What Next?

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.
The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The Mariner’s option was sea water.  We have choices: water from a faucet or plastic bottle.  Despite the cheapest, safest municipal drinking water on Earth, Americans increasingly choose the latter.  Why?  Because Nestle, Coca Cola, Danone, and PepsiCo sell it.  As I’ve said, this worries me.

In “Stuff” I expressed Angst around drinking-water in plastic bottles.  This current rant was triggered on learning that, despite 80,000 arguments against versus 75 in favor, Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality approved Nestle’s, the largest food and beverage company on earth, petition to increase production of free, plastic-bottled well-water from over a quarter- to over a half-million gallons a day.  While, for unrelated factors, Flint citizens are forced to buy water which may well come from beneath their feet.

We assume well or spring water is “pure,” but is it any more-so than Boston’s, Kansas City’s, Denver’s, or Los Angeles’s municipal water?  The fact is, much of the water in the avalanche of plastic bottles on Supermarket and Quick-Stop shelves comes from municipal spigots!  Read the fine print.  To appear healthy and scientific it’s “filtered,” “oxygenated.”  For fastidious consumers it’s “vapor distilled” with “electrolytes” “antioxidants” even vitamins.  But a huge volume of the bottled water on folks’ counters comes from faucets little different than from the one in the kitchen sink two feet away.

Then there’s plastic.  In Nestle’s Mecosta County, Michigan, factory–one of over a hundred–pellets from 125 ton silos are turned into plastic bottles.  On ZDNet Andrew Nusca reports Americans throws away 2.5 million plastic bottles an hour!  If my math serves–it’s an eye-crossing row of zeros–the number approaches 22 billion bottles a year!  Plastic bottles to litter sidewalks, streets, highways, parks, forests, deserts and tundra; foul streams, rivers, seashores and oceans, and never disintegrate!  Again, do we need water in plastic bottles?  Of course not.  It’s because of jaded Americans like me and corporate profit!

What next, air?

Rest assured, PepsiCo, Nestle, and the others’ have plans in place to park cargo ships at the Weddell Sea ice sheet, lay an eight-inch line a thousand miles south, suck air to compressors, fill those big steel containers with ten liter canisters and steam north with “South Pole Air” which Amazon, Costco, and Wal-Mart will market.  An individual one day supply for  $9.95 or monthly delivery for $250.  Fed-Ex and UPS are ordering vans fited for various size canisters.

Not just the South Pole.  Oh no!  Contracts are being negotiated for North Pole, Sahara, Amazon, Congo, Himalayan, and Mongolian operations, “Arctic Breeze,” “Zephyr,” “Mountain Morning,” “Jungle Calm.” And not just continental air.  How about Mid-Pacific, Mid-Atlantic, Mid-Bearing Sea, Mid-Indian Ocean air?  Picking up on flavored water, they’ll add scent: “ice-cold,” “sandstorm,” “plumaria,” “high-altitude,” “desert sunrise,” “tropic breeze.”  The options and profits are limitless!

Will the time come when those who can afford it wear a mask or those little forked numbers stuck up their nostrils piping air from floral, cartoon, or camo designer, for conservatives breathers just plain gray or blue, cylinders strapped to our backs?

How cool is that?

 

I Feel Sorry

I had an epiphany.  I feel sorry for Donald Trump.  Hold on Liberal Buddies; hear me out.  I ain’t lost it, not yet.  Apart from concern over how best to manage folks entering or trying to enter our country without permission, I disagree with President Trump’s politics and policies across the board.  That’s not what I’m talking about.

W.C. Fields said, “I feel sorry for a man who doesn’t drink.  It must be depressing to wake up every morning and know that’s the best you’ll feel all day.”  While  fear and its offspring anger are integral to the human condition, I feel sorry for anyone who seems captive to unexamined emotions.  To start each morning Tweeting antipathy and recrimination, knowing that’s the best you’ll feel all day, has to be painful.

In The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump a woman is quoted, “I want my country back.”  Seeing a mostly-white populace take on color, “traditional” Americans are alarmed.  President Trump articulates some white-skinned citizens’ fear of loosing control.

I feel sorry for the backdrop of folks in red baseball caps laughing and applauding as their Man hurls baseless accusations, attacks, and insults at all who do not march in lock-step behind his beliefs and policies.  As he vilifies both adversary and ally, publicly mocks a handicapped critic, labels a United States Senator “Pocahontas” for claiming Native American roots and more, much more.  Are the red-baseball-cap fans amused or ashamed on hearing their Hero boast of groping women, called a young lady “Miss Piggy,” or Haiti and Africa s—- hole countries?

(Trump’s motto, “Make America Great Again!”  My question, “When wasn’t it?”)

I feel sorry for the folks who feel dispossessed and marginalized, who suffer the cancers of misogyny, homophobia, Xenophobia, and racism.  President Trump’s irresponsible rhetoric stirs up and, most alarming, legitimizes their fear, anger, and hate!  Two years back the KKK, White Nationalists, and Neo-Nazis were less conspicuous.  Today they riot in our streets, maim and kill innocent people with an automobile, massacre synagogue worshippers.  Apart from mouthing boilerplate condolence, President Trump seems unwilling or, more troubling incapable, of feeling and expressing heart-felt sympathy and compassion for their victims.  Like all of us, these citizens are free to express their beliefs and protests through civil discourse and political process.  Mayhem and murder are never acceptable.

I feel sorry of human suffering.  That’s what I’m talking about.

My Devil and Angel

We’ve seen the cartoon character with a Devil on one shoulder and an Angel on the other.

For me on one shoulder,
Ignorance,*
breeds superstition,
growing into fear,
triggering anger and hatred.

On the other,
Wisdom,
based in truth,
brings understanding,
expressed as compassion and love.

*Ignorance not in the pejorative sense, but as “to ignore,” lack knowledge, fail to understand.

Live Theater

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more.  It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
–Macbeth, Act V, scene v
–William Shakespeare

Morose sentiments notwithstanding, the life’s work of he who penned these lines is testament to a profound conviction in Life’s significance!

Using props, “business,” and dialog, theater tells a story.  But hiding in plain sight, on the chairs and sofas, beneath the strutting and fretting, driving the sound and fury, is an essence making valid theater compelling.

As always, Shakespeare’s metaphor is spot on.  Life is theater.  We have props.  Oh, do we have props!  Life’s props are “Stuff”–I’ve expressed my feelings about “Stuff”–sofas, chairs, clothes; cars, locomotives, Space Stations; lap-tops, cell phones, TV’s.  In no small measure our props, our stuff, defines who we are.  And the “busy-ness!” Oh, the busy-ness: scurrying, speeding, scheming, working, playing, fighting, killing, rarely still.  And dialog?  Oh, do we talk.  Life’s dialog, or for some of us more precisely, monologues, puts the cumulative words in the Library of Congress, the world’s libraries, every book ever written, to shame.  Live or in writing, as testified here, monologue may be my greatest sin.  If memory serves, Robert Service wrote, “No doubt the Devil grins at these seas of ink I splatter.  God forgive my literary sins.  The other kind don’t matter.”

Life’s props, business, and dialog bring to mind Blaise Pascal, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

My dad was manager and lineman for a Rural Electric Association (REA) Co-op in northeast Utah.  Friday, April 13th, 1945–yes, Friday the thirteenth!–he went out to repair a power outage at the Hanna Store, climbed a utility pole, and touched a seventy-two kilovolt line.  A few hours later, Mama told Judy and me, “We don’t have a Daddy any more.”  Ten days after my eighth birthday.

Bereft of one of the most important people in life, for over two decades I was a ship without a rudder.  School grades were mediocre.  I played lead in a half-dozen plays, co-edited the yearbook, was the fastest kid at South Emery High, and graduated with no clue to a future.

Lacking a reliable male model, from bits and pieces I cobbled together what a man seemed to be.  With a Bachelor’s from Brigham Young, I spent three miserable years in the United States Army, then moved to Alaska.  Despite good friends and a good-enough life, around age thirty I thought, “If I died now, I’d look back and say, ‘What the hell was all that about?'”

Dr. Eugene Chernell, a Psychiatrist, said, “I don’t want you to flush you life down the tube.” The man saved my life.  Thanks to Dr. Chernell’s brilliance, I married Karen, became a successful Registered Professional Land Surveyor, raised Bryan, Dawn, and Marty, earned a Master’s in Psychology, volunteered for over thirty years at The Dougy Center for Grieving Children and Families, ran over a hundred and sixty races, seven marathons.  Thanks to Dr. Chernell’s, Karen’s and my work, after eight decades on planet Earth life is good.

So what’s this hide-in-plain-sight thing the Bard and even poor Macbeth knew, what true artists know, what Dr. Chernell knew, what I lost sight of when Daddy died?  What, thanks to a man’s wisdom and love, I recaptured?

It’s the absolutely vital piece, the often–perhaps too often–unnoticed piece behind Life’s Comedy and Tragedy.  It moves genuine theater beyond mere entertainment and makes Life not “a tale told by and idiot”?

Relationship!  Life is significant; people matter!  It’s the push-me and pull-you, the confusion and conflict, the agony and joy, the love and hate, that comes from living with human beings.  What matters, what really matters, and ironically makes me most happy, is caring for other people’s wellbeing, their happiness, loving them almost as much as myself.  Human relationship makes theater worth watching and Life worth living!

Mindfulness Revisited

This is a repeat, because it bears repeating–a dozen times a day.  I routinely forget, mindfulness is key to my mental health.  The quotes may not be exact; close enough for an antique memory.

Whatever happens I will create no more problems.
I will create no more pain for myself.
The Power of Now
Eckhart Tolle

If we don’t look into hope and fear, seeing a thought arise, seeing the chain reaction that follows, if we don’t train ourselves to sit with that energy without being snared by the drama, then we’re always going to be afraid.
When Things Fall Apart
Pema Chodron

Practicing mindfulness I can recognize what is happening in the present without grasping or aversion.  I can practice mere recognition of what is gong on within me and around me without judgment or reaction.  This helps me to keep stability and freedom alive within myself.
Touching the Earth
Thich Nhat Hanh

The though manifests as the word;
The word manifests as the deed;
The deed develops into habit;
And habit hardens into character;
So watch the thought and its ways with care,
And let it spring from love
Born out of concern for all beings.  .  .  .

As the shadow follows he body
as we think, so we become.
The Dhammapada
(Saying of the Buddha)

A new, more prosaic one:
It’s hard to remember your assigned to drain the swamp,
when you’re up to your ass in alligators!
(I picked this up many years back.)

Along the Way

Three cormorants,
lean, licorice decanters
balanced on the rusted roof of
a nineteen-thirteen Model T truck.

A nine-acre motorcar bone-yard,
seven thousand crumpled, crushed, corroded, carcasses
indecently exposed through toothless gaps
in a Lady-Bird-Johnson board fence.

A fat man
in bib-overalls and straw hat,
gripping the wheel of a squat, red, fifty-one Ford pickup
with gunny-sacks of wheat,
chased down a gravel road by a set-stream of dust.
On the grain sacks, a smiling merle mongrel,
her ears blow back like little banners.

Six young Mexican men
loitering around a sunburned, sixty-five Barracuda
on the side of the highway.
The hood is up.
Blue-green liquid streams down the asphalt.

A bearded kid
in a black, seventy-three Fury
with one brown door, open sun roof,
and dented fenders.

A gray-haired man,
with a pomegranate nose and Greek fisherman’s cap
driving a cream and tan, eighty-six Minnie Winnie.
A stern matron with chocolate poodle curls and pastel sweater
studies a road map.

In a Rest Area,
a powder-blue, eighty-nine Ranger
and matching over-size camper.
Through a window behind a sink,
a Lemon Joy detergent bottle, plastic orange scouring pad.
Buff wallpaper with brown wine jugs and baskets of bread.

A sixteen-year-old blond
sporting a ponytail
in a two-door, red, ninety-one Mustang with a white vinyl top.
At a stop light her lips move.

A sever young woman
with a slim nose, deep-set eyes, and straight raven-black hair,
controlling a gray and maroon, ninety-three Trans Sport,
a wailing baby in a mauve infant’s seat,
four, silent youngsters, anchored with black shoulder belts.

A lean, sun-tanned man
in a three-piece business suit,
aiming a forest-green Jaguar XJ12 with temporary tags
down the freeway twenty-five miles an hour over the speed limit,
talking on a cell-phone,
gesticulating.

Justice Expedited

According to Wikipedia the Supreme Court of the United State “has ultimate (and largely discretionary) appellate jurisdiction over all federal court and state court cases that involve a point of constitutional or statutory law.” As “the supreme law of the land” the Constitution–carefully reasoned, written, and explicit–assures grievances and issues are decided in a fair, impartial, if you will “cut-and-dried,” fashion.  What does the Constitution or statute say?  That’s it.  Case closed.  No-brainer.  Right?

If Court decisions falls back on the Constitution, the law, why do Liberal and Conservative administrations spend every last ounce of energy, every available resource, every dollar getting their gal or guy onto the Highest Bench while the loyal opposition expends equal efforts blocking them?

It’s said, figures don’t lie but liars can figure.  The law’s the law, but  Justices, judges, and lawyers–who never of course lie–receive exorbitant retainers to figure.  “Ay, there’s the rub.”

Legal eagles read the law through lens of personal experience, belief, and political philosophy.  So, to get what you want load the Court with your gals and guys.
And they damn well better do the job!  That’s why we busted our ass putting them there.

Today’s Supreme Court has four Liberals: two Jewish females, one Latina female, and a son of Italian immigrants.  The Conservatives include four white and one black male.  With civil rights, gun rights, voter rights, immigrant rights, women’s rights, gender issues, abortion, public education, racial equality, or separation of church and state on the docket, care to guess which way the Majority will vote?

Parenthetically, regarding Justice Thomas, seen from my Liberal bias a Conservative Administration nominating a black for the High Court appeared out of character somehow.  In my view, with impeccable character and credentials assumed, Justice Thomas’s nomination reflected political expediency: replace a black (Liberal), Justice Thurgood Marshall, with a black (Conservative); the coattails of Civil Rights; and most intriguing, “moral licensing,” a realization emerging from Social Psychology.  In his podcast, “Revisionist History,” Malcom Gladwell describes moral licensing as “the ‘token’–the outsider whose success serves not to alleviate discrimination but perpetrate it.”  With Justice Thomas in place, Conservatives say, “See, we put a black on the Court.  We’re not prejudiced.  Case closed,” and continue to nominate and appoint the barest minimum number of females and non-Caucasians, business as usual.

So why waste time arguing? As things are now, hand the briefs to Chief Justice Roberts, have Justice Thomas or Justice Gorsuch write the majority opinion.  The same would be so with a Liberal majority.

Of course Justices don’t always walk the Party line, but as in a casino, load the dice, stack the deck, and hire the dealers.  The house, the Majority Party, rarely loses.