Constipation, with Easter Eggs

Note: My wife has recently shown an interest in reading my posts. I’m not sure if she’s serious, or if she’s just trying to flatter me. So I’m including “Easter eggs” in this post. These Easter eggs are little unrelated comments about her, interlarded hither and thither, designed to get her attention. If she mentions one to me, then I’ll know she actually read my post.

I want to discuss a serious, and very personal issue. Constipation. The older we get, the more costive our bowels become. So those of us in our dotage find ourselves doting on this gut-wrenching subject from morning ’til night. We cogitate over when our last movement occurred, and speculate over the date and time of the next. In fact at the Senior Citizens Center, we sometimes enter betting pools over the issue.

My wife has the strangest, but most beautiful, purple eyes.

Constipation is usually asymptomatic. It’s sneaky like that. Those of us with serious memory problems may not even be aware that we have this condition. What condition? I don’t know. Ummm . . .

Oh yes, slow bowels. I’ve learned to use memory aids to monitor my regularity, or lack thereof. My favorite memory aid is a calendar. At the end of each day, I mark my calendar with a big black “X.” But when I’m lucky enough to experience the excitement of evacuation, I mark that day with a big RED “X.” That’s because those are truly red letter days for me.

My wife doesn’t know this, but today I emptied our bank account. Tomorrow I’ll be in Brazil.

Constipation is usually painless, except at the exact time you recover from it. Then it rises to the level of childbirth pain. But there’s more to it than just physical pain. Irregular bowel movements can also cause a great deal of mental pain.

If I can get just one of my wives to read my posts, maybe the other four will also give it a try.

For instance, there’s the constant mental anxiety from wondering exactly how stuffed your body will become before something gives way and explodes. There’s also the shame that arises when you fail to live up to good toilet ethics. After all, when you tie up the facilities for hours, yet produce nothing, you begin to feel guilty, as if you’ve let society down. And if you’re one of those types that flushes a non-soiled toilet just to fool people into thinking you actually were productive, you become saddled with guilt over your dishonesty. Not to mention the shame over your water-wasting habits.

I won’t complain about my wife’s cooking, but I will say that my dog sits next to me at dinnertime for good reason.

Constipation preoccupies the minds of us old folks, and distracts us from vitally important issues. Instead of devoting our vast elderly experience and wisdom to saving the world, we expend our mental energy pondering the perplexities of peristalsis and borborygmus.

When my wife asked me what my favorite song was, I wanted to say, Silence is Golden, but couldn’t get in a word edgewise.

However constipation does have one redeeming factor. It has inspired the following poem, which is one of the most popular poems in the history of literature and bathroom stall epigrams:

Here I sit,
Tried to shit,
And only farted.

April Fool’s, my dear wife! I love you.

And Happy Easter, everyone!

Organizing Jelly Beans

My favorite is the licorice flavored Jelly Belly.

I love jelly beans. So imagine how sad I felt when I learned that refined sugar causes health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and a bevy of other maladies. Jelly beans are made of refined sugar. Apparently, you can eat all the natural (unrefined) sugar you want, from sources such as fruit, fruit, and fruit, and they won’t cause you any harm. But for some reason, refined sugar is poison.

Some estimate that the average American consumes about 77 grams of refined sugar per day. Others place that estimate as high as 188 grams. But experts say that the safe limit is a mere 38 grams per day for men, and a teensy 25 grams for women.

It’s also a fact that experts are known to take all the fun out of life.

But phew, at least it’s safe to eat some amount of refined sugar. I don’t have to completely give up my jelly bean habit. So I have come up with a system. I limit myself to three jelly beans per day. There are two grams of sugar in each jelly bean. If I eat only three per day, that’s a total of six grams. This leaves me with 32 grams of sugar that I can obtain from other delicious sources, such as ice cream, cake, and cookies.

I came up with a method to ensure that I only eat three jelly beans per day. I put them in a pill organizer, with three beans in each compartment, for each day of the week. Once I consume my daily dose of jelly beans, I’m done with them for the day. And then it’s time to move on to ice cream.

Too bad they don’t have a pill organizer large enough for that.

An Afterlife Adventure

A few years ago I had a very unusual experience, which my readers may find hard to believe. I was sick with a cold. A very bad cold. Probably the worst I’ve ever had. Yes, this was a real William Henry Harrison magnitude rhinovirus, and I felt like I was going to die.

I got out of bed to do something, and the last thing I remember was shuffling down the hallway, stifling a sneeze, while chasing a Kleenex. Suddenly I was hovering above my body, which I could see lying on the hallway floor.

Apparently I had passed out . . . or worse. I could see everything going on. For instance, I saw my wife step over my body several times, on her way in and out of the bathroom. And I saw my dogs licking my fingers and nibbling on my ears.

Then a bright white light approached me. Brighter and whiter than anything I’d seen since that time I bleached my briefs. “Are you God?” I asked the bright light.

It spoke to me in a kind of telepathic way. “Yeah, yeah, if that’s what you want.”

“Am, am I dead?”

“No, you’re playing blackjack in Vegas. What the fuck?! What do you think it looks like?”

You can’t live in denial in the afterlife. You have to face facts.

Next thing you know, this bright light is playing a movie for me. It’s a movie of the history of my life. Hey, if I had known some being was lurking around me with a camera, I would have lived differently. But it was too late. Now my life was flashing before my eyes.

I saw all the times I had been good and nice and kind to people. But I also saw all the times I’d been a self-centered royal asshole. There was the time I kicked the dog. There were restaurant scenes where I failed to leave a tip. And there was that string of bank robberies.

But the being of light was non-judgmental. He said that the purpose of life was to learn lessons. That was a new one on me. I’d always thought that the purpose of life was to endure the torture of hard labor for several decades, then retire and leach off of society for as long as my fragile heart could hold out.

God showed me heaven next. And it was beautiful. The streets were paved with tacos. There were shredded beef burritos hanging from trees, everywhere. Football season lasted all year. And some of my relatives were there. Not the perverts, thank goodness.

I saw a heartwarming sight. There was my Dad and Grandpa sitting on the softest couch you can imagine, with their feet propped up, drinking beers, passing gas, and watching football on TV. My Dad looked over at me and said, “You made it, son. Grab a beer and sit down with us.”

“You know I don’t drink,” I told my Dad. “Alcohol is poison.” He furrowed his brow like he always did when I told him that. Then I took a step forward.

Suddenly I heard a loud, booming voice thunder, “Ha ha! You have to go back!” Next thing you know I was sucked back into my body like a bug through a vacuum cleaner.

My wife walked over and kicked me a few times. “Would you get up and stop playing around,” she said. “I need you to empty the trash. It’s overflowing. You haven’t emptied it once since you got sick.”

I nearly gave her a piece of my mind. But then I remembered that celestial camera, heaven, and year-long football. It was time for me to turn over a new leaf.

So I quietly emptied the trash.

Blogoholics Anonymous

“Uh . . . my name is T-Tippy. And . . . um . . .” This was so embarrassing. I looked toward my sponsor sitting in the front row. He smiled and nodded as if trying to encourage me. I continued, but it wasn’t easy. “Um . . . I’m a . . . um . . . I’m a blogoholic!”

I just blurted it out. I wanted to shrink into a tiny little mouse and scurry out of the room. But then, to my amazement, everyone in the audience smiled and said in unison, “Hello Tippy! Welcome to Blogoholics Anonymous!” That one bit of encouragement steadied me. I stood up a little straighter. My embarrassment drained away. I smiled, because I knew at that moment that they were one of me, and I was one of them. It was almost as good as getting three dozen likes on one of my posts.

I confessed my whole story. I told them how I’d started out blogging seven years ago. I testified to how harmless it felt , and how I rationalized to myself that this was the best way possible I could spend my time. And it was not much time. Just a little bit at first. Heck, I only posted once every couple of weeks. And I hardly ever commented on anyone else’s posts.

But then, little by little, I became entangled in the Gordian knot of blogging. I posted more and more frequently. My brain excogitated more and more often about what I could post next. I ventured into commenting more frequently on other blogs. And down the vortex I was swallowed. I tried resisting, but it was all for naught.

Eventually, every waking minute was monopolized by my blogging habit. If I wasn’t writing a post, I was thinking up a post. Or I was haunting my blogging buddies and trying to come up with a funny clever thing to say on every single one of their posts. Every single one!

Yes, I confessed this. I confessed it all. And you know what? They understood! It was like, been there done that for them. They shared their stories too, and I recognized the same blogging bug in them that I had been infected with.

At the end of the meeting my sponsor gave me a warm hug, and shook my hand. He told me how proud he was that I had finally taken that big step and admitted to being a blogoholic. He had other things to tell me too, but I couldn’t stand around talking much longer. I had to go, so I begged off learning these other things until the next meeting.

You see, I was so excited about this new experience at Blogoholics Anonymous, that I couldn’t wait to get home and write a post about it.

A Polynesian Pronunciation Problem

A middle-aged couple dipped into their savings and splurged on a vacation to Hawaii. They felt very excited to visit these islands of the Pacific, in our country’s most exotic state.

But on their first day in Honolulu they got into a debate over how to properly pronounce the name of the state. She believed it should be pronounced Ha-wye-ee, while he contended that it should be pronounced Ha-vye-ee.

Diamond Head, from Waikiki Beach.

They were strolling on Waikiki beach when they spotted a man who looked like he might be a native. It occurred to the husband that this was the perfect opportunity to end their debate. So he stopped the man with, “Excuse me sir, do you live in this state?”

He said, “Yes, I sure do.”

The husband said, “How nice for you that you live in such a beautiful paradise! Now sir, would you be willing to help my wife and me with the way to properly pronounce the name of your state? We want to know, is it Ha-wye-ee or Ha-vye-ee?”

He gave them a big aloha smile, betraying that helpful generous attitude possessed by most natives of the Pacific isles. He answered, “Oh that is easy. It is pronounced Ha-vye-ee.”

The husband felt a little smug as he glanced over at his frowning wife. “Thank you, sir,” he said, “that really clears things up for us.”

The man smiled again and replied with a roll of the tongue, “You’re velcome!”

Slum Earth

We humans, and all other living organisms on Earth have been ripped off. Our planet is a slum, compared with other planets that may exist.

According to some astronomers, superhabitable worlds may exist that are friendlier to life than our own. And in fact, Earth itself may only be marginally habitable. This makes sense. It explains to me why I’ve barely been able to get by in life.

Face it, we live in a slum. It doesn’t matter how rich you are, if you inhabit planet Earth then you’re in the barrios, the tenements, the other side of the tracks.

We’ve often been taught that the Earth is in a “Goldilocks Zone,” perfectly situated for the formation and sustenance of life. But now some astrobiologists are questioning this conventional wisdom, and theorizing that things could really be a whole lot better.

One of the primo features that may be found in more luxurious planets is mass. The best planets are two to three times more massive than Earth. They have more surface area, and thus more room for life forms to grow. They also have more plate tectonics, which helps to recycle critical material from their interior to their surface. In other words, they can keep the shit stirring and the life purring.

Another select feature is stable temperature. Our wobbly Earth has experienced ice ages that have caused mass extinctions. But luxury planets with better climate control don’t have that problem. And speaking of the weather, some planets may be just a tad warmer than ours. They don’t skimp on the thermostat like the building supervisor does on our slum planet. And so they may have larger tropical zones with greater biodiversity.

And some planets could have more oxygen. Breathing room is always a luxury. More oxygen increases the maximum possible body size. It also allows for more massive atmospheres, with greater shielding to damaging high-energy radiation from space. So there would be less cancer, and less need for sunscreen on these planets. But given our large size, we’d have to frequent the Big and Tall store, for our clothes.

Location, location, location. Recent research suggests that our slum Earth is scraping the very inner edge of the sun’s habitable zone. We’re hanging onto life by a tiny, tenuous thread. But the luckier planets are located smack dab in the middle of their star’s habitable zone. What a nice sense of security inhabitants of these planets can enjoy, compared with us.

And speaking of stars, we could do better than ol’ Sol. The best stars to revolve around are called orange dwarfs. Sadly, we’re stuck with a yellow dwarf. Orange dwarves are a bit cooler and smaller than yellows. This may provide more favorable ultraviolet environments. Orange’s also have longer lifetimes, giving the worlds that revolve around them more time to develop life and accrue biodiversity. Look at it this way: Instead of enjoying a sweet orange, we’re sucking on a bitter lemon.

Keep this rule in mind, the next time you go planet shopping: The most habitable planets tend to orbit orange dwarves, and tend to be slightly older and two to three times more massive than Earth. One location where you might want to shop is Alpha Centauri B. It’s the closest stellar system to the sun, being only 4.37 light years away, so you don’t have far to travel. It’s an orange dwarf—hooray! And it may host a planet at least the size of Earth, in its habitable zone.

Europa could become an ideal vacation spot, once we kill of all the “aliens” that might live there.

But you could also check out Europa, which is one of the moons of Jupiter. Europa is in our own solar system, and much closer than Alpha Centauri B. But it is far outside the sun’s habitable zone. Yet research indicates that terrestrial bodies may not need to be within a habitable zone to foster life, due to a phenomenon called tidal heating. The tidal force of Jupiter’s gravitational pull on Europa is roughly 1,000 times that of our own moon’s tidal force upon Earth. This force flexes the surface of Europa, generating enough heat to possibly support life.

Ah, silly me. You can’t really choose your planet. You and I are stuck with slum Earth. But sometimes late at night when your acid reflux keeps you from sleeping, you can always go outside and gaze at the stars. When you do, think about orange dwarves, and imagine super-sized planets. And eat your heart out dreaming of a better world.

Man’s Search for Meaning

A Meaningful Book Review

Available at

Lightness Traveling, at Luminous Aether, recommended this book to me a few weeks ago. I rarely follow anyone’s book recommendations, because I hate to read. But the moon was in its 7th House, and Jupiter was aligned with Mars, so I went ahead and ordered this disquisition from Amazon, for a mere $10.

I bought the paperback version, for that fresh, printed smell, as my doctor has advised me that sniffing glue has damaged my health. But for those who prefer it, Amazon does offer a Kindle edition.

I thought it was a good read, worthy of the long, meaningful review that follows. But if you hate to read as much as me, I’ve broken it up into sections, to be consumed in digestible bits and pieces.

First Impressions

Man’s Search for Meaning is a self-help book translated and published for America in the 1950s, and authored by famed Austrian psychiatrist, Viktor E. Frankl. I’ve wondered if Lightness Traveling thinks I need a psychiatrist. I can’t argue, so everyday after my conversation with the tree in our front yard, and my morning toe-twiddling exercises, I opened up this book, seeking the counsel of Dr. Frankl.

Surviving the Holocaust

Frankl was a concentration camp survivor, of World War II. The first 60% of his book details his two-and-a-half years in Auschwitz, and a few other camps. It describes how he and a small percentage of other inmates managed to survive, and explains why most other prisoners perished.

This makes it an unusual recounting of the Holocaust. Most accounts get into all the general horrors, of which we’re already very much aware. But Frankl details the everyday experience of camp life. The little things that contributed to both misery and relief. And most importantly, he gets into the mindset needed in order to survive the hell of life in a concentration camp.

He recommends this mindset for all occasions, and not just the dire circumstances of his camp life. And this is why his book is a self-help book. He maintains that his methods for surviving Auschwitz can be transferred to any situation.

According to Frankl, the mindset needed for survival is that of meaning. When one has found a meaning for their life, one has the motivation to face the brutal challenges life may throw at them, and slog it out day after day, with happy determination, in order to fulfill their goal in life.

And speaking of happiness, Frankl contends that happiness is something that cannot be found by those seeking after it. He argues that happiness must ensue, rather than be pursued. And he claims it ensues naturally, when we pursue a cause greater than ourselves, rather than by directly pursuing happiness for ourselves.


The final 40% of the book covers the subject of Logotherapy. This is a form of psychotherapy developed by Dr. Frankl for the treatment of neuroses. Basically, Frankl believes that all neuroses can be traced to an inadequate response to our need for meaning. Logotherapy aims to direct patients toward finding meaning to their lives, and a meaning that is adequate to survive any crisis.

Not knowing one’s meaning for life is not the cause of neurosis, according to Frankl. In fact, he asserts that it is very natural to search for meaning, while not yet knowing what the meaning is. It’s when we formulate our meaning around things that can be easily lost, or when we abandon the search for meaning altogether, that neurosis and self-destructive behavior begins.

Frankl observed that most prisoners in his concentration camp languished over the loss of their status, families, careers, and possessions. All of these things had given their lives meaning, and the loss of these things left them devastated and dispirited. Those who were unable to find new meaning, especially meaning to the loss and suffering they were currently experiencing, were those most likely to give up on life, and quickly succumb.

But if you are dedicated to a cause larger than yourself, something that cannot be stripped from you by Nazis, misfortune, or any other external force, then you will not lose spirit. You will fight on with passion in your heart and determination in your soul. This will not only afford you the best chance for survival, but even if you perish, you will perish with dignity, satisfaction, and peace, knowing that you tried your hardest and gave your best effort.

My Assessment

I agree with much of Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy. He presented this therapy as counterpoise to Freud’s psychoanalysis, and Adler’s psychodynamic therapy. Although he held these two psychologists in high regard, he offered an approach to neurosis that was very different from their approaches.

To me, it’s refreshing to have such a choice. Crazy as I may be, I’ve never tried any of these therapeutic routes. But if I thought I needed one, or more likely, was forced to choose one, I’d first seek out a psychiatrist who practices Logotherapy. That’s because, according to Dr. Frankl, many of his patients exhibited significant improvement within just a few sessions.

On the other hand, psychoanalysis can require decades of weekly therapeutic sessions, and thus can be extremely expensive. Psychodynamic therapy can also be time-consuming and expensive. And I’m an impatient, cheap bastard. So I’d try Logotherapy first, just for the savings in time and money.

But also, Logotherapy dovetails with my own philosophy of Unikonics, Unicorniks, Chasing Unicorns, or whatever the hell I call it. Logotherapy asserts that happiness ensues from the pursuit of something other than happiness, such as a cause greater than oneself.

I say something similar. When you chase unicorns, you’re not chasing happiness. Instead, you’re chasing unique experiences. Happiness ensues from this chase, especially if you catch the damned, elusive, one-horned creature. But it ensues as an automatic by-product. Happiness isn’t the object of your pursuit, but it ensues as a result of your pursuit.

There are many ways to chase uniqueness, including reading a book like Frankl’s, going to the theater, taking a vacation to a far-off land, hearing a good joke, shopping for something new, caring for an exotic houseplant, reading the news, going on a hike, and dining out. That’s just to name a few examples. There are zillions more.

Arguably, many of these pursuits do not seem to be for causes bigger than oneself. For instance, how can going to the theater be a cause bigger than you? Thus, although it can leave one feeling happy, it’s usually only for a brief time. That’s because unique experiences can only remain unique for a short period of time, before the newness wears off.

And so, one must go off and chase more unicorns, if one wants to continue being happy. The good thing about this is that there will always be new unicorns to chase. And that’s because life is constantly changing. Life involves a continuous cycle of new replacing old. Or to put it another way, unicorns are horny creatures, constantly breeding and multiplying.

Viewed from that perspective, the chasing of unicorns really is a cause bigger than oneself. After all, the changeable nature of our universe is much bigger than the individual. Enjoying the change and uniqueness it constantly has to offer, helps us to live full lives. And the fuller we live our lives, the more we have to offer everyone else.

So in my view, Frankl and I have similar philosophies. We’re birds of a feather. Peas in a pod. Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum.

Parting Ways

But not entirely. Rollo May was a famous psychologist who was also one of Frankl’s biggest critics. He argued that Frankl’s plain solution to all of life’s problems, undermined the complexity of human life.

I have to agree. Here I part ways with Frankl, and side with the May way. So long, Tweedle-dee!

Life is very complex. Adhering to a meaning of life that you might cook up, or that someone might suggest to you, leaves you limited and inflexible. It oversimplifies the way we find happiness, and prevents us from adjusting and adapting to the complex ways that our lives constantly change.

Uniqueness, including the uniqueness of a great cause, can’t be pursued in the same way every time. We have to mix it up. We have to keep our minds open to new possibilities. We must be willing to explore, and seek unique each and every day, from all the complex opportunities available to us.

There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Viktor, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

For instance, when we dedicate ourselves to a cause bigger than ourselves, there is a danger that the cause will deteriorate into the bland, stultifying torture of duty and obligation. It’s like being hired onto a new job. At first the job may be very exciting, and every day we may be motivated to go to work with a beginner’s eagerness to learn and explore. Our work ethic becomes impeccable.

But after awhile the job becomes old hat. We grow bored. And then the only reason we show up to work is to fulfill our duty to put in our time, and then pay our bills responsibly.

I believe duty and obligation to causes bigger than us, are not all they’re cracked up to be. Not when taken to extreme. Consider this:

Frankl had a golden opportunity to flee his native Austria, before being arrested by the Nazis. A visa awaited him at the American Consulate in Vienna. But he turned down this opportunity, because he wanted to follow the biblical commandment of honoring his father and mother. A cause greater than himself. He did not want to leave them alone, at the mercy of the Nazis.

And yet, his parents were overjoyed that this visa was being offered. They wanted to see their son escape and have the opportunity for a long life. Why dampen their joy? Why not let them go to their inevitable deaths in the concentration camps with the happy thought that their son was safe? After all, there was nothing he could have done to save them.

Not only that, but his pregnant wife was also arrested. She could have escaped to America with him, but instead was immediately sent to the crematoriums of Bergen-Belsen. Thus, his decision to follow this “cause greater than himself” cost the lives of his wife and unborn child, and nearly cost him his own life.

This is the disaster of duty and obligation, when taken to an extreme. It becomes an odious burden that endangers not only oneself, but others. Our ability to survive in this world depends upon the same thing as our ability to be happy. We must keep our minds open wide to change, and new ways of thinking. We must be willing to forsake a cause greater than ourselves for new causes greater than ourselves, that make more sense and lead ourselves and others away from harm, rather than toward it.

And so, when we find our meaning of life–our motivation to fulfill a cause bigger than ourselves–it’s helpful to pursue this cause with the understanding that the happiness or safety derived from it will only be temporary. And after the luster wears off, or after it becomes unsafe, it’s wise to move on to a new cause. Or at the very least, modify the cause, to find new ways to enjoy it, and to survive it.


Frankl’s book ends with a Postscript entitled, The Case for a Tragic Optimism. It is 18 pages long, beginning with page 141, and is based upon a lecture he gave in 1983. On page 144, the words turned into “blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,” and I fell asleep. It was all a lot of intellectual psychobabble, as far as I was concerned.

I woke up in the Afterword, so actually the Postscript was just the beginning of the end. The Afterword included some stats about the book, and a short biography of Frankl’s life, which I found interesting.

Man’s Search for Meaning was a groundbreaking book in the field of psychology, back in the 1950s, changing psychology forever. And many people welcomed this change, because by 2006 the book had sold more than 12 million copies and had been translated into 24 different languages. It’s a very popular book, an enduring classic that has stood the test of time.

Quite a few readers have reported being cured from their neuroses, simply by reading the book. Frankl coined this as “autobibliotherapy.” It speaks to the power this book possesses in potentially changing a reader’s life. I recommend it to anyone who is going through difficult times, or who is seeking a way out of the depression and misery that comes from perceiving life as meaningless.

I also recommend this book for those interested in the Holocaust, or who enjoy World War II history. I found it fascinating to learn the everyday details and psychology of life in a concentration camp.

Viktor Frankl died in 1997, at the age of 92. I think he lived such a long life, due to both his healthy psychological outlook, as well as to a great deal of luck. And I think it can be argued that in spite of his years, or partly even because of his years in a concentration camp, his was a rich and full life. He figured out how to make the most of his experience while a prisoner, and also of his life after his liberation.

There is no doubt in my mind that his life was meaningful.

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