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.

Remaking (Many Will Falter)

Starting with a cat gallery. It is important to be grateful for good things in your life and these kitties are definitely good things in my life. I’m very grateful to them.

Before I move on, staying on the note of gratitude just a moment longer, I am also grateful for my friends. I love you all. I’m particularly grateful, this week, for those who have been talking with me during this time of bleh, I really value communicating with you.

A sec ago, I read an article about the apparent Millennial abandonment of three major pillars of ‘traditional’ American identity: the nuclear family, religion, and patriotism. But that’s not really what I want to talk about today.

Though it was an interesting article, if not particularly surprising, there’s just a lot that could be unpacked on that topic and I’m just not in the mood to rehash all that stuff, which I feel like I rant about kind of all the time–either on here or with other people or just to myself.

What I would like to draw from that article is a single phrase. In describing the changes that society is undergoing, the article turns not only to young people (who are less changing themselves and more remaking the world to suit they ways in which they are different) and talks about older people. Those who have lived a certain way for a long time but are beginning to move beyond it. In describing this unmaking and remaking of lives, authors of a paper on the subject say “Many will likely falter.”

It is fitting that I recalled that article tonight, sitting here late trying to come up with something to write about, because I just finished watching the movie Pleasantville. If you’re not familiar, I’m too lazy to describe the plot really but it hinges on unwillingness to tolerate change.

I couldn’t find an attribution so I’m not sure if I’m misquoting someone but I’ve heard loosely “Even a change for the better can feel like a little death” and that is generally my feelings on change, as those who know me well I’m sure could tell you. But it’s something I’m working on. Because, whether we will or no, change comes for us all. Every day is a chance to do something different, to be someone different.

The road to new is difficult, and so much more so when it is thrust upon us rather than made by choice. Many will falter. And though I will do what I can for who I can, it is not on me to keep everyone afloat if they can’t stay upright in the winds of a change for the better.

I will falter, too, many times. And while I hope you will all bear with me and help me when I do, neither is it all on you to keep me going either. Communal and personal effort; communal and personal responsibility. Not sure where I’m going with this other than to say: be kind to yourself and to others.

Remaking the world is a hard thing but a world without change is like a week that’s only Mondays, only ice cream and never sundaes. Wait, maybe that’s without love. Close enough.

Keep Us Star Gazing

We have come to it. There are a number of things that I have in my head to say for this, my final blog post in Michigan (at least, for the foreseeable future). But I’m not sure exactly how to say them. So I’ll just say some random stuff, quote the Muppets, and call it quits.

First and foremost, thank you to all my Michigan friends. This would have been a difficult year indeed without people as interested in Malta, as disgusted by delicious food, as committed to board games, as open-minded, as talented and compassionate, and as concerned with God’s voice (and so on and so forth) as you lot.

As my year in Korea came to a close, I said that sometimes the most important journeys are the ones that you didn’t mean to take. And, departing this apartment tomorrow, I think that continues to hold true. Glen Arbor, Michigan, was not a place I ever would have imagined myself calling home but here we are.

I have learned so much this year. From students, coworkers, friends, church, the place itself. Living in Michigan afforded me the opportunity to go to the Q Christian Conference in January, to road trip through three major Canadian cities, to see three Great Lakes and an overwhelming myriad of mediocre ones. Though unexpected, this journey has been rewarding indeed.

Before we get any further, I want to take a sec to have a little Pride moment. Because of my traveling and things this summer, I won’t be able to take part in any formal Pride celebrations but the month itself retains a special importance and I think this is a good day to reflect for a moment.

Yesterday was the third anniversary of the Pulse shooting which was unutterably devastating. It is so important to remember. And if I may deign to say anything at all about it, it is this: to those who contend that the queer community is a force of harm and destruction, come and see, the harm is done to us not by us. Please stop harming us by your actions and beliefs, your words hurt more than you can know.

Now hold onto your socks because we’re going to get real cheesy here.

In the midst of darkness, there is a mysterious light. After rain, rainbows. Hope is the thing that keeps me going, the thing that makes me look at the stars and dream. Sometimes, that dreaming comes at such a cost but still we look to the sky because we have caught glimpses that hearten us when we are downcast.

Whether along the unseen path of my own life or the course of nations and the hearts of peoples across the globe, I can envision a future that is brighter (and more colorful) than today. A future wherein love is love, and most everything else is love as well. A future in which none will grow weary of seeking good for one another because we recognize that the connection of our shared humanity is more important than any difference. A future of knowing others, being fully known, and loving all even so. I hope and pray that we strive for that future, together, without ceasing, neither forgetting the darkness nor fearing its unknown, radiant light.

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Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection. The lovers, the dreamers, and me.

There’s Only One Way to Find Out

I contend that one of the chief pleasures of life is reading in the sun. For me, it is a joy and satisfaction that few activities can achieve. A uniquely gratifying way to pass time, and an occupation which I treasure long after it is finished.

I know I’ve talked about it before but somehow I’m startled over and over again. There is a true contentment that settles deeply in my inmost parts when I am reading in the sun. A park, a bench, some shade, some breeze… It’s almost more happiness than I feel a right to. Profoundly pleasurable.

It has taken longer than it should have, but this week spring finally got itself together enough to allow that and I am all over it. I was so all over it on Tuesday, in fact, that I got pretty sunburned. Which isn’t ideal. But it was a cost incurred in the course of a supremely good pursuit, so I’m dealing just fine.

I do not know what I am doing with my life. Pretty much everything about my future is currently up in the air. But then I have a day like Tuesday, when I spend most of my hours engaged in what some might describe as frittering but I would describe as necessary. Yes, there were more productive (essentially so) things that I could have done. Should have, even.

But I will not apologizing for frittering away my time in such a fashion, even though I am in a bit of a press.

Putting in the effort is necessary. Things generally haven’t just happened to me, I’ve had to go out and see what there is to see, and I expect that trend to continue since I would like to have another job (sooner rather than later). However.

Some opportunities should not be missed. A Tuesday afternoon getting sunburned while reading. A Wednesday evening baking cinnamon raisin quick bread. A Thursday morning publishing an obscure blog. Without these things, even in the midst of the urgent press of ‘what I’m doing with my life,’ I think the uncertainty of it would all be a little too much to bear.

It’s true that I have no clue what is coming down the track at me, a few short weeks away. But, as I am often fond of saying, there’s only one way to find out. Stride into the future and live it.

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Carpe archa, seize the box.

Being Good Ancestors

This post has a few different threads going on and it might jump among them in such a way as to make for awkward reading. As it contains no life updates, you may be tempted to give this post a miss. I ask you, forbear.

Today, I have many thoughts for you. Thoughts for a time when the world, it seems, is in great peril. Thoughts for you and for me, when it feels like we’re failing in all of our efforts to be the change in the story of our earth. The story is already written, I’m afraid, but it is not yet complete. Ruminate a moment, then, not on the change you want to see in your life or in the world as we see it. Cast yourself a hundred years–a thousand years–into a future built as you might wish it for a beloved posterity.

I was reading an article some time ago, nothing particularly moving or anything but the author used a phrase that I found very arresting. I don’t know if it’s common parlance in environmentalist circles or what, but it’s really something. The author said we were not, and encouraged us to become, good ancestors.

Ancestor, for me, has two main connotations: ancestor veneration (typically in the East Asian sense) and like neanderthal/cave man/Australopithecus whatever (as in last common ancestor, obviously I’m not a science person). I don’t typically apply it to myself. Though I don’t anticipate having children (who knows, life is mysterious) I will, regardless, be the ancestor of some people. I already have a niece. How are they going to think of me? Or even in a general sense: what will people think of my generation, several generations hence?

I also heard an interesting analogy the other day and I think it’s relevant. They were talking about police brutality and such, and a defender of police said that a couple of bad apples shouldn’t make you hate the whole profession. The person responded by saying that they don’t hate the whole profession but it doesn’t matter if every single apple is a good apple if the barrel itself is rotten. In other words, our system doesn’t fail–it’s meant to operate in an imperfect, categorically unjust way. We need a whole new barrel.

Relating to ancestors. It’s not enough to raise good children–give them a moral compass, a backbone, the milk of human kindness–if the world we leave them sucks. This applies to the environment because of course. But it also applies to the systems of our society. I think it entirely misses the point to try to plant courage in the coming generations so that they can face challenges well. Of course we should do that, but we should also mitigate the challenges they will face as much as possible!

It makes me think of Harry Potter. Surprise. A lot of people have noted how the series has set up a generation of activists. Ideas like Dumbledore’s Army and the failed Ministry of Magic planted the impetus to incite young people to take control of crises instead of just taking the world as it is. Consider this: Harry’s parents and the original Order of the Phoenix, essentially lost. Voldemort would have continued a reign of terror if he hadn’t unexpectedly died (kind of). In the wake of his disappearance, did society change at all? Did people become more accepting of people with mixed magical heritage? Were systems put in place to ensure that someone else could not come along with the same ideas again? Did human society reconcile with house elves, centaurs, and other magical creatures?

Obviously, it’s heroic to fight evil forces. But, while Voldemort was evil in and of himself, he also represented a strain of evil present in society at large. And it seems to me that those older characters just let it lie. Brought up their children to be kind, but didn’t really fight systemic injustice. Hermione (because she is incredible) makes this her life’s work in the epilogue. Because conquering a villain, in some ways, is the easy part. Building a new world is hard. But if we want to be good ancestors, it’s necessary.

We mustn’t fight a villain and then rest on our laurels. In the words of the Constitution of the United States, we ought to build a new world “for ourselves and our Posterity.”

All these thoughts were compounded by another article I read just this week whose main thrust was this: if we look at the likely span of future humanity, there are literal quadrillions of people who have yet to be born and, it stands to reason, those lives are a significantly weightier moral object than present day existence. Bearing that in mind, everyday acts of altruism, the writer argues, can and do make a difference in forming and reforming the structure of our world.

I want to live life in such a way as to have a positive impact on the quadrillions whom I will never see. I want other people to want that, too. I want people to vote, organize, protest, and work hard for justice. I want people to protect those who need protecting, to advocate for the rights of all, to refuse to be part of a system that systematically dispossesses and abuses and denies humanity to those who are most vulnerable.

Basically: be good, do good, change the world. May the light of history shine kindly on our efforts in the ages to come.

Pound Foolish

Before I go any further, I would like to take a moment for cats. Last weekend I returned to the cat café and, as requested, took pictures so as to post them here. I took many but here are two, including one that showcases my new favorite hashtag (that I invented), #catsofclue.

This week was also my birthday (happy birthday to me, yes, thank you). I was at work for ten hours but it was fine, whatever. There was cake which we had to quickly scarf down in the ten minute break between classes, but all the other teachers were very kind. And the cake was pretty good (it was from Paris Baguette).

I had grand notions of writing this week’s thoughtful section on capitalism, greed, shortsightedness, and general social woes. Inspired by dumb things at work and this truly wonderful Vox piece on the subject. However, I did not work preemptively and I am unwilling to put too much effort into it now as it’s aftern 10 pm and I’ve been at work since noon. Shame on me for being more proactive, bad blogger (though you’re probably relieved I won’t be waxing eloquent about socialism). Anyway, here’s the boiled-down version.

People are greedy. Extremely rich people are very insulated from normal people. If things don’t change, there probably will be a revolution. By change, I mean capitalism itself, even if I don’t mean an actual, total shift to socialism.

The big lie is this: everything can keep growing forever.

It’s what contemporary capitalism is based on and it’s self-evidently ridiculous. Somehow we’re going to have to get rid of that idea, protect people’s welfare, and save the environment. Solutions must be very creative. It’s hard to even comprehend what it will actually look like. I really encourage you to read that article, I found that it artfully articulated many things that I have either thought about or vaguely felt for many years. Besides, if-not-you-who/if-not-now-when and all that.

In this, as in so many areas, people are shortsighted. Penny wise, as they say, and pound foolish. That is not really the original meaning of the phrase but I find it appropriate. We like to consider ourselves prudent and level-headed about the most minor issues in our lives but the big, systemic, catastrophic problems leave us unperturbed. Richard Branson (whose autobiography I’m currently reading for class) said of climate change, if I may paraphrase, that we’ve all agreed the building we’re in is on fire but calmly sit around and do nothing (there’s an applicable meme). It’s true of me, my boss, society, and the world at large.

Let’s take a second to look at the big picture. Do you like what you see?

This is not quite the post I wanted, a polemic against the evil forces of capitalism, wealthy people, and bosses who’ve never done the work of their subordinates. But whatever, it is what it is.

In this era of late capitalism, for I agree with Mr. Weinstein’s assessment, I feel like railing against the establishment is both mainstream and ridiculous. And I am strongly skeptical of anyone’s ‘enlightened self-interest,’ especially the ultra-rich. But anyway.

I’m not saying always plan for the future. But consider it, even apart from any particular plans. But consider what the future may look like. And spend your pounds like your pennies. Pence. Whatever.