tumbledry

Francine Swings

This is Francine, she is a swan who wears a tutu and dances ballet. I am like 9 months behind on posting pictures and videos, but this is hilarious.

“She’s pumping her legs!”
— Ess

Essie Reading List

Some library books we’ve been reading to Ess recently:

EssieApril2019ReadingList

Herman and Rosie is a jazz and NYC-themed love story and when Ess wanted a story read to her in the middle of the night, that’s the one she picked. I think she picked it because it’s long for a children’s book, but it still has a nice gentle pace for late-night.

The Life Cycle of a Penguin is representative of these little (and sometimes not-so-little) factual books that she devours when she’s into something. Right now she’s really into animals having babies. She’s got a birthing center (padded with Kleenex) set up in her room, and after emerging (with plenty of labor sounds — she’s very clear that having an animal is difficult for the mother), her stuffed mammals promptly get licked clean by their moms and begin nursing. Lots of nursing. SO MUCH nursing. It’s very sweet.

And then When the World is Full of Friends — what a great title. Plus, those illustrations by Anna Currey just make your heart sing, don’t they? Mykala and I are going to find something by her to put on our wall.

Born to Be

“I was born to be me.”

—Ess

A Single Pond

“A single pond means it’s not married to a puddle or a lake or an ocean. Because single means not married and that’s the things a pond would be married to.”

— Esmé

OK

Mykala and I have what we call everything’s going to be OK moments. They occur when, unexpectedly, you take a deep, clear breath and, finding the typical tightness and anxiety missing, begin to feel the awareness, just over the fence of obligation and the ditch of depression, of a peaceful field of calm.

My understanding of these moments has been subtly, but profoundly, wrong.

You see, like an ignoramus, I took the phrase at face-value: everything (all the events in your life) is (in the future) going to be OK (will turn out nicely).

That’s not it. Really really not it.

As I initially had it, I seemed to imagine on the other side of the fence just undulating hills of astroturf covered in prepackaged food. Like I could, naked and naïve, go to a fake world and experience nice, simple, things; no grit or moxie or spirit required.

No.

Everything is going to be OK means choosing to feel that it will all be… OK. Critically, you are not to be blamed, you are not to feel less-than, you must not accuse yourself of failure when you feel deeply all will not be alright. Rather, the phrase describes a perception that there’s the modicum of a sliver of a possibility in there that you’ll feel, eventually, that it will be.

Or was.

So, on the other side of that fence of obligation, that ditch of depression, you wish for a variegated, treacherous, beautiful, bountiful, harsh, verdant, real landscape where you get to bring shelter on your back, friends for the journey, a good strong pair of boots, and a thoughtful spirit. To see where you’ll go, what the weather will be that day, and how the seasons will bend you.

This is something like a flowering of Buddhist awareness, and, as always with these sorts of things, the terms are pedestrian, the analogies insufficient, and the lesson only clear once learned.

P.S. I have not learned this lesson yet.

Moving

Moving

I read a bit in The New Yorker today about how photographs “can freeze time, but never stop it.” To that end, we sold our townhouse, and this is one of the listing pictures we took.

Before putting in that wood floor, right in the middle of the pictured room, we scribbled a note: that two of us and a baby on the way moved there in 2014. That baby is four-and-a-half now.

I could write about how we’ve had disagreements, fights, Christmas trees, news of births, news of deaths, dancing, piano music, comedies, dramas, stuffed animal ballet shows, infants, toddlers, kids, popcorn, spills, sun, rain, fear, sadness, pain all in this room, but you already knew that. After all, what else is life made up of, exactly? Five years of it just happened to take place here.

Five years, precisely, as it turns out. We’ll close on our new place on the same day in 2019 we did in 2014.

Cagots

My thinking, years ago, went like this: people, groups of people, compete for limited resources. Even if one side is consistently committed to negotiation, to peaceful compromise (even if BOTH are), physical aggression from a few rogues on one side will inevitably cause armed conflict. How could even the most egalitarian, humanistic leader do anything else, upon witnessing killing of their own?

This evolved to a model of cultural scapegoatism. Violence will arise when there are abundant resources, from just the perception of unfairness or moderately uneven distribution. Tribalism, jingoism, binary exclusivism will then define the in-group by negation. Which is to say, “we are wonderful, we are treated unfairly, and we are the opposite of those people over there.” Those who complain loudest seem to be those who are winning… and suffering the least. So then there’s persecution, murder, war, all metastasizing from a domineering culture who perceives the Other with stereotyping, fear, anger, distrust.

Perhaps, I reasoned, within the framework of a healthy society, one where basic needs of humans are considered, reevaluated, provided for, humanity can reach its potential. The goods and Goods from capitalism can be enjoyed and the cancerous growth of gross inequality regulated — look to Norway, I thought! See how their national competence and foresight took oil wealth and invested it to make the lives of all their residents better and pushed beyond a world powered by oil. If we just built that society, I thought, the bonfire of violence would be starved of oxygen!

And then I read about the nigh-thousand year suffering of the Cagots:

Cagots were shunned and hated. While restrictions varied by time and place, they were typically required to live in separate quarters in towns, called cagoteries, which were often on the far outskirts of the villages. Cagots were excluded from all political and social rights. They were not allowed to marry non-Cagots, enter taverns, hold cabarets, use public fountains, sell food or wine, touch food in the market, work with livestock, or enter mills. They were allowed to enter a church only by a special door and, during the service, a rail separated them from the other worshippers.

“Ok, ok” I thought, “it’s just another example of fighting over something important, some thing arising from insufficient resources.” But then I read further:

The Cagots were not an ethnic group, nor a religious group. They spoke the same language as the people in an area and generally kept the same religion as well. Their only distinguishing feature was their descent from families identified as Cagots. Few consistent reasons were given as to why they should be hated; accusations varied from Cagots being cretins, lepers, heretics, cannibals, to simply being intrinsically evil.

Then the amorality of it, the nihilistic cruelty sunk in.

Which puts us at my thinking today: it seems to me that the human’s need for a strong sense of belonging and their concept of self is so fragile that violence cannot be blamed on conditions of intractable scarcity, or scapegoatism. No. It seems humans have an instinctual, intrinsic desire to inflict pain and suffering on another. Or, more precisely, an Other.

So that’s where I am today. I propose this: you can give a village, a people, a nation, an entire global society universal basic income, healthcare, justice, democracy, and they will destroy it, just to watch it burn. Because that is the essence of the human animal.

But we won’t know if my guess is correct until we first build that society. So let’s built it and hope I’m wrong.

I Spy

Me: “I spy with my little eye, something… BROWN.”
Ess, without hesitation: “My eyes!”

Hell of a Mess

Paul Volcker, at 91, Sees ‘a Hell of a Mess in Every Direction’:

“The central issue is we’re developing into a plutocracy,” he told me. “We’ve got an enormous number of enormously rich people that have convinced themselves that they’re rich because they’re smart and constructive. And they don’t like government, and they don’t like to pay taxes.”

I agree. They’re not rich because they’re smart, they’re rich because they’re lucky. You can find the scientific summary of this in a piece by Scott Barry Kaufman:

In an attempt to shed light on this heavy issue, the Italian physicists Alessandro Pluchino and Andrea Raspisarda teamed up with the Italian economist Alessio Biondo to make the first ever attempt to quantify the role of luck and talent in successful careers. In their prior work, they warned against a “naive meritocracy”, in which people actually fail to give honors and rewards to the most competent people because of their underestimation of the role of randomness among the determinants of success. To formally capture this phenomenon, they proposed a “toy mathematical model” that simulated the evolution of careers of a collective population over a worklife of 40 years (from age 20-60).

In general, mediocre-but-lucky people were much more successful than more-talented-but-unlucky individuals.

And Volcker’s statement loops right back around to this piece by David Roberts in Vox:

It’s not difficult to see why many people take offense when reminded of their luck, especially those who have received the most. Allowing for luck can dent our self-conception. It can diminish our sense of control. It opens up all kinds of uncomfortable questions about obligations to other, less fortunate people.

So, here’s the point: you’ve got the Gilded Age in the early 20th century, where the increase of inequality, the dizzying heights of wealth reached by the 0.1% were stopped by a Great Depression, a World War (the second), and a rebuilding of American society based on sane taxes and regulations that reduced inequality. Today, we’re right back at that gilded level of inequality. A bunch of selfish humans want more. Some of them get more. Some of them get much much MUCH more. Introspection is limited. Philosophy non-existent. Myths of personal exceptionalism and meritocracy abound and suffocate independent, compassionate, and logical thought. Which leaves you with an eye-wateringly rich class of human who think they got there as an award for being special.

Both of the following upper-class garbage statements spell doom for a liberal democracy:

My journey into misanthropy grows ever darker. I wonder where the bottom is.

Library books

Here’s a collage of the covers of the books we currently have checked out from the library:

octoberReading

Ess enjoyed the narwhal and penguin fact books very much. She gets super-interested in different animals; penguins a few weeks ago. It has been ducks for the past few days.

Wanda Gág books never disappoint; plus, she was one tough woman. We’re always looking for strong female role models for Ess. Marjorie Flack is great, too. Stephen Savage’s illustrations in “Where’s Walrus? and Penguin?” are so funny. Equally delightful for adults and children.

Oh, and Kevin Henkes is some kind of magician. What an amazing author and artist.

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