Monday, February 27, 2012

Two Things, One Being the Monoculture

First, a bit of a product endorsement.  

Steven Blassingame and his Aspire products have been around for 16 years, but they were new to me when I found Steve on LinkedIn.  He was looking for outlets for his natural animal care products, and was kind enough to send me samples of his Pond Water/Stock Tank cleaner and his natural equine shampoo.  It's been too cold to start shampooing yet, so that review will have to wait, but the tank cleaner has had ample time to do battle with the crud that grows in my 100-gallon tanks in direct sun with de-icers helping the bacterial growth to full bloom.  

After about a month of regular weekly use, I can honestly say that my experimental tank is far cleaner than it's ever been before, and it puts the untreated tank to shame.  The untreated tank is slimy, yucky-smelling, and has to be dumped and scrubbed once a week.  The cleaned and treated tank went three weeks without requiring any additional care.  

The untreated tank with yuck intact

After three weeks the tank above required cleaning again, but it was still in fairly clean condition, so I will be buying more of this natural tank cleaner come spring time when the tanks blossom with all the bird droppings and dead bugs to feed the growth.  Thanks Steve!  Can't wait to try the shampoo on the brown crud caking my white mare's coat.  Now, there's a test!

 Monoculture:  How's Your Story Coming?

A few posts ago I talked about your personal mythology and how it affects your horse life.  This time around I want to add a book recommendation:  Monoculture:  How One Story is Changing Everything This isn't a horse book.  It's a sociology/psychology/cultural anthropology book that I am sure will wind up a staple on the shelves of well-read humans.  I knew after the first chapter that R.S. Michaels was speaking straight to me.  She had me at the opening quote from Ben Okri that says, in part, "Beware the stories you read or tell; subtly, at night, beneath the waters of consciousness, they are altering your world."

Oh, yeah!  I read this passage while I was waiting for my favorite hair stylist, Jen, to finish her client and take on my whiny, miserable head and my endless quest for Good Hair Days.  Jen has the patience of a draft horse and the horse experience to understand when I say I need my cut to fit flush under my riding helmet.  As I bitched and complained about my rotator cuff, the lump on my head from the tumble off the hay bale, the piece of my thumb I removed taking the new chef's knife out of the package, and my hair that seems to be turning in to feathers, she matched me fuss for fuss with her knee surgery and other bits of her life's trials.  Between us we were battling one hell of a story, and I realized that when I stuffed my new head into my car for the ride home.

The story she and I are battling is the Youth Story.  It's part of our current culture almost as securely rooted as the Religion Story and the Science Story, but more personal.  Jen and I are would-be outliers who truly want to buck the trend and be amazing into our later years.  Mine are much later than  hers, so my story is harder to swallow.  My story includes tales of triumphs past and lies about future plans.  It includes notations about the economy and the state of healthcare in this country.  It has illustrations from books I've read and written and is firmly based in some sort of fictional twist on reality.

I'm not finished reading the Michaels book, but I want to offer this passage about the Economic Story for your consideration in light of your own stories:

"You are the sole and final authority on your preferences.  Though what you want and prefer can be shaped by advertising, tradition, a changing context, or your own experience, the economic story maintains that you know yourself, you know what you prefer, and you know whether or not you were satisfied with what you chose the last time.  That may not always be true, but that's how the story goes." (p.12)

Now, that passage is meant, as I said, to define the economic story, but it applies equally well to all the various stories of our lives and our culture.  And I can't help but think that, really, I have no clue what I want.  Or if I do, I've covered it in so many layers of defining characteristics from the social structure of my world that I can't really see it anymore.  

I'm sure there's a truly fascinating story behind this.
The stories Michaels is defining are not the picayune stuff that defines my personal sphere.  She's talking about the Big Stories that our national and global cultures use as their underpinning and how they often conflict with our personal sensibilities.  The current war between the Religion Story and the Economic Story (with public forays into the Mental Illness Story) is clear on the front pages of newspapers around the world.  And those, too, have an impact on my sphere.  I'm suffering a distinct malaise (or possibly a stomach virus), and reading about the Stories being touted by the crazies who are vying for control of the sectors of our society isn't helping my recovery one bit.  The Big Stories are clearly available in the microcosm of the horse world, from the economics of the biz (the story that horse culture is strictly bottom-line-directed), to the religion of rescue (God wants us to shepherd our fellow critters) and management, to the social aspects rife with vanity and competing strategies (I look better in breeches than you do in jeans, and my horse breed has prettier hair than yours, and I'm all about Natural while you're all about Stupid).  And for us Outlier Hopefuls, they are anathema.  We independent types believe we can avoid the monoculture and live a life that is "true", and often we "disappear without a trace" (p. 116) as our "parallel structure" hasn't got the social legs to make a ripple in the face of the overwhelming adherence to the accepted Story of the Day. 

I've read a few chapters now, and I'll finish the book, and that means I'm going to know something I didn't know before and be forced to apply it to my life, horse and otherwise.  I'm hoping this will be a good thing.  A better thing perhaps than some of the other things I've applied like the belief that one more bit/saddle/pad/pair of stirrups/lesson/video or audio book will make me the horse person I'd like to be.  And it will possibly make me think about why, if being a Person of Horse is so vital to my story, I fantasize about being a princess in languorous repose on a beach somewhere when I don't even like to sit on beaches, hate sand in my pants, and much prefer sleeping in a comfy bed to anything having to do with sunburn, even if there are Mai Tais involved.  With little umbrellas.  And a cabana boy.  

I suspect a new perspective will result.  One can only hope!  The old one is forcing me to buy an unreasonable number of hair products that I don't know how to use and make excuses for why I'm not an Olympic-level rider.  Anything will be an improvement, I'm sure. 

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