Friday, March 23, 2007


While my friend Gary was up from Texas for a recent visit, one of the things we did was to go to Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry for an exhibit called "Body Worlds 2": actual human bodies, skinned, sometimes split, opened, partly eviscerated, to show the myriad of physical components and their interrelationships that make up a human being. Each body reveals all the muscles, veins, arteries, sinews, joints, and organs, of which we are all made, and then posed in lifelike positions (kicking a soccer ball, ice skating, seated, etc.). The bodies have been preserved by a special process called "Plastination", and are complete in every detail including sexual organs, and the results are both bizarre and fascinating.

But human beings are of course more than the sum of their physical components. I realized, as I peered inside an exposed chest cavity to see those things which enabled the body to have been an actual person with a name and a family and friends, who laughed and breathed and loved and grieved, that what I am trying to do with this blog is to present myself as a specimen in which you can explore those non-physical things which make us human. I very carefully and deliberately have set out to lay out all those non-corporeal things which originate within one human brain—mine—and which, in conjunction with the physical body, have made each of us who we are. It’s my hope that you might recognize something of yourself in them and share my contemplation of the paradox that while each of us is an individual who must enter and leave this life "alone", while we are alive we are part of a far greater whole. And knowing that we are so much alike, how can we then harbor so many petty prejudices, bigotry, and hatred towards others?

I take the fact that you’re still with me, here, as an indication that you understand what I’m trying to do, and trust you will excuse my tendency to pontificate a bit—perhaps occasionally coming perilously close to boring you silly. But there are many things about which each of us have very strong beliefs…and hope that the belief that we are all in this together is primary among them.

Okay, enough on this for the moment. I’ll try to strike a lighter—and somewhat longer—note next time.

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Memory and Fact

Mom, Grandma Fearn, Grandpa Fearn, Uncle Buck, 1918

Don Quixote and I, I like to think, have a lot in common. We both live in our own worlds, as independently as possible from reality. But just as Don Quixote was undone by having to face the mirror of reality, I am frequently deeply shaken by the realization that something I clearly and distinctly remember may not, in fact, be the way it actually was. Being something of a pack-rat of the bits and pieces of my life doesn’t help, since I often stumble across concrete evidence, in the form of letters or photographs, that what I was absolutely positive happened at a certain time and/or in a certain way in fact did not.

I resent reality’s unnerving ability to screw up a perfectly good memory. I do not like the fact that memories that have been like old friends, comforting me through the years can be challenged by fact and to know that despite all the pains I take to disregard it, reality always wins in the long run..

I’ve had a couple instances of this since I’ve begun writing blogs. I ran across several instances in my Navy letters home, and am doing it again with this one. I told you, for example, the story of how my Uncle Buck in effect ran away from home to join the army in WWI, and that my grandmother never saw him again. It is something I had believed all my life. And then I came across the photo shown above, showing Grandma, Grandpa, Mom, and Uncle Buck (in uniform) posed together. And therewith, a tiny thread in the fabric of my being was snagged and had to be snipped off. Uncle Buck obviously did return home on leave after his basic training. But the resentment I feel for reality’s intrusion into my memory is, I admit, offset by my pleasure in knowing that Grandma did get to see him again before she died.

In my entry about Aunt Thyra, I relayed my distinct memory that it was my cousin Jack who had found her dead. But after posting the entry, my (second) cousin Tom pointed out that it was his dad, my cousin Cork, who had found her, and I verified that by checking with Jack.

So what does it matter if memory and reality differ? To me, a great deal, for memories form the foundation of my life—they are an integral part of me, and to doubt them is to doubt everything that has made me who I am. I have built, to the best of my ability, my own world and shaped it to suit myself. I’m comfortable here, and I do not take kindly to the thought that many other cherished, firmly set memories might in fact, be untrue.

You might well think that, since I so dislike reality to begin with, I’d be quite comfortable with a little fudging. But I am not. I take it as yet another reminder that I am only human, and since my very earliest childhood, I’ve always wanted to be, and though of myself as, something more. I have no idea why this is so important to me, but it is. Why, I remember one time when I was about six….

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Other Side of the Window

Let’s face it: I simply do not get it. I never have gotten it, and chances are I never will. I have spent my entire life on the other side of the window, watching life without really comprehending it.

There are so very many things I have never understood. The entire list is far, far, too long to lay out here, but here are just a few.

I’ve never understood organized religion. From everything I’ve seen, heard, read, or experienced, it has caused more human suffering than all the plagues and wars--many of which have been fought over religion--in the history of mankind. Despite the occasional notable exception, organized religion has consistently fostered hatred and intolerance and all the things it claims to be trying to counter. I have never been able to comprehend how simply and sincerely following the Golden Rule would not all but eliminate the need for organized religion. I find it infinitely sad that "Do unto others as you would have done unto you" has been corrupted into "Do unto others as we would have done unto them."

I’ve never understood organized sports. Enjoying the physical activity in the form of just-having-fun sports makes sense, and provides great exercise. Sitting on an overstuffed sofa or a barstool guzzling beer and scarfing down bowls of popcorn, peanuts, and pretzels while watching people you have never met and never will meet do what you’re too damned lazy to do totally escapes me. This week’s BIG GAME!!!! over which people seem to drive themselves into an incomprehensible frenzy, was preceded by last week’s Big Game and an endless string of long forgotten Big Games before that. It will be followed by an infinite string of others. And their point is…?

I’ve never understood computer spam. Do these cretins who so blatantly invade my privacy actually, seriously think for one second that anyone who has had a computer for more than two days is going to open a message whose subject line is: "Hi. Bedroom faucet rises the early..." or "We cure all disease" or, worst of all, those little strings of small squares with no text at all? And how could anyone with the intelligence of a hampster actually respond to a letter from a "Barrister" in Nigeria informing you that a billionaire relative you have never heard of has died tragically in a car accident and named you sole beneficiary to his (interestingly, it’s always a "his") estate. But they do, and I truly despair for humanity.

And I’ve never understood heterosexuals. Never. I’ve lived among them all my life ("Why, some of my best friends are heterosexual"), but have always felt totally apart from them, as though I were a different species. I love my family--heterosexuals all--, am deeply fond of my straight friends, and I like and appreciate many others, but never fail to be mildly infuriated by the automatic assumption of heterosexuals that everyone is heterosexual…or should be.

But the primary thing I do not understand, and which has caused me more grief than all my incomprehensions listed above, is why I am not—and no matter how hard I try, can never seem to be—the person I so desperately want to be.

New entries are posted each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Hello, Stupid!

I buy a lot of chocolate-covered donuts. I buy them largely because, in the brand I buy, each one has 320 calories, and with as little as I eat, the calories are important. They come in a box of 8 large donuts and cost $3.69 a box. Lately, I’ve had some problem in finding them. Yesterday, there were none. But I saw they had apparently replaced the 8-donut box with a much smaller 12-donut box (each donut about half the size and having 160 calories each). The price remains $3.69. But, hey, they’re giving me four more donuts! Oh, thank you, donut company! So I’m getting, in effect, 1/4 less product for the same amount of money? They’re banking (literally) on the fact that I’m far too stupid to realize I’m being screwed.

H.L. Mencken once said "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public," and business has certainly taken this as a mantra.

Try to reach any large company by phone. Call any day, any time of day, and the first thing you hear is "Due to unexpectedly heavy traffic...." followed by "Your call is very important to us." Oh. Okay. Unexpectedly heavy traffic. Sure. How can they possibly anticipate that more of their 2 million customers might want to get in touch with them than their two switchboard operators can handle? ("Your call will be answered in approximately 53 minutes.") And of course I absolutely believe them when they reassure me that my call is of vital importance to them. (Who am I, again?)

There’s a ubiquitous ad running on TV offering a "FREE Credit Report!" It’s only when you read the small print or are stupid enough to actually try to call the number they give you that you discover the "Free" only applies if you spend a fortune to join something or other—I take great pride in not remembering what.

I’ve commented somewhere else on once having been conned into buying a bag of potato chips with a huge banner saying: "NEW! Larger Bag!." The price went up a quarter, but comparing the "NEW" bag to a remaining "older" version showed that the amount of chips in the bag remained unchanged. Once again, the manufacturer is confident that the buyer is truly too stupid to see through the con.

And furniture store ads screaming "No Interest until 2215!!", are counting on your being far too stupid to realize this means you’ll be paying for it until 2215.

Fast food ads show a two-foot-high sandwich from which meat and cheese and wondrous things literally are falling out of the picture-perfect bun. They’re confident when you’re suckered into actually ordering one of the things, that you’re too dumb to notice that you need a magnifying glass to locate whatever is squashed inside an unappetizing bun. The important thing to them is that you came in and bought the thing, and I’ll bet you ten million dollars you never once said anything about it to the manager.

Debt consolidation loans, tax refund advances, and a slew of other altruistic-sounding offers to provide you with economic assistance are based on the assumption—sadly too often correct—that those who take advantage of them are too stupid to realize that they not only still have to pay off the debt for which they needed help in the first place, but have to pay a hefty additional amount to the company who "helped" them.

Hard not to despair, at times. But I’ve got to cut this short—I’m expecting delivery on my new Bow-Flex machine. In three weeks, I’m going to have a body like a 25-year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger. Guaranteed!

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Charles ("Buck") Fearn, 1918

Sunday, March 04, 2007