Choice

“Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.”

― Jean-Paul Sartre

We are alive, though we’d rather not feel so. We are our bodies, though we’d rather not be so. We have free-will, though we’d rather not act so.

Humans posssess the gift of choice, but we’ve been cursed with linear time, memory, humiliation, and regret all working against us. It’s hard to choose when you might make a mistake, and it’s hard to make a mistake when you can’t go back. It’s easier to go with the flow, let fate take its course, let Jesus take the wheel, and let people made of stronger stuff than you choose the course. Better to simply forget you ever had a choice in the first place, right?

Most of our choices are considered arbitrary or unimportant. What color shirt to wear, what to have for dinner tonight, read a book or watch a movie, coffee or tea, text back or not. We make those without thinking much. These choices are more like habits and are made without us even being conscious of them, but too often we make our big choices this way too.

We do what we are used to, what is easy, what everyone else is doing or expects us to do. The jobs we take, the things we buy, the debt we rack up, the friends we make, the way we vote, the way we raise our kids, the way we treat people, the way we let people treat us, these are just a few of the choices people make every day without a conscious thought. And every day we lie to ourselves and say “that’s just the way it is. I have no choice”.

The truth is there is always a choice and only you can make it, or not, and no matter what you decide, or don’t, you are responsible.

Sometimes both options cause you pain, sure. Sometimes the pressure of biology, psychology, or society is too great, sure. Sometimes it is your own fear that is getting in the way. Sometimes you feel too connected to family or faith to see a choice but look closer, look here it hurts, where there is shame, where the unthinkable exists, and you’ll see there is most certainly is. There is always a choice.

I’m not talking about the legal definition of freedom or freedom from morality, what I’m talking about goes beyond all that. I am talking about you recognizing that you are free no matter what anyone tells you. No one can reduce you to one course. Even when the choice is life and death, you still have a choice.

“But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.”

― John Steinbeck, East of Eden

A friend of mine, J, once told me a story in which another friend of his was lamenting over her station in life. She was sad that she had been so unlucky and had gotten pregnant and become a single mother while she was young. She hadn’t been able to finish high school, go to college, or work in a field that paid better wages and now she was struggling. While J was sympathetic to her situation, he didn’t see her as entirely blameless in it.

She had made choices that led her along the path she’d lived. She’d chosen not to use protection when she and her boyfriend became sexually active. She’d chosen to have her baby and to keep her baby. She’d chosen not to seek help from the father through the court system or other means. She’d chosen not to pursue her education, even part-time. She’d chosen not to seek help from friends, family, or social programs. She may have been impacted by family, society, education, and peer pressures, but she’d had some choices. He told her all this, and she couldn’t accept it.

Granted, this probably wasn’t a good time for J to inform his friend of her responsibility and blame, but in his defense, he thought he was helping. He thought he could show her that at any time she could take control of her life and change things. He wanted to show her that she’d had a choice all along and still did, she only needed to make it. He thought she would understand and maybe even thank him. Instead, she lashed out.

I believe at that moment his friend was confronted with anguish and anxiety. She was faced with guilt and regret and shame. Her choices had been hard ones, I’m sure, and she had been afraid too, I’m sure, and my guess is she found it easier to choose not to make them. Then she convinced herself that all of her choices had been taken from her.

We all do this. We lie to avoid regret. We lie because we are lazy. We lie to hide our cowardice, our weak wills, and our mistakes from ourselves. We give away our free agency because we’d rather do what is easy and never have to deal with what we should’ve, could’ve, or would’ve when there no chance to change it.

“To be or not to be. God’s gift to animals is they don’t get a choice.”

― Chuck Palahniuk, Zombie

A few weeks I watched an episode of Hate Thy Neighbor in which a Christian “hate preacher Ruben Israel” spreads intolerance and homophobia in the guise of helping his fellow man reach heaven. Every time his sermon was rejected he would announce that “a choice had been made” to put the onus of future damnation back on the condemned.

Of course, I don’t agree with this man’s message—me being a gay myself—but the phrase tickled me. At first, I went around repeating it to make a mockery of the man, but I grew to like it after a while. Every time I said it I saw clearly that I had indeed made a choice and the more I saw the choices I made, the more I could see opportunities in which I could make more choices, and it has been liberating, exciting, and terrifying.

Now that I can see it, I can’t stop seeing it. In my head, I hear a running monologue of choices I am making all the time.

(I’m choosing to write this now, to write about this now. I’m choosing to write from my phone because I did not choose to write this last night. I am choosing not to be upset about that and to continue writing these posts the day of because the pressure helps me think and a daily habit helps me grow.)

I’m not saying you always have the choices you want or that it’s easy to make choices. I’m not saying your choices aren’t limited by your surroundings, your upbringing, your education level, how much money you have or need, where you live—when you live—the color of your skin, or your gender. I’m simply saying you have at least two options at every moment. I’m saying you have some say in the course of your life and some responsibility for where it has been. I’m saying you need to harden your will, wake up your mind, let go of what you must and take control of what you can.

I’m saying you must give up this illusion that you are trapped and powerless.

Something can always be done. We may be denied any do-overs. We may he asked to make choices before we know better. We may make choices and then change our minds and find ourselves in a world we regret, but the ability to choose is worth it. You may not be able to go back there is always another move you can make. They can never pin you down or take away your freedom. You have to choose to give it away. Luckily, you can always choose to take it back.

Freedom of the mind and will is something that sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. We have the power to examine our base instincts and harmful patterns and override them if we choose. We have the power to choose our fate and with lives so short and time moving so fast, why would you ever—no matter how terrible or difficult it is—want to give that up?

“Now, there are many millions in their sects and churches who feel the order, ‘Do thou,’ and throw their weight into obedience. And there are millions more who feel predestination in ‘Thou shalt.’ Nothing they may do can interfere with what will be. But ‘Thou mayest’! Why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win.”

― John Steinbeck, East of Eden

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Thanks for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Written for the A to Z Blogging Challenge: Letter C under the theme “Bleak Realities of Human Existence

Photo by Tanja Heffner on Unsplash

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Body

“I’m literally always looking at my reflection not because I’m conceited but because I just think it feels kind of strange to have a physical form and I’m constantly trying to process who and what I am.”

zygoats

When I ask who you are, how might you answer? I would wager you might tell me your name, what you do for a living, list your likes and dislikes, your political leanings and your moral absolutes. You might tell me about your personality and about your spirit, but what would you say of your body? Do you consider it to be part of who you are? Maybe I should ask what you are you instead?

Do you believe in a soul? Do you believe it exists before, after, and apart from the body? Are you a body with a mind, or a mind with a body? I do not believe in a soul, and I do not believe I am more than the matter I am made of, and science seems to agree. Even the Gods who made us in their image of arose out of mere human brain matter themselves.

Without a frontal lobe, the limbic system, the pituitary gland, the thumbs, and even the gut flora, we wouldn’t recognize ourselves. If any part of the body had been different, you would be different. What you are may go beyond what can be touched or seen, but you are still made from matter. This matter is where your choices are directed, where your memories are kept, where your needs and pain are felt, and where your personality is shaped. Matter imagines the self, and that self is made to serve the body. The spirit was conjured to paint the prison into a paradise.

Even the intelligence we hold so dear and take so much pride in is nothing but well-placed neurons and our emotions merely coordinated releases of hormones. The soul is an electrical signal and a chemical reaction firmly rooted in the physical world. You are not just in your body, you are only your body.

“Body is a home, a prison and a grave.”

― James Runcie, The Colour Of Heaven

None of us wants to be made of mud and air. None of us wants to be reduced to DNA and hormones. None of us want to be chained to a sad sack of meat and bones, and we surely don’t want to be dragged back to mud with it when it’s ceased functioning. So we ignore the body, compartmentalize who we are from what we hate and what we hate to be so limited. We hate to be so fragile and easily broken.

The immortal and transcendent soul has not been shown to exist, and when science deemed it unnecessary to our understanding of the mind, we needed a new illusion we placed ourselves at the top of the animal kingdom and announced we were the aim of the evolutionary arrow. We are biology at it’s best.

Look at this body, your body, any body at all. You think that is the peak of evolutionary excellence? Hardly! The human body made of “good enough” solutions. From the size of our skulls to the bones in your feet, you are made of weak points and inefficiencies. The knees are easily injured, the spine is stupid, each of our eyes contains a blind spot, your teeth are crowded, you can die if you don’t time breathing and swallowing right, and so much more. Your body is prone to problems and always aging. It was designed by chance with no forethought or care for the quality of human life. It’s a disappointment.

Worse, its delicate design is the end of us all. The truth is you are tied to something that is dying. You can prolong the inevitable with maintenance, medication, and mindfulness, but you cannot live forever. The smartest, most empathetic, prosperous, self-aware, and free among us will all be dragged, kicking and screaming, to nothingness right along with the body.

Death is not a being or a state that comes for you, death resides in your bones, in your heartbeat, in every cell of your body that is obliterated and replaced, obliterated and replaced, a little further from perfect every time. Eventually, the body just breaks down, from the bones in the feet to the lungs, to the limbic system, and everywhere else. The body is where you were born, it’s kept you alive, and it is where you will end. You will never leave this place.

“The body is the outermost layer of the mind.”

― David Mitchell, number9dream

But, for all its poor design and problems, isn’t just a prison, it’s our freedom too. The hips, knee, and ankle may be inefficient and fragile, but those bones carried humans all across the globe. Our opposable thumbs made tools and technology possible. Our large skull makes for painful childbirth, but the frontal lobe is worth it. We love with our bodies, we fight with our bodies, we feel heartbreak, loneliness, and fear in our bodies. The body is the boundary of your being and the interface through which you exist and interact with the world.

The human body is capable of many wondrous things but it has its limits, and the body’s limits, no matter how much you resist, no matter how much you fight, are your limits too. You cannot exchange it, and you cannot replace it. You may live in blissful ignorance for a time. You may even conquer it for a time, through rigorous workout and extreme discipline. You may take advantage of technology and surgery and mold it for a time to your vision of perfection but the fact remains and that facts catch up. You are limited to this space and resigned to the physical world, and it’s laws.

We are not beyond mere matter. We are trapped within the physical relm. We have limits, both in quality and quality of life that are set by the body, but there is freedom and great privilege in this body too. Realizing our limitations and your dependence on mere matter can be a hard reality to swallow, but doing so will help you face what is to come. You will get hurt. You will get sick. You will age. You will have to care for your body, for yourself, with acceptance and compassion.

The mind may recover some power, but care must be taken. Compassion and cooperation with the body are crucial. You will have to be patient, understanding, and ready for the body’s disappointments and betrayals. You must understand that what it goes through, so too, will you. You must accept that the body may die before the mind is ready, but the mind will still be taken too. You cannot separate the two.

Your body may not be what you wished it to be but is a prize to cherish. It has taken you this far and will surely take you further still. It has given you an identity and a universe all your own and shown you all you are capable of. Your body is a gift as much as it is a coffin, and you would do well to see it, and yourself, as both.

“Having a body is in itself the greatest threat to the mind… The body encloses the mind in a fortress; before long the mind is besieged on all sides, and in the end the mind has to give itself up.”

― Marcel Proust

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Thanks for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Written for the A to Z Blogging Challenge: Letter B under the theme “Bleak Realities of Human Existence” 

Photo by Tanja Heffner on Unsplash

Alive

“How wonderful to be alive, he thought. But why does it always hurt?”

― Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago

The first condition of being a human being is, of course, being alive. Some humans were once alive, but are not now, some aren’t yet, but will be one day, but all of us will have been in this world physically, and mentally.

Being alive and consciously feeling alive are two different things. Many of us are alive but don’t put much thought into it. We follow the prompts and live life according to a script but never stop to consider what a strange thing it is to be a freely moving agent made of meat and bone with a self-contained inside who is capable of choosing things, imagining things, making things, and reflecting on its own existence and meaning.

We don’t like to feel alive it because the fact reminds us that we once weren’t, and eventually we won’t be. Being alive means time is running out. We don’t like to feel it because it’s confusing and terrifying to find yourself to be so awake and aware. You are a moving and breathing and thinking thing, but what are you? Why are you? You have all these sensations, warm, cold, hungry, tired, wanting. You have hands that grasp, eyes that see, and parts that you can’t see that do things that you can’t understand or control.

What are you?

“creatures smart enough and unlucky enough to have figured out we’re alive, and we’re going to die without ever knowing any purpose. We can pretend all we want and we can wish all we want, but that basic existential fact remains—we can’t know.”

― James Redfield, The Tenth Insight: Holding the Vision

We don’t understand how we could come from chemicals and dirt and still feel so fierce and full of light. How does a heartbeat come from carbon and water? How does love come from DNA and oxygen? How can an I come out of gray matter and neurons? And where do we go when those parts stop working? We know we will no longer be so awake and aware, but where will we be?

Why must we be burdened with such knowledge, curiosity, and awareness, huh? No other animal seems to know or care whether they are alive or not so why should we? Why, even when we try to forget and live as best, we can, do these questions and uncertainties creep up on us while sitting at a red light or in the middle of the night when all we need is sleep. Why must our peace be so disturbed and why must I remind you now that you do know that you are alive, even if you don’t know what that means exactly, and that you do know that you are wasting your privilege by ignoring it and refusing to face it.

I know you don’t like to feel so alive or to examine the related implications associated with your condition. I know you’d rather not spend so much time facing that confusion and horror, but it’s time you did, and did so often.

“The human heart beats approximately 4,000 times per hour and each pulse, each throb, each palpitation is a trophy engraved with the words ‘you are still alive.’ You are still alive. Act like it.”

Rudy Francisco

Rocks exist. Dogs exist. The moon the wind, and theory of relativity exist, but they do not feel like we do. They do not know they exist the way that we do. Our existence is something we fear, celebrate, and grieve for. Our hearts swell at the reminder, and then quickly contracts from our fragility, our transience, our insignificance. We recoil with regret and panic. We simply can’t process what it means to be a living thing, it’s too disturbing, but you cannot escape it. You know the truth.  Somewhere we know the truth. We are alive. Against all odds and beyond all comprehension we are alive, but only right here and only for now…

The truth is it hurts to be so aware and yet so transient, so temporary. It hurts to be given this body and this mind and no time to really put either to much use. It hurts to be something you cannot be comfortable being. It hurts to be given an existence you have so little control of. Being alive is disappointing and draining. It’s a horrible weight on your chest. The weight is eons behind you, eons ahead of you, and the knowledge that all you will ever get out of it amounts nothing.

“Why don’t we have a little game? Let’s pretend that we’re human beings, and that we’re actually alive.”

― John Osborne, Look Back in Anger

Existing is a real pain sometimes, but it’s better than not existing, some would argue. Facing your existence isn’t easy, but it’s better than living your life on autopilot, maybe. It’s up to each of us to decide for ourselves I suppose but I would advise that any time your existence looks you in the eyes, you look right back. To look away is the biggest waste of all, the biggest regret you may have. Being able to face that you are a living being and consider what that means is one of the few dignities we have been afforded in this universe. So let yourself feel it, the pain, the fear, the wonder, and all.

Us humans aren’t very good at separating the privilege of life from the burden of life, but feeling alive does not require acknowledgment of any of that baggage. I’m not asking you to take stock of where you are, or examine the choices you’ve made, or where you want to go. I’m not asking you to love life, or even to be especially grateful for it.

I’m asking you to look up and admit simply that you are here and that that fact is really something. All of it, the good, the bad, the ugly, it’s all such a rare privilege and each of should acknowledge and explore what that means. Each of us should breathe it in and wear our existence with dignity. Roll your existence around in your head, breath in and out, wiggle your toes, look up all the sky, take in the light, and call your own name aloud. Plant yourself in space and time, and with spirit, with pride, announce your existence to yourself and no one else. You are here. You are here. You are here!

“The aim is to balance the terror of being alive with the wonder of being alive.”

— Carlos Castaneda

You can see, and smell, and touch things. You can move your body and you can shout, laugh, or cry. You can feel sunshine, pain, and time passing you by. You are a you, an I, and that is something special. Can you even fathom the astonishing odds of that were against you? Can you fathom all that had to happen to get you here?

Not many things get to be a thing, let alone an I. You should never fear your existence, regret it, or ignore it. It’s too curious and too temporary of a state to shy away from! You should feel proud and interested in your being, and you should try to be as alive, feel as alive, as you can be and as often as you can. It will be over before you know it and you will wish you had faced sooner.

“It felt so amazing to be alive I could never think of anything else.

― Marty Rubin

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Thanks for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletterfor inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Written for the A to Z Blogging Challenge: Letter A under the theme “Bleak Realities of Human Existence” 

Photo by Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

B is for the Bats, Which are Dying by the Millions

I admit, before last summer I had never cared much about bats. I didn’t think they were cute or of much use or interest, but then I met Rob Mies director of the Organization for Bat Conservation and his rehabilitated bats during an event at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

I learned that bats make up a large part of the world’s ecosystem, in fact, a quarter of all mammal species are a type of bat! I learned that they are intelligent and affectionate creatures and actually kind of cute when you get past all the misconceptions about rabies and blood drinking.

The truth is humans would have a really hard time of it if it weren’t for bats controlling the insect population, reseeding deforested land, and pollinating plants, many of which we eat.

I also learned that bats are in trouble and as usual, it’s pretty much our fault.

Like all animals in the world human encroachment, habitat destruction, pesticides, and climate change are affecting bats, but more than that scientist believe that we humans brought a plague down upon bats in the form of White-nose syndrome.

White-nose syndrome is caused by a fungus (Pseudogymnoascus destruction) native to Europe and Asia. Bats there are largely unaffected by it, but here in America, the fungus grows on a bat’s wings and noses causing them to wake up during winter hibernation and either starve or freeze to death. The fungus is decimating colonies and killing by the thousands with no cure and no signs of slowing.

Once White-nose syndrome hits a bat colony up to 70%-90% of the bats roosting there will die. In some cases, the kill rate has been 100%, and scientist now warns that entire species may go extinct as the fungus makes a slow march across the country from the east coast to the west.

wnsspreadmap_3_22_2017_002
https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/resources/map

We don’t know everything about bats, but we do know they do not cross oceans, but people do. It is believed that humans brought back this fungus from Europe and introduced it to colonies here through cave exploration.

Seven species are affected, three of which are now on the (including three on the federal endangered species list. Kill estimates are as high as Tens of millions of bats since 2006 when the fungus was first recognized here. The disease moves so fast and kills so efficiently that it’s considered the worst wildlife disease outbreak in North American history.

So, why should you care? Remember a few years ago when we were all in a panic of bee colony collapse syndrome, well it turns out the bees are bouncing back, but they aren’t the only one’s who save farmers, corporations, consumers, and the U.S. government billions of dollars a year.

Back in 2008, the Forest Service estimated that due to White-nose syndrome and the deaths of around a million bats, 2.4 million pounds of insects went uneaten and free to damage crops and spread disease. They also provide pollination and seed spreading service, for free. All we have to do is respect them and keep them safe. We had one job….

So, how can you help? First of all, stop going into caves. Just stop. Saving these creatures is more important than your need to explore. If you have to please do so with trained professionals and observe proper decontamination protocols when you leave. Respect caves and mines that are closed, they are for a reason.

Take some time to learn what you can about your own local bat species types and habits, then spread the word. Consider setting up your own bat house.

And finally, don’t let your government slash budgets for programs that study, protect, and benefit the environment. Bats, like most animals, need to be protected from us and it’s important that we allow the government to do what we can’t, keep us out of their habitats.

We need local parks and protected caves that we can’t go trampling in or building on whenever we want to. Call your local representative and you leaders in Congress, or send a fax by text, and let them know that humans are awful and out of control and for that reason, we need our parks and our scientists to keep the world safe before there is no other life to protect anymore.

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If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for interesting reads + my own existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering, or buy me a cup of coffee perhaps?

This post was written for the 2017 Blogging A to Z Challenge. My theme isThe World is Really an Awful Place. You can read the rest of the posts under the AtoZ2017 tag.

Featured image: A northern long-eared bat with visible symptoms of white-nose syndrome via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters [CC BY 2.0 or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A is for the Arctic, Which is Melting

“I have been looking at Arctic weather patterns for 35 years and have never seen anything close to what we’ve experienced these past two winters,”

— Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center (via Quartz)

When it comes to talk about the effects of global warming a lot of focus has been on Antartica, which saw record low levels of ice this past year, but as winter in the Northern Hemisphere comes to an end all eyes are on the Arctic as the trend toward higher temperatures, low sea ice levels, and shockingly low levels of human panic and action continue.

For a bit of background, when I talk about the Arctic I am talking about the sea of ice to the north of Canada and Russia. In the summer, every summer, the ice melts as the sun becomes a constant fixture in the sky, and every winter the ice freezes again. It’s all normal and all due to Earth’s orbit, tilt, and the natural warming and cooling the seasons bring.

This winter the Arctic froze, and when scientists measured the ice at it’s largest extent, there was a whole lot missing. Average Arctic ice extent should be something like 6.04 million square miles, in March of 2017, when we take these kinds of measurements, we had 5.57 million square miles of ice. We are missing 471,000 square miles of ice! And this isn’t the first time we have been below average, and it is not going to be the last.

Less ice might not like such a big deal, except that it is. Arctic sea ice melt contributes to further and faster warming, since our bright white ice cap will be gone, it won’t reflect the sun’s rays back into space ad instead the heat will be absorbed by the ocean. Sea levels will rise, of course, and that’s bad for anyone living along the coast which is a whole lot of American citizens. Ocean and air currents will change due to the ice being gone and the temperatures being warmer. This leads to more climate change on average and more unstable weather patterns day to day.

And of course, in the end, it all boils down to more death and suffering for animals and mostly poor people who are already suffering, but it won’t end with them. We will all feel the ramifications of this.

A wise man once said “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” and despite the fact that, yes, sea ice freezes and melts according to the seasons and yes anomalies happen and some years are freakishly colder or warmer than others the truth is  that for a while now we have been trending farther and farther outside of the averages. Take a look at the terrifying graph below for example:

nsidc_global_extent_byyear_b
https://sites.google.com/site/arctischepinguin/home/global-sea-ice

See that part on the right that’s clearly outside of the gray area average, that was the end of 2016, far outside even a regular bad year. See the little line on the left sitting below every other year back to 1978? That’s the beginning of 2017 continuing along on a catastrophic path toward sea level rise, ocean ecosystem disruption, and the first signs of the end times.

Now, if we remember our geometry education back in high school, we know that area and volume are different. Could it be that the ice is still there but just taking on a different shape? Nope. Take a look at this graph of bad news showing monthly global ice by volume:

giomas-year-global
https://sites.google.com/site/arctischepinguin/home/global-sea-ice

See that line veering off to the right well outside the mean and below every other year as far back as 1981, that’s 2016. I haven’t seen a version with 2017 on it yet, but I would bet a lot of money that just like ice area measurements we are still trending down and still, no one is doing anything about it. Instead, we’re running around arguing about whether or not the problem is even real.

This is not normal. None of this is normal! You may hear people talk about natural cycles but take a look at another graph. This one shows measurement of atmospheric CO2 found in drilled ice cores containing bubbles of air from thousands of years ago. See that big spike on the end, well outside of anything ever, that 1950 to now. It is us! We are doing this!

15_co2_left_061316
https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/carbon-dioxide/

Now, this is all pretty bad, but it actually gets even worse. So much worse. All hope of stopping these trends is gone. We have done too much damage. CO2 measurements will continue to rise, and the ice is going to go on melting, even if we stopped everything, all the cars, all the deforestation, all the burning, today. There is just no way, right now, that we can get the gasses we put into the atmosphere, and the ocean, back out.

We are fucked. We are so fucked and so stupid.

Scientists started warning us back in 60s that burning fossil fuels and putting greenhouse gases like CO2 and methane into the atmosphere were going to lead to a warmer Earth which would lead to collapsing ecosystems and unstable weather patterns but too many people wanted to keep on making money and fought long and hard, and are still fighting today, to keep you from panicking or changing the way you do things.

So what can you do now? Hell, why do anything if we are already too far gone?

Well, even thought the earth is going to warm and the climate is going to change, and many many people and animals are going to die, we can lessen the extent and the suffering if we start today.

The EPA has a list of things you can do today, but ost of us have read it and have made the changes that we can, but what we really need to do now is get the people who are in charge to stop being so damn selfish and stupid and do something about it. We need to contact our leaders in Congress and let them know that we will not stand for their cowardice any longer. You can even fax them by text now! There is no excuse.

Change needs to happen now if we want to have a future where humans can at least survive, and you need to ask yourself here and now, do you care? Be honest with yourself, do you want something to be done, or do you like it better when you pretend there is no consensus or science to back this up? Are you a part of the solution or part of the problem?

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If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for interesting reads + my own existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering, or buy me a cup of coffee perhaps?

This post was written for the 2017 Blogging A to Z Challenge. My theme is The World is Really an Awful Place. You can read the rest of the posts under the AtoZ2017 tag.

Featured image via Unsplash

Blogging A to Z Theme Reveal // The World Really is an Awful Place

Hey, hi, hello! Here I am, late to the big Blogging from A to Z Challenge theme reveal, as usual, but better late than never, right?

If you’ve never heard of it, the challenge takes place yearly in the month of April. Bloggers pledge to do their best to write and publish 26 blog posts, one for each letter of the alphabet, on a schedule. Most choose themes, not all, but I hear it makes it easier.

This will be my third year of participation and you’d think by now I would have figured out the ropes and be well ahead of the curve, but you would be wrong. I’m the kind of person that can’t muster up enough enthusiasm or inspiration to complete a task unless there are looming deadlines and real consequences. I’m working on that.

To be honest it isn’t just my awful work ethic. It’s been a rough year so far and I haven’t had as much time to plan for this thing as I have in recent years but I still hope to rock this thing!

My first year’s theme was astronomy and I failed miserably. My second was fiction. I was able to finish but the writing was kind of crap and I beg you not to look.

I thought about doing fiction again, but I’ve just about given up on that kind of writing, publicly anyway. It doesn’t come easy to me the way that essay/memoir does. I thought about poetry but poetry and I are just starting to get along and I don’t want to force the relationship and risk pushing her away, you know?

So, instead, I looked to what has been on my mind lately. What is it that I can’t let go of? What do I feel the need to spend and whole month talking about?

“Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.”

― Albert Schweitzer

Since this past year’s election, all I can see are the ways the world seems to be coming apart at the seams around me. Not just because of that man living in the White House. No, the world was falling apart long before he came into the picture, but he made me more aware of it. His actions have forced me to take notice and face my false sense of safety.

I watch the news nearly constantly now and I think a lot about the privilege I have. I don’t fear bombs. I can find food easily. I have a home and work and money enough that I hardly worry at all, but I haven’t been very good at doing my part to help those who have so much less.  I haven’t even worked very hard to stay informed or raise awareness.

In my defense, I have been a bit overwhelmed but even that is a privilege. So many others don’t have the option of turning away when it all gets to be too much. It’s too easy for me to look away whenever I want to. It’s to easy for all of us to hide inside our homes and go one believing that the fire will never touch us but it will. I promise it will unless we take notice. Now.

The world is full of suffering and bad scary things and I’m not sure what to do now, yet, but it feels right to start by using my platform here for research and awareness. I carry a fair amount of guilt for not doing enough, then or now, to help.

So, my theme this year is the awful world around us.

That’s right, I’m going to write 26 posts, one for each letter of the alphabet all about something in the world that is going wrong but that no one seems to be willing to look at, care about, or fix. Everything from the arctic ice melting, to diseases on the rise, to famine, and war, and much, much more.

I know it’s a strange one. It’s not fun and flashy but it’s real and it’s important. I hope that I can teach you something or point you in the direction of a cause you can care about. I hope we all start thinking more and more about what is happening out there and what our part will be in fixing some of this shit.

April is going to be a real blogging dumpster fire, and kind of a downer, and I encourage you to come along for the ride.

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If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for interesting reads + my own existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering, or buy me a cup of coffee perhaps?

If you want more information on the challenge, head over to A-to-ZChallenge.com and if you are participating leave a note in the comments below and let me know where to find you :)

Featured image via Unsplash

Blogging A to Z Reflections // What I Learned

I did it! I finished the Blogging A to Z Challenge on time and without cheating or skipping any letters. That isn’t to say I didn’t make mistakes or fall behind here and there but it was much better than last years attempt. I didn’t even make it to Z last year.

This year was a whole different feeling and I really felt excited and hopeful about it. Even when I was exhausted and almost in tears trying to make it work I still felt….good about it. I felt like I was doing something challenging and I was learning something new about myself and about writing. I kept telling myself the whole time that no matter what I was going to make it to the end. I had to.

My plan for the challenge was to post very small pieces of fiction that read more like excerpts rather than stories with a true beginning, middle, and end. I had never written fiction before and I think instead, some of the pieces turned into something in between, some more, some less. You can find them all under my AtoZ2016 tag.

Here is what I learned:

Research is so important.

There were many stories I wanted to write and many stories I wanted to write better but due to a lack of time, couldn’t. The reason came down to research. For example, I wanted to write a story about a man who hates his life but rather than commit suicide he decides to go back in time to prevent his parents from meeting. The thing is in my mind, his parents met in the 70s and I had no idea what things were like in the 70s.

The post titled The Father required me to do a bit of research on deer hunting and if I had chosen to be more detailed I may not have been able to write that post. Instead, I kept things vague and subtle.

The sequel to it, The Killer, required me to research was to dispose of a dead body. It felt weird to be typing that into Google and it made me nervous when I thought about all the court shows where someone’s search history was used against them.

A physically dictionary is better than any app.

When I was searching for ideas I needed to see the words in front of me. Staring at a screen left my brain feeling empty. So I pulled out an old dictionary/thesaurus I had and having all those words plus their definitions in my hands like that really jump started my brain. Looking through it made me feel like a real writer doing real writing.

It also gave me ideas I wouldn’t necessarily have come across on my own and it really helped during the days with the most difficult letters, like X, Y, and Z.

In this day and age, you don’t see dictionaries around as often but I learned that they are invaluable. I plan to pick up an updated version soon and too keep it on my desk rather than the bottom of my bookshelf where, before this challenge, it had collected dust for years.

Taking notes and making lists will get you halfway there.

My primary means of writing these posts were by hand on either index cards I carried in my pockets or a legal pad I kept in my bag. I made lists of words starting with the upcoming letters and next to them I wrote quotes or bits of story associated with each one. After I had chosen a word and story idea I used the index cards to make little outlines or write bits of dialogue.

These were especially useful when I was out and about and an idea struck and I worried about losing it before I could write it.

I plan to use the index cards for other writing projects too. I prefer them to notebooks because you can rearrange and replace them. Sometimes I would fill one up with one idea and then realize I hated it. All I had to do was start a new card and insert it in the proper place.

There are two kinds of ideas.

There are the ideas you work out of your mind. The ones you have to manifest by force. The ones you pull from yourself kicking and sweating. Those ideas are more often than not bad ideas but they are better than nothing. You work and rework them you turn them over and add more words hoping they become something you can be proud of. They are almost what you want to write but not quite and the longer they aren’t perfect the more you hate them.

The other kind are the kind of ideas we are all chasing. They are the “ah-ha!” ideas. The ones that make the story into something special. When I was writing The Yolk it was just a boring old love story, she was going to make her boyfriend breakfast and they were going to live happier ever after. I was almost done with it when I had an ah-ha moment, she was not his girlfriend but his stalker!

I had a few of these throughout the challenge and it was the part I loved the most. It made me feel like I could still surprise myself.

I know nothing about writing fiction, but I want to learn.

I am 100% I did a whole lot of things wrong in every piece I posted this month. From punctuation to structure to who knows what else. I don’t even know what it is I don’t know! I still had fun though and I like to think that I did a pretty good job considering how little I knew.

I started doing a bit of research before the challenge but there was so much out there I got a little overwhelmed. I decided to wing it and look up things as I needed to know them but not even knowing what I needed to know kept me from being a better writer, I am sure. So I think very soon I will be buying a book on the details of writing fiction. If you have any recommendations please leave them in the comments.

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All in all, I think the month was a success. The only thing I wish I had done differently is to have begun writing the posts much further in advance. I plan to have all of next years posts written before the challenge even begins. I may still  write a few more during the month of April. I enjoy the thrill of a deadline you know?

I hope you all enjoyed my little stories. I greatly appreciated all feedback I received and it was your kind words that have me wanting to dig deeper into flash fiction and make it a regular part of my writing.

If you participated in the challenge I hope you had as much fun as I did and if I missed visiting  your blog leave a comment and let me know. I’d love to meet you :)

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Featured image via Unplash

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Z is for “The Zealots”

After humans had gone too far and all who had denied our ability to kill a planet had to admit that we had done just that, the scientist worked together to find he one being who could help us. They searched for God, found him in the places he hid, and asked for his forgiveness and help.

He gave his forgiveness but refused to help.

He had grown weary of his creation, a people who were given life and asked only to cherish it had done everything but. Humans were no longer his concern and no longer the object of his heart. He had promised never to attempt to wipe them out again, and he had kept that promise. It had been easy because he knew humans would do the job for him. When they were done he would begin again with a new race, one better than this. One that loved him and the world he would give them.

Humans heard his words and grew angry. He had not been the God they needed and now he sat idly by and allowed their flaws to consume them. Flaws he had created.

So humans did what humans do and they charged, convicted, and ordered God put to death for crimes against humanity. The way they figured it, every death and every atrocity had been on his hands.

In order to fight Him, they needed an army to rival the one of the Angels and they found it in those struck down by the God long ago. They found the Prince of Darkness, still bitter and brooding in his prison, set him and his army free, and in return asked his help in bringing the Supreme Creator to justice. He agreed and the ensuing holy war was like nothing in all human history. Many died, but in the end, Man prevailed. God was jailed, tortured, and finally put to death in a spectacular public execution.

Man and the Devil both found themselves free.

And man did what man always does and refused to let any live who were greater than him.

And the Devil did what he always had and declared himself the Old God’s greater and Man’s true ruler.

And the world was further destroyed as the two fought each other seeking to take the place of the being they had dethroned.

What neither could see and what neither suspected was there were those who had loved the Dead God and wanted nothing but to avenge his death. They declared war on both the Evil One and those they called the Killers of the Light.

The Zealots, as they were called, remembered the old stories and how people had prospered who were nearest to the God. They wished to return humanity to the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

They did not have the technology of the scientists, and they did not have the power of the Devil. What they had was the understanding that the knowledge of events as they had happened was nothing compared the knowledge of what those events had meant. They knew that the fact that they existed and believed as they did meant the war and the world had not been lost.

What they had was the power to resurrect their God through sheer faith in His power.

***

Author’s note: The plan for this challenge was to post small pieces of fiction that read more like excerpts rather than stories with a true beginning, middle, and end. I think instead, these have turned into something in between, some more, some less. Please bear with me, these are my first attempts at writing fiction. You can find them all under my AtoZ2016 tag.

This being the last post of the challenge I thought I ought to take a moment and thank everyone who visited and left comments. You have encouraged me and given me the confidence to keep writing fiction and to learn all I can about the craft. I will be making fiction a regular part of this blog and I hope you will continue to read and support me. Thank you again, your kind words have meant so much.

Featured image by Luca Signorelli [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Y is for “The Yolk”

The first light of the morning crept through the window, and I lightly traced the lines of the muscles on your back in it.

I’d been laying here listening to you breathe for a long time now and I worried about what I might be feeling. I’d wrestled with myself and decided that, for you, I would take the first step. I had been enjoying our time together, and I wanted to show you that.

I climbed from the bed quietly, and I crept downstairs. I decided I would make you breakfast. It took a bit of searching, but I found everything I needed. There is coffee, bread, bacon, and eggs.  Making the coffee was easy, but I had to guess how strong you like it. The toast went into the oven because I realized too late you do in fact have a toaster. I hoped you liked your bacon on the crispy side.

The eggs were the tricky part; they were always the tricky part. There were so many options: boiled, scrambled, sunny side up, poached, over easy? I think over easy. He seemed like the kind of guy who preferred the yolk runny but the whites fully cooked. Soft on the inside, harder on the outside. At least, I hoped he was.

Over easy was tricky, though. You always had to be watching him. If you turned away for one minute, the egg became over cooked. If you rushed things, the whites would be too runny. If you weren’t careful when you flipped it, the yolk would break and what you ended up with would not be what you intended. Lucky for you, I was very good at over easy.

I searched the cabinets for plates and mugs. I searched the drawers for silverware. I got everything ready, and I heard you creeping down the stairs, just in time. I took my place at the table and waiting for you to see everything I had done for you. I waited for you to see how perfect the eggs were. How perfect I was.

“What the hell are you doing in my apartment.”

Oh no, you looked angry.

“I made us breakfast. I hope you like crispy bacon; I got a little distracted and the cooked longer than I meant for them too. The eggs came out perfect, though, try them.” If you would only sit down and try the eggs you would understand, I loved you, and I could be the right girl for you.

“No, I won’t try them. I want you to leave Alice or else I am calling the cops.”

“James, listen, just sit and try the eggs. Try the eggs and we can talk about this. I just want to make you happy, if you could just see that we could have a wonderful breakfast together.”

He stood there, staring at me, rage in your eyes. I realized you were not going to sit down and enjoy this breakfast, or any breakfast. You were not an over easy kind of guy after all. Oh well, maybe the next guy would be.

I grabbed the knife from the table and wondered how I was going to eat all this food by myself.

***

Author’s note: The plan for this challenge was to post small pieces of fiction that read more like excerpts rather than stories with a true beginning, middle, and end. I think instead, these have turned into something in between, some more, some less. Please bear with me, these are my first attempts at writing fiction. You can find them all under my AtoZ2016 tag.

Featured image by tednmiki (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

X is for “The Xerox”

“Hello, and welcome to the unveiling of the latest in home-cloning technology. The teams here at the Bio-Industries division of Xerox have been working around the clock for the past eight months to bring you a better and more efficient machine. We are all very excited about this product and we want to share that excitement with all of you.”

“We’ve heard your feedback and listened to your concerns. We want you to know that the mistakes of the past will not be repeated and throughout this process the safety of the general public was foremost in our minds.”

“This time around we’ve added some very strong security measures. We’ve started a DNA database, every person who chooses to clone themselves must opt in to allowing Xerox to track their activities. Each DNA sequence is allowed only 3 clones, twins must be visited by a Xerox Bio-Industries doctor to confirm the identical genetics.”

“We’ve also added a bit of coding to each clone’s DNA sequence to identify them as such. No clone may clone themselves and each clone created will have a patented Crime Prevention Implant. When the clone attempts to kill a human the implant will first  attempt to immobilize him. If that fails, it will go directly into self-destruct mode.”

“We hope these features will put your mind at ease. We know that what happened nearly a year ago is fresh and we are all still healing from the tragedy. The victims and their families were, of course, consulted in the redesign and we urge the public to try our product another try and let us prove to you that cloning is the wave of the future and Xerox is the company to bring that future into your homes.”

“Thank you for listening, and happy cloning.”

***

Author’s note: The plan for this challenge was to post small pieces of fiction that read more like excerpts rather than stories with a true beginning, middle, and end. I think instead, these have turned into something in between, some more, some less. Please bear with me, these are my first attempts at writing fiction. You can find them all under my AtoZ2016 tag.

Featured image via Trang Nguyen