The Mark of Cain

So, I have been remiss in keeping you updated on the adventures of Jackson and his pooping or not pooping. It turns out that Mike and Judy took him back to the Extreme Vet about a month ago because he was passing these hard, dry, nutmeg seed-like things again. So he got flushed out again and they changed his medicine. Ever since then things have been quite normal. He’s a lot more comfortable and Mike and Judy are relieved.  I hope you all are relieved as well.

Not too much going on otherwise around here. Mike and Judy found a TV channel that plays the kind of music that you would hear at a spa. They flash pithy sayings on the screen as you listen to this music. It’s all very Zen. One thing that caught Mike’s eye was a statement by Anne Frank. I suppose you know who Anne Frank was. She was a young girl who lived in Amsterdam and went into hiding when the Nazis were arresting Jews and sending them to concentration camps during the 2nd world war. She kept a diary which was recovered by the people who were helping her family. They returned it to her father when he got out of the camp after the war. He was the only one of his family who survived. I don’t remember the exact quote, but she said something like it’s a wonderful thing that everyone has an opportunity to improve the world right at this moment. That’s quite a positive thought for somebody who is in hiding. Her opportunities in hiding to improve the world would seem to have been limited. But maybe not. Maybe if you improve the little piece of the world that you are in at any given moment you are fulfilling your purpose. Mike once read a book on Jewish mysticism in which there was a statement that every time someone does a good deed he creates an angel. It’s something to think about. Mike, Gena, and Michelle visited the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam in 1989. I should tell you about it some time.

A couple of years ago Mike developed a small red mark right in the middle of his fore- head. I think it’s a small hemangioma. Anyway, I heard him tell Judy that he thinks it’s the mark of Cain. She didn’t think so. Cain as you may recall was the older of the first 2 sons of Adam and Eve. He became a farmer and his younger brother Abel was a hunter. According to the story in the Bible, both boys made an offering to God of their produce, and God looked with favor on Abel’s offering but not so with Cain’s. Naturally, Cain killed his brother. What else could he do, right? It was a bad start for the human race if you ask me. Not that any of this really happened. The Bible says that God called out Cain and told him that he would have to wander the earth because of what he did. Cain was concerned that people who found him would kill him and God told him he would put a mark on him to protect him. My question is what people would find him if there were only 3 people  on earth, and he was one of them? The next thing you know he’s taken a wife which is hard to understand because where did she come from? So they get busy and start a family and he has a son named Enoch and he goes and builds a city that he calls Enoch. Why he needed to build a city for the 3 of them I have no idea. The stories in the Bible that occur in prehistory I’m sure are meant to be allegorical. Mike thinks that actual historical events recorded in the Bible probably start with the Hebrews living in Egypt prior to the Exodus. The actual books that are contained in the Bible could not have been written for thousands of years after the prehistorical events (that didn’t happen) and probably several hundred years after the Exodus. So there would’ve been time for a detail or two to get added or dropped. You probably wonder where I’m going with this.

What caught my interest about the mark of Cain is that it turns out that people used this biblical curse as the first part of an excuse for the justification of the enslavement of black Africans in the United States. You must recall that I am a black cat, so I have a natural interest in this sort of thing. (See my post, “Nevermore”, posted February 5, 2017.)The rest of the biblical justification is the story of Noah and the flood. After the flood waters receded Noah is said to have planted a vineyard and drank too much of his product. He was lying in his tent naked and uncovered and was observed by his son, Ham. Noah was covered up by his other 2 sons protecting his modesty. A curse was put on Ham that his son Canaan and all his generations would be servants of servants. Protestant theologians back in slavery times promulgated a theory that Ham had married  a descendant of Cain so that his generations carried both curses. Furthermore, part of the curse was that they would be black. It  should be noted that nothing about Ham or Cain’s descendants being black can be found in the Bible. Based on this nonsense, religious people justified the enslavement of black people by white people. It also raised other interesting questions such as do black people get to go to the same heaven as white people? There must be two separate heavens some thought. Happily, such theology has been largely abandoned although more recently than you might think. It wasn’t until 1995 that the Southern Baptist convention fully admitted their error and issued an apology for their bad theology. The Baptists were not the only people, however, to use the Bible to perpetrate this kind of nonsense. I’m not going to go into this in more detail. I think I’ll just piss off the Baptists and let it go at that. No wait, let me talk about the Mormons for a minute. It’s my understanding that they do have scripture  that says the descendents of Cain were black. (There is also a story in the Bible where Moses was said to have married a Cushite woman. Cush was supposed to be a (black) descendent of Ham. Moses’ sister was bad mouthing him for marrying this black chick and God struck her with leprosy for her bad manners. I’m not suggesting you take this story as gospel truth either, but it’s interesting that this treatment of racial intolerance pops up in the Bible. I guess the more things change the more they stay the same.) With regard to the Mormons, the church president in 1954 denied that there was a doctrine in the church that blacks are under a divine curse. He acknowledged that there was a practice based on Scripture for withholding the priesthood from black men, but also said that it was a practice, not a doctrine, and that it would change eventually. I believe it has.

The idea of the difference between a practice and a doctrine reminds Mike of the difference between a guideline and a rule. He remembers that he told Judy that he had a rule that he wouldn’t date anybody that he worked with. Then he said  it wasn’t a rule, it was really a guideline. That was when Judy knew that Mike was interested in her, because they worked together. The line about a rule versus a guideline came from the movie “When Harry Met Sally”. That movie has a classic scene in which Harry and Sally are in a restaurant and Sally tells Harry that she has faked orgasms. He said he didn’t believe it. So she sat right there in the restaurant and panted and screamed and hollered in very convincing fashion that she was having an orgasm. After she finished a middle-aged lady turned to the waiter and said “I’ll have what she’s having.” You’ve probably seen that scene. It’s really funny.

So, Mike I don’t think has  to worry more than anyone else does about somebody killing him, mark on his forehead or not. But we certainly do seem to be living in a world in which random people are killing other random people for no reason that is discernible. I’m proud of the young people that are speaking out after their teachers and classmates were murdered at their school by a mentally disturbed person in Florida. When Mike was a kid he didn’t worry about getting killed in school. He knew which neighborhoods to stay out of in Chicago. But you have to go to school. The gun lobby is trying to make it a mental health issue, not a firearm issue. Of course, it is in part a mental health issue. It’s a sad state of affairs when the same people that want to make it a mental health issue don’t want to fund mental health treatment. Mental illness is not going away. To paraphrase Jesus, “The mentally ill you will always have with you.” The problem is when the mentally ill have access to semi-automatic firearms and can kill a bunch of people in a matter of minutes. By the way, have you read the Second Amendment? It doesn’t say anything about individual citizens being able to arm themselves for their own personal protection. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But that’s not what it says. That idiot in Washington has suggested that the way to protect our students is to arm all the teachers. Like teachers don’t already have too much to do besides teach. And what are they supposed to do with their firearms while they are teaching? And what are they supposed to do with a handgun when faced with somebody with a semi-automatic rifle? Or are we going to arm them with the same weapons that the perpetrators of hate have access to? Give me a break! I wonder how I got on this topic? I started with a constipated cat and a hemangioma on Mike’s  forehead. Anyway, what do you think about all this? Please feel free to let me know, stay regular, and by all means have a nice day. That’s all the news for now from Happy Meadows.

Home again

So, the next morning didn’t start well. As I should have realized, Ludmila gets up early and it didn’t take her long to come into the living room to discover me sleeping on the white couch. As I have said before, I don’t understand Polish, but I heard “glupi kot” and “czarny diabel”  over and over. She tried to swat me off the couch but I beat her to it. I raced to the kitchen and considered my options. There was no one in there to let me out. I ran down to the theater room where I figured I would be safe. Before long I heard the sound of the vacuum cleaner removing traces of my essence from her precious white sofa. After a little exploring I came back upstairs when I heard sounds of other people stirring. I went back into the kitchen where Richard and Richie were getting coffee and something to eat. Richard went to a cupboard and removed something that looked like a plastic cup wrapped in a plastic bag.

“Let’s go,” he said. He and Richie headed for the bathroom. While they were in there Bianca came into the kitchen and started to fix herself some tea. She looked up as Richard and Richie came back into the kitchen.

“All negative,” said Richard. Richie had nothing to say about it. They sat down to some breakfast. I went down to the laundry room to relieve myself and have a snack of kibble. As I was approaching the laundry room Natasha came out, hissed at me, and raced back to her bedroom.

“Whatever,” I thought. No personality whatsoever.

After a while breakfast was over and everybody went back to their respective bedrooms to shower and get dressed. When I came back into the living room Richard had gotten  his phone out to make a call.

“Hello, Mike?” he said. “It’s Richard Donkle.” He paused. “Yes, Donk, yes. Listen, I’ve got your cat here. He came over last night and it was too cold to let him back out. Can I bring him back in a little while?” He paused. “No no, it’s no trouble,” he said. “I want to talk to you about something anyway. Richie is coming with me.” He paused again. “No, no, don’t worry. I have four-wheel-drive. The roads will be no problem.” Another pause. “How about 20 minutes?” He waited for another moment to listen. “No really it’s no problem. I’ll see you soon.”

Before long Richie came back into the kitchen as he was putting on his winter coat, hat, and gloves. Richard was likewise getting dressed to go out. Next thing I knew Richie had picked me up and we were going out to the garage. Now, I have very little experience riding in cars, and none of it good. Most of it has to do with going to the Extreme Vet.  I don’t react well to the experience, and have been known to get carsick. Richie got into the passenger side on the front seat and had a good grip on the back of my neck which somehow calmed me a little bit. The whole ride couldn’t have taken 5 minutes. Soon, we were back outside with Richard ringing at the front doorbell. Mike let us in and Richie put me down on the floor. I immediately sat down to groom myself, letting everyone know that nothing had bothered me at all.

“Come in, come in,” said Mike. “Let me take your coats.” He took their coats and they took off their shoes. “Let’s go into the kitchen and have some coffee,” said Mike.

“Thank you,” said Richard. “That would be delightful.”

They went on to the kitchen and I did not follow them. I wanted to be alone for a few minutes. So I sniffed around and checked things out around the house. Nothing out of order. After some kibble and a drink of water I headed back to the kitchen. Mike must have just asked Richie how Hallie was doing since she got back from treatment.

“She’s doing fine as far as I know,” said Richie “we have not had that much contact. She stays busy with her aftercare activities, work, and school.”

“Her parents are keeping a tight rein,” said Richard. “I talk to her mother fairly often because she is on the homeowners association board. I think she is doing well, though.”

“How about you, Richie?” Mike asked. “How are things going with you? Did you ever go and see Doctor Kingsley?”

“I’m good. I met with her a few times and she told me I could come back if I wanted to. So far I don’t really see the need for it,” Richie replied. “I don’t know if I’m smart, lucky, or just chicken, but I never had any interest in doing drugs. I admit I smoked a little pot but it made me paranoid. So I just leave it alone. I don’t like drinking either. Besides, dad drug tests me frequently.”

“You are fortunate,” said Mike. “A lot of parents have their heads in the sand. And if you start using drugs at your age there’s a good chance that you’ll fail to accomplish the goals that you might have otherwise set for yourself in life. That is, if you survive at all. You know, I think it was 2009 that the number of accidental overdose deaths first exceeded the number of motor vehicle accident deaths in our country. And it has gotten worse every year since.”

“Unbelievable,” said Richard. “I guess I’m lucky too. Nobody in my family took that much of an interest in drinking or drugs. I will have a beer once in a while or a glass of good wine with a nice meal.”

“Some people are susceptible to a powerful sense of euphoria when they use drugs or alcohol,” said Mike. “For them it is extremely reinforcing, and they tend to do it again and again. Before long physical and psychological dependency kick in. It leads to compulsive use and loss of control. People think that they have drugs and alcohol, but in reality, drugs and alcohol have them.”

“I understand there is a high relapse rate after treatment,” said Richard. “I wonder why that is?”

“Addiction is an illness,” said Mike. “It is as if the disease has a life of its own. Because of the effects on the pleasure center of the brain, the underlying craving for the sensation provided by the drug or alcohol remains for a long time for most people. Often, people just experience a sense of malaise or discontent, and don’t recognize that they are craving. If they don’t know how to identify the sensation and resist it, they will resume drug and alcohol use.”

“So just being educated about the disease isn’t sufficient?” asked Richard. “You would think that after what people have gone through in terms of their negative consequences they would never try it again.”

“You would only think that if you had never had the experience of euphoria provided by drugs and alcohol,” said Mike. “At the same time that the disease develops, denial develops to conceal it from the involved person. Denial is an ego defense mechanism which prevents people from seeing negative realities about themselves. Denial, rationalization, and other ego defense mechanisms are part of the structure of the normal human personality.”

“I’ve been learning about that in my psychology class,” said Richie. “It’s like the story of the Fox and the grapes that he couldn’t reach. He walked away muttering that they’re probably sour anyway.”

“Exactly,” said Mike. “The fox rationalized that the grapes were sour to deal with his disappointment. Addicts have 2 layers of denial when it comes to their disease. The first layer is ‘what drug problem? I don’t have a drug problem.’ If that breaks down and they acknowledge they have a problem with drugs or alcohol the next layer of denial is that they think they can handle it on their own.”

“Just say no,” said Richard.

“Yes,” Mike replied. “If someone is allergic to strawberries, they never eat them again. That’s because while they might like the strawberries, there’s no more than a reasonable amount of pleasure that they received from the taste of the strawberries, and the adverse consequences, usually breaking out in hives, is not something they want to re-experience. So is relatively easy to just say no. But with addiction it’s another story. It’s as though the disease, having a life of its own, uses your brain to get you to feed it. Everything that’s alive needs food to survive. The disease grows stronger on denial, rationalization, and continuation of old behavior patterns, including of course, continuing to drink and use. On the other hand, recovery can also have a life of its own. It gets stronger as people abstain, associate with non-using peers, become more educated about their disease, and acquire coping skills to deal with their insecurities and frustrations. Treatment involves teaching people about their disease and how to starve it; and about their recovery and how to feed it.”

“Do people get to the point where they no longer have to worry about relapsing?” Richie asked.

“Not entirely,” Mike replied. “Addiction is a chronic illness. It never is entirely gone. But people can learn how to live with it by engaging in a daily pattern of healthy behaviors. One of these behaviors is reminding themselves on a daily basis that they still have this disease. Once an alcoholic or addict, always an alcoholic or addict.”

“Didn’t you tell me that you were once an alcoholic?” asked Richard.

“I’m still an alcoholic,” Mike replied. “But I haven’t had a drink in a long time. I’m confident that as long as I keep doing what I’ve been doing to maintain my recovery, I will continue to be abstinent.”

“Don’t you ever want to take a drink?” asked Richard.

“Not really,” replied Mike. “I think people quit drinking initially because they have become so miserable from the consequences of their alcoholism. But it’s not possible to remember pain with the intensity that it is experienced in real time. If I had to rely on remembering how miserable I was I would be at serious risk of drinking again. Speaking for myself, and I think this is true of most other people in recovery, we stay sober because we enjoy and value the new life that we have found for ourselves. I would never voluntarily give up the quality of enjoyment that I experience out of my life  for any reason. I feel good physically, mentally, and spiritually. I have my family, friends, a profession where I can help people, and a relationship with God that I never thought I would ever achieve. As long as I maintain myself, using the tools that I have been given, I feel safe.”

“How long did it take you to lose your desire for a drink?” inquired Richard.

“For me it was not long at all,” Mike answered. “It was just a matter of weeks. Different people have different experiences along those lines. A good example would be the 2 co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. Bill Wilson was relieved from his obsession to drink from the very first day. Doctor Bob Smith craved a drink for 2 1/2 years before the obsession left him. Not that a person can’t think about drinking once in a while. You have to think about it every time you go out to eat. You are put in a position of having to say no when the server asks what you would like to drink with your meal. Every time you turn on the television to watch a ballgame you see beautiful young people appearing to have a wonderful time swilling beer. The temptation is everywhere. But the thought leaves as quickly as it comes and there’s no real desire in my experience ever to take a drink. And I can’t stress how unnatural that is for an alcoholic to never want to drink. We really have found an effective answer for how to live successfully with this disease. It’s not a cure, but functionally it really is, executed one day at a time.”

“Interesting,” said Richard. “I must admit, it’s hard to understand for a person who has never been there. Say, do you recall that I said that I’d like to talk to you sometime about what we could do as a neighborhood or a homeowners organization to help our community in the midst of this opioid epidemic?”

“Yes,” said Mike. “I have been thinking about that.”

“Any ideas?” asked Richard.

“A couple,” said Mike. “We could start posting informative articles on our HOA website. I would be happy to be a contributor. We might offer our clubhouse as a location for support groups. I know there is a neighborhood out in Paulding County where they have AA meetings at the clubhouse.”

“Would that be open to anybody or just for as the residents of the neighborhood?” asked Richard. “I could foresee a lot of problems with people like that coming into our neighborhood and I’m not sure that we would want that.”

“That would be for the homeowners association to decide,” said Mike. “But if it was up to me, I would open it up to anyone who wants to come. I would worry more about the people are already here who are still drinking heavily and using drugs than the people who are coming here for purposes of staying clean and sober. But it certainly wouldn’t work if we become a gated community as I think you have suggested.”

“I must admit that that suggestion has not been well received by the homeowners association,” Richard replied. “I’ll give it some thought and talk to some of the board members. It’s an interesting idea.”

By now I was thoroughly bored. No one was paying any attention to me or to the fact that I could use a treat about now. Time for a nap. I didn’t even hear  Richard and Richie leave.