Friday, March 21, 2014

Try to Whistle a Happy Tune

I almost always start in here having nothing to say initially. And then it's there, either a gem in the dirt of my thoughts, or a globby green thing that sucks the life out of every good thing.

Why are there globby green things that suck the life out of things? It's the ultimate question. Why is there evil in this world?

I'm not sure anyone has ever answered that one in a satisfactory way for me. The closest is yin and yang. There is light and there is darkness. Without one there is no other.

But why?

It was a beautiful sunny day today, but I wasn't truly happy until I walked with a good friend to the bottom of the Snoqualmie Falls and felt the mist on my face from the flood-stage river, water and debris dropping 482 feet to the bottom of the falls. There was a whole tree balanced on the center rock at the top of the falls. I wanted to see that tree go over. I wanted to see it tumble into the mist and disappear. You'd think it would come downstream right away, wouldn't you?

It wouldn't.

The effect is called a hydraulic. Evidence of the hydraulic at the bottom of the falls lay at my feet, a green tree trunk that looked like it had been grated using a huge cheese grater until the bark and a great deal of the wood had been pulped off of it. That tree trunk had spent some time in the hydraulic at the bottom of the falls, rolling around and around, hitting rocks debris, and churned up sediment in the water.

I feel that way, sometimes, ground down past a layer of my soul. How many layers do I have? Can I grow new layers? What happens when a soul is ground down too deeply?

I was just reading in this month's 'Scientific American Mind' that greed has a domino effect, that people are more likely to pay it forward when it came to meanness than to pay forward kindness. All it took to counteract that sense was to focus on something positive to alleviate that greed-induced response and to feel good about trying to end a greed chain. Well then. Life is just that simple, is it?

Just a spoon full of sugar. 

On the way home from Nick's karate class, I was listening to Terry Gross interview a psychologist who had scanned the brains of a number of murders and found that their brain activity was significantly different than that of normal people. Those who committed premeditated murder had a lack of brain activity in their amigdala, the part the controls emotions and sympathy. Those who had committed a murder in a rage had a lack of activity in their prefrontal cortex, the part the works to inhibit our actions. Terry had just asked the question about 'not guilty by reason of insanity' plea for people on trial.

I wanted to know the psychologist's opinion about that question, but I wanted to drag my tired butt inside my house more. When I got up the stairs, I asked Mike the same question.

"Nope. Put them in jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200."

What about that spoon full of sugar then?

Then, after I'd collected enough stuff from the fridge and set everyone to a meal of leftovers and scraps, I opened my magazine again.

Half of all those in prison have at least one kind of mental disorder, I read. Further, treating these people in forensic hospitals instead of prisons has led to a 60% reduction in repeat offenses. Wow. Sixty percent is a big reduction. The article went on to compare the annual cost of treatment for a patient as compared to the cost of maintaining a prisoner. Treatment was more than fifteen times the cost of the prison. It's a huge difference.

I suspect that the cost was a simple calculation, though. How much does it cost when a released prisoner kills again, the cost to the victim's family and the cost in the courts? And how do you count the benefit to society of bringing an individual successfully back into society?

It makes me wonder - how many people have I met that have killed someone? I would have assumed that none had, but now, I wonder. Are we really all that well segregated? The problem with all of this is that I'm not sure people want to integrate murderers back into society. I'm not sure I do either.

Sure, I think, treat them, but I'd feel safer if they were never let go. Is that greedy of me? Can I get through this question by thinking a happy thought?

That downed tree trunk that lay on the banks of the river at the base of the falls is not thinking a happy thought. Those people who were sent to prisons instead of forensic hospitals are not going to change everything when they think a happy thought. They've been rolled over and over and ground layers off their souls in the hydraulic of life at the bottom of the falls. How does a person come back from that?

And that's why there is good and evil. Something bad happens, then something else. Maybe the first few things were simply bad luck, but then something turns sour. Sometimes a person gets ground down too much and ends up doing something evil. Evil begets evil. It's beyond me how to turn that kind of thing around, though I'm not completely unfamiliar with evil. I have seen evil. I have seen my own capacity for evil.

I should whistle a happy tune?

Oh how did I start down this road tonight? Mike is watching 'Game of Thrones.' It's full of evil. There are stories I could tell you, stories of a family who say that their great great grandpa didn't start beating great great grandma until after he had a high fever during the flu pandemic of 1918. Then, there's a trickle-down of fury through the following generations and that is why so and so, the great great grandson, is the way he is. Is that the definition of bad karma? Or is it just that a single soul has been pounded to a pulp in the hydraulic of life's bad circumstances?

Personally, I don't think either one is a very good excuse.

Thank you for listening, jules

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