Why I do not have black widow spiders, cyanide, or fatal booby traps as pets

Nature is violent. We love to believe the paragon of nature is a bucolic scene – an ethereal mountainside as the sun sets at day’s end. If one instigates a black widow spider while observing the aforementioned, they are willing nature into its most instinctual response – inherent violence (but the spider does not think it violent). When one partakes in breaking the law of the spider and gets bitten, then they, perhaps, deserves to be bitten. You broke the law of the spider, and because you did so, you will remember (hopefully) the caustic reaction to your base ignorance. Don’t fuck with black the widow: they are, what all living organisms are, motivated by the continuation existence.

The stones of cherries, apricots, peaches, and plums contain cyanide. Most people (nearly all) do not ingest the stones of those fruits – which is the location of the toxic cyanide. And individuals, generally speaking, do not conflate the harmful consequences of ingesting a stone’s cyanide with instigating a spider to bite. Fruit’s stones are innocuous unless ingested: a black spider is harmless unless provoked.

Now, booby traps: planning, intent, defense, and possible malice are their motivation. When triggered (and I suppose it depends on what side of the wall you are on) the results are potentially gruesome. Therefore, it is a good idea to remain free and clear of individuals capable of constructing booby traps: nor should you make booby traps your pets – feeding them is precarious.

(If you have not already, please look into The Stanford Prison Project: https://www.prisonexp.org/. And another fun insight into boilerplate human psyche is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Kitty_Genovese – please read the entire article, especially the ‘psychological research’ section).

The motivation for this piece of prose is confusion. Many moons ago when I was a psyche ward employee, one of the residents (let’s call him Tom) lived with schizophrenia. Tom was congenial and forthright about his diagnosis, if he deigned one worthy of his insight. He was a great teacher, listener, and conversationalist when asymptomatic. When symptoms were present, he would languorously pace the common area and meet my eyes with a suspicious side-eyed stare. I enjoyed his company and our conversations.

At some point, early in his stay, he sits down in the chair next to my work station and asks me what I know about schizophrenia. I tell him that everything I know came out of books. And immediately after I say the word “books,” the corners of his mouth reach for the ceiling in a most amiable manner – as if to say, “It is your lucky day friend, cause you are about to learn what it really is.”

Tom begins by asking me to imagine an empty two gallon bucket (in my mind the bucket is red, probably for the same reason he specifies two gallons). He then asks me to imagine a three and a half inch round sponge that fits snugly inside the top edge of the bucket – like a lid with no exterior fasteners. He then asks me to imagine a hole in the center of the sponge, and in that hole is the tip of a garden hose. Tom informs me that the seal around the circumference of the bucket and the hole where the head of the hose sits is airtight. The hose is then turned on to a moderate flow. He explains to me that everything is fine until the bucket becomes full, at which point, the apparatus is incapable of expelling water at a commensurate rate –

Tom tells me, “That is schizophrenia.” The information entering the brain becomes overwhelming, and once the brain’s information capacity is reached, it goes haywire. It is a matter of over stimulation and rapid processing with no release valve. “It is hell.”

It is also the best analogy I can relate to the confluence of a pandemic, economic insecurities, and social discourses with lack of prudent solutions in the foreseeable future. It is confusing, disheartening, and overwhelming: it is also our unprecedented reality. So what is the best way to remain optimistic, engaged, and unflappable in these trying times? Maybe the aforementioned is not an appropriate response? Furthermore, how and why should anyone feel other than what they are feeling? To tell themselves or be told it is wrong for feeling a particular way is disingenuous. (My only comments on feelings are, be convinced they are YOURS – your conclusion, and, they are not facts – they will not kill you (I am quite sure there are scores of individuals who would voraciously tell me otherwise: I pray for decency or clemency or both). But it is seemingly impossible to contribute to a solution when only over-reactionary solutions exist (I did not sue Honda because that is the make of car that ran over and killed my cat, Dennis). My greatest hope is that we as human beings emerge from this tumult with grace and better understanding of each other. And perhaps an even more  important byproduct of this disseminated discourse will be a more accurate understanding of ourselves and our place in the world and our communities. Sure, that previous bit sounds emotionally ideal, veering on mawkish, and truthfully it doesn’t matter anyway; because all I can think of is black widows, cyanide, and booby traps.

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