Friday, May 16, 2014


I've been working on my book for the last while, which is why I haven't been making any posts.  But it's "in the can" now, awaiting art work.  When that is finished, I plan on publishing it myself on the Kobo website.  It's title is Walking the Talk:  Engaging the Public to Build a Sustainable World.  Eventually, I will have to start publicizing it, which will involve a note on this blog.


Right now I'm sitting at the dining room table of my wife and mother-in-law's home in St. Louis.  I'd been looking forward to this visit for a long time.  Unfortunately, Misha is afflicted with a psychiatric illness that results in one or two psychotic episodes every year.  She's in one right now.  Since she is primary care-giver to her invalid mother, when she is in one of these states the household starts to become chaotic.

As a result, I have been doing a fair amount of work cleaning up various messes that have resulted from a combination of neglect, attempts to shock, and, "fengshui". This latter bit involves things like leaving Coke cans in various places, dirty laundry strategically strewn around, and so on.  Part of the problem is that she always opposes anything I do.  I'm learning that she usually doesn't seem to mind once the job is done, so I'm just going to start doing things without asking.

The problem is that I have a hard time thinking of the woman I love as someone I need to "manage" and "humour" instead of someone that I can engage with as an equal.  It doesn't help that she has a very well-developed sense of outrage when she thinks that I am treating her like a child.  I suppose this is the hardest part of it.  I keep wanting to talk to her and instead I get some sort of bizarre mixture of the old Misha and some sort of wild, obstinate child with totally illogical fixations.

All of this has unleashed a maelstrom of emotions and thoughts in me.

Part of me is feeling sorry for myself and wondering if I was wrong marrying her.  When that happens, my rational mind kicks in and says that all through my life I have avoided relationships with women because I thought that they had some sort of mental disorder.  I define this quite broadly.  I've had lovers who eventually suffered from full-blown schizophrenia through various forms of emotionality to someone who was simply far too attached to a middle-class lifestyle (I also consider this a very bad thing.)   The point is I came to the conclusion that if you want to have a relationship you have to accept that the person you spend your life with is going to have problems and this is going to cause discord and chaos in your life.

I had this fact driven home to me a couple weeks ago.  A man who had been a quite close friend came to my door while I was watching a movie.  He came in and told me that his wife had recently died of liver cancer and he would like me to come to her funeral.  He had lost my phone number, so he came over in person.  He told me about how hard it was to watch her die, all the regrets he felt about the way he'd treated her, and, how his three sons were angry at him----because they had to be angry at something and he was the only person available.

Sometimes I find myself becoming angry with Misha.  Her illness makes my life more complicated than I would like it to be.  I have my own ideas about what I want to do, but the sheer unavoidability of her wilful mental illness gets in the way of that.  It means that I have to accommodate myself to her crazy moods.  And I keep forgetting that she is not herself and try to have a rational discussion with her, which never ends well.

This gets me thinking about a great many things.

For example, mortality.  Mortality is more than just accepting death.  More importantly, it is about accepting that life is fundamentally flawed.  Buddhists say "Life is Dukkha", and I understand that this is part of what they are going on about.  I get old, my joints ache from arthritis, my bowels ache from colitis, no matter how much I wish I would stop doing it, I still find myself needlessly annoying the people around me.  And my wife cannot stop going mad every once in a while.  That is the Dao.

I would dearly love to not have the people around me bent and determined on ruining the planet, but they still do it.  I would love to find the magical means of having people listen to me when I suggest that there is a better way to live our lives, but they ignore me.  And I cannot even find a way to live permanently with the woman I love.  That is the Dao.

When we read about the ancients it is easy to forget how gawdawful a lot of their lives were.  The earliest of the "Old Ones" that we identify with the name "Laozi" and "Zhuangzi" were still alive when important leaders were burying their retainers alive at funerals.  Punishments were meted on entire families instead of just individuals.  Wars were usually genocidal.  Slavery was rampant. Starvation a fact of life.

The philosophy of Daoism wasn't some sort of trinket that people played with when the important stuff of life was done for the day.  It was grim life-and-death stuff that sustained you when your were hanging onto a cliff face by your fingernails or burying your family.  It is so easy to forget this fact.    

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