Noise

I am indoors steaming because of machine noise.  My formerly peaceful, rural environment has become a cesspool of cacophony in my lifetime.  Even as I write, my neighbor brother-in-law is mowing the lawn between our houses.  He couldn’t do it over the weekend, when all the neighbors were outside with their power tools, and the Gun Club was a’popping down the street.  No, he had to wait until today, so he could rev his lawnmower for an hour, complete with backfires and my slim and waning hope that it would stop for good, or that he would give up.  The grass doesn’t even need mowing.

It may be said that I am adding to the noise by my complaints.  It seems the world is overpopulated with people and machines screaming for attention.  There are so many demands on attention, from so many sources, that it’s tempting to shut them all out, if that were possible.  I understand now why people go deaf.

Last night it occurred to me that I look forward to the evenings and the relief from the constant demands on attention—and my rooster is crowing—from phone ringing for sales or survey calls, or the daily hang-up calls.  I get enough noise from the nags inside my head, who are constantly badgering me to do something or other.

Am I the only person on the planet who likes peace and quiet, with emphasis on quiet?  There are people who say they like “white noise.”  They can’t sleep without it.  It is said nature abhors a vacuum.  Even formerly empty space—phone rings, and I hang up without even looking to see who’s calling—is now said to be full of “dark matter” and “dark energy,” suggesting there are no vacuums anywhere.  I wonder if the theorized black holes are actually vacuums, with the common characteristic of sucking everything into them.  Is gravity, then, a vacuum begging to be filled?  Does silence attract sound, like magnets attract iron filings?

Ahhhh . . . The lawn mower has stopped.  My rooster Squire, who I moved to the filing cabinet next to me, is quiet for the moment, looking quizzically at me.  Now, the lawn mower is back.

I used to frequent coffee shops, but no more.  I’m tired of asking the personnel to turn the music down.  How many grocery store or big-box store cashiers have I asked if they get paid extra to listen to the “I Died and Went to Hell” music at top volume?  I tell them to tell their bosses the music is driving customers away.  Has it made a difference, in the years I’ve complained?  “I just tune it out,” a cashier once told me, “but that’s harder to do when it’s skipping.”

In my lifetime, “progress” and “development” has occurred all around my neighborhood.  Not only that, but the perpetual US wars have contributed to an increase in size and activity of Georgia military bases.  One of them, the Hunter Army Airfield, is within a couple of miles—as the jet flies—from my house, with its flight path directly overhead.  I always know when troops are being deployed, because planes fly low overhead every five minutes, headed for Iraq or Afghanistan, or wherever they are sending the testosterone-poisoned to make war this week.

Savannah has grown up around Hunter over the past 60-odd years, but Yankees have invaded on the ground, too, with the conversion of International Paper’s island and former tree farm to a gated community real estate development, complete with three taxpayer-funded bridges over the intra-coastal waterway.  My formerly peaceful residence happens to lie between town and this gilded prison, which  has led to an increase in traffic and more development along the route.  Because of construction and clearing of trees for same, vegetation no longer blocks or absorbs the noise, and the traffic becomes a roar at rush hour, especially when the tide is high.

In order to serve these Yankees and their ilk, the county has courted “progress” in the form of a Walmart and Sam’s Club within hearing distance and adjacent to a new parkway so that the Yankees can get home from town faster.  This brought three stoplights and attendant congestion, along with a street sweeper in the wee hours in the Walmart parking lot.

I put the fear of the lord in the street sweeper at 2 a.m. one night, when he woke me up, because this “progress” along with the “progress” of the grass seeder at International Paper’s real estate development golf courses, has caused my property taxes to double in the last ten years.

Now all governments claim to want “progress” and “economic development,” but the flaw in this reasoning is that current residents are expected to pay for the governments’ desire to attract future residents.  The Yankees gloat about how living expenses are lower here than in the urban cesspools from which they escaped, but they have raised my living expenses, taxes, and have created mayhem on my stomping grounds.

My brother-in-law is not a Yankee, but he loves his power tools, just as the coffee shops love their “Feel My Pain” music, the military loves its helicopters and jets, the Gun Club loves its guns, the whole world loves its SUVs, trucks and other gas guzzlers, the neighbors love their barking dogs, and my roosters love to crow.

What’s the difference between a Northerner and a Yankee?  A Northerner visits and goes home.  A Yankee buys real estate for inflated prices, gets a parkway and bridges built for him, owns a couple of SUVs, and stays to criticize those they have elbowed aside, like the deer on the former tree farm, which now grows houses and golf courses.

I contend the noise is driving everyone crazy, but can people hear themselves think anymore?  Do they want to?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Disease of War

I recently read a disintegrating little paperback on my bookshelves.  It probably belonged to my father, who was a public health doctor, with a masters in public health from Columbia University.  The book, Eleven Blue Men, consists of twelve stories about mysterious cases of sickness and death that came under the New York City Public Health Department’s purview in the mid-1940s.  The stories were originally serialized in The New Yorker magazine.  My edition of the book, by Berton Roueche, was published in 1955.

The stories involve cases of superlative medical detection, and they describe the extensive efforts exerted by epidemiologists and other investigators to identify and contain the culprits.  Cases of botulism, tetanus, smallpox, psittacosis, leprosy, typhoid fever, and others are described in detail.  There is a chapter on antibiotics, including the discovery of penicillin from mold, and the methods by which it was mass produced during World War II.

The outbreak of smallpox in New York City in 1947, a most contagious and deadly disease, led to the most massive emergency vaccination program in history, with 6,350,000 people being vaccinated, including the mayor of New York, within 28 days.

A new disease, which came to be named ricksettialpox, began striking inhabitants of a specific apartment complex in the borough of Queens in 1946.  It took significant sleuthing and the inspiration of an exterminator to discover the vector, a mite that fed on mice.

In the case of leprosy, the author goes into the historical discrimination and cruel torture of lepers, and the Bible-based fear of the disease, even though it is extremely sluggish and only marginally contagious.

While the stories are dated, and many of the diseases now rare in the US because of better sanitation, nutrition, and vaccinations, the afflictions themselves still exist and crop up from time to time.  The World Health Organization officially declared smallpox eradicated worldwide in 1980.  Other killer diseases like polio or tetanus now are virtually absent from the US and other developed countries.  Antibiotics like penicillin have completely changed the face of bacterial diseases and their treatments.

Medicine has made extraordinary strides in the past century, but I wonder about diminishing returns.  I read in newspapers about the starving children in Yemen and Ebola in the Congo, where there are also ongoing armed conflicts.  I think about microbiologist Hans Zinsser’s 1934 book Rats, Lice, and History, in which the author claims the bacteria win every war.  Zinsser was the original author of the microbiology text still used in medical schools today.

So, while medicine may have advanced, the social disease known as war has not, and it’s as deadly as ever, if not more so.  The starving children in Yemen are civilian victims caught in the proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, with the US assisting the Saudis through arms sales and military cooperation.  There’s no medicine that cures starvation or unsanitary conditions.  Malnutrition, impure water, and stressful living conditions are breeding grounds for diseases like cholera, which, like Ebola, is transmitted through contaminated bodily fluids.

Eleven Blue Men softened my views on vaccines.  I can’t argue with vaccines for polio, smallpox, or tetanus, but I wonder about the proliferation of vaccines for an array of milder diseases, like influenza, which are generally self-limiting.  Vaccines themselves cause risks.  American children receive some 70 vaccines before they are 18 years old.

The medical clinics in Yemen are full to overflowing, but there’s little they can do for starvation.  Clinics in war-torn or infection-ridden areas may have vaccines or medicines, too, but they can’t provide the food, sanitation and clean water that do a longer-lasting and more effective job of preventing and healing disease.

When it comes to public health, the simplest measures are usually the best.  They have to do with sanitation, nutrition, and clean water.  In the case of civilian victims of war, the “collateral damage”–as the military likes to rationalize it–most of the trauma comes not from the bombs and bullets, but from the diseases that meet no resistance in debilitated populations.  It’s no wonder that the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, at the heels of World War I, was the deadliest epidemic in history, killing more people in one year than the bubonic plague killed in the four years of the Black Death.  The flu epidemic killed ten times more people than the war itself.  The flu has not been that deadly since, but neither have the people been so lacking in resistance.

We don’t think of war as a disease, but maybe we should.  It’s a social disease, and no one is immune.

 

 

 

 

 

To Fight or to Win?

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Squire (left) and Speckles sparring through the gate, 2015

I wonder if some people just like to fight.  I don’t like it but grew up thinking it was necessary.  I don’t like competition of any kind, including competitive sports or games, but I live in a country where it’s anathema to admit it.

I’m an avoider who is more inclined to get caught up in other people’s battles.  Like the Greek god Chiron, the wounded healer, I’m the innocent bystander who gets injured by a mis-aimed arrow.  I don’t understand the purpose of martyrdom.  Did Jesus help anyone by dying on the cross?

My roosters like to fight, so I have to keep them apart.  They spar through the gate and attack the hardware cloth that keeps them from doing real damage to each other.  But I’m the one who suffers most if either of them gets hurt.  Son Speckles blinded father Squire in one eye before he knocked off his own spurs several years ago.  Now Squire has torn off his own back toenail and his toe may be broken.

Over the years, both have mellowed, and I wonder if either of them really wants to win.  If something happened to either of them, I believe the other would sorely miss the adrenalin rush they generate in each other.

I’ve worked with Vietnam veterans who complained of flashbacks and nightmares from combat duty.  After Vietnam, life in the United States seemed bland in comparison.  Some admitted to being “adrenalin junkies.”  Another man claimed to like being angry.  Is this the attraction of contact sports like football, or the intensity of war?  The emotional intensity of presumably “masculine” activities?

Our current US culture seems bent on fighting, arguing, opposing and otherwise disagreeing about everything from the climate to sexuality, but I wonder if there’s any purpose to it, except to fight.  Does anyone really expect to win, and if so, what would be resolved?

I recently read the book Fear:  Trump in the White House, by Bob Woodward, about the Trump campaign and presidency so far.  The book’s title is based on a Trump quote, “Real power is—I don’t even want to use the word—fear,” from an interview with the author.  Essentially, the book says nothing new but it helps straighten out all the names and roles played by those close to the current administration.

The other night I finished reading a biography of Andrew Carnegie, an 800-page tome by David Nasaw, published in 2006.  Carnegie, who lived from 1835 to 1919, was a self-made multi-millionaire who was brutally competitive in his businesses but vowed to dispose of all his money to worthy causes before he died.  In his later years he became almost obsessed with the idea of world peace though arbitration.  However, a sizable portion of his wealth had been derived from government contracts to manufacture steel plates for battleships.  Later, his idea for a League of Peace may have inspired the League of Nations and later the United Nations.  He thought war barbaric, was outspoken in his views and used his wealth and fame to give unsolicited advice to presidents Cleveland, McKinley, Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson, as well as German Kaiser Wilhelm II, and notables in the British government.  He feared the arms race between the UK and Germany as early as 1905, beginning with the British Dreadnaught and other monster battleships, but could not establish traction for his ideas regarding universal disarmament or arbitration.  It appears the outbreak of World War I broke him, and he—a vociferous showman—went silent for almost four years.

Nasaw says that Carnegie was given to hero worship, and Theodore Roosevelt was his assigned disciple of peace, despite evidence.  History shows that Roosevelt was an imperialist and war hawk, who rode to glory in the Spanish-American War; as president he seized the land that became Panama through instigating insurgents against Columbia; and he volunteered for World War I when the US entered, although he was deemed too old at the time.  Roosevelt referred to “righteous wars,” and Carnegie replied that all warring individuals and nations believe their particular cause is “righteous.”

The current US President, Donald Trump, campaigned on the several issues regarding war, suggesting the US withdraw from Afghanistan, among other things, according to the book Fear.  However, he is surrounded by hawkish military advisers who apparently have convinced him to stay the course, at least for now.  He has received praise and criticism for his contentious approach to friends and foes alike.  His provocative demeanor invites retaliation from all those “righteous” warriors throughout the world.

There are those who believe refusing to fight indicates weakness or cowardliness, but history shows that fighting fire with fire only makes bigger fires.  Does anyone win in a war?  In Lincoln’s war, Carnegie was among those, like JP Morgan and John D. Rockefeller, who hired substitutes to fight for them, and they got rich off the war.  Who else benefited?  The slaves were freed, but slavery was already dying out, if Thomas J. DiLorenzo’s The Real Lincoln is to be believed.  DiLorenzo claims Lincoln wanted a war. Lincoln may have won the war, but he lost his life.  Some people would rather fight than win.

 

 

 

My Version of Hell

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St. Roscoe Rooster, 2/7/2008-12/25/2009  “May we rest in peace”

There is no better therapist than a personal journal.  A journal waits patiently, doesn’t interrupt, argue, criticize, judge, talk back, condemn, nag, or gossip.  It’s there on your terms, when you want it, and it’s essentially free.

It’s also fun and sometimes embarrassing to re-read and see how perspective changes, or how memories differ from the written version.  I’ve kept a journal on and off throughout my life.  I’ve lost some, burned some, and some were stolen.  I prefer writing by hand, as I sit with morning coffee, because there’s no urgency, no need to correct typos, and there’s something inherently satisfying about low-tech pen and paper.

Ten years ago this month, I had entered early retirement, had acquired my first batch of chickens, and was watching my stock investments fall below the value of my medical school debt.  I was considering whether an individual could secede from the United States and not be owned by any country.  I was reading a lot, as always, books, magazines and newspapers.  I was beginning to pay attention to the FDA’s periodic food scares and seeing a pattern.  I was philosophizing about how things ought to be.

Now, in 2018, my views have evolved, but not too much.  I’m more offended now than before by the path the US is taking but am resigned to it.  Ten years older, I feel the squeezing of time into fewer remaining years.  Ambition and goals seem less important.  I’ve recognized that many dreams may never come true, nor will some nightmares.  Day to day existence goes on automatic pilot, most of the time, with less to interest or inspire, but more enjoyment from unexpected events, like a sunny day after a week of clouds and rain.

Here are some entries from November, 2008:

INDEPENDENT OF COUNTRY

Sunday, November 2, 2008–I may secede from the US.  Why should I be a citizen of any country?  I’m still a taxpayer if I live here.  Does that make me illegal, if I was born five miles from where I live?

As an independent country, I am a citizen of the planet.  How’s that?  I belong to no government, and no government belongs to me.  I make up my own laws as I go along, and if I break them, nobody cares but me.  My own government is self-governance.  It costs me nothing in taxes, and it provides generous returns on my investment.

I wonder about the expectation that anyone should be a citizen of any country.  What’s the point of citizenship except to vote and pay taxes?  If I were a foreigner, I would still pay taxes, and if I owned property, I would pay property taxes, so I would be contributing to government services, such as they are.

Radical revolutionary that I am.

WORK ETHIC

Thursday, November 6, 2008—The internal nags don’t let up.  The work ethic is so heavily instilled in me that I feel worthless if I’m not accomplishing things.

I avoid the study and the computer, and the piles of written words that await me there, my own files, and books and newspapers and magazines.  So much information, much of it misleading, descriptive of a value system, and set of beliefs I don’t share.

PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS

Saturday, November 8, 2008—I can’t blame anyone for the fact that I attract problems.  I’m the solution all the problems are looking for, but do the problems want to be solved?  No.  They would lose their identity as problems, because they are ego-attached to being problems.

Maybe I’m ego-attached to being a solution, but I’m letting go of that.  I worked myself out of a psychiatry job by declaring crazy normal.

I am neither solution nor problem, because both are traps.  The concept of problems and solutions is as suspect as strength and weakness.  Relative to what, I ask.  My “solutions” bring new “problems,” and my ‘weaknesses” help develop “strengths” that then become “weaknesses” in turn.

MY VERSION OF HELL

Saturday, November 8, 2008–My version of hell is having to put up with miserable people forever.  I can hear the whiners now:

“It’s your fault you’re here.  You murdered me.  You deserve to be here.”

“So why are you here?”

“It’s a mistake.  I’m appealing God’s decision.”

“God made the right decision, alright.  Why do you think I murdered you?  I did the world a favor.”

“Hell wasn’t such a bad place, until you got here.  The beer is free.”

“The beer is free?  In hell?

“Yep.  Keeps people from wanting to go to heaven.”

“Why do they call it hell?”

“Why do you think?  It costs money to get to heaven, and nobody would buy into it if they knew they could get free beer in hell.  Everything is free in hell, because everyone just takes what he wants without paying, anyway.

“But it’s so hot.”

“We drink a lot of beer and pass out so we don’t feel the heat so much.”

“Has anyone asked the Devil to turn down the heat?  It’s not energy efficient, you know.

“You could ask him, but he gets cold easily in this drafty cave, and he is thin.”

“He could put on a sweater.”

“Why should he?  He’s supposed to be torturing these people, and he’s afraid of losing his job if he doesn’t cause them enough pain.”

“That’s true in all government jobs.  So the Devil isn’t self-employed?

“Hell, no.  Who in his right mind would pay to spend eternity with the Devil?”

“How does he pay for the beer?”

“He steals it, of course.  He sends his hellions topside whenever supplies run low, and they bring back everything people have ordered, including nuclear power plants, to help keep the Devil warm.”

“Sounds like the government.”

“Government is hell.  I thought you knew that”

“Why do we have it?”

“To keep people out of heaven, of course.  Heaven was getting crowded, what with all those people resting in peace.  God ran out of bedrooms and couldn’t wake anybody up to build more, so He created hell to take the heat off Him.  He sent Lucifer down to manage things and wake people up, but he steals beer for them instead.”

 

 

 

 

To Vax or Not to Vax?

Flu season is upon us.  The “health care industry,” which includes the government and its agents, like the CDC and New York Times, not to mention the pharmaceutical and insurance industries, want to make sure the public, otherwise known as the “sheeple,” are well informed and well protected against this horrendous but self-limiting disease that mutates every year.  The influenza virus, in fact, mutates so fast that the vaccine is often unavailable until flu season is almost over.

On October 9, 2018 the Savannah Morning News reported that a health insurer focusing on Medicare, Clover Health, polled residents in its Savannah market to determine who planned to get the flu vaccine this year.  Only 70 percent of elderly plan to get it, but this is higher than the national average of 63%.  The article also said last year’s vaccine was only 40% effective, and that last year’s flu season was the deadliest in decades, accounting for 80,000 deaths.  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) expects this year’s strain to be milder.

Well, digging a little deeper into the flu story uncovers a few other pertinent facts.  First, the CDC reported last year’s vaccine was only 17% effective, and while the reported deaths are high (56,000), the CDC admits it does not specifically track deaths directly attributed to flu.  In fact, many deaths ascribed to flu were not proven cases, and/or were more directly caused by pneumonia or circulatory problems.

Digging even deeper reveals the flu vaccine industry is a $1.6 billion enterprise, only a small portion of the vast and growing vaccine industry.  Sources vary, but the vaccine market is reputed to have brought from $24 to $32 billion in profits to pharmaceutical companies in 2014.  That number is growing, due to “significant expansion of current product offerings” and expected to reach $61 billion in profits by 2020.

Concurrent with the push for flu vaccines, there is a rising chorus of voices claiming an “epidemic” of measles in Europe, blamed on a decline in vaccinations there in recent years.  Deaths have been reported, sort of, although evidence of this is sketchy.    In its September 22, 2018 issue, the New York Times reported “anti-vaxxers” in Italy are protesting mandated childhood vaccines.  In Italy, the vaccine issue has become politicized, and the NYT makes no secret of its contempt for the “anti-vaxxers” who it implies are also anti-science.  It dismisses the common notion that vaccines can cause autism and doesn’t mention the other risks associated with vaccines.

In fact, vaccines carry some very real risks, but in the US vaccines are the only products protected from liability.  In 1986, producers of the DPT (Diptheria, Pertussis, Tetanus) vaccine were being sued for cases of brain injury and death associated with the vaccine. They threatened to withdraw the DPT, the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) and oral polio vaccines from the market unless the lawsuits were withdrawn.  They claimed vaccines were “unavoidably unsafe,” so the federal government established the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) to protect manufacturers from lawsuits claiming injuries from their vaccines.  Thus, every mandated vaccine carries a 75-cent surcharge to fund the federal program that protects the pharmaceutical industry.  The United States gives more vaccines than any country in the world.  It recommends twice as many vaccines as other developed countries for babies less than one-year old.  It also has the highest infant mortality rate.  Of the states, Mississippi requires the most vaccines for young children and also has the highest infant mortality rate.  As expected, the US is the largest revenue contributor to vaccine manufacturers.  While the federal health officials may recommend vaccines, various state health officials mandate them.

While autism is the most cited risk associated with vaccines, it’s hard to prove causality, partly because autism is such a vaguely defined disorder.  More specific risks are anaphylactic shock, fainting, dystonia, or seizure.  Vaccines can also cause encephalitis, encephalopathy, or interstitial lung disease.  A reversible paralysis called Guillain-Barre Syndrome, which can be severe and fatal if it affects respiration, has been attributed to the HPV (Human Papillomavirus) vaccine, Gardasil, as well as to the flu and other vaccines.

A recent book by a practicing physician, Thomas Cowan, Vaccines, Autoimmunity, and the Changing Nature of Childhood Illness (2018) explains the body’s two branches of the immune response.  The body’s first line of defense against infection is the cell-mediated response, he says.  In this stage, white blood and other cells destroy the pathogen.  The second line of defense, the humoral response, is the adaptive adjustment that employs antibodies to fight future episodes of exposure. He says vaccines distort this response, because they rely on the second, more transient, stage in the body’s defense cascade.  The resultant confusion in the body’s infection-fighting apparatus leads to dysfunction in the immune system and can increase the risk of allergies, autoimmune diseases, and even cancer.   He says that in the United States, people receive up to 70 vaccines before they are 18 years old.

I have not read Dr. Cowan’s book, but his theory makes sense.  When the body is exposed to so many potential threats, it becomes difficult to distinguish between friend and foe.

At one time influenza was indeed a deadly threat, but its virulence has decreased over time.  In 1918, the so-called Spanish flu (which was said to come from China) was supposedly the deadliest in history, with 500 million people affected.  Twenty to fifty million people died, with more dying in one year than in the four years of the Black Death (bubonic plague) of 1347-1352.  It killed ten times more people than World War I, with half of US soldiers in Europe falling to flu rather than the enemy.

Because the flu virus mutates so fast, it is possible to get the flu repeatedly.  However, recovery from a disease like the measles confers lifelong immunity, which may not be true for vaccine-induced immunity.  Also, it is possible that a vaccinated person can still carry the disease virus and be contagious to others.

To avoid the flu this year, and every year, the safest methods involve common sense.  With or without the vaccine, health ultimately depends on high resistance, which includes good nutrition, rest, exercise, fresh air, and avoiding crowded, unhealthy places like hospitals, doctor’s offices, and shopping centers.

 

 

What If?

What if time and space really are illusions?  To imagine such a possibility requires suspending conventional views of heaven and hell, and unconventional views about reincarnation.  It necessitates considering the “spacious present” as containing an infinite variety of probable pasts and futures.

In such a scenario, what we perceive as immortality is a given, with no beginnings, no endings, and no ultimate answers or conclusions, just a perpetual state of becoming.  In the world of the spacious present, time is not a line, and space is not measured in distances.  Immortality is a state of being, with varying focus creating the experience we call life.  We do not move through time or space; they move through us.  In considering this concept, the question becomes one of how a person might change his/her approach to life if he/she believes there is no final escape and no final reward, just a continuation of challenges and abilities encountered in this existence.

Mystics throughout the ages emphasize varying versions of “Be here now,” which gives the present its due.  Quantum physics is verging on the same understanding of time as a matter of perception.

The idea of timelessness subtends the premise of my novel, in which an immortal being from a seven-dimensional universe becomes stuck in space-time.  He hopes to save himself by saving the Earth from itself.  Unfortunately for Beon, he has contracted the disease of solipsism, which convinces him he’s the center of the universe, and everything outside himself is a figment of his imagination.

This excerpt from the chapter that introduces Beon describes his disease.  It seems relevant in light of our current Earthly challenges.

* * * * *

From “Beon’s Disease” chapter:

Suddenly, the word “solipsism,” caught his attention.  He looked past Bud’s throne to the far wall, where the large screen Interdimensional-Intergalactic Internet and High-Vibe TV transmitted news and programming from 7-D, Beon’s home universe, the one he escaped forever ago, in a moment of weakness.

“Solipsism has reached epidemic proportions in 7-D,” the newscaster was saying.  “Mutant life forms from the destroyed planets Reshiba, Charam, and Binorem are stalking the universes, desperately seeking vitality, spreading solipsism wherever they go.”

The announcer continued.  “We are honored to have as our guest Dr. Robert Strand, medical director for the famous Solipsism Treatment Center.  Dr. Strand is here to tell us about this virulent disease and how to protect yourself from it.”  He turned to face his guest.

“Hello, Dr. Strand,” he said.  “Thank you for joining us.  First, would you explain what solipsism is and why it is so dangerous?”

The camera zoomed in on the doctor’s haggard face.  Beon raised the volume and exclaimed, “Look, Bud.  It’s Doctor Stand.  He diagnosed me, remember?” Bud opened his eyes, yawned, and closed them again.

“Certainly,” Dr. Strand replied, “but I need to supply some background.  As many of you know, in 7-D, everyone is immortal, so life is measured in units of vitality rather than time.  It can flow strong or weak, but it never stops.  For us, time is a minor dimension, subservient to vitality levels.  We can past and future fish, changing the past and the future with our focused intent.  Our vitality levels determine the pasts and futures we reel in.  We know that peaceful living enhances vitality.  Conflict depletes it.”

The interviewer interrupted, his voice nervous.  “If what you’re saying is true, then our universe is severely vitality-depleted.  War and conflict have become the norm, and few remember peaceful times.”

“That’s correct,” said Dr. Strand.  “It’s the major manifestation of a solipsism epidemic.  It’s important to understand that solipsists deny any reality other than their own.  For instance, if I stopped taking my medication, I would begin to view you as a figment of my imagination, to be controlled or extinguished as I see fit.  I could deny your existence or sap your vitality by provoking you into a rage, or by manipulating you in other ways.”

“You are a solipsist?” the interviewer asked.  “I thought admitting you have it is proof that you don’t.”

“And denying you have it is proof that you do,” replied Dr. Strand, with a wry grin.  “There’s some truth to that, but primarily the disease is characterized by the pain you cause others.  Others are forced to catch it in self-defense.

“Solipsists drain others’ vitality to feed their own.  Working with solipsists would have sapped my vitality to the vegetable point if I hadn’t put myself on medication.”  The doctor paused.  The camera shifted to a group of various life forms in a large room.

Dr. Strand’s voice continued.  “This video clip shows a typical meeting of solipsists at the Solipsism Treatment Center.  I called the meeting for new patients to meet and set the day’s priorities, then I left the room.”

Suddenly, sounds of pandemonium blasted from Beon’s speakers.  Everyone was talking and no one was listening.  There was no moderator.  Beon felt his vitality levels decreasing, sucked across the dimensions into the vortex of the solipsistic gathering.

Beon winced and muted the sound.  He shifted his gaze and spoke to the cat.  “Do you remember Dr. Strand, Bud?  He said I was a textbook case of solipsism, the worst he’d ever seen.  He put me on medication after I caused the Triple-Big Accident that destroyed those three planets.  He said my chest pain resulted from toxic buildup of stolen vitality.”

Bud winked, or appeared to wink.  Beon couldn’t be sure.  His eyes drifted back to the High-Vibe screen, where the meeting continued.  “No solipsist considers anyone else wise enough to moderate a meeting or impartial enough to make a decision.  The meeting will continue indefinitely, with attendance waxing and waning, and no resolution possible.”

When the camera cut back to the interview, Beon turned the sound back up.  “How do you replenish vitality?” the interviewer asked.

“No one knows for sure,” Dr. Strand replied, “because no one knows where vitality comes from.  If we knew that, we might find a cure for solipsism, by providing pure sources of vitality for depleted individuals.”

“I know!” Beon almost screamed at the screen.  “I know how to harness pure sources.”

He knew attempting to communicate through the Triple-In was futile.  He could receive but not transmit, ever since he plunged the Cosmo Cruiser through that black hole forever ago.  From a 7-D perspective, Beon had ceased to exist, or so it seemed.

“I was once a hero, but now I’m not even a villain, even though I’m responsible for infecting all of 7-D.  I don’t get credit or blame, because solipsists don’t recognize specialness outside themselves.  They don’t even notice I’m gone.”

Beon muted the High-Vibe TV and jumped up from his chair.  He started orbiting Bud’s throne, a habit he’d developed since his ill-fated suicide attempt, the one that trapped him in this space-time prison.  He circled counter-clockwise, as if to recapture the lost past, with all the choice points that had landed him in this fix.  As he walked, he talked.

“For me, solipsism is a disease, but for you, it’s an art form, isn’t it, Bud?” he said.  “You are the center of the Cosmos, and life serves you.  Maybe I’m a figment of your imagination, conjured just to feed you, invent vitality-enhancing thrones for you, and build robots like Alfred to change your litter box.”

As Bud started purring, his throne responded to the change in vibrations, with its energy field brightening and sparkling. The musical tones quickened, and Beon’s pace kept the beat, stepping lively now, in his circuit around the throne.  The worry lines between his eyes relaxed.

Emotional Honesty

My father insisted that men were rational, women emotional, and therefore, women were irrational and inferior to men.  He liked to prove his point by provoking his wife and daughters into a rage, at which time he would sit back and smirk. I learned from his example that emotional expression showed weakness and inferiority, so hid or denied my emotions until I finally realized he was wrong.  Over time, I discovered that much of the maturation process involves un-learning beliefs and attitudes picked up almost by osmosis from early conditioning.

My father was not a bad guy, and he was probably rather typical of his generation.  Untold generations of men and women throughout history have believed and perpetrated the idea that intellect is superior to and at odds with emotion, yet this is fallacy.  The way the brain is wired, all sensory input travels through the pain (thalamus) and emotional (limbic) centers before reaching the frontal cortex, where intellectuality resides.  This implies that even the most intellectual and rational thinking is influenced by emotion.  What we choose to focus on, our interests, our skills, are all based on intent or desire, and their emotional significance to us.

Emotion gets a bad rap because it is associated with lack of control, as in the emotions of anger or fear.  But denial of emotion makes a person particularly susceptible to being manipulated by it, a major tactic used by advertisers and propagandists.  Targeting people’s insecurities, such as feelings of inadequacy or vulnerability, makes them more suggestible and more likely to buy the product or agenda being promoted.

The artificial split between emotion and reason is culturally created at an early age, when children are told what they “should” or “shouldn’t” feel.  The words “should” and “feel” do not go together.  Feelings are.  While it may be improper to act on certain feelings, to deny their existence only leads to repression, distortion, and dishonesty.   If allowed to run their course, emotions generally evolve into something else.

The greatest value of psychotherapy is that it helps people find words for their feelings.  A diary or journal can serve the same purpose.  The words help bridge the gap between emotions and intellect, by making the feelings conscious and less threatening.

Ideally, emotion and intellect work together to guide thinking and behavior, but for this to happen, emotional honesty is crucial.  Some experts claim addiction is a disease of lying.  A more fundamental explanation is based on the Freudian model describing the stages of psychosexual development.  In the anal stage, which occurs around two years old, the child begins to learn self-control, symbolized by potty training.  Here power-struggles with the parent can begin, as the child learns boundaries and the meaning of the word “no.”  This phase is thus termed the “terrible twos” because of the child’s resistance to new structure and boundaries.  Successful mastery of this phase allows the child to develop healthy attitudes towards authority.  If this phase is not successfully negotiated, the child may develop life-long issues with authority.  In an alcoholic or addict, this shows in the see-saw between overly controlled versus out-of-control behavior, as internalized authority struggles with the inner child in a contest for power over the will.

This is why one of the maxims of addiction recovery emphasizes changing the concept of “power over” to “power to,” in which the individual harmonizes the opposing forces to achieve balance.

There’s a mistaken belief that emotional honesty must be rude, crude, or uncivil.  I’ve had people insist that people want you to lie to them.  Some believe in telling people what they think  the other person wants to hear.  I disagree and claim that tactful honesty is actually a sign of respect.

This is another benefit of psychotherapy or of journaling.  Having the words for feelings provides a broader range of tools for communication, and allows for reasonable expression of emotion in a rational manner.