Monday, April 29, 2013

Hope, Love, and We

The three most powerful words in the English language are also among the shortest—“hope,” “love,” and “we.” Two are basic emotions, one a concept. Yet they are intricately if subtly linked, and encapsulate all that makes us human. Combined, they define our reason for existence, and explain why we are the dominant species on this planet. Deprived of any one of these elements, the individual human can survive, though the quality of that life would be greatly diminished. Deprived of any two out of the three, life would be largely bleak and/or meaningless.

Love is universally acknowledged as one of the most basic of human emotions, though humans cannot claim sole proprietary rights to it. Other creatures are obviously capable of love, though its definition may be somewhat different from our own. Love propels, and despite frequent and strong evidence to the contrary, underscores our species, and while an individual deprived of love can survive, its lack stunts the soul as severely as a lack of water stunts the growth of a plant.

But after debating on which of the three words is the most absolutely vital to our existence as humans, the answer, to me, is quite clear: the most powerful word of all—the one most essential to our survival and growth as individuals and as a species is “hope.” It is probably the single most significant feature separating us from all other living creatures. It is the single, small candle which sustains us through the darkest night, and without its light we are truly, utterly lost. Hope is the most positive of emotions, and is based on an awareness of the future, which has never been—nor, probably, could be—proven to exist in any other creature.

All three words—“hope,” “love,” and “we”—are intricately interwoven. It's difficult to really imagine any one without in some way linking the other two. But while “hope” and “love” are basic, gut-level human emotions, “we” is a concept, and concepts are far more difficult to explain. The concept of “we” is loosely evinced in perhaps the majority of living things not rendered immobile by being physically tethered to the earth, like trees, plants or certain sea creatures. But it is “we” that is the most chimeric and, to me, the most fascinating and comforting.

While “we” may be a concept rather than a readily identified emotion, there is a strong underlying emotional component to the word. That component is clearly evident in patriotism, which is almost totally founded on—and is a perfect example of—both the concept and the power of “we.” On the most basic level, “we” is simply a definition of the herd instinct...the gathering together for mutual protection...demonstrated to some degree by most social creatures. Some species—ants and bees, for example—exhibit the definition and physical aspects of “we,” but with no emotional component whatsoever. Some of the more advanced and sentient of our fellow creatures—elephants, most primates, whales, dolphins—have complex emotions, including a sense of belonging and strong emotional ties to their group, but it is only humans who seem capable of being aware of the concept of “we” and why we do what we do.

The power of “we” lies in its assurance to the individual that he/she is not alone. For humans, there are an almost limitless number of groups to which the individual can feel he belongs: the biological family, friends, and expanding concentric circles of acquaintances, coworkers, etc. But when all is said and done, our need for love and for hope are inexorably linked to and enhanced by our ability to include ourselves in the mother-word, “we.”

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

Thursday, April 25, 2013

I, Universe

After reading one of my more lugubrious (love that word) posts, a friend said “Do you honestly think you’re the only person in the world who has ever felt this way?” To which I replied: “Yep.”

The fact is that I was fudging just a bit. It is partly because I realize that I am NOT the only person to suffer from bouts—some more justifiable than others—of doubt and self-pity, or to have done incredibly stupid things, or to be too-frequently frustrated to the point of tears or sometimes frightening rage by something that does not go the way I want or expect it to go. Which is, in turn, the basic reason I am a writer rather than a plumber or watch repairman.

Because each of us is born into a species in which we are only one of seven or nine billion (it's hard to keep up) and are therefore so vastly outnumbered, we tend to assume, erroneously, that everyone else is part of a vast private club to which we do not belong. It's a little like not being able to see the forest for the trees, and it simply never occurs to us that we are ourselves, in fact, a tree in that forest. And we're not only a tree in the forest, we're also round pegs in a square hole, and any of two thousand other metaphors indicating our sense of being separate and separated from everyone else. In a world of an infinite range of color, the social rules by which we live are largely written only in black or white, with very rare occasional shadings of grey. Our society sets up immutable rules which no single individual within that society could possibly follow fully.

Yet we are led to believe there is some sort of gigantic yardstick against which we are convinced we must measure ourselves. And since there is in fact no such yardstick, inevitably we fail. And the problem is not that there is none, but that we insist upon assuming there is. “This is the way you must behave,” we are told, and the fact that almost nobody really does or could behave in that exact way has nothing to do with it. “This is how you must think,” we are told. A box is drawn around us, and those few who ever even think to step beyond its imaginary boundaries do so act at their own peril.

Our popular culture insists upon establishing arbitrary and ultimately self-destructive rules which benefit few and do harm to many. Two of the most unbendable of these rules is that to have worth as a human being, to be adored, to be worshipped, one must be young and beautiful—fostered in large part by our consumer-based culture which features only young, beautiful people in commercials and other visual advertising. That only a relatively small percentage of humanity is both young and beautiful or, in fact, either, is immaterial. The further you are from either of the standards our society sets for you, the less value you have as a human being. Susan Boyle's initial appearance on Britain's Got Talent was a quintessential example of this theory. Here is this....this mousy little one would look at twice on the street. You could see the scorn on the faces of the audience when she first walked out on stage. She was obviously a nobody. A nothing. Not worth paying attention to. Until she opened her mouth.

And how many people learned a lesson of tolerance and understanding from Ms. Boyle's stunning contradiction of what everyone automatically assumed by just looking at her? Sadly, I'd imagine very few.

We treasure our prejudices, even if we ourselves are victims of them.

I am not very good at either pontification or pondering of deep issues, but I do enjoy playing at doing both from time to time, just to prove to myself that I am capable of thinking at all. Descartes hit it on the head back in 1641 when he said, Cogito, ergo sum—I think, therefore I am.

Far too many people seem to spend all their lives concentrating on the sum and never bothering with the cogito.

We each are the center of our own universe, so cogita, people, cogita!

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

Monday, April 22, 2013

Pureed Thoughts

I've always admired the to-me-heartbreaking line from The Elephant Man, where Joseph Merrick says, “I sometimes think my head is so large because it is so full of dreams.”

Though I was blessedly spared Merrick's physical deformities as a writer I fully identify with his statement, and frequently think of his words when I am searching for a subject for my next blog. It isn't that I can't think of subjects, it's that I can think of far too many. It's rather like picking one raindrop from a thunderstorm, or one snowflake from a blizzard.

Metaphors! Now, there's a good subject for a blog! But where to start? One leads to another, which leads to another, and they all drop into the blender of my mind and are whipped into a puree.

Having done so many blogs over the years, it's inevitable that certain broad themes, and often specific topics, keep showing up. I should have some way of organizing them to avoid too-frequent duplication...which of course leads me to the subject of/fact that organization is not something for which I am noted. And my shortcomings—real or self-perceived—have themselves provided me with an endless number of blog topics: lack of patience; what I can no longer or never could do physically; comparisons to others; the process of growing older, etc.

Memories and nostalgia consume far too much of my life and are proportionately (or disproportionately) represented in my blogs. My inability to let go of the past, my insistence on berating myself mentally and emotionally for mistakes made and pain unintentionally inflicted on myself and others throughout my life.

Rants and rages against internet spam, commercials, a certain unnamed political party, bigotry, hatred, intolerance, organized religion, and an endless string of social wrongs, I sometimes fear, outnumber those subjects which bring me boundless joy; music and kindness and beauty and words and writing and Broadway musicals and the wonders of just being alive. Lakes and rivers and forests and pebbles on a beach under a dazzlingly blue sky through which whipped-cream clouds float majestically, and wind-driven snow whipping horizontally past a window, the cannon/tympani rolls of thunder and cymba´l-clash bursts of lightning, all are fodder for my mental blender. Travel—being places I have either never been or revisit after very many years; seeing places I'd never imagined I would be able to see in person. London, Paris, Rome, Pompeii, Cannes. On and on and on.

Life and death...existence and non-existence...utterly consume and fascinate me. The conflicts and contradictions of living in the mind while simultaneously living in and dealing with the day-to-day challenges of the real world can, if I allow them to, boggle my mind. My fingers keep typing words like a small jet of water shooting from a tiny crack in a huge dam. (Metaphors, anyone?)

I am driven to write my thoughts and opinions and philosophies on the human condition, which are no more nor less valid than yours except that you are reading mine at the moment and I express them in the hopes that you might in some way relate to them.

There's an old folk tale—Jewish, I believe—of there being seven men on earth chosen to suffer all the mishaps of human existence, to spare the rest of humanity from experiencing them. It would be nice if I had been chosen to think about all the things I do so that you won't have to, and can get on with your lives.

Which brings us back to a subject for my next blog. Tell you what—why don't you choose one from those mentioned above and let me know? I'll be happy to oblige.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Letting Go

When it comes to the subject of letting go, my reaction/response is simple: I can't. Not of things, not of those I love, not of memories, not of time. I cling to them with what I know many would consider an emotionally unhealthy desperation. This isn't a new obsession; I've had it all my life. To let go of things is to let go of part of myself. As I near 80...and I am amazed that I can even allow myself to write that number...I cling more desperately, because I have fewer years to cling to them, fewer years they will be mine. That's not being negative; it's simply a matter of fact.

Yesterday I broke one of my favorite pieces of I'd bought when I lived in Los Angeles. Will I throw it away? Of course not. I have determined to buy some glue and repair it. Will I, or will I simply keep the broken piece in a plastic bag intending to repair it, as I have the broken-three-years-ago piece of the ornate gilt picture frame in which my grandmother's photo sits, and the two pieces-of-felt “eyes” that came off Clancy, a rag-doll cop I bought for Ray, again while I lived in L.A.?

I have always treasured those qualities of a child (imagination, joy, enthusiasm) I've managed to...well, yes, cling to throughout my life. But doing so comes at the expense of constant conflicts with reality and the real world. Mostly it is not a problem and I manage to ignore those parts of reality I would have different. (When I see a beautiful man on the street, I am pleased to know he is gay. Whether he is, in reality, gay or not doesn't matter one iota. Chances are I will never get to know him personally, so what difference does it make?) It is the way I am, the way I have always been, and I cannot see any value whatsoever in letting go of it.

As to physical things, I make a direct mental connection between the thing itself and the person/people with whom I associate it. The stronger the association, the more difficult it is to let go of. To physically hold or touch something those I've loved have held or touched is a solid bridge to the time when they did hold or touch it, and as long as I have it, I have a part of them. Logic and reality mean nothing to the heart. We are each constrained by the limits of our own body and by the laws of society; they are the ground upon which we stand and to which we are affixed by gravity. But the mind and heart are the ski, where there are no limits at all.

Unfortunately, for me, not letting go of memories extends too often to all the embarrassing, stupid, thoughtless, hurtful things I have done through my life. I cannot get rid of them, no matter how hard I try and they will suddenly pop into my mind with no forewarning. (One just appeared: I was in my early teens, in downtown Rockford with my dad. We stopped somewhere and Dad bought me a bag of loose candy. It wasn't until I had finished the last piece that I realized I had eaten it all without offering any to my dad. Dad's been dead forty-four years, now, and this flash of memory still fills me with a real sense of shame for my selfishness.)

Eastern religions teach that the more one can let go of things, the more free one is, and I do not question this for a moment. I have friends to whom things mean very little, and who can casually throw out an old jacket they've had since college, or piece of furniture they've had for years without a second thought. I cannot. I will, perhaps unfairly of me, leave it to whoever will deal with them when I, as we all eventually must, lose my grip on the window ledge of time.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Willing Eunuch

Let's face it. We are increasingly a society of eunuchs.

Lily Tomlin's wonderful character, Ernestine, the telephone operator, sums up much of what has led to this situation with her classic line: "We don't care. We don't have to. We're the Phone Company." This attitude is apparently shared by fully 95 percent of all corporations and businesses upon whom our lives depend, and the endlessly repeated assurances that "your call is very important to us" while you sit on hold for 45 minutes is nothing but bullshit. The worst thing is that the company knows it is bullshit and, like Ernestine's employer, they simply don't care. Why should they? What can you do about it, anyway?

My nearest supermarket is a large Chicago chain, Dominick's, and the one closest to me is located adjacent to DePaul University. It's a much smaller store and it is patently obvious that the corporation uses it as a dumping ground for outdated products. Because it's located near a university and its customers are largely college kids who, it is highly unlikely, even realize there is an expiration date on anything (including their own lives), the company rightly assumes they'll never notice they're being ripped off.

I have complained to the manager at least six times about the fact that their dairy products are, 80 percent of the time, either past their "sell by" date or within one or two days of it. The manager listens patiently each time, assures me that it is all purely coincidental, that there is absolutely no conscious effort on their part to try to pawn off older products at this particular store, and sends me on my way.

Yesterday while shopping there, I saw a product I'd not seen before....a packaged coffee flavoring, which I decided to try, and grabbed without looking. This morning, as I fixed my coffee, I opened the package and took out one of the six packets. Looking for the calorie count, which I always do since I need all the calories I can get, I noted "Expires: 04-10-13." I plan to return it to the store, and I will again speak to the manager, who will apologize and again assure me that it was purely coincidental. And I will once again be sent on my way, fuming. I'm thinking of asking for the name and address of Dominick's C.E.O. and writing him/her. But we all know where that will lead, don't we?

Ours is increasingly a society in which the individual is constantly made aware that he or she is totally at the mercy of whatever greed-driven whim strikes those too powerful to be affected by what anyone thinks. The feeling of being totally, utterly powerless is frustrating, and too much frustration can easily lead to madness. Is it really any wonder that people wander around with loaded weapons (thanks, N.R.A.!!) finally venting their frustration by shooting people at random?

I realized that asking for the name and address of Dominick's C.E.O., and expecting some sort of redress would be pointless. It would either never be read or if it were to be read, be viewed through the glazed eyes of total indifference. To counter that inevitability, I have just finished a note to the Chicago Health Department. Let's see them “coincidence” their way out of that one. And I hold the romantic's hope that if enough other people actually did let those in power know they're sick and tired of being shat upon, there might actually be hope for change. Perhaps pigs can fly.

When is the last time you felt taken advantage of? When's the last time you were treated rudely or ignored by a sales person? Or had poor service in a restaurant, or been served cold or overcooked food? But more importantly, when is the last you did anything about it? When is the last time you asked to speak to a manager?....Think, now..... Exactly. There does come a time when when if we refuse to stand up for ourselves we forfeit the right to complain, and every time you allow yourself to be treated poorly without saying something....well, I'm sorry, but you get just what you deserve.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Another Day

Last week I posted two letters from the journal I kept of my odyssey during my attempt to flee reality after the death of my mother in 1971 (dear Lord, 42 years ago! 42 years! How can that be?), I thought I'd post another entry from it.

57th day. Baton Rouge, LA 9:12 a.m.

Would you believe 82 degrees yesterday? That’s just a mite warm for mid-December, even in Louisiana. Today, as a pleasant change of pace, it is raining.

Baton Rouge, as capitol of Louisiana, has no particular character of its own, with the possible exception of the narrowest main street in the United States. As in many state capitols (this one also haunted by the ghosts of the Longs), the state is buying up whole tracts of the downtown area for construction of state buildings. I’m sure there are charming sections of the city, reflecting the dear dead days of the Old South, but I have yet to come across them. Later today (I’m doing laundry at the moment) I may look up the Chamber of Commerce and get some sort of directions.

The gulf between experience and expression continues to frustrate me. I’m great on experience, every little nerve end a’tingle, aware to the 9s. But to express these experiences in the hopes of sharing or even conveying them, I find myself with a set of mental children’s blocks with most of the vowels missing.

A hard admission, but I really doubt that I will ever be the great writer I had hoped to be. One hell of a lot more self control would be great help. A longer attention span would also be an asset. As would a more extensive vocabulary, a dashing personality, a radiant smile, and several million dollars. (If you’re going to dream, dream big.)

In fact, I find it—as the admission of my inability to write grows—almost impossible to write at all. Still, I’m not happy unless I’m frustrated, I suppose, and this is as good a reason for frustration as any other.

Fascinating Revelations on the Status of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as State Capitol & Progressive Representative of the New South: the Baton Rouge main library does not have a public restroom.

2:25 p.m. Still (to no one’s surprise) raining—a very weak, fits-&-starts type rain, as though it were preoccupied and just doing it out of habit.

Wiled away the afternoon at a movie, a luxury I don’t allow myself very often (only because there has been almost nothing at all to see since I left California).

At the risk of being redundant, I’ve come to the conclusion that one reason for not writing more is that I have very little to say when it comes right down to it.

There is an old church across the way, of the simple wedding-cake variety. Beige, very angular, with a tall ornate steeple—from its bell tolls the hour (although sometimes it gets a little carried away, ringing ten times for 5:30) in a very non-melodious “Clang.” It looks like the type of church one sees in the movies, where all the natives have gathered to escape the typhoon, only to have the roof fall in on them.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Change in My Blog Schedule

PLEASE NOTE: Just wanted you to know that my blog schedule is changing from every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to every Monday and Thursday. There's just too much going on right now to be able to maintain a three-blog-per-week schedule. Thanks.

Monday, April 08, 2013

"If" Past, "If" Future

Words never cease to amaze me—not only collectively, in their number, their sounds, their complexity, and the infinite number of ways in which they can be linked together to convey thoughts and emotions, but as individual words.

I've long ago given up any attempt to figure out why specific words will present themselves in my head and refuse to go away until I've entertained them awhile and let them carry me to places I had no original intention of going.

Today, for whatever reason, I was thinking of the simple word “if” (“introducing a conditional clause
on the condition or supposition that; in the event that”). I realized just how powerful a word it is when it comes to evoking emotion. When used in reference to past events, it is more often than not relates to regret or unhappiness—to opportunities lost, to choices not made, to directions not taken. It is human nature to constantly wonder how things might have been different had certain words been said or not been said; had we done something differently from what we did. And there are few things more frustrating or futile than to speculate on these things.

Ifs” applied to past actions and events are, for far too many people, anchors weighing down the heart and soul and hindering growth and progress. I doubt there are very many humans who would not want to be able to go back and change something painful in their past that might have been averted had we acted differently.

I myself have a long litany of “ifs past,” of so many stupid, ill-considered, and hurtful-to-myself-and-others things I've said and done that I wish with all my heart I had not. I suspect the same may be true with you. I would give anything to cash in an “if” each time to have avoided them. But there are few things more futile or wasteful—or common—than dwelling on things which cannot be changed. A word once said cannot be unsaid, an action once taken can, while it may at times be patched over or repaired, but cannot be changed. While “ifs past” almost always are born of regret, “ifs future” are more often seeds of hope. “Ifs future” can be blueprints for sketching out growth and positive courses of action.

The word “if” is the fulcrum on which the future is balanced. To do one thing rather than the other changes, subtly or profoundly, every instant of your future from that moment on. I've always held, in an out-of-left-field digression, that time travel into the past would be impossible because the traveler's mere presence in a time in which he did not belong would in and of itself alter and thereby negate the world from which he left. At some point, travel into the future might be conceivable if only because it would not be destroying anything in the past, though it might damage the fulcrum on which the future from that point on rests.

The only logical and positive way of dealing with “ifs past” is to totally accept the fact that they are past and there is nothing at all we can do about them accept, hopefully, learn from them and do our best not to recreate the situations from which they emerged.

It may not be easy, but since there is no other real alternative, I might as well give it a try. Care to join me?

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

Friday, April 05, 2013

Two Days

When my mom died, in September of 1971, I quit my job, bought a 21-foot Winnebago motor home, and took off, more running from than running to.

I came across the journal I wrote during my travels, and for no particular reason, felt like sharing it with you. Here are two excerpts:

12-14-71 54th day. Beside the Gulf of Mexico. 12:47 p.m.

Where to start? How to pick up one thought, like one single shell on the beach, and let the others be? Looking out the camper window across the narrow beach dotted with rusting tin cans, un-rusting aluminum cans, plastic bottles, mysterious boards and beams whose past I’ll never know (and they have forgotten), the Gulf goes on about its business with a continuous, eternal “hiss.” And the shells. Millions upon millions of them in any given one-block area, each like a snowflake, completely unique. Of a thousand varieties, and within a narrower spectrum, colors, shapes and intricate configurations. Some are flat and round, like drop cookies. Others are pale and humped, like potato rolls, still others like bagels, smooth and crisp-looking.

Whenever I walk along the beach, I always look straight down at the ground. That way the world unravels much more slowly, but in much greater detail.

Took several long walks along the beach today, collecting shells. Collecting shells must surely be one of the most common and, in the long run, useless hobbies of mankind. They are, indeed beautiful, but there are so many of them I’d have the camper full to the rafters in two days if I tried to keep them all. And then, like the dog that caught the car he was chasing: what do you do with them. They invariably end up in a drawer somewhere and no one can remember exactly where they came from. Neither, I’m sure, do they.

One wonders: does anyone ever turn off the ocean when no one is around to watch? Does the wind carry the waves into shore, or do the waves fan the wind? How many waves have existed since time began?

12-15-71 55th Day. Beside the Gulf of Mexico. 9:08 a.m.

A hearty breakfast (tomato juice, toast and peanut butter, milk, and coffee) followed by chores ( doing dishes) and soon after writing this, a long walk on the beach. I feel rather like Thoreau. The day is overcast and the gulf has pulled back from the shore about 50 feet, apparently to think it over.

The road I’ve taken between Galveston and Port Arthur sees very little traffic, and there is no sizeable human settlement for miles. The result was, last night, one of those totally black nights I used to associate with nights at sea.

Still, from somewhere I can hear a low, regular thrumming sound like a working engine, whose source I can’t identify. Strange, I thought it might be the electric wires running beside the road, but they have a hum of their own which is much more high pitched.

A large flock of black birds has found something fascinating (to them) in the field directly across the road and they are busily moving on the ground as if they thought they were a herd of grazing cows.

The ground is very flat with trees only on the horizon (logical, since trees on a large level plain create a horizon), all tired green mixed with the brown of dead weeds. Here and there, if one looks close, are little clumps of yellow daisies with large button-brown centers.

2:40 p.m. Out walking, collecting shells, washing and soaking them. I must have 300 of them by now. I’m going to experiment with shellacking them and perhaps mounting them in some way. If it can’t be done, I’ll just throw them away. I don’t know what I’ll do with them in the meantime.

I must have walked at least 5 miles along the beaches, and enjoyed every moment of it. Perhaps I can become a beach bum.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Musicals and the "Gay Gene"

One doesn't have to be gay to love Broadway musicals, but it's a popular cliché that for a male to love them is tantamount to having “I'm gay” stenciled on his forehead, and strong scientific evidence of the existence of a “gay gene” in the DNA of homosexual men. Well, aside from the fact that I do hold with those who sincerely believe that there is a genetic predisposition to being gay, I also believe that there are very sound reasons why so many gays are drawn to musicals.

Musical comedies are happily-ever-after fairy tales to delight and comfort both children and adults. Other musicals, more serious in nature, lead us reflectively deeper into our souls. But almost all musicals can serve to reaffirm our too-often-battered belief in love and goodness and beauty and joy.

Musicals are fantasies for those who feel estranged from a “real world” in which they feel they do not belong. They are the right-there-on-the-stage encapsulated dreams of worlds we wish existed. Their stories are told largely in songs which often speak to basic human needs...most especially to the feeling of belonging; of not being alone, but a part of something infinitely larger than ourselves. Sitting in a darkened theater, our hearts and minds can let go of the world as we know it. We can pick from their songs those which speak directly to and for our individual souls, expressing our thoughts, our hopes, our longings better than we ever could ourselves. (“Maybe This Time” from Cabaret, “Impossible Dream” from Man of La Mancha, “What I Did for Love” from A Chorus Line, “I Am What I Am” from La Cage Aux Folles are just a few of the songs which grab me by the soul each time I hear them.)

Being different is never easy, and often painful, and the more “different” you are, the more painful it is. Of course, everyone is different in their own way, but for most people the areas of overlapping with the thoughts and feelings and experiences of others softens the edges of the pain. I grew up in a world in which those like me were considered—and often treated as—“an abomination in the eyes of God,” homosexual “acts” were literally crimes, and homosexuality was at best recognized as a mental illness. Is it any wonder that I and many like me, being told we did not belong, sought places where we could feel we did? Broadway musicals provided, and provide, an escape from reality.

Society has come further in the past 15 years regarding acceptance and inclusion of gays and lesbians than ever before in modern history. That there are now hugely popular musicals like The Boy from Oz, La Cage aux Folles and the unapologetically joyous, over-the-top, in-your-face-gay Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is further evidence of societal change.

I have no idea exactly how many musicals I have seen over the course of my life—probably close to 100, at least—and with very few exceptions I remember them with total contentment, happiness, and gratitude for the pleasure they have given me. The only thing I dislike about them is that moment when the last bow has been taken and the curtain comes down for the last time. It is then that I and my “gay gene” must once again walk out of the theater into the real world, the applause echoing in my mind and heart.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

Monday, April 01, 2013

Habits, Routines, and Ruts

I've not used an alarm clock in 40 years or more; I automatically wake up around 6 a.m., no matter how late I've gotten to bed, and no matter if there is a reason to wake up that early or not. On blog-entry days, I am compelled to have them posted by no later than 6:45 (even though I allow myself wiggle room at the bottom of each entry when I say they'll be posted by 10 a.m. Central time), because I know I have a couple East coast readers who look at them before going to work.

We are all creatures of habit, and the only difference between habit and routine is the frequency with which it is repeated. The repetitiveness of routine, however, too rapidly begins to wear a path into one's daily life, and soon becomes a rut. You know you've gone from routine to rut when any disruption to the routine is viewed with resistance, anxiety, and frustration. The older we become, the deeper our ruts become until we have dug a rut so deep it is almost impossible to climb out.

Friday is laundry day. (Why Friday? Just because I always do laundry on Friday. I know that doesn't answer the question, but if you're looking for logic, you're in the wrong place.) My apartment building is 11 stories tall, has 200 units, and a total of 5 washing machines and 5 driers, one pair on each even-numbered floor. So finding a vacant machine when you want it is something of a game of musical chairs. The entire process, once I do find a machine, takes about an hour and a half per load, and I always manage to have two loads, which means that unless I want to drag the process out for hours, I try to do both loads at once, which involves finding two empty machines at the same time. So as a result, I try to get my laundry started by 6:45 a.m. before anyone else gets there.

The machines are operated by the kind of electronic plastic cards which have replaced keys in hotels. You can add money to the card at any time, and having not surprisingly lost my card a couple of times, I try not to keep too much money on it. This past Friday I got up, posted the blog, gathered the laundry, and then remembered that I'd used up all the money on my card the previous Friday, and all I had was a $20 bill which I was not about to splurge on a laundry card I could and probably would lose ten minutes after I recharged it.

I was rather surprised by just how this really minor incident seemed to throw the whole day into chaos, sending me figuratively running around in circles (ruts, anyone?) wringing my hands and muttering "Oh, my! Oh, my!"

Every morning is like the morning before and the morning after: put the coffee on, turn on the Today Show at 7 a.m., have a glass of V8 juice, a cup (well, half a cup, since I never, ever finish it) of coffee and a chocolate covered donut. Why don't I have cereal? Or an English muffin? Or fix an egg? Or make a pancake? Because I have a glass of V8, a cup of coffee, and a donut, that's why. I tell myself it's because of the 350 calories in the donut....something an English muffin wouldn't provide. It is a rut I have dug from which I cannot climb out.

I write most of the day, with frequent and prolonged—but flexible—interruptions for emails and other distractions, so the time between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. is relatively rut-free. And I realize with mild horror, that it is the only time of my life that is.

At 5:30 each night I watch the evening news, then a set series of TV programs which takes me until bedtime. I almost never go out at night. (Go out on a Thursday evening and miss "Supernatural"?? Unthinkable! Go out to dinner on a Sunday evening and miss "60 Minutes"?? Impossible!)

We reach the point where we take comfort in our ruts, and this is definitely not a good thing. I have got to break mine. I've got to! Maybe I'll go to a movie tonight. Yes! I will! (But wait....Rachel Maddow is on at 8. Well, I'll go tomorrow for sure.)

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (