (Collaboration involves conversation, & I am a huge fan of conversation!!)

A Few Relevant Quotes

“You don’t see things as they are. You see things as you are.” – the Talmud

“The important thing is not to stop questioning.” – Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955) German-born American physicist (more Einstein quotes – some great ones! here)

“There is not much truth being told in the world. There never was. This has proven to be a major disappointment to some of us.” – Anne Lamott in the Prelude to Grace (Eventually) – Thoughts on Faith

“Truth is the only safe ground to stand on.” – Elizabeth Cady Stanton ** more quotes about truth

“Frederick Douglass taught that literacy is the path from slavery to freedom. There are many kinds of slavery and many kinds of freedom, but reading is still the path.” – Carl Sagan (I found it here)

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” – Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark  

“For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived, and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forbears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” – John F. Kennedy

“A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.” – JFK

“Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something.” – Carl Sagan, astronomer (1934 – 1996)

** Many great & even surprising quotations about science, here

** & tons of quotations in many different categories, under the ‘Quotation Central’ heading up top.

When everything is broken

I think it can be argued that all of our human-made systems…

  • Criminal justice

  • Economic

  • Educational

  • Health care

  • Legal

  • Political &

  • Religious

are broken.

(Many of us feel broken!** Soooooo many of our families are broken.)

  • Capitalism

  • racism

  • sexism

  • homophobia

  • greed &

  • chasing the almighty dollar

  • etc.

Kind of chew us up

& spit us out

… don’t they?

Human myopia, aggression & greed, rapaciousness (& lies)

have laid wholesale waste to Earth’s innate systems of order, beauty & abundance

& so many of us as individual people are trodden upon unmercifully.

Runaway ego & greed (& lies)

down through hundreds of generations

(Let us not forget millennia of patriarchy)

Have carved so many of us into

  • experience-seeking

  • device-addicted

  • self-absorbed

  • brains on legs

& the rate of autism is up to 1 in 36 … & climbing fast!

What can we see left to us

That is not broken?

Well…

There is still friendship & caring

Love

& solidarity

Acts of kindness, compassion & generosity

Good food, laughter & conversation shared with loved ones.

Music!

Nature!

Nature+Therapy.jpg

& while the skies

the waters

& the food … the earth itself

may be poisoned…

We can still laugh (& cry)

Tell the truth (though truth-telling is largely frowned upon)

& …

Hug the people we love, & be kind.

Is it not so?

Janet

** maybe we are not broken. Just wounded. Many of us, terribly, terribly wounded.

(Not broken. As Elizabeth Lesser would have it, broken open)

A Few Quotations

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” – Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

“Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue.” – Eugene O’Neill

“It is not a sign of good health to be well adjusted to a sick society.” – J. Krishnamurti

** quotations about truth

** & conversation

& about community & connection