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Saturday, November 26, 2022

Profundities and the News of the World

"The phone, the TV, and the news of the world"
(The Pretenders, Back on the Chain Gang)

I love the song Back on the Chain Gang by the Pretenders.  For years though, I thought that one of the song lines was "Proundities and the news of the world".  As noted above, it's not.  I confess that I like my wrong version of the lyric better than the actual one.  Anyway, I don't have any profundities to share, but that has never stopped me before.

The song Back on the Chain Gang is about grief.  Specifically, the album came after two members of the band (The Pretenders) passed away tragically.  You can read more about the song HERE.  This comes, also, on the heels of my listening to a few videos about the life of Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett.  More than a few songs by the group, such as Wish You Were Here, are about Syd, who left the group and spiraled into decades of mental health issues afterward.  The conventional wisdom is that Syd "freaked out" after repeatedly taking the drug LSD, but from what I've learned (backed up by interviews with Pink Floyd band members David Gilmour and Roger Waters), it's more likely that he suffered from schizophrenia, which the LSD only made worse.  Not exactly, pleasant stuff, I know, but these things come to mind as I think about some of the things that have happened, and are happening, in my life.

I know that last phrase is, shall we say, a bit on the "loaded" side, and I'm going to apologize in advance for not being particularly direct.  That's part of the balance that has to be maintained sometimes in life as we try to weigh our own need for expression vs. a genuine desire to not make things worse.  I'm going to try and walk that line.

In this time between the Thanksgiving and Christmas, I often think about past holidays.  Now at the time, as I (and really all of us) experience these things, it's never clear how important they will become to us in the future.  Every parent can relate to this, as we collectively measure the memories of our little children against the realities of now-functioning adults who are busy creating memories of their own.  For me, while some of those times were very stressful, for a variety of reasons, I would pretty much give anything to see my daughters, as those long-ago little girls, at Christmas one more time.  

I also think about my late brother Chris quite often around the holidays, and in most respects, I would never want to go back and see him again around the holidays, at least not as an adult.  For people that struggle with mental health issues, the holidays can be very difficult.  That can be far easier to discern in hindsight than it is in real time.  Part of that struggle ends up with those loved ones who end up bearing witness to that difficulty, over and over again, in their collective memories.  

Lastly, I am okay.  As I've written in the past, in sometimes visceral detail, I'm fully aware that my fate ends up being the observer, "that which survives".  I am grateful for that survival instinct, for that ability to step back, shake it off, learn a bit, and move on.  And end up writing stuff like this.  Like any talent though, it's never free.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

After the Ball, 2022 Election

It's been an eventful month or two since I last posted, so this might be one of several entries over the next few weeks.

Side note:  For additional reading, you can also check out this cross-blog posting written with Ms. Rivers.

First up, we have an election that was, and while no election ever left everyone happy, I think a majority are glad at least about the results of the Pennsylvania governor's race.  For the benefit of the uninformed, that race was between the existing Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and state Senator Doug Mastriano.  The results are:

While I am happy with the net result, the sad underlying reality is this:  Over 2 million fellow Pennsylvania residents voted for a man who basically embodies the very notion of Christian Nationalism.  You can read more about the candidate HERE and HERE.  Now I get not necessarily liking Josh Shapiro; on a good day, he is about as engaging as a plain English muffin (untoasted, without any toppings).  However, he has one major advantage over Doug Mastriano, in that he doesn't want to impose a religiously-centered government in Pennsylvania.  That comes from the candidate himself, by the way.  From the Guardian article previously linked:

As a state senator in Pennsylvania, he said women who violated a proposed six-week abortion ban should be charged with murder. Mastriano frequently attacks trans people and has said gay marriage should be illegal, and that same-sex couples should not be allowed to adopt children.

From a speech he gave (as quoted in the New York Times, and other sources):

The separation of church and state was a "myth" he said.  "In November we are going to take out state back, my God will make it so"

From an interview given in 2018 (quoted in the Rolling Stone article):

The hosts asked Mastrianio if gay marriage should be legal. “Absolutely not,” he answered, citing the Old Testament. “I’m for traditional marriage. And I am not a hater for saying that. It’s been like that for 6,000 years,” he said, invoking the Bible: “It was the first institution founded by God in Genesis, and it needs to stay that way.”

One has to wonder what other biblical mandates Senator Mastriano would seek to impose on others.  

Anyway, I don't know how someone can defend these stancesIt also makes me somewhat ill thinking about the fact that I probably have social media connections who agree with these ideas.  In the end, though, better people prevailed, but not by nearly enough.  We still have a society where someone who trades in fear that is white-washed with religious zealotry can attract a large following.  My hope is that younger generations will help right those wrongs.  

I could also comment on the Pennsylvania Senate race, but I won't (much).  Suffice it to say, the miracle cure snake oil salesman and New Jersey resident doctor didn't win.  And he was defeated by a man who suffered a stroke.  That says a lot.  Oh, and one more thing:  The man who had a stroke, Senator-Elect Fetterman, is an outstanding example for anyone who suffers from a physical setback, such as a stroke*, but nevertheless keeps moving forward.  That's nothing short of inspirational.

Post-election, and it goes without saying that no one likes a sore winner, but with so many viewing politics through a sports-team lens ("Your team sucks!", where "team" is either Democrats or Republicans), that exact thing is bound to happen.  So be it.  Elections, like life itself, have a certain shelf-life, and that which is won today will be lost tomorrow.  What really matters is the larger direction our society is moving in.  Are we going to govern based on fears (of immigrants, of the LGBTQ community, of the Jews...and the list goes on) or are we going to start with the underlying assumption that we all have inalienable rights, without (many) strings attached?  Where "all", by the way, includes those who are not just like us?  

Finally, and to touch on one issue in particular, by all means, be vigorously anti-abortion if that's your passion, but don't assume that your passion gives you the right to make decisions for others.  For example, I wish no one had an abortion, and that those kinds of decisions never had to be made.  However, that's not living in the real world, and I find it repugnant that a government can impose such a deeply personal decision on a woman.  Abortion bans end up being an example of a big, intrusive government at its very worst, which is a bit of irony that (supposedly) small government individuals such as Senator Mastriano can't seem to grasp.

(*) I have a tiny bit of skin in this game, as because of any underlying heart issue, I am considered as having a greater risk of stroke.  It's something I'm working on addressing, but I will confess that the characterization of Senator-Elect Fetterman as being cognitively impaired due to his stroke made me angry.  Political campaign rhetoric aside, you can learn more about stroke risks and support for stroke survivors at the following links:

Stroke Risk Factors

Community Resources for Survivors of Stroke

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Cross Posted - Carroll Boys Blog "Update - Notes for After Our Passing"

This was something that Ms. Rivers and I collaborated on recently.  You can also link to the original posting HERE.

* * * * * *

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Update - Notes for After Our Passing

It has not been quick or easy to make our final arrangements, but we are trying to get it done to minimize what you and the girls will need to do.  For a couple years, we periodically visited cemeteries (per the original post in 2019, we have specific criteria).  I like walking around cemeteries, probably because I grew up immediately next to one.  We ended up choosing the West Pittston Cemetery, which works since it has many trees, small animals, a view of the mountains and as a bonus for me is near the Susquehanna River.  (Although it was annoying that a lovely tree quite near our plot was cut down shortly after we bought it.)

Then it took a over a year to get a monument, probably because we wanted unique stuff.  We started at a Dupont monument business, since the Carroll headstone at the Wyoming Cemetery was purchased there.  After picking marble and sending pictures of a mourning dove (happy first sign of spring, for me) and an entwined eternity and heart symbol, there was no further response to our inquiries.  The problem may have been that we wanted special, multi-colored marble from India, and during early phase of COVID-19 it wasn't feasible to get it.  So we started again with Pesavento Monuments in Scranton, and this time decided to get locally-sourced marble.  Eventually after months of follow-up emails/calls, the design was set, order finalized and grave stone was placed in July.  Here is the result, which we are pleased with:

Now we go "visit ourselves" every so often during walks in the cemetery.  However, we are not done yet - still have to arrange more stuff with Metcalfe-Shaver-Kopcza funeral home.  

As more practical information, we each created a Death Box which is supposed to have useful information to help with estate work.  So far, mine includes account/website passwords, and a few letters.  We did minor embellishing to decorate the boxes - but the letters are not sticking well.  Steve's is supposed to say "Steve's last waltz", and mine is supposed to say "See ya on the far side banks of Jordan" (pretty much, that's a song - I suggest listening to the Carter Family version).  Here's what they look like, with sleepy Oren & Rambo nearby.

In other news, Theresa Caputo, the Long Island medium continues to post videos on YouTube.  I'm still watching those, and also found Allison DuBois (a medium who has worked with law enforcement) who even more compelling.  Fascinating stuff!  So maybe there is an afterlife!!  

Steve's Two Cents

Ms. Rivers asked if I wanted to contribute to this posting, and while I mostly don't take writing topic requests, I'll make an exception in this case. 


First and foremost, I just don't know.  As in I don't understand the whole "hereafter" stuff.  In some ways, I suspect that is at least partially a case of avoidance, as in I don't want to think about death and what happens next...if I'm basically just going to ignore it.  That, however, flies in the face of my desire to live a more or less ordered life.  There is also a very practical reason why, as noted by Ms. Rivers, we're doing this work:  We don't want others burdened with it when our mortal coils expire.  I've seen too many examples of people passing and leaving a whole heaping serving of work for others to figure out.  In my book that's just plain wrong. 


Second, and to repeat, I just don't know.  Now I admire those with faith in a life after this, including Ms. Rivers, who insists that there will be many concerts...and Heaven.  Mind you I have tried to (intellectually) understand this, but there is a gaping flaw in my approach to this overall topic.  That flaw, however, is that faith, by its very definition, is having a belief precisely when there is a lack of evidence.  It does not play well with my attempt to intellectualize the hereafter and is therefore basically doomed to fail.  The thing that I've relied on all my ability to process the world through logic and also the thing that stifles me.  At some point, I'm hoping that changes. 


Third, while I don't know about some things, I do know that it makes sense to have a final resting place in death that somehow exemplifies the kind of life I've tried to live.  As noted by Ms. Rivers, trees are important.  I like trees.  I also love the idea that squirrels and rabbits will be doing their small animal things on top of our remains.  There's something simple and wonderful about life continuing at the very same place where life has been marked to an end. 


Finally, yes, I am quite tardy with creating content for the poorly named "Death Box".   See the first point, as I suspect that part of this is all about avoidance.  I am, however, reminded of what John Lennon noted in a song... 


"Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans", the balance is to continually work on having a good life while also planning on what happens when there is no life to be had.  I'll get there, eventually.