Status Update: RT’s mom is doing fairly well as she continues to struggle with lung disease. Living in a nursing home is always difficult, but his mom has more or a less adjusted to the challenges. During his most recent visit with her, she told him, “Write another book!”
RT is of course struggling with his own issues as the drama of his mother’s health plays out. Recently, he was looking over the Wikipedia entry on the five stages of grief and was struck by how much they resemble the emotions we experience as we fall in love. RT has been vouchsafed few moments of insight over the last several months, so he felt he should share his flash in the pan:
The Five Stages of Falling in Love
Denial: “Are you kidding me? I’m not in love with them! I don’t know their name. We’ve never met. They’re not even a blip on the radar.”
Anger: “Who are you? How can you tell me we’re in love? I don’t like anything about you. In fact, I can’t stand the way you look, the way you smell, your personal habits. Go away! Get out!”
Bargaining: “I know we shouldn’t have kissed. It’s my fault. I smiled and made small talk and then, well, we got romantic for a moment. Look, the whole thing is a mistake, so let’s forget about it. We’ll wipe the slate clean and start over as friends.”
Depression: “Oh my god, we just slept together. We’re really in love. We can’t get out of it. We’re stuck!”
Acceptance: “OK, so we’re in love. Now what do we do?”
Love is like gravity; it is universal and its action continuous. People are always falling in love. There’s no way to stop it. When I recently shared my insight with a friend, they suggested that it applies only to inappropriate relationships. But all love relationships are inappropriate at some level. Nobody is ever really prepared for love or its consequences. At the same time, love is the force that makes us get out of bed in the morning. But now RT is waxing philosophical…
Photo: Tala Birell-Edmund Lowe in Let’s Fall in Love. Publicity still, 1933. WikiCmns; Dr. Macro. Public Domain.
RT has been struggling for a couple of weeks to write a post on the upcoming midterm elections. The problem has been finding some basis for optimism in the generally anti-President Obama atmosphere and its attendant prediction that Republicans will take control of the Senate in November.
That the country is in rapid transition seems to RT beyond doubt. He offers three statistics in support:
1) Twenty-six states have expanded Medicaid to offer people living below the poverty line Medicaid coverage (and RT is proud to say that West Virginia is one of them). On the other hand, 24 states have refused so far to take advantage of the federal program.
2) Thirty-two states have legalized gay marriage, including Utah, where a federal judge late last year struck down the state ban on gay marriages, starting the judicial revolt that has led to the current happy state of affairs. And it seems likely that several other states will follow suit.
3) Two states (Colorado and Oregon) have legalized recreational marijuana, and one more (Washington) is scheduled to do so soon. It seems likely that four or five more will vote to legalize marijuana in November, California among them.
The legalization of gay marriage in the United States amounts, in RT’s opinion, to a social revolution. That the collapse of legal opposition to gay marriage happened so swiftly has left him gaping. As with other social revolutions, this one will likely take decades to play itself out, and surely the American right wing will draw energy from the general confusion as people adjust to the new social reality. What, for instance, will gay spouses be called–husband and husband, wife and wife? It will take a generation for the language to migrate, taking our conversation and perspective along with it. But the central point seems settled: people have a right to marry the person they love.
The users of marijuana have experienced a journey towards legalization easily as arduous as gay couples. Pot, that darling of the 1960s culture wars, was so demonized that long after hippies were accepted as one of America’s tribes, smoking the substance was still considered a seditious act. But common sense seems to be carrying the day, finally: marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol and tobacco and the grossly disproportionate sentences handed down to keep its use “under control” have ruined lives and cost the country untold fortunes in incarceration costs and lost human potential. In fact, this particular “lifestyle” reform is one of the few political issues that seems to enjoy support across the spectrum. Implementation at the state level will have to be monitored to ensure that the medical fallout from smoking is minimized and that teenagers and young adults are discouraged from developing a habit. But in general, Requiescat in pace.
Elsewhere in this blog, RT has proposed the following amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “The right to eat nutritious food, to be adequately clothed and sheltered, and to receive necessary medical attention from a physician shall not be denied.” That the Affordable Healthcare Act has substantially increased the rolls of the medically insured (to the tune of 8+ million people) is perhaps the most important humanitarian achievement in the United States since the enacting of LBJ’s Great Society legislation in the 1960s. Not that anything worth doing is easy, but RT has a suspicion that the momentum here is also towards nationwide acceptance.
Was it Martin Luther King Jr. who said, “The arc is long, but tends towards justice”? Words worth considering, now that the midterm elections are almost upon us.
Photo: MLK Jr. at 1963 March on Washington. USIA (NARA). Public Domain.
RT has been silent of late; much has been on his mind. Here is the latest:
1) RT’s hypertension, the product of his current medication cocktail, has gotten serious, and he is now taking blood pressure meds and going down on his other meds with the aim of getting off and onto something known to reduce BP over the long-term. The transition will take place slowly so as not to place undue pressure on his mom, who is herself significantly improved on her new meds. RT for his part will be making yet another call to a doctor, this one to get help with a BP meds script. What with all the news and doctor’s visits, things are a bit tense here, and RT has been taking his mental escapes where he can find them.
2) The bed bugs have begun to bit again, and RT suspects that there is a fourth treatment in the duplex’s future, and a not-too-distant one at that.
3) RT has just finished watching a wonderful video on YouTube, Dying to Live. It concerns a twenty-something lady who was diagnosed with stage-4 breast cancer at 23 and was given 2 1/2 years to live. She is still alive at 27 and counting, and has started a BC-awareness foundation, Coppafeel. She has displayed remarkable intelligence and bravery during her fight, in RT’s opinion. The video is definitely worth watching.
4) RT’s ongoing excursion into video-land has led to a predictable project of his own, a video to accompany a recording of his reading the prologue from Gilgamesh. The number of free resources out there for such a project is greater than one might think, and RT has made good progress in putting together something watchable (and listenable!).
5) In the middle of all this, RT is fomenting a post on Harappan Civilization. All the signs of mortality are reminding him of an important fact: history may be humankind’s most effective response to death. Sumer and Harappa, powerful civilizations at the beginning of history (and the people who created them), live on. Dust, stone, and writing systems are still talking, and we listen with a keen interest. Or, to put it another way, by learning what happened to others, we become more expert at dealing with what is happening to us.
There it is, and RT might even get out that Harappa post tonight…
Map: Extent of Harrapan Civilization at its Height. User: MM. Wikipedia; CC 3.0 Share-Alike, Attribution, Unported.
Of late, and perhaps out of sheer frustration, RT has been speculating that Martinsburg, WV, might be a world navel. How this might be true has offered our mind-boggled writer a means of escaping certain unenviable realities of the moment.
To wit: RT and his mom are facing an infestation of insects–not the biblical locust, but the altogether more quotidian and infuriating bed-bug. M’burg has apparently already endured one wave of these creepy crawlies, and now they are paying RT’s life a visit.
Give credit where credit is due: bed-bugs are tough, and the duplex is now undergoing the first of several treatments to get rid of the pest. Everything is a mess in the apartment, and the BBs have given both RT and his mom a case of the screaming meemees. But this too shall pass…
In the meantime, and by way of further escape, RT has been assiduously reading Karen Armstrong’s The Great Transformation. TGT follows the spiritual development of four major cultures–Greece, Israel, India, and China from early times through the development of an Axial Age culture, Axial here meaning societies that encourage moral behavior in their members. RT singles out the book’s clear language and logical organization as it reports and reflects on the historical and moral development of the greater part of the ancient world. He also notes the sidelining of Assyria and Mesopotamia as, he assumes, a dead culture that serves to establish the baseline for Axial development. Bye bye, Gilgamesh!
Which is not to say that KA has a tin ear for mythological development–her reporting of certain Ancient Greek festivals has RT convinced that some parts of the Exodus story have links to Greek myth. Which brings to mind the ever elusive Elohist, one of the several projects awaiting further development in RT’s distracted mind. On the other hand, mom’s memoir continues apace.
In the meanwhile, there’s always the Martinsburg library to escape to when the bugs get too biblical. Which returns us to RT’s initial speculation about world navels… (happy spring equinox!) RT
Photo: A locust cloud over Juncus maritimus at Imililik, Western Sahara (April, 1944). Author: Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. Source: Eugenio Morales Agacino’s Photographic Archive. Via Eugenio Morales Agacino’s Virtual Exhibition. WikiCmns; CC 3.0 Attribution/Share Alike Spain.
Here are some stats to accompany the above dream-like photo: Africa’s Lake Victoria, the largest tropical lake in the world, is also the second largest lake in the world by surface area (only Lake Superior is larger). The lake is famous for its large number of cichlid species, these fish having adapted to the lake’s numerous ecological niches–but many have been driven extinct (or nearly so) by introduced exotic fish species, and in particular, the Nile perch.
The Lake Victoria basin is one of the most densely populated rural areas in the world, and raw sewage dumped into the lake poses a significant threat. LV supports Africa’s largest inland fishery. In 2006, the lake produced a harvest of Nile perch valued at U.S. $250 million. In 2004, the fishery employed in excess of 150,000 fishermen.
Photo: Luo People Fishing in Lake Victoria (2009). Author: DancingPope. WikiCmns; CC 2.0 Generic.
RT is no stranger to the Winter Blues; he’s dealt with them off and on since he was a teenager. For whatever reason, this year the arrival of winter has struck him a little more deeply than most changes of the season. But not to worry: RT has been taking steps to deal with blah feelings and is doing better.
But this particular episode has reminded RT that our lives ride on profound currents of energy and mood. Women are traditionally supposed to be the moodier gender, but the tides of emotion that run through men are all the more powerful for being hidden under still waters.
And the currents that everyone deals with do not necessarily dissipate in a few months or even years. These are the great rhythms, which flow through us for decades and must be regarded with the utmost respect. Swimming down into their pull and struggling to change and understand them is a part of every health life. Feelings have to be processed, and in a busy life these can accumulate until they overwhelm us. We need time to assimilate, to explore, and to grow more skillful. RT
Photo: Picture of the moon dark. Arjun. WikiCmns. Public Domain.
RT has always wanted a pocket watch. But he has to be realistic about this: he wants something elegant he can pull out of his vest. He admires the beauty of these watches, which tend to be older and better made than wristwatches, those reminders of the practical and the necessary. But training himself to remember to put the watch in his pocket every morning would just add another item to his morning checklist, and that would defeat the purpose of the exercise, which is to let the watch remind him and his circle of days that were a little less restricted by obligations, if only because the watch had not become as ubiquitous as it has. Social status notwithstanding, RT will probably keep the Timex that has served faithfully these many years. RT
Photo: Goldene Taschenuhr; WikiCmns; Public Domain. Author: ON.