reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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“try to make room.” [merely-a-thought monday]

“basic logical reasoning” seems to be in short supply. instead, there is a vast vat of hook-line-and-sinker-ism with a side of blind, unquestioning ideological buy-in.

i have been stunned time and again reading social media threads these days. i thought that i grew up – and attended a high school – in an area that valued education . . . even at its simplest – to learn the lifelong skill of complex critical thinking and rational deductive reasoning based on learning how to research, how to gather factual information and observations and weigh all these elements appropriately and objectively, working toward a conclusion. i would have guessed that most of the people i went to high school with, like my dear friend marc, – all those years ago – having been taught by world-class teachers – would have this skill but this is apparently not so. social media has proven me wrong.

again and again, i read with horror the comments of those who have narrowed the spectrum of the tools they use to garner information. again and again, i shudder to see how limited they have made their worlds – how learning is restricted to resources that have their same opinion, how crossing any aisle to ponder, question, discuss, evaluate, negotiate – in any arena – is impossible. i’m astounded by the sheer ignoring (note the similarity to the word ignorance here) of factual information. it’s staggering to see so much anger directed so quickly and pointedly – with extensive name-calling – by people who use limited vocabulary, use limited or no citations of unbiased truth, clearly have limited empathy for others different than themselves, but have unlimited dedication to their beliefs – particularly under the ever-widening umbrella of extreme political beliefs these days – with no evidence to substantiate them. behaviors that are outlandish – even in this day and age after the last administration’s unleashed and continued field day on hatred and vitriol and lies – perversity at its best.

it’s disheartening to casually scroll through social media and stumble into a thread in which a participant has gone from zero to warp speed in milliseconds, spouting, spouting, spouting. the spew may be ‘big lie’ related, voting-restriction related, vaccination related, pandemic related, mask related, race or gender related, gun-control related, climate related, taxation related, social programs related, science related, any-color-koolaid related. i – maybe like you – have been the target time and again of being called names (really?!) by people i don’t know, people i’d think would know (or at least speak) better, people who are ‘friends’ of ‘friends’, people from my old high school, people who are just clearly ticked off in a big way and need a target. if you even attempt to engage in a conversation, it quickly disintegrates into stupefying borrowed rhetoric.

i suppose this trend will continue, as a large part of our country has made it perfectly acceptable to just unconsciously follow pied pipers or obnoxious acolytes thereof. it’s somehow become perfectly acceptable, even noteworthily cheered on, to use aggressive language, to be hostile and combative, to be both prey and purveyor of distraction and mediocrity, to state and re-state and post and forward false information, to not ask questions, to disregard facts, to be so deep into belief that it’s no longer necessary to examine knowledge, seek anything evidentiary, or look for relevant logic.

i’m still proud of john glenn high school. i’m proud of the teachers i was lucky enough to be taught by back then. i’m glad i paid attention, that i made learning and how to learn a priority. it’s a fluid and continual lesson. i believe it’s that which is essential for existence, vital for living. i know we’re never done.

but it doesn’t stop me from rolling my eyes at those whose “room for some basic logical reasoning” is scant. it’s dispiriting.

and i just want to add one more thing while i’m at it. a tiny peeve of mine. please check your spelling, grammar, word usage, sentence structure, auto-correct – maybe consider proofreading – before you opine on social media. particularly if you want to be taken seriously. (consider, if you will, a posting of the words: “voter freud“.) words, punctuation, coherence – they all matter. perhaps not as much as your intention, but still…

my sweet momma always said, “if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.” she also famously said, “look it up!”

she, like me, would be aghast at these more recent trends. and she, like me, would still hold out hope for human decency.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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words where i’m from. [k.s. friday]

with a peace sign dangling around her neck and a bandana wrapping her hair, andrea would stress how important it was to choose our words wisely, to weigh those choices carefully, to take time, to be thoughtful. she was the.most.amazing. english teacher. her words still echo in my mind and there are so many moments that i wish i could sit with her, have coffee with her, ponder life with her. that she is on some other plane of existence for a few years now is too much, too soon, and too late for me. john glenn high school was fortunate to have her and those of us who sat in the chairs in her classroom were gifted with a spirit that generously still swirls around me and i’m sure many others. it’s where i’m from.

“watch what you say,” momma would tell me. “you can’t take it back.” yes, once those words are out there, they are out there. no one can erase them and the damage or good they do is a part of the universe-story. my sweet momma adored words. in her later years, sometimes we’d have to have a chuckle as the wrong word would surface and the right word would stay in that moat i always profess is surrounding our synapses. we would search for the right word while swimming in the wrong one, but we’d eventually get there. her words echo in my heart. it’s where i’m from.

now, i have to say that there are many among us – i’m sure myself included – who are not choosing our words wisely, who are not consistently watching what we say. and in these times, in every single arena, that matters.

this morning we read an article about the terrifying january 6 insurrection at the united states capitol: “some of you have recognized that this was such an egregious incident that you have turned in your own friends and family members,” the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s washington dc field office stated. an appropriate use of the word “egregious”.

egregious: (adj) outstandingly bad; shocking.

from dictionary.com: egregious: extraordinary in some bad way, glaring, flagrant.

according to legaldictionary.net: “in a legal context, the term egregious refers to actions or behaviors that are staggeringly bad, or obviously wrong, beyond any reasonable degree.”

now there’s a word. “egregious.” one would think that the divvying out of such a word would be with great forethought, with a deference to reality and the measure of truth, with reserve and adherence to its definition, without exuberant overuse. yet in these times it is appearing in more than just cameo roles.

the washington post had an article titled, “the egregious gaslighting around trump’s handling of the pandemic” (philip bump). an appropriate use of the word “egregious”.

hillary clinton has been quoted saying that impeachment was placed in the constitution in the event that there would be “a leader whose behavior would be so egregious, so threatening to the republic, that there had to be a remedy.” yet another appropriate use of the word “egregious”.

i have used the word “egregious” twice in my own blogpost-writing. once was in my post “indecency keeps getting rewarded” and the other time was in my post “what moms (i) want“. both times i weighed this word, tossing it around in my brain, checking its definition, making certain it was the right word. because – that’s where i’m from. i could hear andrea and my sweet momma cautioning me, “once it’s out there, it’s out there.”

because these times are really not at all ordinary, we are seeing the use of strong adjectives, heavy-hitting adverbs. we are reading and hearing people-who-are-trying-to-make-a-point wax poetic or spew rhetoric, both. we grant them an audience as we read, as we listen – ourselves. it is up to us to decide if the words that they choose are appropriate, wreaking an equal action or reaction, if they are exaggerated, wreaking panic, if they are scandalous, wreaking havoc, if they are slanderous, wreaking destruction. we are responsible persons – capable of question-asking, fact-checking, stepping back from drama and observing through eyes of truth-telling.

i guess it all depends on where we’re from.

incidentally, the archaic definition of egregious is: remarkably good.

“choose wisely.” (andrea)

*****

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read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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space-space. [merely-a-thought monday]

john glenn high school.  typing class.  rules.  rules.  rules.

one of them:  two spaces between sentences.

earlier this week, pryce re-posted, “out of an abundance of caution, the ap style book and the chicago manual of style are reinstituting the two-space rule between sentences to support social distancing.”  it literally made me laugh aloud.  my friend mona commented, “hard habit to break.  no going back.”  exactly.  it’s ingrained.  the red pen was generously applied to typing papers without two spaces; it was a rule sans excuses.

but the word “reinstituting” caused me some consternation.

i loved typing.  i even typed my high school science lab reports and poetry i transcribed out of composition notebooks that kept me company at the beach, in the tree outside my bedroom window, in the wee hours of the night.

my undergrad and grad school years happened by the mid-80s.   all of my undergrad papers were typed on a typewriter.  my grad school papers were on an early apple 2E, with sprocket-holed printer paper. type type type.  lots of typing.

and i have never-ever only used one space after a sentence or a question or an exclamation or a colon.

i cannot believe what “reinstituting” implies.  somewhere on the punctuation train, i stalled.  i realize formal changes may be due to typesetting and the difference between typewriters and computers and some debate over the ease of reading sentences, but how are we supposed to find out these things??  i asked d how many spaces he uses after sentences, to which he replied, “one.”  what?!  i wrote to joan-who-knows-these-things to settle this mushrooming problem.  though she said using two was out of habit, she sided with me.

and so i just went upstairs to dig out-of-the-depths my old APA book – the third edition of the publication manual of the american psychological association, copyrighted in 1983, which was both the bible and the biggest pain in the ass for writing papers in graduate school.  here it what it says on page 140:

APA spacing copy

i feel vindicated.  heartened.  validated.  my two-spaces, although archaic, are supported by a rulebook.  at least they w-e-r-e supported by a rulebook back-in-the-day.  the newest APA book is copyrighted 2020 and is the 7th edition.  here’s what that says about spacing:

new apa

ugh.  (eye roll)

i don’t know if i will try to incorporate this “new”rule.  like kevin, who said he was taught two spaces and is sticking with it, i just might not be able to do it.

at this point, i hardly think anyone will whip out their red pen.

but i can hope that people – in reading my two-spaces-after-a-period-that-says-over-40-writing – will assume JUST a-wee-bit over 40.

ok, ok, that’s doubtful.

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY

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past tommy’s house. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

99 cents:gallon cropped

20 years ago.  apparently the last time gas was 99 cents a gallon in wisconsin was 20 years ago.  i don’t remember that in particular; my children were young and things were busy.   how strange to now be able to purchase gas for 99 cents a gallon, filling up little-baby-scion for about $10, and not be able to go anywhere.

20 years before 20 years ago i remember gas being 79 cents a gallon or so.  on long island, i would go to the citgo station on the corner of larkfield and clay pitts road in my vw bug, filling up for well under $10.  they pumped your gas for you back then.  i had one of my first credit cards, a citgo card, in those days.  on one occasion, a couple days after i got gas, i received a phone call.  it was from the guy who had pumped my gas.  he had saved my information post-pumping and looked my last name up in the phone book.  he called to ask me to go on a date.  he was always nice to me every single time i got gas, so i thought it perfectly innocent to accept.  i don’t remember where we went, but i do remember thinking that i would absolutely not repeat the date – the somewhat unusual way he got my number (i’m thinking that would be against credit card protection acts these days) was befitting of his um, unusual-ness.  “she’s not home,” my mom would tell him time and again when he called.  after a plethora of calls over a series of days, i told him i  wasn’t interested.  i started going to mobil.

citgo, dairy barn, king kullen, genovese drugs, the card store – these were all around the corner, up the hill and turn right.  to get there you’d go right by tommy’s house on the hill.  and just today i found out that tommy, one of the absolute cutest-boys-in-high-school, has died.  a  man taken by coronavirus, i read the posts on facebook remembering him.  it seems, as we lose track of people in our orbit, that they freeze in time – i never knew tommy as an adult so he remains age 18 in my mind’s eye.  we lose track of them and we don’t know their successes or their challenges, things they struggled with or how their lives were shaped as they ‘grew up’.  we make assumptions and find out later that their lives were impacted in ways we never could have guessed, in ways we would have never wished for anyone.  it saddens me deeply to think of tommy, the cool-boy-in-school, struggling in his life, trying to get a firm hold on steady.  the things we don’t know, riding our bikes up that hill just to get a glimpse and maybe wave to him.

20 years go by. and another 20.

and we sit at the pump where it’s 99 cents a gallon.  there is a global pandemic.  we have a blank triptik.  as we drove away from the pump, we looked at each other and pondered without answering, ‘where would we go if we could go?’

but right now, there is no where to go.  were i to be on long island, i would go back to my growing-up house and sit on the curb for a bit.  then i’d go around the corner and up the hill.  and i’d wave as i’d pass tommy’s old house.

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY

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“healing does not mean going back to the way things were before…” [merely-a-thought monday]

healing

it is at that place in my memory where i can juuuust-about-touch-it-but-not-quite – the first time i heard, ‘ don’t stare into the rearview mirror.  that’s not the direction you are going.’  i can’t quite remember when or where i first heard it, but it was one of those comments that i stored away as a wisdom to feed off, something that would give me strength in a moment of weak, something that would give me hope in a moment of despair.

my john glenn high school senior class song was seals and crofts’ we may never pass this way again’.  even if it’s the best.  even if it’s the worst.  never.  this moment won’t be repeated and, with the absence of time travel, we cannot re-live it.  ever.

we have all walked in different shoes on different paths.  we have passed through challenges of which we may never speak; we have had successes about which we have never bragged.  we have been hurt;  we have hurt.  and we have healed.

“healing does not mean going back to the way things were before…” (ram dass)

the thing about healing is what it teaches us.  we can never be un-hurt.  we can never undo what was done or what we did.  we can’t return to the baseline; it has vanished with the winds of change.  in a million tiny pieces of glitter, it’s in that proverbial rearview mirror.

but we can ride the river of our breathing into new normal.  we can carry with us learnings and soft words of apology.  we can pack our virtual baggage with tools of prevention and fairness and forethought.  we can pick up techniques of negotiation and navigating in the process of coming-out-of-pain.  we can avoid the temptation to retreat from moving forward, thinking that healing means it’s all back to what it ‘was’ before.

instead, we can step, in blind faith, into next, trusting that healing will bring us to a new place, a new start.  that healing will have somehow gifted us, given grace to all involved in ways we may never know or understand.  that healing will be like dawn, like rain, like birth.

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY

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andrea’s song

IMG_2711the sound of the cicadas outside brought me back to my childhood home on long island.  we had woods behind our yard and the summer days and nights were a symphony of crickets and cicadas. i would sometimes sit in my poetry tree (a maple outside my bedroom window with perfect limbs for climbing and sitting) late into the day, writing or reading and, although i probably never appreciated the crickets and cicadas as i do now, i would listen as the day would softly pass by. my sweet momma would know where to find me; if i wasn’t riding bikes with sue, at the dive center, fishing with crunch or at the beach, i was likely in that tree.

i wrote a lot of poems in that tree, a lot of reflections, a lot of stories and maybe even a little music…the kind without the music. as i think about the people who encouraged me in writing, one of the first people i think of is andrea. andrea was my high school english teacher. she, along with kevin, were the coolest in the english department. andrea, with kerchiefs in her hair and peace sign necklaces, long skirts and funky glasses, was the epitome of hip. we, painlessly, learned from her teaching style, her quiet wisdom, her laugh, her smile.

andrea was the teacher coordinating the art and literary magazine ‘gemini’ at our high school. i was involved with this annual publication each year, but was the editor-in-chief during my senior year of high school, a job i adored. not only did i get to immerse myself in a lot of poetry and art, but i got to lay out the publication and handle many of the details, all the while hanging out with andrea and having conversations about life and writing and balance.

in the (aaack! many) years since high school i have thought about her often and finally, over the last eight years or so, was able to get back into contact with her.   not only did i want to know how she was, where she was, what she was doing, but i wanted to share with her where i was and what i was doing. mostly, it mattered to me what her thoughts were. during that time we shared snippets of life. i found i could still learn from her teaching style, her quiet wisdom and her smile, even without physically seeing her. at one point she wrote to me, “nothing is idyllic. i think we have idyllic moments. we have to take time to savor what is around us.”   yet another invaluable reminder. how often must we learn these things, i wonder.

when we were planning our trip to boston for this summer, i found myself hoping that we would have the chance to see andrea…meet for coffee, have a glass of wine together. i worried when i didn’t hear back from her; she usually answered email. i was anxious to visit with her, thank her in person for the influence she had had on me, hear what she thought about a project i had sent her. it was about a week before we left, when i was online pondering whether to send her another note, that i saw the very sad news that she had died. i was stunned and (what would maybe seem) inordinately devastated. the connection backwards in time was broken; the opportunity to sit with andrea now vapor.

i thought about extending my sympathies on social media but for some reason that seemed too shallow. there is a loss i feel when i no longer hear the cicadas in the fall…something visceral that i feel inside. the loss of andrea was intensely visceral.

IMG_2708all throughout our home you will find peace signs; each of these signs make me think of this beloved lady in my life, this positive force who, without knowing, kept me writing, thinking, writing.

in my mind’s eye, i can feel sitting in my poetry tree. the cicadas’ song was all around me. as i write now, i cannot help but think about andrea and the things i learned from her, most of which had nothing to do with grammar and punctuation, but instead, with honoring the words within, the emotions, things palpable and things we can’t see or touch.  and so, savoring that learning, in fact, leaning into it, her song is all around me. it’s idyllic.

…peace out…