Upon losing 22 followers

The issue comes down to the rights of the whole as opposed to the rights of the parts, but in much of the Western world, we’ve concluded that the two are inseparable. But what does this have to do with my last post? 

Sluttiness is a form of destructive individualism. It passes itself off as free speech, but what value does it add to any discourse? It’s instead nihilistic, its particular statement being that I live in the mud, so won’t you join me? It is born of depravity and seeks to make the unthinkable commonplace until there is no place left to descend. Is this what we want for our children? Did all those people who dropped my blog truly believe that the evil lies within me rather than with the women whose photographs I posted? Do they really favor a society whose only standard of decency is tolerance for everyone except those who, like myself, argue that if no limits are placed upon tolerance, the result is a fall to the bottom because nothing is unthinkable once the public gets used to it? In Rome, people were murdered for entertainment; in Europe, they were burned at the stake; in America, indigenous peoples were shot for target practice. Such is the proclivity of our species for evil. Yet, we in the modern West somehow imagine that we’ve outstripped every people of every era in terms of civilized values and behaviors, and so, for us, it’s ever upward and onward, but does such “freedom” as I depicted look “upward” to you? The following words are from the first amendment to the Bill of Rights:

“Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…”

Do you imagine that the writers defined freedom as indecency, vulgarity, and profanity, and that their vision for America was that it be a place where people could, without censure, say, do, and look anyway they pleased, and be respected for it in the name of  “women’s right,” “honoring diversity,” and so forth; and that anyone who doesn’t respect them deserves condemnation for being intolerant, intolerance being the only sin that America has left? What most people define as tolerance, I regard as nothing more than a non-standard by which any indecency is acceptable without anyone being held accountable.

Whatever became of words like honor and dignity? Margaret Deland and Phillips Brooks, moral spokespeople for the late 19th century, put a constant emphasis on facing life’s challenges with virtue, and freely embraced such terms as “manly” and “good woman,” manly and good, that is, in the sense of caring for others, being honest even when the cost was high, and bearing life’s hurts with dignity. In short, being honorable. When is the last time you heard anyone speak of honor, and who do you regard as possessing dignity? We have become a society that lives in filth and triviality, but we don’t call it that. Instead, we refer to it with pride as freedom and individuality. Who are the moral spokespeople of today; that is, who represents what you would want yourself or your children to be—Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Caitlin Jenner, Kim Kardashian, Bernie Sanders? Anyone?

After losing those 22 followers, I can but wonder how my standards can be so despised that looking like the women in my last post is presumably acceptable but calling them what I believe them to be is considered that worst sin of all—intolerance, and we all know that a truly tolerant society cannot  tolerate intolerance because to take intolerance seriously would force us to examine our standards and, perhaps, ask ourselves how deep into the mud we want to slide. Oh but the mud is so smooth, so warm, so unresisting. No one need struggle if their goal is to wallow in the mud, except, that is, against those who tell them they’re wrong. 

Label me sexist, and you need not consider what I have to say. No matter that my criticisms of nearly all men were far more scathing than my criticisms of certain women, “hating” men is politically correct, but “hating” women, why that’s like “hating” Moslems or black people, groups that are beyond criticism no matter how much evil they collectively do. Ah, but then there are those other groups—white males, old people, ranchers, loggers, white Southerners, Christians, atheists (most of all atheists) Republicans, and anyone else who can be identified overtly or through “micro-aggressions”*  as reactionaries, intolerant haters, or out of the mainstream. They are wrong simply because they exist; and every tolerant person knows that there can be no tolerance for those who, by their very nature, swim against the current.

*From Wikipedia: "Psychologist Derald Wing Sue defines microaggressions as 'brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership.' Sue describes microaggressions as generally happening below the level of awareness of well-intentioned members of the dominant culture."

Are bad boys simply boys, and bad girls sluts?

A blog friend and I were discussing the appearance choices (clothing, tattoos, piercings, hairstyles) of alternativly minded people when she wrote:  “My back is up by the insistence of the word ‘slutty’—you cant be seriously telling me you meant that to apply to both male and females surely?”

First, I will only admit to being sexist inasmuch as I regard women as more moral than men due to the fact that evolution made it desirable for males to impregnate every woman in sight, and for females to find a safe environment in which to raise their precious few eggs. Because the male impulse is detrimental to a stable society, it would clearly be for the common good if men were more like women. It would also save countless male politicians and preachers from losing their jobs.

Second, I refuse to avoid gender-specific criticisms simply because they are gender specific and therefore don’t fit the current definition of how I am to think if I value gender equality. We all have a general idea of what slutty dress and behavior look like, and that both are specific to women (sleazy has a somewhat similar meaning and can apply to both genders). Because appearance and body language represent a profound statement of whom we are, I would argue that slutty is an accurate description rather than a sexist insult.
Third, I don’t see the word slut as deprecating of women but only of those women who dishonor womanhood. Manhood should mean more than testicles, and womanhood should mean more that presenting oneself as a likely object with which to have intercourse. I realize that women who present themselves as sluts sometimes do so falsely, whether through naiveté or because they find gratification in watching men slobber, but this doesn’t negate my point. For a woman to dress and behave in a sexually suggestive way constitutes a negative statement about her self-worth whether or not shes promiscuous.

Until the advent of the birth control pill, women were the guardians of morality because they were the ones who had the most to lose due to pregnancy; hence words like whore and slut applied to them alone. As a result of the pill, the expectation that women take the lead in guarding morality has been greatly lowered, yet it is still true that men behave like so many bower birds in their desperation to win the favor of females. Men simply don’t need to send permissive signals by the way they dress because the term “permissive male” is all but redundant. The same is not true of women, so women of questionable character always have and always will find it desirable to signal their availability. 
If a woman wants to excite a man, she need only display her thighs and cleavage, but if she wants to win his respect, she needs to be his moral superior because, to put in bluntly, evolution made mento continue with my critters analogieslike so many dogs in the gutter (which is why both genders are hard-pressed to sell sex to anyone but men). On this, I would assume that many of those who insist on complete gender equality would agree because theirs is not an equality that cuts both ways, but rather a veneer over their hatred of men. As I see it, equality must take differences into accountthe rub is in determining what differences. Does this not mean that I too hate men? No, I hate it that the power of testosterone is so enormousand so beyond the understanding of womenthat it leads men to be as promiscuous as I have been.  

"The time I’ve lost in wooing,
In watching and pursuing
The light, that lies
In woman’s eyes,
Has been my heart’s undoing.
Though Wisdom oft has sought me,
I scorn’d the lore she brought me,
My only books
Were woman’s looks,
And folly’s all they’ve taught me."
Thomas Moore 1779-1852)

Two other things make it necessary that women assume greater moral responsibility and therefore deserve greater condemnation if they fail to do so. One is that young men, at least, live in such an intense state of sexual arousal that it qualifies as torture, while women have to build into arousal. The other is that women suffer more severe consequences from herpes and pelvic inflammatory disease. It therefore makes sense that, even with the pill, a double standard not only continues to exist, but that it is proper for it to exist because, to repeat myself: (a) women have the most to lose, and (b) women are better able to say no.

Margaret Deland had much to say about gender issues, and they are completely congruent with my own experiences. The following sampler is from her novelette “Amelia,” which appeared in her book Dr. Lavendar’s People in 1903.

“… the companionship of an eminently worthy wife is almost never enough for the male creature.”

“…as every intelligent…woman knows, men like fools; feminine fools.”

“…a man wants more than to just look at a pretty girl across the table.”

“…the male creature, good and honest and faithful as he may be, is at heart a Mormon.”

I have attempted to show why I think it behooves women to put their emphasis on attractiveness rather than sexuality. Even so, there is lot of ground between, on the one hand, taking the position that gender-based realities don’t exist, and, on the other, arguing, as do millions of Moslems, that women are fire and men are gasoline, and women must therefore cover themselves from head to foot so that poor, desperate horny men wont be forced to rape them. 

The worst thing I can say about what I regard as slutty dress and behavior isn’t how it affects men but what it says about women. For a woman to present sexuality as her dominant visual statement about herself is to imply that her existence is a triviality. In the early days of modern feminism, women who presented themselves as “sex objects” (the term used at the time) were severely condemned by the feminist community, so how is it that we went from that to the current belief that such dress and behavior are not only consistent with equality, they are equality, the result being that people like myself whose views were once consistent with feminism are now labeled as sexist because we dont agree that behaving like a dog in heat is a noble endeavor?
A movement’s high ideals can quickly degenerate for various reasons. For instance, there might have been a loss of strong leadership; or an absence of focus and clarity once a movement’s primary goals were achieved; or the movement’s original values might have become the status quo; or those too young to remember how hard it was to achieve those goals might take them for granted. So it is that, in my lifetime, Civil Rights and feminism have become trivialized; the demand for freedom of expression has become the tyranny of political correctness; and the Peace Movement has fallen off the radar. When such weakening occurs, superficiality becomes the order of the day; goals that were once considered unworthy are that’s left; and behaviors that were once unthinkable become acceptable. Deland (1857-1945) saw all of this coming, and grieved for the growing social fragmentation of the 20th century, a fragmentation that she recognized as an unintended consequence of what started as the movement for women’s suffrage. The trouble of ridding society of negative values is that positive values can also be lost in the change.

Who should die for whom?

As a teenager, I often daydreamed of dying for one pretty girl or another by pushing her from the path of a speeding car. I would breathe my last while her tears fell upon my face like angelic anointment. I later joined the Masons, and had to swear that I would risk my life to save a fellow Mason if the odds of my survival were at least 50%.

I have no doubt that I would die for Peggy, but when I asked Peggy if she would die for me, she said she didn’t know, and I said I wouldn’t want her to. This isn’t about, “If you love me, you’ll die for me,” but about a man’s obligation to give his life for his family by virtue of the fact that he is a man, and although he would be grievously opposed to them doing the same.

You might ask how I can be so sure I would die for Peggy. I have several reasons. One is that it’s my responsibility as her husband. Another is that my life would be hell if I were to outlive her. A third is that if I saved my life at the loss of hers, I would be overwhelmed by self-hatred. The fourth is that she would deserve it by virtue of her goodness. You might ask if I too am not good, and I would answer yes, but that I receive Peggy’s devotion in different ways, which I’ll go into in a moment.

I’m touched when I reflect upon that frigid night in 1912 when the men of the Titanic drowned in order to save the women. Surely, many of those men opposed suffrage and considered women their physical and mental inferiors, so what was it about women that they so valued that they were willing to die for them? I believe their behavior was a product of their gender. What this means in regard to my relationship with Peggy is that nature didn’t create in her a feeling of obligation to die for me, but this shouldn’t be taken to mean that she loves me less—not that I would care if she did, unless the imbalance was significant. 

Here is what I know about Peggy. If, in order to save my life, she had to give-up everything she owns and spend the rest of her days nursing me, she would, partly out of love and partly out of duty. If, instead of her doing these things for me, I were called upon to do them for her, I would regard it as a far greater challenge than merely dying outright. It is generally the case that men simply aren’t well equipped to provide years of care to a spouse whose decline is continuous and inexorable. We are fixers rather than caretakers, and nothing alarms us more than being helpless where our wives are concerned, yet where nobility exists, it surely involves ongoing sacrifice rather than a speedy death.

Back to the Titanic. I wouldn’t face certain death to save a woman I didn’t know, but to pretend to be a woman in order to get into a lifeboat would be to choose survival at the cost of dishonesty and humiliation. Yesterday, I read a sentence by Margaret Deland that seems relevant to this monologue if one substitutes the word survival for happiness:

“…it seemed to her than no one, for his happiness, had a right to do a thing which would injure an ideal by which the rest of us live.”

I can think of exceptions to her statement, but it is certainly true that the ideals of one’s society should not to be dismissed so lightly as I have often done. It is my hope that men and women never become so “equal” that men forget they are men, and women forget they are women, but I fear that is where political correctness would have us go. For instance, as of last month, American women can  assume any combat position that is open to a man.

I recently learned of a pitbull attack in Canada in which the husband locked himself in their bedroom while his wife was mauled by two dogs in the living room.* Is it conceivable that the demand for gender equality has overturned two-million years of evolution and made male cowardice acceptable? Surely, it would be preferable to die by her side than to listen to one’s wife scream while doing nothing to save her. I can’t conceive of a man, who is worthy of being called a man, who would be other than horrified by the thought of his wife facing almost certain death to protect him, yet I can’t conceive of a man, who is worthy of being called a man, who would choose to live if it meant letting his wife die alone, even if there was only one chance out of a million of saving her. If I were to fail in this, it would be to pronounce my very existence a mistake.

I don’t know the extent to which the word honor can be applied to the actions of the majority of men on the Titanic since they were but obeying a societal demand that was itself based upon an evolutionary impulse, but I’m quite sure that dishonor applies to those who saved themselves by pretending to be women.

Manhood and womanhood involve more than physical differences, although this seems to appear anything but obvious to many. While it is true that men can nurture and women can protect, there are significant and unalterable gender-related differences in emphasis and manner. I can even see this in the way Peggy and I parent our cats. It’s not that I’m less nurturing or she’s less protective, but that the ways we undertake our roles are as apparent today as they were in our childhoods when she changed the clothes on her Patti Playpal doll and I shot bad guys with my Roy Rogers’ cap pistol. No amount of political correctness can make men and women the same, but it can make them dishonest, confused, and cowardly.

*Later reports gave a different story, but the truth of what occurred in a specific instance doesn’t invalidate my concern.

I Become a Delandist

Margaret Deland 1857-1945
Since October, I’ve bought fifty books by or about Margaret Deland, most of them first-editions. I’ve never taken such an intense interest in either an author or in old books, but I’m finding it immensely gratifying to hold in my hands that which previous generations enjoyed and held in their hands. I’m also head-over-heels in love with what these people wrote in their books, inscriptions such as, For my dear little girl, Christmas 1915,” and Geo, this was Little Mamma’s book.” Then there are the beautiful old names of the books’ owners: Grace, Clara, Effie, Fanny, Alice, Lillian, Cordelia, and Adelphia.

Prior to coming across Deland’s novel, John Ward, Preacher (1888), in a St. Vincent de Paul store, I assumed that the remembrance of brilliant writers was insured, and that the world’s best reading could be found simply by seeking-out authors whose work has survived the decades if not the centuries. How fortunate I am to have come across someone who is practically forgotten but who struggled with the same issues I face, issues that people tend to dismiss with, “You think too much,” or, “You take things too seriously.”

It’s not only Deland whom I’ve discovered, but through her my clearest window into the place and era that interests me most, America during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The forgotten dead speak to me so strongly that it’s a shock to suddenly recall that they are dead, and that the brevity of their lives is being mirrored in our own. I have also been forced to conclude that the educated people of the late 19th century were far better educated than ourselves in regard to scope, profundity, and the ability of even non-writers to express themselves
with depth and perception. It is so easy to dismiss past generations as somehow less-than, but my studies have convinced me that in regard to the era about which I am most interested, they were not only less-than, they were more-than.

Phillips Brooks 1835-1893
I so wish I could have known some of them, for example the psychologist William James and the Episcopal priest Phillips Brooks who was the only clergyman from whom Margaret sought counsel. When she confessed to him that she considered the Apostles’ Creed nothing more than “a beautiful, antique edifice of words,” and asked if she should continue taking communion, he wrote:

 “…I do believe that any, even the least, sense of Him gives you the right to come to Him, at any rate, to come to where He is and try to find Him. I cannot tell you how anxiously I write. But what I have written, I solemnly believe. May the great Wisdom and Love bless you and lead you.”

Brooks’ exchange with Margaret reminded me of the one I had with (Father) Brent. The fact that I, a nonbeliever in regard to the supernatural, find meaning in communion has caused both believers and nonbelievers to assure me that I need to choose one path or the other and be done with the matter. To find in Margaret a reflection of my inability to let go of that which I can not intellectually accept yet have an unwavering need to accept—by which I mean a belief in immortality that would enable me to think of life as other than tragic—is more rewarding than I can say. As she put it,

“My feeling was not just an academic perplexity about doctrines; it was a shuddering of my heart at the significance of Love in the same world with Death! ... I knew that what I wanted was a certain word, either written or spoken, which would make me sure of...immortality.”

But the problem goes beyond mortality and into the meaning of a life built upon inescapable ignorance and inadequacy, failings that the intervening providence of a sympathetic supreme being would overcome. Without such a being, we founder in weakness, desire, and loss for perhaps eight decades, and then we die. Does this not constitute a valid objection to having lived at all?

As did Margaret—who died at 87—I have long since come to feel that my most central issue is mine alone to bear, and while others have brought me hurt and alienation, no one but Brent has tried to make me feel welcome in a
“house of worship without expecting that I change. Since anything short of acceptance would constitute rejection, Brent represents my only tie to organized religion. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have any more evidence of an intervening providence or immortality than I. When Margaret asked Phillips Brooks whether he knew that we would live forever, he was silent for some time before answering:

“It must be true; life would be too terrible if it were not.”

Brooks’ admission of the baselessness of what he wanted so much to believe was admirable, but hardly more satisfying than the certainty of those who put their trust in the imagined authority of church and Bible. This leaves me, as it did Margaret, very much alone because there is no meaningful reassurance regarding that which no one can prove.

When her husband died, Margaret went the way of Conan Doyle who became a spiritualist after his son died, although she avoided the embarrassing public credulity of Doyle who became so  delusional as to believe in fairies. The post-World War I era saw millions seeking contact with their beloved dead, and her eventual acceptance of the proposition that we are all a part of the divine consciousness and therefore incapable of death is alien to me, but her questions are not, and, as did mine, they started during her fundamentalist Christian upbringing and brought her the
reprobation of those to whom she turned for answers.

Katherine Mansfield, 1888-1923
Yet, Margaret was not the first author with whom I experienced such a strong personal connection that I could not accept that she was dead. For that, I must point to New Zealander Katherine Mansfield who wrote,

“Oh, God, the sky is filled with the sun, and the sun is like music. Music comes streaming down these great beams. The wind touches the trees, shakes little jets of music. The shape of every flower is like a sound. My hands open like five petals…”

Perhaps there are those who can cheerfully accept that such beauty of spirit can appear out of frigid nothingness like a warming spark only to immediately and eternally fall back into the same, but I am not among them, and I never will be. Of all the supposed truths that there exists something more, the only one that resonates with me is my inability to accept the alternative, but I don
’t know if this suggests need or insight.

One day, while walking in the desert, I felt that Mansfield was with me, so I asked for proof of her presence. I immediately saw a painted and bejeweled stick several feet away in the sagebrush, and even a skeptical Peggy commented that I walked to it as though led. I kept the stick in my closet for years before discarding it as a teaser rather than an answer. If asked what would constitute an answer I could but say that it would have to be something that couldn
’t be explained through ordinary means, “...a certain word, either written or spoken, which would make me sure of...immortality.” 

As did my atheist father when old age robbed him of his strength, Margaret believed that she had found such a word. In the second of her two autobiographies (one about her childhood and the other about her marriage) she wrote:

Recognizing a Conscious and Infinite Universe, we know that in It we live, and move, and have our being. We are workers together with It. We are sharers in Its immortality. Oneness with Its will is Peace, and we can endure. We call It God.

I can’t know whether her courage to endure a world without hope finally failed her, or whether her decades of study and reflection provided her with a vision that is of little use to anyone but herself. I don’t believe that anyone can fairly stand in judgment. John Lennon wrote, Whatever gets you through the night, it’s alright, it’s alright,” by which I think he meant that the final test of what constitutes ultimate reality cannot be demonstrable truth because that is unattainable. Rather the final test is whether ones belief is hardening or opening, and in Magaret’s case, it was most certainly the latter. I could never put so much time and energy into a writer of whose goodness I was not completely convinced, and so it is that I put my faith in Margaret.

Transexuality in cats

Ollie, our four month old male, is making a determined effort to nurse Brewsky, our five year old male. I don’t know how Brewsky can bear it since Ollie has teeth, but his only response is to descend into what looks very much like a coma while Ollie slurps and pumps for all he’s worth. As a strong and confident heterosexual male, my gender identity is naturally dependent upon the behavior of my neutered pets, so I find this sort of thing extremely disturbing.

Nurse Peggy speculated that if Ollie nurses long enough, Brewsky might actually produce milk. I asked her if she would taste it, and she said she would, so I found this equally disturbing because it can only mean that she considers cats more erotic than men, although I must confess that I too wonder how cat milk tastes, and whether male cat milk tastes different from female cat milk. I just know that I would have to sample it in the afternoon (I’m nauseous in the mornings), especially if it was male cat milk, and even then, I would worry that I might like it so much that I would end up with a houseful of lactating cats and a refrigerator full of cat-milk cheese.

Ollie is also starting to look a little cross-eyed, and, combined with his insistence on nursing Brewsky, this probably means that cross-eyed cats are transsexual. As many of you know, my father was transsexual (though not cross-eyed) so for Ollie to be this way too proves that the universe hates me.

One downside of cats is that you have to look at their assholes a lot because they’re forever turning their butts in your direction while hoisting their tails like fulsomely furry flagless flagpoles. Peggy and I have noted that Ollie has an outie asshole, and this too is hard to accept because it just looks wrong somehow, and probably means that he’s a transsexual. I thought about cutting the tendon in his tail so that I wouldn’t have to look at his ass, but Peggy said that, if he couldn’t raise his tail, he would probably poop on it.

I think Ollie looks like Ramses III, and Peggy’s friend, Ilse (who neither I nor Peggy had mentioned this to) also thinks he looks like a pharaoh. On top of his gender issues, the thought of having a dead pharaoh wandering about the house is about to push me over the edge because I never know but what Ollie might start looking more like Ramses and less like Ollie and end up with Ramses’ face and brain on Ollie’s body. Every morning, I look at him to see if he’s changed, but all I can tell for sure is that his legs are getting longer and his walk indecently wiggly, and this makes me worry that he’ll want pantyhose.

A Canadian university recently proved that domestic cats would eat their owners if they could get away with it, and this makes me wonder if it’s safe to sleep with Brewsky and Ollie since they could synchronize an attack in order to take out my eyes before I could wake-up.

Ollie and Brewsky are still having hellacious fights, although assaults would be more accurate. Tiny though he is, Ollie will sometimes attack Brewsky viciously, but all Brewsky does is to bathe him while he’s doing it. Yesterday, I watched Brewsky lick a paw, the nails of which were sunk into his nose, and I got to wondering if Brewsky is a sexual masochist. Still, if Ollie hurts him enough, Brewsky will meow (in pervert lingo, that’s what’s known as a “safe sign”), and this tells Ollie that he had better stop NOW if he doesn’t want to piss Brewsky off. Believe me, even I wouldn’t want to piss Brewsky off because he spends about an hour a day tossing cat litter all over the room for no reason that I can see other than to build muscles. The only thing that keeps Brewsky from hurting me as it is, is that I run away every time he walks in my direction, and he’s too lazy to jump onto my back and sink his teeth into my trachea, so he licks his butt instead. Even when Brewsky acts harmless, I can’t be sure but what he’s planning to kill me as a gift to his nymphet lover.

Brewsky also attacks Ollie, but Ollie’s response is decidedly un-sangfroid. In fact he screams like a little girl who’s being hacked to death by a motorcycle gang of hairy-chested priests, and this makes me wonder if he too is a sexual masochist. Peggy thinks we should stop these attacks, but I’m adamantly opposed to it, partly because I’m afraid of Brewsky, but also because I need to trust that Brewsky is being a good father to his adopted son. Of course, would a good father let his son nurse, bite his ears, and claw his nose? I don’t know whether to take my boys to a shrink or buy them Barbie Dolls. In the old days, the choice would have been clear, but now that everyone who’s not a white, heterosexual male is considered normal, the shrink might say that I’m the one who needs a shrink, and I’m too overwrought to listen to such foolishness.

My only other options are to either return Ollie to the adoption agency or pack-up and leave home. I waited so long that if I do the first, they won’t give me my money back, plus I’ve spent $200 treating the little shit’s diarrhea. Leaving home isn’t a great option either because I would have to buy a new place, and because people would laugh at me for letting myself be run out of my home by two cats that are considered emotionally healthy by the Cat Sexuality and Gender Identity Division of the American Psychological Association

I saw a news story about a black man who tried to have his pitbull put to death because he thought the dog was gay (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=820YNwI-tWA). He said he wanted a bad-ass dog that would protect him family, but what he got was a fag-ass piece of shit who only cared about making love to attackers. The whole country laughed at him, and only now do I understand what the poor man must have suffered.

On a lighter note, here’s a video that was made when Smokie (our foster cat) was here. It’s the first personal video that I’ve ever posted. Be sure your sound is up so you won’t miss our talk and Ollie’s purring, and that you watch the whole thing so as not to miss the hissing at the end.


Nobody who is somebody looks down on anybody. -Margaret Deland

Margaret Deland, 1857-1945
Her mother died in childbirth, her father two days later. She aroused controversy through poems, short stories, and novels. Her book, John Ward, Preacher, was a best-seller about the philosophical clashes between a Calvinist minister and his Episcopalian wife. Deland married Harvard football coach Lorin Deland, and shared her home with dozens of unwed mothers.

The universe eludes me. It appears to be where I am not and I am where it is not. In 1989, a friend said he envied me my self-knowledge. I assumed that he referred to my grasp of values, self-history, and goals, but values change; memories change; and I no longer have goals.

Over the last few years, I have increasingly sought escape in English and American literature, focusing more or less on the period from 1875 to 1925, because it represented an era that I imagined happier and more natural. My escape proved a mirage when I realized that my favorite writers of the era not only struggled with “modern” issues but approached them with greater depth and insight than today’s writers. I had imagined that the endless ease with which authors can now edit would have improved literature, but the reverse is true. Perhaps this is because education was formerly focused on history, literature, language, and philosophy, fields that promote depth. I also suspect that our “electronic devices” have tended us toward shallowness by becoming the intellectual equivalent of fast food. Whatever the reason, modern writers are challenged to use good grammar.

After reading many of the works of Theodore Dreiser, Frank Norris, Sinclair Lewis, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Samuel Butler, Conan Doyle, Mark Twain, Jack London, Willa Cather, and others, I recently had the good fortune to discover, for $2.49, a first edition copy of John Ward, Preacher in a St. Vincent dePaul store. I hadn’t so much as heard of the author but her writings quickly became the shrine before which I worship, and her books the only books I ever kissed each night before going to sleep. In John Ward, Preacher, Deland examined the deeply-loving marriage between a nominal Episcopalian who doubted God’s existence and her fundamentalist husband who became obsessed by the fear that his wife was going to hell. I was raised a fundamentalist but became an atheist, and through the couples arguments I saw myself.

My next reading was her 65-page story Where Ignorance Is Bliss, 'Tis Folly To Be Wise. The story opens with a soon to be married couple—the man an Episcopal priest—enjoying a woodland outing on a sunny day. The story progressed to the man’s memory of having forged a check 23-years earlier, a crime that no one knew about—and that no one would ever know about unless he told them. He pondered whether morality required that he confess his sin to his fiancée, and for perhaps forty pages, he debated the decision from every conceivable angle before finally telling her two days before their wedding. She broke off their engagement—by letter—within hours. Months later, two friends who knew what he had done also examined the pros and cons of his decision. They concluded that the choice between telling and not telling had been a moral necessity, but they couldn’t agree on which was right. So it is that Deland’s writings commonly concern painful decisions that pit apparent self-interest against social, physical, and economic ruin. 

What we now have in place of depth, morality, and thoughtful religion, is political correctness on the one hand and religious reactionism on the other. Both are antithetical to freedom and intelligence, so it’s no wonder that our era is characterized by slanders and Tweet-length repartee. Surely, you can see why I have abandoned my era in favor of another. In truth, I don’t care too terribly much about Syrian refugees; I can do nothing about Global Warming; and I think of our Middle Eastern Wars as the disturbed obsession of callous politicians whose interests lie anywhere but their own country. Fourteen years of turning on the radio and, in the first sentence, hearing such terms as: suicide bombing, Taliban, Islamic State, school shooting, government shutdown, racial tension, Gaza Strip, government atrocities, sectarian conflict, Civil War, chemical weapons, roadside bomb, WMDs, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestinian conflict, fighting erupted, weather event, police shooting, unarmed black man, or other phrases that make me feel both angry and hopeless have worn me down until I no longer care. 

I remind myself that I am more old than young, and I ask myself whether this is what I want to listen to for the rest of my life because, truly, I see no reason to hope for better. Almost nothing that is on the news concerns things that I can remedy—which is probably why it’s on the news. Whatever happened to the welfare of America? Except for school shootings and an endless stream of killings by so-called racist cops, are any of our problems solved by this obsession with the Middle East, a region that we have only made worse after spending a trillion dollars and leaving millions of people maimed, killed, or displaced?

No, give me Victorian times. They call to me, not because they’re easy, but because they’re hard, yet I find a kinship there that I don’t find today. The last two friends who came to my house talked on their cell phones in my presence, and I thought, why are you here? If you had rather be with someone else, then go to them with my blessing, and call me when you get there so I can have the attention that you’re now giving to them. Why insult me by making me listen to a one-sided conversation? Am I really so unimportant to you? Such events have led me to write people out of my life until there are very few left.

I reject my era. I reject our personal devices; our warmongering in the name of peace; our “special nation status”; our endless threats of a government shutdown; our 18-month long presidential campaigns; the daily slanderings and lies of psychopathic politicians who pretend to be statesmen; but most of all, I despise our shallowness. I think that the only things we’ll be remembered for are violence, flag-waving, political correctness, and asininity, and so it is that I profoundly don’t care about us. As long as the economy doesn’t crash, my Social Security check arrives on time, and Medicare stays solvent for the remainder of my lifetime, I’ll content myself with the knowledge that this is the most I can expect from a sick, shallow, and silly nation that I am powerless to influence. Like the man in Simon and Garfunkels I am a Rock,I  have my books and poetry to protect me, only they don’t protect me any better than they did him, they instead take me deep within myself through the words of people with whom I can have no knowledge other than sentiments frozen on a page. It is to this end that I’m buying every first edition of Margaret Deland’s books I can find. Fortunately they’re cheap because the mass of Americans are only interested in the day’s celebrity. I frankly find Deland’s words, “Nobody who is somebody looks down on anybody,” an impossible row to hoe, but I’ll keep reading.

My three boys

Ollie, vanquisher of monsters
Peggy hated cats and, atheist though she is, would awaken screaming from dreams in which screeching Satanic felines were breaking into our house. When our schnauzer, Baxter, died in 2010, Peggy surprised me by suggesting that we go to an animal shelter the very next day to get a dog—after our first schnauzer died, Peggy grieved for years before she was ready for another dog. When we found no dogs we liked, we visited the cattery and Peggy fell in love with the first kitten we saw. We named him Brewsky, and he is now five. I never felt as close to him as I had to various dogs, but I enjoyed him enough that I thought it would be fun to get a second cat. Peggy argued against this for two reasons. The first was that it would mean less attention for Brewsky, and the second was that we both doubted that Brewsky would accept a second cat.

Smokie, licker of glass
In mid October, a friend died, and we temporarily cared for his two year old Persian, Smokie. I read that the best way to introduce a new cat to a resident cat is to keep them completely separate for a week, so that was what I attempted, but it made both cats miserable. After three days, I put Smokie in the laundry room behind a baby gate so that he and Brewsky could at least see one another. Brewsky’s response was to hiss (at least during those brief periods that he came out from under the couch) and Smokie’s to yowl. Given how bad things were going, I questioned the wisdom of keeping them apart to any extent, so I removed the baby gate, and within two days, they were taking naps together. I immediately turned up the pressure on Peggy to get a second cat.

She demurred but her resistance had been weakened by how well Brewsky accepted Smokie, so when we were walking around the mall two Sundays ago and came upon a new Petco store, we went inside, and lo and behold, they had rescue cats. We singled out three with whom we played for over two hours before settling on a gray kitten named Detroit Tony (so named because he and his littermates had been dumped on the side of the Detroit Lakes Highway). I would have taken him home then, but Peggy said she first wanted to visit the cattery where we got Brewsky, and it was too late to go that day. When we didn’t find a cat we liked the next day, we raced across town to Petco in the hope that Detroit Tony was still there. He was, but not by much because one application had just been rejected.

Brewsky, scrubber of tails
When we got Tony—who we renamed Ollie—home, we ignored the book recommendation about isolating him for a week, and instead plopped him down between Brewsky and Smokie and waited to see what would happen. The 2.8 pound Ollie immediately astonished us and our 16.5 pound Brewsky by walking right up to him and smelling his nose. Peggy and I held our breaths while Brewsky decided whether to open his heart or his fangs. There soon followed a regular smell fest with the two cats sniffing one another from bow to stern. When they were done, Ollie and Smokie went through a similar getting-to-know-you routine, after which the three of them played chase. By Tuesday, Brewsky was bathing Ollie like a mother and the two of them were sleeping together, often with Ollie cradled between Brewsky’s legs. (Ollie looks much bigger, and Brewsky much smaller, in the photos than in real life.)

I have become more bonded with Brewsky in the past few weeks—since first Smokie and then Ollie moved in—than in the past few years, the reason being that introducing other cats into the household has opened his heart to a depth I never knew he possessed. For instance, after he got tired of hiding under the sofa following Smokie’s arrival, he turned to me for reassurance, and his usual Stoic demeanor gave way to a touching vulnerability. I am only troubled by two things. One is that I can’t discipline Ollie without upsetting Brewsky, which means that I have to go to where Ollie is misbehaving and quietly redirect his behavior even if he’s on the other side of the room clawing the upholstery. The second thing is that Brewsky can’t discipline Ollie without upsetting me. He will occasionally pin Ollie between his legs and nip him repeatedly, causing Ollie to cry like he’s being murdered. Sometimes, I can connect Brewsky’s actions to something Ollie did, but other times, it just looks like a display of dominance. Whatever is going on, I don’t think it would be right to interfere.

Abused cats forced to sleep on minuscule bed

My only sad news is that Smokie moved to his new home in Portland on Saturday. I so wanted to keep him that I had fantasies about the two of us fleeing to Idaho. As it was I could but write a letter to his new family asking that they let me have him back if things don’t work out.

Smokie’s breed is an example of human beings taking a superb product of nature and genetically altering it in ways that are a detriment to its health and abilities. In the case of Persians, the goal was to create a long-haired cat that would look kittenish its whole life long. As a result, Persians can’t bathe adequately; they have weak jaws; they can’t survive in the wild; and they’re prone to a score of  afflictions. Yet, it’s also true that they’re among the most gentle, mellow, and affectionate, of cats, and I’ll never forget the gift of knowing Smokie. The fact that Smokie can’t fly is proof that angels lack wings.