Dorien Grey's

Blog

A Young Dorien


Dorien's blogs are being reposted on Tuesdays and Fridays.  You can access additional blogs

at http://doriengreyandme.blogspot.com/. (Please note that the DorienGreyandMe.com site is no longer
functioning.)  Earlier blogs can also be found as an ebook from Untreed Reads and at Amazon;
there is also an audio book edition available at Amazon/Audible.com:
Cover of "Short Circuits"


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Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Drawing of a Family Tree
Chance, Coincidence and Incredible Odds

Life is a cosmic pinball machine; our past—our very existence—is the result of an infinite number of random coincidences and convergences of unrelated circumstances producing results with odds far greater than any lottery. Our every single action alters and sometimes profoundly changes our future. Yet we remain largely oblivious.

Probably it's just as well; otherwise it would be impossible to make it through even one day if we had to stop and consider our every smallest
action before committing it. We are surrounded/immersed/bombarded by so many challenges and contradictions and potential dangers that we would be totally incapacitated while trying to choose which action to take. We do most of it on autopilot, of course. Our minds and bodies are programmed to free us from conscious awareness of those physical functions necessary for life and self preservation. We look when we cross the street without having to stop to think about it. We walk by putting one foot in front of the other without a thought. We breathe, we talk, we cook, and shower, and work; interact with other people, and do an infinite number of things, many at the same time. And if we were to stop and give close scrutiny to the astonishingly complexity of how and why we do any one of these things, our lives would grind to a halt. That we are able to do these things without pausing once to think of what we are doing, or why, is astonishing in itself.

Stop for just a moment to consider that each of us is directly descended from an unbroken chain of at least 10,000 generations of ancestors, each generation consisting of a pair of individual human beings who, as the bible so quaintly put it, "begat" the next generation by combining their DNA to produce the next link in the chain. And yet, if just one of those links had broken—by a rock falling from a cave roof, a stray arrow or bullet in one of mankind's endless wars failing to produce the next link in the chain, the individual who is the current link—you—would/could never have existed. 

Life is an endless string of single moments where conscious or unconscious decisions are made, every one of them subtly or profoundly changing the course of our lives. Just a cursory look at your own life will reveal a stupefying number of coincidences and what-were-the-odds events which brought you to this exact moment in time. If you hadn't done something you did—if you had chosen something other than you did—you would not be the same person you are.

And to take one tiny snippet from the chain of my own past: when I left Los Angeles, I opened a bed and breakfast in tiny Pence, Wisconsin—a circumstance I have often regretted for reasons too complex to go into here. And yet if I had not done it, I would never have met and become friends with a number of wonderful people who are still part of my life. One was my friend Mollie, who later moved to San Diego, where she  told me of her next door neighbor, Gary, with whom she thought I might become friends. We did become not only friends, but best friends, and I really can't imagine what my life would be like today if he were not an integral part of it.

Every aspect of our lives is founded on the cumulative, moment-by-moment details of our past. And while nothing can be done to change any of this, pondering the imponderable is the strop upon which the razor of the mind is sharpened.

I sometimes regret, on a philosophical level, that the string of 10,000-plus generations which led to me ends with me. I have not and will not "beget" another link in the chain. My branch of the human tree will sprout no new twigs. And yet humans, as a species, have reached the stage in our development where DNA is not the only method of passing one's self on through the ages. The end of physical existence need not necessarily mean the end of the individual. My words, which are my progeny and are the essence of me, will be around, somewhere, as long as there are copies of them to be read and eyes to read them. No 100-year-maximum "shelf life." Though I may have an expiration date, my words and the parts of me they contain do not. I take immeasurable comfort in that belief.

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Dorien has a book of blogs, Short Circuits; A Life in Blogs; it can be ordered from Untreed Reads and Amazon; it is also available as an audio book. All those blogs have been republished here. Fortunately, Dorien wrote many blogs after that book; I will now be publishing those here--as we consider a volume 2.
Tentative Cover for Vol. 2


Dorien's blogs are posted every Tuesday and Friday (although I'm a day late today).



Friday, May 18, 2018
Dorien as a Child with His Father
My Father's Son

I’ve been thinking of my dad recently. As impossible as it is for me to really comprehend, he’s been dead 45 years now. And as I think of him, I am able to see him, and my relationship with him, with an objectivity I never quite had while he was alive.

He was born in 1909, into a dysfunctional family. His parents divorced when he was quite young and he spent some time in an orphanage. I’ve just this moment realized that to this day, I do not know whether it was his mother or his father who retrieved and raised him, but his life could not have been easy. His mother remarried several times, his father once.


He met and married my mother when he was 22…mom was 24…and I came along a few years later. Neither he nor Mom finished high school, and both worked very hard all their lives. Given their backgrounds and temperaments, they should probably never have married; but of course if they hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here. They probably should have divorced when I was in grade school, but they didn’t. My mom was totally devoted to him, despite his string of extramarital relationships, one lasting until about four years before his death.

Many fathers and sons have a rocky relationship, the father wanting the son to be and do so many things the son either did not want to be or do, with the result of the son’s feeling like he did not live up to the father’s expectations. This was definitely the case with me. Dad loved sports and so wanted me to share that love. I was awkward and clumsy and terrible at team sports, as a partial result of which I grew to hate organized sports of any kind.

Because he and Mom argued endlessly, I—definitely a momma’s boy—sided with her, which I know caused him a great deal of pain. I’m sure I hurt him terribly far too many times. (An incident just popped into my head: he and I were somewhere shopping for something and he bought me a bag of candy. I had finished it before he reminded me, not out of anger but what I realize now was hurt, that I had not offered him a single piece. I still remember and deeply regret my thoughtlessness.)

It was not until he died, of a second heart attack within six months, at the age of 57, that I began to realize just how unfair I had been to him most of my life. Of course he was flawed…who isn’t? But I could have made more of an effort to understand him while he was still alive. He had known I was gay long before I finally “officially” came out to him and my mom, and in a way, he handled the knowledge better than Mom did.

In the few years between my declaring my homosexuality—thus ending decades of foolish game playing and avoidance—and Dad’s death, we finally reached an accommodation, and I began my journey on the long road to understanding.

Dad wasn’t a physically demonstrative type of person. Men didn’t do that sort of thing. The one way he demonstrated his affection was, when we were sitting side by side on the couch, he would reach over and squeeze my knee, hard, which always evoked a loud yelp of protest from me. It wasn’t until long after his death that I realized what he meant by it.

I would, with all my heart, truly like to believe that, in the moments before he died, he thought of me and knew that I loved him. For the one thing in my life of which I am absolutely sure is that he truly, truly loved me with all his heart and soul. I know that when I joined the Naval Aviation Cadet program, he was extremely proud of me, and that when I washed out of the program, it hurt him, but it did not diminish his pride in me. No matter how much I angered or frustrated or hurt him, he was proud of me.

It may be immodest of me to say, but I am not talking of myself when I say that I was, truly, his son.

I hope it is not too late to say, yet again, “Thank you, Dad. I love you.”

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Dorien has a book of blogs, Short Circuits; A Life in Blogs; it can be ordered from Untreed Reads and Amazon; it is also available as an audio book. All those blogs have been republished here. Fortunately, Dorien wrote many blogs after that book; I will now be publishing those here--as we consider a volume 2.
Tentative Cover of "Short Circuits 2)


Dorien's blogs are  posted Tuesday and Friday.



Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Word "Grammar" Under a Magnifying Lens
Except after "C"

Our civilization is built on words, with which we have in turn built languages. Words and language set humans apart from all other creatures.

English is, I've read and heard many times, one of the most complex of languages and the most difficult for foreigners to learn because it is the most flexible. It has, as do all languages, rules...but these rules tend to have so many exceptions as to be nearly incomprehensible. One, which every child learns in elementary school, is "i before e, except after c, or when sounded as a as in neighbor and weigh." Fine, except when as sounded as i as in height or as e as in weird.

My own life, as a writer, is built on my fascination with words. I was an English major in college, yet am ashamed at how little I know of the rules that govern its construction and usage--verbs and predicate nominatives and dangling participles and conjunctive clauses. On reflection, I sincerely wonder how I ever managed to get a degree in English. Yet I am fascinated nonetheless.

One of the many things I find fascinating is definitive prefixes (if there is such a term)...like "dis-" and "un-" and "in-" and "non-", each of which, attached to the beginning of a word, indicates the exact opposite of the word to which it is attached. To be disrespectful is to be not respectful; to be dishonest is to be not honest; to be uncommon is to be not common; to be indecent is to be not decent; to be nonsensical is to not make sense. All, again, good solid rules until you come across words like "inflammable," which means exactly the same as "flammable."

And, of course, frequently definitive prefixes are not definitive at all but simply part of a word. There is no "aster" to be negated in "disaster," no "ception" to be reversed in "inception," no "guent" to be denied in "unguent," no "chalant" in "nonchalant."

One of the inherent problems with American English is that it is a hodgepodge of words borrowed from or based in many other languages: French, Latin, German, Spanish. We've borrowed or taken from just about every other language on earth. It's little wonder that we get confused. Words themselves are fluid and their roots are often lost. The word "disease" implies it means "not ease," which is exactly what it originally meant in Old French: desaise—lack of ease. However, today the word has taken on a much more serious connotation, and broadened out to include any number of problems—"dry eye disease"—I’d hardly consider a real disease.

The pronunciation of words also change over time, sometimes to the point where the original meaning of the word itself is lost. A prime example—and one I hasten to point out at every opportunity—is the word “president," which also demonstrates how pronunciation changes meaning. To hear the word pronounced "prez-eh-dent" instead of “prez-EYE-dent” totally obscures it's true meaning: one who presides.

To this day I am constantly confused by whether/when to use "lay" or "lie," "further" or "farther." Commas, colons, and semicolons remain largely a mystery. I am perhaps too fond of em-dashes—, though I often use them when I should be using ellipses..., and vice-versa. I operate on the simple and often wrong principle that my mind knows more than I do and, when confronted with a choice, will come up with the right one.

The rule of thumb that has worked well for me in all my writing is "go with what sounds right." I am deeply indebted to my computer's spell-checker, though I still am frequently driven to distraction by trying to look up a word I do not know how to spell. The thesaurus sometimes helps, but not always.

Still, I manage to bumble through with my admiration for words undiminished.

In short, I love language: just don't bother me with the details.

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Dorien has a book of blogs, Short Circuits; A Life in Blogs; it can be ordered from Untreed Reads and Amazon; it is also available as an audio book. All those blogs have been republished here. Fortunately, Dorien wrote many blogs after that book; I will now be publishing those here--as we consider a volume 2.
Tentative Cover for Vol. 2


Dorien's blogs are posted every Tuesday and Friday--and again I am a day late. Sorry.



Friday, May 11, 2018
Little Boy Carrying a Wooden Sword
Little Boy Lost

I have never grown up—a combination of circumstances and deliberate effort. When I was five I had no desire whatsoever to be six. I even now pay only lip service to the fact of being an adult.
I’ve always been acutely aware that life is a precious gift I could not have forever, and I suppose I’ve believed that if I stayed a child, I could indefinitely put off having to give it back. Yet even while I refer to life as a party, I’ve never felt that I was particularly welcome guest; I’ve always been the one standing awkwardly in the corner, watching everyone else enjoy themselves.

Reality and I have never cared for one another. Even as a child, while my parents and close relatives served as my anchors and made me feel loved and physically comfortable, I felt somehow detached. Thanks in large part to my mother, who read to me constantly before I learned to read for myself and fostered my fantasies, I was able to build a fortress against reality Its walls and battlements were made of materials I found in books and movies and stories and games. I developed the ability to view myself with an odd detachment, as though I were a character in a book I was reading. I slowly became my own book, my own movie. This is still the case today. I sit in the armchair of my mind and watch/read in fascination as my story—and my books—unfold.

And though there are advantages to holding tightly to a child’s mind, eyes, and heart beyond physical childhood, it becomes more and more difficult as the body ages and reality’s armies march relentlessly forward to besiege my fortress.

So many factors make each of us who we are as individuals, and we are all different because no two people have identical life-shaping experiences. My personal unwillingness to “grow up” has been neither easy nor, often, pleasant. It is based, again, on the my acute awareness of not “belonging,” of never really having been or being totally sure of how to respond to “grown-up” situations. It has left me eternally confused and frustrated, and. I cannot remember a time when I have not felt like a lost little boy.

Interestingly, however, though I have always felt alone, I very seldom feel lonely. I have also fairly well developed the ability to avoid feeling overwhelmed by simply refusing to think about things which I know might well cause those feelings. I’m very well aware that the possibility for physical and romantic love—sharing my life with someone whom I can love with all my being, and who could love me equally in return—have long been lost to me, and this could be a source of true sorrow and regret were I allow it to. So I simply do not let myself think about it. But it is clear notice that I have been at the party a very long time and cannot expect to stay forever.

Having retained a child’s romanticism and firm belief in a happily-ever-after, I’m even now constantly trying to accommodate what I want and expect life to be with what it is. My fortress is surrounded, and even my lost little boy knows it.

While the mind may be able to resist reality, the body cannot. My little boy’s body has long, long ago vanished, to be replaced by one I simply do not recognize and which could horrify me if I were to allow myself too much access to reflexive surfaces. I am slowly losing control over it and I fear it has made a pact with reality which I would never allow it to even consider.

And as I view, with truly detached objectivity, the fact that I am closer to the end of my journey than to the beginning, I fool myself by thinking of it a “logic” rather than “reality.” And you can be sure I will remain in my fortress, thumbing my nose at Reality’s armies as long as I possibly can. And then, hopefully, my mother may come and read me a story.

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Dorien has a book of blogs, Short Circuits; A Life in Blogs; it can be ordered from Untreed Reads and Amazon; it is also available as an audio book. All those blogs have been republished here. Fortunately, Dorien wrote many blogs after that book; I will now be publishing those here--as we consider a volume 2.
Tentative Cover of Short Circuits 2


Dorien's blogs are posted every Tuesday and Friday, although I was ill Friday, so a day late this week.




Tuesday, May 8, 2018
Unassembled Puzzle Pieces
“They,” “Them,” and Me

I've spent an inordinate amount of time, over the course of my life, pondering the riddle of how I can be a part of humanity and yet so often feel totally apart from it. I've come to the conclusion that I view my relation to other people...and specifically to heterosexuals...rather like a cat or dog views people: living among them every day, quite fond of a number of them, hungry for and appreciative of positive attention from them, and yet having absolutely no concept of what it's like to be one of them.

Of course, I suspect that I may not be alone in viewing the rest of humanity as some strange, conglomerate "They." And again, one of the reasons I write these blogs is an attempt to let those who might have similar thoughts and views on matters seldom talked—or probably even consciously thought--about know they're not alone. Too often I see my relationship to the rest of humanity as not only a matter of "me" and “them”—-but often as a matter of "me" versus "them".

From my infinitely limited perspective, in looking at the rest of humanity as "They," I'm painfully aware that "They" have the unquestioned and overwhelming advantage in everything. "They" glide effortlessly from day to day, cutting through the life's problems like the bow of a ship cuts through a stormy sea, unfazed.

"They" know not only how to read instruction manuals, but how to understand them. ("Carefully undigitize the Prenalyzer from the Bliggerostometer before attaching the Spratzer, then insert Tab A into Slot B.” Of course! What could be simpler?) For "them," Tab A always, always slips into Slot B without the slightest effort.

When a box of cereal says "lift flap to open," "They" simply lift the flap and the box opens. They don't end up tearing the lid off the box in frustration. And they can close the box again, too, by slipping the tab into the slot. "They" can open a bag of potato chips without spending five minutes tugging and pulling with mounting frenzy until it bursts open with such force that it scatters the contents of the bag all over the room.

"They" can confidently order something online—a pair of pants, say—and, when the package arrives, open it, put on the pants, and go happily on with their business. I have never, ever, ordered any piece of clothing on line that fit, let alone bore the vaguest resemblance to the item’s illustration in the catalog from which I ordered it.

In social situations, "They" always blend in seamlessly with everyone in attendance. "They" always have something interesting or profound or witty to say, and all the other "They's" hang on to every word, laugh at every joke and understand everything everyone else is talking about. If music and dancing are involved "They" unselfconsciously and with great enthusiasm move to the rhythm. "They" all know how to dance, and move gracefully when not dancing. When engaged in conversation with several people at once, "They" speak in complete sentences. "They" never have to stop ten seconds after saying something and wish they'd said it differently. When witty repartee is called for, "They" are at the top of their game, thrusting and parrying to the delight of all. "They" are bubbly as champagne; I tend to be more like stale beer.

"They" are almost never unsure of themselves. "They" waste little second-guessing their actions. "They" are confident of every decision and accepting of—even if not always happy with—the outcome. "They" don't spend inordinate amounts of time wishing they had done something they had not done, or wishing they hadn't done something they did do. "They" accept the past and move on without more than an occasional backward glance.

Still, it's oddly, if wishfully, comforting to think that there might be a sufficient number of others who think and feel as I do so that I might be able to think less in terms of “me” and more in terms of “us.” I’d like that.

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Dorien has a book of blogs, Short Circuits; A Life in Blogs; it can be ordered from Untreed Reads and Amazon; it is also available as an audio book. All those blogs have been republished here. Fortunately, Dorien wrote many blogs after that book; I will now be publishing those here--as we consider a volume 2.
Tentative Cover for Short Circuits Vol. 2


Dorien's blogs are usually posted every Tuesday and Friday, but I have had a terrible time getting
to Angelfire, the site that hosts Dorien's site. I'm looking to change.



Wednesday, May 2, 2018
Baby Birds in the Nest
On Thinking


I do an awful lot of thinking. ... No, let me rephrase that: my mind is like a car with the engine turned on, the gas pedal pushed to the floor, and the gearshift in neutral. This is to “thought” what a table full of baking ingredients is to a pie.  Actually grabbing one single thought and holding onto it long enough to do anything of value with it is nearly impossible for me.

I’d actually finished this blog before it dawned on me that it probably made little or no sense. I’d originally intended to address the various aspects of thinking. I was planning to delve into the subject at some depth...or what passes for depth with me.

We think from the day we are born. Even before we engage in what might be considered rational thought, we as babies begin thinking as a way of learning how to use our bodies, familiarizing ourselves first with the purpose of our various appendages, then with the voices and faces of our parents, and exploring our senses—taste being the first. Having established the basic knowledge of the our physicality, rationality and logic then slowly enter the equation.

To return to the car analogy, the mind is the driver, the body the car. They generally work flawlessly as a team throughout childhood, youth, and well into adulthood. But there inevitably comes a point where the two begin to part ways. It seldom if ever occurs to the mind that while it has no major physical components to wear out, the body is constructed totally of components that do. We’re at first confused by the physical slowing down of the body—it’s unwillingness and eventually inability to do what it had always done before.

Life has been compared to a highway, and while the mind assumes it should always be able to maintain the speed limit, all the thinking in the world can’t change the fact that the body/car is being increasingly overtaken and passed by sleek, newer models with shinier paint and more highly polished chrome. The mind may still be in the race, but the body is inexorably forced into the slow lane. As the situation becomes more and more apparent, it’s not uncommon for the mind to experience a mixture of anger at the body and fear for itself.

But for all the benefits of thinking in the body-and-mind union, I’ve always wondered why, since thinking is one of the greatest of all the unique gifts bestowed upon Mankind, so many people don't seem to bother with using it, and are content to let other people do their thinking for them.

I just had the mental image of a nest of baby birds, mouths agape, waiting for their parents to regurgitate nourishment, and the thought that when it comes to thinking, too many humans never get beyond the baby-bird stage. They willingly swallow anything they're fed and accept as gospel anything they're told. Why bother to chew on a thought when you can just swallow someone else’s whole?

A terrifyingly large number of people one might assume to be rational human beings have been somberly telling us that our President is an usurper to the office he holds; the fact that he was elected  to the office…twice…means absolutely nothing. He is, to those who never met a conspiracy theory they didn’t like,  a Kenyan-Socialist-Marxist-Muslim-terrorist Antichrist who drinks the blood of Christian babies for breakfast. He is E-vil incarnate. Really? Gee, that sounds terrible. But I'm not going to spend any time thinking about it for myself. If people say it, it must be true, right? So that's proof enough for me. I'll just go along with it with no question.

I can't help but wonder how much of the anger and hostility sweeping the world today is based on independent thought and how much on our willingness to be carried along on the sheer, unreasoning tsunami engendered by accepting what we’re told without question.

And I have just realized, upon rereading all of the above for the fourth or fifth time and trying to smooth out the lumps, that at the rate I’m going, this particular blog has the potential to be only a few pages shorter than The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. So I think I should just call it a day. Maybe I'll try to talk about thinking again sometime. You know, come up with a bunch of analogies between cars and drivers and minds and bodies and…. Well, we’ll see.

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Dorien has a book of blogs, Short Circuits; A Life in Blogs; it can be ordered from Untreed Reads and Amazon; it is also available as an audio book. All those blogs have been republished here. Fortunately, Dorien wrote many blogs after that book; I will now be publishing those here--as we consider a volume 2.
Tentative Cover of Short Circuits Vol 2


Dorien's blogs are usually posted every Tuesday and Friday; my apologies for missing this Tuesday.



Friday, April 27, 2018
"A Fine Line" over a Line
The Spider’s Belch

Odd how one picks up small bits and pieces of poetry, songs, sayings, etc. from God knows where and carries them throughout life.

One of my favorites, probably from my grade school days when I was becoming aware of profundities (love that word), is "He who knows not, and knows not he knows not, he is a fool: shun him. He who knows not and knows he knows not, he is ignorant; teach him. But he who knows and knows he knows, he is wise; follow him." Too bad more people don't adhere to this very helpful guideline. Which brought me to the subject for today's blog.

Whereas the gap between stupidity and wisdom is awesomely wide, only the very thinest of lines separates ignorance from stupidity—a line so thin the two are often and easily confused. Ignorance is, by definition, simply a lack of knowledge, and can be overcome (and I can't help but observe that the core of the word "ignorance" is "ignore"). The true test of who is stupid and who is ignorant lies in whether they are even aware that the line exists. The ignorant need only apply the tool of leaning—to which, admittedly and for many reasons, they may not always have easy access. The stupid either deny the tool exists or have no interest whatever in using it. Both stupidity and ignorance are, in effect, prison cells with unlocked doors. The ignorant may, due to their circumstances, be unaware that they are free to leave; the stupid have no desire to. A fool operates on the principle of the old cliche, "Don't bother me with facts; my mind's made up."

As a general rule of thumb, stupidity is defined not only by the absolute refusal to even consider any opinion that differs from one’s own, but by the frequently zealous denial of the right of others to have other opinions. Ignorance curable; stupidity is terminal.

Some time ago, in a post onto Facebook, I quoted Polonius' advice to his son, Laertes, in Hamlet: "This above all: to thine own self be true. And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not be false to any man." It evoked the following comment: "Why don't u use English?" I responded with a modern-English interpretation of the quote, to which the same person replied: "U mean be true to urself!" Yes, that's what I mean.

I did not automatically assume the questioner was stupid, but I was both mildly shocked and saddened by her ignorance. However her second question indicated that she may suffer far more from ignorance than stupidity. And to me, the most terrifying thing is that while the line cannot be crossed from stupidity to ignorance, there is a great danger of crossing the line in the other direction. Ignorance ignored can too easily become stupidity.

We are a nation of ignorance seemingly sinking deeper and deeper into the quagmire of stupidity with each succeeding generation. Studies and reports show how terrifyingly ignorant our general public is becoming. Ignorant parents tend to raise ignorant children. When a shocking number of teenagers read far below their grade level, when they do not comprehend basic math and science, when they cannot find China on a map, it is time for grave concern.

Alarm bells have been rung so loudly and so long that we are becoming deaf to them. The ignorant aren't quite sure what they mean, and the stupid neither know nor care.

The fact that stupidity has taken such a firm foothold is in large part due to its vociferous proponents—those science-denying politicians and “I speak for God” preachers and self-serving pundits, all of whom confuse volume and intensity for validity. Listen, if you have the stomach and tolerance for it, to see if you can find even one scintilla of positivity or hope anywhere in their ranting. That there is nothing positive in stupidity is painfully self-evident.

Is there a lesson here? I'd hope it might be this: never, never confuse those who claim to know for those who do know. How can you tell them apart? Your mind may not always know, but your heart surely does.

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Dorien has a book of blogs, Short Circuits; A Life in Blogs; it can be ordered from Untreed Reads and Amazon; it is also available as an audio book. All those blogs have been republished here. Fortunately, Dorien wrote many blogs after that book; I will now be publishing those here--as we consider a volume 2.
Tentative Cover of Short Circuits Vol. 2


Dorien's blogs are usually posted every Tuesday and Friday.



Tuesday, April 23, 2018
US Navy Flotilla
Flotilla

You may have noticed that I’m rather fond of similes and metaphors for life and the human condition. They are constantly bubbling to the surface of my mind, unbidden.

Some time ago, I posted a blog comparing life to a leaky little boat, with each of us bailing frantically to stay afloat. Today, perhaps more inspired by my Navy videos than the leaky boats blog, another bubble broke the surface. I suddenly found myself envisioning stock footage from a WWII era newsreel, looking down through the clouds on a huge
flotilla of naval ships. Carriers, destroyers, heavy cruisers, light cruisers, battleships, support vessels of every description, tankers, troop ships…hundreds of them, spread over miles and miles of the ocean’s surface, each individual vessel  moving in the same direction and at the same speed, toward the same destination with the same goal.  It was also one of those optical illusions where one moment you see it as a unit (the flotilla), and the next you see the individual ships which constitute it.

And that, I thought, is a pretty good analogy for how humanity works. We are as diverse as the ships of the fleet, yet are all sailing through the sometimes stormy sea of life, each one a totally unique individual, operating both individually and as part of a vastly larger whole.

In a wartime flotilla every ship in it is subject to attack and sinking by things we can see coming, the equivalent of air strikes, or those we cannot, like the torpedo from a submarine. And when one ship is stricken, the others steam on, not oblivious, but unable to do anything. We sail on together toward a horizon which none of us—no matter how big or small—will ever reach. As those who have sailed beside or at various distances from us for years slip beneath the waves, we sail on because we have no other choice than but to do so. And as we ourselves are torpedoed and sink, as inevitably must happen, the rest of the fleet continues on, our place in the flotilla taken up by another ship.

I’d like to think of myself as a carrier, of course…a proud, awe-inspiring, majestic flagship of one of the many battle groups of the fleet. But I am probably, in reality, a little grey destroyer paroling the perimeter of the fleet, cutting resolutely through the turbulent seas, plunging headlong into gigantic waves only to rise up in a huge spray of water washing over my bow, then plunge down into another trough to repeat the process.

There are, both in naval fleets and in life, priorities—probably more clear in ships than in people. In the navies of the world, it is the carriers which must be protected at all costs. The rest of the fleet is expendable. In human terms, world leaders…rightly or wrongly…are the carriers: the people they lead are the rest of the fleet.  But regardless of our designation, place, or rank in the fleet, the important thing is to recognize that we each do have an important role, and each of us has a purpose it is our responsibility to fulfill with dignity and honor.

Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!

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Dorien has a book of blogs, Short Circuits; A Life in Blogs; it can be ordered from Untreed Reads and Amazon; it is also available as an audio book. All those blogs have been republished here. Fortunately, Dorien wrote many blogs after that book; I will now be publishing those here--as we consider a volume 2.
Tentative Cover for Short Circuits 2


Dorien's blogs are usually posted every Tuesday and Friday--Saturday this week.



Friday, April 20, 2018
Cartoon Man Impatiently Waiting on the Phone
This Too...

One of the wonders of being human is that while we, among all living creatures on earth, are aware of the concepts of future and past, stretching out endlessly before and behind us, we must walk between the two on the infinitely thin tightrope of "now"...the present.

Impatience is also ingrained in our species, and we too frequently ignore our past in our hurry to get to the future. To speed up that which cannot be hurried, we have created technology, which we intended to serve us but which increasingly controls us. And as technology encroaches upon our humanity, we become more and more frustrated―and from frustration comes anger, both personal and societal.
Societal frustration shows itself in infinite ways, both broadly as in wars and acts of terrorism, and so subtle that few are aware of them. “Popular” music is a prime example; up into the latter half of the 20th century, song lyrics told stories. Some were sad, of course, but very, very few of them could be said to be angry: fewer still espoused hatred or literally seethed with anger.

This anger increasingly permeates our entire society, like water permeates a sponge. What has happened? What has changed us? Why is everyone so angry? Why am I so angry so much of the time?

The answer is as simple as it is depressing: the less control we see as having over our own lives, the more helpless we feel, the more frustrated we become, and frustration shows itself most clearly through anger. Every time we pick up the phone to try to talk to a human being who might actually give a damn about us or our problem at some behemoth, faceless corporation we are reminded in no uncertain terms just how little power we really have over even something so simple as a phone call. And who, after sitting there holding the receiver listening to 10,000 blatant and insultingly condescending repetitions ("Your call is very important to us"/"Due to unexpectedly heavy traffic"/"Please stay on the line and your call will be answered by the next available representative" ) does not get the clear message: "We don't know who you are, we don't care who you are, we don't care about your pathetic little problems. All we want from you is your money."

It's difficult―nearly impossible, at times―not to despair. Our government is at a standstill. Those whose job it supposedly is to govern our democracy instead devote their energies to throwing roadblocks in front of any idea, no matter how logical and potentially beneficial, proposed by the opposition. It is nearly impossible to know what those running for election or re-election will do if elected, or how they will go about doing it. Their primary aim is to viciously attack their opponents.

Standing apart from ourselves―not easy to do―can provide a unique insight into the relativity of things. What do so many of the things we become frustrated about really mean, at base, to our lives? In retrospect, being put on hold for 45 minutes is infuriatingly frustrating, but, really, what difference does it make in the larger picture of our day to day life? Well, the answer to that is, again, that we pass through time from one nanosecond to the other, and while we're enduring those infuriating on-hold waits or struggling through the myriads of individual problems which beset us all, there is no way to escape or avoid them.

Ten years in the past is as close as yesterday afternoon. Ten years in the future might as well be eternity.

Unhappiness with our current situation is just part of life. Gloom and doom are common themes throughout history. All evidence to the contrary, I'd like to think that this is just another segment of the history-long “phase” we're going through. Despite all the our ranting and raving and despair for the future, perhaps the single most fascinating and positive thing about human existence is that we persevere. We still hope. We still, somewhere under all that frustration and anger and discouragement, cling to the belief that things will get better. There is, somewhere in the depths of our soul, the awareness that no matter how bad things may be at any given minute, "this, too, shall pass." It is our salvation.

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Dorien has a book of blogs, Short Circuits; A Life in Blogs; it can be ordered from Untreed Reads and Amazon; it is also available as an audio book. All those blogs have been republished here. Fortunately, Dorien wrote many blogs after that book; I will now be publishing those here--as we consider a volume 2.
Tentative Cover for "Short Circuits Vol.2"


Dorien's blogs are posted Tuesdays and Fridays.



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