REVALUATION

Posted by: Bill Pearlman
Published on August 27th, 2014 @ 08:51:00 am , using 73 words
Category: Poetry

REVALUATION

Oh, you scorched sands of desire—
when will summer end? when
in all this substantial longing, will
what we care about surmount an ecstasy?

You gave me so much, wilding
the deep structure that gives back
the seductive power of our necessity
just as light broke between us—

Time is not judgment, is but riding
out past expectation into feeling
we gained in the outback, in
the gigantic re-valuating of transience

--BP

AHEAD OF OURSELVES Remembering Keith Keller 1943-2014

Posted by: Bill Pearlman
Published on August 20th, 2014 @ 01:23:00 pm , using 106 words
Category: Poetry

AHEAD OF OURSELVES
Remembering Keith Keller

That the world was better then
that it was fuller
because you were in it
and others who took your presence
seriously

Some portent of valued livingness
body and soul we say
hoping for forgiveness
for we had to forgive

and so the light found us,
and the heavens opened
one slant at a time
one opening across the old town
colonial and privileged

but you saw and loved
as a waking state, a surmise
long sought for, somewhat amazed
this can happen to us
lucky to simply be here
gazing ahead, behind

--Bill P

San Miguel de Allende, August 2014

'If Only' and Suicide

Posted by: Bill Pearlman
Published on August 17th, 2014 @ 11:14:00 am , using 448 words
Category: Commentary

Kathleen Reardon, a retired professor, takes another look at our mental health system in the US and the lack of adequate care. We really do make it so much stigma to admit serious mental health issues, including depression. Interesting that she says the average inpatient psych stay is 7 days. And the issue is always harm to self or others. But the numbers of suicides and the problem of dealing with something that is deemed shameful in a wide sense demands a further inquiry.

I still remember the pain of wondering "if only" with regard to a member of my own family. I believed then that much of life could be controlled; I wasn't yet aware of the extent to which some things lie totally beyond our influence.

This doesn't mean we should throw up our hands when a loved one is deeply depressed. We should, however, be appalled at how difficult it can be for people with mental health issues to access care in America and around the world. It's shameful how emergency-oriented the mental health "system" has become. The average hospital stay for psychiatric inpatients is a woefully inadequate seven days -- and that only when admission is gained, which usually requires the perception of imminent harm to self or others. As Allen Frances, Duke University professor emeritus, wrote only days ago, "This is the worst of times and places for many people with severe mental illnesses."

With so much to learn about the human brain, and despite political progress, we've been stalled by the stigma of mental illness and deceived by yesterday's promises of deinstitutionalization and "mainstreaming" that came to mean nothing more than ostracizing and criminalizing patients. Until we understand that mental illness is not something that happens to other people -- and to other people's families and children -- but rather a capricious visitor who may well have your address, we'll continue to allow millions of people, who could be helped, to suffer and perhaps to die.

As we take in the tragedy of Robin Williams' passing, we should also reject the shambles that is mental health care for most Americans. If there is an "if only" that makes sense, it is a societal one. Not everyone can be saved and certainly not indefinitely, but people who treat or support mental health patients, including families and friends, need to speak loudly about how a society that purports to be civilized, and whose representatives until recently bragged ignorantly of having the best health care in the world, treat a vulnerable and significant population of its citizens.

Robin Williams left us with many precious gifts. Among them, may this be one of the most enduring.

Kathleen Reardon

Huffpost 17Aug14

For Keith Keller 1943-2014

Posted by: Bill Pearlman
Published on August 13th, 2014 @ 08:28:00 am , using 111 words
Category: Poetry

FOR KEITH KELLER

'Let Rome in Tiber melt....' (Antony & Cleopatra)

So it does come round
toppling our gifted loves,
enduring our bodies' limited miles,
in the colorful open, in sight
across all these boundaries

Let the light break free
in our beloved San Miguel
ascending & mirroring
these brave evanescent days

How we sat on your terraza
and watched the Parroquia and our town
lifted in vision & keening
through branches of memory & art

I sit in early afternoon gazing
out over the town, the presa
just before the cloudswept Picachos
and blue sky overhead--

We'll miss your hardy presence,
artist-teacher-writer-best friend
and your great capacity for love

--BP

Robin Williams' Suicide and its Aftermath

Posted by: Bill Pearlman
Published on August 12th, 2014 @ 08:09:00 pm , using 258 words
Category: Commentary

Katie Hurley takes us to task about suicide and what is it about. It is probably beyond understanding for those who need to make judgments about it. I lost a friend many years ago to suicide and he too had a lot going. I think there must be a darkness and hopelessness that envelops the psyche and there is only one way out. A great comic like Robin Williams does not check out in that way lightly. Katie has it right:

...People who say that suicide is selfish always reference the survivors. It's selfish to leave children, spouses and other family members behind, so they say. They're not thinking about the survivors, or so they would have us believe. What they don't know is that those very loved ones are the reason many people hang on for just one more day. They do think about the survivors, probably up until the very last moment in many cases. But the soul-crushing depression that envelops them leaves them feeling like there is no alternative. Like the only way to get out is to opt out. And that is a devastating thought to endure.

Until you've stared down that level of depression, until you've lost your soul to a sea of emptiness and darkness... you don't get to make those judgments. You might not understand it, and you are certainly entitled to your own feelings, but making those judgments and spreading that kind of negativity won't help the next person. In fact, it will only hurt others.

Katie Hurley
Huffpost
10Aug14

VOWS

Posted by: Bill Pearlman
Published on August 9th, 2014 @ 09:16:00 am , using 49 words
Category: Poetry

VOWS

Never more than my wife or my god
I will see no ambivalence
care for no others
claim no alternative devotions--

I will abide in sickness & in health
this finale in the middle earth,
this conviction sans affordable care,
this inadvertent mission in my brain

--BP
August 2014

GOVERNANCE BY REVENGE

Posted by: Bill Pearlman
Published on July 4th, 2014 @ 09:42:00 am , using 244 words
Category: Commentary

In his op-ed for the 4July issue of WaPo, Eugene Robinson calls attention to a Republican Party that governs by revenge. He points out that the Dems, even when they opposed the Iraq War, still appropriated sufficient funds to keep the fiasco going. With Obama, no such luck. The Repubs oppose his every move, and will not collaborate on anything that might be considered bipartisanship. A truly sad state of affairs, one which the founding group of Americans would have been repelled by.

Today’s Republican Party opposes the Affordable Care Act, so it refuses to work with the Obama administration in legislating technical fixes that would make the law work more smoothly. Is this in any sense patriotic? Having lost battles over the law in Congress and the Supreme Court, don’t Republicans have an obligation to make it serve their constituents as well as possible?

Both parties used to understand the need to invest in infrastructure for reasons of competitiveness and safety. Both parties used to understand that there could be no serious threat to send the Treasury into default. Both parties used to cheer the kind of good economic news we heard Thursday — 288,000 new jobs in June, unemployment down to 6.1 percent.

But now, one party — the GOP — cares more about ideology, reelection and opposing Obama’s every initiative than about the well-being of the nation. It is scant comfort, on Independence Day, to remember that the republic has survived worse.

Eugene Robinson
WaPo 4July2014

GUNS and MENTAL ILLNESS

Posted by: Bill Pearlman
Published on June 3rd, 2014 @ 08:22:00 am , using 744 words
Category: Commentary, Repetitions

Piece from Joe Nocera in today's NY Times is quickly to the point, and deserves reading.

Guns and Mental Illness
JUNE 2, 2014

Joe Nocera

It is difficult to read stories about Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old man who went on a murderous spree in Isla Vista, Calif., last month, without feeling some empathy for his parents.

We know that his mother, alarmed by some of his misogynistic YouTube videos, made a call that resulted in the police visiting Rodger. The headline from that meeting was that Rodger, seemingly calm and collected, easily deflected the police’s attention. But there was surely a subtext: How worried — how desperate, really — must a mother be to believe the police should be called on her own son?

We also learned that on the day of his murderous rampage, his mother, having read the first few lines of his “manifesto,” had phoned his father, from whom she was divorced. In separate cars, they raced from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara hoping to stop what they feared was about to happen.

And then, on Monday, in a remarkably detailed article in The New York Times, we learned the rest of it. How Rodger was clearly a troubled soul before he even turned 8 years old. How his parents’ concern about his mental health was like a “shadow that hung over this Los Angeles family nearly every day of Elliot’s life.”

Constantly bullied and unable to fit in, he went through three high schools. In college, he tried to throw a girl off a ledge at a party — and was beaten up. (“I’m going to kill them,” he said to a neighbor afterward.) He finally retreated to some Internet sites that “drew sexually frustrated young men,” according to The Times.

Throughout, said one person who knew Rodger, “his mom did everything she could to help Elliot.” But what his parents never did was the one thing that might have prevented him from buying a gun: have him committed to a psychiatric facility. California’s tough gun laws notwithstanding, a background check would have caught him only if he had had in-patient mental health treatment, made a serious threat to an identifiable victim in the presence of a therapist, or had a criminal record. He had none of the above.

Should his parents have taken more steps to have him treated? Could they have? It is awfully hard to say, even in retrospect. On the one hand, there were plainly people who knew him who feared that he might someday harm others. On the other hand, those people weren’t psychiatrists. He was a loner, a misfit, whose parents were more fearful of how the world would treat their son than how their son would treat the world. And his mother, after all, did reach out for help, and the police responded and decided they had no cause to arrest him or even search his room, where his guns were hidden.

Once again, a mass killing has triggered calls for doing something to keep guns away from the mentally ill. And, once again, the realities of the situation convey how difficult a task that is. There are, after all, plenty of young, male, alienated loners — the now-standard description of mass shooters — but very few of them become killers.


Torrey believes that the country should involuntarily commit more mentally ill people, not only because they can sometimes commit acts of violence but because there are far more people who can’t function in the world than the mental health community likes to acknowledge.

In this, however, he is an outlier. The mainstream sentiment among mental health professionals is that there is no going back to the bad-old days when people who were capable of living on their own were locked up for years in mental hospitals. The truth is, the kind of symptoms Elliot Rodger showed were unlikely to get him confined in any case. And without a history of confinement, he had every legal right to buy a gun.

You read the stories about Elliot Rodger and it is easy to think: If this guy, with all his obvious problems, can slip through the cracks, then what hope is there of ever stopping mass shootings?

But, of course, there is another way of thinking about this. Instead of focusing on making it harder for the mentally ill to get guns, maybe we should be making it harder to get guns, period. Something to consider before the next mass shooting.

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