60 Comments
May 19Liked by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin

This is brilliant Mary. I wish it could be mandatory reading.

"The young girl and the old woman are together, trapped in the warm, dark belly of an unseen beast that has swallowed them whole without leaving a single tooth mark, without disturbing a single hair on their heads."

This description, all the more remarkable for its ubiquitous playing out and full normalization. Goes right to the heart.

"There was no shouting or an attempt to run away; who flees from the invisible? Even now, they don’t feel compressed into confinement; to the contrary, they believe they are free."

Ouch.

"In this world, there’s no moist, hot breath of the beast’s innards, no pulse of a heartbeat not their own. There’s a logic, an urgency to this world inside the beast that overrides all that. In this narcotized new reality, they don’t miss the laughter and the shared intimacy of hair-braiding and jokes and card games; those memories are as remote as a past lifetime."

What an astonishing description of a full take-over of a human life. So many deep lessons embedded in this this updated fairy tale and its updated predator. A false reality imposed over actual reality, via screens and images and we've unwittingly said 'yes' over and over.

That the ex-prisoner is also the hero; he understands how prisons operate - the cherry on top of this delicious story.

And I just LOVE how easy it is to break out! Beautiful. Brilliant. Inspired.

May this story reverberate and ripple out far and wide.

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I'm so grateful, Kathleen. You've identified so many of the threads I attempted to weave in -- including the prison motif -- and your observations of those threads are filled with their own insights. It's so fun to write for someone like you!! Not that anyone has to dissect it to be influenced by it -- I really didn't write it for that. I wanted it to have broad appeal, to reach as many as possible through the power of story. I'm starting to think that's really the only option left.

Thank you for restacking it; if you can think of other places I could send it, do let me know. And thank you again for supporting and encouraging my voice. I so appreciate you.

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May 19Liked by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin

This has broad appeal - everyone will relate. Agree, we're swimming in someone else stories all the time. It's time we told our own.

I can see this as a chapter in a book with other well-known fairy tales, retold by you!

I will try to think about that,(where to submit) Mary. I'd love to see it take off.

Appreciate you too!

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Ooh... Your idea of retold tales TOTALLY resonates! Thanks for that!!

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May 27Liked by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin

Send it to "Wired" magazine!

Wonder if they will accept it!

On point well done!

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Thank you, Vinnie, for the comment and the suggestion! I'll check it out!

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Thank you for posting as a note which is how I came across it.

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Yes! Thank you, Kathleen!

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May 19Liked by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin

Excellent!

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May 19Liked by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin

Wow, a real live story teller. I was pulled along to end - which happens with only a minority of ss’s I read. So hear I sit typing my reply on the ‘Wolf’, and too shall have to continue pondering that fact. But we so so need stories, even if read this way…

(As an aside I laughed out loud at your genius in locating this dreadful home in a place called Boca Ratón - then I looked it up and found it exists - truth stranger than fiction!)

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I'm so glad the story captured you, Michael, even if I'm warning against screen capture. I'm hoping they balance each other out, cosmically!

Honestly, Boca Raton just popped itself into the story without my even thinking about it until I reread my first draft. Much of this story just fell onto the page like it was waiting for me. I love when that happens...😊

Lovely to hear from you. xox

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May 21·edited May 21Liked by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin

Thank you Mary, and you! It's conundrum, but I think your aspiration for a cosmic balance has some reality to it. I thought for a long time about all this, and the very fact that I'm a substack writer* reflects the conclusion I came too: It's not going away, so let's at least inject as much noble, honest and spiritually oriented content into the belly of the beast as we can. While we continue to look for ways of regulating our relationship with it. I made a decision (about a year ago) not to carry my mobile outside the house, and I don't. Odd considering it's supposed to be mobile, but there it is. A small step at least. Perhaps there will be more steps.

* albeit still on sabatical, while wrestling with my book manuscript. Have at least set myself a deadline of September to have it fully complete - but gonna try at least to get a couple of posts out before that! Hope your own writing project is flourishing!

xox

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I like that: injecting "noble, honest and spiritually oriented content into the belly of the beast." Let that work homeopathically on the beast's body!

Good on you for ditching the "mobile" part of the mobile phone. I'm doing more of that, too. It feels so damn freeing.

Go, Michael, go! You inspire me to recommit to my own stuff, which is coughing along in fits and starts. Thanks for reigniting the engine, so to speak! xox

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May 21Liked by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin

So happy to still feel such a shared sense of inspiration with you Mary. It is such a small thing, to stop carrying the phone outside the house, but it is a step. Using cash is another. As to your own efforts, it is possible you inject more homeopathy into the world than you know. I send my love, and let that be homeopathy for the wolf too, for he, through this wonderful platform introduced us

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Reading your words makes MY heart happy, as though you just opened a window onto a glorious vista. Thank you, friend. xox

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May 21Liked by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin

😊Life is good,despite everything.

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May 19Liked by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin

Strange too that I typed ‘hear’ instead of ‘here’ - I guess I was really hearing you).

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Love that!

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May 19Liked by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin

I didn't even get the Boca Raton until you mentioned it, Michael. Brilliant!

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May 19Liked by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin

👍

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If this were a play viewed widely, it would awaken many, young and old. Its stark imagery would raise awareness of the deadening influence of digital immersion. Like frogs in a slowly boiling pot, we didn’t realize a complete takeover of reality was occurring incrementally. Your inventive tale is not just an apt description of our new“narcotized reality” but also an insightful portrayal of its devastating effects on what is ordinary but most precious in life—moments of wholehearted presence and connection.

You remind us that we have a choice in the matter and need not get swept away by the black magic emanating from the screen in our palms. We can choose to be the master of tech, not its slave. We can unplug and go play outdoors, play cards, chat for hours…

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Thank you, Katie. I'm noodling on how to turn this story into another art form, and a play is right there at the top!

And you're so right on -- it's the smallest, most ordinary moments that are the most precious. A play like "Our Town" by Thornton Wilder is produced over and over, many decades after it premiered (1946) because it allows the audience to celebrate and remember the primacy of the ordinary. It's the not big events in our lives that we miss years later; it's the small, simple "moments of wholehearted presence and connection," as you beautifully put it.

I'm lucky to have had quite a few of those moments lately...😉

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May 27Liked by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin

An excellent "Black Mirror" episode...( modern day techno- Twilight Zone type series)

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May 19·edited May 19Liked by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin

Good Lord, Mary, this story gave me the creeps! It's more like a nightmare. You sure made your point though. How did you ever conjure up such a tale? Oh, that's right, you just opened your eyes and took a good long look at what was happening right in front of them. I think I need to watch a Colin O'L. video now to balance out that so-called fairy tale.

Clicking on your substack is like opening up a box of chocolates, "you never know what you're gonna get." But always something thought-provoking to be sure. Thanks, I think. xox

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I sense some discomfort with this particular piece of chocolate! I probably should have put a warning label on it. Next time...👍

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May 19Liked by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin

Not at all. You know what I meant. You're full of surprises as I've said before. Your writing is just so varied and interesting. I look forward to reading all of them. No warning label needed. Oy! Now you've got me wondering if I know what I meant???

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😂

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May 19Liked by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin

Painful. Poignant. I so want to offer live story telling sessions in those-lock-them-away 'homes'. But must first achieve financial resilience. The administrations won't pay for this therapy.

They stick them in the lounge after lunch to worship at the altar of The Flat Screen.

Norman Finkelstein commented when asked if he was in favour of Islam (another version of that hoary old chestnut question - Do you condemn Hamas) "No, there are aspects I do not support. But who are we in this society to pontificate? with the volumes of homeless on the streets, and our older relatives in 'care centres'? " There is a culture of familial, generational care and wisdom valued in Moslem homes that is noticeably different to the 'apartheid' policy of the West.

Here's to integration and enabling skills and - purpose - among the toddlers of the dawn and the toddlers of the sunset, with the mediation of all those in between.

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May 19Liked by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin

It's so rare that I open a Substack that tells a story. Thank you for that gift. Your descriptive powers are amazing, I recognized every element of the beige holding tank for oldies. And what a perfect analogy for being in the belly of the beast. I savored every word of it.

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"Beige holding tank" -- yep. Spent much of my youth in places like that, since my parents had me in their later years. What we do to the elderly is just criminal.

Thanks for the comment, Tereza!

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May 19Liked by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin

Ooof and hits close to home. Well said.

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Thanks, CM.

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May 19Liked by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin

There's so much to unpack here, Mary. You had me on the edge of my seat. Amazing writing. So many gems.

Your description of the nursing home/assisted living/whatever you want to call it made me physically ill. It only got worse when the big new screen appeared. I can't stand being in most public places anymore because they're everywhere. And not just one...no...multiples.

I'm so grateful I grew up without cellphones and big screen tv's. And yet, here I am, reading your wonderful essay on my laptop. I think we can all agree that maybe we don't need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. We surely need to be more conscious, get ourselves outdoors (and our children if we have them.) Turn them OFF. What a zoned-out world this is becoming because of the generations who have been raised on a steady diet of cellphones. And those of us, who were not, succumbing to the same numbing behavior.

On another note, I've always disliked the demonization of wolves, including in "Little Red Riding Hood." (Can I just say though how much I love "Lil Red?") Lo and behold, on the same day your post came out, this landed in my Inbox: https://open.substack.com/pub/suecartwright/p/the-wisdom-of-wolves-by-elli-h-radinger?r=qlcx0&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web 🐺 XO

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I'm sorry to cause you physical distress, Barbara! I think Rocket may have had the same reaction. Perhaps I need to put a disclaimer on it??

I agree 100% that babies don't need to leave with the bathwater; as always, it's all about BALANCE. The problem as I see it (and hear about it from my kids who are knee-deep in this culture) is that the younger generation can't see it as you and I do, because they've never lived without it.

And I also agree about wolves!! I read the same terrific post from Sue this morning, marveling at the synchrodestiny. They've gotten a bad rap, for sure, and I hope I haven't piled on. 😬

Thank you for the kind comment!! xox

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May 19Liked by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin

Oh my gosh, Mary! I was just visiting with a friend who has a ten year old and she was telling me horror stories about her daughter’s friends and how desensitized they all are. Her daughter doesn’t have a phone but what a nightmare school is etc. And guess what came up in the conversation? Wolves!! 🐺💕

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Horror stories abound. I guess that's why I felt this tale deserved a soupcon of horror as well!

I can't believe that wolves appeared in your conversation with your friend. Wow. Feels like a sign 🐺!

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May 19Liked by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin

Mary, I enjoyed reading this., I do not watch much tv, and most of that stuff on there is full of "F....

F-ing, F--ed up, F- you" etc etc a word that has so many uses - it is sort of the word "like" but much more versatile I suppose.

This is a sad story. I hope people are not really like this. Kids do not need phones. they are poison for most people, but so is the internets.

Poor gramma and Poor lil Red

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Thank you for the comment, Rosemary. Based on what I hear, people ARE actually like this -- which is why I felt compelled to put this story into the world.

I so agree with you. Poison.

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May 20Liked by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin

My sister in law talks like this regularly. It is annoying.

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May 19Liked by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin

Fantastic!

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Ah, that greedy + hungry phone/teevee wolf lit'rally wolfed down granny an' Lil'Red whole (their souls bein' the last nutrients to sap--they got close too!)-- so it's thanks to our fearless wolf "hunter" who shot that "unnatural" ani-mule dead that they'll all live happily ever after (wolf-less of course). 3 cheers for that hunter (cue Peter's theme too!--all strings!)

That alt ending without the hunter would be bad indeed as they'd both be digested...worn away...over time (purdy Cukoo's Nestian... tho' poor Randall didn't win....Chief just made sure that the rest of them didn't either--yer "Father" is kinda like Chief...)

All them that feed the wolf.... "charge it"--give it pats an' apps--however ignorant or well-meanin'--seem guilty to me as well--Nurse Ratcheds with a perky efficatiousness an' desire. for. total. control.)

Tech indeed is a wolf that HOWLS with hunger.... for us. May we hope them howls don't keep wearin' folks down....an' may we use our own pocketbooks ta "starve the danged beast" (or like old fashioned grannies, hit 'em with their purses!)

thanks Mary fer sharin' this cautionary tale fer these truly ravenous times!

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Well said, Daisy. Your points about feeding the beast mirror my own; I especially like the Nurse Ratched reference and the phrase "perky efficatiousness"! Those petty, sinister tyrants really are the ones to watch out for, PARTICULARLY their well-meaningness!

Thanks for the comment, friend! xox

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I know I know--an' oh the irony--they are supposed ta "nurse"--which we associate with nourishment, loving care, an' instead they wear angelic white an' deliver (too often) harm--an' too many that "go along to get along" nurse (so ta speak) these same agendas...

As they say, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions" (we need far fewer of 'em!)

o's back at'cha!

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May 24Liked by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin

Excellent!! Thank you!!

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May 20Liked by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin

Earlier in my life...before I turned to food as a profession, I worked in telecommunications. This was the late 80s and into the early 90s. I was in upper middle management for a large corporation, and my job was building a data over voice network on the newly developing cellular network. It was exciting and certainly a lot of fun. But even then...and despite our wildest forecasts for mobile telephony, I never fantasized or considered how much those little handheld devices would take over people's lives. After ingesting your story, I feel slightly guilty...slightly responsible for helping to crack open Pandora's box...

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Oh, Jack. I can understand that twinge. I feel similarly about doing commercials when I was an actor in NYC many moons ago. I told myself at the time it was okay as long as I "believed" in the product, but looking back, there's not one product I shilled for that I feel good about now.

But I have come to believe that my time in the commercial world was actually well-spent. It gave me insights about the nature of propaganda and the need to question everything the media dishes out -- two qualities I value highly, and qualities I believe are helping me do what I do now. Could I have written Lil Red without them? I'm not sure...

I wonder if, similarly, there are lessons learned from your time in telecommunications that are serving you now, that allow you to bring healing into the world more effectively? 🤔

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May 21Liked by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin

Interesting points, Mary. I have yet to thoroughly explore how my time in telecom affects me today, positively and negatively. I guess I am more cautious with gadget addiction than most, but then again, I still fall prey to the siren call of a flashing notification...

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Yes! I don't think even Odysseus could resist this new version of that call! 😳 (Hang on, there's yet another fable/myth that lends itself to modernization... Hmm...)

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May 22Liked by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin

I look forward to that new interpretation - I will be sure to set my notifications and wait, wait, wait... 😉

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May 19Liked by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin

Dang, Mary, I’m reading this on my phone… 😬

I think it’s possible to find a happy medium. I get it. We get sucked into this other reality that turns us into zombies with deaf ears to the world and people around us. But just maybe, if you feel a genuine sense of belonging, if you have an insatiable curiosity, if you give your attention in a balanced way, it’s possible to use technology as a tool without becoming its slave. Heck, I read this on a phone right now and I got goosie bumps when the father made that promise so your masterful story telling reached out through the aether and created a visceral effect. And that ain’t nothing. ❤️

Not to say that your point about the shit fuckery of distraction killing out society went over my head. Makes me so sad to see kids at the playground sitting in a corner on their phones.

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I think it's possible too, and as I said to Barbara S, it's far easier for us to find that happy balance than it is for the children/teenagers/young adults who've never known a different world, and whose neural pathways have been totally rewired during their most formative developing years. I've heard so many horror stories from my kids that I'm on a bit of bender to shake adults up -- not for themselves, but for the children.

My daughter Maddie just told me a few days ago that some of her peers are so socially terrified -- having never had to interact directly with anyone -- that they have therapy sessions with therapists OVER TEXT. As in, a phone conversation is literally too uncomfortable.

I've also read a bunch of stuff lately, that gets me all riled up. Here's just one outstanding article: https://www.afterbabel.com/p/degrading-effects-of-life-online

I know it's harsh, but I'm to the point where I want to say to the parents in restaurants I see propping their toddlers up in front a phone, "Would you give your kids cocaine? No? A phone can eff them up just as badly."

Your vision of using tech "as a tool without becoming its slave" is the right vision to have, I totally agree. Clearly we're on the same page -- I'm using the very same tool to create those "goosie bumps," and to write this response to your excellent comment. But you and I have the luxury of having grown all the way up in the real world -- with the exception of lost hours in front of The Munsters and the like. 🙄 These kids don't have that luxury, unless adults create it for them.

Okay, I'm done ranting. For now. 😅

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May 20Liked by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin

Yeah, I suppose I’m coming from a narrow analogue perspective. Easier for me to put the phone down than the kids who don’t know a different world. 😢 covid def effed them up even further so the preferable mode for comms is now entirely digital.

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100%. It's a slow-mo train wreck. Like so much else. I keep reciting platitudes like "it's always darkest before dawn!" to soothe myself 😕

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May 20Liked by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin

😢 I like that you’re using creativity to shine light on the issue. It reaches deeper than preaching.

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As you do so well yourself!

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Thanks for the restack, Cinoates!

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Amen! 🙌

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