The Oath

The modern version of the Hippocratic Oath:

I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

—I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

—I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

—I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.

—I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.

—I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all,

I must not play at God.

—I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.

—I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.

—I will protect the environment which sustains us, in the knowledge that the continuing health of ourselves and our societies is dependent on a healthy planet.

—I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.

I highlighted a few of the tenets, just to remind us all of values and morality during this time of COVID.

Now can all the “herd immunity” idiots please shut the hell up?

To willingly and voluntarily encourage the transmission of a virus still not well understood is not science, it is criminal malfeasance.  It is, quite literally, the very definition of a crime against humanity.

Unfortunately, far too many people have taken COVID as a political fight rather than a medical one.  Far too many people have decided that masks and prevention equal liberal, and therefor are evil.  The other side holds true, too, by the way.  Too many others have decided that any balance, any recognition of differing circumstances in different areas, equals conservative, and is therefor evil.

How about we let the freaking experts do their thing?  I studied a couple years’ worth of sports medicine in my second college go-‘round.  You know what that toe-dip into the waters of medicine taught me?  It taught me that I don’t know anywhere near enough to try and make that decision.  But the folks who have made the study and prevention of epidemics and viruses their life’s purpose do know enough…maybe we should try, you know, listening to them?

Good Lord, if we continue as we are — if we continue listening to Trump’s “everything is fine!” bullshit, or the left’s “quarantine for everyone!” bullshit — this damned thing is never going to go away.

Look, I’ve been open on this blog about my feelings about the Current Occupant of the Oval Office, and about the fact that I will do anything to get him out.  I should probably add, however, that I’m not any more confident in the other team.  A sociopath versus a buffoon to lead the country during COVID?  Shit.

I think I’m going write “Fauci” on my freaking ballot.

The Things Of A Life

It sounds stupid, but I’m struggling with what to write.

Oh, not just here on the blog, but in general.

It’s not that I’ve lost my vision or focus. Rather it’s that I’ve lost…well…habit.  Look, like most writers, I’m a creature of habit. I need a place to go have coffee…and to write.  I need a taproom to go drink beer…and to write.

Okay, let’s be honest: most writers have a strong relationship with obsession, and with the compulsiveness that so often rides shotgun with that.  For me, that means I need to get into a rhythm in order to really write.

What I don’t need is…what I have right now.  What I have right now ain’t workin’.

Over lunch a friend and I talked about this.  Now, I didn’t phrase my side to be bitching about writing in general, I phrased it as bitching about coming up with posts for this blog…

Err, sorry for using you as a dodge.

Anyway, my friend threw a suggestion at me.  Now, when I first considered his thought — and even in the hours after — I dismissed his suggestions.  “Nope, no one wants to read that.  I’ve tried shit like that, and the numbers of reads and likes went through the floor,” I replied.

“Wait…how much do you get paid from your blog?”

“Uhhh…”

“Exactly.  Fuck the reads and likes, and any of the other zero dollar metrics you talk about.  Just write what you want.”

Ahem.

I’m struggling with what to write — especially since you couldn’t bribe, threaten or otherwise cajole me into writing another freaking word about Trump and where he is taking this country.  Nope.  So, instead…my friend’s idea…

“You’ve travelled the world, right?  You’ve pretty much done everything?”

Err…yeah.  I have.

“Write that, you fuckin’ moron.”

I thought about what that looks like.  Now, my experiences — the things I’ve seen and done — are freaking everywhere in the fiction I write.  I can’t be ME and not write about them…

—That night, at 2:00 am outside a convenience store in Arizona, when the hooker was on the pay phone while her two or three year old daughter clung to her leg…

—That roma woman who read my palm, then literally cursed me because I didn’t have any euros to give her…

—That time I almost got arrested because I’m an obsessive idiot…

—That time I got passed-out drunk on a Royal Navy destroyer…

—The thirty seconds I spent standing inside a gas chamber at Auschwitz…

—The time I watched a wolf pack spend twelve hours taking down a bison…

But none of that is what I should write about, I decided.  Nope.  Firstly, I’ve written about most of that on this blog before.  And secondly…none of that defines, well, me.

Oh, it shaped me…it meant a ton to me…but the heart and emotion of it?

Yeah, it is those experiences that I haven’t yet talked about that I need to use here.

This is going to be a series of posts, by the way.  I have to organize the damned thing somehow, and doing 2-3 posts makes the most sense to me.  So, here comes the first of those…

This first post is going to be the top memories my parents (and their generation) will hate.  Sorry, Mom and Dad.

Oh, wait…a rule!  Hit play on the song I have listed here.  Don’t worry about the video, just listen to the song as you read. It not only is one I absolutely love, it is what I am listening to as I write this):

5) Stevie Ray Vaughn in concert at Huntington Beach, CA — Sting and Phil Collins came on to play two songs with him.  I cried…it was that freaking magical.

4). Phish in concert at Loring Air Force Base — at the time, the base had been freshly closed.  Over the several days of the concert, it became the largest “city” in Maine.

3)  A nameless rave in Berlin — in some random warehouse set-up for an underground event, it marks the first time I ever tried ecstasy.  If you’ve read my story “A Night Like This”…well…yep, there you have the genesis…

2)  (Kinda) Breaking into St Peters Basilica — very literally, I ran over a priest while viewing the Sistine Chapel ceiling.  It turns out the priest was (a) American, and (b) newly working at the Vatican.  When I told him that I was lighting candles for my sister in every cathedral I came to, he let me into a side chapel in St freaking Peter’s freaking Basilica to light a candle.  I still miss you, Sally.

1)  (Really) Breaking into the Colosseum — staying in Rome for the first time in my life, I had toured everything,  Except the Colosseum.  That was closed because there was a concert that weekend.  Paul fucking McCartney had decided to make me wait to view the damned thing!  Nope. Along with a few others, I…uhh…toured the place “after hours”.  I was quite literally standing in the middle of that partial floor, trying to imagine what it felt like with everyone staring at you, when the flood lights kicked on and the cops started yelling.  I was faster, then.

The Splintering

We don’t have common spaces anymore.

No, really…if you think about it, what kind of shared space or activity do we have that crosses all of the boundaries of politics and economics and society?

None.

We in the US don’t really do central squares or plazas.  We gave those up decades ago, in the name of “development.”  Even when there is a place with “public” patios/terraces/squares, the tables and spaces are situated and designed to isolate each person or group in their own little private world rather than create a shared, social space.

How about the news?  Yeah, right.  It goes way beyond having different channels and papers and sites for different opinions, by the way.  We’ve reached the point where folks believe completely different truths based on their own biases and wants.  Two people can see the same incident, assimilate the same facts, and still tell a completely different story.  Neither story is objectively true, mind you, but we are way past the time when objective truth meant anything to us as a society.  No, instead all we seemingly care for are the subjective truths that reinforce our particulate flavor of politics and worldview.

Sports, too, has been — pardon the intentional pun! — pulled from the field as a shared space.  Oh, the divide over teams and players has always been there, but that’s not what I’m talking about.  Nowadays the fight between Raiders and Broncos fans…between Yankees and Red Sox…between golf and the rest of the universe…is a minor sideshow compared to the fight between those who need the “validation” of players and teams and fans echoing every detail of their preferred — semi-deified, even — socio-political prejudice.  A game, then, is no longer a space where fans of those involved can share the experience of their favorite team or player beating “the enemy.”  Instead, the games have become nothing more than background spectacles for the fans to pour vast amounts of hate and vitriol on players, teams and each other over any deviation from their preferred views.

Music…

Literature…

Art…

Movies…

Not a one of those crosses the boundaries anymore.  Oh, no, not a freakin’ chance of that!

On the production side, the things that once unified societies are now sliced and diced and targeted to the tiniest fragment of like-minded thinkers in order to “maximize audience.”  On the consumption side, no work or piece can be viewed outside the boundaries.  Nothing, to most folks, can be allowed to threaten the fragile bubble of assumption and belief that defines their world.

Everyone gets the blame for this one, by the way.  Yeah, most producers and studios, just like most publishers and editors, are far too often echo-chamber-driven zampolits out to destroy any opinion other than their own, but they don’t own the problem.  Not the whole of it, anyway.  In the end, the studios and publishers just want to make money.  We writers — like actors and singers and other artists — are just as guilty for allowing the echo-chambers to influence and control what we create.  It is harder than ever to find those that even try to speak to the larger truths that still hold true for all of us.  No, instead far too many of us have chosen, either through fear or preference, to avoid the (mostly) metaphorical killzones that divide our political and social “teams.”

Most of the blame, however…

Most of the blame lies with you.

You, the consumer…and me the consumer.  My family, and yours…  My friends, and yours…  The people we elect…  The people we follow…  The people we choose to read and watch and listen to…

When we choose to live inside our own bubbles, we add our little mite of intolerance and prejudice to the vast pool of such that is killing the common spaces of thought and emotion that once helped to bridge and fill in the gaps between.

If the only words you have read in the last few months are those that reinforce your own worldview, you are part of the problem.  If you have watched no movie or show that challenged your preconceptions, you have widened that gap between.  If you go out of your way to avoid a song, or an athlete, or anyone else, who disagrees with you, you are contributing.

In the end, if you are one of those who thinks someone — anyone — who has a different opinion should have to “shut up,” you are the problem.

The Perfect Evening

Well…I didn’t sink the boat.

I didn’t sink the boat and I got to spend a week on the water.   A week that was about three years too short…

As good — and as needed! — as it was, that wasn’t what I sat down to write about.

Nope.

I sat down to write a post about the death and destruction of our shared spaces.  About the lack of “commonality” that is one of the big things tearing at our society.

I sat down to write about that, but it is topic that is going to take a lot more thought and planning than I had done before I can really do a decent post on it.

But I still have the urge to write…still have the urge to put out something.

I’ve lived all over the US.  I’ve travelled all over the world.  I have — not to be an arrogant asshole — been places, and done things, that most people only dream about.  Aside from the images captured in my photography and my writing, I have the memories and experiences that are as real to me now as the hour I experienced them.*

*Yeah, yeah, it’s that “perfect” eidetic memory thing.  Welcome to my world.

I remember climbing a hill on an island off Croatia’s shore, only to stumble into a meadow with the most vibrant purple flowers I have ever seen…

I remember the oppressive weight of walking through a block of old-school Stalinist apartment blocks in Poland…

I remember standing in a gas chamber in Auschwitz…

I remember walking into Saint Peter’s Basilica for the first time and thinking, “Good God!”…

I remember the smells and sights of the souk in Marrakech, and of the spice market in Nice…

I remember the adrenaline — the chaotic mingling of fear and excitement — of my first face-to-face encounter with a 750 pound grizzly…

But do you know what sticks with me?  I mean what really stays in my mind…and in my soul?

65DA41BA-92C5-4FA8-84C8-81BA51576E3DI remember sitting on a hill not too far outside of Kyoto, an hour or two after sunset, and watching the fireflies.  The barking of a family of foxes in the distance…the stars coming out overhead, clear and bright…the humidity holding the heat for far too long…the fatigue in legs and mind from a day spent exploring a place in which — in spite of speaking the language and knowing the culture — I still felt more alien than I ever had before…and the, well, freaking magic of fireflies…

Look, I had seen plenty of the damned things in my life.  I went to (my second) college in Maine, for heaven’s sake, and we had no lack of the damned things up there…

I had seen them, but never before had I come close to the experience of that evening.  Never before had I experienced that kind of power, that kind of magic.  Never before had anything touched my soul like that evening.

It was perhaps the most perfect moment I have ever experienced.

For every shitty, miserable moment I have experienced, and have written — and there’ve certainly been enough of both — there are just as many of those special moments of power and memory to offset them.

Even more, there is the magic of the fireflies…