LOONY VACATION

I’m home from a two-week vacation, and I must say I don’t see why people want vacations so much. Life can be rich and beautiful without them. Or maybe life itself can be made a vacation, to some degree, so we needn’t go on one.

My wife and I have basically gone most of our married lives working 52 weeks a year. Our vacations have largely been long-weekends of three or four days, and even they have been few and far between. Our jaunt to California for my youngest son’s wedding, described on this blog two years ago, was the first exception to the rule, and that week-long-outing was made interesting as it was during the coronavirus panic and we were not exactly relaxing, even as we did ordinary stuff like go to a wedding. We were radicals to be ordinary, breaking coronavirus laws.

The past two weeks were similar. As a family we have trouble being ordinary, because being ordinary is in some odd way against the flow of political correctness. To be ordinary is to be extraordinary.

I have mixed feelings about being extraordinary. I dislike it because it enflames the ego. Being puffed-up divides one from others, from the so-called “normal”. Rather than brotherhood and oneness one feels they are Brahmin, of a higher caste. Whether it is purple hair or piercings or the absurdly long fingernails of the elite gentlemen of long-ago China, people want to set themselves apart from their fellow man. They want to stand in some safe place, removed from all the danger of closeness. Then they slowly freeze in their icy heights as those (who will live to replace them) prosper in the warmth of the valleys.

In the valley there is less emphasis in setting yourself apart, because it gets in the way of getting things done. Anyway, we are all different whether we like it or not. We are different whether our hair is natural or purple. Just compare fingerprints. We’re different. If that is what thrills your ego, be thrilled, but meanwhile we have a job to do so get cracking.

The odd thing about the valley is that, in getting the job done, people have to put their egos aside, and in getting their selfish self out of the way they are doing, (without yoga and often with a haphazard disregard for spirituality), what spiritual Masters have urged humanity to do for thousands of years, and what humanity has mocked. However, because these salt-of-the-earth bumpkins are actually being selfless, they get the extraordinary rewards promised by the Masters.

I think this reality pisses off the elite. The elite have worked long and hard to set themselves apart, to climb above the riffraff, and they are irked to see the riffraff rewarded as the elite are penalized. For the snobs truly are penalized. They deserve it. And deep down they know it. All the same, it irks the hell out of the elite to see the writing on the wall, like King Belshazzar of Babylonia .

How does this apply to the two-week vacation planned by my wife and I? Well, to some degree we wanted a brief rest. After 32 years we figured we could use a rest. But as we planned a blank two weeks on our calendar, the blankness started to fill up with scribbled appointments. Though we wanted to set ourselves apart for two weeks, stuff happened.

In my case the stuff involved my garden. I can’t just neglect it for two weeks. But this is no bother, for part of my definition of “vacation” is to be free to potter in my garden, without interruption. And in like manner, one part of my wife’s definition of “vacation” is to dote on grandchildren, without interruption.

But when such stuff intrudes too much, it hardly seems you are on vacation at all. I found myself wondering what it would be like to have such a fine staff of gardeners that I could get a complete break, and in some way my wife also contemplated a break from doting on grandchildren. But I would never want an end to gardening, nor my wife want an end to doting. Just a retreat, a time of rest.

Oh well, we are still learning, because we are inexperienced when it comes to vacations. In some ways we failed this time, because our calendar failed to stay blank. Stuff happened.

There was a court date smack dab in the middle of the vacation, due to the foolishness which I described in my last post. Then there was a wedding at the start, which took up time and energy, and then there was a potential divorce among family members to walk-on-eggs about, as well. These are not things which are conducive to a serene mind being at peace, on vacation.

The wedding was, for me, one of the most beautiful events of my life. It seemed so unlikely: That a man who knew nothing but hardship should ever meet a woman who also knew nothing but hardship, and together find happiness. It was like when, in mathematics, a negative multiplied by a negative equals a positive. I was glad for him and glad for her, and glad for the two complicated families involved.

It also seems impossible to me that I, a selfish, lonely artist sleeping in his car, flat broke, 33 years ago, am now a grandfather with five children, ten grandchildren, and three daughters-in-law, and two sons-in-law. Add in my mother-in-law, and that makes 23 in the oneness of the bride’s side of the wedding photos. The husband’s side was equally complex, and added twenty more, so the wedding in a sense increased my family to 43 people. Yikes! I will need a chart simply to keep things straight!

But this just seem to verify what Jesus said would happen to bums like myself who were nice to fellow bums on the street. If I was faithful with the small things, I would be given greater things.

Hmm. Do I really want greater things? Do I really want 43 people to worry about? Or do I just want a vacation, where I don’t have a worry in the world?

The trick seems to be avoiding worry. For example, my daughter wanted her wedding’s “bride’s entrance” to involve all her nieces and nephews, including some as young as eleven months old, and I worried this was a bad idea. They would screech and wail and spoil the ceremony. And it seemed I was right, as we formed a sort of pre-parade in a corridor of a building next to the outdoors auditorium. Every child was complaining. I no longer worried. I was certain: The parade coming down the aisle to the alter would be a complete train wreck. And I would be the caboose, linked arm in arm with the bride. But my worry, and even my certainty, was utterly wrong. Why? Because exiting the low-ceilinged corridor seemed to uplift every little child with fresh air and sky, and they were in a state of wide-eyed, smiling wonder as they came down the aisle. What’s more, they were so awe-struck they behaved themselves through the entire ceremony.

Of course, because I was last in line, arm in arm with the bride in the din of crying children in a cramped corridor, I knew nothing about how the children behaved in the fresh air, and only experienced the pre-parade deafening of squalling toddlers and infants, even as the same toddlers and infants were amazing the wedding audience with their good behavior outside. So, I worried the worst, an even was certain of the worst. Therefore, the tearfully euphoric expressions on the audience’s faces made no sense to me, as I brought my daughter down the aisle.

It was only at the reception afterwards that I came to understand how stupid my worry was. Person after person told me how amazed and touched they were by all the awed little children preceding the bride, and how not one child misbehaved.

I bring this up to show how foolish worry is. Not that I am not guilty of worry, but I also often doubt its validity, even as I experience it.

The fact of the matter is that, in my life, I have seen my worst worries come true, and have always seen that, even in a worst-case scenario, reality is not as awful as worry suggested beforehand. For example, at age 21 the idea of being homeless and sleeping in my car was a fate to be dreaded, but when it actually happened to me at age 31, it wasn’t as dreadful as I imagined, and now, at age 69, I actually look back on my destitute period (between age 28 and age 36) with a peculiar fondness, (though I hope I don’t have to do it again.) Why fondness? Because at that time I saw that, even when your worries come true, you can still be good. Worry loses its power when you’re hit by its best uppercut, and you don’t fall down.

(This likely can be applied to the current political situation in the United States, where the elite are hitting the non-elite with their best uppercuts, but the non-elite are not falling down.)

But me? I’m just an old bumpkin who wants a vacation. And in a sense I got one, for a true wedding celebration is a vacation from the drag of ordinary, banal, humdrum reality. Rather than the testing of faith involved in ordinary life, it is an affirmation of faith. And is that ever a relief!

In ordinary life I am always wishing God would manifest, and in a wedding He does. Differences are overcome by understanding. The power of love is revealed, announced, and displayed.

Of course, as we look at the wedding photos in the future, we might see a particular married couple who are only faking their smiles, for they are secretly nursing the powers of divorce. But this tends to be part of what is called “family”, which is a soap opera I told my wife should be called, in our case, not “As the World Turns,” (an actual soap opera) but rather “As the Worm Churns.”

But such drama is just ordinary life, wherein we wish God would manifest but, though He is as ever-present as always, He seems to fail to manifest, so our faith gets tested. Yet even in this dreary and ungodly existence, the process of getting-by can involve “stuff” which, midst selfishness, is selfless, and releases the joy Masters promised us.

For example, when I went to court for my arraignment, I met with the prosecutor beforehand determined to prove my innocence, for I felt I had a “good case” and felt I likely would “win”. But it would take time and money. Hiring the attorney to plead my case would cost me roughly $2,000.00, to start. And it would likely involve three separate appearances in court, and who has time for that when their garden needs weeding? In the same manner, the prosecutor didn’t much want to spend a long time persecuting an innocent man. So, we sat around and did what I suppose is called “plea-bargained”. My charges were reduced from a “misdemeanor” to a “violation” (like a parking ticket) and by pleading “no contest” I didn’t even admit guilt. In the end the “plea bargaining” took roughly two hours of my vacation, plus a fine of $248.00, which was later reduced to $124.00. Furthermore, I found the prosecutor interesting, and he seemingly found me interesting as well.

A defendant is never supposed to be too open with a prosecutor, and vice versa, but we slipped up to some degree, in that respect. Rather than “plea-bargain” we did what locals call “chewed the fat”, which is to exchange information in a trusting and open manner, quite unlike the manner usually seen between a prosecutor and defendant. And why did this happen? Well, apparently, I made it happen. How so?

Well, it turned out the prosecutor had received a call from the arresting officer, who told him what an usually polite, honest and engaging criminal I was. This was no trouble for me. It is not every day you get handcuffed and brought to the police station for fingerprinting, and I found it fascinating, and was full of questions and interest. (See last post). I wasn’t behaving in that manner to gain some future advantage or benefit. It is just that, in a life with its fair share of hardship, I’ve learned it doesn’t do any good to make hardship harder by snarling and hissing like a collared cat, but that it makes hardship a lot less hard to bear if you treat it as an interesting experience. And apparently I made the experience interesting for the arresting officer as well. And one thing led to another, until it led to my experience in court being rather pleasant.

Perhaps this is what the Masters have been trying to tell us, millennium after millennium. If we have interest in others we forget about our selves, and things turn out better than they do when it is all about us. Of course, the non-elite are more likely to see this than the elite are, because the non-elite are facing hardships the elite adroitly avoid, and therefore the non-elite are better at facing hardships, and better at not being a sourpuss about troubles. Not that the non-elite are necessarily as cheerful as Snow White cleaning up after seven piggy dwarfs, singing “Whistle While You Work.” (My wife informs me I was not all rainbows and roses, the evening after my arrest.) However the non-elite do tend to work, and work hard, while the elite feel being “independently wealthy” frees them from odious toil, and they then sadly become in some ways allergic to work. They are deprived of experiencing what the Masters have been trying to tell us: It is better to give than to receive, and, blessed are the poor, for they are strangely more able to give than the rich.

This ties neatly into the difference between marriage and divorce, but I don’t want to delve much more into that topic. After all, this post is supposed to be about a vacation, and a vacation is supposed to be a break from hard work. And there is no getting around the fact marriage involves hard work.

At the start of marriage people notice they differ, but opposites attract, and “Viva la différence!” However, differing evolves into disagreeing, at which point things can become disagreeable. It is then marriage involves front lines between the powers of selfishness and the powers of selflessness. As I stated earlier, it doesn’t do any good to make hardship harder by snarling and hissing like a collared cat, but it makes hardship a lot less hard to bear if you treat it as an interesting experience. For there are some differences you will never agree upon. After 32 years my wife and I still can’t agree on how to make a bed; (she refuses to fold down the sheet up by the pillow). What one must decide is: Are such disagreements grounds for escalating nastiness and eventual divorce, or are they petty things which can be overlooked? Love is a great overlooker.

“Love bears all things” states the part of 1 Corinthians 13, which even non-churchgoing people like read out at their weddings, but it is easier said than done. Having done it, there is no way I want to revert to doing it. I want a vacation. When the young move in the direction of a quarrel, and I can escape the role of a councilor, I flee as fast as I can for the fish.

Or I watch the young fish, at the end of a day at the end of a life.

But eventually the long, summer days end. Even at the North Pole, where the summer sun never sets, summer ends, and darkness falls. Darkness is part of life, a time for rest. In Eden the night knew no fear, like sleep in a mother’s arms. But on earth fear creeps in. Worry arises.

I tend to side with light over darkness, reconciliation over divorce, but there are many examples of a pebble of badness starting an avalanche of evil. Evil escalates. A single bad apple can rot the entire barrel. Therefore, when the mind gets tired and needs rest, darkness can loom.

Light remains superior, for there is no darkness light cannot penetrate, whereas darkness can never penetrate light. However, this also means that when your own mind grows weary and dark it cannot penetrate to the very light it longs for. All crumbles. Rust never sleeps. Decay triumphs even over the pyramids.

It was at this point that King David, a mighty warrior, became weak and fragile. In his psalms he aptly describes how bad his bad moods were, and how stressful was his post-traumatic stress. And then, over and over, his psalms show him turning to God as the One who does not crumble, as the “rock” who is everlasting. Then the mighty warrior becomes like a toddler clinging to a father’s pantleg in a crowd. And then, every time, his tested faith is restored, not due to any deed on the part of David, but because it is in the nature of the Father to love, to preserve and protect. And this happens to all of us, when we sleep. What do we do when we sleep? What do we achieve when we do nothing? How is it rest rewards us?

I don’t know. I just know that, like it or not, I fall asleep, and then wake to find decay reversed, winter giving way to spring, darkness giving way to light, and wounds healed.

As the end of our vacation neared, we decided to do something loony, a bit like herding cats, and that was to get all six of the younger grandchildren in a single picture. In a way this was a divorce, a divorce from common sense, for getting even a single toddler into a picture is challenging, especially when they are seated on a couch and are determined to wobble off and land on their heads. The following picture is proof anything is possible.

In case you are wondering what so fascinates the children that they all sit still, it was the antics of their parents. I took a video where I pan back and forth as this picture was set up, and to me my grandkids are less interesting than my now-mature kids, all hopping about and singing songs. The cooperation was amazing, especially when you realize it includes two who are contemplating divorce and who ordinarily can’t agree about anything, yet whom I have proof of, on video, that that they can cooperate, when they forget themselves and are focused on something other than themselves, (in this case a good picture.)

And then everyone began leaving, and suddenly there was silence: Just my wife and I, all alone by a lake. I had no garden to weed, and she had no grandchildren to dote over. There was no loony behavior to deal with, but off in the distance the beautiful cry of a loon inspired us to contemplate if there was anything slightly loony which we old folk might do together, and we decided to kayak off to a distant island and explore it.

The island was barren of topsoil and blasted by winds that at times must scream down from the nearby mountain and across the flat waters to flatten the island’s weaker trees. Yet as we walked about, I was struck by how lush the island managed to be despite all it had going against it. The trees were pathetic compared to trees on the west coast but had a might all their own. Simply to survive hinted at heroism, and there were many hemlocks with bases eighteen inches across that were barely twelve feet tall. Counting the whorls of branches suggested they were like banzai trees, over a hundred years old but still small. Many trees were warped and twisted in a loony way. Many others, which had dared grow taller, had been blown down or snapped off. But the rotting stumps of the snapped-off fatalities didn’t stop life.

Nor was life defeated when the fatalities involved the shallow subsoil giving too little dirt to keep trees from being uprooted. Seedlings grew atop the uprooted roots, and even when the roots rotted and the dirt washed away, the loony seedlings didn’t quit.

And some of these trees that refused to quit grew to a decent size, (though not by west coast standards.)

But of all the loony trees perhaps the oddest was the lone white pine I saw on the entire island. It was loony not only because it was the lone white pine, but also because it dwarfed all the other trees. What a tale it must be able to tell, to grow so tall where no other trees can tower. I can’t tell the tale, but I greatly admired the tree.

Perhaps I liked the tree because it seems a sort of proof great things can spring from soils that seem sterile. That likely seems loony to the elite, despite proof all round us. They insist they must be independently wealthy first, and even then produce little.

In any case, our vacation was coming to a close. We had to head back to clean up the rented house (or lose our security deposit.) So, we somewhat reluctantly left the island and started back. But, as if to emphasize what is loony, two loons appeared in our path.

There is a law which states boaters aren’t supposed to approach closer than 200 feet to loons, and my wife was able to paddle around them. However, the birds seemed determined to increase my criminal record, and swam and dove directly towards me. Ordinarily shy, these loons seemed determined to get me in trouble, and even added a third to the mix, and soon I was studying loons more closely than I have ever done before, in my 69 years.

I was able to study them, but my phone went dead, and I had to stop taking pictures, and just enjoy the given gift. One thing I wish I could show you is how, when one loon dove, the other two looked down, burying their faces in the water, and how their heads slowly turned as they watched the third pass beneath. The one thing they didn’t do, that I wished for, was to sing their lonely luting, but perhaps such a song at such lose quarters would have capsized my kayak. In the end I decided I had learned two things.

1.) What the elite call loony behavior is actually quite natural.

2.) Loony behavior does not avoid the non-elite.

PHATTY BURGERS –Part 4– Little Christmas Eve

It did occur to me, as I sat in my car outside of Raydoe’s trailer at the campground on Thanksgiving Eve, that I should pause to thank God. I had been working so hard I hadn’t had time to think of Him much; maybe a brief, “Help me, God”, heading into work, and another before I fell asleep, but little beyond that. I certainly hadn’t taken the prescribed one-day-off-in-seven to devote to worship. That alone earned me some hellfire, or so some would suggest.

 I would counter such holy critics, if they were present, (and they were present, as echoes in my mind,) by arguing that a poet worships seven days a week by admiring God’s reflections in creation. Maybe I forgot to worship the Father with all my heart and all my soul, but, when I admired the way the Sun lit clouds, I was indirectly worshiping the Source. Even though I had endured a grind of 21 days of ten-hour-shifts, working so late I missed the sunsets and so tired I slept through the sunrises, I did admire the late morning sky and the silver sagebrush as I drove into work, and the brilliantly starry desert sky as I staggered to the trailer to sleep after midnight.

I also admired the people. People are like clouds; in that they reflect God’s light. If you have a poetic streak you see it is true that “There is a little bit of God in everyone.” Beauty is even in the ugly.

My mind drifted. I reached into the back seat for the battered notebook that served as my diary. For 21 days I’d written little; mostly strange stray thoughts and incidental observations, with some tiny numbers indicating precise penny-pinching;  but now I felt the urge to perhaps write a poem, or at least wonder aloud about an odd feeling I had that I could hardly remember: I felt happy!

I flipped open the notebook, looked down into the passenger seat footwell, rooted about through the rustling drift of empty hamburger boxes to locate a ballpoint pen, and then nibbled the pen thoughtfully, gazing out the window at the way the low afternoon sun enflamed the red sandstone. Life was beautiful.

My mind drifted. I’d studied Shakespeare and had been amazed by the wonderful way he could make even a dope be a beautiful dope. Even a complete scoundrel like Falstaff was made laughable and lovable, and even epitomes of evil, like Iago or Macbeth, were made worthy of pity.

In a strange way such poetry obeyed the second half of the “Greatest Commandment”, and I attempted to emulate Shakespeare. Maybe I failed to worship God with all my heart and soul, but I got straight “A’s” on loving my neighbor as myself. I even loved my enemies, which made no sense to businessmen like Ike Weed and Quincy Phabbutt, who seemed to make both customers and employees into enemies. In a sense this made them my enemies, but I found them fascinating, which means I was forgiving and loving of even those who abused me.

To me it seemed businessmen put profits before people, and poets put people before profits, and prophets put God before people. In my not-so-humble opinion there could be but one conclusion: Poets were superior to both businessmen and prophets, as poets alone cared for people.

I may be able to articulate such wit now, but back then I am not certain I even knew what the “Greatest Commandment” was or where it was written. In some ways I was blind and groping my way through ink.

For example, I loved the Phatty Burger employees, but this put me on thin ice when my employees were beautiful women like Splendor and Toonya. As I explained earlier, I understood the distinction between lust and love, and between infatuation and active appreciation, but understanding doesn’t mean as much as it should when you are still young enough to have hormones rampaging in your veins. Maybe hormones were not running riot as much as they did when I was sixteen, but at sixteen I had no clue what I was doing; I had innocence on my side; at age thirty-one I did have a clue, and that isn’t always an advantage.

It may be spiritual for a poet to see the beauty in women but is not so spiritual to utilize a poet’s imagination to immediately create a sexual fantasy. I can now forgive myself, for I was very lonely and deeply craved a soulmate and wife, but back then the way my mind wandered just seemed wrong. It was as if I wanted as many wives as Solomon.

In any case I banned Toonya and Splendor’s memory from entering my car as I sat in the campground outside Raydoe’s trailer, and instead invited the memory of recent hardship in, even as I ruffled a (to me) huge wad of cash in my hands. On Thanksgiving Eve the contrast between poverty and wealth indeed seemed a reason to be thankful.

On my way home from work I’d bought a carton of 200 cigarettes for my ex, hoping they might bribe her to become my exex, but even this huge expense, (an entire nine dollars in 1984), barely dented my wad of cash, nearly five hundred dollars. I didn’t fail to note the irony of the situation. That morning, before cashing my paycheck, I couldn’t afford a single cigarette, and had been reduced to rerolling the rank tobacco from butts in my car’s ashtray. What a difference a day makes. What a difference a paycheck makes.

Yet, as I sat in my car, I knew that love of money is a sin. I didn’t know it because I had studied scripture, (which states not money, but love of money, is a sin). Instead, I knew it because I’d grown up in a rich town and had seen money poison people, firsthand.

In any case, as I sat in my car and ruffled money I found myself having a chat with God for the first time in many days. I was very thankful I was not poor anymore, but in a way suspicious. I was saying, “What are you up to, God?” I distrusted the way money made me happy because I knew money cannot buy happiness. But there could be no denying it, I was happy to have my wad, and, it being Thanksgiving Eve, I thanked God for my happiness, if not my money. It seemed to have been a long, lonely time since I’d felt any genuine happiness.

My wad had been especially huge because when Ike Weed cashed my paycheck he used the Phatty Burger deposit, and people at a fast food joint seldom pay with big bills. My wad was big but cumbersome. I reduced its size by turning fifty ones and ten fives to a single hundred, because, when I bought the carton of cigarettes for my ex, I noticed a scrawled sign by the register stated “Need Ones and fives”. They got sixty bills and I got a single hundred, which I slipped into a side pocket of my wallet as a sort of hedge-fund against the future.

Even as I did this, doing so seemed a little unthankful towards God. It seemed to express a distrust, and that I fully expected to be flat broke in the future. As a general rule, it seemed to me God spent more time keeping poets flat broke than making them rich. Poverty seemed an important part of poetry, a price poets paid. The price had to be paid because, “Ya gotta pay the dues if you wanna to sing the blues.” In fact there seemed something downright weird and unnatural about being as rich as I now felt I was.

Besides slipping a hundred into one pocket of my wallet to hedge against the future, I slipped a fifty into another pocket to repay Ike Weed for the advance he had given me, yet despite the subtraction of these two large bills my wad was still over three hundred. Considering I couldn’t even afford cigarettes that morning, I felt fabulously wealthy.

Yet my thanksgiving was not for my current wealth, but rather for what God had seen me through before I was wealthy. Looking back, it occurred to me that, even when I couldn’t afford cigarettes, I never needed to quit my addiction, for God supplied me with rank tobacco to reroll. I also never went hungry, which was a good thing, for I had a metabolism in overdrive. I never in my life needed to diet, and tended to be so lean that fasting was dangerous. But it seemed God never asked me to fast. Perhaps I ate from dumpsters on a couple of occasions, but I never once went hungry. And, as I sat in my car, that was what I was thankful for. I felt like a sailor on a ship that has come through a 21-day storm. I wasn’t as thankful for the sturdy ship or for the safe anchorage as I was to simply be a survivor, and to be alive.

Looking back, I think anything beyond survival made me nervous. I felt God would provide what I needed and not what I wanted. I’d get water and not lemonade. Therefore any excess made me feel it must exist for some future shortcoming. It must be like the bounty of harvest, just before an especially severe winter.

In some ways this didn’t seem quite right. It didn’t seem like thanksgiving. To see bounty as a promise of future hardship Is like seeing a sunrise as a promise of night. But as I sat in my car in a campground, it was hard to be an optimist. God had recently seemed like a drill sergeant, and my life like a boot camp.

Boot camps whip you into shape, and that was what I tried to be thankful for. Discipline had seemed to pay off, as I now could ruffle a wad of cash, but I wasn’t altogether sure bootcamp was over. As I had my talk with God I questioned “what he was up to”. Hopefully this amused God. It must be fun for God to hear mere mortals attempt to figure Infinity out.

One thing I thought I was figuring out was that God was teaching me the difference between love and lust. In terms of women, God seemed to shatter my resolutions to ignore all females by placing glaringly beautiful ladies right in front of me, dead center in my life, but as soon as I reached out to grab that female He would snatch her away. Splendor was a perfect example of this: A militant feminist, she seemed a female I would abhor, but instead I started to fall in love with her, so God (and Quincy) had her immediately quit Phatty Burgers, and therefore she couldn’t progress to becoming an object of my lustful sexual fantasies. As a result, I experienced the love but not the lust.

“I see what you’re doing” I said to God. “You are keeping me from having 400 wives and 600 concubines like Solomon. But couldn’t you at least allow me have one?”

The same thing seemed to happen, in a far less romantic way, in terms of jobs. As soon as I started to commit my life to some occupation other than poetry, something would occur that would make me quit or else get me fired. Therefore it was very surprising, in some cynical way, that I actually passed the Phatty Burgers “appraisal”. I was steeling myself for yet another firing. My expectation had been that God would allow me to commit just long enough to get a fat paycheck, and then have me fired, and send me on my way to the next stage of his tough-love boot camp.

The simple fact I passed the “appraisal” awoke hope in me. It seemed boot camp might at long last finally be finished, and I could just progress onwards to being an ordinary soldier.

In romantic terms, I hoped this meant I could quit the business of being so damn chaste all the time, and could progress to the romantic ideal of being a good man who loved a good woman. This involved the next day, when I’d go see my ex. Hope had me thinking I might persuade her to be my exex. Rather than breaking up we might be making up.

As I sat in my car, thankfulness gave way to thoughts about why I saw monogamous marriage as a good thing, which involved thinking about things it was difficult to be thankful for. My diary shows I often drifted into morbidity.

Now I can be thankful I was gifted with the parents I had, but they were unfaithful to each other, sixty years ago, and, thirty-six years ago, I was still bitter about the fiasco they made of their marriage. I couldn’t understand why such lovely people couldn’t be loving. But, gifted with IQs over 130, they chose the Sophist path, which made them seem like they had IQs of 60.

As a child, I felt they were the world’s best parents, and it was agony to watch them make fools of themselves. They cheated. They justified betraying Love and marriage vows with eloquent sophistication. Ruin resulted. It was agony to witness and hell to endure, yet was understandable, given their circumstances. It took time to understand their circumstances. Now I forgive them. But thirty-six years ago I was still going through the painful process of understanding, which is so much a part of shaking-off bitterness and being healed by the antidote of forgiveness.

The one thing I had firmly decided back then was that my parent’s horrible divorce was not a proof that marriage was a bad thing, but rather that sophistication was a bad thing. It was better to be unsophisticated, and to be a bumpkin loyal to your spouse.

I explained this to my ex, before we became lovers: Commitment had to be 100%.  Marriage was not like wading into water at a beach, where you can get up to your knees and decide the water was too cold and turn back. It was taking a plunge. There was no such thing as a “trial marriage.” It was either 100% or it was not truly marriage.

My ex had smiled and vigorously nodded she agreed, but 60 days later told me “I don’t feel 100% committed any more.” She went on to inform me that she felt the sole reason for our relationship was that some sort of higher power felt her job was to “get you out of California”. Because she had completed her task, she felt her job was done, and the relationship was over. She was therefore and henceforth unequivocally my ex. My reaction to this logic was not well thought out. I slapped her. I was immediately ashamed, but her immediate reaction was odd.  She smiled. I assume she smiled because my slap provided her with a convenient reaffirmation of her status as an “ex”.

In my eyes “100% commitment” involved accepting the world of another and dedicating your life to entering and serving-in that other person’s world. Marriage, in my eyes, involved becoming twice as big. Loving enlarged you by adding another world to your own, and people who snubbed marriage preferred to be shrunken. In my eyes my ex was preferring to be small, and I wanted her bigger than that. I could be 100% committed even if she wasn’t. I could rescue her, by getting her to recommit, to forgiving my slap, and to becoming my exex.

All this stuff was passing through my brain, in a far less digested form, as I sat in my car attempting to be thankful just before Thanksgiving. And hope was telling me I might be successful. After all, I had succeeded at Phatty Burgers, and had a wad of cash in my hands. I had staggered to my feet in one way, so why not stagger to my feet in another?

Hope is a dangerous thing, for hope can be dashed. Yet hope is a thing poets are all about. Poets want to take two sad words, “if only”, and make such hope become more real. And, when you think about it, why not? Why put on a depressed face and say, “if only bosses could be nicer to employees” or “If only employees could be nicer to bosses” or “If only exes could be nicer to their ex” or “if only an ex could be nicer to their exes.” Why not skip the bother of such weeping and wailing, and shoulder the burden of making hope be real? Why grouse that hoping seems preposterous? It is better to be attempting to make beauty apparent, than to side with dashed hope. If you concede defeat before you begin, because you are so sure hope will be dashed, then you won’t begin. And if you don’t begin, hope is just a dream that can’t come true.

Not that I had much hope, as I hoped. After all, I did slap my ex across the kisser, and once a man has resorted to such illogic, he can have little hope of forgiveness, even if the female seemingly deserved it. However, as I chatted with God, it just seemed I should act as if I had hope, even if the cause seemed lost.

There was a slight chance (only 6%, according to the pregnancy test) my ex’s crabby moods might be due to our pre-break-up behavior, so I figured I should be responsible and a good provider, as if we were still together and my money was still her money and my work still aimed at her happiness. Not that she ever responded to my letters, but hope can be a cactus that requires no watering.

I’d checked out places we might reside, besides a tent or trailer in a campground, and the best place in Gallup was the El Rancho Hotel. That was where Hollywood movie stars had stayed when they filmed near Gallup. Rates at the El Rancho were reduced due to the depressed local economy, and I abruptly could afford such a place, though it cost four times as much as a campground. I thanked God I could be a good provider and tempt my ex with such a refuge. It seemed hope might be something other than insanity, as I sat in my car.

I tried to bolster my hope by envisioning happy endings, like one reads in romantic novels, as I sat in my car. I even hummed the old song, “I wish instead of breaking up that you and I were making up.” However a disconcerting reality intruded. When you are in love, your beloved’s face floats in front of you even when you are trying to do some mundane job such as work at a lathe. Yet now, when I sat in a campground and attempted to hope, I couldn’t even picture my ex’s face. Not a good sign.

My stomach started to grumble, and I left my prayers and Toyota to deal with more immediate concerns.  I needed to eat. No mother would feed me, and no wife would feed me, and no sister would feed me, and no daughter would feed me, nor would any other charity. It can be rough being a poet. You care for everyone, but nobody cares for you. Yet, before I tune up any violins of self-pity, I’ll mention such a predicament has its good side: No one tells you to sit up straight or to hold your fork correctly.

I did have a Thanksgiving meal, a “Phatty’s Phabulous Pheast”, but had no microwave to heat it in, and I didn’t want to cook hunched over at the minuscule electric stove burner in Raydoe’s tiny trailer. Such cramped conditions just didn’t seem conducive to the hope I was attempting to muster. I wanted to use my battered and blackened stewpot over a campfire. But campfires don’t turn on with a switch. I needed to gather some fuel.

There is something wonderfully down-to-earth about gathering fuel. My wad of cash meant nothing. (In fact I’d once read of bank robbers who successfully eluded the police by fleeing into wilderness, but were reduced to burning stolen dollars to start a fire, because all the kindling was wet.)

It is a pity so few in modern society know the pleasure of gathering the wood for the fire that cooks the meal. Many don’t even know the pleasure of preparing the meal. They pop a “Phatty’s Phabulous Pheast” into a microwave, and then wonder why dinner seems so empty.

In 1984 I escaped such progress and wandered about a campground devoid of tourists attempting to scrounge fuel. Because the tourists were gone, a prime source of fuel, the leftovers from their campfires, was also gone. I’d checked every campsite for weeks and had used up all the half-burned logs available. I’d also used up all easily gathered fallen wood. All that was left was  breaking dead branches from living sage brush and scrub cedar, and, unlike low, dead branches of hemlock and pine back in New England, such branches do not snap easily  from the trunk and need to be twisted and wrenched. My knicked knuckles bled before I had a decent armload to bring to my campsite, to start my fire with.

Something about starting the fire was another thing to be thankful for. Yes, it was much more work than turning on the electric stove in Raydoe’s trailer, but sage and cedar smell better than an electric burner. And gathering wood under desert sky midst red sandstone cliffs beats the hell out of clicking a switch. And lastly, you pay no utility bill for the heat you make; you owe nobody for the heat that cooks your food; you are a free man, self-reliant. In some ways a homeless bachelor in a campground is last man you should pity. Instead pity rich men who must pay for electric stoves, and for trophy wives who demand they hire cooks or else take them out to eat at fancy restaurants.

I dumped the contents of my free “Phatty’s Phabulous Pheast” into my stewpot, from its microwave-safe plastic containers, not forgetting to thank turkey farmers for the turkey, pea farmers for the peas, and potato farmers for the mashed potatoes. I opened the gravy containers and dumped gravy on the mashed potatoes, wondering who farmed the gravy, and who I should thank. I confess I forgot to thank the folk who made plastic containers, and the oil riggers who make all plastic possible. But I thanked many, though the meal was free, for I knew there is no such thing as a free lunch. For every scrap of sustenance we get, some farmer has sweated and slaved, somewhere. But I still had something else to add to my pot which I was especially thankful for.

When Raydoe vanished, he had scooped up nearly every crumb of food in the trailer as he left, but missed the best item of all. On a shelf, hidden by cleaning supplies, was a canning jar of homemade hot sauce.  I think some relative had given it to Raydoe, perhaps his grandmother. It was amazing stuff, very unlike commercial hot sauce, for it didn’t overpower with the burning sensation of chilies, yet doubled the flavors of chilies, and there were also intangible flavors due to some secret mix of vegetables and spices which grandmothers never reveal. Lastly, it had the touch of love in it. Some relative was very fond of Raydoe, and I always felt a little wicked to be stealing his sauce. That scrumptious sauce was more than a fair trade for the dried rice and beans and cans of sardines and jars of  peanut butter I had bought, that Raydoe scooped-up as he left.

It was amazing what a dash of that sauce could do to a “Phatty’s Phabulous Pheast”. I tried to eat slowly, but felt the urge to devour like a wolf. I used a tortilla to blot the stew pot as clean as a dog would have licked it, and then sat back and patted my happy stomach while watching the sky.

I have always been thankful for the sky. Often it is the best show in town, and it doesn’t cost a cent. Even a man in a jail cell, looking at a patch of sky between bars, can be liberated and free as a bird. Or that is how I felt during math classes, as a boy. The sky is a reason to thank God. It deserves more than a single syllable, and far more than three letters.

On this particular Thanksgiving eve, the sky put on an amazing show. Sunset didn’t just happen in the west, but also overhead and into the east.

Not that the sunset was particularly baroque; there were only a few curls of high clouds. It wasn’t foreground clouds, but background sky, that got to be center stage. The sky faded from blue to the yellow of a manila envelope, and then got yellower and yellower, until it began to be orange, and then as orange as a pumpkin, but not just in a stripe above the western horizon, but from horizon to horizon, all the way to the east. I felt like I was under the water of an orange sea.

My curiosity awoke, and I wondered what caused the sky to behave in such an unusual way. Some sort of dust must be up high in the atmosphere, to make the sky be so orange. I’d read of huge volcanoes like Krakatoa hurling ash so high that sunsets all around the world became amazing, but that phenomenon persisted day after day. This seemed more brief, a one-evening-event, so my mind mused about what sort of dust could be causing the phenomenon.

I smiled when my thought recalled reading about dust storms in the Sahara. I’d read that the Sahara’s dust often retards the development of hurricanes east of the Caribbean, and can even be found in ocean-bottom-core-samples near the Bahamas and even in the Gulf of Mexico. And if such dust can drift as far as the Gulf of Mexico, why not up the Rio Grande Valley and then, taking a sharp left turn, up the Rio Puerco to Gallup New Mexico? It was sheer hypothesis, but such wonders are possible.

Right at this point a nag voiced in my memory, with a wonder that stated, “Why can’t you just enjoy the view? Why do you have to spoil it with your stupid science?”

It was the voice of my ex, come to haunt me like a ghost.

My ex claimed she had renounced religion, but in some ways was orthodox to the core. She told me science was bullshit, there was no such thing as evolution, no such thing as dinosaurs, and even no such thing as geology. She stated this after I was admiring a canyon wall where a layer of red sandstone was topped by silver limestone, and I stated this indicated an arid landscape had been covered by a rising sea, millions of years in the past.

At the time I had to admit she had made a good point. Landscapes are beautiful in and of themselves. You don’t need to explain them or know how they came to be. You can love without explanations.

In this manner the love which God had woken in my heart opened a new world to me, a world unlike my own, my ex’s world, where one simply appreciated beauty without wanting to dig at it. However, I am what I am, and as soon as I appreciate something I want to dig at it. I want to know more.

Some people do not appreciate it when you want to know them better. They feel picked at, probed, pecked-at by snitching tweezers, and request you just leave them alone. It is like the quote Greta Garbo never spoke, “I vant to be alone.” Sometimes people just need some space.

Yet love is a two-way street. If I allow others to be as they are, they should allow me to be as I am. And God made me full of curiosity. I can’t help myself. I must spoil things with my stupid science, because the Creator is so amazing that I want to know how He did creation, and to love Him more the more I learn, with ever-increasing admiration. For that is what science is, as I see it: Ever-increasing admiration.

My ex and I had arrived at a sort of impasse which seemed impossible to resolve, but I had hope. God created every note in his orchestra, and knows how to resolve every discord into harmony. He often does so with humor that makes you laugh.

For example, one discord that led to my parent’s divorce involved my father’s tendency to work harder, where my mother sought relaxation and peace. If you had a problem my father’s solution was to get up early and run five miles, while my mother’s solution was to sleep late and recuperate. This becomes humorous if you are a little boy attempting to please both parents. One tells you get up and the other tells you to lay down, and the result is you become a yoyo. Then the two scratch their heads and wonder, “Why is our son such a yoyo?” (If they have divorced, they scratch their heads in different houses, but one incongruous thing I noticed about my divorced and supposedly irreconcilable different parents was how they said the same thing, even using the same phrases, (“it is all water under the bridge”), even when miles apart.)

It is easy for God to resolve such discord, for God sees both exercise and rest are part of His creation, and how to harmonize the two opposites in a way that is healthy and healing and creates huge happiness.

That was the healing I hoped for, tomorrow. What some might call a miracle could possibly occur, but, if it occurred, it would just be God pointing out a harmony we two lovers should have seen all along. Often such a “pointing-out” is as simple as seeing two cannot walk through the same door or sit on the same toilet at the same time, but it takes God to point out how idiotic we mortals are behaving. Marriage cannot work unless it involves three.

A sense of euphoria swept over me. The sky moved past orange and became ruby. From west to east the sky was bright ruby, and all the world beneath was ruby, a brief ruddy sight I’d never seen before and would never see again. I felt sorry for people indoors, who missed it.

I was thankful. My life was a wonderful life, full of wonderful gifts. I saw beautiful things others never saw. I apologized to God for ever complaining. I wanted to yell to the whole world that their lives were equally beautiful. I did not know why we all became so blind and were sullen so much, but the fact was everyone was, everyone is, and everyone ever more shall be, beautiful.

As I enjoyed this unexpected bliss I knew it was not a vision that would last. I’d awake the next morning grouchy, and wonder what the hell had gotten into me. I’d wonder how I could get so high without drugs, or even beer. I’d attempt to dismiss the bliss as a manic mania, but I also knew that, while the bliss might not be lasting, what I glimpsed was far more lasting than any of my worldly woes. This world is perishable, as fleeting as a sunset, but heaven is everlasting.

Even as the amazing sky started to fade and grow dusky, and even as I started to grow sleepy and think I should hit the hay early to prepare for a long day tomorrow, the bliss persisted. No woe had power. Things that ordinarily could cause me to cry seemed mere jolly mishaps.

One thing I recall chuckling about as I fell asleep was that I became aware I felt liberated. I felt allowed to wonder. I could wonder if the ruby sky might be due to God whisking dust from the Sahara to the skies of New Mexico, without being told I was an unholy blasphemer to bring science into a sunset. It was a relief, to sit in a sunset free of my ex, but I still was determined to keep our vows, and to make her an exex tomorrow.

FALLACY BY INCREMENTS

As a person who loves Truth, I also prefer honesty, but honesty is not always easy, person to person. There are things we are trained to abstain from revealing. For example, as a married, sixty-five-year-old man I might find a young woman extremely attractive, but I would be ill-advised to be too honest about my true feelings. Not that I lie, but I “don’t go there.”

Why not? Because honesty has repercussions. If I tell a young damsel she is beautiful, she will respond, and I will respond to her response, and who the heck knows where I might wind up?

Sometimes, out of purely scientific interest, I become curious about where I might wind up. To avoid harassment-lawsuits, black eyes, and divorce, what I do is to write a short story. In the story I allow the responses to play out. (I change the names to protect the innocent, of course.) In this manner, where anyone else might feel guilty for entertaining a fantasy, I get to call myself an “artist” for doing the exact same thing.

When writing such a story there is a tendency to aim for a “happy ending”. For example, as my wife is spiritual and reads the Bible a lot, I might write a story where the wife allows her husband to be like King Solomon, and have six hundred concubines. As I aim my plot towards this happy ending a little voice in my head starts to object. “No,” it states, “This is not going to happen.”

It turns out we have an innate pragmatist in our imagination which is able to envision all sorts of unhappy endings. Call it your “conscience” if you will, it applies the brakes to our unwise impulses. Working in the field of Childcare as I do, I get to watch these brakes be built. Where a three-year-old jumps and sprains his ankle, a four-year-old gauges the height, shakes his head, and climbs down.

The ability to foresee the consequences of our actions is actually a science, and involves the ability to weigh actions and reactions. In the west we say “you reap what you sow” and in the east they speak of “Karma”, but it boils down to the same thing. “Don’t do the crime if you can’t spend the time.” “You’ve got to pay the dues if you want to sing the blues.” “What goes around comes around.” “You’ve had your way; now you must pay.”

The fact which most really don’t want to accept is: This science isn’t flexible. People are always looking for loopholes that don’t exist. People don’t really like the idea that there is such a thing as “Righteousness”, and a “Day of Judgement.” At my Childcare I am always unwillingly put in the role of almighty judge, and hear small children invent the most absurd loopholes, as they build elaborate cases about the ownership of inconsequential items such as sticks, and then later, when I wearily drag myself home, and turn on the evening news after work, I don’t watch all that long before I mutter to myself, “Adults aren’t all that different.”

People need loopholes, because people screw up. Even a gentleman opening a door for a lady may see the lady step through the door into the path of an oncoming truck. Every lifetime has a quota of several thousand apologies, and no one can survive without mercy (which some are more able to accept than others.) However at this point a distinction needs to be made. There are those to whom loopholes are a gift of compassion which they blush upon receiving, and then there are those to whom loopholes are a way of life, which they manipulate for their own advantage.

The difference seems to involve ones relationship with Truth. Some believe there is such a thing as Truth, and some deny that there is any such Reality. Some believe there is such a thing as “Law” and some scorn such belief. Some earnestly strive to conform to higher principles, and some sneer that such conformity is a sign a person is a sucker and a chump.

Personally I believe it is best to strive for Truth, for I believe that if you stand by Truth then Truth stands by you. This does not seem like some sort of esoteric mysticism to me, but rather a sort of practical matter involving sensible engineering. When an engineer builds a bridge he wants honest, truthful measurements, or the bridge may fall down. Of course, all engineers know about “Murphy’s Law”, (“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”), but they don’t go out of their way to seek such consequences. Sometimes the criteria engineers are subjected to involves a best-effort built upon sand, even though scripture advises against building on sand, but in such a case the “given”, (perhaps a minuscule budget), is the Truth, and engineers do their best to relate to Truth.

I think the same is true for so-called “social engineering” (which is just a highfalutin way of describing what ordinary folk call “relationships”, “friendships”, “partnerships”, “marriages” or even, in battles, “the rules of engagement”). When people “build” a relationship they employ certain tools and techniques, and some people are more honest in this process than others. My experience has been that honesty is the best policy, in the long run, although I’ve seen plenty of people be sneaky and think they “got away with it,” in the short run. If you are young you will have to just take my word for this: “It all comes out in the wash.”

This can be a bit nervous-making, when an Authority such as Jesus states, “Be on guard against…hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the rooftops.”

Yikes. I’m not sure I want stereo speakers attached to my brain, broadcasting my stray inner thoughts. It might be all right to have thought-balloons in cartoons, but, in real life, being psychic would be embarrassing. I prefer to sort out my thoughts, and to go through several rough drafts before publishing them with my big mouth, and, as far as other people’s thoughts are concerned, I know some people who make me very glad I lack psychic powers.

On a more positive note, I have had the good fortune to meet a few people in my life who I wouldn’t mind learning were psychic. Hopefully you have known a few such people yourself, for otherwise you won’t have a clue what I am talking about. They are the sort of person you can talk to for hours. They are agreeable people, even when you disagree; they are people you feel a deeper-than-normal level of understanding with.

Now that my hair is gray I understand such people are few and far between in life. If I had my life to do over again I would have done a better job of staying in touch. Even though I have lost touch with many, they stand out in my memory as people who restored my faith in the goodness of humanity, or at least in the potential which humanity has (and perhaps fails to live up to) to be splendid.

This brings my thinking around to wondering what the heck it was that these old friends, (or “we”), made so easy. To be honest, it was honesty. It is dishonest people, it seems to me, that make life be hard. So then I have to think hard. What in the world makes a hard life seem better, to some, than an easy life? The answer I have come up with is that there was some hardship in the past that hardened some people’s hearts, and convinced them that it was foolish to expect better. Born and bred in corruption, they think corruption is the way of the world, and so they perpetuate corruption. It never occurs to them life could be far easier.

The easiness of Truth is often dismissed with words such as “naivete” or “innocence” or “overly optimistic”, as if only children believe in Truth, as if Truth was a sort of Tooth-fairy or Santa Claus. The cynical distrust that feeds corruption is based on disillusionment, broken hearts, shattered faith, and all the other sad events that harden the tenderhearted by subjecting them to difficulties they did not deserve. Yet, despite the most hardened hearts, the corrupt betray a secret longing they own, a hidden hunger to believe in Santa Claus.

How can I assert such a thing? It is because even after making life ugly, they demonstrate a fondness for beauty, or at least for the trappings of beauty. True, they often destroy the beauty in their attempts to clutch it, building a garish mansion smack dab in the middle of a pristine wilderness,  or pawing a young woman in their dotage because they can afford a “trophy wife”, but, all the same, they hanker for beauty, and therefore deny the very cynicism, and the sophist scorn of softness, that they based their hard and harsh lives upon.

The hypocrisy involved can be huge. The wealthy dowager floods her sinuses with phlegm and uses up a box of Kleenex, enjoying a good cry watching a PBS tearjerker about poor and humble people, stuffing her face with caviar and bonbons brought to her on a platter, as she lounges in bed, by a servant she is able to underpay because the servant is an illegal alien, or in some cases a veritable slave, who was recruited from a third-world hellhole with the false promise of a decent wage. Or the billionaire spends millions on a painting by Vincent van Gough, while at the same time underpaying his gardener, who happens to also be a man who suffers, in order to daub upon canvases.

Van Gough loaned us his ear, but such snobs cannot hear, and Beethoven wrote music from the silence of deafness, and the imbecilic wealthy jam into the symphony halls to hear his silence, willfully as blank-eyed as the brain-dead,  concerning the very heavenly Truth that makes such music possible: Silent realities, that the rich would call a “cost” and which they refuse to budget for, but which were in fact an “expense”  easy as pie for Beethoven to pay. Music was not hardship for Beethoven. Rather music was joy, derived from silent Truth. The hardship in his life involved bringing such an easy thing into a corrupt world which makes that which should be easy be hard.

Beethoven, though as flawed as any human, was in some ways the opposite of the corrupt. Though he could not hear, he gave us beautiful music. The corrupt, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, “have ears but cannot hear.”

This logically brings me to the sad state of American politics, where the fundamentally Truth-based premise of the American Constitution is crashing into corrupted concepts, exemplified by the dishonesty of Bill and Hillary Clinton. If ever there were two people who seemingly proved the route to success involved dishonesty, they were paragons for such cynicism. They made millions, and fooled millions as well. They sweet-talked people who should have known better, corrupting courts, charities, the EPA, environmentalists, much of congress, the press, and all but the American voters, who at the last possible moment rejected the sickly-sweet talk of corruption, electing an oddball president, Donald Trump.

It may be a case of too little too late. Though the American people are so disgusted with the corruption in Washington that they refer to it as “The Swamp”, there are many people (tens of millions) who owe their livelihoods to corruption, and these dark people will not go gently into the light, called honesty. They prefer deceit.

This brings me back to where I began, which, in case you forgot, was, how it may be difficult at times to be honest. But why should it be difficult, when I have just wasted a considerable amount of your time stating it should be easy?

The ingredient that makes honesty dangerous is desire. There is nothing intrinsically wrong about the old and wrinkled admiring the beauty of the young and smooth; it is when craving enters the picture that you see old fools hustling off to purchase Viagra. “Desire is the mother of much misery”. It is in recognition of desire’s potential to raise havoc that yogis flee to hide out in the Himalayas, and Saint Paul moans, “Oh what a wretched man am I”. There is no escape from the hankering, which is why Saint John stated, “If we say we have no sin, then the Truth is not in us.” Even if we despise desire, we are desiring, for we are desiring desirelessness.

It then turns out it is best to be honest about desires, and to “confess”. Some enter a Catholic confessional, some sprawl on a psychiatrist’s couch, some lose inhibition and discretion in a tavern, and some chat over coffee with a dear friend,  but all find a sort of relief in openness and honesty (even if they rue their big mouth, when they awake the next day with a hangover.)

The trick seems to be to confess the desire without obeying the desire. One must confess craving another’s chocolates without actually snatching them. This is the true test of ones spirituality.

Where corruption enters in is when the desire lurks in the background, demanding gratification. If stamped down into the subconscious, it still influences in sly and devious ways. For the well-meaning, this results in remorse and apology and repentance, but for the truly corrupt, it is simply a way of life. It is the “given”, and results in statements such as “he is given to fits of temper.” It doesn’t matter if you call a wrong a “sin” or a “foible”, the “given” makes life harder than it needs to be.

Once one enters the landscape of fallacy what was simple becomes complex. Even Murphy’s Law turns out to have all sorts of clauses and sub-clauses.

In terms of logic and debate, the complexity of fallacy is a headache for seekers of the Truth, and a sheer delight for lawyers.  There are amazingly numerous ways to confuse, complicate, cloud the issue, and avoid Truth:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies

I urge people to glance through the above link’s list-of-fallacies, but not to adopt an indignant look of disapproval while reading, but rather a sense of humor, and to think of whether you yourself adopt certain argumentative fallacies when caught red handed in the commission of some high crime or misdemeanor, (for example, using the curtains to dry your hands, after washing them). What logic do you produce, when cornered? (“Well? What do you expect? You do say I should wash my hands, don’t you? And don’t you say not to use the guest towels? You leave me with no option!”) (Fallacy # 72).

A sense of humor is a great way to deal with our various shortcomings and failures, and also to deal with the fact there are differences in what different people value. For example, as a long-time bachelor, curtains were never an important thing in my life. I could take them or leave them. Far more important to me was the “delete key” of old fashioned typewriters, which was stuff called “white-out”. My wife, on the other hand, could take white-out or leave it. Then, as we came to know each other better, we had to be in some ways dishonest. I had pretend I cared about curtains, and my wife had to pretend she cared about white-out. We did this because we cared about each other, however our true feelings tended to surface when we were in a hurry and under stress. My wife would buy cabbage and forget to buy white-out, and I’d use her curtains as a hand-towel.  Silly things such as these are the ammunition for tremendous marital battles, which outsiders, (especially when they could care less for either curtains or white-out), should steer clear of.

One thing I have noticed is that one can start to keep an account of the times their beloved forgot to buy white-out. White-out can become absurdly important, and, even after one was given an Apple 2C computer and white-out became obsolete (though one might forget and paint the green type on the flickering screen), one might still nurse the memory of the fifteen times their beloved bought food to eat, rather than white-out, and one might use the collected events as evidence the beloved was not, and is not, and will not care in a correct manner. Meanwhile the dearly beloved has her own collection of your own failures, for example the time you lost your temper and stormed off to buy white-out, even though company was coming and she needed help putting up the new curtains. At this point the sense of humor is failing to kick in, and veins are bulging and faces are turning purple about serious, serious things: White-out and curtains. The situation is tragic, I tell you, tragic.

What then saves a marriage is not the sense of humor the couple might have. After all, it is no good to make a joke if the other thinks it is no joking matter.  My wife might make a great joke about my (somewhat silly) focus on white-out, but I would just rear up like Queen Victoria and say, “I am not amused.” What is required is something I call “common sense”, but it is not the ordinary common sense of the mind, but rather is a common sense of the heart.

It would be easy, and correct, to simply use the word “Love” at this point, but I am a cerebral fellow and prefer to avoid simplicity. Instead of simply saying we should “listen to the heart”, I want to study the games the brain plays, when it usurps the role intellect has no business pretending it can manage: The Landscape of Love.

What the brain seems to do is to collect bits of what excruciatingly logical people might call “fallacy”, (see above link), and to, increment by increment, built up a totally ridiculous argument. Each particular increment may not be terribly false, but the cumulative effect gets to be great. A little hyperbole in point six, and other examples of incorrect logic in point three and nine, and the slight fallacy gets greater and greater.

Psychobabble is very handy, if you want things distorted. When your wife buys cabbage and forgets to buy white-out, you can get extra mileage if you call it “subconscious hostility” or “sabotage.” Before you know it you have arrived, with your intellect certain it is sane, at the insane conclusion: “You are trying to kill me, aren’t you?”

It is at this point what I call “the common sense of the heart” kicks in (hopefully). The wife and husband face each other, intellectually certain each is out to murder the other, or at least to drive the other utterly bonkers, but some humble voice then says, “Actually I don’t want to kill you, or not right now. Actually I love you.”

You’d be surprised by how many children have been conceived at the end of ferocious arguments. The cynics say this is merely because lust overpowered logic, but you’d be surprised how many of these cynics have never had or raised a child. They tend to be oblivious, when it comes to the common sense of the heart.

Within the compound of marriage, wherein one is confronted with the utter insanity of the opposite sex, witnessing them fuss about absurd things, (white-out or curtains), when the inflamed intellect turns events into a haystack of “final straws”, a power beyond the intellect may appear. It makes no sense to the brainy. It is like lowering a bucket into a black well in a dark cave, and hoisting up sunshine. It is like approaching the sickbed of a person you have carefully cultivated hatred towards for decades, and finding your heart inexplicably overflowing with tenderness and compassion. It allows one to laugh about falling in the mud, and keeps one from laughing when someone else falls in the mud. It is irrational, but a fundamental element of Truth. In fact it gives Truth amazing power, and also makes Truth easy.

One thing I have noticed is that accessing this power seems to involve letting go of desire. The common sense of the heart simply realizes white-out is not all that important, and shrugs off the intellect’s insistence it is the end of the world, of one goes without white-out. Perhaps it is for this reason people who are poor can have excellent senses of humor. “When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.” One is able to be more easy-going when one is not always fretting about losing something. I have lived among people who have no idea where tomorrow’s dinner is coming from, yet who seem to derive far more joy from today’s supper than people who have no such worries. It may not make sense, but it is Truth.

On the other hand I’ve known people who simply can’t let go of their desire. If they are not honest about it, it lurks in the background as a sort of ulterior motive to every conversation, and when they protest their innocence they always resemble greedy Miss Piggy exclaiming “Moi?” to Kermit the Frog.

While humor can to some degree defuse the danger of fallacy, by making it obvious and by (to some degree) “confessing the sin”, the danger remains as long as one puts the desire ahead of Truth. The greatest danger of all occurs when the fallacy, increment by increment, grows into the absurd falsehoods of the “my-wife-is-trying-to-kill-me” sort, and yet the absurdity is not recognized. At that point one is starting to break the Ninth Commandment (Eighth, if you’re Lutheran), because you are “bearing false witness” about another person.  Once you step over that line you are cruising for a bruising, and making life much harder than it needs to be.

There seems to be a choice involved, wherein one has free will and decides what they value. In my humorous example the choice is between white-out and Love. The choice is less humorous in the case of a heroin addict, looking at his wife’s pocket book, and facing a choice between withdrawal symptoms and saving money for his children’s food, but even in the case of an addict it is a choice between desire and Love.

In the end, Love is the correct choice. Love is the most high and mysterious and beautiful aspect of Truth, and cannot be comprehended by the calculating intellect. One should chose Love as the “given” in their life, for your “given” determines what you will be given to doing. You can be given to fits of rage, envy, lust, and sly, manipulative back-stabbing, and always be looking over your shoulder, fearing knives in your own back, and resort to slander and propaganda until you can’t remember what Truth is, (IE: Much of modern politics), or you can be given to Love, and discover the more you give the more beauty you receive, and that when you stand by the Truth, Truth stands by you.