Category: Get Real

If anyone’s still out there reading this blog, THANKS! And a hearty howdy!

I won’t bore you with the details of my silence — suffice it to say that I muzzled myself for two long years for the sake of gaining and keeping employment in realms where my true thoughts were taboo. I scrubbed most of the “real” posts here into oblivion through the “make private” function in the WordPress software. And I quit writing, here or pretty much anywhere (except on the jobs).

Well, mostly, all I learned was that I don’t fit into what I’d call the standard, get-ahead sort of work situation, even when I do keep my mouth and mind sealed. I refuse to play the wasteful, deceitful, power-grabbing headgames others inflict on me and insist I ought to play too. (That’s what they really mean by the inane, manipulative, patronizing “team player” crap.) So for me, it comes to feel like I’m wading hip-deep in manure all day long — and I’m the only one sickened by the stench!

What’s intriguing is the feeling that, through this span of time, the mind I’ve kept quietly leashed has been busy thinking, growing, toughening itself. Busy seeking out new kindred spirits and spiritual homes.

I expect I’ll be saying more about these topics now that I’ve doffed my hip waders (and gotten the hell out of the manure pile!) and cast off my self-inflicted muzzle. But I would be wrong to promise that this time will be different — that I’ll really get to posting here regularly and frequently. I don’t know for sure that I will. I think I will, because I have so much to say, so much I’ve been saving up!

But I’ve never faithfully kept similar promises in the past. Too much seems to change too often (in myself and in the world). Here’s a post from Suelo at Zero Currency that brought me some new insights on promises as a form of burdensome debt:

It’s natural to plant ideas and plan with words and thoughts.  But beware of boasting for tomorrow, making vows, placing ourselves in debt!  When our minds are in debt or seeking credit (attached to the past or future), our hearts, our treasures, are not Here and Now.

I think now that, when I used to pep-talk on the blogs about posting more often, I was actually seeking credit in advance for having a little bit of the “chops” to become one of those bigtime, “thought-leader” bloggers. (Ugh again.) But I wasn’t able or willing then to make the regular payments in the form of time and energy spent on writing — so, in effect, I defaulted on the debt I’d entered into by making the promises in the first place. It was dishonest, and it could only create unpleasant experience on both sides. By repeatedly over-promising, I set myself up to under-deliver to you. I’m sorry.

As Suelo writes, “The doing is the vow, the doing is the commitment.” So — I’m not making any promises as to future posting. Talk IS cheap, and when it’s only talk, you can feel how cheap it is. Let’s see what kind of doing I manage to offer, here and elsewhere.

It occurs to me that I’m thankful to have this blog as a place for my thoughts to return to over the years, thankful for the connections it has provided with you. I am grateful to you for reading!

Mesa along I-40

Mesa along I-40

(originally written August 16, 2009)

The desert knows when too much is too much.

The washes, where rare rainwater can remain for short periods as it drains and runs off, hold more clumps of vegetation than the mesas, but also barren sands eroded off the uplands.  And then they run along the prickly-grassed meadows, which mostly aren’t covered with grass, but only with small mounds of desiccated gold in a sea of sand, stones and cinders.

Here there is no ceaseless push to get out MORE GREENERY, Continue reading

The first view inside Arizona, driving west on I-40

The first view inside Arizona, driving west on I-40

(originally written August 16, 2009)

I came out here to live in a trailer in the high desert, rent-free – the trailer belonging to my boyfriend Brian, and parked on land belonging to friends – cautiously, tentatively planning to live the creative life for a time, and to do some serious thinking, while Brian lives and works five hours away.  But since even before we left Virginia, my motivation has been missing, and I can’t seem to contact my sense of purpose (or when rarely I do, I find it very shaky) in all this.

Since we arrived, I find myself caught up in guilty anxiety over the excess of possessions I own.  There’s a shame in this – Continue reading

I see that quite a few folks have stopped by here since I posted, yesterday, on the former Claire Files Forums (now The Mental Militia Forums) that I wouldn’t be spending time there anymore.

In fact, my stats for yesterday were over twice their normal day’s levels! Sheesh. Bad news travels fast, huh? I appreciate the interest, though.

Kinda makes me wonder what all these visitors were expecting to find here. A rant, or self-justification, or an explanation, or what? Since there’s only been a couple of new comments on old posts, it apparently wasn’t people coming by to wish me well.

I dunno. I don’t feel like I fit in anywhere on the net anymore. Guess I’m in a transition phase. I know there are good people out there, and a few have become friends. I’d like to create more good, lasting friendships with people for whom freedom is the biggest and greatest thing there is.

I have no wish to bash anyone. I’m tired of being bashed, and erroneously at that. I’m tired of the endless arguments and nitpicking and eye-for-an-eye, I’m-right-you’re-wrong-AND-an-idiot, he/she/they-started-it games. I’m tired of disrespect for the good, the decent, and the right, in people and in ideas.

What I want to find is civility, optimism, friendliness, real and intriguing discussion, and people who know – and live it – that freedom is a thing of the deepest spirit, made manifest in mind and matter. A love of life and all that’s possible in it. A wondrous outlook, a joyful attitude, a loving and generous and openminded approach to others.

I want magnificence, benevolence, excitement, and shining eyes. I want to be happy and to have happy people around me. I want endless discovery and growth of understanding, the kind of understanding that makes you gasp with the awesome, delectable implications.

Anyone know where on the internet to find all that?

Nah, I didn’t think so. Time to get back to writing my novel, I guess.

A thought after reading an article on a 1918-flu strain experiment on monkeys

Some scientists think that controlling the inflammation and immune system response could solve the virulent attack the flu virus makes on the body. Another objects that the answer is rather in the rapidity with which the virus grows, but no solution is offered.

What if neither one is correct? What if science is missing the point partially or entirely? Will any of the scientists think to wonder what exactly the body is fighting when this flu virus attacks? Is the immune system going after the virus itself, or is it protecting itself so intensely from the by-products created in the body by the virus? (Or perhaps it’s doing both at once, thus placing too high a burden on a system that doesn’t have the needed materiel to fight the battle.)

Does the body find itself forced to use its very blood to attack microbes directly, or could it be bringing the blood to the lungs in a desperate attempt to convey needed substances – perhaps electrolyte minerals to an area acidifying at much too fast a pace? Is the presence of blood in the lungs possibly a sign, then, that the body has no other reserves of alkaline minerals remaining with which to buffer the virus’s by-products, and is that fact what causes death from the flu strain?

And could the rapidity of virus growth be checked, then, say, simply by alkalizing the tissues? Even if one hadn’t been following an alkaline diet, and thus the virus was able to take hold in the acidic system, could an immediate and sustained course of mineral supplementation help the body fight its way back to stasis? I strongly suspect it could. There is growing holistic opinion that disease cannot live in an alkaline body.

Here’s another article I just read yesterday. It’s about some medical researchers who “revalidated” the work of a 17th-century physician, discoverer of antibacterial properties in a rare tree found in Indonesia.

In some ways, it is a wonder that the work survived at all. In 1670, at the age of 42, Rumphius went blind. In 1687, his still unpublished manuscript and all of his illustrations were destroyed in a fire that swept through the European quarter of Ambon. Undaunted, he dictated a new version and commissioned artists to draw new illustrations.

Fortunately, the second time around he kept a copy of the manuscript. The original was lost when the ship carrying it back to the Netherlands was sunk by a French naval squadron. Still unfazed, Rumphius continued his work, finishing the last volume shortly before his death in 1702…

Specimens finally in hand, the scientists began the laboratory work. They preserved the leaves and kernels in ethanol, and then prepared alcohol extracts of them. They added various concentrations of the potion to samples of four common bacteria: Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus faecalis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Escherichia coli. The extracts showed antibacterial effect specific to S. aureus and E. coli. The extract made from the kernels was even more effective than that made from the leaves.

Could a new antibiotic be developed from the plant? Dr. Buenz is hopeful, noting that preliminary data have shown that the extract is effective against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or M.R.S.A., a common and sometimes fatal hospital infection resistant to many antibiotics…

Dr. Brent A. Bauer, an associate professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic and a co-author of the paper, said the work showed that “we were able to validate what many people already believe, which is that some of this indigenous knowledge that has come down from generation to generation is actually valid.”

Dr. Bauer added, “It’s humbling.”

It damn well ought to be humbling, and you damn well ought to have the grace to admit it. You people stand on the shoulders of giants, yet you consider them all pygmies – and savage, subhuman ones at that. Giants who withstood torture, ridicule, theft, shunning, terror, and even execution to preserve the accumulated knowledge of untold centuries. Rumphius and you both showed that the extract of the tree’s seeds and leaves – a simple alcohol-based decoction, freely available from the bounty of Nature – is effective against the infections that concern you. But a plant can’t be patented, and a decoction can’t be controlled by prescription.

So you and your kind will take this free (to you) knowledge, paid for by the superhuman dedication, financial ruin, and on-the-brink despair of a (blind, no less!) scientific hero, and you’ll go get hired at some Big Pharma research lab that’ll be glad to pay you a comfortable salary to design a drug they can patent, force through FDA approval, and make billions of dollars selling direct to cowed consumers via TV ads filled with unintelligibly glib recitations of potential side effects. Then they’ll make the really big time selling your swill to Third World governments who pay them with U.S. taxpayer dollars they received in “foreign aid.”

I’m not a doctor, and (as the joke goes) I don’t even play one on TV. But then, the longer I mosey around this old world, the more I hear about people who aren’t getting the answers they need from their doctors. I do applaud those doctors and researchers who are opening their minds and practices to new – to them, but usually well-honored by time – paths of healing, and I want to see more such good medical folk doing the same. Eventually they’re going to have to accept the vast body of experiential evidence that already exists and is growing mightily.

They keep reminding us in school that there isn’t any such thing as a healer – the body heals itself. At least as well as it can, given what it has on hand to work with.

On the Way to the Reunion

I originally wrote this essay in 2001 when I heard there might be a 15-year reunion of my high school class. But this year I was able to attend the 20-year event, and found the essay still meaningful, with a few tweaks for time.

When you come across the friends who used to know all your secrets, but whom you haven’t seen in twenty years, where do you start? “So, Lisa, what do you do now – you making good money?” just doesn’t satisfy.

Such deep and meaningful talks we had, my buds and I, those long evenings over the phone, while Dad grumbled and we were supposed by all to be collaborating over calculus homework. Life, to us then, was Friday nights at the mall, shadowing the guys we had crushes on, and sneaking in to see the R-rated “Purple Rain” when we were only 16 (well, 15 and ten months). We were tight, back then, friends indeed.

I know, you’re supposed to go into a reunion ready to brag about all your successes in adult life, and armored and ready to listen to everyone else’s boasts too. Somebody’s living the high life on Wall Street, one guy we all liked was playing major-league baseball for a time, and several of the Barbie girls are married to doctors and orthodontists now, I’m sure. Good for them!

But, when I wonder what I’ll say to all those long-lost friends from high school, their jobs and finances, even their families, aren’t the topics on my mind. No, what I want to ask them is this: What have you learned about life? How are you a wiser, better person now, and how is your life better than it used to be?

Life has been so full and delectable since then, that I’ll have lots of juicy stuff to answer with if anyone asks me those questions back! For instance:

  • Double order of freedom, heavy on the responsibility! Life as an adult, I know now, is what I dreamed of and craved back then: freedom of choice, money coming in by my own efforts, a car to drive anytime without reporting in. It’s also the concomitant worry about whether I made the right choice, never enough of that money, and having to pay for the car and sundry other expenses! Living alone is the epitome of the “arrived” adult, but you better make sure you know a few of your neighbors and check on each other often. Even so, freedom is a heady and marvelous thing, so long as it’s managed with smarts. Adulthood wins this round hands down.
  • Swans and ugly ducklings aren’t stuck that way forever. Please, don’t let them put my yearbook picture on my nametag! Frizzy hair, braces, a pudgy baby face smiling only to hide the fright of being photographed! What I know about feminine graces didn’t come until later in life, but it did come. Rather, the times when others rejected or ridiculed me taught me never to stand for such treatment, and always to show understanding to others who “look different.” I’m kinder and gentler now, and also fierce as heck when need be. Age is good.
  • Adults don’t know everything either. If only I’d had more originality in choosing my studies and pursuits in college, rather than sticking with what I was good at in high school! I believed my parents and teachers, who told me to study foreign languages, when something deeper within me longed to be a carpenter or architect or eccentric writer, or all three. Making changes is always possible, just time-consuming. So know and use your own wisdom at every intersection of your life. By the way, Mom, I was never one of those know-it-all teenage brats, was I?
  • Go for it! When we’re young, the adults in our lives tell us how tough maturity is, how much they gave up for us, and they teach us to be cautious, slow and steady. Don’t risk if you can help it. Financially, that makes sense, and when you come to have a family, their needs must always be considered. But never, NEVER let your dreams lie down and die for anything or anyone. Build them as slowly as you must, but do it with the deepest of care and attention. Your loved ones NEED your greatness, and you need your sanity.
  • Keep your friends close to your heart. There’s no more fun-filled segment of life than the college years, when all your pals are right down the hall or across campus, ready to head out with you for any mischief you can dream up together. Same for high school, when you all live in the same town and have pretty much the same schedule. It won’t be so once you’re out in the world playing phone tag for months! Keep the old friends any way you can, email and visit often — because the friends you make on the job won’t be at all the same, even if you can find time to get together. It’s the old friends, the ones you spent days and all-nighters with, who truly understand you, who know where you came from and where you might go.
  • New people and new challenges make you a better human being. Living in this city has allowed me to appreciate the impish, soulful delight of a Sunday gospel service, the hellraising yet good-natured determination of Vietnam War vets in the Rolling Thunder parade, the shining daily courage and deep affection of a gay man watching his lover slowly waste away from AIDS. With new friends, I’ve also come to enjoy new tastes: Ethiopian, Korean, Vietnamese, Brazilian, Thai, Moroccan, and soul food. What I’ve realized is that there are as many ways to live life as there are people living it, and they all offer examples for the rest of us. Pain, loss, frustrated dreams, overflowing joy? Spicy Singapore noodles and dark-grilled pork kebabs? Bring it on!
  • As adults now, we don’t know it all and never will. And this is as it should be. At seventeen, just graduated from high school, I was afraid of life, because I didn’t have the knowledge I thought I needed to get along. At thirty-seven, I get it a little better now. It was never about knowledge, because knowledge can be gained, learned, memorized. Remember Harriet the Spy? “She never minded admitting she didn’t know something. So what, she thought, I could always learn.” What’s vital is ATTITUDE, the mental outlook that yearns to know and to grow.
  • If nothing else, I’ll have a few topics of conversation to propose at that reunion! What do you or I do for a living? Who cares? Statistics and life experience say it’ll change soon anyhow. Nah, let me ask you this instead – what do we do for a LIFE?

    And who says youth is bliss? Happiness is knowing where you want to go AND being able to drive your own car to get there.

    This is an essay I wrote back in summer 2001. Five years ago – wow, my thinking has changed radically since then. But this is a good family-friendly introduction to a libertarian viewpoint of government’s legitimate purpose.
    Most people think, perhaps quite sincerely, that our government’s job is to do what’s good “for the people.” Many of us have been taught that that’s the function and benefit of a “democracy.” (This ignores the fact that our government was created as a republic.)

    And, when we think about what we expect and want our government to do for us, much of it is what some would call good for the people: build highways, subsidize schools, etc. Sure, you could make out a case for them, right? But if you try, consider this: someone’s paying for it all, and “someone” might well be you.

    In an early episode of The West Wing, President Bartlet, as a candidate during the New Hampshire primary, admits to a dairy farmer that some legislation he voted for when he was in Congress meant that the farmer “got screwed.” Bartlet then justifies his vote by saying that somebody had to lose in the deal, and poor people who needed milk shouldn’t have been the losers.

    I say that NO ONE should be a loser by what our government decides. If there has to be a loser, there shouldn’t be a deal at all.

    Our government can’t even play by the simple rules we all learned before age six: Don’t take what’s not yours. (See U.S. Constitution, Amendment Article V: “…nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.” See? Social Security and eminent domain are unconstitutional.) Play fair. Treat people right and with respect. Clean up your own messes. I sound like Robert Fulghum here, but you get the idea. We all know that decency is basic and understood by most people.

    So I’m going to propose a radical new standard for our governmental operations: If it ain’t good for EVERYONE, then you, benevolent leaders, have no business in it. By EVERYONE I mean the decent, law-abiding citizens of the U.S.A., those who work their tails off and pay the taxes to keep this country going.

    We cheer when someone, like Kevin Kline’s character in the movie Dave, figures out the obvious, and shows us how simple it really is to cut government spending and balance a budget. But what do we do about it ourselves? Sure, no one wants to run for Congress nowadays, not with the way they’d make hash of every parking ticket you ever got, not considering the kind of deals you’d have to make to get the campaign cash you’d need. Most of us are just too sensible.

    Anyway, we KNOW that our government is way out of control on spending and in the way it treats US, its own supporters-in-chains. Please note that I refer always to OUR government. We need to remember that that’s exactly what it is.

    There’s no reason why we can’t, as free individuals, spend our own money to support studies of the mating habits of houseflies, or subsidize rulers of other countries in what we see as charitable purposes. We’re perfectly able to do so as and when we choose. More power to you if you do so: you should always put some money and energy where your values are.

    But then what would our government be doing if I had my way? Well, first of all, it wouldn’t be doing 99 per cent of what it does today. It wouldn’t fake us into thinking it’s planning for us to have a prosperous retirement while stealing our money AND the interest it should be earning. It wouldn’t butt in presumptuously making choices for us that we, as adults, are fully capable of making for ourselves, thank you very much. Don’t tread on me, man.

    What our government WOULD be doing is simple: protecting from harm, violence and fraud the people who pay to keep it functioning.

    This means domestic redress of wrongs, the punishing of true, harmful crimes of force and fraud, through police and the courts, and it means national protection from foreign threats, through a reliable and ready military.

    Doesn’t this also mean, for instance, that our government should provide jobs for the “disadvantaged”, or free health care and day care to anyone who qualifies, since that would keep them from harm? No way. Why? Because in order to pay for such jobs and services, our government would harm, by taking money and perhaps other commodities from, people who work to keep the economy going to PROVIDE the jobs and such.

    Our founders knew it and made it clear: You can’t have a government that favors one group of people at the expense of other groups. Yet, that’s exactly what we have today.

    When someone tells you that a government edict is “for the good of the people,” your first response should be, “WHICH people?” Don’t kid yourself. It isn’t about YOUR good, if you’re a decent, hardworking, live-and-let-live American. It’s about the good of politicians, their pet interest groups, and any other mobs that have learned how to kowtow for a few favors. There’re an awful lot of squeaky wheels out there screaming for some grease, and getting it.

    Ever heard of regular folks creating a PAC to lobby Congress in their own interests? Nope, and you never will. It’s a losing battle, and the thing is, we don’t have enough in common to get militant together. We’re of many different minds about things.

    And that’s exactly my point. If we can’t agree pretty clearly as a whole people that something is good (and “the will of the people” is something that doesn’t even exist!), then: a) it probably ISN’T good for many of us, so it isn’t REALLY “for the good of the people”; and b) our government should stay the heck out of it.

    It’s that simple. And it would make our Congresspeople’s lives much easier. They could stay home in their districts most of the time, since there wouldn’t be much for them to do. We’d already have the basic laws we really need, and the systems in place to carry them out. We could go back to the way it was when Abraham Lincoln was a Congressman: our “leaders” would only have to work in Washington for a couple of months a year, which is all we’d pay them for, including reasonable expenses, and they could stay in boardinghouses as Honest Abe did.

    The rest of the time, they could go home and get real jobs, just like us. Forget the multimillion-buck lobbying firm jobs once they leave office. Provide their own retirement funds. See what it’s like to live the way they tell us to.

    Now THAT would be good for the people.

    A little scenario that went through my mind yesterday…What if I were sitting somewhere, say alone in a bus station, and a man who looked to be a panhandler asked for money, then, when I said no, threatened to take it from me anyway? Instead of showing fear, or even anger, what if I then said to him, “So, what you’re saying is, you were going to take my money all along? You aren’t a beggar, you’re really a thief, then. Not a very nice thing to be.”

    And what if this unexpected reaction from his “victim” made him sit back for a minute and think? True, he could respond with anger and lash out with violence. But I had to wonder if maybe the act of naming his actions as thievery might give him pause, enough that he might think, “Hey, it isn’t nice to be a thief, and I like to think or at least pretend that I’m a nice person, so maybe I shouldn’t take this woman’s money.” I just wonder if this approach might work more often than one would suspect nowadays, even given the violence that seems so widespread. And maybe the power of simple honesty, plus the fact of connection on a human level (even through disapproval), could cause a shift in the atmosphere.

    Here’s another deeper thought – what if the thief is really something of a child still, and feels an odd comfort at the reproach, and a certain affection for the person delivering it? Like having a wise old grandma who sets reasonable boundaries and standards of moral behavior for her grandkids. Psychology seems to be telling us nowadays that children do better in structured environments with gradual increases in freedom as they show they can be trusted with it. Does this mean that criminals are generally operating at a child’s level? “I want something, and I’ll have it, even if it means being a bully to get it”?

    And what does this say about people who aren’t bullies? Who don’t need or want or appreciate others setting boundaries for them? Again, is it a question of intelligence? Does intelligence mean that one accepts the need for responsibility, and is willing to accept it as the price of freedom? And what about people who don’t care to do the boundary-setting for others, either?

    It occurs to me that the man would be much more likely to show this sort of docility if he’s not armed and neither am I. If he were a bureaucrat, though, I’d have to catch him alone without his goons at his elbow to enforce his every word, before he’d even hear one of mine.

    Okay, this isn’t really Outlaw-focused. And I don’t usually follow the news. But I’ve always been fascinated by storms, and Katrina is a doozie. And since I’m also into being prepared and smart and ahead of the game, I’ve been watching how people are reacting to the hurricane’s impending arrival.

    From Yahoo!/AFP (link to full story in post title):

    …Others though seemed more relaxed about the storm.

    Richard Prisco, a 30-year-old New York lawyer stranded in New Orleans on his way home from a cruise, joked that he had “met these lovely ladies from Canada. We’re going to save them,” as he waited in the posh bar of the W hotel for the approaching storm.

    Lovely lady number one piped in.

    “When we start crying they’re going to comfort us,” Robin Raxlin, 29, explained as she lay on a square sofa, Red Bull in hand.

    The gang at the W hotel have only known each other a couple days, but they say it feels like “forever.” There are inside jokes. Flirtations. Stories about their adventures at the bars of Bourbon Street.

    While the storm may have brought these new friends together, it tore Prisco’s group apart. Of the four who set off for the cruise, just three remained in New Orleans. One headed for the highway in a huff and hasn’t been heard from since.

    “He was furious with us because he feels we did not try hard enough to get out of here,” Prisco said. “We heard from a friend of a friend he hitched a ride with some people. They made it about sixty miles in eight hours.”

    Oh, cripes. So, the ones who’d just rather party on at the funky-mod upscale W hotel, and pretend to be men “saving” distressed ladies, call the one “huffy” who’s got the brains and initiative to get the hell out of there. They laugh off his warnings and determination to act.

    Who’s the real friend? The one who saved his own butt and tried to get his three buddies to go with him? Or the three who chose to hang outthrough a deadly storm, and waste money at a chichi urban hotel, with girls they’d only just met, and let their pal find his own way in a life-threatening emergency?

    On a much more sensible and praiseworthy note, here’s Plinker-MS’s “Hurricane Katrina Diary” with some excellent real-time preparation details (and a thanks for the mention of something I wrote!). It’s so good that I can’t find a quote to snip and paste here. Read the whole thing!