The Right To Go To Hell

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The left is very adamant about charity not coming “with a sermon.”  It is most of their excuse for wanting government not churches to preach.

But while I understand the convinced Christian’s need to preach and to save everyone from hell, which if you believe it is an eternal sentence and an awful one is mere human decency, I don’t understand the left’s similar need to ensure that everyone lives “a decent life” by its lights.

They refuse to understand that just as people are entitled to disbelieve and deny eternal salvation (and if you’re a Christian you know they are entitled to that. It’s called free will. Just as they’re entitled to sin. Doesn’t make it right. They’re still entitled to it. You can’t force anyone to be holy) they can refuse to live a middle class life. (Or better. The left keeps imagining that middle class is much further up than it is. Possibly because so many of them these days are spoiled rich kids.)

This came to mind last night, thinking of someone in the comments (sorry, I don’t remember the name) who said that maybe 10% of the homeless were aggressive and dangers to themselves and others.  Others simply were mentally ill or caught in the trap of child support but behaved like decent human beings.

The child support thing is iniquitous, and usually on both sides.  No, seriously. Women on the make will drive a man to ruin to finance her lifestyle in the name of “the children.”  Men on the make still find ways not to pay, and if the woman is decent and doesn’t want to turn her kids’ life into unending strife she ends up living in poverty to provide for the kid. I’ve known this on both sides, partly because it’s impossible for a judge to adjudicate fairly without truly knowing the parties involved. Partly because scammers gonna scam.  (It’s almost like no-fault divorce and marriage as a transitory fancy is a bad idea particularly when there are children involved. Never mind.)

The mental health… I’m fairly sure there are still services available should someone need them and know how to look.  And perhaps without the noise of the violent it would be easier for those people to find help.

But I still wonder if the mental health issues are such. And I wonder about other things like “but what if people just want to live like that?”

I have learned through rather bitter experience that you can’t help everyone and also that what you want for yourself and your life is not what other people want. Some people will do the absolute minimum to keep a roof over head and food on the table, even if the roof is leaky and substandard, and the food is whatever and they never do any house keeping and live in what can only be described as utter squalor.

I found long ago that given the absolute same income as someone else, we tend to live better.  Why? because we work beyond the money we have.  I don’t mean just that we work to get out of that level of poverty, I mean that we will trade time for the money we don’t have.

So, when my husband was the sole provider because my writing wasn’t selling yet, I made a lot of my clothes, refinished furniture and, of course, cooked absolutely everything from scratch.  Other than our cars, which we always bought used and fully paid for and drove into the ground, we easily kept up with our dual income friends.  Why? Well, not child care was part of it, but furniture, clothes and food were the other part. It’s just cheaper to do for yourself.

It was also a massive amount of work. Particularly since I was trying to break into writing, and was getting up every day at five am to write for two hours before the routine with the kids started.  I remember years of being short on sleep and going to bed with a long list of work that still needed to be done and I hadn’t got to in my head.

Was it worth it? Well, it was for me. I don’t like living in squalor.  I wanted nice furniture and a nice, clean house.  And I wanted my kids to have good food.

All of which amounts to: it was for me. It might not be for someone else.

It took me forever to figure this out. Let’s say the dime only dropped in the last ten years.  So, I kind of get the left not “getting” it.

Partly because if you come from a background where everyone worked a lot all the time to secure the best lifestyle they could, it’s almost impossible to visualize someone wanting to live in what we’d consider unacceptable circumstances.  Or perhaps not even “wanting” as fundamentally not being willing to pay the price to get a better situation.

Look, I’m not even a hundred percent sure of that last one.  We tried for decades with someone, and everything you gave that would bring a better life got either broken or ignored or thrown away.  Perhaps there is a Petersonian thing there, of people believing they only deserve to live at a certain level and anything above that making them uncomfortable. (Peterson says in terms of people not taking necessary meds, etc, that having seen our own brokenness and that we’re often untruthful and evil — even when we don’t mean to be — we think we don’t deserve to be well, etc.)

Or perhaps it is simply that doing anything, even using the thing that makes it easier is too much effort.

I’ve said before that I think the vast majority of people don’t feel the need to work above a subsistence level and that those of us who do are the mutants.  I still believe so. In evolutionary terms, if you continued hunting after you had mammoth in your cave, you were just going to deplete the game and end up starving eventually.

That’s not the way it works now, but the human brain is not a thing of the industrial revolution.

I believe a great number of the people who live in “chronic poverty” are in fact at the level at which they wish to be/the level for which they’re willing to work.  The left keeps coming up with increasingly fancier explanations, which are now devolving to “invisible demons” of oppression (seriously, in our society? Besides, if societal disapproval caused you to be poor, then a lot of gay people would be historically poor, instead of statistically at the top.)

It never occurred to me that a lot of people who are “homeless” might fall into the same category.  By which I mean the ones who aren’t crazy, addicted or dangerous to others.  Maybe what they have and what they do is the level they wish to live at.  Or at least it’s comfortable enough they don’t wish to do anything to get out of it.  But it makes sense.  After all, by the numbers, these people already live better than your average medieval peasant.  At which point, honesty, my only problem with their choice is whatever help they get that is non voluntary, i.e. taxation, not private charity.  If they’re living like that and it’s their choice, and they’re wholly financed by private charity? Don’t care. None of my business.  Everyone has the right to go to hell in the way of their choice.

What disturbs me about the left’s inability to recognize that choice is that those choices end up being financed from my purse, and the purse of the others who choose to work.  That they are in fact holding up a gun to the heads of working fathers and mothers and demanding money to keep people who (what was Occasional Cortex’s cutesy phrase, exactly, I can’t remember) “aren’t willing to work” in the level of comfort they are okay with.

And then the fact that those people aren’t living at what the left thinks American middle class level should be, in a decently ecologically approved house, with the car and the organic meals and full health insurance, the left will come back and demand more.  More and more money to pour down the hole of trying to change people’s choice on what they consider an acceptable level of comfort and living.  What they aren’t willing to work to get out of.  What, in fact, they’ll preserve if they get more “help” by doing even less to help themselves.

That’s what I object to. I object to the use of people’s choices to blackmail other people out of theirs.

I object to this holy crusade of the left that turns anyone who has less than you into a de-facto saint who needs to be championed, while you need to be tormented because you worked (or your ancestors did) to get to a level you consider acceptable.

I object to this Christian heresy with no redemption, no hope, no future, and no one being good or holy except those who envy and live at the expense of others.

I don’t think there’s ever been a civilization as rich as ours, but even in rich civilizations of the past, there were people who lived at all levels. And though social motility was smaller or slower or hidden, it was possible.  It could happen. It might take multiple generations and grim determination, but it happened.  Just the same, there were any number of people who were satisfied once they reached the “we’re not starving” level and went no further.

There still are.  In the infinite variety of humanity, what you consider comfortable I consider insupportable.  And it’s not just poverty, either. I’d probably die if forced to live the life of a socialite, forever minding what people thought, and having to have the latest styles.  I don’t want that. I’m not interested.

In the same way I suspect any number of the “poor” would think I was crazy, keeping the work hours I do, and taking time to refinish furniture, or clean, or…  Because they don’t feel the need to it.

And that’s their right. They are entitled to live as they want and to do just the minimum to get there.

And the left is NOT entitled to use holy envy to make everyone who wants better and works for it to feel guilty. Nor are they entitled to rob us to finance the lifestyle of people who don’t want to make any extraordinary effort and feel fine the way they are.

And it’s time we stopped this nonsense.

You choose what you want to sacrifice for what. I will willingly sacrifice time and effort for a clean and decent house.  You won’t because you place more value on time on the sofa watching your favorite program? You do you.  Just don’t ask me for money to get you a better house.

You see what you want and you pay the price.  And the do-gooders can go take a flying leap.  As long as your hand isn’t in my pocket, I don’t care.

 

 

Compassion

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Compassion is a beautiful thing.

Just as humans are naturally self-interested, we are also (no matter what those who hate all humans say) capable of great compassion.  In those terms, btw, Americans are probably the most generous people in the world.  Not just in terms of the money that flows in to any victims of disasters, but if you have any minor contretemps in public, people rush in to help.

I remember a very minor thing: the kids had Irish caps for the winter, growing up.  Mostly because I had one, and they liked it, and it was the only way to keep it safe.  Robert “lost” his one day at the grocery store (turned out he hadn’t. He’d “lost” it in our car. But never mind.)  Before we left there, the clerks had bought him a cap to console him, and given him pennies for the horsey ride.  (He was like… 3.)  Just because this little kid was crying inconsolably.  (But not loudly, mind.)

When Dan was briefly unemployed about 20 years ago, neighbors kept dropping big cardboard boxes of canned and boxed food on our front porch, like once a month. We don’t know who. It just happened, because the kids had told someone at the school.  (It was welcome, though at the time our money worries weren’t food-related. We still had the larder of the apocalypse.  But just knowing people cared helped. It also amused me, because in our small hippie-dippy mountain town, half of what we got was gourmet/organic.)

We, ourselves, send out money/help to people we know about once a month (not the last year, because for various reasons we’ve been so tight, we squeak.  This too shall pass. But we normally do that en lieu of say a vacation once a year.)  It’s no hardship.  We know it will come around.  And besides it feels good to help people. I think humans are wired that way.  You get a little mood-boost.

Note all these cases are individuals helping individuals.

In fact, in all but cases of disaster or famine (and notice those haven’t really happened anywhere in the world in the last 10 years or so) we help individuals. Which means it’s not deductible, but we also know exactly where our money is going.  And if we make a mistake and help those who don’t benefit by it, we regroup and move on.

These days I’m not even sure about big, organized charities.  I used to give reflexively to the Red Cross because they helped US back in Portugal when we were in need.  But the things I’ve heard recently… yeah, no.

So, what is this in the name of: homeless.

Oleg Volk, probably the best photographer working today (and the only one who makes me look good. I have a face that looks like a cross between a pumpkin and a potato in most photographs.  You know how the camera adds ten pounds? imagine me strapped with cameras all over.) visited the Denver area and was shocked at all the AGGRESSIVE homeless.

I confess we hadn’t noticed.  We rarely go downtown and when we do it’s usually for specific events/things where we park and take short routes to the museum/restaurant/whatever.

Also, honestly, we saw this happen in Colorado Springs while we lived close to downtown, and also I grew up in a large Atlantic port city, which means “being pursued on the street by a crazy man calling you names” was so “normal” for a young woman as to make it into song lyrics as an example of an annoying thing.  I carry a knife.  I don’t behave like a victim. My eye edits out homeless.

Yes I know, I’m an evil nasty person.  Which was the conclusion someone had on a thread on Facebook, when I said we don’t have a lack of affordable housing, we have a lack of mental health services authorized to commit those who won’t stay on treatment and are dangerous to themselves and others.

In fact, this seems to be the general leftist view, now that homeless exist again — of course they didn’t, under Obama. All those homeless populations were just illusions of your lying, capitalist eyes — that if you’re not willing to throw a lot of money at the problem, then you’re evil, heartless and “authoritarian.” (That last one is a complete confusion.)

Before you jump on me on the “price of housing” yes, I know it’s a problem in many places in the country, mostly deep blue areas.  (And Denver is one of those.)

Most millennials I know did some time “homeless” and many of them what I’d call “real homeless.”

But the post I was commenting on, referred to what I call “deep homeless.”  Chronic homelessness, with aggressive behavior towards businesses and passersby.

There are roughly three categories of “homeless.”  They are conflated by the government for the purpose of getting more tax money to throw at it, but they are really QUITE different, and the solutions to them are not only not uniform, but “throw money at it” hurts the “deep homeless.”

The first level of homeless I doubt there’s anyone who hasn’t hit it at some point.  We did 26 years ago when we moved to Colorado.  We returned the keys to our rental in South Carolina. Had all our belongings transported and stored in Denver. Stayed in a hotel in Colorado Springs (the old Drury Inn) for two weeks, while we tried to find a place to rent.  It wasn’t easy because everyone in MCI had just moved from DC to the Springs and there was a shortage of housing units.  (Which is how we ended up downtown at the corner of Cache la Poudre and Weber, in a student apartment.  And loved it.)

We were “homeless.”  Our mail went to “general mail” at the downtown zipcode, and we had to ask for it.  And, stuck in a hotel room with a toddler, I was pulling my hair out in great handfuls.  Particularly when the kid got sick.

Did we need help?  Well, no.  We needed time (since Dan started his job immediately) which we didn’t really have, to look for a place to rent.  We were tight has hell.  A lot of the stuff in the refinishing mysteries, about having to live on pancakes was from there.  But we weren’t homeless-homeless.  We were just between homes, and tight, which is not unusual for a young couple who just had a difficult (emergency Cesarean) delivery while on COBRA.

Then there’s the second category of homeless, those that could probably benefit from a little help: some money to stay in a hotel, maybe. Some help finding work. Maybe a few meals.

These are the people used to portray homeless in every book and movie and tv show, btw.  People who are basically decent, middle class, temporarily embarrassed.

As I said almost every millennial I know has done time like this.  Usually a lost job, and a move to try to find work lands them in this.  Some were homeless for six months to a year.

And then there are places like California, or NYC where the building restrictions and regulations make it impossible to find housing that anyone making less than six figures can afford, even with roommates.  I hear of medical residents hot-bunking with six people in a 300sq foot apartment.  And a friend brought up silicon valley.  I know I have a couple of friends there, making good money and living in their cars and showering at the Y.  I know this because when I offer signed books they explain they just want ebooks, because space.

Do those people need help?  Hell yeah.  In the case of CA and NYC they need thorazine applied to their “elected” (SO MUCH FRAUD.) officials until they get over their “green” and elitist obsessions.  I’m honestly surprised there aren’t people with yellow vests on the streets.

The others, in other parts of the country?  They might need help finding jobs/making accommodations with student loans.  They might need nearby friends who can invite them to dinner. Government is not the solution. Throwing money at homelessness is not the solution.  Mostly because you get more of what you pay for, and trying to help the people in this category will GROW (massively) the number of people in deep homelessness in your city.  Because they are people very adept at exploiting charity and benevolence and they’ll move where there’s more “benefits.”  The big problem with downtown in the Springs was a combination of the Marian House giving “no questions asked” generous help and the city laws going very lax on homelessness.  To the point of giving them places to shoot up in the city park.

The problem is that no government is equipped to distinguish between “homeless for six months to a year while they find their feet” and “deep homeless.”

The “deep homeless.”  This falls under “dirty and menacing, and chronic.”

The problem there is not that we aren’t throwing money at it, but that we make it WAY too easy to live like that.

It has turned our downtowns into places that normal human beings avoid (no amount of cheery banners on light poles or festivals makes up for having someone who is high as a kite rush at you saying they’re going to kill you.) It has — at least in the Springs it did — destroyed small businesses. Downtowns are becoming just restaurants, only at night, and even then they need some kind of security at the door. It has turned libraries into homeless shelters, to the point legitimate patrons are afraid to go in, and more importantly to take their children in.

And when people who don’t like being menaced and threatened move to suburbs, we get called heartless and “racists.”  (For the record, 90% of the homeless I see are white. As much as you can tell what they are.)

Again, the problem is that we give these people TOO MUCH.  I saw the problem grow in the downtown are in Colorado Springs, and to the extent that I did all my business there on foot, I HEARD their conversations.

These people don’t want to clean up. They don’t want jobs. Most of them have mental health or addiction problems. I heard young people (though they didn’t look it, because meth is a hell of a drug) talk about how they could go home but the parents would require them to go clean and they wanted to be “free.”  And they were.  Free to get free meals everywhere, free to shoot up on the streets. Free to wander into local businesses being menacing and evil.

The problem is that most middle class people — particularly those not coming in contact with these people — and just about all do-gooders in government look at that last sentence and see the homeless as the victims, and the businesses as “fat cats” who should “be afflicted” because they’re “comfortable.”

Most of the businesses who get in trouble with this are small businesses: cafes, restaurants, used bookstores.  They can’t afford to have a burly person with great people skills at the door to turn away the invaders who come in and scare away their customers.  Most of the owners aren’t rich. They’re barely making it. Add this stress and fewer customers… and they go under. And become people in distress themselves.

The deep homeless? They don’t care. If one place turns harsh, they bus to the next place where the pickings are good.  And the more services you offer to “help” the homeless the more this category of people will descend on your city and kill business and make it unsafe for tax payers.

Note, I’m not …. uncaring.  These people are in legitimate distress.  It’s a distress they’re not even aware of.  Most of them are mentally ill and addicted, and those who weren’t when they “dropped out” of society to live “free” have since become so.  Why? Because they have no structure to their days.  Nothing is required of them.  The left treats them as pets who are given leftovers and asked for nothing in return.

This is not good for humans. Humans need some kind of social structure. They need to be required to do something for their keep, even if it’s just “take a shower and don’t menace people.”  Though “Stop doing drugs” also helps.

The problem is that for people to change at that level requires motivation.  We have amazing psychiatric drugs, but they require people to take them regularly which — duh — mentally ill people are NOT good at.

What is the solution?  I am deeply, deeply suspicious of involuntary commitment, mostly because it was used in so many “socialist” (aka communist) countries to confine anyone who opposed the regime. (If you don’t like our lovely utopia, you’re mentally ill, comrade.)

That said, there must be a point at which “unsafe to self and others” kicks in.

There is no point giving the deep homeless money or housing. They’ll end up where they were in days or weeks, and leave a trashed place in their wake.  They are often covalent to what I call “the permanent semi-criminal population” i.e. assault, theft, that sort of thing are kind of in the spectrum.

And they won’t get better just by having money and benes thrown at them. In fact, being treated like pets turns them into a sort of animal, undisciplined, demanding and completely remorseless.

Feral humans are like that.

Also as some of the newer “designer” drugs hit, these populations are often outright dangerous to random strangers.

So… what is the solution?  Well, for one I think that we need serious vagrancy laws.  And then we need private people to weigh in and find the difference between the two kinds of homeless and help those who can be helped.

Rehabilitation? Mental health help?

They have to WANT it. And the only way to want make them want it is to make their current way of life UNCOMFORTABLE.

Contrary to what people abroad think, our homeless are not a symptom of the failure of capitalism, but of its success.  Even in a harsh climate like Colorado, there is enough free shelter, enough free meals to keep people going without their doing anything to deserve it.

But the flip side of that, because there really ain’t any such thing as a free lunch is that those people are making the whole economy less healthy and life in general less pleasant in the affected areas.

And throwing more of the region’s wealth at them will only attract more of them.

It’s time to try civilization. It’s time to try treating them as human beings who can exert some measure of self-control or be hospitalized until they can.

Because the alternative is to let the aggressive and addicted destroy the rest of society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ah, Love

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It occurred to me this morning that our concept of love might be struggling to go back around to the historical mean — and not the sensible part of the historical mean — but the easier, and less civilized part.

Look, our entire concept of romantic love as shaping and creating your entire life was partly a construct of the same wonderful Rousseaunian philosophy of the “natural man”.  If you’ve ever read Tess D’Ubervilles, not to mention suffered through Effie Briest in German with a slightly deranged teacher, you are aware that the “natural” philosophers of the 18th century more or less invented the concept that you should abandon everything for love and reshape your whole life around it.  Also, that there was only one true love, and you couldn’t really have another.

I’m not a hundred percent sure who came up with the idea of soul mates, because mostly I hear it from new agers, and minutes later there is something about my aura and crystals and such.

Note I’m not saying love doesn’t exist. I’m also not saying that soul mates don’t exist.

I’m saying the idea of them being a single person, cohalescing into a unit, and if you marry/elope with that person you’ll be happy your whole life is recent. Also a bit delusional.  Mostly because life — and humans — aren’t like that.  Though it does make fine poetry.

Because it’s a weird and idealistic thing, it has more or less been sloughed off from the culture, while we still hold onto the shape of it. We’ve returned to the more familiar — Shakespeare would recognize it — shape of love as infatuation and love as really good sex, while retaining the idea that we should drop everything to follow this.

Which is sort of a one-paragraph explanation of the divorce crisis.

Recently I bought — because my friend Dorothy keeps talking about it! — the seven love languages, which I think I’ll pass on to son and lovely fiance.

It’s not that Dan and I don’t have different love languages — considering how different our cultures are the amazing thing is that we meet somewhere in the middle — because we do.  Our upbringing was markedly different, particularly his being from New England.  I remember the first time I raised my voice in enthusiasm in the deserted grocery store at 2 am and got told not to make a scene. I thought he’d lost his mind.  (Robert’s lovely fiance is dealing with this too, from the other side, since my family has evolved over time and the fact Marshall and I have hearing problems to communicate in shouts, and in very loud shouts when enthusiastic.  The other day Robert and I were upstairs discussing books; she was downstairs, and she came running up to see why we were about to kill each other. We weren’t. In fact, we were in VIOLENT agreement.)

It’s more that we’ve (mostly) already learned to communicate.  The fact that the portion of Portugal I come from has a strong substrate of English culture, or that dad’s family behaves more like that, and love is expressed (when not in high flung poetry, which is a family affliction) by doing things your spouse needs/wants, or preparing elaborate surprises for your love doesn’t hurt.

I read the whole “you’ll be fascinated by each other for two years, and the end of that can feel like the end of love, but isn’t” was a “duh.”

Because of course, we’ve gone through it, and no marriage survives over 30 years without you figuring out that feeling was completely wrong, and you actually still love each other, it’s just not the crazy lust of early marriage. Which is just that, lust.

I find the fact that traditionally published romances have regressed from romantic love (an unsustainable and often silly ideal, but more conducive to leading to the idea that love remains after lust) to lust-love is probably worse for society, over all.

I gave up on contemporary romances ten seconds after I discovered them. Look, I (rarely but sometimes) read erotica.  I’ve even written erotica (once and weird as the guidelines were it must happen between a married couple.)  But erotica is its own thing and has an honesty of its own.  It’s the confusion between “he’s great in bed” and “I’m in love” that bothers me.

I also eventually gave up on regency romances published by traditional presses. First all the women were suffragettes or proto-suffragettes (if there had been that many, you wouldn’t have been able to move for them), all the ladies ran shelters for abused women, (regency ladies were encouraged to be charitable, but their concept of “deserving” was different. I have no problem believing some of them would run charities for abused women, I have problems believing that ALL of them would or that their concept of abuse was the same as ours. (It wasn’t even the same in the village. A man who controlled your every movement would be considered an admirable pater-familias with a care for his women folk (blame that Arab occupation.)  Here people would tell you to leave him. (Often with reason. No, not every time. Look, other people’s marriages are totally opaque from outside. No, I wouldn’t be happy being controlled. Neither would my husband, because I tend to run the other way when pushed. But I know women where their husband is their mobile/detachable sanity unit. They relinquish control because they need the structure. I know men in those relationships too. I truly don’t judge. The human heart is complicated. And the human soul more so. I’ll just say for such units, it’s heartbreaking when the sane one dies.)

Second of all, even in regency romances, it was all about the sex anymore, as though writers (or more likely publishers) had completely forgotten the psychological game of wooing or the romantic ideal.  When I came across the regency where a stranger takes a virgin from zero to anal sex on a terrace outside a ball, that was it for me and traditional regencies.

Mind you, I still read them.  In my rotation regency romances are usually for “I’m exhausted, just finished a book, don’t feel so well.” They’re most of them so predictable they don’t hold up well to “I’m okay now, and I want something stimulating.”  They’re relaxa-reads.  But I read “Sweet”or “traditional”regencies on Amazon. Mostly on Kindle Unlimited. Which is good because one can’t re-read Heyer forever, just like one can’t just re-read Heinlein forever.

Anyway, it’s entirely possible all this is because of the de-Christianizing of the west, with the concomitant fall of the ideas of duty. Or it can be the same reason we don’t have big families: we’re too rich.

Used to be, particularly for women, you needed a family structure so you wouldn’t find yourself old without anyone to care for you.  I think it’s stupid to have replaced that with money and government, but hey… who am I to say anything. (I just don’t think government will be there to look after my generation, not that way.  And money… we’re in for interesting times.  Not that single women as a rule have tons of savings.)

It used to be man and wife had to learn to be a team after the lust faded (not that some of us don’t still have a lot of fun, even at our advanced age, but if you’re married you remember the weekends where somehow there was no time to get out of bed.  Usually the first 2 to 4 years.  And you weren’t sleeping.) because they were an economic unit, there wasn’t a ton of ways for women to earn a living outside the home (though most worked at some craft inside the home) and there would be a passel of kids more likely to survive if you were together.

And through that, you learned the real love.  You know “Love is patient, love is kind.”  Even though humans aren’t naturally any of that, you learn to be.  You have to, to stay together and not miserable.

And somewhere around year 10 or so, you find what you have is better than the lust years.  You have trust, you have confidence, you have someone that allows you to not watch your back all the time. You can say “you and me against the world.”  And the whole is much, much better than the sum of its parts.  We discover new interests together.  We find that even, you know, going for a drive and nowhere in particular is fun so long as we’re together.  You find even the things you liked doing before are better now, because there’s two of you and over the years the person has learned to understand your sense of humor.  You can make each other laugh with a look. You can encourage each other’s pursuits.  You can reach higher.

But if you think love is really good sex, you’ll never get there.

I like Valentine’s day because it’s a memory of the way things used to be before love was all about sex.  I have a stash of cards somewhere that my husband has sent me for Valentine’s and my birthday (yes, they usually have cats on them. Deal.)

And that kind of love is necessary to rebuild a healthy society. Even if our money and wealth as a society allows to ignore the necessity of a partnership.  Remembering that love is more than the appetites we share with dogs might help create healthier families.

Not that I think there’s only “One person” for any of us.  Okay, some of us are really weird, and even finding one person was a miracle. But there’s a lot of people in the world, and there are probably one or two others in the right age range with whom we could be happy.

As for “soulmates” I have a few.  You will know them. They’re the relatives/old friends you suddenly meet for the first time. (Some of mine are regular commenters here. You know who you are.) They’re one of the few persuasive arguments for reincarnation, but that’s not necessary to explain it.  As RES (that wallaby!) says, the soul is not bound by time and space. Perhaps when you meet your soul mates you just remember knowing and loving them in the future.

It’s just that sort of love is no tied in, nor should it be to romantic love or sex. These people are just companions on our journey to forever, but trust me, I don’t want to sleep with them.

If you’re doing things right — I have a lot of young friends, not just older son, marrying this year and I want them to know this — your spouse is far more than that.

Your spouse is, or should be a real safe space. The person who sees you with no social mask on, the person to whom you can reveal your fears and anger, and who will still love you despite all that.  Your spouse is the person who sees all of you and who, when you’re down on yourself, can also say “But you’re so strong.”  Or just “but I still love you.”  Because Peterson is right and all of us hate ourselves a little, having seen us naked too many times.  Our spouse is the one who sees, but forgives or doesn’t even know there’s something to forgive, but just loves and accepts.

As such a marriage is invaluable, long term.  Because human life is tragic.  And all of us, at some time, will be poorer, sadder and definitely uglier and often horribly ill as we age.  I’d say it’s necessary for sanity and not to fall into bitterness to know at least one person loves us through it all.

Which is worth the times when you had to make an effort to understand, or when it “felt” like there was nothing between you (feelings are treacherous. And just because you can’t feel an emotion it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.  When tired or sick I don’t feel much of anything, and I don’t think I’m unique.)

We need to take the ashes of the “natural love” and the crazy illusion of “lust-love” and build something, perhaps on the foundations of chivalrous love, the foundations of honor and duty.

Because man (or woman, even) were not meant to be alone.  And while it’s possible to have great platonic love for my friends (I do. Agape, not eros) I don’t and can’t demand they consume their life to have my back when I’m attacked, or support me when I’m down.  Some of them would, but there’s a limit. They have their own lives, their own loves.

And I’m very glad I have mine.  I’m very glad my husband married me almost 34 years ago now.  I’m even more glad that we stuck together through some truly horrible times, even the times when it felt like we couldn’t raise the emotions anymore.

Because it’s a joy to wake up every morning and find him by my side.  And I know he has my back and believes in me even when I don’t.  And I’m ready to do battle for him too, when he needs it. (My being the unstable Latin he often has to grab the back of my shirt and pull me back when I deem battle should be engaged.)

I’m glad I have him, and he’s for keeps, and it’s me and him against the world. And I have a place I can let my hair down, or indeed metaphorically speaking, shave my head and run around setting fire to things, and it will be understood.

The journey would be unbearable without a companion.

 

 

Political Animals

I was going to blame this on RES but, even though that’s usually appropriate for, well… everything, it is probably unfair. It was more that last night I had a British Mystery on, and was sitting by my laptop and … well… something happened.

So, without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for…

patriarchalopossum

And because we like to be balanced here at ATH, let’s remember that:
FEMINISTBEAVER

Yes. I do actually know that this is not a beaver (do you know how hard it is to find pictures of a beaver up close and released to creative commons? WITHOUT getting… er… other things.) but SHE self-identifies as a beaver.  So get back you h8ter. She doesn’t give a dam.

However in all these politics it’s important to remember to turn up the heat on the pot slowly, else you get:

GILLETJAUNE

And then, you know, it might be you who are served.

Speaking of which, some creatures have heard of that “get rid of cows” thing, and they have something to say:

HOT AIR

And yep, this is my excuse for a post.  I have a novel to write!

I Want To Teach the World to Sing- A Blast From The Past From January 2014

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I Want To Teach the World to Sing- A Blast From The Past From January 2014

 

When I was a kid I went through years of angst, because you see, what I wanted to do – all I wanted to do, the only work I didn’t find boring or annoying – was write, and yet I had imbued the belief that I should do something that “was socially relevant” or “contributed to society.”

In part this is why I ended up studying languages.  Yep, I was going to “foster international understanding.”  (Which of you giggled?  Have a carp!)

Do I need to go into why this was stupid?  Yes?

Look, I have nothing against believing you have something to contribute to the world beyond what the world is willing to pay you for.  If I did, I wouldn’t have done the years of soul-sucking making no money whatsoever work needed to actually get good enough at my work to make money.  Unfortunately writing is one of those things that really can’t be taught in the classroom.  Or not well.

The problem I have is with believing that you should do something that “contributes to society” beyond, you know, what people are willing to pay you for.

The reason I object to this, is that this sort of do-goodism tends to fall into the “Christmas gifts to total strangers.”  You’re giving someone things they don’t want, at great expense to yourself, and the things will just get discarded or used in ways you’ll never think of.  In the worst case scenario, in which your desire to ‘give back to society’ leads you to become a politician, you end up making laws to make people use those ‘gifts’ that you insist on giving them because you’re sure they’re good for them.  Obamacare for instance, is sort of like passing a law that forces everyone to wear the Christmas sweater knit by their aunt Peggy, the one with the odd color tastes, who is near blind and has the attention span of a hamster, so that the thing is ugly, shoddy and full of dropped stitches that start unravelling the moment you put the sweater on.

Look, first all – why do you need to give back to society?  When did you steal it?

I’m not saying that the fact we live in a civilized society isn’t a great boon.  (Though becoming less of one as… never mind) I’m not saying we all don’t make use of the various inventions since fire, or that I’m not grateful that people with more engineering skill than I have made things like this here computer I’m bootstrapping onto the information superhighway (which might have been started with a government program – so, arguably, if you want to go there, legalized theft – but which became what it is by the grace of porn, lolcats and Heinlein flame wars.  I’m an active participant in the last two!)

What I’m saying is that none of those things was done for my benefit.  It’s not like at the dawn of mankind someone said “Hey, Og, somewhere in the future there will be this chick named Sarah who will need this fire thing.  Let’s do it for her!”  It’s not even like it’s being maintained for my benefit.  In the bowels of the technocracy, Engineer 24 doesn’t get up every morning and say “Hey, let’s make sure that Sarah has the internet up so she can write her blogs, so that her huns are distracted a few more hours.  You know, if those guys became disgruntled, they could be dangerous.”  (Okay, maybe Engineer 24 says that.  He doesn’t know ya’ll were never, so to put it, gruntled.)

Yes, I have the benefit of living in a civilized (waggles hand) society.  But that is mostly because every member in it gets up in the morning, scratches a place or two, grumbles through a shower and breakfast and then goes to work (those of us who work – a brave and increasingly small minority.  We few, we lucky few) because it’s in his/her best interests to go to work – because work benefits him/her in ways either monetary or psychological.  (And here, no fooling, though I’m making a point about working for money not immaterial yayas, if you’re unemployed and it looks to be long term – and in this economy… — consider setting a schedule and working every day at something.  It could be “just” looking for a job, or it could be learning a new skill that might allow you to contract out.  Or it might be, if your spouse/support person is working, cleaning the house and taking burdens off his/her shoulders so you’re contributing something.  I’m not saying get up, put work clothes on and sit down to work 9 to 5.  You might, of course.  I often do.  BUT the important thing is to do something focused and organized, so your day isn’t a blob.  It is not good for man – or woman – to be idle.  But the point is do it for your own benefit.  Have what you do contribute something to your values and your way of life.  Don’t do it “for the people.”)

This idea of doing something “to benefit” faceless others, whether they’re “society” or “the people.” When I was eight, my father told me that the greatest crimes against humanity have been committed in the name of “the people” – I’m now fifty one.  I have only seen this confirmed over and over again.

The reason for this is that “the people” or “society” can’t talk.  (Not really.  Yes, there’s polls.  There’s also lies, damn lies and statistics.)  That means that “doing something for the people” becomes “doing something to the people” which involves in turn “forcing the people to do things I want.”  And the “best” part is you can do it with a glow of virtue because you’re “giving back to society” for all the roads and internet and things.

The sheer and rank stupidity of these “altruistic” “gifts” to society is obvious when you think of trying to “give back” to say, your family.  No, seriously.  My family gives me tons in emotional support, work, sudden help with something I screwed up (thank you honey for keeping the computers running, and sons for driving me to the vet because I don’t want to drive in snow, and for countless cups of tea fetched, and for moving furniture so I can paint walls, and–.)  So, periodically I try to give back.  Unless this is focused and specific (say, they’re sick, and I make them lemon tea) it tends to backfire.  Like when the boys were 12 and 8 and I decided to take time to play with them, because I was always writing.  A) they’d planned a computer game marathon, and I really couldn’t play on their computer.  B) they became very suspicious of my motives, and got weird.  C) they led me to the office and told me to write.  Or take the time I rearranged my husband’s office to “make it nice” for him, and we had one of the worst arguments of our marriage.  (Turned out he liked the way his office was.)

If you can’t “give back” to your nearest and dearest with any degree of accuracy – beyond doing your part in the running of house and family – even supposing you owe society something… HOW are you going to give it back?

If only there were some way to be able to tell when society wants something.  I mean, wants it enough to value it, and not to receive it with a half-embarrassed smile and a “thank you, aunt Peggy” and then pitch it in the trash – laws allowing?  If only there were some arcane way of telling when someone wanted something enough!

Oh, I know – we’ll have these tokens that people can give each other in exchange for goods and services – cool, uh?

You’ll know that a good or service is needed/wanted by how many tokens people are willing to give you for it.

It’s a little risky, of course.  Say that you wish to do something, and train for it, and later find that no one will give you tokens for it.  There will be a few of those tragedies, but fortunately the cost will be born by individuals and is usually recoverable-from, since all skills have auxiliary skills that can be used to get the tokens, even though they might not be what the person REALLY wants to do.  But they can do that in their spare time, when they’ve exchanged their tokens for food and rent, right?

At least we can dispense with the massive bureaucracy to weigh the contributions of engineers one through twenty four and decide what compensation they should receive!  Yeah.  Let’s install the token-exchange system.

What?  What do you mean it’s already been done?  Oh.  I see.  Og sold the secret of fire for enough salt to put on the meat he cooked?  Miraculous.  You mean he didn’t invent fire “to give back to society” for the pelts and things he got? And then, over time, the exchange evolved to symbolic tokens, so we can all shop for what we want and need without carrying a live goat in each pocket?  And all of this takes place on its own, without government intervention?  And in fact goes on despite government intervention, in the form of black markets, in tyrannies?  And it gives us an accurate representation of what large numbers of people want and need?  (Don’t blame me if what they want and need is often the sham wow.) Who would have thought of that?

… Certainly not our enlightened leaders, and not anyone who has gone through school systems in western countries, where we are taught that greed (i.e. making money in exchange for what you produce) is bad, and that your aim in life should be to “improve the world” and “change society.”

Heck, they convinced even me.

I’m not the best example.  Translation would probably have paid better in the long run.  But I couldn’t take it.  Turns out – I know, shocker – that if people understood what everyone says the world over, we’d have a ton more wars.  (Not to mention murders of entire countries.  Think of it as the family of nations babbling loudly in the back seat of the world car.  “If Syria doesn’t stop singing that annoying song, I’m going to bash its collective head.”  “Iran, if you don’t stop whining about Israel, I’m going to come back there and give you what for.”  “No, honestly, Greece, if you ate all your cookies, Germany doesn’t have to give you any.”  “And no one touch anyone else!”)

So, I went into writing and so far – slowly – it pays enough for my simple needs, though the irregularity of pay makes me neurotic like a shaved Persian.  And besides, I have plans to make more.  And I bear the cost of my failures – i.e. I throw my own d*mn Christmas sweaters in the trash, instead of making laws to force everyone to wear them.

Honestly, given the fractured histories and fraught personalities of people who devote their lives to “giving back to society” all I can think is “and they give it to society good and hard.”

For the rest of us – particularly the idealistic fools among us – by all means don’t turn your back on charity.  Help those in need if you know what they need and are sure you’re not projecting.  (The best way to do this is to give to those you know well, because then you also know when aid becomes a shackle and know when to stop. Always remember, in charity as in anything else, that your first rule should be “first do no harm.”)

But as your main work in life?  Do what people will pay you for.  Study how to optimize your work so they give you more.  If you fail, pick yourself up, figure out what your mistake was, and start again.

And don’t worry about being “greedy.”  Unless you’re making money by playing currency speculation (and even that might have its uses in G-d’s wide world.  I just don’t understand enough to tell you what they are) or other financial shell games dependent on a system of crony capitalism, take that money as a sign you’re doing something society wants.

Heaven knows why society would want the sham wow.  But if that’s what they do want, give it to them and take the money, and laugh all the way to the bank.

The other way lies incompetence, greed for power, coercion, and truly nasty Christmas sweaters (or non functional health systems) that you’re required by law to use and pay for.

Give back to society like Og did – go make some money!

Next Time The Story

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

As Odds we have been confronted with the accusation of being “insane” probably before we could toddle.

But we’re not really insane.  We’re not that out of it. We are aware of what reality is and its limitations. In some ways we might be hyper aware. Because we have to reality-check our positions more or less constantly, so as to avoid falling off the edge. We don’t have the herd to hem us in and tell us acceptable from unacceptable. Living outside the overton window means you have to figure out not only what’s real, but also what will cause the band to kill you in an awful way should you fail to rub blue mud on your belly button.

You know exactly what I mean. There’s gradations to these things.  Most of us, the Oddness not withstanding have managed to live pretty average lives, at least from the outside.  We have jobs and families and are generally — or were generally — productive members of society.  We just stand outside and look at things the herd is doing and go “uh, that’s… why? Why do they do that?” which makes us Odds.

It also means we can see when the band as a whole is tilting from weird to completely pants-on-head insane.

Look, in a way we live in the best times ever to be an Odd in any time in human history.  Because no matter how tiny a percentage of the population we are (and we are) we can find each other and talk, and form little bands of our own.  Not that we ever fully belong to any bands, of course, since our curse is to stand outside and watch.

And our glory too, if you think about it.

To the extent Odds have a value — besides our intrinsic value as human beings which we’re at least supposed to have in this society — it is that standing apart. That watching. That refusing to rub our belly with blue mud just because the rest of them do, or refusing to believe it matters, at the very least.

I bet this was really important in the times of isolated bands of hominids roaming the Savannah.  After all, if the entire tribe becomes convinced the only thing to do is eat a particularly poisonous berry and trip away the days, it is important someone is there to remind them they still need to eat and also that being stoned when the lion comes is not brilliant.

I suspect this led to most of our predecessors being stoned, in the not fun way. Which is why — or part of the reason why — we’re such a small component of the human race.  BUT there were probably those of us with cunning and finesse enough to at least peel some of the kids away from the suicidal band.  Or, all else failing, to at least save themselves.

The fact that the Bible and even older writings are full of situations in which the whole tribe/band/city/nation/world was doing something fricking crazy and then one man realized it was wrong (or got a message from the gods. Whatever.  Hey, I’m not sure we don’t periodically get strange calls from above.) and did something to save at least some of the population means there were instances like this.  Instances when the odd man out said “Oh, heck no.” And his actions were the salvation of the tribe.

Knowing us — Oh, my people! — there were probably a lot more occasions when the Odd Man Out, being isolated and without a reality check became convinced if he jumped off a cliff he could fly. Or that fire was his best friend and he must step into it. Or whatever. Those aren’t usually recorded because that’s just Odds going insane, which, as isolated social apes is kind of a normal occurrence.  Also they’re not much help to the species except in the sense of “Ogg did that and died. Don’t be Ogg.”

But we live in weird times, in which communities of Odds are not just possible, but happening all over, partly because — of course — we can.  Partly because we need people as much as anyone else.

And communities of Odds can go one of two ways.  Towards reality or away from it.

Because I am a depressive and very aware of what I put in my head, I try to steer us towards reality.  Because I’ve lost at least three communities in my life time, I no longer care if the direction of reality is not the approved one.

Which is valuable. And weird. And dangerous. And requiring continuous work.

Because we live in Odd times.  Note the capital O.

You see, the world has been invaded by story. We can’t go anywhere or do anything without a story being told, a narrative being wrapped around our existence; without being bombarded with stories of all kinds.

Which would be fine.  In some ways story is what makes us human, what allowed our species to live everywhere and “cover the surface of the Earth.”

Only the stories used to be: don’t go into the woods, they’re dangerous. If you give cookies to the guy who wants to kill you, he’ll eat the cookies and still kill you. It’s better to die defending your city than to live under the boot of those who hate you.

They were survival enhancing stories.

The problem is that story became prevalent at the same time that a narrative profoundly inimical to the west and — must be said — to civilization and even to humanity itself was being deployed in the service of Russian (The Soviet Union was always a Russian vehicle) hegemonic ambitions.  And that artists, like all Odds, are very prone to crazy narrative.  And that these people got to select those who followed them through the power of gatekeeping and mass media.

That power is winding down now. Maybe, perhaps, just barely in time to save us.

Because a narrative that wants all humanity to go back to the bronze age, if not to outright extinction to appease climate events that are AT BEST completely independent of humans, and at worst a function of narrative and manipulated statistics (aka non existent) is a very dangerous one.  And it needs all the work of the Odds to keep us from the abyss.

We used to be afraid the herd would run and jump off the cliff of nuclear destruction.  But it it turns out it’s much worse than that.  In the name of story, they’ll cripple and destroy the very thing that has allowed us to survive.

Are we enough? Enough to bring a maleducated, story-indoctrinated generation back from the abyss.

I don’t know.  I know we need to try.  Otherwise, what are we for?

We need to relearn and teach The Gods of The Copybook Headings.  By story and deed, by example, by laughter if needed.

Before it is too late.

 

Brief Update and Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

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Brief Update

The good news is that I’m still improving, with no backward whomp. The bad news is that it’s really slow, so I plan to call the doctor tomorrow and ask for more/stronger antibiotic since I only have one and a half days left.  On the good side, tonight I should be able to resume my night-duties at instapundit.  And I might be able to get some writing, cover work and publishing done, though I’m trying hard not to push it.  Truly I am.  I’d LIKE to go to the zoo, and we have a friend in town whom we need to meet.

We shall see.

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

So what’s a vignette? You might know them as flash fiction, or even just sketches. We will provide a prompt each Sunday that you can use directly (including it in your work) or just as an inspiration. You, in turn, will write about 50 words (yes, we are going for short shorts! Not even a Drabble 100 words, just half that!). Then post it! For an additional challenge, you can aim to make it exactly 50 words, if you like.

We recommend that if you have an original vignette, you post that as a new reply. If you are commenting on someone’s vignette, then post that as a reply to the vignette. Comments — this is writing practice, so comments should be aimed at helping someone be a better writer, not at crushing them. And since these are likely to be drafts, don’t jump up and down too hard on typos and grammar.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is: grow