Thoughts on January 1, 2019

New Year’s Day 2019.  Feels kind of strange to say it’s 2019 already.  It’s been 19 years since the “Y2K” fears didn’t materialize, 18 years since 9/11, 11 years since the Great Recession came close to becoming Great Depression part II,  7 years since the Mayan Apocalypse came and went, etc.  Yet, for me it sometimes doesn’t seem that long ago any of these things happened.  But, when I look at people in my niece and nephew’s generation, they weren’t even born when Y2K or 9/11 or the Great Recession took place or at least not able to remember these events.  Makes me wonder for these youngsters what events will be taking place in their adolescence and early adulthood they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.  I was born in 1980, so too late have living memories of Vietnam or Watergate or the Apollo programs but early enough I can remember first hand stories of the Dust Bowl, World War II, and the Civil Rights movements from my grandparents and their friends.  One thing I have learned from surviving my home world making almost 40 laps around the mother star is that the only real constant in our lives is change.

I am 38 years old. As far as life expectancy is concerned, barring any major medical breakthroughs coming, my life as a human is statistically half over.  Having a mental illness, I’m probably closer to the grave than even that.  I can tell there are some changes happening in myself already.  Physically I am beginning to slow down and get unexplainable aches and pains that don’t always clear up as fast as they did even three years ago.  Being overweight makes this only worse, no doubt.  But, as far as signs that I am in middle age, my physical strength gets sapped faster than previously, I no longer have much of an interest in sex, I don’t feel much of a need to compete against anything beyond my personal bests, have come to accept and appreciate who and what I am, etc.

As it is, I am glad to have been able to experience and witness the changes my civilization and my personal self have gone through.  Makes me wonder what changes the next 38 years will bring.  If I’m still around and blogging is still a thing in the 2050s, I hope to be able to write about even these changes.

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My Education as a Writer with Mental Illness

 

I readily admit to being eccentric.  I was such even as a child.  In my more active years, I used to pace in the back yard for hours on end regardless of the weather just making up stories in my head.  I’m sure this concerned my family some (and made me a butt of jokes among the school yard bullies), but I had an overactive imagination as a child.  I was too scared to actually put any of this into writing.  I guess I was paranoid even as a child.  I used to make up all sorts of stories and characters.  I kind of kick myself now for not making notes on some of those stories as I think some of them might have made decent science fiction or fantasy stories.  But I never considered a career as a writer because I had heard so many horror stories about English and humanities students condemned to working minimum wage jobs after college.  As it is now, the middle class is all but gone.  I may have been happier as a double major in English and History rather than trying to be a medical scientist.

I guess now that I know myself much better at age 38 than I did at age 18, I know now that I am really a writer/story teller who is interested in science, rather than a scientist interested in writing.  And I certainly am not the economist or sales man I studied to be when I studied business after it became clear my mental illness wouldn’t allow to go to medical school.

Since I’m starting to read much more again, I’m beginning to get the urge to try my hand at traditional writing again.  I absolutely love blogging and I used poetry in my twenties to learn how to write and tell stories.  But perhaps it is time to venture into new possibilities with my writings.  I’ve had some of my poems published in small literary journals in the past. I did write the rough drafts of two novels when I was in my twenties.  I made outlines for science fiction novels but never wrote anything serious.  Once I even tried my hand at writing crime drama, and my only experience with crime was when I helped my boss catch a couple shoplifters during my first day on the job when I was in college.  I wish I had kept my rough drafts of my old novels.

I became interested in writing as a means of story telling during my freshman year in college when I qualified for a place in an advanced English course.  I find out I loved writing stories and essays in that class.  I made some pretty good friends in that class too.  One of those friends became a blogger too.  I regret that I lost contact with her and everyone else in that class over the years.  Even though I didn’t dive head first into writing after that class ended, I did become interested in literature.  I must have spent as much time reading in the college library as I did studying for my business and economics classes during the last three years of college.  I became so dedicated to pursuing this course of self study that I let much of my old college life go.  I left my fraternity even though I had lots of friends in that group.  I stopped dating to pursue knowledge.  I guess I knew even early on that learning and story telling were the true loves of my life.  Besides, fighting a mental illness I would have probably made a lousy husband and father.

I more or less lived in the library the last three years of college.  But one of the purposes of formal education should be to at least give kids the tools to learn new things should they wish to once they leave school.  I felt my formal education, first at a rural public school and then at a private college in York, Nebraska, did just that for me.  And I am grateful every day that I wake up for being able to make it through college without any student debt.  With as expensive as college is getting now, and how wages simply aren’t keeping up, I whole heartedly recommend against going to a four year college unless you are going for a STEM degree or can be guaranteed to get out debt free.  I’ve seen too many friends crushed by student loan debts, robbed of their peace of mind, and working jobs they can’t stand just because of said debts.  And much of what I learned in college can just as easily be learned with a few years of hard self study via the public library system, ebooks, and youtube videos.  I dare say that I learned more in five years of hard self studying via the public library and youtube videos than I did in my formal education.  But it was the formal education that planted that desire and need for knowledge and wisdom to begin with.  These are some of my thoughts on my education and path to enlightenment as the school year starts again.

Midnight Rants Against Stupidity

 

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It’s the middle of the night as I write this. I’m going off the regular path and just going to rant for this entry. I just got back home from a midnight deli run so my stomach is full and I am wide awake.  Been seeing a lot of people online and in real life complain lately.  Some people complain about how much their jobs suck.  Some people complain about their marriages or relationships.  Many people complain about politics, especially during this election year.  People are just complaining about the dumbest nonsense but not doing anything to change their situations.

I know people who have so much “stuff” in their houses they accumulated over the years they can barely move or find anything.  They acknowledge they need to get rid of some things.  But they never do.  People complain about how dumb their coworkers are, how unreasonable their customers are, and how corporate policies hinder productivity and suck the life out of them.  But do they ever consider quitting their lousy job and starting their own business?  Of course not.  People complain about their significant others but do they ever consider fixing the relationship or opting out of relationships at least temporarily.  No, not at all.  Some people are even longing for the “good old days” of yesteryear.

For those who long for the past, what parts of the past are to be yearned for?  Do you want to bring back Jim Crow laws and children working in mines and factories to go along with gas costing only ten cents a gallon and most people spending Sundays in church?  Do you think modern medicine is a mess when people die from cancer or heart disease in their sixties or seventies while ignoring that many people died from infectious diseases at much younger ages just a few generations ago?  Most marriages did last for a lifetime in the old days, but most lifetimes didn’t last that long to begin with. They never had the time to grow apart and get divorced.  Many families were mixed in the old days, not from divorce, but from parents dying at young ages.  One of my favorites is modern medications make people sick and are ineffective.  People are living longer than ever in spite higher rates of obesity, largely because of medical advances.  Good old days my foot!  The good old days sucked, especially if you were a woman, racial minority, religious minority, or a child.

As a mentally ill man who has spent many years observing nuerotypical people and the things they do much like a zoologist studying a pack of apes, I’ve come to the conclusion that normal people often act in incredibly stupid ways. What’s even more amazing is that some of these people know these are stupid actions yet keep on doing them anyway. You hate your job, then quit and try something different.  You can’t stand your significant other, drop them and maybe be single for a while.  There’s no law saying you can’t be single.  We’re not taxing bachelors or throwing them in jail.

As far as politics go, if you think your politicians are morons and sell outs to big money interests, then vote for third party unknowns who aren’t taking money from lobbyists.  Or better yet, realize that a politician isn’t going to do anything to enrich your life.  They are just along for the ride. Slavery and serfdom would have never gotten abolished if there wasn’t first grass roots sentiments that thought these needed to go.  Same goes for civil rights. They don’t act unless there is sentiment among the citizens that change is needed.  All politicians can do are pass laws and spend tax money.  Even Hitler and Stalin would have never gotten away with what they did if there weren’t those kinds of sentiments among the populace of their countries to begin with.

Simply put, politicians can’t engineer better computers or design structures that won’t fall apart in earthquakes.  Politicians can’t bring clean drinking water to rural Africa or even inner city America.  Politicians can’t build better infrastructure.  If things are to improve, it’s going to be scientists and engineers who develop better and cheaper ways of doing things.  I would love to live in a world where scientists, engineers, architects, doctors, teachers, etc. are better known than politicians and athletes.  Uber just started putting out self driving taxis this week. The Gaia satellite has identified one billion more stars in our galaxy.  We recently found a possible Earth like planet just a few light years away.  Virtual Reality tech is set to take off big any time now.   Yet all that anyone wants to talk about are athletes who won’t stand up for ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ or whatever unfulfillable campaign promises a politician made when speaking at a union hall this week.  Seriously, normal people priorities suck.  I am glad I am not normal.  After studying normal people for most of my life, I see that they are obsessed with the stupid and mundane and they are really out of touch with what is really going on in the world around them.  I never want to be normal.

New Normal verses Old Normal

 

When I was growing up as a precocious child in the rural corn belt of Nebraska, I was frequently asked “Why can’t you be normal”.  My classmates, the adults in my life, and even my own family asked me this frequently. I didn’t have the foresight or the courage then to ask “What defines normal” or even “Who defines normal”.

Looking back on it years later I know I never would have gotten any kind of direct answer simply because what qualifies as normal keeps changing.  In 1750 it was normal for two out of three children born in London, England to die before their fifth birthday.  Now in the developed world (and increasingly so in the developing nations) infant mortality is rare.  It is so rare now that if most of us were to look back five or six generations in our family tree, we would find that our most of our ancestors had more dead children than most of us have children or siblings.  That’s what breakthroughs in medical science can do.  As recently as my parent’s generation, most people were married in their early to mid twenties and had children within a few years.  Now it is quite common for people of my generation to not marry until their thirties or even not marry at all.  Back when my parents were in their twenties, if you weren’t married before thirty you were thought insane or gay.  Now the stigmas on both homosexuality and lifelong bachelorhood are in retreat.  Instances like these create new normals out of old normals that no longer worked.

There are things that go on now most people take for granted that may be looked out in horror by future generations.  Even though wars haven’t really been fought between developed nations since World War II, I can imagine a future where people will look back at their ancestors and wonder how we justified ourselves in fighting wars and proxy wars that went on for years.  Perhaps committing any kind of violence against other people will someday be viewed with the same horror we in 2016 view slavery, inquisitions, and wars of territory expansion.  I can hope, can’t I?  Perhaps in future years it will seem absurd for people to hate others based on their political views.  I can only hope so, otherwise I am forever condemned having to listen to people bicker back on forth about political beliefs on Facebook and Youtube when all I really want to do is chat with a few friends and watch a few videos.  I hope our obsession and splitting hairs over political beliefs will someday seem as absurd as Catholics and Protestants fighting during the Renaissance is to our 21st century sensibilities.  Besides it’s not like politicians ever invented any labor saving devices, cured any deadly diseases, did any serious scientific research, or thought up better and less cruel ways of living.  At most, they provided some funding and got out of the scientists and engineers ways.  Many of the most influential and beneficial people who made a difference in history never held a public office, won a battle, or sat on a throne.  Remember that the next time you take your political beliefs seriously.

Less dogmatic and hateful attitudes about political beliefs would be nice.  What would be even nicer is less stigma and discrimination against those with mental health issues.  Seems to me that having mental illness is one of those few things many people don’t feel bad at all about stigmatizing.  It is essentially stigma’s final frontier.  Every week it seems there are crime drama shows where the accused perpetrator is mentally ill or an introverted loner who doesn’t fit in.  It also seems too common someone with a mental illness committing a violent crime gets far more attention than homeless mentally ill people being beaten by cops or gangs of ‘concerned citizens.’  Funding for mental hospitals has been dramatically cut over the years, often leaving the most afflicted to either the street, prison, or dead.  It seems that prisons have become de facto mental health hospitals for a sizable portion of the mentally ill population.  I know that the stats are a few years old in the link.  But I have little reason to believe that the situation for mentally ill individuals in prisons has gotten much better in recent years.  The treatment of seriously mentally ill individuals, at least in my country, is barbaric and insane.  What did you think was going to happen when funding for mental hospitals was cut?  Did you think the problems of the mentally ill would magically vanish once the hospitals were no longer well funded?  Or did you think mentally ill people like myself are making our illnesses up and don’t need help?  There should be no wonder why I was so quick to self commit myself on two separate occasions.  There should be no wonder why I want to change my medications even after a few mini breakdowns.  I don’t want to wind up in prison or dead for the crime of having a psychotic breakdown in front of the wrong person.  You won’t prosecute the handfuls of crooked bankers who triggered the Great Recession but you will throw thousands of mentally ill people in jail because you don’t know what else to do with them?  Way to stay classy. This is certainly one old normal that is in dire need of a quick death and being replaced by a new normal of more understanding, compassion, and better treatments.  And yes, we can find the funding to do this transition if we care enough to do so.

Speaking of practices some currently on the fringes of normal society abhor, maybe even the age old practice of killing animals for food will seem barbaric to future generations.  If lab grown meat gains traction in future years it could.  Don’t be so quick to scoff.  In 1900, who would have thought Henry Ford and his insane motorized carriage would put the draft horse out of business within several years?  Or who would have thought in 1850 that John Rockefeller would find great and numerous uses for a scummy and sludgy nuisance called petroleum?  These two by themselves got rid of old normals and created a new normal.  The internet is a key example of a new normal.  If I was born even fifteen years earlier I would have never been doing this blog.  Who knows what new normals are on their way?  Stay tuned my friends.  Things are going to be getting more interesting than they already are.

Revisiting the ‘Good Ol’ Days’ (They weren’t all that good)

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For years, even before I became mentally ill, I’ve been listening to people complain about how bad the state of the world is and how everything was better in the ‘good ol’ days.’  I’ve done blog posts on it in the past with Why I Am Grateful of Tech And Science Advances, Technology Advances and U.S. Presidents, and Reflections On Being a Recovering Doom Junkie. I don’t believe the nonsense that the past was some golden age were everyone was respectful, no one was stupid, the world was at peace, and wealth gaps between rich and poor didn’t exist.  Folks, the past wasn’t that great for the common man on the street. It was even worse for the common woman in most cases.  In many past civilizations,as many as half the children born didn’t live to see adulthood. ‘Utopia’ was a work of 16th century fiction by Thomas More, not a real place in some to be recaptured past. It’s as if everyone thinks that the entire world was like Mayberry in ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ until about the last forty, thirty, twenty years.  But seriously, is our collective amnesia so bad that we think that the times we grew up in were nothing but peaceful and prosperous?  Are we so forgetful that we think that it was only the current younger generation that invented promiscuous sex?  No town in America (or anywhere else) was ever like Mayberry.I have never seen African Americans on Andy Griffith.  Being a town in the southern U.S. in the late 1950s, surely there would have been some.  No towns, besides maybe a few small farming villages in Nebraska and Kansas, were ever that white bread.  The 1950s were an age of purity and good values?  Please.  Does the Korean War, duck and cover drills, The Great Chinese Famine, McCarthyism, the quiz show scandals, western movies and tv shows that were (by today’s standards) blatantly bigoted towards Native Americans, and the Beat Generation culture of excessive drugs and sex as written about by Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, etc. ring a bell?  Times weren’t more moral and more peaceful in the old days, they were merely less televised and exposed.

As far as having more moral and competent leaders in the old days, think again.  People today think it was shameful that President Clinton was getting sex from one of his interns or President Bush exaggerating to get a war in Iraq, etc.  But politicians and rulers have always fornicated and lied to their subjects.  Thomas Jefferson probably had an affair with at least one of his slaves.  Charlemagne had at least four wives and was almost constantly at war during the 8th and 9th centuries.  Even the Bible said King Solomon of Israel had seven hundred wives and yet praised him for being a man of great wisdom.  And this was before Viagra and Barry White albums. Abraham Lincoln, as a young man, accepted a challenge to a duel and set the rules of the contest to the death so that he would have won had not his friends talked him out of it. Pope Urban II exaggerated the abuse Christians received at the hands of the Turks to garner support for the First Crusade.  William Randolph Hearst was spinning news stories and outright lying long before anyone even thought of inventing cable news or alternative media.  As far as businesses like Microsoft, Facebook, Monsanto, BP, Google (who made most of the research for my blogs possible), Wal-Mart, Goldman Sachs, Home Depot, the defense contractors, etc. being favorite whipping boys for anyone against the abuses that can be perpetrated by big companies, then heaven help you if you ever knew about Standard Oil, U.S. Steel, the East India Company, the Potosi Silver Mines, etc.  So not even was our business practices always ‘an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.’  These are but a few examples to show that, in many ways, things were actually worse and less civil in the past then they are today.

Be careful about wishing for life to be like it was in the past.  Because it often wasn’t that good at all, unless you were a lord, noble, sultan, robber baron, or chieftain.  Yet in many ways I live better today, have better access to health care, better access to information, better entertainment, better fitting clothing, and better sanitation than the richest men of one hundred years ago and better than most middle class people in the 1960s.  It’s getting late as I write this so I should think about going to bed.  Yep, tonight I’m sleeping on a spring mattress (something no king or sultan of Medieval times had) wearing comfortable sleep clothes made of manufactured fabrics and processes that didn’t exist two hundred years ago, and with the warmth of central heating (something not even the richest man in the world had in 1900).  Yes life is good.  And should you try to think that things can’t possibly get any better or that we are on ‘the eve of destruction’, well every generation has thought it was the last one or that these were for sure ‘the end times.’

 

 

Trouble Isn’t New

It’s been quite some time since I last posted.  For that I apologize.  I thought that a repost was in order.

You see it on the news all the time.  In fact, it’s all you see anywhere on TV, the internet, or any kind of media.  Of course I mean absolutely nothing but bad news.  If all you ever saw or experienced was what was being shown on the major networks, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, etc., it would be understandable why so many people are sad, depressed, and convinced the world was heading to hell in the proverbial hand basket.  It would be easy to believe that all this trouble and chaos is something new and that the past eras were far more stable and peaceful if all we saw was what was shown on modern media.

Oh how sentimental we are.  As someone who grew up in the 1980s, I remember some of the Cold War and the thought that we Americans and the Russians could start a nuclear holocaust.  Three of the earliest movies I remember seeing were ‘War Games’, ‘The Day After’ and ‘Red Dawn.’  As a child, for awhile I was dead convinced that we would get nuked any day.  That was until my parents explained how they had the same fears growing up in the 1950s.  They even told me about the ‘duck and cover’ drills they used to do in school.  My father and grandfather, on separate occasions with almost the same words, finally told me something that stuck with me ever since.  “Trouble ain’t anything new and the good ol’ days ain’t all they’re cracked up to be.”

Let that sink in for awhile.  Sure we have problems.  We’ve had problems.  We’re always going to have problems.  Let me tell you about a little about a time in America’s past.  We had an unpopular war going on.  We had a president, who was hated by some and revered by others, get murdered.  We had draft dodgers and race riots. We had magnificent technologies that got going strong.  Which era am I talking about?  If you thought the 1960s, you’re wrong.  I was actually talking about the 1860s.  Simply replace Vietnam with the Civil War, JFK with Abraham Lincoln, and replace Watts with New York City, the Space Program with The Transcontinental Railroad, and we have the same story line but in entirely separate centuries. 

Sure we have our problems with the NSA issues, debt issues (both national and individual), endless wars, poverty, new sicknesses, etc.  But would we rather have the threat of foreign spies in our highest levels of government (like America did in the 1950s) or the KGB  (as communist Russia had)? Or the debt issues that much of the world outside America has? Or the endless wars that were the Crusades, the 100 Years War, or the such long wars of empire building that ancient Greece and Rome had?  Or would we rather deal with Swine Flu or the Bubonic Plague that claimed close to 1/3 of Europe in the Middle Ages or even the Flu Outbreak of 1918?

I don’t write this to demean the problems we have right now.  I simply write to state we’ve found solutions in the past to past problems and the human spirit that resonates in every one of us has, is, and will keep finding solutions to our problems.  Just as there has always been trouble in the world so will there be people at all levels of societies working on the solutions.