Friday, December 31, 2010

Time Slows Down

I don't know what it is, but this time toward the end of the year has always felt to me as if it operates in a time frame of its own. Time slows down, and flows at a different rate, and in variant channels.

It begins for me several days before Christmas, and continues on through New Year's Day. No matter what I'm doing, no matter what my schedule. Time stretches out and distends, as if time itself drifts off into a realm beyond time.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Another Blizzard

Oh great. We're in the throes of yet another blizzard, as if the ones that have hit us already this season weren't enough. Fortunately I have enough food laid away that I can ride out the storm. And fortunately I can do enough of my work from home, with the aid of my trusty Internet connection, that I won't need to stir myself abroad until the roads are more than half passable again.

Looks like we're heading into our third or fourth hard winter in a row. Oh, and what's this? Eclipse of the moon coincides with winter solstice for the first time in ages? I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean, but it sounds ominous. Damn, maybe I should've laid in some garlic or silver bullets...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Pressure Tank

The other day I was down in my basement, where I seldom go, and I noticed that my pressure tank was leaking. My pressure tank, the big 120 gallon tank which holds water drawn up from my well. It was leaking, a little continuous squirting of water coming out of a crack on the side, down near the bottom. A big puddle on the basement floor.

No surprise, really, that the tank should be giving out. It's old, it was in this big old house out here in the country long before I moved in. In fact the old peeling label on the side of the tank reads "Chicago 9 Illinois." Put that back in the pre-zipcode era!

Fortunately I was able to latch on to a plumber, and he made a trip to obtain a new tank, which he is presently installing down in my basement. With a little help from a few neighbors, who've been very good about helping, and standing by and kibitzing. This is one of the great things about living in a place where neighbors help one another out. And by some time this afternoon, I ought to have running water again.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Wound Unhealing

Sometimes all it takes is a snicker, a giggle, a smirk they think I didn't see. And then the wound breaks open inside of me, and inwardly I ache and I hurt and I seethe for hours, sometimes for days. As if they've slashed me with a knife, cut me open and left me bleeding in searing pain.

As if I'm suffering flashbacks to nearly 50 years ago, when I was a young boy in school suffering under the intolerable Stalinism of school bullies. Amazing that after nearly five decades, the emotional scars are still there inside of me. And they can be lacerated, broken open, by a careless word or expression which in these latter days may or may not signify a malice like the very genuine and openly jeering malice which was there in the bullies who tormented me in the lower grades.

No one who knows me today-- no one who's known me over the past 20 years and more-- would ever guess. It has been one of the categorical imperatives of my adult life never outwardly to give any sign of that bleeding wound within me. Outwardly I am always genial, benevolent, unflappable. Indeed much of the time that is also the inward me, so successfully have I papered over the ancient emotional scars within.

But then comes the laugh or the smirk out on the margins, like the razor edge of a box cutter, and inside of me at least the papered-over facade is slashed away. When I can, I retreat and draw back from human company until the darkness goes. Like I say, it has been one of the imperatives of my adult years never to betray to others even a glimmer of what then rages and roils within me. For a time I must contend with voices within which tell me I am worthless, stupid, unlovable, beyond the pale of humanity, and metaphysically deserving of all the contempt and obloquy anyone could ever heap upon me.

I am six years old again, helpless and crying and in pain as a pack of bullies sets upon me and beats and pummels me in a ditch on the way home from school. Punches hurt worse when their fists are closed around steel pins, like improvised brass knuckles. The physical pain, the jeering, the beatings... they eventually pass. But the emotional scars have never passed.

Never let anyone know. Never let anyone around me catch on. Keep up the kindly exterior. That has been the watchword of my later years. Even when within, the old wound has broken open once again.

And meanwhile in our schools, bullies are addressed with bland bureaucratic prating, and school assemblies, and deafening ideological cant. Sickening! Of course deep down those who prate are one at heart with those who bully and torment. I have no answer, except to pray that I never defile myself by stooping to the level either of the bullies who torment, or of the suits who falsely prate.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

President Obama: Doo Doo Doo Doo, Doo Doo Doo Doo...

Unbelievable. I couldn't make up anything this bizarre if I tried. President Barack Obama brings former President Bill Clinton to an impromptu White House press conference to lend his support to the tax bill compromise with the GOP. Obama turns over the presidential podium to Clinton, who proceeds to wax eloquent, just as if he's back in the Presidency again...

And then Obama excuses himself, saying he's been keeping Michelle waiting and they've got to go to a Christmas party... and Obama turns and leaves the room, leaves the press conference, leaving de facto President Bill Clinton in charge to continue the press conference without him. Clinton just loving it, talking on and on, fielding questions from reporters who address him as "Mr. President," and clearly outshining Obama.

Surreal. Almost like a rewind to 1998. Bill Clinton's back in the White House, and he's President again. While Barack Obama walks away in the middle of a press conference to go to a Christmas party.

I'm sorry, but words fail me. This incident was weirder than any possible commentary the human mind could devise on it. I almost expected to see Rod Serling stepping on camera.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Motivated Missing of the Point

I often don't know who's right in an argument. But I've discovered a good rule of thumb for knowing when someone is wrong, dead wrong, in the wrong. Look for whoever's mired down in querulousness, nitpicking, logic-chopping, and especially what we might call a motivated missing of the point.

Do you find someone in the argument who seems to be laboring under a deliberate and persistent misreading of their opponent's point of view? Not just a misreading due to honest ignorance, or to lack of familiarity with said view. But a misreading which is pervasive, persistent, oblivious, and largely self-imposed. Do you find someone who seems to be doing their damnedest to misunderstand even the most basic and salient details of their opponent's views? In short, someone who is heavily invested in a motivated missing of the point?

Then almost always, I suspect, that someone will turn out to be wrong, dead wrong, in the wrong, and carrying the flag of a wrong point of view.

Their opponents may not be right. Their opponents may also be mistaken. But I can predict to you with fair certainty that anyone who is peevishly and argumentatively wedded to a motivated missing of the point will almost always be wrong.

Best to test this one out by finding a hunt in which you have no dog. Blogs and online forums are a good place to look. Look for the motivated missers-of-the-point in that discussion. Become impressionistically familiar with their patter, their tactics, their umbrage, their gait, and their overall smell. Once you gain some acquaintance with what to look for, you will also often be able to sight them in disputes where you yourself have more of a stake. As long as you keep your own passions on a very short leash, and don't give in to the urge of becoming a motivated misser-of-the-point yourself!

Better yet, once you learn their profile, stay far away from any venue where such gargling anger-mongers congregate and converge. Don't pollute yourself with the miasma which flows from them and their ilk. As G.K. Chesterton once said:
Oscar Wilde said that sunsets were not valued because we could not pay for sunsets. But Oscar Wilde was wrong; we can pay for sunsets. We can pay for them by not being Oscar Wilde.
Yes, and likewise we can rise above the anger-garglers by not engaging in a motivated missing of the point ourselves.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Snowed In

More winter weather came our way, in the form of a fairly stiff snowstorm. Right now I'm snowed in. A gravel road like ours may get plowed out in a few days, or it may not. In the meanwhile, my Jeep's got 4 wheel drive, so I could get out if I really had to, though I wouldn't want to drive very far, not unless it was a real emergency.

Fortunately I heard the forecast and ran into town a few days ago to pick up some extra supplies. So I can easily sit out these next several days. Just as well: I've got something on my chest. These past few days I've become quite familiar with wool Indian blanket, and electric heating pad on my chest, and even a hot cup of beef broth, than which there is nothing better for them bugs what gripe the chest on these snowy days.