Sunday, June 24, 2018

Wendell Berry vs. Social Media

The angry echo chamber of social media has been making me wanna drop everything and just scream inconsolably, forever. So the Wendell Berry poem I encountered on this morning's trip to the Great White Throne was an especially timely consolationa tears-in-my-eyes reminder of the One Path available for healing.

To wit:

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Why You Shouldn't Be Upset About the Recent Separation of Families at the United States / Mexico Border:

By which I mean to say you shouldn't be specifically upset. 

As a couple of my friends who work in this context (a lawyer and a counselor) will tell you, abuse of immigrants has been going on for quite some time. Sure, it's gotten particularly ugly as of late, at the specific behest of this administration. But governments have always taken ugly shortcuts to achieve their goals. Our government, in particular, has a long history of doing things that ultimately make the lives of children much, much worse: interfering militarily, propping up dictators, and most of all doing whatever it can to crush weaker economies and stay on topnot to mention taking this country by genocide and then building national wealth with slavery and warfare.

For the most part, we're content to look the other way.

As long as the value of our middle-class real estate trophy keeps rising, we'll keep fabricating stories in which we're the Good ones, basking in wealth that's primarily a product of our own glorious virtue. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

People Watching in Crazy-Town

When I go people watching, I tell myself stories.

Like the one about the little man with his ice cream cone sitting on the bench near the front door of the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. I tell myself he's remembering the sugared ice he ate as a small boy on a muggy, dusty daya continent and a lifetime away.

Forty feet from the little man, a woman sits motionless for the full hour it takes me to walk around inside the museum. When I come back out I take another picture and compare it with the first, confirming that she hasn't moved or changed position. Nor has the little man on the bench, although his ice cream is long gone and the pigeons have become less interested.

This man and woman are married to each other, I decide, their distance speaking perhaps not of alienation, but of a comfort and security that does not demand proximity.

Who are they? What worlds have they seen? Who are they waiting for outside the museum, and why do they not enter, themselves? Smithsonian museums are free, but perhaps they do not know that and their decision to wait was born of a wise frugality. Or perhaps there is something in their belief system that prevents them from staring at the preserved carcasses of animals.

Maybe they're just tired.

Another couple, vastly different, takes in the sights. The young man wears a "Hobo Jack" t-shirt. It's a London-based clothing company, so perhaps these tourists are British. Or maybe they just popped into the shops of England on their way from some even more progressive country, like Denmark.

Perhaps these Danes are here to gawk at the madness before it all comes apart. They've read about the war of 1812 and wonder if the Canadians might be on their way, even now, to once again burn the White House to the ground.

Do they see me, watching them? Do they wonder who I am? Do they assume I'm an American, and partially responsible for the coming conflagration?

We pass each other, sparks of energy both seen and unseen. Flitting through each other's consciousness and then gone, again, forever. Entire human worlds colliding, just glancing off each other and back into the vacuum of our own spaces.

Do they see each other?

Does anyone?

Are all the stories we tell about each other nothing more than fabrications?

Friday, June 8, 2018

Here's Why You Shouldn't Kill Yourself...

Perhaps you're thinking that's an obnoxious, pushy title up there. I mean, how dare I tell you what (not) to do with yourself, right? After all, I don't know you. I don't know what it feels like to be in your depression—to feel the pain that only you can feel.

If that's what you're thinking... you're right.

You're on your island, I'm on mine, and the communication lines between us are spotty at best. 

I also didn't know Anthony Bourdain, who died this morning of an apparent suicide. I mean, I watched an episode of one of his TV shows once, and I once wrote him a letter (for my own weird, irrelevant reasons), but I didn't know him. Still, when I heard of Bourdain's death I knew him a little better than I had before because I, too, have been depressed.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Day of the Pheasant

Just up the road from my house is a hunting club where several times a year they buy a few hundred birds and throw them off towers or from cages. Then all the men and women (but mostly men) with guns try to shoot them dead. Some of the birds escape, and a few months back they had a particularly large contingent of either extra-wily birds or extra-terrible hunters (or both), which resulted in a abundance of pheasants bobbing around in the tall grasses on the sides of the local roads.

Pheasant season passed and it became illegal to kill them, but my wife expressed a desire to cook and eat a pheasant. A little research revealed that the pheasants were unlikely to survive the next winter in this area, so I decided a little poaching was in order. You know, spirit of the law and all that.

Friday, April 27, 2018

A Tale of Two Micies

Mouse Story Number One: As Told By Josh Barkey

Sunrise was still an hour away and the clouds were blocking out the waxing, near-full moon as I drove my parents' Honda Fit down a tree-shadowed stretch of unpopulated highway, on my way to pick my folks up at the bustling Charlotte airport. They'd been off in California for nearly two weeks, spending time with family. The entire time they were gone, their car had sat idle.

[insert ominous thunderclap]

A car that is not regularly driven begins to die: Inside the engine, the gas slowly turns to varnish. Rubber seals dry out and crack. Oil settles away from where it's needed, and rust begins to bite. And sometimes, if the proper precautions have not been taken, dark spirits move in as well―at least, that's what I was thinking when I saw the shadow of some unknown creature flit past my left shoulder. It ran along the sill of the window, up to the dashboard, and then back again. Was it a trick of the light? A weird shadow cast by the headlights of an oncoming vehicle? I did not know.

Reason told me not to fear.
Reason told me it was nothing.
Reason is a liar.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Why Young Americans Don't Think Older Americans Deserve a Medal for Being Rich, or "Mirrors are for Everyone!"

Two days ago, I found out I had to pay more taxes than I wanted to (I knowcrazy, right?). 

I was annoyed and also a bit scared by this (because money's tight right now), so I posted a rant on social media. Upon reflection and after being told as much by my brother and some others, I decided my post was an incomplete, poorly-considered representation of what I really do believe. And I deleted it.

Before I could do that, though, someone I know had copied and pasted my rant to his Facebook wall. While I wasn't pleased about that and asked him to take it down, I've decided to take his subsequent request that I explain my position at face value.

But first...

Saturday, April 14, 2018

How to Be Kind on the Internet:

Yesterday I made some people angry at me on social media, and it got me to thinking about kindness on the internet. So here are some principles that I think are important:
  1. Be careful little fingers what you type. Kindness is hard, but retracting unkindness is even harder. Think/breathe/relax before you grab a pitchfork. 
  2. Just because someone says something uncool on the internet, doesn't mean you have to respond to it. You are not the Final Arbiter of Justice. You are not the one who has to Make All Things Right.
  3. Don't waste too much energy trying to be perfect. First, because you'll fail and everyone will laugh at you and second, because humility is awesome. Be quick to admit when you've made a mistake. If you've hurt someone's feelings, apologize for that right away. You didn't have to mean to hurt their feelingsheck, at this point there's probably not much you could say on the internet that won't hurt somebody's feelingsbut the kind thing is still to apologize that their feelings got hurt and that you had something to do with it, even peripherally. By then the internet lynch mobs might have found you and you'll have lost your job and your home and your car, but hey... you're a champ in my book.
  4. At the same time, don't be so afraid of hurting someone's feelings that you won't ever tell anyone what you think. Your voice is important! Share it (kindly)!
  5. If someone hurts your feelings, tell them right away. Don't let it simmer, and don't make it about the thing they said that hurt your feelings. Chances are fantastic that they had no intentions of hurting your feelings at all! So just tell them that the specific thing they said hurt your feelings, and leave it at that. If they apologize, be gracious about it. 
  6. If the person who hurt your feelings is not a safe person and you know that about them and you know they won't be kind and will use your vulnerability against you... cut ties. Life is too short to waste it on being hurt repeatedly on the internet by people you can just as easily avoid.

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