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Some General Instructions

“Ships sided against a canal’s side may be touched and
Patted, but sleeping animals should not be, for
They may bite, in anger and surprise.“
— Kenneth Koch

Treat others as we treat those who are dying — with tenderness and kindness — as we are all, at our own pace, dying. Avoid telling others what will happen to them after they die, especially to threaten them, because this smacks of eschatological terrorism. Both idealization and devaluation of another person can be a defense against envy, and putting someone you consider an asshole on a pedestal is doubly troublesome.

Don’t pretend that large groups of people are all the same, as simplistic opinions about others are the source of much grief. There is beauty in diversity, but danger in division, as we can be conquered when divided, and manipulated by irrational beliefs. Beware the competition among various one-and-only gods, it is also the cause of much trouble. It’s best to avoid pretending to know the will of God, and to not pass laws reflecting his taboos. It’s not good to remain in an infantile state, accepting dogma at face value, or to confuse symbolic and literal truth. Of course we are free to believe Zeus runs the show from Mount Olympus if that makes us happy, and does no harm to others.

Nationalism is also a great source of division and hostility, despite the fact that people are people, and oligarchs are oligarchs, everywhere. As British pacifists used to say: “A bayonet is a knife with a worker at each end.” Avoid the fear flowing like a dirty river through our politics and propaganda, threatening to sweep us along. Fear has its place when one is being chased by a maniac or a bear, but is too often used to keep us cowed and cowardly, and is bad for one’s health.

Being an organism is a messy business, but no matter how dire the situation, bad poetry will not help. Suffering has inspired great art but should not be romanticized. Much pain is caused by desiring things which cannot be otherwise to be otherwise. This is not meant to encourage fatalism, which brings its own travails. The more concentrated the wealth, the more dispersed the suffering, and scarcer the truth.

The best views come at the expense of a little pride, as our fat heads cast shadows eclipsing the very sun. This present moment is where everything happens, though, strangely, paying attention to it takes a lot of effort. But now is all we get, our whole lives long, this little patch of space/time floating on forever.

Do not overestimate or underestimate anyone. Beware the hearts of gold and feet of clay, ass-hats and halos. People should not fear death based on the illusion of separation, nor should raindrops dread the ocean racing up to greet them. An attitude of gratitude is helpful if you’re able, and if you shy away from sky-gods you can still give thanks when eating, to the food and the farmer, the land and the sun.

Speaking the truth is easier than lying because you don’t have lies to remember. Finding oneself can mean learning one’s favorite ways to lose oneself, in a task at hand. If you can make a living doing that, I hate you. For most of us, becoming independently poor is a more realistic goal than becoming independently wealthy, and freedom is our treasure, regardless.

Don’t dwell only on competition in nature, neglecting the cooperation on display. Granted, humans are animals, but that does not justify raiding pension funds with the gusto of a wolf tearing into a freshly-killed lamb. Our much-vaunted level playing field is no more level than the face of a pyramid, and affords as much room at the top. Of course those at its zenith seek a noble peace. Conquerors always want peace.

Learn from your peers, your elders, and youngsters, and don’t be too proud to ask about an unfamiliar word. You won’t appear dumb, just curious — a sign of intelligence. Look up words in a hardcopy dictionary so you can brush against neighboring words along your winding way.

Sugar will pick you up but it won’t carry you, psychedelics may show you the way but they won’t get you there, and in wine there is truth, and a whole lot of stupid. Beware of fascists, who are Republicans in a hurry, and if you don’t shovel the snow off your sidewalk because you don’t see any pedestrians, that may be a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Now go, taking from the above what you wish, discarding the rest, and hold fast to the truth with an open, critical mind. And use your goddamn blinkers.

2 Comments

vicarious

about 2 years ago

Best Saturday essay yet. Possibly best PDD post in...years.

Aluminumni

about 2 years ago

I need to shovel the sidewalk.

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