(no subject)

Friday, February 2nd, 2007 10:59 am
hummingwolf: Drawing of a creature that is part-wolf, part-hummingbird. (Hummingwolf by Dandelion)
Sometimes you need to remind yourself that the existence of a trap directly in your path doesn't mean you need to fall into it. The fact that someone is staying in the trap--voluntarily--when you see a way for them to escape, staying because for them the trap feels like the only home they've ever known, does not mean you need to go into the trap. They may decorate the trap with lace curtains and designer vases full of flowers, but the trap is still a trap and there is still no need for you to submit to it. If someone you care about is in the trap, by all means you should visit with them and speak to them; but you should always make sure that you are speaking to them from the outside of the trap they are caught in. Also make sure to remember that, once they have been shown how to escape from the trap, you are not responsible for ensuring that they do in fact escape. The choice remains with them and, sometimes, people simply are too afraid to live in freedom.

(This note to myself has been cryptic, I suppose, but other people can probably apply it to situations other than the ones I have in mind.)
hummingwolf: Mathemagical animation made out of string. (Incredible String Thing)
I believe in basic human rights for everyone, whether or not they deserve them.

I believe that adults have the right to enter into contracts of whatever form, as long as those contracts are made through mutual consent and do not harm others or induce either party to break some necessary law (such as laws against murder). I believe that this right exists whether or not the parties have ever had sex with each other.

I believe that all sex acts should be consensual.

I believe that adults have a right to privacy and freedom from government intrusion into their private lives. I believe that this right extends to consensual sexual behavior which does no demonstrable harm to others and does not involve breach of contract with others.

I believe that the right to freedom of association extends to people of whom you disapprove.

I believe in rule by law, not by individuals or groups who consider themselves outside or above the law.

I believe that where laws are unjust, they must be changed; but also that when those in authority break the law, they deserve greater punishment than those under their authority. I believe that those at the highest levels of government should be held to the highest standards.

I believe that any sense of security achieved by the restriction of basic human liberty is a false sense of security which cannot endure.

I believe that the single most important function of any branch of government is to protect the people from the abuses of the other branches of government.

I believe that punishment should come after the conclusion of a fair trial, not before.

I believe that some people deserve to be tortured. However, I also believe that acts of torture do such damage both to the torturer and to the society that condones torture that torture must not be condoned, however much it may be deserved.

I believe that a government which cannot achieve its objectives without torture is a government which must change its objectives. I believe that a society for which torture is essential to the way of life is a society which deserves to crumble.
hummingwolf: (two)
On Sunday afternoon, I added a new interest to my list on LJ: "listening to shadows." The shadows have been telling me things I never expected from them, but I suppose that's the way shadows usually are. Last night's shadows were particularly noisy. I think they belonged to a raccoon. There's a Procyon lotor hanging out in the neighbor's chimney who's been taking advantage of the springtime weather, draping himself across the top of the chimney and basking in the sun. Sometimes he wakes up and looks around himself with the kind of adorable innocence you'll only ever find on the face of a fuzzy predator.

Thinking of a predator's innocence reminds me of the way people are constantly confusing innocence and naïveté. It's such a common mistake, but it's so easily avoided. We've all known (or been) children who would willingly have done great damage if they'd only believed they could. The most naïve person may be incredibly spiteful. When you see it, you know you are not seeing the face of innocence. The naïve person is the one who doesn't know what people are capable of. The innocent person knows the things they are capable of, and does not do them.

It's a lot like the difference between harmlessness and defenselessness, attributes which overlap rarely if at all. It's easy to see the difference when you give someone a sword. An utterly unskilled person, unable to defend themselves, can do a lot of damage through their lack of skill. It's so easy to lose control of a weapon you don't understand, injuring someone you never meant to touch. And a person who is too weak to hold a good sword is also a danger, again because control is difficult for those of little strength. The most harmless people will be experts, people who know how to teach you their art without ever cutting you. Becoming truly harmless requires strength and skill of a level few of us will ever approach.

The fuzzy beast has his head hanging on the other side of the chimney, derrière pointed in my direction. When's the last time you were mooned by a raccoon?
hummingwolf: squiggly symbol floating over rippling water (Kaleidoscope (purple & white))
People become what they focus on. This is why, while it may be useful to know what you are fighting against, it is urgent and necessary to know what you are fighting for.

People who are going toward someplace, get there. The way may seem long and arduous, but they carry their destination with them.

People who are trying to escape someplace, find, like Alice, that all roads lead to that same place and they always wind up walking through the same door. Sometimes, unlike Alice, they no longer recognize the place, only knowing that they still feel the same need to escape. They too carry their destination with them.

I need to figure out what it is I'm fighting for. Otherwise I run the risk of turning into a stressed-out bureaucrat, and nobody wants that.

Now, HERE, you see, it takes all the running YOU can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!
hummingwolf: squiggly symbol floating over rippling water (one)
This morning, I had a simply lovely rant in mind that I wanted to write out and post for your enjoyment. But I decided to do some research in order to bolster my point and got so caught up in reading on various topics that the impetus to rant simply faded away.

Later, there was another entry begging to flow through my willing fingers, but again the sirens of knowledge sang me their song and the whole idea was dashed on the rocks.

After resting a bit and reading a bit, I had a lovely witticism I wanted to share. But then I realized that what had seemed so clever was based on a bit of ignorance I'd rather not display before all and sundry.

Nothing much was accomplished today, but I'm very nearly proud of what I didn't say.

(no subject)

Sunday, May 8th, 2005 09:44 am
hummingwolf: Drawing of a creature that is part-wolf, part-hummingbird. (Hummingwolf by Dandelion)
So I'm sitting here at the computer listening to a stream of music consisting of two-decade old songs which, as determined by a proprietary algorithm based on aggregate data from zillions of users all over the world, are generally well-liked by fans of an artist whose latest work-in-progress has been made available online one mp3 at a time, and I'm feeling both old (for needing to hear 20-year-old music this morning) and young (having flashbacks to 12th-grade guitar class where a couple of guys are making fun of an Outfield song (and I hear "Voices in Babylon" now and can't believe I forgot there was an Outfield song I genuinely like) and talking about how classic rock was so much better than the crap in the top 40 in 1987 while I'm wondering if I'll understand anything in calculus next period) and, as I wonder how many of my friends all over the world are awake at this moment, I'm looking at a page with my syndicated feeds on it and see that the link to an article about church members getting kicked out because they didn't vote for Bush is followed on the page by the Bible verse "For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ" and the irony pleases me so much I want to share it with a bunch of people I've never met.

If someone two hundred years from now writes a historical novel set in the year 2005, this is the kind of moment I hope they think to include. They'll probably write about Britney Spears instead.

The Role of a Lifetime

Wednesday, April 13th, 2005 10:22 am
hummingwolf: Part of a julia fractal in colors of fire and smoke. (Fire-flavored fractal)
In this world, we all have our troubles. Every single one of us has moments, or months, or years, where we feel we are suffering--must suffer--will continue to suffer more than we can possibly bear. For the biblically literate, the story of Job is the obvious comparison. Poor Job! Calamity after calamity, misery upon misery, all piled on top of this innocent man! He never knew the reason--he was blamed for asking the question--and totally blameless, he endured so much. How could he stand it? He was just like meee!

Who here is familiar with Archibald MacLeish's J.B.: A Play in Verse? It's a modern retelling of the book of Job. Wait, no, that's not quite it: "my J.B. is not a reconstruction of the Book of Job--not, at least, a reconstruction of the kind presently familiar in which the discovery of the model is part of the adventure. My play is put in motion by two broken-down actors who believe, themselves, that the play is the Book of Job and that one of them is acting God and the other, Satan. When J.B. and his family appear however it is not out of the bible that they come."

When we read this play aloud in twelfth-grade English, the teacher wanted each role to be performed by a single person for consistency's sake. So she began to describe each part, great and small, and asked who in the class wanted to read it. When she came to one particular role and began to delineate it, suddenly her eyes grew wide and you could practically see the big light bulb popping on over her head as she turned to me and asked "Do you want to play this part?"

Now, for which role in the story of Job could I have been such an obvious choice?Extended Quote )


Monday, April 11th, 2005 09:41 pm
hummingwolf: squiggly symbol floating over rippling water (one)
There are long stretches of winter and summer when you can hardly tell the days one from another. All the world is brown, or all the world is white, this day is like tomorrow and it just goes on and on.

Spring isn't like that. Each day has new beauties, specific to itself, which will fade by tomorrow to be replaced by another kind of loveliness. Cherry blossoms at their glorious peak yesterday morning began to cast away their petals in the late afternoon, the beginnings of what will be a white carpet on the sidewalks and streets tomorrow or the next day. Leaf buds, barely perceived, which seemed to envelop bare branches in a green kind of haze, open up into fresh tiny green leaves, then mature into something more stable. One day you have an ordinary patch of grass--next day you have a lawn covered in white and purple violets and golden dandelions.

It's always true that one day of your life is unique in itself and you will never see its like again. But the illusion of sameness can be strong. This time of year, if you're willing to pay attention, the illusion is stripped away. Open your senses and you are always rewarded with something new.

So anyway, yesterday I started out feeling like a bundle of exposed nerves, in a not entirely unpleasant way. Went for a long walk (didn't go quite to the DC line, but only because I got turned around in a traffic circle and figured I may as well keep going in the new direction), enjoying the sights of the cherry trees and bradford pears and more bradford pears, as well as flowers and chirping birds and people hanging out in their neighborhoods on a sunny and warm spring day. Unfortunately by the end of the day I was feeling overexposed and wished my nerves would stop being so exquisitely sensitive when I felt like I was developing a sunburn.

Today, went walking in a different direction, not so far as yesterday. Between yesterday and today, I traipsed through urban areas and wooded paths; crossed streams and rivers (okay, one branch of one river); admired big houses in nice neighborhoods, little houses in friendly neighborhoods, and ugly apartment buildings I can be happy not to live in; and wandered into a few buildings to do the typical boring errands. Squirrels, dogs, small children, and a Birman cat have crossed my path. Man, am I tired.

I finally found some of the Darth Mix Dark Chocolate M&Ms today, so maybe those will help to fuel tomorrow's enjoyment of tomorrow's new beauties.
hummingwolf: Drawing of a creature that is part-wolf, part-hummingbird. (Hummingwolf by Dandelion)
(aside from the coughing keeping me up at nights, that is)

...is that people always become whatever they focus on.

People in love become lovely. Even if the object of their affections is not so wonderful, when a person is focused on the wonderful qualities which they believe are embodied by the person they love, then they become better for it.

Anti-cult crusaders, when fighting the cult and its authoritarian trappings is the focus of their lives, have been known to become the most egregious cult leaders of all.

Among religious people who supposedly worship the same deity or follow the same path, it becomes obvious which ones focus on God's love and mercy, which ones focus on divine punishment of the infidel, and which ones are obsessive about the perversions of outsiders.

It is also obvious which people spend entirely too much time on "mock the stupid" and snark communities. Those people become altogether too subject to mockery and snark themselves without realizing it. (Not a reference to everyone on those communities, mind you. Just saying that you can tell which folks are obsessed because they become that which they claim to hate.)

The problem I am having at the moment (aside from the mucus-filled lungs which, sadly, do try to monopolize my thoughts right now)? I have been much too focused on the behaviors of incompetent, clueless, and/or generally unhelpful people lately. The urge is strong to find a friend with a flamethrower to deal with those people so I won't have to think about them anymore, but that option would probably not be the best. I do need to find a way to deal with things without focusing on the bad aspects, though. I have enough problems without attracting such unpleasant qualities to myself.

Reading through the Harry Potter books as I have been doing lately at least gives me something else to focus on for a while. Sadly, I do not think I will be able to focus quite enough to become a great Quidditch player any time soon. Maybe next lifetime.

(no subject)

Saturday, February 12th, 2005 01:24 pm
hummingwolf: (two)
One of the things to remember is that your strengths can weaken you. It's hard to remember this, of course. We may appreciate paradox in a theoretical context, but practical paradox does not sit well with us.

People cope. Resilient creatures that the hnau of this planet are, we find ways to adapt to situations we never imagined we would need to face. We convince ourselves that everything is okay (and I sit here typing this listening to my Launchcast station which just followed the Carpenters "Where Do I Go from Here?" with Kina's "Have a Cry"), things may be tough but we can deal with these little obstacles, we put one foot in front of the other even if we're not sure of the direction. ("Have a Cry" is followed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra doing a bit of Holst's Planets: "Venus, The Bringer of Peace.") Yeah, peace sounds good. Maybe if we adapt well enough, we find it. People cope.

I have this bad habit of resting just enough to be able to impersonate a healthy person for a while. Folks all around the neighborhood are impressed by how much walking I do; I get "Hey, power walker!" comments on a semi-regular basis. I have to walk where I need to go because I cannot drive. I have to spend hours in bed any day I need to walk. I can deal with hours sitting around at social services by sitting with my head below my knees to keep from passing out. I can deal with A by doing B and deal with C by doing D and deal all the way through the alphabet and impress people with my adaptability. (Jah Wobble's Invaders of the Heart, "Raga" from Take Me to God.) Resilience is a strength. I've adapted so well that it looks as if this lung infection never will go away unless some crisis forces me to rest. (Talking about my beleaguered lungs and now listening to a live version of the Police's "Every Breath You Take.")

What happens if I stop adapting? What is life like for those who refuse to cope? What happens if I have that crisis I've just managed to avoid? If I finally give in to my weakness, will I find a new strength?

("Images in Stone," eh?)
hummingwolf: Drawing of a creature that is part-wolf, part-hummingbird. (Hummingwolf by Dandelion)
If you are in the habit of asking yourself "What Would Jesus Do?" then you should be aware that, based on the available evidence, "Setting forth a rational systematic theology in simple declarative sentences" is never the right answer.

(Why yes, I have been reading Bible commentaries again. Why do you ask?)
hummingwolf: squiggly symbol floating over rippling water (Kaleidoscope (purple & white))
The problem with fundamentalists isn't that they take the Bible literally. Many of them are quite well aware that the scripture is full of symbols and metaphors and complex ideas and oblique references to other bits of scripture as well as ideas floating around in the air at the time of writing. The problem is that instead of reading the poetry they find there, they listen to bad poetry teachers. They think they know better than you, not because they have breathed in, drunk, eaten, digested the poetry and made it a part of their being; but because they've memorized the Cliff's Notes and you haven't.
hummingwolf: Part of a julia fractal in colors of fire and smoke. (Fire-flavored fractal)
I desperately want to convince myself that I have nothing in common with the people who desperately want to convince themselves that they have nothing in common with the people who disagree with them; but even as tired and ickly as I am, I can't quite manage to ignore that particular absurdity.

So it seems to be a natural feature of the hnau of this planet to try to place everyone into a little box as we decide who is like us, who is unlike us. And the ones who are unlike us and who we happen not to like must be wholly unlike us, incomprehensible to us and uncomprehending of us. This saves us time. If we already know that we will never understand nor be understood, then all the hard work of communicating may safely be skipped over and we can go straight to the vilification and the fighting. We're so much smarter than they are, anyway. We have logic, intuition, morality, and common sense on our side, you know. If our opponents do not recognize this, it is only proof of their inferiority.

Said a few days ago to the incredible [livejournal.com profile] skygypsy: "if you simply must define yourself, define yourself in a way that leaves your box open-ended. Define yourself as the efflorescence resulting from the collision of a jack-in-the-box and a distant sun. Call yourself a cross between an African tea rose and a pan flute. Explain calmly that you are what happens when an iridescent sense of justice is painted with pink polka-dots. But don't tell people you're a mixture of a wolf and a hummingbird, because your totem animal has that one covered." I did pick my name, this cross between two disparate creatures, as a way of trying to escape being categorized as one thing or another based on my handle. Of course, people categorize you anyway. They assume gender, religion, fashion statements based on nothing more than a name. Let them see your face or learn about your past history, and they become certain of incontrovertible facts about your psychology and your potential future based on nothing more substantial than side effects of genetics and circumstance. It makes things interesting.

If you are foolish enough to engage my opponents in debate, they will commit the logical fallacy of making appeals to authority, stating that X must be true, unquestioningly, simply because some high leader or spurious bit of scripture stated X. We do not commit that fallacy. When we cite authority, everyone knows that our authority is always right.

Sometimes they will try to convince you of something by stating that "Everyone knows X is true," that all the ignorant masses gathered in their herd like sheep must be bleating in unison because of some self-evident truth. But everyone knows that throughout history the majority has frequently been altogether in the wrong. When we appeal to common sense, we do so only when the truth clearly is obvious to every sane and rational person.

Our opponents, when questioned, will add to their words many specious and complicated arguments in a feeble attempt to hide the evident contradictions of their position. When they complain that we seem to be contradicting and overcomplicate our arguments, it is because they have no appreciation for the beauties of subtlety and paradox.

There really is no arguing with these people. We have nothing in common.

There really is no arguing with these people. We are far too much alike.

Hey, you!

Saturday, June 19th, 2004 09:33 am
hummingwolf: (two)
Yes, I'm talking to you.

I know you feel that you need to achieve something more than you have, that there's this nagging belief itching at your soul that you won't really be somebody unless you've done something important. You may or may not want the spotlight; but either way, you want to know that you have done something you can feel proud of, and you are sure you'll feel unfulfilled until you've done it.

I've got news for you. Great accomplishment will not make you a great person. Sorry, it just doesn't happen that way.

Noteworthy achievements simply make it easier to see what kind of person you already are.

What I've been reading

Wednesday, June 16th, 2004 11:34 am
hummingwolf: animation of green and gold fractal, number of iterations increasing with time (Iterations in green and gold)
Not as far into the book as I'd like to be, simply because I've been feeling so drained lately. Still, I enjoy it when I get the chance to focus.

We can make measurements which observe the position of an electron, or we can make measurements which tell us which way it is moving, and in either case we can make the measurements as accurate as we like. But trying to measure the position very accurately blurs the electron's momentum, by a quantifiable amount, and vice versa.

This is not, as some textbooks still mistakenly suggest, solely a result of the practical difficulty of making measurements. It is not simply because in measuring the position of the electron (perhaps by bouncing photons off it) we give it a kick, which changes its momentum. A quantum object does not have a precisely defined momentum and a precisely defined position. The electron itself does not 'know' within certain limits where it is or where it is going. Exaggerating only slightly, if it knows exactly where it is, it doesn't know where it is going at all; if it knows exactly where it is going, it doesn't have the faintest idea where it is.

--John Gribbin, Schrödinger's Kittens and the Search for Reality (pp. 16-17)

My first reaction when reading this bit was that there's a metaphor for human life in there, probably one involving too many self-help books. The more you observe a quantum entity, the more "real" it is in a classical sense. An unobserved particle does not obey the laws of Newtonian physics. While the probability may be low, an unobserved particle could be on Mars--in fact, in some sense, it is, even if the probability wave suggests it's having more effect on that cup of tea sitting on your desk. But once you start looking for something, it has to decide where it is. Your examined entity becomes much more real, but much less free.

I deeply resent having to look at my life, catalog what I can and cannot do, determine and record for the benefit of others that X is possible and Y is not. Maybe because I don't want this life to be real. Maybe because I want things to have the chance to change.

After a discussion of an experiment showing that a watched quantum pot never boils:
If, as quantum theory suggests, the world only exists because it is being observed, then it is also true that the world only changes because it is not being observed all the time. (p. 135)

Quantum theory is tasty. I don't understand it, mind, but it's yummy all the same. So's relativity.

The Lorentz transformations tell us that time stands still for an object moving at the speed of light. From the point of view of the photon, of course, it is everything else that is rushing past at the speed of light. And under such extreme conditions, the Lorentz-Fitzgerald contraction reduces the distances between all objects to zero. You can either say that time does not exist for an electromagnetic wave, so that it is everywhere along its path (everywhere in the Universe) at once; or you can say that distance does not exist for an electromagnetic wave, so that it 'touches' everything in the universe at once.

This is an enormously important idea, which I have never seen given due attention. From the point of view of a photon, it takes no time at all to cross the 150 million km from the Sun to the Earth (or to cross the entire Universe), for the simple reason that this space interval does not exist for the photon. (p. 79-80)

Something timeless (eternal) and existing everywhere? No wonder light is such a common metaphor for God.

Broken thoughts

Monday, May 10th, 2004 07:17 am
hummingwolf: animation of green and gold fractal, number of iterations increasing with time (Iterations in green and gold)
(Stuff scribbled on a piece of paper on Friday afternoon.)

I have a love of broken things. Shattered glass on a sidewalk reflecting straight-line light-rays into deep corners the light never knew. Splintered tree crackled in a lightning strike, eaten up by microbes till new earth is made where a sunflower will grow. A teacup smashed on a kitchen floor, handle gone missing under a sink while the cup still holds water, tea, or memories.

As a child on camping trips, I used to break rocks (banging quartz on quartz, watching the sparks, holding the chips up to the light). It's amazing how rarely my parents' patience shattered.

Exercise does not make you strong by somehow injecting into your muscles a magical potion called "Strength." Exercise does pretty much what it feels like it does--it breaks your muscles down, dismantling them, tearing the cells into tiny pieces, fragments of an unrecoverable wholeness. The magic comes in the rebuilding. This is not an effortless magic. Your body rebuilds itself bit by bit, cell by cell, using whatever materials it can obtain, borrowing those materials from other, less-essential parts if necessary. Sometimes conditions are bad, the body will not rebuild, the ruins go untended. You need the right vitamins, the correct proteins, the proper hormones and neurotransmitters and other chemical agents, the essential minerals to build new walls and conduct electricity where it's needed. If your body has the right materials, the magic is successful and you gain new strength. But first you must be broken.

Feed your body. Feed your mind. Feed your heart. Feed your soul. Prepare yourself to be shattered. The magic doesn't lie in avoiding the breakdown. The magic lives in the rebuilding.

There is no life in evading the breakdown. Hiding in the shadows, back to the wall, never letting yourself be seen by a potential enemy, leaves you flitting about like an insubstantial ghost, reacting and never acting, never being of any use or any significance at all. And it's all useless in the end. You weren't made to be a ghost. You were made to be broken. If the hammerblow never smashes you, if the drunken fool never throws you to the ground, then the constant trickle of life, life, life like water wears you down and crumbles your foundations, breaking you down finally, finally carrying you as a river carries its dead rocks down to the breaking waves of the sea.

(no subject)

Thursday, August 7th, 2003 09:16 pm
hummingwolf: squiggly symbol floating over rippling water (Kaleidoscope (purple & white))
For the newish folks: Have you by some chance clicked on the second link on my userinfo only to find that it went to a "This page has been moved" page? And have you been dying to know the answer to the question "How does the hummingwolf view its role in the grand scheme of things?" No? Oh well, you're getting the answer anyway. Because the essay's URL has changed a few times in recent memory, I'll copy the essay and place it here behind this convenient lj-cut )

Interesting to me that when the site runner split his site into two domains, that essay ended up on the fitness site. After all, it wasn't a crisis of health that prompted me some anonymous author to write all that.

Now for those who like my new animated kaleidoscope icon: you might want to check out my favorite computer-generated kaleidoscope ever. Or you might not, if you've got a slow connection like mine and don't have time to wait for a Rilly Big GIF to load. Your choice.

[Note to self: Insert snappy closing here. Do not post this without some nifty closing line or you'll look silly.]

[Nother note to self: Oh, please. Don't forget that a hummingwolf always looks silly. It's like a law or something.]
hummingwolf: squiggly symbol floating over rippling water (Default)
When the thought of spending time with a particular person produces a panic attack, your reaction is an indication that there is something wrong. Your reaction is not necessarily an indication that there is something wrong with you.

It's time for me to go from depressed to angry again. This time I know whom to be angry with.

(no subject)

Saturday, March 8th, 2003 12:54 pm
hummingwolf: Drawing of a creature that is part-wolf, part-hummingbird. (Hummingwolf by Dandelion)
The cosmos we live in is an amazing place, full of wonders we cannot explain and influenced by forces we cannot see. The best way to live in this world is to keep an open mind, to be open to the possibilities of strange truths we never dreamed of, to understand that we may never understand.

But if you're in a house with old electrical wiring, there's a chance that the flickering lights may not be caused by spirits from the beyond trying to contact you. Honestly. Hard as it is to believe, some things do have a perfectly good physical explanation.

Living insecurely

Wednesday, January 29th, 2003 02:30 pm
hummingwolf: squiggly symbol floating over rippling water (Default)
So lots of people are talking about the State of the Union address as well as the realities it supposedly referred to. Good. I'm glad some of you out there can stomach political speeches long enough to analyze them; I decided to turn off the TV last night to preserve what's left of my mental health.

I don't get why so many people are willing to give up so much for "homeland security," to regain a sense of safety they had before September 11, 2001. As I said earlier: I was raised in the '70s and '80s near Washington, DC by a nuclear physicist who worked for the government. I don't remember ever having that sense of safety--to me, the world has always been a scary place where somebody could drop a nuclear bomb on me at a moment's notice. My problem these days is that it's not foreign governments that frighten me so much as the officials in my own country. Which isn't to say that I've got fluffy puppy feelings for the known terrorists, but at least the terrorists aren't as secretive about what they do as the people who want our vote can be.

Yeah, that kind of sums things up for me. I was an unpopular child, I know what sorts of things "innocent children" plot against each other in secret. When adult politicians accustomed to scheming and with the power to put their schemes into action begin to do things under a cover of secrecy that the general public will go along with because it's in the name of "homeland security," I get scared.

Of course I'm scared a lot lately as it is. Those of you who've read my journal the last few weeks know this. At this very moment there's a mental block which not only keeps me from talking about things I need to do, but even thinking about them. Being able to bring these things out in the open and deal with them in the open would be a good thing. It would be a sign of security.

Not sure where I was going with this--I think the caffeine just wore off.
hummingwolf: squiggly symbol floating over rippling water (Default)

is that I will one day call these "The Good Old Days."

(no subject)

Thursday, January 16th, 2003 03:12 pm
hummingwolf: squiggly symbol floating over rippling water (Default)
In its most basic form, optimism is the belief that the actions you take have effects on the world around you. This basic version of optimism is a prerequisite for directed action of any kind. We are born with it. But this optimism can be driven out in the laboratory through inducement of learned helplessness. Scientists can use electric shocks to teach lab rats that no matter what they do, they will be shocked. After a while, the rats get the message and cease to attempt to do anything at all.

Speaking of rats, one experiment late last year in a Japanese lab had infant rats decapitated and their heads transplanted onto adult rats' thighs. "A transplanted brain can develop as normal for at least three weeks, and the mouth of the head will move, as if it is trying to drink milk, the team reports." Nice picture, that, of the infant rat heads working and working for something they won't get.

I've been feeling awfully ratlike this week.

That said, I haven't completely learned the message of helplessness yet. I managed to make a phone call and get a deadline extended. Still don't know what I'm going to do, but have got a little more time in which to do it.

(no subject)

Monday, January 13th, 2003 10:44 am
hummingwolf: squiggly symbol floating over rippling water (three)
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
--John 15:13, King James version.

A thought earlier: Greater love hath no man than this, that a man give his friends what they need even though it conflict with what he deeply desire to give.

Which probably comes to the same thing in the end.

(P.S.--subjunctive mood sounds weird. Am sure I got it wrong too.)

(no subject)

Tuesday, December 31st, 2002 08:11 pm
hummingwolf: squiggly symbol floating over rippling water (three)
Back in the summer I left this comment in somebody else's journal:

You've got interesting ideas. You have enough raw talent that you're already a good writer, perhaps in need of some polishing but good nonetheless. With some work on your part, you could be an excellent writer. Combining your wordsmithing and your ideas, perhaps you could even be a great writer.

But I'm not going to encourage you to write because you'll be rich and famous and a critical darling one day. All of that "success" stuff is too dependent on the whims of fashion, word-of-mouth, the economy, publicity, and other things over which you have virtually no control.

The truth of the matter is that, no matter how good you are and how hard you work, one day you could find yourself an old man at a boring job you took to pay the bills because you never could get published anywhere but here, never had your writing read by anyone but a relatively small audience. You will have brought joy to a few people's lives, made a few people think deeply, but you will not have been "successful" as the common man defines success.

The most likely alternative to that scenario, of course, is that one day you will find yourself an old man in a boring job you took to pay the bills because you were too afraid of failure to even try to write anymore. In this case, your words will have brought joy to no-one, and the only thoughts you will have made people think are thoughts that they didn't want to be an old bitter grouch like you. You are quite right when you say that fear is your enemy.

The real question isn't "Can I be a successful writer?" but "How much of a coward am I willing to be?"

(This has been yet another comment that's written almost as much to me as it is to you. :-))

Y'know, I make a surprising amount of sense sometimes.

True or False?

Wednesday, November 27th, 2002 10:45 am
hummingwolf: squiggly symbol floating over rippling water (Default)
One of those things that springs from my fevered subconscious every once in a while: Sadness has its roots in remembered joy.

What do you think? True or false?

Quick note

Tuesday, November 12th, 2002 11:00 am
hummingwolf: squiggly symbol floating over rippling water (Default)
After the recent discussion of optimism here and a new post on [livejournal.com profile] conscience's journal mentioning the old glass half-empty/half-full question, I just had to note that my father the nuclear physicist always taught me that the glass was all full--of molecules. The fact that you can't see anything doesn't mean there's nothing there.

(Of course other physicists would point out that molecules are almost entirely empty space, so even the most solid objects are barely there at all. And still other physicists would tell you that there is no such thing as empty space because all of space contains potential particles. But I need to go now and I tell you I am not getting into a philosophical/quantum-mechanical discussion this morning.)

How sad.

Friday, November 8th, 2002 11:12 am
hummingwolf: squiggly symbol floating over rippling water (Default)
Here I am, 33 years old, (originally typed "30" there 'cos my brain is fried,) disabled and never had a job, trying to get benefits and can't even get the folks doing the disability determination to return my calls, too poor and exhausted to go out and do anything interesting, haven't had a "significant other" in, well, ever...

And I love life. I think life is a magical, wonderful thing and the world is a wonderful, magical place and I can't wait to see what happens next.

I'm hopeless. I'm gonna die an optimist, I just know it.

For a friend

Saturday, November 2nd, 2002 08:28 am
hummingwolf: squiggly symbol floating over rippling water (three)
There is no virtue in settling for mud pies when life invites you to a banquet. Your humility is demonstrably false if it keeps you from true joy.

(Oh, c'mon. Can you believe it's really humble to say "I don't need that gift, I can make it on my own"? So you think you don't deserve it--fine, maybe you don't--maybe nobody does. Humility accepts that the gift is needed, whether deserved or not.)

(no subject)

Saturday, October 19th, 2002 08:09 pm
hummingwolf: squiggly symbol floating over rippling water (Default)
Since learning that I'm [livejournal.com profile] snowmerlin's totem animal, I've been searching the net trying to find out what my responsibilities are. Now I'm terribly disappointed--all those pages out there with a wide variety of supposedly helpful information, and nothing on "How To Be a Totem Animal"? Plenty of stuff on finding your totem animal, but nothing on being one. Am I supposed to know this stuff instinctively or something? Sheesh.

The best I can come up with so far is that a totem animal is s'posed to share wisdom with its friends. So listen up, Pixie, to my Wisdom of the Day:

1. Take long walks in pleasant places.
2. Spend some time each day listening to music.
3. Eat chocolate.

(Gosh, I hope I'm not being too hard on her. I've never been an animal totem before. Anybody out there have any advice for me?)

I demand a refund.

Tuesday, August 27th, 2002 04:17 pm
hummingwolf: squiggly symbol floating over rippling water (Default)
The money that I spent
on medicines that made me ill,
on doctors who would not care:
I want it back.

The energy that I wasted
to be a brand-new person,
to gain a better life:
I demand it back.

You cannot give it back, you say?
What, you gave it to someone else?
Your excuses are unacceptable to me.
You, not I, left the bargain unfulfilled.

The money you can take
from the doctor with the gold-plated Cadillac
(you know the one).
He will not miss it.

The energy you can take
from the couple who love their petty bickering
and their television.
They will not care.

No more excuses, I say.
I demand a refund.
You, not I, have broken the compact.
You, not I, should be the one to pay.

So the faith that I wasted
on the promise that I can have whatever I want
if only I work hard and believe:
I want it back.

And the time that I spent
doing what I was told
and not being who I am:
I demand it back.

But the love that I gave
to those who could not give
a damn in return:
Let it rest with them still--

That one thing
I gave freely.

(no subject)

Sunday, August 18th, 2002 05:40 pm
hummingwolf: squiggly symbol floating over rippling water (Default)
For some reason, I woke up thinking about a conversation I had in college, sometime after my health problems began but before I had to drop out of school. The man I was speaking with was someone who seemed to me to be fairly bold and adventurous, traveling around the world (including some places which, if not exactly terrorist hot spots at the time, were at least warmer than most tourists would like) for pleasure and profit, that sort of thing.

Anyway, the conversation meandered to a discussion of the classes I was taking that semester, which included the usual courses in linguistics (my major), psychology (part of my "supporting area" (the school didn't have "minors")), and a design course in the art department.

"Why are you taking the art course?" he asked. "That's not required for your major, is it?"


"Is art something you do professionally?"

"No, I've never made a living at it. This class isn't very easy, either..."

After a while I finally got through to him the idea that I was taking the class for fun, just because I wanted to. He was shocked. He was amazed. He thought I was incredibly courageous for taking a class I didn't have to take when it could easily lower my grade point average. I thought it was kinda bizarre that he thought taking a class could be an act of courage.

Then again, it's amazing sometimes how much courage people need in order to be themselves.


New stuff in my life: Two new housemates moved in this week, which fills the house quota for female tenants. Now all we need is to find 3 men whom we all think we can live with. Also new is an orange-and-white striped pavilion that's sprung up in the woods behind the house 2 houses down the street. Music comes out of it on occasion, though so far it's mostly been soporific (Why oh Why does it have to be Smooth Jazz?).

There were other things I wanted to talk about, but I'm too tired to say anything interesting. For a few days there I even managed to lose my sense of humor, though it seems to be slowly crawling back to me. Blah. I'll be glad when the weather cools down enough for me to get a decent night's sleep.

(no subject)

Wednesday, August 7th, 2002 08:43 pm
hummingwolf: (two)
Though I am told I have many fine qualities, I suspect my greatest strength is the ability to delight in the beauty of old trees.

Finding happiness for the moment is easy for me; it's holding to contentment while recognizing a need to change that I have some difficulty with. I am not by nature a calm person. When I see things that would be better if they were different, I do not tend to remain at peace. I get antsy. I get anxious. I get really annoying.

I pray to find peace as easily as I find beauty. I pray to receive energy to do the work I need to do (hopefully I'll get paid for work one day, eh?).

In the meantime, I'm loving having a working radio again. :-)

(no subject)

Sunday, May 5th, 2002 11:41 am
hummingwolf: squiggly symbol floating over rippling water (three)
I often find myself amazed by the human propensity to draw conclusions based on inadequate data. We jump to the most incredible conclusions when we have no real way of knowing the situation, don't we?

Of course, we can never manage to acquire all the relevant information. We still need to make decisions sometime. How can we know when our data is insufficient? How do you learn to recognize when you need to keep searching for clues and when you need to stop procrastinating and make your choice already?

Shortly after my father died, one of his friends told me about a conversation she'd had with his girlfriend. The friend had been surprised to discover that while his girlfriend knew me, she didn't know that my father had any sons. "Isn't it amazing," said the friend, "the way we compartmentalize our lives? His family was obviously very important to him and he obviously cared about her, but you kids were in one part of his life and here she was in another and never the twain shall meet." Ms. C was preparing to wax philosophical. She was on a roll. Yet I interrupted her with:

"Actually, she knew about my brothers."

"She did?"

"Not only has she met them, but she's met their wives, joined us for family dinners at their houses, and played with their cats."

"Then why did she...?"

"She's recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer's."

Sometimes all it takes is one piece of information to radically change your perspective on a situation. One little piece can make all the difference in the world.

I've got this feeling that I need one little piece right now and I have absolutely no idea where to find it.
hummingwolf: squiggly symbol floating over rippling water (three)
Once again, one of my friends has been turned down by a woman because he's a nice guy. This bad-boy addiction some women have was discussed some time ago on [livejournal.com profile] anoisblue's journal, and guess what? I still don't get it.

Oh, I can relate to those who find themselves attracted to inappropriate people. I have sympathy for folks who, in spite of the fact that their love object is a jerk, find their hearts drawn in by some mystical force greater than themselves blah blah blah. We've all been there. Many of us have tried to justify our yearning, saying, "He/She really isn't as uncaring as s/he seems, they're just in the middle of a really bad week/month/year/incarnation." I once fell for a guy who'd have been emotionally abusive if he'd had the wit to figure out what my weaknesses were. Took me a while to realize what kind of bastard he was as he chose to go after me in the one area of my life where I wasn't insecure. (Tip for aspiring abusive types: If your prospective abusee is eligible for Mensa and you are not, insulting the p.a.'s intelligence is probably not the best way to begin. The fact that someone is stupid enough to fall for you is not a reliable indication of a complete inability to grasp the obvious.)

So I can understand an unsought attraction to an asshole. But, assuming that my friend's account is not entirely distorted, the girl turned him down because she didn't want to date somebody she can hurt. I've seen this attitude before--from men as well as women--that someone is poor dating material because they care too much. And after a great deal of contemplation over a period of many years, my deeply-considered response is: Huh???

Read the Rant )

Thought for the Day

Tuesday, April 16th, 2002 02:41 pm
hummingwolf: squiggly symbol floating over rippling water (Default)
Reality has never been under any obligation to make you comfortable.

Commentary: But it would make me comfortable if it had any decency at all.

hummingwolf: squiggly symbol floating over rippling water (Default)
You have been going through a difficult time. Life has not been easy for you during this (choose one: A. week, B. month, C. year, D. decade, E. incarnation). You've suffered more loss than you ever thought you could survive. Stress has made you want to do some bizarre thing like (choose one: A. tear out all your hair, B. eat chocolate ice cream until you explode, C. lie down and die, D. kill everyone who put you through this, E. run for political office). I know you're feeling crazy right now. I just wanted to let you know that I'm here to listen when you need to talk, and that I'm thinking of you even when there is nothing to say.

I admire your courage. I admire your strength. I know you (choose one: A. feel, B. have felt but no longer feel) as if you were the biggest coward on Earth, but that was never true. Though I have known you only (choose one: A. a few weeks, B. a few months, C. two years, D. two decades), I have seen that you are stronger than you know. You may not believe me, but that you have survived this long is evidence enough of your strength and your courage. I've watched other people destroy themselves because they could not bear to live through the kinds of things you've been through, watched them try to suck the life and love out of others so that they would not be empty alone. You're still here, and you're still loved.

You feel your life is incomplete. You don't think you can live a full life until you (choose as many as apply: A. find your son again, B. hold your daughter again, C. find your One True Love, D. go to New York, E. get a job your mother can be proud of, F. obtain perfect health, G. make a string of hit movies, H. write the perfect poem, I. finish college, J. attain Buddhahood, K. other). I pray that you find whatever it is you feel you lack. I pray even more that you will see you are admirable now, lovable now, and already holding the keys to the rich, full life you're yearning for.

You're feeling broken inside, I know. But when you thought nobody could see you, I saw those shattered bits of your soul catch the light and send it back to a darkened world as a myriad of rainbows. You are beautiful.


hummingwolf: squiggly symbol floating over rippling water (Default)

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