February 24, 2009

Simple, focal

A feeling of dread washes over me. And suddenly I’m afraid of everything. I’m scared of the dark. I’m scared of my shadow. I’m scared of strange noises. I’m scared of the silence. I’m scared of dying. And all around I see death in everything. Something is whispering in my ear. Not the low, guttural growls of horror movies, but in a tinny, high-pitched, almost silent scream. “Be afraid.”

March 26, 2009
I love you but you’ve chosen darkness

In times of trouble, we invent definitions of our desires as unique. We forget that somebody in this world, probably more than one, is sick of the person or situation we put on a pedestal.

We incorrectly believe wants are needs. We exaggerate the importance and the value of what we desire and choose pain as a sort of martyrdom. We abandon reason as the means to achieve our goals, and instead bask in the self-centered nature of depression. No other emotion can achieve the all-encompassing preoccupation with “the self.” It provides us with a state of almost complete self-absorption, a reward that is subconsciously so powerful it eclipses what our conscious minds want. It becomes our internal voice that repeats the myth of our lives we have created for ourselves. We believe this voice whether what it says is true or not, effective or not, self-destructive or not.

When ruled by our feelings, we are incapable of making clear choices let alone rationally reflecting on their consequences. People trapped in this cycle repeat patterns of counter-productive and self-destructive behavior. The tortured artist is the prototypical example. But even the word tortured incorrectly implies an outside source that is somehow in control. That pain is self-chosen.

April 13, 2009
Without it

Because, you see, honesty is not enough. And good will isn’t enough. And feeling. And kisses. And intention. And meaning. And, sadly, love is not enough. We get confused sometimes because all those things are present when the unnamed catalyst exists. But without it—IT! —these beautiful moments are just that furtive grasps at the divine, more bricks in the wall. All squares are rectangles. But not all rectangles are squares.

Easter eggs

I spend the night eating chocolate Easter eggs. Crunching through the candy shell and letting the sweetness slowly dissolve on my tongue. It’s comforting. The sweetness. I use it as a proxy for my longing. The gentle ache she represents. Understanding always that the presumption of any future is a slippery slope. And dangerous to delicacy. The chocolate dissolves before the shell and as I lay on my back with my eyes closed I smile at the metaphor.

The frailest of gestures

I open the door and I can smell her before I see her, that unique amalgam of Camels, Maybelline, and chardonnay. I find myself sometimes grabbing the short hairs near the back of her head to pull her smell to me, perhaps being rougher than I initially intend, because the urgency to have her inside me some way has become so strong. Of course, she shrugs me away. And with the frailest of gestures makes light of the heaviness of my movements.

May 1, 2009
Ridiculous and profane

Did I have to go there? I did. But there’s a good reason. You and I connect on such an intellectual level. I absolutely eat your brains. And I think you’re so fucking funny and interesting that I could listen to you speak for days. The mythical, perfect filibuster. That I don’t ever want to get too far off the road map to your being a woman. And a sensual being. And of the body. Corpus. Animus. Spiritus. So while this particular comment manifested in the profane, and perhaps ridiculous. It was rooted, and I do choose that word deliberately and carefully, in the fertile soil of absolute appreciation.

August 3, 2009
The actual ten commandments

The Ten Commandments
Exodus 3413-28

  1. Thou shalt worship no other god.
  2. Thou shalt make thee no molten gods.
  3. The feast of unleavened bread thou shalt keep.
  4. Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest.
  5. Thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the first fruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of in gathering at the year’s end.
  6. Thrice in the year shall all your men children appear before the Lord God.
  7. Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven.
  8. Neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of the Passover be left unto the morning.
  9. The first of the first fruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the Lord thy God.
  10. Thou shalt not seethe a kid [i.e., a young goat] in his mother’s milk.

August 29, 2009
Soliciting miracles from prostitutes

The public humiliation of any oleaginous preacher is usually cause for joy, but the fall of Ted Haggard, the poster child for self-righteous, hypocritical bastards, was sublime in a way that is often fantasized but rarely experienced. It happened almost three years ago in November 2006, but I still get school-girl giddy when I think about it. For those of you who don’t know the story, Ted Haggard was the founder of New Life Church in Colorado Springs and at the time was the president of the National Association of Evangelicals. He was also an active proponent of Colorado Amendment 43, the proposal to ban same-sex marriages in that state. The punch line, of course, is that days before the vote, it was revealed that for three years, Pastor Ted had been soliciting “massages” (I wasn’t there, but I believe that’s a euphemism) from…wait for it…wait….a male prostitute.

Unbelievably, it gets even better.

Haggard also admitted to purchasing crystal methamphetamine for research purposes from the same guy. Not to use, but for research. Wow. That may be the single worst lie in the history of lying. I think it would have been more believable if he said he was the reincarnation of Jesus and was taking a gay prostitute as his first disciple (having already represented the straight prostitute demographic with Mary Magdalene.) The press release practically writes itself. Jesus’ first alleged miracle (John 21-11, for those that care) was at a wedding in Cana where he turned water into wine. So it’s just a short leap in logic that the son of god would require a more modern psychoactive substance to reach today’s audience. And what better venue than a “massage” parlor in Denver to show the world that everyone was welcome? How better to bring glory to god? I think I missed my calling as a publicist.

The reformed apologist

It’s not out of place to read my opinions here. Some jokes. Mostly I enjoy inflicting theories, predominantly my own. And when I say “theories” in this context I mean unproven or unprovable hypotheses that are so consistent in correctly predicting an outcome that I regard them as true. The way evolution is true but still referred to as a theory. I guess I should qualify that last statement; when rational people refer to evolution as a theory they do so in this manner. Ibrahamic monotheists that believe their myths are verbatim transcripts to be read literally? Smirk.

In fact, the recent public “debate” about evolution (and the incomprehensible, but very real, need to refute creationist propaganda at school board meetings) was one of the key factors in my renewed rage against the religion. But, I’m afraid I may have for too long been an unintended (mostly apathetic) apologist. I wasn’t proactive, by any means, but in retrospect I feel a certain culpability in my silence. I treated so-called piety as a harmless form of denial. As long as they left me alone, l would do my best not to mock the ridiculous specifics of their belief system, or the fact that they had chosen to eschew thousands of years of human progress to instead embrace a violent, misogynistic, fear-based set of Semitic tribal fairy tales as the ultimate arbiter on questions of science, philosophy, morality, and ethics. But when their unsolicited involvement began to threaten private, independent lifestyle choices, i.e., porn, gambling, and booze—you know, necessities—I knew that I had been, in the parlance of the enemy, giving comfort to the wicked with my silence.

I resolved then to be more proactive in my refutation of their choices. They invent an unpredictable, omnipotent no-show for a supreme being, then take every opportunity to project their own blood lust, tribal bigotry, and neuroses on him, while simultaneously paying lip service to supposed ideals like faith, hope, love. The result? The deity character is so unrealistic that the early fiction writers who composed the poorly-edited anthology of testaments and gospels made a rare, wise choice to split him into three separate characters (father, son, and super ghost), and give each one a different part of the personality to represent.

Otherwise, the capricious violence, hateful cruelty and jealous possessiveness god exhibits throughout both testaments would be a hard sell for the supposed king of the universe. Even with that use of creative license, god still seems more of an asshole than someone you’d want to be with forever. You will have no other gods before me? If god were a person he would need a restraining order.

September 4, 2009
You have free will because I said so

My favorite example of god’s love was his willingness to brutally torture and kill his own son as a symbol of sacrifice. That’s a father-son story that really warms the heart. (Technically, it was the Romans with the literally dirty hands, but if you’re the supreme being of the known universe, I would assume you’d have some influence.) Sidebar isn’t this really stretching the definition of sacrifice? Is it possible for an omnipotent, omniscient being to sacrifice anything? Anyway, this unsolicited sacrifice was made under the pretense of saving mankind from its inherently sinful nature, and is used as a primary example of why you owe your obedience. If it is inherent, doesn’t it mean that the creator put it there? The disingenuous rationalization for this ridiculous give-and-take is a circular argument called free will. The gist of which is that this supposedly perfect being with infinite power has ceded control of the sliver of infinity that is your life. By definition I don’t believe free will is even possible within the context of a predetermined master plan. But for argument’s sake let’s make the huge concession, that in this situation, your choices are actually yours. To avoid damnation still requires unfaltering obedience, or any sort of reasonable doubt. The best explanation one can hope for in times of trouble? “It was god’s will.” Or my favorite, “god works in mysterious ways.” Which, of course, is just a catch-all for “I haven’t the foggiest fuck.”

Twenty, maybe thirty, commandments, each crazier than the last

A large majority of people that describe themselves as religious literally do not know what they believe in. Let that sink in. It sounds oxymoronic, but it’s true. I have a theory on this. Religious training is rarely a moment of epiphany. It is a patient, years-long inculcation. It is not a moment of conversion, but a life-long assimilation. For a person to self-identify as “religious,” therefore, means that his indoctrination was for the most part already successful. At this point what a person believes is no where near as important as who. Any successful brainwashing program does not measure success by the comprehension of ideology, but by submission to its authority. Obedience, and willful self-ignorance are far more reliable than accurate recall. If a person never truly understands a concept, but has been taught to accept its veracity, not only are others less likely to change his view with fact-based arguments, but he is also less likely to question his own beliefs.

Let me give you a real-world example. Most people that have gone to church their whole lives cannot name all ten commandments in order. In fact, if a person can name more than seven correctly, in any order, they are the rare exception. Rarer still is the person who knows that on three separate occasions Moses presents different versions of the Decalogue to the Israelites. The first set, and the one most people would recognize from the movie and Sunday school, are Moses’ impromptu recollection of god’s words after returning from Mt. Sinai. Humorously the version that relies on Moses’ memory is not even close to the ones that eventually appear on stone. The contents of the second set are, technically, never shared in the Bible because Moses gets pissed at the Israelites for creating idols and smashes the tablets on which they are written (Moses can’t take a piss without some asshole forging an idol and worshiping it). The third set, the only one specifically referred to as The Ten Commandments, would be unrecognizable to most. #10 in this version? “Thou shalt not seeth a kid in his mother’s milk.” (And, yes, they’re talking about a baby goat.) Timeless advice, isn’t it? Yet this is the supposed basis for the entire system of morality and ethics on which our society is built.

The depressing truth is that this is essentially the system that provides a large part of this country (and world) with some of its ugliest talking points. Given the deity’s description in the Bible it is a reasonable conclusion to believe that god actually does hate fags. (Why he’s been silent on more prevalent transgressions like ham, divorce, and multi-cloth garments, which are all unequivocally verboten, is anyone’s guess.)

With all this, believers are still not the only ones with culpability. Non-believers have been complacent. I am. It’s a common platitude for polite agnostics to say when referring to the Bible that, “It’s a beautiful book with bad interpretations.” Wrong. The problem is not the interpretation of the material, but the source material itself. Yeah, I said it. I have a suggestion for those of you that disagree. Read it. Cover to cover. No skipping to Christmas and Easter. The book suffers from far more than lapses in logic, difficult syntax, and enormous continuity issues. Like its main character, it is usually self-serving and often morally repugnant. Taken as fact by too many people, the outdated tome is systematic superstition, obfuscated by numbing ritual, and received with blind acceptance. It is the primary source of ideology for countless hate crimes and atrocities. It has and continues to inspire apocalyptic fanaticism, nonexistent next-world dystopias, and repressive theocracies, that thrive on fear, intolerance, and the truncheon.

Even if I have to do it myself, I’m calling bullshit.

In the past, my half-hearted attempts to be tolerant resulted in a disingenuous labeling protocol, i.e., the sheep were misguided rather than ignorant or malicious. Their brainwashing was so pervasive and their assimilation so greatly rewarded, that it hardly seemed fair to rage against the inevitable. No more. My new passive-aggressive strategy to defuse potential interference by this confederacy of dunces is to respond to their condescension in kind. To wit, when confronted with ignorance, I proceed to stare doe-eyed in the direction of the chosen one(s), slightly shake my head with quiet pity for their children; compliment their Orwellian ability to suspend disbelief; patronize the mantras they use in place of empirical evidence; act incredulous over their inevitable hypocrisy; and, take comfort in the fact that they don’t practice what they preach. They don’t even like it.

Exhibit A pornographic movie sales and rentals earn more than the entire output of mainstream Hollywood movies. I didn’t buy all 32,987 copies of Pocahotass.

September 13, 2009
The early favorite for best text of the year

Him I smell like blood and come and too much wine.
Her OK. You win best text of the day.
Him It’s only 530 a.m.
Her Trust me. You win.

September 20, 2009
Excuse me, I was choking on the irony

I have spent the last six hours in a Kafka-esque blur. I am attending mandated training meant to facilitate the mandated change in our corporate culture. The irony, of course, is that the exercise is a perfect microcosm of the culture that created it, and is a painful example of how badly it does need to change. It is reactive, amateurish, half-assed, dogmatic, inflexible, and boring. And that was just breakfast. Don’t get me started on the poorly defined non-sequiturs being touted as talking points of the cultural shift. Really, don’t. I keep secretly hoping we’re all being punk’d because the alternative is depressing on more levels than I care to think about.

One from the vaults 7 April 1998

I found this excerpt from my journal from 11 years ago. Can you feel the angst? And yes, all of my journal entries were written for a potential audience, with the explicit goal of being perceived as clever. To wit

Love, or more precisely the feeling that one is in possession of this emotion, is the decisive factor in determining the failure of an erotic relationship. And by this, I do not mean that failure is the result of some absence or inadequacy, but rather it is the mere presence of love that prescribes failure. So many of our resources are used in the pursuit of love, and the success or failure of this pursuit is so intertwined with how we define ourselves, that the day-to-day dynamic of most relationships present an emotionally unacceptable risk.

December 1, 2009
Buddha Lite

To call my knowledge of Buddhism shallow would be generous. Here is my exposure in a nutshell

1. I saw five minutes of the movie Little Buddha and when I realized Ted “Theodore” Logan was going to be representing the title character, I cleaned up the rivulets of pee then watched Spinal Tap for the 8,657th time instead. You should have seen what they wanted to use it wasn’t a glove, believe me. More rivulet cleaning. But I digress.

2. I think I tried reading Hesse’s Siddhartha after having to read his Steppenwolf for a class. I was surprised for as thin as that book is, it was literally impossible to finish. The word soporific was invented for Siddhartha. Or maybe it was for the movie, The Piano. The opening credits start running on that and my eyelids begin a two-lid race to my cheeks. I remember asking whatever girl was making me watch, “I heard Harvey Keitel shows his dick, wake me up for the that,” and that sounds more gay than it was intended, but, full disclosure, it is true and I did say it. (At this point my memory fails me. In recounting, I vacillate between thinking, I could have got a few more minutes of sleep and a few less of this movie, but the more likely memory is, If that was my dick I would have fired my agent for making me show it. And now I think Is it creepy that when Anna Paquin comes on screen I think about fucking her because of that scene in True Blood? The true answer to that question actually depends on where you’re reading this from. Back to the Buddha.)

3. Dalai Lama. He seems pretty cool.

4. I got another book called The Buddhist Way and when I’m all spiritual I imagine I can probably follow most of the rules contained therein with a few exceptions, of course. (Don’t worry, only monks have to abstain from alcohol and meat, and since I’m too old to get Kwai Chang Caine kung fu skills the idea of meditating all day was also summarily dismissed.)

So with apologies to the above here are my tenets
1. Suffering – This seems to be the main idea and sort of the most abstract to grasp. But it makes sense. Life is suffering. Fair enough. This suffering is cause by attachment to things. Because everything is impermanent it’s inevitable that you will lose everything, including your life. I don’t think I have the time or the inclination to get so Zen that I can self-immolate at a student protest and end up on Rage Against The Machine’s comeback album. And frankly my attachment to certain vices ain’t going to be meditated away. Paradoxically, taking the step of removing that middle-ground stuff actually makes it easier to do the small and large stuff.

Let’s use Scott Baio as our real-life example in reverse. Someone asked him what was his secret to having sex with most of the Playboy centerfolds and certainly all of the second-tier ones on the back pages circa 1985-2000. I’m sure he’s cracked a few for old times sake since then, but those were his golden years. His answer? You treat them like you know that somewhere outside the walls of The Mansion, there’s at least one guy that is so sick of her bullshit that he avoids her.

Now for the wannabe pseudo-Buddha you reverse it. Your girlfriend or wife or whatever leaves you. To get over this you focus on lessening that attachment by remembering that you weren’t the first one to plant a flag in her dirty bits so there’s gotta be at least 3 guys that only remember all the bad parts about her that you are also familiar with. She was always late, liked Harvey Danger, smoked meth for 12 out of the first 15 days of the month and when you were holding her still so she didn’t kick or scratch you again in her frenzy gets a tiny mark on her arm and you get arrested and she tells her friends your an abusive shit so she can fuck some other guy she’s been eye-balling on Facebook for the last two months and looking for an excuse to make you the monster so she can move into the empty half of his house and not pay rent like she did for three years with the ex- before you.

You know, whatever it was. Just concentrate on that. Still hurts don’t get me wrong, but it’s easier to see how many alternatives their really are.

2. Karma – Colloquially, everyone uses it wrong. Karma’s the next life, Baby! And since my pseudo-Buddhism rejects the supernatural aspects? No worries here.

3. Don’t hurt anybody or any animals except the ones you kill to eat.

That’s it. Next stop Nirvana.

December 16, 2009
Correlation, not causation

The tortured artist is one of the prototypical characters of modern pop culture, with examples across the spectrum of the creative process. And, it’s hard to articulate why this particular subset of artists grabs the yoke of people who struggle with mood disorders, but there is an obvious and tangible correlation. It’s not a coincidence that among my favorite artists are Kurt Cobain, Ian Curtis, Janis Joplin, and Hank Williams, all of whom were dead before age 30, by their own hands and choices. My favorite writers include Anne Sexton, Ernest Hemingway, and Sylvia Plath. Also dead by the ultimate self-medication. Radically different genres, but with a common thread of suffering; all singing in perfect pitch, but to the tune of The Truth The Dead Know.

Clearly, however, there is nothing inherent in the act of creation that causes the obsessive, all-consuming sadness, the hopeless, Sisyphean struggle between stillness and mania, the furtive grasps at integrity and other false nobilities, or the belief that darkness must be experienced to be communicated. These seem to be bad choices. More accurately, a series of choices that, paradoxically, become a self-fulfilling prophecy and are often at the root of suffering and despair.

December 17, 2009

Here, then, lay our reflections
Silent hymns to our complicity
The capricious change of heart and
The biases of memory
The rapture of despair and
The inevitable agony
Of off-white lies and furtive cries
And doe-eyed volatility
The promise of redemption
And shame at our complacency
Duplicitous omissions
That mock our claims of honesty
I burn for a reprise
Of our consumptive, common fallacy
The brief joy of our repose
From the familiar nihility
Those nonpareil moments
Of our rage against eternity

December 27, 2009
Condescending asshole disorder

Intermittent explosive disorder is a behavioral pathology that manifests as anger, sometimes rage, disproportionate to the situation at hand, immediately followed by deep remorse. For something that sounds like an awesome excuse for every impulsive stupidity ever committed, I can’t quite get behind a disorder that sounds so much like what it is.

Monica’s gift to Hillary, and the worst part about everything

My first instinct was to prolong my ignorance. I didn’t want to know. Claims to the contrary are invented or imagined. Ignorance was lonely, but bearable, and lacked the inevitable apathy and casual cruelty that seemed to be the fate of knowing. The paradox, of course, is that the sheer audacity, once understood, brought calm rather than the anxiety or pain I was expecting. We say we lie to protect the other person’s feelings, but really what we’re doing is avoiding our own discomfort and withholding the only thing that can actually help the other person.

I had the epiphany that so much of everything I thought was spontaneous was actually premeditated, and probably on a checklist. After all the cosmic promises there was no meaningful deliberation at the end. I looked, and hoped, but there was no sense of loss. No mourning. Just the calculated efficiency of a hired killer.

Sadly, our conspicuous, public proclamations of affection given in May eventually became a threat to her freedom, and all but predicted the invocation of the worst-case scenario. I did not even consider the possibility of it being used as an exit strategy even as it was happening all around me.

It was quick, it plausibly explained a change that couldn’t have been predicted, it minimized culpability, mitigated embarrassment about a widely misunderstood decision, it allowed the denial of proclivities, represented rebuttal as retaliatory, and generated enough disgust to preclude concern about a quick abandonment, casual divorce, and certainly no questions would be raised out loud about the apparent overlapping timelines of the replacement. Having seen what that lie looks from both sides now, I’m pretty confident I recognize it, coming or going.

I liken this experience to Hillary Clinton’s though admittedly without as large an audience and on a much smaller stage. At face value Monica Lewinsky is merely a material participant in a personal betrayal. But in so doing, gave Hillary something that no one else had been able to a situation that could not be denied and the opportunity to witness at close-range her husband’s willingness to save himself at any cost.

I expected a quick and merciless dispatch, and quicker rebound, having witnessed it in April. I expected duplicity in defense of reputation. I was shocked by all the lies. Others warned me of the possibility, but I disregarded them with the sincere belief that I wouldn’t have to consider it in my defense. Ignoring several chances to recant, a disconnect was revealed, so vast that I no longer had any urgency to reconnect it. Or even understand it. Like Hillary, the scope of the act and the subsequent breach in ethics has actually given me clarity and calm. Now that I know she will do anything to save the myth she has created, there’s nothing else to worry about. I have my first real consolation of the worst-case scenario

And for all that, it’s not even the worst part of everything. Individual sadness eventually subsides. But the irreparable damage to the collective belief in what is possible will probably never be made whole again. It’s difficult to believe that it even exists. IT! The unnamed catalyst without which not there can be no love or true faith. Need is not quite belief.

The fall of a person at every level, from an individual man to Man as we see ourselves when we are at our accomplished best, doesn’t usually happen in one calamitous plunge from the heights of glory. But rather, it is the little things we choose to do, by ourselves, when we think there’s no one watching, or when this one time doesn’t matter. It’s how the path of least resistance becomes the only way in or out, and the only way we know to go. We make small compromises, but in the most important places and the result is the slow-motion free-fall of our self-actualization. Eventually we end up lower than where we started. We look around, incredulous, as if being sprawled out on the floor required a fall from grace to get there.

Don’t tell them you’re bigger than Jesus

This is when you’re supposed to be depressed. At 345 am on the Thursday morning before Christmas, listening to Amy Winehouse explain You Know I’m No Good and Peter Gabriel tell you to keep Digging in the Dirt. But even at that point, I’m pretty sure the heavy stuff isn’t quite at it’s heaviest. You loved me and you’re not allowed to write. And still I write. And you are not allowed to say a word.

I spend Christmas day alternating. Vomiting blood, reading, writing. The guy blames the chick, the chick blames the snake. I’ll just blame the fucking snake. She hates me when she says, “I love Dylan.” And I say, “Dylan who?”

I stay out super late, put something a little stronger in my 7-Up then most people probably have and take it with me. I can see my pulse in my hands. My nose runs and bleeds. I’ve been seeing double. I’ve been having trouble reading small print. This life may be killing me, but I don’t know how else to live. Perhaps in a way everybody’s life kills them. Some a bit more painfully than others. I’d say my choices are about half way up that spectrum. No one is stabbing me or shooting me in the face. I still cry. I feel half awake most days. If you see me on my knees, I’m begging. I really did try to get close to you. I say I hate these kind of stories and you say, “But I know they’re true.”

Everything I was most scared of has manifest, with my complicity–at least–if not my outright choice. Is this place then an ultimate failure or a triumph of the will? I can endure what I was most afraid of? Something like a combination of both? I may never know the truth, but can’t face it. Did I go too far this time? It’s my own fault I’ve been to Hell.

I pray. That something watches and helps us be wise. Because I’ve lost my way.

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