You Say Metanoia, I Say Paranoia (Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off!*)

(*…and here I go abusing another great song lyric for my own humorous-slash-nefarious purposes…sorry, Gershwin boys!)

Eschatology, doomsday, survivalism, hoarding, isolationism, and prepper lists. I’d say that Americans are world champions at fear-mongering and xenophobia, but if I take the slightest look at the news I can see countries and territories everywhere that are also writhing in terror and pain over not only who owns what but who can have access to it, ‘earned’ or not. The very concept of countries and territories, of course, derives from the native human us-vs-them identification/classification that lends itself so easily to the fright, anger, and defensiveness (or offensiveness) that never fades when it comes to insiders, outsiders, patriots, infidels, and our whole complicated scheme of morality and ethics, never mind of property and propriety. The online world is a reflection of the IRL one.

While my own experience of online life—and I thank you all profusely for this—is entirely positive, full of thoughtful, generous, and creative community regardless of our differing backgrounds and opinions and experiences, some of those kinds of differences are expressed at times with more than a little assumption that our natural finitude as humans is coming to a corporate conclusion in the near future. Not just those near futures that are already past, those implosion-and-armageddon predictions derived from interpretations of the Mayan calendar or spiritual texts or the signs in NASDAQ trends that have sailed away into the mists of history, leaving relatively small ripples in their wake, there are always financial, political, religious, social, or natural predictors and people who interpret them to mean that the End is [VERY] Near and only those who are well stocked with the prescribed stuff and attitudes will survive and prevail. I certainly can’t prove otherwise.

You can find online guidebooks and lists all over the place telling you precisely how you should think, act, and stock up your bunker in order to be among the safe, comfortable few who rise above the disaster, whatever each author assures you it is. What is strikingly absent in 99% of what I’ve seen and read in these benevolent directives that purport to teach you how to outsmart and outlast everyone else is humanity. When it does appear, usually in reference to buying or bartering, it’s often assumed that anyone else who survives the disaster is no more peaceable or non-threatening than the author of the present document, who often lists guns and ammunition among the first items to stock in quantity and only much later, if at all, includes things like rice and beans, a kit of medical emergency basics, or sewing supplies. I find it somewhere between mystifying and hilarious that many lists I see are full of things like power generators from people who purport to favor complete and off-grid self-sufficiency, and pitiful that highly processed fuels designed for machine use come to mind as people are compiling these lists far before they get around to mention of fishing gear, garden tools, cookware, or books, the latter of which are often specified only as the guidebooks that were written to prepare for previous world-ends that never happened.Digital illo from a photo: Metanoia or Paranoia?

All I can say in response to this sort of thing is, how sad. Wouldn’t my first and best hope be to find comrades and build communities of support? To rediscover the simplest and least dangerous tools, techniques, and materials for living that will secure us, feed us, clothe and shelter and comfort us? And especially, to find endless ways to make music together, ways to grow, strengthen, and enhance the ties that make us able to respect and care for one another, to find joy and hope and love, in whatever new version of reality we find ourselves occupying. Yes, that above all. It will seem idealistic and futile to those who are busy preparing themselves for all-out/all-in war and a last-one-standing universe, but that’s a world in which I do not choose to exist anyway, and if I am to continue, I will only thrive in a world where idealists still do live and love and the known best survival tools are information and communication, the best skills diplomacy, empathy, and compassion.

Timid Creatures that We Are

photoUncertainty of Heart

Amid most fond expressions of affection, endless love,

Devotion and determination to be stewards of

These sentiments and feelings, is that little nagging voice

That tells us it would not be so if we had any choice,

Because we are perfidious by nature, roaming, weak,

And fearful of commitment to degrees we cannot speak,

And paranoid, on top of it, that others are the same,

And so we speak our pretty vows and play our little game,

Attempting to convince ourselves as much as other folk

That our desires and adoration aren’t some flimsy joke—

The shocking Surprise Ending to this tale is that at death,

Some of us finally realize upon our final breath

That all of it was true, and that our hearts were so inclined;

Too bad we take so long, we fools, to see that we have lived as blind.photo

Noirish

Here Lies a Haunted Man

First thing in the morning a perfect blue sky,

with a few sheepish clouds and a breeze,

gives no indication of what, when or why

we believe we must hide in the trees,

to disguise from what enemy, storm, or what foe,

or to vanish from sight for which reason;

we know none of that, but we certainly know

we have entered a paranoid season.digital artwork

Dreamscape

Out of the leaves of a banana tree

A mysterious Eye is staring at me;

I have some magnetic pull, it seems,

For the kind of stuff that makes up dreams.

Ten past midnight, and all is well

Except that I’m under the nightly spell

That thrusts me onto those strange savannahs

Where pursuers send me stark bananas.

Dizzily Dark Imaginings

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Getting Singed

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Is it my imagination, or is it a little bit hot in here???

Femme Fatale

Barbara is standing by to cut my scruffy hair:

but, say–doesn’t that look a bit like an electric chair?

Look at that pair of scissors–oh, boy howdy, are they sharp!

Will my coiffure just leave me playing sad songs on the harp?

I’d say it’s mighty hot in here–a preview glimpse of Hell,

Or maybe just a purgatory-hint, that hairspray smell–

I’m not so absolutely sure that something here is wrong;

and yet, what’s so darned horrible in leaving hair this long?

Is it sheer paranoia and delusion of myself–

Hey! What’s that creepy science stuff in tubes up on the shelf?

I’m getting awfully shaggy, yes, it’s true–but not a Nut!

(I merely hope it’s nothing but my hair that will get cut!)

Oh, Barbara, I am nervous, so please, kindly, Dear, refrain

from trimming quite so near my throbbing jugular, poor vein.

And if you have to croak me (does this happen very often?),

at least make sure I’m wearing stylish hair there in my coffin.

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One way or another, I’ll be a hot number when I come out of here.

Car Crash Bad

I almost crashed the car. While I make no claims of being an outstandingly skillful driver, I do credit myself with being a pretty sensible, legal and even careful one. But I’m not infallible, either. I’m just very glad I happen to be lucky, too.

So my close call was just that, a close call. It would have been my own fault as well, because although I did wait and look all directions and not see any cars coming my way since the one that was was behind something bigger the whole time I scanned that direction, it jolly well was there and it was moving rather quickly. Possibly even faster than was strictly appropriate in that stretch, but I was still the driver that started to turn left at the light directly in front of that oncoming car. Our respective guardian angels were evidently working overtime, because both the other driver and I were able to brake and steer out of the situation fairly swiftly.

A split second’s difference, and our cars could have been demolished, our selves injured or even killed. That accident being technically my fault would have been utterly irrelevant outside of legal terms and in practical terms: both of our lives stood a hair’s-breadth from being forever altered, not to mention the effects on all of the life-dominoes that would inevitably be downed or redirected by that incident. All because of a single mote’s difference.digital collageAnd we two, and all of those around us at the intersection, in the following second or two regrouped and continued just as though nothing had happened at all, if perhaps with a dash of adrenaline pumping.

Isn’t that the way that we live every day, every moment, though? Whether through wickedness or stupidity we go astray, or merely by happenstance or sheer momentary bad luck, we are at risk every instant we’re alive. As a person who copes with exaggerated anxiety (thankfully, mine is treatable), I could easily find excuse in that for any amount of paranoia and become anything from a perpetual pessimist to an emotionally crippled hermit. But besides being impractical, that’s a hideously unappealing plan for existence.

My solution is to keep working on my vigilance as far as paying attention to the details in day-to-day life, hoping that others are doing the same and we’re all generally watching out for each other, too, and assuming that my good luck, guardian angels and/or serendipitous circumstances will always tip in my favor. Beyond that, knowing that I can’t control any such things, I know it’s best to just turn off the switch, to let go. I even like to think I can be on the lookout for more excuses to be delighted with life and let the accidents be ones of tripping over unexpected joys. There’s far too much fine and happy stuff in the mix that should not be missed or wasted.

Life, that’s Good.photo

Of Dire Days and Nebulous Nights

 

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Missing You

The kettle on the hob is hissing

Without cease, for Kettie’s missing—

She dashed out to check the door

And hasn’t come back anymore;

Although we saw a pair of shoes

And stockinged legs amid the ooze,

Heels up, in yon green murky swamp,

We dasn’t get our own shoes damp

By plunging toward her in the rough

Glutinous muck, and soon enough

The heels stopped kicking anyhow.

No one will come for coffee now,

For though ‘twas us stood at her door,

She slipped; shan’t visit anymore.

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Slightly Bent

Emmylou and Louie went

To town together long ago—

They went to town, for all we know;

Although they both were slightly bent,

We think they just went off to town,

Not that they were bumped off, ambushed,

Stabbed, poisoned, or shot down;

But given they were slightly bent,

Our finding them quite stone cold dead

Was not a shock, it must be said,

So we’re not certain where they went

Or what they did or what it meant

Or whether in the town or out,

Or if some others were about

That had a slightly different bent,

But anyway, the two are dead,

Both of them, Emmylou and Louie,

And lest I should become all gooey,

That’s the whole that need be said.