Sometimes the most obvious things about life need to be talked about.
It's easy to overlook them not in spite of their obviousness, but because the familiar tends to fade into the background, while new stuff grabs our attention.
So here's a few obvious truths about life:
-- Life is finite. It comes to an end for every living being. Including us humans. -- Life is uncertain. We can hope for the best, but sometimes the worst happens. -- Life is about caring. We care, because what we're concerned about is finite and uncertain.
I've been reminded about these truths by reading a fascinating book by Martin Hägglund, "This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom." It's over 400 pages long. Yet Hägglund's core concepts are quite simple, three of which I shared above.
Now, I realize that many people believe in eternity, being religious. There's a lot of talk about eternity in this book. I'm going to ignore that subject, other than to say that Hägglund argues persuasively that even if eternity exists, it isn't something desirable.
At the very least, and I think this point is virtually inarguable, the life each of us is living now is in no way eternal, nor perfect (eternity presupposes a certain perfection, since nothing changes in eternity).
Thus whenever we care, whenever we exert ourselves to nourish and protect what we love -- whether this be a person, animal, cause, object, or whatever -- we do so because the object of our caring is finite, and it could fall apart if we don't act to help keep it together. Of course, it might fall apart anyway, even if we act.
Again, in no way is this news to anybody. It just bears repeating.
One reason this is necessary is that most of us have a strong desire to look on the bright side. Usually when I go grocery shopping, as I did today, a clerk will say something to me like, "So how's your day going? Got anything exciting planned later on?"
There's a social expectation that I'll answer in some positive fashion. It would be jarring to tell the clerk, though honest at times, "My day is going like crap. I've got nothing planned other than to hope tomorrow will be better."
I'm not suggesting that we bare our souls at the checkout counter, since these brief chats while our credit card is being processed aren't the right time to share our most intimate secrets. Still, I've found that being as honest as possible often leads to a more interesting conversation.
Sometimes I'll respond to "How's your day going?" with "Fine, so long as I don't listen to the news. Then I get anxious and depressed." This is an exaggeration, though not hugely so. It usually elicits a reply like "I hear you. I feel the same way."
We're all in this finite life together. The boat of our body and mind is going to sink one day.
Keeping it afloat, and in decent working condition, for as long as possible, requires a lot of attention from ourselves and many others: friends, relatives, doctors, teachers, all of the people who interact in such complex and fascinating ways in the society that surrounds us.
To mix metaphors, no one is an island. We're all connected. We're all dependent. We're all caring. We're all in need of care.
A one-page article in the current issue of TIME magazine makes some of the same points that Martin Hägglund makes in his big thick book.
Here's some excerpts from "Tell kids the truth: hard work doesn't always pay off." It was written by Rachel Simmons, author of Enough as She Is: How to Help Girls Move Beyond Impossible Standards of Success to Live Healthy, Happy and Fulfilling Lives.
The humbling, brutal, messy reality is that you can do everything in your power and still fail.
... Instead of allowing our kids to beat themselves up when things don't go their way, we should all question a culture that has taught them that feeling anything less than overwhelmed means they're lazy, that how they perform for others is more important than what actually inspires them, and that where they go to college matters more than the kind of person they are.
The point is not to give our kids a pass on working hard. But fantasizing that they can control everything is not really resilience. We would be wise to remind our kids that life has a way of sucker-punching us when we least expect it. It's often the people who learn to say "stuff happens" who get up the fastest.
Every year my wife and I enjoy going to the Tour of Homes here in Salem for a couple of reasons.
First, it's fun to see cool features in expensive homes that our 1970's era home lacks, like walk-in closets. Second, we like to criticize design choices that strike us as abhorrent, hopefully out of the earshot of the builder.
Here's photos I took last Saturday at the 2019 Tour of Homes kickoff weekend. I've added some commentary that ranges from complimentary to snarky. We only went to four of the 21 homes.
The Tour continues through June 23rd: weekends noon to 6 pm, weekdays 6 pm to 9 pm.
Here's a great opportunity for someone who wants a deal on a top-of-the-line 2018 Chevy Volt with just 8,230 miles that had a sticker price of $40,865.
My wife and I are leasing this Volt, which is the Premier model. This is our third 3-year lease on a Volt, having leased 2012 and 2015 Volts previously. We like the car a lot, but want to sell it after buying a 2019 RAV4 Hybrid recently, since we don't need three cars (also have a VW GTI).
So a buyer of this car would need to wait a bit for us to make a pay-off to GM Financial, since currently we have 22 lease payments to go on a 36 month lease. Then we'd transfer the title to ourselves, and right after that, to the buyer of our Volt.
The car is in very good shape. Exterior color is Green Mist Metallic. Interior color is Jet Black. Our Volt has both the Driver Confidence 1 and 2 packages which include: side blind zone alert with lane change alert, rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, forward automatic braking at low speed, intellibeam headlamps, forward collision alert.
Also has adaptive cruise control with full speed front automatic braking, Chevrolet MyLink radio with navigation, illuminated charge port, and cargo net.
Right now (warm weather here in Oregon), our car has been getting about 56 miles on electric-only power. EPA range is 53 miles on all-electric. Of course, the Volt then seamlessly shifts to a gasoline powered range extender, so you can go anywhere with the Volt without range anxiety.
Some other features of our Volt are a rear vision camera, front and rear park assist, keyless open and start, automatic climate control, wireless device charging, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. EPA/DOT gasoline-only mileage is 42 mpg. Electricity MPGe is 106.
If you're interested, email me (include your phone number, if you like): [email protected]
Here's some additional photos of the Volt. I took them as the sun was setting, which made part of the black interior look lighter than it really is.
When I walked into my Tai Chi class in downtown Salem, rocking this combo on my feet, I shared my anxiety about committing a fashion faux pas, noting that I recognized that wearing socks with sandals was a highly contentious issue.
My classmates agreed. No one expressly told me that I was dressing like an ignorant fool, though I had the feeling that some people held this opinion.
On top of that, one of the most cardinal style rules—never wearing socks with sandals—has been broken with zero regard by the likes of Kanye West, Justin Bieber, and Tyler, the Creator. And don’t let the fact that the weather is getting chillier by the day stop you from wearing your favorite cozy footwear.
Me and Kanye. Yeah, we're fashion brothers (sort of).
Today I doubled down on my fashion statement after finding another version of the Darn Tough socks on Amazon that the Salem Summit Company didn't carry.
I liked how perfectly the light blue at the end of the socks matches some of the straps on the sandals. Clearly the universe intended that they go together, and I was an instrument of that cosmic destiny.
Once again I survived. I didn't hear peals of laughter following me, though my hearing isn't what it used to be.
Doing some additional Googling before I wrote this post, Wikipedia informed me that socks and sandals were being worn by Romans at least 2,000 years ago, and importantly:
Socks and sandals is a regular Pacific Northwest phenomenon. Seattle based insurance company PEMCO used the "Sandals & Socks Guy" character as part of a 2007 advertising campaign that portrayed this as a typically Pacific Northwest fashion.The Daily Dot highlighted "sandals and socks" as a term entered into a web search engine more often by Washingtonians than residents of any other state.
Here's a video of the PEMCO ad.
And here's an entertaining debate on this subject between some young people.
Guess I should mention that one of my motivations for wearing socks with sandals isn't warmth, but rather comfort. I've been wearing really comfortable soft wool shoes from Allbirds and Giesswein for so long, my feet aren't as pleased as they used to be with sandal straps. Socks make my feet happier.
I'm a big fan of Sirius XM. That's all I listen to when I'm driving around in my 2017 VW GTI, even though my car offers Apple CarPlay.
Here's how Sirius XM looks on my GTI's screen. In short, beautiful.
My Sirius XM favorites show up as large icons with the names of the stations clearly visible. I can easily reach out and touch an icon to change channels, which I do frequently since I abhor advertisements.
News and political junkie that I am, I'll listen to MSNBC until an ad comes on, then shift to CNN until an ad comes on there. If both MSNBC and CNN are playing ads, I'll head to POTUS (Politics of the United States).
Along with the rest of the VW GTI, which I love dearly, the infotainment system is crisp, clear, well-designed and easy to use.
Now, here's what Sirius XM looks like on our recently-purchased 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, which features Entune 3.0 -- which must be one of the most poorly designed infotainment systems, at least when it comes to satellite radio.
When I got the 3-month trial of Sirius XM up and running on our new car, then programmed in some preset stations, I couldn't believe that the only thing that shows up is the channel number, not the name of the station, or even an icon.
Checking the infotainment system manual, and Googling this question, I came to be a believer. So far as I can tell, Entunes 3.0 only offers the small preset buttons on the touchscreen, which don't have the names of the selected stations.
How anyone at Toyota could think this is smart design is beyond me. My wife and I like almost everything else about our RAV4 Hybrid, but the infotainment system is seriously lacking.
We also have a leased 2018 Chevy Volt. At least, until we can figure out how to get out of the lease, now that we've bought the RAV4 Hybrid. The sun was shining on the screen when I took this photo, and the screen was rather dusty, but you can get the Sirius XM picture (which includes a reflection of my finger),
Not as nice-looking as the VW GTI, but the Volt sure surpasses Toyota's Entunes 3.0. The icons are small on the touchscreen, yet they have the names of the Sirius XM stations.
(Note: my wife is a proud progressive, as am I. She likes to listen to Fox News now and then just to hear how conservatives are talking about current events.)
I'm hoping that Toyota will come out with a much-improved Entune 4.0 soon, and make it available as an upgrade to existing Entune 3,0 owners.
After all, Tesla provides over-the-air upgrades regularly to buyers of its cars. Since Entune is software, not hardware, Toyota should do the same, though I'd be more than willing to bring our RAV4 into our local dealer for an upgrade.
Today's WillaMutt Strut at Salem's Riverfront Park (put on by the Willamette Humane Society) was a poignant dog event for me. Our dog, ZuZu, is in the late stages of chronic liver disease. Her vet has told us that likely she will live weeks or months, not years.
So this probably was ZuZu's last Mutt Strut -- which she and I have gone to quite a few times. We had a good time, though. I was grateful for that. I'm also grateful that while we humans can grasp impending death, dogs can't.