by j-a

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August 2007

The End of the World

heaven can wait

I asked [Phyllis Diller], 'How do you do so many things?' And she said, 'I don't do anything that isn't easy. I try things, and if they're not immediately easy for me, I quit instantly.' That's some of the best advice I've ever gotten.
Penn Jillette
When I think back on all of the effort I put into trying to be like others, even if my intent was disingenuous, not really trying to fit in, but only trying to be "successful," to make enough money to live comfortably, and to assure my future existence, it rankles me; because a part of my efforts were sincere, a part of me was really, although unwittingly, trying to be like others, to mold myself into something different than I was, to "better" myself, to advance and develop, which behavior I interpreted to be to my own benefit, but which now I see was just another way that society presses you into its mold (double meaning intended). Now I know better than to fight my basic nature; but look at all that wasted time and effort, when I could have been so much easier on myself. I could have struggled against the world so much less than I did, I could have been taking it easy, I could have followed more closely my artistic nature and become more thoroughly skilled; but I wanted to be a contender.

This is it, people. This is all there is. Now is the time. If you don't do it now, you're never going to do it. There is no tomorrow. The future doesn't exist. It's always right now. And when you decide to struggle for results that you will appreciate tomorrow, tomorrow never comes. Instead, you program yourself to be the stupid, driven way you're acting, so that your present state becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you put something that you would like to do off until tomorrow in favor of something you "must" do, at best, you're forming bad habits. Instead of our fondness for saying, "There is no time like the present," we should be saying, "There is no time but the present." Only the present exists. All the rest of it is a fiction, a series of mental constructs that deceive us into believing that we have a past and a future. We live in an eternal now, ongoing. If you're looking to be rewarded in a future life, especially one that's not of this world, prepare to be disappointed. Or, rather, not; because you're not going to know it after you're dead. You're not going to realize that all the time you spent waiting, for whatever, here and now, you were immersed within the eternity you thought you had to wait for.

The world, always, but especially at the height of an unusually warm summer, the hotter the better, is perfectly absorbent. In the stillness that oppressive heat demands or that the warm night maintains as it cools itself, the personality finds its canvas. Awakening out of a sleep, it discovers itself out, released into a suspect medium that it previously felt foreign. It has always been so, out, but has never known it so profoundly as each time it re-discovers its awareness, before it shuts itself back down, into the rationalization of its rigidity.

I do not like it when the world will not comply with the way in which I would have it proceed. This morning, after arising early and doing some work on the computer, and then, after sitting out on the front porch appreciating a semi-false dawn (I should have known; red sky at morning) where the not yet risen sun brilliantly illuminated the landscape by reflecting itself in orange and crimson down off of the variegated cloud formations, I finally moved out at around nine o'clock, heading up to the shopping center in the car, the first time I drove it since the ill-fated back-attack trip, over a month ago. I wanted to use it so that the battery would remain fully charged; I want to take it out illegally every few weeks or so to prevent it from deteriorating--faster than it otherwise will just sitting around rusting. (Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. My favorite car is turning to rust.)

As I got myself out onto the road, it was just starting to rain slightly, a few sprinkles, which caused me to think how the perfect morning had deteriorated already. I hoped the rain would hold up until I got back home. At my first stop, the bank machine ate my card because it had expired. I remembered the replacement I had gotten in the mail; so I scurried back home to get it. But before I could use it, I had to authenticate it over the phone. When I tried, I couldn't get a dial tone, an intermittent problem that either the phone company or I have been having recently. But the second time I picked up the receiver, it worked. I dialed the authentication number, keyed in my sixteen-digit account number as I was instructed to do, and after a few moments of waiting, the pleasant "female" (computer generated) voice told me that the number didn't match their records and that I would have to re-enter it. So I did, whereupon I had to wait for what seemed like an abnormally long amount of time until the voice came back on and informed me that I would have to call back during business hours.

Now I'm a little bit, but just a little bit, disturbed, a feeling I'd immediately dismissed at the bank machine when it retained my card. But I figured I'd try one more time and I re-dialed the number. Again, the voice instructed me to re-enter my number a second time, so I figured that the same thing would happen, and I did not have enough cash to buy the things I wanted to buy, and the store where I wanted to buy the stuff did not take credit cards, and it's Sunday so the bank is closed. My only options would be either to debit a credit card and pay the outrageous fee or wait until the next business day. But, after an even longer wait than before, the voice told me that my card had been authenticated.

So, I head back up to the shopping center. I get the cash, the machine doesn't retain the card (which small fear lurked in the back of my mind), and I head up to the food store only to discover that it didn't open until ten. Okay. Another only minor setback. So I head up to the beer store. But it doesn't open until noon. This is the perfect time, on a different day, for me to curse my fictive God for his arbitrary machinations. But today I manage to remain in my pre-dawn mood and I calmly go back home to await the noon hour. And when it comes, I head back out, get what I planned to get, and scoot back home before the local constabulary finds me driving an uninspected car. (I saw a police car heading into the park just ahead of me on the way to the shopping center the third time when I came up the back way to avoid the noon traffic.)

Later, back at home, I'm down in the basement getting the soldering iron, because one of that morning's difficulties had been that the remote for the garage door opener wouldn't work, and I had to get out of the car to open and close the garage door, one of those things that I chose not to allow to upset me. So, when I got home, as I sat in the driveway trying to make it work, even placing it to my chin to use my body as a broadcasting antenna (years from now they'll try to tell us that that practice causes brain tumors), I decided to take the battery out of it, even though I knew I'd just recharged the battery and the indicator light was lighting when I pushed the button. And when I removed the battery, one of the supply wires came off of the circuit board.

So I get the soldering iron and reattach the wire; and then, in a sudden fit of productivity, after I replace the old, non-functional toaster with the new one I just bought, I take the old toaster apart--and, of course, before I can do either of these things, I have to clean up the kitchen counter and wash the dishes, a persistent task that most often stops me from proceeding to projects that need to be done in the kitchen. (There are other conditions for each of the other rooms that thwart my progress.) It's always more difficult to accomplish anything when before you set out to do it, you have to do other, more basic maintenance first.

The toaster had bread crumb crud stuck between the electrical contacts. That removed, it worked like it did before it stopped working, i.e., only two of the four sets of elements worked; but I didn't remember that until I put it back together, otherwise I would have checked it out to see why the other two sets of elements didn't work. As it is, I stored it away in the new toaster's box, in case I might need it years from now when this new toaster stops working. Two sets of elements are better than none. (This is why I have so much junk piled up everywhere. Any normal American would have just thrown the damn thing away.)

So, all in all, it turned into a fairly productive day, despite the setbacks and potential disturbances. My conclusion: Problems are not caused by doing things that are hard. Nothing is hard or easy, really. Rather, it's our attitude (in addition to our skill level) that determines their difficulty. If we, when we experience a setback, rant and rave at whatever--God, The World, others, or our stupid selves--then we create our own discomfort. I realize that I could have acted exactly this way at many different points during the day. But I chose not to. I couldn't be bothered. I just went about my business undeterred by the deterrence I experienced. And eventually, in my persistence, I achieved my goals. No big deal. I didn't get upset. We tend to think, I think, that persistence involves beating our heads against a wall until the wall crumbles in front of us. But it's not necessary to end up with a headache or brain damage. If we continue to try, but with a calm and peaceful mind, persistence can be quite a pleasant endeavor.

the emptiness of time

Must I then live out my days to no positive purpose--vague, indeterminate, depressing days, remote from the sure sense of existence of those who had risen above their private hells? Or was there perhaps some way of letting go and retreating into a more comfortable darkness?
Kenzaburo Oe, The Silent Cry
Twenty-four hours after the red sky at morning day: It's morning again, but a long time coming. I'm sitting on the front porch in a damp, dank atmosphere. It's a strange day. Not sunny and not overcast; and yet both at the same time. Muggy, damp, heavy morning fog finally beginning to lift, atmosphere glowing silver like some living force field in an elfin woods in a Tolkien fantasy.

It rained all day yesterday and everything is sopping. A severe lightning storm in the afternoon knocked out the power to the neighborhood, and it hasn't come back on yet. 75 degrees at seven a.m., 80% humidity, no lights, no air conditioning, no fans, no tv, no computer. Life without these amenities is a struggle to adapt, to a throwback antiquated world. I suffered through the afternoon and early evening yesterday by trying to sleep in the sweltering heat of the bedroom, sheets soaked with sweat. After a fitful rest, I got up and sat in the dining room comfy chair and read Kenzaburo Oe novels all night by candlelight.

I want to believe that the power failure is a symptom of the growing incompetence of a deteriorating society. Later I will learn that the outage was far more extensive than I thought. Although I could see lights on the two-lane in the valley below and so assumed that the power outage was restricted to my local neighborhood, in fact, the blackout affected a large part of the suburban metropolitan area, with over 90,000 homes without power for an extended period of time. If it were restricted to my most local area, I could better justify a claim of incompetence perhaps, since it took them over 24 hours to get the power back on. But with all of the outages the power company had, it's understandable that it took them that long. I could still believe in their incompetence by virtue of the fact that the system suffered so severely in the first place; but, then again, how can you blame humans for "acts of God"? We have not yet advanced so far as to render ourselves immune to lightning strikes.

Nevertheless, I will survive, whatever the case. In preparation against a less secure future, being without power for extended periods of time, though this was not its original intent, I now have a small cache of dried foodstuffs; and I'm planning on building up that supply. I have a large supply of wood for the woodstove in winter (and for cooking, if absolutely necessary), I have an incredible number of books that I can read and an equally incredible number of various kinds of candles and candle wax that I've somehow accumulated over the years, as if the Universe just knew I would one day be in need of them. (We'll see.) This is all, I conjecture, in line with my ongoing goal of developing detachment.

But, for now, future as yet unknown (it always is), I sink into a sunless day like a pool, saturated air too close like a red hot lover after the act in the summer weather so inescapable, set back a century or so by the day-long power failure. This is how it must have been then, before our superficial lives supplanted intimate meaning. Empty time alone wants to be filled with radio or tv. Seconds tick on the wind-up clock. I wait, for power to return. Neighbors socialize in the street, something to talk about, at last, a reason, to be, out of doors. The day for me is different. I see increasing detachment as a terrifying ideal. What if the world would stay this way? Could I manage another day?

Asperger's people hate uncontrolled change, and when it happens, we tend not to react well, feeling challenged and anxious. And, with our guards down, such as when first awakening out of sleep, we (or at least I, but for Asperger's reasons) experience this as a feeling of dread, that something must be wrong that I don't know about yet or that hasn't happened yet but is pending, perhaps unconsciously feel-thinking that something has changed while I slept or that something is about to change or will change, which is more or less accurate because, well, things do change, it happens all the time; and change is the bane of Aspies, and change that occurred while you slept is unexpected, uncontrolled, and uncontrollable.

The worst time of year for me is late summer (or any other time when the first inklings of cold appear after a warm spell), because weather threats are change threats and change prompts the hints of dread that, if left unchecked, can escalate through worry and anxiety into paranoia.

Two opposing (non-human) motives struggle here, like armies of angels in the atmosphere that impinges upon us mere mortals here on the surface of the earth: endless time that dwells on and restlessness that will not give in to it. The emptiness of time intensifies the more of it you have. And once you become aware of its preponderance, it seems to intensify even more. In the midst of it, I feel an awe that I otherwise ignore, like a love that will not leave you after the lover has. When I wake up in the middle of the night to the experience of what I've lately been labeling 'dread', I now realize that what it really is, catching me with my guard down, is the emptiness of time. I remember this same conflict from several nights ago, before the weather changed: Crickets and locusts and cicadas and katydids and/or whatever other cacophonous creatures creating the chorus in the middle of a warm summer's night could all go to hell for the sin of disturbing the dead of silence I then desired. Is this some kind of weird self-fulfilling prophecy or karmic justice I'm experiencing now? Or what?

But, I understand, its not really time that's empty. Time, after all, is nothing, an illusion at best. The emptiness is me, and I fill myself up by occupying myself within time's illusion, consuming content like comestibles (I eat a lot more when I'm bored; I lose a lot of weight when I'm preoccupied with projects over a longer term, researching multiple sources, inputting mega-bites1 of data), filling up the emptiness I am that I seldom recognize except when awakening at night before my rational defenses (constructed from the volumes of supposedly empirical data gathered) are re-established--and when the power goes off and I have no backup system to fill up the empty space within, except to read, which I will do, eventually getting around to it in a marathon manner after I settle down a bit and determine that I must now apply myself a bit differently, in a slightly more dedicated, less unfocused fashion, because reading, although it is an active mental pursuit [as opposed to watching and observing, which is psychologically passive--or maybe because it is active and therefore easily suspendable, while watching/observing is dependent upon a source you cannot, necessarily, pause, as it comes at you incessantly and you are at its mercy unless you make an active decision to stop it, which you tend not to because it is, after all, filling you up, fulfilling your need not to feel the emptiness, like noisy bugs on a still evening], is easily interruptible when your mind, which is now active, suggests a different train of thought--which itself is a way you can fill yourself up, with your own ideas generated by association, so that, although actively reading may more easily allow you to become aware of the emptiness that exists just beyond the fringe of your precarious defenses, it also may serve as a buffer of ideas, both from the material read and from within your own self, which competes with the gulf of nothing that inhabits you (or that you inhabit), an internal dissonance, two aspects of a self struggling for control (it really has nothing to do with angels at all, does it?); whereas when you are living a "normal" postmodern life, the incessant ideas and images leave you little time at all to break the input rhythm, merely nanoseconds if you will pay attention that closely, which you seldom do, because that would be active, and you are passive in this mode.

Every moment's single apparitions look on at me like universal joy, await momentous interpretation that seldom comes when artful defenses, set aside, fail to ignite already burning sequential spectra presenting a much different immediate world.

Yeah, gaps of time expand when postmodern life recedes; and it takes far greater effort to fill them up before the spatial aspect of the spacetime continuum begins to impress itself on the expanding consciousness, making you aware that you do in fact live within a real world after all, and not within a cluttered mind that is continually preoccupying itself, such as with the news:

Yahoo! Alerts Wednesday, August 1, 2007
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The mayor of Minneapolis says six people died in the collapse of an interstate bridge over the Mississippi River.

Yep. That just about clinches it for me. You can't even trust the infrastructure any more. I wake up the next morning feeling like I want to go into a state of catatonia (after a depressing dream that was almost catatonia itself) and then I read these e-mails.

Yahoo! Alerts Thursday, August 2, 2007
WASHINGTON (AP) President Bush says the federal government will help ensure that the collapsed bridge in Minneapolis "gets rebuilt as quickly as possible."

Hey. How about helping to ensure that it doesn't collapse in the first place. Huh? Evil need not be manifested as bellicose belligerents battling [is that doubly redundant?] and creating collateral casualties. It can be as simple as sins of omission. If there were an afterlife, then George Bush and Dick Cheney would suffer the consequences of the evils of omission they have (not) done; but there is no afterlife, so it's up to us in the here and now to see that they are properly punished. But how?

Yahoo! Alerts Thursday, August 2, 2007
WASHINGTON (AP) Federal officials have alerted states to immediately inspect all bridges similar to the Minneapolis bridge that collapsed into the Mississippi River.

Talk about closing the barn door after...

Yeah, that's right. The power came back on, the internet is up and running, e-mail newsletters have accumulated, and I'm catching up on all of that which I was missing and enjoying the rest and freedom from. Now I can get back to the lower postmodern standards of the electronic media. Forget "Print is dead." That's old news. By now, journalism is dead. Welcome to the age of mere opinion. We're now free to pursue, if no longer the truth, then at least what we think to be right. But freedom is a funny thing. It's not what we often think it is.

the illusion of freedom

But whence cometh our freedom? Even the constitution (that bastion document that established our secular government--despite what the faux-Christians want to believe) claims that it proceeds from God (a fact that chagrins secular humanists when fundamentalists point this out; although I do believe that other aspects of the originating documents more than compensate for this inherent weakness in our founding principles that was included as compromise material to make everybody happy and cooperative). If you, being of a different mindset, prefer to believe that freedom proceeds from nature, then I personally find that I am in agreement with you.

Whatever the case, what is it that guarantees our liberty? The answer most of us want to give is that our government is our guarantor. And, in a general sense, this is true, in that our government, in addition to otherwise maintaining (theoretically) the intent of and practices delineated by our constitution, acts to prevent and remedy invasion by foreign powers and criminal activity that would restrict our freedom.

But, other than via invasion or criminal threat, what restricts our freedom? Not terrorists, however much we want to believe (in our brainwashed state of mind) that they do. [Segregated black and white neighborhoods present far more of a daily threat to our freedom than terrorists do. And, yes, folks, segregation does still very much exist in this country, in both color directions.] Even if our government did not completely protect us and foreign terrorists sneaked into our country and blew things up, they would restrict our freedom only if we capitulated by restricting our movements and activities in response to the threat of future attacks, which I very much doubt that the majority of Americans would do. (More likely, some significant minority among us would be out with out guns looking for would-be terrorists or whatever unfortunate innocent substitutes they could find to take vengeance upon.) The same can be said for threats to our freedom by criminal activity, should it increase to epidemic proportions.

Each of these conditions, invasion/terrorism and crime, is a failure of our government to carry out its constitutional responsibilities; and this is the only situation, government incompetence and malfeasance in this area, that in a practical sense truly threatens our freedom. Many times in the name of protecting us, and many times, incompetently so, our government is our worst oppressor. It restricts us, often arbitrarily and without good cause (especially now, with the Patriot Act and the administration's illegal surveillance activities) via the (abuse of) power of government bureaucrat and agents. Have no doubt that, when people get power, they will abuse it. It's not a matter of if, but of whom, when, where, and how. No matter what "they" tell you, know this: it is only government that restricts your freedom, nothing else (except yourself, which is okay, because that's what sensible people do--before others get the idea that they can do it for them).

But the concept of freedom itself in this country is suspect. To believe that you are a different kind of person, a free person, because your ancestors won their freedom from a tyrant, is naive, at best. All tyrants are figureheads in the sense that money (or privilege) is the only real tyranny. (Even beneficent monarchs are tyrants in this sense; and tyrants without money are, rather, merely bullies.) People who possess money will always be freer than people who do not; and the least free are those who have none. And, because they have plenty of it, the corporations are the new tyrannical royalty.

Ultimately, freedom is an illusion of power that can only be temporarily won by rebellion when the money changes hands; otherwise, rebellion only transfers power (which, of course, results in the ability to steal money, if only by "legal" means; ultimately, power is money). We are so used to thinking of rebellion as a mechanism of attaining freedom that we've become blind to the fact that freedom is achieved by the power that a gain in wealth provides.

I see my own personal freedom differently from others, it seems. Because I don't consider (my) freedom to be a physical experience. It's more a state of mind, especially when that state perceives life as cooperative. And everything right now seems to be going my way: when anything "bad" happens to me, I (eventually, if not right away) find the positive side (e.g., my bad back prevents me from driving, which reduces my dependence on petroleum products, forces me to walk to the store, thereby improving my overall health via exercise, and convinces me to experiment with vegan meals to eliminate inflammatory foods from my diet); when "bad" things happen in the world, I rationalize them as being "positive" [i.e., a la my affective reaction, that which allows me to conclude that the way the world is progressing (or deteriorating, I would add, except that I must qualify that concept with the caveat that deteriorization in this sense is a "positive" attribute) is okay with me, because I can see how it plays into the "vision" I have of the future of the world--in other words, my "intuitions" and "predictions" are accurate (even if they are way overblown), and they change, always, to accommodate the changes, impetus, and impact of the news]:

War, violence, high-tech weaponry, surveillance equipment, etc. increasingly move the world toward a Terminator nightmare; American soldiers dying in Iraq (or any soldiers anywhere) is a "good" thing because 1) they're volunteers and so must accept the role of pawns (cannon fodder) that they've chosen, and 2) they're either military assholes or stupid fools (or both) and thus their deaths serve to improve the overall genetic make-up of the human race by attenuating the strains of bellicose and/or stupid genes in the gene pool. The more of the world's soldiers that die, the better. If they are draftees, then maybe I feel a little bit better about them; but only a little bit. Everyone is responsible for his or her own destiny, despite what we think that the illusion we call fate has in store for us.

[I volunteered for the American army during a time when we had the draft, not because I wanted to go and fight, but because I wanted to take responsibility for and try to control my fate as much as I possibly could. I waited until my draft number came up and I enlisted so that I would not be drafted and so that I had a choice of what I would be trained to do and where I would be stationed. No one, I felt, was going to tell me what to do. (Man, was I ever wrong about that. I should have gone to Canada, but I was too much of a coward. I took the easy way out and conformed, more or less, to society's expectations of me.)]

Whatever is, is. Whatever is wrong, still, is. You must either adjust your thinking to align it with whatever is, or else you must accept the cognitive dissonance between your mind and the way of the world, which is the usual way that the human animal adapts; but I don't like that way. I don't like running around (or staying in one place) moaning about how things should be, and I don't know how it is that, a while ago, I let my guard down and started doing just that. I never used to be like that, I used to accept whatever existed for its own state of existence and, if I didn't like it, I worked my way around it, disregarding it in whatever way I could manage. But somewhere along the line I started to get fat (metaphorically speaking) and I began to think of ways that the world could better serve my increasingly "superior" position, how I might not have to be bothered to work around the "negative" (i.e., to me) world effects, how I might (at least in fantasy, because due to my basic psychological nature my political influence has always been nil) change the world to suit my better self.

But you don't have to agree with the way things are and you don't have to fight them either; but if you don't accommodate them in some way within your system of thought, you are going to live an unnecessarily agitated life (and cognitive dissonance, as I've said, is not a form of accommodation I would willingly choose). Peace is achieved by acknowledging the facts of existence, and not by denying them in favor of an idyllic fiction, which is not peace, but escape (a la a "no one is enlightened until everyone is enlightened" mentality). The next step, then (and this is not one that you must take in order to have peace; but it helps to become a cynic in this way), is to search out an accommodating rationale for each disturbing issue that the world presents to you, so that, no matter which way events turn, "good" or "bad," they're in compliance with one or another alternative that you have for observing and understanding life. In this way, your (illusory) sense of freedom will not interfere with your attainment of peace, because, no matter what, events are proceeding according to one of your pre-determined rationales.

Freedom not accommodated in this way is always disturbing, because it's a relative concept; you can only be as free as others' sense of freedom will allow, and rich people will always seem to you to be more free than you are (because they are, in a physical sense). You must disregard the illusion of freedom if you are to attain inner peace. Being "trapped" in one place or restricted to a limited range of movement is definitely not a deprivation of freedom, since freedom is a concept of the mind; and too much physical freedom can get you into big trouble, such as when you drift too far from social support and endanger your life. Physical freedom and inner peace, although not necessarily at odds, are strange bedfellows not likely to be found together. The bigbad world is a disturbing place to roam around in. It may seem just fine at first, especially when living in the relatively safer confines of America (which, stated thusly, suggests entrapment), but sooner or later, if you don't keep your guard up (another type of restriction of freedom), odds are you're going to encounter something very bad that you will have a great deal of trouble escaping from or dealing with. The freedom inside your head is a far safer place (though some psychotics may not agree). If there is any place where true freedom may be found, it is hidden away in there somewhere, dancing around where you can't see it.

the monkey dance

Dance, monkey, dance.
Scott Adams
I find myself doing this all the time, I've done this all my life, baiting people, testing their limits, saying increasingly outrageous things to gauge the extent of their reactions and the intensity and depth of their systems of belief. It's an automatic propensity; I never think about doing it, I just do it. Lots of times I don't even believe half the things I say or claims I make; they're just arbitrary moves on the big chessboard of life. This is why, I think, I don't get so upset when people vehemently disagree with me, because I understand how relative beliefs can be, because mine are, to a fault.

I (try to) base all of my beliefs on logic, science, or the scientific method (all of which is subject to change when new facts present themselves); but I'm continually rooting out superstitions passed on to me by my parents and/or society. It irritates me when I discover ignorant beliefs that I've been harboring. It makes me want to have no beliefs at all, to base everything I "know" on hardcore "fact"--except that there is no such animal. Beliefs are all we have, and consensual ones constitute this One Big Belief we have that we call the Universe. The Universe is one big system of belief, nothing more (or less) than a near infinity of subatomic particles that we, when we believe, tease into our monkey dance. Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to believe.

I practice my monkey dance through "creative" writing, which is, for me, like what a jazz musician does when s/he improvises and includes riffs and strains from standard melodies, rhythms, and formats in an ongoing piece of music--associations borrowed from personal experience of other-generated material, woven into a tapestry of more or less original composition; because we are all, in our own personal way in our own personal lives, more or less original in our expression of what we think is important or relevant, and we are rarely entirely original because we require consensus in order to be understood.

Language (of whatever sort, verbal, musical...whatever) is a social process that we pass from person to person, agreed upon but manipulated to suit our own personal sensibility as we maintain a more or less comprehensible system that can be interpreted. When we stray too far from the consensus, we risk mis- or non-understanding; yet, in this way, we extend the limits of the "vocabulary" as people try nevertheless to understand us. This is, at its most extreme, an autistic process, when we deconstruct (intentionally, though perhaps yet still unconsciously and therefore unintentionally intentional, by virtue of our psycho-physiological make-up) our conditioning while trying to examine the different kind of make-up, our originality, that lies beneath the surface of consensual "reality." The basal elements of consensual experience available to us become twisted and malformed as we try to fit them into an inner scheme of a different kind of experience; and some of them fit well as we associate ideas, sounds, and/or images, and some of them do not, so that if we do not discard the ones that do not seem to fit, we can leave even ourselves confused.

It's like being a second-rate engineer (a lot more common phenomenon than you might imagine, especially if you are an engineer), who is a wannabe scientist who mistakes his own twisted sense of logic and defective operational methodology for real world processes. You can't blame the engineer for wanting to make a living, but you wish you didn't have to tolerate the products these kinds of pseudo-scientists design.

Or it's like a businessman (or woman, but far less frequently, but maybe only because they have not had the opportunities, yet), who is a person who thinks that work is telling other people what to do. Oh, sure, the business person imagines s/he is working when s/he sets about to re-arrange conditions, using only communication as a tool; but the actual workers who must follow the instructions (which more often than not are unclear or even baffling) define work quite a bit differently, comprised of far fewer mental components and with tools that are far more physical in nature.

The interplay of worker and manager, or product and engineer, is not unlike that of language and (creative) writer or cultural music and musician. Each interaction is a conflict between the status quo and attempts to create a new experience out of standardized formats and activities, by reshaping and resetting the basic definitions by which the "real world" operates.

Nowhere is this disconnect more evident to me that when (some few) people criticize my writing as being overly critical of others when I should be looking more closely at my own motives (or maybe I only imagine the criticism while reading between the lines phantom text that really isn't there). This may seem to be amenable to a straightforward analysis of language and belief, but I know that it is not.

First, I know that this criticism is true; I've said as much, often. A major theme in most of my writing is my attempt to demonstrate how I am responsible for the attitude that casts others in the light I cast them in. But my intent, most of the time, when I write, is not first and foremost to criticize the foibles or evil or whatever of others' behavior (when it comes right down to it, I really don't give too much of a shit about others), but to examine my own perceptions of their behavior, and thus to examine my own (internal) behavior.

Second, when you criticize me for criticizing others, maybe you should be looking at your own critical attitude; just maybe, you're critical attitude of me is actually a self-criticism that you deny and project. Isn't that, after all, what you're accusing me of? It's so easy to slide off of an "objective" point of view when it comes to examining material that both corresponds and doesn't to an internal world, especially when you're not conscious of that internal content. We are each a complex and fluid intermixture of self and other, and it takes a great deal of time and energy to separate out, even tentatively, the various strains.

Third, despite my purpose, and even though it is my intent to use writing as self-therapy, the people I "criticize" deserve it. It's not like they're totally innocent of the charges I level at them. Yeah, so, sometimes in my pursuit of elusive personal content and correspondences, I exaggerate a bit, or a lot, sometimes jumping off the deep end. So what? It's creative writing, people, material I dredge up from the depths of my psyche through association with an outside world that often seems to correspond. Don't take it so seriously. It's not like I'm a well-respected international journalist or anything. I'm just a solo dancer here, looking for a monkey partner to hang onto. Lighten up.

stupid is as stupid doesn't

I should talk, though. I can get so serious sometimes, especially when I'm considering one of my favorite peeves, the conservative agenda (and, by implication, the silly liberal counterpart). Right now, I want to examine conservative v. liberal POVs re whether disabled people should receive subsidized care (in whatever form, even if merely ramps instead of steps) as an aspect of "democracy": Should disabled people be catered to by society or should they be required to function within a standardized system and, if they are not capable of doing so, should they be allowed to fail to survive or prosper? In other words, is there any place for "survival of the fittest" within a democratic society; or is that natural principle an inherently autocratic one? Or to put it even another way, is the practice of democracy an advancement beyond our naturalistic heritage and therefore inconsistent with conservative laissez faire politics? I'm not sure. Sometimes I feel one way, sometimes I feel the other. I understand how and why conservatives think the way they do. I would think that way too if I did not have this other way of thinking, this ideal, that informs me that we should be better than we are and not so goddammed highly and mightily convinced that we are so right because we are so prosperous and others who are not so prosperous are less able and valuable than we are. I try to temper my criticism in this regard.

My sister-in-law is an out-and-out Bush condemner; he can do no right. Her most basic criticism is that he's a stupid man, which I don't mind at all, her criticism, especially when I consider the principle of denial and projection. I like George Bush, I'm even a kind of fan of his; but I don't feel at all offended (like some of his supporters will) when Bush's critics engage in their hyperbole; because I hate Bush's politics. And, although I like the man, I think that there's no way he should not be president. He should be a Hollywood celebrity or a Hell's Angel or something. Oh wait. Maybe he already is a hell's angel. But whatever he is, he is definitely not a stupid man, and his enemies who characterize him as such fall right into his trap. If you think someone is stupid, you tend to downplay or disregard that person; and no one should be disregarding what Bush is up to. He represents a serious threat to the democracy.

No, Bush isn't as stupid as people want to think he is. He's stupider than most politicians maybe; but he's not stupid when compared with the general population, who, after all, are the ones who put him in office, so what does that say about who's more stupid? Last year, in a joint interview with Bush and Cheney, the press asked about the torture of enemy prisoners, waterboarding in particular. Cheney said something to the effect that he thought that torture (by implication meaning waterboarding) was an acceptable practice when dealing with terrorists who might provide needed information. Bush immediately said the opposite, thus officially correcting and reversing Cheney's position. Pundits later pointed to this incident as an example of an administration at odds with itself. Rather, I think it reveals that Bush, unlike Cheney (who maybe does understand, but just doesn't care), understands the political situation and is not about to allow Cheney to undermine his position. Not only does it demonstrate Bush's political acumen, it also reveals that, despite appearances, Bush is not a puppet being run by puppeteer Cheney. In the past, the dynamic duo may have unwittingly (at least on Bush's part) imparted that illusion; but in these latter days, Bush is quick to try to dispel it, even at the cost of appearing to be at odds with his VP.

So, Bush is not the dummy everyone seems to want to make him out as, probably in order project their own inadequacies onto him and thus justify in their own weak minds how they could have allowed such a person to become president. People mock this president because they cannot face their hidden fear of him, which repression is cultivated by Bush's own apparently upstanding and righteous position: George Bush (and his ilk) actually believes he is on the right side of the good and holy; he doesn't realize he's a force of evil in the world. And he has convinced or at least embedded a serious doubt in the minds of the populace that, though he might be misguided or wayward at times, he is fighting the good fight. But he is not. He's not all that much different than the people he calls his enemies. They're all basically the same, these zealots who kill in the name of God and go to bed at night duped by their own faith that they are doing good.

I have to admit though that (true) conservatives (Bush is not a true conservative), generally, have it right when it comes to economic and some social issues; and they're right in the way that they assess human nature and construct their politics accordingly to deal with it (by defending themselves and their cronies against it). But when it comes to "human rights," they're way off base; or, at least, the neo-cons are. The conservative fallacy lies in the fact that, in the name of their "hands off" approach to governing {it's not really all that hands off, they're pretty much hypocrites in that regard, even the traditional conservatives; if they were truly hands off, I'd probably be a lot more supportive of their efforts, although I could never truly support a conservative politically, nor could I ever vote for one, because of their tacit, if not explicit, affiliation with Christian religious organizations, because I believe in keeping superstitious behavior as far away from public office as possible; and I have a hard time supporting liberals also, because, although they tend to act to keep their superstitions separate from their politics [although it's beginning to look doubtful in this regard, since they're starting to feel they need to wear them on the outsides of their tacky garments in order to more effectively compete with the pandering conservatives (they're not really all that religious, after all; they're, all of them, liberals and conservatives, hypocrites who just make a claim to religion in order to get votes), when it comes right down to it, whether or not they use their religion for political purposes (they're still hypocrites, even if they don't) they do believe (have the "faith"), they are superstitious, most of them, and the ones who don't believe but are purely hypocritical are probably more practical politicians in the long run], the liberals give away too much public money (not that the neo-cons don't; they just give it to the rich people for corporate welfare and munitions), and I believe that we can serve the public good by developing social works programs that employ and otherwise care for the poor (through creative ideas like job-sharing and babysitting, etc.; there are lots of ways we can take care of people who are unable to work without paying them to stay at home) and that not only pay for themselves by using money now dedicated to improving the infrastructure (yeah, I know, it's not going to happen, because the private companies who now get that money would not allow it; but it could be done), but by competing in the private equity markets (in a safe and smart way; again, the traders and analysts aren't going to let it happen) and even competing against established businesses in ventures that employ the disenfranchised and poor citizens (again...) The government could be put on a pay-as-you-go profit-generating footing, which would not only disentangle corporate capital from its current untoward influence, but would also force it to become more efficient in order to compete in those areas where government participates. This all (and more) can be done, and rather easily too; but it won't be, because the conservatives won't allow it, because they're too concerned with maintaining their elitist role within society}, the conservatives allow conditions to develop and continue to exist that are basic human rights violations; and they at times, in the abandonment of their hands-off approach, even aid and abet the violations. The most obvious and egregious examples of this is the current administration's torture policy. (The fact that we have to have a torture policy in the first place points to the problem. Our general democratic principles stated in the constitution should override any need for a torture policy.)

But at least the torture issue is out in the open now. Many other human rights issues remain essentially unstated (i.e., they are not being seriously considered in the rhetoric of the presidential candidates, even the marginal ones). For example, citizens have the basic human right not to be overwhelmed and swallowed up by the governmental system that disregards their plight, even if the disenfranchised citizens act within that system to their own detriment, because who is anyone (but God, if there is one) to determine how much of a citizen's incorrigible behavior is self-determinable and how much of it is system determinant. In other words, if a system has incorrigible poor and disenfranchised citizens, the government is responsible for them, simply by virtue of the fact that it sets itself up as their authority. A government can't have it both ways (well, of course it can; but it shouldn't be allowed to): Either it is the agency responsible for all that it rules over or it is not responsible for any of it and must dissolve away entirely.

A viable and proper government should not turn a blind eye to the plight of any single citizen, whatever the cause of his or her plight. People have the human right to be free of the deleterious effects that a governmental system creates or tolerates within a national region (or, for that matter, around the rest of the world) whether through its neglectful or intentionally anti-citizen practices (or through individual self-action; because a government must also act to save people from themselves when necessary). Apart from that responsibility, the government may (and should in a democracy) take a hands off approach. But corporation licensing (and certainly corporate welfare) may be thought of as aiding and abetting the neglectful or intentionally abusive practices that corporations inflict upon the citizens. If the government insists on enabling a corporate environment with an elite cadre at its controls, then the government takes on the responsibility for the human rights violations that the corporations it licenses engenders. It must act to restrain corporations from implementing all practices that infringe on citizens' human rights. (Actually, even if companies are not licensed and the businesses are merely "ordinary" enterprise, the government is still responsible to act to restrain and punish companies that violate individual human rights.)

People have the basic right to remain free of the influence of social structures that would negatively dominate and disenfranchise them. And governments, rather than aiding and abetting that domination, must mediate between the individual citizens and the dominating social structures. In order for a government to be legitimate, it must act to alleviate the suffering of all citizens, whatever the cause. Please note that I advocate this position, not from a liberal point of view, but from a libertarian one. [Left libertarian: progressivism (in the sense of making social progress) without the liberal onus of spending taxpayer money. Protect all citizens, but do it in a fiscally responsible way, paying as you go and avoiding debt. No government should be allowed to take on debt in the name of its citizens. That should be an individual responsibility only and a basic human right, to be free of debt that one does not create by one's own efforts. If a government can't pay for all that it has taken on, then it must trim back its responsibilities, leaving for last the total protection and welfare of its citizens. (And, if can't do even that, then it must dissolve.)]

But, don't get me wrong, I'm not a "bleeding hearts" liberal. I myself could care less about the suffering of the common man. As far as I am personally concerned, let them all wallow in their ignorance. Because, as the conservatives claim, it is true that, if the people were not ignorant, they would have figured out how to work themselves up into a position of at least relative modest security, if not affluence. But the government that creates, or at least allows, the conditions in which the ignorant must exist, is not living up to its responsibilities. To advocate in this way is not necessarily to adopt a liberal position. Liberalism or conservatism lies not in the responsibility, but in how one goes about executing that responsibility. I myself advocate the least amount of government possible which still acts responsibly in this regard. If we must have a government (and it sure seems like we must), then let it be one that acts to protect and not aid in the debasement of its common citizens.

If we existed without a government, i.e., if we existed "in the wild," then a survival of the fittest existence (which I appreciate, because I consider myself to be an animal) would be appropriate. In this type of existence, each person guarantees his or her own human (animal) rights. But if we must establish a government to rule over our interactions, then that in essence relieves the individual of (at least some of) his or her burden for caring for himself by assigning that responsibility to the governmental system, and so that system must humanely execute its responsibility and protect all of its citizens, including the ignorant who might otherwise be hurt by others or by social structures or by themselves; and the system must arrange its financial situation in order to make this responsibility a top priority.

I believe in minimal government and support conservative efforts to minimize it. But the neo-cons want to believe that reducing governmental size and interference means to minimize its negative effect on businesses (while maintaining its positive effect; i.e., channeling resources, especially money, their way) while allowing corporations to do whatever they want, even as they violate the human rights of the individual citizen. True conservatism would prevent corporations from doing nefarious deeds while reducing governmental interference in the lives of all of the citizenry. (The real problem here are the laws that grant corporations individual rights status. Support corporate dismantlement, futile effort though it may be.)

Bush (remember I started out writing about Bush) talks a good game in this regard, but he doesn't act according to what he says he believes or do what he says he does. This is the standard neo-con strategy: Promote your business interests against that of individual rights, but talk a good game and spin the facts in ways that compel the citizenry to believe that you are true conservatives who believe in freedom and justice for all. What a bunch of bullshit these neo-cons serve up in the name of conservatism. What a shameful blight they are on an otherwise honorable philosophy. Death to all tyrants.

Yeah, Bush acts stupid(ly); but he is not stupid. In some ways, he is unpolished (or he used to be; lately, it's been looking like his handlers are making a little bit of progress in this regard). He makes verbal mistakes while speaking in public, stumbling and mumbling like he's uneducated or mentally defective. And it may be a mark of a good leader that he look and act the part, seem to be in control (none of them are, really), and be capable of responding instantly to unexpected situations (which questions from reporters is a test for); but, I would argue, these qualities are superficial and do not measure the true worth of a leader, but are instead the veneer that we come to expect as a result of our long exposure to a visual media that vests too much of its time and energy into appearance. A world leader is never going to encounter a situation where he must think on his feet; she or he will always have a bit of time to consult with advisers. Thinking on your feet and responding in the moment are qualities required of military men below the rank of major, police officers, firefighters, and (some) federal agents. (Sorry if I left anyone out.) And, anyway, dull-wittedness is not stupidity. People may appear to be stupid without actually being so. Some very smart people can appear to be so stupid because they require a bit of time and extraneous resources to process information; in fact, this very quality may make them smarter in the long run because they tend not to act on the spur of the moment, but instead tend to think things through. I'm not saying that Bush is of this latter type, but he does deserve the benefit of the doubt when it comes to being stupid. (I can't believe that I'm actually defending George W. Bush here.) Society will classify some people as stupid for the wrong reasons, and when the label seems to fit, people act to support it. And so some people live with that reputation all their lives. So, okay, yeah, they're "stupid" because they don't now how to or don't go to the trouble of correcting their appearance and their public image; and yet, when it comes down to what's really important, they may not be so stupid. It may seem true that stupid is as stupid does, but what is stupid is a matter of interpretation.

As society "progresses" (does it, really?), and what were formerly rigid beliefs and opinions give way to "liberal" interpretations that call the absoluteness of anything into question, people may more easily confuse each other (sometimes we call this process "spinning") so that we mere citizens may get the idea that it all seems to be getting increasingly meaningless as our leaders grow increasingly stupid. [This is one of the signs of the end of the world, some say: entropy is a quality of an aging physical system; mental entropy is a signal that a society is waning and heading toward its demise.] This is the whole point, I think, for conservatives, who know what they want: to go back to the time when it was all so clear cut and understandable; and who can blame them? Except for this strain in me that tells me that everyone deserves their own place in the sun, not me.

But when people say (or think) that their lives are meaningless, they're missing the big picture. What they're really saying is, "I can't see the meaning my life has." But no one need despair. It's impossible to understand the full meaning of a life; but it is always there. Even end-of-the-worlders tend to attribute meaning to their fantasies. In fact, at times, they can be rather inspiring, even the dourest of them.

I've become aware, at several points in my past, how people have looked to me for inspiration; and, if I had to choose who and how and when these incidents would occur, I would never have guessed them. I like to think that my grand gestures of social interaction or my more private moments of genius would be my best inspiring behavior. And, who knows? Maybe they are. But the ones people have told me of or the ones that I accidentally became aware of in round about ways, I don't even remember; or, at least, in some cases, not so clearly.

We each affect people in many ways, positively and negatively. [But I'm considering only the positive ways here, the ways that, if there would turn out to be a permanent record (which I doubt), would be those that gave the definitive meaning to our lives.] Someone, somewhere, at some unknown time (and probably lots of someones, somewheres, and sometimes) gained an inspiration from something we said or did, something that maybe even they themselves subsequently forgot, that changed their lives for the better, either in that moment or far later, after they stored away the experience and either recalled it when needed or registered it unconsciously so that it positively affected their later behavior, and perhaps determined a better course for their lives.

It is highly likely that this has happened to each and every one of us many times, both as inspirers and inspirees, because this is the way human life works, this is how our brains function, this is how we learn our lessons, when we do, from each other, consistently and continuously.

So, if you should ever despair as to the meaning of your life, don't. It's not your job to determine if your life has meaning. It does. That's all you need to know. Any further investigation into it by you heads you down that long, long hill toward narcissism; and, once you head out that way, it's a very long climb back up the other side of the valley. Believe me when I say that I know that valley very well. Better to stick with the path along the ridge. Live your life the way you think you should live it and leave the meaning to its own devices. It's a way bigger thing than you can even imagine. Let it do its work while you go on and do your own.

I've been feeling like I should abandon my ponderous polemics and adopt a different (more meaningful) approach to life, one that I used to have when I was young, a kind of "I don't care" attitude that was not, yet, defeatist or depressive. I should write and act socially as objectively and in as detached a manner as possible. (This could be a further step on my road to ultimate detachment. Yes!) Take no political stance, but merely observe and analyze. Consider the logic of each side of an issue and why that position is necessary for its adherents. I come to this conclusion after watching some prominent libertarians espouse their principles and realizing that, although they seem to be "right" (i.e., I tend to agree with them), so do I think they may be wrong-headed in some ways.

So, then, what is my philosophy of politics, and/or what should it be? I'm not really libertarian. (Claiming to be Left Libertarian is another way of saying you are not actually libertarian.) I'm certainly not conservative, despite some of my dyed-in-the-wool economic leanings and all but total disregard for people who are continually shooting themselves in the foot. I hate whining liberals who want to give away my money. And, although I feel a strong affinity for the radical fringe elements of the far left and enjoy their anti-authoritarian antics, I can't even imagine that they have any viable social alternatives. I'd like to see them tear down the corrupt establishment, but what then do we put in its place? And even if we could re-establish a better form of government, how long would it last before the corruption seeped back into it? Not long, human nature being what it is. I do have a vision (partially explained above, and more so hereafter) for how society could operate in a (relatively) just and progressive manner:

I believe that every American (every citizen of the world, actually; but let's get it started here first) should be guaranteed, as a basic right, a minimum existence: free safe housing, free nutritious food, adequate clothing, free health care (not the pseudo-care provided by insurance companies), and probably a few other things I haven't thought of yet. These basics should be nothing fancy, just the bare minimum: the housing, however, should be in a secure enclave (how that would be accomplished, given the nature of current public housing projects and population distribution in this country, I have no idea); food should be cheap, though of good quality, protein, carbs, veggies, and supplements; clothing should be of ordinary fabrics in a style that is universal, though not of a standard a la 1984; health care should keep people alive and functioning. Having anything beyond the bare necessities for life is the responsibility of individuals, who may improve their standards of living by participation in the great process of "democratic" capitalism. And, if the people who receive these benefits turn around and sell them, for whatever reason, well, that's their bad. Too bad. [In a sense, you could argue that we have this system now; except that it is so poorly managed and has so many gaps and loopholes that, in effect, it doesn't really work.]

But I have no real conviction that this vision will ever be implemented, let alone that it would remain free of corruption once established. Things are the way they are, and there is no sense getting bent out of shape by the non-supportive way that our capitalist monoculture chooses to deal with people who cannot or do not want to exist "cooperatively" within it. Better, I think, to expect the worst, be happy when it doesn't happen, and live your life as if the rest of the fucked-up world and its fucked-up people have nothing at all to do with you.

As I write this, I'm watching an account of the massacre in Rwanda and thinking about how fucked-up the fascist governments of the world are. But governments are run by people. The problem isn't governments, but people. People decide whether or not they're going to murder, rape, torture, and abuse people. Each person has a choice, and the people who choose to participate in a repressive regime, whether they feel coerced or not, are responsible. I don't buy the excuse that they were forced or intimidated into carrying out government or rebel policy any more than I accept the excuse that they were "just following orders." I know that people will do whatever is necessary when it becomes a matter of their own or loved ones lives, and I also might act against my moral principles under these kinds of circumstances (but I might not); but this doesn't relieve people of the responsibility as righteous humans to refuse to cooperate with those who would have you do other than what you believe to be right. There are situations in which you must sacrifice your life and the lives of your loved ones, if you are to remain or become righteous. People might not hesitate to rush into a burning building to save loved ones, yet they might kill strangers to save their own selves. Yet the two acts are analogous. People might not hesitate to refuse to kill loved ones in order to prevent their own selves from being killed, yet they might kill strangers to prevent the death of loved ones. Again, same thing. It's a tribal instinct that is understandable; but as a species we have developed beyond the tribe, supposedly. (We have, in fact, not; and this is the problem here. We are little more than glorified animals living in herds; and some of us are the lions stalking us.)

Humans are a fucked-up species and I have no hope for us at all, except that, barring the unforeseen catastrophe like a huge comet or asteroid slamming into the earth or an alien invasion, we will survive and go on existing in this same bumbling way that we do now, this I'm certain of. Our ingenuity will most likely prevail. And our politics will continue to remain as disgusting as they have always been. So, given this outlook, what should my particular political orientation be? The only thing I can think of, the only thing that has ever really worked for me, is detachment. It's not really a political position, it's more of an anti-political one; but it's what I believe in and what I practice: detachmentism. Stay as far away as possible and still survive. Get out of the fray and watch it all with a bit of a sense of humor as the buffoons ruin or debase everything they come into contact with. It's the only way to remain sane in a crazy world. I say again, as I said before, lighten up. It's not the end of the world, after all.

twelve years of solitude (and counting)

To tell the truth, I would have been happy dealing with the end of the world and repentance just on my own personal level. If I had my own time connected with God I'd be able to face death without any regrets or fears. I wasn't thinking about the afterlife or the salvation of the soul, just that I'd be able to survive for a certain time. During that time, as the end time drew near, I'd have a clear understanding that it was the end, I would repent as one, individual human being, and, as far as possible, I would end my days in a personal relationship with God, like some mystical hermit. That was my dream.
Kenzaburo Oe, Somersault
The world of postmodern entertainment is the lightest (most insignificant; silliest) world I know of; yet even it has a sinister underbelly. My new method of spinning the news so that all alternatives become personally acceptable works just as well here as elsewhere:

Telecom behemoths (AT&T, Comcast, etc.) edit and even block broadcasts and webcasts of direct and embedded political statements by musicians. [Of course, the blocked or edited comments are negative ones directed at conservatives; I'm sure they'd leave critical comments about liberals alone. (So much for the liberal media bias.) And liberals would never block comments about conservatives, if they would ever find themselves back in powerful and/or influential positions. (That's sarcasm, in case you missed it.) More likely, though, liberals would act to negate their effect via belittling innuendo, spinning, etc., which are also conservative tools; conservatives seem to have a larger arsenal of weapons than liberals; or, rather, they more willingly use the weapons that everyone has at their disposal; which is why personal spin is so important these days, to negate the institutional spin and level the playing field a bit so that we little people don't have to run up a hill of more than forty-five or fifty degrees.] Liberals struggle for "net neutrality" while corporations look for more and more subtle ways to control media content so that it benefits their corporate agendas. It's another "vast right wing conspiracy" to deliver the monocultural "message" intact and without conflicting (i.e., democratic) views. The telecoms (and other corporate entities) are no longer content to provide the service of delivering the news; they now want to manufacture it. (You can't know what's really happening if a few self-interested corporations have the sole responsibility of determining what it is that you see as "news.")

And it's even a larger issue than just the news. They're trying to edit and censor personal messaging for content, and denying access to users who happen to deliver the "wrong" messages. Terrible, right? Not if you look at it in light of my new "positive" outlook on the news: The country heads toward a Terminator-style nightmare, with an increasingly totalitarian corporo-governmental system spying on and censoring increasing numbers of ordinary citizens who might say anything "untoward" (much like Bush does now in his loyal-fanatics-only conventions and rallies when he throws out or arrests people who wear t-shirts espousing the wrong sentiments). People go about their daily lives under an increasing onus of paranoia, afraid that they might unwittingly say the wrong thing (much like it is now, only more so). Best case: subversives gather together in secret, share information that is no longer available via the public media (much like it is now, only more so), and commiserate while drinking and smoking (whatever) in underground bars. Worst case: open rebellion where the government is overthrown and chaos rules. Now isn't that the kind of world you really want to live in? No? What's the matter with you? Are you a communist or something? Have you gotten too old to remember what socio-cultural excitement is? Haven't you ever participated in a protest march? Are you too young and naive to have taken Rebellion 101 in college or to have majored in Revolution Theory? Have you become addicted to the "peace" we now enjoy (provided for you by a government that exports the violence of war to other countries where we can enjoy it in the safety of our homes via satellite tv? You wussies.

I have a solution for counteracting all of the fucked up things that the corporations do: When one of them does something egregious, bomb them. Government facilities have strict security to prevent such incidents. But most average corporations don't (yet) feel it's necessary to take such precautions, so you could easily get away with conducting a bombing campaign. Or, if bombing violates some namby-pamby personal morality code, then act in some other less violent yet still subversive way to let the companies know that people are no longer going to tolerate their fuckedupedness. Force the businesses of the world to put up their defenses and think twice about the shit they do. Who knows? Maybe you'll produce a change. It's worth a try. Don't come to me to try to help you, though. I'm too comfortable living here in my affluent squalor; and I'm getting old. Active rebellion is for the young. We old people merely serve to spur it on, when we believe in it (just like the old farts at the Pentagon who send the young recruits out to die in their place). Except that ours is a truly just cause. Oh, I know. Everyone believes that. So why should I be any different? Just leave me alone to spin my world my own way, since that's all that you all seem to want to do with your worlds anyway. Leave me to my solitude and I'll leave you to your pap-filled media-determined "social" world.

It used to make a difference, I used to be so aware of the solitude I cultivated, which is now the mere habit of detachment. I can go for weeks at a time without ever uttering a single word, even to myself, and never even think about it. (I think about other things constantly, though; the real detachment, a permanent meditative state, would be not to do that also.) I used to reason that, if being alone (yet never lonely; this is the major personality flaw here; if I were lonely, this wouldn't work) built up a deficit of human interaction, then, when it really mattered, I would have accumulated socio-cultural (or at least personal psychological) credits to use in my favor. But habit negates that possibility, perhaps.

Solitude has been a part of my solution to deal with the stress of social contact. But my solitude, extensive though it is, is imperfect. I still have to deal with my often overwhelming propensity to make plans and goals, although I continue to pursue them in a lackadaisical and/or haphazard fashion. When it comes right down to it now, in the summer at least, my life is not too much more than mere existence. Which is not a complaint. Far from it. In a way, it's the accomplishment of a goal in and of itself; or, at the worst, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy, though one I don't mind having fulfilled itself. If I had actually at some point in my past formalized a goal whereby I would bring myself to a place where I might merely existence (which in a way I did when I initiated my plans to become more detached), I might have chosen to want to merely exist alone [because mere existence with another person is counter-counterproductive (assuming that mere existence itself is counterproductive, in that it negates production)], like Samuel Beckett in his empty, all-white room--an ideal I've held in my mind for a long while now, ever since I read what he wrote about it, without actually believing that I might one day effect it.

My mind, sometimes, becomes an empty white room, though only for brief moments. I'm not (yet) that bereft of meaning. It would take a whole lot more of nothing to crowd out meaningful input that spurs my own reactive motive in this postmodern age of insistent media and crowded city and suburban areas. Even the traffic on the two-lane below (in the winter months when I can see it through the barren trees; but sometimes even in the summer when I can merely hear it) and the activities of neighbors here on the street and in their yards provoke mental motive in me. I would have to move far out into the forest to achieve the status of a true mystical hermit. (And, probably, the various forest noises would then become my input; you can't escape input except by an inward act of detachment.)

But maybe I'm confusing here mere existence with emptiness, which it certainly is not. And maybe the meaning of my life has nothing to do with plans and goals; in fact, maybe it's quite the reverse, the plans and goals serving the expression of the genetic condition, with the planning and goaling process being a symptom rather than a cause. I think this may be true. For example, a listed symptom of Asperger's syndrome is sensitivity to sunlight, which, on occasion, I experience, and always have; not so much though that it's ever of itself kept me indoors--although maybe my penchant for staying indoors at various periods in my life has been, not so much the introversion I experienced as an unconscious avoidance of sunlight. Who knows? Whatever the case, I've spent a whole lot more time out-of-doors during the course of my life than I've spent indoors. But I've spent most of that time wearing mirror sunglasses, having bought many pairs of them during the course of my life. I've been attributing this eyewear choice to my wanting unconsciously to limit my social exposure, a way in which I hide away (also abetted by my insistence that I never shave off my beard). I use the glasses as a buffer to this end. But, maybe, it's been as much an unconscious awareness of a sensitivity to bright light. [Or was that sensitivity symptom one of ankylosing spondylitis and not Asperger's? No matter. Same argument.]

I have a similar symptom (of something. I'm not quite sure if it's Asperger's; but maybe), an idea that I'm just now becoming aware of, although I should have known of this for a while, since I've spent a whole lot of time considering the phenomenon; it's been a blind spot, I suspect: End-of-the-world scenarios, apart from the postmodern cataclysmic significance or the cultural history of the phenomena, in their simplest form, are symbolic psychological representations of the fear of personal death. We latch onto these dogmas, not out of religious conviction, but because they appeal to our sense of the personal gloom and doom we feel at the inevitability of our eventual death. They are projections, more conscious than most, but still somewhat disguised by the fact that we and not the societies of the world are going to die.

Withdrawal into solitude (a nice word for non-social behavior) and contemplation of life/death issues and end-of-the-world scenarios are, maybe, a simple fear of death. Hmm. Doesn't sound like too positive a way to be spending one's life, does it? But, in dealing with these ideas now, I feel like I'm making progress. (But then I always feel like that when I write; and often it turns out that I do not.) As I develop the concept of a negative to "positive" news transformation, trying to tie this idea in with all the rest of the apparently divergent issues that have been flitting around me recently (it's not really the ideas that are flitting, but my mind), I begin to see a little point of light at the end of the very long tunnel: If issues go one way (liberal), that's good for the common man, the little people; if they go the other way (conservative), that's good for the end-time Terminator scenarios.

Solitude and contemplation (I rationalize; though maybe this is really true) are the tools I've used to bring me toward this apparent balance: Seeing both sides, negative and "positive" as viable alternatives is heartening, except that neither side is really positive. (Thus the quote marks.) It's not a true dichotomy (and thus not a real balance) in that it posits, not liberal pitted against conservative values (or lack of them), but bad news (the result of conservative policies) against badder news, my "end-of-the-world" Terminator scenarios. In other words, my transformations do not transform conservative "bad results" (war, violence, poverty, etc.) into liberal "good results" (I'm not so sure the results in this category are all that good), but rather they actually attempt to worsen the bad news by extending its "logic" and/or consequences out to its inevitable conclusions, both in a way that serves to point out the flaws in conservative thinking [there are some conservative points of view that are not flawed (too much) in my opinion; I would point the critical reader to the lifelong work of William F. Buckley, Jr., for example] and to satisfy my (hypothesized) longing for disaster-prone end-of-the-world scenarios that are probably merely death wishes in disguise, or, at best, a way to assuage my semi-conscious fears when confronted with disastrous news--in which case, there is nothing political at all about this personal "expos," if that is what it really is.

There is no better example of a bad-news item that will inevitably lead to an end-of-the world scenario than (ta-da! Are you ready for it?) the War on Terror. Obviously it's real; that is, it's not some confabulation that conspiracy theorists or even the neo-cons are concocting (although they may be exaggerating it somewhat). What's most called into question is not its reality, but the fact that it is necessary. If it were, however, a fabricated excuse of the Bush administration or perhaps a shadow government designed to enable the sale and usage of expendable munitions and to increase the flow of cheap oil to the U.S., then that would be a somewhat more comforting conception. If this were the case, it's nothing that, in practical terms, we have to worry about, because no terrorists are coming to our homeland. In this case, the administration is doing a great job at assuring our future well-being and increased affluence while it keeps the poorer world at bay and out of our pockets.

But this is not the case, of course. The world has very much gotten many hands into our pockets, the War on Terror is, apparently, motivating terrorists to try to storm the bastions of our democracy, and oil is not flowing so cheaply any more. And, worst of all (or best, depending on your point of view--this is a small part of a big attempt to re-program my attitude toward a new point of view) the likelihood of an end-of-days scenario is rapidly increasing. Now isn't this exactly what we need, a long series of major man-made (and natural; don't forget good old Mother Nature) disasters, one after another, to hold our interest while we watch it all play out on tv until it finally arrives at our back door, too late to be of any real concern because we've all died off in one or another kind of viral plague or environmental poisoning?

Given this ultimate conclusion, isn't it better that, instead of a whole world of humanity with all of its fabulous advances in medicine and technology (true social advances are yet to be seen, although, civil rights seems to be progressing) dying off, I, myself, alone, with my Terminator nightmare scenarios die in its place? Because I will die anyway, sooner or later. And you (all) will be left alone to face the horrible end of civilization that people like me have conjured up in our desperate attempts to be free of the specter that the prospect of our personal deaths create.

But, unfortunately, it's not, after all, just me and a few crazies out there who are thinking up these nightmares. Novelists and filmmakers increasingly participate and wrap you up in their social web of intrigue that is, perhaps, becoming one huge self-fulfilling prophecy, apart from little old me who is but caught up in it too. It's a universal symbol, after all. We're all going to die anyway. So why not go out in one big blaze of glory? Huh? Forget about all that preserving the earth for the kids crap. What is that when measured against the cult of the objectification of a universal fear of personal death? Thanatos is alive and well and living in our mutual fantasies.

Back and forth. This is the nature of humanity. Liberal and conservative. Interaction and solitude. Life and death. (Animals don't have to think about it. It's entirely a human "problem.") So, you see, it's better that I remain alone, to protect you as well as me. The problem is, what about all those others who do not, not only the "crazy" writers and filmmakers, but especially the ones who believe themselves to be mainstream members of society and run corporations and countries, yet engage in activities that hasten the onset of the end of the world? [The Bush cartel, for example.] I've found my own solution: I fantasize and dream about it. How about you? You still want to live in the real world, huh? I don't much envy you. I'll stick with my books. You may not believe that this is a real enough way to live; but it is.

the big shake

Books are limited in all kinds of ways, aren't they? A book has words printed in it. While you read you can't change it. Reading can't be the same as living in the real world.
Kenzaburo Oe, Somersault
I can change it. I change books (and movies) all the time. I use them as take-off material for fantasies. I read, come across content I like, read on until it deviates from the way I would have it go, stop reading, and continue the content in my own direction, to see where it will take me, until it pans out and I am left with the ore of my (self) exploration.

And, at times, reading is, for me, like living, the characters my friends, better friends than most of those I've ever had, because, being an experienced consumer of literature, I know exactly what they're going to do, I'm never surprised any more (too bad); they populate my head like my dreams do, but remain under my own control.

And this is (one of the reasons) why I write novels, to bring under my own control the multiplicity of phenomena of the world (but there are too many of them, phenomena, and reasons, and novels, not to mention the ideas). I sometimes think I'd be farther ahead if I just wrote out ideas I have for novels and left it at that, since I actually finish so few anyway:

I want to write a novel (or story) about an independent (i.e., not a chain) fast food restaurant called The Big Shake (with a huge milk shake cup atop the smallish building), whose crew of misfit employees (think Car Wash meets American Graffiti) resolve the personal dilemmas of their angsty antic-ridden empty lives.

When disaster strikes in the form of a major Southern California earthquake, reactions occur on three levels: 1) superficiality of losers' (employees and families and friends) daily lives 2) stereotypical perceptions of the citizenry during and after quakes 3) how employee's lives are shaken up and transformed into more meaningful existences.

I'll never write that story, because I have too many others that I feel are more important, and I only work, at most several hours per day. Day to day and year to year time goes rapidly by; and yet, month to month, it flows oh so slowly, as if it's going to take forever to get to summer or winter again. Although, sometimes, it goes like this intra-day also.

And, in that latter case, it's getting to the next day that's the concern, whether positively or negatively, as when anticipation plays a role. I criticize myself for my sloth when I sit around waiting for events to unfold, daily and monthly. But how can I (or anyone) be any way but how we are? (I am, sometimes, many people.) Criticism is silly.

All of our criticisms are self-criticisms. In this way, I am my brother and his family, and George Bush, and the whole damn world, shaken up and roiling against me because I choose to want to perceive it in the manner that I do. I'm the one who's shaking it up. It doesn't get to be like that by itself. I do not choose peace instead of turmoil.

It's hurricane season in Western Pennsylvania. No, we're not on the coast, but hurricanes in The Gulf (and often in the Atlantic) throw their weather up our way and the jet stream catches it up and twists it back around toward the east. It's raining and is supposed to continue for the next three days, which is a good excuse to stay indoors.

I've been moping around for a while, choosing not to work. I rationalize this anti-behavior by believing that collecting (ideas, materials, whatever) is a form of (my) work. As basic materials come my way, I gather them together and put them in their appropriate places. This means, basically, hoarding materials for later use; but it can also mean using materials artistically in the moment and/or "storing" them as pieces of an individual "art" that expresses this hoarding process by, for example, using bits of wood, molding, etc. to decorate and functionally alter my living environment; and/or storing the wood for later use, like I did with the "table" I assembled on the front porch next to the redwood chair that I sit in to read on warm afternoons: I stacked up about fifty or so pieces of approximately two foot by four foot wood, plywood, paneling, etc, fronted it with wood from an old piece of furniture that had been dismantled (thus making the assembly look like a finished piece of furniture on three sides, the fourth side being against the house), and topped it with a large piece of particle board that had wood strips nailed to its sides, making it look sort of like a tabletop. A perfect wood storage area disguised as a table that I needed anyway for my seedlings in the spring.

This same principle can be applied to any material that is "stored in plain sight" but in a way that makes it (somewhat) "decorative" as opposed to being clutter. Other ideas yet to be constructed: footstools, chairs, and sofas that are storage boxes; false or curtained walls, behind which are stored large 4' x 8' pieces of wood (I've collected a large amount of wood over the years that people were just going to throw away; overly affluent Americans are disgusting); and, of course, there are the shelves, sometimes closed in to hide their contents; and there are the paintings on wood, which I'm going to do one day, if only to use up (instead of canvas) some of the excess wood, particle board, and Masonite. One of these days.

Picking back up the thread of criticism (a stitch I dropped earlier) and weaving it into the anti-affluence theme (all just an excuse to change the subject here), I think that people deserve a president like King George. The rich and the upper middle class like him because he benefits them; and that's understandable. And the lower middle class and poor like him, when they do, put it bluntly, they're ignorant cunts. They're incapable of understanding that conservatives in power do not benefit them, they're led around by their noses by black and white appeals to patriotism and nationalism, and they fail to take into account the fact that they are worse off with Bush as president. So...they deserve him.

The human race is a fucked-up species. We're wasteful, ignorant animals, by and large, which is fine with me because I can stand a little bit above the fray and flaunt my relatively higher intelligence, while projecting my own disgusting nature "down" onto the rest of humanity. But I do accept myself and the rest of my species exactly for the animals that we are. What I cannot accept are the people who pretend that we are something different and, at the same time, believe they are intelligent and act intelligently. (Mental activity is also behavior and is, thus, an 'act' that occurs inside that "black box" that we call a mind.)

But, as I think about it, we are also something different than animals. We kill, just like animals; but we do it for sport, which is about as fucked up as you can get. When we do it for money or for personal, political, or national advancement, well, okay; in this case, we are every bit merely animals, who do the same thing, more or less. (Animals don't have nations, but the more advanced among them possess hints of politics, which convinces me that species are gradient, having evolved with emerging degrees of what humans possess in abundance.)

What irks me the most is that the human animals among us believe themselves to be so goddammed advanced, something apart from the animal world, something special, a species appointed by God to rule the world--which we certainly are if you conflate the world of nature to be synonymous with God; but people generally do not do that, but rather propose that God is something more than nature; and we are cast in Its image, which means that God is, at least at times, a bellicose bastard. The logic is inescapable, except when you choose to close your eyes to it so that you may maim and kill and lie and cheat and take advantage of the poor, etc.

Christians are by far the worst offenders in this respect, far worse, far more duplicitous than the Jews and the Islamists, who are fairly straightforward in their intents. (The God of the Jews is a bellicose bastard; but the God of the Christians, although It is supposed to be the same God, is modified and advanced in Its nature by the coming of Jesus.) True Christians, and I use this term quite deliberately, do not support huge war machines whose purpose is to kill. You cannot, without cognitive dissonance of the highest order, follow the teachings of Jesus and choose to ignore the message to turn the other cheek. (Fundamentalists tend to use the excuse that they are not perfect, just forgiven, a la the old Catholic cop-out that you can do anything you want to as long as you go to confession.)

When it comes to turning the other cheek, the Quakers and the Amish and other like sects are the only true (organized) Christians. The fundamentalist supporters of the pretender George W. Bush are not true Christians, and all their political machinations and their proselytizing do is confirm their position as spawns of evil (which always signifies itself by pretending to be the opposite of what it really is). Add the fundamentalist Islamists into this mix and you get an explosive concoction.

As I see it, fanatics (which fundamentalist Christians cannot see themselves as being, though it's rather obvious if you look at their fanaticism from the outside), of whatever form, via their unwavering beliefs (faith), are the most dangerous killers of all, because they have no real reason to stop killing when they achieve their supposed goals (to wit, the inquisitions or the witch trials); they go on and on, intent upon wiping out the evil they project onto their enemies. Blind adherence to a religion, more often than not, is the basic problem when peoples cannot get along and, instead, start killing each other. (Nationalism is just like religion and most, if not all, nations prod their citizens to accept patriotism on faith.)

A friend once accused me of having no faith. (She meant it both religiously and re to having faith in her.) I told her I have plenty of faith. I have faith in science, and I have faith in myself; and, unlike many so-called spiritual people, my faith in these areas never wavers. But as far as spiritual faith goes, I take nothing that is supposedly spiritual on faith. (Religious people, or at least fundamentalists, tend to believe that the only kind of faith that exists is spiritual; thusly are they able to subject science to religion.)

Now, there's nothing wrong with pursuing "spiritual" knowledge. Even though I don't believe that a spiritual realm actually exists, a careful pursuit of "spirit" can lead you toward a higher awareness where, when combined with science, reason, and intelligence, you may find a "higher" truth. And there's nothing wrong, even, with having a blind faith in spiritual concerns, so long as the 'faithful' keep to themselves and do not try to impose their way of life on non-believers, which is exactly what the neo-fundamentalists (Falwell's progeny, et al.) are trying to do. They want to take control of the government and establish a theocracy based upon what they believe (erroneously) to be the principles upon which our nation was founded--conveniently forgetting the part about democracy.

Although I would never condone it, it being the same strategy the 'faithful' get reversed on them, I can understand why people sometimes feel that exterminating the adherents of a religion would be an eventual good. To rid the world of these kinds of subtly dangerous people would certainly make the rest of us breathe more easily. But, then, who's next? Democracy is the proper response to people who would impose the craziness of the cult onto the majority (or even onto the minority). Everyone in a democracy has (theoretically) her or his place in the scheme of things, as long as no one violates the rights of others to express their own beliefs and live the kind of life they choose to live. Now wouldn't that be a wonderful world. It's a good thing I'm so into fantasy and not so much into reality. Otherwise I might really try to shake things up and do my little bit to hasten us to the end:

fed up

A paraphrased recent conversation, written from memory:

"I already know what's going to happen there."


"They'll find an excuse to claim that the Messiah has come, and the Islamists will reveal the identity of the Hidden Imam, and all of those people who do not choose to follow one or the other will become targets for assassination from the opposing side. And the Jews, probably in conjunction with the Christians, will get the upper hand and oppress the Islamists in an even worse way than they do now and either out and out genocide them or subsume it under a guise of slow death by concentration camp, which they will think is justified, a kind of cosmic justice, because what goes around, comes around. And then, once it's too late, the intelligentsia will gather up what's left and try to establish a peaceful world that the remnant Jews and Christians will label as The Millennium, ignorant cunts that they are."

"I don't think it will go that way at all. That presumes that you believe in Bible prophecy. I think the Islamists will win out and devastate the Western world and create a Islamic world government and oppress everyone who doesn't convert to Islam."

"That presumes that you believe in Koran prophecy. Personally, I don't care which side winds out, because if either side does, that means that we're incapable of living in peace without killing off the other side, which is not true peace at all. And I believe that we are, in fact, not capable of living in peace. We're a violent species and we deserve to be exterminated. Maybe the porpoises can do a better job of it."

I'm completely fed up with religious fanatics and want to stop thinking about them completely; and I'm completely fed up with the animal-people too, especially the jocks and the wannabe jocks (rabid sports fans); and I support euthanasia in both cases. It's not that I don't like sports. I'll watch an occasional match or two here and there. I'm never all that enthused, but I'll watch. But the more I watch, the more I don't want to, because I hate the announcers' attitudes and it's just too boring watching without the sound. In fact, I hate sports reporters in general. I hate their macho, back-slapping, good-buddy, Neanderthal routines, and I especially hate how they take it all so seriously, like it was worthy of a post-doctoral study program or something, one of the highest advancements of the human race, like it's up there with medicine, nuclear physics and cosmology, and philosophy and ethics, or whatever. It's not aesthetics, it's just athletics, and that's all it is, and those who glorify it and raise it to a higher level reveal themselves for the cavemen that they are. I can make this same argument, on the other side of the gender divide, for fashion, etc.; but I won't. Not now. And I hate to "pick" on sports for this reason: it's only one of many manifestations of a clich culture that worships superficiality, in which athletics ranks high, but does not have exclusivity, by any means.

And then there are the dog-fighters. Give me a break already, please. Everyone is all worked up about the poor goddam dogs. Fuck the dogs! They're goddam animals, and not very nice ones at that. True, they were bred and trained that way by human Neanderthals; but I don't care. I'd kill them too (the dogs, I mean) if I could manage it, if I met one in the street and it threatened me in that way they will when they think they're so fucking superior in animal strength and speed. (They make a nice metaphor for jocks, don't they? And a nice hook for another projection too, I suppose.)

What I do care about re dog-fighting, a concern that seems to have eluded everyone on the news these days, is the macho caveman attitude, that ignorant-minded, good-ole'-boy mentality (this may be exactly the wrong word to use here) that keeps our species stuck back in the stone age. [Am I still allowed to use this metaphor, now that Geico has called it into question? I mean, those ads are sarcasm, right? No one is really taking that shit seriously, are they? Because, if they are, if there's some kind of a movement afoot, what with the new tv series and all, to legitimize and make macho-men the next pc cause...well...look out world, 'cause I ain't gonna stand for it!]

right or wrong

I'm living in my own little world, writing this kind of crap at night or early in the morning; and I'm online all day, from nine a.m. till seven, taking advantage of the market sell-off, researching and buying stocks, and doing all of the usual stuff I do online. So, at seven, as soon as I sign off (dial-up) and get ready to go outside to get a few odds and ends caught up before it gets dark, the phone rings. It's my brother. He asks me if I "want to help him out tomorrow."

I ask, "Doing what?"

He says he has a job where he has to pull eighty feet of wire.

Instantly my overly worked mind goes into overdrive. It's one of those now rare moments, which used to happen frequently when I was young, and which I used to cherish, where everything I've been thinking about in bits and pieces over a long period of time finally comes together and dumps itself out all at once in a rapid sequential flurry of points and counterpoints, sort of a limited and ultra-mini version of my life passing before my eyes, except that it has no visual component:

1) I don't want to work any more (than I already have to). I've worked hard enough my whole life and pulling wire is difficult, sometimes painstaking, and often exhausting work, especially in this heat and humidity.

2) Will my back even hold up to a full days' work? I still have to pay very close attention to it when I'm doing heavy work, which I always end up limiting when I feel the slightest twinge or tingle, ever since those devastating "back attacks" of a month or so ago.

3) The way he asked made me think he might be asking for a favor instead of hiring me as a sub-contractor and intending to pay me. Either way, I don't owe him a thing.

4) In fact, he owes me $440 from previous jobs that he's never managed to find a way to pay me--although it would be simple, a five or ten here and there over the years would have easily paid me off, if he were serious about his responsibilities and debts. So, if he intends to pay me for new work, no thanks. Pay me what you owe me instead.

5) And if he wants a favor, well, how many more favors do I have to do for him before he finally shows up to help me with the service panel he had me pay for last October but still hasn't gotten around to installing? In the favor department, I'm way ahead. He'll never be able to catch up.

6) This is another one of those stories of my life: I'm a sucker when it comes to helping people out. It took me a long time to learn how to say no to people who, I knew, were taking advantage of me. But I always figured that family members were the exception--until a few years ago when I decided that enough was enough.

7) There is a certain sense of justice I feel in turning him down, forcing him, maybe, to face up to how he has gotten himself into this situation with me (and in general), making him think, hopefully, about how he has been treating me (and others).

8) Why is he calling me now? How long has he known he's needed help? Couldn't he have given me some notice so that I could adjust my sleep schedule and gotten some much needed rest ahead of the big day? Isn't he aware of how difficult it is for me to deal with mere existence, let alone the stress of work? [No, to be fair, I suppose he isn't; I've kept myself well hidden in that respect.]

9) A memory flashes of riding with him in the truck when we went to do some jobs in the central part of the state and he must have been drinking before we left (it was very early in the morning) because he was swaying all over the road and he was scaring the shit out of me as I watched the side of the truck approach the guardrail as we traveled through the mountains. I decided then that I'm not ever going to ride with him again when he's been drinking, and how am I to know ahead of time if he has?

The above points of thought occur nearly instantaneously, the arguments and reasoning having been pre-thought many times on many different occasions. I tell him, " No, I don't think so. I'm not really up to it."

I know what he's thinking/feeling, I heard it in his voice when he said goodbye, tersely and dismissively, as soon as I declined his invitation. Usually, when he calls to ask me for something, which is always why he calls, though usually he disguises the request in some kind of lame, easily seen through, social banter, he hangs on after the request in order to "socialize" a bit. But not this time. He's pissed.

I've observed him in this state before, when he's been let down, or so he concludes, by someone. He's incapable of seeing how it is his own self who has let him down by having treated people the way he has for so long that they finally get the idea that they're being taken advantage of. I've seen him react this way toward people he works for, toward people who work for him, toward his own kids, and, especially, toward his wife. There's no reason to believe that he isn't reacting this same way toward me now.

And yet, as soon as I hang up, I feel regret, and guilt. I almost change my mind and call him back and tell him, yeah, I'll help him. But I force myself not to. This is exactly what the situation requires, even if, because of his denial and projection, he never gets the message and blames me for a situation he created. I am undependable, it seems.

I don't like feeling this way. I don't like being undependable. This is why I am, still, always on time, everywhere I go. And I make it a point always to honor my commitments, which is why I hate to make them in the first place, when I know I often will feel so stressed to follow up; but I do follow up, always. I bite the bullet, swallow the stress and live up to my obligations and responsibilities.

I've been this way all my life, early on to a significant fault. I don't even like people thinking I might be undependable, even when they're wrong. Which is why I now feel regretful and guilty. Do I owe him anything, apart from the favors balance sheet--which is currently tipped way in my direction? Do I owe him my help simply because he's my little brother and is so put upon by people and life (or, rather, he created the situations whereby life and its people have become so burdensome and uncooperative for him)?

Should I accept the fact that he is never going to act responsibly and will always need my help and will never pay his debt to me and will always need favors (just like his wife, who tries to do the same damn thing to me)? I don't know. Maybe I should have said I'd help him. But it was an instinctual and intuitive decision based on an instantaneous analysis; and I still believe that it was the correct one.

I'm wondering now if he was sober when he called. He sounded okay, but then he usually does; it takes a whole lot of alcohol to make him sound drunk. Last week, when he was over here dropping off some wood [another "favor" he pretends he does for me that I know is just a way he has of getting rid of wood from jobs he wouldn't be able to take because he has nowhere else to dump it; he even told me exactly that this last time, that taking the job was contingent upon me wanting the wood; but I already knew he did that sort of thing before he told me], although he didn't look or sound like he'd been drinking, I knew he had, by the way he didn't listen to what I was saying, but answered off-point and/or talked over my words; by how he asked or told me things he's asked or told me many times before (which he doesn't do when he's not drinking); by the heavy minty odor on his breath that he thinks covers up the alcohol smell beneath it; and, especially, by the casual and inattentive way he spurts out his bigotry:

We stood in the driveway leaning against his truck and talked for a long time, and during that conversation, since he'd been drinking, he was a bit more animated and less constrained than his usual non-drinking self is, and when the conversation turned to sports and Michael Vick, he emoted the word "nigger" way too loudly [not as if it's okay to say that word if you whisper it]. I schussed him, and he complied, saying something about how he'd better watch what he's saying, knowing that many of my neighbors are black. I felt embarrassed, not only for him, like I always do when he uses derogatory and/or bigoted remarks in the privacy of his own home, but for myself too, lest anyone might have overheard him and attributed the attitude to me and think I am a bigot myself. After all, I choose the people I hang out with. I feel, now, like I should go and apologize to my neighbors, not only the black ones, but all of them. I don't like the idea that people might consider me a bigot even more than I don't like the idea that they might consider me undependable. I really hope nobody heard him.

Add to all of this another way I've learned over the years to recognize when he's been drinking: by not showing up here when he said he would, for whatever reason, which he does all the time, promising to be here at a specific time, but not making it; but specifically when he'd arranged to have me work with him and then calling and canceling that morning after I've rearranged my schedule, gotten all prepared to go out and meet the world, and sat waiting for him, sometimes for hours; and not only canceling once or twice for the same job, but day after day, always with a lame and obviously fabricated excuse, until he finally stops calling and just doesn't show up; and then he repeats the same pattern the following week after he calls on Friday or Saturday with his excuses and re-arranges to start again on Monday. And then starting the pattern all over again. And doing this same thing not only once or twice, but again and again, job after job; and me going along with it, rationalizing that, hell, I'm not doing anything important anyway, I might as well sit and wait and read, because that's what I do best anyway, reading, and sitting and waiting.

In short, he takes me for granted; and I'm sure, when he called me this time, he fully expected me to agree to help him out, because it's what I've always done, tolerated him and his undependability. And it's all caused by his alcoholism, I know; because he's a different person when he's not drinking. But why should that be an excuse, even if he would admit it? [I know that just because he's an alcoholic doesn't make him a terrible person. But how he behaves when he's drinking just might.]

If he'd asked me to help him do something like work on his house, to pull cable from his basement to his second floor, for example, I'd have agreed to do it in a minute. But helping him with his work, at activities where he's making money, when I'm doing him a favor by helping him out and he isn't going to pay me, or even where he is going to pay me but I know he never will, is just a step too far. I'm not going to do him a favor while he translates that favor into profits that I see none of. That would just be another way that he would be using me. And, although it may make me a poor excuse for a brother, I'm not going to work for him because he owes me money from many previous jobs.

This is the critical distinction here: I have to separate out his family role from his contractor role. If he were just another employer and he treated me the way he has, I'd have nothing to do with him. The fact that I have anything to do with him at all is entirely because he's family. If he were just someone I knew, I'd stay as far away from him as I could. But, since he's family, I can't. And, since he's family, my obligation, I feel, is to meliorate his behavior if I can. To this end, I don't want my helping him to indicate to him in any way that I approve of the way he lives his life. I can only accept (or tolerate) the way he lives when it doesn't affect me directly. I can accept (or tolerate) others' bad behavior because I am able to stay away from them and disavow it. By adopting a modified version of that stance toward him, by not helping him with his work, maybe he'll get the message.

I don't know whether I'm right or wrong in my decision not to help him; but I do know that I'm right to feel the way I do. It's the way I feel and I should not deny it. Maybe I should strive to be a better person, rise above the feelings of being taken advantage of, etc.; but if I don't, that doesn't mean I don't have the right to feel the way I do.

But did I do the right thing when I turned him down? I don't know. Another feeling, contradicting the other feeling that I am right, seems to want to indicate to me that I am wrong: the feeling of regret, that he is left to his own devices and must make do on his own with no help or support. This is my own feeling too, this is how I feel in my own life, occasionally initiated by his failure to show up at times when I needed his help and support (but especially initiated by others whom I deem undependable). I understand his dilemma, perhaps more poignantly than he does, because I know that he is caught up in a poor-me pity party, whereas I am free to pursue my own (except for this piece of minor pathos) uneventful ordinary day-to-day existence, I am detached (except for the regretful affect) from what appears to be his desperate need.

Again and again I return to my clipboard to make notes that I know as I'm writing them will be all but impossible to sort through and sort out, because they're repeating the same basic theme, right and/or wrong, in different ways and/or with slightly different shades of meaning and personal connotation:

I'm right; but I feel how he must feel, being rejected, feeling as if he is not worthy of being helped. [Perhaps, sort of, feeling like I felt when I was fired from my last job; although he can't possibly feel that devastated, he can't possibly have that much affect vested in our relationship, can he?] Even if he does repress and deny the reasons for that feeling and project it onto me as (he thinks, I know) being undependable, still, the feeling is there, as repressed hurt turned into anger, if not felt directly as hurt itself: this is the feeling I feel; he may feel the anger, but I feel his (and my own) hurt.

And, so, again, did I do the right thing? I don't know. But I do know that, either way, this is not my problem, per se; it's his. I'm "channeling" (or transferring, or whatever; call it what you will) his perceptions of undependability (denied and projected), taking them on myself in the function of a sin-eater.

Now, he'll probably think that he's not ever again going to do anything more for me, disillusioned into believing that he's already done so much. This disturbs me a bit; but, then, I'd already decided a while ago that I can't depend on him (or anyone, for that matter; but especially him) for anything anyway and that doing so is just naive foolishness on my part, a false security that will never be forthcoming. I'm all on my own here, which I will be in any case, eventually, when they're all dead and gone; or else, I'll die first and none of it will matter.

Right or wrong? It's a toss-up. This is a definite struggle between feeling and logic and, in these cases, with me, logic must always win, because feelings are so unreliable--and reptilian (in the brain sense of the term). [Thought is evolved feeling and thus is more advanced, I theorize. I've broken into a realm of pure logic here, which eases the hurt of feeling, one of my major defense mechanisms.]

not with a bang

I go to bed and try to go to sleep, but I can't stop thinking about my brother. I keep re-running the interaction over and over in my mind, trying to get a different perspective on it, trying to find my way out of my dilemma in order to take one side or the other, either I am right or I am wrong, the world does not allow me to be both at the same time.

Even though that's the way it really is, when you examine it across two or more belief systems. We are all right and wrong together, and why should I be immune to it all, insisting that I always be right all the time? I can't shut off my brain. I hate it when this happens, like I hate it when I can't remember things:

I spent nearly fifteen minutes on two separate occasions yesterday trying to think of the word for those things that I have stored in my basement that I want to get out and hang from the front porch roof eave to keep the bright morning sun from overly heating me and making it difficult for me to read. Then, the next morning, I remembered: blinds.

And then, later in the day, as I began to make plans for constructing a new musical instrument, I couldn't remember the word for when you make shallow, narrow cuts across a piece of wood, each about a quarter inch apart, in order to enable you to bend the wood along its length without breaking it. The next morning, I remembered: kerfing.

I limit what I am capable of, by dis-remembering and by abjuring, when I could, by being just the smallest bit more approaching, far better represent my own agenda. You can be perfectly correct in what you say or do, but remain contrained by circumstances or by your own moral code from explaining yourself as clearly as possible.

Why you are saying what you're saying or doing what you're doing is valuable information that others need to judge you. Instead of others understanding my (sense of) correctness, they conclude that I am wrong, and even an asshole; and I seldom tell them differently. Or else I really am an asshole and perfect correctness is just another rationalization.

In the evening, before I went to bed, I went outside and sat on the front porch. A single star shone through the gloaming in a clear sky not quite dark enough. Farther crickets harmonized a chorus while a near one took the melody. It's one of those perfect summer evenings that I would so much like to internalize and keep with me forever, but never know quite how to manage that, the kind of mood Tom Waits is so good at capturing in a phrase or two, but which leaves me only longing with the knowledge that soon it will be fall and then winter. And then I will have forgotten my bittersweet romance with someone I don't remember who was never really here. When I finally fall asleep, I dream of her again:

I'm in my brother's neighborhood, but we're kids and he doesn't live here now (except why are we here, in this place, instead of our old home?) He and someone else (my sister?) are off a ways in a field while I am on the street. He runs up to me and enthusiastically petitions me to follow him because he wants to show me something. [He was always so joyful and upbeat as a little kid, totally the opposite of his current dour demeanor.] I ask him what it is, but he won't tell me, I have to see it for myself. I don't want to be bothered. I feel a bit depressed. But he's persistent and so I start to follow him, warning him that if it's a growth of wild marijuana disguised as ordinary plants (which is what I know it is), that I'm going to be pissed at him for dragging me away (from what? from the street?) That "sub-plot" peters out and instead we are on the street together as older teens and he tells me he has a gig tonight at the country club (which is a block away, and which is where he worked for a while recently before he got fired). He's afraid I'll be pissed that he took a one-man gig without me; but I'm okay with it since I have no enthusiasm at all (another depressive feeling) for our two-man band. (He plays guitar and I play bass.) A few kids, teenagers or young adults, eighteen to twenty-ish, come walking up the street. Somehow (unrealized in the dream, yet "felt") they are connected with the marijuana in the field. They come in two sets: first a guy and two girls (suggested by characters in a book I'm reading, The Blue Mirror by Kathe Koja) who are somewhat detached from us. I think I'd like to get to know them, but I'm too cool for that. But my brother seems to know who they are and they know him; next comes another guy and two girls, the first of whom locks eyes with me and won't let go. It's inevitable that we get together because she wills it. It's starting to get dark and my brother says he has to get a few hours sleep before the gig. We're living in a car, a station wagon parked on the suburban street (but not at all conspicuously, like it would be in reality, I understand after I'm awake). We open the tailgate and he climbs in among the instruments and amps and various items and bags of clothing. I close the tailgate behind him and the girl and I go and get into the front seat and whisper into each other's ears so that he can't hear us.

The problem with my depression (if that is what it is; I'm so very unsure) is that it's so seldom evident. It hits me as a brief mood occasionally, in the same way as in the dream, and earlier out on the porch when moments afterwards I was back inside getting ready for bed and feeling my "normal" self. All of the other times that I feel "depressed," it's more of a physical ordeal without any distinct mental component, an inertia that I cannot seem to overcome.

My brother in the dream, with his enthusiastic and joyful outlook, is that part of myself that is this way, while my ego in the dream is this "depressive" self. Is this same sort of thing at work in our real lives, but in reverse? Do I project my "depressive" nature onto him and adopt his more joyful one; that is, do I use him to see myself as "better" than he is? Because this is what he, implicitly, accuses me of.

When I first awoke, my brother's plight rushed in to fill the void I seldom feel except when awakening, replacing the more mundane content I will typically use to fill it up. For a brief instant I wonder if I need a therapist, a professional. But enough time passes quickly that enables the return of my "normal" conscious defenses. Besides, professionals are so bogus.

Experts who decidedly believe they can help people with problems (as opposed to those who take a more objective, let's wait and see what happens approach) tend to be people who have the same problems themselves and have learned how to deal with them, usually via denial and repression. Their therapy, then, becomes their projection. I sit up in bed and start to write this all out, which is my best form of therapy. But I start to wonder, does anybody ever read any of this stuff? Is it really worth going to the trouble of posting it? Oh, but wait... I forgot. I don't care. I turn my thoughts instead to the mess out in the house that I'd intended, before my brother called, to start cleaning up, because it's starting to creep into the office area, which is a place I've always managed to keep relatively organized (if not clean).

What I need, I think, is a maid who will pick up after me and keep this place clean and organized; but I can't afford one. And some occasional sex on the side from her couldn't hurt either; and I certainly can't afford that. [I'm starting to slip into fantasy, which I feel like I don't want to do.] They used to call this a 'wife', but I don't think that's allowed any more. And I definitely can't afford that, in more than a monetary way. (Please excuse the sarcasm. I'm in a strange mood tonight.)

But I want to believe that I don't need anyone, not even a maid, even if I could afford it. (Actually, I could if I wasn't so unjustifiably worried about my future financial situation.) I want to believe that I can do everything for myself, which I can, as long as I choose not to want to do too much. I (often) conclude that I am independent because I better manage my "needs" than most people are able to. That's what it's all about, needs. That's what the whole world is all about, everything, even love. Everybody--everybody--needs and/or loves (it's the same thing) others, or at least one other person, because of what other people do for them. People (especially women) tend to disagree with this proposition because they can't grasp its complexity and so must replace its inherent logic with a feeling value: "I feel love, and it's far more "profound" than your argument allows." Which is another way of saying: "Your argument is too complex for my feeble brain in my feeling body to understand, so I must resort to superstitious behavior to gain a faux-understanding of the issue."

In fact, at the subconscious level, when we "fall in love," we appreciate people for what they do for us psychologically, all of the very many ways that they show us their appreciation and attention and adoration and respect and...etc., all rolled up into one big ball of affective/emotive complexity that we can't possibly hope to ever unravel and understand rationally so that we can only conclude that it is a force beyond us that happens to us, instead of our own behavior reflected back in like manner to others who reflect back in like manner to us what we reflect, back and forth, spiraling out of our control, mutual existence, what we do for each other, psychologically, all too difficult for simple minds to comprehend because most people do not know that what we do inside is also behavior, that which we do for each other, which they prefer to think of as some kind of internal magic, in this case, the magic of love.

I give up trying to write and go back to sleep, and I dream of the woman I never met again, the same girl that was in the station wagon in the previous dream that I didn't then recognize and only do so when I reawaken; but I forget the sweeter details because I get distracted by associations that the dream conjures up. It had something to do with the Taliban--because they're in the news for kidnapping South Koreans. I think, Who the fuck are the Taliban to kidnap and kill South Koreans, or anyone? And, more importantly, why do we (i.e., the United States--or the peace-loving world; thanks to this bellicose administration, they're not longer in the same camp) tolerate this shit? Sometimes I think that things like this are the way they are because that's the way we (i.e., the U.S. administration) want it. If Teddy Roosevelt were president, he might say something like, "The South Koreans alive or the Taliban dead." But, after fully awakening, I recognize the error of my projections. Somehow, the Taliban threatened our unrequited love. I feel bad, for her, for me. I feel like crying; but I don't. "This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper."2

Click on footnote number to return to that respective point in the text.
1. Yes, I know it should be 'bytes'. I'm trying to be clever.

2. from T.S. Eliot's "The Hollow Men"