Saturday, September 5, 2015


I suppose the random reader of my essays might have difficulty imagining that I spent twenty-plus years delivering direct nursing care to patients in hospitals, homes and hospice. The same reader may also find it hard to comprehend that I have spent twenty years living with life-threatening disease, which has been both critical and chronic, given the year. That reader might have expected that I am more like Donald Trump than Mother Theresa. And that reader may be correct in some ways, but horribly wrong in others. 

Age, life experience, professional experience and ongoing education have made me who I am. And I try daily to be who I am, as honestly with myself as I try to be with others. This takes conscious effort in a world that prefers nicety and hypocrisy over truth, as evidenced in social media, like Twitter and Facebook. I had an exceptional pair of role models, my parents. 

My father, a painfully moralistic police officer, fought bipolar illness through exhaustive daily hyperactivity, but somehow managed to be a decent guy to most people under most circumstances. He was candid and kind in a practiced way, unless his moral sensibilities, more 19th than 20th century, were crossed. My mother, the daughter of an illiterate peasant mother from abroad, had to fight for survival from childhood. Yet she educated herself throughout her life and had a natural brilliance at perceiving and exposing hypocrisy or dishonesty. 

I carried these models into my work, first as a secondary-school teacher and then as a nurse. Despite being emotionally and psychologically rejected by my parents for being homosexual, I appreciated their contribution to my perception of the world. I was never a wide-eyed rube. I observed, learned, applied and learned more from my mistakes in the application of what I thought I knew. My formal education in science and humanities was also in use. I never submitted to conformist notions of what I could see for myself. 

Observing and trying to understand process was something I took to naturally. I could never understand how some people could wake up and drift through their lives without look at the process of their lives. This served me well in my ten years as a psychiatric nurse. My contribution to the lives of my patients in individual and group interactions was often simply pointing out my perception of the process of their experiences: Setting out from point A to point B to point C and the choices/repercussions/coincidences which shaped their current state at point D. This is powerful stuff for someone to take in when he/she feels like he/she is drowning in circumstances beyond control. 

Sentiment is a treacherous sea. Crisis is the reef upon which the sentimentalist crashes and often sinks. Understanding process is the life raft which can keep a person from drowning. 

When I listen to or read about world events in various media, I realize that the current state of journalism is very sentimental. I speculate this has to do with the resurgence of religion over the past decades here in the U.S. and abroad. I also speculate that journalists, being human, are no more prone than anyone else to look past their denial that the human species is in an ecological death spiral. And, in these capitalist times, sentimentalism sells. Crisis gets eyes on the page and screen. Solutions and the process of finding them are rather boring stuff to the masses with limited education in scientific process and even less patience. 

Studying process honestly as an individual or within a professional capacity when addressing social problems is a key to successful outcomes. The sad lack of it is obvious when looking at the current state of governments worldwide. Immersion in the sentimentality of crises pays off too well. It secures posts and allows for cash flows which can be siphoned into off-shore accounts. Neither G.O. nor N.G.O. executives are innocent of exploiting human pain and suffering for some form of personal gain. 

Crushing war and crime by global disarmament may never happen. Even the star ships in science fiction utopias carry vaporizing weapons. Ending overpopulation and environmental degradation through improved education and health care may never happen. Science fiction has humans rushing to find new planets to repeat the cycle which doesn't work here and now. Human beings may never evolve to being ruled by applied understanding over blind sentimentality. So many human beings still cling to ignorance and superstition like addicts. 

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