Fox News is Right

Actually, the full title of this blog post is “Fox News is Right (or I’m not wrong and neither are you). Sorry if I kinda duped my right-wing readers into reading this post, but I think you’ll find it worth it.

We all bring our own experiences, knowledge and emotions to any discussion (because that’s what it should be, a discussion. Not a shouting match) on a particular issue. We all have our own thoughts on a topic and we can both be right without trying to talk louder than the opposition.

Last week for about 5 days, and for reasons that still escape me, I switched the audience of my Facebook posts to “Me only” rather than “Public.” Yesterday I fixed this issue (and yes, I use the word “fixed” because the world needs to know my how I feel about everything), then I went back over those posts from my self-imposed exile. A solid half of them were just reactionary, emotions I felt upon reading an article and the subsequent sharing of that post, article or meme. Ultimately, I was reminded that in this culture of instant gratification by way of reacting to a Facebook post or a Twitter post or whatever, we often are simply satisfying the seemingly pertinent and necessary urge we feel to share our personal beliefs with the rest of the world. But really, sharing some article pertaining to income inequality or Bernie Sanders or gun control only goes to, at best, fuel that self-gratification. At worst, it only goes to anger and alienate some of the people that are otherwise our “Friends” or “Followers” That is, if those “Friends” and “Followers” bother to read the article or register the meme at all.

In the end, my right-wing, pro-gun, pro-life, pro-Bible “friends” are most likely scrolling right past the article I share arguing the merits of the opposition. And I can only speculate based on my own reaction to the same type of articles written in favor of the opposition, but I think most of them are ignoring these articles because often the author commits the cardinal sin of editorial writing of taking an aggressive or condescending tone. The minute a half-way educated reader feels they are being talked down to, they scroll on down the page. If they took the trouble of beginning the article at all, that is.

I’ll give you an example. I read a couple of Daily Kos articles about Fox News and the way they twist and turn and serve up news that I think is flat-out false and unsubstantiated but other people, again some of them my friends, take as gospel. By posting or sharing those articles, I am doing nothing more than satisfying my desire for gratification. And the often competitive nature of the article pretty much ensures that my friends who come down on the other side of the issue in question will just scroll past it and keep thinking how they think. Whether its abortion or gun control or whatever, everyone brings to the issue their experiences. A person who has known only responsible gun ownership in their lives comes at the issue from a very different place from the person who has had a shooting death in their family or friends or lives in a place permeated by gun violence. The person who knows and/loves someone who faced an unwanted pregnancy, or had one themselves, but stuck it out to bring a baby into this world who gives them unparalleled joy and satisfaction through parenting has a very different opinion from the person who comes at the issue of abortion with a different perception of what defines the concept of human life. Based on both people’s knowledge, emotions and experience, they are both right. So, really, what’s the point?

I suppose the case could be made that this a cynical and fatalistic approach to the sharing of information and ideas, but consider that there are ways (TEDtalks for example) that ideas and concepts can be shared without the shouting match. Even more idealistically, I will not abandon the idea that there is enough civility and compassion left in the world that we can’t come to an agreement or at least agree to disagree on a subject and walk away hand in hand. Or at least smiling a non-self-important smile.

Michael Douglas said in The American President that many people will get up and scream in favor of the very things you have spent a lifetime opposing. As it happens, at the core level, we both have a point.

Unless you are so closed-minded and so certain of your own veracity that you are of the Westboro Baptist Church ilk. In that case, please just go back to the petri dish of hate that spawned you.

The documentation of my time in exile taught me that there is really no point and, more than that, it’s a bad thing for me to put myself out there in such a sanctimonious way as it serves no purpose and does little good. There’s enough negativity and animosity out there that I don’t need to put more bad blood on the table just so I can feel important.

Or, as the comedian Greg Proops once mused, volume doesn’t insure quality. It doesn’t insure virtue either.

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The Wisdom of my Elders

I’m preoccupied with age. Maybe given even a slightly different set of circumstances, I would let go, just a little, this obsession that at this point, I should have it “all figured out.” The fact that I don’t and, more than that, am starting at the squarest of ones at age 39 weighs heavy on my spirit.

I look at people my age who have been working their jobs for years and seem to, almost effortlessly, enjoy salaries and promotions and cars and houses that make mine seem like, well … I might as well be living in a cardboard box with a ratty Yorky and talking to myself. A friend in Oklahoma who runs a dog rescue with her beloved and has a house full of dogs to wake up to every morning. Friends who are nurses, established in their careers, who get to come home to loving spouses and children who make them laugh and smile. Guys from my home group who in the short time they’ve been sober are already moving up in their chosen fields, buying motorcycles and going on dates with pretty girls. I look at all that and I feel like the washed up leper even Jesus shakes his head at. That’s how I perceive it anyway.

But then I read about case after case of folks, many years my senior, embarking on new paths and journeys and endeavors. A writer who I hold in high esteem who is cosigning on a new lease on life with his new bride, soaking up each and every moment of this life. My sponsor who, only a couple of years younger than I am now, got sober and excelled in a career that is now coming to an end. Another friend who has been at his job for a long time and, despite the hurdles of seeing those he loves succumb to addiction and divorce, still reaches out to his friends and looks after their welfare.

These are my elders, those who have come before me and are ready and waiting to give me their wisdom. I can learn from them. Casting aside my preoccupation with “getting it right” at my age and being open to sharing in their life and learning their hard-won truths.

This is my privilege. This is my good fortune. To cherish those who have taken some blows before me. To learn from their mistakes and prepare myself for the same triumphs of their lives.

Poem: Demons and crows

This is my trail

The map given to me decades ago by those who didn’t know better

It’s not their fault, nor is it mine,

That this map no longer holds sway

Cursed and blessed with diseases like smallpox on the western front

The trail is overgrown now with white moss, ravenous, relentless

Slowly encroaching, devouring, consuming

As the demons and crows circle

Giggling and waiting

In vain, it turns out

For my ultimate surrender

Shakespeare’s Dilemma

Lichen 2

“Consider the lichen. Lichens are about the heartiest visible organisms on earth, but among the least ambitious … they particularly thrive in environments where no other organism would go, wherever there is only rock and rain and cold and almost no competition. Lichen are in fact a partnership between fungi and algae. The fungi excrete acids that dissolve the surface of the rock, freeing minerals that the algae convert into food sufficient to sustain both … Those that are the size of dinner plates are likely to be hundreds if not thousands of years old … they simply exist, testifying to the moving fact that life, even at its simplest levels, occurs simply for its own sake. The lichen’s instinct just to be is every bit as strong as ours, arguably even stronger. Like virtually all living things, they will suffer any hardship, endure any insult for a moment’s additional existence.”

  • Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything

“I rather like living.”

  • Tyrion Lannister, Game of Thrones

Years ago when I was the overnight watchmen at the Pet Hotel, I listened to the audiobook A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson and the passage above stopped me in my tracks. It’s a fantastic book that, when I was searching for my free download for April at Audible, I suddenly remembered that book and am close to finishing it now. I downloaded it almost exclusively because of that passage as since that day, I have deleted the book from my ITunes and then life happened and I had a vague memory that that book held the short-term answer to my questions of late.

I have my own issues these days with the opposite sex, my earning potential, my own Rocky v. Apollo rounds with depression, my body image and on and on. And who doesn’t have their own equally perplexing and complicated bouts with those issues and so many more? Nobody, that’s who. I think that’s one of the reasons that the program of AA preaches the real and mammoth value in being of service to others. It’s the root foundation of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism that all address suffering and its cessation. It’s part of one of Andy Andrews’ 7 Decisions, this serving of others. Really, built into the spine of all those things is what Bryson was trying to point out.

lichen-1

Namely, that the lichen is onto something. When we break it all down, everything in our life, when we strip away all of the job’s not acquired, the riches that elude, the love we crave and yet don’t have, and every single obstacle, hardship, vile task and tedious chore that we face every day, even when you consider all of that and, more than that, wallow in it, well, we’re just not paying attention. One of Bryson’s overriding themes in the book is the complexity of life from the subatomic level on up to the age and nature of the universe. He investigates the cosmos, the quark, the age of Earth and all the different configurations of amino acids that make up proteins and reaches one pretty clear conclusion. To wit, as Einstein said, there are two ways of looking at the world. Either nothing is a miracle or everything is a miracle.

At the end of the day, one would be hard pressed to find a better organism one should aspire to emulate, at least in terms of that one personality trait, than the lichen. And yes, I did just assert that lichens have personalities. Go ahead, prove me wrong. The lichen ain’t talkin’.