FANDANGO’S PROVOCATIVE QUESTION #27 – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #27

The question this week is exactly the kind of question I do not ever want to answer. It might be a question nobody wants to answer unless they are a medical researcher with skin in the game, so to speak.


“If you could choose one — and only one — particular malady, condition, or disease for which a safe and effective treatment was available, what one condition would you choose to treat and why is that your choice?”


As someone with more maladies than I care to list, some likely to kill me, others just likely to be a serious pain in my back, exactly how would I pick?

I have absolutely no idea what I should pick. Cancer? It has managed to kill about three-quarters of my closest family. Heart disease took the rest — and I’ve already had both, big time. Or maybe I should vote for arthritis? Unlikely to kill me, but very likely to make living increasingly unpleasant.

I’m pretty sure they are doing significant research on all of these diseases. Cure them? Who knows? But they have come a very long way in treating both cancer and heart disease. Arthritis lags behind, likely for a couple of obvious reasons the first being that almost everyone gets it.

It probably is not preventable unless old age is preventable. Also, it isn’t lethal, which means it doesn’t generate the money for “cures” that more fatal diseases garner.

I’ve got it! Let’s cure aging!

I don’t mind going gray or wrinkly. But let’s dump arthritis, exhaustion, bad hips, worn-out knees, loss of memory, and insomnia. While we are at it, cure dementia and Alzheimer’s. Add a little zip to our steps so we can be old, wise, and energetic. So we can still be who we have always been — right up until that last breath.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

And please, while you are at this curing business, make sure everyone has full access to medical care, no matter what is wrong with them.

PROVOCATIVE QUESTION – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #25

It’s existential question time for some of us, not so existential for the rest of us. Because the question is:

So today’s provocative question is all about the before and after:

“Where do you believe you were you before you were born and what do you believe will happen to you after you die?”

For me, it’s pretty simple. Before I existed, before I was born, I wasn’t anything. After I die, I’ll be gone. Dust to dust.

What will happen? Damned if I know. Maybe something, probably nothing. Will “my soul” become a new soul in a new body? Karma? Oh please, be kind. This life has been rough enough and I have no urge to do anything like this again.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – As close to heaven as I can imagine.

So the answer is “maybe, or maybe not.” I don’t know. Because there are a million theories around. Some of them are charming, some not so charming — but none of them can be proved. If there is a God, he hasn’t dropped by to discuss the matter with any of his billions of adherents and definitely not with me.

Regardless of dogma, if he or one of the many adherents have conversed with any of us, none of them have dropped by to reopen the conversation. It’s the same mystery it always was.

If there is some kind of heaven, I’d like to assume that all good people will be there, regardless of what (or nothing) that they believed before their passing. If there’s nothing afterward? Then we will all go into that great nothingness. Finally, at long last, there will be full equality for everyone.

Heaven is what you make of it.

I personally would love to believe in a beautiful afterlife, so I leave open the option that there may be one, even if I don’t know anything about it. For the hedge-bettors amongst us, you can always be religious now and if it works out to be true, you’re a winner. If it doesn’t, you’re no worse off than you’d have been anyway. Some would consider that a win-win.

As for me, I will just live as I have lived, deal with life as it comes, hope that whatever happens after we die is at least peaceful — and finally, there won’t be any more bills to pay.

#FPQ

FEAR OF FAILURE OR FEAR OF SUCCESS? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #24

I think at one time or another, I’ve been equally afraid of both. I was afraid to learn Hebrew, at least in part because I was afraid if I succeeded, I would lose my English. That was not such an unrealistic fear, either. I knew a lot of former English-speakers who spoke very poor English because they spoke almost exclusively Hebrew.

It turned out there was no danger of that because my Hebrew was abysmal and I don’t think it would have improved. The problem wasn’t the sounds. It was the grammar and oddly enough, the simplicity. There are only three tenses in Hebrew: present, past, future. So you can get to a complicated concept like: “If I had come here when I was 17, I would have been here for 27 years by now.”

You can’t say that in Hebrew. You can say something like it, but you can’t translate from English to Hebrew. In fact, you never really learn a language until you stop translating and start thinking in that language — and I never was able to do that. Fear of success or failure?

Sometimes, it’s not really clear what you fear. Maybe both?

I was not afraid of being a boss, but I really hated it and having done it briefly, never wanted to do anything like that again. It turns out, I need my hands ON the keyboard rather than telling other writers what to do. I had to restrain myself from making them get up and taking over the project. Not a boss. That’s not a fear. It was painfully learned self-knowledge.

If I knew I would be able to sell a book, really sell it, I’d make a stab at writing one. But since I seriously flunked marketing, I’ve never wanted to do it again. The publishing industry is pretty weird these days. I don’t feel like writing just to see my byline on the cover. If it isn’t going to make money, I don’t want to do it.

So really, I’m not sure exactly where I fit into this question. There are things I don’t want to do, things I know I can’t do or at least, can’t do well enough to bother. I never refused a job if it was something I could do and I’m not afraid of failure because I have failed often enough to recognize that success and failure are just bumps and dips in the same road. Everyone experiences both at one time or another.

Sometimes, when you look back, it’s hard to know which was which. Some of those failures turn out to be the reason you eventually succeeded.

ARE WE READY FOR A GAY PRESIDENT? – Marilyn Armstrong

From Fandango:

“For those of you who may not follow American politics, let me introduce to you Pete Buttigieg. “Mayor Pete,” as he is known, is seeking the Democratic nomination to run for President of the United States. He is a graduate of Harvard University, a Rhodes Scholar, a Navy veteran who served in Afghanistan. He is currently the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana. And as a bonus — he’s white and Christian. The perfect candidate, right?

He’s ranking third or fourth (out of 20) in the early political polls and is getting a lot of attention and positive press.

He’s also gay and married to his husband, Chasten. Wait! What?”

So here is the question:


“Do you think America is ready for an openly gay person to be elected to the office of President of the United States? Explain your opinion.”


I first would like to point out that “gay” used to mean happy and carefree … and America is 100% ready for that! I can’t think of anything we need more than a spirit of joy and freedom.

As for the more modern meaning of “gay,” my answer is a solid “I don’t know.”

I would, given the negative ionization of the air over America for the past two and something years, would be inclined to say no. Except that I would also have been sure we would not have a black president — twice — and we could never have such a current lowlife elected to the presidency, either.

Each was impossible and both were elected.

Pete Buttigieg – Photo: ABC News

So I don’t know. Our political pendulum swings wildly from side to side, kind of “The Pit and the Pendulum” of American politics. It isn’t unusual for us to go from very liberal to very conservative presidents and we’ve done it any number of times. Can we do it this time?

I really don’t know. There’s a lot of “playing out” of our political spider web still to be done. It’s not impossible and it also isn’t likely. Which is to say it’s neither probable nor outlandish.

I would hope the qualities of the man will be the point on which judgments are made, not to whom he is married. Hey, at least he is married and not a serial philanderer. Or a sociopathic liar. Or a self-promoting moron.

But who knows? Maybe America is not ready for a sane president yet. Maybe we need to roll around in the sty with the pigs for another term of office before we get our fill of this particular nightmare.

And maybe the world will never be the way it was after this presidency. There are too many questions without answers, so, in my opinion, it is also too early to gauge for whom we might vote.

We have miles to go in that snowy woods. What I do know is that the Democrats have yet to even make it clear for what they stand. Until they get their heads wrapped around their position, you can’t know where the voters stand.

NATURE VS. NURTURE – DOES HARDSHIP MAKE YOU STRONGER? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #20

Kelly Clarkson song leverages something originally attributed to Friedrich Nietzsche, who said, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” That quote is attributed to the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche.

Anyway, the song got Fandango thinking about the validity of Nietzsche’s notion, so here is this week’s provocative question:

I have always hated being told: “That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

The people who spout it are usually people who have never experienced anything harder than a long walk with a foot blister. I particularly resent people who add “God” to the expression because if there’s one thing that could give me a strong anti-God point of view, the idea that he does this sort of thing as a kind of  “video game with us as the playing figures” is disgusting.

Does hardship make you stronger? Tougher? Or merely meaner? Does it make you more able to deal with the rough parts of your journey from birth to burial — or does it just turn you mean, angry, and depressive?

Depending on the person, his DNA, and natural “state,” perhaps it does all of the above in varying degrees. Certainly coddling children and making sure they never have to cope with the bumps and dings of “real” life won’t make them stronger.

I think it’s healthy to allow children to deal with reality as they mature because sooner or later, you won’t be there to fend off “the bad stuff.” So letting kids handle at least some of the difficult aspects of life helps them grow up and more importantly, helps them understand what it means to not be protected from everything. It’s always difficult to know when to let it go, let a child stand up for him or herself — or to take a hand in the matter. I suspect one ought to at least consult the kid about it. Some of them have strong feelings on the subject.

But that’s talking about intelligent, involved parents who are not desperately poor, lurking on the edge (or middle) of criminality, abuse, or worse.

So let’s roll this back a bit:
“Do abused children grow stronger?”

My answer? Sometimes, but let’s not count on it. Many abused kids grow up to be abusive parents and criminals. Others become psychiatrists, physicians, lawyers, police officers, or other caretakers. Or writers, artists, and teachers.

We make choices. We live by the choices we make.

The argument over “nature vs. nurture” in child development has been going on as long as I’ve been alive and has probably been going on since anyone had a family and could argue about it.

I used to be all about nurture, but watching children grow — the three in my terribly dysfunctional family, my son in mine, and his daughter in his … I’m inclining more towards a 60-40 nature-nurture split. Before Owen was a week old, he could push himself up on his arms and look around the room. I remember the doctor saying “Oh, this one is going to run you ragged!”

He didn’t run me ragged. He ran himself ragged. These days, kids with that kind of energy are instantly put on drugs because teachers want placid students. They don’t want energetic boys who need activity, not all day stuck behind a desk.

Does being DRUGGED from first grade make you stronger? I think it turns you into a druggie always looking for a better pill to solve your problems. Not to diminish the role Big Pharma has in the current mess, parents who allow themselves to be bullied into drugging their kids from first grade on shouldn’t be surprised if their kid grows up still looking for the right drug to fix everything.

There’s more than one person at whom we can point our fingers.

2010

I grew up in a family of three children with a child-molesting, abusive father — and a mother who simply could not believe things were as bad as they seemed. My brother built a life, but I don’t think he ever stopped being angry. His childhood had been torn away and the pain never left. But he managed to have a marriage that lasted from when he was 20 until he died.

My sister got mired in drugs and vanished into a world of chaos and I don’t even know what else. I haven’t seen her for years and no longer know if she is alive. I’m assuming if she had died, someone would have called me. The last time she was hospitalized, they found me, so I’m sure they’ll find me again if they need to.

2012

And then there’s me. I was probably the tough one. After growing up with my father, I was never afraid of anyone. I was probably just a little bit hostile in my earlier years, mellowing out somewhat as time has marched on. There are still a lot of areas regarding men and especially ANGRY men that push all of my buttons at the same time and I have a temper that I’ve spent a lifetime holding in check.

I worked hard and I don’t think anyone ever referred to me as “easy-going.” Did childhood make me tough? Or would I have been tough anyway?

I was always determined to do my own thing. Unlike many of my peers, parental pressure — really, any kind of bullying — has had little effect on me. On the other hand, coaxing, suggestions, and a fine editor have done wonders. I listen when people have good ideas. I’m always ready to try things a new way.

I think I was born this way.

I think if my mother had tried coddling me I’d have been out the door and miles away before she could call me home. I was also extremely responsible at a very early age. I recognized danger, didn’t do things that would get me killed or hurt anyone. I could (did) babysit for my sister when I was six and no one thought that odd because my brother was older, but I was more responsible.

So this is one of those “maybe yes and maybe not” answers. Nature — DNA and the way our particular helix is designed has more to do with how we turn out than parenting. But other things — manners, taste, and interests — come from our environment. Kids brought up with books read books. Kids whose mothers drag them to art museums learn to love art.

Energy, determination, will-power, and talent are gifts. What we do with them are 50-50 culture and DNA.

Now, let the arguments begin!

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.