The Loss

The Loss

We expect waves to froth and vanish;
that is the way of the whale road.
But the roads on which we travel we count the rails as strong, sure, straight — unswerving they take us in a known direction.

We know how sentences end but we count on the commas to spin out our tale, and relish even a semicolon as that offer of tomorrow.

Our world directions matter; things should come before other things, places before other places, events before other events.
Believing in the logic of nature we resist the chaos variable.

We are blind to it even as it weaves its way into the fabric of our perceptions.
As that absence interrupts a day and cancels out our bright hope,

That hope froths and then vanishes, leaving a dark where once there was logic, order — the ordinary sequence of becoming and being.

And the landscape of your world is shadowed by his sun.
That bright and shining boy who laughed. And then left.

Dedicated to my colleague on the loss of his son

The evil that is email

I can recall entire summers when I was not teaching at my college and would hear nothing at all until the end of summer letter inviting us back to campus for fall term.  Ah.. Those were the days.  Or at an office job:  the weekends were yours in privacy unless some unmitigated catastrophe occurred that necessitated a phone call to your home phone.  

Now we are all of us bombarded by emails all day, every day.  I will confess to being guilty in both initiating emails over the weekend and in the evening hours as well as responding to them.  

But is this so bad?  Isn’t it great to instantly touch base with someone when you are thinking about an issue or problem and get a response back?  Or catch up on work from the luxury of your own back yard in a summer evening? And do not all these emails signal how indispensable we are to our places of employment?  And how dedicate we are in responding?

And therein lies the rub.  If we ignore emails over, say a weekend or a vacation, when we return we face pages of unread messages, many of them out of date as the senders get increasingly frustrated by our silence and move on to a “more important person.”  And that silence serves to brand one as not committed, not really all that concerned about one’s all important places of business–i.e. the source of our paycheck which measures our value to our company.  You can see how this spirals downward fast.

But the electronic barrage sucks the vitality our of us as we can never redirect our

attention to that which is at hand.  We must always be living in the land of work.  As most of us are not the president of the United States, one has to wonder why we have to sacrifice our personal lives for the omnipresent work life. We cannot be alive to the bigger world around us:  the sound of crickets in the late summer, the biting cold of the winter wind on a winter’s walk in a forest or down an urban street.  We miss the joy of a child playing at pretending to make stone soup and we cannot smell the baking bread as we are buried in our laptop, firing back emails to someone who is likewise disconnected from the 3-D world around them. Our minds are full of buzzing electronic waves that shout to be heard and rule our every thought, waking and sometimes in the middle of the night.

The irony is that I am not convinced we are really accomplishing any more than countless generations before us achieved.  The medievals lived full and adventuresome lives with nary a computer in sight and often died at an age we would find tragically young.  And yet look at  all they accomplished.  Empires were built and destroyed, music and art was created, novels were written, people lives fulsome lives.  Businesses grew and created the modern world.  Without email.

My daughter types letters on a typewriter and for a number of years lived off the grid on a farm.  Maybe we need to rethink the ways in which technology has mastered us and made us its slaves, even as it promised us that our lives would be immeasurably improved with its presence.  Walk away from it.  Advocate for a workplace where weekends, vacations, days off are silent.  Regain privacy and retool the ancient forms of communication knows as our five senses.  Breathe.  Look.  Hear.  And walk away from the computer.  Like I will do now.

Next meditation:  the cell phone…

Politics of Secrecy

clinton2I am sure we are all familiar with the current uproar over Hillary Clinton’s health and her reluctance to be forthcoming about her recent bout of pneumonia.  Donald Trump refers to this as yet another example of crooked Hillary” and there is plenty of worrisome head shakes in the media about why she would not admit to being ill.  Trump himself revealed his own health records to… Dr. Oz.  But forgot to really share them with the rest of the nation.  Kind of like his IRS return.  The Washington Post did take him to task.  But now they are out.

But I am taken by the constant criticism of Clinton as secretive while her opponent ‘s choices to procrastinate or not answer questions are simply glossed over. Part of this might be due that Clinton has a long and established record in political positions where she could not be entirely open about what was happening.  Note: Confidentiality is not automatically a sign of nefarious doings.  But since she has tended to focus on issues and not herself, she has nevertheless received criticism from both sides.  Who is the real Hillary, they ask?

But let’s step back and ask if there might not be another problem.  Women have been viewed as secretive for centuries.  “You cannot trust a woman” was a common mantra from biblical times (Eve caused it all) through the middle ages (women living alone were clearly witches) to more recent times (B.B. King.)  witchesflying_lg

How did this deep mistrust of women originate?  Perhaps in prehistoric times men realized that the magical power of women to bring forth children was countered by their own uncertainty as to whether they were the father. Women were at home all day; what did they do?  You could try to control them, lock them up, forbid any access to the world without the man–but one could never be sure. Poetry and music abound in lyrics that bemoan the ways in which men cannot trust women.  From Purcell to country music to rap, women are sneaky, unreliable, and will break your heart.  Of course, to be fair, there are plenty of songs where women view men the same way.  But history has always painted women as particularly distrustful.  A cursory search reveals all sorts of collections of pithy comments by men about women.

clintonBut the problem may be broader than a fanciful historical take such as I offer above. Today we might argue that anyone who tries to keep his or her personal life private runs the risk of being accused of hiding something. Especially in politics.  Women, however, have been schooled not to bring their personal into the workplace. ” Do not mention you have kids or they will see you as less dedicated.” is advice given to many women.  Men never receive this admonishment.  Granted–the health records of candidates for the most taxing and horrible job in the world, President of the United States, may be important to know up front.  But then, why come down so vociferously on Clinton but not so much on Trump?

So we find ourselves with a twofold dilemma.  Do we assume Clinton is hiding truths or lying because we unconsciously assume this is “women’s way?”  And are we going too far in disallowing any public figure a measure of privacy wherein we do not have the right to know?  Should anyone running for office have to reveal every little detail about their personal lives?