As stock markets bump themselves ever lower, illusions of stability dance in our heads. All manner of fantasies of what might have been, what might have put down roots there and flowered further on, dance in our heads. Regrets of why didn’t I (invest sooner, sell sooner, do something sooner, …), surface, and circle about.
Isn’t this America? This isn’t supposed to happen to the greatest empire ever seen! It should have been some distant relative of Attila that did us in, not something smaller than a grain of sand caught under a toenail.
With the economy revealing it has been built on a shifting sandbar, the fragility of every aspect of life stands in starker relief. Food? Shortages looming. Farmer’s increase a choice of suicide before losing their farm. Famine in the midst of plenty—there is plenty of irony to chew on, though. Health? Physicians going down, the toughest nurses weeping, PPE compromised—time to relearn a healing hum. Shelter? Rent relief for a season followed by eviction and squatting—O for a tarp and staff from Boy Scout years. Relationships? A glint in the eye and cough in the face, who can be trusted—rosy-fingered dawn … and you.
Presumably, a different economy is creeping in as this one fades. Like it or not, transitions like this are never linear. In corporate America, a rose is not a rose is not a rose—it is multi-leveled profit.
While working our way through quarantine-time you might want to review an old poem, Sacred Emily, by Gertrude Stein (see if you can spot the famous rose line). While there, there is time to wonder if a person is a flower, whether it’s the same flower every year, might it be roses all the way down?
If you still have time—punctuationally, what is the purpose of a period? Does this poem have anything to say about finality or transition? Did you note the lines that did not end in a period? How do they play together? If those questions don’t have any traction, what small part of your life would you honor with a triple repetition? Begging? Happy? Pale?
In the end, frail Rose/rose fades. Happiness is bounded by necessity.
Here we are, reflecting whatever holds the time/space of a G*D right on back to said posited G*D. This reflective process of “Here’s how you’re looking to me” is an important part of a relationship or partnership.
Were someone to have tracked my various reflections over time, they might picture a lovely patchwork quilt or a grand confusion. And you?
We might talk about this grounding spot in terms of a person or a place or a path or a chosenness of one sort or another or …. No matter what general category of religion or none we might claim or reference, we are responding to the difference between an unarticulated or limited hope and its perceived distance from our current/anticipated circumstance.
7 x 7
promise a 50th
on its own
of forced meaning
in our image
so far a handful
of options repeat
and yet again
only 44 more
names of G*D
to promised rest
This note began with wondering about “alternative facts”. Before this phrase came to define a political movement, there was a movement called anti-vaccine. Those holding such a position were informally named anti-vaxers. With “fact” and “vax” being a near rhyme, I began thinking about alternative facts as anti-facts and those who hold them as anti-factsers.
Facts and anti-facts claim polar opposite universes. Without a starting point in “fact”, there is no anti-fact. Dictionary definitions begin with “something that has actual existence.” “Fact” appears to come from the Latin and references an act, a performance, a bringing forth of something tangible, a deed….
An “anti-fact” is based on an idealized reality disconnected from the one our bodies are in. It is not a movement toward such an ideal, simply a statement that that which is not, is actually present. It is a protective screen from difficult decisions. By extension, it is not planned obsolescence (which is an actual thing) but a hodge-podge of incompetence. To modify an aphorism, those who can’t handle the messiness of reality, lie about easy fixes.
I expect there is a correlation between fact and future (a “facture”?), even though one is past and present while the other is, well, future. Alternative facts only have an ever-changing present where anti-facts cycle into their opposite at a moment’s notice because coherence only gets in their way.
Wouldn’t you know it, there is an actual word “facture”. It is a word from the arts that identifies how something is made (such as the fashioning of metal). This making or doing has the same nature as a fact. Rather than speak of a completed deed or form, it focuses on the process leading to a form that has a life of its own, not a mirage of an anti-(anything).
What we do during this quarantine (how we facture) will lead to the facts we will have to deal with afterward and for generations to come. May you facture well.
I do not know Portuguese. I can’t even distinguish it from Spanish (which I also do not know). At the same time, I am on a workgroup looking for a new model for Methodism with people whose first tongue is other than English.
How is this going to work? Well, I translated a message from one person through Google Translate (from Portuguese to English). Their note made a great deal of sense to me as it talked about the danger of trying to institute a new church with some basic binaries baked into it because of the cultural context of Empire. The big one they mentioned is turning things into a bifurcated G*D v. Creation with an implied hierarchy.
I responded with additional binaries to the ones they mentioned, and my appreciation of the Eastern Church emphasis upon theosis. My response was entered into Google Translate (from English into Portuguese), copied, and sent on to the group.
I’ll be interested to hear if anything comes of this process. Suffice it to say, I’m impressed with this level of communication. I’m not sure how far it will go because of the importance of personal nuance that will be needed.
I am figuring this is not likely to be worse than two hard-of-hearing individuals trying to work out what was said and meant. It will take a goodly amount of feedback loops and forgiveness for unintended slights that can all too easily shut down a conversation.
Douglas Adams’ Babelfish does have an appeal here. Though, its actual result, rather than the intended one, was worse wars. It seems we not only have difficulty with incomplete communication but with that which is all too accurate.
Too bad there is not a Google Translate for the political talking-past-one-another that is so in vogue these days. Without something to assist communication, we are just as likely to end up in another Civil War over economics and wage-slaves. The current pandemic seems to be making communication more difficult with a diminution of non-verbal communication cues.
How’s translating going with you? Internally? Between friends? Enemies?
Beyond the personal, how is translating going with your engagement with the culture and structures that so influence civic and personal health?
I’ve been wondering what “accomplishment” means in a context beyond the moment.
Not having asked to be born (yes, there are those who give some personal or larger intention to their presence) and not asking to end life (and, yes, there are those who reach this point from a variety of assessments), what function does a trophy fill?
There used to be an expectation that a person’s last words were a significant part of their legacy, their blessing. How far back do I have to remember my father’s words to get his last word before his death with Alzheimer’s? How does one rank his pre-Alzheimer word with the lack of coherence at his death?
That same ranking and rankling question also comes with an anticipatory component—unfulfilled promise. Do my accomplishments always come up short of what I could have done had I “better” applied myself or had one more opportunity to do so? Would yet another book, of which there is no end, finally, say something?
These days of quarantine, days of sameness, days of seemingly limited opportunity, raise Protestant Work Ethic questions of the value in these days. Questions are as general as good intentions, hopes, prayers, or mantras for the health of others, which is quite outside any thought of control. Questions are also as specific as finally putting up the gutter guards gathering dust in the garage. Between them come public words such as this blog.
It is so easy to see failings of others to accomplish such a basic as acknowledging what is known about the spread of a virus. Some seem to see it as a poison needing an inconvenient antidote. Some seem to see it as a poison that will rid them of their enemies and enhance the power of a particular political narrative. Some leap into the fray and risk volunteering. Some participate in self-protection protocols. And some, and some ….
Is what has been, “enough”? Is more still needed? Can I say, “It is well with my soul”? Is there a task yet calling for my attention?
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:
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.” 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.
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.