Who Shall Command the Skylark

In times like these, my first and foremost offering to the great void of the internet that may or may not ever consume my blog must always be: cat. And as always, if you feel so led, please do feel free to share your own cat pictures with me because we must truly be here for one another when we possess such a commodity. In this case, as is not the case for basically everything else right now, sharing is caring.

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Over the past several months, I have kept going back to Kahlil Gibran’s Prophet and its soaringly beautiful way of describing the world. Recently, a line from the section referred to as On Laws has been on my mind.

You can muffle the drum, and you can loosen the strings of the lyre, but who shall command the skylark not to sing?

This week has been rough on a lot of people in a lot of ways. I’m not sure the best way to address any of those people or those ways. One approach is to provide relief in the form of humor; another is to give encouragement and solace; another is to take the opportunity to look out for the least of us and try to argue for deep change. All good, all appropriate in times and places, I’m just not sure that I’m quite up to any of those tasks this week.

I feel like I spend too much time in self-pity and it’s something that I’m deliberately trying to change but, like, not trying too hard. When I say that I didn’t get the job that I had been hoping for, I really do feel like I have gotten over it and I didn’t spend an undue amount of time torn up about it. But at the same time, while I’m not overly sad and I did try to manage hopes beforehand, I do have numerous expectations that I have to–once again–revise.

So I’m not sure what I have to say because honestly, my current bleh is only kind of tangentially related to the current global situation. I’m just thinking again and again about the skylark. And the singing, as Emily Dickinson knew, that goes on and on. That thing with feathers that sings whether the world at large or merely your personal universe is in the midst of storm. That indomitable bird.

If you yourself aren’t up to singing, take solace in this: no one can command the skylark to be silent.

This section of The Prophet is immediately (and very appropriately, given the whole of the treatment of the topic of laws) followed by a section called On Freedom. Would that we staying at home were more free in this time, would that all people were more free in all other times. If we are not free, do we begrudge others their freedom–rightfully expressed without harm to others–or do we celebrate with them?

That’s kind of what I’m thinking about now, having pondered that single line the past couple days. How can I be the skylark to another–how can I bring hope or freedom or joy? And in the circumstances where my drum is muffled and my strings are loosed, am I listening for the skylark’s song–am I able to rejoice with those who rejoice when I am down?

Maybe this is all beating a metaphor or three way past their limits. I can’t help it, I’m a poetic romantic and I have a lot of time on my hands. Regardless, that’s what I want to say to you and to myself in this time. Plenty of people are reminding us to wash our hands (as they well should) so I guess I’ll be here to remind us to sing or hope or be free or whatever it is that I’m trying to say.

Anyway. As we cross into April, and continue into an uncertain future, let’s all resolve to be cleaner, kinder, and more hopeful. And, of course, let us luxuriate in the time spent with one another–virtually or in person–and with our cats.

 

 

Health As Virtue

I don’t really want to be one of those people who rails against ‘American culture’ because who even knows what that is, anyway. But I guess I’m going to just for a sec here because I can. Something I’ve noticed for a long time. Americans often consider health to be a virtue instead of like, an attribute. As in, good people are healthy and bad people are not.

You are unhealthy or sick because of the choices you have made. You did this to yourself and therefore you deserve whatever unpleasantness, illness, or disability that you are dealing with. I am healthy because I am smart and make good, moral decisions and therefore I deserve whatever good things may happen in my life.

Consider the old adage, “Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” I am all for making healthy choices, I really am, but let’s take a second here. Going to bed early and getting up early is not a healthy choice–it’s just a choice. Getting adequate sleep is a healthy choice, but when you get that sleep is totally immaterial. It is generally easier to sleep when it is dark outside and be awake when it is light but even that isn’t a requirement (see: people living in polar-adjacent areas). There’s so much more to unpack in that phrase but I can’t right now, I think you get my drift though.

Being healthy is great but we’ve got to remember that health doesn’t always come down to our choices. Human health is full of risks and chances, things that happen just because they happen. And because we live in an imperfect society, our choices are also often very limited; money makes a huge difference, as does education, culture, and access to preventive care.

I’ll be frank with you. I would rather care for every need–including the every single one that does genuinely result from ‘bad choices’–than willfully neglect a human being in need. That’s the real healthy choice: caring about everyone. There’s a whole lot more to say on the issue but that’s what I’ve got for you today.


Please pardon the dearth of cats on here this past month, I wanted to try to just focus on what I was saying. But now it’s March and regular content can now resume so here is a fairly substantial gallery of many furry friends. I hope that it in some small way atones for my cat-related negligence.

I just love them all so much. Very blessed to have so many precious kitties in my life. I will especially never get over how cute Béégashii and Jenny are together. They’re all just such excellent cats. I love cats.


The other life news that I have is a little bit scary to share, to be honest. Because nothing is certain and I kind of feel like nothing is real until it actually happens and because I’ll feel like a ginormous loser if it doesn’t happen but I’m a loser. Plus, it’s arguably the biggest Thing (maybe even only Thing) to happen to me since at least August.

I am being flown out (that’s right, I’m not flying out, I’m being flown out) to a second interview a couple time zones over this coming week. I am super excited about the job primarily because a) it is something that I actively really want to do right now and b) I already have friends in this potential new city and that would just make things a whole lot easier and nicer.

Hoping against hope. Trying not to hope too much because my hopes have been dashed (or maybe more accurately, slowly withered away until their dust so completely disperses that it’s difficult to tell there ever was hope to begin with) so many times before. I’m anxious about the interview itself–it’s forecast to be in three parts and take up two complete hours. I’m also a little anxious about traveling–not because of a virus of any kind but because traveling generally makes me very anxious no matter how often I do it.

But anyway. Enjoy the cats. Care about people no matter what. Join me in hoping. Please please oh please.

Anytime, Anywhere, Anyone

This is a very disjointed post, I’m not sorry. I will never get over the horizontal line feature. Anyway. We’ll start with cats (a very good place to start).

They are still, as ever, very cute. And I’m so pleased to have gotten a semi-decent picture of Bubba sitting still.


Events this week have included not a whole lot, other than the relatively unsurprising but still very disheartening news that I will not be moving to New Mexico any time in the near future. It was a distinct possibility, and one that I had staked rather a lot of hope (of necessity, since I have had no other leads), but it all proved to be in vain. I’m not utterly broken by the news but it was hard to hear all the same.

I had already started planning a little bit about what I would do if it didn’t come through but those plans are still very nascent and so who really knows what’s coming. It’s scary and uncomfortable and I hate it.


I was reminded of a series of Tweets I saw on Facebook (social media, what have you done). Someone named Julia Rodgers was responding to Christians who asked whether/how they can love queer people without being fully affirming. She responds, in part, “Love draws us outside of ourselves and moves us to think of other people first. If we keep returning to questions that are about our beliefs or our experience of them, we might ask whether we truly love them or are just trying to manage our anxiety about them.”

I don’t disagree that sometimes loving people means choosing for them something they would not choose for themselves–helping someone recover from addiction may be a good example of that. But imagine being told that, though all sin, you are so uniquely sinful that you are prohibited from falling in love. Not with a specific person or in a specific situation, just ever. So while choosing good for someone else is a thing, how do you know what the best thing is for someone? What does the fruit (to speak a little Christianese) of those choices have on the people you’re choosing for?

I’ve also never gotten the whole concept of considering homosexual acts different from simply existing as a homosexual person. God looks at the heart, I think it’s pretty clear: looking lustfully is the same as committing adultery, being angry with someone is the same as murdering them. My heart is so very gay. Either it’s a problem or it’s not, regardless of how I act.

I’m not expressing myself well here at all, alas. I just wasn’t expecting to be in this place again this week but, as I have seen and been told, you never finish coming out. Sigh. I am not perfect at love, so forgive me. But also, if you’ve asked the question above, please listen.


I read a new book this week (sorry, Far from the Madding Crowd, you’re on the back burner already) and it’s pretty good. It’s City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett. I want to share with you three quotations, all from the same chapter, in fact, around one third of the way in. The first two are from a Buddhist monk-type guy who is talking with the main character about why he still performs acts of charity when his god has been dead for decades. The last is a while later, from the main character to an old lady from an opposing ethnic group.

“I never saw a country before […] All I saw was the earth under my feet.”

“Good can be done at anytime, anywhere, to anyone, by anyone.”

“I don’t have the time or the energy to hate. I only wish to understand. People are what they are.”


I would like to conclude with a poem by Mary Oliver (who sadly died earlier this year) that one of my correspondents sent me in a letter this week. It ends with a sentiment that seems to me–at least in my current state–both haunting and hopeful.

Today

Today I’m flying low and I’m
not saying a word
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.

But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling
a terrific distance.

Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple.

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.

Mostly They’re Darked

The school year here is rapidly, terrifyingly, drawing to a close. For me personally, the end of the year doesn’t exactly necessitate any additional work or stress in the way that students and teachers experience it. However, seeing as I will be minus a job in a few short weeks, I have plenty to stress about. The proper phrase is job hunting, but I feel like the anxiety is more like running away from a hunter named Joblessness.

Days here in northern Michigan have lengthened considerably and I do love watching a flaming sunset over the lake. It is very calming and even the veritable hoards of midges cannot lessen my enjoyment of the moment (at least, not too much). I have posted pictures of the Lake Michigan sunsets before so I won’t trouble you now but, rest assured, I am enjoying them as much as I am able.

On the note of pictures, though, I will definitely come through with some cat pics. That’s why you’re here anyway, and I know so many wonderful cats. I also encountered this superb human/cat pair, both of which are very alluring to me.  Can I please move to Australia and travel with that man and his cat?

 

Quite a rogues’ gallery of cuties this week. Love them all. Even the poorly-photographed, screaming Copper. (Copper was one of two cats that I briefly cat-sat last Friday for my neighbor/coworker/friend).

Anyway. I had an interview yesterday, which was a nice change of pace from the usual direct-to-rejection pipeline. I’m not getting my hopes up too high because, you know, I’ve been burned before. But it was nice. Made me feel valued. It annoys me that some part of me derives feelings of value from a corrupt and corrupting system of morally bankrupt capitalism but what is a poor twenty-something gay to do.

As an aside, I kind of hate the construction behind ‘twenty-something’ but whatever, I am what I am.

Thinking about places I might be going. And having truly, absolutely no idea where those places might be. It’s easy to get discouraged. Even with the giddy high of having an interview with a cool place, immediately after I felt like I might have squandered the opportunity. Not that it went poorly, but it just didn’t seem like I made myself exemplary and so might not get this cool job. Too early to say, but it just was sad to take a second and go over the 48 hours between confirmation of the interview to its completion: ecstatic to morose. Yech.

I have quoted before Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go and I would like to do so once more today. Near-ish to the beginning of the book, as you’re getting on your way with brains in your head and feet in your shoes, there is a brief warning about some of the places you might encounter. The narrator says:

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you can sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?

I feel a bit like I’ve wandered into some town way out there in an unknown land. Walking through the gates, seeing window after window darked. Not even because they are paths that are closed to me, but more because they are just obscured. And in that darkened obscurity, I very much feel like I might sprain both my elbow and shin.

There is no question, for me, about daring to stay out or go in. I am not staying here and so, necessarily, I am going. The question is also only partially whether to turn right-and-three-quarters or maybe not quite. There’s only so much I can do, applying to jobs. I feel justified, having this education and experience and living in this current economic climate, not taking a minimum-wage-ish position. But maybe it’ll come to that while I move somewhere and continue applying. Let’s hope not.

I think what I’m trying to say is that things are a little bit scary, but I’ll survive. The streets are not marked. The windows are not lighted. But the streets and the windows are there all the same and I’m learning that, while I may not be too smart to go down any not-so-good street, the not-so-good streets that I’m faced with don’t have to be doom, gloom, and slump.

Sometimes, it’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness, as they say. But sometimes, I think it might be better to step into the darkness exactly as it is and find that maybe it’s not so bad. That’s the hope, at least.

 

What the Locusts Have Eaten

FIRST: A CHRISTMAS PET PEEVE OF MINE. The Twelve Days of Christmas are the days following the holiday, not preceding. December 25th is the first day of Christmas. Every time someone talks about the twelve days leading up to Christmas, I die a little. Anyway. The more you know.

SECOND: I accidentally talked a lot about Good King Wenceslas again in this post. I’m not sorry about it.

THIRD: Last one before actually getting to the post: cat gallery.

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Nora

And you thought ‘gallery’ was an exaggeration. All the cats this week.

So. Last week’s post was a bit of a tough time. Understandably. And it’s hard to follow up something like that. I think, however, I can draw upon the inspiration of a few Advent things that I’ve encountered this week to offer some small encouragement.

There is a passage in Joel that I recently contemplated as I read this little reflection. It is describing a time that will come after–perhaps long after–a great calamity, where God will make things right. This is just a bit after we are entreated to rend our hearts and not our garments ( a phrase I have always found deeply moving). God declares,

I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—
the great locust and the young locust,
the other locusts and the locust swarm—
my great army that I sent among you.
You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has worked wonders for you;
never again will my people be shamed.

All that has been lost will be restored. It will not be–cannot be–erased, our wounds and the wounds of the world will not simply disappear. But there will be a truer restoration than anything we have heretofore known. The true peace. More than not-war, more than inner calm; true peace is deep and abiding relational harmony. As in positive peace, the correcting of systemic violence (which is injustice in any form).

That, at least, was the theme of the sermon at church this past week. That the peace so many seek comes less from within and more from doing right by one another. To paraphrase loosely, we do peace by taking care of those around us, in large and small ways. As I have said before, and the lyricist of Good King Wenceslas said before even that, “Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.” As a matter of fact, rereading that post, I am just impressed with how well it’s held up. It’s a good one and it explains what I like about that song really well, if I do say so myself. Which I do.

Anyway. The point is this: in the midst of the despair of pain and death and things literally called ‘crimes against humanity,’ there is something else as well. Something, as Samwise would say, worth fighting for. And it is in the fighting that we fan the ember of hope into flame.

There is precious little we can do about the enormity of the problems facing our world. But, I believe, we are called to face them nonetheless. It is not said, ‘Blessed are the peaceful.’ It is said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers.’

May we all make peace as we can.

Again. And Again. And Again.

This is a very depressing post. It is, in basically every way, inadequate to the task it undertakes. It is not an exhaustive treatise either on my thoughts and knowledge or the subject area at large. It is a plaintive cry into the internet, where such cries are about as useful as they are satisfying. Nevertheless, I can only hope and pray that speaking is better than silence. And hope and pray for a better world

In the season following Thanksgiving, it seems appropriate to say a few words. Not directly about that holiday–the misrepresentations and illegitimacy of which is discussed here, among a number of other places. While the spirit of the holiday seems innocuous enough to me, a white American, and I think the concept of thanks-giving is worth celebrating, the day is plagued by a kind of rose-colored and deliberate ignorance. It’s not exactly what I’m here to talk about but it’s relevant and I encourage you to educate yourself.

The summer after my senior year of high school, I spent two weeks on a mission trip in Kigali, Rwanda. My senior capstone course for undergrad was called “Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing.” For graduate school, I completed a program in Race, Ethnicity, and Conflict. All this to say that the definition of genocide is one of those things that I have memorized because of course.

…intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such…

Sometimes people are like, “That’s genocide” and I’m like, probably not, actually. Other times, people are like, “That’s a bad thing” and I’m like it’s genocide. You get into things like “acts of genocide” and ethnic cleansing. There’s a lot to unpack and this is not really the place. All the same, I just want to say something about it because it has been weighing on me.

Something you hear a lot, usually in reference to the Holocaust, is “never again.” Something you see a lot if you spend any amount of time looking at the world around you is again. And again. And again. Historically, whether you look at native peoples in the Americas, the Herero in German Southwest Africa, Armenia around the First World War, or the Nazis and Japanese in the Second. Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Myanmar right now. Certainly acts of the Islamic State. Possibly the Uighur detentions in China and the war in Yemen. So many places, so many people.

I don’t know, exactly, what can be done. Would I support committing money and lives to a military intervention? I don’t know, possibly. Do I feel powerless? Yes. Do I think that anything I might do would have negligible effect, if any? Probably. Should something be done even so? Yes.

And so here we are. This may not be a particularly Christmasy topic but I’ve felt for a while that I ought to say something. These words probably don’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. My readers, I don’t imagine, walk international halls of power with authority to respond to anything I say. I don’t know that I really expect you to do anything about it, other than perhaps read world news a little more often.

I guess in all my learning in the subject area, I have two general knowledge take-aways for you. First, do not think that the Holocaust is somehow unique in the story of human history. While it has many unique aspects, it follows naturally from a long chain of events. Second, do not think that it could not happen again. Do not think that it could not happen here. Do not think that ‘never again’ was a promise the world ever expected to keep.

And, because I firmly believe in hope: let us all work toward a world in which such crimes never happen again.

Cessation of Hostilities is Not Peace

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, one hundred years ago, something ended and something began.

The peace after the first World War was hard-won but it was also half-hearted. Fighting stopped but many issues remained either unresolved or resolved poorly. It could have been a time of great hope and instead proved to be the intermezzo between two conflagrations.

In my studies of international relations, the term negative peace is generally used to refer to the absence of war, while positive peace indicates the presence of just, peaceful, and equitable systems. Clearly, the latter is as elusive as unicorns in Sunday bonnets because I’m going to go out on a limb and say that positive peace has never been a reality on this good earth.

I don’t really know what else to say about this upcoming anniversary. In my experience, the topic of the war and ensuing events tends to get short shrift in the US. During my time at Exeter, I took a class on the first day of the Battle of the Somme and the first-hand readings for that class repeatedly made me weep. The first day of the Somme– 1 July, 1916–was and remains the bloodiest day in British military history.

And, in my current context, that makes me think of the US. The day when the most Americans died in war was the Battle of Antietam in 1862. Americans fighting Americans.

I will tell you, I am not happy with the results of the US election this week. My fears were not realized but my hopes were disappointed. It could have been worse but it could have been so much better. In Washington, they supported some gun and public safety measures but rejected the carbon fee. In Michigan, I supported all three initiatives and all three passed, but my district’s Republican Congressional representative was reelected. Political mixed bags are rather par for the course but still.

Lots of exciting ground was broken nationally–for LGBTQ+ candidates, women, people of color. Lots of things happening and there are good things among them, so there’s that, at least.

I was going to write this whole post about the anniversary of the armistice, but here we are. In many ways, though, it’s a similar kind of feeling. No war ended, of course. But there was an opportunity for some structural change and I feel like most of that opportunity was squandered.

This is all just kind of processing. These are just my initial thoughts and feelings. I don’t really consider myself a huge politico or policy wonk (or whatever bizarre term you prefer) but over the past few years I’ve gotten a great deal more into it. Simply put, I’ve recognized that all of these things effect me. They impact me.

On Facebook, I’ve seen a little saying going around. “You can’t say you love someone and then vote for people who will hurt them.” And I don’t have much else to say at this juncture.

A Weltanschauung of Joie de Vivre

My students the other day thought that there was a mistake on their vocab list, someone had forgotten to translate a French phrase into English, though the Korean was given–it was déjà vu. When I told them it was just a French phrase that we use in English, they weren’t particularly happy. Anyway, I couldn’t not have a title in English, French, and German when the French and German are also just used in English sometimes. If you need a translation, the title is A Worldview of Joy of Life.

So I had a lovely Christmas weekend. Saturday started with serving at a homeless kitchen-type ministry with some coworkers and finished back at the Kelsey’s for our work-friends Christmas party. We had a great time making pomander balls, playing games, making cookies, and doing Disney karaoke. They’re just really great ❤ On Sunday, I went to church and had a white elephant party with them afterwards, it was a lot of fun.

On Christmas day, I essentially did nothing, which was exactly what I wanted. I called my family and chatted with them for a while, and that’s really it. I mostly stayed in bed; I read, watched Netflix, and played Pokémon. Not exactly how I like to spend Christmas generally, but exactly how I wanted to spend it this year.

Going back to work on Tuesday was less than ideal, but I managed. This week is just another pretty much normal work week, and next week will be too, though we also have the incredible gift of having next Monday off too! Speaking of which, I have some meh-level New Year musings for you.

I think I’m slowly becoming aware of a shift in my worldview that’s taken place over the past few years. I’ve given up not just on changing the world (in any big, big ways) but also on just expecting the world to be a good place. The world is a pretty unpleasant place. Yes, of course there is loads of good in it as well, and many things are better than they were in the past (though we must never confuse ‘better’ with ‘good’). Let me be clear: I still hope for good in the world, I still hope for change. But I’m done thinking that things will improve, that people will learn from their mistakes, that knowledge and kindness and compassion will  increase and someday prevail. They might. Maybe.

All I have is me. I can expect things from myself; I can certainly expect failure, but also growth. I can educate myself–about current events, racism, ancient Egypt, different varieties of dogwoods, how to make pancakes from scratch. I can attempt, with perhaps childish naïveté and diligence, to suffuse my life with a Weltanschauung of joie de vivre that does not derive joy from the world because it is joyous, per se, but because the world exists at all and every moment of that existence is a literal miracle.

I can teach myself to be kinder; to rescind hurtful words with genuine apologies, to think critically while watching movies, to sincerely care when other people tell me things that give them pain.

I can involve myself with the world; I can serve, I can donate, I can educate, I can listen respectfully even when others are not being respectful, I can have compassion on those who have no compassion for me.

I can be myself; stay home as much as possible, read voraciously, watch good and bad Netflix with equanimity, thoroughly enjoy food even if it’s boring, be awkward and laugh about it, be gay and fabulous, wear bowties on Tuesdays ect. ect. ect.

There’s a certain joie de vivre (if you’ll excuse the phrase) in the exultation of releasing my expectations about the world. It’s like that old line about accepting things I cannot change. When I’m free from all the weight of the world, I can deliciously and leisurely enjoy the simple pleasures of each moment and find it in myself to compassionately and earnestly become involved in bettering the world.

The above may have ended up sounding super self-centered, which is counterproductive so please bear in mind, if it sounded like that, I didn’t mean it to. Anyway. You know that I’m not much one for resolutions because a. we should resolve any and every time not just New Year’s b. people don’t generally keep them anyway c. they’re pretty lame. So let me be clear.

I want to be better, and I will work hard to become so. I want the world to be better, and I will work hard to make it so. I have few illusions about the success I will meet with, so I’ll start small.

And as for all the rest, I’ll act in hope without expectation.

Can Robots be Orphans?

Okay, you may know that most of like junior year of high school I thought I was going to major in linguistics. Specifically, historical and comparative linguistics (like, I sort of really had things planned out). Obviously, that didn’t pan out. But I remain generally fascinated by language and I love learning little quirks and things (and I’m still trying to become at least proficient in a second language, but that’s another story).

Anyway, near the beginning of first semester Russian, we learned the verb работать (raBOtat’) which means to work. My professor told us that it comes from the same Slavic root as a similar Czech word meaning forced labor that was used by the Čapek brothers, particularly but possibly not originally by Karel, in the play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots). They invented the word robot. So that’s pretty cool.

Additionally, the proto-Indo-European (the term to describe the theoretical language spoken by basically everyone from Ireland to India before languages diverged) basis for robota/работа is also the root, meaning to change from one state to another, for orphan. You can read more about it here. Thus the question posed at the beginning: can robots be orphans? Probably not, at least in the strictest sense, because of the whole they’re not alive and so don’t have parents thing. But I guess if their makers abandoned them, they’d be sad about it too. And who’s to say whether or not they dream of electric sheep.

All this has basically been to say: I have a job! It’s just a part-time seasonal position in retail, but money’s money so I’m not complaining. My job could 100% be performed by a robot, and I feel like it might be in some parts of the world, but I don’t mind the work and I’m finished about the time most other people’s jobs are beginning so I still feel like I  have a lot of free time. I may be job shadowing or something in the mid-future, we’ll see. Just trying to keep occupied to have things to say if ever I get an interview for a job in my actual field.

So that’s the news of the week, I started last Friday and, you know, it’s been a big thrill. Not much else has been going on in my life,  but I’m kind of okay with that. I’d love to be getting a move on, but while I’m here I’ll echo what I said when I arrived in Ireland: bloom where you’re planted. Other things are things (coughtheelectioncough) and they’re not terribly uplifting and they certainly don’t tend to inspire great confidence. I just watched V for Vendetta for the first time on Tuesday and wow. Firstly, I really liked it. Secondly, how terrifyingly topical. Wow, I tell you what, wow. Fascism is the worst.

The Wikipedia page on R.U.R., after describing the plot which involves a hostile robot takeover and the extinction of humanity, says that the play is “dark, but not without hope.” That is a direct quote. I haven’t read/seen the play, but if the extinction of humanity can be portrayed as dark, but not without hope, maybe there’s something to be said for humans after all. Maybe, just maybe, we’re a little better off than sad orphan robots (if it’s possible for them to exist).

Maybe hope is for the dark times anyway.