An Arguable Truth

By the shovelful

A letter to friends. First things first. Snow.

There really is no clearer demonstration of how rare it is to call something beautiful
that isn’t also dangerous. One of those unique instances nowadays
that’s impossible to argue with. I mean, look up. It’s that same cluttered,
pupil-shrinking prism for all of us. Weather.
And we fall under it.
What does that tell us?
The tilt of our wonderfully imperfect earth. The pull of the moon, pulled like a rib
from the belly of our world. The storied soil we work on and eat from and take on
yet cry and bemoan any opportunity or demand to give back. Which is inevitable.

It disrespects the dead to fear death this much.

That’s what winter is for. Every year, for a month, or a few, our planet tries to bury us.
Freeze us out. Toughen us up. Shed old leaves and dream and make plans for spring
staring longingly into fires as we listen for kettles to whistle
more eager than dogs do for dinner bells.

Wheels are not really ideal for snow.

Clothing becomes a form of shelter. As much home as one can carry worn like armor.
It can be the difference between a good day and that one day. Extra gloves. Dry socks.
Nature Valley bar. Lukewarm coffee.
It really is the little things that separate being outdoors from hell on earth.
Come equipped. Be stubborn about it. Dress in layers. Prepare for change.

A good nickname for winter. Change. Different.
Roll with the punches off a rolling earth.
Be buried up in ice and frozen rain and dig a way out.
By the shovelful. Claw with bare hands if you have to.

Show up.

A pretty titanic lesson that’s been working on me over the past year.
Which events of life am I truly willing to let deter me. Cold? Rain? Snow?
Were these elements not in the forecast when I set my plans. My intentions.
Yes. Of course they were.
These seasons have been forecast for millennia.
Put your boots on and play in them. Shovel out the drive and go adventuring.
Leave some tracks in something that was pristine when you first got there.
Perfect. Clean. And powder. Like paper. Put a story in it.
The greatest form of flattery is imitation.
So show winter it is not the only one of us who is willing to change.

Say to the earth, this is how I roll.
I, like you, stop for nothing.

The Algebra of Human Emotion

Language is not reality. No more than one plus one equals two. I used to always argue this back when I was in school. To the truly left brained minds, it was a lot of fun. But one. Does not exist. One. Is a living, breathing, intangible reference. Always. To something else.

The point is, one what? What is a one without a what? An object. One flock of thirty geese plus one flock of fifty five geese and one confused pigeon, does not equal two flocks. One plus one is a highly inadequate equation to measure these, and most of life’s sordid, overlapping, seemingly never ending botherations.

Even for humans. One plus one is far more likely to equal a Brian than it is to add up to two. And then the question changes from what to who. Until so many stories entangle and we need to use a different sort of math to sort them out.

Storytelling. Literature. Language.
Is not reality.
So much as it is
the algebra of human emotion.

Dirty Dishes Day

Getting set in our ways is set in our way. We don’t pick a calendar date for change. Numbering each day indefinitely as if they’ll stay the same. Then. That sunny one we needed. We wake up to rain. Wind. We wake up to cheddar cheese lightning staining the wet earth orange. Didn’t make a plan for that. When the truth is, we really didn’t make any real plans at all.

Hoping and wishing is not the same as planning.

Crossing fingers doesn’t cross that little box on each monthly chart. That ancient graph.
Showing us all the possible outcomes of the imaginary equation that is tomorrow.

Best case scenario. I’m talking world peace. An end to hunger. Homelessness becomes nothing more than a joke, just something college kids take a semester off to try out. There are still storms. Hurricanes and earthquakes and floods. There is cancer. Sickness of all manner. There’s still the matter of dinner. And then afterward, best case scenario ever, we still have to do dishes.

Revolutions. Are not just something we do to get around the sun. Of all the best laid plans of mice and of men not one, not a single person, put dirty dishes on the calendar. Even though it was more vitally predetermined than Christmas even. Life is messy. If the standard of building a perfect system is to have no extra remainder of necessary effort or labor unforeseen at the initiation, then settle in folks, this is going to continue being a bumpy ride.

But what if, oh the irony, what if we stop dreaming. What if we wake up right now and admit, fully admit, what we already know. The human being is not a thing. It is a process. The systems we establish to protect, enable, provide for humans, will not function in a fixed state. As we grow along, our societal solutions to individual problems will have to prorate. Will have to change. Not to speed up. But just to keep pace. We’ll get smarter, leaner, wilder, wiser, every successive year. You fight that. You set up roadblocks in front of progress, you’ll have a revolution every twenty years. You plan on it. Allow. Foster. Even enable it. Put change on the calendar. You’ll get a little bit of revolution every day.

An internal upheaval for every human being to remind them if all of this goes correctly there will be another day after this one. Definitely. It is a big if, but as far as we know, every if of its kind that ever came before has come true. Until now, there has always been a tomorrow. Maybe we could make a plan for something to happen that isn’t a birthday, or Christmas, or some kind of sugar-glazed, paper wrapped holiday.

Perhaps we wouldn’t need a big hairy revolution every other decade.
If we went ahead and made a plan to picnic in the rain.

The Almighty Dollar

Modern money is idolatry. Its very existence is a social contrivance. Like a lot of human institutions, it is representative, more so than authentic. For our ancestors, one of the stupidest, and most dangerous form of savings, was money. The wealthiest derived that status through land possession, crop stores, timber, chattel. Money was a placeholder, a tool for conversion. Lots of things have been money. Metal. Salt. Beads. And now, green pieces of paper and your hard fought credit score.

It is a relatively recent development. Even just a couple hundred years ago, money didn’t mean nearly what all it means to us now. You could have no money to speak of whatsoever, and live on your land, and eat from it. This idea that taxes just take a percentage of something that already exists is false. Taxation requires any land owner or laborer to convert some of their time or assets into the almighty dollar. And considering one of those trade goods is priceless, invaluable, and rare, and the other is as cheap as you need it to be, we always end up losing out on the conversion. We’re taxed. Even people who can only work a little, and are on food assistance programs, they get taxed. The goal is for all of the economy to pass through this government sanctioned, printed, malleable tender. Even if it is being spat right back up on people left in unsustainable economic conditions. Our government has become a glorified middle man. Our ancestors wouldn’t understand this.

I just wonder, I’ve been thinking about this for a while, why can’t we, as a community, simply take stock of our needs, and the ability of the lands within our regions to produce and meet that need. Instead of taxing our food producers and forcing them to convert their labor intensive products into money, why couldn’t some of those required taxes be rendered in providing food to the community, jobs, housing, even arts, culture and entertainment. I don’t know if you’ve read at all about what farms used to mean for people, but the idea of running a monotonous, one crop operation was almost unheard of. Very rare. Once, farms were cultural and economic institutions. Seasonal jobs to offer, cheap or even free housing for workers, hosting community events and celebrations. Fairs and concerts and markets.

Why would our government not want to send hungry people to this sort of place to get food, and possibly short term employment, or housing? They’re already taxing the farm, why not give a call, and ask, instead of these tens of thousands of dollars we were going to force you to render at peril of keeping your assets and freedom, there are three thousand people in your area on government assistance, what could you do for them?

That’s a good question, why exactly would our government not simply operate as a big picture, national seamstress quilting all the various agricultural regions together to form one solid, cohesive food system that could actually outlast the almighty, yet highly mortal US dollar. Don’t they care about us? Haven’t our leaders seen how currency is prone to inflate, and shrink back. I mean, by design, capitalism, our current form of economy, creates a recession or even a depression every decade. Don’t people lose all their savings even in mild recessions? Could we research what happens to the suicide rate during a recession, or god forbid, depression? People literally, and in more than a million ways, die with the dollar.

So this seems to me an insufficient vehicle to distribute basic resources we all require to maintain the little things, like breath, and open eyes, and a body that works, and a reasonable mind.

I don’t have some inscrutable authority to determine the rightness or wrongness of any issue, but same as you, I do have the ability to say there are some issues that truly effect all of us equally. Such as access to food, water, shelter, healthcare. Products we expire without. And knowing how many of those requirements exist naturally, easily on a farm, I wonder why our government talks about agriculture systems so infrequently.

Not really. I don’t wonder. I’m being ironic. It is because farms are true government. The first government. And that group of men who gathered up on the east coast and claimed to be this country’s new government, were mostly farmers. Problem was, they didn’t want to be any longer. So they became judges and congressmen and senators, and established a system that would allow their children to not to have to be farmers also.

If a farm is run right, and smart, a person could disappear into one like a black hole, and never be seen again, except for at a produce stand, strand of grass hung out from their mouth, while they turn a little bit of their best corn into petty cash, just to have some pocket money.

The base of our economy should be a barter based, agrarian community of farms, connected by foot trails and train tracks and highways like ivy vines all leading back to that rooted base. A productively laid back home place. People should be able to wade into it like a kiddy pool beside the high dive and sixteen foot deep end of the rest of the economy. Mark ups and tax rates are disrespectful and dangerous when they stand between someone and their survival.

Food, water, and shelter are not appropriate commodities for purely monetary economies.

Which, ironically, was the way it always was, even back when America was established. Everybody had a back-home and family farm they could retreat to when their city endeavors were taxed too high, or like we have now, a government that refuses to operate outside of its own self preservation. We literally have a system of government where our leaders can never make an unpopular decision, because they have to be elected again next season. Most of our workers are paid by the hour, so the harder and faster they work, the less they take home.

Why have I never read these ideas before? It’s like every other person who has this realization thinks forward, launches into new systems buried in the ideals of socialism, or the standardization and equality of communism. But I look back, just a few hundred years, and this is exactly the agricultural world our ancestors lived in.

Money was a trifling, mostly seasonal object for them, a vessel for trade, and security, so one could sit back and feel safe, and manifest their own autonomy while they lived off the food, water and shelter almost every piece of land on earth can provide.

But now money is being worshiped. This is beyond the borderline of idolatry.
The whole economy has become its sanctuary. And I really don’t believe in irony.

It’s just that survival is scary.

And money, the almighty dollar,
makes for a great place to hide.

Pecan Eyes

Pecan eyes. Raisoned eyebrows. Cracker backside.
Glazed on side scowl. Rind on teeth. And strawberry cheeks.
With cookie crumble feet. Breathe. Intake and exhale footsteps on foot trails.
Leave crumbs of yourself.
Ever so often along the way.
Clean your plate.
Pray for the coming of the second helping.
A savior carrying a cheese plate with a butter knife
and thin shaved pork rolled up like eyes.
Granola. You solidify the stool. Give a step up.
A reason to sit. Full with insoluble fiber.

Give body to my shit.

And late night water. How you wake me up in the early hours of by god,
do you still call this morning, it’s far too early, tea kettle cat calls
from the kitchen hall, my oatmeal wants to make a meal of me.

Sat in the dark tying shoelaces like licorice whips
because you know no one wants to eat those.
Are you a ricist? Is it all white?
Or can a little long grain and wild brown
make it into you every once in a while?

How many ways can one go hungry exactly.
Also. Are pop tarts just pie crust and dry jelly filling?
Maybe I’ve been misled.
Maybe I’ve got all this stuff I’ve eaten.
Filling up my head.

Broken Pieces

You want to know my secret.

You could ask my sister. I remember one night, she had graciously invited me to venture out into the world with her friends. In the car on the way out of town, we were passing a cemetery, and I looked over and said that graveyard is full of people who felt the same way we do tonight. Young. Ready. More in front of us than behind us. And that’s where they are. And it went by quicker than they ever could have imagined. Elisa looks back at me and says great, now you’ve gotten that out of your system, no more of that tonight, okay brother.

But I’m telling you, contemplating mortality puts a brake pedal on time.
It slows the world down just enough that you can feel the immensity of the present.
Life is not a house you build from a blueprint.
It is a stone wall, and plans change as much as the rocks.
And you must strike a balance between imagination and functionality.
A balance. True balance. Or you will never build what we call happiness.

Which is almost exclusively made out of broken pieces.

Disagreeable Animals

It doesn’t have to be a conspiracy, to mean it isn’t an accident. This country is not broken. We are. Because that’s what the men who wrote our constitution were dealing with. A divided population desperately being translated into a divided constituency. England left slavery alone in America, because that is all America was to the British Empire. Slave labor. Pillaged resources. Raw goods, for industrial ends. The idea that under Britain, we would never own our farms, but if we were culpable only to Americans, we would. Talk about a powerful campaign promise. That’s all freedom really was to our founders. It is not a conspiracy, but was not an accident, that they did not address the liberty of all the people living within their country. How a leader can preserve the self esteem of thousands on the oppression of hundreds. Someone to look down on. The rejects, and runaways, and the chattel of Europe, and their African slaves. If they were not evil in their initial intentions, then they were certainly turned over to the idea by time. Look at who we are today. We are the inevitable, flighty, judgmental result of our ancestors. This was not an accident.

It was also not a southern tradition, or some small, easily discounted regionalism. America owes its existence more heavily to African Americans than any other group of people. This is the motivation for racism, untrue, identifiable, quantifiable hierarchy. Undelivered respect.
And the guilt it inspires.

Emancipation did not end slavery. Slavery, the word, does not mean the incarceration of one group of people in one country during any certain period of time. The people at the top, going all the way back, use the subjugation of others like caffeine. Slavery is in our prison system, it lives in welfare programs, and minimum wage, hourly pay, two weeks off a year careers. Slavery is the lack of having any other real, substantive option.

And if you did not participate in some form of income generating activity, where would you live, what would you eat, where would you go that you would not owe a single debt?

It is not some great conspiracy. But it is also was not in any way on accident.

It’s agriculture.

We, the people, are being farmed by the same poor standards we subject our animals to undergo. Taking the horns off goats so they don’t hurt each other. Castrating cattle. Separating mothers from babies. Not evil, just specific to a very particular context, that if taken out of that context, has a very similar shape, make-up and the same sordid potential of anything we would agree to call evil.

Up until now, no one has really been trying to shape a sustainable, viable society.
We’ve been building and expanding pastures. Fence lines. Tethers. Barns and locked pens.

Doing it outright to others is actually a highly successful method of pulling the wool over the eyes of people having it done to them. All the little pecking orders animals in cages establish over one another. Whispering conspiracy theories about those towering shapes that show up to trickle grain into a dish, or clean the water tub, and leave us some hay. Do they love us? Is that why they’re feeding us? Then why do we disappear one by one as our offerings shrivel up, why aren’t we guaranteed life outside of productivity and use? Did they shape all of this for this purpose, to keep us confused, yet working, ignorant, yet dutifully pulling the cart, for fear of a lash from behind?

It’s just, humans can’t be fully domesticated. The wilderness is written into our curious consciousness. We’re the shepherd creature. Through evolution, we learned the latent power of the universe.

Revolution.

And until we invent a system that truly guarantees our freedom, a pasture with a gate any one of us can open, we’ll have revolution after revolution after revolution. Just as we see when we study our history.

I refuse to believe we’ve been earnestly investing and upholding societies that break down this destructively and this often on accident. We’re too smart for that. It’s not a conspiracy that government has been used more as a tool for control than an actual mechanism for organising access to the basic needs and protections for entire populations.

It’s just inconsiderate, bully farming. But humanity makes for a precarious subject.
A creature that rivals goats at breaking down and betraying barriers.

We all need resources for food, water, and shelter built into our local communities.
And if we are living in a system that can not or does not provide those resources,
we all need the equivalent amount of commercial value that would allow us to sustain basic life.

It really is that simple. Leaving us in conditions that demand payment for items we die without, breaks down our sense of community, it lends tender to the fire of prejudice and division, and keeps us hungry, and reactive, unsettled and under stress. Essentially, our society doesn’t feed or water or house the chicken, until after the egg has been laid. Which is really poor farming. Most of us who have raised chickens provide a safe, warm environment, clean water, good feed, months and months before an egg is ever laid. And even when it grows cold, and the production slows, we don’t. A good farmer still pays into the livelihood of animals that are not currently returning.

“Is it really as simple as that, Jeremy?”
Yes. It really is. Society doesn’t need to organize our social lives, or tell us how to chicken. We really just wanted government to make sure the things we need to stay alive get distributed evenly to all of us, because no matter who or what we are, we cease to be any good to anyone without them.

Reading the headlines, scrolling through timelines, if I knew nothing else of America, I’d say every American had a full stomach, a good roof over their head, clean water, the protection and rights that come from any decent shelter. Four walls and tin roof and all. A big old yard outside to roam around, and a little help fending off the dogs. Which I know isn’t true.

So I’m asking you, if it really could be that simple, will you at least consider it?
That all sorts of issues we’re facing as a nation could be solved if there were a little more feed in our dishes, and if we, all of us, had more free time in the yard? That we wouldn’t have to take the horns off the goats, if they had space to explore their instincts and roam.

We need to start at the beginning, and experience a bit of the lives of our ancestors before we step boldly into so-called new worlds. There has to be a quiet, tax free, simple, self made life in the country available to every person, in order for a puritanically economic system to still be called freedom. Or every citizen needs to be provided with the economic equivalent of what it takes to sustain basic life in the town or city.

That’s it. That word, free, we’ve been throwing around for so long, that is what it has always meant. To be taken literally, free of required expense, or payment for products that can’t be boycotted, because they are essential to life. Every living thing has a right to the break neck pursuit of staying alive. Governments should exclusively be a facilitator and ally for us in that pursuit.

Humans are a precarious, particularly devilish animal on a farm. They refuse to lay their eggs in cages. And the human grazes only where the grass is greener, won’t live right not knowing what’s on the other side, for better or worse. Whinnies like a horse, and chatters loud as chickens. They make little plans, and take the screws out of wood, and dump their dishes and peck the farmer, when kept cooped up in pens, and solely within fences.

I get it, government. It’s not some conspiracy. Certainly wasn’t on accident. But up until now the pursuit has been better fences and pens. It has. No reason to deny it. You wrote out a Bill of Rights for us, but we never returned the favor, and put down our bill of rights for you.

Food.
Water.
Shelter.

Everything else we need from you will be lessened once those things are covered.
Like roots. We only see a tower of leaves and color.
But just to stand, just to argue, just to be someone hated by everyone,
you still have to have eaten, had water, and slept somewhere out of the weather.

So what we can’t agree on everything.

Governments, farmers, by necessity, must be impartial.
They feed and care for us all, just so we can get back to the business
of being disagreeable animals.

It isn’t always hammer time.

Having an opinion, and being invested in an outcome, are different. The people who study guns, the gun perspective I trust, is not someone who supports, or promotes, or defends owning a gun. No one can trust the opinion of anyone who participates in those endeavors when it comes to the use, regulation and education surrounding firearms. I’m sorry, but your desire to have a thing you like actually means you are biased, and far less likely to consider all sides of an issue.

Guns are tools, like hammers and nails. I don’t care if you worship them. If I see them in your hands, I’m going to ask you what you’re building. And if you’re not building anything worthwhile to anyone, you should not have a hammer, or nails.

If you’re not building, or fixing, you’re just scared, and you looked around the room for the most powerful form of defense, and holding it, and having it, puts you at peace, assuages your fear, and let’s you sleep at night, that’s okay. But I will not trust your opinion about your own security blanket.

I’ll take the opinions of carpenters. And anyone who talks about a gun for what it is, a tool. And a tool is inexorably linked to purpose. And without purpose, some tools are inappropriate for some environments. Because of the potential of collateral damage these tools introduce.

Not only is this an acceptable conversation, but it’s one we have about every other tool in existence. So the question is, what is a gun to you? A tool for hunting, for security, a form of entertainment? All of those are totally and completely acceptable to me. No one who implements this tool for these purposes desires it to be in the hands of individuals who would harm children, unsuspecting people going to church or at restaurants or concerts.

You can love guns, and not throw your hands up to this heavy, necessary conversation.
However, your loving guns should in no way inhibit, or direct, or alter it.
All it does is taint, and even nullify your opinions and observations on the subject.

Hammers, knives, power tools, saws, explosives, cars. All only appropriate in certain environments, and even then, with restrictions, required education, licensing, and often with warning labels printed directly on them.

Thank God for people who look at objects passionlessly.

Someone is spending a lot of time and money to make us argue
whether or not firearms solidly belong in this sort of grouping.
With everything else.
That explodes.
And rapidly projects metal up to a mile or more.
At deadly speed.

If your opinion isn’t that this sort of technology necessitates restriction,
that’s not an opinion.

That’s bias.

Please Pass the Plate

We have a universal religion. Survival. No matter your belief system, to even have the conversation, we all have had to eat a little, drink a little, and especially this time of year, we had to sleep inside out of the weather. Just to have functional ears, and flowing blood, and eyes absorbing. No matter the particulars of your faith, figures, mantras, customs, symbols, traditions, if there is a creator, it commanded we all first work diligently at the sacraments required for maintaining alive, before all else. Or, if you do not believe in a creator, you still did a lot of work to come to that conclusion, and you share all of that labor with every single believer, of any faith whatsoever.

We have differences. We have cultural divisions. We have distinctions, and arguments, and logical impasses, and even judgments standing solid between us. But not dinner. Not hunger. That is a custom we all share. Like thirst. Like exhaustion, and exposure. We could build an entire way of life, distributing basic resources, instilling simple agriculture economies, connecting neighbors and communities in small, cyclical food and barter systems, before we ever even have a good enough reason to discuss our differences. We don’t live and die by our divisions, until a human being decides so. But whatever led to this, the universe, and life as we know it, did want us all to sit down at a dinner table first. We all live near a well, or some kind of straw connected big sloshy tanks at the tops of towers, or held in reserve in reservoirs full with fish.

My point is not that anyone is right or wrong in comparing religions, belief systems, political pursuits, ideologies.

My point is that the argument starts after dinner.

After everyone has eaten.

It is impossible to have a healthy discussion of religion with someone who is starving.

No matter the faith, its first commandment must be, please pass the plate.

Every portal closed, except for eyes

I get to work in this beautiful world today. White stuff spray painted on top of green stuff. Black asphalt with white in the cracks like ice cream breaking through chocolate. A crunch to each step. Soggy leather toes. So many outspoken crows, decorating up and down trees pin dots of dark on bare bouncing branches. I will let my eyes loose like dogs freed from leashes, to run around the yard and pick up what they find. I will feed my mind soggy milk sunrises on little blue black centered spoons. Smell cold. Taste the weather. Feel it creep into my clothes and dig claws into my skin. Keeps me moving. This insistent world we’re using for a blank palette, even though it’s covered clear over in more layers of paint than one can count, brushed over like no account. But not by me. I move menial amounts of earth, and dirt, and filth on a daily basis. Many mini mountains that could not have stayed where they are without consequences. Gathering up waste because one day we’ll like the taste. One day we’ll all be that much stronger for all the shit we’ve gone through. But today, we go to work. In a beautiful world. Clouds like frozen ocean. Grass like it has seen a ghost. Cars lined in white. Every door, every window, almost every portal closed tight. Except for eyes.

I walk into the cold light of this beautiful morning with eyes open wide.