qualified

Here’s a game for you….

In order to play, you’ll need your change purse, a jar or box, a comfortable place to sit, and access to cable TV news.

Before you start watching, you’ll need to know that you’ll be listening for two expressions: “Sort of” and “Kind of.” It’s important to realize that these synonymous expressions can be used in two different ways. First, as means of defining or clarifying type, as in, “A morel is a sort/kind of edible fungus.” Second, as a means of qualifying or lending uncertainty to the state of something, such as, “My room is sort/kind of messy.”

All set?

Good. Now, turn on the TV to one of the three major cable news stations, it doesn’t matter which you start with, because, after 30 minutes (yes, you’ll need to give it that long), you’ll change the channel to one of the others for comparison.

From this point the game is simple. Every time a show’s host or guest uses “Sort of,” or Kind of” as a way of qualifying their comments, throw a coin into your chosen receptacle. As you play, keep track of what, exactly, the expression is qualifying, and how that affects the impact, and, even legitimacy of the commentary. Also, keep track of which station causes you to throw in the greatest amount of coins, and how that difference between news sources affects you. If you want to make the game more interesting, you can grade the seriousness off the qualifications. So, if a reporter says, “So-and-so was sort of unsure in his/her response to the question,” you might throw in a penny. But, if a doctor advises the public to, “Sort of stay home if you can,” you might throw in a quarter.

I’ve been playing for a year now, and am convinced that qualified truths are not truths. They are maybes which give viewers and listeners permission to disregard them. That makes them only slightly better than useless.

I haven’t yet heard anyone say, “She was sort of pregnant,” or “The victims were kind of dead,” but the way things are going, I won’t be surprised if I do.

And that frightens me.

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Common Ground

The question is not being, if or to, but rather when and what or why and where and how.

If one does this instead of that, results may shift by threads, or swelling clouds of snow. But time, as lord of all, crafts here and now at whim.

And what of this is relevant? What is fluff, and what’s concrete?

A crack, a stone, a thought, a breath, the need to move, progress?

It seems the center’s gone beyond not holding to full collapse. But those corners remaining, can they sustain our weight without it?

Years ago, I saw a man on a corner far from mine. Because there was no ground between us, we got by on shallow waves, our certainties preserved by distance until one day a spot appeared no larger than a tender seed and we set our feet upon it. And from each common yes no maybe, it grew.

Soon it will be spring and time to plant. That, I think, is being; that, I think is when and what and why and where and urgently, mindfully how.

Yes.

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Hodgepodge

Gallery of the Louvre — Samuel Morse

I was looking for a painting, an abstract really, to explain my weeks of absence. None of them were messy enough. Not even Pollock’s. So I started paging through pointillists, and surrealists, and vast scenes of hunts and portraits of serious men at serious undertakings and found my attention straying to the barking dog next door.

Dogs bark for any number of reasons—a pedestrian walks by, a squirrel leaps into a tree, a neighbor’s cat tries to trespass on their turf, or they just want inside. Then they stop barking when the pedestrian is gone, the squirrel bounds out of sight, the cat slinks away, or the door opens for them.

Fortunately, there’s rarely more than one dog barking at a time around here.

For years, I was fascinated by Morse’s Louvre masterpiece, but now it just seems messy, a fascinating irony from someone who devised a method of communicating with dots and dashes, dits and dahs. I think when there’s that much going on it’s hard to focus, know what is most deserving of attention.

So, it’s not that I haven’t had the urge to bark; I just haven’t known what to bark at first. There are simply too many pedestrians, squirrels, cats, and doors.

Woof.

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