Love Anyway

I heard a song this week and, besides being something that I aspire to in my best moments regardless, felt like a direct response to the world right now. The lyrics are simple but clear and the message is about as concise as one could wish: love anyway.

What dreams may come, what trials we may face, love anyway. I have nothing more for you this week.

 

Different Kinds of Counting

Greetings and welcome to another post about trying to make your time during this pandemic matter, written at the last minute because I can’t manage to make my time during this pandemic matter. No one’s perfect. Anyway. I guess I have some thoughts to share with you, make of them what you will.

There are a few different meanings to the word “count” and I’d like to take a sec to have a few moments with a selection of them. First, a look at probably the default meaning for most people. Count as in numbers as in, I can count to ten.


So that old song Minnie the Moocher, you may know it from The Blues Brothers, has a great line. Like, my favorite from the song, it’s kind of haunting.

She had a million dollars worth of nickels and dimes, she sat around and counted them all a million times.

Makes me feel a whole lot less positive toward the idea of counting, I don’t know about you. I have this maddening image of a woman slouching lower and lower, scowling deeper and deeper, body dwindling away while the piles of coins slosh and shift, building up piles that inevitably collapse only to be counted again.

Please don’t think it’s an exaggeration when I tell you that that is low-key what I envision whenever I think about millionaires and billionaires. My mind doesn’t generally linger on the image (thank goodness) because I’m aware that people actually aren’t caricatures but even so. It’s  still kind of gross to me to think about a person, one person, having that much money.

It reminds me of one of my favorite lines from Oscar Wilde, for those of us without piles of coins to count (as much as we might still be obsessed with counting what little we have). He said, “Who, being loved, is poor?”


Number two way to think about counting (hahaha yessss number twooooo, it’s like I’m counting!): people counting, like, people mattering.

I think I’ve talked about this on here before and with good reason. Probably most people have gotten to the point that they at least pay lip service to the idea that all humans matter. That we should all count. There’s an easy and lazy way to say this in democracies because you can simply say, “Look, we vote and all votes count the same.”

I think that’s ridiculous for a lot of reasons but even taking it at face value, you’re saying that you must vote to count. This question is very relevant with the US Census occurring recently (and ongoing??) and it makes me recall the debates about what questions they would ask, specifically about citizenship. It was a super clear signal that they weren’t interested in the first kind of counting that I talked about, the plain old numbers kind, but instead were pursuing an agenda meant to limit the people who count in this second way.

Makes me think of equality and equity. The former being where you treat everyone the same and the latter where you treat everyone the way they need to be treated. Example: wheelchair ramps because some people have different mobility needs, treating everyone as though they could climb stairs isn’t actually good for society.

That’s what I think whenever people try to come up with conditions for ‘counting’ in any way. First, that they make a big show about equality as a way of actually ensuring a lack of equity. Second, that whatever they may say to the contrary, putting conditions on counting means that you don’t think all people count.

Also v relevant with regard to queer people and the church, but that’s a topic for another day.


Finally, thirdly, lastly, I submit this meaning of count to you: that which we mean when we say ‘make your time count.’

This is very related to the second point but with this difference: we can say whatever we want about who counts and who doesn’t (not that it makes one jot of difference) but we cannot say, corporately, whether our time mattered or not. That is one only for the history books.

As I discussed last week, for many of us, this time has been ripe with opportunities for personal growth. And not more pressingly but perhaps more lastingly, opportunities to change the world in powerful ways. That is how I encourage you to move forward: thinking about how to make all of this count in the grand scheme of things, however you might be able.


How do I love thee? Let me count the ways that you count. And may all our counting make a difference for people we will never meet.

Catalog

Times have been such times lately. They continue to be such and I’ve found it pretty stressful even in the midst of my life mostly looking the same. But I encourage you to reflect very deliberately on what’s going on for you.

And perhaps you can take some time to catalog the things that you have been doing lately that you haven’t typically done much, but which have brought you joy. Art projects, baking, teaching your children. Mediation, journaling, calling friends and relatives regularly. Going on walks, watching comedy specials, supporting local restaurants. Gardening, reading, exercising. Whatever else it might be.

In the intermediate future, some of those things might be difficult to keep up, as life returns to a non-pandemic rhythm. But I encourage you to cast your mind forward to that time and think of how you can commit to keeping those joyful activities thriving.

On a more macro level, I also encourage you to think about the things that, as a society, we should not want to return to ‘normal.’ Doing the bare minimum with healthcare, housing, and the minimum wage. Unnecessary commutes, unnecessary prison sentences, unnecessary restrictions. Teacher pay, care for the elderly, racism. Lying and/or incompetent politicians, ridicule of expertise, disbelief of science. Pollution, individualism of the most selfish sort, failure to understand the interconnectedness of our communities and our world. Lots of things I hope that we change forever.

Now is the time. Think carefully about the life and world you want on the other side of this thing. Get it down while it’s fresh in your mind and find a way to hold onto the things you’re thinking and feeling. We can change things but it’s not going to happen on its own. We’ve got to do things with purpose. Take now to think about what that purpose is, or maybe what you hoped it had been and now realize it wasn’t.


I’ll be real with you, I don’t think much of anything will change. I’ve seen headlines and think-pieces on how the very nature of work will be altered moving forward. I don’t buy it. I hope. But while all our systems have been challenged, none of them have been overthrown. Those in power have rushed to their aid even as they have, to a greater or lesser extent, aided the common people.

But those powers that be will do everything they can to return to the status quo that they created and that benefits them. It sounds a little conspiracy-y to say it like that but it is what it is. Talking about changing offices forever? Doubt it. The people who built the massive office buildings won’t take kindly to employees who want to abandon them–even just for a couple days a week.

And for those who don’t work in offices? For the ‘essential’ workers who are outside of prestige jobs in medicine, for example? Lots of verbal support but it’s unlikely that the Republicans who supported our lovely stimulus checks would also support a minimum wage increase.

Hopefully, time and the world will prove me wrong.


I am not a policy wonk and I hesitate to make such pronouncements with any authority. And by ‘hesitate’, I mean ‘refrain entirely’ since none of my pronouncements actually carry any authority. But here we are.

I’ve just been sitting here. Working some. Enjoying the sun. Listening to a D&D podcast. Petting cats. Trying, as ever, to make and maintain friendships.

But I do hope that you take the time to make that catalog. Be deliberate about the changes you make. We aren’t all the ‘powers that be’ who can make the kind of decisions that transform societies. But in some ways, at least, we can transform our own lives. Let’s try to take this opportunity while we can. Be kinder to yourself and be kinder to those who have only had things worse since this whole thing started.


To finish us off this week, cats and poetry. The poem some distant relative of a translation from Hafez (but probs nowhere near something he actually wrote) and the setting of it by Dan Forrest has been haunting me for weeks. Enjoy.

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Even
After
All this time
The Sun never says to the Earth,

“You owe me.”

Look
What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.

Deliver Us

First things first. I am embarrassed to say that it took me this long because someone of my predilections should have known this long ago but here we are. Even as an ancient Egypt kid (as opposed to dinosaur kids, space kids, horse kids ect), I did not know. But this week has brought me truth:

The word ‘cat’ is very likely Egyptian in origin. One of a handful of words from that ancient language that exists today in modern English (and inspired the word in many, many other languages as well). Golly, those Egyptians were onto something. So cool.

And in celebration of that fact, here is the precious Pinky, making her debut appearance on this site. Give her a warm welcome.


Look, I know probably most of you aren’t all that interested in my socially distanced (or: status quo) journal of bleh introspection and baby self-discoveries but I can’t help it. I am what I am.

🤷‍♂️

I don’t know why it took so long to put it together but I feel like I had a little breakthrough this week. I love personality tests but generally view them as interesting and sometimes helpful rather than definitive. But consider love languages (not personality types per se but in a similar vein). My highest has always been quality time.

And that, finally thinking about that for a sec in the midst of the right now, is it. I often feel unduly “socially needy” in large part because I want to message my friends all the time, about the most random things. Though in person, I think in generally less talkative (generally, okay?).

Chatting with friends virtually, I think, is a kind of stand-in for quality time. It’s a way for me to feel loved by people spending time on me. It doesn’t need to be particularly meaningful conversation, just frequent, sustained contact. That’s how I feel loved. In person, it doesn’t even have to be conversation, just proximity, really.

The past few years, in various ways, I’ve been more or less socially isolated for non-pandemic reasons and so I’ve developed virtual communication as a tool to help me when I’m not near friends physically. Not an earth-shattering discovery but a helpful change in perspective for me.

And by that same token, I shall hereby strive to be more cognizant of the ways in which best to love others, something that I have heretofore been lax in pursuing. Forgive me. I do love you.


This is also Holy Week for the Catholic and Protestant among us and I spent a sec watching clips of Prince of Egypt on YouTube because I could. And let me tell you, I love that movie so much. Here is a moment of Holy Week thoughts for you.

If you’ve seen the movie, you may recall its rousing introductory number, Deliver Us, which describes the whole slavery situation and the throwing Moses into the Nile deal. It is the people crying out to God for deliverance from bondage and into the promised land.

At the very end of the film, Moses has led his people out of Egypt and they are finally free. The closing shot is him coming down from Mt Sinai with two famous tablets in his hands. The music comes to a massive climax and then is suddenly quiet while we hear a lone voice repeat the call: “Deliver us!”

And therein lies Holy Week. The knowledge that, once delivered, God’s people were not yet free. Not truly. But Jesus came to be the deliverance that was sought–not just from slavery but from all darkness.


Now, of course, though Jesus did his whole thing and it is, in his own words, “finished,” there’s still plenty of waiting around for deliverance. Sometimes people talk about the ‘already and not yet’ of it all which is apt. Because though it’s all over and the battle against death has been won, we’re still in many ways waiting for deliverance. It’s a bit like living in an extended denouement of history where the main plot line has finished, we know how it’s all going to turn out, but we’ve still got to tie up loose ends and there are a ton of minor characters that have to play out their own little drama.

But anyway, the promise is that deliverance is coming (already here, and also yet to come, whatever). We can call out, “Deliver us!” and know that we will be delivered. From death and pain, from pandemic and war, from the isolation that comes from imperfect community even in the best of times.

Deliver us, God! And thank you for delivering us.

The Sky

I hope that you’re ready for some more poetry because I have been reading [as freedom is a breakfastfood] by E. E. Cummings and here’s the part that I want you to know:

—time is a tree(this life one leaf)
but love is the sky and i am for you

Life is but a little leaf on the great tree of time. But even time itself becomes limited and small in the face of love which is huge and boundless and essential and everywhere. That’s my happy thought for the week. Love is the sky, immense and present, and that is what is getting me through.


I’m going to be real with you though. I have had more video calls this week than ever before–and all of them social, voluntary, and friendly (none of them for work or interviews). I’ve been trying to lap it all up like a parched camel because it’s kind of exactly what I’ve been wishing for these past several months while at home, not particularly close with many friends.

So it’s been awesome in most ways but it’s also presented some mental challenges for me. I’ve written before that I’m trying to stick to the facts, as best as I may know them, when it comes to friends. Being clear with sending and receiving signals, communicating openly so that I can put the lie to the thoughts that tell me that I’m the least valuable player in any social setting. And I think that I’ve made progress on that, truly. One would think that all this social attention has helped too but, surprise, believing lies doesn’t have to be logical.

While I know that the reasonable response to such an increase in contact would be to think something along the lines of ‘wow people do like me, it really is just time and effort constraints that have prevented greater contact in the past’ and now that there’s time, there can be socializing with me. But the thing that I think initially, despite my best efforts, is that either a) this is happening because no one has anything better to do ie I’m a last resort or b) it’s been happening all along but only now am I being made aware of it because people are trying to reach out to others in these difficult times.

I recognize these problems and I’m working on combating them. Just wish it were a little easier. With everything going on, my life hasn’t actually changed much because most of my time has been stewing aimlessly at home anyway. The inescapable frustration of underemployment. The diminished capacity of listlessness. Stewing really is the right word for it most of the time. I hope I come out of this as a really delicious soup because otherwise what am I even doing.


Anyway. Trying not to turn too inward, a tendency for me which the current situation exacerbates.

There’s a whole lot going on in the world right now and it’s important to pay attention to it. I try to take it seriously when I can offer support to other people. It’s hard sometimes to know what to do especially when notes of caution are added to my natural laziness (and selfishness) but I do still want to try to do things. I tell myself it will be better when I have a normal, full-time job and can establish a reasonable routine but we’ll see about that I guess.

In the meantime, if there’s something that I can do for you, please let me know. Just like a little check-in, or virtually playing some games with you, or bringing you groceries if you’re in the area. I’d love to write you letters, too, which you can let sit in mail quarantine for a few days before opening. Whatever I can do.


To conclude, some cute pictures of cat tongue because why not.

The line quoted at the start of this post is near the end of the final stanza. E. E. Cummings is hard to understand in the best of times but that stanza begins with the line, “worms are the words but joy’s the voice.” Whatever the words may be (worms? like, death? or nature? or just small, insignificant things? or???), the voice is joy. Joy is the voice and love is the sky.

I can’t get over that single phrase. Love is the sky. Love is the sky. Love is the sky. Love, love, love; sky, sky, sky.