Over the past several days I have willingly inundated myself with information gathered from a number of cable channels. I enjoy participating in athletic displays but am not so keen on watching others making millions of dollars while 'playing'. Being a holiday period my choices of non-sports oriented viewing was somewhat limited. But I can say that after three days of visiting the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, the Travel Channel, and A&E--I have come to some postulations that are going to take me some time to work through. I mean, besides the obvious conclusion that we live in a very screwed-up hedonistic world. Just the advertising alone tells you that.
Here are some crudely distilled, admittedly unrefined conjectures that are being processed in my head:
1) It is asinine for humans to dislike and/or hate other humans because of their ethnicity or skin colour. It is asinine for humans to be prejudiced towards other humans for matters they had absolutely no choice in or control over. Humans are stupid.
2) Oceans, rivers, mountain ranges etc...are geological formations. Nature created them after billions of years of aesthetic consideration. Humans turned them into 'borders' then pissed territory. Humans are stupid.
3) When you look at photos of the Earth from space or look down from an airplane there are no coloured lines denoting where one county, state, province, country ends and another begins. Mother Nature didn't go around with a big box of markers. Humans drew the lines. called them borders and pissed territory. Humans are stupid.
4) There is only one race--the Human race. They have different ethnic origins but are still only one race. The human race once inhabited a single pan-geologic continent. Therefore we all lived together in one place at the same time. Eventually the tectonic plates shifted. Part of that aesthetic consideration. Humans went from being neighbours sharing a common experience to drawing lines and pissing territory. Humans are stupid.
5) With the exception of indigenous Native Americans, none of us are 'from' here. Our ancestors came from beyond these shores for whatever reasons motivated them to leave where they came from. Now a great deal of time and energy is devoted to the debate of whether we should allow other members of our race to live amongst us or not. For the very same reasons that brought our ancestors here in the first place. And to do to them what our forebears did to the people who were here before them. Humans are still pissing territory. Humans are stupid.
Well, that's what I've been able to sift from all the media saturation I've undergone while digesting the Thanks Giving revels. Political posturing, xenophobia, economic self-interest, and territorial urination are very much alive and thriving between all the pretty coloured lines traversing the planet that humans call Earth. Humans are stupid.
I made an amazing discovery. While pouring cat food from the industrial size bag of kibble to the more manageable decorative container, I saw something written on the back of the bag that got my attention. "Different food choices for different lifestyles." I wasn't aware that my cats--or any of my friends' cats for that matter--had any other lifestyle beyond sleep, eat, redecorate, poop, repeat.
There's all kinds of information on the back of that bag. I'm wondering if it's the equivalent to reading the back of the box while eating your morning cereal. Should I leave the bag out for my fur-children so they can be better informed about their lifestyles? Do I even want them to know they have lifestyles? I mean, really, when you're that bloody close to divinity to begin with what more do you need to know?
They've already figured out how to subjugate their human servants to fulfill their every whim. They lie around in cat-nip induced stupors on the best furniture like imperial potentates holding court in opium dens. Surrounded by dozens of the latest toys designed for their amusement--most of which must be manipulated by their bipedal, opposable-thumbed lackeys.
I have had many friends tell me that in their next life they want to come back as one of my cats. Okey-dokey with me as long as they understand they will be spayed or neutered and declawed. Most of the guys rethink the idea. They really shouldn't. Most of the trouble they've gotten themselves into was due to not being neutered. Bless their hearts.
My cats have undergone a major transition moving from the sub-tropics of the gulf coast of Texas to behind the back woods of Maine. We lived in the urban sprawl of Houston and they were accustomed to asphalt and concrete. Now they are coming to terms with grass (which they've discovered is edible), trees (which are not edible), and arctic climate. Gentle Readers of this blog have already read about their first experience with snow (Winter Wake-Up Call) and predatory nature (Windex vs The Environment). Cats have amazing coping skills when it comes to change. Keep the bowls full and the litter box clean. That's about it. Oh, yes, and keep right on loving the heck out of them when they redecorate. You really don't need a complete set of anything anyway. Being the caretaker of divinity is an exacting job but when a cat chooses you to be its' equal you know you've arrived.
Oh, the memories that spring forth unsummoned! And this isn't even a personal memory but an indirect one. I will not mention a name because the person this happened to is a Gentle Reader of this blog and I do not wish to embarrass or offend. I was revisited by this memory after visiting her blog and felt compelled to share it with my vast following.
This Gentle Reader is also a very dear friend of long standing. We have traveled a great distance together down life's shifting panoramic pathways. She is an immensely gifted and talented artist. Hers is a natural gift that was merely fine-tuned by higher education. She is gainfully employed putting those talents and skills to good use. I will not say that she is a perfectionist but rather she has an exacting keen eye for detail and her follow-through is next to none. Being a person abundantly blessed with creative ability as well as an energetic work ethic, it is true to say she doesn't suffer ineptitude or slackers very well. This will inevitably lead to frustration and stress.
When she graduated from college about seven years ago her mom hosted a party to which I and other of our friends were invited. Among the cards and gifts she received was a table-top rendition of a Zen garden. It came complete with sand, stones, and a teeny little rake as well as a few other odds and ends. She thanked the giver and the party went on. It sat unopened for a couple of days in her apartment. She is not given to 'New Age' flights of fancy or to fall victim to the latest fad in self-enlightenment. At some point she decided to set it up. As I said earlier she has a keen eye for detail and she laboured on her little garden getting the look just right and all the accessories placed just so. I have no doubt she poured herself into it and when it was completed she felt satisfied--because that's the way she is.
Somewhere over the next day or so and in her absence, her handsome tiger cat happened upon the Zen garden. But instead of seeing a well-executed exercise in serenity he saw an uptown single-serve litter box. He contributed to the project. I have no doubt he poured himself into it and when it was completed he felt satisfied--because that's the way he is.
What does it say about one's search for spiritual oneness when your cat craps in the middle of your tranquility garden? I suppose there are a myriad of inferences one can make but for the life of me I can never get past the laughter. It is the one memory I call forth whenever I'm having a particularly difficult day. And it always cheers me up. Perhaps that's the real lesson in all this: Don't take yourself so bloody seriously; poop happens--get over it.
While running my usual mid-week round robin of errands something occurred to me. I am now convinced that the Roman Catholic Church has bequeathed a legacy upon our culture that has, until now, gone unnoticed. I mean a legacy other than the obvious theological fabrications. Having been born and raised RC, spent time in a cloistered Benedictine monastery and served time in a seminary, I think I can speak with some authority. They may not be directly behind this development but their history backs up my supposition: the monasticizing of America.
Depending on the order and the 'mission' of the monastery, each individual is on his own to serve God in his unique way or 'calling'. As a group they pray, work, and eat together but are still pretty much encapsulated within their own singular spiritual solitude. And, generally speaking, so are we. It's merely a question of focus, motivation, and priority.
Look around at our daily lives. Today you can do your banking online or in the drive-thru. Other types of drive-thrus will present you with a variety of foods or you can phone in or click to order the aforementioned feast and get it brought to you. You can fill your tank at the pay-at-the-pump gas station, you can shop for almost anything online and get it delivered, you can check yourself out at the grocery store. Today I got a message from the post office telling me I can now get stamps delivered to my mailbox by filling out the attached form. In other words, I can get almost all of my needs met without the inconvenience of dealing with another human being. I no longer have to be bothered with meaningful communication or remembering to use good manners and common courtesy. I can pack those away in my ambivalence closet. Isn't automation miraculous?
Now that I am relieved of having to interact with others of my species I am free to pursue a religion far older than Christianity, Judaism, or even Buddhism. It's a religion that millions of fervent devotees pursue each and every day and perhaps twice on Sundays. The all-embracing Church of Self. It worships one deity--ME--and has a holy trinity of its' own: ME, MYSELF, and I. The Universe revolves around ME. The church is Self-Centered and Self-Contained. It is everywhere and anything I want it to be. It doesn't require a congregation because no one else matters except ME. It's all about ME. In ME I trust.
As much as I like the pleasure of my own company, I'm afraid that where the Church of Self is concerned I have to declare my agnosticism. The computer keyboard is not my altar so there will be no pointing and clicking my way out of human interaction. I want to see (and personally thank) the person handling my money and my food. I will certainly utilize some of the blessings of the Technologod but not to the exclusion of sentient experience. The interior of the car--though lovely-- isn't all that conducive to a fulfilling dining experience. No room for a buffet, the flower vase tips over when I make a turn, and the AC blows the candle out.
Having been born and raised Roman Catholic, done the monastery and seminary thing, I am cured of chronic religionitis. I am now guilt-free to explore my own innate spirituality and to be a congregant in the Church of Life which has many novices worshiping together at the altar of WE, US, and OUR.
I thought I would share a slender slice of life with you that happened to me just the other day. After which I will rant for a moment or two. It's always helpful to have an itinerary so one knows the best place to disembark.
My mother and I were sitting in the living room each in our respective chairs and in our own worlds. She was knitting some slipper socks and I was beading my way into the hearts of millions. I heard the porch door close and a knock at the back door. Without a word of prompting the door opened and in walked a married couple around my age and friends of long standing to my mother. After the exchange of greetings the next words out of the mouth of the husband were "You need to get a couch."
Thus begins the ranting portion of our story. Feel free to safeguard any dairy products residing in your fridge from curdling.
Somewhere in the shifting sands of my five top pet peeves is any conversation that starts with or contains the question "You know what you need?" or the imperative "You need to......." That ranks up there with "It's not fair." Let's be clear about this for future reference. The only thing I NEED to do is breathe. And even that is optional. I confess I prefer it to not breathing.
Of course the next logical move in this intellectually stimulating exchange was for me to ask why I needed a couch. I so wanted to be illogical for once but it had been a very uneventful day and the snow had made me kinda antsy. "Why do I need a couch?" I queried ever so benignly. The poor man gave me that look that says he is stunned and baffled by my ignorance on so obvious a topic. "Because everyone has a couch." he chimed (in the key of d'uh).
I should tell you that there are four wing-back chairs beside my mother's electric orthopedic recliner and my famous throne chair in the living room. We rarely have more than two guests at any given time and they usually make themselves at home around the kitchen table. I believe there is more than adequate seating in any room of the house where anyone would be inclined to sit.
I gave this insightful observation on his part enough time to sink in--or rather down--amongst the tumble-weeds of cat hair migrating across the hardwood floor. Seemed to be the most logical place to archive it. I then shared with him my views on the impracticality of couches, sofas, and love seats. First of all, most pieces of furniture that size are meant to seat at least three people. When was the last time you had that many people parked side-by-side in your living room? Especially if there were other seating options available? Generally, people sit at either end leaving the middle empty--effectively turning a multiple seating unit into two one-seat units--otherwise known as chairs. By not having a couch I have eliminated three feet of wasted space thus reducing my carbon footprint on the home decor portion of the planet. Besides, as I again benignly pointed out to him, a couch or sofa encourages the lolling about when there's work to be done and only inspires lethargy. If you're that bloody tired, go to bed. Taking up space and selfishly inconveniencing other members of the household was not a practice MY family was prone to. And people that can't bare to be separated from one another in someone else's living room should stay at home. I did concede that having a couch did come in handy when one had more guests than beds. And even then only in an unforeseen emergency--blizzards, shipwrecks, telling your spouse they DO look fat in that outfit etc...
Seamlessly, the conversation segued to coffee and baked goods and everyone emigrated from the couchless living room to the warm delights of the kitchen. Where there are plenty of chairs to go around.
After making Juan Valdez and Betty Crocker proud they departed. While clearing away, my mother chided me by saying I 'needed' to be more diplomatic when guests come. I suppose it was the nano-second it took for my head to spin 180 degrees and the fear of projectile pea soup in her direction that prompted her to modify her reproach before I could draw breath. "I mean, you SHOULD try to be more diplomatic....." She's right of course. It's ungenerous of me to treat a guest like the couch-hugging slug he is when he comes uninvited to our home and offers unsolicited advice. After all, he was only stating the obvious and trying to improve the quality of my life. If and when I ever pay them a courtesy call I will make it a point to leave a generous contribution of kind words at their altar to obligatory good taste and conformity. While wasting five feet of it by sitting smack in the middle. Hey, it's their footprint--not mine.
It has finally happened. I knew it was coming. I just didn't think it would come this early. I was not mentally or emotionally prepared for 'Currier and Ives' season. I am speaking, of course, about snow. Yesterday morning I grabbed my first cup of coffee and went out onto the chilly enclosed porch with my entourage of fur-children. I was confused by the amount of time it was taking for my eyes to focus and for the morning fuzzies to dissipate. Then it hit me. They weren't fuzzies they were snowflakes! Big suckers! I had the same 'deer-in-the-headlights' look on my face as the cats did. I was the only one who knew what it was. These felines had never seen snow before. They stared out with wide-eyed wonder at this falling phenomena and simultaneously all four turned to look at me.
It is a supremely sublime experience when a cat looks at you with awe and admiration for what they believe is your doing. Their respect is the ultimate compliment and ego booster for at least the time it takes them to realize you had nothing to do with it. I opened the back door so Jezebel could experience this magical moment first-hand. She stepped onto the wet stuff with a wee bit of trepidation, sniffed the air and the white thingys. Then at least two extra-large flakes landed on her forehead just above her eyes and the spell was broken. She zipped back inside, jumped up onto the table where the other three were waiting for her. There was a short debriefing session and then all eyes were turned accusingly on me. Apparently one of them had read "Call of the Wild" and believed this was some sort of conspiracy to torment and torture them into revealing the secret Feline handshake. Or perhaps it was all part of a nefarious plot to turn them into a cat-sled team. They wanted no part of that--or me at that point. Fortunately, the sound of popping open a cat food can has the effect of amnesia on a cat.
Just the day before yesterday I had worked up a sweat preparing the flower beds for winter. I assume that was my first mistake. Kinda like washing the car before it pours. Yesterday was dark, dreary, and cold. I felt as though I were in a Bronte novel. I swear I could hear wolves out on the timberline. I had a compelling urge to inventory the pantry to assure myself we could survive the deprivations of winter. I hope the cats like cream corn.
Today the sun came up and glinted off the diamond crystals outlining every branch of every tree. I had a feline moment of awe and wonder. It's all beginning to melt away and I'm experiencing separation anxiety. I not only survived my first 'dusting' in 26 years but found myself looking forward to the next one. I know it's coming and this time I'll be ready. In the meantime I'm going down into town to get something to go with the cream corn. And some cat nip. Being harnessed to a sled is going to take some serious inducement.
I love back roads. Fortunately, here in Maine, that's pretty much all we have. We have I-95 of course--also known as the Maine Turnpike--and it's basically a multi-lane back road with incredible scenery. I live some distance from it and make do with the two-lane variety whenever I'm compelled to take the car out of its' cocoon also known as the garage. I don't go out much but I look forward to every opportunity of getting behind the wheel.
My return to Maine after 33 years of living elsewhere has been a total mental make-over for me. For 24 of the last 26 years I lived in Texas, I lived within the city limits of Houston. I traveled every one of its freeways, highways, and byways all of them congested with self-absorbed borderline psychotic drivers and their crappy attitudes. In the 1970's the Texas Highway Department spent a great deal of money putting up signs state-wide that gave motorists the admonition to "Drive Friendly". If they hadn't coupled that statement with the warning that bridges may freeze before the rest of the road does it would have been a laughable total waste of money. Kinda like putting up signs around Washington telling senators not to overspend. Hostility became routine and road rage became an epidemic. Now, back in Maine, I am discovering road rapture.
I'll probably get over it when the snows come. I imagine I'll get over a lot of things at that point. But for the moment I revel in driving through gauntlets of fire. Much of the Fall foliage is on its way out but there are still many places along my customary routes that positively dazzle. I hope I never again take the beauty of this place for granted the way I did before I left for warmer climates. Driving along the rising and falling hills, winding and twisting first left then right. Whoever planned these routes missed the class on shortest distance between two points and straight lines. Which makes it all the more wonderful. Maybe that was the point. If all the roads were straight people would go faster and never see how amazing it is.
We don't have signs here telling us how to behave when we drive. Maine folks don't like anyone telling them what to do. Friendliness and courtesy is a natural occurrence. People actually wait for you to go through the intersection before pulling out. Instead of making every effort to cut you off, they just cheerfully wait for you to go by. Amazing. It's the equivalent to holding a door open for someone. And everyone waves at you on the back roads. People in their yards and on-coming drivers wave at you as you go by. I guess they figure if we're sharing the same road we must be friends. Works for me. I see speed limit signs as warnings--'don't go any faster than this or you're going to miss something'--and it's true.
My favourite thing about any of the roads in Maine is that there are no billboards--anywhere. There is nothing to block your view of the trees, the mountains, lakes, ocean, or pastures and farmhouses. Except for more trees of course. Now that most of them are shedding their leaves you can see through them and beyond to what they were concealing. Every excursion is a journey of discovery and I know that I react like a kid on Christmas morning. And I admit I privately like that about myself. It's always good to find out you're not as jaded as you thought you were. At least until the snows come.