Monday, November 26, 2007

Oh, Joy!

This morning, as I started to post dodsy's entry, I found I had exactly two paragraphs of it. The rest is gone. Where did it go? How did it go? Why does my compuer seem to hate me at times? No idea to any of the above.

But the fact is that I do not have a blog for today, and must once again ask your indulgence and apoologize for taking up your time.

Rather than have you coming back and checking later today or tomorrow, I'll just skip it until Wednesday. So I do hope you will come back then. (I will be posting my photoblog, though... .


Friday, November 23, 2007


I think if I were to be a flower, I’d be an impatiens. I’m not sure I know what an impatiens looks like, but I do like the name, since it reminds me of one of my most outstanding characteristics: impatience.

I’m sure it all stems from the fact of my awareness of the passage of time, and that every instant spent other than in doing what I want to do is time which will never come again, and brings me one instant closer to the moment when my mind, trapped as it is in a mortal body, will cease to function and all that will remain of me is what I have managed to put down on paper.

I know that there is much to be said for the joys of quiet contemplation, but I’m largely incapable of it. I’ve mentioned before that I simply cannot do nothing. I cannot sit on a park bench on a sunny day and just enjoy the act of sitting and observing. Even when looking up at a blue sky filled with puffy clouds, I can’t be content with just observing: my mind insists on finding faces and sailing ships and tanks and fish in them.

I have never in my life begun a project involving physical labor which, ten minutes into it, I wish to heaven I had never started, and I too often, as a result, end up with a slipshod result simply because I was too impatient to take all the time to do it the way it should have been done.

When I go to bed at night, I look forward to dreaming, even if I can’t specifically recall them the next morning, and should a night pass without my awareness of there having been dreams I feel cheated. I’ve been told, and firmly believe, that death is very much like a deep and dreamless sleep. Well, I’ll be dead soon enough (as will we all), so I’d just as soon not have previews of what’s to come until I’m actually dead.have some dreams

I am terrible at waiting. If I have an appointment scheduled, I want it to be scheduled for no later than the time it takes me to get from here to there. Sitting in a waiting room without a book or magazines is torture. Telephone calls which involve my being put on interminable hold by mega-corporations who lie through their teeth when they soothingly reassure me, every 30 seconds, that my call is very important to them send me into apoplectic fury.

My impatience has gotten me into more trouble, over the years, than I can possibly remember, let alone recount. I constantly say and do thing that, on reflection, I wish I had not done or said, but I simply do not/cannot have the patience to think things out before I react. I tend to be one gigantic knee-jerk reaction.

Often, of course, time does not allow for patience. How often have we, ten minutes after the fact, come up with a really brilliant retort to something someone said, which left us at the time merely muttering something inane or stewing in silence?

I’ve been told endlessly that I should practice patience, but I just don’t have the time.

This blog entry is a case in point. I know there are several other really salient points I could bring up to demonstrate my impatience, but I’ve got a ton of other things I should be doing, so I think I’ll get to them. We’ll talk about patience again when I have more time.

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

Monday, November 12, 2007

Pondering and Pontificating

When my mind wanders—as, you may have noticed, it does constantly—it sometimes goes a bit further off the beaten path than normal. Today I found myself pondering imponderables, revisiting one of my favorites: just how fascinating our species truly is when we take a moment to step back and look at it as though we were an alien seeing it for the first time. I realize this teeters on the brink of pontification, and may not be everyone’s cup of tea (on rereading it, I wonder if it is mine), so I’ll understand if you decide to skip it.

I wonder, for example, if aliens might in fact consider mankind be a single, living organism, and each of us as —but totally unaware of being—individual cells within that organism. I’m not sufficiently versed in philosophy to know if anyone else has advanced this theory, though I’m sure someone must have at some point. And the universally-recognized “preservation of the species” imperative just might lend support to it.

Ours is a civilization of rituals, most so deeply ingrained in us that we never stop to think about…or marvel at…them. But without them, civilization—and we as individuals—could not function. We establish, and for the most part observe without thought or question, laws designed for the common good—pulling over when emergency vehicles pass, for example—which is in fact an extension of the preservation of the species imperative.

As individuals, we are programmed to be protective of those closest to us: our family and our friends. In emergencies or disasters, we are capable of demonstrating amazing courage in coming to the aid of others. Why? We never give it a thought…we just do it. We establish schools and hospitals and police departments and fire departments to assure the continuation of our species.

All of these things emphasize our instinctual recognition that we are part of something larger than our individual selves, and that we have a duty to our fellow humans. The Golden Rule is an encapsulation of the philosophy of survival of the species.

Our individual need to acknowledge that we are part of something greater than ourselves is also reflected in our need to gather together, and the comfort and pleasure we derive from it. Patriotism is an example, as is the fact that we derive pleasure from gathering together at concerts and theaters and sports events. We create books and music and plays, and find a sense of universality in them. Yet how many of us recognize, when we sit in a concert hall or at a ball park, or gather together on holidays exactly what we are doing and why?

So many fascinating imponderables. So much of what we do is instinctual, and we never give thought to why we do what we do. The other night, I attended a concert performed by the DePaul University Symphony Orchestra. When the conductor enters the hall, the audience applauds: why? (Applause itself is a unique human ritual to which another entire blog could easily be devoted.) That we do not applaud between movements of a lengthy piece, even though the orchestra has stopped playing has its own fascination: how does everyone know what to do, even in a piece of music we’ve not heard before? Obviously we take a cue from the others in the audience. But how? Why?)
I hope I’ve not bored you with this little meandering, but I trust you find such things as fascinating as I do. And if you’ve not thought of such things before, please do. Our capacity for fascination is boundless, yet we too seldom exercise it. We should do much more.

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

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Doors of "If"

My favorite painting at the Art Institute of Chicago is Edward Albright’s The Door, subtitled That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do. I identify with it in some strange way, probably because I frequently find myself looking back on the closed doors of my life and saying: "If only I could go back and change things…do or say something I should have but didn’t; not do or say something I shouldn’t have but did; take an opportunity not taken; follow path A instead of path B."

We all have doors in our past we wish we could reopen, to change what lies behind them. Yet we never think that if we could go back and change just one thing, from that point in time on, all bets are off. For tossing one small snowball of change onto the steep snow-covered slopes of time could trigger an avalanche which would inexorably sweep everything that followed. And one problem resolved would open up an infinite number of new and different problems.

I used to wonder, after I moved from Los Angeles to the Great North Woods of northern Wisconsin and bemoaned my subsequent lack of…uh, let’s say ‘social contacts’… what would have happened had I stayed in L.A. Then I realized that had I done so, I could quite probably had a contact which would have resulted in my contracting AIDS, which is more a game of Russian roulette in large cities than in rural communities.

So many things I’ve said to people that I wish I either had not said or said differently. So many situations to which I wish I had reacted differently. But if I had, how might that have changed my then-future (but-now-present)? Escaping one unpleasant situation undoubtedly would have opened the door to countless other unpleasant situations I could not possibly foresee.

There are things, however, I would risk a subsequent unknown future to have changed. The most recent was when in my ignorance I allowed my dog, Duchess, to die because I stupidly did not recognize the clear signs of diabetes which killed her. How could I have done that? How could I not have seen she was seriously ill?

But before that, and the one single thing in my life that I wish with all my heart and soul I could change, would be to let my mother die several months before she did. I think I may have spoken of this before, but when she was diagnosed with lung cancer after being a smoker all her life, she and I agreed that if it reached the point where nothing more could be done, I would instruct the doctors to let her go. But I did not. "We’ll try this," the doctors would say, and I’d let them. When it didn’t help, they’d say "We’ll try this," and I’d let them. And mom, out of her love for me, said nothing to me, though she told a friend that she just wanted to die with dignity. She did not. She died a withered doll hooked up to tubes and machines which only prolonged her suffering, of which she never spoke, and all because I would not…could not…let her go. I will never forgive myself for that.

And ten years from now, we will all look back at regrets for things which will have happened between now and then, and there will be no way we can come back and change them, either.

So what is the answer? There is none. All we can do, as we hopefully already have been doing, is the very best we can. We cannot see the long-term results of our actions, but perhaps we can give them just a bit more thought before we take them, and hope for the best. I wish us luck.

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

Friday, November 02, 2007


This post will be very brief, I fear, and I ask your indulgence. I'm still somewhat off-pace with my cold and while I started a post yesterday afternoon, I didn't finish it.

This morning I was just about to write one when I checked my email and found notice that there had been several "Comments" posted to my A Worlt Ago Navy letters blog. Curious I went to take a look. The "comments" are all identical: "this is the best blog yet" and all are "signed" "hydrocodo". When I made the mistake of clicking on the word to see who it might be, I was taken to some sales pitch page.

As you may have noted, I am neither the most patient or most saintly of men when it comes to my threshold for anger. Perhaps my cold is adding to my reaction, but I am so furious with this *(^$)*%^$ I really can hardly concentrate on typing this.

And worst of all, I cannot find out how to delete these comments, though I'm sure there is a way to do it, and I will find it, somehow after I calm down a bit.

But anyone going to A World Ago ( should be cautioned NOT to go to "Comments". There are a number of nice comments throughout, but to be safe, until I can get this straightened out, do not open any comnents at all.

It is my acute awareness of my total lack of control, the knowlege that someone beneath contempt can, at their whim, intrude upon the lives of others with impunity really, really pisses me off. I am also disturbed by the knowledge that I am not incapable of violence were I able to track "hydrocodo" down.

The point of all this, dear friend, is that there will not be a regular posting today. Thank you for your indulgence. I'll do my best to have a new post Monday.

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