It seems strange that a family feud over the life of one severely brain-damaged woman could capture so much attention. Senate Majority leader Bill Frist, a cardiac surgeon, decided it was necessary to make his own diagnosis based on four-year old video tape. Congress met in emergency session, and President Bush signed a bill in his slippers moving the Schiavo case from state to federal courts. By doing so he turned his back on longstanding conservative efforts to strengthen state power, and a Texas law he himself signed that mandates the removal of life support for the children of indigent parents.

There were no guarantee that the conflict over Terry Schiavo's feeding tube would garner even one headline, much less dominate them for weeks. Domestic disputes are daily stuff in America. In Columbus we have a dispute over the life of a brain damaged infant, with the father – who has been indicted for for causing said brain damage— had been campaigning to keep his son on life support. The simple fact is that many people try hard to bring their pet cause to public eye. Few succeed, even at a modest level.

The reason the Schiavo case is in the public eye is that the life of Terry Schiavo mirrors a question faced by humanity itself? "What is the nature of life?” Most of us wouldn’t hesitate to put our pet cat to sleep if it suffered far less. But we aren’t talking about cats, we’re talking about human beings, and decisions made about human beings may also be made about us.

In a recent editorial in the New York Times, conservative commentator David Brooks put it succinctly, arguing that moral argument for protecting all life was strong, but did not really fit with the reality we face. The liberal argument is that life is not an on or off switch, but a continuum between a full life and meaningless existence in many ways much better fits reality, but lacks a clear moral division.

Brooks is right. Heartbeat, pupil dilation, these are clearly definable borders between life and unlife. And for most of human history they have served well. A century, perhaps a half-century earlier the case of Terry Schiavo could not have happened. Mrs. Schiavo would have died from the lack of the mental capacity needed to chew and swallow. She would have starved no matter what anyone wanted. But not today. We have ventilators to force air into people’s lungs, kidney machines that can cleanse the blood, we transplant major organs and are building mechanical replacements for them as well. We have even begun meddling with genes themselves, all in the name of preserving life. Many times such uses are good and appropriate. But it is reasonable to ask if that always so.

The Biblical Book of Genesis offers insights into our condition. The story of Adam and Eve is not the literal truth, but rather a metaphor for the human condition. In it Adam and Eve eat the fruit from the Tree of Life, and having eaten they become aware. Suddenly they realize they are naked, and when God visits them next He sees they have begun to fashion clothing.

The story is not so much about disobedience and nudity than it is about exploration and awareness. By eating of the fruit, the first humans took a new direction. From it they gained awareness. The Garden itself is a metaphor, a place of joyous innocence free of moral choice. If you are not aware of moral choice, that ignorance frees you from facing the consequences of your decisions. Once Adam and Eve knew they were naked, they had to do something about it. God was not upset over the fig leaves, but rather over their disobedience, an act which was the price of their awareness.

God then drives Adam and Eve from the Garden, but really their own actions did that. Once you have forsaken innocence, it cannot be returned. There is no such thing as 'secondary ignorance'. Adam and Eve had to leave, to step out from a binary existence, to a murky, grayscale world. Rarely again would their choices be so clear. They could not return to our garden, and neither can we.

That is why Terry Schiavo’s life and death have captured our imagination. She is not a merely a severely brain damaged woman, but the sort of puzzle a child faces as they approach adulthood. If we have created the technology to preserve life, we must also face the possibility that our tools will preserve life beyond the point where life can still be called 'living’. We must face life and death not as absolutes, but as points on a continuum. That poses questions that may have no clear or obvious answers, but must be answered nonetheless.

The question of Terry Shiavo hangs upon the question of whether or not a persistive vegetative state really constitutes life. The debate over abortion largely hangs upon when one decides that life begins. Conception offers a bright line, easily drawn. B ut is it really so clear when a fertilized egg is automatically ejected at menstruation when it is fertilized in the womb rather than fallopian tubes? When exactly does a grouping of cells become a human? The famed Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision hung upon the fact that neither scientists or theologians could agree upon the point when a fetus became a human being.

Today, humanity is no longer innocent. We face many challenges both to our values system and to our survival as a species. We are changing the face of our planet in ways that may destroy us. Our decisions now may carry the force of life and death, not just for a few men but for our planet. But we cannot close our eyes and pretend these choices do not exist, or that we can go back. Like Adam and Eve, once our eyes have been opened they can never be closed again. Eden has been forever closed off.

The difference between an adult and a child is that adults try to face problems squarely and deal with them rather than deny they exist or ignore them and hope they go away. The societies that are most successful, those that move on face unpleasant and difficult choices squarely. Adam and Eve were children, who did not understand their world or the forces that shaped it. Today, using the tools of science, we do understand those things. We are no longer innocent.

The issues we face today are not the problems of youth or innocence. The questions posed by the case of Terry Schiavo are not for children but adults. The moral dilemmas and conflicts of today are not steps backward, but rather natural growing pains on the way to social adulthood.

A month now in New Hampshire. My life has changed. I feel differently than I have ever felt, but it is difficult to put into words just how I feel. The closest word I can find to describe it is "Home." Never in my life have I felt more at peace and never have I felt so clearly that I am where I belong.

A friend recently asked me if I felt a sense of "triumph" in what I have done. I went into a kind of exile for seven years in Orlando and returned on my own terms. What I wanted more than anything in this life I received. There is no sense of triumph. There is no "victory party." The Muse, who I now live with, put it best a few nights ago. "It feels like we've always been together. It feels completely normal. Isn't that weird?" After being mostly separated for two decades, it is a weird feeling. And the weirdest thing about it is that is doesn't feel weird at all.

Over the years I have had many different relationships with many different women, far more women that I deserve to have been that close to. Some tried to change me, to mold me into the kind of man they wanted me to be. They failed. Some accepted me as I am and in return I did the same for them. They are always in my heart. There is something very different in my relationship with The Muse. She is both my greatest adversary and my biggest supporter. No one pushes me harder, no one tries harder to get under my skin and no one loves me more. The one thing that really strikes me, the one thing I tend to think about as I fall asleep at night, is that somehow I was always right about her. For years she tried to convince me I was wrong, but every time she tried to get me to believe I was better off without her and that she wasn't worth caring about in the way I cared about her, she would give herself away. She'd load the gun. She'd put it in my mouth. She'd cock the hammer. She couldn't pull the trigger. That's how she always gave herself away. I knew. I always knew.

Last night I had a very strange, intense dream:

I'm working at a fast food restaurant as a temp. I am one of two temps working there. The other is Clint Eastwood. We're not working the counter or cooking food, we're doing something else, working for a very shaky man who is doing some kind of major maintenance work, knocking down walls, replacing counters, putting in new cooking apparatus. I came in my car, which in the dream is still packed as it was with all my belongings when I moved from Florida to New Hampshire.

At the end of the shift, Clint asks me for a ride home. He says it is interesting that he has hitchhiked three times in his life and that I have picked him up every time.

On the second day working at this job, I see our boss stuffing my clothes into a hole in a new wall we are putting up. He says it needed insulation. I go to my car and find my suitcases of clothes empty and thrown on the ground. The boss man sees nothing wrong with what he is doing, but Clint promises to help me "get even." I tell him I just want to get my clothes back and then I want to quit. He says he will help and then says, "I'm sorry this guy is such an asshole, but we both need this job so lets just get the clothes back and act like nothing happened."

I am not sure why I would so desperately need this job that I would put up with this boss, who in addition to stealing my clothes and using them to fill space behind a wall, is abusive and nasty. I'm really not sure why Clint Eastwood needs this job or why he needs a lift home. When I take him home I leave him on the side of a dirt road. He says, "I'll just walk the rest of the way," and thanks me for the lift.

I see some people after, including my father, and I tell them about the job and about Clint Eastwood. I ask them if they think it is strange that I have picked Clint up hitchhiking three times. A woman tells me, "Is it stranger that you picked up Clint Eastwood or is it stranger that he was picked up by YOU?"

The group of people I see turns into a party, an ornate affair where people are well dressed and having cocktails. I get the impression from comments people make to me that I am somehow very important to them. I am an honored guest, and yet I have to return to the fast food restaurant to install ceiling tiles the next day.

The following day I'm putting a new window in a freshly cut hole in the wall with Clint assisting me. He turns to me after I make some kind of complaint about the job and says, "Do you consider this kind of work beneath you or something?"

"No," I tell him, "but I can't believe some people have to live like this and take shit from a boss like that son of a bitch all day."

"Then do something about it, you asshole."

At that point I realize he isn't Clint Eastwood at all. He's someone entirely different. I was just perceiving him as Clint Eastwood. He gets into a car with some other people and drives off laughing.

I woke to the voice of Anastasia telling me, "Now you have your peace. Now you have your solace. You have what you need. It is time to continue your work."

I had an awesome day yesterday.

My babysitter is on vacation this week so we needed my mother to come up and watch Ryan (my eight-month old son). But she was ill until today and couldn't do it. To make a slightly long story a bit shorter, with no other alternative, I had to stay home from work with him yesterday. My wife took today. I loved it, an entire day, just the two of us, my son and I. I'm reminded of that Will Smith cover. I had a honeydo list, but once those tasks were complete along with some loads of laundry we had some fun, playing around in the house, going out for lunch at McDonald's. I had a salad and Filet-O-Fish while he had a jar of Apples and Sweet Potato baby food. Mmmm.

As usual, the curious little guy was looking all around at all the people, most of which were teenagers off for spring break. I was trying to feed him but when he seemed too preoccupied with looking around the lobby I would back to my salad. Of course two seconds later I would heard him cry for another bite! We did this several times. It was cute. I really felt like a daddy yesterday, doing all these things for the child, getting his high chair, strapping him into the car seat, etc, with no help from mommy. Or the mother-in-law.

And as an added bonus, the weather was beautiful! The best day so far of 2005. The sun was out for the first time in a week and, even though the official temperature was 67 it felt like it was in the 70's.

In the AM hours we discovered a new game, where he lightly touches me with the TV remote control, I snap my head back as if he'd just slapped me with it hard, and he laughs and giggles about it. Also, I watched The Price is Right for the first time in years. God Bob Barker is looking old these days!

The afternoon was the best. We went for a walk. I strapped him into a stroller and out we went, enjoying the springtime weather! He hardly made a noise, just taking it all in, the sights, sounds, and smells of the neighborhood, coming alive after a long, cold winter: spring-breaking kids running around, people doing yard work for the first time since the fall, etc. It was nice taking my son out without having to put a coat on him or wrap him in a blanket.

I wish I could have days like that more often.

You downvoters can suck it.

Defensive, moi?

In another attempt to be given some work to do, I have just been over to the main building to follow up a message that a colleague gave me as she went off to lunch at about 12pm. She told me that one of the team leaders needed some files copying, so with a view to tying myself to the photocopier for the best part of an hour, I ventured over to see her. On my first visit she wasn’t there, but I did succeed in passing a box full of miscellaneous paperwork back to the big boss. I think that t'other boss wanted me to do more with it, but I forgot to write down her instructions on Thursday. Still, all the paperwork is his, so with him is surely the best place for it.

A hopeful look around on my first visit (this afternoon) didn’t yield any way to occupy my time, so I returned to my (current) desk and decided to introduce myself to Microsoft Binder. After playing with that for a short while, I thought it was time to hop back over into the main building and see if Angela had returned. Initially I didn’t spot her, but that turned out to be because she was behind me. As I stood talking to her about file copying, from behind me there came a gruff "excusez-moi, s’il vous plaît".

Realising that there was insufficient space for the speaker to get past me, I turned toward him and said, "Ooh, sorry" while moving out of the way. Angela also moved, although her original stance was less obstructive. Whether or not I looked overly confused at this point, I am unsure. The speaker stared at me, and said "Oh, right" and continued, explaining that his confusion was due to him thinking that I didn’t understand French.

I am not the most eloquent of French-speakers, and never claim to be fluent, but I can muddle through a basic conversation over buying a piece of cheese or bottle of wine with a native. I have done so a few times anyway. I commented that I could understand enough French to know what he was saying to me. Angela answered him with "I am sure she understands more French than you", and the man took umbrage. Bizarrely though, he directed his following self-righteously indignant comments at me rather than Angela. As I tried to walk past him, he said, "Well, how many languages do you speak then?" I answered that I spoke one fully – English – but could muddle through the basics in French. "German?" he barked? Yes, I can speak a very small amount of German. "Spanish?" No, no Spanish. "Italian?" I thought 'Mi dispiace, non lo so' but restrained myself to saying "A bit."

I had manoeuvered passed him by this point, and decided that I would leave this conversation before he got any more irate. As I edged away, he asked "But can you count in any of those languages?" French, I said, increasing the gap as I did. "Oh, everyone can count in French" he scoffed.

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