All Those Other Selves to Whom We Selfishly Owe Our Selfless Service

Cleaning up my drafty drawers is a losing case. I draft at quite-thrice the speed in which I succeed to complete (that impossible feat).

But here’s another swing at that Thing. Reading this now, I can’t really say where I was, or where I thought I might be going, with any or all of this.

Except… except in knowing what I know about those family, friends, and strangers I owe… well, I know that I owe it to myself to press Publish on this, our word.

And then hope that its meaning be somewhere, by somebody, heard.


This mid-week thought; not fully formed, but needing to poke itself through, so I can move on with something most entirely new.

The Issue
I can’t draw a proper ring around all of the people in this whole wide world to whom I owe my fullest efforts and very best-est of intentions, in every waking moment that I wish to make truly matter.

When I think about this for even just a wee bit, the area of that ring grows far too large, and much, much too fast.

Query
Where do the limits of my responsibilities lie? (Or is it lay? Without constant Google, might I ever comfortably say?)

Casting Nets
Certainly my sphere of responsibility (it has gained a new dimension already, you see?) encompasses those to whom I’ve been already introduced, through fate. I certainly owe them my best effort, as they’re already Here – and I might as well owe it, with them still being There.

Then that blessed, accursed sphere might well enfold those others yet unknown, but for whom my action or inaction or words or silence might still make of their day something somewhat or very much more, or else break it into lesser pieces and chances than it even was broken into before… and in spite of my not ever knowing that I had done or not-done any such thing.

Hypothesis
Too full of my own perceived importance, perhaps, to properly gauge the full effect of my cause? Careful, Mike… you really can’t see where the will of your wake will sometimes soon-or-later break.

Complication!
And what of all the others beyond even that, the outermost shell? The ones far removed from this idle course, and safely escaped from its rippling past, beyond the visible wash of these wanderings and blunderings – my puppeted wonderings?

The butterflies of all those many motions and un-motions, like those of every other one, at every distance out: background effect for the billions of the rest of Us. Can we ever be fully off the hook, however far out and away we may bother to look?

Conclusion [Far-Gone]
Choosing what to do with each part of your day can come down to the learned-and-automatic; or the sensibly pragmatic; or the doggedly dogmatic; or the errantly erratic, or even the overtly dramatic!

I ran out of attic.

I’m nearly done with the furtively rhyming, for at least some proportion of my misfortunate timing… But:

I would still wish to know
to whom and for why
my efforts I owe.

Grabbing @ the Wheel

Am I here to steer, or am I here to row –
by what means and measures am I meant to know?


Searching for the best things I could be doing with my time has resulted in my going around in circles, and filling up another sketchbook with notes I can now only partially decipher.

Prayer only takes you so far, as does trying to interpret dreams, and attempting to follow inklings and inspirations – these things all curiously fade over the course of the days of hours wherein we inhabit our normal selves.

I had a dream last night that I remembered portions of. If I’m savvy during the waking up, I can rethink the dream and keep some part of it to ponder during the day, at least until it once again fades away.

In this dream, I was outdoors, in a quilted, colourful countryside. There was a lion laying about somewhere close; I was aware of it, and moving away, doing the math about how quickly I might need to run, and then how long I would need to rest by walking swiftly, in between sprints, so that I might keep ahead of it.

As though I could keep ahead of a hungry lion on foot. How hungry it was, I can’t say – I didn’t stop to find out.

I moved toward a tree line, with no other option in mind. Between myself and the trees lay some scrub, tall grass, and brambles. As I reached it, I knew this is where the lion would take me, if she or he wanted to.

And then at once I was aloft – carried by a balloon, drifting off the landscape, safe from one danger, and increasingly concerned with the danger of my newfound altitude. My safety had become my peril – just like that.

Everything leads to a new danger, when you are so used to being threatened by things in your own mind.

And then I gained agency, in an odd way. I still struggle with how this worked – I can’t recreate the timeline of events so that it makes sense – but this is how dreams do.

As I grew anxious about gaining height, I gained more height. As I became distracted by that effect – the connection between my fear of flying, and my success at achieving air – I began to descend, and my fear was replaced by disappointment at returning to Earth.

I wanted to fly, but only the fear of it allowed me to.

After a few moments of rising up and then descending – of tapping into the discomfort that kept me aloft, and struggling with the distraction that brought me back down to Earth – I had figured it out, and was surprised and pleased at the same time. We all enjoy a good flying dream, and I was having one of those.

I found a city, and I aimed for a rooftop, and when I landed on it, satisfied with my progress, I let the balloon go, with gratitude. I felt it deserved its own freedom, and to follow its own path. It hovered a moment, as though uncertain whether it should go or stay – and then it went on its way.

I knew somehow that I could find or make or receive another balloon for flying, whenever I needed it. In my dream, I didn’t doubt this for a moment.

I’d like to say I continued to dream my way toward some kind of greater gifts and powers and wisdom, but actually I just started snooping around in somebody’s apartment, like an uncommon burglar, looking for mysteries and adventure.

That last part I’m little less pleased with and proud of. I should have knocked first, and instead asked if they might need any help. If I’m given the choice next time, I most certainly probably will do just that.

A Little Less Apocalyptic

So I’m stuck at home; alone, but not alone. Together with a good portion of the planet’s population, hanging out online, wondering what we’re all going to look like and act like when this thing passes. And it will pass.

I take strange heart in the fact that things weren’t going that swimmingly before, and so the optimist in me would like to think we’ll learn some good lessons, and make some fair changes, and may even come out of this with our collective heads on a little straighter.

It was not that long ago that people in one part of the world didn’t know much at all about people in another part. We have been our own aliens. Then a few of us got some control over electricity, and the inventions in rapid communication followed fast.

Now we’re on the Internet, and in large numbers, and for these past few days and weeks we’ve all had the same general thing on our minds. Our aggregate mind is thinking about a virus. Our species – our species – has a cold.

Well, growing together is not without its growing pains, it would seem. Could any of us imagine really, in moving forward with this business of becoming better connected, that we would never need the occasional harsh prod in the right direction?

Making vaccines instead of war.

Ok, maybe at the same time, but still – baby steps.

I have a hard time imagining growth without struggle and stumbling, knowing what I think I know about Human nature. I know how resistant I can be to much-needed course correction on my own; I can only imagine how difficult change must be for all of us, as a collective.

I happen to have faith in Human nature at all scales. It might not seem sensible sometimes to have it, but here we are.

Here's an idea, Vol I

I.1 Since we have empty storefronts and also people living on the streets (and it’s 2020)… maybe we should convert a storefront or three into affordable housing. Can somebody do that, please?

I.2 @Banks: Let’s follow the trail of lost revenue to renewed hope, shall we?

  • Many, many people can’t work, by order of our collective leadership, due to reports of virus activity. Parents staying home with kids ordered to stay home. We don’t all have the great fortune of having jobs we can do at a distance. Things are sliding sideways.
  • Stuff shuts down. Rents go unpaid. Mortgages go unpaid.
  • [Some economics I don’t fully understand – I took Computers in high school, others took the Econ. Electives!]
  • Banks either give us each or all together the Big Thumbs Up, or the Big Thumbs Down. More people living on our own streets, or fewer.

Now, I ask you, Banks – which of you will do the unprecedented thing that will win you my eternal loyalty and business until the day I die? Can you surprise the f*ck out of me? Can you prove me wrong, about the kind of organisms that you are, at your very core?

Will you show us all that you have Hearts of a size to match your Clubs?

I am waiting to be amazed and proven wonderfully, happily wrong.

Perfectly Ripped Pages

Now here we go.

I was looking for some progress to make on my Blog Thing this evening (being stuck inside, imagining Zombies emerging from the treeline at any time, and what household items I might use to fend them off when they do) and I found this post among my too-many draft posts.

This draft post had only a title to it, and not a single other word:

Perfectly Ripped Pages

What could I have meant to write here, I wonder, whenever I first drafted that, and that alone? Now I’m sure I’ll never know… but now I have one less Thing drafted, and one more Thing posted. That’s perfect enough for now.


GUEST POST HERE
Length: 200-800 WORDS
Title: Perfectly Ripped Pages
Author: ____________________ (first-come, first-serve)

Thirty-Nine and Dime

As I barrel down, one Groundhog Day after the next, toward the one-and-only fiftieth birthday my current incarnation will ever know (and likely ever claim), I am reminded again and again of my responsibility to others, here on Lonely, Crowded Planet Dirt. I mean Earth. Same thing. (Weird and appropriate name for a planet, though Planet Rock would have sounded more awesome).

I have the mortal responsibility of being a good mortal while here. As a recent returnee to the camp of the God-Fearing/God-Loving, I am [super]naturally concerned with what God Wants. I even have a book on the read right now, called Knowing God’s Will. I assumed – perhaps somewhat recursively, or else prophetically, or else self-fulfillingly – that God willed me to read the book. We can only only speculate now, can’t we?

Not wanting to disrespect the atheists in the audience – who are as far as I can tell no less valuable to and loved by God (the One I pray to, in any case) – I expect we all have as much mortal responsibility as one another, regardless of our current faiths or fortunes. We are all One in the Body, so to speak.

How to mine our current situation for meaning? This is something God enjoys watching us do, I believe. I know I would. We have been more than a bit off track in how we go about tending the garden. We haven’t been getting along very well. We are worshipping money and Things and squandering our time, as a collective. By now we could have been feeding and clothing and sheltering the most vulnerable and disadvantaged among us – making them less so, and then, by extension, all of us so, so much more – but instead we hoard, and we scramble, and we worry for our own, not thinking that we are all our own.

I do this sort of selfish thing every single day. This morning, for example, I got out of bed early enough – imagining I would console myself with not having slept in by going instead to get my morning coffee, as I most always do.

Surely the morning coffee run is still permissible. I have plastic money that works without having to touch anything (tap is a misnomer – these things don’t even need to touch). There is no need to hand anyone my suddenly-very-suspiciously-dirty money. I could take a quick run out and I’d be back with my disposable cup of caffeine in a jiffy. [New Brunswick does not recycle very well, even in 2020 – the plastic lid will end up in a landfill somewhere just beyond my vision]

Then I saw that book again: Knowing God’s Will, waiting on the dresser for our next reading adventure together. What secrets might yet remain to be found therein? What would I read, and what would I hear? What was the title telling me all on its own, for that matter?

Well, dammit. I suppose I could make coffee in the coffee maker, and have a seat in the house I’m already in, and find a cozy corner from the several I am blessed with being able to choose between, and drink my morning medicine and have my say on the Internet – that public place we can still all meet. My fellow Humans don’t need me driving about today looking to exchange droplets. I owe them that much. I can manage. I will probably cave tomorrow anyhow [I did], so why not be strong when I can?

Viruses online are of a different sort entirely; they might claim my laptop if they are digital, and they might claim my time if they are socially viral enough, and they might claim my imagination, if they are opinions with enough potential – but they will not claim the health of my family, my friends, or myself. And this is something to consider. We are at least together in our safer, online alone-ness.

I watched our Prime Minister deliver an update to the Canadian Folk from his temporary front stoop, in the face of some cameras and reporters (now keeping a new and decent distance). He even took one or two phone-ins. His wife has been diagnosed with COVID-19. A bad flu – I’m quite certain she will pull through just fine, and is being sensibly sensitive in not coughing it all over the rest of us. Thank you, Sophie – get well soon.

The new story we’re being told is now already predictable: This thing will go on longer than we were telling you all just last week, so hunker down and get used to it. Don’t go out unless you absolutely have to. And maybe start helping each other more.

That’s what the medical professionals hired by my government are telling my government to tell me (according to them). This is on TV, so of course it has to be true. What else can we, in any case, do? What would you?

Whether you believe in a God that wants you to step up, or you believe in no-God (and must therefore assume it is completely on you to step up on your own, aided only by the God-full and God-less Humans around you), it should be apparent that we all have some work to do. Not the same old work we were doing last month, or even last week. We have a new assignment. It is not all laid out in perfect detail, of course. If it were, where would our free will go to do its thing, to then prove itself and its own worth?

We are meant to figure some things out on our own, and some things with friends and family and neighbours, and some other things with our wider community, and then some things within nations (until the day nations themselves decide not to be needed), and then of course some things with our widest community yet – that community given Life and Chance on the burgeoning, billowing Internet.

These are just some of our spheres and tricks. The virus and its kin know nothing of us, but that we are a good host of hosts. They are able to thrive upon us, for a time, provided we stick around and keep sneezing on each other and picking our noses and scratching our eyeballs. They wish to live as we do, in some sense: compelled by a need to consume and reproduce and spread. For the sake of those things alone. This sounds familiar enough. We are not so different, this Corona and I.

Planet Earth is the Struggling Place – if you’re not trying to eat something, you’re trying to get eaten. It’s nothing personal, it just seems to be woven into the nature of things. And so I hold no grudge against any given COVID-19 folk, I am just allied to the Human folk first, followed very closely by the animal folk and the plant folk. Don’t ask me why I stack my allegiances and priorities so – I guess I like being near the top of some food chain that I can see, and then considering how to give those below me a real pass, and a license to live and to thrive. I would hope for the same, if the roles were reversed.

COVID-19 will grant us no such grace, given a choice. The Virus has a much simpler mind. It does not consider abstractions like responsibility and kindness and the true potential of its young; its responsibility is hard-wired and wholly selfish.

We can behave differently than a virus, thankfully. We have a unique set of properties as Humans which make us both incredibly dangerous (the Bad News) and also chock-full of potential (the Good News). We are especially full of potential in groups – and especially especially when armed with things like Internets, Ideas, and Better Ideals.

If I were a proper researcher/journalist, I would have drafted this post a week ago already, and filled it full with links to articles about innovation in the face of adversity, to set the Dear Reader off on a learning adventure (since many of us have more time indoors now), but instead I just gave that one link, and now I say: have at it, and tell me what you see.

Problems appear to us for the very facing of them. I believe without surprise problems we would just sit around a whole lot, getting busy not-evolving. What kind of lumps would we all look like by now, without our litany of past problems? Would we just be shambling about from one sunny patch here to another shady place there, vaguely wondering in those few moments on the move what it was all for? What virus would have already gotten us, in fact, without our systems being under a constant state of mild attack?

Our individual, personal evolution depends on identifying what we’re each here for; using books or religion or science or contemplation or discussion or experimentation or observation or whatever we need to employ, whenever we’re unsure of who or what might need us, and why.

Our collective evolution involves us first understanding that we are a collective. That is, there is a Body called Human, and that body depends very much upon a beautiful, giving host who cannot bear our rampant growth and greed forever. The virus that is us needs to use all of the tools in its chest to become a far better symbiot – one that won’t beg to be rejected, but welcomed for its great gifts and potential.

Toilet Paper, #StormChips, and Calming the Hell Down

Today I am volunteering at my local church’s Roast Beef Dinner (Trinity United, Timerblea, Nova Scotia – 4pm to 6pm, pop in to scrub your hands and say hello – we take elbow bumps if you’re avoiding hands).

There will be takeout containers for those who prefer to eat at home, and now also for those who are afraid to gather, for fear of What Might Happen.

I am not going to trivialize the danger posed by this virus, currently making headlines. [For Readers from the Future, the one making headlines as of this writing in March 2020 was the COVID-19 (aka Coronavirus), which you will perpetually be able to read about here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coronavirus_disease_2019, at least until the Internet goes down and doesn’t come back (or Wikipedia does, and then doesn’t)]

I know this virus has cost lives and will cost more. Hard fact: We often die of flus in great numbers every year, some flus are stronger than others, we are arguably a bit overpopulated and still taking too many risks, and this sort of thing has always been, and will probably always be, a threat to us, now and then.

We will collectively be OK. I am not saying dire prayers these days, just the same old ones. I am praying for the world in general, and for those in my immediate circle in particular – as many are, each in their own manner.

Immediate circles: Your family. Their interests. It’s part of our wiring to care about those close to us and married to our own fortunes. A threat to a family member is a threat to our own emotion, comfort, and convenience. If we’re being honest, your immediate circle and my immediate circle matter more to you and I respectively than the many circles of people who fall outside of them.

This makes me feel like a member of a selfish species on the one hand, and a member of an evolving one on the other. After all, worrying about my uncle’s health more than your uncle’s health is still me worrying for somebody who is not directly me. That’s a start, I would say. It should not be the end. Circles like these are meant to expand.

I popped into the local Walmart recently, curious to know if I’d be able to find toilet paper. Turns out, no. Please come back later – we’re trying things, we’re on it.

I haven’t consulted the Internet for the current global or regional TP forecasts, so I can’t know how long it will be before we might start in on the paper towel, and then move on to looking for loose leaf, and then leaves. It probably won’t get that bad – or if it does, not for long. Where there is demand, a supply will usually appear – right? Capitalism will certainly save us soon, as it has always promised.

I do believe this is a temporary shipping problem brought about by events and constraints and perceptions pertaining to the virus, which have then caused some people to display hoarding tendencies, which is making the TP shortage worse, fueling the concern/panic behind the hoarding, and so on.

We are a very, very tippy species, as it turns out. In the “first world”, where TP and food and things of that nature are typically readily available (to those with jobs and access to transportation and decent medical coverage, and community support, and all of that), any sort of interruption in the supply chain can be a cause for consternation.

Being thankful for all those moments when I never had to think about being able to find or afford toilet paper is not something that pops into my head naturally, when I’m roaming the aisles of Walmart, considering the half-empty shelves, and trying not to scan faces for those most in the grip of growing fear over a world-as-we-know-it being a bit less robust than we had all hoped for.

I overheard two shoppers joking about pooling resources and having a BBQ (one bringing the carrots, the other the sauce, and so on), and I observed with a nervous chuckle, “it is a BIT unnerving…”, and then I walked on, wondering if my duty should be instead to say nothing of my worries (even in a joke), given how worried people are already getting.

If you want some idea of how anybody in a less stable situation than you might feel – possibly on a daily basis – then head to a Walmart this weekend, look for toilet paper, and then imagine as you do, that it was medicine for your child, or food for your family, or a safe place to sleep that you had come to find. Imagine that feeling of having less access to something you could really use right now. Imagine not feeling so safe and well-supplied, and imagine that is your life, every day.

I try to, I really do. It’s important to at least consider what it might be like elsewhere – or even here, in our future, or just in somebody else’s shoes, now and then. Most of us I believe can easily imagine somebody somewhere who has less. Or somebody who contends with more. Or both. Somewhere in that exercise is a bit of empathy, and maybe some insight, and maybe too a little more resolve to do something differently today.

At the same time people speculate on toilet paper futures, they are also still buying alcohol and snack foods, because those things have kept shipping through all of this, so far. We might be nervous about the fragile circumstance of living on a planet that could get us at any moment (if you really want to get real), but we will not abandon our chance to assuage our own fears through self-medications and recreational goofing about.

It’s almost as though our fear and complacency drive a good portion of the economy, or something. Not wanting to be branded a conspiracy theorist, I will say no more; those who feel the same way likely know what I mean anyhow, and those who feel differently might not want to go there at all.

I personally think of this as a test of our resilience as a global population, in the face of the least kind of thing that might happen which could still be called Pretty Serious. There are stronger viruses secured away in bunkers right now that could do much, much worse – I have little doubt. Viruses will evolve to try and stay alive, and so will we. Nothing at all new here. This will not be the last Toilet-Paper Shortage brought on by hoarding brought on by panic brought on by bugs in our personal and collective systems.

Vital systems need to be resilient, and flexible. They need to be robust and prepared. We have come of technological and scientific age only but recently, to find ourselves in the unenviably tenuous position of Being Alive on Planet Earth. We have tools to solve many of the threats that face us or might someday threaten us, and we have numbers, and great resource (though heavily hoarded in places, and all-but-absent in others). We have eyes to see, ears to hear, brains to think, and hands to make new things happen as a result.

We need a better Babel. A better reason for building than to go up and up, simply because we can.

Share the TP, and give thanks for All the Things!