There are three graphics going around Facebook these days that cause me to pause and contemplate. They’re supposed to be funny and the originator probably didn’t intend them to provoke deep philosophical thoughts, but nonetheless.

The last few years have just been something. I remarked the other day that having the rug pulled out from under my feet every 30 seconds or so should feel normal; it should no longer surprise me or provoke nothing more than an off-hand comment of “here we go again.”

Still, I’m surprised, outraged, demoralized, saddened, defeated or whatever emotion the Lucy-with-the-football moment has provoked. This proves something although I’m not sure what. Perhaps it proves that finding contentment in chaos is pretty damned difficult, but I suspect that any of the Buddhists of my acquaintance could have told me that. I wouldn’t have argued with them either because I am having a right awful time with finding any contentment, much less holding on to it long enough to marvel at the positive aspects of chaos.

I tried to abolish the rest of July the other day, but folks celebrating a birthday this month were opposed. In truth, it’s not just been July that’s been a problem so it was a flawed idea – a no solution solution.

Right on schedule, at about the age of 30 or so, I noticed that I didn’t know one single normal person. In talking with other people, I gather this is a rite of passage. Young’uns get this idea from somewhere that at the appropriate calendar moment they will enter the great society of something called “grownups” and much of the drama of the playground, school hallway and sports fields will cease. Decisions will be thoughtful and correct. Maturity and right-thinking will be abound and between bouts of doing the right thing, flossing our teeth, paying our bills on time, and running well-ordered lives, the “grownups” will look around, take a gander at what’s not working and correct it.

Poppycock. This is probably the worst fairytale we tell our children. “Grownups” are nothing more than children without the qualities that make children such wonderful creatures. Worse, the quirks of childhood solidify into something heavy, dark and dreary. There is so much that we don’t outgrow. And some of what we do outgrow, perhaps we shouldn’t. How I would have loved the other day to stand up and shout “Liar, liar, pants on fire!” But grownups don’t do that. If we’ve been through enough classes, employee trainings, and CEU conferences, we might say something like “That’s not my understanding of what happened.”

By the age of 50, most of us understand that “normal” is nothing but a dryer setting. But chances are pretty good that we’re angry about that truth. At least that’s my take when a statement purporting to state the norm is always met by a “but.” “But” is a result of the residual anger from learning the playground bullies are still bullies, the tattletale is still tattling and we’re still using rock, paper, scissors to solve problems.

Some of us embark on Sinatra’s “My Way” to navigate our lives. We’ve learned that the “grownups” aren’t, there is no “normal” and the Buddha is always killed on the road. We resolve to pilot our own ship, forge our destiny, march to our own drummer, yada yada yada. While we’re heaping those platitudes on the Chinette plate of our lives, we pass over Donne’s “No Man is an Island.” Perhaps we never had a teacher make us read that bit of wisdom.

No man is an island,

Entire of itself.

Each is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manor of thine own

Or of thine friend’s were.

Each man’s death diminishes me,

For I am involved in mankind.

Therefore, send not to know

For whom the bell tolls,

It tolls for thee.

John Donne

I’m not good at planning. I never have been, but like Charlie Brown, I continue to try. I set out from a to b with the simplest path in mind. I’m never very far when chaos reminds me I’m not an island and the rich, often rewarding, continent of my life is going to complicate the straight route I’ve planned.

I had plans for this weekend that were derailed before the first footstep. Before I could alter them appropriately, a tragedy unfolded killing folks I don’t know and I’m caught up in the tolling bells. While learning of that horror, I read of others and now Wordsworth’s “The world is too much with me” is complicating the hope of the Easy Way to prevail.


The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;

The winds that will be howling at all hours,

And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,

For this, for everything, we are out of tune;

It moves us not.–Great God! I’d rather be

A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;

So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,

Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;

Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;

Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

William Wordsworth

Someone I knew, who died a few months ago, used to go on a media fast once a year to celebrate his birthday. For thirty days, he partook of no television, newspapers, Internet. It sounded like a fine idea, but I don’t have the self-discipline to effect such a total block. Periodically, I’ll declare a media fast lite where I refuse all but the lightest forms of media entertainment ignoring politics and the mayhem of what we call “news.”

Is finding contentment in chaos achieved by blinders? Maybe? Is it necessary to allow my senses to be assaulted by the mayhem with only literature as a bandage?

And why is it that I think if I could only restore order to my home, I could find some equanimity? I know this last thing to be true, because it’s worked so many times before. Is it because by controlling what I can, I buy into that childish myth that when I’m a grownup I’ll have the power to right wrongs?

Liar, liar, pants on fire.

I’m off to self-delude.


Long, Uninterrupted Stretches of Time

This guy speaks cogently about a long-time wish of mine – long, uninterrupted stretches of time to get stuff done.  My inner adult and inner child are squabbling at this very moment trying to force me off this sofa to get ready to go to work.  I have a daunting to-do list including a fair amont of creative type stuff.  Tomorrow morning, the to-do list will include everything that’s on it now, plus some more stuff.  This will continue.  Finally, a crisis will arise and there I’ll be, off the clock late in the evening, finally getting something done.

This speech was not a revelation TO ME.  If my time is fragmented, so is my work and I end up with pieces hither and yon.  I sit down down to try and aggregate them and I’m interrupted yet again.  I’ve never been able to explain to folks that when that happens, I have to rewind and start over.  While being taking to task for having not completed a creative project, I explained I needed an uninterrupted stretch of time.  The response:  “Well, we know that’s not going to happen.”

Yes.  Yes, we do.


Dear Don

Dear Don,

Do you really want to help? Really? Perhaps you might look at the “cutting costs” part of Appalachian Power’s, ahem, “commitment.”

Once again, my power is up and down like a yo-yo today. This is a regular occurrence – day in and day out. I talked about this yesterday when my power went out for no apparent reason. Here I am today, again, talking about it still. Are we really in this together? Does your power go up and down all day long every day? I bet not.

This problem predates the Derecho by months and years. Perhaps all that cost cutting including reduction of personnel has something to do with the fact that Appalachian Power linemen were mournful sad when they looked at the neglected right-of-way that houses the pole that serves my house. Although they were right there and could see what a mess it is, they couldn’t do anything about it. I was instructed to formally request attention to the right-of-way.

Funny that. I can report an outage online with nothing but my phone number, but to request attention to the underlying problem of my frequent outages, I have to provide my account number. Since I pay my bill on time, I don’t have one laying around. Trying to get the number online has been difficult as the server keeps resetting. Perhaps the server farm is served by AEP and their power is yo-yo-ing.

So, Don, I’d appreciate it if you’d get somebody out here to tend to that right-of-way. I’d do it myself, but your website says that you don’t want me to because you’re awful concerned about my safety. I’m betting the real reason is that you think I’d sue the pants off of you if I got hurt. You’re probably right.

I thought you might want to take a gander at how well the company has profited with all that cost cutting and profit guarantee stuff going on.

I hear tell that it’s likely Appalachian Power will request another rate increase to pay for the damage from the Derecho.  I also hear tell that y’all have an agreement with the state that guarantees a profit.  I wonder how many folks doing business in West Virginia would love the guarantee of a profit?  Why, Don, with a guarantee, you can provide people with truly terrible service and still satisfy the shareholders.  Isn’t that nifty?