Category Archives: gratitude

Gratitude: Connectivity

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Seriously, do you remember life before wi-fi? Before dialup? Were we truly even alive?

In some ways the internet is making us all stupider. We don’t have to remember things, because the internet remembers them for us. We don’t have to search for things; the internet does that too, which means we miss out on all the things we would have learned if we undertook our own, more arduous searches. The internet supports the rise of a lowest-common-denominator culture where there are no gatekeepers and anyone can publish anything, so the authority of the average piece of writing can never be assumed. Also, it’s destroying our ability to focus and concentrate. And it’s probably wholly responsible for the rise of white supremacy in America and the election of the current president.

But also, the internet brings us everything: new friends, old friends, music, movies, books, games, homework help, advice, cat pictures, instant news, school, an easy cheat to “6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” and the basic sum of all knowledge discovered by our species. Can you imagine going back?

I don’t want to go back, anyway. Not if I can’t telecommute, digitally spy on people from my past, instantly discover the answer to almost any question I might have about the world, share my art with 1000s of people minutes after I complete it, and chat, for free, with anyone, anywhere, any time, in a format that allows me to also do 50 other things without the person I’m chatting with having any idea what percentage of my attention is focused on the conversation.

Despite its drawbacks and abuses, I’m grateful for the internet.

 

Gratitude: Age

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Here’s something you don’t see every day, right? Unless you are The Man. Sometimes he gets pretty close.

This is a weird, hard one for me, because we do live in a culture that worships youth and denigrates middle age, particularly when that age is exhibited in people who appear female, and also because my own internal childhood pretty much lasted until the age of 35, so I only had 5 years to adjust to adulthood before middle age started kicking me in the face.  Among other body parts. Although they’re faint in this picture, the vertical lines above the inside corner of each eye are the ones that make me feel it. They’re worry/squinting lines, and the older I get, the more worrying/squinting I seem to do.

So I remind myself that age has its privilege. Nearly everyone over 30 rejoices in what I call “over-30 brain,” which is a phenomenon that hits most reasonable people around their 30th birthday. Basically, by the age of 30, if you have been paying any attention to your surroundings for most of your life, you find that you have achieved general life competency. That is, whatever happens around you, you realize that you have either seen something like this before, or heard about it, or read about it, and that your experience gives you the necessary information to know what to do next to handle that situation. It’s way better than being 20 and just pretending you have any clue what you’re doing. (I guess 20-year brain is the one that’s thrust into grown-up roles and responsibility despite the fact that it knows it’s still not fully developed, and is desperately trying to convince the other brains around it that it’s competent and grown up.)

Today’s events reminded me how great it is not to be a child. I mean, being a child has a lot of great perks, but probably an equal number of drawbacks. Consider homework. You’re a kid; you probably hate it. You probably don’t want to do it. You probably try to get out of it. You probably fail. And then maybe you end up with 8 days left in the semester with 3 weeks’ worth of work to catch up on if you’d rather be promoted than attend summer school, and now you have this insane weight of awful work on your plate.

And if you are the kids living in this house, you are both on indefinite electronics restrictions until you finish the pages and pages of work you blew off in the last couple weeks.

Of course, being the adult in this scenario, chained to the supervision of sullen and probably crying adolescents, your situation is not optimal, but all in all, I’d rather be the supervising adult than the crying kid.

So, I’m grateful that I don’t have attend to all the steps leading up to the acquisition of a high school diploma. (Now, if someone wanted to pay for me to go back to graduate school, I’d be pretty excited about homework, but that’s a totally different situation.) I’m going to make myself grateful for my age.

Gratitude: The Public Library

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Pima County Public Library, Martha Cooper branch (Garden District), rear view

Can you believe that there are otherwise sensible people who don’t “believe” in public libraries? Yeah, this seems crazy to me, too, but these people exist. They use arguments like, “I can get any book I want on the internet” and “Google is faster for research.” Never mind that fact that some people can’t get any book on the internet, because, just like the people for whom public libraries were originally constructed, they can’t afford that technology. Never mind the fact that search engines prize popularity over objectivity and readability over depth, delivering so many fast results that you could spend the rest of your life sifting through all 1.58 million of them, without necessarily finding the results you needed. Besides the primacy of facilities available to anyone who wants them, staffed by professionals trained to discover, curate, and deliver reliable content, libraries serve as public meeting spaces, classrooms, clubs for nerdy kids, safe spaces for those with terrible homes, and temples to knowledge. Many people couldn’t get jobs, or tax information, or any one of hundreds of things most of us take for granted, if they didn’t have access to library computers. As more and more common functions become more online (typically making them more difficult to access in meatspace) libraries allow those without computers to simply participate in their own culture.

My property taxes are somewhat itemized, so I can see that, last year, I paid $50 toward these services. That’s $50 for 1 year. I pay more than that for one month of internet service at my house. And you can have all the internet you want at the library. Even when it’s closed; in my town, library networks are strong enough that you can park your car in the street near the library and get online. That’s on top of all the other things you get inside the library when it’s open. And that $50 doesn’t just get my family and me through the door. It helps keep the doors open for everyone.

If you want to stand up and say that you don’t believe in libraries because you think a certain percentage of the population shouldn’t have access to information, good luck with that argument. Obviously, there are people who will wholeheartedly agree with you, but I assume these are the same people who don’t believe in public roads, or public police forces, or public fire departments. At this point in human history, access to information should be considered a human right, like clean air and fresh water, but, of course, there are people who don’t want you to have those things either. And if they can keep you out of the library, you might not even know that you have a right to those things.

So, all hail the public library. I am grateful that you continue to serve as a sacred hall of knowledge available to all who seek it.

Gratitude: Solitude

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Today was a weird day. This is a weird picture. 

The picture and the title don’t really go together, except inasmuch as you can see the corner of my office—bookcase and window—reflected in the eye, and my office is where I most often enjoy my solitude.

Some people have difficulty being alone, and some people have difficulty not being alone. I can cheerfully spend entire days without human company; it takes at least 3 or 4 hours of solitude a day to recharge my batteries. It takes a while to really settle into that quiet place, so I’m grateful for solitude.

This lovely blue eye belongs to my friend Scotty, who always shares my blog posts. I still don’t know how you light a person’s eyeball so you can really see all the detail of the iris in a macro image.

 

Gratitude: This Guy

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He’s The Man. And he’s not at all threatened by his relationship with a hideous, fire-breathing dragon who could destroy him.

I probably don’t say it enough, but this guy keeps me going. And, of course, he has substantially more hair on his head than his namesake character is drawn with in Dragon Comics, which is a bonus, but it’s not the most important part of a stable marriage. Knowing that someone always has your back is a much bigger deal. It’s a huge deal, and it’s not easy to always make that work. It’s a lot of effort to make it work most of the time, and effort alone is no guarantee of success, so a functional marriage, in this day and age, is kind of a big deal.

This picture was taken on the Marin Headlands; that’s the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. As air travel has, since 9/11, become increasingly uncomfortable, unpredictable, and invasive, I’ve gradually come to a point in my life where I would rather spend days in a car than hours at the tender mercies of the TSA/FAA. So The Man drove me to San Francisco. From Tucson. That’s 13 hours door to door. On the way back we had a little extra time so we spent 2 nights in LA, but he still drove the entire way. He’s my hero. I am very grateful to have found him.

 

Gratitude: Adventurous Eating

 

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Bitter melon is very bitter, but I suspect cocoyam doesn’t taste like cocoa.

It’s time to recommit myself to a lot of things, including this blog. Even though nobody seems to care or notice that I haven’t drawn a comic in over 3 weeks, I remind myself that this blog is for you. It’s for me. You just happen to be lucky enough to read it. There are going to be some Dragon Comics soon.

For this gratitude, which was supposed to go up last week, I was thinking about all the foods in the world I haven’t tried. Like a lot of kids, I was a boring and picky eater with a very limited repertoire. A lot of people would still consider me picky—I largely avoid grains, particularly wheat, and white sugar, and won’t eat anything made with ground or preserved meat, or most fast or junk foods—but I’m fairly open to trying new things, especially if they come from older and healthier cuisines. Lately, we’re obsessed with West African cuisine, particularly fufu and peanut sauce. It’s delicious, and if you haven’t tried it, especially with goat, you’re missing out on some of the good things in life.

For a little pick-me-up it’s fun to go to new grocery stores, especially ones run and patronized by immigrants. There are 100s or 1000s of fruits and vegetables you’ve never tried, with which other people are familiar, and now that we have the internet there’s no excuse not to try them. In all honesty, I tried the bitter melon a few different ways and it was too bitter for me, but I’m glad I tried it. You never know what you might enjoy. The cocoyam I’ll try to work up into something tonight.

My gratitude is for the existence of and will to experience countless new foods.

 

Monday Gratitude: I Get by with a Little Help

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This is not a picture of the greatest friends in the world. It’s just a tribute to a picture of the greatest friends in the world.

Although I’m super grateful that the anti life equation party did not find the opportunity to decimate my healthcare options this week, and will most likely not have a chance to complete their evil scheme before the midterm elections, even before that failed vote it seemed imperative to vocalize my gratitude for the legions of cool people in my life.

Obviously, as I’ve written before, I was a wildly unpopular preadolescent, of the “nobody in this school likes you” variety. While had enough self-esteem to feel like that was probably a mark in my favor (like, why would I want those conformists to like me?) being universally hated is not fun. But I was totally right in my assessment as to the value of the people who vocally, stringently, aggressively did not like me, because as soon as I got out of their bubble of privilege and entitled wealth, suddenly the stigma of being me evaporated, and it turned out that lots of people liked me a lot.

So I used the screen grab of my Facebook f-list as a symbol. I don’t have 584 actual friends. A few dozen of them are people who added me for my comics and/or my connections to the literary world, a couple are people I only know online, some are family, and a lot of them are probably just acquaintances or people I met once or twice at a party. But I’d say between 2/3 and 3/4 of them are real friends to some objective degree—people I’ve known in real life and hung with and whose company I enjoy and who apparently like me back. Some of them I’ve known for 3 decades or more. Some of them it only feels like I’ve known them for 30 years. And I also have friends, like the Fox, who aren’t even on Facebook. (I know; weird, right?) And while there are times when I have fond memories of that period of “nobody in this school likes you” during which 100% of my free time could be devoted to reading and writing, there’s also something to be said for getting invited to lots of interesting parties. Not that that’s why I’m grateful for my friends either.

Community, as it turns out, is probably one of the most important things in life. I know there are people who thrive in total isolation, who can live off the land in Alaska and spend more time avoiding polar bears than talking to humans, but most of us do best with a wide support net, multiple people to call on to celebrate our success or empathize with our distress. Social networking, not in the electronic sense, or the business sense, but in the sense of being integrated into a community with whom you can communicate, ask questions, seek assistance, and share your joy, is valuable on a psychological level, and a socio-economic one, and is linked with living longer and can contribute to professional success and things like that.

So, that’s my gratitude for the week: real friends. Love you guys.