Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Letting People Go

I have never been able to readily let people go.

I am not really sure where this comes from. I wonder if it comes from a deep seated feeling that people leaving means that I am not good enough or worthy of enough to be maintained.  Or it could simply be from a sense of pride, that horrible monster that says  "You do not leave me.  I leave you."

But if I objectively look at the outcome of the last 35 years, I come away with the sense that far more people have left than have stayed.  And the longer I live, the more attenuated the gaps seem to become, until what would seemed to have been a steady course of land stretching behind me has a series of small islands, more and more which seem to be receding into the Sea of Memory.

People get busy, of course.  And in a society where there is a plethora of things to occupy one's time, keeping up with old acquaintances that one has not seen in years and with whom one shares perhaps nothing in common now- or worse, only bad and unfortunate memories- probably falls to bottom of the list.  As, quite likely, it should.

I get wistful, of course.  It is part of the romantic in me, I suppose - wondering what happened to people, where they are now, what they are doing - not that this information is at all inaccessible these days of course:  give me five minutes and two social media sites and I can general find out.

But that is not really the point.  I can find the information; I can no longer find the people.

That is the most distressing part.  It is one thing to have events wander away from us; it is another thing entirely to figure out that there is quite likely a reason that people are no longer in contact with you.

The fault, I suspect, is largely my own.  Contrary to my beliefs about myself, I have created any number of bad memories for others, no doubt.  I have failed others.  I have been unkind with words and deeds.  I have not always treated others as I ought.

And so now, every time I find such an urge rising up in me - the urge to follow a link, to search a name, to linger over a recent picture and memories - I beat it back down inside and carefully lock it away.    People have chosen. And it is far more important that I respect their choice than fulfill any sort of foolish nostalgia I have lingering my mind. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Turn You See Coming

Sometimes you find that you have turned corners and scarcely realize that such a thing has happened.

You suspect it is coming, of course:   like an average city block  you grasp that at some point the intersection will arrive.  You may even have a sense of how far it is until the turn arrives - and then, just like that, it is there.

You probably have made the turn out of instinct before you even thought about it; looking in the rear view mirror you see the traffic that was trailing you headed on down towards what you had believed was your destination.  It was not, apparently:  the turn arrived and for some reason you took it while others did not.

You probably think about it some as you continue on your new course: Did you see it coming?  Did you suspect?  Why did you turn?  And perhaps most importantly, where is it that you are headed now? 

There is probably a pang or two of regret as you continue to motor away.  The destination you thought you were heading to is no longer yours, and the people you thought were going to be there when arrived may not - nay, probably will not be there.  And you have no way of knowing what, or who, you will fine.

But all this is conjecture, of course:  the turn came and you made it and others did not.  All you can do now is to continue to drive into the sunset.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Kindness, Where Art Thou?

Yesterday morning, in a correspondence with A Chailin Ruadh, she mentioned that that her manager had given her a bouquet of flowers for coming in to work on Saturday.  "How kind"  I commented.  "Yes, it is unexpected" she replied.

Which got me to thinking:  Kindness has become a very scarce and unusual thing.

What is kindness?  That is a hard thing to connotatively define.  Merriam Webster would tell you it is the quality or state of being kind, which itself is define as "having or showing a gentle nature and a desire to help others; wanting and liking to do good things and bring happiness to others."  But that is only a general definition.  Kindness, it seems to me, something more seen out of the corner of our eyes rather than clearly.  It manifests itself in different ways:

- Choosing to creatively discuss a failure and come up with solutions rather than come down hard on the failure.

- Choosing to not draw attention to an issue at in inopportune time when it would detract from the main attraction.

- Helping when it is neither your responsibility nor your job.

- Speaking a kind word when it is not required.

Kindness is not costless, of course.  It costs something to creatively resolve an issue instead of attacking someone or not speaking when to speak would be justifiable or to expend one's time on something that is not in one's area of responsibility.  It costs us our right to ourselves, to perhaps be righteously indignant or angry or to answer questions after the fact about why we chose not comment when things were "blatantly obvious".

Why has it become so rare?  The definition of kind perhaps gives us an answer:  something about one's self and something about one's focus.

For the self, "having a gentle nature, wanting and liking to do good".  This suggests that we have a nature such as this - and a gentle nature is something I would argue is neither valued by this society, this social system, or the values currently transcendent.  Perhaps "wanting and liking to do good" is more universal, but too often it is only defined as good that benefits me somehow, not necessarily someone else.

For one's focus, both definitions focus on others, on helping them and wanting to bring happiness to them.  This, again, would seem to be the sort of the thing that in principle is a thing valuable today, but in practice not so much.

Why?  I wonder if it is not due to the fact that we as a civilization and a society have become concerned (extraordinarily so) with the self, specifically the things that benefit me.  I am not discussing the legitimate concern and responsibility I have to provide for those I am responsible for.  What I am talking about is the very real fact that for many, the universe really does revolve around them.  And in the universe of One (Me), neither gentleness nor others figure as valuable commodities.  They are more additions that can be thrown away as needed in the pursuit of the universal good (which in my universe, is the self).

It may seem that kindness is a bit of a luxury, the sort of thing that people can offer when they have taken care of all that is critical to survival, and perhaps one could argue that this is true.  My counterargument would be that in fact kindness is as critical as any food, shelter, or clothing we need for survival.  Without it, personal relations and society itself become a clashing battlefield of self against self, of my wants against your wants, of seeking the aggrandizement of self over all others.

If you would comment that this sounds a great deal like a vast civil and societal war, I would agree with you that it does.  The question is more "How does one stop it?"

Like more wars, of course.  Except in this battle, kindness becomes both the weapon and the goal to be sought.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Outer and Inner Collapse

I have been wrangling back and forth with myself what to write about.

Part of me really - REALLY - wants to write about current events that suggest that the country, as whole, is pretty much politics.  But that is politics, which we do not do here.  Another part of me wants to write about what appears to be the complete and total moral collapse that seems to have engulfed Western civilization to the point that I do not think that it can be come back from - but again, that seems to border on politics.

And then I realized that really, all of the outside angst I am feeling is really more indicative of my inside angst.

I am feeling cast adrift, caught between the reality that I live in and the reality that I would like to live in - only to discover that the greater reality seems to be completely unraveling.  What good is it if you are good at a job in an industry that failing, or even a society that is failing?  What good is getting halfway to the life you want to live only to have everything around you dissolve?  It is as if you were trying to drive halfway across the country only to run out of gas in the middle of New Mexico with no town or car around:  you are stuck.

Societies, just like economies, are built on an array of almost invisible relationships that ultimately reside in trust and faith in others and circumstances.  Without this faith and trust that a certain cause and effect exists in social affairs, people have no reason to continue to invest in them.  If crime is ultimately not punished, why should one approach the authorities or report the crime - or on a broader level, why pay for the taxes that support the government that is not  doing their job anyway?  It is as if I can see the the strands unraveling before my eyes even as I am powerless to stop it - and am running out of time to do what needs doing before something serious collapses.

It is a bit selfish, I confess, to be more worried about me and mine rather than the greater masses out there. But I am exactly as all I see:  my own trust and faith in this society and civilization has been unraveled, almost to the point where collapse is viewed not so much with terror or anger but rather as something which simply needs to happen so we can all move on to the next phase.

And so I have come to view current events not so much as omens of worse to come but rather as evidence that things are simply crumbling - perhaps a little more quickly than anticipated, but collapsing none the less.  We are not surprised that the waves destroy the sand castle, only that it does not destroy the castle sooner.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

My Dwindling Consumption of Entertainment

My consumption of current entertainment has dwindled to almost nothing.

This has been a gradual process, of course.  The last television series I kept up with was almost 20 years ago - and with The Severing Of The Cable ten years ago, such things are now non-extant.  My theater/film attendance, which peaked somewhere around the time of The Lord of The Rings, has also steadily dwindled away to where if I attend more than one movie a year in a theater, it is a remarkable thing,  My attendance of the theater, never something of note, is now essentially limited to plays and musicals I know a child in.

Part of this, to be sure, is financially and technology based.  NetFlix and You Tube have made it easy to find almost anything I want to watch for almost nothing - and if I am really pining for a film, I can go to my local large Quarter Price Books and spend less than the cost of a ticket:  $5 to $10 to own it.  When the cost of a theater ticket is $7 for an afternoon showing and $12 for an evening showing (and even more for one of the fancy Dinner and A Movie places), this begins to make a difference (to be fair, we have a "Dollar" theater near us, although they never seem to be in quite as good repair).

Part, I know, is the fact that these sorts of things are a time sink - and for an unknown product, a great risk.  The average film or play is 1.5 to 2.5 hours, television shows 25 to 55 minutes: is it worth it to risk my precious time on something that I am not sure that I will like with time I cannot get back?  And part, of course, is that the entertainment industry long ago seems to have departed from my values and mores.

But the biggest contributing factor seems to be, remarkably enough, that the entertainment is no longer entertaining. 

Oh, they can be exciting or gripping or occasionally moving.  But even within this there is little sense that I am entertained, that I am being taken away from my existence into another reality and come out on the other side as a better or more thoughtful person.  More often than not, it has come to be something that fills the time (and kills it) and something that is anything that just entertaining.  And why would I pay someone for that?

I am sure all manner of entertainment shall continue to be produced (after all, it does make money for someone), just as I am sure that my consumption of it will continue to decline.  After all, is not part of self sufficiency not that ability to entertain one's self?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Great Dropping Out

One day - I do not wonder any more if it is in the all that far future - thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of people (in my wildest dreams, millions) are going to simply drop out of the world at large.

It is happening, I know, in small numbers now.  But in my soul, my bones, I feel like this is going to start to becomes more and more of a movement.

In is, perhaps, in a sense the quintessential "Going Galt": people realizing that the world simply has nothing to offer them except grief, destruction, and treatment as the financial mule that moves society.

Most people will not notice it in any meaningful way, of course.  Folks will suddenly just seem to be not "around" any more - not in society, not (mostly) on-line, not in the stores, not in the entertainment venues, not really anywhere except the places they choose to be, which likely will be away from the public eye (and consumer spending).

Governments will eventually notice of course:  incentivize people long enough not to be successful and guess what:  they will not be, at least not in any way that is remotely taxable.  Commercially people may notice as large chunks of the economy stagnate:  retail, entertainment, indeed many sorts of things that are not essential to daily living.  Religious institutions may be the beneficiaries of this - not all of them of course, as such people tend to be less about the appearance of the church and the worship but rather about the integrity of the message and the presence of the Holy in the place.

There is a perfectly viable argument to made that even now, to a large extent, society may be disengaged from with none the worse for wear.

Not notified of elections or financial events?  Be honest: to what extent does your involvement in such things matter beyond the initial vote or investment?  Not much, to be sure, until the next vote or next investment occurs.  Things might go really bad?  Possible, but again what will your involvement do except to remind people that you are there?

One day, in the land of drained coffers and wrecked economies and spiritual wastelands and urban centers of decay and rural pastures where all the farming was for corporations, the question will be asked "Where did all the producers go?  How do we get them back?"

The reality will be is that mostly likely, they will not be coming back.  They are perfectly content to live their lives in solitude and engagement the daily act of living without the need of involvement or oversight. 

In the end, it is not those that leave that are the most needy; it is the institutions that drove them away.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Goodbye Bountiful Gardens

Friends - Sad news today. I was notified via e-mail that Bountiful Gardens (www.bountifulgardens.org)  is going out of business after 30 plus years.

This saddens me greatly.

I think I first found Bountiful Gardens in 2004.  They had an amazing selection of heirloom seeds reasonably priced (my wheat, corn, and barley yields that year were never beaten).  The service was prompt and friendly, and it came to where every year I looked forward to getting their catalog and planning both for my regulars as well as my 2-3 larks I would try just to see if they would grow.

I have no idea why they are going out of business (and they apparently have not announced it) but I will miss them a great deal.

One thought: currently they are selling almost everything at 15% off, so if you want to pick up some unusual seeds now might be the time.  I am building up my grain experiments....

Any suggestions for other heirloom, non-GMO seeds?