Posts Tagged ‘society’

until you don’t

Also, the Real Problem with Fried Chicken.

Recently I was in the Land of Fun known as the laundromat, and a story came on the radio about how people were found to be happier later in life than in their twenties.  Whoa.  Newsflash!!! Anyway it went on to say that as people got older and went through more adversity they were better able to cope and stay in balance.  The owner of the laundromat was there, swishing a mop around and suddenly that mop went ballistic.  UNTIL YOU DON’T! he yelled.  YOU’RE NOT BETTER ABLE TO COPE!! and so forth.  He turned a bit pink and I reminded him to breathe and lower his shoulders.  I happen to know that he’s had a pretty large adversity serving the past few years, and I said: True.  You cope til you don’t.  Then you have a massive snap fest, wind up face down on broken glass, struggle to get up and wait til the cuts heal.  He actually laughed, looked at me, and said that somehow he knew I’d get it.  I was, after all, the one who was there the day the Big Washer Broke and the entire laundromat was two feet deep in water in about 15 minutes.  A man wearing a t-shirt saying he’d given himself to Jesus made a call to the posted emergency number that was so astonishingly inchoate it made me glad Jesus accepted the poor lamb. I may have mentioned all this at the time.  Anyway, I called the number, rustled up some help and soothed the jangled nerves of the person on the other end of the phone who was still assimilating the incoherent prior call.  IN the meantime, before help arrived suddenly the water? was up to the washer bottoms and sizzling noises were beginning to happen.  I was in rubber shoes, too.  What to do? All the dryers were running and the washers were starting to sound ominous.  With help from a handsome young man (where’d HE come from???) I found the water turn off on the original, offending washer, opened the doors to the laundromat and whooshed water out.  Given we’re in a drought the resident birds were delirious with joy, taking baths and drinking in the now torrential flow.  The cavalry arrived shortly and all was more or less well.  In any event the laundromat owner thinks I’m a good person.  I’ll take it.

Perhaps this is what they’re talking about, in saying that you’re happier as you get older.  What I think it is? Is you just know at long last that not only is there no time to waste, there is DEFINITELY no time to freak out.  I suppose that can give a person a sense of calm mastery from time to time.  While they’re picking broken glass out of their face.  After an until you don’t moment.

So.  After another more recent day during which tempers flared, milk spilled, and I indulged in some blubbing while cleaning up and sorting yet again through the boxes in my storage shed known that day as MY RUINED LIFE, I thought actually about the laundromat flood and ensuing kafuffle.  Thought about how really having to be right about things is missing the point (re flaring tempers and just who Jesus will save), and how spilled things are just spilled things and you do the best you can with the Whole thing.  In the spirit of snap fest past, I decided to do something I’d never done before.  Which is make fried chicken.

My mother was, I think now, pathologically concerned with me not being overweight.  I became well acquainted with cottage cheese and Ry Krisp.  And thank God, not fat.  In any event we didn’t have fried chicken much and I thought: too hard to make.  Too messy.  FATTENING.  See where this is going? Another thing I thought I couldn’t do.  And now I’m getting a message that my draft isn’t being saved so we’ll see if I can even do THIS.

Anyway, the real truth about fried chicken is this.  It is as easy to make as falling off a log.  Easy, we may say, peasy.  The problem then becomes you can have it WHENEVER YOU WANT.  It doesn’t even have to be unhealthy if you use the right oils and keep temperature.  That still doesn’t make it something you should have every day or even every week.  It’s something you have to hold in regard and have once in a while.  It is, thus, one of those things in life that’s like a tiny party you can have for yourself when you’re picking the broken glass out of your face yet again.  And this, I thought, was quite a wonderful revelation.

It seems to me that if we all remembered that we can step forward in adversity, and there are rewards and joys no matter what happens, especially if we put the other person’s feelings and well being at least on a par with our own (I was actually worried about the laundromat guy’s water bill that day- almost as much as I worried about my own imminent electrocution)(the Partner had been mooning around about fried chicken, so even though I was Mightily Peeved with him at the time…..), we might even survive this ghastly election.  Anyway, we need to and to do that, getting back to basics seems to be in order.  In that vein I feel happy to be the one to tell you you can in fact make your own celebratory fried chicken in the event you can find a decent chicken.  You can coordinate with people you don’t agree with, might not like even a tiny bit.  It all moves things forward in a positive way.  Instead of a fear based, anger mongering, stupidity exacerbating way which seems to be disturbingly pervasive.   Onward, then.  And as Jacques Pepin says, happy cooking- which covers a LOT of ground.

Thank you!


An Understanding

The May 5th edition of THE NEW YORKER had a fascinating article, “Kin and Kind”, by Jonah Lehrer.  It was about the origin of kindness in species, and the research both biological and mathematical that has carried on since Darwin first broached his findings.

One of the main scientists referred to in the article was E.O. Wilson, who among other things is probably the world’s expert on ants.  Ants live quite cooperatively, as we should know.  So do many other creatures; kindness is not always intermittent it seems.  So Wilson explored the question of how cooperation developed, some mathematicians joined the project, and they proceeded to create quite a kafuffle between biologists who felt their math was too complex and others who felt the original math that had led to some understanding of the development of kindness and altruism was too simple.  One thing Wilson observed was that at times altruistic behavior is a response to an environmental situation such as scarcity of living space.  Other times it is part of a hierarchical organization with a supreme ruler, the Queen of the Ants for example, where everyone serves her but in return gets protection and a functional life.  Anyway, you should read the article, Gentle Reader.

The closing quote, however, that entered my quivering little brain was this, from Wilson himself:

“Selfishness beats altruism within groups.  Altruistic groups beat selfish groups.  Everything else is commentary.

I thus realized that the experiences of the weekend tied right in to my ongoing struggles in understanding why it is that non-violence, which seems so obviously the right choice as to be a no brainer, is such a challenging practice over the long term.  Lost in the commentary again!   As humans we have a barely navigable mix of SELFISH and ALTRUISTIC.  Given that selfishness trumps everything in groups- and we can see this is true by a simple glance at our current society and government.  Selfishness trumps everything in this group.  We know deep down that kindness and cooperation go alot farther than pushing our own agendas no matter what but somehow….the lure of that success right in front of one seems to win out over the larger sense that we do better when we ALL do better.  So we’re, in essence, hardwired for this push pull, this WTF free for all in which our altruistic selves swim up stream against the tide that says selfishness and temporary benefit is “right”.

For a minute I saw myself floating way up in the sky, looking down, and thinking, well.  Heck.  There is clear evidence that altruism and cooperation do, indeed work, and work very well.  But somehow it is very difficult to make that work as well as selfishness seems to in a given instant.   Selfishness seems to always lead to conflict, violence- problems.  So why do we keep behaving in such a poorly adaptive manner?  I still don’t understand that, but I can see that those two strains of being, we might say, are constantly locked into a dance with each other.  It’s real, and I’m not crazy when I feel these energies pushing and swirling around.  So what it requires is thinking.  Attention.  Awareness.  On everyone’s part.  Oh, my goodness.  Seems like a tall order.   The quotes that are rattling around in the cranium at this point are:

Martin Luther King, Jr. ” I have decided to stick with Love.  Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

A Cuban revolutionary, Menoyo: “When you are subjected to a policy of savagery and barbarism, you come to the conclusion that you have to reject those methods, that you have to be the first to set hatred aside- otherwise it will destroy you…”

And, of course, Gandhi’s tomb, where an inscription asks the visitor to imagine the poorest person they’ve ever seen, and ask themselves if their next act will be of any use to that person.

Armed with this new understanding, I think I feel more dismay, oddly, than before because in a way it seems that the only way to get society to grasp this concept is by, again as Gandhi said, doing it yourself.  Being the change you want to see.  Etc.  At present that seems to be a Sisyphusian task.  Now I see that the forces that operate against this approach are implacable in their own way, have always been there, and transmutation takes a long time.  It has to shift and evolve and that means some need must present itself, essentially, in order for shift to move progressively instead of congealing into pockets of conformity and apparent “safety”.  It isn’t even necessarily good, bad or indifferent in the overall view. It’s simply that selfishness is unproductive of overall good in the long run.  So one goes, essentially, against the tide and…..hopes for the best.

At the same time, of course there is hope, because this impulse toward good is just as real and powerful as everything else, as its opposite is.  It’s all energy, all moving.  Perhaps it is simply that as humans there are things we cannot see ahead of us, thus we cannot be overly concerned with them.  As in, what’s going to happen here?  Answer: Anything is possible.  And out of the truth of that possibility, let us focus on the endless possibilities inside that possibility, even though attaining them means repeating the same actions over and over, on and on.  Being the help first before we consume.

And so it is that every answer creates another question, don’t you think?