Prospicience: Imagining the Near Future beyond Covid-19 as well as the Far Future

Prospicience from a Science Fiction author’s point of view

“Axel Martinsen conjures up mind-blowing tales of courage, faith, and persistence exercised by everyday men and women like yourself who draw on their skill, their wits, and their Love for each other in order to overcome arch villains and survive and prosper under sometimes extreme environmental conditions and highly advanced technological environments.”
  ⸺ Olivia Dunham (Boston, Mass.)

Prospicience or Prospection is the brain’s activity of looking forward into the future. This author’s version of prospection takes the form of juxtaposing human beings in time and space to get me imagining things like human survival and overcoming extreme challenges well beyond the here and now. Also, I try to imagine a better future for me and us and I do this by changing things up — imagining settings that are very different than those we are currently accustomed to. This is what science fiction writers do.

But, in a more practical sense, when thinking about our present world and predicaments, it is fun to apply prospection to imagine and fantasize about better times ahead in the near-future, that is, beyond this Covid-19 Pandemic.

In my own personal life I have experienced some extreme hardships and have had to overcome and survive some very challenging life situations. I am not unique there. In every human’s life their will be adversity, challenges, and letdowns — that’s just part and parcel of the human condition. I like the way Kermit the Frog put it: “It ain’t easy being green!” — which is of course a metaphor for It ain’t easy being human. Be that as it may, we’ll take it, hmm? In any case, the crux here is how we respond to adversity and difficult challenges. This is what matters.

Right now as I write, the country has been on lockdown, sheltering in place, practicing social distancing, and wearing masks when going food shopping — all to help curb the spread of this SARS-2 Coronavirus contagion. However, I am personally no stranger to social distancing and social isolation. This has been my life for the past eight years in these United States and so I am quite used to it and actually do not mind it in the least. But, I can see that the concept and experience is alien to most Americans. The irony here is that I have a wealth of spiritual insights to share that can only help others but, sadly for most folks, they’re either not open minded enough — or else suffer from such acute tunnel vision that the only pursuit that holds any value to them at all is chasing after money. It is sad that so many deliberately choose ignorance. And so… I imagine the future…

To my way of thinking, what could be better than imagining everyday men and women who draw on their skills, their wits, and their love for each other in order to escape persecution and even vanquish arch villains? Or, survive and prosper under sometimes very extreme environmental conditions. One of the primary motivations of science fiction story writers is not only to entertain the reader but to also stimulate his or her mind and get him or her thinking about the implications of highly advanced technology on the lives of humans — both the amazing and the very positive ramifications, as well as the negative applications of technology that serve as detractors (which I’ll define in a sec).

What do we mean by highly advanced technology or technological environments? A technological environment refers to the state of science and technology in the country and related aspects such as the rate of technological progress and institutional arrangements for the development and application of new technology.

Examples that come to my mind in today’s world are…
▪︎Enterprise-level IT projects to install and rollout a new application or database that includes any necessary adjustments and fine-tuning of the XML schemas for the Middleware (APIs: web service calls).
▪︎Greenlighting by the U.S. Department of Defense for the full scale development of a new hypersonic bomber, which would set into motion a plethora of activities — all of them technological in nature.
▪︎The next great leap forward in computing with the advent of quantum computing.
▪︎The prospect of bullet trains to connect Los Angeles with San Francisco, and LA with Las Vegas.
▪︎Sustainable fusion reactions in tokomak (toroid) reactors which could make electricity essentially free for homeowners and renters.
▪︎Advances in materials sciences, such as single atom layer graphene lamina technology which will revolutionize capacitor technology — leading to the replacement of current Lithium Ion batteries (inside cell phones, tablets, hover boards, and Tesla electric cars) by the far greater energy-packed hybrid capacitor-battery combination, and,
▪︎Other amazing advances such as graphene nanotubes leading to the development perhaps of a space elevator? As in Arthur C. Clark’s The Fountains of Paradise…?
▪︎In the medical field, PACS systems that are now integrated into hospitals, radiological labs, and doctors offices have revolutionized the economical storage, distribution, transmission and lightning fast displaying of digitized MRI, CT scans, x-rays and PET scans onto just about any computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. (PACS stands for picture archiving and communication system).
▪︎In the rocket science arena there have been some amazing advances, such as SpaceX’s redesign of the rocket engine, and their booster rockets that return to the launchpad after they’ve done their jobs (launching a capsule and payload into orbit) — and they do so by landing vertically on the launchpad they took off from!

These are certainly all fine examples of advances in and the application of state-of-the-art technologies that have a very pronounced impact on human lives — not the least of which has been cell phone, smartphone and GPS tek.

To return to the discussion of the positive consequences of implementing new tek as well as its detractors — first off, the definition of a detractor is given by: A person who belittles the worth of another person or undermines their cause.

Okay, this portion of Prospection and Imagining the Future demands that I discuss the talisman. To my way of thinking, things like computer and telecommunication technologies are talismans. What is a talisman? Traditionally and literally speaking, “a talisman is any object ascribed with religious or magical powers intended to protect, heal, or even harm individuals for whom they are made.” (Wikipedia.org)

A talisman is essentially “inert” until its powers are invoked and put into play — for good or ill.

But recently, the word talisman has come to be applied to less tangible things. And, as mentioned earlier, technology is just such an example of a figurative talisman. I suppose law enforcement (the police), the justice system, and law practices can also be considered as examples of figurative talismans… as well as the medical field. Certainly, we’re all aware of a doctor’s hippocratic oath — to heal and to do no harm. But, there have been times when the practice of medicine has been used for evil purposes, namely, wicked Nazi doctors in the concentration camps of WWII.

And, in today’s China, the latest advances in surveillance technology (developed by the West, incidentally) are being used against Chinese citizens to establish “social credit scores” that determine whether a person is even considered for a good job, despite their otherwise excellent qualifications. Everything that the Chinese government can capture on their civvies — from their buying habits and places they frequent, to their emails and phone conversations, to facial recognition technology — is used to spy on them and “rate” them. Truly appalling!

But, the very same thing is happening in America. In fact, intrusive surveillance has been in place in America for a long time now. Since the time of J. Edgar Hoover the FBI has kept tabs on Americans, eh? And what about the NSA? We all know the name Edward Snowden. So, although to a lesser degree, the practice of spying on civvies is becoming ever more prevalent — just another example of a technology talisman that can be purposed for good or ill.

One factor that paved the way for government spying is the ever increasing population of humans on this planet. Before computers, records and files where generated and maintained by hand. A skyrocketing world population in the past 120 years has demanded ever faster machines that are getting amazingly good at following and recording a lot of what we do and say (and therefore, think). It can easily be argued that much good is accomplished daily with the marvelous invention of the Internet and cell phones, and how these wonders have dramatically improved all our lives.

Who would’ve imagined back in 1966, when Captain James T. Kirk flipped open his communicator to hail the orbiting Enterprise, that in just 38 years time, Motorola would come out with the RAZR V3 cellular flip phone — and it didn’t take two more centuries, as predicted by Star Trek. And soon after, we were blessed with smartphones that connect us to the Internet and have computing power that rivals today’s desktops and laptops. Amazing! In fact, I am writing this article right now on my Samsung Galaxy A10e, a remarkable machine that for many activities, makes my tower computer obsolete (but not quite, as I need the tower to run some fancy software applications).

Imagining a better future… this has been my impetus for writing science fiction and slipstream stories. Having personally experienced much disappointment and disillusionment working in corporate America for 30 years, and having observed and felt the growing indifference and frigidity of American women and their increasing competitiveness and sense of entitlement in all aspects of American society — which leads only to an escalation in general tension and warring between the sexes — I find imagining better futures off-world very stimulating and satisfying.

I’ve grown weary of the endless preoccupation with money ever-present among humans on this planet. I’ve grown weary with today’s women endless tugs-of-war with men. I’ve grown weary of the double standard inherent in America’s criminal justice system. Ironic, isn’t it? Naming it the “criminal” justice system — when it is precisely criminals in black gowns and feminazi district attorneys who are running the system! Wow. But anyway… America, I still love ya… but I just can’t stand your scene anymore.

So you’re darn right I imagine better futures on other planets — and remain cognizant all the while that wherever we humans go, we take ourselves and our selfishness, our arrogance, and our sense of entitlement with us. This is our affliction. The all too Human Condition.

Many have referred to Nietzsche as insane, but the one point this philosopher made that struck a cord with me was his suggestion that we humans should strive to become more than human — what he called (translated from the German) the “overman”. In other words, more human than human. What this actually urges us to do is be less bestial and brutish and strive to rise to the level of intelligence, sapience, competence, and compassion that our brains are fully capable of and, even more to the point — because is the right thing to do! Everyone that cares can play a role in being good stewards of this magnificent planet Earth; protect her and her fauna and flora, as well as the precious water and the air we all need.

In my upcoming novel Deep Divers, I imagine a series of worlds (city-states) on Mars five hundred years from now. Why so far into the future? Because, I don’t want to err and over-predict the speed with which Mankind will settle on other planets. By the way, our Moon is so large that it honestly should be categorized as a planetoid, and good sense dictates that we return there and set up some moonbases first, before venturing out to Mars. And, from the Moon, given it’s far smaller gravity well, it’s easier to launch to the outer planets and beyond. Other fascinating planetoids in our Solar System are of course Jupiter’s Galilean moons: Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, and Io. As well as Saturn’s Titan.

So, this Covid-19 Pandemic has me thinking a bit more about the near term future. It is true there seems to be a general low-keyed depressed mood out there — due to this microbial threat and social distancing and masks which hide our precious and badly needed human smiles. A lovely, positive and forward-thinking article (“Go Ahead, Fantasize!”) written recently by Tariro Mzezewa, is what got me started on my article here. Ms. Mzezewa and I have a common goal here — to lift your spirits and get you thinking and planning for the good times ahead.

So, I’ve compiled a list of activities for the near future that I’d like to do:

The Canadian Rockies by train:
Canada’s National Parks | Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper | 48 min. YT video
Rocky Mountaineer railway getaway | Vancouver to Banff in 4 minutes!
A Rhone river cruise.
Saddleback Inn: this is a very romantic setting in the mountains. I’m looking forward to taking a special lady up there for dinner, drinks, and karaoke.
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. This is the world’s largest rotating cable car tram. Once disembarking at Mountain Station at an elevation of 8,516 feet, there are two restaurants, observation decks, a natural history museum, two documentary theaters, a gift shop and over 50 miles of hiking trails to enjoy — so states their site: https://pstramway.com/
Hiking and mountain biking on mountain trails.
Launching my YouTube channel.
Enjoying next New Year’s Eve at a party.
Asking a new lady out on a date. Having been through two marriages and divorces, I’ve seen a lot. It’s taken me a while to get to the point where I’m willing to date again. This is now something I’m looking forward to. There are definitely activities a lady and I can do together despite this Pandemic that won’t put us at risk… Hiking, biking, cooking, dining and snuggling at home, etc.

For more entertaining, inspirational and mind-blowing stories about Mankind’s future, doubleclick on the menu header “BOOK” where you’ll get a preview of what’s on the event horizon!

And, for spiritually-oriented topics on Self-Improvement, Improving Relationships, Recovering from Codependency and other insights for better living and happiness — as well as Axel’s personal movie favorites and recommendations — checkout his other articles listed on the main Blog page.

Movie Gems | Axel’s favorites!

THIS BLOG ENTRY IS IN-PROGRESS

Note: These are my all-time favorite movie gems so I’m recommending them highly. Each gem listed here meets all or most of my exacting criteria… and trust me… I am finicky! Each one has a good story (plot), the characters are well developed and the actors’ delivery is spot on, and the film carries a message or a theme that will warm your heart or show you something that you perhaps didn’t know. And, first and foremost – each of these film gems is very entertaining!

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New Author? Bring your manuscript to RFE for publication!

RFE |RETURN FROM EARTH Publications can help you publish your works in the following genres: Science Fiction, Slipstream (think: Twilight Zone, X-Files, Outer Limits, Fringe), Horror, Human Interest, Romance, or Spiritual Growth.

Whether you want to publish your work in paperback format, hardback, and/or e-book formats — RFE can help you turn your dreams into reality!

And, if you are seeking help to create exposure and recognition for your work, RFE can advertise your short story or novel on its new and upcoming Mind-Blowing Science Fiction & Slipstream fanzine website — once the final edits of your work are complete and your work has been vetted and readied for publication.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by reaching out. Navigate to the Contact form on this site by either clicking here, or by clicking on the menu header: Contact. If you’re on your smartphone, tap the Menu button to expand the list of menu headers.

I look forward to hearing from you to discuss your project, your future plans, how I may be of assistance, and whether you’re interested in advertising your work with RFE!

Sincerely,

RETURN FROM EARTH PUBLICATIONS

What is the Slipstream genre?

What is the Slipstream genre all about?

The eight (8) short stories you will find in Idaho Powwow & Other Tales from the Slipstream – sold right here on this author site – are in the Science Fiction, Slipstream, Horror and Romance genres.

So, what exactly is Slipstream?

It has been defined as “the fiction of strangeness.” Slipstream is a kind of fantastic or non-realistic fiction that crosses conventional genre boundaries between Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, the Supernatural, and literary fiction. While some slipstream stories employ elements of science fiction, fantasy, or the supernatural — not all do. The common unifying factor of these pieces of literature is some degree of the surreal, the not-entirely-real, or the markedly anti-real. This is a nice definition given by Wikipedia.org.

The term slipstream was coined by cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling in an article originally published in SF Eye #5, in July 1989. He wrote:
“…this is a kind of writing which simply makes you feel very strange; the way that living in the [twentyfirst] century makes you feel, if you are a person of a certain sensibility.” —Sterling, Bruce (July 1989). “CATSCAN 5: Slipstream”. SF Eye (5). Retrieved 2014-09-13.

Science fiction authors James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel, editors of Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology, point out that cognitive dissonance is at the heart of slipstream and that it is not so much a genre as a literary effect, like horror or comedy. —Adams, John Joseph (12 June 2006). “James Patrick Kelly, John Kessel”. SciFi.com. Archived from the original on 15 June 2006. Retrieved 2014-09-13.

It is Axel Martinsen’s personal opinion that a compelling story with a fascinating character, such as heroes journeys described in Joseph Campbell’s The Hero of a Thousand Faces, is one where we feel for and care about the characters. These kinds of stories are very powerful because they are the story of Mankind — take Quest For Fire as an example. They are on a par with beautiful songs that resonate in our minds and hearts because we see that they recognize our internal suffering and struggles and thus they humanize and empower us. Tales on this level that come to mind are: Interstellar; Melancholia; American Beauty; Valhalla Rising; Ursula Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven; Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein; Dean Koontz’s Seize The Night, Watchers, Life Expectancy, and Fear Nothing; Lisa Tuttle’s Riding the Nightmare; Bentley Little’s The Walking; Alastair Reynolds’ Diamond Dogs; Jack Vance’s Demon Princes; Harry Harrison’s Deathworld Trilogy; and many other fabulous gems.

We just feel better after the experience because we are reminded that others understand the struggles we face in our own lives, and with our own fears and life challenges, and also the joy of love’s discovery — and the pain of its loss.

In fiction and in life if the characters have laundered their karma and get really lucky, they sometimes get to replevin the precious love they’ve lost.

I sincerely hope you enjoy these tales as I most definitely enjoyed writing them. As I’ve said, these stories take place in the Penumbrian Universe, a slightly altered reality to our current one.

You may find Synopses (Summaries) for each story here on this website. Simply use the Menu above to navigate to
BOOKS and then select the one you’d like to read about from the drop-down menu.

Sincerely Yours,

AXEL MARTINSEN

Idaho Powwow and Other Tales

To purchase an attractive paperback pocketbook of the 4th Edition of Idaho Powwow & Other Tales from the Slipstream, please click on this link: BUY (or on the “BUY” menu header) here on this site. Or, you can return to the Penumbrian Universe | Home Page which also gives you the option to Buy Now.
In the near future the paperback will also be available on some other platforms and the links will be posted here.

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Thank you for your patronage and happy reading!

How to Improve Your Relationships – Hint: It starts with the relationship you have with yourself

At the heart of one’s relationships, both with oneself and with others, is the very human condition. In order to peel back the layers of the onion, as it were, in order to discover why our relationships are not working out as we’d like, it’s necessary to discuss something that is an inherent part of the human condition and which some have referred to as “Codependency”.

By the way, for some fine examples in film for how codependency plays out in human relationships you can look to these movies:

Sideways (2004): This film stars Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh. Two men, Miles (Giamatti) and Jack (Church) are reaching middle age with not much to show but lots of disappointments. They embark on a week-long road trip through California’s wine country (Solvang) and what I like so much about this film is that although both guys are highly codependent, each one nevertheless is able to offer awesome friendship to the other.

Magnolia (1999): This film has quite a cast and is a strange tapestry of interrelated characters in search of love, forgiveness, and meaning in the San Fernando Valley. It stars Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Jason Robards, Felicity Huffman, Luis Guzmán, Tom Cruise, William H. Macy, Philip Seymour Hoffman and many others. Dysfunction is the function here as these characters provide fine examples for how out-of-whack their lives get because of their unresolved codependency issues and denials.

American Beauty (1999): It stars Chris Cooper, Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Wes Bentley, Mena Suvari, Thora Birch, Peter Gallagher, Scott Bakula. Why I like this movie so much is for its subtle but very strong commentaries… one of these is marriage in America; when a wife (portrayed by Annette Bening) no longer loves her husband (portrayed by Kevin Spacey) it absolutely destroys him.

Melancholia (2011): Another masterpiece. This film is hard to categorize in any genre and I think of it as Slipstream and you can find a definition for slipstream on several pages here on this site. The film was directed by Lars von Trier and stars Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Rampling, Charlotte Gainsbourg, John Hurt, Stellan Skarsgård, and Kiefer Sutherland. An “ELE” is about to happen — an Extinction Level Event — that will kill all humans and all life on Earth. Some of the characters are type “A” personalities (highly controlling), and others spazz out and go off the deep end. The film takes place at a party at a posh estate. Justine, portrayed by Kirsten Dunst (and one of my favorite female movie stars) — suffers from extreme melancholia and yet of all the people at this gathering, she is the only one who keeps herself together and maintains her composure — taking the end of the world well in stride. Amazing!

Codependency is a mostly misunderstood term and concept because it is so difficult to define in one sentence or one paragraph alone. The book, Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA), Third Edition, begins in chapter one (“Beginning Our Journey”) by listing some complaints people have stated about their life situations and relationships:

“If he/she would just change, everything would be all all right.”
“I can’t control this pain, these people, and what’s happening.”
“It’s all my fault.”
“Why do I keep getting into the same bad relationships?”
“I feel so empty and lost.”
“Who am I?” or, “I don’t know who I am!”
“What’s wrong with me?”

Even the nationwide twelve step program dedicated to Codependency has some difficulty in providing a definition for this troublesome human trait.

Being codependent means being dysfunctional in one’s relationship with oneself, and exhibiting dysfunctional behavior in one’s relationships with others. Codependency is passed down from generation to generation; it is a human malaise, if you will. And, it doesn’t matter how smart a human being is. If the parents are codependent, then the offspring shall be as well. That’s just how it works. The first step is recognizing that one has codependency issues — and fully accepting that this is true. Then, one has to own (take full responsibility) for one’s codependencies. The time for blaming one’s parents will end, once the Codependent enters and practices Codependency Recovery. There have been some amazing books written on Codependency, and a couple of them opened my eyes to this malaise and thanks to these books, I exited codependency denial  — which is where I was stuck all my adult life up to the age of fifty-two.

A lot of folks believe (wrongly) that a person who is codependent is always overly-dependent on another person and is therefore weak, because it means they cannot take care of themselves. But this is just one side of the codependency coin, so to speak. A codependent is just as likely to be an enabler, that is, someone who truly believes that others cannot take care of themselves properly and therefore it is up to them to play the role of rescuer… doing things for others, and over-stepping the boundaries of others, because the people they care about obviously don’t know how to take care of themselves. The codependent enabler is absolutely convinced that everyone else is weak unable to properly care for themselves — because the enabler is himself/herself a codependent!

There are always two sides to every coin, and this is also the case with Codependency. In a codependent relationship, there is the enabler and there is the dependent and in some relationships, the roles may flip-flop back and forth, depending on the people and the situations. The enabler needs the dependent (whom they view as weak and in need of caregiving), while the dependent needs the enabler (whom they view stronger or more stable or smarter than themselves). It takes two to tango (or tangle, ha ha!) and each person gets something out of the codependent relationship.

The truth is that ALL human beings on planet Earth are codependent to one degree or another. For those with very severe codependency issues, the saving grace is that they will, at some point in their lives, come to recognize that they have a “problem”. This is Step 1 of any 12-Step program. Next, they need to want to make a change. Otherwise, they are heading down a path that will only continue their unhappiness, dissatisfaction or misery. The movie Sideways (starring Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen, and Sandra Oh) is a very entertaining flick that revolves around the theme of codependency without actually naming it. Two frustrated males, Miles and Jack, take off for the weekend into California’s Central Valley wine country (Solvang area) to try and sort out their challenging life situations. Miles (Paul Giamatti) is having a hard time letting go of his ex-wife, even though she has already remarried. Plus, Miles is a writer who has been struggling to get his manuscript published and he gets the word during their weekend getaway that the publisher passed on his manuscript. Jack is a perennial womanizer and gets himself into really hot water with a woman he hooks up with in Solvang, because she finds out that Jack is about to get married and so all the sweet nothings he’s been whispering in her ear are just, well, sweet nothings. Amazingly, as messed up and codependent as each of these guys are, they are still able to support each other in extremely positive ways. This is absolutely magical in today’s world! Particularly in the case of males who are typically really bad at giving each other proactive moral support.

It is curious to me that so little is written about codependency, given that it is a malaise that afflicts everyone on the planet, to one degree or another. Maybe that’s exactly why nobody writes about it. Maybe folks view writing and talking on this subject akin to writing about air — because there’s just so damn much of it around!

So I wrote a short story entitled “Idaho Powwow”. It is about four men in their forties and fifties who have each suffered through difficult divorces or separations, and a few of them have even gone to prison because they acted out due to their unresolved codependency issues. The purpose of their quarterly get-together is to provide true support and accountability for each other. This little band of brothers is different in several ways from Twelve Step programs which, for example, forbid members from doing any “cross talk”, that is, two persons in the group suddenly engaging in their own private little conversation at the exclusion of everybody else in the group. In Soy Sauce (the name these four guys gave to their own support group), cross-talk is A-Ok, because it is necessary at times for one-on-one conversations to take place, without the interruption of others, in order to discuss an intense or burning issue. But, like a Twelve Step program, no one guy is in charge of the group. The group has its own group consciousness, and that is sufficient.

In subsequent blog entries, I’ll delve into the steps of recovery for a codependent and also explore in greater detail the different types of codependencies and what they mean.

In order to improve one’s relationships with others, one has to first establish a healthy relationship with oneself. Have you ever heard someone say,

“Oh, I just can’t stand being alone for very long. I just don’t know what to do with myself if I have too much time on my hands, alone.”

I’ll pick a fictitious name for the person who uttered these thoughts. I’ll call him “Ed”. Now, Ed’s thoughts and feelings are one of the classical traits of a strongly codependent person. Ed strongly believes that he requires constant “soothing” and reassurances from others that take the form of being in the company of other people, even if those people are not truly supportive or positive influences in his life. Why does Ed believe this? Because, perhaps among other things, Ed is extremely insecure and his insecurities stem from his abandonment issues, because a parent or maybe both parents “abandoned” him when he was little. A person with this type of codependency is willing to sacrifice his “safety” boundaries in exchange for some kind of imagined reassurances, which take the form of others spending time with him, or others giving Ed “permission” to let him do things for them. In Ed’s mind, this validates him as a person. It makes him worthy of having an existence on planet Earth, and it makes him worthy of being loved. After all, love is what we’re all after, isn’t it? But, the way that Ed goes about it constantly violates his safety boundaries because he puts himself in a position (due his unresolved codependency issues) where he is “giving himself away”. Given our human condition, it is natural that others will take advantage of Ed’s “kindness” and “favors”, leaving Ed feeling that he is constantly being taken advantage of. Ed feels frustrated and abused – and unhappy.

Another example of a severely codependent person is the case of “Emmett” (again, a fictitious name). Emmett just loves to argue for argument’s sake. Emmett is someone I affectionately refer to as an underground wild potato. Emmett rarely talks to anyone, but when he does engage in conversation, he usually “stands on his soapbox” and pontificates about politics, or on any other subject that the other person brings up. In fact, Emmett is an expert on every subject known to Man. Even if you agree with Emmett’s “argument” on a subject, he will nevertheless browbeat you to the point where you just want to get away from him and be left in peace. Emmett, too, exhibits codependent thinking and behavior and it takes the form of a browbeating. Emmett is extremely selfish and believes that his desires and his opinions are all that matter. Emmett only feels comfortable interacting with other human beings if he feels he is in total control of the discourse but for the most part, Emmett stays to himself and limits his contact with others. Underground wild potato.

To examine codependency more closely and uncover what makes a codependent “tick”, one needs to understand some things about love addiction and love avoidance, both of which are also classical examples of codependent thinking and behavior.

In Ed’s example, his codependency takes the form of love addiction. In Emmett’s case, it takes the form of love avoidance.

A love addict is a codependent person who is not only “in love” with the idea of being in love, but puts him or herself into relationships or situations with others where he or she “gives himself (or herself) away” in order to fulfill some kind of fantasy that everything is okay in the relationship, and that he (or she) is loved by the other person.

A love addict may enter into a relationship with another love addict, or the love addict may enter into a relationship with a love avoidant. Or, both parties may actually flip-flop and reverse their roles as love addict and love avoidant, depending on the stressors in their lives. Examples of love addict/love avoidant (or flip-flop) codependent relationships like this are often found in marriages, or commitment love relationships (boyfriend/girlfriend, or same sex relationships).

Two love addicts may meet and one or both of them believe they have found their “soul mate”, and that the other person completes them. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Years may go by, but if both persons do not actively seek to enter codependency recovery, the relationship is doomed. In fact, even if one or both persons do exit their codependency denial and enter into recovery, they will find that their relationship changes dramatically. Why? Because the needs that existed at the outset of the relationship no longer exist, or have changed since the beginning of the relationship.

Here is the case of two people in a marriage. Let’s call them “Johnny” and “Inbal”. They both entered the marriage as codependent love addicts. Johnny had suffered all his life with episodes of depression and at the time he met Inbal, he had been depressed (both of Johnny’s parents had had issues with depression). Inbal, on the other hand, had two very difficult parents – her mother was a heavy love addict and a mouthy malcontent with strong issues of depression and needing to control others – especially her children. Inbal’s father was a heavy love avoidant, also with very strong issues of control. As a child, Inbal dealt with her difficult parents by disassociating herself. Later, as a young adult, Inbal went for counseling for a couple of years and then came to the conclusion that she was “cured” of identifying with her mother and no longer needed therapy. But, what Inbal didn’t realize was that she had in her not only the traits of a love addict (from her mother), but also the love avoidant (from her father).

At some point in the marriage, Johnny’s codependent love addiction issues went into remission (he became less needy) and he pursued hobbies that brought him joy, and he also began cultivating some male friendships outside the marriage. This was confusing for Inbal who noticed that Johnny wasn’t “leaning” on her as much anymore to meet all his needs, and so she flip-flopped and started exhibiting strong love avoidant thinking and behavior which she had learned very well how to do from her father. Incidentally, after the marriage, Johnny came understand that it was unreasonable for him to expect that Inbal should fulfill not only the role of wife and lover to him, and mother to the children, but also the role of sister, best friend, and even the role mother to him.

Well, one day, Johnny had the impression that Inbal didn’t love him anymore. For example, when he’d phone Inbal while commuting to work in the morning (after they had each dropped off a child at school), Inbal no longer wished to have those morning conversations with her husband. Instead, now she was always on the phone with her father in the mornings. And, after a long day at work and a long commute home, Johnny would drive up to the house and the kids would run out to greet him – overjoyed to see their father. But, Inbal had little to say to Johnny, other than a greeting. When he tried to talk to her, she always said the time wasn’t right… there was dinner to prepare (which dad helped with)… there were dishes to do (which were often done by him)… there was bathing time for the kids (done by mom)… and then there was story and bedtime and Johnny enjoyed reading stories to his two kids, Sophie and Ives, in any case. The kids were in bed and the nine o’clock hour was reached. Inbal was suddenly very sleepy. There was no “time” leftover at the end of the day for talking – or anything else. Johnny and Inbal thought they’d solve this problem by scheduling a date with each other – once every two weeks. But, invariably, forty minutes into each date, Inbal suddenly got very anxious and started calling the babysitter to verify that the kids were okay, and that they were being put to bed. The babysitter was a very responsible older woman who knew how to handle small children, so there was nothing at all to worry about. Besides, the babysitter had the cell phone numbers for both parents so there was even less cause for worry. This is an example of love avoidance, where Inbal began using the kids as a total distraction so that she could avoid having to do much of anything to cultivate the marriage relationship. In Inbal’s mind, the marriage would take care of itself because, as her parents kept stressing with her – it was all about the children now and both parents were immaterial. Sadly, Inbal believed this down to the core of her being. And this is because Inbal had strong issues with self-esteem and self-respect. Inbal had both unresolved codependency traits inside her: love addict and love avoidant. The love addict part of her made it distasteful for her to spend any time alone, and when she was forced to be alone – as in commuting to work – she disassociated and “time” seemed to vanish for her. This need of hers “not to be alone” (her husband didn’t count anymore for some reason) is what drove her to spend time with other Israeli couples, even at the exclusion of their respect for her. Johnny found himself coming to her defense many times because her so-called Israeli friends berated her, to her face and behind her back.

Perhaps Inbal suffered from certain neuroses. Perhaps she thought Johnny just didn’t care enough – or not as much as she – about the kids. Johnny did love his children, a lot. But he understood that without a strong relationship with his wife, which meant good communication between them, their marriage was doomed.

Johnny and Inbal wound up going their separate ways, and the children are minus a parent. Later, Johnny had an epiphany and came to understand that the only communication he and Inbal had before their break up (and which took the form of Inbal’s verbal attacks) were simply Inbal’s attempts at fulfilling her perceived needs. To Johnny, it felt as if Inbal was trying to transform him into the person of her and her dad. Also, Johnny came to understand and accept that both he and Inbal suffered with severe issues of codependency. The difference was that Johnny had a revelation, an “ah ha” moment, and realized that he couldn’t blame Inbal anymore (or any other woman for that matter) because of relationships gone sour. Ultimately, Johnny realized, it was his own fault because, wallowing as he had for so many years in his unresolved codependency issues, he had attracted the wrong kinds of women to himself. It is extremely important that a man hook up with the right woman, meaning, a woman who shares similar values and ideals with him, and who lets him be the person he is, and the person he needs to become. But, if the man is floundering in his unresolved codependency issues, then how can he (a) be happy with himself? and (b) find the “right” woman? This is why the relationship we have with ourselves is so important.

To this day, Johnny remains a love addict but with the big difference that he knows he is a love addict and he has willingly entered recovery. As far as Johnny knows, Inbal is still wallowing in her love avoidance, indicated by the fact that she has chosen to have no contact with him whatsoever. For a time, Johnny felt hurt and angry by Inbal’s silence, because it also meant he was deprived of any contact with the children. But, as he progressed in his codependency recovery, Johnny realized that it was all for the best. Unless Inbal willingly recognized her codependency issues and truly wanted to exit codependency denial, there was no point at all to have any contact with her anyway, as it would only lead to more strife. So, Johnny is good with just letting things be, and he focuses his energy on codependency recovery. This means focusing on having a healthy relationship with himself.

You can read more about Johnny Midnight in the first story of Idaho Powwow and Other Tales from the Slipstream, and in future stories.

And, I will leave you with this important note. Between love addicts and love avoidants, there is actually a lot of hope for the love addicts especially. It is easier for love addicts to bounce out of codependency denial than it is for love avoidants. This is probably because love avoidants are just so much more stubborn and convinced that they are “right” in their thinking – and that everyone else’s thinking is “wrong”.

It’s a sad thing that for the most part, humans do not exit denial and make changes to their thinking until some very dramatic things happen in their lives that put them into life situations that are “unacceptable”. Once in an unacceptable life situation, a human has no choice but to examine his or her life and then make a decision: whether to be honest with himself and admit that it is his own fault he finds himself in a given “unacceptable” life situation. Or, whether to persist in denial and… well, we all know the adage… The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same things over and over while expecting a different result.

HAPPY TRAILS…STAY HEALTHY… LIVE LONG AND PROSPER!!

“Bad Weather”, “Fair Weather” and “All Weather” Friends

You can’t pick your family, although some say we do actually pick our parents, even before we’re born, because our spirits demand certain energies around us (delivered to us by our parents) in order to help our spirits grow. But this is probably based more on certain philosophies and belief systems rather than actual facts. And what are facts anyway? Perceptions of reality, by humans. Which begs the next question… what is reality? But taking a look at how to define Realityis a topic for another time… I’ll put this one idea out there to be tabled for a future discussion: I’ve heard reality described like this: That which cannot be replaced is real.

In any case, this post deals with relationships we call friendships. Having lost all of my family as a result of death (both my parents), or else due to apathy and disagreements (aunts and cousins), I’ve had no choice but to examine the nature of relationships and friendships. What do they mean to me? What value/benefits do they contribute to my life? How does one make new friends? How to rekindle and cultivate old friendships and acquaintances? And whether to let some relationships alone and move on.

To state the obvious, computers, buildings, cars and corporations don’t need friendships, but we humans do. We need relationships in our lives to help us feel an on-going connection with the rest of humanity. Positive relationships help us feel good about ourselves because we feel that others care about us, and they motivate us to do for others as well.

Childhood friendships can last a lifetime but it can be very challenging for us to keep those friends if we keep moving around so darn much. Once in college, some lasting friendships can be formed there because we’re around other folks who share some common goals with us and may also have some interests and hobbies in common. Serving in the armed forces also is a great way to form lifelong friendships.

Later on, when we’re adults in our 20s, 30s, 40s & 50s, we discover that friendships by and large are no longer “free” because we’re in these situations and places (colleges) precisely because we’re paying for it. But it’s all good and in college we’re exposed to very good opportunities for making new friendships. Then we graduate and get jobs and discover that most of our co-workers are in competition with us and therefore not our friends, nor should they be, meaning that it is a mistake to confide in a co-worker because like as not, they’ll use it against you at some point.

Often, jobs demand that we move around. Some places where we end up simply aren’t conducive to making new and lasting friends. I’m thinking of the giant dog-eat-dog cities like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago etc where most everyone is highly motivated by money in every undertaking. Properties are super expensive, preschools for our kids are likewise expensive. Therefore, folks have no choice but to focus on their own money-making machines, and everyone they come in contact with is seen as either a contributor to that machine, or else a detractor and a waste of their time. It’s a very solipsistic and selfish view that most folks have in today’s “modern” and “civilized” societies worldwide, but it’s the reality we face – because of the ever-increasing costs of just living our lives and keeping our heads above water.

Certainly, loose friendships are formed between couples who have kids because that is the one thing they have in common big time. Mothers and fathers love their children and want them to be happy  and uniting their children together with other kids in play dates is very important for their children’s well being and development of social skills. But, when ripples in these friendships appear – and they always do – these loose friendships are just as likely to dissipate like smoke in a breeze.

Marriage often isn’t the solution to our need for friendship either. That’s been my experience, anyway. This is partly due to my own personal experiences codependency issues, which I talk about in another blog posted here. But, it also comes from my observances of other people’s marriages and long term relationships. You simply can’t get everything you need from your significant other. Here’s the problem as I see it with most marriages and intimate relationships, and I’ll use some simple metaphors to make my point. Is the temperature comfortable on Venus? How about the Antarctic? One is way too hot, the other way too cold. That’s how most marriages go. Can an intimate relationship survive if she lives in New York and he lives in Los Angeles and they only see each other once every six months? Likewise, if the husband and wife spend most of their time together and rarely separate, the relationship is doomed as well. Certainly, you see examples in the older generations where a couple stays together for fifty years, but wouldn’t you agree that these types of relationships are becoming less and less common?

I examine marriage and long term intimate relationships here because I believe that too often we confuse our spouses or significant others as persons capable of satisfying all of our friendship needs – and that’s just not realistic.

I look at the marriage between my aunt and uncle. My background is half Swedish and half Eastern European Jew, so I have a right to talk on relations between Jews and Jewish family members. Certainly, Jews seem to have some additional challenges in making a go of relationships versus most other folks. That’s been my observation anyway. My uncle liked to boast that he and his wife (my aunt) had been happily married for forty-five years, and that he wouldn’t have it any other way. However, nothing could be actually farther from the truth. Human beings lie, yes? Actions speak louder than words, yes? And when my aunt passed on, you could visually see a huge weight lift off of my uncle’s shoulders. He was already getting on in years himself, and had certain medical issues, but his emotional disposition changed after her death. You could see it on his face and in his step. He was happier, and at peace. His wife of forty-five years (my aunt), had had a caustic wit and had nagged her poor hubby (my uncle) for all of their forty-five years together. My aunt’s deprecating disposition towards her husband and others seems to have run big time in my father’s side of the family. And her disdainful air was only overshadowed by her elder sister’s (my other, older aunt’s) cruel and wicked tongue – which she finally took the grave with her.

To my younger aunt’s credit, during the last two years of her life leading up to her death from cancer in 2008, her disposition actually changed somewhat, and she became a nicer person. That’s what I saw in her dealings with me and others, though I can’t vouch for the last two years of her relationship with her husband, my uncle, but I can imagine that although dying must have been tough for my younger aunt… seeing her through to the end with her cancer must have posed many challenges for my uncle. I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it again: “It ain’t easy being green”, which is a kind of metaphor by the writers for Kermit the Frog for explaining that it isn’t easy being human, or in the case of my father’s side of the family, it ain’t easy being Jewish. My own father said it best, “Be patient with me, because God isn’t through with me yet!”

There is no doubt in my mind that my uncle and aunt could have benefited greatly by taking more time apart from each other. But, as in all codependent relationships, there are reasons why people put up with certain abuses from each other. My uncle was clearly her whipping boy, and my aunt’s sense of entitlement left her focusing most of her aggression on someone who would not fight back, i.e., my uncle. I could go on and on about the dysfunctional relationships in families but that would take this post a bit too far off track. The assumption I make here is that although someone may have come from a highly dysfunctional and codependent family situation (as did I), they are now in codependency recovery, or whatever you choose to call it. I use the term codependency recovery for lack of any other way of describing what I and others have been through. The point is that us recovering codependents realize that if we are to have healthy relationships with others which, for the purpose of this discussion is centered on friendships, we must first have healthy relationships with ourselves and second, know what we want in a friend in order to have healthy friendships with others. Again, I’m making the assumption that the first thing, having a good relationship with ourselves, is already happening.

The challenge I personally have seen with friendships is that they too often turn into “one-way streets”. What I mean is that one person is putting out most of the effort to keep the friendship alive. Why does this happen? I’m not exactly sure (yet) but I have my ideas. The main one is what is known as shadenfreude – pleasure derived from the misfortune of others. I have seen, personally, that during some of my worst times on this planet, a small handful of friends were there for me. And they were there pretty much all the way, or as much as they were capable of being from a financial and time management point of view. That says a lot about a friend, yes? But then later on, when my life situation changed and improved, and my mental state improved – these same friends who had been there for me during the “inclement weather”, were less and less available during the better times, that is, during the fair weather. I get this. Often it’s just a matter of one’s close friends just “letting you be” when you’re doing better. Maybe they need a bit of a break from the effort and time they put into supporting you during your “hard times”, eh?

When describing ideal human relations, I’d like to posit that close friends will be around for all kinds of “weather” – what do you you think?

Maybe I’m dealing in asymptotes here, in terms of forming friendships according to an ideal that can never be reached: the “all weather friend”. Maybe it really is too much to ask of human beings. We’ve all heard it said, “It’s lonely at the top”.

True, there are such things as superficial “friends” who vanish into the woodwork once the “weather” improves. One could chalk that up to the meaner of human traits: shadenfreude. I’m blessed in that I do not associate with folks like that. Clearly, with those fake friends, it irks them when a person who they once saw as scraping the bottom of the barrel has now climbed up and out of the barrel. That’s why I call them, “bad weather friends”.

Conversely, in codependent friendships, “good weather friends” are those who mooch off of the person who is doing well, and that’s not healthy either.

So, at the end of the day, where does this leave those of us who keep reaching out for friendships but seems to find little opportunity?

For me, personally, it leaves me writing and making artistic creations which bring me joy, teach me new things about myself and the human condition, and which I also chalk up to posterity. These modern productions will be my gift to the world, my contribution to humanity. My friendship to the world.

Here’s another truth. When any of us have a conversation with another human being, we are really just talking to ourselves. Why is this so? Because we are such incredibly subjective creatures that when we express ourselves to others, our thoughts come directly from our own personal experiences and biases – or else they come from our observances of others’ experiences which we then adopt and make part of our own. We literally cannot help talking to ourselves, and I am talking to myself just as much as I am talking to you right now. And this also explains why my best friend in the whole world is… Me.

Are you your own best friend? Are you a sentient, compassionate being with positive moral values? Well then, I look forward to reading your post here.

STAY HEALTHY, AND LIVE LONG AND PROSPER!

Cats, Cats, Cats…

Recently I’ve been forming relationships with cats and to my surprise they are generally not the completely independent, dispassionate and aloof creatures I supposed they were. I currently live with three cats in Southern California and I find them to be amazingly affectionate, friendly and expressive creatures. True, they can’t smile as they don’t have t he facial muscles humans possess… but they express themselves in other ways….