My Autistic (And Diabetic) Brain

hedgehogPART I — THE NEWS

So it turns out I’m now officially diabetic.  It’s been a long time coming — I’ve been hovering at almost diabetic for over 7 years.  Lately, though — since this latest 2-month long round of serious TMJ issues with my jaw, I’ve been living on soft things and liquids and things I could put in the blender.  Lots of juice, smoothies, rice, pasta, mashed potatoes/sweet potatoes, sodas, milk, cottage cheese, pudding, scrambled eggs, milkshakes, custard, overcooked veggies, and soup….  All my meal choices were determined by how much it hurt to eat.

My jaw still isn’t completely healed, but it is better.  As long as I don’t try to chew hard stuff.

The result, though, is that my blood tests showed a final rollover into diabetes.

Because our old doctor retired, I found a new doctor — and she assumed I’d been diagnosed as diabetic before — even though it wasn’t anywhere in my medical records — so she just started talking like I knew what she was talking about.  When she backed up and started explaining to my newbie-ness, it all made sense.  I’d been having some tell-tale signs for most of the summer — extreme thirst, and frequent trips to the bathroom being the most obvious.


But here’s the really wonderful part:  In the 10 minutes it took her to do her “Intro to Blood Sugar” talk, my brain did something that is best described as – “clicking onto a different channel.”

It was fast — and once it happened, everything was different inside my head.  There was no question about how much sugar because sugar was just off the list.  There was no question about anything.  The list of rules and favorites and habits just flipped into a new list.


I went home and bought the Mayo Clinic’s book on diabetes and read it.  I got the latest edition of the American Diabetes Assoc. Comfort Food Cookbook and I read it to see what they were doing.  I’ve got the basics.  More tweaking will help — but even though this is NOT  a “no brainer,”  it’s pretty straight forward.  The goal is to keep my blood glucose / sugar at as close to an even level as possible throughout the day by eating a really varied diet that balances protein, carbs and fats.  Avoid spikes  Avoid eating too much at any given time because it will overload the whole system.  Avoid going too long without eating.

51wbb0eL4ML._AA160_I started keeping track of what I was eating and when with the app “My Fitness Pal” — which shows me a constant breakdown of what I’m eating — sugars, fiber, carbs, protein, sodium, cholesterol, calories, calcium etc.  I can also log in exercise and how much water I’m drinking.  It gives me a report at the end of the day — or averages what I’ve been eating over any number of days — plus a pie chart of macro-nutrients — % of calories from protein/fat/carbs.

Apps are a good thing.  It takes most of the math out of this.  It will even let me enter my own recipes and calculate the nutrition on those — and let me tweak any recipe to make them more balanced.

And so the new channel in place — and hasn’t budged an inch –with no exceptions or slip-ups.  I have an appointment with a diabetic dietician/nutritionist and I’m sure I’ll get more details —

I know — you say a week or two is easy — wait until you’ve been doing this for a 6 months and tell the truth about it.

But here’s the thing…


Almost 10 years ago, I had a killer migraine that lasted almost 3 weeks.  I’d had migraines all my adult life — usually 5-6 days out of every week.  I was taking the most common drugs for them and while it helped a little — it was still a constant thing.  And this 3-week trip to hell was so bad that I was having thoughts about just getting out for good.  I couldn’t see.  I couldn’t think.  I couldn’t sleep.  I threw up most everything I tried to eat.  I hurt at a 9 out of 10 all day and all night.  My doctor finally gave me enough opiates to knock me out and “reset” everything.

51mgy6ESqtL._AA160_I had about a weeks worth of hangover to get back up to human, and so I was home watching TV, just in time to see a doctor from Johns Hopkins plugging his new book: Heal Your Headache.  Sounds like a snake oil title, doesn’t it?  Except he was a headache expert from Johns Hopkins — and he was saying things I’d never heard about migraines and headaches.  So — in my “I’ll try anything to keep this from happening again” – mode, I bought his book.  I did EVERYTHING he said to do.  EVERY last detail.  And it was hard.

I mean, it was REALLY hard.

And tedious.

But after 6 months — I was down to fewer than 2 days a week of headache on average — and the headaches were much less severe.

The book’s last step was to see a neurologist/headache specialist if there were still a few headaches — which I did — and sure enough, those guys have some pharmaceutical tricks up their sleeves!  He gave me 3 prescriptions to use for the hangers-on-headaches, depending on whether they were environmentally caused, hormone based, or stress induced.

And — for 10+ years — headaches are a “maybe 1 per month” problem.  And I’ve never had another of those killer headaches.  I read every food label.  I talk to restaurants about what’s on their menu.  I adjusted recipes.

Yes, it meant giving up any foods that contained the ingredients that were poisonous to me.  Out of the book’s list of over 100 potentially migraine-causing foods/additives, my personal list was only about 2 dozen.  And I just don’t eat ANYTHING on that list.

Ever.  No matter how much I used to love it — no matter how convenient — and no matter how good it tastes.

IT’S NOT WORTH THE PAIN and it’s certainly not worth dying over.

The take-away here is — switching channels isn’t easy, but I’ve done it before.

I’ve got proof.

I am amazed by how this all works — but the click in my head at the doctor’s office was the same click I had with the migraines.  It’s a new channel.  Everything is viewed through a different lens.  Everything switched over.  POP!



On the third night after I found out about the diabetes, and after I’d already read the Mayo Clinic book, I had a dream.  It was one of those serial dreams that is actually little episodic variations on a theme, with players and settings that carry over from one sleep cycle to the next.

The dream began watching a female cardinal building a nest, high in the upper branches of a very large tree.  She would swoop down and gather as much material as she could carry from the ground nearby — then she found the abandoned nest of some other bird family, and started trying to pull bits and pieces of that old nest apart for re-use.

But it was hard to pull apart.  So a little otter gambled over to where she was trying to pull at the nest, and I couldn’t see clearly what the otter did, but it had a pair of scissors and was somehow using them to cut bits of nest off so the cardinal could carry them.

My observing mind thought — “wow! Look at that!  an otter using tools — to help another animal!”

But when the otter turned to face me, it wasn’t holding the scissors in its little paws — they had been imbedded in the otter’s muzzle.  Like an industrial accident in the woods had left the otter with a horrible injury, and as the little otter grew up, it’s face just healed around the scissors so that when it opened and closed its mouth, the scissors worked and could cut things.

na-river-otter_641_600x450It wasn’t bloody or messy — though it was pretty shocking and scarey to look at.  And the otter had evidently found ways to work around it and survive.

I followed the otter and it made its way back to the edge of a stream where it had come from.  A stream and a field of some kind of garden veggies.  And the otter was playing and rolling in the water, mud and grasses with a little baby hedgehog.  The hedgehog was working like crazy (between playing) to find something to gather a little house of leaves and twigs, and moss — and  to eat — and the otter was helping.

KitchenShearsSilverWhen a fox tried to run through the grasses and brush to grab the little hedgehog, the otter fought it and jabbed at it with its scissors until the fox ran away — then the otter went right back to playing and tumbling about in the water.

But being the nosy and meddling do-gooder that I am, I very carefully scooped up the otter and took it to the vet to see if they could do anything to help it.

Exit otter.

When I got back to the field and stream, the hedgehog had been joined by a friend hedgehog and they were playing, rolling about, and trying to find food.

But there was the fox, lurking in the tall grass.

The fox leaped out and grabbed the hedgehog’s friend, and it screamed and squealed — and then was gone.  The first little hedgehog was hurt, and cried after its friend, but it was all over.  It burrowed down into the pile of leaves and twigs it had gathered, and I could hear it snuffling.  And there was nobody there to protect the hedgehog, or play, or hunt for food any more because I’d successfully taken away the otter.

And the fox was coming back.  I could see him.  I had to save the hedgehog.  I could take it home.  I could nurse it until it was better.  I could protect it.  I could get a big box or crate for it to live in and fill it with straw and leaves and stuff.

The fox leaped at the hedgehog and I reached out to scoop it up at the same time.  The fox almost had it — but missed the mark when it dove into the leafy house, and flung the hedgehog and the pile of mulchy stuff up into the air and the little hedgehog flew into my shoulder and I caught it.

And I woke up!

With a question:

What do hedgehogs eat?


There aren’t many things I know for sure, but one thing I know is that the unconscious mind speaks fluent metaphor.

71665_323824457730716_1893322241_nAnd when our minds are working out problems, some of the working-out spills into our dreams.  That is, at least in part, what dreams and sleep are all about.  We’ve got a helluva big computer running night and day to keep life in manageable chunks that we can handle, and dreams are part of the infinite Improbability Drive that keeps us sane, healthy, and stable.

So in this dream, I have some very sweet animals.  A female cardinal building a home.  A little hedgehog building a home.  A seriously wounded and deformed — but very content and well-adjusted otter helping out wherever it can — and able to defend against a pretty vicious enemy.

And as far as I can tell, all of these are metaphorically parts of ME.  The  cardinal part of me needed the help of the wounded and deformed otter part of me.  The playful and happy baby hedgehog part of me needed the otter, too.  And somewhere in me there’s a cunning fox that just plays its part — albeit the food chain part of my life.  And then there’s the meddling and well-intentioned Lynn that will try to clean up the mess she made by interfering with nature.

So — if the cardinal is my female/mother  part that raised a son…

And, if the grossly wounded but happy otter is the autistic, dyslexic, asthmatic survivor part…

And the vet part (or the exterior vet) is doing everything that can be done to help the otter (and probably the baby hedgehog, too) including quite possibly just leaving it alone….

And, if the baby hedgehog is the newly born diabetic part, just beginning to learn its way around — and figuring out what’s what….


What do you feed a hedgehog?

What do you feed a hedgehog?

That is the question, after all.

As it turns out — I did some reading about hedgehogs, and they eat just about anything.  They are omnivores.  Bugs.  carrion.  plants.  fruits and veg.  grains.  Even smaller animals.  Everything, anything — they have one of the most varied diets of all the smaller mammals.

Which, as it turns out — is pretty close to what I read in the Mayo Clinic book about diabetes.  Eat a really varied diet that balances grains, proteins, fats, veg, and fruit!

And best of all, hedgehogs have a noteworthy self-defense mechanism that doesn’t include scissors.

8708It’s a little disturbing that some part of me has scissors where my mouth should be (I’ve been accused of that several times in my life)  — but if that’s the part of me that’s the most compassionate and helpful and playful — well….  I guess it’s an old wound.  And I evidently only get scary when it’s necessary.  So — maybe I’ll just back up slowly and leave that part alone.  I’ve taken it to the vet — metaphorically speaking, I’d guess that’s all that time I spent with Dan Mitchell in therapy, and these 14 years I’ve been married to Jim — and it’s much better than it was in my youth.


I’ve only known a handful of people with diabetes.  Most of them ran a constant awareness of what they were eating and just fit that into their lives and went about their business.

But a 15 years ago, a man I worked with was diagnosed as diabetic and he became depressed and possibly suicidal.  In most ways he was a strong, decisive, and smart guy — but the level of “woe is me” and “I’d rather just die than live like this…” was so high, we really all thought he was going to kill himself over a piece of pecan pie.  And it lasted for months.  Years, even.

Similarly, my mother (who had a sweet tooth so extreme it bordered on fetishism) was diagnosed diabetic when she was in her sixties.  I don’t know exactly when in her sixties because she never told us.  She kept it a secret.  She stopped going to her doctor because she didn’t want to hear what he had to say.  She bought cakes and candy and pies and all kinds of things and hid them — and would sit and eat 3, 4, 5 servings or more late at night in the dark.  She made chocolate cakes with more icing than cake.  She wouldn’t take medication.  She wouldn’t test her blood.  She wanted her icing, her fruitcake, and Godiva chocolates.

And she died a really slow, painful, miserable death.

So I thought maybe I was missing something about diabetes that should make me depressed or angry or afraid.

But that’s not it.  My mother was a spoiled brat with more neuroses than brains.  And the man I worked with was a hedonist and an ass.  And a crybaby.

And I’m not.

So — click.


New rules.

And a deep and heartfelt “thank you” to my autistic brain, for being able to do absolutes like my life depends on it.ppet1_1456179c

Click here to read Post 2 — The Honeymoon Phase  of learning to live with Type-2 Diabetes.




The Placebo Effect? It’s Not All In Your Head

My son posted this link to a video on youtube that reminded me of what I love about the way our minds work:

A placebo is basically a therapeutic hypnotic suggestion in physical form.  As the video said — the better the physical form of the placebo, the greater its effect.  So, the more powerful the suggestion that a little pill of nothing is really a little pill of something — the better it should work.

Hypnotic suggestion is not a difficult thing — there are definite skills involved, and it takes practice; but therapeutic hypnosis is an absolute and learnable skill-set.  I suspect that if the prescribing doctor were skilled at hypnotic suggestion (as opposed to just skilled at acting or lying,) a placebo would work even better.  It would be like getting a double dose, so to speak.

Let me be clear — I’m not talking about swinging watches and stage hypnosis that makes people cluck like chickens or wind their watch whenever the hypnotist says “Elvis.”  I’m talking about the hypnosis that helps children who have seen their parents shot to death both survive the trauma and help identify the shooter.  These are two kinds of hypnosis, practiced by two kinds of people and for two altogether different reasons.  These kinds of hypnosis are related — like sister skill-sets — but they are not identical twins.  Intention is all important.  It’s more like the relationship between ballroom dancing and tap.  They are both forms of dance — and they might occasionally have some crossover points — but they are not the same.

It would be an interesting study to take a control group of freshly ordained medical students who knew nothing about hypnosis — and another group who had been skillfully trained in the techniques of Milton Erickson or other noteworthy therapeutic hypnotists — and give both groups of physicians a month-long schedule of appointments with similar patients whose complaints might benefit equally from placebos and the placebo effect — and see which group of physicians was most successful.

Of course, it would mean that the physicians would all have to be non-skeptics about the benefits of placebos, and that the group trained in hypnosis would need to be non-skeptics about the benefits of therapeutic hypnotic suggestions.  Why?  Because measuring the comparative effects of placebos/hypnotic suggestions when the physicians believe vs when the physicians do not believe is another question, and should be studied separately.  To make this comparison legitimate,  all the physicians would have to be equally convinced and therefore equally congruent about their prescriptions.

If you seriously think a patient can’t tell when the doctor doesn’t believe what s/he is prescribing will work — you need to rethink your preconceptions about the doctor/patient relationship.  Some people will believe anything their physician tells them — just because of the social assumptions of authority and education.  Likewise, some people will challenge anything their physician tells them — just because of the social assumptions about bureaucracy and human error.

There’s a lot of difference between “Here — try this.  It’s worked for all my patients with this condition…’ and “Here — try this.  It doesn’t do much, but maybe it will help a little….”

A good actor or liar might be able to get a positive placebo effect — but what we want to know is if a doctor who knows the potential of placebos and/or therapeutic hypnosis, who gives the placebo along with a subtle and powerful suggestion about its effects can make the effect stronger or better.

It might work to have third and forth groups of new doctors who are absolute skeptics and non-believers in placebos and hypnotic suggestions.  — But that starts to get a little sticky.  The chances of a placebo or a placebo+suggestion working their magic on pain, or insomnia, mild depression, stomach ache, or irritability are in question — and so would involve leaving patients in the lurch of being totally unmedicated (whether by real drugs or sugar pills) and therefore caused actual harm by the study.

If they thought their problem was bad enough to go to a doctor in the first place — we wouldn’t want them to suffer needlessly.  At least I wouldn’t.

That’s a medical study I’d like to see.

There’s so much that doctors know about how the body works — especially when compared to what they knew 50 or 150 years ago.  It has only been in that time period that the idea of germs and a sterile field have been recognized as part of true medical study.  The pool of knowledge expands daily.

It’s only been in this last few decades that the play between the mind and the body has begun to be studied — so assuming our medicine has done anything more than open a crack in the door is arrogance.  The placebo effect has been at work since shamans, witch-doctors, and medicine-men made their appearance in the tribe — we’re just now beginning to figure out the scope and potential of their practice.

The internet doesn’t help — since anyone can go online and read the full data sheet on any medication out there, as well as see a picture and a description of the pill.  This is good in some ways — we can all check to make sure our pharmacist didn’t make one of those human errors we all hear about.  But it also opens up a chasm in what doctors (and medicine-men) can accomplish.

If that gaping hole gets filled by psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors; chiropractors; aroma therapists; fortune tellers and tarot card readers; massage therapists; herbalists; acupuncturists; gurus; wise-men/women; therapeutic hypnotists; story-tellers; dietitians; priests, monks, preachers, mullahs and rabbis; and others who can mix in a little magic with their common sense, experience, and wisdom — so be it.  Faith and belief are not the disease — they’re part of the cure.  Any and all of the categories listed above — and dozens more — are possible tools in the toolbox that potentially makes us healthier, gives us hope, and provides a sense of well-being that is essential to life.  Making the unbearable — bearable is as powerful a medicine as any anti-biotic.

Let me be clear — I want great doctors from great medical schools, with steady hands, creative minds, and deep memories tending to and working on me and my family.  No questions and no doubts about that.  But I also want open-minded doctors who leave room for the truths they don’t yet know, tools they haven’t considered, and evidence they haven’t yet seen.  I don’t want to trade Shamanistic Studies or ancient healing methods for a good solid internship program, but at least a basic knowledge of herbal pharmaceuticals, NLP, basic psychology, massage therapy, and nutritional medicine might be useful.

The human body/human mind/human spirit are all part of a single self-amending system (see nomics on this blog for more discussion about self-amending systems, including the body) — with an interplay that is continuous and holographic, and comprises a complexity we only begin to understand.

If the placebo effect is “all in the mind” — then let’s just bow to the mind and treat it with the respect and care it deserves.  Good medicine treats the whole person with any and all methods available — at least we hope it does.

The Basics of Opening Boxes (Graves L7)

L6 to L7 in physics: Relativity to Quantum Theory

While we may be foolhardy to try talking about many complicated topics in one or two paragraphs, we would not presume to explain General and Special Relativity in such a short space. What is important to know is how Einstein, and then how quantum physics, fits into the emergence of L6, L7 and L8 systems.

Special relativity (1905) predicted that observers moving at constant velocities with respect to each other would find the laws of nature to be operating in their frame of reference. That is, the speed of light would have to appear to be the same to every observer within the same set of conditions. If, however, the conditions are different – one observer holding a clock is stationary, and another with a clock is moving, the moving clock will appear to run slower (this is called time dilation). It also predicts that moving objects will appear shorter and heavier than stationary ones. Consonant with Einstein’s political liberalism, relativity is a sustained metaphor for the L6 viewpoint. Like Kierkegaard, the paradoxes inherent in this metaphor help to prepare for L7, but not enough so that Einstein felt comfortable with quantum mechanics, which he considered much too complicated.

It tells us that observation effects outcome (observing the behavior of subatomic particles effects their behavior; what’s happening when you look is never the same as what’s happening when you’re not looking….) What could be more paradoxical than the notion that “reality” changes depending on whether we’re looking or not? “X is not true – unless you’re looking, in which case X may be true.” The best known metaphor for this is Schrödinger’s Cat. In this little yarn, Schrödinger, one of the fathers of quantum mechanics, has placed a kitten in box with a vial of poison gas which has a trip hammer poised above it. The trip hammer is controlled by a counter on the lid of the box which is counting off quantum events (for the sake of our telling of the story, anything counts as a quantum event, from blinking your eyes or dropping your coffee cup, to a neuron firing off in your brain….)

The counter goes from 0 to 100, but at 50 has a randomizer which will either send it up to 51, or down to 49. From 0 to 50, the hammer doesn’t move, but at 51 (through 100), the hammer falls, the gas is released, and the cat dies. At 50, however, there is an equal and random chance that 49 and 51 will occur next. In the language of science fiction, at 50 the cat has an equal chance of being both dead and alive. In fact, both quantum realities exist. The cat is theoretically both dead and alive.

If you open the box at 50 to discover which, opening the box is a quantum event and will send the counter either up to 51 where the cat is dead, or down to 49 where the cat is alive. The act of opening the box causes all but one of the quantum realities to vanish.

Therefore, observation effects outcome.

Whereas relativity reduced existence to separable perspectives, quantum mechanics intertangles observer and observed, particle and energy, etc. What cannot be sorted out and analyzed transcends the conscious mind. This is the world of L7.

Opening Boxes — Revisited

Let’s go back for just a moment to Schrödinger’s little cat.

Right at the moment the counter rested on fifty, the cat was, for all quantum purposes, a fifty-percent dead cat, and a fifty-percent live cat. The cat was metaphorically and literally both dead and alive.

And right as you opened lid, you effected that cat forever. Whether it’s dead or alive, your act of observing it has forever caused that cat’s present situation — and future — to be certain and immutable. At fifty percent, two “realities” were true and possible at the same time. But opening the box narrowed the possibilities to one.

That’s not quite the way the story goes, but it’s close enough. There’s no determinism in quantum physics — so this is playing fast and loose with the metaphor, so be generous in understanding this use of the story.

The bottom line lesson in physics is that observation effects outcome. What Schrödinger was really talking about had to do with the practicality of observing matter — atoms and particles. By the act of observing it, scientists somehow tint or skew their own research. Heisenberg takes the idea of observation effecting outcome even further to say that when we observe, we cannot possibly record what would have been had we never imposed ourselves into the observation. As we observe, we change what would have otherwise been True. That’s the layman’s version of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principal.

But that’s a very narrow application of the cat story. If we open the box and look inside, then we remove possibilities from the universe. If we intentionally research or participate by looking or describing or intervening — then we also are intentionally affecting outcome. We are affecting reality. The act of opening the box forces the universe to move from many possibilities to a single necessary reality.

If you move across disciplines from physics to psychology, there’s a similar bottom line that says “language effects behavior.” That my language — the words I choose –somehow effects your behavior. If I say “Stop!”, that changes your behavior. If I say, “I love you,” that changes your behavior.

And if I say to myself, “every time the weather gets like this, I get a sinus headache.” This is where we cross over into all that’s being written about mind-body healing. By saying those words, I am affecting my own behavior.

You’ve got a conscious mind — the part that remembers to get milk and change the sheets every so often. And, you’ve got an unconscious mind — the part that remembers to breathe air and change your skin from time to time. In your conscious mind, you keep a constant stream of words running. We decide and debate and sort through information. We evaluate information and make choices. Like deciding that this is the kind of weather that causes bad headaches.

The unconscious is like a little child about four or five years old . It’s loaded with responsibility for operating the machinery, but its motivation and development of strategies runs like a four or five year old. So it’s like the super computer. It can run 385,000 operations per second — at least — and is set to run all kinds of programs when it’s delivered from the factory, but it still requires the operator — the conscious mind or some outside source — to give new instructions and throw the switches.

So when we say, this is the kind of weather that gives bad headaches — this little four or five year old says, “okay. I can do that.” And boom! Sinus headache. And since it remembers so well, it will continue to give us that same “boom” every time the weather makes this shift.

Observation effects outcome. Language effects behavior. My language effects your behavior. My language effects my behavior. Another way to say that my language effects my behavior is
“saying so makes it so.”

By saying what the weather does, I open the box and, boom! I make it so. Or not. But I take it out of the realm of randomness.

Another way of saying my language effects your behavior is
“you don’t have because you don’t ask. ”

If I say, “get out of the street!” — you either will or you won’t. Either way, I’ve effected the outcome. But without asking, I leave possibility at work. If I want to nudge reality in a particular direction, I have to say so. I have to speak up. I have to intentionally participate.

So you’re out in the street. My language has effected your behavior. Maybe you freeze and get hit; maybe you take off running and are saved. Either way — it’s no longer a random event. “You don’t have because you don’t ask” is the back handed way to say it. Frontwards, it’s “ask and it shall be given.” We just crossed over into religion, by the way. Both those lines are from the New Testament. Which makes sense.

What else is prayer but an attempt to effect God’s behavior? We pray in order to effect outcome. We pray so that we are participating and intervening. If you don’t have because you don’t ask is true — if quantum mechanics is true — then opening boxes becomes a very important part of life.

And opening the correct boxes is a very important part of life. There are some things we want to remain in possibility. We want the dice to keep rolling. Maybe pick up even more possibilities before we set reality in place. There are some boxes we leave alone. Maybe even most boxes. Some things we don’t talk about, because the very act of talking — or saying so — could set a process in motion that can’t be undone. There are a lot of areas in my life where I’m not ready to open the box.

There are some things I don’t want to “make so.”

If saying so makes it so, you must speak with care and with thought. Say only what you really want to be true. That may be the most difficult thing. Asking only for what you want and giving voice to only those things you want to be is a tall order for most of us who spend hours bemoaning our sad situation, or dwelling on the “maybe”, the “might” and the “what if.” Refusing to open boxes before their time; refusing to open boxes which are rightfully someone else’s business; refusing to listen as others throw open boxes which are not their own — these are lessons which go counter to the average, everyday life. We want to be nosy and look into other peoples’ boxes. Our curiosity is almost as powerful as hunger and thirst.

However, that is exactly what has to be. Maybe it is this metaphor of opening boxes which explains just what it is about gossip that we all find both compelling and repulsive. What better describes the act of gossiping than to compare it to opening boxes. Based on limited and questionable information, we speculate, draw conclusions, and then share our secret suspicions and deductions with others under the cloak of confidentiality.

In other words, we recklessly open boxes without any consideration for whether the cat lives or dies — and in many cases, we anticipate the announcement that the cat is indeed dead, so we can fold our arms and shake our heads with a mournful “I told you so.”

Take the example of the gossip who spreads the story that Joe and Mary are headed for divorce. Joe and Mary may be having trouble — or they may be having no trouble at all in their marriage — but if Joe or Mary hears from Martha who heard from Mike who heard from John who heard from Betty … that there are problems, they may begin to see trouble at every turn. Fear begets fear and anxiety, which begets anger and hurt, which begets more fear and anxiety and so it goes. Before long, what might have been a non-problem or a simple disagreement suddenly shows up in stress and tension in an otherwise safe partnership. And if you’re going to be executed for a crime, there comes the temptation to go ahead and commit it just to keep the accountant’s ledger honest.

Saying so makes it so. Language effects behavior. Observation effects outcome.

We are responsible for our words and our actions. They are not accidental or without intent. — and if they are with intent, the intention should be to help. “First, do no harm” isn’t good enough. We must intentionally do good. We open only those boxes which are our business to open, and we only open them when it is time to eliminate possibility and choose one course of action.
Box Opening at L8-Turquoise
We take it as true that observation effects outcome.

And that intentionally opening a box equals observation.

If someone at L2 opens a box, the effect will ripple out across the L2-tribe and that’s about it. But if L3 opens a box, it not only effects the L3 world, it drips down and effects any L2’s in the neighborhood — usually the L2’s who are living in the L3’s domain.

If an L4 opens a box, makes a new law or enforces a new policy — it’s going to follow gravity and change things for everybody all the way down. But beyond that, because the L3’s and L4’s have the future in their temporal construct, opening a box in the present will potentially effect the future as well.

But it isn’t just a matter of effecting the present and the future. Every time we move up a level of complexity, the box itself becomes more complex. — As though it had connecting wires attached. When the box lid opens and you observe the contents, other boxes open automatically because they are connected. — So opening an L4 box automatically opens a series of L3 and L2 boxes. And while L2 and L3 boxes only play out in the present, L4 boxes begin to have long term effects on the future. This is what complexity means in this context. By the time you get up to L7, what might otherwise appear to be a simple box is so dramatically linked to other aspects of existence that opening it sets the quantum tumblers in motion altering the entire pattern. And knowing what we now know about the temporal nature of each level, the complexity attached to an L7 box implies that the ripple will not only effect present and future, but it will effect the present and future of multiple timelines.

What we’ve said earlier is, “don’t go about opening boxes that aren’t yours to open.” The whole concept of people taking responsibility for their own lives depends on their willingness and freedom to open their own boxes.

Except that the pattern — the structure of the complexity — is precisely what L7’s do best. They are able to see in advance where many of the tendrils of connectivity are located. They know before the box is opened how pervasive the ripple will be. They may not have the exact results in detail, but the scope and reach are there.

And so, at L8, part of the defining task is to deliberately open boxes. It is absolutely right that L4’s shouldn’t go around opening other people’s L4 boxes because they have no way of knowing how they will ultimately effect the life or death of the little cat. But L8s, by virtue of knowing the outcome of opening or not opening a given box, have the responsibility of opening those boxes that need to be opened, and doing everything in their power to keep the others sealed. It’s like being given the keys to a car.

Once you’ve got the keys and know how to drive, if you see someone lying hurt beside the road and you choose not to pick them up and take them to the hospital, then you carry some of the blame if the person dies. The L8’s get the keys to the car — and they get the responsibility for using them.

The result is that while there is a necessity to not open boxes at some levels, there is an absolute necessity — obligation, to open them at L8.

And that’s a very different approach.

And if someone else — say, someone who knows about L7 and L8 but doesn’t accept the responsibility and authority — or maybe just doesn’t realize the responsibility and authority — I suppose this would be the definition of an unhealthy L8 — takes it upon themselves to throw open an L7 or L8 box and make some grand prediction about the future of the world or the destiny of some society or culture — and they publish that prediction. . . Whether they publish it in print or through some other medium like television or out on the internet, or even if they just throw the idea out into the stratosphere where any fool can get at it — if the idea gets out there and it collects followers and adherents, then the idea begins to materialize. Saying so makes it so—

— Agreement describes it. If you work toward a common goal — if you have agreement with other L8’s — it has a cumulative effect. If you do it from the same physical location, at the same time, it has an even greater effect. “Agreement” between L8’s is a demonstration of the “whole being the greater than the sum of the parts.”

There is necessity, obligation, and responsibility to this. If someone without the responsibility firmly in hand opens an L7 or L8 box — even if they open it alone but it still publishes out into the ether or out into print — and others read it or know it — it infects them like a virus. Once the thought is out there it takes on a virus-like life of its own. It spreads through the whole.

This is what is commonly called memetics . Memes. This popular “science” of memetics is nothing more than another metaphor describing the same phenomenon as the metaphor of opening boxes.

This is just another way of saying, “Saying so makes it so,” and “you don’t have because you don’t ask.”

Once the box is opened, the meme — the virus — is just lying dormant waiting to infect the next receptive organism that happens by. And once infection has occurred, it forms a kind of agreement. Instead of one copy of the offending meme, there are now two. Or three. Or three hundred.

All that cumulative agreement. No intention involved. No conscious consent to being infected with this randomly activated virus. And like AIDs or Ebola, it can change the world before anyone even recognizes that it exists.

To some extent this can happen without consent. Imagine if I have a dream that someone is trying to kill you, and I tell you about it. Whether you believe that dreams are predictive or not — whether you act on my idea or not — I’ve put that idea in your mind and you will watch for proof that it isn’t true. You’ll notice small, otherwise insignificant events and begin to attach significance to them. My observation — true or not — has effected your outcome. Your world is substantially different — and not because someone is in fact trying to kill you, but because I planted that idea and it has taken hold and grown. Now imagine that I told three other people who are friends to both of us and they all have the same reaction. And they share the idea and their reactions with each other — and you. The power measurement on that one idea is now much greater regardless of the truth or untruth of its original incarnation. Before long, you’re looking over your shoulder, avoiding alleyways, staying home after dark, and refusing to walk to your car alone. Your nervousness draws attention. You’re conspicuous. You walk and talk like someone who has a reason to be afraid. And nothing draws danger like someone running on fear. What’s more, all that fear is likely to damage your immune system and make your health vulnerable. Long enough, and the person trying to kill you might just be your own body. Add into that how differently your friends are now acting toward you, how your family has changed, how it’s effecting your job, and how you’ve changed the way you think about your future, and suddenly that one small observation has had a far reaching and disturbing effect.

It won’t always infect the outcome to such great lengths — and then, sometimes it will — without permission or intent on the part of the infected one. Intention comes when we deliberately intend to counter or agree with the observation. Passivity is like an open wound — where every virus or bacteria that floats through the air is potentially able to change the body forever.

And so the real point is not “nobody open any boxes”, or “only L8’s open boxes,” but “only open a box you understand and are willing to take full responsibility for opening.”

And that’s about the scariest thing I’ve ever said. Actually, the scariest thing I’ve ever said is the next piece.
The Presupposition Behind Opening Boxes at L8
For the sake of argument, let’s say that it’s true that this harmonic scale has six tones. That L1 is in some ways parallel to L7, and that L2 is in some ways parallel to L8. In what way is this true? L1 is figuring out the pieces of the physical world so that you can navigate and survive there, right? And L2 takes that learning and uses it for this tribal group of people. But the defining characteristic of the tribe is not just that they share the same campfire and share in the work. The thing we keep saying about them is their connection to their ancestors, to ritual, ceremony, — this is where God lives. Whatever kind of god they follow or worship with their ceremonies and rites and prayers and offerings — there is no way to do L2 without that. We’ve been going over and over this, and can’t find a tribal society without some kind of assumption of deity. — That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s impossible. We don’t have records of too many L2 societies. But all the evidence I’ve got (and everyone I know who has studied this model in depth) in front of me says that the presupposition of deity is part of the basic structure of L2. Lets just suppose that to be true for a moment.

Now, with that as the basic presupposition — tribal structure and the recognition of deity — look at L8. We’ve already got a conclusion that L8 has responsibility. Well responsibility, as a concept, implies responsibility and therefore accountability. If we are responsible, then we must be accountable or else responsibility is no motivator. And if we are accountable, we must be accountable to someone or something that has intention.

And the someone or something with intention has got to be bigger than me, or else accountability has no consequences. So if there is responsibility, accountability, and consequences to someone or something bigger and more powerful than me which has intent and personality, then L8 demands the presupposition of deity, just like L2.

If you try to do L2 without that presupposition, then what are the rituals, ceremony, magic, and prayers connected to? Even if the deity is nature, the sky-god, the god of fertility or harvest, — pantheism, monotheism, animism — it doesn’t matter. It’s the presupposition that is the glue of it. That presupposition is what gives the tribe its identity and stability. It’s where they exist. And to try and do L8 without that presupposition — regardless of how you have shuddered at the thought of something more powerful than you at L5, or L6 — regardless of the gods you abandoned at any of the previous levels — without that presupposition, there is no tribe, and no survival.

If you delete consequences; if you delete accountability; if you delete responsibility — then opening boxes becomes trivial. A game. An option.. Using what you acquired at L7 becomes optional. And if using what you acquired at L7 for the good of others is optional, then you’re still at L7. Indeed, not even very far into L7, because when the Self begins to emerge you become aware that highly complex systems behave as if they were alive. The Gaia hypothesis is a rather crude attempt to prove this in terms of the earth, but if the whole universe is interconnected, one would expect its system to be vital—not in a primitive way but in one reflective of its complexity.

Can’t the tribe hold you accountable?

Why would they, if they’re not accountable to anyone either?

Think about how we all hold Bill Gates responsible for how he uses his money. He’s already changed the world by leading it into the information age — At least he’s the public figure we attach to that change. As a result, he’s got billions of our dollars of which he has become custodian. He earned it. We gave it to him gladly, but now we hold him responsible to use it well and use it wisely. — And we all get a little defensive and even angry when we realized how little he was giving back. So in a way, we hold him accountable — we, the society, and he seems to have responded to this in the last few years with massive philanthropies, but without much personal involvement—without becoming L6 himself.

The only motivation for opening these big, scary boxes at L8, is either because there’s some kind of a power rush — which is totally uncharacteristic of the even levels — or because there is even greater accountability than Gates finally accepted. It has to be impossible to live any other way, or we’d just opt down and live a more simple, easier, less complicated existence.

And I think that this must be true for every blossoming even level. Look at the great books of law from the times when L4 first kicked in. Every detail. Every question. Every condition. They were so careful and precise. Why? Maybe they presupposed deity, too.

In science, one of the things that makes a new theory gain respect is whether it somehow manages not only to explain its central premise in a clear and understandable way, but if the — side effects — of the theory also explain, or help make clear and understandable other ideas that are known to be true, but not otherwise understood. Gravity doesn’t just explain why things fall from up to down. It also lets us understand tides. The movement of planets and stars. Seasons. Weather. Without gravity, we may have been able to document the pattern, but we didn’t understand it. It’s that same difference we hit when we were talking about time. The difference between being able to recognize it, and being able to understand it. Then using it becomes a whole other step.

So here we have this theory that L8 only really works in a healthy way — actually, that it only exists at its full flower, at its full potential, if it follows its L2 counterpart and presupposes deity.

Of course, the real presupposition is that all the levels, if healthy, have to presuppose deity. If the fullness of L2 demands the presupposition of deity, then every subsequent level is going to inherit that presupposition if there is total health. In this regard, it doesn’t really matter if the emergence of systems is cyclical or not. The only thing that matters is that the healthy manifestation of each system requires that it congruently incorporates each preceding system.

It’s so tempting to say we don’t need our L2 anymore once we get up a level. We want to be self-sufficient. Our ego wants to be in charge. It wants all the credit. It wants to make the rules. To pound its chest when it wins. We want to have earned our prestige and accomplishments at L5. We want the credit for turning the L3, L4 and L5 “man’s inhumanity to man” into L6 “man’s humanity to man”. We want to discover on our own. To figure out on our own. To create with our own two hands. So we shrug and say, “how juvenile to believe such fairy tales and myths. How primitive we once were. How advanced we must be now.”

There are all these opportunities and motivations for leaving that presupposition out in the cold to freeze and die. Not everybody does, but it isn’t for lack of opportunity. Then we arrive at L7 and L8 where reclaiming becomes important, and — there it is again. Another chance. An opportunity to go back and realign everything that came before.

Art, and Artists Making Art

This is a copy of my paper on the relationship
between art and brokenness.

Brilliant Insane Genius Lunatic Creative Mad-as-a-March-Hare
Inventive Abnormal Artistic Nuts Innovative Just Plain Crazy

I am writing this, in part, to satisfy my own curiosity.  I have heard the idea that genius and insanity were linked, in one form or another, all my life.  Whether people claimed the two were flip sides of the same coin, that the relationship was cause–>effect (though it is never clear which is the cause and which is the effect,) or that there is some as-yet-unknown neurological or genetic link; the effect is the same. Both the general public and artists of all stripe seem to buy into this notion at some level – if not consciously – then lurking somewhere just below the surface.  This presupposition changes the way we, as artists, think about our work and our existence; and it certainly has an effect on how we, and our work, are perceived by the public.

I believe the best potential counter argument to this culturalized belief is the claim that humans are, without exception, all broken or damaged.  We all experience pain, loss, damage, broken faith, unfortunate circumstances and misunderstanding; of the world around us.  We all experience death, fear, anger, and sadness – and some experience much more than others.  We all enter the world made of chemicals, genetic patterns, electricity, water, and breath – and the world being what it is, we all enter with glitches, skips, breaks, gaps and holes.

In reading about and considering the very full lifetime of work by artist Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010), it is brokenness and the damage of her early life which is trackable in her art – not insanity. In fact, her genius is tied most closely to her handling and expressing her own past, rather than some Freudian suppression of it.

According to Leonard Cohen’s poem Anthem: “There is a crack in everything/that’s how the light gets in.”  (This is a kinder and more optimistic view than Yeats’ entropic fatalism of The Second Coming, which observes that “things fall apart.”) It’s true. Things do fall apart. Entropy is a real thing – but the more complete truth is that as humans, we have some say in how and where entropy moves, and whether we are engulfed by it or ride it like a wave.  If our inevitable brokenness is where “the light” gets in – whether it is the light of innovation, invention, and creation; or the light of faith and hope; it is this shared crack in everything that makes it possible for us to minister to each other by way of cathartic Dionysian ritual (theater/art), the spiritually cleansing catholic confessional, or the psychologically purifying  therapist’s couch.  We may not be able to control what happens in the world around us, or what happens to us; but, we can control how we respond to it.

And it is that response which makes Bourgeois such a glorious counter-example to the presupposition of insanity/genius.  In her own words,

All my work in the past fifty years, all my subjects, have found their inspiration in my childhood….  My childhood has never lost its magic, it has never lost its mystery, and it has never lost its drama.

At first glance, we might assume from this that Louise lived an enchanted childhood. The reality, however, is that the magic of her childhood was made up of a revolutionary feminist mother who did her duty by her husband and had two children, then left him to find himself a mistress. Further encumbrances of motherhood were not on Madame Bourgeoise’ list of coming events. The mistress also served as a live-in caretaker for the children, tutor, and governess.

Strident and independent Mother was foreign, cold, and absent; the Mistress was a villainous pseudo-stepmother; and father was not just cold, but abusively cruel to the children born so dutifully by his ultra-social wife. This was a house full to the brim with angry, self-serving adults, and a couple of clueless children who only pieced together the truth of the arrangement as they entered puberty. The only magic I found in this childhood is the near miracle that there were no poisoned apples, huntsmen, or cinder-covered hearths involved.  Louise left home in her teens to paint live in a house full of surrealists in Paris (the house full of surrealists.) Not surprisingly, hardly anyone noticed she was gone.

It is only been in the last 200+ years that painting could be thought of as self expression.  As soon as the self, the mind, and the intentions of the artist began to become important players in the making of art, all sense of trade and craft disappeared from all the arts. Meaning became the subject of a work of art rather than some object or model being copied.  Since this was happening just as the unconscious mind, mental health, and general psychology were creeping into everyday the 1st World cultures, it’s no wonder that artists were perceived as breaking the rules and wandering into the sinful landscape of the criminal and insane. Vincent van Gogh was the poster-boy for the insanity/creative genius camp right up until the culture of the 1st World grew and discovered he might have been bipolar or schizophrenic. Then he became the poster boy for physical chemical imbalance. Whether it was a serious food allergy, and/or PTSD/abuse/neglect-induced fugue states, those are late 20th and early 21st Century understandings of his life.  The more we learn, the less insane, criminal, sinful, and weak van Gogh looks. (see Wilfred N Arnold’s  Chemicals, Crises, and Creativity for more on van Gogh’s relationship to his own biology.)   At the beginning of the 21st Century, Vincent is an unfortunate victim.  If we could choose for him and pick a different century for him to be born, would we give up his art works in order to allow him a peaceful, balanced life?  Is it a fair trade?

Louise Bourgeois, on the other hand, turned those magical, mysterious, and dramatic bits of her childhood into art by choice – by all evidence, fully aware of the metaphorical connections between her art and her past.  Her cold, alien mother became Maman (colloquial fr. for mother)

"Maman" sculpture by Louise Bourgeois

the giant spider that seems to wander through forests of cement and steel.  Her installations are   experiences to be fashioned between the individual and the place/object.  They are her home.  Her rooms.  Places of memory and rite, built to elicit feelings and ideas to be shared between the artist and the single audience member.  She has built these places and made this art so people will understand and build relationship through these intensely personal conversations. We all experience her isolation and loneliness with her – and we recognize it because we have felt it, too.  Bourgeois’ father appears in her art – though not in the dramatic and shocking form of her monster mother.  Instead, his presence is felt in these rooms and in many of her other installation. He is a tangle of objects and a claustrophobic lie of a room.  He informed Bourgeois through every action and word that being a girl – a woman – was to be grotesque, useless, ugly, ungrateful, unwanted, foolish, stupid, and disgusting.

Red Room installation, by Louise Bourgeois

Listening to Bourgeois as she demonstrates her father’s trick with the tangerine reveals a pain so deep that after 7 decades – it still reduced her to a weeping child.  There are some pains – some breaks and rips in our being – that, like a wicked witch’s spell, never lose their magic.

The Father and the Mother are responsible for Louise Bourgeois reaching out to communicate with the rest of the world.  Had they been loving and affectionate – she might never have picked up a paintbrush or sculpted a frail hand.

Why?  Because there is a crack in everything.  That’s how the light gets in.  It’s the light (energy,) memory, and emotion that travel through those cracks that connect us. That’s where we meet –and where communication happens.  Those universal cracks are where art does what art does, and where artist and audience share and survive together.

I believe that the question about the relationship between genius and insanity is an old, out of date question.  It presupposes that what is not normal can be labeled criminal, insane, sinful, stupid, useless and/or weak. But that’s a 19th century understanding of normal – and a 19th century understanding of insanity.  By starting with the wrong question – there is no chance of finding a right answer.  The real question artists, critics, audience, and history have to start asking has to do with understanding and choosing how to express and relate to our own individual and cultural breaks, cracks, quirks, skips, and bumps.  What is the relationship between brokenness, health, and the making of art, invention, and creativity?

I know that we must have care with the words we choose and the presuppositions we make.  If we start with the question: What is the relationship between brokenness and making/creating (or just between brokenness and art), then we have changed the playing field of presuppositions.  Brokenness carries a few negative bags of its own – but it also carries the solution for itself: it carries the presuppositions of repair, mending, re-finishing, correcting, and healing. A broken pot can be fixed.  A broken window can be replaced and made good as new again.  A broken person can be brought back to health.  An insane person just gets more insane until s/he finally succumbs.

Some people presuppose that artists and other creatives somehow experience more deeply.  They are especially sensitive and have a stronger emotional life than an accountant or a short order cook.  I have no idea how true/not true those assumptions are.  But I know that artists in all the arts find a way to express what is inside their own minds and guts in a way that is recognizable and creates a link to others through Leonard Cohen’s cracks.  I don’t believe artists make art as a means of self-therapy (though it may sometimes happen as a side effect) – but I do think there is something to be said for extending a helping hand to all those accountants and short order cooks through art, music, story, poetry etc.

Art requires us to be generous and to be able to need without shame, simultaneously.   This is a very great evolutionary step.

As for how my own thoughts and self expression relates to the life and art of Louise Bourgeois, I suppose the first point of contact is that we share some of those “magic” childhood experiences.  There is something about profound neglect and intentionally inflicted pain that is, as Bourgeois says, never lost.  What we choose to do with those experiences makes the difference between her building giant, alien looking mother-spiders, and Van Gogh at his most disturbed eating tubes of chrome-yellow paint.  While Louise Bourgeois spent the first 30 years of her 70 year career just learning to use her tools and talent to express what was going on in her mind; I spent those 30 years learning what was going on in my mind, and about the minds, motivations, and puzzlements of others.  It has only been the last 5 or 6 years that I have begun looking for materials to start creating expressions of those things.  I am just now comfortable with the tools of the trade.  But like her, I know the language of metaphor.  I understand the layers and pieces of the puzzle, and I have a long-running intimacy with opening boxes.  Communication, in whatever form, has always been the crux of what I have done, said, made and searched out.  Whether that ultimately makes art or not is another question.  But it is certainly fun trying.

Those Pesky “Lone Wolf” and “Alpha Wolf” Metaphors

I’m pretty sure that if any of the single guys, politicians, independent spirits, and mismatchers out there had read Temple Grandin’s excellent research of the nature of wolves, they would stop referring to themselves as “lone wolves” or “alpha wolves” (or just about any of the common and romanticized wolf metaphors.)  If you want to read Grandin, start with Animals Make Us Human and go from there.

Let’s just get rid of that alpha wolf thing right off the bat.  According to Grandin, the alpha wolf is an invention of man that does not occur in nature without the intervention of men.  Wolves left to their own pack behavior are familial.  What we have misinterpreted as the archetype “alpha” is really just the Papa figure in the pack.  He doesn’t have to be the strongest, the biggest, the best hunter, the meanest, the grumpiest or the highest wage earner.  He just has to be the papa.  He points the pack in the right direction because of experience, not because of power in the capitalist sense, or superiority in the competitive sense.  In human tribal terms, he’s the chief because he’s somehow proven himself to be worth following.  Maybe he’s the smartest.  Maybe he’s the oldest.  Maybe he’s the most tender-hearted or compassionate.  But it’s a pack thing.  And a papa thing.

It’s very human (and very American Capitalist) to want the young, strong male wolf to challenge the old, tired, worn-out wolf for the leadership position.  This is the final rung on the ladder to the American Capitalist top.

But it doesn’t have anything to do with wolves in their natural state.

And neither does the “lone wolf” metaphor have anything to do with wolves in their natural state.  Once again, any wolf out on his own is man made.  If you destroy the pack so that only one wolf remains — then you have made a lone wolf.  But you really do have to either kill off the rest of the pack, or somehow capture and cage a wolf to get it to suffer isolation.

But the romanticized idea of a wolf of such independent spirit that it finds its own way, follows its own rules, breaks all ties with its own wolfish past, rebels against the norm of the pack, and takes pride in its ability to survive alone — has nothing to do with wolf nature.  It has to do with human nature, and humans search for ways to romanticize and legitimize their own aberrant behavior.

Wolves are pack animals — family animals.  And this means pack/tribe/family by their wolf definition, not by man’s.  They want the company.  They want to belong and they feel no shame in wanting the security and safety of the pack.  They live together, they cooperate, they follow the leader, and they allow themselves to need the pack — without recrimination.

A wolf alone is a wolf broken and a wolf damaged.

Lone is just lonely.  You can put it in high heels and hand it a double barrel shot gun — but alone is still alone.

Lock step and barrel….

I heard a woman’s voice on TV saying these words yesterday (9/13/10.)

Today, I found the footage on the internet.  She is Christine O’Donnell, and is a candidate of the Tea Party running for the senate in Delaware.  The US Senate.

The clip doesn’t link directly, but you can find it at ABC News.

Before I knew who she was, I wrote this on Facebook:

what? what did that woman just say on TV? I don’t know who she is or what the context was, but she said she wasn’t going to just do what was expected of her and jump in all “lock step and barrel.”I know why education is in trouble — we hand microphones to people too stupid to know their own language.

While I’m happy to hear she is Pro-abortion rights, and Pro-gun control, I maintain my position.  I live in a country that actually had at one time a political party called the Know Nothing Party.  If we go that route again, then we deserve what we get.  While this woman has an education (in marketing – one of the great capitalist inventions) she fumbled her phrases like a drunken quarterback in front of the big microphone.  And as anybody in marketing knows — perception is everything.

Let’s be clear.  LOCK STEP is what soldiers and marching bands do.  Close formation, identical steps.  A good metaphor for those who “fall in” and obey norms and become part of a machine.  The most negative connotation has to do with Nazi troops goose-stepping their way to oblivion — an allusion that both Republicans and Tea Party guests would like to call up at every opportunity.  However, it works well not only for the military and marching bands, but also for medical professionals, law enforcement, fire departments, and any field where consistency, agreement, teamwork and cooperation are important.  Goose Step is the unmistakable negative reference to the Nazis — lock step is the softer allusion.

LOCK, STOCK, and BARREL is a gun metaphor — not unlike THE FULL MONTY.  ALL IN.  HEAD FIRST.  It is a full commitment and requires that every aspect of your resources are fully engaged.  Not holding back because of doubts, embarrassment, pride, or any other reason.  You put everything into every action when you go in lock, stock, and barrel.

To blend these 2 perfectly good metaphors into one mistake is called a MIXED METAPHOR.  Like, “killing two birds with one in the bush.”  And yes, that is an intentional reference to W.

“Why is this a big deal?” you ask.  It’s a big deal because it indicates that this speaker — with a national microphone — didn’t think before she spoke — or if she did, her motivations are more nefarious than should be tolerated.

Either she didn’t think at that moment, and so “slipped;” or, she intentionally tried to make both points without enough grammar to pull it off; or, she didn’t think as a matter of habit and so had not thought through the meaning of either “lock step” or “lock, stock, and barrel.”  They are not the same.  They don’t belong together unless linked by grammar and context.  They are both part of defined American English — and she either didn’t know the correct phrases, or didn’t think ahead and use them correctly.

“Maybe that’s what she meant…” you say.  And that is the most troubling of all the possibilities.  If it was not a case of jittery-mouth stumbling, or mouth-running-without-brain-fully-engaged, and was instead an intentional blend (which is possible, considering her marketing background) — then you have to assume malice.  If she was intentionally trying to forge the idea that those who respect and participate in the expected norms of society (lock step) and those who dive in with full commitment (lock, stock and barrel) are the same — two sides of an undesireable thing to be avoided at all costs  then there is a problem.  Her implication is that she will never fall so low as lock step and barrel.

Once again let me say I do understand the impulse to fight against the bad politicians of the past and the present.  That’s not my problem with this message.  But to intentionally try to fuse the negative associations of military lock step and the positive associations of lock, stock, and barrel (all in, the full monty, jumping in head first – or feet first) into one negative characteristic is an attempted manipulation of perception that I am not willing to accept.  Not all lock step equates with goose-step; and not every all-in is a leisure activity or a fool’s leap.  That’s the pleasure and the tripwire of metaphors — they are complex and carry the baggage of centuries.

This kind of error is a lot like intentionally mispronouncing a word (like nuclear) out of stubbornness or ignorance.  Regardless of which cause is true, it isn’t cute, it isn’t intelligent, and it belies either an inability or a contempt.

Because we glorify, elect and reward ignorance, we continue to slip in the global marketplace and global authority.  What incentive is there to become the best and the brightest, when the second-rate, the narcissistic, and the proudly ignorant continue to occupy the microphones and cameras of the media?

Scholars, creative minds, explorers, inventors, and brilliant innovators should be what we aspire to and what we emulate.  Instead, the media feeds us a diet of racist Florida sheep-dogs and politicians unable to think 5 words ahead of their mouth.

Even in schools, we place a higher value on being pretty, running fast, personal charisma, and wealthy parents; instead of high academic achievement and innovative thinking.  Nerds, dweebs, bookworms, freaks — we’ve got a lexicon full of insults for the kids who don’t fit the popular, jock, or rich-kid mold.  In every aspect of our society, we boost those who are part of the social norm, and exclude those who are exceptional in ways that don’t fit the mold.

I don’t want to be led by the ignorant, the ordinary, the emotional, or a guy with whom I’d feel comfortable having a beer (if I liked beer.)  I want to be led by the exceptional, the thoughtful, the brilliant, the creative, the innovative, and the courageous.

My friend Carrie asked what patriotism is.  I think it’s the courage to take the difficult high road to make the country better, rather than the easy, foolish, selfish, racist, sexist, greedy, self-serving, intentionally unread, intentionally ignorant, delusional, proud-to-be-common low road.  I don’t want an Ordinary-Joe in the White House, the Senate, the Supreme Court, or even the House of Representatives.  I don’t want to be led by someone who is financially successful at any cost.  I don’t want to be led by someone who prays on street corners, on his/her way to a board meeting that will cheat millions out of ten or fifteen cents a day and call it capitalism.  I don’t want to be led by people who make it their primary goal to turn a profit at any cost.

Don’t get me wrong — there are noble, honorable, honest, hard-working, loving, generous, loyal, clever, creative and good people of all kinds and in all walks of life.  But those who lead millions have to be exceptional.  If they are not — then their leadership simply won’t hold up to the negative pressures and overwhelming prevalence of what is easy.  How simple it must be to slip from painful honor to easy dishonor when thousands of people and millions of dollars bear down upon you, telling you, “It will be okay just this once.”