The Challenge of Omniscience

Jake uses his front paws like hands. He lays on his back, holding a tennis ball in the air between his paws, gently nibbling it while upside-down. He grabs your leg with his front arms and pulls when you go places he wishes you would not. He is an assertive and expressive communicator.

My dad often chants playfully to him, “Jake knows everything. Yes he does. Jake knows everything” as they’re dancing around.

My domain is in the basement. When I step down the stairs, Jake runs to the railing, pushing his head through the slats, even though it often gets stuck, to see me down the steps. I stop midway down the flight when we are eye-level. He rolls onto his back, stretching his paws out to my face while upside down, tongue hanging out, with a silly grin on his face made of sharp canine teeth.

Tanner, his “big brother”, left the night before after a week-long stay. Jake’s melancholy was tangible I looked into his eyes, and he into mine, and I wondered at such a sweet little beasty as this, alive, so similar, and so different. I imagined; I allowed myself to feel the depth of what he was, bringing to mind images of reincarnation and the manifold ramifications — an openness much like all he might have been, or might be. Then suddenly it seemed he sensed what I was thinking and became unsettled, abruptly getting to his feet, trotting to the bathroom door where my dad was sitting on the toilet, clawing at it for entrance. I stood for a while on the stairway and smiled.

Jake loves having things. And the things that you might have, he loves having all the more. The tennis ball in your hand is always more desirable than the tennis ball he already has. The food in the mouth of another dog is far more succulent than the same food he has. Even a quick, harmless pat upon another dog’s head is an unbearable affront. Jake knows everything.

Marines have been given guard dog duty at Guantanamo. We’re sending 3,000 more marines to the Middle East as part of a new, smaller buildup. A friend of the family who is in the Coast Guard Reserves will be sent in a few days to Guantanamo for a tour of guard duty. He is a policeman, and a Christian. Guantanamo is one place of many. We have hundreds of prisoners there, most held for several years. None of them have been charged or tried with any crime. A journalist for al-Jazeera (the Middle-East’s CNN equivalent) is there, held prisoner for more than 2,000 days. Prisoners are routinely given psychotropic drugs for personality deconstruction. He was told he would be freed if he would report the news agency’s activities and contacts back to US Intelligence. I wonder if it’s like a movie being dragged around on the floor by a rope around your penis. He went on a hunger strike early last year. He is kept alive by a tube inserted down his nose, through his throat, and into his stomach. The Christian policeman says the “liberals” are to blame for our current state of affairs. The Mormon presidential candidate wants to expand Guantanamo.

Jake likes chasing after little animals he sees moving. He feels compelled to catch them and bring them back. A small dog who used to visit has decided he doesn’t like Jake and attacks him now on sight, with all the little dog’s might. Jake doesn’t know what to do, so he lays down to surrender, but the little dog just keeps attacking.

I don’t remember exactly what it was about, but I was told recently it’s all just survival of the fittest. Was it money? Power? Politics? War? Religion? Like evolution. It’s just natural. And I wondered, if we have the awareness, must we follow what is “natural”? If we do not, are we somehow “unnatural”? But I soon figured it was a trick, just another one of those get out of jail free cards we so readily pull out for ourselves. Another way to say, that’s just how the game works, and you gotta play it. Then you’re absolved. Then you’re forgiven. And you don’t even have to repent.

And I was looking at the TV when I realized, nobody I know is like what I’m seeing there. Nobody is that profoundly stupid. Right? It’s all about getting out, free, right? Yet there was the TV, going on along its merry way. There were the 2-D songs and dances, right before my eyes, with sound. While everyone around me was saying something completely different. And I heard a loud, frenzied pounding on basement door, from the other side, on the stairwell. There must have been two balls instead of one. When two balls land on the bottom stair, Jake can’t fit them both in his mouth at the same time. Yet he will struggle forever trying, instead of just taking one, and then later, the other. It has to be done, or to die in the trying.

Our leaders want to cut taxes now to help us spend more money in the economy, while at the same time throwing away more and more on war. You know how they can spend more and more, while bringing in less and less, right? I don’t know how conservatives can complain about liberal spending, when liberal spending is always so much less. It’s like Willy Wonka traveling in that mad tunnel. And people believe it. Or, they don’t, but don’t say anything. We all know how much of our property has been seized by financial institutions recently, don’t we? We all know how our taxes will be given to these same companies so they won’t loose money, right?

Boeing workers are currently fighting to get cost-of-living increases included in their retirement pensions. My dad barely has any money now that property taxes have risen so much. In just a few more years, if he is unlucky enough to live, he’ll have to try selling the house to survive his remaining time. The privatized prescription program of Medicare enacted recently has caused him to pay double for prescription coverage, until he just canceled it. The Democrat’s solution for universal heath care is to mandate that we all purchase health insurance. Just like we’re all mandated to purchase auto insurance.

In the Reagan Era it became commonplace for corporations to spend their employee’s retirement fund. Boeing barely escaped a corporate raider who came after them solely because of their large cash employee retirement fund. I own part of a company that is trying to get exclusive control over a publicly-owned park with a multi-decade contract, displacing arts and civic groups. I tried long ago, for a long time, to put them on a positive route with all the other bad stuff they did. But apparently, I was being negative. The FDA has proclaimed meat from cloned animals safe for our consumption, but asked the industry to hold off putting it in the market until we can get “used to” the idea. The cloned meat is already in the stream. Most cloned animals die from molecular/genetic errors. The few that happen to survive, are the ones whose offspring we will eat. This has not be been proven harmful to in the last few years. So it is okay.

My Christian friend (practically a family member) will be leaving in the next few days to hold people in prison indefinitely for torture. Scant funding continues to be available for alternative energy sources that cannot be controlled centrally by a few people. Money for universities continues to flow into the technical instead of liberal arts. Science continues to have its focus drawn forcibly into a narrow, money-making scope. All the while, our government has now made it possible for all our news, entertainment and information to come from as few places as they might — even though, like the parks, we the public own the air waves. They also allow themselves to monitor us and intercept our communications under the guise of protecting us, ignoring the fact that any truly nefarious communications would be encrypted. But, as Hoover has show us, such things can be beneficial in maintaining power (status quo). They even snuck through national ID cards, that ties agency information about us together, buried in a funding bill. AP reporters have been told to follow Brittney Spears at all cost, where any news is big news. They don’t follow our lawmakers or business people, though.

I’ll stop. That was a bit of a tirade, not really a rant. It’s been so long since I’ve written anything to y’all that I feel I deserve a little indulgence. There are so many issues, and so many changes we’ve collectively gone through, over such a short time. I wonder — try to imagine and remember what you thought, and how you felt, before all these things. What are the forces that are causing this? The young will say, that’s just how things are. The older will say, nay, nay!

The neighbor lady I grew up with, who was older than my parents, died around Christmas. She was loud and energetic, even into her 90’s. Every time she came to visit, she brought with her a bottle of vodka or whiskey. One of her sons and their family have lived in the house for the past several years. Mabel lived in a nearby apartment. I always loved Mabel. She was loud, but wonderful. Dan Walker laughed and gave me hell for a long time after he met her, when she rasped at me, “Mark, you little shit” in that carrying, jovial voice. She couldn’t afford the apartment any more with the money from retirement, having lived so long. The neighbors are staunch, Limbaugh-listening Republicans. They were overwhelmingly relieved when they found a very nice retirement community for her that would take people on a sliding scale, being government-subsidized. What a wonderful use of our collective tax money. But their conservative schizophrenia dominates, allowing them to love the place, while simultaneously hating and wanting to destroy the very institutions that made it possible.

They had started moving all her things to the new place, though she didn’t want to leave her apartment. They moved them while she flew down to California to visit her other son. She died on the toilet there, before she even had a chance to try out the new place. They were a little worried about the money, but the liberal place told them not to be, and to take their time getting her things moved out, even though there was a waiting list of new tenants. Even the wife next door loves the war.

Jake, who knows everything, is lying on his back right now, on the bed, with his legs in the air, sleeping. He twitches in his doggie dreams. I’m imagining what it would be like to tie some twine to his ear and drag him off the bed, then along the floor. I’m sure he’d be yelping. I could use one of those nice, sharp new Chinese pairing knifes to slice little bleeding slits across his belly, too. Crazy thing. He’d be confused, but he’d let me do it all. And he’d even love me just the same afterward. I deserve that, though, don’t I? He’s just a dog.

Yes. Just the way things are. Or was I imagining it?