Email Storm

The “reply all” email chain is one of my favorite corporate oddities. If you’ve never experienced one, you’ll need to understand the setup. Companies that use email groups will frequently have an “all-employee” group. Companies that have even a modicum of decent email security will lock that shit down so that only a couple of people at the very top have send access to that group. I’ve never worked for a company that locked it down, and I know of many companies that don’t.

This becomes an issue when one well-meaning dolt accidentally sends an email to the all-employee group. Most right-minded individuals will see that the email does not pertain to them, notice the all-employee group, and ignore it, but humans being what we are, a percentage of the corporate population will, inevitably, hit reply all. Also, me being what I am, I grab the popcorn because I know this is gonna be fun.

The first few reply all emails are basic: “I think this was sent in error;” “Why did I receive this?” Dull, both in the sense of boring and in the sense of, yeah, everyone knows it was sent in error, you’ve helped no one by sending that, Karen.

The next ones are where you really start to learn something about the people in your company: “Please remove me from this distro.” Distro is short for distribution list and the person asking to be removed from it has no idea that they’ve just asked to be removed from the all-employees group. It’s never clear if this was a simple oversight or proof that the person should have been removed as an employee already. At this point, the original sender will have sent out a hurried “Sorry for sending to that distro” as a reply all, but the damage has been done.

Then comes the anger, the wrath, the base hatred of people stressed to the gills and begging for someone to give them a reason to snap: “STOP REPLYING ALL!!!!!” with 5 exclamation marks, not intended to show exclamation, but so they are easily identifiable as needing a padded cell; “If you STOP hitting reply all, this MADNESS will STOP!” because this is madness, you see, pure and utter chaos. There are many things in this world that need to stop, but right now, this is the most maddening, or at least the one that our sender believes will be resolved by what would to the untrained eye seem like hypocrisy.

Lastly, and here I suspect my readers will be most familiar, come the trolls. As soon as you see a meme hit the chain, you’ve reached the nadir of corporate email. By now, the original sender has already tried to correct their error, but to no avail. They’ve received an email from their direct manager, director, and senior director asking what the hell they were thinking. Their teammates have thrown them dirty glances (and maybe harder objects), but to the trolls, this person is a hero. It takes no time at all for a screenshot of the original email to become a meme in its own right.

If the corporation’s IT is engaged, they can find the system’s “kill switch” for such things, but I certainly won’t be the one to share that information. Several people within the company will have already setup an email rule to filter out anything with that email subject before it reaches the MADNESS level, but that’s nothing for the truly vicious trolls. “Re:re:re:re Subject Line” becomes “Re:re:re:re Subject Line  “ with the two spaces at the end, and like the mythical hydra, the chain doubles. The last reply all email chain I experienced in the wild had four different subject-line streams squirming through the system.

It gets worse. What I’ve just described is for a company in one country. Imagine the chaos in an international corporation. The sun rises on the east coast of a continent and on workers who open their email to find hundreds of emails: “STOP THE INSANITY!!!” [Spongebob Meme]. Over time, while the original sender lays in bed, dreams haunted by TPS reports, the reply all meme grows, sweeps across the globe like a wave of wasted workhours. There’s even a term for it: Email Storm.

The Scars We Leave

I’m going to leave this thought here while I mull it over, but I suspect I’ll write something more thorough later on.

St. Thomas asked to feel the scars on Jesus’s resurrected body so he could believe. There isn’t a great deal we can say with certainty about the resurrection, but St. Thomas’s scrutiny at least tells us that it did not remove the scars of the crucifixion.

The thought I will be mulling: If the resurrected body of Christ remembered the spear’s head in its scar, how did the body of the soldier remember the spear’s haft? By correlation, what scars do I leave on the world that will last beyond the unimaginable?

Poem 334 – I forget the name

In my mind, I fell down in slow motion,
 a giant crown throwing out a dust cloud.
Came behind shortly was an emotion,
 in a mode where I've found I can't be proud.

One thousand yards is not that far to stare
 if the view, beyond fair, grants elation.
Why, how, and what are not thoughts I can bear;
 only you, now we're there, adoration.

As I drift into dark shadows of mind,
 I'll cling on to the thoughts of my life past.
Holding to my best grasp of what's behind,
 you will be, by love's pow'r, what makes me last. 

So for now, I'll fill up all of my days
 with your love, like the flow'r to the sun's rays. 

The Asking Song and how to sing it

Oh, Forest! Oh, Trees!
Oh, Forest, what’cha got for me?
Oh, Forest!
1 2  3     4
Oh, Trees!
1 2  3 rest
Oh, Forest, 
1 2  3     4
what'cha got for me?
1        &     2&  a   3 4

Beginning

Growing up in the middle of nowhere has advantages I doubt I’ll ever fully appreciate. The ever present sense of magic in a wild forest imposes a stillness on the soul like no church can muster. Walking from country road through managed woodlands, we could chatter and carry on, but as soon as we crossed into wild forest, everything calmed down. Even the air calms down in the forest. 

We stayed quiet in the woods, only saying what needed saying. None of that prattling on we did in the schoolyard. A teacher’s dirty look and threatening ruler could stall us, but nothing stills like the forest. There’s a practicalness to it, sure; need to keep your wits honed and your ears clear out there. But it happened without our say so. Never had to shush no one, never saw the line coming. There’s no boundary lines around the forest except what that silence brings. 

The old man said that was just part of the forest, the nature of the thing. Said our hearts know where the forest starts like our feet know down. I asked him once if it was magic; he said, “Don’t know about no magic, just what is and what ain’t.” He never did speak much, but he laughed mightily if it was funny and wept bitterly when it was sad.

Every time I walked out with him, I’d steal a glance at the old man when we crossed into the forest. His being-ness shifted, ever so slightly. Little changes, all over him: a knowing grin would almost touch the corners of his eyes and mouth; an older strength almost picked up his old bones; I could almost feel him spread out. We’d go on a ways before he’d start humming, not a tune, just one low tone that moved all through the nooks and crannies of the world, like he was tuning himself to the forest. Then, he’d sing.

Oh, Forest! Oh, Trees!
Oh, Forest, what’cha got for me?

Just the once through, but that’s all it took. His voice came bellowing from his chest and got caught up in the trees where it swelled in among the trunks and leaves. It was a song that filled the soul, made the world come together. The first time I heard it, I could swear I smelled a cooking fire and saw all manner of folk gathered around it.

Once the song stopped echoing around us, we’d set to work. Gathering, mostly, but sometimes just moving, clearing. Some days, I thought I could see the pattern the old man followed, but most days I just did as he said. Nothing we did ever seemed to change the forest, but then I don’t guess that was the point. Most days, we’d come out of the forest with a bundle of gatherings: wood, brush, mushrooms, the occasional berries. Some days, we left empty-handed, but somehow fuller than those others.

Doing for What’s Needed

Sometimes, the forest can sneak up on a body. Walking through the woods, if you don’t keep your feet on a path or your eyes on the world, you might feel that stillness steal over you. Then you know, you’re in the forest. Might be tempting to look back, try and find that line. Go ahead; heaven knows I tried it the first time I stumbled into the forest. Couldn’t make heads or tails of it, and nearly got lost because of it. Fortunately, I was walking the woods with the old man, and he set me straight.

“You always got a choice on where your next foot lands,” he told me, and that was it. He said that, and nothing more, just turned and kept walking into the forest. I followed him, but that day it felt like he was walking in a forest I couldn’t see. Like I was just playing at forest and he was really there. Don’t know any better way to tell it than that. So look, if you want, but don’t expect to find what you’re after.

His Last Song

On the morning before he died, the old man asked me a question as we walked through the woods, right before we got to the forest. “How far can you walk into the forest?”

I’d heard this one before, more a joke than a riddle. “Halfway,” I answered, just a touch smugly.

He grunted in reply and said, “We’ll see.” Nothing else, and just kept on walking. I faltered a step, but caught him up. I’d learned by then not to bother asking what he meant; he’d’ve just grunted.

Him asking a question and not really answering it wasn’t that odd. Nothing about that walk was odd, not until we crossed into the forest. He shifted like always, but then he stopped walking. Just for a beat, maybe a couple steps’ worth, then kept on as though nothing had happened. Right then, I knew the day was gonna be different, but he started his hum, so I didn’t say anything.

Then, he sang a new song:

When I die
1 & 2 3 4
Up on the hill
1 & 2 3 4
Build for me
1 & 2 3 4
An oaken bier
1 & 2 3 4
Let me lie
1 & 2 3 4
On burning oak
1 & 2 3 4
Let me fly
1 & 2 3 4
Away with smoke
1 & 2 3 4
Let my a  -  - shes
1 & 2 3 4 &
Like the breeze
1 & 2 3 4
Go and live
1 & 2 3 4
Among the trees
1 & 2 3 4

The song was slow and deep, with long words and mellow tones. One might inclined to call it sad, mournful, but that just don’t capture the feel of it. There was a relaxed joy in the old man’s song, like settling into a cozy armchair at the end of a hard day’s work. Like that feeling when the night falls around your campfire, the blazing flame keeping you warm from the world around.

We mostly just walked in the forest that day. Didn’t gather, didn’t clear. Just walked, stopping by this old oak or that old cedar. Never a word was uttered, but the silence told all. We listened to the forest and met with the trees. And then, we left. I don’t know how far we walked into the forest that day.

Descent of Man

Oh, ape, who told you that you’re noble,
Much less that you were naked?
And whence came your affinity for
Claiming that you’ve been forsaken?

By what measure marked you ‘man’
And with what hand was it taken?
Did you stop to wonder whether
You’re esteem might be mistaken?

Am I right in asking this or
Is this blaspheme in the making?
Self-assured in self-concern,
A soul as sure in need of breaking.

Little ape, climb down from treetops.
The winds are blown and boughs are breaking.
You’ll strike your heel if not your head
If cautious trembling paths aren’t taken.

Redemption is a Hard Blessing

I spend a lot of time trying to help bigots see the error of their ways. I should clarify that. I don’t mean I go on social media and throw memes and witticisms at bigots. I mean I engage with bigots on a personal level, de-escalating and personalizing.

You’re right, it doesn’t work often. But I have to believe redemption is always available. Tonight, a man came at me pretty damned hard (somehow, I am both an ignorant ass and I use big words… still trying to suss that one out). He remained engaged well enough to stick with me long enough for us to arrive at a personable, reasonable, even friendly close to our conversation.

I thanked him for most of the conversation, except for the part where he insulted someone he didn’t know. And he apologized. Glimmer of hope.

Dozens of conversations with other people speaking from ignorance have ended with entrenchment and rage quitting. This one man, though. We didn’t solve anything. He didn’t have a eureka moment or a conversion. But he apologized. And we left the conversation on ok terms.

I have hope for this man. Hope that he might listen, might understand. Hope for redemption. And if my hope is proved true, he is going to have a very hard moment. A moment where he looks back over this and hurts. I know; I’ve been there. And that’s why I’m here now, trying to guide others. The moment of redemption is beautiful, like giving birth, and painful, like giving birth. And God, I pray this man goes into labor soon.

God is watching you serve and protect.

God is watching your knees on their necks.

God is watching you kill and oppress.

God is watching you, so turn and confess.

My brothers and sisters, why do you cry?

My brothers and sisters, why have you died?

My brothers and sisters are merely asleep.

My brothers and sisters continue to weep.

Their blood cries for justice. Their blood cries to God.

Their blood cries for peace and they’re heard by God.

God is watching you.

God is watching you.

God is watching you.

American “Exceptionalism”

First things: The United States is currently in a state of utter turmoil. Our wealth and status has been built on the backs and lives of oppressed minorities, and God-willing, we are in the midst of the revolution that will bring justice for people who have been abused for who they are. We have a wicked moron at the helm who is close to declaring martial law (or may have already by the time this is posted), a culture of oppression, militarism, and exclusivity in the forces which should be geared towards keeping the peace, and the worst reaction to the global pandemic in the world. We have lived in fear for our black and brown neighbors, but the outrage has reached the tipping point.

We cannot return to normal; we must plow forward to a new normal, built on the basic respect of human life and dignity. We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish JUSTICE, ensure PEACE, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of LIBERTY to ourselves and our posterity, must now rise together against the tyranny of hatred and oppression. Silence is complicity; complicity is guilt. We will not allow the murder of our children and siblings to continue; we have let it continue for far too long already.


I had planned to post a prolegomena to say that I’m still working on how to write about this, then launch into an actual post about America’s response to the pandemic, something to the effect that we are finally number 1 like we’ve always claimed. But as horrible as this viral pandemic is, the systemic hatred is far more pervasive and damning. I’ll post the charts I created at the end, showing the US in relation to the rest of the world with China (epicenter), UK (2nd most number of deaths), and Brazil (2nd most number of cases) for comparison.

But first, let me say (and explain), dear reader, God be with you.

Yesterday, I realized I hadn’t prayed about the horrible things I was seeing happen around the country, so I pulled out my prayer beads and went to work. I’m glad I used the beads; the physicality helped me push through. About 1/4 of the way through, I started weeping; by 1/2, I was uncontrollably sobbing, crying out to God for justice and mercy. There are several psalms that use an accusatory tone in “calling out” God for allowing injustice to continue; my prayer definitely pulled on those.

America’s day of reckoning may be here at last. I will remind you, dear reader, that the phrase “God be with you” is only a comfort to the righteous, to those who uplift their siblings and neighbors; to those who remain complicit with the murder of innocent blood, “God be with you” is an indictment, a warning.

So I say to you now, to you and all that you know, in the time of trial and destruction, God be with you.

Covid-19 Charts
US: 4% of world population; 24% of world Covid-19 deaths. USA #1?

 

What are the odds that that particular water molecule has been in a cloud if that shape and altitude in that exact position at any point in the 4.7 billion year existence of the Earth?

Last week, I experienced one of the worst bouts of depression I’ve had in years.

To calculate this ridiculous concept, we must first work out to what degree of relative position we wish to conceive.

At one point last week, I sat on the back porch and realized that although my brain recognized the data from my optic nerve as the various colors in my backyard, they had no meaning.

If we mean the cloud’s relative position to the landmass below it, we have already set for ourselves a nigh impossible task; adding further levels of relative position is, unintuitively, relatively simple, if we are able to supply the answer to the first part.

I couldn’t even differentiate the shades of colors I was seeing; there was only green, red, white.

Assuming the cloud’s relative position to the landmass beneath it is solvable, we must then add the probability that the planet Earth was in this orientation to the Sun, the Sun at this point in its 240 million year trek around the Milky Way, and the Milky Way at this particular point relative to the barycenter of our intergalactic neighborhood.

This afternoon, I came and sat ok my back porch again, my brain having regained the lion’s share of its function this morning, and the colors had returned, both in variety and existential weight.

Of course, at this point, the possibility of tracing relative position breaks down; I suppose you could compare to the cosmic microwave background, but honestly, past a few thousand parsecs, we’re really just showing off.

I felt something similar to the relief a person feels after surviving a horrible trauma, and I don’t think that’s too far off the mark; I survived a dreadful bout of depression that stole a week of my life, and I sit here on the back porch enjoying life.

Yet all this talk of the probability of repeating intergalactic relative position gives us nothing for trying to determine the probability of that particular molecule of water in that cloud, which by now has drifted and dissipated and may in fact be falling on you as you read this, because the level of calculation required to figure the probability of that single molecule’s position over the course of the Earth’s lifetime would likely require more informational power than is available in the universe.

I wrote something dreadfully beautiful in this week of depression, which I’m sorry to say I probably won’t share despite the fact that it’s one of the best damned things I’ve ever written, but which included the line: “I am no more a danger to myself than a dull knife in unpracticed hands…”

So I wouldn’t worry about it too much if I were you. I survived; it rained; and I’ll see you when all this shit has blown over.