Background Programs

At “shut down” my PC sometimes advises that, “background programs are running.”  Beyond fumbling with Word, email, Credit Union, Facebook and a blog, I am painfully, maddeningly ignorant about what’s happening inside this infernal machine.  As long as what happens beneath the keyboard, behind the monitor and among the speed-of-light Gremlins scurrying chip-to-chip, circuit-to-circuit don’t act stupid, I don’t care.  So I “shut ‘er down” and trust she won’t start smokin’.

But “background programs” seduced me.  Sleuthing around Google I learned, when my HP laptop “boots-up” fifty secret agents leap into action: Cortana, Feedback Hub, Print 3-D, Snip, Sketch, Stick Notes, dozens more!  Who’d a guessed? 

I don’t know how or why, but somehow curiosity around background programs morphed from computer programs and circuits to human thoughts and behavior.  Bits from Google and Wikipedia lead me to the astonishing realization that for eight decades this body and mind have operated mostly on background programs

I am indebted to Wikipedia for some basics.  My “Autonomic Nervous System” (ANS) includes a mindboggling complex of mechanisms and processes eerily reminiscent of programs and circuits in my PC.  (Autonomic: “acting or occurring involuntarily,” Merriam Webster, my emphasis). 

The ANS includes a “sympathetic,” “quick response mobilizing  .  .  .  fight-or-flight” system and a “parasympathetic,” “more slowly activated  .  .  .   dampening  .  .  .  rest and digest, feed and breed” systems.  “Most (ANS) functions are involuntary”!  Just seeing the diagram would cross a Rabbi’s eyes.  These are the mechanisms on which survival and perpetuation of a species depend, unconscious processes, background programs!

As I see it, mind-numbing science has unearthed our Autonomic systems, leaving the roots of human thought and emotion buried.  In this regard, a father of science René Descartes hypothesized a “mind-body dualism”, mental and physical action on discreet paths.  Philosopher Gilbert Ryle scoffs at Descartes’s notion as “the ghost in the machine.”  From findings of Quantum Physics, Robert P. Cease and Charles C. Mann conclude Descartes and Ryles appear mistaken, “not because there is no ghost, because there is no machine.”

For the vast majority of us, ANS processes operate entirely outside voluntary control.  At the same time, thoughts and feelings rise like water from a spring.  While I may make a poor job of it, once operations amenable to consciousness, i.e. thoughts and feelings, surface I may dam or direct their flow. 

Over centuries scientists and artists have described or alluded to the impacts of conscious background programs in human thought, emotion, and behavior.  Sigmund Freud defined the objective of his Psychoanalysis as, “make unconscious process conscious.”  To the maximum degree possible, make background cognitive programs conscious!

Despite Analysis’s inevitable shortcomings, unconscious process, transference ,denial, projection and the rest reverberate through the halls of Psychiatry, Psychology, Sociology and Counseling today.  At the street level, Psychiatrist Abraham Low’s Recovery Inc affords practical aphorisms for managing background programs:  Don’t take your own dear self too seriously.  Symptoms rise and fall and run their course if we don’t attach danger.  That’s when I started to work myself up.

The Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path, eight pithy aphorisms, diagnose and specifiy antidotes for the roots of human suffering, i.e. background programs.   The following is cobbled from memory.  My apology for forgetting the sources.

1. Right View
The Radiant Buddha said this, view this fleeting world like this, like stars fading and vanishing at dawn, like bubbles on a fast-moving stream, like morning dewdrops evaporating on blades of grass, like a candle flickering in the wind, echoes, mirages, phantoms and a dream.
2. Right Intention
The thought manifests as the word, the word manifests as the dream, the dream develops into habit and habit forms into character.  So, watch the thought and its ways with care.  Let it spring only from love born out of concern for all beings.  As the shadow follows the body, as we think so we become.  

Ethical Conduct
3. Right Speech
Better than a book of a thousand words is one word that leads to peace.
4. Right Conduct
The road to holiness leads through the world of action. (Dag Hammaraskjöld)
5. Right Livelihood
Don’t earn you living by means that could harm any living being.

Mental Discipline
6. Right Effort
The Radiant Buddha said, “Continue on the Path like an ox pulling a cart through deep mud.”
7. Right Mindfulness
Be mindful at all times.  Be continually aware of your internal environment.
8. Right Concentration
Meditate as if you were peeling layers from an onion or wiping soot from a lamp.

I am genes and experience, the end-product of copulations back to the dawn of human life.  I’m told, within this corporal form the Buddha called an “aggregate” of standalone senses: hearing, seeing, touching, smelling, tasting, Neanderthal genes hide.  For me the experiential piece began forty-eight years ago.  This complex of inheritance and background programs makes understanding even a tiny fraction of who I really am the Greatest Puzzle of all.  

Jim Crow Resurrected

Under cover of guarding against voter fraud, ham-fisted Republicans would set up roadblocks disenfranchising voters.

In America, for two-and-a-half centuries protocols for establishing and affirming vote eligibility and conducting remarkably fraud-free electrons have worked just fine.  Restricting or eliminating absentee and mail-in balloting, curtailing voting hours, limiting numbers of ballot drop-boxes, and banning giving food and drinks to folks in voter lines are Jim Crow resurrected!

The more folks vote, the more Democrats win.  It’s curious? 


A wife reports, her husband’s Saturday night has come down to crossing out days on the calendar.  At age 83, the highpoint of my week begins Wednesday morning, retrieving a 5x9x15 inch, three-pound, Rubbermaid container from the linen closet.  

Placing the box on the kitchen table, I remove the lid revealing a dozen-and-a-half, assorted-size, plastic containers, preparatory for what friend Lorayne calls a “Pill-Fill.”  Prescribed potions in the same ubiquitous, amber containers I see on bathroom counters in TV drug addiction and suicide reports.  Life-savers, Carvedilol and Lisinopril, keep an antique heart up to speed.  Xarelto stops ol’ blood from getting’ thick.  Levothyroxine keeps the thyroid doin’ its magic.  Lovostatin for cholesterol.  Weekly Alendronate Sodium for strong bones.  And my Happy Pill, Sertraline.  Just in case, there’s Meloxicam for pain, Amlodipine should the blood pressure take a jump and antibiotic Ciprofloxacin, “Discard: 06/25/2020”—six months ago—on the bottom label.  To keep an aging body numbed-out, I take a couple of acetaminophen morning, afternoon and night.   

And the “Supplements.”  Despite being a skeptic regarding what I think of as “Voodoo Health and Nutrition,” every day I take Taurine, Central-Vite Senior, Vitamin D3, PB8 Probiotic, Fish-Flax-Borge Oils and Gucosamine Chondroitin MSM.  I cover my hypocrisy by noting that sometime back, someone I trust or something I read persuaded me these potions may keep me around a bit longer. 

Toward evening, some of us have sometimes wondered, “Did I take my pill?”  At the moment, the question may take on seemingly life-or-death implications.  When forty pills are down to eighteen, counting affords little reassurance. 

This quandary in mind, some smart person invented little plastic pill boxes with compartments labeled Su M T W Th F Sa.  My Pill-Fill involves assigning six to eight pills or capsules from the dozen-and-a-half containers into daily allotments.  Even so, in the evening I, uncommonly, have discovered pills and capsules in the day’s designated compartment. 

I itemize my formulary to acknowledge and express appreciation for the miracles and magic of modern medicine which, more than once, has saved my life.  Beyond our allotted “three score and ten,” chemicals and scalpels forestall graves and mausoleums.  If you are lucky enough to be here you know.  If you are lucky enough to get here you will. 

Wrongful Death

Wrongful Death: “A civil action against someone who can be held liable for a death.” (Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute)

Liable: “obligated according to law or equity .  .  .  RESPONSIBLE” (Merriam Webster)

Bob Woodward has Donald on tape saying that he recognized COVID 19’s catastrophic and lethal implications early on, but didn’t lift a finger to ameliorate spreading of the virus and lied about its inevitable impact on Americans.

For failing to lead and lying about COVID 19, families who lost loved ones should file a Wrongful Death suit against President Donald J. Trump.

American Rescue Package

Republicans are outraged by Democrats’/Biden’s $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Package.” After Trump’s 2017 Christmas gift to Jowl Street Pals, we poor folks need to catch up!

According to Wikipedia, “The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office  .  .  .   estimates that implementing the (“Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” which President Donald Trump signed into law December 12, 2017, less than a year after taking office,) would add an estimated $2.289 trillion to the national debt over ten years, or $1.891 trillion after taking (related economic effects) into account”.     

For more on “Trumpanomics,” Google Dartmouth, Oxford, Yale and Harvard professor of economics and political commentator, Robert Reich’s “Trump’s Economy Revealed” and “The Seven Big Failures of Trumpanomics.”

To Kill A Mockingbird

For over a decade I was mesmerized by Cormac McCarthy’s inability to write a boring sentence.  Thinking back, at some point a pre-conscious curiosity began to wonder if, in craftmanship and appreciation for the human condition, McCarthy has peers.  Obviously outrageous and prejudiced as I am, I addressed my quandary by reading better-known authors.

So, over the past half-dozen years, I doggedly plunged through Ernest Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms; William Faulkner’s The Sound and The Fury and As I Lay Dying; and Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five and Cat’s Cradle.  I gave up on John Updike’s Rabbit Run and Miguel de Cervantes’s Man of Lamancha.  Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland, Down the Rabbit Hole and Through the Lookingglass, were welcome respites. Finally, my inspiration for this, Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize Winning To Kill A Mockingbird,

In How to Write a Damn Good Novel James Fry exposes three “secrets to dramatic writing”: Conflict, Conflict, Conflict!  But, as I see it, conflict is defined by the writer and the reader!  Nephew Larry wept over Hemingway’s first Best Seller, A Farewell to Arms.  I yawned.  For me, the faded World War I backdrop, magnums of wine, casual sex, and tepid emotion afforded the conflict of chewing gum. 

I’m suspicious of novels with a lengthy Forward or Preface.  Writing and story speak for themself.  The Sound and The Fury’stwenty-eight page forward put me on guard.  Unlike Hemingway’s, Faulkner’s masterpiece didn’t bore but bewildered me.  Despite being somewhat dyslexic and slow-witted, it is impossible for me to believe that, without the Forward and sixty-five pages of “Cliff Notes,” pedestrian readers would endure to the end, much less have a clue regarding Faulkner’s genius.  As I Lay Dying was less cryptic.  I left Faulkner sensing that his esoteric prose is not for common folk.  But, writing only for elite readers seems contrary to the literate excellence and exposition of human experience we expect in a great novel.   

Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonegut’sfirst-person tale as World War II POW and witnessing the destruction of Dresden, Germany, by Allied bombers, is compelling.  His diversions into fantasy left me wondering.  His narrative and dark humor are seductive.  His Cat’s Cradle left me puzzled.

After a bellyful of “serious” reading, the fantasy in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Down the Rabbit Hole and Through the Looking-Glass were delightful.  I’ll reread them.  I stuck with Miguel de Cervantes’s Man of Lamancha until Don Quixote’s assaults on objects and bewildered strangers took on the repetitive sameness of windmill blades.  

A 2006 New York Times authors’ survey “on the Best Works of American Fiction of the Last 25 Years” ranked McCarthy’s Blood Meridian and John Updike’s Rabbit, Run in the top five.  Classed alongside McCarthy, Updike’s novel seemed a “must read.” 

My Dad’s death ten days after my eight-birthday put Updike’s protagonist, Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, at a disadvantage.  A spoiled, twenty-year-old, ex-high school jock who abandoned a pregnant wife and son to, I guess, find himself, rubbed a sensitive nerve.  Page fifty or so, I began leafing forward, looking for Fry’s Conflict.  When “Rabbit” jumping among assorted women’s and his wife’s beds took on Don Quixote’s repetitious conflict I gave up.

Nephew Larry loves To Kill A Mockingbird.  Harper Lee’s channeling Lawyer Atticus Finch’s wisdom through his daughter is ingenious.  “Scout” brilliantly captures the eight-year-old’s inquisitive, Tomboy nature.  Her, brother Jem’s, and orphan neighbor Dell’s adventures and curiosity around mystery neighbor “Boo” kept me reading.

Around halfway through Harper’s narrative, Atticus’s defense of Tom Johnson, a negro, against red-neck Bob Ewell’s bogus claim that Tom raped his daughter becomes a central conflict.  When Scout and, more-so, teenage Jem, vice their indignity over Tom’s conviction, Harper has Atticus explained, “Tom Robinson’s a colored man Jem.  No Jury in this part of the world’s going to say, ‘We think you’re guilty, but not very,’ on charges like that.” (p. 250)

After debating our flawed legal system, need to change laws, and prejudiced juries, Atticus goes on,
“As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it—whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.  .  .  .  There’s nothing more sickening to me than a low-grade white man who’ll take advantage of a Negro’s ignorance.  Don’t fool yourselves—it’s all adding up and one of these days we’re going to pay the bill for it.  I hope it’s not in you children’s time.”  (p. 252)

Harper Lee’s prescience is stunning!  “Black Lives Matter!”  A century later, we “pay the bill!”


Viewing TV clips from the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), two factors caught my attention: the anger in Josh Holly’s, Ted Cruz’s and Donald Trump’s speeches and the Golden Idol!  

Anger arises out of fear, and fear out of ignorance.  Not “ignorance” in the pejorative but definitive sense: to “ignore,” not to understand.  “Understanding,” the antithesis of ignorance, leads to patience.  Patience, the antithesis of anger, leads to compassion.  I hasten to note, Conservatives have no monopoly on ignorance, fear and anger.  Liberal cohorts’ and my speech and actions are, far too often, vitriolic and hypocritical. 

As I see it fear has two roots, our ignorance and sense of vulnerability in dealing with nature and people.  We fear and act to protect ourselves from floods, earthquakes, tornados, automobile accidents, cancer and COVID-19.  We fear and act to protect ourselves from people who appear, speak and behave in ways foreign to our experience. 

Apart from planning and diligence, there is little we can do to protect against accidents and natural disasters.  Likewise, we can do very little to change or control other people’s appearance and language.  Conflict arises from our inability to understand others’ beliefs and behavior and to know that our misunderstanding does not necessarily signal danger for us.  This inability to understand and appreciate other people’s experience causes at least as much human suffering as Nature.     

What misunderstanding and resultant fear triggered the anger beneath the January 6 assault on our Capital Building and Congress?  President Turmp was explicit, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re going to lose your country.”  What country?  A White-Supremacist, Male-dominated, English-speaking, Heterosexual, Christian County! 

The second CPAC news item to captured my attention was that Golden Idol!  Googling it now, I realize that on first sight of this bizarre caricature, something in me knew it had to be hoax.  Maybe snuck into the Conservative’s Conference by an embedded Liberal?  But, humorous as it appears, this is no joke!  Realizing it was meant to Idolize the Glorious Leader, I am stunned and bewildered!  Ironically and not surprisingly, Trump’s Idol was “made in China!” 

We need icons.  Our Capital Building’s Statuary Hall houses graven images of America’s heroes.  For Trump’s Cult, this ugly idol represents their Great White Hope.   

Seeing Golden Donald, the Golden Calf leapt to mind.  A glance at the internet reveals that, as often happens when I feel clever, others were out of the blocks ahead of me.   

To remind us, 

King James Bible
Exodus, Chapter 32
1 .  .  .  the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said
unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us  .  .  .
3 And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears,
and brought them unto Aaron.
4 .  .  .  after he had made it a molten (golden) calf: and they said,
These be Thy gods, Oh Israel  .  .  .
19 .  .  .  he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot
  .  .  . 
20 And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and
ground it to powder  .  .  .
35 And the LORD plagued the people, because they made the calf,
which Aaron made.  

Beware of false Gods!