Friday, June 24, 2016

Why I Should Not Have a Gun

© sbnewspaper.com

Instead of pouring gas on the fire in the ever-incendiary debate over gun control (as in should we even have any), I thought it might be better, or at least more entertaining, to discuss why I, personally, should never be allowed anywhere near a firearm. After all, I cannot speak to the mental fitness and personal motivations of anyone but myself. Brace yourself.

First of all, as I have written before, I suffer from periodic bouts of depression. I don't handle setbacks well, be they personal or professional. Were I to have had a gun in my possession, up until now at least, I would be dead, disfigured, or disabled several times over. One of the aspects of my brand of depression is a tendency toward impulsive behavior. Thankfully, I rarely act out any more, but we should play it safe just in case.

The impulsive tendencies thing brings me to my second and more important issue: potential for homicidal actions. That guy that turned left on a red light and almost hit pedestrian me today? Oh, he'd be toast in a heartbeat. The person who hurt a loved one physically or emotionally? I would hunt. you. down. The next corporate big-wig who does something heinous in the name of profits? Ka-boom! The politician who caves to special interests while their constituents suffer? Do you feel lucky, punk?

Need I even mention the many inanimate objects that would be full of holes if not destroyed were I to have access to firearms? Another pro-fracking advertisement on television? Blam! The washing machine acting up yet again? Bang-bang-bang. Bang.....Bang. The mirror is making me look bad again? Ok, you get the picture. Many of you may have similar fantasies of justice by "execution," but I am inclined to have doubts about my sustained sanity and it is no doubt better to not have lethal weapons at hand.

How about you? Do you have better self-restraint? Do you practice not only your marksmanship on the firing range, but stress-reduction techniques? Are you impulsive, in a way that might jeopardize your own life or the lives of others? I trust my readers to make an honest assessment of themselves, I truly do.

What makes me fearful of the continuing proliferation of guns and gun owners is that I don't trust everyone who owns or purchases a firearm. I firmly believe that, ironically, it is a fundamental distrust of others in our society that has put us in this predicament. It started long before mass shootings. It started with the revelations of child molestation in the church, and the fall of others in positions of authority whom we used to trust implicitly, from cops to doctors to lawyers. Alright, maybe not lawyers.

Today, if we don't shoot first and ask questions later, we at least fire accusations like bullets before we have all the pertinent information. Impatience with our justice system, the explosion of opinion through mass media and social media, and dwindling empathy for others have all conspired to fuel a paranoia like we have never seen before. What does paranoia lead to? Impulsive behavior.

Those who argue that gun control would do nothing to stem the flow of blood in the streets may have a point. It would not cure what truly ails us. Rebuilding personal trust, a sense of community, and cultivating a culture of respect and empathy are what we need to do. I am not sure where to begin myself, other than trying to be a good example for others to follow. Right. Well, I can at least pledge not to murder the mirror of the television set.

Meanwhile, I do hope that should you decide to acquire a gun, you do so with a clear head and heart, and a keen sense of the responsibility involved with a decision of such gravity. I will try and trust your judgment, try not to fear you, and reserve my judgment based on your behavior, armed or not. I ask for your respect and understanding in return. Thank you. Hm-m-m, I wonder if they will print this essay. Oh, wait, it is on my own personal blog. Whew. We will probably have one less dead editor.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Hardest Holiday

Dad and me, circa 1997

Ok, so technically Father's Day is not a holiday, but it is one of those occasions that elicits deep emotion regardless. It may engender positive feelings, or negative ones. Personally, I envy those who have, or had, a father deeply engaged with their family, but I cannot imagine what it would be like to lose someone so beloved. There are others who have never known their father at all, due to abandonment, death, divorce, or some other catastrophe. I do not have an inkling as to the depth of that bitterness, either.

My parents separated when I was about nine years old, and divorced officially when I was eleven. I have no siblings. On the one hand, I would not have wished my parents' tumultuous family life on anyone else, but on the other hand I had no one to validate my own experiences or perceptions of family reality. What I hoped for was that the divorce would bring a "cease fire" but instead it merely changed the focus of arguments to money. Dad apparently wanted to pay less child support than the court ordered, and he may have appealed to that end. I can only rely on hearsay from what my mother had told me, and I have learned to expect both parents to stretch the truth.

What I do recall was the court-mandated visitations with my father every other weekend, and splitting Christmas Eve and Christmas Day between the two households. My mother would always interrogate me upon my return from my father's place, and I felt guilty if I had a good time. Dad would sense this and become angry, and so the wheel of guilt and fear went round and round. I was damned if I did, damned if I didn't. I was a "momma's boy" to my dad, and "just like your father" to my mom. Neither were compliments.

What I apparently inherited from my father is what I appreciate most. He has aged well, and has always been a good-looking man. He is incredibly artistic, creative, and talented in a variety of media, from wood to wax to metal. His chosen career and business was as a jewelry designer and he did fabulous custom works for his clients. I am not half bad in the creative departments of illustration and writing if I may be so bold as to assert that. Dad also had a great work ethic which I have slowly lost.

What I learned from my father has been the source of much personal humiliation, professional setbacks, and social awkwardness. My father gets his way by being demonstrably angry. His temper is something I fear to this day. He is opinionated to the point of being a bigot and a racist, or nearly so. He does not play well with others, especially in the workplace. He was selling insurance during my infancy and toddler years, and he made no bones about hating that. He moonlighted as a jeweler, repairing watches and creating the odd ring or pendant for someone.

Dad wanted me to follow in his footsteps, to take over his jewelry business when he could no longer produce. I am not entirely sure he has forgiven me for following a different path. Now that his second wife has passed, several years ago now, and my mother passed away in December of 2014, he wants me and my wife to move back to the Portland, Oregon area to spend more time with him, if not take care of him, and save him the headache of selling his home. He wants his way, as usual.

I cannot fathom the circumstances of abuse and neglect, and/or the foster care system that others endure or have endured. My mother could. She was in the foster care system before we even had the standards of care we have today. What you learn about parenting during your childhood you also tend to apply when you become a parent. This negative cycle can be turned around, but it takes either immense personal effort at not repeating mistakes, or the proverbial "village," or both. Today we no longer trust the village. We even home school our children for fear they might be exposed to concepts like evolution, or be surrounded by "others" who we ourselves fear and loathe.

My father has never really earned my respect, but now here I am faced with growing responsibility for decisions that he soon may not be able to make for himself. How ironic. I will at some point likely be the parent to my parent. I do hope I can act with compassion and sensitivity, even in the face of his anger that stems from who-knows-what or where.

Boys, enjoy your good father if you have one, today and every day. Rise above your bad father. Seek mentors not only for your potential career, but for examples of what it means to be a man, a husband, a father. Girls, take joy and pride in your good father. Look for mentors yourselves to help you find a good husband if your father is not a good man. Today, take stock. Be honest. Be your father's champion, or be your own.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

We Need A Love Gun

I was still in bed when my wife told me that maybe I shouldn't bother getting up. That's when she informed me of yet another mass shooting, this one at a gay nightclub in Orlando the night before. I felt my heart and stomach drop, even though I was already lying down. I moaned and rolled over. It was an all-too familiar pain for anybody with a heart. You cannot ever steel yourself against these tragedies if you have an ounce of love for humanity.

My first thought was a memory. I was living at home when my mom opened my bedroom door and told me through tears that the Challenger space shuttle had exploded shortly after launch. That was the one that the school teacher was riding, and it was really the first mission I had paid much attention to. I seem to recall I was already depressed about my own life, and that disaster didn't help any. I am frightened as to whether this shooting will push somebody to suicide in the face of a world that shows so much hate and violence that it is not worth living in, especially if you are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered.

Ironically, and perhaps naively or comically, the very next phrase that entered my mind was "we need a love gun." I could literally hear that inside my head, like someone else whispered the idea. Surely, it was meant figuratively, but my imagination suddenly painted a picture from a bad 1970s or 1980s movie where a cartoonish weapon wielded by a colorful character shot rainbows and glitter at the villains. That actually sounds appropriate given that Orlando is home to Disney's Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios, and other theme parks where we flock to get away from the horrible realities of....well, reality.

Maybe we need to get right on this new invention. I cannot think of any group of humans better suited to creating something powerfully good than the LGBT community. There is a reason that the word "gay" also means "light-hearted, lively [and] given to social pleasures" according to my pocket-sized The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, copyright 1973. Funny, back then the word did not even apply to homosexuals.

Isn't that how we stereotype that population, though? Flamboyant, colorful, mischievous, dancing through life footloose and fancy-free. Somewhere, our envy turned to jealousy, to ridicule, to hate. It should have turned the other way, to joy, and to embracing the positivity of a movement that celebrates itself in pride parades. Instead we are offended? I'll save my fingers from pointing at the enemies of positive possibilities, but you know who you are.

Some people already have love guns, or, more to the point are love guns. They may not passionately advocate for entire populations of different lifestyles, but they fiercely defend the individuals they know. Love guns fire words of praise and support to those struggling with gender identity crises and hurtful personal and social experiences. Love guns are a symbol of solidarity because, you know, there but for the grace of God and genetics, go I. They have empathy, not pity. They have true love, not condescension.

I have not even turned on the television, or gone online yet, as I write this. I didn't want the storm being unleashed to cloud my vision, to make my eyes rain any more tears, to send bolts of anger and hostility through my intellect. That is not what being a love gun is about. No, it is not all rainbows and roses, either. Love guns can separate fantasy from reality.

Go, architect a new reality, design ways to change the world for the better. Start with the man or woman in the mirror. Strive. Reach out, there are so many people in need that you won't have to look far. Stop endorsing or accepting hate, including the passive, implied, institutional kind. Share your ammunition of hope, compassion, empathy, and affection. Be a love gun.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Zoo Hate and Human Hate

The social media fallout from the recent tragedy involving the euthanizing of a male Lowland Gorilla after a child entered its enclosure has surprised and shocked me, and that is just my reaction to my friends, some of whom I know personally outside of Facebook. The emotionally-charged reactions run the gamut from those who think zoos themselves are an atrocity to the other end of the spectrum claiming that the planet would be better off without people.

© Heidi Eaton

I found myself outraged and disgusted for a number of reasons. I used to work at the Cincinnati Zoo. Several of my former colleagues still work there. My spouse works with gorillas here in Colorado Springs. There but for the grace of God and responsible zoo-goers goes her.

I have attended regional and international gorilla-keeper conferences with her and can attest to the fact that these people pour their heart and soul into their work. Every zoo's gorilla population is closely monitored, every male and female pairing scrupulously evaluated before the animals are ever introduced. The loss of a single captive gorilla has to the potential to throw the whole world zoo community into chaos. Keepers witness things you would never want to see, and then learn how to prevent future episodes like them. They share every experience, from exhilarating and positive, to tragic and devastating, because it is vitally important to do so.

Some people without experience in zoos have been quick to attribute blame for this incident to the zoo. Zoos are inherently risky places for both employees and visitors, but every effort is made to protect guests while furnishing increasingly innovative immersion exhibits. Some animals are, obviously, too dangerous for direct contact, even by keepers, and gorillas are among them. The bottom line, however, is that it is not a zoo's responsibility to protect you from your own reckless behavior, no matter what age you are.

Meanwhile, zoos are critical to efforts aimed at conserving endangered species, especially in the sense of genetic diversity, and raising not only infant animals but also raising the awareness and appreciation of zoo visitors to the plight of the captive's wild brethren. To suggest that (formally accredited) zoos have no place in our world, or are inhumane and cruel, is simply ludicrous. Remember those gorilla keeper conferences? One topic always held in high priority is "enrichment," to insure that captive animals are constantly stimulated physically and emotionally.

My one failing in this discussion is that I am not a parent. It is telling that the people most incensed at the accusations suggesting the mother (and father?) are to blame in this tragedy, are themselves mothers or fathers. The argument invariably goes something like "I can see someone losing sight of their child in an instant, it has happened to me." Perhaps. What do I know, I'm an only child, raised mostly by an overprotective mother in an age that lacked electronic distractions. For better or worse, we are a society that demands accountability; because we so often don't get it, from our government officials to our next door neighbor, we explode with even greater hostility over the next time.

The whole concept of a human life being more important than the life of another organism I find troubling. Religion is largely responsible for conditioning us to believe our species is somehow "above" others, but the fact is that we, too, are animals. We act selfishly, as any other animal does, but we have gone to extremes to disguise that selfishness as, say, "what's in the best interest of the child" in divorce cases. Every other species would love to be in our bipedal shoes, able to limit mortality factors like predators, parasites, and diseases, while eliminating competition for resources and distributing itself widely over an infinite variety of habitats.

So, while it is certainly an extremist notion to suggest that the planet Earth would be better off without Homo sapiens, it is at least somewhat encouraging to see that we might be approaching a consciousness of "species equality." Even if this does not mean granting "rights" to other species, we are guaranteed in the U.S. the right to the "pursuit of happiness." Those of us whose happiness is found in nature are now deprived on one more gorilla.

The fact is that whatever our opinion of this tragic episode, we are going to have personal blank spots. Not everyone knows what it is like to be a zookeeper. Not everyone is a parent. Nobody knows what it is like to be a gorilla in captivity.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

How May I Direct Your Call(ing)?

My career could have used a switchboard operator long before now. Heck, maybe it had one and I am such a stubborn cuss that I refused to listen, insisting that she was giving me the wrong number and I already had the right one. Here I am now, well over fifty years old, and just beginning to achieve some clarity.

© Ironagetattoo.com

I grew up as an only child, believing I was destined to become an entomologist, or at least a naturalist. I went to college with that ambition, but by the end of my third year I was beginning to have my doubts. My fourth year I switched majors to "resource recreation management" (I swear that is what they called it), but then I ran out of both ambition and money. I do remember being disillusioned. I had taken up jogging, and one evening at the literal end of the road I gazed over at Mt. Hood in the setting sun and said out loud "How can you reduce that to a soil profile?" The abstraction called for by science was blasphemous to me.

Still, I pursued entomology, and even got some good jobs and great experiences out of it. They did not last, though, in part because I felt that others considered me a walking encyclopedia of insect knowledge and nothing more. Issues stemming from my parents' divorce when I was around eleven had been left largely unresolved, and I did not function well socially nor work (play) well with others. My identity was entomology and I did not know how to assert the fact that I have other facets to my person. I still have that trouble in many ways, making me prone to withdrawal in an effort to punish others for not seeing me as a whole person.

A few years ago I lost an online job that I know I would have been perfect for. The employer even said as much, but chose someone else because I had been volunteering as an entomology expert for the company that they saw as their chief competition. They did not bother asking if I would quit the volunteer gig....nothing. They didn't even call me to say they had selected someone else. I had to find out by e-mailing them. I was so incensed that I slammed my fist on my glass-topped desk and cut myself on its edge.

That was the big sign I should have heeded. I should have stopped pursuing all jobs "bugs" right then. Instead, I continued dialing wrong career numbers.

I thought this spring, with its ridiculously cold, wet weather was finally going to send me over the edge into insanity because I couldn't even find insects as a recreational pursuit, let alone to write about in my other blog. What I found was that I started writing more about other topics on this blog. Amazingly, I am enjoying it. I always have, but I never thought I had enough talent or experience or, mostly, knowledge of other subjects, to pull it off. I am beginning to think otherwise.

Just the other day I put up the following as a Facebook status:

"I am a writer, artist, social critic, husband, and sometimes activist. So, another gentle reminder that if you want the "bug guy," he is over at "Bug Eric" [another Facebook page]. If you want an entire human being, then please stay right here. Thank you. We now return you to your own identity crisis (or clarity)."

One respondent commented that he sensed I was trying to separate my identities on Facebook, and that he had tried that once without much success. "Good luck with that," he said. Well, he is right in one sense, but my motivations go far beyond social media. That post was mostly a self-affirmation, reminding myself that I am more than a career, deeper in character than most people realize, and that I should be proud of all that I am beyond entomology.

Would I trade all my previous successes and failures, hang-ups and busy signals? Of course not. What do I say about this blog? "Timing, on the other hand, is everything." I have to accept that the timing in this case may be this way for a reason I am not yet aware of. Some friends and colleagues and acquaintances will not want to progress with me on my journey from this point forward. That is nothing I have control over. I will never be able to turn my back completely on the wild kingdom of six- and eight-legged animals, nor will I ever turn down requests from people who want my help and are genuinely grateful for it. What is different is that I now know I must take a different fork in my occupation. Most roads we choose are already "well-traveled by," as Robert Frost put it in his classic poem; but, they have not been travelled by you. That, my friends, is what makes all the difference.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

My Disdain for "Sense of Place" Explained

A couple weeks ago or so, one of my friends from the internet expressed concern over my disdain for the concept of "sense of place." He is doing dutiful, important work documenting the organisms of his home city on the east coast, and I sincerely admire him for that. He made a good point that I have not adequately explained the title of my entire blog, and so I offer you that in this post, along with a humble apology for not doing so a lot sooner.

The Missouri River at Leavenworth, Kansas

What I object to has nothing to do with any individual person who chooses to live in one particular place and develop a deep relationship with the land, its wildlife and plants, and human neighbors. We need more of that if you ask me, or at least more of the ideals that come from that sense of rootedness, and reverence for a place.

What galls me is the "sense of place" in the context of nature writing. There is an intolerable overemphasis in the literary community on the idea that you cannot write intelligently and responsibly about a place unless you have lived there a very l-o-o-o-ng time, preferably your entire life. This romanticism is baloney. It probably goes back all the way to Thoreau, or even farther. It was a reciprocal concept, too. The land gave inspiration to the writer, and the writer in turn fostered a greater appreciation of the landscape and its ecology. Some of our best contemporary writers still work off that very principal. Aldo Leopold and Wendell Berry in particular come to mind.

Me? I am a semi-nomad. I tolerated the rain of Oregon for my first twenty-seven years, in part because I had little choice. I moved to Cincinnati, Ohio for a job, and while that didn't last, I remained in the Queen City for a total of eleven years before moving to the rural town of Forsyth, Missouri for another job. The job lasted eight months, my stay about a year or so. From there it was off to Tucson, Arizona on pure whim. By the time I was finally making friends and getting to know the area, I met my now spouse and moved here to Colorado Springs to be with her.

Now, because I have lived so many places, does that mean I cannot write about any of them with any sense of familiarity or understanding? Hell, no. In fact, I would argue that you cannot readily write about any place without having another place to compare it to. Travel leads to better understanding of the last place you were. Immersion in a community is certainly recommended, but maybe that is difficult because of the very nature of the place. Tucson is not a welcoming city, for example. People are friendly enough, but mostly superficially. They already have their circle of friends and are not generally prone to expanding it. This is due in part to sheer demographics. There is the geriatric set, and then there is the collegiate set at the University of Arizona. There are also the "snow bird" retirees who migrate to avoid the cold winters of their native states. So, only a few people are "desert rats" who stay year-round, and those folks exist in small, close-knit circles.

I lived in the land of "Taneycomo" (Taney County, Missouri) for a very short time, and had there been sufficient job opportunities I might still be there. However, anyone with the slightest degree of observational skills could have reached the same conclusions about the region that I penned in Orion magazine. It is not that Forsyth and other towns there are "simple" or somehow less worthy of attention and appreciation. It is just the opposite, in fact. Easily overlooked, residents are rightly insulted by stereotypes, and tired of being dismissed.

So, nomadic I may be. I suspect I am less like Thoreau and more like John Steinbeck writing Travels With Charley, but on a much slower pace. It is not the place of anyone in the arts to tell another artist, especially a young one, how to approach their craft, or dictate to them what they can or cannot do. Limitations have no place here. The whole enterprise of art flourishes by the uniqueness of its participants. Write on your own terms, and don't be afraid to call out those who would bind you with expectations and rules (aside from grammar, anyway).

I will leave you with one last personal experience that illustrates how expectations of a new place can be colored by a familiar one. When I arrived in Cincinnati, I was encouraged to visit Mount Airy Forest, second only to my hometown of Portland's Forest Park as the nation's largest and mostly undeveloped city park. Well, in my experience of coniferous forests, I found very few insects and other animals in a forest. When I finally broke down and took a hike through Mount Airy Forest, I obviously found the deciduous woodlands to be far richer in diversity than dark, evergreen forests. Now I long to get back to those woods, or at least travel to them regularly.

How do you define "sense of place?" How do you reconcile your personal lifestyle with the public perception of your locale? Let me know, I am nothing if not open-minded on concepts like this. I would once again like to thank my friend for taking the initiative (and risk) in asking me for a proper story about this topic. Carry on, "Thomas of Baltimore."

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Depression

My mind is an emotional train wreck right now. Depression has many faces, at least that is what I believe is true for me, and I can speak only for me. It is a condition that can be fleeting, or stubbornly entrenched for weeks or months; and it can be triggered by many stimuli. Lately, the monotonous and unseasonably cold, wet weather, is largely to blame.

© Healthination.com
Frustration

Feeling powerless to change circumstances is without a doubt one of the leading emotions that causes me to fall into despair. I truly can't change the weather. It is going to be bad until it is good again. I cannot change the marketplace. My chosen profession and its attendant skills and knowledge will continue to be devalued for as far into the future as I can see; but I also can't change who I am, which, at its core, is a writer. It is also difficult to accrue new skills and new circumstances when one does not have the financial capacity to attend classes, travel to better weather, or otherwise self-improve....because you can't earn enough at your profession.....a vicious cycle.

Anger

Frustration for me results in one of two things: sadness or anger. Usually it is the latter. Lately I have been more silent than usual because I fear nothing but a string of expletives would leave my mouth (or my fingers as they dart across the keyboard). I wish that it was more widely considered by the scientific community that violence and depression in men are strongly linked. Men have a much harder time expressing themselves verbally. Why do they smash the plate against the wall during an argument with their spouse or significant other? "There! Do you see that? That is my heart, shattered." Men want desperately to have a tangible expression of how they feel, and this often comes out violently.

Snowball Effect

One expression of depression for me is what I call the "snowball effect," whereby one negative thought leads to another and they keep accumulating until there is no stopping them and they almost bury you. During one of these episodes your life seems to stink more than it really does because the snowball is also a dredge that hauls up memories that are not necessarily still applicable to your current condition. The good thing is that I am getting better at recognizing this before the snowball builds enough momentum to be all-consuming. The bad lunch does not carry as much weight as I thought initially, and can be allowed to fall off the conglomerate of other matters.

Coping Poorly

I will assert that few people are able to cope with depression, tragedy, and other life challenges in a healthy manner. Such things usually trigger extremely bad coping "skills" such as addictions, flight (from relationships, reality, etc), suicide, and homicide. These days, another coping mechanism is "oversharing" on social media. This is understandable. Misery doesn't necessarily love company, as the old saying goes; but misery does crave understanding and empathy; and reassurance that most situations we face are only temporary. Facebook has become in many ways a 24-7 version of Oprah or The Phil Donahue Show, or Sally Jesse Raphael for those who can remember that far back (I even appeared on Phil Donahue's show in February of 1989 to talk about adult children of divorce).

Anyway, few of the ways we want to exorcise our demons are productive. I cannot go on a shooting spree when what I really want is to kill the marketplace, not its inhabitants; and the social fabric of our world already has enough holes in it anyway. We need more patches and some really good seamstresses. I can't kill myself because then I send someone else down the road I just exited. Drugs and alcohol only serve to make one more destitute financially, and more unhealthy physically.

Therapy?

Suggesting someone suffering from depression get "counseling" can seem helpful, but here timing is everything. So is type. Personally, I am so self-analytical as it is that seeing a psychoanalyst is redundant. Back in the day I eventually tried a twelve-step group for adult children of alcoholics. I was receptive enough to the idea in that particular window of my life to actually get a few things out of it. This is when I first realized my problem with "God" was actually rebellion against religion, a human social institution. I also finally started understanding how my "buttons" were getting pushed, and began rewiring the mental circuitry so that I could better articulate my own position instead of reacting inappropriately to the other person.

Both one-on-one therapy and peer therapy groups can be helpful if only because you are expressing yourself out loud and you tend to hear yourself better when you do that. Listening to the experiences (traumas, really) of others helps build empathy and creates a more holistic view of one's place in the spectrum of personal atrocities and joys. Ideally, it does this by creating a reverence for those who suffer, including one's self.

Comedy

There is a reason that you never see the theatrical "tragedy" mask without the "comedy" smile right there next to it. I find that the one sure-fire antidote to depression is humor. I think I may start building a library of stand-up comedy DVDs to have at the ready for my next low spell. A good dose of humor might not cure me permanently at any given time, but it will get my head out of itself and probably get me started writing my own material or drawing a cartoon. Comedy is also an awesome substitute for those times when the weather, lack of transportation, or other obstacle prevents you from doing equally healthy things like getting outdoors in nature, or exercising. Maybe music has the same effect on you as comedy has on me. Personally, music can be profoundly sad to me, so I have to be careful in my choices of artists and albums.

Onward

I have no way of knowing who is reading this, and what their own struggles may be. I do hope that they gain a measure of hopefulness and a sense of brotherhood out of this essay. Meanwhile, I need to scatter my eggs among less weather-dependent, market-driven baskets and reclaim my identity as something more than what I do for an occupation. We're all much deeper than we know, and far more substantial than what society tells us we are. Don't fall for it. Laugh at it instead, and be the individual example of what you want humanity to be. You'll fail early and often, but don't we all.