Author Archives: Tippy Gnu

A Trip to China

It’s pretty hard for Americans to travel to China these days. We’ve banned the Chinese from coming here, and they’ve banned us from going there. Ostensibly, it’s because of the Covid pandemic, but that makes no sense to me. After all, both our countries have had Covid. They’ve got plenty of antibodies over there, and we’re getting plenty of our own over here.

In fact, none of the travel bans make sense to me. We can’t even travel to Canada, nor can our Canadian friends visit us. And yet both countries have had Covid. What are we trying to prevent that hasn’t already happened? In my view it’s all bullshit hysteria, rooted in politics and xenophobia.

We can’t travel to Europe either, nor many other places. Some people from some states can’t even travel to other states without having to quarantine. Try visiting Hawaii, and you’ll have to lock yourself up in a hotel for 14 days, before you can dip your tootsies in Waikiki beach. This is nutty, in my view.

So I called bullshit on this, and went ahead and planned a trip to China, and I’m inviting all of my blogging buddies to come with me. But it has to be a virtual trip, because that’s the only way we can get to that country these days.

I’ve already dug a hole for myself now, with my complaint about travel bans, and I’m bracing myself for the usual heated lectures from those who disagree with me. But since I’ve started this hole, I’m just gonna keep digging deeper and deeper until I reach my travel destination. Those who want to visit China will have to grab a shovel and follow me.

I’m going to China because I recently became interested in Chinese history. Especially the period of the Cultural Revolution, which took place from 1966 to 1976. I got interested after some pundits compared China’s Cultural Revolution to all the bullshit going on in America these days.

Not the Covid bullshit but rather, the bullshit aftermath to the outrageous killing of George Floyd. We’ve seen our streets fill with demonstrators demanding racial justice. That’s not bullshit, in my view, although I do wonder about the public health experts who encourage demonstrating, arguing that racism is more dangerous than Covid. But the bullshit I’m referring to is when the demonstrations devolve into riots, looting, vandalism, burning down businesses, and pulling down statues.

I’ll keep digging by pointing out the increase in “cancel culture.” That’s more bullshit, in my opinion. We’ve seen people’s careers destroyed for something unfortunate they may have said or done, even if happened many years ago. We’ve seen iconic names targeted for change. And we’ve seen the destruction of statues of famous Americans.

Conservative pundit Jesse Kelly recently magnified the absurdity of the cancel culture craze, when he launched a campaign to cancel Yale University. He points out that the founder of Yale U., Elihu Yale, was a slave trader. With tongue in cheek, he’s calling on Yale to immediately change its name, and remove the name of Yale from every building and piece of paper, or else they hate black people.

The persecutorial nature of cancel culture does remind me of the iconoclasm of China’s Cultural Revolution. Icons of our culture are in danger of being destroyed, often for unexpected reasons.

For example, the name Eskimo Pie, for that delicious frozen ice cream treat, is being canceled. The word “Eskimo” is considered offensive, because it either means “eater of raw meat” or “to net snowshoes” (experts can’t agree which).

In another case, a federal judge recently resigned after the way he complimented a court clerk. He said she had “street smarts.” That’s now racist, in case anyone doesn’t know. The judge didn’t know, and although he publicly apologized, that apparently wasn’t enough. He had to be canceled. So he resigned.

There have been calls for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to resign, for having appeared in blackface. And last year, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam found himself in the same boat. He nearly resigned for having appeared in blackface many years earlier, until it was discovered that his would-be successor, Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax, had been accused of sexual assault.

Northam and Fairfax might have both resigned, except that the next successor in line, Attorney General Mark Herring, had once appeared in blackface. If all three resigned, then the Republican Speaker of the House would have become governor. The Democrats weren’t about to let that happen, so they canceled cancel culture, for that particular situation, and everybody kept their jobs.

A statue of Ulysses S. Grant was canceled by a lawless mob of protesters in San Francisco, because his wife had owned slaves, or because he once owned a slave which he inherited and then set free, or something like that. Ulysses S. Grant. You know, the guy who defeated General Lee, winning the Civil War and thus playing a vital role at ending slavery. That guy.

Statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who for sure owned slaves, but arguably had some desirable facets to their characters and accomplishments, are also in the crosshairs of the culture cancelers. And there’s the Emancipation Memorial in Washington D.C., depicting Abraham Lincoln freeing a kneeling slave. It’s being guarded, for fear protesters will tear it down illegally. A replica of the statue, in Boston, will be canceled, but at least that’s being done legally.

I can understand canceling things like Confederate statues, and the Mississippi state flag, when done legally. But I feel uneasy when cancel culture goes beyond the obvious and into gray areas. And regardless of the symbol, I don’t like things torn down, ripped up, or otherwise demolished, if it’s done illegally. That only encourages more of such actions, in an ever-broadening mob crusade against anything even remotely hinting of racism.

The mob even took over part of Seattle. They “chopped” it away and turned into an autonomous zone, where no police were allowed. In this police-free “paradise” two teenagers were shot to death, until the cops finally moved back in and took over, after a 23-day absence.

The madness is getting dangerous. A leader of the Black Lives Matter movement, Hawk Newsome, has threatened to “burn the system down” if BLM doesn’t get its way. And the BLM movement has called for the defunding (canceling) of police departments. Do they have any inkling of the grief, pain, and suffering that may follow? If they knew anything about the Chinese Cultural Revolution, they would, because that’s what happened there. The system was burned down while police were required to stand down.

The West Gate to Peking University. This university in Beijing was at the epicenter of the Cultural Revolution. Photo by Daniel Ng, CC BY 2.0.

It seems strange that our orderly society would so quickly devolve into anarchy. But so far, it’s not too late for us. So far we haven’t devolved to the level of rampageous anarchy that ravaged China during the 1960s. It was much worse for them than it currently is for us. Millions died in all their mayhem. And millions more were persecuted and suffered irreparable harm.

No, it’s not too late to learn from China’s Cultural Revolution. At this point, we can use it as an example of what not to do, in our efforts to change our culture. It can be a yardstick to measure the danger of “burning the system down” and prod us to seek more safe and constructive ways to transform.

And with that in mind, I have written a historical series about the Cultural Revolution, entitled, The Cultural Revolution: Then and Mao. I’ve also written a two-part review of the book, The Cowshed: Memories of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, authored by the late Ji Xianlin.

The book review will come first, then the historical series. They will allow us to take a virtual trip to China, while also stepping back in time. In fact, we’ll go all the way back to 1893, when Mao Zedong was born. We’ll learn about his life, the Chinese civil war, and how communism was established in mainland China. And we’ll explore the horrors of the Cultural Revolution, and how it came about, and how it ended up.

We won’t let Covid stop us. We’re traveling to the exotic lands of East Asia, and getting in touch with a part of the world that often seems mysterious to Westerners. There’s a lot to learn, but I’ve tried to make the reading as enjoyable as possible.

It all starts in a few days, so pack your virtual bags for the Orient. Whoops, “Orient” is no longer politically correct, according to some scholars. I mean “Asia”. Damn, now I hope this blog doesn’t get canceled. If it survives, I hope to see everyone soon.

Stolen Quote: Pain

Much of your pain is self-chosen. It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self. Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility. ~ Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Though it’s advisable to avoid taking this medication with alcohol.

Conclusion: After Birth

This is the final installment of my autobiography, The Birth of Tippy Gnu. Hooray, it’s finally over!
To read the previous installment, click this link.
To start at the beginning, and read the whole durned thing, click this link.

After Birth

Me, looking for a steep precipice to crawl over.

I lost the ability to escape my fetal body, weeks before I was born. But I did not lose the ability for my spiritual mind to occasionally escape from my fetal brain, and remember the Other Side. These were lucid moments that allowed me to think with clarity, and to clearly understand the thoughts of others nearby.

These lucid moments continued beyond birth and through the first four years of my childhood. But they grew weaker and less frequent the older I got. And by the time I reached four years of age, they had ceased completely.

And so did my memory of them. And that dashed my plan to commit suicide. I’d come up with the plan just hours before I was born, and I would occasionally be able to remember it while lying in my cradle, or crawling about in my playpen. I felt excited about it, and wanted to go through with it, so I could get back to my pals on the Other Side.

I even tried suicide a few times. I tried stuff like, holding my breath, crawling off furniture and dropping to the floor, and putting big things in my mouth that could make me choke to death. But I was too weak, too uncoordinated, or too supervised by my mother to succeed with these attempts.

It wasn’t impossible. There are other infants who have successfully committed suicide. But it’s just very hard to do, and I was never able to pull it off.

Evolution also intervened. Evolution can be a real bastard. It has favored brains that forget the first few years of life. And when you forget the first few years of life, you forget your memories of the Other Side. You also forget any suicide plans you may have made. So when you get big enough and strong enough to do the act, you have no motivation. Nor can you remember to do it.

Forgetting about the Other Side is what keeps the human species alive. If we could remember how we lived before we were conceived and born, we’d want to go back immediately. But we can’t remember. And so, we can never know for sure if an Other Side truly exists.

In fact, we worry that maybe nothing exists after death, and this motivates us to try to stay alive for as long as possible. The annihilation of the soul is a terrible prospect to imagine, and it’s something we try to stave off for as long as possible.

That doesn’t mean we lose all hope for life after death. Evolution is not all-powerful. The spirit within existed long before we became human, and it remembers. But its memories have a very difficult time overcoming the barrier of the brain, and manifesting to someone occupying a human body.

Still, tiny traces of the spirit’s memories can percolate through. And these tiny traces can leave us with a sense that something exists beyond the grave. But it’s so vague, and so mysterious, that it’s not enough to feel comfortable with suicide.

And so, we lumber on with our lives, gritting our teeth, staving away death for as long as possible, hoping to make it as far as we can into old age, before the inevitable end finally frees us from this mortal coil.

My mother awoke from her anesthesia to see Dr. Senesquez kneeling beside her hospital bed, praying for her recovery. This would be the same doctor who would put me through the horrible torture of circumcision just a few days later. Fuck that son-of-a-bitch for performing such sadistic mutilation!

There he knelt on his old, bony knees, supplicating the Lord Almighty for the health of my mother and me. And we did recover, both of us, to live good, long lives. So maybe a Higher Power answered his prayers. Though I doubt it. It’s not that simple.

If you really want to communicate with the Other Side, look inside. That’s where the Other Side dwells. That’s vague, but I can’t explain the Other Side any better than that.

Now you may wonder how it is that I can remember the Other Side, myself. How is it, you may ask, that I can remember my friends, Scump, Cleeta, and Forchetti? And how can I recall my odyssey to the egg? Or my experiences in the womb? Or my infantile suicide plot?

I know it may seem strange, but it does happen sometimes. Although it’s very, very rare. After we die and we’re released from our human brain, all our spiritual memories flood back to us. This happens to everyone. But on very, very rare occasions, this can happen to people before they die.

Sometimes the brain’s normal pattern of function can be suddenly interrupted. And when this happens, the spirit mind can rush into one’s conscious awareness. Memories of the Other Side flood back, and are trapped in the brain. Yes, yes, sometimes this really does happen. Right? Hmm.

Well, did this happen to me?

No, it did not.

Actually, I’ve been bullshitting. I don’t know if memories from the Other Side can ever come back while we’re alive. In fact, I don’t even know if there really is an Other Side. I hope there is. And I assume there is, because to assume otherwise is damned depressing. But I really don’t know if there is, or what it might be like.

This autobiographical tale is the product of introspection, speculation, and imagination.

It’s also based on truth, though. For instance, I truly was conceived, carried in the womb, and born. And my stages of development in the womb are based upon the actual stages known to medical science.

And sadly, the “cancer” bit is basically true. My mother has been a hypochondriac and drama queen all her life. And other things I revealed about my family life are also based upon truth, sometimes loosely and sometimes closely.

For instance, my dad really did have a mistress. He divorced my mother when I was about one or two, and married his paramour. Later, he cheated on her and married another. And he cheated on her, too. My dad was a skirt-chaser until nearly the day he died. But aside from that he was a wonderful man, and I loved him.

But as for memories of the Other Side, and all the spiritual descriptions of life in the womb, that is all speculation. Who knows, it could be true. Or maybe I’m way off base.

I wrote this to convey an alternative perspective of how we enter this world. The traditional idea is that life begins at conception, or sometime later in gestational development. But the problem I have with traditional ideas is that I think they are often colored by political views that are for or against abortion. They are wishful thinking, rather than reality.

Truth is, nobody knows when life begins. We are all very ignorant on this subject. The best we can do is speculate, as I have done, with this little tale.

I like to assume that life has never begun. And I like to assume it will never end. I assume we have always had life. To me, that is the most comforting of speculations and assumptions.

So whether I’ve written a true tale, or work of fiction, remains to be seen. We cannot know. Not as long as we’re part of the human condition.

We’ll only find out when we leave this life and reach a place where it’s impossible to report back to others. That never-never-land place. That place we long for while we suffer, and dread while all is well. That place lurking within the shadow of our doubts. That place we often stake a claim to, while secretly wondering if it truly exists.

That place that lies far beyond this realm, yet remains just one stopped heartbeat away.

That place we vaguely refer to as the Other Side.

Stolen Quote: Normal

Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for–in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it. ~ Ellen DeGeneres

And retirement is downsizing to a smaller house, so you can afford to not work.

Birth, Part 2: The Miracle

This is the next installment of my autobiography, The Birth of Tippy Gnu.
To read the previous installment, click this link.
To start at the beginning, click this link.

Part 2:
The Miracle

It was Friday. I was due on Saturday, but doctors don’t like to work on weekends, especially Easter weekend, so my mom was scheduled for a C-section and hysterectomy on Monday morning. She crossed her fingers and legs and hoped I’d wait.

Her mood was up. In fact, she felt a strange, placid peace within, while also having an urge to do some housework. So she went about her day tidying things up, and also preparing my baby bed, and making sure all was in order for the big happenings scheduled for Monday.

What she didn’t know, but may have realized subconsciously, was that this was all part of Mother Nature’s plan as prelude to labor. Just before childbirth, the mother’s pituitary gland releases a hormone called oxytocin. The oxy gets busy stretching the cervix and uterus. And it also causes psychological changes. Mood improves, and a “nesting” desire develops, prompting the mother to busy herself with preparing her shelter for the arrival of her newborn.

About four o’clock in the afternoon, the first hard contraction hit. Now Mom made no mistake about what was happening. She picked up the phone and called my dad at work. “Get home now! I’m having the baby! I need you to take me to the hospital!”

Dad went into panic stage, dropping the phone and rushing out of the machine shop, where he worked, while forgetting to clock out or even say anything to his boss. He gunned the car onto the highway and sped up the winding grade to our home in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas.

It had snowed the day before, and this day, approaching my birthday, was very cold. Patches of black ice remained in the shady spots of the highway. And my dad, speeding along, straightening out curves, hit one of those patches and spun out of control.

His car flew off the grade and plummeted down an embankment. An axle broke. A tire blew out. And the surprised engine chugged to a stop with one final blast of black smoke from the tailpipe.

Dad was now stranded and unable to assist my mother.

But if there was anything my mother knew how to do well, it was how to raise an alarm. Because as soon as she hung up the phone with my dad, she called my grandparents. She needed them to come over and babysit my four siblings, while she was at the hospital.

Grandma and Grandpa showed up a half-hour later. Grandma stayed behind to babysit, while Grandpa packed his daughter into their car and headed straight for the hospital.

“I have cancer, and have to have a C-section and hysterectomy,” my mom matter-of-factly informed the emergency room staff.

The hospital contacted her old man Seventh-Day Adventist doctor, who had been preparing for the Sabbath. Dr. Senesquez dropped everything and immediately rushed to the hospital, driving a whole five miles per hour faster than the speed limit. Which was pretty fast for the way this old geezer normally drove.

My mother sat in the emergency room’s waiting room, feeling the contractions gradually increasing in strength and frequency. A little after 6:00 pm, Dr. Senesquez hobbled in and spoke with the staff. He was a little hard of hearing, so everyone had to speak louder than normal. And so everyone in that waiting room, including my mother and my grandfather, overheard this conversation:

Dr. Senesquez: She has cancer, and must have a C-section with hysterectomy. Prepare a room for me. I will do the surgery.

Nurse: Doctor, I looked at her records. She does NOT have cancer. She has a benign tumor.

Dr. Senesquez, after a long pause: Oh yes. It does say that, doesn’t it? (another long pause) I’ve been praying at my bed for this woman, every night. (another long pause) This is a miracle! God has answered my prayers!

Nurse: But doctor, she never did have cancer. See?

Dr. Senesquez: Isn’t that strange? The Lord works in mysterious ways. It seems God has erased all traces of her cancer. Even in the written record. I’ve never seen such a wondrous miracle before, in all my years of practice!

Soon after, Dr. Senesquez appeared in the waiting room and conveyed the miraculous news to my mother.

“No doctor, I DO have cancer. I just know it. I feel it. I still want a hysterectomy.” Nothing, not even a miracle, could push my mother from her belief in cancer.

Her contractions continued to increase. But now that everyone in the hospital except my mother believed she did not have cancer, nobody was in any great hurry. A C-section and hysterectomy still had to be performed, in order to remove the benign tumor. But this surgery was going to be far less complicated, and much more routine, than cancer surgery.

At around ten o’clock, my dad burst through the emergency room doors, breathlessly asking for my mother. A nurse led him to a room, where Mom was being prepared for surgery. Dr. Senesquez was examining her.

He was filled in on what had happened, what was happening, and what was about to happen. And then he turned to Dr. Senesquez and mentioned the “C” word.

“Oh Mr. Gnu, you will be so happy to know that your wife no longer has cancer!” proclaimed the good and saintly doctor. “She is cured! The Lord and strong prayer have worked a miracle.”

Dad was stunned. “How-how do you know this?” he asked.

“It’s in her medical records,” murmered Dr. Senesquez, with a hushed tone of numinous mystery.

At midnight my mother was wheeled into the operating room and, at 12:31 am, two old hands reached into her opened up belly and yanked me into this world.

And that’s when I woke up, kicking and screaming, from a hard slap to my rear end.

Come on back in a few days, or so, for the final installment of The Birth of Tippy Gnu, entitled, Conclusion: After Birth.

Stolen Quote: Falling Star

Watching a peaceful death of a human being reminds us of a falling star; one of a million lights in a vast sky that flares up for a brief moment only to disappear into the endless night forever. ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Now I wonder what it would be like to watch someone die from a falling star.

Stolen Quote: Love

If in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure, then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing floor, into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears. ~ Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

And where you will keep all of your paycheck, and control all of the TV remote.

Birth, Part 1: The Kick

This is the next installment of my autobiography, The Birth of Tippy Gnu.
To read the previous installment, click this link.
To start at the beginning, click this link.

Part 1:
The Kick

I slept most of the time, during the weeks approaching my birth. And when I was awake I usually felt groggy and cranky.

I didn’t like confinement. I kicked and pushed against the womb that imprisoned me. Sometimes I could open my eyes and detect a faint glow of light coming through the skin of my mother’s belly. This gave me hope that there was a free world out there that I might one day be able to reach.

My spiritual body could no longer leave my physical body. But once in awhile I’d have lucid moments where memories of the Other Side came back to me, and I could think and plot and plan with clarity. It was as if my spirit was trying to escape, but the only escape it could manage was to separate itself from the primitive functioning of my fetal brain.

When I could think clearly like this, I always wanted to return to the Other Side. And why not? It was such a wonderful place compared to the hardscrabble drudgery of life in the physical realm.

One night, while listening to the muffled sounds of my father snoring, and my mother softly breathing in deep sleep, I hatched a plan. I decided that after I was born I would simply commit suicide. That would be my ticket back to the Other Side.

I knew I’d have to spend a few years on Earth as a human, because babies aren’t strong enough to commit suicide. I’d have to wait until I could move around well, and be able to toddle to the edge of a cliff, or tie a noose, or handle a firearm with dexterity, or something of that order. But I vowed that as soon as I was able, I’d end my human life and get back to where I thought I belonged.

This plan gave me such a jolt of delight, I kicked my mother with glee. It woke her up. And not only that, but it jostled me around in her womb much more than I’d ever been able to jostle myself before.

Somehow, that kick loosened things up in my prison.

My mother got out of bed and headed for the bathroom. I knew this from the sound of her peeing, and the feel of her deflating bladder.

When she stood up from the toilet, I felt my feet slide down from below her ribcage. It was a weird thing, this sliding, like the bottom had momentarily dropped out of the womb. I instinctively tried to push myself back up, but to no avail.

I had already turned a few weeks earlier, so that I was hanging upside-down like a bat. These days my head was smashed down against the bottom of the womb. I was basically standing on my head.

Could it be? I wondered, feeling excited. Could my freedom be coming very soon? Was this bottom going to open up and let me drop out of this prison?

But then I started feeling that old grogginess return. My spirit let go of its latest escape aspirations and settled back into my fetal brain. And I dropped off to sleep.

I’d like to give you a first-hand account of everything that happened after this. But unfortunately I slept through much of it. And when I was awake, I was in my fetal brain, and not able to comprehend what was going on, in the clear, knowing manner of a spirit mind.

But after I was born and things calmed down, I was able to relax in a reverie that sometimes overtakes newborns. And during these occasions my spirit would sometimes detach from my infant brain, and once again function with clarity. And that’s when I’d overhear adults talking to each other, and I’d actually be able to comprehend what they were communicating.

What follows reflects what I overheard them saying about my last days in the womb:

The day after I dropped in the womb was the day I was born. It happened during the small hours of the morning. My mother had already had four children before me, so she well sensed what was going on. She knew, after I dropped, that childbirth was imminent.

She conveyed her suspicions to my father after he woke up. But she was experiencing no painful contractions, no breaking of water, nor any other signs that my emergence into the world was approaching. So my father shrugged it off and advised her to call the doctor if anything changed. Then he shuttled himself off to work.

Come on back in a few days, or so, for the next installment of The Birth of Tippy Gnu, entitled, Birth, Part 2: The Miracle.

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