Thursday, June 04, 2009

Coal mine canary

Animals -- dogs, cats, birds, canaries, cattle, horses, etc. -- have an innate sense of something wrong when an earthquake is about to move the earth or a volcano is going to blow. They know when the elements are gathering for a grand, and often destructive, display and they are nervous, restless, uncomfortable and anxious, acting contrary to their usually calm natures. They pace, can't sleep, can't settle down, can't focus on anything productive or on a more normal and natural action. They are disturbed emotionally, physically, mentally, psychically as they teeter on the event horizon.

I've felt the same way, restless, anxious, nervous and uncomfortable, and I'm not alone. Nearly everyone I talk to is feeling the same formless restlessness and anxiety. They're cranky, can't sleep, unfocused and unhappy and it has been going on for a while now. It reminds me of Egon explaining to Winston that if you look at normal psychokinetic energy as a Twinkie, the current buildup of psychokinetic energy would make the Twinkie 35 feet long and weighing approximately 600 pounds, but that's only in New York. That's a big Twinkie. Think about how big it would be if you measured the psychokinetic energy over the whole U.S. It would feed the world's starving for about 1000 years, providing you could keep it fresh that long.

When Lynn and I talked last night, she said she thought the restlessness began about a year ago. She may be right. As the event horizon moves closer, more and more people are affected. It finally caught up with me, or rather I can no longer find excuses for the restlessness I feel. I haven't been sleeping well for about a year, although there are periods in which I sleep for 6-7 hours at a time. I've blamed my intermittent insomnia on more physical causes when I should have been looking further afield. I do feel we are on the verge of some big blow-up and the aftermath will be worse than the levee failure in New Orleans or the devastating wake of Katrina and the worst tornado in recent memory. Something's coming and it won't be soft and squishy like a Twinkie.

Some of my friends are losing their jobs, being down sized and forced to take mandatory leave (cutting hours and days). That's never good, especially when other people are involved, like spouses and children. The fallout falls into two main categories. One category involves everyone working together to tighten belts and budget more carefully.

The other category involves the unaffected spouse blaming the affected spouse. How could you do this to me? What am I going to do? What did you do to get laid off, fired, have your hours cut? It's all about them and not about the spouse who just lost their jobs or had their hours cut. It never occurred to the unaffected spouse to consider cutting expenses or offering to help out, just blame the affected spouse for causing the problem.

No doubt rising unemployment is contributing to the anxiety and restlessness, but not all the people I know who experience this formless, nebulous disruption have lost their jobs or had their hours cut. It goes deeper than that and has much deeper roots. Whatever it is that has unsettled so much of this country's population, we should consider it the dead canary in the coal mine. Something's coming and it won't end with us drenched in torrents of warm melted marshmallow. We should hope to be so lucky.

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