1. The AirBNB owner came over yesterday and we talked about all the woo woo. She’s a former chemist and statistician. She’s been very ill and has been using marijuana to deal with pain but also very deep trauma, so she was waiting here for her dispensary order to be ready.
I told her about the yellow butterflies and chaos theory. And then together we found her pot stash in the little shed in the backyard. No biggie.
She came back today to run her car engine. And she told me that she went home last night and told her daughter that talking to me calmed her in the same way that smoking marijuana did.
I don’t think this is the Vene effect. I think this is a human connection effect. I don’t calm everyone. But maybe this is what humans can do for each other.
Last night something told me not to take my sleep med at 10, when I usually take it or I don’t sleep. I don’t know what it was. I just kinda felt the need to stay up and wait and see what would happen. I mean, what was going to happen? I’m in a shed in Tucson during a pandemic. Everyone is tucked in their beds.
And then at midnight, I got a text from a young friend back east experiencing her first panic attack. I don’t know why she chose me, but she did. We talked it through and I think she got herself to a place where she could get through the night.
We got off the phone an hour later and I was glad to have been awake for her when she needed someone. Pep talks help the listener, but it seems they also help the talker.
So long Bill Withers, thanks for the messages.
2. In high school, Mr. Cripe taught us about the now famous soccer game that took place between the English and Germans on Christmas Day, 1914.
On Radiolab they’re talking about altruism and how it comes from selfish places. On a genetic scale, we take care of relatives because they carry our genetic material and, even if we don’t survive, they can act as proxies for reproduction. It stops at about 3rd cousins, where the genetic relationship becomes pretty diluted and it would take saving a whole lot more people to carry on your genes. The book Behave discusses this as well. This is the basis of tribalism. And warfare.
So about those soldier boys in the trenches back in 1914. The soccer game was not a one off. The English realized that when they took their breakfast break from shooting, so did the Germans. Nobody was shooting nobody. And as long as no one shot, no one shot back. It was this unspoken pact. “If I don’t kill you, you won’t kill me either.
Snipers would keep watch during these truces. They’d repeatedly shoot the same spot on a tree to transmit across no man’s land, “I could kill you if I wanted to. But I won’t.”
So by Christmas that year, they starting singing the same carols in different languages. And then they felt comfortable enough talking. And then playing. And sharing recipes. hey saw the whites in each other’s eyes and they were no longer enemy nations, but fellow human beings.
The al coda to this happy incident was that after that soldiers did not want to obey their superiors. They would shoot to miss. They would claim incompetence or offstage kills. The generals didn’t like this. They started demanding scalps as proof.
And then one day, the English higher ups decided to play off the camaraderie that had been built. They played a German march over loudspeakers from their trenches. Some of the Germans, expecting some more play with their friends, and climbed the trenches. As soon as the last note played, English machine guns rained bullets over no man’s land and decimated the visible troops. And now it was, “You want to kill me. I will kill you first.”
3. Words matter. They frame issues in ways that have lasting consequences. George Orwell knew this. One of his six rules was to ever use a metaphor, simile or other turn of phrase that has been commonly used in print. He wrote that “some metaphors now current have been twisted out of their original meaning without those who use them even being aware of the fact.”
On NPR they were talking about this today. They cited a study wherein two groups of people were asked to talk about immigration. But before they asked them questions, they had one group read about “airborne diseases.” The group that had read the article were less kind in their opinions.
If we call things ‘wars,’ as in “The War on Drugs,” we fill in the entire discussion with related metaphors. But they are not good metaphors. There is no enemy. And no one wins.
My professor Kathleen Schwartzman was incredibly strict about not using metaphors in class. “It is not what it is ‘like,'” she would interject, “tell me what it ‘is’.” I’ve gotten lazy about metaphors. I need to be careful with my words.
Bonus 4th thing: I decided to attempt candying grapefruit peels today. They’re currently drying on a rack. I used the grapefruit juice and remaining syrup to mix with some sparkling wine and had a lovely Sunday morning beverage.