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We Come as You Are

The Covid-19 shutdown and impact to the economy has roughed us up. Add in some rioting, wildfires, and a presidential election, and 2021 can’t come fast enough. But the dismal truth is the drama will not end when the clock tolls 12:00 AM on January 1st. Normal is now social unrest, quarantines, and zoom. Because of the virus and overpopulation, people flee the urban centers for countryside freedoms, crushing the housing market with their financial resources and defiling peace with their attitudes.

Please understand, there are wonderful people who originate from the golden state, and plenty of jerks born and raised elsewhere. But for the perspective of this post, and the perspective of Oregonians, we are being overrun by immigrants from our southerly neighbor.

Our home in Southern Oregon for the last four years, our first home since leaving the military is now surrounded by Californians who can’t even make eye contact let alone wave hello. The newcomers installed power poles right in front of our house with an amazing view without a second thought or hint of remorse. Their jacked-up SUVs and trucks speed up and down our road. Where once we could hike from our home into the forest, ugly fences and orange no-trespassing signs bar our way. Overpopulation strangles our home. Rudeness strangles me; I cannot breathe.

Covid-19 shutdown taught many of us we need not work in an office. I took that lesson to heart, embracing technology to step away from this lifestyle, my 30-minute commute, the paper reams, time-wasting, archaic fashion of running a business that my business partner will not abandon. My partner needs to adapt or retire. I won’t be there to change out his printer ink cartridge anymore; he will retire. Baby-boomers are a selfish generation but a topic for another day.

We have only have one life to live, and my husband and I choose to break away from this overpopulated, rude neighborhood our country street has become. So we put our house on the market and had it under contract within 36 hours at more than our asking price (that is how crazy the market is here). We close in 9 days and still don’t know where we are going.

We have areas we love out-of-state, homes we have looked at in May and July. Most of those houses sold already (that is how crazy the market is in quieter communities). But I am optimistic we will find the right place. We will go where it snows…a lot. Most Californians can’t handle real winters. It will be green year round, wildfires minimal, and traffic a distant murmur. From my home office window I view the trees. From the porch I inhale the clean air. Motivated, I write consistently, world-building with vigor to see the end of that great story. I jog and hear only my footfalls on the road and the birds chirping in the distance. We hike from the house into the forest without being ambushed by no-trespassing signs. My son attends school in person with classmates and play sports because the state has not mandated safeguarding the old at the detriment to our youth (another selfish move by the baby-boomer generation).

There is adventure and peace in that place, wherever it may be, and hopefully community and friendship. And to that community, I promise we will not hang ugly power lines, fencing, and no-trespassing signs. We want to be part of your community, not change it. We will wave to you and with smiles, invite you into our home. I want to be your friend and neighbor. We come as you are.

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The Enemy Within

We are being manipulated. You. Me. Our emotions. Our nation. Regardless of whether you rally behind the Black Lives Matter movement or Back the Blue Line. We are soldiers in a civil war between the right and left, components of the political machine. One side is drawing upon your disgust for recent events, fanning the flames, so it may recover the control it lost in the last election. The other is trying to maintain control in unprecedented times. But both are firing bullets with their snarky comments and partisan media outlets. And you are a soldier in their war efforts.

The world is in change, flexing under a pandemic, seizing under our girth. We battle riots, face masks, exponentially rising infection rates, and endure shit for selection presidential candidates. While I am not a believer that this pandemic was engineered and released, I believe our politicians are taking every measure to see it benefits their agenda for November’s outcome. Same goes with the protests. But covert forces manipulate the riots into more.

We are in a civil war.

As of this post, Portland, Oregon has endured over 60 days of protests with most turning vehement by night. Two months of destruction, looting, graffiti, violence, public beatings. And the leadership’s apathy propels the moment. Why? Because the city’s leadership is left-sided, a lieutenant in that army, listening to commands. And Portland’s mayor and Oregon’s governor abides, allowing the city to morph into a war zone with skirmishes fanning out across the state. Who will vote for an incumbent president with rioting in their neighborhood streets?

Although Portland’s leadership appears apathetic or even supportive of the protests, what if the riots are not organic? What if covert forces were spritzing the flame with gasoline? Agent provocateurs sent into the peaceful movements to spark unrest, to induce others to turn their movement unlawful, violent. It wouldn’t be hard. Portland is a liberal city already steeped with angry millennials and seeded with Antifa – the perfect breeding ground for peaceful protests to turn into riots and then spread across the nation.

We are being manipulated at every level.

The rest of the US watches the destruction and violence from skewed perspectives. CNN vs. Fox News. BLM vs. the Blue Line. Blue vs. Red. The right vs. the left. We are a polarized nation. Some of us wanting the same freedoms that founded our great nation. Others believing the political machine’s every word. The Machine owns the media, influences social media, and commands the financial support of individuals and businesses who receive rewards for their contributions. Its power comes from maintaining control by drawing in votes for its candidates on election day.

And you are a soldier in the Machine’s army, whether the right or left, firing bullets on their behalf in this civil war as the Machine tries to sway sentiments and regain control. Your weapon? It’s the device in your hand. It’s the shares and likes. The machine wants you up in arms, in the fight.

The Machine lost control when Donald Trump was elected president. He was the outlier, not formed and fed by the political lobbyist. He’s not a career politician trying to win your vote with cheap money. Amongst his many imperfections, he is a breath of fresh air for Americans. But from day one, the Machine claimed collusion, scandal, and abuse of power, trying to revoke the choice this nation made for president. The left-sided politicians pitch tantrums like toddlers, grossly rude and irrelevant. The right wing is still dumbfounded about what happened in 2016.

It’s a constant – the Machine spitting venom, trying to sway America into doubting its choice – that with riots and plagues, the country will fare better back under its rule.

We are battling the wrong enemy.

Instead of fighting with the other side, we should continue to defy the Machine. We should rebel against the puppets or mouthpieces they gift as presidential candidates. When the two sides only offer us spawns from their loins, then the Machine controls us.

Don’t join the riots. Take a step back from the media and all it’s bullshit. Know that you are being manipulated, that we are being coaxed to be up in arms over current events, that those events are being manipulated to sway November’s outcome. Then vote for our nation’s freedom, for the battle raging around us only hides the enemy within – the political machine.

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Fearing Covid-19 and Staycationing Ourselves into Ruin

There is silence in this moment, freedom. No political bullshit, no opinions meant to conform me to another’s belief, no stanchions of social organization, masks, arrows, and markers on the ground, the culmination of distancing. In this quiet away from the Covid, I reflect upon the fear and our future. A pandemic would come again. It is a cycle that cannot be broken. We are not so smart to halt this enemy, so our governments forced us into the safety of our homes, shattering the world outside. Our economy is a fragile bitch. She wastes without our feed, undermining the foundations of our sturdy abodes. People are suffering. More will in the coming years. We have allowed our fear of death to change the world but not for the betterment of mankind.

Most people do not wish to die; we have lives to live, loved ones to care for, goals to achieve, lists to build and deplete. But in time, death will arrive at the doorway. For most people, their surety is not sound enough to accept a walk across the threshold. What is beyond, we will all discover someday. But this fear of Covid-19, that we must stay home to stay healthy, is so narrowminded. It has allowed our governments the argument to strip our freedoms, close public spaces. What will they take next to stymie the panic?

Sure, I do not wish to contract the virus, suffer from its razor claws around my lungs. I do not wish to lose my parents, in-laws, aunts, uncles from its veracity. But our desperation to save our loved ones will destroy so many more. It is spring. Farmers are shorthanded. Less fields are being planted. Livestock are being euthanized because processing plants are closed. Food shortages will follow. Despite our governments’ attempts, many businesses will shut their doors for good. Jobs will be lost and families forced from their homes. Our economy may collapse. Hunger, homelessness, crime, suicide, and domestic violence will surge.

We have flattened the curve, for now. But the virus is not going away soon. Once governments allow from our domiciles, its head will rear again and again. Scientists may come up with a vaccine but that is a minimum year out, plus the time it will take to inoculate entire populations. The virus will mutate; additional strains will emerge. We will fight this battle for years, decades, all the while eroding society.

By our definition of humanity, we must try to save the most lives, young and old alike. Though the young have succumbed to the virus, the old with underlying medical conditions are its staple, and I wonder if humanity is not in err. Are we sacrificing so many livelihoods, maybe entire societies, to give the old and ill a few more years?

As much as we have tried to erect steel and concrete grids to protect us from the wild, we are not exempt from its laws. Charles Darwin’s theory of the survival of the fittest applies not only to evolution but existence. But somehow, we believe humanity supersedes, that nature’s rules do not apply to us, and we attempt to thwart her proxies. By saving the weak, the old, the infirm, and the idiots, we are breeding ourselves out of an existence. Humans have overpopulated. Losing three, five, ten percent is but a drop in the bucket and might do some healing. Less people means less pollution, more resources to go around, and fewer wars. Maybe the Earth and its life could take a deep breath after a good cleansing.

In cruising through Facebook, I ran across a recent post concerning the error in people wanting to get back to work and why we (as a society) must always try to protect people. We have them wear seatbelts; we seek cures for cancer. And our stay home, stay healthy governmental orders are of the same genre. But I disagree. Those seatbelts and cancer research are not to the detriment of society. The consensus in the post and its comments was that people were idiots for wanting to go back, that we should stay away from the danger, hide in our homes until the pandemic is finished. The statement that caught my attention, that I could not let be: “even animals know to run from danger”.

Yes, but even a spooked deer will run straight into traffic. Look further than the curve in the road. Your unemployment checks will not last forever. Our kids and their kids will spend their lifetimes paying for our staycation.

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Going the Extra Mile, Day after Day

As a distance runner since high school, I am partial to the individual sports where each person competes and whose performance may or may not contribute to a team score like wrestling, cross-country, and swimming. There is a lot to be said for the individual, the work ethics, the drive to face challenges alone, uncelebrated victories, and public defeats. I wanted to cover this topic after a day spent at my sons’ high school wrestling tournament. Both of my boys wrestle. One a freshman. One a senior. Both in their fourth year in the sport.

The senior loves wrestling, breathes the one-on-one nature of the match, the mesh of endurance, strength and technique required on the mat. He has realized what his body can accomplish. His confidence is impressive, his technique equates to an art. The way he can leg ride as wrestler, read his opponent’s position and shifts in body weight, and take control in a fluid manner. There were moments yesterday where he derived such momentous feats of turnover, dominating of the match in an instant and pinning his opponent seconds later. His growth as an athlete inspires. Yesterday he got as many wins as he did his entire first season of the sport. But he has put in the time, the extra practices, the extra runs, the sweat, the losses. Whether or not a win, each match has been a lesson. Some lessons he celebrated, some he took humbly, others upset the balance of his young psyche for an hour or two. He has earned his year of victories and based on yesterday, he will have many wins this season.

The freshmen will learn about defeat this year. Not that he doesn’t have the abilities; he is a natural athlete and a two-time district champion in junior high school wrestling. It’s tough to combat some older wrestlers, both their physical prowess and experience. Those young men with maturity have learned what my freshman has not yet realized. It’s the same lesson my senior embodies. The time, perspiration, and extra miles must be invested. The end game isn’t about a single match.

As a runner at forty-one years of age, I can do what 95% of the population can’t. And to be honest, I love that feeling. I know how to cover the distance, pace myself, and take down opponents. But I was never a speedster. I am not graced with natural athletic abilities. Everything that I am, I built. I logged the hours, the miles, the workouts, pushing my body beyond its comfort zone.

Running teaches self-discipline, perseverance, and pacing not just on the trail but in life. Few successes come quick and easy. Accomplishing goals is about the long game, the determination, the work ethic, driving toward becoming better, whether it is toward a degree, a career, a book or two, or three. It’s not just one mile or two or ten or twenty that will enable betterment. It’s the sequence of workouts, the dedication, returning day after day to the plan. Individuals who can run three, ten, thirty miles without stopping learn how to overcome mental and physical discomfort, the suck of the mundane, to realize they can go places most people can’t. The hardest part about running is putting on your shoes. The hardest part about improvement is the resolve to continue, especially when the improvements are not yet there to celebrate.

Those lessons are not so apparent in team sports like football, basketball, and volleyball. I am sure other lessons are plentiful in those settings, but I am partial to the individual lessons. So often in life, we can rely only on ourselves, our skills, our dedication. Other people will ultimately disappoint.

Back to my freshman with the same years of experience as my senior but who will experience a different season. To be honest, it should be that way. The freshman needs to formulate the understanding himself. He needs to realize that it is his work that will make or break him, both on the mat and in life. He relies on the team setting to push his abilities, his competitive nature to make him run faster, jump higher, lift more when at practice. Unlike the senior, the freshman has not learned or is not yet ready to learn that it is the individual work and dedication that will make him better than 95% of the population. It is the workouts he undergoes when nobody is looking that will accelerate him into a winning year. Sure, he has already celebrated victories this season against younger wrestlers like himself. But it will be bouts against the junior and seniors where he learns how much more he will need to work beyond the scheduled grind. Everything comes easy to my freshman, the academics, athletics, and friends. Once he embodies the lesson about going the extra mile not once but day after day, he will accomplish goals both on the mat and in life.

The challenges, they surround us. We are a complex and splintered society with a constantly shifting paradigm. Navigating the requirements to develop as an individual and succeed in life is difficult. So many rules seem written in a foreign language or not documented at all. It takes dedication to research, comprehend, and then navigate the arena. And the playing field is thick and growing more competitive. With the increasing population, it will be even more challenging for my sons to succeed than it was for the previous generations. They must be a disciple to the lesson plan they formulate for wrestling. To accomplish goals, they must go the extra mile, day after day. To be successful, like the senior’s ability to read and utilize his opponent’s body weight, they should never miss an opportunity to shift a struggle to their advantage. The opportunities are few, the competitors many.

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Standing on the Outside

For the last year, I have been frustrated, spilling tears between periods of indifference. Over three years ago, my sons and I moved to a small town in southern Oregon. My husband transitioned twenty months later after returning from a duty assignment in the Congo and retiring from the military. In those years, I invited neighbors into my home, volunteered at the boys’ school, patronized local businesses, attended community events, joined a sports group, made gestures of friendship and invitations looking for connections but always found myself on the outside.

As newcomers to this small town, we answered lots of questions about where we came from. “Southern Oregon but my husband is in (or retired from) the military so we have lived all over.” “What branch?” they ask. And after I respond, they spin into an anecdote about a family member who is or was serving. Some acknowledge the challenges the military family faces – the deployments, moves, separations, injuries, etc. A few thank me for my husband’s service. But here is what wounds me: during my twenty months as a geographically single mom with a husband half a world away, no one, not a neighbor or acquaintance from school bothered to invite me over, invite me to dinner, or simply check on me.

There’s nothing bad about our town, except its wonky four-way stop intersection. It’s a spirited country community with three banks, two Mexican restaurants, a coffee shop, hardware store, and a bridge across its namesake river. The setting is beautiful, and it’s an easy thirty-minute commute for me to the office. The town has some tight bonds, cliquish parse, typical of small communities. Lots of old families, people who grew up together, whose kids have known each other since before kindergarten.

Having attended many new schools, my boys had no problem integrating, finding friends and activities they enjoy, standing out as scholars and athletes. And I followed, volunteering with the school, helping with team activities. I met other parents along the way. They learned my name, tell me they enjoyed my boys. And I came to know their kids, appreciating each one, following them through elementary, middle, and high school, the teen relationships and sports injuries. I love community storytelling, not the gossip, but growth of individuals that propels the whole. Following the multitude of stories, I learn of the relationships around me – families that share time beyond the typical after-school venue, moms who look out for each other, share time together. If I asked, some of those moms would help me out. But I am on the outside of the glazing, always looking in, hearing stories reverberate through the glass. It’s a hollow sound lacking warmth. As I press my cheek to the glass, so desperate to be part of the story, the storytellers wave to acknowledge me because otherwise it would be rude, but never opened the door. And this so contrasts my experiences in other new communities.

Military communities are so open and welcoming. We, as in military members and their families, know that we are all on the move. We will spend one, two, maybe three years in each other’s lives before one of us will undergo a permanent change of duty station. Sometimes our paths cross again. Most times not. The older families always invite in the newbies. And the cycle repeats. But there is no qualm about making connections and keeping the connections beyond moves and even retirement. We need that friendship and community because what we do as families is overwhelming and stressful. We need each other. As spouses, there are baby showers, bunko groups, and childcare sharing. We exercise together, help each other with employment, through deployments, and never does a spouse spend a holiday alone. Don’t let me fool you; military communities have their own cliques but they always bring the newcomers inside to touch the community’s heart.

Is my town so set in its cliquish ways that it could not open its heart to me? If I had spoken aloud that I needed a friend, would it have heard? Or cared? I am left doubtful. As an author, I posted in community forums, notifying residents that I was an award-winning, local author in need of honest reviews, giving away copies of my books, encouraging them to support all local artists. Nothing. No likes. No sharing, echoing the chirps of crickets in the background. I am on the outside. Silence tells me I do not belong.

Besides the conversations with my husband about this topic, this blog is about the closest I come to complaining. As an introvert, I don’t cry for help. I shoulder my burden and muscle through the days, the weeks, the years, bandaging my wounds when they weep. So I was excited to be invited to a Friendsgiving gathering by a work associate who also lives in my town. Last Saturday was my first social outing in the three years and four months since I moved to here. Who’s counting, right? I spent an evening around a campfire with some lovely and unique ladies who have known each other for years. They told stories, shared worries and health issues. I listened and shared a few of my own. But you know what originally brought them together? Their kids playing the same sports to a degree, but that they also saw our town as cliquish. And unable to break through that same glass pane I gaze through, they built a house of their own.

Will they invite me again? Hopefully. That would boost my moral and smother self-doubt that I am weird or lacking of social etiquette. But the point of this post is not to disparage the town; my experience could have occurred in any town, big or small. It is a great little community with amazing individuals, but collectively, they broke my heart. Perhaps I expected too much of the town, of my neighbors, my community. But isn’t that what community is for? Otherwise, the town is just a collection of commerce and homes. The theme I wish to convey is to be on the lookout for loneliness. The smile a person may share with you does not necessarily indicate happiness but their excitement that you just might open the glass door.

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Pleasure and Pain

I just finished Brian Staveley’s third and final installment of CHRONICLES OF THE UNHEWN THRONE. I’ve been reading about a book a year, and with my hectic schedule, it took me a few months to get through the last one. Staveley’s writing is poetic and imaginative. The story is engaging, adventurous, and epic, and I traveled right along with it for the past two years. In the third installment, THE LAST MORTAL BOND, Staveley’s theme prevailed. Experiences with pleasure and pain define our lives. THE UNHEWN THRONE is a very visceral story, lots of battles, wounds, blood, and references to lustful pleasure. And I considered whether life is so simply described by experiences of the flesh. It isn’t. Trivialities of the flesh is only the first step in the cycle of life.

Because they do not fit my lexicon, I wanted to rephrase the terms pleasure and pain into joy and sorrow. Sorrow is what I face, or fear of facing. Time sweeps by, and my oldest son will graduate from high school in the next nine months. Just yesterday, we had an Army recruiter at the house as my oldest wants to begin his first solo life step by serving in the military for a few years. And I keep thinking, this is it, we will never be the same. Our dirt bike adventures are probably done. It’s the rare weekend that everyone is free. Our family game nights are nearly extinguished. Soon he won’t be around to brighten the room with his smile, his laughter. And those thoughts – that reality – hurts, seizing my stomach, stifling my lungs, aching my heart. I am proud of all he has done and will do, but I miss him already – I miss “us”.

Sure, I have more pain in my life, loss of family though most members still live, past tragedies that rile their ugly heads, nip at my skin, and sear my soul. But my view of pain is sheltered. While in the spectrum of pain, sorrow focuses on the losses or potential losses of friends, loved ones, times. Describing pain as sorrow limits the theme to individuals who do not have to fight to live, those endowed with housing, warmth, consistent and plentiful food from a store, and good health, whose only physical pain might be a headache or hangnail. Sorrow ignores the life experiences of individuals who struggle to live, who are hungry, out in the cold, facing violence, health issues, and utter loneliness.

It’s autumn now. Little birds have been prolific, fluttering amongst the bank of dead wildflowers behind the house, and our kitty has been equally busy, leaving her hunting trophies on the back porch for us to admire. The other day as I was picking up after the cat, the finch’s de minimis form tangible but lifeless, wrapped in a paper towel, I was struck with contemplation. It must be a relief for him to no longer suffer from hunger, cold, fear, to just rest, released from any pain, to not feel.

But have I forgotten pleasure to be charged with such a melancholy thought? Did the finch not thrive in song amongst his flock and nature? Did he not know happiness? Do I know happiness? Is it the pleasure of being in close relationships, loving and being loved unconditionally or belonging? Or is it self-fulfillment of goals, dreams, aspirations? Is it a mixture? We cannot say pleasure spawns from comfort; there are many sheltered individuals without a care in the world living without pleasure, happiness, just breathing. But we could argue that sorrow only comes from joy – when the goodness shifts only to memories.

Along that dichotomous line of thought, some individuals endure physical strife but experience great pleasure – that even amongst the pain of living, they have found joy in severing the societal bonds that once strangled them. Perhaps those are the lives worth living, being challenged by the world. It is the extraordinary man or woman who can live on the fringe of society, suffering its epitaph, but rise above to find joy in the battle and the spoils. There is no flesh in that pleasure, only a flourishing soul.

Towards the final third of THE LAST MORTAL BOND, Staveley conflicts one protagonist with the choice of destroying the deities of pleasure and pain. The act would erase all suffering but also all joy from the world. In this, Staveley implies that pleasure is more than the flesh, that he ultimately means joy.

Physical pain is all encompassing, a strident discord of life, meant to protect or warn the body from danger. Joy reminds us why we endure that pain, that we want to live. One without the other is incomplete. But because I have known joy, I suffer from sorrow. And so, the cycle continues: flesh, fulfillment, sorrow, and the end. Hopefully, my end, when it comes, continues forward – a reminder to my loved ones to embrace joy because it can be so fleeting.

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The Joker is a Symptom of Society.

My husband and I used to frequent the movie theaters before we had kids, and then when the kids were old enough and good movies still common. Lately, the theaters offer a lot of remakes and superheroes or remade superheroes (Really? Another Spider Man?). And if not one of those, Hollywood patronizes us with mainstream scat popped of cupcake molds. They slather it with a little frosting, hoping to masquerade the crap below. I get it; originality in writing is risky in the big economy. Society likes to chew on the same themes and memes, because repetition doesn’t force individuals to think beyond the boundary of their knowledge. It’s the same reason young children like to be entertained with the same book or movie; nothing is more comforting than retreading steps to the same conclusion. While the Joker is a spin on an old tale – a prequel to Batman – don’t go to the theater expecting an action-packed DC episode, but do reflect how society’s indifference for the individual transforms Arthur Fleck into the Joker, a man we all fear.

The Joker is not about defeating good or evil. Or even combatting it. Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of a man already struggling with mental illness who is injured, demoralized, and humiliated by society is both fascinating and painful to watch. Arthur Fleck begins the film as socially awkward but good-hearted man with contorted and cringey dance moves. Skipping the step-by-step erosion of a man’s dignity, I will tell you he is physically assaulted by both teenage thugs and Wall Street-type upstarts. He shows strangers kindness, but they rudely dismiss his company. Coworkers betray him. And he learns of his mother’s treason to his young, innocent self – most likely the catalyst to his mental illness. But the Joker’s transformation solidifies when Fleck’s role model publicly humiliates Arthur in his pursuit of a lifelong aspiration. Nothing is better than a viral laugh unless it is to the detriment of another.

Arthur’s life course is the recipe of suicides, mass shootings, and radicalizations. Let’s face it; life is hard. If the constraints of society do not inter us, then we are fighting to survive in a third world country. And we need to belong in this ugliness, to feel that those moments of connection with others are worth trudging through the mind-numbing sludge. But demoralized or isolated, as a pariah to others, few can resist the impact. Some escape the pain in one fashion or another. And others shift into something beyond societal boundaries.

All it takes are moments of kindness, communication, genuine reflection and connection with others. These drops of dust in the erosion of time are the nourishment of community. Just a smile, a shared laughed, or twin tears can bind us, propping us up for days, weeks, years. But when life is stupidly busy, it’s hard to find those moments. We take loved-ones for granted, overlook friends, and ignore strangers. Though we try, social media is not a substitute for authentic connection. Those ones and zeros only dissolve the glue of society, injecting it with anger. Instead, be present in the real world, look for that friend, that stranger, and engage in a conversation. In the world’s strife, find something common, and share in that commonality. Take an interest in another’s life, and maybe they will take an interest in yours. And for goodness sakes, a smiling emoji is not the same as a genuine smile.

When the Joker emerges from his streak of revenge, the city is in civil unrest. With riots, protestors, and flames surrounding him, the Joker stands atop a police car, and never did he dance so beautifully smooth. In the absence of all others, he had found a connection with chaos.

Toward the movie’s beginning, before undergoing the brutal attacks, Arthur is in his social worker’s office. She’s asking him routine questions, and he notes that despite her job, she never really listens to him for her narrative never varies visit to visit. And he asks, “Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?”

Yes, Arthur. Yes, it is.

Why do I write?

A river can’t be rushed. The current, boulders and bramble in the midst, the river becomes larger than its passengers. So when I shoved my boat from the shoreline, my endeavor became a journey of obstacles, scenery, and faces old and new. Along the way, rocks bruised my shins, my palms became calloused by the oar grips, and ignorance abraded my ego. But with toil, comes resilience and appreciation. The more I row, the more I understand the passing landscape. And downstream the rugged, stunning topography shifts. The canyon walls encroach the river, suffocating the passageway. In the narrow confines, the stream becomes furious and tumultuous. Other vessels congest the waterway; their oarsmen are so focused on pointing their bows downstream they ignore the mounting paddock.

The Ardent Halo saga is the culmination of two stories – two elements of a challenge facing humanity: safeguarding the old while propagating the new. We have challenged the elements of this world, and those elements will define our future and fate. We love our children and their children to come but the river can only ferry so many. Discussions of the consequences of our manifest destiny are rare. When will the magnitude of our population be considered? Who will warn the others that only so many of us can drift this way? Let not hubris drown the travelers. Allow reflection to govern the morrow.