Monday, June 06, 2005

Never Let Me Go




So what’s on your mind, Andi? What’s going on with you these days? asks my virtual therapist. S/he’s a combination of Brent, Buffy and pretty much everyone else who’s spent time asking questions.

Oh… y’know, nothing much. I think that’s part of the problem. I don’t seem to have a good juicy creative outlet right now and it’s making me kind of nuts again.

Nuts again? What do you mean?

Well… no, that’s not right. What’s making me nuts is trying once again to quit smoking (forgot my patch this morning), not having running water in the house, fighting this damned water problem for the last two weeks, having to ask for help again, knowing that my cycle is due any freaking day, and having too many bills to pay. One thing at a time I could handle. All this shit at once? Well… let’s just say my “pluck” ain’t feelin’ too plucky at the moment.

Have I mentioned the fact that my daughter is intermittently inhabited by a screaming demon?

Oh, and I got a jury summons yesterday. I wanted to see movies in the mail. I got a jury summons. I bet they dismiss me. They will, if they ask me about capital punishment.

How so?

Because I don’t believe in it. It doesn’t work as a deterrent, and it’s just more of the same “eye for an eye” bullshit that’s kept this species so screwed up for the last ten thousand years or so. Don’t get me started.

Ah. OK. I won’t. Let’s go back to the “going nuts” thing. What do you mean by that?

*sniffle* It’s just that I’ve tried to be so adult about this whole water issue, and all the other things that are bothering me. I’ve tried so hard not to let my emotions run the show, tried not to hang on to them, but somehow it’s just gotten impossible over the last 24 hours. I know it’s tied up in my own expectations. If I had no expectations (about whether or not we would have running water on any given day, about whether or not TWS would play the LEAF – or even rehearse this week) then I wouldn’t be so disappointed and heartbroken and – of course – angry - when the expectations aren’t met. Right?

Right. But really, the water situation is on a different level than TWS issue, don’t you think?

Not really. They’re about the same in terms of intensity and distress. The problem is that one is a practical matter and one has to to with the loss of a dream I’ve kept in my heart for a long time now – one that I’m going to have to say good-bye to, or at least set aside. Because the longing to realize that dream is making me miserable.

Why?

Because I sing. That’s my gift. I can act, too, and I’m a decent writer, but singing is where it’s at for me. And when everything coalesces – audience, sound system, the other voices, then it’s just… well, that’s my bliss. And I feel like I’m wasting my gift.

So what are you going to do?

I don’t know just yet. I’m pretty overwhelmed right now. I can’t think straight. Getting motivated to work is really really hard. Last night I couldn’t manage to move at all for two hours or so (although I will admit that having Angelina Jolie on a brand-new Inside the Actor’s Studio was a strong inducement to sit on the couch and do nothing, not to mention the godawful heat that laid over the house.)

I missed Sam’s group at the Stoneleaf Festival this weekend. I know they did great and I hope I can see them again soon – I just feel terrible for missing it.

The laundry pile is just scary. I worry that Duckie will walk in some night and the pile will rise up and eat her.

Dad and Judy will be helping out with the water situation, and I pray that the pump and tank switch will be enough to fix things. Our well is really just pathetically shallow – nothing much more than surface water, really. Our neighbor’s well is something like three hundred feet deep and she gets killer water pressure. Live and learn, right? Dad and I were joking (sort of) about the potential for an outhouse.

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The world has me completely stunned sometimes. (Don’t read any further if your risk of depression is high.) Last week a 7-year-old boy in Florida beat his baby sister to death because, they said, he was jealous of the attention she had been getting. His father and his father’s girlfriend (obviously) were otherwise occupied at the time. A woman in Austria has concealed her pregnancy and then delivered and killed her own newborn baby not once, but four times. She kept a beautiful garden, but apparently didn’t see the value in the lives of her own children. The DRC is a mess, always and forever, it seems. Those folks would probably consider living in a country home (with or without running water) something akin to heaven – at least somewhere no one is trying to kill you, rape you, or teach your children how to shoot weapons at 7 years old.

I read an article this morning about how American faith differs in its intensity and practice from many other western countries – that only 2% are atheists, and many of us favor the involvement of organized religion in the political process. What bothered me about the article was a later parallel that the writers made between atheists and “nonbelievers.” If you don’t believe in God, does that mean you don’t believe in anything? Buddhism came to mind immediately, of course, as that’s where my mind likes to hover these days. Buddhism isn’t so much a religion as it is a philosophy, a way of being in the world, where worship isn’t aimed so much at glorifying a deity as it is focused on alleviating suffering – of its practitioners and of every other sentient being on the plant. I guess I just take issue with the notion that a Buddhist atheist could be considered a “nonbeliever.” Just because you don’t believe in God doesn’t mean that you don’t believe in anything. That’s nihilism, and totally not what Buddhism is about.

I read a book over the weekend that gave me the willies. Then it made me cry. It’s still on my mind, so I suppose I ought to go ahead and get my thoughts down on paper, as they tie in to the debate on stem-cell research and other “culture-of-life” things that are happening in our country now.

The book is by Kazuo Ishiguro. He also wrote, among other books, The Remains of the Day, which was turned into a movie with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. That may be next on my list, simply because of Ishiguro’s beautifully understated literary style. This book is Never Let Me Go. It’s a fictional book about a culture of clones that was created for the express purpose of donating organs to the rest of human society.

At the same time I’m reading this, I’m noticing the trailers for The Island, a sci-fi action thriller about two escaped clones who don’t feel like donating their organs. So I suppose it hit me rather hard that there was no Hollywood ending for these characters. There wasn’t any Hollywood at all. There is no beating of the breast or wailing of women (except me, crying into my pillow at 1 in the morning once I finished it). There are completely believable characters who have been raised to accept their fate without once questioning it – except maybe to put it off for a couple of years. Nobody ever considers running away, escaping. You meet them as kids and you follow them in bright instances of adolescent, gorwing-up drama, watching them grow and develop as people, knowing in the back of your mind that they will never have children, never grow old, never really grow much more, at all. It’s completely devastating.

You don’t get around to the stupid question of whether or not these people have souls until the end of the book, when you’re so engrossed in your empathy for them that the question is simply ridiculous – and that’s how it is skillfully mentioned in the book, although the plot device that leads you to the subject has been there from the first ten pages.

It’s frightening to me because this is set in the 1990s. Cloning, in this world, has been going on for fifty years or so – triggered by the end of WWII and incredible advances in medical technology. What happened in this fictional world has happened also in our world – medical technology has far surpassed the progress of our spiritual journey as a species – just on a different level.

If the fictional society in Never Let Me Go made an assumption about the clones’ lack of souls, could we be making similar assumptions about the worth of lives in our world? Culturally, we want to believe that a person’s worth as a life is based on not whether he or she has a soul (I think we’ve established at this point that if you believe in the concept of a soul, everyone has one – except maybe Joan Rivers, and that’s debatable.) But the reality of what I see today is that their worth (and how much effort we’re willing to take to save his or her life) seems to be based on how innocent or guilty a person appears to be, or where the person lives, or what he or she does for a living, or their gender or age. Aren’t those all just bullshit variables? If we accept the fact that everyone has a soul, doesn’t everyone deserve life, too, no matter what kind of shitty, hurtful choices they have made? Is it our job, really, to punish with death? Won’t God or karma or both take care of that?

That’s my slightly off-the-path take on capital punishment. It’s not an easy thing to stick to when I think about young girls killed and how it could be my daughter. The visceral, reptilian part of me does indeed want retribution, no matter how hurtful it could be to my own karma or someone else’s. But to give that slimy reptile self what she wants is disasterous – as, to my horror, I have already found.

Back to the path: I would like to see some of the billions of dollars spent on defense budgets spent on more important issues, like when, exactly, can an embryo feel pain? When does a soul inhabit a body? At conception? Before conception? When the nervous system begins to develop? Or is there a higher consciousness in an embryo that is not connected to the pain/pleasure circle – the “most subtle mind” as Buddhists call it. Wouldn’t that really determine what ought to happen to embryos? It’s not like there’s a shortage of people on the planet, after all. And if you believe in reincarnation (as I do), you believe that when a person dies, no matter how young, their soul finds another place to live and grow and learn.

I haven’t made up my mind yet about the stem cell research issue, and probably won’t until those questions are answered. I understand how folks can have such visceral, emotional responses to these kinds of issues, but my prayer and aspiration – today at least – will be that all of us temper the actions we take with both emotion and rationality. And of course, that we be free of suffering and the root of all suffering.

Yeah, I know. Funny to hear me, of all people, talk about rationality.

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So now I’ve trudged through all that and I get to brag on Duckie now. It’s probably a good thing I can’t figure out how to post pictures – I’d be doing it all day.

When I sing her good-night song now, she sings along.

Stewart brought over ice cream sandwiches and bars to the party last week, and Duckie has taken a liking to them. I’ve given her teeny tiny bites of mine over the last few days, and now she sees me with one, runs over and opens her mouth wide like a little bird. It’s the cutest thing. (She only takes a lick – it’s too cold otherwise.)

Last week I opened a small bag of pretzels for her ride-home snack and she sat happily in her car throne, crossed her little feet, and ate them one at a time (a month ago she would have dumped them in her lap just for kicks). Such a big girl – how is this happening so fast?

She has a new pair of pink sunglasses with rhinestone accents that she can just about put on by herself.

She roars like a lion when she hears the lion roar on her LeapPad. And the word “monkey” for some reason sends her into a screaming giggle fit.

We went to Wendy’s for lunch yesterday and she managed to eat half my salad using a spoon.

She says “home.”

1 comment:

James said...

Andi, this is James from The Buddhist Blog. This is one of my other blogs. The one about my daily life in case you want to read about my insanity. Anyway, I LOVE this post because it shows such a sensitive side to you. You are willing to be vulnerable and that is special and rare. You care about the world that you live in and want to make it better. I especially loved the moments you described about Duckie. They made me smile and brought a tear of joy to my eyes. Thank-you dear friend.