Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Positively Apathetic

The other day, the incomparable Keely-Rain posted these tweets, which showed up in my Twitter feed as I was scrolling along killing some time at work while waiting for a meeting to start.  What followed was a severely truncated Twitter discussion on the subject, choked off by our 140 character limit.  This is a subject that has hit home for me a few times, primarily because there have been people in my life who seem to think that if you're just positive about enough things, the world will get better.  I find this way of thinking to be detrimental, in the long run.  

This idea, popularized by books like The Secret and media moguls like Oprah, postulates that if you just think positively about the things that you want in life, the universe will give those things to you.  It's really a consumerist and commercialized way of thinking.  If you want a new house, think positively and the universe will find a way to give you one.  The problem with this line of thought is that, while I'm sure that thinking positively does a lot to improve your mood or keep you focused, it doesn't do a whole lot in terms of actually creating forward momentum for any individual.  In fact, the idea that you can just think positively and good things will happen is the most passive way to participate in your own life.  It's a way of feeling like you're actually doing something without actually doing anything.  For someone like myself, who is decidedly not religious, it's sort of akin to praying.  Praying is feeling like you're doing good and enacting change without actually doing anything more than talking to empty space.  I'm sure if you're faith driven, you do feel like there is a god out there listening and responding to your prayers, but for a cynic like me it's just a way of feeling like something good is being done without standing up and taking action.  

Principles taught in books like The Secret allow for the every day man to think he's going to get exactly what he feels he deserves, and moreover, it takes responsibility off of that individual to take action in their own life.  If you don't get the thing you want, it's because you weren't thinking positively enough, or the universe wasn't able to sense that you wanted it.  It wholly removes the ideas of hard work, fiscal responsibility, and education.  These ideas give people to basically be lazy while still believing that they will get what they want.  It appeals to individuals who are content to behave passively in a world that does not reward passivity.  But when you think about the vast majority of people that these ideas are heralded by, with the exception of Oprah, it's people who are always looking for the easy way out of something.  Magic weight loss plans, get rich quick schemes and the like.  Or people who don't vote because no one "represents their ideals" while at the same time those individuals make zero effort to find and promote a candidate who would represent those ideals.  This is a school of thought housed in the minds of those who believe that by simply existing in this world, they have done enough.  Now the world owes them something in return.  Their charitable contributions to the planet are small, if they exist at all, and yet they still feel somehow entitled to a world that rewards them for their inaction.  In the long run, it's a little sad.

Ideas like this are hard for someone like me, who has always been taught to stand their ground and create change if no one else will.  I can't understand these passive ideals that so many embrace.  In truth, it feels like a very American way of thought.  We've passed by the idea that we should work toward a greater good long ago.  Our capitalist mentality has the majority of the nation looking out for #1, and organizations who work to protect the average person are quickly being broken apart.  The word "union", for example, is a dirty word in most companies, and as the unions have dissolved, wages and benefits have also dwindled away.  We no longer care about each other as long as we are taken care of ourselves.  This leaves a lot of room for these self fulfilling ideals to creep into the edges of society and take root.  Think positive and you get what you want.  Don't worry about working hard for it, or being responsible so that you get it.  Just think about it.  It's as if we're all drinking the kool-aid of Harold Hill's "Think System" like a bunch of country yokels from a stage musical instead of being active, responsible members of society.  The willingness to remain passive in your own life is just a concept that I can't get behind.  What the world needs is people who stand up.  People who take action.  People who, above all, work to create the change they want to see in this world.  Positive thinking doesn't get you anywhere in that arena.  I think there's merit in thinking positively that you will succeed in your efforts, but just sitting around thinking that things will be good eventually is never going to be enough.

It's as if no one remembers reading Dr. Seuss as a child.  The Lorax probably said it best when he said "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It's not."

I think what we need is less positive thought, more caring a whole awful lot.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Adventures With An Elderly Dog: The Close

This past Wednesday we said goodbye to Simon.  While I could have posted a more recent picture of him, one that showed him as he was when we said our goodbyes, I prefer to use this one because this is how I like to remember him.  Young, energetic, and waiting for us to throw the goddamn ball.  This is the Simon we all fell in love with, and while we dearly loved him straight through to the end, I don't think anyone would argue that he was an echo of his former self.  At the end, his limbs were weak, his hearing was gone, he was thin, and he was having trouble walking around.  This Simon, captured so perfectly in the photo, is the Simon I want to remember.

Simon isn't the first pet I've lost, but he is the first one I've had to make any sort of end of life decisions about.  Growing up, my family pets were typically dumber than your average rock and had a habit of Darwin Awarding themselves out of existence far before we ever had to make a choice for them.  The exception was my parents ancient cocker spaniel, Lady, who was obscenely old and one day just disappeared.  I assume she wandered off somewhere to die on her own.  We never saw her again, at any rate.  Simon is the first one who lived to a point where we had to decide what was going to happen to him.  Two weeks ago, he ate two socks.  Things were looking pretty grim at that point.  He had stopped eating and drinking (probably because socks are a filling delicacy) and once he passed the socks, he was still uninterested in food for a few days so we thought that was going to be it.  Then he rebounded, started eating and drinking again.  Then we noticed his balance was all off, and he couldn't really stand or walk.  Then he started barking all the time, for unknown reasons.  After 4 days of barking and not walking, we had to make a choice that none of us wanted to make.

As heartbreaking as it is to lose a pet, and believe me, it's akin to losing a family member, it's even more heartbreaking to watch your loved ones lose a pet.  Through this process, I've been more resolved than Jason was.  I knew it was time, and I knew we couldn't keep taking care of him much longer if things continued to get worse.  As it was, we were already diapering him multiple times a day, carrying him up and down stairs, picking him up off the ground when he had to go outside because he couldn't stand anymore, cleaning poo on a daily basis, carrying him across the wood floor because he couldn't keep his balance on it, and a variety of other things.  All I could think was that if he fell and broke a limb, what would we do? How long were we going to be able to continue to look after him and keep him safe and comfortable?  Jason saw it differently.  Jason never gives up on anyone, which is part of what makes me love him so much.  Plus, this is HIS dog.  I wasn't going to push him to make a choice, but offered to take the lead when he felt like it was time.  I knew it was hard enough to say the words to me, let alone to veterinary clinic receptionist.  And at that point, we began the process of saying goodbye.  I held together so that Jason could fall apart if he needed to, and when we got home that afternoon, Simon had been laying in poo for what appeared to be several hours.  Jason scooped him up, took him upstairs and carefully bathed him as I scrubbed the floor.  I went upstairs to find Simon resting on our bathroom counter top, lying on towels, being carefully blow dried.  Jason just kept standing there, brushing and blow drying, and then brushing again, pampering the dog more than we would have dared as of late out of fear of hurting him.  By the time Jason was done, Simon was as clean and as well groomed as he's been in the past year, and I kept having to leave the room to stop myself from crying.  What I saw wasn't just a man giving his dog a bath, it was a good friend saying goodbye to his companion in the most gentle way possible.  By giving him as much dignity as he could before sending him away.  No regrets to be had.  Just a last memory for Simon of his best friend gently giving him a bath and showing him some affection.  Even now, as I'm remembering it, I'm fighting tears.

Jason rode in the back seat with him, Simon resting on a blanket, his head pressed against Jason's leg, looking weary and resigned.  I cried on the way there, quietly, in the driver's seat where no one had to notice, and then I pulled myself together to go in and set things up with the vet.  Once we got in the room, he just laid there.  No fight, no curiosity, no sniffing out other dogs.  He just laid there, almost as if he knew, and was ready.

It was quick, and oddly clinical.  I kept waiting for someone in the office to be empathetic, but it was all....procedural.  Efficient, clean.  A small amount of sympathy at the end from the vet tech, but on the whole it was just sterile.  We all cried on the way home, and the house felt more empty when we came back to it.  Oddly still.  More quiet.  It's still sad, and probably will be for a while.  But I like to think he's happier.  I like to think it's beautiful over there.  I don't know where there is, but I believe it exists, and I hope it's beautiful.