Entering the Kingdom of Heaven

One of the guys in Tech-Support who I work with (I’ll call him Ron) has been out all week dealing with his mother who has gone into the hospital with a serious illness. He has been sending out unsolicited daily updates on her (and his) status to our whole group of about 20 people. As part of this he has revealed that his parents have been married for 62-years (putting them in their 80’s one would guess) and that his father has Alzheimer’s.

The first thing that strikes me here is how strange it is that anyone should widely publish such personal details, be it Facebook postings, email or any other mechanism. I suppose that I do something like that in this blog, but even if the odd person here-or-there should actually read these words, I am truly writing for myself and no other audience. I do not yearn for others to see this and I actually take steps to insure that no one can respond to my statements here because I don’t want anyone’s feedback. The other thing that is clear from Ron’s communiqués is how upset he is by all of this. I suppose that fishing for sympathy and support is his main motivation for the dispatches, but actively wanting other people to flutter and hover and make soothing but meaningless cooing noises is completely alien to me. Even if he is close to his mother (another odd notion to my personal experience) and even if she is dying (if she is in her 80’s, what do you expect) I just don’t get this notion of “Sharing” intimate feelings and emotions with people you barely know. Talking to the wind, which what I feel that I am doing here, is one thing, but dumping your emotions on actual real people in the hopes of eliciting a response is something else entirely.

The other thing that I am reminded of in this situation is how very lucky my wife and I were in that all 4 of our parents died relatively quickly and with relatively little “fuss and bother” (though my wife might disagree with that last part). My recollection was that her father was fine on their 70th wedding anniversary in May of 2010, but then he fell apart quickly under harsh cancer treatments that started shortly afterward. He was dead in September of that year after only about 4-months of seriously debilitating health problems. The case of my wife’s mother is a little harder to judge because she whined and complained about everything all of the time anyway – for the entire 30-years that I knew her. I do remember that she first started to seem somehow different to me though in July of 2013 – rather “confused” and peculiarly lethargic through all of her normal complaining. She too was dead in September of that year about 2-months later. My own mother had complaints about headaches for 6-months in 1986, but she was only diagnosed and started to receive any treatments about 3-weeks before she died of a brain tumor. And my father was the winner of this Ultimate Race in that he only felt a little under-the-weather on a Sunday, but was dead by that Thursday in 2002 of congestive heart-failure.

Although few would actually want a parent to die, I still think that the absolute worst-case is to linger. There are many though (and it feels like Ron is among them) who believe in “Life At Any Cost”. I still don’t understand how that attitude can be justified on any grounds though; financial, emotional or humanitarian. Death is unavoidable and at some point we all must experience it and subjecting a loved-one to the pointless tortures of a mercenary Medical Industry for the sake of personal emotional salve and the denial of one’s own mortality is simply wrong. It is especially confusing to me for those who profess to be Christian. If their loved-one is about to enter the Kingdom of Heaven and be released from the pain and toil and distress of this world for an eternity of paradise in the presence of God, why on earth would anyone who cares about them want to impede this natural, inevitable – and supposedly glorious – process? I mean; stop being so damn selfish.

Yes, yes, I know – we’ll see if I change my mind about all of this when it is my turn. Would it give you a thrill if I were to keep you posted with the blow-by-blow when the time comes? It seems rather like slowing down to look at an accident on the side of the road hoping to see blood and body-parts. Does that make you “normal” or ghoulish – or maybe both? You human beings are so weird.

A Philosophy of Money

I was just listening to the old 60’s song “Time of the Season” by The Zombies and the lines;
What’s your name?
Who’s your daddy?
Is he rich like me?

This got me to thinking about the word “rich” and what it means.

Being “rich” really isn’t about having piles of expensive things – it is about “Freedom” and having enough money so that you don’t ever have to actually think about money (as the saying goes; “If you have to ask how much it costs, you can’t afford it”). This means that “rich” is a combination of liquid assets and one’s desires and expectations in life. The implication of this is that almost anyone can be “rich” depending on their own attitudes, personal priorities and spending habits.

Some people (and my wife is one) can’t help worrying about money no matter how much they have. It is as if money – for its own sake – is the only thing that matters and they love fantasizing about worst-cases and disasters as an excuse for stockpiling gobs of cash against every conceivable nightmare no matter how remote or unlikely. This is the Scrooge Mentality and these people will always be dissatisfied and unhappy, think of themselves as “poor” and perhaps even live that way – but it is all self-imposed and artificial.

Other people, and perhaps the majority, are the opposite. They will spend whatever they have no matter how much that is. To them a few extra bucks at the end of the month means that they can run out and buy a few more baubles or toys. They have an insatiable appetite for possessions and money itself has no meaning at all to them – it is only Things that matter. Then of course, when something unexpected happens they whine and complain about “having no money” even as their house is stuffed with crap that they may not even use and they blithely pay enormous monthly bills for cable-TV and cell-phone plans just because they think that this is “normal” regardless of whether they actually need it.

To me money is something in-between these common but extreme views. Money to me is a tool – like a screwdriver or a hammer. It has no intrinsic value in itself and I am not going to set it aside and just gaze at it like a work of art in a museum. The importance of money lies in what it can do. Of course – if you throw it away on stupid-shit and have none left – then it can’t do anything for you, but simply piling it up endlessly and never using it is equally pointless.

I think that the thing that so many people do not understand is that the most important thing that money can “buy” is not physical Stuff, but peace-of-mind. My wife and I are “rich” by my definition (and probably to most other people too) because we can just Live without being concerned about how much this or that little thing costs or when the paycheck will hit the bank account or what unanticipated pratfall may crop up tomorrow. We may not have all-the-money-in-the-world, but we do have “Enough” to cover any reasonable circumstance or desire, and that is all that really matters – so I ask – Who’s your daddy?

Familiarity Breeds Contempt

I work in a quiet office with 4 other guys. The boss is set back in an office and I rarely hear anything from him, but I can easily hear my other three co-workers over our 5-ft cubicle walls. I find it amazing that all three of these guys (all much younger than me) seem to have “family issues” that can be easily discerned in their one-sided phone conversations.

Dude-1 has most of his “problems” with his two children. One is probably 10 and the other is maybe 13. He is on the phone with one or both of them at least once-a-day, and often more. I frequently hear him “yelling” at these kids (albeit with his “inside voice”) and he is constantly telling them what they should be doing or what they should not be doing and interrogating them on where they are and where they are going. These kids seem to need this level of attention too – or even more – because his oldest son has clearly been in serious trouble already and it is not unusual for the kid to be hanging out in the office with his father because he has been suspended from school. This guy often leaves work early or comes in late because of a kiddy-crisis – generally at least once a week.

Dude-2 is on the phone with his wife at least 2 or 3 times a day and often for a half-hour or more at a time. The gist of these conversations always seems to be the same too. His wife is apparently asking him for advice on some aspect of her life (3-times a day??) and he is either saying that he doesn’t care what she does, or he is saying that he thinks she is nuts for caring and carrying-on about whatever the subject is. These conversations are usually irascible and end with the guy saying that they can discuss the matter further at home, or with just a tellingly abrupt disconnect.

Dude-3 is both the youngest and most recent member of our little group. I was dismayed to hear that even he has “domestic issues” that are clearly present in phone conversations. He too is on the phone with his wife regularly, but at least in his case it is usually not more than about once a day. As his personal cell-phone rings with his wife’s ring-tone I can hear him swearing in exasperation before answering and these conversations too are always clipped and sharp. It is obvious from his tenor and words that he finds these mid-day interruptions extremely annoying. I never really hear any substance here as his primary interest is to shut his wife down and get off the phone as quickly as possible. I also suspect that he realizes that the rest of us can easily hear him and he is thankfully sensitive about spreading his private life all over the office.

All of these habits seem very odd to me. My wife and I do talk to each other on the phone occasionally – but probably only about once a month on average and usually only when there is something that truly can’t wait until we see each other again in the evening. As opposed to these other people, after the point of the call has been made, our conversations are always light and pleasant and I notice (by contrast) that I am often laughing or joking with my wife as we talk – and I wonder if these other guys notice that too and maybe even envy it. My wife and I also text sometimes during a work-day, but again, this happens no more than once or twice a month and always for some serious and time-sensitive reason. We certainly do not consult each other numerous times a day on whatever silly personal minutia it is that these other people seem to find so urgent.

This is sometimes called the Age of Communication with ubiquitous personal cell-phones and electronic social-media and the ability to be in constant contact with everyone you know all the time. What I don’t get is;

Why would anyone think that this is a Good Thing?

In the Old-Days it was frowned upon to have personal phone conversations at work, and there were sometimes even corporate “rules” against it because the office phone was a company resource that cost real money, not to mention the unproductive work-time involved. Now with personal mobile phones and unlimited family-plan calling people can push a button to inform their Significant Other how upset they are that someone just stole the nice parking space that they had their eye on, or ask (as long as they are standing in the aisle of the food-store) whether mother-in-law would like shredded or au gratin potatoes when she visits next weekend. I mean, Jesus Christ people – get a few brain-cells and think for yourself! There seem to be a lot of people, and especially younger ones, who think that this Borg-like level of communication is normal and desirable – but it is neither. Perpetual contact and communication is debilitating and not even “human” and far from drawing people in a relationship closer, it is much more likely to drive them apart. A little space and privacy in a relationship is not just preferable, it is necessary. Remember that it is also true that; Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder.