Saturday, May 06, 2017


It's Saturday night and I wanted to watch something so I chose Intervention, a movie written and directed by Clea Duvall where she actually gets to play a lesbian in an increasingly constricted relationship and chooses to tell her sister and her husband to stop hurting each other and get a divorce. Clea is not alone in her desire to set up the intervention; she has her brother Jack who has chucked everything to travel the country towing a trailer with a barely 20-something girl still dressing like a teenager hanging out for the summer between school years and Annie, who set up the intervention because she says she is tired of watching her best friend Ruby and husband Peter slashing at each other. Meanwhile Annie drinks her way through most of the movie while organizing the intervention because she is not ready to marry her fiance and knows she cannot postpone her wedding a 5th time.

Like all those movies where nearly 30-somethings are working out their issues during a wedding weekend, bachelor/ette party weekend, or intervention, it is clear from the outset that the relationships will end up on their ears and the happy ending will not include the instigators.

The thing about interventions, especially when they fail to involve people who really do need help and don't have court-ordered interventions, the point is that the couple in the crosshairs aren't really the ones who need help and everyone else is going to have to examine their navels closely. The fact is that people who set up couples' interventions, and the people who express their concerns at the outset and refuse to go along, are really the ones who need help. Their friends were either too polite or embarrassed to stage an intervention, or even talk to them about it, or weren't aware that was an option. In short, the movie is another chance to get together, get drunk, and air out the emotional linen among friends and family.

Isn't that always the way? Our thoughts are on someone else's problems while we avoid our own problems and issues entirely.  After all, they need help and we love them enough to help them. That's the thing about interventions and offering help to someone else, it's easier to focus on someone else's problems than to admit there are things we need to work on.

While watching these almost middle-aged couples sort out their lives, I was immediately reminded of Meathead and Gloria's disintegrating marriage. Meathead was predictably clueless and Gloria was needlessly dismissive and cruel. Gloria was bored, showing signs that if she had to spend one more minute in Mike's company she'd take his head off and castrate him with the rough and sharp side of her tongue. Luckily, Gloria had Edith Bunker to talk to.

Gloria asked her dingbat mother if she had ever gotten to the point where she just could not stand Archie -- and Edith said yes. She gave Gloria the best advice I'd ever heard.

There comes a time in marriage where even the sound of your spouse's breathing is enough to send you running to the kitchen to find the sharpest knife in the drawer to plunge into your once beloved spouse's throat. I would imagine the modern day parlance would be a throat punch. Your spouse's existence is beyond tolerance and you cannot stand it any more. This is the point where most marriages and relationships end up on the dump or out with the trash. You have fallen out of love with your spouse. You could, as most lawyers advise, get a divorce or you could wait to fall back in love with your soul mate. That is what Edith urged Gloria to do -- wait until you fall in love all over again.

As I watched Ruby and Peter I remembered that point in my own marriage when my ex-husband and I publicly cut each other to pieces over cards or during parties. On some level it was witty and funny, but on a personal level it was painful. I considered the knife, but now see I would have happily opted for a throat punch wearing brass knuckles if the choice had been offered. I hadn't seen the episode with Edith told Gloria what to do, and I'm not sure it would have mattered. We would still have divorced because I never actually wanted to be married to him after all. I got pregnant the night we got engaged and marriage seemed the best solution at the time. Mom told me the day we got married I didn't have to marry him and that we could work it all out. I'd have the baby and she and my father would adopt the child. Unlike Edith Bunker's calm dingbat wisdom, my mother could've said nothing that would have hurried me to the altar faster. The thought that she would raise my innocent child turned my blood to ice and all my protective instincts and hormones rushed to surround my unborn child. No child of mine would end up being raised by the woman who spent my entire formative years torturing me as she would undoubtedly torture and abuse my child, especially if it was a girl. I got married that day and have regretted it most of the rest of my life as I struggled with marriage, adulthood, and responsibility and longed for the life I had planned: going to college, getting a degree, and writing a breakthrough novel -- or becoming the first woman judge on the Supreme Court of the United States -- or the first woman driver to qualify for and win the Indianapolis 500. I was 18 and, though I felt I was ready for responsibility, I was nowhere close.

There was no one to do an intervention for me and I doubt I would have sat still for it. There was no Edith Bunker to help me over the hurdles and listening to my mother was akin to praying mantis courting rituals.

There is the fairy tale fantasy of happily ever after and the reality that comes with children and marriage and life as you know it ending while clinging to a past where you remember you thought you were happy and the future lay before you like a brand new Yellow Brick Road stretching along a glittering path where the Emerald City of Oz beckoned on the horizon. The Wicked Witch waited with fireballs and flying monkeys to bar the path, but you're wearing rose-colored glasses and only the good things are visible.

As I have said before, we are creatures who live mostly in the past where the grass was greener, children behaved, and people were civil and kind, socially duplicitous but at least everyone got along. Instead we live in a society populated by people ready and willing to trample your rights to speak while insisting that the only speech that matters is their own as they bully dissenters with libel and slander and name calling fit for a prison school yard and we have only ourselves to blame. While we gave out prizes to children showing up and soothed their hurt feelings by putting ourselves in their places, we forgot -- or failed to remember -- that helping a butterfly out of its cocoon denies the butterfly the struggle that gives it the strength and power to emerge and become a beautiful butterfly able to spread its wings and flit from flower to flower to feed itself and help pollinate the crops so there will be food and flowers for future generations.

Few people learn that it takes persistence and patience to get through the bored "I hate you" stage so you can fall in love again and remember what it was that brought you together. It could be the crooked quirky smile or the way he makes you laugh when you're in the midst of a pointless fight or it could be that her feet are cold on the hottest day of the year or how comforting his arms feel when he steals the covers so he can spoon you. The point is that sometimes you have to wait for the heart to catch up with the brain and few people take the time or feel they have the time to wait. There's always something more important than now and you and us. Sometimes patience is all you need but you have to wait and listen carefully for patience.

That is all. Disperse.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Colonize the Undiscovered Country

There is an underlying theme in Only Begotten Daughter by James Morrow and set in New Jersey in Atlantic City that riveted me. We are all -- the people of this planet -- focused on the past. We are looking for the brier forest surrounding Sleeping Beauty's castle caught sleeping in an angry fairy's spell for more than a century. We dream of being the one to break the spell, free the sleeping court and live happily ever after. Conversely, we would be happy to stumble over a hidden crypt within a mountain where the riches of the earth lay waiting or happen upon a tarnished lamp in a junk shop that is the Aladdin's lamp that when rubbed clean would appear from the smoke to grant our every wish and unravel the riddles of the ages. We are focused on the wrong view.

We should understand the past in order to create a better future, but the focus should be on the future not the past. How can we survive if we don't look to the Undiscovered Country of the Future to set ourselves free of the slavery of the past?

Everywhere we look we see TV series about the Old West glorifying the good old days of Jesse James and the splendors of the courts of Louis XIV or Henry VIII. We relive the exploits of King Arthur's court and fashion stories about the bloody Borgias and recreate the struggle between King Xerxes and the Spartans who died defending the pass at Thermopolyae or the plains of Marathon where a Greek runner sped 40 km (about 26 miles), the distance from Marathon to Athens, to let the Athenians know they had won. The Persians had been defeated and turned away from their invasion of Greece. We run the modern marathon to honor that feat.

Historians, scientists, and archaeologists endlessly sift through the detritus of past ages to make some sense of the ancient past when they know little of what actually happened less than 200 years ago, making up stories and spinning fanciful dreams about what they think happened while destroying what they find and do not understand, hiding the general idea that our ancestors were less technologically and socially advanced than we are in our glass and marble cities piercing the clouds with their sun splashed windows that appear to be gold from the distance.

Men, women, and children recreate old battles, fight mock engagements, and annually put on Renaissance Faires where everyone plays at reliving fantasies and dreams. Daily we reach back into the past to complain about sins and mistakes our forefathers made without ever understanding the world they lived in or the struggles they mastered to make it possible for modern rebels without a cause to complain when few of the middle or lower classes ever saw the inside of a college or university or could have climbed out of the misery of their lives where their children and mothers died in childbirth or lived long enough to succumb to any number of diseases easily cured today. Blacks demand reparations from the promise of 40 acres and a mule and imagine the government will or could make good on a special field order made and revoked in 1865, still dreaming of untold wealth and riches from a country that enslaved their ancestors. They might as well petition for citizenship and the governor's mansion in Monrovia or face the indigenous African people dispossessed by freed slaves settling in African lands and imposing their rule and religion over the African people who were born and had hunted and settled the lands from time out of mind.

We look to the past to dig up whatever history we can find or refashion to support our beliefs and positions without regard for the facts -- if the facts are indeed known. If the facts are sparse, it won't take long to use the bits of broken pottery and a good imagination to fashion new facts to fit the bill.

Romance authors reimagine the past to fit a new paradigm that suits them better, turning the past into a tapestry of lies, half truths, and dreams that raise the structures that will hold whatever the author thinks should have happened or fills the gaps where mysteries are born, mysteries that take forms that change from writer to writer. We fill the past with zombies and monsters where cartographers imagined there be dragons.  Whirlpools became devouring demons that rose from the depths to swallow ships and treacherous shoals provided seats for beautiful demons sang to passing sailors and lured them and their ships to their doom.

Adventurers and seamen crossed desserts and oceans to plant colonies and discover lands and peoples with fabulous legends of cities of gold and lost treasures or civilizations that disappear beneath the oceans in a night or are devoured by a sandstorm that lasts a whole year. Riches and fables pepper the globe if only we had the map or a journal describing the route.

We are all children wide-eyed and breathless getting ready to go to bed wrapped in Morpheus's arms to enter a dream world where we fly and travel the distant stars or the depths of the oceans to realize our fondest wishes and live out magical dreams that disappear when the sun rises. Fairy silver turns to dust in the morning sun and dreams hover at the edge of consciousness until night sets them free to accompany us on the wild hunt.

We are all dreamers born of smoke and mirrors in Scheherazade's 1001 Arabian Nights to beguile a vengeful prince to allow us another day of life and to fall in love all over again. With hearts and minds mired in the past, we will never enter or colonize the Undiscovered Country nor will we stop complaining that reality is less substantial than we dreamed.

That is all. Disperse.

Monday, May 01, 2017

I Win, You Lose

Just in case you haven't been paying attention or didn't catch the meaning of the words, everything is rigged so that They win and We lose. It is like the first two or three times you choose heads or tales before the meaning of the words sinks in. No matter which you choose, heads or tales, you can't win. It's like the Kobayashi Maru that only Captain James T. Kirk passed, that no-win situation where the captain faces that reality that no matter what he does he cannot save the passengers of the Kobayashi Maru even if he doesn't cross into the Romulan Neutral Zone because the test is rigged. Winning is not an option. Facing failure and your fears is the point. The same can be said of the Muslim ban, the continued struggle between black and white, and the repercussions of calling out a rapist or sexual predator. They are all no-win situations. They are all our Kobayashi Maru test.

Pick a side, any side, head or tails, but the result remains the same: They win, you lose. That is the point. Ban Muslims, Black Lives Matter, Woman Power, Black Power, White Supremacy, White Privilege, Economic Fairness, Equal Opportunity, No Child Left Behind, The Wage Gap, The Privilege Gap, Hillary or Trump. All the games are rigged. It even goes as far down as organic versus GMOs, processed food versus natural foods. Kobayashi Maru, the no-win situation.

I read an article this morning about how a young black man had "the talk" with his parents about how to behave when stopped by the police. I look white and I had the same talk with my parents. Don't make eye contact, keep your head down and your answers short (yes, sir and no, sir) and no backtalk. The daily no-win situation when dealing with the police is the same no-win situation when dealing with a boss, a co-worker, or a staying in a motel. Don't make eye contact. Keep your head down and your answers short (yes, sir and no, sir) and no backtalk. It is the same talk that crops up between races and genders: head down, no eye contact, short answers, and no backtalk. The point is to escape the situation intact and unharmed -- or at least as unbruised or unbloodied as possible.

We live in a dangerous world and we, humanity, have made this world dangerous. People with money help make the world dangerous. People with power help make the world dangerous. People with knowledge rigging the system make this world dangerous. Those who have make the world dangerous for those who have not. The top ices the slopes or turns the roads to ice and pours cold water down the hill.

One of my sisters, a feisty little girl who fears no one faced her own Kobayashi Maru. She was dating a cop, a man she attended church with, and one night she refused his polite advances. This 6+ foot cop picked her 5-foot 2-inch petite body and took what she refused, drove her home after he was finished and walked her to the door. She kept the incident to herself and didn't tell our parents. I have told no one since she told me over 30 years ago. The same man also had a shoe box full of drivers licenses belonging to women he had pulled over, the same women he stalked for years.

There are good cops and bad cops and all the training in the world won't change that. Cops are people too, struggling with the same demons as everyone else. Some cops are good people and some cops are criminals. The same men and women work in every office in every city in every country around the world. Some are wealthy and some are poor and they use their power to harm as well as heal. They are people like you, like me, like everyone else. My aunt says that all men are dogs and I counter with some women are dogs too. Religion hasn't made a difference nor has sensitivity training or team building at some resort for a weekend or a week. Ethics be damned. Sensitivity be damned. Religion be damned. The only way to change the game is to change the players at the soul level. Sometimes the only way to change is to have a near death experience and to face the Universe where there are no ifs, ands, or buts. You and the Universe face to face (if the universe or the soul have faces) with no place to hide or bargain or loopholes to exploit. When you come back -- if you come back -- you will understand the reality of your place in the grand cosmic scheme of things and you will be changed forever. Eternity and your place in it is the ultimate reality and the ultimate no-win situation. Your choice has been made and you can accept reality or return to the Universe as a data point in the Cosmic Scheme of Things.

Before that happens, look around you at the world and the other beings that share this existence with you and choose . . . kindness, life, and the value of existence. It may be the only chance you will ever have.

That is all. Disperse.