Be That As It May

When I was a kid, I wondered why anyone bothered to think about politics at all.  It just seemed like dumb grown up stuff — I mean literally just talking heads on TV, arguing with each other.  My dad would watch a show called “Crossfire” and, other than vaguely disliking the resultant tension of hearing those squabbling male voices, I didn’t think anything about it at all.

My dad gravitated to some stuff that even I recognized as being fringe-y.  He went through a little Rush Limbaugh phase, which I intensely disliked.  Bombastic, declarative, entitled — I still didn’t pay attention to any words he was saying, I just had to roll my teenaged eyes at his tone.  I don’t know why men gravitate to these blowhards — much later in life, I’d wonder this again, relative to various male trucking co-drivers and their obsession with Howard Stern.  Anyway then there was Liberty Lobby, and some publication that would come in the mail with something resembling the Illuminati symbol on it, except they criticized the Illuminati — I knew about the Illuminati before I knew about daylight savings time.  And then there was a late night AM guy — Art Bell.  

And there were many books at home — “Mysteries of the Unexplained”, about frogs and fish raining from the sky and spontaneous human combustion, and the collected writings of Charles Fort, who devoted his life to showing that scientists throughout the ages have simply buried data which conflicts with their operative theories, because they’re not willing to say, “Here’s a thing — I don’t know what it means,” and allow future generations to connect those dots.  There were books about archeological digs, here in the North American continent, showing evidence of people with apparently African features, Asian features, Caucasian features, who lived and died here, pre-Columbus.  My dad regarded the mainstream media and agreed-upon narratives about most of history as useful, kind of in the same way a compulsive liar is useful — well, now I know what’s probably NOT true.

I still wasn’t interested in politics.  I wasn’t interested in my teens, twenties, only vaguely in my thirties except to the extent that competing victim narratives, which I did not identify as such, seemed normal and what life was about, which is why they weren’t identifiable to me.  Even political discussion had by friends or acquaintances around me was peppered with words and concepts I didn’t, even basically, understand, which is still largely true to this day.  So if there’s anyone categorically not qualified, by education or even temperament, to comment upon anything political, it’s me.  I never really thought about it, but if I had, it would probably have had to do with a sense that men like to argue, politics is about arguing, ergo ipso politics is about men, arguing, for fun.  For such an occupationally adventurous gal, I steered the fuck clear of argumentative environments, preferring always solo activities and challenges and, in my spare time, explorations and introspections of the emotional variety.  

Now, I had a boss in my late thirties who was fond of saying, “Emotions don’t have an IQ”.  Privately I was like “Well, actually…” but realistically, this insight was offered relative to situations where emotionality truly wasn’t helpful, like firing people who sucked, helping me structure the termination of someone’s employment in such a way as to avoid losing their inevitable unemployment insurance claim, etc. and so forth.  This job, Training Manager and then eventually Director of a truck school campus, for which I was eminently unprepared but still less of a catastrophe than the other candidates, was one in which I did make an important paradigm shift.  

Per my victim narrative acculturation, I had generally been of the mind that the noble savage employees were definitionally oppressed by The Man because capitalism, and I hoped to manage in such a way as to advance their interests, buffer their risks, and mitigate conflict to promote a more cooperative workplace environment.  And I would have continued to be of that mind had it not been the case that it’s actually really hard to find an employee worth paying once, let alone repeatedly.  It had never occurred to me what a good employee I’d been, up to this time, all my life.  I mean, I’d been complimented on that, which just seemed like getting complimented for drawing breath, but not until now did I realize what scoundrels many people are, at least in regards to their work.  

I made a lot of mistakes — a LOT — but I never fired anyone I shouldn’t have, and I fired nine people at that job, in my first year.  If anything, there were some people I didn’t fire fast enough, and some others I hired under logistical duress that I shouldn’t have.  It became apparent to me that a good hire (borne out over time) is a thing to be seriously fucking proud of, in management, as is the retention of a good inherited employee.  

It is honestly CRAZY how hard it is to find anyone — anyone!! — who can manage to consistently show up, on time, do their job, not antagonize their colleagues or customers, take the business’s best interests to heart in even a minor way, have the requisite credentials, experience, and temperament, not call in sick all the time, not miss work because sick/criminal kids all the time, not have too much of a criminal record themselves, not overtly lie or steal, function independently even a little, and not constantly lose their keys.  

Crazy. I went from bleeding heart to stone heart in like nine months. “Or you could just do your fucking job —!” This refrain echoed through my head all the time. Small business operations are like dog sleds — there just isn’t the economic luxury for any dogs to be in harness that aren’t pulling their weight — just that, their percentage of the weight.

So my boss was right, or right enough: in that situation, emotions mostly did not have an IQ.  However, I continued privately to take some issue with this statement.  I mean, saying emotions don’t have an IQ is kind of like saying [your favorite news outlet] doesn’t have a bias.  What I mean is, even if I were to accept that a quarantine of emotion represents a desirable intellectual going-in position, which I don’t, it’s moot anyway because I don’t actually believe we can quarantine our emotions, and it’s exactly when we think we have that our emotions live us, rather than us living them.  

Now, on the other hand I do tend to have an allergic reaction when I encounter someone who emotes at me willy nilly.  I used to have a female friend who ended every anecdote with “so of course, I was just hysterical”.  “Of course I was just hysterical.”  I think I heard this about a dozen times before I was like…have you ever explored some alternatives to…you know…hysteria?

So anyway, I was banging around in the world for decades, totally content to avoid politics and political discussion altogether.  To the extent I thought about it at all, I leaned Left, because it’s patently insane to club American citizens over the head with cherry-picked Biblical values when the whole fucking point of our country is the separation of church and state.  Like my parents, I did align for the most part with the private sector’s right to run its affairs as it chose, with some obvious guardrails in place.  But then even that gets really tricky, like with the Hobby Lobby birth control debacle.  I don’t remember all the specifics, but basically it was contested whether or not insurance policies should cover birth control.  Some advancements were made in that regard, ensuring women’s access to birth control through normal ass insurance coverage.  But Hobby Lobby objected and said this conflicted with its expressly Christian organizational values.

I was over here like, you’ve gotta be kidding me.  Any manager, if they’re honest, would take an employee without a kid over an employee with a kid any day of the week.  Nothing against en-familied employees, and for sure they need that paycheck, but come on: baby sitters, childcare, doctor appointments, sports, school schedule, picking them up, dropping them off, they get sick, etcetera forever.  Why on earth would any commercial organization say, okay here’s the deal: for sure you’re going to have sex, because that’s what humans do, and for sure you’re going to risk pregnancy, because that’s how humans are built, and for sure you need this job and for sure we need you to be here doing this job, and so we’re just going to remove the one thing from this equation that literally benefits everyone — the ability to plan your family.  Why?  Because Jesus, that’s why.  You sluts, you harlots of Gomorrah.

Obviously that’s too stupid to have even spent a paragraph discussing, but suffice it to say, I just thought Republicans were crazy and whenever I met one, which was rarely, I was like: so how long til you’re busted in a hotel room with a ziplock baggie of Columbian bam-bam and an underage transexual prostitute?  Or did you just come from there?  Because opposing everyone’s rights and preferences and diversity, while advancing this white male, squeaky clean, church-going facade, from a place of privately indulged, fiercely suppressed moral and sexual depravity, is just what you guys do, right?

The Trump election in 2016 shocked me, but not the way I was supposed to be shocked, I guess, as a lazy default Lib.  Again: politically stupidest person on earth, here, me, but I was like — I don’t know, man.  I feel disinclined to vote for someone who grabs pussies, and equally disinclined to vote for someone just because she has one.  It all seemed so farcical.  And Hillary is weird, like Illuminati weird, but that’s maybe just my childhood influences talking, and probably she’d do a good job…?  I don’t know…?  But yeah, I just sat that one out, from a voting standpoint.  

However, I was at a small dinner party in Palo Alto at the time, and made some FB posts capturing the food and people smiling, watching the TV.  Trump won, some moments later, and various members of the dinner party demanded that they be untagged in the photos, as they were getting a lot of shit online for being pictured smiling in the face of this national emergency.  I was like, what’s wrong with smiling when there’s a national emergency?  Ten billion lil buddies are slaughtered for food every year in the US and if that’s not an emergency then I don’t know what is, and I still post pictures of myself smiling.  What are we supposed to do, frown until every Tom Dick and Harry pulls his head out of his ass?  But, you know, I get it, and I untagged them.

In the next days, weeks, and months, I witnessed — well, a lot of things.  There was a lot of crying.  Suddenly, emotions had an IQ.  I liked Trump’s acceptance speech, the next morning, which I apparently wasn’t supposed to, so I just kept that to myself.  So I entered this phase of my life where keeping an open mind was something I had to literally hide, for fear of social sanction.  Hating Trump was the only way to be.  It was never on my radar to feel any particular way about Trump — I was like, wow, it’s pretty punk rock that he just won this election — and I found it hilarious that, the day before the election, he announced, “If we don’t win, I’ll consider this the single greatest waste of time, energy, and money”.  What an amazingly tacky and yet refreshingly honest thing to say!  

In fact, so many of his soundbytes are just hysterical — like, holy shit, this is the sound of someone giving zero fucks about how his perspective is received.  So his detractors are never short of ammo — I mean, taking umbrage at something Trump says is like shooting fish in a barrel.  The man is surrounded by umbrage; he generates it.  

If you can perceive any of that as being outside the paradigm of “national emergency”, then it’s phenomenally entertaining, but most people can’t.  In fact “Trump derangement syndrome”, ie a “hatred of President Trump so intense that it impairs people’s judgement” actually swings both ways, I’d say, where you can replace “hatred” with “idolization” and it works just as well.  In this sense, I felt frankly inoculated from frenzy, thanks to my historically absent political chromosome or whatever, and able to scrutinize, if not political realities themselves, at least the sort of energy dynamics of this constant state of umbrage.  The entire news media, the entire Left-leaning American populace, functioning essentially at the level of a swooning victorian heroine encountering something so ribald as to provoke fainting, over and over.  Smelling salts!  She recovers, only to espy the ribaldry again — swoon!  She cannot bear it, with her tender woman’s sensibilities.  I am entirely too stupid about politics to engage anyone on anything about Trump, but you know what this started to feel like, for me?  That girl I knew — the one who finished every anecdote with “so of course I was just hysterical.”  “Of course I was just hysterical.”  Of course she was just hysterical — what else could she do.  Except, I don’t know…not be hysterical?  Take some command of, at the very least, herself?         

I continued to not focus on political issues, in the past four years, because why would I.  In about the past decade, though, I leaned hard — like, really hard — into spiritual metaphysics, Law of Attraction, channeled writings, and mysticism.  If you want to cultivate a perspective that is interesting and valuable, but is interpreted by everyone as not interesting or valuable, spiritual metaphysics are a great way to go.  I have especially appreciated — in case you’re interested, and there’s an almost 100% chance you’re not — Abraham as channeled by Esther Hicks, Seth as channeled by Jane Roberts, Orin as channeled by Sanaya Roman, Joseph as channeled by Michael Reccia, and Teal Swan as channeled by her damn self.  

Now, as weird and off-putting as channeled information is, consider it in this light: we’ve created kind of a closed system where, aside from already extant religious texts, which we do value, no new primary source is recognized or allowed.  We can digest and re-digest extant religious or theosophical texts over and over, but “God is dead” to us in the sense of floating in some new ideas once in a while.  But God isn’t dead, whoever you think God is, and s/he’s floating in new ideas all the time.  We’re all receiving God’s new ideas all the time, but some of us are receiving them in Dollar Store quantities (people like me) and some people are receiving them in San Francisco Port Authority quantities (people like those I listed).  The bulk purchase new ideas are easily dismissible, though, because they get shelved in the New Age/spiritual self-help section, where no self-respecting, science-worshipping, Trump hating, sign-holding Liberal is going to be caught dead.

Here’s a broad generalization that is only accurate to some extent, but helpful to that extent: if traditional religious thought has concerned itself primarily with the conundrum of human suffering, then New Age thought has concerned itself primarily with the conundrum of human victim narrative.  In a world with such excruciatingly sharp edges, and, depressingly, so many of them, the examination of both conundrums make a lot of sense.  We truly do suffer, and we truly are victimized, and if we hope to take what command of what inner resources we have — in other words, to mature from a default ‘of course I was just hysterical’ response — we’ve got to do a better job of curating our emotional focus.  It turns out emotions do have an IQ — haha, I fucking knew it — and not just an IQ, but a magnetic quality.  They attract, they pull, they’re built-in tractor beams, inviting people, events, circumstances, similar thoughts, inarguable bodies of evidence.  And nothing backs up our existential toilets with raw sewage faster than adherence to a victim narrative.  

Now, for anyone offended by that, let me point out that the Law of Attraction, perkily subscribed to by shallowly acquisitive types everywhere, at least in stereotype, is actually quite the oppressive, colonial motherfucker to end all motherfuckers.  It’s not an avoidance strategy; it’s a force of nature that you can either get pummeled by, or learn to at least marginally control.  

Watch Teal Swan’s video “Fuck the Law of Attraction” for more on that, but essentially it’s like this: we encounter something we don’t like.  We think about how much we don’t like it.  Our thoughts gather negative emotions, like storm clouds.  Our negative emotions exert a pull on similar thoughts, circumstances, people, and events that cause us to feel more exactly that way.  Same goes for positive emotions, incidentally, but the positive emotions can’t be faked, and since we’ve learned to perform fake emotions for one another all the time in this world, this presents one of the biggest stumbling blocks to new subscribers.  

So it’s not that I’m saying you’re not a victim, and that’s all just rhetoric; it’s that I’m saying, you have no idea how much of a victim you actually are, above and beyond your race, class, gender, and status.  Like, imagine misunderstanding gravity, and being totally unable to sort out why sometimes you’re fine and sometimes you fall to your death.  It would behoove you to understand gravity, and it behooves us to understand emotional energy physics.  The Law of Attraction is helpful in this sense, in the same way that shooting bullets at something guaranteed to ricochet is helpful — ow.  Or think of cats, and the way they let you pet them if you think peaceful thoughts, but as soon as you think an angry thought, they immediately attack your hand, even though it doesn’t seem as if you changed the petting speed or pressure.  It’s not a question of “is this resentment justified?” or “am I being legitimately victimized?”  The answers to those questions are, probably, yes, because this is an asshole of a world.  And it’s nearly impossible *not* to offer a stronger and stronger negative response to stronger and stronger instances of hardship.  Guess who’s going to win that vibrational pissing match — not you!  

Once you wrap your head around this — which almost no one I know is remotely interested in doing — then you become very, very interested in stopping the momentum of the pissing match early, as early as possible.  As early as it becomes recognizable.  Our own acculturation represents our most formidable opponent here, as we equate struggle with valor at a level so deep it’s almost unfixable.  

Anyway, it’s obvious that I could dork out on these concepts forever, because I find them more interesting and relevant than traditional dimensions of inquiry.  But back to politics, for a second.  In the course of my spiritual/metaphysical deep dive, I encountered my own internalized victim narrative, accepted as an appropriate response to legitimate injustice, for the first time, and recognized it for what it was: a pissing match I couldn’t win, with an energetic boomerang mechanism that amplifies back to me whatever I put out, whether I want more of it or not.  

Did I unsubscribe from victim narrative?  Yes and no.  It’s not actually that easy.  It’s intertwined with our deepest conceptions of self and other, and as involved in our social discourse as a siamese twin.  Even if you theoretically accept the spiritual bankruptcy of self-reinforcing victim narrative, within your own life, try going for one day without it.  Try having one conversation without it.  If it’s so hard and so unintelligible, why try?  

Well, because what’s the alternative?  The alternative is, that which we resist, persists.  Look at the War on Drugs; the War on Terror; the War on Cancer.  Look at your own personal problems.  Has anyone ever encouraged you to simply ignore them and find something better to think about?  Probably not, but my life took a sharp turn for the better when I started ignoring my problems and thinking about something better.  And then, like clockwork, my life takes a sharp turn for the worse again, when I become so involved with my problems that they dominate my entire waking consciousness.  The mountains and the molehills are all the same dirt — just amplified or de-amplified by our conscious focus.  Our experience of the world is quite malleable — it’s a stunning realization most of us never bother to make.  We’re blackbelt level regurgitators of thought, but novice sculptors of new thought.  The way you feel about a problem after waking up from a nap, versus how you felt before the nap — everything’s like that, with you at the center.  And after a little practice, you get pretty unwilling to beat the drum of war.  

This continues to be entirely un-political, if you’ll notice.  But: in this climate, unsubscribing from the validity of victim narrative itself is essentially misinterpreted as going full blown alt-right — a denier of science, a supporter of Trump, an apologist for cops, at best a hard Libertarian.  

A long-time lazy Lefty, I find that I haven’t changed position much at all — I just stood up on my own two feet with a little more intention — and suddenly the spectrum has pulled Left so hard that I’m…Right?  Oh my god — am I going to be the next one arrested in a hotel room with an underage transsexual prostitute?  Am I going to be espousing “family values” when it’s literally impossible for one parent to earn enough of a living to allow the other parent to raise the children, because I helped ship all our industries and manufacturing overseas so all that’s left are shitty service sector jobs, both parents have to work, money is a stressor, nearly everyone divorces, and then I’ll turn around and scream “family values” at the working single moms who didn’t fucking ask for this?  

Well, no, but what’s the alternative, politically speaking?  Since we don’t get a choice now, and if you’re not with us, you’re against us?  I guess you can count me out then.  I know a lot of people in this same position — deeply invested in individual choice, personal definitions of meaning and morality, and bewildered to find ourselves suddenly, apparently, controversially, Right.  It’s pretty disconcerting.  

It might be that it’s always been this way, and I just wasn’t paying attention — as I’ve said, no one has paid less attention than me.  And from a bird’s eye view, I have immense appreciation for the synthesis that occurs when thesis and antithesis collide, continuously, as they do.  And, to my own credit, I am one of the few people who can admit I know very little about very much, and so why not keep an open mind.  But for the most part, we experience the dramas of our own lives as from a mud-spattered, helmet-cam perspective, and ‘of course I was just hysterical’ is not the way I plan on ending my anecdotes.  A more helpful reflex to cultivate, in a world of sharp edges, is something along the lines of ‘Be that as it may, here’s what I choose’.

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