38 of 40
Happy – subjective & universal.
We all experience it, yet its cause and effect are exquisitely personal.
No one is without some happiness, some way: but others seem awash in it as a baseline.
Lately, for more, or more openly, expressed anger is a source of happiness. Rejection, vilification, being wronged and punishing the wrong gives great happiness to every side of the political spectrum.
Happiness is not pleasure, nor joy, not even purpose: it’s the feeling of satisfaction that you are where it’s right to be, that there are incontestable rewards of well-being and rightness in this moment. Clearly pain and disappointment are not happiness for most.
But happiness is increasingly more often created in us not by ourselves doing, but by us looking, seeing and finding fit and righteousness. A person succeeds or fails, a view is validated or proven flawed, something goes down or triumphs, either way for the feeler, and happiness washes over us. Especially now.
To me something is lost when happiness is not directly felt in the feeler. Less happiness is experienced in us by what is done, personally. Dependence on the larger wheel, indirect righteousness, means that you wait on the world to prove you right or confirm the need for you to fight on against the tide.
I confuse exhaustion with happiness. Being happy is not valid, for me, without effort and demonstrable sacrifice and work. For others I know, there is no happiness except as a confirmation of unavoidably misery – the manifest promise of inevitable unhappiness makes some happy in being correctly cynical.
These secondary validations are for all of us, everyday – but when they compete with the happiness we blindly create for ourselves, we become more victims that victors.
I have no right to be happy amide never ending struggle – but it’s there, despite myself.
37 of 40
“Good” is, now, passive aggressive.
A week from today, the “Triduum” starts in Christian Land. It used to be a de facto Holiday. It was the only one that memorialized a government-caused execution. Birthdays, Independence, Labor, the End of Warfare, Harvest and other happy circumstances got days off too – but the one inconvenient holiday forced humans to confront humanity.
None others were declared “Good”. In that world, I assume we are supposed to celebrate perspective – what was seemed a wrong, unnecessary, and paranoid execution at the time, was revealed to be “Good” three days later.
Now, supermarkets are open, no business closes, there are some images on social media and “tut-tut’s” or “oh yeah’s” all around. TGIF has 52 weeks of celebration – we do not accept the buzzkill of one Friday’s “Good.”
“Good” is now an insult because it’s accepting, not praising, for most. “Awesome” has no awe, just approval. “Good” is not even “Like” now. “Good” is a diss on Yelp or Houzz or other rating engines.
But this “Good” in one week, sees ahead, while looking in the mirror. That adjective assumes we can be the dumb, angry killers we all can be, seem sentenced to be – and still know that there is a greater reality beyond our humanity – a place where “Good” lives in our rationale for the day-to-day.
It’s easy for me to just kill what is not believed, simply to survive and deal with what I have work with. Promises of getting loved out of fear seem very young for most: and me.
But I know that there is more than my silly travails. Even in cynical working around the things that are not “Good” I know, everyday there is a Greater Good.
I just have to live it.
36 of 40
I watched an old “Law & Order” episode until midnight last night.
It was terrible.
Why? Well, it was one of a few that I had not seen before, multiple times. But it was terrible. But I had not seen it. So, I watched it.
The death throws of this video cash cow saw the last few years become faster-violent-louder-dumber begs for viewers. Humans became squawk boxes, murdered, angry. No humanity, irony or poignance – just TV.
Like all TV, that preconstruction has a brief half life: I only watched because another 20 years has been good, and wormed a foible into late adulthood. I am autonomic in not much: but Law & Order is now part of a sequence, versus a choice.
I am slight crisp this early AM. Was it a good idea? No. Was it necessary: seemingly. It was a discretion that was not an indulgence, but necessary – for a good reason: in the hundreds of shows produced, I imagine that I have not seen a few, but have seen many over 5 times: usually working out.
But my work-outs, till Easter, are silent. Last night I should have gone to bed: I am sure my body would have liked that: but the compulsion to watched the completely familiar and totally new won.
The mysteries of why this episode escaped me seem clearer: truly bad shows, like this, are, I am guessing, rarely shown, while “classics” get air time. Or not, and I have been unlucky in only being exposed to this one last night.
We do things we know we shouldn’t just because we must: the negotiations of malpractice are as pathetic as the Las Vegas ad. But I do not feel used, I feel undefendably human.
35 of 40
We all make choices, everyday.
It’s important to be in control, to go after the desired, fight against the wrong, to do the right thing. For many, that control is central, necessary.
I stood up, quickly, a few minutes ago. The several hundred contractions, movements, reactions in going vertical all worked. I know that clearly now. I could not know that unless the stability enabled by those hundreds of wee push-pulls was missing for a while.
We have choices only because we gave givens. Of course we are fed. If old enough, we have learned enough. Our bodies do as told. Our minds actually form the desires we follow.
But the absence of capacity, the real sense of danger – really just the diminishing of choices is inevitable. We were born with only the choice of acceptance, and seeing aging, it reduces choice.
I did not choose to play football at 13 – I had to.
There was no careful balancing of options, at 16, I fully knew I had to help make things.
Then schools, marriage, children – all were simply, incontrovertibly “LETS GO”
I do not choose to write. I have to.
We want to choose. We are uncomfy accepting. There is a confidence in the power of option. But there are times, and it is inevitable, that there are fewer, even no options.
But technology is giving more ways to shut out the obvious. There are many non-options to beg off away from so many ways that you might feel compelled. First, failures are writ large in social media: Mockery is its staple, we feed on misery, we do not want the millions of electronic fingers pointed at us: so doing is not always a good idea.
But more, technology offers a harbor away from doing the right thing independent of technology. Doing good may, now, just be seeing every episode of “Walking Dead.” It may be getting to Level 345 of the game you play with people somewhere. It may be having 1,000 “Friends”. Or a deep participant in a closed Group of fellows.
None of this is new – I knew many who succumbed to Dungeons and Dragons. It’s just easier.
It is harder to know that the unquestioned desires and capacities are both unreasonable and right. Maybe it’s OK that the undeniable need to risk is not logically discerned by a thoughtful, powerful, perspective.
Maybe those choices are gifts.
34 of 40
I have nightmares most every night.
In the rebalancing of the last two weeks, no night terror has been that terrorizing. Prior to The Worst Nightmare Ever (where my captaincy was unable to prevent a huge sea wreck of our house into ruin, and I shot up, screaming) most sleeping freak outs involved a complete loss of control.
This just mimicked my childhood, but gave that insanity the tools of adulthood in the unlimited realm of nightmare.
In these two weeks I sleep longer without waking than in years. Upwards of seven hours. I am sure there is need, as the repairs take energy I do not even know I am expending, but I also think whatever cracks in us is not incidental, not of and by the moment.
I think we are endlessly coping, adjusting, mitigating and working. I think many of us desperately avoid this reality with binge watching, news engorgement, cause immersion, belief focus – but where we want to go never ends up being gotten in a straight line.
Nightmares are hyperbolic, but they crystallize the danger of only knowing the fears of truth – ignoring the nourishments of hope and faith. Today’s deluge is weirdly from the due east – but awake, this is incidental – in dream it can be catastrophic.
You cannot avoid dreaming – it is the consequent of rest.
But perhaps in this reweave of Lent, I have fewer terrors in the dreaming. It’s foolhardy to create conclusions from tiny, personal, subjective experience, but it’s a start.
33 of 40
Here in New England, after a winter, with storms, cold snaps and wind it’s pretty easy to think of this as the Culling Season. Old, dead, overgrown stuff gets ripped out, blown off – harsh forces purge. Justice.
It’s even easier to take events like winter – totally out of our control – and ascribe moral play to their arbitrary caprice. It feels good to have a larger order: Global Something, Clensing Winter, Religion. But subjective lessons amid the uncaring natural world are not dumb, or even comforting: lessons give perspective, and perspective makes sense.
When I deeply ached in my first 14 year old athletic attempt, I had no parent to give insight, but I heard the automatic pain of damage and repair intimately for the first time. When I got good at knocking people down, those full arm, never fading, blue-black bruises made sense – even though hideous.
The world comes to reflect the impossibly subjective. Right now, here, it’s in hideous disarray – random bits and material blown into clollections and cleaning scrapings. It’s not yet warm enough for healing, but I know better – it will happen, because it happens whether I understand it or not.
It is only the presence of absence that clarifies value. The loss of balance caused by one wee blood flow is, now, healing, and perspective is certified, as it should, always, to be sacred.
The clumsy rituals of oathed affirmation of belief are more in hope than embrace for most. When things are broken by circomstance, with no control or understanding, the power of their absence is undeniable. I wanted to walk without pain at 14, so gratitude 3 years later was deep and abiding.
If you have earned everything – and think of it, really, you have earned precious little – the loss of anything starkly clarifies the gift. If there were reasonable cosmic ledger sheets, where we are due our earned righteous minimum, then “Fairness” would matter.
There is no fairness. Winter is not fair. Bruises are not fair. My childhood was not fair. But they are necessary, because they happened.
Spring happens. Fall of 1972 happens. I have a family. There is no required justice – there are not even rewards, but there is good. Fairness is good – so we work at our hardest to make this world scrupulous. Life is good, whether we earn it or not, understand it or not – life is good.
32 of 40
For 35 years we have faced a Salt Marsh.
In history, wetlands were where the dregs slept, in hovels against the weather, easy access to fishing and commerce, cheap because of its danger. Often washed away, transient, yet gripping the coast. Now, technology and knowledge have made the dregs precious as the beauties of change outweigh the dangers.
Being under 30 in 1982 we could only afford our inland unbuildable site facing 5 acres of Conservancy because it was yet another recession in 1983 Connecticut. But more the beauty of the change in scenery was only visible through a 10ft. high matt of bull briars and poison ivy: virtually invisible to the purchaser – unless you climbed a tree accessed through a renegade kids’ tunnel thought the briars and ivy.
I did that, we bought that, and the intervening years have been only lessons.
Of course the tide is unrelenting, following the moon and storms.
But the dance between floods of salt-free water from the land, and floods of salt-filled water from the sea is also unrelenting.
But the delerious Brit-Born Fragmites rage up and out the fresher the water is in the marsh, while the nativist, soft, low, recessive Spartina grasses fill wherever salt poisons the rest.
High/Low, Fresh/Salt, Alien/Native, Fragmites/Spartina – change is everywhere and unending. The entire area is natural, and invasive. We built small buildings that float above this inevitable din: we made clinging inhabitation and then I spread more civilized invasive species in the landscape carved out amid rocky moraine – over 20 efforts and counting. These usually fail before surviving, and several do thrive. We did.
But this week, this Lent, this time of recovery, the rains were endless, as was a thaw of remnant frozen water. All drained down into the marsh, without a storm tide to bolster the impact.
But it was astonishingly, after 35 years, unexpected. Just like the clot thrown into the base of my brain that withheld balance for a week, this uninvited guest of the freshest of gravity-following fresh water just made the truth obvious. In marshes, the fulsome softness is usually unnoticed. Until you are forced to deal with it: just like balance.
The beauteous tawny six months of low temperature are replaced with vibrant and evolving green in the warmth. The colors follow weather, there is the Neck “River” but we see the solid pallets of grasses all around it.
Until, that is, the occasional storm, the tide, the thaw, the rain make inundation go above the surface. Water from upland, water from the sea, all that is marsh is just disguised saturation. Everything the marsh has is fully, ever, completely sogging wet.
I am sentient, I act in this world and in my mind – I am human – fully, ever, completely supported by the unmerited gift of life itself. It’s Grace. It’s life. I did not ask for it, or the lessons of the marsh, but it’s Lent – a good time to say a Thanks.