Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "No Measure of Health"

This poem is from the April 19, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] shiori_makiba, [personal profile] chanter_greenie, [personal profile] alatefeline, and [personal profile] siliconshaman. It also fills the "half-life" square in my 4-19-16 card for the [community profile] genprompt_bingo fest. This poem belongs to the series An Army of One.

"No Measure of Health"

They arrived all at once,
in a lifeboat meant to hold
twenty people for a few hours
that had held eleven for weeks,
towed behind Short John's ship.

Janus alternated between
dramatic highs and lows of emotion
that lasted for a week or two each,
preferring to work when he felt up
and rest when he felt down.

Similarly there were two people --
a blind woman named Idalia and
a sighted man named Zyan --
who had no circadian rhythm
and saw no reason to wreck
their health just to conform
to social expectations.

Wael shouted obscenities
once an hour or so, although he
excused himself to the bathroom
whenever he felt the need to do that.
Novalie could speak, although she
couldn't remember the right words,
so she chose not to speak, and
her husband Taj respected that.

Pi had dyspraxia, which made him
wobbly on his feet, and also affected
his thought patterns, the chaotic leaps
giving him insights beyond the ordinary.

The last four were a family:
Verena, the pilot who had cobbled
a navigation system into a lifeboat
her husband Darmid, a teacher;
their three-year-old daughter Mair;
and their four-year-old son Tyson,
who could not sit still unless he was
concentrating on something that
captivated his attention.

Weavercreep and Operetta
looked at each other. Then
they looked at Short John.
"What is going on here?"
Weavercreep asked him.

"Epizygis is driving people away,"
said Short John. "Refugees are
scattering across Orion space.
I picked up this bunch riding in
a lifeboat rigged to travel under
its own power -- and they said
they wanted to come here."

"We heard it was a better place
for people who don't fit in,"
Verena said. "It's worth a try."

"You could have all died
trying to run a lifeboat
like that," Short John said.

"It worked," Verena said.
"Besides, better to die free than
wait until government sanctions
turn into actual executions."

"Exactly what are they doing
down there?" Operetta said.

"They're trying to stamp out
the 'undesirables.' There's nothing
wrong with my son. He just doesn't
tolerate boredom well," said Verena.
"He's four! Of course he's a little ball
of energy. Maybe he'll grow up to be
an athlete or an emergency worker.
I'm sure he'll find some way of putting
all that extra energy to good use."

"Don't worry, we'll find our own ways
of teaching him," said Darmid. "If it's
emergency work he wants to learn, well,
I did a round of that before I settled on
teaching as a better job for a family man."

"Did you, now," said Operetta.
"We could use both of those skills."

"We don't have enough kids
for a school," said Weavercreep.

"We will eventually," said Operetta.
"If we keep having sex, sooner or
later, babies will come out."

Weavercreep blinked, like
that was a thought which
had not occurred to him yet.

"It's just weird," he said,
"all these people arriving
at once like this."

"If you think this is weird,
you ain't seen nothing yet,"
Short John said. "I heard that
Cruiser Falconwing P42 has
picked up a kid, sounded like
maybe twelve-thirteen years old
over the comm, and they won't split.
They're adopting each other."

"A child pilot?" Verena said.

"What, you're implying that
the AYES wouldn't make
a good parent?" Operetta said.
"Falconwing can't do much worse
than my parents did. They may be
human, but they did a corroded job
of raising me. It's why I left."

"Yeah well, if anyone wants to try
prying Bexley out of Falconwing,
it's gonna take a loooong crowbar,"
said Short John. "She's really gotten
attached to that ship, and vicey-versey."

"What do you want from us?"
Weavercreep asked the refugees.

"We just want a chance at a life,"
said Zyan, "not a half-life, not
a miserable existence wondering
if someone's going to come
and kick down the door."

Well, that's pretty much why
a bunch of people had decided
to stay in the Lacuna after
the War had ended.

"What do you think?" Weavercreep
said, turning to Operetta.

"I think," she said, "that it is no sign
of good health to be well-adjusted
to a profoundly sick society."

"All right, then," he said, and
turned back to the little crowd.
"What do you need? Do you want
to stay together, or split up? What can
you do to contribute to the survival of
the Lacuna? Because you should know,
we're a bit on the edge here."

"I'm a burst worker," said Janus.
"I can do a ton of stuff all at once,
and I'm good at most basic tasks --
I usually work at a stardock. When
I'm crashed, I don't take up much
in the way of resources, either."

"Zyan and I are pretty much the same,"
said Idalia. "I work with audio files, like
transcribing data or sorting music. Zyan
is a tinker; he likes to build or repair things."

Wael was a clerk. Novalie was an artist,
and her husband Taj had run a gallery.

Weavercreep nodded and took notes.
Clearly the Lacuna was coming out
ahead on human resources.

"I don't have a regular job," said Pi.
"People just bring me problems and
I solve them. I have to find ways of
working around so much already, it's
just second nature to me, and I have
a totally different perspective so I
think of solutions other people don't."

"We have an endless supply of
problems here," said Weavercreep.
"You can help us figure out how
to survive in the middle of nowhere
between two Arms who hate
both us and each other."

"I'll look into it," Pi promised.

"I think we'd like to stay together,"
said Verena. "We've been through
a lot already, and now we all need
to fit ourselves into a whole new place.
That might be easier if we have others
around us going through the same things."

"There's that corridor where Bottleneck
lives," said Operetta. "He has a daughter.
Some other folks have moved out because
they don't want to live near a toddler, and
the rooms weren't all full to begin with."

"It will be good for the children to have
someone to play with," Verena said.

"Then welcome home," said Operetta.

* * *


"It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society."
-- Jiddu Krishnamurti

Refugees flee their homes for many reasons. There are ways to help them.

Neurodiversity is the premise that many conditions (such as the autism spectrum, bipolar personality, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Tourette syndrome, anomic aphasia, dyspraxia, circadian rhythm sleep disorders, and others) are not illnesses but rather part of the normal range of human mentality. They just look "wrong" because they are minorities. The scapegoating of mental illness, or diversity, causes many problems. Understand the principles and benefits of neurodiversity. Much of the potential lies in niche construction -- finding out what you do well and then building a life around that, while minimizing the things you don't do well or simply despise.

Bipolar personality oscillates between extreme high and low moods. Some people find this emotional roller coaster miserable, and choose to flatten out the curve with medication. Other people feel that medication sucks all the experience out of life, and prefer to manage the challenges in other ways.

Circadian rhythm sleep disorders
include non-24-hour sleep wake disorder. There are treatments for it, but forcing your body into an externally determined cycle tends to exhausting and marginally effective. People who follow their body's innate cycle tend to fare better. This is one of those "disorders" that's only there because of outside demands. It doesn't cause concrete problems like insomnia on its own -- those come from trying to match someone else's cycle.

Tourette syndrome features involuntary tics of verbal and motor control. Shouting obscenities, or coprolalia, is not the most common type of tic but is among the most dramatic -- and thus, harder to hide and more likely to get someone ostracized. A significant number of people with TS can feel the urge building, and suppress it until they reach a safe place to let the tic loose; but that only buys time, doesn't make the need go away. There are ways to cope with TS, including the challenges of ticcing in public. Know how to support a friend with TS.

Anomic aphasia is a linguistic malfunction that makes it hard to find the right names of things. Here are some communication tips to work around it. Some people with serious speech impairments choose not to speak, which overlaps with a bunch of other issues and has not been handled at all well historically. If you're really terrible at something and you hate doing it, you should not have to; there are usually other options.

Dyspraxia includes a variety of motor and organizational challenges that make everyday life a constant puzzle. The coping strategies for children and adults sometimes leave people with exceptional problem-solving skills.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder entails low tolerance for boredom and stillness. It is greatly exacerbated by conditions that expect people to do a lot of those things. They need to move around a lot, and they need engrossing activities. So it's only a real disorder when it prevents them from focusing on things they want to do. There are tips on handling it for parents of ADHD children and for adults with ADHD.

Epizygis comes from this ballista plan.

In theory, eugenics is the practice of improving a breed or species. In practice, it's mass murder. It particularly targets people with disabilities or other unpopular traits. Here are some effective ways of counteracting those problems.

Creative problem-solving involves a variety of skills and steps. Here is a lesson and some tools for improving your ability in this area.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, science fiction, weblit, writing
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