I have been staying out of most political conversations for months. Today, While I was driving around the county, providing community mental health services to people who would be most negatively impacted by a Trump Presidency, I realized that the Trump campaign signs needed editing to more accurately reflect the affect of his campaign on the state of interpersonal relations in this country. When I got home, I decided to make my feelings on this subject crystal clear by designing this postage stamp.
Those of you who are regular readers will know that I’m not particularly prone to prose. Today is a rather rare departure from my preferred poetic form but I have been thinking about some things that do not lend themselves to 17 syllable haiku or even 14 line Shakespearian sonnets. Not being a master of extended beat free verse, I’ll just have to make do with good old fashioned prose.
In the course of my work as a mental health clinician, I keep coming across people who are trying to make things better by acting in ways that, at one time, may have been effective techniques to get their needs met. Unfortunately for them, the circumstances have changed in their lives and these, once adaptive, techniques are no longer effective. In fact, these old adaptive techniques are now actually counterproductive and are actually working against their goals or objectives.
These thoughts have been percolating around in my head for years but without a clear analogy that would be understandable to my clients. In the course of my morning chores today I think I may have come across the root and sprout of a possible example to illustrate this for my people.
Imagine a soldier, fighting a war in a deep jungle, like in central Africa. To hide from his enemies, to not get killed, and to be successful in completing his missions, he needs to blend into his background. This good soldier camouflages himself with mottled green clothing, uses vegitation to break up his outline so he isn’t obviously man shaped, and learns to move with the pace of the jungle so he can best blend in with his environment. By doing this, he adapts to the conditions around him to best survive and succeed.
Now, imagine the war is going well and the general decides he needs to move some of his soldiers to another part of the country to fight. He sends a helicopter, in the middle of the night to scoops up a bunch of soldiers from the jungle and drops them into the desert just as the sun is rising.
Jungle rhythms offer no benefit in the desert. Camouflage that once concealed you, keeping you safe, now makes you stand out and puts you at risk. And just how smart does a desert fighter have to be to figure out that a moving shrub among the dunes is probably up to no good?
Folks, you’ve got to change your coping mechanism to match your changing circumstances if you want to be successful! Otherwise, you’re an albino squirrel in the forest.
I’ll have a fine opportunity to try this analogy out in just a few minutes. Wish me luck!
Today, I’m going to take a break from poetry and contemplate relative morality and ego defensive rationalization in the context of a continuum between good and evil.
I image by now, I’ve already lost 80% of the good people who read my random neurotic expression. I’ve exceeded 17 syllables—
This morning, somewhere between buying my cuppa Joe and unlocking the medication closet at work, my wallet houdinied through a heretofore unknown tear in the fabric of my pocket, or spacetime, I’m not sure which. At any rate, poof, my day is interrupted by anxiety.
As of yet, there has been no attempt to use my credit or debit cards and the various financial institutions that issue them have been notified. But this leaves me facing the daunting task of reconstructing the tangible aspects of my self. I need to reorder replacement Drivers license, insurance card, various vendor reward and discount cards, and reconcile myself to the loss of the few bucks in cash and cash equivalents like Starbucks cards.
This is what started this rumination on good versus evil and the continuum of moral behavior. It, kind of, goes like this:
So you’re walking across the parking lot of the store you frequent regularly and, looking down, you see somebody’s wallet.! Oh the myriad of possibilities that open up before you! The many choices you can make!
Choice 1- Step over it and pretend it isn’t there because that’s the kind of miss you just don’t need to get involved with. Narcissist- Wow! What does this say about you! You can’t even be bothered to take a few seconds out of your day to do a total stranger a solid favor?
Choice 2- Pick it up, take it back into the store, give it to the clerk, and say, “somebody drop this in the parking lot.” Altruism at it’s finest!- The embodiment of “Mudita”- do something good for no other reason than the joy it will bring to someone else!
Choice 3- Pick it up, open it up, look at the name on the ID, Google search them, find their number, call them, tell them you found the wallet. Overkill!- This is a stranger, after all. This action, begs the question, what do you hope to gain?
Choice 4- Pick up the wallet, remove the cash, pocket the cash,turn in the wallet to the clerks. Pragmatic Self Interest.-The rationalization here is “I’ll go ahead and take my reward for saving this poor sap the trouble of cancelling his credit cards and getting new ID and insurance cards etc…
Choice 5, Pick up the wallet, take the cash and any cash equivalents like Starbucks cards or gift cards, leave the wallet where you found it. A Portrait in Greed!- You will benefit yourself without exposing yourself to unnecessary risk. Douchbag!
Choice 6- Pick up the wallet, strip it of anything of value, and throw the ID the insurance card the credit cards which are going to get arrested if you try to use anyway in the nearest dumpster so you don’t get caught for your petty larceny. Antisocial personality- you live your life with no interest in anything beyond yourself; totally unconcerned with your fellow man!
Choice 7- Pocket the cash and cash equivalence, sell the ID and the credit cards to noon business associate with criminal ties. Lazy criminal- clearly, you ain’t got no balls! You will take an easy score over working hard to maximize your criminal profit!
Choice 8- Look up the address on the ID, figure the person is not home yet, go by their place with a bunch of your buddies in a big old truck andclear their place out. Criminal Entrepreneur- You know how to take advantage of a windfall! Everybody knows you gotta bid high or stay at home to win!
Choice 9- use the information found the wallet to build a complete portfolio of the person, steal their identity, open up every conceivable account you can, mine it for everything it’s worth, park the money offshore and destroy their life. Satan!- Clearly you are the spawn of hell!
Clearly there are a lot more options, but these nine pretty much cover the gamut from Saint to Satan when it comes to how you handle something like a wallet in the parking lot. Think about yourself honestly, conduct that fearless moral inventory, and consider, just consider moving a little bit toward the light!
I hope whoever finds my wallet today makes choice 2… Or at least choice 4!!
To whom might I be referring
If I were heard to opine:
“Working with her is like dancing…
…the Tango… …with a porcupine.”?
This leaden sky cries
Frigid tears, scarcely warmer
Than the misery
Filled void where once a soul
Languished in base
Ignored by most
Yet callously nurtured
By few men of ill intent.
And upon whom should
We heap the ample onus?
Upon crafted blade?
Upon the crucible in
Whose heart it was made?
The hands that stoked the flame?
Or bowman who loosed the shaft?
As for me, I long to be
Absent from this legacy.
Neither forge nor fire,
Neither bellows nor coal,
Neither hammer nor anvil,
Neither arrow nor bow.
There he sat,
A still life, it seemed,
A static sculpture,
Or so, from without,
Yet, from within, he’s
Afire with passions,
Joined by wild thoughts,
Faster than mere light’s
In glorious fantasy,
Much deeper mysteries,
Answers for questions,
And for them, patiently,
And thus, his days, he is
In stark contradiction,
Whose hell this is, I think I know,
He’s tortured me before and so,
I will not let him catch me here
Sleeping late, so off I go.
My small family must think it queer
For me to rise with dawn not near
But I know I dare not be late
As we approach the end of year.
My pounding steps must make them quake
But pretty soon they’re all awake.
They know that I would rather sleep
Than do these tasks I undertake.
But I have a mission to complete
And notes to write, and people meet!
And notes to write, and people meet!
* Forgive me Robert, for the grave disservice!
The Presidency warrants Hazard Pay
Like every other Animal handler.
Surely there’s a better way
To manage the beasts than blatant pander.
The biggest culprits
Can oft be found
In DC town.
There’s A Congress of baboons,
Impressed by their own voice,
Who Yell and mewl and shriek and boom
As if they really have no choice.
And A Senate of Puffins,
Puffed up full, raging, storming,
And blowing out enough hot air
To be the cause of global warming!
Forget you not the Cabinet of weasels,
All sneaky, sly, and devious,
Slink around the gears and wheels
Prospering from wounds most grievous.
Or A Parliament of owls,
From some distant, foreign land,
That fumes aloud and screams and howls
All the while, holding out their hand.
The religious have A Synod of penguins,
All dressed in black and white,
That squabble like old mother hens
About what is wrong and what is right.
And A Congregation of alligators,
Spewing forth their holey word,
And longing to be orators
While sounding Just absurd
Lastly is An Army of Ants,
Marching loudly, to and fro,
And keeping time with cadence chants
While looking for some place to go.
Then there are the lesser beasts,
More numerous by far,
Eating all the federal feasts
With hands stuck in the cookie jar.
There’s A Kettle of Hawks
Boiling to fly us into war
With “Unipolar” squawks
Always reaching after more.
And also, A Dole of Doves
Peaceful to the core
Arms thrown wide, professing loves
To everyone from every shore.
Of course there are the parties,
With only two invited guests,
And if you’re not one with these two smarties,
Then you will starve like all the rest.
There’s A Memory of Elephants,
Odd, how quickly they forget
The ones with all the needs and wants
Who pay the price for all they get.
And don’t ignore the Drove of Donkeys,
All crammed tightly in together,
They act all smart and really wonky
While they bitch about the weather.
With all these tameless beasts around,
Making chaos on the run,
Who can sit back and expound
About how nothing’s getting done!
A poem unspoken
A song unsung
A gift ungiven
A race unrun
A goal unchased
A vow unkept
A love unoffered
A tear unwept
A trek untaken
A park unstrolled
A doubt unshaken
A tale untold.
A prize unearned
A faith unserved
A crime unpunished,
A punishment undeserved!
Come with a price!