Sunday, August 24, 2008

That's Righteous, Brother ...

Went out this evening and walked two miles, mostly in the rain. This was a very good thing. I enjoy walking and my neighborhood is a great mix of flat and hills. I haven’t been walking like I wish I would. This shirkage is probably a function of laziness, but it’s all tied up in my seeming inability to properly manage my time. I like the physicality of walking and I like the results of walking. Since I quit smoking, my wind, even when nonexistent (like tonight), isn’t terribly painful like it used to be. I motored up the steep hill, Broadleaf, and was pretty winded when I got to the top. But if I keep it together and walk again tomorrow, it will be a little better and will keep improving so that I’m barely breathing hard after a couple weeks of it. Without the consistent destruction of smoking cigarettes, gaining a measure of aerobic fitness isn’t really that difficult. It just takes some diligence.

So if all these good things come of walking, why do I get into these periods where I don’t do it? Hmm. An answer might be some kind of depression. I’ve read that a common symptom of depression is the avoidance of things enjoyed. That might have something to do with it. But somehow, for me, not walking regularly is a function of working full time. I haven’t really figured it out yet. I seem to simply forget that I should go out and work up a sweat. Tonight I remembered and am glad of it.
One of the things I love about walking is that it occupies my body so that my imagination can fly out of the ruts that everyday creates. Tonight I got to thinking about righteousness and how addictive it is to feel righteous anger. Oh yeah. We all do it.

But what is being righteous? Is the story of the Christ throwing the moneygrubbers out of the temple righteous? Almost certainly. Is the history of the world coming together to dismantle Adolf Hitler’s outrageous designs righteous? Definitely. Is Pat Robertson saying that New Orleans somehow deserved Katrina righteous? Certainly not. Is anything having to do with this Great American Farce Administration righteous? Emphatically no. Are our military citizens who are dying every week righteous? Now, there’s a sticky question. Any time there are people dying for a cause … and this current conflict has people on all sides giving their full measure … the notion of righteousness becomes almost completely subjective. It depends on which view you assume.

This righteous anger that is leading all manner of humanity to bloody mayhem and death does not seem to have common roots. On one side it is a war of duty and a war of liberation. It is a war to protect the homeland. It is a war to secure a continuous flow of petrochemical goo for some already very rich men. Righteousness doesn’t seem to fit everywhere. On the other side we would be led to believe that it is a holy war and that the god du jour is directing the violence.

Pardon me, but does anybody see a decided lack of righteousness in any of this? But the emotions behind it all and the emotions perpetuating the conflict are more addictive than any opiate, any crystal meth, or any nicotine. People have been addicted to the rush of righteousness since the dawn of human thought.

Personally, I think that the whole notion of finding god, the great separation that the religions of the world would have us close and defend with our lives is simply a longing brought on by the physical act of being born. But that is a can of worms for another day.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Name Change Blues

Should malicious hacking be a capital offense? When I started this blog, I called it something else and sent the URL out to many of my friends. Along the way, I stumbled upon a new, catchier name and that’s where we are now. The old name “Narble Falls Apart,” was just abandoned. I, in my naiveté, thought that people coming in to read would just be automatically redirected to my new title, “Life O’Wryly.” So imagine my surprise when I got a phone call from my wife informing me that when she tried to access my blog she got directed to a page with a list of porn sites. Now, I don’t really have anything against porn sites, but it was a little disconcerting. I tried it and, sure enough, it was there, something called “PornTube” and other listings, complete with graphic graphics and the whole nine yards.

Hokey Smoke! I really enjoyed it when my mom sent me an email informing me of the same thing. I was (and am) embarrassed by the situation. So I sent some emails and warned people not to go to that URL and updating them about the new path.

At least one of my friends clicked on one of the sites and was immediately infected with a myriad of Trojans, malware, and all manner of viruses. I apologized and shared his pain. A couple days later I got another email that castigated me for not informing him of the URL change and that he was now out a couple hundred bucks and it was all my fault.

Okay, okay. I accept some blame here. I was naïve. But nobody told this guy to click on a porn site link. That’s what let the cooties in. He was naïve too, I guess. I’m hopeful that he eventually forgives me, but if he doesn’t it’s a loss for us both, I reckon. Just another American lose-lose situation. This kind of snit is just part of the ups and downs of friendship. I hope so anyway.

My question is: how do these jerks pick up on discarded blog paths? I suppose a tougher question is: why do these people want to spread virtual violence and pain? Because they can? I’m not web-savvy enough to really know the answers. I believe in the basic goodness of my fellow meat-puppets and am always surprised when I encounter mean people. I guess I don’t get it. The bumpersticker is right on: “Mean People Suck.” These people are cowards.

I’m not sure how we, as an online community, police this kind of thing. It’s a virtual mugging. It’s crime. Anybody have any ideas? Do we just have to get used to this horseshit or is there something we can actually do?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Healthy Chubdogs. Yay!

I just read an Associated Press story telling me that 51 percent of overweight people are basically healthy. “Healthy,” in this case, means that half of us fat people have “normal” levels of cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood-fat content (triglycerides). I fall into this category. My last round of blood work was textbook normal and my resting blood pressure is 118/74. My resting heart rate is 62. Does this mean that I won’t fall over this afternoon writhing in agony with crushing chest pain? No, not really. But it isn’t necessarily indicated by my “numbers.” To obfuscate things, I can say it’s contra-indicated. Boy, I do enjoy sounding smart.

Okay. I’m tired of using quote marks. I am curious as to why this fat-can-be-healthy is such a surprise. Of course chubby humans can be healthy. Duh. But we’re bombarded every hour of every day with images of what we’re supposed to look like. We’re inundated with the general pity and/or distain of the less-than-25-percent-body-fat population because we are proportionally-challenged. Like, wow, we’re gross or something.

Some of that is understandable and I suffer from it myself. Last Sunday in the San Diego airport I saw a woman about my age dressed in a short nightgown bend over to attend her luggage. She was wearing a thong, I think. I couldn’t really tell because there were wrinkly rolls of stuff obscuring most of it. It was a remarkable display. So yes, I understand why a large part of our culture considers us ugly and that they equate an overabundance of subcutaneous non-muscle with health problems and a selfish inability to control destructive behavior. We are branded as lazy and undisciplined.

This is probably tied into our unconscious recognition of proportional patterns. There have been studies in every generation attempting to understand what humans find attractive and why we respond the way we do to the visual cues we receive. It’s all knotted up in the Gordian Wad of The Urge to Merge. We have standards. Our bodies want to procreate with other bodies that offer images of strength, swiftness, and beauty. Hello Mr. Darwin. Natural Selection is a powerful force.

Personally, I am embarking (again) on a quest to reduce my shadow. My motivation is almost purely superficial because I really am healthy. I am going to change my lifestyle some for reasons that include (of course) ego and pride, but I’m also trying to pay attention to reducing my carbon footprint, and have a strong desire to follow some of the advice offered in Michael Pollan’s books, most notably: “Eat Food. Not a lot. Mostly Plants.” I just think that make a whole ton of sense. Oh, and did I mention that I'm tired of being lazy and undisciplined?

Because I am compulsively expressive, I will let you know how it’s going. I am hopeful that a chuckle or two will ensue.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Miles of Smiles

As I watched the opening Olympic ceremonies from Beijing last night I was struck by a comment either Costas or Lauer made about the participants being reminded to smile because it made the experience "less intimidating" to the world-wide audience. While it's true that most smiles are less intimidating than scowls and leers, I have personally experienced smiles that were darn near terrifying in their intimidation. For example, when I was a kid I was up in an apple tree eating an apple. Okay, the apple wasn't "mine" and it was, I suppose, stealing. I was really enjoying the apple and heard a sound that I came to identify later as the cocking of the hammers on a double-barreled shotgun. I turned to look into the eyes of Mr. Rogers, the owner of the apple tree and the apple. He was smiling. It was intimidating. So was the rock salt he blasted in my direction. (I don't think he tried very hard to hit me.) Over the next few years we developed an interesting friendship after that decidedly inauspicious beginning.

But I digress. Smiles are, indeed, magical. I have smiled at myself in the mirror and felt a load lifted from my psyche. I have smiled at my kids and watched their behavior and attitudes change in an instant from sullen and withdrawn to attentive and curious. I've smiled at strangers and seen their blank stares become smiles in milliseconds. It's almost automatic.

So when the drummers and the dancers and the Tai Chi people smiled as they performed in Beijing last night I was transported by the joy in their faces and in their actions and in the way they carried themselves. They weren't acting. They were truly having the times of their lives. It was cathartic in a most fundamental way. I felt connected to the people of China in a way I'd never before experienced. Isn't that the point of having an Olympics? No matter what happens now, no matter what the competition brings, these 2008 Olympics are already a success for me.

What is it in a smile that does that for us? If you smile at a dog, the dog worries a little because you are baring your teeth. Smile at a cat and the cat yawns and pays no attention. Smile at a cop and you may be asking for trouble because he or she may wonder how many whacks on the pipe or bottle you've had. But smile without an agenda at another person, even if it's at yourself in a mirror, a strange chemistry ensues. Your mood lightens and your heart relaxes. I'm fairly certain endorphins are involved in some way, but don't ask me any specifics. If you are interested in the whole phenomonae of smiling and what it means to us humans, you can access the following, which might lead you on a wonderful wild goose chase.

The next time you find yourself grumpy, out-of-sorts, or just generally listless, go find a mirror and smile at yourself. It can be a cynical this-is-silly smile. That's okay. But keep it up. I'd be willing to bet that if you persist the real response will wind up being a genuine smile and you'll be in a better place within seconds of looking in the mirror.

Try it. If it works or not, I'd be interested in your reaction. Just drop me a line via this blog.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Hometown happening

A plane crashed into a house today in what I consider to be my hometown. I didn’t grow up there. Most people who know me are adamant that I never really accomplished growing up … I’m not sure what that means, exactly, but the term Grown-up carries some kind of responsible baggage with it. I’ve embraced responsibility, I guess, but I’m still resisting the grown-up thing. Obviously, I’ve never seriously embraced it.

My hometown, Gearhart, Oregon, is in the throes of an ongoing tragedy. People have died, most of them, I think, are most certainly not grown-up. We have dead kids there. This is wrong. Kids are not supposed to go before their parents. Not in this country. Not Now.

But kids die all over the world. They are the most vulnerable of the vulnerable. They starve. They get blown up. This is common elsewhere. In Gearhart, Oregon, it is most rare, indeed.
It's curious why I think of Gearhart as my home town. I’ve lived in Portland since 1979 (you do the math), but I still think of the North Oregon coast as home. Why is that?

I think it’s because the love of my life grew up there. I kind of pinballed around until I caromed into her in Gearhart, of all places. Our eldest was born in Seaside because that’s where the hospital was. It was a good time and a good place to be born. It was before Reagan and the whole Bush-fueled descent into our Twenty-first Century hell. Life was easy in a lot of ways. It was hard to make ends meet, but we were working people and it’s always been hard on working people. We carry the load. We shoulder the debt incurred by all those nice folks who make the proverbial killing at the expense of everything else, the planet, the economy, the working people.

Am I bitter? Hell, no. It is what it is. I’m having a great ride. I have wonderful people who think I’m wonderful (mostly, anyway). Life is too short to take it too seriously. If there are angels, I think their best advice would be: Lighten up. Have some fun. Share your joy. In the end, it’s who loves you and who you love. That's the important stuff. Next time you start going sideways, let that pop into your head and see if it doesn't smooth things a bit.

Abidee, abidee, abidee, that’s all folks!