Birdhouses of Lafayette

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Walnut Creek

On the sidewalk, With warm coffee and sun,

The small pleasures so obvious, But why so few?

Taking the moment to reflect, Resting in the words,

That fall from mind to pen.

Resolving little in the world, Creating unseen snapshots,

For future mythical albums. 

It is, after all, only an exercise, Designed to keep mental muscles loose,

While my bones ache with age.
8/9/03

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Hit the Save Button

The false reality that is unsaved flickering pixels, comforting luminous colors, glowing phosphorus words or images that discharge in an instance, leaving behind a vacuum, dark and dead, black/green coldness, no power, no life, and no vibrance.

Tell me about the loss of power.

It is not political parties and their votes,

It is not aging boxers and their fists,

It is not untuned engines on the highway,

It is not our elders aging with their walkers.

It is about the loss of the unsaved, luminous colors, comforting words, words gathered and ordered over time, images created and displayed, ideas important and beautiful, that disappear forever, as if they never existed.

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Being Original

Recently read “the Life of Pi”. A story about a young boy lost at sea in a lifeboat with a Bengal Tiger. This is the short description, it is also the short description of another book, “Max and his Cats”, written by a Brazilian writer about twenty years ago. Two stories, one major premise. “Life of Pi” dealing with faith, belief, and reality. “Max and his Cats” dealing with an allegory of Nazi Germany.

It’s like two roads going into the same wood, eventually leaving on far different paths. Perfectly acceptable, yet somehow we would prefer that each other discover their own pristine forest, regardless of the potential of multiple visions. It’s almost as if this was a writing exercise in a class, “lost at sea with a Bengal tiger, now give me a thousand words.”

Is there original thought? There must have been at one time, even if it no longer exists. We are just at the back end, when most thoughts have been thunked. (Not a word but I like it).

When was the last original thought, who formed it?

We should raise a monument, declare a holiday, originality has been conquered. We can now rest in the comfortable known.

Perhaps this occurred longer ago than we realize.

The real story after the short version of “The Life of Pi” is that there are two very different stories to believe, the one which was fantastic and filled with meaning. The other that was more mundane, and somewhat horrific.

Why not believe the fantastic? The Tiger and Pi finding a way to live together, and together they experience the wonders of the deep ocean.

We love the familiar, we can wrap our minds around what we know, crafting a story or idea that licks around the edges of our favorite dish, is pleasing to our palette.

We have “sense memory” to help us codify, to place events and circumstances in perspective. Another way of expressing a comfortable known quantity is that @we understand”.

Nothing worse than writing a story that is not understood, nothing worse than writing an original idea.

8/12/03

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Charlottesville

Okay, this is more a response to current events, and I don’t generally write about current events. The reason is that I don’t believe that the full story is always apparent. But in this case…

The difference here is so obvious that I am amazed. Yes, there has been conflict in the streets. Yes, there has been violence exhibited from both sides. It does not mean that they are equally bad.

On one side there are individuals who have disagreed with policies and politics, some have used the protest to damage or destroy public and private property. They often have no regard for civility. Many Americans find them over the top disrespectful.

On the other side there are white supremacists, neo-nazis, KKK, flat out Nazis, and their wanna be hanger-ons. A pretty disgusting bunch.

It’s easy to say “a pox on both your houses”. And I do!

However, take the violence away and the story is quite different. One side is just annoying, and the other side wants to use genocide to create their perfect world.

People, there is no point to say how bad they both are, one side wants to confront you, and the other side wants to eat your liver.

Wake up folks, the media isn’t helping you to see the difference. Sure, I would not want either side as neighbors, but I know where they rank on the scale of danger.

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Raised by Wolves

Right off the bat let me state that I am married. This is meaningful in that I have agreed (many years ago) to live in close proximity to another, with love and understanding. So far there has been much love. Understanding? Well, that’s a work in progress.

I think it is common for couples to agree on the issues of the times. We tend to collect “same minded” folks as our friends, and often we marry our friends. Later on, we discover that general “same mindedness” doesn’t always mean we see the same thing in the same way. (An aside: almost always, my wife and I see the same odd thing while driving in the car, even if it was just briefly.)

This difference has been mostly helpful, almost like a check in our perceptions. “Oh, you didn’t see it that way? Why? Do you know something that would help me to change my perception?” This is so cool when you can actually point out the reasons for the difference. It is not so cool when it is simply a matter of opinion.

“Why did you see it that way? Are you dense? Have you been raised by wolves? Are you naive or just lazy?” Okay, it doesn’t often get to name calling, but the confusion is just as real.

Two different people, are in the final analysis, two different people, and nothing will guarantee that they will be synoptic.

So what are the factors that cause the “different view” between couples? Hmm, possibly life experience, maybe age/maturity, certainly if one person was raised by wolves. Could it also be a male/ female thing?

As an example, I had a friend that was a no-show for an arranged meeting. Nothing on the agenda, just a morning coffee. We don’t have a scheduled time, just now and then. I have forgotten about it in the past, and my friend has also forgotten, no big deal. This time my friend did not show, I came home early. My wife asked why, what happened?  

“Nothing happened, he just didn’t show.”

“Did you call or contact him?”

“Hmm, no. Why should I? Most probably he just forgot and that’s fine. If he didn’t forget then something else came up that was more pressing, and that’s fine too. He doesn’t need to explain to me, so I haven’t asked.”

“Well, have you considered a third possibility, that he is in trouble and could use your help. Help that is not coming because you didn’t call?”

Have I been raised by wolves? Why didn’t this occur to me? Is it so odd and improbable? Umm… I dunno! Is it a difference between caring and self reliance?

I have learned much in my thirty-seven years of marriage, but it hasn’t always been natural.

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To Qualify

Much to be learned by the study of the word “qualify”.

According to the etymology dictionary, qualify is from mid-15c., “to invest with a quality,” from Middle French qualifier (15c.) and directly from Medieval Latin qualificare “attribute a quality to; make of a certain quality,” from Latin qualis “of what sort?,” correlative pronominal adjective (see quality) + combining form of facere “to make” (from PIE root *dhe- “to set, put”). Meaning “to limit, modify” is from 1530s. Sense of “be fit for a job” first appeared 1580s. Related: Qualified; qualifying.

Hmm, “to make of what sort” or “what sort to make of it”. Either way there is a question here, something to solve in some way. A judgement is to be made.

Sometimes clarity comes when we look at the opposite. Defining qualify or qualified might be easier if we look at “disqualified.”

Now, that is a harsh judgement. Often it is used in cases where a qualified person has broken a rule, which has moved that person to a disqualified status.

This tells us that being qualified is following a previous set rule, an agreed upon structure. To qualify or be qualified, is to adhere to a standard set by others. I don’t think it is possible to qualify yourself.

Disqualified moves something/someone from an approved status to a non-approved status. A person can also be “not qualified”, meaning they never were qualified in the first place. This would be the case when the person did not go through the steps that lead to a previously agreed structure.

It is possible that a person can be “tested” in, or to bypass some, or even all the steps, depending how flexible the structure is to modifications.

So why are there qualifying steps to the structure in the first place? A social safeguard. Someone may be skilled as an engineer, but society has learned that a qualified engineer is better, considering all the safety issues.

A doctor has years of training and is skilled in healing, but a doctor who has qualified as a plastic surgeon is to be trusted as a specialist in that field.

So far there is no red flags in the definition of how we use “qualify”, apart from the inability to qualify yourself. But I think there are subtle problems that we don’t generally consider.

We often think that experience, talents, and natural gifts “qualify” an individual. This might be true if the “qualifying” structure allows it. Remember, “qualifying” is not self-determined. A structure is created by an agency that determines how qualifications are applied.

The most common form is passing successfully an apprenticeship, or testing out of an academic program with a degree. The degree is another way of notifying society that an individual is “qualified”.

We like to honor talented, naturally gifted people, by making them qualified even when they have not met the standards that would make them qualified.

In a practical sense we can think about a mechanic that is very good, fast, and incredibly gifted at fixing cars. And we can compare that to an approved mechanic that your insurance company recommends. One of them is qualified, but might not be the most skilled. It is tempting to bestow “qualified” upon talented people with lots of experience, and in some cases the qualifying structure may allow it, with some proof or acclaim.

Extreme example, Pablo Picasso maybe “qualified” to teach art without an academic degree. The institution that “qualifies” is still the determining factor, not the individual, or the approval of the general public. Now, would I take a class from Pablo if the institution refuses to “qualify” him? Haha! The question is can he teach? Sitting in a room with him may be cool, but hardly worth the time if he just sits there.

My life experience is mostly on the side of doing work that I am unqualified for. I have even been hired into positions that require a qualification that I did not have. I did not lie, nor did I fudge my resume. I provided my experience and quality of the work that I have done, which pointed to the work I would do. I have been blessed to be able to apply myself in areas where I was unqualified.

And now that I’m am retired, I believe that I have met for the first time, all the qualifications necessary.

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