Friday, December 07, 2018

Philosophies


Each of us, as we travel through life, develop our own individual philosophies during the journey, based on an infinitely varied combination of experiences, assumptions/understandings, and our emotional responses to them. They usually develop slowly, often without our giving them much if any conscious thought, until they are a part of us. I have several of the “fortune cookie” variety, though I admit I immodestly find most of my philosophies...rather profound.

Back in the 1950s, my father gave my mother a beautiful grandfather clock, which has been part of my life since Mom's death. It stopped working a few years ago and I just don’t have the money required to get it back into working condition.  I always found its ticking and its chimes comforting, and the sounds became so ingrained into my life—rather like philosophies, now that I think of it—that I assume they are still there. Grandfather clocks work on the interaction of weight and gravity. Three weights suspended from chains are slowly moved down by gravity. Each swing of the pendulum releases a tiny bit of the tension on the weights, which gravity pulls downward until it's time to pull the weights back up to rewind the clock. It is the swinging of the pendulum moving the small gears holding the counterweights which produces the familiar "tick-tock."

This morning, glancing at the now-silent clock I realized that life is very much like a my mother’s clock. We are born fully "wound," like the clock, and each day of our lives is a "tick" of morning and "tock" of evening. And very slowly our lives pass until the weights of our existence have reached the bottom of their chains, and we, like the clock, stop. Unfortunately, unlike the clock, our lives cannot be rewound.

But having so said, I amend it with another of my basic philosophies/beliefs: that of time being a Mobius strip, constantly replaying eternity. Our individual lives, though an incalculably small segment of eternity, therefore keep recurring over and over again, and while that means that we are doing the same things, instant by instant, somewhere, and making the same mistakes and suffering the same pain and sadness—and exhilarating in the same loves and joys—each second is, to us, new and very-first-time. This in no way conflicts with the idea of free will. We do the same thing over and over and each time, and with life-changing crossroad, we are free to choose which one we take; the fact that we choose to take the same one every single time is simply part of the loop.

And that philosophy/belief leads me to yet another, regarding death and what lies beyond. I believe nothing more strongly or with more sincerity that when we die, we simply return to the state that preceded our birth. Death is the end of life. Nothing more, nothing less. There is no awareness, no heaven, and no hell. And how can one be afraid of nothing? The wish for something after death is partly answered by the Mobius strip of eternity; every instant of our lives is being replayed constantly, and has always been replayed and will always be replayed. Therefore the concepts of life and death are in fact moot.

Not all philosophies are, or need to be, profound. Many, perhaps most, are basic, every-day guides to how we live our lives and view and interact with others. They need not even appear to be realistic, but as long as we hold to them and truly believe in them, they are valid. I believe, for instance, in the goodness of our species, despite frequently harsh and overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It is not the reality of our philosophies which matters in the end, it is the comfort they provide us. 

Pondering our individual philosophies and trying to trace their origins can be a fascinating mental exercise...if, in the end, probably pointless. But, like an old fashioned razor strop, it hones the mind.
---------

This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com.  I am looking at the possibility of publishing a second volume of blogs. The blogs now being posted are from that tentative collection. You can find information about all of Dorien's books at his web site:  www.doriengrey.com



Tuesday, December 04, 2018

The Child Within


When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. -- Corinthians 13:11, American King James version

As with so many things, what is true for most people is not necessarily true for me. I may no longer speak as a child, but I consider retaining the ability to understand and think like a child to be a great blessing. Children are born with priceless gifts: wonder, unquestioned trust, and infinite hope, all of which reality tends to steal away over the years until little--and sometimes nothing--of the gifts remain. They are stolen so gradually that we don't even realize they're gone or, far worse, that we don't care or miss them.

Far from putting away childish things--and I prefer to substitute "childlike" for "childish"--I have clung to them, cherished them, and nourished them. I would not be who I am had I let them fade away or to be stomped out of me by reality.

Whenever I am asked for a biography, I often begin with the same sentence: "When I was five years old, I never wanted to be six." And it is absolutely true. Strange as it may sound/seem, though I chronologically and physically crossed the line between boy and man well over half a century ago, I have never considered myself to be a fully-developed "adult." To me, "adult" is synonymous with "grown-up," and like Peter Pan, I've never wanted to be a grown-up. 

Interestingly, as a child, I never had imaginary friends. But today I take a childish delight in having divided myself into Roger, who is in charge of the "mature," daily-life part of me, and Dorien, whose realm is my imagination. 

Dorien is my child within. He doesn't have to worry about the mundane. He is totally free to like bunnies. And toast with cinnamon and sugar. And lying on his back in the tall grass on a warm, silent summer afternoon staring up at the clouds and seeing the wondrous forms and faces and animals within them. He's been around long enough now that he frequently totally takes over with those few friends who know how deeply a part of me he is. One of those friends just sent a message referencing some article which concluded with the line: "We'll all end up having to worry about rabbits." My instant, without-a-moment's-thought response was: "Dorien is always worried about rabbits: do they have enough to eat? Do they have someplace nice to live? Do they wear their mittens when they go outside to play in the winter? Ageless questions."

Those hardened into the shell of adulthood will undoubtedly find that sort of thinking silly, affected and childish. I prefer to think of it as sincerely fun and child-like. It's the way my mind works and has always worked, and the veneer of adulthood has never gotten thick enough to repress it.

But again, as with all things, being child-like has its down side. Children expect more than reality can deliver, and it is in the slow acceptance of and adjustment to reality that being childlike is lost. I have never accepted reality's total dominion, which is why reality and I have become estranged. I am truly incapable of understanding why things cannot be as I expect them to be--which is to say, as they should be. Because I expect life to run smoothly, effortlessly, and without conflicts, I do not handle problems, negative challenges, or stress well. Because I expect simplicity in all things, complexities lead to frustration and unhappiness far more frequently than I would imagine is the case with those who I would consider fully-developed adults. 

And while I feel very sorry for those who have lost their inner child, I am not so far removed from reality as to refuse to acknowledge that in many ways their lives of non-resistance are easier than mine. I know that in the end reality always wins. But with me, it won't be without one hell of a fight.
-----------

This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com.  I am looking at the possibility of publishing a second volume of blogs. The blogs now being posted are from that tentative collection. You can find information about all of Dorien's books at his web site:  www.doriengrey.com



Friday, November 30, 2018

The Housewives of....


Ah, I've done it again. I began this blog by heading off in one direction and then wandering off in another. There is a connection, but it might be a little hard to tell at first. See if you can connect the dots. 

Let's start at the beginning:

My cat, Spirit, seems to enjoy staring at walls. He does it a lot, and with such concentration I would give anything to know what he sees or thinks he sees there, or what his motivations might be. Usually this is done relatively calmly, as though pondering some weighty philosophical issue. But frequently he will race madly around the apartment and dash to a corner where, screeching to a halt with his face no more than three inches from where two walls meet, he will stare up at God-knows what and "me-owl" at the top of his considerably powerful lungs, then suddenly break off the stare, spin around and dash off into another room at full tilt. 

To say I don't understand cats is rather redundant. But I fear I can say the same of an awful  lot of people as well. I never cease to be amazed at how many of them, too, seem to spend so much time staring...figuratively if not literally...at walls and often making a great do-do about nothing. Well, let's modify that to "nothing that I can even remotely understand." 

I freely admit that I probably watch too much TV. My pattern/routine/rut is such that after spending most of the day writing, I stop at 5:30 for the evening news and then spend between 6:00 and 10:00 wandering across the vast TV landscape trying to find something to catch and hold my interest. I guess in that regard, I might have something in common with Sprit and walls. But I at least try to defend myself by saying I prefer programs which involve at least a smidgen of involvement on my part. And I'll also admit that the "smidgen" occasionally dominates...I'm not above, if the programming landscape is particularly barren, watching an episode of Cops and Hell's Kitchen and HGTV home renovation programs, on the grounds that they are interestingly informative even though I have not had a bite of solid food in over a month now and I haven’t lifted a hammer in years.

But I convince myself that those programs are profound when compared to the likes of the wildly if inexplicably ubiquitous Housewives of Name-a-City. While I have never watched a single episode of one and would have to be forced at gun point to do so, they are all but inescapable. Both programs seem to delight in glorifying stupefyingly, totally unwarranted vanity, infuriating arrogance and the glories of utter idiocy. At least one of the first of these dumb-fests, Jersey Shore did include some some attractive male eye candy--Warning: digression follows!—but beauty only goes so far.

(Digression: the men--or, if you're so inclined, the women--on Jersey Shore reminded me of an exchange overheard many years ago in an L.A. bar: "Take a look at that guy! He's incredible!" "Yeah, but I'll bet he doesn't have a brain in his head." "That's okay. I didn't come here to f**k brains!")

But while with Jersey Shore one could turn the sound down and just concentrate on the eye candy, from what I've been able to tell, the only conceivable attraction of The Housewives of Name-a-City is to see what obscene amounts of money can do to people who otherwise have absolutely no reason to exist. As I said, I've only seen the trailers for these shows, but as I race to change the channel, my overwhelming desire is to slap those obnoxious, disgusting, hand-seductively-on-hip poseurs silly and put them a one-way flight to Darfur.

And to yank us all back to the point where this blog began, let me tie a neat bow with the observation that whatever Spirit sees by staring at the walls has to be better than The Housewives of Name-a-City.
-----------

This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com.  I am looking at the possibility of publishing a second volume of blogs. The blogs now being posted are from that tentative collection. You can find information about all of Dorien's books at his web site:  www.doriengrey.com



Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Let's Pretend


Cream of Wheat is so good to eat
that we have it every day!
We sing this song, it will make us strong,
and it makes us shout 'Hooray!'

It's good for growing babies
and grown-ups too, to eat!
For all the family's breakfast,
You can't beat Cream of Wheat!

And with this ditty, from March 24, 1934 to October 23, 1954 began Let's Pretend, one of the longest-running children's programs on radio. I probably came upon it in the early 1940s. Each program was an adaptation of some classic children's book or fairy tale, and I loved and looked forward to every episode.

I don't think there are programs like Let's Pretend anymore, and I consider that to be a very great loss. 

Are there, in fact, any radio programs aimed at children? Radio was to the imagination what water is to a plant. Children today grow up watching Sesame Street—a wonderful program, but fundamentally different from Let's Pretend on an elemental level: it is totally visual; the child sees everything; there's no need to imagine what Big Bird or Elmo or Cookie Monster look like—-they’re right there. 

But I think the major difference between Sesame Street and radio programs is that Sesame Street's primary focus is on developing learning, whereas Let's Pretend's focus was on developing the imagination, and I would argue that learning without imagination is like a cake without frosting. 

(You can, by the way, hear a few of the original shows by going to https://archive.org/details/Lets_Pretend)

Do kids today play the same kinds of games I played? Most of the games did not have specific names but simply sprang from the utterance of the three magic words "Let's pretend like..." and from that point on, the imagination took over completely. A tree became a castle, a pile of dirt a fort, a towel tied around the neck a superhero's cape. 

While age has far removed me from the games I played as a child, it does seem that kids today live in a totally different world, in which the value of developing the imagination is all but totally overlooked. The emphasis is far more on preparing children for adulthood than it is on letting them simply experience the joys of being children. Piano lessons? Violin lessons? Good for developing skills, but terribly short, for most children, on fun. While it can be argued that soccer practice, baseball practice and other sports activities are technically games preparing children for the grown-up world, they are structured activities designed to produce conformity, and the child involved in them is all but totally deprived of the need for any...well, individuality, any mental freedom to explore and engage the imagination.

Do moms today still tell their kids to "Go out and play"? And if they do, do the kids do it, or do they prefer to hunker down with their video games, the vast bulk of which, though set in imaginary landscapes of someone else's creation, seem to emphasize physical dexterity in pressing the button/waggling the stick to kill monsters than in actually thinking what it might be like to be inside the game?

Does the child today, sitting in the Little League dugout, glancing up at whipped-cream clouds lazily floating overhead, have the time to look for castles and whales and sailing ships? Or does he just see clouds as he waits for his turn at bat?
----------

This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com.  I am looking at the possibility of publishing a second volume of blogs. The blogs now being posted are from that tentative collection. You can find information about all of Dorien's books at his web site:  www.doriengrey.com



Friday, November 23, 2018

The Circles of "We"


This started out simply enough, with the idea for a blog talking about why I've always found the word "we" to be my favorite word in the English language, not for its sound but for its definition. (We: pronoun [ first person plural ] 1. used by a speaker to refer to himself or herself and one or more other people considered together). It's the commonality, the "together,"  I love. 

And then, as so often happens when I'm looking up the definition of a word, I found myself thinking of another word which I then have to look up, which leads me to another word, which....Anyway, looking up "we" led me to think of the word "us" and how, to me, "us" and "we" were synonymous. So I looked up the definition of "us" and thereby went from dipping my toe in the water to plunging in far over my head.

The dictionary definition of "us" ( pronoun [ first person plural ]1. used by a speaker to refer to himself or herself and one or more other people as the object of a verb or preposition") for some unknown reason pretty much drains the humanity out of it. The quality of  "together" in the definition of "we" isn't even mentioned in the definition of "us," and for some inexplicable reason that both surprises and bothers me. I still can't help but seeing "we" and "us" as synonymous and overlapping.

But wanting to get on with the original intent of this blog, not knowing which word is really more applicable to its theme, I'll just arbitrarily use "we" because I like it more.

There are concentric circles of "we" in each of our lives, in which our individual selves are the center.  And the minute I typed "our" in that sentence I was compelled to look it up to see how it relates to "we" and "us"!  (our: possessive adjective 1. belonging to or associated with the speaker and one or more other people previously mentioned or easily identified).

I swear, I shouldn't be allowed around a dictionary! 

Dragging myself back to the circles of "we": while all circles appear to be generally the same, there are an infinite number of variations within each one. The individual is always the center of his/her own set of circles. The first circle outward from the center is family and, for most of us (and there we go with "us": see what I mean about overlaps?), the next one beyond that is friends. From that point, the lines between the circles become progressively less distinct the further out from the center one goes, with more overlapping and more variations: acquaintances/co-workers/colleagues, one's religion, social contacts, political affiliations, nationality, ethnic/minority identities. 

Your circles...my circles...are as unique as fingerprints; while all circle categories may be basically the same, there are an infinite number of variations within each. Some circles, like family, religion, and ethnicity, we are born into and, while we may be free to leave some of them, we seldom do. As we pass from childhood to adulthood, we tend to add to our circles, to create new ones, or to join the circles of others.

But what all these circles have in common, and the point of this blog, is that they all—as with so very much of our lives—stem from our individual, personal concept of the word "we"...those things and people which create within us the sense of comfort and belonging.

"We," "us," "our," and "together" form the bases upon which human society is built and wherein lie our hopes for the future.
----------

This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com.  I am looking at the possibility of publishing a second volume of blogs. The blogs now being posted are from that tentative collection. You can find information about all of Dorien's books at his web site:  www.doriengrey.com



Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Running



The “Flight or Fight” reflex is one of the basic human survival techniques. But “Fight or Flight” refers primarily to external threats, and there are many traumatic situations in life where the problem is internal and emotional, and “fight” is simply not an option. I’ve had several of these events in my life, and learned each time that while “flight” is indeed often an option, it is seldom a good one. 

I've done major-league running away twice in my life, the first shortly after I turned 30 and ran from Chicago to Los Angeles like a citizen of Pompeii fleeing the eruption—the ash fall in this case being shattered pieces of my psyche. You would think after that experience, I'd have learned my lesson and not repeated it. But there is no rationalizing with a devastated mind and heart.

I did not handle turning 30 well. I'd been in a relationship for several years by that time, but while I am a firm believer in monogamy, it didn't work out that way. Norm, my partner, traveled a great deal, sometimes gone two to three weeks out of a month. And, when I learned the hard way that he was not monogamous while away, I began to stray myself. It reached the point where I couldn't handle the duplicity, or live up to my own moral standards. I broke up with Norm, which hurt him deeply and emotionally devastated me, adding mountains of guilt to my other problems. Finally, I determined that the only way out of the labyrinth was to pick up the pieces of me and get as far away from the situation as I could.

Of course I soon learned, after having done so, the very simple fact that no matter where you go, there you are. And if the problems are within yourself, there's no way to get away from them.

So I spent several years with rolls of Scotch tape and Elmer's Glue putting the pieces of me back together, stumbling through various relationships, always hoping that the next one would be Mr. Right. He never was.

The death of my mother in September of 1970 (1970?? Was there ever such a year as 1970?) was, as I'm sure you can appreciate, one of the worst times of my life. It was as if I had mentally stepped on a land mine. I quit my job, bought a  21-foot Winnebago motor home, and took off in a futile attempt to run away from reality. I was coincidentally in a disastrous relationship at the same time as she was dying, but her illness prevented me from having the time to deal with it. So my buying the Winnebago and taking off was undoubtedly also partly to distance myself from the relationship as well. And, of course, it didn't work.

Thinking on the subject now I suppose there was a third running away, though of a different sort. With the Grim Reaper striding through the gay community in Los Angeles, cutting down friends and acquaintances with a terrifying relentlessness, I began to realize that I could well be next. I was still in a several-year on-again, off-again relationship with Ray—thanks to his alcoholism— but in the off-again periods I'd be out there in the bars. It occurred to me that to run from Los Angeles might be a good idea. If I could take Ray somewhere far, far away from the bar scene, perhaps he could stop drinking. And since I would have no need to look for...well, you know...elsewhere, we might actually find the kind of life I wanted so badly for the both of us.

I think you know me well enough by now to see this as yet another classic example of my refusal to acknowledge the existence of reality. But I sold my home in L.A., moved to Pence, Wisconsin—which could have a mileage marker just outside of town saying "Pence, 2 miles. End of the Earth, 1 mile”—and the rest you can fairly well guess. I brought Ray with me to Pence and we came, when he was sober, as close to the idyllic life as I had hoped for. But he could never stay sober for more than three months, and got in trouble with the law. A judge gave him the choice of returning to L.A. or going to jail. He reluctantly chose to return to L.A. where, within two years, he was dead of AIDS.

Life is not fair. Where we get the idea that it should be is a mystery. Life simply is, and we deal with it the best we can. One thing we cannot do is run from it.
---------

This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com.  I am looking at the possibility of publishing a second volume of blogs. The blogs now being posted are from that tentative collection. You can find information about all of Dorien's books at his web site:  www.doriengrey.com



Friday, November 16, 2018

The Forest and the Trees


How strange it is that the human brain has, essentially, no limits, while being held captive by a physical body that does. We live our entire life within those confines. We are, physically, as separate from others of our species as are the individual trees in a forest. We have only our own mind to interpret and make sense of the world around us, and who we are is the compilation of our individual perceptions and experiences. 

It's fascinating how well we somehow manage to interrelate with others given we have nothing but ourselves and our own experiences to go by. As I observe the world around me and the people who pass through my range of vision in the course of an average day, I am frequently struck by what interesting lives they lead and by what I see as the dullness of my own.

Not being able to see the forest for the trees is one of many human phenomena to which we pay very little attention. The closer we are to something, the more narrow our focus, and we basically see only what is directly in front of us. It's all a matter of perspective and as with so many things, perspective requires a stepping back, which is easy enough to do for external things...you can see the forest if you stand back far enough from the individual trees...but it is physically impossible for us to step back from ourselves, and extremely difficult to do so mentally and emotionally.

We look at others' lives with a perspective they cannot have themselves, just as they can look at us in the same way. But even so, by and large we observe only the exterior surfaces...a very truncated (no pun intended) version. I look at others and see what they do and what they have accomplished, and how they relate to other people, and because I only see the surface, as it were, my own life often pales by comparison to theirs. I am not privy to their inner problems, insecurities, worries, fears, or concerns. And because I can't see them, I can't fully understand or appreciate them. 

Since we are within ourselves every nanosecond, 24 hours a day, it's hardly surprising that our own lives can easily appear to be dull or boring. I write books. That's what I do and who I am. Writing is my norm. Since whatever talents/advantages I may have are just a part of me, I see my life as not particularly interesting when compared to the lives of others.

When I do manage to step back from the individual trees that make up the forest of my life, I can see how different each of them is, and how insignificant my own "tree" appears. Few of us allow ourselves credit for our own uniqueness. How many people have flown solo through the tops of huge, whipped-cream clouds? How many people have--or take--the chance to go off to Europe by themselves for a month? How many people have written more than 20 books? I have, but it's just part of me and therefore, to me, nothing special.

Of course, other people have flown solo through clouds, or had wonderful adventures, or written many books...but none in exactly the same combination.

Each person's forest is unique. There is no universal blueprint for a forest any more than there is a universal blueprint for all human beings other than those physical attributes with which most of us are born. Visually, we all pretty much resemble one another, just as visually, trees all resemble each other. But it is our experiences, our emotions, and a million other invisible factors which come together to make each of us uniquely ourselves, our "tree" different than every other tree in the forest.

And my point? That while human nature may dictate that we assume that we are somehow less interesting, less worthy of attention than others, that assumption is wrong and we should celebrate our uniqueness far more than we do. Each of us may be only one tree in the forest, but that tree is far more special than we give it credit for.

I love forests.
---------

This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com.  I am looking at the possibility of publishing a second volume of blogs. The blogs now being posted are from that tentative collection. You can find information about all of Dorien's books at his web site:  www.doriengrey.com