Confound it!

Mirriam-Webster says the word “confound”, as meaning “destroy”, was first used in the 14th century. They track its derivation back through Middle English to Ango-French, which picked it up from Latin (meaning to “pour together”, thus bringing disorder). Currently, its 1st meaning is to throw a person into confusion or perplexity.

A Google Ngram shows the usage frequency of a word or phrase. “Confound” had been on a one hundred year decline in usage. That changed in the year 2000 CE.

What the trigger was for this shift will probably never be known. Here is how Wikipedia remembers that year:

The first day of the 21st century and 3rd millennium was celebrated worldwide on New Year’s Day 2000, even though according to the calendar it is a year early. End of Israeli occupation of Lebanon. Second Intifada begins. George W. Bush is elected President of the United States. Vicente Fox becomes the first opposition President of Mexico. Vladimir Putin becomes President of Russia. British Army launch Operation Palliser which effectively ends the Sierra Leone Civil War. International Space Station begins operations. First Inter-Korean summit. al-Qaeda suicide bombs the USS Cole. Philippine forces captured the main camp of MILF, Camp Abubakar in Mindanao. The Luoyang Christmas fire at a shopping center in China kills 309 people. ILOVEYOU computer virus. Millennium Summit. Air France Flight 4590, crashes into a hotel in Gonesse just after takeoff from Paris, killing all 109 aboard and 4 in the hotel. Overthrow of Slobodan Milošević. ASG gunmen seized 21 people including 10 tourists and 11 resort workers, two of them Filipinos, from the resort island of Sipadan, Malaysia. A rare century leap year date occurs. Canonization of Faustina Kowalska in the presence of 200,000 people and the first Divine Mercy Sunday celebrated worldwide. Elián González returns to Cuba with his father, Juan Miguel González, ending a protracted custody battle. Multiple terrorist bombings in Metro Manila occurs on Rizal Day, killing 22 people and injuring more than 120 others. Deaths of Charles Schulz, Alec Guinness, Walter Matthau, Tom Landry and Steve Allen.

Somehow it left out Wisconsin winning the Rose Bowl in 2000.

The Ngram only goes to 2012, but I sense that confounding is continuing to rise. It is something more significant than a virus and a quarantine.

Confusion and perplexity have moved on from seeming happenstance to an intentional strategy by those reactive to what seems like a shift away from established entitlements. This already arrived, but not yet consolidated, new stage or state of living with one another and the earth is greeted with a flurry of alternative facts. Such reversals of truth are ultimately no more successful than the curtain of the Wizard of OZ. At some point, a next Toto will reveal the Emperor’s Clothes to be absent, to be empty, as well as invisible.

The only refuge those trying to repeat a not so great past is a further plundering of physical resources, turning them into financial capital, and storing it back in the ground, absent any nutritional value to feed future generations.

In such a time, the throwing up of hands in frustration or surrendering to angst is tempting but not fruitful. Instead, those desiring clarity to being confounded can still focus on an old spiritual trick of letting their “Yes” be yes and “No” be no. This does not need an exclamation point to be effective. It is a simple recognition that there is no arguing with narcissistic liars and their fawning followers.

Still available is an affirmation of cardinal virtues: prudence (seeing ahead, wisdom), temperance (reasoned moderation), fortitude (courage), and justice (dealings with others). Blessings to you as you call them deeper into your life.

Form Follows Function

“Form follows function.” This famous dictum presents some difficulties. Its initial constraint is the linear linkage of incompatible categories. To phrase this more dramatically, “Function demands form.”

“Function” becomes a prime-mover. It carries with it both potential and intention. There is a sense of a fragile autocrat whose first word (often without a first thought) must stand forever. Here is an ancient king who can never be wrong; an entitled word once placed cannot be unspoken. This aspect of intention is part of the manifestation movement. If my field of dreams is visualized clearly enough, it will appear. There is no need for a second thought, a feedback loop, or forgiveness. “In the beginning” is sufficient for all time.

We are caught in a net of necessity when one thing follows another or is a direct and required antecedent of a next state. The bed of Procrustes becomes an apt image. If the form created by a function is too large or too small to adequately show off the function in all its glorious intention, it must be lopped off or stretched on a rack to just the right, Goldilockian, size.

In an independence-driven or narcissistically-limited setting, the great Me-Myself-I is both form and function, intention and result, always present everywhere—the measure of all.

“Form” turns out to be more static than when first revealed. It lingers, putting both itself and its source in danger. Though how long it takes to become habitual, a tradition, can widely vary, it soon becomes a persistent icon that is no longer capable of providing helpful feedback to the function it first imaged.

While a helpful tool to help those in power develop a series of constraints that will establish a particular set of entitlements, this ancient phrase does not hold over time. Eventually, a next god overthrows a Function, and forms shatter and are scattered. In a day when virus mutation outstrips the development of vaccines and treatment modalities, we can better see how many forms a function can have. A better hope may be tied to an appreciation of a cycle: a function develops a tentative form, listens to what it reveals, modifies the initial intention, reforms, and listens again. In such an interactive process, both initial functions and resultant forms can find a next intersection in which to rejoice and from which to become still.

Coming Loss

a Bob Franke song
reminds us of the lowly catfish
lounging on the bottom
knowing everything falls after all

the poet Rilke
first and middle names not needed
called a prophet of coming loss
clears illusions from willing eyes

Gordon Bok sings hope
to those despondent bound
watch earth dig toward a new day
still turning toward the morning

welcoming coming loss
thanks frees thanks
from clench-jawed fear
another sunrise — enough

Declaration of Dependence

Four score and lots more years ago, a document was brought forth claiming structural/corporate independence. A colony experiencing distance and discrimination declared a right to self-govern. Essentially immediately, that colony distanced and discriminated against Slaves, Indigenous Peoples, and Women.

The basic economic injustice that was occurring – continued with classes just as distinct in a nascent democracy as in an established monarchy. Names and titles changed. The circle of who is independent of whom grew beyond a colonized setting. It took a while, but we finally came to a Haloed 1% and an extension of personhood to corporations, rather than to disadvantaged peoples.

It wasn’t long before another claim of independence came, and there was a civil war over people as property. Though that war came to an end, it has not ended. A cold civil war continues.

Over time, the light of declared independence was kept alive in name and claim but began to be a bully by claiming an entitlement to control the economy of other nations. Which is to say, it kidded itself and its citizens into accepting marauding as an act of independence engaged in with neutral-to-beneficent intentions to bring others more prosperity.

Inherent in the initial setup — what is portrayed as a way to deepen local interdependence keeps playing out as a way to increase one group at the expense of another. Independence became known as a zero-sum game. The means of benefiting one’s self came with an “Oh so sorry for you” result of extended poverty.

Independence has always had a dark side. Its inherent defect is that my independence (be it personal or tribal or national) requires a limit on your liberty. Were it otherwise, there would be no power component to independence.

In these days, hyper-individualism on the personal level most clearly shows up in leaders reveling in non-responsibility, and their encouragement to “you and them fight” (meaning setting the states against one another in 50 civil wars). It also is revealed through those instigated to bring AR-15s to a virus fight. The weaponry is simply ineffective against a common threat. Neither Dan’l Boone nor Annie Oakley could bring down a virus. Imagine microscopes, CRISPRs, and scientific inquiry bearing the same headline weight as something as old-fashioned as might-makes-right.

A parallel declaration of dependence is needed to bring more health to our lives and that of earth. Without recognizing the value and virtue of some form of shared resources (taxation, among others) and interconnection of lives, independence keeps claiming that my well-being requires your resources. May we enhance our independence by knowing its limit — No humility, no glory.

Money

I’ve heard that “Money Talks!” Is that connected with feelings or just another way of saying, “Shut up! The Master is Telling!”?

Were money to notice, beyond its current location, that some of its siblings are concentrated in gated housing (financial establishments) and other relations were scattered but slowly migrating toward a universal reunion—would it laugh or cry?

Always there is the likely acknowledgment that money is but a pawn moved by a market’s finger. But feelings? None.

When those influenced by money have a surplus, it is easy to see a habit that escalates to never having enough.

When those influenced by money have a deficiency, it is easy to fixate on an increase-of-money as a solution.

When those influenced by money have sufficient, it is miraculous.

When finance measures meaning, it uses a magic elastic ruler. Those with a deficit turn out to be, on average, three-fifths of a person. Those with a surplus are granted possessions up to several billion deficient persons. Those who think they have about the right amount, are mostly dry drunks who would not risk the economic system to benefit its enslaved.

Always, the odds of economic change are at least 2:1 against. Even when a teensy virus reveals monetary pain next door, inertia enervates. A muted “tsk-tsk” is all that is heard in the land. Still, an opportunity to shift the conversation about what a compassionate economy would actively rank differently than a capitalist economy is present multiple times during this and every day.

Questions arise: How many opportunities have I already missed? Will I be ready for the next one? Ultimately, can Mammon be regulated or otherwise agree to any limit? If so, where is that boundary?

Small and Large

A virus is too small for unaided eyes to see. Yet, it is currently bringing down thousands of “centers-of-the-universe,” as surprised as Goliath at what a littl’n just did to him. At the same time, a teensy Coronid is aided and abetted by a lumbering Emperor of the Empire. When joined in equally mindless quests for self-perpetuation, Loud was and will be a next fall.

The effect of butterfly wings half-a-world away is revealed in exponentially larger results at our elbow. Our unconsidered wake returns the favor.

With a large enough population, yet unknown epigenome changes may have added resistance, for some, to a particular virus (“poison”). In such a way, the basic genome can continue. Hooray for wrestling at the microscopic level as well as in the heavenly realms. Both are beyond us and catch us middlers in conflicts, not of our making.

A usual approach to social conflict is to cast it in terms of power. Time after time, it is apparent that an appeal to a “better angel” is a lost cause. In such cases, small resistances of a meal-in-common and guerrilla actions are the only routes open. These are still available, even in the presence of quarantine rules about distancing and martial hyper-surveillance.

Sometimes we are the small, threatened by the large. Sometimes we are the large, threatened by the small. Finding ourselves caught between is ordinary life. Here we are—breathing and responding between an unexpected-and-unasked-for birth and an all-too-expected death masking its specific from-what and when.

May we use our everyday opportunities to navigate our responses of entitlement and humility wisely. It will be all too easy to falsely deploy each. Odds are it will take a community of mutual partners to assist one another. May we learn to honor such a dynamic and seemingly trivial engagement.

May Day

May Day has a heritage of celebrating Spring as well as supporting Workers. Both further fade during a time of quarantine.

As politics show us over and over, Fear works. When we get outside for a moment of spring after the cabin-fever inducing Winter, we know we are soon going to distance ourselves back inside. Who knows who ran through this space just before we arrived. Even sunlight cannot be trusted to disinfect a virus clinging to the dark side of a dust mote.

Yes, Fear works, and the negative political ads have begun their next round with their usual selectivity of images yanked from their context and portrayed in the worst possible light. At best, Workers’ well-being has plateaued but mostly has become brittle over the past decades and generations. The myths of trickle-down economics and right-to-work legislation have proven to be mirages. Nonetheless, they have weakened Workers’ ability to leverage their energy against the inertia of financial greed squirreled away in ever bigger off-shore barns. The thin stream of paychecks coming just-in-time to keep bankruptcy and eviction at bay have been furloughed, laid off, and boarded up.

May Day. A day of contrast caught between a breath of fresh air and a mask. A day between honor for everyday work upon which wealth relies and being ignored unto death to keep wealth flowing upward.

May Day. A day of one more opportunity to choose how we will care for earth and one another. A day of clarifying our analysis of how we have come to hope’s shadow side. A day of stating an intention to engage our culture and its systems of violence and asking others to hold us accountable for more than immediate comfort (first, to do no harm). A day of considering consequences and considered commitment (second, to do good). 

May Day. A day to remember times of gain, times of loss; times rent apart, times sewn together; times of love, times of hate. May this May Day be a Day to keep eyes on a prize only graspable seven generations after us and thus a time for Peace for which we swear, “It’s not too late!”