Tag Archives: pain

Unemployed(sort of): a Diary-day 5, A sad farewell to Rocco the cat

The best laid plans crumble in the face of tragedy. I could use  thousand clichés here, about how when it rains, or if I wanted to be blunt when you know what hits the fan. And it seems those calamities happen at the very worst moments. That is, of course  simply a perspective. The calamities come as they will, but resonate hardest when we are the most vulnerable.

It began yesterday when the computer died. We have the smartphones, and  an old laptop, which is what I am writing this blog on. The work and job search is done much easier and more efficiently on the PC. That’s plan A I try to have a plan B, and plan C. The computer was  setback, and potentially a costly one at a time we could ill-afforded a large investment. Still we muscled through, unaware of the tragedy that would turn everything upside down this weekend.427657_10200142269390509_1643413596_n[1]

Last August we’d adopted a rescue kitty from a small shelter in The Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He was a rambunctious little kitten with this beautiful sandy red coat and pronounced deep umber stripes. Ana, whimsically, named him Reilly C. Pendergast, or Rocco for short. Don’t ask me how we arrived at either. It just sort of fit. He sat on my shoulder or in Ana’s lap most of the 8 hour drive back to Chicago. Rocco took over the house, and despite being  bit of a menace to potted plants{we came home last night to a broken planter and dirt all over the bedroom) there was something special about the little guy.

He would sit on the fridge and watch me cook most nights, and loved running water any sort. Turn on a faucet, run a tap, or water a plant and he’d come running. Rocco was curious and infinitely loving, delighting in brushing his nose against Ana’s and mine, or in slipping between the blankets at night where he would wrap his arms and legs around my calf with a purr akin to thunder. He playfully tormented Smudge, and never tired of wrestling with Oliver. This week he’d revelled in his first snow.

The one thing was, he loved to bolt out he back door and race across the yard. Now Ana and I live in a busy city neighborhood, with a bustling street on one side and train track on the opposite side. We’ve trained the other cat to stay in the yard. Rocco just never learned that lesson.

It was around 5 or so when Ana and I arrived home from shopping. Earlier in the day Mike and Brian from the radio show had offered a diagnostic on the computer  issue that seemed to make sense. I’d switched monitors earlier in the week and installed a new program, and the problem might have been a configuration issue. I was set to start working through the issue. The sun had set and I went to the patio door to grab a beer. As I opened the door Rocco bolted. He was half way across the darkening yard before I could react.398005_10200142262230330_2075199500_n[1]

I’d learned not to chase him. Rocco loved to hide the more I chased him. I nearly caught up to him as he was crossing the alley towards the hillside and train tracks. The last I saw him he was on top of the hill, beside the fence. In the blink of an eye he had squeezed beneath the fence and was gone. By the time I reached the fence a train passed, shaking the hill, and even from 30 or so feet away was awesome.

Twenty or so yards from where he’d climbed under the fence I spied a dark shape beside the tracks. I told myself it wasn’t Rocco. Animals are caught unaware by trains all the time. Rocco hate the trains. More than once, sprinting down the alley after him, he would be rattled by the sight and sound of a passing train. My eyes strained at the dark shape beside the tracks. The umber stripes, and the fat tail he was yet to grow into caused my heart to sink.

Rocco never felt a thing. From the moment he pressed under the fence, to the time the train passed was perhaps a minute at most. He’d been thrown by the wash of the train, which broke his neck instantly. He never felt any pain. He was curled upon th rocks beside the rail, where I picked up his soft warm body and carried him home.  A bit of blood at his nose and mouth was all that seemed out of sorts. He might otherwise have been asleep. Oliver and Smudge, our other cats came out to the patio and sat beside Rocco’s lifeless body. Ana, weeping and broken-hearted placed a silly toy mouse beside him and said a tearful goodbye.

 We buried Rocco with his favorite toy, and part of one of those flowerpots he’d destroyed on the hillside. There is no perspective here, except the heart struggles to carry on, and find  anchor that will allow it o carry on. It must carry on, despite loss and grief and pain. And so we will carry on, tipped up momentarily by the turning of the world and the reluctance of the heart to accept all that comes with that…

Tune in every Sunday 9-0am only on Chicago’s Progressive Talk, WCPT for the Revolution and Beer segment as Brian Murray and I sample the beer of the week with the Our Town gang, and run down the grassroots calendar for the week. If you’re tired of talk, talk, talk radio, this is do something radio. Have a beer. Get involved.


Art vs. Media: The Transforming Power of Human pain

In an age when media and government(s), corporations and personalities have devalued the definition of truth, when facts are muddled, fabricated and manipulated, what remains is the basis for sincere and believable communication among people?

The courts have upheld that FOX news literally has a first amendment right to lie. “Fair and Balanced” in no way promises truth, but their intention is for propaganda and promoting a tactic to confuse issues so that their ideology can seem acceptable. Ads promising utopian-esque wonders are ultimately negated by fine print. Herman Cain’s accusers were compelled to sign non-disclosure statements-effectively erasing their right to speak, allowing Cain and his propagandists to attack and impune these accusers without fear of retaliation. Where was the evidence against Cain? It was censored by lawyers and the courts. These are tactics used by corporations and the powerful to compel silence over their crimes. Truth has been extinguished, degraded and confused. So what remains?

The news media is, by definition, dispassionate with regards to our truest humanity. Certainly it can show us great suffering and tragedy, which cane move us deeply and bring some of us to action. It is, despite its best and most compassionate assertions, clinical in nature, and here’s why.

It cannot inhabit the deepest thoughts, nor the spark of those thought. It cannot explore the primordial evolution of a thought or an emotion, that moment when it escapes from a single cell at the dawn of our history, evolving through mankind or a single individual from a moment or over the course of a life. The news media is incapable of pouring itself into a soul and rummaging around for secrets and intentions each of us keeps protected or hidden from the world. Above all, it cannot properly quantify human pain.

This, this is the very precise dividing line between fiction and journalism. Much to the propagandists assertions, Left, Right or middle, it is a line journalism cannot cross without erasing itself. That is the definition of propaganda. That ultimately is the best argument against FOX’s assertion that they have a right to lie. Indeed they do, but then they abrogate their pretense of journalism. The proof is in the word lie, which FOX lawyers freely called it in court. I lie is a hidden fiction paraded as fact.   

Here is a test. What news story adequately describes your own pain? The news can only describe suffering and tragedy, but only fiction allows the reader to dissolve their existence into a story. It is here that the power of fiction and art transcends, but real art and honest fiction. That is, fiction and art that openly and completely describe themselves as such, nakedly allowing the audience to freely judge its merits.

In 8 days Occupy Chicago will put on a play, a modern Occupy retelling of a Christmas Carol before thousands in Grant Park.  The purpose was to transcend the media,  and the impassioned arguments that come close but do not fully connect us with the human suffering the Occupy movement seeks to address. But the characters are faced with the things each of us face, their words and actions deeper and fuller and more contextual than journalism would dare, or activism alone could accomplish. That is the power and distinction of art.

Truth and Lies: Musings from the bike trail

Its forty-seven miles by bicycle from the Wisconsin border to my doorstep on the North side of Chicago. There’s a stunning bike path for a good stretch, more or less from the Great Lakes naval Air Station almost to Winnetka. It was a brisk Autumn day today. The leaves were just changing and a steady wind was coming off Lake Michigan, The wind and cool temperatures no doubt conspired to chase off the summer and fair-weather riders, leaving only hardcore adventurists.

On the trail near Fort Sheridan in Northern Illinois

That near solitude, the smell of wet leaves from the previous day’s rain and a mottled sky with patches of rich blue between fat grayish-white clouds lent itself perfectly to odd musings. Passing through North Chicago, a struggling town just outside the Naval Air Station, where unemployment is as problematic as the crime level, a town like so many others around the nation, in which the “American Dream” is fast becoming at best an illusion and at worst a hypocrisy, I had a thought.

It had to do with the truths and lies we tell ourselves, that the media fills the culture with and which our leaders recite almost mechanically and certainly in an obligatory reflex. The difficulty is in separating truth from lies and fact from fiction. That task, and responsibility as an American citizen and voter, becomes harder every day, more so as agenda driven information and propaganda makes it more difficult than ever to tell the difference. And that is very much by design.

This culture uses words like lies and facts and truth with careless disregard. But the truth is, lies and truths have something in common. They both rely upon facts. Both include and exclude facts to define their character. But while facts are bricks, a pile of bricks does not make a house. A set of facts may create some truth, but they may also reinforce a lie. By purposeful omission, or rearrangement facts become a lie. Indeed, a truth may also be a lie, as in a partial truth, or say, FOX News; the News part becoming at the very least a supreme exaggeration.

What each of us is seeking(or seeking to obscure) are ultimate truths. That is truths that are well beyond mere facts, and absolutely not a lie.For example, there is an ultimate truth to whether or not God exists. For now, that ultimate truth is unknowable and untestable. since facts alone fail us here, we bridge that immense gap with faith-the polar opposite of fact.

It may be said that faith is the  acceptance in at least one possibility of an ultimate truth. But faith is not a fact, and faith alone is a choice. Reason dictates that our faith is potentially the belief in a falsehood. One who has faith has a responsibility to understand that alternate faiths are then equally valid.

In the end could it be that there may be no real truth, but only lies and shades of the truth, and faith? So where does that leave us? If truths and ultimate truths fail us, what is left?

The media is more and more under the control of corporations. More and more it plays a game between satiating its consumer audience, while steering the nation and government towards corporate governance and control. The Occupy Wall street protests, now catching on in cities around the nation are illustrative here. When they began two weeks ago, I had to look to news organizations outside the country for information. There was not a single story in MSNBC-owned by GE, a major weapons contractor, or FOX-News Corp and CNN-owned by Time Warner, who contributed the maximum allowable amount to George Bush in 2005.

The media, with so-called Liberal bias like MSNBC and Right-wing bias like FOX, dominate and steer the discourse  on topics of grave national interest through carefully channelled and scripted arguments, and in very much the same direction.

Take the Iraq invasion. In the weeks and months leading up there was ample evidence that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction. Evidence was forged, critics of the invasion were pilloried and discredited for daring to point out that even the most credible reports had come from highly unreliable and even corrupt sources. Chris Matthews, castigated by the Right, and held up on the Left for his insight never once debated before the invasion what should have been obvious questions to the rest of us. He finally did, several years, many thousands of lives and a trillion Dollars later. The media’s truth was a self-serving truth, but it revealed a truth beyond even ultimate truth.

The trail

It contributed to and created real human pain and suffering. Human pain might well prove the profoundest truth, and the only truth impervious to lies, distortions, facts and faith. For each of us, our own pain becomes the ultimate truth. At the end of all lies is human pain, which arises from the individual as a wall. Where your pain meets the pain of another becomes, in the absence of real truth, the point of negotiation. From each person’s perspective the other’s pain is hardly equal to their own, but there is ultimate equality in their opposing pain. It was, after all the true basis for the civil rights movement, and indeed all assertions of minorities for their rights. It is even at the heart of those sadly mislead and exploited folks that believe the Tea Party isn’t merely a populist front for predatory corporate greed.

So, at the end of all truth,  when truths are distorted or framed artfully to be just this side of a lie we are left to negotiate one another’s pain. It transcends media and propaganda and politics. It becomes the point in which each of us draws a line in the sand and forces us to face other human beings as equals. I think Jesus said it best…do onto others… 

And, oh, by the way. Just in case you were wondering, with a couple scenic detours, the ride from Wisconsin back to the city takes about 3 hours. Lots of time to chase errant thoughts.

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