Winter Dreams Revisited

Two weeks ago, I fell in love with a piece of music. I posted it on the web. And then I fell out of love with it. I didn’t like the mix. I didn’t like the flute passage. I couldn’t listen to it.

This weekend, I reworked it, and I’m back in love with it.

I rewrote the flute passage, this time as a trio for solo violin, solo cello, and flute.

I also rebalanced everything. It sounds MUCH nicer, now. Check it out on the Music tab, in the “Other Works” playlist.

A Dream Realized

I’m in the midst of processing a complex blend of emotions.

We’re coming up on three years since our initial investigations into moving into this small-town community up in rural California wine-country. We came for a lot of reasons, but one of the plusses was what appeared to be a very active music scene.

In the last three years, I’ve been increasingly astonished by the depth and excellence of this music scene. I got to sing the Bach b-minor Mass in Mendocino with professional soloists and instrumentalists from San Franscisco, and the Mozart Requiem here in Ukiah with the Ukiah Symphony. There’s a Christmas sing-along at the Presbyterian Church a short walk from my home that packs the pews every year, and has featured harpist Anna Maria Mendieta, principal harpist of the Sacramento Symphony and well-known soloist, who comes up because she loves the community spirit of the sing-along; I found this out because I had the final rehearsal time wrong and showed up early, while she was sitting in her car waiting for someone to open the church, and we talked for a bit — a lovely, gracious woman, and a fabulous musician.

It’s just that kind of place.

Last night we went to the 26th annual Professional Pianists’ Concert. This was established in 1992 by Spencer Brewer, a well-known recording artist who lives in these parts, founded because — as he explained — he hated piano competitions. Instead, this concert is an informal and intimate inclusive affair, with a large, comfortable living-room set on the stage, and around a half-dozen pianists. Spencer says they all spent “moments and moments” rehearsing for this concert, and the general rule is, while they know who is going to play first, they have no idea who will play next, or what they will play. The pianists themselves decide; and sometimes, at the last minute, they change their minds and play something else. Or they drag one of the other pianists to the other piano and they do a mash-up.

It’s a very eclectic mix of styles, from boogie-woogie, to swing, to jazz, to New Age, to ragtime, to classical, and all of the pianists are well-seasoned performers who compose, improvise, do a little stage-theatre, and crack ad-lib jokes. Last night’s performance featured Spencer Brewer, Elena Casanova, Sam Ocampo, Tom Ganoung, Chris James, Elizabeth MacDougall, and Wendy DeWitt.

Last night, I heard my piano concerto from the stage for the first time.

Only snippets: as Elizabeth mentioned while introducing the piece, it’s 20 minutes of music, and she wasn’t about to play the whole thing. But it was my music, and it wasn’t coming from me, or my computer. Someone else was playing it. On stage.

She called me out as the composer from the stage before she began; the house lights came up, and I stood and bowed briefly to friendly applause. Then we all sat back and listened.

Though it was only snippets, Elizabeth did a magnificent job, and the audience loved it.

So many complicated emotions.

I think the closest I can come to describing it is to talk about watching my sons graduate, or get married. It’s the point when you realize that you are done raising them. They are really, truly all grown up. You’re still their father, and always will be, but it’s different — they are making their own way, now. You are so happy, you are so proud, and yet you are also sad. A phase of your life has ended.

The concerto was a surrogate daughter: I might as well put it that way. We lost a real daughter to SIDS in 1985, and it was sometime in 1986 or 1987 — I think, memories from that period are a bit fractured — that the first notes of the third movement popped out of my fingers one late night and surprised the heck out of me. I’ve been nurturing that music for thirty years, completing the movements, adding the orchestration, rendering again and again with ever-improving MIDI sound samples.

While I always knew it was good music, I never expected it to be performed in my lifetime.

Even in the heady days of the great piano concertos, it was almost always the composer who performed it first, and while I could play the piece in the late 1990’s, there are also issues of endurance, showmanship (the ability to mess up royally and just keep going with a smile), and stage-fright. This last is, for me, crippling, and it’s always worst when I’m out there playing at the edge of my ability.

Those heady days are gone, however: no one writes piano concertos any more. That’s not exactly true, but they’re quite rare, and the Western classical-romantic style of my concerto — with a tonality and emotionality drawn from all the music I loved most — is definitely out-of-vogue among the contemporary musical literati.

Plus, maybe it wasn’t really as good as I thought it was. After all, every child is beautiful in the doting father’s eyes.

I made a few tentative attempts to move the concerto toward performance in the 1990’s, which were generally rebuffed without interest. It wasn’t personal: it was business, and music, like writing or acting, has always been a difficult business for newcomers to break into. Unlike writing, there isn’t a lot of logistical support for the budding composer.

I think what kept the dream alive for me is that not even one of the gatekeepers I approached was actually interested in the music. I contacted one publishing house, and they explained that they were interested in following a composer’s career, not a single work by some unknown composer. Academics and web-based articles suggested that I go back to school and get a graduate degree in music, or submit my work to various national contests, like the Aspen Music Festival.

As with nearly everything in this time and place, it’s all about revenue streams. It’s about money.

For me, it was never about a career. The concerto was something sublime that had introduced itself into my life, unbidden. It was something I wanted to do justice: not just in terms of trying to reduce the music in my head to harmonious sounds from cat-gut, wet reeds, and brass tubes, but also to at least make an effort to let the rest of the world hear it. To give it wings. What a father would want for a child.

Over time, I wrote other music, and some of it has been performed. In the back of my mind was the idea that, if I could get a foothold as a composer, I might someday hear the concerto performed. But my hopes weren’t high.

When we moved out here, I decided to give it another push. I approached Les, conductor of the Ukiah Symphony, and pointed him to my website. I’d recently finished my Summer Symphony, and thought it might be of interest. He listened, and instead decided he liked the piano concerto. He wanted to perform it. He even lined up a soloist.

Last night, I heard bits of the concerto from the stage for the first time. In three weeks, I will hear it again, the whole thing from beginning to end, this time backed by a full orchestra.

It’s a little overwhelming.

 

Winter Dreams

I wanted to try something a little different.

I quipped to my son that the opening is a kind of chromatic fugue. He was mildly outraged. He asked, “Isn’t that like dry water?”

Well, yes. Or perhaps not — I’ll have to give that some thought. There are, of course, schools of musical thought where that isn’t any kind of difficulty. I don’t find them very listenable. But it is neither strictly chromatic, nor — formally-speaking — strictly a fugue. Whatever it is, I think it worked out quite nicely.

This chromatic fugue, or whatever it is, forms the recurring dark, fluid, ever-shifting part of the Winter Dream. Then the melody rises, first in the English horn, then in the flute, and finally in a full-on film-score rendition that was a lot of fun to write.

For your enjoyment.

The Man Club

The latest post on Paula Prober’s blog, Your Rainforest Mind, touches on the issue of toxic masculinity, particularly as it affects men on the gifted spectrum, and one of the commenters spoke about getting thrown out of the Man Club long ago, and feeling he can only speak about it because he has nothing left to lose.

I responded that the Man Club is like that gang of three popular guys that terrorized you in Junior High and called you names, one of whom later went on to be Prom King in High School. You go off to college, make friends, fall in love, get married, have kids. Your twentieth class reunion comes up, and you decide to fly back to your hometown and see the old crowd: and there is the Gang of Three, slouched at the bar. They never left town. The Prom King still talks about that as being the high point of his life. You suddenly realize that the Gang of Three, the thing that dominated your life through your school years and left you feeling demeaned, worthless, and alone, is … pathetic.

Every man eventually leaves the Man Club, at the moment of death if not sooner — because whatever continues after death is not a man, or a woman, or even human. But most men leave the Man Club long before that, and in my opinion, the sooner they leave it, the better: for the Man Club is actually about toxic masculinity.

Let’s start with a basic observation. Some cultures have relatively relaxed sexual mores, but obsess over what people eat. Our culture — our US American culture in particular — celebrates indiscriminate gluttony, but obsesses over a collection of very weird sexual taboos.

When we talk about men, as distinct from women, we are talking about sex, not food: seed-spreader or child-bearer, outies or innies. The Man Club is about men: ergo, it is about sex.

So I have to start this discussion with the recognition that when we talk about men, we are talking about a subject that is hopelessly tangled in a twisted thicket of sexual taboos, most of which ordinary people aren’t consciously aware, and many of which are so taboo they can’t even be mentioned in public.

I also have to bring up the subject of religion. Religion talks about “spiritual” matters, but its ecological function in the human species is to create and reinforce a common social bond among genetically unrelated individuals. We are all “children of god” — ergo, we are family, even though we clearly aren’t. As part of this, mainstream religions reinforce cultural taboos. In US American culture, the most common religion is heterodox Protestantism, followed American Catholicism: both of these religious umbrellas excel in obsessing over sexual mores.

Finally, I have to mention the politicization of sex. We have a man sitting in the White House who has boasted of serial sexual assault and predation. We have a man that many claim is a pedophile running for Congress with the full support of his party, while the other party is trying to force the resignation of a man accused of brushing his hand against a woman’s butt during a photo shoot: rape culture on the one side, versus rankly cynical Puritanism on the other. We have a big push toward actually prosecuting rapists, instead of winking and saying, “Well, boys will be boys,” combined with a dangerous trend of settling for revenge (career ruination) rather than justice, since it seems that the US legal system is increasingly incapable of rendering justice in any form.

So we are walking into the trifecta of Things Not To Talk About: sex, religion, and politics.

I’m not going to tackle the trifecta. I’m only going to talk about how to get out of the Man Club early.

First, recognize that this isn’t a simple topic: it’s all tangled up with sex, religion, and politics. Wrestling with it is going to be like remodeling a kitchen, where each simple task turns into a whole new and completely unexpected project: you replace the stove, and discover that the gas valve leaks; swapping out the sink leads to replacing the sewer lines all the way out to the street; replacing the microwave leads to tearing down walls and rewiring the house.

This isn’t intended to be scary: it’s intended to be comforting, in the sense that, yes, this is going to take a while, and that’s perfectly normal. It’s also going to challenge everything you thought you knew about sex, religion, and politics, and that is also perfectly normal. In the end, you’ll be thrilled with the result, but don’t anticipate inviting the neighbors over next weekend for dinner cooked in your new kitchen.

Second, recognize that the Man Club’s nature is exclusion: if you feel you’ve been kicked out of the Man Club — that your essential manhood is in question — this is by design. You can’t have an exclusive club without exclusionary policies. There cannot be “haves” without “have-nots.” Every social taboo needs scapegoats.

Be reassured that your “questionable manliness,” past or future, is an entirely fictional construction, created by others for their benefit, at your expense. Let go of it.

Third — and this is a big one — you can do this kitchen remodel alone, but it really helps to have the number of a good plumber on speed-dial. Maybe you won’t need him. But it’s good to have the number and the relationship.

I’m talking about a counselor, of course. But I have something very particular in mind, and I’ll get to that in a moment.

Let me describe the basic remodel.

The central issue with the Man Club is its definition of what it means to be a “man.” After the remodel, you are no longer a “man” — you are a human being with an outie.

Does that sound terrifying? Then spend a little time meditating on it. If it terrifies you, then you clearly recognize that a “man” is not the same as a “human being with an outie.” Perhaps you think a man is better than a mere human being, and that you’re going to lose something. But I’m not talking about losing anything: you get to keep your outie, and everything associated with it, like facial hair, natural muscle tone, 5:00 a.m. circadian erections, your ferocious sex-drive, your taste for sports, and everything else.

What you lose is identification with those things. It’s one reason that men naturally leave the Man Club as they get older, because all of those outie-related things that they identify with as “men” start to fail. If these things define you, then you will not make it far past forty before you start to panic.

When you shift the focus to your essential humanity — well, that will eventually fail, too, but that’s called “death.” Your humanity has a lifetime guarantee. Your outie does not.

What you gain in this remodel is compassion, and empathy. If you are a man, you cannot possibly imagine what it is to be a woman. If you are a human being with an outie, you can begin to imagine what it might be to be a human being with an innie. It’s an imperfect imagining, of course. But you start — at least a little — to see things from the woman’s point of view, and in the process, your view of what it means to be human expands. It expands to include women.

You get to be more. Not less.

I’d also like to point out that you don’t have to stop at your humanity. Compassion and empathy can expand beyond the human form, and once you recognize that, you find that your concept of spirituality has expanded as well. You start to become aware, at least, of the vast Web of Life that surrounds us all.

So that’s the broad view of what the remodel is like.

You don’t start there, of course. You start with the thing that is most in the way of any further work. And that is different for every single individual, and is usually the hardest thing in the whole process. It’s the four-ton marble reproduction of David sitting in the middle of your kitchen.

Getting that first thing out of the kitchen is, I think, one of the things your counselor is particularly good for. They’ve helped different people move all kinds of bric-a-brac out of their kitchens. Engine blocks. Ten thousand envelopes tied with pink ribbon, individually addressed to “Occupant.” Twelve hundred boxes of Girl Scout cookies. A mean-tempered iguana.

Odds are good they’ll be able to offer a lot of practical advice on your David. And it won’t surprise or shock them. Really. It won’t.

So let’s talk about bit more about this counselor.

I was once told that in early Renaissance Europe, there was a musical tradition called “the dawn song.” These were sung by a young man beneath the window of a young woman, typically a woman of more-or-less noble birth (meaning that her virginity was of some financial value to her father). These songs weren’t intended for the woman, however. They were intended for the young man sleeping with her, and the singer was his best friend, companion-at-arms, and co-conspirator, who spent the night on-watch beneath the window. The text of the songs was generally along the lines of, “Get out of bed, sleepyhead, grab your pants, and get the Hell out of there! The sun is rising!”

Your counselor is the person who sings your dawn song.

Now, they may give you a soaking in the horse trough and try to talk you out of it first. They may swear that if it goes wrong, they’ll kill you (twice!) after the wrathful father dismembers you. But then they’ll help you plan the tryst, make the arrangements, keep watch, and sing the dawn song for you. Because that’s what they do.

It’s what any shaman worth his feathers will do if you take an ayahuasca journey.

Beyond that, it is your own adventure, and I could not begin to guess what course it will take. Save that you will, in the end, be more human than when you started.

 

 

More Music Up

I’m re-expanding my music page.

When I re-mastered my Piano Concerto and Summer Symphony, and put them on a CD, I decided to release the album through the CDBaby commercial machinery, just to see what would happen. That was about a year ago, at exactly the same time I switched from my self-hosted WordPress account to the WordPress-hosted WordPress account for my website. I had to completely rework the music page and push stuff to SoundCloud, and I deliberately started small, just to test out the new models.

So far, after a year, net revenues: $0.00. Net listens through CDBaby and their whole commercial release process, which includes iTunes and Amazon: 0.

Yes, all the commercial sites would tell me it’s my fault. You’ve gotta hype your goods, man. You’ve gotta put some sustained effort into selling yourself. It’s a full-time job, making your music work for you.

Screw that. I’ve got a full-time job, and it isn’t in sales.

Nothing has changed since I wrote Copyrights, Money, and Beautiful Music: that reflection is still as accurate as it ever was.

So I’m re-expanding my music page. Enjoy!

Samhain Old, Samhain New

It has been a strange year.

That’s a statement that should probably go into the Understatement Hall of Fame. Though not my utterance of it: there must be a billion or more similar sentiments expressed around the world.

For me, the strangeness all rolled up into Samhain.

Until just a couple of centuries ago, people around the world ended and began the day at sunset. Many still do. It’s a natural time of transition: the liminal period as color drains out of the world and we pass into twilight, an indeterminate in-between that fades into darkness and rest. Similarly, the year — in the median latitudes — shades into a liminal period as the light fails and the green earth goes to seed.

It is the season of twilight.

Today was gray, cool, and it drizzled just a little. Only a little. A quiet day. Liminal.

We decorated the front yard for Halloween in the afternoon, day before yesterday, while the sun was bright and hot. We have only a single box of Halloween decorations in our garage, but it’s an excellent box. Three witches — reapers, perhaps — that we set up in the front yard, lurking near the pampas grass and the Great Pot of Jade. A string of pumpkin lights, like Christmas lights but with little orange-mesh pumpkins around the lights. I bought three real pumpkins — Santa Rosa, just an hour south of here, is the land of Charles Shultz and the Great Pumpkin, after all —  and Marta and I carved them together, in between trips out to the grocery store for more candy, and the next day’s breakfast. Hurricane lanterns, some with real candles, some with flickering electric flames. A skull with red and blue flames inside. We pulled out the Witches’ Cauldron for the candy, and both of us donned our formal summer Druid robes to greet the ghastlies and goblins who breached our property bounds to demand tribute to the traditional cry of “Trick or Treat.”

As an elder, I found I had to instruct some of the youngsters in the proper etiquette of extortion, after my sometimes inaccurate attempts to guess their True Names: Spiderman, Mutant Ninja Turtle, Skeleton. I nailed the Medieval Apothecary, with his bird-beak, much to his astonishment. I miscalled two Dalmatians: I said Holsteins, and was appropriately shamed. The Mad Hatter was trivial, but Alice confounded me — she wore buttons marked with card suits, and my mind was clouded; but the Red Queen was lovely.

The California evening was mild and exceptionally beautiful. We are only thirty-five minutes of latitude (a little over half a degree) south of Denver — all but identical to the seasons I’ve lived with throughout my life. But Denver is a mile closer to the cold vacuum of space than us, the air thin and the winds free, while here we nestle in a valley of grapes and pears in a Mediterranean climate with a wet season and a dry season. Samhain Eve was one of the last of the dry evenings for the year. We sat on the porch and greeted knee-high creatures of the night until Marta grew tired, and then I sat alone and watched flashlights bob up and down the street and offered chocolate benedictions.

Last night, we did the OBOD Samhain rite in our back yard. We have a power spot there, a crossing of fire and water lines, where we set the fire pit, with an altar to the West. Lanterns marked the directions, and we had strung white Christmas lights all along the fence, and on the gazebo and the arbor.

We spoke the familiar words, just the two of us — by power of Star and Stone;  each presence is a blessing; here in peace and love we stand — and I ached for our fellow-Druids from  the Place Before. This was no small move, to come here. But though I missed our grove, the call to be here is still very strong. The Ancestors came, and they comforted us.

Goddess knows what tomorrow will bring. But that is always the case.

After our rite, we walked over to the Civic Center, where the half-ton pumpkins have been carved and placed on display. Did I mention that this is the land of the Great Pumpkin?

Today has been cool, and misty, and damp, and very quiet. Two Jehovah’s Witnesses came to my door. I offered them a blessing, and they parted in peace. Is Samhain two days, or three? Or a week? Scholars bicker and denounce one another: that is their high play.

I think they are all wrong. It is a liminal time, time without time. It takes as long as it takes. We’ll be there when we get there. Deep chemistry is converting life into death, and death into life. Our obsessions with  human calendric schedules is absurd.

Civility, Fascism, and Cultural Insanity

Many of us seem to be facing a common problem these days. I hear it over and over, in different forms.

“I can’t speak my mind, because I have a lot of old friends and relatives who would just flip me off and dismiss me if I did.”

I’ve written before about the Fascist turn the US has taken, and the fact that this is not a top-down takeover, but is (as all forms of fascism are) a bottom-up demand for a Fearless Leader to sweep away the crusty old rules and replace them with modern, effective, efficient rules. We’re well into that transformation in the US, now, and the only reason things aren’t much worse than they are, is the overwhelmingly self-centered, infantile incompetence of the man that The People have chosen to lead them into their Glorious Future, combined with the fractured dysfunction of the political party that put him into power.

It’s important to realize that this is a people’s movement. Our current governmental disarray is not the clever work of Vladimir Putin, nor Fox News, nor the Illuminati, nor the Rothschild family, nor Islamic terrorists, nor White Supremacists. It isn’t because of immigrants, or women, or white trash, or inner-city blacks, or religious Fundamentalists. It isn’t because of the electoral college, or gerrymandering, or campaign funding, or election fraud.

This is a broad-based people’s movement, reacting to the shuddering, glacially-slow peak and collapse of the global capitalist economy, with which the entire American enterprise is fatally intertwined. There are extremists and sociopaths and criminals leading it, certainly, and plenty of hanky-panky in a corrupt and misshapen voting process. But the reason it managed to install an incompetent sociopath as our forty-fifth president is that too many people no longer really believe in the United States or its democracy. They are fed up with the endless political deadlock, the economic dysfunction, the loss of opportunity for themselves, the loss of a visible future for their children, the loss of respect for their class, the loss of any sense of rootedness or ownership. The political bromides of the past about democracy and freedom have all fizzed over and left the glass empty.

Many, many people want change. They want it now.

Were this not the case, we would not be facing so many old friends and relatives we can’t talk to.

I’m one of the people who wants change: no, who sees the necessity for change. I have that much in common with all the people who support the man currently occupying the White House.

Beyond that, our ways are sundered.

Consider for a moment this business of “fact-checking” the president. There are six colors in a child’s primary palette: red, purple, blue, green, yellow, and orange. If the president states the color of the sky, he has one chance in six of getting it right. We can expend a lot of effort “fact-checking” him on this, but the reality is, we are “fact-checking” a Magic 8 Ball. He spews statements with only one filter in place: how much publicity will this generate for him? There is no relationship between the president’s statements and facts, because he isn’t doing any fact-checking of his own before he opens his mouth. He isn’t playing that game. You might as well be checking how often he begins sentences with words that contain the letter ‘b’.

Fact-checking the president is a waste of time. The president isn’t interested in facts.

This isn’t as uncommon as you might think.

Talk to a car salesman about his work, sometime. If he opens up to you, he will educate you about people. He will tell you that it’s important to know the specifications — the facts — about a car, but that isn’t what sells it. What sells it is the customer himself. When a customer walks into a showroom, he’ll see something he forms an emotional attachment to. The salesman’s job is to notice that, and to help the customer sell himself that car: to pay attention to the shift of emotions, perhaps suggest another car to which he will form an even greater emotional attachment; to play the customer like a hooked fish, never allowing the line to break, until the papers are signed and the deal is closed.

This is why there are showrooms and retail stores. It isn’t about anything except the fact that people have a much harder time forming an emotional attachment to something in a catalog. They’re more likely to make a rational choice when using a catalog, which often means not buying anything at all.

President #45 is a salesman. It’s all he has ever done. It’s all that he knows how to do. He notices and reinforces emotional attachments. In fact, I’ll even throw some credit his way: having suffered from a debilitating mental illness his entire life (sociopathic narcissism), he has figured out a way to be financially successful by noticing and reinforcing other people’s emotional attachment to the only thing in the world that holds any interest for him: himself.

This is exactly what the mass media does, as well. There is very little national journalism left. What we have instead is a vast, multi-tentacled entertainment industry, one facet of which is called “News.” But it isn’t news at all. It is entertainment, and that means it has to be entertaining, not informative. Everything about it involves noticing and reinforcing emotional attachments. That’s why opinion polls are so important: the mass media uses facts about people’s emotions, but it sells entertainment.

Facts are irrelevant to entertainment content.

The public has adapted to this world. Facts are irrelevant. It’s entirely about emotional attachments.

Nuclear war? Meh. The question that serious men ask is, “Will it help us sell shit?”

So let’s return to all those people you can’t talk to. They’ve formed their emotional attachments. They know they’re going to buy a Ford. You’re wasting your time and breath trying to tell them they should consider a Chevy, or — God help you if you suggest it — a Toyota. They’ll dig in their heels. They’ll concoct rationalizations about why Ford is better. They’ll make up stories about Chevys that lose their wheels on the highway, or Toyotas that catch fire in your garage. They’ll tie it to patriotism, and to God. If you press the point, they’ll start to hate you. They’ll forget to invite you for Thanksgiving, and scratch you off their Christmas card list.

Would you really invite this kind of wrath over Ford versus Chevy?

Of course not. You excuse them as lovable pig-headed fools, and drop it. Who cares if they buy a Ford?

People have now become emotionally attached to the idea that fascism is just a better, more authentic form of democracy, just as our forefathers envisioned it; that reverse-racism is a real and present threat; that homosexuals have an agenda; that immigrants take our jobs; that lowering taxes on the rich creates more jobs; that this endless, sickening vomit of nonsense is What Is Really Going On, and Someone Ought To Do Something About It.

And now you want to tell them that Obama is not a Muslim.

The problem is, this isn’t Ford versus Chevy any more. They are agitating and uniting to make deep changes in the fabric of US law that are going to hurt and kill a lot of people: people including themselves, and including you and me. They are pig-headed fools, yes, but it’s not nearly so excusable.

When this escalates to internment camps, mass murder, and genocide, it won’t be excusable at all.

That is, of course, where all this is headed. Surely you all know that much history?

The US is moving inexorably into a period of cultural derangement. Facts don’t matter. People have a right to opinions built on baseless rumors. People are emotionally attached to nonsensical beliefs that create a moral imperative for them to commit lethal violence against their scapegoats. We are becoming a violent, unthinking mob, on a national scale.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

That poem was written by William Butler Yeats in 1919, and it seems to me entirely apropos of this time and place.

Personally, I have no answers to the dilemma of what to do about those old friends and family. I’ve cut some of them out of my life, because I cannot bear their level of unreason, and that has offered me some personal peace. I’ve cut back drastically on contact with social media for the same reason, and it has been good. I don’t follow the News branch of the entertainment industry at all: the only news I keep up with now is local news, and that sparingly.

When it comes to speaking out, I feel my way along like anyone else.

Sometimes, I speak up, as I am doing now.

More often, I’m silent. There’s an old saying: never try to teach a pig to sing — it wastes your time, and it annoys the pig. People who have fallen into this encroaching darkness of unreason are largely, in my experience, unreachable. I don’t try to teach them to sing.

I do try to remain civil. What I mean by that is that I try to avoid triggering or escalating unnecessary violence, verbal or otherwise. I find that it’s easier to do this if you raise your expectations of yourself, and lower your expectations of other people.

But I have no answers.