I assume I’m not in a unique position, but it feels like it.

On any given day, either directly or indirectly, I get one or both of two kinds of inputs regarding serious topics; an anecdote about something bad, stupid, or illegal said or done by someone on the left and a corresponding anecdote about something bad, stupid, or illegal said or done by someone on the right.

I might chance upon something shared by my Facebook contacts, read a comment on a blog (or a whole blog post), get forwarded an email, or I’m outright asked about said utterances or actions.

What’s frustrating about that?

I’ll tell you . . .

That’s two interesting phrases I’ve heard a lot lately.

Now, people use the term “a lot” to indicate anything from twice to fifty-seven and even beyond.

In my case, it means I watched a crapload (a little-used technical term) of these videos:

Beau of the Fifth Column — by topics

Beau of the Fifth Column — list of videos

Knowing people are too lazy to click on links, here’s one of the videos:

Just a few things and a few thoughts I want to share.

First, THIS link about happiness and mental-well-being. The site is the Happiness Lab and it currently features short episodes on coping with coronavirus Social Distancing and isolation. You can also listen to Season 1 and Season 2 begins on the 27th.

Even more interesting is THIS link . . . it takes you to Yale’s most popular course (over 2M people currently enrolled for the course) which begins today, April 18th.

You can join the course for free — as I did — or pay the $49 entry fee if you want to earn a certificate to add to your resume. I entered for free; just provided my name and email address, and I was registered. There are ten weeks and it looks like there’s about 2-3 hours worth of material per week (just a cursory look, I had, so don’t hold me responsible if that’s not true).

Here’s the bio on the professor (including the links above):

Laurie Santos is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Yale University. She hosts the popular podcast The Happiness Lab and she teaches the most popular course offered at Yale to date, titled The Science of Well-Being. Laurie is also the director of the Comparative Cognition Laboratory and the Canine Cognition Center at Yale. She received her A.B. in Psychology and Biology from Harvard University in 1997 and her Ph.D. in Psychology from Harvard in 2003.

That blurb is from the Sam Harris interview with the lady, featured on his Waking Up app (a meditation app).

Some of what I see (looking at the titles) covers ground I’m already familiar with through reading various articles about cognitive studies and listening to podcasts, and I’ve already incorporated some of what I learned into how I live my life and how I cope with life.

Still, I’m always interested in learning more about how my brain works and controlling it to my benefit.

The class begins today, as I said, and I don’t know if it’s also the last day to register. Keep that in mind if interested in it.

Right, let’s proceed . . .

So, as the pandemic continues, I cross paths with more things that annoy me . . . no, that’s too mild. It’s things that piss me off.

Look, I spend a fair amount of time gently — and sometimes not-so-gently — pointing out to people that being “for” one political party or the other is, frankly, dumb. As is one religious belief over another, or any single ideology over another.

I cannot think of any religious, political, social, ethnic, or racial group that is completely right or completely wrong about things they believe and act on. Typically, they all have some things they get right, some things they get wrong, and some things that make them sound like they are bat-shit crazy. The proportions might change, but there’s always a spectrum.

Hence, it’s difficult for me to respect anyone who completely and totally buys into everything “their” group says. And it’s not just losing respect. 

If you are one of them people who are steeped into the culture of either the Far Right or Far Left, in short order you will cease to exist for me. I mean, I used to give a nod and a wink and let some things slide, but as I get older — and especially now — I have far less patience than I had even last month.

Truthfully, they too will likely lose their patience with me . . . and I can live with that, but then, stay out of my orbit.

What does this have to do with COVID-19, you ask? Good question; let me answer it after this photo.

Yet another grass photo as it came out of the D7500.

It’s been a few months now that I’ve been repeating the standard line of not wearing masks unless caring for someone sick or if you are sick yourself.

However, I’m one of them idiot guys who listen to what people say . . . and what they don’t say . . . and I especially listen to people when they say two things that contradict each other.

And so, I stupidly got into a discussion that seemed to get overly heated way too quickly and for no reason that I could tell.

Well, this post is me discussing things with myself. I mean, how much trouble can I get into?

Yes, COVID-19 is a serious matter. People are suffering on multiple levels and some are even dying.

But, it’s human nature to often laugh in the face of adversity. Some won’t see the humor because they are going through a really tough time and they’re not likely to look for humor. But, maybe they are. I know I would be, but I’m weird like that.

Plus, there are a lot of people who are struggling to cope with situations they’d never thought they’s have to face in their lifetime. Some express their bewilderment and frustration by choosing to laugh at it. I join them with enthusiasm and a hunger for relief from the constant bombardment of terrible news.

I give you . . . my COVIC-19 comic relief in the form of accumulated graphics and videos that made me laugh. We begin with cats; everyone loves cats, right?

One thing . . . I get these from various sources. If you are the owner of any of them and wish for me to remove them, just let me know.  Anyway, on with the show . . .

I’ve been doing something I rarely do. I’ve been sending out group emails.

“About what?” you ask.

What else? . . . COVID-19.

I wrote some stuff about the virus in Part One, but that was a while ago and the situation is about as dynamic as they come.  Now, I say “a while ago” and these days — the two weeks between the last post about COVID-19 and today’s offering — seem more like two months, if not years.

If you have a copy of the Hitchhiker Guide (the actual guide, not the novel) you would be reassured by the words “Don’t Panic” in bold letters on its cover.

These days, that’s difficult to do. From moral, to political, to existential, we’re constantly pushed toward panicking. Even when you have the resolve to follow a steady course, it’s difficult doing so when everyone around you is running the opposite way screaming in fear.

So, easier said than done. But not impossible.

Yes, I’m referring to . . . COVID-19.

Another post covering the first four of the ten years I’ve maintained this blog . . .

. . . but this post is doomed from the get-go since in this day and age people have zero interest in other people’s opinions. Especially when, as is often the case, the opinions challenge one’s own opinions.

And, especially when I’m doing the challenging. What’s interesting with this post (and more to follow) is that it feels as if I wrote more opinion and editorial pieces than fiction.

And, none of that writing accomplishes/accomplished anything.

I could be wrong, of course. It could be the majority of people have a deep-seated desire to always better their understanding of the world they live in and are open to knowledge and learning derived from a free exchange of ideas even if it upends their current ideas.

OK, OK, I’m kidding. I can’ find anyone who argues to learn; everyone argues to win, and that means literally shutting one’s ears and minds to any opposing views. Even if, by some chance, someone reads/hears something that challenges their beliefs, the first and — these days — only acceptable response is to call it a lie (fake news, as it were).

Now, there are some things that really can’t be argued with absolute certainty. Usually, it’s the big ones: politics and religion are the main players and from there stem all the peripheral issues such as guns, sex, abortion, and so on.

I’m always of two minds about the holidays. I view them in a secular context since religious, I’m not. For me, it’s about the voluntary focusing on people other than ourselves and the opportunity to remember and celebrate those who matter in our lives, be they near or far.

Mind you, I also like the trappings. But not all have an easy time of it because the celebration has lost its original focus and given way to rampant commercialization. And, there are dark undercurrents which — for me — have dulled the artificial shine of the season. 

What used to be an opportunity to enjoy the company of family and friends has morphed into . . . well, I don’t know what to call it.

But, if one sets aside the pressure to exchange gifts and extraneous things, there’s something about the sounds and sights and outward semblance of peace and love that can still lift one’s mood, even if it’s only temporary and even if one is aware it’s mostly a facade.

That’s what I want to celebrate; what I believe the season is supposed to be: people connecting with each other. With that in mind, first off, my holidays greetings, and then, something to maybe delight the few who take the time to enjoy it. 

It might be evident to some that I’ve consciously retreated from commenting on current affairs. Well, mostly. I’ll throw the odd jab here and there, but I don’t address specific topics, not even when those topics dominate the news and/or are of supreme importance to humanity in general.

But don’t be fooled. Inside, I have plenty of opinions and, increasingly, my concern for the future of this country (and the world) leads me to pessimistic estimates about the path we’re traveling.

For instance, I believe both Republicans and Democrats systematically — and for different end-goals — weaken the Constitution and the rule of law as they engage in an ideological power struggle where the public and the public interest are but pawns to be played and sacrificed.

A few years ago, it would have seemed impossible, but I believe we’re watching the dismantling of our system of government. I don’t know what will replace it, but I’m certain a large percentage of the population won’t like it . . . and it will be too late to do anything about it.  

At this point, someone might say I’m overreacting and that we’ve faced this and worse in the past. Yes, we’ve faced similar threats in the past and we — in each instance — recovered and came out of them arguably the better for it.