A Sunday in Mexico

Posted by: Bill Pearlman
Published on September 28th, 2014 @ 10:54:00 am , using 428 words
Category: Commentary

As war heats up in the Middle East again, difficulties in comprehending how that many years of American involvement did not solve more problems. Year after year of arguments saying the job was getting done and now the job seems neverending. The whole fiasco of jihadists who come back to take over huge swaths of land where failed states have come to be the norm. Good article by Dexter Filkins in recent New Yorker shows how a vacuum has existed in Iraq and how the Kurds are trying to find their way to fighting against IS, get some freedom for themselves and position their own possibilities withing a context that is totally out of control.
And yet life in the US continues such as it does. Here in Mexico, the relatively quiet town of San Miguel continues its incessant fiesta traditions. We had Dias de Patria recently, celebrations of Independence, plenty of activities--fireworks, parades. The loss of old friend Keith Keller makes the place much emptier, so I have had to find some solace in a more solitary condition. Acted in a play recently, Annapurna, which was a challenge and a joy. Piece is about a dying poet who is visited by his ex-wife and he has to recall all the failures of his marriage and the disintegration of his life. Major premise, based somewhat on an attempt by climbers to reach the summit of Himalayan peak Annapurna, is that there are challenges that are beyond us and bring ruin in their wake. This seems to be the case with the marriage of Ulysses and Emma in Annapurna. Led me back to my own failures with marriage and a sense of perhaps trying to do impossible things.
But the life we live is perhaps always one we partly choose. Finding a solitary life in a mountain town in Mexico seems to have come as my fate. At times, a desire for a tribal life or a more communal or familial existence rises and there is a sense of having never secured that. On occasion, a play comes along and the cast pools its energies together and we have a family for a short while. Sometimes joining other families serves as a refuge from too much time alone. But the solitary life seems to have become normal for me and I know for others as well. We do our best to survive amid the complexities of living. We meditate, we walk, we absorb the light and the landscape. We keep on, trying to become part of the living world.

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

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