You Are NOT Useless

I am perhaps not alone at least among people with a depressive tendency, in finding myself in certain situations (not as much now, frankly, but a lot when I was a kid) thinking I am useless and the world would be better off without me.

This was exacerbated, when I got pneumonia, at 33 – I was then a relatively young, unpublished (though working really hard at writing) mother of two, one just five years old, the other just past one – and the doctors told me this over and over in more or less explicit terms.

To make things clear, they wanted to do a biopsy (I had atypical intercellular pneumonia, but it was pneumonia and it reacted well to IV antibiotics the first two days, but then the doctors got fascinated with the fact that it was unusual.  I don’t honestly know if this was made worse by my having an accent) not to euthanize me.  However, as weakened as I was, my sister in law in Portugal (who is a medical doctor and whom my husband was speaking to on the phone sometimes three times a day) thought there was a good chance even a biopsy would kill me.  And the doctors weren’t reinstating the antibiotic, even though I’d reacted well to it the first two days.  Instead, as I refused the biopsy, they tried to convince me by pointing out even if I died it would be better for my family.  After all, what was I doing for them?  I didn’t even make any money, and my husband was missing days of work to be with me in the hospital.

When they convinced me to sign the authorization, while I was groggy from a laparoscopy (I think.  Whatever it is when they put a tube down your throat) which had caused a heart episode (I told them that if I was tachycardic it would be a really stupid idea give me atropine, but they told me not to worry my pretty head about it), my husband came back in time to revoke it and tell them he would sue them if they carried it on under the circumstances.  And then he told me to get up and get dressed, we were going to the other hospital in town, where they might give me the antibiotic and stop the nonsense.

This is where the fact that, by choice, I promised to obey him in my wedding vows comes in. (I did this because we’re both very hard headed and every association needs an ultimate boss.  Since we were moving to his country, where he knew the rules better, he was better suited to be the ultimate boss.  Oh, and you should have heard the hush that fell on the wedding guests when they heard me promise that.)  I thought he was out of his mind, and I was hooked to oxygen and IV feeding, and the last thing I thought I could do was get up.  But I’d promised to obey my husband, and he was giving me a direct order, for the first (and last, he knows better than to abuse it) time.  So I sat up, removed the stuff I was attached to, got up and went towards the locker with my clothes.  At which point the doctor screamed “Stop, we’ll give her antibiotics.”

They did, and I walked out of there under my own power a week later and was fully recovered save for exhaustion about a month later.  (I want to emphasize here that Dan wasn’t making these decisions on his own, but he was faxing my process, page by page to my sister in law who is a respected pathologist and also that because I was being treated by a team of six where no one was in charge, the mix up in doctor’s orders had already got me to stop breathing twice.)

I’m relating this not to illustrate how awful my care was at the time (it was pretty bad) but to illustrate that third parties, from the outside, bring their own biases to what other people are worth.

The bias might be “earning power” which seemed to be big with those doctors, as illustrated by the fact that they kept telling me I was doing nothing for my family.  (I still don’t understand how their families ran, but I presume they had nannies or something?  When I first came in and I told them I’d mostly been lying down for the last week – I was very ill, and we’d got a babysitter/friend to help – they did an ultrasound of my legs, because they were convinced my sedentary lifestyle had led to a blod clot in my lungs.  Again, I had a five and a one year old, with the one year old just starting to walk.  And I had a 2k square foot home that I cleaned myself (I still clean my home myself.)  And I did all the cooking and yard care, and most of the shopping for the family.  How they imagined that I had been lying down long enough and immobile enough to develop a blood clot is beyond me.)  But the other part of it was also “you’ll never be able to do anything for them.  You’re just a housewife.”

This was a value judgment.  And back then, when I was really ill, it was a terrible judgment, that made me feel that I shouldn’t be alive, and that I was a millstone around my family’s necks.

My husband told me it was nonsense, but of course I couldn’t believe it.

This echoes all the times in adolescence when I thought I was useless.

Now, some of this feeling of “born owing something” seems to be a brokenness inherent in everyone who achieves something.  Why, yes, we have something to prove.

Maybe if you could cure us completely of it, we would not ever achieve anything.  It was after that episode in the hospital that I started working hard enough to sell and eventually to make a modest living from it.

But at the same time, there are two caveats, one particularly important right now in the time of Obamacare when doctors and indifferent bureaucrats might decide you’re not worth the trouble of keeping alive: first, you have inherent value, and you should always advocate for yourself and your right to treatment and to stay alive; second, they don’t have a right to think you’re worthless – and you are worth far more than your economic contributions.

Looking back, if I’d died then, my younger son would probably have dropped out of sixth grade and left school – with who knows what future.  My older son would probably be different too.  And Dan would have been much lonelier not to mention harassed with the two boys to raise.  But also, I would never have been published.  Perhaps I flatter myself that my stories have helped or at least amused some of you.  If I’d died then, Athena would never have been written, or Kyrie, or Luce.  I like to believe it’s good I lived to write them.

The same applies to my depressive episodes in adolescence.  If I’d died then – and I often wanted to – I’d never have met Dan or got to have my boys.  I’d never have come to America.  I’d never have known my friends or read all the books I’ve read since.  I’d have missed the pleasurable moments in the last thirty some years – and I’d have missed what I’ve done that other people enjoyed since.

Since Dan and I are quite happily married – thank you – I think his life would have been sadder if I’d died at twelve or fifteen.

But even if I’d done nothing but exist, the very fact of existing makes an impact in the world, and if I don’t go out of my way to be nasty, (I try not to) that impact is mostly positive.

You are worth it.  You deserve to be alive.

Look, I’m not going to talk of lilies in the field who don’t toil – I’m not that good at flowers – but Dan and I have had – so far – ten cats.

I don’t know what use cats are. They are not particularly productive from an economic point of view.  (What they are productive of explains my obsession with litter boxes.)  But they are loveable, and we have loved them.  Just by being themselves, with their clown antics and their purring and the occasional cuddle on a cold night, they were worth more than the price of their food, and the occasional disasters caused by claws and marking.

You are worth at least as much as a cat, and perhaps more.  Even if you feel all you are is a burden on others, that’s unlikely to be true.  It takes a very barren mind and heart to be nothing but a burden.  Even if all you can give is a smile now and then, that might be the smile someone else needs to keep going.  And sometimes, even just the fact that you need help, is enough to give structure and meaning to someone else’s life.  We all know people who were caretakers for other people and who became better for it.

You are not useless.  You are never valueless.

The problem with our ever-more top-down and bureaucracy-controlled world is that people make decisions for/about other people’s lives based on economic value or other external markers.

But no measure can truly capture the value of a life (even a cat life.)  And if you’re alive and thinking and capable of even smiling, you are not valueless.  And you should never believe anyone who tells you that you are.

Tell the bureaucrats to take a hike.  And tell the internal voices telling you that you’re valueless to take a hike too.

And you, keep going with what you’re supposed to do.  You don’t know how wonderful things might be in the future – or what you might accomplish that you can’t even dream of.

197 thoughts on “You Are NOT Useless

  1. Thanks, great story, great lesson learned.

    Doctors can be fools. Lots of really intelligent people are fools. Don’t let a stethoscope intimidate you.

    Your husband sounds great. If you’ve got a supportive family, you’ve got a lot.

  2. This is part of the reason you don’t want health care run by politicians. You are no use to your family becomes, – AND you are no use to your country since you are a nut job who doesn’t support the glorious party in power this term. You don’t add any value to our economy. And we don’t like how you look either. You are (too thin, too fat, too black, too male, have a Yankee accent, have a Southern accent).

    1. Your organs are of more use saving those six or seven people over there.

      Actually hearing this already, for various “legally dead” cases. Sometimes they recover. Sometimes, after being medically ignored as “dead” for a week or two, they die after proving they were NOT dead. And, of course, if they’re killed for their organs– they’re quite dead.

      I’m having serious doubts about any beating heart donations, seeing as how people keep being declared brain-dead and when it becomes in-ignorably obvious that they were not dead, then the evidence wasn’t enough.

      1. “And, of course, if they’re killed for their organs– they’re quite dead.”

        At that point, not only are they clearly dead, they’re really most sincerely dead.

  3. Life is a game and money is how we keep score.

    I’ve seen that assumption so many times. Mostly from people who’ve never had much experience in life, but also from, well, my mother. One of my bosses. It’s a stark and devalued vision of what a person is.

    Thank you for pointing out that that will be a significant metric in Medical decisions by bureaucrats. I needed new fuel for nightmares.

    Because people grow and mature and come to much more broad based judgments. I’m afraid that bureaucracies start out with good intensions and get worse with time.

    1. The best possible bureaucracy is one that cares enough to keep out of the way and lets people do their thing while keeping down the things that prevent or hinder that. I’ve never found one. The best I think we can hope for is one that follows the dictate of “the most milk from the cows with the least moo” for operations. These are exceedingly rare. This type suffers from the need to fill in all the boxes and follow the rules and regulations.
      Most bureaucracies are filled with rent-seeking schlubs who are filled to the brim with class envy, and who seek power over others to fill in that hole they feel from believing that they are otherwise useless and a burden to others and society.

  4. From “It’s a Wonderful Life”:
    Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?

      1. Shoot, all I did was copy & paste, you actually wrote something. 🙂

        On Wed, Jan 15, 2014 at 7:33 AM, According To Hoyt wrote:

        > dougirvin commented: “Great minds think alike, eh?” >

  5. It’s the old It’s A Wonderful Life saga, writ again and again. Poor George! Never makes anything of himself – he never even went to college! – and is stuck in a rut. A job he hates; a growing number of mouths to feed. No wonder he questioned his right to existence.
    Thankfully, we all have our Clarences: Bumbling, foolish characters who somehow convince us of our worth to others and to ourselves.
    Thanks, Sarah, for the differences you have made and will make in the future.
    Not to wax political, but I think the greatest difference between our societal mores and that of societies like China, is the value we place on an individual life. That life may still be embryonic, or it may be senescing, but the value is still there. If naught else, there are lessons observers learn just from watching them.
    I’ve seen – we’ve all seen – severely disabled people and wondered what was their worth in society. But not readily seen is the character development the people around them undergo. As parents learn to be more sacrificial in serving another. As siblings realize the ‘funny’ person is dear to them, so maybe another ‘funny’ person is dear to someone else.
    If nothing else, it gives doctors and nurses an opportunity to sharpen their bedside manners. (Sorry, Sarah, but your doctors failed – miserably!).

    So, to quote a line from an epic movie, Fiddler On The Roof:
    L’Chaim! To Life!

  6. Thanks for this post today.
    You’re definitely not the only one who goes through depressive periods. Others here have admitted as much, I’ve seen the Huns gather round them, and that has been inspiring. I’ve been going through a mild one myself for the last few weeks. (Nothing too serious, I just tend to Eeyore a lot. Got pretty bad when I was in law school and had more bad habits than I do today.) and while we may not have known we were missing Athena, Luce, etc., our lives would have been poorer for not having known them. Heck, don’t disregard the value of having this place. Without your writing, I wouldn’t have found the Huns. Heck, there wouldn’t even BE Huns without this blog. So there’s that also to throw in the tally.
    We do have worth. You do, I do. Each of us, individually, has untold potential and potentially our worth is infinite. But occasionally we need a reminder of that. Again, thanks.

    1. We’re writers. Depression is statistically overrepresented among us.

      Some of you might find The Midnight Disease by by Alice Weaver Flaherty though depression is only one of the conditions she hits upon

    2. I don’t know about anybody else, but part of why I come here is because it’s so good at driving off the black dog. (It may be more a chiwawa than a mastiff, but it still wears you down.)

      It’s nice to not be alone, and I don’t want to put all of that demand on my husband.

      1. Amen. The stupid puns (and other spirit-lifters) here have saved my neighbors and family a lot of unpleasantness, I suspect. When I just want the whole world to explode under my indignation and frustration, someone starts chucking carp, and after a few smelly salvos (and that’s just from the puns), I’m willing to let the globe survive a few more hours. So thank you, folks, for sparing the world from my watery wrath so many times. *rueful smile*

  7. I was quite depressed as a teenager. As you know some of my history you can understand why. I was suicidal at one point, but when I was able to get away from the situation I started to see some accomplishments. (Electronics, degree, etc).

    And then I became ill again. I didn’t have the same experience in the hospital that you did. I was in Germany at the time in a German hospital and it was very different because we were paying for our care (not in the German health care system). But, I have gone through some real emotional turmoil when I went from a wage-earner to a brick around my hubby’s neck. It did a real number on my self-esteem. I have to blame the hubby for encouraging me to start self-publishing my little stories and poems. (I had been published poet– good literary mags too, but the chemo did a number on my brain and I wasn’t the same in my writing). I was very good technical poet–

    I am going through a another slump in the last year about my writings. I decided this year I would take another workshop with Dean and use the help to get better at my writings.

    I will still write poetry, of course. It is my talent– I think connected to my music ability.

  8. The tiresome thing is that it isn’t even good as source material.

    I wrote a story with a depressed heroine, “Isabelle and the Siren”, published in Sword and Sorceress XVI . Then I went about telling everyone in hailing distance that I would never, ever, ever do it again. And I never have.

    1. Just finished Dianna Wynn Jones’s Howl’s Moving Castle. Marvelous book by the way, much better than Miyazaki’s mangling of it. It was amusing and frustrating at the same time to catch myself applying my own therapy techniques (CBT) to Sophie’s dysfunctional thinking. “Oh look, she’s committing the Mind Reader fallacy! And now it’s the Fortune Teller error!” She’s a likable character, and it’s a lovely story, but the obvious dysfunctional thinking grates occasionally, especially on someone like me, trying to chain down the black dog myself.

      1. My mother couldn’t stand Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix because she taught that age group in school, and frankly got enough of that attitude in real life.

        Which is, I suppose, a compliment to Rowling’s realism.

  9. and tell them he would sue them if they carried it on under the circumstances.

    I am reminded of a scene from Lois McMaster Bujold’s novel “Barrayar”:
    “What do you call four big bravos with clubs in a dark alley? A Vor Lord’s malpractice suit.”

    Or, as I often put it, “I don’t believe in lawsuits; I believe in assault and battery.”

    Humor aside, looking at the main thrust of the piece, I can tell you that there have been plenty of times–particularly back when I suffered from more severe depression–that I was certain I could just vanish from the face of the Earth and nobody would care, or even notice. This was reinforced by the times I was out with a group, when I would fade into the background, drop back, and nobody apparently noticing that I am no longer with them. (This was played for humor in a Star Wars RPG once–where I was playing an Ewok character and, well, ask me about it sometime. 😉 )

    I got treatment for the depression, realized that a lot of that was a “wall” around myself that I built myself and while it’s still a problem I struggle with, it can and does get better. (Or so I keep telling myself.)

    And I think that’s enough soul baring on a public forum for now. 😉

  10. Amen Sarah. We all _do_ have worth. From the president to the guy who lives under the viaduct at the end of the block, everyone is worth something. And yes, your writing and the little community of Odds you’ve established here have definitely added to my life. That much being said, your political point is an important one and I don’t want it to get lost.

    Your doctors (or the hospital’s doctors if you prefer) were willing to risk your life to conduct a science experiment because you didn’t make any money. They placed your value as the value of your paycheck. Supposedly if you’d made more they wouldn’t have attempted to do what they did. This level of materialism, while hardly surprising in today’s world, is disturbing. This goes beyond even the Marxist mentality of “From each according to his talents, to each according to his needs.” It is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. “To each according to his needs” would have at least left you some medical treatment.

    Those doctors weren’t seeing you as totally worthless. On the contrary, you had immense value to them. As a test subject you were totally a publishable case that could have earned all of them a publication credit. Your value to them had nothing to do with the value of life or with the job they were supposedly there to do. I seem to remember something about “First do no harm.” It sounds like harming you was exactly what they were out to do and that’s the part that bothers me.

    Look, I get the fact that things need to be studied. Lives can sometimes be saved because someone else died. It’s sad that it happens, but there’s nothing that can really be done about it. Think about it. How many people were killed by being thrown from moving cars before somebody invented a seat belt? But what they did to you CROSSED THE LINE and not just by a little bit. There may be a thin line there, but what they did was not to tread it unsuccessfully, nor did they jump across it. They got into a fighter jet and flew past it at Mach 3. It just didn’t matter to them.

    That’s what bothers me here. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against rich people. Part of the reason I work in sales is because I hope to be one someday. The fact remains that a person’s worth is not tied to income/wealth/what they produce. There is an intrinsic value to human life which those doctors seemed to miss. I used to listen to a local sports-talk (sportstalk? Sports talK?) show with a host who insisted that you couldn’t tell what the value of a human life could be because you didn’t know what that person would accomplish. I disagree.

    I can look in the eyes of my daughters and see value. Not one of those kids have produced a single thing in their lives (they range from eleven months to eight years) but they have value to me and their mothers and a lot of other people. Ultimately they should have value to the rest of the human race too.

    (I’m going to end this here before I take it to what I see as it’s logical conclusion because I’m about to get into a topic that I think has been previously intentionally avoided.)

  11. What someone said about the NHS in Britain applies to the VileProgs’ idea of medical reform: the patient is not the customer, the government is.

    The Catholic Church and I have a number of theological differences, but I heartily agree with their renewed emphasis on the worth of the individual vs. the desires of bureaucrats and the dark part of western culture. And for some reason this seems apropos: Vermont Royster’s “In Hoc Anno Domini.”

    1. That was where the Dutch doctors drew the line at the Nazi invasion: they refused to concede that anyone other than the patient was their concern. And for that they suffered.

      How the mighty have fallen.

    2. “Vermont Royster’s “In Hoc Anno Domini.””

      I read that every Christmas to our children. Now my son reads it to his children if I am not there.

  12. I did this because we’re both very hard headed and every association needs an ultimate boss.

    It’s amazing how few folks can understand that our family has a similar agreement… Like the joke goes, I promise to do what he says when the rubber hits the road, and he promises to help keep it from ever happening.

    1. The Oyster Wife are just now really working out the interplay of “sometimes I have to tell my spouse to do something.” Not orders, necessarily, but firm instructions (the difference can be subtle). We both have our weaknesses and broken spots, and sometimes we just have to have a kick in the pants or the application of a verbal clue-by-four. It’s uncomfortable but ultimately a blessing, I hope.

        1. From 28 years in — yep.
          And sometimes I get offended at having it pointed out to me I’m acting irrationally. This was particularly true during the hormonal disturbance that made me incredibly depressed. Took weeks of treatment for me to admit he had been right to be concerned and a bit puzzled.

          1. And sometimes I get offended at having it pointed out to me I’m acting irrationally.

            Oh goodness, yes. The nigh-apocalyptic blowup we had around Christmas (Net blessing. Still not fun.) started when my brother ordered a very tired, stressed-out, grouchy Oyster to “act rationally”. I, um… didn’t react very well. So you can imagine how the Oyster Wife felt when she had to do almost exactly that this afternoon. “I know telling you to be rational doesn’t help, but…”

            I suppose that goes back to the trust thing. I was mad, irrational, bitter, and ragingly angry (read: sulking). But when my wife laid out the facts – I was acting irrationally and foolishly; she didn’t have time to talk me out of this or wait for it to blow over; this thing had to be taken care of right the heck now; was I going to come fix it, or show her where the tool was? – I kept sulking and muttering prophecies of doom and disaster, but I got the tools and fixed the [expletive] thing. Because even when I’m mad at her and the rest of the world, I can still hear the voice of reason if it comes from her. I’m truly blessed. [/sappy] (The fact that she’s an excellent cook is just gravy. Tasty, tasty gravy…)

          2. For a couple years after the Volcano was born I was asserting that my wife wasn’t listening or paying attention to me. At one point we were discussing a piece of paper and I asserted that I had given it to her and she’d filed it. She insisted that she hadn’t. I made her look. It was in her files (I do *not* file things).

            This shook her enough that she went to the doctor. She said “My husband claims that I don’t listen to him”. To which the *female* doctor replied “you probably don’t”.

            She also had a serious vitamin Bmumble deficiency (the one that effects memory).

  13. “I think his life would have been sadder if I’d died at twelve or fifteen.”

    Hell, woman…MY life would be sadder if you’d died at twelve or fifteen. Or, for that matter, 33. If you were to die tomorrow, it would be sadder from the moment I learned of the fact until the moment I myself died. And we haven’t ever even MET in meatspace (July, LibertyCon, and the correction of this oversight can’t possibly come too soon, for my taste!), despite the fact that in so very many ways I appear to be married to your roughly-a-decade-younger-and-also-not-from-Portugal twin sister.

    I know Dan even less than I know you, but this is just about the most obviously true statement in the history of language.

    1. Well, if Sarah had died as a teenager or in the O.R., I doubt I’d have published any of the Rada Ni Drako stories, let alone the Colplatschki book. A friend (who knew Sarah’s blog because he’s a Barfly), pointed me here, which led me to Kris Rusch, DWS, and the Passive Guy, and the realization that hey, I can do this too. And the guys from Indie Book Launcher wandered through the comments here one day, and gee, I had a way to look for people who know how to copy edit, and do other stuff I need done.

    2. I’m going to try very hard not to imagine a world without Sarah in it. She and several others here have – in indirect ways – changed or saved my life as it is on several occasions already, and I’ve only been lollygagging here for a couple of years. The lesson of It’s a Wonderful Life may be trite, but it’s also fundamentally true.

      Also, I seem to be posting more tonight than I generally have been in a week. Apparently something’s broken through… or out. *cue ominous thunder*

      1. “Also, I seem to be posting more tonight than I generally have been in a week.”

        I am glad our favorite mollusc is back. Hate it when you clam up.

  14. “I’m a doctor. I know what’s best for you better than you do!”
    All well and good if you have full faith and confidence in your personal doctor and in the doctor patient relationship you’ve established. If you doubt that bond or simply know that it does not exist between yourself and a particular medical practitioner, run away, quickly.
    “An average of 195,000 people in the USA died due to potentially preventable, in-hospital medical errors in each of the years 2000, 2001 and 2002, according to a new study of 37 million patient records that was released today by HealthGrades, the healthcare quality company.”
    Perhaps the most serious unintended consequence of the new ACA kerfuffle is that it will inevitably destroy many close doctor patient relationships either by forbidding them or at a minimum inserting a government bureaucrat into the mix. Without question, it will result in the deaths of some who could otherwise have been saved.

    1. “An average of 195,000 people in the USA died due to potentially preventable, in-hospital medical errors in each of the years 2000, 2001 and 2002, according to a new study of 37 million patient records that was released today by HealthGrades, the healthcare quality company.”

      The medical community was EXTREMELY embarrassed by this and similar numbers in the late 1990s and have taken severe steps to reduce this.

      Then again, do some math. How many patients are treated annually? Are we talking an error rate of 10%, 1% or .1%?

      1. Insufficient information– they went through 37 million, so that’s 0.0053 deaths per record, however we don’t know how the records were selected, or even what they’re calling records.

        Can’t find the study, but here’s a similar one from the same source:

        Click to access HG_Patient_Safety_Study_Final.pdf

        Of the total of 323,993 deaths among patients who experienced one or more PSIs
        from 2000 through 2002, 263,864, or 81%, of these deaths were potentially
        attributable to the patient safety incident(s).
        4. Failure to Rescue (i.e., failure to diagnose and treat in time) and Death in Low
        Mortality Diagnostic Related Groups (i.e., unexpected death in a low risk
        hospitalization) accounted for almost 75% of all mortality attributable to patient
        safety incidents.
        5. Of the remaining 65,972 deaths attributable to the other 14 patient safety indicators
        (excluding Failure to Rescue and Death in Low Mortality DRGs), almost 75% were
        in patients with Decubitus Ulcer (34,320), Post-operative Pulmonary Embolism or
        Deep Vein Thrombosis (8,445) or Post-operative Respiratory Failure (6,320).
        6. There were small variations in PSI incident rates across hospitals and regions.

  15. WRT the promise to obey. I’m firmly convinced that no woman should marry a man who she COULDN’T promise to obey. Why? Because if you can’t trust them enough to trust them not to give a direct order that’s not in your best interest, then you shouldn’t be trusting them with your future and your future children either……

    My husband’s pulled the direct order thing a few times. Usually with something like “You have MASTITIS. Stop trying to DO things, take the baby, and GO TO BED.” Because when I’m sick, I’m also deeply irrational and need someone to tell me not to kill myself by trying to act not-sick…..

    Anyway, if you’re afraid that promising to obey your fiance will mean ending up in horrible situations? You need a new fiance.

    1. I’d say the same thing should be true of men wrt women, then, and for the same reasons. If you don’t trust your life partner when it comes to sudden dangerous situations that don’t have time for explanations, that’s a problem.

      Think of the gasps in the audience if both the man and the woman in a wedding promised to obey each other 😀

      1. Not sure how well that would work out in an emergency situation. Playing Alphonse and Gaston over what’s for dinner is one thing, but in Sarah’s hospital story it would’ve been tragic.

      2. Yes, but truly an association needs an ultimate “The buck stops here.” Part of the implied is he will not order me to do anything I strongly object to — and he won’t do anything I strongly object to.
        The gasps were because I got married in the village. those people, alas, KNEW me.

        1. OK, but shouldn’t there be areas of expertise for each person? Or just trust generally? That’s a hell of a burden to put on someone, to ALWAYS be the arbiter, even if the other person has the information in the time of danger. If you both see the danger and are arguing about what to do while the train comes barreling down on you, that’s definitely a problem and Darwin agrees. But are you really remembering at that moment “Gee, I promised in my vows…” or instead, “Gee, he sounds frightened and I don’t see what the problem is yet, but I trust him.” Even in combat, if a private yells “Incoming!” do you think the lieutenant is going to pull rank–or duck? Trust isn’t just about knowledge or experience, it is about character and commitment to the common good. I would not trust someone who has lots of experience and good judgement but is also a cruel prankster who likes to cry wolf, for example.

          Anyway. I hope I do not come across as judging people’s individual decisions in their marriages 😉 What you do with the rubber chicken and the grape jello in the privacy of your own home does not trouble me. I was discussing the concept as applied generally, and specifically the logic used. There are several people I trust enough to jump if they scream “jump”, and I’m not married to any of them 😉

          1. I figured Dan knew the country better than I did, so it was his puppy. Weirdly, it didn’t turn out he ever needed to give me an order in such situations, and I made decisions like “that company you really love” just before the tech boom crashed “Sounds to me like vaporware and it’s going to pay you mostly in stock. No.” (And I was right.) And at least once I told him “you can move to California, but won’t the commute kill you?”
            OTOH that was the only order and it saved my life.
            The decision to make it THAT way is also because I’m “excitable.” — I.e. if I’m angry (no, really) or depressed it affects my judgement and I might not even be aware HOW.

              1. Sounds familiar. The scene: the Oysterhaus
                FRO: “It’s all doomed, I’m just going to sit here and wait for the inevitable collapse of all that is good or right in the world.”
                Oyster Wife: “Have you taken your vitamins today?”
                FRO: “I don’t know. It doesn’t matter, my whole life is going to end in disaster soon anyway.”
                OW: “Go take your vitamins”
                *vitamins are administered*
                OW: “Better?”
                FRO: *singing* “Vollendet ist das grosse Werk!”
                OW: “That’s what I thought.”

          2. The existence of a final authority doesn’t negate those below it– and proper exercise of authority means that you don’t use it at all, most of the time.

            For your in combat example, there are situations where a superior might have to overrule the private, such as charging into combat instead of hiding.

            1. Well, I always considered Dad to be “First in Command” of the Howard household with Mom as the “Second in Command”. Dad being a wise Commander always consulted with his second in command.

              Of course, it would be a very foolish private who asked the Commander for something the Second-In-Command said “No” to already. [Very Big Grin]

          3. Now, I don’t know this from personal experience (as my experience with leaders is scant and highly varied), but when I heard it explained, it made a lot of sense:

            A good leader* hears the words of his followers/underlings/etc, and gives them due consideration, then makes a decision. Many times, he or she will determine that someone else has better information or understanding, and use their input primarily to make the decision. However, especially in the case of having several inputs at the same time, one person with the authority and the responsibility to make the decision will save time, and sometimes harm, by reducing hesitation.

            The downside for the leader is that, if he makes a bad decision, it all comes down on him.

            * I am ignoring for this point that many people do not make good leaders, and if put in that position, may frequently ignore others’ inputs, put their belief in their own knowledge far higher than it should be, when someone else is more knowledgeable on a subject, or make bad decisions based on impulse, thinking that it’s a “gut feeling”. These are NOT good leaders, and should not be given that position.

            1. Bingo. There’s a scene in C.S. Lewis’s Prince Caspian that always comes to mind when I think about good leaders (and, more relevantly to this scene, good followers):

              “Thimbles and thunderstorms!” cried Trumpkin in a rage. “Is that how you speak to the King? Send me, Sire, I’ll go.”

              “But I thought you didn’t believe in the Horn, Trumpkin,” said Caspian.

              “No more I do, your Majesty. But what’s that got to do with it? I might as well die on a wild goose chase as die here. You are my King. I know the difference between giving advice and taking orders. You’ve had my advice, and now it’s time for orders.”

              Emphasis mine. The sergeant may advise the lieutenant, “Sir, I suggest we do this.” And a wise lieutenant will usually listen. But ultimately, it’s the lieutenant’s responsibility, not the sergeant’s. If the lieutenant takes the sergeant’s advice and leads his men right into a trap, it’s the lieutenant who will be held responsible for his failure of leadership. The sergeant also bears part of the blame for giving bad advice, but it’s the LT who has to make the final call on what to do. And therefore, the LT must also have the right to have his orders obeyed — because otherwise, he bears the responsibility for the outcome without any ability to affect the outcome, and that just doesn’t work.

        2. To me, that’s where Marriage has gotten off on a wrong foot. If I ever marry, I trust my wife to take care of me, just as she is supposed to do the same for me. Loving your spouse, means that you trust them to not abuse/endanger you. IOW, to take care of you, a you would, while you take care of them a they would, because you can “see” better than they do.
          If I ever get back to a semblance of “normal,” I’m going to do campaigns for Abused Spouse/family shelters. The “Theme,” will be. “It take a real monster to abuse your mate/young.”

      3. If?

        That’s been pretty much standard for most of my life.

        Does not have a positive influence on the outcomes, either; turns out that “we’ll both be in charge” isn’t a good foundation for a new house.

  16. Having some professional familiarity with doctors and other medical types I’ve known a few with sociopathic tendencies (it’s a natural fit, in many ways) and they would consider that a step too far. There’s a reason they stress ethics in medical training.

    But it doesn’t surprise me. Because the non-sociopaths believe they can make accurate value judgements about other people. Those folks and their ilk are the worrisome part of Obumblecare, for me. They’ll be the ones becoming health bureaucrats and making decisions on what’s best. *shudder* Give me a sociopath, please, I can talk them around to my side…

    As to the rest, all I can say is: you folks need to stay outta my head, it’s too crowded already.

  17. I never promised to obey but when he gets “that voice”, I do. So far he’s only had to stop me from sitting on a chair that had a wasp’s nest under it.

      1. As I’ve been writing my the “self assessment” part of my annual review (aka “justify your existence”), I’m tempted to put this on the end.

  18. I had a moment recently where he turned around and said “no” and he was quite right. I was contemplating aloud asking for permission to go over 20 credits this semester. As fragile as my health is this year, I’m glad now I didn’t commit to that.

    I’ve also had a moment this week where he held me and assured me that no, I am not useless. So, thank you for this, it was quite timely.

  19. Sorry to be disagreeable, but you are, indeed, useless. So are the cats, because all life is useless — especially incompetent doctors who presume to determine what other people are better off without (the list of what those doctors would be better off without would be long and bloody.)

    “Useless” is a philosophical statement of value and thus has no existence in the natural universe (which is, itself, useless.) Pill pushers and paper pushers would do well to eschew unlicensed philosophy. Sensible people would do well to eschew licensed philosophers.

    A purely utilitarian valuation is especially useless.

      1. Ayup – if usefulness is your only criterion you need to justify the criteria by which you are entitled to deem a thing useful. Only philosophy apportions usefulness because usefulness is a philosophical conclusion.

        The better question might be: who are you to say a person or thing is or is not useful?

        1. The justification of usefulness is in what a thing or a skill may be traded for.

          It is not *me* who says it has a value, it is the one who would trade for it.


          1. There are other philosophies — but you are missing the essential point. A thing has value, has use, only as people impute such worth. Until you recognize this aspect of value — that it is merely opinion — you cannot ipso facto declare a thing with or without value. Some people think a man has value in and of himself, while others hold his value is merely as an expression of his utility to the community.

            Moreover, in your stance you miss that determination of value is not simply what “one who would trade for” a thing who determines its value (to them) to be, but also what you will consent to accept in trade. A gallon of water has less value to somebody drowning than it does to a person dying of thirst — the former person would trade very little for an additional gallon, the other party would scarcely give up that gallon no matter what is offered.

            1. I direct you to the link I attached to my reply to emily61 below.

              I also point out that you have shifted to cherry-picking specific outlying instances, rather than discussing a general idea, and worse, that the outlying instances do not *disprove* the idea.

              It is obvious, to anyone who does a lot of cross-country driving, that gas prices increase the further you get from a glut of gas stations. Location of a good (or person) relative to need is part of the value calculation.


              1. Cherry-picking? I hardly think so. Intellectual engagement becomes impossible when efforts to supply specific examples are denounced as “cherry-picking.”

                Having stated as a general principle that nothing has value except that a person imputes it so, I offered specific instances of such imputation. Your failure to recognize that in every case the imputed value is subjective brings to mind Samuel Johnson’s remark, “I have found you an argument; I am not obliged to find you an understanding.”

                1. Dude. You are arguing with a straw-cat of your own creation. You’re jumping from “he said this” to “he must mean that” with nothing in between but your own prejudices.

                  I hope you’re enjoying it, I’m finding it wonderfully amusing.


                  1. Sigh. Talking to yourself again, mija? Or are you under the delusion that unsupported assertions constitute an argument other than fallacious?

                    There was neither “he said this” nor “he must mean that” in my argument, as my argument followed from the general assertion that nothing has value save man says it so. As I’ve seen no argument contrary to that assertion, that objects possess value independent of what anybody would assign, I conclude there is agreement that value is assigned rather than inherent. It is by acknowledging the implicit arbitrariness of such assignment that we can recognize fully the arrogance of doctors presuming to advise a patient she is without worth.

                    1. The obvious response is that value does exist, it just isn’t always recognized.

                      Easy example, Sarah has value inherent to being a person; the doctors just didn’t recognize it, preferring to recognize her corpse’s possible value as an enhancement to their career.

                    2. *sigh* FINALLY you get there, RES.

                      As kindly as possible, since it was obvious *to me* that we were in at least partial agreement several posts back, you *were* arguing with a straw cat by cherry-picking the value of water in a dry place .. why not pick coals in Newcastle and argue both ends instead of the middle?

                      Regarding whether objects have “intrinsic value”, see elsewhere – that “intrinsic value” is assigned just as much by a person as any other value.

                      As for doctors, I’m confused at what point you two-legged types decided they were any more good at assigning value than your auto mechanics or cable TV installers or any other narrowly-trained skilled persons.

                      I suspect that none of the above like me very much, because I do insist on taking their time and asking – usually politely – for them to answer my questions. I assign a high value to knowledge, especially as it relates to my health (and the health of my family) which I also set a high value on.


                    3. Ah, now I understand your confusion, cat.

                      What I call providing a vivid example, you term a straw cat. Yet if I fail to provide any concrete example I am guilty of arguing an abstraction. Caught by the kafkas, I am.

                      For a value to be intrinsic*, it cannot be assigned by any person; it would be a contradiction of terms. Therefore all value is assigned and no one person has any more right than any other to insist on being the arbiter of what that value might be. To presume any item possesses inherent value is to fail to comprehend the nature of value.

                      As for doctors, that was the main thrust of Sarah’s post, methinks: that they are not qualified to decide whose life or health is of value. That is something they ought have been taught well before med school.

                      *Of or relating to the essential nature of a thing; inherent.

                    4. Had you picked either a more middle-of-the-curve example, RES, or an entire value curve – price of fuel as varied by distance from a refinery, for one – price of water as varied by distance from a well for the equivalent, it would have been obvious that you were simply adding in the value of transportation.

                      The example you picked, water in the desert, did not contain the curve, and led me to conclude you were making a point based on something I did not say.

                      Clarity, it seems, may be something we both thinks has value.


                    5. I had thought that by inverting the normal transactional direction of the water vending I could be both illustrative and entertaining. Obviously I was mistaken.

                      Clarity has its uses, of that I am certain we agree.

                    6. Oops – just realized: you apparently mistook the value I was expressing. It was not transportation but scarcity. The person in the desert would not sell so scarce a resource for any amount; the person drowning would happily pay to have the glut reduced.

                    7. You will understand that, as a corporate accountant, when I read “transportation costs” I am inclined to take it precisely, not as representative of costs arising from other factors. I take your point and trust you apprehend my misunderstanding of your statement.

            2. Your problem is that you assume that there is no person that can impute value in any meaningful sense. If you want to argue that, argue it, but to assume it is to vitiate the conversation from the start.

              (Note the use of “person” rather than “human being” in my statement.)

              1. No, Mary, I assume that value ONLY exists because some person imputes it. Value, largely be definition, is extrinsic, not intrinsic:

                noun: 1. the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.

                Those are ALL externally assigned appraisals. They are perceptions. They are not inherent in the object.

                1. In what way do you understand me to have disagreed with this, RES?

                  Items, and skills, do not themselves have value. To say otherwise is obviously false, the idea of “intrinsic value” is itself dependent upon the judgement of a person or group of people, no?


                  The value of an object remains what you can trade it for.
                  The value of a skill remains what you can trade it for.
                  The value of a person is, I suppose some sort of net value of their respective components – what are kidneys going for these days? – and their earning potential. There is precedent for this, see the life insurance industry.


                  1. I think you’ve missed the underlying principle, that value is an abstract construct. To view it in strictly utilitarian terms — what you can trade it for — is to miss the point. Is the value of your integrity measured by what you can get in exchange for it? Has your honor no value other than how many pieces of silver will induce for you to forsake it?

                    Or does your integrity, your honor, have value to you beyond price?

                    I maintain: value is a product of philosophy.

                    1. And philosophy is an empty jar. Can’t drink it to quench thirst, can’t eat it to fill the stomach, can’t burn it to create warmth, or pour it out to reduce heat .. it’s all well and good, if you like that sort of thing, but the number of unemployed philosophers argues that it’s a waste of time in a survival situation.

                      You may, of course, quibble over whether or not (or to what extent) we are in one, at any given time.

                      As for what my integrity and/or honor – the value of my word, in contextual terms – means to me .. I can’t say that I’ve ever met anyone who would trade me anything for it. I guess nobody thinks a cat would make a good spokesbeing.


                    2. The value of philosophy, the understanding of the nature of knowledge, is in the eye of the beholder. Scorn it carefully, lest you reveal yourself a Philistine.

                      It is a curious thing about integrity that, once sold, it has no value.

                    3. As “Philistine” is itself a value judgement, I see little reason to give a bowel movement about it. Just another arbitrary label.

                      To your point about integrity, it’s true only if you get caught .. but it’s also true someone else can rob you of it… and in both cases, it only matters to the extent that it matters to the person affected.

                      I would find it .. merely annoying .. to have to reinvent myself, being a private person writing under a nom de’ web. Sarah would have a much more challenging problem.


                  2. The problem with that theory is that by it, no one would have any reason to trade anything for anything. There can be no instrumental goods if there are no intrinsic goods, because what could you use them as instruments to get?

                    1. Ummm.. what? That doesn’t make sense. There will always be – always have been – objects that person A wants and person B has, and deals have been made over those values.

                      There is no “inherent” or “intrinsic” value .. there is only what someone else will give you for a thing or a skill at any given time.


                1. To attempt a different iteration: when doctors declare a person without value, as useless, they are expressing opinion, not fact. Their opinion should not be taken as persuasive nor conclusive (except as evidence of their lack of humanity.)

                  Yes, playing with concepts in order to make a point I seem lacking in sufficient understanding to express.

                  1. Quite important, when dealing with any of the skilled trades – regardless of collar colour – to ask questions until you are satisfied that you have reached bedrock facts.

                    This often exposes quite a bit of opinion along the way, sometimes to the embarrassment of the tradesperson .. interestingly, the blue-collar types often react better to questions than the white-


              2. To clarify, my argument is not “that there is no person that can impute value in any meaningful sense.”

                My argument is that any value is only “there” because some person has imputed it. The Universe is indifferent to value or utility, although its Creator probably has His own Opinion. (I will note that what constitutes value to Him does not constitute value to His adversary; that wight considers frustration of Him a value in and of itself, by all reports.)

      1. What difference … at this point in time, what difference does it make?

        Nothing has value except somebody assigns it value. The question, as Humpty-Dumpty observed, is: Who is to be master?

        1. Gone nihilistic, RES? Even the lowest man is good for turning food into fertilizer, or so it is said.

          Value is agreed upon between buyer and seller, always has been… and both sides often leave the table feeling screwed.


          1. Merely expressing the nihilist view to make the point that “value” is a matter of opinion … and the opinions of those who presume to determine others have no value are inherently subject to nihilistic reduction.

      2. We all have value because we are made in the image of our creator. We all have value innately. It is a tenet of American(Usaian) belief that we all have value. I’m a schismatic Usaian I prefer the word American. In all other respects I am an orthodox Usaian.

          1. I see it as “American” can refer to the hemispheres, the colonials and the Empire led by Barack the 1st.

            USAian refers to the Republic which existed from 1776 – 1912. Some authorities date the end of the Republic to the Fifteenth president, others argue it existed as late as 1992, although opponents argue that merely expresses the (brief) restoration under Ronaldus Magnus.

        1. Odin, Hoenir, and Lothur (whom some believe to be a kenning of Loki) were traveling Midgard and came upon two pieces of driftwood, one of Ash, and one of Elm. They fashioned them in the form of a man and a woman, or rather in the form of a God and Goddess since “man” and “woman” did not yet exist. Then:

          Soul they had not, sense they had not,
          Heat nor motion, nor goodly hue;
          Soul gave Othin, sense gave Hönir,
          Heat gave Lothur and goodly hue

          And so the heat, the fire in a person’s soul, the ability to move, and to act, is the gift of Loki, the arch-trickster, the cleverest of the Gods.

          And that is the heritage of every man, woman, and child on the face of the Earth.

          If you go in for that sort of thing. 😉

  20. Thanks for posting this; sometimes I need the reminder.

    Got into Caltech with a National Science Foundation fellowship. As I was completing my Ph.D. I realized, rather late in the game, that I was not only not going to have an easy time supporting a family on an astronomy professor’s salary; I was not even likely to find a woman willing to give me the opportunity to try. Of course, it didn’t help that I had other potential liabilities as a spouse, such as a slight touch of autism.

    So after I finished my degree, I went to work at Sandia National Laboratories rather than take an astronomy postdoc leading (maybe) to a professorship.

    Spent twelve years at Sandia working on a big engineering code that never really developed a customer base. Lots of reasons for that. One was the decision to use C++ rather than the traditional Fortran for the code. It was a big, bold gamble, and now C++ has a significant following in scientific programming. But it also meant we got to make all the mistakes first. Never got much credit, except for the mistakes. Frankenstein’s monster lumbered off into the night to terrorize the villagers; my monster lumbered off into the original C++ standard, and no one can quite seem to prise it out. (valarray, if you wondered.)

    So now I’m working at Los Alamos, and have for eleven years, and once again seem to be struggling for a customer base for my work. So there does not seem to have been a lot of positive impact from my career.

    I did, however, succeed in getting married and having children. All three of whom are now suffering from one major disability or another: fibromyalgia or worse for one, chronic fatigue syndrome or worse for another, and autism for the third. It has been suggested to me that my genes are at fault. Oh, and the older kids aren’t speaking to me any more. (The one with autism doesn’t much speak to anyone if he can help it.)

    So there are times when there does not seem to have been a lot of positive impact from my attempts at being a husband and father.

    A few years back I chaired a local committee to try to keep my little suburb of Los Alamos from becoming a ghetto. Made some progress for awhile, but then I resigned in a huff when a city council member accused us of lying to the city council. (We hadn’t.) We did get a remodel of the main street and a visitor’s center, which took about three times as long to plan and approve as to actually build. Maybe it’s that way outside government, too, nowadays. Anyway, I seem to be no great shakes as a community leader.

    My Sunday School class gets smaller all the time.

    I’ve mentored something like four students as summer interns. Those that weren’t useless chose to continue their career elsewhere. Perhaps it’s as well I didn’t do the professor thing.

    I’ve started a couple of books I couldn’t finish. Nonfiction technical; perhaps not my fault, since both needed to draw on experience at work, but my employer was unsupportive, which made it hard to draw on my experience at work. Still. Can’t imagine any publisher will want to touch me again.

    Thought I might have some talent as a singer. Started taking voice lessons. Put them aside to get married and started on a family. When the chance came to take them up again, the family budget could afford either my voice lessons or music lessons for the kids. I’ll happily take credit for doing the right thing, but the one kid has given up on music and the other, while still playing cello, is really more interested in writing … um … fantasy novels, oddly enough.

    Well, the cats and dachshunds seem grateful for me. And the Venus’ flytrap seems to be thriving. (SPQR warned y’all.)

    I can’t afford to get depressed. It would be all too easy. So I work on my favorite waste of time and spend weekends walking around taking pictures of geology to amuse my friends. And because it helps keep the diabetes under control. Did I mention the diabetes?

    I suspect few of us fulfill that many of our dreams. Utterly irrelevant as a metric of our worth. You can’t price a human soul. Attempting to do so is a form of simony.

    1. You’re writing your resume wrong.

      C++ pioneer. Fathered kids, got them out of childhood alive, educated, and (I surmise) self-supporting. Teacher of interns who go on to successful careers. A person of broad life experience.

      Look, there are plenty of us whose gifts are mostly meant to give away, and whose good results mostly take place far away from where we started them. This doesn’t make those gifts less important.

      Not having finished a book yet? Pfft. Finish one tomorrow. Take Konrath’s 8 hour challenge and go self-pub it on Amazon, if never having a finished book is what’s bothering you.

      1. And you can sing now. Do you know how many choirs are desperate for male voices, even those elderly to decrepitude? And singing’s a very healthy pastime; just look at that Verdi nursing home for opera singers in Italy, where the 90-year-olds are still singing.

        1. Oh gosh I wish more men would sing in our church choir. My spouse laughs at me because when there’s a male cantor, so he says, I perk up like a yorkie ready for a treat. More male voices!

        2. Kent, if you are a true bass, I know of three choir directors who will do anything short of a mortal sin to get you into their choirs! And that’s just people I know personally.

          (I’m a soprano. Until recently we were the vocal version of hydrogen – omnipresent, scattered, and occasionally useful. 😉 )

      2. Don’t misunderstand me. That was a deliberate “I’m gonna eat some worms” version of my life story. It can, of course, be spun a lot more positively. That was kind of the point.

    2. 1. Heh:

      Now dreary dawns the eastern light,
      And fall of eve is drear,
      And cold the poor man lies at night,
      And so goes out the year.

      Little is the luck I’ve had,
      And oh, ’tis comfort small
      To think that many another lad
      Has had no luck at all.

      2. Sounds like you have the chops to contribute to free software efforts. Those folks do good things. (Caution: an experienced friend once explained to me that ego plays a bigger role in voluntary undertakings than it does in for-profit enterprises.)

      3. Another caution: the feeling that At last! At last I’ve found my people! can be powerful—and it may prove coercive.

  21. “I don’t know what use cats are. They are not particularly productive from an economic point of view. (What they are productive of explains my obsession with litter boxes.) But they are loveable, and we have loved them. Just by being themselves, with their clown antics and their purring and the occasional cuddle on a cold night, they were worth more than the price of their food, and the occasional disasters caused by claws and marking.

    Ha! And people don’t believe in telepathic mind control …. the fools. Cats exercise it daily to avoid being discarded as the parasites they are.

              1. I think you’ll need the backstory.

                SPQR and Set visited last spring — a thoroughly enjoyable experience for me — and we were off looking at geology in one of their cars (Set’s, I think) with me navigating from the shotgun seat. At one point we got to a fork in the road and I joked that right would take us to the Valles caldera, while left would mean a cavity search.

                Left led to one of the LANL facilities. Not literally true that you would get a cavity search if you showed up their without a clearance; you’d simply be politely asked to turn your vehicle around and head back to the public road. It just seemed like a funny line at the time.

                Naturally it took on a life of its own, culminating in the “Guide to Northern New Mexico Cavity Searches,” which in spite of rumor I am not the author of.

    1. See, here’s the thing: Humans have partnered up with several species, some to the degree that we can term the relationship to be commensal.

      Dogs are one. The benefit accrued to each side of the relationship there is clear-cut and obvious. We throw the balls, provide the food, and they give us warnings of threats and work with us.

      Cats, on the other hand? Mmmmm… I am not sure that the biologists have really got a term that describes the relationship. The species live together, but the fact is, the cats are clearly the primary benefiting partner. When was the last time you saw a cat doing some form of work? And, I don’t mean pest control, either–Hunting is as much a sport for them as it is for us. That’s not work, that’s recreation. Don’t believe me? Just you try siccing your cat on a mouse, when they’re not in the mood. Doesn’t work, does it?

      Felines may well be the senior species, in terms of who does what for whom. Dogs? They’re just happy (gleefully so) to be along for the ride. They’re our minions. Cats, on the other hand, may well be the ones running the show. Or, at least, think they are.

      There’s no sign that dogs have got anything going like Toxoplasmosis Gondii, whose existence argues for feline overlord status. When I first read about that disease, I found the idea that cats had deliberately developed it to be both alarmingly possible, and entirely feline. The effects of that disease on rodents is positively Machiavellian. Someone who I suspect was probably a cat, in a prior life.

      Frankly, if the cats ever decide they want something, I think they’ll get it. To include world domination and likely off-world colonization. If the cats get it into their heads that we need to go to Mars, we’re going. Disbelieve? Tell me, just how many times have you found yourself opening doors for a cat, only to have to open it again in quick succession, when said cat changes its mind about whether it wants to be indoor or outdoor?

      1. They were still, for millennia, the most effective form of pest control we had.

        Not feeding them seems to help.

          1. that’s because you don’t drudge in the fields for twelve hours a day. do that, and your cat will go hunt mice because you will sleep like a log

      2. Dogs have masters. Cats have staff.

        The dog: “The human feeds me, pets me, gives me shelter, and provides every other need … he must be God!”

        The cat: “The human feeds me, pets me, gives me shelter, and provides every other need … I must be God!”

        1. Dogs have PACKmasters. We’re the alphas in their pack. Odd-shaped, weirdly incompetent in some ways, but stunningly effective at providing food, shelter, and companionship.

          If work didn’t keep me away from home 10 hours a day, I’d have a dog. I still miss the last dog I had, and she passed away 22 years ago.

          Man, 22 years? I’ve wasted that much time alone?

            1. I like my dogs with mustard, onions, chili & slaw, although I occasionally opt for relish or chow-chow instead of chili & slaw. When I can get a Chicago-style dog I am especially happy, but nothing really compares to your basic Nathan’s dog or a Sabrett with red onion sauce.

              Corn dogs are also pretty good, when the mood hits.

              I don’t think a dog with four cats would taste very good. Stop with two and deploy the diced onions.

  22. Thanks for the cautionary tale. I am shocked that doctors in a hospital would say and do this.

    Having said that, I am angry with the attitude implied in this post. Your, my, or their right to exist and/or to take actions to continue to exist is inherent in our personhood. It is in no way dependent on our value to others. Anyone that states that it is is evil and has lost any claim to respect for their opinions on anything that affects other people.

    I hope that the attitude that I inferred from the post is not yours. You seem too sensible to hold it, but I have been wrong before (frequently).

    1. Er? What? No, I was saying that for when people feel a need to justify their own existence — which I do at times. There is no way you can’t NOT justify it. You’re always at least as useful as a cat.
      But no, you shouldn’t need to justify it in relation to others. It’s just when you’re depressed, you often try to.

      1. In that case, forgive my misinterpretation. As far as comparing to a cat goes, how many mice have you caught lately? Also, are you farsighted enough to stock the house with mice during summer so that you can hunt in comfort in winter (my cats were)?

        1. Really, about your cats? Well, I don’t like hunting mice, but I know how to open cans, so the cats find me indispensable. Besides, the only one who hunts is Greebo — outdoor cat — which prevents my having mice inside. He doesn’t eat them, though. He leaves them on the door step I suppose for me to turn into “can shaped food.”

          1. *That’s* impressive.

            My cats are strictly indoors, since between the coyotes and raptors an outdoor cat has a short half life here. We had an outdoor cat when we first moved here (she had not figured out that litter box thing. Misty was a Persian — no room in the skull for any brains.) It was her habit to wait until I drove the car into the driveway after work each day, then jump up on the hood and fix her steely gaze at a point about a foot to the left of my head. This was, of course, her mind control trick to get me to do her will: Pointedly ignoring me. (Some women successfully used that one on me as well, back in the day.)

            We were in the new place for about a month when she didn’t appear one day to sit on my car hood and be supercilious. Never saw her again.

            Another cat once made a break for the outdoors and slipped out the door before I could catch her. I finally found her shivering under a bush. The world: It is so terrifyingly BIG. Made me think of Asimov’s The Naked Sun.

            Oddly, three of the four are rescued strays, but it was the non-stray that tried to get out. The others seem to know it can be a tough world out there. One was found at a city park, much too young to be on her own yet in fine physical shape, but no one ever came to the pound to claim her. I can think of many better reasons to roast in Hell for eternity than abandoning a tiny unwanted kitten at a city park, but it’ll do.

            One of the tube dogs likes to run off, too. My wife once called me frantically at work to let me know she had slipped out the fence and disappeared. I took the bus home, walked to my house frantically calling for her, and of course she was sitting on the front porch wagging her tail and lolling her tongue at me. “Oh, hi. Say, can you let me in the house now?” Long-haired tube dog; they’re really cocker spaniels with short legs and the IQ of a rutabaga.

            Stupid parasites.

            1. Another cat once made a break for the outdoors and slipped out the door before I could catch her. I finally found her shivering under a bush. The world: It is so terrifyingly BIG.

              Our cats are agoraphobic, too.

              It still took a half hour to catch the young idiot when he got out, which is impressive since he was trying to become one with the wall of the house the whole time…..

              1. SuperCat, aka Moose (as in “My name Moose, I play foobah.” 22 lb, 36″ nose to tail) liked to try and go Out. He didn’t know what was there, but it had to be good. So one cold winters day Moose charged for the open door and Dad let him run. Right into 18″ of snow. He stopped dead about three feet from the edge of the porch and began wailing “come get me!” Took him six weeks before he tried going out again.

                Athena cries for you to come back In. Out is dangerous, In is safe.

            2. No coyotes or raptors around here…just cars. And trucks. Between the local traffic-artery-with-a-US-Highway-number (40mph speed limit, typical speed in anything less than 2 feet of snow, more like 55, four blocks from our front door), the local traffic-artery-without-a-US-Highway-number (same speed limit, same typical speed, but more trees, fewer lights, and two blocks in the perpendicular direction), and the actual honest-to-God _freeway_ roughly a quarter-mile away…well, “outdoor pet” is basically just a synonym for “future roadkill” in these parts.

              We’ve only had to chase ’em to the sidewalk a couple of times…thankfully always in winter, which makes their desire to return to the house where it’s warm overwhelm their desire to explore the world. But the big one has a perverse fondness for getting into the garage and rolling around in the small puddle of motor oil that accumulates underneath the car.

              1. The resident cats are fond of the garage. I think they instinctively expect to find rodents in such an environment.

                Which could be useful if I parked my Korean clown car in the garage instead of on the driveway. Twice I’ve had to repair damage from mice that decided the recesses of the car was the ideal place to raise their pups, and chewed-up firewall was the ideal nesting material.

                One of the cats, who I call Squeakums even though her name is Sakura, was very fond for a time of sneaking into the garage when my wife and I brought the weekly groceries home. She’d jump into the car, park her furry fundaments on the front seat, and squeak loudly at us until we were done unloading. Which was particularly strange as she had not the slightest interest in car rides, which in her experience tended to end somewhere character building.

                Another of the cats, who I call Ming the Merciless even though her name is Angel, will stand under the hatch into the crawl space until I open it up and let her under the house. I don’t know what she does there, but I indulge her on the grounds that it seems to be harmless and might reduce the chance of rodents in the house.

                One of the peculiarities of our house is that the access to the basement is via a spiral metal staircase that looks like it belongs on the side of a water tank. (Which, I strongly suspect, is exactly correct.) Ming the Merciless got her name by sitting on the staircase and batting at my head, with claws fully extended, when I walked by.

                She also likes to watch the fish.

                1. When my cat wants to go into the garage, I call it “An Adventure” and when she scratches at the door to be let back in the house, “Adventure is over”.

                  1. Once upon a time, when I was a child, we came home from vacation, and my father opened the cellar door, and a marmalade streak of lightning charged past him.

                    Neighbor’s cat. I forget how long we were gone, but long enough for it to be an ordeal. (It didn’t seem to suffer any permanent damage, though.)

  23. Of course I’m not.

    I can *always* be used as a bad example.

    Now let me read the article.

      1. My former department chair made us take that one down. She agreed with it but apparently HR and Admissions had no sense of humor.

  24. I sometimes have depressive symptoms but rarely since I got married do I want to kill myself. Hubby and I are dog people. Having a dog is good for depression or depression triggers. I mean taking care of a very cute(he’s almost as cute as he thinks he is) doggie. I don’t feel as lonely now that we have Nemo in our lives.

    1. There was a day in graduate school when I came back to the dorm just beat psychically. I don’t remember the details. I remember the black despair, though.

      The dorm had a cat. I don’t know that it particularly belonged to anyone. But I walked in the door and the cat beelined to me and did the rub against the legs thing. For no particular reason I could discern.

      Yeah. Parasites have their uses.

  25. So .. what you’re saying is .. I’m the benchmark for whether someone has value?

    I think I’d be slightly offended .. if I agreed.


    1. Well, the value of humans could be measured in fractions of the value of a cat. Millicats, for example.

  26. Wow. You had (so called) doctors trying to convince you not to live? That gets my blood boiling.

    Everytime I hear someone making some (usually arrogant/high-handed/murderous) claim about someone else’s “value”, I keep thinking value to whom? While I would like to be useful, society doesn’t get a vote on my will to live, nor will I admit any automatic obligation to them simply for being alive. The idea that someone/something else shouldn’t try to live just because I don’t find them particularly useful at the moment is all sorts of crazy. Sadly, I’ve seen that sort of thinking a lot.

    We could all learn something from cats – they don’t ask anyone else’s permission to live, and are singularly unimpressed with despair pushing philosophers. 😛

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