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An Ironical Pandemical
Reach out but
Don’t touch someone

Let’s all stay close
By staying apart

Because we are in this together
Separately

We are many
And we are all ones.
Believe It or Not
As hard as I try, it’s a challenge for me to shrug off the boneheaded political views of others. I’m not talking about people who simply disagree with me, even though there are plenty of those. I’m talking about people whose beliefs are founded firmly and proudly on ignorance. Ignorance is curable, of course, so there is always hope for a conversion. If that ignorance is armed with cynicism, however, it can be impervious to reality and to logic. And that can be a problem for all of us.

I was confronted once again with this sad truth recently while listening to an interview by KQED producer Lacy Jane Roberts with her grandfather. His cynical position: “I don’t believe anything the news media say.” He delivered this declaration with a kind of smugness that suggested he had found some wisdom that was obvious. After all, he said, how can those so-called reporters be sure that what they are reporting is the truth?

Lacy didn’t press her grandfather on that point, even though she, as a reporter herself, was equipped to do so. Her mission with the interview, I think, was simply to present the phenomenon of the old boy’s mindset. So she didn’t ask him how he knew what was true or how he went about sorting fact from non-fact. He did volunteer that he only believed “information” that substantiated what he already believed. How he arrived at those original beliefs, however, was left unclear.

His mindset, however, was abundantly clear. Like so many of his fellow Trumpers, he watches Fox and gets more than enough support there for his boneheaded opinions. Fox, in turn, is happy to do its part. His views are not based on fact, and neither is their reporting (if one could call it that). He is a cynic, and he thrives on the cynicism of others.

Cynicism, it should be noted, is not a philosophy. Instead, it is an absence of philosophy, an admission of defeat, a last-ditch defense mechanism against fear and uncertainty. It signals, in the cynic, an unwillingness to form a coherent response to the world and instead to retreat into an utter distrust of everyone. It is not skepticism, either. Skepticism is a method of seeking the truth through examining the credibility of sources and applying logic.

Cynicism doesn’t seek truth; it denies it. It is nourished by laziness and fear, and these days, it can be dangerous — not just to the cynic, but to everyone. The coronavirus doesn’t care about truth; it just does what it does. It certainly doesn’t care if you believe it’s a hoax or an attack on the President or an asian super weapon. If you are cynical, then, and you do nothing to address the threat from the virus, you are much more likely to be infected by it. Your defense mechanism is powerless against it.

It might be interesting to reflect on the irony of that situation, but we don’t have that luxury. The laziness and fear of our cynical fellow citizens will also magnify the threat of the virus to the rest of us. The more infected people there are moving around out there in our society, the greater chances are that you or I will come down with it. The virus will not care if we have been careful or followed the advice of the CDC or listened to the experts. Consequently, Lacy’s grandpa and all the other boneheads will have to be part of the solution…even though they’re part of the problem.

Which only heightens the irony. But COVID-19 doesn’t care about irony either. So the most we can do is try to accept what happens, move forward…and try not to get cynical.
Spring Back, Fall Forward
Spring back, fall forward. That’s the mnemonic device I use to remember how to set the clocks around daylight savings. And it’s worked pretty well all these years.

Sort of. To be honest, I guess I’d have to say that there are times when something goes haywire with this system. Well, every time, actually. Usually, all my clocks end up two hours off for a few days afterward. I must be doing something wrong, I suppose.

Eventually, I end up looking at my computer and set all my clocks to that time, and I’m fine after that. It’s pretty frustrating, but I figure it doesn’t really matter anyway. Time, after all, is a purely human construct. You won’t find Mother Nature looking at her Bulova to see what time to start Spring. You won’t find Satan checking his Rolex Submariner to count the seconds until the Apocalypse. And I don’t think God will be setting his Westclox Big Ben to remind Him that it’s Judgment Day.

We are the ones who need time — to help us keep the order of events straight, to measure change, and to know when to take the souffle out of the oven. The rest of the universe runs in spite of time, not because of it. Mother Nature, for instance, relies on a whole system of complex organic markers when deciding to pull the trigger on that first robin or crocus or high country thaw. It’s a process more complicated than mere humans can understand. She’s plugged into the cosmic All One in a way that we never will be.

Even the world we do understand seems to defy the precise demands of time. We know that time flies sometimes; at other times, it crawls. They have yet to make a clock that can measure those kinds of variables. And when we go fast, those same clocks will record different times than other clocks record when we are standing still. And when we approach the speed of light, time will seem to stop altogether. My Timex would be irrelevant in such a situation.

So time is a made-up thing. It has no inherent importance other than what we assign to it. And so it is with Daylight Savings Time.

I will not give up on my mnemonic helper, because I am determined to get it right. Spring back, fall forward — it’s so simple! Next Fall for sure! Not that it matters.
One More Time
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but for the last few years I have been working on a time machine. It’s pretty far along, too. I’m in the process of running down one or two final bugs at this point, though I’m not sure how long that will take.

I’m not so interested in going forward in time, really. I suppose that getting a peek at the future might allow me to conduct some lucrative off-track betting on my return to the present, but no. Untold wealth is kind of appealing, but I’m scared silly of what else I might find in the future.

The idea for me is to go back in time and make a few corrections. Nothing big, really. I don’t want to tackle Lee Harvey Oswald in the Book Depository just before he assassinates JFK or kill baby Hitler in his crib. I’ll leave that to other, more heroic time travelers. I intend to concentrate on my own mistakes, none of which were particularly noteworthy to anyone but me.

Mostly, I just want to get rid of my regret. It uses up a surprisingly large amount of my time, even though some of those mess-ups happened years, even decades ago. I have no doubt that the other people affected by these mistakes have long since forgotten about them. I freely admit that this is mostly about my hang-ups, not theirs. But it’s my invention, after all, so I don’t feel too guilty about it.

As my work stands right now, the go-back-and-change-things part is mostly solved. That was surprisingly easy, as it turned out. It’s the bugs that are proving to be the real challenge. Take, for instance, the unforeseen-consequences bug. What if the small change I have in mind precipitates another change — an unwanted one — that screws things up here in the present? That situation might force me to go back again and do some fine tuning…which might require even finer tuning, and so on. I might end up never having the chance to enjoy my new, regret-free existence.

And then, there’s the innocent-bystander bug. Even though this whole project is about me, my little changes might tangle up the personal timelines of others. That would only lead to more regret, thereby defeating the whole purpose of this exercise.

And so, the work continues. I am, as I say, very close to the finish line with this project. Indeed, it could come at any time. But there’s no rush, right? Once I have a time machine, I can always travel back and invent it in the past.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon