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EAGANBLOG ARCHIVE
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Category: Humans

A New Voice
There is a trend on the websites that I turn to for news. I've been seeing a certain kind of story that is meant, I think, to elicit some pretty ugly schadenfreude from the readers. The stories go something like this: a long-time opponent of vaccination or masking — someone who has promoted conspiratorial misinformation in support of their views — comes down with COVID-19 and dies.

“Good!,” comes my first thought. “He deserves it.”

The story often goes on to report that the deceased changed his tune after getting infected. He begs friends and family (who are uniformly devastated at his sad passing) to mask up and get the shot.

“Too late, jackass!” I think. “Eat shit and die.”

I do not like my inner voices to talk this way. Even though this response is accompanied by feelings of righteousness, it is not the family-friendly, G-rated response I’d prefer to hear from my voices. In addition to confirming my worst fears about myself, I believe that such sentiments have a corrosive effect on my soul (if such an entity actually exists).

But I had been hearing a lot more from these voices in recent years. My opinion of my fellow humans has taken a dark turn for the worse during these times. I find more and more that I am categorizing others (like the people in those COVID stories) as idiotic, craven, hopeless, or just plain evil. They have become the other to me, and that is a brand of thinking I despise in them. This troubles me.

So, over the last couple of weeks, I had tried to adjust my thinking about my fellow humans. Rather than seeing of them as stupid, callous, and zombified, I started thinking of these people (who constitute, apparently, just under half of the entire human race) as crazy. Certifiable. Unable to care for their own safety.

I found this approach to be helpful in maintaining my own mental health…at least for awhile. Where once I experienced anger, I was now filled with pity for these folks. The poor things can’t help themselves. Maybe they’ve got some bad chemicals squirting inside their heads, or their mothers did not love them. Whatever it is, it’s not their fault.

Even though it’s been nice to have all that bile removed from my system, I am finding that feeling sorry for other people can also take a toll. Instead of bitterness, I began tasting something else. Pity in large amounts takes on he flavor of spoiled milk after a bit. That's the best I can do at describing it. Too much pitying probably won’t make you sick, but you will want to throw up just in case.

After experiencing that for a while, I decided that I could not handle that feeling, either. So I am trying something else, something other than bile or sour milk. And so far it’s working. Now my official position is that all those people are suffering from temporary insanity.

These are really good people at heart, I now think. They’re just having a bad day, or week, or decade. This makes me feel much better. I still have a bad taste in my mouth, but it’s like the taste of beets. I don’t like it, but at least it won't hurt me.

We’ll see what happens the next time one of those shock jock screamers falls over dead with the virus. If all I can taste is beets, then I just may have saved my soul.
Finessing the Monster
I took a class last weekend about wildfires. The focus of the two-day course was a detailed examination of exactly what happens when a wildland fire burns down your house…or doesn’t. We got pretty deeply into the data about what is going on during one of these events, and the search offered a number of surprises.

I used to have a pretty dramatic notion of how wildfires destroyed homes. I imagined the fire as an irresistible, all-consuming monster that swept across a landscape consuming everything in its path. The metaphor did not come with much in the way of specifics, but it did carry a full load of emotional baggage, especially fear.

I did pick up some hard-won specifics last year when the path that the monster took came close enough to my house to destroy the homes of two neighbors only yards away. The monster never showed itself in the way my metaphor suggested. There was no three hundred foot wall of flame, no exploding buildings, no howling behemoth of incineration. Instead, it operated remotely with windblown embers that could travel for miles. If one of those embers (“firebrands”, the pros call them) were to find a small collection of dry eaves, twigs, or other natural detritus and ignite it, then that is where the trouble started. If the collection was sufficiently large (not very large at all, as it turned out), it might burn long enough to spread to other fuel and finally to a dwelling.

The speed and intensity with which such accumulations burn does not need to be high. As long as there is more fuel nearby to sustain the flame, it might go anywhere, slowly but dangerously.

In fact, I learned over the weekend that even when the monster is right there within a relatively short distance of your home, fully visible and giving off immense amounts of radiant heat, it is not the huge flames themselves that consume the structure. Rather, it is small, ignitable accumulations very close to the building (or some fuel source attached to it) that are the immediate source of danger.

Even if the building is heated well beyond human tolerances, even if it is charred by the heat, it will not ignite if there is no flame right next to the building to set it off. If this small flame is not there to ignite the flammable gas being released by the charring, the monster will often roar past and leave the home intact. As in the case of a creeping fire set off by a firebrand, some small pile of burning fuel very near the building is what would be needed to activate ignition.

This new notion about the nature of wildfire has been an inspiration to me. There is something about being able to protect your home from a rampaging, all-powerful monster just by doing a little light raking that is very appealing. I sense that there is some very zen lesson to be drawn from that irony, but I still haven’t been able to put my finger on it. If I find it, perhaps it will be useful in dealing with some other monsters…like the virus, the climate, injustice, or death itself.

There is, of course, a whole list of other fire safety measures that deserves attention. But what fun is there in thinking about putting on a new roof? For now I am happy to meditate on the idea of one man against the monster, armed only with a rake.
Sock News
I am told that a favorite conversational gambit during phone sex is to ask what your paramour is wearing. Personally, I have an unlisted number, but I can imagine that the answer (delivered in a warm, suggestive voice) involves some sort of lightweight underwear. Or a pair of highly impractical PJs. Or perhaps the odd hat.

One article of clothing that would likely never be mentioned, I’ll wager, are socks. Now, we are not talking about stockings here. Stockings are an entirely different matter. So, not garter belts or exotic, shimmering materials or transparency of any kind. One might think that socks, hanging out as they do around the pedal extremities’ erogenous zone, might have some of the hot magic rub off. But no. There is nothing remotely sexual about these humble foot snoods.

At least not to most folks. There are probably some sock fetishists out there who get steamed up over a pair of damp argyles, but those birds are surely rare. Let’s be clear: I am certainly not one.

This is not to say, however, that socks cannot spark joy. I own one pair in particular that still gives me pleasure after years (yes, years!) of use. Indeed, it is a sign of the strength of our relationship that I have blogged about them before, here.

That was over two years ago, and my attachment has only deepened since then. Now, each time I remove them from the washer, they are more diaphanous, more translucent, more vulnerable. That ragged delicacy only makes me cherish them more.

And yes, if you must know, I am wearing them right now.

IN OTHER NEWS: Today I consigned two socks to the dustbin. They were whole and fully serviceable, but both had resided in my sock drawer, unmatched, for months. So, finally, I officially called off the search for their lost partners. Sadly, there is never a possibility for proper closure in these situations. If the body of the missing sock is found, it simply rejoins its partner.

I assume that both were females. A male sock whose mate goes missing will often disappear within days. A widow, however, typically persists long after her partner is gone. I briefly considered joining the two to form a single pair, but immediately thought better of it. Such an act would not only disrespect both hose and their lost mates, it would subject me to ridicule should I be noticed wearing two differently colored socks.

Both of them had served well, but without much distinction. Even so, they were granted a moment of solemn silence before joining the used band aids and spent floss in my waste basket.

DRAWER UPDATE: I should confess here, for the record, that I am still supporting five pairs of socks that I never wear. In spite of their bad fit, or bad color, or bad personalities, I permit them to use up space and psychic energy. My only reason for keeping them is that they do have partners. I sense that this attitude constitutes some form of despicable clothing prejudice, but since I can’t think of what it is, I’ll just have to shrug and move on. My apologies to any garment that may have been offended.
Hurry Up and Wait
So I’m driving along today and moving steadily toward my destination across town. I’m in no hurry, but I am keeping up with traffic and going with the flow. The flow today, in my view, is not fast, but it’s fast enough.

Then I see a car in my rear view mirror. He is not going with the flow. He’s dodging in and out of lanes, seizing even the tiniest chances to lurch forward in the pack. As he goes by me, my suspicions are confirmed. He is a young man, possibly in his early 20s. He is intensely focussed on the road and filled with urgency — the urgency of youth.

Now, it’s possible that he is in the middle of a genuine emergency. Perhaps he’s rushing some life-saving medicine to his grandmother’s bedside. Or racing to stop his girlfriend from joining a convent. Or his winning lottery ticket is about to expire. I guess, though, that he is surging forward like that only because he is young. And he wants to get ahead of everyone. And thereby, in some way, to win. Win what, exactly, I am not sure. But I was there once myself, so I get it.

I am not quite ready to put myself in the category of “elderly gentleman” (much less “codger”), but I cannot say that I am a young man. I am certainly well past the age when roadway competitions against imaginary adversaries hold any meaning for me. As I have said, I was happy today simply to find the current in a river of traffic and ride it peacefully to my intended goal.

Even as I watch the young man move spasmodically forward, however, I am struck by the irony of this tableaux. The young man, who has all the time in the world, is in a desperate, though irrelevant hurry. Unless granny really is on the brink, there is no genuine need for him to rush. Whatever fractions of seconds he trims off his travel time will not be worth this expenditure of energy.

And I, the older man — someone who might arguably have a perfectly good reason to move as quickly as possible — am pleased just to be moving at all.

I do not begrudge him whatever victory he might claim over me and my fellow drivers. I may have once, but no more. Not that I don’t like winning, of course. And not that I wouldn’t mind having a little extra time to get where I’m going. But I’ll pass on all that intense urgency. That stuff is for the young, because they have the time to waste.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon