Impeach

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Monday gratefuls: Facebook. Yes, I know how evil it is, but I love it anyhow. Keeps me up with friends from faraway-in distance and time. Internet. Wow. Keeps on enthralling me (literally [sigh] and figuratively). This desktop computer that works. Always. My handheld computer which I rarely use as a phone. Electricity, whether from IREA, our solar panels, or our generator. And, by free association, Nicholas Tesla.

I’d like to apologize to all of you who read this about my near constant airing of my existential crisis. Must get old, but it’s on my mind. This is an online journal, meant to be an airing of what’s up, what’s current in my life and thinking. Not trying to be commercially friendly. Still, I like readers, so I hope I don’t lose you to the scattered thoughts about this guy’s attempt to grab hold of life. Again. And, again.

So. Whaddya think of this impeachment thing? I don’t know how to read it. Impeachment will happen, I’m sure. Removal from office will not. I’m pretty sure. In that case will we have accomplished anything as a body politic or will we have (or, have we already) baked the Trump bloc into our lives?

The separation of powers is, to me at least, sufficient reason to have proceeded. Congress needs to reassert its fiscal, policy, and military roles against an increasingly imperial presidency. Which, if we’re to be honest, Obama did a lot to nurture, too.

The shifting stances of the propagandists who want to keep Trump in office are not as friendly to democracy as we need them to be. The Trump faithful, an unreasoned but strong cult, is strengthened, not weakened by impeachment; they are driven more into each others arms. DJT right or wrong. Political differences, yes. Political battles, yes. But a devotional attitude toward this guy, no.

Where does all this lead us? I come from the rust belt. I know its politics, its people. I’m one of them. Those of my hometown who follow the Trump are many, but not varied. They have lost well-paying factory jobs, now in the long ago 1970’s, and nothing comparable has replaced them. Their community, Alexandria, which thrived while General Motors had Delco Remy and Guide Lamp in Anderson (25,000 jobs), has become a wasteland of dollar stores, boarded up businesses, and many homes with deferred maintenance. Where do they find hope?

The children of my classmates, who’ve known only this depressed economy, have a right to their disenchantment. We’ve earned it as a country by ignoring their needs. Their parents voted Democrat, understood strong unions, but the day the factories died, so did their political will. Trump has stepped into their hearts and into their children’s hearts. He and his kind will not be easily dislodged from them.

Not hopeful about this at the moment.

Live Long, and Prosper

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Sunday gratefuls: for the poetry and philosophy contained in the world’s religions. for not having to believe in them. for the intimacy and wonder of holidays. for deep thinkers and their ability to change our minds, to see what we cannot. for the pain and struggles that teach us what’s important and what’s not.

Seoah made a bulgogi soup last night. Delicious. Each time she comes I think, “I’ll cook like that, too.” Then, she leaves. And my cooking returns to its Western, American ways. I’ve added few Korean dishes to my repertoire. Maybe, over time…

Murdoch bounces around, happy and energetic. His teeth still have the pointy sharpness of a young puppy. He discovered the loft the other day, came running in, wagging his tail, rushing around, smelling this, then that. And left. He’s come back. He may join Gertie for longer time periods if he can contain himself.

Stanford University has a recent initiative, A New Map of Life. I like it because it recognizes the three blocks of life I call first, second, third phase: education, family and work, and the third phase. Not retirement, at least not the finish line model, but a new phase of life previously unavailable due to shorter life spans. And, as a result, one without cultural guard rails or guidelines.

Their approach makes so much sense. They want to to redefine, reshape the cultural paradigms for all the phases, not just old age. “Longer lives present us with an opportunity to redesign the way we live. The greatest risk of failure is setting the bar too low.” WP article: We need a major redesign of life. Dec. 8, 2019

Will investigate in greater depth and report back. I’m going through what seems to be an annoyingly long rethink of my own life. This is the fifth year (in 12 days) of our Colorado mountain life. It has peaks and valleys (hah) and they keep on coming.

Old age doesn’t seem to be the real issue for me though it plays a role. What’s more salient is the unpredictable nature of our daily life and the difficulty of getting into a rhythm for creative work. Health span is a key issue. Kate, though much better now than six months ago, still has occasional nausea, occasional fevers and fatigue, occasional heartburn, constant weakness. I have bouts of fatigue, muscle weakness, and general uncertainty added with prostate cancer and COPD.

Not complaining, observing what’s real for us. How do we build a mutual life that reflects and respects these difficult elements without capitulating to them? There is a disparity between us, too. I am younger than Kate by three years and though I have my own serious illnesses I don’t get derailed by them as often as she does from hers.

There’s a question of mutual life and its outlines and our individual lives. I’m admitting here that our answers so far have not been satisfying. It’s a project for both of us and it continues.

Work Without Hope

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

So. Whaddya think?

December 7, 2019   Work Without Hope   Samuel Taylor Coleridge
All Nature seems at work. Slugs leave their lair—
The bees are stirring—birds are on the wing—
And Winter, slumbering in the open air,
Wears on his smiling face a dream of Spring!
And I, the while, the sole unbusy thing,
Nor honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing.  

Yet well I ken the banks where amaranths blow,
Have traced the fount whence streams of nectar flow.
Bloom, O ye amaranths! bloom for whom ye may,
For me ye bloom not! Glide, rich streams, away!
With lips unbrighten’d, wreathless brow, I stroll:
And would you learn the spells that drowse my soul?
W

Only 200+ Episodes Left

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Saturday gratefuls: the inventor(s) of pho. SeoAh and I had pho in Evergreen last night. Trees lit with Christmas lights down Black Mountain/Brook Forest Drive. (though. Mule deer bucks sometimes get their racks tangled in these lights.) The snow that graces our yard, Black Mountain, the road to Evergreen. The cold, too.

3:30 pm. The sun has disappeared behind Black Mountain yet still lights up a cold blue sky.

It’s the Holiday Walk in Evergreen tonight. The touristy part of town will close their chunk of Hwy 74 for wandering carolers, Christmas tree lighters, stores with holiday cider and hot chocolate. SeoAh and I will travel past it to the Pho place near King Sooper’s in Evergreen. SeoAh loves pho. So do I.

Exercised. Read more about tzedekah, the Jewish equivalent of zakat, one of the five pillars of Islam.

4:30 am. Orion’s shoulders and head and bow have a misty cover this morning, but his boots and his loyal dog showed above Black Mountain. Headed west again, he’s a bit like Sisyphus, always chasing the hare that stays in sight, but can never be caught. The gratitude moon has reached the waxed gibbous stage, well more than half lit but not quite full. Its light surprised me by creating a shadow to follow my path as I got the mail.

Continuing my journey toward the creation of the Ottoman Empire with Resurrection: Ertugrul. This one and a few others like it have a huge Muslim following, as you might imagine. The deeper I get into it, I’m now in season 3, probably 200 episodes or so, the more it worries me.

Though the story has me hooked, obviously, the depiction of jihad, of Islam as the only way, of the daring lengths to which its warriors will go has me thinking of current day mujaheddin. They may (almost certainly do) see themselves in the depictions of Ertugrul and the Turkmen fighting Mongols and Christians. The unrelenting chants of allahu akbar (God is Great.) and death to infidels feel like propaganda. And, are probably received in that way.

The golden age of television has introduced us to writers, actors, locations, and narratives from many different cultures. I watch Korean and other East Asian dramas as well as Bollywood movies. This is a chance to peek behind the national/cultural psyche of these locales. I relish it.

In Resurrection’s case it has helped me understand some of the media that informs and influences Muslims. This show has powerful resonance, drawing us in not only to the lives and travails of its characters, but also showcasing a certain violent devotion not new to Islam. As I’ve written before, television now allows us some of the best parts of travel, not through travel shows, but through the unfiltered presentation of material deemed congenial to a particular culture.

Only 200 some episodes to go.

Learning and Doing

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Friday gratefuls: The grandmother tree at Congregation Beth Evergreen which just lost a large limb. It’s a large Ponderosa. Looks like it will be fine. The mind of Rabbi Jamie. Filled with knowledge and caring. SeoAh’s energy. She cleaned our whole house yesterday afternoon.

Learned something again. That I seem to have learned again and again only to forget. Hot dogs give me gas. I’ve stopped eating bacon and hot dogs except when I’m out. Bought two CJ’s classics. Vienna all beef wienies with mustard and relish. Oh, my. Desire is often not a good match with need.

A strange and unsettling moment on Wednesday. No, not buying the hot dogs. SeoAh and I went to the post office to mail Annie’s phone back to her. The priority mail box that I chose came flat and needed to be folded. As Kate will tell you, spatial reasoning is not my long suit, not by far.

Anyhow I began to fuss with it. SeoAh’s right beside me. When I couldn’t get it, at first I laughed. Then, I began to become self-conscious. What if she thinks I’m getting senile? Made it harder. Which made me more self-conscious. Finally got it, but the momentary damage had already been done. By me to me.

We went from there to King Sooper. Got out of the car in the parking lot and went to lock it. Nope, keys not in that pocket. Or, that one. Surely… Nope, not that one either. Or, that one. In the jeans? Right side, no. Left side. No. OK. Car started when I got in it at the post office so my keys are here. Somewhere. Check all the pockets again. Nope. Nada.

These two incidents left me a bit shaken. Not because I considered them signs of anything other than my usual self. (the keys had slipped between the seat and the center console. I’ve done it before with glasses and phones.) But because they could have made me look feeble in SeoAh’s eyes. A realization for me about aging. Oh, so this happens to me, too.

Little things. Hard, though. We laughed about it.

Mountain Living

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Thursday gratefuls: Friends who know about your own friendship with a constellation. Mt. Evans, which controls our weather. Black Mountain, which dominates my view from this computer. Conifer Mountain, which graces the left side of our journey up Shadow Mountain Drive. Hell, I’ll even give a shout out to the Verizon cell tower on top of Conifer Mtn. And to the folks who put it there.

Thanksgiving here officially ended. Annie’s cell phone went back to Waconia yesterday afternoon wrapped in bubble wrap.

Going to the Conifer Post Office is always a bit fraught. Our Next Door Shadow Mountain lights up with folks complaining about delivery times, deliveries not made, boxes stolen or misdelivered, letters and other mail delivered to neighbors, boxes shown as delivered and never seen. The staff at the front desk is often cranky, too.

Apparently this is a problem for Morrison, Pine, and Evergreen, too. Rural post offices. Also, mountains. Also, snow and rain and curves. Nothing like stopping your vehicle in the road on a snowy day, around a blind curve. Wouldn’t want this job or garbage pickup either. Having to stop a vehicle on the road in the mountains for any reason is hazardous and these folks do it at every house. Every house.

There are a lot of folks who make mountain living now much different from the Jeremiah Johnson era. The folks at IREA who construct and maintain the electrical grid up here. Mail and garbage folks as previously mentioned. The propane folks. Colorado Natural Gas that piped us and many of our neighbors. The Centurylink folks who build and maintain our phone and DSL lines. Jeffco public works responsible for roads, bridges, shoulders. Truckers who bring groceries and other goods to our stores. Workers in various professions who choose to live up here and often accept lower wages to do it. Think vets, doctors, eye care people, dentists.

We are not, contrary to the libertarian mythology, able to live free or die. We need not only family and friends, but a constellation of services and their employees to maintain ourselves up here. God bless them, everyone. Tiny Tim, too.

Murdoch

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Wednesday gratefuls: Mountain Waste, which takes our trash away. Shirley Septic, which cleans our system. Golden Solar, which installed our solar panels. H2O plumbing ran gas to our generator and pcv piping in our laundry room. Schwabel Electric, for the fan in the bedroom and other projects. Ted of All Trades, who put in new easy open door handles and plows us when the snow’s more than six inches. Sandy, who cleans our house twice a month.

The dance with Murdoch as a year long partner has begun. SeoAh’s still here so she has primary responsibility for him, but the outline of a way of having him here and keeping him safe (from Kepler) has begun to emerge.

When we redid the kitchen, we had a latch installed on the sewing room/kitchen door. That meant we could close off a dog(s) in the sewing room. We do this routinely when guests visit or a repair person comes, Sandy. Now we can hold Kep out there while Murdoch comes downstairs, has time with us, with Gertie and Rigel.

In the morning I’ll still feed our three around 4:30 or so. Murdoch will get his food closer to 7:30 or 8:00, his usual time, and he’ll be fed upstairs. He’ll go outside while the others share our breakfast time. Like a human guest, he will stay in our guest room. That’s where he’s spent most of his time while here with Joe and SeoAh. It’s familiar.

Around 5 pm or so, I’ll give him his second feeding and let him outside again. With Kep in the sewing room he’ll have some time downstairs again.

Before I pill the other dogs, he’ll go upstairs to sleep. Repeat.

We plan to try him with Kepler more than once. If he and Kepler could get along inside, it would make life better for him since he could be out of his room more. Outside I no longer trust Kepler with Gertie and I’m starting out not trusting him outside with Murdoch. Could that change? Maybe, though I doubt it.

Kep is such a sweetheart, soft, serious, kind. Except. When he isn’t. Gertie has many scars. I don’t want Murdoch to have any.

Murdoch’s puppyhood is not over and that means we’ll have a vivifying animal in the house. Our dogs are like us, old and more mellow. Granddog. Here for a while.

Might Be

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Tuesday gratefuls: the dog, a tail wagging, face licking bundle of love. the grocery store, especially Tony’s Market. Kate’s successful cataract surgery. Williamsburg oil paints. Princeton brushes. Flovent for the COPD. Landice treadmills. Colorado Natural Gas for bringing natural gas to Shadow Mountain.

Might be the lupron, but when Joseph left yesterday a deep wave of sadness swept over me. Seoah came in and my head was down a bit. Are you o.k.? Just sad that Joseph left. She looked at me. I know how you feel.

Might be the lupron. Might not.

The lupron and the holidays. Might be why I feel so disoriented, so low energy. Trying to read, but find it hard to focus. Trying to paint, but ideas seem stuck somewhere, gluon neuron?

Glad Thanksgiving is over. It was good, but it knocked us out. Could be the lupron. Might not. Hard to know.

The metaphysical or the psychological effects of chemotherapy are tough to define, hard to limn. At least for me. Is the fatigue from preparing and managing a big meal? Staying up with the guests? Am I seeing the world right now as others see it? Not asking the perspectival question, obvious no, but the social consensus question. Is this world the one you know, too?

These are often subtle cracks in my perceptual world, making me question my own assessment of so many things. Can’t say I like this much.

Mark O. and Paul S. both have set learning guitar as a winter activity. Just after Thanksgiving I had decided I would concentrate on painting and justice, justice in this case as a mussar, or character, trait. For a month or more on the painting. Until December 17th when I present my thinking on justice to the mussar vaad practice group.

And, I need to add, reading. I want to up my reading schedule, read more. But I have this strange physical reaction to sitting still, focusing on a book. I want to get up, move around, do something with my hands. Shut off my brain. Sometimes I find a text that wrestles that reaction into submission, sometimes not.

Could be stress from the year plus storm of medical matters. Could be. Could be the lupron. Could be the holiday blues. Could be all of these, probably is, some dark mixture swirling around my consciousness.

Gonna let it be. Be whatever it is. Meanwhile I’ll read as much, paint as much, learn as much as I can.

I & We

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Monday gratefuls: Joe’s visit. Annie’s visit. Seoah’s staying on. Murdoch’s staying on. The engineers who designed our Rav4’s. The laborers who assembled them. Deb and Dave at On the Move Fitness who prepare my workouts every six to eight weeks. The oxygen concentrators that make it possible for Kate and me to live up here.

I’ve mentioned the Turkish TV series Resurrection (see the post for Oct. 21). It’s a long one, well over 400 episodes. A huge work of historical fiction, a novel on the small screen. It holds my attention, though I imagine many would stop watching over its persistent Muslim bias against non-Muslims, its more than occasional violence, and its often laughable translations. Immersion in it and our several years at Congregation Beth Evergreen have combined to make me reconsider individualism.

As an American, as a confirmed existentialist, as an ex-Christian, as a phenomonologist, as a thinker, as an introvert, the individual has always loomed bigger to me than the collective. The notion of a hermetic life. Yes. The life of a scholar hidden in the library. Yes. The life of a novelist obscured by working alone. Yes. Even a move to a mountain home far away from 40 years of friendship and memories. Yes.

The tribal life of frequent, intimate contact with many others has not been mine. Growing up among the 5,000 or so souls in Alexandria, Indiana had its similarities, but we were not bonded by shared purposes, traditions, and genetics. We were a loose collection of families and individuals who shared a common marketplace and a school system. Beyond that we divided into different Christian denominations, extended families, and had no intrinsic loyalty to a lifetime with the folks in town.

The Christian ministry experience is more complicated and I don’t want to go into much depth about it here, but the rise of Protestantism enhanced individualist tendencies as it clambered out of Catholicism in tune with the Enlightenment. Being, say, a Presbyterian is not the same (tribally) as being even a Catholic, and it’s very far from being a Jew or a Muslim.

Beyond those two, a small town childhood and the odd life of an ordained clergy, I’ve followed the path of developing my potential, getting analysis for my psyche’s troubles, and eschewing joining. Love of family and of my Woolly friends, though both dear to me, is not a tribal experience. And, they’ve been enough. More than enough, satisfying.

But. My first taste of tribalism’s benefits came in the year after 9/11, when my ignorance of Islam came into sharp relief. I read the Koran, the whole thing, over Ramadan, fasting during the day and reading it in the segments suggested. I read a lot of other things, too. Volumes of history. Poetry. Works by famous Muslim scholars. Lots of reading. What was the caliphate? What were the five pillars? How did Islam grow and spread so rapidly?

After attending a three day conference on Islam at the University of Minnesota, I went to a break the Ramadan fast event at Dar Al-Farooq mosque near the U. The congregants welcomed me warmly. I sat against the back wall as the men prayed. The women were downstairs. A small boy came over to me, smiled, sat in my lap, and asked, “Are you a kafir?” An unbeliever? Yes, I said. I was. His eyes got big.

The meal was good, eaten on the same floor where the prayers had been offered, covered in clear plastic sheeting. Afterward a group of men talked to me, took me to a library, offered me books to take home, answered questions. It was a warm and inviting experience.

Resurrection shows the same warmth in the Kayi and Dodurga tribes. Their lives are for each other, with each other. They also fight, intrigue, and betray. But the benefits of a tribal identity and life are obvious.

At Beth Evergreen the sense of tribal identity probably doesn’t occur to most congregants. It’s just there. They know the holidays, some of the rituals, know what a b’nei mitzvah is, maybe have some knowledge of Hebrew. Islam permeates the tribal life in Resurrection, but observance is a good deal more casual in this Reconstructionist synagogue.

Think of this. When they read the Torah, it’s a book by and about their ancestors. Yes, maybe its more myth than fiat, but it’s still about the development of the Jewish world and the Jewish worldview. While eating in the Sukkah, they recapitulate a harvest festival celebrated centuries before the common era, by their ancestors, in the promised land. See that? I slipped in promised land. Well, it was promised to them, their ancestors.

On a more immediate basis the caring among members of the congregation, as expressed by the Mitzvah committee, the e-mails and phone calls we’ve gotten over Kate’s illness and mine, the connections outside of the synagogue among members, like my breakfasts with Alan for example and Kate’s time with her friend Jamie, evidence a degree of intimacy and community I never found in a Christian church. I’m sure there are some that have it, I’ve not experienced it.

In rereading this I noticed the theys and theirs in the paragraphs above. I’m not a Jew, nor do I want to become one. But, I love these people and they are my people. I’m not of them in the formal sense, however.

Instead of leaning toward individualism, I may be standing up straight, inclined toward Self and community in somewhat equal parts. That’s still not the tribal modality. In that case the collective overwhelms the individual and their needs. Not gonna be me.

And yet.