Saturday, November 9, 2019

Adept in the Ways of Sloth

                        Adept in the Ways of Sloth
Nobody told us. Well, nobody told me. I’m from a family of workers, obsessive workers, one might say. In my family, sloth is a mere breath removed from slovenly and slatternly. Nobody ever said choices were available. Not that I would have availed myself of other choices, probably, life being what it is. Work being a necessity for survival.

Until the day I retired myself to a quiet corner of another country. Thus removed from everyday obligations of my former life, I’ve time and opportunity to explore other options for being.

It’s not easy to shift gears. I’ve not seen any self-help books toward a lazier way of being. There are no gurus pointing the way to this so-called lesser life, none that I’ve seen.

In fact, quite the opposite. The words “sloth” and “lazy’ are rife with negative connotations. The notion of inactivity is sneered at, considered unhealthy, un-American, sinful, never mind the flowers of the field which neither sow nor reap.

On particularly lazy days, I struggle with guilt. I try not to let it bother me. Generally I manage to overcome it.

I could whitewash my sluggardly ways with more socially acceptable terms: meditation, prayer, contemplation, rumination, reverie, cogitation (I like that one), study. But, no, I’m becoming a master at simple, unadorned sloth.

My home is acceptably clean. My garden is no more overgrown than my neighbors’. Despite my sluggardly ways, I finish daily chores of seeming importance.

Projects of various kinds linger in the wings, awaiting their time to take center stage. Like today, for instance. Lingering on my ironing board is a piece I’ve quilted plus backing, patiently waiting for me to pick it up and transform it into pillow coverings. In the kitchen I’m drying tarragon. Soon I’ll pluck the slender leaves and share its goodness with neighbors. I’ve two pair of capri pants that I intend to dye with dark, dark coffee.

None of my projects are urgent. None of these projects take much time. And herein lies the key to sloth. Time.

In this land of “manana”, time is my friend. Manana might mean tomorrow. Or it could be used for next week. Or any number of days hence.  

So I prioritize what is most important to me at the moment. Other parts of my life are directed purely by whim and interruptions.

Today Samantha came over to ask for help with curtains, help I’m glad to give. Kathy and Richard leave tomorrow, not to return before April. So I walk over to their casa for a last visit. Nancie and Pat are coming over in an hour just to sit for a visit under the jacaranda.

And so my days go, filled with friends, filled with sloth, filled with butterflies.

In the cracks and crevices between these above important things, I go to town to put pesos on my Mexican cell phone. I buy my bus ticket for a three-day jaunt to Mazatlan. I pack my suitcase.

Next week I might make my pillow slips. I might dye my pants. I might strip dry leaves from my tarragon.

For sure I’ll visit my friends. For sure I’ll read books. For sure I’ll set aside time for lizards, hibiscus the size of dinner plates, and the butterflies, ah, the pretty whirling butterflies.

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door
November 7, 2109

Beware the Devious AI Toothbrush

                        Beware the Devious AI Toothbrush
“This is the way we brush our teeth, brush our teeth, brush our teeth. This is the way we brush our teeth, so early in the morning.”

News headlines to nursery rhymes, that’s me. When I read that a toothbrush has been devised with artificial intelligence, that ditty swept full blown through my mind.

How nice, I thought. Aw, a new relationship. “Uh, hate to mention, but you need to pay more attention to your left lower molar.” “Gee, thanks. Will do.”

With rolling eyeballs, I dismissed the thought. But like a lot of nursery ditties, this one hung out with me all day which meant I inevitably gave further thought to the idea of a toothbrush with artificial intelligence.

Relationship. A new relationship. Yes, perfect analogy. And like many a new relationship, this one has all the inbuilt propensities for disaster. Having had a disastrous relationship or two in my past, I’m rather an authority. I know of which I speak.

It starts innocently enough. Golleeee, an intelligent toothbrush. You surely will enhance my life.
A really intelligent toothbrush will keep silent at this point.

Once familiarity sets in, things change. “I wish you’d take care of your teeth before you shower, not afterwards—drives me nuts.”

“You neglected to squeeze that last shot of toothpaste from the tube. Waste not, want not.”

“By the way, during laboratory trials, we used XXX Brand, not that inferior YYY that you use. I do wish you’d change brands for me. XXX Brand is guaranteed to clean 25% better than YYY in lab tests in which I cooperated. And 80% of sub-intelligent human test participants agreed that XXX tastes better.”

“If you really cared for me, you’d quit drinking that nasty ol’ coffee and tea. Your teeth are awfully stained; surely you’re aware.”

By this point I’m ready to smuggle an old-fashioned brush on a stick into the kitchen and begin teeth hygiene on the sly.

But AITB won’t shut up. “I hear you, Traitor. Get back in here and brush, brush, brush. NOW!”

I suppose I could live with that kind of personal interference if the AITB kept its interference, I mean influence, to the boundaries of my mouth. But this is, of necessity, a relationship, remember?

And lest you think it far-fetched that I call this a relationship, remember, the TB contains some manner of intelligence. Harken back, if you will, to when you were a toddler and would not go to sleep without Blankie or Lambie Pie or Teddy and they were inanimate objects. Point made.

I almost can guarantee it will take little time for AITB, which you no doubt will have named by now, though perhaps not a flattering name, sorry, I digress, to move from “I wish you wouldn’t eat garlic” to “Slept in today, did you?”

Soon enough you will hear, “You spent how much on that? Do you really think you needed one?”

The day the toothbrush says to me, “Do you really mean to wear that in public?” is the day I go to the less-desirable section of town and after discrete inquiries, hire a hitman to abduct the tooth device on a day when I’m gone and behead it with a machete.

You don’t expect me to do it myself, do you? After all, I have a relationship with him, it, that. I can’t just toss him in the trash, can I? I can’t bear to listen to its pitiful screams, after all, once, we loved one another.

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door
October 31, 2019