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Category: Humans

While She Is Away
I want to make clear right from the start that this is not a confession. I am confident that my mate understands, as a general proposition, that I will backslide in some areas of our marital compact while she is gone. As long as her world isn’t adversely affected, I know that I am pre-forgiven for such lapses. On the other hand, you might find some evidence of defensiveness here — even though I categorically deny that there is anything that needs defending.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking: he’s all alone and he’s living like an animal. Well, you couldn’t be more wrong. I am a grown man and fully capable of taking care of myself. Besides, she’s only gone for a few days.

Furthermore, no one will be harmed by my transgressions. Take, for instance, the matter of bed-making. As I have already made clear in this space, I consider this practice to be wasteful and redundant. And so, in keeping with this firmly held personal ethic, I do not make the bed during these periods of separation. The covers are a twisted clump now, just as they were when I got up. The bottom of the sheet is securely tucked (according to my specifications), but everything else is untouched. The purely decorative pillows remain on the floor and out of the way. They will not move again until it is absolutely necessary.

I am at ease with this state of affairs, even though it would be troubling to my mate. But she is far away, and this disarray in our boudoir cannot afflict her. Neither she, nor anyone else, is harmed. Similarly, if I happen to fart or belch with unusual gusto, I cannot be charged with rudeness because there is no victim to witness these displays.

There is a TV tray parked in front of my easy chair. It has not moved since her departure. Nor will it. My convenience level is just too high under this arrangement to justify folding it up and returning it to the closet. And yet, the Earth continues to spin on its axis, and the arc of the moral universe continues to bend toward justice.

The toilet seat, as you might expect, has stayed up. Unless, that is, I have just used it for its most profound function…or unless I have recently used my rest room as a place to sit and rest. I have no quarrel with the expectation that I always leave the seat down, but I prize this opportunity to ignore it. Furthermore, the energy I save will help in saving the Earth.

Notwithstanding these minor derelictions, things are still pretty tidy around here. The dishes get washed, though at a more leisurely, thoughtful pace. There is sweeping, sponging, and even some isolated instances of dusting.

And if I were looking to prove that I am not living like an animal, I would simply point to my efforts at sprucing. I will admit that sprucing does not constitute a large part of my home care bailiwick, but I am qualified in this area. I don’t claim that deep sprucing, such as the placement of fresh flowers or the rotation of table runners, is part of my portfolio; however, do I like to think of myself as a gifted straightener. Furthermore, I make sure all the drawers and cupboard doors are closed, too. This is largely a manifestation of my mild OCD, but it still counts as sprucing.

Sprucing, in fact, is one of the fundamental human qualities that sets us apart from the lower beasts. That, and the ability to modulate our farting. So there.
Peace on Earth, Within Reason
“Peace on Earth.”

It’s hard to argue with that idea. Peace on Earth. If we really wanted to get there, it would mean absolutely no killing. And no mean stuff…of any kind. Everyone would have to be on their best behavior — everywhere, all the time, forever. Peace on Earth.

I don’t want to be negative, but that is kind of a high bar. Maybe, if it’s just on Christmas Day, I suppose we might allow ourselves to hope for peace on Earth, good will to men. But let’s face it — the rest of the year it’s all we can do to tolerate our friends and families, much less the rest of humanity. So, for the 26th and all other days, I am proposing a less daunting aspiration:

“Try to be nice if at all possible.”
Hope
I have been trying for a while, without luck, to write about hope. I’m not sure why it’s been so difficult. Maybe it’s because I am such a believer in this noble human quality, and I’m afraid I might come off as a bit too corny about it.

As human propensities go, I think it’s the best we have to offer…better than love, even. I know that’s a heavy claim to make. Major religions, eminent thinkers, and the Beatles have all told us that love is the answer, and maybe it is. But it is not the most noble and human capacity we have.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against love. But let’s admit that there’s nothing really special about it. Mammals love, birds love. I can’t help but think that reptiles do, too. In fact, I am willing to suggest that any creature that walks, slithers, swims, or oozes on this earth feels something akin to love in its life.

No so with hope. It is ours and ours alone as a species. Along with faith, it’s part of the package deal that comes with our big brain. Our capacity for self-awareness is what makes it work, and without it I don’t think we could survive — at least not happily. It keeps our spirits up, it galvanizes our priorities, it gets us over the mountain. And quite often it focuses us on something beyond our own interests, something greater than ourselves. It dares us to reach for what is beyond our grasp.

I suppose love could do all those things as well, but the difference is that love centers on the love object, whatever it is: “I’ve got to keep going to get the medicine to Grandma,” “I’ve got to set a good example for little Emily,” “My mate wants me to do this.” Those are all worthy incentives, but hope works differently. It does not need a love object to function. Like its cousin faith, it can run on an idea, a value system, or a belief. Maybe porpoises have something like that going for them, and you can’t rule out the possibility of hopeful chimpanzees. But since these creatures don’t have a language, we can’t find out for sure by interviewing them (I don’t know if the subject ever came up with Koko).

I don’t think chimps can have faith, either. Faith is also one of the nicer bells and whistles that comes with our big brain, and like hope, it can be a profound source of strength. The only reason it doesn’t make the top spot among our many character traits is that it has proven to be too corruptible — like human beings themselves. Humans can have faith in all kinds of things, including some demonstrably batshit assertions of fact and some obviously worthless s.o.b.’s. Such misapplications of faith can really screw things up for these folks and for rest of us as well. I will let you fill in the examples of religions, cockamamie notions, and unscrupulous leaders we are talking about here.

Hope is not so easily turned to the dark side. Oh, I suppose you might find yourself “hoping” that something awful happens to an enemy, but that seems to me to be a misuse of the word. Hope connotes a sense of optimism, of an aspiration to a better world. Praying (which we might see as a more activist form of hoping) really ought to stay in that same lane — unless you see your deity as primarily vengeful. If you do, then we’re all in for a rough ride.

If we still doubt that hope is our finest, noblest quality, perhaps we should consider its opposite. That would not be fear, though the two are often paired as alternatives. Instead, think of despair. Compare your feelings about despair to those around some other corrosive opposites: fear, hate, doubt, anger, dishonor. None of those is quite so dark as despair. I would argue, by comparison, that hope goes just a far in the opposite direction.

Perhaps you can see now why I was concerned about getting too corny. Hope is definitely a goody-two-shoes aspect of our nature. But it might be enough, in the end, to save our sorry butts. Here’s hoping.
Don't Tempt Me!
Here’s a conundrum for the faithful: humans have a long history of suffering, much of it by people who are utterly innocent. If we are to believe the Bible, most of this badness is Satan’s doing. So why didn’t God just kill that son of a bitch when he had the chance? In fact, why doesn’t He just kill him now and stop the slaughter?

I get that Satan is supposed to serve as our tempter, enticing us away from our obedience and love for God. Fair enough. Satan is just doing his job. The Almighty needs some way of separating the sheep from the goats so He can tell which farm animal to admit into heaven. (I’m assuming the sheep get in since none of them have horns.)

But let’s not get distracted. Why does there have to be so much human suffering? Is it just to give the genuinely good people an opportunity to prove their worth? Surely there is a less cruel way to sort out the wicked.

Besides, it’s a pretty unfair system. If there were no Satan in the world, then a lot of us would have a shot at never doing anything wrong — because we wouldn’t be tempted to. Left alone, then, we might actually turn out to be nice. If so, we would get to go to heaven. But no, we never get the chance. We get tricked into being bad, and we end up going to hell. Did He really have to insert a supervillain into the mix to ruin our lives and the lives of people around us?

Look, we already have Saint Peter at the pearly gates operating as Divine Bouncer. If you’re really worried about bad people sneaking in, couldn’t we beef up security a bit and establish a TSA checkpoint for evil? There would be grumbling, of course. It’s a real pain to get everything back together once you’ve gone through the naughtiness detector. But isn’t that preferable to billions of dead babies just because God is insecure about how much He’s loved? By a bunch of hairless apes, no less?

Or, if He is really that needy, why not add a written test as part of the screening process? We could make it thousands of questions long and even require a score of 100% to pass muster. Everyone else would go to the other place. That’s a pretty tough standard, but at least it would limit all the needless bloodshed here on Earth.

I don’t know. Maybe God is looking for something more, something so important that it would justify all that suffering by people who might have ended up worshipping him anyway. Maybe. But in the process, He has set a very bad example for his followers. If one of us were to pull a stunt like that, we’d burn in Hell forever and deserve it. How come God isn’t held to the same standard we are?

In fact, I really shouldn’t be calling for God to kill Satan. “Thou shalt not kill,” after all, is pretty much your number one commandment. For Him to kill an archangel, fallen or not, would be the worst possible bad example for the faithful. Even if you believe in capital punishment, even if the Prince of Darkness is the very essence of evil, even if he has really been asking for it — is it right to just kill him? I have to say no. In fairness, God probably shouldn’t even be mean to Satan, not if He wants to run true to His brand. So what are His options? And remember, the kids are watching.

Firing Satan outright seems a bit harsh given his years of service, and a forced retirement would look bad for everyone. So...how about a reinstatement to heaven, with all the attendant privileges? Let bygones be bygones. But absolutely no tempting! That’s the deal, and I think Satan would be happy to take it. After that, if there was any suffering, it would be 100% our responsibility.

Come to think of it, I guess we’re screwed either way, innocent or not. Damn!
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon