The Long Leaving

my guardian
my heart
where do I start
Are you yourself?
Can you show me
do you know me?

for years I kept
you near
and I missed
you the most

you never wanted
to be a burden
It was
We were both hurting
But just as you
did it all for me
at my beginning
so shall I be with you
at the end
I shall attend

when you crossed
I was both lost
and free
I want to remember me
have these last few years
moved from the fore
and just reflect
on days of yore

seeing what I might become
Is troublesome
I must live
and not give in
to future fears
while I’m still here

I put shadows of you
in my pocket
and take a step
into the clear air

Written Word

I sat down to write away my pain
But it just came back to me again

So I sat down to write some more
But still the pain, I could not ignore

Then I proceeded to write a book
But page after page, the pain sunk in its hook

To write my pain I did not weary
I turned my book into a series

But that pain, I still did carry
So I even filled a library

Finally
Ink drained from my pen
Words faded from my ken

I prayed
This would be The End

Of Myths and Monsters

The Minotaur seems very nice
A little rough
Around polished edges
Intelligent
This comes from being two people
Animals?
Detached because he’s misunderstood
Misunderstood because he’s detached
But you can set the man free from bull
He’s a gentle beast after all
Right?
Tear down those four walls
Ring placed hopeful on hairy hands
And suddenly you’ll be a-mazed
It’s not four walls
And you’re inside

In fabled tales of old
The story’s often told
How Theseus searched for Minotaur to slay
But you’re no hero
He’ll bring your will to zero
And in that maze you’ll stay

It’s all in your mind
But I think you’ll find
Your hope is never-ending
Which way to go
You’ll think you know
With your wind and all your wending

Illusion of choice
Suppression of voice
He’s there to block your way
If you do the math
And find another path
He’s sure to make you pay

Well wrong IS wrong
Also right is wrong
Lost and listless
Crawling on hands and knees
Questioning
Every decision you’ve made
Never pleasing his taurine form

You must be a bad person
You must not know how to love
You must be unlovable
You will never escape

And why do you deserve freedom?
It’s his labyrinthine home
Or you’ll always be alone

Sacrifice and appease
Then get on your knees
Or the Minotaur will rage
If you cause displeasure
He’ll use violent measures
Deadening ends within his cage

No straight lines
You’ll look for a sign
And cry out to the skies above
But if there is a God
Who observes you plod
He’s not one made from love

In truth your only sin
Was to open the door and let him in
And offer him your heart
But he’s had you pegged
In his morass you’re dragged
He’s been bending you from the start

What cosmic justice cares about us?
Kindness may be a virtue
The king of all
But why should souls
Who are manifest
Of love and compassion
Be prey to the most monstrous of humans?

If this be divine law or decree
Said Consciousness can keep it
Leave us alone
The heartbreak is too much for us mortals
Do You not hear women weeping?
Does not the sound of pleas
From the kindest among us
Trapped forever in mindless mazes
Shake the very foundation of heaven?

Let Kingdoms fall into the sea
Set love and kindness free

Deconstruction

Zoom in to the deepening chasm of time
there you will see your life
a groove no wider than a dime
your joys, your conquests, your strife

Time breathes in a continuum
it does not stop or start
from sundials to the pendulum
We’ve tried to break it apart

It is monetized
Itemized
Economized

You’ll have more time for leisure
it all looks good on paper
ten billionths of a second measured
your work will surely taper

Technology makes time more free
I’ve no doubt that this is true
time is money its plain to see
capitalism has its eye on you

Resplendent spent time
is misspent
if money’s not spent

Your free time sparks a competition
corporations want your attention
to change your focus to acquisition
Work harder for the newest invention

Each particle of time shatters
into confetti for our counting
Mercurial seconds start to scatter
Relaxation becomes accounting

Must tick can’t talk
Locked
I’ve become the clock

But time is best
when you aren’t looking
pour some wine
talk to a friend
read a book
run your fingers across a leaf
sit in silent introspection
and you will notice
what you didn’t notice

time slips
time flows
seconds melt away
like a snowflake on your nose
it runs
it flies
sunset to sunrise
its motion across the skies

Time is the gentle
change in season
to ponder and reason
swinging slowly on hammocks
and enjoy a cool breeze in

Your groove is all you get
don’t give it all away
to those who want to take your time
and put a dollar to your day

Spend time watching things
that might watch you in return
love turns time to violin notes
making the most of time you’ve earned

The Practical Poem

you see me as logical
practical analytical
well all of it is true

I didn’t see you at first
the illusion was optical
a vision so mystical
it was damn near mythical

you may find it nonsensical
but I love that your whimsical
you’re atypical, a spectacle
it might seem rather radical
but I’d like to get physical
so learn some physics from me

as a man of science
don’t think it ironical
that I’d take you on Sabbatical
that I’d start waxing canonical
or start humming a canticle
not to be didactical
but you might be the pinnacle
of creation, I’m not cynical
or skeptical that you’re so
completely divine

I find you just delectable
I’m not sure if it’s ethical
to offer a hypothetical
of what it might be like with me

you see my hands are quite magical
a kiss would be fantastical
I could make you feel electrical
my tongue can move vertical
sideways or concentrical
blood rushing through your ventricle
attention nearly medical

I like to get technical
and a little bit graphical
use oils that are topical
and explore you topographical
the hills and the valleys
and all that’s geographical

you see me as logical
practical analytical
well all of it is true
that’s why the only
right conclusion
is for me to be with you

Time and Space

When time was time,
And space was space,
We couldn’t move from place to place,
A window on a distant view,
That is when I first saw you

When the past was passed
And there was no future
The moments didn’t need a suture,
Raindrops pattered on leaves of trees
And gently did you on fall on me

When dreams and fantasy,
Met at the nexus,
We drove to the restaurant in my brand new Lexus
Under alluring gaze I could not wait,
And paid and left before we ate

When love was love,
And muses were muses,
We didn’t seem to have short fuses,
But reaching arms across the  distance,
Takes its toll on your resistance

When cold was cold
And hard was hard,
All I could do was mow the yard,
And if I stopped the tears just fell,
Imprisoned in my private hell

When peace was peace,
And breath was breath,
I buried though there was no death,
All it took was a little liquor,
To close my eyes and see the flicker

When I was me,
And you were you,
That’s all there ever is to do,
Hearts will rise and heart will fall,
There is truth and beauty in it all

Despots and Counting People

I was thinking to myself that despotic governments in poor countries probably don’t care too much about an accurate census.  Undercounting is to the advantage of those who need oppress, and strip of human dignity, and in extreme cases purge.  You can’t trim your population by a few percent in a short period of time if you’re keeping track of your population count.  People would notice.

It made me reflect on Trump’s desire to put a citizenship question on the census. Many illegal immigrants are too afraid to fill out a census anyway, this would ensure that none did. Why count them right? Trump and his party would like to think of them as thieves in the night, sneaking across the southern desert, looking to rob some rich Americans in their new life. Yet most of them came here legally, many were brought as children, many were born here and love and need their parents as much as you did. Most are doing jobs that you and I wouldn’t do, and if we would, we’d want a lot more money to do it. Whether one wants to be an absolutist about the rule of law, they count and are part of the fabric of our society.  Whether it’s costly or beneficial, they are still human beings.  I suspect if Republicans could see them that way, they wouldn’t be absolutists about immigration law.

But I imagine even in the best of times undercounting is always going to be the case. And I began to wonder ‘Who else aren’t we counting in our society?’

I just want everyone to know that you count. And then you tell it to other people who aren’t reading my blog. Which is quite a lot. But even those people count and they need to know too.

Peace.

The Stacked Deck

Recently a ridiculous graphic was going around showing how somebody could live on $2000 dollars a month, still save $100 a month and have a couple hundred dollars spending money too. Of course that person didn’t have children, most of the costs seemed to be typical of the 90s, and in order to clear $2000 dollars a month you still need to be making $13 or $14/hr which is nearly double the federal minimum wage. For those of you who don’t want to do the math, by saving $100, they could potentially get a year of college after 10 years of work. So, by 60 they could have their bachelor’s degree and maybe move up in the world.

If that sounds ludicrous, congratulations, you are a sane person. But more importantly that $100 (we could even bump it up to $200) a month savings isn’t going to just sit they’re happily waiting to be spent on something big in most cases. A capitalist society has many rags to riches stories, and while such stories typically rise to the forefront of the conversation, they are a vast minority. Why? Because they depend on luck. I think a capitalist society can be set up in a way to give more opportunities to people, but that’s not through an unrestrained free market. It requires a government that is actively restraining it.

What I really want to talk more about are the ways in which the society we live in is stacked against poor people. I find the GOP talking point that poor people are lazy to be one of the most insidious ever devised and one that causes not only continued financial misery for poor people, but also dehumanizes them, diminishing their human dignity and value.

Shop Cutco Knife SetsWhen I was 20 I worked a summer job where I sold Cutco knives. I’ve met other people who did the same thing; lured in by the promise of $11/hr for summer work, only two find that this was $11 for a 1 hour demonstration and you had to go into people’s homes and try to sell them knives. I’m not a great salesman, because I hate dictating how people should spend their money. Nevertheless they were quality knives and I did okay.  I was reminiscing about the job recently because I actually bought some Cutco knives off of eBay as I accidentally melted one of the handles off a knife I kept from sample set that I earned by selling enough knives. Anyway, I remembered how they taught us to explain that cheap knives might work great at first, but they dull or break quickly. So without buying good knives, over the course of some number of years you would actually lose money. The company was trying to justify why you would spend a lot of money (they were quite expensive, average $70 a knife in the early 90s) on a set of knives. Let’s take for granted that these are quality knives and that you would save money in the long run.  I was smart enough back then to know that this wasn’t how the real world worked for many people. Putting $800 down for a set of knives, no matter how great, was not the kind of capital people had lying around just for knives. Interestingly the thing that broke me was when the mechanically cheery regional sales manager told me to target middle class people because they were likely to have more money saved up than upper middle-class people who were more likely to have been frivolous with their money and might have less saved up.  So I was expected to take savings away from people who I felt could put their money to better use buying their kids new bikes for what amounted to only kitchen knives.

The knife example is like many things in our society:  good quality things that last longer are the better option to buy if you want to save money in the long term. However, to get those savings you need to have money to begin with. I remember when I was a grad student, and had limited income when I was buying a blender; there were many cheap choices that seemed like a good deal. And they would often work great for a little while, but invariably break down after a year or two.  Capitalism has done a great job of making these things at a cheaper and cheaper cost, but the trade off is durability. It’s a piece of equipment that works for a limited amount of time,because they know poor people have limited amounts of money and on any given month they can only afford a cheap blender; and in a year they will be able to afford another cheap blender.

There are many more examples like this.  You can reduce energy costs in your home by getting solar paneling on your roof,  but it is an expensive investment and the energy savings might only make up for the cost after 10 years.  You can afford to do this only if you have a nice house and the capital to invest in the first place.  Another caveat is that even if poor people did want to invest in a house, it is likely not one that is well built enough to invest in something like solar paneling.

Let’s go back to that budget I talked about at the beginning where somebody with $2000 a month is able to put away $100-200 a month in savings.  People who are poor generally have:

  • Cheaper/older appliances
  • Cheaper/older car
  • Older and cheaper living accommodations
  • Cheaper or no health care, thus high co-pays and deductibles

All it takes is a broken water heater, fridge, or washing machine, a car breakdown or accident, or a medical emergency for all those savings to be wiped away.  And these problems will occur more frequently as a result of what you can afford when you’re poor.

Let’s throw in some other important factors.  In our society, nutritious food costs more and thus families with lower quality foods may suffer more health consequences adding to their medical costs.  As the COVID situation is showing us, poor people don’t get to social distance and stay home from work easily. To survive they depend on their social network and this can lead to worse outcomes in terms of getting sick and missing more work and school. The way public school funding seems to work here is that property taxes are a large part of the funding.  Poorer communities get less equipped schools, can’t afford to pay their teachers as  much and thus have less teacher retention, with the most experienced teachers unlikely to stay.

Another thing people might not be aware of is that poorer communities also tend to be in more disaster prone areas.  Consider living near a river. There are places that are less likely to flood and more likely to flood. But instead of just not letting people live in flood prone areas, developers build cheap housing there for people with less money. It’s relatively inexpensive to rebuild if the area gets wiped out and this keeps insurance costs down in riskier areas.  Meanwhile, a poor home owner in a flood zone is less likely to be able to afford and purchase flood insurance. So as poor person you are also just more likely to have your life wiped out by a natural disaster. There are also many other factors that increases disaster risks for people in with lower socioeconomic standing.

Disasters do not just happen – they result from failures of ...

It’s possible that a parent taught you a lot about cars and you know how to fix them yourself and spot a good used car. But that’s not everybody.  It’s possible that you are great at sniffing out good deals for quality appliances, but that takes time: a luxury money also gets you. Getting a higher education can also be a great way to get you out of poverty. However, this is becoming increasingly unaffordable without taking on significant debt, which in turn keeps you in a state of perpetual struggle for at least a decade after you graduate.  So maybe you get lucky and stay healthy, have few car issues, end up in a good school district, or are gifted genetically in some way that gives you an advantage. And of course there could be any number of issues that your parents have which might limit your ability to rise very much in life. A lot of people may be working hard, but only some will be able to rise out of poverty.

Capitalism doesn’t care if you put away money as long as you are buying something.  In fact, it prefers you spend your money rather than save it. It makes much more money off people buying multiple cheap blenders than a good quality blender that lasts 10 years. In fact, it is in capitalism’s best interest to not make things last for anybody. It seems that as the middle class erodes we just have rich people who can buy new expensive items every couple years; not because they have to, but because they can change their aesthetic anytime they want. Meanwhile poor people are forced to repeatedly buy cheap goods they have to replace often just to have a functioning home or vehicle.  Capitalism is also in general happier if you are sick more and need to buy pharmaceuticals instead of being able to have the leisure time to keep healthy, exercise, and buy nutritious foods.

The real insult is that this capitalist engine, working exactly as intended, accuses the very people it exploits of being lazy and stupid, performing worthless jobs that they should be thankful for because it is only by the grace of their corporate overlords that they haven’t already been replaced by machines. When workers start to demand enough money to get by on they get replaced by machines anyway because heaven forbid some CEO can’t afford to replace his 7th vehicle that year that’s parked unused at their 4th mansion most of the year. If you listen to conservatives a CEO is the hero in this story: he is better, smarter, and a harder worker, deserving of his riches, and possessing of a superior morality. Should they screw up on that front, however,  that’s okay. They have friends in the corporate media, they can hire the best lawyers and pr firms, and escape with barely a dent in their fortune. And sure some small percentage fall from grace, and while many people will recognize such people as criminals, others will simply say “Well if he’s really guilty, he surely would be in jail”.  Trump is a good example of how rich criminals support each other. Meanwhile poor people pay for even the most minor of crimes for a lifetime. Capitalism not only exploits poor people as workers, but also exploits them as consumers, all the while devaluing their very existence.

This system’s cracks are showing. It can’t sustain itself. Creating division among the population is its last-ditch effort to keep itself alive. And so far, it’s working. How much longer can it all go on?

A Tale of Two Universes

When you go over to the “other side”, meaning Trump supporter central it’s eerie. I look at the conversations and it looks like a mirror image of the type of discussions I have. It isn’t full of anger or racist messages, but simply full of the same style of criticism, and sarcasm that one would see on my side. People are civil and casual as they discuss what they consider liberal/democratic points of view.  I am not saying that I agree with what they are saying just that it’s like looking in on another world that’s just like ours, but more like the universe in the classic Star Trek episode Mirror, Mirror.

I find this alarming because it means we almost can’t be further apart if you watch the conversation happening on social media.  I hope that social media isn’t a good representation, but if it is, I do understand why many worry about the breakdown in conversation in our society. Even more concerning is the fact that it is very much like looking into a world that is built on fictions. Once the fictions are accepted as true, the rest appears rational and logical. In this way it’s very much like religion in which the unknown premise, that there is a God, is accepted as true a priori and the rest follows.

As much as I pride myself on my analytical skills, knowledge of the scientific method, and ability to think logically, when you see millions of people operating on a totally different set of assumptions it does make you question your sanity. Because it is possible that me and my friends are the ones living in the delusion. So, who has the better grip on reality? Are there elements of truth in both worlds and that we really need to look at a composite of those worlds? Who is qualified to be an arbiter of this? Is there anybody we can trust or believe to look at both sides objectively and determine what is real?

I base much of my morality on the simple idea of cooperation.  We are a social species; we bond with others through reciprocal altruism (i.e. the golden rule) and we survive better because we work together. Which side violates this more?  The problem is a bit of a numbers game. We can easily see how in an 8-person rowing team, one person acting in discord is noticeable. We can that person is certainly not coordinating efforts with others. In a tribe of a few hundred, discord will also stand out likely from a survival standpoint. However, we are millions of people.  We are in discord and this impacts how we function as a nation, but not as a species. A million racists can all work together to solve problems, grow food, and propagate the species just as well as a million people who oppose racism. And what about building bridges to the other side of the political aisle? Is there one side of the aisle who is better at doing that? Right now, I would argue that there isn’t. If kindness is what connects us to people, then we need a lot more kindness that what it seems like what is currently out there, from both sides of the political spectrum. Thus, at an evolutionary level we can determine truth, because the truth is both sides can survive. Perhaps one side is happier than the other, but survival doesn’t have to be happy.

In the end I must look at bigger concepts like empathy, compassion, and humility.  None of these things necessarily make one universe more real than another, but they matter if we are going to someday be a unified human race working to improve the well-being of all life on this planet. If the other universe is the real one, it is one that separates people into groups, it is based in non-existent fears, categorizing and stereotyping groups, and limiting their rights.  It seems to me that they are far too often making the mistake of believing their rights being limited when most of the time it’s just privileges being lost to those people who were previously oppressed and exploited.  If I’m wrong and my reality is illusory, I feel like I’ve at least tried to:

  • see women as equals
  • see race as a social construct
  • appreciate science and how the best tool we have for knowing works
  • try and be mindful of the words we use and the jokes we make because being considerate of feelings are important
  • that learning and growing is important
  • to have a society where we take care of each other better

These values seem good to me. I can’t shake it.  In my understanding of liberalism, that’s the philosophy I see shaping my political values. Conservatism, at least represented by society today does not demonstrate these values.  While I do think it’s important to be cautious and measured in moving forward the very idea that things are great the way they are and never change is ludicrous to me. Change is inevitable. As a species we continue to learn to try to ensure the safety and health of more and more of our people. We’ve fought and died for it. With time I do believe we’ve done a better job of giving more people a chance to flourish and having more people live that would have died a 100 years ago or more. Our story is one of change.

CONSERVATISM QUOTES [PAGE - 4] | A-Z QuotesPerhaps it is human nature for those who fear change to battle those who welcome it. I like to frame that struggle as the battle between comfort and risk.  Both have their merits and perhaps arguing about it is the only way to reach a compromise, to find a way to move us forward where everybody gets to come along.  It seems once again a numbers game. If we were our hunter-gatherer selves, we would all know each other and how many shades of difference in worldview could we have from one another. However, when you’re talking about billions of people the perspectives vary greatly. And even if some of those perspectives are based on fundamentally unsound principles, when it’s all you’ve known it’s hard to even know that the boundaries that shaped your life can be broken at all. But there is some element of truth in everybody’s story and we’ve really got to do a better job of preserving the essence of someone’s lived life that can instruct, that can be beautiful, and/or weep at the tragedy that unfolded on them.

In the end we live in a time of vast inequality with numbers of people living in abject poverty that we can’t even fathom.  But every time we get a glimpse into that well of inequality we all know that there are some on this planet who have more wealth than they can possible spend, while children literally die of starvation. I’ve heard from economists who pay attention to history that capitalism helped raise people out of poverty. I’m not going to dispute that. However, at the risk of sounding cynical, I worry that even though less people (as a percentage of global population) live in abject poverty than in the past, our drive to give people the barest of wealth to get by is not because capitalism cares about people, but because capitalism realized that more people means more labor and more consumers. Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men ...Capitalism was never an ethical system, it is an engine to generate wealth and nothing more. We better come up with answer to what all this wealth is for, because capitalism is moving on without human labor. Automation is coming. More wealth will be generated by corporations and the need for labor decreases. Eventually the system has to collapse in on itself because if people have nothing to do they will not have any money to buy things. The narcissism of greed is our real enemy.  I think there are people on both sides of the aisle who feel they don’t have value and what they do has no value. The people with the money want you to believe that some other group is to blame. Some group who’s just trying to live their life and hope that things stay secure enough so they can raise a family and have a little fun along the way.

I’m trying to be my optimistic self during these times, but it’s a great challenge.  I don’t know the answer to how we can come together, but I do know if we don’t start being a lot kinder to each other it’s never going to happen.

Octonauts and the Other World

Right now my son is really into the Octonauts. If you don’t have children you might not be familiar with the show, but I’m comfortable in saying it might be one of the best cartoons ever made for kids.  In the episode a team of animals in their underwater vessel help various sea creatures in the ocean and tell you interest facts about the featured creature for each episode.

I’ve always been fond of documentaries on ocean especially the deep sea ones with bio-luminescence. But it struck me as I watching an episode with my son last night that the ocean really is like an alien world. It’s not that we don’t have an impact on it, but for the most part other than the occasional visit, it’s simply a world in which we can’t exist in. It is a world that has those at the top of the food chain, and those at the bottom. It has death, pain, peace, flourishing, competition, love, etc. It is extremely diverse, and there is much intelligence to be found. It is every bit as vivacious as surface based life. As I watch and think about that world, I couldn’t help but think how there is nothing to judge. It is, and while things live and die, there is no question about about morality, deities, or oppression. It just is, and it’s beautiful. While I do not believe any single creature intends to live sustainably, the world in the oceans is as sustainable as it can be.  Something we’ve yet to figure out. We as a species have flourished perhaps more than any other species, but at what cost?

When I think about how our actions have impacted this other world, how we’ve carelessly thrown trash into it and how climate change is influencing it, it seems more egregious than many of our other environmental crimes. In fact it seems that because we thought it was this other world with a massive amount of water we have reasoned that we could do anything we wanted to it, thinking that our activities could never have a great impact on anything so vast. This has of course turned out to be untrue. It is not our confession booth, a place to take all our sins away and absolve of us our hurt on the environment, but we have treated as such.

I’d like to believe the maker of the Octonauts just has such a passion for the ocean and just wanted to spread that appreciation to others. I think it does a great job of that. I get why people dedicate their lives to the study and preservation of these amazing ecosystems.  We may never get off this planet and meet alien civilizations. The Ocean might be the best “alien” world we can visit. I hope we can keep it that way. It was here before us, and I hope that it will also be here long after us.