December 16
I'm sure details will emerge as I write, but how does one encapsulate one's life in words? I consider myself a Michigan native, now misplaced in the southern MidWest. Friends and family have called me a story teller, which is possible. To anyone who reads my work, though, I offer this caution from Isabel Allende, as she describes herself: “If you ask me to tell you my life, I will try; but it will probably be a bag of lies, because I am inventing myself all the time. And at the same time, I am inventing fiction, and through this fiction, I am revealing myself.” Cast of Characters: The Raven = My Wife. To be clear, I'm also her wife. The Giant = Our Son. I haven't legally adopted him (though I would have), but after so many years, he knows I am his parent, AKA Tia.


Owl_Says_Who's Links

Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 2, 2011 7:18PM

Life's Work

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When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

~I Corinthians 13:11 

The quote has been ghosting me, whispering in my subconscious as the past is wont to do.  Anymore, I try to find the substance behind such ghosts, holy or otherwise; it's part of the the closely-guarded treatment plan I've made for myself as a recovering fundamentalist.  Just this weekend, I tested my resolve by watching 2012 - my wife, Raven, graciously restrained her surprise.

"You watched 2012?" she asked, watching my reaction.  "On purpose?"


"How was it?  You okay?"

"Yep. It wasn't as cheesy as I thought it might be, and it had some creative elements among the more unbelievable stuff.  Then again, I guess even scientists have to guess at what might happen with a massive polar shift," I said.  "You wouldn't like it, though - too much drowning and implied drowning."

"So you're okay?"


As Kurt Vonnegut might say, and so it goes.

I just finished reading Slaughterhouse-Five again, which might explain my mood.  Whenever I read a particularly impactful book, my internal narrator takes on the speech patterns and accents of the characters, commenting over my shoulder in keeping with the book's themes and point of view. 

In Slaughterhouse-Five, the  Tralfamadorians are all about pre-destination to the Nth degree. 

Every moment in all the universe exists infinitely and simultaneously; therefore, everything is on track, all the time, regardless of the illusion of free will and choice.  Pure, unadulterated fatalism. (Yes, yes, yes - there's much more to the story than that - I'm just sayin' . . . )

Not completely on the other hand, I recently read Everything Matters!, in which the main character knows from birth when and how the world is going to end.  First the guy tries to run from what he knows, then he tries to save the world.  However, he gets a chance to re-enter a concurrent universe as a do-over for most of his life, hides what he knows this time around, and just savors experience and family until the comet kills everyone.

Either way, the world ends.  And so it goes.

I've been to more funerals in the last year than in the previous 42 years of my life combined.  Statistically, the annual count is likely to continue to climb.  If I'm anything like my Grandma S., who lived to be 100, the number will eventually taper off; she noted that almost everyone she knew and loved was dead, except for my Dad and his descendents.

I'm not being morbid, just factual.

My Dad is both a gigging pianist/band leader and teacher/principal at a Christian school.  My Mom does bookkeeping for the church as well as a local teen pregnancy aid non-profit.  One of my brothers is a teacher, the other a doctor; my sister is a nurse.

As a kid, everyone in the church, including me, believed I had "a calling" to missionary and/or ministry work.  It might have included music and writing as well as public speaking.  My degree would have permitted me to be a high school English or Spanish teacher, but standardized tests make me itch, and so did most administrators.

I work as a proposal manager/writer for Government contracts.

And so it goes.

Our company builds buildings and cleans up environmental messes, mostly at Department of Defense facilities.  At least we're creating safe structures for our soldiers; at least we're cleaning up toxins.  I don't talk or write much about it because it's not that interesting unless you are also a proposal writer. 

Even then, the conversation is mostly war stories:  the proposals won or lost by a hair's breadth; the vacations cancelled because of looming deadlines and emergency responses; the all-nighters pulled in order to get late-arriving data into the final document.  High pressure, long hours, and workaholism are an inevitable part of the industry, par for the course.

I'm pretty good at what I do.  I take pride in my work.  Aside from the hours, and some of the personalities, it's not a bad way to make a living.

I am so grateful for so much.

But there are the nights of mustard gas and roses, when I apologize to our son for making him the sole carrier of legacy, such as it is. 

I'm not maudlin about it - just factual.

It's tough, sometimes, being an adult.  It's hard to know whether any of it means anything, whether all of it means enough.  When others are depending on your labor, it can be wrenching to wonder what might have been, to make the right decisions regarding risk versus reward. 

If there are "right" decisions.

Maybe the missing lesson for our generation, for our culture, is simply this:

Life's Work

Maybe that's just factual.

And so it goes.

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At least it's writing, right? This is what happens when I come up for air, I guess . . .
Your is perhaps the major question of life. What is the meaning of all this? Why are so many things absurd?
SInce we can't know, I guess we just live to the fullest, doing unto others as we would want done to us, and smiling as we age. Can't think of any other answers.
I watched 2012 because my son insisted.
Maybe it's a born in the seventies thing. I grew up thinking I would witness the end of the world. But then again, that might just be Catholicism.
The movie? Well, History Channel's Life After People does a better job of depressing the hell out of me.

Life is what life is. Even though we sometimes beg it to be otherwise.
Oh Owl, I love when you finally post something. I know it will always be deep and insightful and I will have to read it more than once. I wonder about it all far too much for my own good... ~r
My Grandpa used to say the same thing when he was in his late 90's how all his friends were gone and he was left behind. He may have thought this but there were so many of his friends at his funeral I always felt he was wrong.
I think it's good to contemplate on life as long as you see the good along with the bad you will be just fine.
In the years I've "known" you, you have made a difference. (I debated a bit whether or not to include the quotes in that remark--I don't mean to diminish what you've meant to me, just to emphasize that a digital relationship can have substance beyond the 1s and 0s--which might have made the same point by omitting them.) I've seen your support and encouragement and support for any number of folk on OS, and it has always been effortless, thoughtful and empathic.

That's not to say that whatever causes us to pause for introspection isn't worth the exercise, just some words of affirmation.

You had me at Vonnegut, I think the first book of his I read was not the much acclaimed SH5, but Sirens of Titan, and I was forever in love with the man.

Can you imagine that a school district just had SH5 banned? It was banned because of the complaints of a single man who said that the book didn't teach biblical principles and had profanity in it that would make a sailor blush. I think if God had a publishing house on earth, that SH5 would be part of it precisely because it teaches what we humans ought to be to each other. I know that He left his imprimatur on all sorts of Old Testament wholesale slaughter--at least according to some ancient furry tunic wearing scribes--at least until the NT scribes had the Trinity say "Whoa, maybe We ought to rethink moral mayhem" though the word somehow never got to Torquemada, et. al.

You're worthy of every good thought Owl, just because of how you treat others, but I suspect there are many more reasons. xo
Life's work all right, and even if you don't have a real job, it never leaves you unemployed.

Nice little summary of your life, and life in general.
BRILLIANT writing, Owl!
Lea - I think you're right. The other choices seem pretty dead-end, so to speak. As far as I know, there aren't any other definitive answers. I suppose it's a luxury to be able to think in these ways . . .

vanessa - The seventies, combined with apocalyptic religions, intelligence, and imagination, certainly didn't help much. I'm watching "Independence Day" as I type . . . seems like a better way to head into the weekend.

Joan H. - Do you know that I feel that way about your writing, too? I haven't been around much, lately . . . for those of us who wonder too much, I suppose it's a gift . . . and a curse. . .

Lunchlady 2 - My Grandma's funeral was the same way . . . the place was absolutely packed, which did all our hearts good to see. In general, I'm fairly good at keeping my eyes on what matters most to me, friends and family. It makes all the difference in the world.
bbd - Isn't it strange that it's been years? I realized the other day that I've been here awhile. I love your parenthetical about "knowing" . . . digital relationships (now I'm envisioning how that term would have been interpreted 100 years ago) are rather fascinating, in that they are sometimes deeper than the casual contact that we have with people we see every day. Thank you for the affirmation . . . I think we all need that, from time to time. Likewise, I appreciate the ways in which you communicate your presence here - with warmth and generosity of spirit.

I'd forgotten how much I love Vonnegut, and will be reading more soon. I'm pretty sure I read Sirens of Titan years ago, and look forward to enjoying it again. Many of the ideas expressed in his work have become part of my world view.

I wish I were surprised that a school district banned SH5 - sadly, in the current climate, it figures. I don't recall much profanity in it, though . . . if anything, I was amazed at the lack of profanity, and then remembered that Vonnegut didn't really need it . . . the story itself was powerful enough.

If God had a publishing house on earth, I suspect that the Bible would have been assembled differently . . . And so it goes.

Cranky Cuss - LOL . . . ain't that the truth!

kitd - Brilliant might be overstating it, but thanks. :-)
I'm also reminded by my own sort of flippant remark about God having a publishing house of a song I really enjoy by Joan Osborne: [What If God Were] One Of Us?


Another of my favorite KV sayings, and an imprint on how I ought to live--that when you find some small epiphany in your everyday life, that you pause and say either to yourself or better yet, out loud: "If this isn't nice, I don't know what is." I sort of ended an older blog with that thought: http://open.salon.com/blog/bbd/2010/02/24/a_gift_received_and_passed_along

and, finally, a link to the SH5 Missouri banning:


Thanks again Owl, for all you've done, for all you mean.
Life's work, but it is also fun, take it from someone who worked hard since he was twleve. Balance the work with the fun and let the chips fall where they might. After all, none of us are getting out of this thing alive.
I love when you post! Your musings are familiar to my own thoughts...& we're the same age. And so it goes--indeed.
Tremendous. Anybody who starts the conversation with Corinthians 13 and Vonnegut and then questions all of it, will be more than fine. Best to Raven.
bbd - What a great connection with Joan Osborne! I haven't thought about that song in a long time, but it is outstanding. Thanks for reminding me about that KV saying - it reminds me of counting one's blessings, but doing it as they happen. I try to make a practice of doing that as I'm going to sleep at night . . . pausing to recognize the things that are good. It also goes along with the thing in Phillipians "whatsoever things are good . . . think on these things."

I will check out the banning tomorrow . . . perhaps the damage can be contained in some way.

Namaste, bbd . . .

Torman - Good point. One of the reasons I've been gone a lot is exactly that - trying to make a point of playing hard, too. The balance is so very crucial. Thanks, friend.

caroline marie - I feel the same way when you post . . . the musings are familiar, even if the subject is different.

Chicago Guy - Well, you know I consider myself a generalist . . . I know just enough about many things to be dangerous, but not enough about any one thing to be useful. On the other hand, I think the world could use more generalists . . . or at least a more collaborative method of utilizing the strengths of everyone's gifts.
Waaaaa..aa..l; dunno, "right off bat". [i.e. I only just now found and read this post and the comments.] Still much engrossed. First off let me ("disclosure" ... how full is up for grabs) identify/confess that I am gender female (people here keep telling me they "thought I was a man" and I don't know how important the distinction is or why but that's way "off topic"). Plus I still have almost (but not quite) a full twenty years to go before I'm on a par with your maternal grandmother. I like the sound of her!!

So although your writing obviously has the gift of catching up many facets of the interests of many people, I should keep this comment at least SOMEWHAT short and I'll start by commenting on my reaction to the first part of your well-told tale:

"I'm with your wife, Raven". "You O.K.?"

As for ICorinthians:13.11, I always got it mixed up with the next verse and got waylaid by my own arguments about whether as I child I had seen through a glass darkly and then when I ?"matured"? I saw "clearly". Thank goodness at least I now have those two verses more ?"clearly"? (or is that !darkly!?) in mind. Any way, I'm not a recovering fundamentalist or a declared atheist or agnostic but I love words (and music) so thanks, Owl! I'm still only slowly getting acquainted with people and trying to learn the OS community well enough to be able at least to sidestep the ... um ... sometimes land mines? ;-)
Oops, Owl; sorry.... You're _paternal_ grandmother! :-(
i guess most of us, if honest, would say that what we do (or did, in my case) didn't advance civilization in any noteworthy or significant way. but that most of us do (or did, in my case) some necessary thing is also probably true. and that we get (or got) paid for it and supported ourselves and/or a family seems to be enough, the way i see it (and the way you seem to, too). they're important questions that you're asking, my friend owl, but maybe the answer is, as you say, quite simple: we do our best. and then sometimes we write about it, and sometimes that's good, too. like this is. nice to see you. :)
podunkmarte - LOL. Many here thought I was a guy for awhile, too. I generally don't worry much about such distinctions, since the heart of a person isn't really gender-dependent. Grandma S. has been a major influence . . . as have all of my grandparents, in their various ways.

No worries, podunk, I'm good. And very blessed to have a supportive spouse, a good-hearted teenager, and several furry friends at home to remind me that life is good most of the time.

The OS community is amazing and occasionally scary . . . but welcome to my blog!

Candace - You know you will always be femme forte to me, right? I think you nailed it: we do our best, and in the end, it has to be enough. It is good to keep moving forward and push one's self to "improve;" it is equally good to feel content with doing one's best. It's a challenge to keep it in balance, though.
To say we don't have free will is to say life does not have meaning. But life does have meaning.

And bear in mind most of us don't put away childish things, from President to peasant we play a silly game.
We seem to go full Circle on this Life's Wheel.
There is something to the returning and circle.
Birds built round nest. We ride a Ferris Wheel.

I was just thinking about you. Scripture can't hurt.
There is a fancy name *Hermeneutics* to interpret.
This is a wild 21st century. All Life is *A Wild Ride*

There is a book that was just published by Gus Russo.
Title: BOOMER DAYS. I recommend it. It's insightful.
We live via many struggles/hardships. So do others.
The book's author (I met him as a Guest speaker)`
Wishes to teach/inform the younger learners.
I think it should be in some college read-list.
I must have been daydreaming my Life away.
Hi Owl_Says_Who? I'll e-mail this. okay?

I just e-mailed a Kentucky minister today.
He's not kooky. He plays a guitar & banjo.
He lives in the town with a honest lawyer.
Wendell Berry's older brother is a lawyer.
That is an interesting quote that you opened your reflective essay with, Owl. When I study those words-I find them to be perhaps the reverse of nearly everything I actually believe. My interpretation of them is that one should settle for what is and quit thinking like a little kid. In other words, give up idealism and be practical. Bah! Humbug! I say to that.
My son is traveling out of the Northwest for the first time as an adult and called me today. The excitement in his voice was so pure and real as he shared his new sites and adventures. I remember the freshness of my own simple world opening up at that same age. I felt those same, wonderful feelings again through my child's voice. When it stops opening and the grand things become ho-hum, that is when people get in trouble. It is so important to stop the world as an adult and look around with the eyes of a child for even though I am 60, I am also still two, ten, twenty-four and forty-four too. The gift of consciousness and this shared reality will never stop being interesting (seize the day). When the wonders become dominated by the mundane, then I will know that life is closing for me. I don't think it will happen. Well, the closing will of course but the mundane will not dominate.

Kurt Vonnegut was a force in my life. I have read everything he produced. I saw him in one of his last interviews where he said he was going to sue the tobacco companies. When the interviewer asked him why he said something like: "These things were supposed to have killed me long ago." He pointed at his pack of smokes and laughed.

I avoid all talk, stories, themes or movies that are based on the end of the world. I have no interest and certainly no wish about the world ending. The implication seems to always be that this is an awful place and a better place exists which I totally reject. I became truly happy or content when I gave up all thoughts or beliefs in the supernatural.

In Natalie Babbit's masterpiece of a tale--Tuck Everlasting--( a book I read allowed a dozen or more times to eager ears) it is explained how never dying is a terrible curse as, like your Grandma said, everyone you have known or loved is gone. Longevity is a lonely trip.

I sniffed melancholy in this thoughtful essay. A feeling of some disappointment. I get those on occasion wondering if I should have taken a different path and if what I viewed as important really was. But I don't allow them much time as it is time traveling in reverse which I have no time for at this late stage. I almost laugh at my thinking that life was over for me at age forty. The last twenty years have been way, way more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. I don't think I have twenty more which is fine. I will settle for a good, solid ten--make that twelve.

Ripples--I love ripples. You have been a soothing, encouraging ripple for me and dozens of others, my invisible friend. Your words helped me produce my many meager writings. I cannot thank you enough for those pearls of kindness. I love it when you step out into the spotlight from your normal audience seat. Take in some of the applause yourself--you deserve it. Peace and remember now and always: Enjoy your life.
So many ‘realities’, so little time to explore.....

The answer, my friend Owlie, is blowin' in the wind - or 42, whichever comes first, or last, I presume. Mustard gas and roses - oof, ahh. "Implied drowning" reminded me of how really good you are at crafting thoughts. Seeing you back here with such a glimmering, resonating piece has braced me nicely for the day ahead. I hope your weekend is superb.
...and then I scrolled up and read the comments. The love for you here is immense and so, so deserved! Now I'm braced for the week ahead.
Succinctly put Owlie, but hard to remember at times. I needed to read this today, as I am being immature about a few things here. Thanks for this.
I have been reading Vonnegut this week as well, a collection of his early short stories. I miss that voice.

Your thoughts on work reminded me of the collection of thoughts of a ride range of working people put together in a book, "Working" by Studds Terkel. What surprised me about the book I remember was overall, how much people found value in what they did, even people doing work I would hate like janitorial cleaning. It was a great testimonial to the power of attitude. Your work is providing an invaluable service, by any measure. Thank you!
Great to see you, and such a fine post, Owl. You have braced Matt for the coming week and that is no easy feat.
Same age too and you are right it might be the answer. Ouch.
Owly: Your kind have bi-nocular vision and the ability to turn their heads around to see what's over their shoulder. To look around and see you have helped support a family financially partially or wholly by whatever means is a worthy occupation regardless of profession. I have always sensed how hard you work and even though I have missed your presence here, I sensed you were "taking care of business" as the song goes. Nice to see and read your words, my fine feathered friend.

Think I learned more about you reading this than I'd learned in the ... what? Two years or more that you've been on my favourites list.

I can certainly identify with friends and family having the notion that you had a calling. I was told the same thing. Boy, did they have a wrong number. Among other things, my credo that whatever got people through the night was fine by me (unless it involved bashing others) didn't sit very well with the more avid hellfire-and-brimstone bunch.

Anyway, very thought-provoking -- but then I'd expect that from you. Best to Raven.
Howdy Owl, None of us knows anything. We exist and that is as far as our real control goes. Fate? Destiny? both mere illusions. Reality only exists in the eyes of the beholder. That means that my reality is totally different from yours or anyone else's. Not to say that anyone's reality is invalid, just that as we observe from our own perspective we cannot see things as others see them, making our reality as individual as our minds can make it.
Too much Vonnegut I guess as a young man. Try "Venus on the Half Shell" by one Kilgore Trout.
and i learned a bit more about owl. who articulated something i couldn't quite say but tried to gather my thoughts around: "It's tough, sometimes, being an adult. It's hard to know whether any of it means anything, whether all of it means enough."
From one raptor to another, it's always nice to hear a familiar and haunting call into the digital wilderness. I am a relatively new owl here, though one can hardly say I am a new owl altogether. Resonance.

I decided some time ago (in a relativistic sense, any who) to never grow up. Grown ups suck, basically. Adults, now that's another story.

I always thought the whole Corinthians line was something of an interpretive mine field. Most take it as an excuse to drop the dreaming and daydreaming, to stop wondering about things and get on with it. That to work and be serious is the mark of an adult and that being childish is what people who won't 'get serious' do.

I couldn't disagree more, personally. I think being childish is not being willing to wonder, not being willing to question and just believe what you believe, even against evidence to the contrary. I always thought being childish was more akin to being selfish and inconsiderate -- even though my general experience of children is that they are more giving and willing to share than most adults -- go figure.

It's always been my view that the aspects of speaking as a child is that ability to say unwise and unfiltered things that have no real place in the workings of life. Things like temper tantrums (which, I believe stem from a desire to have a thing be so, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence no such thing can be so) or being unwilling to listen to someone else's point of view and give it due (as well as polite) consideration.

Wisdom from the mouths of babes, is more my style. And I have seen some babes, lemme tell ya. I love being alive. I love people, especially children. They tend to be compulsively honest -- when they aren't fantasizing or attempting to attract attention by grandiose falsity. I think they are genuinely more giving and caring than adults on balance. I've always thought this, even in knowing how stubborn, temperamental and demanding that they can also be.

Maybe that's part of the putting away of childish things? Not to be so damn stubborn, unrelenting and demanding without reason. To not be so unyielding and to be able to 'play nice' with others who will clearly have a different set of desires, thoughts and points of view.

Life is work. Love is work. Work is work. Play is work. That doesn't mean it's not rewarding or enjoyable. I think what we take out of all those things depends on what childish things we still hang onto, including all those unfounded notions drilled into us by parents, peers, professors and parables that have not had any serious questioning applied to them.

You know, I also noticed that all those things are four letter words. Nine is a four letter word, too. So is five and five and four make nine. When you look at it like that, it's all the same -- well, according to one of my early math teachers, they're not the same, they're the same as -- which is what equals means.

It is my hope that being childish is not the same as being childlike. They do not equal each other, or they are not the same as, if you see my point. I hope to continue living in a childlike manner and that I can avoid acting childishly in the same moment of my adulthood.

I'm still never going to grow up, which doesn't imply a Peter Pan quality to my life, unless you only consider the imagination, the joy and the exuberance of being that such an image provides. As I well know the psychiatric implication of having a Peter Pan complex, where the subject refuses to acknowledge their age and continues to act childishly (selfish, self-absorbed, in denial of the facts of incontrovertible evidence before them, unyielding and inconsiderate of the feelings of others, etc.) even to their own detriment.

As I just flew in from Texas (and boy are my wings tired!) and haven't been here so very long, I really cannot say the nice and deeply moving things others have about your influence on them over time. I'll have to wait my turn for that.

In the meantime, one other point about childish things being put away:
[Image of a mother with hands on hips and a stern stare at the doorway to a bedroom]
"Will you look at this place? It's a mess! Now clean up your room, or you won't be able to go out and play." Another point of view of putting childish things away. Just because you put them away, doesn't mean you can't drag them out again after lunch and play with them some more.

Life is work, but too often (it's been particularly acute for us lately, hence the gloomy view), too much of life is only work, and that really ain't life. It seems more acute now in our 24/7 wired-in world. I'm getting emails from clients at f*in' 2 in the morning! And others on Sundays, and it ain't always stuff that's urgent, leading me to wonder what's wrong with people??? On the other hand I did two all-nighters last week, and Mrs. P worked past eight every night. So who the hell am I to say? . .. .
Just the other morning, I was looking for you. Funny thing, this place. This place where we have forged connection across shared pixels. I missed your pixels. This read was like butter spread on good bread. Rated.
Any one who loves Kurt Vonnegut as much as I do and quotes Isabelle Allende is a first rate human being and you have demonstrated that again and again with your life's work. At the end of a long life and a productive retirement, I hope that you may be able to say, "Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt."
You are skillful at conveying your experience in spare writing while both satisfying readers and leave us wanting more. You seem to be unusually level-headed and sane. And now I want to know how you came so far after a fundamentalist upbringing. And how did your parents feel about the new direction you took? I'd think any parent would be proud of you.
Owl, clearly you're sidling up to the meaning of life. Not approaching it directly, mind you, because it won't do to simply charge right at the subject. That never works.

So I have three words that are inescabably entwined with the meaning of life. I'm not sure how, exactly, but still...

Crunchy peanut butter.

I know crunchy peanut butter is important, somehow. It's my deep, dark secret. In my quietest moments of existential reflection, I eat crunchy peanut butter with a spoon, straight from the jar.

All of human history has been building toward the moment when crunchy peanut butter would be available to a critical mass of humanity. The time of singularity is approaching, and unspecified good things will happen.

Oh, and it has to be one of the good major brands of crunchy peanut butter. None of those generic store brands that taste too oily.
Nice to see you writing, Owl. It is tough to be an adult and you hit all the big questions, the ones with no real answers...I remember reading Vonnegut when I was about 11 or 12 and being scared that the world was really like that. Then I grew up, and so it goes.
Nice to see you writing, Owl. It is tough to be an adult and you hit all the big questions, the ones with no real answers...I remember reading Vonnegut when I was about 11 or 12 and being scared that the world was really like that. Then I grew up, and so it goes.
I dunno either Owl. "let me be good and do good" is my prayer? what I ask of the universe when lost (few times a day). Added to that is "and let me be happy please".
It might all mean nothing, but it's all I'm gonna get, and most days it's enough (when medicated properly).
Glad to see your words. Missed you.
So, so true. Here's how I view that passage (with apologies to seminary profs): When I was a child, I thought grownups knew everything. Now I know how much I won't know until we see, face to face, the truth that transcends all the crap of this world and we experience the grace that washes it all away.

As for Vonnegut, I read that some group — is there a Kurt Vonnegut Foundation — has offered a free copy of S5 to every one of those students who was assigned the book before it was banned. I know that because one of my sons sent me a link, because he has Vonnegut on his news aggregator — which I *think* proves I've done something right as a parent.

So have you, as a parent and a person. Give yourself credit, or at least let us give you some!
My husband has seriously struggled with some of these same issues. He's works for the gov'mnt. Hush hush. And that generally means you aren't creating live-saving medical devices -- which is what he wants to do, and maybe will do one day, if he can divest himself of his obligations -- a writer wife, rescuer of loser dogs, singer songwriter, collector of guitars and wayward sister-friends; and two children who are artists and burgeoning chefs. I think of him as Van Goh's brother, the patient supporter of genius, even though none of us have genius talents, and and I think HE might.

I do believe there is a reward for sacrifices freely made, especially if you align yourself with those who appreciate them, and give in the return, to the best of their abilities.
Not much more to add Owl, except its great to see you back here.
So nice to see your insightful posts by the way. It's always a good thing. Some big life reflection going on here. I know the feeling. A string of funerals and some heavy reading will do that.

I liked the format of this piece. The snippets. Like jazz has been equated to the rhythm of life, the layout of this piece reflects the feel of it, if that makes sense. We don't think as linear as our pieces would lead us to believe. We think more in pieces, fits, starts, sections.
I liked this. Maybe b/c I am in a contemplative mood lately, myself. You should try the poet Donald Hall's book, Life Work. I think you'll enjoy it.
Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all? You cooked up a dandy here. Congrats on winning the pole spot on Cover.
Love it when you write, Owl. I gotta get over here more.

Re: funerals. It's almost as if you have to have a line item in your household budget for flowers.
2012 is one of my favorite modern films — a real thrill ride! I classify it as a form of entertainment similar to riding a breathtaking roller-coaster. Excitement from start-to-finish.

Your ruminations about death, loss and meaning speak to me. My take is quite simple. If I may use the Judeo-Christian framework, I see all of us as participating in the creation of the universe. We are all supporting and channeling God's plan to create light from darkness, to create form from chaos.

When we love, when we tell a story, when we create a painting, when we make life a little better than it was before, we contribute our tiny part to that grand aim.

To expect to have all the answers is an expression of mistrust, a conceit. Have faith! The creation of meaning and purpose is a process — a never-ending process to which we all contribute in our tiny time here on earth.
"the nights of mustard gas and roses." I am so, so happy when you write, even if you make me think hard about things I sometimes try not to think about, like why we do it all, what it means, and if it matters. I tend to think that when we are responsible for supporting people who need us, we make the best of the deal, and consider that loving and supporting them is a "job" outweighing any work for which we are paid. Usually, that gets me through......
This sounds like the calm before the storm....I'm watching you, Owl!
Wow I feel so much better after reading this. Thanks for the insight maybe we are the same in this regard?
It is so wonderful to see your writing again. Congratulations on the EP and cover placement. It is well deserved.
The more I thought about it, I think that younger generation people are quite willing to work, like Gen X, and the Baby Boom Generation didn't let them in time, and won't let go of power.
Owl, this was beautiful and lyrical. I miss the days when the smaller OS bubble communicated daily.
lovely writing my lovely owl.

I think our lives add up to living. that's all it is. to live. and rejoice in the exercise of it and breathe in and rejoice whenever we can push through the muck and see the essence, the light.

we're not perfect. we're just very lucky humans living in a good place, a place where we can live essentially clean, healthy decent lives and raise our children.
Absolutely brilliant. Totally felt this piece in every way from start to finish. And so it goes.
Penetrating writing (didn't want to say "deep" and go all 60's on you). So much food for thought and so many thoughtful musings.

There's some ironic context I can add to your intensely wrought generational continuum : Our Karen's Alex, 15, who's attended too many funerals, lives in almost total darkness with a legacy of courage and challenge, has just discovered Vonnegut (via talking books) ... and his life finally makes some sense to him. Voila. And so life goes on.
The answer is indeed 42, fellow HHGG fan. Sure wish we could figure out the questions.

I loved this post, Owl. Don't know what else to say, except congrats on the EP. And so it goes.
Really good post. The rhythm of your prose propels one forward to read, and the story is well told. Rated
I logged in just to read this and have nothing to say. I echo so many of the wonderful comments - and love that, at least four times a year you knock my socks off. Much love to you and your family.
ALL - Thank you for your amazing and genersous comments . . . this weekend, I was able to read them, but unable to respond. The EP was a pleaseant shock . . .

Harry - Actually, with or without free will, it's possible that life has meaning. Either way, if we choose to find meaning in life, it has meaning; if not, we generally lose hope. As a friend said to me recently, it's not worth torturing ourselves about it - better to let go, and trust nature.

Art - I will check out that book. Lately, I've had a fit of reading - including stuff that's light and fun - and that sounds like a a great recommendation. It is always good to see you, friend.

Dr.Spud - Your words are well-considered, and come from the voice of experience. Most of the time, I don't dwell on the "what ifs;" once in awhile, they catch up with me. Your sense of my melancholy was spot on, at least when I was writing. Between the writing, and the comments, much of it has been released. I also spent the last two days laughing my ass off with an old friend, which helped remind me that I haven't really lost anything . . . in fact, I've gained a lot. Thank you so much for your perspective.

skypixieo - I know, right?

Matt - My weekend was outstanding, and did a great deal to offset my ennui.

rita - I think it really is just par for the course, right? Some days are better than others, and as someone once said, every day above ground is a good day. I am always blessed when something in my experience helps someone else . . . I guess we're all more alike than unalike.

Jonathan - Thank you.

greenheron - I know what you mean about Studs; if anything, I felt like the anti-Studs in this. I suspect that most of us, for generations, end up making a living doing something other than what we dreamed of as kids; does that represent settling for less or growing where we planted? That's kind of what I was trying to explore. The fact is, there is value in what we do - whatever it is that we do. The trick seems to be remembering it.

fernsy - LOL. I don't know the answer to anything, really. I just know to keep learning.

Scarlett - It is a worthy thing, I agree. Like I was saying to greenheron, when we remember that it is worthy, it becomes so.

Boanerges - I, too, had the "whatever gets you through the night" ethic . . . maybe that was actually my calling!

bobbot - Your comments on reality parallel a conversation I had with some friends this weekend . . . valuable understanding, and useful, when we remember it. I'll check out "Venus on the Half Shell!"

Renatta - I love it when that happens. So often around here, I read someone's work, and I think "damn . . . how do these people get into my head. It's a real pleasure to see you!

dunniteowl - Wow! Your comment is a post in itself, and I mean that as a complement. Thank you for sharing your thoughts - your take on that quote are inspired. I love it when the "conventional" interpretations are re-examined and re-imagined. It reminds me to find a new perspective when something seems too onerous.
AtHomePilgrim - You know I'm right there with you . . . and I agree that being so wired in means it's very difficult to unplug for any length of time. The expectation of our availability is unbelievable, and would have been unimaginable 20 years ago. Of course, "back in the day," working from home might have been virtually impossible in many fields . . . When it's been particularly grueling, I think it's natural to wonder whether we've traded up, down, or sideways.

scupper - I don't know how you do it, but even your comments are welcome poetry. I am blessed by your presence.

Miguela - I think that would make a wonderful epitaph. Now I'm thinking about getting a tattoo of that Vonnegut quote.

Hawley - I'm not sure if I'm particularly level-headed or sane, but I am ponderous. And I've been thinking for the last couple of days about the "how" of where I am now. My parents seem to be glad I'm doing well, but I still sense their fear for me sometimes. I know they would feel better if they felt like I was "in the fold."

Man Talk Now - I appreciate your recognition of my sideways approach . . . I figure that big questions, like animals, get hostile with direct eye contact. And peanut butter is ever present in my cabinet at work . . . it is my secret weapon against hunger and now, against angst.

mypsyche - Good to see you! A few years ago, I asked my Mom whether adults really knew what they were doing. She laughed . . . then admitted that they don't. And so it goes . . .

h-Julie - That is a good prayer . . . a very good prayer. I have no doubt that you succeed in your intent, every day, whether you realize it or not.

High Lonesome - Your interpretation of the passage just reinforces my opinion that if you were pastoring in my area, I might consider attending church. That plus your appreciation of Vonnegut make it a certainty. Thank you for coming by!

More soon, folks . . . I am savoring and enjoying each of your comments. Thanks all.
Thinking and thinking and thinking again. Lovely this work of words. Lovely the gifts it offers and begins. And then begins again even as days go by.
I love posts like this that prod and poke and make one think. Lots of theories, very few answers. Part of the juicy messiness of life. R
Good writing!! Come up for air more often!! :) **hugs**

There's some bunnies for ya in the yard!! Have fun!!!
Dear Owl, this was so affecting. I'm so glad to see you and all the people you elicit from the woodwork. And I'm very moved by the ordinary and universally human concerns you express so extraordinarily.
Bellwether - The more I've thought about it, the more I think it's a common chord. We do what we can, right? And it's not like I'd trade my "obligations" for anything - my family bring more joy into my life than anything else, really. It's funny that you should say that you think of your husband as Van Gogh's brother . . . I occasionally call myself a patron of the arts for the same reasons. In the end, it is good. It is very good.

trilogy - :~) It's good to be back.

Beth Mann - That's true about how we think vs. how we tell a story. That could actually explain why I haven't posted in awhile - too many concurrent thought bubbles running around in my head. If I'd written it for expository/critical writing, though, I can imagine the words in red: C+ - Several interesting themes here. Although they are releated, none are developed in full. Nonetheless, I shall persevere, and write when I can.

Sandra Stephens - I will keep an eye out for that book. I've been reading a lot lately, and poetry has been missing from my selections.

Chicken Maaan - LOL. We take turns cooking . . . and thanks. The cover was extremely unexpected.

Don Rich - No doubt.

Punchnel's - If you've gotta "get over here more often," I've gotta write more often. But really, I gotta write more often just on principle.

Monsieur Chariot - I always feel graced by your presence. I very much appreciate your take . . . it is a compelling interpretation, in which I do, and will, endeavor to have faith. That's what it boils down too, really.

Cranky Cuss - LOL. Thanks.

Ann Nichols - You, likewise, make me think hard about things I sometimes try not to think about . . . but knowing that others are thinking about the same thing allows me to remember that I'm not alone in my questions.

Brazen Princess - It could very well be a calm before a storm. Crazier things have happened. But I'm well-known for battening down the hatches in the roughest weather, and riding it out.

Algis Kemezys - I think a great number of us are working toward . . . I dunno . . . if not wisdom, then maybe simply a greater understanding. So, yes . . . we are more alike than unalike.

Diary of a Hopeful Starving Student - It's good to be writing again, whenever it happens. Thanks for coming by.

Don - Perhaps. I think we just want to know what we're working for.

voicegal - Thank you. I miss those days, too . . . but such is life, I suppose. The only constant is change, plus the expanding universe.

Foolish Monkey - When I think of your screen name, I am reminded of a card in the Zen Tarot, "The Fool," who is wise in his perceived foolishness. Thank you for your insights, Monkey. I am feeling very lucky today.

Bernadine Spitzsnogel - Perhaps this piece represents the thinking of all of us who have dreams, and are learning to let some of them go, while reaching for others. Maybe.

Sally Swift - With writing, I'm just glad if it works. If it's penetrating, I really hope it's good . . . so if it was good for you . . . er . . . ahem . . . Anyway . . . It does make ironic sense that Alex finds additional meaning in Vonnegut's work. Even though he didn't exactly address it directly, Vonnegut was writing from a profound sense of loss. ::sigh:: I hate that Vonnegut is gone.

Smithery - I once designed t-shirts for a little league team, complete with the player's last name and number on the back. As a reward, I got to order one for myself. The back of my shirt read "Answer" "42". I loved how few people got it. I also loved how many people got it.

Erica K - Thanks. I honestly couldn't tell if I had a story or not, until it was done. Then it seemed plausibly story-like.

aim - I am honored by your comment . . . and these comments are truly outstanding. Love back at you and yours.

anna1liese - Thank you, and blessings, friend.

marytkelly - Exactly. If I had the answers, would anyone believe me? I wouldn't. This is how we learn.

Tinkerertink69 - Thanks, man. I'm going to grab me some bunnies.
Lainey - I have always been amazed and honored by those who read and those who comment on what I write. So much of what we think and experience is universal, and yet we feel so alone with it. But knowing that others are also working it out seems to help. So if I can contribute in some small way . . . well, here we are, no? It is very good to see you, Lainey.
You are absolutely right, Owl. The answer *is*, and always *will* be, 42. (Incidentally, I am and always will be 42, which means in my world that I have 5 more years to finally be ordained.) Of course this is writing. I actually like wandering posts. That's why I write them.
Mama Lou - Hooray for 42! I like your concept of "aging" . . . and as always, it's good to see you.
Keep coming up for air then wise Owl.
This is a great piece.
I will always admire you, for courage.
Mission - I likewise admire you for courage. This piece isn't so much courage . . . just thinking, you know. But it felt good to write . . .
I always knew you were great and this proves it yet again.
Algis - thanks, my friend. Good to see you.
Hey Owl

There's nothing wrong with stopping now and then to take in the landscape and figure out where we are. It is what it is and it's all okay.
Owl - my biggest connection with you lies in the "recovering fundamentalist" arena...and you always give me insight into my own thought processes. Great to read you again.
It's tough, sometimes, being an adult. It's hard to know whether any of it means anything, whether all of it means enough. When others are depending on your labor, it can be wrenching to wonder what might have been, to make the right decisions regarding risk versus reward.

If there are "right" decisions.

Maybe the missing lesson for our generation, for our culture, is simply this:

Life's Work

Maybe that's just factual.

And so it goes.

You nailed it here and thanks for this before the new year comes and surprises us again.
Fay - I do take in the landscape . . . and I try not to make myself too crazy with the rat race. Every so often, it overtakes me, and that's okay too.

Heidi - I believe that there is intrinsic value in our stories, and that, in sharing them, we have access to greater insight. Reading your stories gives me greater insight, too. I figure if something in my story helps someone else (even cautionary tales), then it may well be worth it all, you know?

Brazen Princess - Lol. If only.

Algis - It's true. The new year cometh . . .
your work, if it benefits others either directly, or indirectly, is meaningful...ever so. You are a provider on more levels than you realize. I'm fortunate to benefit from your insightful, generous comments, and I am grateful. You maintain the flame for so many of us on this great forum..... and that is merely virtual. The same is no doubt true for those you touch in the physical world....thank you Sir Owl.