PROVOCATIVE QUESTION: WHAT ABOUT PREDESTINATION? – Marilyn Armstrong

This week’s provocative question is a spinoff of a question that Melanie (Sparks From a Combustible Mind) asked in her last Share Your World post.

That question from Melanie got me thinking about fate and predestination. So here’s this week’s provocative question.

I’m not entirely sure what “predestination” means. By this do you mean a rigid “ending” that you can’t change, no matter what? Because I don’t believe in that.

I think we end up where we are supposed to be. I don’t think it’s a rigid, unchanging finish. I think it is flexible and will change depending on the choices we make. But there’s a likely place we will probably land.

I don’t believe in a frozen, unbending future. More like a conclusion based on our intelligence, status, birthplace, education … and the things to which we are attracted and choose along our path as well as the kind of people to whom we are attracted.

This is how I like to describe it.

Life is like a bus trip, except you don’t know where you are going and you can’t drive the bus. No ticket, no map.

You will meet other travelers on the bus. Some will be your friends and maybe lovers and mates. They enter the bus at various stops and get off where they must. You may not be happy about it.

The bus will sometimes stop and give you the chance to visit and enjoy the scenery, but eventually, you’ll have to get back on the bus.

You still won’t have any idea where the bus is going and you still can’t drive. Sometimes, the road will be very rough and treacherous. Other times, the road will be smooth and the scenery beautiful. When all is smooth and lovely, you may think you’ve got everything under control.

You will never have everything under control. You never know when the bus will take a sudden turn or for that matter, drive off a bridge.

Life will take you where it takes you.

I don’t know what, if anything, God has to do with it. Maybe something. Maybe nothing. I have no idea. But if prayer makes you feel better, I say go for it. Because whatever makes you feel better — especially if it costs nothing — is worth doing.

ARE YOUR VALUES WORTH A SONG AND A MOVIE? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #18


And the question is one that has bothered me in the past and will probably continue to nag at me.


“When you learn about highly regarded artists being accused of inappropriate sexual behavior, especially with minors, can you separate the artists from their art, or would you refuse to listen to, watch, or read the artists’ works?”


NOTE: I expand this to include all varieties of hatred and bigotry.

The easy answer and the one that requires the least amount of effort is that we separate the artist and his/her art. This is simply because it requires \no sacrifice from you. None at all — not even giving up listening to some music or a few movies.

There are more issues involved than whether or not you like the way the guy sings, acts, paints, or writes. There are values you claim as your own at stake.

I can’t — won’t — watch movies with Mel Gibson. Or with massacres of Native Americans. Or including blackface or other racially derogatory material. Garry used to ignore it (which I never understood), but he can’t anymore. At the very least, he fast forwards through those sections … or doesn’t watch the movie.

Many –especially modern — artists have been nasty people. Rapists and pedophiles. Racists. Bigots of the first water.

An awful lot more artists are fine or at least normal people. Everyone in the music business or Hollywood is not a sexual predator, racist, anti-Semite, or pedophile. If you extract the bad ones, there are plenty of movies and music remaining to which you can listen and view without compromising your supposed principles.

At what point do the values you claim to have actually matter enough to make a minor dent in your viewing or listening life? Seriously. You claim to be an honorable person, but rather than giving up listening to one child rapist’s music, you’ll “forgive him” because he’s such a great artist? Is he really that great? Or are your values that cheap?

At some point, if you have a set of values in which you believe, are you prepared to give up anything to live up to those values? You listen to their music and you watch their movies … and they make money from this. You are supporting them while deploring them.

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

Your values don’t mean much if you are unwilling to make any sacrifice — and this is a pretty small sacrifice — for them.

I have come to a point in life where the things I value are more important to me that a song or movie. #metoo isn’t just a saying . You either support it or you don’t. You are either willing to make some kind of actual change in your life — and this is a pretty small one — to support it or you don’t support it.

I don’t think giving up watching a few movies or listening to some songs is such a huge sacrifice. In fact, it’s not much and costs nothing. If I’m not willing to do that, then my values don’t mean anything.

REMEMBERED OR FORGOTTEN? FANDANGO’S PROVOCATIVE QUESTION – Marilyn Armstrong

True or Lost? – Fandango’s Provocative Question #17

From Fandango:

This week’s provocative question came to mind when my son asked me a question. He wanted to know where we lived when I sold my motorcycle, and I couldn’t remember whether it was in New Jersey or Pennsylvania. I tried and tried, but came up empty. I couldn’t even recall the last time I rode it.

So, I decided to ask a question about human memory, which has been shown to be incredibly unreliable. With that in mind, here is this week’s provocative question:


“How do you know which of your memories are genuine and which have been altered over time or even made up?”

I have forgotten a lot of things. Not important things for the most part, but small things that (I assume) were not critical to life and survival. I don’t remember every day of my life in Israel, but I remember the important pieces. When I see movies or documentaries with pictures, often a lost memory comes bubbling to the surface.

Sometimes, I see pictures from New York and remember that at some point, I ate in that restaurant or took pictures under that bridge in Central Park. I have a very visual memory.

1948

I don’t think I have any “false” memories. I either remember or I’ve forgotten it. A forgotten memory can sometimes be brought back by a friend who was there, although it’s not unusual for me to look at them and say “Really? I don’t remember any of that.” And I don’t. There are organizations I belonged to I’ve completely forgotten and there are a couple of years of elementary school I don’t remember.

1952

I remember my friends — the real ones that mattered to me as opposed to acquaintances. I remember my entire family, some better than others, probably because I spent more memorable time with them.

What I’m missing is gone. My remembering isn’t altered, made up, or rose-covered. Just entirely missing.

Where I grew up

I do not know if this is typical or it’s just me.

When I forget something, I really forget it. I forget who was there with me, who I met, what I did. I forget I was ever there at all.

My childhood is very patchy, but that’s likely a form of dissociation. I was an abused kid. We lose the worst parts of that period and, as one shrink put it: “What you remember is bad enough. No need to stir up the stuff you don’t remember. It may come back to you over the years, but if not … I think you should not stir that pot.”

I haven’t stirred that pot. I don’t think I’d find anything I want to know in its mix.

“PROVOCATIVE” QUESTION 16: GOVERNMENT IS JUST ANOTHER MENU

Fandango’s Provocative Question #16

So the question is:


“Should taxpayers have the option to explicitly say what they don’t want their tax dollars spent on?”

I think we settled this during our revolutionary war. We explicitly demanded that only voters can be taxed. We never suggested we have the right to choose what we pay for. We don’t get a menu of selections, check those that suit us and refuse to pay for the rest.

In this benighted world, here’s my neighborhood.

My right-hand neighbor hates cops. He doesn’t want to pay for them.

The guy on the left resents school taxes.  He never had kids. Never wanted them. Doesn’t feel like paying for education no one in his family is going to get.

Down the road, that guy has a big powerful SUV, so he doesn’t care if the roads are plowed or not. If you can’t get through, well, too bad. Why should he pay for your transportation? He’s got his own.

The then there’s the one on the opposite corner. He doesn’t believe in government at all. He doesn’t feel obliged to pay for anything. He’s the creepy guy who wouldn’t turn his hose on if his neighbor’s house was on fire. You want him choosing which taxes to pay? Maybe he’s part of a group and none of them will pay anything at all.

We settled this. Long ago.

Taxes exist in law. We pay them because we are legally required to do so. You don’t have to like anything about the government, governor, Congress, or the school board. Or the cops, the town selectman, or the Mayor.

There are laws and we abide by them.

Government is not lunch where you get to pick whatever you want from any page on the menu. No picking and choosing which parts of the government you support. The closest you can get to that kind of choice is voting for whoever will support the programs you support. That’s what makes a government.

The picking and choosing from different parts of the menu is not a government. It’s lunch.

STUPID, INSECURE, OR DISINTERESTED? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #15

So:

This week’s provocative question is based on a quote by Bertrand Russell, the British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, writer, essayist, social critic, political activist, and Nobel laureate. Whew, that’s a lot of credentials. Anyway, Russell, who died in 1970, suggested that…


“The fundamental cause of the trouble is that, in the modern world, the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubts.”


I’m so old I actually remember Bertrand Russell. I found him occasionally profound, sometimes funny … and other times, wrong.

I suppose my problem is that I don’t like generalizations. Generalizations sound true, but once you scrape off the icing, you discover there’s nothing there. It was all icing.

Twp different red finches

What I know is that there is an avalanche of stupidity and it isn’t one side or the other. There’s a lot of stupid going around. Stupid Trumpidians, stupid Democrats, stupid people who don’t care about any of the stuff that makes us crazy. I think maybe the most stupid people are neither full of doubts or cocksure, but apathetic. They really don’t care. They don’t know what’s going on and they aren’t interested in finding out.

So my answer is that there are far, far too many stupid people. Cocksure ones who are stupid. Doubtful people who are equally stupid. Apathetic people who are the dumbest of all.

Tang dynasty astrological figures

Being smart isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. Many years ago, I realized having a high IQ only meant you got great results on IQ tests. It doesn’t mean anything outside the classroom where you are taking the test except to make everyone tell you that you are “under-achieving.”

I never really understood that.

I was achieving what I wanted to achieve and not bothering with stuff in which I had no interest. It wasn’t under-achieving. I was doing what I wanted to do.

But they never got it. No one but my fellow under-achieving genius friends got it. We used to laugh about our youthful under-achievements.

Woodpecker — but which one?

So I’m not stupid but honestly? I’m not exactly sure what being smart has actually gotten me or how I’ve improved the world. Maybe the stupid ones have it right. Ignore the whole thing and eventually, it will go away.

Maybe stupid is a better choice.

SIZE MATTERS, ESPECIALLY IF YOU’RE GODZILLA – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #13
“Do you believe that size matters? Please explain your response.”

Yes, it does.
No, it doesn’t.

It matters from a health perspective because not being heavy is healthier than carrying too much weight. You also look better in fashionable clothing. If you have arthritis, bad hips, or a damaged back, less is more.

That’s all the difference it makes. Being fat doesn’t make you a slob, disgusting or any of the words people use to describe fat people. No one is fat from simply overeating. You also need the right genetic structure. I have been so thin it was frightening and I have also been very heavy.

I look better in-between. My brain didn’t change when I gained weight or lost it. The last gain was because of all the medication they gave me when I had cancer that knocked my metabolism through the floor. Now I’m losing a little weight again, so maybe it’s “coming up” again. I don’t worry about it anymore.

When this was taken, I weighed 93 pounds. An XXS was too big for me. I wore a size zero and it was loose. It was not an attractive look.

I wear a lot of loose clothing that will fit me whether I’m fat or thin or whatever. Garry proposed to me when I was at my heaviest after which I lost a lot of weight and then gradually gained more, then lost a lot and then a lot more … and then so much that I was hospitalized. At which point, they removed most of my innards because of the ulcers that were eating my stomach and my small intestines.

So I can’t eat much at all because I don’t have a stomach, despite which I’ve put on 25 pounds and it certainly isn’t from overeating. It’s because I have no metabolism.

Big? Little? The difference? My back feels better when I weigh less. Everything else is the same.

ASSISTED SUICIDE: YAY OR NAY – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #11

Do you believe that terminally ill people should be allowed or encouraged to end their lives via physician-assisted suicide? If so, under any circumstances or should there be restrictions? If not, why not?

At last, a question into which I can sink my fangs!

On a personal level, I say yes, yes, and yes again. If I will put one of my dogs out of his or her misery, why should a human suffer the agony of a terminal illness when we wouldn’t do it to our pets? Other countries — I believe Holland is one — allows humans the right to end their lives in peace and dignity, but in this country, we are not. Nor in England, from whom much of our law comes.

Do I think anyone under any conditions should be allowed to end their life? Maybe not. But this is something that the medical community should seriously look at and come to some kind of resolution. Many doctors — privately — will help a dying person, especially one in a vegetative state, to die by simply not treating an illness. But it depends on the individual physician and his or her relationship to religion, faith, or whatever. And some simply won’t do something which might endanger their license.

My son promised to take me behind the shed and blow my head off if I got that bad.  But really, I’d rather be prepared — just in case. I don’t know how many times I’ve signed a paper saying “Please, just let me die!” — but each time I’m in the hospital, they ask me to sign again. For some reason, they can’t seem to remember what I said last time.

You know, before medicine made it possible for the terminally ill to linger on for sometimes years rather than dying quickly, people didn’t linger indefinitely with machines to make them breathe and tubes to provide nourishment. When an illness became that bad, we died. Like we were supposed to.

I’m in favor of that. At least allow us to die when we are ready to die. If nothing else, please — turn off the machinery.