ON AVOIDING HARSH REALITY

It’s challenging enough to write a post each week that is humorous and apolitical, but it’s almost impossible with all the hardship and horrific events, natural and not, that we read and hear about every day.  The TV news is all bad, all the time.  So what do we do? In addition to drinking, that is.

Apart from taking action in some way, by feeding homeless people or going to protests or writing our congress member or donating to worthy causes (while being aware that someone else somewhere else, with an entirely different set of values and perception of reality, is donating to HIS/HER worthy cause), what do we do about this deluge of bad news?

First, let’s take the example of the ostrich.  The ostrich’s famous technique of hiding its head in the sand has become a metaphor for what a person could do to avoid people or things he or she doesn’t like with the added security of knowing that if your head is in the sand, no one can see you, just as sure as you can’t see them.

Unfortunately, “contrary to popular belief, ostriches do not bury their heads in sand to avoid danger. This myth likely began with Pliny the Elder (AD 23–79), who wrote that ostriches ‘imagine, when they have thrust their head and neck into a bush, that the whole of their body is concealed.'” So saith Wikipedia, quoting another source, quoting another source.  And you really can’t beat a good Pliny the Elder reference.

In other words, ostriches don’t do this, so we can’t use them as a behavioral model.  Yes, they do eat sand and pebbles to help their digestion (per Wikipedia) and bury their eggs in the ground, so they might appear to be sticking their heads in the sand, but they’re not.  But feel free to eat pebbles and sand.  Not sure if it’s good for human digestion, but think of all those minerals!

One thing scientists have observed (yes, Wikipedia again) is when being pursued by a faster animal like a cheetah (these birds can run at speeds of 43 miles per hour for extended stretches), the ostrich may lay down flat on the ground, which makes its legs and neck almost invisible, and to the prey, the bird appears from a distance to be a mound of earth.  Wow, the things you learn when you don’t have anything to write about.

ostrich hiding
Nothing to see here. Photo credit: https://images.app.goo.gl/bfYVkNRwg4Q5rPnv6

So, while it would appear that sticking one’s head in the sand won’t help any, this other idea, lying flat on the ground in a heap to appear from a distance as a lump of earth, well, this might be just the thing if your main objective is to disappear from it all.

Also, try lying in a heap on the ground sometime.  It’s very healing.  They say you should go barefoot on the ground as much as possible. Something about the earth’s magnetic charge being able to come in and out of your body through your feet. Well, what about your whole body being in contact with the earth?  This has to be better.  I think.  They don’t say anything about this in Wikipedia, except that ostriches do it sometimes.  It does sound a bit like yoga, though.  Maybe it makes them happier?

ostrich smile
Hey, what’s up, dude? Photo credit: http://www.ostrichbound.com/information.htm

For me, the best escape is writing.  This blog gets me focused on dumb stuff a couple of hours each week, and then I’m writing the book, which takes place in the mid-19th century when things were simple and life was… not better really.  Those people had it rough.  Disease, barbaric medical care, slavery, no cable or internet.  Walking?  Riding on a horse to get somewhere?  A trip that takes an hour today could take days or even weeks.  So maybe in comparison, today’s problems are bearable. Maybe.

Sometimes I play the guitar, which is also quite transporting.  Or hiking.  Or gardening. The more focus an activity requires, the better.  For example, I don’t own a motorcycle, but I would imagine that riding one would require constant attention and focus and therefore little time to think about bullshit, or else you die.

Some people find getting together with other people to be a good distraction from the downside of life, but that has limited benefits for me because no matter who it is, he, she or they will inevitably start a discussion about a topic that either bores or annoys me, and then I’m back in the same situation.  Politics, fires, shootings, pedophiles, wars, walls, guns… someone will go there, and that’s when I want to go somewhere else.

Politics used to be an okay topic because pretty much anyone I spend time with is a Democrat or at least socially liberal if they aren’t.  But today, even this group of people can get into brutal arguments of liberal versus progressive that are just as bad as anything you’d see between a bleeding heart and a MAGA hat-wearer.

Almost got into politics there, didn’t I?  That’s the dangerous knife edge I walk every week on this page.  The point is, no group or crowd is safe.

One last question: is this right, running away from reality?  Shouldn’t I be outraged and try to do something to help instead of hiding my head in the sand?  Oops, I mean laying flat on the ground to look like a mound of dirt and grass?

The answer, of course, is yes.  I should be aware and do something.  But sometimes, there are things that others should do for me.

In Hong Kong, the people are protesting a law that would allow China to extradite people for certain crimes.  As you might well imagine, Hong Kong having forever been a free state with Western values and freedoms, the people don’t want to be under Chinese authoritarian rule.  Some of these “crimes” might be, for example, saying something bad about China.  You know. Free speech?

hongkongprotests
Photo credit: https://news.sky.com/story/why-are-people-protesting-in-hong-kong-11778604

We have a business associate in Hong Kong who has lived there for many years.   He was at a couple of the first protests, which were mostly peaceful, something we all might attend, like the Women’s March in LA a couple of years ago that was a very powerful and energizing event, with no problems whatsoever.  Count me in.

Now that the protests have gotten a little more fervent, my friend tells me that it is the young ones who are out there protesting.  The older people (he’s probably 45) just advise them on how to conduct themselves to avoid problems with the police.  So now the young people are out there on the front lines for democracy, while the older folks observe and advise from the sidelines, with a tasty adult beverage.

I’m no expert, but his would seem to be a cultural thing wherein the elders are respected by the youth, and also where it is recognized that the youth should be fighting for something that will impact the rest of their lives, long after the elders are gone.

I didn’t expect to write that when I started this post.  That’s kind of deep, right?  Not me.  I’m not deep. But that idea that I culturally appropriated in the prior paragraph. That’s deep.

So what have we learned?  Well, you can’t hide your head in the sand, for one, because that doesn’t even work for ostriches.  Lying in a heap on the ground could be good, but you’ll get dirty and there are bugs and other unpleasant things out there on the lawn, especially if your neighbor has a large dog.

But what you can do is make friends with a few younger people, or have kids.  Then, you get them all worked up about stuff, throw in some old war stories and advice, and let them loose on the world.  They can do all the heavy lifting that needs to be done to save their future, while you sit at home and write, or play guitar, or drink or whatever it is you do to avoid the harsh realities of life. It’s their future.  Let ’em have it!

Thank God that’s over with.

You want to escape into a different reality?  One that’s like this world but not exactly?

Here: Smoking in Bed: dreams of love, sex and terrorism.

Have a great week and thanks for reading!

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