Bee Sting Allergic Reaction Health Care Experience Number Three

On Monday, July 17, 2017, I was stung by a yellow jacket. I am allergic to bee stings and the like. This is the third time I had been stung by a bee since I found out that I was allergic to bee stings [see here for account and poem about previous bee sting]. If untreated, a bee sting would cause anaphylactic shock and probably death. The first line of treatment for bee stings in people who are allergic to bee stings is an injection of epinephrine. This can prevent the onset of anaphylactic shock.

Fortunately, I had an epinephrine autoinjector. Unfortunately, this autoinjector had been expired for two years. I had not refilled a prescription for a new epinephrine autoinjector, since the most common brand, Epipen, which has 95% of the United States market, has in recent years been price gouging consumers who rely on such a life-saving device and insurance companies who may pay for it. I could not bring myself to be held hostage to a price gouging pharmaceutical company, even though my insurance would pay 100% of the cost. Since acquiring the company that manufactured EpiPens, the new company (Mylan) kept raising the price until it was 600% more than the original price. Such entrepreneurial genius was rewarded even more by granting the CEO of the new company a 700% pay increase. Not being a complete fool, I had researched if expired epinephrine autoinjectors retained their effectiveness past their expiration date. I found that given reasonable storage temperatures, the bulk of their effectiveness was maintained even years past the expiration date. Thus, I decided to wait until alternative products were available or until the offending price gouging company made their price reasonable.

So, back to the story. After being stung, I looked quickly in the neighbors driveways to see if a car was there and somebody might be home who might be able to drive me to the emergency room. No such luck. So, I injected myself with the epinephrine autoinjector. Since I don’t have a car, I rode my bike to the emergency room at St. Vincent Hospital about a mile and a third from my home where I was stung. It was a nice sunny day in the low 80s. I rode there vigorously on my bike. I was feeling pretty well and had no welts blooming like in my two previous bee sting occurrences.

When I walked into the emergency room, there were two people at the desk and one clerk. After waiting a few seconds after receiving no greeting or acknowledgement of my presence, I asked if somebody was available to provide medical triage for me. I indicated that I had been stung by a bee, that I was allergic, and that I was in danger of going into anaphylactic shock. The clerk called for another person. This person turned out to be another billing clerk. This person took my personal and health insurance information and asked no information about my current emergency. This person walked me through two big double doors into a hallway where I was told to sit on a gurney and wait for help. I was left unsupervised. I was in partial line of sight of the emergency room nurses station. After sitting there for a few minutes, a man in scrubs moved into my view. I asked him if I could get some help, and asked him somewhat facetiously if this was an “emergency” room. He very nonchalantly said that he would see if somebody could assist me. Some minutes later, someone came to ask me questions. They took me into an emergency room examining room. This was about 10 minutes after I had walked through the front door.

They immediately hooked me up to many of the usual devices, such as a finger oxygen monitor, a blood pressure monitor, and EKG leads. Eventually, they gave me an IV. Apparently, my heart was racing, not too surprising since I was having a serious allergic reaction, had an epinephrine injection and a vigorous bike ride. However, the EKG showed abnormalities, which they diagnosed as atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation is where the upper chambers of the heart send signals sporadically so smooth, coordinated, regular blood flow is impaired. My heart rate was moving back and forth from about 80 or 90 up to about 160, which is my maximal heart rate. To my knowledge, I had never previously experienced atrial fibrillation. They were concerned that this may be an underlying condition, triggered by the stress of the sting allergic reaction, and/or the epinephrine, possibly in conjunction with vigorous exercise. I indicated to the nurse that if I should die that they should throw my dead body on the lawn of the corporate headquarters of the pharmaceutical company practicing price gouging for epinephrine autoinjectors, i.e., EpiPen made by Mylan pharmaceuticals.

While they were monitoring the atrial fibrillation situation, they asked if I wanted an ice pack for the bee sting site on the back of my hand which was red and swollen. I said “sure.” They brought in an elongated icepack about 3 inches wide and 15 inches long. Oddly, the covering seem to be somewhat insulated so the cold didn’t seem very cold. The physician noted that this device was meant for another purpose — though she did not indicate what purpose. My hand wasn’t suffering too badly so I didn’t worry about it much. It just struck me oddly that’s some ice in a plastic bag would have done nicely at probably a thousandth of the cost.

At about 50 minutes after arriving in the emergency room, I was given prednisone, a steroid to keep the swelling down and fight back the allergic reaction. Fortunately, I was not blooming in welts as in my two earlier experiences with bee sting reactions, both of which were not initially treated immediately with epinephrine.

Their primary concern seemed to be the atrial fibrillation, which they continued to monitor. I half-jokingly submitted that the atrial fibrillation may simply be due to my broken heart over the Senate Republican health care bill. The doctor did not disagree. The supervising physician first recommended that I’d be admitted for further testing and observation. After some questioning about the nature of this, I pushed back somewhat, partially based on my two previous experiences at the same ER and hospital where I was hospitalized for further testing and observation and my experience proved that this was not useful and perhaps even hampered by treatment and recovery. I have recorded one of these bee sting experiences elsewhere in my blog.

Eventually, after the atrial fibrillation did not resolve on its own, they gave me some heart medicine, and within five minutes or so, my heart settled down. While this atrial fibrillation event lasted for quite a while, perhaps an hour and a half or so, I was feeling pretty well physically and mentally, with only one five or 10 second bout of heart racing where I felt moderately distressed — but, then again, I don’t get distressed too easily.

The doctor indicated that my thyroid stimulating hormone test was high normal, that is, 4.75 in a normal range of 0.5 to 5.0. They thought that this might be a possible indicator for low thyroid activity which could contribute to an atrial fibrillation condition. They asked that I be retested in three months. They were encouraged by the fact that I had no other risk factors and was in excellent general health.

They ended up discharging me without any additional request for my hospitalization. This pleased me. I was glad to be saved a day locked up in a hospital. I was glad to have likely saved the health care system another few thousand dollars. Plus, I was planning to attend a health-care protest the following day at noon, where I had planned to read a poem I composed specifically for that event, dedicated to our own Sen. Rob Portman, who has been equivocating over how many millions of Americans losing their health insurance is acceptable.

In the discharge process, I requested a refill prescription of my epinephrine autoinjector, given that it was a generic or less expensive competitor than from the EpiPen manufacturers. I indicated that I had done some research on this before, and that if they wrote the prescription more generically such as epinephrine autoinjector rather than by a brand name, then a less expensive version may be available. They researched this and discovered that only one local pharmacy chain carried a less expensive version. This wasn’t my usual pharmacy, but it was about the same distance from my home. The less expensive version was $109 versus the up to $600 for the EpiPen.

I am very grateful that this bee sting occurrence ended up being less serious as far as the allergic reaction than in my two previous occurrences.  Apparently, my two-year expired epinephrine autoinjector worked just fine. I’ll have to wait and see if this atrial fibrillation occurrence is due to an underlying condition or simply brought on by the very stressful conditions of an allergic reaction, epinephrine and vigorous exercise. I am still aghast that in none of the three times I’ve gone to this same emergency room have I received prompt medical triage. It seems to me that without prompt medical triage, it is somewhat difficult to actually consider your emergency room an actual “emergency” room. Sadly, they are quite efficient at getting your billing information promptly, but it as to dealing quickly with whatever emergency you are presenting with, that is another and another and another story.

POLITICAL POEM: Trump Pulls Out As Partners Dumb Found

Trump Pulls Out As Partners Dumb Found

Sow culpable
Too due nothing
President Trump pulls out
What little hand
He had in Mother Earth’s
Safe guarding
His oily and gassy mates
Coal for everyone!
It’s like Christmas!!
And stocks sore
In the after math
Of this unbelievable savior
As he
Really nailed this won
Portending every faux
In ascension into heavin’
His big short
His wee altitude toward clime
Single digit approval
Or not
As what gives
Chump change
In loo of climate change

At Least The War on the Environment is Going Well POLITICAL BUTTONThis poem is in response to President (sic) Donald Trump’s pulling out of the Paris climate change accord.  For badder or worse, this clear signal of climate insanity may provide the best united front yet for international resistance to American hegemony; plus, American abdication of global leadership offers opportunities to forge more sane efforts at worldwide solidarity.

This article says it well, In praise of Trump pulling out of the Paris climate pact:

“To the dismay of our allies, the White House could any day announce the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. But as a patriot and climate activist, I’m not dismayed. I actually want to pull out.Do Not Worry About The Environment - It Will Go Away POLITICAL BUTTON

The value of the Paris Agreement is in its aspirational goal of limiting temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, not in its implementation mechanisms, which are voluntary, insufficient, and impossible to monitor. But that modest goal will be breached shortly, which makes the agreement a kind of fig leaf, offering political cover to those who would soft-pedal the runaway climate crisis a while longer.

The U.N. Conference of the Parties is certainly not the organization to constrain powerful, retrenched fossil fuel interests and other bad climate actors and rogue climate states. The Paris agreement affords oil, gas and coal companies a globally visible platform through which to peddle influence and appear engaged on climate change while lobbying for business as usual. That won’t save the climate.
At what point do we give up wishful, incremental thinking — that reason will prevail, the free market will adjust, the president’s daughter and son-in-law will dissuade him from the worst climaticide, the Democratic Party will do something, or prior policies which tinker on the margins like the Clean Power Plan won’t be totally obliterated?

I’d argue we’ve reached that point. If Trump withdraws from the Paris Agreement, at least we will have clarity instead of false hope.

Who wanted to keep the U.S. in the Paris agreement anyway? People around the world, a majority of Americans, environmentalists and other coastal elites — constituencies for which Trump has shown indifference and/or contempt. Staying in was also favored by Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP, Peabody coal, eBay, HP, General Mills, Kellogg, Tesla and other multinationals the Trump administration would have preferred to keep happy. But let’s face it, they won’t be all that mad the U.S. is pulling out, and the political impact won’t be all that great.

Neither will the environmental impact. In fact, since the agreement lacks teeth, breaking it won’t have any effect on the climate in the short term. But in the longer term, the shock and rethinking it will cause in some circles just might precipitate political and cultural changes we need to stave off climate cataclysm.

Pulling out of Paris will also give the president a political boost. It gives Breitbart and Fox something to crow about and The New York Times, Washington Post and CNN something that’s not Russia-gate to fret over.

Earth First - We'll Rape the Other Planets Later - FUNNY POLITICAL BUTTONDon’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to justify or abet Trump and his supporters in climate denial, and I’m not thinking climate activists and the Trump administration will end up in some the kind of strange-bedfellows embrace. Personally, I loathe this administration and find the president’s actions mean, maleficent, and mendacious, though it’s nothing personal. On my very best days I can eke out a couple minutes of meta loving-kindness meditation for the president as a person, but it’s a struggle.

I welcome pulling out of the Paris agreement because it will disrupt our complacency and strengthen the most vigorous avenues of climate action left to us, which are through the courts and direct citizen action. It lends much more credence to the Our Children’s Trust legal argument that the federal government has utterly failed in its responsibility to consider the long-term impact of carbon emissions. It advances the arguments of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund in their federal lawsuit for the right to a livable climate. And it strengthens the case for climate activists attempting to raise the “necessity defense” as a justification for citizen climate action, as I and my fellow “valve turners” are doing as we face criminal charges for shutting off emergency valves on oil sands pipelines.

I Can't Afford To Be a Republican (neither can the planet!) POLITICAL BUTTONIt’s also true that withdrawal from Paris deprives mainstream environmental organizations and the foundations and funders that guide them of a key deliverable, and that could risk eroding support for them. Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing. Many of them have pursued an utterly bankrupt strategy of understating the climate problem, negotiating with the fossil fuel industry, and cherry-picking small victories to showcase organizational accomplishments at the expense of a functional movement strategy.

Pulling out of Paris takes false hopes off the table, and opens the way for building an effective climate movement. So as committed climate activist who knows we’re running out of time, I say, let’s get on with it.”

The false propriety of incremental change is being smashed.  Let’s join together as one planet, one humanity, to build a lasting consensus that Mother Earth deserves our love and undying respect.

POEM: Whole Beings Uneaten

Most passed by
With their own lodes barren
Some considered us fruits
Whose only value was what was eating us
Others fancied us spoiled
At any rate
As undrinkable whines
Expressing only of what we no
Sow surly
After awe
Falling to the ground
As mysteriously whole beings
Only stranger yet
Yielding a hundred fooled
As if
To be
Cut from the vying
Knot frayed
To be another’s harvest
Fore what prophets amen

This poem is about rebellion against having our souls parsed out into fruitless peace after fruitless peace.  Never, never be afraid to do what's right. Society's punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way. MLK QUOTE BUTTONIt is no easy task to remain whole in a whirled habituated to selling awe that is sweet to the highest bitter.  The udder commitment to awe that is unbroken yields derision in the mete market of humanity for sale.  Fortunately, as crazy as it may peer, this poem yields a tale of resurrection, re-birthing more of the sane as many fold.  That which is mere refuse yields the whole that is unseed by many.  Ground into flower becomes bred.  The shuttering hole turns out to be whole.  And wile the whirled is lost, sum are set free, a prize few are willing to pay.  May you discover that unbroken peace surpassing any accost.

The soul that is within me no man can degrade. Frederick Douglass quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONhttp://toppun.com/Great-Quotes/Peace-Quotes/Peace-Quote-Peace-Sign-118.gifANTI-WAR QUOTE: Price of Empire America's Soul - PEACE SIGN BUTTON

POEM: A Boner Fide Off Her

Things are heating up in America
As round the earth
Flatlanders are in a whirled
Of applausable deniability
As their scholar ship sales
Off any known atlas
Of shrugging turtles
And histrionic elephants
Lording over mice and men
In the name of
Republic and mulishness unleashing
Wretched blaming
Artless prey
And blame ideologies
In quakes of human faults
Indifferent in effect
To reason
Snatched
In a phallus logic
As in is capable
With mother earth getting hotter every day
Only asking for it
Her plea to cool it
Only be lying
A girl tempting
To think too hard
Effacing such a boner fide off her

This poem is about macho braggadocio and an abiding disrespect for nature and human kind.  Power Thinks Doing God's Service When Violating All God's Laws--PEACE QUOTE BUTTONWhen such hubris enters politics, both Mother Earth and the body politic get screwed.  Scientific illiteracy in general, and climate change denial specifically, are arenas where greedy ideologies are conveniently engorged on fact-free rations.  Patriarchy and hyper-masculinity give a big hand to victim blaming, outwardly their natural outgrowth.  Earth First - We'll Rape the Other Planets Later - FUNNY POLITICAL BUTTONSuch masturbatory ideologies lead to blindness of natural consequences.  That power is as power does masquerades as scientific acumen, as fore juggernaut of perverse cause-and-effect.  In such phallus logic, the invisible hand magnanimously despoils the hole fecund planet.  Meet market, free market, proving worth wile in every victim it volunteers.  Such virulent virility vivisects Mother Earth and her children.  And what remains, who could resist?

What Exactly Are Conservatives Conserving (Earth) POLITICAL BUTTONDo Not Worry About The Environment - It Will Go Away POLITICAL BUTTONHow About Securing This Homeland (Planet Earth) - POLITICAL BUTTON

Western Civilization Is A Loaded Gun Pointed At The Head Of This Planet -- Terrence McKenna quote POLITICAL BUTTONToday, humanity faces a stark choice: save the planet and ditch capitalism, or save capitalism and ditch the planet --Fawzi Ibrahim quote POLITICAL BUTTONGlobalize THIS - ENVIRONMENTAL RESPONSIBILITY [earth graphic] POLITICAL BUTTON

Feel free to browse more environmental and Mother Earth designs.

POEM: Speaking With Spoken Sword: Owed To Hungering Fore Anew ProMedica

The profit tiers
Some how a peer
To set the captives free
Going won after the other
Like mammon and famine
As to somehow heel the ravenous
As fiend and faux
As sow appetite for the pauper reproach
With such lack luster assurance
As hungering for
Corporate solutions
Like KoolAid™
For the poor
As food desserts
Like a cock tale
Wagging the dog
For mirrorly fucking bitches
The same owe same owe
As prophets of ode
Rapiers by daze
Templars buy eve
The paltry of knights
With chicken shit
Offering
A hundred and fifty bucks
Posing as dear
As if
Doing its doody
In sum fecund foundation
For just us
As financiers of poetic justice
And diets high in irony
For its undeserving marks
And omnipresent logos
As going in kitsch in sync
With awe that cannot be stomached
Paving roads with good attentions
In know name
Butt there own
Sitting a top the whirled
Of hell care
Reigning
Pennies from heaven
As coppers too familiar
To the indignant
And indigent
Of that speaking with spoken sword
Offering crumbs
Leading know where
Their droppings
As little balms
As met a sin
Requiring heart surgery
And prescribing
Take two aspirin
And call me in the mourning
And if that is not enough
Tact on
Take care
Your own
Busyness
Such self-determination
Only too be food agin
As so much on won’s plate
For what is whored
As up rightness
Only to be drug
By profits of owed
Living on exorbitant feeds
As the CEO my God
And the staff buy his side
Dis cuss policy
As their weighter
Serves there well fare
Wile others
Dine in the streets

Here is my decidedly unofficial entry in the ProMedica sponsored poetry competition so unintentionally named, “Revealing Hunger: Spoken (S)word.”  While it is the Big S poetry competition they are currently sponsoring, I’ll pass — though I’m quite sure it will be a gas.  ProMedica was sure to eventually reap the madness of my poetry, sow here it is.  ProMedica is always in the running for trying to coroner the market in buying good will to which it might be able to attach its moribund name.  Though the pathetic $150 price for a singular winning poem betrays how little they truly value good will and poetry.  If my words don’t speak well enough for me, then I invite ProMedica to eat me, should their hunger for justice suffer in digestion.

POEM: Inspiring Life Itself

Hear
I am
My life
Unmeasured
By awe but
Smiles
And ours alone
A forum of love
Only known by agape
Sometimes taken as dope
And every sow often
Be held as a parent
Breathlessness
Be gotten heir
Inspiring life itself

Where does life come from?  Some claim, in a type of miraculous skepticism, that life emerges out of nothingness.  Others figure there is something more seamless in the creation of life, like coming from like.  Regardless of where one’s perspective begins concerning the ultimate origins of life, most can agree that, in the here and now, life produces more life.  Life in its fullness is contagious.  Also, the highest human experiences seam to be inescapably linked to awe.  Awe strikes me as being sublimely taken in by the sheer breathtaking and breath-giving nature of life.  Awe seems close kin to gratitude, particularly of receiving something that transcends our own doing or merit.  For me, such experiences inspire me to live in a way that will breath life into stale social contracts, however well contrived, and knock the wind out of social relationships where another’s humanity is bargained away for supposed profit.  A life well-lived should be more full of celebration than calculation, carousing than conniving.  We will gain much more from dancing than delineating which dances are viewed most positively by each market segment, so we can maximally profit off others’ dancing.  Life, in its fullness, will dance around such cramped connivings.  Of coarse, such lessens will be self-taut, whereas life involves a boundless teeming beyond grasping.

POEM: Putting The Monet In Monetize

The starving artist
Whose art couldn’t be made
Fast enough
Fore his dealer
Rejecting means
Except as accede
In awe but name groan
Poising as a plant
To the extant one can make cents
Putting the Monet in monetize

This poem goes out for awe of the artists successfully resist compromising their heart in order to achieve commercial success.  Compromising our humanity to monetize our lives seems to be at the core of our capitalist culture.  The stark choices between money and people often appear surreal due to the sheer omnipresence of selling out.  It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society -- Krishnamurti quoteWhen sickness becomes the norm, a healthy path seems insane.   As Krishnamurti so aptly stated, “It’s no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”  Art serves a purpose far deeper than “making a living, ” by connecting and re-connecting us to our most primal and highest feelings and aspirations.  Art can serve as an antidote to the societal sickness built on wanton conformity and shallow efficiency. Perhaps fortunately, art is often so undervalued that it serves as a ready vehicle for giving freely, de-linked from monetary ventures.  Perhaps giving freely seems like an un-fiord-able luxury (perhaps privilege is a more apt word), but carving out spaces and places for that which cannot be bought is at the core of a healthy humanity, and hopefully not merely an afterthought.  In perhaps the ultimate irony of artists and their art in a capitalistic culture, the most reliable way to increase the commercial value of your art is to die.  Rather than the death by a thousand compromises suited to most modern jobs, artists may literally need to die to boost the commercial value of their work.  The gods of supply and demand favor dead artists.  Hopefully, artists will be better valued by their enlivening passion instilled in their art rather than the mortifyingly clammy calculus of the marketplace.  Starve the beast, make art; and may you find it full, filling.

POEM: And Love Comes, However Inconceivably

There I stood
I was in
That not so thin line
Between getting
More than I could ask for
And more than I bargained for
The distinction of gratitude
Or the convergence of thieves
Still born
Of one accord
I went to the free market
Fore sum
More
Faith, hope, and love
Only to find myself
A loan
The busyness of life
Having
Souled out
What I kneaded
Only awkwardly grasping
Elusive presence
Fore me
It was
I am
Mine too
In vest
Awe the wile
Selling my wears
In what too due
I will
Caste out
This ward robe
Such a flat attire
And commanding duds
As the spruce
Following suit
In the sparrow weigh
And a will scant due
Compared too
Trends figuring
Brighter than bright
Shining like a son
Without be getter
Unable to look
In the face of Goddess
And live
As kin udder boobs
Possessing womb to grow
Nor looking back
Staring into the abyss
Proffering doubt
Up front
That the hole is greater
Than the sum of the parts
Bought to you
Buy a hire power
A savor of experiences
Made passable
Of awe that is gratuitous
As invalid
Inexorably pro cure
As if
Dogmatically heel
Only to that witch is
But a wrestful silence
In the face
Of free dumb
And drawl conclusions
A cross the lyin’
Thinly veiled
And will
You bye it
When fair it out
A world without heir
Oar a descent living
As kin dread spirits
Ascertain as death
And more taxing
An undistinguished life
Seized
Except for inaugural bawls
And conclusive wimpers
Stand up!
Arise from your grave condition
And deathly accommodations
A veil your self
Of divine under standing
Aura new day dawns
Illiciting epiphanies
As learning on the everlasting alms
Faith found
Hope secured
And love comes
However inconceivably

Love cannot be stopped.  Love under-girds the beneficence of reality.  Love can be plausibly denied, just as God can be plausibly denied.  Focusing on other things, lesser things than love, may seem more productive in everyday life.  Of coarse, the busyness of life is often more repetitive than re-productive.  Love, as is God, is a gentleman, amongst other things, and heels in the presents of unimaginable patience.  A similar sentiment is sublimely expressed by Rumi, a beloved poet to millions, a beloved poet to One:

IT’S RIGGED

by Rumi (as translated by Daniel Ladinsky)

It’s rigged – everything, in your favor.
So there is nothing to worry about.

Is there some position you want,
some office, some acclaim, some award, some con, some lover,
maybe two, maybe three, maybe four — all at once,

maybe a relationship
with
God?

I know there is a goldmine in you, when you find it
the wonderment of the earth’s gifts will lay
aside as naturally as does
a child a
doll.

But, dear, how sweet you look to me kissing the unreal;
comfort, fulfill yourself in any way possible — do that until
you ache, until you ache,

then come to me
again.

 

 

.

PUCO Testimony – FirstEnergy Robbery of Ratepayers

Below is my testimony at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) hearing regarding the proposed corporate welfare for FirstEnergy.  There was an impressive show of force by the anti-nuclear and pro-environmental folks from the region.  There was a show of farce by the usual parade of brown-nosers whose employment is closely related to Davis-Besse nuclear plant operations.  Still, the greatest number of testifiers were opposed to the above-market rate hike to subsidize FirstEnergy’s uncompetitive and dangerous energy generation.  In an unusual move, PUCO literally made every testifier swear.  So, legally, this testimony is “the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”  May PUCO deny FirstEnergy’s application to rip off ratepayers for private profit.

Testimony at PUCO Public Hearing
Re: First Energy Robbery of Ratepayers
January 15, 2015

My name is Dan Rutt. I am a citizen of Toledo and this great planet. I have a B.S. in biology. I have a masters degree in public health. I am a breather of polluted air from coal-fired electric generators. I share with you a planet that is threatened by global climate instability, due to pollution from carbon dioxide and co-called “natural” gas, more accurately described as methane. I live in the deathly shadow of Davis-Besse, the aging nuclear power plant with the worst safety record in the U.S., thanks to a couple of nuclear plants which have been wisely closed recently for safety and economic reasons. It’s Davis-Besse’s turn — hopefully to be decommissioned, not blow up. To you who live outside the region, welcome to Davis-Besse’s kill zone.

I will take my precious few minutes to plead with PUCO, charged with protecting public health and economic sanity. Do not allow the building of a pipeline from the First Energy corporate board room to the public purse. The boondoggle that is the Davis-Besse nuclear plant drives this issue. Davis-Besse is a poor investment economically, a perilous venture environmentally, and a catastrophic threat to human life along the Great Lakes. The federal government already indemnifies the nuclear industry from accountability for catastrophic events. PUCO should not further this lack of accountability by forcing the public to invest in nuclear plants. If anything we should disinvest from nuclear power.

First Energy has lobbied to prop up coal and nuclear, the way of the past. We need change, not infrastructure and rate plans which will lock us into an unsustainable future. Still worse, First Energy has lobbied to block the transition to renewable energy, the way of the future. If First Energy is allowed to pass on most or all of the risk of its increasingly risky ventures to the public — that is, ratepayers and biological entities susceptible to lethal radiation catastrophes — then I suspect that this could trigger a rush of entrepreneurial types wanting to PUCO all over Ohio.

The energy industry is quite adept at playing the hodgepodge of regulatory agencies for its own profit. They are experts at leveraging the narrowness of regulatory agencies’ perspectives and authority, which, given time limitations here, may be summed up as: “It’s not my job” and “I’m only doing my job.” Ironically, this may leave us with somebody’s job, even a so-called “good” job, but no livable world. If your work leads to the destruction of the planet, then it is not a good job. Job one must be protecting the planet. This includes accountability for those who would “invest” (sic) in the destruction of our planet for profit.

There is little doubt that we are being gamed. And if we don’t get wise to this, there are likely to be many losers, and few winners. I wonder if perhaps this issue might be better served by a change of venue. Perhaps we should add to the mix oversight by the Lottery Commission or Casino Control Commission; it might be more honest. Perhaps we could turn that ole Besse into a cash cow. Convert it from a white elephant into a casino. We could call it “Chernobyl on the Lake — an Eerie Adventure.” We could feature Russian Roulette. Unfortunately, we, the public, are already subject to a game of Russian Roulette, playing with nuclear catastrophe and the steamroller of climate instability. Free us from this deadly game. Help us pave the way to a new and sustainable future. Disapprove this proposed rate plan, the robbery of the many to enrich the few, and a dangerous course for all. Thank you.

[Note: I didn’t read this poem at the hearing, but included it in my written testimony]

Good Job
by Dan Rutt, alias “Top Pun” (it’s just, my pun name)

It was early Monday mourning
When the Davis-Besse nuclear plant
Finally ruptured
At the base of Lake Eerie
Weeping poison
From the once-great lakes
Now a watery grave for both sellers
And consumers
Of atomic drivel
For what human remains
The event became known
Simply as “The rupture”
Leaving sleepy millions
In its wake
Sucked into a glowing sky
For who knows watt
Feudal to press release
Fore their heavenly reword
A paradise rolled
Entranced buy snake eyes
In charge of all that meters
Relegating us to hoarse power
Silent partners
Dealt a roil flush
In a conniving casino
Pain only in skullduggery
Forging height reason
And absolute faith in stonewall
As a bet
A dark wager
Echoing in the empty halls
Of unions and congress
“Good job”

POEM: Nevermore Contrived

In the distant future
But not too distant
Man fashions
A machine
That does every thing
For us
For the trees
Imperceptible
To awe but sum
Living in passed tense
Eternal re-pose
Holding sway
In make believe lives
And unexamined lies
So bold over
Weather manner machine
Companied buy nerves of steel
No more tempting stripped ease
Fore incalculable futures
Re-buffed completely
In surging acts of sedation
Knot in any weigh
Quiet getting
What
We came for
Never more
Contrived

This poem is about the many falsehoods being sold as truth in the marketplace of ease and predictability.  Such calculating contrivances pawn the notion that two half-truths are of equal value as a singular truth.  While many such a fool’s formula are accompanied by beguiling animations, the lively hood they occupy is a barren busyness.  Life is not a package deal that can be souled by gimmicks and machinations, no matter how inventive.  There is no technology that can substitute for the disciplines of the heart.  There is no security system that can supplant the the counsel of courage.  There are no makeshift maneuvers that can unseat sacrifice.  There is no peril that does not shrink before wisdom.  There is no coercion that can do a way with liberty.  There is no worldly power or unequaled minions that can equal trust.  There is no status or celebrity that is the match of intimacy.  There is no brand identity, fan club or religion that can replace true solidarity.  There is no ploy that can stand-in for play.  There is no narcotic that can super seed hope and dreams.  There is no outsourcing of accountability.  Reality will have its weigh with you. We must throw our counterfeits into the forge of Mordor, as the hollowed ring of power leads us to false thresholds, revolving adores that steer us to idol pastures and perpetual cowing.

POEM: Nothing New Under The Sun

There is nothing new under the sun
Though in the shadows
The same old same old
Is more mournfully familiar
Settling for reality-lite
Too at home with night
Groping with eyes open
Instead of lightly touched
Even with eyes closed seeing
Age-old must
And vexing knot
A bout
Bitter medicine as won’s savor
Know silence
Too be heard
Where the sun don’t shine
As passing vapor
In stubborn renouncing
Not eye
And such fancy
Still too much
To be taken
In completely
The spell overcast
Eclipsing the census
Of awe that counts
More than won could
Ever bask for

This poem weaves the themes of our everyday blindness to deeper realities, the mystical third eye, and gratitude.  Things are not always as they appear.  Things are more than they appear.  Those who round reality down to mere appearance settle for a more finite and uninspiring perspective on reality.  If it isn’t obvious that life is blisteringly miraculous in the sunshine occupying roughly half of our earthly existence, then there is a deeper, ever-present way of seeing that enlightens awe of reality, more than one could ever bask for.  Sadly, many prefer to manage dwelling in the even more roughly half of our earthly existence, darkness, despite its propensity for inducing fear and despair.  This poem plays with these two interwoven aspects of reality, dark and light, mere appearance and meaning full experience.  These dual, and dueling, aspects of reality are not contradictory; rather, they are different levels of reality, one including yet transcending the other.  The prosaic and miraculous are only divorced if our perspective is committed to irreconcilable differences.  The oneness of reality eternally woos us if wowing us is too transparent for our mode of perception.  Nonetheless, the lure of the manageability of the world of mere appearances is powerful, to those limiting themselves to such parochial power.  Unfortunately, those limiting themselves to the scarcity and paucity of the world of mere appearances will feel compelled to compete, even brutally, for control over this lesser realm.  Security and freedom become mortal enemies and even the asleep don’t sleep well.  Those suffering such blindness and obsession insist upon their powerful incites.  The ensuing fetish with control and manipulation extract a brutal price from anyone actually exercising freedom.  More liberal-minded manipulators will insist that you have all kinds of rights but they will get nervous if you actually exercise them!

My experience informs me that peace and freedom can exist together if gratitude is the uniting reality. This gratitude-powered peace is both an internal peace and external peace.  Gratitude-powered people are the least dangerous people in the world; that is, except to those whose job is to convince others of their lack, especially if linked to selling you a product, service, or idea that will make them gain money or status.  If gratitude unites your world view, then you could say that gratitude is your religion, a religion of “Thank God for thanks!”  As you might guess, my worldview is profoundly influenced by grace, a recognition and respect for undeserved gain that overturns a barren capitalistic view that at best can offer a fair and equal exchange, where generosity is a foolish inefficiency and the bounty of life is jacked up to yield the highest price possibly bearable by humanity (or by “the market” if “humanity” doesn’t compute).  The bounty of life becomes fodder of our folly, as “Wanted — dead or alive,” runs roughshod over life itself.  I strongly suspect that the consuming disease of controlling others is a failure to answer the question of how much is enough.  At the heart of this disease is fear and inescapable greed.  I believe that a responsible freedom, a freedom that is informed by gratitude, can operate amidst fear and greed without distorting its own nature and consonance with life, that comes from who knows where, but, as a dyslexic and a mystic, I find naturally super!

POEM: My Brand of Value

My brand value
Has plummeted recently
So says sum consultant
As some seer into my pristine hide
Speaking a bout
Clashing symbols
In the mark it place
Some limbic game how logo
Soliciting every thing
That can be taut
As I must be
Scarred for good
Pimping my horrors
To a void
Tear attacks
Or fiscal fits
In a world lackeying so much
I’ll pass
Perhaps in tact
Or knot out live
Still
Forever chaste
Know thanks
I do believe
I’ll steer clear
Of dis figure or dat figure
And risk being
De-filed

In order to sell ourselves for a high price, we need to pay homage to our brand.  We often need to distort and simplify our deepest passions and interests so others can easily recognize our “value,” that is as such value may be determined at any given time and culture.  In the marketplace of our modern world, this typically means configuring our lives to maximally monetize ourselves.  Reducing our lives to money is a dangerous undertaking for our humanity.  This poem takes issue with the assumption that we should spend much of our life trying to sell ourselves.  What exactly would be a good balance?  Perhaps 15% slave, 15% whore, and 70% free range human would be a good compromise.  After meeting our basic physical needs, it strikes me that we should be devoting ourselves to the things that money can’t buy.  Even meeting our basic human needs can be much more human than often offered by modern, so-called civilization.  In fact, if we can trade, have mutual aid associations, grow some of our own food, build or repair our own stuff, we can loosen the grip that the moneychangers have over life, trading currency for the gloriously ineffable now.  Humans are not machines to be ever more standardized, even in the most complex and beauteous contraptions.  Rather than leveraging the seductive, money-making enterprise of simplifying and reducing humans to means to some financialized end, we should develop human relationships that harness the curiosity and appreciation of the unfathomably deep eccentricity and beauty of every human being.  Then, we can move from boredom and cynicism to enthusiasm and bounteous hopes.  This glorious movement from the bowels of an uncaring machine to a feral existence may be messy, even pricey.  Nonetheless, the value of living undomesticated lives is boundless, offering more than any mechanized existence, no matter how tamed, how well-trained, or how profitable.  Branding is not for the benefit of cattle or humans, and it is painful and scarring to boot!  Branding is for the ease of those who want to own and trade you and every commodifiable aspect of your existence, rather than taking the glorious time and robust effort to see you fully for who you truly are, worthy of avoiding all mean ends, and courageous enough to face being de-filed.

POEM: Model Citizen

Rowan was a model citizen
One-eighth scale
Painstakingly posed
With animating make up
Almost lifelike

This short poem, “Model Citizen,” is a reflection on the life-like which should only be mistaken for life at one’s own peril — or, in this poem’s case, at one’s community’s own peril.  The status quo and the powers that be provide a straightforward framework, including incentives and disincentives, to behave in a certain way.  This is a large part of what we call culture.  Busy-ness and business are dominant aspects of modern Western civilization.  Unfortunately, being busy, or just seeming busy, isn’t necessarily linked with human betterment or progress.  Like Gandhi said, “There is more to life than increasing its speed.”  Surely, the capitalist business and consumer culture feeds the need for speed, ever-increasing “industriousness” to grow the economy and standard of living.  Perhaps the best example of why this path is perilous is the reality that a “successful” growth of worldwide standard of material living requires an increasingly unsustainable exploitation and consumption of natural resources, and concomitant waste.  If such growth is not to be a fatal planetary cancer, there needs to be wholesale changes in the way we do business, and busy-ness, as relates to the urgency of the situation.  We cannot settle for life-light or lifelike.  Such citizen posers may be the death of us all.

This poem points to the role of good citizenship in creating, maintaining, and sustaining healthy communities and a healthy planet.  In good citizenship, democracy is the process and the common good is the goal.  Neither democracy nor the common good can reasonably be entrusted to elites, whether these elites are political, business, technocratic, or religious.  It is precisely these elites which have an interest in selling us something other than the common good.  The proprietary nature of modern existence, driven by the profit motive, has brought us to this place.  The common good is anathema to profit as king.  The unjust advantage held by elites is what keeps us on this perilous trajectory.  Nominal democracy is a common tool used to fool average citizens into accepting something less than the common good.  There is a great divide between elites, who are generally viewed as portraits of “success” — a mere fantasy for many — and the masses who would be greatly advantaged by securing the common good.  Of course, in affluent societies, the “middle class” comprise most of the so-called “model citizens.”  Their advantage in the larger scheme of things is sufficient to buy into the status quo, if not the powers that be.  The amorphous common good of some possible life is bypassed for the reasonable access to the concrete benefits of living in a materially affluent society.  Most simply put: if I’ve got mine, then risking that for something less certain seems like a bad bet.  So we settle.  In terms of democracy, made nominal, this appears as that oft-too-common choice of the lesser of two evils, choosing between two elites who have no real interest in the common good, other than to pacify the masses and maintain stability and predictability.  Just note the language used with the utmost importance regarding financial interests and “markets” needing “certainty.”  Predictability has many nice facets to it, but in this case, the greatest certainty is that the rich will grow richer and the poor will grow poorer.  When this almost-cliche formula receives little complaint or resistance, it is a sure diagnostic that you are richer than poorer, or at least a committed wannabe richer.  In the end, this poem is a call to the poorer masses to throw off the illusions brought by nominal democracy (in a plutocracy) and the modest temporary incentives to play it safe as a “model citizen” only one-eighth scale.  Then, we can join together in a much truer democracy able to secure the common good for all — yes, even the richer.

POEM: Evolution of a Writer

Evolution of a Writer

You have evolved into quite a writer
Could you write something for my company?
He solicited
Presumably thinking
I was still into monkey business
Not even grasping
I was clearly out of my tree

This poem is a playful way to address some tensions between creating art and the business of selling art, in this case writing.  Many artists struggle with having the creative process compromised based on market or business realities at any given moment.  The need to materially survive can draw in sharp relief — or deep depression — the vocational viabilities of the higher creative processes and the lower needs for material survival or comfort.  Fortunately, this can actually be a great source of inspiration of one of the many tensions in life — that of surviving versus thriving.  There are good reasons for the portrait of a starving artist.  This reality speaks both to the passion and value many artists place on their work, and the relative lack of value others may derive from the artist’s products of their work.  I separate the process of creating art from the created “product.”  I have little doubt that I derive much more joy from writing poetry than any other one individual can derive from my work.  Of course, the social and commercial nature of an artistic work product can leverage its overall value much higher because many people may experience it and derive some benefit.  The artist’s tendency to value the creative process makes sense — though perhaps not cents — since the creative process itself is typically what drives even further passion and creativity.  Selling stuff is typically secondary. Of course, the relatively few artists which can make a decent living selling their art may leapfrog to another level of freedom in their creativity and expression — assuming selling stuff doesn’t compromise the height of creativity.  Many view artists as “clearly out of their tree” if their valuing of commercial viability or success doesn’t match societal expectations.  Ironically, this may be one of the main purposes that artists serve in society: to expand society’s limits and depth of experience beyond that which can be relatively easily bottled for commercial success.  Yes, life is about much more than money.  This is the nexus with evolution.

In this poem I play around and push the limits of our current understanding of evolution.  Let me be clear, I am not claiming or even insinuating that the facts of Darwin’s theory of evolution are missing or wrong; nor that the theory is inconsistent with the scientific facts.  What I am saying is that sheer survival to sexually reproduce is too narrow a framework to explain human experience or predict human behavior.  Humans have evolved to such an incredible level of flexibility and adaptability that transcendent experiences (that would include subjectivity) outside of scientific reductionism present is difficult to ignore — if we want a more complete account of humanity.  Of course, this debate and tension between “spirituality” and reductionistic “science” are not new.  In the philosophy of science, there are understood to be limits to human knowledge.  In the case of Darwin’s theory of evolution, it does a powerful job of explaining how life evolves, but it (nor the rest of science) cannot explain how life itself came to be.  Plus, it leaves open the question of meaning or purpose in life or for life — NO SMALL QUESTION!  The theory of evolution uses “random” as a convenient assumption or framework to build an explanatory theory of how life evolves.  I consider the nature of “random” the great unanswered (and unanswerable) question within Darwin’s theory.  While reductionistic science, in proper accord with its assumptions and arising precepts, denies subjectivity as an area of investigation which science can legitimately explore.  Of course, accepting this assumption, though powerful in explaining some stuff, leaves the greatest questions in human life off-limits, and by improper cultural convenience and over-simplicity, simply ignores this aspect of reality (subjectivity), or worse yet denies it altogether.   It is no logical surprise, that the gaping hole of “random” leaves much to be desired in a more fully coherent account of human life and experience.  We need to evolve beyond this disability or maladaptation.  The sheer physical survival of a purely materialist worldview strikes me as our past, not our future.  This deterministic survival instinct, while part of our reality, becomes mere monkey business if taken as the whole truth.  So who is it in the human species that is not grasping this next level of evolution?  Maybe it will take some folks who appear “clearly out of their tree” to get us there…

POEM: Wolves in Elephants’ Clothing

Wolves in Elephants’ Clothing

Somewhat sheepishly
She whispered
Beware of wolves in elephants’ clothing
Lurking about
Only looking
Like they want
To kick some ass
Though you can skulk in style
If you have
A grand
Old party
Securing your plush seat
At the table
Loaded
With elephant guise
Rather incestual sycophants
At their I’m potentate parties
And if you are well, off
They will take you
To a tee
Spouting about
King George I and King George II
And unjust taxes
More dear than all the tea in England
And buy George, they’re not satisfied with a billion
Let alone a third
Perhaps some fresh prince all over
A newly-minted crime scene
Unseemly blind to any lackey of evolution
Yet there is no ruler
To measure their monkey business
Their trinity
Cheering with pomposity
Throwing monologues on the fire
And stalling
Having perfected the nationwide holdup
A three wring circus
And we are left
With what’s in the stall
The elephant dropping
All that is fertile
For phony fossils
Making evolution impossible
A lessen they never forget
With a mellifluousness Abel
To capture the common man
A cleanliness next to godlessness
Their hoods white
For shadowing their golden daze
In an urbane jungle
Leaving behind poor gramma
Spelling her downfall
GOP opposed to GOD
Having fallen
Down
And can’t get up
Leaving students
With nothing but a prayer
Leaving workers
With a free market they can’t afford
Leaving US
With life after death
And perhaps before birth
Still
All the wile between
Sent to our gloom
To be
Or not to be
Borne again
That is the quest in
Whether it is know buller
For in the mine to suffer
The blings
And ere rows
Of outrageous fortunes
Oar to take alms
Against a see of troubles
And by opposing thumb end
Overcoming any
Hitch
Hiking what’s left
As necessary
Sew much more than
Evolution
One of the scarce things
They can’t seem to buy
Their con science
Of what
They know longer nose
Inescapably figuring
Somehow elect by birth
Perpetual SNOBS
Where the N is usually silent
In their civil war
Inevitably impaled by their mortal compass
Spinning north and south
Feigning uprightness
Disavowing any revolution present
Captivated by fanciful futures
And realities passed
And still
What goes around
Comes around
A choice truth
Either buy
Ballads or bullets
We all have the write to choose
To ward off electioneer death

This poem is a thinly veiled anti-Republican party exposition.  Profoundly ironic, Republicans are as sure proof as you are going to find that evolution doesn’t exist, and, as Gandhi never said, “Be the lack of change you want to see in the world.”  The Republican party appears quite comfortable with greed as the primary human motivation.  Perhaps worse yet, and even more disingenuous, is the ease at which Republicans embrace anti-science views, of which anti-evolution and climate change skepticism are its hallmarks.  For the so-called religious expertise that Republicans claim, they certainly manage to brand religion as anti-science, which it need not be.  Even within the hallowed halls of religious territory, Republicans manage to bring hypocrisy to ever-new heights.  With their specialty Christianity, Republicans paint a picture of Jesus as if he were a white, suburban-living, English-speaking American, preaching some prosperity gospel.  For God’s sake, Jesus wasn’t even a Christian, he was a Jew, and a Palestinian Jew at that!  If such a poor, dark-skinned, Middle-eastern, non-English-speaking, peace-loving, giver of free health care showed up in America, the Republicans would have reserved seating at his crucifixion.  Of course, they would contract out the actual killing, though a carpenter driving in those nails would not likely be a member of the carpenters’ union.  Plus, the Republicans definitely wouldn’t bother paying a “living” wage for such low skilled tasks, however unpleasant.

The larger theme in this poem is about the tension between electoral and non-electoral politics.  The two-party duopoly of Republocrats offers only a narrow range of possibilities deemed politically feasible.  This leaves the electorate, barely even a majority of eligible voters in many elections, to ratify the predetermined candidates from a relatively narrow ideological pool.  In my view, this electoral desert leaves little room for the kind of robust responses that the current world begs.  Our slow and limited responses to climate change and energy use demonstrate this best.  Even a well-managed end of civilization as we know it is a poor substitute for saving humanity.  Of course, the “ballads or bullets” dichotomy is somewhat hyperbolic for effect.  Nonetheless, without nonviolent revolution, or much-speeded evolution, our current body politic will experience a much more violent demise.  I am rooting and working for a nonviolent revolution.  The driving force of this revolution will almost certainly originate outside formal electoral politics. As history teaches us, such robust change does not come without personal sacrifice, and it demands courage.  The Republicans would be well-advised to learn from Jesus, who showed us a different way.  And who better than Jesus would know that just because you are a carpenter doesn’t mean that you have to see everything as a nail!

POEM: Treatment…Like…Sewage

Treatment…Like…Sewage

I lived in Libertarianville
They said
“If you want sewage treatment,
Just go to some place that has it.”
So I did
Many don’t live there long

I find discussing politics with self-professed Libertarians a vexing experience.  Typically, we cannot converse for more than a few minutes before getting to some brutal logical endpoint, where I am requested to trump my heart with some rudimentary portion of a brain.  To the most fanatical, there is a “let them die” conclusion, met with way-to-comfortable stoicism.  To the less fanatical, it is usually some corollary of this, masquerading more humanely.

In this short poem, I take sewage treatment as an example of a common good escaping the grasp of Libertarians.  And dealing with sewage and the slippery slopes of shitty logic can be perilous.  I draw this example from my training and experience in public health.  The control of communicable diseases is the greatest public health accomplishment in the last century of humankind.  Only human unkind would create a political philosophy and practice that would wholesale-endanger such life-promoting accomplishments with a proverbial flush down the toilet of ideology.  This poem mocks the ridiculous notion that complex common goods can be manufactured and marketed like widgets in some free market. After all, few can afford the free market!  After the Libertarians’ wet dream, the remaining reality would not have such complex common goods even available for one to exercise their precious choice regarding.  The tough choices and hard-fought gains from balancing individual liberty with the common good, in my judgment, would leave us with a world where there is much less freedom, fewer choices, and a less robust life.  Choosing one particular thing over another particular thing, when done wisely, while destroying the possibility of the previous choice, thereby “limiting” our freedom, creates new realities with better choices, a more robust freedom.  Libertarians sometimes strike me as emotionally stunted, almost infantile, in their inability to sacrifice a present freedom to build a greater future.  Perhaps ironically, Libertarianism may actually manifest itself as some form of attachment disorder.

My typical experience of so-called Libertarianism strikes me as some dangerous addiction to some notion of absolute human freedom that routinely erodes every other value doomed to its presence, including public health. Now, I am not saying that Libertarians are necessarily stupid or do not hold values deeply.  I am saying that a steely brain is no substitute for wholehearted living, and Libertarianism seems to run freely, if not roughshod, over a myriad of insights and the wisdom of the heart, as well as everyday experience (such as the benefits of public health).  I am saying that Libertarians routinely hamstring all other values in favor of leaving all options open in the far-flung field of dreams called absolute human freedom.

I see the absolute part of the equation, the fundamental ideology or worldview, as corrosive, ironically, to any good fruits of good choices that freedom allows.  That said, Libertarians have it right, very right, that freedom is foundational, a first-order good, the fount of will.  The trouble necessarily follows when any freedom, or all freedom, must level anything built on that foundation, for lack of any ascendant, successfully competing, value.  Allowing any other value to rise either above or equally with freedom is necessarily a threat to the sacrosanct value of freedom.  The ultimate irony is that by not allowing any other value as great or greater than freedom, Libertarianism routinely finds itself standing dumb, unable to speak with authority, in a disabling self-censorship, for fear of undercutting its worship of freedom.  I find this worship of freedom idolatrous.  Libertarianism is the opposite of Authoritarianism.  In this sense, Libertarianism must fight any authority, refusing to acknowledge any legitimacy, except, of course, its own.  This may be the best definition of idolatry.  Perhaps somewhat mysteriously, this reveals an even deeper irony: Libertarianism and Authoritarianism share this truth of refusing to acknowledge any legitimacy, except, of course, their own.  As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.”  A common sentiment among Libertarians and Anarchists is “question authority.”  I find much resonance with this sentiment.  Of course, this implied imperative raises the deeply ironic question, “By what authority do you question authority?”  A recursive reality oft leading to cycles of swearing. Some would seemingly put this to rest by claiming “I question all authority!”  Yet, in the shadow persists another question: Is questioning authority equivalent to not questioning authority?  Some would answer no, resigning any discernment in a moral flatland. Still, some would retort that the discernment lies in the questioning: the important thing is to question everything, including oneself.  I would agree.  Nonetheless, the rabbit hole goes still deeper in at least two additional tiers.  First, questioning everything implies an absolute skepticism, or, put perhaps even more provocatively, a faith in skepticism.  Second, questioning everything, including oneself implies tentativeness at the heart of reality.  The Buddhists would call this the doctrine of impermanence, that everything arises and falls in relationship to everything else, or “impermanence is an undeniable and inescapable fact of human existence from which nothing that belongs to this earth is ever free.”  The Buddhist concept of impermanence is closely related to the concept of tentativeness or momentariness.  The Buddhist worldview is anathema to rigid ideology or fundamentalism of any unkind.  Amidst the flux of impermanence and the state of momentariness, arises the experience of compassion.  Rather than dissolving or devolving into nihilism and inescapable confusion, Buddhists have found that the experience of compassion is at the heart of reality, knitting together lives worth living.  I would love to infuse a healthy dose of Buddhism into Libertarianism.  Perhaps meditating on the highest ideal of bringing compassion to all living beings would moderate the sharp edges of Libertarianism in America.

There is truth in Libertarianism, and we should not throw out the baby with the bath water.  Nevertheless, Libertarianism needs to live more fully into the heart of humanity, embodying compassion.  Such a maturation process is good for all of us and each of us, whatever our ideologies of the day might be.  There are a host of fallacies founded on mistaking a part for the whole.  The process of integrating our experiences and understanding into an ever-larger whole, strikes me as the most fundamental developmental task of humanity, a transcendent task for those who have not yet anchored their skepticism in certainty.  In this journey, may we embrace one another with compassion.

POEM: Success Can Be Trying

She was not a success
Nor was she even a failure
For failure has a prerequisite
Trying
Not reaching
The successful cobble
The stones of failure
So becoming
The rode integral
Too success
Finding that success can be trying

The people who fail the most are usually also those who are also the most successful.  Exceedingly few people succeed on their first try.  First comes trying.  Then, comes practicing, or trying something different.  As my daughter was growing up, I remember us watching Olympic figure skating, and she asked, “How do they do that?!”  I answered, “Lots of practice.”  I repeated, practiced, this response with her over the years.  When she was about ten years old, she talked about wanting to play the guitar.  Her Grandma got her a junior-sized guitar for her birthday.  She picked it up and held it in a similar fashion as she had seen the folks she had admired play it.  She immediately exclaimed, “It doesn’t work!?”  The guitar didn’t play.  She had thought that somehow just holding the guitar would somehow draw music out of her.  I don’t think she even tried after that.  Not to worry, my daughter has tried many other things since then, and persistence is one of her strongest traits.

In trying, there is great wisdom in knowing the difference between when to hunker down and keep practicing the same thing and when to move onto something different.  Some of this depends on balancing our desires to be a virtuoso at something and our desires to experience many different things, being a proverbial jack-of-all-trades.  Being a virtuoso opens up new possibilities by being able to perform at a level that few, if any, can match.  Taking a more liberal arts approach, you can learn at little bit of everything, though perhaps not be an expert in any particular field.  This may strike some as indecisive, unfocused, or even lazy, but it takes advantage of a foundational principle of learning: we learn much more at the beginning of the learning curve than later in the learning curve.  For many things in life, there are diminishing returns, less output per unit of effort, by doing/practicing the same thing over and over.  By moving to areas with less mastery, we can harness the “first fruits” effect.  By harvesting the low hanging fruits in many different fields, we can learn accelerate the total amount we learn.  Plus, cross-fertilization of ideas and experiences is at the core of creativity: combining two or more things in a way to produce something new.  Higher level learning is about making robust connections in the brain.  Virtuosos achieve deep grooves in their brain and mastery of a particular skill at about 10,000 hours of practice.  Of course, devoting 10,000 hours to a greater variety of activities may not produce similarly deep grooves in specific areas of the brain, but perhaps more robust, complex connections.  Perhaps the connection between these two different approaches is persisting in a level of challenge that develops and strengthens brain connections.  The virtuoso is challenged by a necessarily greater singularity of focus.  The jack-of-all-trades is challenged by the awkwardness of regularly venturing into new fields and having to make sense of much new information.  Both require patience, which I consider the mother of all virtues.

In Western civilization, great value is placed on specialization, so that you have easily identifiable, easily marketable skills to navigate “successful” careers.  I think that shifting our balance toward trying things new would produce greater returns in quality of life, perhaps be challenging what is meant by “success.”  Of course, much is perspective.  Thomas Edison tried 10,000 materials to perfect a light bulb filament.  When asked whether he thought that represented a waste of time, he declared that he had learned 9,999 ways not to make a light bulb filament.  I am with good old Tom, that in if we approach life with a positive attitude toward the trying task of learning, nothing will be wasted.  And even then, if you enjoy time wasted, it’s not time wasted.  This I have learned — and keep trying to remember…

POEM: Fringe Benefits

Living on the fringe
Has benefits

I thought that this short poem would have been the seed for a larger poem, but the more I thought about it, I didn’t want to mess with the simple elegance of it.

Since I quit my “regular” job to run my own business full-time, I have learned that time is way more valuable than money.  This has been confirmed along my journey with much less money and much more time.  Research confirms that once we have enough money to meet our basic needs, additional money offers little increase in happiness.  Apparently, the proverb, “you can’t buy happiness” is largely true.  On the other hand, having additional free time, to do what we really want to do, does not seem to be limited by the principle of diminishing returns as money is, that is, after meeting our basic needs.  I would say that trading money for time would be a good deal for most Americans.  Of course, my approach is not to purchase time through vacations or hiring help, but rather to free up time by not selling myself pay any more than I have to.  Living simply and frugally is part of my vocation.  Such a vocation allows my life to better resemble a vacation.  Every dollar I don’t spend is a dollar I don’t have to earn in the not-so-free market.  If you are fortunate to have significant assets available to you, I would highly recommend transitioning to a much simpler life, by ransoming your life with whatever assets you have available.

A transition to a simpler life requires letting go of certain things.  For instance, I am living on the fringe, in the fact that I have been without health insurance for almost a decade.  Though I might add, our health care system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system, and now is as good of a time as any to be on the fringe of this non-system.  Fortunately, I am healthier than most of my peers.  I eat nutritiously.  I get plenty of rest.  I have much, much less stress than most.  I get a decent amount of physical activity.  I have something that the finest doctors in the world are unable to give their patients.

So, what are some other benefits of living on the fringe?  In recent months, I have written a poem a day, and a blog commentary to boot!  Just yesterday, I broke my record for length of a blog commentary.  I can’t remember the last time I set my alarm to get up in the morning — this is something that the richest and most powerful people in the world cannot claim!  One of my greatest hopes is for people to have morning without mourning!

I recently spent a couple of hours most days for a couple of months with a friend dying in hospice care.

I have spent most of my life on a quest for simple living.  I contemplated and calculated quite thoroughly the costs and “affordability” of quitting my regular job.  Perhaps the greatest single epiphany in my life has been how grossly I underestimated the benefits of working for myself, relaxing my security reflex, and living fully into the serendipitous benefits of simple living.  I feel like I have won the lottery!  Only without the money…

Like a former pastor of mine says, “If you aren’t living on the fringe, then you are taking up to much room.”  May you find the space and time in your life to discover fringe benefits beyond your dreams!

POEM: Secrets Lie

Secrets lie
At the heart of US
The endless wore
On tear
Never skipping
A beating
As time passes
US over
Looking like patients ignored
Collapsing under our own wait
For loving our animus
Is too much
To bare
The truth
Be herd
Our soul declaration
Creed is good
As we give ourselves
An invisible hand
That perplexing clap
For doing everything
That moves
US including
Our shadow
Double dealing
In securities
Trading
Peeps
As seen a phobia
Forges
Code wars
As truth is
Strangers are friction
As per jury of peers
Courting unequaled dispositions
Bring a bout
Foreboden fruit
Of the loom weave cobbled
A two-legged stool
Chock-full of deification
Portending wee are not
Number two
Preying only
There are no leaks
Which could raze a stink
Cowering in deed
Not even with standing
A rhetorical quest in
The proverbial can
Not out of the woods
Lay bear
It’s very nature
Calling out
Know shit
Sherlock
Without a hint
How ironic

This poem goes out to the NSA and all the other proprietors of secrets.  The NSA makes a bold play trying to corner the market on personal information about virtually everyone on the planet.  All the wile, the NSA lies about itself.  Thanks to the continuing Edward Snowden revelations, the NSA has had to deal with the light of day, sending them scattering like cockroaches.  The irony is deep when Americans are told that they have nothing to fear if they are law-abiding citizens.  So, what of NSA fears that their “private” data is divulged?  The spy business is fraught with hypocrisy and deception.  The so-called “intelligence” agencies cannot make credible claims about their own behavior when their very existence is incompatible with transparency.  A sound democracy cannot be built on official lies and “trust me” reassurances.  Power without powerful oversight lends itself to abuse of the common good.  Trust is perhaps the most valuable social good.  Trust cannot be earned or maintained without honesty and forthrightness. The NSA is sitting on a two-legged stool, and with every fresh revelation about its deception it wants us to believe that its shit doesn’t stink!

POEM: Unemployable

I am unemployable
Partly because no one can afford what I’m worth
Partly because I prefer to give it away

This short poem harkens to a more organic way of relating to one another than contractual relationships.  What if people did what they love in life and gave freely?  I suspect that the world would be much better off.  Love unleashed is much more powerful, and synchronous with the deepest reality, than any personal profit or “earning.”  Giving freely is an invitation to escape the binds of the quid pro quo of contracts.  Contractual relationships are bound by a reciprocity that is defined by a limited payback.  The best that a contractual relationship can offer is an equal, reciprocal exchange or payback that ends when the direct participants/contractors get what they bargained for — it’s largely a closed system.  Of course, many would be quite satisfied with such a fair exchange.  I am not.  I yearn for an open system of unending streams of acts of kindness where little time and effort is spent on trying to guarantee that the giver gets back a commensurate, proportional return in a specific way. How about paying it forward?  Many will cry out, “Life is not fair; if you act that way, then you will get shortchanged.”  My answer: you are right, life is not fair — life is excellent!  My life is a gift that I can never repay, except in kind!  What is fair in life is that what we sow is what we reap.  The means produce the ends.  And the kinds produce new beginnings.  As Gandhi, a man well accustomed to the darker and lighter sides of humanity, proclaimed, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” People convinced that mutual exchange negotiated by two parties is the best we can do, will likely not do much better.  I, for one, would like to participate in a much bigger party!  And like John Lennon said, “You may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one. I hope someday you will join us. And the world will live as one.”

Us dreamers don’t deny that people can treat you badly, worse than you treat them.  What dreamers don’t deny, but affirm, and live into, is that people can treat each other better than they are treated.  Within this blessed inequality is a sacred space where forgiveness, grace, and gratitude flourish.  I view this as the most fundamental and appropriate response to the existential reality that I did nothing to deserve my life; or, as John Paul Sartre and Paul Johannes Tillich would join in saying, “We are not the ground of our own being.”

The fright of giving freely is easily identified, and it is commonplace.  Interestingly though, perhaps more illustrative is the odd reality that receiving freely is also very difficult and scary for many people.  The fright that binds these two conditions is not the fear of not getting enough, but rather the fear of not earning one’s way.  If I receive freely, then I might owe someone or something.  This may trigger an even deeper fear of being controlled, having this debt being used against you.

I suspect that this fear of being controlled, having a debt being used against you, may be the most basic fear contained within false religion, that is, religion which controls rather than sets free.  Perhaps ironically, this fear of having a debt that one cannot repay may be a frightening undergirder of atheism (a rejection of a giver?).  The modern scientific atheist betrays this worldview by a singular focus on scientific reductionism, the world of causality where each individual party has a proper accounting (hmmm…sounds a bit like a religion).  In this world of causality, that paradoxically is proclaimed to exist without a cause (“it just is” — like God?), there is no room for generosity or forgiveness, only ever finer engineering and accounting.  Mystery becomes simply ignorance, a hubris-ridden assumption about what lies beyond the veil.  Humility and hubris seem as one.  Is it any wonder that scientific atheists may find their attitudes vacillating from extreme causality and exacting control to impenetrable absurdity.

Back to the basic theme of this poem, which challenges a worldview dominated by “earners.”  Humans and humanity are too valuable to be monetized for the convenience of more efficient commerce.  Human rights are not for sale, but arise out of the sacred worth of human life.  Perhaps the best illustration of how far we have strayed from this is by the fact that you can substitute “the market” or “the economy” with the word “God” and you would find that it all makes sense, in a strangely perverse way.  We must bow to the false god of Mammon, or worldly wealth and power, but it will never set us “free.” As Jesus adroitly put it, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)   Reflecting on this basic pivot point in life may give rise to a more modern take on truth and freedom: The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off!

There are few things in modern American politics that will piss people off more than confronting “a sense of entitlement.”  Conservatives more typically take offense at a “sense of entitlement.”  Liberals more typically work to protect “entitlements.”  I think that this liberal desire to protect “entitlements” springs from a sense of human rights which transcend market valuations.  Unfortunately, the debates about “entitlements” pays too much homage to economic worthiness than sacred worthiness.  I view conservatives’ objections to “entitlements” as springing from this worldview that holds “earning” as sacrosanct.  Such a worldview rejects both “giving freely” and “receiving freely.”  Conservative religious rhetoric aside, the dubious conservatives’ claim that giving should be done freely (without government involvement) is perhaps best debunked simply by their giving behavior.  Feeble claims that government robs them of enough resources to give is easily countered by the fact that the more people have the less they give proportionally (whether conservative or liberal).  The urge to give must spring from some place different than having a lot of stuff to give.  If this sacred place from which giving arises is to become incarnate in this world, then we must behave congruously with the reality that each human is more valuable than any employer can pay, and we must prefer giving over earning.

May you resist the temptation to monetize your humanity, or anyone else’s, and may you give freely, centered in that sacred space where what is most valuable is experienced.