Today, living in upside-down land, nuclear families spill onto sidewalks exploring "olden-days" outings -- playing catch, roller skating, bike riding, and generally making awkward public appearances, where they were formerly invisible phantoms. I have now seen more than 50 "new" neighbors, who never ever appeared in public previously. Whereas for decades kids were shuttled to "safe" activities in giant SUV's, faces up-lit by glowing devices traveling to Soccer, Hockey, Lacrosse, etc... today, these mysterious elites pour onto their neighborhood sidewalks completely ill-equipped to be "Free-Range".
My childhood was not special; in fact all kids had basically the same loosely disciplined lives. We always roamed the streets without our parents, we always rode miles from home on Big-wheels, Bikes, and Skateboards. Strangely the exodus in upside-down land, forces hundreds of families to pour out onto the side-streets as frustrated families drive each-other nuts. Being bound by four walls is unbearable, like an overcharged battery, we fire it up and hit the pavement. Oddly what is now occurring is both beautiful, and frightening. In my strange new neighborhood, these invisible wealthier families bought up their neighbors homes, tore them down and extended side yards into sprawling sport courts, lawns, gardens etc... These fenced cages were intent to keep the family safe when there was no need to, while ironically boasting an elitist means to self isolate. Private families, with sheltered parochial life-styles are now the ones spilling onto our city streets. Why? Their children are ill-equipped to manage their fledgling free-range habitats. I've seen them playing in the street, riding in the street, and even coloring in the street. Car traffic is reduced this month, true... but it is a city. Novice riders need to take care to remain clear of moving vehicles. Those who never stepped on city pavement are now out and about, playing in traffic. This can't end well, but at least it won't raise the Covid toll.
A typical B.C. (before covid) day in the life went like this:
Dad wakes & shaves and departs the attached garage at 5:15 in a Tesla or M6 to an elite Health-club, before hitting the office until 6 P.M., then to another private club for cocktails with other elites.
Mom wakes early and heads to Orange Theory before the kids are up, returns flushed to make kids breakfast, and they exit arguing in a Massive SUV to drop 2.5 kids at private schools. On the way back, a rendezvous with other Yoga Mommies for a Skinny oat-milk Latte before they hit a mani-pedi appointment. Chip-free nails dry & Mom heads to Pilates, and when properly stretched, she heads home to shower. Clean, and Blown-dry she gets the grocery delivery into the fridge, and noshes some pre-pack store sushi. 2 Hours on the internet to update Facebook, and leer at others, she orders several tops, and leggings online, before leaving to shuttle kids from school to sports. Returning to pick-up dinner and drizzle dressing on a salad, Kids are dropped off for dinner and home-work.
(So it follows that "Social Distancing" should not be a new idea for many).
In upside-down land, the new routine goes like this:
Dad scratches his balls and makes a pot of coffee all by himself. (applause) He hits the Peloton, and a Life-fitness rig which wasn't touched since the house was built. In fact, the room in which all of these torture devices dwell, was just another untouched space in a massive custom home. Dad balances his laptop, dripping sweat, and struggles to stay connected with a laptop, a bottle of G2, and phone, while changing his clothes, before closing the den door in isolation from his waking family.
Mom sips her plastic flavored Keurig, and lowers the seat of the peloton, then completes half a Roku-based Yoga session before a kid screams. Mom breaks up a quarrel, and gets two pajama'd kids to eat sugary cereal, before opening the back door to allow an estranged pure-bred dog into the melee when she scratches the door. Mom dresses the kids, and presses them to "turn off the TV ...and go play in the yard!" With placid faces lit by cartoons, Mom hits her Facebook to lament "her struggle". By the time the clock strikes 10 the kids become unbearably bored, and Mom puts jackets on them to take a bike-ride. In the Garage she fumbles with cob-webbed kid's bikes, and a hand pump. Mommy's iPhone11 Pro face-times a nephew, after failing to find a youtube video on how to air the tires. The teen helps his aunt fill the tires, and she soon gets the kids, some chalk, and their bikes to the alley. After 20 minutes coloring with chalk, and several texts to their father, the whole family collects on the sidewalk to re-adjust the bike seats. Neighbors who have never seen this family nor their kids, walk widely way around the idyllic family at their stoop. Mommy and Daddy now sport solo-cups, while they watch their kids roll down the block.
The polished family awkwardly greet estranged neighbors from afar, as hundreds of passing neighbors remark in chorus,
"Wow, that's who lives there!?, (half question-half statement), "I didn't know anyone lived in that giant house, as I've never seen them before."
It used to be that one in 40 homes in early July would put a few kids on the front walk to pimp sugary lemonade, but now everyone is distantly discovering their neighbor's new fashion, milling about wearing masks. Odd new accessories to the daily Covid bike rides. I've not yet seen the Hermes, or Burberry mask, but it's coming.
New Catchwords include, We, Us, Our, Uncertain, Together, and Troubled (Times). Overnight 'our' lexicon changes. While the clinical term for Kids not catching Covid is "Naive" immune system...Really! This is a fact. Turns out that not having antibodies, helps when something comes about because your body doesn't strain it's resources to attack something new. Cats and kids are just carriers -- Great.
What does this new way expand out to? Do we bar blocks, and set-up a neighborhood watch, to keep traffic down. Do we close neighborhoods, cities, and state borders? I don't know.
Probably not -- But weeks ago my friend and I were projecting how this exclusionism all goes down. States sealing borders, people wearing visible ID Bracelets, races excluded... all becoming a dialog. When I was a kid and my teacher caught us loading the tips of paper-airplanes with pins, and tossing them to stick into the acoustic ceiling, I didn't really understand why I was being singled out for detention. Detention? Nobody likes detention, but it was always suspicious that kids who never ended up in the clink after school, always feared and observed those who did, as socially mal-adjusted, or even evil. Truth was the fear of Detention was a fear of some unknown isolation, about which nobody ever spoke, And on the inside -- you weren't allowed to speak or sleep. So what of Detention? There was no productive outlet, although sometimes an essay of confession, or writing sentences was the constructive forced labor. When a kid got home and their parents found out that so-and-so at school got "Detention"..., Parents always forbid their kids from seeing "that kid" any longer. This was harsh. No Jury, no due process, just excommunicated. Bam! This week we are discussing emptying jails and prisons. That should inspire some people to stay home.
In this odd childhood process, called detention -- when one was voted off the island, things seldom improved. An untouchable kid may be ridiculed, or taunted, or become legend as other kids fostered a brooding fear of what they may be capable of... Spinning yarns of every manner of menacing backstory. Truth was, that Detention was shits-ville, only because other kids actively or passively seemed to gloat at what a nice day they had on "the outside" playing guns, or roof-jumping, or smashing shit, while Those in detention suffered with repetitive sentence structure. Detention was a primer for prison.
What is it then, when we are all in Detention? Truthfully, I don't fucking know.
"By the way, Is there any way that Texas can secede and leave Austin Alone?, Sovereign? he asked... "No problem", he replied "Don't let the door hit your Ass on your way out". Can a State cleanly leave our Republic?
What then, if a (United) State says, "You unclean, people can't come in, because we here, in Texas think you may get us sick", What protocols are applied? School-yard politics are never fair, and so it seems to me that like any squabble, the rules of engagement, (never clearly delineated) seem to force involved parties to make up some dumb shit rules, and then argue about them. I am convinced that public spraying of aerosols fogging streets, and soaking the "un-clean", is perhaps the most dystopian hail-mary reaction to being completely, politically, and socially bankrupt. State's-rights are valid, right?, until they are so extreme that they violate what we all come to understand as acceptable. You know it's true that nobody listens to zealots any more, and who the fuck cares what Richard Branson, and Evangeline Lily do or say in their secluded castles? Who the fuck gives a shit about the stupid celebrity cavalcade of "social wisdom"? Nobody!
What is acceptable, is behavior which preserves people's rights for liberty, while doing the most good. Where would this new idiocy scale out to, without anyone actually being in charge. Because the kids seem to be running the Detention Classroom, if we (the public) allow idiocy to pile upon itself like fake meat in a charcuterie tray, we are once more preparing something useless which will be scraped into the trash like crusty hummus when the party ends. Nobody wants to eat a shit sandwich; So States have begun to take back their sovereignty from the Fed. States close their borders?, as they asphyxiate their public, and poison the populace to stave off illness. What are the rules of engagement, when Missouri decides that an out of work barista riding their bike to stave off insanity, gets stopped in mid-sojourn at a "Border crossing"? Fact is that if it weren't for some shitty Rotary or Kiwanis sign overgrown with weeds, and sunflowers, nobody would know as they entered the back door of a state, that they had actually crossed a street, let alone a border. Strange times.
Meanwhile Nobody knows, and that's where the madness sets in.
So this one kid at school has mono, and comes to school, what if they don't know it? Is there a test? Is the Test accurate? do they have an "All Clear" wristband? Really, the times they are a changing... When I was a kid, we owned a thermometer, and when we knew our health was not right, we took the temp, and stayed home -- But only about 60% of the time, was diagnosis accurate... The rest of the time we soldiered on. So what of The nightmare scenario which expands as an exponent from a few ill people. From these simple, untested ideas comes a brutal outcome. The anointed few, excluding the unclean... A caste system, with some unacknowledged "expert" who interns people in camps until "they" like their health prospects; whilst The rest remain restrainedly free. Refugees imprisoned -- A populace free to choose their precautious behavior.
This cannot work, Can it? Detention!
Ask Not what you can do for your sanity, but what your sanity can do for you. Perhaps you can make a paper airplane, or a broach, or a tetradactyl. People have discussed the complexity of being isolated and avoiding what makes them healthy and sane. A campground, a pond or stream for fishing, and a trailhead for biking or snowbound descents... But what of the wisdom to remain home? Don't be glib, just discuss what bad comes from a bike ride, or a jog? Why do some get shamed for a walk through the neighborhood, if they don't have a dog on the leash? Is there nothing wrong with the caution to remain home? Can we balance social isolation with outdoor time? The argument we hear is the ER Nurse, or Epidemiology Intern called to serve, who chastises you to "just stay home"!. The reasoning is that Blood supplies and resources are tapped thin, and YOU should not add to the problem. But I know more than one healthy young person who's fallen down the staircase. I know several people who have broken a limb, or hip in a bathroom or a threshold.
We all know people who've hacked their palm slicing an avocado. Today however we are to remain in our padded box. How do we distill the wisdom from the mash-up? It all reminds me vaguely of being a kid in elementary school being narked on by another student for nothing more than having more fun than them. We are all supposed to be sullen, somber, reflective right? Wrong!
What is the real issue? Envy? If you have no knack, and lack the dexterity to take a walk, run, or ride as naturally as bathing, then by all means, stay out of the bath. For the capable public, the stats prove that getting in your car to drive to the store holds more risk than a stroll, and likely the same holds true for a bike ride, or a jog. The issue is not one of flippant disregard for another's reverence to the world ending. The issue is not a caution to conserve resources, it is just people giving a social-media tongue-lashing to strangers. Can we please try to understand each other this year? Nobody spreads disease when they ride their bikes as a family. Nobody spreads a disease while jogging alone, staying clear of others. Everyone needs to enjoy some outdoor time. Or the insanity and suicide epidemic may outweigh and outlive the plague.
I suggest you ride your bike, Jog someplace, swim alone, if your beach is open, and enjoy what you can, because it's possible that the shit hasn't yet hit the fan. When you are left without any civil rights, you will reflect on that last time you did "this thing" quite fondly. Perhaps that will be the recollection which motivates you later. It's also possible you will die in a week, so live responsibly, meaningfully, and do try to enjoy yourself. Safe or Sane is a terrible conundrum.
Many bodies piling up will be illustrative to curb bad practices. Citizens will make mistakes, of course, but they will also help each other, and make mostly good choices, driven by fear. Social scales look a bit like this... We have bodies on one plinth, and free-will on the other, and You can guess which one weighs more. By the time the public sees the damage, the damage will have been done. Being a citizen during the Pandemic Era, means that your neighbors and friends can't understand why naïve people are incapable of projecting beyond their privileged circumstance. Clarity is elusive in Detention.
Malaise makes us wholly incapable of clarity, so it's critical to maintain mindfulness. So how do we balance deadly freedom with being in detention? Civil rights & Civic responsibility are challenging contemplation. Being subject to random stop and frisk; Whether by strangers, on anti-social media, or by local police is madness. The madness does not stem from a nervous passion to promote public health, because it cannot. It is simply a nervous incantation like spraying aerosols, that can't stop the wave of coughs.
When a Gig-Worker who delivers groceries, can't afford to stay home, and hands you tainted groceries -- How long can the bags sit outside your bubble before they rot, or until the virus wears off?
Another Detention essay begins like this:
An interstate truck driver, whether it is Amazon, UPS, JB Hunt, or a far smaller LTL, has one job, and they need the paycheck, because their partner was just liberated from the other half of their combined income. Do we really believe that this desperate driver with a mortgage to pay, will stop driving when they develop a dry cough and a mild fever or night sweats? Nope! IT WONT HAPPEN. They will drive all over their trans-continental route until they succumb to being desperately ill, pulling extra shifts, or, they will recover without knowing why they felt ill. This single vector is possibly far worse than an exec or an out of work teacher visiting their parents back home. The driver will stop every few hours as required, and buy the occasional hot dog, steak, or slurpee and hither and yon, they will pee, and flush, and wipe, and pass cash for all fare of social engagement before and after pumping diesel. They will become the anonymous outlaw vector. But alas they are mission critical, so that your cat-food, and Bud-seltzer can arrive on-time. Whilst you observe your state's health protocols, sneaking in bike rides with your masked children, You should not feel ashamed. But, thousands of locals may be affected by one outlier?, Yep., that's your delivery driver.
When strange fictions become the new normal, it's sometimes actually valid to review the cannon of sci-fi to explore contextual scenarios, and potential outcomes. I've seen and read some dystopian Sci-fi, and they can be telling. After all, the Phone in your pocket came from them, as did the walkie-talkie, and the laser, but I can't shake the images of "A Clockwork Orange" as one outcome, or ...perhaps it's already happened.
Has nobody watched a single shit-ass sci-fi thriller? For crap-sake, the idea that a selective quarantine will work is laughable. But Medicare for all is sounding good to a lot of people right about now. We are all socialists now.
Now that we are all bike riding Socialists, (like it or not, it's happened) -- we are all floundering in a giant social welfare net. We are naive children in a gigantic moon-bounce bumping, touching, and licking the same balls. We are all going to get this. We are all going to have to pay for it, and most importantly We all have to remember this moment, so as to not let it ever happen again.
Let's roll up our sleeves, and get to it. Let's calculate real projections, Create real solutions, and then make positive changes which don't exclude anyone or anyone's rights. Be ready for the secessionist back-chatter.
Be smart, be vigilant, create normalcy, or sit on your hands and wait for your fucking Prom.
The world needs bright torches right now, ...so stay lit.
Seems like only a year ago I could confidently wipe my ass of any adversity, and soldier on. Raised in a large family, there were occasions where the roll was empty, and i'd waddle, wading in my dropped trousers from the bathroom to the closet to restock. Siblings never did have much time for such formalities, and let's face it a week or so ago, nobody could conceive of running out of TP, except at Lollapalooza, or Coachella -- But the savvy tourist always carries a modest back-up supply.
(Fortunate Butts &) "Chance Favor the Prepared Mind", -Louis Pasteur
A year or so ago, when things (still) sucked politically, but were yet a bickering surreal fictional Fantasyland, I dreamt of owning a puppy of my own. I am actually in-love with only one dog, And she belongs to my Sister-in-law. Ahh, Shit -- What a great time to be a dog! Right? Her dog is special though, and got along swimmingly with the neighbor's puppy. One day in late spring, her neighbor's lovely dog enjoyed a sunny afternoon doing absolutely nothing in the yard. It luxuriated like a fat Packer-fan at a tail-gate BBQ, licking it's chops, and perhaps it's balls, as they do. The afternoon was warm in Southern California, and the yard was lovely. Hummingbirds flitted about, while dog food sat in a bowl nearby, and the outside world never seemed a challenge, because this puppy coveted in comfortable quarantine, surrounded by a 6 foot fence. Patio door open, cool AC mingled into the Mid-Spring breeze, and so this Pup, instinctively selected the perfect spot to digest it's lunch like a sultan snake on a hot rock. We all did.
The canyon road purred with passing Tesla's, occasional Range Rovers, and deliveries..., Everything was delightful. I know this because that week I visited this glorious So-Cal enclave as a base-camp to set upon an adventure to ride my Bicycle through Big Bear, Joshua Tree, Salton Sea, etc... It was a lovely home. Her neighbor's home was also a lovely sanctuary, as all homes seem to represent. This home was particularly idyllic for one to be holed-up. A patio corral with all creature comforts for Humans and Dogs alike. The Trash Cans warmed beside the fence bringing a slightly piquant sour scent toward the pups, which for neighboring dogs wafted subtle fragrant dinner scraps like a Parisian Candle at a real-estate showing.
I waited for my bike to arrive VIA FedEx, and prepped my gear, and kit, while the neighborhood dogs lie lazily in their yards like a fat President, barking occasionally at nothing at all, clearly Oblivious...
I have some things to say about pet companions:
A. Dogs Require us to hand them food, otherwise they don't do so well.
B. They Prefer the good food, and that shit is expensive.
C. I can't ride my bike any given day, all over kingdom come, if I have to care for a pet.
So when my bike arrived safely in it's carton in So Cal, I was sure happy, and this was even more welcome, when my favorite puppy "Helped" me receive the package from the Courier.
The trouble with being sated, and complacent, is that you never see the Black Swan oiling the barrel, packing up their shit in a foreign country, and boarding a plane to pay you a visit.
(A virus is a remarkably simple long molecule cluster wrapped in a protein and fat, basically a tiny version of some sugared cereals you favored at age 6).
I don't have any relatives who currently want nor need to live with me, but that may change very soon. What Everyone (including Dogs) would prefer, before receiving that knock at the door, is a call to say -- "Hey, as you know the shit has apparently hit the fan... And well..., I need a place to stay". By the way this is always a welcome visit, as compared to when the Black Swan arrives, so take them in. In that peripheral moment which we never see coming, where we are fat, happy, and smug sunning ourselves and rubbing turmeric-orange lotion on our faces to appear youthful, (or even presidential)... We tend to ignore experts who say, "be careful, too much sun -- Or 'that orange shit', may kill you".
At that unguarded moment, (that very moment when you throw cautions to the wind) is when the Coyote rooting through the trash cans beside the fence, gets on top of one to peer inside for a scrap or two. This scourge, like tiny virions, see this fat little puppy in the yard, as opportunity. Amazingly we/it appear far more attractive than yesterday's pungent leftovers in a wet trash bag. So you see that neither the Privileged Presidential Puppy, nor the Coyote believes things may ever be more perfect.; until the swan arrives.
For countless days prior, the startling sound of amazon packages being tossed over the fence bringing beautiful but superfluous things was a daily interruption to Nap-time in the warm California Sunshine. This sudden bang, like so many other times desensitizes us to an eventual clamor...
And, then 'Things' changed.
That day when the Coyote had to decide between the Trash-bin, or the Bichon... The asymmetry of this decision, and the truly tragic spiral which follows changed a small history. So it appears that if all you do is baste your body in golden turmeric sunshine, you may appear more of a fragrant morsel, than a formidable opponent -- Besides, That trash smell broadcasts a vulnerability; It marked you. But by the time the puppy yelped, it was already in the Coyote's Jaws, and little could be done to mend the situation.
(Nearly a Year later the same happened to my favorite pup. But thankfully she was saved, from it's jaws, punctured and stitched and all.)
So.. That week, before my epic ride through the Southwest Desert, I gave a second thought to pet ownership. I cuddled my Sissie's surviving dog, and thought about that absurd tangential apocalypse, as I bid farewell to puppy.
How does the Black Swan know when to appear? A. When we are complacent?, fat?, and pathetically off our guard? or B. whenever the fuck it wants to?
So be it. It was done. Now you /we pick our next moves. Answer was "B,' By the way.
I was sure glad it was the neighbor's dog, though... and not my Sister's. But that is a discordant even tasteless comment considering the circumstance. Such is the comparison to ageism in today's capitalist rant. Once the afternoon settled a bit, we counted our proverbial blessings and moved to assembling bikes for a road trip. Nagging at me was that thought, however; "Will this be my last vacation?"
Once upon a time in my life I was so free and things were so easy that I thought, in a novel way, Hmm, I think I may want one of those puppies, and I would just go and pick one off the shelf, place it in my basket, and stroll to checkout. Funny the fortune to buy anything, even companionship. A simple wish.
"A healthy soul has a thousand wishes, while the infirmed has only one". -Indian Proverb.
As Archie and Ethel Bunker used to sing..., "Those were the days..."
In this era of The Black Swan, which flew down and revoked my hall pass, I feel like now was the time to pick up one of those companion animals. But..., Alas, They are all gone. Really? What in the Fuck!! Now..., when I am finally ready to commit to support another soul, they are disappeared, like toilet tissue.
What now becomes commonplace was a by-gone fiction seemingly days ago... Vacation plans scraped into the compost bin -- and sadly beauty seems remote. Former free-range birds peck at what cool-ass life you've scrapped. So when do the Rummage sales start? When do the Bake sales balance the scales? How bad-ass is your best neighbor's caserole, now, sold by the slice..? This is real right?
Denial is still your reaction to 'the disruption'. Give it away brothers and sisters, because there is no single thing in your house besides your family and your memories which hold true value. This has become your new reality. Fairy tales are tough to come by, and by world standards you still live in one. Granted, deserted roads make for swift travel. Today my 1 hour commute took 16 minutes... You've lived a dream for how long now?... And now you lament the end of the fucking world? Chillax bitches! Would it not be perfect if we could just return?, Back-up and rewind only until Mid-February, when everything was still obliviously lovely? Licking a 6 dollar ice-cream cone, in winter, and shuffling back home with friends.
I know at least one Xenophobe who stains a fresh pillow-case orange each night, and HE thinks that paradise restores next week, Tah Dah! ...but alas he is off his rocker. I'm for that too bitches; but a chorus of bitching won't help. Before the whole card house collapses, can someone find me the tape? Magical thinking in tough times is exactly that. Just ask the Veep who credits the Orange-utang in chief with each national step backward, His new role as Vanna White, (Cheerleader to Sajak's) madness, turning tiles in our upside-down world, hoping to reveal wisdom. Can no one tell the emperor to put his clothes back on for the daily Spin of the wheel?
A virus and a Pandemic are innately a-political, BUT, if they tended to prefer to devour a particular group, I could suggest one whose usefulness has outlived it's constituents. And... It's not the neighbors puppy.
We are in serious need of participating in our republic; and getting over ourselves. This was what you thought was important..., and I'll agree it was. Things were all roses, a month ago, but the backend was built upon sand and hubris, with idiotic magical thinking, and THIS is what happens when you dispense with expertise and dismiss science. "Welcome, my son" It was beautiful, wasn't it?, Until the bottom fell out. "Welcome to the machine".
The rub about chaos, is that predictions become impossible: e.g. Puppies being sold out, like toilet paper and a run on canned Beans... Man, what a quick digression. Up end the fucking table and watch it slide to the floor. I can't get a puppy now, because (like toilet tissue) everybody had the same thought at the same fucking time. All the puppies have been snatched up. This conceited view is precisely the problem, 'my predicament'.
I totally concede that there is seemingly no wisdom today which will predict a swift return to the "Good ol' Days" of mid February, but that paradise was also bullshit. What is blocking you from embracing today is yesterday; was yesterday. We are still blinded by nostalgia, and it's too soon to fondly reflect upon a bygone month.
"Where have you been? That's all right -- We know where you've been".
Last month as I walked through my neighborhood, Amazon delivered brand-new cardboard boxes to each end every home, and what was in them was ultimately worthless. True they don't sell puppies, but the food comes that way. Ask your dog, they know. Every single restaurant I would eat at, was sat with families and friends who's faces glowed, lit from devices below, as they ignored conversing, and took to socially self-isolate, clicking away at the same damn table. Each guest arrived by separate Lyft Car. In our world a month ago, was a mutual disdain for anyone who disagreed, and common ground was an elusive coyote. Someone would have to die to get a consensus. So we stared at glowing fictions garnering false hope and fake news. Today, We have one struggle. Today we are all socially bankrupt, and the worst thing of it -- Is that all the puppies are also out of stock. Yes! Companionship where you could have cared less in November, now is a strange currency. Hug your fucking Charmin. What we need to know now is... Who is hoarding all the extra cute doggies?
I could use one right about now.
Yesterday was lovely yes, I'll grant you that. But what came before is memory, and today is your action day. You are no further than a few days from that B.C. time, (Before Covid) than the days which have ticked by as you hoard cocoa-puffs, T.P., and hit that bong. While you well-up with dread, take a breather. Whilst you sit idly by, someone needs help. Someone near you could use a smile, a hand-up, a few groceries which you could certainly spare. What is it that you are missing right now? Food, Shelter, (a puppy for certain), The security of friends and family? Nope! They are all still there. What I think is missing, is certainty. What is not missing, is beauty and selfishness. To get anyplace now, you will need to pedal, paddle, and push past your own stagnation. The Cushion on that porch was just so fucking plush that you didn't see the flight being boarded by the Black Swan. And no one in charge did either. You thought it was all coasting from here, (everybody did) and now you have to actually endure some hardship, we all do. Pity wont help and we are fresh out of that. The trouble is that your Netflix shows don't lend real context to how the fuck hard every generation had it before yours, nor to how facts, and expertise solves problems, and not piss-poor politics.
You may have completely missed the memo, if you believe that your life has fundamentally changed. Not Yet! I'll grant you that your sense of comradery may have stumbled a bit, your buying power blows now... I'll give you the strange white noise in the background, and the quietude on the street is off-putting, but you are the same whole person you were last month -- Last week... Perhaps now you will begin to see it, before you fracture. To see what was missing. Every scrap of your essence remains. Finding it, is your next move.
I recall when people searched deep within themselves to find the most meaningful, perfect gifts for each other, and perfect compliments to pay. This drifted into "What do you want for Xmas?" "What do you want for your Birthday", As if reaching into some magic bag was all it took to produce perfect regalos. No! Some kid made that in the Third world, and their world was so different than yours precisely so you could give someone some worthless crap they'd discard. It was just before you became a smug selfish bastard, when you still wrote letters, and poems, and belonged to book club. Relax, and read past that critique because "That's not you, me, right?" "Happiness is a warm gun"...
But it is you. Remember when people used to say, that it is better to give than to receive? Nobody is asking you to serve up a Kidney, so chill the fuck out! Today, you have some simple business to attend to. Being kind is a start. Giving blood is a second quality contribution. Being something better than what you were last month will break many rules. As we learn to be kind to one-another again, go forth with compassion.
Here we go with your excuses again. Is it not a great time to fix the Faucet?, the Tile?, the Roof?, that Pest problem is all you by the way. You are the problem. Who needs you?, now?... Are you your own enemy?, or are you simply scared? Every bit of adversity is unwelcome, yes. Every moment where we lose control, we drift a bit. Do you have something you have been longing to accomplish? Here is your hall pass.
It can't all be early Beatles Songs, you and they too needed to experiment. You have a responsibility to your family, your neighbors and friends. Psychedelia morphed from boredom, because lord knows the love-songs were getting long in the tooth. Judging by your complete lack of direction you may need some shame or psychedelics to accomplish anything.
Sitting around like a log. You have some work to do. No?
Here is a truth... The Luge helped loggers send multi-ton trees down a hillside toward the river. Although it's not advisable, to be on the course when a live tree sails through. You can in fact ride that slick track when the work-day is done. Now we all live on the edge, so what are you frightened of? Scared?, yes, unsure? certainly; But you open your own way of seeing a chance. Take a ride. Don't sit there when the next log comes down the slope. Be something larger than your idiotic fantasy of the world. Be this log. Isolation is good for none, bad options include: Pornography, Amazon, and Netflix, all false idols. What ever came in a cardboard box which compares with your Mom?
"You've been in the pipe-line filling in time... Provided with boys and scouting for toys. You bought a guitar to punish your ma..."
What of your next on-line purchase makes you whole or happy? A mysterious forest awaits with real things like trees, and streams and none of them are as toxic as you right now. "So welcome my son, To the Machine"
No contagion lurks in the Park by your home. Go there, Listen to the crickets, The birds, the neighbor's dog is barking a nervously, sensing ambient fear. The time to fear was before the moment, but not now. Afterwards, comes a sea-change of will, participation, and grace -- And perhaps a tide of cuddly puppies will raise all ships.
Keep your Dignity, Wipe Sparingly, and let me pet your fucking dog.
...Please don't hoard all the puppies
So you are thinking that maybe this is actually "IT" -- This is it huh? really? How do you feel? Shall we cue "American Pie", by Don McLean... Quixotic moments call for some deeper reflection, Wait... What was that song about anyway? Let's not worry about the nuance. Or, is the answer actually concealed well below this?, deep beneath the noise? I can't suppress this image of a Habitat of monkeys in the zoo, clinging, grooming, completely dependent upon their care-givers. How about just the "outro", Yes?
"I met a girl who sang the blues, and I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away
I went down to the sacred store where I'd heard the music years before
But the man there said the music wouldn't play."
Were you troubled that the grocery shelves were bare?, No frozen pizzas?, No Frozen Burritos?, No More eggs? As if the Grinch arrived last night? Were you the Grinch who snatched up everything just before an elderly local got down that aisle? Shame on you!
What's your reaction when Grub Hub wont deliver? What's your next move? How have you prepared? Now Cue a single monkey screeching in the cage -- and soon all of them are making a racket. Perhaps it's Time to reflect upon something important. You didn't want that frozen burrito anyway. Did you.
Our Path, Way, Route, Channel, or Road, guides the natural order of the universe, as much as we humans can discern. The Nameless concept of "Tao" will reveal itself with study -- Our true potential for individual wisdom.
Laozi in the Tao Te Ching tells us that "Tao" is not the name of a thing, but it is the essence of the natural order of the universe, which would naturally be "difficult" to circumscribe to a name as with an object, like pizza. So nouns fail us. Tao remains eternally nameless, because it is non-conceptual. Tao is evident in ones being of aliveness. Unlike boundless named things, "The Way" or "Tao" remains elusive, or even embedded, but not revealed without intense reflection upon what remains un-identifiable. But we seldom pay attention to such things. Who has time to pay attention? Oh shit! you will now...
Whatever your Tao means to you, I find that when the shit hits the fan, a Oneness with things we've perhaps forgotten to touch or reflect upon begins to resolve into view. For a few, this focus brings to bear many new truths about the nature of the universe. Truly.
When Mercury is in Retrograde, I generally retract to an inner place where I can duck in reflection as calamity whirls up to gale force. It has happened far too often that at this Celestial whirring, things begin to go off the rails. I'm not talking about the inconvenience of a cancelled rock concert, or an emergency proclamation preventing gathering. These suck, (of course) but they are just symptoms of a larger calamity. Sigh... When Mercury begins to move backwards as it did from February 16th to March 9th, I keep my head down. I think of a lawnmower, and this is not a great time for wee blades of grass to stretch skyward.
I may be disappointed with effects of sweeping changes to "my" daily life, but this too shall pass. What is surreal about new austerity, is the way each individual comes to regard themselves from within this tempest. I find that most, if all people become upset by the sudden dynamic shift from being the center of one's universe to being somewhat less of a unique snowflake. When we suffer individually, as with a broken bone -- We lament the injustice of our circumstance. When we suffer en-mass, (and as sympathies dry up)... we tend to look within for strength.
Today I looked around at the flippant shrugging "Ah Well!..." attitude of some neighbors and then sat quietly in that uncertainty. Like most, I would hope that we all become as immune to a virus, as we have become complacent with our lack of camaraderie. The simple truth is that we will have to all do some soul searching to find what was important before we all became smug in-compassionate self absorbed consumerist individuals. Living the Dream.
The Tao of apocalypse teaches us that like fungus, we are all interconnected below the surface. One seething wet messy organism tucking limbs under it's covers. Today we will begin to regard our healthy comfort above all else. Funny how yesterday you just could not believe that you'd have to wait two whole days for your On-line order to arrive, and now we hoard toilet tissue. Comfort. The funny thing about comfort is that being comfortable is a myth.
When Mercury Fires up that celestial lawn-mower, and the shit hits the blades, what is important is the same thing that it was well prior. Somehow this was occluded by the milky white spoodge of consumerism. When the music stops and we all scramble for a chair, someone is left out without a place to sit. Please let it be me. When the bubble pops, and we all stop agreeing that mass consumerism can go on forever... The only things most people contemplate, is, "Getting Back to Normal". "Normal". "The day the music died".
Last week a young friend of ours was crossing the street when he was struck by a turning driver. He would die in the hospital a few days later. He was the sort of person who could resolve with eloquence and a few choice words this very moment we are in today, But sadly he won't witness our petty dialogs. He was uniquely tuned-in to that other layer of our virtual existence; The layer with substance... The one beneath our surfaces. This beautiful person won't worry about online orders, waiting lists, and rationed hand sanitizer. We will miss him, and this profound personal sense of loss pulls back the curtain on the charade in which we all participate. We tend to think of ourselves, rather than community. Gathering into our towers more toilet tissue, hand sanitizer and a hand-gun, now cowering behind a stock-pile of canned goods -- Instead of calling our neighbors and friends to see how we could be useful. Instead of reaching for a larger purpose than ourselves, we duck and cover. When we lose family and friends as well may happen, To peruse someone's personal belongings after they pass is revelatory. What sacred few things remain which we cannot take with us. What appears more important today than anything else, is how you've left things.
When My time comes, I want to be beautiful. Not attractive -- But well regarded. Today I think I still have some work to do.
Slow the tempo, and cue the music, "And good ol' boys were drinkin whisky and rye, singing this will be the day that I die".
We are an amalgam of our reflected behaviors, and mimicry, we share a playlist, wear the same styles, emulating celebrity behavior as benchmarks for our social grace. We are all beige buoys floating, yet loosely moored to the earth, clamoring & complaining when the waves mount. We bob and bump each other, as we now practice "Social-Distancing". What we learn in turmoil is the weight of what we once took for granted. What was once "ordinary" is now nostalgic. Now, it seems, we can control less of our collective destiny, so we return to comfort, as a our pinnacle goal. Sanctuary.
Travel has always been the ultimate social lesson for me. Exposure to unique lifestyles and places builds equanimity like a funeral for a friend. We leave our shoes at the door to the temple, and so much other clutter, and cross-talk. This White-noise which was preventing us from hearing seeing and being, is cleansed through the lens of travel. Travel is what we will miss the most when we are housebound.
You can still travel to the woods, the park, the railroad tracks, the lake, the ocean, the yard, and even the porch. You can walk, run, and ride places, and see things, and as a stillness takes over, as it did in the towering canyon of our city after Nine-Eleven, we will begin to see, feel, and taste things differently.
This desolate moment will soon remind me of Raymond K. Hessel's run-in with an apparent lunatic in the book Fight Club... should one survive the barrel of this gun, the next day will be outstanding! To quote a great read: “Listen, now, you're going to die, Ray-mond K. K. K. Hessel, tonight. You might die in one second or in one hour, you decide. So lie to me. Tell me the first thing off the top of your head. Make something up. I don't give a shit. I have a gun.
Finally, you were listening and coming out of the little tragedy in your head.
Fill in the blank. What does Raymond Hessel want to be when he grows up?
Go home, you said you just wanted to go home, please.
No shit, I said. But after that, how did you want to spend your life? If you could do anything in the world.
Make something up.
You didn't know.
Then you're dead right now, I said. I said, now turn your head.
Death to commence in ten, in nine, in eight.
A vet, you said. You want to be a vet, a veterinarian.
You could be in school working your ass off, Raymond Hessel, or you could be dead. You choose. I stuffed your wallet into the back of your jeans. So you really wanted to be an animal doctor. I took the saltwater muzzle of the gun off one cheek and pressed it against another. Is that what you've always wanted to be, Dr. Raymond K. K. K. K. Hessel, a veterinarian?...
So, I said, go back to school. If you wake up tomorrow morning, you find a way to get back into school.
I have your license.
I know who you are. I know where you live. I'm keeping your license, and I'm going to check on you, mister Raymond K. Hessel. In three months, and then six months, and then a year, and if you aren't back in school on your way to being a veterinarian, you will be dead...
Raymond K. K. Hessel, your dinner is going to taste better than any meal you've ever eaten, and tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of your life.”
― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
Profound is what death is -- And like most tragedy, a sense of the profound undercuts our sense of self ...substituting in a bit of Tao. We all struggle to explore something larger than ourselves, something compelling, the reason we are here, doesn't fit into the tidy boxes which bind traditional religious faith. We can put a bow on our beliefs in the form of a giant temple, church, or synagogue, but the building is just a building, and the building is closed. Now that you are taking your prayer service from your living room, consider something larger than yourself. Consider wandering through the woods, sitting beside the ocean, walking through your neighborhood. Enjoy the sounds and the silence.
It's not the Apocalypse, but even if it were..., how would you wish to be remembered?
This is a time to be tolerant. But as one mighty institution once put it succinctly, it is also always a time to be, "helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent".
...In the Apocalypse, as in Scouting, boys and girls start with their 'best right now selves', and grow into their very best future selves.
Consider the Tao of the Apocalypse, and how you want to be remembered, be your best self -- and don't forget to wash your fucking hands.
Age and Treachery will overcome youth and skill.