‘But I cannot make no sense of it…’
(this line, and the title, borrowed from Eddie Lundon and Gary Daly, from a song I have on a playlist I called ‘September Tunes’)
It’s true. I can’t. If there is sense to be found in most of what is happening around me right now, I’m sure as hell not seeing much evidence of intelligible reality. What I am feeling is lost – amongst the credulous, self-serving, soporific-imbibing portion of the population that saw/sees the current POTUS and Premier of Ontario as viable candidates for leadership. I don’t like feeling lost. It makes me angry.
I don’t think I’m alone in that since the world of social media is mostly vitriolic ranting these days. Some of it, to be sure, is justified. We need to rage against inequity in all its forms and the normalization of criminal behaviours and the spread of hatred. Most days it feels like demoralizing shouting into the void. Evidence piled upon evidence that we remain in the Age of the Selfie – encouraging the priority of the few – those who continue to control the narrative and the purse-strings – over the well-being of the rest of us.
This paradigm – and its trickle-down effect (strange how that works, when the economic theory named as such decidedly does not) – keeps the fires of society-wide narcissism burning as fiercely and destructively as the wildfires that are not, we are told, the result of climate change, yet continue to burn through California, B.C, Northern Ontario…
But this post is not, really, about how loathsomely inexplicable I find those who maintain their support of the jackasses-in-question – and I admit that our local jackass has been garnering the lion’s share of my focus lately. The ‘Murican jackass is a danger to us all, there is no doubt about that, but I can focus on only so much soft-headed tomfoolery and criminality posing as government policy-making without needing a good long lie-down. The DoFo ‘administration’ is poised to do irreparable damage to my city and my province and the 40% of the population that voted for him and his ilk are still buying the soundbites, petty proclamations, and bread-and-circus routine that are the only tools he can command in light of his complete lack of talent, insight, sincerity, and experience. He needs to be the focus of my complete opposition right now.
And it’s not about the horror I feel about the latest revelations regarding the cover-up of abuse in that anachronistic institution of equal parts illogical doctrine and outdated power structure OR the outrage against those that are spinning Apologetics that suggest fabrication and exaggeration, calling the evidence ‘myth’ – ‘fake news’, if you will – and saying that no institution has LESS of a problem with the sexual abuse of minors than the Catholic Church… I feel like I’m the embodiment of the rage emoji.
These things – serious, deleterious, and potentially-irrevocable as they may be – along with some others that are less-atrocious but annoying, nonetheless, have been causing me to react rather than act, lately. I could blame Twitter (and too much time spent watching that feed certainly is somewhat responsible), but the reality is that having so many things coming at me at once is contributing to a bone-deep anomie that has been hard to shake.
This time of year is always reflective for me. I can’t avoid the back-to-school/new beginnings ideation that comes with the winding down of August. I’m sure it’s partly to due with the timing of my birthday (the start of my own, personal New Year), but, despite having not set foot in a classroom in 8 years, I still feel the pull of the new start that defined my life for so many years. That 8 years thing is also interesting. 8 years ago was a milestone birthday, and, on a lovely celebratory getaway with one of my sisters, I spent a lot of time assessing my life as it was and contemplating next steps. The upshot of all that evaluation was a full-on change in career, along with some other life-altering decisions that are still rippling back at me now.
Cycles and such. 8 strikes me as less-symbolic a number than, say, 7 or 3, but I’m sure that some numerologists out there attach a divine importance to 2X4. Regardless, here I am again. Change. Decisions. New directions. I’m starting a new job – on yet another career path – right after the long weekend. I’m excited and hopeful and feeling that the challenges will be good for me. I’ve been stagnating for too long. And I’m thinking, in general, about all those things that aren’t working. Some of the things requiring assessment are the same as they were 8 years ago. I can be a slow-learner, at times. This is not always the most pleasant of exercises, but, if it helps me shift from reacting to acting in my life, it will be well-worth the self-examination.
Change can be hard. I think my Virgo-nature (or, if you don’t believe in horoscopes – full disclosure, I don’t – my tendency to stubbornness) makes change even more difficult. But, if I’ve learned anything about myself over the past decade or so, I can roll with punches. I don’t like it, but I do it. Change and chaos – that foundational element of human understanding of the world – are inextricably linked. I think that’s why we struggle with it so much.
Chaos gets a bad rep. I lost my own little personification of chaos – my Tiamat – back in June, and I did not enjoy coming to terms with that change at all (Canaanite kittens are helping with that, though). I know, because of all those years studying the stuff, that chaos is necessary. Without its latent presence there exists nothing but stasis. Too much is problematic, of course, but we need that trickle of unsettled alteration to drive progress and our work towards better things.
I think change is most difficult when we are in a situation of instability that permits chaos to seem on the ascendent. As the Mesopotamians told us over-and-over, the balance needs to be maintained. For that to happen we need to have clear standards of order. Right now? We do not. Those systems to which we cling for stability – our governments, religious systems, social organizations – they’re the very things creating the anomie and imbalance.
So what do we do when we isolate ourselves – behind phones and screens and pseudonyms – and our social structures fail to support our ideals and expectations?
Order and chaos is an important foundational dichotomy – more effective and representative of human nature than its later interpretation as good/evil. Not all dichotomies are bad. Some are, though. Good/evil is not useful at all. The narratives that one drives are ALL problematic, as I see things. And even worse than that one is us/them. I hate us/them. Us/them is creating far too many narratives in our dysfunctional governance and social-interactions.
We’ve lost all sense of the importance of caring about one another. Community is a concept that seems archaic – unless it is insular and exclusionary. Then we’re okay with it. We are so self-consumed that the thought of providing support to those who need it most is displaced by the selfish (and ridiculously unsustainable) desire for cheaper gas and beer. Relationships – created and dissolved online – are as disposable as the lives of people seeking sanctuary from war-torn places (despite the fact that we are culpable for the origins of those wars). The dynamic has shifted – rapidly and unfortunately. And if we do not feel supported by those around us, the waves of chaos are hard to navigate.
The feeling of disconnection is, if I’m honest, at the heart of my current self-search. Dissatisfaction is often isolating. One feels like one can only complain so much – before becoming burdensome or dismissed or just plain boring.
This week I was part of an example of the opposite of disconnection, though. And it has taken my reflection in a different direction in a matter of days.
I was privileged to grow up in a village in the heart of the country’s largest city. Decidedly (at the time) middle class, it was a wonderful environment – generally speaking. We had multiple parents looking out for us, close friendships that persisted from JK through high school and beyond, and a sense of safety that permitted us to run loose in adventures that rarely ended in injury or other harm. I will refrain from discussion of the sprained ankle and broken arm, both of which I blame on one guy in particular.
That guy grew up around the corner from me. We were in the same class every year from K-8, shared multiple classes in high school AND spent summers together at camp – as campers and on staff. He is a featured player in a ridiculous number of my best memories. And some of the worst ones, too. Maybe not quite a brother, but certainly more than a friend – in spite of the aforementioned injuries. To be fair, I was present for some pretty serious ones that he sustained, as well.
He moved to California a couple of decades ago, so we haven’t seen all that much of each other in the last while. One morning this week I woke up to an email from him. He’s been up at his folks’ cottage on Georgian Bay and came across three boxes of stuff marked ‘do not throw out’. Photos, letters, year books. I was on the receiving end of much of that discovered bounty three days running this week.
He’s not on social media – can’t say as I blame him when it’s as much a burden as a benefit lately – and he was hesitant about how/if to share some of the things he was finding. I made the decision for him – and posted two class photos from our primary school days. I added to the initial two as he forwarded more. That thread now has 163 comments and has spawned early plans for a reunion in September.
As he said, in an email when I told him what I did (easier to apologize than ask permission, and all that) “If it gives 1 person (or a bunch of people) an ‘excuse’ to reach out and connect with old friend/s… long lost friend/s… a brief escape to happier & NO RESPONSIBILITY times… then we’ve done a good thing”.
He also said “I am occasionally asked ‘what’s the toughest thing about leaving’ and the real answer (which I never give) has a lot to do with amazing roots and foundation of growing up in XXX in that era… unlocked doors, friends in every direction 2-4 blocks away, no social media/electronics etc… buddies & buddyettes who loved spending time together in person doing things, looking out for one another, covering for each other etc. Maybe it’s where I am, but have spoken to my older bro about this too… just don’t see kids having the same ‘code’ as we did… certainly weren’t angels- Jesus, far from it… but we were good kids, good morals, good sense of right & wrong and looking out for one another…”
His assessment might be a tad more idyllic in retrospect than it was in reality, but he’s not far off. Right/wrong is another of those dichotomies that serves a purpose. The response to the pictures demonstrates how lucky we were – and how we all seem to know that. We were, then, part of a community, and we remain, now, connected because of that community.
Another old friend posted on the thread: “It’s weird, I was driving home with my son the other day and we took a detour through XXX so I could show him my old schools, houses we lived in, etc. Was feeling nostalgic already, then I got home and went on Facebook to find all this.”
Perhaps it’s that time of year for everyone. I know I needed that reminder, in a week in which I lost the last of the ‘old folks’ who helped raise me, and as I contemplate changing up some personal relationships that sit in a stasis that is disallowing change and growth and/or just plain hurting my heart.
The world does, for the moment, continue to spin, and I am – we all are – part of it. The only way to balance the chaos of the world is to establish – or re-establish – those connections and communities that lead to stabilizing order. We need to remember that we all have to have look out for one another. There is no them, there is only us. Maintaining our connections is work – but it is worthwhile work.
Thanks for the perspective, JAS. Maybe brother is the right word.
❤️ this. And I love connecting/commiserating with you on social media. You’re a “virtual friend” but a friend just the same.
Having a tween daughter and getting to know her peer group, many openly autistic, dyslexic, ADHD, Gifted, has made me hopeful about the future. They do spend lots of time online but they do so together — having adventures just like we used to have — but online. For some, this allows them to have friendships, and to avoid bullying, that they can’t have off line. They are very accepting and open to the differences in the world.
Good luck in your new job!!
Thanks, Booksy. I started to talk about the other types of community in which I’m privileged to participate – including my work environment, and this here WordPress world, but the post was unwieldy enough as it was. Those sorts of connections are vital – the problem can be sorting out which are positive and which need to be let go. I’m doing some of that right now.
All the more reason it was nice to have such a clear illustration of the ties that bind to people who have been in my life essentially as long as I’ve been around.
Thanks for the visit – and the good wishes. New direction is a good thing! xo
We all have pasts that need to be remembered, good and bad. Thanks for reminding me to remember.
Thanks for visiting, Pam. Hope your summer is going well! xo
So much I want to say to all of this, Beth, but I’d be here forever trying to articulate my own take on the world’s ongoing craziness. Suffice to say, I feel like an alien. And one, at that, that who has seen the movie and knows how it goes. I wish it would stand still for long enough that everyone could take stock of what the hell is going on before the credits roll.
I hope the new job goes well and that you’ll still get your holiday – if that’s still on. So need a catch up. Take care, missus. xxx
You’re a wonderful part of my community, A-M. I hope that all is well – or as well as it can be, with all that is going on. I’m headed up north for a week – after 4 more days transitioning out of the current job – so I’m looking forward to a lot of reading, lake sitting and beer/scotch drinking. I need a cleansing break before the new things start. Hoping I can turn off the brain and just relax for the first time in a really long time. Love to you and yours. You know where to find me – send a message if you need a chat. xo
This (now October) had traditionally been the best time of year for me. But, after the few weeks we have had, I admit to being completely pessimistic about change any time soon. It will probably have to wait until 2024, which seems a lifetime away.
October used to mean the crisp autumn air and changing leaves, where I grew up. The excitement of a new school year (as you mention) and knowing that Christmas was on the horizon with all the great smells and bells that meant.
Now it means 80 mph winds that blow my leaves into the yard of a cranky new neighbor and make my trees (the few that anyone has on our block) rub against her house. I brings wild brush and forest fires. And the prospect of a nail-biting election in a month. (I honestly don’t think it will go our way. These people have found diabolical methods to hang on to power at all costs, as is obvious now. America going so far backward was something I did not foresee.)
I just had a milestone birthday in August (the 11th). It sounds old. Forty didn’t, fifty does. So, I am also facing my self-biases tied up with youth and vigor and appearance. And, like you, I am changing direction in my career and becoming a scientific and medical writer. This is something I can do, but it takes certification and that adds to my already cramped schedule. It is exciting, but tension-producing as well, as everyone else in my programme is an M.D. and I am a lowly psychologist.
OK, so now I have co-opted your post to complain. Forgive me. I just want you to know I still come here for wisdom, solace, and a sense of simpatica.
What is it about us August babies (named Beth) who make that the time to change things up? Happy belated, to you BB. Mine was no milestone, but I’m less-concerned about those, the older I get. Each year needs to matter as much as the next – or the last, as the case may be.
Today is municipal election day – 8 years ago we let that buffoon take control of the city and nothing much has been done since. His brother continues to destroy the public institutions and services that make this province great – and his replacement (who is, unfortunately, likely to win again tonight) has kept the city in a quagmire of inaction and devolution. I hope for a different result – but my confidence in my fellow Torontonians isn’t at its highest, at the moment.
The song line I used as a title is also timely – China Crisis is coming back to town in December and I picked up tickets last week. Will be good to hang with them again.
I hope your new job is working out well for you, Beth. And everything else, too. In spite of the ever-worsening reality that is the US at the moment.
Thanks, as always, for the visit and the kind words. Love seeing you! xo
A glimmer of hope here as Nancy Pelosi redirects this country toward sanity. We just have to ride out the next two years and pray for someone to take away this impostor’s ability to rip off the American people and the world. He is ever more dangerous. I hope for the best for Toronto and Canada too. This insanity cannot be sustained. xxoo
So lovely to see some common sense regained – and I look forward to watching Nancy Pelosi take back the reins and move your country back onto a progressive path. It will be an interesting year, here – with a federal election upcoming – and as the idiot in charge of the province continues to repeal policies and programs designed to help those who most need it in favour of cronies who most certainly do not. I fear for the future of education and healthcare in this province – and don’t even get me started on his plan to rip governance of our public transportation system away from the city. I’m trying for optimism, Beth, but I really can’t wrap my head around the preponderance of selfishness and meanness that seems to be directing the world right now. Still, let’s hope that better things will come. Happy 2019 to you and yours. xoxo
The arrogance of the ignorant is rising. It’s a scary time, and the most horrific, for me, is that so many people blindly follow this pied piper to the destruction of our country, and there doesn’t seem to be enough ethical men and women in Congress to stand up and speak out against him.
Thank you, Professor. Welcome back – so pleased to see you well and back among us. Your country AND mine, I’m afraid. I hope at the city level, at least, my fellow citizens will choose wisely – and for progress. It’s a lot of hope for, right now, I’m afraid. xo