22 January, 2019

from Field Notes, 22 Jan 2019: Dreaming of Thora Birch

Nobody becomes depraved overnight. - Juvenal

After a long movie dream involving a caravan trapped in a collapsed cavern, an insane amount of stolen money, a sacred pool, an ancient evil, and Thora Birch, I woke up with this thought echoing in my head:

Things happen to people all the time that defy empirical explanation, and whether people believe the thing happened or not, it passes into our Collective Memory, our Collective Consciousness, and lives there.

To explain, a little: Miracles and horrors happen every day that resist empirical understanding. Not all things can be replicated in a laboratory and studied. Not every truth is extrapolated by being placed under a microscope. Some things are understood only by faith.  A tree falling in a forest does make a sound whether a pair of ready ears is there to hear it or not. The fact of the tree falling doesn't change, just our understanding of what that event means. 

Going Further:

I've read a great deal of discussion about the Covington Catholic incident from various sides of the issue ... and by sides I mean people or organizations with an emotional or personal stake in the outcome of how this event is interpreted, understood, and remembered. As a Catholic, I am saddened by the choice the boys made to wear MAGA hats, but that is their right. Throughout history, Catholics have, collectively and individually, both helped to support and helped to supplant tyrants. As a Catholic, I distance myself from the "Pro-Life" movement, especially the Northern Kentucky faction (which is so problematic that the national "Pro-Lifers" distance themselves from it). The politics of the issue are so divisive and so rhetorically charged on both sides that I find myself unable to have a reasonable discussion with anyone on any side. And for the record, so no one is confused -- I believe in the sanctity of all life. But I also believe the so-called "Pro-Life" movement is more politically than spiritually motivated. The same is true of the "Pro-Choice" movement. No political action will solve the heart of the problem. The problem is a spiritual one and so is the solution. I've seen enough in homeless outreach to tell you that our culture, in general, does not respect life. Only humanism, love, and compassion with a deep spiritual underpinning will solve any of this. 

Please note, I did not say "Christianity." I don't have the need to make everyone believe like me. But I also believe it's possible to come together on basic spiritual precepts that view humanity as fundamentally tied together in spiritual sense. It's got to do with that Collective Memory. It's got to do with the commonness of our experience that makes us all human. We are all born. We all breathe. We all die. What we do with and between those markers defines everything else about us individually and collectively.

Of course, the thing we're fighting ultimately is the nature we're born with. Evolutionarily speaking, we are monkeys with bigger brains. We're tribal critters by nature, clannish by inclination, and provincial by habit. The more religious among you might call this sin. The more empirically minded might simply call it nature. I tend towards thinking of it as nature, but in the presence of a supernatural possibility -- the possibility to transcend and be an inheritor of God's love -- I believe that nothing in our nature is necessarily written in stone. And even if it is, there is no stone that can stand unchanged against time, the wind, and the river. 

Now, back to this Covington Catholic issue, briefly. Regardless of what really happened... and please, spare me your interpretations because I've seen and read every possible permutation and believe me, there is nothing new under sun... the forces at work on all sides of this have a vested interest in keeping us fighting. I don't believe Nathan Phillips went to start a fight. I believe the fight was already there.  I don't believe the Catholic students went to start a fight, either, though they were probably riled up emotionally because of the "Pro-Life" march. That fight, too, was already there. The lines were already drawn. And in the end, there are only two people who really know what happened and the everyone else will believe what they want.

I read an interesting response to the Covington Catholic situation that addressed another truth about evolution: we do a lot of what we do because of social acceptance. And people on Facebook, isolated as most people are because of digital ideological segmentation, tend to post what they because it's accepted by their social in-group, which causes the brain to release dopamine.  The blackmarket marketeers have keyed into this and use it to sell us everything from political saviors to suppositories. Dopamine elects tyrants and lifts up heroes. This is buried in our nature and we are obliged by, if nothing else, the transcendence of the Collective Memory, to try and grow beyond it.

At the end of my movie dream, I'm standing in front of this monument to all those who have died in unknown tragedies, and so is Thora Birch. She turns to me and tells me that sometimes things happen to people, and whether everyone else believes it or not, the thing that happened is still a part of our Collective Memory whether we want it to be or not. Then I woke up.


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16 January, 2019

from Record of a Pair of Well-Worn Traveling Boots -- Anticipation

I was traveling when my wife and got together. Our courtship was one of distance and of patience: letters, emails, phone calls when a charged battery and available cell towers permitted. The pattern of my leavings started even before that, though, back when we were still just friends, still in our 20's, both of us, I think, still searching, though for very different things. I remember going to tell her I was going to drop out of college. It was a deliberate trip out to see her. I went alone because anything I said I only wanted to say to her. She greeted me in a gorgeous sun dress and when I told her I was leaving, the light left her face like the sun disappears behind a storm cloud.  

But because our courtship probably would not have existed without my leavings, they have been a part of our relationship from the start. 

She knows I have to go from time to time because the ticky-tock thing in my gut won't stop long enough for me to stay home like normal people do. I call that behavior normal because it is the most common, and for those who choose it I say have at it. I love my wife and I love my home -- Louisville, Kentucky breaks my heart like no other place I have ever lived. But still, when the wind kicks up, the current shifts, and urge to go sweeps up upon me, it's bad business to ignore it. And though I've written about it before, I feel like I need to reiterate: traveling as I do is not the same as a vacation. It's true that I often visits friends when I travel. But a vacation is, by definition and practice a respite from normal living to go and do something outside of the daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly routine for the purposes of being able to reintegrate back into that same routine with renewed vigor.

I decided that was bullshit 20 years ago, and life has done nothing to change my mind.

And while it's true that I love being home when I am home, I always feel like I'm in between trips. No matter how present I try to be, no matter the fact that I love my life, my wife, our home, and the grand art we are creating in building our life together, the fact is I spend a lot of time thinking about ways to better perfect my pack so that when I go, I'm as streamlined and prepared as possible. I buy clothes based on durability and utility (pockets).  It's not even an active thing on my part. It's just how my brain is wired.

So when the wind kicks up... I go.

But I always know the way home, even if it's the long way.
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04 January, 2019

from Field Notes: 3 Jan 2019 - Those Isaiah Moments

I did it to myself. I should know better than to not ask more questions. When a last minute metro council meeting to talk about the city's half million dollar PR band aid came up, I should have known better. No one tossed me under a bus. No one tried to surprise me. No one but me, anyway. Me and my Isaiah moments. Me and my  "Here am I - send me" arrogance that put me on a dais with the mayor, two councilpeople and the usual suspects for a grand public circle jerk featuring Mayor Greg Fischer and Wayside Mission's Dominatrix-in-Chief, Nina Moseley
.
Though to be fair, it may be not appropriate to call it a circle jerk. The Victorians had a name for it. The medical cure was  "Hysterical Paroxysm" - or, an orgasm achieved when a (male) doctor administered a "pelvic massage" to a female patient suffering from "hysteria" (being human.)

It was my Isaiah moment, my urge to Do Something that did this to me.

I was mentally prepared for a committee meeting. This is a scenario in which I am very comfortable speaking. Public meetings, metro council, committee, open mics, performances -- I'm very comfortable. The easiest place to hide is in front and up on a stage, because no one actually looks at you when you're in the spotlight. People see all the things they carry with them, all the things they expect. The most invisible spot in any room is in the spotlight.

And that, Dear Friends and Readers, is where I thrive, most of the time. In the land of ghosts.

But it was my vanity, my ego, and --more importantly -- my sense of Rightitude that suffered when, at the behest of a councilwoman who is acting like she wants to be mayor, I took to the dais in a show of "solidarity" for the city's new half-million dollar band aid to the homeless situation here in River City.

I was planning for a committee meeting.  What I walked into was one of the mayor's political dog and pony shows.  He spent a good deal of time talking about what great mayor he is and all the good he's done and to make some unnamed (well-deserved, I have to add) digs at Bevin and Trump. Then one well-meaning bureaucrat got up and laid out the details of where the cash is going and two more politicians talked about how much this is going to help. 

There were two of us on the dais who were not, in some way or another, directly employed by the city. The other guy was the head of another small homeless outreach organization. When the press asked for one of us to speak to some of the issues, I stepped up... I guess, because, you know. Ego. Vanity. Urge to Do. Whatever. And all of my Isaiah moments came crashing down because I spent the whole time, listening to everyone pat themselves and Nina Moseley, whose homeless shelter is as overrun with abuse of power as it is bedbugs. And when I was done stuttering through an answer to some question about there's absolutely no way the city or any outreach organization can convince people to go inside when they're more afraid of the mold and bedbugs and questionable administration practices than they are the cold.

I said it more diplomatically. Which is to say, stilted. And I was ushered off by the mayor who always knows he knows me but isn't sure how so that Nina Moseley could do her best humble brag because Wayside, (not) inexplicably, is getting the lion's share of the money.

So I there I was, on the dais, trying to be diplomatic, trying to show "solidarity", when, in fact, all I was there for was window dressing so the mayor could try (again) to seal his political legacy, so a councilwoman could gain a little political capital, and so the Queen of Bedbugs could be hand massaged by the Mayor of Louisville.

And yes, it will, as a by-product, help some of the city's homeless community. And what will we have to show for it? Some good programming, a bit more outreach, and a big PR band aid for a boondoggle of what is supposed to be a homeless shelter. 

And what will I have to show for it? Nothing. Nothing but the difficulty I'm having forgiving myself for standing on the dais in some bullshit "show of solidarity" when the offense against my sense of Rightitude was so palpable that at least two different people on the dais noticed. 

What I will I have? My inability to forgive myself because when I did have the opportunity to speak, I did not call for oversight and accountability.

May God forgive me, because I don't know that I can.

All the words in the world
matter nothing if they echo,
fade and forget their own meaning.


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