A friend of mine recently said, “I’d like to know exactly what goes through your mind.” I replied that it probably wouldn’t be that interesting a trip, though it would be a wide-ranging, somewhat tumultuous and scary experience.
That got me to thinking that it might be fun to capture what thoughts I had, on an average afternoon, as I was wandering through my life. Please note this caveat.
A friend of mine remembers a speech a colleague of hers, Richard Alpert (more commonly known as Ram Dass) once gave. She recalls that he began his presentation something like this: “Half of what I am about to say represents the essential truth of life. Take heed of what you hear and act on it. The other half of what I will share is worthless. Ignore it. The only problem is that I don’t know which is which.” I would say the same about what is to follow. Some of what I’ve written below may be of some worth, some not.
At the grocery story, I am reminded of America’s love affair with alcohol. It is an astonishing thing to witness. “It’s a game,” the ping pong balls and cups say to me, as they stand alongside the cases of beer. “Use responsibly,” they say. The good thing about alcohol, as I see it, is that it works for most people. It does exactly as advertised; it takes us away from our true selves.
It’s great, until it isn’t. It works, until it doesn’t. And the effect (serving as an anesthetic on our authentic self), separating us from others, our relationships, our families, and our culture is inestimable. Though the grand illusion is that it serves to connect us. I once remarked to a friend that I wished she could be as warm and sweet and tender and honest without drinking as she was when she was drinking and her response was, “I’m no different when I’ve not been drinking as I am if I have.” That really frightened me. She didn’t know the difference.
I wonder what it is about true love that allows the beloved to permeate nearly every moment, every thought, every dream, every recollection.
Cotton Mather as he was weighing the pros and cons of the smallpox treatments that involved vaccinations, experienced what seems to eerily mimic what is happening today with the COVID vaccine debate. The exact same political, social, and religious forces, factions, groups, and sub-groups of people are messaging the same points of view in support of and arguments against the current vaccination efforts. It’s fascinating to see how little we have learned.
If someone proposed the current seatbelt laws that exist today, I don’t believe they would be passed. The same arguments against them, would be used as I see being used to resist what science tells us is our, and our loved ones, best chance of survival. About all of this, I am reminded of a William Binney quote, “You can never underestimate the power of large numbers of stupid people.”
I am with a friend who says, “Why do we say, I’m going to get a Starbucks, when we are going to get a latte?” We don’t say, “I’m going to go get a Home Depot.” I like friends who think like that and ask those kinds of questions out loud. It’s good to know I’m not alone in my weirdness.
Speaking of speaking, why do we say we are going to get a haircut, when it is actually hairs cut, while we accurately suggest we are going to get our teeth (not tooth) cleaned and our eyes (not eye) checked?
I am reminded that Thanksgiving, for some of my friends, is not a day of celebration or of giving thanks, but it is a solemn reminder of the genocide that befell their people (and continues to operate in their communities to this very day). Tens of millions of victims so far. In America. A result of my ancestors as well as those of us alive now.
Which reminds me that there are currently school officials who are asking instructors to prepare alternative narratives to the Nazi extermination pogrom we know as the Holocaust. Really? I am reminded by all this, that denial is perhaps one of the most potent forces on earth. Without our ability to deny, there are those who suggest we all would be institutionalized. Like many other things, denial can be used to keep us from going insane as well as to destroy our world, including our fellow human beings.
I just returned from my annual physical checkup. I feel like an old car, going one more time for an annual emissions check, hoping I pass inspection, but not being surprised if I didn’t. I passed.
I am reminded that not everything is within my control. I can be a safe driver, but if a tie rod on my car breaks, I WILL drive into the side of the car next to me, instantly.
I’ve concluded that the level of fear an individual walks around with seems to be a pretty good predictor of the level of rigidity, extremism, conservativism, (left and right) a person exhibits, and the greater their need for simple answers to complex situations, whom the leaders they follow, offer.
Those places that are dominated by those who live and espouse a liberal and politically correct life, seem to be over-represented by aggressive drivers. I wonder if it is their way of expressing their pent up grrrrrr factor?
Few things beat the moment when your four-year old grandson jumps up and down in delight just because you appear at his door. AND he readily admits to being afraid. I am aware that those folks who are aware of and can express their feelings are called moody. I’d suggest they are emotionally intelligent. My four-year old grandson reminds me that we all once were, but we live in an environment that doesn’t support such goings on.
It’s sad to realize the deadly power of the nearly universal message that we human beings are not ok. That we are flawed, sick, broken and need repair. I work with that set of beliefs every day. Both with my clients and this man in the mirror. That one pervasive belief, in my opinion, has and continues to wreak more personal and societal destruction than any one other belief. I think it is remarkable and an incredibly sad element that some (not all) cultures have convinced a significant number of us human beings that we are the only part of nature that is flawed.
I also understand why that is done (control and domination). We couldn’t possibly allow people to love and accept their own divinity.
I recently read something that John Adams wrote. He was America’s second President and a primary player in shaping the American Constitution: "Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide." I wonder if I am witnessing this as I watch what is happening in America? Ernest Becker eerily predicted the events of the last half dozen years in his 1970’s book, Denial of Death.
As I’m driving down the highway and see the majestic Rockies ablaze in the afternoon’s sun, I’m convinced the earth will be just fine in the long run. Us humans may very well destroy ourselves. Not unlike what untreated cancer does to its host. I’m experiencing a moment when my denial veil slips.
I recently ran across a poem:
“One day I called my dog, God.
At first, he was confused
Then he started smiling
I kept at it
He does not bite anymore
I wonder if this might work with people”
(Saint Tukaram, Love Poems From God, Daniel Ladinsky)
So, what am I, a solitary human being to do? As I ask myself that question, these words from George Eliot come to mind:
“If you sit down at set of sun
And count the acts that you have done
And counting, find one self-denying deed
One word that eased the heart of they who heard
One glance most kind that fell like sunshine where it went
Then you may count that day well spent”
Lastly, I’m reminded that poetry connects two (or more) souls in ways that nothing else quite can. I’m reminded that inside each of us, there is one; our very own personal poet(ress) waiting to be heard.
So, this was a visit on the inside the head of Ted over the course of about 20 minutes. All first draft in nature. I am reminded of a bumper sticker I once read that said “Don’t believe everything you think”. Good advice.
I’d be interested in hearing some random thoughts you have, meandering through your consciousness on your way from here to there.