Packed up and ready to go

24 01 2017

Given the news coming out of federal agencies of stifled staffer communications as well as numerous instances in various Republican-led states of information disappearing from government websites, it is not alarmist to think that information which is currently available may end up disappearing.

If you, as I do, rely on these documents for your work (or whatever), I strongly urge you to download and save this information on your own devices.

I make use of a number of NIH docs, only some of which are easily downloadable as pdfs (which I did); the rest, I screenshot and saved as pdfs. Screenshot-to-pdf isn’t as good as a straight-up pdf doc, but it does allow you to preserve the information.

(I use the free Fireshot add-on, which is really easy to use; there are also others available.)

There are millions of documents which are currently accessible to the public; I dearly hope someone is copying over as many of them as possible.

 

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Devil was my angel

14 01 2013

Is it an aha moment if it drags you down and hollows you out?

Kurt Anderson at Studio 360 has been running an occasional series on “Aha Moments”—those encounters with books or movies or music which have changed one’s life.

Most of the stories are enlightening or funny or just sideways; I wonder if he’d want to hear about dark epiphanies?

I may have discussed this before, but what the hell: I was around 15 when I had mine. Two years earlier I had first started trying to kill myself, and after one brief ER visit and overnight psych ward stay at 14, I was trying to come to terms with my inability to end myself.

It was also around this time that I read The Thorn Birds, by Colleen McCullough. There’s a scene late in the book when the priest Dane, Maggie’s son (by the priest Richard Chamberlain Ralph) goes for a swim, saves two women from drowning, then feels his heart bunch up. He begins to struggle to get back to shore, then says, in effect, Isn’t this what I want? To be with God? He stops struggling, spreads his arms, and drowns.

(That’s how I and Ms. Wikipedia remember it, at any rate.)

Well. That made quite an impression: Is this what I really want? To die? I could only answer, Yes. Am I ready to open my arms and let go? Not yet. Ah. This means I should wait until I’m ready, and only then kill myself.

Now, you might think this is pretty fucked up because. . . it’s pretty fucked up. Why did I have to answer Yes to the want-to-die question? I had no other answer. I had so humiliated myself by my failure that it seemed to me the only way to overcome that humiliation was to succeed.

Oddly, then, the Dane-epiphany kept me alive. I couldn’t stand another failure, and I couldn’t stand to live: thinking that I could stay alive long enough to prepare myself for death gave me some breathing space (albeit of rather toxic quality). I’d think about it periodically, check if I were ready, say nope, then keep living.

Of course, the pressure built. I tried and failed again in college, then again my first year of grad school. At this point I just said Fuck it, and stopped dealing with anything having to do with depression and suicide. I avoided books and movies on the theme, and did my damnedest to shut it all down.

And that worked, for years, that worked. And then the cracks, the frays, the quake, the buckling—whatever metaphor you prefer—and there I was, much older, and still not dead.

Which was a problem.

I was at least able to figure out that if I still hadn’t killed myself, well, y’know, there was something I could do about it. Back into therapy, back into the fight should-I-stay-or-should-I-go, blah blah. I did the work, I excavated myself, exposed the structures of my fucked-up living-to-die being, and by the end,  could neither stay nor go.

And then I had another moment. This wasn’t an Aha Moment the way the Dane thing was, but was a recognition, nonetheless. I had been listening to a lot of Beth Orton, and there was one song, Devil Song, which stayed with me, stretched out and empty and barely there.

But looking back in retrospect
Did you ever really get what you’d expect?
Trying to rectify
Got lost a little further
You’ve been trying to justify
Find out how and where it came

Devil was your angel, but it’s not no more
The devil was your angel, when you weren’t sure

Yep, pretty much.  And then there’s this:

Gonna take you back down
I won’t feel no shame
Till my dreams
Are my own again
Gonna take you right down, and I’ll take the blame
Till my dreams are my own again

Here I am again

Those lyrics didn’t save me. In some ways, I didn’t even save me: as I’ve mentioned previously, there was no decision, just a leaf turning this way rather than that.

But I think there was something in this song that said, in effect, you can go with this. Just because you were that before doesn’t mean you have to stay that way.  It’s okay not to die. It’s okay to be alive.

It’s coming up on 12 years since that night, and I’ve remained here. And that’s all right.

Here I am again.

Not yet, but getting there, getting there.





We might as well try: cause tomorrow you just don’t know

21 07 2012

Another mass killing.

Which mass killing? Syria? Aurora? Does it matter?

As so many others have noted, there will be tears and words and denunciations and defenses and what-ifs and what-nows and then nothing nothing nothing until another mass killing.

I have no answers; I’m not even sure of the questions.

But a killing is a diminution, always, even if the person killed is bad, even if a killing is necessary (as when someone kills another in self-defense); life is gone, the world is smaller.

That’s bad enough for those of us who are strangers; for those who knew the victims, their world is shredded, and for the victims, the world is gone. As that line from the Bhagavad Gita notes, I am become Death, shatterer of worlds.

And out of this, I think I finally, truly, understand that Talmudic saying: Whosoever saves a life, saves the world.

In our purposefulness and carelessness, we constantly shatter and save our world, and wonder at our sorrow and relief.





This is how you do it: Sherman Alexie

9 06 2011

Is it bad to write about bad things that happen to kids?

Meghan Cox Gurdan thinks so, but Sherman Alexie has another take:

Of course, all during my childhood, would-be saviors tried to rescue my fellow tribal members. They wanted to rescue me. But, even then, I could only laugh at their platitudes. In those days, the cultural conservatives thought that KISS and Black Sabbath were going to impede my moral development. They wanted to protect me from sex when I had already been raped. They wanted to protect me from evil though a future serial killer had already abused me. They wanted me to profess my love for God without considering that I was the child and grandchild of men and women who’d been sexually and physically abused by generations of clergy.

What was my immature, childish response to those would-be saviors?

“Wow, you are way, way too late.”

And now, as an adult looking back, I wonder why those saviors tried to warn me about the crimes that were already being committed against me.

When some cultural critics fret about the “ever-more-appalling” YA books, they aren’t trying to protect African-American teens forced to walk through metal detectors on their way into school. Or Mexican-American teens enduring the culturally schizophrenic life of being American citizens and the children of illegal immigrants. Or Native American teens growing up on Third World reservations. Or poor white kids trying to survive the meth-hazed trailer parks. They aren’t trying to protect the poor from poverty. Or victims from rapists.

In other words, what is bad is not writing about the bad things that happen to kids, but the bad things themselves. Protecting kids from writings about the bad things is not the same as protecting them from bad things.

Writing about those bad things, on the other hand, while it also won’t protect kids, might just  help them survive the badness:

And now I write books for teenagers because I vividly remember what it felt like to be a teen facing everyday and epic dangers. I don’t write to protect them. It’s far too late for that. I write to give them weapons–in the form of words and ideas-that will help them fight their monsters. I write in blood because I remember what it felt like to bleed.

h/t Paul Constant, The Slog