Guilt is anger directed at ourselves*

Porn (not his real name), an eminent doctor of veterinary medicine (and a pretty good rugby winger), once said, “Animals do it and don’t think it wrong.”

When sleep escapes me in the night and fretting takes its place, I think about Porn’s words and wonder why every human activity holds the potential for thinking it was wrong, it wasn’t good enough — and finds a way to twist itself into feelings of guilt.

We all set ourselves up for guilt by setting standards. Some of them get codified: the Ten Commandments. Never tell a lie (not much leadership from the top on that one lately). Drive the speed limit and pay the tolls in Illinois (or they fine you $80). Do unto others . . .

We keep to ourselves other rules to live by, but they remain standards and expectations we think we should live up to as well as by. Write a blog post every day (not much leadership here on that one lately). Never a lender or a borrower be. Ride the Chilly Hilly.

There it is. The truth will out. All these words to admit I said I would ride the Chilly Hilly and got up this morning to a sky full of rain and snow and fell back into bed.

All day I have fretted over how I would live with this, how admit that I had not the mettle to pedal 33 miles through cold, wet air or brave the chili at the end of the ride.

Exercise is a wonderful thing. If you do it. Not so good if you said you would and then you don’t. That’s a perfect setup for guilt.

In the guilt department, you’d be better off being that 400-pound hacker who never had a notion to set himself in motion.

I applaud those who ventured out for the ride around Bainbridge Island today. And I promise to be faithful to all the other things I said I would do this year (STP, RAGBRAI, OATBRAN, cut back on carbs, RESIST and many other Madcap Schemes).

And I promise to perform penance suggested by a Catholic friend: A polar plunge next year on the day of the Chilly Hilly (all faiths welcome).

And now, before I get back to fretting over the really, really rotten things I have done and should be worried about, I come before you to confess – in words I never thought I would say:

I have become a fair-weather bike rider.

The utter shame.

*Peter McWilliams

Time for BBQ: Big Brother Quotient

1984The sales of George Orwell’s novel “1984” are skyrocketing since Trumpf came to power, and I’m loving it. It’s one of my favorite books. He’s one of my favorite authors, and I have sentenced every college  student I have taught to hours of reading his “Politics and the English Language.”

While under the lash of my wife to clear the crap out of our house before we end up on the “Hoarders” TV show, I came across this clip of something I put together back in the real 1984. That was when I claimed that “more editors had jumped on this story idea that rats on Winston Smith’s face,” which was actually an alternative fact. The threat of having a caged rat gnaw through his face was the torture that broke Smith. So no rat jumped on Smith’s face or used it as a means of escape from the cage strapped to Smith’s face.

Why torture Smith? As the article pictured here says: “There was only one motive, illustrated by a statement by Smith’s torturer: ‘Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.'”

Smith and his lover Julia both worked for the Ministry of Truth, which was in charge of lies. They got in trouble when they tried to join a group fighting against the principles of Big Brother:

War is Peace — “It would probably be accurate to say that by becoming continuous, war has ceased to exist.”

Freedom is Slavery — “. . .men in the mass were frail, cowardly creatures who could not endure liberty or face the truth, and must be ruled over and systematically deceived by others who were stronger than themselves.”

Ignorance is Strength — “The masses never revolt of their own accord, and they never revolt merely because they are oppressed. Indeed, so long as they are not permitted to have standards of comparison they never even become aware that they are oppressed.”

Related to that last one is this: “Stupidity is as necessary as intelligence, and as difficult to attain.” Which may sound like double speak to you but that’s probably because you are not adept at “Doublethink . . .the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”

Or maybe you have not yet become fluent in Newspeak, the official language, the purpose of which was to make unorthodox thought impossible. The attention to language may have been the most important aspect of the book for Orwell given what he says in his politics and language essay: “Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

Thanks for reading my pure wind. I try to keep politics to a minimum here and you can be thankful that I have not yet read “It Can’t Happen Here” by Sinclair Lewis, or “The Plot against America” by Phillip Roth, two other books whose increased sales Trumpf will undoubtedly take credit for (“They’re YUGE!”).

Don’t be scared away. Spring is coming and I will be on the road soon. Back to writing about America’s Great Outdoors. About the Bear Ears area recently made a national monument by President Obama. About some of the 3.3 million acres of public lands the Republicans are maneuvering to sell off. About some National Parks and Scenic Rivers checking to make sure they are still a part of the legacy this generation of Americans will leave to the next.

P.S. What happens to Smith and Julia? At the end of the novel, the 40-year-old Smith has lost all his teeth (he was only missing five at the start), his hair and his love for Julia. They had made the ultimate betrayal, against each other (“Do it to Julia, not to me,” Smith yells about the rat eyeing Smith’s eyeball as an exit.) Now they love only Big Brother, which is all part of the plan: “. . . in the future there will be no wives and no friends,” says Smith’s torturer. “Children will be taken from their mothers at birth, as one takes eggs from a hen. The sex instinct will be eradicated . . . There will be no loyalty, except loyalty toward the Party.”

Have a good evening.