Category Archives: Excessive allegory


from psymily on

When we were rocking on the porch, chatting, I felt at home. Young people faking elder people’s habits: it’s what we do until it’s authentic.

“Home” fleeted. As you know, Experience moves out and your new roommate is Memory. Well, Memory moved into my head with most of her furniture. I was young and lacked furnishings, so why not use these? I sat in Memory’s couch while I watched the evening news, uncomfortable as it was. I wrote my letters with Memory’s quill, even though it cracked. I sipped Memory’s gin until I realized it was poison. The light falling on everything I came from Memory’s lamp, until the bulbs died. Memory was a bicycle with a slow leak. It took me places, slowly, exhausting me until its condition required I dismount and find some other way around; at some point, you must.

Memories fade and baggage unravels when it is not maintained, like how demons starve when you don’t feed them. The sun rose and set a couple thousand times since Experience bid his adieu. I got new memories, new roommates to my head. I even figured out how to live in the present. Here I am. I am happy to forward to you my new address.

This home, now, feels empty. So much has happened. Nothing lasts forever, especially not a state of mind.

The tricky part is making sure I’m being wise with all this empty space.

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Filed under Excessive allegory, Personal

“Innocence is overrated based on what you haven’t done”

Military Road in Kenmore, NY. December 9, 2016. My photo.

You’re not innocent.

Innocence is purity and purity sometimes happens in chemistry and never happens in people.

You’re not right.

Righteousness requires purity. We’ve already been over that.

You can make the world imperfectly better with imperfect strategies.

There’s no utility to guilt unless it includes accountability. Ideally, accountability comes on a sliding scale of severity. I am hearing from people a fear of being ostracized for things they do not understand, being condemned when they need to be educated. Not that this need is always recognized by anyone involved. We use the same words and speak different languages.

The need to be innocent is toxic. Rhetoric is too easy to tangle, too easy to manipulate, too easy to believe. It is too easy to rewrite the moral codes to include whatever you do. People do it all the time, when the worse thing they can imagine being is wrong.

Demanding total innocence from others is violent. Obviously, right? We’re human. Purity never happens in people.

I have found greater peace accepting that the world I live in, the world I came form, the world that gave me every molecule of my being, is primarily made of dirt. With that starting point, I can just be. I can just do. I can evaluate the best I can do from a stance unthreatened by the fact I’m never actually the best.

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Filed under Dystopia, Excessive allegory, Personal

Empirical fact of humanity

Melodi2 from

I am nearsighted; the far-away blurs. I work on what I know. There are close-by puzzles to be solved. Yet. We drink the water that falls from the sky after traveling from far away, flowed through a far-off river before becoming part of the lake, or that we pumped out of ground we share with everyone else. I fear I am parochial, worrying about the local water infrastructure when the water itself is becoming poisoned.

All of this is hard and none of us know what we are doing.  Our neat and tidy history books lie, depicting people doing clear-cut right and wrong things using their white paper and black letters when the experiences were, I suspect, I hear, more likely smoky gray.

Already I notice change within me. I find, more than usual, I am looking to ascertain the boundaries of what I can trust and not. I trust strangers less than I used to. I know this distrusting orientation, when held en masse, permits the dissolution of norms of liberty, which require norms of trust. The society I belong to keeps choosing the mirage of safety over being free.

I am hesitant to join with my neighbors. There are ideals of universal love, and life teaches me that they are ideals. It is so easy for the sense of what could be to be choked by the understanding of what actually is. And maybe that is the point – we aspire to ideals and do better in the process. You cannot become better without trying, right? I fear my country started to believe we actually were our aspiration. We were too lost in the mirage to look and see how we were venturing away from it. We stopped choosing its pursuit.

I truly only have influence in small groups of people. Small groups that I am not completely sure how to assess to make an impact on a problem larger than all of us. What to do? I want certainty where there is none. I want safety though it has never existed. I want superhuman levels of reliability. Understanding the empirical fact of being human feels like a grieving process. I take the risk of being wrong for a shot at doing right. I take a risk of being hurt for a shot at being effective. I take a risk that being vulnerable might help someone understand that they are not alone. Trust feels like it should be the platonic form of being human. The platonic form is not the empirical fact: I have failed and I have been failed. I still grieve every broken relationship and lost faith. I lament lost possibility of what would have been if none of us were the people we actually are. What we actually are is, alas, what I have to work with. People just are, you know. That is what you have to work with.

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Filed under Dystopia, Excessive allegory


The day after my country voted to elect a political neophyte to its highest office, whose campaign platform was essentially fascism and nostalgia, my area’s symbol of the past burst into flames. The steel plant that was once was the economic engine of the region caught fire as everyone was hearing the results. The fire was huge. I should not be using past tense; it’s still burning as I write this.

The smoke was so intense, it looked like a storm on radar, following the path of the wind. Yesterday, my spouse, who works 20 miles northeast of the site, smelled burning rubber and plastic.


My photo from Buffalo’s City Hall observation deck of the smoke, after it had turned white.

I thought it was abandoned. Turns out that it was housing a bunch of small businesses with far fewer employees than the steel mill needed, and it’s weatherworn appearance was simply, well, the result of weather. The local fire departments are collaborating in efforts to extinguish it. They have to disassemble the structure as they work. One report likened the building to legos, with lots of smaller compartments that the water of the firefighters just will not touch without demolition.

The smoke sent toxins into the air and the mayor declared a state of emergency in the adjacent neighborhoods and asked residents to evacuate. Some did. Some refused.

The rage of the fire is dying down, though it’s being stubborn and remains. Diligent, capable, and brave people are continuing to calmly work, to contain it, to extinguish it, to ensure the fire does not hurt others.


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Filed under Buffalo, Excessive allegory


Comforting words bounce off me like tennis balls to a shield. I did not mean to pick it up, but there I am, holding it. I watch them bob away with autumn leaves. My vision is blurred, but I saw this. I swear I saw it. I feel nothing.

I feel like I exhale the air everyone else is just now starting to breathe. I breathe it too; we forget it has a scent. I pulled my sword out and let the blade cut my hands. I do not know what to do.

I want to join the cold wind, give you a hug, and tell you that I do not like it either.

I grieve every time I re-learn that we are not better than we are.

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Filed under Excessive allegory

Sharp blades sheathed

image by Prawny on

image by Prawny on

The younger version of me used to swing her sword around anytime she felt inclined. Elder me keeps it sheathed most of the time. Experience taught me that sharp edges cut, the words I say do land and mean something. I have power, and I chose to be more discerning about it. I don’t want the trees around me to fall because I was not paying attention. So I sat. I watched. I thought. Sometimes I overthought. The fact is this: when you cut a connection, you rarely get it back.

I spend a lot of time on the New York State Thruway. Family will do that. NYS Thruway is pretty through the Catskills, but I live in Western New York state, where it passes through enough flat farm fields for a statistically rigorous sample to conclude they are not terribly exciting to look at. No sight-seeing in this utilitarian endeavor; the goal is to pass through as quick as safety and legality will permit.

Discussions of whether “ends justifying means” or not implicitly imply that the ends and the means are as separate entities as my parents’ home from an interstate highway. Like the experience of the journey is only as important as it leads you to the intended outcome.

Outcome and process are woven together. Rev. Sekou said in this Fortification podcast, “You are making the road as you walk.” You build your destination with the road as well. Each cobble placed in the road becomes a piece of the house’s foundation. Even when a house is “finished”, you don’t put away your tools. Every “finished” house will require more effort in the form of repairs, but houses made of sturdier materials will require it less often.

There’s so much falsehoods flying around this election. A friend attributes it to an “at all costs” politck. We are in an era of institutional distrust. The sort of fact-finding and descriptive statistics I trade in were the currency of a supposed elite, distrusted by many. It seemed that people believed they are right because they believe everything they think. It doesn’t matter the political orientation. I found people of both left and right orientations falling for conspiratorial thinking, an us-vs-them political and rhetorical advocacy, like everyone was trying to paint a black and white world where they stood on the side of righteousness. Confirmation bias runs wild, robbing us blind of our ability to make good judgments. Nuanced opinions were a quiet murmur, the sound of a pond’s ripples next to the boom of jet engines. Even if the majority, they were drowned out.

Sometimes the other-guy got painted as a caricature of evil. If you heeded the battle call, you’d pull out your sword and charge against an enemy that was only partly true, and partly illusion. These battle calls, laced with exaggeration in some cases and bloody truth in others, would tell you that a screw needed a hammer often enough that it was never apparent when the instructions were accurate. I felt betrayed when I realized that sometimes the people I am inclined to agree with are full of it. I sense that sometimes non-profits and politicians fall for the temptation to exaggerate bad situations, maybe through inflated numbers, maybe through connections that don’t exist, to try to rally more support. Problems are sufficiently bad on their own; but what do they actually look like? Uh. Sigh.

I want to build a house, but I can’t if the road you give me for an address doesn’t exist. I cannot defeat an army that’s half mirage. So I sat back, sword in sheath, trowel in pocket, drawing my map as I went because I trusted fewer people as this journey went on. I felt like this path destined me to a crumbling house in a haunted neighborhood.

It seems needless. In a context where I could not discern what was, where so much was not to be trusted, I did not feel confident using my voice as one to lead if I could not feel confident in my own ways to go. So I stayed put and did the best I could. I am still scratching my head at what to do next.

Besides voting. I’ll vote. And then? Who knows.

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Filed under Excessive allegory, Social Justice Commentary


Maybe it is because I am older. I’m finally at a point where I am comfortable with my demons. Not overly so; we aren’t snuggling on the couch watching Sherlock. I no longer pretend they are else where, or no where at all. I am less uneasy sitting at my dining room table sipping my third cup of coffee as we share breakfast. It is better this way. I was ashamed of them, as is normal, and spent my time avoiding the dining room hoping that if I never ate I’d starve them into nonexistence. Problem: I could not survive on incompleteness. So, here we are, passing each other stale toast. It’s not unconditional acceptance. I polished their horns and claws with fine grit sandpaper masquerading as polishing cloth. The instructions said these demons would sparkle so much they’d get confused for the decor. The process hurt, no one is prettier, and no one is fooled; I did succeed in blunting the edge.

I’ve been thinking about protest. It’s a statement. It’s an aesthetic. I’m much more keen on the statement than the aesthetic, though the paint color adorns a wall of the dining room. The demons raise their eyebrows, and motion with the toast, “Really? That? It’s hideous. It’s ugly in it’s own right and it matches nothing else here.” I’ll tell them I didn’t put it up because it was pretty. I thought it was the right thing to do. Then they’ll point out the cracks in the wall and something about lead paint remediation gone wrong. I finish cup of coffee number three.

Protest is a statement, and despite comfort with the sound, I’ve got bandwidth problems. How is it humanly possible to reach one’s arms wide enough to broadcast the messages worth saying and keep holding that which you must not drop? I usually sacrifice the reach, as some of what I hold can only reside in my hands. It is not a perfect solution. Sometimes, when you do not reach, no one else does either. Sometimes, it must be you. I feel like my arms are so outstretched that they are one error of scheduling away from popping out of my shoulder sockets, a fact that doesn’t diminish that there is always, always, always more to do. Some dropped balls bounce. Some dropped balls break. There are glass shards on the floor from when I’ve guessed wrong, permanently ground into the carpet without even the courtesy of a treacherous sparkle.

Maybe it is because I am older; my vision is blurry. I am surrounded by gray. The air is gray, the ground is gray, the sky is gray and even the bathwater is gray. The sharp, defined lines delineating paths have blurred. The easily identified fence between the Good and the Bad has transformed into a mild gradient on a slight incline, where even Good and Bad blur together and it begins to feel like they are the same property. The moral compass spins and fractures, and the map to the right decision leads you to the mistake you’d most prefer. Even when I grab buckets of paint to recolor the world into something my younger self saw, I find I’ve just covered it with a different shade of gray. Sometimes it seems as the paint might as well be invisible, for all this work and it is all the same. Struggling to change the status quo can be insufficient to change it, I learn time and time again. At least this color matches my furniture.

I struggle with what to do. The demons sometimes sound like my closest friends, especially when I ask advice about tricky things, and they say the same thing. I sit at the table sipping my fourth cup of coffee wondering if I’ve miscast these demons, if the story I wrote for them in my life is overly dismissive; maybe they aren’t demons at all. Was the sharp delineation I gave them from the rest of myself just a self-deluded optical illusion? Are they as gray as the rest of everything? Did I imagine that they had a sharp contrast with the rest of myself? I was in stage tech. I sat behind the scenes. I learned all the techniques to make make-believe seem magic. I learned the art of mirage. I am privy to what makes the performance convincing, but have I fallen for it?

Though there is a pile of crumbs on my dining room floor, no one seems to have finished eating. No one seems ready to leave. If I wait long enough, if I overthink everything enough, it’ll all fade to gray, and I won’t be able to see a thing.


Filed under Excessive allegory, Lessons Learned The Hard Way, Personal, Social Justice Commentary