The unwise man is awake all night, and ponders everything over; when morning comes he is weary in mind, and all is a burden as ever. - Havamal 27
EDIT: Yes, it is no longer Woden’s Day; this was done yesterday but went out late.
Hello, Gutterballs. Missed you guys.
Husbandmouth got a job yesterday. It doesn’t pay as much as he had hoped (there were salary negotiations) but it pays quite well for our area and is absolutely adequate for us to be financially stable again. I look forward to (some) more nights of uninterrupted sleep. Better health insurance than my garbage state plan, too.
With stable income again we will get back on the adoption train, which I look forward to with both zeal and dread, as soon as we have a paycheck from both of us to wave in their faces. We are probably going to go for international adoption this time based on our experiences with the previous agency back in NY. Adoption in the US has become highly politicized, adding to the already deeply unpleasant nature of the process.
I know my readership trends older, but if anyone here is younger and childless and has any inclination at all to bear children, my qualified advice is DO IT. There will never be a perfect time, but there will be a time when it is too late.
His job is a senior(?) programmer for a small, very chill but stable startup (think jeans and polo shirts). I am looking forward to the structure, mental exercise, and reduced bullshit from me greatly improving his mental health. The commute is short, the hours are regular, his co-workers seem extremely chill- very much like the startup he worked for back in NY when we were first dating. For his field it’s really the ideal outcome for where we live.
With stable income, we can get back to farm planning. There is still one area to be fenced for pasture which we initially held off developing until Fathermouth bought his house on the adjoining property so we could incorporate (with his permission) most of his clear land into it; after that, it was about having the money. Brothermouth and I anticipate this being a MUCH cheaper, cleaner, quicker job from all the lessons learned. By the time the last pasture is open for business I also hope to have branched into a Holstein/Holstein-Angus cow or cow/bullock to introduce. I am not confident our Dexter bull will breed and this is his last season to prove himself.
An extremely nasty cold snap obliterated the peek of spring we had earlier this month. I got exactly one fucking day of sandal weather and got a pedicure for nothing. Because it’s been relatively dry, the large animals and rabbits haven’t cared; they still spend most of the day sunning themselves. The chickens have been outraged and egg production went down dramatically to a half-dozen or less a day (down from over a dozen daily). They spend most of their day hiding from the wind and complaining.
I stupidly planted strawberries this past weekend. They seem robust thus far and have plenty of sun exposure. Hopefully they don’t freeze to death. I’ll hold off on my planned honeyberries, tomatoes, and corn for another few weeks. This year I’m trying the “Mortgage Lifter” tomatoes along with heirloom seeds I saved from last year, mainly Purple Cherokee.
Last night Google Docs completely lost an entire Forbes article I spent the afternoon writing for a client. (No, I don’t need tech advice. Yes, I tried everything. The entire document history is lost.) The client was extremely cool about it but something about that particular misfortune- which has rarely happened before- is extremely discouraging. It added to an already depressing evening…
…Speaking of depresssing, Fathermouth called while I was out with the family downtown last night to blithely inform me that he had gotten falling-down drunk and had, well, fallen down, and needed help being carried to bed and puke cleaned up. We were a half hour away and I told him to call emergency services if he was injured and we would be there ASAP. He said that wasn’t necessary at all.
When we arrived later, he was sitting on his sofa watching TV with his dog, clean, barely remembered the content of his phone call and was vaguely irritated with how agitated we were. As we left, I took the three bottles of Scotch off his kitchen counter, immediately got extremely unpleasant flashbacks of constantly playing that game with Husbandmouth, and spent the evening between trying frantically to recover the day’s work on my computer and willing myself not to project my anger at now-sober Husbandmouth.
Fathermouth called about 15 minutes after we got home and demanded I immediately return his alcohol or he was walking over to get them himself- knowing that I’m aware he can barely walk long distances without falling and it’s pitch black at this point and freezing cold. I’m still flipping my shit on the computer so Brothermouth brings them over and tells FM that he was the one who took the bottles. FM is dramatically less angry at him and BM explains to him that I’m very worried about his behavior. (BM and I did not grow up in the same household.)
It occurs to me that no one has ever, in my entire life, done a similar thing on my behalf: fallen on a sword or put themselves in front of trouble for me. It’s not something I’ve ever ASKED or expected anyone to do, certainly, because I think it’s a shameful thing to solicit, but a very humbling thing when it is done on your behalf in a way that does not lessen you. The quality of my brother’s character is remarkable.
Mothermouth- who I realize I rarely talk about because she does not live nearby and we infrequently visit since the move- has been becoming increasingly anxious in the last year or two and despite remaining very healthy seems to have a harder time doing things without becoming very stressed or exhausted from the effort. Our relationship has always had a large component of “I need you to put on your therapist hat for me for a moment” to it, and I increasingly find our conversations dominated by problems she faces with managing worries over things she is unwilling to make changes about. Fathermouth living closer to NY has meant that he’s visited the area more frequently in the past year, wants to spend friendly time with her, and believes they’ve made some kind of peace, and she doesn’t feel that way but doesn’t want to tell him, and so suffers his company resentfully. It makes it a strain to be supportive, but there it is.
Bigger picture thoughts too short for an article of their own but worth discussing:
I’ve been thinking a lot about the act of teaching lately, and a particular aspect of it has lodged itself in my mental cud, insisting on continued chewing.
Teaching is universally regarded as a social good, and those who devote themselves to it (and actually do their jobs) are well-respected by nearly every cultured society. The role is recognized as something vital to a healthy civilization both for transmission of values and ideas and to mold productive adults.
Going in the other direction, people in teaching roles- when they are, indeed, fit teachers- typically describe their work as very rewarding. There is a tremendous feeling of power- whether or not the teacher describes it that way- in being in a position to shape a receptive mind and leave a memetic mark on it that then ripples out into society. (This is the reason why we are justly suspicious of and outraged by those in teaching roles that we believe to be warping the aforementioned receptive minds and furthermore disseminating that warp into the society their students enter.) I have often taken comfort in the idea that if my fate is such that I never raise a child of my own, I’ve had profound impacts on the many students I’ve taught and know with a certainty that some of them have gone out into their professions or their adult lives with different perspectives and, hopefully, greater integrity that they would otherwise have done: that I have “birthed” certain memetic patterns that I think society is better with than without.
And that last sentence, there, is the crux of what I’ve been chewing on: we honor good teachers because we see them as giving a kind of gift, or at least having an additive effect, on students and their societies. And I note that it is rare that we see indiscriminate gift-giving as wise or virtuous.
For example: I’ve taught a number of adults I’ve worked with the basics of firearm use and safety. For most of them, the experience has largely been a sort of “cultural tourism” that fit into their experiences as foreign workers I was teaching about English language and cultural skills: you live in a country where civilians have guns, here’s what they are, they’re not mystical, and can be an enjoyable activity. I doubt most- if any- of a long string of Japanese or Indian executives or engineers have gone on to pursue a deep interest in firearms in their native countries. But it was a good exposure to something distinctly American to deepen their understanding of the country they lived in for a time and the culture of the natives in it.
But what if I was just teaching practical shooting to anyone who happened to show up? Members of a foreign military adversarial to my country? Members of terrorist organizations? Deeply disturbed young men who wanted to amass a skillset for “punishing” their peers? Clearly the “gift” of teaching wouldn’t be a prosocial act under any of those circumstances.
And so I find myself wondering, why don’t we, in more circumstances, think of things that are taught as power being distributed, and why don’t we concern ourselves more closely than we do about who we are empowering? Why isn’t knowledge more jealously guarded than it is? Why are people empowered that are likely to be our enemies or rivals down the line?
The simple answer, of course, is that in a smaller, less divided culture, the math overwhelmingly shakes out that empowering any member of society, especially a young person entering adulthood, will benefit everyone, and that this was a reason- besides the numerous cynical ones- for championing public education.
As that system breaks down, will we find knowledge and education more jealously guarded, so as not to empower other tribes against us?
The question- at least for me, for now- has no positive or negative valence. It’s just something I find myself considering.
Another thing I find myself working over in what I call the “moments between” is, speaking of “tribes,” the tribal nature of ideology and its attendant propaganda (a term I am using here neutrally- substitute “dogma” or “scripts” or “memes” if you prefer).
As I’ve mentioned previously, the past roughly year or so for me (probably more the past 6 months) has been defined more by reflection than the 2 years prior, which were defined more by exploration- or, if I’m being poetic, “panicked ideological flight.” In fleeing various tribal affiliations that I (correctly) observed had become insane and apocalyptic, I committed the common logical fallacy of “if I’m not/no longer A, I must be B.” Well, it’s pretty clear that I’m not B, either, and if there’s a defined C, I don’t know what it is.
I’m conscious of the importance of not viewing myself as “special”- I operate under the assumption that my thoughts, feelings, and conclusions are squarely in the mental range of at least a billion other humans and that my experiences of existing aren’t in the slightest bit unique except in the most epistemological sense (in that literally every thought is unique but so is literally everything in the universe, which is an accurate but useless truth). Therefore, I assume there are defined categories for just about anything I could possibly think or feel, with lots of other people in them. At the moment, though, I find myself in an extremely individualistic place- my overlaps with others feel like only the faintest of grazings of numerous circles, and maybe that’s how all humans really are and it’s only that a lot of us THINK we fit firmly into certain circles and are utterly distinct from others.
I apologize for how adolescent this all sounds. It sounds that way to me just reading it.
But the detachment that comes with this period of self-examination has been leading me to a conclusion, when I look at the most visible ideological schema currently on parade with the perspective of an outsider:
The arguments everyone seems to be aligning behind is that their tribe are the sober, rational keepers of truth, and their opponents dwell in madness and delusion; as a corollary to this, “we” have come by all our guiding cultural principles RATIONALLY like COLD SOBER MATURE ADULTS and “they” are operating on PURE EMOTION like TANTRUMING CHILDREN run amok.
A fallacy creeps in which says that “well, one of them must be right, and the other must be wrong, so for one tribe, these statements are accurate.” But I’m finding that doesn’t cut the mustard. Standing back and looking long enough, EVERYONE looks like they’re climbing over each other to hold aloft the unique, solitary belt of Rational Truth Containing Only 100% Objective Ingredients but they’re ALL furious, panicked chimps riddled with different flavors of emotionality.
But because, amazingly, most of us seem to share- regardless of our ideological polarity, which is pretty fascinating- the Enlightenment notion that a claim to “objective truth” is the stronger claim than any other, we need to dress our own emotionality in a costume of rationality. OUR moral construct is rational; THEIR moral construct is emotional. But NO moral construct is entirely “rational”- they’re all at least partially emotional. In a human brain, they can’t be otherwise.
This is why saturation bombings of studies and peer-reviewed research and sciencey things- from mask studies to impenetrable postmodernist blather- are the coin of the realm. Yes, the propaganda of “don’t be selfish” and “love your grandma” is emotional language, but it exists at its foundation a seemingly UNSHAKABLE certainty that MASKS WORK as an objective truth, and all the papers in the world that say otherwise have poor experimental design or conflicts of interest.
Despite rationality being the claimed sovereign kingdom of every party to a dispute, the kingdom is ultimately ruled by passion.
Rationality has become the language of emotion’s propaganda.
And that’s all I’ve got for now.
We're so close To something better left unknown We're so close To something better left unknown I can feel it in my bones - Metric, Gimme Sympathy
I regularly spar with the sort who claim that no one was harmed by covid jabs, no child has been sterilized or sexually mutilated by trans "therapy", America is purely racist/white supremacist and we need to throw out the Constitution, Putin stole the 2016 election and we need to destroy Russia, and I am a bigot, misogynist fascist liar.
But then I remember, I do not regularly spar with the sort who think if we just get gov out of the way fossil energy will be cheap and affordable for eternity, there will be no pollution, stratospheric income inequality isn't a problem with or without government, and might is always right.
I guess because the former is the current authoritarian, existential, apocalyptic threat.
I learned some things about my family today that left me feeling sad. (To be clear, I'm not disappointed, not anymore; we're so far past "disappointed" that now I'm just sad.) I think you're singing the melody and I'm playing the bass line more than half the time, to be honest.
As to teaching, I think the reasons most people teach are very slightly more complicated than you let on, to wit: most of us teach for the same reasons most therapists are therapists. We want to redress grievances and not let the bad guys win. So when people teach method, as I do, we teach it for those reasons as well. And while some teachers are shitty judges of character, I don't think that's true of you. I don't think you've taught anyone anything that will lead to their using it in antisocial ways, or ways that hurt our tribe. Don't beat yourself up or lose any more sleep over it.
I'm glad things are, on balance, working out for you.