It has been almost three weeks since I have posted anything on this blog. During that time…there has been a lot happening. Not all of it am I prepared to share my innermost thoughts on, nor do I see an immediate tangible benefit to doing so. Because I’ve been like this for a few weeks…I’ve had something of a hesitance to write online.
It’s fairly obvious why I would feel some relief right now. Not enough to feel entirely safe, given the ugly and dangerous reality of the wider circumstances, but somewhat better. In particular, I felt better today. Of course. It was a dose of sanity. Of hope. A reset to the idea of rightness; that it could exist, that it did exist.
Of course, to mirror but reverse an idea from the Dao De Jing that has come up on my Reader: if you can see wrongness, you create rightness.
I haven’t felt totally safe since elementary school, to let you know. I have heard that this is a mental abnormality: that it is “normal” to feel safe in this world; that the feeling of the world not being a safe place…apparently ideally shouldn’t happen. But the world is the world, and to me the bare fact is that living in the world isn’t safe, and probably never has been safe. That safety is an illusion granted by privilege. The most apparent alternative to living in the world is being dead, however, and so you take what you can get.
About a week ago, I set an intention to focus just on self-care: cooking, eating, sleeping, exercise, and hygiene. To my surprise, after I set that intention…I gained the energy and motivation to work on my crafts. And not, you know, deride them as “just” crafts. They are crafts. But they’re elevated, now. I know I’m using quality materials. I know what I create has value. I know my workmanship and responsibility is sound. I know I’m not wasting my time. I know that just because a lot of women do it, that doesn’t make it trivial. The approach is different.
At first, it was just working on the face masks. I found a tutorial by Marcy Harriell (see below) which I’ve successfully altered to fit my face (at least), and…well, I’ve been waiting for a mandatory mask order to come down. It’s not like anyone’s going anywhere anytime soon anyway, but anyhow…it’s nice to be prepared.
(You see what I did there.)
That, again, was why I had set my intention on being more active in our cooking. My being incompletely capable of taking care of myself was just adding an extra layer of stress to the Corona pandemic plus rule-by-meme. So…the thing I can do about that, is participate. And learn.
I’m pretty good at learning, after all.
The other thing I’ve been doing, aside from research on dealing with this whole potential self-employment thing — and washing my hands too much — is working with seed beads. I still don’t know why I love little glass beads so much. They don’t have a lot of intrinsic value…but they are pretty.
And I really don’t know why I place value on aesthetic pleasure. It…makes no logical sense to me. Aesthetic pleasure, period, doesn’t make sense to me. But maybe that’s just my left brain not understanding what my right brain is doing. My right brain has a mind of its own, however, and my left brain has never been able to completely crush it.
What I do know is that the art of making things is probably a core, fundamental trait of humanity. We live with the culmination of the accumulation of knowledge and technology that has been passed down to us over the ages. In that way, we’re incredibly lucky and privileged.
In the same way…have we forgotten our wisdom?
The development seems to go: data is the source of information; information is the source of knowledge; knowledge is the source of wisdom. (I don’t know where experience factors in there; it wasn’t so much on the plate in my Information Science program.) I forget who hypothesized this. However, it’s very clear what happens when the train is hijacked so that information is proposed which is based on biased, unclear, deliberately obfuscated, or no data…and people run with it.
I am constantly surprised, both in myself and in others, how much we tend to trust that the information which comes to us is fundamentally sound. For me, this is especially in regard to books. I still remember reading a Physical Anthropology text in High School which I assumed was true because I found it in my school library and I thought that I could trust that what was written — and what was in the library — was based on sound knowledge.
It wasn’t until much later that I learned that it was not a good idea to trust information in books just because of the manner of delivery of the message. Nor was it a good idea to trust information in the library just because it was in the library. There are reasons not to trust old Physical Anthropology texts. Primarily because they tended to forward the myth that 1) there were, “races,” 2) that some, “races,” were superior to others based on form, 3) that different, “races,” were intrinsically different in some way which explained what could alternately be explained by, a) culture, and, b) a legacy of structural and institutional racism — or, a history of treating people categorically differently based on their appearances.
(Which, by the way, also implicates sexism. But due to length, that’s probably another entry.)
These are things that even today we have a hard time arguing against, because everyone has been taught this. (Not to say that everyone believes it.) It is part of what Sociology understands as, “hegemony,” or the currently-accepted view of the world which holds in place its underlying power structures.
Of course, though, my school library wasn’t quite good enough to teach us about Intellectual Freedom and the idea that, “the solution to a bad book is a good book.” That American libraries lean away from censorship, in general; that, “the books on the shelves should be at war with each other.” That it was the reader’s task, not the library’s, to decide what they would accept and what they would reject. That it’s good to operate on the premise that no author is unbiased (after all, they had enough of an interest to write a book; it’s hard not to have an opinion on an obsession). That it’s good to question why this author wants me to believe what they’re saying — which may be a hidden proposition.
Then again…it’s known in the Library community that many school libraries are run by people who are not professional Librarians. I suppose there is a reason to require a degree.
But all of that has to do with the left brain — reason, logic, analysis; you know. Fact-checking. Reality. There is — at least — another entire side to the brain that has to do with things that are ineffable, indescribable; drives that we don’t understand, or that we don’t want to understand; maybe, don’t have the ability to understand. That which makes living so vibrant, and can be subverted to such catastrophic ends. Things like religion, devotion, life purposes, identity. Any one of these topics is rife to set someone off if they’re challenged on them.
A major problem here, however, is that the brain seems set up to believe its own hype. It’s rare to find a person who is willing to state that their own beliefs may be (or are) mistaken, though it’s exceedingly common to find fault in others’ beliefs. Both of these things cannot be simultaneously true for everyone, everywhere, all the time — at least, if you subscribe to the idea that we all live in the same world. (That idea can be — has been — questioned.)
These things, like identity, are also answers to very personal questions. I know; I’ve been through the wringer with them. At this time, at least, though…I can see the urgency here. Who am I? What do I want out of life? Why am I here? Does the world inside my head match up with what’s outside? Where am I totally off? How can I tell if my thoughts are accurate?
It goes on.
I’m not sure if these are Existentialist questions, but they very much sound like them, to me. The reason I’m unsure is that I have hardly been able to tolerate reading Existentialist authors to the point where I really understood them. Sometimes you just don’t want to understand, you know? Sometimes it just hurts too much, to try and see things the way the author saw them, because then you see their pain, the way they’re trapped. And you can’t do much of anything about it, or for them.
And then there is the question of whether these questions have arisen because of a relative vacuum of wisdom…particularly where it comes to the obliteration of traditional knowledge. And I don’t know if that’s linked to the intentional obliteration of cultures that we’ve experienced in this country. But filling that gap by worshiping the next thing that comes along, is extremely dangerous.
But that drive — to devote oneself to something or someone — I entirely understand. I also understand how that drive can be manipulated, how emotions can interfere with disentanglement.
I’ve spent a fairly large portion of my life trying to comprehend the problem of evil, as I was harmed in my formative years by people who treated me poorly and at the same time claimed goodness and righteousness for themselves. As an adult, now, I have a fairly clear picture of what evil is. I lament what had to happen in the world for that picture to become clearer.
What I can say is that, unfortunately, my mind — as driven to pessimism as it is; as much as I may protest — can envision some fairly dark scenarios as regards what is not yet existent, and what may never be existent. I can see, that is, what some people wish this world to be — or, perhaps more to the point, don’t care if they turn it into. (It would take an actually malevolent person to intend to poison the water table, that is, or to intend to treat people as livestock, rather than doing it as a means to some end [like money]. As horrific as evil is, I’m coming to the opinion that evil at least does not begin as an end in itself. But then again, I don’t read a lot of True Crime, and I don’t have the relevant psychology to understand from within.)
There is the frank self-centeredness that allows some people to treat other people as tools to be used and discarded; the mental prisons that so many are trapped within. Wealth, power, control, destruction. For what reason? Or are there simply no ethical ground rules that cause one to value the lives of others, simply for the sake of those lives? Not for their use in one’s own personal game, not for the sake of one’s own fame and fortune, not for the use of them in attempted violent overthrows to put one into power? Life is holy. Do we not understand that?
And if one knows one is being used in this way, to be discarded, why does one tolerate it?
Right now: where I’m at, we are dealing with a trifecta of crises. There is the coronavirus pandemic. There is recent terrorist activity. There is a major economic downturn. They’re all interrelated and hazardous in their own ways. They’re all either due to, or made worse by, an abdication of responsible leadership which started a long time ago…if it ever began.
In this situation, I can’t be sure of what lies in the future. We have had a recent outbreak of a variant of SARS-CoV-2 titled L452R, due to a superspreader event in a local hospital which infected…I can’t even remember how many people. The number keeps rising. The latest count I find says 92.
In the face of possible death, for myself, for my caretakers: maybe accepting the fact of mortality is best. In light of that, perhaps it is best to look forward to living the most full, enjoyable, brilliant, vibrant life possible. While still, of course, keeping ourselves and each other, as safe as possible. Right now I have the possibility of doing what I love. Out of sheer love. It doesn’t take much. I don’t have to go out. And we have another year to weather, of calls to make, of video chats through which to nurture each other.
If this is the tail end of my time here, I’m not going to waste it.
Caring about each other, caring for ourselves — isn’t that the nature of love? Our lives are precious, and we don’t know how long they’ll continue. Right? Our ancestors must have known this. When the life expectancy is only 35 years…yeah, I mean…you take what you can get, you enjoy what you have, you trust that what brought you into being will not extinguish you…and if it does, you won’t be around to care. It’s odd that I would see that as a positive scenario, either way…but I’ve been suicidal, before. I’ve had a long time to think about this.
I’ve had time to prepare, to put my thoughts in order, to realize a mission. Even if I haven’t yet completed whatever I’m supposed to do, I know there’s a reason I’m here: even if I have to continue that mission after death. And I know now that there was truth to my visions as a youth. I know that I have value as myself. And I can walk further along the path of love and curiosity and do what I’m led to. The spirits don’t show me everything at once. They will only show me the next step. And I…can take the next step.
All of this is more than most people are granted. It’s just…how wonderful is it to be able to give oneself permission to be vibrant? To live?
Living…the task of living, is work. And it can be scary. But it can also be filled with joy.
If we trust.