Insanity isn’t What I Thought it Was

Sup everybody.

(Hmmm…word of warning up top: this one is a little heavy. I was going through some of my random files and found the following. It was deep into a really tough life event (about a year ago), and is basically a diary entry from then. I’m mostly putting it on here as…well, going on whim, really; but also in case it resonates with anyone. I’m going to omit some names, given the nature of the thing, but otherwise, it’s just something I sat down and typed out as the feelings arose. Anyway, consider yourself informed [sounds less dramatic than “warned,” and we’re trying to have fun here- well, not today, exactly, but just in general and you get what I- oh God, okay, onto the thing]).

I think I might be going insane.

It’s been about seven months since mom went to the hospital, and about that long since we first heard the word “dementia” as it relates to her. Since then, it’s been neurology visit after neurology visit, insurance call after insurance call, email after email with hospital management – everybody either not knowing what to do or trying to get rid of us.

I just woke up from the same nightmare, three times in the same night, and bawled my eyes out.

I cried for an hour.

In it, mom died, the bank wanted to take her house, [landlady] said she couldn’t keep me as a tenant, and nobody was around – Mandy, [uncle], [aunt], [cousin], [in-law], [in-law], [aunt], [Pierre], even city workers from the damned coroner’s office – absolutely nobody.

There were people, but no one I knew and no one who was willing to help.

I was utterly alone.

And I woke up feeling that way, thinking that way.

Mandy came to bed when I called and lie there, consoling me. I told her the voice in my head kept telling me that the dream was right, that no one would miss me if I was gone. She told me that I was loved and listed people who felt that way.

In the nightmare, though, that was just the thing. Nobody was around, nobody cared. And all the people who would love me…the feeling just didn’t go that far. Nightmares have always been that way: I need to run, I’m slow; I need to punch, I hit light as a feather; I need love, the most someone can feel towards me is casually like me.

It was a world where love towards me just didn’t exist.

Every name she gave, the voice found a way to tell me why that wasn’t true. (Except when she said “Jeremy”. Weirdly, the voice said “Yeah, I guess him, actually”.)

She told me that I was family, and that her family was mine too, that I needed to let go of this feeling that I’d be so easily abandoned. She gave [a sibling] as an example of how persevering her family was with troubles.

Again, the voice piped up and told me that that was different. [A sibling] is family by blood, it said. Of course they won’t abandon him, it continued, he’s a son and brother by blood – you, though…?

“Even marriage,” it said, “is different.”

It seems true for everyone else, I tried telling it.

“For them, yeah. But for you…?”

I went from crying to laughing into her chest and shoulder. And I’m not sure why. I think it was because I could see how crazy this all looked and sounded, and the laughing didn’t help but kept going anyway.

When we had to put Ferdinand (our cat) down a couple of years ago, it was the reminder of how harsh but sure a teacher experience can be – or rather, just is.

I stood in the bathroom and she brought me a glass of water and a hug. After she left, I swirled the water around and drank it. And I think I know why people prefer the burn of whiskey or scotch in moments like that, like in the movies.

I’m starting to wonder when people describe voices in their head, whether they mean actually hearing someone speaking to them inside their head or if it’s impulses or thoughts that just don’t sound like what they’d usually think to themselves. Foreign ideas and concepts that feel like invaders.

Because this voice was fully the latter.

But boy it was convincing. And I think that’s because it sounds like I’m talking to myself, telling myself things. But it still sounds like a voice that’s not mine.

So I’m starting to think that’s what insanity is. It may not just be a sudden crack into mad raving, but soft touches like this, a voice that tells your low worth, how easily you’ll be forgotten, and that if you confide this in anyone, that gives them power over you and they might use it just for fun, because they know they have it now.

The more I woke up, though, the quieter the voice got – which isn’t really a super sign in and of itself. You shouldn’t be afraid of sleep, afraid of whatever-this-is waiting for you when you’re tired. But as I woke up, another voice spoke up that told the first to shut the fuck up.

It told me that I’m not the only who gets like this, and I believe that.

Which is both comforting and kind of scary, isn’t it? I don’t want the people around me to wake up crying and then cackle about it, and to have that be something normal.

But se la vie.

Which is what the voice said next. “That’s part of the human experience, baby. Learn to love it. Happiness, anger, thrill, depression – they’re all in the same basket.”

It didn’t say the parts past “baby”, but I know it’s what it meant.

While I was crying into Mandy’s shoulder, I told her something. Something very true that I don’t think I’ve told anyone – even myself.

I’m afraid of dying alone.

Not “dying while single” or “dying and not being in a relationship” or even “dying with nobody around at that particular moment” even though they’re all definitely true.

I’m scared (ironically to death) of dying and nobody caring.

Then my team of mental coaches – Deadpool, Kevin Hart, and Kratos – ganged up and beat up the voice in a cartoon dust cloud.

And I’ve been pretty optimistic and comfortable in my skin since.

Also, because I think I learned something.

When I was a kid, I thought going crazy was scary, but maybe a little fun. I thought you’d get used to seeing people that weren’t there or hearing voices no one spoke and you could just make it a fun new world view.

But I think insanity’s a little softer than that and a LOT more intimate.

We’re all a little bit insane.

Or at least part of me hopes so.

Brute Force and Ignorance, a Formula for Life

I stumbled across an old picture of my uncle Barry the other day. He passed away about ten years ago, but he was so warm and larger than life, it’s amazing how just a glance at an old photograph brings back memories that were the same. He died of pancreatic cancer, but it doesn’t define his memory, if that makes sense.

We were in the hospital with him one day when he was having his chemotherapy done, and while you’d think the impressions that would last longest would be the intangibles – the sterile odor of the halls, the somber atmosphere, the sad attempts at making light – but they weren’t. The first thing I think of is a picture he had me take with my phone of him using one of those long, blue, plastic vomit bags propped up on his lap, inflated, to look like a big dick. (He dubbed them elephant condoms.) I left that day reeling from how fearless and strong he was. Tired, obviously, but undaunted amid a battle with cancer. And it only just occurred to me now, a decade later, that he might have been scared. That after we left and the door closed behind us, maybe he let out a sigh, or cried, or had to go back to wrestling with being scared, or whatever else.

He put on such a strong, happy, joking face, it’s been ten years without realizing there may have been more to it…

Hmm…pretty incredible.

He was this big Jewish guy. Salt-and-pepper beard, big glasses, bigger, round belly, and a deep, breathy laugh that filled whatever space he was in (even outdoors). He had such a powerful charisma that was just at home toasting a room crowded with friends and family as it was holding a conversation with you as though you and he were the only ones that existed in that moment.

I could ramble for hours on all of his beautiful qualities, but I won’t hold you here for the day and a half that would take. Rather, there was one nugget of wisdom he offered when I was ten, just after he’d helped my mom find the house that became my childhood home. My dad had passed away the previous year, and Barry was gifting me a little gray toolbox, saying something to the effect of: “You’re man-of-the-house now, kid. And this is a pretty good place, but you gotta help your mom take care of it, alright? Here, take this. Every man needs a good set of tools. Every man.”

“Now,” he continued, “there’s something else to go with it, and that’s some advice. With it, and with these tools, there ain’t no problem that comes up you can’t tackle, alright? Just remember: ‘Brute force and ignorance, when applied in the proper proportion, will solve any problem.'”

The hilarious thing? He was right.

We all have a tendency to overthink, from time to time. We get into a problem, get into a jam, then get too far inside our own heads. It’s kind of like earthbending, for my fellow Avatar: The Last Airbender nerds out there, in so much that sometimes there IS no special trick or angle to getting through something. Sometimes what you need is just a goal and some good old-fashioned hardheadedness. In that, we set both Brute Force and Ignorance to High.

Other times, we might need a different approach, say approaching a personal matter with a friend. In those times, you need to be direct, blunt, firm, but selective. That’s keeping Brute Force high, but utilizing Ignorance a bit less.

Overthinking an itinerary or what should be a simple day to the beach? No real call for Brute Force, there, but crank Ignorance up so you can just fucking go where the wind takes you, rather than getting so caught up in details that do. Not. Matter.

The ratios and applications are as endless as life’s problems, but whatever the case, the formula holds true: “Brute Force and Ignorance, when applied in the proper proportion, will solve any problem.”

It’s also an excellent tool for keeping your head up and staying the course. Stuck on something? Multiple attempts failing one after the other? You KNOW all you have to do is adjust the formula and keep cranking.

Anyway, that’s about it for today. I hope this is something you can and will take with you. I think I have a resting place to go visit.

Go in peace, go in love, y’all.

Later.

A Moment of Rambling Reflection…and then some Nonsense (feat. Ron Perlman)

Happy Thursday, everyone! What’s good? What’s new?

I’ve managed to make it a little more than a year since leaving my full-time job. Would likely have been longer, but life never goes as planned and that’s alright. But over the past twelve months, I was able to sell two whole stories, start this lovable pet project, treat my better half to a memorable anniversary, and handle (mostly) the maelstrom that was my mother’s sickness – got her house sold and she moves in a few weeks.

So, while certainly different from the Hakuna Matata, coffee house Bohemia I’d imagined, it’s been several times more rewarding; especially when I think of where things might be if they happened after my year was up. It is funny to think, though, that after 163 submissions to date, two have landed (of course not counting those which are still pending; full of my hopes, dreams, and sweet kisses). But from what I’ve been told, that’s a more common story than one might think. One might think, as I have, rightly so, I’d imagine, that if you attempted something 163 times and only succeeded twice – swung at bat, shot a basketball, threw a pass, baked a pie – you pretty objectively suck at baseball, basketball, football, baking, whatever. But that’s just…not quite the case with writing. In fact, two hits inside those first hundred attempts is a deceptively fast start; especially when done independently, outside of any organizations, clubs, or associations.
It…can be hard to keep that in view, however.
In the same way, in the day and age of Instagram or Twitter followers only ever mattering when counting by the million, every time I punch a key (like right now), I imagine the sizable crowd of 40 brave souls that clicked the Follow button on this humble blog out in my front yard.
I’ll bring the sappiness to an end by saying that you guys make me feel like a king.

So thank you for listening to a poor sap ramble and spin stories about made up things.

So…the other night, I had a dream that Ron Perlman beat up my problems for me.

It was great. Not like I just went around town pointing at things I didn’t like and The Ron would strafe over and hit it with a straight right. We were in a Coliseum like the Roman times, dressed in modern day attired and without weapons. The gates lifted and out walked these monsters, all shadowy and black, but with labels in white lettering on their chests.

One, a hulking minotaur-looking thing with wriggly squid arms, runs up and tries to th’wack me. It’s labeled ‘Credit-Card-Debt,’ and Ron Perlman dives out of nowhere and plants his boots on its cheek, putting it in the dirt. Next up comes ‘Phone-Calls-from-the-Hospital,’ and it resembles a sumo wrestler with a jackal’s head. It charges, but doesn’t get very far before The Ron gives it a step-in elbow followed by an uppercut that puts it in the stands. “Ron! Help!” I shout, as ‘Check-Engine-Light-that’s-been-on-Forever’ grabs me around the neck. In a flash, Ron Perlman is by my side and he flying-armbar’s the sonuvabitch.

Soon, after dozens more heel hooks, tornado kicks, and left crosses, the army of shadowy demons lie defeated, squirming, and for some reason steaming in the dust of the arena. Then The Ron and I do a freeze-frame high five sweet custom handshake and I rouse to consciousness.

The point is, life will get tough if you live it, and that’s the point. If there’s something you want to do or need to do (sometimes they’re the same thing), then do it. You’ll have to persevere, stick with it, and endure, even if it doesn’t always seem promising. But stick with it long enough, there’s a success story in it somewhere.

Find your Subconscious Ron Perlman.

Did You Know Flooring is Hard?

(If the title didn’t give it away, I’m redoing the floors in my mom’s house today! Turns out, it’s difficult and labor-intensive as shit. So just know that while you’re soaking up these sweet, sweet words, I’m likely covered in dust and choking on asbestos. But we’re doing a re-post because I love y’all. I love y’all AND actually like what this post had to say, so, in case you missed it…)

Where Does Personality Come From? / Who Are You?

Hey! Happy Tues…day…every…

Is today Tuesday…?

F*ck it, sure. Happy Tuesday, everyone!

If you can’t tell, ye olde headspace is a bit frazzled this fine Tues- weekday. So, the way I figure it, it’s the perfect time for a (Oh, yeah, and I didn’t have anything prepared for today because of work on the house. Anyway!) healthy freestyle rant essay!

I’m still pretty hung up on the topics in last week’s post, so I’m just gonna wax pseudo-philosophical and armchair Bro-Brain it up with some questions I had when I was eight. Sound good? Sweet.

I remember sitting in Mrs. Thompson’s third grade class room staring at a cow brain in a jar (for real, I was stoked when she said we were getting one) and the thought crossed my mind: “Where do our personalities come from?” You could probably see the pretty straightforward line of thinkin here, yeah? Our brains hold most of our thinky-stuff – memories, facts, jokes, emotions, lies we told our parents so we wouldn’t get in trouble – and so if that cow’s brain was in that jar, looking exactly as you’d expect from cartoons and old timey movies, then am I looking at that cow’s personality, too?

Like, obviously not the cow’s personality being expressed (uless that cow was lazy and really liked to swim but go nowhere), but looking at the vessel for its…well, its everything. And then I turned the question inward: “Where does personality come from?”

Now, clearly, this is a deep-as-fuck kind of question, and we could spend an actual book here (like the many that already populate the shelves of Barnes and Nobles nationwide) if we wanted to. But I gots shit to do and can’t mentally spelunk that deeply with what time I’ve got. But, I remember the timeline of that thought process as I’ve grown went roughly like this…

Personalities are held in the brain. Well, I mean, they are…aren’t they? But…is it…well, is it a thing that can be…held? That can be contained in that squishy little sponge of gray matter? And why are some people funny, others are serious, and why do I like Gundam figures, but not tomatoes (so on and so forth)? And if you had twins that were born at the exact same time, to the exact same parents, and lived in the exact same house, going to the exact same places, and knowing the exact same people…how and why would they ever be different?

Clearly, this is the point where you shoehorn in the age-old “Nature vs Nurture” debate, right? I think I’ve come to the conclusion that that question is entirely just a thought experiment or thought provocateur (if we’re feeling fancy) than an actual question. Because, and yeah, opinions will differ on this I guess, but, it’s obviously a mix of both. I guess the point of the question is just to determine where you personally place your line as to the ratio.

Because, yeah, Nature definitely has its part, undoubtedly. Some people just straight up have certain predalictions and preferences, personality traits and characteristics. But you don’t just go through life, having experiences and encounters without ever changing and altering on some scale (Enter: the debate over Dany’s decisions in the GoT finale – bring it, nerds! This is a hill I will die on. She had every reason IN THE WORLD TO- nevermind. Another time. Maybe. Or not. I don’t know. Anyway…).

But then, went my twelve-year-old brainy brainy after watching Fight Club, who are you? Or, who am I?

“You are not your job.” – Totally. Your job is just what you do, it’s how you contribute to the tribe. And that might change any number of times for any number of reasons.

“You are not your bank account.” – Well shit, I would hope not. Because that’s never been mighty impressive. But still, yeah, of course. This one’s silly.

But then, expand it a little…”You are not your name.” – Hey, Robert, Wallace, Sarah, etc! These things are just… the sounds we make or the squiggles we draw to express who we mean or who we’re addressing. But there are a million John’s, Tessa’s, Fred’s, and Abigail’s. It’s just…a label. It’s handy, you can like yours (I like mine), but it isn’t you.

During a religious studies course from years ago, I remember my professor mentioned how Plato felt about just existing in a body (and if I’m wrong, blame either my memory or Mr. Thompson – I know, another “Thompson”). Apparently, he likened it to a cage. A cage you, the mind, were just occupying until it died. A cage that could and would occasionally break down. And that got me thinking: “Yeah, you can’t be your body, either. If you break your arm, for example, it’s not like you lose part of you. Even if you’re an athlete and that means you can’t play your sport anymore, you aren’t any different, just your capability.”

That’s where Identity enters the mix. “Who am I?” Not “what,” or “how,” or any other of the five question types. “Who” in a way that isn’t answered with your name, or your job, or your sex, or your relationship to family members. Your personality. Who. Are. You?

Maybe if playing football is part of your identity, or you’re the “tennis guy”, and you suddenly sustain an injury that keeps you from doing that, then yeah, you lose that part of yourself. (For example, I used to do parkour but after a few injuries and “life thangs” eventually stopped. And it was weird, because to a fair number of people, I was “the parkour guy” or the “dude that can flip,” and when that was gone, there was an adjustment period, I won’t lie.) So, you lose that part of yourself, kind of…

But…do you really?

No.

Like, yes. But no.

See what I mean?

Anyway, the closest thing I’ve come to that’s an acceptable “answer” (in quotes because, ah, well you get it by now), are best illustrated by the two following sources:

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
I mean, spoilers if you have any interest in the game and haven’t ever played it, but that’s about all the warning I’m gonna give for an eight year old video game in an overdone seri- anyway!
At the end of the game, Number 16 (I think was his ID) has this big heart-to-heart with Desmond, and, with arms outstretched and his face to the sky, he drops the line, “What are we but memories? Huh!? The stories we tell ourselves!”
Think on that shit…

Set it? Cool.
If you’ve been with me since the beginning, you might remember the short I put up with the same name. And I always liked it, and it’s stuck with me, because there’s something about it that resonates. It checks a lot of boxes. “You are not your job.” Check. “You are not your bank account.” Check. “You are not your name.” Check.
We’re just…that. We are our life’s story. What’s the one thing you leave behind after you die? Your legacy. Your memory. People’s memory of what you did or how you impacted them or others. You are the things you do, the places you go, the stories you tell, the people you take care of, the hand you hold out to help, etc etc.

Some Philosopher’s Playlist I Listened To That One Time Yeah, I get it, less of a catchy title. We could always call it, “Some Philosopher’s Playlist I Listened To That One Time: Reloaded” or something, but anyway…
In it, and I think I’m going to butcher the quote since I’m just spit-ballin’ here, some unnamed older gentleman says something like the following:

We all go through up’s and down’s. And once, when I was on one of those down’s, I kept having a thought. It was the same, persistent thought. ‘Why does this always happen to me?’ And when I realized that I had that thought before, something occurred to me. I am not the thought. This thought is not me. And I wondered, how many thoughts, and how many people everywhere each day, have thoughts like this, thoughts that are not them? And it occurred to me… I am not the thought, I am the awareness.”

Okay, if I had you take a moment to let the first one sink in… Absorb that. “I am not the thought, I am the awareness.” Speaking of parkour (from earlier), one of my coaches, Brett, made a deceptively insightful comment one day that I overheard: “You know, you can’t control your mood, but you can control your attitude.”
Now, marry the two thoughts. You’re not the thought, you are the awareness. You are the consciousness, the phenomenal, inchoate, ethereal experience behind your eyes, behind your thoughts. Your thoughts aren’t you, they occur to you. Your mood/emotions aren’t you, they influence you – you, the one behind them.

So, I don’t know, in conclusion…take the above and just…mill on it. Like Izzy from Gray’s Anatomy once said: “My mom always said, ‘Trust the man who claims to seek the truth, but doubt the man who claims to have found it.’”
And I need to maintain my credibility ’round here.

Anyway, thanks for brain-wrestling with me.

Catch you Thursday.

Ciao.

Who Are You? / Where Does Personality Come From?

Hey! Happy Tues…day…every…

Is today Tuesday…?

F*ck it, sure. Happy Tuesday, everyone!

If you can’t tell, ye olde headspace is a bit frazzled this fine Tues- weekday. So, the way I figure it, it’s the perfect time for a (Oh, yeah, and I didn’t have anything prepared for today because of work on the house. Anyway!) healthy freestyle rant essay!

I’m still pretty hung up on the topics in last week’s post, so I’m just gonna wax pseudo-philosophical and armchair Bro-Brain it up with some questions I had when I was eight. Sound good? Sweet.

I remember sitting in Mrs. Thompson’s third grade class room staring at a cow brain in a jar (for real, I was stoked when she said we were getting one) and the thought crossed my mind: “Where do our personalities come from?” You could probably see the pretty straightforward line of thinkin here, yeah? Our brains hold most of our thinky-stuff – memories, facts, jokes, emotions, lies we told our parents so we wouldn’t get in trouble – and so if that cow’s brain was in that jar, looking exactly as you’d expect from cartoons and old timey movies, then am I looking at that cow’s personality, too?

Like, obviously not the cow’s personality being expressed (uless that cow was lazy and really liked to swim but go nowhere), but looking at the vessel for its…well, its everything. And then I turned the question inward: “Where does personality come from?”

Now, clearly, this is a deep-as-fuck kind of question, and we could spend an actual book here (like the many that already populate the shelves of Barnes and Nobles nationwide) if we wanted to. But I gots shit to do and can’t mentally spelunk that deeply with what time I’ve got. But, I remember the timeline of that thought process as I’ve grown went roughly like this…

Personalities are held in the brain. Well, I mean, they are…aren’t they? But…is it…well, is it a thing that can be…held? That can be contained in that squishy little sponge of gray matter? And why are some people funny, others are serious, and why do I like Gundam figures, but not tomatoes (so on and so forth)? And if you had twins that were born at the exact same time, to the exact same parents, and lived in the exact same house, going to the exact same places, and knowing the exact same people…how and why would they ever be different?

Clearly, this is the point where you shoehorn in the age-old “Nature vs Nurture” debate, right? I think I’ve come to the conclusion that that question is entirely just a thought experiment or thought provocateur (if we’re feeling fancy) than an actual question. Because, and yeah, opinions will differ on this I guess, but, it’s obviously a mix of both. I guess the point of the question is just to determine where you personally place your line as to the ratio.

Because, yeah, Nature definitely has its part, undoubtedly. Some people just straight up have certain predalictions and preferences, personality traits and characteristics. But you don’t just go through life, having experiences and encounters without ever changing and altering on some scale (Enter: the debate over Dany’s decisions in the GoT finale – bring it, nerds! This is a hill I will die on. She had every reason IN THE WORLD TO- nevermind. Another time. Maybe. Or not. I don’t know. Anyway…).

But then, went my twelve-year-old brainy brainy after watching Fight Club, who are you? Or, who am I?

“You are not your job.” – Totally. Your job is just what you do, it’s how you contribute to the tribe. And that might change any number of times for any number of reasons.

“You are not your bank account.” – Well shit, I would hope not. Because that’s never been mighty impressive. But still, yeah, of course. This one’s silly.

But then, expand it a little…”You are not your name.” – Hey, Robert, Wallace, Sarah, etc! These things are just… the sounds we make or the squiggles we draw to express who we mean or who we’re addressing. But there are a million John’s, Tessa’s, Fred’s, and Abigail’s. It’s just…a label. It’s handy, you can like yours (I like mine), but it isn’t you.

During a religious studies course from years ago, I remember my professor mentioned how Plato felt about just existing in a body (and if I’m wrong, blame either my memory or Mr. Thompson – I know, another “Thompson”). Apparently, he likened it to a cage. A cage you, the mind, were just occupying until it died. A cage that could and would occasionally break down. And that got me thinking: “Yeah, you can’t be your body, either. If you break your arm, for example, it’s not like you lose part of you. Even if you’re an athlete and that means you can’t play your sport anymore, you aren’t any different, just your capability.”

That’s where Identity enters the mix. “Who am I?” Not “what,” or “how,” or any other of the five question types. “Who” in a way that isn’t answered with your name, or your job, or your sex, or your relationship to family members. Your personality. Who. Are. You?

Maybe if playing football is part of your identity, or you’re the “tennis guy”, and you suddenly sustain an injury that keeps you from doing that, then yeah, you lose that part of yourself. (For example, I used to do parkour but after a few injuries and “life thangs” eventually stopped. And it was weird, because to a fair number of people, I was “the parkour guy” or the “dude that can flip,” and when that was gone, there was an adjustment period, I won’t lie.) So, you lose that part of yourself, kind of…

But…do you really?

No.

Like, yes. But no.

See what I mean?

Anyway, the closest thing I’ve come to that’s an acceptable “answer” (in quotes because, ah, well you get it by now), are best illustrated by the two following sources:

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
I mean, spoilers if you have any interest in the game and haven’t ever played it, but that’s about all the warning I’m gonna give for an eight year old video game in an overdone seri- anyway!
At the end of the game, Number 16 (I think was his ID) has this big heart-to-heart with Desmond, and, with arms outstretched and his face to the sky, he drops the line, “What are we but memories? Huh!? The stories we tell ourselves!”
Think on that shit…

Set it? Cool.
If you’ve been with me since the beginning, you might remember the short I put up with the same name. And I always liked it, and it’s stuck with me, because there’s something about it that resonates. It checks a lot of boxes. “You are not your job.” Check. “You are not your bank account.” Check. “You are not your name.” Check.
We’re just…that. We are our life’s story. What’s the one thing you leave behind after you die? Your legacy. Your memory. People’s memory of what you did or how you impacted them or others. You are the things you do, the places you go, the stories you tell, the people you take care of, the hand you hold out to help, etc etc.

Some Philosopher’s Playlist I Listened To That One Time Yeah, I get it, less of a catchy title. We could always call it, “Some Philosopher’s Playlist I Listened To That One Time: Reloaded” or something, but anyway…
In it, and I think I’m going to butcher the quote since I’m just spit-ballin’ here, some unnamed older gentleman says something like the following:

We all go through up’s and down’s. And once, when I was on one of those down’s, I kept having a thought. It was the same, persistent thought. ‘Why does this always happen to me?’ And when I realized that I had that thought before, something occurred to me. I am not the thought. This thought is not me. And I wondered, how many thoughts, and how many people everywhere each day, have thoughts like this, thoughts that are not them? And it occurred to me… I am not the thought, I am the awareness.”

Okay, if I had you take a moment to let the first one sink in… Absorb that. “I am not the thought, I am the awareness.” Speaking of parkour (from earlier), one of my coaches, Brett, made a deceptively insightful comment one day that I overheard: “You know, you can’t control your mood, but you can control your attitude.”
Now, marry the two thoughts. You’re not the thought, you are the awareness. You are the consciousness, the phenomenal, inchoate, ethereal experience behind your eyes, behind your thoughts. Your thoughts aren’t you, they occur to you. Your mood/emotions aren’t you, they influence you – you, the one behind them.

So, I don’t know, in conclusion…take the above and just…mill on it. Like Izzy from Gray’s Anatomy once said: “My mom always said, ‘Trust the man who claims to seek the truth, but doubt the man who claims to have found it.’”
And I need to maintain my credibility ’round here.

Anyway, thanks for brain-wrestling with me.

Catch you Thursday.

Ciao.

Why Does Anything Exist At All?

Happy Thursday, you cooky-nutters (trying something new, sue me).

It was my birthday yesterday. Not bragging, especially since 26 isn’t exactly a landmark birthday, just layin’ down some context. For more context: when I was sixteen, I went to go see ‘Inglorious Basterds‘ with my Jewish uncle (which was a pretty rad combo). Sometime around then, if not a little before, he had a birthday (I know, almost like we all get one) and I’d asked him how he spent it. “Oh, slept in a little,” he said, “picked up the house, took myself out to brunch, got a haircut, and went and saw a movie.”

“That’s it?” I asked, fifteen at the time.

He let out a big, happy sigh and just said, “Yup.”

And since then (since I was about nineteen, actually), that’s been the model birthday I’ve loved most. So yesterday, I slept in a little, took myself out to brunch, went to the library, worked on a story outline, and bought a book. The book in question: “Why Does the World Exist?” by Jim Holt. In short, so far it seems like an exploration of that at once utterly inchoate and distantly profound question. It brought me back to my own angsty wrestling matches with existentialism (the type I’m sure we’ve all either passed through or at least referee’d once or twice), and it made today’s post seem pretty appropriate.

This one started on the drive to work one fateful morning.

One thing that should be noted…well…like…have you seen ‘500 Days of Summer?’ You know how at the very beginning, the beautiful Joseph Gordon Levitt is all, “This is a love story, but they don’t end up together in the end” n’ stuff? (Fun fact: That’s the fifth ‘500 Days of Summer’ reference I’ve made this week.) Anyway, I say it because I want you to know something here at the top: this thing is unfinished. As in, truly. Does not have an end. It ends abruptly in the middle of conversation. I’d had plans a while ago to shape out an ending where Danny waxes about a dream he had wherein Milo Yannopolis chases him around one night, Terminator-style, and he uses a block party and a sympathetic sheriff to…y’know, we’ll just finish it up in a future post.

For now…

Oh! Actually, real quick, just as a note since they’re never described, I like to picture Danny as Liam O’Brien and Lloyd as Sam Riegel.

Okay. Cool. As you were. * ahem *

For now…

Little Lion Man

Danny sat in the pallid gray light that came through the cafe window that rainy September afternoon. They let him smoke so long as he left the window cracked and business was slow. He took a long drag and tapped out the ashes onto his napkin. As he let it out through the window, he ran his fingers through his thin hair, half-massaging his scalp while the nicotine coursed through his veins. He put the cigarette out in his napkin and held up a pausing finger while he took a deep drink of coffee, preparing to speak.

Lloyd sat patiently across the table from his brother, a slight irritated pursing of his lips while he waited for Danny to finish his cup. “You should have let me take the umbrella,” he said. “It wasn’t even raining when you left.” Lloyd motioned to his jacket which morosely hung dripping by the front door.

“I had a feeling it would.”

“Ah, well maybe that precognition could’a gone to buying two, or maybe calling me down here sooner. What’s this all about anyway?”

Danny laughed to himself and pointed across the table. “That’s the question, isn’t it?”

Lloyd’s face contorted with confusion at the statement. “The fuck does that mean?”

“I just don’t understand this.”

“What?” Lloyd muttered. “Understand what?”

“I don’t understand this,” Danny repeated, punctuating the statement with hands motioning to the surrounding air. “I don’t understand what this is all supposed to be or be for and I keep going back and forth on whether I’m okay with it or not.”

Lloyd readied a quip in reply to his brother’s nonsense, but on a second thought, left it unsaid.

“It used to be,” Danny continued, “I would just say I was feeling contemplative, right? Lately, lately it’s more like I’m coming up for air after being denied breath for a time, or like I’m finally waking up but I was never asleep.”

“Poetic,” Lloyd said simply.

Danny chuckled under his breath. “You remember that trip to Yosemite that Sam and I took?”

“Of course.”

“Well, in a lot of ways, it was the same when we went there. She’d tell the story a bit different, but when we made it to the top of the Upper Falls I went to look over the edge and she about lost her mind. You know, telling me to ‘back the hell up’ and ‘Jesus Christ Danny you’re gonna fall’ and stuff. She hated it but I shrugged her off and leaned to get a real look at the valley floor. The trees were so small they just looked like bristles on a brush. There’s no guard rail so I got to sit down and hang my feet over the end, lie back, and just feel the wind and sun. It was so beautiful to just kind of meditate and really feel where I was, y’know?”

“I’ve been before. It’s nice and high up for sure.”

“Exactly. When you look over the edge, it’s twenty-six hundred feet – that’s half a mile straight down. And maybe it should have, but it didn’t scare me. I told her then what I still believe now, which is that the full gravity of the height didn’t settle on me for some reason.”

“Because you’re an idiot.”

“Thanks.”

Lloyd motioned a bow with his head and hand.

“Not you. Thank you,” Danny said again, to the waitress refilling his coffee cup.

“Could I,” Lloyd ventured with an embarrassed smile, “perhaps get one of your lovely raspberry scones to go with my refill?”

“Of course,” the waitress replied sweetly.

“Thanks. Anyway,” he said returning to Danny, “you were saying?”

“Yeah. Looking down I guess I was more fascinated, really mesmerized, at the view of the valley than I was cautious. I just couldn’t grasp the idea of the sheer height I dangled my foot over and what a misstep would mean. I couldn’t fully grasp it. I was too focused on everything I was feeling.”

Lloyd ponderously chewed his freshly delivered scone as Danny continued.

“When I get in these moods now, it’s similar.”

“How so?”

“Like, as far as we know, this all exists. You and I exist. Can you really tell me that you understand that? That you have a fully realized, thorough underlying comprehension of that idea? Just physical existence in general. A comprehension so thorough that there are no further angles to explore.”

“I’d have to understand you first.”

“We have names for the things around us. We presume too much. Just look around as if you don’t have a name for it, as if you’ve never seen it before, like it’s completely alien to you – no attached association for function or purpose or origin, totally new.”

Lloyd finished another bite of scone and leaned back in his chair, examining the cafe space acutely. “I see,” he began, “several odd wooden arrangements, squares of stone laid out decoratively about the floor, and a lovely young female that…oh, clearly goes to Pilates.”

“You could almost take it serious,” Danny said, his expectant smile belied the tone of disappointment.

“I just don’t know what you want from me on this,” Lloyd said, laughing.

“Some company, I guess.”

“In this misery of yours? Would you shut that damn window!”

“More or less, yeah,” Danny answered, closing the window. The rain was starting to pick up again outside. “I’m just starting to feel these ideas beginning to strangle me a bit. It’s that squirming feeling you get when you can’t remember a song title or the name of an actress, the ones you can feel rip you apart until you have it. Except, I can’t just Google this. This is something there isn’t an answer for. Everyone has their explanations, for sure, but nobody has solid answers.”

“Huh,” sounded Lloyd through his last bite of scone. “This really has you turned around, doesn’t it? You been sleeping alright? Everything not okay at work or something?”

“Work’s been…interesting since about a week ago.”

“Oh God. What now?”

“It’s just something stupid.”

“Usually is. What happened?”

“I challenged a friend and coworker to out me.”

“To out you?”

Danny grunted a sigh while he searched for an explanation. “A few months ago, we got into a long, deep chat while trying to kill time during one of our shifts and-”

“This story have a point?” interrupted Lloyd.

“You’re the worst goddamned audience member, you know that?” Danny pitted his lips and held up a finger to preemptively silence his brother’s protest. “Anyway, we talked about evolution because I mentioned Darwin and it came out that I don’t quite believe the popular theory.”

“Told you that shit would get you in trouble, didn’t I?”

“But why should it?”

“It makes you too friggin’ contentious.”

“People could have and in fact did say the same thing about today’s world religions at their origins or Darwin in his day. Not that I’m at all a comparison, but why should it be wrong to not subscribe to something you don’t understand?”

Lloyd shook his head in confusion. “How do you not understand it? We started as soup, to fish, to monkeys, to folks.”

“A classmate said the same thing once. That he’d read the Origin of Species and that it was all plain as day.”

“It is!” exclaimed Lloyd with a laugh and a clap.

“Have you read it?” asked Danny flatly.

“Ah, come on, Danny.”

“Have you?”

“No,” Lloyd capitulated. “But the logic behind the theory is all there. The process makes sense.”

“Of course it does!” Danny shouted. The look from some members of the wait staff reminded him where he was. He collected himself and, in a quieter voice, continued. “Of course it makes sense, or else positively nobody would follow it. That doesn’t make it necessarily true. In the end, all thinking follows a path of logic. Scientific theories, mythologies of old, even observations of children all follow logical thinking.”

“You’re saying that the birth of Aphrodite and The Big Bang are on the same level?”

“What?” Danny scoffed. “Alright, yes and no. They’re both explanations for how things came to be, right? I just haven’t been convinced that either of them happened the way they were described. They totally could have been, fuck it, but I can’t say that I know that’s the case. Why is that so wrong?”

“It’s not wrong, really. Just weird. Makes you seem kind of…”

“Uneducated, right?”

“Well, uh…”

“And isn’t that part of the problem, too? For scientific communities boasting these reputations for being inclusive of new ideas, willing to contest and incorporate them – which, at large, they don’t, by the way. Just ask John Anthony Hopkins – why is it such a high social crime to say you’re not quite convinced?”

“It’s not criminal, Danny. I just don’t see how you can’t be persuaded to give it a second look, you know? Or if not that, then what happened?”

Danny rubbed his temples and ran fingers through his hair. “It isn’t about proposing an alternative. It’s about contesting what we have in front of us. You don’t need to propose another suspect just because the first guy has a solid alibi. Maybe, as the analogical police, you need to reshape your theory of what happened.”

“Kind of a weak analogy.”

“So long as it demonstrates my point, that’s fine. That being, why do we need an alternative? I’d rather live with the comfortable uncertainty of accepting that I don’t know what happened, than to agree to the popular theory in lieu of an alternative. Just, here-” Danny got up from the table and walked over the chalk board on which the available daily brews were written. Using his sleeve, he started erasing the list and picked up a piece of chalk from the rail.

“Hey!” shouted one of the baristas.

Danny quickly brandished his wallet and made a show of depositing a fifty dollar bill in the tip jar. “For the trouble of rewriting it,” he said.

The young man’s eyes widened as he gave a quick nod and went back to his work.

“Now,” Danny said as he addressed Lloyd with the chalk. “Humans have, for ages, used themselves to measure their surroundings. Mountains aren’t big, just as ants aren’t tiny. They just are the size they are. We only describe them and think of them as huge or minuscule because of their relation in size to us, right?”

“I suppose,” Lloyd agreed with a disgruntled sigh.

“Don’t be embarrassed, the shop’s pretty much empty, alright? Just suffer me this.”

Lloyd waved his hand for his brother to continue.

“Then,” Danny pressed on, “consider how goddamn immense the earth beneath your feet is. Try and wrap your head around how freaking gargantuan it is, yeah? Now, if we’re right about where we fit in relation to the other objects in our universe, this-” Danny paused to make a painstakingly small dot in the center of the large chalk board, “is still way too big of a representation of our planet compared to known, or rather visible, existence.”

END

The Take: Hmm, you know, reading this back for the first time in a few years, I still like it. I’d probably edit down some of the phrasing and workshop the flow a little bit, but I think this was one of my first exercises in a mundane, single-location, dialogue-heavy work. Not so much a story, but a think-piece. Anyway, food for thought, yeah?

Catch ya Tuesday, you beautiful bitches (and ladies).

Ciao.

Today’s Hors-d’oeuvres (#foodforthought)

Happy Tuesday, everybody.

First off, if you’re having trouble (like I did) with the title today, that’s apparently how you spell the little munchies you have before dinner or in between courses (plain speak: “orderves”).

Second, I’m out there husslin’, so for today, you’re at a fancy dinner party. It’s a big ol’ Great Gatsby mansion with a courtyard, a fountain, waiters n’ shit. I’m the guy who walks up holding a tray and a towel over my arm (I assume for some reason) and offers you little worldly food items. Let’s say I have a curly string mustache, too.

I’ve always been a bit of a quote collector and I think we should all be. A few years ago, my girlfriend’s mom gave me one of the best compliments I’ve ever received when I said, “I like to consider wisdom where I find it, no matter the source,” and she replied, “That should be on a pillow or something.”

But that’s what today’s about, a few morsels here and there that resonated, and I’m gonna cross my fingers they do the same with you. Cheers.

#1

“If objects for gratitude and admiration are our desire, do they not present themselves every hour to our eyes? Do we not see a fair creation prepared to receive us the instant we are born – a world furnished to our hands, that cost us nothing? Is it we that light up the sun? Or pour down the rain? Or fill the earth with abundance? Whether we sleep or wake, the vast machinery of the universe goes on.”
-Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason

The Take: I would actually recommend reading all of ‘The Age of Reason’ by Paine- well, actually not. Part 1 is terrific. In (very) short, with Part 1 he basically outlines his views on religion at large, the idea of a Creator, existence, and his own personal form of deism (which I personally find beautiful). The above is a good foot in the door for what the rest of Part 1 is about. It doesn’t capture all of the wonderful ways he illustrates it and further fleshes it out, but it’s a pill if that’s all you want. An even more concise if less flavorful way to express what I think Paine tries to get across here is this: “The world is so much bigger than you and majestic beyond reasonable understanding. That alone is reason enough to appreciate life.”
(The second half, called “Part 2”, is basically a constructed essay-form breakdown on how the stories in the Bible don’t, in his view, conform to logical processes or, as the title goes, reason; and personally, I didn’t find I needed that, but if it’s your bag, go for it.)

#2

“Death by violence, death by cold, death by starvation – these are the normal ends of the stately and beautiful creatures of the wilderness. The sentimentalists who prattle about the peaceful life of nature do not understand its utter mercilessness; although all they would have to do would be to look at the birds in the winter woods, or even at the insects on a cold morning or cold evening. Life is hard and cruel for all lower creatures, and for man also, in what the sentimentalists call a ‘state of nature.'”
-Theodore Roosevelt

The Take: I think I feel good including this one here because I’ve noticed it comes up a lot in my fiction (nothing that’s made its way here yet). I hold that it’s a reasonably good theme to include or just understanding to utilize whether it be in fact, fiction, or real life, because it’s true. Life isn’t easy within civilization sometimes, much less without it. It can be a terrific reminder the next time you think you live in a shithole or boo-hoo about how nothing ever happens in your town. Just watch one episode of “Naked and Afraid” and you’ll realize even that’s wilderness survival set to Easy Mode.
[WOOP WOOP! WARNING! POLITICAL MOMENT AHEAD! 3…2…1…]
And whether you have a stance on hunting, you yourself are a hunter (I’m not), a vegan, vegetarian, or anything else, before you forsake friendships in arguments over these things: hunting isn’t the problem. Is trophy hunting pretty dicky? Yeah, absolutely. But an ethical hunter killing for food that isn’t wasted, while it isn’t utterly natural, it isn’t outside the norm; as it’s an unfortunate fact that that deer or elk wasn’t going to live happily ever after. So the next time you come across a headline that aims to criticize some aspect of hunting, do a liiiittle bit of homework before biting the hook.
[-jets powering down…cooling…cooling…cool-]
If I haven’t lost you yet, on a literary note, taking an understanding that nature in its raw form is exactly what Teddy calls it – “merciless” – and is still beautiful into writing can help bridge some schisms over seemingly conflicting themes. I hope I’ll be able to share some of my own works that attempt the same here one day.

#3

“You’re never gonna get the same things as other people. It’s never gonna be equal. It’s not gonna happen in your life so you just learn that now, okay?
Listen. The only time you should look into your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don’t look in your neighbor’s bowl to see if you have as much as them.”

-Louis C.K.

The Take: I think I first encountered this one while scrolling through Facebook yeeeeaaaars back. Originally, in the set he expressed this on, it was while he was discussing being a parent and some of the lessons one dishes out when they find themselves in that position (I also did a super fast google check to make sure he’d been quoted elsewhere too), but it came across as a good bit of personal advice.
It sort of pairs flows from the same perennial, ages-old proverb “Comparison breeds contempt,” and I think it puts a good cap on what we’ve covered. It’s good to expect nothing, yet appreciate everything (saw that on a bumper sticker once, holds up).

Anyway, I think that’s about it. Hope some of this rings with some of y’all.

See ya Thursday (or before, who knows anymore).

PS – I have NEEEEEEWS! Another story of mine, “The Scars of Eliza Gray”, is currently in the works to be featured on the NIGHT LIGHT horror podcast in a few weeks. So stayed tuned, ’cause I’ll be posting updates as I get them and blasting it out there once it’s up! Also keep an eye out and an ear open for the episode where we discuss and give our takes on Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” and “Us”! Yaaaaay!